It appears that Nick Rogers has caught the Meltdown infection and melted himself in the past year since his last report of Meltdown-inspired events at Canary Wharf in October 2008 (‘Agitprop anarchism’, May 6).
Remember, it was the Meltdown crew who organised the subsequent G20 Meltdown with the convergence of the four horsemen of the apocalypse at the Bank of England. Nick now gives a more favourable impression of the Election Meltdown events at Parliament Square on May Day compared with Laurie Smith’s report of the May Day parade from Clerkenwell Green to Trafalgar Square, which, as Laurie said, raised more questions than answers.
At Parliament Square, there was a more enlightened atmosphere, including anarchists and leftists. And, yes, only a few Socialist Worker paper sellers, but the intent was there from Martin Smith to endorse the event. Yet this did not prevent Nick from easily distributing “a leaflet promoting a communist forum on ‘Is this what democracy looks like?’ The image of celebratory and besuited pigs in front of Big Ben appealed to the general anti-politician attitude.”
Anyhow, there is a serious intent to the organised events leading to the dragging of the party leaders and their convergence and hanging at Parliament Square. It was to express the feeling of despair arising from the electoral process, and what most people would actually like to do with the politicians - as Meltdown did to the bankers last year. As Yassamine Mather says in the last issue of the Weekly Worker, “Elections are a good time to reassert some basic political ideas”, which are vaguely similar to the political actions of Chris Knight’s street theatre group, the Government of the Dead. She also points to a few examples similar to Meltdown, such as campaigning for a world with no borders and an end to the exploitation of private property.
Furthermore, there is the question of democracy, as the growing momentum of the Democracy Village at Parliament Square. As Nick points out, campaigning for democracy is “central to the task of communists”. This has been the common theme of the three months of organising for those involved with the May Day event and after. Is this not communism in action?
The Democracy Village, and all that it entails, is no short cut; but democracy is in action at Parliament Square, and not just in print in the pages of a weekly paper.
The list of different manifestoes of the left did indeed make interesting reading (‘The left and the 2010 general election’, May 6).
Granted, the sole Socialist Party of Great Britain candidate in Vauxhall received a predictably poor result, but what of all those leftists who offered up a plethora and cornucopia of improvements to capitalism? Let’s not try to fool ourselves; they too were resoundingly rejected by the working class. So what should be the lesson learned? Revising those programmes, adding free beer and trips to Disneyland? Or is it the principled arguing for the alternative to capitalism - ie, world socialism?
Actually, the SPGB poses much the same question as Phil Kent does in his letter in the same edition of the paper: “Whatever happened to the positive belief that only communism will produce a world of peace, plenty and fully rounded human development?” - particularly if the working class are continually presented with a wishy-washy wish list of reforms and palliatives from the left rather than have the real solution to their problems propounded and explained as the one and only immediate demand.
Understandably, the fact that the SPGB programme is socialism and only socialism explains its omission from the above-mentioned party manifesto list.
Don't be fooled
Eddie Ford argues that the British National Party is no longer in the fascist camp because, “Rather than fighting for various precious programmatic shibboleths, fascism instead wants to capture the street and physically crush the organised left, using non-state fighting formations” (‘Griffin’s eclectic manifesto’, April 29).
And in reply to Keith Rice’s legitimate concern that Ford was lending respectability to the BNP by an ill-considered argument (Letters, April 22), Ford replies: “The point is, we must try to grasp what the BNP is now” (Letters, May 6).
A good starting point for those who want to try to grasp what the BNP is now is Dimitrov’s observation that “The development of fascism, and the fascist dictatorship itself, assumes different forms in different countries, according to historical, social and economic conditions and to the national peculiarities and the international position of the given country” (G Dimitrov, ‘Unity of the working class against fascism’ Selected works Vol 2, 1935).
Dimitrov even explains, as if for the benefit of Eddie Ford, that where fascism is weak it poses as democratic and parliamentarian. Of course, when fascism becomes strong and is in complete command of the state, they need not pretend any longer.
From this, it is reasonable to assume that it is the present weakness of British fascism which is behind organisations like the BNP posing as democratic and would-be parliamentarians. This has fooled no-one on the left or even in liberal bourgeois circles, apart from those with a hopelessly simplistic understanding of the political struggle.
British fascism is in a weak position and, if it is to make any headway, it must adapt to local conditions by posing as democratic. This in turn has led the less politically experienced and intuitive elements into believing that the BNP is no longer in the fascist camp. This argument may partly result from factional rivalry with the Socialist Workers Party.
In order to support this incorrect conclusion, those who believe this resort to one-sided arguments which characterise fascism as possessing non-state fighting formations that are used to capture the streets and crush the organised left. This is not only anti-dialectical, but is also a travesty of historical experience. It is anti-dialectical because it uses one aspect of a phenomenon - ie, non-state fighting formations - to characterise fascism as a whole. The essence of fascism is the suppression of democracy and the labour movement. This goal is achieved only when the fascists have state power. Those who want to convince us that the BNP is no longer in the fascist camp want us to believe that its essence has changed.
The second point is the misrepresentation of history, combined with the implication that non-state fighting formations are the essence of fascism rather than an important aspect of fascism at a certain stage in the struggle against democracy and the working class. The truth is, these fighting formations are not the essence of fascism and have so far never succeeded in crushing the left and democracy. It is only after they have been given power by rightwing monopoly capitalist circles that the fascists succeeded in crushing the left and dismissing democracy, particularly if the left is being guided by fools.
All those who regard non-state fighting formations as constituting the essence of fascism must also logically argue that Hitler ceased being a fascist after he assumed power, when he no longer needed the non-state formations, and indeed brutally liquidated its leadership in the ‘night of the long knives’, and began to rely on the state power exclusively. Hitler’s action demonstrated that these fighting formations were not the essence of fascism, but rather an important but disposable tool in the struggle for power.
Don't be fooled
Don't be fooled
As the first Tory-Liberal coalition in over 90 years takes office in Britain, with New Labour facing a more serious crisis than many may yet realise, it is a good opportunity for the socialist left to take stock.
What the general election has demonstrated is that there is no limit to the depths to which the left can sink electorally. There are undoubtedly many reasons for this, such as the continued weakness of working class resistance, as the court injunctions against the RMT union and British Airways strikers demonstrate. However, it would also be futile to ignore the toll that sectarianism on the left has taken. Indeed there were only two bright spots in the general election - the wiping out of the British National Party in Barking and its loss of council seats elsewhere; and the election as MP in my own constituency of Caroline Lucas, the left Green candidate.
Who could have believed that in the midst of a recession, with some 2.5 million unemployed, millions living in poverty, a public sector wage freeze, cuts in benefits and even wages the order of the day, that the socialist and Marxist left could become so irrelevant. As all three major capitalist parties agreed on the need to wield the axe over public spending, we had sustained rioting in Greece, whilst the bankers sought desperately to prop up the euro. Yet in Britain the voice of the socialist and Marxist left has barely registered with people.
The bare statistics make depressing reading. In 2001, the Socialist Alliance, which hardly reached the pinnacle of electoral success, stood 98 candidates and polled 57,553 votes, an average of 587 each. In 2010 the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition stood 42 candidates, who received 15,580 votes, an average of 371 votes: ie, 63% of the 2001 total. In 2001 three candidates, including Dave Nellist and Tommy Sheridan, saved their deposits. This time every election deposit was lost.
In Scotland the situation is even more dire. In 2001 the Scottish Socialist Party stood candidates in every one of the 72 constituencies. They polled 72,518 votes, an average of 1,007 per candidate. In 2010 Tusc in Scotland, including Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity, stood 10 candidates, obtaining a grand total of 3,523 votes, an average of 352 votes (1.05%). This was not only less than their English partners, but just 35% of the 2001 vote. The SSP fared even worse, also standing 10 candidates and garnering 3,157 votes, an average of 316 votes (0.84% each) or 31% of the 2001 vote.
From six MSPs in 2003 the SSP/Solidarity have managed to achieve votes that would have embarrassed Lord Sutch and his Monster Raving Loony Party. In Coventry the Socialist Party lost one of its two remaining councillors and even if you count, which I don’t, Respect as a party of the left, it too suffered heavy defeats, including the loss of its only MP.
One might have hoped that even the worst sectarian bone-head, including members of the Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Party leaderships, might have drawn at least some conclusions from these dire results. I suspect, however, that the only conclusion to be drawn will be that they should dig even deeper to get out of their hole. The tragedy is that, the greater the failure, the greater is their persistence in following the road to oblivion. If the current situation is left to the existing ‘parties’, then there is no hope of any improvement in the strength of the left for the simple reason that they see as their main task the building of their own particular group, rather than a socialist movement.
And yet the task of consolidating the left should have been far from difficult. We had an election where the political positions of all three major political parties were identical. Savage cuts to rescue the political and economic system from the consequences of the bankers’ speculation were common ground. Privatisation was taken for granted. Indeed on the only two issues where there were any differences between the parties, at least on paper, we had the spectacle of that pathetic representative of the rightwing Scottish Labour mafia, Gordon Brown, attacking Clegg for the ‘madness’ of his stance on Trident and asylum-seekers. Not that Clegg will keep to either of those positions now he is in coalition with the Tories.
Those who celebrate, rightly, the demise of the BNP electorally (though it is still not dead) should ponder that this may end up in the strengthening of the boot boys on the street in the form of the English Defence League. What we certainly don’t want or need are the antics of the SWP/Unite Against Fascism in Brighton, who called a counter-demonstration to an EDL demonstration that never was. For a couple of years a group of lumpens had organised a St George’s Day parade. It was a family affair and, although their politics are not ours, they clearly were not fascists. Because some EDLers announced they would come and join it, that was enough to cry ‘Nazi’.
What is needed in Britain is a refounding of the socialist and Marxist left and a single-minded determination to form an anti-capitalist party. It won’t come from the trade unions, despite the wishful thinking of the SP, but a serious and determined venture could well get trade union support. Nor should one have any illusions about the residual loyalty of the working class to Labour. One could do worse than to refound the Socialist Alliance with the declared intention of forming a new socialist party. Of course, this is likely to be derided as a ‘halfway house’, but it’s better to start out on a journey than to stay at home. And it is often a good idea to stay somewhere overnight before arriving at one’s destination!
What is certain is that there must never again be electoral alliances cobbled together at the last moment among groups who have evinced no interest in socialist unity (SWP) and which does absolutely nothing in the way of strengthening the socialist left. Such ventures simply weaken the left. In Brighton Kemptown Tusc had an excellent candidate, Dave Hill, a former leader of the Labour group on East Sussex County Council. His campaign was innovative and he and others worked hard. But still he didn’t gain even 200 votes.
There are no simple solutions to what are endemic problems of the British socialist left. But a serious debate on the socialist left is essential if challenging and overthrowing capitalism are ever going to be more than slogans.