Reluctant CPGB

Recently as a member of the Socialist Workers Party I have met and begun to argue with some people from the CPGB. I say 'some' - I should really say 'one or two', because the CPGB, despite all its talk, does not seem to have more than five supporters in the whole of north east London.

In every argument CPGB comrades make two points: the right of factions; and state capitalism and how wrong it is. My point is, where is your evidence? Just saying it is wrong does not prove it.

I can find no reference to any anti-state cap polemic in recent Weekly Worker or even on your comprehensive website. Why are you so shy? For the group who is supposed to be so open you seem reluctant to show your evidence.

Maybe now you are directly engaging with the SWP, the naive arguments you used to persuade a handful of 'ultra-leftists' in the past seem childish compared to the size and revolutionary passion and discipline that is confronting/obliterating you in the LSA.

Reluctant CPGB
Reluctant CPGB

EU withdrawal

First, may I take this opportunity to congratulate you on a very professional and informative website. Although I come from a diametrically opposed political tradition, I am in favour of total freedom of speech.

Having briefly searched through your features, I found a glaring contradiction in your platform. One of your statements notes the following:

"Why have governments since 1972 been continually seeking to change the way the jury system works? The most obvious reason is that it has become less amenable to the dictates of either state or government and is certainly more democratic than in Brougham's day. This is best illustrated by acquittals where the accused were obviously guilty, if you accept bourgeois law."

While you have correctly identified the year of the start of the government's meddling with our legal system, you have failed to identify the source of its actions. The year 1972 also coincides, more or less, with the UK's entry into the EEC, now the EU. And the reason for the government's meddling with our legal system lies in its steady and stealthy accommodation of EU laws.

The most recent of the juridical revisions is of course the abolition of trial by jury, which has its origins in the EU's corpus juris. Corpus juris is also the source of other tyrannical measures which will shortly be incorporated into British law: ie, detention without trial for up to nine months, increase of state surveillance, and so on.

While you object to the abolition to trial by jury, you then go on to note in another statement, in a critique of the Socialist Labour Party, that withdrawal from the EU would, "if implemented, condemn Britain to dire poverty".

Not only is your assessment unsupportable by facts (the truth is that if the UK remains in the EU it will be condemned to poverty); it is not consistent with your previous objection to the abolition of jury trial.

EU withdrawal
EU withdrawal

Stand against Livingstone

It is now vital that the London Socialist Alliance should stand a candidate against Livingstone.

On a Newsnight interview (March 6) Livingstone made abundantly clear his hostility to the LSA and all it stands for. Those in the LSA who actually think about politics had worked this out long ago, but we now have it from the lips of 'Red Ken' himself.

It should have been obvious for many years that Livingstone was adapting himself to the postmodern Blairite business world of Y2K, and that to him the working class were just an obstruction to his political career. Why were the left fooled? Even in his halcyon days at the Greater London Council in the 1980s, Livingstone was not prepared to take the minor step of defying the law when London local government came under vicious attack from Thatcher.

It has also been reported that Livingstone cancelled a campaign rally because he thought that some (misguided!) supporters from the LSA might turn up and cause him embarrassing publicity. It is not hard to believe that many in the SWP (and in some other LSA groups) are so politically bankrupt that they still feel that they must hang onto Ken's coat-tails. This destructive desperation (or in some cases cynicism) must be immediately fought by decisive criticism of Livingstone and withering assault on the SWP's vacillation. But, whatever the SWP do, the LSA must run someone against Livingstone.

The question of whether or not Livingstone runs a slate is now a distraction. It would be accommodating to the prevailing desperation to say, 'Let's wait and see what kind of slate he puts together before we make up our minds to stand against him'. So the CPGB needs to move on from its position of two weeks ago ('Judge Livingstone on his GLA slate' Weekly Worker February 24) and, taking account of history and new evidence, immediately start arguing for the LSA to stand against Livingstone. That would be a principled development of the previous Weekly Worker statement.

Here's to a London Socialist Alliance candidate for mayor!

Stand against Livingstone
Stand against Livingstone

No blank cheque

So Ken Livingstone is standing for the mayoralty after all. What a surprise. What should be the attitude of socialists to this development? Notwithstanding predictions in the Weekly Worker to the contrary, I think there are grounds for optimism that he will not stand an alternative slate - at least not if the LSA plays its cards right.

Our Ken is calling on his supporters in New Labour to stay inside the party and fight. He has called on them to cast their second preference vote for Dobbo. He clearly wants to present himself (for the moment) as a badly done-by exile desperate to facilitate his way back into the party at the earliest opportunity.

Given all this (and given the not inconsiderable financial problems of putting a slate together and of imposing discipline on some disparate coalition over the election period), I think it probable that he has no intention of standing a slate against New Labour's zombies.

That said, we cannot rule out the possibility that he will be provoked by the Millbank machine into doing just that. We also know that there is no prospect of Livingstone supporting the LSA slate, a grouping Livingstone himself has denounced as a ragbag of Trots. The very best we can expect from him is neutrality between the LSA and the Blairite puppets. And that only because he must realise that an enormous percentage of his electoral base is formed by those who are unhappy that Livingstone is only standing as a 95% Blairite.

We need to appreciate that there are competing pressures on Livingstone. In his Newsnight interview on the day he announced that he is standing, incredibly, he boasted about being more rightwing than Jack Straw on law and order! He also attacked Livingstone's running mate, Trevor Philips, for being too critical of police racism! Clearly he does not want to alienate the rightwing component of the broad cross-class 'coalition' that constitutes his electoral appeal.

Given that he has shown signs of bending under pressure from the right on day one, it is vital that the left does not write him a blank cheque. The left must make clear to him that if he does put together a rainbow coalition of black businessmen, disaffected Tories and Liberals, appeals to the electorate on the basis of his 'personality', and dumps on the LSA, then there will be a price to pay. He will, in such circumstances, have disqualified himself from the role he might have played as some kind of workers' representative, however broadly defined. In such circumstances, the LSA ought to at least consider standing a candidate against him.

However, we cannot simply turn a blind eye to the groundswell of pro-Livingstone sentiments inside the broad workers' movement. Just as Livingstone has appealed for his supporters to vote for Dobson with their second preference vote, the LSA should (if we stand a candidate against him for mayor) call for a second preference vote for Livingstone. We need to do this to express a measure of solidarity with those workers who, mistakenly, put their faith in the man and/or who just want to give the Blairite machine a good kicking.

The sooner we make clear to Livingstone that our support for him is not unconditional, the more likely it is that he will drop any plans he might have to put together a pro-business rainbow coalition

And the more likely he will see some sense in leaving it to London's workers to decide whether they want the GLA to be dominated by New Labour's 100% hand-picked Blairites or the LSA's 100% anti-Blairites socialists.

No blank cheque
No blank cheque


Dave Craig is absolutely correct to write that I am an admirer of the concept of dual power (Weekly Worker March 2). We should have a critical appreciation of Bolshevism. But dual power is straightforward. It is not about a single sovereignty, but a double sovereignty and the battle between the two sources of power. Dave's category of 'dual power republic' is his own subjective definition without any real historical or political content.

Dave is a self-centred political egoist. All his key concepts are formal definitions that he obsessively repeats rather than engaging in objective debate. He reduces politics to abstract categories. His notion of democratic revolution is vulgar Hegelianism. It is an absolute. It begins with the Levellers in the English revolution and then every historical instance of revolution - the French, American, Russian and every example of political upheaval - becomes an expression of the absolute category: the democratic revolution.

In stark contrast, the Marxist method is historically and politically specific. Marxists do not start with the Diggers in the English revolution and regard every revolution following that as types of communist revolution. In regarding capitalism as a specific mode of production, in definite historical conditions, Marx showed his superiority over Hegel. Like Hegel, Dave's eternal concepts leave reality in place. Worse, they sanctify or mystify reality.

The utopia of a 'dual power republic' is supposed to transform a bourgeois federal republic into a stepping stone to revolution. But it merely legitimises a bourgeois federal republic and subjects the working class to a bourgeois democratic limitation before the mass struggle begins. As Tom Delargy has pointed out, Dave's formal, abstract concepts simply serve to put a modern gloss on the old Stalinist, two-stage theory of revolution. The Stalinist, two-stage theory did not stand alone: it was a crude version of the old Bolshevik minimum programme. Trotsky had warned about the dangerous ambiguities of the strategy of the democratic revolution as early as 1905.

Like the moderate Bolsheviks, Kamenev and Zinoviev, Dave wants to cling on to the discarded old Bolshevik programme of a special bourgeois republic as the first stage to socialism. The closest historical reality came to conforming to Dave's utopia of a dual power republic was the semi-constitutional links between the bourgeois provisional government and the leaders of the Petrograd soviet, who were fighting to complete a democratic revolution in a third way between the two powers - bourgeois and proletarian.

His obstinate and dogmatic insistence that dual power is a republic places him ideologically in the camp of petty bourgeois democracy.


International Women's Day

Within the Irish national liberation struggle and the fight for socialism, from time to time, the liberation of humanity from the burden of sexism has met with the charge that it is diversionary. That to insist that we Irish republicans and socialists be consistent in placing the liberation of women from gender oppression among the key issues upon which our propaganda focuses is somehow too heavy a burden for the republican movement or for the socialist movement to have to bear.

This charge is more than an insult to women throughout the world and throughout our class who remain doublely or even triplely oppressed by national subjugation, capitalist exploitation and sexism. It is also utter folly.

Women make up over half of the population of this, and most other, nations, including Ireland. Likewise, women comprise over half of the working class. Accordingly, the question must be posed: how can we speak of a nation that is free, when over half of its populace continues to suffer daily deprivation and oppression because of their gender? What does it mean to claim to have won the liberation of the working class, if most of the members of that class continue to be treated as exploitable commodities?

It means nothing - it is simply a convenient lie, convenient for some. Far easier for them than challenging the archaic notions handed to them throughout their lives by the capitalist system. They believe themselves unaffected, and so hope to ignore this oppression by asserting their view of its importance arbitrarily and then limiting their fight to those forms of oppression which they perceive as impairing their own quality of life. They are fools!

The working class can not attain socialism while a large section of the class remain exploited - this is an utter contradiction - and must of its very essence mean the failure of the struggle. Likewise, the winning of the male citizens of a given nation for freedom from imperialist occupation, but which still permits those men the ability to exploit and abuse the women of the nation, is not a nation that has been liberated. The nation continues to suffer under the yoke of degradation and its children are born to slaves.

The liberation of women is not only a legitimate demand for the female populace, but the ending of the corrosive and oppressive system of sexism is a primary responsibility of every revolutionary socialist, male or female, who can legitimately bear that title. The liberation of women is only possible by ending sexism, and the ending of sexism cannot help but contribute to the freedom of every woman and man on the planet.

The Irish Republican Socialist Movement has long been proud to have women integrated at the highest levels of both the Irish Republican Socialist Party and the Irish National Liberation Army, and we share that pride. The IRSP has long had the distinction of being among the first and still among the only political parties in Ireland to unfailingly support a woman's right to choose abortion and to have control over her reproductive rights; to champion the right of divorce for all; to defend the civil and human rights of lesbians; to demand the creation of state-funded childcare for all working women in Ireland; and the creation of a system of complete equality between the sexes in Ireland and throughout the world. We in the Irish Republican Socialist Committees of North America applaud their having usually been in the genuine vanguard of the Irish working class in embracing these demands and concerns.

As we march into a new century, we join with the whole of the IRSM in rededicating ourselves to once and for all ending the oppression of our working class sisters and comrades, and purging the reactionary ideology of sexism which the capitalist system has imposed upon the healthy mental function of both the men and women of our class. And, on this, International Women's Day, we remember with respect and pride the many heroic working class women who have waged the struggle that we continue to carry on, and we salute our class sisters now for continuing to fight on while having to overcome twice the oppression faced by those of us who are male.

We mention in passing the names of Jenny Marx-Longuet, Eleanor Marx-Aveling, and Laura Marx-Lafargue, Mary and Lizzie Burns, Rosa Luxemburg, Angelica Balabanov, Alexandra Kollontai, Clara Zetkin, Nora Connolly O'Brien, Lily Kempson, Constance Markiewicz, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Mother Jones, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, Miriam Daly, Mary McGlinchey among the many - most nameless - who have fought for the liberation of the working class with such dedication and energy.

We remember their contribution, and we send greetings of our profound solidarity and our deep respect to revolutionary women throughout Ireland and throughout the world today.

It is fitting recognition of International Women's Day to honour those who so often bear the greater portion of the work on their shoulders with quiet dedication and selfless commitment and to acknowledge their courage, their strength and the inspiration they so often provide.

International Women's Day
International Women's Day