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Factionalism in the Time of Coronavirus Part 14: Calls for New Workers’ Party and ‘Resistance Movement’.

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It’s all happening on the Home Front! 

From what remains of the left (we hear that Momentum has revised its membership total down to 8000, from a high of 45k)  the drip drop of criticism of Keir Starmer continues, without a pause,

Momentum is trying to re-merge as a force:

 

But other strategists have been plotting the way forward.

At the beginning of August the revolutionary socialist groupuscule Counterfire which runs what remains of the People’s Assembly, and strongly influences the surviving structures of the Stop the War Coalition  carried this analysis, from the white-heat of the actuality of the revolution,

Life After Corbyn: don’t lose the radicalism

There has been some speculation that Corbyn might be expelled, and that he might then set up a new mass party of the socialist left. It won’t happen. Starmer isn’t stupid, he would prefer to keep Corbyn as a prisoner of the PLP so that what’s left of Labour’s radical left can be kept to heal and picked off one by one in the witch hunt. So if we need something new we are going to have build it ourselves.

Roy Wilkes concluded.

Plurality of ideas and approaches is positive and healthy. Plurality of sects competing with each other isn’t. And if we are going to extricate ourselves from the terrible predicament we find ourselves in, following over a century of failure to build an effective proletarian leadership, then our best hope is surely to force ourselves to come together, one way or another.

 

This is where revolutionary socialist leadership should be stepping in to the breach. It isn’t too late to change the course of history and avert catastrophe. But it soon will be.

Zooms apart there is little sign of this popping its head above the parapet.

Yet.

Chris Williamson is garnering support for his initiative, The Resistance Movement, as critics of Keir Starmer seek a welcoming political home.

Many will  relish his plain speaking.

 

They will no doubt admire how he stands up to the “Zionist” lobby,

Last week the Socialist Party called for a “new mass workers’ party”.

Labour payouts: unions must discuss political representation

the Socialist Party has called for discussion in the workers’ movement on the need for a new mass workers’ party.

A ‘major gathering’ of trade unionists and socialists is definitely needed, in the form of a conference that can democratically discuss and debate how political representation for the working class can concretely be re-established in the situation created by Starmer’s leadership.

 with or without the involvement of any particular individual, the need for a mass workers’ party that can discuss and adopt a socialist programme is inherent in today’s situation.

The Socialist Party has already initiated a call for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) to once again stand anti-cuts candidates in the next local and mayoral elections, following TUSC’s suspension of standing in the last local elections.

Presenting candidates who will fight for workers’ interests can only aid the discussion on how a mass workers’ party can be built, while in the meantime playing an important role in putting a socialist alternative on the ballot papers.

Yet, so far no answer seems to have come.

Socialist Worker comments,

Battles and infighting inside Labour reflect the party’s limits Charlie Kimber

Socialists should always be for the Labour left against the Labour right. But they also have to recognise that, even at its best, Labourism is not going to transform society.

A left that couldn’t effectively confront the right in its own party can hardly deal with the pressures of global capital and the state.

The obsession with Corbyn-nostalgia matters because big struggles are coming. Every day there is more news of job cuts and frequent predictions of mass unemployment.

The need for resistance focused on the workplaces and the streets, not parliament, is more urgent than ever.

At the moment the main energy of these factions has been concentrated on building Colvid-19 Action fronts, People Before Profit: Health Worker Covid,  and  agitating for NHS workers’ pay rises – a better way of spending their time some might say than the usual party/groupuscule building.

 

Hot on their heels George Galloway’s Workers Party calls on the masses to spurn those  “beholden to the Westminster brethren”.

 

H

China, Human Rights, and the New Internationalist Left.

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Internationalist Left Defends Human Rights.

Human rights are criticised from two principal sides. National Populists, defend a nation’s absolute sovereign right to make laws without legal interference.  Rights legislation, national and international, are the result of a “fear of democracy”. Luke Gittos writes on Spiked, “The existence of a human-rights framework owes everything to postwar elites’ attempt to exert economic and political control over the heads of European peoples.”

From another side, human rights are accused of promoting and even justifying neoliberalism. The neoliberalism of a market society would only be the theoretical deepening and the  realisation of the liberal individualism of their market origins. By their absolute and uncompromising character, individual rights would only promote the figure of a bad citizen concerned only with her own interests.  Andrew Murray writes, “the preference for individual rights over the collective has come to which has come to predominate on much of the Western left, a flowering of the more poisonous seeds of personal identity and human rights” (The Fall and Rise of the British Left. 2019)

Democracy without rights is not a democracy. The majority will of the voters, as expressed at the ballot box, is not the only criterion of democracy it is only a consequence of these primary criteria of equal rights and freedom for all. wrote Justine Lacroix and Jean-Yves Pranchère in Les droits de l’homme rendent-ils idiots ? at the end of last year,

In a powerful assault on the idea that human rights are ‘bourgeois’ and individualistic Lacroix and Prancheere take up a thread running throughout the  history of the First International. Marx and Engels, despite their criticisms of  flowery phrases about “right and duties” – the weight of the late 19th century democratic and national struggles led by figures such as the Italian republican Giuseppe Mazzini, backed demands for social and individual rights and legislation to protect workers’ interests. These were demands going back to the limitation on the working day to which Vol 1 of Capital devotes a whole chapter.These are rights, as they remind us, that for socialists should balance both “liberty and equality”. In this respect we could say that the Trade Union movement is one of the biggest movements for human rights in history.

By the end of the 19th century socialist leaders, such as Jean Jaurès, put democratic rights, individual and collective at the centre of their politics. Many on the left continue their work. By contrast, today “Populism” is not a defence of liberty but a claim for identity “d’un peuple homogène”(Page 17) By affirming absolute national sovereignty in the name of the “people”, a ‘general will’ that exists only through their own parties,  populists and others deny the real voices of individuals and conflicting classes.

Reviewing the book for the radical left  Lignes de Crêtes  observes that

JYP and JL methodically destroy the rhetoric of being ‘anti-system’ means being against political liberalism and  the rhetoric according to which social rights and civil liberties are the individualistic and selfish corollary of economic oppression.  and are opposed to social rights. this rhetoric definitively died with Stalin, but it is not the case, even in certain parts of the radical left, where pitting the ‘societal’  against social issues,  has become commonplace.

That socialism was a proposal to go beyond the original human rights, and was seen as a base to be extended and consolidated, and not to be destroyed has again been largely forgotten. Jean Yves Pranchère and Justine Lacroix remind us. Deconstructing certain hypocrisies based on the formal appeal to human rights is not the same as naming them as an ideological enemy in itself. At a time when it is fashionable to support autocrats like Maduro or Assad, in the name of the destruction of the Established Order, the reminder is vital.

Review: Les droits de l’homme rendent-ils idiot ?

This is the conclusion of Les droits de l’homme rendent-ils idiots ?

“les droits de l’homme devraient être le nom d’une politique de la solidarité, qui ne content pas compenser l’exclusion sociale par des mécanismes d’assistance, mais qui lie les libertés civiles et politiques à une reprise de la question sociale au sense le plus large, incluent les conditions du vivre-ensemble et donc la construction d’un monde commun puisse s’épanouir l’individualité de tous.” (Page 97. Les droits de l’homme rendent-ils idiot ? 2019.)

Human rights should be the name of a strategy of solidarity, one that is not just a means of fighting social exclusion by support mechanisms, but one which binds civic and political freedoms in ways that bring back the social issues in in he broadest sense, including the conditions of community life, and, as a result, building a common world in which everybody’s individuality can flourish.

Political developments have  brought China  and human rights to the fore.

We are not dealing with the limits of bourgeois ‘egotistic’ rights but an autocracy whose methods, re-education, camps, forced labour,  are intimately connected to the Stalinist tradition of Maoism.

The repression that hybrid Stalinist-Capitalism of the CCP state has unleashed is an assault on human rights.

Left solidarity is no respecter of national sovereignty, or the interests of nation states.

Labour has officially taken notice:

Paul Mason offers one of the best approaches to what the left should, and can, do.

Here are some of his points:

 

The left, and above all anyone who thinks the term “Marxism” is worth saving, should be outraged. But parts of the British left seem determined to apologise for China’s crimes against human rights and free speech.

In recent Labour meetings at which activists have tried to raise solidarity with democrats and trade unionists in Hong Kong, or with the Uighurs, they have been met by accusations that they are “promoting Western imperialism” and “media lies”.

If anybody doubts this they can see recent tweets,

https://twitter.com/Rango1917/status/1291323643310546944?s=20

Or the comments underneath this Tweet from Momentum:

Former leader of the International Marxist Group, John Ross, has joined in,

Ross’ argument, recycled from 1960s Soviet Bloc interventions at the UN, is at root that giving people better material living conditions is more important than the ‘bourgeois’ freedoms of expression. Not a very good counter to criticism of political oppression, and the lack of independent trade union rights.

The former Trotskyist has  been at it in the Chinese state media.

False U.S. accusations against China expose its own human rights problems: People’s Daily commentary

John Ross, former director of Economic and Business Policy of London, said that China has “a real understanding of human rights” and “the key human right is to stay alive.”

The right to life is among the most basic human rights enshrined in the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” of the United Nations.

The so-called “human rights abuse” fabricated by some ill-intentioned U.S. politicians constitutes an affront to Chinese people’s anti-virus fight, the article said.

 

Paul Mason, by contrast, continues:

I am certain that the renewed salience of the Uighur question, which was ignored for years during the “golden era” of Sino-British relations declared by George Osborne, is in part being driven by the US’s newly aggressive stance on China. But the point of being a socialist is being able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

This, however, seems beyond the two left-wing publications in the UK that appear committed to whitewashing China’s authoritarian form of capitalism: the Morning Star and Socialist Action.

He asks,

 The problem for the left remains, as it did in the original Cold War, of how to support democracy, human rights and workers’ rights in China – and in its wider diplomatic sphere of influence – without supporting the Sinophobic rhetoric and aggressive militarism of Donald Trump’s America.

He develops the theme,

What should distinguish the British left’s approach to China is knowledge of and engagement with the workers’ movement. Beyond the outright CCP apologists there is a more widespread belief, born out of lazy cultural relativism, that it is somehow imperialist or even racist for British people to criticise China’s human rights record.

This is the clinching argument,

For those of us on the left who want to maintain an architecture of thought based on historical materialism, whose genealogy runs from Marx, through the early Communist International, the “Western Marxism” of the 1930s, the New Left of the 1960s and the anti-capitalism of today, I am afraid taking a position on Xi’s actual ideology is not a luxury.

Xi’s “Marxism” is overtly and systematically anti-humanist. Its endlessly repeated loops of closed and meaningless phrases make the Newspeak of Orwell’s Oceania sound positively lyrical. The forced, televised confessions of corrupt officials are – as China expert Christian Sorace has argued – part of an attempt to create “affective sovereignty”: love of the party above the state, irrespective of what it says or does.

Human rights are universal.

They will be defended against this “Marxism”.

Xinjiang – Neither Washington nor Beijing: the Left Must Stand With the Uighurs

Ben Towse,

The international left cannot duck out just because Western powers criticise China. We cannot support our enemy’s enemy, uncritically regurgitating its propaganda as the Morning Star shamefully does. But nor can we ally with our imperialist rulers.

We must think about alliances and action independent of the ruling classes. We must reaffirm the left’s understanding of the transnational working class, and oppressed peoples, as their own emancipators. In the tradition of consistent anti-imperialism, we must look to build a ‘third camp’ that makes links and solidarity across borders, opposing all our rulers and exploiters. As inter-imperialist tensions escalate into a new Cold War, update the old slogan: “Neither Washington nor Beijing, but international socialism”.

For instance, despite harsh repression, class struggle in China continues to seethe with unofficial disputes and strikes. Far from uniformly anathematising (or idolising) the entire nation, let’s seek to reach out to this potent force of Chinese workers against the state and ruling class.

 Building international solidarity.

The Uyghur Solidarity Campaign UK, with which I’m an activist, has been formed to build solidarity in the workers’ movement and the left in the UK. The campaign has protested monthly at the Chinese embassy with London’s Uighur community (resuming this week after a coronavirus-hiatus), and in March we invaded the Oxford Circus flagships of Nike, H&M and Microsoft to protest forced labour. A solidarity motion passed at Labour conference last year; a range of union branches and PCS have joined the protests; and socialist MPs including John McDonnellKate Osamor and Nadia Whittome have got on board.

There’s much more for the campaign to do in terms of alliance-building, protest, and direct action. There are also clear international connections to make around anti-racism, state violence and reproductive freedom.

A particular goal of the campaign is worker action. From trade union history – Lancashire textile workers rejecting slave-picked Confederate cotton in the US civil war, Scottish factory workers grounding Pinochet’s jet engines, French and Italian dockers refusing to move Saudi arms in 2019 – we know capitalism’s global supply chains provide avenues for concrete action. Organised workers in businesses connected to surveillance and forced labour in China, from dockers to programmers to shop assistants, could have huge leverage.

Back this campaign!

Morning Star Goes Lenin, forerunner of the “broad progressive anti-capitalist alliance.”

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Communist Party #CP100 (@CPBritain) | Twitter

“Recognition of the need for a “vanguard” party.”

A couple of days ago the Morning Star, a paper independent of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and owned by the co-op hailed Jeremy Corbyn’s Go-fund-me appeal.

Corbyn’s GoFundMe success is great – what can it mean for the movement?

Starmer is rolling back the socialist policies won over five years in the party at quite a pace, but socialists should recognise both that there are more of us than there were five years ago and that the policies Labour stood for in two manifestos retain significant popular appeal.

In view of the attacks on the popular appeal behind Labour’s General Election result resistance is needed.

That should inform a fightback — one which certainly involves resisting Labour’s lurch to the right, but one which also looks to the areas where the Corbyn project was weak, where it failed to cut through. Labour figures like Ian Lavery, Laura Smith and Jon Trickett are addressing important questions on rebuilding in communities long neglected by the party.

Leaving in the air exactly what “party political form” this should take to the furrows of the labour movement, whether this ahs any friends in Parliament whatsoever.

But whether it takes party political form or not, the priority should be to organise, as workers and as members of communities, to resist the gathering storm of job losses, pay cuts and renewed austerity — and in the process build a labour movement with far stronger roots in the people, that can win for workers whether or not it has friends in Parliament.

One party political form interests the Morning Star – Leninism and the claims of the Communist Party of Britain to his legacy.

This week is the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the British Communist Party. It is being marked every evening this week, by Pandemonium, a programme of online lectures and on Saturday August 1 by Red Wedge — a centenary online gala. For more details visit www.communistparty.org.uk.

Readers on Sunday could be instructed on Lenin in the pages of the daily.

What is ‘Leninism’?

MOST of the “Full Marx” answers to date have been to do with the significance of Marxism in relation to history, philosophy, economics and the environment.

But often you’ll come across the term “Marxism-Leninism.” What’s that “Leninism” bit about?

Sometimes it’s explained as “theory” (Marx) and “revolutionary practice” (Lenin).

But that would be far too simple. Marx and Engels did initiate the theoretical analysis of class society — particularly capitalism — and its dynamics.

Not being a Leninist but a First International Marxist I may have a few points of disagreement in the following.

Lenin emphasises the need for determination in implementing Marx’s “dictatorship of the proletariat” during the initial phases of socialism if the ultimate object of the revolution — a classless society characterised by “to each according to their needs” can be achieved.

The intermediate phase, argues Lenin, must be characterised by a genuine, participative, democracy at the level of the workplace and communities, which will replace the need for a coercive state.

Following the revolution and the establishment of Soviet power Lenin’s “Left-Wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder (1920) also focuses on issues (and individuals) of the day and again emphasises the difference between (short-term) tactics and (long-term) strategy.

Within the new post-war context of “existing socialism” (still threatened by counter-revolution and Allied and Japanese wars of intervention) and the defeat of socialist movements elsewhere, Lenin emphasises the need to work with other progressive forces in a broad progressive anti-capitalist alliance.

Not many people would say that Lenin worked during the first years of the Soviet government towards a “genuine, participative democracy”. Perhaps a historian will unearth for us as well to the 1920s use of the latest CPB term “broad progressive anti-capitalist alliance” in the ‘actuality of the revolution’ following the Great War.-

Down to the message: there is a library of critiques of Leninism, the invention of ‘Marxism-Leninism’ and Lenin’s own political practice from the left by Marxists, Democratic Socialists, Social Democrats and Anarchists. This specious account of ‘Leninism’ is a disgrace.

To begin with what was ‘”post-war” “existing socialism” from 1918 onwards (many would add that many Leninists talk of this time not as socialism but as part of the ‘transition’ to socialism)?

Whatever the causes, civil war or party messianic intolerant structure, including Lenin’s belief that he was able to read the runes of HIstory, it was about as far from democratic socialism as you could possibly get.

In Soviet Russia the Spring and Summer of 1918 began with the “arrests and harassment of non-Bolshevik activists”. They and the Socialist revolutionaries, were removed from the Soviet CEC. Yet they continued political activity. They focused on the defence of “the rights of labour” and the “defence of trade unions, with as a backdrop plans to make unions agents of “labour discipline” and “compulsory labour service” or the “militarisation of labour” exalted by Trotsky in Terrorism and Communism (1920). With their position set out in What is to be done: The Menshevik Programme July 1919 they had had a wider echo, Marcel Liebman and others record, within the official bodies .

For Trotsky the Mensheviks had in 1917, “together with the bourgeoisie, declared civil war against the Soviets”. In the Winter of 1920-1 the Mensheviks were systematically suppressed.

Two Years of Wandering is shot through with insights into those years of upheaval, the gaoling and exile of “thousands of socialists and non-party workers who (had) been so bold as to doubt the divine infallibility of the Bolshevik authorities, with all their fantasies, scandals, petty tyranny and occasional 180-degree turns. “(Page 53) From the famous 1920 visit of the British delegation to a meeting addressed by Printers’ leaders and Mensheviks, which criticised the “terrorist dictatorship of the minority”, the last Congress of Soviets at which the opposition was reluctantly tolerated, to the crackdown after the Kronstadt (1921) which marked the beginning of systematic elimination of dissent, the Mensheviks were disorganised. (3) A party that “had adapted all its tactics to the struggle for an open existence despite the Bolshevik terror.” was unable to mount any effective challenge (Page 98).

Dan was in prison during the Kronstadt revolt, which, when the news of this, following a strike wave, reached them, convinced those arrested that they were about to be shot. There were indeed mass killings. A gaoler, ‘S’ regaled Dan with tales of massacring whites. He also had this anecdote, “some Jewish trader they had arrested on suspicion that the leather he was carrying in his cart had concealed weapons under it. There were no weapons, but before letting the trader go, he wanted to have his ‘little joke’ at the expense of the ‘bourgeois’ so he stood him against a wall and ordered that he be shot – but they fired blanks. They did this three times – just to they could bring a little happiness to their prisoner when they told him he was free to go – although he could easily have died of heart failure.”(Page 121)

Sent to Remand gaol, Dan observed waves of new arrivals. Protests and demonstration were followed “on each occasion, a few intellectuals and party workers, together with hundreds of grey, non-party workers, would pass through the prison. There were tramway workers, workers from the Skorokhod, Obukhov, Putilov and Rechkin factories – all of working class Petersburg.”(Page 138) Conditions deteriorated, but perhaps what was most striking is that “once entering a Soviet prison, nobody can know even approximately how long he will be in there and how the imprisonment will end.” (Page 142)

Two Years of Wandering. A Menshevik Leader in Lenin’s Russia. Fedor Il’ich Dan. Francis King. Tendance Coatesy. Review.

But this may be to wander into the actually existed history of the Soviet Union.

What really matters for the writer of the Morning Star article is Britain,

Lenin argues that British communists should unite into a single Communist Party, that they should participate in elections as part of the process of replacing Parliament with truly democratic system of soviets, that Pankhurst’s insistence that “the Communist Party must keep its doctrine pure” was mistaken, and that while he could not deal with the question of affiliation or non-affiliation to the Labour Party, a new Communist Party should work closely with the Labour Party while retaining ““complete freedom of agitation, propaganda and political activity.”

Translation for today: the British Communist Party should continue to “work closely” with the Labour Party, and be treated with respect for condescending to do so,  while being as unpleasant as it likes about Keir Starmer and any other rapscallion renegades leading the party.

The article concludes.

So, what is “Leninism” today? Lenin’s great contribution was the development of both theory and practice in the very specific circumstances of the period either side of the Russian Revolution.

As Jonathan White argues in an online lecture for the Marx Memorial Library and Workers’ School, we can learn an immense amount from the study of that period.

(Note, indeed, see above book from Francis King)

For those who claim the term, Leninism is practical revolutionary action based on a strong theoretical understanding in the context of specific existing circumstances — an antidote to those for whom Marxism is something purely theoretical.

But in this it is also, arguably, an unnecessary “ism.” Both Marx and Engels always argued for the unity of theory and practice.

Changing the world at the same time as interpreting it are inseparable goals. And their recognition of the need for a “vanguard” party (the subject of another answer in this series) is explicit in Marxist theory and practice.

In their Communist Manifesto, communists, organised into a revolutionary party, represent “the most advanced and resolute section of the working class parties of every country; that section which pushes forward all others” to establish a society “for the many” as a key stage in the transition to a classless society.

There is another famous quote, from the 1864 First Clause of the Rules of the First International,

That the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves; …

The Principle of Self-Emancipation in Marx and Engels .Hal Draper.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 27, 2020 at 5:04 pm