I see our 'here today, gone tomorrow' supporter, Liz Hoskings, is now busy defending Trotskyism (Letters, November 30). How fabulous.
Dear Lizzy tells us she was unable to attend the second day of the recent weekend school. Now there's a turn-up. I have often noticed International Bolshevik Tendency members being disinclined to attend more than one day of an event. Why? The point of their interventions is not to engage with the rest of us poor mortals, but to secrete themselves further into their morbid sect world. Sometimes this causes discomfort. A couple of years Alan Gibson dug himself into a hole at one of the CPGB schools by mildly suggesting there might be something in fighting for a federal republic. Strangely, he never turned up for the second day. Sorting out his stamp collection, I guess. I wonder if Elizabeth has any similar hobbies?
Mind you, what she failed to deliver in person on Sunday she certainly makes up for in print, giving us a lecture from behind the finely steeled lampshade that is the IBT. Apparently, it was simply inconceivable to remain as an opposition within the Third International because you might have been "shot and purged". Very nasty. But when has politics merely been a matter of being ethically right? Perhaps Trotsky should not have bothered forming the Red Army because if the Whites caught him he might have been suddenly bereft of testicles.
Lastly, I agree with Ian Donovan that Elizabeth is setting a polemical pace that is simply much too fast for the IBT (Weekly Worker November 30). A piece of advice, Liz. You're obviously not taking enough time to inhale the contents of 1917. If you want some practical advice ask Alan Gibson, a man who certainly knows how to get a good buzz out of limited materials.
In my opinion, the working classes have suffered most from the privatisation of the rail industry. 'Public' transport, as it is now so falsely monickered, is anything but, with the public being placed a very long way down the list of priorities drawn up each year when 'targets' are looked towards and shareholders' returns taken into consideration. In fact, it would be a guess that the public are right down there with safety, given that this year we have seen utter mayhem on the railways.
The trains and railways are incredibly important to the working class. In the RMT and Aslef we have two of the strongest unions with a rich sense of history and struggle. The private rail companies, and British Rail before them, employ thousands of working class people. Furthermore many workers rely on the trains to get them to and from work. But here lies the paradox. The rail companies rely so heavily on the working class for their profits, yet disregard their well-being and working conditions. Morale has never been lower amongst the workforce.
While I am aware that the CPGB does not advocate the immediate renationalisation of every privatised company, surely the railways are an essential target for renationalisation in a socialist state.
Let us take a look at the facts. Until two years ago, the rolling stock carrying people the length and breadth of this country had not been updated or renewed since the mid-80s. This, of course, was the express wish of the rail operators who were too busy paying their shareholders their dividends. Ergo, train passengers were, and still are in some cases, travelling on at best 15-years-old rolling stock, and at worst 30-years-old rolling stock. Yet we have a government which has made absolutely no attempt to increase investment.
Only a few weeks ago, Gerald Corbett, a man with so much blood on his hands, walked away from his responsibility with a £400,000 golden handshake. We should now demand that every boss in every rail company should walk the plank without a penny.
We communists should demand that the railways be placed under workers' control immediately. This would release vital funds that could be invested in track, signals, rolling stock, wages and the lowering of fares. Railworkers, under weak union leadership, should occupy their workplaces. After all, the railworkers have more knowledge of the railways than Gerald Corbett and his stinking capitalist ilk ever will.
Those most affected by the cancer of capitalism would be able to afford to travel by rail, and, given these conditions, the railways would become, in every sense, public transport.
Comrade Allen, the April liquidation was, indeed, a "revolutionary liquidation by the working class" (Letters, November 30).
What was the Cheka? An institution of bourgeois counterrevolution? The self-serving gendarmerie of the GPU? No. It was the revolutionary incisor of the Soviet proletariat. Admittedly, I was unaware of the Kronstadt motion (motion or resolution - was it passed?), but then I do not need to cling to the scraps of history in order to validate myself.
Besides, one motion, at one soviet (which could have, at any moment, elected an anarchist majority), can hardly be regarded as "mass popular revulsion". Can it? You talk of "sources" backing up your claims of "30 to 40 anarchists" having been killed in the April liquidation. For my own part, my information - i.e. that no "anarchist known as such", barring Khodunov, died in the April event - came from Year one of the Russian Revolution by Victor Serge. I have no reason to doubt his honesty or accuracy.
Perhaps Makhno's bands were "predominantly poor peasants", but what of it? That does not alter the fact that, in usurping the soviet power, they were directly aiding the kulaks. Perhaps the Cheka did try to assassinate Makhno. What of it? Didn't the anarchists attempt the murder of the entire Moscow central committee? Is it really relevant that Lenin's telegram specified Nabat? Both Nabat and Makhno were simply Ukrainian usurpers of the soviet power.
Comrade Allen, I can assure you, I am not "flustered" (the mental labours required to refute your rambling would hardly cause me to break into a sweat). Further, my Blackshirt/Black Guard comment was simply a play on words, based on one similarity - the Blackshirts smashed Italian communism just as Makhno's Black Guard tried to smash Ukrainian Bolshevism. That is all. And, whilst I do not for a moment think that you yourself misconstrued my words, in retrospect I see how this could be done. Any accusations of fascism or anti-semitism have no basis in fact and were not intended in any case.
On this subject as a whole, it would, perhaps, be advantageous if someone could track down Rakovsky's History of the revolution in the Ukraine. Does anybody know if it has been released by the Russian secret service? Or, indeed, if it has survived at all? Yes, comrade Allen, I am aware of the anarchists killed in the May days (given that my maternal grandfather fought in them, as an FAI militiaman - born in Zaragoza the youngest child of illiterate landless peasants, he was educated by the syndicates and was a member of the FAI's Durriuti-led left wing - it would be strange if I hadn't) but I fail to see your point.
Since I am a mere 17 years old, and with limited means, I hope comrade Allen will forgive me for not having read what is, quite possibly, the most obscure book on the Spanish civil war ever published. Lastly (for I shall not embroil myself in a debate on either Kronstadt or the origins of Stalinism, both having been more than adequately settled more than 60 years ago by Trotsky), I did not "fail to answer your question". I simply answered it with another question: who were these phantom revolutionaries being "summarily executed"?
My review of Billy Elliot seems to have provoked a little controversy (Weekly Worker November 23).
Firstly, comrade Kelsey (Letters, November 30): in pointing out that it is wrong to assume that the film contains an implicitly pro-working class message I was indirectly making the point that the reviews done in various left papers had done exactly that.
The comrade may well argue that good art is not didactic. However, you cannot then go on to assert that the film is "very favourable to the miners". Either you argue that Billy Elliot is didactic, or it is for the miners' strike and therefore not didactic. Something cannot exist both in a state of neutrality and non-neutrality.
The central question I would ask is, who changes whom? It is my opinion that Billy's family is changed not by any act of self-emancipation, but by what can loosely be termed bourgeois influences - especially Billy's ballet teacher. Indeed Billy's father is left with no hope at the end as he descends back into the pits. This is a complete contrast to Billy, who has - yes - been lifted by his community, but has been elevated above them individually and is essentially in the end no longer a part of that community.
There is no hope left for Billy's father except to express himself through Billy. How precisely is this a progressive vision of a class which can rule society? Anybody who has seen the film can hardly suggest that the mining community as presented in Billy Elliot throws up any characters that look halfway near members of a ruling class with the vision and scope to change society.
Why has the film won universal acclaim from the bourgeois press? Essentially not because the critics were all victims of a clever ruse, but because it presents their ideal working class tale. One about the usually hard working, plucky underdog who wins through, leaving the rest behind to go back down the pits in servility. Indeed the reviews it receives from the left itself may well suggest something, since the left as it is currently constituted tends to glorify the working class in its slave state, which is essentially how the class is presented in this film.
Comrades may well argue that this represents an objective truth, and they would be right. But a cultural trend is emerging - not from the conscious activity of our class, but from a bourgeoisie that has rather forgotten what the working class is and needs to remind itself. So in some instances it can feel better by dispensing tea and sympathy in the direction of 'those poor darlings'. As such it is wrong for comrades to welcome such a trend, as most of the left appears to be doing.
We want a working class culture which is positively expressive about its class identity, one that draws the best from its history and celebrates that, not one that reflects life as a slave. This sort of culture will point the way to the construction of a new society, not back down the pits.