Image: Anti-fascists chasing the fash out of Cardiff, autumn 2014 (photo by Sa Kollantai) We live in hyper-real times where we are so distracted by our little ‘black mirrors’ that we spend more time absorbed by our screens than actually … Continue reading
13/07/16 update: Corbyn wins NEC vote to be on ballot paper, fake left Owen Smith also announces he’s standing – new introduction written to reflect new developments
So the good news is that Corbyn won the NEC vote and will be able to stand; a comfort for his supporters but all the barriers in his way remain: the right are now changing the rules so that only those who can afford £25 can now vote – a measure designed deliberately to exclude the majority of Corbyn’s working class supporters from voting, whilst both Eagle and now Owen Smith (too gutless to admit it to his constitutency Labour Party meeting last Friday) has announced that he’s standing as the laughably ‘soft left’ candidate (read pro austerity and war) candidate,with the right led Welsh Labour Party quickly abandoning their pseudo support of Corbyn.The right are also mobilising their own supporters to join Labour to vote him out. Corbyn may well survive the vote in September, and yes the NEC are up for re-election soon, but he will still have the problem of the Parliamentary Labour Party and no way for Constituency Labour Party members to reselect their m.p.s. Worse, many CLP members of the Labour Party are not socialist by any means (despite the many genuine left wingers who have joined to support Corbyn) and are anti-Corbyn, hence the confidence of Eagle and Smith to both stand, fully backed as there are by a Labour Party machinery that is determined to use all potential means possible to stop Corbyn, just like the Democratic Party has managed to do against Bernie Sanders.
That’s why I remain convinced that whilst Corbyn is admirable in his determination to keep on fighting, his overall mission to ‘reclaim’ Labour, including somehow keeping the right Machievellian elitist politicians and convincing them to introduce nicer, peaceful pro worker measures whilst keeping the capitalist system is not going to succeed and would in any case require a split. It’s calculated dishonesty on Eagle and Smith’s part to claim they are for ‘unity’- they want to crush the left and are responsible for the impoverishment of the working class and the poisenous growth of racism.
So Eagle, the right wing, so called ‘unity’ candidate has announced that she’s standing and it looks likely that the Labour Party NEC will rule Corbyn ineligible to stand – a disgraceful yet despairingly predictable development from the Labour Party capitalist loving right wing. Corbyn’s legal team are arguing that he is eligilble to stand as the incumbant and so far Corbyn is standing firm, refusing to stand down.
But the split is getting closer, now that even Len McClusky, Unite General Secretary and firm Corbyn supporter has even finally appeared to recgonise this, after the negiotations with Tom Watson, Deputy Labour Party leader and coup leader have so far failed to led to Corbyn resigning. That’s good news that Corbyn hasn’t capitulated yet, but his contiuned concessions to the right wing, not least his repeated pleas for ‘unity’ as a party are alarming – unity with the Labour right can not be achieved without compromising the objective interests of the working class.
Corbyn is not calling for the reselection of m.p.s to enable rank and file party members to remove these undemocratic, careerist, frequently war mongering, rich and elitists coup supporting m.p.s who offer nothing but lies and empty promises to Labour Party members, and worse, to the working class as a whole. I’m thinking of Blairite snakes such as Owen Smith, my own m.p. (lucky me!), the m.p. for Pontypridd and an m.p. named in the press last week as another possible so called ‘unity’ candidate. According to a local source of mine, Smith was promising his local consitutiency members just this Friday night that he is a ‘left winger’ but still thinks Corbyn should stand down. Politicians like Smith who vote for war and austerity are dishonest, manipulative and are the enemies of the workers movement.
It increasingly looks like there will now be some kind of high court battle ensuing between Labour right and the Corbynistas. Meanwhile Teresa May – the rabidly reactionary new Tory P.M. who’s just taken control of the country following the ahem left-wing victory of Brexit – is confident about bringing on a general election, according to some of the Tabloids today, knowing that the Labour Party is ripping itself apart. The sooner Corbyn and the left split away from the impossible to win battle of ‘reclaiming’ the second bosses party and help form a genuine working class organisation free of war criminals, investment bankers and corporations the better. If only, that is. Corbyn and his many supposedly hard left supporters who cling to the Labour Party no matter what are unwilling to let go of the redundant promises of the project of social democracy – that is the fantasy that parliament can be used to introduce gradual and permanent reforms, with the capitalist class peacefully accepting this until socialism is achieved ………. in a couple of decades from now, maybe? Except that’s been the promise for over a century and it’s been crushed every single time from the outbreak of WW1 to the inability of Syriza in Greece to ‘negiotiate’ with the E.U., IMF and World Bank etc.
The Corbynista’s programme is impossible to achieve; social democracy is responsible for the ruling class maintaining control over the so called workers party in the first place. Even now Corbyn and McDonell are still maintaining that they want to achieve ‘unity’ with the right. There is no plan to deselect the right-wing m.p.s. Momentum is not a socialist organisation – it aims to better manage the capitalist system through Keynesian policies of job investment of growth – to be acheived with the permission of the markets and multinational firms undergoing never ending ‘profit’ crisis and now the impact of Brexit – excuse me if I’m sceptical. Keynes was firmly in favour of capitalism and had nothing but contempt for working class people.
The responsibility of Labour as a ruling class party and the wider mistakes of the labour movement
The Labour Party that Corbyn and his supporters (admittedly growing in size) want to ‘reclaim’ is the second eleven of the ruling class and however well-intentioned many left winger members and supporters of the Labour party are, unfortunately you are trying to persuade an important section of the ruling class to voluntarily give up their immense priviledges and rule in favour of a fictitious workers’ democracy within the party, which they never have and never will do. Nor will the Parliamentary Labour Party or the wider Labour Party bureaucracy accept you as a representative in this party unless you give up on your principles (like refusing to pass austerity budgets as an elected councillor, for example). There’s a reason why hard left ex-Trotskyist types are not welcome. The Labour right wing have learnt from their mistakes with Militant’s infilitration years ago. There’s a reason why PLP coup leader Tom Watson praised Michael Crick’s recent new edition of his 1986 investigative book into Militant as an ‘essential guide for Labour Party activists’ today. The Labour Party are determined to crush the left and will do everything and anything to do so. They have a country to lord it over. The danger is that for socialists to survive such a hostile, alien environment they must hide their politics – and by doing so, end up selling out. All the indications so far is that is exactly what is happening.
But first, let’s go back to 2007 and the Brown Labour government’s handling of the economic crash. Prior to the Tory election of 2010, Labour ‘achieved’ for the working class 1) a massive decline in working class people’s living standards 2) privatisation of key public sector services 3) the further demonisation of those on benefits, Muslims, non British born migrants and council estate residents generally and a conscious ramping up of British nationalism – with British flags decorated on our streets and T.V. screens (thanks BBC for your continual indoctrination) 4) growing unemployment, under employment and rise of agency working and insecure contracts 5) a massive housing crisis 6) bailing out to the banks whilst transferring the ‘costs’ onto our backs 7) disastrous, murderous foreign policy – Libya, Yemen, Syria, Palestine – creating the desperate conditions which forces people from these and many other countries to flee their homes and countries and attempt to seek sanctuary elsewhere, including Britain of course. Only for Labour Party m.p.s to blame them for the economic, social and political problems they themselves have created through their policies, votes and actions in parliament and bombs. Seemingly endless bombs in a growing list of countries around the world (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, need I go on?).
As a ‘trusted responsible party of government’, funded by numerous multinationals, media barons and war mongers (arms companies, the Israeli lobby) it has always been in Labour’s interests to divide and rule – Labour are as responsible for this as the Tories.
Why is it that the right are taking advantage of the capitalist political crisis and the left is divided, impotent and workers’ confidence is at an all time low?
The main responsibility for the growth in far-right, nationalist and xenophobic ideas lies with the failures of the labour movement itself. The trade unions have proved themselves impotent, tied as they are to the Labour Party and run and controlled by over-paid bureaucrats who enjoy all the privileges and trappings of power and self-appointed ‘left’ leaders motivated primarily by their own egos and maintaining their own positions of power rather than a genuine desire to democratise the unions and lead a real uprising from below. They want to drink fancy red wine at dinner parties with the politicians and the bureaucrats whilst congratulating each other on how clever and cultured they are and have no connection with the working class, say a handful of union reps but even most of these are full time officials. This is my own experience of Cardiff People’s Assembly, for example.
Since the Tories got in in 2010, the downward trajectory of organised class struggle has been the main trend here in the U.K. The betrayal of the TUC and the Labour Party loving Unison leadership in selling out the pensions dispute of 2012 – which at its peak saw the largest strikes in Britain in decades – has led to an escalation of endless attacks on workers in and out of work. The large anti-austerity protests prior to Brexit went nowhere towards building a real mass working class movement against the Tories, instead seeing ever declining numbers on protests consisting in the last few months of mainly self funded activists who don’t apparently have to go to work or worry about money(lucky them, eh?). The mainly self appointed cliques which run the People’s Assembly and anti-racist organisations such as Unite Against Fascism, co-operate with the police and other state forces to possibly even consciously neutralise any real threat to the system and ensure that working class protesters go back home and carry on wasting their time begging careerist politicians (whether they are Labour, Green, SNP, Plaid Cymru etc) to solve our problems and acting as left liberal cover for a whole host of thoroughly reactionary capitalist institutions including, but not limited to, the E.U, the U.K. parliament, the Scottish parliament and the Welsh government.
The right dominated unions cower behind the anti-trade union laws and preach partnership with the employers. Even relatively militant unions like PCS – still not affiliated to Labour and correctly so – have failed to defend workers claiming benefits and have allowed their members to impose murderous sanctions against the poorest in society.Yes, there are still strikes, not least of which is the magnificent strike action of school teachers in England last week, but let’s try and have an actually realistic assessment of the strength of our forces and stop deluding ourselves that tiny hard left organisations mean anything at all to the overwhelming majority of the population. Certainly the potential for generalised strikes and protests is latent in the situation – but we have to get over a century of defeats including the horrors of the degeneration of the Russian revolution into dictatorship and murderous privledged bureacracy, the defeat of the General Strike of 1926 and of course the Miners Strike of 84/85 amongst many other defeats for the class, both here and internationally and we do not as present have any significant or influential and above all, genuine mass socialist organisation to turn any of this around. The situation is extremely alarming and millions of working class people have never heard of real trade unionism, socialism or any kind of real internationalism.
Why Corbyn and McDonell’s policies do not represent a break from administering capitalism
The historic mistakes of social democracy are many but to sum up some of the main faults: it is all about winning elections in the capitalist paradigm; going for a nationalist rather than class appeal (British jobs for British workers, for example’) to try and get a majority in parliament; then, so the fantasy goes, legislate for reforms which will eventually lead to socialism – if not now, maybe in a couple of decades, always put off indefinitely. Do we have to wait another century?!? Social demcoratic governments, including Labour in Britain, did win important reforms following WW2 – state capitalist measures to kick start the economy after the econimc annihilation of WW2. You may have noticed that these have all long disappeared and who exactly wants WW3, all to provide the capitalists with a chance to ‘grow’ again? But don’t worry, Corbyn will legislate for socialism now. Except we have to wait until 2020, when it’s unlikely he’ll have survived by then anyway, and meantime we get a Teresa May led government – the female equivalent of Donald Trump and the right can carry on whipping up racial war. No wonder the main mood in Britain right now is fear and a desperate desire to escape this rapid descent into semi-dictarial increasingyl fascistix sounding hell. Never have we needed a real mass movement of united working class opposition to all austerity, cuts and racism, building real international solidarity with the workers and the oppressed over the world.
Corbyn’s programme – it is doomed to fail
Corbyn and McDonnell want to introduce gradual reforms, but the problem is that the ruling class will not give up their powers, prestige and above all, wealth, without a fight. They would rather organise a coup to overthrow such a government that really did try to introduce any meaningful measures to seize control of the economy or intoduced significant social reforms . The reason why they haven’t / aren’t likely to do that anytime soon is that despite the protestations of the establishment, these two soft left parliamentarians are not in reality a threaten to either the state, including the Monarchy and the House of Lords or the multi-nationals and bankers. Instead all (parliamentary) guns are out for Corbyn now, aided and abetted by the polticians’ friends running the mass media. Nevertheless, it’s worth recollecting the 1970s left wing film ‘A Very British Coup’ about a left wing Labour PM who tries to introduce reforms for working class people but is overthrown by the British military top brass. Pinochet’s overthrow of Allende and his socialist government in Chile in 1973 is real. The BRITISH and Chilean ruling classes are familiar friends with an equal fear, contempt and murderous loathing of the masses.
What both the right PLP and Corbyn and co at the top of the party seem to agree upon is that Labour must wait until 2020 for an election – which is catastrophic for the working class. McDonnell has said that Labour must reduce the deficit – perpetuating the lie that working class must pay for the economic crisis and that we’re all in it together. Worse, a Corbyn led government in 2020 (looking increasingly unlikely ) would be unable to solve the undoubtedly worse economic problems, subject to the IMF and World Bank and so on. Corbyn thinks he can negiotate with vultures like Merkel and co but look at Syriza’s record in Greece and the actions of Labour controlled councils up and down the country since Corbyn’s election last summer in being totally unwilling to defy bourgeious law by refusing to set cuts budgets. This is even if Corbyn gets that far. Meanwhile we all face Teresa May, more attacks on workers rights and LGBT rights, racism, recession, job losses and a massive escalation of suffering and crushing poverty. All of this will continue to fuel the far-right.
For the socialist / hard left to champion Corbyn – sticking with him AND the right in Labour – means that the opportunity to build an independent working class, anti-capitalist, internationalist organisation keeps getting lost and so we’ll be stuck in this ever spiralling downward. Something has to change alright, will the next generation of revolutionaries stand up? Sara, July 12th 2016
Right now Corbyn fever is spreading wildly -understandably so in light of the total political and economic crisis we are in right now and the Blairite, war mongering, capitalist loving vultures otherwise known as m.p.s launching their long planned and highly opportunistic coup against Corbyn and his supporters, as myself and others have predicted. Protests are being organised in many cities following the large demo outside parlianment in defence of Corbyn last week. Thinking and progressive workers are rightly outraged by this coup and latest betrayal by the Labour right and 60,00 thousand joined the party in the last week in an attempt to stop it.
But the Labour Party, by implenting austerity, cuts, homelessness, benefit cuts, whipping up racism, lining up with the political establishment to support remain, sowing illusions in the E.U., privatisation, job cuts, bombing Afghanistan, Iraq and much of the Middle East, supporting Israel and oppressing Palestinians, the list really does go on, is RESPONSIBLE for the mess we are in and many hundreds of thousands more of the working class are utterly alienated from the Labour Party still and are totally disengaged from parliamentary politics ( and I will not forgive the Labour Party for Iraq, for tuition fees, for all of their austerity, cuts and lies and do not agree with its politics. that’s why I’ve never joined and will not now either).
Many (although not all of course) working class people in South Wales, for example, have already turned to the far-right and are unaware of and / or alienated by the soft reformist liberalism of ‘socialists’ in and sniffing around the Labour Party pretending that the E.U. is a benign institution which can be reformed. It is not. The E.U. is a racist, capitalist institution. The limited workers rights it does offer comes from the achievements of the workers movement, NOT from the ‘kindness’ of right wing, dictatorial E.U. leaders. But the liberal soft left also sow illusions that the U.K. parliament can be reformed to represent workers and that capitalism can be made nicer. It can’t. Capitalism is about production for profit. That is its purpose. Class exploitation is inherent in this economic system because profit is the unpaid labour of the working class etc. Although I’m aware that I’m slipping into marxist-speak, I do honestly think many working class people deep down do have an instinctive and learnt understanding from their own experiences that our interests are seperate to the rulers, so potentially socialist internationalist working class mass consciousness can optimistic, despite the very real dangers our class are in.
The Socialist Party think the People’s Assembly demo against austerity and cuts in London on Sat 16th should make the main demand to be defend Corbyn. Whilst I think it is right to defend Corbyn in the sense of lesser evilism (obviously a naive soft left reformist is slightly more appealing than Gove or May), I don’t think this demo should be turned into support Labour demo and that the focus should stay on anti-racism and anti-austerity and all about working class people rebuilding our own organisations of struggle and not waiting for our so called ‘leaders’ to do it for us. Sure, I want the Labour right led to be defeated and know that advances the working class’ interests in the short term and in the face of no mass w/c socialist alternative to the Labour Party, but i’m far from sure that is going to happen as Corbyn and McDonnell are weak compromising centrists who want to keep ‘the party’ together at all costs and Momentum have made a lot of mistakes, including inviting these right wingers into the shadow cabinet in the first place and then dropping the demand for reselction of all m.p.s – vital if they are to win long term.
So far Corbyn hasn’t capitulated which is great and here’s a potential opportunity to bring the Blairites and capitalist war mongerers in the Labour Party to justice – they are responsible for this entire Brexit mess along with their best mates in the Tories – but I fear that trying to use parliament to achieve this is a dead end and it is better to warn people now and advocate for real working class revolution instead and be truthful about what is likely to happen rather than whip up this Corbyn as savior desperation up any further. There are no saviours, just a complex many activists suffer from (including myself in past times, silly me) The labour movement urgently needs to rebuild itself to defend the working class and poor against more austerity, job losses, worsening economic recession and cuts and the growth of the far right and racism post Brexit.
Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour Party need to break from the parliamentary Labour Party and help build a new working class socialist organisation – Tony Blair and all his right-wing M.P. allies must be deselected and held to account by the rank and file of the Labour party AND the wider labour movement.
Corbyn is right not to resign and must not capitulate by agreeing to not be on the ballot and supporting a ‘unity’ (read right wing pro war and pro austerity) candidate like Angela Eagle or Pontypridd m.p. Owen Smith (and my m.p.!!!! a right wing, capitalist boss type who doesn’t care about his consitituents, just like Eagle and of the other fake ‘unity’ candidates the right are currently scrambling for). Sure, I want Corbyn to survive as leader and be a prominent left-wing opposition poltician to any of those Tory bastards in a October General Election – I do understand why many workers want this – BUT IT IS NOT ENOUGH FOR US TO WIN AS A CLASS and my concern remains that Corbyn is a compromiser with the capitalist right in his party and the contradiction between the interests of the working class and the capitalist class can’t be reconciled in the name of a ‘united’ Labour Party.If Corbyn clings on and uses the Chilcot Verdict to demand that mass murderer Blair is prosecuted as a war criminal then great but Corbyn is not going to be able to bring Blair to justice through parliament – the system is set up to protect Blair and all politicians from any kind of accountability. Is Corbyn going to ask the Blairite war mongerers in elected positions in the Labour Party to leave, post surviving a leadership contest again (as is expected) – and finally initiate a process of reselecting the mp.s? The general election is very likely THIS October. I strongly suspect that the Labour Party in this election will have the same m.p.s , even if Corbyn survives, as a result of Monmentum’s mistakes so far and if that is the case I can’t vote for them, let alone join such a party
So many working class people, rightly furious at the establishment as a whole and totally unrepresented by parliament ( Corbyn is part of the parliamentary paradigm, however nice man he is) are currently getting misdirected by the right mis-channelling this anger into nationalism and xenophobia thereby dividing our class and allowing the rulers to maintain overall political and economic control. One of the good things to have come out of Brexit is at least the labour movement and thinking working class people who are internationalist in outlook realising that we need to get out on the streets to fight for our class and stop the far right gaining any more advantage than they are already gained by the leave result. But the present leaders of the anti-racist movement do not have a serious strategy and have massive illusions again in the role of the police and the state.These are the same leaders who love the Labour Party, the trade union bureacracy, sexual assault apologists in all the main parties as well as the hard-left ones (SWP and SP) and have no more strategy than organise a big march, send everyone home again and work within the ‘law’, including the anti-trade union law which Labour of course have never removed.The Labour Party don’t want us all to come out on strike.So again, this is why I’m so sceptical and concerned.
We need to stop relying on leaders and saviour figures like Corbyn or leaders of the People’s Assembly or the Socialist Party or whatever to sort it out for us and rebuild our movement from the bottom up. Our trade unions need to rebuilt / won back from the Labour Party and the trade union bureaucracy, we need community organisations which organise to look after each other and build on real working class solidarity and we need to wake up to the fact that all the parliamentary parties, both left and right, have a long history of betraying us and that parliament itself is an elitist, ruling class institution which can not be used to introduce socialism. Look at the lessons of Syriza, a new left wing, social democratic party which has capitulated to Merkel and all the european capitalist institutions including the E.U. I suspect that just as Syriza were unable to negiotate with the E.U., so will any future possible British government, including the be able to negiotate favourable exit terms. Merkel and co want to punish the U.K. now as a warning to the rest of Europe not to do the same.
There’s a lot more I want to say but think for now I’ll finish. So, yes I don’t mean to pour urine over many of my socialist friends’ current and very sincere love of championing Corbyn but I think we need to seriously re-assess this infatuation with social democracy in light of actual historical experience and try our best to better prepare the working class (with our limited numbers and resources) about what is actually happening and what we really need – a mass movement for socialist, working class internationalism that has no illusions in ruling class institutions and parties and doesn’t provide inadvertent left cover for capitalist economics 9keynesian as well as austerity), liberalism and British nationalism. Sara
I’ve been reticent about posting my reaction to the result in the last tumultuous days simply out of self-preservation – like so many other people, my anxiety, anger and stress have been sky high, so I withdrew from online in an attempt to manage my symptoms better and avoid the vicious bullying and name-calling until I could at least get my head together. But the times are calling…
Like many other people I can’t delude myself and celebrate the leave vote as a victory for the left and working class just yet. Yes millions of workers (and middle class people) voted to leave as an anti-establishment protest against the unbearable economic and social conditions – BUT and this is the massive, gargantuan BUT – that understandable rage has been driven and distorted by the most base racism, nationalism and in no way represents a coherent left-wing, united working class rejection of the E.U. and austerity and the capitalist economic system as a whole. Racists everywhere have been boosted by this result and now think they can say whatever hate filled xenophobic abuse they like to anyone who isn’t a so-called British national. Whilst it is true that the majority of the working class voted leave ( the AB group backed Remain by 57% to 43%, while the poorer C2DE category was almost two-thirds in favour of quitting, voting Out by 64% to 36% according to the Daily Mirror quoting ‘Lord’ Ashcroft of all people), the working class are not some homogenous mass social and economic group. Young people were much more likely to vote remain as were communities where the majority of the population are not British born, including in Cardiff, which is a city with a large working class. Nor does it take into account the majority for leave in Scotland or the sectarian nature of the vote in Northern Ireland – two major topics that indicate the escalation of national conflict at risk here and needs proper analysis which I won’t do here).
My own experience is significant numbers of public sector workers – of all nationalities and skin colours – voted to remain not because they are ‘soft middle class liberals’ but because of a genuine and deep seated disgust at racism and xenophobia and REAL CONCERNS over job losses and the loss of E.U. funding to the poorest areas of Wales (which is around 90% of it). That’s why we can’t help feeling that our class have just voted for their own bullets – particularly whilst the left are totally ineffective ignored (particularly hard left ‘Lexiters’ such as the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party) and the far right are triumphant.
Working class and middle class leave voters – particularly the majority who did so for nationalist, anti-immigration reasons – are about to receive a rude shock. Nationalist right wing politicians are misdirecting your rage against the most vulnerable members of your own class and are escalating morally bankrupt divide and rule poison which destroys any potential united working class movement against the system. Farage, Johnston and Gove are ruthless Etonian ruling class politicians who – newsflash – support privatisation, austerity, the bankers and the mass immiseration of the working class. They are going to let us rot and destroy each other whilst the ruling class stay in charge. I don’t think it’s okay to sneer at working class leave voters as stupid and ignorant – the E.U. is a rotten, war mongering, anti-worker, elitist institution – but so is the British parliamentary system including the house of lords, so is the monarchy and this fantasy that Britain can return to its imperialist ‘hey day’ reveals a total ignorance of the real history of working class united struggle against racism, colonialism, imperialism and class exploitation. So whilst I don’t like to insult anyone, it has to be said that racism, bigotry and misplaced faith in Farage to save the NHS or whatever does unfortunately reveal your ignorance and that ignorance is threatening some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met – people who have fled the most appalling, traumatising conflicts in the world and / or are just trying to get a better life for themselves and their families – and I will NOT stand by and let that happen because I’m worried about challenging you. Sorry but now is the time that we must speak out – the far-right must be opposed and the left absolutely definitely now has to get its act together if there’s any hope for our class.
Not all of the leave voters did so far racist reasons, nor was it only white working class people who voted for it but the end result is that Farage and UKIP and the far-right across Europe are celebrating this as their victory, as some of us had tried to warn, and for lexiters to deny this is grossly irresponsible and represents abandoning non-British working class people – WHO ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ECONOMIC CRISIS AND ARE INSTEAD PART OF THE MOST OPPRESSED AND EXPLOITED OF THE CLASS – to an escalation of racist abuse, terror, turmoil and agonising uncertainty now over whether they can stay here. I can’t not do this; my conscience won’t allow it. I’m proud to be for real internationalism and solidarity and think our most important tasks ahead include organising to defend refugees, EU. and international ‘migrants’ (or people in my way of seeing things) and independent working class action, including strike action to protest austerity, cuts, racism and against the bosses – be they nationalist or E.U. bosses. The vote result has happened now and there’s’ no going back, I see no point in a re-run and what we urgently need is a labour movement that can get workers to reject nationalism and racism and instead advocate real European wide workers’ solidarity against the bosses and the politicians, no matter their flags.
The biggest responsibility for the fact that the far-right nationalists and their corporate allies in the mass media were able to distort and twist what could have been a class conscious, internationalist leave campaign lies with the long term strategic failures of the labour movement as a whole, going back decades. The long term betrayals of social democracy by sowing illusions in reforming capitalism, class compromise in the name of ‘partnership with the employers’ and supporting the national bourgeois against independent working class unity across borders, as well as the more recent specific betrayals of the trade unions and the Labour Party in the U.K. (and everwhere else of course) in failing to build a mass movement against the cuts and austerity has led to this desperate situation where working class people, rightly raging at the system, have mistakenly turned to the elitist, capitalist led far-right and this has been a long term process culminating in the absolute rabid and deeply frightening anti-immigrant mood popularly whipped up by short sighted and dangerous politicians from both the Tories AND Labour. We need to recognise this urgently if we are to turn the anger of the masses around from this dangerous racist and nationalist course to an actual international, socialist outlook. Our key responsibility now is to work out how we are to intervene and rebuild the left once more as a real mass movement of the working class around Europe and beyond.
I will be abstaining in the EU referendum taking place this month. A vote for EU Austerity and Capital versus Great British Austerity and Capital is not a choice I want any part of. The entire basis of the referendum is based around a faction struggle between capitalists grounded in appeals to nationalist populism. Neither option will provide any kind of victory to the working class, in fact one way or the other, we’ll lose.
Most on the left seem completely split over the issue with various arguments called up in favour of leave, remain and abstain. All have some good arguments as well as bad.
Those arguing to leave highlight the reactionary nature of the EU as an institution, that it is in no way shape or form a friend of workers (the fact that the TUC argues it is, is testament to their pathetic capitulations). It is responsible for deposing…
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It has taken me a long time to be in the right headspace to write publicly again about my experiences of the Socialist Party but now the healing powers of time and distance, combined with a new political situation following the election of Corbyn last summer and now the impending EU referendum in a toxic climate of growing racism, poverty and mass suffering directly resulting from the ongoing capitalist economic crisis compels me to write.
In part 1 I promised to address the following points:
Why I left the Socialist Party in 2013 (you can also read my resignation letter – still with the original typos – elsewhere on my ) I want to write about this experience in the light of the knowledge I have gained as a socialist feminist activist since then.
Why Michael Crick is accurate about the cultic and atheistic religious practices of the party, drawing on both my own and many other ex members’ experiences and what is more important, why these organisation features are directly detrimental to the task of building a real mass working class revolutionary organisation.
What mass socialist party / organisation I advocate instead and how I imagine such an organisation might work with present Socialist Party members today.
I am very concerned about the situation facing our class today and I think the left is singularly failing to develop a serious, well thought out strategy on how we can take on the system with the class behind us and with us, not relying on our own, narrow networks of activists as if this can substitute itself for a real mass movement. The left is short- termist in the extreme and incredibly shallow in its enthusiasm for populist soft left characters, who usually get there because they have the loudest mouths. Politics is a dirty business.
It’s important to remember the lessons of Syriza in Greece = a left wing government which tries to work within the capitalist paradigm and does not build a mass working class movement to take on the bosses and the capitalist class in its entirety has proved itself impotent whilst the Greek working class is starved and punished by the bosses institutions of the E.U. etc. It’s important to recognise that neither right wing nationalists or the E.U are the friends of working class people. Both sides loathe the masses and have nothing but contempt for us. This is why I don’t want to vote for either side in the upcoming EU referendum. I reject both but funnily enough, european socialism and unity against the bosses (no matter their flag) is not on offer on the ballot. Like millions of others in Britain I am totally disenfranchised by the capitalist system.
Nor do I share Peter Taaffe and the SP’s optimism about what a ‘no’ result on June 23rd would entail. They see it as a chance to bring down Cameron and imagine that it will led to some kind of mass movement to overthrow the government – a profound misreading of the situation in Britain today in my view. The labour movement is weak and class struggle here is possibly the lowest it’s ever been whilst the far and populist racist right are in the ascendancy, as a result of the historic failiure of the left to offer a credible alternative to the right in the first place.
Whilst it is true that some genuine and very long standing socialists and trade unionists support Corbyn and certainly not all of them are careerists and are instead principled working class fighters in South Wales, the right in Labour remain in charge in Wales and are determined to implement the Tories cuts and accept the logic of the market and maintain the status quo and their inflated, removed lifestyles of m.p.s, a.m.s, councillors and union officials alike whilst ruling out strike action and defiance of the anti union laws.
Whilst there are strikes taking place in Britain, the overall level of struggle is very low. Life is just getting worse for most of us, clinging desperately to day to day survival as we are. I don’t think the working class here has the class consciousness and confidence RIGHT NOW to unite in mass struggle against capitalism and reject the evil of racism against immigrants. British nationalism is dividing the working class here extremely effectively. This is the danger we are in and it’s vital that we are able to make a realistic assessment of where we are if we as a movement are ever able to develop an effective strategy to build a mass movement against capitalism on an international basis.
Although working class people are correct in rejecting the European Union as an elitist, bureaucratic club of the European bosses (dominated by Germany and France), it is equally mistaken to fall for the divide and rule tactics of the racist UKIP and the Brexit Tories led by Boris Johnston. We need working class unity against both sections of the capitalist club fighting it out for power in this referendum of no choice. The so-called democratic parliamentary system which gives us this referendum is based on lies on all sides and ensures that working class people will always remain powerless and exploited whilst the rich stay in charge, whatever the results.
In the first part of this article, I promised to elaborate on why I left the party when it would appear that we are roughly on the same side, even though there are the differences I have outlined so far. If I was a member of the Socialist Party now, I would be unable to express any differences of opinion that I have with the leadership regarding their analysis of current events, their programmatic demands and campaigns on say the European Union, for instance. The leadership argue that debate must be internal but when a decision agreed then everyone must publicly advocate that position publically. There are countless ex-Militant and Socialist Party members not only in Britain but in many countries of the world where their international organisation, the Committee for a Workers’ International, has or has had a presence who have been victims to this policy of ‘democratic centralism’.
For example, In the last 2 years comrades have been forced out for daring to contradict the leadership’s analysis of the causes of the capitalist economic crisis and putting forward their own marxian analysis and denounced for seeking factional rights in the organisation as is their right to do so according to the party constitution; it is an absurd situation which indicates the level of control and censorship the leadership maintains over its members in order to maintain their positions. What is valued most in the organisation is unquestioning and unthinking loyalty to the leadership around Taaffe at all costs. Loyal members parrot the E.C.’s arguments and refuse to consider any of the evidence staring right in front of them that indicates that the E.C. MIGHT NOT BE 100 PERCENT RIGHT about something (say choosing to defend known domestic abusers in their organisation rather than supporting the survivors – in the sincere and honest opinions of a number of former members and independent activists from around the world) because they are ‘busy’ organising the ‘revolution’. Newer members of the organisation are duped and brain washed, just as I was for the many years I stayed in the organisation.
Many of the older and more experienced members – often otherwise good socialist campaigners – are afriad of change and do not want to be forced out of their little socialist church where everything is safe and the leaders do the thinking for you. Unfortunately group delusion on this scale does not prepare you well for actual events, for life, is not black and white and socialists are as weak, fallible and flawed as anyone else and that is the truth. Our movement has the right and the duty to admit mistakes and do our best to make our organisations as inclusive of the most oppressed sections of the working class, not least women and people of colour as possible and open up to the working class – we are not living under the Tsarist dictatorship, this is Britain in 2016!
I’m keenly aware that this is not just about my own particular story in Militant / Socialist Party history; there are many former members who lived and breathed this way of life and have their own stories to tell. My direct experience is of the organisation in decline and well after the Militant hey days. I was a small child in the early 80s so everything I know about the organisation from that time comes second-hand. When I joined as a student at Swansea University in 2000 I was recruited by Alec Thraves, the local full timer, at the time the Welsh Secretary of the Party and to do this day member of the International Executive Committee of the CWI (Alec is named as one of the leaders in the appendixes of Crick’s book). Alec impressed me with his impassioned defence of Militant’s record and as a devoted member I immersed myself in the Militant folklore from the older comrades who had made the headlines back in the day. I also remember Alec denouncing Crick’s book as a right-wing hatchet job – I never bothered reading it as a member.
Then, when I left the party in despair and disgust in 2013 I made contact with a number of the former leaders, full timers and rank and file ex members from the 1980s up to the present day and from around the world (including Scotland, Germany, Sweden, the U.S., France and Ireland) and these comrades – many still active as socialists in the movement to different degrees – by sharing their own experiences of the organisation started to help re-educate myself and better understand how my own experience of sexism, bureaucratic centralism (always misrepresented by the SP as ‘democratic’ centralism) and political ostracism resulting from my dissidence was part of a much wider and deeply rooted long term malaise in the organisation which comes from treating marxism as a religious doctrine, exerting cultic control over members’ lives and maintaining power for the elitist high priest-like status of the leadership.
I critique Peter Taaffe and his ruling clique for their unwillingness to admit their human faillibility so it is only fair to admit my own fallibility which anyone who has ever known me can tell you about. Hopefully most people who know me though generally think well of me and that does seem to be the case. When I was challenging the leadership both internally and then later externally in early 2013 I made my own mistakes and no doubt I make mistakes now. Possibly my negative view of the strength of the working class to unite in mass struggle, as a result of the many mistakes of the left, including the Socialist Party, is too one-sided. I just know our people are suffering more than ever before and it’s always been shit under capitalism but right now the left are just not up to the tasks and responsibilities facing us and are not learning any of the main lessons of working class history so far – socialism can not be achieved through parliament and the repeated and unfortunately predicatable betrayals of all the main so-called workers’ parties including the Labour Party, the Communist Party and the two main Trotksyist organisations in Britain – both the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party and whilst it was still around, the Workers Revolutionary Party.
We are not in a position as a class by any means to take on the bosses’ class properly when the majority of the left in all its many guises to this day has massive illusions in capitalism and its main institutions including the U.K. parliamentary system, the legal system including the police and the courts and the European Union and the Socialist Party is unfortunately part of this process, despite their absurd claim to be ‘the’ revolutionary party. There is no open or public recognition that a major reason why we are in the shit today is because social democracy – the Labour Party and the trade unions – were made part of the capitalist state when they chose to support World War One and their ‘own’ capitalist class in that war over a hundred years ago, betraying workers internationalism in the struggle to unite to overthrow capitalism! The Labour Party and trade union bureaucracy have been consistent ever since in maintaining the rule of capitalism as can be demonstrated by all the major historical events of the last century including, alongside the Communist Party, selling out the 1926 General Strike which is a defeat our class here has never recovered from. We haven’t had a general strike in Britain ever since and that is the minimum which is required if we are ever to get off our knees again as a class and stop these Tory bastards and have even the opportunity to consider how we can fundamentally change society in our collective interests.
We live in communities crushed by the Labour, trade union and CP led defeat of the miners in 84/5 and the children and the grandchildren and the great, great grandchildren of the fantastic working class fighters of both the 1980s generation and all our fore mother and fathers before it are examples of mass working class struggle that today’s generation and all those youngsters coming up behind us need to learn from a.s.ap. if we are ever going to have a chance to survive and live half decent lives again. Whilst it is great that soft left ideas are gaining mass support around Corbyn it is not because Labour will save the working class but because the class struggle is not over despite what the Blairite right think and the Corbyn phenomen is just an early, babyish in fact phase of the movement trying to rebuild itself again under this fercious attack from the ruling class. To have any chance of actual success we need to rediscover our revolutionary history and dig deeper than the official Labour movement narrative – remember these are the people who helped Crick try and smash working class socialist resistance to their system in Liverpool. For all the flaws of Militant / the Socialist Party, that doesn’t detract from the heroism of EVERY WORKING CLASS PERSON in Liverpool who fought the Tory government’s funding cuts and built jobs, homes and services in that legendary city in the early 80s.
But now let’s get to the heart of why I had to finally leave the Socialist Party – sexism on the male dominated left of which unfortunately the SP is but just one example. I’m going to be blunt for brevity. All three of the Trotskyist organisations have (or in the WRP’s case, had) major problems with women members in particular reporting experiences of sexism, abuse and cover up by powerful male leaders. So many voices – and there are many of us, although not all of us have gone public yet – can’t be discounted the way an individual can be. I will always stand with my sisters including Caroline Leneghan (please read her International Women’s Day statement from 2013 as well as my resignation letter from the SP) and many other female comrades I know personally who have shared their experiences of abuse from members of the Socialist Party with me but at this stage do not want to be named. Encouragingly other women are starting to come forward and long may this continue.Recently the CWI (the acronym of the Committee of the Workers’ International, ‘the intenrational’ of the organisation) has been rocked by domestic violence and rape cover up scandals, leading to very public splits in Sweden and in Australia.
I know that I promised to write about what working class revolutionary organisation I would like to see develop and how independent socialists, anarchists and working class revolutionaries might / could / possibly work with present day Socialist Party members who are willing to engage in a dialogue about the health of their organisation and acknowledge that problems do indeed exist and recognise the contributions of the rest of us, not least their ex members, of which we are many and growing. I will do so but in what will be part 3, where I will also return in more detail about the sexist culture of the Socialist Party and its various other unfortunate organisational characteristics, to put it far more politely than they deserve.
So, until Part 3 then,
Viva La Revolution
This unfinished essay is based on my ‘Stop Violence Against Women’ protest speech to celebrate the socialist and working class history of International Women’s Day and its lesson for our struggle at the Cardiff Feminist Network protest of the same name today. It goes into the issues I will raise today in greater depth than is possible in a twenty minute speech! It is to be continued – I haven’t had time this weekend to finish typing it up due to the amount of IWD events on, but will update this blog with the rest of the essay asap!
Stop Violence Against Women! The history of International Women’s Day and some suggested lessons for us today
The theme of this protest today is stop violence against women for a reason – too many of us have personally experienced gender based violence – be it physical, sexual, emotional, financial or psychological – and / or know women who’ve suffered it. We all know the chilling statistics here in Wales and England – two women a week are killed every week by a partner or ex partner. This constitutes nearly 40% of all female homicide victims (Povey, (ed.), 2005; Home Office, 1999; Department of Health, 2005 cited by Women’s Aid website.)
Our struggle today, seen here in Cardiff in the enthusiasm and courage of the women (and their male allies) who marched last night for ‘Reclaim the Night’ and today for abortion rights and who gathered on Unite the Union’s protest against cuts with the and their impact on women is just a glimpse of what is to come: a rising of women,. A rising not only against gender based violence and the basic human right to control our own bodies, but to fight for our economic and social justice in all its forms. To fight against a system which, for example, denies us legal aid when fighting for access to our children when the abuser is rich, as I know one sister of ours currently faces. To fight against a system that means endless cuts to benefits, jobs and services. A system which means huge numbers of working class women rely on violent loan sharks to borrow money they don’t have at astronimical rates, even facing ‘Payment in Kind’ or rape, when unable to repay said debt (revealed at a recent training day for Citzen’s Advice Bureau). Our NHS is under attack through huge and long standing cuts here in Wales, which we need access to when we experience the violence we suffer because of our gender e.g. Sexual Assault Referral Clinics, counselling services. Then there is the chronic under funding of non NHS provided specialist services such as Rape Crisis Centres and Women’s Aid, which has gone on for years.
I think we can trace our fight for women’s rights today through an unending chain of resistance across the world from Egypt to Spain to the U.S. to Wales. A chain unbroken and extending over a hundred years of International Women’s Day. I think we have the right to know the history of International Women’s Day and what lessons it has for us today. It empowers us to know where IWD comes from and who fought for it and it was working women fighting for their rights – to end poverty wages, endless working hours, unsafe working conditions, child labour, the right to paid leave, maternity rights, childcare,, access to abortion and the right to join a trade union. For example, there was the heroic struggle of the mainly women and migrant mill workers’ strike of 1912 in Lawrence, Massachussets (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiQQTi0SNDs&feature=share).
Great struggles of working women like this was the direct inspiration of the founders of International Women’s Day. The world may have changed beyone recognition from a hundred year’s ago, yet the struggle against oppression, injustice and exploitation remains as urgent as ever. Many of the conditions these women were organising against remain very much in today’s workforce, including right here in Cardiff. The lawrence workers went on strike partially over a 56 hour week, for example – a reality also for so many of today’s workers, many of whom are women. In addition to the key, inescapable question of class, oppression takes many forms: gender, race, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, to name some of the best known. Yet all are enforced by a global economic system called capitalism – private ownership of the economy organised for profit and not social and environmental need. Today, I focus on class and gender, which is not in any way to minimise any of these other forms of oppression because they are all burning issues our movement must challenge and educate ourselves on.
Born of women workers’ struggle in the U.S. and Europe, IWD was proposed by socialists, in particular, Clara Zetkin at an international Women’s conference preceding the Second Socialist International conference in Copenhagan in 1910. The conference voted for Zetkin’s resolution for an International Women’s Day and a year later, in 1911, the first one was held. Over a million participated in protests in Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Germany. IWD was used as a mechanism to protest against WW1 from 1914 onwards. This is worth remembering today and the best way to continue in that spirit is to protest against war, whether in the Crimea, Iraq, Afghanistan or the apartheid and occupation of Palestine, to give just a few examples. Other key issues for IWD originally, some of which have already been listed, were the fight for universal suffrage (still an aim in many parts of the world!), equal rights (we’re still fighting!), no employment discrimination (women are still being sacked for being pregnant in Cameron’s U.K. In 2014!) and access to education and training (still a huge issue for millions of women and girls around the world).
Furthermore, it’s impossible to discuss IWD’s history without commenting on this day’s significance for the start of the February Russian Revolution (In the old Russian calender, the day was March 8th): women factory workers in old St Petersberg came out on strike for ‘Bread and Peace’ to protest the carnage of WW1 and the chronic food shortages facing the Russian masses. This triggered a revolution which overthrew the Tsar four days later when he abdicated in response to these events.
Some might ask why these events are significant and relevant for us today. Yet I think some of the insights provided back then by activists still hold true today. For example, and forgive me for quoting a man at a feminist event, but the great American socialist Eugene Debbs made this pertinent statement:
“I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars while millions of men and women who work all their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.”
There are socialists and left wingers out there who don’t think IWD is particularly important. This was also true 100 years ago. The fantastic socialist feminist Alexandra Kollantai argued against these views powerfully. For example, in 1913 she said:
“’Women’s Day’ is a link in the long, solid chain of the women’s proletarian movement. The organised army of working women grows with every year. ……………..The women’s socialist army has almost a million members. A powerful force! A force that the powers of this world must reckon with when it is a question of the cost of living, maternity insurance, child labour and legislation to protect female labour.” Alexandra Kollantai, Women’s Day’ February 1913, Pravda
What a message! We can take direct inspiration from it today. And what is the reality of women’s economic position in ‘modern’ 21st century capitalism? The following U.N. Statistics sum it up in four key facts:
Women are 50% of the world’s population
Women work two thirds of the world’s working hours
Women receive 10% of the world’s income
Women own less than 1 % of the world’s property
Yet as the example of the Russian Revolution shows, precisely because of women’s double burden, they are more often than not at the heart of struggle.
And what is the state of the movement today? It is vital that the labour movement and wider protest movement puts the struggle against gender based violence high on the agenda. Gender based violence is a huge barrier for women to take part in struggle – anywhere in the world. This is seen graphically and horrifyingly in Egpyt where right wing state forces at different stages of the revolutionary struggle have consciously used sexual assault and harassment as a divide and rule tool to stop women participate in protests and undermine a united struggle against poverty, unemployment and social and economic oppression in Egypt. Yet our Egyptian sisters courageously continue to organise and fight back. We can be proud of our internationalism – the recognition of women’s and working peoples’ struggle across borders is a guiding principle of this day and our movement.
Furthermore, the above example of state orchestrated violence is just one of so many internationally. War and state orchestrated violence are used by governments as their method of maintaining their power and economic ‘order’ and enforcing submission, be it their own people or other nations. No wonder then that violence against women is so normalised. The so called personal nature of domestic and sexual violence follows the political. And political violence at the hand of capitalist states is used to enforce economic domination and dictatorship over the working class and poor across the world.
The labour movement is essential to defend and fight for our economic, social and political interests. But so too is the feminist movement. We need to work with each other, discuss with each and listen to each other and continue our long standing relationship with each other – indeed, many of us are part of both already. It’s important to remember that so many of the historic gains won by women here came from by organising within the labour movement. Equal Pay legislation was won by striking female Ford workers in Dagenham. Gender based violence impacts all women, irrespective of class, and it’s great that women can unite to oppose it but ultimately, for the majority of us, we can’t limit ourselves to fighting to end this oppression on an individual basis, whilst ignoring the system itself. Trade unions have a powerful role in helping to combat violence against women and defending their both female (and male) members in this situation. Thanks to the work of socialists around the Campaign Against Domestic Violence of the early 1990s, for example, many trade unions here adopted policies to oppose domestic violence. But the work can’t stop there and many female trade unionists continue to champion women’s rights in the movement today. …………………….
This essay is not complete. It’s nearly twenty to four in the morning and I need to go to sleep now. I work full time, study part time, with impending deadlines for both and I also need to take time out to relax to look after my health during my week, so I find it hard to fit in all my political activity into my life – this is why I’ve not got this essay based on a speech finished yet, despite my own self imposed IWD 2014 deadline. But, ahh, here is about 60%. For anyone who’s read this far, I suspect where you can see this going. To be continued!
Sara, at ridiculous o’clock in the morning, International Women’s Day, 2014, in Caerdydd, Pay de Galles
Well this isn’t going to be a long post for sure, but just to say after many months of silence from this blog ( although I certainly haven’t been silent), I will publishing on here again to mark International Women’s Day 2014 and to report on the various IWD protests planned in my city, Cardiff, including the Stop Violence Against Women protest I’ve helped to organise alongside fellow activists in Cardiff Feminist Network on the day. I will be publishing the speech I plan to give at this event about the socialist and working class as well as feminist origins of IWD and what lessons it has for women and the labour movement today. That’s it from me for now! In struggle and solidarity, Sara