Jim Padmore raises some important questions about the current situation in which the Campaign for a Marxist Party finds itself (Letters, March 13). Some correction is required, however, to the comrade’s initial assertion. He says: “The original conception behind the CMP was the idea that there were large numbers of leftwing activists, former members of left groups, who were looking for something to join. This has proved not to be the case.”
This was certainly not a conception that was shared by the groups which co-sponsored the founding conference of the CMP - the CPGB, the Critique Supporters Group, the Democratic Socialist Alliance, the New Interventions editorial board and the Revolutionary Democratic Group. In my view, the idea could be attributed only to Hillel Ticktin and some of the other comrades of the CSG. Ticktin articulated a view that, with the decline in influence of Stalinism, the main counterrevolutionary obstacle to the formation of a mass Marxist party is no longer present and, hence, that the conditions for the formation of a Marxist party are favourable.
This does not represent an accurate objective understanding of the balance of political forces at the present time. We are not in a situation where the reformists of the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party are in crisis whilst we are somehow abstracted from that crisis. We are part of a crisis, which can be summed up as the lack of a political relation between Marxists and the working class. Inability to relate to important developments such as the onset of globalisation and the connected structural transformation of the working class; and adaptation to prevailing consciousness, as reflected in the promotion of welfare state capitalism as an alternative to the market logic of New Labour’s ‘third way’, are some of the symptoms of this crisis.
It is not going to be easy to build a Marxist party. To do so we will have to work hard to make Marxism relevant to, and connected with, the working class.
Jim suggests that one role for the CMP might be to make general Marxist propaganda, but he asks how we could do this differently to other current left propaganda groups. Well, foremostly, we have to beware of promoting our own form of Marxist dogma that apologises for an avoidance of the issues that have facilitated the current dire situation of revolutionary Marxism. Large doses of openness and honesty will be needed.
Obviously, programmatic and theoretical advance - the formation of a programme for the contemporary era - is an important part of the process of striving to consciously resolve the crisis and to develop the possibility of making a relation between party and class. But organisation is also immensely important. We cannot expect to simply proclaim our standpoint and wait for people to flock to our banner.
Jim is absolutely correct to warn against “being seen as armchair revolutionaries, only interested in abstract discussion” and he is right to assert that political debate in the CMP needs to be clearly linked to political activity. In this context, the apparent direction of the new CPGB/CSG-led committee of the CMP towards the cloisters is most disappointing. The minutes of the December 20 2007 committee meeting record a decision to replace Marxist Voice in its current format with a twice-yearly themed journal linked to a research project.
This shift is even more disappointing when viewed against the resolution of the founding conference of the CMP, viz: “That the creation of [a Marxist] party is likely to be through a process of discussion and debate, including the publication of differing positions and analyses. This process will be aided by a basic programme of common work - intervention in the class struggle and international solidarity work carried out by members of the campaign”.
It was that resolution which informed the predecessor committee’s approach to developing Marxist Voice. Jim says he was disappointed with the first three issues and of course there is much room for improvement, but Jim and many other CMP comrades must be even more disappointed with the current committee’s abandonment of Marxist Voice.
The comrades who came together on March 1 this year to form the Trotskyist Tendency of the CMP are determined to fight for the preservation and development of Marxist Voice as a journal of open discussion, analysis, polemic and organisation. We will also focus the CMP’s attention on the need to engage with the struggles of the working class.
Agree to differ
Recently I was invited to be part of a ‘Trotskyist Tendency’ being organised inside the CMP, mainly by the Democratic Socialist Alliance, but including others, such as Gerry Downing.
I declined, partly because I’m not sure the CMP has a viable future, but also because it was made clear that a fair amount of fudging would be needed to accommodate the different viewpoints involved. This was confirmed at the initial meeting - when no agreement could be reached on imperialism or the nature of the Labour Party the meeting simply decided to “agree to differ”.
I don’t feel this method helps to clarify anything.
Agree to differ
Agree to differ
Shaun Taylor makes some valid points about the ultimate working class sport - football (Letters, March 13). However, he fails to mention that thousands are starting the process of taking back the game from the capitalists.
Many hundreds of former Manchester United fans have founded their own locally owned club. Wimbledon fans have done the same. Numerous clubs have been taken over by their fans through supporters’ trusts. Supporters’ magazines and websites attract an active readership and carry sustained debate and criticism of the ownership and control of football by the super-rich. The publication When Saturday comes gives national expression to many of these debates.
Four million children play football in organised leagues every week, supported by 200,000 active parents - helping to develop an awareness of the importance of organisation, collective struggle, solidarity and cooperation.
A live and active space challenging capitalism exists within football. It’s a shame that so few on the left have the time and energy to get involved.
Last year, supporters of the British National Party gathered at Denby, near Codnor in Derbyshire, for the party’s Red, White and Blue festival. Former BNP councillor Alan Warner, who hosted the event, has said that the festival will be back in Derbyshire again this year.
In 2007, Amber Valley Council granted the organisers entertainment licences in spite of widespread local protest. Anti-fascists did not mobilise in time to help stop the festival. We are determined that that will not happen this year.
Thousands again marched for peace on Saturday to mark five years since the start of the ground invasion stage of the war in Iraq, and to show solidarity with the victims of Israel’s brutal siege of Gaza.
One disappointing aspect of the demonstration was the surprising prevalence of a certain type of banner, whose general tone can best be conveyed by direct quotation: “Jew Sharon crashes twin towers”; “9/11: Google ‘building 7 smoking gun’”; and “9/11 was an inside job”. This, it would seem, is the downside of the peace movement’s much celebrated heterogeneity - the total absence of a party line allows certain mindless elements a disproportionate influence in terms of shaping the visible messages of the demonstration, with potentially disastrous consequences for public perceptions of the peace movement.
Leaving aside for one moment the merits of the case - in this writer’s view, the conspiracy theories are at best implausible - it is reasonably clear that the overwhelming majority of anti-war campaigners do not believe that the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001 were carried out directly by the United States government, and accordingly these banners had no place in the peace demonstration.
It is regrettable enough that the demonstration, though well attended and highly significant, has predictably received relatively little coverage in the mainstream press. There is absolutely no need to compound this by providing the enemies of the peace movement with the opportunity to forge, with regard to such coverage as is afforded, a link in the public conscience between the peace movement as a whole and the childish paranoia of ill-conceived conspiracy theories.
In any case, the conspiracy theorists, clouded in their judgement by a mixture of fear and admiration for big government, have rather missed the point. For there is, with regard to the present wars in the Middle East, a quite plain conspiracy in place, the truth of which is attested to by an overwhelming mountain of evidence. The vast conspiracy of imperialism - the collusion between government, financiers, big business and arms manufacturers, alongside a jingoistic press financed by key vested interests - is evidenced beyond any hint of a doubt, and is far greater in scope and menace than any one-off act of state-sponsored domestic terrorism. It is all too easily capable of effecting its destructive purpose without recourse to ‘inside jobs’.
The contribution of these conspiracy theorists, whose ill-considered and largely unsubstantiated bleatings are all the more offensive for being, from time to time, tinged with shades of racial hatred, serves only to discredit a peace movement, which, though powerful, has quite enough enemies and obstacles to deal with at present.
Joseph Mitchell, who appears to be some kind of Zionist, writes dishonestly from beginning to end of his letter (March 13). His very first sentence invents quotes that were not in my article (‘All-Arab solution needed for Palestine’, March 6). And at no point did the article defend “Arab nationalism and islamism”, as he claims. Why would it? That is not the position of any comrades in the CPGB, including me. Indeed, there is certainly no “ambivalence”, as Mitchell falsely claims.
Instead of looking at what the article actually said, Mitchell decides to concoct his very own précis of my words, faked as follows: “I am not anti-semitic, but I support Hezbollah and Hamas (funded by Iran and Syria) as ‘anti-imperialists’/‘anti-Zionists’, with a ‘No, but I want to see the destruction of Israel’, and a ‘Yes, but I am a socialist/communist’.” Nowhere in the article is there even a hint of support for Hezbollah and Hamas or the destruction of Israel. In fact, I clearly called for “a democratic, secular Palestine within an Arab federation, existing alongside a democratic, secular Israel”.
Incredibly, Mitchell goes on to deny Israel’s invasion of Gaza: only “defensive incursions” took place, he says. Change the words: presumably that makes all the difference to those murdered by the Israeli Defence Forces. Ironically, he then dons the mantle of holocaust denier: apparently minister Matan Vilnai’s threat of a shoah (holocaust) against Gazans is of a different kind. Is it a less-than-a-holocaust because those to experience it are Palestinians, not Jews? Oh yes, change the words again and all is fine. (Does he think the Nazi shoah did not befall Europe’s Roma as well as its Jews?)
Hamas received a majority of Palestinian votes: a fact Mitchell sweeps aside. He agrees with Bush and the Israeli government in declaring this expression of democracy illegitimate, thereby justifying 1.5 million in Gaza being sealed into a ghetto.
A Left Social Revolutionary once said: “The Bible tells us that god created the heavens and the earth from nothing … the Bolsheviks are capable of no lesser miracles: out of nothing, they create legitimate credentials.” So too does Dan Read with his attempted defence of Bolshevism and his desperate resort to the fable of civil war and foreign intervention as the explanation for the doomed Russian Revolution (Letters, March 13).
My original letter (February 21) claimed that Stalinism did have its roots in Leninist practice, a question that Phil Kent to his credit was gingerly trying to pose and answer. I asserted that the consequences of Leninism could be deduced at the time, and was, by participants and critics of the revolution.
Trotsky says in History of the Russian Revolution that “The party set the soviets in motion, the soviets set in motion the workers, soldiers and to some extent the peasantry …”
In other words, the soviets existed to allow the party to influence the workers. But what if the workers reject the decisions of the party? What happens when the workers refuse to be set in motion by the party but instead set themselves in motion and reject the Bolsheviks? What then for the soviets? We saw the results. The soviets were marginalised and undermined by the Bolsheviks after the October revolution and emasculated of any power simply because they did reflect the wishes of the working class and not that of the Bolshevik party. From the logic of Trotsky’s perspective (and Lenin’s), we could predict that the soviets would have to be tamed (by whatever means possible) in favour of party power (the real goal). And this is what did happen.
Dan Read then contributed that the Bolshevik-dominated soviets were a “higher” form of popular rule, above parliamentarianism, above the need for a universal, direct, equal and secret ballot, above the need for liberty of the press and the need for independent political parties. He then went further: “[The Bolsheviks] had the masses of the most politicised nation in the world behind them …” If, indeed, the Bolsheviks had the support he claims they had, then they would have won soviet elections and a majority in the constituent assembly easily. They did not, and hence no more free soviet elections, no more constituent assembly, and instead more and more suppression.
Democracy under capitalism is reduced to people voting for competing groups of professional politicians, to giving the thumbs-up or the thumbs-down to the governing or opposition party. Political analysts call this the ‘elite theory of democracy’, since under it all that the people get to choose is which elite should exercise government power. This contrasts with the original theory of democracy, which envisages popular participation in the running of affairs and which political analysts call ‘participatory democracy’. This is the sort of democracy socialists favour.
Developed democratic parliamentarianism assures the masses of the opportunity to participate in state administration. It does not, however, guarantee their political domination or the capture of the state machine to be used as a tool for emancipation. Socialist consciousness is required for that, something presently lacking and what the Socialist Party of Great Britain strives to inculcate within the working class.
I enjoyed reading the CPGB’s Draft programme and found it interesting and informative, especially: “As the world of things becomes ever greater, the world of people becomes ever more insecure and atomised. Capitalism, despite the abundance of its commodities and the wonders of technology, is unable to allow human beings to fulfil themselves as human beings. Work is a clock-watching torture - a daily drudge, not life’s prime want.”
I am a secretary in a large private client firm. I am horrified, and so are my colleagues, at how we are treated simply as expendable drones, worked until our fingers are riddled with RSI and then swapped for new staff. There is little in terms of health and safety or care for our welfare and the pay isn’t good.
Yesterday, when a colleague explained that she couldn’t work at high speeds continuously for eight hours and needed a change of task, she was told to “grow more hands and make them work quicker”. No smile was given with this. Later, the man who said that and his managerial staff went outside for a photoshoot, as profits were so good they’d been named in a magazine.
It’s no better than working on a loom in the past days. You just come in at 8am and do not leave the computer until after 5pm and in that time they tell us we are ‘theirs’, as they have ‘bought us’ for those hours. It’s soul-destroying and pitiful - more so when you see the fat cats prancing about, glorifying in their profits and self-praise.
I would love to meet more people who could support us in this vile, capitalistic, imperialistic world where slavery is actually not dead and parents take their children shopping round malls at bank holidays for entertainment. There’s nothing like shaping the young, is there?