In my remarks about Lenin and Kautsky (Weekly Worker June 10), I made the important point, which was accidentally edited out, that Lenin returned to Hegel in 1914. In some important respects of methodology and dialectics Lenin could not return to Marx. Many of the writings which are today crucial for establishing Marxist method were deliberately locked up in the vaults of German social democracy. For instance the Economic and philosophical notebooks and the Grundrisse, the notebooks for capital, were not available to Lenin.

When Lenin read Hegel’s Great logic in the Bern Library it was a theoretical inspiration. He was not exaggerating when he said Marxists (including himself) had not understood Marx because they had failed to understand Hegel. In the context of my polemic, Lenin was able to develop the points made by Pannekoek in his debate with Kautsky in 1911. Pannekoek, on the left of German social democracy, had broken through the theoretical framework of German social democracy by arguing that a new type of workers’ state was needed. Kautsky had a revisionist position on the state. Lenin did not understand this until 1914. He did not support the left against Kautsky, who he regarded as the chief revolutionary of German social democracy.

Kautsky’s perspective on Russia in 1906 were at one with his orthodox view of the state. There would be a long period of uninterrupted revolution - or what he described on a number of occasions as permanent revolution. By this he meant the democratic transformation of the capitalist state and the working class. Lenin cited Kautsky’s views as authority for his slogan of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry (see VI Lenin CW Vol 11, Moscow 1972, p411).

Pannekoek’s main point against Kautsky was that he made a cult of formal structures. In modern terms we can understand this point by looking at the RDG’s concept of the dual power republic or the CPGB’s slogan of the federal republic. If The Observer calls for the federal republic, that’s bourgeois, but if the CPGB calls for it, it becomes proletarian. The political form can be bourgeois or proletarian. This is the method of Kautsky.

Barry Biddulph
South London

Hearts and minds

I think Dave Norman reads the Weekly Worker looking in the mirror, because everything I say comes out subtly reversed (Letters, June 10). I am not calling on Nato to arm the Kosovars. I am calling on the working class - including those living in Yugoslavia - to support the Kosovars’ right to arm themselves - from wherever they can - so they have the option of following policies independent of Nato.

Dave wishes to force the Albanians into the Nato camp. They are not members of Nato and have a different agenda, which includes democratic demands such as the right for self-determination and the ability to live in their own homes in safety. The working class needs to champion all democratic and human rights, not the interests of petty, anti-human dictators who just happen to upset the world order.

Revolutionary politics is the battle for the hearts and minds of people, not a matter of military alliances with states. 

Phil Kent

Done a bunk

On Monday the staff who work for Lighthouse Services, the firm providing catering services on Northern Spirit Transpennine Express trains found the offices padlocked shut along with all the onboard trolleys. They then discovered that the firm that had only just got the contract three months ago - having taken it away from the old ex-BR firm Rail Gourmet, along with the offices, equipment and staff - had gone bust and had filed for bankruptcy. The managing directors had done a bunk from their Leeds offices over the weekend.

The staff have been left without any wages and are out of work. They have been told they will have to register with the receiver as creditors with little hope of recovering what is owed. Northern Spirit has washed its hands of them and has put the contract back out to tender. No doubt another fly-by-night company will take it up, having reduced the already pathetic pay and conditions of its staff.

This of course is the brave new world of rail privatisation and is in the full spirit of Labour’s new love of flexible working practices. Also in the spirit of Labour Party practice it is rumoured that one of the top managers of Northern Spirit is a ‘silent’ partner in Lighthouse. Now surely that had nothing to do with them getting the contract in the first place?

Aslef member

Courts and juries

John Walsh’s article ‘Defend the jury’ (Weekly Worker May 27 1999) was all well and good in some respects. Most of the questions that comrade Walsh raises, however, will have to be dealt with at greater length later. But a few points should be made now.

Trial by jury in the crown court is mandatory for the most serious offences, including murder, rape and arson. Some offences of moderate seriousness can be dealt with in the magistrates’ court, which anyway processes all cases in the first instance. At the moment, defendants can decide to take their case to the crown court, but are only permitted to be tried in a magistrates’ court if the magistrates think their powers of punishment (a maximum of six months’ imprisonment) following a guilty verdict would be sufficient. So a defendant might want to keep his or her case in the lower court for very good reason (viz, to limit a custodial sentence or where a local bench has a liberal reputation compared to the crown court). Home secretary Jack Straw is proposing to remove the defendant’s right of election of trial at the crown court for those moderately serious cases

Unfortunately for comrade Walsh - who claims that “the CPGB in … its draft programme, has declared in favour of the jury system” - in our party’s Draft programme there is no mention of juries or jury trials whatsoever. Although there were extensive discussions before it was produced, including on the criminal justice system, the Draft programme itself deals with Britain’s criminal justice system only briefly, and then is mostly concerned with demands concerning prisons and prisoners. Its only reference to the criminal courts appears within subsection 3.15 (Crime and prison), where it states: “Crime can only be understood in relationship to society. In a class society crime is the product of alienation, want, or resistance. Under capitalism the criminal [justice] system is an anti-working class, anti-popular system.” The subsection then makes, in its first two points only, demands relating to the courts:

Against this communists demand:

  1. All judges and magistrates be subject to election and recall.
  2. Fines must be proportionate to income.

At the moment, the vast majority (over 95%) of criminal cases are dealt with by magistrates’ courts. Were they all to be dealt with by a jury system, therefore, and the current level of cases proceeded with on that basis, something like a 10- or 11-fold increase in persons called for jury service would be required. Most comments I hear from past jurors suggest this might be a social duty many are not too convinced about.

Our minimum programme demands concerning the criminal justice system are at present too sketchy and require a good deal more discussion.

Tom Ball


I wish to congratulate the CPGB for its courageous decision to stand candidates in the Euro elections. This bold action has shown up the rest of the so-called revolutionary Marxist left as just a lot of hot air.

I am however concerned at the apparent ‘modernisation’ that has taken place with the organisation. I noticed that:

I notice from reading the ‘quality’ papers that Peter Mandelson, that arch moderniser and Machiavellian spin doctor, is back at work after a forced absence. I have to pose the question, working for whom?  - the Labour Party or the CPGB!

Michael Farmer

Stink bombs

It is with great interest that I read the report concerning the CPGB’s debate over electoral support for the SLP (Weekly Worker June 17). It is however incumbent on us to understand the causes of this dispute.

We should not be surprised that a ‘minority’ of comrades have expressed themselves against Mark Fischer’s correct formulation of “extremely critical support” for the SLP. Scargill’s party still has an organic relationship to the crisis of Labourism. Ideologically and organisationally brittle the SLP may have become, but Scargill is still in a position to dictate to the poor, ‘unviable’ souls of the revolutionary left and hence define the contours of any short-term working class opposition to Blairism. Why then do our comrades come out with such a peculiar position?

The answer is a simple one. This tactic of not offering electoral support to the SLP is a direct reflection of the muddle-headed hysteria which the Weekly Worker has on occasions recently woven around the SLP. For example, Scargill’s outfit has been dubbed ‘Pol-Potist’. Obviously comrades might be a bit reticent to advocate a vote for a mass murderer, particularly if they are fond of wearing spectacles.

This current bout of sixth-form provocation has built itself on a similar wave of revulsion that leading comrades succeeded in whipping up against the Soviet Union, Cuba, etc last year. Again, our friends in the ‘minority’ may have understandable misgivings about voting for a party that defends the evil slave-masters of the USSR. Yes, we can all be critical of Harpal Brar’s adulation of Stalin, but his position on the Labour Party puts those of many Trotskyites to shame.

The blunt fact of the matter is that a disorientated, one-sided analysis is in the end a recipe for the confused and emotional politics that comrades are currently expressing on Scargill and the SLP. Certain Weekly Worker writers really ought to content themselves with stink bombs and fart spray.

William Phillips


I am curious as to why you have opened a debate with the AWL? Of all the groups they have to be one of the most degenerate, re their position on Ireland, etc. It seems a bit strange for you to approach that particular grouping for discussions when in practice you seem to work closer with groups such as Workers Power, etc.

Still your paper is informative.

Damien Green