I note Mike Macnair’s article criticising the Critique statement
and appeal for a conference to discuss a new Marxist party (‘Fight
where Marxists are’, July 13).
Mike attacks the statement for the lack of a “concrete political programme”
- somewhat prematurely, given that this is an appeal to establish a Campaign
for a Marxist Party. It is the start of a debate - we could hardly prescribe
such things at the start of the process. This is one thing in fact that
marks this out as different from the likes of the Campaign for a New Workers’
Party (CNWP), which insisted that participants in its founding conference
sign up to a statement prepared by the Socialist Party.
The first point of the appeal is to state that any new organisation must
be openly revolutionary - Marxists have to get away from the idea that
they have to appear in public as a particularly zealous variety of reformist
in order to attract support. Having been in the shadow of social democracy
- particularly after 1945 - the main traditions of the left have failed
to make the case for an alternative to capitalism, under conditions where
this is easier than it has been for decades.
Mike quotes from Marx on the detail of what a Marxist party should be
in favour of. I have no problem with that. But he then throws in the notion
of “the working class taking political power in the form of the democratic
republic”, which he contrasts to “revolutionary overthrow”, characterised
as “Bakuninist”. This looks suspiciously like some form of two-stage revolution.
Is the “democratic republic” a capitalist formation (I think it is) or
one in which the working class has overthrown capital? If Mike is trying
to smuggle in this key element of Stalinist politics, then we have a profound
On the question raised by Mike of a ‘party line’ on science, I am amazed
that he can infer this from the appeal; the actual intention is to take
a serious approach to theory - unlike the sects, where the ‘line’ is repeated
parrot-fashion and members do not develop as Marxists. The only comment
I would make on Marxism and science personally is that we have to defend
the idea, attributed to Engels, that the dialectic appears in nature.
The point on bureaucratic centralism and self-appointed elites is precisely
that the same cliques have dominated some organisations for decades. Any
organisation will have to fight to prevent the emergence of a self-perpetuating
bureaucratic group, such as that which runs the Socialist Workers Party.
While there is no way that a party operating under capitalism can escape
the problem of bureaucracy, it can at least recognise the problem and
work to combat it.
Mike attacks my omissions on the right of tendency and faction plus the
right to publicly air differences - fair enough, this should be in the
constitution of any healthy organisation. However, this is an appeal for
the conference to start the process. We aren’t going to produce a huge
document full of proposals that comrades have to sign up to in advance.
The point of it is to raise the issue and we have succeeded in this.
Mike tries to defend the position of chasing the sects, principally the
SWP, and taking part in Respect, with a sideline in the CNWP and so on.
This is excused as carrying the fight to “where the Marxists are”. The
problem with it is that most Marxists in Britain have long since left
or been thrown out of these organisations. As the Weekly Worker
has so helpfully pointed out, these days the SWP is so bad that it expels
its members not for any particular difference, but even for posting up
on the internet a record of a meeting addressed by a leading SWP member.
Presumably they don’t want any independent record of what they have said
in case they have to change their position. This fits with the appalling
tradition in the SWP of training their members to take orders rather than
think for themselves.
Combined with this is the fact that Respect is an alliance with the deeply
reactionary Muslim Brotherhood in the form of the Muslim Association of
Britain and is (correctly!) highly unpopular on the left, hence the “unpopular
front”. The political sterility of the sects and the fact that the overwhelming
majority of comrades who are seriously thinking about Marxism are not
in these outfits means that “where the Marxists are” is not anywhere near
Mike peppers his criticism of the appeal with barbed comments about Trotskyism.
He not only appears to be defending Stalinist ideas such as the ‘two-stage
revolution’, but states that Stalinist outfits such as the Communist Party
of Britain are worth debating with and have significant numbers of actual
or potential Marxists. It is important to recognise that, for all the
faults of the sects that have come from it, Trotskyism is the political
inheritor of the revolutionary politics of 1917.
People coming from the Stalinist tradition have to acknowledge both the
monstrous crimes of the Stalinists in the massacre of millions, including
the revolutionary generation of 1917, and the mangling of Marxism into
a code that served the interests of the Moscow bureaucracy. Mike seems
to be trying to go away from his Trotskyist past and towards Stalinism.
I repeat our appeal for all those interested to attend our conference
on November 4, the details of which are published in this paper. We believe
this is absolutely the right time to raise the real need for a new party.
Your paper’s reports of meetings such as the SWP’s Marxism event are
useful, but I hope that the Weekly Worker also finds the time and
space to review the organisation’s books such as John Rees’s recently
published Imperialism and resistance.
Even before you get into the meat of the work, there is this suspicious,
ticking package in the form of a dedication to George Galloway in the
book’s acknowledgements section: Rees dubs him “simply the most implacable
and eloquent opponent of imperialism that I know”.
Putting on record that a left social democrat - even one as currently
troublesome as Galloway - is an “implacable” opponent of imperialism is
a bit like handing Pat Bateman a carving knife. After all, how many times
in the history of our movement have politicians from Galloway’s treacherous
political trend stabbed the working class in the back?
Take your paper’s report of Galloway’s comments at the November 15 2005
Hackney Respect meeting (Weekly
November 17 2005). He characterised British imperialism’s role in
the second great imperialist war as “our finest hour as a country”. Britain
“stood alone” against the ravenous Kraut hordes, a collective “honour”
that should puff out the chests of all Brits. If ‘we’ had not, Galloway
added, then he would not have been standing in front of that Hackney rally:
instead, it would been “someone speaking German”.
One of the synonyms for “implacable” in my dictionary is “irreconcilable”.
Is Rees really telling the working class that Galloway’s politics could
never be reconciled with imperialism?
In last week’s Marxism coverage it was reported that speakers in the
meeting on ‘Muslims and the left today’ were emphasising a classless “natural
unity” between muslims and the ‘left’ . This
was also the line that was coming up from the floor in the session on
‘The Bolsheviks and islam’.
The SWP’s Dave Crouch gave the introduction to this meeting, the main
body of which was not too different from the presentation he gave at the
CPGB’s Communist University two years ago. However, in his attempt to
slam the rest of the left for being soft on, or even party to, islamophobia,
he ignores our principled criticisms of the SWP’s approach and throws
everyone in with his caricatures of the AWL and Eustonite positions. This
is all to be expected, though. When was the last time the SWP honestly
debated with critics to its left? It is far easier to knock down straw
What was more unexpected, to me at least, was the nonsense being spouted
by a number of SWPers who spoke afterwards. These supposed Marxists were
arguing that islam, indeed all religions, were basically the same as socialism.
You see, in the end we all aim for “peace on earth” and any differences
that people may point to are merely “semantic”, to quote one comrade.
What sort of socialism she had in mind I shudder to think, but doubtless
it isn’t the proletarian and scientific socialism outline by the Marx-Engels
team. Another SWPer was impressed by the leaps and bounds made in terms
of “equality” in Iran under the ayatollahs.
Comrade Crouch felt that he had to say something by way of a correction
to these comments. He emphasised something that had been completely lost
on his comrades contributing from the floor - that there were class divisions
and a left and right within islam, just as within society as a whole.
However, this message will no doubt be lost, as the SWP’s practice is
based on exactly the opposite. Winning Respect councillors from the Lib
Dems and even Tories, and support from the imams, is emphasised. A ‘theory’
that follows the practice is clearly developing in these comrades’ heads.
Guy Maddox’s letter could have been written by any apologist for Blair,
Bush or Olmert. What better
proof could there be that the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and their
sympathisers are in the imperialist camp? I heard the same nonsense being
trotted out on Radio 4’s Any questions? by Poly Toynbee and Nigel
Yes, Mr Maddox, “Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip last summer”. But
it retained absolute military control over the area. Nothing moved in
or out except with Israeli permission. Its economy was strangled, as exports
were deliberately delayed and of course the tax on those exports was confiscated
by Israel when the Palestinians had the temerity to vote for the very
organisation that Israel helped create: ie, Hamas.
Despite Hamas being on ceasefire for 17 months, there were repeated raids
into the strip to ‘capture’ (note: ‘kidnap’ only applies when Palestinians
abduct Israelis) ‘suspects’. In the week preceding Israel’s latest bombardment
a family of seven were killed on the beach by Israeli shelling, a family
of nine were killed in another bombardment and in total over 30 civilians
were killed in the month preceding the capture of Gilad Shalit.
Of course we expect the rightwing media and BBC to focus on the actions
of the Palestinians and treat Israel’s actions as ‘retaliations’. What
is amazing is that a so-called socialist can buy into this racist rhetoric.
I can remember, when the NUM went on strike, the BBC repeatedly describing
police brutality as ‘retaliations’ to the extent of reversing video footage
to ‘prove’ the point. It is a sign of the utter degeneracy of AWL that
it buys into this nonsense.
Gaza was turned by Israel into an open-air prison when Israel withdrew.
It continues to hold thousands of Palestinian prisoners, 85% of whom have
been tortured, according to the human rights organisation, Btselem. Tanya
Reinhard, writing in Yediot Aharanot on June 21, describes one
week of ‘restraint’, when thousands of artillery shells were fired into
Gaza, killing over 30 civilians. This is the reality that Maddox defends.
Yes, I deliberately described Israel’s actions as a blitzkrieg. Those
who use starvation, thirst and hunger as reprisals against civilians,
who destroy water and electricity plants, are, in the words of the late
Yehashayu Leibowitz, a distinguished religious philosopher and winner
of the Israel Prize, Judaeo-Nazis. This was the description used by the
late Israel Shahak, professor at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, about
those religious Zionists who argue that Palestinians are no different
to animals - ie, subhuman - because they have an animal soul.
Like the milk and water Fabian that he is, Maddox criticises Israel for
its lack of “proportionality”. How many dead children are proportionate,
I wonder? How many rocket attacks on Beirut are acceptable?
Yes, I want the state of Israel to be destroyed. It is a state whose
primary purpose is to provide privileges for Jewish people at the expense
of the Palestinians. It is an expansionist state which seeks the removal
of the Palestinians from both Israel itself and the occupied territories
in order to provide living space for the settlers. But unlike Maddox and
other apologists for Israel I don’t confuse a state with those who live
Maddox’s attempt to justify Zionist collaboration with the Nazis and
assorted fascists by reference to the German Communist Party’s attempt
to win over plebeian members of the National Socialists is ludicrous.
The KPD’s appeasement of the Nazis flowed from their third position politics
- eg, the fact that none of its Reichstag members were Jewish from 1930
onwards or its attacks on ‘Jewish’ capitalists. But Hitler wasn’t fooled
for a moment and KPD activists were put in Dachau from the moment the
Nazis took power.
The Zionist emissaries swanned around Nazi-occupied Europe organising
kibbutzim and facilitating the emigration of their own cadre and
no one else. The KPD, for all its sins, was part of the labour movement.
Zionism was a movement of the most reactionary section of the Jewish bourgeoisie.
I really enjoyed Tony Greenstein’s series on Zionism. We have to continue
to go after both the Zionists (and their defenders, such as the AWL) and
Fourteen Algerians are currently facing possible deportation from Britain
as ‘threats to national security’. Some are beginning to wonder which
is worst - the military regime from which they fled or the ‘democratic’
one under which they now suffer. They include Mouloud Sihali, who entered
Britain to evade Algerian military service. With five others of the 14,
he was cleared of terrorism in the ‘ricin’ trial which ended in spring
Others were interned as ‘terrorist suspects’ under the anti-terrorism
law of 2001. Now in their fifth year of detention without trial, they
were moved from prison to control orders (partial house arrest) in spring
2005, after the law lords’ famous judgement that internment was incompatible
with human rights law. Jailed again last summer under immigration law,
all the 14 can be held in prison or under house arrest as long as deportation
is being negotiated, perhaps for years. Their appeals against deportation
go before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, a no-jury court
which hears some evidence in secret, withholding it even from defendants.
Faced with a new form of indefinite detention without trial, one detainee
attempted suicide in September. Two returned to Algeria ‘voluntarily’
in early June. Arrested on arrival, they were released within days, possibly
thanks to Amnesty International intervention. One was told he will be
summoned back to a police station shortly. They dare not say what happened
to them whilst under arrest: criticism of the Algerian security forces
can itself bring up to five years in jail.
Even the UK foreign office website notes that Algerian state security
forces have been responsible for the enforced disappearances of at least
4,000 people, abductions, torture and extra-judicial killings in the last
decade. To make deportations to Algeria compatible with the Human Rights
Act, the British authorities had to ‘disappear’ the risk of torture. After
months of talks, they failed to achieve a meaningful ‘memorandum of understanding’
with Algeria that the detainees in Britain, if returned, will not be ill-treated.
The ‘war on terror’ has occasioned an alarming bonhomie between a militarised
regime and a supposedly democratic one. This is perhaps not surprising,
given the common objectives of the two countries’ security machines. For
the Algerian regime, the ‘war on terror’ is merely an extension of a 15-year
civil war against its islamic opposition. By demonising the islamic ‘terrorist’
threat the Algerian government finds excuses for its repressive policies.
By doing the same the British government has found an excuse to introduce
house arrest and detention without charge. Are we seeing a gradual convergence
between British and Algerian styles of justice?
Campacc (the Campaign against Criminalising Communities) continues to
fight for justice for the detainees. Any readers who want to get involved
can find more information, and a petition, on the Campacc website, www.campacc.org.uk.
Campacc is demanding not only that the detainees not be returned to ill-treatment
or even torture in their country of origin; they must also be allowed
to know all the evidence against them and be given a chance to clear their
names. A terrorist is never a terrorist until proven guilty in a proper