Pure control

It is not really surprising that the Socialist Alliance and its organ grinder, the Socialist Workers Party, look so pathetically inadequate to those of us desperately wanting to see a mass, revolutionary socialist, working class party.

The SWP cannot even commit itself to be a socialist party in its manifesto Where we stand. It calls for a working class state to “seize control” of wealth, and to plan its production. It does not even talk about the means of producing and distributing that wealth and yet claims to be Marxist! This is a recipe for nothing more than state capitalism - a state ‘controlling’ capitalism.

A real socialist party would commit itself to the common ownership of the means of production and distribution by the working class and in the interest of the working class. Production would only take place to meet democratically determined need, and not to make a profit for anyone.

It would make clear we want the complete abolition of capitalist commodity production, not its nationalisation, even under a working class state. The history of the Soviet Union shows where that leads. As neither the SWP nor the Socialist Alliance advocate or even understand this, why bother with them?

Pure control
Pure control

Long way

The May 24 Connolly memorial march in London was disappointingly small, despite the fact that Blair has postponed elections to the Northern Ireland assembly … until David Trimble looks more likely to keep his position as first minister. An improbable scenario at present. Blair’s other constitutional plank, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, is losing ground too. Sinn Féin has realistic prospects of becoming the largest catholic-Irish party in the north.

After the march a speaker from the Wolfe Tone Society addressed us. He said that in his view the republican movement had become complacent. It had neglected grassroots activities but was now campaigning hard to reactivate public support in Britain.

They have a long way to go. There was no sign of a trade union banner and not a single Trotskyist group turned up. Apart from myself the left was represented by those stalwarts of democratic principle, the New Communist Party and Socialist Labour Party.

Labour MP John McDonnell - a former Militant sympathiser - then spoke. He said that in such meetings we would hear words not used in the bourgeois media: namely ‘capitalism’, ‘class’, ‘imperialism’ and ‘democracy’. However, when it came to ‘class’, he made no reference to the working class or socialism. The talk was all of the ‘people’s struggles’.

This is no quibble. While I consider that democracy is the bedrock of socialist political organisation, for McDonnell it seems to float free of any form of underlying social reality. For example, for him it is sufficient to tell the British-Irish that they will have a voice in a free Ireland through “democracy”. But capitalist democracies have not got a good record of protecting majorities, let alone permanent minorities, and the protestant minority may not feel very reassured.

Sinn Féin - it may be recalled - has no programme that can reassure the British-Irish minority that they will not suffer a savage reversal of the poles of oppression. That is why Irish unification requires consistent democracy and the leadership of the working class. Only that way - the class way - can unification be voluntary, durable and overcome all the old antagonisms and hatreds.

Long way
Long way

Fight within EU

I have been shocked and disappointed by the position adopted by some Marxist groups in relation to the EU. They’re falling straight into the hands of the more extreme reactionary elements of the bourgeoisie. The CPGB has been a welcome break from this.

Who on the left can argue against the European Union being progressive, the unification of the old nations of Europe? Do we pretend that the bourgeoisie are doing this because they are nice, and that they somehow wish to unite the workers of Europe? No. We know they’re doing this so they can better compete with the colossal imperialism of the USA’s ruling class and to help in their other parasitic desires.

Do we take the same opinion when we consider the bourgeoisie smashing the old feudal customs, dethroning the church, opening up science to humanity? Yes - they were doing it for their own class interests, but who can deny it was progressive? Maybe we should consider what the position of Marxists would be if they lived in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Would they have stood shoulder to shoulder with the church, hurling anti-science slogans, while the bourgeois scientists proved all of the religious nonsense wrong? Would they have stood shoulder to shoulder with the old feudal lords, while the bourgeoisie pressed ahead with their revolution? No, they would be marching forwards with the bourgeoisie, leaving the feudalists and the church in the rubbish bin of history.

How does this translate to today? The proletariat have no need for nation-states, just as we have no need for feudalistic nonsense. If the bourgeoisie find the old nation-states of Europe to be a hindrance to their parasitic desires, so be it! Surely we can’t stand shoulder to shoulder with the chauvinists and others on the hard, reactionary bourgeois wing, while their progressive elements march up along the road ahead and leave us behind.

The proletariat must march forward along that road with the bourgeoisie, all the while striking them and trying to trip them, so they fall and get left behind with only the proletariat remaining to march forwards. We must be battling them up close - not far away from within the history bin with the forces of chauvinist reaction, shouting ‘No to the EU!’ Hanging on to old nation-states is nothing but dated, chauvinistic reaction.

The EU is here and it is here to stay: we need to face up to that. How can we challenge the policy of the money-bags with an anti-EU and ‘let’s pretend it doesn’t exist’ mentality? We can’t - we need to become part of the EU and fight for democracy, for better living conditions for the workers and for our revolution from within it.

Fight within EU
Fight within EU

Brave new 'international'

PFI is associated with privatisation. MFI is associated with furniture. LFI is the name chosen by small international sects to claim that they are the nucleus for the formation of a world party of the socialist revolution.

In April 1998 the Internationalist Group (dissident Spartacists) founded the first LFI: League for the Fourth International. Five Aprils later another LFI was proclaimed: League for the Fifth International. The last one is the fifth name which has been adopted by an English group, previously known as the Left Fraction (International Socialists) and later Workers Power, the MRCI and the League for a Revolutionary Communist International (LRCI).

The first and the second LFI have many things in common. Both believe or believed that they were the only revolutionary organisations on the planet. Even organisations that could share with them 99% of their positions were characterised at best as “centrists”.

The two LFIs claim to have ‘sections’ in France, Germany and the Ukraine, although the one centred in New York also claims to have ‘sections’ in the USA, Mexico, Brazil and the Netherlands, while the other, centred in London, claims to have ‘sections’ in Britain, Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Ireland and New Zealand.

The new LFI is even more pretentious than the first one. The first LFI, like tens of other self-proclaimed Trotskyist international tendencies, believes that it is possible to recover the banner of the Fourth International set up by Trotsky in 1938. The second LFI believed that all of them are rubbish and that it is not worth fighting to retake the old flag.

They think that they could attract the masses, being the only true ‘Fifth International’. This proto-Fifth International does not have any party or even small group with experience of leading a single working class strike or even a general election campaign. It does not have even one cell in any factory in the entire planet.

The Fifth International campaign was launched after secret discussions involving only a few dozen individuals who were members of the LRCI. The way in which most of us heard about the LFI was by reading Workers Power, which only sells 500 copies a month.

In its May edition it is said that for six days 39 delegates met near Berlin and decided to organise the creation of a Fifth International. A careful reader will note that there were no delegates representing half of the sections that the LFI still claims as its members on its website. In the meantime, the LFI sounds like an acronym for the League of Fewer Individuals.

Brave new 'international'
Brave new 'international'

Anarcho answers

Recent months have seen some of the largest mass demonstrations against war in the history of this country. However very little, from our point of view, was achieved, the war still took place as planned (indeed government PR successfully ‘used’ the demos as ‘evidence’ of the superiority of the capitalist system welcoming its citizens demonstrating they had the right to advocate an opposing point of view).

But surely the real tragedy is that those who organised and participated in the marches not only appear to have learned anything from history, but incredibly have still learned nothing from these experiences! More recently, the horrors exhumed from Saddam’s extensive ‘killing fields’ confound the thinking of those who fail to approach the war issue from a class perspective.

Jack Conrad refers to the three “mega-demonstrations” and reports that pre-war opinion polls showed the anti-war party had a slim majority in the country (Weekly Worker May 8). However, “despite two record backbench revolts, Blair and the war party commanded a thumping majority in the House of Commons. In short, there existed a yawning democratic deficit and a palpable crisis of representation.” The dangerous and deep implication of this statement is, make bourgeois parliament ‘more representative’. Then war could be averted! Is this really what Jack Conrad’s years of experience in the revolutionary movement have led him to believe? I’m sure not!

Governments have little to fear from ‘peaceful’ marches through empty city streets. In the past, millions have signed petitions and written to their MPs on countless issues - rarely to meaningful effect. Marches and petitions are easily ignored by the politicians - especially when ‘guest speakers’ at these demos are there to enhance their electoral possibilities.

An effective campaign against imperialist war necessitates workers realising ‘the real enemy is at home’, not because that enemy is personified in the House of Commons, but because he or she represents the industrial power and wealth of the class with everything to gain from the conquest of oil-rich Iraq (or whichever country is next to be invaded to extend imperialistic power).

The true enemies can only be effectively tackled by a strongly organised working class: not sacrificing its leisure time, marching and shouting to empty buildings in city streets - rather refusing to make and load the weapons, denying the provisions and transport for the military aggressors. One wonders how many of today’s militants are familiar with the refusal of London dockers, in 1920, to load the merchant ship, the ‘Jolly George’ with munitions, to be used by the Poles against the newly established Russian soviets ... followed by the threat of a general strike, organised by the TUC and Labour Party, causing Lloyd George to drop his plans for British military intervention.

This is the area of work where revolutionaries need to devote their energies, not in creating a political party with which to ‘capture’ parliament - an institution created by the bourgeois order as an instrument of rule. Parliament will have no relevance in a post-capitalist society. This problem seemed to me encapsulated in a discussion with a member of the Stop the War Coalition distributing leaflets at Bethnal Green tube station the day before the last big demo. It was emphasised that the coalition had to be broad. Industrial action could drive large numbers away from “the mass anti-war movement we are building”.

We have so far failed to spread an understanding of the link between our struggles here in Britain and the struggle against imperialism elsewhere. Syndicalist unions in continental Europe are very different from the stifling trade unions here. They are participatory and use direct action to win real improvements in the life of their members. This encourages workers’ confidence and allows them to take action on issues the TUC would only spout platitudes about.

The failure of the anti-war movement shows the limitations of spontaneity. The lack of action from trade unions here contrasts with the strikes that happened in Italy and Spain. More than a million Italian workers struck, in a general strike called by the self-managed base unions. Trains carrying war materials were blockaded. In Spain, even the reformist UGT called a two-hour strike, while syndicalist unions like the CNT went out for a day. In Britain, we seem able to produce mass demos, like May Day, but we have never managed to build a movement capable of applying rank and file libertarian activities all year round.

Countries like Spain and Italy have a strong tradition in anti-parliamentary action and organising - an important point Jack Conrad misses (Weekly Worker May 15). It is important not to overstate the influence, power and effectiveness of these bodies, but even if only in embryo these are the kinds of bodies that are required to provide a practical alternative to show another world is possible - an alternative that no government could ignore - far more effective than marching and shouting slogans in deserted streets.

Of course it is easy to pontificate from an armchair about these important matters. However, the reason revolutionaries have failed to build effective rank and file movements capable not only of stopping wars, but of laying the foundations for a new society is that political parties, per se. share one characteristic in common. In spite of their protestations to the opposite, they oppose rank and file members of our society, the working class, taking control of their own lives.

The parties themselves are modelled on the capitalist social structures they claim to want to destroy as a result the actions they take and support are precisely those that serve to reinforce the existing class structure of society.

The Weekly Worker is, without doubt, the best of the ‘leftwing’ papers currently available in this country, providing space for serious discussion over a wide spectrum of topics, with no requirement for writers to subscribe to the current views of the CPGB.

Having said that, many of its articles avoid ‘getting to grips’ with the essential basics of constructing a libertarian! socialist future - instead the repetition of the old slogans for a ‘new’ communist party, but no proper addressing of the failures of the past.

I feel very strongly that the Weekly Worker could play a vital role in the important open discussions that must take place now, as we continue attempting to formulate the way forward in the battle against the powerful forces of imperialism dominating our lives. My comments can only aspire to set the scene for this discussion that must continue and must involve all who come to realise that Marx’s declaration that there are only two realistic alternatives before us - socialism or barbarism - is truer today than it was when he said it!

The willingness of the Weekly Worker to allow open discussion from all sides has made it essential reading for the 21st century. Hopefully, not all CPGB members will share your comrade Ström’s fear of independent thinkers whom he describes as “flotsam - crusty old lefties who, having been damaged by their experience in sects, now hate the idea of disciplined organisation” (Weekly Worker May 15).

I am one of those “old lefties”. When I left the CPGB half a century ago, in support, the whole industrial branch left too. Some of us moved on to Gerry Healy’s outfit! Yes, the experiences were nasty. As a result we are worried at the possible interpretation that can flow from phrases like “disciplined organisation” - but don’t dismiss us, Marcus, as “embittered old lefties” with nothing to offer.

Anarcho answers
Anarcho answers