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The Weekly Worker and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty: A Forgotten Love Affair.

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Spooky but True: the Untold Tale of Weekly Worker AWL Unity.

Followers of the minutiae of the left,  and there are them, will know that no bitterer enemies exist than the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee CPGB-PCC). and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

Both publish papers, which it has to be said, many on the left read, the former’s Weekly Worker for its articles on theory, socialist history its reports on Italy, Iran,  and some other European countries, curious letters, and serious book reviews. The AWL’s Solidarity has valuable – accurate – reports on trade union and welfare issues, the Labour Party, and covers the history of the left, and international topics. It  also carries good coverage of books.

The two groups are now locked in a never-ending battle.

“Social-imperialism” and  comparisons with ‘Stasi busybodies” are some of the milder terms used by the Weekly Worker to describe their foes in the AWL. The AWL dismisses the, admittedly groupusculaire  WW, and its key ally, the Monster Raving Geenstein Party.

Yet things were not always so….

It was in the year 2000.

Spring was coming. The world was full of daffodils and gamboling hares. And love.

Report of a partisan observer John Bridge and other Weekly Worker writers discuss the AWL 09.03.2000

Five observers from the Communist Party of Great Britain attended the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’s 7th conference over the weekend of March 4-5. In general we met with a friendly reception. There was certainly a keen interest in our ideas, as witnessed by a sale of over 40 copies of the Weekly Worker. An impressive figure and much to the credit of the AWL – especially given that there were no more than around 80 of their comrades in attendance.

..

The AWL is a small organisation of serious revolutionaries – it has 110 full and a handful of candidate members – with a relatively long history in Britain’s Trotskyite milieu. Once they existed as a faction in Tony Cliff’s International Socialism organisation. That is, until they were bureaucratically expelled. Since then, led by Sean Matgamna, they have been through a labyrinthine series of name changes, primeval unities and fragile partnerships. However, what distinguishes the AWL from that which often falsely passes itself off as Trotskyism is its culture of comparative openness and a willingness to think.

..

We in the CPGB share and defend exactly that approach.

Love blossomed,

Rapprochement begins

Two representatives of the CPGB’s Provisional Central Committee and two representatives of the AWL’s National Committee met on Friday March 3.

Discussion began with Mark Fischer outlining the history of the PCC’s struggle for a reforged CPGB and why we put Partyism at the centre of our work. It was explained to the comrades from the AWL that we have no CPGB golden age. Our project is about the future, not the past.

We also discussed the importance of trade union bulletins and trade union work. CPGB comrades assured the AWL representatives that we had no objections to trade union work nor trade union bulletins. There was, however, the matter of priorities.

Blair’s constitutional revolution was raised, along with the national question in Wales and Scotland. One AWL comrade did not see why we were so concerned with such issues. This led on to what the CPGB’s PCC understands by economism.

The entry work the CPGB carried out in the SLP was praised and criticised by the AWL comrades. We replied that it was easy to criticise from the outside.

The commitment of the CPGB to a minimum-maximum programme was touched upon. CPGB comrades questioned the AWL about their project of a new Labour Representation Committee. We were told that this was for propaganda purposes and at the moment was of no particular importance.

The principles of democratic centralism were emphasised by the CPGB comrades, as was the need for a polemical communist press in the conditions of today. We stressed the necessity of engaging with advanced workers – ie, those susceptible to theory.

Both sides agreed to hold a further meeting in mid-March and to have a joint day school in early April on the Party question. The three headings of debate will be: economism; organising the class; party and programme.

Halcyon days!

CPGB-AWL rapprochement. 27.7.2000.

Representatives of the CPGB and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty have been meeting to explore areas of difference and agreement between us. Over the coming weeks, we will feature edited minutes, starting here with those of the March 3 meeting. Comments and criticisms are welcome.

Agreed in conclusion: to put economism; organising the revolutionaries to revolutionise the labour movement; and Party and programme – minimum-maximum and transitional – on the agenda for a day school (date to be fixed). Next four-hander discussion: Friday March 17, to cover minimum-maximum and transitional programmes, and the nature of the ‘official communist’.

CPGB-AWL cooperation. 15.11.2001.

The Communist Party of Great Britain and the Alliance for Workers? Liberty are continuing to explore areas of theoretical difference and agreement, and are looking at the possibility of joint work. Representatives of the executive committee of the AWL and the Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB met recently to discuss a number of issues of current practical concern and issues of ongoing debate between the two organisations.

Alas.

The dalliance did not last, as this document (January 2003) indicates.

Followed by,

By Paul Hampton
The CPGB, those pretentious squirrels of left-wing tittle-tattle, outdid themselves by chickening out of a debate with the AWL over Iraq.

They have sought in vain to manufacture mischief with some AWL comrades who disagree with the group’s position on Iraq. After a series of private e-mails demanding that the AWL minority agitate to “clear out the leadership of the scabs”, the CPGB invited David Broder to debate with them at their overinflated “communist university”, under the title: troops out – but when? David referred the matter to the AWL office, which generously put up Sean Matgamna to speak for our politics.

The Weekly Worker responded in the shape of a piece by a certain Ian Donovan.

Workers’ Liberty: Descent into cultism

Ian Donovan assesses the current trajectory of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

Being “transnational Jewish bourgeoisie” Donovan one can imagine the angle he took on the Palestine Israel issue which divided the two groups.

Yet the vicarious-Zionist AWL has issued not one word of criticism or analysis of this ultra-reactionary phenomenon, which is one of the key, concrete manifestations of Zionism today.

He defended George Galloway,

the matter in hand is to defend Galloway against the bourgeois witch-hunt.

And,

Whether over Galloway, the question of the Iraq war, Israel-Palestine, the Socialist Alliance (where it has squandered an enormous opportunity to be joint initiators of a genuinely broad paper of a pro-party minority), the AWL is retreating headlong back into the most bizarre and unsavoury forms of sectarianism.

Our interest in this tale is waning, so I will end there, yet it remains etched on many a broken heart.

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Leftist Trainspotting Fun from Labour Party Marxists, from “bewildered” LRC, “silent Corbyn”, to AWL Stasi “busybodies”.

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Labour Party Marxist in the Thick of the Class Struggle.

The Irish Socialist Workers Party has dissolved itself into a “network”. “The change in name to Socialist Workers Network reflects a decision to focus on building People Before Profit, and within that to win and educate as many members as possible in revolutionary socialist politics.” (SW Ireland)

Now while the SWN is honest about what it is doing, and has good reasons to do so given that People Before Profit has some, limited, political presence, we cannot say the same for Labour Party Marxists.

This is from its mission statement,

  1. The central aim of Labour Party Marxists is to transform the Labour Party into an instrument for working class advance and international socialism. Towards that end we will join with others and seek the closest unity of the left inside and outside the party.

No doubt about that  which it trumpets – if that’s the right word for declarations that practically nobody ever reads.

But  there’s nothing about LPM’s inks with the Weekly Worker and the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee CPGB-PCC).

The Weekly Worker is a paper which produces some interesting material, some indeed very useful articles, but whose owners, said CPGB-PCC, have taste for political stunts not to mention an alliance with cascadeur  in chief, Tony ‘Monster Raving’ Greenstein Party. 

Not much closest possible unity with the rest of the left from that quarter!

They have just issued a spate of articles on the site of Labour Party Marxists  which may perhaps indicate this….

Cde Stan Keable (today, 15th of February)  sums up last week’s Labour Representation Committee Meeting, 

Labour Representation Committee: Reduced to a think tank?

Around 120 Labour Representation Committee members gathered in London’s Conway Hall on February 10 for yet another angst-ridden ‘special’ general meeting (SGM), in which a bewildered leadership shared with its rank and file its own failure – like most of the left – to draw into membership or engage with the ‘radicalised’ mass intake of Corbyn supporters into the Labour Party.

Perhaps they ought to have debated this  other 15th of February recent article?

Clause 4: Why revive a stinking corpse?

Jack Conrad (Chamberlain) questions the worth of the ‘Labour4Clause4’ campaign being promoted by Socialist Appeal. Instead of fostering illusions in Fabian socialism, surely the task of Marxists is to win the Labour Party to Marxist socialism.

But the prize must go to this chef d’oeuvre by Carla Roberts, also on the 15th of February (a busy day for LPM indeed!)

Witch-hunts: When chickens come home…

Roberts begins by citing the case of  “Jeremy Newmark, until recently chair of the Jewish Labour Movement” now embroiled in a corruption case after his swindles came to light. A particular gripe is that the Jewish Chronicle reported the affair in depth, “The enthusiasm with which the pro-Zionist Jewish Chronicle has attacked Newmark is quite breathtaking”.

That over we get attacks on the real enemies.

Jeremy Corbyn, “Corbyn has silently stood by, allowing pretty much any criticism of the actions of the state of Israel to be branded as evidence of anti-Semitism.”

 Jon Lansman ” who literally owns Momentum”. Selecting candidates for the Momentum list for Labour’s NEC, “Jon Lansman did what he does best: went nuclear.”

And,

Hope Not Hate, while not playing an active part in the witch-hunt, is a rightwing version of the Socialist Workers Party’s ‘Stand Up To Racism’.

At the conclusion there is the inevitable: The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, (AWL),

the AWL lacks the numbers and finance for that type of campaign. It represents more the type of busybody who would report their neighbour to the East German Stasi for watching West German TV.

Oddly some people in the Labour Party, including the left, are not fond of Labour Party Marxists or their antics.

But their drive to make the Labour Party into a Marxist Party, guided by their own interpretation of Lenin, proceeds apace.

Leftist Trivia Quiz 2017.

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Following the a soaraway  success of Hatful of History’s quiz we have our own for 2017.

  1. Who developed an interest in Lenin’s support for Nudism this year?
  2. In 2016 Ben Chacko, Editor of the Morning Star, organ of the Communist Party of Britain,  sent a message of solidarity to a pro-Brexit  Trotskyist rally in Paris. What is the name of this Trotskyist group and why were they in the new again in 2017?
  3. What are the names of the groups that Gerry Downing’s Liaison Committee for the Fourth International has links with?
  4. Who is the former bag-man for George Galloway and now best mates with Counterfire, who was prepared to fight to the last French person against the Front National in this year’s Presidential election?
  5. The name of the former faction in the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) of Labour’s present Executive Director of Strategy and Communications was i) LGBT Left. ii) Straight Left.
  6. Which  issues of Socialist Worker in 2017 carried heartfelt denunciations of sexual harassment?
  7. Which group was ruled ineligible for Labour Party membership?
  8. What is the current name of Workers’ Power, British Section of the League for the Fifth International?
  9.  What is the name of the People’s Assembly 2017 Xmas song (hard one this).
  10. Who is the other member of the Monster Raving Greenstein Party?

Written by Andrew Coates

December 30, 2017 at 11:21 am

Labour Against the Witch Hunt: Downing Versus Greenstein Battle joined by “Pro-Imperialist” Fourth International.

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Downing: Responds to Witch-Hunting in Labour Against the Witch-Hunt. 

While Tony Greenstein eats his weight in mince pies, and sets up a cash appeal that the wits of the Web have dubbed, “the Greenstein Pie Fund”, Gerry Downing and Socialist Fight have not been idling away their days scarfing down seasonal goodies.

Nor has out tip-top team of international investigative reporters on the trail of the latest developments in Labour Against the Witch Hunt (LAW).

A 700 pages defence of Socialist Fight’s democratic rights hit the Net a couple of days ago,

Defend Marxism and Labour Movement democracy against capitulators to Zionism

Socialist Fight statement on renewed witchhunting in ‘Labour Against the Witchhunt’.

Workers’ democracy is under attack in the infant Labour Party campaign group ‘Labour Against the Witchhunt’. Despite a clear rejection by a properly constituted meeting of LAW on 2 Dec, of the executive’s attempt to exclude by dictat supporters of Socialist Fight, some members of the executive are defying that decision and have launched a campaign to overturn it. A flimsy motivation for this has been penned by Tony Greenstein, with the backing of the guru of the CPGB, Jack Conrad, whose organisation printed Greenstein’s article in their paper on December 14th.

On the 19th of December the Labour Movement was roused by the latest revelations from Socialist Fight.

Defend Socialist Fight, Gerry Downing and Ian Donovan

Comrades and friends,

Please see if you can make this. We would appreciate some help and votes on 6 January.

Gerry

The LAW meeting is at 12 noon on 6 January in the Calthorpe Arms, 252 Grays Inn Road, London, WC1X 8JR.

Defend Socialist Fight, Gerry Downing and Ian Donovan against the Tony Greenstein/Weekly Worker Witchhunt in Labour Against the Witchhunt on 6 January

Dear Comrades,

 On 9 March 2016 Gerry Downing, a leading member of Socialist Fight, was expelled from the Labour party without a hearing or a right to appeal on the instigation of right wing Tory blogger, Guido Fawkes, which prompted David Cameron to ask a question in the House of Commons on his anti-imperialist positions on the Twin Towers and ISIS.

He was auto-excluded within two hours. On 2 April John Lansman followed up the witchhunt by getting a unanimous vote to expel him from the Labour Representation Committee for anti-Semitism. This had to be withdrawn because their Barrister would not say who presented the charge, what the actual charge was and refused to define anti-Semitism.
The Left Unity Disputes Committee rejected earlier charges of anti-Semitism against Ian Donovan laid by the Weekly Worker’s Communist Platform on 14 September 2014.

Finally, a broad campaign, Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW), was launched on 21 October 2017 because professor Moshé Machover was auto-excluded, and, as the Labour Party Marxists reported he was only “one of a long line of socialists, Corbyn supporters and defenders of Palestinian rights expelled or suspended on bogus charges of anti-Semitism”. Socialist Fight participated in that launch in the persons of Gerry Downing and Ian Donovan and contributed to the discussion and to the collection, expecting to assist in its work.

 The sorry tale continues,

However soon after that launch one Lee Rock began a vitriolic witch hunt against us, claiming we were anti-Semitic and should be expelled from LAW. The three remaining LAW Steering Committee members, Tony Greenstein, Stan Keable and Jackie Walker (Peter Firmin had resigned), duly obliged by auto-excluding us without a hearing or right to appeal, the very practice the group was set up to overturn in the Labour party. We were instructed not to attend to next LAW meeting as we were no longer members and we were blocked from the LAW Facebook page.

However, we did turn up early for the meeting on 2nd December with 3 supporters and, as Tony Greenstein reported the meeting was “effectively ambushed by a small Trotskyist grouping, Socialist Fight” i.e. our band of 5 managed to persuade the meeting, some 24 at its height, to refuse to accept the undemocratic, not to say autocratic, decisions of the triumvirate. We were accepted back in and reinstated in the Facebook page by Tony Greenstein.

 

For those who retain the will to live after reading that there is this:

 

Unfortunately, that was not the end of the matter. On 14 December Tony Greenstein resumed the witch hunt in an article in the Weekly Worker, Anti-Semites not welcome, Tony Greenstein explains why Socialist Fight must be excluded from Labour Against the Witchhunt. In it he pledged to try again to expel Socialist Fight from the next LAW meeting. This is his stance:

“There is no future for Labour Against the Witchhunt if Socialist Fight and its members remain an integral part of the organisation. For that reason I believe that it is essential that the next meeting, on January 6 should overturn the previous decision. If my views do not prevail, then I will resign from the organisation – as I believe will Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth of Grassroots Black Left.”
 
This is an appalling political stance, a refusal to accept labour movement democracy unless his views prevail, and demanding others walk out with him. Neither Gerry Downing nor Ian Donovan not any member or supporter of Socialist Fight, past or present, are in any way anti-Semitic. We are members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and are well-known defenders of Palestinian rights and opponents of the state of Israel. No one can point to a single act or political stance that is in any way racist or anti-Semitic except in the minds of those who want to appease the Labour party bureaucracy of Ian McNichol by proving they are neither revolutionary socialists and agree with him that Trotskyists should not be afforded any democratic rights whatsoever, a throwback to the Great Purges in the USSR in the 1930s and 1940s.

 Finally….

 

We appeal to you comrades to:

1.     Attend the meeting on 6 January, come a half an hour early, and speak and vote in our defence. It is an open meeting.
2.     Append you name to this statement by email or on our website, see below:
I defend the right of Socialist Fight Comrades to attend ad participate in the Labour Against the Witchhunt and reject the slurs of anti-Semitism directed against Socialist Fight and its two leading comrades, Gerry Downing and Ian Donovan.

What promises to be the must-be-at event of 2018 will be even spicier than one of Greensteins’ many pastries after the latest spat.

We expect to see some interesting scenes at the entrance to the Calthorpe Arms.

Will LAW exclude Socialist Fight and its allies from attending?

Massed petitions, Greenstein throwing stale mince pies, and lots of wobblies, are not ruled out.

It is called Socialist Fight after all.

To add to fuel to the fire another controversy has just broken out.

The Fourth International in Manchester Group published today an unkind piece of cde Downing which included the following,

Downing, not to be confused with Gerry Healy (though that little Gerry was once the big man for our future star), has written reams about the break-up of the WRP, and he will surely beat Donovan for the role, but this time in a rather more downbeat version of the film, ‘Bus Driver’ perhaps. Socialist Fight, which proclaims itself to be the British Section of the ‘Liaison Committee for the Fourth International’ (with three other appendages), is the latest incarnation of Downing after his Workers International League and its paper ‘Workers Action’ hit the buffers. Donovan, meanwhile, has form in many different roles, having been through more far-left groups than you have had hot dinners, and he’ll get a bit part. Just as he does now in Downing’s Socialist Fight, which has given Donovan a home following his well-deserved expulsion from the CPGB-PCC. The film-score, by the way, will be by jazz saxophonist and antisemite Gilad Atzmon.

Phew!

And,

In the tiny narcissistic and paranoiac world of Socialist Fight, there is a ‘Jewish Bourgeoisie’ that has intimate direct ties to the State of Israel, and it is this conspiratorial vision of the world that supposedly explains why the Jews who are, we are told, ‘over-represented’ in the ruling class must be called out. Full-blown ‘anti-Zionism’ must, according to Downing and Donovan, name this Jewish bourgeoisie as an influence to be rooted out, and so (as many hard-line Zionists would predict and wish) anti-Zionism shades into antisemitism. This is no longer socialism as such. No wonder these two are admired by Gilad Atzmon who has made a disgusting speciality of celebrating self-hatred – a Jew who hates, he says, every bit of him that reminds him that he is Jewish – and no wonder that they return the favour.

the Manchester Fourth Internationalists compare Downing to Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, who “doesn’t really have a plan or know where he is going”.

Ideological debate on this is intense. Many other comrades think a character out of The League of Gentlemen is more appropriate, somebody who brings a certain joy to the lives of local people.

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Naturally this roused the ire of cde Downing.

The Fourth International in Manchester attack Socialist Fight. From the group that is now so pro imperialist left that it gave full support to the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya on behalf of NATO via the renegade Trotskyist Gilbert Atchcar (sic) and Syria via the imperialist backed jihadists and the fascist-led Maiden coup in Ukraine.”

And now this shower of Trotskyist renegade attacks the principled anti imperialism of Socialist Fight, whose record of support for every anti imperialist struggle, beginning in Ireland and ranging from Libya to Syria to Ukraine, South Africa and North Korea and Cuba and Zimbabwe. Unconditional but critical support via the Anti Imperialis United Front as opposed to all that grovelling before the masters of life for the FIIMG.

Socialist Fight.

All is not lost.

We learn that the Downingites have also recruited a valuable ally against Greensteinism and all of its works, and no doubt the Fourth International, “My group the International Bolshevik Tendency has disagreements with Socialist Fight but Downing is quite good at sticking to issues and steering clear from ad hominem, slander and what have you. The same can’t be said for some on the left.”

 

 

Roy Hattersley, Momentum, and ‘Labour’s worst crisis”.

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Roy Hattersley, Momentum, and ‘Labour’s worst crisis”

“Socialism requires the use of collective power to increase individual rights and to extend individual freedom.”

“Public ownership in the form of state corporations, centrally owned, planned and administered, is essential for the public utilities.”

Pages 120 and 185. Choose Freedom. The Future for Democratic Socialism. Roy Hattersley. 1987.

Sunday’s Observer saw elder Labour statesman, Roy Hattersley, launch a call to arms (This is Labour’s greatest crisis. Time to fight back. 3.12.17). Momentum, the pressure group dedicated to winning elections for Labour and supporting the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, aims to move the party to the “far left of the political spectrum”. The “threat” to Labour from their “extremism”, “Corbyn’s revolutionary guard” is carrying out a “cull of councillors” and the “replacement of moderate MPs”. It must be “beaten”. The task is to “save British social democracy from extinction”.

Hattersley’s polemic has its moments. Many enjoyed the phrase struck, with successful comic effect, describing former Militant supporters, “the old gang” in Liverpool now apparently active again in the party, “All that is changed is that the Militant now travel to meetings with their bus passes.”

Less appreciated was his effort to explain other local developments. On the challenge to Haringey’s Labour leadership, the former Labour Deputy leader is seriously awry. Aggressive newcomers were also at work. ‘New recruits’ brandishing a call for “democracy” were to blame for new councillor selections. A reference to the disastrous implications of the council’s plans to redevelop council housing by removing some estates from “public ownership” and handing them over to a private dominated development (“the biggest transfer of local authority resources to a private entity in UK history, and would see Lendlease own a fifty per cent stake in a company which will profit from public assets for at least twenty years”)  in which the poor have no place is missed. Absent too was the long, very long, history of disputes over ‘modernising’ Labour in Haringey, which predate Momentum by….several decades. (1)

 

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Momentum.

Momentum can no doubt reply for itself and there are already many commentaries on Labour’s Greatest Crisis. It is hard to identify the pressure group with the ‘far left’. When Militant, now known as the Socialist Party, tried to move in en masse, attempting to create its own “Trade Union Momentum”, they were rebuffed. Another group of left-wingers, after several figures were removed from national office, put some effort in forming Grass Roots Momentum. It has foundered. No doubt individuals from various leftist factions are active in Momentum, a proportion of the membership put at lower single figures.

Some on Labour’s right appear to believe that Momentum’s interest in ‘extra-parliamentary’ activity is anti-democratic. The term is misleading. Public protest is no more opposed to electoral work (which is the core of the movement’s existence), than UNITE Community’s Day of Action against Universal Credit, or demonstrations on the NHS. Or indeed, at the labour movement’s foundation, strikes for better pay and conditions leading to negotiations for collective agreements. Complaints about UNITE’s efforts to influence Labour more directly seem even more paradoxical, if criticism is directed at anti-Westminster politics.

There are legitimate concerns about some aspects of the way the Momentum operates. Conferences attended by delegates selected by lot, a practice adopted in France by President Macron’s En Marche! party and used for a percentage of attendees at Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise, may quell factionalism. But despite reference to the ancient Athenian Constitution, this method of choosing representatives is not today widely accepted as a democratic method.

No doubt we will learn just how democratic the opposing slate of candidates for Labour’s NEC emerged. At present there are none.

On what other grounds does Hattersley accuse Labour of moving to the far-left? The party programme, its policies? Labour is committed to re-nationalising public utilities. One might disagree about the claim that “market distribution” can be fixed to respond to “demand” when, as he noted in Choose Freedom, that income is so unfairly distributed. The objective of developing a replacement for Universal Credit, still in its early stages, can surely be modelled in with traditional social democratic redistribution. In his 1987 book he cited John Rawls’ ‘difference principle”, that is judging reforms by their ability to make the poorest better off. This remains a workable gauge of real reform of welfare. Hattersley’s “struggle for democratic rights” equally remains an objective which unites otherwise divided strands of democratic socialism. The Corbyn and McDonnell leadership indeed puts it at the centre of their policies.

Sunday’s broadside is a shot from the bows at ..what? The vast majority of members are united around the need to elect a new Labour Government. Yet, behind this there are serious issues at stake within the party. They do no neatly fall into a division between “far left” and “moderates”, or even different appreciations of the Blair and Brown years.

New Dividing Lines?

At the risk of whittling down a whole forest of contentious issues some stick out.

  •  Europe. The Labour Party contains both a small right wing ‘patriotic’ anti-EU current, a left-wing ‘Lexit’ (left-exit) current, and a big majority, from the centre to large parts of the left, which wants the smallest possible break from Europe. Some do not want to leave the EU at all. The Lexit left is in disarray as their glee at seeing Britain leave the ‘Bosses Club’ has turned to ashes faced with the complexities of exit, and the prospect of being at the mercy of the WTO and stronger economies, from the EU itself to the USA.
  • Specific Policy. Labour’s stand on Brexit, is seeking the ‘best deal’ and letting the Tories tear themselves apart in Brexit negotiations, while balancing its statements with an electoral strategy that attracts anti-EU voters. This has left many unsure about what a possible Corbyn led government will do. On a key aspect, failing to debate the Freedom of Movement at Conference, an issue brought up by left wing activists, does not mean the issue has disappeared.
  • Internationalism. While the majority of the Labour party, including the activist left, are committed to defending universal human rights (leaving aside weighty philosophical agreements on the topic), there are differences on where to start. Some groups, in numbers only groupuscules about with wider influence within the Party, give priority to fighting ‘imperialism’, that is the USA. Those backing ‘anti-imperialist’ forces have watered down their public rhetoric. But as recent pronouncements by Andrew Murray, chief of Unit’s political strategy and the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), and of the indicate, there remain elements prepared on international issues who are prepared to align openly with forces hostile to democratic socialism.

As this sketch illustrates, disagreements within the Labour Party and broader left, have moved on from the stark divisions with which Roy Hattersley tries to frighten his readers. Far from being in a position to stifle these differences in a Labour Party that excludes “everyone with whom they disagree” Momentum is obliged to confront them. The progress made so far to elaborate a “synthesis” between different strands of thought in Labour in a policy platform that is resolutely democratic socialist gives one grounds for hope.  That they, Momentum, – and it is hard to call such a disparate group a ‘they’ – have a core objective it is an eminently Parliamentary one, electing the next PM. One hopes the former deputy leader will do his best to work for that. .

 

(1): On this see: “We Took the Last Option”: The Fight for Democracy in Haringey. New Socialist.

Sovereigntists say, “Reject Reject Starmer’s Single Market u-turn” and “Fight for a Socialist Brexit.”

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‘Socialist’ Brexit. 

Editorial of the Socialist (Socialist Party), issue 960

Reject Starmer’s Single Market u-turn

Where is the ‘workers’ Brexit‘ that Jeremy Corbyn spoke about during the general election campaign in this plan? Where is the promise to reject the EU rules which place barriers in the way of nationalisation *- like that of the railways and energy companies promised in Corbyn’s manifesto – or which say that companies’ right to make money trumps workers’ right to strike? As explained in an article in the last issue of the Socialist: “From its inception [the EU] has aimed to drive through neoliberal, anti-working class measures in order to maximise the profits of the capitalist elite.” This is a fact that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have long argued too.

At the behest of the capitalist class they are openly collaborating with pro-EU big business MPs in all parties, including the Tory Party. If it is not countered Starmer’s announcement will be a significant victory for these pro-capitalist, neoliberal forces.

The Socialist Party says,

Fight for a socialist Brexit. Organise a campaign with European socialists and workers’ organisations to use the Brexit talks to tear up the EU bosses’ club rules. For a new collaboration of the peoples of Europe on a socialist basis.

This was the last collaboration they went in for, a pro-Brexit  beano organised  in Paris on the 28th of May 2017  by the tiny Trotkyist Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique (POID), and attended by people from the British Trade Unionists Against the EU. POIDS’s 64 Candidates for the French legislative elections this year on an anti-EU platform received too small a vote to resister. Their leader, Daniel Gluckstein stood in the Presidential contest in 20012 and got 0.47% of the ballot in the first round.

 

The Socialist Workers Party joins in the cry,

The left in Labour can put forward a left wing vision for Brexit.

That has to involve extending freedom of movement, ending austerity and privatisation—and opposing the single market.

Meanwhile the Workers  Revolutionary Party opines,

Smash Labour’s right wing coup attempt – Leave the EU at once!THE Labour Party leadership has moved to sell out and stab the Brexit referendum result and the working class in the back.

Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, has turned the office into its opposite. It has become the Office for Remaining in the EU at any cost, and by any method. Starmer wants to agree a transitional period that is ‘as short as possible but as long as is necessary’ in which the UK will remain in the single market, the customs union, and remain bound to pay financial levies to the EU, and also obey the jurisdiction of the European Court for that indeterminable period.

In a further move that will delight many pro-EU Labour backers, Jeremy Corbyn’s party at the end of the transitional period may decide to remain in both the single market and the customs union!

Starmer got the agreement of the Labour leadership and key members of Labour’s shadow cabinet for this coup last Thursday, according to both his and Corbyn’s office. His policy makes the sell-out of the Greek workers by Syriza seem even heroic – Labour is collapsing before the battle has even been joined!

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Pro-EU MPs and activists within the Labour Party are now mobilising. MPs Heidi Alexander and Alison McGovern have published a motion for members to submit for debate at next month’s party conference in Brighton. This says: ‘The Labour Party is serious about protecting jobs, tackling austerity and defending the rights of workers and consumers, so staying part of the customs union and in the European Economic Area is a no-brainer.’

Starmer wrote in the Observer: ‘That is why a transitional period under Labour will be as short as possible, but as long as is necessary. It cannot become a kind of never-ending purgatory. That would simply create its own uncertainty and ambiguity… It must be based on a deal that, as Labour made clear in our manifesto, retains the benefits of the customs union and the single market. How that is ultimately achieved is secondary to the outcome.’ The outcome is remaining in the EU.

Workers in the Labour Party and in the trade unions must now act to smash these coupists and expel them from the Labour Party. CLPs must pass emergency resolutions calling for the resignation of Starmer, and the members of the shadow cabinet that support him, and the deselection of all MPs that support this Labour coup attempt.

Trade unions meeting at the TUC Congress must pass resolutions denouncing this attempted coup and call for the UK to leave the EU at once. Further the TUC must carry an emergency resolution calling for a general strike to bring down the Tory minority government from the left and bring in a workers’ government that will quit the EU and carry out a socialist revolution in the UK, expropriating the bosses and bankers and bringing in socialism.

For a truly left-wing view see, Another Europe is Possible.

With Article 50 triggered, we are entering a dangerous moment for our democracy. The government is pursuing a harmful, extreme form of Brexit for which it has no democratic mandate. Corporations will seek to influence the outcomes. But popular will and progressive politics are increasingly shut out.

In the shadow of an increasingly volatile world, we stand for co-operation between people and across borders, and we are for democracy. The British people must have the defining say over what kind of deal is reached.

Be a part of the flagship campaign to save the 6 progressive elements of EU membership.  We identify those as:

  • Rights at work
  • Environmental protections
  • Freedom to move
  • Human rights
  • Education and innovation
  • Science and research funding

We all have the right to know what is being negotiated on our behalf. The result of the referendum was not a mandate to undermine our human rights or our rights at work, to scrap environmental protections or to attack migrants. We will not allow this government to pursue a race to the bottom in which we all lose.

There is still everything to play for, and in the coming months we will unite to campaign for a deal which guarantees the rights of workers and migrants, and which maintains key environmental human rights protections. In an increasingly nasty and divided world, we will fight for a future of international cooperation and social justice.

This is our deal – bringing together people across civil society and different political parties in order to put forward a progressive vision for the outcome from the negotiations.

You can join the fight for a Progressive Deal today.

  • Write to your MP to ask them to sign up to the Progressive Deal
  • Download a leaflet for the campaign here

1. Rights at work

When Britain leaves the EU, workers could lose important legal protections. These include the 48 hour limit on weekly working hours; four weeks of holiday per year; strengthened equal pay legislation; guaranteed breaks; maternity and paternity pay rights; and protections for agency and temporary workers. If Britain and Europe attempt to compete with each other, this could lead to a race to the bottom on employment rights. We want a deal that:

  • Preserves all of these protections in British law
  • Contains an ongoing commitment that British and EU working rights will match each other, levelling up rather than levelling down

2. Environmental protections

In the EU referendum, no-one voted for environmental protections to be scrapped – but that could be the reality unless we retain those currently enshrined in European regulations. Climate change and pollution do not respect borders. We want a deal that:

  • Enshrines equivalent or better environmental protections in British law
  • Commits Britain to working hand-in-hand with European and international partners to radically reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate chaos

3. Freedom to move

The right to move across borders is a right that should be enjoyed by everyone. Without freedom of movement, it is a right enjoyed only by the rich. Free movement of people between Britain and Europe has enriched our societies, offered millions of people opportunities, and created bonds of love and friendship that cut across national frontiers. We want to see the right to choose where to live extended, not curtailed in the name of a concept of fairness that leaves everyone with the lowest common denominator of rights. However much the political establishment try to blame migrants for their own failure to provide stable employment and affordable housing, immigration makes a massive net contribution to the UK. We want a deal that:

  • Guarantees the rights of EU citizens already resident in the UK, and British expats in Europe
  • Preserves the freedom for British citizens to live and work in the EU, and for EU citizens to live and work in Britain
  • Sees the UK take play its part in building a humane and generous solution to the refugee crisis

4. Human rights

The European Convention on Human Rights, set up in the aftermath of the Second World War, enshrines the basic rights of European citizens – including the right to a fair trial, freedom of expression and association, and freedom from torture and religious oppression. Britain’s membership of the Convention does not disappear on leaving the EU, but it will become much easier for the government to withdraw from it. The current government has already indicated its intention to abolish the Human Rights Act, which covers much of the same ground. We want a deal that:

  • Commits Britain to continued membership of the European Convention on Human Rights

5. Education and innovation

Tens of thousands of British students study abroad every year, using programmes like Erasmus to improve their education and expand their horizons. Free and easy access to higher education institutions in the EU is a vital part of sharing and creating research which saves lives and advances humanity’s understanding of the world. We want a deal that:

  • Preserves Britain’s membership of Erasmus and other study abroad schemes
  • Gives British and European students and researchers continued free and easy access to education institutions

6. Science and research funding

Britain’s science and academic research receives a large quantity of its funding from the EU. The UK is the second largest recipient of EU research funding through the Framework Programme (FP7) funds. Between 2007 and 2013, the UK received €8.8bn in research funding, much more than it contributed. 71% of this went to universities, which are more dependent than ever on these funds to produce vital research. We want a deal that:

  • Maintains Britain’s access and contributions to EU-wide science and research funding programmes

On nationalisation: Guardian 27th of July 2017.

France nationalises strategic shipyard to thwart Italian ownership.

President Emmanuel Macron orders ‘temporary’ state control of SFX France to save jobs and preserve only shipyard capable of building aircraft carriers.

 

 

October. The Story of the October Revolution, China Miéville. Critical Left Reflections.

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October. The Story of the October Revolution, China Miéville. Verso. 2017.

Autumn and the 100th Anniversary of the October Revolution are drawing closer. The harvest of books on the new Soviet Power is still being gathered. It is, no doubt somebody has written, the duty of socialists to study, and this crop comes, for many, at the top of the left’s reading list. Should we begin with Lenin and the debates that have arisen after the publication of Lars Lih’s Lenin Rediscovered: ‘What is to Be Done’ in Context (2008)? The 17th century Jansenist theologian, Saint-Cyran, claimed to have gone through Saint Augustine’s writings, 22 volumes, ten times, and his writings against the Pelagian heretics thirty. (1) There are Leninists whose familiarity with the Collected Works of Lenin  exceeds that modest accomplishment. Far better, if we are to grasp what was a stake in Russia in 1917, to start first with accounts of events: the contending politics and theories, Bolsheviks and their opponents, are embodied in the acts of the revolution.

China Miéville’s contribution is, as he announces, “a short introduction for those curious about an astonishing story, eager to be caught up in the revolution’s rhythms. (Page 2). If it is more than as a “story” that he tells the tale, Miéville, from the radical left, and the accomplished author of the BasLag weird fiction trilogy, brings a freshness and enthusiasm to the narrative, which begins in the 19th century Tsarist Russian opposition, the 1905 Revolution, and above, all the immense tragedy of the Great War which overshadowed the events that unfolded. October leaves little doubt that the immediate alternative to All Power to the Soviets was not a coalition of the left, but the threat of a successful far-right coup that would have accomplished what General Kornilov had failed impose. Miéville has both charmed and irritated those already familiar with the plot, and, one hopes, instilled both interest and caution in those not.

The Saint-Cyrans amongst the left have not been slow to argue about the take on Lenin’s Letters from Afar (March 1917), which called for the Bolsheviks to take state power. For some this remains a “bombshell”, advocating an accelerated move towards a socialist regime, telescoping previous alliances and revolutionary ‘stages’ into an immediate drive towards something close to socialism. But Miéville claims (following Lars Lih) that, “His argument that the revolution must continue remained clear, as did his exhortation to worker, ‘you must perform miracles of proletarian and popular organisation to prepare for your victory in the second stage of the revolution’ – a stage not of socialism, he would soon clarify, but of taking political power, of winning over the Soviet, to ensure the victory of the (necessarily bourgeois, democratic) revolution (Page 98). It was “continuity Bolshevism, and yet contained the seeds of a distinct and more trenchant position”. (Page 99) Readers who wish to make their own judgement can follow debates on the relationship between socialism, the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry and other aspects of Bolshevik programme and doctrine.

Defending the Revolution.

Of far greater interest are Miéville’s defences of the Revolution. In a concluding chapter there is a series of reflections on its outcome, to put it simply, Stalinism. The state organised Red Terror was, in a manner familiar to anybody acquainted with Miéville’s former organisation the Socialist Workers Party, explained as a result of external circumstances. The Civil War was the cause, ““Under such unrelenting pressures, these are months and years of unspeakable barbarity and suffering, starvation, mass death, the near-total collapse of industry and culture, of banditry, pogroms, torture and cannibalism. The beleaguered regime unleashes the Red terror.”(Page 312). Yet, ““there is no doubt that its reach a depth expand beyond control; that some agents of the Cheka the political police, seduced by personal power, sadism or the degradation of the moment are thugs and murders unconstrained by political conviction and wielding new authority. There is no shortage of testimonials as to their dreadful acts.”(Ibid).

October does not examine the view that the “dictatorship of the proletariat” unconstrained by the rule of law is fertile ground for abuse, thugs and murders. One may disagree with Kautsky’s critique of Bolshevism. But if Lih is correct that Lenin accepted the view that the democratic republic was an important stage in the “ripening of the proletariat” it is not the view that this is a “stage” “the essential basis for building up a Socialist system if production” that favours the eventual conquest of political power, that strikes us most today. It is his opinion that “people’s rights” such as “the protection of minorities” are the bedrock of socialism. (2)

The Dictatorship of the Proletariat. 

Was Soviet Power, on the basis of interpreting Lenin’s reflections in State and Revolution (1917), made up of “working bodies, executive and legislative at the same time” a vehicle for these rights? Could take the state and politics back into the hands of the – restricted – electorate who controlled them? Lenin’s model was the barely over a couple of months long Paris Commune (8 Mar 1871 – 28 May 1871), a pluralist assembly, a heroic stand,  but which ended in a deep split between the patriotic majority of Blanquists who wished to fight by any means to the end, and an opposition of Proudhonists  and supporters of the First International (Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray, Histoire de la Commune de 1871,  Published, 1876 and a standard source for Marxists for many years). Its own administrative achievements – contested – aside, this perhaps illustrates the difficulties of revolutionary democracy in war.

As Isaac Deutscher memorably commented, the Bolsheviks refused to allow the “famished and emotionally unhinged country to vote their party out of power and itself into a bloody chaos” are not hard to grasp. (3)

They had always tacitly assumed that the majority of the working class having backed them in the revolution, would go on to support them unswervingly until they had carried out the full programme of socialism. Naïve as the assumption was, it sprang from the notion that socialism was the proletarian idea par excellence that the proletariat, having once adhered to it would not abandon it. (Ibid)

The Russian Dictatorship of the Proletariat had immense ambitions. Soviet power was a lever to the transition towards socialism. But disagreements arose over the methods used to that aim. Those opposed to the militarisation of labour in War Communism, to the One Man Management that emerged, Taylorism, and what is called ‘bureaucracy’ indicated that the content, the social institutions, of ‘socialism’ were not something that was already there in the “programme”. No number of warnings about external threats can retrospectively annul the fact that the dissident voices within the left, the critics of Bolshevism whose views were far from the ‘formalism’ of Kautsky and the social democrats who rejected the revolution en bloc,

In a more open-minded fashion than many who wish to defend Lenin and the Bolsheviks’ state of grace,  Miéville says, Those who count themselves on the side of the revolution must engage with these failures and crimes. To do otherwise is to fall into apologia, special pleading, hagiography – and to run the risk of repeating such mistakes.”(Page 317) But without human rights, how can we judge such abuses? Without such standards – not trumped by the necessities of the moment – what do we have left? This is more fundamental than the ban on Bolshevik “factions” that took place at the  10th Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) 1921, that is –initially limited – clamp down on the freedom of inner-party debate. But even if the Party had reached agreements to tolerate loyal extra-party opposition, say with left Mensheviks and ‘non-party’ representatives in the Soviets – that is accepting disagreements in terms that they set, there was no prospect of accepting pluralism as such, that is the right of an opposition to say what they wish. As the twenties wore on this was no longer a matter of the external constraints of civil war, ‘temporary measures’, but became a matter of doctrine.

The Russian Revolution, it is customary to say, contained many potentials. Miéville points to the sense of popular power that it unleashed. Government decrees, on women’s rights, decriminalising homosexuality, and the recognition of national rights as the USSR was formed from different ‘republics’, and – within the limits of the censorship – artistic creatively briefly flourished. But the strategy of a ‘transitional dictatorship’ was the worm in the fruit.

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(1) Page 293. Tome l. Port-Royal. Sainte-Beuve, Charles-Augustin. 3rd Edition. 1867.

(2) The Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Karl Kautsky. Ann Arbor. 1964 (1919)

(3) Page 505, The Prophet Armed. Trotsky 1879 – 1921. Isaac Deutscher. Oxford University press. 1979.