Admit defeat

Ian (or should it be Frank?) Spencer has a major problem in explaining the shape of late 20th century and early 21st century politics if he won’t admit Mike Macnair’s argument that the demise of the eastern bloc was a massive defeat for the working class (Letters, November 23). Indeed, the CPGB PCC has quite correctly characterised the post-Soviet era as a “period of reaction” without having any particular illusions in the regimes of ‘official communism’.

Spencer argues: “The political economy of the eastern bloc had no mature form and served only to discredit the entire communist project, as anyone who has had a conversation with someone who said ‘Then sod off to Russia, if you like it so much’ can attest.” This was the calculation of various Trotskyist organisations in the 1990s, such as the Socialist Workers Party, which disgracefully connived in the bourgeois rhetoric of the ‘end of communism’. It was an ‘us next’ mentality, along the lines of ‘Once we have dispensed with the burden of being lumped in with this monstrosity, we’ll be able to soar unimpeded across the heavens’. In fact, the very opposite happened. Both the Labour left and supposedly ‘non-Stalinist’ organisations were negatively impacted by the collapse of ‘official communism’. Trotskyist groups and individuals themselves began a rapid political march to the right as a result.

As comrade Macnair has explained in a set of unpublished theses from 2004, the very impossibility of workers’ revolutions in the death throes of the Soviet Union then echoed through the workers’ movement internationally. He argues: “These unexpected results occurred because, though the Soviet bureaucracy had escaped from the control of the proletariat and come to be the Bonapartist representative-master of the petty proprietors, it had not escaped from ideological and social dependence on the quasi-enserfed Russian urban working class, or from ideological dependence on and integration in the international workers’ movement.”

Spencer, on the other hand, argues in a much more linear, ‘economical’ fashion, extrapolating a simple positive from the fall of undoubtedly dysfunctional state ‘planning’ regimes in the absence of any concerted political action from the proletariat in countries ruled by ‘official communism’. But if 1989‑91 was positive and not a defeat, how on earth does Spencer explain the reactionary politics of the last 30 years and a Marxist movement that has either been fast disappearing or is on its arse?

One can concede this idea of defeat without indulging ourselves in romantic fables of crash industrialisation, forced collectivisation or show trials.

Lawrence Parker

Scurvy pacifist

Tony Clark’s letter (November 16) accuses me of being dishonest (which he seems to think is the same as being ‘ultra-left’), before going on to champion the politics of Joe Stalin and Jack Conrad against me, on the basis that a parliamentary, democratic, peaceful road to socialism is entirely possible. I don’t think Clark is dishonest: he is simply a pathetic reformist groveller to the capitalist establishment in the rotten tradition of the anti-Marxist Socialist Party of Great Britain.

Back in 1926 Leon Trotsky demolished this political outlook represented by the Fabians, the reformist Labour politicians of the time. Ramsay MacDonald was the main target of his polemic in ‘The Fabian “theory” of socialism’, whose political outlook he dubbed “a mental junk shop”. MacDonald likened the transition to socialism to the natural world, where the chrysalis turns into a butterfly. Even that was a sudden break, Trotsky observed, and pointed to childbirth, where the mother suffers great pain, but the appearance of the infant makes for great joy. Amongst pigeon fanciers a fashion arose for selective breeding to produce ever shorter beaks. But the beaks became so short that they could not pierce the shell and the chicks inside perished.

Clark’s methodology rejects the beak entirely and there are no generals like Pinochet who overthrew Allende in 1973 - such as the serving general who asserted in September 2015 in The Sunday Times that the British army “could stage mutiny under Corbyn” - an unpunished act of treason. It is unclear whether this was General Sir Nicholas Houghton, chief of the defence staff, who openly threatened Corbyn in November 2015.

Trotsky observed: “… the political art of the British bourgeoisie consists of shortening the proletariat’s revolutionary beak, thereby preventing it from perforating the shell of the capitalist state.” The beak being the conscious revolutionary leadership, which must replace the reformist Fabians to make the socialist revolution. In that sense it is not at all a direct comparison with nature: socialism will not come as an objective, unstoppable process - or, to put it another way, the conscious revolutionary leadership becomes itself the prime objective factor in revolutionary situations. Without the Bolsheviks the fascist Black Hundreds would have triumphed in 1917.

It is ridiculous to propose that there should be no relationship between maximum and minimum demands. This is the proposition of renegade Karl Kautsky, so beloved of Jack Conrad and the CPGB. So, whilst our ultimate goal is the socialist society, on no account should we politically prepare the class consciousness of the existing vanguard of the masses for this great outcome: we must blind our eyes and pretend that socialism will come objectively when the time is ripe, irrespective of human agency and political opposition.

So it was with every great revolution that changed history. Oliver Cromwell decreed the swing of the axe that cut off the king’s head in January 1649 “with the crown upon it”. This was the single most revolutionary act in England’s history: the absolute, semi-feudal monarchy was gone forever. Maximilien Robespierre was the great lion of the French Revolution - the reign of terror consigned feudal France to the dustbin of history, along with the heads of the aristocracy. Those ‘bloodthirsty’ revolutionary women looked up from their knitting and cheered with every head that rolled from the guillotine. Lenin and Trotsky directed the storming of the Winter Palace in October 1917 - the greatest single event ever in the struggle for universal human liberation.

I will dub Clark a “scurvy pacifist” (Trotsky) and, in my defence of the violence of the oppressed, quote from Tom Barry’s Guerrilla days in Ireland. Here he recounts the execution of 16 spies and informers in West Cork in 1920 and unapologetically notes the success of this operation in sharply reducing the number of IRA volunteers assassinated by the British army:

“There can be no doubt as to why the death roll of the West Cork IRA dropped so amazingly. It was solely because British terror was met by a not less effective IRA counter-terror. We were now hard, cold and ruthless, as our enemies had been since hostilities began. The British were met with their own weapons. They had gone down in the mire to destroy us and our nation, and down after them we had to go to stop them.”

Marxists are opposed to individual acts of terror by the oppressed, but we understand why incoherent outbursts of outrage like the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel happen: appalling oppression causes these killings. Lenin never condemned his brother, Alexander Ulyanov, who was executed in May 1887 for attempting to assassinate the tsar. Lenin had the same goal, but an entirely different method: he aimed to replace individual terror against the ruling class with the mass terror of the risen masses. He never equated the violence of the oppressed with that of the oppressor.

Clark champions Joe Stalin’s British road to Socialism, but is unable to understand how a psychotic mass murderer of all the remaining leaders and participants in the Russian Revolution from 1936-38 could be the same man who wanted a peaceful road to socialism in the UK and in every imperialist country. This was his obscene grovel to imperialism - both ‘democratic’ (Britain, France and the US) and fascist (Germany, Italy and Spain) - to prove to them he intended them no revolutionary harm. He drowned the Spanish revolution in blood in 1937 to make his pact with Hitler in August 1939 to allow his corrupt bureaucracy to continue enjoying their ill-gotten gains.

Clark’s entire letter is also based on an uncritical acceptance of Stalin’s anti-Marxist theory of socialism in a single country: “Communists must not seek to come to power in a backward society. In other words, a society should have reached a certain level of development before any bid for power is made,” he claims. That’s Stalinism’s two-stage revolution theory, which resulted in South Africa becoming the most unequal country in the world, with the black masses worse off now than under apartheid. The statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square is for counterrevolutionary services to British and global imperialism.

It is not possible to develop capitalism in a single country: trade and a global division of labour is necessary. Socialism, as an infinitely more advanced form of production - for need and not for profit - is even more impossible in one country. Moreover, class consciousness is not national in its essence, but international and global. A defeat for one national section is a defeat for all; a victory for a national strike or movement is a victory for every national working class. Lenin understood this when he wrote Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism in 1916 and his April theses in 1917. This reasserted the practical conclusion: “all power to the soviets” and world revolution.

Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution is the essence of this understanding. Contrary to Clark, soviet democracy is entirely different and opposed to bourgeois democracy (or even ‘extreme democracy’ - the CPGB version). The latter is a fraud; the former is the active participation of the masses in deciding their own future by means of instantly recallable delegates on the average wage of a skilled worker to regional soviets and a national body.

I know this will be very hard to take for all scurvy pacifists, but breaking the shell of the state is an act of revolutionary violence - which every ruling class in the whole of human history has resisted with the utmost counterrevolutionary violence.

Gerry Downing
Socialist Fight

Significant role

In his political report of November 12, Jack Conrad said that the “work colony” of Zionism is not based on the exploitation of ‘native’ - ie, Palestinian - labour (this is also covered in Mike Macnair’s November 16 article, ‘Aim for deZionisation’). True up to a point, but clearly not the whole story. And any study of the political economy of the region needs to consider the role of Palestinian labour in the Israeli economy.

Since the October 7 attack by Hamas, Israeli agriculture has been thrown into crisis, given the banning of Palestinian labour and the departure of much foreign labour. According to Reuters, Knesset data from 2021 showed 73,500 people worked in the agriculture sector - 44% Israeli, 33% foreigners (mostly Thai) and 23% Palestinian. But there are also holes in Israel’s construction, retail and hospitality sectors for menial and low-paid jobs previously done by Palestinians. The Israel Builders Association says it is operating at 15% capacity now, as compared to before October 7, due to the absence of both Palestinian labour and Israeli reservists called up. To solve this crisis, the Israeli government is in discussions to bring in up to 100,000 workers from India.

This problem is not new, but heightened by Israel’s military campaign of ethnic cleansing. Israel regularly uses migrant labour or adjusts the number of permits for Palestinian labourers able to enter Israel to fill labour shortages. In that sense, Palestinians act at least as a reserve army of labour for the Israeli economy. But, based on the numbers, probably more than this. So comrade Conrad’s assertion of a sharp division between a work-colony economy and a ‘native-exploitation’ economy isn’t quite so clear-cut. In the situation of Israel, they are not “absolutely opposite versions of colonialism” (in his words); something hybrid is happening perhaps?

Israel is not the USA or Australia in terms of completely pushing the native people out of its economy. But neither is it South Africa in terms of relying on exploitation of the ‘native’ population. Israel’s labour force is about 4.37 million, according to 2022 data from the World Bank. Until recently up to 200,000 workers crossed into Israel or into Israeli settlements in the West Bank each day for work.

The International Labour Organisation, in a report from May this year, said: “A total of 192,700 Palestinian workers now work in Israel and the settlements, one third more than a year earlier. More than 40,000 work in settlements, within an unregulated environment and are often underpaid. About another 40,000 from the West Bank work within Israel undocumented and informally ...”

That is more than five percent of the Israeli workforce - and this doesn’t include the more than two million Arab-Palestinian population of Israel. Taking into account labour participation rates, this means Arabs are at least 30% of the Israeli workforce.

What the shape of this will be after the crisis point of the war is unknown. But it does show that Palestinian labour plays a significant role in Israel’s economy and can’t be dismissed from political analysis.

Martin Greenfield

Not terrorist

A petition calling for the removal of Hamas from the UK’s list of ‘proscribed terrorist groups or organisations’ will be delivered to Downing Street on Tuesday December 5 at 10am. Over 1,280 have signed the open letter since it began a month ago. In addition, over 25 people have submitted written applications for Hamas’s deproscription to the Head of Counter Terrorism Policy at the home office.

The interim delivery of 1,280 letters will be delivered by myself as chair of One Democratic Palestine (an association of 85 members which campaigns for a single-state solution), along with a few supporters. I will be pointing out that, whilst the Hamas military wing, the Qassam Brigades, were proscribed in 2001, the political wing was only added in 2021, following Priti Patel’s secret meetings whilst on an Israeli holiday. The Terrorism Act 2000 provides that any person affected by proscription may call upon the government to remove the proscribed body from the list.

I originally sought to lodge the petition through the Parliamentary Petitions website, only to be informed that it was rejected, because “It calls for an action relating to a particular individual, or organisation outside of the UK government or parliament.” Undeterred, I approached GoPetition in the USA, who agreed to carry the petition. It has been featured in various publications, including Middle East Monitor, Russia Today and Al Jazeera - and publicised through flyers and social media.

The bid is particularly relevant at present, given the revelations that the majority of those who died on October 7 were killed by Israeli Mavara tanks demolishing kibbutz homes and by Apache helicopters firing Hellfire missiles at every car they could find, in the hope they may contain Qassam fighters. The Israeli airforce itself admitted that their helicopters shot up every vehicle headed to Gaza, all of which contained Israelis being taken there. Israeli airforce colonel Nof Erez admitted the airforce targeted Palestinian and Israeli civilians in line with the ‘Hannibal Directive’ - a policy aimed at preventing Israelis being taken into captivity. Erez described October 7 as “mass Hannibal”. Nova music festival-goer Yasmin Porat confirmed this is what took place at Kibbutz Be’eri, on state radio; these claims were backed up in Ha’aretz. Because both were in Hebrew, they’ve been ignored in the west. But helicopter camera footage confirms them.

I believe that the main aim of the Qassam Brigade’s action was to take Israelis into detention, who could be used to barter for the thousands of Palestinians held captive, in the exchanges we are currently seeing.

In light of the fact that Israel has been using their massacre of October 7 as a reason to “wipe out Hamas” for deaths that Israel itself mostly caused, we feel it essential that the UK government reconsider this listing. Hamas were elected by a big majority of Palestinians in 2006 - but excluded from their right to govern Palestine - all their requests to the Palestine Authority for fresh elections have been denied. Their ‘Document of General Principles and Policies’, published in May 2017, makes clear that Hamas are committed to democracy, that their enemy is not Jews, but Zionism - and they would call a truce if Israel withdrew to their 1967 borders. However, their ultimate objective would be the end of Israel and its replacement with one democratic Palestine, with equal rights for all.

Hamas’s objectives reflect the reality that a two-state solution is impossible; since Israel has ensured there is insufficient territory left to create a viable Palestinian state. Hamas would prefer an Islamic state, but will go along with what the majority prefer.

The UN refuses to proscribe Hamas, as they recognise that Palestinians have a right to use armed struggle to end their 75 years of occupation against a colonising power that denies their rights. We will continue with this petition until we have succeeded in convincing UK parliamentarians that we must do as we did with Northern Ireland, when we kept speaking to Sinn Féin, even whilst the IRA were bombing Britain. Because we have proscribed Hamas, we leave the Palestinians - and most particularly the Gazans - without a voice.

Pete Gregson
One Democratic Palestine

Graft and greed

Call it what you will - a truce, a humanitarian ceasefire, a pause, But in reality it is a defeat for the Zionist apartheid regime.

After nearly 50 days of laying waste to the infrastructure and civilian lives in Gaza through a campaign of indiscriminate carpet-bombing of residential areas - worthy of ‘Bomber Harris’ himself and his firebombing of Dresden during World War II - not one captive had been released.

Netanyahu had publicly pledged: no end to the war on Gaza, until all the captives have been released and Hamas has been destroyed. Undoubtedly internal political pressure on him from the ‘release the prisoners campaign’ in Israel, where family members and supporters marched from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, demanding an exchange of captives in order to free their loved ones in Gaza, had an influence.

But, six days on, where will it all go? You can be sure of one thing: the Zionist zealots at the heart of the settler-dominated war cabinet want to ethnically cleanse Gaza, as well as the occupied West Bank. They want to seize the opportunity given to them (not by Hamas, but by Biden) to continue the expansion of their apartheid state further onto Palestinian land. They have destroyed and devastated much of northern Gaza, there is nothing left for the residents to return to.

The Zionists are now claiming that the Hamas headquarters are situated in southern Gaza and are thus preparing the path internationally for ‘phase two’ - the decimation of southern Gaza through the destruction of every hospital, school and refugee camp, as well as the lives of tens of thousands of more defenceless men, women, children and babies.

This war is not an attack on Hamas - a legitimate national liberation organisation: it is a war of depopulation, of attrition and of slow genocide. If the Zionist war-criminal regime is not stopped, they will corral the Palestinians, then through the weaponisation of famine, sanitation, water and medicine, will enforce a modern death march on the Gazans - much like the ‘Trail of Tears’, when Native American Indians were forcibly displaced by the American army, causing countless needless deaths in an official policy of genocide.

100,000 Asians from India are being recruited to work in Israel. This will allow 100,000 Israelis to remain in Gaza - a garrison to complete the mission, ‘Empty Gaza’. With American backing they will pursue this aim over the next 12 months. They will leave nothing in Gaza: no food, no water, no electricity, no sanitation, no fuel, no medicine, no schools, no hospitals, no doctors. Just death, disease and destruction. Leave or die - that will be the choice. Then the Zionists will say they left voluntarily. That’s the master plan - the final solution for Gaza, Zionist style.

Who will stop them? That remains to be seen, but, be assured, it won’t be our ‘democratic’, ‘humanitarian-led’ governments, who are assisting in the genocide. British bases in Cyprus are being used to resupply the Israeli death machine. Biden has allowed the Zionist apartheid regime unparalleled access to American munitions stores and I believe Shannon airport is still being used to support the American war effort in west Asia.

Ah, democracy. Well, not in my name - you can keep it. Democratic dictatorship is what it has become: a duopoly of parties and a duopoly of graft and greed.

Fra Hughes