Too many people
I found the article, ‘Climate change and system change’ (September 5), based on the talk given by Jack Conrad at this year’s Communist University, most interesting.
I agree with most of the points made by Jack, but I disagree with his conclusion that population growth is not a problem, when it comes to combating climate change. Like most of the radical left, Jack implies that anyone who points out the problems associated with population growth are the modern-day followers of the ideas of Thomas Malthus. The implication is that this will result in forced sterilisation and a new holocaust.
I must admit that I have been heavily influenced by reading the excellent recent book, Facing the apocalypse: arguments for ecosocialism - by leading Socialist Resistance member Alan Thornett. As the book points out, the world population is increasing by 82 million each year - the equivalent of the population of Germany. The population of Africa will double by 2050, and quadruple by 2100. By 2050 Nigeria will be the sixth biggest country in the world by population, with over 300 million people. Whilst the advanced capitalist countries are major contributors to climate change and have a falling birth rate, the rate in the global south is increasing. At the same time, half of the world’s population is under 25, which shows the potential for population growth.
What Jack Conrad fails to consider is what effect robotics, lasers and artificial intelligence in the advanced capitalist countries will have on the demand for labour. As researchers at the University of Oxford have recently pointed out, 50% of jobs will be eliminated through new technology, computerisation and automation. Some economists even predict that 90% of jobs in the advanced capitalist countries will be eliminated. The only growth areas for jobs will be in care homes, biochemistry, robot and laser technicians in factories and on the land, and health. I don’t include education, which is ripe for computerisation.
The working class has always tried to limit the supply of labour. One way is through demands for birth control. Another is through the trade union closed shop. In the 21st century the best way of limiting the supply of labour is by encouraging women to have a maximum of two children. This is something the Duke and Duchess of Sussex fully understand, in spite of their use of private jets. As I’ve written before, all men and women should be offered a tax-free grant of £500 if they agree to be sterilised. At the same time, the government should abolish child benefit and the children’s tax credit element of universal credit. The money saved should go into sex education classes in secondary schools.
I agree with the Green Party manifesto for the 2015 general election, which stated that the UK government should have a target of reducing the population of the UK by 2100 to just 20 million from its current 65 million. It is time the radical left woke up and recognised that population growth is a problem.
I take the Brexit/remain conundrum as an ordinary contradiction. It has two propositions, seemingly irreconcilable. As in any contradiction, the eventual resolution is a third proposition that will include all that had been present in the two original poles, whilst transcending them both.
And so I see the need to expand on Jeremy Corbyn’s views of a socialist Europe. I am pretty sure that a socialist Europe will eventually reunify Europe, in the same way as a socialist federation will one day reunite the British Isles.
Corbyn often poses the simple (mechanical) reunification of Brexit and remain to rebuild the country. But the two poles cannot be united mechanically. The laws of movement (see Hegel, Marx and Engels) will eventually transcend them dialectically. And here lies the transition to socialism, or at least the start of it, where communists can make a big difference.
I suggest that we investigate suggestions, elements and propositions that give confidence to Corbyn, as he tries to link the UK working class (the ordinary folk these days) more systematically with the working class in the rest of the European countries.
Here go some of my proposals, on the basis of those made by countless others:
- For the European-wide reduction of the working week without loss of pay.
- Joint campaigns to locate the financial parasites, and to deal with them.
- European conversions and compatibilities for new jobs in clean technologies.
- For a Nato Exit International Front, as called for by No Guerra, No Nato at its Florence meeting of April 7 2019.
These are only ideas, in the hope of many future amplifications.
Labour Party member
A lunatic, decomposed and near-dystopian place has now been arrived at in connection with all things Brexit. Remaining true to form, last week saw the former supreme court judge, Lord Sumption, declare how prime minister Boris Johnson would be in contempt of court if he applied for an article 50 extension, while simultaneously rubbishing the request with a side letter. This in response to reports in The Daily Telegraph, which highlighted that planned “sabotage” of parliament’s efforts. For his part, David Cameron chucked a hat of transparent self-interest into the ring-a-ring-a-roses of diversionary garbage, when describing in his newly published autobiography both the campaign by Brexiteers during the run-up to the referendum and subsequent fall-out from the result as a Conservative Party “psychodrama”.
The Weekly Worker should take little comfort from this scenario. Apart from anything else, it needs to bear in mind how that position of opting to take cover as non-combatants, so to speak, as Marxian-styled conscientious objectors, has resulted in confusion, dismay, despondency or even simple despair for some amongst its readership. A logical outcome, surely, of the organisation clinging on to dubious ideology and associated strategies - failing to clear away dead leaves built up across pathways of policy-making, all within this both near-unique and notably modernist setting.
For their part, neither Corbynism nor Labour as a whole can escape largely equivalent criticism. By refusing to think outside prison walls of bourgeois parliamentary so-called democracy - and then focus all energies there in pursuit of a reversal of Brexit (most particularly on the basis of darkly funded disinformation campaigns, etc, that played a central role in its instigation), they have set themselves up to face ruinous consequences with a disillusioned section of those who previously supported them. At the very least, they are now carrying a millstone around their neck.
According to study after study, the Veterans Health Administration in the USA provides the best healthcare, has the best medical outcomes, the shortest wait-times, and does so at the lowest cost of any other large healthcare programme anywhere. The success of the VHA is owed to its being socialised medicine, and its dedicated doctors, nurses, medical personnel and employees. They prove that not everybody is motivated by profit. In fact, most people are not.
The VHA is a federally funded healthcare system. Unlike Medicare, Obamacare and Medicaid, it is not a health insurance programme, which depends on the for-profit medical industry. At VHA the government owns the ‘bricks and mortar’: the hospitals, clinics, etc. But VHA owns all the medical equipment. All the doctors, nurses and medical staff are government employees. If that is not shocking enough to neoliberals, then consider that VHA employees are unionised by the American Federation of Government Employees.
The establishment has been trying to destroy VHA since its inception by president Lincoln in 1865. The current war against it began with Ronald Reagan in 1987. While Reagan was trying to kill the VHA, his soulmate in the UK, Margaret Thatcher, had her daggers out for Britain’s national health service. Both the VHA and NHS have survived, but the war to kill them is still on.
After over 10 years since the great recession of 2008, failed neoliberal economic policies have worsened inequality, wages have been stagnant and the US economy continues to sink in its ability to provide the basic necessities of life to the American people. Obamacare turned out be an insurance fraud and a flop. Corrupt politicians, for-profit private healthcare businesses, peddlers of information technology companies, Wall Street financial institutions, pharmaceutical corporations, phony ‘non-profit’ foundations and the corporate mainstream media are conspiring to privatise the VHA. The only reasons they want to kill it is so that corporations can raid its $200 billion a year budget, and to destroy a good example that makes neoliberalism and capitalism look bad.
Capitalism is not rational. It has only one priority, and that is profits. Best medical practices, patient outcomes and helping people do not fit the capitalist mould. It is no mystery why making profits and the practice of medicine are a conflict of interest. Under socialised medicine there are less conflicts of interest that put other interests ahead of providing healthcare. The privatisation of VHA is all about profits and ripping off veterans. It has nothing to do with the quality of care, the medical outcomes, the wait-time or cost. VHA beats the private healthcare platform in every category.
The neoliberal economic policies of capitalism have proven over and over that they are failures. Capitalism is an unstable, corrupt economic system. Neoliberalism has destroyed nations and in the process it has ruined the lives of millions of people. The only ones who have benefited from neoliberalism have been the profiteers. As they got richer, the rest of humanity has gotten poorer. The 18th century capitalist experiment of Adam Smith has degenerated into neo-feudalism.
Socialism has proven over and over again that it is the best system for delivering the necessities of life, such as healthcare, education, mass transportation, food security and vital infrastructure. The success of socialism is why capitalist USA is always militarily attacking socialist countries. The success of socialism is seen as an existential threat to capitalists.
The privatisation of healthcare is all about profits and ripping off the public. It has nothing to do with the quality of care, the medical outcomes, the wait-time, information technology and cost. VHA proves that socialised medicine beats the private healthcare platform in every category.
David William Pear
Source of hope
The Democratic Socialists of America 2019 national convention - aside from its size and historic importance in the context of a renewing socialist movement fraught with contradictions - was unique in a way not often covered in the copious amount of digital ink spilled over proceedings since August 4. Amidst factional manoeuvring and weaponised proceduralism, the actual political stakes themselves (and the strategic implications following) were often lost in the fog. On a surface level, it is exceedingly difficult to see what substantive differences among the caucus and non-caucus formations could possibly justify the level of veiled and open hostility.
Much of the pre-convention discourse was indeed personalised and held in spaces obscured from the broader membership. But strategic decisions about how to build socialist power - and what constitutes power to begin with - have real-world consequences. Different class forces - particularly the ideas of the so-called middle-class petty bourgeoisie - find a reflection in socialist formations.
Since political lines of demarcation were so unclear, analysis of tendency has largely been grouped into two broad camps of ‘centralisers’ and ‘decentralisers’ - see, for example, Eric Blanc in The Nation (August 7) or Tatiana Cozzarelli in Left Voice (August 13). Certainly it’s fair to say that Bread and Roses (the “national caucus of Marxist organisers” in the DSA) favours a stronger national centre with campaigning priorities determined by that centre and passed along to the chapter level, while something like the Libertarian Socialist Caucus would favour ground-level autonomy. But collapsing all of this into two camps both flattens tactics (the balance between ‘centre’ and ‘local’ being subject to change based, on task and circumstances) and buries the conflict over strategic outlook that is key to understanding what happened.
Resolutions taking up the structure and internal organisation of the DSA took up the most time on the convention floor. As we attempt to consolidate ourselves into something fit for purpose, the question is posed: do we need a member-driven, radical, organising centre, rooted in the diverse working class, or something along the lines of a hybrid between the top-down NGO model and a social-movement pressure group?
It’s interesting to observe the composition of these two groupings: the ‘centralisers’ are based in older chapters in major urban centres, backed by Jacobin, and joined by layers of comrades from the former International Socialist Organization. Their main focus was on getting as much support for the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign as possible, shooting down anything which could remotely threaten the intervention in the campaign (either explicitly or implicitly by drawing finite resources away from that project). Their secondary focus was ramming through their ‘Rank-and-file’ strategy resolution, despite the vast majority of newer members being in areas without unions or with anaemic and bureaucratic locals. The question of whether the regeneration of the extant labour movement could coexist with conscious campaigning to organise the unorganised outside of historic trade unionist bastions or - as posited by the rank-and-file strategy - whether these unions had to be radicalised as a precondition for the former loomed large through the weekend. In the end, R&F passed a floor vote, alongside commitments to ‘organise the unorganised’, including reforming the Democratic Socialist Labor Commission to facilitate that end.
The ‘decentralisers’ are largely from new chapters and organising committees, many in rural and small city-based areas that formed after the Sanders or Ocasio-Cortez levies. Many work in areas that have had no socialist history for half a century or more (if it all). There’s also a not insignificant minority among big city comrades, who have seen first hand the practice of the ‘centralisers’. Frequently, often indirectly influenced by the Marxist Center movement, the main focus was in acquiring resources for these new comrades to build organisation among these unorganised and inexperienced members of our class.
If we accept the division of the left into four tendencies, divided by practice rather than stated ideology, we see that floor debates mapped (admittedly roughly) to divisions between the ‘government socialist’ and ‘base builder’ approach. Resolution 57 - granting coordinated support to the tenant-organising projects many chapters are already involved in - could have serious implications for organising the class in the arena of social reproduction if followed through. Resolutions to systematise and expand childwatch in DSA spaces and form a nationwide marshalling programme are both worthwhile in their own right and important in creating operationally secure structures and opening the organisation beyond layers of radicalised and childless white men. Surely we can all agree on the need for a socialist organisation’s composition to more closely mirror the composition of the class as a whole, which includes many oppressed and marginalised peoples. But several measures with this need in mind were roundly defeated. A resolution granting institutional support to make our spaces accessible to comrades with disabilities, ‘Pass the Hat’ (which proposed a monthly stipend to chapters to stimulate our growth in rural and suburban/small-city areas, where far-right ideas march inexorably against a materially outmatched left), another redistributive dues measure, and the fairly self-explanatory “Nobody is too poor for DSA” (which made it easier for active comrades to acquire dues waivers) all failed to carry.
This seeming contradiction makes sense if the overriding objective is to elect left candidates to office and that objective is cast against building vehicles of independent working class power. While the ‘realignment strategy’ appears now to be on its deathbed, measures like the “class struggle elections candidate pipeline” replicate the problem of applying our finite resources to elect office-holders without meaningful accountability to the movement that elevated them.
Outside of explicitly structural issues, resolution 9 to create a National Antifascist Working Group and the “anti-imperialist package” resolution, bundling Cuba solidarity, recommitment to the BDS campaign and commitment to decolonisation of the US empire, carried after an extended floor debate - both by a wire-thin margin. The closeness of the votes here reveal divergent perspectives: anti-imperialist practice is absolutely necessary if we see working people in the United States as one part of the world working class, but a potentially embarrassing liability if the outlook is to establish a social democratic reform regime premised on the super-exploitation of the neo-colonial world and internally colonised people. That these passionately defended resolutions did pass is a testament to our ability to at least begin challenging the cult of US nationalism that permeates all social life in the world’s imperial hegemon.
It’s difficult to predict the future without a crystal ball. If the elections to the national political committee are any indication, the DSA is moving in a broadly leftward direction, with around half of the incoming NPC placed somewhere left of the DSA centre. This trend will surely continue if the ‘decentralisers’ or base-builders continue their growth on the frontier of the working classes. And, more than adding up the sum total of votes for this or that measure, the process of creating political clarity in practice can’t be understated.
As the third largest socialist organisation in US history, coming forward after a period of general defeat for leftwing and working class struggles around the world, it seems only natural that the Democratic Socialists of America is an arena where contradictory perspectives are worked out - we are learning how to fight again. With the climate crisis accelerating social breakdown and the rise of the extreme right, we need to learn quickly. Although serious differences in outlook so often remain obscured, the DSA remains a source of hope for the liberation struggle against all forms of oppression and domination to be reforged.
Gabriel Pierre and Miah Simone
Red and green
Gerard Cairns, author of a recent biography of John Maclean, The red and the green (2018), argues that Maclean was a “Green Clydesider”, as well as a “Red Clydesider”.
In August 1907 Maclean stayed with Jim Larkin in Belfast as a guest of the city’s Socialist Society. He witnessed first-hand Gordon Highlanders shooting at rioters on the Falls Road. Maclean had already seen enough. He wrote of the heroism of the strikers and denounced the British government as “murderers”. He also remarked on the “ignorance of Orangemen, who lack the redeeming wit of the Irish Celt”, and he bemoaned the press “deification” of their leader, Sir Edward Carson.
Maclean went on to support the Easter Rising - unlike many on the British left - and then in 1918, whilst campaigning in the Gorbals, he raised the issue of two imprisoned Sinn Féin men, Barney Friel and Joe Robinson. He had met them whilst in prison at Peterhead. Robinson in particular was a “key player in Irish republican circles in Glasgow”. He was commandant of ‘A’ Company - effectively the Irish Republican Army in Scotland.
Maclean followed this up by meeting with members of ‘A’ Company at Risk Street in Calton, in the east end of Glasgow. And in May 1919 he shared a platform with Constance Markievicz at a May Day event on Glasgow Green. The two apparently discussed Maclean’s idea of an Irish and Scottish Defence Forces Federation.
Then in June 1919 Maclean was invited to Dublin to a Connolly commemorative event. He used his speech to argue for a Connolly Memorial Workers College and described him as the “brain centre” of the Irish working class. Connolly’s “murder by the British government roused the latent fire in Irish breasts” and the fires would “never again be quenched by a general massacre until an Irish Republic has been established”. 1920 saw yet more of what Cairns calls “sterling solidarity work”. Maclean called meetings on the theme of “Hands off Ireland”. And under the auspices of the Tramp Trust Unlimited some 20,000 copies of a pamphlet, The Irish tragedy: Scotland’s disgrace were sold. The disgrace, of course, lay in the fact that Scottish troops were being used to suppress Irish people.
Meanwhile, direct links with republicans continued. Maclean was teaching at the Scottish Labour College. One of his students in the 1920-21 academic year was Andrew Fagan, Quartermaster of the Scottish Brigade of the IRA. Maclean learned about economics and philosophy - and even more about the Irish Revolution.
Maclean remained firm in his view that in Ireland, as elsewhere the British empire, there was posed the “greatest menace to the human race”. He concluded that the “best interests of humanity can therefore be served by the break-up of the British empire”. He continued to end most articles he wrote in his latter years with the words, “Up, Scotland! Up, Ireland! Up the social revolution!”
Drive out JLM
At Labour conference this year Labour Against Zionist Islamophobic Racism (Lazir) will be campaigning for the disaffiliation of the Jewish Labour Movement. We have, as one of our core objectives, the aim of getting the Zionists - in the shape of the JLM - out of Labour.
This has obviously upset the JLM and I was challenged on it by Labour HQ after they suspended me. We are determined to make a difference to Labour’s fortunes, however, as the JLM will surely spring into action, decrying pro-Palestine activists and Corbynistas as anti-Semites as soon as the election date is announced.
They also have to go because the Labour Party has social justice, fairness and equality at its heart and the JLM have demonstrated time and again they share none of the values. We invite Weekly Worker readers to join our fight to rid our party of this organisation - reconstituted just four years ago in the aftermath of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory, specifically to attack, undermine and destroy his leadership.
Secret recordings by Al Jazeera reveal former JLM chair Jeremy Newmark telling a ‘members-only’ function on September 13 2016 that “a bunch of us sat in a coffee shop in Golders Green” around September 2015 (just days after Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory) to “talk about reforming the JLM to do something ... about the rise of Jeremy Corbyn”.
The JLM also claims to represent the British ‘Jewish community’. However, the group’s own website quoted former JLM chair Louise Ellman MP claiming that JLM was “founded in 2004 as the successor to Poale Zion, a pioneering organization within the Labour ‘Zionist’ family”. Poale Zion participated in the 1948 Nakba, when Zionists terrorised, killed, maimed or drove out over 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland - it has not been active since.
Meanwhile, since its supposed ‘rebranding’, the JLM has deliberately and maliciously brought the party and its leaders into disrepute by:
Falsely attacking Jeremy Corbyn and the party as ‘anti-Semitic’ and pushing the fake ‘anti-Semitism crisis’ narrative in national and international media;
Lodging a fake ‘anti-Semitism’ complaint against the party with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission;
Passing a resolution at its AGM in 2016 describing Jeremy Corbyn as “unfit to be prime minister”;
Calling on the electorate not to vote for Labour candidates who support Corbyn as leader;
Conspiring with foreign agents, particularly from Israel, to discredit the party and its leader, as seen in the Al Jazeera 2017 documentary, ‘The lobby’;
Aligning with and defending the racist apartheid state of Israel in direct opposition to the Labour Party’s stated aim of fighting all forms of racism and discrimination.
We call on all party members to lobby their CLPs to vote for the disaffiliation of JLM from the Labour Party.
Download the model motion at our new website at www.lazir.org/disaffiliate-jlm, where you can also get the full flyer we’ll be distributing.