15 sees the police and crime commissioner elections. Glancing over
the candidates reveals a distinct absence of the left wing. Has the
left nothing to say about policing, crime and punishment?
these elections are an idea from the Conservative Party and therefore
a policy change to be deeply sceptical about. As with everything that
emits from that eternal and holy institution for the promotion of
misanthropy and general nastiness, it isn’t good news for the
working class. But still the left ought to have something to say
the archives of Socialist Worker draws a blank: not a column
inch about the upcoming election. Likewise the Socialist Party.
Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, however, has noticed. line starts
off well before descending into drivel about how “Labour Party
activists’ time would be better spent building the fight against
the cuts and privatisation.” I say ‘drivel’ because that’s
what it is to suggest that Labour activists should not be interested
in anything other than quibbling over those issues. Are they to be
allowed no opinion on anything other than the cuts, comrades? Should
the Labour Party just concede and let the Tories win every
commissioner post in the country?
is not just about economic squabbles, which is something you’d
think the AWL would be able to comprehend when it also points out in
the same piece that many parties to the right of the Tories have
jumped at these elections as a chance to air their politics. Indeed,
the candidate lists feature Ukip, English Democrats and British
Freedomers, all on the ‘Hang ’em high, give ’em a good kicking’
approach to criminal policy.
give the AWL its due, it is correct in its analysis that these
elected commissioners will just “give a faint veneer of legitimacy
and accountability to a reactionary, anti-working class state
The comrades can see the wood from the trees and the forest, but it
seems they are completely against the idea of going in with a
chainsaw to see what a left intervention might do - even a left
intervention from the centre-left of Labour’s activists.
Communist Party of Britain also draws a complete blank. The CPGB
tackled the issue back in June by giving space to Labour Party
Marxists (‘Police commissioners or citizen militias’, June 21).
Jim Moody there makes the correct point that, “Were a revolutionary
to stand in the November elections, he or she might use the
opportunity to challenge the whole notion of the state pretending to
bend to the popular will by inserting its placemen (of whichever
party) in PCC posts.” As he predicted then, it has come to pass
that no-one even vaguely revolutionary has stepped up to have a go.
think that, just as this new election opens up space for the right,
it is a shame that no-one from the left has realised that it also
opens up room for them. Standing a candidate would have been the most
effective way to intervene, but I hope that the blindness of much of
the left doesn’t lead them to continue to just concede by not
taking part in the election.
its nature, the spoilt ballot or non-participation is the only
correct position the left can take, since it isn’t in the game
stating its case. But it need not be taken passively. The lack of
interest from the three main left groups, however, does make it seem
likely that the election will be ignored; just as the questions of
democracy and politics are ignored by the opportunist, economistic
sects in general. They have their hopes pinned on the fightback
against the cuts and the TUC calling a general strike that turns
everyone into revolutionaries overnight, but it seems they cannot see
that several years into austerity there is no major growth in the
forces of the left.
majority of the class are not even union members. There is general
consent in the country that the effort to ‘balance the books’ for
the nation is a desirable aim and that their roads to socialism are
going nowhere fast.
Burns criticises me in his letter of November 1. Just to clarify my
position, I am not calling for the abolition of the offence of rape,
but merely pointing out that it offers very little protection to rape
victims, as the 90% acquittal rate testifies. The reality is that
rape usually occurs in private, so when it comes to court it is
usually one person’s word against another’s. In addition, the
woman may be suspected by some of making a malicious accusation. No
wonder most victims are reluctant to go to court.
Burns asks: “How long do the victims of rape have to wait until
human nature under capitalism has improved to a position where
women’s safety is no longer a problem?” It depends on the
development of social solidarity. Capitalism, with its privilege for
a minority and isolation and atomisation of the majority, creates the
conditions for rape.
was not contradicting myself when I said the problem of rape had been
“solved”. Women’s oppression was defeated in our struggle to
become human, only to be reinvented by class society. Frederick
Engels’ position, I think. In other words, we will have to solve
the problem again. An example of how ancient class society viewed
rape is perfectly encapsulated in the Ramayana, where Sita,
having been rescued from the demon, Ravana, is put aside by her
husband because the mere possibility of penetration meant that she
had to be banished.
that view of rape nothing else matters but the act of penetration.
Violence, imprisonment, pain, humiliation, powerlessness - all are
immaterial. It disturbs me that the Swedish law has exactly the same
definition. I do not deny that penetration distinguishes rape from
all other forms of oppression against women and therefore must be a
key element, but in excluding social, physical and psychological
factors it introduces new problems for women.
example of the two Swedish women in the Assange case demonstrates
this: women lose control over the question. They were not raped in
their opinion and were not interested in having Assange punished.
This decision was thrust upon them by the state prosecutor, while
their real concern regarding paternity was ignored. They were treated
like children - not a liberating experience.
Downs has made the point that one of the women did not complain about
the non-use of a condom because she was asleep. If you can sleep
through rape, then perhaps rape is not such a serious offence. In the
public mind it is a very serious, nasty offence. Is it a good idea to
spread the definition so wide that you risk devaluing the concept?
Lewis and Harpal Brar, representing the left, participated in the
Durham Union Society debate on October 19. The basis of this debate
was the motion: “This house believes capitalism has failed”
(‘Stalinism reinforces capitalist apologetics’ Weekly Worker
seemed to have recognised the reason why capitalism is in crisis.
Brar believes we are facing another crisis brought on by
overproduction. While this can and does lead to crisis for
capitalism, it is not the primary reason for the world economy
slowing down at present.
is facing a crisis it has never faced before, as readers of this page
should know by now: that is, the peaking of global oil production,
while demand for oil in every upturn increases. A world where oil
production is increasing - ie, 1859-2005/08, is a different world to
that where production is stagnating and set to decline. To blame the
present crisis on overproduction is just Marxist dogma, which ignores
the fact that ultimately overproduction is itself an artefact of
cheap, abundant energy, which increasingly is becoming a thing of the
allows people to ignore reality. Look at Arthur Bough claiming that
capitalism was facing a new period of long-term growth and
prosperity. He failed to see how world peak oil was undermining the
new Kondratiev wave. You need abundant and cheap energy if you want a
the other hand, the defenders of capitalism divide into two camps,
made up of those who call for more regulation and their opponents who
want a free market. The latter sometimes cite how Thatcher turned
Britain around by freeing up the market. But the British capitalist
economy was not saved by Thatcherism, but by North Sea oil coming on
stream in the 1970s. Those who support capitalism are failing to
recognise that capitalism, which needs constant growth, resulted from
cheap, abundant energy. From a peak oil/energy perspective, Marxists
are not very different from orthodox economists. They don’t see
that with the decline of abundant, cheap power capitalism must also
decline, and if capitalism was to gain access to a new form of energy
equal or superior to fossil fuels it would simply intensify the
overproduction problem, which an unplanned system with advanced
productive forces suffers from.
Lewis thinks that Harpal Brar’s Stalinism serves to reinforce
capitalist apologetics. It’s hard to disagree with Lewis in this
respect. Harpal’s totally uncritical approach to Stalin and the
Soviet Union he led is not exactly calculated to win over politically
intelligent support to the fight for communism - which, despite the
efforts of bourgeois propaganda, is a goal still worth fighting for.
Demarty’s critique of the Tories’ attacks on social policy
(‘Revenge of the nasty party’, November 1) recalls Dean Swift’s
A modest proposal - for preventing the children of poor people in
Ireland from being a burden on their parents or country, and for
making them beneficial to the publick (1729).
satirically proposes cannibalism: “I have been assured by a very
knowing American of my acquaintance in London that a young, healthy
child well nursed is, at a year old, a most delicious, nourishing and
wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked or boyled, and I make
no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie or ragoust.”
more things change ...
article on the American elections was a masterpiece, and pristinely
in tune with my instincts! (‘US elections: The more effective
evil’, November 1).
could I train to write for you or write like that? Where do you find
the courage? And, only being 29, if I started writing for you, what
do you think are the chances I’d end up in a secret imperialist
prison before I die?
I wouldn’t consider the latter a perk.