Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Marxism

Slavoj Žižek: No “deeper understanding of ISIS terrorists” as SWP says “Bound to be a Response” to Imperialist Wars.

with 8 comments


 Žižek: Defends “European emancipatory legacy .”

“There should be no “deeper understanding” of the ISIS terrorists (in the sense of “their deplorable acts are nonetheless reactions to European brutal interventions”); they should be characterized as what they are: the Islamo-Fascist counterpart of the European anti-immigrant racists—the two are the two sides of the same coin. Let’s bring class struggle back—and the only way to do it is to insist on global solidarity of the exploited.”

Slavoj Zizek: In the Wake of Paris Attacks the Left Must Embrace Its Radical Western Roots.

Bang in cue the Socialist Workers Party announces,

After Paris: no to racism and imperialist wars that breed horror

There is no excuse, but there is a context for what has happened. Two and a half centuries of colonialism and imperialism have left a bitter legacy of hatred across much of the world against the West. More than 15 years of the “war on terror” have killed over a million people and driven millions more from their homes. There is bound to be a response.

They further state,

Ultimately those who died in Paris are themselves further victims of Western-backed wars and the reaction against them.

It takes some couilles to say that there is “no excuse” for murder, and then….find an excuse.

It also takes a while to wash the bad taste of this abject statement out of the mouth.

Slavoj Žižek by contrast gives genuine humanist, warm and democratic Marxist response to the Paris atrocity

This stands out:

The greatest victims of the Paris terror attacks will be refugees themselves, and the true winners, behind the platitudes in the style of je suis Paris, will be simply the partisans of total war on both sides. This is how we should really condemn the Paris killings: not just to engage in shows of anti-terrorist solidarity but to insist on the simple cui bono (for whose benefit?) question.

  He asks some hard questions:

Taking control of the refugee crisis will mean breaking leftist taboos.

For instance, the right to “free movement” should be limited, if for no other reason than the fact that it doesn’t exist among the refugees, whose freedom of movement is already dependent on their class. Thus, the criteria of acceptance and settlement have to be formulated in a clear and explicit way—whom and how many to accept, where to relocate them, etc. The art here is to find the middle road between following the desires of the refugees (taking into account their wish to move to countries where they already have relatives, etc.) and the capacities of different countries.

Another taboo we must address concerns norms and rules. It is a fact that most of the refugees come from a culture that is incompatible with Western European notions of human rights. Tolerance as a solution (mutual respect of each other’s sensitivities) obviously doesn’t work: fundamentalist Muslims find it impossible to bear our blasphemous images and reckless humor, which we consider a part of our freedoms. Western liberals, likewise, find it impossible to bear many practices of Muslim culture.

In short, things explode when members of a religious community consider the very way of life of another community as blasphemous or injurious, whether or not it constitutes a direct attack on their religion. This is the case when Muslim extremists attack gays and lesbians in the Netherlands and Germany, and it is the case when traditional French citizens view a woman covered by a burka as an attack on their French identity, which is exactly why they find it impossible to remain silent when they encounter a covered woman in their midst.

 There can be no compromise on universal human rights: the very reason we support the refugees.

Žižek suggests, reasonably in our view, this:

To curb this propensity, one has to do two things. First, formulate a minimum set of norms obligatory for everyone that includes religious freedom, protection of individual freedom against group pressure, the rights of women, etc.—without fear that such norms will appear “Eurocentric.” Second, within these limits, unconditionally insist on the tolerance of different ways of life. And if norms and communication don’t work, then the force of law should be applied in all its forms.

This is better known as secularism, or Laïcité. That is a common public framework, for the shared areas of politics and the state, that is beyond the interference of religious and sectional ideologies.  With this structure, as we argued yesterday, we should have absolute tolerance of diversity.

I will not comment further but note that comrade Žižek has the same mass line as ourselves on the following issue,

Another taboo that must be overcome involves the equation of any reference to the European emancipatory legacy to cultural imperialism and racism. In spite of the (partial) responsibility of Europe for the situation from which refugees are fleeing, the time has come to drop leftist mantras critiquing Eurocentrism.

The old postmodernist views, associated with terms such as Orientalism, have been dying for some time. What sense could they possible have when its Bangladeshi, Iranian, Kurdish, Maghrebian, South and East Asian, Arab and Africans who are in the front line of new development in universal emancipatory thought? Who has not read the writings of our comrades from these countries and been struck by their advance. 

That is, despite all the defeats, the barbarisms, Imperialism, Fascism, Stalinism, and now this….

It is as Kant said of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution,

For a phenomenon of this kind which has taken place in human history can never be forgotten, since it has revealed in human nature an aptitude and power for improvement of a kind which no politician could have thought up by examining the course of events in the past…

Contest of the Faculties. 1798.

Žižek continues, 

The next taboo worth leaving behind is that any critique of the Islamic right is an example of “Islamophobia.” Enough of this pathological fear of many Western liberal leftists who worry about being deemed guilty of Islamophobia. For example, Salman Rushdie was denounced for unnecessarily provoking Muslims and thus (partially, at least) responsible for the fatwa condemning him to death. The result of such a stance is what one can expect in such cases: The more Western liberal leftists wallow in their guilt, the more they are accused by Muslim fundamentalists of being hypocrites who try to conceal their hatred of Islam.

Tendance Coatesy has never given a toss about this worthless accusation, hurled at critics of reactionary Islamism, whether they be European or from Muslim countries. It is the secular left in the latter countries which is fighting Islamism. The only guilt the left should feel is that it is not going enough to support these beloved comrades.

This is a long article and there is a lot more to say and, sometimes disagree with – about a global evolution and the EU, not to mention a great dollop of the idiosyncratic theory of the author in the article ,  to start with. (1)

But we say this for now: chapeau comrade Žižek !

(1) Which is to say that despite finding a new best friend we remain a rationalist, an  admirer of Louis Althusser, sans Jacques Lacan, and no mate of Hegel, and even less of Alain Badiou, somebody we consider, in contrast to Cde Žižek, a Sombre oryctérope. (as Capitaine Haddock would say).


The Aftermath of Friday: for a Left Politics against Islamism.

with 2 comments

The Aftermath of Friday: for a Left Politics against Islamism.

“Croire que la religion dans laquelle on a été élevé est fort bonne et pratiquer tous les vices qu’elle défend sont des choses extrêmement compatibles, aussi bien dans le grand monde que par le peuple.”

To believe that the religion in which one has been brought up in is kind and practice every evil that it forbids are two very compatible things, amongst the highest ranks as much as within the masses.

Pierre Bayle.  Pensées sur la comète, 1682

To watch, to listen, as the slaughters in Paris unfolded, to read and to think, as they sank in, was to be overcome by sadness and fellow-feeling. As witnesses told their stories, still shaking, the dignity of the survivors stood out. Fluctuat nec mergitur! Paris is shaken but has not sunk.

These are moments of high emotions. Love, solidarity, loathing and compassion. For yesterday reason was, rightly, the slave of the passions. Today and tomorrow we have to cast a colder light on what has happened and what should happen.

That ISIS, the Islamic State, Daesh, was prepared to murder is not news. Their killings in Iraq, in Syria, in Africa, and now in Beirut – scene of a tragedy shortly before Friday, and Paris, are present in the minds of millions. ISIS joins, as Hannah Arendt described totalitarian parties, these “secret societies established in broad daylight’.” (1) Modern media have made that daylight darker.

 The Middle East is now, it is observed, the site of  “phantom states” in large parts of Syria and Iraq. Not only ISIS but also al-Nusra are trying to build Islamic disciplinary regimes grounded on the Sharia. For the Islamic State religious governance is combined with, Weiss and Hassan claim, a “remarkably successful war economy”, with oil revenue supplemented by other contraband. They regulate and control prices. But it is the operation of their Sharia commissions that are at the heart of the machinery. The murder or enslavement of all who refuse to convert or bow to their form of Islam is only one side of their operation. Detailed rules for administrative and daily life are issued. The population is placed in a “Panoptican” of religious Gaolers. (2)

State capitalism to neo-liberalism? 

The left has tended to look at ISIS in terms of the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq. Patrick Cockburn, with field knowledge, has described the “takeover of Iraq by a Shia government, an event which began a process at the heart of the present conflicts, between those supporting this branch of Islam and the Sunnites. A quasi-official article by Anne Alexander in the Socialist Workers Party’s journal, International Socialism, follows this.  She talks of the transition from Arab nationalist (‘Baathist’) “state capitalism to neoliberalism”. Daesh appeared in the post-occupation chaos made worse by economic plundering, and above all because of the Iraqi Maliki – Shiite dominated – government (‘sectarian state’) tolerated/or encouraged death squads against Sunnis and opponents. The crushing of Islamic ‘reformism’ by authoritarian government during the Arab Spring, above all in Syria itself, destroyed an alternative. In these conditions ISIS, an elitist guerrilla force, began its march towards the Caliphate, outflanking even Al-Qaeda. (3)

The SWP speaks of the “counter-revolution”. In fact one ‘Islamic reformist’ movement, once hailed as a counterpart to European Christian Democracy, predating and largely unaffected by the Arab movements, has consolidated its power: Erdogan’s AKP. With Turkey in mind it is to be wondered just how any self-declared “non-sectarian” form of Islamism, however apparently ‘democratic’, is when put to the test of political power. In Tunisia concern that Ennahda would follow the same path helped remove the Islamists from power – in a country where democratic freedoms remains relatively unrestricted The Syrian anti-Assad movement in 2011 indeed had non-sectarian and democratic parts. They not longer feature with any weight on the battlefield.

Alexander makes much of the view that Marxists do not consider that ideas have a “life of their own”. But the most important “social content” of all the groups she considers is their ‘sectarianism’, the growing violent division between Shiites and the Sunnites.  It would be hard-going to find any uniform class explanation that could cover the vast regions this affects, from Pakistan to Lebanon, from Iran to the Gulf to Yemen. To discover the effects of imperialist interventions in the murderous acts of Islamists in Bangladesh and Nigeria, or the tyranny portrayed in the film Timbuktu would be equally ambitious. How Boko Haram is a product of the failure of ‘state capitalism’, that is ‘socialist’ nationalism, or Third Worldism,  is also of interest.

A Utopian Disciplinary Machine.

If we consider that ideology is a “lived relationship” we might begin by considering at least some of the views of Tom Holland. He traces one of the sources of Daesh to do-it-yourself interpretations of the Qur’an. Abandoning the fruitless effort to assert that they are not “real Muslims” Holland suggests that the Jihadists offer, in their terms, citations always to hand, their readings of scripture. We could say that the administrative apparatus of the Islamic State, from its bureaucratic eyes of god, to those eager to inflict the Hudud punishments, is a utopian disciplinary machine. Whether its version of Islam ever had any element of kindness is beyond the point. That it competes with others, including Al-Nusra’s own blood-strained contraption, and the Assad regime’s bringers of death, indicates that it is far from established. (4)

One of the main problems is not to frame the Islamic state within class oppression and exploitation. ISIS is clearly a bourgeois state, based on an exploitative war economy, and social oppression. The difficulty is that its appearance represents more than a “phantom” at the margins of already dislocated countries, or in the heart of the Syrian civil war, poised not only against Assad but against one of the few rays of hope in the region, the battling Kurdish forces and their allies. The Islamic state has attracted support in Europe, and elsewhere, from the Maghreb to further afield, as Paris so sadly indicates. And it appears to cut right across the view that the world had seen the last of totalitarian attempts to create sweeping tyrannies that crushed the life out of millions.

The idea that religion had become a private matter between believers and their god had won wide acceptance over the years. This did not mean that faith had evaporated. It related to the principle that the Divine no longer ruled the public domain. In Britain multi-culturalism was based on the idea that one of the pillars of multiculturalism was that religious groups ‘communities’ would be protected as part of civil society, with political clout, but not a decisive say in politics. In frame the secular assimilationist state, laïcité, distanced politics from religion. Yet as Kenan Malik notes, neither country has been successful in removing all support for the Jihadists. (Observer. 15.11.15)

Marcel Gauchet has set out the influential view that in the latest turn of secularism, this  “pluraliste-identaire-minoritaire” model, behind the apaprent divergence between the two types outlined above,  is becoming universal. Serious efforts to impose religion had retreated to the margins, becoming an attempt to escape society, not dominate it. (5)

Yet now the religious flame that burned right through counties seems to have returned. In the face of Islamic both militant secularism and the fuzziest multiculturalism met something which is truly ‘Other’. Daesh is not a classical ‘totalitarian’ movement. There is no ‘Egocrat’ representing the People as One. But the concept of an embracing Ummah, functions as if it were the European far-right’s Volk, or Race. No difference from the Word and no division, religious, social or political,  within the ‘Community’ is permitted. The ideology is far from free-floating: it has a material shape in a state machine “capturing” territory and suffocating populations, pulverising and condensing class conflicts. There is no room for pluralism, different identities, or minorities. The impure have to be subdued, converted, enslaved, or exterminated. Postmodernist leftists were accustomed to claim that Orientalism, including the ‘rationalist’ Marxist and Enlightenment left  made Islam into the Other. Now we have something hard and really Other, in the….Orient. (6)

This is, as they say, a limit point. Daesh fights more against Islamic heresy than against anything else. But it is plain as a pikestaff that no form of state where the Shariah, which by its principles denies equal rights to all, starting with women, and non-believers, rules, is compatible with human rights and the ‘divisive’ labour movement.

Absolute Opposition to Islamism.

The mood remains sombre. For Malik we should be “celebrating diversity while treating everyone as citizens, rather than as belonging to particular communities.” This are good principles. Nobody should exaggerate. We should not lose our nerve. The Islamic far-right, no more than the much more influential European xenophobic and racist parties, is not in a position to put millions to the sword.  But Islamism, taken state form, is not just a problem for the Middle East. It is, as Daesh, is the object of armed intervention, from Russia, from the US, from France from – still in debate – the UK. How can these conflicts be settled by bombing? Will there be more atrocities in Europe? What will happen if those who have joined the Daesh Einsatzgruppen return? It is a political issue for us all. If only some of the previous sentences are true, the first principle the left should work with is: absolute opposition to the political-religion of Islamism and support for the left and liberal forces opposing them on the ground.

  1. Page 376 The Origins of Totalitarianism. Hannah Arendt. André Deutsch. 1986 (1951) She developed the point, “Secret societies also form hierarchies according to degrees of ‘initiation’ regulate the life of their members according to a secret and fictitious assumption which makes everything look as though it were something else, adopt a strategy of consistent lying to deceive the no initiated external masses, demand unquestioning obedience from their members who are held together by allegiance to a frequently unknown and always mysterious leader, who himself is surrounded by the half-initiated who form a ‘buffer area’ against the hostile profane world.”(Page 376) They are “based on absolute hostility to the surrounding world, is very different from the ordinary parties; tendency to divide people into those who belong and those who don’t.”(Page 377).
  2. ISIS Inside the Army of Terror. Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan. Regan Arts. 2015. Archive of Islamic State Administrative Documents. 
  3. The Rise of Islamic State. ISIS and the new Sunni Revolution. Patrick Cockbrun. 2015. ISIS and counter-revolution: towards a Marxist analysis Anne Alexander. International Socialism.. 2015. No 125.
  4. Tom Holland: We must not deny the religious roots of Islamic State. New Statesman 15.3.15.
  5. La Religion dans la démocratie. Marcel Gauchet. Folio. 1998.
  6. On totalitarianism: Un homme en trop. Réflexions sur l’Archipel du Goulag. Claude Lefort. Belin edition. 2015. (Original 1974). This picture of the state is a very brief synthesis of the ideas of Mille plateaux.Gilles Deleuze et Félix Guattari. 1980. Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la Prison. Michel Foucault. 1975 and L’État, le pouvoir, le socialisme.Nicos Polunatzas. 1978.
  7. The answer is a global human resistance to Islamism.

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

with 8 comments

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?

with 5 comments


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.

with 8 comments

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

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

with 26 comments

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

Grace Lee Boggs has passed away: remembering her links with Socialisme ou Barbarie.

with 2 comments

Grace Lee Boggs, Legendary Activist, Dies At 100.

Huffington Post.

Grace Lee Boggs, the child of Chinese immigrants who spent her life actively supporting causes ranging from civil rights and labor to the Black Power and feminist movements, has died. She was 100.

Boggs died Monday morning, a spokeswoman for the Detroit-based Boggs Center confirmed, saying she went “peacefully in her sleep at her home on Field Street in Detroit.”

“Grace died as she lived surrounded by books, politics, people and ideas,” Alice Jennings and Shea Howell, two of Boggs’ trustees, said in a statement.

President Barack Obama — who himself was a community organizer in Chicago in the ‘80s — said he and the first lady were “saddened” to hear of Boggs’ death.“Grace dedicated her life to serving and advocating for the rights of others — from her community activism in Detroit, to her leadership in the civil rights movement, to her ideas that challenged us all to lead meaningful lives,” Obama said in a statement.

Howell, who has known Boggs for more than 40 years and co-founded the Boggs Center, said the centenarian activist spent the entirety of her life pushing people to ask hard questions and challenge the status quo.

Howell pointed to an anecdote Boggs wrote in her 1998 autobiography, Living for Change. “When she was born above her father’s restaurant and cried, the workers in the restaurant said, ‘You should put her on the hillside. She’s just a girl — and she cries too much,’” Howell told The Huffington Post. “[Grace] said she knew from the beginning that the world needed to change.”

Facing significant barriers in the academic world in the 1940s, she took a job at low wages at the University of Chicago Philosophy Library. As a result of their activism on tenants’ rights, she joined the far left Workers Party, known for its Third Camp position regarding the Soviet Union which it saw as bureaucratic collectivist. At this point, she began the trajectory that she would follow for the rest of her life: a focus on struggles in the African-American community.[10]

She met C.L.R. James during a speaking engagement in Chicago and moved to New York. She met many activists and cultural figures such as Richard Wright and Katharine Dunham. She also translated into English many of the essays in Karl Marx‘s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 for the first time. She soon joined the Johnson-Forest tendency led by James, Raya Dunayevskaya and Lee. They focused more centrally on marginalized groups such as women, people of color and youth as well as breaking with the notion of the vanguard party. While originally operating as a tendency of the Workers Party, they briefly rejoined the Socialist Workers Party before leaving the Trotskyist left entirely. The Johnson-Forest tendency also characterized the USSR as State Capitalist. She wrote for the Johnson-Forest tendency under the party pseudonym Ria Stone. She married African American auto worker and political activist James Boggs in 1953 with whom she politically collaborated for decades and moved to Detroit in the same year. Detroit would be the focus of her activism for the rest of her life.

When C.L.R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya split in the mid-1950s into Correspondence Publishing Committee led by James and News and Letters led by Dunayevskaya, Grace and James supported Correspondence Publishing Committee that James tried to advise while in exile in Britain. In 1962 the Boggses broke with James and continued Correspondence Publishing Committee along with Lyman Paine andFreddy Paine, while James’ supporters, such as Martin Glaberman, continued on as a new if short-lived organization, Facing Reality. The ideas that formed the basis for the 1962 split can be seen as reflected in James’ book, The American Revolution: Pages from a Black Worker’s Notebook. Grace unsuccessfully attempted to convince Malcolm X to run for the United States Senate in 1964. In these years, Boggs wrote a number of books, including Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century with her husband and focused on community activism in Detroit where she became a widely known activist.


It was as part of the Johnson-Forest tendency that Grace Lee Boggs developed links with the French group Socialisme ou Barbarie (SouB) best known for the figures of Cornelius Castoriadis and Claude Lefort. Their critical views on the Soviet Union, which the French theorists  called bureaucratic capitalism, and the Americans some form of state capitalism, were in reality not too far apart when it came to the political conclusions they reached.  Both drew a line at any form of support, or ‘defence’, of the USSR.  Both were opposed to Orthodox Communist parties, which SouB tended to consider as arms of the Kremlin.

Their joint concern with power relations inside enterprises, the division between those giving Orders and those carrying them out, and rebellions – often outside, and opposed to, established trade unions – against this, were common themes.  Ties continued through the Correspondence group after its split with Raya Dunayevskaya  – SouB did not have a high opinion of  her exaggerated Hegelian Marxism.

The review that SouB published, Socialisme ou Barbarie,  included the both parts of the American Worker in its issues 1- 8 (1949 – 1951) – That is from   GUILLAUME, Ph.: L’ouvrier américain par Paul Romano 1:78 ROMANO, Paul: L’ouvrier américain (I) (traduit de l’américain) 1:78-89 = The American Worker  STONE, R.: La reconstruction de la société (II) 8:50-72 = The American Worker. )

The American Worker” was originally published in 1947 by the Johnson-Forest tendency. It was divided into two parts. The first part “Life in the Factory”, was written by Paul Romano, a young worker in one of General Motors’ car plants. It describes the everyday lives of the workers, their (often contradictory) attitudes towards the work, the company, unions, politics, and each other. Part 2 “The Reconstruction of Society” was written by Grace Lee Boggs (pen name Ria Stone).

The text had a significant influence on SouB – described in detail in  Looking for the Proletariat Socialisme ou Barbarie and the Problem of Worker Writing. (2014) Stephen Hastings King.

A theme was the direct recording of what workers experienced in their daily lives and in their confrontations with bureaucrats of all stripes, from bosses, managers, foremen, unions and political parties of the left.

As Floriana Ferro notes,

The fifth chapter of the book shows how the group, through the newspaper Tribune Ouvrière, tries to give a voice to the collective at the factory of Renault Billancourt, whose political context is clearly defined in the fourth chapter. Hastings-King points out similarities and differences with another worker newspaper, the Detroit-based Correspondence project. After that, the author writes about Tribune Ouvrière and the role that Socialisme ou Barbarie plays in the process of its production, printing, and distribution.

Castoriadis’ indefatigable English translator, David Ames Curtis has also observed that his phrase “reconstruction of society” was borrowed from Grace Lee Boggs. He continues,

Ria Stone (Grace Lee Boggs), “The Reconstruction of Society,” part two of Paul Romano and Ria Stone, The American Worker (Detroit: Bewick Editions, 1972; originally published as a pamphlet in 1947 by the Johnson-Forest Tendency of C. L. R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya—which later became the Correspondence group—the first part of this book was translated for the first eight issues of Socialisme ou Barbarie). Grace Lee Boggs seems to have had a considerable influence on Castoriadis’s positive attitude toward the burgeoning “woman question” in the early Sixties; some her ideas can also be seen to be expressed in the key 1962 internal Socialisme ou Barbarie documents known as “For a New Orientation” (Political and Social Writings, trans. and ed. David Ames Curtis, 3 vols. [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988, 1993], vol. 3, pp. 9-26.)

Here are some more connections: Facing reality – CLR James and Grace Lee Boggs.

Facing reality - CLR James and Grace Lee Boggs

François Dosse‘s, Castoriadis, une vie ( 2014) also discusses Grace Lee Boggs’ relations with Socialisme ou Barbarie.

She stayed for 6 months in Paris in 1948 for the 2nd World Congress of the 4th International – as a representative of the Johnson-Forest tendency, .

During that period she met Castoriadis. He credited her with “lifting him out of his European provincialism” and playing a decisive role in his intellectual development. (Pages 111 – 112)

Thanks to Shiraz for signaling this loss.