According to Mary Ward (Weekly Worker June 15), she attended the Edinburgh Marxist Forum day school on Cuba with an open mind, I with a closed one. The real difference is that I am too honest to deny that I had an open mind only up to a point, while Mary is incapable of admitting that the same goes for her.
Unlike Mary Ward, I (along with Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and Luxemburg before me) have no problem admitting that on some things I am not open-minded: the principle of working class self-emancipation is non-negotiable. It is because Mary has broken from scientific socialism, by casting aside its cornerstone, that she boasts about her open-mindedness when it comes to the Stalinist apologetics of the Revolutionary Communist Group.
Mary accepts that the working class played no significant part in the revolution that created the existing regime. Yet, she opposes a workers' revolution to overthrow it. She herself made it clear that she was satisfied with Murray Smith's defence of Castro's policy towards the Trotskyists - those who did advocate a workers' revolution, albeit not an especially radical one. Murray said that, had the Trotskyists kept their word to abandon all political activity, they would not have been subjected to re-arrest! Mary's nodding head at this point was an indication, voluntary or otherwise, that this Stalinist attack on Marxists was, in her opinion, justified.
There seems to be a bit of a kerfuffle about Cuba in the Weekly Worker at the moment, most notably from Tom Delargy ('Cuba and socialism', June 8). Among the "crimes" he accuses Castro of are that he punished Cuban workers who tried to imitate the Polish Solidarnosc movement in 1983. Both state capitalists and Trotskyists have a weakness for supposed 'workers' oppositions' in 'Stalinist' countries.
On closer investigation these are often more brown than red, or else candy-coated in the American flag. I understand that once upon a time Workers Power rolled out the not-so-red carpet for some visiting Russian fascists, for example. In the 1980s the Polish émigré press in Britain loved Solidarnosc, loved Thatcher and hated socialism, however that word is defined.
It was well known that there was only one trade union in the entire world that Thatcher liked, and that union was Solidarnosc. You would have thought that all these facts would have made some Trotskyists and state capitalists think twice, but apparently they did not. If those Cuban workers seeking to imitate Solidarnosc were trying to bring anything to Cuba, it was not any form of socialism.
As for Hungary in 1956, some of the more vivid photos in that period depict the destruction of the Soviet bookshop in Budapest. If you look closely you will see that the works of both Marx and Lenin are among the books being burnt. I think that admirably illustrates the ideological tendency of the Hungarian 'revolutionaries'.
Andrew Cutting's article in last week's paper, responding to my previous rejoinder, breaks little new ground, but does expand on his views and allows an exploration of a few questions related to this discussion (June 15).
Andrew is at pains to clarify the obvious political softness on Mugabe and other nationalist/third world 'anti-imperialist' despots that was apparent in his previous letter, and attempts to distance himself from Mugabe and nationalism more than previously. Despite this, however, his essentially narrow, national concept of what constitutes struggle against imperialism leads him to a kind of 'critical' political support for the Mugabe regime. This is brought out clearly by his statement that, "The biggest immediate danger is an MDC victory in the coming elections."
The logical, and indeed the only, inference from such a statement is that either it is necessary for Marxists, in order to keep out the Movement for Democratic Change, to recommend that the masses vote for Mugabe's Zanu-PF party in the elections, or else to support some sort of pro-Mugabe coup against the election process in the event of Mugabe's opponents being certain of victory. This would be political suicide for the working class, effectively asking them to support their executioners in the name of a vicarious 'third worldist' ideology, and comrade Cutting can only mask the reactionary conclusions inherent in his strange and anti-Marxist reasoning with another large dollop of 'white'-baiting.
Comrade Cutting's whole methodology is objectivist, and ascribes to some sort of automatic historical process tasks that are really the preserve of political leadership. Thus he writes, after analysing the social composition of the government-incited land invasions, that, "There is nothing inherently reactionary about the land invasions." Comrade Cutting is saying that it does not matter that their purpose is to keep in power a reactionary and hated government against the will of the population; the mere fact that the mobilisations are directed against an immediate target that is legitimately regarded by the masses as parasitic, exploitative, and to a large extent a leftover from colonialism is enough to make the movement 'objectively' progressive.
But comrade Cutting's objectivism is not just about Zimbabwe. He deludes himself, as a generalised part of his world outlook, that it is possible to build some sort of socialism behind protectionist borders, apparently while at the same time preserving the international character of modern productive forces. He is so eager to prove the CPGB guilty of some sort of 'Menshevism' in not advocating wholesale nationalisation and the break-up of transnational companies into national units that he contradicts himself on elementary economics. First he asks the rhetorical question: "Should a less advanced nation like Zimbabwe attempt to nationalise foreign capital and set up a monopoly of foreign trade? According to the CPGB, this would be 'objectively reactionary', not to mention nationalist and protectionist."
For comrade Cutting, then, the wholesale nationalisation of "foreign capital" would not involve breaking up the productive forces. In many individual cases, of course, nationalisation does not involve this kind of regression. Many items in third world countries that are foreign-owned are in reality national assets, and their foreign ownership is a reflection of parasitism by imperialist corporations.
However, this does not exhaust the question. There are many cases where it is not so simple, where key productive forces in a given industry depend on elements that are physically located outside the country, or are certain to disappear abroad if an attempt is made to simply expropriate them.
The key to all this is workers' control (a veto on all management decisions by the working class), both within the workers' state, and also as a potential weapon of the working class in countries where the dictatorship of the proletariat has not yet been established. Indeed, such workers' control, and communication and coordination between workers in a workers' state and those in states where a revolution has not yet happened, could conceivably act as a lever leading to the internationalisation of the revolution. Simple expropriation in such circumstances, on the other hand, on the principle of national autarchy, would simply lead to economic decline, and a decline of the influence of the workers' state on the workers of the capitalist states concerned.
Comrade Cutting's objectivism is a nationally-based concept of socialism that is out of kilter with even the experience of the proletariat in power in this century. This conception leads to political support for nationalist anti-working class despots like Mugabe (and indeed to a strange critique that attacks them for not being nationalist enough!), yet at the same time to sectarianism regarding embryonic independent movements of the working class in such countries. Notably regarding the MDC, which he does not deny was founded by the leadership of the Zimbabwean trade unions. He complains that the MDC was "formed by the Zimbabwean trade union bureaucracy, modelling itself on Tony Blair's New Labour". Presumably, according to the scenario implicit in comrade Cutting's schema, Mugabe is the Zimbabwean Scargill, resisting the Blairisation of Zimbabwe. In reality, Mugabe's regime is capitalist, through and through, and has nothing to do with the working class as an organised force.
It is not that surprising for a new party, formed by the trade unions, to bear some resemblance politically to the social democracy elsewhere in the world. But comrade Cutting cannot explain how a new 'Blairite' workers' party can come into existence when the whole thrust of Blairism is to liquidate independent working class parties. In the context of the working class upsurges in Zimbabwe in the last few years, such a step as forming a new trade-union-based party represents a step, however tentative, in the opposite direction from Blairism, notwithstanding any resemblance at the level of formal politics.
Of course this could all be snuffed out and/or go into reverse, and undoubtedly something like this will happen if socialist politics do not find a foothold in this situation. Some kind of neo-liberal government like in Zambia could indeed result in the absence of such an intervention and struggle. There are no guarantees - after all, in a different, but not entirely irrelevant context, the growth of the workers' movement in Italy, for example, also was the starting point of the political career of one Benito Mussolini. It is not impossible that any democratic opening - a retreat of the kind of heavy-handed neo-colonial nationalist dictatorships that are common in Africa - could lead to some sort of 'democratic' neo-liberal regime.
This is a worldwide political consequence of the political weakness of the working class. But to imply that therefore we should give support to an anti-working class dictatorship such as Mugabe's against the workers' movement because of this possibility is to concede political defeat in advance to the neo-liberals. To dismiss this small step toward a political workers' movement, and indeed to imply it should be crushed by the anti-working class butcher Mugabe because his pseudo-Marxist, nationalist politics is supposedly better for the workers than their own organisations, would be a treasonous policy.
The recent events in Belgium have raised the question of football hooliganism once again in the British media. The way that communists should approach sport and the question of hooliganism in general is important, as for many working class people sport, and in particular football, is a part of their lives and culture. It also poses the question of what view communists should have of sport.
The traditional response is to simply write it off as 'false consciousness', which detracts from the class struggle. It is perfectly true that sport represents alienated consciousness - it is amazing to see how so much hope and aspiration is invested in 11 people kicking a ball around a pitch.
There are, however, positive and negative sides to this distortion of consciousness. On one level being a football fan is being part of a collective whole: for 90 minutes you are united with thousands of other people around a collective goal, aspiration and against a common enemy; you are no longer an atomised individual, but part of something greater; you can transcend your own limitations.
This obviously has implications for politics - that element of collective sentiment is positive, but in a totally limited and distorted way. It recognises that collectively we are greater than our individual parts - that is the whole ethos underpinning a team game. However, the negative aspect of this is the cross-class nature of some elements.
The main problem is the underpinning of divisive elements. Vociferous hatred of other teams' fans by some can be seen - anybody who knows about the ridiculous hype preceding a local derby should be able to verify this. This is of course reflected at a national level. It is not positive for people to express identity in the form of narrow localism or nationalism. We should be for a class identity which respects no local or national borders. The communist left, however, cannot ignore football and sport in general. It is part of working class culture, like it or not.
Psephologist Nick Long of Lewisham (June 8) says that the Scargill Labour Party could limp on for 100 years, like the Socialist Party of Great Britain. He then goes on to laud Militant's vote in Newcastle (16.6%), but he seems to have missed the SPGB's result in nearby South Tyneside, where John Bissett - standing as 'The Socialist Party' - got 184 votes (11.3%), compared with 998 for the Labourite and 438 for the Tory.
Unlike Militant, which stood on a vote-catching reform programme, John Bissett stood on a straight socialist programme of abolish the wages system and bringing in production for use on the basis of the common ownership and democratic control of productive resources.
I am a member of the Scottish Socialist Party. I came across your page from the CPGB's website. Frankly, some of your articles are rather scary.
You are pro-war, and pro-civil war because it may cause revolution. Isn't this completely immoral? Do you think you are going to achieve any credibility whatsoever by advocating civil war while you put so much energy into a rather flash and, if I may say so, rather lavish-looking website, and bad-mouthing socialist parties?
I am almost tempted to laugh at you ... but then I realise you're a tiny sect with little/no influence ... so I have a laugh instead.
I bet you also support Stalinist policies!!!
I have received your request for funds. I nearly just put it in the bin. However, I have a responsibility to let you know that I think.
Like many left (so-called) organisations these days, there is a lot of talking amongst yourselves, at great length rather than succinctly, and on whatever current media soundbite is flavour of the day - and in such a way as to slag off others not as lefty purist as whoever is doing the writing (usually white male): eg, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Tottenham, nationalism, Scotland, etc.
Where is the necessary constant focus on the underlying matrix - class oppression and the misery, globally and locally, it causes? Not much on the locally, do I find, by the way - it seems deprivations in more distant locations are easier to write about/take action on. Where is the focus in getting a bigger media window for mainstream class analysis of society, particularly since that is what the mainstream media does not want us to have?
I would be glad to hear from you if you wish to truly address these issues, rather than justify the way things are. That done, I might indeed give you some of my hard earned, miserable dosh.
I have been reading your paper for 12 months and I have noticed a disturbing trend amongst your features. Notably your consistent attacks on various left/Marxist groups that exist in the United Kingdom.
As if this petty sectarianism is not worrying enough, a more pernicious pattern appears with your constant stream of attacks against all national liberation/socialist/Marxist struggles worldwide. Only with a sense of utter disgust have I read your support of KLA/Kosovar activities, including your cheering on Nato attacks. As well as your diatribes against Greek communists and national liberation groups in Africa, notably Zimbabwe and Angola.
Your call that loyalist/unionists are a separate national grouping apart from Irish/English beggars belief. What next, comrades? That the Afrikaner movement in South Africa is a separate ethnic group and that they be given autonomy and self-determination?
Your tiny sect is a pathetic, anti-communist, anti-Marxist group. Your modus operandi is the sowing of confusion and counter-information amongst Marxists. To put it simply, you exist in the gutter with little or no support, only able to spit bile in the direction of various other groups with a damn sight more influence and support than yourselves.
A number of years ago, Red Action were accused of being tools for MI5, a dupe to shatter any chance of left unity. The wrong group were accused. The CPGB is a pro-capitalist, anti-Marxist pawn of imperialism and therefore a tool of the state, not a weapon against it.