where next for network x?

Daniel Harvey reports on the activist gathering in Manchester

Some members of The Commune joined a gathering of about 300 activists, anarchists and anti-capitalists at Manchester Metropolitan University to discuss ways forward in the struggle against austerity and cuts. Understandably, there was much enthusiasm for making connections with allied groups from around the country, finding ways of offering practical assistance, as well as moral support.

A large part of the gathering was taken up with discussions about what people thought Network X should be in terms of its organisation and aims. The facilitators gave an initial political basis in the form of the People’s Global Action hallmarks’. These rejected all forms of discrimination based on patriarchy and racism, but seemed to forget about class and disability (both of which became points of contention later on) as well as capitalism, imperialism and ‘feudalism’. Continue reading “where next for network x?”

big flame: doing things a different way

Big Flame was a revolutionary socialist feminist organisation active in Britain between 1970 and 1984. Sophie Walker and Joe Thorne examine the group’s legacy.

Why revisit the experience of Big Flame?

Earlier this year, we read Beyond the Fragments: a 1979 collection of essays by three women active in feminist and socialist groups in the 1970s. It is three decades since the authors argued for the left to reappraise how we organise in light of insights from the women’s movement. Whilst necessarily a product of their experiences in that particular historical moment, there is much in their critical consideration of political organisation which matters today. Continue reading “big flame: doing things a different way”

Miliband is no Militant

by David Broder

Yesterday afternoon Ed Miliband loomed large on a TV screen near where I was sitting. The sound was turned off, so there were only subtitles. “Whatever your view on the Iraq war it led to an appalling loss of…” A few seconds before the next word flicked up on the screen. ‘Life’, right? No. “Whatever your view on the Iraq war it led to an appalling loss of trust for us”.

But never fear, Ed, there are many on the left who opposed the war but are now pushing the anti-cuts movement towards Labour. Not just saying we need to pull Labour voters into our struggles, but focussing on the structures of the party and making plaintive appeals for Labour leaders to fight the cuts and fulfil their promises to the Trades Union Congress. Continue reading “Miliband is no Militant”

resolution on communist recomposition

Recently there have been discussions in an around The Commune about how communists should work together. At our recent conference we passed this motion on principles of communist recomposition.

“Recomposition” is a term used within The Commune to denote an organisational regroupment of existing communists in which we would participate.  Various conceptions have been suggested.  However, we should agree a few basic principles which will guide us as an
organisation: Continue reading “resolution on communist recomposition”

letter to the commune – a view from the periphery

A comrade from York writes

I have read recent issues of The Commune with excitement, interest and a degree of scepticism. My comments reflect, on the one hand the continuing influence of ‘Solidarity for Workers’ Power‘ in the 60s on my political ideas and, on the other, my desire to see some vehicle in the here and now through which I might express a sense of class solidarity and purpose.

They also reflect the material position of class struggle in this locality – isolated, defensive, fragmentary and unsure of itself. They express an aspiration for something better, more energising, courageous and collective. They imagine something communist, in the best sense of that word, beyond the present sense of powerlessness and alienation. They represent a rejection of the fossilised remnants of the left and parallel much of what is contained in The Commune’s statement of aims and principles, especially the desire to renew the communist project – as Solidarity sought to do fifty years ago. Continue reading “letter to the commune – a view from the periphery”

london forum on big flame

This August The Commune in London has staged a series of meetings on communist organisation, and we have already looked at the examples of Kamunist Kranti in India and 1960s-70s Italian group Potere Operaio.

The final meeting in the series is on Big Flame, a  British libertarian Marxist group in the 1970s. The discussion will be led off by a worker active in Merseyside car factories at that time. All welcome – the meeting is from 7pm on Monday 30th August at the Lucas Arms, Grays Inn Road, near King’s Cross (note change from original venue). Continue reading “london forum on big flame”

for creative and critical thinking on the left

Eleanor Davies, a member of Permanent Revolution, proposes joint forums and a culture of openness

Permanent Revolution members attended The Commune’s recent summer school and found it to be a day of open discussion with many committed activists. One of the things that stuck out most was the number of people who wanted to talk about taking the day forward in terms of working together with a common goal of rebuilding the movement.

The plenary session was opened by Chris Ford of The Commune who made the point that, as we approach a period where the working class will come under the savage attack of the Con-Dem government, the left is marginalised to the point where we have very little influence in any sphere of society. The idea of ‘communist regroupment’ was posed and met with favourable if cautious response. Continue reading “for creative and critical thinking on the left”

a coalition of cuts, a coalition of resistance

Gregor Gall, professor of Industrial Relations at the University of Hertfordshire, explores the difficulties of forming alliances and coalitions to fight the cuts.

In previous articles for The Commune, I laid out the arguments for, and problems and challenges contained therein, in constructing civil alliances between the providers (via unions) and users of the services in order to oppose cuts in and privatisation of public services. Continue reading “a coalition of cuts, a coalition of resistance”

a united front of a reactionary kind: the swp, islamophobia and the united front

by Joe Thorne

In 1946, Tony Cliff, who was later to found the Socialist Workers Party, described the Muslim Brotherhood – an international, ultra-conservative, Sunni political movement – as “clerical-fascist”.[1]

the racist English Defence League planned to march in Tower Hamlets on 20th June

In 2010, SWP members describe any criticism of particular Muslim figures, or Islamic political tendencies, much more conservative than the Muslim brotherhood as “Islamophobic”.  This condemnation has been routinely wheeled out in recent weeks by members of the SWP in Tower Hamlets.  It is being used, in effect, as a tactic to subdue, intimidate, and silence critical voices within the Tower Hamlets labour movement, and within local community politics, who object to the SWP’s uncritical alliance with some of the most marginal and reactionary elements amongst Muslims.

How did this come about? Continue reading “a united front of a reactionary kind: the swp, islamophobia and the united front”

‘not another communist group!’

Oisín Mac Giollamóir replies to recent discussion on the way ahead for communists.

I suppose the first issue with the idea of a communist refoundation is the question: is it needed? Surely, there are enough organisations as it is. Surely, the real problem for the working class is not the lack of communist organisations, but rather the lack of working class militancy, organisation and confidence.

the spanish revolution was defeated: “strong principles and fine slogans do not act as a substitute for strategic thinking”

And true enough, there are enough communist organisations in Britain. There are even more than enough libertarian communist organisations[1]. So why another? There have been enough left unity initiatives, all of which have failed. So please god, not another! And why even bother with setting up another communist group when the real problem is the lack of working class militancy, organisation and confidence. What can another group do for us? Continue reading “‘not another communist group!’”

the left and new labour in opposition

by Dave Spencer

After a recent “public consultation” meeting of our local NHS I was approached by an old right-wing Labour councillor.  “Have you considered re-joining the Labour Party?” he asked. “We need people like you to re-build the Party, get us back to our roots.”  He went on about the ‘good old days’ – the 1980s – when we had “great discussions” and we could get 150 delegates to a District Labour Party meeting.  Now they cannot get a quorum for meetings and the new members are just careerists.

I was a bit taken aback.  I didn’t like to remind him that I had been expelled along with 125 others in 1992 for objecting to the rigging of ballots for the shortlist for MP, or that I and others had been told on a number of occasions that we had no chance of promotion or another job working for Coventry City Council if we continued as left activists.  I remember seeing good comrades turn round and leave a meeting when they saw Bob Ainsworth (later Labour MP for Coventry North East and Minister for War) sitting in the corner with his tape recorder and note pad ready to get evidence – for what purpose one can only imagine.  That is how it works in the Labour Party – threats or bribery to gain power or keep power. I remember one leading councillor telling me that everyone has their price and that I was pitching mine too high. He said, “It’s amazing what you can get people to vote for if you just offer them a couple of tickets to the Queen’s garden party!” Continue reading “the left and new labour in opposition”

greece solidarity meeting in london

by Sharon Borthwick

Here’s an attempt to give a brief overview of Wednesday’s event at Conway Hall: Can’t pay, Won’t pay: Solidarity with Greece organised by Counterfire: an SWP offshoot, with Lindsey German, John Rees and Andrew Burgin at the helm.

We can only hope that left unity over the coming cuts, expressed at the meeting will be upheld considering various SWPist cock-ups of the past. But this was actually a very positive meeting and there were some great, rousing speeches. Continue reading “greece solidarity meeting in london”

twenty years after we beat the poll tax

by Allan Armstrong
former Chair of Lothians Anti-Poll Tax Federation and co-Chair of first Scottish Anti-Poll Tax Federation Conference

It is twenty years since Thatcher’s Tory government tried to impose the Poll Tax upon the people of England and Wales. The Poll Tax had been introduced a year earlier in Scotland as a test run for the abolition of Domestic Rates throughout Britain. (Even the Tories had more sense than to try to introduce the Poll Tax in Northern Ireland in the context of the ongoing Republican resistance there!) Continue reading “twenty years after we beat the poll tax”

the capitalist state and the debate over cuts

by David Broder

The Labour Party’s pre-election budget has focussed attention on ‘the recovery’. In his speech to the House of Commons last Wednesday Chancellor Alistair Darling outlined a plan of government action to restore economic growth and reduce the British state’s borrowing.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats have somewhat different plans to Labour about the best means of achieving these objectives. However, what is rarely challenged, or even discussed, is the underlying consensus which structures the whole debate: the very idea of ‘the economy’ and a collective national interest. So how should communists relate to this debate? Continue reading “the capitalist state and the debate over cuts”