the power to make change for ourselves

David Broder was unconvinced by ‘Anarchism: a Marxist Critique’ by John Molyneux

There’s a bloke who sells the News Line at Broadway Market on Saturdays: Britain’s first-ever colour daily paper is still going strong, it seems. Only thing is, the News Line is the paper of a small Trotskyist group called the WRP, and it could only afford to go full-colour because Colonel Gaddafi was paying for it. So seeing the seller as I walked to the Anarchist Bookfair on the 22nd – two days after the Libyan dictator met his end – I was keen to debate the merits and demerits of this news. He stuck to his (pro-Gaddafi) guns, angrily telling me I “didn’t understand the Marxist theory of the state” and was an “anarchist”.

Some people don't make a great case for the school of thought they claim to uphold

After the bookfair us Communards went for some much-needed refreshments at the Wetherspoons. At the pub a slightly drunk ‘anarchist’ started chewing my ear off about how much he hated Marxism (“Marx was a totalitarian”) but also his sadness about the passing of Colonel Gaddafi, who had, at least, built lots of hospitals. I wondered whether either this anarchist or my Broadway Market Marxist were particularly good representatives of their schools of thought, or indeed honest in their criticisms of others. Continue reading “the power to make change for ourselves”

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a weekend at marxism: how do we relate to the SWP?

David Broder reflects on this weekend’s Marxism festival, a thousands-strong conference organised by the Socialist Workers’ Party. He argues that the libertarian left should be doing more to engage with SWP comrades in order to provide a positive alternative for those put off by how it organises.

Marxism is the biggest event on the British left. Across five days several thousand people converge on London for the Socialist Workers’ Party summer school, including representatives of most other significant left groups. The conference itself is SWP self-promotion, so they do not invite groups they disagree with for debate: they prefer to give a platform to ‘big name’ trade union leaders, politicians like Tony Benn or Marxist academics, who may sermonise for socialism but won’t really question the SWP’s own modus operandi.

This is a great shame, since ‘Marxism’ has great unfulfilled potential. It could be a weekend for the left to debate strategy and ideas in a collective way. Instead, the meetings are heavy on top-table speakers, while SWP audience members tend simply to reaffirm what the speaker has already said. Often in an anti-cuts meeting or similar, The Commune members will question whether we should really be collaborating with Labour politicians, what kind of direct action is appropriate, or if we should be making more radical, positive proposals rather than purely defensive demands. The SWP stock reply is: this isn’t the time to debate among ourselves, we need to be ‘out there’ campaigning. OK, so when can we have these debates? Continue reading “a weekend at marxism: how do we relate to the SWP?”

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”

‘right to work’ conference report

by Mark Harrison

On Saturday the 30th of January I attended the ‘Right to Work’ conference in Manchester, organised by the Socialist Workers Party. In spite of the unfortunate title slogan it was billed as “a conference of resistance and solidarity” it was heavily over-subscribed, around 900 people crammed into Manchester Central Hall.

The first to address the conference was Ian Allinson, member of UNITE’s First Executive Council and a senior rep for Fujitsu Manchester, which recently saw the first ever IT strike in Britain. Ian explained that although we may all have had different hopes for the day, we all share the same interests. We were reminded that we are experiencing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, there was worse to come, we would be made to pay for it and that resistance is essential. This was followed by a generic bout of populism as Ian finished by attacking ‘the bosses and the bankers’: in reality it is the barbaric system of capitalism that oppresses us all which is the problem and must be replaced by a society in which we all have control of our own lives. Continue reading “‘right to work’ conference report”

a new decade… the task: to build from below

by Dave Spencer

The most striking feature of British politics over the last decade has to be the disenfranchisement of the working class. The working class has little or no voice at national, regional or local level. Our task is to be part of the reversal of this situation. But this reversal has to come from below, from the linking and networking of the campaigns and struggles of the working class itself.

no more heroes: fawning over 'celebrities' damaged the left

Unfortunately the organised left does not see it this way. As convinced vanguardists and elitists they see themselves as providing the leadership with all the answers that the workers must follow. They have had a decade in which to show leadership, but have failed dismally to build a broad united movement to fill the vacuum to the left of New Labour.

Continue reading “a new decade… the task: to build from below”

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?”

extracts from ellis hillman’s ‘the nature of the stalinist parties’

note by David Black: The Nature of the Stalinist Parties – a document of several thousand words – was published in the internal discussion bulletin of the Socialist Review Group in May 1951, with five sections:

1 The Importance of the Nature of the Stalinist Parties for our Movement

2 The Classical Trotskyist Position

3 The Stalinist International as the Instrument of the State-Capitalist Bureaucracy

4 The Social Composition Of The Stalinist Parties

5 Political Conclusions

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Hillman concluded that the SRG could make no impact on the membership of the Stalinist British Communist Party, which he sought to show was becoming increasingly petit-bourgeois. Therefore, he argued, the SRG should concentrate on building in the Labour Party. In practical terms, as Ian Birchall has suggested, Hillman was more in tune with Shachtmanite ‘Third Campism’ than James/Boggs/Dunayevskaya. The ‘immovability’ of the CP membership proved to be a temporary phenomenon; but it was only shaken up by world events (especially Hungary) rather than pressure from the Far Left. As regards Dunayevskaya, I should point out that her later analysis (from 1953 onwards) was markedly different to that of ‘State-Capitalism and the World Revolution’ (1950). The latter, in my view, while important, was wrong on a lot of things (such as the national question), and inadequate on others (especially philosophy).

Continue reading “extracts from ellis hillman’s ‘the nature of the stalinist parties’”