I was relieved to read Eddie Ford’s acknowledgment that his ‘take the power’ formulation regarding Syriza was “plain wrong” (Letters, October 22). Urging socialists never to take office under any circumstances is not quite what Eddie was saying, but it’s good that any confusion on that score has been cleared up.

Naturally I agree with Eddie that the dangers of assuming office without power are real. My own comrades in Labour Briefing these days don’t seem too keen to dwell on such questions, so I am glad the Weekly Worker is being more courageous here. It’s our duty to tell the truth.

Unless we go the whole way, a Corbyn-led Labour government will rapidly become an agent of austerity, no matter what its original intentions may have been. In Britain, the consequences might well be even more tragic than they are now proving in Greece, not least because it’s now clear that a military coup might be on the cards. The armed services in this country swear allegiance not to parliament, but to the person of the queen. The Tories, the generals and the intelligence services have warned us that, in their eyes, Jeremy Corbyn is a security threat. They could conceivably declare a state of emergency on those grounds.

Let’s proceed, then, with our eyes wide open. “Another world is possible”, as John McDonnell beautifully puts it, but we must follow through the logic of that idea. Even in the event of a landslide Labour victory at the polls, it would be insufficient to rely on the British working class to confront the state, dismantle its institutions and translate office into power. There can be no socialism in a single country - our aim must be, to quote Eddie one last time, “a movement for power across the whole continent as a minimum”.

So my question is this: when do we start? I would like to know what practical steps are now being planned by Weekly Worker comrades to link up across Europe and start making things happen. What about, say, an all-European labour movement conference? What about centenary celebrations of February 1917? I would like to know whether any dates, times or places have been fixed. Is anything planned? If not, why not? I am probably not the only reader to be feeling anxious. We’re supposed to be communists. We don’t have an unlimited amount of time.

Chris Knight


Jeremy Corbyn fell into line at the queen’s banquet. He questioned the unelected Chinese president on China’s dodgy human rights record and then sat down to a dinner with him and the unelected UK monarch, where champagne costing up to £1,400 a bottle was served.

This was one of those occasions where Jezza could have held a press conference and explained that, while benefits are being cut, he would refuse to attend such a lavish dinner. But he put on an ill-fitting suit and basically bowed down to the establishment.

In an earlier letter I said that the election of Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party was a big step in the right direction. However, I have to say I was wrong; it is a big step in the ‘same old same old’ direction.

Tony Roberts

No Marx

In reply to Tom Munday’s letter of October 22, I did not argue that the Labour Party cannot be won over to Marxism (Letters, October 15). Rather, I made it clear that I disagree with those who seek to win Labour over to ‘Marxism’. I suggested, instead, that the left should seek to win the Labour Party over to the vision of a democratic socialist society. I argued that seeking to win Labour over to Marxism was a sectarian and dated project. I am sure there are others who share this view.

I did not criticise Labour Party Marxists for being in the party and fighting to democratise the party. Indeed I support Marxists in the party who seek to do this. You don’t have to be a Marxist to support any progressive cause Marxists are fighting for.

What I argue is that Marxism has misled communists into believing that modern capitalism was made possible by the circulation of money - or M-C-M, as Marx called it. It is necessary to point out that all the money and labour in the world would not result in a modern industrial society without the energy content available in fossil fuels. The 19th century, money-centred view on the development of capitalism, which is shared by Marxism, is obsolete from a scientific perspective. This does not mean that Marx’s analysis of the circulation process was not brilliant.

As for the question of the democratic rule of the people on the basis of socialism, why call this rule a dictatorship, as Marx did - incorrectly, in my view? There is no such thing as a dictatorship without a dictator and, as Lenin pointed out, this means rule unrestrained by any law. And we all know where this can lead.

Certainly, rightwing critics attempt to dismiss Marx. My theme is that Marxism undermines the struggle for socialism.

Tony Clark

Labour supporter

Left turn

Left Unity faces a stark choice that will show if it has a political future. It has to decide between making a right turn to embrace the Labour Party or a left turn and build an alliance with Rise - the new party being launched in Scotland. Given the spirit of the 1945 Labour government provided much inspiration for Left Unity, then the impact of the Corbyn movement is obviously pulling LU rightwards into a liquidationist whirlpool.

Jack Conrad was reported in the Weekly Worker as saying that Left Unity’s prospects “had been negatively affected by the changes in Labour. Instead of joining a left organisation built around left Labour politics, people could now choose the real thing - and were doing so in droves” (‘Left Unity and its future’, October 22). So far, so good. But this is exactly the problem and the CPGB’s answer is to go back to 1920. Jack wants Left Unity to become the Communist Party of Great Britain (“adopt principled Marxist politics”) and follow Lenin’s advice of seeking affiliation to the Labour Party.

Left Unity was set up as a united front of social democrats (or democratic socialists) and communists - the name is a recognition of this. It became no more than an embryonic version of a new type of party, a militant party of the working class. It was never intended to be a ‘broad church’ party, like Labour, or a revolutionary ‘Stalinist-Trotskyist’ party, like the CPGB, Workers Revolutionary Party, Socialist Party or Socialist Workers Party.

Left Unity had a political choice: either adopt the ideology of Labourism or republican socialism; and hence the programme of the social monarchy or the social republic. It was a forgone conclusion that LU would embrace the default position of the left in England, captured in Ken Loach’s Spirit of 45. In the epoch of New Labour this seemed like common sense. Yet adopting Labourism as glue for this kind of party was always a flawed perspective.

Before dismissing Left Unity, we should recognise that it was, in the face of New Labour politics, a light in the dark night, a hope in a time of despair. Now the sun has come up and nobody will see this candle, when sunglasses seem more appropriate. But it has shown that a social democratic-communist party is possible, not least because it has an openly declared and constitutionally legitimate Communist Platform. All this is in danger of being blown away unless LU makes a strategic ‘left turn’.

Two events have exposed the fundamental flaws at the heart of Left Unity. First the Scottish referendum saw LU hopelessly divided between left unionism and anti-unionism. Adopting the abstention position in the face of a serious confrontation between the British crown led by the Cameron government and backed by the Tories, Liberal Democrats, Labour and Ukip showed something was seriously wrong with LU. Second, the rise of Corbo-Labour has pulled the rug from under Left Unity’s feet.

Politics is shifting to the left. It is not simply the election of Corbyn which signals a left turn in the Labour Party. The Tory conference saw Cameron and Osborne adopting ‘left’ rhetoric. Having killed off the Mili-Blair in the general election, they began stealing the dead man’s clothes. The Tories declared themselves the party of working people and promised to deliver a ‘living wage’. At a stroke the north-south divide was replaced by a northern powerhouse. Osborne declared his admiration for Chinese state capitalism and invited the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party to take a share in the British nuclear power industry!

Nobody will have any illusions in the Tories’ left rhetoric. But, taken with the shift in the Labour Party, it requires Left Unity to make its own left turn. If Left Unity is going to continue and become stronger, it has to make a strategic shift to the left, throwing out the Labour bathwater and keeping the baby. Left Unity has to be rebuilt on a different basis, which will give it a cutting edge with Corbo-republicanism and the next round in the changing relationship between the Scottish and English working class.

This is the perspective which the Republican Socialist Tendency put forward inside Left Unity and was explained in the Republican Socialist general election campaign in Bermondsey. Left Unity must realign itself with Rise in Scotland and support anti-unionism against Labour’s left unionism and social monarchism. And against the Tories’ ‘devolution revolution’ we must put forward a programme of democratic revolution. Left Unity members can signal a shift by supporting resolution 69 on LU’s response to Corbyn; and the anti-unionist resolution (68) on self-determination for Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The CPGB are opposed to both and are unfortunately part of the problem, not the solution.

Steve Freeman
LU Republican Socialist

Before or after

It seems Roy Wall thinks that the way to combat austerity imposed by the EU troika was for Syriza to implement its own austerity programme upon the working class, which would have been the inevitable consequence of practising a siege economy if Roy’s recommended economic policy had been accepted by Syriza (Letters, October 22).

Tsipras and his government were between a rock and a hard place where, as Eddie Ford rightly pointed out, a national solution was not possible. They were outgunned, but Roy thinks they should have gone down with all guns blazing, regardless of the repercussions of all those stray bullets upon fellow workers.

However, Roy then compounds his error by choosing to include some theory, quoting Lenin on Marx, in which Lenin confuses the two separate issues of breaking up the old bureaucratic state machine and how the working class could come to win control of that machine.

Lenin distorts Marx’s statements about the need to break up Napoleon’s bureaucratic state machine after the workers had won power to make it read that Marx was referring to the state generally. This made Marx appear to say that the state should be smashed by the working class before they could win, or while they were winning power. Engels made it quite clear that Marx meant ‘after’ when specifically asked about this passage: “It is simply a question of showing that the victorious proletariat must first refashion the old bureaucratic, administratively centralised state power before it can use it for its own purposes” (Letter to Bernstein, January 1 1884).

But why take my word for it? Lenin himself cites Engels talking about what the workers should do after, rather than before, they had won power: “From the very outset the Commune was compelled to recognise that the working class, once come to power, could not go on managing with the old state machine; that ... this working class must ... do away with all the old repressive machinery previously used against it itself.”

And, just for added measure, Lenin quotes Engels again: “… the state is nothing but a machine for the suppression of one class by another ... and at best an evil inherited by the proletariat after its victorious struggle for class supremacy, whose worst sides the victorious proletariat, just like the Commune, cannot avoid having to lop off at once as much as possible” (all italicisation is my emphasis).

This is not nit-picking or some proof-reading correction. Lenin and Roy are reformulating Marx’s theory of the state.

Alan Johnstone

War slogans

The Wakefield Socialist History Group’s October 17 meeting on the fall of Saigon began with some interesting talks from the speakers named in Alan Stewart’s letter (October 22). His letter also refers to a “lively discussion” following the talks but, unfortunately, neglected to say what it was about.

The focus on, and primacy of, guest speakers in left meetings today (with usual rights to reply, often at length) apes bourgeois academia. The purpose of discussions within the workers’ movement is to develop a theoretical understanding of the objective truth of world events through the active encouragement of discussion and debate by the chair to test the various positions in public and determine which best reflects reality. The role of speakers is to stimulate the discussion and, once it is underway, to take their turn as equal participants. The outcomes of the discussion then become the focus of any reports, not the initial contributions.

The main contributions from the floor at this discussion came from the Economic and Philosophic Science Review. The labelling of post-war Vietnam as ‘state capitalist’ and an assertion that building a workers’ state “would not have been possible” were challenged. The victory of the Viet Cong and the humiliating defeat of US imperialism was a titanic victory that ensured the establishment of a workers’ state across the whole of Vietnam. Greater use of capitalist market mechanisms alongside the maintenance of its proletarian dictatorship after the unnecessary liquidation of the Soviet Union in 1989 has helped ensured the survival of the Vietnamese workers’ state, albeit with Stalinist revisionism’s weaknesses and illusions.

Further discussion was had on the slogan ‘Victory to the NLF’, which was a correct position to take given that the National Liberation Front, or Viet Cong, were fighting to overthrow capitalism and build a workers’ state. This was not the same as arguing for a ‘Victory for Iraq’ slogan during the Gulf War, as was suggested, because Saddam’s Iraq was a bourgeois nationalist state, as is Assad’s Syria today. Arguing for the victory of such capitalist states, even those with some anti-imperialist form, is wrong, because it gives illusions that they represent progress and are the way forward. Better to call for a ‘defeat for imperialism’, because the impact of such defeats makes it easier to fight for revolution at home. Pacifist arguments for ‘Stop the war’ or ‘Bring the troops home’ slogans in order to build the broadest anti-war movement possible, as was argued at the meeting, are a cop-out, because they do not encourage the debate about what is necessary.

Phil Waincliffe
EPSR supporter, Leeds


In her latest attack on dialectics, I was glad to find Rosa Lichtenstein taking time out to praise historical materialism: that is, the application of dialectical thinking to “economics, history and politics” (Letters, October 22). In a world that needs historical and global analysis rather than defensiveness, we can agree that Marxism’s few basic guidelines are not beyond supplement and debate. Even a theory like natural selection was substantially incomplete until the 20th century.

I suppose we must continue to disagree over whether change in the atoms of a structure is the only change worth bothering about. For example, Darwin did indeed labour hard to support a theory of qualitative change in a certain kind of mammal (The descent of man), but this creature still lacks the structure to fly like a bird or swim like a fish.

Mike Belbin


The delaying or derailing of the Tory plans to cut tax credits represents a moment to stop and reverse all public spending cuts, including those planned for welfare.

It feels strange welcoming decisions by the unelected House of Lords, a body that has no place in a modern democracy. But, in this instance, the end justifies the means. Tax credits have become an essential part of the income of low wage-earners, a means by which those on low wages can make sure their children don’t go without essentials. Too many bosses pay poverty wages, and will continue to do so.

If tax credits had been cut, hundreds of thousands of people, despite already struggling to make ends meets, would have been thrown into acute poverty overnight through no fault of their own. It is simply untrue that the introduction of the ‘living wage’ and increases in personal tax allowance would offset the effects of tax credit cuts - if they did, how would the proposed cuts to tax credits reduce welfare spending by the £4 billion demanded by the chancellor?

During the discussions leading up to the parliamentary votes on the issue, politicians from all the main parties were suggesting there must be ‘better’ ways to find these cuts. Those of us in the anti-cuts movement have been saying for years that there is no need for any public spending cuts at all. To cut public spending is a political decision made by Tory, Labour, Lib-Dem, Ukip and Green politicians, when there are other ways to deal with the country’s economic deficit, which don’t hurt the poor and the vulnerable. These alternatives include:

The defeat by the Lords of the Tories’ immediate plans to cut tax credits should be used as an opportunity to reopen the whole debate on whether public spending cuts are necessary or wanted. Anti-austerity parties have been gaining ground across Europe, and we feel that there is no better time than the present to finally nail the myth that workers want to see any cuts at all in their public services or welfare benefits.

Pete McLaren
Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition