I would have thought that, as a socialist paper, the Weekly Worker would have provided much greater comment and analysis on the apparent resurgence of armed activity in the north of Ireland. After all, was it not Marx and Lenin who stated with absolute clarity that the British working class could never be free so long as Britain continues to oppress the Irish nation and the Irish people?
The British state, establishment and media had no doubt as to the significance of the armed actions and were visibly shaken and fearful of their impact.
Ireland is Britain’s oldest remaining colony. The form of that colonisation and domination has changed over the years, now involving direct occupation of the north, partition and the subordination of the southern economy, society and culture to world imperialism more generally.
I do not believe the armed actions as recently reported will necessarily advance the objective of Irish reunification. I do not support or endorse the killing of British servicemen or police officers, whether in Ireland, Iraq or Afghanistan - or indeed at home. But the fundamental reason they are attacked, hurt and killed is that they are in places they should not be, doing things they should not and which we should not support.
After 800 years of occupation, we could probably wait another eight years or even another 18. A stated time frame for withdrawal is necessary to negotiate a national and constitutional settlement, including with what the Weekly Worker chooses to call the British-Irish people in the north. They too have legitimate national and democratic rights that need to be valued, respected and reflected within a new Ireland and within wider relationships with the peoples of Britain and Europe.
As socialists, we understand that struggle for national liberation and democracy is intimately bound up with the struggle for socialist revolution, especially when the majority of those nations are members of the working class. We cannot achieve complete liberation except through socialism. We cannot achieve socialism without defeating existing capitalist states and, where these oppress other peoples and nations, we cannot be socialists without being anti-imperialists. We cannot be anti-imperialists without being republicans.
The journey of the British and Irish working classes to socialism has to be through united action and via the achievement of Irish reunification and independence, and Irish and British republics led by the working class.
David Walters’ letter (March 26) amused me and recalled Vic Reeves’ quip that “88.2% of statistics are made up on the spot”.
Walters is certainly of the Reeves school of thought when he blunders blindly into offering us the laughable claim that “95% of all steel is from scrap, which does not require the use of coal at all”. Anyone with any knowledge of the steel industry knows two things: first, that in the United States, where steel recycling is most prevalent, less than 60% of all raw steel is produced in electric arc furnaces that recycle steel (the rest is produced in basic oxygen furnaces that use coking coal in huge amounts); and, second, that in Britain almost all raw steel is produced in basic oxygen furnaces (as is the case in China, Russia, Japan and Korea).
I would advise Mr Walters to open a book or two before opining on matters about which he quite clearly knows nothing.
You were wrong 25 years ago when you first put forward this outrageous and ridiculous position (‘Mines: “our” history’, April 2). As the strike went on and you met miners, and heard what we actually thought, not what you thought we thought, you dropped that line. Firstly, it was clearly wrong. Secondly, it would have courted a belt in the mouth from miners who for generations had fought the boss and the ruling class in general. Now that the fighting is over, for the miners anyway, you wheel it back out again.
Yes, we did regard the industry as ours, we regard the country as ours and the world as ours - what’s wrong with that? Only a fool would think that referring to ‘our industry’ meant we were collaborating with the gaffers and directors of the National Coal Board who were doing the government’s bidding. It was the directors and masters of the NCB who we were at war with and who were shutting the pits, for god’s sake. Of course, we didn’t include them in ‘our’.
It wasn’t like ‘our boys in Ireland’. It meant ‘our’ in the sense that these were our jobs, these were our communities, this was our past and present, and we fought for it to be our future. It meant this resource was ‘ours’, not theirs. This was painfully explained to you at the time, and it is deeply frustrating and insulting for you to trot out this woeful misconception again.
With regard to Jack Conrad’s critique, ‘Dead Russians’, and subsequent feedback, I would like to draw one or two conclusions (March 12).
Without a doubt Lenin and Trotsky made mistakes, but I think it is important for comrades critical of them to bear in mind the nature of revolutions.
Revolution is a fundamental change in the social and economic structure of society. Such was the nature of the socialist revolution of Russia in 1917 - a journey into the unknown. Marxism gave the Bolsheviks a general route to follow, but only through practical experience could the road be mapped out in any detail.
Firstly the Bolsheviks failed to make use of the Constituent Assembly. In doing so the Constituent Assembly could have been used as a central focal point to defend the gains of the October revolution, cement the Bolshevik alliance with the Left Socialist Revolutionaries and help prevent the slide into civil war. However, in the mists of revolution a decision was taken to call elections in November 1917 (upholding the Provisional Government decision) which gave a totally unrepresentative picture of the true feeling of the country. The subsequent events are well known.
Had the Bolsheviks postponed the elections until early 1918, the split within the Socialist Revolutionaries would have been reflected in those elected (the left SRs having a great deal more support than the right SRs), a greater turnout would have been achieved and an overwhelmingly positive results of the October revolution would have had time to filter throughout the country, reflected in the make-up of the Constituent Assembly.
Second, there was no reason why a NEP-type policy could not have been introduced in 1918. Such a policy could have been ushered in much easier in 1918 than in 1921 and again would have reinforced the Bolshevik/Left Socialist Revolutionary partnership, strengthening the crucial worker-peasant alliance. Much opposition in the countryside would have been neutralised, thus again minimising the disastrous effects of the civil war.
It came as quite a surprise to us in Communist Students when a young contact was convinced we were working together with the soft-Stalinist, reformist Young Communist League. That is, the youth wing of Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain.
Being an on-the-ball comrade, he pointed out that even Wikipedia was saying so. Indeed, when I typed in ‘Communist Students’ I was exasperated to find that the Wikipedia entry for our organisation - founded in 2006 - had been deleted and replaced with the CPB version, which quite frankly hardly anyone has even heard of. It did, however, mention that their CS should not be confused with our “similar sounding” group!
Apparently, the Stalinist version of Communist Students was launched at NUS conference in April 2005. Given their lack of forces, nobody really seemed to notice. Only after our founding CS conference in 2006 did we hear of it via a Socialist Workers Party member who had overheard YCLers moaning about the “Weekly Worker nicking their name”.
Not that we got a peep from them about it - they never wrote, called or raised it when we came across them. I personally know their new convenor, Dan Cole, and Wikipedia hacker George Waterhouse quite well and have done for nearly two years.
Despite ‘launching’ their own student organisation in 2005 they have done absolutely nothing with it since then. Ask anyone in the student movement who Communist Students are, and if they have heard of either group it is going to be us. We have a record of consistent activity. We have stood in local and national student union elections, built CS groups on campuses, intervened in numerous left conferences from Student Respect to Socialist Youth Network (which has two CS members on its leadership), produced thousands of leaflets and seven editions of Communist Student.
And what have our Stalinists done? They recently set up a website which suggests that they have managed to produce two newsletters in four years. One for freshers in 2007 and one for NUS conference this year.
Google ‘Communist Students’ and the point is quite clearly underlined. It seems that because of our record and success the CPB is trying to take our name. Maybe the CPB’s Anita Halpin is looking to invest some of her millions in the future - the expensive banner they unfurled at this year’s NUS conference would certainly imply this.
But the CPB is going about this in an entirely wrong way. Instead of sorting out this question in a democratic spirit - say, by proposing a conference of all communist students - they rely on hacking. This is made all the more ridiculous by the fact that in their NUS bulletin they proclaim: “We aim to build a united communist front within the student movement and to work with other sections of the left to fight for left policies within the NUS and on campus.”
An interesting unity, that one - simply deleting the Wikipedia material dealing with CS and not even approaching us for discussions, let alone unity. Their new website (http://student-unity.org.uk) calls for students to “Question everything”. Maybe members of this organisation should question why they are looking to achieve such ‘unity’ by trying to remove CS in the way the Stalin’s henchmen would remove Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev from photographs.
A final point. The last time I looked, Wikipedia had restored the material on CS to its original format. The lesson - censorship does not work.
The letter from the Revolution national committee (Letters, March 26) claims to be a response to what the Communist Students executive wrote to them (Letters, February 19). Yet it completely fails to deal with the issues we raised. For the most part it is simply a restatement of their belief that there are great opportunities for a national student coordination at the moment and that the task of revolutionaries is to throw themselves into building it. Where the Revo NC does seek to engage with CS they blatantly misrepresent our positions.
They write: “The inconsistency of CS is astonishing. When wildcat strikes took place at the Lindsey oil refinery and Staythorpe brandishing the slogan ‘British jobs for British workers’, CS decided to support the strike. We are now left with the bizarre situation in which CS does not support a ‘radical coordination of student struggles’, but does support a strike with a reactionary goal: British workers first, before migrants.”
Let us get things straight. Despite the hyperbole there is not actually a real radical coordination to support. There is an attempt by two politically incompatible leftwing groups to pretend to be some kind of alternative leadership to the National Union of Students. Namely, Revolution, the youth wing of the semi-anarchist Workers Power group, and the social-imperialist Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.
We are also clear that Lindsey was a strike that required critical support. Yes, many of the workers may have had all sorts of strange ideas and illusions in their heads, but that is the nature of things when workers move for the first time. It is struggle and politics that decide.
Elsewhere Revo argue that “Communist Students have wrongly counterposed the need for uniting students in struggle to the need for a revolutionary communist students organisation”. This is something we explicitly argued against in our letter, where we state that “Communists must always be at the centre of the struggles of our class.” Indeed, Revo and CS were both involved together in the Leeds occupation for Gaza. Likewise our other comrades threw themselves into this wave of protest in other parts of the country. Take a look at our website to see the reports.
But throughout this work we argued for Marxist politics and for a communist organisation. Without such an organisation how can we win genuinely worthwhile working class or student unity?
Talk about unity is all well and good, but we cannot build lasting unity and a new movement through some lowest-common-denominator lash-up. To achieve real unity on the left we must first challenge all the wrong-headed opportunist nonsense that too often passes for common sense today. That does not mean that we cannot work together in common actions.
Indeed this is very important, and can actually heighten the discussion of differences and pinpoint exactly where we agree and where we differ, as our comrades involved in the Sheffield University occupation have experienced recently. But these issues where we differ cannot be pushed to the back in order to facilitate some cosy compromise deal. How we unite in order to unite the working class is of fundamental importance for us.
On the CS website, Revo comrade Simon Hardy posted up some more constructive comments. He argued that a new movement will have to be built “in debate and discussion, principally amongst the already existing organisations and activists”.
But then Simon went on to argue: “The Stop the War movement was built without ‘Marxist’ unity … and mobilised millions. How could we have built that if the left instead focussed its energies on debate and discussion as an a priori process before action? That is a recipe for passivity and paralysis.”
What? You take action before thinking and discussing what you are going to do? This is anarchism, not Marxism.
Without any qualifications Simon holds up the Stop the War Coalition as a positive example. Certainly we agree that its programme of opposition to war was not one that was based on Marxism. But this is not something to celebrate! STWC’s politics were based upon pacifism, Stalinism and Labourism, along with overtures to outright liberalism and a seat at the top of the table for Islamism.
Now we would not have opposed the involvement in STWC actions of people with any of these ideas. But when the ‘Marxists’ of the SWP (with whom Revo shares a common methodology) uncritically promoted those with reactionary politics and failed to put forward a Marxist/proletarian internationalist alternative, it is not something we applaud.
“How can Revolution unite with the AWL as ‘Marxists’ when we fundamentally disagree on major issues (imperialism, resistance movement, Palestine) and so on?” asks Simon.
Well, exactly. And any such unity that is concocted will not last. Especially when one considers that the coordination that is being proposed is putting solidarity with Gaza as the centre of its work.
Will Revo, in the name of unity, fudge this and legitimise the pro-Zionism of the AWL? So far the AWL and Revo seem to be getting along very chummily, which clearly must be an issue for a coordination which is supposed to build upon the Gaza solidarity movement. After all, it was the AWL who opted to denounce the fantastic outpouring of anger at Israel’s actions as being characterised by “Islamo-fascism”. Somehow AWL students managed to square this with involvement in the pro-Gaza student occupations. But even then they argued that the left is “confused about the meaning of Zionism”. Unity with such people will not help the Palestinians, other oppressed groups, or the working class - it would only set us back.