We were right
thanks for the plaudits handed out by Andrew Northall (Letters,
November 29), but I’d like to address a few of his other points.
two branches that were expelled from the Socialist Party of Great
Britain were in breach of the party’s democratically decided rules
and decisions. It is not ridiculous or sectarian to expect members of
an organisation to abide by its constitution and, in the face of
persistent defiance, to carry out expulsions, despite continued
adherence to the organisation’s aims and objectives.
appears to be a slight contradiction in ex-comrade Northall’s
letter. He writes that “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”, but later states “socialism is to come via the SPGB”.
answer, the SPGB won’t make the revolution - the working class
will. The Socialist Party is a propaganda group, agitating for
socialist principles within the working class. That means a
materialist understanding of the world and the way it functions. We
understand that ideas and consciousness come from our interaction
with the real world, not from the outside. From our perspective,
people’s ideas change as a result of the struggles they engage in.
If that were not the case, there would be little point in our
engaging in propaganda or activism - we simply would be unable to
convince the huge number of people in the world of our ideas.
Likewise it is obvious the workers of the world won’t just wake up
one fine morning, decide capitalism is bollox and become socialists.
We’d be very poor materialists if we failed to realise that ideas
are produced by the material and social conditions of the day. But,
even so, ideas themselves do carry weight and are worth engaging
with. We strive to educate people, not ignore their ignorance.
regards to the ‘Great’ October ‘Socialist’ Revolution, the
SPGB does consider it to be a bourgeois, not a socialist, revolution
and that the bourgeois nature of the revolution made it historically
necessary, not some kind of mistake or betrayal. We simply point out
that the level of productive forces in the Soviet Union forced them
into the world market and into the capitalist system. The
dictatorship over the proletariat, rather than the dictatorship of
the proletariat, was a product of the conditions Lenin had to deal
with (our 1924 obituary of Lenin makes this clear -
http://goo.gl/pytRc). The directives of the Third International
imposing its Russian model had little application in the western
industrialised capitalist countries. Rewrite and revise history,
nit-pick and cherry-pick the facts, but the SPGB analysis has proved
to be overall the correct one.
the SPGB erred in not accepting “the evolution of capitalism into
its decadent phase of imperialism”, it is because we await the
appropriate convincing evidence of such; nevertheless we’d caution
against any theory of the collapse of capitalism that does not
include the working class as the principal actors in its ending.
claiming to have a monopoly on what socialism is and isn’t, the
SPGB have remained largely irrelevant to the working classes of the
world. As for that Socialist Studies lot, they are just a
disgruntled group of around 20, who left the party in 1991 and their
raison d’être seems to be to attack the larger SPGB, to
whom they sneeringly refer as the ‘Clapham SPGB’. They don’t do
much apart from run a website.
Clapham-based SPGB is very wealthy and has its own headquarters and
monthly journal, yet still fails to get more than a handful of votes
whenever it stands. Both groups will always talk about the successes
they have had. If over 100 years of failure is what they count as
success, I’d hate to see what they class as failure. Mind
you, they’d make good spin doctors. No matter how much the working
class ignore them, they continue to believe that they know what is
best for them.
notions of justice take private property for granted, treat ownership
as a natural right and, more fundamentally, as a natural condition.
Any effort to undermine this institution is characterised as unjust.
For the liberal, the status quo is obviously just, saving for the
want of a few minor tweaks. But, of course, there is nothing just
about a tiny coterie of monopoly proprietors lording it over the
masses, disposing of the fruits of their labour and privately
appropriating the profits.
can there be anything just about a society in which the pure chance
of birth, to whom and where, decides your life chances and indeed the
very conditions of your existence? Alas, the rich like to think that
they are rich not because of mere chance, but as the result of merit.
They are rich either because of the things they are doing in this
life or as a reward for the virtues they displayed in a previous one.
whilst the one percent clearly believe that they are the deserving
rich, and the rest of us by extension are the deserving poor, they
utilise every form of bribery, corruption, coercion and violence to
maintain their position. Nothing after outrageous fortune has had its
initial say is then left to it.
the ruling class, capitalists and their ruling ideology, liberalism,
soon came to be challenged by socialists representing a new class
becoming politically conscious of the injustices all around them,
which they quickly came to understand were not about good and evil,
the virtuous and the sinful, the deserving and the undeserving, but
systemic in nature. The man who did most to prove that we live in an
unjust society was Karl Marx, the founder of scientific socialism.
notion of a just society was as revolutionary as it gets. From each,
he said, according to their ability and to each, he concluded,
according to their needs. A society based on this conception of
justice would indeed represent the complete overturning of the
capitalist status quo, which, for good measure, Marx also proved was
not natural at all, but historically contingent.
of this new class has driven the bourgeoisie first to violence, then
bribery, and then attempts at cooption. From ruthless laws and
methods of imposing them to buying off sections and layers of the
emerging opposition class, to trying to make them partners in the
imperialist imprisoning of less fortunate peoples.
fact, one of the biggest overheads threatening to overwhelm the
economy and society nowadays is the cost of trying to make capitalism
appear just - ie, the enormous efforts to mitigate the injustice of
chance through remedial action, such as welfare, education, social
workers and a myriad of other measures that create the illusion of
some kind of social mobility or American dream.
last and final effort to breathe new life into the deluded ideology
of social mobility and a sclerotic, monopolised and dying capitalist
system was the 30-year Thatcher/Reagan credit bubble-turned-Ponzi
scheme that exploded in 2008, leaving the global capitalist system
sclerotic, monopolised, bankrupt and dead. This is a system no longer
capable of reproducing itself. Austerity and stimulus, the capitalist
class’s two ideological responses to the crash (ideological in that
what is dead can no longer be saved), represent only the bleeding of
a corpse or the attempted resuscitation of a headless cadaver. Behind
these two ideologies is the reality of a dash for cash, heading
inevitably towards global depression, as the global super-rich and
national elites frenziedly try to turn their counterfeit assets into
real money, which increasingly means gold.
was left of liberal notions of justice lies in tatters on the trading
floors of Europe, Asia and the USA, and humanity is left asking,
‘What next?’ The answer again comes from Marx, who correctly
predicted that in the end it would come down to a choice between
socialism or barbarism.
of their ability to buy social peace, the lucky few can only reverse
their policy of bribery and convert to the kind of sustained and
ruthless violence that even the medieval dark ages would hesitate
before. That is what it will take to maintain a tiny economic and
social elite in a sea of undifferentiated global poverty encompassing
billions. But it is unlikely that with its new and revolutionary
understanding of justice this backlash will, ultimately, succeed.
is far more likely that today’s lottery, so laughingly called
society, will be replaced by the multi-billioned masses with a
society where each individual is born into equality. A society where
every man and woman is expected to put in a shift at work and at
home, a society where there is full employment through the sharing of
the available productive work, a society where part-time is the new
full-time and each gets a living wage. A society, in short, where
each gives according to their abilities and each receives according
to their needs.
South African Communist Party held an augmented central committee
meeting over the weekend of December 1-2. Yet, despite all the top
brass being present, the SACP in its statement of December 2 failed
to call for support for the December 4 farmworkers’ strike.
concern of the SACP leaders was that workers should not be violent
and should not damage property. Not one single word about the armed
vigilante groups posing as security companies, nor about the fact
that the farm bosses had bought up all the available live ammunition
in local gun shops. Is this the voice of the vanguard of the working
class? Or of the vanguard of the black capitalists?
SACP claims that the ‘first phase’ of the democratic transition
has passed and now we are in the second phase. The SACP claims that
the first phase passed the farms by. This is a complete falsification
of events and covers up on the role of the African National Congress
capitalists in maintaining slave conditions on the farms.
ANC capitalist Tokyo Sexwale is a farm boss, having purchased the
Bloemendal farm. We called the management of this farm to find out if
they were willing to pay a minimum of R150 [£10.50] per day to
workers. The farm management replied: “We pay above the minimum
wage, but to ask for R150 per day is a ridiculous ask.” There you
have it, from the horse’s mouth: the ANC capitalists are not
prepared to end slave conditions on the farms.
also called the ‘black economic empowerment’ (BEE) director of
KWV, the biggest wine exporter in the country, Khutso Mampeule. We
asked him, seeing that Phetogo Investments, of which he is head, has
received a R120 million [£8.5 million] cash injection from the
Industrial Development Corporation, whether they would be prepared to
take a stand and support a R150 per day minimum on the farms they
source their grapes from. Mampeule refused to give any support to any
workers’ demand, saying it was “too political”. How strange, Mr
Mampeule. It was not too political when you received R120 million in
public money, R40 million [£2.8 million] from the wine bosses and
R40 million from KWV itself, to enable you to pose as a BEE
capitalist parasiting on the continued slave conditions of farm
it not occur to the ‘vanguard’ of the working class to question
high food prices and the fact that 75% of the cost of food bought in
the large retailers goes to the distributor and the retailer itself?
And that only between 3% and 10% of the actual cost of food goes to
was not a ‘democratic advance’ that passed the farmworkers by: it
was slave conditions being maintained by the BEE ANC capitalists for
a few pieces of silver.
can understand why the ANC leaders made an amicable settlement not to
sing the song, ‘Kill the boer, kill the farmer’, because
it means singing that the black boere like Tokyo Sexwale and
Valli Moosa, should also be dealt with by the masses. The truth is
that the farmers have been killing farmworkers with impunity for
centuries - under the ANC government, this is set to continue.
support an indefinite strike by the farmworkers until their demands
are met, but it is essential that the rest of the masses, victims of
high food prices, should also support them.
Workers International Vanguard Party
discussion on what happened in the Soviet Union under Stalin is now
pretty much a moot question. No-one in their right mind would now
consider Russia or China ‘workers’ states’, but the
revolutionary left is still discussing, ‘What hit us?’
was a period after World War II when the Trotskyist definition,
‘degenerated workers’ state’, seemed unreal. Stalinism was
triumphant in eastern Europe and China. I heard Max Shachtman speak
in 1955 about the danger of Stalinism conquering the world.
Imperialism for him was a lesser evil. He ended up supporting the US
bombing of North Vietnam.
comrade Paul Flewers misses the dialectical process within Trotsky’s
description, ‘degenerated workers’ state’ (‘Sticking with old
dogmas that have failed time and again’, November 29). While
Shachtman and Tony Cliff emphasised the devastating power of
Stalinism, Trotsky was emphasising the inherent weakness of
Stalinism. History has since shown that Stalinism is not a viable
alternative to capitalism, despite the atrocities. Trotsky brought up
dialectics during this discussion, though he did not succeed in
linking it up. Stalinism clearly was contradictory - though that did
not make it both good and bad, any more than slavery was both good
contradictions of Stalinism prevented it from growing and developing
the productive forces. There is an analogy in biology: there are many
mutations which do not survive - they cannot reproduce or adapt. It
would be useless to give each of these mutations the name of a
species, since there is no historical hope for them.
task of revolutionaries is not to stick labels on every process, but
to see the internal movement within the process that is often
difficult for us to describe, because we are used to our old
Mohammed Mursi, having “decreed that no presidential decision can
be challenged by the courts until a new constitution is established”,
partially address the problem of a politically unaccountable
judiciary (‘Showing his true colours’, November 29)?
though, with all the historical precedents of conflict between
politically accountable executives and ‘legislation from the bench’
by constitutional affairs specialists not themselves politically
accountable, I’m surprised that Mursi didn’t split the supreme
court in two: one for typical criminal and civil cases that could
retain ‘judicial’ independence; and the other dealing
specifically with constitutional affairs, but being politically
accountable. In countries with proletarian demographic majorities,
the minimum programme should have commoner juries in both, but in the
other countries, such as Egypt, it would suffice for those dealing
with constitutional affairs to be politically accountable to the
chief executive via appointment and dismissal.
that note of proletarian demographic minorities, I find myself in
disagreement with comrade Lars T Lih’s article (‘Before and after
April 1917’, November 22). I feel he has contradicted what he wrote
in earlier papers. Nowhere in those did he mention a “workers’
revolution supported by the peasants” or workers “giving
political leadership to the peasants” - a position shared by Leon
‘civil war with the peasantry’ Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg, but
not part of old Bolshevism.
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.” So prophesied Respect [sic] national secretary Chris
Chilvers (Letters, November 29).
there was no earthquake; we weren’t shaken, not even stirred. The
final result was Sarah Champion (Labour) 9,866 and Yvonne Ridley
don’t know what Chris has been smoking, but I’d like to get my
hands on some of it. I also hope that Ms Ridley will finally get
treatment for Stockholm syndrome.