I have today posted to the Weekly Worker fighting fund a cheque for ?10, which I would ask be used towards the purchase of a computerised spell-checker.
After ?canvas, canvas, canvas? and ?twighlight? in successive papers, I am wondering what equally ingenious methods Robbie Rix will persuade comrade editor to resort to next in order to impel us readers towards our cheque books!
Humble and poor
Anyone with half a clue about capitalist economics will know that the working class will continue to get clobbered in Labour?s second term. There will be a continued deterioration in public services, with privatisation of them all. This will mean that workers in the public services will continue to see their conditions worsen, so that profiteers can make a killing.
Blair and co will do nothing to lessen inequalities between black and white, and the rich and poor. This will cause even more social unrest and crime. This country will see a serious risk of the breakdown of law and order, even of the bourgeois variety.
The danger is that the forces of autocracy and English imperialism will work with ever more ferocity. A discredited and electorally defeated Tory Party could lead to the rampant rise of the extreme right on the streets. The real issue is winning the people who will be truly disillusioned with New Labour away from other bourgeois alternatives, or the extreme right, to socialism.
The real problem is forming an alternative socialist force. In any other country (other than the US, which currently buys off much of its population with the super profits from being the dominant imperialist power on the planet) this would not be difficult. But because this country has the legacy of having had the world?s worst Communist Party, in terms of poor leadership, poor politics and an inability to distinguish itself from the left of the Labour Party, this task becomes an Everest. Its opportunistic practices still reverberate through the left.
This is not defeatism, but to bring notice that the old way of behaving, doing things and thinking has to be dropped. The people of the left in this country need a revolution of their spirits and their politics. It does mean being humble and admitting their sins, and not going back to being their old selves.
To win people over, you have to be the kind of person that is not of the bourgeois variety - which is selfish, unkind, arrogant, dishonest, materialistic, ambitious personally, lacking in compassion for the suffering of the oppressed. Like successful revolutionaries anywhere, you have to be a true friend of the humble and poor. That means giving yourself to them and not expecting them to do anything for you. Teaching them self-liberation, self-reliance and self-discipline. Selfless service and devotion to the people?s welfare. For nothing other than a fulfilment of humanitarian love.
In Asia, there are movements that have done this and are continuing in this spirit. In China, Korea, Vietnam, India, etc, millions have been transformed from slaves of colonialism to human beings with dignity, grace and self-worth, against almost impossible odds.
Humble and poor
Despite irritation at criticism of his comrades for ?economism?, Neil Davidson gave the Weekly Worker an interview (June 7). Albeit grudgingly, Neil recognises the positive role the paper plays in facilitating communication between the once warring fragments of the left.
Notwithstanding the inevitability of continued differences, we must maintain the unity so painfully put together these past months. The Weekly Worker can help us all hammer out our differences, not motivated by sectarianism, but in order to make our intervention in the class struggle as fruitful as possible. In that spirit I want to address some of my differences with the positions defended by Neil.
He attacks the advocacy of a federal republic as a stages theory. In my opinion, a legitimate criticism of the CPGB?s Revolutionary Democratic Group allies, but not of the CPGB themselves. Neil can?t even exploit the RDG weakness, given his ignorance of Marx?s attitude towards federalism. He seems unaware that Marx specifically advocated it as a solution to the national question in the British Isles. He seems no less ignorant of Lenin?s protracted struggle against Stalin for trying to impose a centralist, rather than federalist, solution to the national question in the workers? republics of the former tsarist empire!
Socialist Workers Party entry into the Scottish Socialist Party ought to strengthen the hands of our internationalist wing. This won?t be the case if they intend to whitewash each other when they go native, echoing blatant nationalist claptrap. Whatever Neil might think, his comrade, Keir McKechnie, could not be more wrong when he welcomed Scottish nationalist reflexes. Keir is guilty of what Trotsky called ?painting nationalism red?. All such reflexes must be consistently challenged by Scottish Marxists. We need to explain to Scottish workers who express their struggles against exploitation and oppression in nationalist terms how misguided this is.
Observing our struggles through tartan-tinted spectacles cannot but set limits on how successful they can be. Our trade unions organise on an all-Britain basis. The strikes on the railways to defend passenger safety would prove infinitely less successful if organised along nationalist lines. Is this not obvious?
Neil?s attitude towards a Socialist Alliance party is that of a Menshevik. He dismisses it on the grounds that he does not think it will happen, saying the situation in Scotland is different because the SSP was already an established fact. In reality, SWP members had to come crawling to the SSP, then caved in to the most degrading terms for membership, solely because, for five years on the trot, they missed one boat after another. They related to the SSP as an established fact simply because in Scotland there were sufficient socialist activists outwith the SWP to proceed without them.
In England and Wales, that is not the case. They bear a much heavier responsibility. They simply must find a political home for all worker activists, not simply those who accept SWP interpretation of democratic centralism and the theory of state capitalism. Neil must be aware that exactly a century ago Lenin was key in drawing socialists from across the tsarist empire into a single party.
No less than Neil, I have anxieties about how to accommodate left reformists and revolutionaries in a single party. But the key problem will be how to democratically select candidates to stand against New Labour. Experience has taught us we can do this. An SA party can accommodate ever growing numbers of refugees from New Labour. As the healthy elements haemorrhage, the new party may become swamped by reformists. If they can tolerate us as a minority faction, fine.
The trade unions will prove the sinews around which the ?SAP? and SSP will grow together into a single party. The need for unity at UK and European elections will reinforce this process. A degree of autonomy will exist inside the Scottish section in much the same way that SSP branches exercise local responsibilities and initiative.
I was interested to read Geoff Dennis?s comments in his letter (Weekly Worker June 7) concerning my recent article on Napster?s demise (May 24). Comrade Dennis is right to point out the fact that I ignored completely a number of rival programs which emulate Napster?s abilities, and believes that I have painted too ?pessimistic? a picture of the situation. I agree that I have in a sense neglected one side of a square (and perhaps was wrong to do so). However, I feel he too easily skates over some important flaws in his argument.
Firstly, regardless of restrictions upon the ability to download MP3s for free, one only has to glance at the statistics to see that a large number of people have stopped doing so anyway. When Napster was first reprimanded in court, millions dropped off the user register in the space of a week - not because they had been forced to, or because Napster offered a less desirable service, but simply because they felt morally bound by the court?s position, or perhaps feared (albeit unfoundedly) punishment for continued use. Of course, the number of users logging on to rival services (such as limewire.com and Napigator) increased simultaneously, but not in sufficient numbers to constitute a total membership switch from one to the other.
Comrade Dennis quite rightly states that, as with sex, drugs, computer games and video tapes, limits imposed upon us by capitalism are easily broken or avoided, often with little consequence. Nevertheless, millions have stopped downloading ?illegal? MP3s of their own accord, and have even begun to side with the music industry?s position. This, I feel, is an extremely important point, central to any argument. After all, the state of consumer consciousness is pivotal to the question of whether the music industry or the consumer will gain the upper hand.
Secondly, I feel dubious about comrade Dennis?s rather ultra-optimistic views concerning the more technical questions raised. He states that Windows 98 ?does everything everyone needs?, and uses that as a basis upon which to predict future Microsoft flops, and ultimately their demise. You are right that Windows 98 is a very comprehensive operating system, comrade, but you might have argued that Windows 3.1 did everything everyone needed five years ago, you would be hard pressed to find a piece of software on the shelves today which does not require its modern successor in order to run properly.
Unfortunately, it is not the consumer but the capitalist who dictates what is ?necessary? in our society, and I don?t think this relationship seems likely to change in the near future. ?The development of the industrial proletariat is conditioned by the development of the industrial bourgeoisie?, as one guy said. Microsoft is still head of the Monopoly board - for the most part unscathed by the efforts of better value rivals, such as the operating system Linux.
Unfortunately, as with computer game CDs (many of which now carry a code preventing modern CD-writers from copying them), it might only be a matter of time before capital squeezes the majority of rebels from the system, leaving us stalwart dissenters to pursue another (undoubtedly less user-friendly) line of fire.
Like you, comrade, I reckon ?15 for aesthetics and a free conscience is extortionate (I wouldn?t pay 2p for a picture of Destiny?s Child anyway), but although I?ll be using CD writers in the future at least in part, it will be whilst concurrently foreseeing the distinct possibility that our freedom to do so may prove to be short-lived. Then again, I guess I?m just a pessimist.