Friday, 8 May 2009

In Defence of No2EU

At long last No2EU's list of candidates for this June's European elections have been released. There are no great surprises on the list (the rumour Alice Mahon was to stand at the head of the Yorkshire and Humberside list proved unfounded) but the lists are pretty solid from a socialist and militant trade unionist perspective. As left challenges in the European elections go, it's head and shoulders above the scattered efforts of the far left in 1999 and the ritualistic paper candidates of the Socialist Labour Party and is on a par with the Respect and Scottish Socialist Party intervention five years ago.

But rather than being seen as a welcome step forward No2EU has come in for a barrage of criticisms. "It's undemocratic!" "It's nationalist!" "It's a creature of the Stalinists!" "It's a bureaucratic lash-up!"

There are problems with No2EU. As far as the Socialist Party are concerned the platform is not as left-wing as we'd like it to be and we would have preferred the coalition to have come together earlier. But neither of these should rule out the involvement of revolutionary socialists. The SP is participating in No2EU not because we endorse every dot and comma of the platform, nor are starry-eyed because it is being driven by the RMT. We do so from the standpoint of our perspectives.

As everyone on the far left is aware, the SP believes the immediate strategic task for socialists is the building of a party that politically represents the independent political interests of the working class. While there are a handful of decent MPs, councillors and activists inside Labour who do so, they are marginalised and the prospects of a left advance are choked off by the right's stranglehold on the apparatus. Hence why the SP has been agitating around the slogan of a new workers' party for a long time and why it helped set up the CNWP.

This understanding conditions our participation in No2EU. The question the party has asked itself at every stage of our involvement is the extent to which No2EU furthers or hinders our strategic objective. For socialists who want a new workers' party, this should be their chief consideration too.

First, does the existence of No2EU make the emergence of a new workers' party any less likely? There are no arguments I can think of that says it does. How then does No2EU contribute toward the process?

There is the RMT argument. The move of Britain's most militant trade union into electoral politics marks an important step along the road to refounding a new workers' party. It has also provided the resources that has made this nationwide challenge possible. The union and its general secretary has name recognition among tens of thousands of militant workers. Now, some on the left have sought to downplay this - they point to the lack of debate or mood within the RMT regards No2EU, which allows them to argue it's really the union's executive rather than the union itself that is behind the coalition. There are two rebuttals to this criticism. Firstly the executive has the license to make important strategic decisions in between conferences. As a democratic and accountable body, if No2EU is deemed a failure by the membership then they will be punished for it. However there's scant evidence of internal opposition to the move. Second, how does the RMT's relationship with No2EU differ in kind from the "organic link" the big trade unions have with Labour, an arrangement that has long justified far left endorsements of the party of Blair and Brown?

Then there is No2EU's platform. It is not ideal but it's hyperbole to describe it as "nationalist" or "reactionary". How many nationalist outfits condemn the BNP for whipping up racism and xenophobia and put the the blame for the avalanche of attacks facing our class at the bosses' feet? If they exist I'm not aware of them. If No2EU's platform is no good, then on programmatic grounds how can one justify voting for Labour? It seems to me there's a lot of purist positioning among the far left in the hope some sharp denunciations can pick up the odd disillusioned SP and Communist Party member. On the plus side it means the more "colourful" elements of our movement have excused themselves from participating in the campaign. But in the long run what do they think a new workers' party would look like? Neither Die Linke nor Rifondazione Comunista have revolutionary programmes. Both have attracted workers with all kinds of ideas and not a few apparatchiks from social democracy and official communism - there's no reason to believe Britain will be exceptional. Are they going to flounce out because it will draw in members with politics well to the right of the No2EU platform?

And what about the wider labour movement? It's not only the small forces grouped under the No2EU banner who are following its fortunes. Trade unionists at all levels of the movement will watch its electoral performance. If it performs creditably those elements leaning toward a new party in the unions are likely to be emboldened, and it makes the argument of there being no life outside Labour that much harder to sustain. The better we do, the more chances there are of a serious trade union-backed challenge at the next general election. That none of No2EU's ultra-left critics have picked up on this tells us all we need to know about their disconnect from the movement outside their hothouse milieu.

No one thinks No2EU is going to directly lead to a new party. But it's an important moment on that road. The working relationships being forged between ourselves, the CPB, RMT, Indian Workers' Association, and a whole raft of independent socialists and trade unionists who've got involved is something that will serve the fight for a new workers' party well. If you think Labour is finished as a vehicle for class politics, No2EU is the only campaign that will strengthen the political hand of the workers' movement. Have your criticisms by all means, but do not let them be an excuse for not being part of the process.

41 comments:

Stal1ngrad said...

Strengthen the hand of the CPB dominated RMT executive. Do not confuse this with socialism or working class politics. The platform opposes 'social dumping' i.e. immigration, supports British bosses and also makes the case the British parliament is more progressive than the EU! An absurd piece about a terribly reactionary RMT-SP-CPB stitch up.

Forward to an independent UK, with immigration controls, support for patriotic capitalists. Let us forget about the anti union laws on the statute book, far in advance of the pseudo left posturing over ECJ rulings.

Arthur Bough said...

Phil,

I’m sorry to say that not only was I not convinced by the arguments you put forward in favour of No2EU, but in fact, I think that some of the arguments raised show just why the Left has failed to make any real headway over the last 100 years.

For example, you say,

“As left challenges in the European elections go, it's head and shoulders above the scattered efforts of the far left in 1999 and the ritualistic paper candidates of the Socialist Labour Party and is on a par with the Respect and Scottish Socialist Party intervention five years ago.”But, there are really two bases on which a Marxist would determine whether this was the case. The first case, is “What Programme are these candidates standing upon?” I would put it to you, that in fact, on that basis not only does No2EU stand way below those previous challenges, but its National Socialist Programme, and the ideology of Stalinism that stands behind it, even place it at a lower level than that of the Labour Party and other parties standing on a bourgeois, but less nationalistic programme. In fact, as I set out in my blog The Cancer of Nationalism in the Workers Movement , I find it difficult to distinguish much of the programme of No2EU, from that being put forward by the BNP.

Although, Marx set out the importance of Programme in his “Critique of the Gotha Programme”, he also went on to set out that he still saw the fusion of the Eisenachers and Lassalleans as a great step forward, because of what it represented in terms of the advance of real working class forces. Engels made similar comments in relation to the development of the Workers Party in the US. So the second bases then is what does it represent in that regard, in regard of the development and mobilisation of real working class forces?

The reality is that whereas the fusion of the Eisenachers and Lassalleans represented the coming together of quite large numbers of workers and their representatives, where even the development of the Labour Party as a separate Party from the previous affiliation with the Liberals, represented a real movement, a groundswell of working class opinion, No2EU absolutely does not. In fact, the same is true of most of the other abortive sectarian adventures you refer to.

So when you say,

“This understanding conditions our participation in No2EU. The question the party has asked itself at every stage of our involvement is the extent to which No2EU furthers or hinders our strategic objective. For socialists who want a new workers' party, this should be their chief consideration too”,I think this demonstrates what is wrong with the left’s approach. The question should be not do socialists want such a Party, but do WORKERS want such a Party. All of the experience of the last few years, including the statements you have made here, shows that they do not! One of the things that Marx and Engels continued to defend in the Communist Manifesto, after they had said much of the rest was outdated, was the principle that “Communists do not establish their own parties separate from the Workers Parties.” The whole basis of Marx and Engels approach, and the reason they defended that principle to the last, was that you can force march the working class to class consciousness and socialism. You can only gradually convince workers by sticking with them, taking them where you find them, and by diligent activity every day work that level up.

The left has never followed that approach. It has always established its own sectarian principles, always wanted to force march the workers, and the attempt to create a new Workers Party now is just another example of that. Its true that conditions in the LP are not conducive to some forms of political activity by Marxists. But, they are far more conducive to activity than many conditions Marxists have faced in the past, where their whole existence has been deemed illegal and so on. Moreover, it is only not conducive to the extent of actually wanting to pose as some alternative leadership in waiting. There is nothing in the current set-up of the Labour Party that prevents Marxists from doing that patient work described by Marx and Engels of working with and providing practical solutions for ordinary workers on a day to day basis.

This is brought out in your argument here.

“The union and its general secretary has name recognition among tens of thousands of militant workers. Now, some on the left have sought to downplay this - they point to the lack of debate or mood within the RMT regards No2EU, which allows them to argue it's really the union's executive rather than the union itself that is behind the coalition. There are two rebuttals to this criticism. Firstly the executive has the license to make important strategic decisions in between conferences. As a democratic and accountable body, if No2EU is deemed a failure by the membership then they will be punished for it. However there's scant evidence of internal opposition to the move. Second, how does the RMT's relationship with No2EU differ in kind from the "organic link" the big trade unions have with Labour, an arrangement that has long justified far left endorsements of the party of Blair and Brown?”What you come down to arguing here is, “We want an alternative workers party, if we can get one by getting union leaderships to sign up for it over the heads of the union rank and file, and get away with it without the rank and file kicking up a fuss, all well and good!!!”You are right that this is very much like the kind of bureaucratic, and Stalinist lash-up that existed between the union bureaucrats and the Labour party bureaucrats. But, that is precisely what is wrong with it! Its precisely that relationship in the LP that the left SHOULD have been criticising, and attempting to transform into a meaningful relationship between rank and file Trade Unionists, and Rank and File Labour party organisations. It was precisely around such issues that during the 1980’s organisations like the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy DID campaign. The last thing we should be doing is to try to REPLICATE it! And, whatever, the name recognition of Crow, anymore than that of Scargill, it has not had any noticeable effect in mobilising any sizeable number of workers behind him or any organisation he has put his name to. All that the RMT’s standing of independent candidates against Labour succeeded in doing was to get it expelled, and the potential for its militants to intervene in local LP’s removed.

”Then there is No2EU's platform. It is not ideal but it's hyperbole to describe it as "nationalist" or "reactionary".”But, its not hyperbole to describe the call for Immigration Controls, or the call for opposition to the free movement of Labour as reactionary, because that is precisely what those demands are!

“How many nationalist outfits condemn the BNP for whipping up racism and xenophobia and put the the blame for the avalanche of attacks facing our class at the bosses' feet?"UKIP, frequently criticise the BNP. As for placing responsibility for the crisis at the bosses feet Nazi parties like the BNP have always included an element of that kind of anti-capitalist, populist posturing in their programme.

“If No2EU's platform is no good, then on programmatic grounds how can one justify voting for Labour?”On the basis set out above. Firstly, Labour still represents real working class forces, and No2EU does not, and secondly that although Labour has a bourgeois programme its not the kind of National Socialist Programme of No2EU.

“On the plus side it means the more "colourful" elements of our movement have excused themselves from participating in the campaign.”But, it also opens the possibility of such forces organising an internationalist campaign. It also means that internationalists and socialists in the labour Party can argue for internationalism without being tainted with the Nationalism of No2EU, and will be able to use the election campaign to talk to real workers.

“But in the long run what do they think a new workers' party would look like? Neither Die Linke nor Rifondazione Comunista have revolutionary programmes. Both have attracted workers with all kinds of ideas and not a few apparatchiks from social democracy and official communism - there's no reason to believe Britain will be exceptional. Are they going to flounce out because it will draw in members with politics well to the right of the No2EU platform?””I’m not convinced that Die Linke or Rifondazione represent real spontaneous movements of workers either, but they DO represent considerably larger forces than No2EU or any of the other fabrications have or are likely to achieve. Clearly, if there were some real groundswell of opinion within the working class that led to the possibility of the creation of such a new Workers Party, then what you say would be correct. Its on that basis that I argued, for example, that Marxists should join the PSUV in Venezuela despite its inadequate programme, and the danger of it being used by a potentially Bonapartist regime to corral the workers. But, the way that No2EU has been set up, not on the basis of a groundswell of working class opinion and enthusiasm, but on the basis of bureaucratic manoeuvre – that even excluded the SWP for fear by the CPB that it would lose control – on the basis as you put it above that well the RMT membership have not opposed it! Shows that it does not have a cat in hell’s chance of mobilising any kind of meaningful forces or support, and its vote in the elections is likely to simply once again demonstrate how ineffective such “alternatives” to Labour really are, thereby strengthening the position of the Labour Right. It may pick up some votes of backward workers who decide to vote for its reactionary policies, because in their confusion they think there is something radical in opposing immigration and the free movement of Labour, but the majority of those confused workers will go for the National Socialists of the BNP not those of No2EU.

”Trade unionists at all levels of the movement will watch its electoral performance. If it performs creditably those elements leaning toward a new party in the unions are likely to be emboldened, and it makes the argument of there being no life outside Labour that much harder to sustain. The better we do, the more chances there are of a serious trade union-backed challenge at the next general election. That none of No2EU's ultra-left critics have picked up on this tells us all we need to know about their disconnect from the movement outside their hothouse milieu.”But, surely the opposite is the case! Who are these thousands of Trade Unionists straining at the leash for this new Party? Where have they been for the last ten years when all the other attempts at building such a Party have been made? And as the report of the inauguration meeting in Manchester given at Serge’s Fist set out even in a major city like Manchester only 8 people – half of whom were hostile to the project – could be mobilised. So what chance is there that it is likely to be anything less than a complete fiasco, which will then have the exact opposite consequence to the one you hope for!

”No one thinks No2EU is going to directly lead to a new party. But it's an important moment on that road. The working relationships being forged between ourselves, the CPB, RMT, Indian Workers' Association, and a whole raft of independent socialists and trade unionists who've got involved is something that will serve the fight for a new workers' party well. If you think Labour is finished as a vehicle for class politics, No2EU is the only campaign that will strengthen the political hand of the workers' movement. Have your criticisms by all means, but do not let them be an excuse for not being part of the process.”Come on Phil, for those of us who’ve been around a while we know what this amounts to. Bob Crow is closely tied to the Stalinists, the IWA has always been effectively a front for Stalinism, and as the Manchester meeting demonstrates the independent socialists and trade unionists seem very few and far between. I can understand why the SP got involved, especially with the SWP being excluded, but I think that it will prove to have been a huge mistake.

Simon_Hardy said...

No2EU might contribute towards a new workers party, but any party built on the basis of such an initiative will be worse than Die Linke in terms of its politics (right reformist, pseudo nationalists etc).

The No2EU project is actually one of the worst of the 'new left' formations in Europe, and represents a new low for some of the British left. Its programme is entirely focussed on the EU - as if it is the EU and not the British capitalists that are the main enemy of British workers. The programme lets the British bosses off the hook, kind of implying that Britain would be a better place if they were not dominated by 'bureaucrats in Brussels' (the favoured image of the Sun, or UKIP).

It wants the British government (which is suddenly totally democratic? Since when?)to have control over our borders, including the movement of labour! Great - more immigration controls, just what we need.

Its solution to the crisis is totally pro capitalist, not even once does it challenge the logic of capitalism. It does not even refer to the concept of a social Europe, the preferred term for reformists on the continent. Instead it just calls for more British manufacturing "To return to an economy based on manufacturing requires massive investment and where appropriate protection of home industries. It is the only way to ensure jobs and a decent safe future for the peoples of Britain."

No mention of the class content of these industries - surely we want them under workers control, or aty least nationalised? The current position is simple a plea for more British capital investment.

The section on workers rights is a joke - Britain has some of the worst labour laws in Europe, and not because of the EU - in some senses workers actually have better rights in the EU zone (the right to organise a general strike for one!). Ludicrously, it even blames climate change on the movement of workers across the continent looking for jobs ("labour miles"). It seems to want to end social dumping by guaranteeing jobs for 'local workers' - so what about the foreign workers? What is it saying about them? Stay home and stop causing climate change, I suppose.

The SP has signed up for the old Stalinist British road to Socialism and jumped onboard a left wing UKIP. The fact that the RMT have signed up is not a good thing, it is simply a diversion from the real task of building a serious, socialist working class party in Britain. No2EU will fail at the election and it will probably be the last trumpet of the new left initiatives. Everyone will look back and say, Socialist Alliance, Respect, CNWP - what a waste of time. The tragedy is that the opportunity for a new party was there all along, it was just squandered by the British left.

Simon
Workers Power

Leftwing Criminologist said...

this term 'social dumping'

to my understanding it means the undermining of workers terms and conditions in general.

so where do immigration controls come into it?

P said...

hi comrades

there is a piece in Socialism Today which outlines our analysis of no2eu in more depth, which goes in to some of the weaknesses, but also why we think it is significant

http://www.socialismtoday.org/128/euros.html

i must admit i find it a bit difficult taking anything workers power say seriously, given for example their campaigning for New Labour against Socialist councillors in Coventry a few years back.

cheers
Paul
Coventry

Dave Semple said...

I can't help but be a little concerned that the manner in which some SPers - Hannah Sell, and you too Phil, especially in your final paragraph - is sounding weirdly reminiscent of the language the SWP was using about Respect when it was first founded.

Few people would deny that valuable working relationships may be forged...my most pertinent query is, who with? Is it with activist members of the RMT or a narrow bureaucracy? What about the IWA? I'd never even heard of them before. Similarly with CPB, what are they bringing to the table?

I've dealt more with this at my place.

Chris S said...

If anyone was in any doubt about the nature of this campaign have a look at who SPEW members have been canvassing on Facebook. Would it be the far right, xenophobes and nationalists?

http://communiststudents.org.uk/2009/05/no-2-eu-looks-to-far-right-for-votes/

Phil BC said...

Where to start? I guess the best place to begin is last first.

Chris, seeing as you lot think it's a wise tactical move to call for workers' militias in student union elections I doubt you have much to teach SP comrades on how to engage with working class people. Look, the far right are being talked up in these elections and could do very well. Given it's part of No2EU's "job desciption" to provide an alternative left opposition to the right's critique of the EU where is the problem with hitting BNP, UKIP and other eurosceptic facebook groups? There is none. As for the arguments Bro Andrew is "guilty" of fielding, I'm sure he's crying into his beer that it doesn't meet your revolutionary purity test. Tell you what, you're more than welcome to come down to Stoke at the next general election and canvas with us in the BNP strongholds and see how your holy rhetoric gets you.

Phil BC said...

Hi Dave,

It's always right to ask who we're making relationships with. Believe it or not the CPB have brought significant material and activist resources to the table and already the relationship, at least locally here in Stoke, is probably one of the most productive and comradely I've been involved with since I've been a member of our branch. Definitely more so than attempts to work with local Labourites and the SWP.

Re: the RMT - it's not ideal there isn't a clamouring in its ranks with No2EU, but considering half the time us lefties bemoan trade union leaderships for not taking a lead, it's a bit churlish for the ultra left to start whinging when the most militant trade union leader in the land does so!

Remember the SP was invited to take part in No2EU. It was weighed up by the leadership, widely discussed in the party and endorsed by our conference. From all these discussions the emphasis is on how the challenge can help generate the conditions for a new workers' party to form. No one thinks No2EU is going to lead directly down that road, but a decent vote could embolden a section of the trade unions to think seriously about ending their relationship with the rotten shell of New Labour and play a part in founding something better.

Re: Respect I take your point. It's really up to individual comrades and groups to determine whether they agree the two have the same sorts of potential.

Phil BC said...

Simon, I'm sorry to say this, but your contribution clearly demonstrates you haven't a clue what you're talking about.

Let's talk some tactics. In the European elections is it entirely appropriate to talk about the European Union. After all what is the EU if it is not an attempt to coordinate the interests of our class enemy across Europe? The EU has attacked national collective bargaining agreements all over the continent and it is not "nationalist" to draw attention to them or oppose them, especially when No2EU is explicitly against demonising workers from other parts of the union or pretending they are the problem.

As for the rest, it's all so much posturing. When a new workers' party comes around, given the influence of labourism in this country chances are it will be heavily imprinted with the influence of the trade union bureaucracy. Its programme certainly won't pass your revolutionary litmus test. But none of this is fixed yet - the influence Marxists will have on the new party depends largely on the alliances and relationships we're building now.

Back in the day I used to be a WP supporter. I met regularly with a couple of comrades in Birmingham and they gave me a good schooling in the basics of Trotskyist history. One lesson they helped drill into me was the fate of the Social Democratic Federation. This group took part in the initial talks that led to the formation of the Labour party but for sectarian reasons flounced out. The tragic result was the organisational isolation of Marxism from the mainstream of the labour movement. Given WP see themselves as the only revolutionaries in Britain are you not concerned about repeating history?

Phil BC said...

I'm sure you'll forgive me Arthur if I don't reply line by line.

1) Your comparison with the BNP's programme is disingenuous. You know as well as I the far right have always ponced off left wing programmes for their own populist reasons. You also know this is not the core of their programme: it is window dressing. As for No2EU's platform being on a lower level than New Labour's programme, well, I'm sure comrades are more than capable of telling the difference between a programme that stands explictly for the untrammeled rule of capital and one that, despite its inadequacies, reflects the historical aspirations of our class.

I'd perhaps take your programmatic objections a bit more seriously if you were consistent with your argument and applied it to the liberal crap you seem quite happy to dole out in the name of anti-fascism.

2) We live in a period of decomposition/recomposition of the labour movement. For all that the political representation of our class had many false dawns and fitful starts stretching from the 1840s to the original Labour Representation Committee. It would be nice if it were not so this time round, but all the initiatives you write off as "sectarian abortions" suggests a similar stop-start process. As you know the far left doesn't have the weight to found a party itself, but what we can do is assist any initiative coming out of the unions - even if it is a leadership-led formation - to help the process along.

3) There is no wide mood for a party - yet. But there is widespread alienation from Labour. Very few people think it's a party of the workers any more. But we shouldn't conclude that all is hopeless, in fact it beholdens us to carry on making propaganda around this issue and building political alliances capable of turning this alienation into something positive. Seems to me Arthur that this argument is one for political passivity. Our perspective is not a shortcut for bypassing workers but rather a call to arms to get stuck in.

4) No, No2EU is not about creating a workers' party without the workers, it is simply an electoral coalition. But you must have had your political antennae amputated if you don't think the entering of more trade unions into electoral politics will not create favourable opportunities for socialists.

Sorry, run out of time!

Arthur Bough said...

”As for No2EU's platform being on a lower level than New Labour's programme, well, I'm sure comrades are more than capable of telling the difference between a programme that stands explictly for the untrammeled rule of capital and one that, despite its inadequacies, reflects the historical aspirations of our class.”Where??? Where in the programme of No2EU is there ANYTHING that actually amounts to a class struggle programme for WORKERS to oppose CAPITAL? There is nothing. It is only a programme to oppose British Capital to EU Capital. It is a bourgeois programme, argued on a narrow nationalist basis, which is not surprising given the National Socialist ideology of Stalinism. At least the bourgeois programme of Labour does not base itself on that reactionary nationalism.

”I'd perhaps take your programmatic objections a bit more seriously if you were consistent with your argument and applied it to the liberal crap you seem quite happy to dole out in the name of anti-fascism.”Tell me what “Liberal Crap” you mean, and I can respond. To be honest I’d have thought the recent post I gave outlining the lessons of the Spanish Civil War for fighting fascism were far from “Liberal crap”!

”It would be nice if it were not so this time round, but all the initiatives you write off as "sectarian abortions" suggests a similar stop-start process.”Actually, the experience of Chartism was one of a fairly rapid and powerful rise, because it was based on a real movement. The rise of Workers Parties at the end of the 19th century, throughout Europe was also fairly meteoric. What was not, was the same kind of sectarian formations we see now, in the early part of the 19th century, which tried to substitute themselves for that kind of real movement from within the working class. That was why Marx and Engels abandoned that conception of the League of the Just, and the Communist League, in favour of their involvement with the existing mass workers movements and parties, even where as in the case of the German Democrats those parties were bourgeois. Even the LP, rose quite powerfully from its inception.

The experience of the last few years has mirrored those early petit-bourgeois sects that tried to substitute for connecting with the mass of the workers. They have had no independent existence within the working class, outside the revolutionaries that have participated in them. They obtained no support from ordinary workers. They did represent any kind of stop-start process, only a stop-stop process.

“As you know the far left doesn't have the weight to found a party itself, but what we can do is assist any initiative coming out of the unions - even if it is a leadership-led formation - to help the process along.”But, this is NOT an initiative coming out of the unions!!!! It is not even an initiative coming out of the RMT! It is an initiative coming out of the Stalinists, bureaucratically cutting out any potential discussion from WITHIN even the RMT, in order that the Stalinists fellow-travellers in the union bureaucracy can be utilised! If it were to have the function you propose, should not the first thing it did have been to try to MOBILISE the union rank and file by involving them in that process, rather than cutting them out for fear they might oppose it???? You are right that we criticise TU bureaucrats for failing to give leadership, but leadership means precisely leading by mobilising support from the rank and file, involvement of the rank and file. IT DOES NOT mean taking decisions independently OF the rank and file!

”But there is widespread alienation from Labour.”This seems to get things the wrong way around. Yes, there is alienation from Labour, but it is being manifested not in support for a Left alternative, but in increased support for the Right and Far Right. Not recognising that, and simply creating a synthetic alternative to the Left of Labour seems to me, to be adventurism, and sectarianism.

“Very few people think it's a party of the workers any more.”Actually, I don’t think that is true. Certainly, far more WORKERS believe it’s a party of the workers than believe any of the left alternatives constitute such a Party. Certainly millions of workers continue to vote for it, and tens of thousands of workers continue to make up its branch network. Even were your statement correct at a subjective level, our task would still be to deal with what is objectively true.

“But we shouldn't conclude that all is hopeless, in fact it beholdens us to carry on making propaganda around this issue and building political alliances capable of turning this alienation into something positive.”The Left has been making propaganda around what it sees as being wrong for over a hundred years. Its not a substitute for actually connecting with real workers where they are, and trying to provide practical solutions on a day to day basis for their problems. That is why parties that did that did that did grow rapidly, and the left has not.

“Seems to me Arthur that this argument is one for political passivity. Our perspective is not a shortcut for bypassing workers but rather a call to arms to get stuck in.”No it’s the opposite of political passivity. Its an argument for practical solutions, as opposed to making propaganda.

”No, No2EU is not about creating a workers' party without the workers, it is simply an electoral coalition. But you must have had your political antennae amputated if you don't think the entering of more trade unions into electoral politics will not create favourable opportunities for socialists.”If all it means is Trade Union bureaucrats coming together at election times to stand on a reactionary nationalist platform, then I fail to see how that creates ANY opportunities for socialists, other than to be used as foot soldiers tied to that reactionary programme! As it is there is no indication that even Trade Union bureaucrats are going to be drawn in.

Chris S said...

Phil, You miss the main problem with what Ballard has been doing but I will start with some of your other points.

We stand in elections to promote the ideas of Marxism, that means we do not hide our politics, water them down or pretend to be nice fluffy pacifists. The demand for a workers’ militia is perfectly acceptable to raise in elections, I for one think that it was somewhat mis-judged to spend space calling for it in a union election, but is an acceptable demand to raise in all elections. Maybe we can take lessons from the SPEW on how to stand in elections and join up with some Stalinists on a nationalist platform?

To the main point, we are not part of the unspeckled banner brigade, as you know we have worked in projects are not what we wish they were, Socialist Alliance, Stop the War etc. I have no problem with taking on the far right online, however, the question of what you are posing against the far right is essential here. Where I would argue we put forward socialism, working class solidarity and against all deportations your comrades are arguing against immigrants, against foreign workers and for ‘British Jobs for British Workers’ - what happened to a workers’ Europe comrade?

I tell you what you go giving that No2EU shit out with the slogans “Bro Andrew” is using and workers wont be able to tell the difference between you and UKIP.

Phil BC said...

You might not see yourselves as the unspeckled banner brigade Chris, but reading the stuff you've printed in the Weekly Worker of late it sounds as though you're heading in the direction. This is disappointing because the arguments that were deployed in defence of the cpgb's schizophrenic intervention in Respect should apply here. If, despite the faults of Respect, it was worthwhile engaging in, why is that not the case for No2EU and the greater political opportunities it could open up?

The main difference between us is the question of approach. How in a political context marked by the absence of socialist ideas do you go about wining significant numbers to Marxist politics? I would say the way you and your comrades go about it is propagandist and abstract and in a manner entirely consistent with a politics geared to intervening in left meetings. The strength of the SP and Militant before it is to relate socialist politics to the experiences of workers with different levels of political consciousness. No2EU enables us to do this at a time where many workers will be thinking politically about the EU, but this requires tactical flexibility and serious thought about how we get our politics over.

As for this bollocks about BJ4BW and arguing about immigrants, you know this is crap given the role the SP played at Lindsey oil refinery and in anti-deportation campaigns up and down the country. It's always better to stick to the facts than throw up red herrings that serve to only cheapen your argument.

Phil BC said...

Arthur:

1) Again you're applying a purity test. If it claimed to be a Marxist platform you'd have a point. But it doesn't make that claim. On the website it says: "No2EU Yes to Democracy is an electoral platform. It is a trade union-backed alliance of political parties and campaigning groups. We believe the time is right to offer the peoples of Britain an alternative view of Europe." Then it goes on to list a number of progressive but not unproblematic demands. Yes, capitalism could live with them but if they're enacted in their totality they would strengthen the hand of our class vis a vis capital. In that sense No2EU reflects our aspirations.

Unfortunately comrade, you must be on another planet if you think the progressive credentials of New Labour's programme is superior to this.

Re: anti-fascist leaflets you know exactly what I mean - unless NorSCARF leaflets have suddenly stopped asking people to 'vote hope not hate' and 'vote anyone but the nazis'! Why are you happy to hand out this nonsense and yet recoil from a left wing electoral platform of militant workers?

2) I'm not talking about the rise of chartism, I'm looking at the gap between its defeat and the foundation of the Labour party here in Britain. That too was a moment of recomposition of our class. However the founding of the Labour party did not come about by itself - it would not have happened without the tireless activity of trade unionists and socialists out there among our class winning ones and twos and organisations of our class to the party perspective.

What the SP is doing is not substitutionist - it is making the argument as loudly as our meagre forces allow for a party of the class. If we were substitutionist we could simply declare the party and invite the rest of the left in. But that wouldn't get us anywhere.

3) I simply do not agree with your analysis of the RMT leadership and its actions. Consistency would demand you are equally as scathing of those union leaderships who, independently of the rank and file, continue to prop New Labour up. For example, do you think most members of Unite support their union providing some 40% of Labour's funding?

As for mobilising the rank and file, do you think the RMT leadership aren't trying to do that?

4) Come on Arthur, you're not talking to someone who hasn't been on the doorsteps and spoken to BNP members and supporters. People vote for the BNP for all sorts of reasons. Some do so because they are racists, others because they articulate a number of populist concerns. The growth of the far right does not mean we should stick to the Labour party - after all its its abandonment of working class aspirations here in Stoke that has fuelled the BNP's rise. Given that the avenues have been shut down for reclaiming Labour there is no alternative but to try and build an independent political voice for working people.

5) I've already explained to you how No2EU's platform is not reactionary - calling it so doesn't make it true.

Either way no one can say for sure how No2EU will play out after the election. But there are no certainties in politics. Like all initiatives it is a gamble. At worst the RMT, SP and CPB will be out of pocket and the ultras will crow and gloat - I cannot see No2EU taking votes off Labour to let the BNP in. At best it will gain a respectable enough number of votes that will strengthen the hand of trade unionists and workers looking to build an alternative to Labour, and feed into a strong campaign at next year's general election.

Chris S said...

The intervention in Respect has never been schizophrenic it has been consistently aimed at exposing opportunism and crap politics. If there was an opportunity for discussing the basis of a united Left electoral initiative with the support of the RMT then we would have been in there. As there was no such opportunity and the political platform is nationalist and written by Stalinists then I would argue we should give No2EU absolutely no support unless the platform is changed substantially.

A group of 30 people can do little more than propaganda, a group of 2000 can do very little but propaganda. The main difference in approach is that the SPEW thinks that tailing bureaucracy is going to bring about LP mk2, one of Hannah Sell’s recent articles make it perfectly clear that you are after a Die Linke process in the UK. No2EU does not enable you to talk to workers about the politics we need to be putting out there. Do you actually believe that a Stalinist inspired Left Nationalist platform is what we should be putting out to the working class? Immigration controls, defence of the British capitalist state, defence of British capitalists etc. Are you seriously going to spend your time walking around working class estates putting out a trade union version of UKIP?

The “bollocks” over BJBW and anti-immigrant policies is actually fact and all in the No2EU platform and in the material you have been putting out. Maybe a quick read of what you have actually signed up to might be helpful?

Phil BC said...

Your intervention in Respect was schizophrenic. You may be familiar with the term 'critical support' - it seems to me regards Respect cpgbs did plenty of criticising and not enough supporting. Then there was the trying to face both ways with the 'Red Faction' pissing all over what passes for cpgb party discipline and a PCC member pushing for constructive engagement with Respect as per previous decisions of cpgb aggregates. Hardly a model of how to intervene in something!

Got sidetracked there. Chris, you know you are talking bollocks because there is nothing about BJ4BW or anti-immigration on No2EU material. You're making it up - I know because our party branch has discussed No2EU in great depth, talked about the material, handed it out and spoken to "ordinary" workers about it.

As for putting something before the class, as we've said plenty of times we don't think No2EU's perfect but it constitutes a moment along the hard and rocky road to a new workers' party. Given our perspectives it would have been criminal in my view to let the opportunity pass - the opportunities point being something you've failed to deal with in your hi octane mix of hyperbole and denunciation.

If No2EU is so inadequate there's nothing to stop you from putting a slate together. But you won't because the last time the WW did put its politics to the test under its own banner it scored the lowest vote of any slate to have stood in the European elections ever.

Chris S said...

It is not “bollocks” whatever you have discussed in your branch is quite clearly is not what is actually written in the leaflets and the platform. “Against the free movement of Labour” - “defend British manufacturing” which implies support for good old British capitalists. You telling me that this along with the things your Stalinist friends have been writing/saying does not essentially mean support for immigration controls, detention centres and keeping foreign workers out. Your comrade “Bro Ballard” has taken these politics to their conclusions, we can see where this is going, you can try all you want to dress No2EU up as something progressive, everyone can see past it. For once the SWP look principled!

You still haven’t answered my earlier point, is it acceptable to go to the working class with the politics of No2EU or should we be going to them with socialism. Usually the SPEW is reasonably good on this, standing as socialists and putting out material which is openly socialist. If your perspectives drive you into supporting the bureaucracy into a Left nationalist campaign, then surely your perspectives are wrong.

I would be happy to let this “opportunity” pass me by thank you very much, it has not even had the pretend democracy that Respect had, there has never been any opportunity to discuss, debate or put forward alternative politics for this campaign. I think time will tell how well the SPEW’s tailing of the Stalinist CPB works out.

No2EU is supposed to be a united left campaign, problem is none of the revolutionary Left has gotten involved except the SPEW, have you thought why? Not even the first rate opportunists in the SWP are touching it. I would rather stand in elections in a principled way, openly as Communist, and get a tiny vote, than follow bureaucrats and Stalinists into a Left Nationalist adventure.

Anonymous said...

chris s
'No2EU does not enable you to talk to workers about the politics we need to be putting out there.'

how do you explain why SP members have addressed hundreds of rmt members over the last few weeks at meetings across the west midlands?

its an electoral bloc as well, which means we are able to put out our own leaflets as well.

get a grip comrades. and by the way, i wouldn't have phrased things like andy ballard did, but there is nothing wrong with trying to win over those influenced by nationalist ideas - lindsey anyone?


paul
coventry

Arthur Bough said...

“Again you're applying a purity test. If it claimed to be a Marxist platform you'd have a point. But it doesn't make that claim. On the website it says: "No2EU Yes to Democracy is an electoral platform. It is a trade union-backed alliance of political parties and campaigning groups. We believe the time is right to offer the peoples of Britain an alternative view of Europe." Then it goes on to list a number of progressive but not unproblematic demands. Yes, capitalism could live with them but if they're enacted in their totality they would strengthen the hand of our class vis a vis capital. In that sense No2EU reflects our aspirations.”

No I’m not. I’m not complaining the programme isn’t Marxist, I’m complaining that is reactionary, bourgeois nationalism! Its clearly NOT, in any real SENSE AN ALLIANCE Of Trade Unions and so on. You say, it lists a series of “progressive” demands. I have put it to you that none of the demands are progressive. Could you list for us, what these “progressive demands” are so that we can see exactly what you mean, because I have gone through the No2EU website, and there was little if anything that I could find that constituted anything that was progressive?

”Unfortunately comrade, you must be on another planet if you think the progressive credentials of New Labour's programme is superior to this.”

If you won’t tell us which demands exactly you believe to be progressive there is no way to make this comparison!

”Re: anti-fascist leaflets you know exactly what I mean - unless NorSCARF leaflets have suddenly stopped asking people to 'vote hope not hate' and 'vote anyone but the nazis'! Why are you happy to hand out this nonsense and yet recoil from a left wing electoral platform of militant workers?”

Firstly, check out the recent debates on the NORSCARF forum, where I objected precisely to those kinds of positions, and where I said openly that were say the Socialist Party to come along to the Ravenscliffe By-Election with a leaflet that actually presented a socialist alternative, I would hand that out NOT the NORSCARF leaflet!!!! Its also why I contacted you about the NORSCARF Conference about me discussing with SP comrades an intervention, because I see the need to build an anti-fascist movement based on the Labour Movement. But, no one from the SP came back to me about such an intervention!

But, in order to oppose Nationalism you have to argue for Internationalism. How you can claim that the Nationalist programme of No2EU is then Left-wing, I really don’t know. As I say spell out the precise demands you believe constitute a class struggle or even simply progressive programme, and we discuss them to see whether they really do amount to anything Left-Wing!

”However the founding of the Labour party did not come about by itself - it would not have happened without the tireless activity of trade unionists and socialists out there among our class winning ones and twos and organisations of our class to the party perspective.”

But, the LP was NOT built on the basis of winning one’s and two’s. It was built on the basis of a groundswell of opinion within the working class of the need for a specifically working class Party, opinion that forced the Trade Unions to establish such a Party.

”What the SP is doing is not substitutionist - it is making the argument as loudly as our meagre forces allow for a party of the class. If we were substitutionist we could simply declare the party and invite the rest of the left in. But that wouldn't get us anywhere.”

If fail to see how what you are doing is in any real sense different from doing precisely that – saying here we are come and join us. It IS substitutionist, because a Party, which the working class continues to give its allegiance to exists, and you simply want to substitute your organisation for it!

”I simply do not agree with your analysis of the RMT leadership and its actions. Consistency would demand you are equally as scathing of those union leaderships who, independently of the rank and file, continue to prop New Labour up. For example, do you think most members of Unite support their union providing some 40% of Labour's funding?”

Of course, I am scathing of that relationship between the union bureaucrats and the LP bureaucrats, and was so even when some on the Left during the 1970’s and early 80’s were muted in their criticism of it, because they saw it as beneficial to their cause!!! Of course, we know what happened to them, when they found out that those “Left” union leaders were not as “Left” as they had made them out to be!

”As for mobilising the rank and file, do you think the RMT leadership aren't trying to do that?”

I know from reading the reports from comrades in the RMT, that they are NOT trying to do that. The Stalinists only want to mobilise those forces they think will support them. That is the bureaucratic way in which Stalinists have always operated. It is disappointing that the SP are being drawn in behind that same approach.

”The growth of the far right does not mean we should stick to the Labour party”

On its own that is true. My point is that for a Marxist the fundamental question is by what means is it best possible to get the ear, and influence the class. The LP remains the best means to do that, and all of the sectarian ventures of recent years, and of the last century, that have tried to create their own alternatives have demonstrated that to be the case.

“ - after all its its abandonment of working class aspirations here in Stoke that has fuelled the BNP's rise.”

I agree, but part of the responsibility for that has to reside with those of us on the Left who allowed that situation to arise. I accept my own responsibility for that too. Although, for a long time I realised the need for actually going into the community to build community organisations, I also for a long time participated in what was the usual activity of the left, which was resolution mongering and place filling. It alos has to be said that most of the left, during that time, particularly comrades from the Militant showed far more concern for building their own organisations than they did for building the LP itself.

“Given that the avenues have been shut down for reclaiming Labour there is no alternative but to try and build an independent political voice for working people.”

I don’t believe that is true.

”I've already explained to you how No2EU's platform is not reactionary - calling it so doesn't make it true.”

If you spell out those specific demands you believe to be progressive we can avoid simply exchanging “Is” and “Isn’t”.

”Either way no one can say for sure how No2EU will play out after the election. But there are no certainties in politics. Like all initiatives it is a gamble. At worst the RMT, SP and CPB will be out of pocket and the ultras will crow and gloat - I cannot see No2EU taking votes off Labour to let the BNP in. At best it will gain a respectable enough number of votes that will strengthen the hand of trade unionists and workers looking to build an alternative to Labour, and feed into a strong campaign at next year's general election.”

I think its more likely to suffer the same fate as the Left List in the last London elections, and will, thereby strengthen the hand of the Labour Right, and the BNP. Either way the BNP will gain, because if they have succeeded in forcing a section of the Labour Movement to have to fight them by arguing for similar politics that is in no way a defeat for their politics.

Simon_Hardy said...

Hi Phil,

Glad to hear you got a good grounding in Trotskyism in Birmginham WP before you went to the SP - let's see what we can dig up.

Of course if a conference is called then all socialists should go along to it and fight for the best possible socialist revolutionary programme that they can, that is a given. The problem is that No2EU has been established on a nationalist basis - we are excluded from it (the "sects" who opposed the LOR strike cannot join, remember?) so far from posturing we are trying to sound the alarm bells, the dangers of where this will lead us!

No2EU has no anti capitalist politics in it at all. You have not engaged with any of my criticisms about its methodology or anything, simply repeating the line "it is all there is, so we are in it." The SP is engaged in a very dangerous project, alongside some of the most right wing sections of the labour movement, the Unite Bureaucracy, the CPB, etc. No2EU has not one word of criticism about British capitalists. The message about foreign labour is clear - they are undermining conditions in the UK, local workers are unemployed because of them (they even cause climate change!!). The solution? Well... what is the solution as far as you are concerned?

And now I see Keith Gibson leading another protest march, this time on the Olympics site. People on the protest saying that the foreign workers do not have the right skills, that British workers are being discriminated against. No wonder the BNP is going for the British jobs for British workers slogan, it seems to be insinuating its way, implictly and explictly into many other facets of British politics.

As for Paul from Coventry and his complaint that we supported labour candidates over the socialist councillors - so what? Just because some small left wing group puts up some candidates in an election we have to drop an orientation to the mass of the reformist workers to support your people? Maybe the WRP would also castigate us in Camberwell for not supporting their candidate in the general election? Get serious.

nationofduncan said...

we supported labour candidates over the socialist councillors - so what?Says it all really.

lindsay40k said...

Now, amongst these comments, I see a lot of insinuations and assertions that the SP is coat-tailing, but search the page for mentions of 'CNWP' and you only get one hit. Reading these posts, you'd think the SP hasn't spent several years openly urging union militants and leaders (in regard to the latter, Bob Crow in particular) to organise left-of-Labour political initiatives, and was only now jumping on board a bandwagon.

And it doesn't matter how many Old Labour types feel unable to let go of the corpse of Labour; the party's support is shrinking, the right's grip on power doesn't seem to be budging, and the crucial new generation of young activists only seem to be producing strikebreaking bureaucrats like Wes Streeting - these are not signs of a forthcoming Labour Renewal.

Now, I can't claim to be familiar with the activities of every hard left group of the past decade or so. But I can say that I'm a lot happier to be inside a grouping supporting the fundamental right to work under union agreements (doesn't sound like part of a "bourgeois programme" to me, comrade) and opposing the development of a deeply racist Fortress Europe which would increasingly exclude people from outside the EU (nor like "opposition to the free movement of Labour") than I would be to be stood outside preaching purity from a position with absolutely no ability to steer things towards the best course.

Furthermore, I can say that if no2eu does turn out to be a flop that disheartens union activists from seeking an alternative to Labour, I will not have much time for we-told-you-sos from groups who almost seem to be willing it to fail. Frankly, a lot of such comments sound like sour grapes from those who adopted a knee-jerk position of calling the Linsey strikers racist morons and have now talked themselves into something of a corner.

Charlie Marks said...

I thought that the purpose of No2EU was to make people think differently about the kinds of issues the fascists and the capitalists seek to exploit - and to act as a ballot spoiler for the BNP and UKIP. Nothing more, nothing less?

Simon_Hardy said...

Well it is sad that the SP members think that it not worthwhile trying to engage in the debate. Maybe I should just go around saying The CWI called for a vote for the bourgeois candidate Ralph Nader in the US, or in Sri Lanka they support a bourgeois led anti war coalition, or in Ireland they did not consistently call for troops out, or they used to rough up gay people outside LPYS meetings in the 80s, or they used to think Burma was a workers state, or that the police are workers in uniform, etc etc. Of course this kind of attitude gets us nowhere but we can play the game if you like. For the record the Labour party has/had connections with the working class that the SP can only dream of, which is why we did give it critical support in elections.

Isn't the fundamental problem that the SP not only adapts to the reformist (now nationalist) conciousness without trying to challenge it and as Trotsky said 'raise the masses to the level of our programme', but that on key issues like immigration controls they have a totally nationalist position (i.e. in favour of them). When you combine all of this I think it is understandable why monstrous spectacles like No2EU can come about.

For the comrade that mentioned the CNWP as proof of the SP's commitment to a left of Labour project, think again. It is the failure of the CNWP and the fact the SP was never really interested in building it (after all, the Socialist Party surely is the left of Labour party in embryo?) that has led to this new project. Of course the project is also a cynical blocking attempt by sections of the trade unions to make sure the Euro elections (the last elections before the next general election) end in a complete defeat of the left. They can then turn around and say 'well we gave it a shot and it did not work out, anyway back to Labour now to stop the Tories getting in'. The SP is just getting sucked up in the backdraft, playing dogsbody to the TU leaders and the CPB. A bit like the way the SWP cosyed up to Galloway and promised to provide the footsoldiers. How do SP members feel being footsoldiers for an election campaign that does not even mention the word socialism?

Simon_Hardy said...

One more thing, the CWI/SP signed this statement back in April calling for the defence of all foreign workers. I have emboldened the relevant passages. Just wondering at what point the position changed?


---
Anticapitalist European Left: make the capitalists pay for the crisis

Socialist Resistance and the International Socialist Group have joined the Socialist Workers' Party, Socialist Party and the rest of the European anti-capitalist left in endorsing a statement for the European elections. The statement was agreed at a conference in Strasbourg on April 3, 2009.

It's not for people and workers to pay for the crisis, the capitalists should pay!

The next European elections will be held during the worst crisis capitalism has known since 1929.

Economic, social, financial, banking, food, climatic, it is a global, general crisis.

Once again, the ruling classes want to make workers and peoples pay for the crisis. Governments have given hundreds of billions to banks but at the same time millions of layoffs fall on employees. Unemployment is going through the roof. The purchasing power of wages is falling. The destruction of public services continues.

It's not for people and workers to pay for the crisis, the capitalists should pay!

This policy of European Union institutions has been rejected by the "No" votes in France, the Netherlands and Ireland.

We reject the plans of EU governments that save banks and not people.

We put forward an emergency social and democratic plan:

* No layoffs! A stable and secure job with decent pay for all!

* For an increase of wages and incomes in every country for workers, unemployed and pensioners!

* Harmonisation of social rights in Europe upwards: minimum wages, reduction of work time without wage cuts, pensions and social security!* European cooperation in promoting social protection for the unemployed and the poor, and for common policies for the sustainability of public pensions!

* For the defence and extension of public services, across Europe!

* For a public health system guaranteeing equal access to medical care for all!

* For the defence of public education: withdrawal of the Bologna reforms!

* No to the payment of the deficits of failed Banks, and for the creation of unified public banking and financial system under public and popular control! For the closure of all offshores! European countries must give the example starting to close the offshores located in their own territories which are responsible for 2/3 of the world offshore business!

* For the cancellation of the third world debt!

* For the defence of the undocumented and for equal rights for all residents in Europe, whether "national" or from a foreign country!* For the legalisation of all undocumented immigrants!

* For equal rights between men and women!

* For women's rights, the right to free and safe contraception and abortion!

* For LGBT rights and equal rights for heterosexual and homosexual couples!

* For the repeal of antiterrorist and laws and exceptional procedures!

* For an ecological Europe, to fight effectively against climate change, we need a public service of energy production and distribution under the supervision of employees and consumers and we need to develop transport and housing public services!

* No to war! Disbanding of NATO and all European militaristic bodies! Withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq and Afghanistan! Israeli army's withdrawal from the West Bank! End to the blockade of Gaza! Recognition of all national rights of the Palestinian people!

In these circumstances, and taking into account the particularities of each country, we are committed to building convergences in opposition against employers' and governments' attacks and at the same time to creating the conditions for a political alternative and an anti-capitalist pole based on the popular mobilizations, one which would stand for a Europe of social rights, and refuses any support of or participation in social liberal governments with social democratic parties or the centre left.

Indeed, what is needed is to break with capitalism and its logic. In this sense, the anticapitalist European left put these aims in the perspective of the struggle for 21st century socialism, and commits itself to restarting the debate on questions of a new distribution of wealth, of property and of democracy.

On this basis, and in the framework of the choices of each organisation, the undersigned will intervene during the next weeks in the electoral campaign for the European Parliament.

Arthur Bough said...

Lindsay says,

“And it doesn't matter how many Old Labour types feel unable to let go of the corpse of Labour; the party's support is shrinking,”

Check your history. In the 1930’s after the betrayal by MacDonald, support for the LP also collapsed with a similar increase in support for the Right. At the time not only did a much larger Stalinist Party exist than any Left grouping today, but a much healthier and Left-wing alternative to the Stalinists existed in the form of the ILP. Both of the latter failed to win over the working class, because they continued to adopt a sectarian attitude to the LP, reminiscent of the arguments being used today. Ultimately, the Left having left the dirty work of slogging away inside the LP to individual Marxists and other leftists, were forced to accept reality and return to the bosom of the workers and their Party – of course some ultra-sectarians didn’t learn the lesson even then and went off on their own Party Building fantasies. I have no doubt that in a few years time the Left will again have to face the reality and slink back into the LP or face complete extinction, and will wonder why those who have continued the fight look on with some disdain at their undoubted attempts to “enter” the party in order to build their own tiny sects.

When the Left sects begin to obtain even 20% of the vote of this “shrunken” LP, I’ll concede it’s a qualitative change, but I’m glad I don’t have to hold my breath waiting for that.

“the right's grip on power doesn't seem to be budging, and the crucial new generation of young activists only seem to be producing strikebreaking bureaucrats like Wes Streeting - these are not signs of a forthcoming Labour Renewal.”

I’d recommend you read Trotsky’s response to the Oehlerites, and their opposition to entering the Socialist Party. Your argument here amounts to – “we’ve walked away from the fight, and oh look the right are winning!”

”Now, I can't claim to be familiar with the activities of every hard left group of the past decade or so. But I can say that I'm a lot happier to be inside a grouping supporting…..”

Again, read Trotsky’s response to the Oehlerites who raised precisely the argument you raise here. Trotsky’s argument following Marx was that Marxists do not demand that the workers come to them like Mohammed demanding the mountain move, but that Marxists have to go the workers where they are. The Oehlerites argument was precisely the petit-bourgeois sectarian argument you put here of wanting to remain in an organisation that they felt “comfortable” in, rather than having to work in a workers organisation where they felt “uncomfortable” with the “bourgeois” ideas that dominated the mass of workers.

“the fundamental right to work under union agreements (doesn't sound like part of a "bourgeois programme" to me, comrade)”

Sounds WHOLLY bourgeois to me comrade. Trade Unions and Trade Union consciousness is thoroughly bourgeois, precisely because it remains within the context of bargaining within the system, rather than arguing for the overthrow of that system! That’s why even Tories are happy with politics that remains within those constraints!

“and opposing the development of a deeply racist Fortress Europe which would increasingly exclude people from outside the EU (nor like "opposition to the free movement of Labour") than I would be to be stood outside preaching purity from a position with absolutely no ability to steer things towards the best course.”

The problem is that No2EU opposes that racist Europe not with a call for a workers struggle throughout Europe, not with internationalist positions, but by counterposing to it the even more racist BRITISH state, whose racist and ant-worker policies it effectively supports by arguing that there should be a return of powers to that very reactionary, and racist British State!!!

”Furthermore, I can say that if no2eu does turn out to be a flop that disheartens union activists from seeking an alternative to Labour, I will not have much time for we-told-you-sos from groups who almost seem to be willing it to fail. Frankly, a lot of such comments sound like sour grapes from those who adopted a knee-jerk position of calling the Linsey strikers racist morons and have now talked themselves into something of a corner.”

Well that certainly can’t be a criticism of me, because I had completely the opposite position, and welcomed the line taken by the SP. That’s one reason I am amazed the SP have entered this reactionary Nationalist set-up. There again the left in Britain collapsed into the same kind of Little Englander nationalism in the original Common market referendum, so it does have form on these questions.

Phil BC said...

I should have added I dumped most of the WP baggage as I groped toward practical politics. An ultra orthodox and inflexible approach to Trotskyism has hardly filled Workers' Power's ranks lately.

But anyway Simon, there is nothing in No2EU that contradicts the passages you've highlighted. You saying it so doesn't make it so. But according to your good selves, Lindsey Oil Refinery was an entirely reactionary mobilisation that saw Italian workers sacked because of chauvinist action by British workers. To maintain this crap just shows your politics are riddled with disingenuity.

The rest of your points are a lovely example of what Andy Newman rightly calls whataboutery. I've laid out the case for No2EU and responded to your criticisms. In response we have a list of occasions where the SP hasn't lived up to your super-duper version of revolutionary politics But the cherry on the cake is your conspiracy theory that No2EU is an attempt by the trade union bureaucracy to destroy the left! Incredible!

Phil BC said...

I'm sorry Boffy, I am simply not convinced by your arguments. Clearly you do not agree with mine, so I suggest we call it quits rather than argue around in circles and agree to disagree.

One point re: SP anti-fascist leaflets. I apologise, I thought someone else had spoken to you about it. I don't know if you know but we did a large leaflet drop late summer/early autumn last year. Pace of work and resources meant we were unable to sustain it into the winter. Hopefully we will be able to again later in the year, personnel and money permitting! I know by then you're likely to be living in Spain but I will post up any local anti-fascist material for comment/critique.

Phil BC said...

Chris, you should really learn to read No2EU material in the original than second hand. Quite clearly the piece on workers' rights is right to say the bosses should not be able to use the free movement of labour to undermine collective bargaining agreements. Or do you think that's okay? In my view this part of the platform is too open to interpretation by those like yourself with a sectarian agenda. But given the record of the the union leading the campaign of organising workers from many different nationalities, in all seriousness can this be described as nationalist?

Sorry, can't argue all night. Off to bed.

Arthur Bough said...

Phil,

Dorry you want to just leave it at disagreement, because I have always felt that its where there is disagreement that the greatest fruits of debate are to be had.

In particular, it would have been beneficial, I think, had you listed those demands of No2EU, which you think are "Left-Wing", so that these could have been discussed on the basis of something concrete. For my part, I think that the demands are a mixture of bourgeois liberalism and reformism such as that referred to by Lindsay above, and therefore, no better than the bouregois programmes put forward by the LP, and reactionary Nationalism, which is actually WORSE than the programme of the LP.

Finally, at least in the LP comrades get a chance to debate and discuss what goes into the Programme, and also still get the chance to participate in a demcoratic selection of candidates. In that respect too the LP represents a more progressive alternative to No2EU, where no such democratric debate has taken place, and in typical Stalinist fashion the bureaucracy has simply announced the programme and the candidates.

I think its a bit rich on that basis to criticise the LP for being "undemocratic" and so on as a reason for not being in theri fighting for socialist politics.

Phil BC said...

The reason why I'm happy to agree to disagree is not because I think the discussion isn't important (clearly it is as it impinges on the strategic issues facing our movement), but because I don't have the time to participate as fully as I wish. Given the choice when I get on here for a period of time in the evening I'd rather spend it writing a blog post!

Coming to some of the specifics, you must remember No2EU is a coalition and not a party. How it came about was far from ideal and is certainly inappropriate to the formation of a party organisation, it is what it is and is something worthwhile of socialist support.

And I'm not saying this because I'm under SP discipline - if I was an independent I'd be calling for a No2EU vote and supporting it.

Re: the Labour party, I don't know if you've read previous posts on Labour. As far as I'm concerned it remains a strategic obstacle for socialists. Where the main difference is whether you think the obstacle can be best overcome inside Labour or working from the outside. Sure, things haven't been great outside the Labour party but things have probably been even worse inside. The left is tiny and fragmented and generally reliant upon the "dead" activism of previous generations that finds its expression in the steadily declining reservoir of what our WW comrades call auto-labourism.

Besides, for many of us Labour is not an option practically speaking. If Stoke SP joined our local CLPs en masse how long do you think we'd last?

I've debated and discussed the issue of the Labour party many times since I've been on the left - and as fate would have it we're debating this question tomorrow at North Staffs TUC. It's just that in my experience it has generally been unfruitful and generated more heat than light. Far better comrades keep plugging away in their own arenas of activity, support each other when and where we can and also keep those lines of dialogue open.

lindsay40k said...

Honestly, to read some of these posts, you'd think that every SP branch in the country was in complete agreement with the entire no2eu programme and wasn't discussing any of it. But then, just as it only takes one worker holding up a BJ4BW placard to enable the capitalist media to depict them all as a xenophobic hate-mob, it only takes one hasty choice of words for the ultra-left to start slandering an entire group with language taken straight from Rex Curry.

Well it is sad that the SP members think that it not worthwhile trying to engage in the debate.If that were true, why are comments allowed on this blog?

For the record the Labour party has/had connections with the working class that the SP can only dream ofI really hate to sink to the level of snerk, but honestly: http://tinyurl.com/otpfq9

And even if we set aside the issue of the historical relationship between the SP and Labour (it may have escaped your notice that the SP was a part of the LP until its membership were witch-hunted), the idea of trying to get a new generation of young activists to pin their flags to an openly imperialist party that's slashing welfare and thrown a generation of students into debt - via a process of democracy and debate which consists of a leadership overruling a toothless conference and then appointing to government the likes of James Purnell and DIGBY EFFING JONES - is a bad joke.

Isn't the fundamental problem that the SP not only adapts to the reformist (now nationalist) conciousness without trying to challenge itIf this were true, then the SP would be going around openly endorsing and adopting the BJ4BW slogan, rather than entering meetings in which it's blindingly obvious that without any left intervention, workers would have heard nothing but chauvinist positions and steering things back on track.

Seriously, if the SP had have adopted the same position as those on the left who couldn't see past their revolutionary purity tests to get involved with a working class movement rather than standing outside and helping the capitalist media depict them all as racist morons, the BNP would have had an absolute field day at Lindsey. And you know it.

The only fundamental problem I see is so-called Marxists reneging on their duty to constructively engage the working class and draw them away from reactionary positions. It's quite telling that so many articles critical of the Lindsey strike appear to be written more with the aim of poaching young & inexperienced SP members than with the aim of leading workers away from reactionary attitudes.

on key issues like immigration controls they have a totally nationalist position (i.e. in favour of them).No, it's just that we don't effectively cast a 'no platform' net that's so absurdly wide it catches most of the working class. It's already been pointed out that no2eu (which is not the Socialist Party) is opposed to a fortress Europe preventing the movement of workers.

When you combine all of this I think it is understandable why monstrous spectacles like No2EU can come about. I can certainly see why, when only one or two groups on the left have the courage to enter a meeting that's going to be easy ground for the right, the outcome is not as left as it could be. Blaming those who got their hands dirty when you refused to help is not helping.

For the comrade that mentioned the CNWP as proof of the SP's commitment to a left of Labour project, think again. It is the failure of the CNWP and the fact the SP was never really interested in building it (after all, the Socialist Party surely is the left of Labour party in embryo?)No, it isn't. The Socialist Party is a revolutionary Marxist party that recognises the need for such a formation to coexist with - preferably as a platform within - a mass workers' party. Is your case that the SP has no interest in seeing CNWP succeed (which begs the question of why expend so much scarce time and resources on it) - entirely predicated on overlooking this distinction?

Of course the project is also a cynical blocking attempt by sections of the trade unions to make sure the Euro elections (the last elections before the next general election) end in a complete defeat of the left.Wait, is this no2eu or CNWP you're having a go at now? Could you explain what Bob Crow (or whomever you are alluding to) believes he has to gain by cunningly sabotaging the idea of a mass workers' party in such a way as to apparently discredit himself into the bag? And what exactly is meant by "a complete defeat of the left" - should we expect more left-of-Labour MEPs being elected in the absence of a nationwide union-initiated electoral intervention?

How do SP members feel being footsoldiers for an election campaign that does not even mention the word socialism?I've yet to meet a SP comrade who does not have concerns about no2eu. But I'd certainly feel worse if workers had no option left of Labour, and likewise I'd rather be part of building an imperfect road to a mass workers' party than to be a speedbump.

...

Check your history. In the 1930’s after the betrayal by MacDonald, support for the LP also collapsed with a similar increase in support for the Right... I have no doubt that in a few years time the Left will again have to face the reality and slink back into the LP or face complete extinction, and will wonder why those who have continued the fight look on with some disdain at their undoubted attempts to “enter” the party in order to build their own tiny sects.How long do you expect to wait before Die Linke crawl to the SPD begging to be allowed to enter?

I’d recommend you read Trotsky’s response to the Oehlerites, and their opposition to entering the Socialist Party. Your argument here amounts to – “we’ve walked away from the fight, and oh look the right are winning!”I'll see your specious citing of something Trotsky said about dogmatic anti-entryism, and raise you a citing of the pragmatic strategic responses of Trotsky, Lenin, Luxemburg and Liebknecht to the adoption of an imperialist warmongering position - bulwarked by membership purges - by the SPD.

I think its a bit rich on that basis to criticise the LP for being "undemocratic" and so on as a reason for not being in theri fighting for socialist politics.We're not allowed in!

Trade Unions and Trade Union consciousness is thoroughly bourgeois, precisely because it remains within the context of bargaining within the system, rather than arguing for the overthrow of that system!So whilst it's the job of a revolutionary to join and support a warmongering party that appoints Digby Jones as chief union-buster and James Purnell as destroyer-in-chief of welfare, unions themselves are a waste of time? Are you seriously asking young workers who are unhappy with the system to enter a party which acts as the system's mouthpiece and enforcer whilst dismissing independent trade unions as enablers of that system?

The problem is that No2EU opposes that racist Europe not with a call for a workers struggle throughout Europe, not with internationalist positions, but by counterposing to it the even more racist BRITISH state, whose racist and ant-worker policies it effectively supports by arguing that there should be a return of powers to that very reactionary, and racist British State!!!From the no2eu site: We want to see a Europe of independent, democratic states that value its public services and does not offer them to profiteers; a Europe that guarantees the rights of workers and does not put the interests of big business above that of ordinary people. From the no2eu election leaflet: No to racism and fascism, yes to international solidarity of working people. and EU directives and treaties undermine the ability of member states to protect the fundamental rights of all workers regardless of their origin.

lindsay40k said...

Damn, I hate html. X(

Anonymous said...

Chris, you and the CPGeeBees succeed only in weakening the left. Is this through jealousy of other institutions pushing to the fore, or are you just destructive? You take great pleasure in critising true attempts to engage the masses, while attempting to promote ultra left sentiments that just wont wash with the vast majority of people regardless of how much you ram it down they're throats. I think you realise this, and this is why you feel the need to sabotage other movements. Forgive me if this offends, it is merely my opinion.
conradely

Arthur Bough said...

Phil says,

“Coming to some of the specifics, you must remember No2EU is a coalition and not a party. How it came about was far from ideal and is certainly inappropriate to the formation of a party organisation, it is what it is and is something worthwhile of socialist support.”

But, if a political organisation is going to give its support to such a coalition it surely, for a Marxist, has to be on the basis of an agreed platform. That does not mean that those organisations who come together in such a coalition have absolute agreement – it would not be a coalition if they did! – but that they are able to reach an agreement on a range of position to put forward. If there is no agreement, and that is the implication of your comment, then that particular position should not appear as part of the platform leaving each organisation to then raise its own position – March Separately, Strike Together.

”Re: the Labour party, I don't know if you've read previous posts on Labour. As far as I'm concerned it remains a strategic obstacle for socialists. Where the main difference is whether you think the obstacle can be best overcome inside Labour or working from the outside. Sure, things haven't been great outside the Labour party but things have probably been even worse inside. The left is tiny and fragmented and generally reliant upon the "dead" activism of previous generations that finds its expression in the steadily declining reservoir of what our WW comrades call auto-labourism.”

Yet, the fact remains that high profile candidates such as McDonnell and Corbyn continue to operate. Indeed, the left again was left in the invidious position during the McDonnell campaign of calling for workers in the Trade Unions to support him, whilst pointing out that, of course, they themselves were unable to do anything about it, because they were not members!!!! Despite the perilous position of the LP you describe and the limitations of Left socialists being able to operate through it, or obtain a platform by it, one of the most sought after speakers at any major event continues to be Tony Benn!!!!

”Besides, for many of us Labour is not an option practically speaking. If Stoke SP joined our local CLPs en masse how long do you think we'd last?”

Why do you have to make a show of joining “en masse”???? This is rather like the sectarianism of the British CP after they had been instructed by Lenin and the Comintern to join the LP, and who did so in terms that guaranteed rejection of their application. When Trotsky advised his supporters to join Socialist Parties in the 1930’s he agreed that where tactically necessary they should not produce a paper, and so on. Engels, in his advice to US Marxists, although he said that his and Marx’s experience was that it was possible to operate in such parties openly, in his comments is clear that if necessary then Marxists should adapt their tactics appropriately so as not to operate openly as a separate organisation.

”I've debated and discussed the issue of the Labour party many times since I've been on the left - and as fate would have it we're debating this question tomorrow at North Staffs TUC. It's just that in my experience it has generally been unfruitful and generated more heat than light. Far better comrades keep plugging away in their own arenas of activity, support each other when and where we can and also keep those lines of dialogue open.”

The problem is that this is what the left has been doing for the last 100 years, and the result has been that each group simply retreats into a kind of tribalism, which sets it up against every other group, thereby inflating minor differences between them, and more frequently cutting off potential common work than enabling it. It is precisely the common work of practical building of the Workers Party, and providing through it practical solutions to workers problems, by which such common activity can take place, and thereby facilitate in praxis the differences between them.


Lindsay says,

“Honestly, to read some of these posts, you'd think that every SP branch in the country was in complete agreement with the entire no2eu programme and wasn't discussing any of it.”

Should that discussion not have taken place BEFORE you were all required to defend it?

“But then, just as it only takes one worker holding up a BJ4BW placard to enable the capitalist media to depict them all as a xenophobic hate-mob, it only takes one hasty choice of words for the ultra-left to start slandering an entire group with language taken straight from Rex Curry.”

Hold on. I supported the position of the SP in respect of LOR, but its quite clear that a large number of workers there – just as a large number of workers as a whole – did and do hold nationalistic and even xenophobic ideas. Anyone who speaks to ordinary workers on a day to day basis knows that to be a fact! Look at Phil’s report of the No2EU stall in Hanley. Yes, it got plenty of attention, but as he says not the attention a socialist would want. In other words, workers took it at its Nationalistic word! If it picks up votes, it will NOT be because it has won the support of class conscious workers, supporting an internationalist position, but that it has picked up the votes of backward sections of workers such as those Phil describes. The latest gimmick of trying to pick up votes on the back of opposition to sleaze is another indication of the opportunist nature of its politics.

”And even if we set aside the issue of the historical relationship between the SP and Labour (it may have escaped your notice that the SP was a part of the LP until its membership were witch-hunted),”

The Militant always acted as a separate party within the LP, and put its own sectarian interests above those of the LP. That is one of the reasons the Right WERE able to witch-hunt it. Moreover, its simply not true that the whole of the SP were witchhunted out of the LP. The reality is that the faction that became the SP took a decision to leave without a serious fight.

“the idea of trying to get a new generation of young activists to pin their flags to an openly imperialist party that's slashing welfare and thrown a generation of students into debt - via a process of democracy and debate which consists of a leadership overruling a toothless conference and then appointing to government the likes of James Purnell and DIGBY EFFING JONES - is a bad joke.”

The same thing could have been said in opposition to the recommendation of Lenin and the Comintern that the British CP should join.

”If this were true, then the SP would be going around openly endorsing and adopting the BJ4BW slogan, rather than entering meetings in which it's blindingly obvious that without any left intervention, workers would have heard nothing but chauvinist positions and steering things back on track.”

That assumes that SP members could not engage in putting forward socialist, and internationalist positions within the workers movement during the election campaign if they were NOT part of No2EU. That is obviously not the case. In fact, as members of the LP, it would be even more possible to raise such arguments, and to much larger audiences.

”Seriously, if the SP had have adopted the same position as those on the left who couldn't see past their revolutionary purity tests to get involved with a working class movement rather than standing outside and helping the capitalist media depict them all as racist morons, the BNP would have had an absolute field day at Lindsey. And you know it.”

But No2EU is not at all the same as LOR. LOR represented a spontaneous movement by workers engaged in class struggle for what was at heart a progressive principle – the defence of workers conditions, and jobs – though under a reactionary banner. It was the job of Marxists to give critical support to the workers in struggle, whilst strenuously opposing the reactionary demands and ideas that lay behind them. That is not at all the case with No2EU. It is not a spontaneous movement by workers, it is not workers engaged in class struggle for objectively progressive demands. It is a conscious construction by Stalinists based on a program of reactionary nationalistic demands.

’on key issues like immigration controls they have a totally nationalist position (i.e. in favour of them)’.

“No, it's just that we don't effectively cast a 'no platform' net that's so absurdly wide it catches most of the working class. It's already been pointed out that no2eu (which is not the Socialist Party) is opposed to a fortress Europe preventing the movement of workers.”

But, No2EU leading supporters and spokespeople HAVE said they are in favour of Immigration Controls. That’s not surprising because the same Stalinists failed to challenge the BJ4BW slogans at LOR. No2EU, may be opposed to a fortress Europe, but only because it favours a fortress Britain as its nationalistic alternative!

”How long do you expect to wait before Die Linke crawl to the SPD begging to be allowed to enter?”

We are speaking about the potential in Britain, not in Germany. However, given the politics of Die Linke, I suspect that it is only a matter of time before it breaks up, and its membership begins to diminish.

”I'll see your specious citing of something Trotsky said about dogmatic anti-entryism, and raise you a citing of the pragmatic strategic responses of Trotsky, Lenin, Luxemburg and Liebknecht to the adoption of an imperialist warmongering position - bulwarked by membership purges - by the SPD.”

The same Lenin and Trotsky, who at that time also called on Communists to join the LP!

’I think its a bit rich on that basis to criticise the LP for being "undemocratic" and so on as a reason for not being in their fighting for socialist politics.’

“We're not allowed in!”

The faction that is now the SP decided to leave. Marxists managed to function even when they were made illegal by the Capitalist State. If Marxists wanted to join the LP they could do so simply by adapting their tactics.

’Trade Unions and Trade Union consciousness is thoroughly bourgeois, precisely because it remains within the context of bargaining within the system, rather than arguing for the overthrow of that system’

“So whilst it's the job of a revolutionary to join and support a warmongering party that appoints Digby Jones as chief union-buster and James Purnell as destroyer-in-chief of welfare, unions themselves are a waste of time?”

Where did I say, unions were a waste of time? I replied to your assertion that a demand for Trade Union rights was not a bourgeois demand, by arguing as every Marxist must that Trade Unions are bourgeois organisations, that Trade Union consciousness is bourgeois consciousness. But, that does not mean that a Marxist defines Trade Unions as a “waste of time”, any more than a Marxist would say that the right to Free Speech, which is a classic bourgeois demand, is a waste of time!!!

“Are you seriously asking young workers who are unhappy with the system to enter a party which acts as the system's mouthpiece and enforcer whilst dismissing independent trade unions as enablers of that system?”

No I’m not, I’m asking them to join that Party whose politics are in fact a rough equivalent of the politics which underlie those very same Trade Unions!!!

”From the no2eu site:

We want to see a Europe of independent, democratic states

But democracy in this context means bourgeois democracy. Where Marx and Marxists have always been centralisers who see the development of larger state structures as historically progressive No2EU here argues for the defence of individual capitalist nation states. It is a thoroughly, bourgeois, and thoroughly reactionary demand.

“that value its public services and does not offer them to profiteers;”

So why frame that in the context of No2EU? It is not the EU which has privatised Public Services, but the British Capitalist State!!!! If No2EU really believed this demand and sought to achieve it throughout Europe via international class struggle then in the remote chance that it got anyone elected they should use their position to propagandise throughout Europe for that demand. But, in fact No2EU has said that none of its candidates would take their seats if elected!!!!

Moreover, this demand says nothing about the state capitalist nature of these Public Services and public industries, not their inevitable inefficiency and bureaucratism that flows from it. Not only does it not raise any criticism of the State Capitalist nature of these enterprises, thereby misleading workers into the belief that these industries are in some sense the workers property or in some sense “socialist”, but it fails to raise any question of even workers control over them! Moreover, many of these industries would be more progressive if based at an EU rather than National level, but the reactionary nationalist programme of No2EU, is unable to raise such a demand.

“ a Europe that guarantees the rights of workers and does not put the interests of big business above that of ordinary people.”

Fair enough, but its hardly a left-wing demand is it? Moreover, if No2EU does not intend to take any of its eats in the EU parliament, how does it intend to propagandise for let alone legislate throughout Europe for such a demand?

“From the no2eu election leaflet: No to racism and fascism, yes to international solidarity of working people. and EU directives and treaties undermine the ability of member states to protect the fundamental rights of all workers regardless of their origin.”

But, this is clearly nonsense, precisely because the whole framework of No2EU is the promotion of Nationalism, not even National Roads to Socialism, and thereby of the division of workers struggle at an international level. Phil’s comment about the RMT organising workers from a range of ethnic backgrounds is a red-herring from this perspective, because no one is accusing No2EU or the RMT of overt racism. Racism may logically flow from, but is not the same thing as nationalism.

Finally, the formulation of this statement is precisely that it is the EU and not the Capitalist State which is responsible for the undermining of the fundamental rights of workers!!!!! What arrant nonsense. It is the EU which passed the Working Time Directive, and the British State, which has opted out of it!!!!

lindsay40k said...

The latest gimmick of trying to pick up votes on the back of opposition to sleaze is another indication of the opportunist nature of its politics.Any public announcement in response to a developing series of events could be characterised as opportunism.

Should that discussion not have taken place BEFORE you were all required to defend it?The lack of time to have such discussions before getting involved in campaigning for no2eu is one of the main criticisms that crop up in discussions. I'd rather be part of building an imperfect but progressive force that gives left-leaning people something to vote for than sit outside complaining about the imperfection of its initiators.

“the idea of trying to get a new generation of young activists to pin their flags to an openly imperialist party that's slashing welfare and thrown a generation of students into debt - via a process of democracy and debate which consists of a leadership overruling a toothless conference and then appointing to government the likes of James Purnell and DIGBY EFFING JONES - is a bad joke.”

The same thing could have been said in opposition to the recommendation of Lenin and the Comintern that the British CP should join.
No, it couldn't, because the young LP hadn't been in government (or even opposition) and discredited itself as New Labour has today.

That assumes that SP members could not engage in putting forward socialist, and internationalist positions within the workers movement during the election campaign if they were NOT part of No2EU. That is obviously not the case. In fact, as members of the LP, it would be even more possible to raise such arguments, and to much larger audiences.No, it doesn't. It assumes that no2eu is a better stepping stone than the LP. Campaign against the way in which the EU is used to attack workers' conditions, by campaigning for a party whose policies support such attacks? What?

No2EU... is a conscious construction by StalinistsWhich doesn't mean it can't be steered in a better direction and act as a fulcrum.

I’m asking (young activists) to join that Party whose politics are in fact a rough equivalent of the politics which underlie those very same Trade Unions!...are we still talking about the Labour Party, here?

"We want to see a Europe of independent, democratic states"

But democracy in this context means bourgeois democracy. Where Marx and Marxists have always been centralisers who see the development of larger state structures as historically progressive No2EU here argues for the defence of individual capitalist nation states. It is a thoroughly, bourgeois, and thoroughly reactionary demand.
No. Again, from no2eu:

The Lisbon Treaty turns the EU into a state in its own right and gives the bloc its own legal identity. The unaccountable European Court of Justice, an EU institution, would effectively become the ‘supreme court’ of the EU.

Under the treaty, the unelected EU commission would propose all EU law which would then be imposed on member states by the council of ministers mostly on the basis of qualified majority voting.

The treaty also contains a so-called ‘Paseralle clause’ which would allow the EU to give itself more powers as it sees fit without the need for any more treaties.
You've spoken of the need for Marxists to support democratic demands, which weaken the bourgeois state. If the existing bourgeois state is about to be replaced by a less democratic bourgeois state, Marxists need to oppose that withdrawal of franchisement. Yes, no2eu could have a far better and less clumsily-articulated set of demands, but it's a hell of a lot better than New Labour policy.

It is not the EU which has privatised Public Services, but the British Capitalist State!!!! Moreover, if No2EU does not intend to take any of its eats in the EU parliament, how does it intend to propagandise for (workers rights) alone legislate throughout Europe for such a demand?Gah! IT'S A STEPPING-STONE TO BUILDING A GREATER FORMATION. Building no2eu offers a chance not only to stop the far-right from picking up votes from workers who are disenfranchised with New Labour (which asking them to vote for New Labour will never achieve), it also offers a chance to progress in the process of developing a formation which can defend public services in UK politics. And if they do sit in EU parliament, they don't get to present legislation, but that doesn't stop them from going on strike as MEPs in protest against the system. You're talking about the British Capitalist State privatising Public Services, and in the same breath calling for socialists to support the party under the government of which this is happening? Obvious contradiction is obvious!

the whole framework of No2EU is the promotion of Nationalism, not even National Roads to Socialism, and thereby of the division of workers struggle at an international level. Phil’s comment about the RMT organising workers from a range of ethnic backgrounds is a red-herring from this perspective, because no one is accusing No2EU or the RMT of overt racism. Racism may logically flow from, but is not the same thing as nationalism.And the more internationalists get involved in no2eu instead of sitting outside and asking workers who hate New Labour to vote for New Labour, the more its program can be steered in a better direction.

Arthur Bough said...

“Any public announcement in response to a developing series of events could be characterised as opportunism.”

But, this announcement was clearly aimed at nothing more than vote gathering! The sleaze being uncovered – though in reality we all knew it existed – is inherent in the functioning of bourgeois democracy – See my blog Greed Is Not The problem . The problem is that this particular sleaze concerns BRITISH bourgeois democracy, the same British bourgeois democracy that No2EU counterposes as its alternative to EU bourgeois democracy!!

”The lack of time to have such discussions before getting involved in campaigning for no2eu is one of the main criticisms that crop up in discussions. I'd rather be part of building an imperfect but progressive force that gives left-leaning people something to vote for than sit outside complaining about the imperfection of its initiators.”

This has nothing to do with lack of time. No2Eu is not a mass organisation. It comprises at most a couple of thousand people. It would have been possible to convene a Conference to at least vote on the platform. Even were that not possible it would most definitely have been possible to convene regional meetings to select candidates!!! No, this is simply Stalinism in practice.

”then appointing to government the likes of James Purnell and DIGBY EFFING JONES - is a bad joke.”

I noticed that Digby Effing Jones was one of the main speakers at the March for Jobs in Birmingham at the weekend supported by No2EU!!!! And, of course there is no conflict here, because that is consistent with the Nationalist politics of the Stalinists, and their Popular Frontist approach which runs like a yellow streak through No2EU.

”No, it couldn't, because the young LP hadn't been in government (or even opposition) and discredited itself as New Labour has today.”…

What on Earth are you talking about????? Lenin advocated the Communists join the LP in the 1920’s!!!! Some Labour Leaders had been at the forefront only a couple of years before that in recruiting “Labour Battallions” to go and fight in the first World War, and in Russia AGAINST the Bolsheviks – See, for example, my comments about John Ward, in my blog Reform and Revolution . This was a Labour Party that still defended the role of the Britain in maintaining millions of people as Colonial slaves!!!

”No, it doesn't. It assumes that no2eu is a better stepping stone than the LP.”

Yes, it does, because your argument was that socialists could not make an intervention in the elections UNLESS they were part of No2EU!!

”Campaign against the way in which the EU is used to attack workers' conditions, by campaigning for a party whose policies support such attacks? What?”No campaigning THROUGH a party, which has the ear of millions of workers against such attacks whether they come through the EU OR the British State. The fact is, a fact which the Nationalism of No2EU obscures, that the majority of attacks on British workers are NOT a result of the EU, but a result of the actions of the British State, so why does No2EU, not say “No2Britain”.

“Which doesn't mean it can't be steered in a better direction and act as a fulcrum.”

Everything is possible in theory! Yet, the SP has so far NOT managed to do that. In fact, all the evidence is the other way around that the SP is being dragged down into the same Nationalist sewer as the Stalinists! By the same token the same could be said about the LP. The difference is that the LP has the ear of millions of workers and No2EU does not.

”I’m asking (young activists) to join that Party whose politics are in fact a rough equivalent of the politics which underlie those very same Trade Unions”..!

”...are we still talking about the Labour Party, here?”

Yes, of course, we are still talking about the LP. The Trade Unions exist as workers organisations whose ideology and function is wholly bourgeois. They exist to bargain within the system. So does the LP. Over the last 20 years the Trade Unions COULD have opposed the general political drift of new labour, but did not. Why? Because that drift coincided with the same kind of political ideology within the Trade Unions themselves. Even unions with supposedly revolutionary leaderships like the Civil Service unions have gone down that road, as witnessed by the climb down and introduction of a two-tier workforce in the Civil Service over pensions.



”No. Again, from no2eu:”

”The Lisbon Treaty turns the EU into a state in its own right and gives the bloc its own legal identity. The unaccountable European Court of Justice, an EU institution, would effectively become the ‘supreme court’ of the EU.

Under the treaty, the unelected EU commission would propose all EU law which would then be imposed on member states by the council of ministers mostly on the basis of qualified majority voting.

The treaty also contains a so-called ‘Paseralle clause’ which would allow the EU to give itself more powers as it sees fit without the need for any more treaties.”
..

”You've spoken of the need for Marxists to support democratic demands, which weaken the bourgeois state. If the existing bourgeois state is about to be replaced by a less democratic bourgeois state, Marxists need to oppose that withdrawal of franchisement. Yes, no2eu could have a far better and less clumsily-articulated set of demands, but it's a hell of a lot better than New Labour policy.”Nonsense. This is an argument of political Luddism. When machines were introduced they weakened workers position because it meant that workers could be replaced. But, Marxists did not argue AGAINST the introduction of machines!!!! They argued in favour of the machines, and against the workers losing out as a result of their introduction. To the extent that EU institutions are undemocratic they are against workers interests. But, the construction of a larger state structure for a Marxist is historically progressive – just as the introduction of machines is historically progressive. Our task is not to argue against what is progressive the machines or the larger state – but to argue for workers interests within that development. In this case not to argue the reactionary cause of a return to nation states, but the progressive cause of democratising EU institutions on the basis of an EU wide workers struggle!!!

“Gah! IT'S A STEPPING-STONE TO BUILDING A GREATER FORMATION.”

No it isn’t, and even if it were it would be a greater formation based on even more reactionary politics than those of the LP!

“Building no2eu offers a chance not only to stop the far-right from picking up votes from workers who are disenfranchised with New Labour (which asking them to vote for New Labour will never achieve),”But, as Phil’s account of the stall in Hanley showed those disenchanted workers are being attracted for all the WRONG reasons. They are being attracted because they take No2EU at its reactionary Nationalist word! If the intention is just to split the BNP vote, which is what your comment amounts to here then, of course, advocating the same Nationalist and reactionary politics as the BNP MIGHT achieve that, but then don’t tell us that there is anything progressive about such a campaign. Its just ronk electoralism. Even were it to work, it would work at the cost of further entrenching the Nationalist ideas of the BNP in the working class.

”it also offers a chance to progress in the process of developing a formation which can defend public services in UK politics.”

But, the basis of such defence is nationalistic, reformist and state capitalist. BRITISH Public Services and state owned industries are counterposed to European Public Services and Industries. No criticism is levelled at the fact that these Public Services and Industries are State Capitalist, and that as such they are run by bourgeois bosses in the interests of Capital, that they oppress the workers who work in them, and provide a poor, inefficient and bureaucratic service to the workers who rely upon them! The SP’s predecessor, the Militant, always had a reformist attitude to the question of nationalisation, but at least they used to raise the demand for Workers Control. There is no such demand in the No2EU programme. Instead we are asked to support “democratic control”. In other words control by the British bourgeois State!!!!

”And if they do sit in EU parliament, they don't get to present legislation, but that doesn't stop them from going on strike as MEPs in protest against the system.”But, they have said they WILL NOT take their seats. That’s what the No2Eu website still says. They would go on strike against the system! I’m sure the bourgeoisie would be quaking in their boots. The whole point of socialists winning seats in the EU Parliament would be to propagandise for and support EU wide workers struggle, but No2Eu cannot do that, because the whole of its programme is based upon Nationalism!

“You're talking about the British Capitalist State privatising Public Services, and in the same breath calling for socialists to support the party under the government of which this is happening? Obvious contradiction is obvious!”

You should make your mind up of how you want to argue here. On the one hand you justify the unholy alliance of No2EU, by saying that you can build it, and change its reactionary politics. At the same time you want to argue that the same thing cannot be done with the LP!!! Being a member of the LP does not at all commit you to defending or calling for support for the reactionary politics of the Government, as members of Militant demonstrated for many years. It does mean that you are able to argue socialist and internationalist politics to all of those workers that the LP gives you access to, and which No2EU does not. In reality you have the worst of both worlds. On the one hand you restrict the number of workers you can speak to, on the other hand to those workers you do get to speak to you are committed to arguing a nationalist and reformist message not an internationalist and revolutionary message, and to arguing in favour of the British Capitalist State, which daily attacks them!!!

“And the more internationalists get involved in no2eu instead of sitting outside and asking workers who hate New Labour to vote for New Labour, the more its program can be steered in a better direction.”

I’d rather simply argue the case for internationalism here and now with workers at the same time pointing out why they need to get involved in the LP as their Party to get rid of all those corrupt politicians, than to get them first to support a reactionary organisation whose programme I was endorsing.

Dave Riley said...

I guess there are a few issues here.

On the question of the EU (and NO2EU)-- something that  is outside my political experience -- I was nonetheless appreciative of the arguments and criticisms advanced by Alan McCombes in his piece Scottish Socialist Party: ‘Little Britain’ politics and the left. Similarly here LINKs has also reported on the scale of the initiative that makes up NO2EU.

The complication raised in this thread that the NO2EU's platform is politically shallow isn't really so crucial if it has been generated in a truly open and democratic way. If it was stiched up -- over the heads and behind the scenes of the broad base of any accompanying coalition -- then its new party impetus is surely wanting.

There's this false mindset that supposedly rules  that 'being  revolutionary' is all about the wording as though what you actually manage to do isn't really all that relevant at all.

The English far left has comprised in the past ,inasmuch as I can make out, programatic fetsihizers who so often allow rhetoric to rule their politics. While that remains the case then the actual business of  unity, of working together, of any possibility of forming a new workers party, won't happen.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not advising that some sort of frank opportunism should be the default approach. But you see, as some criticisms raised here make out, there's this habit (which in fact is an SWP/IST art form) of flip flopping between the minima and maxima positions as  though there is some registered formal division between what's revolutionary and what's not. (And who's revolutuionary and who's not.)

The SWP handling/management of RESPECT is a text book example of this I think.

However, I think Phil hits the nail on the noggin when he points out:"Remember the SP was invited to take part in No2EU. It was weighed up by the leadership, widely discussed in the party and endorsed by our conference. From all these discussions the emphasis is on how the challenge can help generate the conditions for a new workers' party to form. No one thinks No2EU is going to lead directly down that road, but a decent vote could embolden a section of the trade unions to think seriously about ending their relationship with the rotten shell of New Labour and play a part in founding something better."

That's the marker:"help generate the conditions for a new workers' party to form...." I think that's very important. I'm sure you don't know -- and, I'm convinced, I don't know, how to form a new workers party.But you have to start somewhere. There has to be some kick off point which could open up a new dynamic.

Then all bets are off...

Then, finally!, the chronic CWI mantra  'for a new workers party'  will be tested in real time: and you get to prove yourselves.

Nonetheless, I fear that Phil and his comrades may be setting themselves up. If they are hoping that a new workers party will happen when " a section of the trade unions " end  "their relationship with the rotten shell of New Labour" and form something better -- and only then can it happen-- then I fear thay are following a schema.

What happens between now and that particular "then"? Scargill too broke from 'old ' Labour but that didn't get anyone anywhere very fast.  Does political motion on the far left  depend totally on "something better" being formed so formally  by the trade unions --so that in the meantime, it's business as usual for the British far left groupuscules?

I agree with what Phil is arguing but I can see it  a lot of  schemata loose in the mix.

Arthur Bough said...

The problem continues to be that the Left sets up Camp in one place and expects the working class to come to it. In one of his Writings Trotsky referred to this. He commented that the Mohammedans believed that Mohammed could make the Mountain come to him, but Marxists prefer to take the option of going to the Mountain.

In other words, the job of the Marxist is to go the workers where they are now not try to create some new organisation and hoope the workers will come to it. After all, we have had 80 years or more of that, and we should have learned as Marxists by now that it doesn't work!

Charlie Marks said...

Campaign for a REnewED workers' party?