Global warming

Comrade May's article on global warming (Weekly Worker November 9) makes the point that "the forces of nature dwarf anything that humanity is doing or can do in relation to its effect on the weather" (how about a nuclear winter, Tom?).

It is true that major volcanic eruptions and sunspot activity can impact severely on weather conditions around the world, and these natural phenomena do occur fairly regularly - there are currently 62 active volcanoes worldwide, all pumping tons of sulphuric acid aerosols and ash into the stratosphere, and sunspot activity peaks every 11 years.

But what these natural events cannot account for is the current greater average rate of increase of global mean surface air temperature than any seen in the past 10,000 years. As a result, glaciers are melting and the Arctic Sea ice has thinned dramatically since the 1960s and 70s: nearly 40% in less than 30 years (L Mastny, 'Melting of Earth's ice cover reaches new high', Worldwatch Institute, 2000).

Comrade May's solution to the problem is in itself reactionary - flood protection and road drainage is not going to prevent rising sea levels. Writing off global warming as propaganda and platitudes to cover the failures of capitalism is ignoring the real issue - that capitalism and the drive for greater profits is causing global warming.

Blair and his ilk have no solution to the problem because they are part of it. The Socialist Worker article written off as "alarmism" (November 4) presented a solution that would tackle climatic change on a global scale, and not just for rural England: i.e., massive investment in public transport (urban and rural) and the development of renewable energy.

Not an unreasonable demand, and one that would strike a chord with most people. Sell them this idea, and then get them to read the Communist manifesto ('cause you know it makes sense ...). We are, after all, revolutionaries, not reformists.

Global warming
Global warming

Socialist Alliance reformists

In his 'Party notes' column Mark Fischer makes the point that the SWP reporting of the Socialist Alliance meeting in Coventry on September 30, was entirely "dishonest" (Weekly Worker October 26). And indeed it had to be, in order to fit in with the SWP pretence of the SAs nationally being made up of 'former Labour Party members who are keen to join the left'. "In truth," as Fischer puts it, "the SWP has a fantasy 'united front' template in its head for the SAs and is determined to report activities in that light. It simply cannot reconcile this model with the reality of the SA as overwhelmingly a converging bloc of revolutionary organisations."

Fair enough: everyone can see the point he is making. However the report on Hackney by Anne Murphy, 'Labour-Tory bankruptcy' in the same paper, makes an equally valid, but contradictory observation: "It is ironic, but not surprising that Mike Marqusee, ex-Labour Party member and apparently the type of 'social democrat' that the alliances must make a comfy home for, has come out far to the left of both the SWP and the SP."

This comment was in reference to both groups being leery of demanding the council stand down. The SWP instead called for the council to fight. Seeing as they are responsible for the mess residents find themselves in, fight who?

And she goes on: "We have been told time and time again how we must not make ourselves too revolutionary because we will scare away the reformists that we all want to win from the Labour Party. It sometimes makes me wonder who the real reformists are."

Why wonder? As the record shows, practically all the component parts of the SA were up till recently either part of the Labour infrastructure or, in the case of the SWP and smaller Trotskyite sects, determinedly loyal factions, just outside of it. Talk of winning away working class members/voters with 'illusions in Labour' was always eyewash to justify this loyalty. Indeed it is only when the working class itself abandoned Labour that the 'vanguards' referred to found the courage to do so.

So, far from being the most radical elements in Hackney, the SWP are in reality not even the most radical elements within the LSA. For four decades they have operated as an effective brake on any form of genuine working class independence from Labour. It follows therefore that their instinct remains a conservative one, even within an LSA formation organisationally independent of Labour.

So by routinely referring to them as "revolutionary", the CPGB is accepting the SWP at face value. The danger here is that because the CPGB sees the SA as important politically (and the SWP as a core component), the inclination is to bend over backwards to make life inside the LSA "comfy" for them. Evidently the CPGB fears that, if things become too fraught, the SWP might just up and go. In truth they need the SA as much as the CPGB believes the SA needs the SWP.

Meanwhile the problem is, the more comfortable the SWP becomes inside the LSA, the less use the structures will be in dealing with objective reality outside it.

For instance after getting 134 votes in the Wick by-election, the LSA claimed it was now "the third party in Hackney". Presumably such propaganda is deemed necessary to maintain the morale of SWP members weaned on the vainglorious politics of 'fresher fairs', but such indulgence runs the danger of making a laughing stock of the LSA in the political mainstream.

Socialist Alliance reformists
Socialist Alliance reformists

Socialist Worker cave-in

I was afraid this might happen. The Socialist Workers Party is overcorrecting its decades-long, ultra-left rejection of the electoral tactic (rejection in a period when its use was clearly mandatory). Their refusal to satisfactorily explain the sudden about-turn has led to their throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

We are witnessing disorientation uncannily reminiscent of the Stalinist parties' leapfrog from their 'third period' to their popular front period; from an insane rejection of a united front of all workers' organisations against the fascists to liquidating any revolutionary pretensions into an alliance with the bosses' parties.

Now, I am accusing no one of anything so grotesque. But there are only three interpretations of the SWP central committee's apparent indifference to the loss of their right to sell Socialist Worker in Scotland (and to their being able to maintain any kind of coherent organisation) - and not one of these explanations are in the least praiseworthy.

The most depressing explanation is that the SWP leadership no longer regard the revolutionary paper as the scaffolding around which Marxists build our revolutionary organisation or they no longer believe that a Leninist party is essential to lead the workers to take power. I cannot blame the International Socialist Movement for trying to exact SWP liquidation as the price for their joining the Scottish Socialist Party. But I cannot understand why the SWP caved in.

The ISM act as the central core of the SSP: they are our Kautskyites. Less organised, but more numerous still, are the party's Bernsteins. While most have a gut attachment to the class struggle uncharacteristic of the original revisionists, their horizons fail to stretch beyond welfare capitalism. Definitely smallest, and in a state of complete disorganisation, is the Luxemburg wing. We wanted the SWP on board the SSP (and the Scottish Socialist Alliance before it) to dramatically tilt the centre of gravity from the Kautskyite to the Luxemburg wing. Unfortunately, unless the SWP leadership are trying to pull the wool over everyone's eyes, they want to join to bolster the Kautskyites!

Another explanation is that Chris Bambery is lying. Perhaps the majority of the CC has lost all confidence in itself. Perhaps they think they have fucked things up so badly in Scotland they can only participate in any kind of left unity process by subterfuge: get into the SSP in time for the general election; do so by hook or by crook; if that means swearing to liquidate their organisation in Scotland (not just until the SSP conference in February, but for all time), then do it. If that is how they see things, they are toying with an entryist tactic that cannot rise above a smash and grab operation. Such a manoeuvre would prove extremely destructive to everyone involved.

The final explanation is that they do not have a clue what they are doing: they realise that what they justified only yesterday as rigid principles were nothing of the sort; they know there must be some Marxist principles that could guide them in their negotiations with the ISM, but no one knows what they are.

Socialist Worker cave-in
Socialist Worker cave-in

RCN double travesty

The two full-page articles - one from your editor, Peter Manson, and the other from Steve Freeman of the Revolutionary Democratic Group - along with the letter from Weekly Worker supporter Tom Delargy, highlight the significance of the Republican Communist Network (Weekly Worker November 2).

However, it is difficult to decide which of the two articles is the bigger misrepresentation of events. Meet Peter face to face and he is quite reasonable. So anyone would find it difficult to see how Peter's notes of the RCN AGM on October 28 could end up forming the basis for such a travesty of a report as 'One step forward, two steps back'.

I will confine my remarks to just two issues raised in the CPGB/RDG articles. The issue of the composition of the Republican Communist editorial board seems to have equally upset both the CPGB and Steve. Communist Tendency members voted for a three-person editorial board, not for five or four persons. We acknowledged that the CPGB should have someone on the board, so we accepted John Bridge. Such an editorial board would have given the federal republicans a two-to-one majority (out of proportion to their actual strength in the RCN).

The CPGB-RDG (or was it John Bridge-Steve Freeman?) alliance, however, wanted a five-person editorial board, with two CPGB members, one RDG member, one RDG supporter and one token workers' republican - myself! This was such a blatant and hamfisted attempt at a takeover that it alienated virtually all the middle ground present and was the real reason why the CPGB-RDG alliance failed to achieve its aim.

Of course it might also have helped the CPGB-RDG alliance if the other proposed CPGB editorial member had been asked to stand beforehand! Neither had all RDG supporters been told of Steve's intentions to stand in advance. Surely we can expect more effective leadership from organisations built around the leader principle! As a result of this failure a four-person board was voted on.

Since the CT lost out on a three-member editorial board, we were therefore now voting on the extra person. Given our openly declared support for the RCN to be maintained as a network at this stage, rather than move prematurely towards a single tendency, we voted to maximise the different tendencies on the editorial board. This meant we had no hesitation in voting for Phil Walden of the Trotskyist Unity Group. We believe the CPGB and RDG have voted recently for a similar representation principle in the Socialist Alliances.

Secondly, somewhat unbelievably, Peter still maintains that somehow I have attempted to suppress Jack Conrad's review of Neil Davidson's book and furthermore have pushed the other editorial board member, Nick Clarke, into support for this. Both Nick and I quite independently thought that publication would either take up virtually the whole of Republican Communist No5 or have to be serialised over four or five issues, where it would lose its impact and delay any possible debate.

We specifically proposed that a pamphlet be produced, which included Jack's and others articles (including Neil Davidson's shortened piece from The Scotsman). When I asked Jack to discuss this proposal at the RCN AGM he backed down. I can see no rational reason for so doing, unless the only purpose of the original proposal was to enhance the attempted editorial board takeover by a very physical takeover of the pages of the journal too!

RCN double travesty
RCN double travesty

Leninist repression

"Exercise active supervision over all anarchists. Prepare documents as much as possible of a criminal nature of which they can be accused. Keep orders and documents secret. Send the necessary instructions everywhere" - telegram from Lenin to Rakovsky, November 1920.

David (no, not comrade) Moran's delicate feelings are easily bruised. He seems to think my rebuttals of his justifications for repression against anarchists are personal. Ah well (Letters, November 9).

Moran quotes Anarkhiia, the daily paper of the Moscow Anarchist Federation, to back up his arguments. But the statement of the Russian Anarchist Federation reprinted in it clearly distances the anarchists from expropriations. And so why is it that the offices of Anarkhiia were one of the buildings attacked by the Chekists in April 1918, and why was it then suppressed, as Moran has proven that it had distanced itself from "criminal" activities?

I confess that, whilst I had vaguely heard of general Goppers before, I had never come across his book. This does not mean that somehow I am to be amalgamated to him as some sort of White! Can Moran provide any proofs at all beyond Goppers (who would try to show his importance and sow dissension at the same time) for monarchist infiltration of the anarchist movement?

Over 40 anarchists were killed in the attacks, personally led by Bela Kun with Lett sharpshooters, a Bashkir regiment, and Chekist troops. One Khudounov was shot by Chekists "after attempting to escape" (heard that one before?). Six hundred anarchists were arrested, but mass popular revulsion against the raids forced Lenin and Trotsky to release many of them.

As well as the raids in Moscow, similar raids took place in Petrograd, Vologda, Smolensk and Vitebsk. Organisations were dissolved, clubs shut down, and confiscated anarchist propaganda was burnt.

The anarchist daily Burevestnik of Petrograd, which was not immediately shut down, stated on April 13, just after the raids: "The anarchists did not desire any clash. We regarded you [Bolsheviks] as our revolutionary brothers. But you have proved to be traitors." One anarchist (quoted in The anarchists in the Russian Revolution by Anatoli Gorelik, a veteran anarchist), dragged before a judge, asked him: "Why have you done this?" The judge replied: "The representatives of the Entente [the interventionist western allies] are actually in Vologda and are refusing all talks, declaring that they will not discuss with a government that walks hand in hand with the anarchists, and which gives them so much liberty. We cannot proceed in any other manner. You must understand yourselves that we could not act otherwise."

In his Memoirs of A British agent (1932) RH Bruce Lockhart enthusiastically supported the action as a "first step towards the establishment of discipline".

At a time when the new authorities had abolished the death penalty, why were the Cheka summarily executing revolutionaries? What is more "criminal": this or the expropriation of the rich?

Leninist repression
Leninist repression

A question of ownership

Open Polemic strike a childish note in their response (Weekly Worker November 9) to my letter (November 2). Apparently, they have published a "50-column-centimetres argument" to the concluding part of Jack Conrad's 'No more dead ends' (Weekly Worker September 21).

They ask me to re-read Conrad, and tell me that he does "explicitly express" his view on ownership - forgetting that in their first 'letter' they say he turns a "blind eye" to the question of ownership. About my own brief explanation of the process of moving to communist freedom, they say nothing.

Of my criticism that Open Polemic have no concept of this movement, they, in the manner of the disdainful academic, suggest I familiarise myself with their views.

Well, I work for a living, am a trade union activist and have a family to look after - I don't have the time to chase after Open Polemic.

A question of ownership
A question of ownership

After Hatfield disaster

Signs are now appearing on Railtrack's stations, reading: "Saying sorry is not enough". These are signed by Gerald Corbett.

Well, he is right for once. I think this shows Corbett is losing grip on his position as chief executive of Railtrack.

He states that no one knows the cause of gauge corner cracking. They have set up a taskforce to look into this, and he says it would be wrong to speculate on the cause until they have concluded their enquiries.

The taskforce will come from cross-industry 'experts' and overseas railways. It looks as if they are trying to point the finger of blame towards heavy freight trains. Of course this is not proven.

Now is the time to look for support for our campaign to bring the railways under the direct control of the workers. We must re-emphasise that the safe running of the railways would be enhanced by this. It is time for all the railway unions to work together towards this goal.

And let us not forget the passengers. They also need to be reminded that unless there are radical changes, their suffering will be long.

After Hatfield disaster
After Hatfield disaster