Sparts hammered

Comrades might well be aware that back in February the Spartacist League (UK) wrote us a ‘let’s debate’ letter on the election question (Weekly Worker February 22).

This was very much welcomed by the CPGB and after a brief exchange of emails we agreed to an online Zoom debate on May 5 and later in the year a face-to-face at this year’s Communist University in central London (August 3-10).

For those who want to see the debate, the opening contributions are available on www.youtube.com/watch?v=99Q4BYsCGqU. And to get a real handle on the issues involved there is also Eddie Ford’s article, ‘Debating with the Oehlerites’ (Weekly Worker May 9) - essential reading for anyone serious about overcoming the debilitating splits and divisions on the left.

Basically, the comrades in the Spartacist League think the way ahead lies with the mushy economism of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. However, they combine this with a purity politics which sees them condemning any Labour vote, including for Labour lefts such as John McDonnell and Zarah Sultana, as “crossing class lines”. That despite being forced to admit that Labour remains a bourgeois workers’ party. The result is a rather curious Third Period Fabianism.

Meanwhile, the CPGB is committed to communist unity on the basis of our Draft programme. A unity process that inevitably involves splits as well as fusions. Without a Communist Party - even a small one to begin with - our class will remain on the back foot and incapable of making any decisive advance. In other words, the Communist Party is the key question of our day.

When it comes to the general election, the CPGB position is clear. If there is a straight fight between a Labour candidate and the Tories, Lib Dems, Reform, Greens, SNP, etc, we say vote Labour. That is a class vote because, yes, Labour remains a bourgeois workers’ party. However, if there is a left candidate - and that would include the likes of McDonnell and Sultana - we say vote for the best placed or least unprincipled candidate. Without exception, it needs to be emphasised, all candidates on offer on July 4 are unprincipled. So that means Jeremy Corbyn in Islington North, George Galloway in Rochdale; elsewhere it could be Tusc, the Workers Party or one of the many and varied independent left candidates. The CPGB most certainly does not advocate auto-Labourism - that we shall leave to Labourites.

Following the online debate, we wrote this short email note on May 19 to Eibhlin McColgan of the Spartacist League.

“Hallo Eibhlin,

Hope you and the other comrades thought the Zoom debate was productive.

Just wanted to drop you a line about Communist University this year - August 3-10. Presume you are still up for a face-to-face. We can slot it in for one of the final sessions of the day to facilitate a get together in a local pub afterwards.


Jack Conrad

(for CPGB).”

We were disappointed, though frankly not surprised, to get this email back a week later:

“Dear Jack,

Thanks for the invitation to participate in the Communist University. Unfortunately, due to the pressure of other work, now including the general election campaign, we will be unable to take part this year.

Comradely greetings,


Well, the Communist University offer - a full month after the general election campaign finishes - remains open (along with that get-together in a local pub afterwards). So does the offer of another online debate.

Jack Conrad

Never understood

Mike Macnair makes the point: “What full communism will look like will depend on choices made over decades by the working class ruling on a global scale. The minimum programme is a programme for working class rule right now. It is for this reason that it combines a platform for political democracy with some economic measures - ones that are immediately posed.”

I have never really understood how anyone seriously interested in promoting the idea of a communist (aka socialist) alternative to capitalism can make this sort of argument. Never mind what Marx may or may not have said. Marx was fallible, as are we all, and there is enough of an unhealthy tendency to invoke the ‘argument from authority’ as it is when it comes to quoting Marx in leftwing circles. All that is needed is a bit of basic common sense and logic.

Look, we can all surely accept the premise that capitalism as a socioeconomic system can only really be run and managed in one way - in the interests of capital. As ‘Marxists’ we can all surely agree that capitalism´s driving force - the competitive accumulation of capital out of surplus value - is absolutely dependent on the systemic exploitation of a majority working class by a tiny class that owns and controls the means of production in de facto terms.

But here’s the point - the very existence of these (capitalist) class categories - implies the existence of this exploitative system of capitalism. Consequently, arguing for a “minimum programme” based on “working class rule” (moreover, “over decades” and “on a global scale”) is in effect arguing for the retention of an economic system that requires the existence of this class as the object of a process of exploitation. In effect, it is proposing that the slaves should continue to be slaves, while being in charge of a system that can only be administered in the interests of the slave-owners.

This is simply not credible. One can sort of understand why Marx and Engels felt the need to resort to such logically dubious concepts as the “dictatorship of the proletariat” back in the mid-19th century. Objectively speaking, communism was not on the cards. Hence their advocacy of the 10 state-capitalist reforms in the 1848 manifesto to help grow the productive forces (though they later distanced themselves from these reforms, as can be seen if you read the 1872 preface to the Communist manifesto).

But we don’t live in the year 1848. Today, we live in 2024. We don’t need the forces of production to be “further developed” to establish a communist society, What accounts for the persistence of poverty is not the fact that we don’t have the technological capacity to make communism completely feasible. On the contrary, material deprivation continues only because we allow capitalism to continue.

Capitalism has become the most grotesquely wasteful socioeconomic formation in human history, with the majority of its human and material resources being devoted solely to keeping the money system ticking over on its own terms. This in itself represents a truly massive diversion of resources away from meeting human needs and it will continue for as long as we allow the capitalist buying-and-selling system to continue,

This is why I find all this talk of transitional societies and minimum programmes so archaic and off-putting. It’s not at all relevant to the world we live in today. The transition period is what we are living through now. It is not something we need to initiate, once a communist majority has politically captured the capitalist state - and set about immediately abolishing that state, along with the system that necessitates it. Surely, at that point - if it ever happens - all this would be pretty much universally understood by everyone.

The only remaining precondition we need to fulfil in order to establish a communist society is the realisation of communist consciousness on a mass scale. At the end of the day, the SPGB is completely correct in emphasising this. It is a thankless and difficult approach that it has adopted and one that routinely prompts the scorn of others, but, at the end of the day, it is the only approach that makes any sense. If you want a communist society you have to advocate it and spread the idea. What else is possibly required?

Advocating a minimum programme in this day and age is a sure-fire way of setting yourself up for failure and mass working class disenchantment, with a so-called working class government having been put in power to implement this programme. Any government that tries to take on the administration of a system that is intrinsically predicated on the exploitation of the working class will inevitably transmogrify into a capitalist government.

Surely as materialists, we can all accept this all-too-obvious point?

Robin Cox

Min or max?

Mike Macnair tries to argue that Karl Marx “advocated, wrote and defended the revolutionary minimum programme” (‘Minimal symmetrical errors’ Weekly Worker May 23). Marx certainly had no objection to a socialist workers’ party having a programme of immediate demands, but he wasn’t so illogical as to describe these as “revolutionary”.

A “revolutionary minimum programme” is in fact a contradiction in terms. The “immediate demands” (the term used in the 1880 programme of the French Parti Ouvrier) that constituted the minimum programme of the pre-World War I social democratic parties were all measures to be implemented within capitalism, even if (some of them) would strengthen the hand of the working class in the class struggle. Only the maximum programme can be described as revolutionary.

Mike Macnair argues (not very convincingly, since in practice the emphasis was placed on the social and economic, rather than political, “immediate demands”) that the essence of a minimum programme is a demand for complete - “extreme” - political democracy. He describes this as “revolutionary”, as it makes it easy, even inevitable, for the working class to win political control. But this, of course, presupposes a socialist-minded working class. It is the absence of this, not of “extreme democracy”, that is currently the barrier to socialism - as a society of common ownership and democratic control of the means of living, with production directly to satisfy people’s needs, not for profit.

In any event, it would take as much time and energy to get the working class to organise and vote for “extreme democracy” as it would to get them to organise and vote for socialism.

It is true that some degree of political democracy does make it easier for the working class both to organise for socialism and to wage the trade union struggle, but it doesn’t need to be perfect or “extreme”. In countries like Britain is it really necessary to set aside the revolutionary, maximum programme to demand, for instance, the abolition of the monarchy as a step towards “extreme democracy”?

The limited political democracy that exists today is enough to enable a socialist-minded working class majority to transform universal suffrage - in the words of the maximum programme of the Parti Ouvrier, “from the instrument of deception that it has been until now into an instrument of emancipation” - by using it to win political control and introduce socialism, including full democracy. This should be the “immediate demand” of socialists, not a list of reforms to capitalism, whether attractive or not. It’s what socialists today should be campaigning for, not chasing reforms.

Adam Buick
Socialist Party of Great Britain

Abolish prison

One of the reasons I read Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism - the bi-monthly newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Group - is for its regular coverage of people in prisons.

Fredrick Engels famously described the state, in the final analysis, as armed bodies of men and their appendages in defence of private property. Those appendages include the police, the courts, the security services, the civil service, the judiciary and prisons. I would like to say a little about my thoughts about the latter. When Michael Howard was Tory leader he famously said at a Tory Party conference that “prison works”.

I believe that the system needs to be abolished. A start can be made by releasing all women prisoners, especially those who are pregnant - no woman should have to give birth whilst in prison. Similarly, we need to have the state legally regulate all drugs, with all those currently in prison for drug offences released. Another start could be the release of all those in prison serving sentences of up to one year. Such people would be far better off being made to do community work as part of a payback scheme.

Abolition of prisons should be part of our communist minimum programme.

John Smithee

One republic

In my article, ‘Marching towards what solution?’ (May 16) the argument for a democratic, secular, federal republic of Israel-Palestine - one republic for two nations - confronted the communist-Trotskyist case for “a socialist federation of the Middle East”. The pamphlet published by The Communist (formerly Socialist Appeal) explains that “a socialist federation of the Middle East is the only way of guaranteeing autonomy of the Jews and Palestinians that is not based on oppression” (p47).

The Weekly Worker introduction to my article immediately took the side of The Communist, saying: “Steve Freeman gives a Menshevik twist to the old PLO demand for a single capitalist Palestinian state by making the case for a single capitalist federal republic. The perspective of working class rule and socialism is denounced as ultra-leftism.” This is partly false and certainly misleading.

The demand for a democratic, secular republic of Israel-Palestine has two sources. First is working class republicanism, whose historical roots include Marx, Engels and the Russian Bolsheviks, who became known as the Jacobins of Russian social democracy. Of course, the Bolsheviks were working class republicans, revolutionary social democrats and communists. So I ‘denounce’ all those who are fighting against working class republicanism in the name of ‘communism’.

The second source is the case for a binational state, or ‘one state for two nations’. This history includes Zionist pacifists, such as Judah Magnus, who wanted peaceful coexistence between Zionists and Arabs; Palestinian nationalists, who saw it as securing equality between nations; and a range of intellectuals, such as Noam Chomsky, Edward Said and Ilan Pappe. Moshé Machover recognises two nations and does not specifically rule out a binational possible outcome.

The Weekly Worker’s polemical introduction to my article should have said: “Working class republicanism gives a Bolshevik ‘twist’ to the binational state originally promoted by early Zionist and Palestinian liberal democrats”. In fact the word, ‘Bolshevik’, was deleted and ‘Menshevik’ cunningly substituted. Readers may think that the Communist Party of Great Britain is a Bolshevik ‘twist’ on British communism. So what has caused them to abandon working class republicanism for Menshevik-Trotskyism? The editors have mixed up their Menshevik-Trotskyism with their Jacobin-Bolshevism.

I made the accusation of dabbling in leftism. Of course, no republican minimum programme was intended to abolish capitalism. So there is no problem in pointing out that capitalism will still exist in ‘one republic for two nations’. The truth doesn’t hurt. Even the 1917 October revolution did not abolish capitalism in Russia or introduce socialism in one country. What would be abolished is the present Zionist version of apartheid capitalism, built on the oppression of a divided working class.

So the inclusion of the words, “a single capitalist Palestinian state by making the case for a single capitalist federal republic” (my emphasis), are more than simply a scientific description. The word ‘capitalist’ appears twice as a polemical device. It is like a shock-horror headline in The Sun - ‘Corbyn proposes “socialism” to raise taxes and steal all your money!!’ Instead of discussing the matter as science, the polemic says in effect: ‘Do not even think about this proposal because it does not immediately abolish capitalism.’ Any programme that does not immediately abolish wage labour will outrage every infantile leftwing communist.

Both Russian Mensheviks and Bolsheviks supported the RSDLP minimum republican programme. However, the Mensheviks were soft on republicanism because of their economism and strategy towards the liberal democrats (Cadets). Ultra-leftism opposed it with maximalist ‘socialism’. Working class republicanism is therefore a Bolshevik ‘twist’. A federal republic won by working class action changes capitalism by changing the balance of class forces in favour of the working class. It does not, in and of itself, abolish capitalism by introducing national socialism. All Stalinists have forgotten this.

Finally “working class rule” was not denounced in my article either explicitly or implicitly. On the contrary, working class republicanism is about the rule of the majority and hence in a country with a working class majority is about the rule of the working class. A democratic, secular republic in Israel-Palestine does not contradict necessarily Middle East socialism. Moshé Machover can support a federal republic without abandoning his case for a Middle East solution. I did not reject Middle East socialism, even though I believe that the transition to communism has to be wider that the Middle East - not least in relation to the US, China and the EU. I do agree that democratic revolutions in other Middle East states would be transformative, as shown by the Arab Spring before it was crushed in Egypt and Syria.

The slogan of ‘Middle East socialism’ becomes ultra-left if it is misused to liquidate the republican programme and hence a political role for the working class. It leaves a massive vacuum at the heart of Israel-Palestine class politics. That is a crime against the struggles of the Israeli-Palestinian working class committed by the Weekly Worker introduction. Leftwing communism is using the slogan of ‘socialism’ as a means of opposing a democratic, secular republic. Fake left communists hostile to working class republicanism in the name of ‘socialism’ should be ‘denounced’. They deserve it.

Steve Freeman


I thank Daniel Lazare for kindly congratulating me for pointing out that “the overthrow of Zionism is only possible with the participation of the Israeli working class” (Letters, May 23).

However, the tail of his letter is armed with a couple of stings. He says: “So it is good that someone finally spoke up for united working class action.” Finally? He has got some hutzpah!

He then goes on: “Machover is also a supporter of boycott, divestment and sanctions - a movement that includes Hamas in its leadership and whose prime goal is to disemploy Israeli workers, Jewish or Arab, by persuading imperialism to withdraw investment.”

That Hamas is “in the leadership” of the BDS movement is a Zionist hasbarah porky, which Lazare keeps repeating. As readers must have noticed, hasbarah uses Hamas as a bugbear to besmirch any Palestinian anti-colonial initiative. In reality Hamas has no role whatsoever in leading the BDS movement. It is just one of scores of Palestinian groups of diverse political colours that have formally endorsed BDS, including trade unions, women’s organisations, etc.

And, as for disemploying workers, I suppose we must not oppose military budgets: we don’t wish to persuade imperialism to withdraw investments and disemploy the many millions of workers who make their living in and around the military-industrial complex, do we?

Moshé Machover

Beyond misguided

Lazare’s latest statements about occupied Palestine will not go unanswered. It’s a comforting thought to expect that the Israeli working class in solidarity with Palestinian workers can produce a revolutionary upsurge that could deal with capitalism’s predations and barbarism, but, presently, as Tony Greenstein points out, the Israeli working class is not a force for change. Lazare disagrees, and in my mind trades in ‘pie in the sky’ idealism that doesn’t relate to material conditions, but conditions can change.

Last time I checked, Hamas doesn’t “attack Israelis qua Israelis”, while the Zionists kill and torture Palestinians for being Palestinian. ‘Israel’ was an organised project of racist, ethnic cleansing from its inception. ‘Israel’ has now graduated from mass expulsion to extermination. Racism and ethnic supremacy make up the DNA of its political system. The fact that the Zionist cancer is starting to lethally metastasise is not the fault of the Palestinian entity or any aspect of it. Anyone who places blame on Hamas or the Palestinian resistance movement in the context of 70-plus years of mass murder and atrocities, as well as during this Zionist genocide in real time, is a racist, a Zionist or Zionist sympathiser, and a traitor to the Palestinian cause.

“Socialism ... seeks ... to internationalise the conflict by uniting Israeli and Palestinian workers” - this is a rote formula or theory that’s divorced from objective reality: ie, what’s on the ground. It’s necessary to come up with concrete and practical ways to implement a socialist programme. Hollow theory becomes useless political platitudes.

“Zionism and the equally reactionary misleader of Hamas” - this is like a broken record. Lazare never gets past the idea of equivalence à la the ICC’s current absurdity that equates Hamas and Netanyahu, etc. He can be expected to agree with this new initiative by the institutional imperialist west, and would be consistent in doing so.

Moshé Machover gains Lazare’s approval for adhering to the concept of working class unity yet Machover still doesn’t pass the ‘Lazare smell test’: Machover supports BDS, according to Lazare, which “includes Hamas in its leadership”. The Zionist state sees BDS as a strategic and even existential threat, and therefore I’m fine with BDS - as well as anything else that can financially, ideologically and militarily degrade to any degree this child-murdering, Zionist system. The priority is the destruction of Zionism, which BDS could possibly contribute to, not the maintenance of capital’s stranglehold on the privileged Israeli working class.

Boycotts of arms transport to Israel by union workers are crucially important. BDS calls for an embargo on providing weapons and military aid. A targeted BDS is no substitute for mass organisation, but it can be an auxiliary tactic. Regarding BDS, Dr Emad Moussa, political analyst, says that the fight for Palestinian rights, a fight against Zionism, is not different from the Jewish struggle against Nazism: “It is not directed at Jews qua Jews, much like Jewish anti-Nazism was not a campaign against the German people.”

The most effective action is to conquer and put an end to our own imperialist governments. Karl Liebknecht said in 1915 that the main enemy is in your own country: “Turn your bayonets on your own bourgeoisie!”

Lazare says Tony Greenstein “doesn’t care what happens” to Israeli workers and he’s an “unabashed Hamas apologist”, while Machover is “lining up with” the “class enemies” of Israeli workers. Lazare is very wrongheaded to try to discredit Machover and Greenstein; this only divides the left and benefits the Zionists.


Gloves are off

Against a background of a multi-media capitalist lie machine, it’s good that we do have an independent press in Britain - the socialist press. There are dozens of papers/magazines serving I don’t know how many tens of thousands of people who live all over the country.

It offers a realistic and coherent and comprehensive news service. It expresses in the strongest possible terms working class opposition to what can only be described as a thousand-year Reich (reign) of monarchs who stand for undeserved privilege, injustice and bandit-style looting of our land and labour. It offers genuine hope in a landscape of pessimism and belief that this tyranny of fools will always be with us.

The Workers Party of Britain is standing in 500 constituencies as a form of political warfare against the Labour Party. Reform is standing (so they say) in all 650 constituencies as a political challenge to the Conservative Party. The gloves are off, as the centre ground becomes irrelevant.

All power to our working class. More chaos, more chance of victory.

Elijah Traven

Keep ’em out

I read recently a couple of articles in the Weekly Worker about immigration into the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The point I want to make is that, with the numbers now coming in, the issue must be managed properly. The “new town” of Milton Keynes was built first before being populated - not the other way around.

It’s all very well advocating open borders, but the infrastructure needs to exist to be able to take any increases in population. Those coming in need to be documented and vetted, as we would hope all our neighbours were documented and known to the police and authorities. In a socialist society those holiday homes, or second homes, could well be acquisitioned by the state to accommodate the homeless and those new immigrants, but we’re not there yet.

Even in a socialist society, the state (or governing entity) might authorise the movement of 100,000-plus willing persons into a designated area within a short period of time, but not before the additional schools, clinics and homes had been built and the necessary increase in nurses, doctors and teachers trained and qualified. The example with Milton Keynes shows that a type of socialism (or state-managed capitalism) has been evident in the United Kingdom for quite some time - not everything has been left to the markets to decide - which would be catastrophic.

The state at times takes a lead role in matters which normally would be left to the private sector. Which begs the question as to why the state has been so schizophrenic in allowing in so many people before providing adequate infrastructure. Is it a bung to hoteliers, or to the private home-owning class and to further the cause of the property bubble?

The left plays down or ignores the fact that the overwhelming majority of those new immigrants are young, male adults. Are the women and children coming later? Or have the women and children been left in conflict areas to suffer persecution and/or large-scale human rights violations for a reason? Many of these young, male immigrants boast in videos of destroying their documentation prior to arriving on these shores. Such behaviour may well help to seal their acceptance as permanent residents, but it’s not so fortunate for the communities in which they reside, as no-one can be sure who they are, where they’ve come from, or anything about their backgrounds.

I believe that every individual on planet Earth should be able to live where they wish - but within reason. Eight billion people can’t all live in Beverley Hills, California, or Sloane Square, London. So we either leave it all to the market and self-destruct, or we manage the issue. Management requires rational thinking, and allowing thousands of undocumented and unvetted immigrants into the country over a short space of time just doesn’t make any rational sense.

What would socialists do? Surely they would consult with the communities where the migrants are to be settled. Has that happened? If it hasn’t happened then how can anyone condone it? In a socialist society I hope they wouldn’t be bussing in the immigrants during the hours of darkness and placing them in hotels at a time when over 2,000 ex-forces personnel are homeless in the UK. It doesn’t make any fucking sense!

Louis Shawcross
Co Down