people’s charter or charter for a democratic republic?

a guest piece by Steve Freeman

Last Saturday the organizers of the People’s Charter held a conference, at which about 150 people attended. It became clear the Charter is going to be used for agitation around the general election. It has the support of the Labour Representation Committee, various trade unions, and a section of the left in England. More worryingly it is endorsed by the TUC. The demands are sufficiently broad to span across the left and even go as far as New Labour.

I had the opportunity to speak and pointed out that although the original People’s Charter had six democratic demands this new Charter contains no democratic demands at all. We have a broken economy and a broken society. It was surely time for the left to recognize the broken democracy. The massive alienation from parliamentary democracy is both a threat and an opportunity. Continue reading “people’s charter or charter for a democratic republic?”

the green party and the left today

an anonymous contributor explores the inner workings and direction of the Greens

Over the last decade, the Green Party has both grown in size and influence, and moved leftwards. It has a membership of nearly 10,000, and realistic chances of winning Parliamentary representation in Brighton and Norwich at the next election (with Lewisham building its chances most likely for the election after next). Outside of these generalities, however, non-Green Party activists seem to be largely in the dark as to the internal politics and ideology of an organisation which boasts hundreds, if not thousands, of activist members. It is the aim of this piece, briefly, to attempt a remedy for this situation. Continue reading “the green party and the left today”

voting labour is not a fall-back option

“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in…”***

by David Broder

The bitter chill of winter is never more harshly felt than at a labour movement conference with grandiose ambitions but limited prospects. This was much in evidence at the Labour Representation Committee last weekend, which marked a step back from any meaningful idea of renewing working-class representation.

Of course, the joke that the left is so keen on unity that it has sprouted a dozen competing unity projects is no longer particularly funny. But this problem is political, not merely organisational. For even worse than factionalism is simple retreat into the Labour Party. Continue reading “voting labour is not a fall-back option”

building from below: the ideas of paulo freire

by Dave Spencer

The Brazilian educationist Paulo Freire (1921-1997) is regarded internationally as the guru of adult education.  Since we are concerned as communists with educating ourselves and with “raising consciousness” among the working class, then it would seem useful to look at Freire’s ideas.

freire

As luck would have it Freire’s classic textbook Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1972) is not only a statement of the principles on which to practise adult education, it is also a handbook on how to build a revolutionary party.  There are many references to liberation and revolutionary leadership throughout the book.  One of the reasons for this is that in the 1960s in Brazil when Freire was organising Adult Literacy classes on a mass scale, his activity was very radical because only literate people could vote in Brazil.  In 1964 after the coup Freire was jailed and then exiled for his efforts.  He went to Chile and then to UNESCO where he influenced Literacy programmes throughout the Third World. Continue reading “building from below: the ideas of paulo freire”

communist recomposition and workers’ representation

by Chris Ford

We are in a time of transition: New Labour is on the way out with the almost certain ascendancy of the Tories to government in June 2010. Many certainties from the period of New Labour are also passing, and the whole working class has a right to be anxious about what to expect from a Tory Party which is sharpening the knives.

partyquestion

This should not be a time for business as usual thinking amongst activists. This should be a time of critical reflection over what has taken place over the last thirteen years. Why have the trade unions failed to reinvigorate during the period of partial recovery in the economy? Why has the response to the crisis of working class political representation staggered from one failure to another? There is a third rarely discussed question which should be important, at least for a minority of the most militant section of our movement: a crisis of communism. Continue reading “communist recomposition and workers’ representation”

issue 9 of the commune

The November 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.

issue9cover

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 uncaptiveminds@gmail.com.

are we ready for a winter of discontent? – by Sheila Cohen

post strike: this is no deal – by Joe Thorne

underground pay deadlock – by Vaughan Thomas

what is the union bureaucracy? – by Alberto Durango

occupation and state building in the new afghanistan – by Jessica Anderson

mixed reactions to cwu-royal mail deal – interview with a communist postman

manchester students build solidarity with post workers – by Mark Harrison

honduras: democracy has not been restored – by Socialismo o Barbarie

month long strike in france: ‘papers for all!’ – interview with Seni cleaners and piece from Où va la CGT?

communism twenty years after the berlin wall fell – interviews with eastern european activists

scottish ruling class: division over union – by Allan Armstrong

obituary of chris harman – by Andy Wilson

university occupations in austria – interview with vienna student activist

question time row: did the straw man really slay the griffin? – by Adam Ford

communist recomposition and workers’ representation – by Chris Ford

‘full and open debate’ on post-no2eu project: ok, when? – by David Broder

building from below: the work of paulo freire – by Dave Spencer

the global commune, january 16th

activities of the commune around britain

 

a thousand eyes turn to swp no platform debate

by David Broder

The evenings are getting darker, the leaves are falling off the trees, and oppositional texts are appearing in the Socialist Workers Party “discussion bulletin”. Yes, it’s that time of year again: the “pre-conference discussion period”, the three months of the year allotted by the SWP to limited discussion of party strategy, the only time when factions are allowed to exist and express themselves.

questiontime

Former SWP leader John Rees and his followers have taken the opportunity to declare a ‘Left Faction’ and submitted a motion to the last Party Council advocating ‘No Platform to fascists’ – a resolution remarkably similar in tone to the rival motion submitted by the existing leadership. So is the revolutionary party opening up, or not? Continue reading “a thousand eyes turn to swp no platform debate”

issue 8 of the commune

The October 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 uncaptiveminds@gmail.com.

issue8cover
we’re not ‘all in it together’ – editorial of The Commune

update on the activities of our network

tuc congress: an opportunity wasted? – by Gregor Gall

fragile livelihoods at cowley mini factory – by  Brian Rylance

what is the london postal strike really about? – interview of CWU reps by Sheila Cohen

gordon brown’s workhouses for single mothers – by Zoe Smith

‘new’ tactics versus rubbish bosses – by Adam Ford

lessons of the tower hamlets esol strike – interview with two members of teaching staff

how we fought education cuts in tamworth – by Rob Marsden

on the necessity of pluralist communism – by Nathan Coombs

a letter from tegucigalpa: resisting the honduran coup – by a member of Socialismo o Barbarie

political report from the land of the haggis-eating surrender monkeys – by Allan Armstrong

electoral parties: let’s not put old wine in new bottles – by David Broder

a beginners’ guide to cuts – by Robert Kirby

platform of our communist network

electoral parties: let’s not put old wine in new bottles

by David Broder

If June’s European election results were disastrous for the traditional social democrat parties like Labour, France’s Parti Socialiste or the German SPD, they were unspectacular for the so-called ‘radical left’, despite the capitalist crisis. Yet recent general election results for Die Linke (‘The Left’) in Germany and Bloco de Esquerda (‘Left Bloc’) in Portugal have bolstered some left groups’ keen-ness to try and create something similar in Britain.

dielinke

Die Linke won more than 5 million votes; 76 of the 622 seats; and the most votes in two of Germany’s 16 states. The Bloco de Esquerda in Portugal increased its support to over 10%. Certainly these results are the envy of any coalition the British left has managed to put together: from the Socialist Alliance and Socialist Labour Party to Respect and, worst of all, ‘No2EU’, the various unity initiatives have failed to make any impact on the national political scene, despite the size of movements such as Stop the War or the significant rightwards drift of the Labour Party. Continue reading “electoral parties: let’s not put old wine in new bottles”

on the necessity of pluralist communism

By Nathan Coombs

It is not difficult to imagine the results if a newly trained M.B.A. in marketing arrived in London with the following diabolic challenge: do what Blair did for New Labour for the far Left; make them sell!

Clipboard tucked under arm, what our marketer would firstly observe is that the Left is indeed a crowded marketplace, with far too many groups attempting to sell their wares to far too few customers. Cross. However, looking into the content of these groups our marketer would be encouraged to see that their products are already well differentiated. Each group has a clear sense of their identity and the ideological niche which they represent. Tick. Conclusions: good product differentiation and branding, but insufficient mass market appeal and attempts to reach out to new consumers. Continue reading “on the necessity of pluralist communism”

building from below: the case for working in residents’ groups

by Dave Spencer

The public sector will be in for a kicking no matter who wins the 2010 General Election – New Labour or the Tories. The new government will plan for jobs to be lost and services to be cut – to a greater extent than we have ever known in Britain. It will not be “decimation” of the sector, because the talk is of 15% to 20% cuts – that is one in five, not one in ten! This is to pay for the £1.3 trillion bail-out of the banks (according to Robert Peston and he seems to know!).

In the 1980s the Thatcher government attacked the working class by destroying much of Britain’s manufacturing base and of course by breaking the power of the miners. Now is the turn of the public sector. The key lessons from the bad experience of the Thatcher years are the lack of preparation by the working class for the battle and a complete lack of political nous by the trade unions and the left. Militancy is not enough – you have to have some basic political strategy other than saving your own skin or building your own sect. Continue reading “building from below: the case for working in residents’ groups”

the commune issue 6 out now!

The sixth issue of The Commune (July 2009) is now available

The paper is published online, but you can order a printed copy or multiple papers to sell (£1 + postage for one copy, or £4 per 5 issues) by emailing uncaptiveminds@gmail.com

Click the image to see PDF, or see articles as they are posted online below.

thecommune6

editorial – migrants are at the heart of our fightback

Adam Ford reports on the Linamar fight and the state of the car industry

Joe Thorne looks at resistance to primary school cuts in London and Glasgow

Dave Spencer argues that the left has much to learn from the local work of the Northampton Save Our Services campaign

Jack Staunton writes on call centre workers’ organising initiatives

Chris Kane counters the argument that we ought to go back to the Labour Party, and stresses that communists need to organise

Kofi Kyerewaa explains the flaws of calling for the banning of the BNP

Activists participating in the occupation to protest the SOAS immigration raid draw a balance-sheet of the struggle

The story of the victimisation and planned deportation of a Chilean woman who dared to stand up to her employer Fitness First

Alice Robson reports on the campaign against cuts in English classes in Tower Hamlets

Kieran Hunter examines the hostile media and public response to June’s strike on the London Underground

David Broder looks at reactions to the mass movement in Iran against the re-election of Ahmedinejad

Alberto Durango explains how Unite have abandoned cleaner organising

Gregor Gall looks at the victory of the Lindsey oil refinery strikers and its implications for the industry

Joe Thorne looks at resistance to primary
school cuts in London and Glasgow
Dave Spencer argues that the left has much
to learn from the local work of the Northampton
Save Our Services campaign
Jack Staunton writes on call centre workers’
organising initiatives
page 3
Chris Kane counters the argument that we
ought to go back to the Labour Party, and
stresses that communists need to organise
Kofi Kyerewaa explains the flaws of calling
for the banning of the BNP
page 4
Activists participating in the occupation to
protest the SOAS immigration raid draw a
balance-sheet of the struggle
page 5
The story of the victimisation and planned
deportation of a Chilean woman who dared
to stand up to her employer Fitness First
Alice Robson reports on the campaign
against cuts in English classes in Tower
Hamlets
page 6
Kieran Hunter examines the hostile media
and public response to June’s strike on the
London Underground
page 7
Alberto Durango explains how Unite have
abandoned cleaner organising
page 8
Gregor Gall looks at the victory of the
Lindsey oil refinery strikers and its implications
for the industry

the european elections: a political analysis

by Allan Armstrong

In the absence of major class struggles in the UK, the European elections provide us with a snapshot view of the current state of politics. The following analysis looks at the election results in Europe, the UK & Ireland and, in a bit more detail, in Scotland, in order to identify some significant political trends. Continue reading “the european elections: a political analysis”

reply to socialist workers party’s open letter to the left

Comrades,

We write in reply to your Open Letter to the Left of 9 June, on behalf of The Commune (www.thecommune.co.uk), a small, relatively new group, which stands for communism from below and workers’ self-management.  We publish a monthly paper of the same name and are mostly active in London, though we have comrades across England and Wales.

We welcome the spirit of the Open Letter, and would be interested to participate in discussions concerning left unity in general, or a conference in particular.  Of course, you will understand, we have concerns – we are sure you do too.

We want to be sure that the lessons of the Socialist Alliance and Respect have been learnt.  In particular, we want to know what has changed – and it cannot be simply this or that personality – since packing meetings with raw recruits to block vote against independents and other groups was considered an acceptable tactic during the days of the Socialist Alliance.  And we want to know what has changed since the Socialist Alliance was wound down at your behest, in favour of the Respect project.  You cannot, after all, expect those of us who were involved last time to go through such disappointment again; to be shut out, or to have a project we have built tossed aside when the leading faction finds something more interesting to do.  If your perspectives have changed, we can accept that: but we need to be convinced of it. Continue reading “reply to socialist workers party’s open letter to the left”