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Another small group, Independent Socialist Network, to join Labour: is this the way to win backing for Marxism?

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Another Group Joins Labour? 

Rethinking Labour: More of the same or change of course?

Nick Wrack is a respected socialist activist who has long argued for a new Marxist party in Britain.

He is part of the Independent Socialist Network.

The history of that current is extremely complex even by the high left’s standards (for those who so wish they can look at its site,  here.)

Like many he is deeply impressed by the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, which he describes as a “game changer for left-wing politics in Britain”.

If I may jump over the article this is something he is not impressed with,

We have considered it worthwhile participating in TUSC and standing candidates against Labour in the hope that this could be a springboard to the formation of a new party. However, that is clearly not going to happen. It puts a negative over the whole project, even more so now that Corbyn has won the leadership of the Labour Party. TUSC will obtain even worse votes in the short term and standing to obtain risible votes cannot even be justified with the argument that it is to lay the basis of building a new party. In these circumstances it is time, in my opinion, to draw a line in our participation in TUSC.

A similar situation exists now with Left Unity. Left Unity has politics no different from Corbyn, so why would any of them join it? Why join a party of 1,500 when you can join a party of hundreds of thousands, with millions of affiliated trade unionists? Its perspective for any meaningful contribution to the socialist cause is minimal, if that.

It is unlikely, we note, that these failures are due to the following, causes which he mentions,

  • No group will give up its claim to be “the one true socialist party”. As result they cannot achieve, “unification of Marxists into a single organisation.”
  • The various socialist groups have sought to limit the nature of the project to essentially reformist policies, while presenting themselves as the ‘real’ socialists.
  • In Left Unity, Socialist Resistance and other non-aligned Marxists actively prevented clear socialist aims and principles being incorporated into the party constitution, preferring to blur the distinction between socialists and social democrats because they don’t want to put anyone off.

A simpler explanation is that these ideas have little connection to social reality and popular thinking.

One might say (with reference to, Lars T.Lih. Lenin Rediscovered. 2008) that Wrack’s view is based on the common ground of Erfurt Marxism (which could be said to be shared by the pre-Third International Lenin and social democratic Second International). That is,  that the “good news” of socialism has to be brought to people by democratic politics  ((Wrack’s group has always insisted on this point, in distinction from vanguardist Leninist groups),  debate on Marxist analysis (or socialism more widely) and activism.

In this respect it is clearly false for Wrack to claim that there are “two incompatible political ideologies – revolutionary socialism-communism versus reformist social democracy (which) – have existed in opposition since the second half of the 19th century.”

It would take many pages, of earnest theoretical and scholastic debate to determine what is ‘Marxism’, but the line between “revolutionary socialism-communism” and “reformist social democracy” is pretty minor compared to the distinction between Stalinism and democratic socialism.

In reality there is no one ‘Marxism’. There are Marxisms.

Where there is a fault line on the left and between Marxists, it lies in the difference between those who wish to emphasise the importance of political liberty, before and after the winning of political power by socialist parties, and those who believe that everything – including liberty – has to take second place to gaining and sustaining that power. We could go further and say that some of the latter still believe in the ‘actuality of the revolution’ – its continued presence ready to spring into life and led to victory the right manoeuvres of small left groups. Democratic socialism is the belief that we proceed by consent and by voting to a “revolution” in social structures and culture, not an imposed political leadership, or by violence – which as our founders said, was only justified against  “slave holders'”.violent opposition.

That kind of democratic Marxism is only one strand amongst an increasingly bewildering number of other left themes, third-wave feminism, the renewed  egalitarian social democracy of the people around Pierre Rosenvallon in France,  of the vast variety of Greens, radical democrats, other-globalisation theorists, supporters of décroissance and a host of other other left ideologies,  from the broad appeal of democratic secularist anti-racism, to other ideas, with a more limited audience, such post-Negri autonomism and the tradition stemming from Cornelius Castoriadis.

To varying degrees all these ideas exist within trade unions (the ultimate ‘reformist’ bodies), and parties like the Labour Party, the French left bloc, the Front de gauche, and a long list of European left and social democratic parties.

If Marxist ideas have any value it is not because they are ‘Marxist’ but because there are Marxist researchers and activists who can help develop a democratic socialist strategy and practical policies for achieving  – amongst a very very long list:

  • an egalitarian and socialist  response to neo-liberal economics based on the classical premises of class struggle politics: in the conditions of vastly changed class structures.
  • policies that offer a democratic transformation of the European Union.
  • policies that democratise the state: end the system of farming public functions (welfare, health onwards) off to private rentiers and take them under democratic control.
  • Workers’ rights, social rights, and the whole galaxy of human rights based on popular movements, not NGO’s lists of ideas.
  • the goal of the “an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

A creative left current, with an input from all these sources cannot be reduced to ‘Marxism’.

  • There is no evidence that “true” socialism exists in which the left can unite on the basis of Marxist doctrine. There are varieties of socialist politics and parties, many of which are incompatible No democratic socialist would want to be part of a party based on the kind of democratic centralism practised in the SWP or Socialist Party. Their version of Leninism is not accepted as ‘true’ Marxism either.
  • Out of experience many on the left would not touch these parties and their various ‘fronts’ with a barge pole.

We can imagine that it’s the fact that Wrack is part of the movement, and an activist, which had the main pull in the following analysis.

Having said that, there is an enormous battle taking place now within the Labour Party and the Trade Unions. This battle is going to intensify over the next year. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are principled social democrats. They do not, in my opinion, put forward a programme for overthrowing capitalism or for establishing a socialist society. But they are sincere and honest supporters and defenders of the working class and its interests. They support workers on strike; they support workers in protest; they stand up for the poor, the migrant and those on welfare. Arrayed against them is the whole of the capitalist class, the media and their echoes in the Labour Party and trade unions.

Marxists cannot stand aside in this battle and say, “It’s nothing to do with us.” Marxists participate in all aspects of the class struggle. Marxists must do everything we can to defend Corbyn and McDonnell, while engaging in a thoroughgoing criticism of their programme. We must defend Corbyn and McDonnell but fight for socialist policies. I do not have the space here to develop details points of programmatic criticism but fundamentally the issue boils down to what Corbyn is attempting to do differently from Syriza. How can Corbyn succeed where Tsipras failed? In my opinion, the weaknesses of the Syriza approach are present in Corbyn’s programme. How can we alter this to strengthen the movement for change?

Or perhaps not.

Activism seems to get downplayed in favour of, the no-doubt to be welcomed, “through-going criticism”

I spelled out some aspects of disagreement in an earlier article. I think that both Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have already made too many concessions or compromises, in a vain attempt to appease their opponents in the Parliamentary Labour Party, where they are in a small minority. But they cannot hope to win the battle they face in the Labour Party on the basis of the PLP. It seems that they have understood the need to base themselves on their support outside the PLP and have set up Momentum to organise that support. Momentum has to develop into a genuinely democratic organisation in which its members can influence policy and tactics.


For all these reasons 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?


The ISN will seek to organise all independent socialists in and out of the Labour Party who want to fight for Marxist ideas in the labour movement and we will work with all who see the need ultimately to build a mass united socialist party based on Marxist ideas.

It is hard to not see just how far this analysis from the ILN is from reality.

  • How is Momentum going to change the Labour Party? Is is going to act as an organised group that will take control over local Labour parties, and Council groups, on the basis of ‘debate’? How will this work within the slow process of Labour Party internal democracy? How on earth will this group actually oeprate within, say Policy Forums, CLPs? As an alternative party or as a simple current of ideas?
  • How will they cope with set-backs? The experience of ‘new’ politics, from Podemos onwards, indicates that ‘new’ democratic methods are hard to create, and frankly, the rhythm of Labour Party internal life is going to be an obstacle to anybody wanting instant political gratification.
  • How will they appeal to the large centre-ground inside the Labour Party which has to be convinced on solid grounds of the reasonableness of the new politics? The sudden arrival of new people, who campaigned against Labour in the General Election, eager to give advice, is, perhaps not likely to impress everybody. A simple thought: you have show respect for your opponents, even work for their election in councils, and so forth. Will the ILN manage that?

It is hard to not to think that some people on the left, with limited experience of how the Labour Party actually works, and the inevitable disappointments for those with simple and clear goals of “defending” Corbyn, are going to get frustrated and bitter very quickly.

As Workers Power Goes Michel Pablo, is this the Maddest Sectarian Blog Post Ever Written?

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New Workers Power’s Guru: Michel Pablo.

Extensive investigations by the Tendance Coatesy Central Committee have revealed the startling truth about Workers Power’s “Corbyn Turn”: dissolving and joining the Labour Party en masse (insofar as they are anything like a mass).

The erstwhile steel-hardened Trotksyist anti-liquidationists have taken a leaf out of Comrade Michel Pablo’s book and adopted “entrism sui generi., otherwise known as “deep entrism”.

“In entryism sui generis (“of a special type”), Trotskyists, for example, do not openly argue for the building of a Trotskyist party. “Deep entryism” refers to the long duration.”

Pablo, Michel Raptis, is best known for advocating this line, “To gain influence, win members and avoid becoming small sectarian cliques just talking to each other, the Trotskyists should — where possible — join, or in Trotskyist terminology enter, the mass Communist or Social Democratic (Labour) parties. This was known as entrism sui generis or long-term entry. It was understood by all that the FI would retain its political identity, and its own press.

This study, Christophe Nick, Les Trotskistes, (2002) contains all you need to know on the subject of entrism – the French Trotksyists make the British ones look like hopeless amateurs.

It is to be expected that internationalists like Workers Power have read and absorbed its message.

 Review: Les Trotskistes. Revolutionary History

… its main theme is entrism (particularly Chapter 6, pp218-64), and the book’s very first words are that ‘the Trotskyists are everywhere’. Trotskyists, apparently, ‘identify themselves with the mole, and venerate this animal’ (p12), and ‘entrism is a technique peculiar to the Trotskyists, a case unique in the annals of politics, an ethnological curiosity’ (p217)

Chapter 6 of the estimable study, Cde  Al Richardson suggests of some of the book, contains “much of real value“.

It recounts for example the case when one Trotkyist group (the ‘Lambertists’) set up an entrist current (the Ligue communiste internationaliste  LCI, led by Daniel Gluckstein), inside another Ligue communiste révolutionnaire. It exited and fused with its parent as the Parti communiste internationaliste in 1981 .

Please ask for more information on ‘Lambertism‘ (and its present split)- it’s a hoot! (1)

Ian Birchall has written elsewhere that the next study by the Christophe Nick might be on  the Rosicrucians.

Which makes him an even more appropriate strategic guide for Workers Power preparing for perhaps centuries of underground work inside the Labour Party.

Particularly in view of the fact that they have attracted this kind of debate (Thanks NN).

Exclusive: from Workers Power factional history (which is we emphasise for the unwary, is meant to be ‘satire’ – just).

Who Are Proletarian Democracy? A Historico-Theoretical Special
Posted on October 9, 2012

In spite of the strong liquidationist tendencies within a substratum of semi-Stalinist circles in and around Workers’ Power’s CC in the 1980s, Mark Hoskisson was productively correct to assert that Trotsky, had he lived to 1945 to see a nuclear bomb in action, would have revised his statements denouncing nuclear physics and nuclear weapons:

“Now with the reality of the boom, only an idiot or perhaps a charlatan like Gerry Healy, would describe Trotsky’s categorical declaration as correct. However we reject the idea that Trotsky’s error stems from an objectivist and fatalist methodology on his part. This charge, levelled at him by theoretical cheapskates like John Molyneaux – does not stand up for one minute.” – (Workers’ Power Theoretical Journal of Workers’ Power- no9).


Hoskisson is only partially correct to suggest “Had Trotsky’s epigones re-elaborated his programme in the 1950s many of the difficulties we face today would not exist.” The contradictory containment of post-war Trotskyism within the methodological confines of identary post-manufactured retopianism would have marked a bourgeois milieu to its very core even in the 1950s, hence Hoskisson would be wrong.

Although Paul Mason is now an erstwhile counter-Proletarian Democrat on Newsnight, his contribution to Workers’ Power as it was then, was insightful:

“Soviet power in reality had been enough to drive the Mensheviks into the camp of the bourgeoisie, to make centrists like Kautsky opt decisively for bourgeois-democratic counter-revolution. Conversely it had raised the political sights of the best syndicalist and anarchist militants who had hitherto rejected both the party and state power, by embodying in deeds the revolutionary essence of these words.” – (Workers’ Power Theoretical Journal of Workers’ Power- no9).

We Agree.

It remains our aim to drive Mensheviks such as the IRSP, Eirigi, the ICC, the SSP and the various sordid sub-party groupings around the journals ‘The Commune’, ‘Battaglia Comunista’, ‘Good Housekeeping’ and Lauren Laverne’s columns in Grazia into the camp of the bourgeoisie. We are as committed as ever to make centrists like Owen Jones and Caitlin Moran opt decisively for counter-revolution. And, we will, in time, make the best syndicalist and anarchist militants embody in deeds both party and state. The worst syndicalist and anarchist militants naturally will face a workers’ girder.


The crucial point: we were the ‘mace’ in Paul Mason’s words. We did what he preached, and began taking action to make the bourgeoisie crack from within. We knew better than to openly discuss our factionalisation in front of the WP CC, and to openly digress from their characterisation of the Labour Party as a bourgeois workers’ party would have been foolish. We knew they would never condone or support militant action and might even have acted as informers – so we acted in secret, in private.

Anybody who’d been comrades with that lot will be probably end up in Progress – out of sheer relief.

 (1) See latest summary: Longue scission au CCI/POI : et maintenant ? (5th September 2015).

Workers Power: Missing, Please Return to Owner.

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Workers Power

Missing: Please Return to Owner.

Workers Power has gone absent.

Or so it seems.

They left this enigmatic, yet poignant, note on the dressing table.

Workers Power supports key elements of Jeremy Corbyn’s programme. We believe all socialists should join the Labour Party, defend and promote Jeremy’s progressive demands, and work to extend and deepen these policies in a revolutionary socialist direction.

We will be working collectively in the Labour Party, hand in hand with others, to advance that cause.

Workers Power.

Since this statement on the 15th of September sellers of Workers Power have not been seen in public.

There’s been this Tweet, on October the 22nd.

Unconfirmed sightings include Red Flag, and Fifth International, and rumblings, rumblings….

Workers Power was the author of this much-loved document – it’s believed the last living person who got beyond page 2 is still around.

Not to mention this (genuinely)  fine analysis: Strategy and tactics of the Counterfire group; a critique.

Elderly, it suffers from incontinence, but is still sprightly enough to take a leading role in defending the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

If found please return to the League for the 5th International as soon as possible.


Written by Andrew Coates

November 1, 2015 at 11:49 am

80th Anniversary of the POUM.

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From La Bataille Socialiste.

Commemoration in Barcelona 31st October.

Resources Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista ( FUNDACIÓN ANDREU NIN).

This article brilliantly explains the POUM, (LLW)

On my first day in Barcelona during a trip a few years ago, I was walking down the fabled Ramblas street. Barcelona is a very dynamic city, with a much more “European” feel than Madrid, and there’s quite a lot to draw your attention. But it was a municipal library which caught my eye more than anything else, and stands out to this day: the Biblioteca Andreu Nin. When I asked the librarian inside, she explained that this was where the POUM’s headquarters had been during the Spanish Civil War, “hasta que lo desmantelaron”, until they dismantled it.

The POUM, or the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (the name is only slightly less clunky in Spanish) is best known in the English-speaking world as the party whose militias George Orwell fought with during the Civil War. Fans of Ken Loach will also remember that this party was central in Land and Freedom. Yet, although the Spanish Civil War is second only to the Russian Revolution as a historical reference for sect-ists of all types, the reference is always to the dramatic moments and the assorted leaders, with very little attention paid to what the mass of participants, including those in organizations, were thinking or doing.

Until they dismantled it” – “they” here does not refer to the fascists headed by General Franco, but to the Spanish Republican State, under the influence or domination of the Soviet Union. There’s a common refrain in Anarchist milieux that “Leninism” is in itself inherently counter-revolutionary, that all “Leninists” will always repress “Anarchists”, and that the proof lies in the repression of the Red Army against revolutionary Ukraine in 1918-1920, or of Republican Spain against the CNT during the Civil War. And yet the POUM were repressed alongside the CNT in Spain, despite being “Leninists” just like the advisors from Stalin’s NKVD. In fact, they were repressed first, as a test of strength for the government before going after the CNT, not to mention that the CNT leadership had bought itself some time after the showdown of May 1937 by calling for the working class to lay down its arms – a compromise which the POUM did not make. Without denying that there are definitely counter-revolutionary ideologies and positions, perhaps materialists would also do well to look at the relationship to the means of production when we ask how a party or individual transitions from revolution to counter-revolution.

The POUM is generally not discussed in those narratives, and certainly not in detail. When they are mentioned, one almost gets the impression that the POUM were anarchists without knowing it, that their Marxism was nothing more than an embarassing accident, and that they were simply unaware of the counter-revolutionary path that it would inevitably lead them on. Very conveniently for this narrative, there is almost nothing about the POUM’s activity or set of ideas available in English. (A notable exception is the hard to find Spanish Marxism versus Soviet Communism, also by Victor Alba.) Today, on May 4th, it seems appropriate to mention what happened on May 4th, 1937. From Wikipedia:

At eleven o’clock the delegates of the CNT met and agreed to do everything possible to restore calm. Meanwhile, the anarchist leaders Joan García Oliver and Federica Montseny heard an appeal on the radio asking to their followers to lay down their weapons and return to their jobs. Jacinto Toryho, director of the CNT newspaper Solidaridad Obrera, expressed the same sentiment. […] By five in the afternoon, several anarchists were killed by the police near the Via Durruti (current Via Laietana). The POUM began to support resistance publicly.

It was on that same trip, at a CNT-affiliated bookstore called La Rosa de Foc, that I ran across an old paperback whose title caught my eye: La Revolución Española en la Práctica. Documentos del POUM. I bought it without hesitation. When I had time to crack it open, I was engrossed. As an anthology, it is in a genre which must have very few other members: a collection of documents dealing with the problems of a revolution, made by participants in that revolution, during the process of the revolution itself. The documents deal with concrete problems of agriculture and industry, public health and the military situation, the dynamics of the various workers’ organizations and of the growing reactionary influence of the Soviet Union in Republican Spain. They were not written ahead of time, full of references to Lenin, nor were they handed down from the Party leadership. They read very well even today, and I would say they are worth reading for more than just historical interest. I would like at some point to translate some of these documents – as Victor Alba states in the introduction, which I have translated below, they have a refreshing mix of realism and idealism.

But I’ll try to let Victor speak for himself, as I think he’s more than capable. As he says, when something is thought through clearly, it is expressed clearly. I’ll make only a few other points here. First, there is a common thought that revolutionaries should form organizations based primarily on their specific ideas, and that the organization’s actual relationship to the class struggle is only a secondary matter. The problem, when the only discernible difference between one organization and another is a slightly different set of ideas, is that any new ideas in either organization will logically lead to a split. As Hal Draper put it in The Anatomy of the Micro-Sect,

As long as the life of the organization (whether or not labeled “party”) is actually based on its politically distinctive ideas, rather than on the real social struggles in which it is engaged, it will not be possible to suppress the clash of programs requiring different actions in support of different forces. The key question becomes the achievement of a mass base, which is not just a numerical matter but a matter of class representation. Given a mass base in the social struggle, the party does not necessarily have to suppress the internal play of political conflict, since the centrifugal force of political disagreements is counterbalanced by the centripetal pressure of the class struggle. Without a mass base, a sect that calls itself a party cannot suppress the divisive effect of fundamental differences on (for example) supporting or opposing capitalist parties at home in the shape of liberal Democrats and such, or supporting or opposing the maneuvers of the “Communist” world.

The POUM provides an example of the opposite process, of a movement where the life of the organization is based on the real social struggles in which it is engaged, and which does allow for the free play of ideas about the best program to move forward. As Alba mentions, the POUM published classics by Marx, Riazanov, Bebel … and Kautsky.

The second point to make here is that the crucial thing for American revolutionaries should not be to have the right “line” on Spain, or on Russia – we should try to figure out America, and the contradictions that are present here. One of the POUM’s strengths, which Alba will show better than I can, is that the POUM attempted to use Marxism to work out a revolutionary strategy for Spain, rather than to take ready made answers from others (whether Stalin, Trotsky, or anyone else) and apply them rigidly. My purpose in translating this text is not to raise the understanding of what did or didn’t happen, what could or couldn’t have happened during the Spanish Revolution (though I’m not opposed to those dicussions), but to contribute to the questions that can be asked about what an American socialist workers movement would look like. To paraphrase Alba one final time, there are many differences between America in 2015 and Spain in 1937 – but perhaps not as many as we’d expect.

This is particularly important:

 An old militant, a founder of the Spanish Communist Party and later the POUM, has given a summary, forty one years later, of what the POUM was:

“The Workers Party of Marxist Unification has more than forty years of history behind it. It was born in the last months of 1935 out of the fusion of the Workers and Peasants Bloc, and the Communist Left. But its origins reach to the year 1920, in which the Spanish Communist Party was founded. Almost simultaneously, a group of militants from the CNT placed themselves resolutely on the side of the Russian Revolution and adopted the principles and tactics of the communists. From 1920 on, these militants of the CNT were grouped around the weekly Acción Sindicalista, from Valencia; after 1921, around the weekly Lucha Social, in Lérida; and in 1922 they adopted La Batalla, from Barcelona, as their mouthpiece while they were organizing the Revolutionary Union Committees. In 1924 this group of militants joined the Spanish Communist Party, and they exercised a decisive influence in the Party’s Catalan-Balearic Federation. In the first months of 1931 this federation fused with the Catalan Communist Party, which had unsuccessfully tried to be admitted as a national section to the Communist International. After fusing, both organizations created, to give the new party a greater power of attraction, the Workers and Peasant’s Bloc, and the new party was known under this name, even though the nucleus that it revolved around retained the name of Catalan-Balearic Communist Federation and, after 1932, when its forces began to grow outside of Catalonia, it took the name of Iberian Communist Federation.

The Communist Left was the primitive Communist Opposition constituted around the figure of Leon Trotsky, with whom it had broken when he advised his troops to enter the ranks of Social Democracy. The POUM, then, is a legitimate heir of the communist movement’s heroic years, of the first years of the Russian revolution, and it contained a mixture of people from the communist old guard as well as those who brought the traditions of struggle from Spanish anarchosyndicalism, militants who had participated in the great battles of 1917, 1918, 1919, and 1920. […] The Catalan-Balearic Communist Federation began to differentiate itself during the years of the military dictatorship [by Primo de Rivera, from 1923-1931], a little bit more every day, from the leadership of the Spanish Communist Party, which in those days was in the hands of the Trilla-Ballejos group. Above all, the Federation opposed the Communist Party’s attempts to carry out splits in the heart of the CNT, an attempt which was disguised under the name of a Committee of Reconstruction.

To the degree that Stalin was imposing his methods on the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and on the Communist International, and through this on its various sections, the Federation was distancing itself from the international communist organization, which, after a period, it openly confronted. And the POUM was the only party of communist origin which, having broken with the 3rd international, succeeded not only in continuing to exist, but actually consolidated and considerably incremented its forces and its influence.

But this was something that, in a time in which the Communist Party claimed everywhere to be the party of the workers, in which the official section of the Communist International in every land claimed to have a monopoly of revolutionary action, in which the communist movement was rigidly monolithic, the International inspired by Stalin and guided in every moment by one or another of his cronies could neither allow nor forgive. The circumstances created in Spain by the Civil War gave Stalin the opportunity to present the bill to the POUM, with heavy interest, for resisting submission to his orders.

After July 19, 1936, in the parts of Spain where it had any forces worth considering, particularly in all of Catalonia, in Valencia, in Castellón, and in Madrid, the POUM’s militants went arms-in-hand to confront the military rising, and then organized militias which fought valiantly, frequently heroically, in the field. Many of our comrades died fighting fascism. But if the workers confronted the mutineers, rifle-in-hand, it wasn’t to simply begin the game again, to return to the situation that had made the Civil War possible.

That’s why the struggle took on a revolutionary character in the parts of the country where the mutiny had been smashed in the first moments, that’s why the war and the revolution appeared intimately linked in the eyes of the working class. The petty bourgeoisie, whose political expression took the form of the republican parties, found itself overwhelmed in the early moments by the revolutionary tide, but bit by bit, as the war dragged on and the difficulties inherent to any armed conflict piled up, they recovered the positions they had lost. In this they could count on the support of the Communist Party as well as a large part of the Socialist Party.

The scant aid which the Spanish republic received from the democratic governments, scared as they were of a revolution in the south of Europe, and nervous about irritating the fascist states, in contrast with the considerable, although not disinterested, aid which the Soviet Union brought from the early stages of the Civil War, gave the Communist Party enormous possibilities to augment its forces and its influence in Spain.

Over time the Soviet Union, in return for its aid in war materials, was able to steer the policy of Republican Spain and introduce its agents and methods into the government, the army, the police, even into the economy, into some parties, and into a large part of the union organizations. The idea that Spain should become a socialist country never entered into Stalin’s mind, as this would have created difficulties for the Soviet Union’s foreign policy, which at that time was playing the card of military alliance with the democratic states without losing hope for a possible understanding with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. From this stems its determination to strip the Spanish Civil War of its revolutionary character, to separate the war and the revolution. While it’s true that perhaps the war could have been won even if the revolutionary conquests of the early days had been lost, and that without securing the military victory, the revolution would certainly have succumbed, it’s no less true that those who wanted to sacrifice the revolutionary conquests to win the war lost everything.

The POUM considered the war and the revolution inseparable and opposed the policy of the Communist Party and the petty bourgeoisie. This gave cause to the agents of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party to unleash a campaign of lies and slander which was unprecedented in this country, the first step to the repression which began in May of 1937, in which many of our best militants were assassinated, including Andrés Nin, political secretary of the POUM. The very tribunal which judged the leaders of our organization, although it condemned them for high treason for their attitude around the events of May 1937 in Barcelona, solemnly recognized their spotless revolutionary past, and rejected the calumnious accusations that they had been subjected to. History has judged all of us, slanderers and slandered, persecutors and persecuted. It’s clear now that those who once upon a time defamed and persecuted us don’t feel proud today about their past behavior.

At the end of the civil war, the POUM was caught by two overlapping repressions: the first, undertaken by the Communists, was joined by the other, the repression which hit all of Republican Spain. Even in 1939, our militants who refused to leave or could not leave Spain began to regroup themselves and to carry out clandestine action, under great risk. In September 1939, in Barcelona alone, 26 of our militants were executed. It was our Party who denounced the execution of Catalan President Luis Companys in a manifesto. In 1945-1947 the POUM collected, above all in Catalonia, a growing number of enthusiastic militants. Just like the other parties, after this year our party suffered due to the continuing repression as well as the demoralization caused by the survival of the Franco regime after the victory of the allied armies over the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis. Additionally, there was the difficulty that every party and union experienced to one degree or another caused by the existence of two leaderships, one in exile and one in the interior, or else just the exile leadership.”

Read the rest: The POUM in their own words.

This is the serious article (from no less than the SWP….) which deals with, amongst other things, “Historical debate about the outcome of the Spanish Revolution (1936-37) has often centred on the dissident communist Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM). For the Trotskyist movement the POUM was responsible for the revolution’s defeat.”

Trotsky and the POUM. Andy Durgan. International Socialism. July 2015.

Durgan observes,

Trotsky’s criticism of Nin and the POUM can only be understood from an appreciation of his absolute belief in the capacity to influence events…the conviction that, however minuscule the initial nucleus of revolutionaries may be, with the correct theory, leadership and programme, this tiny grouping could be transformed into a revolutionary party with mass support at a time of revolutionary crisis.42

But for Trotsky, writing in December 1937, “contrary to its own intentions the POUM proved to be in the final analysis the chief obstacle on the road to the creation of a revolutionary party”.43 In the new edition of his text Sennett steps back from what was possibly the “harshest and least justified” of Trotsky’s condemnations of the POUM. According to Sennett, Trotsky:

Failed to appreciate, on the one hand, the hegemony of the Socialists and anarcho-syndicalists over the Spanish labour movement, and, on the other, the rapid expansion in membership and power of the [communists] after July 1936. There was little room for a new political force. It is remarkable that the POUM, which was largely confined to Catalonia, achieved as many adherents and wielded as much influence as it did.44

Having thus pointed to an underlying problem with Trotsky’s writings on the POUM, Sennett then later criticises the POUM for not—in May—being “a vanguard party” that was able to shape events. But he offers no alternative strategy. We are left with the conclusion that neither a revolutionary nor a Popular Front victory was possible.45 However, such fatalism does not lead to a better understanding of what was at stake and what options were available for the revolutionary left in Spain in 1936. Instead we are left with a confusing and incomplete narrative of events and their consequences.

For many us, democratic socialists, libertarian Marxists, anarchists,  the POUM were our sisters and brothers, and their dead, our martyrs.

We remember them, sempre, siempre.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 23, 2015 at 10:03 am

Former International Marxist Group Leader, John Ross, “China made the world’s largest contribution to human rights.”

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Former Leader of International Marxist Group Praises China’s Human Rights Record. 

Note for Jeremy Corbyn – How China made the world’s largest contribution to human rights

By John Ross. October the 20th. 

From this site, “20 years of accurate predictions on China and the world economy  实事求是 – seek truth from facts, Chinese saying originally from the Han dynasty.”

I supported Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party. As I have known him for thirty years I know Jeremy Corbyn is the most principled leader of the Labour Party in my lifetime – the most committed to human well-being. On Tuesday he is scheduled to have a personal meeting with Xi Jinping during the latter’s British visit.

The significance of China’s contribution to human well-being can be understood by both Jeremy Corbyn and the left in the US and Europe.

On key issues for the development of China, Britain, and other countries Jeremy Corbyn has the same positions as China. He is an opponent of any US military build-up against China and of proposed measures in trade agreements such as the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which are against the interests of the population of the participating countries, China and developing countries in general.

Sections of the British media present a supposed choice that Britain has to choose between either pursuing purely economic interests or criticising China over ‘human rights’. This posing of the issue is totally false – China should be supported precisely because of its contribution to human rights. China has done more to improve the overall situation not only of its own people but of humanity than any other country in the world – as the facts show.

Pause for large intake of breath.

Taking the latest World Bank international definition of poverty ($1.90 daily expenditure at 2011 internationally comparable prices) from 1981 to 2010, the latest data, China has raised 728 million people from poverty. The rest of the world reduced poverty by only 152 million people. China therefore lifted almost five times as many people out of poverty as the rest of the world put together.

To demonstrate what this means for humanity’s well-being 728 million people is more than the population of the EU, more than the population of the Latin American continent, more than twice the population of the US, and 11 times the population of Britain.

For someone with Jeremy Corbyn’s concern for humanity, particularly the least privileged within it, this is the best imaginable news.

Nor is this a gigantic step forward just for China but for human well-being. China’s entire population, not just the poorest, has seen increases in living standards which are without comparison in human history. China’s average annual increase in ‘total consumption’, including not only direct household living standards but education and health spending, has been over eight percent a year for three decades – not only the world’s fastest but by far the most rapid increase in living standards for the greatest number of people in human history. China has brought social security protection to 820 million people, more than the population of the EU, and health care to over a billion – three times the population of the US, almost the population of Africa, and nearly twice the population of Latin America.

The simple but gigantic example of women in China and India graphically illustrates the real issues involved in human rights globally – and women in China and India together constitute one in every five people on the planet. A Chinese woman’s life expectancy is 77 years, and literacy among Chinese women over the age of 15 is 93%: an Indian woman has a life expectancy of 68 and literacy rate over the age of 15 is 66%. India may be a ‘parliamentary republic’, in which Facebook may be used, but (regrettably for India) the human rights of a Chinese woman are far superior to the human rights of an Indian woman.

This presents the issue of human rights in the clearest fashion. The most pressing questions facing the overwhelmingly majority of the world’s population, who live in developing countries, are not those of Western ‘human rights’ campaigns such as those of ‘Amnesty International’. Over 500 million people in India do not have a toilet – for those who live in the real world to have a toilet is a far more important human right than internet restrictions. And if Indian women had the right to move to China, and would live nine years longer and achieve literacy by doing so, innumerable people would move north of the Himalayas – and that is said by someone who wants nothing but for India to make the same progress China has achieved.

Another deep intake of foul breath.

Do these gigantic achievements in human rights in the real sense mean China has no problems? Not a single serious person in China believes this. To take merely some striking issues, major environmental damage exists in China. But despite this real issue overall China’s social and environmental conditions demonstrate that great progress has still been made. Life expectancy, as Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has demonstrated, is the most sensitive of all indicators as it sums up all different pluses and minuses in social, environmental and other indicators. A person in China lives three years longer, and someone in the US two years less, than would be expected from their respective per capita GDPs – showing overall social and environmental conditions in China are significantly better than would be expected from its stage of economic development and in the US significantly worse. But that does not alter the fact that China still has to take huge steps to overcome environmental problems.

Furthermore despite China’s unprecedented achievement in the reduction of poverty, it still has to finish the job by raising another 100 million people out of poverty. It would therefore be highly interesting for Jeremy Corbyn to discuss with Xi Jinping the President’s recent pledge to complete the task of eliminating internationally defined poverty in China by 2020.

As China is still building up its social security system towards the level made possible in Britain and other advanced countries, and as international studies show Britain’s health service to be the world’s most cost efficient, a mutually valuable discussion could take place between Jeremy Corbyn and President Xi on how, taking into account their countries different conditions, both can strengthen their health services.

But what China has no need of at all, indeed what is grotesque given China has produced the greatest improvement in human conditions in human history, is to be delivered sanctimonious lectures by other countries – particularly those whose recent activities include invading other countries, such as Iraq, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths spreading chaos throughout the Middle East, or whose historical relation to China was to force it to import opium, to burn its greatest architectural achievements, and for a century and a half to hold islands off its coast as a colonies.

I cannot put words in someone else’s mouth, but my summary of the basis for an honest discussion with China would be roughly the following: ‘President Xi, the world rightly greatly admires China’s progress in the improvement in the conditions of human beings, of human rights in the real sense – which are the greatest of any country in the history of the world. We should discuss how other countries can draw lessons from these achievements.

Oh dear, oh dear.

‘As you yourself have pointed out China, as it is still a developing country, still has long path of development ahead. You have set out the “goals of completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects by the centenary of the CPC in 2021 and building China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, and harmonious by the centenary of the PRC in 2049 so as to realize the Chinese Dream of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” Could you outline this in more detail? And in the same way we study your achievements in improving the conditions of not only China but humanity there may some aspects of our experience China may draw lessons from?

‘I particularly noted your statement of what China sees as its relation to the overall condition of humanity: “Throughout 5,000 years of development, the Chinese nation has made significant contributions to the progress of human civilization… Our responsibility is… to pursue the goal of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, so that China can stand firmer and stronger among the world’s nations, and make new and greater contributions to mankind.”

Dumbfounded doesn’t begin to cover it.

‘Britain is also one of the world’s great historical nations. I love my country deeply, and the enormous contributions it has made to world culture and science, and in which struggles such as the Suffragettes or to create our health service are a source of great pride. There are regrettably some things in my country’s history, as with every great state, which I am not proud of. Some of these I mentioned and were crimes done by Britain to China. It is therefore particularly gratifying that this negative past can be put behind and China and Britain can now work in conditions of equality and mutual respect. On that basis, in the very different conditions of the two countries, we can both make further contributions to what must be the goal of any country’s policy – the improvement of the condition of human beings, of human rights in the deepest sense, including the right of each country to pursue its own national way of life. On that basis, as with China, my hope is that Britain will not only improve its own conditions of life but make new and greater contributions to humanity.’

Jeremy Corbyn is totally devoted to the interests of humanity, and in particular to the least privileged within it. He can therefore make up his own words. But any balanced reflection on human values will make clear that not only he but the world should rejoice to see that China has been able to take the greatest step forward for real human rights of any country.

Well that’s got it off his chest.

John Ross is a former leader of the International Marxist Group.

At present is part of the group Socialist Action, as can be seen from the above and these, recent articles:

Saturday, 05 September 2015 No China’s economy is not going to crash – why China has the world’s strongest macro-economic structure by John Ross.

Wednesday, 02 September 2015 A victory parade for China and humanity John Ross, on China’s 70th anniversary Victory Parade.

This is how the Labour Leader will receive the Chinese President.

Corbyn to challenge China’s strongman president Xi Jinping over human rights abuse during private one-on-one talks today

  • Labour leader given an unprecedented private meeting with President Xi
  • It came after he threatening to raise concerns at an exclusive state banquet
  • Expected to demand release of hundreds of jailed human rights lawyers
  • He’ll also raise concerns over Chinese steel dumping threatening UK jobs

After SWP Involvement Makes News, Momentum Publishes Ethical Code – is this enough?

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Enfin, les difficultés commencent !

By a route leading back to, amongst others,  Tendance Coatesy the New Statesman has published this:

When new group Momentum was launched by Jeremy Corbyn supporters, Labour MPs were immediately alarmed by its decision to allow non-party members to sign up. This, they warned, risked far-left entryism and the creation of a Militant-style “party within a party”.

Their fears were given greater credence yesterday by the announcement by the Socialist Workers Party, the most loathed Trotskyist groupuscule, that it intends to participate in Momentum. The SWP’s “Party Notes” stated: “There are also various initiatives to re-launch the Labour left. Momentum which has the backing of a group of newly elected Corbyn-supporting MPs such as Clive Lewis and Richard Burgon, looks like it might be the most significant to date (Corbyn and McDonnell have also made supporting statements backing it). It does not seem restricted to Labour members, though it says it will aim to encourage people to join Labour. We should go along to any local Momentum meetings with the aim of taking part as open SWP members, suggesting joint activity, and sign up to be on the email lists. A launch meeting in Manchester last week attracted 70 people, many of them new and comrades had a friendly response when they raised common activity.”

For Momentum’s Labour supporters, the involvement of the SWP (see Edward Platt’s 2014 NS piece for an account of the party’s multiple woes) would be a political catastrophe. Indeed, it is precisely because the SWP recognises that its participation would discredit the group that it has adopted this strategy. It intends to support Momentum as the noose supports a hanged man.

It is notable, then, that the group’s founders have moved swiftly to repudiate the SWP. An article on Left Futures, the site edited by Momentum director Jon Lansman, declares: “There are extremely good reasons why the SWP and my erstwhile comrades in the Socialist Party should be told to sling their hook when they try and get involved. A passing acquaintance with them is all it takes to understand that they’re fundamentally uninterested in building the wider labour movement, let alone the Labour Party – which is one of Momentum‘s explicit objectives. During the summer the SWP looked upon stormin’ Corbyn with indifference and barely any comment. For the Socialist Party, because Labour was a “capitalist party” Jeremy couldn’t possibly win and it was dead as far as socialist politics were concerned.

But the suspicion that Momentum will be infiltrated by hostile left-wingers is likely to endure. If SWP members are to be formally excluded from meetings, the new fear is that its activists go undercover (though it is worth recalling how few there now are). Shadow minister Clive Lewis, a Momentum director, told me this week: “If people are concerned about Momentum, all I would say is judge it on what it does.” But for Labour MPs, the jury will remain out for some time.

Momentum published this yesterday

Interim Ethical Code for Individuals and Local Groups Associated with Momentum

Individuals and groups using the Momentum name and branding must operate according to the following principles at all times:

• As the successor to Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership Campaign, Momentum promotes the values that Jeremy popularised during the campaign, of fair, honest debate focused on policies, not personal attacks or harassment.
• Momentum is outward-facing. It seeks to reach out across the community and encourages the participation of people who may not have been involved in political activities before. Ensuring the safety and self-expression of everyone is a priority, especially of those who are often marginalised on the basis of their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, religion, class, disability and educational or economic status.
• Groups of individuals may form local Momentum Groups to share ideas, organise and participate in activities at their local level which demonstrate how ‘Labour values’ and collective effort can make a positive social and/or environmental impact. These groups must be democratic in their nature and be organised around a spirit of collaboration, inclusion and respect.
• As the successor to Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership Campaign, Momentum promotes the communication of progressive ideas for political change, such as: opposition to austerity, the promotion of equality and participatory democracy. These are the values for which Jeremy Corbyn was elected.
• Momentum is wholly committed to working for progressive political change through methods which are inclusive, participatory and non-violent.
• Momentum seeks to build a social movement in support of the aims of the Labour movement and a fairer and more decent society. Momentum is committed to supporting the Labour Party winning elections and entering government in 2020 and seeks positive and productive engagement with local Labour Party branches.

Individuals and/or groups who do not adhere to the above principles will not be considered to be part of, or associated with, Momentum. Please note that Momentum is its embryonic stage as a network organisation. Our Code of Conduct is likely to develop further along with the governance structures of our organisation.

Whether these interim  commitments will make a difference, or become fully codified,  remains to be seen.

The principal concern is not setting up measures to avoid being hectored by the SWP/SP. Or even to put a stop to attempts to support break away candidates standing in elections against the Labour Party (which we flagged up).

It is about what the left needs to be done to make itself not ‘populist’ but popular enough to be able to implement our democratic socialist policies.

However democratic and inclusive an internal structure is this Blog’s own view that a lot more needs to be done to reach out not just to ourselves, to ‘new’ people, and movements in civil society. Particular attention should be given to the views of Trade Unions on issues concerning not just budget austerity but privatisation, hiving off local services, and to groups fighting, what is effectively the dismantling of the Welfare state.

For this to have a real impact:

  • The left has to appeal, and listen to, those already in the Labour Party who did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn.
  • We have to respect the hard work they have put in, over many years, as activists, as Councillors and MPs.
  • We have to offer rational well-thought out policies – on austerity, on broader economic issues, on social policy, and on international subjects.
  • It is important, therefore, that supporters of Team Corbyn and the new Shadow Cabinet more broadly, work with that section of the Party which  wants to see a Labour government elected, our representation on local councils increased and effective policies carried out in local government.
This means listening and trying to convince the ‘centre ground’ of the Party.

This will not help:

“Momentum England an Unofficial page supporting “Momentum” the movement inspired by Jeremy Corbyn the Leader of the Labour Party #ANewKindOfPolitics.”

2,093 people like this.

The Facebook page (Here)  is managed by one Mark Anthony France,  Republican Socialist and Labour Party Member.

Politics in Britain and Ireland is being transformed.
We have seen a powerful rebellion in Scotland in support of a radical movement for Independence and the spectacular rise of the Scottish National Party.

We see the growth of Sinn Fein both North and South as we approach the 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising.

In Wales Plaid Cymru is a potent force led by Socialist Republican Leanne Wood
In the Summer of 2015 came an unprecedented mass movement mainly based in England that led to Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Leader of the Labour PartyThere is tremendous momentum for change.

One of the biggest issues that confront all the peoples of these islands is how to manage dynamic towards the break up of the so called ‘United Kingdom’ in a peaceful, democratic way.
We encourage debate and discussion about the movement for change and how to maintain and accelerate the Momentum for change towards a genuinely democratic future based upon peoples power.

This chap has a bit of a ‘history’.

With John Tummon Mark Anthony France was the seconder of the (roundly defeated) notorious Caliphate motion at the Left Unity Conference in November 2014 (Extracts: original here)

To show solidarity with the people of the Middle  East by supporting the end of the  structure of the  divided nation states imposed by the Versailles  settlement and their replacement by a Caliphate type polity in which diversity and autonomy are protected and nurtured and the mass of people can effectively control executive authority’.

Left Unity distances itself specifically from the use of intemperate, inaccurate and moralist language such as ‘terrorism’, ‘evil’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘viciously reactionary’, ‘murderous’, genocidal’, etc in discussion about the Middle East; these terms are deployed by people and forces seeking not to understand or analyse, but to demonise in order to dominate, and they have no place within socialist discourse.

We also distance ourselves  from the Eurocentric brand of secularism that  believes that the peoples of the Middle East must accept western terms of reference by consigning  their religious faith to a separate part of their  lives from their political aspirations, if they are to  develop progressive societies.

The story got national attention,

Islamic State’s ‘Progessive Potential’ As ‘Stabilising Force’ Debated By New Left Unity Party. Huffington Post.

The “progressive potential” of Islamic State (IS) had been discussed by a British political party, which also claimed a caliphate created by the brutal Islamist terror group would be a “stabilising force” in the region.

The bizarre proposition was put to members of a new left-wing party in an amendment that said IS’s territorial ambitions were a break from “framework of western-imposed nation states” in the Middle East.

The Left Unity motion added that Islamic State’s call for a pan-Islamic Caliphate to replace the various states of the Muslim world was “an authentic expression of … anti-imperialist aspirations.”

No more than ‘debating’ with the SWP would we wish to ‘discuss’ the idea that we should be sympathetic to an Islamic caliphate.


Socialist Workers Party to “build Momentum” group for Jeremy Corbyn.

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SWP to use ‘United Front Method’ in Momentum to bring “Ideological Clarity”.

Socialist Worker announces.

Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn have launched a new initiative to galvanise the enthusiasm generated during his leadership campaign.

Called Momentum, it says it wants to build a “mass movement for real progressive change”.

It commits to organise “supporters amongst the Labour Party membership as well as the wider social movement which is springing up.”

Corbyn has been under constant attack from the Labour establishment and the right.

This is a welcome sign that he wants to build a broader base to take up the fight. And one that is prepared to move outside of the machinery of Labour.

Some of his most trenchant opposition comes from the Labour benches in parliament—including his cabinet.

But his largest support comes from grass roots campaigners and newly politicised young people who want an alternative to austerity and racism.

The new group’s stated aim is to pull people into Labour—at the moment it is not a membership organisation and is calling for supporters.

This is a chance for activists in and out of Labour to cooperate in activity. It increases the space for debate about how to fight back.

Corbyn’s campaign promised a different sort of politics.

Momentum’s call to mobilise those people to be active in their localities with others on the left can help that political mood. And it can feed into strengthening working class organisation.

Socialists in and outside Labour should support it.

The last sentence is SWP-speak for “SWP members to join Momentum”.

These are the new group’s core objectives.

What will Momentum do?

What does Momentum want to do?

  • Organise in every town, city and village to create a mass movement for real progressive change.
  • Make Labour a more democratic party, with the policies and collective will to implement them in government.
  • Bring together individuals and groups in our communities and workplaces to campaign and organise on the issues that matter to us.

How will Momentum do this?

  • Organise events, rallies, meet ups and policy consultations to encourage mass mobilisation for a more democratic, equal and decent society.
  • Encourage those inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to get involved with the Labour Party. Assist members in making their voice heard in Labour Party debates.
  •  Facilitate and coordinate people to build new and support existing organisations that can make concrete improvements to people’s lives. Through these actions, we aim to demonstrate on a micro level how collective action and Labour values can transform our society for the better.

This is what the SWP intends to do about this (internal Party Notes 12th October):

3) We need to constantly seek opportunities to engage with Corbyn supporters in common activity and political discussion. This involves united front activity, for example over Stand Up to Racism and refugee solidarity, building opposition to the Trade Union Bill or starting to build the CND demo against Trident called for 20 February.

4) We should also go to Labour Party meetings to sell Socialist Worker and invite people to join us in activity etc.

5) There are also various initiatives to re-launch the Labour left. Momentum which has the backing of a group of newly elected Corbyn-supporting MPs such as Clive Lewis and Richard Burgon, looks like it might be the most significant to date (Corbyn and McDonnell have also made supporting statements backing it). It does not seem restricted to Labour members, though it says it will aim to encourage people to join Labour. We should go along to any local Momentum meetings with the aim of taking part as open SWP members, suggesting joint activity, and sign up to be on the email lists. A launch meeting in Manchester last week attracted 70 people, many of them new and comrades had a friendly response when they raised common activity.

6) Common activity, a repeated united front method and relating to Labour party meetings etc. and raising the argument that we can’t wait for 2020 are the key to finding an audience among Corbyn supporters. But we then also have to engage in fraternal debate about the way forward. Here the lessons of Syriza are extremely important, where the combined pressure of European capital has turned Syriza from a beacon of hope against austerity into its enforcer within nine months.

7) If we combine a united front method with ideological clarity, the SWP can make the most of an exciting, but testing, new political situation.

Translated from SWP-speak this means that they will turn up at all Momentum meetings they can, demand a ‘united front’ (agreement with whatever the SWP ‘s favourite causes of the day are) and seek “ideological clarity” by making sure that as “revolutionaries” they will expose the weakness of ‘reformists” and “build the SWP”.

Or,  as classically formulated, the “united front” means this, (Duncan Hallas, writing for the forerunner of the SWP, the International Socialists in 1976),

It is not a substitute for a revolutionary party. The united front tactic can never, under any circumstances, mean the subordination of revolutionary politics and organisation to reformist politics and organisation. It presupposes the existence and independence of a revolutionary force. The bigger that force, the greater the united front possibilities.

It is not a “let’s forget our differences and unite” approach. On the contrary; the united front tactic always and inevitably involves a political struggle to compel reformists and centrists to to live up to their own pretensions, to break some of their ties with the capitalist establishment (both direct and through the trade union bureaucracy) and to engage in a fight, alongside revolutionaries, for objectives they themselves profess to support.

On the United Front Tactic  Some Preliminary Notes

 No doubt the SWP will also cite the example of the left  that they backed as an alternative to Syriza whose electoral results in the September elections were outstanding. Or as they said “the anti-capitalist coalition Antarsya made modest gains despite a split from one of its components to join Popular Unity.” (Socialist Worker.)

Greek Anticapitalist LeftWorkers Revolutionary Party (ANTARSYA-EEK) 46,096 0.85 Increase0.17  


There are many other points to make but one stands out: no doubt those who left the SWP in recent years, a result of, amongst other things, the Comrade Delta case, will equally  be delighted to be lectured by the old comrades.

Martin Thomas of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty comments in a vein which goes into greater detail than our Blog comments a few days ago.

Momentum: welcome and worries

Momentum is proposed as a composite structure, with an inside-the-Labour-Party element, and a “social movement” element. At present there is no way to join Momentum, rather than just to sign up to keep in touch with it, but the plan is that non-Labour people will be able to join equally with Labour people.

Naturally enough, the Socialist Party has indicated that it will join Momentum en masse, and so probably will the SWP, the Communist Party of Britain, etc. Local Labour left caucuses organising under the Momentum umbrella will have to call themselves “Labour Momentum”, not just “Momentum”.

Unity with SP and SWP people, and even with CPB people, is desirable in campaigns where we share clear-cut aims, and regular organised debate with them is desirable where we do not.

But this pantomime-horse structure makes Momentum effectively a new party intertwined with the Labour Party. (Except with no clearly stated political programme. And except that it will not stand candidates. But won’t it? What if a local Momentum group, angry at right-wing Labour councillors, wants to challenge them next May?)

The structure of the Labour Party has, historically, given enough of a frame to Labour left organisations (local left caucuses, and wider groups too: the Campaign Group Supporters’ Network, Labour Party Socialists, the Rank and File Mobilising Committee, the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory… back to Victory for Socialism or the Socialist League) that they can operate usefully and have at least some democratic mechanisms (conferences, named committees, elections) without demanding “discipline” and without being continually convulsed by battles for control.

Those have always been much weaker and more blurred than the informed democracy which an activist Marxist organisation needs and can generate, but they have served their limited purpose.

For a notionally more ambitious operation, effectively a near-full-fledged party, to have structures which are, as some in the Labour Representation Committee group (LRC) have said, “an amorphous mess” — that makes for rancour and squabbles, not democratic cooperation.

Both the lack of democratic mechanisms, and the Rube Goldberg structure, are defended as necessary to give equal weight to sympathisers who participate only online with those who come to meetings.

The following will no doubt not have escaped the attention of Labour Party activists:

The Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party stood in the 2015 General Election – their candidates were presented as an alternative to the Labour Party.

TUSC stood 135 prospective parliamentary candidates across England, Wales and Scotland, as well as 619 council candidates in local elections.

The organisation announced in October 2014 that it had received a guarantee of funding from Socialist Alliance.[38] The funds would provide for one hundred deposits in parliamentary contests, as well as a Party Political Broadcast.[39

The party performed badly at the election, winning 36,327 votes, or 0.1% of the popular vote. No parliamentary seats were gained and no deposits were saved.


This is what the Socialist Party said of Labour this year (The Socialist 15th of April)

Labour remains a capitalist party committed to austerity and sticking to Tory spending limits. Shadow welfare minister Rachel Reeves has promised to be tougher on welfare than the Con-Dems.

This (The Socialist. October the 14th) is their balance-sheet of their TUSC campaign,

TUSC has stood widely in elections over the last five years, with many candidates coming from the unions, including the RMT and FBU.

Actually, this was a major factor in pushing Labour lefts to ensure that the Blairites were challenged in the leadership election by Jeremy Corbyn‘s candidature.

They add,

We support Jeremy and John calling a conference of all the anti-austerity forces inside and outside Labour, including non-affiliated unions and parties like ourselves, to build a movement to defeat the Blairites. The question is, does re-affiliating help that process?

The party machine is still in the hands of the Blairites. The launching of Momentum is a recognition from Corbyn’s supporters that there is a struggle taking place and that the left needs to operate inside and outside the party.

But should non-affiliated unions rejoin the Labour Party?

It is to the current Labour’s undemocratic structure that unions would be re-affiliating, where the constitution has been fashioned by the Blairites to maintain their pro-market policies.

They would be spending hundreds of thousands of pounds for a tiny proportion of votes and influence. On the existing basis, the RMT could have to pay £250,000 to affiliate for around 1.8% of the vote at Labour’s annual conference which doesn’t even decide party policy!

They would also be giving up their independence at this stage where the die hasn’t been cast, rather than use the possibility of supporting anti-austerity candidates against the Labour right as an important lever to supplement the struggle against the Blairites from outside.

There remains the question: is the Labour Party still a “capitalist party” or not?

Written by Andrew Coates

October 15, 2015 at 4:05 pm