Unity in action
Whilst the Weekly Worker is right to seek openness, unity and dialogue on the left, I do not always think that it does this in the best way possible. These opinions were confirmed by the CPGB-AWL joint school. Whilst I have nothing against discussing with and polemicising against the rest of the left, as this can be a useful way to develop theory and positions on certain questions, this in itself cannot solve the problems that the British left faces.
It has not only been the lack of unity which has bedevilled the British 'Marxist' left over the last god knows how many years, but also its isolation from the working class and its mass organisations. Indeed, the two are interlinked: disunity is a symptom of isolation. Therefore, although achieving unity is desirable, it is worthless, and cannot be achieved to a meaningful degree without overcoming the isolation of the left from the advanced sections of the working class, and indeed the mass of people.
Indeed, any attempt at unity is almost always deemed to fail and fall apart into competing factions, if the 'united' body is isolated from the class and its movement. Examples of this can be found in the history of British Marxism, which has never fully overcome its isolation, although it has made many honourable attempts.
At the end of the war, British Trotskyism united to form the Revolutionary Communist Party. This was possible on the basis of the advances the Workers Internationalist League had made from its work during World War II when it had become part of the life of a small, but real, advanced section of the working class through its industrial agitation. However, the RCP made a fundamental mistake when it continued its open 'party-building' perspective as the war came to an end. The British working class returned Labour to power in 1945 with a huge majority, and 1944 and 1945 were two of the most leftwing conferences the Labour Party has ever seen.
It is not impossible that the RCP could have even managed to gain a Labour MP as British workers demanded fundamental social change. Yet this development bypassed British Trotskyism and was a missed historical opportunity. The RCP started to no longer have any effect on the world around it and the labour movement. It turned inwards and, rather than attempting to change the world, it started to have to comment on the processes taking place in the working class and the labour movement from an increasingly isolated position. An inevitable consequence of this was the split into competing factions, pursuing completely different tactics and based on increasingly different political programmes.
So what is the political lesson of this for today? Yes, we must struggle for unity, and openness and dialogue on the left are a necessary part of that. But the real way to achieve meaningful unity is through becoming an integral component of the working class organisations and struggles, remembering Marx's words that it is not enough just to interpret the world: our task is to change it. Rather than creating organisational walls between Marxists and the class, we must seek to find the points of pressure and levers which can get the class, or sections of the class, moving in a way that brings them into conflict with the capitalist class, its state and its agents within the labour movement, thereby attempting to bring down the walls between Marxism and the mass of people.
From this perspective, the problems of the Weekly Worker's approach become more obvious. It seeks to forge a united Communist Party by having an orientation primarily to the rest of the left, which comes at the expense of trade union work, Labour Party work and so forth. This is not an adequate way to attempt to forge unity, as it almost becomes unity divorced from the working class movement and struggles. Therefore it is an attempt at unity on an abstract basis. The left cannot try and sort out its problems by talking amongst itself, and only then go to the battleground. Apart from anything else the battles are likely to have started long before this process is complete and the Marxist left would be completely isolated from any developments taking place. Instead unity needs to be formed in the battleground itself, developing struggles and seeking to gain the right to lead the working class through being the best and most consistent fighters in all of the working class's battles, however limited the basis of these battles may have to be at certain times.
It is best to try and tackle the disunity and isolation of the left together because, as I have already said, the disunity is directly linked to isolation from developments. I feel that, based on its current content, the Weekly Worker could at best achieve some limited, temporary unity around a reasonably good programme. But, however good a programme is, if it is not written from the perspective of struggle and tested out and therefore developed by the experience of struggle, then it becomes fossilised, abstract and therefore worthless from the viewpoint of attempting to assist working people in their struggle to change the world.
Rather than writing so many articles about the latest internal wranglings of the Socialist Party (however correct many of your political criticisms and honourable your intentions may be), I would suggest you tried to relate to, assist and influence with Marxist ideas the important movements of the class that are starting to develop around events such as the Livingstone affair and the issues involved such as privatisation. This would help you develop theory and programme by testing them in the class struggle. A cadre steeled in such struggle would be of value to us all.
Unity in action
Unity in action
On April 23 and 24 the justice department of Tehran province ordered the closure of nine dailies, three weeklies and one monthly in Iran for continuing to print "material that disparaged islam" and "abusive material against the religious principles of the islamic revolution as part of a cultural assault of the foreign enemies of Iran".
The supposed 'anti Islamic articles' were in fact comments in these papers demanding investigation of political serial killings by Iran's ministry of intelligence, reporting protests at vote-rigging by the conservative faction during recent parliamentary elections. These closures should be seen as part of a concerted drive by the more conservative faction of the islamic regime to cling to power following its humiliating electoral defeats.
- The Council of Experts annulled election results in one city after another, all of them won by reformist candidates, so delaying indefinitely the second round of elections.
- In early March an attempt on the life of the editor of Sobh Emrouz, one of the 'reformists' who is supposed to know many of the secrets of Iran's ministry of intelligence, left him in a critical condition.
- A number of leading reformist journalists and commentators have been arrested over the last three weeks, including editors, columnists, journalists (Akbar Ganji, Safari, Shams al-Vaezin).
- In its last sitting, the outgoing parliament passed a number of laws restricting press freedom, exempting workshops of less than five employees from labour legislation and increasing the power of non-elected bodies under the supreme religious leader.
- Iran's broadcasting authority (radio and television), which is under the direct command of Iran's supreme leader Khameneii, has been used extensively to incite religious hysteria against the reformist papers and those protesting at electoral fraud.
- In the last few weeks all except two of those accused of participation in death squads associated with Iran's ministry of intelligence have been released prior to any trial, while none of those who gave the orders for the executions, through fatwas, have been arrested.
- The trial of Tehran's police chief, accused of using excessive violence against students in a dormitory in Tehran in July 1999, has become a trial of the reformist columnists for "encouraging student protests". The accused officer is now the accuser, supported by the judge.
- The revolutionary guards under the direct rule of supreme leader Khameneii added to the tension in mid-April, warning that "enemies big and small will feel the sledgehammer of the revolution on their skull".
- The supreme leader Khameneii attacked the reformist press on April 20 with accusations of "charlatanism" and acting as a "forward base" for foreign enemies.
This latest measure, the closure of 13 publications, is yet another step, not necessarily the final one, in a creeping political coup by the extreme right in the Iranian regime.
Workers Left Unity-Iran condemns the new wave of repression organised by the most backward-looking elements of islamic fundamentalism in Iran and calls for the condemnation of the Iranian regime for launching a major attack on press freedom. We call on all journalists' organisations, trade unions and human rights organisations to support and defend journalists in Iran, as well as the right to a free press - not only for reformist papers, but for all opposition papers.