I, for one, stand with Sir Keir Starmer. He was right to get rid of Rebecca Long-Bailey. Not because she did or said anything which was remotely anti-Semitic. She didn’t. Or because the article she shared was wrong-headed. It wasn’t. It is, in fact, useful to point out the links between two states which have evolved a very top-heavy police apparatus that is adept at brutalising on a racist basis the peoples they have displaced and impoverished.
Even Amnesty International (that bastion of rabid anti-Semitism and conspiracy theory gone wild!) has long since pointed out that US police forces have received training on the use of force and crowd control from the Israeli military, police and intelligence services.
No, Sir Keir was right to get rid of Long-Bailey because he is acting in the best interests of the group he represents. He is acting in the interests of a liberal section of the establishment, which likes to believe it is in some way radical, in some way ‘labour-orientated’ - in contrast to those old-fashioned and out-of-touch Tory meanies.
But when you strip away the rainbow rhetoric of ‘rights’ and ‘justice’ - when you set aside the veneer of progressivism - what you are left with is a rather privileged group of individuals who have been thrust into the highest positions by the sheer momentum of their social privilege and class background. And we have witnessed the kind of underhand ferocity and backroom sabotage with which they meet even the mildest endeavour to challenge such privilege, to create a somewhat more egalitarian society.
Sir Keir’s dismissal of Long-Bailey is just the latest play in the process by which the Labour Party’s right wing has sought to maintain its grip on the political machine at all costs - from the perpetual red baiting, to the weaponisation of anti-Semitism. Sir Keir is simply bringing such a process to its fruition.
Jeremy Corbyn could learn a lot from him. Toward the end of his leadership Corbyn more and more sought to water down the radical energies of the membership and the poorer layers rather than facilitate them. He diluted his positions on immigration and Trident in an endeavour to appeal to the same elite, which would eventually destroy him. When that group plotted, machinated and sabotaged his political process, when that culminated in a coup against him, he embraced the plotters with open arms as part of the same ‘Labour family’.
Corbyn met accusations of ‘institutional anti-Semitism’ with fervent and repeated apologies, for he felt that if he prostrated himself sufficiently, if he made the attempt to properly address the real incidents of anti-Semitism that had taken place - then perhaps the media would relent. He failed to understand that no apology, no action would ever be enough, because, for the ruling elite, it was never about anti-Semitism in the first place. Starmer understands his own class position far better than Corbyn ever did. He knows exactly who his real enemies are. And he is prepared to act on that.
Corbyn bears no small amount of responsibility for the ‘Sir in the Saddle’ riding high as Labour leader now. But the Labour Party itself is a spent force. It is destined to be reduced to a secondary wing of the ruling elite - which might come into power every now and again, initiating the same ruling class economic policies which decimate the poor and the vulnerable; but papering this over with the type of liberal clichés and cynical nod to progressivism required to prop up this façade of a ‘democracy’, and offer the illusion of choice. For the remaining radicals in the Labour Party, you are aboard a slowly sinking vessel. And it is time to jump ship.
The sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey is the last straw for most socialist members of the Labour Party. The Labour ‘left’ could only get 12,000 people to sign a petition in support of her reinstatement. This miserly figure shows its real level of support within the party.
This is despite trade union bureaucrat Len McCluskey coming out in support of Long-Bailey. This shows, as the Socialist Equality Party has pointed out since 1994, the bourgeoisification of the trade union movement. At the same time, the ‘Marxist’, John McDonnell, has given his support to the dead-end campaign, Don’t Leave, Organise. This despite tens of thousands of Labour members cancelling their direct debits.
It is time that all Marxists came together and launched a new Communist Party independent of the bourgeois Labour Party. Those socialists who remain in the Labour Party are wasting their time and flogging a dead horse.
I have a friend who did not wish to sign the petition to defend Rebecca Long-Bailey due to what my friend saw as RLB having rather fallen on her sword. But I think the instinct of all those who signed the petition is good - 10,000 signatures in two days are making a big noise at this right time. It is very useful also to note that, in sacking RLB, Starmer has put his rightwing cards firmly on the table.
There is now going to be an avalanche of evidence that there is no conspiracy theory involved in the interview RLB shared. The avalanche has started: even some Israeli papers admit to Israel training foreign police forces in the choke-hold method with ‘the knee’! This is going to open a debate (blocked up to now) in all Constituency Labour Parties - a debate that Keir Starmer and the Labour right wanted to keep shut.
I am quite sure that this sacking is going to be a boomerang for Starmer. Not that RLB will have anything much to add, perhaps, but that Israel and the Jewish people are now going to appear as two separate entities, to be spoken about separately.
My CLP has had two informal Zoom gatherings. Before the last one, someone was insistent in having an item on the agenda demanding to know why our CLP had never discussed their resolution about the lack of space for Jewish people in our party. As the meeting drew to a close, the insistence waned. Things worked as if a big event had turned this thing around. I am quite sure that the big event is Black Lives Matter. Suddenly, there were forces in our CLP demanding to know why our CLP never had space for the Bame comrades.
Owen Jones likes to fish in confused waters to make a name for himself. But he did say that RLB should not have been sacked, or something approaching this. Had the political wind been blowing from the right, he would have gone along with the sacking. So the sacking has not stopped the political wind blowing from the left in the Labour Party.
Jones and Lansman are weather vanes that show you where the wind blows from. To my mind, it is blowing from the left more strongly, because all sorts of centrists have taken RLB’s defence instead of keeping silent. On the Labour right, they should be screaming ‘conspiracy theory’! I don’t think they enjoy seeing their fake-cards that Starmer has lain on the table for the whole world - and no longer just for Labour disciplinary purposes - to see.
John McDonnell says he stands “in solidarity” with RLB. Surely Jeremy Corbyn agrees with this. This goes quite a long way. John would not say this if he had swallowed the conspiracy theory. I hope these two comrades return to give a hand to help draw rallying conclusions.
Two immediate conclusions come to my mind. One is to unite the UK working class of all colours behind social equality and human justice. The working class, black and white, is the one that “cannot breathe”. It wants equality and justice: equality against the 1% obscenity, and human justice in society. But, let me tell you, none of these two things are in the power of capitalism!
The other conclusion is: why are the police forces of our settler colonial countries (the western capitalist countries we live in, as well as Australia, Canada, etc) - and their armies, to be sure - becoming counter-insurgency forces?
Tide comes in
I attended the June 28 Online Communist Forum, which was dominated by Rebecca Long-Bailey losing her position in the shadow cabinet. Jack Conrad mentioned that John McDonnell was not happy with this, while Stan Keable of Labour Party Marxists talked about the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS) against Israel.
It was only because of the Long-Bailey affair I bothered to look at Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet. Who was to appear there but the one and only Ed Miliband, who was leader of the Labour Party from 2010 until 2015. In 2013, the party Miliband led broke away from the Socialist International, which traces its origins back to the Second International. Labour changed its status from member to observer.
Labour Futures published a report in February 2013 which contained a single sentence about this, buried in the ‘Other business’ section: “The NEC agreed to downgrade Labour’s membership of the Socialist International to observer status, in view of ethical concerns, and to develop international cooperation through new networks.”
What are these “ethical concerns” and “new networks”, I wonder? In fact, over the next few years Labour found more and more “ethical” reasons not to regain full membership. For example, at a meeting of its council in July 2018 the SI adopted a formal position of BDS against Israel.
Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader in 2015, while his campaign manager - later shadow chancellor - was John McDonnell. They did not reverse this. Poor McDonnell did not push against the tide and now he is disappointed.
The Labour Party continues to be an observer, while the tide comes in deeper and deeper.
The past month has seen amazing developments in the US and internationally, and at a fast pace. Socialism is, at the minimum, about the struggle for equality, and the struggle for ‘racial’ equality (or against racism) has been, and remains, an integral part of it. A certain distinguished philosopher said that men/women make their own history, but not under conditions of their own choosing. The current conditions are both material and cultural/ideological/political.
On the material side we have capitalism - more and more unregulated in the US. On the side of ideology we have, among other things, ‘identity politics’, which on the right has a long tradition, going loosely under the name of fascism. Identity politics on the left is rather connected with the defeat of the left, and the channelling of the progressive movement into forms acceptable to capitalism. In particular, identity politics (on the left) presents clearly identifiable markets, so in a sense is performing a great service for capitalism. And, on the political side, we have the end of the cold war, in which capitalism was triumphant. So everything I say below should be seen in the light on these existing conditions.
The Black Lives Matter movement has mobilised many, especially young people, of many persuasions. If it was only black people marching, it would not have had so much effect. But the involvement of a broad spectrum of people has had a big effect, with discussions about radically changing policing practices in the US. Of course, corporate America is jumping on the bandwagon, for market reasons, but even this has to be seen as a progressive development.
The BLM movement has been behind this. This is basically a one-issue movement, around oppression of black people on an international scale, although there are also solidarity actions with other ‘oppressed minorities’, including Palestinians in Israel and with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. The actual video of a human being, being murdered in real time by a policeman, has mobilised many people, and led to the developing of a real mass movement, in the struggle for equality. It deserves the support of all progressive organisations. And those of us on the socialist side can raise suggestions, slogans or demands, especially regarding the police.
BLM does not claim to be socialist or anti-capitalist, and support from the Ford Foundation (which worked with the CIA in the 1960s, but has also supported a variety of progressive causes) is not problematic. If an organisation called the Communist Party of such and such a place (Marxist-Leninist) had support from the Ford Foundation, then one might raise one’s eyebrows. But not in this case.
It is now a commonplace that identity politics developed out of movements such as the Black Panther Party, which, in the form of Huey P Newton, distinguished between revolutionary nationalism and cultural nationalism (which for some reason he called “pork-chop nationalism”), and it was the destruction of the Black Panther Party which enabled its replacement by cultural nationalism. In spite of the identity politics environment (which includes all the expressions, such as white privilege and white fragility), BLM is a political movement, and should be supported.
This letter is meant partly as an antidote to the articles of Daniel Lazare, who readers may mistake for somebody speaking with authority about US politics. In a recent Weekly Worker article, Lazare says that Trump (a supposed victim of “the anti-Trump corporate press”) is stupid, but also smart, whereas the Democrats are stupid through and through (especially Biden, who he calls cognitively-deprived and brain-addled - ‘Trump: three questions’, June 18). In reality the level of stupidity and inanity of Trump is something special. Among the Trump’s recent interventions are that testing for Covid-19 is a “double-edged sword” because it uncovers more cases, and his use of the symbol of the red triangle in Facebook ads about the ‘antifa’ movement (the red triangle being what communists and later other oppositionists to the Nazis had to wear in concentration camps).
I have been in the US since 1983 (except for a few years in Yorkshire) and, as with most places, it is full of contradictions - one of its positive aspects being its absolute openness to the outside world, in the academic context. But Trump is the very worst that this country has to offer. Actually I have just been rereading a biography of John Le Carré, and Trump seems to be a slightly more successful version of Le Carré’s father, Ronnie Cornwell.
Lazare’s most recent contribution (‘End of the Donald?’, June 25) is against the background of the drastic lowering of Trump’s ratings. The article is just a list of facts that anybody can pick up anywhere. Up to that point Lazare was objectively working for Trump’s re-election, probably because it is good for Russia. The only anger or hatred expressed by Lazare is towards the Democrats, for impeaching Trump.
Daniel Lazare expands on his comments about the alleged “craziness” of the Socialist Equality Party/World Socialist Web Site with a litany of complaints (Letters, June 25). He seems to be speaking for those who want history neatly packaged into heroes and villains - morality plays.
He goes so far as to claim that the WSWS took a “straight-out scab position” (literally strike-breaking) in supporting workers who opposed giving negotiating rights to the United Auto Workers union at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, in 2017. The workers there rejected the UAW’s advances by almost two to one. Since then workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga also rejected the UAW. This is not surprising, given its record of wage-cutting deals, give-backs and divisive nationalism. It’s more like an arm of the company - a corrupt one at that.
Lenin somewhere remarked that unions were “schools for war, not war itself”. Those were militant organisations operating under a repressive regime, where workers would learn from experience, as well as political agitation and propaganda, the need to transcend economic struggle and to fight for power. By contrast, modern unions are more like schools for class collaboration. It makes sense to call for rank-and-file organisation. In the present pandemic, amid moves by companies (backed by the unions) to force workers back to the production line, the need is all the greater.
Readers will be aware that on the evening of Saturday June 20 there was an horrific attack by a lone knifeman on innocent folk who were enjoying the company of their friends and the sunshine in a popular town-centre park in Reading, where I happen to live. This tragic event led to the death of three people and injuries to another three. Friends, family and sympathisers expressed their shock, horror and sadness at the loss and, of course, politicians and the media - national and local - piled in.
The local paper boasted of “36 pages of coverage” and had a wrap-around cover, which included a quote, “Reading weeps. But Reading roars”. The ‘roaring’ referring to a large statue near where the killings took place, which is often cited as a symbol of the town. The local paper says, “The lion was placed in memory of soldiers who had died in 1880 fighting for their country …” One might add that they died in a bit of a blowback from British efforts to kill Afghanis - not for the first or the last time.
Priti Patel came to Reading (could it get any worse?) and she echoed the words of Boris Johnson (yes, it could) by stating, “If further action is needed, we will not hesitate.” As he said, “If there are lessons that we need to learn … we will learn those lessons and we will not hesitate to take action when necessary.” Apparently, not wishing to be left out, “Labour demands answers,” according to The Guardian. Any lessons and actions are certain to be the ones that have failed in the past.
But there are hints as to possible “lessons” from the attacker in Reading, Khairi Saadallah. He:
- was granted asylum in the UK after fleeing Libya;
- along with his family, suffered anti-Muslim abuse in the UK;
- had mental health problems.
Firstly, Libya. The Guardian states: “British relations with Libya and its diaspora have been coloured by the British government’s often ambivalent relations with Gaddafi, the UK’s active support for his ousting in 2011...” Gaddafi for all his many faults was, not surprisingly, an anti-imperialist: his greatest crime in British government eyes was his support for the IRA. At a later stage the “government’s often ambivalent relations” allowed Tony Blair and Jack Straw to enable the rendition of two families to Gaddafi for torture (something for which we are still awaiting their suspension from the Labour Party, while it investigates).
But Gaddafi was “ousted” in 2011, perhaps to bring “freedom and democracy” to Libya. It’s a shame that all that was accomplished was wrecking the country and leaving them a civil war.
Secondly, Anti-Muslim abuse? Black lives matter - on any public platform anyway - but Muslim lives don’t matter very much to, for instance, the political leaders in the UK. So, if children tease a classmate or a neighbour, so what? They only echo the prime minister and his pals. Further, the Equality and Human Rights Commission doesn’t think it matters either.
And, thirdly, Saadallah had mental-health problems, amounting to, “post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and an emotionally unstable personality disorder”, The Guardian understands. It also learned “that he was under the care of NHS mental health services”. This is not very surprising, but it doesn’t seem to have done much good.
Mrs Thatcher went for ‘care in the community’ during her reign (or ‘couldn’t care less in the community’, as it might be better termed). Treatment with drugs and with little therapeutic care (and with that ‘little’ diminishing over the years) was much cheaper than what went before: besides, there were all those great big asylums and their grounds to sell. It has been noticed that the police are now often the first responders to those with mental health problems and prison is where they so often end up.
Mental health problems seem to be quite common. They were cited to explain the stabbing of six people in a hotel housing asylum-seekers in Glasgow. Coincidently we had the sentencing of the chap who threw that poor kid off the viewing platform at the Tate Modern. There seem to be a lot of sufferers - perhaps it’s because of the world they live in and the indifference of their politicians.
So what lessons could Priti Patel and Boris Johnson learn? Don’t invade or bomb countries for no good reason and expect gratitude in return? Work to oppose prejudice against minorities, of any colour or religion? Properly fund the NHS, so they can provide decent mental-health care? Probably not, this is all much too expensive. Better to ‘lock them up and throw away the key’.
The main lesson that they will continue to avoid learning is that these attacks do not come out of nowhere.
Marx said question everything, but for Arthur Bough, it seems, we should do so rhetorically - a word for that is dogma (Letters, June 25). So we raise questions to workers that we already know the answer to. In that case, why bother with the question and why not just simply go straight to the answer? For Marx questioning was about climbing the steep slope of science, not showing off your arrogance.
Bough says the following: “Maren Clarke denies the proposition that ‘socialised capital’ is the property of the workers.” Let us be a bit more precise here if you don’t mind. I am denying joint stock companies are the property of workers and I call on anyone to show me the legislation which says they are or provide an example of where this is a reality.
I mention this because in Bough’s response he casually conflates joint stock companies with cooperatives, while at the same time bringing out crucial differences between them! As he builds his argument, he actually undermines it! He mentions the Paris Commune and how Marx and Engels attributed importance to the cooperative movement, but they did not attribute this to the joint stock companies, right?
He also casually mixes up quotes from Marx, where he implies one argument follows directly from another, when in reality one quote was made decades after the other! For example, he follows comments on the Paris Commune with a quote about industrial capital, as if Marx said it in that order! It is a total jumbled-up mess of a response. But lets us try to work our way through this mess.
Bough continues by claiming that Marx said: “The capitalist stock companies, as much as the cooperative factories, should be considered as transitional forms from the capitalist mode of production.” We don’t know if Marx says this at all, because volume 3 was put together from scattered notebooks and was heavily edited by Engels and Kautsky, among others.
It is purely arbitrary to say corporations are a transitional form; they might be a more developed form for the extraction of surplus value and an outcome of competition and concentration of wealth, just as the gun was a more mature form of enforcing slavery than the whip!
Workers have as much right to own a company quoted on the stock exchange as they do a privately owned business. Workers are hired and fired by this so-called socialised capital every bit as much as they are hired and fired by privately owned businesses. When a worker is employed by a joint stock company, they get a wage just like any other worker in any other capitalist enterprise. Managers may get stock options, but, given Bough believes shareholders are simply parasites, this is hardly worth mentioning!
I was reading that in the Mondragon Corporation of worker cooperatives in Spain no-one had ever been fired. How many corporations can you say that about? The idea that there is no real difference between a cooperative and a multinational corporation is factually incorrect. Workers get and have to bring capital in that business and get to elect appointees to the board. They are more than mere wage-earners. If a worker wanted to join Mondragon and insisted they provided no capital, they wouldn’t be a member.
“Why on earth would workers want to hand control over their socialised capital to the capitalist state? Even when that state becomes a workers’ state ...” Because other workers would demand it! After all, workers might want a say in what gets consumed and what gets produced in this transition! Why on earth would workers go to all the trouble of overthrowing a system or struggle against it, only to find they had no real power in that system or in the transition toward it? The whole point of the transition is to change the system, not simply to get rid of the pope! The whole point of socialism is that it is based on collective decision-making; the implications of production go way beyond the interests of the workers in one particular company, as the climate crisis clearly demonstrates.
Bough goes on: “The shareholder is merely a lender of money-capital to the corporation ... even bourgeois theorists understand that.” But lenders who appoint the managers get a vote, sue the company should it act unlawfully, and get a share of the profits and assets if the company is wound up!
At least he admits that his ideas have been fully embraced by the bourgeoisie! No wonder: the bourgeoisie loves the idea of workers having pie-in-the-sky bourgeois fantasies! Personally, I am more interested in the ideas that the bourgeois detest, like the overthrow of their system and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
“Maren Clarke says that my depiction of socialised capital seems to leave capitalism free of the capitalist.” I said this to highlight Bough’s insistence that managers and workers should be lumped in together. The point is that the function of carrying out the extraction of surplus value is given by the owners to the managers within the business! In this case the shareholders appoint managers to undertake this role. I think the capitalists call it delegation.
“So society - all 65 million people in Britain - will sit down and decide how best this or that widget is to be produced each day?” This is so silly. How a widget is produced is a technical point, not a point of decision-making! 65 million people will not decide how best to fill and stack shipping containers. This will be done via the complex computer algorithms we already employ!
And it won’t be 65 million people when it comes to decision-making either: there will be an organisational structure, as anyone familiar with decision-making will know already. It won’t be a referendum. But ultimately society will decide what gets produced. Hopefully the proletariat will live up to Marx’s expectation and reject mass murder and armed conflict, and do away with arms manufacturers. Once that decision is made, the technical point of how a ballistic missile gets produced will be entirely irrelevant! This will free up resources for more productive endeavours.
And, before Bough asks, not productive of surplus value, but productive of need, based on agreed priorities! Otherwise, we may as well bring back the absolute rulers to make decisions!
The ultra-left nonsense peddled by Eddie Ford should have no place in a serious leftwing newspaper (‘Now is the time’, June 25). He says the abolition of the police and the army is a basic democratic demand. On whose say-so, may I ask? Such demands are not holy writ. Calling on the ‘bourgeoisie’ to disarm has always been ultra-left nonsense, and is even more so today, given the nature of the crisis we face.
It is not institutions which are racist: it is individuals. To use the killing of George Floyd to call for the abolition of the police is tailing the spontaneous movement and is beyond insanity. It is far better to have a police force which contains some racists than to have no police force at all. A campaign against racism in the police force would make more sense if it is deemed necessary. Had Floyd simply cooperated with the police he would probably still be alive today. Why provoke a potentially racist, or non-racist police officer to do you in, by putting up a fight if they want to arrest you?
While remaining a communist who wants to see socialist society, I rejected Marxism back in 2007, as being mostly irrelevant to the nature of the crisis we face: an energy crisis, which will lead to a 1930s-style depression, from which there will be no recovery on the basis of capitalism. Marxism is actually an obstacle, which prevents the left from understanding what’s going on and developing an appropriate strategy.
When I read articles like Eddie Ford’s, it makes me realise how right I was.
Then and now
Knowing my family history (my father was a member of the German Communist Party who fled Nazism and went to fight in Spain as part of the International Brigade), a friend of mine brought to my attention this week how the Working Class Movement Library (WCML), based in Manchester, has posted on its website the details of a commemorative plaque placed in the Peace Park of nearby Preston in June 2018.
The plaque remembers Mary Elizabeth Slater, a young Lancashire weaver and thereafter a nurse, who was an activist in her trade union as well as the Labour Party League of Youth. She visited the USSR in 1926 and later “volunteered her services” to the Republican government of Spain via the Spanish Medical Aid Committee. The event in June 2018 was both sponsored and coordinated by Preston and South Ribble Trades Union Council. A photo of this remarkably courageous and supremely honourable young woman, standing alongside equally wonderful nurses and Spanish doctors, is featured on the WCML website (wcml.org.uk). I strongly recommend that readers of the Weekly Worker check it out.
When looking through it myself, what immediately struck me was the difference between the Labour Party and trades unions of those bygone years and today’s hollowed-out entities - exemplified not only by Blairism, but also by Keir Starmer’s similar exercise in ‘relaunching the brand’. As if to ram home those powerful contrasts between the 1930s and our current times, when I clicked on the link, what should pop up but two algorithmically “targeted” adverts - one for the “best makeover” for hairstyling and the other for McDonald’s fast food.
What an absolutely amazing victory it is that sophisticated, adaptable, modern-times capitalism has secured in terms of sanitising, diverting and defusing the consciousness of young working people. That unquestionable but dangerously nihilistic success story will reach its logical end, of course - an end brought on at least partly by self-destructive internal corrosion, generated both from corporate financial chicanery and the absence of truly humanistic values. It will be a long overdue end to the rule of capitalism, needless to add - the beacon for which is provided by the tale of that proudly class-conscious Lancashire nurse, Mary Elizabeth Slater, and her lifelong dedication to fighting against capitalism’s unfairness and inequalities, along with its extreme iteration as fascism!