Alex Callinicos Tells off Richard Seymour.
Gives Seymour a Ticking off.
In the latest International Socialism SWP theoretician Alex Callinicos assesses Grangemouth.
The dispute at the Grangemouth oil refining and chemicals complex in Scotland,was the union face up to one of the nastiest bosses in the UK,Jim Ratcliffe.
In a frank interview in Le Monde 16.12.13. (without parallel in the mainstream British Press), Ratcliffe poured scorn on trade unions, British workers, high European taxes, European social welfare charges, and the fact that people resisted his closure plans.
He remarked that in America or China nobody would even think of fighting the proposal to shut down a loss-making plant.
Defeating the company run by such an individual, backed by the Coalition, the enitre business world, and most of the media, would take more than Grangemouth
Callinicos imposes his Party’s way of looking at this industrial dispute.
I lost interest in this account when the learned Professor began talking about UNITE as a union “which centralised power in the hands of the general secretary.”
Not that I know of: UNITE is a “member led” union.
This was pure bravado,
But, as Jerry Hicks’s impressive performance in last year’s election for the Unite general secretaryship showed, a significant minority of activists are open to taking a more militant stance. Unite the Resistance has an important role to play in gathering these activists together and enabling them to fight more effectively, sometimes in alliance with left-wing officials, sometimes independently of them.
Hicks, as vain as the leader of his Party, Respect, is unable to gauge political reality.
He discredited himself during the Grangemouth dispute by slagging off UNITE to the Murdoch press.
Sources indicate Unite the Resistance seems to have died a death, and the SWP is presently engaged in its latest frantic front, Stand up to UKIP.
Still there are some gems in this article – about comrade Richard Seymour.
Richard Seymour, who, since breaking with the SWP last spring, has been working overtime to widen the gap separating him from revolutionary politics.
Seymour is apparently guilty of seeing UNITE’s side of the story.
Indeed he is culpable of worse,
Seymour’s apologia for McCluskey implies a fatalistic approach to history. For all his extravagances and ambiguities, Slavoj Zizek is much closer to a genuine revolutionary Marxist approach when he says that “authentic politics” is “the art of the impossible-it changes the very parameters of what is considered ‘possible’ in the existing constellation.
Now Callinicos then mounts a defence of “impossibilism”,. That is a matter of testing the limits of the possible.
Or, we would suggest, making impossible demands in the hope that your small Party will snaffle up recruits from those who fall for them.
Callincios – probably rightly – notes of the group Seymour is now part of, Left Unity, will “struggle” to get a hearing.
But one wonder who will hear this?
It is in any case important that the SWP will survive this crisis. The Gadarene rush by much of the radical left to find excuses for McCluskey underlines the necessity of sustaining an organisation that simultaneously works in a non-sectarian way with other forces on the left and bases itself on clear revolutionary Marxist principles. Indeed there is a strong sense in which Grangemouth settles the debate between Rooksby and Blackledge over whether there is a practical difference between left reformism and revolutionary social.
Even fewer is our guess.
Though this “non-sectarian” article in the same journal (Once more on left reformism)which attacks everybody on the left, from The People’s Assembly, Counterfire, the International Socialist Group and the International Socialist Network, Left Unity, Syriza, Die Linke, the Front de Gauche, Richard Seymour (” innocent of any sense either of how social movements are terrains of struggle”), and, j’en passe, does indeed claim that, “To work with people to our right is an elementary and fundamental aspect of revolutionary politics…”
Now, the ‘Seymour’ who appears in the pages of the ISJ may occasionally say fragments of things that I have said, but otherwise any resemblance to a real person is almost entirely coincidental. That ‘Seymour’, it has been suggested to me, is a manifestation of the unconscious. Against this, corrections and clarifications are futile. Still, just this once, for demonstrative purposes, I will state a bit of the obvious.
You know, it really doesn’t take a professor of politics at Kings to remind me that the class struggle is a war. Nor even that Thatcher instituted neoliberalism through brutal class and social warfare. One is not – how do you mammals say? – ‘thick’. I even wrote something about this for a small quarterly journal once.
But Callinicos’s last sentence is puzzling, in that it suggests he isn’t at all puzzled by my last sentence. He gets exactly what I’m talking about. Outbursts of struggle are not in themselves sufficient to shift the balance of forces in favour of the working class or the left; you have to work on building up the infrastructure, the material conditions in which outbursts of struggle will have more chance of success. This is actually made clear in the cited article from The Exchange, in the paragraphs immediately following those quoted, in which I say, among other things: “We need to begin a process of reconstructing class capacities, articulated with an equivalent process of rebuilding the left’s political capacities.”
Not that opaque, surely? And is the point in any way rebutted or qualified by stating (whether accurately or not) that the relative importance and effect of these conditions can “only be tested in struggle”?
If not, then the reason for the feint, and the non-sequitur, ought surely to be obvious.
If anybody can make much sense of the last sentence (or indeed most of this) please contact a very large dictionary. We assume it was quickly translated from the original Etruscan.