Your readers will be interested in some scandalous Labour Party developments in Wales. The right wing here still exerts a disproportionate influence at the leadership level and this, predictably, has produced crude restrictions on our democratic rights.
As part of the preparations for the next general election, members in key marginals in England will be allowed to elect the panels responsible for selecting their shortlist for potential MPs. This is an important change from the previous protocol that stipulated that only NEC members would sit on these panels. Handing responsibility over to general committees or to all-member meetings for an election of a selections committee to oversee the process would mean greater democratic accountability. It would also go some way to recompense rank-and-file comrades for their exclusion from candidate selections in the lead-up to the June general election.
Labour in Wales - like Scotland - is a devolved political entity, however. This degree of autonomy - sensible enough, given the specifics of politics down here - has been abused to deny our members a voice in these key elections.
The July meeting of the Welsh executive committee (WEC) heard a general secretary’s report from Louise Magee, setting out the parallel procedure to the English arrangements. After some consultation on gender balance in the six “offensive” Welsh seats (priority marginals), the selections would take place immediately in all of them - using the established, restrictive procedures.
WEC member Darren Williams (the comrade is also a CLP representative on Labour’s national executive committee) reports that his proposal for adopting the more democratic English template was “heavily defeated … and the paper [ie, the general secretary’s report - DH] was adopted as originally tabled”.
After this, the right clearly felt it was on a roll. The latest news is that the Welsh Labour leadership now intends to widen this disenfranchisement to every seat in Wales where Labour has an MP - all 28 of them. In the lead-in to June’s general election, the Labour leadership nationally simply confirmed incumbent MPs, arguing that, given the ‘snap’ nature of the contest, there simply was not enough time for trigger ballots around the country. But this was to be a one-time deal, we were assured: special measures, given the tight timetable.
But the Skwawkbox blog - an outlet reputedly close to leading national figures in the party - reports that the Welsh Labour leadership “plans to [repeat this] pre-emptively, by arranging now, with no time-pressure in play, that all its 28 existing MPs have been confirmed in place for the next general election, whenever it is.”
Skwawkbox understates it a tad when it suggests that many Labour Party members down here are going to be very “frustrated” with the right’s cavalier attitude to us. But the thing to remember about the right wing of our party is that, when it comes to having a motivated and engaged membership, it really couldn’t give a shit. Or rather, it is positively against such a madcap, insurrectionary notion.
The recent visit to west Wales by John McDonnell illustrates this perfectly. This leading comrade was given a cynical run-around by the Welsh Labour leadership. It seems that his visit was known about several weeks in advance - some comrades say three, some say more. Either way, Constituency Labour Party secretaries were put under heavy manners not to even tell people about it - let alone put out a barrage of publicity; book a decent venue, with an overspill capacity of some sort; arrange the transport, the stalls, the balloons, the whistles, the dry ice and laser show finale. To make the big deal out of what was a big deal, in other words.
At the last minute, comrade McDonnell’s meeting was shunted out of Haverfordwest (population: over 12,000) to a bijou church hall in the snug hamlet of Roch (hall capacity: around 150; population 825). It was only the hard work of local party members and Momentum activists that partially salvaged the event.
‘Never again’, is now the mantra in Wild West Wales.
Assuming it has been possible to hack through the almost farcically dense undergrowth of corporate media ‘black’ propaganda on the same matter, surely there’s a blossom-like beauty to be found within the fact that a Venezuelan constituent assembly has now been formed.
What might be called the wafting scents from that flower of anti-imperialism, allied to solid working class consciousness, should be breathed deep into the lungs of anyone, anywhere on planet Earth, who claims to be a communist.
Indeed, despite our entirely valid criticisms of the soundness or otherwise of the Hugo Chávez-originated Bolivarist movement (and latterly of president Maduro’s political direction), all communists should suck into their very soul that core awareness of dignity and fairness; that proud sense of destiny; that remarkable fervour; as all continues to flourish amidst Venezuela’s many far-left-leaning citizens. It could be said, flourishing against all demonic odds.
In this context, who the hell are we to criticise? After all, if only UK communists had managed to generate such formidable and vibrant engagement or replicate such mass involvement, we might be a damned sight closer to securing what are, as currently things stand, far-distant to the extent of almost mythical goals.
Maybe there are those who would counter that Jeremy Corbyn and his team have now come along to dig over and beautifully replant our socialist garden (so to speak). Well, all that can be said in response is: be prepared for witnessing my conniption fit!
In summary, a large dollop of humility on the part of UK communists - combined with lashings of optimistic solidarity - might offset that tendency of ours for a dispiriting purity and correctness in relation to matters such as the Venezuelan struggle. That being how those policies or that stance can be perceived, at any rate.
Of course, it may well be profoundly disturbing to acknowledge this tragic agglomeration, this ‘clusterfuck’, of facts. However, it’s also being coldly honest with ourselves and thereby 100% constructive to do so.
In my humble but nevertheless heartfelt opinion, appropriate time should be made available during the CPGB’s Communist University to discuss in detail these general problems and crucial challenges.
When the USA wanted regime change it used to be done in secret by the CIA, but in the last few decades it has grown bolder. The 2017 Venezuela regime change project has gone public.
The mainstream media spreads the propaganda that president Nicolas Maduro is a dictator. That Maduro is repressive and killing his own people on peaceful demonstrators. That the elections have been a fraud. That the opposition are patriots who are demanding democracy. That Maduro has singlehandedly destroyed Venezuela’s economy.
None of the above is true. Not since it was a co-conspirator for the Bush-Cheney administration’s illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 has the mainstream media been so guilty of spreading false propaganda supporting illegal US foreign policy aggression. The US has been perfecting its regime change techniques, camouflaging them as ‘democracy promotion’, funding subversion through the state agencies and coopted NGOs. The public justification for ousting a democratically elected head of state is cynically said to be democracy promotion and human rights. The real motivation is to recruit a compliant head of state.
The US is imposing world hegemony by military might, political arm twisting and economic domination. Nothing and nobody takes preference ahead of US military and economic world hegemony. The number of people who have been killed directly and indirectly to that end since 1991 is in the millions. The number killed for the sake of democracy and human rights is zero.
Although both David Sherrief and John Hutton have replied to me (August 3), neither addressed the main theme of my letter (July 27) concerned with the ending of the era of cheap energy and the consequence for capitalism: that is, if a new source of energy comparable to cheap oil is not found.
Modern societies need a steady supply of energy to keep going. Take away this energy and our cities, transport systems, farms and factories will collapse overnight. The rising of energy prices, consequent on oil production peaking, and imposing supply constraints in a period of rising demand for energy, is a very challenging prospect indeed. I relate the idea that money makes the world go around to theories of society which do not begin with energy: for instance, Marxism.
Firstly, Sherrief misunderstands what I mean when I argue that for Marx it was money which made the world go around. This statement simply refers to the circulation of capital, depicted in the formula Marx used - ie, M-C-M’. Jack Conrad also seems to have misunderstood me on this matter, so perhaps I should have stated more clearly what I was referring to. The comrade turned to a quote from the Communist manifesto, where Marx declares: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle”, to refute the ‘money makes the world go round’ argument, not realising that I was referring to M-C-M’. Without being aware of Engels’ update, I pointed out that Marx’s statement in the Communist manifesto was incorrect. Obviously, like me, comrade Conrad seems to have been unaware of Engels’ update - why else did he use the non-updated quote, and without any explanation?
Sherrief thinks Engels corrected Marx because he was responding to the kind of pedantry supposedly displayed by myself. Here’s a simpler explanation. Engels corrected Marx because the latter was plain wrong. Going out of your way to defend an error is a form of gross opportunism, so rather than defending Marx’s error Engels simply corrected it. Unlike Engels, Sherrief wants to defend Marx’s mistake from my criticism, while at the same time using Engels’ update against me. Clearly, like me, Engels saw the flaw in Marx’s position. While pointing at Engels’ update of Marx’s position in the Communist manifesto, Sherrief tries to protect Marx from criticism by claiming that primitive communism had a form of class struggle. This ludicrous claim can only be made by someone who doesn’t understand that classes, at least in Marxism, refer to ownership of property, or lack thereof. So, whatever struggles were taking place in primitive communism between alpha males and society, they were not class struggles. You can’t have class struggles if there were no classes, although other types of struggles and conflicts are possible.
Sherrief’s claim that Engels was responding to pedantry when he updated Marx’s mistaken position falls flat on its face with the intervention of John Hutton, who provides us with a quote which shows how mistaken Marx was, although Hutton is trying to defend Marx’s mistake. Hutton writes that Marx gave the following famous statement in the preface to the German edition of the Communist manifesto: “... ever since the dissolution of the primeval communal ownership of land, all history has been a history of class struggles, of struggles between exploited and exploiting, between dominated and dominating classes at various stages of social evolution”.
If this quotation by Hutton is accurate, it would clearly suggest that Marx had a tendency to absolutise the class struggle, which, by the way, he made no claims to have discovered in the first place. To claim that “all history” has been one of class struggles following the end of communal ownership of land is obviously ludicrous. History is not only made up of class struggles. For instance, the wars of the Roses in England (1455-86) were not class struggles, but dynastic struggles between the House of York and the House of Lancaster for the throne of England. The religious struggles in England following Henry VIII’s break from Rome were not class struggles. The American war of independence was not a class struggle, nor was World War I, while World War II only assumed a dual class character after the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. I could cite many more instances, like the struggle for Irish independence or the Iran-Iraq war. Clearly Marx had a flawed theory of history, which Engels saw fit to correct.
Sherrief claims that I closed my “gallant defence of peak oil theory by once again rubbishing Karl Marx”. This is a sweetener before he puts the knife in. Obviously Sherrief belongs to the ‘Marxism is flawless’ school of thought, which is unable to grasp its contradictory nature. On the one hand, Marxism stands on the side of the working class and socialism, but, on the other hand, the doctrine contains certain fundamental flaws, which go beyond the claim that all history following the end of primitive communism has been class struggles. It is for these reasons that I no longer use Marxism to rationalise my support for social ownership of the means of production. For me social ownership takes precedence over defending the flaws in Marxism. These flaws were not all corrected by Engels and he contributed to some of them.
It is the contradictory nature of Marxism that individuals like Sherrief fail to grapple with. At the philosophical level these flaws began with the Marxist claim that social being determines social consciousness, whereas in reality, in the dialectical relationship between being and consciousness, it is the latter - consciousness - which determines social being. The Marxist claim that being determines consciousness is like saying that when a person crosses the road the decision was made by his legs rather than his consciousness.
This is not just an abstract philosophical dispute with no relation to reality - as was seen by the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union, which, under Marxist leadership, failed to transform the consciousness of the masses in the direction of a democratic socialist society, making it easier for the capitalist roaders to take over. In other words, lack of socialist consciousness contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union, because social ownership of the means of production - ie, being - does not automatically lead to socialist consciousness.