In the August 23 Weekly Worker the various letters written from an anarchist perspective demonstrated that all tendencies are aware that police infiltration is a problem without a neat solution.
The Russian Social Democratic and Labour Party was born into illegality and revolutionary groups lasted only a few months at most because of police infiltration. Lenin?s solution was to organise a cell-based membership that was politically, financially and actively committed. It was secretly organised, but with an open press edited abroad. This was the best compromise between security and democracy that could be achieved in the circumstances. Illegal, but free.
However, his preferred model was for an open, legal, public organisation with a committed mass membership that could debate issues thoroughly and vote democratically as to the course of action to be followed. This does indeed mean that the outvoted minority are bound by the majority view and must subordinate themselves for the greater good, but there was no assumption that the present majority would remain the majority and the minority was entitled to continue campaigning to become the majority.
This approach had three advantages so far as security was concerned. Firstly, debate would develop the comrades politically and make them less inclined to follow wild ideas. Secondly, it would help to expose the irresponsibility of provocateurs and wilder elements and, lastly, police agents would be forced to carry out party tasks and serve the interests of the class rather than their masters.
Democracy accepts that people do not always agree. Further it does not see disagreement as an insurmountable difficulty. Rather controversy is a method of getting to a better solution in the long run. Contrast this to anarchism?s view of ?self-management?: not centralised, but federal, emphasising not the need for disciplined unity in action, but rather the individualistic concerns of the various elements - with the concomitant risk of encouraging narrow interests against universal ones; built exclusively from the bottom up, as if the most underprivileged, desperate sections of society actually had all the answers.
There is no social reciprocity in this formulation, no concern for theory. Anarchists do not try to build unity around the majority, but expect a revolutionary elite, taught principally by harsh experience, to force the majority into action. Hence Mark Fischer?s comparison of anarchists to Blanquists. In the case of the Wombles, the fact that they have no membership means they have no structure of responsibility or accountability. In the event of disagreement anarchists simply split and go their own way. (I know that the socialist record in this respect is not good, but at least we are actively trying to overcome our sectarian traditions and unite around the Socialist Alliance. Democracy may be non-specific, but that is because it requires a struggle to make it real.)
All this leads to a situation where provocateurs have considerable room for manoeuvre within and around anarchism. In Genoa, if the stories I am hearing are true, then the police simply dressed up some of their number (or rightwing friends) in anarchist style and took advantage of the perceived image of anarchism to make their mischief. No contact with anarchists, living or dead, was necessary. This is easily done because anarchists are in effect small groups of people who think alike; some of whom, like the black bloc, really do believe that street violence is a way forward - even in a non-revolutionary period and whatever the vast majority of people on the demonstration might want.
Yes, this ups the ante and gets a lot of publicity, but you need to consider how it can be of use to the bourgeoisie, how rapidly it can alienate opinion and, not least, whether the working class requires martyrs in order to come to power. It is all very well condemning the state for its brutality, but we are discussing our own strategy and tactics. Even though we must act in situations that are not of our own choosing, we must still take responsibility for our own actions.
Finally I cannot resist taking up the question of Bolshevism and democracy, as raised by Iain McKay. The Bolshevik programme was democratic. It is true that under the impact of the White terror democracy collapsed and in the subsequent chaos the Bolsheviks had no real answer to Russia?s problems, but then neither did anyone else. If you read our paper you will find that we do not glory in the revolution?s collapse, but we do think the Bolsheviks were right to try and hang on to power in the hope of the revolution spreading, which offered the only real hope of a civilised outcome.
At that time communists of all persuasions agreed that socialism required the worldwide overthrow of capitalism, that no form of national socialism was sustainable. The Russian Revolution does not prove that democratic centralism cannot work. Just that it cannot succeed where the working class is in a small minority and isolated from the rest of the world.
Have you people taken complete leave of your senses, publishing an article like that of Ian Donovan (Weekly Worker August 30)? Clearly the past decade of western attacks by proxy on Yugoslavia has meant nothing has been learnt, as you openly support the latest one. It also poses the most serious possible questions of where the Weekly Worker stands.
The objective is the creation of the World War II territory of Orhidia, created by Hitler and Mussolini as part of their Greater Albania, as a means of controlling the region. This was the segment of Yugoslav Macedonia assigned to Mussolini?s Greater Albania protectorate, in order to give some territory to Mussolini.
Then as now, the objective of the rebels is the ruthless ethnic cleansing of the orthodox and Slav-speaking population in order to create the territory, and we can be certain this is what will happen if the rebels are left in control. Also of course, they are entirely a front organisation for the Americans, having invaded from Kosovo, but even more so, their inner core are entirely descended from the Nazi collaborators and members of the Skanderbeg SS division, taken over as assets at the end of the last war.
I invite your supposedly leftwing newspaper to provide an explanation of its actions in publishing such an article giving open support to the latest covert operation of the US.
Yours (I won?t say fraternally),
In his new booklet, Jack Conrad calls on the SA to adopt a version of the Bolsheviks? minimum-maximum programme. I have some questions.
Firstly, in what sense are the demands contained in the proposed minimum programme ?minimum?? Would Jack propose that SA election manifestos contain more or less modest demands than those that find their way into the minimum programme? The priority pledges are a subset of the manifesto commitments. How could the SA stand down in favour of the likes of Diane Abbot unless she stands on the entire minimum programme, rather than the more modest priority pledges?
Implicit in the idea of minimum demands is our unwillingness to countenance anything less. So how should an SA MP vote on a bill to increase the minimum wage to a level higher than the status quo but less than our agreed minimum demand figure? Given such a stark choice, it would be ultra-left for the SA fraction to withhold their votes for even the most modest increase. Does Jack agree?
In chapter 9, Jack defends the Bolsheviks? min-max approach against an implicit criticism contained in the following Comintern statement: ?The communist parties do not put forward minimum programmes which could serve to strengthen and improve the tottering foundations of capitalism. The communists? main aim is to destroy the capitalist system. But in order to achieve their aim the communist parties must put forward demands expressing the immediate needs of the working class. The communists must organise mass campaigns to fight for these demands, regardless of whether they are compatible with the continuation of the capitalist system. The communist parties should be concerned not with the viability and competitive capacity of capitalist industry or the stability of the capitalist economy, but with proletarian poverty, which cannot and must not be endured any longer ....
?In place of the minimum programme of centrism and reformists, the Communist International offers a struggle for the concrete demands of the proletariat which, in their totality, challenge the power of the bourgeoisie, organise the proletariat and mark out the different stages of the struggle for its dictatorship.?
If Jack is right that the Bolshevik programme was exempt from this criticism, then why was this not spelt out explicitly? Jack does not seem to realise that the Bolshevik minimum programme was to be implemented by a revolutionary government brought to power by a successful popular insurrection, one that would primarily benefit not the working class or peasantry, but the bourgeoisie!
In Two tactics, Lenin writes the following: ?In countries like Russia, the working class suffers not so much from capitalism as from the insufficient development of capitalism. The working class is therefore decidedly interested in the broadest, freest and most rapid development of capitalism. The removal of all the remnants of the old order which are hampering the broad, free and rapid development of capitalism is of decided advantage to the working class.?
Clearly the Bolshevik programme would not have passed the Comintern test - not because it was not revolutionary, but because the tasks the Russian Revolution was supposed to address (according to Lenin prior to the collapse of tsarism) were vastly different to those we face in Britain today, or the parties of the Comintern faced in the early 1920s.
In my opinion there is little that separates Jack and me when it comes to the type of programme the SA needs. It is not substance but terminology that separates us. If we can agree on the approach defended above by the Comintern, we are adopting a transitional approach. Fight for a more generous democracy under capitalism by all means. I support such a fight. But understand that demands for elected officials to be subject to recall, and to be paid no more than the average worker?s wage are transitional: ie, they are incompatible with capitalist stability.
The Communist Party of Great Britain ?... supports the right of nations to self-determination. In Britain today this means the struggle for Irish freedom should be given full support by the British working class.? What about Scotland and Wales?
The Communist Party of Great Britain?s states: ?Marxism-Leninism is powerful because it is true. Communists relate theory to practice. We are materialists; we hold that ideas are determined by social reality and not the other way around.? This is true and hopefully the renewed Marxist-Leninist movement of the 21st century will play a vital role in ensuring a livable future for all, and subordinating the extraordinary productive capacities developed by capitalism to truly human needs and purposes, and also securing a sustainable relationship with the natural world.
But for this to happen ... what next? How to overcome that big factor related to the crisis of socialism and Marxism-Leninism: that is, a crisis of its inherited programmes, which seems to be due to the persistent attachment of many Marxists to inadequate Leninist, Maoist and Trotskyist formulas?
Given the new conditions we face today, does the Marxist-Leninist theoretical framework need updating to answer new problems placed by a changing national and international situation? Do we need a Marxist-Leninist renewal? What is the route to it? Do we need a persistent reconstruction of the political theory based on the study of the present social, economic, cultural and political situation of each country and of the world?
Ian Donovan?s article, criticising aspects of the CPGB view of multiculturalism - most specifically the parts which are closest to those of Red Action/Anti-Fascist Action - will hopefully open up a very important and worthwhile debate on this subject
Although I think Ian makes a few good points in relation to RA - eg, the dangers of adapting to prejudices in the working class - he seems to misunderstand what multiculturalism is. It is predicated on the notion of discrete cultures, not any kind of merging of cultures as he himself, rightly in my view, favours.
Multiculturalism is all about managing difference in the context of capitalist society. Since contemporary ?difference? is a reflection of the inability of capitalism to make the world one and bring about equality, ?difference? is actually a reactionary notion itself.
Ian seems to fail to appreciate that ?respect for difference? which, superficially, appears a leftwing position, is actually a crucial part of contemporary bourgeois ideology. This, not old-fashioned racism, is now dominant. While ordinary people who embrace this view might do so out of concern for oppressed people, the same is no doubt true in relation to imperialist intervention these days - ?humanitarian imperialism?, for instance. This only makes it more important to show how such sentiments, however well-meaning, are especially dangerous and have thoroughly reactionary consequences.
Here in New Zealand, we have the most politically correct race relations in the world. Anti-racism is the official ideology. It both reflects and manages the social fragmentation caused by the extreme market reforms of the 80s/early 90s and the exhaustion of the old social movements and struggles for emancipation. At the same time it forces people into different identity groups - partly through ideological pressure and partly because this is the only way people can get resourced. Thus it alibis the scarcity of social resources caused by the market and pits people against each other along racialised lines in struggles for such limited resources as are available. It also makes the middle and upper classes more ethnically diverse, and therefore stronger, while driving fresh divisions into the working class, making us weaker.
Lastly, I agree totally with the three slogans at the end of Ian?s article. I would suggest, however, that the logical corollary of these slogans is a hard-hitting critique of multiculturalism as the dominant form of bourgeois ideology today - the one most suited to contemporary capitalist society.
Well, well, well. It appears that the method of rewriting history has not been buried in the Stalinist past of the CPGB, as I had previously assumed. Its recent coverage of events in Genoa show that this tradition is alive and well. Criticising the anarchists and their tactics is one thing - but please at least give an honest coverage and do not distort the facts.
Condemning the protestors and not the bourgeois state that carried out the mass repression is not the way to relate to the radical youth in the anti-capitalist movement. If this is what is displayed to them as ?Bolshevism?, then it is indeed little wonder that they find anarchism more attractive. If the left fails to get its act together then once again revolutionary opportunities will pass us by.
One way of relating to the movement would at least be to give an honest description of anarchism and what it is - rather than the sneering, contemptuous distortions and half truths you choose to use, along with taking quotes from Bakunin out of context, as comrade Becker did at your summer school. Your own policies must indeed be weak if you must resort to such disingenuous tactics.
I cannot help feeling, however, that this contempt you show the anarchists must be partly due to your pathetic love affair with bourgeois ?democracy?. I was recently told by comrade Bridge at the summer school that I show ?contempt? for the democratic gains the working class have gained over the years - such as universal suffrage. Quite the contrary. As I pointed out, such gains were made by the kind of direct action that the CPGB condemns - and not by the useless posturing before the altar of parliament that you choose to do.
Using your method, logically comrade McKay?s caricature of your position is quite accurate. After all, Blair has been ?democratically? elected, has he not? Not only that, but he is also part of the organised working class, as Labour is still a bourgeois workers? party after all! In fact, when the democratically elected G8 leaders came together for a peaceful summit, a peaceful protest would have been the democratic norm. Instead it was disrupted by those nasty anarchists in the black bloc who ruined the week for everybody! Why does the CPGB not take their position to its logical conclusion and openly side with the bourgeois state? You do indeed put the Daily Mail to shame!
Wake up, for god?s sake! It does not take a genius to understand the reasons why radical youth are more impressed by anarchism than your talk of an abstract ?democracy?, separate from any class analysis. Parliament is an organ of bourgeois rule: it is an instrument of their class and not ours. Yet one would not think this if they listen to the CPGB, who seek to promote among the radical youth illusions in these decrepit institutions.