Saturday, 1 May 2010

Belated May Day Greetings

Just quick post to AVPS readers from myself and Brother S to convey our May Day greetings to friends and comrades.

May Day this year stands at the threshold of significant changes to British and world politics. The aftermath of the election in five days time could drive the final nail into the shoddy, crumbling coffin of our political system. If polls hold up and the LibDems extract proportional representation as the price for governing in coalition with one of the other two, we can wave goodbye to the undemocratic farce of first past the post elections. Whatever form of PR is installed in its place (I've made no secret of being a
single transferable vote fan boy) there will be new opportunities for socialist politics outside and inside the Labour party. The era of two-party politics is done.

But constitutional tinkering isn't the real reason why change is coming. As everyone knows, all three main parties are promising an agenda of cuts and "pain". It says it all that one of the main planks of Labour's campaign is it promises to be less vociferous and savage than the other two - a clear appeal to lesser evilism if there ever was one. Whoever gets in, whether a majority government or a coalition of some description, they will face large scale industrial unrest. Unfortunately, comrades who look forward to an automatic mass radicalisation off the back of it are liable to be disappointed. There might be anecdotal evidence of a slow revival, but the labour movement remains weak and basic trade union consciousness is stuck at an historic low. This means unions - especially public sector trade unions - will bear the brunt of the cuts offensive, and undoubtedly some form of radicalisation among a number of workers will be forged, but the problem is where it goes from there. It could feed into the wider labour movement and revitalise the sclerotic giant that is the organised working class. It might be mopped up by the Labour party (if out of power) or move into the 'major' minor parties. It's doubtful the revolutionary left will be swamped by tens of thousands of new adherents, but it cannot be ruled out completely. Or, to look at things pessimistically, because our movement is weak new radicalisation could dissipate in a thousand different directions. Change is in the air, but it definitely won't work for you.

Lastly our thoughts are with the millions that have taken to the streets of Greece in recent months. The confidence the Greek working class have shown in defying a truly savage programme of cuts is not only an inspiration for the working class everywhere, but is potentially a real global game changer. Greece might not fit the ideal-typical revolutionary situation beloved of the British left (Wot? No Leninist-Trotskyist party at the masses' head?), but for all intents and purposes a revolutionary situation it remains. Who can say what's going to happen next? But I would like to think on this May Day, it's just possible the tide of neoliberalism has finally been turned on the shores of the Aegean and that the rising of the Greek working class signals the gathering of a tidal wave of resistance is gathering. May it swamp the fetid waters of global capital and wash it all away.


Callum said...

"Who can say what's going to happen next?"

It's funny that you smirk about the lack of a revolutionary part (actually, the organized "Leninist-Marxists" (huh?) are strong in Greece, as you probably know and then, in the next sentence, tell us you have no idea what will happen next.

Do you think the lack of a revolutionary is in some way connected with the uncertainty?

Budapestkick said...

'Greece might not fit the ideal-typical revolutionary situation beloved of the British left (Wot? No Leninist-Trotskyist party at the masses' head?)'

I notice none of the Greek revolutionaries are advocating joining PASOK...

Boffy said...

I think you should avoid jumping to conclusions about what is happening and what might happen based on large street demonstrations. 2 million people marched in london against the Iraq War after all. In general repeated street demonstrations go nowhere. Not always, but in general such protest is the chosen form of protest of the middle classes, peasant and petit-bourgeois.

Real revolutionary situations arise not through street protest, but through workers taking over factories, offices etc. There is undoubtedly considerable anger from Greek workers too, but from the reports I read a lot of that anger is also directed at a corrupt, and bureaucratic Public sector, in which politicians have bought votes by giving jobs, and have given jobs to relations. Quite a few it appears then don't even turn up for work, but take other jobs whilst drawing their Public sector pay. It appears that many workers in the private sector are pretty pissed off that they are going to pay for the crisis under those conditions, which open the door to considerable division within the working class.

I hope that Greek workers do begin to occupy the workplaces, and thereby develop their own alternative, but I think its, unfortunately, more likely that a majority of workers will still back the Government, especially if the bail-out package smooths ove the current crisis. Without workers taking over the factories and creating their own organs of power, these street demonstrations like all those others of recent years in Burma, Iran etc. are likely to lose momentum, and fizzle out. Under those conditions joining PASOK as the only mass Workers Party in Greece, would be the only way of taking workers organisation and class conscioussness forward, however, much revolutionaries might want to find some shortcut to doing the hard work.

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Phil said...

You can note all you like, Budapest. I don't see how your attempt at a jibe is relevant.

Callum, as far as I know none of Greece's Trotskyist organisations are of a size or influence that would place them at the head of the struggle. The KKE on the other hand, well, that's a different matter.

Boffy, I fear you may be right.

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Jacob Richter said...

Belated May Day greetings too!


You've made your point of being a fan of STV. I've made my point of being a fan of closed-list, party-recallable, pure PR (if you're interested in me sending you files of my work, please let me know) with anywhere between a zero and a three-percent entry threshold.

But since the UK is headed for another dead-end compromise, why not emulate the German PR model but with modifications?

The seats in the Bundestag are proportional because the half of the legislature that is elected by FPTP are actually subtracted from the party lists. So Merkel won her FPTP seat, but was subtracted from the overall CDU party list.

[There's the problem of overhang seats created to benefit those parties winning FPTP seats without anyone on the party list remaining, but that's another story.]

The bottom line is: combine Germany's strict proportionality with a half legislature that is elected by AV or STV.


Your pessimistic outlook on the revolutionary left should add one more consideration: the lack of an International at the present time to coordinate UK left work. Hopefully later this year this will be rectified by none other than Hugo Chavez and the Fifth Socialist International.

I say this because the First International was crucial in building parties in various countries, from one of the SPD's parent predecessors to the French Workers Party to the DeLeonist Socialist Labor Party in the US.

Moreover, any Left Party to emerge in the UK must drop the "British Road to Socialism" baggage and affiliate on a continental basis with the EU-level European United Left-Nordic Green Left party chaired by none other than Die Linke's Lothar Bisky.

Boffy said...

To be honest, although I am in favour of Venezuelan marxists working in the PSUV as a means of creating the forces to establish a Venezuelan Socialist Party, I have no more faith in Chavez establishing a Socialist International than I would in Charles De Gaulle bringing that about - even when he was alive.

Both de Gaulle and Chavez are bourgeois politicians, with semi-radical bouregois programmes based on a dirigiste economic model of state Capitalism. Given your posiiton in relation to Lassalle, as far as I can assesss it, I can understand why you would place some hope in such a development, because both Chavez and DeGaulle stand closer to Lassalle's friend Bismark than they do to Marx or Lenin.

Jacob Richter said...

Arthur, I hope you got my private reply to this.

Jacob Richter said...

I am also worried about Chavez inviting scum like Iranian mullahs into the new International as an "anti-imperialist" gesture... undoubtedly prodded by the likes of the PCV, but on the other hand to the chagrin of the pareconists.

Chavez, to be more accurate, is a "petit-bourgeois nationalist" than a bourgeois politician. Notice also the subtlety of your two words "some hope." "Some hope" refers to "some hope" in the process.

Aidan said...

I don’t know why but I am reminded of Engels remarks to August Bebel below when I hear the left criticise Chavez,

“I read [Vollmar's] second article rather hurriedly, with two or three people talking the whole time. Otherwise the way he represents the French Revolution to himself would have led me to detect the French influence and with it my Vollmar too, no doubt. You have perceived this side quite correctly. He at last is the dreamed-of realisation of the phrase about the "one reactionary mass." All the official parties united in one lump here, all the Socialists in one column there--great decisive battle. Victory all along the line at one blow. In real life things do not happen so simply. In real life, as you also remark, the revolution begins the other way round by the great majority of the people and also of the official parties massing themselves together against the government, which is thereby isolated, and overthrowing it; and it is only after those of the official parties whose existence is still possible have mutually and successively accomplished one another's destruction that Vollmar's great division takes place and with it the prospect of our rule. If, like Vollmar, we wanted to start straight off with the final act of the revolution we should be in a miserably bad way.”

Chavez represents a great leap forward.