Letters

Nowhere to go

I found ‘A drawn out defeat’ a truthful read. The media attacks on us firefighters did hit hard and personally I cannot forgive. I am an ex-Labour member with nowhere else to go … but no vote, no gripe.

I will print a copy of the article for the station but, as things stand, I realise not many will take the time to read it - apathy now runs too deep.


 

Nowhere to go
Nowhere to go

Their game

Tory Blair has selected his approach to the fire service, so we now have to state where we stand. Our union has sold out on a promise of what? - we do not know. We should be threatening strike action now on the IPDSs.

The time frame is being extended on the employers’ side, as they do not have a clue what they are doing and will not even when a conclusion is made. Play at their game, as they will never be able to make this work.


 

Their game
Their game

SWP in Asia

Comrade John Ho relates how International Socialist Tendency supporters have committed all manner of crimes, are “scum”, tools of imperialism and, perhaps worst of all, are employed by NGOs (Letters, July 24).

I normally ignore this sort of thing, but since your paper also has grown-up readers, I will correct one statement that relates to me. The IST does not claim “sections” in Malaysia or Indonesia.

A Socialist Workers Party member has put Malaysian-language Marxist material on the web, and I’ve done the same in Indonesian. We have a friendly collaboration. I am not actually a member of anything right now, but used to be in the Australian International Socialist Organisation.

SWP in Asia
SWP in Asia

AWL and Zionism

Jim Denham writes that “Jews are the only people on earth and in history whose wish for a state has been opposed in principle by leftists like [Tony Greenstein] (Letters, July31).

Really? What about Afrikaners, Northern Irish protestants and Turkish Cypriots - communities whose wish for a state has historically been opposed by large sections of the left?


 

AWL and Zionism
AWL and Zionism

Paedophile link

It isn’t “nonsense” to link the deliberate (and pathetic) diversion of homosexual sexual feelings to their reappearance later in the form of paedophilic activity, which is a perversion of sexuality, as Sarah McDonald states in her review of The Magdalen Sisters (‘One brick from the house’, April 10).

When one’s sexual preferences are repressed and driven underground, be they homo or hetero, they are subject to reappearance in the form of perversion, to whatever degree. It is not unlikely that in Irish society homosexual urges could terrify a young person into becoming a priest or nun in hopes of a ‘cure’ for his or her ‘sin’.

A sexually repressive society is a hotbed for all manner of perverse and abusive behaviour. The repression of homosexuality is certainly one factor in the paedophilia statistics. The attraction of a same-sex, celibate institution to a confused and ashamed young person should be quite obvious.


 

Paedophile link
Paedophile link

Buddha

I read with great interest your website and came across Danny Hammill’s informative article, ‘Towards a critique of science’ (Weekly Worker December 17 1998).

Strangely the debate between creationism and Darwinism is currently raging, and most people are under the illusion that Buddhism hasn’t got anything to contribute. Nothing can be further from the truth.

Buddha taught nothing but evolution, but he did not use that term. He defined it as becoming for a decisive reason. I am the author of Origin of species according to the buddha, which documents overwhelmingly that the original theory of ‘sensory becoming’ (evolution to Darwinists) was first expounded over 2,500 years ago.

Buddha
Buddha

SA dilemma

It seems that unless the SWP and their malignant ‘take it or break it’ attitude to political organisational methods are got rid of, the SA of England and Wales is doomed to years of empty infighting.

The reality is that the SWP sees the Socialist Alliance as a collection of useful idiots, to be paraded when necessary and dropped like a hot potato when not needed.

For those who disagree, look to the movement against the second Gulf War. Where was the Socialist Alliance? Dropped by the SWP and their acolytes for the ‘Stop the War Coalition’, a rag-bag grouping of socialists hob-nobbing with all sorts of dubious political allies - woolly liberals to mediaevalist islamists!

This is not to say that there aren’t many good people in the SWP or SA. However, unless the SWP are dealt with - the example of the ‘join the Scottish Socialist Party fully or piss off’ ultimatum (however this is dressed up) is interesting - the SA is doomed to fail: it is already a public joke, compared to the popular vote garnered by both the Green Party (guilty, petty bourgeois, comfortably-off liberals) and the British National Party (mainly working class skilled workers and sole traders, failed by the hootin’ an’ hollerin’ left epitomised by the SWP).

If the failure of the USSR should teach us anything, it is that no individual or group has ultimately all the answers. Unless ‘the left’ are willing to create an organisation which isn’t riven by cliques, fractions and fronts, stultified to the point where it doesn’t have the most simple of public propaganda tools - a paper - because everyone already has a ‘party paper’ to sell - then the Greens, BNP and liberals will continue to rule us, fool us, eat for us and shoot us.

Personally I think the SA has pissed its chance up the wall. Read, sell, support the Weekly Worker!


 

SA dilemma
SA dilemma

Shared responsibility

Surely democracy makes leadership redundant. I’ve no problem with leaders as such - my beef is with followers, because followers, by the fact that they follow, prove that they don’t know where they’re going. With leaders you get the blindfolded leading the blinkered, the barmy leading the bewildered.

The only responsible way to deal with responsibility is to share it. Anything else is irresponsible. The acknowledgment of this law of responsibility marks out a coming of age, of growing up socially.


 

Shared responsibility
Shared responsibility

Socialist vision

While all the groups and sects of the so-called ‘socialist left’ spend so much of their time and publications arguing for the type of party they want or criticising this or that policy of various governments, they never come out with straight arguments for a socialist/communist society!

The argument for socialism is quite simple, but it is smothered by centuries of ingrained capitalism and relentless reinforcement of capitalist ideas and values. It is for a society based on common ownership and democratic control, where there is no buying or selling, no private property ownership, no employers, no employment and no employees.

Instead, this will be a society of free, voluntary labour, production for social use and cooperation, and free access to what people need to live worthwhile lives. All of society will determine how they live and what they will do. A free association of individuals will not have forms of organisation, working patterns and location of work imposed upon them.

If the ‘socialist left’ do not agree, understand or do anything to promote this vision, then, whatever their rhetoric, they are as much supporters of capitalism as Tony Blair.

Socialist vision
Socialist vision

Scots FBU

I thought that Ian Foulkes’s comments on the Scottish membership of the Fire Brigades Union were unfair (‘A drawn out defeat’, July 24).

In ‘The regions’ subsection of his article he writes that “Scotland, Northern Ireland and to a lesser extent Wales all played an influential part in the dispute. There was strong support from all these regions at the outset, but towards the end they were instrumental in the final acceptance of the deal ….

“Scotland’s behaviour during the dispute is even more puzzling. As in Northern Ireland, local officials were able to gain the support of many more local politicians than those in England. Once again local officials supported the dispute at the outset, but in the end this traditionally militant region voted overwhelmingly for an inferior deal. Rumours that a deal had been made that would soften the impact of the modernisation package north of the border may explain this puzzling stance. There is also the threat of forming a breakaway Scottish FBU, which has loomed since devolution.”

I feel that the reason my brigade (Strathclyde) gave an ‘accept’ was because the Strathclyde leadership and the EC manipulated the vote to their own ends. At the beginning of this dispute we voted on a ‘one man/woman, one vote’ basis to enter into industrial action. At the vote on whether to accept or reject the final, final, final offer, the Strathclyde leadership took the decision on a ‘one man/woman’ basis, the votes being taken at branch meetings. At an all-delegates meeting approximately two weeks before recall, initial findings showed around two thirds of the votes cast were to reject the offer (although not every member in Strathclyde had voted). At this meeting the delegates were sent back to branches to get votes from each and every member and to meet one week later with a full membership vote.

During the week between the two delegates meetings the EC spin machine issued four strike bulletins, which in my opinion were designed to deceive the membership. At the delegates meeting one week before recall, the vote was to accept by a small majority of less than 100, although approximately 700 votes were not accounted for. Surely if this was to be a full membership vote these 700 should have been taken into account or a void vote been declared. Furthermore if this is a democratic union, as we are told it is, it should have been a ‘one man/woman, one vote’ postal ballot, as it was to start the industrial action, and was the only fair way to end this dispute.

I am not saying that this would have resulted in a ‘reject’ vote but I will always have the doubt in my mind that we could have won this dispute (perhaps not with £30k but with a better knowledge of what we are about to give up) and without destroying the service we give to the public.

Scots FBU
Scots FBU

Honesty

Jack Conrad’s editorial says it all: communists in office should put the narrow ideological interests of the party and the dictats of its leaders above the expressed desires of the working class people who put them there.

This misguided assumption that the interests of the class and the party are one is the route cause of Marxist-Leninist tyranny in power. The intolerant high-handedness of the SWP is not a ‘self-generating’ aberration, any more than was that of the Workers Revolutionary Party, Militant or the old Stalinist parties. It is the logical continuation of the Bolshevik tradition, going right back to its origins in Lenin’s What is to be done?

As Trotsky predicted at the time (in a rare moment of lucidity), “First the party substitutes itself for the class; then the party apparatus substitutes itself for the party; then the central committee substitutes itself for the apparatus; finally, a single dictator substitutes himself for the central committee.”

It is a pity that modern-day ‘Trotskyists’ choose to ignore this quotation or pass it off as an example of the ‘old man’s’ early anti-Bolshevik immaturity. It is a prediction which has been proved correct time and time again over the past 100 years. When will the left actually study and learn from real historical events, instead of making them fit their own ideological preconceptions?

Thank you for your honesty, comrade Conrad. The case for libertarian socialism has rarely been made so clear.


 

Honesty
Honesty

Shachtman split

I still think comrade Jack Conrad misunderstands what happened in the American Socialist Workers Party when Shachtman, Abern and Burnham split.

He writes: “In this context it is germane to refer to our correspondent, Geoff Smith. He rightly takes me to task for my sloppy formulation in reference to the 1939-40 split in the US Socialist Workers Party (Letters, July 24). The comrade points out that James P Cannon did not in fact ‘boot out’ the minority who disagreed with Trotsky’s outmoded formulations on the Soviet Union. Rather Max Shachtman and his comrades ‘split’.

“But why? After all, comrade Smith says they were offered what he calls ‘proper minority rights’ - namely, they would be allowed to argue their difference ‘internally’. And here is the rub. The minority had no right to produce an open publication. Not surprisingly, rather than confining themselves to the task of winning the increasingly jaundiced minds of the SWP majority, they chose instead to engage with a much broader and more receptive audience - not least that section of the population upon whom the whole socialist project rests, the working class.”

In fact, part of the agreement at the 1940 convention of the Socialist Workers Party was the publication of the debate so far (a “symposium”, as they called it), as well as continue debate in the pages of Socialist Appeal (at the time, the SWP’s central organ, later named The Militant) and New International (their theoretical journal). The centre of the disagreement after the convention was on the question of whether or not the Shachtman faction would be allowed to publish a second central organ that expressed solely the minority’s views, and carried the name of the SWP. This is where the ‘line’, so to speak, was drawn.

Instead of accepting the offer to continue the debate in the pages of the SWP’s existing organs, as well as in the SWP’s monthly internal discussion bulletin, Shachtman took possession of the assets of New International, and he and his members split. Thus, it is still incorrect to imply that the post-convention discussion was going to be strictly “internal”. In fact, both sides agreed to making it public and placing the issue before the working class - much at Trotsky’s insistence, I might add (since Trotsky felt that Cannon had continued to hold onto many of the Zinovievite conceptions of party organisation).


 

Shachtman split
Shachtman split

Democratic centralism

There are a number of errors in Jack Conrad’s article, ‘Democracy and centralism’ (Weekly Worker July 31).

Lenin’s proposals in What is to be done? were applicable to Russia in 1902. They are not necessarily applicable today and need to be assessed against the conditions we find ourselves in. I will not attempt to do that here.

The communist parties formed in many countries after 1917 (mostly during 1920 and 1921) were different in a number of respects of structure and strategy to the Bolshevik Party in the period 1902-1917. Far from being “universally applicable”, this course was only taken in most countries on the order of the head of the Comintern, Zinoviev, that all parties adopt the ‘21 points’ detailing correct party organisation.

In a number of countries this had disastrous short-term consequences and in others such as France produced parties that, although they grew to a large size, were totally incapable of effective action when revolutionary situations arose.

As for John Pearson’s behaviour at the Socialist Alliance council, has it not occurred to Jack Conrad that, just as the CPGB has its principles, so Stockport Socialist Alliance may have a principle - that its delegates represent the views of the branch? John Pearson was at the meeting as a member of Stockport SA, not the CPGB.

Quite why Jack Conrad thinks Zinoviev such an authority on correct political strategy is a question that he does not answer in the article. He is also apparently unaware that, as well as being completely irrelevant, the resolution of the Russian Social Democratic and Labour Party he quotes contradicts the mandating of anyone by either a local SA or the CPGB. That is, unless the CPGB is some sort of special case?

Democratic centralism
Democratic centralism

Not relevant

Jack Conrad idolises the pamphlet What is to be done?, written by Lenin in 1901-02.

Nobody can deny that it has become a Marxist classic. However, the main point being made by many of those that Jack refers to as “backsliding opportunists of one stripe or another” is this: no matter how relevant it was or wasn’t with regard to the tsarist Russia of 1900 or its neighbouring empires, it has no relevance to the building of a mass workers’ party in the UK of 2003. Jack and company can carry on building their top-down micro-sect, but they will never translate all their hard work into a mass party based on that template that they cherish.

Jack comments that “Nowadays many on the left - not least those Socialist Alliance independents who have been burnt by one or another of the more ghastly sects - reject with horror the very idea of a Communist Party and the Leninist principle of unity in action”.

I can’t speak for the other ‘burn-outs’ obviously, nor those that have been described by Jack’s comrade, Marcus Ström, as “flotsam and jetsam”, but I personally do want to see unity in action. It’s just how that unity in action is arrived at that bothers me - and no doubt many others. Democracy and transparency is all-important: socialism from below must be the norm, and when everyone, whether in the majority or the minority, can see these cornerstones in place and operational, then you will have unity in action.

All the Lenin-style party will give you is the foundations of proletarian Bonapartism - rule by the opportunist bureaucracy that will naturally evolve into a dictatorship, not of the proletariat, but of the elite.

I think comrades must realise that if you are going to build a genuine alternative to Labour, a broad, democratic workers’ party must be built, which all socialists will feel at home in, as well as all other radical and protest elements. The sects and groups must dissolve themselves into tendencies within the new organisation - they can all still argue for their principles, whether Leninist, Trotskyist, reformist or anarchist, but they must be new party members first and foremost.

This party would at first campaign for such issues as the repeal of anti-trade union legislation and for the withdrawal of ‘our lads’ from Iraq, and, when we have some success under our belts, more people will be attracted to us and the new party will gather momentum. The task of creating a mass alternative to Labour will never be achieved by the backward Socialist Workers Party leadership or any of their on-off fronts, however large at any particular demonstration, or by any of the micro-sects.

As for the comrade that Jack chastised for voting as he had been instructed by his Socialist Alliance colleagues instead of following the line of the CPGB - well done, Mr Pearson! He obviously has a higher allegiance to the alliance than to his ‘confessional sect’. I thought that was something Jack was promoting not so long ago when he was chastising the SWP for not being brave enough to dissolve themselves into the SA and set an example to us all?

Perhaps in a revolutionary situation with MI6 canning communist organisations and when our activists are being taken away in the night by the police, then Jack’s organisation may well come into its own - who knows? But here we are in the ‘here and now’, and our most urgent task is building a mass party that must start by winning back ground lost since 1980 just to give people hope, and for socialists to gain credibility.

Although the Weekly Worker group are more open and democratic that the ‘swampies’ (with a very good weekly publication to boot), they are not going to build what is needed at the present time on something that Lenin wrote a century ago for a different place in different circumstances.

Jack Conrad ends his article by stating: “Our democracy is not platonic. It maintains and strengthens our centralism.” No, sir. It maintains and strengthens your isolationism - from the masses, that is!


 

Not relevant
Not relevant