In his letter last week Chris Knight provides us with some ideas of what united anarchist (a contradiction in terms surely) tactics might be on the London March 26 demonstration (January 27).
"One idea, dubbed 'Battle of Britain', is to distribute 30 or so direct action blocs all along the march - for example, an RMT contingent, a Lewisham Against the Cuts bloc, a Newcastle Student Assembly contingent, and so forth. Then, say, at 2.02 pm precisely, the 'Battle of Britain' begins. We hear a World War II air raid siren accompanied by smoke flares all along the route. At that point, in each bloc, everyone sits in a circle to convene a people's assembly."
In The art of war Sun Tzu says: "The spot where we intend to fight must not be made known; for then the enemy will have to prepare against a possible attack at several different points; and, his forces being thus distributed in many directions, the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will be proportionately few." The brilliant anarchist idea appears to be the exact opposite. We take action at a place and time known well in advance to the cops who will be well prepared for it. We then sit down to ensure that we are defenceless when the riot cops attack us. This idea would be to demonstrate simply that we are completely and utterly stupid. Quite frankly it sounds like the kind of 'idea' that could have come from a police agent provocateur - recalling recent events, a far from extravagant proposition.
If our anarchist friends really do want to get 'stuck in', then I suggest that on March 26 they form into their 30 or so contingents and carry out a whole series of Stop The City-type actions whilst a significant number of cops are otherwise engaged with the main demo. This would have the advantages of (a) allowing the main demonstration to act as all it is - a piece of peaceful propaganda; and (b) allowing the activists to engage in events which, presuming that they can refrain from mouthing off on their multitude of online forums, would not be pre-announced to the forces of darkness. 'All warfare is based on deception.'
If this done properly some impact might very well be made without many participants being injured, imprisoned or fined.
James Turley refers to the need to recognise "the real dynamics of Labour politics both in terms of the cyclical motions of capital and the British political cycle" ('The pull to the left', January 27). So what is the real dynamics of Labour politics in relation to the above cycles mentioned by Turley?
Firstly, we need to understand Labour politics from the standpoint of the long-term cycle of capitalism, and how this shapes the British political cycle. Blinded by traditional Marxist orthodoxy, most of the left do not yet realise that the rules of the game are changing. What has changed is that the present crisis is not simply the expression of a normal business cycle where boom leads to bust, which is then followed by another period of capitalist expansion.
In the previous era before peak oil, boom-bust and growth again were contained within the long-term ascendancy of capitalism, upon which the rightwing leadership of the working class depended. Now we are faced with the decline of capitalism, which will destroy the material base that facilitated such leadership. Because the present crisis and decline of capitalism is related to the fact that the world has reached the global peak in oil production, there is no likelihood of the bourgeoisie being able to resolve it. Even if the bourgeoisie were to miraculously find a solution to the energy crisis, this would not solve the problems of capitalism. More energy under capitalism would simply lead to more overproduction. Capitalism is trapped between a looming great oil crisis on the one hand and overproduction on the other.
This irreversible, long-term decline of capitalism, related to global peak oil, means the Labour Party will have to move left or face destruction by the voters, once the full impact of the crisis begins to hit Britain. The Labour Party has entered a period of transition away from rightwing leadership to leftwing leadership. While I cannot say how long this transition period will be, it is nevertheless necessary to oppose those who claim that Labour is no longer a bourgeois workers' party. Since capitalism will not be able to solve the present crisis, the real debate should be about whether Labour can make the transition from a traditional bourgeois workers' party to a real socialist party, and by this I don't necessarily mean a Marxist party.
To waste time trying to convert the Labour Party into a 'Marxist' party in my view will simply lead to dogmatism and sectarianism, which opens the door to totalitarianism. In any case, orthodox Marxism does not fully explain the present crisis, and further, contrary to classical Marxism, it is more likely to be underproduction rather than overproduction which will bring about the downfall of capitalism.
Although I disagree with Paul Smith's assertion that the former Soviet Union was not to some degree socialist or progressive (Soviet society was far more diverse and multi-dimensional than it was given credit for), I do broadly agree with the main thrust of his letter (January 27).
The show trials of the 1936-38 period were a final expression of the general realignment and victory of the European ruling classes, and internally of the victory of the labour bureaucracy, which Stalin had come to front. To argue whether it was 700,000 or 700 million that were shot is irrelevant. Equally whether Stalin was behind Kirov's murder is best left to the liberal historians and Stalin's apologists, who seem intent on turning it into an Agatha Christie murder-mystery soap opera.
The Trotsky versus Stalin historical analysis of the Soviet Union inspired by the aforementioned liberal historians merely leads the revolutionary left down a historical cul-de-sac with inadequate conclusions.
Wikileaks has made clear the Bonapartist character of the Lula government. That is, by balancing between classes, Lula was better able to stabilise Brazilian capitalism than military dictatorship. 'Balancing' requires duplicity and amoral behaviour.
The left in the US gets confused easily. It is easily impressed by radical rhetoric, and reformism usually appears more 'practical' than revolution. There were some so-called Marxists in the Lula government. Clearly, some of them get tired of talking about taking power when they can get a few molecules of power (and money) within the system.
About two years ago I talked to an advisor of Lula who claimed to be a Marxist. Her defence of Lula was there was "no mass movement in Brazil". That is, revolution from above is impossible without a mass movement from below.
Agreed! But then I questioned whether the left in these conditions should have taken electoral office. Electoralism is the opposite of revolution - but electoral reformism has become revived with the electoral victories of Chávez in Venezuela and Morales in Bolivia. Both countries are still expressing socialist goals in words, though both countries remain capitalist.
But in the final instance the task of revolutionaries is to build a mass movement. We will see whether it can be done from above. Lula never tried.
I endured Eddie Ford's article defending Assange, in which he relied on a reiteration of most of the rape myths we thought had gone the way of Sky football pundits ('Hands off Assange', December 16 2010).
Do me a favour, love. It might be an idea to do some research before committing yourselves to that level of misogynist rubbish again. When I researched this subject myself, I was struck by the similarities between Eddie's piece and the online Counterpunch article (September 2010). Try Sandra Cuffe on the Mostly Water website for an accurate view of the way rape myths were perpetuated in this case.
I was later intrigued by a report in The Guardian (February 1) concerning Assange and Wikileaks. The article refers to the role played by Israel Shamir in Wikileaks in general, and his suggestion, with Paul Bennett in Counterpunch, that Assange was framed for sexual assault, and that one of his accusers was associated with the CIA. From his article has developed the entire character assassination of the women involved, and the unquestioning assumption that they are lying and Assange is innocent.
I'm sure readers of this paper will be familiar with the usual tenor. Basically, establish a connection with the CIA (on no evidence, see Cuffe in Mostly Water) and then use that unfounded allegation to discredit everything else the women say. Better still, point out one of them was a gender equality officer. Run for your lives, boys! That means 'feminist', that means 'man-hater', that means 'frigid', that means 'liar'. We now end up with both women comprehensively discredited on the basis of an unproven allegation of association and some basic misogyny. It's been repeated so often that you all believe it.
So who, I hear you ask, is the original Counterpunch author, Israel Shamir, who provides key inspiration for Eddie Ford's piece? According to a 2005 article in the Weekly Worker, he "would appear to be an ex-Russian/Swedish fascist" ('Blind eye to anti-Semitism', July 8 2005). In the same article, Shamir is described as "a medieval Christian anti-Semite" and credited with describing "the most odious characterisations of Jews as 'Christ-killers', the staple of classic European Christian anti-Semitism".
So remind me again how this works. The women are lying because they have unproven associations with the CIA. But Shamir, and by association Assange, are telling the truth, although one has proven associations with fascists.
When did we decide that was OK? Did I miss a meeting?
I would like to comment on Eddie Ford's article, 'Stirrings of an Arab revolution' (January 22). It is generally excellent. But it makes one regrettable error. In the list of the progressive popular movements shaking the Arab world, he includes the following:
"Lebanon too had a 'day of rage' on January 25, principally - though not entirely - by supporters of the recently ousted prime minister, Saad Hariri, whose largely Sunni Muslim supporters claim that democracy is being subverted by Syria and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah."
Oops! Hariri is a US stooge, and his supporters' claim to being democratic is shakier than that of the counter-demonstrators.
We are calling on all our allies in radical struggles the world over to send letters of support to political prisoner Jonathan Pollak, currently serving a three-month prison sentence in Israel. A long-time activist in anarchist, anti-occupation and animal rights struggles, Jonathan has been imprisoned since January 11 after a blatantly political trial stemming from his participation in a protest against the siege on Gaza.
Write to: Jonathan Pollak, Hermon prison NS Wing, PO Box 4011, Maghar 14930, Israel; or email email@example.com (messages will be printed and passed on to him).
Continuing from my previous letter on the petty bourgeoisie, while the 'national'/'patriotic' sections have their petty bourgeois democratism, Mike Macnair himself noted that the rural sections have peasant absolutism, patrimonialism, etc, and that this regime too can in fact achieve progressive measures. What we have here in the framework of thinking for the old bourgeois liberals is something that goes against their conception of a 'republic', which masks oligarchic/plutocratic domination, while supposedly combining democracy, (non-hereditary) aristocracy and (non-hereditary) monarchy, as shown in the original US arrangement of the House, Senate and presidency respectively. It also eschews the pitfalls of mob rule on the one hand and supposedly benevolent tyranny on the other.
In much of the third world, the proletariat is not in the demographic majority, so the question of the pre-orthodox minimum programme of Marx (dictatorship of the proletariat) is for the time being set aside. The Kautskyan minimum programme, however, is quite compatible with what I am about to propose: a triad of independent working class political organisation, urban petty bourgeois democratism and peasant patrimonialism. This, not to mention rendering the feudal relations/non-relations arguments irrelevant, goes:
- beyond revolutionary-democratic dictatorships of the proletariat and peasantry;
- beyond permanent revolution;
- beyond new democracy.
This triad is inspired by ancient origins. In prison Gramsci wrote of four political figures, deeming two progressive and two reactionary: Otto von Bismarck, Louis Bonaparte, Napoleon Bonaparte, and a fourth individual. While he was wrong to deem Napoleon as progressive, he was onto something. Perhaps he was beginning to wean himself away from the gentlemen's history set by the rich nobility that found its way into Karl Marx, Wilhelm Liebknecht and all the way into today's accounts like those of the CPGB's own Jack Conrad. Perhaps he was discovering, shall I say, 'people's history'.
On Saturday January 29 Manchester played host to a national mobilisation sparked by Pubic and Commercial Services union young members section and backed eventually by the TUC and the rightwing leaders of the National Union of Students. It was supported by around 5,000 people.
Before the demonstration I attended the conference organised by Manchester Trades Union Council, which attracted around 60 people - mainly from the left groups, community organisations and the unions. A motion for the conference to be postponed and join the demonstration was passed by 35 votes to 20. But before we did so many speakers had highlighted cuts in their industry or workplace and described how they have brought new people into struggle. A speaker who worked at the Connexions youth service told of how she had gone from despair to optimism, as young people who used the service began getting involved and discussing politics for the first time.
I left early, though I was told that the conference agreed to build for the March 26 demonstration, passed a motion in support of the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, elected officers and established a united campaign called Manchester Coalition Against Cuts.
As I walked up to the demonstration, Aaron Porter was being chased off it by around 300 students, chanting "Scab!" and accusing him of selling out. As for the alleged 'anti-Semitic chanting' during this incident, no-one I asked had heard it and the group at the forefront included a good number of Alliance for Workers' Liberty students. While it is likely that this is another Daily Mail fabrication, it is important to state that anti-Semitism has no place in our movement. After students confronted Porter the mood of the march was militant and angry, but remained peaceful.
The rally was held in a field far from sight of Saturday shoppers and the speakers were for the most part dreadful, being duly heckled by the impatient crowd. Porter did not dare to take to the stage and Shane Chowen, NUS vice-president for higher education, was forced off before he could finish his speech.
There was then a small breakaway demonstration that marched through the Arndale centre and this resulted in around 15 arrests and a small group getting kettled at Deansgate.
Both the conference and demonstration were small compared to the numbers we need to mobilise, but anti-cuts campaigners have definitely taken a step forward. On Saturday March 5 there will be an all-Manchester demonstration against the swingeing cuts the Labour council is set to vote through on March 9.