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The British Communist Party and the Soviet Union. An Introduction.

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https://hatfulofhistory.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/img_0374.jpg?w=350&h=467

“Stalin, whose great work tends to undervalued today, was a great creative statesman, however much he may have blundered in his later years. It is doubtful whether any less determined leadership would have laid the foundations of socialism.”

John Lewis. Socialism and the Individual. Lawrence and Wishart. 1961.

“The achievements of socialism, once a distant dream, are now a reality for all to see, in many countries of the world.”

The British Road To Socialism. Communist Party Programme. 1968.

Nick Cohen recently wrote of “Corbyn surrounding himself with aides from the Communist Party of Britain and the fragments of the Socialist Workers Party. (9.12.17. Observer). We can largely dismiss the histrionic overtones of the columnist’s polemic. But what is he talking about? Many on the left are familiar with the SWP, or at least its placards. Even the Taafites, who have taken to imitating the hand-held-poster-road-to-socialism have a degree of public recognition, as “formerly the Militant.”

Yet apart from an awareness that the organisation exists, about 1,000 strong, and that it dominates the small circulation but widely read in the labour movement, Morning Star, the views of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) are not widely known even on the left.

The fate of the unpublished letters to the Guardian by one of the CPB’s leading representatives, Nick Wright, further indicates a lack of interest in the left of centre MSM (Last month’s unpublished letters to the Guardian).

This short introduction hopes to remedy the gap.

To begin any discussion of the Party (usually capitalised in their documents) one has to start with….Communism. As Evan Smith has underlined, “The Communist Party of Britain was, and remains, probably the most significant party that was sympathetic to the Soviet Union and Soviet-styled Marxism-Leninism.” (1)

John Lewis and the 1960s editions of the British Road to Socialism indicate that strong support for the Soviet Union was long dominant in the party the CPB came out of, the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). This continued right up till the 1970s, with party members (I am citing personal experience) reading Soviet Weekly and Sputnik. This is not the place to describe the clashes which ended in the dissolution of the Party in 1991 and the processes that led to the CPB foundation in 1988. The strand we concentrate is their position, post refoundation, on the USSR.

In a section of the present edition of the (CPB) British Road to Socialism – devoted to the reasons for the end of the Soviet Union – it is asserted that,

Russia and the other countries of the Soviet Union were transformed from semi-feudal, semi-capitalist monarchist dictatorships into modern societies with near-full employment, universally free education and healthcare, affordable housing for all, extensive and cheap public transport, impressive scientific and cultural facilities, rights for women and degrees of self-government for formerly oppressed nationalities. This was achieved through a world historic break with capitalist ownership and social relations, on the basis of social ownership of industry and centralised economic planning.This was achieved through a world historic break with capitalist ownership and social relations, on the basis of social ownership of industry and centralised economic planning. (2)

The CPB’s account of how they came to consider flaws in this praiseworthy society, (from “full employment” “social ownership”, to “degrees of self-government for formerly oppressed nationalities”) is set out in The Communist Party 1920–2010 (Robert Griffiths, the present Party General Secretary, and Ben Stevenson). It is as follows,

“the downfall of the Soviet Union and the socialist states of Eastern Europe compelled Britain’s Communists – and serious Marxists everywhere – to analyse the reasons for counter-revolution.”

“The reconvened 41st Congress of the CP in November 1992 made its assessment; ‘The root cause if the collapse lay in the particular forms of economic and political structure which developed in the Soviet Union. Specifically, the great mass of working people came to be progressively excluded from any direct control over their economic and social destiny. This erosion of the very essence of socialism increasingly affected all aspects of Soviet society’.” (3)

The build up to this statement is outlined in the Hateful of History article already cited. The Morning Star had begun to lay out this view during the collapse of the Soviet Union. They flagged up the,

….authoritarian straitjacket’ that was ‘suffocating’ the Soviet Union was a theme returned to repeatedly in the Morning Star’s reporting on the final days of the Soviet Bloc. While the paper and the CPB commended the Soviet Union for transforming Russia ‘from its state of backwardness in 1917’ into ‘a highly industrialised state with enormous potential’ and defeated the Nazis in the Second World War, it criticised the ‘inertia of the bureaucratic-command system that it created’ and argued that during the Cold War, this centralised command economy ‘ultimately stultified social development and limited the democratic participation of the people.’ (4)

Stalin.

What did they have to say about Stalin’s rule? The Communist Party 1920 – 2010 states, that for its admirers, it had its good side, “For much of the 1930s, the Soviet Union had appeared a bastion of peace and stability amid a world of mass unemployment, fascist aggression and colonial exploitation, Communists everywhere helped publicise its enormous economic, scientific and cultural achievements.” (5)

On the Terror and the Gulag they wrote principally about the Moscow Trials, “When respected lawyers, politicians and diplomats attended the Moscow Show trials and confirmed that the defendants had indeed confessed to being members of a ‘Trotsky-fascist;’ campaign of espionage and subversion, Britain’s Communists were not alone in believing that such plots had indeed existed.” (6)

It was only after the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had taken place, and Khrushchev revealed the extent of the horrors, many Communists around the world were shocked to learnt that violations of socialist democracy and human rights had taken place on such a scale.”(7) Despite this, and the armed Soviet intervention in Hungary to “protect the socialist state”, “For many Party members, the class struggle at home provided reason enough to stay” (Ibid).

The section following the favourable account of the Soviet Union’s achievements, in the British Road to Socialism (reprised and modified by the CPB) ,  makes this side of their analysis of the Soviet Union clear “‘a bureaucratic-command system of economic and political rule became entrenched. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the trade unions became integrated into the apparatus of the state, eroding working class and popular democracy. Marxism-Leninism was used dogmatically to justify the status quo rather than make objective assessments of it.At times, and in the late 1930s in particular, severe violations of socialist democracy and law occurred. Large numbers of people innocent of subversion or sabotage were persecuted, imprisoned and executed. This aided the world-wide campaign of lies and distortions aimed at the Soviet Union, the international communist movement and the concept of socialism. (8)

Most readers will have seen that the statement avoids saying why the predecessors of the CPB, the CPGB, and its fellow travellers, avoided a global critique of the USSR, from the pre-war period up to the 1980s. The reason is perhaps too obvious to state: they supported the Soviet system. That was the reason why the Communist Party existed. While the CPGB (at least after the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968) allowed partial criticisms of Moscow policy, the current that became the CPB was founded on the idea that it was part of a ‘world historic break’ with capitalism. When it comes down to it, it claim that, however much it may have lacked “popular democracy”, the actually existing form of the “concept” of ‘Socialism’ had to be defended against “lies and distortions”.

Marxism-Leninists’ own History.

The ‘science’ of Marxism-Leninism is a poor guide to the thinking of the CPB. A sceptic would remark that the history Griffiths and Stevenson present, is a projection backwards into the minds of those who in the 1930s gloried in the Socialist Sixth of the World and would not recognise that they had been wrong. But to conjure up, today, the hopes raise by the defeat of Nazi Germany with the USSR’s decisive contribution, and the spread of the ‘socialist’ social system in Eastern Europe and the victory of the People’s Liberation Army in China is not a help to understanding the history of the Soviet Union. This is an account by those willing to put blinkers over their eyes faced with the evidence of Soviet repression that came out in the post war years trying to retrospectively justify their forebears.

There are reasons not to off hand dismiss the account.  If we take this imaginative step further we can see that our resurrected Communist activist of the past would have had other reasons for not listening to those opposed to Stalinism. As Paul Flewers has pointed out, during the 1930s, that to admit faults in the homeland of socialism would have been to agree with the Right, even the far-right which they could see only too well in Nazi Germany and Italy. In Britain, he writes, it was largely from the “many “traditional anti-Communists” who pointed to the mass murder and “extreme authoritarian rule” in the USSR. While there were reservations about Stalin by social democratic and Labour figures there were only isolated critics from the left. Indeed, “the idea that the “Soviet regime under Stalin was essentially a conservative counter-revolutionary force – was seldom is ever publicly broached in the political mainstream, and only occasionally elsewhere.”(9)

After the Second World War this tendency was reinforced. Even with evidence and acknowledgement of mass repression there were earnest debates amongst French intellectuals like Merleau- Ponty (Humanisme et terreur. 1947) and in the following decade around Jean Paul Sartre’s  Les communistes et la paix (1952)  over whether Stalinist terror was justified in the name of building a communist future. Flewers points out that the Communist defence of the Soviet Union continued during the Cold War, when polarisation of opinion meant that many on the left continued to feel that they had to “take sides”. It was in this context that John Lewis offered a defence of the “justified” use of “compulsion by a “constitutionally elected Socialist government” and qualified but “globally positive” picture of Stalin in laying the ‘foundations’ of socialism. (10)

It was not just on the Communist Party that people believed that some kind of ‘jump’ into a different social system, socialism, had taken place in the years following the October Revolution. The existence of the USSR, followed by China and other ‘socialist states’ was considered part of the progressive development of history. This held even for those who considered that the Soviet regime was “deformed” or “degenerated”. This thinking continues to inform many in the orthodox Trotskyist movement, which has had almost as may difficulties coming to terms with the collapse of Official Communism as its Stalinist opponents.

The Linear History that the USSR Failed to Follow.

One interpretation of Marxism, which goes back to Engels, is that modes of production exist in a “linear” schema”. In this view the USSR was a society in “transition” through forms of collective ownership, and a socialist transformation of social relations, towards a new mode of production, communism. This was accepted even by many of those who criticised the way this change was enforced by a party bureaucracy. By the revolutionary advance to power by a proletarian party, the Bolsheviks began the transformation of the relations of production and distribution by the exercise of workers’ power.

From a variety of standpoints a “detour” back towards capitalism could only happen by a “counter-revolution”, that is in terms not far off the CPB’s broad analysis. Marcel Van der Linden’s Western Marxists and the Soviet Union (2007) describes this as the “unilinear” approach: once you began this “world historic break”, a new social trajectory (social ownership of the means of production you were embarked on a voyage. How it fared was up to those in control of the helm. But the trip had started.

Outside of this consensus a miniature galaxy of critical left wing theories on the nature of the Soviet Union which was built, including those who challenged the premise of this assertion, that Lenin’s Bolsheviks ever embodied the interests or the views or the working class.

However, as der Linden describes, the unilinear approach faded away for other reasons. Gradually the ‘sequence”, or proceeding along a line, picture of the USSR as undergoing a ‘stage’ in world history, not least “towards” anything at all, had been eroded. And study after study shed light on the social and economic reality of the state and its satellites were written, as literary and historical studies of the Gulag appeared, the magic of a new world had evaporated. The determination in the last instance was economic, “Increasingly dominant in all currents of thought became the idea that the Soviet Union had embodied a model of economic growth which, although it had initially been successful using extensive methods of industrialisation and extra-economic coercion, could not maintain its economic and military position in the competition with ‘globalising’ world capitalism, because of growing inefficiencies and the absence of a transition to intensive growth.” (11) Eric Hobsbawm expressed a similar thought more directly, “The tragedy of the October revolution was that it could only produce its kind of ruthless, brutal, command socialism. (12)

Labour Totalitarians?

One can criticise the CPB for its failure to come to terms with more than the surface difficulties which were, by the time the Soviet Union collapse, no secret. One can attack their inability to see that there was more at stake than “errors” and authoritarian rule that is commands on the basis of the science of Marxism-Leninism or arbitrary legal producers. It is right to deny them the comfort of believing that they were serving the cause of the future, a location in which communism is to come. But one thing they cannot be accused of it is complete blindness.

Andrew Murray, until recently a member of the CPB, and now, it is said, a key Labour actor, is one of those, one can assume targeted by Cohen. But is he culpable of endorsing the Soviet Union’s totalitarian terror? This is not the case. Murray written of the Stalinist period, “The killing of former oppositionists is now known to have been a small part of a very much larger and more horrifying operation.” And, “Stalin was both greater and more terrible than Trotsky knew. He is long since indicted with vast crimes” (13).

The difficulty is, and remains there, is that Murray, reflecting a view expressed many times elsewhere, also observes, “The USSR won the war and Stalin emerged stronger than ever, with socialism spreading to half of Europe and much of Asia, perhaps the most significant of the many circumstances which left Trotskyism without Trotsky stillborn as a major political movement.” (Ibid) It is not Trotskyism to comment that until the CPB and those still wrapped in its way of thinking that calls such states ‘socialist’. You can indeed can them anything you like, you can invent, he suggests a “new political vocabulary”. But but very few are going to want to admire, still less emulate, these ‘socialist’ regimes or their legacy, today. (14)

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(1) The Communist Party of Britain, the Morning Star and the legacy of the Soviet Union. Dr Evan Smith.  Hatful of History.
(2) Britain’s Road to Socialism. 8th Edition. 2011.
(3) Page 41.The Communist Party 1920- – 2010. Robert Griffiths and Ben Stevenson. Communist Party History Group. 2010.
(4) The Communist Party of Britain, the Morning Star and the legacy of the Soviet Union.
(5) Page 15. The Communist Party 1920- – 2010. Op Cit.
(6) Page 16. The Communist Party 1920- – 2010. Op cit.
(7) Page 26.The Communist Party 1920- – 2010. Op cit.
(8) Britain’s Road to Socialism. 8th Edition. 2011.
(9) Page 221 The New Civilisation? Understanding Stalin’s Soviet Union 1929 – 1941. Paul Flewers. Francis Boule. 2008. To illustrate this point further a key text from an early Menshevik critic of Lenin, Fedor Il’ich Dan’s Two years of Wandering, (1922) has only recently appeared in English (translated by Francis King. 2016). Some other important works, such as the first hand account of the rise of the Stalinist system, published in French by the dissident leftist circle round Boris Souvarine, notably Vers l”autre flamme après seize mois dans l”U.R.S.S., Panaït Istrati.(1929) remain largely unknown in the English speaking world
(10) Page 79. Socialism and the Individual. Lawrence and Wishart. 1961.
(11) Page 303. Marcel Van der Linden. Western Marxism and the Soviet Union. Brill. 2007.
(12) Page 498. Eric Hobsbawm. Age of Extremes. The Short Twentieth Century 1914 – 1991. Abacus 1994.
(13) Trotsky on Stalin. Andrew Murray. October 2016.

(14) For some of the many reasons, the tragic wrecked lives in the former Soviet Union given voice in Second-hand time : the last of the Soviets. Aleksievich, Svetlana. (Translated by Shayevich, Bela). Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2016.

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Written by Andrew Coates

December 20, 2017 at 3:10 pm

Communist Party, Morning Star, “Triggering Article 50 opens the way to progressive policies.”

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Triggering Article 50 opens the way to progressive policies……

Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths said leaving the EU must not become “an excuse for diluting people’s already meagre rights at work,” but said the left should set its sights on the opportunities the negotiations present.

“Triggering Article 50 opens the way to progressive policies outside the EU to control capital, raise public funds for infrastructure investment, enforce equal rights for migrant workers and radically cut or abolish VAT.

“Such policies would remain unlawful if we stay in the single market.”

Trade Unionists Against the EU’s Doug Nicholls saluted “a great day for workers in Britain.

Forty years of being controlled by those we don’t elect will soon be over, and we can rebuild a full-employment economy.

Morning Star.

A Morning Star Editorial declares,

Now Is The Time For Unity

Arguing for Unity around the Morning Star and the Communist Party of Britain’s programme the Editorial states,

A convincing left-wing resurgence requires unity. The labour movement cannot afford to rerun the arguments of the referendum ad nauseam, but should be pursuing a set of economic demands — the new deal for workers agreed at last year’s TUC is a good place to start — and framing any approach to the exit negotiations around how we meet those demands.

They conclude,

A determined push from the left to secure a British exit deal that promotes working-class demands and an end to neoliberalism will find an echo across Europe and help shape a progressive future.

A red rose future indeed!

Meanwhile in the world we live in Another Europe is Possible announces,

Unprecedented alliance vows to fight for a “Progressive Deal” after Article 50

Leading figures from Labour and Green parties, along with the general secretaries of a number trade unions, have released a statement vowing to fight on after the declaration of Article 50 today. 29th March 2017

  • As Article 50 is triggered, leading Labour and Green figures, along with trade unions, vow to oppose “a harmful, extreme form of Brexit”
  • New Progressive Deal launched, fighting for workers’ rights, free movement, environmental regulations and other protections.
  • Campaigners raise the alarm over the Great Repeal Bill – which will hand ministers unprecedented powers to change the law by decree

Leading figures from Labour and Green parties, along with the general secretaries of a number trade unions, have released a statement vowing to fight on after the declaration of Article 50 today.

The letter, which is signed by Clive Lewis and Caroline Lucas, as well as UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis, states: “With article 50 triggered, we are entering a dangerous moment for our democracy. The government is pursuing a harmful, extreme form of Brexit for which it has no democratic mandate. The British people must have the defining say over what kind of deal is reached. The result of the referendum was not a mandate to undermine our human rights or our rights at work, to scrap environmental protections or to attack migrants. We will not allow this government to pursue a race to the bottom in which we all lose.”

Writing in the Mirror this morning, Clive Lewis added: “There’s a difference between respecting the decision to leave the EU and giving Theresa May dangerous levels of power to decide the future of our country. Parliament let the British people down last month when they let the Prime Minister negotiate leaving the EU without any restriction or guidance.”

The unprecedented alliance of was drawn together by the campaign group Another Europe is Possible. It has launched a new Progressive Deal, which will fight to retain the six progressive elements of EU membership: free movement, workers’ rights, environmental protections, human rights, science and research funding and education links. The Progressive Deal (here) will be a focal point in the coming months.

Michael Chessum, national organiser for Another Europe is Possible, said: “The Tories are using the technicalities of the Brexit process to strip us of rights and freedoms. The antidote to that is clear, principled politics – and finding a message that can cut through. We need to challenge the consensus that immigration and free movement are the cause of falling living standards, and we need to champion workers’ rights, human rights and other protections. That is what the Progressive Deal is about – and if the left can unite around a clear vision, we can absolutely shift the outcome of these negotiations.”

 

After Corbyn’s Peterborough Speech: Unity Possible on Brexit Around our Pro-Brexit Programme: Communist Party of Britain.

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Image result for communist party of britain Lexit

CPB Seers’ Predictions.

Left Unity Possible on Brexit Around our pro-Brexit Programme: Communist Party of Britain.

Today the news is full of Donald Trump’s welcome for Brexit and a promise for rapid trade deal with the UK. This comes as Teresa May is reported to be in favour of a Hard Brexit. In response to the latter Labour MP Caroline Flint has given priority support for a two-tier immigration system for EU citizens, giving free access to better off, qualified workers over the unqualified.

Where does the left stand on the current state of Brexit negotiations?

A few days ago Jeremy Corbyn spoke on the issues around Brexit at Peterborough. He said, “Whether you voted to Leave or to Remain, you voted for a better future for Britain. One thing is clear, the Tories cannot deliver that. So today I want to set how Labour will deliver that vision of a better Britain.”

People’s Brexit.

Over the weekend Communist Party of Britain General Secretary Robert Griffith welcomed Corbyn’s speech (Unity for a People’s Brexit from the EU). He welcomed Jeremy Corbyn’s declaration. To Griffith, “It offered a united way forward for the labour movement on the divisive question of Britain’s exit from the European Union.”

The Communist leader noted that, “It’s hardly a secret that the left and labour movement have been divided on the issue of EU membership”. Corbyn however bolted down one continued source of division: he opposed a second referendum. This, Griffith claimed, answered “powerful forces” who wish, “to keep us enmeshed in membership of the European Single Market with its rules requiring the “free movement” of capital, goods, services and people across the EU. That free movement of capital.”

In his address Corbyn took up four issues: “First, people want to leave the EU in order to “bring control of our democracy and economy closer to home.” Second, they want the promise kept of extra investment in the NHS from money saved by cancelling Britain’s contribution to the EU budget. Third, people have had enough of an economic system and an Establishment that work only for the few and not the many.
Finally, they want their concerns about immigration to be addressed.”

Above all the Labour leader, was, it is implied, recognised that, “detailed polling analysis shows that democratic sovereignty was the single biggest reason why people voted Leave last June — and that a slight majority of people who regard themselves as anti-capitalist (30 per cent of the electorate) also voted Leave.”

It is hard to see exactly how a ‘transfer’ of EU budget contribution to funding the NHS can take place, unless Griffith imagines there is some magical system ring-fencing for government funds for this or that objective.

The key issues are sovereignty and immigration.

The Peterborough Speech.

Corbyn announced, “People voted for Brexit on the promise that Britain outside the European Union could be a better place for all its citizens. Whatever their colour or creed. A chance to regain control over our economy, our democracy and people’s lives.” This assertion, unsupported by evidence, would imply that people voted for Brexit because they want to manage industry and commerce themselves. That leaving the EU was perceived as a means to “regain” (how exactly was it lost?) control over democracy and their everyday existence is also highly ambiguous. No socialist would consider that quitting the EU means leaving capitalism, the world market. Exactly how will this challenge the role of the City? The protection of its privileged position is at the very centre of negotiations – with not a word from Labour to challenge it.

The idea that ‘democracy’ is extended by abandoning pooled sovereignty for national sovereignty is unsupported by any specific examples other than a vague commitment to taking “back real control and putting power and resources right into the heart of local communities to target investment where it’s needed.” This is a declaration made by every government for the last twenty years.

On the issue of “colour or creed”, Corbyn avoided the left’s concerns that calls to restrict EU migration are fuelled by xenophobia. His wobbling over free movement of labour aside the only specific statement the Labour leader made was that, “Labour will demand that the Brexit negotiations give us the power to intervene decisively to prevent workers, from here or abroad, being used and exploited to undermine pay and conditions at work.” Nevertheless proposals to deal with this, for example by insisting that recruitment agencies are compelled to take on only the unionised, have been shown to be impossible to enforce.

Labour Movement.

For a party that prides itself on its roots in the labour movement the CPB General Secretary failed to talk about the key issues the Trade Union Congress has raised. These include not just plans to protect jobs, reform fiscal and monetary policy, and promote industrial planning, investment in infrastructure but “protections for working people’s employment rights, pay and pensions.” (Working people must not pay the price for the vote to Leave. TUC).

Instead of looking at Brexit as an opportunity to reaffirm national sovereignty we should be considering its implications for the labour movement.

It is possible that post-Brexit the former, enfeebled by the loss of transcontinental framework, may be reconfigured. But the latter, that it rights at work, will be irredeemably harmed by Brexit. The more so in that May is reported to wish to sever even the tie to the (non-EU) European Court of Justice. More direct threats include not only the loss of working hours directive and a hist of other legislation, but the end of cross-continental Works Councils, which play a key role in strengthening the hands of trade unions in negotiations.

It is clear that any deal with Trump – a TIPP writ large? – will reinforce the right-wing ‘neo-liberal’ agenda that the CPB claims to oppose Unable to leave the world market the claim, by those forces on the left that Brexit would offer a better way forward than membership of the capitalist EU, will turn out to be hollow.

Finally, there remains “concerns about immigration”.

Griffiths sheds tears that “Too many EU supporters on the left and in the centre have spent the past six months smearing Leave voters as gullible, undereducated, narrow-minded racists. Some critics have become so unhinged as to accuse the Communist Party of being in bed with nationalists, racists and neonazis, although we conducted an anti-racist, internationalist campaign against the EU, wholly independently of all sections of the political right.”

That’s as may be, though the more common change was the CPB’s sovereigntism led to nationalism it is hard to see exactly what is anti-racist about calling for immigration controls. Or how a two-tier migration system is anything other than a class based attempt to regulate entry into the UK and pander to hostility towards foreigners.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 16, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Is the Morning Star in Cahoots with Irrelevant Greek Communist Party (KKE) as French Communists Back Syriza.?

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French Communists Stand with Syriza; British Communists Snipe from Sidelines.

The morning the excellent l’Humanité (we shall never forget comrades your front line reports from the heroic defenders of Kobane, never!) leads with this headline:

La France doit défendre l’exigence de justice des Grecs !

Alors que le gouvernement renvoie la balle à Alexis Tsipras après un lourd silence de l’Élysée, de nombreuses voix à gauche exigent une intervention forte de la France.

France must defend the Greek demand for justice!

Whilst the government pushes back responsibility onto Alexis Tsiparis, after a deep silence from the Élysée, numerous voices on the left demand a strong intervention from France.

It concludes,

Ce nouvel acte de résistance à l’ordre libéral et à la guerre qui se perpétue sur notre continent, sous d’autres formes, doit amener à reposer les questions des objectifs de la zone euro, de la restructuration des dettes illégitimes et des orientations politiques.

This new act of resistance to the liberal economic order and to the virtual  war which is is waging over our continent, must bring forth a response that questions the objectives of the Euro,the restructuring of illegitimate debts, and (the EU’s…) political goals.

 In other words, reform the European Union….

By contrast (Hat-tip: Jim) the Morning Star, paper of the Communist Party of Britain carries this Editorial  on Greece today.

Eurozone Cannot be Reformed.

Tsipras wants to persuade other member states to back his vision of the EU as a bloc based on solidarity and to accept a chunk of his country’s debts being written off and the rest rescheduled.

Why should countries with lower living standards then Greece agree to this?

Will Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy, which have already writhed on the austerity rack, paying the price of ruthless loan conditions, support a softer approach for Greece?

It is ironic that, while eurozone states led by Berlin refuse to consider any debt write-off, the IMF is less rigid.

It often engineers creditors’ haircuts in return for new loans and conditions that involve revaluation of national currencies.

Eurozone members are denied this mechanism, with the value of the euro set to the advantage of the more developed states, especially Germany.

Germany’s huge overseas trade surplus, even with China, would normally push up the value of its currency, but eurozone membership precludes this.

When Merkel’s predecessor Helmut Kohl and French president Francois Mitterrand pushed through the single currency in 1992, many economists warned that economic union could only work properly in the context of political union.

This is exemplified by the reality of an undervalued euro favouring the richest members while the poorest are denied the benefit transfers and pooling of financial risk that exist in unified states.

Greece’s Syriza government seeks change, but the lacuna in its argument is that the most powerful member states benefit from current arrangements. Why should they change?

Syriza’s commitment to peddling illusions that the eurozone is reformable and could approve an alternative to austerity does not inspire confidence in Tsipras’s ability to win over his EU “partners.”

Whatever Greeks thought they were voting for, their government’s obsession with wearing the eurozone straitjacket makes attacks on living standards, including pensions, the likely price of Syriza’s negotiations.

We are aware that some members of the CPB are supportive of the views of the sectarian Greek Communist Party (KKE  Κομμουνιστικό Κόμμα Ελλάδας, Kommounistikó Kómma Elládas).

The KKE actively abstained in the Sunday  Referendum.

One sympathiser of the CPB has published their reaction, which we suspect lies behind the Morning Star’s comments (21st Century Manifesto),

The governmental majority of SYRIZA-ANEL rejected the proposal of the KKE for the government’s draft agreement to also be placed before the judgment of the Greek people in the referendum together with the issue of abolishing all the anti-people laws that have been passed in recent years and the issue of disengaging from the EU. At the same time, the coalition government explained that the NO in the referendum is interpreted by the government as approval for its own proposed agreement with the EU-IMF-ECB, which inside 47+8 pages also includes harsh antiworker-antipeople measures, worth about 8 billion euros.

In these conditions, the KKE called on the workers to turn their backs on the false dilemma which was being posed in the referendum, using all appropriate means. The forces of the KKE outside the election centres handed out its own ballot paper to the voters which said:

NO TO THE PROPOSAL OF THE EU-IMF-ECB
NO TO THE PROPOSAL OF THE GOVERNMENT
DISENGAGEMENT FROM THE EU, WITH THE PEOPLE IN POWER

Of course, it was understood that this ballot paper would be counted as a spoiled ballot, but together with the blank ballot papers and the abstention it constitutes a political current that disputes the choices of the SYRIZA-ANEL government and also of the imperialist organizations, with whom the government is negotiating for the needs of capital in Greece.

So there we have it: Greece should leave the EU –  something many in Merkel’s party, not to mention other right-wingers, would welcome.

Update: British CPB to negotiate unity with Trotskyist  World Socialist Web Site?

The political fraud of Syriza’s referendum on EU austerity in Greece

Since Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called a referendum on European Union (EU) austerity last Saturday, the entire enterprise has been exposed as a political fraud. It is designed to engineer a further capitulation to the EU’s demands, regardless of the outcome of the vote.

Meanwhile on the left:

French left demo in Paris backing Syriza –  a few days ago.

Morning Star Attacks “Unhinged” pro-Europe Trotskyist Left’s “alliance with CBI” and David Cameron.

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‘Unhinged” Leftists Say yes to European Unity. 

The Morning Star has published and extraordinary article, EU Referendum: Vote to Get Out, by Brian Denny (No2EU spokesman)  in support of the Campaign to vote to withdraw from the European Union.

It is headlined with a sentence containing this, “the EU functions as a cheerleader for unconfined monopoly capitalism.”

Younger readers may not have heard of “monopoly capitalism” which is known partly from Harry  Braverman’s Labor and Monopoly Capital (1974) but owed its currency in Orthodox Communist circles under the name of “State Monopoly Capitalism.”

Elaborated by post-war Soviet, Eastern European and Western European Communist party economists ideologues, it is one of the planks of ” Marxist–Leninism”. The  thesis is that big business, having achieved a monopoly or cartel position in most markets of importance, fuses with the government apparatus. A kind of financial oligarchy or conglomerate therefore results, whereby government officials aim to provide the social and legal framework within which giant corporations can operate most effectively. This is a close partnership between big business and government, and it is argued that the aim is to integrate trade-unions completely in that partnership.” (Wikipedia)

State monopoly capitalism formed the foundation of the programme of the  1960s French Parti Communiste Français, and other orthodox Communist Parties. It featured in the Communist Party of Great Britain’s programme, such as Britain’s Road to Socialism (1968).

At present the Communist Party of Britain, CPB  (best known for the Morning Star) believes that the emphasis has shifted.

The European Union and Marxist theory and practiceRobert Griffiths, Communist Party of Britain general secretary 2004 (Extracts)

The drive to construct a monopoly capitalist United States of Europe with a common foreign and military policy has the same three-fold purpose identified by Lenin in 1916: to promote monopoly capitalism and suppress socialism at home, to exploit neo-colonies abroad and to compete against rival imperialist powers and in particular the US. At the global level, it should be no surprise that the EU is a champion of privatisation, the free movement of capital, GATS and other archetypal ‘globalisation’ measures aimed at the developing and former socialist countries.

It is the drive to a United States of Europe which threatens, in our assessment, to undermine and circumvent the democratic institutions of EU member states. More specifically, EU laws and treaties have sought to limit the powers of democratic national parliaments – themselves the product of long working class struggle – precisely in those areas where they might limit the power and freedom of capital. Meanwhile, such unelected EU institutions as the European Commission and the European Central Bank acquire powers to initiate and enforce policies of privatisation, deregulation and monetarism enshrined in EU fundamental law.

In the present day, popular sovereignty is the struggle to impose the will of the working class and its allies – the vast majority of the nation – over monopoly capital. In Britain, the campaigns against participation in imperialist wars and in the US Star Wars programme are embryonic expressions of the aspiration for popular – and not just national – sovereignty.

Our party does not see anything progressive in the drive to construct an imperialist military United States of Europe. We do not believe that the creation of a rival imperialist super-power bloc, even if can be achieved despite its internal contradictions, would be a valuable ‘counter-weight’ to US imperialism. The two super-powers would collaborate with one another, and do rotten deals with each other, in their joint interest to suppress the working class movement at home and exploit and oppress other peoples around the world.

In the immediate future, as Communists and internationalists in Britain our responsibility is to ensure that the referendum campaigns against the single European currency and the EU constitution are imbued with the same spirit.

Imbued with this ghost of the call for ‘national sovereignty’, not to mention the phantom of the old Soviet Union,  as ramparts against international monopoly capitalism, Brain Denny launches into a tirade.

After an all too brief critique of  the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Brian Denny follows it up by this:

The EU has also been openly financing a junta that has violently grabbed power in Ukraine and which is led by fascists and revanchist groups promoting a cult around former Nazi collaborators.

This cult focuses particularly on Stepan Bandera, leader of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists, which joined forces with the nazis during the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.

Numerous monuments to Bandera have been erected, particularly in western Ukraine, including a statue in the city of Lviv, site of one of the largest anti-Jewish pogroms in WWII.

The Kiev regime even saw fit to pass a law under which wartime nazi collaborators, who carried out these mass murders, are officially recognised as “fighters for the freedom of Ukraine.”

At the same time it banned communist symbols and socialist thought across Ukraine.

This repressive, anti-democratic far-right regime is enthusiastically backed by its EU allies. Meanwhile Dmitry Yarosh, the neonazi leader of the Right Sector fascist party, has just been appointed as advisor to the chief of general staff of the armed forces.

This is how the EU projects its power externally on the international scene.

There is more in the same vein about the EU’s crimes, ranging from youth unemployment, privatisation, ” and so-called “free-market competition,” which is actually institutionalised monopoly capitalism”, to the, inevitable issue of fish.

Ultimately, the EU is a Tory project. The Tories took us in, campaigned to stay in, virtually wrote the 1986 Single European Act and supported the Maastricht Treaty and every right-wing, neoliberal treaty ever since.

Europhile Tory leader David Cameron claims that he wants to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership before holding an in-out referendum, probably next year.

But after a private meeting with the prime minister, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Cameron wants to use the upcoming EU referendum to “dock” Britain permanently to Brussels.

Cameron has no intention of fundamentally changing Britain’s relationship with the EU, mainly because finance capital does not want it altered.

There is no sign that he will end the supremacy of EU law over British law or even that he will keep Britain out of the eurozone in the long run.

Denny then evokes the spectre of ‘Trotskyism’ and its alliance with the Conservatives – perhaps an improvement on previous Stalinist claims about links between Trotskyists and much less pleasant political forces.

Cameron is already building an alliance for his strategy which stretches from the CBI to the more unhinged parts of British Trotskyism.

But, ultimately, by campaigning for a Yes vote you are effectively endorsing all of the above crimes inflicted on Europe and further afield by fundamentally anti-democratic EU institutions.

It is without doubt that this does not refer to the SWP or the Socialist Party, both of which intend, like the CPB, to mark their ballots in the same way as UKIP,  the Tory ‘Eurosceptics’ and their big business supporters.

The “unhinged” left is without doubt here:

Campaign for a workers’ Europe!

This letter will be circulated to gather support for left opposition to UK withdrawal from Europe.

With the formation of “Conservatives for Britain”, the right-wing campaign to exit the EU has begun. Unfortunately, it is likely to be mirrored on the left.

A number of Labour MPs and trade unionists and the Morning Star newspaper will group themselves behind the banner of “Labour for Britain”, saying life will be better for British workers outside the EU.

Far-left groups are likely to dissociate from the nationalist name and from Labour. They say they will organise an internationalist anti-EU campaign, one that defends the rights of migrants.

They are all setting themselves an impossible task: the automatic right of EU workers to migrate to the UK, and of UK workers to migrate to EU countries, will be ended by UK exit. Those that do arrive after a UK exit are likely to come on worse terms than workers currently do, and they will arrive to a climate poisoned by the xenophobia of the referendum campaign, an atmosphere in which the left itself cannot thrive.

A UK outside the EU will offer worse prospects for fighting for workers’ rights than we have staying in. The nationalist right, no friends to workers, will have the political upper-hand in a post-exit UK, and UK workers will lose the possibility of organising a common struggle for better rights by workers across Europe.

The left cannot be anti-EU without being dragged behind the right-wing and anti-migrant backlash. It will raise a tiny voice, inaudible against the right-wing anti-EU campaign which has money, press backing, and establishment support, a campaign that is all about putting up borders and actively restricting migrants coming to the UK. The left-wing voice will be drowned out in the growing nationalist gale.

The concessions Cameron is seeking from the EU also threaten workers’ rights: in the first place, migrant workers’ rights to in-work benefits. He is also likely to seek further opt-outs from those European regulations that benefit workers. Many other EU governments will be sympathetic to Cameron’s vision of the EU: less regulated, more ruthlessly neo-liberal.

The Tories that want to get out and the Tories that want to stay in offer no choice for workers. But we should not be indifferent to the question posed in the referendum. The integration of capitalism results naturally from the process of outgrowing national boundaries, and workers do not have any interest in seeking to turn back the clock of history or re-erect national barriers. We oppose UK exit from the EU.

At the same time, we recognise that the EU, like its constituent member states, is organised primarily in the interests of capital, an increasingly pressured capital, forced to compete with growing industrial powers such as China and India, and therefore looking to liquidate those elements of “Social Europe” that still remain. We should not join any cross-class alliance with pro-EU Tories or business leaders: we do not positively support bosses’ Europe.

Instead, voices on the left are discussing a campaign for a workers’ Europe in the coming referendum. We will:

• defend migrants’ rights and oppose racism;

• vote against UK withdrawal from the EU;

• campaign for a workers’ Europe, based on solidarity between working people.

A reply to Denny by Jim can be seen on Shiraz.

The Tendance has signed the Campaign for a Workers’ Europe declaration.

Yes to a United Social Europe!

Against the chauvinist anti-EU left!

Update: a serious discussion of the problems of the EU, Britain and Europe after the general election: An interview with John Palmer.

Party of the European Left:

…..the Left, if it wants to channel its resistance against the demolition of the social state and of democracy into political alternatives, has to express itself as united at the European level and develop necessary concrete and alternative proposals for a different EU, and a different Europe together.

Why should it not find and determine the common political denominator – not the smallest, but in face of neo-liberal social destruction the largest – in order to successfully exist as an independent political force, and, at the same time, as a partner to  social movements, in order to be recognised as an actor capable of influencing and changing European politics?

In the light of the strength and tradition as well as the expectations of the feminist, ecological, and peace movements, it is high time for the political Left to live up to its responsibility. We want to contribute to the creation and realisation of new political strategies.

This is, without any doubt, the central challenge to left parties in the EU and in Europe, in a situation where neo-liberal thought is occupying ever more space in the minds of the people, a situation of apparent absence of alternatives to capitalist market logic, cost reductions, rigid and outrageous social demolition, and even the economic market sale of the whole society.

The Party of the European Left demands another Europe:

 

  • a Europe that says no to war and militarization. The European Left is an anti-war Left;
  • a Europe that defends the social states, and renews it, as well as redistributes wealth, power, and influence;
  • a Europe of diverse cultures, of freedom of spirit, and open to the world. The European Left is a cultural Left, which refuses historical revisionism, because it is capable of dealing with its own history critically and respectfully;
  • a Europe open to a world that resists capitalist globalisation. The European Left is critical of capitalism: It is anti-capitalist and aims at a transformation of societies beyond the rule of capitalism;
  • a democratic Europe. The European Left wants to get politics out of the backrooms of power and back into society, onto the squares and streets, into the debates of citizens, men and women of all ages. Politics is a part of movements and it forms parties; the parties act in parliaments and in governments, in initiatives and in extra-parliamentary protests; it is counter-power and a designing force. It is ready to be held accountable, which is what distinguishes parties in the broad social discourse.

We have to work seriously and honestly with all of the people who want to walk this path with us. In the sense of “Carpe diem!” we say: The social, peaceful and solidarity-based Europe needs our intervention! It is just the beginning!

Written by Andrew Coates

June 25, 2015 at 11:46 am

Communist Party of Britain Backs Former Ukraine President’s “anti-Austerity” policies.

with 6 comments

Donestk Anti-Austerity Activists Says Communist Party of Britain.

The People’s Assembly has launched a Manifesto Against Austerity.

“The manifesto makes a compelling and powerful case for an alternative to austerity based on the needs of ordinary people — “A people’s Britain, not a bankers’ Britain.” It calls for a the building of a sustained mass movement to bring that alternative about, rather than simply calling for general election votes.”

The Communist Party of Britain has taken upon itself to add these comments to this – admirable –  document (Communist Party. For Peace and Socialism. Date: 2nd of March).

Bill Greenshields, CP representative on national committee of the People’s Assembly, says,

Challenging the pro-austerity and pro-privatisation media and political consensus is a dangerous thing to do. That’s the increasingly strident message from big business and the bankers through their representatives in national governments, the EU and Washington.

British special services “advisers” have arrived in Ukraine to strengthen the armed forces and fascist paramilitaries of the Poroshenko government.

This is part of a war against those who resisted the Western-backed coup against President Yanukovych.

He had committed the crime of rejecting austerity economics and politics, therefore saying “No” to closer ties with the EU.

As EU and US sanctions are ratcheted up against Russia for daring to give political support to the antifascists, Britain says it will “not yet provide lethal equipment” to the “Euromaiden” coup leaders now in control of the Ukrainian state. For how long? The threat of escalating war and foreign intervention to consolidate their pro-EU austerity “reforms” becomes greater.

Brother Bill recommends to the People’s Assembly this wisdom,

The movement needs to reflect the democratic structures that have grown among the anti-austerity antifascists in Ukraine…

We hesitate to make a comment.

Or perhaps one is not needed.

(Initially discovered here)