Nick Rogers’ polemic in last week’s paper only addresses the original question posed by Chris Knight’s ‘October theses’, and defended by myself, in the final third of the article (‘Desperate stratagems’, November 13).
In the first third he describes the October 31 ‘Dancing on the grave of capitalism’ event, but says he does not wish to decry anyone’s efforts. Reading through his description of those events, the reader could certainly assume that his intention was to categorise the event as another short cut to working class power and human liberation, and therefore decry it. His words - on the one hand eulogising the excellent effigies and on the other contrasting them with the prices of the New York stock exchange - show his own low opinion of the actions of that night.
The reader could also come to the conclusion that Nick’s opinion of the event resulted from his experiences, almost certainly informed by his perspective on the economic crisis. Furthermore he has called into question the rights and wrongs of such actions by his own contribution to what he has called “furious debates” on “ad-hoc e-lists” over the extent to which the Radical Anthropology Group should be involved in them.
Those heated debates are about the conclusions that can be drawn from the sex strike theory, which Nick so eloquently describes. It could also be about the practical application of a radical and Marxist anthropology - that practice is informed by the conclusions that are drawn from the study of what made us human. Nick is therefore inconsistent in not drawing the correct conclusions of what he has experienced, being a RAG member - and he also behaved in a contradictory way by decrying those efforts but at the same time carrying one of the effigies.
Nick says that the next human revolution will be based on the material reality of the world we inhabit now. For early hominids the moon was extremely important, but he says the vast majority of the population is unaware of what phase the moon is in. However, suppose that there is a power cut. This has been an idea floated for the coming winter months, as the demand for energy could outstrip supply. In this scenario the moon would definitely play a material role in the lives of the working class.
It appears that Nick does not want to engage with the ideas of radical anthropology and would rather sit on the sidelines decrying the efforts of those who do.
Recent surveys show that the typical estate agent’s office has 90 properties for sale, and is selling on average just one a week.
We are rapidly returning to the situation that faced estate agents during the great depression, when there were plenty of properties for sale, but no buyers. Sellers of properties will have no option but to rent them out. Hence, the more far-sighted estate agents are developing the residential letting agency side of their business.
People with properties for sale have a condition psychologists describe as ‘being in denial’. They refuse to accept the reality that their properties are grossly overvalued. I know of five local estate agents that have shut up shop. If they want to stay in business, I suggest they cut the prices of the properties they have for sale, by half.
The capitalist system is in crisis, the capitalists seem to have no ‘plan B’, except for a partial revival of Keynesianism, and what is the reaction of the CPGB? They plan to close down the Campaign for a Marxist Party (‘Exploring agreements and disagreements’, November 13). Brilliant. Yet again they behave in exactly the same bureaucratic centralist manner as the other left groups which are so ably criticised in the Weekly Worker by the likes of Peter Manson and Mark Fischer.
The main principle of the left groups is ‘control or destroy’ and the most recent examples have been the closure of the Socialist Alliance by the Socialist Workers Party and the instigation of the split in the Scottish Socialist Party by the SWP and the Socialist Party. There are many other examples going back years of these groups setting up front organisations which they control and then destroy.
The CPGB claims to be different and to have open and democratic principles. Yet their comrades will come along to the CMP conference and vote as a bloc for the closure of the CMP in exactly the same way as the SWP and International Socialist Group comrades came to the Socialist Alliance AGM and voted to close the SA down. And what a sad and motley crew they were.
Of course, to give justification for his proposal Jack Conrad has to find a scapegoat or two to blame. He claims that “the minority has poisoned the atmosphere in the organisation”. What atmosphere would that be? Principle 11 of the CMP’s 16 principles refers to minorities, their democratic rights and their representation on the committees of the CMP. Jack and his friends have excluded the minority from the committee. In fact, the decisions of the committee are a mystery to me, for I have never seen any minutes of their meetings.
There is also little or no discussion on the CMP website. How can you poison something which for all intents and purposes does not exist? There is a livelier atmosphere in the local morgue than in the CMP.
Furthermore, ever since the founding of the CMP, Jack Conrad has misrepresented the views of the minority and subjected us to personal abuse. He continues to do so in this article. Nobody was in favour of a “halfway house party”, nobody wanted to promote the SA’s People before profit programme, nobody suggested contesting elections, and the list goes on. Either Jack has misunderstood what we were saying or he is lying: comrades can judge for themselves.
The democratic inclusion of minorities is an absolutely essential part of building a Marxist party. This means a conscious effort to maintain open dialogue and the banning of personal abuse and the misrepresentation of views. Of course, there will be comrades from different traditions and backgrounds and this can be a good thing if it is harnessed to the building of the movement and not to pursuing petty factional squabbles.
Jack Conrad concludes his article by saying that, following closure of the CMP, it is the intention of comrades to establish a committee in 2009 with the aim of promoting the study of Marxism and the unity of Marxists as Marxists. Who are these comrades and who are these Marxists? Unfortunately, in my experience of the CMP, they will be hand-picked and vetted by Jack Conrad. If the CPGB have to destroy the CMP because they cannot control a small minority, how on earth are they going to build the mass Marxist party of the working class?
The November 13 edition of the Weekly Worker is a hoot. The final paragraph of Dave Vincent’s article, ‘PCS opts for talks’, consisting simply of “I despair”, sums up the state of Marxism in Britain and internationally. Elsewhere in the same issue, Peter Manson’s article, ‘Expensive absurdity’, reports on the 80-90-strong conference of Left Alternative, the SWP’s new “electoral front that does not contest elections”. Considering that the SWP has long been the largest Marxist organisation in England, its troubles during a massive crisis of capitalism are remarkable.
James Turley, in the article ‘Obamania and the left’, says that “by mid-2007, it was abundantly clear that the Nader movement had all but wilted. So where had these people gone? To the Barack Obama campaign, of course: the electrifying orator and prophet of ‘hope’, ‘change’ and a host of other vagaries had poached this grassroots constituency with impunity.” Rather than celebrating Obama’s victory, and pointing out the correctness of Ralph Nader’s former supporters in shifting the Democrats to the left - and they are way to the left of New Labour in Britain, as a cursory look at www.barackobama.com would reveal - Turley moans about the Democrats being a capitalist party.
Surely, as Ted North reports his article, ‘Brown’s recovery and the global downturn’, with Labour easily winning the Glenrothes by-election and “the Scottish Socialist Party winning 212 and Solidarity a disastrous 87 votes”, part of the solution to achieving socialism in Britain too is participating in a capitalist party.
So what does the CPGB recommend as a solution? Well, they have been plugging away with their pet project of a unified ‘Marxist party’, with such monumental success that their guru Jack Conrad cheerfully reports that (under their leadership) “the national committee [of the Campaign for a Marxist Party] unanimously agreed to put a motion to the December 6 AGM to close down the organisation” and instead “establish a committee in 2009 with the aim of promoting the study of Marxism and the unity of Marxists as Marxists”.
Surely it’s time to face facts: Marxism, as a force capable of challenging for power, in western countries anyway, is dead.
But what about the unethical capitalism of George W Bush? Surely, the Obama victory marks the point at which it is mortally wounded too. Obama’s recent remarks about closing Guantanamo Bay are an indication that this era is coming to an end.
But the socialist left in Britain is not dead. The Convention of the Left at the time of the Labour Party’s September conference in Manchester brought together many hundreds of leftwingers inside and outside that party to discuss the way forward. That unity is not over - local meetings are taking place and there is a recall conference, now postponed to January 24, which will hopefully set up some sort of anti-capitalist network. In the current economic climate, a charter of reformist demands or even transitional demands is inadequate. We need to point out the need to replace the entire capitalist system, even if we don’t use the word ‘revolution’.
My main point at the Campaign for a Marxist Party meeting reported in the Weekly Worker was that communists must fight for an international revolutionary democratic communist party (‘Exploring agreements and disagreements’, November 13). There can be no compromise on this.
I also spoke about the Russian Revolution and the significance of Kronstadt. And in response to baiting from the platform about “halfway house” compromises I said that communists in the UK must make a compromise with left reformism. This compromise is summed up in the call for a republican socialist party. Even the most stupid political halfwit can recognise this is not Labourism. A republican socialist compromise between communists and left reformists is in the interests of more militant working class struggle.
The Weekly Worker says: “Comrade Steve Freeman asked, how should Marxists deal with and relate to the existing reformist left?” Here I am reported as asking what to do. Yet I posed this question in order to answer it. I gave a clear answer which is not reported. This gives readers a false impression.
The second point reported was my response to Mike Macnair’s manifesto article on the failure of the rest of the left. The paper reports that I said, “everything has failed, not just reformism, so it is not enough just to say reformism does not work”. I did say this, but as a critic of hypocrisy, not as a merchant of doom and gloom.
I read with some amusement the next point: “Comrade Conrad replied that the sort of halfway house proposed by comrade Freeman must always fail.” This is true. All compromises eventually fail. But the right compromises deliver something and last longer than the wrong ones, which deliver nothing and fail rapidly. Some of us did not expect the compromise between comrades Conrad-Macnair-Ticktin, known as the CMP, to fail quite so quickly and spectacularly.
The fight for a world communist party must go hand in hand with a fight against communist sectarianism and tailism in the UK. Without doing both together communists are useless to the working class and will surely be closed down. Unfortunately my total condemnation of communist sectarianism and tailism goes unreported.
So I protest against Weekly Worker misrepresenting my arguments by selective reporting, which ignores the central point about the fight for a Communist Party. Of course, Weekly Worker bias is mitigated by the paper’s healthy openness, which enables me to correct your reporting. I write this letter in the hope that in future there will be a more rounded reporting of my arguments, thus saving me having to write in.
The CPGB position is the exact opposite of what I am saying. The CPGB has been in favour of compromise over the nature of the Communist Party, but no compromise of any kind with left reformism. The consequence of the first can be found in the fate of the CMP. The consequence of the second is tailism, conceding leadership to left reformism and then following them into their Labourite projects, rather than demanding a joint project and fighting for the leadership of that.
Ian MacKay seems to be in politics for all the wrong reasons (Letters, November 13). The point of a campaigning organisation is to fight for its aims and - who knows? - achieve them. In order to that, it needs a programme which is capable of fulfilling those aims. Talking about programme, recommending one over another, is all instrumental for getting the damn thing to do what we want it to do.
For comrade MacKay, the point of a programme is instead to massage the fragile egos of all the weird and wonderful types who happen to sign up. Democracy means anarchists being left to their anarchism, Trots to Trotskyism and so on. This is the most profoundly anti-democratic vision imaginable for an organisation, and it is no accident that almost every group to be run on this ‘diplomatic’ basis is de facto run by either a malignant sect or a leadership clique.
Democracy requires majority decision-making on stuff that matters - strategy, tactics, programme - otherwise the membership have no power, and it is down to whoever happens to be in charge to regulate - in an enlightened way, I’m sure - the rules of engagement between different insecure, atomised members.
If people keep their beliefs to themselves in this way, or restrict debate to the pub, then there is no way to test different orientations, and no way to develop a correct one. The fact that anarchists object to a Marxist programme cannot change the fact that a Marxist programme is basically necessary for ‘another education’. If anarchists disagree, let them polemicise and put forward their own programmes.
The ‘leave me alone!’ attitude is ethically antithetical to working class activity - we should be beating it out of people (metaphorically speaking), and certainly not indulging it in this most farcical way at the expense of the strength of our struggles. If people want their interactions to be polite and frivolous, they should join a bridge club. Politics is serious business, comrade.
I am glad Paul Flewers produced a letter more worthy of him and distinctly more balanced than his original (November 13).
My anger at Paul’s original letter was his incomprehensible comparison between what happened in the Soviet Union in 1937 with what happened to be happening in Nazi Germany in the same year. He implied that the Nazi regime was preferable on the basis of some morbid snapshot body count for that year, as if the processes going on in each country were even remotely comparable, ever, let alone during one particular year.
For the Soviet Union, 1937 was the period of the most intense class struggle against hostile classes, displaced by the political revolution of 1917 and the economic revolutions from 1928 onwards, and who, understandably from their perspective, had entered into the party and state structures for survival and advancement, and who provided the most fertile recruiting ground for the numerous conspiracies against the Soviet leadership and soviet power - now well documented and proven from the archives.
1937 for Germany was merely another year in the rapid advance of Nazi power and ideology, and already starting to be marked by population cleansing, eradication of ‘unhealthy elements’ such as the mentally ill and physically handicapped in the name of promoting the public health of the population, and of political opponents. The Nazi regime commanded much support within the British establishment, especially within its supreme representative, the royal family.
The Churchill faction even during his premiership was a pariah within these circles. His only real beef with Nazi Germany was the threat it ‘officially’ represented to the British empire. Nothing whatsoever to do with its politics or practices. Who would expect otherwise from one who ordered the shooting of striking south Wales miners and the mass repression of the Irish people in the war of independence?
Even the clownish and apparently unilateral flight by deputy fuehrer Rudolf Hess to Britain in 1941 to negotiate a peace treaty between Britain and Germany created such a commotion and disturbance within our establishment that many of the details are still subject to official secrecy, giving rise to conspiracy theories that either the captured pilot, the man convicted at Nuremberg or the prisoner who died in Spandau, was not really Hess.
The real ‘smoking gun’ is that, representing the majority of the establishment, George VI and his queen, Elizabeth, understood perfectly well that Hitler was delivering the ‘perfect’ capitalist solution to the crisis and they very much desired the same for Britain. The ‘scandal’ over the duke of Windsor’s ‘flirtations’ with the Nazis was a not-so-clever distraction from the fact that the king and queen were totally opposed to war with Germany and most sympathetic to the Nazi party, albeit regarding some of them as “a wee uncouth”, but of course conversant in the language. The subsequent queen mother was quite extraordinarily prevented from any direct engagement with the media for the rest of her overlong life, precisely because of her pro-Nazi and most reactionary views, which she never failed to express in private.
The royal family despised and hated Churchill because he unnecessarily provoked war with Germany, even though an alliance between Britain and Germany was by far the preferred option. The royal family and many of the most ancient noble houses had German branches and feared war would result in the undermining of the old order, the break-up of the empire and their own power with it. They shared the view that Bolshevism was the real enemy, especially after what happened to the tsar and his family, to whom many were related. Hitler and Hess were long-time admirers of the British empire and England as a fellow Aryan nation, and saw the British empire playing a parallel role in world geopolitics, complementing Germany’s domination of Europe.
Churchill committed the cardinal sin of allowing familial and emotional attachments to America to want to throw the lot of the British establishment with United States capitalism, which, as a result of the war, emerged as the world’s leading imperialist power and creditor nation, at the direct expense of British imperialism and the loss of 25 million European lives.
Thus is the history of the ‘special relationship’ and the competing claims from European powers.