is syriza a workers’ government in waiting?

By Barry Biddulph

The elections in Greece have solved nothing. They have only provided a brief respite from intractable economic problems. The free food queues grow longer, as living standards collapse, the generalised political and economic crisis goes on. Larry Elliot, the economics editor of the Guardian, puts forward the view of many economic observers in Greece that the new Government is unlikely to remain in power.(1) A Guardian editorial agrees that a defeat for SYRIZA might yet prove to be a victory.(2) A view echoed in the Financial Times editorial.(3) The new government coalition will be weak. Democratic Left and PASOK will support Antonia Samaras and the New Democracy government, but not participate fully in the administration. In his victory speech, Samaras pledged to honour financial commitments to the Troika of capitalist economic powers. The New Government will have to implement a further 12 billion cuts by July 2012 . This will prove deeply unpopular with the Greek working class. So SYRIZA is a government in waiting, but can it become a Workers’ Government? Continue reading “is syriza a workers’ government in waiting?”

is capitalism’s crisis putting revolution back on the agenda?

A guest post by Mark Kosman. Every attempt to go beyond capitalism has ended in failure. But are capitalism’s present problems putting anti-capitalist revolution back on the agenda? To answer this question, this article looks at past revolutions, with particular emphasis on class struggle, while rethinking aspects of the Marxist, anarchist and feminist traditions.

In the 20th century, every attempt to go beyond capitalism ended in failure. Either people looked to socialist politicians, whose reforms made capitalism even more secure, or they supported revolutions that degenerated into repression and mass killing. Consequently, today, few people have much hope that humanity could ever successfully transcend capitalism.

But are capitalism’s present problems putting anti-capitalist revolution back on the agenda? And could a future revolution liberate humanity in ways that past revolutions failed to achieve? To try to answer these questions, I am going to look at past revolutions with particular emphasis on aspects that are rarely considered in conventional left discourse. These include humanity’s origins, gender and military history and the revolutionary transcendence of work and democracy. Continue reading “is capitalism’s crisis putting revolution back on the agenda?”

starting all over from scratch? a plea for “radical reform” of our own movement

An essay by Sheila Cohen. It is offered as a response to the question set by the Daniel Singer Foundation: “Given the devastating effects of the present crisis on working people, what proposals for radical reform can be raised which are both practical to the vast majority while moving us towards the goal of socialism?”

when workers mobilise for 'reforms', these are often just the tip of the iceberg

The current global crisis of capitalism makes the task set by the Daniel Singer Millenium Prize Foundation look relatively straightforward. Immediate proposals for radical reform would clearly include the demand that Western governments everywhere take over the banks and use the resulting trillions to fund health care, re-establish humane and affordable housing, rebuild education at every level, provide humane child- and elder-care, not to mention ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and rescuing the devastation to humanity represented in Haiti, Somalia, and other disasters of the “developing” world. Such proposals would certainly be radical, relevant to the vast majority of the human race and, if granted, enough of a blow to global capital to knock it off its pedestal more conclusively than Saddam Hussein. Continue reading “starting all over from scratch? a plea for “radical reform” of our own movement”

issue 12 of the commune

The March issue of our monthly paper The Commune is now available. Click the image below to see the PDF or see individual articles as they are posted online in the list below

To purchase a printed copy for £1 + 50p postage, use the ‘donate’ feature here. You can also subscribe (£12 a year UK/£16 EU/£20 international) or order 5 copies a month to sell (£4) online here. If you want to pay by cheque, contact

a labour of love? – editorial of The Commune

english defence league march on parliament – by Amanda Latimer

strong pickets in two-day PCS strike – by Steve Ryan

turbulent times for public sector – by David Huckerby

student anti-cuts movement has managers running scared – by Tali Janner-Klausner

the lynch mob and our ‘broken society’ – by Adam Ford

michael foot: ‘not here to find elegant solutions’ – by Sharon Borthwick

recession bites in united states – by Dennis Marcucci

lightning strikes twice in greece – by David Broder

dawn of the crisis generation in california – from IndyBay

tory co-ops mean privatisation – by Gregor Gall

no surprises as rat boards sinking ship – by Chris Ford

defend migrant cleaners at UBS! – speeches by Jerry Hicks, Andy Higginbottom, Dave Esterton, comment by Alberto Durango

why does unite employ ISS at its HQ? – letter from Kwasi Agyemang-Prempeh

workers’ councils: red mole of the revolution – by Sheila Cohen

migrant workers across italy strike as one – by Andrea Strippoli

more hunger strikes at yarl’s wood – by Victoria Thompson

the cuts consensus and the general election – by Dave Spencer

should communists stand for parliament? – by Mark Harrison

twenty years after the poll tax – by Allan Armstrong

what is militancy? – by Nathan Coombs

why don’t we side with the humans in avatar? – by Sam Parsa

urgent proposals for dealing with global warming – letter from Chris Miller

what is ‘militancy’?

by Nathan Coombs

The word militancy’s usage generally refers to non-state military groups pursuing an ideological programme. In the way in which the term is deployed in the media, it is thus used as an ambiguous half way house between more legitimate terms such as, say, activist group, and the more loaded term extremists, or terrorists. Continue reading “what is ‘militancy’?”

the global commune: communism for the 21st century

On January 16th Edinburgh played host to the ‘Global Commune’ day school, hosted by Scotland’s Republican Communist Network and supported by The Commune.

Although we are faced with the greatest crisis of capitalism for decades, the majority of socialists today are not prepared to make the case for a viable alternative social order to get us beyond the ever-deepening capitalist crisis.

The objective of the day school was to develop communist thinking on what kind of society we want to create and how that relates to our activism and our slogans in the context of today. Continue reading “the global commune: communism for the 21st century”

beyond the party-state, beyond the big bang

A paper by Nathan Coombs for Sunday’s Communist Theory Forum

Wherever we look in the history of communist politics we see states which in one form or another have become dictatorships; the economic and political structures reduced to stifling bureaucracies. Can this be explained merely by recourse to contingent factors: the fact that revolution did not break out in Europe in the 1920s, imperialism against the socialist states during the Cold War, and so on?

The tempting answer for communists is to focus on these facts, lump the blame at the feet of Stalinism, or the leaderships of the Communist parties. This way guilt is apportioned and we can rest secure that the fundamental idea is fine; it is just the flawed implementation at the source of the problems, or the external pressures at work. Such an approach can be surmised by the optimistic refrain: ‘never mind, things will work out fine next time!’ Continue reading “beyond the party-state, beyond the big bang”

issue 11 of the commune

The February issue of our monthly paper The Commune is now available. Click the image below to see the PDF, or see articles as they are posted online in the list below.

To purchase a printed copy for £1 + 50p postage, use the ‘donate’ feature here. You can also subscribe (£12 a year UK/£16 EU/£20 international) or order 5 copies a month to sell (£4) online here. If you want to pay by cheque, contact Continue reading “issue 11 of the commune”

the early russian revolution: laurat in wonderland

by João Bernardo
Passa Palavra

After the fall of the Berlin Wall – which did not ‘fall’, but rather was cut to bits and sold at graffiti and souvenir auctions – journalists and even many historians promoted the illusion that  the only critiques of the Soviet system were elaborated by the social-democratic left and the anti-communist right. Continue reading “the early russian revolution: laurat in wonderland”

communist theory forum, february 14th

The Communist Theory Forum, hosted by The Commune, takes place from 2pm on Sunday 14th February at the Lucas Arms, Grays Inn Road, near London’s King’s Cross.

The Communist Theory Forum represents an attempt to establish an engaged research programme to think through the impasses of the left. The forum was established out of a dissatisfaction with most of the academic debates on the left, which rarely transcend scholastic studies. If you think of a journal such as the New Left Review, for all the good academic work contained within there is very little engagement with either the big questions of communist strategy in the 21st century, nor the nuts and bolts of real world praxis today. The debates are very rarely conducted from the point of view of what is needed to reinvigorate communist ideas to assist overturning the economic and political structures of capitalism. Continue reading “communist theory forum, february 14th”

issue 10 of the commune

The January issue of our monthly paper The Commune is now available. Click the image below to see the PDF, or see articles as they are posted online in the list below.

To purchase a printed copy for £1 + 50p postage, use the ‘donate’ feature here. You can also subscribe (£12 a year UK/£16 EU/£20 international) or order 5 copies a month to sell (£4) online here. If you want to pay by cheque, contact Continue reading “issue 10 of the commune”

the global commune

by the Republican Communist Network

It is now 20 years since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. For most people this signalled the end of communism. However, there has always been another view, which understands that the USSR and its satellites and emulators were never communist, socialist or workers’ states. They represented the negation of communism. The socialist transition is not based upon ‘The State’ taking over the functions of private capital, nor ‘The Party’ taking over the functions of a self-organised working class.

Today we face the worst economic crisis for nearly eighty years, accompanied by growing environmental deterioration, and increased powerlessness and loss of hope. Yet the majority of socialists today are not prepared to make the case for a viable alternative social order to get us beyond the ever-deepening capitalist crisis. Often we get little more than vague populist sloganeering – ‘Make Poverty History’ or ‘Make Greed History’. To most workers these sound as hollow as the world of ‘virtual reality’ pushed by the corporate media to divert our attention from the very mundane, or sometimes, desperate reality, we face in our everyday lives. Furthermore, calls for people’s largely passive support through five minutes spent at the polling station can seem a poor alternative, even compared to the promise of ‘five minutes of fame’ in the corporate media spotlight. Continue reading “the global commune”

is a “workers’ government” a capitalist government?

David Broder looks at the similarities between the ‘workers’ government’ slogan and the cross-class strategy of the Popular Front

The recent history of struggle for communism, or even progressive social change, is not a happy one. While the last decade has seen struggles from which we can take some cause for inspiration, such as social movements in Latin America, general strikes in France and Greece and, even in Britain, the early days of the movement against the war in Iraq, our movement has struggled to offload the burden of the defeats it suffered in the 1980s. There is a crisis of confidence in the possibility of an alternative to capitalism, when every revolution in the twentieth century was defeated.

Given this long-term picture of repeated defeats, it is remarkable how Britain’s socialist groups are fixated with the general election which will take place in a few months time: already we see the calls for ‘guarded’ and ‘critical’ support for the Labour Party, for fear of ‘letting in the Tories’. Just one year after the greatest capitalist crisis for eight decades, we see the spectre of revolutionaries who only ask themselves which party of capital is ‘least-worst’: the short-term tactical consideration comes to shape their whole perspectives. But we will never be able to present an alternative pole of attraction, and make up for long-term historic defeats, if we allow the electoral calendar and the electoral prospects of right-wing social democrats to determine our short-term priorities. We should after all dispel, rather than propagate, mainstream politics’ understanding that you should vote for the least bad politician on offer (Labour’s main argument for the election…), based as it is on an assumption that working people cannot change anything ourselves.

Continue reading “is a “workers’ government” a capitalist government?”

a christmas message from the vatican: marx was right!

Introduction by Chris Ford

Published below is what may appear a rather unusual article entitled ‘What Remains of Marx’ by Professor Georg Sans published in La Civiltà Cattolica, a Jesuit paper, closely monitored by the Vatican. It was then republished by the Vatican’s own newspaper L’Osservatore Romano giving it added endorsement by the Roman Catholic Church on 21 October. What is so important is that Sans gives a strong endorsement to Marx’s critique of capitalist society. Now for a Christian to positively engage with Marx in itself is not unusual: there have been Christian communists for many years, furthermore there continues to be strong movement of liberation theology especially in Latin America.

What is important in this article is where it has been published – with clear Vatican approval. The Vatican has especially in the post-war period waged a campaign against the radical left-wing of Christianity, for example the Christian communist movement in Italy was hounded by the hierarchy. The current Pope Benedict XVI earned the nickname the ‘Panzer Cardinal’ when under his predecessor Pope John Paul II he lead the campaign against liberation theology in Latin America. One of the leading theorists of that movement, Leonardo Boff wrote that the Pope saw liberation theology as a “Trojan horse” for Communism: “He convinced himself that in Latin America, Communism was the danger, whereas the true danger was savage and colonialist capitalism, with its anti-people and retrograde elites.” Of the current Pope he wrote: “Like his principal counsellor, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger [now Pope Benedict XVI], the Pope put forward an Augustinian vision of history, where what counts is only that which passes through the mediation of the Church, which carries with it the supernatural concept of salvation… This position led him to a total incomprehension of Latin American theology of liberation”. Boff concluded: “To the outside, he presented himself as a champion of dialogue, of liberty, tolerance, peace, and ecumenism, but within the Church he shuttered the right of expression, banned dialogue, and created a theology with powerful fundamentalist overtones”.

It is against this recent history of the campaign against liberation theology and corresponding retrogressionist trends illustrated in Church policy on gender and sexuality that the article below is of importance. It is noteworthy that whilst the article has been widely reported it has not been published in any of the Catholic press in the UK or Ireland. This is perhaps a reflection of the weakness of the left-wing of Christianity in the UK and Ireland, as regards Marxism there has only been a few Marxian theologians such as Alisdair MacIntyre and Rev.John Marsden. This conservatism has been compounded by the crude nature of the left’s own engagement with religious affairs, either accommodating to conservative trends such as in opposition to war, or taking an undifferentiated approach and failing to see the more radical emancipatory currents which also emerge: the article by Sans below is clearly an expression of the latter current. The article is published in full by The Commune, appropriately on Christmas Day, the official celebration of the birth of Jesus, the leader of a movement against oppression and inequality, who was later crucified by the Roman overlords.
Continue reading “a christmas message from the vatican: marx was right!”