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Weekly Worker Letter of the Year.

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Image result for Red Star

Red Star to Doug. 

Every week your letters page is clogged up with tedious, long-winded guff by Steve Freeman and Gerry Downing.

Can we please have a moratorium on this until I’m dead. My son will contact you when the inevitable happens. If I have to read any more of their crap, that day will be a lot sooner. Please!

Doug Lowe

Weekly Worker. Issue 1164. 20th of July.

Doug is an old comrade.

The Respectable Revolutionaries: Leamington Anti-Racist AntiFascist Committee 1977-1981. Doug Lowe.

My own criticism is that he could have added that we have all had enough of Monster Raving Greenstein as well.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 21, 2017 at 11:47 am

More than a Thousand Activists rally in Paris for La France Insoumise as it launches its own Struggle against Macron’s Labour Reforms.

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Over a Thousand Rally in Paris for La France insoumise against Macron’s labour reforms. 

Plus d’un millier de militants ont répondu à l’appel de La France insoumise, pour exprimer leur rejet du projet de réforme du Code du travail. Jean-Luc Mélenchon a défendu une opposition frontale au texte et annoncé le lancement d’une campagne pendant l’été.

More than a thousand activists responded to France insoumise’s  call to reject the project of a reform of the Code du travail. Jean-Luc Mélenchon defended frontal opposition to the text and announced the launching of a campaign during the summer.

(Other estimates put the figure at nearly 2,000 attending the major rally in la place de la République.)

Between  300 and 1000 people in  Toulouse, 300in Montpellier, 200 in Lille, around  60  Strasbourg responded to the call by Las France Insoumise.

Fabien Magnenou  France Télévisions.

La France insoumise (FI) claims to be the principal force of opposition to the Macron government and its liberalising measures.

These actions were organised by FI and it alone.

Critics allege that the FI  strategy of “replacement” the rest of the left, now extended  to replacing trade unions, which led the movement against the Hollande/Valls El Khomri reform of the same code du travail, is against the grain of the tradition of left and labour movement unity.

This division is explored in details here:

Meanwhile in the National Assembly the debate over the law reform remains heated: Les députés ont poursuivi mercredi l’examen de la réforme du Code du travail avec de vifs débats sur les indemnités prud’homales et le CDI de chantier. La France Insoumise reste à l’offensive. 

 

Trotksyism and Political Confusionism: The Case of Sam Marcy and the “Marcyites”.

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Image result for Sam Marcy

Macryites: the Anti-Imperialism of Fools.

Louis Proyect recently had a post about  some the more unpleasant figures on the US left.

“Trotskyists” put down red carpet for obscure Stalinist blogger

On Friday, July 14th at the Solidarity Center in NYC, Stephen Gowans will be speaking on “Washington’s Long War in Syria“, his new pro-Assad book. Solidarity Center is the HQ of the International Action Center, the antiwar front of the Workers World Party, a group that emerged out of the Trotskyist movement after the founder decided to back the Soviet tanks rather than the Hungarian workers in 1956. They are essentially Stalinists–much more so than the Communist Party.

Among the sponsors of the meeting is something called UNAC, the United Antiwar Coalition, that has a steering committee that is a mixture of WWP’er Sarah Flounders and independent Stalinists like Phil Wilayto.

But the largest party representation is from Socialist Action, a tiny sect led by Jeff Mackler. After splitting from the SWP, Mackler and other party veterans formed SA in the early 80s to rebuild a purified Trotskyist group. It has failed abjectly but like the group it split from, it soldiers on in the foolish notion that it is to the USA that Lenin’s party was to Russia. Mackler is on the steering committee as is Marilyn Levin and Christine Gavreau, who like Mackler are in their seventies. I can’t say for sure if they are still in SA but I strongly suspect that they are. This is definitely not a formation that is going to compete with the DSA for fresh young blood.

As part of our wider project of charting “Confusionism” Lois has made a contribution.

“the ideological cocoon of the Marcyite wing of the American left that now includes Socialist Action. Indeed, nothing that took place within Syria held even the slightest interest for them. These are people who get their ideas from ZeroHedge, Moon of Alabama, Global Research, Information Clearing House and other bottom-feeding click-bait outlets of the lunatic left.”

Now Marcyites….

Recently we had a hard job on Facebook trying to explain Campism to French comrades, or rather I and one French comrade had a difficult job in explaining this to people in France and Belgium.

What is Campism? As used by the AWL and others it describes those who, despite the Fall of Official Communism, the end of the time when the planet saw the ‘Socialist Bloc’  pitted against the Imperialists still divide the world  into two camps, Imperialism, and Anti-imperialism, to French comrades.

Oddly (….) they had not heard of Max Shachtman

Macryites are the ultimate ‘campists’, the defenders of the original anti-imperialism of fools (a term which French left-wingers did not find hard to get). In the original version they believed in a “global class war”, one waged between states.

The term comes from Sam Marcy (pseudonym) and his faction.

“Basically he took the concept of “deformed worker’s state” in the opposite direction that most traditional Trotskyists do. In essence he believe that socialist states were necessarily deformed because socialism can not co-exist with capitalism. To that extent he opposed the idea of socialism in one country. At the same time through his theory of global class war he saw the socialist nation state as a key factor in the final downfall of world imperialism. WWP was one of the few parties to call for PRC-USSR unity. Of course WWP was in the awkward position of being a Trotskyist group condemning Khrushchev for being revisionist in denouncing Stalin.

In general as far as Trotskyism goes, the Sam Marcyist brand is the closest to genuine Marxism-Leninism. Of course in practice it amounts to simply supporting any anti-US force as anti-imperialist or even socialist. Its a sort of reverse Trotskyism.”

Marcy wrote, (The Global Class War and the Destiny of American Labor by Sam Marcy May 20, 1953)

the camp of the proletariat today, unlike the previous epoch, has the bulk of the oppressed peoples in the colonies and dependent countries within its camp as allies. The class of peasants, semi- and non-proletarian elements of the backward countries, which in previous epochs were the reserve of imperialist reaction, can now be regarded not merely in a social but the political sense as well, as having been attracted to and daily becoming more and more part and parcel of the camp of the proletariat. The revolutionary ferment all over the colonial world is testimony to this fact. Our class camp is numerically much larger, much more politically conscious than in all previous epochs. The second characteristic of our class camp is that it has state allies, states where the working class, if not in a political sense, then certainly in a social and historic sense, holds the ruling power.

Today’s Marcyites believe that while there are no longer many states where the working class ‘holds power’ on a formal socialist basis that there are some kind of ‘objective’ allies of the left in the ‘colonial world’. According to some positions this would go right down to ‘anti-imperialist’ states like, as Proyet complains, Syria.

Workers World in the US keeps the flame lit.

Perhaps the nearest we have to this line is the groupuscle Socialist Action around Gerry Downing though some in the Stop the War Coalition often sound like them..

Background,

Sam Ballan (1911 – February 1, 1998), known by his pen name Sam Marcy, was an American Marxist of the post-World War II era. He co-founded the Workers World Party in 1959 and served as its chairperson until his death.

Marcy was born in Russia to Jewish parents. During the Russian Civil War, his family was a target of anti-Jewish pogroms by the White movement and received protection from the Communist forces. They resettled in Brooklyn, where Marcy became an activist for the Communist Party USA. He studied law at St. Johns University and provided legal advice to labor unions in New York.[1]

Marcy grew discontented as a member of the Communist Party, viewing the Third International as increasingly detached from working class interests and instead a mouthpiece for Joseph Stalin, whose oppressive bureaucracy he despised. He joined the Trotskyist movement in the 1940s, building a branch of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Buffalo.[1] Yet he again became dissatisfied, finding the SWP uncommitted to revolutionary politics and instead oriented toward parliamentary reform.[2] Marcy, Vince Copeland, and other SWP members developed a theory of “global class war“, according to which Marxists had a duty to defend the existence of the USSR and its satellites in spite of their bureaucracy[3]. Over several years Marcy clashed with the SWP leadership on several questions, including their approach to Communist China and North Korea, whether the SWP should endorse Henry A. Wallace,[4] and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. On the last question, Marcy’s faction supported the Soviet military intervention, arguing that the initial worker uprising had attracted class elements that sought to restore capitalism.[5][6]

In 1959 the “global class war” faction set up a new organization, the Workers World Party, characterized by outspoken defense of all Communist governments in the world. After the first issue of the Workers Worldnewspaper was published, Marcy started applying his view of Marxism–Leninism to contemporary issues. Marcy’s writings included extensive works on socialism, the Cold War era and the rise of the powerful military-industrial complex. He also wrote about the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War, the economic forces behind capitalist downsizing and the impact of the scientific-technological revolution. [1] Selections of his works have been translated into many languages, including Persian, Spanish, Turkish, Korean, French and German.[citation needed]

His writings show a strong support for Mao Zedong and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, though he continued to defend China against imperialism following the reforms of Deng Xiaoping. Marcy defended China and also the Soviet Union against the charge of imperialism even while disagreeing with some policies and practices of the Communist Party leadership of both countries.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 10, 2017 at 5:51 pm

July’s Must: Posadists, Gerry Downing and New Worker Debate Labour After the Election.

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There comes a time in any serious activist’s busy life when they must address the key issues of the class struggle.

Be there!

(Thanks to Cde BW).

Background reading.

THE QUEST FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE

July 31st 2015 Posadists Today.

“The ability to see has progressed not so much from the optical, but from the social point of view. It is true that we can see today thousands of kilometres away with new instruments and better mathematics. The true vision, however, is that of Marx: Marx who saw that capitalism would be destroyed.” J. Posadas.

The Posadiststoday.com give importance to the recent discovery of Kepler-452b, an exceptional exoplanet in the constellation of Cygnus, with an Earth-like year and a Sun-like star. This event took place around the time of the publication of the new NASA photos of Pluto and its Moons. And on 2nd of July 2015, the Russian PROGRESS spacecraft M-28M cargo ship had safely reached the International Space Station.

Encouraged by those capital events, we have chosen to summarise (immediately below) an extract from the journal LE MONDE of 21.7.2015 about the human quest for intelligence in the universe. We give importance to this article because J Posadas wrote many fundamental Marxist texts on this subject – texts which represent a unique and historic contribution to the Marxist method. To illustrate the point, we reproduce further below two texts by him entitled: “Flying Saucers, the Process of Matter and Energy, Science and Socialism”, J Posadas, 26.6.1968 – and “Childbearing in space, the confidence of humanity, and Socialism”, J Posadas, 12.8.1978.

Posadiststoday.com

Gerry Downing:

Today new ideologues and renegades join the old swamp of opportunism; Karl Kautsky finds a new champion in Lars T Lih. Max Shachtman and Raya Dunayevskaya, previously only defended by Sean Matgamna, find new adherents in Cyril Smith, The Commune, Permanent Revolution, the Movement for Socialism, etc. István Mészáros and Cliff Slaughter et al seek to trump the Bolshevism of Lenin and Trotsky with the counter-revolutionary reformist dross of history from the likes of Kautsky. IDOT does battle with all these petty bourgeois ideologues,
enemies of humanity’s communist future.  

Text of article following above here.

The Marxist theory of the state: Deformed and Degenerated Workers’ States and Capitalist States/.Reply to RCIT Part 3 (assessment also of the positions of Workers Power/LFI, Ted Grant and the Socialist Party/CWI, Socialist Appeal/IMT, the Spart family ICL/IBT/IG, Mandelites/USFI/US SWP, David North’s SEP/WSWS/ICFI and a passing look at the Cliffite UK SWP).

New Worker:

The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Democratic Korea’s Path of Peace and Unity.

Update:  Britain on the brink

To understand the gravity of the tasks that fall to the leadership of the revolutionary proletariat in the present conjuncture we can only cite the latest Socialist Appeal.

“In developments of such magnitude twenty years are more than a day – though later on days may come again in which twenty years are embedded.” (Karl Marx, 9 April 1863)”

The British ruling class, who have ruled Britain for the last 200 years, are also gripped by a sense of despair and despondency, as things go from bad to worse. In the 1930s, Trotsky referred to the ruling class “tobogganing towards catastrophe,” which is an apt expression. He went on to say: “The economy, the state, the politics of the bourgeoisie and its international relations are completely blighted by a social crisis, characteristic of a pre-revolutionary state of society.” (The Transitional Programme)

In many ways, we are faced with a similar situation unfolding today. In fact, the events in Britain have a striking resemblance to the situation that existed in 1931, which Trotsky described as a pre-revolutionary situation. Despite all the power in their hands, the capitalist establishment have seemingly lost control of the situation. They have certainly lost control over the Labour Party, which they regarded in the past as a useful prop to the capitalist system.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 26, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Mélenchon on ‘Cloud Nine’ as Left Faces Near Wipeout in French Legislative Elections.

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Projected Seats: French Left Reduced to a Rump. 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon  is apparently, on cloud nine: Jean-Luc Mélenchon sur un nuage

Malgré un nombre réduit de sièges potentiels, La France insoumise devance à nouveau le Parti socialiste dans les urnes.

Reports Le Monde. 

His Movement La France Insoumise (LFI) won 11% of the national vote in Sunday’s first round of the French legislative election, ahead of the Parti Socialiste and allies’ 9,5% and the PCF, which was reduced to 2,7%.

If you add these percentages up, drink five swift glasses of pastis in a row, put on rose-tinted spectacles, burn a scented candle and play the Marseillaise, you can feel great that the total left support, at 22.2% is greater than the Front National’s 13,2% vote.

That is even  if La France Insoumise lost 8 points compared with the Presidential support for the  populist leader of the French People.

The 51,29% who could not be bothered to vote weren’t attracted to his movement either.

Meanwhile in less cloudy territory:

France 24,

President Emmanuel Macron continued bulldozing France’s political establishment as his upstart La République en Marche! (LREM) party topped Sunday’s first-round legislative vote and appeared poised to claim a historic majority in parliament.

Based on the first-round results, candidates from Macron’s LREM, a political party that barely existed one year ago, were projected to take between 415 and 445 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly next week. It would represent the largest parliamentary majority for a single party in France since the end of World War II.

The LREM party won 32.32 percent of all votes, according to official final results published by the French Interior Ministry, in an election that was also marked by a record-high abstention of 51.29 percent. The mainstream conservative Les Républicains party finished the night in second place with 21.56 percent support. They were projected to win between 70 and 110 seats in the next Assembly according to a projection by Ipsos for FRANCE 24.

The Communist Party, which has lost its Parliamentary Group, and faces near extinction, diplomatically blames divisions on the left for its poor result: Législatives. Les communistes pâtissent des divisions à gauche.

PCF leader Pierre Laurent announced, Elections législatives 1er tour: Déclaration de Pierre Laurent

La division des forces de gauche se paie en effet très cher. Les forces qui ont soutenu Jean-Luc Mélenchon, se sont retrouvées en concurrence suite aux décisions de la direction de la France insoumise. Elles en subissent toutes ce soir les conséquences. C’est aussi le cas du Parti communiste dont le résultat national est très bas.

A heavy price has been paid for the division of the left. The forces which have supported Jean-Luc Mélenchon found themselves competing against each other, following the decisions of the leadership of la France insoumise. All of them have suffered the consequences this evening. This is also the case for the Communist Party whose national score is very low.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon looks likely to win a seat in Marseilles, with  34,31 %, in front of Macron supporter Corinne Versini  at22,66 %).

Although it is easy to see why he is overjoyed at what counts most, his future as a Tribune of the People in the National Assembly, there are other factors at work that explain his good mood.

For those wishing to understand why Mélenchon is happy that the French left is reduced to political irrelevance this gives some indications, and develops many of the themes discussed on this Blog.

Quelques réflexions sur la «France insoumise»  VINCENT PRÉSUMEY.

Présumey outlines the ideological core of Mélenchon’s La France insoumise (LFI).  The movement does not talk of class struggle, even social classes. They  oppose “le peuple ” (also called the  99% ) to the « l’oligarchie » also called « la caste ». The ‘People’ exists as a  Nation, France, with its national symbols, the Tricolor, and its hymn, the Marseille. To make this into a political force, to ‘construct’ the People from the material of  “individus-citoyens”,  is the objective of LFI.

For the origin of these ideas author notes the debt Mélenchon and his immediate team owe to the “post-Marxists” Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe which they have simplified and made into a kind of political tool-kit.

From the former comes the ‘populist’ idea of the People uniting around a Leader , like Argentina’s Peron. LFI denies any such thing, that their Leader is only the “l’incarnation vivante du « programme » que nous avons collectivement produit”, the living incarnation of a programme that we have collectively drawn up. Nobody else is in any doubt that Mélenchon, and his tight band of advisers, are La France insoumise and that he is the – would-be – charismatic chief.

Apparently not charismatic enough to hold into the 8% of the electorate he has lost in a few weeks. Or self-controlled enough to avoid descending   from the hypnotic lyricism of his Presidential speeches to – in the run up to the legislative elections – the more familiar sounds of a barking yap-dog.

Yet….the problems  with La France insoumise are deeper than Mélenchon’s personality.

As Présumey observes LFI rests on a denial of pluralism on the left. Its leader candidacy was the not the result of anybody’s decision but his own. As these elections approached it swiftly dropped the left bloc the Front de Gauche (FdG). It says: come to us, we will lead the ‘citizens’ insurrection’.

But beneath this rhetorical claim the focus is on political representation. There is no sense of a movement that has emerged from working class and social movement self-organisation. Its ‘mass action’ can be reduced to stage-managed demonstrations (as earlier this year on the anniversary of the Commune), social media (chat without decision making power) and, campaigning for electoral contests.

The movement (parties are old hat) claims 500,000 supporters, something you can become, for free, at the click of a button in the Web. Beneath a veneer of ‘horizontal’ organisation, LFI  is  vertically structured around the commands of the leadership. LFI has joined French social movements, such as the protests against the reform of the labour law, were the occasion not to engage in the fight but to publicise their presidential bid, with stickers reading, ” JLM 2017″.

The article notes another contribution of Mouffe. The focus on the division friend/enemy, taken from Carl Schmitt. This  does not only refer to the People against the Oligarchy. It means that LFI considers everybody else on the left as a foe, potential or actual, from the Socialists to the Communists and the rest of the Green and radical parties. They have poured bile on personalities, from the Socialist  Benoît Hamon, to respected radical left-wing Socialist labour law expert, Gérard Filoche – some names that stick out from a very very long list.

With the perspective of the dissolution of the French left à la Italienne, into a centrist ‘progressive’  Parliamentary bloc, what is their response? Mélenchon’s strategy rests on the “la liquidation des courants politiques issus du mouvement ouvrier”, the liqudation of currents which have come from the workers’ movement.

Noting that inner core of LFI itself is ‘petty bourgeois’, he sums up their ideology as a mixture of populism, and stalinism.

The former is a banner held with pride. The second is less clear. That their culture and policies reflect something of the pre-1991 PCF’s belief in French ‘national independence’ and fondness for an independent nuclear deterrent, or indeed the Communists’ evocation for French national traditions is hard to contest. But, as Présumey also states, Mélenchon  comes from the equally patroitic tradition of the ‘Trotksyist’ faction known as Lambertism, and loses little time in expressing his admiration for the glory of the very anti-Communist President François Mitterrand.

Wherever their original inheritance many of LFI’s activists  share the cast of mind of the “anti-imperialism of fools’. They are, he indicates  at length, recycle the teaming conspiracy theories that have thriven in recent years.  The illusion that they would get into the second round of the Presidential election, when shattered, was met with many a ‘theory’ explaining how ‘they’ has thwarted JLM.

Perhaps, in view of its supporters’ penchant for such conspiracy theories, its links with Vladimir Putin, and its barely concealed support for Assad in Syria, the word confusionisme suits them better.

It is, it goes without saying, immensely saddening that these confusionists will be the largest Parliamentary force to the left of the French Socialists.

 

 

 

 

 

La France insoumise: 2/3rds of Mélenchon’s Supporters Will Abstain or Vote Blank in Choice between Far-Right and Macron.

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Charlie Hebdo on the “prats” who will Abstain or Vote Blank Faced with Le Pen. 

Two-thirds of far-left ‘Unsubmissive France’ movement to abstain or cast blank ballot in presidential run-off France 24.

This “consulatitve vote” – since La France insoumise is a rally, not a democratic party, is apparently intended only as an “Indication” of what activists think.

S’abstenir ou voter Macron ? Les militants de La France insoumise de Mélenchon optent aux deux tiers pour le vote blanc ou l’abstention

Nouvel Obs.

La France insoumise a dévoilé ce mardi après-midi le résultat de la consultation de ses militants sur la conduite à tenir au second tour, entre vote pour Emmanuel Macron, qui refuse toute concession à Jean-Luc Mélenchon, et abstention.

Seuls 243.128 militants sur les 430.000 inscrits de la plateforme internet La France insoumise se sont prononcés. La consultation s’est close mardi midi et leurs votes se répartissent ainsi : 36,12% appellent à voter blanc ou nul, 34,83% à voter Emmanuel Macron et 29,05% se disent favorables à une abstention. Le communiqué précise : “Il ne s’agissait pas de déterminer une consigne de vote mais d’organiser la prise de parole des insoumis.es au sujet de leurs choix de second tour.”

Only 243,128 activists out of the 430,000 who belong to the Web Network of the La France insoumise voted. The consultation closed on Tuesday at mid-day. The voting was as follows: 36,12% for a blank-spoiled ballot, 34,83% for Emmanuel Macron, and 28,05% said they backed abstention. The communique added, “It is not a question of deciding how we should vote, but to give a voice to the choices that the ‘insoumis’ will make in voting during the second round.

The choice of voting Marine Le Pen was not available during the consultation, although over 15-16% of voters for  Mélenchon in the first round may vote for the far-right in the second (BFMTV).

Libération comments that Mélenchon did not have the courage to take a clear stand because he knew how divided his ‘movement’ was, “On comprend mieux la distance de Jean-Luc Mélenchon, qui a refusé de se prononcer publiquement, de peur de perdre des militants en route.” ( la France insoumise est divisée.)

From the French Communists, the PCF, the reaction was not favourable.

Alors que Marine Le Pen est aux portes du pouvoir le résultat de la consultation de la France Insoumise n’est peut être qu’une photographie mais c’est une mauvaise nouvelle », a réagi sur Facebook Igor Zamichiei, secrétaire départemental du PCF à Paris et membre de l’exécutif national.

When Marine Le Pen is at the gates of Power the result of the consultation of la France insoumise is only a photo-shot, but it’s bad news, remarked on Facebook  Igor Zamichiei, the regional secretary of the PCF at Paris, and a member of the party’s National Executive.

Le Monde. 

More comment unfolding: that the vote indicates a state of mind in some circles on the French left (se Charlie cartoon above….)

This  contrasts with those more directly affected by Le Pen:

 

 

See also: 

Why we support Macron in the second round – op-ed in Le Monde (English original) and DiEM25 France in Mediapart YANIS VAROUFAKIS.

In today’s Le Monde I call upon French progressives to vote for Macron in the second round of France’s Presidential election. The article explains my recommendation to French voters and finishes off with the following promise to Emmanuel:

“I shall mobilise fully to help you beat Le Pen with the same strength that I shall be joining the next Nuit Debout to oppose your government when, and if, you, as President, attempt to continue with your dead-end, already-failed neoliberalism.”

For the full article, in the original English, can be read below. (See also DiEM25 France’s collective position published earlier in Mediapart.)

 

 

 

Momentum’s Crisis: Serious Debate Breaks Out.

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Image result for chesterfield socialist conference

From Socialist Movement to…..Momentum?

“Momentum exists to build on the energy and enthusiasm from the Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader campaign to increase participatory democracy, solidarity, and grassroots power and help Labour become the transformative governing party of the 21st century.”

A common assumption on the Labour Left, so deep rooted that it almost never said, is that the main failure of previous Parliamentary left groupings is that they needed organisation in the country. At the back of their minds I imagine are the “Brains Trusts” set up up in support of Bevan’s ideas in the 1950s, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy in the 70s and 80s, and the Socialist Movement.

If the first had problems in moblising and co-ordinating with the Parliamentary left around  Aneurin Bevan and his (dispersed) successors, the second was and is a grass-roots body focused on labour constitutional issues (MP re-selection), NEC elections,  the third came closest to the Social Movement model some saw in Momentum.

The Socialist Movement grew out of the Socialist Conferences held in Chesterfield, Sheffiled and Manchester, in the years following the defeat of liners’ strike. Initiators included the Socialist Society, an organisation of left intellectuals including Raymond Williams,  Richard Kuper, and Ralph Miliband, the Campaign Group, a left-wing group in the Labour Party, the Conference of Socialist Economists, and the network generated by the socialist feminist book Beyond the Fragments. The largest conferences were in 1987 and 1988.

The Socialist Movement was open to different left traditions, green as well as red, for exploratory, grassroots debate and research on socialist policy making.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.

Is Momentum A Socialist Conference bis?

Unlike the Chesterfield events, still cresting the ebbing Bennite wave, its role was not clear from the start.

Is ‘participatory democracy’ channeled into supporting Corbyn the Labour Leader?

That would result in the kind of ‘left populism’ attempted by Jean Luc Mélenchon  in La France Insoumise and (in a different more democratic way) Podemos’s Pablo Iglesias, around a rather unlikely figure, who, to his credit has always refused the role of Chief around which everything else revolves.

Or does it mean trying to work in the policy areas that the Socialist Movement tried to think out? Given that Labour seems short of clear policies on a variety of issues – the Welfare state, a recent announcement of a group looking into Basic Income might be one sector where Momentum could contribute?

What structures does it have for this purpose?

Does it mean taking up issues of ‘grassroots power’, which many would take to imply changing the Labour Party’s present make-up with a “movement” that moblises on more than electoral issues?

Or is to be a kind of super Bevanite Brain’s Trust, that Bean never managed to hook up with, that can carry Corbyn’s message from the party into the country?

These are just some of the background issues behind the present crisis in Momentum.

The most recent Workers’ Liberty carries this exchange:  A debate about Momentum   (Solidarity. 15.2.17).

“This explanation by Jon Lansman of recent events in Momentum was circulated in the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. Since it contains nothing confidential, and is the only political explanation available from the Momentum leadership other than the article by Christine Shawcroft in Labour Briefing (Feb 2017), which we replied to last week, we reprint it here.”

Jon Lansman.

I wanted also to counter the lies and misinformation which are widely repeated by sectarian elements on the Left who wish to turn Momentum from a broad alliance it was intended to be, seeking to maintain the broad centre-left coalition that elected Jeremy Corbyn to support his administration, democratise the party along the lines long advocated by CLPD, and help Labour win elections into a hard-Left organisation reminiscent of the LRC designed to put pressure on Jeremy from the left.

There has been no “coup” within Momentum, though there had been an attempt over the last year by various Trotskyist and other sectarian organisations to use Momentum local groups, often at the cost of driving away non-aligned activists, as a basis for seizing control of regional networks and the former national committee of Momentum. It became very clear how wide the disparity had become between these bodies and the membership of Momentum from the survey conducted in conjunction with a pre-Christmas message from Jeremy Corbyn.

Lansman takes account of what observers have predicted for months, that a National Momentum Conference risked becoming a sectarian bear-pit,

  • We could battle for two months in the run up to a planned national delegate conference narrowly foisted on the national committee — with some delegates who disagreed being forced to vote in favour in spite of having been elected by STV in order to preserve the pluralism of regional representatives, which would inevitably have undermined efforts to maximise left representation at this year’s conference, support local Momentum activists in preparing for CLP AGMs, and mobilise for by-elections and a possible early general election.
  • We could avoid this internal battle, by calling immediate elections for a new national body based on a new constitution reflecting the wishes of members as revealed in the survey and circulated for agreement of members in the way we would have had to do at some point anyway.

Avoiding this predictable fight was the goal.

This is something critics have to grapple with.

Lansman  also notes,

I have personally been subjected to appalling abuse to which it is difficult to respond without simply perpetuating their attempt to personalise “blame” for the alleged wrongs of which they unfairly accuse me. I regret that Martin [Thomas] has chosen to act in this way. I have worked with him within CLPD since the early 1980s. I have done so because he and his colleagues from Socialist Organiser, as his organisation was originally known, showed a genuine commitment to CLPD they never showed to the LRC or any other left organisations in which they pursued the opportunistic self-interested methods we are used to from all Trotskyist sects.

I halt at this point because there is little doubt that Jon Lansman is absolutely right to complain about the abuse.

This is how one of his leading critics, Tony Greenstein, thought by some people to be a “genius” described his action in promoting an on-line survey of Momentum members,  all too recently ( Jon Lansman’s Xmas Punch Could Sucker Corbyn)

There is a reason that dictators have always loved plebiscites.  That is because they get to choose the questions and to frame them in such a way that they get the ‘right’ answer. Most people won’t remember Hitler’s plebiscites on the Rhine and the Saarland but they haven’t had a very good reputation ever since.

Greenstein some might say is a special case, whose vitriol is hurled  at present lie at another target:  Owen Jones – the Final Betrayal – Supporting Zionist Apartheid & the Jewish Labour Movement.  Supporting Israeli Apartheid and the Palestinians is not compatible.

But he is far from alone.

It would take a moment’s Googling to find more abuse.

Now Alan Thomas is, from the AWL, a respected activist and writer, but his reply on this point, is not convincing,

Jon Lansman identifies “sectarian elements” almost entirely with us (“Trotskyists”), but at the same time finds these “sectarians” so numerous among Momentum’s 21,000 members that the clash can be resolved only by abolishing Momentum democracy. At stake here is no “sectarianism” of ours, but the issue of what socialism is and how it can be won.

The liberation of the working class can be won only by a vivid movement where each participant is a lively contributor with her or his own ideas; which is full of bouncy debate; in which even the deepest prejudices and the most revered leaders are subject to question. In a new movement like Momentum, we have reasoned patiently and tactfully, rather than bloviating.

I leave to one side the claims about the AWL, often made by people with their own political – ‘sectarian’ agenda.

The fact is that if we can define sectarians at all – a hard task –  it is that they are loudmouths who are in a permanent storm of self-righteous attack.

Often they come out of the pages of William Hazlitt’s People with One Idea,

People of the character here spoken of, that is, who tease you to death with some one idea, generally differ in their favourite notion from the rest of the world; and indeed it is the love of distinction which is mostly at the bottom of this peculiarity.

Table Talk : Essays on Men and Manners (1821 -22)

Other times they are loyal simply to their faction, with no other loyalties.

Those familiar with the left could write a new essay, People with Too Many Correct Ideas…

One is always the Other Sectarian for a Sectarian…..

But I digress…

There are many other problems about Momentum, but whether they are numerous or not, they are still loud. Shouty. And, in Greenstein’s case – I single him out for his visibility but he is far from alone –  highly unpleasant.

Greenstein and another ‘anti-Zionist’. Gerry Downing, are very active in the Momentum Grassroots Moblising Conference. 

This is what the former says, “Lansman’s Momentum is destined for the knackers yard because without democracy you cannot have a movement.”

More simply many people do not want to become involved in a shouting match between different left groups, or, if it happens on more cordial terms, a struggle for influence.

Alan is nevertheless spot on to comment,

Yet Momentum would have contributed more, not less, if it had actively promoted a left Remain vote, free movement across borders, opposition to Trident renewal. It would be stronger now if its national office as well as its local groups had campaigned in support of workers’ disputes like at Picturehouse, and for the NHS. It would have done better if (as we urged) it had organised a presence at Labour conference 2016. It would be healthier if it had had a proper discussion on left antisemitism (in which Jon Lansman and we would have been broadly on the same side), rather than trying to quell the issue administratively. All those things are not “sectarian” caprices, but would have happened if Momentum had been allowed to develop “normally”, democratically.

This is something that Lansman ignores, many people on the democratic left, and this includes the AWL agree on these policies.

We certainly need a voice for them.

Alan may equally well be often right to say,

The new imposed constitution is out of line even with the (heavily manipulated) online survey over Christmas. That suggested decisions by online voting of all members. Under the new constitution, online votes can scarcely even stall office decisions in extreme cases. Real power rests with the office and with a seldom-meeting “coordinating group” in which only 12 out of 28 or 32 places are elected by Momentum members.

10 January was a coup. Imagine its analogue in general politics: Theresa May declares that, on the strength of a 50%-plus-one majority got in an hour’s emailing round the Cabinet, she is abolishing Cabinet, Parliament, and an imminent general election in favour of office rule plus a future “coordinating group” in which elected citizens’ representatives are a minority. Or, if that’s too much, imagine the analogue in any other left movement. Despite it all, Momentum’s local groups will continue to organise, and I don’t think the panic-stricken officials can stop them.

But the real issue is not an organisational form, and behind that whether this or that factional grouping, or alliance, is competing for power in the structures.

It is what aims and functions  does Momentum have beyond rallying support for Corbyn.

Nothing that’s happened so far has disproved the judgement of many left-wingers that clear goals, from ‘think tank’ policy-formulating (that is as a pressure group within Labour with specific ideas), and a hook between Labour and a variety of campaigns (such as Stop Trump!, or union disputes) already have vehicles in Constituency parties, Trades Councils and other bodies.

Many of us are all in favour of Momentum finding some way out of this dispute, a modus vivendi.

But…..

Momentum includes people like Nick Wrack who state (RETHINKING LABOUR: MORE OF THE SAME OR CHANGE OF COURSE?)

… it is important to recognise that there is a huge difference – a vast chasm – between what is called social democracy and socialism or communism. I use socialism and communism as synonyms for a system that is based on a complete transformation of society, breaking with the present capitalist system and the exploitation of labour to make profit. Socialism is a society based on democratic common ownership of the means of production – land, factories, transport, technology and science. It is a society based on production for social need rather than for private profit.

…..I am now of the opinion that all Marxists should, at the very least, join Momentum. We can play a key role in helping to defend Corbyn and defeating the right. Where possible, therefore, Marxists should also join Labour. This is best done as an organised group, rather than as individuals. The purpose of joining is two-fold: to strengthen the forces in defence of Corbyn and against the rightwing in Labour and the trade unions and to argue for a Marxist ideas in the mass movement around Corbyn. There is no knowing how long this battle may last or what the outcome will be. Those coming into Momentum and into the Labour Party will include thousands of people who simply want change. But many will have no clear idea of what that change should be or how it can be accomplished. Marxists have to engage with the debate. What change? How can it be achieved? What programme is necessary?

So what is he doing trying to join or influence a social democratic party?

Wrack’s position, which is shared by others,  is not so easy to dismiss as the notorious cranks who insult ‘reformists’ , ‘Zionists’ and the rest.

It is, crudely, that Momentum should be a kind of political mill pond for them to fish in to build their ‘Marxist’ line.

Never forgetting the “vast chasm” that separates them from social democracy, that is a very substantial chunk of the Labour Party membership and support.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 17, 2017 at 1:31 pm