Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Archive for the ‘Marxism’ Category

Fourth International and Fifth International Merger: 4 1/2 International?

with 10 comments

http://www.thegreenhead.com/imgs/hanging-swamp-man-1.jpg

 

It’s a Swampy Thing: the Weekly Worker wouldn’t understand.

In the interest of international left unity we publish this news.

The first discussion bulletin Inside Left Unity  is now available (via the Weekly Worker site).

The International Socialist Network, the Anticapitalist Initiative, RS21, Workers Power (Fifth International) and Socialist Resistance (4th International) are discussing merging, and will hold a Conference on this in the near future.

The comrades from the Weekly Worker publish the first discussion bulletin involving these organisations.

We note with sorrow that the CPGB has been excluded from these discussions, despite several direct approaches to two of the participating organisations, the International Socialist Network and RS 21, for exploratory talks (see here and a comment on RS21 in this article for the apolitical rebuffs we received).

The CPGB (Provisional CC) has been “feebly bad-mouthed by most participants. ” Any suggestion that the CPGB might be included in the unity discussions would prompt an instant and a non-negotiable veto from Socialist Resistance. (SR has also been distinctly sniffy about the participation of Workers Power, of course).”

What the Weekly Worker justly calls the “Gang of Five” is, they report, on the way to creating a “sect”.

They they saintly remark that  their ‘hearts will mend”  but that, “Sadly the comrades seem on an inevitable descent into the swamp of liquidationism, and not upwards to principled Marxist unity.”

The CPGB (provisional CC) has ” written to the organisers of the April 26 ‘unity’ conference requesting observer status and – whatever the outcome of that – we will keep up our campaign that seems to cause these political trends such pain: For Marxists to unite and fight for Marxism.”

In the discussion document Socialist Resistance makes a contribution on the People’s Assembly which is worth reading,

Why PA is important for revolutionaries and Left Unity.

The PA is mobilising a similar target audience that Left Unity is building from. Activists involved in the People’s Assembly are nearly all both against government austerity and New Labour’s austeritylite ‘alternative’.  We have to be working alongside these activists not preaching from the sidelines that Unite has ‘sold out’ on Grangemouth or not yet organised a general strike or that the People’s Charter is not a revolutionary programme. We need to be there when these activists ask themselves whether consistent anti-austerity activity can co-exist with a belief that Labour can be reclaimed from the left.It was noticeable that there is a very limited number of Labour MPs or councillors signed up to the People’s Assembly and  even  fewer Labour Party branches affiliated.

We need to also collaborate with Counterfire – they may be part of a future left recomposition. Sooner or later they have to ask themselves whether the only perspective is building such united fronts and recruiting to Counterfire, turning it into a better SWP, or whether energies also need to be put into developing a broad political alternative to Labour like Left Unity. Both the CPB and Counterfire counterpose the PA to projects like Left Unity – misunderstanding the difference between a political party and a united front campaign. The CPB even talks of the PA as the most important political movement around. The PA will be around after the next elections, the debate on the left may have significantly changed. We need to be in the same room as the activists who identify it as a political movement.

It will indeed be interesting to see how Counterfire develops.

On Europe though Socialist Resistance are far from clear, or illuminating,

One area where differences were apparent was on Europe. Socialist Resistance has a long-standing opposition to European integration EU style which we believe is an important mechanism through which the European bourgeoisie attacks the gains of the working class.

That doesn’t mean that we do not prioritise building solidarity on a continental wide basis or that we would support an organisation such as No to EU – which as we have argued consistently ends up capitulating to racism by defending a British jobs for British workers line.

We don’t think in the current political situation that we should campaign for British withdrawal from the EU as a priority but we don’t agree with Simon Hardy when he argued that we should support European integration or with the Lambeth resolution when it argues that we should no more take a position on capitalist European integration than we would on the mergers of companies (actually in some situations we think it’s appropriate to take a position on the latter – it’s a question of concretely analysing a specific situation and assessing what is more or less likely to strengthen workplace and company-wide workers organisation).

So if it is not a “priority” they do they still agree to withdrawing from the EU?

We should be told.

On Ukraine there are the divisions that one imagine, SR backing the Maidan protesters, Workers Power rejecting them, and the ISN taking a balanced, “don’t take sides” position.

The bulletin is well worth reading.

Though you need a stern will to get through to the end of Workers Power’s wordy contributions, which can be summed up, everyone else is wrong but us – the pure vein of working class “rank and file” revolution.

There is one major gap.

One would have preferred some deeper analysis not of “broad” left-wing parties but of the specifics of European politics. Above all, what do Socialist Resistance think of the French Front de Gauche, whose own unitary formation  split their French counterpart organisation, the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA).

The failure of the NPA to capture the ground to the left of the French Parti Socialiste (at present in government) is perhaps one of the most important issues any attempt at left ‘regroupment’ should discuss.

It is noteworthy that Socialist Resistance fails to address the existence of the Front de Gauche nor do the contribution in the texts assembled in their key statements,  Building New Parties of the Left even seriously broach  the thorny topic.

Instead we get this, on the British left Unity  (Terry Conway)

…our view is that we need to maintain the ability of this new political party to attract those just breaking with social democracy as well as those new to political activity and more seasoned activists joining a political party for the first time from the unions and single issue campaigns.

In practice we think that with the best of these militants these difficulties will be broken down in so far as Left Unity begins to build itself in a consistent way in the localities, campaigning on the key issues that are mobilising people. As people build up a loyalty and sense of identification with Left Unity as an organisation through collective activity, these more ideological debates will become less dominant.

So, their strategy is build a broad party until the time is ripe for some ‘Ideological debate’ – sectarian in-fighting.

To return to the title of this post: if SR and Workers Power are in the same organisation will this mean that the Fourth and the Fifth Internationals will merge?

In the Four and a Half International?

Belgium (Wallonie), Far-Left Party at 8,1% of Vote in Opinion Polls.

with 3 comments

Regional Elections take place in Belgium on May the 25th.

La Libre Belgique reports that the new far-left alliance PTB-Go  is at 8,1 (+0,5) of the vote in the French-speaking region of Wallionie according to the latest opinion poll.

The Socialists stand at nearly 30%, which is stable, while the Ecologists (Ecolo) are at 11%. The centre-right, MR is at 22,6% while the centrist CdH is only just above the PTB-Go at 9,4%

In Brussels the PTB-Go- PVDA  (its Dutch name, Partij van de Arbeid van België,)  is at 7,2% just behind the Ecologists  - 8, 0%.

In Flanders the hard-right N-VA (independentists) of Bart de Wever are far in front with 32,9% of voting intentions. The  Socialist Party (Socialistische Partij anders), the equivalent of the Labour Party, only gets 13,6%. The Flemish equivalent of PTB-Go, the PVDA +   is at a high 4,1%.

As the PTB-GO  site says, this is good news for the new alliance, though, it is, they underline, an opinion poll, which may, as in the past, over-estimate their real vote.

The Workers’ Party of Belgium (Dutch Partij van de Arbeid van België, PVDA, French Parti du Travail de Belgique, PTB) has over 8,000 members  (background here (English).

The party, from a Marxist-Leninist origin, is now aligned with the Trotskyist Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR),  Socialistische Arbeiderspartij and the Belgium Communist Party (PC), to form PTB-go! (go – gauche d’ouverture).

It was initially formed in 2012 from an appeal by trade unionists and other activists. Its influence, as can be seen, has grown.

In Brussels smaller parties (including, according to La Libre Belgique,  apparently the Pirate Party) are aligned with this list.

More information on PTB-Go site here.

In the Era of Wars and Revolutions. American socialist cartoons of the mid-twentieth century.

with one comment

 

http://lawcha.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/02-April-1945-Labor-Action-Carlo.jpg

 In the era of Wars and Revolutions. American Socialist Cartoons of the mid-twentieth century. Edited by Sean Matgamma. 

“Although in some places, notably in the Untied States, Trotskyism is able to attract a fairly large number of adherents, and develop into an organised movement with a petty Fuehrer of its own, its inspiration is essentially negative. The Trotskyist is against Stalin just as the Communist is for him, and, like the majority of Communists, he wants not so much to alter the external world as to feel that the battle for prestige is gaining in his own favour.”

George Orwell. Notes on Nationalism. 1945. ( Orwell and Politics. Page 355. Penguin 2001.)

In the Era of War and Revolutions publishes American left-wing cartoons for the most part long unavailable (even on the Web). They are largely from the papers of what became the Trotskyist American Socialist Workers’ Party, and their publications, such as Labor Action, the Militant, Socialist Appeal and New Militant, although there are some from the Communist Party (US), Daily Worker.

It is immediately striking that capitalists wear top-hats, and are corpulent. while workers are muscle-bound titans. No punches are pulled. Stalinism is a horror, American capitalism is embodied in Jim Crow and Lynching, As Sean Matgamma says in the Introduction, this is “clear and stark class-struggle politics, counterposed to both capitalism and Stalinism.”.

Orwell was simply wrong to say that Trotskyists were single-minded opponents of Stalin and Orthodox Communism. There  is an equal focus on capitalism, the 1930s struggles of the US labour movement, Fascism, and, as World War 2 approached, and was fought, imperialism.

It would have been useful to have outlined the political evolution of the SWP (US) and the publications in which the cartoons appeared.

Its opposition to American participation in the World War – the subject, or sub-text,  of many of the designs -  takes some explaining.

The SWP’s own supporters claim that (2008),

The Socialist Workers Party…… maintained the Marxist view that in the modern epoch there is no progressive wing of the capitalist class. The major industrialized capitalist rivals, dominated by finance capital—what Marxists term imperialism—are constantly driven to wars of conquest in which they try to redivide the world’s territories. The working-class vanguard, the party held, needs to explain the imperialist character of the war and why workers and farmers must oppose it, fighting instead for their own class interests worldwide.

Vanguard workers in the United States came under increasing attack as Washington sought to drum up a patriotic campaign in support of its war drive. The Smith “Gag” Act was passed in 1940, prohibiting the advocacy of “overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States.” Under this thought-control law, 18 leaders of the Socialist Workers Party and Teamsters Local 544 in Minneapolis were railroaded to prison for their class-struggle course in the labor movement, including opposition to the imperialist war. They spent between 12 and 16 months behind bars.

Not everybody, one suspects, will have much sympathy with that stand. Apart from the wider problems it raises it stood uncomfortably close to the US ‘isolationists’ of the period.

Yet Stalinism, for all Orwell’s cavils, is something that was rightly a major issue for the American Trotskyists. In the Era reminds us that there were people on the left prepared to speak their opposition, and dramatically illustrate it in their publications. That some of the SWP became so obsessed with the Soviet Union that they became what would be later be called ‘neoconservatives’ perhaps shows the difficulty of maintaining a Thrid Camp position.

The SWP itself still exists, a small group of property developers who continue to publish Trotksy and use their other resources to back Cuba.

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty are to be congratulated for publishing this material. It deserves a place on every socialists’ bookshelf. For this Blogger, who has only a passing familarity with the American left, it is a useful reminder of its rich past.

In an era of wars and revolutions, by Carlo and others, edited by Sean Matgamna. 312 pages, £8.99. To order by post, pay £8.99 plus £1.60 postage here.

More information from the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

********************

Note on some of the cartoonists -  Laura Gray (Slobe),

 From Labor Action.

Labor Action regularly published cartoons and caricatures penned by Jesse Cohen, who worked under the name Carlo, while the Militant ran graphics by Laura Slobe, whose party name was Laura Gray. Despite the new wave of public and scholarly interest in the history of comics and cartoons, neither Carlo nor Laura Gray has attracted much attention from historians of the graphic arts. Readers of this magazine might recognize Carlo’s work from the short profile we published in issue 37 (Summer 2004); now it’s Laura Gray’s turn.

Like Jesse Cohen, Laura Slobe attended high school in the 1920s, came of political age during the 1930s, and remained active on the far left after World War II. She was born in Pittsburgh, but grew up in Chicago, where she studied at the Art Institute of Chicago before working for the Works Progress Administration Art Project. As a young, avant-garde artist she concentrated her efforts on painting and sculpture, which remained her lifelong passions. She joined the SWP in 1942, and her first cartoon appeared in the Militant two years later. The labor journalist Art Preis later remembered that, “From the first, her work added such a fresh, bright, satirical note to the paper that it was enthusiastically hailed by our readers everywhere.” According to another SWP writer, “The cartoon’s subject matter was on the agenda of the Militant’s staff meetings. After the staff discussed and decided what the topic would be, Gray would go home and start to draw.” In addition to serving on the staff of the Militant, Gray “worked at a series of jobs to support herself, including painting store mannequins and creating window displays for some of New York’s big department stores.” She remained the SWP’s in-house artist from 1944 until her death in 1958. Tragically, she had contracted tuberculosis in her early twenties, and had a lung removed in 1947. She died after a brief bout with pneumonia.

Stalin 5

Written by Andrew Coates

April 9, 2014 at 11:35 am

Left Unity “moderate” “mishmash” or step forward?

with 5 comments

Weekly Worker says, economic policy  is ” mishmash“.

Left Unity is encouraged, rightly in the Tendance’s view by having achieved some national resonance.   1,520 signed-up members – and 200 in the immediate run up to their Manchester Conference.

But steel-hardened cadres beware!

Peter Manson reports in the Weekly Worker.

The economics policy commission, which made up the first real business of the day, remains a mishmash of lofty aspirations and minimalist reforms. It starts by describing the effects of the global financial crisis, yet does not go on to call for the party to be committed to a campaign for an alternative society. It states: “Radical measures are necessary to ensure a transformation in the economic structure and a reversal of the damage inflicted over the last 30 years of attacks …” It calls for “an expansion of public spending in pursuit of a policy of full employment”.

…incredibly, no debate was allowed on this monstrosity of a document.

We can only be dismayed.

Except that to most people it seems a pretty good approach to take, a radical programme of structural reforms, and a positive attempt to offer an alternative to the Privatising State and Austerity.

In general Left Unity has some pretty good policies. It refused to follow the  Gadarene herd into the sea of Scottish nationalism and an independent capitalist Alba. It rejected calls for  ‘unity’ with groups like the SWP (which some of Left Unity’s main members recently split from acrimoniously) and the No2EU supporting Socialist Party.

It would have been interesting to see  some balance-sheet of the experience of other left party initiatives, particularly a self-criticism from those who were until not so long ago part of the cabal around George Galloway’s Respect Party.

None has appeared.

Even Cde. Mason admits its policy on Europe is an excellent start,

Crouch End’s motion called for support for the statement of the European Left Party and its “refoundation of Europe on a socialist basis”. This was carried unanimously. Of course, there are big differences on what exactly is meant by that, and those around Andrew Burgin, Kate Hudson and so on who support it have very different ideas in practice on what is meant by “socialist”. But this convergence around the notion of all-Europe unity – as opposed to left nationalism – was striking.

This is a major advance for the British left.

The comrade writing in the organ of the Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB accurately  observes (following no doubt the judgement of Tendance Coatesy) that the motion on racism was a load of, how shall we put this politely, cack.

Cde Mason remarks,

“It was fitting that this intersectionalist motion was moved by Richard Seymour. He was urged by comrade Macnair to accept that the motion was “framed in the wrong way” and should be referred back.”

Comrade Macnair pointed out that its sectionalist/intersectionalist basis was “inconsistent with global opposition to capitalist rule”. Blacks (or women) per se cannot lead such opposition. Secondly, it saw no difference between the racism of old and today’s “nativism”. It accepted the whole multiculturalist agenda, which was driven by the bourgeoisie and sought to divide opposition from ethnic groups by upholding their separation from each other and promoting ‘community leaders’ who claimed to speak for them and helped sideline any united class response to cuts, etc.

Quite right comrade! (we are not being facetious  here)

In his reply, comrade Seymour dismissed the concern about intersectionality. The various oppressed groups “intersect”. So “what’s the problem?” As for the divisive nature of multiculturalism, that seemed to pass him by. Showing just how all-pervasive are the backward ideas associated with multiculturalist intersectionality, the CP was virtually alone in calling for a referral-back: the motion was carried overwhelmingly.

To repeat.

The motion passed.

This alone shows something is going wrong.

Whether Left Unity will amount to a successful intervention in national politics remains very much an open question.

One larded with doubts.

We consider that initiatives like the People’s Assembly have deeper roots and can achieve more results – fighting austerity uniting trade unionists , social movements and individuals – than a new party.

But we shall leave to conclusion to Cde. Mason.

The whole day was very tiring, but it was nowhere near as frustrating as the founding conference. But, despite some success for the “extreme left”, March 29 marked another step on the road towards Left Unity becoming a broad, “moderate” party incapable of organising consistent working class opposition to capital. However, there is a lot to play for yet.

A rather different report on the Conference in Links International.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 5, 2014 at 11:42 am

Alain Badiou Renounces his Maoist Past.

leave a comment »

Alain Badiou: I was wrong, innit?

“The Greatest Philosopher since Plato and St Ignatius of Loyola”, as Terry Eagleton calls him, Alain Badiou, a dapper gent, wears his 132 years well.

The Tendance interviewed  him in Les Deux Magots.

“Cher Maître, is it ‘true’ that your latest book includes a 300 page self-criticism of your Maoist years and your support for the Khmer Rouge?”

“Indeed! Let me sum up my truth procedure: Regretter et se repentir, on peut toujours le faire. C’est très facile! One can always regret and repent, it’s always easy! As Spinoza said, it’s always a bit too easy. “

The great man paused, slipping into the fluent English he learnt as a Dalston pot-boy.

“I was wrong, innit?”

Dipping a chip into a bowl of mayonnaise he continued,

“When Mao launched the Great Cultural Revolution, it was a Communist Invariant. But now only 40 years later we have to admit that there were some errors. Humiliating professors, for example and not performing any of my operas. I remain, however  fidèle to the Event. There have been dramas and heart-wrenching and doubts, but I have never again abandoned a love.”

“And Pot Pot”

“He was a bit of a lad, hein?”

“But times move on. L’Organisation Politique is set in new directions. After taking absolution I plan to retire to a Trappist Monastery in Belgium to brew an excellent beer. Here try some”.

 

………………….

Diagram of Badiou Truth Procedure. 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 1, 2014 at 10:58 am