Walk for Iran
On March 5 six members of the Hands Off the People of Iran Manchester branch will be ‘doing the Bogle’, a 56-mile walk round Manchester.
Last year we did not quite complete it, but we did manage to raise £540 for the charity, Workers Fund Iran. This year we will once again walk to raise money for WFI, which was set up in December 2005 with the aim of aiding Iranian workers (both employed and unemployed) who are victims of the economic policies of the Iranian regime, including mass non-payment of wages. The charity is not aligned to any political organisation.
Funds sent to Iran will be distributed amongst the most needy working class families who are facing destitution. We hope this will help stop the practice of families sending their children out onto the streets as beggars or peddlers - or of selling their body parts, which is a common practice.
Hundreds of thousands of workers are being consigned to poverty by the oppressive Iranian state. Practical solidarity is one of the greatest things we can do for Iranian workers; it helps the revolutionary struggle against the Islamic Republic and in opposition to imperialism. Give generously!
We are hoping to raise over £300 pounds for the charity. You can donate by going to our Charity Choice page: www.charitychoice.co.uk/donation.asp?ref=154051
Walk for Iran
Walk for Iran
In the 1960s and 1970s, the fight of blacks, Asians and anti-racist whites was for integration. After the ‘riots’ in the early 1980s, the capitalist state launched ‘multiculturalism’, and many anti-racists fell for the con.
The unspoken agenda was distributing resources through ‘community ethnic leaders’. In turn, they were expected to control black and Asian militancy. The upshot was that people began to define themselves on an ethnic basis, rather than a class basis - classic divide and rule.
Now Frankenstein’s monster has backfired. Many Asians feel they are on the shit heap because they are Asian, not because they are working class. Their militancy is channelled through religion. This is something the state feels unable to control - hence Cameron’s speech against multiculturalism.
Casting identity in ethnic terms has caused some whites on the fringes of the working class to also identify themselves in ethnic terms as ‘poor whitey’. What is needed is not opposition to the English Defence League as Nazis - they are not - but the building of a working class opposition to cuts, taxation and war.
That opposition must support the revolutions in Arabia and the Middle East, and fight for the destruction of the Zionist state, to be replaced by a democratic, secular and socialist Palestine for Jews and Arabs.
‘Identity politics’ was a facet of the retreat into postmodernism that defined the ‘left’ intelligentsia in the 1980s. In turn, as always, the centrists followed their lead. Adapting to the trends of petty bourgeois ideology is a trade stamp of Pabloite ‘Trotskyists’.
The coalition government has skilfully employed the ‘end’ to child detention to avoid talking about the brutal and inhumane detention regime in general. Yet, over the years, countless reports and accounts have documented the plight of women locked up at Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire: indefinite imprisonment without charge or judicial oversight, overcrowded cells, mistreatment and abuse by private security guards, lack of privacy, restrictions on visits and phone calls, inadequate medical provision and a lack of facilities to address healthcare issues.
And it’s getting worse. In her 2009 inspection report on Yarl’s Wood, HM chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers reported that “the focus on improving the environment and activities for children appeared to have led to a lack of attention to the needs of the majority population of women. Provision of activities for them was among the poorest seen in any removal centre. It had been inadequate at the last inspection, and had declined even further. The absence of activity added to the depression and anxiety of women, many of whom were spending lengthy periods at Yarl’s Wood. The average length of stay had increased by 50% since the last inspection, and one in 10 women had been detained for more than six months.”
End the detention of migrant women! Close Yarl’s Wood now! Join the demonstration on Saturday March 5.
Since the Egyptian revolution’s first mass protests exploded throughout the country on January 25, many so-called pundits and analysts have frantically struggled to find a suitable historical parallel in order to make sense of the situation to the outside world: France 1789; Iran 1979; and Tiananmen Square 1989 are just a few of the many analogies that have dominated popular discourse in the west.
Meanwhile, the US government and its allies have predictably continued to emphasise familiar concerns over ‘stability’ and ‘order’, the broader regional implications for neighbouring Israel, and the spectre of an ‘Islamist’ takeover. But it hardly matters to any of these foreign players, of course, that in the end the people of Tahrir Square and all across Egypt do not seem to be thinking about any of these concerns at all, nor do they particularly care about any ongoing speculation surfacing from outside the country at the moment.
For the first time ever, perhaps, Egyptians have seen a genuine opportunity for freedom and refused to let it go, boldly defying a brutal and seemingly immovable 30-year-old dictatorship and commencing to build in its place the foundation of a grassroots democracy that only continues to grow stronger every day. A new and vibrant democracy is being born in Egypt today against all odds, evolving live in front of a captured global audience in a way quite unlike ever before. The Egyptian revolution has to this point flourished as a truly non-violent, inclusive and participatory democracy - and, most importantly, managed to do so without any appointed leaders, dominant ideologies or easy slogans, except to say simply that the dictator must go. The all-important ‘fear barrier’ has been decisively shattered and shows no sign of returning any time soon.
What final character the Egyptian revolution will ultimately take as of now remains unclear, but, whatever happens, what will follow is at its core of less importance than what Egyptians have already managed to achieve.
Political amnesia? Rob York certainly appears to have forgotten the experience of history with yet another demand for capitalism without capitalists (Letters, February 17).
The essential features of capitalism are retained by any dividend-issuing co-op and it should be obvious that if any enterprise in business is to sell, and pay the bills out of its revenue, it will be subject to the same basic market laws as any other enterprise. Modern productive and distributive methods are dictated by market laws and largely outside the will of the capitalists themselves, or that of their managers (whether recallable or not).
Instead of the ethos of co-ops transforming capitalism, it was the other way round - the ethos of capitalism transformed the cooperative movement. The cooperative movement was out-competed and now survives on the margins as a niche. In everyday terms (with echoes of Dickens’ Micawber), it was a matter of income against expenditure. If income exceeds expenditure, then the enterprise can continue to form a part of the whole capitalist structure. Conversely, if expenditure exceeds income then it must disappear from the scene.
If all workers can be drawn into the process of management, and can be given the illusion of an identity of interests between capital and labour, this helps to muffle the trade union struggle and enhance the process of exploitation. Workers collectively administering their own exploitation is not a state of affairs which socialists should aim for, Rob!
Capitalism is a system of production where value accumulation can as easily be managed by workers as by private capitalists or state bureaucrats. The particular way in which production is organised makes no difference whatsoever. It can be the usual capitalist company or it can be a so-called ‘workers’ cooperative under workers’ control’. The decision-making procedures can be authoritarian or democratic. It makes no difference to the fact that, whatever the enterprise is, in order to exist it must be economically viable. The idea that workers’ cooperatives under workers’ control is socialism or a step towards socialism is an illusion.
I’m a bit disappointed, yet puzzled by the conclusion of comrade Mike Macnair’s review of Jairus Banaji’s History as theory: essays on modes of production and exploitation (‘The direction of historical development’, February 17).
Despite the claim of moving beyond the abstract, there’s not much of a move towards the “strategic alternative”. I will admit this letter doesn’t fully flesh out things programmatically from the foundations in my two previous letters (January 27 and February 3), but it does give a historical background to what will flesh out that strategic alternative.
The people’s history that Gramsci was perhaps discovering in the fourth political figure I previously alluded to was none other than the political tenure of Julius Caesar himself, starting with his march on Rome. In 2003, Michael Parenti emphasised Caesar’s land reform, outright grants to the poor, public works and other employment programmes for directing plebeians toward productive work, luxury taxes, partial debt relief, recognition of minority religions like Judaism as legitimate, and even a maximum on allowable personal wealth of 60,000 sesterces (but not one that was subject to populist adjustment by mass democratic means).
However, it was his two-pronged turn against what would become for bourgeois liberals the concept of a ‘republic’ that led to Caesar’s assassination. As he became dictator perpetuo, he was transferring political power from the senate to the tribunal assembly. Although by no means a socialist, had he succeeded, the impact of this and his previous radical reforms would have forced him to go beyond the senatorial elites and extinguish the patrician class as a whole, whose very existence diverted slaves away from the numerous public infrastructure projects he had in mind, not to mention an unintended long-term transition away from the slave system to either some form of feudalism or perhaps directly to some form of capitalism!
Many have said that the class dynamics of Caesar’s day have little or no bearing on today’s situation. On the contrary, there are lessons for much of the third world, even in the current wave of unrest from Tunisia to Egypt, to parts of India. Just as Lenin coined ‘revolutionary-democratic dictatorships of the proletariat and peasantry’, just as Parvus and especially Trotsky coined ‘permanent revolution’, and just as Mao coined both ‘new democracy’ and ‘bloc of four classes’, those lessons could be called ‘Caesarean socialism’.
The past week has been an important one for the anti-cuts movement in Milton Keynes. Here the left and anti-cuts activists seem to have united around the local Coalition of Resistance group (MK COR) to oppose the cuts. These involved in the group’s activities, as well as individuals, include members of Counterfire, the Socialist Workers Party, Communist Party of Great Britain, the Greens and Labour lefts. The group is also supported by a range of trade unionists and the Milton Keynes Trades Council. None of the left groups is dominant and all seem to be cooperating well so far.
On February 18 MK COR hosting a public meeting attended by a fantastic 400 people. The headline speaker was Tony Benn, who made a nonsense of the coalition government’s claim that “We are all in this together”. The cuts will hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest. He also explained how the mass movements which fought for trade union rights and universal suffrage had at times found it necessary to go against the laws of their day. However, his economic solutions were Keynesian, not revolutionary.
Speakers from rail union Aslef and the Communication Workers Union joined student activist Feyzi Ismail, Dot Gibson of the National Pensioners Convention, Paul Brandon (chair of Right to Work), and Neil Faulkner (Coalition of Resistance steering committee) on the platform. The latter three spoke most militantly and most clearly about the fact that this was a class conflict. While Paul Brandon insisted that we must do more than simply get rid of this government, his vision only extended as far as a movement militant enough to force a Labour government to act in our interests.
Neil Faulkner was the clearest in outlining a way forward for the movement. He was not afraid to be clear about the difficulty of the task ahead of us: “Don’t be under any illusions ... we are going to have to fight very hard.” The TUC protest on March 26 is just a start. We must build a wave of strikes, occupations and further protests on the back of that movement. He was also clear that we needed to challenge the whole system of class rule.
Four days after this meeting, on Tuesday February 22, around 60 people attended a vocal protest organised by MK COR when Milton Keynes voted through its cuts budget. This is clearly only the beginning. As services are wrecked and workers are made redundant, we can expect the anti-cuts movement to deepen its roots. We need to ensure that a clear alternative to the whole capitalist system is articulated within it. So far, particularly for a town like Milton Keynes, which has very little by way of a tradition of protest, we have made a good start.
PCS activists rallied on February 15 against the politically motivated sacking of key union officers. The latest victims are Mark Hammond, home office group president, and Sue Kendal, home office south and south-east branch secretary.
The official reason given was a satirical magazine which had been circulating comparing a senior manager to the ‘Bride of Chucky’. Neither Mark nor Sue had anything to do with this publication and management have not produced a shred of evidence to suggest they had. The real reason for their sackings was that they were exceptionally effective at both recruiting and mobilising members. Mark Serwotka has accused the home office of trying to decapitate the union.
Speakers at the rally included Mark Hammond, sacked CSA Hastings officer, Sam Buckley and John McDonnell MP, chair of the PCS parliamentary group. Mark denounced the politically motivated cuts as an attack on all working people. Sam railed against the fact that “We are guaranteed free speech by law about anyone - except, seemingly, our employers, who belong to the ‘big society’ of back-scratchers who think they are above the rules.” He urged everyone to mobilise their members to get Sue and Mark their jobs back and prove to the bosses that they are public servants and we are the public to whom they are accountable.
John McDonnell compared Mark and Sue to the Tolpuddle martyrs and pledged full support for their reinstatement. He also called for the reinstatement of the victimised reps at Hastings, where five union officers have been sacked since November 2007 on what the union believes are trumped-up charges.
PCS home office secretary Paul O’Connor then led the rally across the road to an impromptu lobby of the home office, whose officials refused to accept the formal notice of PCS’s intention to ballot for action in support of Mark and Sue and against cuts.
Messages of support for Sue Kendal and Mark Hammond can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gareth Evans says that a ‘no’ vote could take the debate to a much deeper level, but why should that be the case any more than a ‘yes’ vote?
Devolution in Britain is still very much a work in progress. A ‘no’ vote will stop it in its tracks and who would that help? I have heard the argument put from extreme nationalists that a ‘no’ vote will hasten the break-up of the UK by frustrating legitimate aspirations of the Welsh and causing an upsurge in demands for independence. Is that what he is advocating?
I was very interested to read Gareth Evans’ article on the Welsh assembly referendum. I’m part of a group that put together the ‘Radical Wales’ website and we’re very keen to run a series of articles that look critically at the referendum from a leftwing perspective.
Please pass my contact details on to Gareth or anyone in Wales who would be interested in such a project.
Waste of time
It is a pity that Stan Keable chose to make a criticism of certain Public and Commercial Services union activists in the Labour Representation Committee than approach us first (‘Cuts and rebuilding’, January 20). The article centres on a couple of critical motions at the LRC annual conference and I read the interesting response from Dave Vincent (‘So we should all join Labour?’, February 10).
I only asked the motion moved by Communist Students to be remitted because one of the instructions called for “All trade unions to affiliate to the Labour Party”. But there was no mention in the article of the PCS Labour Left motion, ‘Opposing the comprehensive spending review’. This motion called for campaigning against the enormous cuts in the civil service and the abolition of many non-departmental public bodies which the Tories label as a ‘bonfire of the quangos’. I also mentioned the 142 court closures in the ministry of justice, where Dave Vincent and I work, as well as the £120 billion of uncollected tax each year which could pay off the country’s national deficit.
When I moved this particular motion, I warned the LRC conference that all leftwingers, particularly trade union representatives and students, were under attack through this government’s cuts agenda and the rise of the far right. I added that if this country’s establishment did not wake up, we could witness a violent political future, which is now beginning on the streets with the student demonstrations. Lessons should be learned from West Germany in the 1960s and 1970s, when many leftwing students were forced to resort to violence by forming the Baader-Meinhoff Gang and the Red Army Faction. The reason was that no effort had been made to crack down on the underground ex-Nazis from World War II who were terrorising the leftwing students that chose to defy fascism.
The fact remains that we will face increasing poverty in this country, along with a rising far right that could drive future generations of leftwingers to violence. Sadly, these political and economic problems were generated by the governments of the last 30 years, regardless of which party was in power. Therefore, it would have been more expedient to write an article about the impact of the massive cuts in public services on society in general than debating trade union affiliation to the Labour Party.
I was criticised for going into a “diatribe” against the Labour Party by listing all the sins of the previous government. It was not stated in the article that I mentioned that more than 60% of PCS members used to be Labour voters. But when Gordon Brown announced the 104,000 job cuts in the civil service in 2004, it was a total Labour vote destroyer. I did not mention the disgraceful attempted coup by a Labour Party member, Barry Reamsbottom, who refused to step down as PCS general secretary after being voted out of office. Instead, we had to waste at least £100,000 of PCS membership subscriptions on legal action against him. Downing Street, under the New Labour government, supported Reamsbottom in this court case. Therefore, who would be brave enough to move a motion to affiliate to the Labour Party at PCS conference?
I was rather amused by the statement that the PCS Labour Left “seem to have been swayed by the Socialist Party in England and Wales, which dominated the leadership of that union”. If the Socialist Party were to change their minds and push for affiliation to the Labour Party tomorrow, they would probably be voted out of all the major PCS union positions for the reasons that I have provided.
You misquoted me, stating that I said “unions should not support Labour until Labour changed its tune”. In fact, I stated that the Labour Party (which would carry the burden) should change its policies in order to win back the hearts and minds of the average trade union member. The fact that John McDonnell received a hero’s welcome at the 2007 PCS conference hours after he failed to make the ballot paper for the leadership election speaks volumes. John was saluted for his sterling work in trying to prevent the civil service job cuts. If only other Labour MPs could do the same, it would make an enormous difference.
Finally, it is regrettable to read remarks such as “How strange that a ‘Labour left’ organisation does not support affiliation” and “A self-defeating strategy, unfortunately, and contrary to the theme of the conference, which was convened under the slogan ‘Resist the cuts, rebuild the party’.” These two slogans are not compatible at street and workplace level.
On February 21, I and others will be hosting a branch AGM, where we will be discussing the fact that 177 people could be in danger of accepting compulsory redundancies in a few months’ time. PCS members will want to know how we should resist these cuts. We had a similar situation last year when Labour was in power. To be honest, if I was to move a motion calling for PCS to affiliate to the Labour Party, it would be an enormous waste of time, to say the least.
As for “self-defeating strategy”, the PCS and the RMT have had faster growing memberships whilst the Labour Party has shrunk by more than 50% since it took office in 1997!
Waste of time
Waste of time
Laugh out loud
The natural reaction to the article ‘Vote “no” on March 3’ - to laugh out loud - must, unfortunately, be tempered with the troubling suspicion that, somewhere in the real world, someone might be under the misapprehension that this article represents a socialist analysis of the Welsh assembly referendum campaign (February 17). Displaying the familiar sectarian’s tin ear for the real debate on the issue, one-sided in his analysis and catastrophically wrong in his conclusion, Gareth Evans has served up an unpalatable cocktail of reaction and ultra-leftism.
In calling for a ‘no’ vote, Evans is in effect supporting the constitutional status quo, which obliges the assembly government to submit draft laws to Westminster for prior approval. The spectacle of peers of the realm and MPs from English constituencies picking over laws made in Wales, for Wales, should make a ‘yes’ vote a no-brainer for anyone who shares Evans’ avowed support for the rights of nations and nationalities. Evans wrongly states that the ‘yes’ campaign is arguing that an affirmative vote will protect Wales against central government cuts. In fact, Yes for Wales cannot and does not argue this point, because it is cross-party, confining itself to the arguments for the principle of primary legislation. It is up to socialists and trade unionists who are supporters of the ‘yes’ campaign to argue this inside their own organisations (as they are doing).
But, while the ‘yes’ campaign is consensual and therefore politically bland, it at least campaigns on the issues. The same cannot be said for the ‘no’ campaign, which Evans discusses with far more seriousness than it deserves. Unable to mount a single argument with any merit against primary lawmaking powers, it confines itself to a mischievous campaign of disinformation, sowing confusion as to what the referendum is really about. In declining to constitute itself as the official ‘no’ campaign and refusing government money, and therefore making sure that the ‘yes’ campaign gets no money either, True Wales has attempted to shut down the debate, in the hope of keeping the turnout low and therefore robbing the ‘yes’ campaign of any real mandate in the event of its likely victory.
It is when getting to the ‘Marxist’ nub of his argument that Evans really loses it. He states, correctly, that the assembly government, in its latest budget, has been forced to make cuts, although avoids the fact that, unlike a local authority, the assembly government cannot borrow money or raise taxes. Nor does he acknowledge that the assembly government has at least preserved universal benefits such as free school breakfasts and free NHS prescriptions. Evans argues that, as the assembly has made cuts, the best response is to prevent it getting any further law-making powers - thereby leaving legislative control with the government that initiated these cuts in the first place.
Skating over the abolition in Wales of the NHS internal market as a “limited” reform, and ignoring the retention of EMA and the subsidy of tuition fees, Evans considers that the correct ‘Marxist’ approach is to argue against this upstart, would-be parliament having the power to enact legislation more quickly and more efficiently. In so doing he misreads entirely the dynamics of the present situation, in which anyone seriously involved in trying to protect jobs and services in Wales regards a ‘yes’ vote not as a be-all and end-all, but as a crucial step forward.
Having manoeuvred himself into the reactionary cul-de-sac of calling for a ‘no’ vote, Evans then comes up with the bizarre assertion that a ‘no’ has “the potential to take the debate to a much deeper level”: a frankly ludicrous suggestion, when the whole of the serious left - from Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru to the SWP - and all unions are actively supporting the ‘yes’ campaign and would regard a ‘no’ vote as a massive defeat. Evans will therefore be left having his ‘deeper debate’ with his new-found co-thinkers in the UK Independence Party, the Tory right and the steadily diminishing number of Brit-loyalist old Labourites.
Laugh out loud
Laugh out loud