The Platypus Review has published two articles by Antideutsche (‘anti-German’) currents, in order, at least in part, to break such perspectives out of their German parochialism and bring to the light of day what we consider to be important symptoms of the global ‘left’, of which the Antideutsche must, for good or ill, be considered part. We want readers to think - really think - about how the ‘left’ has ended up taking such bad positions, which ultimately must be considered no worse, ideologically, and certainly not practically, than, for example, Hugo Chávez’s support for Ahmadinejad (and the Islamic Republic more generally) against the green movement during the 2009 election crisis in Iran.
Platypus seeks to expose the less well known pathologies on the ‘left’ than the usual, banal and mealy-mouthed: for instance, the supposedly ‘anti-imperialist’ but ultimately politically unserious platitudes of Tariq Ali, George Galloway et al. The Antideutsche may be apparently less of a problem than the mainstream ‘left’ internationally, but that doesn’t mean something crucial can’t be learned from considering them. Certainly, it is not the case that the Antideutsche are more influential than the Socialist Workers Party or the US International Socialist Organization - or than Die Linke. That the Antideutsche appear to ‘cross a line’ more than others do is an artefact of ‘leftist’ doxa that we need to recognise and interrogate, precisely in serious consideration of the problems raised by them.
What Maciej Zurowski (‘Not part of the left’, October 4) is confessing is a greater willingness to concede to problems of one kind (for example, Die Linke) rather than another. We in Platypus don’t think such selective concessions are justifiable or warranted in any way.
We think a future left cannot begin as a fringe - tail - on the existing prevalent dead ‘left’, but rather must take a much broader approach, not eclectic or reducible to claims of ‘unorthodox’ or ‘undogmatic’ sentiments, but rather be much more critically engaged - with all aspects of the problem of the current ‘death of the left’ that we face today.
Platypus’s publication of the Antideutsche is meant to precisely put pressure on them at a global stage. We don’t expect them to achieve a greater hearing and political influence than they already do. We don’t fear giving a platform to anyone who claims to be on the ‘left’.
Furthermore, Zurowski’s contention that by publishing such articles at all Platypus tacitly concedes to them, for publishing “a strong polemic alongside a mildly critical reply, for instance, aims to leave the reader with the impression that the truth is to be found somewhere in the middle”. But the reply to the Antideutsche we have already published, Felix Baum’s characterisation of the Antideutsche as “German psycho” (http://platypus1917.org/2011/03/01/german-psycho-a-reply-to-the-initiative-sozialistisches-forum), is hardly ‘mild’ in its criticism.
The truth is not to be found “somewhere in the middle,” between avowedly “anti-fascist” and “anti-imperialist” perspectives, but rather in neither and both such perspectives. This is why it is important to include them all in considering the impasse the global ‘left’ has faced for more than a generation. None should be considered out of bounds for critical educational purposes. It is actually Zurowski’s argument that implies that one must navigate somewhere between twin dangers, whereas actually there is no escaping them, but only the possibility of transforming such politics. A future, reinvigorated left will need to incorporate and transcend the concerns of, for example, both the anti-fascist and anti-imperialist ‘lefts’ today, not choose sides or find some place ‘between’ them.
For it is not simply the case that, as Zurowski puts it, “At its most elemental, the left opposes privilege, while the right defends it ... and eventually Platypus, too, will have to decide on which side of the class divide it stands.” The problems today are not so simple, especially as all tendencies on the ‘left’ in their weakness concede in important respects to the status quo. This is why Platypus exists: to address precisely that which the various existing tendencies on the pseudo-‘left’, including the Antideutsche, are blind to in their divided, blinkered condition, what they all have in common - the fact that the ‘left is dead’.
This cannot be adjudicated, let alone overcome, by trying to determine on “which side of the class divide” various tendencies and organisations do or do not stand, which can apparently, according to Zurowski’s standards, change as quickly as a particular political position happens to be taken, showing how specious such criteria are for contributing to the actual building of a socialist politics that has any hope of really changing the world. Everyone on the present ‘left’ has long since adapted to the overwhelming power of the status quo, and none are really challenging it.
‘Position-taking’ is virtual and gestural, not substantial. The stakes of the present ‘left’ are not very high, practically, but only have a (deleterious) effect ideologically. This is why no concessions at the level of the educational tasks can be afforded. No propaganda purposes of expediency can justify ignoring problems out of distaste. To simply wish away the Antideutsche as well as other problems on the ‘left’ is to concede to the reality that produced them.
It should be noted that the Platypus Review has solicited comrades from the CPGB to contribute an article in critical response to Grigat’s, which we think will be highly educational for our readers. We only publish the articles we do in order to stimulate discussion: if this is boycotted out of allergic aversion or mutual anathematisation (of the Antideutsche as pro-‘imperialist’, or of others as supposedly ‘anti-Semitic’), it is not the fault of our own project, but rather characteristic of the conditions on the ‘left’ that we seek to change.
Zurowski’s article provides some very useful critical historical background account of the Antideutsche. However, I think that a response to the Grigat article in the Platypus Review more directly addressing its concerns with respect to Iran will find a broader audience precisely among those German readers Zurowski is most concerned will be influenced by the Antideutsche.
In his comments (Letters, October 4) on Heather Downs’ letter (September 27), Tony Greenstein accuses Heather of lumping all her opponents into common groupings - and then proceeds to do exactly the same with feminists, when he refers to “a long tradition of feminist support”. No matter what he suggests they support, he is claiming, apparently, that all feminists support the same common group of activities, ideas and goals. I am surprised he knows the views of all feminists. In my view, this is an arrogant claim.
But it gets worse. He then uses selected individual cases to throw dirt. He cites Nora Elam, the suffragettes’ general secretary, who “graduated to become the British Union of Fascists women’s organiser for Sussex and Hampshire in 1935”. This creature was a suffragette, therefore a feminist (?) and is the only suffragette referred to. No mention of the suffragettes who progressed to socialist and communist organisations. Maybe in Tony’s world these suffragettes escaped the movement without the dreaded contamination of late 20th century feminism.
This Fox News-type spin is added to by Tony when he writes: “Feminist demands are, like their gay equivalents, demands for the democratisation of capitalism. They come from the least oppressed women.” Tony just wipes out 40 years of women’s struggles - the fight for equal pay, job security, women’s health and safety and other proletarian issues - and reduces the struggle to talk about “glass ceilings in investment banks”. There are, of course, no feminists who do anything about “the low wages of cleaners”. What world does Tony live in? I thought he was a bit of a historian. I found his book on fighting fascism in Brighton very interesting. He should adopt the same methods to the struggle of working class women and the women’s movement.
But his method on this matter is best illustrated when he finds an event at Brighton Gay Pride which he tries to hang on all feminists and gays. His method is nothing less than an assortment of innuendo, guilt by suggested association and blatant crap.
Then we have this gem of bogus linkage in regard to Assange: “What I do raise is the context in which these allegations are made - the convening of a secret grand jury in the United States and the desire to extradite him.” There has been no grand jury meeting about the events in Sweden. Yes, if he is sent to Sweden, the US will try to get him extradited and the Swedish government will bend the knee and off he will go. But there is no proof that the women involved are part of any conspiracy.
Did Julian Assange commit rape? I do not know. Nor does Tony. Should these accusations be investigated? Yes. Should he be sent to Sweden? No. Do we fight the US attempts to get him to the US, via Sweden? Yes. Do we defend democratic rights? Yes. Do we fight rape and violence in relationships? Yes.
I now turn to comrade Dave Douglass and his letter about the student and her teacher (October 4). I have no problem with his attacks on the “doublespeak” of the state, BBC, press, etc. As these organisations and their spin have nothing to do with the issues involved in the case, I think Dave is using them as a smokescreen.
For me the issue is clear: should a teacher be sexually involved with his/her student? In my view, there are added problems that arise when there is a 10-year difference between the two. Is a 15-year-old able to decide, without external pressure, if they are to enter into a sexual relationship? In general I would say yes. The age is not the issue, as some 15-year-olds could be more than capable of making such a choice, while others may not. Should 15-year-olds have relationships with partners 10, 29, 50 years older? I have difficulty in giving a ‘one answer suits all’ to this question. For me there is a question about the role of the older partner in such a relationship. They are likely to have 10, 20 or 30 years more experience of life, relationships and the effects on an individual of the complex emotions involved in starting, maintaining and ending relationships.
Should a teacher have a sexual relationship with his or her student, who in many cases is likely to be much younger? I would put a very large question mark against such a relationship. In most cases I would answer with a no. My reasoning is that it is an unequal relationship. The daily relationship is one of power - teacher over student. We may not like the existence of this power relationship and wish that education was free of such structures and roles. But we live in a capitalist, hierarchical society. Power and authority are staple ingredients of capitalist structures, be they in the realm of education or economic activity. History shows us that many students and workers have suffered harm at the hands and through the actions of the holders of these powers.
The question for me is, can these inequalities gained through the sexual, life and relationship experiences of the older partner, plus the added unequal power/authority gained from his/her role, not skew the relationships in the partnership in the direction of the older, authoritative player?
It may be old-fashioned to say women and men in general will not have a fully equal and free social, including sexual, existence until humankind has achieved a classless world. But to imagine sexual and other social relations acted out in a fully free manner within a society of hierarchies and class is utopian.
A letter in The Guardian, published on October 1, asserted that “There are around 50 months left before we [humans] cross a climate threshold. After that it will no longer be ‘likely’ that we will stay on the right side of a 2°C temperature rise - a line Britain and the rest of the EU have sworn not to cross ... we call on the government and opposition to say what they will do in the same time frame to grab the opportunity of action and prevent catastrophic climate change.”
In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I assume that the above assessment of the situation is an accurate one. If so, the following passage, which appeared in part two of Gabriel Levy’s very useful contribution to the Weekly Worker, leaps out: “As you all probably know, there is much public discussion about whether governments should implement policies to limit climate change, or adapt to it. I think that socialists should keep out of this discussion and continue to do what we are doing - that is, try to bring closer a time when these issues will be dealt with by society as a whole in a completely different manner” (‘Natural limits, sustainability and socialism’, September 20).
Surely such an approach, while laudable in part, would simply leave the field open to ‘government and opposition’, with continued marginalisation of the left. I refrain from any further comment at this stage. What do readers think?
I’m a Kenyan man, aged 36, languishing under the yoke of abject poverty owing to perennial unemployment.
I’m a Bachelor of Arts graduate in economics from the University of Nairobi and this is my 12th year without a job. It is extremely difficult securing an opportunity in Kenya. There is stiff competition in Kenya’s labour market and corruption is rampant. You must know somebody big to get an opening. You must have a big brother working in a company or in the civil service to push things for you.
Formally, the corporate sector here enacts a strict elimination system when awarding a job. One must have three years’ experience, plus postgraduate qualifications. I have none. In the first place, after my graduation, experience was the obstacle; now it is that I can’t account for all the years when I have been out looking for employment. My situation is replicated in the lives of more than three million Kenyans who have university degrees but can’t find jobs because they are too poor to bribe, don’t have a big brother or didn’t have resources to pursue postgraduate education.
Out of Kenya’s 39 million population, more than 70% are people aged 42 and below. Only 20% of the population, according to official statistics, are in formal employment. The rest are underemployed in the informal sector, including the poverty-prone agricultural sector, while 65% of Kenya’s population live below the poverty line, earning less than $2 a day.
On the other side, Kenya’s economy is rapidly growing. A lot of grand investments, but no room for the poor. The cost of living skyrockets by the day. Kenya has entered a permanent high-food-price regime, owing to poor agricultural production occasioned by the government’s massive disinvestment in agriculture and climate change. It is now interested more in capital investments in mining and international trade. The local business community is heavily investing in real estate - areas that don’t stimulate growth. So we have ugly income disparities in Kenyan society. Consumption is very high in a small segment of the population and despicable want characterises the majority. Kenyan members of parliament are the highest paid in the world and so are CEOs here, but this is the same country where 65% of the population live on less than $2 a day.
As if this isn’t enough, Kenyan politicians hire unemployed youth to perpetrate ethnic violence, so as to gain political capital and help them to get rid of the democratic process. You have people voting out of fear of being killed or evicted from where they live. I am a victim of this too, as my wife was killed during the bloody post-election conflict of 2007 - her only crime was belonging to the tribe of the man who had won the poll, but was robbed of victory in favour of the incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki, who is from my tribe.
Now we are approaching another election in March next year and another wave of ethnic violence has occurred. I humbly appeal to all British communists to condemn this system of the use of violence, under which people are prevented from holding the rulers to account and end up seeing only the ‘wrong’ tribe, not the evils committed by the ruling elites.
After reading last week’s Weekly Worker, I would like to offer some constructive criticism about both the content of the paper and where the CPGB is taking it.
First, I welcome Paul Demarty’s article, where he concludes that Ed Miliband’s speech at Labour’s conference shows how the Labour leader has embraced ‘Blue Labour’ (‘Labour turns blue’, October 4). Paul was right to explain that there is a class war being fought within the Labour Party between left reformists and those wanting to turn Labour into a British version of the US Democrats. Unfortunately, it is the ruling class who are winning the class war within Labour. Hence Ed Miliband’s ‘one nation’ speech, which shows how much the Blairites still control the parliamentary Labour Party.
Second, as always, I enjoyed reading the different views put forward at the recent CPGB aggregate, including the CPGB motion on Aslef’s resolution at Labour conference about the secretive Progress organisation.
Third, I found the article on ‘anti-Germans’ headlined ‘Not part of the left’ completely incomprehensible. Sadly, the reader needs to have an IQ of 140 and a master’s degree in modern history to understand it.
This brings me to my fourth point. The CPGB’s Provisional Central Committee seems to have been asleep at the wheel and forgotten that the priority of a Marxist leadership is to build the party and explain what the party should do next. Unfortunately, the PCC seems to have retreated into a pseudo-academic milieu, with its orientation centred solely on recruiting members from amongst the shifting sands of the student fraternity. This emphasis on recruiting students is common to all leftwing groups, and is one of the main reasons why such groups have not grown or have even shrunk during the worst recession since the 1930s. I therefore disagree with the PCC when it concludes that the only thing leftwing groups can do at the moment is to increase their ‘market share’ rather than recruit from newly radicalised workers, both young and old.
The CPGB seems to have got itself in a rut over the last couple of years. This is shown by the fall in the attendance at Communist University in comparison to even a few years ago. Incomprehensible articles such as the ‘anti-German’ one mentioned above do not help. In contrast to the discussion at the CPGB aggregate, it is not the shortage of writers, but the obscure subjects chosen for articles featured in the Weekly Worker.
The CPGB should prioritise the building of the membership of the party. Only then will the ‘project’ to unite Marxists both in and outside the Labour Party become a reality. Work done today will pay huge dividends in the future. A big step forward would be the re-introduction of the ‘Party notes’ column, which, like Lenin’s Iskra, detailed developments both inside the party and amongst those groups which will form the basis of the united Marxist party we all seek.
Whilst I do not advocate that the Weekly Worker becomes like the dumbed-down The Socialist or the Daily Mirror-style Socialist Worker, I do want to see more articles which don’t require a master’s degree in politics to understand.
Taken to Tusc
Sorry about this, but why must we take the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition seriously (‘For a new, united socialist party’, October 4)?
The cuts and fighting against them have nothing to do with socialism. Tusc is just another party that works within the capitalist framework - ergo just another capitalist party! You can’t impose a political party on the working class that they don’t want and won’t vote for and then say we must support them.
The party should stand and stand for communism and nothing else. I read the opening sentence of ‘Labour turns blue’ - “We on the far left …” - and I couldn’t make it any further. I thought the ‘we’ in the CPGB were communists and not lefties of any type.
Taken to Tusc
Taken to Tusc
We, members of the May 6 Committee, which brings together people from various Russian political and social movements, call on concerned people around the world to join us for 10 days of united solidarity actions from October 20 to October 30. We demand that the Russian authorities release people already arrested as part of the Bolotnaya Square case and cease their current drive to arrest even more people on charges of so-called “mass rioting”. Independent public inquiries into the events of May 6 on Bolotnaya Square have concluded that there is no evidence that Article 212 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code (mass riots) was violated.
The people who took part in the ‘March of the millions’ that day in Moscow themselves were victims of illegal actions on the part of the police and other officials. Not only did the police fail to ensure safe passage and access to the site of the authorised rally, but they also violently dispersed the marchers, beating and illegally detaining hundreds of people in the process.
The Russian Federation’s investigative committee nevertheless concluded that it was not ordinary citizens who were the injured parties in this case, but the riot police who beat and detained them without cause. Seventeen people have now been charged with mass rioting and violence against the authorities in connection with this case, but complaints of illegal actions by police filed by ‘March of the millions’ participants are not being investigated.
Hundreds of new names might be added to the sad list of the prisoners of Bolotnaya Square unless thousands of people call for an end to this political crackdown. You can help by spreading the word about what is happening in Russia, writing letters of protest to the Russian authorities, holding rallies, marches and pickets outside Russian embassies and consulates, and organising solidarity concerts for political prisoners. Only together can we resist the lawlessness of the authorities!
Please support the petition calling for the reinstatement of respected Manchester Metropolitan University academic and trade unionist Ian Parker.
Ian was suspended from work after having been unable to arrange, with barely 18 hours notice, for a union official to come with him to hear a charge that the university said amounted to “gross professional misconduct”. What this seems to mean is that Ian raised concerns within the university about the problem of secrecy and control in the department in which he works, and was suspended for doing so.
Ian has had to leave his office and key, been told not to contact university staff and students, and his access to his email has been suspended. For his students Ian has simply ‘disappeared’ overnight and, while he is keen to continue supervising and teaching, he is not allowed to.
This is an attack not only on a respected and internationally renowned scholar, but on all trade unionists everywhere - Ian is also a University and College Union representative and it is the latter which is ultimately at the heart of this matter. As trade unionists we cannot simply stand idly by and allow this victimisation.
Please support the campaign calling for the lifting of Ian’s suspension and for this full reinstatement, including by signing, and encouraging others to sign, the e-petition at www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/ian-parker-should-get-back-to-his-work#share. Also by sending protest messages to the vice-chancellor, John Brooks (email@example.com) and the head of the department of psychology, Christine Horrocks (firstname.lastname@example.org).
There will be flyers and posters put up on campus, and call-outs in lectures all next week. Further action is also planned. Please let the organisers know if you have any ideas concerning how we can best fight this together (because we can fight this together). Email email@example.com.
Thanking you in anticipation of your support.
Unfortunately, part of my letter in last week’s paper (October 4) has been mangled in the editing process. The statement, “Yes, I measure the rate of profit using the historical cost of the fixed capital because a rate of profit is a rate of return on investment and the money that’s been invested in the fixed capital is its original, or historical, cost”, is a quote from Andrew Kliman, taken from his interview with Nick Rogers.
Of course, I do not measure the rate of profit using the historical cost of capital. That is the method of the temporal single-system interpretation, which I reject as being not just contrary to Marx’s method, but, more importantly, logically inconsistent, leading to spurious results and the undermining of the Marxist critique of capitalism.