Sometimes the Weekly Worker boggles my mind! To advocate a vote for Labour as against No2EU is like cutting off your nose to spite your face (‘No2EU fails the test’, May 28).
As the MPs’ expenses scandal has confirmed, Labour is corrupt. Much of its structure is moribund. Ward branch and general management meetings are inquorate and there are no activists to distribute leaflets. Membership on official figures is under 200,000. Thousands have quit and many have drifted into cynicism and political inactivity. It’s not a shadow of what it was a decade ago, never mind in the 1950s, when membership was over a million. The corpse is slowly decomposing.
Not that I’m supporting No2EU either. Despite the participation of the Socialist Party and the Alliance for Green Socialism, it is an organisation of antediluvian Stalinists. The Socialist Labour Party is another version of the Stalinist theme.
Being a Londoner, I’ll vote for the Socialist Party of Great Britain. They may be purely propagandist, but at least they’re honest in their propaganda. There is no nationalism, dilution and compromise in their socialism. I have problems with their parliamentary road to socialism, but support their view of a world community based on common ownership and democratic control, their opposition to Leninist vanguardism and their view that the working class has to want and understand socialism before it can win it.
After decades of voting for lesser evils, class traitors, idiots and muddle-heads, at long last I can vote for something I really want. It may be a wasted vote, but no more wasted than a vote for Labour, No2EU or the SLP.
Tony Greenstein’s response (‘Self-determination is not an abstract principle’, May 28) to Jack Conrad’s article (‘The debate on Israel-Palestine assessed’, May 14) includes a comment against a view that I share with Jack: that there exists a Hebrew (‘Israeli-Jewish’) nation. Here is what he writes:
“Jack asserts that an Israeli-Jewish nation has arisen. I disagree ... And what of this ‘nation’? Yes, it speaks the same language, generally, and it lives in the same contiguous area. But a nation is something like a ‘chose in action’. It is intangible. States and nations usually correspond. Not so in Israel, where Arabs are excluded from the nation. Israel claims to represents the mythical Jewish nation, including myself. But it does not recognise itself as a separate Hebrew nation, which is the weakness in Moshé Machover’s argument.”
Please allow me to respond to this very peculiar reasoning. First, the claim that “states and nations usually correspond” is patently false. There is hardly a state in existence that does not have one or more national minority; and in this respect Israel is no exception.
Second, Tony is arguing, in effect, that, although the Hebrews possess the objective attributes of a nation, they cannot be one because they do not recognise themselves as such. Again, in this respect as well, Israel is no exception, but follows the same pattern as other settler nations, such as the Australians and the Americans: there too actual nationhood was an objective fact before it was officially self-consciously recognised and declared.
As was noted long ago, “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” And this ‘determination’ usually takes time: consciousness lags behind being.
As a matter of fact, the claim that the Hebrew nation does not recognise itself as a separate nation is true only at the level of official ideology and formal discourse. At the more prosaic, intuitive day-to-day level, Hebrew national consciousness does exist.
Third, and here we come to the crux of the matter: the only thing that prevents the Hebrew nation from recognising itself openly and officially as such is the dominance of Zionist ideology. This ideology - just like comrade Greenstein, albeit for different reasons - alleges that a separate Hebrew nation cannot exist. It follows that, once Zionism is defeated and its ideological hold on the Hebrew nation is broken, that nation will openly recognise the fact of its nationhood. Tony is inconsistent in looking forward to the downfall of Zionism but denying its inevitable consequence.
Finally, I would advise Tony not to advocate the ‘destruction’ of the state of Israel. Although, as he makes it clear, he means it in a metaphorical sense, this expression has unpleasant connotations and lends itself all too easily to harmful misunderstandings. It is much better to avoid such metaphors and use a precise scientific expression: a state is overthrown, not (literally) destroyed.
Jack Conrad justifies urging a vote for the Labour Party (‘Republican democracy, voting tactics and communist strategy’, May 21). He marshals his arguments against those to the ultra-left of his position and to the right - as defined by him, of course.
It is true that if you keep accommodating to where you think popular opinion is and keep back any demands you feel are too far ahead of that popular opinion, then we will never get radical ideas becoming mainstream. Ideas deemed ridiculous at the time but accepted now include votes for working class men - then women, equal pay for women, the abolition of slavery.
However, these had to be fought for by principled individuals who were ridiculed, threatened and in some cases imprisoned or murdered before more and more people were eventually won over in sympathy to their intransigence and consideration of their arguments.
Jack rails against anyone setting up a “Labour Party mark two” for well argued reasons, but to opt for urging a vote for the “Labour Party mark one” just beggars belief.
Much is made of the CPGB demand for a people’s militia and that the failure of ‘No2toEU to openly adopt this (and other CPGB shibboleths such as fortress Britain and open borders) seemingly justifies withdrawal of CPGB support. Why aren’t these same demands made of the Labour Party and a similar CPGB refusal to endorse them too on their failure to also adopt them? Presumably in the US the Republicans and Democrats have not rescinded the right of the people to arm themselves, so the CPGB, if it was based in America, would endorse Americans voting for either party of big business? Come on!
It’s one thing deriding ‘popular’ opinion on a number of issues but when millions are now questioning all three main parliamentary parties because of their blatant self-enrichment and double standards, when millions are beginning to question capitalist values, Jack and the CPGB are saying, ‘Vote Labour’!
He makes no mention of how democracy has been so manipulated in New Labour. A good socialist such as John McDonnell cannot even get on the ballot paper to challenge Gordon Brown’s coronation! A Labour government that is ‘extremely relaxed’ about the filthy rich, that has broken or failed to achieve all its 1997 manifesto promises, that has seen the gap between the rich and the poor widen still further and seeks to make workers pay for the current economic crisis has the support of the CPGB!
A “Labour Party mark two” will remain small whilst those on the left refuse to agitate for the funding link between unions and the Labour Party to be broken. The RMT and the FBU are leading the way and should be commended, not condemned. PCS will be engaging in a consultation with its members on whether it should stand its own (and/or support other unions’) candidates who are defending the public sector. Is PCS wrong to do so? Should instead it be arguing for affiliation to the Labour Party? One delegate making this very point at PCS conference in May was booed!
The CPGB could have critically supported No2EU, arguing for it to have a much, much more democratic culture than that of the “Labour Party mark one”. The BNP have seen massive increases in the numbers of those voting for them. The CPGB position of open borders is not gaining support and will not do so during a recession. That’s a vote loser.
Without a left alternative - imperfect though it will be, people will either abstain or vote BNP. Urging people to vote New Labour ignores the anger of millions and is a slap in the face for all the real socialists who have left the Labour Party in disgust. It is a betrayal of all those fighting cuts in our public services, who oppose Heathrow’s third runway, who want to keep post offices open.
The left (what’s left of it ) simply cannot operate in any meaningful way in the Labour Party as it is organised and controlled today. They cannot choose local candidates that the organisation doesn’t approve of. They cannot have input to an election manifesto. What is the point today of any decent socialist remaining in the Labour Party?
I’d rather be considered ultra-left or to the right of the CPGB by Jack than stand up urging workers to vote for this utterly corrupt and unprincipled Labour government with ‘he’s back yet again’ Lord Mandelson whilst they forced Galloway out. There isn’t a single radical proposal being pushed by the government that the CPGB endorses. I am on the side of those deciding to have a go themselves if they are against the pro-big business direction of the big three.
We need to engage with millions of working class voters. If that means supporting a Labour Party mark two (or various Labour Party mark twos, for that matter) until one of them is transformed eventually into the best working class party around (perhaps with the involvement of the CPGB pressing for “extreme democracy”?) then so be it.
I want to see people striving to create alternatives - to once again start debating democracy and in whose interests power is given - to give the once complacent and arrogant (and now desperate) Labour Party a bloody nose for their betrayal of the working class. They need to be booted out of office to show a return of people power with the possibilities that opens up.
Wouldn’t a Labour Party mark two attract people to the left of New Labour? Wouldn’t that be a better start than the Labour Party mark one with all that has happened since? Eventually a mark two, if it started enjoying electoral success, would start attracting opportunists and careerists (if it didn’t endorse a worker’s wage and recall). But that is some way off surely? Wouldn’t a mark two attract better people, be a better place to operate and agitate within than the awful Labour Party today? The CPGB are helping barricade the Bastille against the angry mob!
You look so Stalinist. I may well be wrong and thick not to ‘get’ the CPGB argument but I’d never want to be as ‘clever’ as Jack in being able to argue working class people cast aside their justified anger and yet again vote for the Labour Party. That kind of ‘cleverness’ will never lead to revolution and the CPGB are now lining up with the establishment, the billionaires, the bosses and employers and lining up against those workers. You are with Gordon Brown’s ‘British jobs for British workers’. You are endorsing the bail-out of the banks with our money.
I am a lightweight compared to Jack and others in the CPGB. I am not their intellectual equal. However, the future is with working class militants such as me, based in unions, in workplaces, having to steer a way through current conditions taking our members with us where we can.
Missing the point
Barbara Dorn (Letters, May 28) raises the issue of some Liberal Party members’ participation in ‘No to EU, Yes to Democracy’. It is certainly yet more evidence of the chauvinist philistinism of the latter’s programme that it attracts a Eurosceptic faction of a Whig splinter group.
But comrade Dorn misses this point entirely, and instead gives us the line of the International Bolshevik Tendency on popular fronts at the level of self-parody. The fact that the Liberals are involved automatically makes this a popular front; the fact that it’s a popular front automatically precludes any possibility of support. The CPGB’s line of posing conditions on support was therefore unprincipled - support should just have been denied.
Firstly, there is no class character that automatically precludes Marxists from giving support to a political formation. For all the accusations of Kautskyite heresy from the IBT, the CPGB stands in the tradition of Bolshevism here - these are the same Bolsheviks who urged intellectual supporters to vote for the liberal bourgeois Cadets. IBT comrade Alan Davis has argued in these pages before that they were wrong to do so - but to argue against this on the basis of principle rather than tactics (and the tactic actually worked out quite well) is a fundamental break from Marxist politics proper into the arid terrain of ultra-leftism.
Secondly, the role of the bourgeois section of a popular front is for the most part a kind of collateral; its involvement is offered to the communists’ allies to insure that the communists will not attempt to implement their full programme. The role of these Liberal Party members has been to piggyback on a programme that had already been decided. To focus on this rather pharisaic point is to take emphasis away from the more fundamental class-collaborationist character of the front - its chauvinist, red-brown programme and implicit alliance with the bourgeois state.
Comrade Dorn also claims that no “class-conscious workers” still believe that Labour represents the separate interests of the class. But this is simply to ignore the facts that the vast bulk of the trade union movement is still affiliated to Labour, that there remain sections of the Labour Party ostensibly committed to independent working class representation, and so on.
Glyn Matthews, writing in the same issue, suffers from similar confusions. What happened to the days when we realised that Labour had been “exposed as a pro-imperialist party” and could no longer be supported? Well, those days never happened. What we decided was that the Iraq war was the key polarising issue in British politics and principled opposition to it the key requirement for support. Respect passed that test, if it failed all the others - and so did a small handful of Labour candidates in the 2005 general election!
It is plain now that the Iraq war is drawing to an end and that, when it is over, it will be no more a polarising issue than is the presence of British army bases in former colonies in general. The anti-war movement is basically gone. Its recent revival has had nothing to do with Iraq and everything to do with Israel/Palestine. The conditions we raised in that period are no longer appropriate. And, once again, anyone who says that election tactics must never change, or must add up to a consistent picture in themselves, misunderstands what tactics actually means.
Missing the point
Missing the point