Sunday, 11 October 2009

Move Over Labour?

The German elections a fortnight ago brought a bit of cheer to the British left. Die Linke increased its representation in the Bundestag from 54 to 76 seats and secured 11.9 per cent of the national poll (up three per cent from 2005's 3.7 million to almost 4.8 million votes in the constituency and 4.1 to 5.1 million in the list vote). In the mean time the traditional party of the (West) German working class continued its historic decline. The SPD's vote tumbled over 11 per cent and lost 76 seats. Their decision to take part in Angela Merkel's grand coalition with the CDU/CSU has left them badly mauled - and rightly so.

What can socialists in Britain campaigning for a new left party take from these results, aside from a sense of satisfaction? Do Die Linke's results show that potential exists for a similar formation in Britain, as the
Socialist Party's Peter Taaffe argues? Yes and no.

Die Linke's results do not indicate a political space is opening up for a mass Marxist party. As Andy Newman
rightly argues, the success of Die Linke stems from presenting a traditional set of social democratic policies to the German electorate and appearing credible enough to deliver them. Prior to the banking bail out New Labour had spent the previous 13 years putting clear neoliberal water between it and Labourism. And now, when traditional Labourist policies are finding support among the wider electorate, the party will only countenance the weakest of social democratic measures. An 'old Labour' political space exists to Labour's left, and not a revolutionary Marxist one - no doubt to the disappointment of some ultra lefts who think we can substitute a revolutionary party for a broad new workers' party.

But the nature of this political space to Labour's left is extremely problematic. Again, Andy is right
to note minor parties' votes are likely to be squeezed (outside a few constituencies) as the mainstream of the labour movement swing behind Labour and right-wing voters return to the Tory fold.

Here is the problem. While Labour has travelled to the right since Blair became leader in 1994, the opening political space on the left has, despite everything, been smothered
organisationally by the party and the affiliated trade unions. Blair's calculation that Labour's trade union backers would support it come hell or high water, even when his and Brown's policies were kicking them in the teeth, has proven accurate. Even now with Unite apparently running the party there's little evidence of pro-trade union and pro-worker policies. When anger has risen pro-Labour elements of union bureaucracies have moved to diffuse it. Take Unison for example. Opposition to the wave of hospital cuts in 2006-7 was effectively derailed by the leadership's refusal to build a national campaign against the measures. Every time a motion to discuss disaffiliation has been submitted to conference it was ruled out of order. The result of this has tended to be disillusionment and apathy. More trade unionists have been turned off politics altogether rather than join the real but so far weak movement for a new left alternative. Fewer still are actively pushing their unions to "reclaim" Labour. For the time being, the custom and practice of bureaucratic inertia rules the day.

The political space is simultaneously open and closed. One can speculate what will happen to this after the next election. If Labour loses (as seems virtually certain), a stronger social democratic turn in response to the Tory cuts agenda is possible - even if only at the level of rhetoric. On the surface this would close what opportunities exist for socialists who want a new party, but then again maybe not. In Greece, the coalition of the radical left,
Syriza, founded in 2004, has grown in stature while the main party of the centre left, PASOK was in opposition. It is possible in the highly charged political atmosphere of outright trade union opposition to Tory cuts a new opportunity for the left may arise - especially as Labour has done its best to alienate all but the most committed and careerist among younger organised workers.

It all depends if the heirs apparent in Labour have learned the lessons of the Blair/Brown years and whether the unions are prepared to act more politically through the party's structures. If the answer to either is no, the political space for the left cannot be smothered forever. Either Labour accommodates it, or gives way to something else. What is it to be?

82 comments:

James Mackenzie said...

Agreed. It's the Greens.

Dave said...

You're letting the far left off the hook, Phil.

It is not enough for a space to exist. It takes a political force to fill it.

The BNP have spent the last decade patiently putting down local roots.

The far left have farted about, never standing in two successive elections under the same title.

Socialist Alliance. Respect. Respect Renewal. Left Alternative. Left List. Left Whatever It Is This Week. Scottish Socialist Party. Solidarity. Socialist Labour Party.

Unserious. Utterly unfucking serious.

Arthur Bough said...

Phil,

There never has been a Labour Government that pursued "pro-worker" policies. If anything New Labour's actions as opposed to the rhetoric of "Old Labour" has been more pro-worker than most, witness the Minimum Wage, massive increases in Public Spending and so on.

On Die Linke its a red-herring. Most of Die Linke's vote continues to come from East Germany where of course, Die Linke took most of its membership from being the old Stalinist apparatus. Moreover, the decline in the SPD's vote appears to be in part due to the fact that the Christian Democrats are themselves more like a tradiitonal Social-Democratic Party than some kind of Thatcherite Tory party. Now that the SPD is out of the coalition its likely to strike a more left pose, and already in the East Die Linke has entered into coalition with it. Its likely that in the next few years a rapprochement between the two will be effected, and apparently some members of Die Linke have already defected back again.

Britain does not have an old ruling Stalinist apparatus to provide the kind of membership and organisation that made Die Linke possible. But, even if there were why would anyone want to deliberately create a Stalinoid Party? Indeed, why would any marxist want to simply create a LP Mark II rather than a Marxist Party, if that is what you really aim for?

Far more sensible to stick with the LP Mark I, and the millions of workers who still see it as their party, and thereby to be able to speak directly to those workers, and adress their cocnerns.

As for the Greens, there actions speak for themselves where they have been in Government in other countries, and where they have been in Council positions in this country, impleemnting far more anti-working class policies than New labour could be accused of.

Simon said...

Social Democracy is the ideological manifestation of working class politics for a past age; one characterised by fundamentally different economic conditions.

Part of the problem is the conspiratorial view of the demise of Old Labour, where there was simply a coup by the party's far right and things can go back to the way they were. The reality is that in our post-inudstrial economy social-democracy is not the ideology which will characterise resistance. Something new is needed.

(It is NOT the ecocapitalists)

Dave Riley said...

The complication is that if its the Greens, then the ideological challenge is blunted and socialism falls away from the agenda.Thats' the problem with Greens politics -- it is totally formatted by parliament and generally seeks capitalist formatted solution.

That doesn't mean the Greens can't be left or that the Greens aren't a home for many Marxists -- but in the disdain for the sectarian and what not on the far left's habits, it is a shallow solution that pimps for the Greens as the saviour of radical politics.

But the partnerships that are necessary have to be recognized and it is inanely myopic on the part of the British far left org to treat the Greens as they do -- as outsiders, regretting or ignoring their electoral weight.The recent move by the Green Left current to back a Respect candidate is an excellent example of the sort of tactical arrangements that have to be laid down.If the far left can't learn from that, they'll be sentenced longer to the electoral wilderness and the award for the smarts is gonna go elsewhere.

Edward Ford said...

I agree with Arthur. It is not a question of "some ultra lefts who think we can substitute a revolutionary party for a broad new workers' party" (ie, the CPGB/Weekly Worker group).

Rather, it is surely the case that our main, overriding, priority is to reconstitute/unify the existing far left/Marxist forces ... as Marxists, not fake social democrats or Left Labourites. If we cannot even do that, all talk of building a 'mass workers' party', 'a new workers' party' etc, is all just (dishonest) quixotic guff & rhetoric. Masking sectarianism.

wcg,
Edward Ford

Anonymous said...

Dave said: "The far left have farted about, never standing in two successive elections under the same title."

As a small-l libertarian with vaguely left-economic/green leanings, I think this is an important point. It causes far more harm than just confusing the electorate ("Where's the Socialist party? Ah well, I'll just have to vote Labour."). At the risk of coming over all marketroid at you, it boils down to "building trust in the brand". By standing under a different banner each time, there's no incentive to build credibility and put out a consistent message.

The right (Tories) and the fascists/authoritarians (BNP) know how to do this, and I don't believe that the left will achieve significant electoral success until it learns to put squabbles over ideological minutiae to one side and unite behind a single, consistent banner. Labour may once have been that banner, but FWIW I don't believe it is now.

skidmarx said...

The confusion argument would suggest that it is time for the left to get it together with a proper orgaisation rather than pissing around with non-aggression pacts.

It probably won't come as a surprise that I find Andy Newman's "analysis" to be self-serving attempts to claim that "Respect" is the electorally viable left, rather than an obstacle to its creation.

It is debatable that with Labour's move to the right , the space opened up is limited to social democracy.

Anonymous said...

germany, portugal, greece, they all have pr elections.

they all have / or had fairly large stalinist parties, and a communist tradition in the working class.

labour only defeated the liberals and became the second party because of lib-labism (tactical voting agreements etc), high concentration of workers in small areas, ww1, the russian revolution, not to mention fast industrialisation etc etc.

i only mention all this to illustrate that the creation of a party that could replace labour today, as labour once replaced the libs, would take equally massive events.

a small unified party of the left that was a pole of attraction, that drew thousands into membership and organised them, with some electoral bases, support in unions, affiliation of some smaller unions maybe, is possible, and it's a good idea.

could it stay united though, with trotskyists, stalinists, reformists, 'eco-socialists', left populists etc. in a party that won't have a massive breakthrough??? is that just too unrealistic???

either way, the idea that labour could be replaced any time soon by a mass workers party is not realistic.

esp when labour are in opposition workers will soon back them to get rid of the tories.

labourism is a massive tradition that wont just disappear.


ks

Dave Riley said...

I'm with Dave. The British far left is a basket case when it comes to electoral politics. It's shamed by the aggressive risk taking that has won and lost relevance on the continent of Europe.

It take guts to move forward. It means taking risks.

But what we get is a Marxian left formatted by cowardice. By cowardice!

Even the SSP is a startling example of what could be done if the far left circle spirit mindset hadn't meddled it in it by backing splitters.

I wouldn't mind so much about what you lot get up to but in far off Australia the local franchises work to the same rule -- rule Britannia.

The fact is that the uniting the far left -- organisationally or in a shared political project -- is not on the agenda . All this talk is so much smoke and mirrors.

And that comrades, is so fuckin' criminal that you have to go back to Stalin's Third Period to find its measure.

Think about it...

Phil BC said...

I agree with you Dave. Going back to the SLP it's been one debacle after another. Makes you wonder if permanent and lasting left unity outside of Labour's ever going to happen, or whether it's a pipe dream.

Anonymous said...

Dave Riley should look at starting a comedy blog. It seems he is better at gags than he is at politics.

The idea that Dave thinks he can advise the British far left on electoral politics is a very funny joke!

Correct me if I'm wrong but Dave is a member of the DSP - a tiny insignificant group who have never had anyone elected to anything.

The idea that the IST and CWI groups in Australia wont work with the DSP because they are following the 'London line' is just as funny.

I dont suppose it has anything to do with the fact that the DSP have wrecked the Socialist Alliance does it Dave?

And as for splitters. Is it not true that your attempts at 'left unity' have led to a split in your own ranks?

Your doing great work Dave and we appreciate the advice but I think perhaps you should sort out your own backyard before lecturing us.

Phil BC said...

Arthur, you know I know the Labour party has never been 'pro-worker' in the Marxist sense. However there is the entirely reasonable view that New Labour and the transformation of the party under Blair and Brown marked a qualitative change in the party from Labourism to neoliberalism. Decision-making in the party was centralised and the courting of big business for funds put clear distance between it and the trade unions. You've got to ask yourself if this party was the best place for Marxists considering working class folk are more likely to abstain from voting than turn out for a party that's spent the last 15 years openly crapping on their aspirations.

Of course things outside haven't been a bed of roses for a variety of objective and subjective political reasons.

Phil BC said...

How is that project reconstituting a revolutionary pole of attraction coming Eddie? Many takers?

Besides, back when I was a (admittedly inactive) cpgb'er I always thought the process of revolutionary regroupment and moves to a wider recomposition of the left were complimentary and interrelated processes. Seems lately your gang thinks the former can happen in isolation from the latter.

Phil BC said...

Skidders, I don't think Respect is necessarily an obstacle to a united left. And I think a united left would be a great thing indeed.

But there's a very big but standing in the way of any coming together of the far left. The first is organisational. Permanent Revolution are entirely right in saying that the apparatuses each group possess have an interest in their continued existence. If by some miracle the SWP and SP were to fuse tomorrow the combined apparatus would be too unwieldy for a single organisation. So who gets the redundancy notices? Who after many years as a full time activist has to try and get a job? And who calls the shots?

Second is ways of working. The differences within the far left may be the source of bemusement and exasperation for some, but not all of them can be boiled down to a narcissism of small differences. I've seen many times the different ways the SP and SWP go about things (hence the not infrequent criticisms of the latter on this blog) and I cannot see this sit easily in the same organisation.

How to overcome these problems? I don't know. But I do know there aren't any short cuts to left unity.

skidmarx said...

Redundancy notices - last in,first out? You're right that that there are organisational and political differences standing in the way of a total merger, but a joint organisation for electoral purposes might be a start, and get both sides used to constructive rather than polemical criticism.
If there's a will there's a way.

On Respect, reading Alan Thornett's article here:
http://socialistresistance.org/?p=654
made me consider the strong possibilty that he and much of Respect consider the possibility of themselves getting elected in the three constituencies where they have any real presence as far more important than the creation of a viable and independent left bloc. I know that individual members of Respect have attended the launch of local left unity projects in Wigan and Cambridge, but the sectional nature of the organisation's support, as well as the questionable nature of its politcial orientation, do suggest that it is more of a hindrance than a help to the creation of an openly left of Labour thing.

Arthur Bough said...

Phil,

I'm in the process of writing a post for my own blog about "Why The Sectarian Left Really Hate Labour" that deals with some of these issues.

But, for now I repeat the points I've made previously. Exactly, how concretely has New Labour become more bourgeois than Old Labour. All of the arguments I've seen so far rely on smoke and mirrors, they rely on assertion and superficiality. They rely on what Old Labour was SUPPOSED to represent rather than what it actually did, in order to make these kinds of comparisons with New Labour.

I repeat, Minimum Wage and so on.

As for workers staying at home and not voting. This is electoralism. I'm interested in being in the LP for the same reason I always have, because its authority and organisation provides the basis for activity within the working class! Branches can engage in community actions - as indeed the BNP have done with success - can mobilise wider resources than can a few Marxists - to intervene in local disputes etc.

And in being a mechanism for conducting practical working class political struggle, it also provides the ideal forum for the various strands of the left to resolve their differences through practical action rather than sterile debate.

Denzil said...

Hey Arthur, you've got it wrong: its the working class that hates Labour.

Perhaps you ought to do a blog about 'Why the Sectarian Labour Party Really Hate the Working Class'.

Chris said...

The left hate Labour because of the politics they represent. There is no conspiracy here but I agree with Arthur, we need to get real, Labour have the history, the power and the influence. We just can't ignore them.

Anonymous said...

Phil BC wrote
"...there is the entirely reasonable view that New Labour and the transformation of the party under Blair and Brown marked a qualitative change in the party from Labourism to neoliberalism."

Of course there is!
Because Blair got the LP to drop Clause 4, part 4 from the Labour Party Constitution.
Which meant Labour abandoned its committment to "common ownership of the means of production", replacing it with some nonsensical Blairite candy floss.
This drew a line in the sand between New Labour and the policies of 1946-51.
As well as its left wing Manifesto under Michael Foot in the 1983 General Election, which included the prescient demand for nationalising the banks!
Moreover, all the resolutions passed by the LP Conference were included, whereas now the Conference has no effective policy-making role.

Blair was able to win the arguments and gain authority on the issue of electability.
The recession seems to have put a huge dent in this one
But the Blairites haven't able to entirely sever the union link.
Given the impending Postal Strike and its deep connection to Privatisation, (on which Mandelson makes his grandfather look like a Bolshevik);
Given the RMT's exclusion from the fold and its attempts to organise between 8-12 unions around an alternative;
The outlines of a mass union opposition to New Labour are beginning to come into focus.
But if it ignores the internal struggle Labour Party, it may simply lead to a large left sect, unable to win power.
i.e. declaring yet another party would almost certainly be a mistake and messing around with "clever" tactical voting ploys will probably be disastrous too.
This doesn't exclude independent socialist candidates standing.
But I think the emphasis needs to be on standing around dozen high profile independent candidates at the next General election.
Getting them backed by the unions, community organisations, environmentalists, socialists and progressive nationalists.
While making it absolutely clear that socialists want to stop the Tories getting in and therefore, argue for a Labour vote in all other situations.
That way, they don't burn their bridges with the mass of Labour voters.

Prianikoff

Arthur Bough said...

Denzil,

Says its the working class that hates Labour. Yet millions vote for it! Yet 100,000 are individual members of it, yet the classes unions finance it! If the WC hate Labour then, what does this tell us about how much they must totally revile those outside it!

Blair got rid of Clause IV! Give me a break. For years the Left had denigrated Clause IV as being a meaningless reformist platitude. Only when its scrapped does it become some important totem. No Labour Government took it seriously, no LG had any intention of implementing any aspect of it! In fact, its been Blair and Brown who have nationalised he banks, and who have renationalised Network Rail and the East Coast rail franchise effectively without compensation, which is in stark contrast to the massive compensation paid out by Attlee's Government.

The RMT was expelled for er standing candidates against Labour i.e. refusing to accept workers democratic decisions. Would you not call a worker who ignored a democratic strike vote a scab!

skidmarx said...

Would you not call a worker who ignored a democratic strike vote a scab!
I'd probably end with a question mark if I was asking a question.
With much of the ability of conference to take democratic decisions abandoned, and the increased control of the leadership over candidate selection, I'd say that a better analogy would be a group of workers who leave a corrupt boss-run union and they are no scabs.

Even the Tories support the minimum wage now. And I think they have one in the US, does that mean the government ther is full of socialists?

Phil BC said...

Arthur, you might change your mind about workers' opinions of Labour if your CLP or any other round N Staffs did a stall in the middle of Hanley on a Saturday!

Arthur Bough said...

Skidmarx, says the position of the RMT is more like a group that disagrees with the majority position in a union and decides to set upits own union. But, that is not the case. A group that simply leaves is one thing, a group thaat refuses to accept a democratic decision, and then complains its been expelled for doing so is something completely different!

The RMT like anyone else was perfectly free to leaave if they couldn't accept majority decisions. They and others have done so, and the working class has responded with a massive yawn.

Phil, whatever people shopping in Hanley might say, where it counts at the ballot box Labour even in the worst possible conditions at the last lot of elections polled almost 20%, and No2EU polled less than 1%!

Arthur Bough said...

I should have added in further response to Skidmarx that if you are discussing democracy then the RMT is a pretty bad example to choose. If you are concnered about LP Conference and Policy, or the selection of candidates then what on Earth must you think about the way Bob Crow cobbled together No2EU without any democratic decision by RMT members to do so? What must you think about the fact that the Programme and Platform of No2EU was simply imposed from above. What must you think about the way there was no selection of candidates who were all appointed from above?

Of course, Bob Crow's favourite Dictator Joe Stalin, who he recently commemorated with the CPGB(M) used to inflict a similar form of "democracy" on the Russian workers!

Arthur Bough said...

Why The Sectarian Left REALLY Hate Labour

Jota said...

With the CPB returning to the Labour fold, will Bob Crow still be working with the SP to stand candidates against Labour? Any news of the Griffiths wing of the CPB? Any progress from the SWP open-letter? We are getting closer to the General Election, but not obviously closer to left unity - anyone got any encouraging news?

Chris said...

Mr Arthur Bough,

Thanks for using my quote,

“The left hate Labour because of the politics they represent.”

You could have added that I supported working in the Labour party!

“There is no conspiracy here but I agree with Arthur, we need to get real, Labour have the history, the power and the influence. We just can't ignore them.”

But I do hope people like Skidmarx take time to read your article and digest its bleedin obvious truths.

Arthur Bough said...

Chris,

Thanks, for your comments. I did not use your comment as a criticism of your position, as I hope you appreciate. As I said, I agreed with the basic thrust of this statement. However, the reason for quoting it was as I said, because of what the truth of that statement actually signifies i.e. that in reality the Left "hate" those millions of workers whose politics are themselves to the Right of New Labour, or certainly no more Left.

It precisely sums up the Third Period sectarian madness with which the Left is infected.

Phil BC said...

Arthur, you do give the impression that dozens of active working class militants regularly attend your CLP. That might be the case with yours, but it certainly isn't with Stoke Central. What support remains for the Labour party is overwhelmingly passive and begrudging, and this isn't surprising considering the 100+ years of its existence.

Aside from this, I think your piece on 'Why the Sectarian Left Really Hate Labour' is mistaken. Only a few on the far left would make being outside the Labour party a point of principle. If that was the case the Socialist Party would insist comrades who've joined us from Labour would ditch their membership. And yet we don't. Nor do we think the Labour party has changed because a handful of Millies got expelled 20 years ago. The SP, in general, believes there is a qualitative break between Labour under Blair and what went before. This was *symbolised* by his ditching of Clause IV, but went much deeper in terms of the emasculation of trade union influence within the party and the erosion of members' control, culminating in the effective abolition of conference from 2008 onwards. SP comrades believe in going where the most conscious and militant members of the working class can be found - which is why the SP takes union work very seriously. But the same is not true of Labour, which is why the SP no longer organises inside it.

You may disagree with these reasons and the analysis, but it can hardly be put down to ultra-left impatience akin to 3rd period sectarianism.

Phil BC said...

Jota, as far as I know (and despite rumours to the contrary) son of No2EU is still go. Though I must add, in my personal opinion, the talks are taking far too long to finalise anything in time for a credible, large-scale election campaign. So something will materialise, but don't expect anything earth-shattering. That is, unless, events in the mean time intervene.

Arthur Bough said...

Phil,

i think you have missed the point. In fact, I wasn't saying that CLP's were packed with activists. Quite the contrary. I ws speaking about Branches, and accepted also that the number of activists even at this level had been reduced dramatically. However, if we take all the Branches in stoke and castle, and if we assume just 5 activists per Branch then we are talking about 200 activists. Does the SP have even a tenth that number?

You may not demand that LP members give up their membership, but you do see things in terms of building a separate Part, and not of working through the LP. As for working in the TU's that is what I referred to of simply limiting yourself to Economism, which is necessarily reformist and fails to provide the class with any strategic political solutions, precisely Lenin's argument in What Is to Be Done?

As for the LP has qualititavely changed where is the proof? I have dealt with the Clause IV issue, and the structure argument in my blog, but no one has provided an argument as to why that argument is wrong, only restated the original superficial statements. One of the first facts I remember from studying Politics was that Buttskellism was not something distinct. 90% of legislation by either party was simply taken over by the other on changes of Government!

I don't deny that many workers vote Labour grudgingly. But, the reasons for that feeling are not because they stand to the Left of Labour! If that were the case how explain the massive votes for Blair? There is dissatisfaction on a range of issues, but the answers workers are looking for are not those the Left outside Labour is offering - hence he support for the Tories, Libs, UKIP and BNP.

As I said opposing the politics of Labour then means opposing the politics of all those millions of workers. That is what the Stalinists did with the Third Period. It was not just a sectarian stance towardds the SD's, but to those millions of workerrs whose politics and class conscioussness they represented.

As I said at least the Stalinists themselves represented millions of German workers, wheereas todaay's Left represents nothing.

skidmarx said...

Skidders, I don't think Respect is necessarily an obstacle to a united left.
http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=4763

Chris - I've looked through the article, though it is a little difficult when the direct link is confined within the dimensions of this comment box.
First, a couple of minor notes. "Zinoviev" is misspelt and the word "genetic" is mis-used.Further there is an unsupported leap from the assertion that the sectarian left hates Labour to one that it hates the workers who vote for it and those to its right. The suggestion that by becoming more professionally organised the Labour Party was replicating Lenin's party model would have him turning in his mausoleum.Overall I think the article is a series of opinions rather than facts,and is a long way from presenting truths in the manner of Sybil Fawlty as a Mastermind contestant.

Arthur Bough said...

" "Zinoviev" is misspelt".

Obviously, a serious political deviation!!!

"the word "genetic" is mis-used".

This is obviously a statemnt of fact we are asked to simply accept rather than being one of "a series of opinions "a series of opinions".

" Further there is an unsupported leap from the assertion that the sectarian left hates Labour to one that it hates the workers who vote for it and those to its right."

which is, of course, another unsupported opinion. What I said was that if you hate the politics of Labour, then you must logically oppose those politics in the heads of all those workers who support Labour, and must even more oppose the politics of those worekrs who support parties to its right.

If you wish to challenge that logic an argument rather than an unsupported opinion would be nice.

"The suggestion that by becoming more professionally organised the Labour Party was replicating Lenin's party model would have him turning in his mausoleum"

is, yet another "unsupported opinion". As Lenin in What Is To Be Done?" based his arguments on professionalism on the German SPD, its use of professional journalists, its ability as he puts it to operate in the mileiu of all classes of society and to thereby understand their problems, and so on, I thin their are glaring similarities with the adoption of such an approach by Labour. professionalism does not have any necessary relation to the politics being presented - witness the german SPD which formed his model.

In fact, given this series of unsupported opinions I wonder whether perhaps Skidmarx is from Barcelona. "Que?"

Chris said...

Skid,

I agree that hating the Labour party does not automatically mean hating the workes who vore for it, look at Labours actions over the postal dispute, how can any socialist not hate it! And incidentally I vote Labour, so do I hate myself?

However, the point is, as Arthur says, the Labour party is the only show in town, it is the only political organisation with the power, influence and networks that workers consistently give their vote and time to.

Dave Riley said...

I'm sorry that Phil agreed with my last comment back when. I thought I was being inordinately hard and even unfair....
however, on the question of apparatus -- apparatii -- here the DSP has had a long term commitment to merge its resources into the emergent new party formation, the Socialist Alliance. This was indeed the same commitment of the Scottish CWI section to the Scottish Socialist Alliance.

I don't believe in forcing groups to merge organisational with new projects is a good idea. It is also undemocratic to impose a POV on that org's members. However, come next January the DSP is to merge into the Alliance and the DSP will more or less cease to exist as a separate entity.

We'd have differences with the Scottish comrades on a few point but generally we are following the same course they pursued as has the French LCR into the NPA. So in January the DSP 'winds up' and the SA conference begins for the next few days.

This merging would have happened sooner if (a) the political situation had been better and (b) if the DSp had not had to negotiate a bitter internal faction fight for over 2 years .

Now we are in a situation to relaunch the SA I guess and with delightful serendipity we have j have just won our first local government election -- Sam Wainwright in Fremantle.This means that the CWI/SP's Stephen Jolly and now Wainwright are the only two socialist councillors in the whole country -- representing a left tradition that has rarely won government positions.

Dave Riley said...

But I don't make light of the rough journey that we've and to travel to get this far. But I have to point out that the primary obstacle to moving the project forward as an all in regroupment enterprise, has been the resistance of the far left orgs -- primarily those out of the IST tradition but also within the DSP itself who share the same mindset. However, the local CWI franchise has held the Alliance's unity push at arms length -- counterposing their extremely rhetorical call for a 'real workers party ' to the small but significant gains the Alliance has been making in regard to a working class implantation of class struggle militants.

So in answer to the question of the possibility of unity of the far left --both from among your lot of tribes and ours -- cynicism rules me. But that doesn't mean that the 'only unity' that can exist is between registered Marxian franchises.

It's arrogance to think that.

However, that the DSP merges into the SA also means that we have to carry forward a tradition of Marxism and cadre-isation into this amorphous alliance of socialists without liquidating a class struggle perspective. Thats' a big ask, I tell you and why comrades in the DSP are anxious about the change.

So it's major rendering at stake here over the next period.

But the main thing we've learnt -- and you lot have definitely not -- is that a true sect puts its narrow and arrogant POV ahead of the crying political imperatives of the class struggle .

If you can't lean that lesson you're really in trouble.And you lot are indeed. In the case of Great Britain I can see all the signs indicating a major implosion on the far left there. Rumours from within the SWP suggest a major flaling out there has already begun. And I wonder, in your case, whether the contradiction of talking up unity while not advancing your agenda in the face of the BNP, will also lead to a sort of back lash from within your own ranks and outside.

I've been there and the contradiction between political promise and actual stagnancy can undermine a party savagely.

Arthur Bough said...

Chris,

The question is how typical are you of a Labour voter? I'd bet there are lots of Labour voters who share Mandelson's view, that to go on strike, at a time when the Post Office is being threatened with extinction, because of competition from private companies, is suicide, is not unreasonable. Indeed, although I support the posties, obviously in their dispute, and although I oppose privatisation of the PO - because I think the Posties ought to call for it to be turned into a Workers Co-op to avoid these kinds of problems and disputes with the bosses' State - I too think that a strike is not the best choice of tactic at the moment.

I know there are millions of Labour voters who swallow the Daily Mail view on Public Sector pensions and so on. To be consistent then if its the politics you hate - because presumably its not the individuals holding them - then you have to hate the politics of all those workers!!! That is precisely what Ultra-Leftism and sectarianism comes down. As Lenin said in left-Wing Communism, its acting as though workers already shared your opinions and class cosncioussness, and dismissing them because they don't.

skidmarx said...

Arthur Bough -

1. "Zinoviev" is misspelt".

Obviously, a serious political deviation!!!

A glaring error you would be better to correct rather than bluster about.

2."the word "genetic" is mis-used".

This is obviously a statemnt of fact we are asked to simply accept rather than being one of "a series of opinions "a series of opinions".

What you say here is garbled.The common meaning of "genetic" is "Of or relating to common evolutionary origin or ancestry", which made me assume that you were claiming that there was something in the genes of revolutionaries that made them the way they are, but having checked the OED I see there is another usage:"Of or relating to origin or development", which I assume is what you meant. But given the prevalence of the first meaning, I think your usage is unclear.

3.(a)" Further there is an unsupported leap from the assertion that the sectarian left hates Labour to one that it hates the workers who vote for it and those to its right."

which is, of course, another unsupported opinion.

No it isn't an unsupported opinion , it is pointing out that your change your shot without new ammunition.

3.(b), What I said was that if you hate the politics of Labour, then you must logically oppose those politics in the heads of all those workers who support Labour, and must even more oppose the politics of those worekrs who support parties to its right.

No it wasn't what you said. What you said was:
What it means is that the sectarian Left not only hate Labour for those politics, but hate those millions of workers who at best share those politics!!!! It means that sectarian Left has to hate even more those millions of workers whose politics stand even further to the Right
Nothing there distinguishing hating the workers from hating the politics in their heads. You are changing what you say without acknowleding the change.

4."The suggestion that by becoming more professionally organised the Labour Party was replicating Lenin's party model would have him turning in his mausoleum"

is, yet another "unsupported opinion".


I don't have the time right now to demonstrate that when writing "What is to be done" Lenin was trying to sketch out a method of building a revolutionary organisation rather than providing universal advice on making political parties professional. Just because some New Labourites might thus take inspiration does not mean their activities are identical with Leninism.
professionalism does not have any necessary relation to the politics being presented - witness the german SPD which formed his model.
Well at the time the Second International's betrayal of 1914 hadn't taken place yet, so this isn't the greatest of arguments. Likewise your quote from Marx & Engels,suggesting that socialist should learn nothing from social democratic betrayals since then. Your argument that capitalism has expanded since, therefore a revolutionary perspective is unwarranted is debatable on a number of grounds, the way governments are trying to make workers pay for the sins of the bankers right now is but one.And the idea that setting up co-ops is the self-emancipation of the class is laughable.

5.That is precisely what Ultra-Leftism and sectarianism comes down. As Lenin said in left-Wing Communism, its acting as though workers already shared your opinions and class cosncioussness, and dismissing them because they don't.
Revoultionary socailism is acting as if you need to convince workers to change their ideas, rather than aceepting that we can never do better than the status quo.


Chris - if Labour is the only game in town it's time to abandon all hope. The promotion of reformism demobilises the working class by promoting the idea that parliament can change the world for them, an idea constantly dashed by the power of capitalism in a bourgeois democracy. Ideas change in struggle, which is why Arthur's counterposition of a Post Office co-op to strike action is wrong, in my opinion.

Dave Riley - that's interesting.

Arthur Bough said...

Zinoviev may have been misspelt, but only a pedant would have made a point of using it in an argument!

Given that I detailed the historical development of the post-war Left the use of the term "Genetic" was clear, and correct.

It is your opinion that I made a leap from the concept that in hating the LP for its politics to it hating the workers for holding the same politics. You provided no supporting argument for that opinion. Chris has actaully provided an argument for you, but I have, I believe shown why that argument does not stand up. You cannot separate out political ideas from the real people in whose heads they reside. Political ideas do not for a materialist simply reside out there in the ether.

"Just because some New Labourites might thus take inspiration does not mean their activities are identical with Leninism"

I never said it could, I only said that you cannot criticise Labour for acting professionally!!!

Nothing in Lenin's politics suggests that the betrayal of 1914 changed his views on the need for Workers Parties to act professionally, and his views set out in "left-Wing Communism" are an attack on the ideas you appear to present here.

Which quotes from Marx and Engels have I quoted to show "that socialist should learn nothing from social democratic betrayals since then"?

"Your argument that capitalism has expanded since, therefore a revolutionary perspective is unwarranted"

I have made no such argument. I have made the argument that Capitalism clearly was not then and is not now in its death agony. That does not change the need for a revolutionary perspective! But, my view of social revolution is that of Marx not that which you seek to put forward. Like Marx I believe that the social revolution is about the change in the material world, the change in the productive realtions, and the social relations that develop upon them. Your position is that of the Idealist, the Hegelian view criticised by Marx in the quote given by Draper, it is the view thaat ideas can somehow develop separate from the material world, and that some elitist group of revolutionaries can simply thereby impose the revolution on to the workers.

"the idea that setting up co-ops is the self-emancipation of the class is laughable."

odd then that that was the argument made by Marx and Engels, and even later by Lenin, who recognising thee problems caused by State ownership in the USSR declared "Co-operatives equal socialism".

"Revoultionary socailism is acting as if you need to convince workers to change their ideas, rather than aceepting that we can never do better than the status quo."

But,its you that wants to limit yourself to accepting the status quo. Strikes, "Economism" as Lenin described it, is precisely accepting the limitations of struggle within the system rather than providing a political solution that breaks out of it!

Moreover, if you want to change the workers ideas you have to begin by accepting the limitations of those ideas now, and the political reflection of them in the existing Workers party, rather than simply fantasising that there is some other working class out there simply clammering for a more left-wing alternative!

Chris said...

Skid,

Agree on your point 3. If a worker has a racist idea inside his head, then yes I hate that idea. But does that mean I hate every idea in their head, NO and does it mean I reject their revolutionary role in changing society, of course not.

On point 4 where you say "And the idea that setting up co-ops is the self-emancipation of the class is laughable."

If workers owning the means of production and the process that goes along with it isn't self emanciaption, then what the hell is?

skidmarx said...

Chris - workers owning and controlling the means of production is self-emancipation,but setting up businesses with workers control under capitalism doesn't necessarily get there. That's why smashing the capitalist state and replacing it with a workers' state is considered crucial by revolutionaries.If you want to know why Marxists don't consider the example of worker controlled businesses enough to create an idealistic shift towards socialism, try reading Marx on Proudhon or the Utopian socialists.

Arthur Bough - It is your opinion that I made a leap from the concept that in hating the LP for its politics to it hating the workers for holding the same politics. You provided no supporting argument for that opinion.
Except by quoting your own words.Here again if you missed them above:
What it means is that the sectarian Left not only hate Labour for those politics, but hate those millions of workers who at best share those politics!!!!

You cannot separate out political ideas from the real people in whose heads they reside
True,but that doesn't mean revolutionaries have to hate the people with whose ideas they disagree.

I only said that you cannot criticise Labour for acting professionally!!!

I haven't. I'd criticise them for not being socialists.
his views set out in "left-Wing Communism" are an attack on the ideas you appear to present here.
In what way?
Which quotes from Marx and Engels have I quoted to show "that socialist should learn nothing from social democratic betrayals since then"?
The one about them not organising separately.
Lenin also said that socialism was soviets plus electrification.I think without the soviets any degree of co-operatisation will come to naught.
Moreover, if you want to change the workers ideas you have to begin by accepting the limitations of those ideas now, and the political reflection of them in the existing Workers party, rather than simply fantasising that there is some other working class out there simply clammering for a more left-wing alternative!
You seem to be confused about whether you are accepting the status quo or not.When the existing Labour Party does nothing to advance the cause of socialism,it is the job of socialists to put forward an alternative.

Arthur Bough said...

Skid,

You say,

“Chris - workers owning and controlling the means of production is self-emancipation,but setting up businesses with workers control under capitalism doesn't necessarily get there. That's why smashing the capitalist state and replacing it with a workers' state is considered crucial by revolutionaries.If you want to know why Marxists don't consider the example of worker controlled businesses enough to create an idealistic shift towards socialism, try reading Marx on Proudhon or the Utopian socialists.”

Nonsense. Marx’s criticism of the Utopians had nothing to do with the idea of creating Co-operatives! It was to do with the fact that they did not and could not locate the working class as the historical force that would change society. His criticism of the followers of the Utopians was that they saw the creation of Co-operatives as an alternative to rather than a part of class struggle! Nor was Marx’s criticism of Proudhon a criticism of Co-operatives. Why do you think Marx argued for such an action in Capital? Why do you think he makes the same argument in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, where he criticises your Lassallean statist notions? Why do you think he spoke in his Address to the First International of the establishment of Co-operatives being far more important than the passing of the ten Hours Act?

Moreover, could you tell us what day this smashing of the State is going to take place so we can check our diaries to see if we are free on that day? As its unlikely to be for quite some time, do you not think that workers deserve something more of a solution to their problems than just your calls for reformist solutions based on strikes and appeals to the Capitalist State, and demand that the workers wait for the revolution?

Arthur Bough said...

”You cannot separate out political ideas from the real people in whose heads they reside

True, but that doesn't mean revolutionaries have to hate the people with whose ideas they disagree.”

In that case your argument for hating the LP has completely disappeared hasn’t it. You can hate the ideas, but not the Party, i.e. all those workers who make up the Party in whose heads those ideas reside!

”I only said that you cannot criticise Labour for acting professionally!!!

I haven't. I'd criticise them for not being socialists.”

No, in response to me saying that the LP became more professional as Lenin had advocated, you said he would be spinning in his mausoleum. That was not to do with the politics, but the professionalism!

”his views set out in "left-Wing Communism" are an attack on the ideas you appear to present here.

In what way?”


For example, your statement about bourgeois democracy, or your statements which imply that only strikes or insurrectionary acts are revolutionary.

“The promotion of reformism demobilises the working class by promoting the idea that parliament can change the world for them, an idea constantly dashed by the power of capitalism in a bourgeois democracy.”

Your statement above about promotion of reformism, for example, is precisely the argument that the Ultra-Lefts used to oppose working in those most reformist of all organisations the Trade Unions.

”Which quotes from Marx and Engels have I quoted to show "that socialist should learn nothing from social democratic betrayals since then"?

The one about them not organising separately.”

Marx and Engels themselves saw the “betrayals” of 1848, yet Engels till his last breath argued that they were right to have joined the German Democrats, and told the US socialists to follow the same course. Even in the 1920’s Lenin was advising the British Communists to join the LP. Moreover, the idea of betrayal is itself a strange one. Social democratic Parties may well have “betrayed” the ideas and principles of Marxism, but herein lies the exact point. Workers, and therefore, the parties they create, do not begin with a Marxist Programme, they do not start out with a fully developed class consciousness, so the idea of betraying some set of ideas they do not in any case begin with is rather absurd. Its like saying the Working Class betrayed itself! The whole point is for Marxists to work alongside the workers inside their Party in order to develop such a Programme and to develop such a level of class conscioussness.

”Lenin also said that socialism was soviets plus electrification. I think without the soviets any degree of co-operatisation will come to naught.”

But, Lenin’s experience of State Socialism and the bureaucracy that arose upon it, led him to revise his views. His comments on Co-operatives superseded those earlier statements. Moreover, Co-operatives throughout the globe already ARE coming to more than naught. And I have not disagreed with the idea of soviets. The wwhole point is that the kind of development of Co-operatives that Marx, and socialist Chartists like Ernest Jones put forward REQUIRES both a national organisation, and requires forms of Workers Democracy alongside their development.

”You seem to be confused about whether you are accepting the status quo or not.When the existing Labour Party does nothing to advance the cause of socialism,it is the job of socialists to put forward an alternative.”

I agree, but putting forward that alternative means talking to the workers where they are, not simply standing on the sidelines shouting at them. There is nothing in anything that you have said that offers the working class any solution outside the existing status quo, and vague calls for revolution some time in the future.

I have dealt with these arguments in full in my blog Can Co-operatives Work

skidmarx said...

His criticism of the followers of the Utopians was that they saw the creation of Co-operatives as an alternative to rather than a part of class struggle!
Which seems to be what you're doing.

Could you tell us what day this smashing of the State is going to take place so we can check our diaries to see if we are free on that day?
When the pub closes.

D you not think that workers deserve something more of a solution to their problems than just your calls for reformist solutions based on strikes and appeals to the Capitalist State, and demand that the workers wait for the revolution?
Fighting for reforms obviously means not demanding that workers wait for the revolution.Better than waiting for the Labour Party to adopt your plan and then an eternal wait for them to implement it.

In that case your argument for hating the LP has completely disappeared hasn’t it?
I didn't make such an argument, merely pointed out the illogical leaps in yours.

No, in response to me saying that the LP became more professional as Lenin had advocated, you said he would be spinning in his mausoleum. That was not to do with the politics, but the professionalism
I'll let Lenin's opening to State and Revolution stand as answer to this one:
What is now happening to Marx's theory has, in the course of history, happened repeatedly to the theories of revolutionary thinkers and leaders of oppressed classes fighting for emancipation. During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, so to say, and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the “consolation” of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarizing it.

If I have time I'll get to the rest of your points later.

skidmarx said...

Your statement above about promotion of reformism, for example, is precisely the argument that the Ultra-Lefts used to oppose working in those most reformist of all organisations the Trade Unions.
Only the Trotskyist Left almost univerally beileves in working in the trade unions.

Its like saying the Working Class betrayed itself!
No.

There is nothing in anything that you have said that offers the working class any solution outside the existing status quo
Well I haven't been putting forward a programme, but I think the struggle for reforms helps to build a revolutionary consciousness, whereas you want to counterpose a utopian programme and the dead end of the Labour Party to such struggles.

We may be the only two people left in the room, but I'll try to answer if you have a further response. I may be busy tomorrow protesting against the Afghanistan war and/or visiting the anarchist bookfair.

Arthur Bough said...

Skid,

I can’t help but notice that you never actually reply to any argument put to you. Instead your responses seem to attempt to simply cloud the issue, or shift the ground on which discussion is occurring.

You cite Marx’s critique of the Utopians as an alternative to providing an argument of your own against Co-ops, and when I show that Marx not only did not criticise the Utopians for such an advocacy but strongly advocated the establishment of Co-ops himself, instead of dealing with that you shift the ground to Marx criticising the Utopians for not advocating class struggle.

I show that your position on the LP and working in such reformist organisations is the same Ultra-Leftism that Lenin attacked, and you fail to respond other than demonstrating the very contradiction in your position I had highlighted i.e. you agree with working in reformist Trade Unions, but not in a reformist LP that rests on, and has the same politics as those Trade Unions!!!!

I argue that you can’t attack the LP for being professional because that’s what Lenin advocated a Workers Party should be, and having attacked that statement by reference to Lenin spinning in his mausoleum, you then when I point out that this was a reference to organisation not political programme, simply give a cryptic further quote from Lenin! As my original comment could not in any way have been construed as suggesting the LP was a “Leninist” Party, but only sought to make the point that you couldn’t criticise it for being professional, this further quote is wholly irrelevant.

What is worse having attacked me for supposedly advocating reformism, which is ridiculous for anyone who has actually r4ead anything I have said, what do your solutions come down – precisely advocating “Fighting for reforms”!

You say in reference to my quote about Marx criticising the followers of the Utopians for their attempt to develop Co-operatives as an alternative to class struggle i.e. class collaboration,

” Which seems to be what you're doing.”

How, where, when???? In one of my latest blogs, I’ve called for the Post Office workers with the support of the Labour Movement to occupy their workplaces, so as to implement workers control, for goodness sake. How is that in any way class collaboration, how is it not advocating class struggle!!!

Arthur Bough said...

You say,

” Better than waiting for the Labour Party to adopt your plan and then an eternal wait for them to implement it.”

But, again, I say where and when have I said anything like that??? Nothing in what I have argued relies on waiting for the LP to adopt anything!!! Everything I have said relies on workers taking action themselves i.e. self-emancipation. I have only talked about working THROUGH the LP, utilising its Branch members and their implantation and links to the class as a whole, using it organisation and history etc. in order to turn those branches outwards to encourage workers in their communities to ACT themselves, not after the pub closes or some indeterminate time in the future when you propose to overthrow the State, but here and now, to set up TRA’s, Credit Unions, Housing Co-ops, to support workers in those communities on strike and so on.

Its you who has the reformist programme of limiting workers to simply struggling for reforms within the confines of Capitalism, you who wants them to wait until you overthrow the State.

Finally, you statement,

” but I think the struggle for reforms helps to build a revolutionary consciousness, whereas you want to counterpose a utopian programme and the dead end of the Labour Party to such struggles.”

The first part contradicts your own previous attack on reformism where you said,

““The promotion of reformism demobilises the working class by promoting the idea that parliament can change the world for them, an idea constantly dashed by the power of capitalism in a bourgeois democracy.”

You should make your mind up. Secondly, my programme would be Utopian only if it did not locate the working class, and its self-activity as the means of its achievement. But, my programme DOES locate the working class in that role, and does offer them a way out of the current set of property relations without your maximalist call for smashing the state as being the only solution in that regard. Obviously, as a Marxist and a revolutionary, I believe that the Capitalist State will have to be smashed, because Capitalism will not simply evolve into socialism, and the bosses will attempt to prevent the spread of a Co-operative economy as it comes to threaten their interests. That is why it is necessary to build a Workers Party with a programme capable of achieving that end. But, the route to that runs through taking the workers where they are now, and their Party where it is now, not Ultra-Leftist and sectarian calls for some alternative, whose only support seems to be a few dozen sectarians, who cannot even agree amongst themselves let alone provide the kind of basis for building a new Workers Party!

Chris said...

"But, the route to that runs through taking the workers where they are now, and their Party where it is now, not Ultra-Leftist and sectarian calls for some alternative, whose only support seems to be a few dozen sectarians, who cannot even agree amongst themselves let alone provide the kind of basis for building a new Workers Party!"

Can I please have permission to use this paragraph, the last line really highlights the absurdity of the left. If only they could get some discipline and professionalism!

I still don't accept your equation that hating the Labour party means hating the workers but that is a small difference and one that should not divide us. Too many trivial matters divide us on the left and the right benefit.

Arthur Bough said...

Chris,

Of course you can use the paragraph. On hating the workers. Let me be clear that what I was saying was that in actual fact I don't believe that the real reason the sectarian Left hate the LP is because of its politics. If that were the case then they would not have operated inside it in the past.

Nor am I saying, obviously, that they say they hate the workers. But, as they say the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Its ironical that this sectarian left criticise the LP for not being working class - which is in any case untrue - because a look at any of these organisations shows that they are almost entirely petit-bourgeois in composition!

All of them have a high proprtion of students. Where they have workers they again have a high percentage of former students who have taken up jobs as lecturers, or some other intellectual occupation, and so on. I am not saying that white collar workers are not workers, but taking the background and lifestyle of these workers, it is hardly that of the average worker.

Every single one of these organsiations have seen their route to "building the party", at some point in their history, and usually continue to see it largely, as being by recruiting students, and a look at what Lenin and Trotsky had to say about that shows the problem.

Nearly all these organisations, and particular those of the Third Camp tradiiton such as the SWP, end up losing faith in the working class, and attempting to locate soem other force as the measn by which to achieve their ends. Hence the adoption by the SWP, and Socialist Action of various petit-bourgeois "anti-imperialist" forces, or this years favourite Leftist.

At the same time look at the response of much of that Left to the Oil refinery strikes, where they refused to give support,a nd even talked about picketing the union offices, because the workers involved they found were raising reactionary demands.

That was just a graphic illustration of the sectarian attitude of that left towards the real working class. In that instance the SP, PR and the CPGB were not guilty, but in other instances they are little better.

Arthur Bough said...

On the last point I should have added by way of example Phil's statement above that the SP works with the most advanced workers in the TU's. Precisely, its remaining stuck in the milieu of that tiny minority of people who either already think like you, or think very much like you that is the problem. It leads to thinking that this IS the class, which is a delusion.

Of course, Marxists have to work with such advanced elements, but only as a means of mobilising them to relate to the rest of the class. That is precisely my argument in relation to the LP. The measure is, look at the various papers of the left, to which the response of the ordianry worker would be something like, but no so polite as "What bloody language is this written in?"

skidmarx said...

I can’t help but notice that you never actually reply to any argument put to you.
Can't say I agree.

you shift the ground to Marx criticising the Utopians for not advocating class struggle.
I think that was my point all along.

the same Ultra-Leftism that Lenin attacked, and you fail to respond other than demonstrating the very contradiction in your position I had highlighted
No it isn't, and there is no contradiction because political parties and trade unions aren't the same.

As my original comment could not in any way have been construed as suggesting the LP was a “Leninist” Party
I think it could, but if that's your final answer then we could leave it there.

How, where, when????
Opposing the post strikes and attacking those outside the Labour Party. I haven't had time to go through your entire opus so I'm glad if your attack on the far left isn't representative of your thinking.

The first part contradicts your own previous attack on reformism
No it doesn't. Fighting for reforms is not identical with reformism.

who cannot even agree amongst themselves let alone provide the kind of basis for building a new Workers Party!
I hope they learn.

Nearly all these organisations, and particular those of the Third Camp tradiiton such as the SWP, end up losing faith in the working class
Because they thought workers in the Eatern bloc should fight against stalinist bureaucracies?

Arthur Bough said...

Skid,

You began by claiming that advocating Co-operatives was “Utopian”. A simple look at what you said proves that.

Yes, its true that Trade Unions and Political parties are not the same, but the point is that Trade Unions are by their nature reformist. If Marxists can and should work in Trade Unions despite their reformist nature, despite the fact that they can offer workers no political solution, then clearly there is no principled reason why they should not also work in political parties that are based on and share the same reformist outlook as those Trade Unions. That is why Lenin argued against your Ultra-Left position and said they should do so!

You say that you think my argument could have been construed as being that the LP was a “Leninist Party”. Given that much of my post was about comparing the LP’s right-wing politics now with its right-wing politics previously, I really don’t know how ANYONE could construe it as suggesting that the LP was a “Leninist” party!

You accuse me of opposing the Post strikes. That is a fabrication. Read my blog. Not only have I called for support for the Post strikes, but called for the Labour Movement in supporting the posties to occupy the buildings etc.! I certainly said before the strike that I did not think that under current conditions a strike was the best TACTIC. IN 1871, Marx advised the French workers against rising in revolt, because he did not feel the time was right, that they were yet ready. When they did he threw his weight behind the Commune. Marxists always have to tell the truth to the workers, including advising when tactics and timing may be wrong. We do not simply tail the workers as you seem to want to do. That is why Marx and Lenin argued against the kind of reformism and Economism that characterises your politics, and stressed the need for POLITICAL solutions like setting up Co-operatives, changing workers material conditions upon which ideas are developed. That is what Historical Materialism is all about!

As for criticising sectarianism on the part of the Left I do not see how on Earth that can be turned into opposing class struggle!!! On the contrary it is the sectarianism of the Left, which is the real opponent of class struggle politics, precisely because it puts its own narrow interests above that of the working class, and the task of building its party, because it is far more interested in simply building and defending its own multitude of sects!

Arthur Bough said...

Fighting for reforms might not be the same as reformism, but limiting your politics as you do to simple reformist struggles and strikes is reformism. Counterposing strikes and struggles for reforms to helping the working class develop a POLITICAL programme to resolve its problems, and to develop ITS political party to fight for it, IS Reformism, Economism and Tailism. Arguing as you did that in some way this fight for reforms somehow miraculously leads the workers to develop their class consciousness is not only anti-Marxist, but is reformism. Look at what Marx himself said on that, where he advised workers not to spend too much time on those things, precisely because they could not lead the workers forward!

As for you “hoping” that the sectarians outside the LP learn, I’m afraid that sums up what is wrong with your politics and philosophical approach. Marxism is not based on hope, but on science. In 100 years the sectarians have not “learned” anything. The Movement that Marx and Engels and some of their supporters developed towards the end of the 19th century has been squandered. What we should “learn” as Marxists is that fact, and reject the politics and philosophy of those sectarians that have led the movement astray for the last century.

”Because they thought workers in the Eatern bloc should fight against stalinist bureaucracies?”

Absolutely not. Its easy to have faith in the working class when it IS active, and strong. Even the Third Campists managed that! Its easy to simply “say” you support the independent activity of workers. The test is what you actually do in practice. The reality is that the SWP has tied its wagon not to the working class, but to a variety of reactionary Islamist forces, simply on the bases of some supposed “anti-imperialism”. It has done so in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran etc. even as those forces have been physically destroying workers and their organisations, as well as conducting vile pogroms against women, gays etc. It has done the same thing in Britain, allying itself in Respect, not with the working class, but with the same Stalinists you claim they opposed in Eastern Europe, as well as with Muslim businessmen.

If attacking the Left outside the LP for engaging in such shameless alliances with the enemies of the working class is opposing class struggle then I plead guilty!

skidmarx said...

You began by claiming that advocating Co-operatives was “Utopian”.
As a political strategy, porbably yes. I didn't say there's no good in them.
If Marxists can and should work in Trade Unions despite their reformist nature, despite the fact that they can offer workers no political solution, then clearly there is no principled reason why they should not also work in political parties that are based on and share the same reformist outlook as those Trade Unions.
No. Trade unions bring all workers together and can be the basis for their self-organisation in a way reformist political parties can't.

skidmarx said...

That is why Lenin argued against your Ultra-Left position and said they should do so!
He argued it at a particular point in time. If you dig up and re-animate him we could ask if he'd say the same today.
I really don’t know how ANYONE could construe it as suggesting that the LP was a “Leninist” party!
Good.
That is why Marx and Lenin argued against the kind of reformism and Economism that characterises your politics, and stressed the need for POLITICAL solutions like setting up Co-operatives, changing workers material conditions upon which ideas are developed. That is what Historical Materialism is all about!
I don't think it is, or Marx and Lenin argued in quite such a way.They thought the point was to seize the means of production,not to say that we can co-operatise the system bit by bit, so nobody will notice it.
On the contrary it is the sectarianism of the Left, which is the real opponent of class struggle politics,
That's your opinion.

skidmarx said...

but limiting your politics as you do to simple reformist struggles and strikes is reformism.
Don't think that's the case. Every strike contains the germ of revolution,mass strikes are infected.
Counterposing strikes and struggles for reforms to helping the working class develop a POLITICAL programme to resolve its problems, and to develop ITS political party to fight for it, IS Reformism, Economism and Tailism.
Rets.
There is a difference between developing a programme and turning tactics like occupation and co-operitastion into a universal pancreas.
Marxism is not based on hope, but on science.
I think it's based on science. You've obviously abandoned hope for despair.
What we should “learn” as Marxists is that fact,
I think it's an opinion with which I disagree in the terms it's put.
It has done so in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran etc. even as those forces have been physically destroying workers and their organisations, as well as conducting vile pogroms against women, gays etc.
I think where people are fighting imperialism it is incumbent on the left to support them, despite the truths you point out.
It has done the same thing in Britain, allying itself in Respect, not with the working class, but with the same Stalinists you claim they opposed in Eastern Europe, as well as with Muslim businessmen.
I think Respect was probably worth giving a go at the time because of the disproportionate impact of the War On Terror on Muslim communities, but I worry now that it is an electoralist distraction from class politics(not that I'm against the left collaborating for elections).If by Stalinists you refer in particular to the member for Bethnal Green & Bow,if you check out www.socialistunity.com threads from the last couple of years I've been severely critical of the gentleman, partly because his battle to steal Respect from the SWP involved building himself up as a towering behemoth of the left and it was good to regularly puncture that pomposity, and the constant abuse from his numbskull supporters who now style themselves Respect only encouraged me to point out as many of their inadequacies as I could find.
Then I plead guilty!
That will be taken into consideration.

Arthur Bough said...

"It appears that one of the greatest obstacles to the immediate formation of a united Communist Party is presented by the disagreement on the questions of participation in Parliament and on whether the new Communist Party should affiliate to the old, trade-unionist, opportunist and social-chauvinist Labour Party, which is mostly made up of trade unions....

"Thus, the main division is the same as in Germany i.e. the German lefts who objected to work in reformist Trade Unions...

"I cannot deal here with the second point of disagreement among the British Communists—the question of affiliation or non-affiliation to the Labour Party. I have too little material at my disposal on this question, which is highly complex because of the unique character of the British Labour Party, whose very structure is so unlike that of the political parties usual in the European continent. It is beyond doubt, however, first, that in this question, too, those who try to deduce the tactics of the revolutionary proletariat from principles such as: "The Communist Party must keep its doctrine pure, and its independence of reformism inviolate; its mission is to lead the way, without stopping or turning, by the direct road to the communist revolution"—will inevitably fall into error. Such principles are merely a repetition of the mistake made by the French Blanquist Communards, who, in 1874, "repudiated" all compromises and all intermediate stages."

Lenin did learn more and advocated affilliation.

Left-Wing Communism

Arthur Bough said...

If you do not beleive that Historical Materialsm is that ideas are a function of material conditions, and that changes in the productive forces bring about changes in productive relations, which then change social relations and the ideas that go with them, you should tell us what you think it is.

UNtil workers have sufficient experience of material conditions in which they own and control means of production it is impossible for those ideas to develop, and so impossible for them to "seize teh means of production".

No one is suggesting that the means of production be turned into Co-operative property so nobody will notice. That is another fabrication like your assertion that I oppose the postal strikes. If you are going to criticise my posiiton at least find out first what it is, and do so honestly.

Its not just my opinion about the role of sectarianism. It was the opinion of marx and engels too, who cut themselves adrift of the same kind of sectism in their own time, and devoted themselves to work in the existing workrers parties accepting that necessarily those parties would suffer all the weaknesses that the class itself suffered.

skidmarx said...

Lenin on the Labour Party:you are taking your quote from a time when he admits to not knowing so much, the unique character of the Labour Party has disappeared as far as I can see, I'd certainly agree with him that being in or out is a tactical question not one of principle.

You seem to give a reasonable outline account of hitorical materialism, but I disagree when you say:
UNtil workers have sufficient experience of material conditions in which they own and control means of production it is impossible for those ideas to develop.
They get the experience from the battle for control in the workplace, not from you coming along and saying how much better co-operatives would be. If you have to wait for co-operatives to come to you before you can develop socialist ideas then they aren't coming.

If you are going to criticise my posiiton at least find out first what it is, and do so honestly.
OK. Are you withdrawing your unfounded assertion that the far left hates workers? And perhaps stopcalling them the sectarian left.

the opinion of marx and engels too, who cut themselves adrift of the same kind of sectism in their own time, and devoted themselves to work in the existing workrers parties
And supported the establishment of the SPD and other socialist parties when the time was right, and with the collapse of social democracy Lenin found it necessary to call for an organisational split with those parties. You're really not going to convince anyone that they would have supported your positions by selective quotation.As you claim to have read Hal Draper can I recommend his article on how not to quote Marx and generally his volume on the 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat'.

Arthur Bough said...

Skid,

I notice that your replies have in many cases simply degenerated into the substitution of sarcasm rather than argument. That says a lot about the strength of your argument. I’ll respond to those arguments you do give, and treat the sarcasm with the contempt it deserves.

“Every strike contains the germ of revolution, mass strikes are infected.”...

Isn’t this a statement of opinion? Moreover, is it not an opinion that Marx and other Marxists strongly disagreed with? Do the facts not speak against this opinion. If as you claim strikes led to the development of class consciousness then given the number of strikes the working class has engaged in over the last 200 years it should by now have become more than sufficiently class conscious to overthrow Capitalism! In fact, its probably less class conscious today than it was 60 years ago. Marx advised the workers against spending too much energy on such activity. Lenin totally disagrees with you, and says that strikes are not “class” actions, but merely “sectional” actions that can only engender a Trade Union, reformist conscioussness. The only time a strike is a “class” act is when it is a mass strike by the whole class against the State as Lenin correctly states. But how often does that happen? Moreover, it is not what you have been proposing here in relation to the Postal strike.

Let’s take that example. The Postal Workers strike, what are the possible outcomes? At best, they win the strike, and the status quo is maintained! What lesson do they learn from that. Its possible to defend, and sometimes even improve your condition WITHIN Capitalism. In other words it is a thoroughly REFORMIST lesson. But, if the status quo has been maintained that can hardly be seen as a victory or an advancement for the working class, because as the posties have found along with every other worker, in six months, a year, two years, the bosses will be back to try again until thy win. The other option is that they lose. What lesson do they learn then? Perhaps that Trade Union action is inadequate, insufficient. Some may, as many workers having suffered such defeat in the past, conclude that there is not point even being in a Trade Union, and will simply do the obvious thing that Capitalist society engenders in people, and decide to look after number one. Some may decide that rather than just a Trade Union solution, a POLITICAL solution, is required.

What of these. The fact remains as we have seen through history that the vast majority of such people will see that solution coming not from some sect, but from the established Workers Party. They will seek to push the LP Left. And why will they not be attracted to the sectarian left? Because if we look at your POLITICAL solution to their problem, it is no solution at all. Telling a worker who has just lost, or is about to lose their job that the only political solution to their problem is to simply wait for the revolution, and the overthrow of the State is no solution at all, because it does not deal with their immediate situation, nor any situation they are likely to face for the foreseeable future! Of course, there is a political solution that avoids those problems, and it is the solution that many workers around the globe have taken, and which Marx, Engels, Lenin and I propose, and that is that the workers themselves take over the enterprise and establish a Workers Co-operative.

Arthur Bough said...

”There is a difference between developing a programme and turning tactics like occupation and co-operitastion into a universal pancreas.”..

But, I do not, nor have you despite previous requests provided any evidence that I do. I have set out a programme that specifies many different aspects of struggle, of which creating Co-operatives are only one part. The difference is you can provide no Programme whatsoever. Your only advice to workers is strike, and overthrow the State. That is not by any means a programme, certainly not a Marxist programme.

”I think where people are fighting imperialism it is incumbent on the left to support them, despite the truths you point out.”...

I agree, but the difference is that I believe that support is provided on the basis of the working class being the means by which the support is provided, and the problems resolved. You, however, seem to believe that it is provided by giving uncritical political support to the enemies of the working class.

“I think Respect was probably worth giving a go at the time because of the disproportionate impact of the War On Terror on Muslim communities, but I worry now that it is an electoralist distraction from class politics(not that I'm against the left collaborating for elections).If by Stalinists you refer in particular to the member for Bethnal Green & Bow,if you check out www.socialistunity.com threads from the last couple of years I've been severely critical of the gentleman, partly because his battle to steal Respect from the SWP involved building himself up as a towering behemoth of the left and it was good to regularly puncture that pomposity, and the constant abuse from his numbskull supporters who now style themselves Respect only encouraged me to point out as many of their inadequacies as I could find.”..

You only realised that two years ago?????? You thought it was worth supporting a reactionary, cross class organisation, but not a Party that organises tens of thousands of workers, and is organically linked to the TU's? Jeez.

“Lenin on the Labour Party:you are taking your quote from a time when he admits to not knowing so much, the unique character of the Labour Party has disappeared as far as I can see, I'd certainly agree with him that being in or out is a tactical question not one of principle.”...

The whole point of the quote was what Lenin says about the basis of Marxist method, and his criticisms from that of Ultra-Leftism, not whether it was tactically correct or not. I could give much later quotes from Trotsky that make that point even clearer. But, there is no point, because the facts speak louder. The real test of your argument is – has it proved correct. The answer is clearly no. In the last 200 years there have been a plethora of sectarian organisations of the kind you propound. For the last 100 years there have been mass workers parties. Despite your arguments and pleadings over that time the workers have repeatedly shunned the sects. Marxists base themselves on the facts, and on their observations. The fact is that for all their faults the mass workers parties have survived almost 100 years after Luxemburg described them as being a “stinking corpse”. The workers in their vast majority continue to see these parties as “Their” parties. What of the sects. By comparison they are like exotic particles. They spring into existence, and just as quickly disappear from it without the working class ever being aware they were there at all. Why is that? Partly, it is due to the fact that these organisations by and large are not of the working class. They are mostly made up of petit-bourgeois elememts, students, former students, intellectuals. Even where these elements do become workers they retian the same methods, attitudes and outlook of that milieu.

Arthur Bough said...

But, there is a more important point. Workers are very practical people. They want practical solutions to their everyday problems. They want someone to deal with the repairs that need doing to their Council house; they want someone to do something about the anti-social behaviour on the estate, and so on. For the last 100 years when they have wanted a solution to these problems they have turned to “Fred” their local Labour Councillor or ex Councillor who still knows a few people, and who lives round the corner. They do not go in search of the representative of the Tooting Popular Front in the halls of residence of the local University. Even if they did, not only would such a representaive have no idea where to start in trying to resolve these problems, but would have no interest in doing so, because for the sectarian left, such activity is “routinism”. Unless, it fits into the kind of politics you have described – a strike from which they hope to recruit, or some similar large action they can parachute into they have no interest. Workers have learned that, and learned that where this some such action the “revolutionaries” having parachuted in, are soon airlifted out again when the potential for recruits has gone!

In the main these organisations only continue to exist, where they do, because every so many years they recruit a few more students.

”They get the experience from the battle for control in the workplace, not from you coming along and saying how much better co-operatives would be. If you have to wait for co-operatives to come to you before you can develop socialist ideas then they aren't coming.”..

Well they certainly haven’t come from the millions of strikes there have been in the last couple of hundred years have they. So I suppose I can understand why you are so pessimistic about the working class! And, of course Marx who developed the theory of Historical Materialism violently disagrees with you. It was he who wrote,

“Trades Unions work well as centres of resistance against the encroachments of capital. They fail partially from an injudicious use of their power. They fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerrilla war against the effects of the existing system, instead of simultaneously trying to change it, instead of using their organized forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class that is to say the ultimate abolition of the wages system.”..

Karl Marx – Value, Price and Profit

He also wrote,

“At the same time, and quite apart from the general servitude involved in the wages system, the working class ought not to exaggerate to themselves the ultimate working of these everyday struggles. They ought not to forget that they are fighting with effects, but not with the causes of those effects; that they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction; that they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady. They ought, therefore, not to be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerilla fights incessantly springing up from the never ceasing encroachments of capital or changes of the market. They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society.”..

Arthur Bough said...

These are by the way those very struggles you DO want the workers to concentrate upon. He sets out what material conditions and social forms he is talking about when he says,

“The co-operative factories of the labourers themselves represent within the old form the first sprouts of the new, although they naturally reproduce, and must reproduce, everywhere in their actual organisation all the shortcomings of the prevailing system. But the antithesis between capital and labour is overcome within them, if at first only by way of making the associated labourers into their own capitalist, i.e., by enabling them to use the means of production for the employment of their own labour. They show how a new mode of production naturally grows out of an old one, when the development of the material forces of production and of the corresponding forms of social production have reached a particular stage. Without the factory system arising out of the capitalist mode of production there could have been no co-operative factories. Nor could these have developed without the credit system arising out of the same mode of production. The credit system is not only the principal basis for the gradual transformation of capitalist private enterprises. into capitalist stock companies, but equally offers the means for the gradual extension of co-operative enterprises on a more or less national scale. The capitalist stock companies, as much as the co-operative factories, should be considered as transitional forms from the capitalist mode of production to the associated one, with the only distinction that the antagonism is resolved negatively in the one and positively in the other.” ..

He goes on,

“The two characteristics immanent in the credit system are, on the one hand, to develop the incentive of capitalist production, enrichment through exploitation of the labour of others, to the purest and most colossal form of gambling and swindling, and to reduce more and more the number of the few who exploit the social wealth; on the other hand, to constitute the form of transition to a new mode of production. It is this ambiguous nature, which endows the principal spokesmen of credit from Law to Isaac Pereire with the pleasant character mixture of swindler and prophet.”..

Incidentally, these comments by Marx about the new Co-operative society developing gradually out of Capitalist society via the use of Credit are starkly in contrast to your statements about Marx’s view being solely about the seizure of the means of production!

Furthermore, in contrast to your view about the relationship between these material conditions and the development of socialist ideas, and following on from his criticism of the kind of Economism you propound, Marx says,

“But there was in store a still greater victory of the political economy of labour over the political economy of property. We speak of the co-operative movement, especially the co-operative factories raised by the unassisted efforts of a few bold “hands”. The value of these great social experiments cannot be overrated. By deed instead of by argument, they have shown that production on a large scale, and in accord with the behests of modern science, may be carried on without the existence of a class of masters employing a class of hands; that to bear fruit, the means of labour need not be monopolized as a means of dominion over, and of extortion against, the labouring man himself; and that, like slave labour, like serf labour, hired labour is but a transitory and inferior form, destined to disappear before associated labour plying its toil with a willing hand, a ready mind, and a joyous heart. In England, the seeds of the co-operative system were sown by Robert Owen; the workingmen’s experiments tried on the Continent were, in fact, the practical upshot of the theories, not invented, but loudly proclaimed, in 1848.”...

Arthur Bough said...

”OK. Are you withdrawing your unfounded assertion that the far left hates workers?”..

Read what I said! I said to the extent that Chis’s comment about the sectarian Left hating the LP for its ideas is true, then to the same extent it would have to hate those millions of workers who share those ideas, or hold views that are even more right-wing. More importantly, this is a diversion. You accused me of opposing the Post Strikes. That was a complete fabrication. You have accused me of proposing Co-operatives be developed “so that no one noticed”, which is another complete fabrication.

“And perhaps stop calling them the sectarian left.”..

Why should I drop a perfectly good Marxist characterisation of such organisations that can be defended on the basis of the practice of those organisations whereas your fabrications of my position on the Pots strikes, and on developing Co-operatives cannot be defended on any basis whatsoever!

”And supported the establishment of the SPD and other socialist parties when the time was right, and with the collapse of social democracy Lenin found it necessary to call for an organisational split with those parties. You're really not going to convince anyone that they would have supported your positions by selective quotation.”..

Precisely, when the time was right! That is when the working class itself was being won to those organisations! But, people like you have been trying to win workers to your sects for the last 100 years, and have singularly failed for the reasons set out above. Yes, Lenin argued for a split under the historic conditions. He thought the revolution was at hand, that the War would turn into a European Revolution, and believed under those conditions that the workers would join a new revolutionary party. Indeed, many did. But, he was ultimately wrong, wasn’t he. And the job of a Marxist is to admit when a mistake has been made. Einstein once said that the sign of an idiot was someone who keeps repeating the same experiment over and over again, and each time expects the result to be different from every previous time. Yet, that is precisely what the sectarian Left has done for the last century in trying to counterpose itself as some alternative to the existing workers parties under conditions when the workers have no interest in them.

I’ll finish by another quote from Draper quoting Marx, which shows the sectarian, elitist nature of your own politics.

“The Communist Manifesto which issued out of these discussions proclaimed that the first objective of the revolution was “to win the battle of democracy.” When, two years later and after the decline of the 1848 revolutions, the Communist League split, it was in conflict once again with the “crude communism” of putschism, which thought to substitute determined bands of revolutionaries for the real mass movement of an enlightened working class. Marx told them:

“The minority ... makes mere will the motive force of the revolution, instead of actual relations. Whereas we say to the workers: ‘You will have to go through fifteen or twenty or fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change extant conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and to render yourselves fit for political dominion,’ you, on the other hand, say to the workers: ‘We must attain to power at once, or else we may just as well go to sleep.’”
..

SamG said...

Boffy,

Why are you a supporter of the postal strike if they are merely reformist and that any gains will be lost at some point in the future?
I just can't see the logic of that position.

Now you say that gains by unions will eventually come to nothing but let us test that assertion using your own argument in relation to far left parties. I.e. let's look at the actual historical evidence.
It is clear to anyone that those battles fought by trade unions have brought benefits to millions of workers, it is clear to anyone who looks at the real empirical evidence that workers are better off in those nations that follow a set of policies that are closer to trade union values, such as Sweden.

Now I am a socialist and like Marx wish to see humanity move beyond capitalism, but I don't let that cloud the fact that not all capitalism is the same.

And that fact is reformist only when viewed by a reformist.

Arthur Bough said...

Sam,

I support the postal strikes for exactly the reason that Marx supported workers in struggle despite his comments above about the limited nature of those struggles. The classic formulation of that is in his letter to Ruge. That is unlike Skids argument Marxists are not sectarian towards the workers. We recognise that they hold a host of bouregois ideas, and that this is reflected in the parties they create, in the organisations like Trade Unions they create to deal with tehir immediate problems. But, our task is to educate the workers so that they can go beyond those ideas.

You are hardly likely to gain the ear of workers to carry out that process if you begin by saying sorry, we won't support your strike because ultimately its doomed, or we won't support your efforts to build Trade Unions because they are reformist, or we won't fight alongside you in your Party, because it has a neo-liberal agenda!

Instead, the Marxist says, look we think that the actions you are taking can at best provide some temporary relief. That is not inisgnificant, but to provide a reaal solution you must go beyond that. We understand you don't yet agree with us, but we hope in the process of going through this struggle to prove to you that what we say is right.

Actually, I don't agree with this idea that workers conditions have improved as a result of Trade Union struggle or the actions of reformist parties. There was a programme on BBC the oher day about the 1930's. An interesting point was that all the ideas that were to become he Welfare State after the War were actually developed by the Tory Chancellor Neville Chamberlain. And as Andrew marr pointed out in his new programme the welfare reforms brought in by the Liberals at the turn of the last century were largely due to the fact that the Boer War showed how unfit for purpose Britsih workers were.

British workers conditions improved because british Capitalism grew rapidly. Its what Marx calls the "Civilising Mission". It is merely manifested by the fact that in the process of clas struggle Capital is better able to accommodate workers demands, and in doing so expands its own scope. By the same token, despite, strong Trade Unions British workers living standards have fallen relatively as British Capital has become more decrepit.

I dealt with this welfarist approach in my blog cut & Run

skidmarx said...

“Every strike contains the germ of revolution, mass strikes are infected.”...

Isn’t this a statement of opinion? Moreover, is it not an opinion that Marx and other Marxists strongly disagreed with? Do the facts not speak against this opinion?

No. And I think Rosa Luxemburg would agree.

At best, they win the strike, and the status quo is maintained! What lesson do they learn from that?
That it is by their collective action their conditions are defended or improved, that it is by class solidarity that political advancement is made, and that the government and media are not unbeatable when they line up behind employers.

the solution that many workers around the globe have taken, and which Marx, Engels, Lenin and I propose, and that is that the workers themselves take over the enterprise and establish a Workers Co-operative.
I'm astonished that they didn't write "The Co-operative Manifesto" and establish "The Co-operative International" if their answer to failing businesses was for workers to take them over individually and run them in competition with capitalism. Or are you suggesting that the workers should wait until all of capitalism can be taken over simultaneously in sort of like a revolution.

You, however, seem to believe that it is provided by giving uncritical political support to the enemies of the working class.
I don't.

You thought it was worth supporting a reactionary, cross class organisation, but not a Party that organises tens of thousands of workers, and is organically linked to the TU's? Jeez.
When the most important issue of the time was the Iraq war, you would rather support a party that backed it than one that opposed it.Mary and Joseph.

The workers in their vast majority continue to see these parties as “Their” parties.
I think that's debatable.And if those parties are more of a hindrance than a help to the socialist cause,then organising separately is a necessity that marxists have recognised for 100 years.

They want someone to deal with the repairs that need doing to their Council house
I tend to ring the repairs department.

So I suppose I can understand why you are so pessimistic about the working class!
That's news to me. Thanks for informing me about what I think.

Your two quotes from Marx here in no way show him violently disagreeing with me, merely saying that trade unionists should be concerned with revolution as well as defending their conditions.

From your next quote:
The capitalist stock companies, as much as the co-operative factories, should be considered as transitional forms from the capitalist mode of production to the associated one.
I think this shows that Marx is saying that the concentration of capital provides the economic basis for a transition to socialism, not that turning each workplace into a co-operative is the prime method of struggle, any more than making each a joint-stock company would be.

The value of these great social experiments cannot be overrated.
But you seem to have managed it. Are you trying to claim that his method was the same as Owen's, why then the International?

Your quote from Marx via Draper again proves nothing, as you are trying to attack the far left's attempts to win workers over by claiming that the want to leave the workers behind.

Actually, I don't agree with this idea that workers conditions have improved as a result of Trade Union struggle or the actions of reformist parties.
It is the threat of such action that leads to reform. Capital Vol I is full of capitalists resisting even marginal reforms, and undermining their implementation where workers were not strong enough to enforce them.

SamG said...

Boffy,

I think we should both assume that we see the limitations of the capitalist system and both accept a fundamental change, beyond the guerrilla tactics of union struggle, is required to bring about socialism.

Now I don't think unions should take all the credit for any advancement in the standard of living among workers. However, I don't accept that if we imagined that there were no trade unions, workers standard of living would be exactly the same. I come to this view because I don't think the bourgeois class think in such a conscious, colluding way, or not to the extent you infer.

Therefore, short-termism and short sightedness among the capitalist class is a kind of permanent short-termism and short sightedness, where they only recognise what is good for their business and their profits.

At the level of the state, perhaps the 'bigger' picture is viewed, but one can act against the other.

Arthur Bough said...

Rosa Luxemburg’s spontaneism was wrong. Pretty much every Marxist including Lenin said it was wrong. History has proved it was wrong.

”That it is by their collective action their conditions are defended or improved, that it is by class solidarity that political advancement is made, and that the government and media are not unbeatable when they line up behind employers.”..

Which is precisely the argument that Bernstein made. It leads necessarily to workers beleiving that such struggles can simply continue improving their conditions under Capitalism i.e. Reformism

”I'm astonished that they didn't write "The Co-operative Manifesto" and establish "The Co-operative International"”

They could easily have done so, because in all of their writings such as in the Critique of the Gotha Programme they talk about the future society being a “Co-operative Society” or Commonwealth!

“if their answer to failing businesses was for workers to take them over individually and run them in competition with capitalism. Or are you suggesting that the workers should wait until all of capitalism can be taken over simultaneously in sort of like a revolution.”..

No, like Marx, Engels and Lenin and many other leading Marxists like Pannakoek, Gramsci etc. I am suggesting that workers do not wait until this millenarianist scenario play out before they seek political solutions to their problems. The bourgeoisie did not wait until they could take over all feudal property before launching a revolution, they built up their economic and social power as a class against that of the aristocracy. They demonstrated its superiority, and upon it developed the ideas of the new bourgeois society that enabled them to liberate the whole of society from feudalism. That is the whole basis of the Historical materialist method. Marx uses the same method in relation to the transformaion of boyregois society. That is why he speaks of the role of Co-operatives providing this example “By deed rather than argument”. But, look at the First International Programme which calls on workers to establish such Workers Co-operatives if you doubt that!!! Not as individual businesses, but as I too suggest as part of a National/International Co-operative Federation, and no as an alternative to class struggle, but as a fundamental part of it!

Your politics are not based on class but on hopping about to where you see the best potential for recruitment, hence you comments in relation to Muslims and the Iraq War, which subordinates class politics to bourgeois democratic politics in relation to bourgeois democratic demands such as self-determination.

Its not debatable that workers continue to see Social Democratic parties as their parties. Even to the extent that some workers vote for the Liberals or Tories, there is still evidence that they continue to see the LP as a Workers party. What is for sure is that they do not see any of the sects as “their” Party. It’s the actions of the sects, which have divided the Labour Movement, and diverted the resources of good militants away from effective involvement that has been the hindrance to socialist development, and which has led to many workers becoming disaffected with the idea of socialism itself.

”I tend to ring the repairs department.”

Spoken like a true petit-bourgeois who has no idea of the real problems that workers face on Council estates. Who would you call to deal with the anti-social behaviour – the bosses police???

Arthur Bough said...

”Your two quotes from Marx here in no way show him violently disagreeing with me, merely saying that trade unionists should be concerned with revolution as well as defending their conditions.”..

They show him also setting out what are the means by which workers fill the gap between existing conditions and future society!!! They show him arguing cogently that Co-operatives emerge as the rational means of effecting that change, and that they themselves emerge rationally from the development of the productive forces! In other words whilst there is a huge chasm in your politics between a Minimum programme that consists of nothing more than advice to workers to “strike”, and a Maximum Programme that calls on workers to engage in a Political and Social revolution, Marx provides the means of bridging that gap! Look at what Engels says,

““It seems that the most advanced workers in Germany are demanding the emancipation of the workers from the capitalists by the transfer of state capital to associations of workers, so that production can be organised, without capitalists, for general account; and as a means to the achievement of this end: the conquest of political power by universal direct suffrage.”..

No one has suggested as you keep trying to put in my mouth that the development of Co-operatives is the prime means of struggle. But, the development of Co-operatives is an important part that cannot as Marx put it be “overrated”, of the struggle as a whole, precisely because it does change the economic and social position of the class, and does provide a “political” solution to workers that simply calls for strikes and revolution do not. It leads inevitably as the bosses attempt to obstruct and act against those co-operatives to the need for workers to develop other political solutions in response, and thereby leads inevitably towards political revolution that you spontaneism cannot achieve.

No, of course I am not saying that Marx’s method was the same as Owen’s. But, Marx’s criticism of Owen, as he and Engels point out, is not that Owen had a wrong vision of Communist Society, Marx adopts most of the views of Owen and other Utopians on that, nor does he criticise Owen for the idea of setting up Co-operatives! He criticises Owen and other Utopians for not recognising the role of the working class as the means by which these changes in property relations are to be brought about. Even then he says, that this is not the Utopians fault, because they could not possibly have reached that conclusion, precisely because at the time they were writing there was no developed working class to fulfil that function. In other words Marx’s position is essentially that the Utopians had a correct view of the future society, and of the social forms required to get there, but they did not and could not locate the working class as the means of effecting that transformation through class struggle. His criticism of the FOLLOWERS of the Utopians is that when history has provided the answer to that problem they still refuse to accept it, and continue to argue for cross class action rather than class struggle. That is Marx’s attack on Proudhon.

”Your quote from Marx via Draper again proves nothing, as you are trying to attack the far left's attempts to win workers over by claiming that the want to leave the workers behind.”..

I don’t say that the sectarian left WANT to leave the workers behind, I say that that is the effect of their actions. To paraphrase Trotsky’s criticism of the kind of Oehlerite position you have put forward here, “The Moslems believe that the Mountain will have to come to Mohammed. If the workers are like the Mountain then we Marxists believe it is more sensible to move to the Mountain.”

See also Marxists and the Workers party

Arthur Bough said...

”It is the threat of such action that leads to reform. Capital Vol I is full of capitalists resisting even marginal reforms, and undermining their implementation where workers were not strong enough to enforce them.”..

It also speaks of the role of people like Wedgwood pushing for a limitation on working hours because competition was driving Capitalist to destroy the working class. It also speaks of the fact that after such reforms had been legislated, the defeat of the working class in the form of the defeat of Chartism, simply led to Capitalists ignoring the law with the connivance of the State. Workers can certainly win better conditions and reforms within the system, precisely because the productive forces develop, and this means that Capital produces more and a wider range of Use Values, which it needs to sell to workers. (What Marx calls its “Civilising Mission”). The process is certainly contradictory. Each Capitalist wants each other Capitalists workers to be well paid so they can buy more of their products. It is certainly true that within this process Trade Union action is one of the means by which this contradiction is resolved. Capitalists doing well more easily concede to pay claims rather than lose production. But straightforward competition between Capitals for Labour Power also plays a large part. That is why the number of strikes by workers are always very low compared with the total number of workers, and even the number of workers organised in Trade Unions is never more than around 25% on average, yet ALL workers over a period see rising living standards.

The very fact of Monopoly Capitalism, and its relationship to the State DOES mean that Capital views these things more strategically, even if contradictions remain. That is why in America now the main drive for socialised healthcare comes from sections of BIG Capital being crucified due to the cost of providing health insurance for their workers, which is making them uncompetitive with European Capital where such costs are socialised, and why a lot of the opposition is coming from those workers who get very good healthcare from such Company financed insurance, as well as from those sections of Capital, which currently do not have to finance such healthcare, and who fear that the new legislation will force them to do so one way or another. There certainly was no strong labour movement in Britain during the late 1920’s or 1930’s to exert pressure for such social reforms, yet it is precisely during this time that Capital drew up plans for the Welfare State that were implemented after the War.

SamG said...

Boffy,

Now I have some experience of capitalist 'planning' and let me tell you it never gets beyond what is good for us and our profit margins/goals.
Hence the Bankocracy got us into the doo dah.

In a mixed economy the state sector does look beyond what is good for it (at the behest of central government obviously).

So I think you can objectively claim Sweden is a better form of capitalism than say the USA. I'd be interested to know your views on that.

skidmarx said...

Which is precisely the argument that Bernstein made.
No. He substituted reformism for the struggle for socialism.

the “crude communism” of putschism
If the far left was putschist your argument might have validity, your quote some relevance.

Spoken like a true petit-bourgeois who has no idea of the real problems that workers face on Council estates. Who would you call to deal with the anti-social behaviour – the bosses police???
I live on a council estate.

Arthur Bough said...

Skid,

Your politics amounts to the substitution of reformism for the struggle for Socialism too because strikes can never do anything other than win reforms within the system, and your Maximum Programme of overthrowing the State sometime never is impossible to connect to those strikes and those reforms - which is why despite all the strikes there is no sign of such an overthrow of the state.

And its because of that that your programme for Socialism via this revolution is reduced to a programme for the small bands of dedicated revolutionaries - the sects - that you couterpose to the actual Workers Party amounts to nothing more than the kind of putschism that Marx was criticising.

So, you live on a Council estate, what does that prove? Lots of petit-bourgeois live on Council estates, and because that is what they are they can rely on the kind of bourgeois individualism that you propose here - "I ring the repairs Department" - because they have the kind of skills and confidence to deal with bureaucracies that ordinary workers often lack. Not only do you show you have no conception of the need for collective working class action and instead rely on this bouregois individualism, but once again you fail to answer the other question - who would you call to deal with anti-social behaviour? Whatever, the answer your personal response sets you apart ffrom the working class, because I can tell you having been a City Councillor that when ordinary workers have problems like these the first peson they turn to is the local Councillor.

Arthur Bough said...

Sam,

I don't know what you mean by Sweden is a "better" form of Capitalism than US Capitalism. Sweden and the US are two very different countries. Thge Us has a very large population whereeas Sweden a small population. The needs of Capital in both states are consequently very different. That explains a large part of the reason for differnt degrees of State intervention, and the different types of intervention in each case. After all the actual pecentage of GDP going to the Public Sector is about the same in each case.

I don't deny tnat different sections of Capital have different interests, but were it not the case that the matrix of all these competing interests is resolvable into a smaller set of common interests there could be no class interest in general. Nor do I accept the general thrust of what I think you are saying about State Capitalist enterprises acting with a view that extends beyond their own P&L Account. This would only be important if those actions were geared to the interests of "society". But, they clearly are not. Not only does "society" not have controlover them, but a look at the nationalised industries in the UK shows that they were run for the interests of Capital as a whole. The evidence for that is clear running from the preferential pricing given to business users, to the way these industries were provided with Capital out of state funds, then rationalised, and then sold off at giveaway prices to speculators.

Nor actually has Sweden and other Nordic countries been free of that either.

skidmarx said...

I too suggest as part of a National/International Co-operative Federation, and no as an alternative to class struggle, but as a fundamental part of it!
So you want these co-operatives to compete with capitalism within a capitalist system while hoping that workers will be attracted by their example to convert more production into co-operatives. It is to traduce the politics of Marx and Lenin to suggest that this politics is identical with theirs.

Your politics are not based on class but on hopping about to where you see the best potential for recruitment, hence you comments in relation to Muslims and the Iraq War, which subordinates class politics to bourgeois democratic politics
Rubbish. Sometimes political issues cut across clear class lines, such as with national liberation, and those who wish to carry the politics of class need to ensure they are on the right side. It's not about recruitment.

Look at what Engels says,
That the most class conscious workers in Germany were in favour of socialism.

He criticises Owen and other Utopians for not recognising the role of the working class as the means by which these changes in property relations are to be brought about.
But you seem to think that just if workers get involved in the co-operative movement(I may be caricaturing a little, but not a lot) that is the historical materialist method), whereas Marx was a believer in workers seizing power collectively having built up their solidarity through the battle to defend and improve existing conditions.The idea that they should ignore such here-and-now issues and keep their eyes on the prize of co-operatisation I don't believe he shares/shared with you.

So, you live on a Council estate, what does that prove?
I know that when you need a repair the first step is to ring the rapirs department.
Your question about anti-social behaviour is a complicated one. Through 30 attempted muggings and a home invasion I never called the police, but there are times when there is no alternative.

skidmarx said...

Whatever, the answer your personal response sets you apart ffrom the working class, because I can tell you having been a City Councillor
Whatever the answer you will employ your prejudice to dismiss it, and because you've been a local councillor think that you know what it is to be working class because you've been a political representative. Perhaps the next item in your ouevre should be titled "Why I'm really sectarian towards the Left I Hate".

Arthur Bough said...

“So you want these co-operatives to compete with capitalism within a capitalist system while hoping that workers will be attracted by their example to convert more production into co-operatives. It is to traduce the politics of Marx and Lenin to suggest that this politics is identical with theirs.”..

Really. So how do you explain the advice to do exactly that from Marx, Engels and Lenin in these sources then???

Letter By Ernest Jones advocating the First International’s policy of establishing a National Co-operative Federation.

Marx’s Instructions For The First International On Setting Up Co-operatives which includes:

“We acknowledge the co-operative movement as one of the transforming forces of the present society based upon class antagonism”,

“We recommend to the working men to embark in co-operative production rather than in co-operative stores”
..

Marx’s comment in the Grundrisse:

"As the system of bourgeois economy has developed for us only by degrees so too its negation, which is its ultimate result." p712..

Engels To Bebel where he sets out the opposition to calls for state capitalist nationalisation and state aid by the German socialists, and says,

“The German workers' party strives to abolish wage labour and hence class distinctions by introducing co-operative production into industry and agriculture, and on a national scale; it is in favour of any measure calculated to attain that end!”..

Engels To Bebel

Where he advocates support for workers in firms closing down taking them over to run as Co-operatives. Saying,

“My suggestion requires the entry of the cooperatives into the existing production. One should give them land which otherwise would be exploited by capitalist means: as demanded by the Paris Commune, the workers should operate the factories shut down by the factory-owners on a cooperative basis. That is the great difference. And Marx and I never doubted that in the transition to the full communist economy we will have to use the cooperative system as an intermediate stage on a large scale.”

“With the growth of capital goes also an increase in the number of proletarians within society. They become the most numerous class. Simultaneously grows their organization. The labourers create co-operatives that abolish the middle men and establish production directly for their own use. They organize unions that restrict the absolute power of the employers and exercise an influence in the productive process.”


Kautsky – “The road To Power” 1909

Arthur Bough said...

Lenin On Co-operatives 1910

saying,

“It is quite clear that there are two main lines of policy here: one—the line of proletarian class struggle, recognition of the value of the co-operative societies as a weapon in this struggle, as one of its subsidiary means, and a definition of the conditions under which the co-operative societies would really play such a part and not remain simple commercial enterprises.”..

i.e. the very position I propose, and also the decisions of the Congress:

“1) That proletarian consumers’ societies improve the situation of the working class in that they reduce the amount of exploitation by all kinds of commercial middlemen, influence the labour conditions of the workers employed by the supplying firms and improve the situation of their own employees.

“2) That these societies can assume great importance for the economic and political mass struggle of the proletariat by supporting the workers during strikes, lock-outs, political persecution, etc.”

and,

“The Congress calls on the workers of all countries:

“a) to join the proletarian consumers’ societies and to promote their development in every way, at the same time upholding the democratic character of these organisations;

“b) by untiring socialist propaganda in the consumers’ societies, to spread the ideas of class struggle and socialism among the workers;

“c) to strive at the same time to bring about the fullest possible co-operation between all forms of the labour movement.

“The Congress also points out that producers’ co-operatives can be of importance for the struggle of the working class only if they are a component part of consumers’ societies.”
..

Lenin concludes,

“The Copenhagen Congress marks that stage in the development of the labour movement in which its growth was, so to speak, mainly in breadth and in which it began to bring the proletarian co-operatives into the orbit of class struggle.”..

And later,

Lenin On Co-operation

“We went too far when we reintroduced NEP, but not because we attached too much importance to the principal of free enterprise and trade — we want too far because we lost sight of the cooperatives, because we now underrate cooperatives, because we are already beginning to forget the vast importance of the cooperatives from the above two points of view.”..

Lenin Capitalism In Agriculture where he refers to Kautsky’s comments on Co-operatives.

“It goes without saying that Kautsky very emphatically maintains that communal, collective large-scale production is superior to capitalist large scale production.”..

I’ve dealt with these arguments more fully in my blog Can Co-operatives Work Part IV

”Rubbish. Sometimes political issues cut across clear class lines, such as with national liberation, and those who wish to carry the politics of class need to ensure they are on the right side. It's not about recruitment.”..

What does not cut across class lines is which class socialists look to for the solution! Nor do socialist subordinate the struggle for socialism to the struggle for bourgeois democratic demands!

”That the most class conscious workers in Germany were in favour of socialism.”..

No you clearly distort the quote there for all to see. He says they are establishing Co-operatives under their own ownership and control!

Arthur Bough said...

”But you seem to think that just if workers get involved in the co-operative movement(I may be caricaturing a little, but not a lot) that is the historical materialist method), whereas Marx was a believer in workers seizing power collectively having built up their solidarity through the battle to defend and improve existing conditions.”..

No you are not caricaturing you are quite simply misrepresenting, and not by a little, but by a lot! I have never said “just if” workers set up Co-operatives or anything like it!!! Moreover, I have repeated several times that I have never said that yet you keep repeating this unsubstantiated allegation. Historical Materialism is not about workers “just” setting up Co-operatives. Historical Materialism is the theory that ideas flow from the material conditions. Bourgeois property relations create bourgeois social relations upon which arise bourgeois ideas. Those ideas remain dominant until such time as some other set of property relations arise, which create different social relations, and upon which socialist ideas arise and become dominant. Marx’s whole point in the quotes I’ve given shows that he believes that these ideas simply cannot arise from Trade Union struggle – Lenin agreed with him, that’s why Lenin refers to such a conception as Economism! Marx’s whole point is that Co-operatives DO represent those new property relations, and do lead to new social relations. That combined with the actions of the Workers Party can wage the struggle for socialist ideas within the working class, can lead to the extension of Co-operatives as a part of class struggle, and does lead to the idea amongst workers that they need to struggle for Political Power.

But, even if Marx, Lenin and so on had NOT said that, if they had said what you claim then they would have been wrong wouldn’t they, because we have had 200 years of workers strikes to try to advance and defend workers interests, and it has NOT led to the automatic adoption of a socialist class consciousness that you calim must result! That is precisely why the kind of spontaneism you share with Luxmburg was criticised by Lenin.

Arthur Bough said...

“The idea that they should ignore such here-and-now issues and keep their eyes on the prize of co-operatisation I don't believe he shares/shared with you.”

No one is suggesting that workers “ignore” here and now issues! The question is how they resolve them. Is it by limiting themselves to simply staying within the confines of the Capitalist status quo as you advocate, or is it by going beyond those limits to seek to change the existing property relations by taking over the means of production themselves as Marx and Engels, and Lenin and I propose? That is why Marx advises against your limited programme of just strikes.

”I know that when you need a repair the first step is to ring the rapirs department.”..

But, if you are like most Council tenants simply ringing is not enough is it? On many occasions no one comes. Often when they do the repair is inadequate and so on. Its what you do to deal with this which is the question, and the reality is that what Council tenants do in such cases is to get hold of their Councillor, or local LP activist. My main point was that, they contact someone from the LP they do not seek out their local Wolfy Smith, because they know from experience that they are not interested, and generally don’t have a clue what to do in such situations anyway!

The unfortunate thing is that the BNP have learned this lesson whilst the sectarian Left has not. They actually are dealing with these individual and community problems, which is one reason they are gaining support and Council seats, and the sectarian left is becoming more irrelevant.

”Your question about anti-social behaviour is a complicated one. Through 30 attempted muggings and a home invasion I never called the police, but there are times when there is no alternative.”..

But, again my point was that people turn to their local Councillors in such situations. This is part of the reason that the Left is characterised by sectarianism in refusing to recognise that even now workers look to the LP not to their sects as being their representative.

I don’t say that I know what it is to be working class because of being a Councillor, but because I am and always have been working class, and the whole of my political outlook and activity is based on and in the working class.