Archive for the ‘Marxism’ Category
Fraternity: LO Style.
After high jinks with Jimas we return to the calmer waters of the left.
Well, kind of calm.
Last weekend was Lutte Ouvrière’s annual Fête.
The comrades from the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty were mainly impressed by the continuous rain.
This is some of the French press reaction.
It will come as no surprise that Lutte ouvrière does not like the French Socialist-led government.
Life under François Hollande? “It’s worse” than under Nicolas Sarkozy. That was the message delivered on Sunday May 19 at the annual celebration of Lutte ouvrière in Presles (Val-d’Oise), through its spokesperson Nathalie Arthaud*. A year after the Presidential election, when she received 0.56% of the vote, the former candidate strongly attacked the Head of State. She called him the “armed wing of the bourgeoisie.” Here.
The rest of the Le Monde article is only available for 2 Euros, but as I have a print copy I can say that Arthuad went on in this vein to run down the entire French left.
Libération reports that,
Mélenchon, under the guise of “radical appearance,” is “politically hollow” and “opposed to the interests of workers.” Mocking his willingness to take the Bastille while aspiring to be the Prime Minister, she proclaimed her ” pride of not only taking part in the demonstration on May 5,” the call for the 6th Republic initiated by the leader of the Left Front.
Libé goes onto cite something rude she said about the Parti Communiste.
But what struck me in the original article was the glacial remarks Arthaud made about the Nouveau party anti-capitaliste (NPA).
They were severely at fault for participating in the 5th of May demonstration and for dropping the word ‘communist’ from their name (as in Ligue communiste révolutionnaire).
The Le Monde article helpfully noted that the LO leader is a municipal councillor, elected as part of a Parti communiste français list.
This is indeed the case, “Conseillère municipale à Vaulx-en-Velin (Rhône) élue sur la liste conduite par le Parti communiste. “
We imagine the PCF are well-pleased with her remarks.
* Candidate for the 2012 Presidential election: 0,56 % of the vote (202 548)
More images, bound to upset somebody, here.
Die Partei, die Partei, die hat immer Recht!
Und, Genossen, es bleibe dabei;
Denn wer kämpft für das Recht,
Der hat immer recht.
Gegen Lüge und Ausbeuterei.
Wer das Leben beleidigt,
Ist dumm oder schlecht.
Wer die Menschheit verteidigt,
Hat immer recht.
So, aus Leninschem Geist,
Wächst, von Stalin geschweißt,
Die Partei – die Partei – die Partei.
Oh The Party, The Party is always right
And comrade, may it ever be so;
For who fights for the right
He is always right
Against lies and exploitation
[women] Whoever insults life
is stupid or bad
Whoever defends humanity
Is always right
Grown from the spirit of Lenin
Welded by Stalin
The party – the party – the party.
Das Lied der Partei.
Iron Curtain. The Crushing of Eastern Europe. 1944 – 1956. Anne Applebaum. Allen Lane 2012.
A Note on Totalitarianism.
Iron Curtain is an important and deeply researched study of Eastern European Communist states. It begins with their blood-stained birth, illustrates their brightest hopes, and deepest fears, it travels from the sweated labour that built Socialist Cities, to the spying and the stridency of everyday life. Anne Applebaum’s book is equally an investigation into regimes that aspired to “total control” and how they used their power to achieve this.
Anne Applebaum is, as Duncan Bowie observes (Chartist March/April 2013) highly “partisan”. She is married to the centre-right Polish foreign Minister, Radek Sikorski. She is, nobody will be surprised to hear, far from neutral about assessing the damage done in the name of Communism.
It would be derisory, and irrelevant, to make her parti pris stand against the mass of historical detail, mastery of several of the countries’ languages, and weighed judgements that Iron Curtain offers.
Why? The answer comes in the opening pages. The first chapters of Iron Curtain Applebaum overwhelm the reader with the terror brought in the wake of the Second World War. Axis atrocities are laid out in full and the Shoah is never far away from the narrative. Readers of Timothy Synders’ Bloodlands will be acquainted with the terrible reality of destruction on the Eastern Frontiers. But it is other events that stay in the mind the undoubted heroism of the Red Army in fighting its way to Berlin and defeating Nazism, was accompanied by its own brutality against civilians and, in particular, mass rape. The Red Army re-opened camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald almost as soon as they closed them, to house their own undesirables.
The cruelty, oppression, and ethnic cleansing (notably of those of German origin, or even, in Hungary’s case, of those with Teutonic names of other ethnicities) that followed in the first years after the war, principally, East Germany, Poland and Hungary are memorably described. Whole populations of Poles, Rutheniums, Hungarians, were summarily ‘re-allocated’ to new territories.
During the late 1940s Communists consolidated their rule. At the pivot of the system – even before the countries were openly Communist-led – were the security services. Moscow trained local functionaries under the ultimate command of the Soviet NKVD quickly consolidated these. From the Interior Ministries they directed wholesale purges of real and suspected opponents. Executions, consigning people to local camps, even sending them to the Soviet Gulag, followed. The take-over of each state proceeded remorselessly, “first (by) the elimination of right-wing; or anti-communist parties, then the destruction of the non-communist left, then the elimination of opposition within the communist party itself.”(xxxiv)
Yet at the same time the Communist parties were led by true believers. Their Central Committees initially allowed (relatively) free elections because they thought they could win. They thought their doctrine was true. They “really did think that sooner of later the working-class majority would acquire class consciousness, understand its historical destiny and vote for a communist regime.”(P xxxiv)
Harsh policies were a reaction to defeat in elections, notably by the Small Holders’ Party in Hungary, and (if electoral fraud had not obscured this) by the Social Democrats and others in East Germany, ‘patriotic’ parties in Poland, and elsewhere Even in Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria, barely covered in Iron Curtain) where the local Communist parties did have deeper bases (something Applebaum plays down) they were unable to reach a majority on their own.
Iron Curtain’s principal thesis is that Communist rule under the period of High Stalinism (that is, from the late 1940s to 1956) saw an effort to eliminate any independent life for civil society. “The nascent totalitarian states could not tolerate any competition whatsoever for their citizens’ passion, talents and free time.”(Page 185) They took over youth groups, women’s leagues, churches, trade unions, independent educational movements, and, above all, the mass media, beginning with the Radio. In doing so, “They managed, undermined and sometimes eliminated churches, newspapers, literary and educational societies, companies and retail shops, stock markets, banks, sports clubs and universities.”(Page 496) Read the rest of this entry »
“Nous voulons la rupture avec le PS”
He charged the country’s Socialist Party of participating in “neo-liberal” governments.
La FGTB Charleroi organise samedi avec la CNE-Hainaut un meeting pour créer une “alternative de gauche à la crise capitaliste”. Des formations de la gauche radicale sont aussi invitées, mais il n’est pas question de créer un nouveau parti explique Daniel Piron, secrétaire régional de la FGTB Charleroi/Sud-Hainaut. “Il y a une volonté de travailler ensemble et d’élargir la réflexion aux autres instances syndicales de la FGTB et de la CSC“**.
The FGBT Charleroi is organising a meeting on Saturday with the CNE-Hinaut to “create a left-wing alternative to the capitalist crisis. Organisations of the radical left have been invited, though there is no question of forming a new party, explained Daniel Prion, the regional secretary of the FGBT Charlero/Sud-Hainaut. “There is a will to work together, to deeper our analysis, with other parts of the union structure inside the FGBT and the CSC”.
Daniel Piron added,
le PS et Ecolo “ne sont plus des partis qui relaient les revendications du monde du travail. Ces partis sont intégrés au système.
The Socialist Party and the Greens are “no longer parties which reflect the demands of working people. These parties are part-and-parcel of the system.
Background information on La Lettre aux syndicalistes Blog here.
The left groups invited include (see article here), Le parti de Gauche (aligned with its French counterpart of Jean-Luc Mélenchon) the Front des Gauches (alliance of 6 small groups, including Communist Party, and the LCR) , LCR (Fourth International), LRT (Committee for a Workers International CWI) , PTB (Parti du travail de Belgique – Partij van de Arbeid van België – Marxist-Leninist)
* 1,5 Million members. La Fédération générale du travail de Belgique (FGTB) (Algemeen Belgisch Vakverbond = ABVV.
** 1,7 million members La Confédération des syndicats chrétiens, ou CS
Excellent article on the International Socialist Network by Kieran Crowe,
I think we need to talk about how we are going to deal with the People’s Assembly.
The piece continues,
I have been trying to locate some good data on the effectiveness of anti-cuts campaigns, and must confess I’ve drawn a bit of a blank. There does not seem to be brilliant data out there to say where cuts have have been successfully blocked. Suffice to say, the movements have not been without successes – though they have not been across the board anywhere, it has been far from impossible to organise against cuts.
The role of the organised left in the anti-cuts movement has, to say the least, been inconsistent and marked at times with gross sectarianism. As mentioned before, the Labour left has taken some time to find any footing at all with opposition to austerity, due to the key role of New Labour and Labour councillors, but they seem to have regained the initiative to a large extent with opposition to the bedroom tax. The smaller centre-left parties have been similarly contradictory: Green and Nationalist councils have pushed cuts through, while their activists in other areas have criticised Labour for exactly the same.
The role of the far left has not been particularly more glorious. The 2008 crisis prompted by the collapse of American hedge funds led us to a big push on anticapitalist rhetoric, but most of the tactical and strategic initiatives we produced were objective failures. Numerous campaigns and front groups were founded, usually as more or less exclusive tools of the founding organisation and with grand goals that they were objectively unable to pull off. The activists (often full-timers) pushing them were highly enthusiastic though, and often so adamant that ‘their united front’ was the one that would deliver victory that they would happily engage in Popular Front of Judea arguments with their counterparts for other groups pushing very similar looking campaigns.
Need we rehearse the disputes around the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) and the so-called Unite the Resistance? Not to mention TUSC?
One development we are going to have to discuss is the People’s Assembly Against Austerity (PA). The PA is, in some ways, not really new as a concept – it is an outgrowth of the ‘Coalition of Resistance’ campaign that the was launched when several left groups were founding similar initiatives and that has received significant backing from the leaderships of several trade unions, notably the centre-left leadership of the mass Unite union under Len McCluskey.
The PA has, to say the very least, managed to stand out by being on a considerably larger scale than previous conferences. With a venue for over 2,000 booked, there is already the possibility of spill-over space being hired. This would make the PA four to five times larger than its nearest rival and probably one of the biggest activist conferences for a generation in Britain. The publicity it has generated has similarly been far greater than previous events: it has been plugged in the Guardian and denounced in the Spectator, which is a rare breakthrough into the mainstream, recalling a little the publicity that Stop the War got at its height.
My immediate reaction was to get on board.
There is, inevitably, a layer of the left that will attack the PA this way and make a point of principle out of it: witness the anarcho-miserablist Ian Bone of Class War, a man who famously advised people to stay away from anti-war demos in 2003, who has pledged to stand outside the PA venue, telling attendees how very wrong they are. If we take our activism seriously, we must find a mid-position between nodding along to McCluskey and abstaining on the sidelines with people like Bone who just think they’re smarter than everyone else.
Which will be fun, if nothing else.
My guess is the right approach to the PA would be to intervene through and as part of delegations to it from genuine campaigning groups. Most IS Network members ought to find this easy: we have, most of us, been part of anti-cuts groups at some stage, or can easily join one. Going into an anti-austerity body with the express purpose of getting it to participate in the PA would, in fact, be a useful thing to do and might help reinvigorate groups that have stalled.
This is in tune with what many of us feel.
Something I feel to be worth throwing into the debate is the role of trade union councils – in Barnet the trades council was central to the founding of the anti-cuts group and manages to remain in alliance with it even as it operates with its own autonomy. Anti-cuts groups elsewhere that have become moribund and trades councils that have been conservative for decades could potentially be revitalised in local areas if they get encouragement and support from similar groups that are doing better, giving us a far wider pool of activity to operate.
As a Trades Council activist I could not agree more.
There is also likely to be an interesting debate about regional People’s Assemblies later in the year – which have the potential to be very large and attract further layers of activists. Regional PAs would be quite different from a national one – indeed if you want a version of the event that is less ‘top table’, this may be what you would end up producing. It is still not counterposed to the national event.
One thing I do not believe can be argued is that that the event can be simply abstained from, though if other people do have other ideas for fighting austerity, we should hear about those too.
This analysis is so spot on that I nothing more to add.
Obviously The International Socialist Network is going places.