Not the answer
Your article, ‘Ignoring the problem’, is headed: “Fighting for open borders means facing up to the reality of mass migration, argues Paul Demarty” (November 29).
While you are most probably right in saying that “illegal or legal, they will find their way”, it seems illogical to me to deduce from this that calling for “open borders” is the answer. While I do not, of course, regard migrating with or without legal documents to be a ‘crime’, your argumentation appears to imply that it was wrong to forbid something which you can’t erase. This, of course, goes for murder as well. At least since Cain and Abel, human beings have committed murder and no law has ever stopped this practice. However, all societies have regarded it as a crime and forbidden it.
‘Open borders’ is identical to no borders and thus to no state. The fact that most people in this world who have good reasons to leave their countries for economically better developed ones will never be able to do so does not mean that the slogan, ‘open borders’, is right. At least logically, it means that everybody who is poorer than the minority of the world’s people in the imperialist countries could settle there. This would of necessity mean that there everybody’s socio-economic level would drop at least near to the world-wide prevailing low level, so that, even for the migrants, migration would not pay off.
Putting forward such a slogan with the ulterior motive that anyway most of the folks in question won’t ever make it to Europe seems to me to be particularly nasty. We ought to fight for different strategies to favour the wellbeing of the people in and outside the imperialist countries.
In Israeli eyes
From the very inception of the communist movement in mandate Palestine, the job of Jewish and Arab communists was twofold: their task was not just to convince the masses that the only way to liberate themselves is building a revolutionary party of the working class, one which will carry forward a proletarian revolution. It was also to persuade the Jewish and Arab workers that they must break the divisions which separate them and unite in an internationalist party, whose members are equal and undertake the task of revolutionising Palestine. The role played by the Jewish and Arab communists cannot be fully explained without emphasising the fact that their struggle for full national and class liberation of their peoples was based on sheer commitment to the binational nature of this very struggle.
Today, the communist movement in Israel/Palestine is weaker than it was. The Israeli communists, as well as their Palestinian counterparts, do not stress the need to build a revolutionary party of workers in the country and are satisfied with having two moribund parties that cannot win the hearts and minds of the workers and peasants. They still stick to the old and already dead two-state solution, refusing to think of Palestine as one political entity, which should be unified in one socialist republic. They stand for nationalist politics which is not working class-oriented and lack any influence in terms of organising workers and mobilising them. There is therefore a great need to start an honest discussion on the role of communists in Israel/Palestine, considering the crazy political situation that prevails in the country. However, there is no desire among the existing socialist and communist militants in the country to carry forward this kind of debate. This examination of our past and present as communists, including the Soviet past, is greatly needed, but is unfortunately avoided.
I follow with great envy the Weekly Worker and the great amount of energy devoted in discussing and promoting class politics upon its pages, including the needed inquiry into the Soviet past. In my eyes, the Weekly Worker is a revolutionary paper oriented toward the toiling masses - a paper whose equivalent does not exist in Israel/Palestine - and there is a serious need to help the British comrades to spread the word and let people enjoy and be influenced by the communist press, authored by the successors of the Communist Party of Great Britain.
At the same time, I do believe that the Weekly Worker must serve as an instrument to rebuild the Communist International destroyed by Stalin - hence the need to publish on its pages some views, analyses and commentaries written by communists who live outside Britain and are terribly isolated, like myself. I hope that the British comrades appreciate how valuable their paper is; I can only wish that a day will come in which a Hebrew Weekly Worker will be published in my own country.
An interesting exchange took place at the November 30 general meeting of Eltham Constituency Labour Party in south London.
The MP for Eltham is Clive Efford, who, although he was the prime mover behind the refounding of the Tribune group of Labour MPs in 2016, is more of a centrist than a leftwinger. When giving his usual parliamentary report, Efford focused mainly on Brexit and, referring to next week’s crunch vote in the Commons, which Theresa May is expected to lose, asked, “What do we do next?”
Astonishingly he answered his own question by stating: “Labour’s policy is for a People’s Vote”. That is totally untrue and a comrade immediately challenged this from the floor, pointing out that party policy was for a general election, not a second referendum - something that Efford insisted was now essential. The MP then admitted that the first priority was a general election, but, he said, once that had been rejected, as it certainly would be, “only then would we call for a second referendum”.
When the comrade from the floor shook his head, Efford invited him to come back in to elaborate his disagreement. The comrade pointed out that the policy decided at conference was to leave things open in the event of no election - a second referendum was just one possibility. But Efford retorted that the “clear implication” of the conference motion was that in those circumstances there would indeed be a People’s Vote. This “implication” demonstrates just why that motion won the overwhelming support of Labour ‘remainers’.
As it happened, the main debate at the general meeting was precisely over Brexit and one of the CLP’s most consistent rightwingers complained that the party as a whole had not campaigned for ‘remain’ during the 2016 referendum campaign, believing it was too divisive and might ‘cost us votes’ to put forward any position. But now a People’s Vote was the “only way to try and resolve things” and we should do everything we could to reverse the Brexit decision.
A dozen or so comrades intervened in the debate, but not one was a supporter of ‘leave’ or even backed the official leadership line that ‘the people have spoken’. The overwhelming majority agreed with Efford that the decision must be reversed.
It was left to the comrade who had made the original challenge to break the consensus. The first referendum had been a farce, he said, and a second one would be exactly the same. Stating that referenda were the “most undemocratic form of so-called democracy”, he pointed out that the first major statesman to employ the device was French dictator Napoleon Bonaparte. We should be “against referendums in principle”, he said.
Surprisingly, this drew applause from a lot of those present and Efford himself also seemed to agree: we should indeed be “very wary” of referenda and Labour should not call one in future. However, although it was “absolutely right” that Labour policy was for a general election, as that isn’t going to happen, how on earth can we reverse the disastrous Brexit decision?
He went on to respond to the comrade’s point that the EU, like Britain itself, was in reality run by big business and the banks, and was undemocratic in many respects, by putting on his Tribune face: “What kind of Europe do we want? I want to be in it, so we can influence it.” Yes, the EU was undemocratic and dominated by business and it was “no longer good enough for capital to say, ‘We’ve got to do it for our shareholders’”. We have to consider “what’s best for the country and working people”. And it’s no use getting out of the EU “into the hands of international capital”.
Looking at the comrade, he said, “You’re absolutely right” about referenda, but, unfortunately, “if it’s the only route ...” He ended by saying that Jeremy Corbyn had “done a great job” on Brexit - as had Keir Starmer!
In response to comrade Carla Roberts’ article, ‘No cross-class coalition’ (November 29), I pose this multiplex of questions - equally directed to all others within Labour Party Marxists and the CPGB, who share her analyses and general direction of travel.
So what that a second referendum is being called for on Brexit? Just because both deluded and chronically manipulated populations vote for a particular set of capitalist nonsense in one of their ‘democratic’ elections or referendums, why should that preclude communist support for a next or subsequent opportunity in order to reverse the situation to some limited extent (or more accurately, so as to regain lost advantage as far as the working class element amongst that citizenry is concerned)?
Even more pertinently, so what that a truly distasteful melange of apologists for capitalism support the proposed ‘People’s Vote’ (in the company of down-the-line reactionaries, including predatory financiers and whatever the hell else) - or, indeed, that they are holding hands so sickeningly in their desire for the UK to remain in the European Union?
Going by that wholly fallacious, strangely mechanical and linear (not to say simply daft) methodology, communists and all other permutations of real leftism would rampantly support such things as murder, rape and the abduction of children, simply because our power elites, as well as the bourgeoisie, oppose them!
By that same token, communists would decry essential welfare state benefits simply because neocon bastards manage successfully to create an impression of them as ‘handouts’ to ‘job-shy scroungers’. In the same vein, surely communist occupants of notably more enlightened countries must make it their business vehemently and pro-actively to disallow more backward cultures their practice of female genital mutilation, despite the fact that to do so could be seen as aligning with disgustingly moralising ‘neo-colonialists’?
Lying at the root of things, how can it ever be right to condemn or convict merely by association, merely on a basis of who we find ourselves sharing time and space with? (Not even bourgeois systems of justice permit that!) And surely opting to collaborate with your enemies is not only the right thing to do, but also an entirely sane move to make, when together you are being attacked by an even more noxious force?
Talk about mixing apples and pears! Talk about not being able to see the wood for the trees. Talk about losing sight of simple, down-to-earth or even just Realpolitik-based tactics (in distinction from core strategic considerations). Talk about abandoning common sense within a thick undergrowth of purist and impenetrable dogma - amidst a bizarre ideological blend of wilderness and swampland! All this could have suicidal consequences, given the current Zeitgeist together we live within, where the vast majority of young people fervently look toward freedom of movement within a progressively borderless globe, as conjoined with the resultant joys of multiculturalism/pluralism.
Even if only in their own naively ‘limited’ terms and sometimes stubbornly anti-revolutionary manner, it’s a desire for egalitarianism - for the creation of a ‘non-exploitative’ internationalism to call their own. So why the devil would we communists deliberately and knowingly stick ourselves outside their parameters of decent-mindedness or even graciousness, so to speak? Why the devil place ourselves in contradiction to their energy - and thereby be perceived as nihilistically destructive of it?
France has been rocked for weeks by a series of mass protests, which are increasingly turning into violent riots. A spontaneous mass rebellion - called the ‘Yellow Vests’ movement because of their high-visibility vests which all motorists are required by law have in their vehicles - erupted on November 17 in protest against higher diesel taxes. Denouncing rising living costs and declining incomes, the movement increasingly also calls for the resignation of the country’s president, Emmanuel Macron.
While Macron claims to be raising the tax for ecological reasons, it is in fact part of the government’s neoliberal austerity policy attacking the working class and lower strata of the middle class. It is therefore not surprising that the movement has a focus on rural and peri-urban areas, where people strongly depend on their cars because public transport is poorly developed.
The Yellow Vests have become a massive movement, mobilising hundreds of thousands of people every week. According to polls, between 72% and 86% of the population supports its demands, while Macron’s popularity has been driven to record lows. Protestors are blocking roads across France and impeding access to some shopping malls, fuel depots and airports. While making empty offers to hold talks, the neoliberal government is increasingly turning towards brutal repression. On December 1 police are reported to have arrested more than 400 people in Paris and 133 were injured. Some 10,000 tear gas canisters and stun grenades were fired, and water canons were deployed. After these clashes, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux indicated that the Macron administration was considering imposing a state of emergency.
The Yellow Vests movement represents a spontaneous mass rebellion of workers and the lower strata of the middle class. It mobilises via social media and lacks organised local structures. Its leaders are not party functionaries - mostly not even long-standing political activists - but rather people who seem to have been pushed accidently to the forefront. Reflecting a widespread mistrust against established parties and trade unions, the movement rejects the presence of their banners at demonstrations (this is similar to phenomena like the libertarian sectors of the anti-globalisation movement in the early 2000 or the protest movement against the price increases for public transport in Brazil in 2013). On Réunion - a French colony in the Indian Ocean with a majority population of groups of African, Indian, Malagasy and Chinese descent, as well as a white minority - the protests have already been transformed into a semi-insurrection and the government has imposed a curfew.
While this is clearly a popular movement dominated by workers and the lower middle class, its politically confused character, its lack of local and national democratic structures and its rejection of the participation of trade unions and leftwing parties give it a rather raw, petty-bourgeois, populist character. However, it is a petty-bourgeois, populist mass movement driven by opposition to the neoliberal austerity policy of the government (“Macron is a president of the rich” is a popular slogan) and with legitimate, progressive goals like opposition to higher diesel taxes or the resignation of Macron.
Shamefully, the reformist leaderships of the main trade unions, the CGT (close to the ‘Communist’ Party) and the CFDT (close to the ‘Socialist’ Party), have refused to support the movement or even its demands! However, many local CGT branches, as well as another important trade union federation, the FO, support the protests. Important leftwing parties like La France Insoumise, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon (who received nearly 20% of the vote at the last presidential elections), and Lutte Ouvrière also support the movement.
However, rightwing opposition parties, such as the conservative Les Républicains, together with racist parties like Le Pen’s Rassemblement National, as well as fascists, have tried to infiltrate and exploit the widely popular mass movement. Many activists of the movement are disgusted by the infiltration attempts of these reactionary forces and there have been a number of cases where people have attacked such racists and thrown them out. Nevertheless, these attempts are ongoing and they represent a big danger for the movement! It shows how important it is to build democratic local and national structures and to lift the ban on the open participation of trade unions and parties (that would make it more difficult for rightwingers to secretly infiltrate the movement).
The liberal pro-government media try to present the movement as consisting of a bunch of backward blockheads who are manipulated by ‘rightwing and leftwing extremists and hooligans’. Sectors of the academic left in Paris (as well as of the European ‘left’) share this sentiment. They denounce this popular movement as ‘reactionary’ and refuse to support it. Clearly, such academic ‘leftists’ are useless fools who treat the politically raw masses with contempt. They are no less criminal than the reformist CGT leadership. Instead of supporting the legitimate protest of the people against neoliberal austerity and fighting inside the raw and confused mass movement against rightwing forces, these reformist and centrist idiots prefer to arrogantly look down on the ordinary people and leave the field to reactionary forces!
Revolutionary Communist International Tendency