The Labour Representation Committee’s June 10 members meeting - announced only five days earlier as an “open discussion of the general election result (whatever it is) and the implications for the tasks facing the left” - attracted over 30 comrades, mainly from London, while “members in Scotland, Wales and the North of England will be looking to arrange similar opportunities in the days following the election”. Having arrived a little late, I must apologise to comrade Mick Brooks for missing his ‘Time to set the world alight’ rip-roaring opening speech.
Personal reports from a range of constituency campaigns built up a picture of unprecedented numbers of pro-Corbyn members, along with dozens of unorganised youth, who turned up on polling day, winning the day for anti-Corbyn candidates imposed by Labour HQ - the “ungrateful bastards”, as one comrade put it. During the campaign, Tulip Siddique reportedly told a Green Party meeting, “We will get rid of Jeremy”.
Simon Hewitt emphasised the need to organise the surge of young people towards Labour and to implement a major programme of political education, particularly socialist economics. Camden Unison branch secretary George Binette drew attention to the continuing fall in trade union membership and the difficulty of organising under the Trade Union Act, and asked how we can mobilise extra-parliamentary action to hasten another general election to oust the Tory-Democratic Unionist Party reactionary coalition, which threatens a reduction of abortion rights. Gerry Downing of Socialist Fight hailed the “return of class politics”, with any other than the two main parties marginalised, and pointed to the need for industrial action to resist welfare cuts being implemented by local councils, including those run by Labour.
My contribution to the discussion was to remind comrades that elections enable us to measure our strength - not just by the number of votes cast, but also by the content of the manifesto and the nature of the campaign. In this campaign the strength of socialism amongst the working class was not measured, because the manifesto was not socialist and there was barely a socialist candidate to be found. Labour’s election manifesto was only “radical” compared to the recent past. I warned against Labour under Corbyn taking government office prematurely (an unpopular view, albeit Marxist orthodoxy), when the left is weak and divided, the working class majority has yet to be won for socialist politics, and the trade unions and the party are ruled by an overpaid, self-serving bureaucracy. We are grateful for Len McCluskey’s crucial support for Corbyn, but we should not be dependent on the whim of a privileged trade union bureaucrat. We must struggle to win affiliation from the RMT, NUT and PCS unions, which must be democratised - Unison general secretary Dave Prentis, who “didn’t know” about the misdemeanours of his minions and is trying to walk away from the Unisongate scandal squeaky clean, must be ousted.
The increased Labour vote measured support not for socialism, but for Labour’s popular welfare manifesto promises - not for abolition of the monarchy and Lords, disestablishment of the church, replacement of the standing army with a people’s militia (as expected, this brought telling laughs from some of those present) - all of which will be necessary in order to take power away from the ruling class. We have a lot of political education to do.
A minimal motion from Pete Firmin was carried, after discussion, by majority vote, to circulate information about the June 17 discussion meeting for the left, convened by Grassroots Momentum. As Pete and several others were at pains to emphasise, the proposal was not to support GRM, merely to circulate information.
Graham Bash summed up the discussion with three action points:
1. Build and change the party, including organising left caucuses in each constituency.
2. Recruit new members to the party, especially the new young activists.
3. Put the party on an immediate general election footing: organise open selections now.
As one comrade noted, it has been promised that parliamentary candidates selected in a hurry for this election by an NEC panel will face an open selection process for the next. But, of course, as Keith Dunn suggested, let’s not wait till another snap election allows the junking of that promise.
The friendly atmosphere of the meeting was marred at the end by comrade Mike Phipps, international editor of the LRC’s Labour Briefing, complaining that I was taking notes and would probably report what was said by comrades in the meeting. As if political discussion should be kept secret - an unhealthy, patronising, bureaucratic culture. Some comrades seemed to think an account of political discussion can be rendered without mentioning who said what, but this only works if you are dispensing pre-digested pulp, and fails to develop the critical faculties of the readers, or draw them into the discussion. In short, hiding points of view does not constitute much needed political education.
After I declined to promise self-gagging, Jackie Walker proposed that I be excluded from future LRC and Labour Briefing meetings. However, as this was not a national committee meeting, it remains to be seen whether this proposed gagging of democratic reporting will be carried through.
I respond to Peter Manson’s challenge to me in his article, ‘Left should not stand on sidelines’ (June 8). I had reported in detail the manipulated debate held at the Public and Commercial Services union annual delegate conference in May, where the Socialist Party-dominated national executive committee and general secretary Mark Serwotka did not want to be put in a position where PCS policy would recommend that its 185,000 members vote for Corbyn’s Labour Party - but without being clear to delegates that that was in fact their position.
Peter asks me: “Don’t you think that militant, fighting unions could play an active role in determining Labour’s state, Dave?” (I had said it was no use PCS considering affiliating until we saw the state of the Labour Party after June 8.) This argument has always been used to justify trade unions affiliating to the Labour Party. I’d bet the argument was even more used to justify the creation of the so-called super-unions (Unison, Unite, GMB), so they’d have even more influence on the Labour Party.
And what happened? It is stark how the Labour-affiliated ‘super-unions’ have been super-tame. They never mounted united action over pay, or job losses, or privatisations and outsourcing - no doubt because most councils were Labour-controlled. PCS led the call for united action over the attacks on public-sector pensions and united action was delivered on November 30 2011. That saw the biggest strike, with 1.4 million workers out, since the General Strike of 1926. And, instead of building for an even bigger strike after PCS had proved that workers are inspired by united, common action, what happened? The major Labour-affiliated unions made their own shabby settlements, leaving PCS high and dry. Are you seriously suggesting that the fight would have carried on had PCS been affiliated to the Labour Party? Had that been the case, PCS would not have made that call - or if they had, they’d have been jumped on and silenced.
If all the unions currently affiliated to the Labour Party haven’t pulled it left, if the creation of the super-unions has not pulled it left, what are the chances that PCS, plus the RMT and NUT can do so? What would actually happen is that PCS would be told to shut up, not to spoil Labour’s election chances and, like all the rest, we would be expected to subordinate our members’ interests to those of whatever is deemed electorally best for Labour.
I have written before about how the last Labour government treated the lower-paid civil servants - job cuts, pay restraint, regional pay in the ministry of justice, office closures, outsourcing ... Peter seems to have forgotten it wasn’t the Labour left that powered Corbyn onto the ballot paper in the first Labour leadership contest. Corbyn put himself forward and needed the patronising nominations of MPs like Margaret Becket to be able to stand. No-one, including Corbyn himself, expected him to win.
As Peter well knows, as Weekly Worker, in detail, told us, Momentum was neutered to prevent it being any kind of vehicle for the left to transform the Labour Party. It simply exists to get members to get the vote out - Corbyn today, whichever Labour leader in future. Momentum has not made any demands on the Labour Party - the democratic deficit imposed by Blair still stands. Corbyn is absolutely against mandatory reselection of MPs. After the June 8 results and humble pie eating by most of the backstabbers, Labour is now united behind their leader.
Labour Party membership is now 800,000. One million may be achieved. However, even one million members is not a movement if they are passive rather than active. They have no influence if they are to simply deliver the vote for whoever is leader. If they do not attend constituency meetings (let alone have any understanding of the rules and constitution to try to effect change), how does the left influence them or the party?
Given the deliberate neutering of Momentum and the likely near total inactivity of the new younger members (in terms of their making any demands on the party), what kind of delegates are we likely to see at the next Labour Party conference? Starry-eyed youngsters, keen to become MPs, who do not make awkward demands on the party.
And the pay of MPs is what attracts all the careerists to become Labour MPs. The Chartists’ demand for MPs to be subject to instant recall and to be paid an ordinary worker’s wage have been continually resisted precisely in order to give leaders the well proven corrupting powers of patronage.
And now, when it is realistically possible Corbyn could win the next general election and be prime minister, even more will be the denunciations of any left demands. Others will loudly proclaim, ‘Not now!’ or ‘Don’t you know you’re helping the media attack Corbyn’, ‘You’ll will frighten off the wavering voters’. This is the same trick employed by the Labour-affiliated unions - no strike action when Labour is out of office for fear of making them unelectable, no action when they are in power because that will help the Tories and media get Labour out! There will never be a right time to join the Labour Party to fight to make Labour more leftwing.
Since Corbyn became leader, has the Labour left increased in size and strength? Has Jeremy made overtures or assisted the Labour left? Labour Party Marxists are also moribund, as are the Labour Representation Committee.
Jeremy knows best and is now as unassailable as he is unaccountable. He much prefers mollifying the Parliamentary Labour Party than the Labour left/LPM/LRC/Momentum. Like Tony Benn before him, Jeremy never resigned from the Labour Party, no matter what it did. What about the expulsions and membership bars during the coup? Has Jeremy demanded these be overturned? What about allowing left organisations into the Labour Party? Not a word.
I had previously mentioned the further unique barrier to PCS affiliating to the Labour Party is the principle (and conduct policy) of civil service neutrality. The RMT and NUT do not have to consider that barrier; PCS does and it is formidable.
So, for all these reasons, PCS should not be affiliating to the Labour Party any time soon. Just like all the current affiliated unions, we wouldn’t be able to pull Labour leftwards. In fact, the reverse will happen - PCS would be tamed by the super-unions, as they have in turn done to their own activists.
PCS has the best politically aware activists of any union because we are not affiliated to the Labour Party. No other union leadership is under the control of the left. A party that even under Jeremy does not encourage new members to be socialists or to make demands on the party, but just to deliver votes for Labour (no matter how bad in future), is not for PCS to affiliate to.
A test - let us see the proceedings at the next Labour Party conference, let us see what is allowed to be debated. Let us see the calibre of delegates from a party now 800,000-strong.
Peter also criticises me for opposing open borders. Where anyone concerned about the unprecedented levels of immigration is not dubbed a racist by the left, it seems we have a lesser form of name-calling: “national socialist”, “social chauvinist” or the milder put-down, “sectionalist”. It comes down to this - do indigenous peoples have any rights over those coming into their country or must all be welcomed and accommodated, no matter what the resources available?
Peter and the other open borderists are complete utopians (there - have an insulting label back). Under world socialism there wouldn’t be wars. Everyone would have a house, a job, enough food to eat and decent public services. Under capitalism many countries cannot cope with huge, sudden influxes. It is banal to argue immigrants are not responsible for council house shortages, job cuts and public-service cuts, when the fact is, whilst that is true, they are responsible for greatly increasing demand. The over-supply of cheap labour welcomed by the remainers, the bosses, the bankers, the ruling class is one way. It undermines collectivised labour. Arthur Scargill and Bob Crow were right to question the ‘free movement of labour’.
I have never followed the stupid argument that, because bosses can transfer millions of pounds anywhere, so workers should also be able to go anywhere. It is easy to put millions of pounds into a bank account or build a factory in another country, but way harder to accommodate hundreds of thousands of workers just turning up.
A question for you, Peter - applying that principle, answer me this: when an employer here closes a factory and sets one up in Poland, do you defend the right of the displaced workers here to ‘follow the investment’ and stand outside that factory and undercut the local Polish workers queuing up to work for the new lower wages? Should they join the local union and demand a fair chance of getting those jobs? Should the local Polish trade union shop steward tell his fellow Poles to accept that ‘fair competition’, even if it means most locals do not then get a job because the Brits, let’s say, are ready and willing to work longer hours, for more output, for less wages with the boss knowing that?
Some Poles over here boast they work seven days a week, 12 hours a day. I doubt they are in a union - that is their competitive advantage over workers born here and living here and they know it. They are proud to compete against each other for title of hardest worker and they regard unions as socialistic. Deny many east Europeans are racist, homophobic and anti-socialist. All welcome here?
Where’s their solidarity with workers here? You don’t go to another country and scab - undermining their terms and conditions.
It was a great, indeed incredible, victory secured by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party over the Tories. Theresa May would be sitting on the opposition benches, having been made to resign by her own party, if it wasn’t for the bonkers Tory constitution.
Nobody understands how the Tory constitution works. It is a great national mystery. I think it is a complex Heath Robinson machine, in the basement of Tory HQ. The Tories feed in the results, then - hey presto - it translates into seats in the Commons and prints a letter from the queen, on goat skin, inviting one of the party leaders to visit Buckingham Palace.
May got the letter and drove immediately to the palace. Her Majesty was not amused. This great miscalculation had damaged the value of her shares. It might even mean missing royal Ascot. But the Tories clung on to May as the only person to save them from political meltdown.
Not a peep of criticism could be heard from Tory MPs, once the central decision had been taken. It is the type of discipline any Leninist could be proud of. Once again it was Heath Robinson to the rescue. By keeping Northern Ireland in the British union, the Democratic Unionist Party could keep the Tories in office.
Those who felt Corbyn could not win on a programme of restoring the social monarchy have been proven wrong. After 10 years of austerity, the social monarchy has proved widely popular with young people. But if the crown doesn’t invest in the social monarchy then the whole show is in danger, as the vote to leave the European Union indicated. The message from this election is that the Tories cannot keep strangling the goose that lays their golden eggs.
Left Unity has been called the republican wing of the Corbyn movement. That seems like an exaggeration to me. But to their credit LU has taken an anti-unionist stance which is a necessary precondition for any serious republicanism. It is goes without saying that British republicanism is a complete fake. It is nothing less than a sordid attempt to mislead and deceive the working class.
The idea that Left Unity is the republican wing of the Corbyn movement is a contested idea, not an established fact. Left Unity began life in 2013 as a party of left social monarchism in the ‘spirit of 45’. But it adopted a republican position in the 2015 general election and had a change of mind on British unionism in 2016 after the Scottish referendum.
With the first victory of Corbyn in the Labour Party, most of the LU’s left social monarchists went off to join Labour. For most of them it felt like going home, after their house had been stolen by Blair, who had thrown them out on the street.
Every forward march of Corbyn Labour poses the question of whether LU should liquidate into the Labour Party. If Left Unity is indeed the republican wing of the Corbyn movement in England and Wales, but a different dynamic is at work in Ireland and Scotland, then the answer is no. There has to be an independent working class republican party, ‘strong and stable’ enough to resist the siren call from Her Majesty’s Labour Party.
With the ongoing crisis of British exit, people will eventually conclude that we need something better than the Tory’s Heath Robinson constitution to decide who gets the keys to Downing Street and gets access to crown powers, which are constructed to govern the many on behalf of the few.
Despite crashing into the EU iceberg, the Titanic is still afloat, with Captain Corbyn ready to take command on the bridge. Even more people want to get on board. We are tilting but not yet sinking. Does anybody know on which decks the lifeboats are stored or do we have to build our own?
Left Unity and Rise
In my final reply to Lars T Lih I will concentrate on two incidents. First, the recovery of the session of the Petersburg committee of the Social Democratic Labour Party of Russia (Bolshevik), November 1 (14) 1917; and, second, the revelation of Zinoviev that the struggle against ‘Trotskyism’ was planned by him, Stalin and Kamenev in 1923-24.
There was an attempt to wipe from the historical record the struggle within the Bolshevik central committee by deleting that whole day’s minutes and then having to renumber the pages to cover this up. Unfortunately for the falsifiers, they forgot to alter the previous day’s minutes which scheduled the next day’s meeting and they did not manage to destroy the rushes of the minutes of that day, which fell into Trotsky’s hands. And it is obvious why they had to alter this record: it gave the lie to all their attempts to slander Trotsky.
Trotsky tells us: “We publish herewith the minutes of the historic session of the Petrograd committee of the Bolsheviks held November 1 (14) 1917. The conquest of power had already been achieved - at any rate, in the most important centres in the country. Within the party, however, the struggle over the question of power had far from terminated. It had merely passed into a new phase. Prior to October 25, the representatives of the right wing (Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov, Kalinin, Lunacharsky and others) argued that the uprising was premature and could lead only to defeat. After the victorious insurrection, they proceeded to argue that the Bolshevik Party would be unable to maintain itself in power unless the Bolsheviks entered into a coalition with the other socialist parties - ie, the Social Revolutionists and the Mensheviks. During this new phase, the struggle of the right became exceptionally acute, and terminated with the resignation of the representatives of the right wing from the Council of People’s Commissars and from the central committee of the party. It should be borne in mind that this crisis occurred only a few days after the conquest of power.”
This is Lenin’s furious response: “The question of the armed insurrection was raised at the October 1 session of the central committee ... However, certain [old] members of the central committee came out in opposition. This grieved me deeply. Thus, the question of power has been posed for a long time. Couldn’t we now renounce it because of the disagreement on the part of Zinoviev and Kamenev? The insurrection was [objectively] necessary. Comrades Zinoviev and Kamenev began to agitate against the insurrection, and we began to look upon them as strikebreakers. I even sent a letter to the central committee with a proposal to expel them from the party.
“I expressed myself sharply in the press when Kamenev made his speech in the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets. [On August 6 (19), he also spoke on the subject of the Stockholm International Socialist Conference, which the conciliationists proposed to convene in the summer of 1917 for the purpose of expediting the conclusion of peace by the socialist parties exerting pressure upon their respective governments] … Kamenev spoke in his own name in favour of participating in the conference [despite the decision of the central committee of the party not to participate in the Stockholm conference] to assume a severe attitude toward them …
“And now, at such a moment, when we are in power, we are faced with a split. Zinoviev and Kamenev say that we will not seize power [in the entire country]. I am in no mood to listen to this calmly. I view this as treason. What do they want? Do they want to plunge us into [spontaneous] knife-play? Only the proletariat is able to lead the country.
“As for conciliation, I cannot even speak about that seriously. Trotsky long ago said that unification is impossible. Trotsky understood this, and from that time on there has been no better Bolshevik.”
During the period of the United Opposition - 1925-27 - Zinoviev revealed how they had planned the rewriting of the history of the revolution and the vilification of Trotsky. This is Trotsky’s account of what was revealed in The Stalin school of falsification:
“After the formation of our bloc with the Leningrad group, during one of the conferences, in the presence of several other comrades, I put substantially the following question to Zinoviev: ‘Could you please tell me whether the so-called literary discussion against ‘Trotskyism’ would have taken place, if I had not published The lessons of October?’ Without the slightest hesitation, Zinoviev replied: ‘Yes, indeed. The lessons of October served only as a pretext. Failing that, a different motive would have been found, and the discussion would have assumed somewhat different forms - nothing more.’
“… At the joint plenum of the central committee and the central control commission of July 14-23 1926, Zinoviev said: ‘I have made many mistakes. But I consider two mistakes as my most important ones. My first mistake of 1917 is known to all of you ... The second mistake I consider more dangerous because the first one was made under Lenin. The mistake of 1917 was corrected by Lenin and made good by us within a few days with the help of Lenin, but my mistake of 1923 consisted in ...’
“… In this manner, Zinoviev admitted his mistake of 1923 (in waging a struggle against ‘Trotskyism’ and even characterised it as much more dangerous than that of 1917 - when he opposed the October insurrection!).”
Of course, Zinoviev and Kamenev reverted to their old tricks, once the United Opposition fell apart, when they capitulated to Stalin in 1928 and denied their own too-honest confessions.
I think everyone must acknowledge this is Lenin in his best fighting revolutionary form handing out a merciless ear-bashing to the rights, whom Lars T Lih would like to try to persuade us were the real heroes of the Russian revolutions. It is clear that Lenin and Trotsky led that revolutionary struggle and not Lars T’s pathetic conciliators.
We dig coal
Responding to Eddie Ford’s ‘Growth for the sake of growth’ (Weekly Worker June 8), I would say that tens of thousands of former miners and their families - and tens of thousands more in those communities thrown on the scrapheap - would actually quite like to dig coal.
The achievement of massive and speedy carbon emission reductions are not incompatible with the re-expansion of the deep mine coal industry or a greater percentage share for coal power. As a matter of fact the only dramatic way to reduce carbon emissions and still keep the lights on is through the global adoption of carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems. The best of these, such as the one which was scheduled for Hatfield Main colliery, would have seen the building of a coal power station with zero emissions and almost 90% of all other emissions caught and recycled.
The scheme being developed at Drax, which was aimed at taking almost 50% of carbon emissions out of the process (the White Rose scheme), wasn’t anywhere as good, but if adopted on a worldwide scale would have dramatically and rapidly reduced the amount of C02going into the atmosphere. The Tories vindictively pulled the plug on both as ‘the final solution’ to those pesky miners and their union. But China, India and other developing countries are not going to stop mining and using coal - hell, Poland and Turkey have both said the same and I’m not sure Trump will actually do anything to make deep mining attractive again in the USA after the slaughter of their deep mined coal industry, but the fact is coal will be mined, and burned. That being the case, we need the most effective and rapidly deployed means of reducing emissions - and that means CCS and the development of other schemes (which we had in the pipeline and were well down the road of development in the 70s and early 80s - like the fluid bed combustion system, producing massive intense heat from tiny amounts of coal with minimal emissions. Thatcher pulled the plug on that one).
It must be said that climate change is hard-wired into the planet - it always has been and always will be. Our human contribution to it, through all forms - including meat consumption, transport, forest devastation and carbon fuels - may be as much as 50%, although less hysterical evidence suggests it is somewhat lower than that, but the point is, it doesn’t help. Unlike the perfectly natural cycle of climate change endemic to the planet, we can do something about it, but crying ‘Stop the world - I want to get off’ or ‘The sky is falling’ doesn’t help.
The reason why third-world countries are disproportionately effected is purely and simply poverty. If Holland was a third-world country it would be underwater. What’s the difference between Nicaragua and Holland? The answer is wealth and technology, which is the way humanity will survive change, not going back to the caves. So-called ‘renewable energy’ and nuclear power are at this stage of development not going to substitute for coal and gas and are either unviable in most parts of the world (China’s massive expansion of renewables in this field, probably the greatest in the world, amounts to 4% of its energy total) or else unsafe and undependable (uranium will run out long before coal or gas).
So, aye - dig coal, generate CCS-produced wealth and power, and make sure its fairly distributed worldwide.