Good-natured RCP

A membership of tens of thousands may seem feasible in the short term, but Mike Macnair has sounded a good note of caution about the plans of the Revolutionary Communist Party (‘Repeating past failures’ March 28).

Looking at the bigger picture, comrade Macnair mentions the US “containment of communism” strategy in post-war Europe. What if this happens again? Perhaps a new cold war, combined with ecological concerns, will result in a turn to “climate socialism”, as it has been termed in these pages. It would be the path to sustained membership growth into the tens of thousands for a party without open factions, recreating the dynamic which existed between the CPGB and Labour during the cold war.

This would be another way that a past failure is repeated. But isn’t there often a secret hope on the left that the bourgeoisie will again make major concessions, allowing the reformists to advance ahead of us and demonstrate the limits of reformism in government? Perhaps this is an expectation of the authors of the RCP’s theses, even as they rule out the possibility of a revived reformism.

Although its model might not be different to that of the Workers Revolutionary Party, Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Party in England and Wales in the form of organisation at its launch, should we be cautious about assuming a similar trajectory for the RCP, given the content - those comrades who have been drawn to the RCP already? The power is in their hands and, as Lawrence Parker has recently observed on his blog, the active members are “generally open to other leftists on an individual basis. There is a seemingly genuine effort to involve people of a more critical bent in meetings and the [International Marxist Tendency] is inviting non-IMT comrades to the founding conference.”

This sense of openness was exemplified by the generally good-natured response from IMT members to the front page of the Weekly Worker edition carrying the first of comrade Macnair’s recent pieces on the RCP, featuring a photograph in which The Communist was prominently displayed.

What we are dealing with is not a hardened confessional sect, which imagines itself to only be going directly to the masses, but an organisation whose cadre are used to engaging with an out-group of individual and organised communists. So the barriers to growth may not be a lack of accuracy in RCP perspectives documents, but rather the rules of its constitution and its programmatic method.

Without the constitutional right to form open factions and contest elected leadership positions, its members will, at worst, be at risk of the problems with abuse of power which ruined the WRP and nearly did the same to the SWP. At best, they will be hit by periodic and unproductive splits if such rules are adopted.

The RCP would be premature if it were to expect, in the next few years at least, to gain communist representation in parliament, but it cannot neglect this aspect of the class struggle out of a fear of failure. To convince reform-minded workers that revolution does not equal a party-state, and even that revolutionaries want Labour to succeed in the unlikely event of its left leading it again, both the concept of an enabling act to nationalise the monopolies and the demand for a constituent assembly to create a democratic workers’ republic remain essential. Even without giving immediate priority to electoral work, a revolutionary party needs a programme with democratic demands.

Ansell Eade

Welcome RCP

Mike Macnair’s two pieces on the launch of the RCP amount to a declaration of revolutionary pessimism (‘Delusions of “official optimism”’, March 21; and ‘Repeating past failures’, March 28).

As a former Workers Revolutionary Party member for 10 years (1976-86), I recognise some of the criticisms as correct - like those I made myself after the expulsion of Gerry Healy in 1985. But I have endeavoured not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, not to reject the revolutionary optimism of the Russian Revolution, of the Bolsheviks of Lenin, Trotsky and consistent Trotskyists up to today, despite the degeneration of many currents bearing the name.

Let us declare our continued allegiance to Trotsky’s transitional programme (TP) of 1938 and reject the pessimists who complain that history did not turn out as Trotsky predicted. As the opening lines of that document, ‘The death agony of capitalism and the tasks of the Fourth International’, say, “The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterised by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat. The economic prerequisite for the proletarian revolution has already in general achieved the highest point of fruition that can be reached under capitalism … Growing unemployment, in its turn, deepens the financial crisis of the state and undermines the unstable monetary systems. Democratic regimes, as well as fascist, stagger on from one bankruptcy to another.”

If Alan Woods and Rob Sewell have now rejected clause four Fabianism and adopted more openly the perspectives of the TP, then that is an entirely progressive thing, and we must welcome it. We should point out that Trotsky was not predicting the future as such in the TP, but outlining a political programme that revolutionary socialists - genuine communists - must adopt to give a lead to the vanguard of the working class, the most militant defenders of the proletariat, to make the socialist revolution.

Stalinism’s popular fronts saw close cooperation alternately with western imperialism, then with Hitler, until he betrayed Stalin in June 1941 in Operation Barbarossa, forcing him back to the west. The popular-front rejection of revolutionary perspectives in order to ‘defeat fascism’ in alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie, the clergy, etc betrayed revolutionary situations in Spain before the war and in Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Greece and Vietnam in the latter days of the war and the early post-war period. Stalinist leaders who defended that counterrevolutionary orientation were not communists at all, despite the revolutionary motivation of many members in the ranks.

So I welcome the left turn of The Communist/RCP. They are right about the revolutionary potential of the coming period, when inequality within and between nations, between the billionaires and the working class and oppressed, was never greater. Fascism threatens in the US, Italy and many other imperialist countries; Israel now has a fascist government, even if the state itself has not yet become fully fascist.

Welcoming the left turn to youth and college students in particular does not mean we have abandoned our historical criticisms of the Ted Grant tradition. Adopting a left version of the Stalinist British road to socialism via an enabling act through parliament was a rejection of the TP, now implicitly acknowledged in the turn. Likewise, the acceptance of concessions from Margaret Thatcher to avoid a joint struggle with the miners in June 1984 was wrong, as was the threat to ‘name names’, when it came to the anarchists in the Trafalgar Square poll tax riot of 1990, by Steve Nally after Tommy Sheridan utterly condemned the rioters. The Socialist Workers Party, the WRP (both sides) and most others took the far more principled stance of defence of the rioters and the anger which produced that and other riots at the time.

The RCP needs to acknowledge these mistakes if it is to become that new revolutionary force it claims and aspires to be. And to adopt a principled approach to all united front actions and campaigns which would reject the traditional bureaucratic-centralist regimes of Gerry Healy, Ted Grant and Tony Cliff and adopt a democratic-centralist regime like the “seething internal democracy”, which Trotsky in The revolution betrayed said the Bolsheviks had. The CPGB/Weekly Worker are correct in their criticism of that.

Gerry Downing
Socialist Fight

Greens RCP

I would like to comment on the articles by Mike Macnair on Socialist Appeal and Carla Roberts on Owen Jones (‘We deserve better’) in last week’s Weekly Worker.

Mike criticises Socialist Appeal’s perspective of an imminent revolutionary situation. Carla criticises Owen Jones for calling for a vote for the Green Party and independents in future elections, including mayoral contests and the general election.

Reform UK is a split in the British ruling class as part of the split in the Tory Party. A split in the ruling class is one of Lenin’s four conditions for revolution. The second condition is that the middle class are wavering and the third is that the working class are ready to fight. The fourth is the presence of a revolutionary party.

The embryo of such a party are the communists and their new Revolutionary Communist Party. Mike’s analogy with the formation of the SWP and the WRP is simply wrong. Socialist Appeal were correct in 2010 to make a turn to students, especially with 50% of school and college leavers now going on to university. Similarly, Socialist Appeal is correct to make a turn to communism, given the radicalisation of young people following the defeat of Corbynism - together with the radicalism of the public in general, following the Israeli state genocide in Gaza.

In the meantime, I have rejoined the Green Party, who could get four MPs in the coming general election. The Greens are the only mainstream political party that stands for a wealth tax on the rich to fund the NHS and public services. Unfortunately the Labour Party, including Rachel Reeves and David Lammy, oppose a wealth tax.

John Smithee
Green Party member

Fairness wanting

I think the game at the moment is to downplay what the Israeli Defence Forces are doing and exaggerate what Hamas and cohorts did on October 7. Those criticising Israel are labelled ‘anti-Semites’ and that’s enough to silence a lot of people - which is the tactic, anyway.

The UN security council resolution on Gaza is apparently non-binding - although I think I remember UN resolution 1441 against Iraq in 2002 being binding (yes, that’s what I said - binding!), with the USA and the UK pushing for this resolution on Iraq, which they would later argue gave authorisation for their attack. So we have a resolution authorising a ceasefire in Gaza, which Israel can choose whether to comply with or not (with the backing of the USA). Compare this to 1441, which gave Iraq “a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations”, but which went further than ‘binding’ and apparently authorised, in western minds anyway, the destruction of a country: ie, Iraq (the destruction of the moral compass of the UK and the USA may have occurred as well, if it had existed in any form post-World War II).

Add to this the fact that Israel has nuclear weapons, but won’t admit to it and the western media is happy to sidestep the issue, acting as complicit partners in the charade. In April 1990, Saddam Hussein offered to destroy his chemical and biological weapons in return for Israel agreeing to destroy its weapons of mass destruction, including its nuclear weapons. The US state department refused the offer.

Saddam Hussein would later make the same appeals for the banning of all weapons of mass destruction in the region as part of a negotiated settlement for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait. The west, again, wasn’t interested.

Just a few thoughts and instances which show that fairness in world affairs is wanting, legalities are subjective, democracy is limited, and global governance is one-sided.

Louis Shawcross
Co Down

Inside job

Tam Dean Burn, who says he met the late Israeli-Arab theatre director, Juliano Mer-Khamis, in Scotland in 2007, paid tribute to him in a recent article as someone “who heroically turned his back on a successful Israeli film career to devote himself to the Palestinian cause through youth theatre” (‘Promote a second front’, March 28).

This is what he had to say about Mer-Khamis’s murder in the Jenin refugee camp in 2011: “Whether he was killed by forces within the camp will probably never be known, as the Israeli authorities took away his car, laptop and other possessions.”

Actually, we do know. Forces within the camp were almost certainly responsible. The likeliest suspects are Islamists offended by the daring material that Mer-Khamis’s Freedom Theatre presented in a community in which Hamas and Islamic Jihad exercised greater and greater control. Mer-Khamis joked in 2008 that if he was ever killed it would be by a “fucked-up Palestinian” for “corrupting the youth of Islam”. So it was no surprise that when the theatre announced it would put on Spring awakening, Frank Wedekind’s 1906 drama about adolescent sexuality, anonymous leaflets appeared denouncing Mer-Khamis as a “communist, an atheist and a Jew” - his mother was Israeli Jewish, his father Palestinian Greek Orthodox - and warning that “we will be forced to speak in bullets” if the production was not halted (the theatre cancelled it forthwith).

To be sure, other theories have circulated to the effect that the Palestinian Authority wanted him out of the way, because it was unhappy with the way he had needled its officials in his plays. Or that maybe it was people on the PA periphery, or people feuding with the PA, or whatnot. Mer-Khamis had angered a lot of people and presumably had wound up on a lot of hit lists.

But one thing we can be reasonably sure of is that it was not forces outside the camp, which is to say the Israelis, who were responsible. As Adam Shatz said of Mer-Khamis in the 2013 London Review of Books, “… though he may have given his life to the Palestinian cause, he was not killed by an Israeli bullet. The man who shot him was Palestinian, and probably from the camp: no-one else would have known how to navigate those streets, or how to disappear so quickly. The killing appeared to be a message from forces inside the camp.

“Juliano had spoken bluntly about the stifling effects of patriarchy, gender oppression and religious dogma; freedom, he argued, began with individual liberation, and without it freedom from occupation would mean nothing. This did not endear him to defenders of ‘tradition’. Nor did the theatre’s productions, in which teenage boys and girls appeared on stage together.”

Abeer Baker - an Israeli-Arab human-rights attorney hired by Jenny Nyman, Mer-Khamis’s wife - pushed the Israeli authorities to launch an investigation - something she would not likely have done if the family thought Mossad or some other Israeli agency was involved. Micaela Miranda, a Portuguese actress who worked with Mer-Khamis, thought the same. As she told Shatz, “I blame the camp. They know who killed Juliano, and they aren’t saying.”

Saying that the killer’s identity “will probably never be known” is therefore a dodge, a roundabout way of saying we don’t want to know because we’re afraid of what it says about the nature of Palestinian bourgeois politics.

Elsewhere in his article, Burn says that the Communist Culture Club livestream, in which he presented his thoughts about the Palestinian “cultural intifada”, was “frustrating”, because it was loaded down with extraneous material. This included an extended political analysis of the movie Dune 2 and a brief talk I gave about George Orwell at host Tina Werkmann’s request. As Burn puts it, “I would have thought that the issue of a cultural intifada is a lot more important for Marxists right now than Daniel Lazare’s thoughts on George Orwell.”

Perhaps. But Orwell may be more relevant than he thinks. The author of Homage to Catalonia certainly had his faults, but dishonesty was not one of them. He would never have shaded the truth about the assassination of someone he claims to admire.



Daniel Lazare
New York

Assange MP?

As a Commonwealth citizen who is not serving a term of imprisonment in the United Kingdom or in the Republic of Ireland, Julian Assange is eligible to contest the Blackpool South by-election. He should do so, supported at the very least by the Alba Party and by the Workers Party of Britain - led, as those are, by two of his staunchest supporters - as well as by another such supporter: the independent MP for Islington North, Jeremy Corbyn.

Keir Starmer should live forever in infamy for his role in this affair, although it is a useful indication of what his government would be like. Labour is a party of extremely rightwing people, who lack the social connections to make it in the Conservative Party, and whose two defining experiences were being brought up to spit on everyone below them (which was everyone else where they grew up) and discovering in their first 36 hours at university that they were nowhere near the top of the class system - a discovery that embittered them for life.

David Lindsay