Brighter light

I found Jim Creegan’s article, ‘The Bolsheviks and democracy’ seriously bizarre (November 1). Surely, any attempt to defend Trotsky’s Lessons of October would try to draw upon the vast amount of documentation to be found in the book Trotsky’s challenge, published by Brill in 2015. This reproduced, in English, all of the polemics between Russian and other communists around Trotsky’s work and offers a wealth of interest. It’s not really good enough any more to simply quote Trotsky and Isaac Deutscher on the topic, despite their many merits.

To be clear, I write this as someone who would generally be more sympathetic to Trotsky’s position in the Comintern at the time, although I can see, after reading Lars T Lih’s careful documentation, that Trotsky’s picture of 1917 didn’t rest upon particularly strong historical evidence, however dramatically gripping and beautifully expressed it may have been.

True, there were large amounts of horseshit in the response of some of Trotsky’s Bolshevik interlocutors in 1924, as the debate had started to be expressed in the bureaucratic language of ‘Leninism’ (which Trotsky himself felt obliged to pay due obeisance to). Therefore, we had Zinoviev, claiming that there was no way that Bolshevism could possibly have a ‘right wing’ in 1917: “There could not have been one, because the very founding Leninist principle of the structure of the Bolshevik Party excludes any possibility of a right and a left wing. There could not have been one, because Leninism is a monolithic party, a party cast from one mould.” So, that was all right then.

But others were more illuminating. Old Bolshevik I Stepanov wrote in opposition to Trotsky: “But Vladimir Il’ich did not arrive in a desert in April 1917: he returned to an organisation with which he spoke a common language … The cadres of the Leninist party were homogenous to an extent that was perhaps rare up to that time. But this does not, of course, mean that the party passively watched the moves of the marshal’s staff: in our party, there never have been and never will be any staff-bearers of marshals.”

Part of this is being expressed in a deadening tone, but, on balance, and having read Lih’s account of 1917 (which, contrary to Creegan, explores a dialectic of difference and unity), I’m inclined to think Stepanov has a more accurate impression of April 1917 than Trotsky.

Bukharin had been a major opponent of Trotsky’s ‘deviation’ in 1924, but he was intelligent enough to realise that the cacophony of the debate was leading in dangerous directions. In a confidential letter to the central committee in 1924 (subsequently raked up and used to tar its author with the charge of ‘Trotskyism’ in the grotesque show trials), Bukharin rejected Zinoviev’s bleating about ‘100% unity against Trotsky’, stating that it was “artificial” and said: “We incessantly solve problems according to the principle, ‘Whatever does not help Trotsky’. But we do not even indicate how exactly we are helping Trotsky and all the other deviations, since we are artificially curbing our own laboratory of ideas.”

I don’t hold any brief for Trotsky’s opponents in 1924, but it is obvious that, despite the ‘Leninist’ horseshit, we are not dealing with a bunch of village idiots and Trotsky’s views need to be seen as contested ones. And that contest wasn’t simply one-sided.

But I am not confident that Jim Creegan would be at all impressed by any of this. Such people would rather live in the half-light and I suspect that it would be easier for Creegan if the bright illumination of uncovered documents and the study of history - which Trotsky noticeably welcomed in the very first lines of Lessons of October - were shut off in favour of darker pleasures.

Lawrence Parker

Frankfurt school

Betrayal of the 1919 German revolution by the social democrats is not an explanation of the failure of the revolution (see ‘Storming the fortress’, supplement Weekly Worker November 1). Why did the social democrats betray the revolution? Because they were social democrats is not a satisfactory answer, not least as it relies on a circular logic. This betrayal by the social democrats, however, was instrumental in Stalin’s subsequent rejection of a ‘united front’ against the Nazi’s, so splitting the left and allowing Hitler to win ‘democratically’.

Vulgar Marxism reifies the analytic distinction between base and superstructure and then imputes a problematic - because non-existent - causal relation between them: the well known problem of (bourgeois) metaphysics. Synthetically (totality) money is both ‘base’ (Capital = M-C-M’) and ‘superstructure’ (private property relations).

So the reason why the social democrats betrayed the revolution is to be found in the process of reification - the subject - that liquid mercury of living time - is reified as the object, that known-to-exhaustion dead end, when use-value ‘labour’ is reified as exchange-value ‘labour-power’ in the commodity (‘socially necessary labour time’). The age of capital as the age of Absolute Alienation.

Adorno equates exchange-value and the processes of abstraction in a critique of reason itself (dialectic of enlightenment and negative dialectics, as opposed to the positive dialectics of bourgeois thought from Plato to Hegel) … The social democrats were formed/beguiled by abstraction into a ‘Tina’ position of ‘There is no Money (exchange value), but Exchange Value (money), and Plato was his prophet’.

NB: Marx wrote a ‘critique’ of bourgeois political economy - a negative dialectics, in that he did not posit anything positive, thereby avoiding reification. Hegel’s ‘identity of identity and non-identity’ (knowing and being, for instance) relies on abstraction unto death. Mortals are doomed to non-identity and, the sooner they accept that, the sooner they will stop torturing and butchering each other in our daily merry-go-round …

Discuss …

Nick Elvidge

Shit pump

On Sunday December 2 at TUC HQ in Fitzrovia, London, a special shitty event is planned for 2pm.

Several big unions in the TUC have adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism and are now using it to silence members. The big three on Labour’s NEC - Unison, Unite and the GMB - bear particular responsibility for facilitating the witch-hunt at Labour. This means that every Labour politician in the UK is fearful of speaking out - even against racist acts, such as pumping shit into a school (see ‘Israel settlers dump sewage on Palestinian school in Qalqiliya’ at tinyurl.com/settlershit). These unions adopted the IHRA without reference to their members.

On Sunday, I and others who support my “death-wish” petition (tinyurl.com/israelihra) invite Zionists to bring their shit, so that they can pump it into a model Arab school we shall provide for the occasion (ie, a cardboard box). If Zionists fail to show, shit will be provided (expanding brown, polystyrene foam). Netanyahu and Trump will push the plunger (or their avatars). We’d like your readers and the media to come too. Union bosses are also invited to attend and watch - on the condition that they silence any of their members who protest, by calling them ‘anti-Semites’.

Trade unionists who want to put a stop to shit-spreading can do something to help from the comfort of their own home. They can email a motion of their own to their local branch; a model version condemning the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism can be downloaded at tinyurl.com/unionihra.

Action is needed, for any Labourist or trade unionist who points out the racist nature of Israel for allowing such actions by settlers faces expulsion. I am a steward presently suspended by the GMB for my petition; my hearing is next week (see tinyurl.com/gmbnat3). Labour thinks me anti-Semitic too. And that’s pretty crappy.

Thus far it seems the unions and Labour are bound to tacitly support the settlers. Can we help them change sides? I desperately need the help of Labour Against the Witchhunt to do that, so I’m pitching my motion at tinyurl.com/lawihramotion to them on Saturday December 1. I hope readers will support it.

Pete Gregson

Canada’s role

Members of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) met from November 5-7 for its 4th general assembly. We, the Canadian delegation, made up of grassroots organisations of migrants, refugees and their allies, express our solidarity with the members of the caravan of migrant people - especially women and children - who arrived in Mexico City in the last few days. This massive exodus comes mainly from Honduras, as well as from other Central American countries.

We are deeply concerned about the dangers facing the members of this caravan, as well as all migrants in Latin America. Kidnappings, extortions, disappearances, sexual assaults and killings have been reported, with women and children being particularly vulnerable to violence. The delegation witnessed the terrible living conditions in the refugee camp, where almost 5,000 migrants were staying.

We stand together in protest to the threats made by US president Donald Trump to militarise the US-Mexico border and to act with aggression toward the caravan - in total violation of international human rights standards toward asylum-seekers.

Most importantly, IMA’s Canadian delegation deplores the silence of the Canadian state and prime minister Justin Trudeau on this matter. Canada has played a serious role in creating the current crisis situation in Honduras and in Latin America, as well as in many countries around the world.

For example, in 2009, shortly after the military coup that ousted the government of Manuel Zelaya, representatives of the Canadian embassy and Canadian investors met with the new putschist government of Lobo Sosa. Canada was the first country to formally recognise this government. In exchange, Honduras adopted an institutional reform that facilitates foreign investment and mining in the country, and neutralises the opposition to mining projects by the affected communities. This new piece of Honduran legislation closely mirrors the Canadian Mining Act - one of the most lax mining policies in the world - thus explaining how Canada has become a safe haven for the world’s mining companies, with 75% of these registered on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Furthermore, a free trade agreement signed in 2013 between the two countries also promotes Canadian tourism and resource extraction industries in Honduras, and today mining by Canadian-based companies accounts for approximately 90% of all foreign investment in Honduras.

The case of Honduras is just one example of the role of Canadian state policies that result in the destruction of territories, particularly those of indigenous, peasant and Afro-descendant communities. These resource extraction megaprojects across Latin America and the world affect people’s livelihood, culture and traditions, and are responsible for generating forced displacement, a climate of insecurity, persecution, as well as many forms of systemic and individual violence, including disappearances, rape and murder.

We therefore wish to emphasise Canada’s key role in the creating the root causes of the massive exodus of people from Latin America, where Canadian companies are wreaking havoc, plundering resources, contaminating nature, threatening and murdering individuals who oppose these projects, and destroying the social fabric upon which people’s livelihoods and wellbeing are built. Indeed, all of these atrocities occur with impunity.

It is clear that, while Canada continues to build its wealth by exploiting the resources and people in the global south, it also takes advantage of the workers who are forced to flee and arrive in Canada in search of livelihood, entering under temporary foreign-worker programmes. Such programmes exploit migrant workers of many different sectors, including farmworkers, domestic workers and other so-called ‘low-skill workers’ as a pool of cheap and disposable labour. The Canadian government must take responsibility for its role in cultivating and promoting the systemic conditions that allow for employers to abuse, exploit and deny migrant workers rights.

Considering Canada’s responsibility, we demand that the government of Canada immediately take a stand to protect these asylum-seekers and displaced people, and work with the Mexican government to offer those that wish to stay in Mexico safe refuge. We demand a stop to the destructive practices of Canadian industries in Latin America and in the world. Canadian companies abroad must be held accountable for their activities, not only in indigenous territories of Canada, but also elsewhere in the world where they are operating.

Since the majority of the migrants are travelling without formal documents, we also demand that the embassies and consulates of Honduras in Mexico, the United States and Canada provide, upon demand, passports and any other of support to their citizens in transit, as is their duty.

We believe it is more important than ever for us, as Canadians, to show our full solidarity with the people of the caravan and migrants of the world, and to organise to oppose the government policies that contribute to their ongoing plight.

Together, the signatories of this statement, remind you that no human being is illegal, and that all people have the right to self-determination, to seek asylum and to live free from social, political, economic and gender-based violence!

International Migrants Alliance

Scrap the crap

Miracle of miracles - it seems there’s now a window overlooking sanity from their capitalist lunatic asylum (or is it just cage-cleaning time in the parliamentary zoo?). Grassroots members of the Labour Party are now beginning to push their leadership to back a second referendum - most notably one with a categorical option to stay in the European Union. Actually, why the hell bother with a second referendum aka ‘People’s Vote’, when far more effective - and certainly most efficient - would be to outright scrap that Brexit crap.

Even more to the point, who’s to say Marxists can’t be building both domestic and international socialism, whilst British capitalism continues to busy itself with redesigning those poxy little national borders of theirs? Anyway‘Better in than out!’, whilst doing so, with more associated pluralism in our communities, and thereby more generalised diversity available to a developing consciousness of our co-citizens. More dynamic, vibrant, free-spirited and freethinking multiculturalism being provided, so as to dilute that ‘sovereign state’ primitivism and other such vomit as spews from the gullet of both our petty bourgeoisie and sections of power elite!

In this context, the naming of names is entirely unnecessary; however, for some peculiar reason ‘Nigel, Boris and Jacob’ ram straight into any sensible person’s head!

Bruno Kretzschmar