I am writing in solidarity with those that are suffering as a result of the US/UK sanctions on Iraq. As they bite deeper into the everyday lives of Iraqi citizens, housing, health and education deteriorate ever more.
The problem is being exacerbated by the almost daily bombing of Iraq and this has included residential areas, hospitals and school: ie, non-military targets.
I for one am sickened at the thought that Blair and Bush junior are following in the footsteps of Madeline Albright, Clinton, John Major and Bush senior, who think that it is within their right to kill 5,000 children a month. As Albright most chillingly said, ?The price is worth it.? But to whom is the price ?worth it?? For the Americans, to get their hands on Iraqi oil.
This year?s Durham Miners? Gala continued to attract thousands from across the north east of England and beyond (a pipe band from the United Mineworker Union of Australia attended and caused a few chuckles when heckling assorted local Labour Party dignitaries: not over their anti-trades union policies, but England?s performance in the first test!). Despite heavy rain it was a cheery occasion.
The event, complete with funfairs and stalls, is impressive and gives some glimpse of the power workers have collectively. However, it was clear that this was an occasion that was taking on the appearance of being another touristic occasion rather than a show of force by the working class. This is of course just as the Labour and trade union bureaucrats want it.
CPGBers at the event sold papers and distributed leaflets in good number, as did comrades from the SWP, SP and SLP. That many former miners and people attracted to the event still see it as political is reason enough for us to concentrate our intervention next year in maybe a more organised fashion.
I study in the Dunraven in Streatham. Dunraven has been awarded the title of the most outstanding secondary mixed school in south London by the Evening Standard and Ofsted.
On the very same day as the elections (June 6) almost all 1,000 pupils voted in simulated elections. The Labour Party won most of the votes. The interesting thing was that the Socialist Alliance got their best result in England (7.4%). The socialists got three times more votes in our school than in our borough (Lambeth)!
Shift to left
Some comrades felt badly because Lambeth Socialist Alliance did not do so well in the elections. However, if we examine the results in the three Lambeth constituencies we can see a shift to the left.
Labour lost 6.1% in Dulwich-West Norwood, 5.9% in Streatham and 4.7% in Vauxhall. Everywhere the Conservatives received even less votes than in 1997. In terms of votes Labour lost between 7,000 and 5,000. Most of the Lambeth electors did not vote in a silent protest against the establishment. The turnout was 11% less than last time. The parties that advanced were all situated to the ?left? of Labour. The Liberals, despite their bourgeois base appeared to defend state education and the NHS, and they obtained between four and five percent.
In 1997 in Streatham and Dulwich-West Norwood no small left party stood. This time the Greens achieved 4.4% and 5.0% and the SA 2.5% and 2.2%, respectively. In Vauxhall the Greens doubled their percentage from 2.2% (1997), the SA got 2.6% and the ?pagan communists? 0.3%. In 1997 the Socialist Labour Party got 2.5%.
The SA might have had a better election result due to its hard work. But the important thing is that it stood for the first time and has now set up a branch organisation. It is important to realise that, not only in Lambeth, the first signs of class opposition to Blair are not producing a massive turn to socialism, but are taking strange twists. For the moment apathy and an increase in support for ?left? bourgeois parties (liberals and greens) are the recipients of this discontent.
We need to address such milieus and show how the Greens could not defend working class interests. If the working class starts to move the shift would then be channelled towards organised class politics.
Shift to left
Shift to left
In your table of all the results of the left in the UK you excluded the Third World Tax Free Party. Its candidate, Martin Boyd ?Mars?, stood in Vauxhall and achieved 107 (0.3 %).
He put up a lot of posters demanding a proletarian communist revolution, although he also raised some crazy ideas like proposing the execution of Blair, neo-paganism and the suppression of all christian churches. He achieved more votes than the 0.2% that Socialist Party obtained in Vauxhall in the 1997 elections.
I don?t know why the Workers Revolutionary Party or other sects could be included in your list but not Mars. Perhaps the SA should call for united front actions with him.
Frank Worth misses the main feature of my letter (Weekly Worker July 5).
The issue is one of being part of the class and being in a position to argue against reactionary positions. Communists should be active throughout the working class, in trades unions, community groups, campaigning organisations. We do not stand aside from the class. To my mind, where such protests occur we have a duty to intervene and take a clear position.
The Paulsgrove demonstrations in Portsmouth of last year were well organised by workers themselves on the basis of convicted schedule one offenders continually dumped on their estate. They furthermore took on a negotiating role with the council.
Surely communists active in such a situation could use it to expose the role of local authorities, funding for services, etc. Local councils care little for people in such areas; they are used as dumping grounds: all manner of people with multiple social problems, thus alienating the individuals - whether it be someone with mental illness, an asylum-seeker or a convicted schedule one offender - and further alienating the community in which they are placed.
Of course these demonstrations attract the unsavoury - often abusers themselves, using the opportunity as a cover for declaring their ?normality?. However, who said politics was easy? You do not sideline such people by leaving them unchallenged, or for that matter treating the issue as one that is only fit for opportunist official politicians and fascists with their reactionary agenda.
As for paedophiles, of course this is a broad and rather unscientific term and not really the main content of my letter. Rather it was meant to challenge the mirror image liberal position adopted by many on the left - including, alas, in this case, the Weekly Worker.
For some time now I have read and reread every issue of the Weekly Worker, giving it the attention so much effort deserves. However, after reading all the articles and letters recently regurgitating the post mortem on the election results I am bound to admit I feel an affinity with the small boy in the fable who pointed out that the emperor had no clothes.
How come the BNP raised 16%-odd of the vote without a tenth of the effort of the Socialist Alliance? Can it be that these votes just fell to the BNP because they raised an issue that was important to voters? An issue that has never been addressed by yourselves or any of your constituent parts.
Fortunately, my thought processes have, for many years, been free of any straightjacket of a party or sect. So much so that I recognise the ?sting in the tail? of most articles. Eg, when Mike Marqusee tells me that if I want to join his (?) Socialist Alliance then I should conduct myself in certain ways, I ask who decides what is racist, homophobic or (even wider) other discriminatory forms of behaviour (July 12).
Constructively I say this as most problems stem from this new form of McCarthyism, in that the effect of PC is to stifle discussion and understanding, by implying there is only one way of thinking. Somehow I doubt very much if the troops are not comparing one or two percent against the 16% odd of the BNP. But then, taking PC into account, you will never know, will you?
It is idealism that blinds you to reality of who and what is the working class. As long as you are stuck with your ?principles? of unlimited immigration, let all come, this self ghettoisation will sink you, as surely as the KPD in the 1930s were sunk by their insistence on blaming returning soldiers for the 1918-1932 debacle. Ah well, plus ?a change, plus c?est la m?me chose. Except that millions paid in blood for such errors.
Idealists approach life in the terms they have risen above, rather than those of the life they fall short of. Can it be that this is the reason why the immigration concerns of the indigenous working class have been consistently ignored in the pages of your journal and in those of the commercial press? Also are all your big guns afraid to tackle the subject?
I very much liked Michael Malkin?s article on China (Weekly Worker July 2). But that won?t stop me drawing attention to the fact that it perpetuated a popular misconception, one I was surprised to find Michael repeat.
In an uncharacteristically undialectical passage, Michael wrote: ?The CPC in 1949 is depicted [by itself - TD], bizarrely, not as the vanguard party of a revolutionary mass of proletarians and peasants, liberating themselves from the yoke of oppression and exploitation, but as ?the representatives of China?s advanced productive forces at its very inception?.?
It is clear from this contraposition that Michael is wedded to a narrow technological definition of productive forces. In History and class consciousness (London 1983, p240), Luk?cs addressed this false dichotomy, one beloved of vulgar deterministic Marxists - Kautsky, for example. The killer quotation dredged up by Luk?cs comes from The poverty of philosophy:
?Of all the instruments of production, the greatest productive power is the revolutionary class itself. The organisation of revolutionary elements as a class supposes the existence of all the productive forces which could be engendered in the bosom of the old society.?
If the proletariat is identified (as Marx clearly identified it) as the most important force (or instrument or power) of production, then the CPC depiction of a genuine Chinese Communist Party (which it has not been since the 1920s) would prove problematic only in so far as it is nationalistically exclusive: in the Communist manifesto, Marx insists that genuine communists ?bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality?.
If the CPC definition of a communist party is not quite as false as Michael would have us believe (provided Marx?s broad definition of productive forces is kept in mind), the alternative definition provided by Michael is itself not entirely unproblematic.
The CPC in 1949 was not a communist party in the Leninist sense of that term. On that we are as one. But a Leninist party would not exactly have been ?the vanguard party of a revolutionary mass of proletarians and peasants, liberating themselves from the yoke of oppression and exploitation?. I have but one quibble with this definition: placing the peasantry and the proletariat on a par with one another. In actual fact, as far as Lenin was concerned, the peasantry was the potentially revolutionary ?ally? of the Russian proletariat, one that had to be won to proletarian hegemony - if the revolution was to succeed. The same applied to the Chinese revolution in the late 1920s. That revolution was tragically strangled thanks to Stalin?s failure to appreciate the relationship between these two very unequal oppressed classes.
It is important for Marxists to insist upon not merely the distinction between these classes, but also the priority of one over the other. It is the role the proletariat has in economic production (a role not given to the peasantry) that gives it the ability to consciously recreate society from top to bottom, on a free and equal basis for all, where mankind can become the subject, not object, of history.
When Marx identified the revolutionary class as the most important force of production, he was quite unambiguous in singling out the proletariat. By contrast, his characterisation of its ally could hardly have been less flattering. In the Communist manifesto, Marx listed the peasantry along with other intermediate classes, assessing them all thus:
?[They] fight against the bourgeoisie to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history. If by chance they are revolutionary, they are so only in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat; they thus defend not their present, but their future interests; they desert their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat.?
Fight for reforms
Peter Manson?s report of the Republican Communist Network fringe meeting at this year?s ?Marxism? was generally accurate (Weekly Worker July 12). However, Peter has me arguing that, ?In the current period, where there is no revolutionary situation, the distinction between revolutionaries and reformists was largely an artificial one in terms of political actions. Revolutionary communists have always been the best fighters for reforms, but the question is, which reforms and how we fight for them.?
This is too ambiguous and not what I wanted to get across. My point was that a revolutionary programme is not simply one long siren blast for the insurrection. Much of its operative content is indeed reforms - ie, measures that theoretically do not go beyond the boundaries of capitalist society. And, yes, reformists can fight alongside us for this programme - indeed, if we don?t engage masses of workers who may continue to have reformist illusions, the programme remains a dead letter. It is a programme for mass action after all, not a Talmudic document for convinced communists.
However, through his misreading of my remarks, Peter somewhat blurs the line between reform and revolution - the fundamental division in the workers? movement. Even outside of revolutionary situations, the distinction between reformists and revolutionaries is not an ?artificial? one. We fight for reforms as part of a programme that culminates in revolution. This colours the methods we use and the type of reforms we fight for, their true content. Thus we do not share the same method as the reformists, even as we may be fighting alongside them for the same reforms.
The distinction is an important one.
Fight for reforms
Fight for reforms
In the interest of balance, I would like to reply to the Weekly Worker on the issue of the Australian ?Socialist Alliance? (July 12). You promote the Socialist Alliance, without any form of criticism, except for the International Socialist Organisation.
My first point is that you should remember that the Democratic Socialist Party has cultivated a reputation on the left for its sectarian adventures. From its shady deals with the HDP (Croatian Movement for Statehood), a group linked to the Ustasha fascists, the destruction of the Nuclear Disarmament Party and its cynical use of community campaigns as recruitment drives. It is because of this that many on the left distrust the DSP.
On the issue of the Socialist Alliance, it is in reality a new political party rather than an ?alliance?, and its programme is in my opinion not particularly socialist. It is hardly formed in a spirit of unity: it is really a party formed in a private meeting between the ISO and the DSP. If it was really a party of ?left unity? it would have to include large and important groups on the left such as the Communist Party of Australia and the Progressive Labor Party.
I should also point out Marcus Larsen?s criticism of the CWI group Socialist Party?s attitude to the alliance is an act of deliberate sectarianism. It is a statement made without any reading of their statements on the issue.
For the Australian left, it is time to get a realistic form of left unity, not the form which the ?Socialist Alliance? produces.
In defending the euro, comrade Sherratt puts forward some strange, if not dangerous ideas (Weekly Worker July 12).
He envisages a Europe in which all countries struggle to remain competitive by cutting labour costs and driving living standards down. This, he says, would ?horrify? the reformists, yet is a good sign for ?advanced proletarians?, since it would increase the revolutionary nature of the European working class.
This is nonsense. A ruling class offensive does not always produce an automatic working class rebellion. If it did, would it not be logical for socialists to support the advancement of the European far right?