Short and bitter

The CPGB has inspired the programmes of the international democratic republican left. Specifically, here in the Netherlands it has been copied by Communistisch Platform and, by extension, de Socialisten (The Socialists). As a supporter of the LinkerFlank (Left Flank) faction in de Socialisten, I believe the minimum-maximum programme approach has many advantages. I don’t think, however, that the advantages of such a programme are necessarily serviced efficiently by the CPGB’s programme and its copycats.

The minimum part of the programme, our immediate demands, serve multiple functions. In my view they are as follows:

1 They are demands we can agitate for under capitalism, demands from which spring our daily work as communists. Ways in which we can explain and wave the banner of democracy in the labour movement.

2 They are, when put into practice completely, a prerequisite for the class dictatorship of the proletariat. And individually they undermine the control of the bourgeoisie over society.

3 They function as strategic points of unity, which a member or faction cannot sabotage in action.

What is the best way to present such a programme? In our view, the programme must be short and bitter, rather than long and sweet. Every demand must be a big and bitter pill for the bourgeoisie. It must be specific enough for us to deduce demands from it for our daily work, broad enough to function as strategic points of unity, and bitter enough to severely break the economic or political power of the bourgeoisie when implemented. An example of such a direct demand taken from the programme of the CPGB would be: “Nationalisation of the land, banks and financial services, along with basic infrastructure, such as public transport, electricity, gas and water supplies.”

Good examples of a minimum-maximum programme would be Erfurt, or the programme of the Parti Ouvrier, where all demands roughly fit the three criteria above. The programme of the CPGB looks very little like those. This is understandable to a certain extent: it was written in and for the 21st century - a time in which our understanding of bourgeois rule has gotten richer and bourgeois rule has gotten more complex. Any minimum programme would be longer nowadays. This however, does not excuse demands like the following being included: “Council and social housing must be high-quality, energy-efficient and with spacious rooms. Where appropriate, outside areas must be provided for children to play.”

This demand scores a 1/3 on the necessities of a minimum demand - a failing grade, if you ask me.

It passes one: it is something we can agitate for under capitalism and in the labour movement. I do not disagree that it is desirable.

However, it is absolutely not a prerequisite for proletarian class rule. If the proletariat decided that what is needed for its economic planning is a mass investment into poorly insulated, wooden, tiny houses, it would make me quite sad, but it would in no way destroy proletarian class rule. If we force the bourgeoisie to build bigger and more efficient houses, this does nothing to harm their position of power over the working class.

It also makes no sense as a strategic point of unity, if a local municipal council member wanted to vote for the building of a few tiny houses, this, again, would make me a little sad. But it would in no way be enough to determine that this person is a traitor to our class.

The words, “Where appropriate”, can be seen as an admission of guilt. This demand is something which follows as a practical implication of the actual minimum demand, ‘Democratically run housing’, or some such. The demand cannot be rigorously applied under a dictatorship of the proletariat: it is simply a frame, advice or paradigm. If one acts against it they can always say, ‘Well, it wasn’t appropriate!’

Much of the programme is like this, with much of it better left to local election programmes, social campaigns or perspective texts. And the thing drags on for 64 pages. I ask the international democratic republican left to reflect on this. Are our demands really minimum demands? I urge all on the democratic republican left to make their minimum programmes short and bitter.

Sterre Wichelaar

Proud and strong

Stalwart David Douglass, in his piece, ‘Spirit lives on still’, did fine justice to the 1984-85 miners’ Great Strike 40th commemorative event at Hatfield (March 21). I managed to attend myself and can confirm that his piece captured the mood perfectly.

That ‘Danny the Red’ did so much organising and reporting from his hospital bed is quite remarkable - and it says everything about his enduring commitment to the National Union of Mineworkers and his comrades - and crucially, his class. Under the circumstances, you were amazing, Davy. Get well soon, and I hope that you (and the Weekly Worker) will not mind if I add one or two observations.

Back in the distressing 1980s, in the immediate aftermath of the miners’ return to work without an agreement, I recall attending a Socialist Workers Party public meeting which was addressed by the late, great Duncan Hallas. Although I forget the absolute specifics of his talk, likely its central theme would have been along the lines of ‘Where next for the working class?’ underpinned by recruitment to the party.

Like so many other strike supporters from the left I was still reeling and devastated from the enormous defeat, even though I was not a coal miner. When questions and contributions were invited, I asked whether Duncan thought we had just witnessed an epoch-defining moment, a historic turning point for the working class movement, and not in a good way (which was certainly how it felt on the NUM’s return to work march at Park Mill Colliery). His response was, of course, a pragmatic ‘It is too early to say without a crystal ball - but there is everything to fight for’. Today we all know an answer, and are victims of the deindustrialising history and the consequent decline of trade union membership and strike-days statistics. And, despite the recent welcome stirrings, few could argue that our side has fully bounced back.

Yet, back in Hatfield, on the 40th anniversary day, two things struck me as outstanding. First, it really is quite extraordinary that after those four punishing decades so many men and women from the brutally smashed UK coalfields could remain so absolutely alive with the same dauntless resistance that had characterised their year-long struggle against every vicious and clandestine tactic that Thatcher’s juggernaut capitalism could mobilise. Banners unfurled, colliery and pipe bands, solidarity of every complexion - all made for a tremendous day. No sign of a beaten workers’ movement: quite the contrary, with many signs of a dignified and proud community which had held firm, regardless of the ‘enemy within’ shit that had been heaped upon them.

The other aspect worth noting, without any exaggeration, was the intense human warmth of so many local people. Thatcher’s shameful destructive assault may have succeeded in empowering the shiny-arsed, paper-shuffling, money-gathering parasites that occupy ‘top’ level power politics in the 21st century, but, if my experience of Hatfield is anything to go by, it failed completely to extinguish the collective decency of colliers and their friends and families.

Of course, the war against the miners has now passed into the realm of historical debate, with millions of words being generated by every manner of armchair ‘expert’. Unsurprisingly much of it is highly contentious. It was therefore excellent to hear Scargill’s accounts of some of the significances from the strike, although afterwards I am left wondering whether more detail about the intricacies will eventually emerge about this colossal working class struggle? For example, the curious role of the pit deputies union, NACODS, surely needs properly explaining after 40 years.

Despite how it may have felt back in 1984-85, the fact that Arthur’s and Danny the Red’s reiterations that the NUM were only inches from the winning line remains compelling. Perhaps that now distant vision of a UK with an industrial base and vibrant trade unions ensuring at least a level of prosperity will remain a memory. But, as an idea, it is certainly worth holding on to. The evidence suggests that the good people of Hatfield and all the others areas of resistance will ensure that society will never forget how they stood proud and strong.

Dave Collins
Moray Firth


Keir Starmer has heroically now started calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. He didn’t think it an appropriate course of action some months ago - he believed, like many others, that Israel needed time to defeat Hamas and a ceasefire would have prevented this.

There are a few caveats though to these supposed wise thoughts and words. Israel has been attacking everyone in Gaza. They aren’t targeting just Hamas militants, so you could call it an indiscriminate attack. I always think it appropriate to turn the tables and presume the response if Israel had attacked Gaza on October 7 (which Israel had done many times previously). If a military retaliation from Gaza had taken place, would world leaders have been delaying calling for a ceasefire, so that Hamas et al had enough time to defeat the IDF? I don’t think so. Israel has the right to defend itself. Palestinians haven’t got the right to defend themselves.

The delay in a ceasefire has allowed tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians to be murdered, that’s all. It allowed collective punishment to be implemented - something Starmer seemed quite happy with, when he spoke to Nick Ferrari on LBC radio last October. The delay also facilitated genocide. The concept of defeating Hamas is like the ‘war on terrorism’. They’re just slogans to placate public opinion and justify the slaughter and terrorism perpetrated by powerful nations.

This is the extreme limit to western exceptionalism. The slaughter in Gaza is the extremism that western governments ignore. It’s the many forms of protest against this state terrorism that they hope now to define as ‘extremism’, so that their terrorist activities can continue unmolested by opposition on the streets. Selling arms to countries who use them to murder innocent people is not considered extremism. Allowing arms manufacturing to take place on British soil is not considered extremism. Giving diplomatic support to mass murder is not considered extremism.

What will be considered extremism? Carel Buxton, Dave Buxton and Trish O’Hara were this month arrested in the early hours of the morning for supposedly hissing during a council meeting in Newham - this coming the day after Sunak’s speech about extremism outside No10. Samuel Melia was imprisoned recently for manufacturing and selling stickers and being involved in “stickering” incidents.

Apparently we should feel much safer, now that this sticker maker is incarcerated - while at the same time the genocide in Gaza continues unabated.

Louis Shawcross
Co Down


Ted Talbot complains that I have merely asserted that Tommy Robinson is a fascist and not proved it (Letters, March 21). If joining a fascist party, then founding your own and engaging in street thuggery against the left and organised labour is not fascism then what is?

Of course, Robinson has denied being a fascist (Hitler, Mussolini and Franco gave the creed a very bad name), so we would be entitled to say he is a Schrödinger fascist, using the buzz word of the day. It’s like Israel denying genocide in Gaza, whilst slaughtering more than 30,200 defenceless civilians, two thirds of whom are women and children. They can deny it, whilst benefitting from ethnic cleansing from Gaza and then the West Bank (and then Israel itself, inevitably, if not stopped).

But Talbot has a long history of Schrödinger politics. Paul Demarty did the job on him, when in his Weekly Worker article he pointed to Talbot’s defence of far-rightists Maurice Barrès, Douglas Murray, Eric Zemmour and Tucker Carlson in perpetrating the modern version of Renaud Camus’s Great Replacement theory (‘Original takester’, September 29 2022). There is a secret group conspiring to replace the white majority US, British, French and European people with black and brown people, mainly Muslims - Camus called this “genocide by substitution”. In the days of the Nazis, it was Jews and non-Aryans who were seeking to replace ethnic Germans.

So today Talbot discovers that the only true intellectuals are not those like Demarty, still less that appalling Gerry Downing (Dowding?) but, wait for it, not only the aforementioned, but also the former leader of the Revolutionary Communist Tendency, now a Tory ‘advisor’, Frank Furedi, who is, “one of Britain’s foremost public intellectuals… emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent”. And others on the far right also admire far-rightists like themselves, amazingly. Far-right philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy writes of far-rightist Douglas Murray: “Whether one agrees with him or not, he is one of the most important public intellectuals today.”

The far-rightist, Talbot, has objected that those who oppose him from the left descend into “mere abuse”. I think abuse and ridicule are the proper ways to attack gammon Schrödinger racists and fascists, as long as the organised left does not have the means and the imperative to deal with them properly when they become a mortal danger. And their defenders, who would obviously join them (Talbot can take that any way he likes).

Gerry Downing
Socialist Fight

Terror attack

Given the potential consequences of the March 22 terror attack in Moscow in terms of future security and military actions by the Russian Federation to protect its citizens and its sovereignty, it is important to be as clear and rational as may be possible in our analysis.

President Putin has not explicitly accused the Ukrainian regime of being behind the terror attack. He has merely said the attackers and their accomplices were heading in the direction of the Ukrainian border. It is not clear where they were actually apprehended, but they were very quickly indeed, and this could simply mean they were heading in a general south-westerly or southerly direction. Given the speed of their detention, this may probably have no significance.

The Ukrainian secret service has indeed been responsible for terrorist murders inside the Russian Federation - most notably of Darya Dugina in a car bombing in August 2022. At the time and since, the Ukrainian regime claims “it does not engage in terrorism”, yet the US state department has confirmed that the Ukrainian state was responsible for Darya’s murder. Nonetheless, it would be incredibly dangerous for the regime if it were to be behind, in any way, the attack on Moscow. Western public opinion would be horrified and appalled, and material support for the regime would probably cease very quickly - meaning it would potentially collapse within months, if not weeks.

It is probably worth taking at face value the claim by ‘Islamic State’ that it was responsible for the attack. In many ways it was a carbon copy of the Bataclan attack in Paris in 2015 (some might say too much of a carbon copy). It is odd that the four shooters were taken alive, plus seven other alleged accomplices. I thought one of the whole points of these actions was they were suicide missions in search of heavenly glory.

Even the most ignorant peasant in one of the Arab states or ex-Soviet Muslim republics can hardly have been unaware what capture by the Russian state authorities would mean for them. At the very least, ‘robust’ interrogation by the security forces to obtain maximum information very quickly, in order to neutralise any ongoing threats, and a very long, de facto life sentence in some of Russia’s hardest prisons or penal colonies.

There is some talk about capital punishment for those found guilty (they have already pleaded guilty), which is still on the books in Russia, which would mean either a firing squad or a bullet in the back of the neck. Soviet and Russian executions are unusual, in that there is no formal ceremony or warning given when about to be carried out. The use of capital punishment is, of course, a matter for the Russian state and the judicial authorities, but personally I would like see them rot to oblivion over a long period of time in a Siberian penal colony. Execution would, I feel, be a mercy for them.

Assuming it was ‘Islamic State’, it is worth examining just what IS is, where it came from, which states financed and armed it, and which states continue to provide it with its infrastructure, resources, arms and personnel. There are a whole load of Weekly Worker articles over the past number of years which provide vital analyses and insights here.

The CIA has a long established practice when carrying out external ‘operations’ of, in effect, ‘sub-contracting’ them to third parties - criminal organisations or terrorist groups - in order to establish ‘plausible deniability’. Those bodies may themselves hire outside individuals to carry out the actions, to protect their own personnel and themselves establish ‘plausible deniability’.

Plus, as we have seen over the decades, there are ‘patsies’ - damaged individuals with highly suspect personal, criminal and intelligence records, who at the time of the terrorist actions, just find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and sometimes literally with a smoking gun in their hands. The arrested individuals shown on Russian TV hardly look like trained professionals - more like lumpen hirelings, taken off some far-distant streets, promised a sackful of cash and oblivion in heaven, if they just do this simple yet barbaric task.

Yes, let’s punish these 11 to the full extent of the law and any others picked up by the Russian security service dragnet. But let’s also track back properly to what ‘Islamic State’ really is, which states finance and support it, and ensure both IS and the states whose creature it is also receive the full consequences of their actions. Yes, let’s ensure they and the rich and powerful individuals who make up their ‘elites’ start to feel afraid - very afraid indeed.

Andrew Northall