Mike Macnairs recent series on international organisation is both original and informative. However, his conclusions are regrettably arbitrary, partly because he asserts the working class has tasks, partly because he sees these as requiring some kind of international organisation and partly because this is assumed to be communist.
One can safely predict the consequent splits, the accusations of political betrayal and the regrets that the working class is not yet ripe. Meanwhile, the new internationalism(s) will continue with fortunate ignorance as to the Fifth International of Mikes imagination.
This new phenomenon exists embryonically in the global justice and solidarity movements: they are plural, they are open, they are dialogical and they are networked.
I am afraid that Jack Conrads contribution on climate change is useless as a guide to linking up with the millions of people that are concerned with the issue, or directly affected by it (Changes and responses, June 1).
The article is also unscientific in collapsing together the issues of climate change and anthropogenic global warming, which arent the same thing and operate on time scales that differ by millennia: ie, the length of time that human civilisation is calibrated in.
He doesnt even deal with the theories on anthropogenic warming that leading climatologists have developed, the empirical evidence, or tackle the issue of how capitalist corporations, especially in the oil industry, have attempted to suppress this evidence for years.
Conrads piece is a good example of painting yourself into a sectarian corner and avoiding taking any position on urgent questions, such as what form of energy supply and transport system we need in the future.
Graeme Kemp asks whether my letter on Channels 4s Deal or no deal was a joke and if I really believe that it dulls the proletariat into false consciousness. The answer to both questions is yes.
A sense of humour seems to be sadly lacking among todays Marxists - we take ourselves far too seriously.
I would say to comrade Simon, who was recently expelled from the SWP: you are better off without them (Martin Smiths appeal fiasco, June 8).
What a lot of nonsense about party lines. But who cares? Come the revolution, the middle classes of the SWP and much of what makes up the rest of the left will probably miss the action through being at a caucus - which will be good news for everyone else.
Ones and twos
As a Workers Power member who attended the Leeds launch of the Campaign for a New Workers Party, I felt that an extremely important part of the debate was over the time frame that the CNWP should be looking at (Wrong new layers, June 8).
Workers Power argued that we have a small window of opportunity for a new workers party while Labour is in government carrying out neoliberal attacks, raising questions over the effectiveness of social democracy. The Socialist Party argue for less of an orientation towards breaking the unions from Labour and more towards signing workers up in ones and twos over a long and indefinite time frame.
Ones and twos
I really dont understand what Dave Spencer is moaning on about (Letters, June 8). He seems to be complaining that I and presumably others made various unspecified compromises in relaunching the Socialist Alliance. But we didnt phone him up and offer him any deals.
What is this supposed to prove? Compromise is morally wrong? Or there is no point in seeking compromise with sectarians? Or some compromise is worthwhile and other compromises are not to be entertained?
The positions the new SA adopted were very clear. We are for a federal structure that includes socialist groups and independents. The SA aims at left unity on the basis of a common programme - People before profit. These were traditional defining characteristics of the SA.
Dave and his allies rejected all these points except the common programme. Their perspective rejected the SA in favour of setting up a new group with a new name. The main point of this Democratic Socialist Alliance group was anti-sectarian hostility to all other socialist groups.
The new SA was new in that its members decided in its constitution to take a strong line on socialism, internationalism, republicanism and the environment - not forgetting, of course, our opposition to racism, fascism and specific oppression. The only one of these that was contentious was republicanism. This was opposed by Mike Davies (Alliance for Green Socialism) and Daves DSA comrades. This reflected the economistic heritage of the SA, as moulded by the SWP and the dominant ideology in the labour movement of economism and Labourism.
The other contentious issue was the SAs support for a republican socialist party. This was opposed by the DSA and the CPGB, who wanted to launch a Marxist party. But, whereas the CPGB continued to support the SA when they lost the vote, the DSA went off to set up their own rival revolutionary SA.
Now we have the bizarre result that the DSA want to set up a Marxist party on the basis of a non-Marxist or common programme of People before profit. Talk about unprincipled compromising and fudging.
We do not need another Marxist-Trotskyist sect to add to the previous 57 varieties. Going round telling everybody we need another Marxist party while simultaneously being incapable of talking with one other group is why Marxism-Trotskyism has no credibility. There is no Marxist-Trotskyist unity project in England. The SA wasnt one and the DSA isnt one.
Right now, the advanced section of the working class needs a party of left unity. We need a party of the broad left that can link with the broad left in the trade unions such as the RMT. With that unity we could make a serious challenge to New Labour in the unions, in parliamentary constituencies and working class communities. Everything opposing that priority is sectarian garbage. The task for communists is to be in the vanguard of that struggle.
The Revolutionary Democratic Group has made no compromise on this and no compromise in spelling out the necessary political character of that party. Reheated Labourism will not do. We need a party that is neither Labourist nor Marxist-Trotskyist.
One thing is true. Some AGS comrades, not including Mike Davies, apparently voted for a republican socialist party. Now they are saying they didnt realise what they were doing. These poor lambs have been duped! It is like meeting scabs who tell you they never realised a strike was going on, despite attending the strike meeting that made the decision.
If Dave Spencer and John Pearson had stayed in the SA they could have formed a bloc of moderate republicans and anti-republicans with the AGS and reversed these decisions at the next conference.
Then and now
Ian Donovans CPGB-phobia leads him to rush into condemnatory print without, it seems, stopping to consider the actual issue.
Comrade Donovan disagrees with my lamentable conclusion that in November 2004 the Scottish Socialist Party executive was correct in demanding that Tommy Sheridan should not combat the News of the Worlds smear campaign via the courts, and in forcing him to resign as convenor when he insisted on going ahead with his legal action. He states: by this logic, all the gutter press has to do to secure the dismissal of any working class leader is to print pornographic allegations against them that cannot be refuted by the person attacked because he/she will be banned from suing on pain of being sacked.
No, comrade. There is no principle that says working class leaders must not use the bourgeois courts to defend themselves - that is one tactic open to us. But, of course, there are many others and I happen to believe that on this occasion the SSP EC was right when it voted unanimously to propose alternative means.
The jailing of Alan McCombes, costs of at least £45,000, comrades homes and party offices being intruded upon and searched, and 13 EC members summonsed to act as witnesses against comrade Sheridan - these are the results so far of the former convenor choosing to go his own way. And it is more than likely that when the case comes before a jury in July the damage to the SSP will make what has gone before pale into insignificance.
However, whether or not the best tactic was employed is not the point. The point is that this sort of attack on a leader is also, rather obviously, an attack on the organisation. That means that it should be for the party, not the individual, to determine how to respond to the class enemys offensive. This is a question of basic working class accountability.
Unfortunately though, comrade Donovan has now renounced the principle of the accountability of leaders, rejecting, for example, the notion that Respects elected representatives should accept only the equivalent of a skilled workers wage. Perhaps, then, it is no surprise that he anarchistically upholds comrade Sheridans claim to do as he pleases, irrespective of the wishes of the SSP leadership at the time.
Comrade Donovan is only too eager to invoke a parallel with what he terms your equally scabby gut-level response to The Daily Telegraphs libellous attack on George Galloway in April 2003, when the Weekly Worker printed an article stating that Galloway was probably guilty and that the left should lead the condemnation.
He is being grossly dishonest. First, as he well knows, the article in question was not written by a CPGB member, but by comrade Dave Osler, who sent it to the Weekly Worker unsolicited (comrade Osler had reacted quickly to the story, which broke during our editing process). His piece was headlined Trial by Telegraph, with the strapline, Galloway must be given benefit of doubt - one of comrade Oslers main themes (April 23 2003).
The piece, despite making some useful points, was undoubtedly one-sided and therefore wrong. However, comrade Osler did not state that Galloway was probably guilty, although a good half of the piece was based on the assumption he might be. He actually wrote: If he did take the money, the left should lead the condemnation (my emphasis). Why does comrade Donovan omit the first part of this sentence?
In the two subsequent issues of the Weekly Worker, articles were commissioned from CPGB members that gave a rather more balanced view - the fact that the Telegraph was targeting not Galloway, the individual, but Galloway, leader of the anti-war movement, was much more clearly stated. These two articles were a far better reflection of the CPGB view.
Who were the authors? The first was Manny Neira, no longer a CPGB member (May 1 2003). The second was a certain Ian Donovan - also no longer a CPGB member, of course (May 8 2003). Both comrades at that time played a useful role in elaborating CPGB ideas on a number of issues.
You would never think that was the case from comrade Donovans current attacks on his former organisation. If you only had his present writings to go by, you could be forgiven for believing there was a Chinese wall between his articles in the Weekly Worker and those of the rest of us. Yet, if, for example, we look back at comrade Donovans May 8 2003 submission, what do we find? A forceful condemnation of comrade Oslers piece and blunt criticism of the editorial team for publishing it? Not at all. In fact, comrade Donovan makes no mention of the Osler article. True, he gives an example of how the left should not respond to the Telegraphs witch-hunt - but he is talking about the Alliance for Workers Liberty.
Even when comrade Donovan left the CPGB, he did not say the Osler article should not have been published. He said that it would have been acceptable to carry it inside the paper rather than on the back page, where the impression might more readily be drawn that it reflected CPGB opinion. A reasonable point, you might think. But today, unfortunately, comrade Donovan has lost all sense of reason in his haste to condemn anything and everything the CPGB does and says.
Then and now
Then and now
I would like to comment on the debate about Tommy Sheridans court case against the News of the World.
Unfortunately, Colin Fox won the leadership contest to replace Tommy as convenor. Comrade Fox behaves like a typical politician, refusing to give straight answers to questions when questioned on TV. On Newsnight Scotland during the general election campaign, he repeatedly refused to say whether the SSP opposes all immigration controls.
It was great news that the SSP national council voted to back Tommy in his court case, defying Fox.
While reading Peter Mansons analysis of the problems concerning Tommy Sheridans open letter, I was struck by a feeling of déjà vu - or, as Dolly Parton once sang, Here you go again.
Sheridan has made remarks (unhelpful, in my opinion) regarding feminism and the strange notion that the SSP has become a gender-obsessed discussion group. This then gives comrade Manson licence to attack feminism as petty bourgeois and akin to petty bourgeois nationalism. For a start, nationalism and feminism are two entirely different social phenomena and how he made this ideological conflation is strange beyond belief.
I dont know what the internal issues are in the SSP, but the fact that Sheridan zooms in on gender makes me wonder why he has done that. Interestingly, he has attacked the 50-50 policy, which in my opinion has both positives and negatives. But in the short term it is a way of getting women involved in the leadership.
What do the CPGB and Sheridan propose to get women active in all structures of the organisation? When comrade Manson argues that we champion genuine equality for women, it just seems to be abstract window-dressing - anyone can say it, but what does it mean exactly?
In reporting on Respects recent electoral gains in Tower Hamlets, Peter Manson draws attention to the fact that no Socialist Workers Party cadre got elected, therefore implying that it is effectively a communalist vote (SWP failure within Respect success, May 11). However, it is to the SWPs credit that it has not thrown up its hands and given up on Respect after its cadre were not elected. Rather, the battle of ideas goes on and the SWP, through daily struggles taking place in the local areas, aims to win the newly elected councillors to more progressive ideas.
Manson says the SWP is rather desperately trying to play down the fact that most of Respects support comes from a particular ethno-religious group and play up its appeal to workers of all backgrounds. However, in Newham there is a proportionally smaller muslim population than in Tower Hamlets, but Respect won more votes there. This is the other side of the argument to counter the perception that Respect is a muslim party. It all depends whether you see Respects results in a positive light or attack them for failings.
Therefore, Emily Bransom is right in stating that we risk dismissing or neglecting the small victories that should be celebrated as a further step in the advancement of our class (Letters, June 8).
Also, failing to feature recent local elections on the front page of the May 11 issue of the Weekly Worker, in favour of a half-hour scuffle that took place on the European Social Forum demo, is just another example of the CPGB ignoring small victories and highlighting its fetish with the SWP.