One notices the absence of reports in the Weekly Worker regarding industrial struggles whose focus is the adverse effects of the expansion of the EU eastwards and the way the bosses use cheap labour to undermine existing labour conditions.
For years you have argued that open borders benefit the labour movement and you have justified your globalist stance using Marxist scriptures! How do you differ from the TGWU bureaucracy and their appalling sell-out of the Gate Gourmet workers - in particular their agreed policy, as written by Tahir Bhatti in their leaflet, that Every worker has the right to come to London looking for work? Now that they do - in droves - existing workers are being replaced by minimum wage labour.
The issue of cheap, scab, imported labour will not go away, even if you abstain from reporting it.
The Festival of Muslims Cultures has announced that no event involving gay muslims will be accepted as part of its programme. The year-long festival - which opened on January 24 in Sheffield - is one of the worlds largest ever muslim cultural events.
Despite claiming in its promotional publicity that the festival will feature the diversity and plurality of muslim cultures, the festival has rejected a request to stage a photo exhibition, conference and film screening featuring the lives and experiences of lesbian and gay muslims.
As the muslim affairs spokesperson of Outrage, I wrote to festival director Isabel Carlisle, proposing a lesbian and gay muslim contribution to the festival programme. In her reply, Ms Carlisle justifies the exclusion of gay muslims on the grounds that We are not prepared to present works that will give offence to significant numbers.
Ms Carlisle has since claimed that the request for gay muslim participation was rejected because the festival does not want to feature political themes. Our proposal was not political. It was for a series of cultural events about the lives and experiences of lesbian and gay muslims. We planned to organise these events in conjunction with gay muslim individuals and organisations beyond Outrage. These were never envisaged as Outrage events. We made that clear.
This ban is straightforward homophobia. It is deeply offensive to suggest that gay muslim people are not a valid part of the muslim community. We are shocked that a gay muslim event is deemed unfit for inclusion in the festival.
Sponsors of the Festival of Muslim Cultures include the home office, foreign and commonwealth office, British Council, Arts Council of England, BT, Christies, the Corporation of London and Westminster City Council. The ban on a gay muslim event is clearly contrary to the equal opportunity and diversity policies of these institutions. It is quite shameful that they are sponsoring a festival that discriminates. It is appalling that a registered charity is allowed to discriminate against gay muslims.
Lesbians and gay men are part of muslim faith and society. We are not going to be silenced or victimised any more. We are out and proud, as both gays and muslims. It is time the conservative leadership of the muslim community got used to the fact that gay muslims are here to stay and here to fight. We demand our rightful place in mosques and in muslim organisations and events.
I have just seen the letter from Liam O Ruairc in the November 24 2005 Weekly Worker.
Can I put on record that I have never married anyone, far less the daughter of a B Special? I am a christian, in the tolerant spirit of the Iona and Corrymeela communities, and I am a member of the Scottish National Party. But these dont explain my views on Irish republicanism, since they post-date my Reconsiderations on republicanism and socialism by many years.
Jim Dymond says Im barking up the wrong tree (Weekly Worker January 19). Having seen addicts where I live commit suicide, rob a half-blind pensioner and set fire to the lift, and having had to wade through the piss, shit and puke of alcoholics who cant control themselves, after watching drunk kids beating each other bloody, I think not. There is a problem and it demands a solution.
Prohibition failed in America because from the White House to the local sheriffs office it is a corrupt society. However, it still exists in the state of Utah and in some towns. It has worked fairly well in parts of India and, of course, in the muslim countries. A socialist society with honest organs of security could make it work.
I can see nothing wrong in working class women wanting to save themselves from violence and their kids from hunger because their husbands, to escape the misery of their lives, had boozed away their wage packets.
If the ruling class can profit by selling poison, it will. All it requires is that workers turn up on Monday morning to produce more surplus value. Drug-taking isnt some kind of harmless experiment: it is slow suicide. If the ruling class wants to kill itself, Ive no objection, but do we try to save working people from it?
Addicts need help (if needs be in secure places where help is on hand 24 hours a day), not imprisonment. This could be funded by the seizure of all the property of dealers. Those who profit from their misery need to suffer the sharp sword of the revolution. The moral cesspit that is capitalism is in urgent need of purging.
Your article on Galloway and Big brother would be funny if its werent such a sad commentary on the state of socialism today (Weekly Worker January 19 - actually, the article is funny anyway).
How any socialist could go on a reality show is outrageous. Its like something from the film Network, where a Maoist guerrilla group has its own show on prime-time TV.
Ban abortionYou support a womans right to choose, at any stage of pregnancy. Even on the day before a child is due to be born? You really are a bunch of hypocrites. You shed crocodile tears over the death of child civilians in war, but support the maiming and torture of innocent, sentient beings while still in the womb. There is nothing leftwing about this. It is the ethos of death - the same ethos that led millions of people to Stalins gulags and Hitlers death camps.
What sickens me is that you dress this up in the rhetoric of womens liberation and socialism. Stalinist feminism is a far more appropriate term. The socialist feminists who support and encourage such atrocities are neither socialist nor feminist. The original feminists, from Wollstonecraft onwards, opposed abortion as being a crime - against women as well as children. They considered abortion to be one of the worse forms of degradation of women, and a tool of male oppression. Socialism affirms the dignity of all human beings - it is the opposite of socialism that declares that some are sub-human.
A self-proclaimed elite has no right to speak as if they represent the interests of all women - they represent nobody but themselves. Men have everything to do with their struggle - The Playboy Foundation did not fund the pro-choice movement for fun. This is an offence to the dignity of women. Not in my name! And not in the name of most of the women in the world, who agree with me that what you support is an atrocity.
If it is acceptable to kill a child on the day before it is born why not the day after or the week after? You would show less hypocrisy if you just came out and supported infanticide - which is what third-trimester abortion is.
What kind of doctor do you think would agree to committing the crime you advocate? Only one who has reneged on his or her ethics, an heir of Dr Mengele. Any doctor caught performing a third-trimester abortion should be prosecuted - as for the mother, it depends on the mitigating factors, as no sane individual would do such a thing as a free choice. If someone is really that desperate, they need social intervention and help, not legal infanticide.
Women are ethical beings just as men are - and we do not want the right to choose to commit atrocities, thank you.
The whole Galloway debacle is not about the sadness of a foolish, brilliant man entering Celebrity big brother, but the absolute fact that Galloway is not, in any way, shape or form, accountable to the Respect party and its membership. That the national secretary of Respect only knew of Galloways entry into the Celeb house 24 hours beforehand says it all.
From the Socialist Alliance to Respect, the SWP leadership, rather than forging continuity, views all as united fronts: very many SWP stalwarts were not involved in the SA and still look on Respect as another united front, unconnected to themselves. Thus, the SWP, in its fallen membership, relies on these conservatives - who do not really worry about Respect (let alone join!). For these SWP members both Respect and the Big brother house are another country.
I thought we (Respect) were different to parliamentary parties - in that wed be wholly accountable and democratic. So does Galloways venture fit that bill? Has Galloway shown us respect? No. I work with young people and they detest Celebrity big brother. George isnt even getting through to young people. I cant imagine Asian and muslim youths are impressed either! CWU, Natfhe and other trade union workers have contacted me about the lack of accountability and democracy via this episode. Respect is no longer for them.
The bottom line is that any revolutionary, to echo Tony Cliffs words, has to tell the truth to the working class. Has the SWP told the truth? John Rees has stated that Galloways cat antics wont reflect on Respect in the May elections. Er
I was in the SWP from 1988 to around 2004, but if the leadership ploughs on with Galloway and media celebrity - over and above accountability in this way - well, decline will follow decline.
In response to Clive Fishs letter, first let me state for the record I am not a member of the CPGB (SWP beacon, January 19). I was, however, once a member of the Socialist Workers Party and so I can speak from my personal experience.
Clive Fish says: Your dreary little fantasy world, where the SWP is constantly on the verge of collapse, is pathetic. If the SWP is not losing members hand over fist, could he please maybe explain to me how it is that by their own figures they have lost members faster than the Labour Party in the last few years? Labour has lost 50% of it members since 1997. The SWP now has 2,000 members - down from 10,000 in 97: ie, 80%. If, as Socialist Worker keeps telling us, the Labour Party is on the verge of collapse, what about the SWP?
Also he says: Your claim that there has been no serious discussion about our recent political turn is just bollocks, given that the SWP central committee has fought tooth and nail to get comrades to join Respect. This shows that the idea of political discussion in the SWP is that the leadership decides something, and then tries to persuade the membership that its a good idea. What happened to socialism from below?
Why else is there such an uneven distribution of good Respect votes, even when there is an experienced SWP organisation around? Could it by any chance have something to do with the religion of people in wards with high votes? If you dont believe me do your own research ...
A socialist who uses the internet and googles something about the SWP will frequently stumble across the Weekly Worker. However, that in no way suggests political support. News flash, Mr Fish: most of the left read the Weekly Worker not because they agree, but because of its investigative reporting. Its not so much Hello! as The Economist. You might not agree with it, but it knows its stuff.
I wonder why your Mr Fischer did not ask Michael Lebowitz why he is such an ardent supporter of the anti-socialist and increasingly dictatorial Hugo Chávez (Weekly Worker January 19).
If Fischer and your editorial staff are unaware of this they might like to read the July 2004 interview with Lebowitz that was published on www.SevenOaksMag.com.
On several occasions over the years Ive come across Greg Tucker holding forth about the historical parallels between the formation of the Labour Party and the campaign for a new workers party today, and its always struck me that his knowledge of the subject is sketchy, to say the least. His interview last week only confirms that view (Weekly Worker January 19).
Greg states: The forerunner of the RMT - the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants - was wedded to the idea of Lib-Lab MPs. It had Liberal MPs who were members of the union and supported what the union stood for. However, there was an argument by members of the Independent Labour Party that the union had to move beyond that towards the formation of an independent working class party. This came together eventually in the formation of Labour.
This account of the ASRSs role in the campaign for labour representation is, to employ a technical Marxist expression, complete bollocks. The ASRS was never wedded to the idea of Lib-Lab MPs, for the simple reason that it never had any Liberal MPs in the first place. In the 1895 general election only nine Lib-Lab MPs (trade unionists who stood as Liberal candidates) were elected, five of whom were members of the Miners Federation of Great Britain.
The reason why there were so few Lib-Lab MPs was that constituency Liberal associations were dominated by employers and other wealthy people who had no interest in having trade unionists represent them in parliament. The MFGB was able to overcome this to an extent, because its membership was geographically concentrated around the mines, which allowed them to win control of some local Liberal associations and ensure that miners leaders were selected as parliamentary candidates.
ASRS members, by contrast, were distributed along the railways on which they worked, and the Lib-Lab road to parliamentary representation, as pursued by the MFGB, was effectively closed to the ASRS. This explains why the union played a leading role in the developments that led to the foundation of the Labour Representation Committee in 1900.
The immediate result of the LRCs formation was the success of two independent labour candidates in the 1900 general election - one being Keir Hardie and the other the ASRS general secretary, Richard Bell, who subsequently became chairman of the LRC. (And if the LRC later came into conflict with Bell, it was because his friendly relations with the Liberals compromised the principle of labour independence - not because he was ever a Liberal MP.)
The battle by ILP members to break their union from reliance on Liberal MPs took place not in the ASRS, but in the Miners Federation. It was a long struggle, because the MFGB leaders were reluctant to abandon a system that had provided the union with parliamentary representation and consequently some limited influence over Liberal Party policy. It wasnt until 1908 that the MFGB agreed to affiliate to the Labour Party.
If Greg Tucker wants to draw parallels with political developments today, he should ask himself this question. Given that the MFGB proved so obstinate in maintaining its links with the Liberal Party, on the basis that it controlled a handful of local Liberal associations, how long does he think it will take to break the major trade unions from the Labour Party, into whose structures they are integrated at every level, and win them to his proposed new workers party?
Nick Rogers quotes Marx as saying Louis Napoleon constituted himself chief of the lumpenproletariat (Take control of the Bolivarian revolution, January 12).
Did Napoleon claim this? Is there any evidence for it? Marx listed a multitude of occupations and types that provided the active supporters for Bonaparte, including discharged criminals, pickpockets, gamblers, rag-and-bone merchants, pen-pushers, porters, etc. I really feel sorry for anyone who actually believes this. The list obviously reflects a prejudiced mind and we can only suspect it serves to paper over the cracks in what he previously scientifically stated about classes.
Please believe me when I say, as someone with a working class background and in a working class job, that different working class people have different (political) views and support different (political) figures. In 2006 shouldnt we all, by now, be aware how the history of Marxism and/or Stalinism is full of misleading claims that collective action is only taken by this or that class? Why is it that various Marxists can be said to support different programmes, while ordinary people arent capable of having assorted reasons and purposes for why they do this or vote for that?
At one point Rogers says about a Venezuelan coalition: I certainly do not call for workers to support it. Is this every single worker he is considering making this call to? Exactly how could you do that anyway? What percentage of these workers do you imagine may be awaiting your lead? Nick thinks his Paul Hampton presents a one-dimensional picture, but they both fail to realise that the books of Marx are not a full, perfectly correct representation of life (in his time, let alone now).
Far from conceding ground to the Alliance for Workers Liberty, as Paul Hampton states, I have been hammering away over the last two months making the same points pretty much ad nauseum - as those who have followed the debate between us will wearily acknowledge. My purpose has been to provide a proper assessment of the balance of opportunities and threats facing the Venezuelan working class.
Comrade Hampton in his latest contribution provides the sources for Trotskys discussion of the special case of Bonapartism (Letters, January 19). Trotsky, generalising from the situation in Mexico in the 1930s, sketches a scenario of imperialist domination of the economy plus a weak national bourgeoisie, forcing bourgeois regimes to choose between aligning with the imperialists or the national working class. I find Trotskys analysis impressionistic and lacking in the kind of detail that he would no doubt have fleshed out had he lived longer.
The two articles that specifically discuss this theoretical issue were published after his death. Trade unions in the epoch of imperialist decay consists of a series of notes that were found on Trotskys desk after his assassination. Nationalised industry and workers management was only uncovered by Joseph Hansen, Trotskys former secretary in 1946 (see www.marxists.org). It was undated and unsigned, but Hansen concluded it was written by Trotsky in May or June 1938. Paul Hampton puzzlingly gives a specific and different date for this text. The other articles on Mexico do not specifically discuss Bonapartism - I have not read Latin American problems: a transcript.
Unfortunately, comrade Hampton has spurned my suggestion that he elaborate on what he considers to be distinct about Trotsky special case of Bonapartism. Nor has he sought to explain how this form of Bonapartism should be applied theoretically to Venezuela today when, prior to Chávezs presidency, the Venezuelan bourgeoisie actually appeared to be - economically, politically and socially - relatively strong.
Nevertheless, it does seem to me that there are lessons to be learnt from the Cárdenas presidency (1934-40) in Mexico - including a warning about the future direction the Bolivarian revolution could take. The historic role of Cárdenas was to establish a civilian basis for the regime that had emerged from the Mexican revolution. Far from representing the insertion of the military into politics, Cárdenas forced a number of military strongmen into retirement and strengthened the party that later became the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). If we were to accept Paul Hamptons narrow - if classical - interpretation of Bonapartism, we would have to say that Cárdenas essentially brought the Bonapartist era of Mexican politics to an end.
He implemented a wide-ranging land reform, expropriated the petroleum and rail industries, and introduced forms of workers participation in workplaces. In parallel, Cárdenas sought to incorporate the trade unions and peasants organisations within the PRI - special sectors were established for them. He succeeded in creating a mass party. This approach was maintained over the following decades by the PRI, which practised a form of de facto one-party rule, based on corruption, electoral manipulation, clientelism and a phoney rhetoric of nationalism and social revolution.
Even though the military played a diminishing political role and no single Bonaparte figure emerged, I think the theoretical framework of Bonapartism is helpful in analysing the political evolution of this regime. Indeed, Trotsky nowhere mentions the role of the military in his analysis of 1930s Mexico. His concern was to understand a bourgeois regime that was carrying through radical social measures and to establish a correct orientation for revolutionaries towards the regime.
He supported the measures of nationalisation and strongly defended Mexico against the imperialist backlash they provoked. He urged his followers not to boycott the opportunities presented by the moves towards workers management. At the same time he argued that the maintenance of working class independence was crucial.
A similar approach is appropriate in Venezuela and, for that matter, in relation to all bourgeois governments - including social democratic governments. It is the responsibility of socialists to support governmental measures in the interests of the working class and oppose those that attack working class interests, while preserving the programmatic and organisational independence of the working class. The highest form of that independence is the organisation of revolutionaries in an effective party - however they decide to engage with social democratic formations.
The Chávez regime differs from that of Cárdenas in two crucial respects. First, the Venezuelan working class has seized the opportunities presented by the Bolivarian revolution (especially in the last four years) to increase its social and political weight. And, furthermore, the regime so far has not coopted the forces unleashed by the combination of its social reforms and the fierce opposition of most of Venezuelas capitalist class.
So we see that the new constitution opens up new opportunities for popular participation in politics. That the social missions, breaking with the top-down approach of the Plan Bolivar, and with the traditional state bureaucracy, in the best instances have involved communities in planning and delivering the new social provision that has become available. That new community organisations have sprung up all over Venezuela. That various experiments with workers co-management have been launched. And, above all, that workers have broken with the dead hand of the CTV to set up a genuinely independent trade union federation, the UNT.
Second, by breaking with neoliberalism, Chávez has broken with what in the current era (as opposed to the 1930s) is the dominant project of the Latin American bourgeoisie. It is far from clear that, whatever Chávez may intend, it is possible to establish a stable bourgeois regime in contemporary Latin America on an essentially social democratic (or corporatist) basis.
It is comrade Hamptons failure to take into account any developments that do not relate directly to the organised working class in the formal sector of the economy, or to locate the upsurge of working class self-activity as an aspect of the Bolivarian revolution, that leads me to say he misses the potential for movement towards socialism.
As I have emphasised, there are huge contradictions in the situation and many threats - including Bonapartist tendencies within the regime. However, I suggest again that comrade Hampton refer to the documents of the formation to which he claims to be closest: the Party for Revolution and Socialism (PRS). His own analysis in Solidarity of the political declaration of the PRS is selective in the extreme.
Where is his acknowledgement that the PRS commits itself to defend, at the side of the Bolivarian people, the government of president Chávez against the putschist conspiracy of the oligarchic right and US imperialism, as well as all the democratic conquests won through the process of the Bolivarian revolution? Or that the PRS declares that it will accompany the workers and the people in the experience with this government but in seeking the perspective of the development of workers and peasants power - popular, participatory and active - until government is directly exercised in a democratic manner by the workers?
That sounds an awful lot like my demand for Venezuelan workers to take control of the Bolivarian revolution.