No borders

The Calais border is an important focal point for the struggle between those who would see an end to all migration into the European Union and those trying to break down the barriers between peoples - the borders that prevent the freedom of movement for all, not just the privileged few.

The Calais ‘No Border’ camp, being held June 23-29, is an exciting joint venture between French activists and migrant support groups and the UK No Borders Network. It aims to highlight the realities of the situation in Calais and northern France, build links with the migrant communities, help build links between migrants support groups and, last but not least, challenge the authorities on the ground by protesting against increased repression of migrants and local activists alike.

This camp is not just about Calais; we are calling for the freedom of movement for all and an end to borders and all migration controls. We call for a radical movement against the systems of control, which divide us into citizens and non-citizens, into the documented and the undocumented.

No one is illegal. Freedom of movement for all!

For more information, visit london.noborders.org.uk/calais2009 or contact calais@riseup.net.

No borders
No borders


Dave Douglass definitely has his sentimental side (Letters, April 9). If the coal industry really belonged to the miners, why did they close it down? Of course they didn’t: the real owners did. Which proves The Leninist right.

Yes, the miners represented the positive side of the social relationship, but ultimately the capitalist class owned the mines - as well as the country and much of the rest of the world through their direct control of the economic machine and their indirect control not just of national politics, but of international political reality too.

That is why world revolution is the only answer. No amount of nationalisation makes an industry ‘ours’. No amount of technical cooperation aimed at making it work makes the working class stakeholders. ‘Our jobs’ are not ours: they are the bosses’. Trade union activity can alleviate the situation, particularly in time of boom, but unless workers’ struggles are structured by a revolutionary programme and organised by a Communist Party eventual defeat is assured.

The targets of the reprinted article from The Leninist of 25 years ago were not the miners as such, but rather the political influences that historically shaped their world view. Namely the Labour Party, the Stalinist CPGB with its British road to socialism and sections of the Trotskyist left such as Militant Tendency, who sowed illusions in the Labour left and trade union leaders.

Comrade Douglass would, I’m sure, agree with me that all the above-mentioned offered only dead ends, but he is labouring under the anarchistic illusion that a revolutionary movement capable of defeating capitalism can develop spontaneously out of trade union struggle alone. Thus the importance of the aspirational ‘ours’ as the psychological key to effective revolutionary action - actually there is a deep emotional link between the aspirational ‘ours’ and the alienating ‘nothing is ours’ that Dave simply doesn’t get.


Make a difference

I would like to comment on David Landau’s tribute to Steve Cohen (Defiance, not compliance’, March 26), as well as Peter Manson’s response (Letters, April 2).

Steve and I were political sparring partners for some 20 years from the early 1980s. I never accepted his use of the term ‘left anti-semitism’. Anti-semitism, like all forms of racism, does not have a ‘left’ variant. On the contrary, racism has the effect, if not the purpose, of dividing the working class and the oppressed and can only weaken the left. It is true that the left, in all its variants, has often turned a blind eye to racism and occasionally has sought to exploit it. This is particularly true of Stalinism and its attempt to appeal to the Nazi base by making concessions to anti-semitism. But opportunism should not be confused with original sin.

However, appeasing and making concessions to anti-semitism is not the same as being anti-semitic. Likewise, the support for immigration controls by British trade unions at the end of the 19th century was not because they were anti-semitic, but because their reformist and nationalist politics led them to believe that the interests of their members could be reconciled with those of the ruling class.

That is why Steve was wrong, as Dave Landau describes, to argue that “campaigns and actions in solidarity with the Palestinians should always explicitly have opposition to anti-semitism as part of their platform”. Why should this be so, unless there is something inherently Jewish about Palestinian oppression? Such a position makes concessions to Zionism.

Steve was confused about Zionism and its relations to anti-semitism and Palestinian oppression. I would argue that this was a consequence of the retreat into identity politics of the International Marxist Group. All oppressions were equal and valid and this meant that some Zionists, feminists in particular, believed that their identity as Jews was equally as valid as a form of oppression with that experienced by the victims of colonialism. The fact that Jewish feminists were not oppressed as Jews was something hard to understand in an age when the personal was political. Their Jewish identity was formed by the holocaust - ie, the past oppression of Jews - and they bought into Zionism’s self-serving justifications. As Sivanandan argues, identity is what you do.

Steve Cohen’s booklet That’s funny, you don’t look anti-semitic was dedicated to Abram Leon, author of The Jewish question: a Marxist interpretation, yet Steve rejected a materialist understanding of anti-semitism. He wrote that “anti-semitism as an ideology has nothing to do with the behaviour of even one single Jew, let alone of all Jews. It is a view of the world based on myths and fantasies.” However, as Leon demonstrated, anti-semitism certainly did have something to do with the historical socio-economic role of Jews. It may have demonised them, invented blood libels et al, but to claim that anti-semitism had nothing to do with how Jews behave is to beg the question, ‘Why anti-semitism?’

Steve’s description of himself as an “anti-Zionist Zionist” was a reflection of this confusion. It was like saying you are an anti-racist racist. But Steve, although he allowed himself to be taken advantage of by Zionists of the Engage variety, was never a Zionist. His description of Israel as “essentially racist” was a recognition by him that Zionism had indeed come to mirror the very anti-semitism it purported to oppose (you-dont-look-antisemitic.blogspot.com/2007/02/there-must-be-some-way-out-of-here.html).

I only met Steve twice (though in later years we corresponded with each other) - at the Barbed Wire Europe conference in Oxford in 2000 and at a trade union conference against immigration controls in Liverpool three years ago. It was shocking to see my old political sparring partner disabled by the effects of rheumatoid arthritis. The spirit was undimmed, but the flesh was weak. Steve was, as Dave explained, a consistent, articulate and passionate opponent of all forms of racism and, in particular, the racism of the British state and its immigration controls.

It was therefore doubly gratifying that, when I launched a one-man campaign against the publishing by Indymedia of the racist garbage of Gilad Atzmon, I called on Steve and Lenni Brenner, who Steve had criticised for his writings on Nazi-Zionist collaboration, for support. Whatever our differences on Zionism, we were united in opposing anti-semitism, unlike the Engage Zionists who pretended Atzmon and his anti-Zionist opponents were all the same.

I disagree, though, with Peter Manson’s argument that Steve’s was a life unfulfilled because, as an individual, he could only make small achievements, whereas as part of a larger socialist group he could have had a wider impact. The history of the past 30 years is the history of left groups who have made no impact whatsoever; groups whose main battles have been to invent differences with other groups to justify their own existence. It is because of this that many of us have indeed thrown our energies into single-issue or broader campaigns where it is possible to make some difference. I believe that the energy and commitment that Steve brought to anti-racist work and his fierce opposition to all immigration controls did indeed define the terms of a debate that will continue.

I don’t accept Peter’s contention that capitalism isn’t inherently racist in practice. Of course, theoretically, capitalism and free market economics are colour-blind. In practice, however, capitalism is inherently racist. The need to divide and rule, to justify the super-exploitation of third world labour; the attempt to coopt sections of the ‘native’ working class by pretending that national interest trumps class interests - all of these ensure that racism, which is the justification for the consequences of the international division of labour, is the handmaiden of capitalism.

Yes, it is true that any worker, regardless of ethnicity, can be subject to immigration controls, but in practice their effects have always fallen on the shoulders of those who were black or brown. The discussions of the British cabinet introducing the first post-war immigration act, the 1962 Commonwealth Immigration Act, make it abundantly clear that one of their main concerns was how to prevent ‘coloured’ immigration whilst allowing that from the white Commonwealth.

It was not for nothing that the saying ‘money whitens’ was current in the Caribbean at the time of slavery, reflecting the inherent tendency of capitalism to assimilate those who were propertied to the existing colonial ruling class.

Steve was a man of many contradictions but, above all, he was an inspiration to those who see the fight against racism as the precondition for the achievement of socialism.

Make a difference
Make a difference


Tony Clark states that, during the cold war, “the bourgeoisie ... saw in the Soviet Union the symbol of world revolution” (Letters, March 26). On the contrary, mainstream bourgeois opinion knew that, after the purges, the Spanish civil war and Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s, Stalinism posed no revolutionary threat to capitalism. Roosevelt and Churchill would never have accepted Soviet hegemony in eastern Europe had this made revolution more likely. They knew that revolution was not in Stalin’s or the Soviet interest.

Greece in the 1940s, Hungary in the 1950s, France in the 1960s and Portugal in the 1970s gave further proof of Stalinism’s counterrevolutionary nature. During this period, the influence communist parties had over trade unions and other working class organisations helped stabilise the process of capital accumulation. Despite policies of full employment, nationalisation and a welfare state, surplus value could be pumped out of labour-power without significant disruption.

Stalinism provided the bourgeoisie with a repressive model of bureaucratic control. On the one hand, it made sure that workers’ militancy could be channelled into schemes for limited national improvement. On the other hand, it showed that the self-proclaimed alternative to capitalism was so repulsive that no worker free to think for her or himself would want to be associated with it.

If there was a reasonable ruling class fear, it was that Stalinism would lose its mode of control over the working class. For a brief moment in 1968, it seemed the Communist Party could not contain the revolutionary energy of workers and students in France. At the same time, the Soviet Union looked like it would be unable to suppress the democratic movement in Czechoslovakia.

The spectre of an anti-capitalist and anti-Stalinist world revolutionary movement motivated the bourgeoisie to abandon social democracy to finance capital’s drive to re-commodify and re-fetishise social relations. As a result, the Soviet Union lost its historic role, which led eventually to its disintegration. The present crisis is the result of these decisions.

Tony Clark is an admirer of Stalin. He writes approvingly of the regime in the former USSR. He looks forward to a political party that can gain totalitarian “control of all the trade unions in the country”. He shares these unpopular opinions with a minority in the labour movement. He is free to organise around them. On the other hand, Stalinophilia (and its accompanying scholastic reverence for the authority of the cult leader’s scriptures) does not belong on the left. It is ill-informed and irrational and its preoccupation with authoritarian control a characteristic of contemporary forms of conservative nationalism.


Steel and coal

Colin Cheese correctly takes me to task for underplaying the amount of coal used in steel production and being flat-out wrong with the statistic I used (Letters, April 9). I took the stats from various sources which, summed up, noted that 12% of all coal use worldwide is for steel production. I took the remainder of that percentage, 88%, rounded it off to 90% and erred in assuming this was for steel production, not for all non-iron/steel making uses.

The point I was making is that the vast, overwhelming amount of coal used in the world today is not for steel making, either from the coking end of it or the general electrical needs, where the power is produced by coal. According to the Energy Information Administration at the US department of energy (www.eia.doe.gov), very little coal in fact seems to be used in steel making in the US at all - approximately 22,000 thousand short tons versus over 1,000,000 thousand short tons for electrical production.

Why are we even talking about such obscure statistics anyway? Because in my exchange with Dave Douglass of the National Union of Mineworkers he asked what we would do for steel - doesn’t this make it impossible to stop mining coal?

My answer, where I was wrong on the amount of coal used in steel production (but generally correct on the amount of coal used), is that it’s not used that much in steel making as compared to energy production in general. I will stand by that. Even the largest statistic I saw, from the World Coal Association, puts coal usage by steel making facilities at 12% of the total coal used.

I suspect the planet can live with that. I wasn’t for banning or even necessarily for phasing out the use of coal for non-electrical generation usage in industry. I simply don’t care: the idea of going to ‘zero carbon’ is a pipe-dream of truly fantastical proportions. What I argue is that all coal-produced electricity (as well as natural gas) can be replaced by non-carbon forms of power production - especially, and most notably, by nuclear energy.

Steel and coal
Steel and coal