Friday, 7 December 2007
Assed Baig of Staffordshire University and Student Respect has been attacked for a rather curious article written for a student rag ‘GK News’ in which he muses:
In reality it is the white ruling elite which are responsible for much of the problems that we see today. Nuclear weapons, AK47’s and M16’s are all invented and made by white people. Fighter Jets, tanks and land mines are a white invention and largely made in the white dominated Western World. Terrorism has been perpetrated by white states. The terrorism that we are told to fear in the so called ‘War on Terror’ was initially funded and terrorists trained by our governments.
These and other comments inspiring groups titled Racist GK Ramblings. Assed has since qualified his remarks within a mass facebook message. Assed argues in this message that he intended to describe the relationship of a ruling class to other subordinate classes and the role of “deep-rooted, sub-conscience racist” ideas that play a role within this. Assed does not probe the suggested relationship between racism as a “tool of the ruling class” and the suggested “deep seated racist ideas” hidden within us. That the “rulling class” may indeed be ‘multi-ethnic’ in character is not a theme to which Assed chooses to turn.
If Assed is guilty of anything it’s having a poor analysis of society, which he then articulates. Poorly. The mechanistic appraisal of class and race he provides only mirrors the pond-like depth of the cod-sociology-cum-political analysis he is able to provide. That the wider political-project of Student Respect cultivates ‘student leaders’ able to provide ‘polemics’ of this depth perhaps speaks volumes of the shallowness of the project.
Friday, 2 November 2007
Britz hit our screens a few nights ago promising something exciting and a bit glitzy with a comprehensive ad-campaign in the run up to its four hour screening, including an accompanying DVD release.
The reaction to the show seems to have been mixed with the ever-progressive Telegraph suggest it expressed the show was largely expressive of an inherently simplistic “old-fashioned agitprop politics". This comment can only be understood in reference to the hamfistedly deadpan script and acting provided for the duration of the second instalment, unable to provide a degree of nuance beyond that perhaps expected in a book entitled ‘The Dummies Guide to Why I Became A Terrorist’.
What’s interesting is that while the program addressed many of the suggested featured involved in the ‘radicalisation’ of young British Muslims (including the screening of films displaying atrocities committed against Muslims in Palestine and elsewhere for example) the characterisation didn’t convincingly display a person being radicalised. Even with the use of running-commentary – roughly paraphrased as “oh, god, this is terrible, maybe that terrorist sympathising bloke had the right idea” - provided by the protagonist for the sake of the viewer. That said, the cardboard-cut-out approach to characterisation involved in the second episode occasionally provided a few laughs; when a comrade sees the main protagonist semi-naked and objects she dejectedly comments, with all the frustrated nuance of a teenager being asked to tidy her room, “what does it matter, I’ll be dead in an hour!” While this was perhaps intended to be something akin to the criminal in Albert Camus’s The Outsider rejecting his last rites, it instead comes across as more of a blunt instrument labelled ‘pathos’ smacked around the viewer’s head.
Text provided at the end of the episode cited statistics noting the number of those opposed to the war in Iraq and the resulting fear of persecution within Muslim communities. These figures may lend themselves to associations between a rise in terrorist activity and the increasing frustration felt by many Muslims about British imperial adventures within Muslim dominated countries. These are points that have readily been made by Stop the War Coalition leaders such as John Rees in reference to the perceived absence of ‘civil liberties’. While this is likely to retain strong elements of truth – an approach which limits the causes of terrorism to this factor alone seems unable to raise wider commentary on the nature of political-Islam, ignoring this phenomena for the sake of a good/bad duality of limited scope and vision.
As Mike Mcnair notes in the Weekly Worker, the focus of the U.K. as a target for the actions of Jihad is not a new phenomena while the rise of Jihadism must be understood in reference to the rise of political Islam, operating in a vacuum in which Communism has not the hegemonic appeal as the alternative to the alienation and commodification of capitalism. This fact operates within a context in which advocates of Marxism seem gripped by inertia and a dramatic absence of confidence in their own ideas. As Mcnair suggests the left, in this sense, has provided no solutions to the frustrations of members of those aforementioned working-class communities within the U.K. While Yassmine Mather and Ardeshir Mehrdad have commented that in order to understand the role of political Islam we must first understand the nature of the “economic, political and ideological” crisis enveloping those states in which Radical Islam has been resurgent, the role of a form of Neo-Liberalism seems key to this process.
Sunday, 14 October 2007
In the face of criticisms made by both Communist Students and Hands Off the People of Iran the leadership of the coalition has resorted to ham-fisted exclusion. This should be condemned by any principled internationalists - quite regardless of whether they support the campaign aims of either organisation.
The full press-release can be read on the HOPOI site.
I'd ask that you all take a few seconds out of your day to email the STWC leadership to complain about this blatant censoring of critical voices. You may do so here
Monday, 8 October 2007
Both within the later-parts of the first volume of Capital and in other writings such as Grundrisse Karl Marx provides an overview of the origins and development of capitalist economy seemingly at odds with that most commonly ascribed to Marxist political philosophy.
Far from the common sense conception of Marxism expressing the simple reduction of "legal and political" structure of society to the "base" relations of production in a fairly mechanistic and automated fashion, these writings suggest a depth of historical understanding not easily evident by the accusations often leveled at Marx by his detractors.
While I’m not sure that Marx devoted huge tracts of writing on the precise nature of the developmental stages of abstract capitalism, those sections in which Marx does mention these processes are very illuminating. Marx notes in Grundrisse for example the ‘contradictory form’ of bourgeoisie society containing as it does relations “derived from earlier forms … in an entirely stunted form” .
Within the chapters ‘The origins of the Capitalist Farmer’ and the ‘Modern Theory of Colonalisation’ Marx appears to provide a proto-psychological basis for the advent of capitalist accumulation, noting that:
The advance of capitalist production develops a working class that by education, tradition and habit looks upon the requirements of that mode of production as self-evident natural laws Marx talks of slavery as providing the embryonic basis of primitive accumulation before noting the exponential growth in ships employed in this trade, suggesting that (within America) the cotton industry provided the basis for “commercial exploitation”. Fermenting the “eternal natural laws” of capitalist accumulation . The use of this term may well be an ironic dig at those that presume – as many continue to do so – that the laws of capital are unchangingly rigid expressions of eternal economic phenomena, upon which we may perhaps affix phrases such as that of “human nature”. Marx makes short thrift of such ideas by smashing the notion that features characteristic of capitalist economic relations, such as that of money, “wade through all economic relations” . Noting the midwife of force inherent in tumultuous societal change, Capital nears its end with a closing remark on the blood and dirt the history of capital comes “dripping with from head to toe” .
Saturday, 15 September 2007
A fascinatingly macabre insight into both the workings of a stanoloid state-machine and what remains of those grouping that unquestioningly follow them has been provided courtesy of a curious grouping calling itself the All Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks (ALCPB). The grouping seems to exist without many of the links binding the U.K. Stalinist left to the official communism of the now non-existent Communist Party of Great Britain, suggesting a U.K. membership limited beyond even that of the remnants of the existing Stalinist left.
The AUCPB has posted within their internet group forum an official North Korean press-release titled Spirit of Defending Leader with Very Life Displayed in Flood-hit Areas. The article notes and comments upon the effects of the recent flooding affecting the ‘Democratic Peoples Republic of North Korea’ (DPRNK) by remarking on the lengths workers have supposed to have gone to in order to protect images glorifying the country's leader, President Kim Il Sung. The article comments rather amazingly:
among such people are peasant of the Jongdong Co-op Farm in Phyonggang County Cha Hyang Mi who handed over portraits (of President Kim Il Sung) to rescuers and went to the bottom of the torrent water, peasant of the same farm Pak Jong Ryol who lost his wife and child by landslide but saved the portraits and worker of the Ichon Foodstuff Factory Kang Hyong Gwon who firmly took portraits in his hands in flood though his five-year-old daughter slipped down from his back (2)
Tuesday, 11 September 2007
A "Student Organising Meeting" was called at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) on Saturday 8 September, with speakers including NUS President Gemma Tumelty, Lindsey German and Tony Benn of the Stop the War Committee (STWC).
Writing in the pages of Socialist Worker, Assed Baig prefaced a report of the meeting by noting, apparently without irony, "things have changed" . Beyond wafer-thin displays of public-unity between Gemma Tumelty and the Stop the War leadership, the meeting reaffirmed the central importance the STWC intends to assign the “Grand old Duke of York” approach to demonstrations in the coming year.
Lindsey German provided a perfunctory speech on the "global" successes of the anti-war movement. Highlighting the "lobby of parliament" on 8 October, she paused only briefly to brush aside suggestions that student activists might question the strategy of a march, distinguishable from the last only by its dwindling number of attendees.
Perhaps fearing that promises of unceasing protest may have sounded more menacing than originally intended, the crowd were treated to a seemingly endless shopping-list of Stop the War achievements, ranging from the premature ejection of Blair from office to the “recent decision to withdraw British troops from Basra to a base outside the city” .
That the leadership of the STWC felt compelled to rally the troops to hear about these latest achievements suggests that they at least partially recognise the demoralising effect of asking a fairly small core of activists to repeat unchanging slogans, in lieu of a wider strategy for change.
Ben Lewis of Communist Students commented on the “global” anti-war movement Lindsey German had made not inconsiderable reference to, by highlighting the existence of an anti imperialist anti-war movement in Iran and the ripe opportunity this presents for principled unity among Iranian workers, women and students in opposition to Iran’s Islamic regime, while opposing US imperialism.
This position of solidarity was in turn caricatured by an SWP member from the floor, with the expressed support of the STWC leadership on the platform, as dictating to the Iranian left. Unsurprising though this may be, such an attempt to deflect criticism with convenient hyperbole should be met with the disapproval it deserves.
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
That the language used by sections of the left in reference to these issues has changed is not expressive of a reawakening of the left to the importance of these issues. Far from the championing the rights of oppressed and minorities groups within the last five years there has instead been an abdication of basic solidarity within many of the most oppressed and marginalized within these groupings.
Comments made by Lindsey German of the Respect Party most clearly express the Herculean task sections of the far-left have set themselves in accommodating phantom right-wing reaction of every shade and hue. This is perhaps most famously expressed by the characterization of the rights of gays and women as expendable in an attempt to avoid “shibboleths” at the Marxism 2003 meeting ‘Revolutionaries & the left’ .
That Respect has had to begrudgingly accommodate – if just formally – an acknowledgement of the rights of LGBT individuals within the material it publishes says something about the measure of pressure exerted on the leadership in the face of previous omissions and oversights .
I cite these examples not for the joy of the inarticulate genuflection within which they are couched but to instead suggest it is expressive of the wider politics of the Socialist Workers Party’s role inside and outside of Respect. Beyond the lip-service occasionally paid to the issue at conference time and in policy documents scant attention is provided by the Socialist Workers Party to the rights of oppressed minorities they begrudgingly champion, as is most clearly the case in Iran.
Reading the pages of the ‘Socialist Worker’ one would not know that there even existed a persecuted LGBT movement in Iran, a belief that would seem to oddly coincide with views attributed to London Central Mosque cleric Sheikh Sharkhawy, that homosexuality simply does not exist in the Islamic Republic of Iran .
Until recently the most obvious omission of this fact related to the scant coverage of the hanging of two gay teenagers – an act rightly condemned by gay rights organizations such as Outrage! The threatened deportation from the UK of Iranian lesbian Pegah Emambakhsh to near certain “arrest, imprisonment, torture, lashings and/or possible execution” looks set to continue this tradition of silence on the part of the Socialist Workers Party – members of which can expect very few articles about the persecution of Pegah and others like her .
The attacks on gay minorities in this and other instances are attacks on us all and should rightly be met with the vocal and continuous outrage they deserve. The task of principled communists is to call on the unity of LGBT minorities, students and workers to condemn these acts and fight against the capitalist fundamentalists that threaten and divide them, as part of a wider project of principled international solidarity in opposition to imperialist war and regime change from above.
Monday, 13 August 2007
Hardt and Negri's 'Multitude' - a Foucaultian appraisal of the phenomena of globalisation in reference to the emergence of a diverse 'multitude' contains an interesting comment on the nature of Marxist Labour Theory of Value, namely that:
"Marx adopts from the classical philosophers the Maxim that in Capitalist society the source of all value and wealth is labour" [1: pg 144]Interestingly the point that Marx indeed "adopted" a labour theory of value - namely, rejected the implication that labour itself is the sole source of wealth is hardly touched upon by Negri - who instead choosing to build upon a conflated misconception of Marxist theory to make wider points on the nature of Abstract labour.
The point I raise here is of interest to the debates surrounding the opening line of the 'What We Stand For' column of the Socialist Workers Party's 'Socialist Worker, namely the statement that under capitalism "The Workers create all the wealth" .
While we may find it less strange to attribute statements of this kind to a theorist standing in the tradition Negri does - shunning Capital as a flawed work that:
Served to reduce critique to economic theory, to annihilate subjectivity in objectivity, to subject the subversive capacity of the proletariat to the reorganising and repressive intelligence of capitalist power' .It may be considered a rather more curious statement for an avowedly Neo-Marxist organisation to make. Amusingly it is SWP theoretical big-wig Alex Callinicos that takes Negri to task most comprehensively for his contradictory 'reading' of Marx . Callinicos notes that the primacy assumed by labour "as subjectivity, as source, as potential of all wealth" contradicts with Marx's Critique of the Gotha Program' namely the statement that:
Labour is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists) as labour, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labour powerJack Conrad of the CPGB has correctly analysed the Socialist Worker's 'What We Stand For' column in 'One-dimensional Marxism and proposition one'  and drawn wider conclusions about the Economistic divergence from Marxism it - in part - expresses. That Callinicos has made criticisms of this particular 'misreading' of Marx (albeit via the work of Negri) as "symptomatic of a deeper conceptual shift" is telling.
 Multitude - Negri / Hardt
Sunday, 24 June 2007
First an apology, I have been delayed from contributing to this blog due to a number of largely work-related factors, as Engels poignently remarked at Marx's funeral oration: "man must, before all else, eat, drink, live and clothe himself, and then only can he engage in politics, science, art, religion, etc!" 
My first exposure to Marx as a teenager was via the 'Philosophical and Economic manuscripts' - and to some extent - these paved the way for the development of much of my thought on topics surrounding Marx and Marxism and my understanding of it. These are essencially the early writings of Marx (identified by some as spanning the period up until the publication of the German Ideology). The great deal of theory on early and late Marx seems to have grown exponentially with time. It may perhaps be said that this point relates to the relatively more recent publication of a lot of Marx's earlier writings.
Comments that have been made with regards to the early 'humanistic' Marx - attributable here to Easton in his 'Alienation and the Early Marx' - are an important reference point for how we understand the development of Marxist thought. Reading Hayek's "Road to Serfdom" it becomes clearly apparent the entirely unproblematic reading of 'Socialism' or indeed 'Marxism' that have been utilised by opponents (as though such a homogenous entity ever existed).
There are - unsurprisingly - discernable differences within the work of 'early and late' Marx, the suggestion found within the 'Philosophical and Economic Manuscripts' that Man himself becomes a commodity is quite a contrast to a later Marxist conception of man's exploitation on the basis of the nature of his ability to sell his labour a valorisation of capital (i.e the production of surplus value in conflict with the interests of the owners of the means of production). While, in other sections of the Manuscripts Marx describes briefly the "palaces" capitalism produces, alongside the worker's "hovels" - hinting at the later work of Engels's 'Condition of the Working Class in England'. The concepts of alienation, an inherent 'human nature' (or species-being) and the commodification of this human nature are some of the key characteristic features of the work.
The point Easton makes - that we may distinguish two distinct Marxs) relates to an understanding of a later deterministic Marx (as expressed by Capital and Theories of Surplus Labour) betraying the early humanistic Marx. It is noted, for example, that the topic of alienation is not something to which Marx does not returns in detail in later works . While it may be said that we find within works such as 'Theories of Surplus Value' a scope for later deterministicly inevitable relationship to capitalist crisis - with millennial overtones of future joy, serenity, prosperity, and justice - in which development seems intrinstictly caotic and prone to dramatic crisis.
I remember once being asked quite good-naturedly by a fellow student which was the 'right' Marx - the early or the late: I gave a fairly perfunctory reply and then went away and had a good think. While The Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 were I believe published posthumously, it seems clear that we should not view any of the formative writings of the period as 'fixed' in stone, expressing rigidly unchanging thought. At the risk of providing a cop-out, In much the same way that Marx adapted to the changing political situation within which he was writing, and responded to this fact - so should we, illustrating the dialogical and dialectical nature of any application of this thought.
Wednesday, 9 May 2007
There is an interesting new article titled Time for a New Workers' Party? by our friends in Permanent Revolution, which has just been posted on their website. Most of the article is spent debunking the political projects of the Socialist Party, Respect and company. Depressingly little of substance is provided by way of an alternative to these projects.
Within the article PR outline the need to "pursue the vital task of patiently building a revolutionary socialist party". How? We're told: "by direct action, by uniting rank and file militants and activists, by building from the base, by ensuring democratic control of our organisations". What do these things actually mean - if not just the internal party-building of another left-wing sect? I rather suspect you'd be hard pressed to find many leftists who wanted a disunited and undemocratic union-movement. Fairly unsubstantial stuff. We are told that the "numbers of working class militants that can be won to revolution and a communist organisation is small at the moment" perhaps reviving the not unusual argument that during this period the revolutionary party (presumably this is Permanent Revolution?) has to ready itself and build with gradual growth for periods of greater struggle.
Depressingly, when asked about the Campaign for a Marxist Party, a supporter referring to PR as 'we' replies "who are they?". While commenting on the Mcdonnell campaign, the curious remark is made that it is "largely SP dominated". This the Socialist Party that disaffiliated from the Labour Party in 1991? Perhaps Socialist Action is the group they had in mind. The general feeling I was left with was that Permanent Revolution doesn't know what the Permanent Revolution thinks:
I'm not sure either that the impetus for a new mass party will come out of the Labour Party.... yes such a struggle would have to intersect with any mass bourgeois workers' party and split it. That's one possible scenario- but you can't second guess the class struggle surely?
I should point out that this is a 'comment' and may not actually reflect the opinions of PR. Though If this is reflective of the views of a membership showing the advanced sections of the working class the forward, I could make a general guess about prospects for class struggle! Another member replies, also largely suggesting a turn away from the Labour Party:
"not least because the Labour Party is a profoundly unfriendly place for those us trying to build communism...from my experience anyway members of the LP are so far from sympathetic to communism there's really little point in being a member."Hardly a new phenomena, this hasn't dissuaded Communists from involvement in the Labour Party prior to now. The suggestion that Communists would make the decisions on which organisations they involve themselves in on the basis of popularity seems a tad ahistorical to say the least. Though, as i've pointed out previously, this may not actually reflect the opinions of the Permanent Revolution grouping.
Sunday, 6 May 2007
I wanted to draw attention to an article on the Jamaica Observer website:
Mob beats cross-dresser in Jamaica
A cross-dreser was set upon and severely beaten by a mob in Falmouth's Water Square yesterday morning.
The news of the man's presence in the community spread rapidly and in a matter of minutes scores of angry residents converged on the scene and began to rain blows all over the cross-dresser's body with sticks, stones and whatever weapon they could find...
Full article here
The only LGBT rights organization in Jamaica is the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays - J-FLAG. As a recent TUC article highlights, J-Flag are opperating in a dire political and economic context, with "appalling financial difficulties" faced by the organisation. Any donation you can spare would i'm sure be warmly welcomed by the organisation.
Saturday, 5 May 2007
Following the reports in the Weekly Worker of a 'split' in the ISG between those who advocate and oppose work in Respect - the latest edition of the International Socialist Group journal ('Socialist Outlook') has a piece on Derek Wall which notes the "endorsement" by the ISG of Kovel and Lowy's "Ecosocialist Manifesto" - suggesting strengthened ties between the "Eco-Socialist" Green Left platform in the Green Party and the ISG. Is there a story here? Or are our friends in the ISG just expressing some basic left solidarity while improving their green credentials?
The suggested "left turn" of the Green Party - following the election of Green Left bigwig Derek Wall as co-leading speaker of the Green Party - raises some points of interests for the far left. In an article cited by Humantide (which seems to have vanished from the SP website) the Socialist Party outlines its position on this issue. The SP rightly point out that principled leftists should reject the negative effects of punitive taxation on the poorest sections of society (perhaps an obvious point, but one that should be made anyway) while largely failing to address the most basic of points - that a coherent understanding of the role of class, and a substantial working class base of support, is largely absent from the party. This is a point made by the AWL in "Green Party turns left?".
The implications of this are expressed well by the suggested Green Party "betrayals" documented within the Socialist Party article, as it is tossed hither and tither between competing internal factions. The Socialist Party ends by "welcoming" the development, but largely writing off the progressive role the organisation can play - expressed for the SP in relation to the Campaign for a New Workers Party.
Founded around December 2005 the Friends of North Korea appears to have been brought to life by a collection of tankie and tankie sympathizers for the purposes of cosying up to North Korea. The most recent activity of the grouping has been noted by the Staliniod Revolutionary Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) in an online report:
On April 14, 2007, a public meeting and social was held under the title "Korea Defends Independence". It was organised by Friends of Korea....From the same folks at the RCPB (M-L) we find that the "Co-ordinating Committee of Friends of Korea" has written a letter to Comrade Kim Jong Il signed 'Michael Chant, General Secretary', expressing the prerequisite groveling on the "occasions of the 61st anniversary of the foundation of the Workers’ Party of Korea".
A heavy role for Harpal Brar (no surprises there really) is hinted at in reports of meetings by the New Communist Party here. While earlier accounts of a "preparatory committee" for Friends of Korea cite members of groups as wide-ranging as the NCP, RCPB (ML), CPGB (ML) and SLP - a veritable whos who of the Stalinist far left!
If anyone has anything else which would shed light on the organisation - they don't seem to have a website, your input would be very much appreciated.
Thursday, 3 May 2007
I realise by now the corpse of Boris will be quite, quite cold - but in the world of far-leftist politics a week is a slightly longer time.
I've been awaiting the Yeltsin obits for some time now - the left is at its best when it knows who it hates, and it hates them passionately. I also enjoy it when various leftist publications sweep aside the vestiges of bourgeois-morality (respect for the dead) for the sake of a good, fiery polemic.
It's long been a common refrain of the Sparts in the international communist league's that members of the Socialist Party's CWI were during the early 90's "on Yeltin's barricade". It's a widely acknowledged fact that if you are to observe an exchange between members of each organisation - a mention is guaranteed within the first sixty seconds, regardless of the previous conservation or wider political context within which said conversation is enacted.
The Spartacist League quote, rather amusingly, a "front page" CWI account during the period, from the "Barricades in Moscow":
"I am a participant in the struggle for democracy...I went to the White House and helped build barricades around the monument." (1991)Interestingly in a piece released by Militant titled 'Militant's Real History' the following contrasting quote is provided:
I suspect this inconsistency will be largely attributed to the malignant role of the Grant / Woods grouping, as suggested above.
"We publicly distanced ourselves from the pro-capitalist Yeltsinites,... flooding towards the defence of their hero at the White House in Moscow"
However we view the CWI position on "Yeltsins barricades" retrospectively, the party make it slightly clearer how they feel about him with the benefit of hindsight, in a April 26th article titled "Wild capitalism across the former USSR". In which the "bitter experience of the mass of the population under his rule" is duly noted. Ignoring the historic inconsistencies - it is a fairly perfunctory obituary with the usual stodgy prose we've all come to expect from 'The Socialist'.
I await the Spartacist League rebuttal with a certain amount of unhealthy glee.
Yeltsin: Drunken Buffon
Moving on, the New Communist Party tell us it was the "drunken buffoon" Yeltsin who put the "final nails into the coffin of the Soviet Union". That's more like it, comrades! It doesn't exempt others from blame of course, citing "traitor" Gorbachov as a precursor. After this some curiously random points are made (try finding the point in there if you can) about British history before ending on a high-note, the defense of the workers' states in "China, Korea, Laos, Vietnam...Cuba". So many workers state, so little time in which to defend them.
There hasn't been much else on the Staliniod-left that i've actually seen, hopefully Lalkar or the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) will provide us with something yet.
Thursday, 26 April 2007
You read correctly reader. No, this isn't an 80's timewarp machine with added broadband. Class war is advertising in the latest edition of the paper (Summer 2007) a Bash the Rich march - the last one being as far as I know in 1985:
TOFFS OUT: BASH THE RICH: MARCH ON CAMERON’S HOUSE IN NOTTING HILL ON SATURDAY OCTOBER 28…
DETOURING TO THE SWANKY HOMES OF THE REST OF THE NOTTING HILL SET – George Osborne/Tom parker Bowles/
OLD ETONIANS FUCK OFF! CLASS WAR… NAKED… UNAPOLOGETIC… AND BACK ON THE FUCKING AGENDA!! (Bullingdon Club attire optional)
Ex-Class War founder Ian Bone is also blogging about this. What's going on there? Do I detect a frisson of reconciliation? Perhaps just comradery unity. From what little I understand there was a break with Leeds Class War and London Class war, after the Leeds members refused to be involved beyond issue 73 for various reasons. Wikipedia suggests one of which was a conflict surrounding the "Stuntism" of Bash the Rich type actions favoured by I.Bone. My learned class-war friends can fill in the gaps if they want to. I should probably by his book about Class War, but times are hard.
Anyone fancy a bit of knees-up hows your father i'm-a-real-cockerney class war action? It might not be the best idea to inform the coppers that you're planning to surround Cameron's house five months in advance, given that the 1985 'bash the rich' march was prevented by a "heavy police presence". A point that has been commented upon elsewhere;
Publicising a Bash the Rich march in advance is like informing the law beforehand of your intention to hold up a bank
We will indeed see.
Monday, 23 April 2007
An old revolutionary walks across the Brooklyn Bridge one day, and he sees man of a similar age standing on the edge, about to jump. He runs over and says: "Stop. Don't do it."
"Why shouldn't I?" he asked.
"Well, there's so much to live for!"
"I'm just depressed, I've been a Communist all my life and the revolution seems as far away as ever"
"You're a Communist?"
"I am as well!! Did you originally join the Communist Party USA?"
"Me too! Did you join the pro-Trotsky Communist League of America in 1928, which later merged with the American Workers Party to form the Workers Party of America in 1934?"
"Spooky, Me too! After the WPA was expelled from the Socialist Party of America in 1936 did you then go on to join the Socialist Workers Party USA and the fourth international?"
"I did actually…"
"Me too! In the 1940 dispute did you side with Cannon or Shachtman?"
"Me too! In 1962 did you join Robertson's opposition caucus, the Revolutionary Tendency?"
" Holly shit! And of course like me you were expelled and went on to join the International Communist League (Spartacist)"
"Well that goes without saying!"
"In 1985 did you join the International Bolshevik Tendency who claimed that the Sparts have degenerated into an "obedience cult""
"Nah, me neither. In 1998 did you join the Internationalist Group after the Permanent Revolution Faction were expelled from the ICL?"
"Yeah! I can't believe this! Maybe I won't…."
"Die counterrevolutionary scum!". And he pushes him off the edge
And one more:
Two greek anarchists are making molotov cocktails. One says to the other, "So who will we throw these at then?" The other replies "What are you, some kind of fucking intellectual?!?"
see-also: Political Lightbulb Jokes (Dave's Part)
Sunday, 22 April 2007
In discussions with members of any party, tendency or organisation i'm always careful to try and approach the topics members will expect to be raised creatively - such topics tend to be treated fairly dismissively, if just through repetition.
The topic I raise now is an example of one of those.
Criticism of the the programme upon which the Socialist Party party stand during election periods - and that most commonly expressed in material - fails to appreciate the 'period' within which we function, and the subtle nuances of the Transitional approach applied. Indeed, such approaches misunderstand the very nature of the transitional approach. Hopefully I won't provide a caricacture of the SP's position if I suggest that this is a fairly common reply to the suggestion that the SP does not link the demands it makes to the need for wider structural change.
I will make a point here that may not be unfamiliar, though its importance isn't lessened by repetition. The failure to concretely link demands made to the need for a revolutionary overthrow of society is a criminal abduction of duty for any principled Marxist. Accusations may be made that I quibble over phrasing (I apologise for trying to pre-empt those who may respond to this) however the 'phrasing' is key.
Housey notes a common phrase utilised for 'linking' demands to a wider programme of change: 'We fight for a socialist world....democratic public ownership of the big companies that currently dominate the world'. The linking of public ownership to democracy is a novelty on the basis of the election material I've seen in the South East, but putting this aside for one moment, If we want to move beyond demands for a programme of 'socialist' nationalisation of industry and instead challenge the entire basis of capitalist rule, how might we do this? Not to be dull or worthy, let me cite the following quote;
Unless the Socialist Party comrades are aware, our society is still one of social contradiction requiring revolutionary, that is violent, overthrow. Any attempt to intuit this from much of the material I cite (and most of the leaflets distributed by the party during elections) would be hard, if not impossible .
"A society without social contradictions will naturally be a society without lies and violence. However there is no way of building a bridge to that society save my revolutionary, that is, violent means. The revolution itself is a product of class society and of necessity bears its traits"
Trotsky: Their Morals & Ours
We can compare this to the CNWP. What is being argued for in the CNWP is a left-reformist show that is hard to differential from the McDonnell campaign. Ironically most Socialist Party members would actually not disagree that the SP's involvement in the CNWP is an abdication of a basic transitional approach largely because the Trotskyists within this organisation are told they themselves can't link these demands to the wider need for socialism. Members have my sympathy, it's a poor diet of gruel for any principled Marxist to try and consist on.
 As an aside, a leading SP youth cadre made a point not too long ago on the Revolution boards [http://www.revolutiononboard.org.uk] that a revolutionary, that is violent, overthrow of capitalist society might be required for this purpose - might.
Thursday, 19 April 2007
Conservative MP Mr Davies has warned that human rights laws and equality regulations could open the door for gays to demand similar recognition for multiple partnerships, with groups of men or women presenting themselves as polygamous 'families' according to the Mail.
The old fear of the promiscuous gay male has reared its head again, this time articulate by this particular backbench Conservative MP. The point is entirely baseless because, as noted within the article by Stonewall: "In all countries that have legalised gay marriage or any other form of same-sex recognition, polygamy is illegal" - so essentially this is a bit of a non-news story with little actual legislative relevance. What is interesting however is the language used to convey the fear of such an occurrence ever happening.
The way Davis phrases his points may be familiar to many: the fear of accepting a "pretended family relationship" (Sychin) as normal in law. What this story tells us in part is that good homosexuality requires bad homosexuality, Davis utilises the imaginary scurge of the polygamous gay immigrant to illustrate this point. Many of the arguments that have been made criticising same-sex civil partnerships also recognise this fact, suggesting such pairings effectively render those partnerships (such as polygamous pairings) that are not recognised by law - 'queer'. Many of the debates surrounding Section 28 involved an implicit acceptance that by articulating or codifying the gay male and female in law they may be subject to greater scrutiny ("By amending the law, we will make them part of a civil and civilized society" as one Labour MP once up it - Stychin 2003).
The progression towards acceptable forms of partnership and activism has been elsewhere acknowledged and commented upon (Warner 2000). It's not hard to find example within a UK/US political context; Stonewall, started as a riot, and is now a fairly servile state-depentent pressure-group participating in Pride events with corporate-backing that would rival the Olympics. Stonewall speak out, if only to assuage the fears of the 'confused' Member of Parliment.
Stychin: Governing Sexuality, 2003
Warner: The problem with normal, 2000
Monday, 16 April 2007
"Every new period is more favourable and exciting than the last. The size and strength of the opportunities, especially for party building, are exaggerated to motivate members and supporters."It's in this context that I read one of the latest Respect communiques titled "Respect anticipates nationwide progress in local elections". The general gist is best summarized by the following paragraph;
"No other party in the history of British politics has made such huge advances in such little time. The Respect Party is set to make yet more gains in this year's local elections...one wonders what difference Brown will make. There is little wonder what difference Respect makes." Respect Unity CoalitionMy first thought was one of sympathy for those cadres who may take this at face-value without the prerequisite truckload of salt required. I'm sure many ex-swp activists will have been in similar situations, told about the "great gains to be expected just round the corner", how to "build for the next demo", to make sure it's "bigger than the last" in what can easily seem like an endless secession of some what aimless hyper activism. The conclusion Gall draws from this fact is partially true, this kind of activism does fail to learn the lessons in its rush to capitalise on the shifting moods of whichever movement it's currently seaking to capitalise on, but it relates to a wider misconception about the role of theory. Without a necessary understanding of the reasons we involve ourselves in the rigors of activism - through a concrete appreciation of the theoretical grounding that relates to every political action we undertake - activism becomes unsustainable and we lose sight of our long-term aims. Relative to this is a fundemental severing of practice from theory, the reasons principled Leninists involve themselves in organisations like STWC gets lost in the endless drive to "build the movement".
Sunday, 15 April 2007
A) Mayday Dress up Shocker
The suggestion is that we dress up like business men on Mayday to infiltrate "the heart of the Corporate Financial Centres of London" - oh dear, seems fairly obvious where that's going to be. Why dress up I hear you cry? Because "It's time to pull your finger out and realise that your individuality isn't challenged with a bit of dressing up." Who'd have thought.
B) Mysterious Celeb Appearance (And we don't mean Redgrave)
The Space Hijackers tell us that we (or they) will be treated to a singalonga with Jarvis Cocker himself, because 'Cunts are still running the world' as his latest single declares. If you aren't cringing at the thought of the SH-bloc getting chummy with a celeb with more money than sense right now, chances are you will be by Mayday.
see: the article for details or visit the Space Hijacker website
Friday, 13 April 2007
There's an article on the Guardian's commentisfree website from Jenny Jones of the Green Party Jenny, writing about the approaching Live Earth concerts, suggests the "temporarily suspension" of any criticism of the event. Jenny does however provide us with a fairly substantial list of things not to be critical about, including but i'm sure not limited to;
x The wider timing of the event in reference to the 'progression' of the debate surrounding climate change
x The date, in reference to July 7th bombings
x The location
X A "jet-setting collection of rock stars and of B-list celebs playing at being day-trip greenies"
Perhaps paying lip-service to those within and outside of the party who will want at least a tokenistic display of irritation with the event. Jenny continues, noting that we should be encouraged in spite of these facts:
the event will generate a virtual mountain range of cynical texts and emails, .....But .... can we please take a day to celebrate the fact that climate change awareness is (once again) going mainstream?
If only all the arguments raised by Jenny were couched in such amazingly self-defeating terms. Thankfully it seems unlikely that Jenny's demand will be conceded by many on the homogeneous sounding left she makes reference to. For many of those i've talked to about the party (the cited example of the Socialist Party are one among many) for every mention of the latest Derek Wall article there are twice as many references to the role of the Green Party in suggested part-privitization schemes, or varied suggestions that the Green Party depend largely on the altruism of civilized businessmen doing civilized business. At the heart of the debate lies an uncertainty about the Green Party's ideological basis, and of course the fundamental failure to stress the importance of class as a basic party principle. What some Green Party members have suggested to me is a reflection of a democratic 'plurality of views' allowed within the party, is perceived by many as the simple incoherence of a party liable to be tossed hither and thither in the face of mobilizing struggle.
We are trying to treat everyone fairly - not everybody in the world is equal. Some people have higher incomes and need greater services through the bank. These customers demand a better service
How apt! In some sense of course this is a non-story, we didn't need HSBC to tell us the world isn't equal, but the conclusions that have been drawn from this fact - exclusive use by those 'more equal' than others - are why HSBC will quite rightly be the subject of condemnation and perhaps boycott.
With regards to the probable reception of this news item on the left, it does reminds me of those far-leftists I know who always find some of the best company in the free-marketer euro-bashing pro-globalizationists of the Tory right-wing. Both agree that capitalism is by it's nature expansive, revolutionary and ruthless, they just happened to draw different conclusions about the implications of these realities.
Thursday, 12 April 2007
On the day that Blair is accused of blaming a spate of murders on 'black culture', the abscence of joined up thinking was painfully apparent in the Latest edition of Searchlight magazine. The frontpage editorial (which went to press before the aforementioned story aired, though it's guaranteed limited coverage in the next edition) outlines the campaign being run both within the pages of the Daily Mirror and within the constituencies in which the BNP is standing as one embodied by the slogan which it has adopted for this purpose: “hope not hate”. Below this editorial we find another column outlining the adventurist policies of a government drive to “deny work, benefits and services to illegal immigrants” (No. 382). Little hope here, it seems for those currently under attack by the Home Secretary. What is perhaps interesting here is the complete failure to comprehensively link this aggressive anti-immigration drive to the wider context of a resurgent far-right movement.
Tuesday, 10 April 2007
In order that we may fight fascism we must first understand and be able to characterize the nature of fascism. It will perhaps not surprise readers to find that precise definitions of Fascism and what may constitute Fascist organizations vary greatly.
Perhaps one of the most widely known contemporary theorists on the topic is that of Roger Griffin, who has attempted to provide a general epistemology of fascism. Griffin is among those who have suggested the ability to detect a 'fascist minimum' by which to judge organizations as Fascistic . Underlining the 'Fascistic minimum' for Griffin is a 'mythical core' at the very heart of Fascism aligning rebirth and regeneration from the destitute of democratic liberalism; the crisis expressed by this system providing the vision or 'birth pangs' of a new order . Needless to say the basis of the 'fascistic minimum' is contested though common 'ideological' and 'practical' themes run through many of the characterization of Fascism I intend to outline. Griffin recognizes, as do many theorists writing on the subject, the context for Germany Nazism as occurring during a period of "national re-birth".
Traverso within the ‘Origins of Nazi Violence’ provides one of the most in-depth descriptions of the historical roots of Nazi violence, outlining a view of Nazism strongly aligned with the history of colonial rule - as treatment which were previously reserved for 'natives' by colonial rulers are utilised for the purposes ofNazi rule. Within this colonial period Traverso argues that an anti-univeralist, hierarchical basis for rule is provided from which future Nazi movements could expand. Such rule was implicitly anti-humanitarian, serving to dehumanize native populations as 'less civilized' (read: 'less human') than their oppressors, the links with the Nazi treatment of 'minority' groups seems clearly self-apparent within this account .
The 'origin' of fascistic violence is also a topic touched upon by M. Mann within the comprehensive work 'Fascists'. Mann suggests that the violent nature of Fascism can be in part understood in reference to the attempts by such organizations to court the influence of young male leaders . For Mann young men "set the character of Fascism" - a fascism understandable as dependent upon forms of excessive machismo encourging escalating forms of militarism - and Para militarism. These were the same young men who had experienced the nature of these forms first hand from within the 'small political groupings' which sought to inspire the spirit of the Volk [6:151].
It's perhaps possible here to make a distinction that has been noted elsewhere with regards to the clear context within which Mann locates the ideology of fascistic movements namely the cultural, social and political context of a post first-world-war European setting. We can contrast this approach to the suggested general 'trends' Paxon identifies with fascistic movements . The point has been made elsewhere by our comrades in the SWP, that a fixed context-dependent reading of Fascism can mean an inability to respond to the changing face of Fascism, and the suggested ability to manipulative both Ideology and Practice to serve interests embodied by Fascism [8b]. A tool with which to explore this idea is provided by Paxon. Within 'The anatomy of Fascism' we find a focus upon the practical implications of such movements - Paxon argues that we can't 'essencialise' fascism with narrow unyielding definitions, instead we must look to function of such movements . Such an approach makes sense if we look even briefly at the approach adopted by both Fascist and Nazi organizations after the First World War. Examples from Fascist history are wide-ranging; it is generally acknowledged that Mussolini had to adapt the ideological content of the movement to the role and position of a powerful catholic church with a clear influence among ordinary Italians  it has also been noted that Italian fascists could at one point be found in a coalition among other groups, all the while readying themselves with "clubs, knives and pistols" [10:7]. Similarly the incorporation of forms of anti-Semitism originally alien to the nature of Italian fascism suggests the absence to a firm or fixed adherence to unchanging ideology. In contrast to the approach of Griffiths and others Paxon identifies Five “movements" characteristic of fascism, defined not on the basis of ideological content but instead maneuvering tendencies .
While Paxon has been criticized by theorists such as Sternhell for the absence of a focus upon ideology, it is perhaps interesting to note that Paxon makes a point which we may find echoes of in the characterization of Neo-Marxist approaches. Paxon in fact suggests that much of the 'revolutionary anti-capitalist' far-right left capitalism untouched, suggesting that the bourgeoisie viewed the movement as initially favorable to its interest . We can of course find echoes of this view within the work of Gramsci, a point we shall now turn to.
Within 'What is fascism and how to fight it' Trotsky outlines what may be described as a Marxist-Leninist theory of fascism. Trotsky was of course writing during a period in which the comintern line expressed via the German Communist Party equated Social Democracy with variant forms of 'Social Fascism' - criminally failing to make the distinction between Social Democracy and Fascism, and thus provide the sufficient analysis of the specific nature of fascism. This is a fact made more poignant by the relatively longer gestation period of the German Communist party - and the hindsight provided by the experiences of the Italian Communist Party . What is perhaps most interesting about Trotsky's writings on the subject of fascism is the clear absence of a viable revolutionary party and the disastrous implications for the proletariat. Trotsky notes the "weakness and strategic importance" of the revolutionary party during a relatively mature revolutionary situation . While it may be clear that we are not in a “mature revolutionary situation” today, the absence of such a revolutionary party - even in the most embryonic of forms - is painfully apparent.
Trotsky notes that Gramsci alone managed to recognize the real threat posed by Fascism within the Italian Communist Party. Of course Gramsci was jailed in 1926 during a period of heightened fear following an alleged attack on the life of Mussolini in Italy and wrote his famous 'Prison Notebooks' whilst captive . Within 'Democracy and fascism' Gramsci suggests, mirroring the argument outlined by Paxon to some extent, the role fascism played in reducing the minimal democratic standard prevailing within Italy during a pre-fascist period in its attacks on the labor movement. Though Gramsci argues that the bourgeoisie was unable to control the fascist movement whose services it originally served.
Perhaps one of the messages Trotsky articulates most clearly is the clear need to utilize a principled Leninist approach to the tactic of the united front in order that we may combat the implicit aims of Fascistic movements: the attempts to destroy “even that minimum to which the democratic system has been reduced.. The purpose for which it was designed” .
 Fascism: Oxford Readers - Edited by R. Griffin
 "Vision of the perceived crisis of the nation betokening birth-pangs of a new order" – Fascism
 Traverso - Origins of Nazi Violence
 Michael Mann - Fascists
 Paxon - 'The Anatomy of Fascism'
 International Socialism: 112 / Autumn 2006
[8b] Jim Wolfreys notes for example that M. Mann characterises Le Pen's 'Front National' as "rightist populist" and not Fascist.
 A fact perhaps poignantly illustrated by those pictures that display Mussolini stripped of the military regalia he appeared to wear in most public depictions, swapped for the clothes of a bourgeoisie gentleman upon meeting prominent church leaders.
Friday, 6 April 2007
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Thursday, 5 April 2007
It may be said that in many ways the history of the far-left is the history of the labour party. From the reprimands of Lenin on the nature of 'far left communism' to the later-day Trotskyist involvements in Labour. Within this piece I intend to analyse the characterisation of Labour and the subsequent implications of this theory. In analysing the prospects of involvement for Marxists in labour it might be helpful to provide an overview of the situation "as it stands".
The Socialist Party of England & Wales tells us that the Labour Party became a "totally bourgeois party in the 1990s"  suggesting that we can now largely categorise Labour alongside Conservative / Lib-dem parties, a move away from the bourgeoisie-worker party characterisation of old.What form has this bourgeoisification said to have taken? It is possible to summarise three or four basic points upon which this characterisation is based; 1) The lack of a necessitated link between Labour and the TU movement 2) dwindling membership figures obscured by corporate sponsors ("constituency delegates ...outnumbered by corporate sponsors") 3) A lack of real democracy ("Real socialists have either been systematically expelled or dropped out of the party. The rank and file is there to merely rubber stamp the decisions made above.") linked in part by dwindling TU representation at conference.
The characterising analysis of the Socialist Party as a "full bourgeois party" would suggest that the Socialist Party would extricate itself completely of the affairs of potential leadership bids, in much the same way as any far-left Marxist party would deem it ridiculous to orientate itself towards the posturing of potential Tory candidates. This is not the case however, we are told that "We believe that if they are sincere .... those in affiliated trade unions should support John McDonnell's campaign for the leadership." A curious acknowledgement of the base of Trade Union support apparent within the Labour Party. Why would the Socialist Party involve themselves in this tokenistic display of 'solidarity' for the internal squabbling of a bourgeoisie party? The inherent contradictions of this policy are painfully clear. An understand of the characterisation of a bourgeois-workers party is helpful here, the Socialist Party outlines this conception as one in which there exists "a party with bourgeois at the top but has a working-class base". The assumption here is that we can now equate the base of support - reflected in large part by most TU organisations - with the support afforded the Tory party and its kin. A patently dangerous fallacy.
IT is important to glance again at some of the characterising features of this 'bourgeois party' - the first example cites the lack of a 'necessitated' orientation towards Labour. The problematic nature of this characterisation is not hard to see. "It is no longer the case that there is an unbreakable link between the Labour Party and the Trade Unions" . This is essentially an empty truism. The labour party rules state that Trade Union bodies cannot allow regions to affiliate to other opposition political parties which has meant in reality that fire-fighters union FBU has disaffiliated from labour as has the RMT.
In this sense it may be said that these examples show that of course disaffiliation is a possibility, as it always has been. But what prospects do these examples offer for a unified trade union movement? The examples cited provide a picture of fragmented political representation "the London Region of the FBU had voted to support Respect while the Scottish Region may providing funding to the SNP" . Within the RMT disaffiliation is reflected in the patchy and unstable network of political support upon which it has become dependent - first affiliated to the SSP, on 26 October the RMT "voted to reverse its 2003 decision to affiliate to the Scottish Socialist Party." . Calls for discussion upon the "the crisis of working class representation" seem apt during a period in which the turn away from labour has lead to variant forms of either political crisis or simply an apolitical trade union movement. With the "absence of any viable political alternative" is it clear to see how the argument may be made that this leads to forms of depoliticisation. While a supportive journal of the Scottish Socialist Party points out itself that "the SSP, as the most advanced political left formation in Britain (politically and by size) does not have sufficient parliamentary representation to significantly advance the RMT’s interests" . Of course the Socialist Party is involved in the process of campaigning for forms of new representative organisations which would be able to provide political representation - though they remain in their embryonic "campaign for" stages.
A point upon which the Socialist Party might seem to be upon firmer ground might be thought to be the subject of membership figures and the increasing dominance of corporate sponsorship in the Labour Party. "Labour membership has halved since Tony Blair became prime minister" reads the Guardian , in turn The Socialist Party cites the 'corporate sponsors' creeping in at conference and of course readers of the news and anyone attending LP Conference will have been treated to an array of corporate sponsored speaking events. It's clear that there is a section of traditional old labour supporters turning away from the party - but is it on this basis that Marxists turn away from the Labour party? Should Marxists refuse to involve themselves in political organisations sullied with corporatism? My answer is a resounding no to both of course.
It is ironic that the Socialist Party members friend should in turn become its greatest foe on this issue: "Left-Wing" Communism: An Infantile Disorder. Often cited by Socialist Party members as a book others on the far-left should read (presumably before waking up and joining them in the 21st century) it provides a crystal clear analysis - at least in part - as to how Marxists should relate to mass reformist organisations, and I quote:
"If you want to help the "masses" and win the sympathy and support of the "masses" .... must absolutely work wherever the masses are to be found... in those institutions, societies and associations -- even the most reactionary—in which proletarian or semi-proletarian masses are to be found"
No doubt the accusatory phrases will be resounding loud now: "this approach is out-dated!" A tired argument - to adopt a good cliche: we don't abandon the theory of gravity just because it's getting old! "This approach fails to account for the internal changes within the party!" - we have of course already seen that the Socialist Party in part acknowledges the existence of "proletarian or semi-proletarian" base of support (however threatened) within the party in its gestures towards McDonnell's campaign, and the potential TU support this campaign may be able to accrue, supported by the SP. The logical extension of Leninism is an orientation which turns towards those organisations within which the the working class can be found, however mired these organisations may be in the morass of corporate sponsorship or big-business; in essence: "Revolutionaries Work in Reactionary organisations" whenever and wherever necessary. 
 An aside, Labour is often conceptualised as a "Broad Church" formation, it's perhaps interesting to note the way in which this conceptualisation has been mimicked in different ways by Socialists outside of labour. A topic for a different post.