Ed and Ralph
It is hard to feel sorry for Ed Miliband over his spat with the Daily Mail. To begin with, its article comparing Miliband to his Marxist father, Ralph, was plain stupid. How can you claim that someone who is against the monarchy or finds bigoted English nationalists exasperating is a man who “hated Britain”, on that evidence alone? It tells us more about the irrational, chauvinistic mindset of the Daily Mail than anything else. It should have given Miliband junior the opportunity to take the piss, not feign hurt feelings over his father’s reputation.
I’ve only ever read one Ralph Miliband book, his historical study of the Labour Party, Parliamentary socialism. It excoriates Labour’s right wing and is scathing about bourgeois interests and bourgeois vehicles - like, for instance, the Daily Mail. The only thing Ed seems to have learnt from his father is that if you want to be a Labour Party careerist it is best to start on the left of the party and move right (not that Ralph expected either of his sons to act upon that!).
And if you happen to have the opportunity to attack leftwing union bureaucrats, as Miliband has done over the Labour-union link, you might even get fulsome praise from the Tories and their media and become more acceptable to the establishment. If anything has Ralph turning in his grave, it won’t be the class bigotry of the Daily Mail, but the treacherous class politics of his son.
The Mail seems to recognise only one form of ‘socialism’, and it is anti-democratic, thuggish and authoritarian. So it automatically insinuates that Miliband senior was an apologist for the “undemocratic” Soviet Union. In fact he hated Stalinism. Although illusions in the USSR were very widespread in the 1940s - especially amongst those who were strongly anti-fascist - never for a moment did Ralph soften his criticism of JV Stalin.
By contrast, when the class struggle was acute in 1934, the Daily Mail came out with its notorious front-page headline, “Hurrah for the Blackshirts”. Its editors did not seem to be concerned about the “undemocratic” nature of fascism - only about the threat the working class posed to capitalism. Since then the Mail has hardly changed its spots - it still panders to bigotry in the interest of capitalism, however authoritarian and however much suffering it imposes on humanity. It has no idea as to Ralph Miliband’s real views and one suspects no interest either. Its aim was, rather obviously, to pretend that Ed is just as much of a ‘leftwing extremist’ as his dad, no matter how absurd an idea that is.
Then as now, the Mail represents the middle-brow, populist ideology of a disorientated petty bourgeoisie. It is an ideology that needs to be exposed for the rubbish it is. Not treated with respect by allowing its witterings to be taken seriously.
Ed and Ralph
Ed and Ralph
This year’s Conservative Party conference is in Manchester, a city where there is not a single Tory councillor in the 96-member chamber. Clearly the party’s decision to hold it there was always going to antagonise many in the deindustrialised north - and antagonise them it did. Over 50,000 people attended the demonstration organised by the Trades Union Congress, whose theme was the carving up of the national health service in the interests of private contractors.
The demonstration was meant to start at 11. However, as is the way of these things, we only set off at 12.15, grinding to a halt periodically as groups of people stopped outside Manchester Central, the conference venue, to give the Tories a piece of their mind. Whilst people were angry, the demonstration was peaceful - although there were two arrests during the course of the day.
In terms of the left, the Socialist Workers Party, despite the loss of members following the Delta debacle, still had the largest presence, with countless stalls along the route and numerous paper-sellers. However, it did not dominate the demonstration, as it might have done in the past - this can partly be explained by the mass desertions from the Socialist Worker Student Societies. I heard one or two demonstrators sneering at the SWP posters taped to lampposts - one woman meticulously ripped down every single one she could get her hands on. There were a significant number of defaced SWP placards, which had phrases like “Rape apologists” scrawled across them.
Other groups with a notable presence included the Socialist Party in England and Wales, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and the Communist Party of Britain. Left Unity’s presence was not as big as I had initially anticipated, with many comrades who had attended the policy conference the day before expressing dismay at the LU leadership’s failure to adequately prepare for the demonstration.
During the rally in Whitworth Park it was remarkable to hear Owen Jones warning of attempts by senior Labour figures to dispose of Andrew Burnham as shadow health secretary. Owen called for Burnham to retain his post, as apparently he is against the privatisation of the NHS. I’ll believe it when I see it! Comrade Jones went so far as to call on demonstrators to show their support for Burnham - he should not be removed “under any circumstances”.
This was my first time selling the Weekly Worker and it was more successful than I had initially anticipated. I sold all but one of my copies, yet it was the manner in which I sold them which pleased me. Rather than shout ‘Get your Weekly Worker here’, instead I put a few copies on display and the name was instantly recognised, with the paper receiving a good reception. No-one remarked on it being a ‘gossip sheet’ and I actually ended up selling a copy to a comrade from the SWP who works at their centre in London.
When I jokingly pointed out that buying the Weekly Worker might be controversial for an SWP member, he responded by saying that the SWP culture of ignoring other organisations on the left and refusing to learn from them is ridiculous. The Weekly Worker is clearly having an impact on the wider left and people are taking serious note of what we say.
Ben Lewis makes some good points against Die Linke, but blunts his message at times by appearing to offer the Stalinists friendly advice (‘Principled opposition, not coalition poker’, September 26). His original article even called for a vote for them (‘Rotten politics and rotten terms’, September 19).
In reviewing the German elections, he notes that a ‘grand coalition’ is most likely, “not least because the leaders of the SPD and the Greens refuse to take seriously Die Linke’s red-red-green gestures”. Elsewhere he expresses regret that Die Linke lost votes to the AfD (rightwing Europhobes - doesn’t this tell us something about the base of support they have been cultivating?). He adds that Die Linke’s hankering for a role in coalition is “an utterly hopeless perspective for a purportedly ‘anti-capitalist’ organisation”.
This is a correct statement, of course, if made in a tone suggestive of more in sorrow than in anger. A friendly warning that the party would risk serious loss of support if it went into coalition. Don’t we already have enough information to know that Die Linke is not an anti-capitalist party and would not become one with any amount of cajoling or even fear of losing seats? Their composition, dominated by old bureaucrats left over from the former political masters of the Stasi, given a political facelift by a few degenerate radicals; their role in regional coalitions administering attacks on workers.
We could add the role of leading figures such as Christine Buchholz (Marx 21) who sits on the parliamentary defence committee, or Petra Pau, vice-president of the Bundestag, who, with her party, facilitated the hasty passage of measures to bail out the banks. Most recently Pau used her access to the bourgeois media to attack the election campaign of the Trotskyist Socialist Equality Party for advocating ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. Pau knows very well what the meaning of the term is, but chose to use it unscrupulously to portray opponents as undemocratic. The SEP/World Socialist Web Site had fought a campaign on uniquely internationalist lines, including positions much closer to what the CPGB would support than are those of Die Linke.
Die Linke is now being touted by sections of the Brit left as a model for a new party. Ben Lewis’s original article has drawn a few out of the woodwork to defend their heroes. They were happily counting votes and don’t like to be interrupted by uncomfortable facts. In the Left Unity project the influence of Stalinism still lingers. The forces grouped around the Socialist Platform should make it clear that modelling LU on Die Linke would be nothing less than a scandal.
Paul Demarty’s ‘Safe spaces: Conway-Hudson school of censorship’ (September 26) was an excellent article. It seems that the Left Unity bods need to watch Monty Python’s Life of Brian to see what will become of them if they try and regulate ‘free speech’.
‘Identity politics’ is what ruins the broad spectrum of the left (including anarchists, socialists, communists, etc), so they become a laughing stock.
Free speech for others (even if we may find it repugnant) is what counts, as we all assume we should be free to have our own particular view. This can be particularly uncomfortable if it means defending the right of fascists to have their freedom of speech - especially for me as an Indian that grew up in London during the 1970s and 1980s.
Saying that, if a fascist is on fire, I may walk around and say: ‘Well, you have the freedom now to only have to deal with white folk’. I didn’t say I was a nice guy!
Hopefully, Left Unity won’t become like the Euro left/greens, who inevitably morph into Labour types sitting in their plush offices and hiring PR types.
Keep up the great articles.
I must correct comrade Paul Demarty on his report. The fact that I was characterised as being “somewhere between a dick and an outright wanker” was not directly prompted by the subject of Syria. It was the end result of a lengthy exchange, originally triggered by a passing remark in which I dubbed the left’s cult of action “philistine crap”. This term was deemed “abusive”, even though I had not directed it at anybody in particular. Rather, to paraphrase the immortal Inspector Clouseau, “I meant everyone, and I meant no-one”.
I must also add that I appreciated the Socialist Resistance comrade’s eventual reaction. His tone betrayed a high degree of emotional honesty, and it made me realise that he really believed all the things he was insinuating about the Weekly Worker’s pernicious tactics in the very same message. It was this acute, heat-of-the-moment honesty - which must not exist in the cotton-wool world advocated by the ‘safer spaces’ working group - that gave me hope that authentic communication would ensue at last. The kind of communication that allows living, breathing, intelligent human beings to learn, abandon their preconceptions and advance.
If reason wins out, we might eventually see the rebirth of a real debating culture on the left. If, on the other hand, the ‘safe spaces’ police forces of the world prevail, we will at best remain a sterile, eternally stagnating political subculture, emerging from every successive ‘left unity’ experience none the wiser.
As for the Football Association’s issues with Tottenham Hotspurs chants, I am consistently struck how football culture is administrated by people who, clearly, have even less understanding of the game than I do.
Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is disgusted at Conservative proposals to force those unemployed for more than two years to work, train or attend their job centre every single day in order to qualify for any state benefits. At a time of very high unemployment, this is yet another example of how out of touch the Tories are.
Two and half million people are unemployed, nearly 8% of the workforce. The vast majority want to work. The number of people working part time because they can’t get full time employment - 1.45 million - is at an all-time high since records began in 1992. Youth unemployment stands at 21% - more than one in five 16-24-year-olds are out of work. That is a scandal, and these Tory proposals fail to address any of this.
There simply are not enough jobs to go round. Latest figures show there are 460,000 job vacancies in the UK being chased by the 2.5 million unemployed. Jobs-to-unemployment ratios are much worse in some areas - we were told by a worker from Gateshead at the TUC demo in Manchester that when a new restaurant advertised 20 new jobs, there were 5,000 applications! An annual survey by the Associate of Graduate Recruiters recently showed that many leading UK employers are receiving an average of 85 applicants per job. In July, a company called High Flyers Research reported that up to 160 graduates were chasing every job. This is despite many of these job vacancies offering very low wages
The real strategy of this Tory government is to divide and rule. A divided working class makes it easier for them to win elections. Their aim is to set workers against each other, encouraging those on low wages to support this policy and turn against those who cannot find work and instead are forced to claim benefits. If the Tories force people to work for their benefits, not only will this cheapen labour further: it will also mean even fewer real jobs will be available. Those on low wages will feel their own jobs are under threat, as unscrupulous employers look to save costs by taking on those on benefits they do not have to pay. It is low pay that is the problem, not welfare benefits.
What the unemployed need and want is full-time jobs that are permanent and pay a living wage, or adequate training that provides the skills society needs. Cutting public spending and privatising virtually everything that breathes is doing the opposite. And to make the unemployed pay yet again for a crisis they did not cause is criminal. Only last week, a task group of Rugby council reported that, when universal credit is introduced in October, some claimants with children in childcare will be worse off under the scheme. At the same time, the charity, Christians Against Poverty, suggested universal credit will lead to increased hardship and debt. Research by the TUC goes further, showing that, taken with other benefit changes, universal credit will make a massive 62% of those on such benefits actually worse off, and just 8% better off.
The Tories are once again hitting those least able to defend themselves, whilst hoping their divide-and-rule tactics succeed. We will be doing everything possible in the months ahead to prevent that.
Some of us just want peace (‘More than Syria in its sights’, September 19). These warmongers are jeopardising everyone’s future and their children’s future. If the US starts one more illegal war, the politicians need to be prosecuted. Americans have opened their eyes and they are aware that they are being used by Israel. We find that repulsive and it won’t continue.
I’m sure you have seen the Socialist Worker article on Jeremy Hunt’s ban of the niqab in the NHS (‘A racist agenda that tells women what not to wear’, September 24). I would very much like to know the position of the CPGB on the issue of the niqab or burqa (not the headscarf!).