No answer

In ‘A perfectly ordinary, highly instructive document’ (December 17), Lars T Lih writes: “The Bolsheviks rejected any sort of political agreement or alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie because they felt that these leaders would sell out the revolution after it started by making a deal or agreement with tsarism.”

Very true. But, after the February revolution of 1917, there is no tsarism around to make a deal with - but there is still a liberal bourgeoisie intent on selling out the revolution. What then, Dr Lih? Lih refuses to recognise the sheer novelty of this situation and the equally novel political questions raised by it and to which the pre-1917 polemics among European and Russian Social Democrats could offer no unequivocal answer. Only Trotsky developed the correct answer before 1917 with his theory of permanent revolution. Lenin’s April theses adopted the practice of the permanent revolution.

I developed this point against Lih in Historical Materialism NYC one year ago. Lih has studiously avoided even mentioning my critique. I’d like to think it is because he has no convincing answer to it.

John Marot


If people want to dissolve the Labour Representation Committee (Letters, December 17), as we have heard some leaders say, because they have won and Momentum has now taken that space, why don’t they just resign instead of carrying out this totally undemocratic wrecking operation?

I was at the national committee meeting where Pete Firmin walked out and the decision there was to maintain the LRC because of the obvious lack of democratic structures in Momentum, but now there is only a political desire to prevent democratic debate and discussion in a bureaucratic manner. This is clearly a fear of the new influx of members into the Labour Party. Too many of them might turn up at the annual general meeting, like they did at the Brighton Labour conference fringe meeting, and who knows how they might vote on things like Labour councils who make cuts, and war in Syria? This sounds like fake leftists running scared from the new left. Best to keep them as a stage army and not allow them to develop their own political ideas. At all costs keep them from falling under the influence of any revolutionary ideas.

The special general meeting on February 20 is not the postponed 2015 AGM, so the NC is in breach of the constitution, having cancelled the 2015 AGM. It has now moved to bureaucratically stitch up the 2016 AGM. The proposed constitutional changes, including to the structure of elected officerships and committees, should be decided at an AGM, not at the SGM, which has no such constitutional altering remit.

Also deciding that the conference arrangements committee reserves the right to rule on whether the subject of the amendments falls within the remit of the SGM, or whether they should be referred to the subsequent AGM (to be held later in 2016), means that the democratic rights of affiliated organisations are abolished. No AGM up to now had any such bureaucratic control on motions. Given the outrageous bureaucratic structures of Momentum so far, a 60-strong appointed anonymous committee with no democratic mandate, obviously chosen for the flexibility of political backbones, this move is to prevent any far more structurally democratic organisation like the LRC operating, lest it be far more attractive to the new membership than Momentum, which they will have no direct means of influencing.

The reason given for the bureaucratic manoeuvres in the opening paragraph - “Hostile elements still abound, in the parliamentary party, the organisational apparatus and beyond. There can be no place for routinism - the left must raise its game to meet the new tasks we now face” - in no way justifies this postponement. Its obvious motivation is to manoeuvre against its critics from the left and from the potential of the new membership. In the tradition of that master of bureaucratic manoeuvres, Uncle Joe, on some occasions the revolutionary or even more radical left is a greater enemy of those who command the apparatus.

The aim of this manoeuvre is to effectively abolish the LRC itself and its continued existence in a hobbled form is aimed at preventing any other democratic radical leftist organisation emerging that would develop the leftism of the new membership by giving them this democratic space, thus preventing embarrassment to Corbyn and McDonnell. I got the Grass Roots Left to affiliate and elect a delegate for 2015-16; my Unite branch would do so, as would Socialist Fight and the Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group and Brent and Harrow LRC. I notice that these groups (apart from the Unite branch), who have affiliated for the last several years, mysteriously do not appear on the list of affiliated organisations. Why the wiping from the record of those organisations that are now unacceptable, like the Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group? No highly embarrassing motion in support of the democratic right of republican prisoners in Ireland for The Sun and The Mail to latch on to now.

Gerald Downing

Programme first

It was good to read Tony Greenstein (Letters, December 17 2015) promoting my campaign for anti-unionist republicanism in the 2015 Bermondsey election “as a considerable rebellion against the conservative monarchical forces of Left Unity” and comparing it with James Connolly’s Easter uprising against the British state.

With such high but, may I say with all due modesty, undeserved praise, I have decided to offer Tony the job as my spin doctor to continue his good work. But I think he should reference Captain America and Iron Man to fully capture the scale of my heroic deeds. Alistair Campbell: eat your heart out!

Even so, it doesn’t seem right to compare Connolly’s Irish Socialist Republican Party and Irish Citizen Army in their rebellion against the United Kingdom with an election campaign which identified Left Unity as hardly republican and certainly not anti-unionist. The argument with Left Unity is not about the tactics of standing in elections versus armed uprisings. It is all about programme.

In 1916 the Labour Party programme was neither republican nor anti-unionist and supported imperialist wars. Connolly stood for the opposite. A river of blood divided these two positions. In 2016 the Labour Party remains committed to the UK constitution based on the monarchy and the union, and has continued to back imperialist wars, despite the election of Corbyn and the over-excitement of the Trotskyist left.

My point about Left Unity and the CPGB’s Communist Platform is not that they should organise an armed uprising any time soon, but rather that LU has no future unless it changes its programme and becomes an anti-unionist republican socialist party. Then and only then will LU be in a position to relate to Rise (Scottish left alliance). Then and only then will it place its relations with the Corbyn movement in England and Wales on a solid basis. LU will become a party with its own distinct democratic political objectives and not seem like some Corbyn groupie hanging around the stage door hoping for a sprinkle of star dust.

Tony makes one revealing gaff. He says that “When the political debate in this country is focused on the battle between left and right within the Labour Party”, Left Unity is finished (“their day has long gone”). But what is meant by “this country”? Does he mean the UK, Britain or England (and Wales)? Scotland has different politics, which I highlighted in Bermondsey. (As he missed the key point in my election campaign, he just lost the job as my spin doctor!)

However, Tony does make a telling point that the CPGB is in a contradictory position over Labour and Left Unity by trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Programme must come before tactics. Which side of the river of blood should socialists stand? On the right bank with Kier Hardie and Ramsay McDonald’s Labourism, or the left bank with James Connolly’s anti-unionist republican programme? No contest.

Steve Freeman
Left Unity and Rise

Just the two of us

Only two branch members turned up for the Teesside Left Unity meeting on January 5, but we decided to proceed with business in so far as we could.

There was a shared frustration that Left Unity’s leadership appeared to have done little since the national conference on November 21-22. It had taken a long time for an official statement about the conference to be published, and even that only came after prompting in the party’s Facebook discussion forum.

A branch member had enquired to the LU office about whether motions not reached on the conference agenda would be considered by the party formally, and was disappointed that there seemed to be only an intention for the party’s national council to discuss how they should be discussed.

We discussed concerns about the chairing of one section of the conference, during which Communist Platform speakers felt they had been treated unfairly. One of us felt there had been deliberate bias; the other thought the comrade involved had been out of his depth rather than consciously biased.

It was noted that LU’s website appeared not to be updated as regularly as previously, with very few local branch meetings listed - ours had been omitted despite requests - and it made no mention of the LU trade union event due to be held in Manchester on January 23.

Despite a promising level of interest when the Teesside branch was launched in July 2015, a recent update from Left Unity HQ had revealed there were now only 10 members in the five-borough/seven-constituency area covered by the branch. Some members, as well as others on the branch’s periphery who had shown an interest in getting involved, are known to have joined the Labour Party since Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory. Only half of the 10 remaining members acknowledged communications from the branch.

We agreed that we were not in a period when active recruitment of new members locally was likely to succeed, as the class war was mainly being fought out in the Labour Party, and the lack of a sense of direction in LU nationally would not encourage any newcomers to stay.

Although our small numbers possibly limit the impact of such statements, we affirmed our support for the ‘Stop Trident’ demonstration planned in London for February 27. We agreed statements of solidarity with the junior doctors’ industrial action and the student midwives and nurses’ campaign against the Tories’ plan to scrap NHS bursaries. We agreed to condemn the ‘Middlesbrough says no to refugees’ march planned by a fascist group for January 16 and expressed our solidarity with those organising to oppose it.

Given the poor attendance at this and the previous meeting, we discussed whether it was worth continuing with branch meetings. However, we concluded that the meet-ups had some use for the moment, even if only for the two of us.

Steve Devey

Pay day

Eddie Ford’s article on the tax credits debate (‘Tories screw hard-working families’, November 5) was very useful and contained some informative facts and figures.

He made reference to the fact that in 1999 around one in 50 workers were on the national minimum wage and that, referencing The Guardian newspaper, this figure is expected to increase to one in nine by 2020. The implication is that the national minimum wage is acting to drag wages downwards and for some becoming in effect a maximum wage, and is therefore a bad thing, at least in part.

I am not sure that is necessarily a correct interpretation. It could mean that, whereas in 1999 the NMW was acting as a floor and a benefit for 2% of workers, by 2020 it will be providing a minimum floor for over 11% - ie, that it is benefiting a much higher proportion of the workforce than in 1999.

If the national minimum wage were to be increased to, say, £10 per hour, it should be obvious that this would mean an even higher proportion of the workforce would be on the NMW and that would surely be a good thing. If the current NMW were abolished, it is surely obvious that a lot of wages would fall below the current level, rather than rise upwards, as implied by ‘drag’ theorists.

It should be noted the Living Wage of £8.25 an hour, calculated by the Loughborough University Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) for the Living Wage Foundation, is to cover the living costs of just one adult only. If you are in a family unit with, say, one partner and two primary school age children, the CRSP calculates a minimum income requirement for gross earnings of £37,176, equating to £17.82 an hour (assuming a 40-hour week). It should be obvious that two partners working full-time and both on the Living Wage of £8.25 would not earn enough to cover absolutely basic and essential costs.

It points to a further truth that, whereas in the past a single family bread winner’s (usually male) wages were just about sufficient to provide for a basic household, in recent decades it has become increasingly the case that both parents or partners have to work in order to make ends meet. Capitalism ‘pays’ for this by depressing wage rates generally.

Both partners having to work full-time for as many hours as possible just to survive leads to wider social exclusion and marginalisation from participation in activities such as visits to friends, family, cinema, theatre and other cultural, social, sporting and political activities, which in any decent society should be considered the norm for all. As well as undermining the physical and mental health of those forced to work long hours, the impact of all these factors is to undermine and limit the development of community, class and collective consciousness.

All parents should have reasonable time to spend with their children, so the answer to that problem is not to increase childcare provision but to reduce working hours and increase the national minimum wage to ensure no loss of income. Collectively provided and funded childcare is important in its own right to help develop and socialise young children, for families to become integrated in their local communities, and should not be used to ‘allow’ parents to work stupidly long hours for poverty wages.

We ought to advocate, as part of our minimum demands, that one partner’s full-time wages or both partners’ part-time wages should be adequate to ensure their family unit can have a decent standard of living. That implies a minimum rate of pay significantly higher than the current national minimum wage and the current living wage.

In my opinion, the setting of a much higher national minimum wage should complement and underpin the general wages struggle conducted by organised labour. Yes, this would mean a higher proportion of workers would be on the NMW, but surely this should be seen as a modest attempt to implement the law of the (socialist) plan, to limit the law of (market) value, which would push wages below any such minimum.

Such demands would help project a glimpse of a society with a much better work life balance in all aspects, with reduced working weeks, working years and working lifetimes, where surplus value was reinvested for the benefit of the working class and society more generally.

Andrew Northall

Labourism RIP

Labourism is dead. Long live socialism!

The doctrine that a political party representing the trade unions can bring socialism into being is now in the dustbin of history. Trade unions are calling for a limited fiscal stimulus to lift the UK economy out of a depression. This has as much in common with a globally planned classless society as the mummified body of an ancient pharaoh with a new born child.

At the 2015 Labour Party conference, the new trade union-backed leader declared he was a British patriot. He has subsequently compromised on going to war. He no longer calls for the ending of tuition fees and the restoration of student grants. He has dropped plans to nationalise the major energy companies. His shadow chancellor has abandoned the idea of bringing the Bank of England back into state control. Both have stated they are friends of business and industry.

Paul Marshall, co-founder of the $22 billion hedge fund, Marshall Ware, has applauded Labour plans for “people’s quantitative easing”. He thinks it would be a useful means of stabilising the economy the next time there is a financial crisis. The Money, Macro and Finance Research Group also discussed the Labour leader’s economic policies at a conference in September. This group consists of investment bankers, business economists, private equity and hedge fund managers. Contributors scoffed at the idea that creating money by order of the government would create hyperinflation.

In other words there are intelligent members of the ruling class who support the Labour leader and his advisory team of conservative Keynesian economists. They can see the point of using the Labour leader’s mainstream economic ideas if policies associated with austerity fail to control increasingly popular anti-capitalist sentiment.

An economist called James Meadway has argued that the leader’s economic manifesto is to the right of the Social Democratic Party’s plans for the 1983 election. The ‘moderate’ SDP then called for the creation of 250,000 jobs over two years, including 100,000 jobs in the NHS and social services. Today’s ‘extreme’ Labour Party leadership has no such similar commitment. There must be a real doubt whether Labour can restore cuts to public expenditure once in power.

The membership’s choice of a Keynesian leader has administered a shock to the corpse of Labourism. This has the potential to create a zombie-like monster that eats its own flesh. Collective self-interest will draw the antagonistic poles of the membership and constituency MPs together in a vicious struggle leading to disintegration and interment. It will cause the leadership to abandon its veneer of principled decency. Once it has secured its position on the right, the leadership will be advised to turn on the left. Those who do not become the leader’s henchmen and women will be purged. I expect The Morning Star to play a crucial role in policing left-leaning members in England and Wales. In Scotland I guess the Scottish National Party will play a similar role. This would be the last gasp of the old alliance between social democracy and Stalinism.

Nonetheless these are fertile times for Marxists. Marxists can intensify their educational and propagandistic efforts. They can continue to develop themselves intellectually and politically by organising study groups, formal debates and discussion forums. They can create a flourishing socialist counter-culture nourished by the rotting cadaver of Labourism. Until the ruling class decides to resort to repression, a culture that foregrounds the idea of a classless society of freely associated producers can grow within and outwith the trade unions and the labour movement. At some point in the near future a consciousness will emerge of the need for a campaign for Marxist parties worldwide to support workers to realise this goal.

Marxists can extend and publicise their critique of Keynesian ‘alternatives’ and show that socialism is the only alternative to austerity. It is highly unlikely that the ruling class will allow the restoration of public expenditure and workers’ rights to pre-1979 levels. This is a reason why the Labour leadership will continue its progress from left to right. Austerity needs to be fought at all levels - from above and below, globally as well as locally. Unscathed by the death spasms of Labourism, Marxists can play a significant role in the leadership of this fight.

The struggle against austerity entails the democratic mobilisation of workers around a plan that goes beyond cuts and workers’ rights. This plan might include calls for full employment; a shorter working week; a living income in or out of work; free housing, fuel, transport, education, health, education and social care; the socialisation of transnational corporations under workers’ control; the workplace election of managers; and the redistribution of resources from arms and fossil fuel to socially useful forms of production.

Such calls articulate needs that are part of a collective struggle to overthrow capitalism. They will be fully realised with the establishment of a democratically planned classless society worldwide.

Paul B Smith

Flower oil

Understanding the relationship between peak oil and the global economy is crucial to knowing how the present crisis of capitalism will play out. Debating socialism without grasping the energy issue in general and peak oil in particular is a futile exercise. This is a mistake most Marxists make, forgivable when energy was not an issue in the past, but an urgent issue today.

Because of the above, I was disappointed when Ted Hankin informed me privately that he no longer wished to take me on politically. The reason he gave was that I am incapable of sticking to one issue and I am constantly changing the goal posts. The comrade failed to give an example of this. Nor did he seem to realise that, if this was indeed the case, it was his duty to point this out publicly, not to use this as a pretext to discontinue the debate.

So why is Marxism, in the morose form of Ted, running away from debate? What annoyed Ted is that I haven’t willingly placed my neck on the chopping block for him to remove the head with one swing of the executioner’s axe and consign me to ideological oblivion.

Ted is refusing to debate Marxism with me because he believes Marxism, a 19th century narrative, is above criticism. I am sorry to have to disappoint people who think in this way, but it is not. I have already stated that modern, industrialised capitalist society was not driven forward by the circulation of capital has Marx claimed, but was the direct result of the energy revolution beginning in the 18th century, following the energy crisis in England which triggered the decline of feudalism. The money centred view of capitalist development, which Marxism shares, is the result of bourgeois political economy.

I have also pointed out that, contrary to the claim of Marx and his followers, production relations are not the function of productive forces, nor are they determined by them, but rather by the class that has control of the instruments of coercion. In a class society production relations grew from the sword, not the productive forces.

Avoiding debating these and other issues shows that those opposing me do not view debate as a dialectical process which aims to get us closer to the truth. Obviously, there is little point in debating with people who agree with me. The dialectical conflict of opposites is a necessary part of the process of development. The problem with Ted’s view is that it regards Marxism as existing outside of the dialectical process - that is, above criticism. But the laws of dialectics apply to Marxism as well. In other words, the Marxist ‘thesis’ is bound to generate an antithesis which leads human thought forward. Dogmas come from those who have abandoned the scientific method, and don’t know dialectics.

This is why anyone who defends Marxism, or regard it as above criticism, should take me on in the pages of the Weekly Worker. Running away is simply abandoning dialectics. This is a form of suppressing criticism. As someone who believes in a democratic socialist society, to Ted I say, in a memorable communist slogan: “Let a hundred flowers bloom. Let a hundred schools of thought contend.”

Tony Clark
Labour Supporter

Statistical lunatic

Michael Ellison’s letter (December 17) says that there was a 62% turn out in the Oldham West and Royton by-election. The turnout was actually 40.3%. The Labour candidate won 62.1% of the vote. All the statistics put forward by this right Labour letter writer are wrong. He says there was a 55% turnout at the general election in Oldham West. The turnout was 59.6%. He then says that if Michael Meacher had a 62% turn out (the percentage of the vote taken by Jim McMahon) instead of the 55% turn out that Michael Meacher had in May (the turnout was 59.6%, he won just under 55% of the vote) then he may have won with a 17,000 majority. In this man’s demented statistical mind that means that Labour, having won with a majority of 10,722 has lost 6,000 votes and Corbynism had turned them away to Ukip.

We are dealing with a lunatic here. Let’s look at the reality. Labour’s share of the vote went from 54.8% to 62.1%. If McMahon had stood on an identical voter turn out to Michael Meacher’s he would have won with 26,740 votes compared to Michael Meacher’s 23,630. In Michael Ellison’s demented mind Labour has lost 6,000 votes in a comparative statistical shift, all of which have gone to Ukip. Meanwhile back on planet earth Labour, using the comparative statistic, increased its vote by 3,110. Labour didn’t lose 6,000 votes, they gained 3,000. So much for the attempt to distort reality by this Blairite. The Tory percentage of the vote collapsed from 19% to 9.4%. That’s a loss of 9.6%. Ukip’s percentage went up by 2.8%. The Tory vote actually switched to Labour.

Labour increased its majority by winning seven out of ten of the Tory lost votes. Given the massive nationwide hate campaign generated against Labour and the dire predictions that Labour would be routed by Ukip, this result in Oldham can be construed as incredible, an indication of what is to come next May. Blair won in 1997 because faith in the Tories had collapsed. In the next decade or so Blair lost the Labour Party millions of voters and destroyed the democratic processes in the party and disenchanted and disengaged the whole population. Blair is a Class A war criminal. He should by rights be in a prison cell.

Elijah Traven


My friend Paul passed away recently. An overdose, either deliberate or accidental, is suspected. Paul died alone in his room at a local homeless hostel.

I had known Paul for nearly 30 years. Paul’s hobby was metal detecting.

Until five years ago Paul attended a local mental health day centre. The day centre was then changed into a resource centre with the main aim of getting people into voluntary work and then paid work. This change to a resource centre was made by the county council at the instructions of the government.

The last Labour government really did believe that they’d abolished boom and bust with jobs for everyone, including those with mental health conditions. Hence their plans, put into practice by the Tories, to turn all mental health day centres into resource centres. When the day centre became a resource centre Paul stopped all contact. So he was left alone without any support in his room at the homeless hostel.

However, it’s time not to mourn but to organise. I’ve applied to re-join the Labour Party. By doing so my friend Paul’s death will not be in vain.

John Smithee