glue to separate objects rarely forms parts as strong as a single,
unbroken object, and so it is with the parties.
indeed argued: “The communists do not form a separate party opposed
to other working class parties … by which to shape and mould the
proletarian movement” (which could be interpreted as early attempts
at anti-substitutionism rather than anything else). However, Engels
once observed: “One must not allow oneself to be misled by the cry
for ‘unity’. Those who have this word most often on their lips
are the ones who sow the most discord … [Those] who have provoked
all the splits shout for nothing so much as for unity … the biggest
sectarians and the biggest brawlers and rogues shout loudest for
unity at certain times.”
their credit, the CPGB actually address the flipside of sectarianism:
namely liquidationism. Mike Macnair’s identification of the
Anti-Capitalist Initiative with anarchist, anti-party liquidationism
(‘Liquidationism and “broad front” masks’, June 28) could
prove correct, but the ACI also seems to involve another kind of
Eugene Debs once said, “It is better to vote for what you want and
not get it than to vote for what you don’t want and get it.” The
liquidationist sentiment guiding broad fronts is catastrophic for
ideas. Macnair’s statement that “the two topics, liquidationism
and ‘broad frontism’, are distinct, but nonetheless related to
one another” is reminiscent of two types of a single Socialist
Workers Party tactic. It would be more accurate to say the anti-party
liquidationism ‘of the left’ is distinct from the anti-ideas
liquidationism ‘of the right’. Broad fronts are SWP-style
proposals to members of larger organisations, whilst arguing that
smaller organisations are sectarian unless they liquidate their
ideas. The effect of both is poisonous to independent thinking and is
best termed ‘anti-ideas liquidationism’.
identification of liquidationism of the right with Bernstein makes
rather puzzling the concluding praise for the 1875 Gotha unification
of the Lassallean ADAV and Eisenacher SDP. Regarding practical unity
as more important than socialist ideas is a dangerous road to go
should be able to accommodate different opinions. Tolerance in a
movement (as opposed to party) and anti-substitutionism (in relation
to society) are among the key characteristics of the Occupy movement
overlooked by the left. This is encapsulated in its question, ‘What
is our one demand?’, and its refusal to answer it except that the
99% have one interest in common.
it comes to my own organisation, there have been various splits from
the Socialist Party of Great Britain - almost all of which have been
reformist, or at least not attempts to narrow support. Generally this
has meant trading principles for the prospect of increasing support.
The most interesting have been the only two exceptions, the Socialist
Propaganda League (1911-51) and Socialist Studies
Studies has some degree of sterility - although their answer to
charges of sectarianism against the SPGB tradition is worth quoting:
“How they can regard an appeal to a whole class to emancipate
itself as sectarian can be explained only by an understanding of
political illiteracy.” And: “To be politically small does not
mean to be ‘sectarian’. What it does mean is that the vast
majority of the working class still support capitalism.”
is something that seems to elude most parties. While Socialist
Studies claim to share the same SPGB object, they were expelled
for undemocratic means. Ends determine means and theory determines
practice. William Morris’s last ever public lecture was for unity,
but he was also vigilant against the liquidationism of socialist
Jon D White
Live in a field
Council has issued yet another eviction notice against the Counihan
family - threatened with homelessness directly as a result of the
council’s own benefit cuts.
Counihan and Isabel Counihan-Sanchez live with their five children in
Kilburn. Anthony, a bus driver, inherited a small piece of land in
Ireland, which he declared to the relevant agencies. This resulted in
progressive cuts to the family’s benefits, far exceeding the £18
per week income the land brought in. The council then claimed the
Counihans owed £46,000 in overpaid housing benefit!
to afford the rent on Anthony’s £400 weekly wage, they were
evicted from their flat. The council found them temporary housing in
Ealing - despite all the children attending school in Brent. The
council claims that the family made themselves intentionally homeless
when they moved temporarily to Ireland to look after Anthony’s sick
November 7, an order to evict and change the locks was issued on the
authority of housing officer Rose McIntosh. It was McIntosh who had
‘advised’ the family that the way to resolve their housing
problems would be to move to Ireland, where they could live on their
property in Galway - an empty field! They could live in a caravan
(which they don’t possess), from where Anthony could ‘commute’
to work in Cricklewood.
the resolution of the Counihan homelessness question were as simple
as some have suggested, it would have been resolved last January,
when the Counihans offered to give the field to Brent to retain their
housing benefit. The council refused because they said that this
would be a “dispersal of assets to gain a means-tested benefit”
and therefore illegal.
council leader Muhammed Butt had suggested (during the occupation of
the council chamber by the Counihan Family Campaign on September 10)
that if they were to make an attempt to sell the land then housing
benefit would be restored and all would be well. Isabel asked if
putting an advertisement in the Galway papers would be sufficient and
he replied, “Yes”. But a letter from the council a few days later
contradicted this. The land is for sale with an auctioneer now, but
still the case is not resolved.
councillor Colum Moloney says there are 100 families in a similar
position and the situation will get considerably worse in April 2013,
when housing benefits are capped. So the council’s real problem is
that if they accommodate the Counihans they will be under pressure to
yield to everyone else, and that is just too much to contemplate.
Even if they restored housing benefit to the Counihans now, what will
happen in April 2013?
real crisis is the absence of affordable social housing, dissipated
under the pernicious ‘right to buy’ scheme. Until that is
addressed, no resolution is possible. Hence the contradictory
‘advice’, the partial retreat under pressure of a campaign
stressing this very human story and the harsh front once more
following legal advice. But this legal advice is also rightwing,
establishment-protecting, political advice. Until Brent
council and other like them set needs budgets, they will have cases
like the Counihans, and maybe even worse, on their consciences.
are excerpts from a letter sent by the Counihans to Brent council on
and June was a very distressing time, as Aiden (our second youngest,
seven-year-old) wasn’t coping with the travel [from south Ealing to
Kilburn for school] and was admitted to the Royal Free hospital
via Ealing A&E with exhaustion. He was chewing his
clothes with stress and still is. Over June and July he lost a lot of
took unpaid leave from work due to stress. He returned to work on
September 26, but still wasn’t 100%. Aiden had eye surgery in July,
but was re-admitted to the Royal Free with risk of losing his eye,
because it developed an infection. We were at panic stations, back
and forth between the two hospitals. Aiden was discharged on August
7, but was re-admitted the next day and finally discharged on the
10th. But because he was so low, he found it hard to cope with the
children over the summer period.
a human level we have acted in good faith. We moved into Rose Gardens
with a weekly rent of £500. Housing were fully aware we
couldn’t receive HB, but Mr Babalola still had us fill
out the forms. Would not this have been the time for him to say this
land needs to go on the market and we will reinstate HB?
is a three-bedroom house - one double room and two singles (we have
five children: three boys and two girls, ages from 15 to five). The
living room is a bedroom for the two girls. So we have no living
space. It was only on Thursday November 8 that a Brent officer came
to inspect the house.
left a council tenancy in July 2007 to move to Ireland to care for
Anthony’s dying father and were not advised when leaving that we
had an option to retain the tenancy. We say we are not intentionally
homeless - Brent council have made our family homeless.”
Counihan Family Campaign
than 50 campaigners for Palestinian human rights occupied the central
London offices of G4S on November 20 in protest over the
British-Danish security company’s supply of equipment used to
maintain Israel’s illegal siege on Gaza. The protestors entered the
building in Victoria at 4pm and staged a sit-in protest, while four
people locked themselves together. Police removed them after an hour.
providing equipment and services to the checkpoints that enforce the
closure of Gaza, which includes severe restrictions on the movement
of people and basic goods, G4S is helping Israel to engineer a
humanitarian crisis for Palestinians. G4S is an active accomplice to
Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza.
I write, more than 105 Palestinians, including 23 children, have been
killed since Israel launched its assault last week, and more than 800
have been injured. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights has
accused Israel of war crimes, including the direct targeting of
civilians and civilian buildings, and indiscriminate and
which gained notoriety over its failure to provide security personnel
to the Olympics, provides body scanners to the Erez checkpoint in
Gaza, which serves as part of the Israeli closure policy over the
Gaza Strip. G4S announced the deal on the front page of the website
of its Israeli subsidiary.
Israeli government has been proven to have purposefully restricted
food deliveries to Gaza in order to, as one Israeli official put it,
“put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of
hunger”. Why is G4S participating in these gross human rights
violations? It has contracts with various Israeli agencies to provide
equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints, and to businesses in
illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.
also has a contract with the Israeli Prison Service to provide
services and equipment to prisons to which Palestinian political
prisoners, including children, are held in violation of international
law and subjected to mistreatment and torture. Israel is forbidden to
transfer Palestinian prisoners from occupied territories to prisons
inside Israel under article 76 of the fourth Geneva Convention.
Despite this, thousands of Palestinian prisoners are unlawfully held
in prisons inside Israel that are supplied by G4S.
have also raised concerns with G4S’s track record of human rights
abuses in the UK. The company lost its contract to deport people from
the UK last September after 773 complaints of abuse were made against
it following the death of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan asylum-seeker who
died after being ‘restrained’ by G4S guards.
also runs huge parts of the Lincolnshire police force and hopes to
win government contracts to run police, immigration, welfare and
prisons services in the coming months. How can the UK government give
lucrative public contracts to a company that shows such disregard for
basic human rights standards across all of its business activities?
War is great
is inevitable, war is development. War won’t be erased in this
oppressed and class-divided world. Rather it is a central part of
this decaying system. The rationale of the system is if you can’t
oppress others, if you can’t kill others, you have no right to
survive. So war is good for this type of society. War is its motor.
warless world means a communist world. But that also must come
through another war - that is, a people’s war against the
oppressing class. If you have to survive in capitalism and are
fighting for communism, you have to love war. Without war nothing is
we, the world proletariat, should prepare ourselves for this sacred
people’s war. Hail the war to end war! War is great!
Swiss comrade recently sent me a web link to the memoirs, in German,
of a leading Bolshevik activist, entitled Hans O Pjatnizki:
Aufzeichnungen eines Bolschewiks. Initially I planned to just
skim the contents to look for anything of particular interest, but
ended up reading most of the short book online in one go. The
memoirs, written in 1925, chronicle his life - most of which was
spent in exile in Europe, where he became acquainted with German
social democracy in particular. Rather tantalisingly, the German
version online draws to a close with the arrival of the February
revolution in 1917, when he ceased to be an ‘outcast’ and
returned to Russia to take part in the revolution.
memoirs also shed some light on the 1912 ‘anti-liquidationist’
Prague conference of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. This
conference is historically significant because it is often seen as a
‘turning point’, where the Bolsheviks supposedly organised their
own conference, finally broke with the Mensheviks and created a
completely separate ‘Bolshevik party’. This interpretation is
particularly pronounced in the Stalinist tradition, but it is also
present in the standard Trotskyist interpretation too, such as in the
writings of Tony Cliff. But the recent work by Lars T Lih in
particular has challenged this understanding (see ‘Falling out over
a Cliff’ Weekly Worker February 16).
Hans O Pjatnizki (or Piatnitsky, as his name is spelled in the
Anglicised transliteration) was charged with organising this
conference, and he describes in intriguing detail how it was
organised and prepared. This includes a rather John le Carré-esque
account of how he arranged for delegates to get across the
Prussian-Russian border on their way to Prague. Fears of being met in
Germany by a spy and arrested abounded at that time. And with good
reason: it was later revealed that two police spies attended the
(very small) Prague conference: Roman Malinovsky and Georg Romanov.
interest to the 1912 debate is the following passage, which I have
translated from the German: “When I arrived in Prague the
conference had already begun, and I walked in during the debate on
the organising commission’s report, which had proposed to the
delegates that they constitute themselves as the All-Russian party
conference, with the right to elect the party’s central bodies.
Indeed, the commission had taken every measure to ensure that
representatives of all groups and tendencies were present. It had
invited Plekhanov, Gorky, the Vpered group, the social democratic
parties of Lithuania and Poland, and other anti-liquidationist
groupings” (emphasis added).
is another blow in the struggle to destroy the myths surrounding the
1912 conference: Lenin and the Bolsheviks were seeking to unite all
the ‘pro-party’ - that is, “anti-liquidationist” - factions
and groupings in the RSDLP. They were not out to create a distinctly
turns out that Lars had actually referred to these memoirs in the
article on 1912 cited above, and there is good news for those who do
not speak Russian or German: the book is available to buy in English
under the title of Osip Piatnitsky: memoirs of a Bolshevik. It
might be a nice Christmas present, as it is full of little anecdotes,
like the following one.
the Prague conference, Piatnitsky recalls reading aloud an (unsigned)
article from the party press that he found offensive and alienating.
Indeed, so rude was the offending passage that the chair (a pro-party
Menshevik, remember) felt compelled to interrupt Piatnitsky: he
erroneously thought that Piatnitsky was not quoting an article, but
expressing his own views. Such a tone was not welcome at the
conference, the chair reminded him. Lenin then stood up and
immediately cleared up any confusion: Piatnitsky was actually quoting
an article of which he, Lenin, was the author!
chair became rather embarrassed, but the momentary awkward silence
was broken by the raucous laughter of the conference delegates. Good
to see our comrades had a sense of humour. If only they had known
just how significant this gathering was going to be for our
subsequent understanding of Bolshevik history …