I have just made an online donation through PayPal to the Weekly Worker fighting fund.
This isn’t because I’m an avid supporter of the CPGB (heck, I don’t even like the party using the name ‘Great’ Britain, never mind its position on Ireland), but because I think the Weekly Workerprovides a rare forum for open debate on crucial issues - particularly how to fight the fascist BNP and the right. Its coverage of developments in building an effective left opposition is also illuminating and thought-provoking.
If other online readers value the Weekly Worker enough to log in and use it, maybe they should think of bunging you a fiver or a tenner apiece every once in a while too.
That would go a long way in making sure the Weekly Worker is there the next time they want to look at it.
At the Hands Off the People of Iran weekend school a comrade from the International Bolshevik Tendency presented an argument for ‘military support’ to the Iranian regime in the event of invasion.
The comrade in question laid stress on the divergence between political and military support, and made it clear that the defeat of western imperialism - even through taking up arms alongside the revolutionary guards - was a lesser evil than the victory of the United States.
In response, comrade John Bridge quoted Carl von Clausewitz’s famous statement that “war is a continuation of politics by other means”. As far as I’m concerned, this is correct as a catch-all statement, but to use this as an argument to say that military support necessarily leads to political rapport simplifies a complex issue.
Given the numerical weakness of the left worldwide, turning up in Iran with a bunch of AK47s and offering to fight alongside the military would (as John pointed out) lead to us being shot on the spot. In our current state, I just cannot imagine many of us being too effective as soldiers, and the CPGB and the IBT combined as an armed unit would probably last about half a second against a platoon of US marines. Assuming that I’m one of the few comrades to have even fired a real weapon before, military support at this time would simply equate with an embarrassing death.
Current practicalities aside, theoretically military support as a concept does not necessarily entail political allegiance. Only a madman would argue that, say, in World War II British support in the form of tanks, supplies and aircraft to the USSR necessarily meant political solidarity with Stalinism.
If we go back even further, to equate the alliance between Rome and the Goths against the Huns with Roman/Gothic fraternity would be equally mistaken. War is indeed a continuation of politics, but this does not mean that warfare entails a process of political merger between all allied parties.
Assuming for a moment that, say, the war drive against Iran led to the agitation of entire segments of the working class as a class for itself, it would be perfectly permissible for armed units to fight against invasion in military cooperation with the theocracy.
That does not for a moment mean even partial submission politically or otherwise - it is a simple case of finding common ground in that both the islamic state and the working class would face disaster if western imperialism achieved victory.
We, of course, do not give a fuck about the islamic republic and its medieval mindset, but, as comrade Mark Fischer pointed out at Hopi’s founding conference, it is perfectly permissible to ally yourself with Satan in certain circumstances, as long as you do not make Satan out to be an angel.
There are historical examples to support this. We know that the Spanish civil war featured a powerful working class movement fielding its own forces in tandem with those of a bourgeois republic.
This did not entail complete support for the Spanish government and, given the presence of a viable revolutionary current outside Stalinism, the military struggle could have provided the grounds to develop the revolutionary alternative to both bourgeois democracy and authoritarian nationalism.
Remember that, according to Hal Draper at least in his ‘ABC of national liberation movements’, the “republican government had itself brutally shot down militant workers only the day before yesterday. Moreover, it was an imperialist government, so much so that not even the need to win over Franco’s Moorish troops, in order to save its own neck, was enough to get it to declare for freeing Morocco. Revolutionary socialists could have no confidence in the conduct of the war by the section of the republican bourgeoisie which had not gone over to Franco, not even confidence in their will to fight Franco to the end, and certainly no confidence in their ability to fight Franco by the only means that could win, revolutionary means.”
What’s more, the “existence of these independent armed forces of the left represented the possibility of an alternative leadership for the struggle as a whole; it reflected a basically different aim in the struggle itself (carrying over the struggle against Franco to social revolution, not a return to the discredited bourgeois status quo ante).”
Obviously, I would not seek to liken the question of military action in Iran along the lines of the Poum in Spain. For clear reasons, we are in a different epoch and dealing with very different antagonists.
Either way, we are not currently in a situation to seriously oppose the US war drive, let alone challenge them on a military basis.
The notion, however, that military support necessarily entails political convergence is, in my view, false for the above reasons.
Off the leash
Hillel Ticktin predicts that “a return to Keynesianism is on the cards” (‘Financial turmoil heralds return to Keynesianism’, April 3). Why not a continuation of the reduction in living standards? What scope is there for productivity deals anyway?
Mind control and atomisation are much more advanced than they were in the 1980s. Inflation of prices of staple goods, such as bread, is high at the moment, but there aren’t any strikes to speak of.
Most importantly of all, working class people in Britain are suffering unprecedentedly high levels of debt, but there is zero public discourse recognising this as a problem. Instead there is wall-to-wall successful promotion of it, as if it were a good thing; as if it were an asset.
The latest developments in British propaganda are even promoting the ‘gap year’, previously a cultural habit only of the rich, whose parents pay off their debts when they leave university. For working class people, it can only mean more debt when they are in their teens and 20s, which they will be lucky to get out of by their mid-50s.
It would have been hard to believe this possible, say, 20 years ago. A person needs to be mad to borrow several thousand pounds to backpack round the world if they’ve got damn-all real possibility of paying it back.
Finance capital is not really cannibalistic against itself, although admittedly in the derivatives markets it appears to be so. It cannot be. It is off the leash with regard to both industrial capital and, above all, the working class.
Robbery by deception is now very common in Britain. Stand in a bank queue some time and you will see loads of people in front of you getting conned this way, that way and the other way. The poor lose loads of money because of direct debit scams run against them by banks and large companies.
The article quotes Ticktin’s view that derivatives are “loans”. This view strikes me as coming from someone who knows a small amount about a subject, but is used to talking to people who know practically nothing and who take his words as gospel.
Derivatives are not loans. There is certainly an important point to be made about the massive growth of derivatives trading, both on open markets and on the inter-bank market. However, if I buy shares with the right to sell amount X, at price Y, before a certain date, this is not a loan. I would either be betting or hedging.
The same applies if I sell (‘write’) an option, in which case I might take on a large exposure, but for the time being all I’d have to do would be to make a relatively small margin payment. If you call this a loan, you might as well call a bet or an insurance policy a loan.
I find it worthy of note that, for all the different views on when or how it was right to break with the SPD a century ago, so little attention is paid to one of the main features of German social democracy: namely the rise of the ‘socialist professors’, which had never happened before, anywhere in the world.
Proletarian theory must, in my view, come from autonomous effort by proletarians, by people who are forced to make it; who are driven by their hatred of capitalism to make rapier-like criticism of the derivatives market, for example - often faltering, but learning all the time, and encouraging other proletarians to do the same, unbound by any institutionalised roles.
Off the leash
Off the leash
As I understand it, the purpose of the Transitional programme (a practical document that was meant to be used in context of agitational activity) was to demonstrate to workers - whose political outlook was dominated by social democratic/Labour Party illusions - that socialism could never be achieved unless the capitalist political basis was transcended a priori: ie, a Labour government administering a capitalist political-economy would never be able to deliver the goods.
In this context, a series of social wage demands are made in full understanding that Labour/social democracy could never meet them. Then (theoretically) the stage was set to split the workers in question from the pertinent social democrat/Labour organisation into the respective Fourth Internationalist branch.
Where I agree with the gist of your argument is that the current political context is not one where workers are under social democratic/Labour illusions, but one in which workers are being misled by ‘centre-left’ political bait-and-switch con men, who pretend to be social democrats in the classical sense but who in fact are neoliberals.
By ‘classical’, I mean as ‘reformists’ were in the 1930s, a time when the Labour and social democratic organisations had a commitment (on paper at least) to ‘achieve socialism’ - as with clause four in Britain.
Today there are no ‘social democrats’ and consequently there are no workers under social democratic illusions. From there it follows that the Transitional programme is outdated.
What we need today is a frontal and militant anti-capitalist attack on political, economic and social liberalism. A total and absolute break with 1789/1917 and its replacement with 1968/1999-2003.
The social democratic decolonisation of the left sector clears the way for the emergence of legitimate socialist narratives. In this context we are now witnessing a crisis that affects the foundations of global neoliberal capitalism.
It is an opportunity for pro-socialist people and networks to articulate and organise for a set of social and ecological solutions that identify the causes and consequences of the unfolding climate, energy, food and credit mess, while seeking to re-ignite the global anti-war movement from the grassroots up.
On this one, I tend to agree with Trotsky: it is in the context of struggle that workers find their own voice and can measure their strength. Look at the recent wave of petrol strikes in Spain. That upsurge was dissipated because the movement failed to connect with the concerns of the wider society. Other workers should have staged solidarity strikes with the truckers and the fishermen. They should have organised to ignite an anti-inflation, pro-democracy movement.
The question for socialists is to how best exploit these episodes in order to advance the interests of the vast majority of people who are trampled by capital on a day-to-day basis.
There is more than a grain of truth in the often quoted phrase, “Marxists have predicted 18 out of the last three recessions.”
I agree with the warning of some CPGB members that the approaching recession or slump will not necessary lead to a swing to the left. However, a recession or slump will lead to a questioning amongst the working class that capitalism can provide a continuing increase in living standards.
The period of political reaction since the defeat of the 1984-85 miners’ strike has been reinforced by a period of economic growth during the last 15 years. A recession or slump with an increase in home repossessions will shatter the belief in capitalism, as embodied in the Thatcher mantra, ‘the property-owning democracy’.
At the same time, as described in the CPGB’s Draft programme, so-called ‘full employment’ will be shown to be only a temporary phenomenon. So, the approaching recession or slump will see an end to the period of political reaction, even if it results in a polarisation of politics between left and right.
The Climate Camp has declared coal their enemy number one. Their slogans demand that we “leave it in the ground”, which could well have been Maggie Thatcher’s and John Major’s slogan too. Working to the same hymn sheet as the Climate Camp, they closed 200 coal mines, the coal was ‘left in the ground’ and over 200,000 miners and their families went on the scrapheap. Most of those communities are still on the scrapheap, officially recognised as the most deprived areas in Britain on any scale you care to use.
The development of clean coal technology in response to charges against coal’s CO2 emissions and the ‘energy crisis’ had offered some glimmer of hope for the mining communities and the National Union of Mineworkers. There was talk of opening new mines and commissioning ‘clean burn’ coal power stations.
This, it seems, has whipped the Climate Camp into action, making coal in Britain its main target, despite the fact that worldwide it is actually only the fourth worst producer of CO2, and that is without the use of clean coal technology. There are less than 2,500 miners left in Britain and just seven coal mines.
Of course, we actually burn almost as much coal as we did before the Major closures, but produced by non-union, impoverished miners in the third world and South America, working often in Victorian conditions. Not that that concerns the Climate Camp: they just hate coal, whereas Thatcher and Major hated the British miners.
So from August 4, the Climate Camp descends on Kingsnorth power station in Kent, with the aim of shutting down its operations to demonstrate that they can shut down all coal power stations.
There has been no consultation with the workers at Kingsnorth, of course; no strategy on energy and the environment agreed with the unions or the workers directly. This isn’t surprising, since the majority of the camp have no concept of class, class struggle or the lives of ordinary workers. It is rather typical of the ‘green dictatorship’ that self-chosen saviours seek to inflict upon us for our own good. They have had a dream and we better get used to it.
To offset this, I am proposing a demonstration for clean coal technology, for workers’ control of the mining and energy industry, and in defence of the NUM and energy unions at the start of the demonstration and blockade on August 4.
There will be a ‘union platform’, starting at 2pm, on which I have agreed to speak and where workers will be allowed to come and say what we think of the action, perspectives on global warming and so on.
I’m proposing that we assemble from the morning with banners in support of clean coal and a workers’ plan for energy, and then march up to the union platform. I would appreciate your support.