Manchester vote

We have been asked to read and comment on the manifesto of the Manchester-based Communist Future group (see communistfuture.com/manifesto).

Well, we have done just that and, to be brutally honest - and what is the point of being anything else? - it is vague, parochial and politically pointless. Empty phrases are piled upon empty phrases. Capitalism is counterposed to communism in a manner reminiscent of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. In other words, we have soggy abstractions and pious wishes. Of course, this is just the flipside of the usual broad-frontist approach that sees disorientated leftwingers advocate unity around the lowest-common-denominator politics of tailism and economism.

Substantive ideas, concrete demands and necessary strategic goals are almost entirely absent. What about a Communist Party government? The nature of the Labour Party and how to overcome the labour and trade union bureaucracy? The free movement of people and opposition to immigration controls? Israel’s Gaza war and Nato’s proxy war in Ukraine? What about Irish unity, self-determination for Scotland and Wales and the demand for a federal republic? Nothing, nothing, nothing. What about European unity brought about by working class revolution as a vital step towards the global transition from capitalism to communism? Nothing. And nothing on the Soviet Union, nothing on China and nothing on the ectopic social formations that should be expected in this historic period.

A Communist Party is mentioned, but just in passing. Yet this is the main strategic question we face. Is a Communist Party to be built around electoral work in Manchester? Any such suggestion smacks of localism and is therefore utterly alien to the tradition of orthodox Marxism.

Surely other communist groups have to be engaged with programmatically. Above all, those who are committed to building a Communist Party need to be engaged with in terms of serious discussions and debate as a matter of urgency. Yet the grouping, Communist Future, has chosen to associate itself with … the ironically named Talking About Socialism - which is characterised by a refusal to discuss, a refusal to engage.

We are told that there can be no discussions, no debate, while we insist on describing centrists as centrists, opportunists as opportunists and social-imperialists as social-imperialists. A cover for unity with centrists, opportunists and social-imperialists.

However, together we can turn things around. Use the Weekly Worker, Online Communist Forum and Communist University to engage with the CPGB with a view to rapprochement and bringing about unity in the struggle for a genuine, mass Communist Party. That is the only serious approach.

Meanwhile, the comrades can certainly submit an appeal for funds and support to the Weekly Worker’s letters pages. The comrades can also rest assured that, unless there is a better left candidate - unlikely - we will urge electors in Manchester Central to vote for your candidate.

Our approach can be summed up as ‘Vote left where you can (and that includes the few left Labourites who are being allowed to stand), vote Labour where you must (ie, mainstream Labour)’.

Jack Conrad

Labour vote

Jack Conrad was absolutely correct in his letter last week on voting Labour - it remains a bourgeois workers’ party (May 30). Trotskyists hold that voting Labour is part of the essential tactic of the workers’ united front and the transitional method.

The latest document of Ian Donovan’s Consistent Democrats is: ‘A vote for Starmer’s Labour is a vote for Zionist genocide and Nazism in Ukraine!’ It does not even bother to claim that Labour is no longer a bourgeois workers’ party; Peter Taaffe and Hannah Sell were forced to postulate this, when they made their ‘open turn’ against Ted Grant and Allan Woods in 1991 - only to have to summersault yet again, when Corbyn reigned. Ian’s article is completely contradicted by those he wrote when a member of Socialist Fight.

On June 2 my old comrades of David North’s World Socialist Web Site/Socialist Equality Party went into a big rant against voting Labour by Chris Marsden; ‘Britain’s pseudo-left endorse a vote for Starmer’s Labour Party’. They hold that the trade unions are no longer workers’ organisations and consequently it is obvious that bourgeois workers’ parties no longer exist anywhere. A “pseudo-left” is anyone who is not a member of the WSWS/SEP.

But Trotsky made his position on the British Labour Party very clear in his writings: “For every revolutionary organisation in Britain its attitude to the masses and to the class is almost coincident with its attitude towards the Labour Party, which bases itself on the trade unions.”

Although the policy of the existing left wing of Labour was as dire back then as it is now, he goes on: “The policy of the opposition in the Labour Party is unspeakably bad. But this only means that it is necessary to counterpose to it inside the Labour Party another, a correct, Marxist policy. That isn’t so easy? With this we are entirely in accord: the bureaucracy will not surrender. But the revolutionists, functioning outside and inside, can and must succeed in winning over tens and hundreds of thousands of workers.”

It is a completely tactical question when and to what extent the revolutionary group operates in Labour. The conditions are now very unfavourable, but it remains a bourgeois workers’ party (Lenin’s characterisation), so, whilst entryism is now almost impossible, we must vote Labour if there are no serious revolutionary or centrist alternatives with a mass base in the class.

We insist that class consciousness - the class for itself subjectively and not just objectively in itself - does not develop in the minds of individual workers divorced from their social relations: it is primarily lodged in its own organisations. That is, the trade unions and reformist, Stalinist, centrist and revolutionary parties and groups vying for leadership of the class. The Marxist method is dialectical materialism and the application of this method to the class struggle is the transitional method. This can only operate effectively within the practice of the united front. That is, we must learn how to defend strategic principles, whilst utilising all the flexile tactics necessary to build the revolutionary party and advance the struggles of the class towards the goal of the socialist revolution.

The argument often put forward that the situation is ripe nationally for an independent electoral challenge to Labour from the left bears little relationship to reality. Lenin emphasised the need for “a sober assessment of the actual level of political consciousness of the working class as a whole, and not just its communist vanguard”.

He argued: “It is not that this [ultra-leftist] line doesn’t find a resonance among some groups of workers. Periods of retreat and demoralisation frequently produce ultra-left moods in a minority of the class. The real question is whether this line represents a correct approach to the politically conscious sections of the working class as a whole. And the answer is that it does not.”

Gerry Downing
Socialist Fight

Spart vote

Vincent David of the Spartacist League central committee wants us to join him and the other comrades in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (‘Muddleheaded Labourism’ May 30). He’s afraid that if any of us vote Labour then we will cross a class line (into …?). The working class isn’t keen on Labour - true, but that’s hardly new - they just want the Tories out.

He quotes Lenin, perhaps we need Tusc to keep the Cadets - sorry, Reform - out. A vote for Labour is a vote “for an open alliance with the capitalists”. When was it ever not? So now, this year, we have an earth-shattering election, in which we must get Starmer out. Even bourgeois elections have some use: so many folk have little or no interest in politics and take what little they do have from the mainstream media. But attention does rise a little when elections are coming, I know from experience that it is much easier to talk about politics then.

Another use is to see how we’re getting on. Unfortunately there is no mass Communist Party of the working class, unlike when Lenin was writing on the subject. This leaves us mainly as observers when the results come through.

It will be of interest to see how Tusc and Galloway’s outfit get on - apart from Galloway himself, will anyone save their deposit? What effect will there be in certain constituencies (eg, those with a big Muslim vote)? I think we expect a Starmer-led Labour victory, but what will be the impact of the Lib Dems and the Greens? What about Scotland? There is so much to examine and analyse. I suppose that is why the Spartacists need more than a month after the election and so can’t spare an hour or two for Communist University.

We need, apparently, an alternative to Labour for the working class. But Labour was formed by working class organisations, and it normally gets around 10 million votes - mostly working class, I guess. It is, even now, at least partially funded by the trades unions. But, comrade David is not too keen on union bureaucrats, so perhaps we need an alternative to each trade union too - I’m sure Tusc could rustle up something.

Yes, we need another party, but one where strategy, tactics and politics are fought out, open and clear. We need a party with a programme - with amendments, if needed, openly debated and voted on. We don’t need a party with just a lot of nice people that we get on with.

In this election CPGB comrades might vote for a Tusc candidate, even a Spartacist, maybe a Galloway candidate or one of the other leftish odds and ends, but, in the absence of anything at all useful, we will vote Labour. Comrade David seems to think that this means we support Starmer. No, but unfortunately in these times we just don’t have enough rope.

Jim Nelson

Spart debate

I enjoyed reading the article by Vincent David. As a reader of Workers Hammer - the Spartacist League’s quarterly newspaper - I was therefore disappointed to read that the comrades will not be part of the debate at this year’s Communist University.

I agree with Vincent’s article, where he argues that to call for a Labour vote is to cross class lines. However, whilst I understand the Spartacist League’s involvement in Tusc as a means to expose the economism of the Socialist Party in England and Wales, I see Tusc as a dead end.

I would like to see more debate between the CPGB and organisations of the left, not only in its Sunday teatime Online Communist Forum, and its Communist University, but also in the pages of the Weekly Worker. Perhaps the CPGB should actively engage with groups such as Socialist Alternative (a split from SPEW); Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century (a split from the Socialist Workers Party); and Workers Power and the Revolutionary Communist Group (also splits from the SWP).

Whilst we are not a debating society - we are revolutionaries who want to replace capitalism with a communist democracy - debate is the best way of building a mass Communist Party. Only via vigorous debate can communists through splits and fusions form the basis of the mass Communist Party so desperately needed by the working class in Britain, Europe and further afield.

So here’s to more debate from organisations of the left in the pages of the Weekly Worker.

John Smithee

RCP vote

The artists formally known as Socialist Appeal are running a general election candidate in Stratford and Bow. Revolutionary Communist Party member Fiona Lali went viral following an appearance on GB News, in which she faced off against Suella Braverman and called her a liar during an effective defence of pro-Palestine student encampments and marches.

The discussion has been viewed several hundred thousand times across different platforms, and Lali’s face is on stickers plastered across London promoting the RCP. The comrades have made what appears to be a snap decision to stand Lali in her home constituency, despite the presence of an already existing left candidate, Halima Khan of the Workers Party of Britain - herself well known on social media for her role as the whistleblower featured in Al Jazeera’s ‘The Labour files’.

The WPB online has responded with outrage - George Galloway retweeted a condemnation of the RCP as “establishment stooges” and the retweet of that retweet suggested the RCPs media coverage indicated a “psyop”, endorsing a full-on conspiracy theory - also backed by the former WPB collaborators, the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) - that the RCP’s sudden media coverage somehow implied a state-sponsored endorsement of Trotskyism.

This is a bonkers overreaction and unhelpful, as the RCP comrade in my workplace made clear in an anecdote from canvassing this weekend in Stratford - the WPBer he bumped into was perfectly friendly, as if they were on the same side. If such a comrade later sees material online suggesting those he’s canvassed alongside are secret service agents, that cannot help his political education. Equally, my workplace comrade’s revelation that “we are placing a lot of emphasis on flexibility at the moment” inevitably leads to the question, ‘flexibility or opportunism?’ It isn’t clear to me that it’s a positive move for the leading communist group (in terms of recruitment) in the UK to compete for the left vote in a left constituency.

That all said, there is a genuine debate to be had, which is clear from the Weekly Worker’s position - ranging from Mike Macnair’s friendlier view on the WPB to Carla Roberts’ more critical line. One factor for consideration is that the RCP hasn’t bothered to register with the electoral commission under its own name, so voters in Stratford and Bow who pick Fiona ‘YouTube’ Lali will be voting for an ‘independent’ - as opposed to an actual party like the WPB. In that sense I agree with Mike that that we should support the WPB despite its problems ahead of opportunist independents.

As it hasn’t yet featured in the Weekly Worker, it’s also worth sharing what Galloway stated in his recent interview with Novara Media on left collaboration: “Corbyn should lead an alliance of socialist organisations. There’s a name for that - there was once a Socialist Alliance before Respect. It’s not a bad thing. Different parties can affiliate to it, while retaining their own iconography, their own vocabulary, their own programme. There’d be an agreement for a limited programme for that alliance. I hope he’ll do that, [but Corbyn] doesn’t seem ready to do that.”

Developments since do indeed suggest Corbyn isn’t prepared to do that - and whether Galloway would be is also debatable! But that is the model - an electoral left alliance within which groups can maintain their own programme and freedom to organise. Not too hard, is it? Certainly better than competing over votes in the same place.

Sean Carter
South London


Moshé Machover enjoys pouring on the sarcasm. But, despite it all, he still makes a number of elementary mistakes concerning the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (Letters, May 30).

“That Hamas is ‘in the leadership’ of the BDS movement is a Zionist hasbarah porky, which Lazare keeps repeating,” he says. “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.”

I have no idea what “porky” means, although it certainly does not sound good. But if Zionists use Hamas to besmirch anti-colonialism, isn’t the solution obvious - ie, to jettison Hamas, so as to avoid any connection with an ultra-reactionary outfit that murdered hundreds of Israelis on October 7 and has brought down nothing but ruin on Palestinians ever since? Or is there some reason that BDS insists on keeping Hamas in the leadership of what is in effect a popular front? If so, isn’t it the first duty of Marxists to call upon the working class to free itself of such criminals, so it can make common cause with the Israeli proletariat?

Machover also compares BDS to movements against military spending. As he puts it, “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?”

But Marxists do not seek to disemploy arms workers on the basis of race or nationality. We do not call on weapons manufacturers to fire workers who happen to be white, male, American or whatever, on the grounds that such people are inveterate warmongers and therefore deserve to be thrown on the street. Lining up with class enemies in this fashion would be obviously disastrous. Yet BDS calls on imperialists to disemploy workers because, Jewish or Muslim, they are all Israeli. So how is it any different?

If an international labour boycott causes workers to be laid off, then Marxists should fight for full employment with equal wages and full trade union rights for all Israeli and Palestinian workers, regardless of religion or nationality. Will BDS join in this fight? It hardly seems likely.

For all his sarcasm, Machover refuses to answer the crucial question at hand. How can he propose to organise the Israeli working class against Zionism, while at the same time proposing to destroy it? It’s either one or the other, but it can’t be both.

Daniel Lazare
New York


Paul Demarty was perhaps confused by the military outfits worn on the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s lonely heart’s club band (‘Banging the drums of war’, May 30). John Lennon never did military service - like the other Beatles, he wasn’t old enough by the 1960 cut-off.

Demarty’s thesis about the 1960s counterculture emerging from the iconoclastic ethos and rock ’n’ roll spirit of national service seems dubious in the extreme, but a better exemplar might be Alan Bennett, who went from working as a linguist for British signals intelligence to the Oxford Revue and thence to Beyond the Fringe.

Jack William Grahl


Mike Macnair provides a highly novel interpretation of the role and purpose of the “minimum demands”, which attempts to resolve a contradiction within the Weekly Worker group’s programme - but actually opens up further contradictions and questions (‘Minimal symmetrical errors’, May 23).

Macnair now openly states that the WWG’s “minimum programme” can only be achieved in full via the proletarian socialist revolution: ie, the overthrow of the capitalist state and the establishment of working class state, political and economic power. I think this is the first time I have seen this stated so openly and clearly on behalf of the WWG.

Certainly, I could never see how some elements of the WWG’s “minimum programme” - such as the abolition of the standing army (and police and other state forces) and its replacement by a people’s or workers’ militia, and the general self-arming and self-organisation of the working class in their workplaces and communities - could possibly be achieved this side of a socialist revolution. Macnair has now provided some clarity.

He (including the whole WWG?) now sees the initial establishment of working class rule as the first essential stage towards the development of full communism: ie, the “maximum programme”. By the way, I like Jack Conrad’s characterisation of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ as the “decisive rule of the working class majority” (‘Applying Bolshevism globally’, April 25 - my emphasis), capturing both the democratic essence of this rule and the fact it has to be rule over the overthrown and defeated classes

The Weekly Worker in the past has carried exhaustive and really interesting articles and letters debating whether there are distinct stages after the socialist revolution, whether there is a transition period immediately after the revolution towards socialism and then from socialism to communism, or whether the process after the establishment of working class power is more continuous, involving a whole range of both quantitative and qualitative changes.

To my mind the three key factors determining progress to full socialism (or communism) are:

(1) the actual pace at which the working class power can reorganise, reshape and develop the productive forces to meet the full needs of the working population;

(2) the pace to which the overthrown classes disintegrate and dissolve as classes and either are eliminated or are absorbed into the working population; and

(3) the pace at which reactionary ideas, ideologies, values and consciousness are replaced by widespread collective and social consciousness, which will enable both the dissolving of the remaining elements of the coercive state apparatus and enable free access to all essential goods and services, combined with the voluntary commitment of the working people to work to produce those goods and services.

I don’t think it is particularly useful or helpful to try and identify distinct or separate stages within this future set of processes.

But we do come back to the urgent question of the day, which is: what is the strategy for achieving socialist revolution within the relatively near future?

I think we need to do two basic things. One is to make the fundamental case for the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by socialism (defined as majority working class state power or working class rule). Two, we have to develop a programme of immediate demands, which respond to the real needs of working people in the here and now, but which are not limited by what capitalism says or actually are deliverable or affordable. I am not especially bothered if we call these minimum or even at a real push “transitional” demands (despite the strong Trotskyist connotation), but I do prefer “immediate demands”.

Some of these would almost certainly be deliverable within existing capitalism, as is the case with many of the “minimum” demands in the WWG programme (hence my pointing to a further contradiction revealed by Macnair’s novel interpretation of the “minimum programme”.) Some will only be achievable through and after a socialist revolution and we should make this clear in our daily educational, agitational and propaganda work. Ideally, many of our immediate demands would point the way to the ultimate permanent solution being through socialism and in many ways could (and should) prefigure some elements and features of future socialist society.

Such demands may include ready access for everyone to decent, affordable housing, cheap, nutritious food, high-quality education and excellent healthcare services (with a strong emphasis on the prevention of ill health in the first place), very cheap or free comprehensive and integrated public transport, and strong social protection for the young, the retired and those unable to work for a wage, including the sick, disabled and those who work in the home or for their communities.

The basic problem with the Trotskyist ‘transitional programme’, as I understand it, is that it denies (or just ignores) the fundamental need to inject and develop socialist consciousness into the working class, by somehow conning or enticing working people through a series of immediate, medium and longer-term demands, over a sort of ‘transitional bridge’ from existing capitalism and, as they pass over the bridge, somehow end up at the need for proletarian socialist revolution. I find this highly contemptuous of (indeed deeply insulting to) the basis intelligence of most working class people and very much reflects the reactionary, petty bourgeois or middle class basis of Trotskyism.

To be fair, both Conrad and Macnair have strongly emphasised the fundamental factor of working class consciousness and the self-organisation and self-determination of the working class as distinguishing the genuinely communist approach from the Trotskyist. It is a pity they can’t make a complete break with Trotskyism and feel the need on occasion to genuflect towards Trotskyism and indeed Trotsky himself.

We should know and be prepared for the fact that modern-day capitalism can in fact be extraordinarily elastic and flexible in accommodating even some of the most radical-sounding demands, albeit only for relatively limited period. We saw the ‘war socialism’ and effective suspension of the law of value during World War II, for example, and, more recently, during the initial so-called Covid crisis, a further partial suspension, as businesses, jobs and incomes were in effect guaranteed despite many of them being effectively shut down.

But, provided our political programme is based on both making the basic and fundamental case for replacing capitalism by socialism and our immediate demands are based on the real needs of the working people (as opposed to being some form of ‘transitional’ hoodwinkery), our strategy for working class socialist revolution will be able to respond effectively to any such capitalist responses - which, even if dramatic and radical, can only be partial and time-limited, before the fundamental laws and contradictions of capitalism force their way through.

As my letter in Weekly Worker March 7 tried to point out, the Communist Party in Britain, since its original establishment in 1920, has through successive programmes, including successive editions of The British road to socialism and Britain’s road to socialism, tried to set out this basic communist (and indeed Bolshevik) approach to socialist revolution.

I don’t claim any of the past or present programmes are perfect or that one can agree with every single formulation or wording in any one edition. But they are by far the best and most credible programmes which have been developed for socialist revolution in Britain, and every class-conscious worker should read and study them. They should seriously consider supporting in whatever way they can the Communist Party in Britain, if they seriously want a qualitatively better future for themselves, their families and indeed for the working classes of the world.

Andrew Northall