Phil Maguire’s misunderstanding (Letters, July 17) of the Revolutionary Democratic Group’s position is forgivable, as one specific article (‘Not a penny for New Labour’, July 10) doesn’t represent the whole picture. The argument needs to be addressed in the totality.
Marx supported the Communist League and the Chartist Party. The first was an international organisation of revolutionary communists. The second was a national party of the working masses that Marx called the “politically active portion of the British working class” (New York Daily Tribune August 25 1852).
Of course, Marx was called a ‘petty bourgeois Stalinoid’ (or its historical equivalent) by the Phil Maguires of his day. So the RDG can take some pride, or a bit of comfort, that history repeats itself, even if this time it’s farce.
We are not arguing for a simple copy of these historical precedents. A few things have happened in between. Our proposed Chartist Party (mark two) is identified by the term ‘republican socialist party’, which has more in common with the Chartist left. Take note that George Julian Harney’s paper was called the Red Republican.
Then we come to Phil’s take on the question of ‘republican socialism’. He is opposed to this on the grounds that he agrees with it, really. He tells us it is definitional. Every socialist is automatically a republican. So let’s never mention the ‘R’ word again. This is typical Labour left nonsense. Historically, even when the Labour Party made some claim of socialism, it was never republican. Respect is set up on the same basis.
Marx and Engels recognised this in Germany, as the Lasalleans and the Social Democratic Party either rejected or ignored republicanism. This is despite Phil’s mistaken belief that they were automatically republicans. In contrast, the Bolsheviks were accused of being the Jacobins of Russian Social Democracy. Their attitude to republicanism was militant and revolutionary. Republican agitation, demands, slogans and tactics were a central part of their work.
I am sure Phil will say that this is England and that was Russia. But we can learn working class Jacobin socialism from them. Modern England and modern British socialism have got nothing to be proud of.
Apologies for Lawrence Parker’s announcement last week that the Rotten Elements website address has changed (Letters, July 17). It has not changed at all. You can still access it viawww.rottenelements.org.uk.
Lawrence was probably over-excited following the publication on our website of his seminal new work, Althusser: the musical, in a full and unabridged form. Moreover, we’ve decided to mount a full-scale production, hopefully in time for this year’s forthcoming Communist University. We would like to take this opportunity tentatively to offer the role of the eponymous hero to the CPGB’s very own James Turley.
Tony Greenstein starts his review of Mike Marqusee’s If I am not for myself; journey of an anti-Zionist Jew by saying it has had “scant attention” (‘Zionism and secularisation of the Jewish ghetto’, July 17). Perhaps he did not notice the reviews in The Guardian, The Independent,Morning Star, The Times Literary Supplement, Jewish Chronicle, Jewish Socialist, The Sunday Times, N16, Library Journal, Red Pepper, Socialist Worker and many more. As a publisher, I hope all my books have scant attention.
In the second paragraph, Greenstein explains that the title of the book comes from a saying by rabbi Hillel that is “recited every year at the Passover Seder (meal)”. Um, no it isn’t.
I look forward to reading the rest of the article some time.
Tony Greenstein’s review claims that “Mike’s own politics holds him back”, yet, regrettably, the boot is on the other foot. It is the squeezing of Marqusee’s often subtle and moving discussion of the evolution of his relationship with his grandfather, against the backdrop of history, into Greenstein’s anti-Zionist Maginot Marxism that leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, serving to legitimise the anti-semitism that shrieks for the destruction of Israel.
In fact, Mr Greenstein’s whole polemic constantly revolves around his central obsession: to discredit and delegitimise the state of Israel via the equivalence of Zionism and fascism - the notion of the responsibility of Israel for the violence conducted against it; and the responsibility of Zionism for destroying the Jews through allegedly supporting Hitler.
These absurd propositions are underlined by the current notion found on the left that Iran needs a nuclear arsenal to keep Israeli expansionism at bay, when it is Iran that is threatening to wipe Israel off the map. Mr Greenstein argues that Israel is “a virulently racist and murderous state”, a description equally apt for Nazi Germany, a false and dangerous equivalisation, mistakenly based on Abram Leon’s sketchy history of the problem, an uncompleted manuscript written at a precociously early age (before World War II).
Mr Marqusee is dead right to argue that the equation of the star of David and the swastika “can legitimate anti-semitism”, and it is dishonest or naive (or both) for Mr Greenstein to deny this, especially when it is a core element in the new anti-semitism of the right (and, sadly, the left) which is being examined and unmasked by the valuable service performed by Denis MacShane MP and the All Parliamentary Committee on Anti-Semitism.
In the anodyne letters page of Socialist Worker, a member of the Socialist Workers Party writes: “I have many muslim friends who support and accept me for who I am.” Anyone who says something along the lines of ‘some of my best friends are …’ is usually in the business of covering something up or should be more wary of who their friends are.
The letter was in response to George Broadhead of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association’s support for London mayor Boris Johnson’s attack on the meeting of former mayor Ken Livingstone with Yusuf al-Qaradawi in 2004. At the time, the paper of family values, the Daily Mail, was quick to warn its readers about the leading thinker of the Muslim Brotherhood with the words: “This is a man who praises the ‘martyrdom’ of children suicide bombers, promotes war on Israel, advocates the killing of homosexuals, supports wife-beating and thinks Kentucky Fried Chicken is part of ‘a Jewish conspiracy’.”
Socialist Worker accused the Mail of spouting hate rhetoric, but the comrades at Socialist Workerdid not pay any attention to the comments Al-Qaradawi has made. Al-Qaradawi set up the Islam Online website, where, for example, he has said about homosexuality: “This perverted act is a reversal of the natural order, a corruption of man’s sexuality and a crime against the rights of females.”
The letter writer mourns the loss of what has been perceived as a hand-picked and undemocratic Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Advisory Panel, set up by Livingstone and closed down by Johnson after one meeting. However, perhaps she should think about what leads her to call for a united fight against both homophobia and islamophobia while at the same time supporting the type of bourgeois family values that Al-Qaradawi defends and the Daily Mail supports.
Simon Wells’ letter last week reminded me of the tragic Sun story of the young widow who was left alone when her soldier husband went off to fight the Argies and got killed. Actually, they couldn’t find a real soldier’s widow so a lass in the office imagined what she would have felt if she had been married to a soldier who was killed in that war.
Simon imagines what the response of the Morning Star,The Socialist and Socialist Worker would be if I had written to them, if they had printed the letter and even what would have been wrong with their response if they had made one! Of course I didn’t, and they didn’t; he just made it up. He really had that conversation all on his own (Letters, July 17).
Let’s just recap, shall we? Thatcher took on and defeated the miners because she thought the National Union of Mineworkers was too strong and had a strong class agenda. The NUM is a constitutionally anti-capitalist working class organisation with a history of overt political struggle and a vision of a socialist alternative to the current system. Her programme was to smash the union but leave a large part of the coal industry intact for non-unionism, privatisation and super profits. She failed, and John Major came with the second wave.
The importing of coal produced by impoverished workers abroad to displace the coal produced by workers with higher standards of living, safety and levels of class organisation isn’t some act of internationalism. It was and remains an overt political act, and an action of the ruling class engaged in class war. I utterly fail to see how supporting slogans at the climate camp for the end of coalmining in Britain is internationalist or progressive. I fail to see why technologies that reduce CO2 emissions from coal by 90% are unhelpful in the aim to combat man-made global warming or that they are ‘false hopes’. Why can’t coal from clean coal technologies supply Britain’s base load requirements to the generators and why is that chauvinistic? It is being burned using unclean technologies now.
This time the plan was aimed at the virtual elimination of the British coal industry as a way of defeating the NUM once and for all. His plan achieved 58 pit closures initially with more to follow, the loss of 60,000 jobs and the reduction of coal capacity by 60,000 tonnes of apparently unneeded coal. Despite this, they currently import just under 60,000 tonnes, which has replaced the coal we used to mine ourselves. So why coal from abroad and not from here?
The NUM is a visionary union with a class perspective that is able and ready to use its political power in support of general class offensives and a class political agenda. We enjoyed among the highest wages of miners anywhere in the world. British coal was by far the safest coal in the world. It was also the cheapest deep-mined coal in the world, modern and efficient. By contrast, tens of thousands of miners die and are injured in Chinese coalmines - two-thirds of all miners who die in the world die in China. The wages are at starvation levels, there are no independent unions and safety conditions are non-existent. To a lesser extent, this is true of all importing countries, with the exception of Australian open cast coal.
So, comrade Wells, you do the sum. Did the state close down British mines because they thought we had had it too good and the chauvinistic British miners should export their exploitation not only abroad but back through time to a period equivalent to early Victorian conditions? Was this some progressive development then and should we have welcomed it? The defeat of the miners here, the rolling back of hard fought for terms and conditions internationally, and the breaking of a vanguard section of the European working class was not some act of benevolent internationalism by the British state. What has defending our union, our class perspectives, our terms and conditions and our jobs got to do with some chauvinistic aim of ‘digging for Britain’?
Simon Wells clearly doesn’t know the British miners or me. My branch and most of the Doncaster coalfield fiercely opposed import controls as a policy. The whole union fought enthusiastically for South African, Namibian, Cuban, Chilean and Bolivian miners. We took part in global conferences to set an international coal production target and a base standard of terms, conditions and rules in solidarity with our collective struggles. The defeat of the British miners led to carnage in miners’ lives worldwide through the lowering of standards and smashing class self-defence organisations.
I’m hardly arguing for the displacement of all imported coal either. With 2,500 miners and seven surviving coalmines, we haven’t got the capacity to produce much more than the seven million tonnes we do at present. A doubling of British deep-mined coal would only be 14 million tonnes and that would require rescuing or sinking another six or seven coalmines. I haven’t a clue why Simon says that defending the NUM is “fetishising Stalinism” or describes me as “the typical coal dictator”. Perhaps Simon is responding to another imagined letter; he’s certainly not responding to mine.
Incidentally, I was not so much calling for a “counter-demonstration” to the Kingsnorth protest; more for a progressive working class wing within that protest for clean coal, workers’ control and defence of the NUM and energy unions. One that doesn’t think the debate and demands are a foregone conclusion or that the power workers and miners are some sort of enemy of human survival. Quite the contrary, in my view.
James Turley’s article in last week’s Weekly Worker points out the difficult choices facing Iranian communists should an attack against Iran takes place and he is absolutely right in his condemnation of third campism (‘Third campism is a stinking corpse’, July 17).
However, Hands Off the People of Iran’s persistent rejection of third campism has never implied any political or military support for the islamic regime, or the setting up of ‘united anti-imperialist fronts’ with elements of it. Anyone familiar with Iran’s recent history will be aware that, should the Iranian left consider such an idea, it would be tantamount to committing mass suicide: islamist forces would first open fire on ‘atheist communists’ before fighting any foreign invader.
Yet even at the time of a military attack, for the Iranian working class ‘defeating the enemy at home’ will mean defeating both international capital (imperialism) and internal capitalism within and outside the islamic regime. Let me emphasise that if a war breaks out we will not be dealing with the battle between a large capitalist country (the US) and a small capitalist (paleo-imperialist?) Iran. If the US military achieves victory in Iran (the most likely scenario if an attack does take place), such a victory would have the potential to lengthen the ‘death agony of the US empire’ with disastrous consequences of its own, not only for the Middle East, but for the rest of the world. In the region it will only serve one purpose: strengthening political islam.
In such a conflict, defenders of third campism, many obsessed with one issue, the future of the Zionist state, will be making a serious mistake if they believe that the overthrow of the Iranian regime by a US-Israeli attack will weaken islamist forces. On the contrary, islamist forces will thrive in such a situation.
Inside Iran, such a victory could lead to an even more reactionary regime, with stronger military/fascistic tendencies. Amongst the Iranian opposition, a minority are still naive enough to believe that US-led regime change - any bourgeois secular government! - will herald ‘democracy’ for Iran (as opposed to the hell created in Iraq and Afghanistan) and these forces have already taken a third campist position.
In reality it is very unlikely that the islamic regime, despite its bravado, will put up a fight against military attacks. Many of the leaders of the regime have already made their choices by sending their money and their families abroad. Others within the regime will try and find ‘diplomatic solutions’ (secret negotiations) before and during the conflict.
For communists, there will only be one answer: to turn the war into revolution and continue to fight both sides. The fight against US or Israeli forces, as well the pro-capitalist regime (be it the islamic republic or its pro-US secular replacement) will be a long and bloody one, but it can only succeed if it is led by the Iranian working class setting up an independent front against both enemies inside Iran.
Some have mentioned the position of survival tactics taken up by Afghan Maoists during the US invasion of their country. Iran isn’t Afghanistan and for all the reasons mentioned at length by Hopi activists regarding the complicated relationship between shia rulers and world capitalism, such a solution cannot work in Iran.
If a war starts, we will face a very difficult situation. However, continuing to fight on both fronts, replacing nationalist fervour with revolutionary determination will be the only solution and precisely for these reasons building genuine international solidarity with the Iranian working class is paramount if we are to avoid the trap of third campism or the disaster of ‘anti-imperialist united fronts’ with islamists.