You name ’em

I don’t know why Alan Fox and Eddie Ford want to paint such a black picture of the protests in the City on June 18. It was by no means an orgy of drunken, pilfering anarchism. In fact it was not an anarchist-organised event at all. Rather it was a hotchpotch of anarchist, environmentalist, socialist, anti-capitalist, etc. With the collapse of the organised labour movement - and in this period of ‘special reaction’ social and political formations are fluid - they may set into anarchist hogwash or they may not.

There was some spontaneous rioting, but it was not a spontaneous riot. As Alan Fox pointed out (Weekly Worker June 24), there was a considerable amount of strategic thinking - a mix of creative and disciplined tactics. Premises were attacked, but not to nick stereos, as Eddie thinks (Letters, July 8). For instance, the several Reed job shops. If you live half a mile away from the city in Hackney and you are on the dole you know all about Reed. In return for pre-election donations Alec Reed runs The New Deal in Hackney. Compulsory attendance at The New Deal Campus offers time in a ‘gateway’, time on a ‘runway’ and then lift-off into drudgery. This action was part of a two-year campaign against The New Deal.

Eddie Ford thinks that my logic assumes “the CPGB - and all other left organisations - should immediately liquidate themselves in order to follow and ‘learn’”. In last week’s Weekly Worker (July 8) I learnt from six out of nine articles of the crisis of the left. You name ’em: they’re struggling. For good reasons: auto-Labourism, chauvinism, and sectarian dogma. In this period of almost non-existent revolutionary consciousness it is premature to dump an emerging militant layer represented in the City protests into a lumpen dustbin. They showed a smouldering constituency, the bit that won’t go away. It was part of the working class making itself.

Phil Rudge

Strange appeal

I find myself quite at odds with Socialist Appeal, having been influenced by the Weekly Worker! I went to a discussion meeting with Ted Grant - his main focus was on trade union struggle and economic crisis, and that students could not affect politics without being part of the workers’ struggle.

I asked him if this was putting too much emphasis on the purely economic struggle, expecting some sort of clarification on his position on the importance of bourgeois democracy, but he was simply evasive, which honestly surprised me. I have been arguing for more concrete positions on this sort of thing ever since, and also arguing against the pseudo-sectarian method of trying to build one’s own tendency as the only conceivable working class party.

The war in the Balkans has been very telling for the left as a whole, and I find myself disagreeing with everyone, including Michael Malkin of the CPGB, on this issue. One thing that I find interesting is that both the CPGB and SA have a very similar analysis on the Balkans while taking two very different positions. Both say that the Milosevic regime has nothing to do with socialism and that the Kosovans are oppressed, but SA refuses to support any form of nationalism in the area and posits a socialist federation instead.

Obviously this is not real politics and I point this out. I also state my belief that a socialist revolution would have to champion national rights. However, as there is little organised labour and even less politicised labour in the region, I think the CPGB (and even more the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty) are championing nationalism without any working class content, which could take on a fascistic character. I’m much closer to the CPGB position though.

Andrew Cutting
St Andrews

Tiny Serbia

Michael Malkin’s article (Weekly Worker July 1) berating the ‘left’ for not being sufficiently pro-KLA is a disgusting piece of pro-imperialist stoogery. There is nothing Marxist in it - just petty bourgeois moralising.

Malkin pretends that he knows “the main enemy is at home”, but then gives as much fake ‘democratic’ and ‘socialist’ support he can to the west’s cause célèbre for warmongering, the KLA’s ‘oppressed nation status’ and the ‘ethnic cleansing’ directed against them by Serbia.

But imperialism playing on tribal and national disputes for its own fascist counterrevolutionary purposes is as old as the hills. Even the activist, anti-theory SWP can smell a rat here, and put in a few caveats in their rag about the reprehensible nature of the KLA, even as they opportunistically join in with western hysteria against the Milosevic regime.

Malkin, speaking for the CPGB, says:

“For the last 13 weeks we have argued with absolute consistency against Nato bombing. We unreservedly condemn imperialist war aims, wherever they manifest themselves. But our principled position has been founded on the logic of the democratic question at the crux of the whole Kosova issue.”

Come again? This unprecedented blitzkrieg by 19 imperialist countries to bomb tiny Serbia into the ground and impose its diktat has, as the issue at its core, “the democratic question of Kosova”? You’re off your trolley, Malkin - and anyone else in the CPGB or ‘left’ who can’t see the wood for the pot plant.

The west doesn’t give a damn for anyone’s democratic rights. It is going all out on Goebbels levels of propaganda manipulation, including stunted-up massacre stories to throw on top of the ‘normal’ horrors of a Balkans civil war - and to go along with this propaganda is to betray workers to imperialist warmongering.

The issue is not the issue of ‘rights’ versus ‘evil dictators’ - the issue is warning the working class that imperialism is turning to crisis, trade conflict and now shooting war. The “imperialist aim of the war” is warmongering itself, required to smash down rival production capacity (a big central European bonfire at one end of the Rhine), vie for hegemony, and damage imperialist rivals.

Milosevic is just picked on as a convenient imperialist hate-figure and no one on the side of the working class would want to make that scapegoating even more convenient.

Malkin just displays his own anti-Marxist ignorance with his completely fatuous pretence that supporting the KLA has parallels with Marx and Lenin’s support for the Irish liberation struggle or communist backing of the FLN of Algeria.

Which imperialist power are the KLA fighting? They are seizing their moment beside imperialism in an opportunist land grab for greater Albania, or - if you will not have that - staging round 57 of interminable Balkan strife (short of successful socialist federation, which really did prove its possibilities for peaceful development of the region as the old Yugoslavia, for all its faults).

Malkin does not seem to be trying to say that Serbia is an imperialist power (which would be equally stupid); so all his venting of spleen against the Belgrade regime is just petty bourgeois moralising.

As the EPSR has explained, quoting Lenin, the only Marxist position is to be very rigorous about whether the national fight one is considering actually damages monopoly capitalism’s power in the world, not measuring how many bodies are piled up in one location or another.

Chris Barratt

Fit of pique

Oh dear, it looks like there’s a spot of bother in EPSR land. Recent issues of the Economic and Philosophic Science Review have been at pains to suggest that Roy Bull’s expulsion from the Socialist Labour Party represents a qualitative break in SLP politics. This has led Chris Barratt to argue that there is “no point in being in or around the SLP except to argue against this degeneracy ...” (EPSR July 7).

Reading between the lines, it seems that Bull has encountered dissent among his followers, some of whom have had the temerity to insist that the SLP has undergone no such fundamental change and remains no more or less wretched than it was before the ‘fall of Roy’. Perhaps the EPSR guru is suffering a fit of pique after his shabby treatment by Scargill.

Steve Edwards


The main point missed by Peter Manson in his stream-of-consciousness piece on the AWL standing Jill Mountford in the July 15 council by-election in Churchdown, Lewisham (‘Sub-reformist’ Weekly Worker July 8), is that it simply is not true that the only reason for revolutionaries to stand in elections is to make abstract propaganda for socialism and recruit directly, immediately to a revolutionary group.

Now, of course we wish to make revolutionary propaganda (by selling our literature, holding meetings, etc, during the campaign) and to recruit to the AWL - but revolutionaries have two fundamental jobs. One is, of course, the irreplaceable and absolutely necessary work of building a revolutionary organisation and attracting the militant minority in the working class to revolutionary ideas - but we also need a policy for the whole class and movement, a programme of demands around which to organise activity. The working class will make socialism, not a handful of revolutionaries.

The demands in Jill’s election address (for taxing the rich, for free healthcare and education, for working class political representation, etc) are of the latter type, a pole for the broader movement: they are demands to take our class from where we are towards where we want to be (transitional demands), to be taken up as a guide to action for the class and movement as a whole. We are not just advertising the AWL and saying that capitalism is bad and socialism is a good idea.

And, to be frank, had we decided to use this election to make abstract propaganda for socialist revolution, we would have formulated demands a damned sight better than those Peter lists. National self-determination for Wales and Scotland, LGB rights, etc are not revolutionary demands (or even specifically leftwing, or, to be honest, necessarily working class). Demanding free healthcare is ‘reformist’ - in fact, Peter, it is a reform demand being raised by revolutionaries in particular circumstances for particular reasons, which is an entirely different matter - but demanding the abolition of the monarchy isn’t? If you are really making propaganda for revolution, shouldn’t you at the least talk about setting up organs of direct workers’ democracy such as soviets, of smashing rather than ‘reforming’ the state, etc? At least be consistent, comrades.

Finally, the Labour Party. Whether or not, in a particular set of circumstances, revolutionaries should or should not advocate a vote for Labour has never had much to do with Labour’s programme (see Peter’s opening paragraph, which says we no longer call for a Labour vote because Blair has pulled the party too far to the right) - but is based on Labour’s (now decreasing) organic link to the organised labour movement.

We are not now selectively putting up candidates against Labour because we ever thought Labour was dead leftwing and now is not, or because we ever thought Labour would bring about socialism: we called for a Labour vote in the past because Labour was/is the political wing of the British labour movement, and had in its structures the capacity for the working class to assert itself politically. Blair is now severing those links. But that process is far from complete: in cases where there is not a socialist or labour movement candidate who can take the struggle forward in some way, we will continue to call for a Labour vote.

Of course we must break workers from Labourism and convince them of the need for revolution. Of course the Labour Party is and always has been a bourgeois party. But you can’t break an entire labour movement from Labourism without engaging with it and intervening - as opposed to occasionally sticking leaflets through working class people’s doors calling on them to smash the police.

Above all, alongside directly attracting those we can to revolutionary ideas, we need a programme of immediate activity and politics that can advance our class on all fronts of the class struggle.

Your alternative is a set of garbled demands and no orientation to working class organisations (including the trade unions) or working class communities. We are against “auto-Labourism”. We are also against auto-sectarianism.

Alan McArthur
Alliance for Workers’ Liberty

Soft underbelly

I see that Mark Sandell is busy exposing the soft underbelly of AWL politics once more in his rationale for the exclusion of political organisations from the United Campaign to Repeal the Anti-Trade Union Laws (Weekly Worker July 8).

Sandell writes that “if the campaign is to be a real force, it needs to be based on basic class struggle organisations”. One can only presume that the involvement of political parties will lead to UCRATUL becoming a thoroughly surreal force. The implicit reasoning behind Sandell’s miserable formulation is that the AWL are somehow ‘unviable’ without the crutch of “basic class struggle organisations” (which can presumably include this week’s AWL front).

The AWL’s collapse before Scargill in the European elections becomes all too easy to fathom.

Sandell has a sneer at those from the ‘Stalinist’ tradition. However, it is precisely the organic, trade union militants of the CPGB - in opportunistic days gone past - who perfected the art of the relegation of politics inside the day-to-day running of the ‘official’ trade union movement. These are the negative lessons that Sandell and the AWL continue to repeat on a microscopic level.

Phil Watson

A bit dim

In his letter (Weekly Worker July 8), associating himself (unfairly in my opinion) with Dave Craig’s “admirable” defence of Kautskyism, Danny Hammill posed as a possibility that he was, perhaps, being “a bit dim”.

Well, Danny, I hate to have to be the one to break it to you, but you certainly are. You see, by advocating the “revolutionary [democratic] removal from below of the constitutional-monarchical system and its replacement by organs of workers’ power”, you are endorsing precisely the struggle for the workers’ republic that I, Barry Biddulph and all Trotskyists support.

Whenever CPGB/RDG members refuse to define their federal republic in class terms, your Trotskyist critics are forced to conclude that you advocate a mere bourgeois republic, a state such as that of the US or Germany. In case it has escaped your notice, Danny, workers there have long since been liberated from a constitutional-monarchical system, but wage slaves they remain.

The CPGB never tires of reminding us that ‘economists’ in the British labour movement (by which is meant all socialists outside your own ranks) take wage slavery as a given and that we concern ourselves exclusively with negotiating the rate of workers’ exploitation. Yet you, Danny, refuse to condemn Craig for not making explicit what you yourself, to your credit, do - ie, that you are fighting for a proletarian rather than a bourgeois republic. Self-evidently, what the CPGB/RDG have unanimously agreed upon is merely to salivate before a giant bowl of fudge.

Comrades, if there is to be any realistic prospect of our moving forwards together, we need clarity as to what are the real issues of contention between those who define ourselves as Trotskyists and ‘revolutionary democrats’. I would quite like to play a part in helping us achieve it. But the situation is hardly helped by the Weekly Worker’seditor cutting out quotes from my last letter (July 8), taken from Lenin’s post-April 1917 writings that prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the charge of Kautskyism against some of your members (although apparently not Danny) is 100% legitimate.

Tom Delargy

Full Marx

Obviously some of your correspondents have not cast off Stalinist ways of arguing: Eddie Ford, because the media said the June 18 demo was a riot, and because Marxist history and sociology define riots as “motivated by a personal desire for revenge”, decides that this was all that was intended. He then brings in looters “desiring to liberate expensive goods from the nearest shops”, and “drunkenness”.

That sort of riot is a more or less spontaneous reaction to an immediate additional evil; this was a demo, fixed for a specific international event, with a place specifically chosen for its relevance, and with planning meetings advertised for over six months. Had people wanted to loot, the stockbroker-banking-insurance area of the City of London would hardly have been the place. Yes, some anarchists are to be seen drunk on demos, Marx also used to be; a pity, but not really proof that their philosophy is invalid.

Laurens Otter