In his article, ‘Deal with the arguments’ (February 22), Mike Macnair offers a polemic against what he characterises as “Steve Bloom’s argument against democratic republicanism as a central political objective of Marxists”. This gets my viewpoint wrong, however. Mike and I and the Marxist Unity Group (MUG) in the USA have no disagreement that “democratic republicanism” (understood correctly as referring to a workers’ or socialist republic) must be “a central political objective”.

The problem I see, and have been discussing in the pages of Cosmonaut (MUG’s online theoretical journal), is that MUG - in its literature and theoretical expositions - has elevated the fight for a democratic republic to the central political objective, eclipsing all others. Its approach also begins to develop a theory which suggests that actually achieving this ‘democratic republic’ is an absolutely necessary first step in any transition from a capitalist state to a workers’ state - a prerequisite to even beginning to struggle around other tasks that a workers’ republic will need to engage.

Taken together, in my judgment, these two elements generate a process of schematic thinking - ie, of beginning to view the world through the distorting lens of a specific revolutionary theory about how the world ought to look (and ought to behave). Whenever revolutionaries allow our theories to shape our view of the world, rather than the other way around, it makes the world as it actually is - a world which almost always confounds our theories - far more difficult to assess properly. That’s true because when we look at events through a distorting lens we tend to see what we expect to see, even if that’s not what’s actually happening. I have developed and documented all of this in my letters and articles for Cosmonaut in recent months. Readers of the Weekly Worker can review and judge how well I have expressed my concern at cosmonautmag.com/?s=Steve+Bloom. Responses by various supporters of MUG are also listed there.

A good chunk of Macnair’s article is spent berating me for following the anti-schematist method of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. This, too, represents a false polemic in my view. I spent two decades (more or less) in the leadership of the FI, starting in the mid-1980s. During this time the FI majority launched what turned out to be a disastrous orientation toward building “broad mass parties” rather than what was characterised as the “sectarian” kind of cadre organisations we had been focused on in the past. I think Mike and I would have a similar balance sheet on this experience, which has essentially led to the liquidation of the FI as a principled revolutionary formation.

I believe I generated a pretty substantial record during the time I was part of the international leadership, attempting to combat the errors being made in one country after another, calling for balance-sheet discussions and more. But that’s not the main issue of concern for us today. Mike is correct to note that the turn toward “broad mass parties” was promoted in the name of rejecting the “schematism” of the FI’s historical self-conception. But a wrong turn by the FI majority in the name of combating schematism hardly justifies a subsequent rejection of any and all efforts to combat it. It would be as if we rejected communism and Marxism because the USSR degenerated while promoting these ideologies (in name only, of course). Despite the misuse of anti-schematism by the FI we should still maintain a vigilant effort to avoid schematic thinking in our own political praxis.

One thing Macnair corrects me on is valid: “The consequence of this analysis is that comrade Bloom is just plain wrong to argue that Soviet power in Russia leapt over the stage of the ‘democratic republic’.” Here we get to the ambiguity in the words, ‘democratic republicanism’, that I hinted at above. I repeat: we have no dispute that democratic republicanism must be “a central political objective” for Marxist revolutionaries. At the same time we have to remain acutely aware that we are talking here about a workers’ or socialist democratic republic, not a bourgeois-democratic republic.

It’s obvious to me at this point that there isn’t a unified understanding on this question within MUG itself. Some members are using ‘democratic republic’ to mean ‘socialist democratic republic’, while others really do envision a mere extension of bourgeois democracy. This ambiguity is played out in some of the discussion by different MUG members in Cosmonaut, including in their replies to me. It is also clearly manifest in the book published by MUG last year: Fight the constitution: for a democratic socialist republic - despite the use of the word ‘socialist’ in the title.

Because I am on the outside looking in, I have come to a full understanding of this division within MUG only recently, and only with some difficulty. Before I understood I made the mistake of treating a viewpoint held by some (we are fighting for a bourgeois-democratic republic) as if it was held by all, and this was the source of my error that Macnair corrects in the quote above. My statement about soviet power in Russia is not accurate in relation to those who are clearly advocating a ‘socialist’ or ‘workers’ democratic republic. Soviet power only leapt over the stage of a bourgeois democratic republic in Russia. By no means did it jump over the stage of a workers’ democratic republic.

Finally, I will note the theme of Mike’s article, which is captured in its headline: his complaint that I fail to deal directly with the arguments in his book. This came as a surprise, since I didn’t even know that the book existed until I read this article. I do plan now to read the book and I will offer Mike my specific thoughts about his arguments when I do. My guess is that I will find myself in agreement with most of what he has to say - since I certainly agree with the basic thrust of what Mike writes in his subhead ‘Republican’.

Steve Bloom


Another Easter Parade in Derry, with men in combat uniform, teenage boys carrying crates of petrol bombs, IRA signs prominent on lampposts. But this isn’t the extremism much heralded recently by the British government - therefore no police intervention.

In the aftermath of George Galloway’s victory in the Rochdale by-election, Rishi Sunak thought fit to outline Britain’s growing extremism in an impromptu speech outside No10. People winning a seat in parliament in a democratically run election is seemingly a new form of extremism. Or was it that all the mainstream political parties were soundly beaten? Is this new extremism really a change in voting behaviour away from the ‘moderate’ mainstream parties who support genocide, towards more “extremist” candidates and parties who want an end to all genocide around the world? Hard to say.

So contrast the masked petrol bomb-wielding youths to this by-election victory in Rochdale - it’s the latter that has the British government in a tizzy. When at least half the leadership of the Saoradh republican group are predictably and largely Special Branch-controlled, the police helicopter hovering overhead must be just for public consumption. The British security state needs Saoradh as much as Saoradh need their green, white and gold paraphernalia. Without this Irish republican charade, the British security establishment would struggle to justify its huge security apparatus and budget that it needs for the real challenges that lie ahead.

Once people start demanding workplace democracy; once people are aware of the dominance of finance and how companies like Blackrock can dictate global investment, and how society is racing towards technocratic governance; once millions of people are cancelled and can’t work, buy or sell in a world where all cash has been removed from circulation, then the ‘security’ cum repressive infrastructure we see in today’s world - surveillance helicopters, surveillance this, surveillance that - will really be let loose on the people.

I think we need a state not to surveil us and prevent progressive change, but to run the utilities, public transport, health, education and banking, so that it works in our interests and not the interests of elites.

Louis Shawcross
Co Down


Your paper repeatedly misuses and bends the quoting of Marx, Engels and sometimes Lenin (when you are not favouring the renegade Kautsky) - usually with small snippets, taken out of context - but the recent piece by Daniel Lazare rubbishing the turmoil and revolt in Haiti as nothing but “drug gang criminality” is the most egregious to date (‘Drug war denialism’, February 28).

Quite apart from its sneering dismissal of an astounding uprising, which has toppled a western-serving, unelected president and humiliated Washington and its ‘allies’, its attempt to harness Karl Marx to this insultingly reactionary put-down takes the biscuit for misrepresentation - or should I say sophistry?

The thrust is that Haiti is in trouble primarily because of a drug-running culture, which somewhat misses out the devastating world capitalist crisis and specifically 500 years of the most brutal oppression and exploitation. There was Spanish feudal imperialism, French bourgeois rapaciousness (possibly even worse), then the repeated barbarities imposed by the US - from the early 20th century US marines invasion and occupation to the horrors of the Papa and Baby Doc dictatorships, and subsequent US coups, earthquakes, UN chaos. And now we have the imposition of a bunch of corrupt, potentially-killer, Kenyan police (if this latest nonsensical proposition can get into the air at all).

Astoundingly Lazare’s answer is the legalisation of drugs, to supposedly undercut the trade which he asserts is the cause of the turmoil (to restore ‘stability’? In whose favour?). His authority for this is some weirdly located fragments of Marx from his writings on the British Opium Wars on China - which, Lazare asserts, show Marx was in favour of drug legalisation. This must be the most topsy-turvy reading ever - and one demonstrating either complete idiocy, petty bourgeois idealist blindness or total cynicism (and likely all three).

Just about the most famous aphorism attributed to Marx is that “religion is the opiate of the people” and its meaning is glaringly clear - that being kept in a state of philosophical numbness is the greatest weakness for the working class. And, just to make it clear, Marx refers frequently to the “stupor” that opium and other drugs keep people in, including in the cited articles; anyone trying to read this as Marx’s “toleration of the opium trade” in the abstract has obviously been smoking too much of something themselves.

If the whole of the material from Marx’s 1858-59 articles are read - where he ventures that the Chinese emperor’s mandarins should lift their ban on opium - some very specific circumstances become apparent. Through savage wars Britain had violently imposed the contraband import of opium and most of southern China was already in the grip of addiction, so that unbanning it would have had little impact for the moment. But what it would have done was to completely bankrupt the British opium trade and potentially send shock waves through the entire Anglo-Indian economy - the illicit opium trade having become “one sixth of its total state income”.

In this way Marx was presenting specific tactics for battling against piratical British colonialist capitalism in this situation, not advocating the use or toleration of opium as such, nor suggesting that legalisation in general was a way to remove the debilitating and corrupting effects of capitalist culture. Drug reform is just that - reform - and concentration on reform heads attention away from revolution.

Meanwhile characterisation of the events in Haiti as part of the “drug war” simply reflects the bourgeois press accounts (and the imperialist agenda feeding them), which wants to write off the ‘gang’ culture as nothing but kidnap and rape criminality.

Like in Mexico and Ecuador, etc, the degenerate, corrupting nature of American imperialism in fostering grotesque criminality and violence is obvious. But it is clear that there are different threads in the ‘gangs’ (hidden by the bourgeois accounts) and notably those around Jimmy Chérizier’s G9 coalition, which emerged from local defence committees and at least claims to stand against the chaos (which surely you would favour, since you so often make a point about ‘arming workers’ militias’?).

He may be just a demagogue, and he may be what he claims: a revolutionary trying to emulate Che Guevara, Thomas Sankora and others. But the very fact these are the assertions being made, and that much of the turmoil presents itself in a political anti-imperialist form, indicates there is something much deeper going on here.

But your view, limited to contempt for the “easily bribed” poor masses, demonstrates once again that your anti-proletarian, petty bourgeois shallowness is a million miles from revolutionary understanding.

Don Hoskins

Get out!

On April 14, several residents and supporters of Palestine Action disrupted Somerset council’s ‘property and investments sub-committee’ meeting for over 30 minutes, before the councillors closed the meeting to the public.

The following day a local resident submitted a question and demanded the immediate eviction of the Israeli weapons firm, Elbit Systems, from the council’s property - Aztec West 600 in Bristol. This was followed by locals handing out pictures of injured and killed Palestinian children during the ongoing Gaza genocide. Residents also held a banner with the names of dozens of Palestinians who have been killed by the Israeli military using Elbit’s weaponry, whilst taking it in turns to disrupt the meeting to make their demands heard. 

Over the past three months, residents have disrupted three council meetings over its continued complicity in the Gaza genocide. Locals have also twice sprayed red paint across the council’s town hall - on one of such occasions, they also locked on to blockade any access to the premises.

Somerset council are the landlords of Aztec West 600, which is actually the headquarters of Elbit Systems UK. Due to financial concerns, the council have made plans to sell Aztec West 600 as part of a wholesale move to dispose of their commercial investments. However, residents have repeatedly demanded that the council follow their legal and moral obligations to immediately evict Elbit from the property before disposing of the site. 

Elbit Systems is Israel’s biggest weapons manufacturer, supplying 85% of Israel’s military drone fleet and land-based equipment, in addition to missiles, bombs and bullets. As part of the ongoing genocide in Gaza, Elbit “ramped up production” for the Israeli military, who use the company’s services “extensively”. Since October 7, the Israeli military has killed well over 33,000 Palestinians (40% of whom are children), while almost 80,000 have been injured and the majority of Gazans have been displaced. 

The council have said they will meet with Elbit Systems UK to discover what is happening at Aztec West 600 before taking any further moves to evict the company. During a court case, Alan Wright, vice-president of sales at Elbit Systems UK, revealed that the premises is used for “systems integration” of weaponry for their customers. 

Despite Elbit Systems UK being wholly owned by Elbit Systems Israel, the company often attempts to disassociate themselves from their parent company and global brand. However, during Elbit’s annual investor conference of 2024 in Israel, Elbit Systems CEO Bezhalel Machlis stated that all Elbit companies in the UK are a significant part of the Israeli weapons firm - they frequently work with their counterparts in Israel and share technology. In the same conference, a video was displayed of Elbit workers saying they feel like “civil soldiers” and regularly engage in ongoing debriefs with the Israeli military during the use of their weapons in Gaza.

Palestine Action

Dance of death

I’ve been casting a mind’s eye over current global developments - most particularly at those indescribably grotesque, beyond obscene danses macabres from Israel and the so-called Palestinian Authority, centred on the televised mass murder in Gaza. In turn, the USA, UK, EU, Lebanon, Iran, Saudi Arabia (not to forget the United Nations) are making their syncopated moves on that dance floor of death.

How wonderful it is to see Marxist/communist entities acting out those counterpart roles of ours. Those of incessant backbiting around internalised obsessions; of grossly introverted and incessantly unproductive ideological nitpicking (of that sectarianism gently nurtured to levels of cult-like derangement). Seemingly all of which is determinedly pursued as part of some peculiarly revered self-mutilation - followed closely by complete objective destruction.

Anyway the gods of global capital will be looking on with glee at this fiesta of non-futurism (crossbred with bonanzas of anti-hopefulness!).

Bruno Kretzschmar

Alien Christians

I recently discovered that some astronomers believe that our galaxy contains about 200 billion planets. I was shocked because I was expecting a far lower number (even though the highest estimate is 400 billion).

This is the background to my theory that the Bible and Christianity is telling us about a coming alien invasion of Earth, presented as a religious narrative by the ancient prophets and today’s clergy, and religious people in general. According to the Christian narrative, the reason for the invasion is to prevent humans wiping themselves out in a nuclear armageddon.

Tony Clark