Frustrating squabbles had bedevilled our organisation, the International Socialist Organisation Zimbabwe, since December last year. Here we attempt to chronicle exactly what happened and affirm our return into active politics locally, regionally and internationally from a short spell of troubles.
It was quite disheartening going through a period of serious internal struggles driven by the sheer opportunism of some members at a time when we really needed to build progressive synergies with other radical local forces in the country to realise what the working people of Zimbabwe had been calling and sacrificing for over the last decade or so, with opportunities being opened by the new political dispensation in the country.
However, a faction comprising a clique of opportunists, who wanted to become more eminent by aligning with some local rightwing NGOs, arose within our organisation. Their agenda over the past couple of years had been to liquidate ISO Zimbabwe as a combative revolutionary organisation into merely one among many other hostile rightwing NGOs in Zimbabwe, and we had to fight tooth and nail to avert such liquidation.
In the process a spate of kangaroo disciplinary measures were taken against some leading comrades on the basis of unfounded accusations, and press conferences with the bourgeois press were arranged by the clique, aided by their NGO friends, where a lot of falsehoods were peddled, aimed at discrediting some ISO leaders who took a defensive position.
Having noted how retrogressive the fights were, we took the matter before our highest decision-making organ in between national members’ meetings - that is, the central committee - which met in February. All our seven branches across the country plus the ISO national leadership were represented and a unanimous decision was taken to expel with immediate effect comrade Mutero, the then national coordinator, comrade Tigwe, the then national treasurer, and three other comrades.
The comrades decided not to appeal against their expulsion and instead opted to form a splinter group which they named the New ISO. We have no problem whatsoever with them having their own group but we were only outraged when they broke into our offices and went away with all our office equipment. This led us to engage the state machinery (the police) - a thing we would not have done under normal circumstances, since it is contrary to our principles.
We have managed to recover the equipment, but it is still in police custody pending resolution of the matter.
We have since attempted a round table with the comrades on which we were ready to share with them some equipment, but they came out with a hodgepodge of impractical demands, which were designed to ultimately jeopardise the whole process of an out-of-court settlement and we are compelled to pursue the matter in the same manner we have been doing: that is, the court route.
Those NGOs who supported the renegade clique connived with our landlord to evict us from our ZimRights House offices, which we had occupied for over 10 years. We were chucked out of the offices and now have nowhere to work from.
All this is the price we are now paying for being resolute and consistent in fighting for revolutionary ideas in Zimbabwe and supporting working people’s demands, which rightwing movements condemn.
Meanwhile, the government is failing to pay workers’ salaries, but they have recently bought the latest Mercedes Benz models for all ministers. The Movement for Democratic Change is now in unison with Zanu-PF and Mugabe in prioritising personal luxuries at the expense of the starving people of this country.
Only the naive thought that either an MDC government or an inclusive government would resolve the crisis we face in the country. But their misconception was because they tended to understand the crisis in Zimbabwe as being of a national character rather than viewing it in a global context. To some, Mugabe was the source of all our troubles, not the system that he presided over.
In Zimbabwe a constitutional reform process is being undertaken over the coming 18 months. Zanu-PF and the MDC have agreed under article 19 of their Global Political Parties Agreement to have the constitutional process led from parliament. A parliamentary select committee will engage with civic groups and convene a stakeholders conference that will later report back to parliament.
This has led to a division in civic society - with one camp, composed of die-hard supporters of the MDC who are content with the process being initiated and driven by parliament, and the other, who have taken a radical position and insisted that the process has to be people-driven. This group consists of the National Constitutional Assembly, which has organised several demonstrations since 2000, a section of the students’ movement and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.
We had taken a decision of participating in the process, but we are thinking of revisiting this position, since we feel we had underestimated the strength of the movement against doing so.
We would appreciate comrades’ interaction on this matter.
Mike Macnair’s article locating the Israel/Palestine question within Marxist theory covers all the issues, but some can be covered more concretely (‘Strategic lines and tactical slogans’, April 16).
An example of self-determination in practice was the Bolshevik policy of offering the Cossacks autonomy within Soviet Russia. It was aimed at discouraging this military caste from siding with the whites in the civil war and, in the longer term, of integrating them fully into the new Soviet society.
Independence was never mentioned; nor anything about the innate goodness of the Cossacks, who were not a nation anyway. It was principally a pragmatic policy for defending working class interests. Self-determination is nothing if it is not flexible and elastic.
In the case of Palestine, those putting forward the two-state policy include those who have thankfully abandoned the dream/nightmare of driving all post-1947 Jewish migrants into the sea. True, for some it is a plea that dovetails in with the plans of imperialism; for others though it is a demand to have democratic control over those parts of pre-1947 Palestine where the Palestinians form a national majority. In other words, a little Israel.
The demand for two states is capable of going in a variety of directions, depending on who takes the political lead or gains hegemony over it. For many, to support a one-state or two-state solution means only to support the Palestinian struggle against oppression. The Palestinians must have the right to take control of their future and Israeli oppression must stop.
However, the CPGB’s strategy goes much further than the Palestinian demand for self-determination. Yes, self-determination raises the question of Palestinian independence, but there is the bigger picture. Ours is not some communist version of the Oslo accords or an attempt to negotiate an honourable settlement between Hamas and Likud or between Fatah and Labour.
The CPGB believes in the principle that any two-state solution must mean two secular states in which Jews could live in equality in Palestine and Palestinians could live in equality in Israel. Zionism must therefore be defeated and so must Islamism: the working class must come to the fore, not religion/nationalism.
The historically established hatred and distrust between Israelis and Palestinians means that the immediate demand for separate states has to be considered the most realistic demand, but, of course, unity would be preferable.
Comrade Macnair expects the influence of an imperialistic USA to shrink as it declines as a world power. This, he believes, would see it abandon Israel. On the contrary, I think US decline will see the US relying on its alliance with Israel as a means of suppressing nationalist resistance and working class revolt in the area. Unlike Israel, the existing Arab regimes have no stability. None of them can substitute for the colonial-settler Israel.
The real hope is the Arab revolution which can create a situation where not only does the US eventually lose Israel as its unsinkable aircraft carrier, but where class forces come to the fore. The right of self-determination for the Palestinians is for us directly linked to the building of communist unity in the region and cannot be achieved without it.
Moshé Machover’s concept of Arab revolution, like ours, clearly refers to a working class-led revolution with Egypt at its centre and embraces a passionate desire to transcend nationalist limitations. Iraq and Syria are the nearest and most obvious partners for this project, but the idea retains wide popularity throughout the Arab world.
Potentially this creates an agency and a wide geographic area that can solve the problems of both the Palestinians and the Hebrew populations of Israel - much better than a bloodbath.
I am not at all sure of the long-term strategic relevance of the slogan of Israel retreating to its 1967 borders. This would end Israel’s expansionist policy in practice. But what is really required is a totally new basis for Israeli society. Zionism must be dismantled and the Palestinian state must be truly viable: ie, not based on Gaza and the West Bank alone.
Slogans like ‘Make the rich pay for the crisis’ or just simply increasing their taxes sound radical. It’s the kind of idea always popular with social democratic ‘progressives’. Some Marxist groups have also espoused the idea in election campaigns. Unfortunately, many Marxists have given up on a socialist programme and prefer populist slogans. Isolation has so affected the left that a socialist society has become something they wish for, but which is not on their agenda.
Taxing the rich does not take power away from the rich. Warren Buffett and George Soros, both billionaires, openly accept that they should pay more taxes. However, their power comes from the control of capital and their right to decide investment priorities rather than from personal wealth. Workers are the source of capital, but have no say in how it is invested. Speculation in currency or building casinos produces few real jobs.
Socialist planning to create jobs is a necessity if millions of people are not to face hunger and homelessness. Socialists in the United States have failed to make clear that socialism means more democracy, not less.
Paul Smith claims that the bourgeoisie regarded ‘Stalinism’ as posing no revolutionary threat to capitalism after the purges of the Spanish civil war and Hitler’s rise to power (Letters, April 16). If this is so then why did the bourgeoisie encourage German fascism to march east, and why did they resist Stalin’s proposal for unity against fascism for so long? All attempts at an alliance were spurned, thus forcing Stalin to hold his nose and make a pact with the devil himself. Then the counterrevolutionaries denounced Stalin for the pact.
Smith lives in an ultra-left ideological universe which stems from Trotskyist ideology, so, according to him, revolution in eastern Europe was not in Stalin’s or Soviet interest and therefore he dismisses the socialist reforms carried out as having no progressive consequence, but the imperialists were forced to make concessions to their working class because of these progressive developments.
According to Smith, Greece in the 1940s, Hungary in the 50s, France in the 60s and Portugal in the 70s gave further proof of the counterrevolutionary nature of Stalinism. He forgets to include France and Italy in the 1940s, which Trotskyists usually furnish as evidence of Stalinism’s counterrevolutionary role in the post-war period.
This conclusion results from Trotskyists sharing the same ultra-left methodology and the interpretation which follows from it. This method consists in the inability to concretely analyse situations and work out an appropriate political line corresponding to the facts. Ultra-left Trotskyism, for instance, completely ignores the most important development of the immediate post-war period, which was that imperialism had a total monopoly of the atomic bomb from 1945 to 1949, the frightful power of which was demonstrated on Japan.
Between those years, Stalin had to be especially careful. What is surprising is the gains he was still able to make even when imperialism had a nuclear monopoly. Neither Greece, France, nor Italy proves Stalin’s policy was counterrevolutionary, unless you believe he should have risked nuclear annihilation by provoking civil war in order to spread socialism.
Communist attempts at seizing power in Italy and France, for instance, would most certainly have been suppressed, as happened in Greece, for the simple reason that the balance of armed forces favoured counterrevolution. No revolution can succeed unless the balance of armed forces are in its favour. Anarchists and many Trotskyists ignore this.
Smith repeats the Trotskyist accusation that ‘Stalinism’ helped to stabilise capitalism after World War II. This argument lacks plausibility in several respects, but perhaps the most important is that Earl Browder, the leader of the Communist Party of the USA, wanted the stabilisation of capitalism and for the Soviet Union to continue with the wartime alliance which had defeated the Axis powers. The Fosterites opposed this line and got Browder expelled from the American Communist Party with Stalin’s support or by his proposal. If Stalin was really for stabilising capitalism why did he side with Foster against Browder? Through the Duclos letter, the French Communist Party was given the task of informing Browder that his services were no longer needed. Perhaps Smith will be kind enough to explain all this to Weekly Worker readers, on the basis of his thesis that ‘Stalinism’ stood for the stabilisation of post-war capitalism.
The Hungarian uprising, the Czechoslovakian developments, the French general strike in 1968 and events in Portugal cannot be explained in terms of Stalinist betrayals. They all occurred when revisionists controlled the communist parties in these countries. Nominal support for Stalin does not automatically make anyone correct in the policies they pursue any more than nominal support for Marx or Lenin does. The German Social Democratic Party betrayed the working class in 1914, although nominally Marxist. In Sri Lanka, where Trotskyists joined the government, they betrayed the class struggle. In Britain, the pro-Trotsky SWP is constantly being accused of opportunism. In other words, formal adherence to any leader or ideology doesn’t guarantee a correct revolutionary line or the absence of opportunism.
Since Trotskyists and other ultra-leftists attribute what they consider to be Stalinist betrayals to socialism in one country, I invite anyone who supports this line of reasoning to debate, in these pages, about what Lenin meant when he argued that socialism in one or several countries was possible during the transition to socialism.
Sentimental or not, Phil Kent is simply picking up on the way in which we expressed ourselves, rather than what we were actually saying (Letters, April 16).
‘Our industry’ was an aspiration, a belief in what should be, not an expression that it was already ours. Does he really think he needs to explain to the miners what the failure of ‘nationalisation’ was? It was the bloody National Coal Board that we fought in 1969, 72, 74, 84-85 and 92-93 in national actions, and tens of thousands of regional and local ones every day and every week in between.
This is not to say that nationalisation, even the distorted form in which it was carried out, was not a great step forward for the miners in terms of social organisation, health and safety, and union recognition at that time. But the class struggle, which forced nationalisation as a concession and sop, didn’t end when the NCB came in. It continued against the new boss, the same as it did against the old boss.
Let me explain again, Phil. We know the NCB wasn’t actually ours, we believed that it should be ours. The industry, this industry of ours, was principally the fruit of our labour and our forefathers’ labour. We believed in workers’ control of the mining industry. The use of the words ‘our industry’ was jumped on as a cheap shot to make a point that we already knew and appreciated. Why on earth do you think you knew that and we didn’t ? You persist in the dogma that your membership of a Leninist party somehow endows you with mystical analytical powers that we poor mortal workers cannot equally possess. It’s a tale, and a long, sorry one at that.
Anarchists do not believe in the workers ‘spontaneously’ developing revolutionary perspectives. We (if I might make so bold as to include myself in the ranks of anarchism, albeit as a Marxist and communist) believe in revolutionary organisation and revolutionary class struggle to facilitate this process, which does actually arise in daily combat with the bosses to put a crust on the table. But you’d have to be a fairly thick worker not to soon realise we could seize the bakery and the shop and do away with the boss altogether. It requires no special organisation; only the conscious desire to bring around social change and revolution. Class consciousness, in other words. Your problem, and those of your ilk, is that you must constantly demonstrate how inferior the worker is, how lacking he/she is without your insight and wisdom.
In order to do this, you must constantly demonstrate how the workers at large are wrong and that only you have the correct vision. Even if this means nit-picking and jumping on an expression that wasn’t spelt out with every ‘i’ dotted and every ‘t’ crossed.
Let me assure you, comrade, we knew what the failings of the NCB and Labourism were then and we know what they are now. We also know the dangers of vanguardism and substitutionism.
The last part of Peter Manson’s polemic against the Socialist Party in England and Wales derides the role of nationalisations, consistent with the CPGB’s overly timid take (‘No road to a mass workers’ party’, April 16).
In my mislabelled ‘Trade mercy’ letter (April 2, which I actually titled ‘On protectionism and fair trade’), I said: “as for ‘nationalisations’, there should be a demand for the European Union equivalent.” In fact, I prefer the Soviet-inspired term ‘national-democratisation’ (from the Brezhnev era on national-democratic revolutions in Africa).
This means, at the EU level (given the valid criticisms of nation-states doing this):
- confiscatory, despotic measures against all capital flight of wealth from the EU (not just Tobin taxes);
- the permanent suppression of all private banks and their elite bankers by a democratised European Central Bank at purchase prices based especially on the market values of insolvent yet publicly underwritten banks (diplomatic for ‘expropriation’), along with the extension of that ECB monopoly into the general provision of commercial and consumer credit, as well as the full application of ‘equity, not usury’ towards such activity (secularising of Islamic banking, something that left opportunists ignore in courting Muslims in favour of identity politics);
- EU takeovers of various ‘industrial complexes’ (based on Eisenhower’s speech) construction-industrial, energy-industrial (‘energy champions’), agriculture-industrial (instead of wasteful subsidies to EU small farming), transport-industrial, communication-industrial, and also other natural monopolies; and
- the takeover of the health-industrial complex and all assets of workers’ insurance and private pension funds into permanent public ownership, with levies against corporate assets for any fund deficits, and with decisive worker participation in their administration.
Contrary to Mike Macnair’s direct criticisms, there is some value in the old programme of the Communist International, after all.
While I found Jim Moody’s piece on corruption a healthy political exposure (‘Peccadilloes, smears, and scandals’, April 16), he misses the economic exposure that has become to be known as ‘naked short selling’. This practice has taken down major financial institutions in the United States, including Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
In the UK, the Royal Bank of Scotland is up against the wall. Vince Cable recently said: “It’s bad enough the ban on short-selling has been withdrawn. The idea that this government agency should be complicit in promoting it seems bizarre. It would be creating an environment that could be used to drive down the stock price.”
We also have professor William Black saying: “We have lost the ability to be blunt ... Now we have a situation where treasury secretary Tim Geithner can speak of a $2 trillion hole in the banking system, at the same time all the major banks report they are well capitalised. And you have seen no regulatory action against what amounts to a $2 trillion accounting fraud. The reason we don’t see it - aren’t told about it - is that, if they were honest, prompt corrective action would kick in, and then they would have to deal with the problem banks.”
We have the heads of Latin American countries, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela, in their Document of the Bolivarian alternative for the peoples of our Americas countries for the 5th summit of the Americas, telling us: “Capitalism is putting an end to humanity and the planet. What we are living through is a global economic crisis of a systemic and structural character and not just one more cyclical crisis. Those who think that this crisis will be resolved with an injection of fiscal money and with some regulatory measures are very mistaken.
“The financial system is in crisis because it is quoting the value of papers at six times the real value of goods and services being produced in the world. This is not a ‘failure of the regulation of the system’, but rather a constitutive part of the capitalist system that speculates with all goods and values in the pursuit of obtaining the maximum amount of profit possible. Until now, the economic crisis has created 100 million more starving people and more than 50 million new unemployed people, and these figures are tending to increase.”
On the issue of inflation, Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said that food prices were rising because retailers are paying more for supplies: “The majority of food consumed in the UK is sourced here, but the weak pound is pushing up prices for domestic produce as it becomes more attractive to overseas buyers and it’s increasing the cost of imports. The pound has fallen by around a quarter since summer 2007 ...”
I really think it is about time the Weekly Worker caught up with the depth of economic realities and paid less heed to fears of being “overly catastrophic”. Comrades, you should be worried about overly nationalistic responses and cautious about the prospect of capitalism recovering in totem, without the accumulation of severe pain, of either an arithmetic or exponential order.
It is becoming clearer that the ruling class does not know what it is doing. If it does, it no longer seems to care about the specific fate of the national economies of the biggest financial centres. Indeed, the new financial oligarchs have much of their hedge funds based offshore.
The Communist Party of Britain’s website presents a campaign with Bob Crow and other trade unionists that characterises the European Union as “Thatcherite” and “authoritarian”, and suggests that socialists and communists vote ‘No to the EU, Yes to democracy’. But the argument is based on an outdated, one-sided view of the EU.
The CPB presents the EU as Thatcherite but, in fact, like the British state and parliament, it is an arena of political struggle by multifaceted social and economic groups and forces - principally between labour and capital. Lenin argued against a boycott of parliament, so why is the CPB bowing to ultra-leftism? Is it because of its ‘left nationalism’, which, along with the Tories (and Ukip), emphasises ‘national sovereignty’ and ‘defence of the pound’?
In reality, the EU is a contested political space between neoliberal and social democratic, socialist and green forces. The CPB omits discussion of the Party of European Socialists’ manifesto, based on Rasmussen’s and Delors’ ‘new social Europe’, which, whatever its weaknesses, at least proposes policies for full employment, the renewal of the welfare state, workers’ rights, green growth, lifelong learning and social protection for the young, old, sick and vulnerable, as well as greater intervention and regulation of the social market economy.
The No2EU campaign blows a lot of hot air against an outdated picture of the EU; yet, worst of all, while the left’s political opponents, if elected, will send their MEPs to the European Parliament, the CPB-sponsored campaign ends in political paralysis and farce, saying “We will not sit in the European parliament in the event of winning any seats”!
The CPB’s bashing of the EU is popular on the left because it is easier to exploit social discontent than constructively to engage with politics and propose policies and solutions to the problems shared by our ‘common European home’. Retreat into left nationalism represents a historically failed response to the problem of building a United Socialist States of Europe, which is necessary to counteract the effects of the global banking crisis on our continent. If the left is serious, then it will engage with the Labour Movement for Europe in securing that as many MEPs who intend to fight for the implementation of the PES’s manifesto as possible are returned to the European parliament.