Thursday, December 22, 2005

attenborough and the marxists

from todays Guardian G2 section 22/12/05 written by Sam Woolaston
I saw March of the Penguins the other day, and I'm not surprised that in America it has been adopted by the Christian right. It's all about traditional family values and monogamy. These resourceful birds have even been said to be proof of intelligent design and a nail in Darwin's coffin. Well, I wonder if any Marxists out there saw last night's Life in the Undergrowth (BBC1). Because they should certainly adopt David Attenborough's programme in a similar way.
The army ants of Central America could be a model for all that Marxists believe in. They live in huge colonies in which everything is done for the common good. A million individuals collaborate and cooperate so as to form one super-organism that moves about the jungle. Everything - food, property, duties - is shared. There is no central intelligence; the behaviour of the super-organism is the cumulative result of thousands of mini-decisions by the individuals, every one of which is beneficial to the whole. Everything is sacrificed for the good of the cause. Anty establishmentarianism, I suppose it's called.
And it works. These super colonies rampage through the forest, setting up camps, using their sheer numbers to kill prey far bigger than themselves. And you know what one of these million-strong processions of aggressive army ants is called? (Warning: one more lame ant pun ahead.) Yep, an anty-war march. Sorry.
Back to the penguins for a moment. What really bothered me about that movie - apart from the married smugness of the penguins themselves - was that I wanted to know how it had all been filmed, and by whom, and how they'd coped in the freezing wastes of Antarctica. That's what's been so nice about Life in the Undergrowth: for me, the best part of the programme is the "fly on the wall" section (their pun, not mine) at the end of each show, in which Attenborough shows us how it's been filmed, and introduces us to some of the people who have done it, and the scientists. I love the insects - the ants and termites, the wasps and bees, especially the news that there are still nine million of them we don't know about yet. But even better are the people whose job it is to find them. Possibly the only thing more interesting and impressive than Titanus giganteus the Titan beetle, the largest insect in the world (it's about the size of a small pony), is Frank, the man who has devoted his whole life to finding out about it.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

reclaim our lives- no WTO

a report of anti wto protest in Reading by D o'c

A report of the demo in Reading in solidarity with those fighting the WTO 6th ministerial in Hong Kong and around the world.

LOCAL GRASSROOTS ACTIVISTS, from Reading, Berks, came together on the 17th, in opposition to the corrupt and undemocratic World Trade Organisation (WTO) and in solidarity with all those struggling against it's policies world-wide. The various groups, fighting poverty, climate change, capitalism and more, spent several weeks discussing their plans in co-ordination with each other, and from very early on decided to hold this demonstration on commercial land owned by the Oracle shopping centre, a place where there is no legal right to protest, this was to highlight the privatisation, commercialisation and loss of open, public spaces accross the UK.

We gathered together, minutes before the demonstration, checking through who's carrying what, how many banners to take, and trying to anticipate what the security might do. When we were finally all in one place, we made our way to the Oracle Riverside, understanding the importance of getting there at once, swiftly and most importantly setting up in seconds. With hot food and drink to give out, there was a lot to carry and set up but - having the element of surprise - we were a good few seconds ahead of the security and were quickly outside Starbucks, dishing out soup made from locally grown produce, coffee which is fairly and directly imported from rebel Zapatista communities in Mexico and leaflets from teh various groups.

So what did the police actually do? Well not a lot really. They went as far as imposing "Section 14" on our demonstration, meaning simply that they put restrictions on what we could do. They restricted our numbers, saying we could not increase to more than what we had (which the officer estimated to be near 30), and gave us 15 minutes until we would be forced to disperse. A couple did leave at that point, but most stayed untill the coffee had runout and we decided to leave ourselves. On top of these restrictions, the security prevented Rising Tide demonstrators from hanging a banner off a bridge by standing on it. They even turned down our free soup and coffee! how rude!

This action was originally proposed by local anti-authoritarians RAGE at a recent local activist 'get-together' this meeting involved many groups from Reading including Friends of the Earth and Reading Peace Group to Reading Rising Tide and the Anarchist Federation. The idea behind the demo was to enable local, like minded groups to be in the same place, at the same time and in opposition to the WTO but also to reflect some of the many issues affected by WTO policies, and opinions on solutions to them. For this reason, there were leaflets and banners from these different groups, more food was genorously added to RAGE's soup.However, our real victory was not that we managed to piss the Oracle security off, but that local groups easily and happily stood alongside each other during the action. One activist stated "There is an increasing ability and willingness for different local activist groups to work across political boundaries to achieve common goals whilst maintaining their own identity".

All in all, we achieved our goal; To strike awareness of the WTO and its destructive effects in the heart of Reading's consumerist culture, the Oracle shopping centre even one Starbucks employee, who came out for a chat, expressed his support by stating "...yeah, we need to get rid of the bosses..." The very fact that we were restricted, and promptly dispersed after about an hour of demonstrating, is testament to one thing, that there is very little in the way of freedom to protest in the UK. The large companies who dominate the Oracle Riverside display their placards and adverts, so why can't we? I guess freedom of speech is like money, some people have more than others. We send our best wishes to all those hurt or arrested on the streets of Hong Kong this week, and to everyone around the world resisting capitalism.

access to medicines: only the rich

This is a story of corporate greed, and the lengths to which the world's only superpower will go to ensure its voracious appetite is assuaged. It also illustrates the folly of attempting to humanise capitalism by negotiation. Greedy bullies will not be dissuaded from their gluttony whatever the human costs.

Countries have the right to protect the public health of their population. This is set out in the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). This right was reinforced in 2001 by the historic Ministerial Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, known as the Doha Declaration. The Doha Declaration places the protection of public health over and above private commercial interests. It gives countries the right to overcome patents in order to protect public health and allow access to medicines for everyone.

However, wealthy pharmaceutical industries are not taking this threat to their profitability lying down. They refuse to accept the primacy of health over commercial interests, and are pressurising wealthy countries, the United States in particular, to negotiate bilateral and regional trade agreements that undermine the Doha Declaration. One by one, therefore, countries are trading away their people's health to the United States in deals that deliberately restrict the availability of low-cost medicines. These agreements are negotiated in secret, and are the preferred choice of industry since they bypass the compromises of multilateral negotiations.

The negotiations wholly reflect the aims of the industry representatives who advise the US Trade Representative, and seek to introduce the following provisions;

1. The transformation of national drug regulatory authorities (NDRA) into patents enforcers. Currently the procedures for the patenting and registration of drugs are entirely separate, but the US want NDRAs to prevent the registration of cheaper generic versions of a drug where a patent is already held by one of their companies. This in effect is a ban on generic versions of patented medicines.

2. The imposition of data exclusivity. This would introduce new obstacles on test data that will delay the registration of generic medicines. In order to register a medicine with a NDRA, the applicant must demonstrate that its medicine is safe, effective and of quality. However, only the first applicant must show clinical trial data to prove the drug's safety and efficacy. The US wants exclusive rights over pharmaceutical test data for originator companies. Therefore generic drug producers will have to produce their own data. This will be a disincentive and delaying factor in the production of cheaper generic drugs.

3. Extension of the length of patents. Patents on drugs usually last for 20 years from the date of filing. A patent is applied for at the basic research stage, well before the application for drug registration. Registration occurs some 2-3 years later. The US wants to extend the patent life to make up for the time between patenting, and registration. This will result in lengthening the period of monopoly.

4. Measures which will allow companies to re-patent their drug for each new use discovered. This will give companies the opportunity to perpetually renew their monopolies for that particular drug.

5. Restrictions on a country's use of compulsory licenses. Compulsory licenses allow the production or importation of a generic medicine without the consent of the patent holder. These are issued to address the requirements of public health or other emergencies. The US wants to impose strict limitations under which these compulsory licences can be issued. They propose that they are limited to declared national emergencies only.

The consequences of these restrictive practices will only serve to add to the millions who suffer chronic sickness and preventable death each year just because they are poor.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The lion, the witch and the wardrobe

Andrew Adamson (director), the chronicles of Narnia: the lion, the witch and the wardrobe, general release

The new Disney film, the lion, the witch and the wardrobe, the first of the chronicles of Narnia, is currently enchanting children and adults at the cinema… and has led to the opening of a new front in the war of words between christianity and its critics. When I first read C.S. Lewis’ the lion, the witch and the wardrobe as a child I fell in love with his magical world of talking animals, centaurs and fauns, the wicked witch and a land where it is always winter, but never christmas. It is the story of four children from 1940s England, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy who discover the door to a magical land through a wardrobe, help to overthrow the wicked witch and ultimately become kings and queens of Narnia. Like many fans of the books, and, no doubt, many of the children who go to see the new film, at the time I was blissfully unaware of the christian subtext that has been the cause of controversy.

C.S. Lewis was converted to christianity by his friend J.R.R. Tolkien, and took to the faith with the zeal that only a convert can. He wrote a series of essays and books on the christian faith, notably mere christianity and the screwtape letters, in which an apprentice demon writes about his misadventures in tempting mortals. Lewis was outspoken about his faith and it was very important to him, and as such had an impact on his writing. Christian groups in the US have seized upon the new film as the answer to their prayers in combating what they see as the decline of their faith, particularly amongst the young. It has been promoted as a kind of anti-Harry Potter, good and wholesome and devoid of demonic influences and moral grey areas. Churches are encouraging their followers to block book tickets and persuade youth groups to go and see the film. Disney has colluded with this, working with a christian publishing company to promote the film in churches in the UK, and their partners in the film, Walden Media are owned by a major republican party donor. On the other side of the divide, journalist and outspoken secularist, Polly Toynbee has lambasted the film, warning us poor unbelievers to have a sickbag on hand for some of the scenes; and celebrated children’s author Philip Pullman, whose sophisticated trilogy, his dark materials, explores themes of theology, spirituality and philosophy, has denounced the Narnia books as racist and sexist christian propaganda, describing them “one of the most ugly and poisonous things [he had] ever read”. Even Tolkien purportedly was uncomfortable, and critical of what he saw as Lewis’ sermonising in the books.

So far, so straightforward. It would be easy to dismiss the chronicles of Narnia as crude christian propaganda-by-stealth, sneaking the gospel under the wary radar of children by dressing it up as an ‘innocent’ fantasy story. Some fans of the series have bent the stick the other way however, downplaying the religious themes and claiming that they are incidental to the stories. Both attitudes are mistaken, and frankly, do a grave disservice to both the chronicles of Narnia themselves and to C.S. Lewis’ faith. The christian fundamentalists may be looking for a vehicle to promote their faith, and the anti-christian lobby a means to criticise christian moralising; but if that is what they want the chronicles of Narnia to be, then in this correspondent’s opinion, both sides have backed the wrong unicorn.

Without a doubt, there are scenes and themes in both the books and the film that closely parallel christian mythology. The most obvious of these is the death of Aslan, the eponymous lion of the title, who corresponds to Jesus. He lets himself be sacrificed on a stone table by the white witch, in order to absolve Edmund of the ‘sin’ of betrayal. He is humiliated and shaved before the execution, and afterwards his corpse is wept over by Susan and Lucy. The stone table then splits in two, and Aslan is reborn. The parallels are obvious. However, despite both christian and anti-christian commentators seeking to present Lewis as being a stereotypical believer, and the chronicles of Narnia as being his attempt to proselytise to children covertly, Lewis was anything but a clichéd christian, and the Narnia books are more complex than mere propaganda. Lewis used the word ‘supposal’ to describe what he was doing with Narnia. Having invented this fantasy world, he ‘supposed’ what form Jesus would take in this world, and what form the christian faith would take. The end result can certainly be read as a form of christian apologia, and Lewis wrote that he hoped that he would introduce readers who might otherwise be resistant to aspects of christian belief, but the chronicles of Narnia are not merely christianity dressed in unfamiliar clothes, but are instead a children’s fantasy written by a devout christian, using a time-honoured device within the genre of speculative fiction, that of playing the game of ‘what if…?’, of exploring the consequences of what would happen if this was real or if that event happened.

Far from being a narrow-minded fundamentalist, C.S. Lewis’ christianity was thought-provoking and off-beat. The best example in this context is Lewis’ atypical view of paganism, which is certainly at odds with many of his fundamentalist christian supporters. He regarded paganism and christianity as having much in common, and seemed to consider pagan religions as being a kind of nascent form of christianity, arguing that it was easier for a pagan, already capable of faith in a higher power, to become a christian than it was for an atheist (Lewis wrote the Narnia books in the 1950s, at the same time that modern paganism was being reinvented and gaining followers following the repeal of the anti-witchcraft laws). This blurring of the boundaries between these traditionally opposed faith traditions can be seen in the chronicles of Narnia, where Lewis not only uses creatures from Classical, Norse and Teutonic mythology such as centaurs, dryads, fauns and dwarves, and the gods Bacchus and Silenus, but also a number of the themes in the books are arguably derived from pagan religions as well. For example, Peter is knighted ‘wolfsbane,’ because he defeats the wolf Morgrim, which echoes stories from Norse and Teutonic sagas, notably the story of the chief god, Odin fighting Fenris-Wolf at Ragnarok, the last battle. The figure of the white witch arguably corresponds to the Norse crone-goddess, Hel, who ruled over the icy afterworld Niflheim. The idea of the cyclical wheel of seasons, with winter being replaced by spring, is found in virtually every agrarian culture, for instance in ancient Greek mythology, winter is when the goddess Persephone is in the underworld, and spring begins when she returns to the surface. The theme of resurrection is similarly widespread, for example in the Classical mystery cults of Mithras, Zagreus and Orpheus, and the Norse legend of Odin dying and being reborn in order to gain knowledge of Ragnarok. Lewis’ conscious borrowing of these themes is not simply a cynical attempt to conceal his christian message, but rather is integral to his faith and his promotion of a magical view of the world in opposition to what he saw as the soullessness and reductionism of secular modernity.

Undoubtedly, a great deal of the criticism levelled at Lewis is wholly justified. The man was a sexually repressed, middle class Irish academic, who had spent decades in the seclusion of the Oxford colleges and who was writing in the 1950s. His social attitudes were representative of this background, and are reflected in his writing. Hence, the Narnia books are sexist, with women playing a subservient role; they are sexually repressed (in the last book of the series Susan is excluded from the analogue of heaven because she is interested in boys and make-up); and they are deeply deterministic, authoritarian and parochial, with the children becoming kings and queens apparently simply because an ancient prophecy says that “two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve” are fated to do so. The portrayal of the children is also idealised - they are every middle-class parents dream - whereas in reality, as the rather more knowing fantasy writer, Terry Pratchett observes, “children mostly argued, shouted, ran around very fast, laughed loudly, picked their noses, got dirty and sulked. Any seen dancing and skipping and singing had probably been stung by a wasp.”

And yet, despite all of this, the books and the new film are deeply enchanting, and are enjoyed and often loved by children, who by and large do not become right-wing christians as a result of their exposure to Narnia. The appeal could be explained away by dismissing the chronicles of Narnia as sheer escapism, but this is too pat an answer. Fantasy is routinely described as escapist, and as the anarchistic science-fiction writer Michael Moorcock has said, “jailers love escapism. What they hate is escape.” But I would argue all good fantasy has the potential to inspire its readers to try to escape the jail of class society (and despite their faults and the conservative politics of the author, I would defend the Narnia books as good fantasy). In the film, Peter says “we’re not heroes…” and Susan jumps in with, “…we’re from Finchley.” But despite this, the children take the difficult decision to oppose the wicked witch and try to do the right thing. Lewis contrasts the fatalistic ‘grown-up’ response of accepting things as they are with the ‘childish’ optimism that you can change things for the better and it is the right thing to do. This underlying message of the chronicles of Narnia is naive but it is an uplifting and positive one, and to my mind this is the reason behind the timeless appeal of the stories.

The new film is a worthy retelling of the stories. Disney resisted the temptation to update the story or transfer it to the US, instead remaining very faithful to the books. Director Andrew Adamson has also managed the difficult task of preserving just the right amount of christian subtext, without suppressing it all together (which would miss the point) or exaggerating it in order to increase the appeal for the christian lobby (which would equally miss the point). The film was filmed in New Zealand and had a predictably huge budget, so as you would expect it is a visual treat and the special effects, the backdrops and the climactic battle are simply breathtaking. At the same time however they have managed to keep something of the naivety that is part of the charm of the books, with little known actors playing the main roles, including a particularly striking and imperious performance by Tilda Swinton as the white witch, and minor roles played by stalwart british actors Ray Winstone, Dawn French and Jim Broadbent. The film is well worth going to see in my opinion. Cynics may think it kitsch and moralising, but I found the lion, the witch and the wardrobe charming and uplifting.

An edited version of this review can also be read in the communist party of great britain's paper, the weekly worker, which is available online at:

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

you're poor, you're ill and you won't live long

Health inequalities increased between rich and poor areas in Britain during the 1980s and 1990s. The current government has done nothing to reduce these inequalities. In fact inequalities in life expectancy, income and wealth have widened during their administration.

Twenty years ago, the World Health Organization set up Health for All 2000. 38 targets were set out to reduce inequalities in health. The main aims were;

Ensuring equity in health by reducing gaps in health status between countries and between population groups within countries.
Adding life to years by helping people achieve, and use, their full physical, mental, and social potential.
Adding health to life by reducing disease and disability.
Adding years to life by increasing life expectancy.

Recent studies have shown that the Health for All aim of reducing inequalities between groups of the population failed abysmally. In fact, the opposite occurred.

In 1997 Frank Dobson, the then secretary for health, stated, “Inequality in health is the worst inequality of all. There is no more serious inequality than knowing that you’ll die sooner because you’re badly off.”

Hazel Blears, prior to her becoming the Home Office's chief police state protagonist, said, “Tackling health inequalities is a top priority for this government.”

In 2001 two national targets for 2010 were announced;

To reduce the gap in infant mortality across social groups, and
To raise life expectancy in the most disadvantaged areas faster than elsewhere.

However, new data shows increases in health inequalities in the early years of the 21st century in the UK. Life expectancy continues to rise in the most advantaged areas of the country at a greater pace than in the poorest areas.

Income inequality has remained at its greatest for the last 20 years. These record level inequalities began in the 1980s and have continued throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. The poorest 10% in society now receive a mere 3% of the nation’s total income, whilst the richest 10% receive more than a 25%. Income inequality is not the whole story though.

Wealth is even more unequally distributed than income. Wealth reflects lifelong circumstances, and can include savings, and other assets such as house ownership. Increasing inequality in wealth began in the 1970s, and has widened particularly since 1995-6. From 1990 to 2000 the wealthiest 10% of the population increased its share of the national wealth from 47% to 54%. The top 1 percent's share rose from 18% in 1990 to 23% in 2000. In the ten years up to 2003, housing wealth for the richest 10% of children increased by 20 times more than that for the poorest 10%.

For some health outcomes there will be a delay in terms of the effect of material circumstances. The full effects of current income inequalities on health may not be immediately visible. Wealth inequalities, however, reflect the accumulation of lifetime dis/advantage. The growing inequalities in wealth hold little hope for future trends in health inequalities, they will be transmitted to and magnified among future generations.

(Reference: Health Inequalities and New Labour: how the promises compare with real progress. Mary Shaw, George Davey Smith, Danny Dorling. Published BMJ 30 April 2005)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Cork: thousands on the streets

Cork:Thousands on the Streets
Tens of thousands march against exploitationWorkers march to secure their rightsAt 12 O'Clock myself and Traolach stood on the bridge chatting as Cork city passed us by. By 1.30 we were swamped by thousands of our fellow corkonians. By 2.00 you could not hope to count the crowd.
The President of the IWU said to me there were more than at the tax marches in 1979. Workers spilled onto the streets. What traffic there was ground to a halt. In our thousands we fell in behind the banners of our unions. TEEU, SIPTU, IMPACT, IWU, CWU. etc a few Starry Ploughs, Anarchist flags, Socialist party banner, Labour, Shinners.... The speakers on Connolly Hall played Luke Kelly. People shook hands met old friends made new ones. Men and women who had know hard struggle to beat poverty and oppression mingled with the children of the Celtic Tiger. There was grim determination on faces all around.
Before the march as we stood around before the crowds properly gathered, I spoke with many passersby people I had known from campaigns and issues down the years bus workers, factory workers old stalwarts and cynical young guys all worried about the turnout. It was dispelled by the flow of people like a river.
The march formed up outside Connolly Hall and on the South Mall, we joked about Mayday marches of 50 people. It took over half an hour for the first section to move off as those of us on the South Mall watched. A SIPTU steward next to me talked to one at the head of the march it stretched all the way along Merchants Quay down Pana to Daunt Square and we hadn't budged. At last we set off no chanting, no music, just banter and a feeling of confidence. Patrick Street was quieter than a wet Monday in January. The first time in a long time there were more marchers on the road than pedestrians.
We finally reached Connolly Hall. People spilled over the bridge occupied every vantage point and we listened to speeches. Trade union officials emboldened by the turnout talked tough about a battle to save our employment standards, to protect wages, to unionise immigrants , to oppose racism. The said what people had come to hear the unions live we are not brow beaten, we are strong, we are united and we will fight. Joe O Flynn SIPTU attacked IBEC, the Bank of Ireland, the government and he tore into Irish Ferries. We finished with Amhran na Fhian piped on the platform and we dispersed talking, arguing, debating a liittle spark lighted.
Now the real struggle begins between those willing to trust the trade union leadership with this and those who want to struggle to bring the unions back under the control of the members to set an agenda for not just defensive gestures but a counter offensive against the exploiters. Many workers disappointed in the past by union bureaucrats stung by the failure of their unions were there to argue for fighting unions for democracy for hope. In many hearts partnership was dead, but to make this a reality a fight for the soul of the unions will have to be fought.

text of WSM leaflet distributed at Irish demos

Workers in Irish Ferries are currently occupying their ships to prevent their jobs being replaced by super-exploted migrant workers paid less than the minimum wage. This Friday Irish unions are organising demonstrations in support of the workers but rather than calling for a stoppage they are putting the onus on individual workers or branches to attend the demonstrations. This text is a leaflet the WSM will be distributing on Friday.
Together we can beat Irish Ferries
Friday’s demonstration is an opportunity for all Irish workers to show our support for and solidarity with Irish Ferries workers in their battle against job displacement and exploitation. Their fight is our fight because if the company is successful in defeating the workers’ resistance it will open the floodgates for employers throughout the economy to slash wages and attack working conditions – a process which is already well under way.
Workers in Irish Ferries have shown the way in which employers’ attacks can be resisted. Their response to the attempts at bullying by management and their hired thugs was immediate and direct. They didn’t wait around but took immediate direct action to protect their livelihoods and force the management on the defensive. It was this action which forced the issue of job displacement on to the national political agenda and which forced the leadership of the trade union movement to take the issue seriously.
Industrial Relations Act must be smashed
Today’s demonstration is a welcome opportunity for all workers to demonstrate our support for Irish Ferries workers. But it does not go far enough. The most effective way in which all workers could show the bosses and government we intend to do more than complain would be through a national work stoppage. This would involve challenging the 1990 Industrial Relations Act which makes solidarity action unlawful.
The leadership of the trade union movement have however shirked the opportunity to challenge this anti-trade union law. Instead of issuing a direct call for all workers to walk off the job to support today’s demo, they have “requested” member unions to “maximise the participation of their members”.
Instead of this shilly-shallying, Congress should directly challenge the Industrial Relations Act. It is the strength of our numbers which would allow us to do this. If all workers across all unions took simultaneous action, it would render the law ineffective and would demonstrate clearly our potential power. If Congress are afraid to issue this call because of fears that the assets of the unions would be placed in jeopardy, why don’t they ask us – the members – what we think. After all the unions belong to the members, we should be allowed to make that decision.
Legacy of “partnership”
It is clear however that the leadership of Congress do not want to challenge the Industrial Relations Act because ideologically they are unwilling to challenge the government. This is the legacy of 18 years of so-called “social partnership” – a “partnership” which is so meaningless that employers in Irish Ferries, An Post and elsewhere can simply tear up their side of the deal at will.
It should surely be clear to everyone now that the ‘Race to the Bottom’ will only be halted by a strong fighting trade union movement. Far from “social partnership” being a means of preventing exploitation and job displacement, it has actually provided the cover which is allowing this to happen. Agreement to contracting out some work is actually part of ‘Sustaining Progress’.
It is time now that “social partnership” be consigned to the dustbin of history. We need now more than ever a trade union movement which will make a reality of the slogan of an injury to one being the concern of all. We need a trade union movement which will set itself the task of organising the unorganised, of recruiting into membership workers across all sectors of the economy who are being ruthlessly exploited. Gama, nursing homes, meat factories and many more have shown this exploitation. “Outsourcing” and other forms of exploitation will be defeated by recruiting the “outsourced” and exploited workers into the unions and fighting alongside them against that exploitation.
Seize control
All of us as trade union members must rally to this cause. We need to seize back control of our unions and we need to make those unions into fighting bodies which will stand up for the vulnerable and exploited and which will show clearly our strength in numbers.
The direct action of Irish Ferries workers has shown the way. The challenge to all of us is to ensure that their action is the spark which ignites a fight back and which demonstrates to government and employers that we will no longer tolerate the exploitation of our fellow workers

tens of thousands rally in defence of workers rights

100, 000 march through out Ireland in defence of workers rights
by sovietpop - wsm Friday, Dec 9 2005, 8:18pm From anarkismo

Polish, Lithuanian and Scottish workers joined thousands of Irish, as they marched in Dublin and in towns throughout the country in support of the Irish Ferries workers.

The march gathers

Irish Ferries is attempting to sack their workforce and employ instead Latvians earning below the Irish minimum wage. They intend to registor their ships in Cyprus so they can avoid Irish labour law.

Leading the march was a banner which said 'Equal rights for all workers", closely followed by a banner reading "No Slave Ships On Irish Sea" .

Teachers, building workers, schoolchildren, air-hostesses, taxi-drivers, bus workers were among the many that marched in Dublin, as thousands walked out of their workplaces, bringing the city to a standstill.

The WSM distributed leaflets and papers, and joined with other anarchists on the march.

Irish Ferries worker

Brass band plays The Internationale

Irish National Teachers Union

Anarchist Flags

Building workers union

Globalisation in Ireland - the banner says it all

Workers Solidarity Movment Banner

School Kids

No Slave Ships

Monday, December 05, 2005

reduced nativity and blasphemy

the bbc's Sunday programme has launched a 'Nativity Story in 30 seconds - that's about ninety words' competition. In the interests of brevity I found that it was possible to reduce the myth to just 8 words, but unaccountably the e-mail seems not to reach them.
so in the spirit of the Season here is the Red star commandos reduced nativity story;


( awaits either lightning strike from enraged deity or, more likely knock on door from religious police)

Friday, December 02, 2005

more on pensions

Over the last week, more divisive mis-representations from the government have appeared regarding public sector pensions. They have attacked the '85' rule which they wish to see abolished. The rule states that where an employee's age plus his/her years of service is equal to, or greater than 85, then they are eligible to retire. The example given, by the government, is that of a person aged 60 with 25 years service retiring on full pension. This is not valid. A person may be able to apply to retire where the 85 rule is complied with, but unless a cost saving can be made by the employer, i.e. their post will be deleted on retirement, they will not be granted leave to retire. Additionally their level of pension will be restricted to be commensurate with their number of years service, i.e. not a full pension. I personally know of people who are over 60 and who have more than 40 years of service who have been refused permission to retire, even though each further year of service does not contribute to any further enhancement of their own pension entitlement.

The main gripers regarding public sector pension rights are the government, our elected representatives, and the CBI, their masters. Is it a case of envy? I think not.

An MP's pension, after 26 years service, is an indexed linked £38,000 per year. And the CBI members who wrote to complain about the current public sector pension scheme all have personal pension plans allowing them to retire at 60 on pensions 26 times the level of a public sector worker.

The average annual pension for a local government worker is £3,800.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Anarchist murdered in Russia

this was published on the Class war newswire

Timur Kacharava 21.08.1985 - 13.11.2005
Timur was an active member of St. Petersburg's hardcore punk and anarchist community, and our dear friend. On the evening of November 13, Timur became the victim of a nazi attack. After a Food Not Bombs action on Vladimirskaya square Timur and a few other kids went to a Bukvoyed bookshop on Ligovsky prospect. Around 7 p.m. he and his friend Max "Zgibov" Zgibai were smoking outside when they were attacked by a group of 8 to 10 nazis. Timur suffered multiple stab wounds in the neck. Zgibov is in the hospital in a stable condition with five stab wounds. The ambulance arrived in about ten minutes. By then Timur was dead due to heavy blood loss. Zgibov was taken to the Mariinsky Hospital. The police are investigating the incident; they have some suspects. There's a graffiti on the wall next to the place where Timur was murdered, and there are candles, pictures, and flowers his friends placed as a tribute. Timur was a founding member of the St. Petersburg political hardcore punk band Sandinista! which formed in 2003. He was the musical leader, writing most of the music and playing lead guitar. The band's debut s/t MCD is to be released on Moscow's Old Skool Kids Records; the same label released a DVD of Old Skool Kids Fest in September 2004 which features several songs by Sandinista! In the Summer of 2005 Timur also joined the local d-beat hardcore band Distress. He returned to St. Petersburg from a Scandinavian tour with Distress just a few days before being murdered. Timur took an active part in the anarchist activities in the city, such as Food Not Bombs group and Epitsentr infoshop. He was also active in day-to-day confrontation with nazis in the streets. He was a fourth year student of philosophy in St. Petersburg State University, and a committed vegan. Zgibov was Timur's bandmate in Sandinista! in 2004-2005. Before that Zgibov played bass in hardcore punk band Svinokop and also is a singer and bassist in grind band Potom Budet Pozdno, along with running his own tape label Ni Esperas. For U.S. readers: Timur is seen on the Out Cold live in St. Petersburg DVD dancing, and his voice saying "Old school hardcore isn't about windmills, dude" is in fact heard as the intro to the film. Timur will be loved and remembered by everyone who knew him. He is especially missed by his parents and girlfriend Lyubava.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

what is going on with council housing?

The right to buy council houses in parts of the Highlands has been suspended to protect affordable stock. East Renfrewshire is the first council in Scotland to be given permission to ban council house sales, a policy that was introduced in the 1980s by Thatcher.

Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm said, "There is compelling evidence of substantial pressures on affordable housing in the areas the council identified."

Margaret Davidson, Highland Council's housing convener, said the move was driven by a severe shortage of affordable housing in many areas. The right-to-buy policy in Scotland continues to drain housing stock of about 11,000 homes a year, with over 440,000 lost in the 25 years since it was introduced.

Why the hell isn't this suspension being extended throughout the UK?

In England, the number of families waiting for a council house has soared by more than 50 per cent during Labour's time in power, and now stands at 1.5million.

Only one new social housing unit is built for every five sold off under the right-to-buy scheme, this means that the supply of council properties for families on the waiting list is dwindling every year.

In my home town of Doncaster, the Council owns and manages 25,000 properties – houses, bungalows and flats. Nearly half (42%) of Council tenants are over 60 years of age and over half (53%) of tenants say they have a long-standing illness, disability or infirmity. The Council currently re-lets 2,700 properties a year.

Last year the Council sold off or disposed of 1,737 homes - 5.5 per cent of its stock. 1,685 individuals or families are now classed as homeless, three years ago the number had been just 375. The number of people in temporary accommodation waiting to be allocated homes has also risen while waiting times increased to as long as five months.

There are 13,080 applicants on the waiting list (December 2004) compared to just 5,943 in September 2003.

And now the housing stock has been transferred to an ALMO after consultations and a ballot.

In November 2000, the tenants were told by Gary Allen, the Head of Housing Services, 'Remember - The tenants of Doncaster will have the final say in what happens to council housing in the future. Changes to the ownership of council homes cannot happen without the support of tenants. Where there is a proposal for any change of ownership, Government rules require that tenants are balloted and that there is a majority decision in favour of the proposal. It is this ballot that will decide whether or not the Council will proceed with that option. The Council will work closely with tenants to decide on the best option for Doncaster, but tenants will have the final say on which option is introduced. Whatever option is chosen the council will ensure that tenants rights will be protected, rents will be kept affordable and council housing will meet the standards of the 21st century.'

In 2005, the elected Mayor, Martin Winter, said, 'You told me that the majority of you (78%) wanted the Council to continue to own your homes – you wanted the “stay as we are” option.'

But bugger it, he's gone for the ALMO.

How is this supposed to help the provision of affordable housing? After a specified period, the ALMO will be able to increase rents to the 'economic' level. Currently this would mean a 100% increase (if privately rented accommodation is compared with council rentals.)

The measures to privatise the housing stock, introduced by Thatcher, and now strengthened by her bastard son Blair, will only serve to increase the financial pressures on the working class and shore up the profitability of the housing market for the privileged.

apologies for non updating

My apologies, if anyone actually reads this, for the non updating of this blog.
My disability; nerve damage to my hands, makes writing at the moment very uncomfortable.
This is very dispiriting for as I would love to be able to comment fully on the political events as they happen, but it is just too painful to do so.
This is especially galling at the moment; the French riots, the debate in the uk over secularism and the attempts of the govt. to introduce further repressive legislation, and of course the war in Iraq, all demand proper examination, which I am unable to do.
I am trying at the moment to compose a more abstract statement of my politics ( never fear fellow red starrers I will circulate it for your comments, before publishing) . And hopefully I will post this up soon
Darren Red star

Monday, October 31, 2005


A version of this article was first posted on the Red Party website at the end of 2004. In view of Bill Gates recent highly publicised donation for malaria research, I thought I'd give it another airing.

Poverty and inequality must be defeated wherever they are found.
In September 2000 the United Nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals as a means and measure of fighting the inequalities in the world. Targets were set for poverty, primary education, gender equality, child survival, families and women, water and sanitation, and health.
The goal on health is to:
Combat HIV/AIDS,malaria and other diseases. Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS. Halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.
These targets are seriously off track. HIV prevalence is rising in many countries. While prevalence rates are highest in southern Africa, the rate of increase is sharpest in Europe and Central Asia, and absolute numbers are large in China and India.
Malaria is proving difficult to contain, and the global incidence of tuberculosis is also rising.
Each year we have a well publicised World AIDS Day. This is good, it reminds us all of the dangers and prevalence of HIV infection, and encourages research into vaccines, treatments and cures. However, the high profile that HIV/AIDS experiences is not the result of humanitarian concerns for the Third World, but is due to well known affluent westerners having been affected. It is an acute case of self interest. This does not in anyway help the poor though. The annual salary in Mozambique is $210, but the cost of generic antiretroviral therapy is $300.
It is a great shame that the same amount of attention is not also given to the woes of malaria. This disease warrants massive research initiatives to alleviate the suffering and deaths it causes. The problem is, though, that it is generally a disease of the poor. There would be little chance of a sound profitable return for pharmaceutical companies to 'justify' the vast finance required to pursue research into remedies.
Malaria is a parasitic infection characterised by cycles of chills, fever, sweating, anaemia, enlarged spleen and a chronic relapsing course. Four types of parasites affect man, through infection by the anopheles mosquito. Most malarious areas are in the tropics. Disasters, like floods and refugee encampments, are conducive to the propagation of the disease.
Malaria kills one child every 30 seconds and more than 1 million people annually in Africa. According to the 'Africa Malaria Report-2003', the disease continues to take its greatest toll on very young children, mostly under the age of five, and pregnant women in Sub-Saharan Africa. New analyses confirm that malaria is the principal cause of at least one fifth of all deaths of young children in the region.
In most countries chloroquine, the most commonly available anti-malarial drug, has lost its clinical effectiveness. In addition, resistance to sulfadoxine-purimethamine, the most common replacement drug, has emerged.
Insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) have proven to be highly effective in reducing mortality in young children. The use of these nets helps prevent the disease, which is particularly important due to the increase in drug-resistant falciparum malaria parasites. Recent charitable donors have insisted that these nets be sold at subsidised prices rather than given to the vulnerable population. The cost of purchase is prohibitive to the majority.
Western leaders say they have recognised the serious humanitarian problems in Africa, and have stated their intention to alleviate them. However, conditional aid will not be successful. Trade liberalisation and free market economies will not assist the poverty stricken and disease affected population. These ideologies will only aid the wealthy, who seek cheap sources of raw materials and labour, and new markets to exploit.
The peoples of the Sub-Saharan Region deserve our support. The following statistics illustrate their suffering.
43% of the population live on less than $1 a day.
31% of children under five years of age are underweight.
33% of the population have insufficient food to sustain life.
22% of 15-24 year olds are unemployed.
104 out every 1000 babies die.
174 out every 1000 under fives die.
920 out of every 100,000 mothers die in childbirth.
791 out every 100,000 children aged 0-4 years die from malaria. In Mali and Niger this figure rises to 2000.
The estimated annual cost of meeting the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 is $40-70 billion, World military spending for 2003 was $956 billion. We must all fight against the culture of 'profit before people', and ensure that social justice prevails wherever it is threatened.

However much Gates attempts to show the benevolence of his obscene wealth, he won't crack it. Any successful research will be expensive, and the results sold to the highest bidder - who of course will want a substantial return on their investment.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


the purpose of this blog is to provide a continuing sounding board for the political ideas for the group who were formally known as the red party. The red party as a functioning group came to an end in the early summer following the defection of one of our number to the leninist AWL and the general realisation that the remainder of us had developed an anti leninist politics.Much of the early writings of our group are available on and eventually we shall endeavour to republish them on here. However the main purpose of this blog is to produce new work explaining and arguing a form of communist politics that is free of the false gods and authoritarian myths of the leninist tradition.

the Renegade Kautsky and his disciple lenin

The "Renegade" Kautsky and his Disciple Lenin.
Jean Barrot
Publication Details
This article originally formed an afterword to an article by Karl Kautsky "Les trois sources du Marxisme" (The three sources of Marxism) which was reprinted in French in April 1977 by editions Spartacus. (serie B No.78).
This was not the first Spartacus edition of this text by Kautsky -- it had originally been published by them in 1947 with an introduction by the french social-democrat Lucien Laurat. In the seventies they reprinted a number of their older pamphlets with new afterwords, and this particular text had two -- this one by Jean Barrot (the pen name in the 1970's of Gilles Dauvé), and a second, 'Idéologie et lutte de classes' by Pierre Guillaume, better known these days for other reasons.
Part of the interest in discussing Kautsky's article was the fact that Lenin's much better known article The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism was based on it, and it therefore illuminated the relationship between Kautsky's and Lenin's conceptions of marxism and socialism.
As far as we can discover Kautsky's article has never been translated into english.
This edited translation of Barrot's afterword was first published in the UK in 1987 as "Leninism or Communism" by the group Wildcat (Subversion). The sub-headings were added by the translator.
The original french language version can be found on the A.D.E.L website.
The "Renegade" Kautsky and his Disciple Lenin.
"The three sources of Marxism; the historic work of Marx" is clearly of historical interest. Kautsky was unquestionably the major thinker of the Second International and his party, the German Social Democratic Party, the most powerful. Kautsky, the guardian of orthodoxy, was almost universally regarded as the most knowledgeable expert on the work of Marx and Engels and their privileged interpreter. Kautsky's positions therefore bear witness to a whole era of the working class movement and are worth knowing if only for this. We are concerned here with a central question for the proletarian movement: the relationship between the working class and revolutionary theory. Kautsky's reply to this question formed the theoretical foundation of the practice and organisation of all the parties which made up the Second International. This included the Russian Social Democratic Party, and its Bolshevik fraction, which was an orthodox member until 1914, that is until the collapse of the International in the face of the First World War.
However, the theory expounded by Kautsky in that text did not collapse at the same time as the Second International. Quite the contrary, it survived and equally formed the basis of the Third International through the medium of "Leninism" and its Stalinist and Trotskyist avatars.
Leninism: By-Product of Kautskyism !
Leninism, by-product of Kautskyism! This will startle those who only know Kautsky from the abuse hurled at him by Bolshevism, and in particular Lenin's pamphlet, "The Bankruptcy of the Second International and the Renegade Kautsky", and those who only know about Lenin what is considered good to know about him in the various churches and chapels they frequent.
Yet the very title of Lenin's pamphlet very precisely defines his relationship with Kautsky. If Lenin calls Kautsky a renegade it's clear that he thinks Kautsky was previously a follower of the true faith, of which he now considers himself the only qualified defender. Far from criticising Kautskyism, which he shows himself unable to identify, Lenin is in fact content to reproach his former master-thinker for having betrayed his own teachings. From any point of view Lenin's break was at once late and superficial. Late because Lenin had entertained the deepest illusions about German Social Democracy, and had only understood after the "betrayal" was accomplished. Superficial because Lenin was content to break on the problems of imperialism and the war without going into the underlying causes of the social democratic betrayal of August 1914. These causes were linked to the very nature of those parties and their relations, with capitalist society as much as with the proletariat. These relations must themselves be brought back to the very movement of capital and of the working class. They must be understood as a phase of the development of the proletariat, and not as something open to being changed by the will of a minority, not even of a revolutionary leadership, however aware it might be.
From this stems the present importance of the theory which Kautsky develops in a particularly coherent form in his pamphlet and which constituted the very fabric of his thought throughout his life. Lenin took up this theory and developed it as early as 1900 in "The Immediate Objectives of our Organisation" and then in "What Is To Be Done?" in 1902, in which moreover he quotes Kautsky at length and with great praise. In 1913 Lenin again took up these ideas in " The Three Sources and the Three Component Parts of Marxism" in which he develops the same themes and sometimes uses Kautsky's text word for word.
These ideas rest on a scanty and superficial historical analysis of the relationships of Marx and Engels, to the intellectuals of their time as much as to the working class movement. They can be summarised in a few words, and a couple of quotations will be enough to reveal their substance: "A working class movement that is spontaneous and bereft of any theory rising in the labouring classes against ascendant capitalism, is incapable of accomplishing revolutionary work."
It is also necessary to bring about what Kautsky calls the union of the working class movement and socialism. Now: "Socialist consciousness today (?!) can only arise on the basis of deep scientific knowledge (...) But the bearer of science is not the proletariat but the bourgeois intellectuals; (...) so then socialist consciousness is something brought into the class struggle of the proletariat from outside and not something that arises spontaneously within it." These words of Kautsky's are according to Lenin "profoundly true."
It is clear that this much desired union of the working class movement and socialism could not be brought about in the same way in Germany as in Russia as the conditions were different. But it is important to see that the deep divergence's of Bolshevism in the organisational field did not result from different basic conceptions, but rather solely from the application of the same principles in different social, economic and political situations.
In fact far from ending up in an ever greater union of the working class movement and socialism, social democracy would end up in an ever closer union with capital and the bourgeoisie. As for Bolshevism, after having been like a fish in water in the Russian Revolution ("revolutionaries are in the revolution like water in water") because of the revolution's defeat it would end in all but complete fusion with state capital, administered by a totalitarian bureaucracy.
However Leninism continues to haunt the minds of many revolutionaries of more or less good will who are searching for a recipe capable of success. Persuaded that they are "of the vanguard" because they possess "consciousness", whereas they only possess a false theory, they struggle militantly for a union of those two metaphysical monstrosities, "a spontaneous working class movement, bereft of any theory" and a disembodied "socialist consciousness."
This attitude is simply voluntarist. Now, if as Lenin said "irony and patience are the principal qualities of the revolutionary", "impatience is the principal source of opportunism" (Trotsky). The intellectual, the revolutionary theorist doesn't have to worry about linking up with the masses because if their theory is revolutionary they are already linked to the masses. They don't have to "chose the camp of the proletariat" (it is not Sartre using these terms, it is Lenin) because, properly speaking, they do not have the choice. The theoretical and practical criticism they bear is determined by the relationship they hold with society. They can only free themselves from this passion by surrendering to it (Marx). If they "have the choice" it's because they are no longer revolutionary, and their theoretical criticism is already rotten. The problem of the penetration of revolutionary ideas which they share in the working class milieu is entirely transformed through that milieu.... when the historical conditions, the balance of power between the warring classes, ( principally determined by the autonomised movement of capital) prevents any revolutionary eruption of the proletariat onto the scene of history the intellectual does the same as the worker: what they can. They study, write, make their works known as best as they can, usually quite badly. When he was studying at the British museum, Marx, a product of the historical movement of the proletariat, was linked, if not to the workers, at least to the historical movement of the proletariat. He was no more isolated from the workers than any worker is isolated from the rest. To an extent the conditions of the time limit such relationships to those which capitalism allows.
On the other hand when proletarians form themselves as a class and in one way or another declare war on capital they have no need whatsoever for anyone to bring them KNOWLEDGE before they can do this. Being themselves, in capitalist production relations, nothing but variable capital, it is enough that they want to change their situation in however small a way for them to be directly at the heart of the problem which the intellectual will have some difficulty in reaching. In the class struggle the revolutionary is neither more nor less linked to the proletariat than they were before. But theoretical critique then fuses with practical critique, not because it has been brought in from outside but because they are one and the same thing.
If in recent times the weakness of the intellectual has been to believe that proletarians remain passive because they lack "consciousness"; and if they have come to believe themselves to be "the vanguard" to the point of wanting to lead the proletariat, then they have some bitter disappointments in store.
Yet it is this idea which constitutes the essence of Leninism, as is shown by the ambiguous history of Bolshevism. These ideas were in the end only able to survive because the Russian revolution failed, that is to say because the balance of power, on the international scale, between capital and proletariat, did not allow the latter to carry through its practical and theoretical critique.
The True Role of Bolshevism
This is what we shall try to demonstrate by analysing, in summary, what happened in Russia and the true role of Bolshevism. In thinking that he saw in Russian revolutionary circles the fruit of "the union of the working class movement and socialism" Lenin was seriously mistaken. The revolutionaries organised in social-democratic groups did not bring any "consciousness" to the proletariat. Of course an exposition or a theoretical article on Marxism was very useful to the workers: its use however was not to give consciousness or the idea of class struggle, but simply to clarify things and provoke further thought. Lenin did not understand this reality. He not only wanted to bring to the working class consciousness of the necessity of socialism in general, he also wanted to give them imperative watchwords explaining what they must do at a specific time. And this was quite normal since Lenin's party alone (as the trustee of class consciousness) was fit to discern the general interest of the working class beyond all its divisions into various strata, to analyse the situation at all times and to formulate appropriate watchwords. Well, the 1905 revolution would have to show the practical inability of the Bolshevik party to direct the working class and reveal the "behindness" of the vanguard party. All historians, even those favourable to the Bolsheviks, recognised that in 1905 the Bolshevik party understood nothing about the Soviets. The appearance of new forms of organisation aroused the distrust of the Bolsheviks: Lenin stated that the Soviets were "neither a working class parliament nor an organ of self-government". The important thing is to see that the Russian workers did not know that they were going to form Soviets. Only a very small minority amongst them knew about the experience of the Paris commune and yet they created an embryonic worker's state, though no-one had educated them. The Kautskyist- Leninist thesis in fact denies the working class all power of original creation when not guided by the party, (as the fusion of the working class movement and socialism). Now you can see that in 1905, to take up a phrase from " Theses on Feuerbach", "the educator himself needs educating".
"The Educators Themselves Need Educating !"
Yet Lenin did accomplish revolutionary work (his position on the war amongst others) as opposed to Kautsky. But in reality Lenin was only revolutionary when he went against his theory of class consciousness. Let's take the case of his activity between February and October 1917. Lenin had worked for more than 15 years (since 1900) to create a vanguard organisation which would realise the union of "socialism" and the "working class movement". He sought to regroup "political leaders" (the "representatives of the vanguard capable of organising and leading the movement".) In 1917, as in 1905, this political leadership, represented by the central committee of the Bolshevik party, showed itself beneath the tasks of the day, and behind the revolutionary activity of the proletariat. All historians, including the Stalinist and Trotskyist ones, show that Lenin had to fight a long and difficult battle against the current in his own organisation to make his ideas triumph. And he was only able to succeed by leaning on the workers of the party, on the true vanguard organised in the factories inside or around social-democratic circles. It will be said that all this would have been impossible without the activity put in over many years by the Bolsheviks, as much on the level of workers' everyday struggles as on that of the defence and propagation of revolutionary ideas. The great majority of the Bolsheviks, with Lenin in the foreground, did indeed contribute through their unceasing propaganda and agitation to the insurrection of October 1917. As revolutionary militants, they played an effective role: but as the "leadership of the class" or the "conscious vanguard", they were behind the proletariat. The revolution took place against the ideas of "What is to be done?" and to the extent that these ideas were applied (created by an organ directing the working class but separated from it) they showed themselves to be a check and obstacle to the revolution. In 1905 Lenin was behind history because he clung to the ideas of "What is to be done?" In 1917 Lenin took part in the real movement of the Russian masses and in doing this rejected in his practice the concepts developed in "What is to be done?".
If we apply to Kautsky and Lenin the opposite treatment to that which they subjected Marx to, if we link their ideas to the class struggle instead of separating them from it, Kautskyism-Leninism emerges as characteristic of a whole period of the working class movement dominated from the start by the Second International. Having developed and organised as best they could, proletarians found themselves in a contradictory situation from the end of the 19th century. They possessed various organisations whose goal was to make the revolution and at the same time they were incapable of carrying it through because the conditions were not yet ripe. Kautskyism-Leninism was the expression of the solution of this contradiction. By postulating that the proletariat had to go through the detour of scientific consciousness in order to become revolutionary, it authorised the existence of organisations to enclose, direct and control the proletariat.
As we pointed out, Lenin's case is more complex than Kautsky's, to the extent that Lenin was in one part of his life, a revolutionary as opposed to Kautskyism-Leninism. Moreover, the situation of Russia was totally different to that of Germany, which virtually possessed a bourgeois-democratic regime and in which a working class movement existed which was strongly developed and integrated into the system. It was quite the opposite in Russia, where everything was still to be built and there was no question of taking part in bourgeois parliamentary and reformist union activities as these didn't exist. In these conditions Lenin was able to adopt a revolutionary position despite his Kautskyist ideas. We must nevertheless point out that he considered German social-democracy a model until the world war.
In their revised and corrected histories of Leninism, the Stalinists and Trotskyists show us a clear sighted Lenin who understood and denounced the "betrayal" by social democracy and the International before 1914. This is pure myth and one would really have to study the true history of the International to show that not only did Lenin not denounce it but that before the war he understood nothing of the phenomenon of social democratic degeneracy.
Before 1914 Lenin even praised the German Social-Democratic party (SPD) for having been able to unite the "working class movement" and "socialism"(cf. "What is to be done?"). Let us just quote these lines taken from the obituary article "August Bebel" (which also contains several errors of detail and of substance concerning this model "working class leader", and concerning the history of the Second International).
"The basis of the parliamentary tactics of German (and international) Social-democracy, which doesn't give an inch to the enemy, which doesn't miss the slightest opportunity to obtain some improvement, however small, for the workers, which at the same time shows itself uncompromising in its principles and always aims towards achieving its objectives, the basis of these tactics was established by Bebel..."
Lenin addressed these words of praise to "the parliamentary tactics of German (and international) Social Democracy", "uncompromising in its principles" (!) in August 1913! A year later he thought that the issue of Vorwarts ( paper of the German Social-Democratic Party) which announced the vote for war credits by the Social-Democratic deputies, was a fake manufactured by the German High Command. This reveals the depth of the illusions he had held for a long time, (in fact since 1900-1902), in the Second International in general and German social-democracy in particular. (We won't examine the attitude of other revolutionaries, Rosa Luxemburg for example, to these questions. That question would require a detailed study in its own right.)
We have seen how Lenin had in his practice abandoned the ideas of "What Is To Be Done?" in 1917. But the immaturity of the class struggle on a global level and in particular the absence of revolution in Europe, brought the defeat of the Russian Revolution. The Bolsheviks found themselves in power with the task of "governing Russia" (Lenin), of performing the task of the bourgeois revolution which hadn't occurred, that is to say, of actually securing the development of the Russian economy. This development could not be anything but capitalist. The bringing to heel of the working class -- and of opposition in the party -- became an essential objective. Lenin, who had not explicitly rejected "What Is To Be Done?" in 1917, immediately took up again the "Leninist" concepts which alone would allow the "necessary" enclosure of the working class. The Democratic Centralists, the Workers' Opposition, and the Workers' Group were crushed for having denied the "leading role of the party". The Leninist theory of the party was likewise imposed on the "International". After Lenin's death, Zinoviev, Stalin and so many others would have to develop it whilst insisting ever more strongly on "iron discipline" and "unity of thought and unity of action". The principle on which the Stalinist International rested was the same as that which formed the basis of the reformist socialist parties:(the party separate from the workers, bringing them consciousness of themselves). Whoever rejected the Lenin-Stalin theory fell into "the morass of opportunism, social-democracy and Menshevism".
"What Is To Be Done?"
For their part, the Trotskyists clung to Lenin's ideas and recited "What Is To Be Done?". Humanity's crisis, is nothing but the crisis of leadership, said Trotsky: so a leadership must be created at any cost. This is the ultimate idealism, the history of the world is explained as a crisis of consciousness.
In the end, Stalinism would only triumph in countries where the development of capitalism could not be assured by the bourgeoisie unless conditions were created for the working class to destroy it. In Eastern Europe, China and Cuba, a new leading group was formed, composed of the high ranks of a bureaucratised working class movement, along with former bourgeois specialists or technicians, sometimes army cadres or former students who rallied to the new social order as in China. In the final analysis, such a process was only possible because of the weakness of the working class movement. In China for example the revolution's driving social stratum was the peasantry: incapable of directing it themselves, they could only be directed by "the party". Before the seizure of power the group organised in "the party" directs the masses and the "liberated zones" if there are any. Afterwards it takes in hand the totality of the country's social life. Everywhere Lenin's ideas have been a powerful bureaucratic factor. For Lenin the function of directing the working class movement was a specific function taken care of by "leaders" organised separately from the movement and with that as their role. To the extent that it sanctioned the establishment of a corps separated from revolution, professionals leading the masses, Leninism served as an ideological justification for the formation of leaderships separated from the workers. At this stage Leninism, taken out of its original context, is no more than a technique for enclosing the masses and an ideology justifying bureaucracy and maintaining capitalism: its recuperation was a historical necessity for the development of those new social structures which themselves represent a historical necessity for the development of capital. As capitalism expands and dominates the entire planet, so the conditions which make revolution possible become ripe. Leninist ideology is beginning to have had its day.
Its impossible to examine the problem of the party without putting it in the context of the historical conditions in which the debate originated: in every case, though in different forms, the development of Leninist ideology was due to the impossibility of proletarian revolution. If history has sided with Kautskyism-Leninism, if its opponents have never been able either to organise themselves in a lasting way or even to put forward a coherent critique of it this is not by chance: the success of Kautskyism-Leninism is a product of our era and the first serious attacks -- practical attacks -- on it mark the end of an entire period of history. For this to happen it was necessary for the capitalist mode of production to fully develop over the whole world. The 1956 Hungarian revolution sounded the death knell of a whole period: of counter revolution, but also of revolutionary flowering. No-one knows when this period will be definitively obsolete but it is certain that the critique of the ideas of Kautsky and Lenin, products of that period, becomes possible and necessary from that time. That's why we recommend reading "The Three Sources of Marxism, the Historic Work of Marx" so that the dominant ideology of a whole era is more widely known and understood. Far from wanting to conceal the ideas which we condemn and oppose, we want to spread them widely so as to show both their necessity and their historical limits.
The conditions which allowed the development and success of organisations of a social democratic or Bolshevik kind are today obsolete. As for Leninist ideology, besides its use by bureaucrats in power, far from being of use to revolutionary groups who crave the union of socialism with the working class movement it can from now on only serve to temporarily cement the union of passably revolutionary workers with mediocre intellectuals.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

the limitations of marxism

This article is in this weeks scottish socialist voice, the paper of the scottish socialist party, a fuller explanaition of the quetions raised in the article is addressed in the 1970 article The Irrational in Politics By Maurice Brinton which can be found here
Rebel Ink - Kevin Williamson
“The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle.”With these words, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels began The Communist Manifesto, a book whose impact still resonates down the years. It was quite a statement to open any book with.Yet, a century and a half later, Marx’s explanation of society being divided into economic classes still holds it’s own.For example, in the richest country on the planet - the United States of America - there are 374 billionaires at one end of the scale, yet at the bottom of the heap there are 37 million Americans living below the poverty line (according to the latest Census Bureau). Every other country in the advanced industrialised world has similar glaring disparities between rich and poor.Marx’s analysis of history is useful as far as understanding the division of society into economic classes is concerned. But as a methodology this has crucial limitations.When we look back through history we find so much more than class struggle. Human creativity is the most obvious omission from Marx’s proclamation.Throughout history human beings have tried to express themselves through art, music, literature and many other creative endeavours. When we go into any museum, for instance, the progress of history is charted much more through creativity than through class struggle.It is true that some of this creativity depicts class struggle, or the struggle for survival, but much of it goes beyond that, into a realm which is more personal, contemplative and aesthetic.Such creativity seems less concerned with materialism and economics and more with the workings of the human mind.This aspect of the history of society was beyond Karl Marx’s comprehension. But it is no slight on Karl Marx to recognise that his theories on society could go no deeper than economistic determination would allow. During Marx’s lifetime a serious study of human psychology had not even begun.We’re in a much better position today. Since Freud kick-started a revolution in the way human beings understand our own inner workings, we have added a powerful weapon to our understanding of human society.It was Wilhelm Reich, in the 1930s, who first understood the necessity to fuse Marxian economics with Freudian psychology in order to better understand why human beings act the way they do.Reich is little read among the modern left maybe because much of his later work is infused with an esotericism that makes little sense.Yet his visionary idea of merging economics with psychology in order to understand the workings of society was a revolutionary leap forward which should form the foundation of all liberationist thinking.Reich was able to ask, and answer, the fundamentally important question which Marx could never pose, and which many of Marx’s latter day disciples shy away from.Reich didn’t start from a position of explaining why human beings rebelled against injustices, oppression and exploitation. Instead he asked the most important question of his time, a question which still haunts the left today.Reich asked why the majority of human beings, including the majority of working class people, do not rebel against injustice, oppression and exploitation. In other words, he tried to analyse where the psychological roots of the conservatism and passivity of the oppressed came from.Reich had hit the nail on the head. Economics alone cannot explain why millions of working class people took part in two world wars, slaughtering each other in the interests of competing ruling classes. For it was not in the workers’ economic interests to do so.Nor can economics alone explain why working class people keep voting for political parties like the Labour Party and even the Tory Party, when it is clearly not in their economic interests to do so.When political questions are posed in this way it is clear that economic determinism - the central tenet of Marxism - has crucial limitations that the left will have to move on from if it is ever going to be a serious threat to the ruling class.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Statement of the red party group

Our concept of the workers party when we formed the red party was a mass workers party able to contain a multiplicity of currents, trends, and factions, both marxist and other; a party united in aims and goals, but able to use the party's structure for testing and debating the relative merits and failings of each without the short tempered sectarian bitchiness thatcharacterises the traditional left: the inability to hold even the most arcane differences withoutsplintering and engaging in - the last surviving bloodsport - marxist diatribe. We now see that as, in retrospect, our first break with Leninism, although at the the time we did not realise it: we tried originally to square that vision with a form of democratic centralism, which wasfoolish. Our experience of democratic centralism, aspracticed by all existing left organisations, is notconducive to real internal democracy. It provides formembers of leninist organisations the illusion ofdemocracy whilst in reality maintaining the control ofthe central leadership - minority rights only existwhilst the minority remain so; as soon as the centrefeels threatened, the minority are disciplined orexpelled.Our view now of the party is similar to the way Marxused the term in the 19th century. For Marx theworkers party was the whole class in movement aware ofitself and of its interests. As revolutionaries, ascommunists, we are not a vanguard, not an elite, weare no different than our brothers and sisters intheir billions the world over. We see our role as twofold: firstly to provide a revolutionary socialistargument to the myriad of opposition movements thatexist (anti war, anti globalisation, anti poverty,anti privatisation, anti id cards etc. etc.) and willcontinue to be created in opposition to the demands ofa world capitalist system in crisis. To do this wemust develop a meaningful socialist argument free ofthe detritus of authoritarian socialism, a newhumanist socialism which the tens of thousandsmobilised by these movements can relate to.Secondly, our history and position mean that we areknown and to a certain extent can have a hearing inthe traditional left. We therefore wish to act as abridge between the old leninists (amongst whom we feelthere are many committed and genuine revolutionaries)and the new libertarian humanist communism which wefeel is the future.We remain committed to our original aim of uniting theleft (which we now see as far wider than just theleninist groups) and providing a forum for genuinelyopen, non-sectarian debate about the way forward forour movement

Thursday, October 27, 2005

public sector pensions

The whole public sector pensions issue is a very sore point for me.
Just to clarify, I am a retired member of Unison. I am very fortunate to be in receipt of a pension under the existing local government scheme. This has allowed me to live without anxiety, though certainly not in opulence.
However my sore point is that the people I formerly worked with, and others yet to begin public sector employment, are to be disadvantaged due to governmental interference and the connivance of union bureaucracy.
In addition I particularly hate the campaign to divide the country's workers into public and private sector, where the private sector is perceived to be worse off as result of the public sector pension scheme. During a television interview Digby-Jones, the pompous fat greedy capitalist bastard who represents other pompous fat greedy capitalist bastards, stated that it was unfair for private sector workers to be asked to work for longer than public sector workers prior to reaching pensionable age. Strangely I agree, but the solution does not have to be for public sector workers to work longer. The retirement age for private sector workers should be reduced. With an equitable shareout of the obscene profits made by him and his kind, there is more than enough wealth to fund this outcome and give workers their dues.
The current deal recently announced on public sector pensions does not apply to local government workers, only health workers, civil servants and education are affected. Unison and the fire-fighters are negotiating separately. I don't hold out much hope for a decent outcome if union leadership is left to its own devices during these negotiations. Prentis, the Unison leader, is a stereotypical middle class man in a suit union bureaucrat. He probably thinks more about the honours list than his members who pay his fat salary.
I took part in the February protests when the government originally announced their attack on pensions. In March my partner and I spent a few frantic days stuffing envelopes in the union office to finally beat a deadline to get information out to members for forthcoming action. Unfortunately Prentis fell for the government's pre-election prevent industrial action at any costs scam and it was all a waste of time.
All I can say is watch this space. The fight goes on, not from the upper echelons, but from the grassroots. Prentis will be creaming himself in glory if he gets the same deal as is on offer to the others, but it does not protect his members rights. Nor does it create a platform for private sector workers to enjoy the same pension rights as public sector employees have enjoyed in the past.
The pension age thing is also just the first foray.
The next line of attack has already been announced. It's the assessment of pension - final salary schemes will be targeted to be replaced by average earnings. This is crap, my initial pay in 1970 was £10 per week, and it took rampant inflation to bring my earnings up to £30 a week some years later. This would have a catastrophic effect on my pension if taken into account.
Next on the list is contribution percentage. Employee contributions will increase, whilst the employer's levy will reduce.
They will also attack enhanced pension rights for those whom they have incapacitated through their shite employment practices and conditions - those who retire through ill health.
The message from the government and their masters is clear, look after yourselves and don't affect profits. And yes profitability will be an issue as they continue to privatise public services. Or should I say subsidise private enterprise with public money. Remember, public money is derived from taxpayers, and that means the workers - the rich bastards have all the lawyers and accountants to make tax avoidance an artform.
(Please note these comments are made from a mainstream union perspective, not a revolutionary view on the future of society.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


written by dave e and originally published in rs5
Afghanistan, Democracy and Iraq (and others)

The New American Century is clearly underway. Afghanistan approved its new constitution in January 2004, and elected Hamid Karzai as president in the country’s first direct vote for the presidency. And now, Iraq, the next country on the USA's freedom and democracy list, has conducted its elections. And there's more to come, George promised it at his recent second crowning ceremony.
We all know that the situation is really far from rosy in Iraq. TV and newspaper headlines remind us daily of the death and mayhem, but mainstream press coverage has been very sparse on Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch's World Report 2005 paints a gloomy picture. It is a poor advert for Americanisation.
Afghanistan continues to suffer from serious instability. Armed groups, including remaining Taliban forces, control most of the country and routinely abuse human rights, particularly those of women and girls. Basic human rights conditions are poor throughout the country particularly outside of Kabul. There is widespread poverty, each Afghan spends only $165 per year on food and essential non-food items. Literacy rates are extremely low, especially for women, and there are extremely high levels of preventable morbidity and health problems.
Afghans, including women, participated in the election process, but its legitimacy suffered due to the absence of sufficient security and monitoring.
The drug economy is blossoming. Poppy production has reached record highs and Afghanistan was the largest producer of opium and heroin in 2004. Drug revenues amount to $2.5 billion, half of the Afghanistan Gross Domestic Product. The inflated profits provide warlords with an independent source of income which makes it extremely difficult to establish rule of law and increase reconstruction and development efforts.
U.S. forces continue to generate numerous human rights abuses against the civilian population, including arbitrary arrests, use of excessive force, and mistreatment of detainees, many of whom are held outside the protection of the Geneva Conventions. Ordinary civilians caught up in military operations and arrested are unable to challenge the legal basis for their detention or obtain hearings before an adjudicative body. They have no access to legal counsel. Release of detainees is wholly dependent on the whims of the U.S. military command. Generally, the United States does not comply with legal standards applicable to their operations in Afghanistan, including the Geneva Conventions and other applicable standards of international human rights law.
Political repression, human rights abuses, and criminal activity by warlords are amongst the chief concerns of most Afghans. Local military and police forces have been involved in arbitrary arrests, kidnapping, extortion, torture, and extrajudicial killings of criminal suspects. Outside Kabul, commanders and their troops have been implicated in widespread rape of women, girls, and boys, murder, illegal detention, forced displacement, human trafficking and forced marriage. In some remote areas, there are no real governmental structures or activity, only abuse and criminal enterprises by factions.
Many districts remain insecure because of violence. Ongoing factional rivalries impede aid delivery and development throughout the country. Nearly fifty aid workers and election officials were killed in 2004. Some districts are essentially war zones, where U.S. and Afghan government forces engage in military operations against Taliban and other insurgent groups. Hundreds of Afghan civilians were killed in 2004 during these operations, in some cases because of violations of the laws of war by insurgents or by coalition or Afghan forces.
Women and girls continue to suffer the worst effects of Afghanistan's insecurity. They suffer severe governmental and social discrimination, and are struggling to take part in the political life of their country. Those who organise politically or criticise local rulers face threats and violence. Soldiers and police routinely harass women and girls, even in Kabul city. Many women and girls continue to be afraid to leave their homes without the burqa. The majority of school-age girls in Afghanistan are still not enrolled in school.
The current elections in Iraq have been blighted by violence. But who should the Iraqis fear? The latest figures from the Iraqi Ministry of Health reveal that during the period 1 July 2004 to 1 January 2005, 3,274 Iraqi civilians were killed and 12,657 wounded in conflict-related violence. Of those deaths, 60%, 2,041 civilians, were killed by the coalition and Iraqi security forces. A further 8,542 were wounded by them. Insurgent attacks claimed 1,233 lives, and wounded 4,115 people, during the same period.
And so to the future. It is a daunting prospect for all the other 'outposts of tyranny' on George and Condi's list. Iran, Cuba, North Korea, to be saved from themselves and impaled on the blessings of American Imperial freedom.

anarchist workers have final sex romp

Anarchist workers have final sex romp
Alex Wilde
ABC Science Online
Thursday, 6 October 2005

Bee colonies can turn to anarchy when the queen dies and worker bees swap their normal habits for hedonism, researchers say.The absence of the queen's pheromones makes worker bees abandon their normal role of policing the colony's reproductive behaviour, making the colony more vulnerable to parasitic bees from other colonies.But at least the worker bees die happy in this lawless state, research in today's issue of the journal Nature suggests.Before their colony collapses, worker bees have lots of sex, in a last ditch attempt to raise a final generation of males, as well as the offspring of intruder bees.Associate Professor Benjamin Oldroyd, an Australian bee geneticist from the University of Sydney and Thai colleagues looked at what happened when a colony of Asian dwarf red honeybees (Apis florea) loses its queen.They found the proportion of non-native (or parasitic) workers in the colony more than doubled. Almost half of the parasitic bees had active ovaries, compared with around one in five of the native workers. "Worker policing is essential for maintaining reproductive harmony and, we now think, defending the colony against parasitic bees from other colonies. But to have some chance at immortality when the queen dies they are compelled to switch off their worker policing in order to lay their own eggs," says Oldroyd.Policing behaviour in bees, discovered in 1989, means if workers start to lay eggs their eggs are eaten.But workers without a queen face an evolutionary dead end unless they can raise a new queen from one of their sisters, or a last batch of males who leave to mate with other queens. "The results of this study revolutionises our ideas about social insect colonies. They can no longer be thought of as a Shakespearean paradigm of a queen and her workers toiling away in harmony," Oldroyd says."The colony is a very delicately balanced society that only works because of the worker policing behaviour. Once the policing behaviour is switched off it all goes awry." Researchers have not seen parasitism in colonies of western honeybees (A. mellifera), which live in closed-off nests.But they believe as A. florae nests are in trees, this makes them more exposed to parasite bees.

the miners strike: twenty years on

This was written by dave e originally for Red Star 6 which was never eventually published

Mr Scargill told a news conference: "We have decided to go back for a whole range of reasons. One of the reasons is that the trade union movement of Britain with a few notable exceptions has left this union isolated."
"Another reason is that we face not an employer but a government aided and abetted by the judiciary, the police and you people in the media and at the end of this time our people are suffering tremendous hardship."
The Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, said she was very relieved the strike was over, "I want a prosperous coal industry."
In their report entitled 'TWENTY YEARS ON: HAS THE ECONOMY OF THE COALFIELDS RECOVERED?' Beatty, Fothergill and Powell (Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University, March 2005) state;
'Since the end of the miners’ strike in March 1985, Britain’s coal industry has experienced an unprecedented loss of jobs. Total employment in the industry has fallen from over 220,000 to around 7,000. The number of miners has fallen from 170,000 to 4,000. Only 8 of the 170 pits at the time of the strike remain in operation.
About 60 per cent of the jobs lost from the coal industry since the early 1980s have now been replaced by new jobs for men in the same areas. That still leaves some 90,000 coal jobs still to be replaced. Taking a wider view of the employment problems of the coalfields – for instance to include unemployment inherited from before the pit closures – only around half of the overall job shortfall for men in the coalfields has so far been eliminated.
Claimant unemployment figures, which are currently relatively low in most former coalfields, give a wholly misleading view of the strength of the local labour market. Since the early 1980s, the rise in the number of ‘economically inactive’ men of working age in the coalfields has been twice as large as the fall in recorded unemployment. In the English and Welsh coalfields in mid-2004, no fewer than 336,000 adults of working age (201,000 men, 135,000 women) were out of work and claiming incapacity benefits, compared to just 67,000 (50,000 men and 17,000 women) claiming unemployment benefits. The evidence supports the view that in the coalfields, as in some other parts of older industrial Britain, there has been a huge diversion of people with health problems from unemployment to incapacity benefits. Estimates suggest that as many as 100,000 men in the coalfields are currently ‘hidden unemployed’ in this way.'
The Old Club, Stainforth, Report.
On 5th March, I went to a 'do' to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the end of the miners' strike. Locally this coincided with the closure of the Hatfield branch of the NUM after 87 years of struggle.
When the strike kicked off in 1984 I didn't fully realise the extent of what was happening. I thought it was a noble union defence of the mining industry and employment against governmental economic policies, but it was much more.
Betty Cook, of the Barnsley Women Against Pit Closures, summed it up when she said, 'They killed our pits, they killed our communities and attacked our way of life.'
It was an attempt at social genocide by an embittered vengeful right wing bitch.
Chris Skidmore, President of Yorkshire Area NUM, described the miners' response to this attack as - 'all for one, one for all, an attack on one is an attack on all.'
Dave Douglass
When Dave Douglass, Hatfield Main NUM Branch Secretary and author, stood up to speak, I thought he might give us a 'burial' speech, but I was wrong. It was a speech that embodied the pride of the mining communities, the lessons learnt, and some optimism for the future.
He pointed out that there are now more people working in the mining heritage industry than the pits in South Wales. If there is to be a future for the industry in the UK, government funding is essential, and it needs to be quick. Experienced miners are an ageing population. Once the mining village traditions are broken, who will want to work in the pits?
Thatcher had been determined to break the miners', and the NUM's, resolve because they posed a threat to the system. They were able to effectively intervene in society. The end of the strike, however, wasn't the end for UK coal mining. Even in 1988, coal still provided 90% of the UK's energy needs. It was the second tranche of closures, under Major, that broke the mining communities. (John Major had promised to turn Britain into a classless society. What he really meant was the destruction of the working class as a unified entity.) It left a legacy of unemployment, poverty, deprivation, drug addiction, and anti-social living conditions. The communities now suffer from lost vision and lost heart, but the soul remains alive.
There is still much to commemorate. Next year sees the 80th anniversary of the 1926 strike, cavalry charges, burning barricades, brick throwing and hand to hand fighting.
Hatfield NUM branch learned many things from the strike, amongst them are -
1.Don't believe anything in the press, who are quick to condemn anyone who threatens the system.
2.Always make sure that the members, not the leaders run the union. (I think this applies more widely)
3.Working people must find their own solutions, they're not going to get help from anyone else.
A Brief Chat etc.
Prior to the whole event starting, I had a word with Dave Douglass to ask his opinion of left unity.
He said, 'The trouble is that everyone wants to be boss. You (i.e. the Red Party) have recently started a new party - you must think you've got something that no-one else has.' He then went on to say, 'I liked the idea of the Socialist Alliance, sorry it was stillborn.'
After hearing me mouth an unconvincing defence of the Red Party and the SA, Dave went off to carry on with his preparations, leaving me to further ponder his responses.
This pondering has continued for some days after. I checked out Class War (of which Dave Douglass is a member) on their website , their declaration seems to succinctly catch the spirit of the working class unity required to change the order of society.
Shouting at the Moon no longer seems enough. It also reminded me of correspondence I had last year on this issue.
I'd written to the AWL expressing my frustration at the pedantic posturing of the 'voices' of socialism. My bone of contention being that their insistence on universal ideological purity was self defeating to any chance of left unity.
To illustrate my point I wrote, 'NUM members in the 1984/5 strike were not ideologically pure, but clearly showed the power of working class unity. A little more unity from others, and who knows...?'
I got a response from Daniel Randall. He wrote, 'On the miners' strike, I think you're confusing unity of the labour movement with unity of left organisations. We're Marxists - we have a certain way of analysing the world and a certain set of political ideas based on our Marxism. We must also win workers to this perspective - arguing against the politics of the bourgeoisie but also against the mistaken politics of some left groups where necessary.'
At the time I declined to reply. I thought it to be an answer based merely on theory with little reference to practice.
However, I've now framed this reply.
Marxist theory is just that, a 'theoretical' attempt to resolve working class subservience and subjugation. You can have as many united socialist groups as you like, but if you haven't got the working class it's pointless. Marxism is purposeless without the working class. The whole point is that this is a class issue, a class struggle, a class war - the class is the working class, and that class is the labour movement.
To quote from Class War Federation;
'We must unite on the common basis of what we have in common - our Working Class background and needs.
Above all the CWF believes that politics cannot be separated from life - and life from politics. We reject the missionary/righteous so-called "revolutionary" Left. Our politics must be fulfilling and relevant to our everyday lives.
Working Class people must take responsibility for their progressive revolutionary politics - fly by night middle class radicals have been the bane of our movement for as long as the Working Class has existed.'
I think these points demand due consideration if we are to further the socialist cause.