Archive for the ‘Marxism’ Category
….rigorous and effective political discussion is not some self-indulgent distraction from the ‘real work’ – be that getting a Labour government or nudging up attendance figures at some demonstration. The great promise of Momentum is that it provides an opportunity to fight for political clarity among greater numbers of people….
Labour Party Marxists: Momentum: Fight for political clarity
Before beginning this post on Saturday’s Momentum Steering Committee meeting, we note that there is no mention on the Momentum aligned The World Transformed plan to hold events on the theme of “our Brexit” and “a Great Britain that takes power back from the economic elites Trump and Farage belong to.”
This has lost Momentum a lot of good will.
In the light of the Richmond Park by-election result, we await clarification of this idea, “Targeting marginal constituencies and areas with high Ukip support with a string of local events discussing Brexit to “Take Back Control”. How this will tie in with the decision to ” to fight for migrants’ rights and to defend and extend free movement, and fight for Labour to do the same.” when the events are intended to involve not just opponents but “supporters of Brexit” (“bring together leave and remain voters“) remains to be seen.
But Momentum had other business to discuss than the details of most important issue in British politics today.
Ed Whitby, Northern (North East and Cumbria) regional delegate
Today’s Momentum National Committee (3 December, Birmingham) was long overdue – no meeting for seven months, due to repeated cancellations of the NC by the Steering Committee – so the agenda was absurdly full with proposals about how to run the forthcoming conference, how delegates should be elected, how motions will be decided, etc, as well as motions on other issues.
The left, more radical, pro-democracy wing of the NC won on some democracy issues including the structure and powers of the upcoming national conference, passing policy for a conference of delegates from local groups that can meaningful decide Momentum’s policy and plans; as well as on some other issues (eg defending freedom of movement and migrants’ rights, and fighting expulsions and suspensions). But the more conservative wing managed, by one vote, to block holding a new election for the Steering Committee, even though it was elected seven months ago, before many events, debates and controversies.
The key votes:
• The NC voted for a sovereign national policy-making conference, representing members via local groups with most of the time committed to motions and debate, as well as political education.
• That this conference should make policy and establish a constitution.
• We voted down the proposal from the SC majority that we could only discuss three key areas.
• We voted that the conference would be on 18 February, 25 February or 4 March (25 February clashes with Scottish Labour conference).
• We voted for a composite from the Northern, London and Midlands regions advocating motions can be submitted one each from local groups, liberation groups, students and youth, affiliated unions, the NC and regional networks; three weeks before conference; with compositing, an e-forum to discuss motions and an online priorities ballot.
• Two delegates for every 100 members or part thereof (at least gender balanced and groups sending more than four must send at least one young person).
• Those not covered by a group can send at same rate elected by ballot.
• If not covered by a group 30 people can submit a motion.
• Liberation groups and students and youth can send delegates, to be agreed by NC in consultation with these groups subject to verification of structures and elections.
• We elected a Conference Arrangements Committee of seven people: Alec Price, Huda Elmi, Josie Runswick, Delia Mattis, Lotte Boumelha, Jackie Walker, James Elliott.
• We voted against complicated formulas for voting and instead for simple delegate voting at conference.
• We voted that group delegates should be elected at face-to-face local Momentum group meetings.
This seems like major victories for democracy. The risk is that the incumbent Steering Committee will try to void or get round these decisions. We must urge them not to do so.
….many good proposals were won, but the failure to re-elect the Steering Committee, and the fact that the NC was stuffed with delegates elected on a dubious basis or not really elected, leaves many issues of democracy unresolved. On the other hand, given that, the victories the left won were even more impressive. However, there is a real risk the democratic gains achieved today will be overturned. The membership must fight to stop this happening.
• For Momentum Youth and Students’ proposal to fight for migrants’ rights and to defend and extend free movement, and fight for Labour to do the same. This could be very significant indeed.
• A national housebuilding programme.
• The North West region motion for action against suspensions and expulsions from Labour and in defence of Wallasey, Liverpool Riverside and Brighton and Hove Labour Parties.
No votes were taken on censuring the SC, on basic accountability, on the Momentum company structures.
This shows the, very low, turn out, for the on-line elections inside Momentum.
So, we know one thing clearly: there are some people who consider that there is a continuing battle between left and….right in Momentum.
There are also individuals, apparently on the Conference Arrangement’s Committee, publicly making the traditional virulently sectarian remarks about opposing factions present at this meeting.
We look forward to seeing how they run this Conference.
Whether it will be a force to win a Labour Party that fights for and wins an alternative to neoliberalism” remains to be seen.
But, as Red Flag, the group formerly known as Workers Power (League for the Fifth International) comment,
Spectacular Rise in Polls for Belgium Far-left Parti du Travail de Belgique/Partij van de Arbeid van België.
The public broadcaster in Belgium, the RTBF, led with this story this morning:
Le PTB, futur lider maximo? Le parti marxiste progresse dans les trois régions du pays, même si cela reste mesuré en Flandre (+1,4% pour +5,6% à Bruxelles et + 12,9% (!) en Wallonie). Tel est à nouveau le principal enseignement du baromètre Dedicated pour la RTBF et La Libre.
Autres vainqueurs: le Vlaams Belang et Groen! qui, en Flandre, font toujours jeu égal avec les partis traditionnels.
The PTB future lider maximo? The Marxist Party has risen in the opinion polls in three regions: up 1 % in Flanders, 5,6% in Brussels and plus 12,9% in Wallonie. This is the result from the latest poll by Deciudated, for the RTBF and La Libre.
The other winners are the far-right Vlaams Belang and the Greens, Groen!, who in Flanders are neck and neck with the traditional parties.
La Libre Belgique says that the Workers’ Party of Belgium (Partij van de Arbeid van België, PVDA; Parti du Travail de Belgique, PTB) is scoring 18,4% of voters amongst voters in Wallonie.
The PTB/PVDA is a Marxist political party with its roots in ‘marxism-leninism’ (Maoism) about which there is much to say. It is one of the few parties that operates as a single Belgian party. Site (French): here (Flemish): here.
Also see: Le PTB convainc 18% des électeurs en Wallonie Le Soir.
The ‘People’s Question Time: Brexit.” Lindsey German: “a chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines.”
Brexit: Lindsey German says, “..a chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines.”
This is being organised the ‘People’s Assembly‘.
The People’s Question Time: Brexit – What Are Our Demands?
7pm, Thursday 19 January, St Pancras Church, Euston Road, NW1 2BA. Register your place: https://pqtjan2017.eventbrite.co.uk/
Emily Thornberry MP – Shadow Foreign Secretary, Labour Party
Amelia Womack – Deputy Leader, Green Party
Kevin Courtney – General Secretary, National Union of Teachers
Lindsey German – People’s Assembly
Malia Bouattia – NUS President
Steve Turner – Assistant General Secretary, UNITE
This is their puff:
Do you have a question for our panel? Submit one when registering for a chance to put it to the event.
This has been a year full of surprises; the Political landscape is changing at an unprecedented rate. Brexit has been hugely divisive and has created a dynamic and unpredictable situation.
Our new (un-elected) Prime Minster and her cabinet clearly have no real plan. One thing is for sure, if the last 6 years are anything to go by, if the Tories are left to handle Brexit negotiations on their own we’ll see a deal that suits the bankers, the bosses and the corporations. What should we be demanding from the government that means Brexit is negotiated in the interests of the people? However you voted in the EU referendum, we need to put pressure on the Tories to ensure they don’t use Brexit as a way of increasing attacks on the majority, continuing austerity, whipping up racist divisions in our community and scapegoating immigrants.
The idea that Brexit, whose purpose is to serve the bankers, the bosses and the corporations, and to attack migrant workers, can be effectively changed through demands that it is “negotiated in the interests of the People’ is a straightforward, to put it simply, lie.
Speaking for the People’s Assembly (who have never debated the issue in public still less asked supporters to vote on the issue) Lindsay German holds these views.
Next stop… the People’s Brexit (3rd of November 2016)
The missteps of the ruling class can create space for our side, notes Lindsey German
No doubt influenced by her groupuscules belief in the ‘actuality of the revolution’ German goes into say,
The job for all those on the left now should be not to overturn that decision but ensure that the ruling class’s division is turned in our favour. We need to fight for an outcome that ensures a solution to the NHS funding crisis, a solution to the housing crisis, a raising of workers’ wages and employment rights, as well as total opposition to scapegoating of migrants and to racism in all its forms.
….a chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines. This now has an urgency given the likelihood of a general election next year. It means putting forward these demands, mobilising around them, building trade union strength, doing everything to support Corbyn in these electoral battles, and trying to give a voice to the millions of working people, whichever way they voted, who are looking for an alternative.
If Brexit is the occasion for this “chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines” then we are indeed in the actuality of great revolutionary events.
How Brexit will do anything but hinder the fight to resolve the NHS funding crisis, a solution to the housing crisis, a raising of workers’ wages and employment rights, is less than clear. As well as a being a major cause of the scapegoating of migrants and to racism in all its forms it is becoming part of these crises.
Well-established Rumour has it that this is German’s coming Retirement cottage.
Looking forward to evenings eating toasted crumpets with honey, while Rees warms his slippers on the wood fire.
The Dictator, the Revolution, the Machine. A Political Account of Joseph Stalin Tony McKenna. A Review.
The Dictator, the Revolution, the Machine. A Political Account of Joseph Stalin Tony McKenna. Sussex Academic Press.
“I recently read an interview featuring a cultural commentator of the left. Alongside the interview a photo appeared of this individual against a backdrop which featured an image of Joseph Stalin.” In the Preface to The Dictator the Revolution, the Machine, Tony McKenna observes in this, not uncommon, gesture, a “certain wry sympathy for Stalin’s political endeavours.” The Chair of no less than the Stop the War Coalition, Andrew Murray, has expressed such empathy on many occasions. For these people Stalin’s title of Generalissimo and Hero of the Soviet Union, awarded in June 1945, was due recognition for a leader prepared to “get his hands dirty” in defence of the USSR. This judgement, McKenna states, with appropriate severity, “does a great disservice to the millions Stalin had murdered” (Page xi).
This is a study that attempts to explain the “objective trajectory of Stalinism” in Marxist terms, and the course of a life that is full of “terrible darkness”. Its premise is that the original form of “the Soviet democracy remains the first form of democracy in human history which was not premised on some manner of class exploitation.”(Page 169) This “…fused the economic organs of society, the factories and the workplace with a political decision-making process where power flowed from the bottom-up. (Page vii) That it “abolished the capital-labour relation.” (Page 170) A bold effort, “drowned in blood”. And yet, “Most of all I wanted to challenge the assumption that Stalinist totalitarianism was the automatic and inevitable result of a revolution which mobilised the poorest in society”. (Page x)
McKenna considers, then, that “Stalinism represented the negation of the proletarian revolution”. Lenin stood for the emancipation of the working class “to be an act by the workers themselves” (Page 42) Nothing could be more clearly opposed to Stalin’s “overwhelming distrust – not only for the masses, but for the process of revolution itself” (Page 16) For those who recount the political conflicts of the early Soviet Union as a clash between a growing bureaucracy, and those, siding with Lenin who railed against administrative power and privilege, this is a decisive difference. Leninism was popular creative power; Stalinism was the rules and regulations, backed by repression, of the office.
This guiding contrast in The Dictator the Revolution, the Machine is not without problems. There is a different view, expressed by Rosa Luxemburg, that this was not, in practice, how Lenin’s ideology worked. To her Lenin had “a dangerous rigidity in argumentation, certain scholasticism in his political ideas, and a tendency to ignore the living embodiment of the masses, or even to coerce it into accepting preconceived tactical plans.”(1) There is the claim that, under Lenin’s aegis, there were “always various tendencies and groups within the Party, which was considered natural and normal.”(2) There is another picture of less than tolerant Bolshevik, as revealed in his years of exile of “ceaseless polemics with all those he considered philistines, pedants, whiners, sceptics, defeatists. (3) Or, more strongly that when with his hands on the levers of power these were not just arguments, “Lenin, as we have seen time and time again, could not assimilate opposition. It could only be overcome and destroyed. In place of complete creative freedom Lenin turned to a new discourse based on a completely opposite theme – iron proletarian discipline.”(4)
A recent biography of Stalin puts this more sharply, “assertions of a Bolshevik collective leadership predating Stalin’s ring hollow. Lenin’s secretariat took on an essentially limitless range of issues, setting a precedent, and no one did more than Lenin to establish a living example of one-man rule at the top. (When the other ‘collective leaders; disagreed with Lenin he threatened to expel them or, failing that, to quit the party and form a new one.” (5) One may contest this judgement. Others talk of ‘Stalin’s team’, a tightly bound group at the top- broadening some of McKenna’s focus on the General Secretary. In either case the legacy, however reshaped in new hands, from Lenin’s rule cannot be ignored. (6)
McKenna’s book does not however shirk from describing the mechanisms used to enforce this “iron discipline” during, and after, the Civil War. This was, above all, the work of the secret police, the Cheka. He defends, “out of military necessity”, “mass compulsion” “terror” was an absolute requirement in a context where a class or nation state is in the process of fighting for existence goes more or less without saying” (Page 29) But the “generalisation of terror to a social class carte blanche – and specifically the petty bourgeoisie…. the peasantry” “the bureaucracy was beginning to weave their theoretical rationale for its terrorisation for the very group whose surplus produce was integral to its survival..(Ibid) It used “indiscriminate force” against peasant or proletarians who “bridled against the increasingly coercive power and needs of the bureaucracy itself.” (Ibid)
According to Alexander Solzhenitsyn the Gulag Archipelago could not have built without the early sanction of these measures of compulsion. “In the first months of the October Revolution Lenin was already demanding decisive draconian measures to tighten up discipline” In December 1917, he suggested for consideration, confiscation of all property.. confinement in prison, dispatch to the front and forced labour for all who disobey the existing law.” (6) During the period of War Communism, Trotsky advocated ever tighter punishments, and the militarisation of labour (Terrorism and Communism: A Reply to Karl Kautsky 1920) He asserted that the dictatorship of the proletariat was able to make use of organized state power by the working class to crush its opponents and to pave the way for social transformation.
If every Cook could run the State, as envisaged in the State and Revolution, those who broke the rules risked more than admonishing in an acidic polemical article. The dissolution of the Constituent Assembly was the end of ‘formal’ democracy and its replacement by the ‘superior’ form of workplace rule. As experience rapidly showed, adversaries of ‘Soviet power’ from the right, the dissident left, and not all because of the violent opposition of the left Social Revolutionaries (Uprising 1918. Exclusion: Fifth Soviet Congress, 1918), the right and then the left Mensheviks and Anarchists, particularly those with suspect “class origins” (which began to be treated as a hereditary taint) were progressively excluded from the ‘democracy’ of the Soviets. The system was designed to be the opposite of ‘agonistic’ politics where open clashes between opposed views would be freely expressed.
Lenin’s Last Struggle.
Was Stalin’s hold on these reins of power inevitable? During Lenin’s later lifetime and following his death, disputes between bureaucrats – that is state employees – Trotsky, Bukharin, Zinoviev, and Stalin, to cite some well-known names, continued. But already the shrinking of political freedom had caught up with the Party itself, as factions had been banned, and all dissent was suspect. There seemed to be an inevitability about further moves towards enforced unity – “discipline” – around One line One leader, on every single issue, economic, cultural, political, and ideological. Yet Moshe Lewin’s Lenin’s Last Struggle (1975) underlines the view that his Testament explicitly called for Stalin’s removal from office. Lewin claimed, “the use of constraint – let alone terror – is ostensibly excluded in establishing the foundations of a new society”. (8) This ‘tolerance’, at best putting up with people, was, as we seen, very limited. As McKenna narrates, not only was the Testament suppressed, and Stalin’s office confirmed, not to be, but also the range of forces allied with him, and the hesitations of his opponents, prevented even the document being discussed.
The Dictator the Revolution, the Machine is a passionate intervention into debates on these issues. The description of the full “shadow of totalitarianism”, Stalin’s 1930s Great Terror, and a thorough, searing, look at the Gulag, is outstanding. McKenna’s concluding hopes for a direct ‘utopian’ democracy that takes collective control of a socialised economy takes inspiration from the best side of the Soviet ideal. This review has argued that we cannot ignore, with Claude Lefort, and many others, the other side, the ‘temporary’ limitations on democratic expression sketched above. They cannot be ignored. They turned out to be the permanent basis for a totalitarian regime, and whatever form of erratic command economy one cares to call it. Perhaps truly universal – unblemished – inspiration cannot be found in the early years of the Russian Revolution. The all-too-ready use of force to resolve political issues played some part in the emergence of Stalinism. The means, exile, imprisonment, forced labour and killing, by which the “Pouvoir soviétique se déliverent des enemies”, (how Soviet power got rid of its enemies) are not foreign to the emergence of Stalin’s system of rule, warped by his own personality though it may have been. (9) We should also ensure that this blood-drenched tyranny is never repeated.
- Page 85. The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg. Edited by George Adler, Peter Hudis and Annelies Laschitza. 2011.
- Page 385. Let History Judge. Roy Medvedev. Spokesman. 1971.
- Page 110. Lars T. Lih. Rekation Books. 2011.
- Page 212. Christopher Read. Routledge 2005.
- Page 419. Stalin. Paradoxes of Power. 1878 – 1928. Stephan Kotin. Allen Lane. 2014.
- On Stalin’s team. Sheila Fitzpatrick. Princeton University Press. 2015.Pages 19 – 10. The Gulag Archipelago. Vol.2. Colins/Fontana. 1976.
- Page 134. Lenin’s Last Struggle. 1975.Un homme en trop. Réflexions sur l’Archipel du Gulag. Claude Lefort. New Edition. 2015 (1976)
The Dictator, The Revolution, the Machine: a Political Account of Joseph Stalin.
Tony McKenna is a bona fide public intellectual who contributes to Marxist journals without having any connections to academia or to the disorganized left. This gives his writing a freshness both in terms of political insight and literary panache. I first encountered his work in a collection of articles titled “Art, Literature and Culture From a Marxist Perspective” that reflected a familiarity with culture high and low and an ability to put works such as “The Walking Dead” into a broader political and social context. Was the popular AMC zombie show a good preparation for “The Dictator, The Revolution, the Machine: a Political Account of Joseph Stalin”, his latest book forthcoming from Sussex press? I’d like to think so.
Although I think that McKenna would be capable of turning a Unix instruction manual into compelling prose, the dead tyrant has spurred him to reach a higher level—one that is in inverse proportion to the degraded subject matter. At 186 pages, his study is both an excellent introduction to Stalin and Stalinism as well as one that gives any veteran radical well-acquainted with Soviet history some food for thought on the quandaries facing the left today. Drawing upon fifty or so books, including a number that leftist veterans would likely not be familiar with such as leading Soviet military leader Gregory Zhukov’s memoir, McKenna synthesizes it all into a highly readable and often dramatic whole with his own unique voice. It is a model of historiography and one that might be read for no other reason except learning how to write well. (McKenna is an editor and an aspiring novelist.)
More via above link.
“Hookin’ up” with Brexiteers against “Globalism”.
“Well, see, Great Britain and America, see how we’re hooking up now?” she told the Associated Press at a Trump rally as the results rolled in.
“We’re going rogue and saying, you know, the people are going to take back control of our governance.”
Ms Palin continued: “Really, we’re going to be able to say, no, we don’t want this globalism […]
“We can’t be telling other countries, other nations how to sweep their porches if we can’t sweep our own yet.
“So we’ve got to take care of what’s going on here within our borders, just like you all have done, especially recently.”
Reports the Independent.
The Daily Mail is enthusiastic. They continue the story,
Sarah Palin says Donald Trump’s sensational win was inspired by Brexit and said: ‘Britain – we’re going rogue and the people are taking back control’.
The billionaire tycoon Donald Trump is set to be the next president of the United States after voters gambled on his promise to ‘Make America Great Again’.
It was a similar message to the one used by Brexiteers who successfully convinced voters that Britain’s future was brighter outside the European Union.
Ms Palin, a former beauty queen turned Republican politician, said this spirit had spread across the Atlantic and bolstered Trump’s campaign.
James Corden, now also a big star in the United States, tweeted he had ‘Brexit feelings’ as it became clear Trump would win.
Speaking at the Trump Rally in New York she said: ‘See Great Britain! America! See how we’re hookin’ up now?
‘We’re going rogue and the people are going to take back control.
‘We’re going to be able to say we don’t want this globalism, and we can’t be telling other countries how to sweep their porches if we can’t sweep our own yet.
‘So we’ve got to take care of what’s going on here within our borders just like you all have done especially recently.’
It came as Nigel Farage booked himself onto the first plane to America from London this morning to meet his friend Donald Trump.
….he’s already thought of a role he could fulfill: President Trump’s ambassador to the EU.
There are signs that The People’s Assembly Against Austerity will look to organise an event around the theme of a ‘People’s Brexit’.
As the People’s Assembly will be mobilising and using trade union and labour movement resources for a pro-Brexit rally – pro- in the direction they want, a “People’s anti-European Union events, RSL warns against joining any anti-UKIP activity when Farage leads a pro-Brexit, march against the High Court,
There is a temptation to have a broad, anti-racist demo and campaign with whoever is opposed to Farage. This by its very nature could include several figures from the pro-EU centre. To be so broad, this movement would at best be non-committal about the idea of Britain leaving the EU and at worst have several elements seeking to overturn the vote.
…while Farage’s march will be racist, it has been called over Brexit and that is an important distinction we should make.
The pro-Brexit ‘left’ now claims that their demand for open borders (outbidding the existing EU freedom of movement, in a universal call to tear down frontiers) will protect them from accusations that they have joined in with the likes of Trump, Palin, and Farage,
But as Mark Boothroyd notes (Brexit ushers in a Carnival of Reaction),
The response to the Leave vote by pro-Leave leftists of increased attempts at migrant solidarity work are welcome, but they rarely confront the point that this activism is necessitated by the very victory of the Leave campaign, and these effects were warned about by pro-Remain activists. Failing to acknowledge what is driving the attacks that they were warned were coming in the event of a Leave victory, is shortsighted and politically dishonest, and leaves unanswered the bigger questions as to what stance to take towards the ongoing Brexit negotiations and its effects on migrants.
One could say that there is equally a logic in Palin’s cries against ‘globalisation’ and a wing of the anti-globalisation left. Their demand for ‘no-borders’ cannot be taken seriously when the refuse to recognise the side they have chosen: the Brexit side, for National Sovereignty against ‘globalisaiton’.
The ex-SWP faction concludes that they think many left-wing Remain supporters will accept that they should work with the strategy of the ‘left’ Leave campaign
will be open to working on the basis of a left wing exit from the EU even if they remain pro-EU.
Cautiously they note that some will not.
can’t support a People’s Brexit platform because they simply don’t want any Brexit ever.
Oddly many on the left are going to say to the – ineffectual, declining and marginalised – People’s Assembly leadership (another ex-SWP faction, Counterfire): we don’t want Brexit.
I suppose in the supple tactical minds of anybody who’s been in the SWP the whirl of constantly changing campaigns is part of the political culture. One day for hysterical Stand up UNKIP campaigns. The next for a refusal to do anything but lie down as UKIP marches to British ‘independence’ and Trump.
These revolutionaries take their cue not from Marxism but from Vautrin, Jacques Collin, Trompe-la-Mort, one of the central characters of Balzac’s Comédie humaine.
This one of his best known statements, (Le Père Goroit),
Vautrin : « Il n’y a pas de principes, il n’y a que des évènements ; il n’y a pas de lois, il n’y a que des circonstances : l’homme supérieur épouse les évènements et les circonstances pour les conduire. »
There are no principles, there are only events; there are no laws, there are only circumstances: the superior man shapes his conduct to fit events and conditions.
You’re going to hear a lot of wailing from the left about our “disconnection” with the values of “ordinary working-class people”. It is bullshit – both as a fact and an explanation of what’s happened. In every state in America there are working-class people staffing beleaguered abortion clinics, organising unions among migrant cleaners and Walmart workers.
Those who tell you the left has to somehow “reconnect” with people whose minds are full of white supremacy and misogyny must finish the sentence. By what means? By throwing our black brothers and sisters under a bus? Eighty years ago the poets and miners of the International Brigades did not march into battle saying: “Mind you, the fascists have got a point.”