was pleased to see Jon D White’s quite reflective letter about the
Socialist Party of Great Britain, and his comments about sectarianism
and its twin, liquidationism (Letters, November 22).
its credit, the SPGB is the longest lasting genuinely socialist party
in Britain, and has pretty consistently advocated socialism as the
only alternative to capitalism and the only remedy to its ills. As
part of this, it has consistently defined socialism in the most clear
and simple terms, and which do not allow for any ambiguity or
compromise. It has, remarkably, published the monthly Socialist
Standard for virtually every year of its existence.
relatively small, the SPGB in my view consistently adds value to the
labour and progressive movement by being a clear and consistent
advocate of socialism and expressing a straight-talking and
straightforward language most people can understand.
of us who believe in a strategy to develop and unite the struggles
against the effects of capitalism, and to develop these into a
struggle against capitalism itself, are forced by the SPGB to
consider whether or not we risk tipping into reformism and
preservation of the capitalist system.
would like, however, to question two elements of the SPGB’s case
and practice. One, the SPGB is of the view that capitalism will of
itself generate the political and socialist consciousness required to
take the necessary revolutionary action to establish socialism. Yet
its principal yardstick, membership and support remains microscopic.
Given several hundred years of capitalism (and over a hundred years
in its decaying, decadent phase), why is socialist consciousness as
defined by the SPGB not very much more widespread?
Jon refers to the fact that the SPGB expelled the Socialist Studies
Group in 1991. Both the SPGB and SSG call themselves the SPGB, both
adhere to exactly the same declaration and principles, and both put
forward exactly the same political arguments. Given that the number
of SPGB-type socialists remains minuscule, is it not ridiculous to
have two separate parties, claiming the same name and politics, but
apparently viscerally hostile to each other?
think the real problem with the SPGB is that, despite its claims, it
is inherently sectarian and inveterately hostile to any struggle
against capitalism which does not adhere to its dogmatic schemas. It
opposed and rejected the first sustained breach in world imperialism
represented by the 1917 Great October Socialist Revolution. Indeed on
the back of complete hostility to Lenin and the Bolsheviks it even
rejects any analysis of the evolution of capitalism into its decadent
phase of imperialism.
therefore continues to advocate strategies and tactics appropriate
and relevant to the ascendant phase of capitalism in the late 19th
century, and which are by definition over 100 years out of date and
largely ineffectual today.
the British road to socialism is to come via the SPGB, just how long
do they think it will actually take for the majority of the working
class to be imbued by their socialist consciousness and carry out
their version of socialist revolution? Not only will we all be dead
by then: the human race itself is likely to have become extinct as
Sort it out
must thank Heather Downs for correcting my error (Letters, November
15). She is correct: the women in the Assange case asked for an HIV
test, not a paternity test. However, it makes no difference to my
argument that the real concerns of the two women were ignored by the
law. If the women were concerned that they may have contracted Aids
it would be difficult for them to practice their chosen lifestyle
for Chris Knight’s “just so” stories on the human revolution,
the speculation is based on the best evidence available. I will stick
with his view that females were the driving force behind the creation
of modern humanity. That sex was the fundamental relation between
males and females, and that human culture was the outcome of our
female ancestors’ struggle for the right to choose their own mates.
And that the outcome of this process produced communistic social
relations that lasted everywhere until the coming of agricultural
societies, which reintroduced minority control over society.
this argument is convenient for a communist because it implies that
to be human is to be communist. But hunter-gatherer societies still
exist. What lessons can we learn from them?
that the mode of production is not just a matter of economics, but
its long-term existence depends on the cultural superstructure of
society, including myths and rituals. The power of women comes from
their role in society, which they jealously guard by active social
solidarity. For example, control of food preparation and childbirth
make them both essential and central to the social whole - unlike in
class society, where they are condemned to a second-class status.
women need a new economic role. A political struggle which includes
positioning and building alliances and the creation of new cultural
mores. This process is already happening. It does not include relying
on bourgeois courts, which reduces people to those that are
hunter-gatherers tend to be extremely egalitarian. You cannot tell
anyone what to do - not even children. One outcome of this is that
people are expected to sort out their own differences.
will express opinions, but not intervene unless things get out of
hand. Very different to the Swedish rape law, where trivial
disagreements between consenting adults excuses state intervention.
From a hunter-gatherer viewpoint punishment is irrational and morally
the student demonstration on Wednesday November 21 did not exactly
shake national politics, it was a scene of a political struggle
between elements of the student left (led to some extent by the
National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts) and the careerist
bureaucracy of the National Union of Students.
of the media has reported that around 10,000 students were there - as
part of either the main procession or the NCAFC feeder march. The
route, a subject of controversy beforehand, avoided buildings of
political significance and proceeded down almost empty streets, as it
meandered away from central London south of the river Thames. The
rally in Kennington Park did not go as the NUS would have hoped.
President Liam Burns was heckled and forced to leave the stage. Liam
will be counting on a continued ebbing of the student movement, the
active elements of which are beginning to show their disillusionment.
Unless there is a significant resurgence in political activity on
campus, and the students see their supposed leadership as a fetter
upon their struggle, he will avoid the fate of Aaron Porter, who was
barracked during the 2011 protests and subsequently declined to stand
for re-election as NUS president.
article on the NUS website entitled ‘Demo 2012 - what’s next?’
gives an outline of NUS plans for 2013 and attempts to offer a
narrative to students who were probably asking themselves what the
point of ‘Demo 2012’ was. This excerpt reads like the PR material
of a faceless corporation: “The demo should act as the beginning,
and at NUS we’ve been busy putting together a calendar of campaigns
for students to get involved in.”
are invited to enter student politics on the terms of the NUS
leadership, within the parameters of events and campaigns they have
organised and control. The events listed include “shareholder
activism training” (if only the capitalist class understood the
importance of responsible investment) and a national constituency
lobby (a bankrupt tactic adopted by successive NUS leaderships as a
substitute for serious collective action) for January in protest
against reforms in further education for adults. The NUS claimed the
march was about setting the higher education agenda, but it is clear
the leadership is looking to return to business as usual.
is more and more trying to assert itself as a rival to the NUS
bureaucracy. Its supporters marched under the slogan encouraging
reformist illusions - “Tax the rich to fund education” - that was
adopted at the NUS conference, but was later dropped by the
leadership. Like much of the student left, NCAFC is taking hope from
the victory of students in Quebec, led by a leftwing student union,
against a proposed fees hike. The problem is that without a proper
understanding of why that struggle was successful, the wrong lessons
are learned and it becomes a justification for the student left to
continue what it has been doing for years, but simply trying to be
louder and more ‘militant’.
alternative to the treachery of the NUS leadership, on the one hand,
and the endless, fruitless ‘actions’ of the left, on the other,
is needed. Patient building and education is what is required in what
looks likely to be a period of reduced activity. The student movement
needs to get itself into a shape where it can actually resist future
attacks and go onto the offensive. Democratisation and politicisation
will be key.
forces driving the changes within higher education today can only be
understood through an analysis of capitalist development and the
power of capital within society. The fight around education must be
one that raises the question of who should own and control it; and
one which is based on the assertion that the key task of
revolutionary students in universities is to fight the influence of
capital within these institutions. The unity of revolutionaries on
campus would be an important step in this direction.
are on the edge of a political earthquake in British politics. In
polling conducted at the weekend, the Respect candidate in the
November 29 Rotherham by-election, Yvonne Ridley, has the lead over
Labour. Labour has panicked and launched a vicious and negative
campaign of dirty tricks against Respect, but this has been sidelined
by our magnificent, positive campaign with the Respect battle bus,
advertising truck and campaign groups in every ward.
conducted in the Croydon North by-election suggests that Lee Jasper,
the Respect candidate, is now neck and neck with the Labour Party to
win the constituency. This overturns a Labour majority of over 16,000
at the last general election. This is nothing short of astounding and
is testament to the excellent campaign team, candidate and brilliant
policies we have.
Respect wins one of these constituencies, it will make headlines
across the world. If we win both, we will deliver the biggest blow to
the squalid political consensus that has suffocated British politics
since the 1970s. It will mark the transformation of our party into
the fourth force in British politics and the most sustained challenge
to three-party politics since it developed in the 1980s.
Respect, this is like a general election. We can deliver a damning
verdict on the path of British politics and society in the last two
years. We can deliver a challenge that shows what real Labour means
and what real communities need. Please help us deliver Yvonne Ridley
and Lee Jasper to parliament to make a formidable team with George
National secretary, Respect
Socialist Workers Party’s habit of bending in the wind to every
passing screech of liberal outrage really does land it in some
so it is that the good comrades found themselves yesterday in the
peculiar position of calling for a Labour vote over Respect’s Lee
Jasper in the Croydon North by-election. The reasoning was summed up
succinctly: “Respect’s Lee Jasper has tapped into anger around
police racism in the Croydon run-off. But Socialist Worker is
not calling for a vote for him, following Respect leader George
Galloway’s disgraceful and well-publicised comments on rape.
Instead we encourage supporters to vote for Labour in this instance”
(Socialist Worker December 1).
you have it - Lee Jasper represents yesterday’s hot-button issue
(police racism); but the publicity afforded to Galloway’s infamous
comments on the Assange case makes not only him, but any Respect
candidate, too embarrassing to touch. It is almost Workers’
do we deal with this loopy reasoning? Perhaps we should take it at
face value, and this gets to the core of how the SWP makes political
decisions. A while ago, the Catholic church came up with an ingenious
ranking system for sins of the flesh. It has achieved a certain
degree of infamy for putting masturbation higher in the sinfulness
stakes than rape - because, after all, rape can plausibly lead to
conception, unlike spreading one’s seed on the dry earth.
SWP, in the absence of any meaningful political calculus for taking
such decisions, also seems to maintain a grand list of Bad Things,
ordered according to their Badness. Making an off-colour comment
about alleged sexual assault registers higher on the list than police
racism - this month, at least.
the other hand, there is the small matter that the SWP has announced
a general volte-face on the issue of voting Labour these past
few years, reheating the tired old business of placing oneself
alongside those who have ‘illusions’ in Labour as a patronising
step towards peeling the scales from their eyes. One almost hoped
that cynical motivations were behind this latest odd twist, rather
than the utterly incoherent ostensible reasons given.
incoherent by half, in the end - by the end of Wednesday, the clause
about voting Labour had disappeared, to be replaced by a short note
in square brackets. “An earlier version of this article called for
a vote for Labour in the Croydon North by-election. This was an
editorial error. Socialist Worker is not endorsing any of the
candidates in the Croydon North by-election.” In other words, the
SWP leadership has spun on a sixpence quicker than Joe Stalin could
manage in his prime. Top marks, comrades!
knew Terry Liddle, who died on November 15, very well. He was a
friend and comrade, someone I had known since the early days of the
Socialist Alliance in the 1990s, when he was the secretary of
Greenwich SA. He regularly attended national meetings once they
started to take off around 1996, and was on the SA national council
and other national bodies.
was always impressed by Terry’s complete lack of sectarianism and
his determination to build left unity. He always spoke in a most
positive way to move the Socialist Alliance project forward. He was
committed to his work in Greenwich, where he was a tower of strength
to those within his community that he helped empower. He was a
genuine libertarian, environmentalist socialist - but a socialist
first and foremost.
became part of the campaign to try and save the original SA from
being closed down by the then leadership of the Socialist Workers
Party in the early part of this century. He remained a member after
it was closed down, and when it was relaunched in 2005.
was treasurer of the relaunched SA in its early years, and, until
very recently, I still received stuff from the Electoral Commission
in his name! Indeed, he remained a member until the end, being fully
paid up, even though deteriorating health meant he could no longer
attend meetings. We would correspond regularly - by phone, and more
recently by email. He was a true friend and a committed socialist.
was a great asset to the movement and he will be sorely missed. My
thoughts are with his family and close friends at this very sad time.
Liddle’s funeral will take place on Monday December 10 at 3.30pm at
Eltham Crematorium, Crown Woods Way, Eltham, London SE9. I would like
to pay my respects on behalf of the Socialist Alliance - and all