In his reply to my previous letter on Zimbabwe, Andrew Cutting accuses me of making "bizarre leaps of logic" and allegedly attacking some of the basic ideas of the CPGB (Letters, July 6).
He accuses me of conflating "the Mugabe leadership with the war veterans movement" and protests against the accusation that he advocated support for the Mugabe regime against the Movement for Democratic Change. Yet it was comrade Cutting who, in his earlier article, stated that the "immediate danger" to workers in Zimbabwe was an MDC election victory. What conclusion can one draw from this remark other that, by implication, he regarded the victory of Mugabe as the lesser "danger", and preferred his victory to that of the MDC?
In defence of his national conception of struggle against imperialism, which leads him to see Mugabe's machinations as potentially revolutionary, comrade Cutting then goes on to reject the whole concept of workers' control on a national level (in the transition to workers' management on an international level) as a lever of international revolution.
Comrade Cutting's defence of a programme of wholesale expropriation of transnational productive forces goes against the original programme of the Bolsheviks, who precisely advocated a regime of "workers' control", not of wholesale expropriation, in their action programme of 1917. As Lenin stated in September of that year, "In point of fact, the whole question of control boils down to who controls whom: ie, which class is in control and which is being controlled. In our country, in republican Russia, with the help of the 'authorised bodies' of so-called revolutionary democracy, it is the landlords and capitalists who are still recognised to be, and still are, the controllers. The inevitable result is the capitalist robbery that arouses universal indignation among the people, and the economic chaos that is being artificially kept up by the capitalists. We must resolutely and irrevocably, not fearing to break with the old, pass to control over the landlords and capitalists by the workers and peasants. And this is what our Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks fear worse than the plague" (VI Lenin CW Vol 25, Moscow 1977, p342).
Evidently it is not possible to exercise 'control' over capitalists and landlords if they are no longer capitalists and landlords: ie, if their property has already been confiscated by the state. Comrade Cutting's perspective lacks this transitional element, simply because his programme is for the bureaucratic state to expropriate 'foreign' capital on a national basis, regardless of the utility of this for the overall productive forces and the interests of the world revolution.
The balance of comrade Cutting's letter is just semi-Stalinist nonsense. He accuses the CPGB of having "illusions" in the MDC, simply for defending the right of its members to stand for election without being murdered by Mugabe's death squads, and by our characterisation of it as at least containing elements of a new workers' party.
Comrade Cutting considers this characterisation alone to be "auto-Labourism". Yet our critique of auto-Labourism in no way ever implied that Marxists could never give any support to a bourgeois workers' party. Still less did it say that we could support repression of such a party as a 'lesser evil' when it confronts an 'anti-imperialist' bourgeois dictatorship such as Mugabe's. Which, again, is the only logical conclusion that can be drawn when comrade Cutting states that the "immediate danger" was an MDC victory in the elections.
As for the assertion that our refusal to support Mugabe's attempts to manipulate the land question to crush the urban workers' movement somehow contradicts the method of revolutionary democracy, this is simply crazy. The CPGB does not reject the "resolution of the land question in Zimbabwe": we seek a progressive resolution to it by the worker and peasant masses, not a reactionary resolution at the hands of the anti-worker death squads of Mugabe's bloody and dictatorial regime. How do Mugabe's anti-democratic actions have anything in common with revolutionary democracy?
John Dart is intrigued why I am a member of the Republican Communist Network when he has been told I am not a republican. I am even more intrigued by the influence of Toy Town Bolshevism on comrades who have distinguished themselves by breaking with the rotten traditions of the sectarian left who preferred not to engage the views of their opponents, but demonise them instead.
I am in total agreement with the comrade that to be a communist is to be a republican. After all the dictatorship of the proletariat is hardly compatible with monarchy. My communist and therefore republican views are well known. That is why I was invited to join the RCN and my membership application was not challenged by anyone. That is why I became a member of the RCN.
John must surely understand the utterly self-centred and sectarian nature of the view that I cannot be a republican because I do not agree with the perspective of a bourgeois federal republic. I do not agree with the federal republic as a two-stage revolution. I do not think that we should leave the red flag in the attic. I stand for a workers' republic and a federation of workers' republics, depending on the political context and circumstances.
This is not nationalism, but the attempt to overcome nationalism, through internationalism.
Peter Manson and John Dart ask how it is possible to be a member of the RCN and not to agree with its slogan 'republicanism'. I support republicanism when it is the expression of a mass movement, as for example in the case of Irish republicanism. Sinn Féin, though clearly not a revolutionary party, have been way ahead of the English left. The gains that have been made in Northern Ireland are not simply reformist gains: rather they have been won by the self-activity of a section of the working class, and the left's attitude towards Sinn Féin expresses a lack of confidence in that working class.
What I do not support is the posing of 'republicanism' in a reformist manner. It is reformist to pose republicanism as a necessary stage towards proletarian revolution, because it assumes that certain very specific democratic reforms are a necessary prelude to class struggle against capitalism. The Revolutionary Democratic Group (and the CPGB?) regard the monarchy as a feudal legacy which has to be abolished before the question of the class struggle in modern capitalism can be faced. But the reality is that the monarchy has been entirely incorporated into modern capitalism and the question that faces us is one of revolution against modern capitalism, not petty bourgeois reform of the constitution.
So republicanism is only useful in so far as it promotes class struggle against capitalism - a romantic republicanism is not useful in and of itself, unlinked to this class struggle.
Coupled to this romantic reformism in the RCN is an ignorance of how great revolutionaries of the past, like John Maclean, have seen the link between republicanism and world revolution. How can anyone call themselves a serious republican without advocating a Scottish workers' republic as intrinsically linked to world revolution - the break-up of the reactionary UK state is a logical revolutionary republican aim because it would mean the end of a major bulwark of world imperialism and the massive promotion of international working class struggle (though of course nothing makes world revolution inevitable, and world revolution could just about unfold without the break-up of the UK state).
On Wednesday July 5, as the temperature reached 122 degrees Fahrenheit in Abadan, the population of this working class town built around one of Iran's major oil refineries demonstrated outside the governor's office demanding access to drinking water.
Riot police and military forces were deployed. They sprayed the demonstrators with tear gas and aerial shots were fired in the air to disperse the crowd. However, this tactic of the authorities backfired and a larger crowd gathered in defence of the demonstrators. The demonstrators started setting fire to tyres and throwing stones at banks and government offices. The security forces opened fire and at least two people were killed. The riots in Abadan continued on Thursday July 6 and residents of neighbouring towns, Andimeshk, Ahvaz and Dezful, who are also deprived of drinking water, joined the demonstrators in Abadan.
At a time when oil prices have reached a record high, the oil workers of southern Iran and their families live in poverty, deprived of basic necessities, while mullahs and their capitalist allies squander Iran's wealth.
Workers Left Unity Iran reminds all those who call for a 'smooth' transfer of power from one faction of the regime to a more reformist faction, that the political and social problems of Iranian society are so serious, the crisis so deep that minor changes at the top, political reform alone, will never resolve these contradictions. Both factions of the Iranian regime were determined to suppress the demonstrators of Abadan as they did in Shatereh near Tehran a week earlier and in Piranshahr on July 4. The reformist faction has only one aim: to lengthen the life of this reactionary regime and guarantee its survival with minor reform.
The people of Abadan, like the residents of Shatereh with their brave demonstrations for drinking water, have shown the way forward. Only the independent organisation of workers, the poor and the shanty town dwellers can achieve the kind of democracy that the people of Iran have demanded for over 40 years.
A new massacre was about to be carried out at Burdur State Prison (in south-western Turkey, 370 km from Istanbul) on July 5; on the pretext of the refusal of 11 political prisoners to go to the State Security Court at Izmir.
Coincidentally, non-political prisoners in Istanbul's Bayrampasa Prison refused at about the same time to be moved to another prison. They kidnapped guards in protest. No prisoners were injured in the events at Bayrampasa Prison. While the justice minister of Turkey was boasting about this, at Burdur Prison there was an attempt to massacre with heavy weaponry political prisoners who had no weapons with which to defend themselves.
During the assault in Burdur which lasted an entire day, gunshots and explosions were heard, smoke was seen billowing from the prison and the walls between dormitories were destroyed. In the assault, 16 political prisoners were severely injured and one lost his arm. During the assault, male prisoners broke down the wall separating them from the female political prisoners, enabling both groups to resist the attack. Injured political prisoners were sent to Burdur State Hospital and the prisoner who lost his arm was sent to the Isparta Medical Faculty Hospital.
Ten months ago it was declared that a massacre would be carried out in Burdur Prison. Preparations were made for an assault and it was declared that they wanted to make a new "Ulucanlar". (Ankara Ulucanlar Prison was the scene of a massacre on September 26 1999, in which 10 political prisoners were murdered by state forces.) The assault at Burdur is the beginning of the assaults that will be made to force prisoners into the F-Type Prisons (prisons consisting of isolation cells). With attacks like the one at Burdur they hope to suppress the resistance of political prisoners.
We call on all our people living in Europe and European public opinion to support the struggle of the political prisoners against the F-Type isolation cells.
May I repeat Stalin's definition of a nation? - "A nation is a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture. It goes without saying that a nation, like every other historical phenomenon, is subject to the law of change, has its history, its beginning and its end."
The CPGB evolved historically in 1991. The CPGB is a stable community, though of course subject to the law of change. The CPGB has a common language, English. At Party aggregates the CPGB has a common territory. The CPGB has a common economic life. The CPGB has a common psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture.
The island of Sark is rather better off than the CPGB when it comes to territory. The CPGB, though, leads the way in common psychological make-up. The CPGB is therefore a nation with the right to self-determination up to and including secession.
I support this right unreservedly. The question is, though, where is it to be exercised? Perhaps Jack Conrad can find somewhere.
Joseph Roth comes over as an apologist for Stalinism and ignores completely my careful counterposition between the base of Solidarnosc and the ideology that guided its leadership (Letters, July 6). Yes, from day one these leaders were pro-capitalists, but they were based in a workers' movement that included practically the entire working class in Poland and its leading militants.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the 1st Congress of Solidarnosc in 1981, where not only is central planning of the economy repudiated (there were no calls for democratisation and workers' control of the plan against bureaucratic mismanagement and corruption), but the free market and production for individual profit is defended. This even allows that wages might have to be cut and food subsidies all but abandoned. Remember, it was the abandonment of these price subsidies by the government in June 1980 that sparked the big protest movement that gave rise to Solidarnosc.
I repudiate the capitulation to this leadership by various 'Trotskyist' groups, mainly under cover of objectivism, that they would be inevitably pushed in the direction of revolutionary socialism by the pressure of events. Yes, the Polish pope and Carter, Thatcher and Reagan established good relations with this leadership from the beginning. But none welcomed the huge militant strike waves that threatened political revolution against Stalinism, particularly when these posed the real danger of a default on the loans to western banks that could have sparked a collapse of the banking system. Jaruzelski's suppression of this workers' movement was welcomed by imperialism (not so covertly) whilst they sought to continue to promote the leadership's ideological offensive against the deformed workers' state.
Of course capitalism was eventually restored in Poland by agreement between this leadership and Stalinism with all the dire consequences for the masses identified by Roth. The one force that could have prevented it was the militant organisation of the working class with a revolutionary socialist leadership. The movement was crushed by Stalinism to preserve their privileges from genuine revolutionary socialism and only then from capitalist restoration. Without a working class revival counterrevolution was inevitable. But Stalinism would never mobilise the working class to defend state property because this required political accounting through workers' democracy and they knew that they would have to pay for their crimes then. They preferred imperialism and restoration to this.
As for Polish nationalism, this was opposed by Great Russian chauvinism. Rosa Luxemburg erred in identifying it as completely reactionary and Lenin corrected the position. Lenin erred in the 1920 invasion (Trotsky opposed and Stalin spoke against but voted for Lenin's error) so Bolshevism had problems with it right from the beginning. The unfortunate Radek apparently contemplated the division of Poland between Germany and the Bolsheviks in 1920, but these were errors and not counterrevolution.
However, the cynicism of the 1939 Stalin-Hitler pact is unsurpassed in history. The dire consequences of this treachery for Poland and in particularly Warsaw and its Jewish community are well known. Add the massacre of the 15,000 officers of the Polish Army in 1940 in the Katyn forest by Stalin and it becomes apparent that Polish national independence was an absolute precondition for any struggle for revolutionary socialism in Poland. Internationalism must be based on national equality, not Stalinist oppression. Roth naively counterposes Stalinist oppression to capitalist misery for Poland (and implicitly the world), without giving us any revolutionary socialist alternative. Trotskyists have such an alternative.