The Carnival of Socialism is an online, fortnightly summary of the best of what’s happening in the leftwing ‘blogosphere’. Each edition is hosted by a different socialist blogger with assistance from those who’ve spotted interesting posts and discussions.
It was relaunched earlier this year and is quickly picking up momentum - but we want to make sure that it continues to bring in new bloggers from different parts of the left and different parts of the world. Even if it’s difficult for the left to unite in meatspace sometimes, it can be a little easier to reach consensus online that we at least need to talk to one another, which provides an opportunity for socialists to listen and learn from what we all have to say.
The discussion is unmediated by any central committee or editorial board, so, whilst the positions are often a little fixed, the debate is at least more direct and fruitful. Disagreements can be sharp, of course - the web is notorious for its heated exchanges - but the Carnival has been useful in highlighting the fact that we do have shared goals in common and, even when someone comes from a very different tradition, they can still have interesting things to say. As a contribution to bringing the left into discussion with each other we’ve found blogging circles and the Carnival of Socialism a helpful, if often overlooked, tool.
At its best the Carnival celebrates the diversity and range of the left - but we want to make sure that everyone who can be represented is. It only works, however, by bloggers writing and readers recommending good posts. If you want to take part, check out our website and then email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would like to clear up a point in my article last week (‘Pro-imperialists snubbed’, February 28).
In commenting on the proposal from Education Not for Sale to hold a joint meeting with Hands Off the People of Iran at the forthcoming conference of the National Union of Students, I noted that Sacha Ismail of ENS and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty had proposed that an Iranian student should also be on the platform, and commented: “So what would be good about a pro-intervention student attacking the [Stop the War Coalition]? We would not want to be associated with such a dupe, though we would be prepared to engage in an honest debate.”
The point made is valid in and of itself, but I knew from conversations and email exchanges with comrade Ismail that ENS was not suggesting a pro-intervention speaker, as this might be understood to imply. In fact they had mentioned two Iranian comrades who are definitely anti-war.
This unfortunate wording does not, however, detract from the political points made on the nature of the AWL’s social-imperialism. I look forward to reading comrade Ismail’s response on these more substantial matters.
Dan Read claims: “… in any written material you might care to lay your hands on in this affair, the entire Bolshevik approach is based on the direct democratic rule of the soviets as a higher form of popular rule” (Letters, February 28).
Yet a simple reading of actual historic events demonstrates just how untrue that claim is, when within just four short days of the October Revolution the Bolshevik Council of People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom) “unilaterally arrogated to itself legislative power simply by promulgating a decree to this effect. This was, effectively, a Bolshevik coup d’etat that made clear the government’s (and party’s) pre-eminence over the soviets and their executive organ. Increasingly, the Bolsheviks relied upon the appointment from above of commissars with plenipotentiary powers, and they split up and reconstituted fractious soviets and intimidated political opponents” (Neil Harding Leninism).
Once they started losing soviet elections, the Bolsheviks could find no better way to ‘secure’ workers’ democracy than to destroy it by gerrymandering soviets, disbanding them and expelling opposition parties so as to distort their structure to ensure a Bolshevik dominance. “We were forced to block new elections to the soviet and even not to recognise them where they had taken place not in our favour,” said NV Kopulov to the Bolshevik central committee.
Contrary to the claims of Dan Read and his quotations from Lenin, the constituent assembly fares better as a true reflection of the will of the people than the bayonets of the Military Revolutionary Committee.
Recuperating from a recent operation, I have spent a bit of time nosing through some websites and was quite struck by the very detailed and practical policies set out by the Green Party. They appear to cover most political, economic, social and moral aspects of modern society and to be quite detailed programmatic blueprints for a ‘green’ Britain - for a programme of government - should ever the Green Party win a general election, unlikely though that may be.
The values, objectives and principles set out by the Greens have, for me, great resonance. One might readily agree these could and ought to form the basis of a new ‘common sense’ of our time and the detailed policies a practical expression of this. Whilst in the detailed policies, there are always specific points and issues one would disagree with - sometimes quite strongly - nonetheless it feels to me that the sort of society described by the Green Party’s policy programmes would be an immeasurably better one to live in than we do now, and one much more capable of being handed on with pride to successor generations.
The fundamental flaw is, of course, the failure of the Greens to recognise that we live in a capitalist society, where the means of production, distribution and exchange are owned and controlled by a small minority capitalist class and where all production of goods and services takes place with the sole aim of realising profit for that minority, for capital accumulation - the meeting of need being merely an incidental by-product, if at all.
The Greens appear to have no policies for addressing this fundamental distortion and power imbalance in our society, such as measures to remove power, wealth and control out of the hands of the capitalist class and vest it in the hands and the democratic control of society as a whole. Even references to private education, private medicine and the monarchy are timid and cautious. Without such a transformation of power and ownership, how could any government implement policies that are in the interests of the majority of the population and the long-term interests of society and the planet?
Red and green are complementary colours. Reds and greens have, I think, a great deal to learn from each other. Reds have to learn how to make our vision for the future relevant and practical and to be of a deep and compelling attraction for our time. Greens that in order to meet the needs of the people, society and our planet we must expropriate the capitalist class of their power, wealth and control, and replace it by common ownership and democratic control. That this will need to be effected through some form of revolutionary process. That, given the capitalist class will never concede power on a voluntary basis, this revolutionary process will need to include use of force and compulsion against the capitalist class and their allies, both during and after the revolution.
The establishment of common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution, and the development of social production for use and to meet human and societal need, will result in the downgrading and ultimate elimination of monetary and financial relations. So much of the Green manifesto that relies on monetary and fiscal levers and incentives could be radically simplified and replaced by more direct political and administrative decisions and actions, even during the transitional period between capitalism and socialism.
Being a (now retired) teacher of sixth-formers, I agree absolutely with all of Frank Taylor’s comments on the rights of young people, particularly when he points out that the students “who want to be at school ... can’t wait for [those who don’t want to be] to leave” (Letters, February 28).
The issue of the government’s attitude towards young adults is an important one. Frank is inaccurate in claiming not to have heard “a word of protest from anywhere”, however. The Weekly Worker carried an article on the subject a few weeks ago; and I condemned the idea of raising the legal age for drinking to 21 and the age of smoking to 18 in my letters of January 31 and February 14 respectively.
It is to be hoped that the wider labour movement gives these issues more prominence.
Regarding Hezbollah, I think we have to distinguish between its role as a popular resistance movement in Lebanon, where it has won mass support from the shi’ite population and allies from other sections, and its use as a cover by Iranian or other intelligence outfits (‘No even-handedness’, February 28).
We can’t condemn these Lebanese fighters for wanting to act in solidarity with the people of Gaza, still less for fighting the invaders of their country (though it is a pity some of their missiles hit working class neighbourhoods and Palestinian villages). We can understand the poor shi’ites looking to this party as their shield and benefactor without necessarily being steeped in its hotchpotch of ideas.
Likewise the people who defiantly took up the chant, “We are all Hezbollah!”, at demonstrations in London when Lebanon was being bombed in the name of fighting Hezbollah understand, but do not have to agree with, the organisation to take part in the march. (Not that the slogan was always spontaneous. I witnessed someone going around orchestrating the chant among a group of Arab women and children in Whitehall who, left to themselves, were chanting, “Peace for Lebanon, freedom for Palestine”.)
Apart from Hezbollah’s programme, what people probably did not know was that Iranian agents using the Hezbollah cover have attacked Kurdish exiles and leftwing Iranians in Europe. The Iranian regime and Hezbollahin from Lebanon have also been accused of the 1994 anti-Jewish bombing in Buenos Aires, in which 86 people were killed and hundreds injured. I’ve got my doubts (Argentina is a long way to go to wage Middle East war, and more local motives and culprits could have been involved), but the international role of Hezbollah and the Iranian regime is something we need to discuss, perhaps at the Hands Off the People of Iran day school, when we can hear what Iranian comrades say.
We should not blame ordinary Lebanese for voting Hezbollah, nor people shouting slogans in the heat of demonstration over the war. But it is another matter when a politician like George Galloway opportunistically plays to the gallery, and supposed Marxists in the leadership of the Stop the War Coalition organise a speaking tour for them. What’s wrong with inviting a Lebanese communist, when they also fought for their people and for a non-sectarian Lebanon? Or is being leftwing and secular a disqualifier, as Iranian comrades have found?
I remember Socialist Workers Party members arguing in Stop the War that they mustn’t pick and choose whom to support in Iraq, but it seems they are choosing partners in the Middle East, and their opening is not to the left.
Why can't you?
I cannot see what Peter Manson - and presumably the CPGB as a whole, given he is editor of your party paper, not a recent recruit - feel would be gained by the SWP/Respect withdrawing from the Greater London Assembly contest (‘Carry on regardless’, February 28).
Surely you should be able to see that “a radical socialist alternative” that acted as “the voice of the working class and poor” would be a welcome addition to the otherwise limited choice before London voters on May 1, whatever defects and imperfections that radical socialist alternative might have in your eyes (as the CPGB) or mine (as a non-SWPer who joined Respect after the split with the Gallowayites).
Your coverage of Respect’s GLA campaign seems negative in the extreme and designed to undermine it in every way imaginable. Whilst it is extremely unlikely that somebody other than Livingstone or Johnson will be elected London mayor, by such electoralist (or perhaps I should say municipal cretinist) standards, Lindsey German is by no means alone as “a complete no-hoper”. The same label could be applied to the Lib Dem Paddick or the Green Berry too. Moreover, given the votes obtained by ‘Weekly Worker’ candidates on their last outing, most of us feel it might be wise if you avoided such expressions.
I accept there is a problem about the use of the Respect label in elections and that the Leyton and Preston results confirm the need for a party label on a ballot paper. I think it would be sensible for the SWP leadership to have a fall-back position in the sense of having another label acceptable to the electoral commission in readiness - preferably one that included the word ‘socialist’ in it. However, I don’t feel that your organisation is in the slightest bit concerned about this genuine problem. You are now acting as if you are enthusiastic supporters of the same Ken Livingstone who once called you MI5 agents.
Some of us feel that Livingstone’s support for Ian Blair and the killing of Jean-Charles de Menezes, Livingstone’s scabbing on the RMT, his enthusiasm for non-doms and property developers and the general air of sleaze surrounding Lee Jasper and Socialist Action need to be challenged on May 1. It is also essential that a leftwing alternative be offered to white working class voters who have lost faith in New Labour and are considering voting for the BNP - which is offering false, racist, solutions to the problems of housing, low wages and unemployment produced by Brown-Livingstone neoliberal capitalism.
Even if Lindsey were not elected, it would be an extremely positive development if the Respect intervention deprived the BNP of the chance of an assembly seat. Of course, given your odd position on the fascists, you may not regard this as a priority, but many other socialists do.
Surely, the time has come to put the interests of London’s working class, unemployed and pensioners, black, white and Asian, before your interests as a sect in pursuing a quarrel with the SWP? Even the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty are backing Lindsey for mayor. Why can’t you?
Why can't you?
Why can't you?