May 18 2012

THE SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM DEBATE, Part 3


This section of our continuing debate on the Scottish Independence Referendum addresses the British Left.

The commune asked Allan Armstrong and Bob Goupillot to submit an article on the issue. This article, The Scottish Independence Referendum, appeared in the April, 2012 issue of the commune.

Barry Biddulph replied to this in the June issue with The Paradox of Nationalism as Internationalism from Below.

Allan and Bob provide a detailed critique, The Paradox of ‘Non-nationalist’ British Left Unionism.

These three articles are posted below.

They are followed by three articles from other representatives of the British Left – Arthur Bough (Boffy’s Blog), Stuart King (Permanent Revolution) and James Turley (CPGB-Weekly Worker) outlining their own distinct positions on the referendum debate. This is followed by a short critique by Allan Armstrong.

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THE SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM

To better understand our approach to this issue it is useful, by way of a preamble, to provide a thumbnail sketch of our understanding of the international context.

The modern form of capitalism is a developed imperialism dominated by the United States. US imperialism relies on a series of local allies at strategic locations around the world.  In western Europe the USA’s main ally is the UK state, which thereby provides a linchpin for the whole system.

In this context we see our role as communists to work towards the transformation of the existing states on these islands into becoming part of a federation of European socialist republics in a transition to a stateless world – a global commune.

At present we perceive a series of fault lines that run through the multinational, but unionist, UK state, especially the issue of a united Ireland and self-determination for Scotland.  We have developed a strategy of ‘internationalism from below’ to link the situation we face in Scotland, the UK and Ireland with the global struggle for emancipation and liberation. We promote the ‘break up of the UK state’ as a key tactic in pursuing this.  It is from this perspective, as communists, republicans and internationalists that we support the struggle for an independent Scotland.  We are not Scottish nationalists but Scottish internationalists seeking new forms of unity, which are not a mere reflection of how the ruling class or the British Left organises itself. We need to be able to take our own initiatives, not just react to those of others.

 

Independence-Lite or Devo-Max?

So how does the Republican Communist Network view the SNP and the forthcoming referendum?  Well, we summarise their relationship to the struggle for independence as analogous to that between the old Labour party and Socialism, i.e. opportunist.  The SNP reflects a small business, petty bourgeoisie outlook that seeks greater influence for its class backers within the existing corporate imperial order, i.e. ‘Independence-Lite’. Such a state, very unlikely to come about in the current political climate, would be a ‘Scottish Free State’, with a similar character to the Irish Free State, formed after the defeat of Irish Republicans in the British-promoted Irish Civil War of 1922-3. At present, however, many of the SNP’s business backers, naturally cautious about any radical political change and understanding of their lowly position in the current imperial pecking order, would settle for a restructured UK state, i.e. Devo-Max.

The SNP’s left wing consists of advanced nationalists, republicans and some who would call themselves socialists, although the majority of their left wing decamped into the SSP in its early days (though many have since returned). The SNP’s electoral base is politically broad ranging from social democrats seeking a home to the left of Labour to far right nationalists advocating some kind of Celtic purity.

Given this character the SNP leadership is keen to placate and charm corporate business leaders, the Scottish Establishment, the  British and US ruling classes – hence the retention of the UK monarchy (and more importantly the Crown Powers), the pound sterling and cooperation with the UK state over defence, foreign policy etc. They are particularly proud of the role played by Scottish regiments in serving British imperial needs for centuries.

In contrast the SNP leadership is fearful of rousing the people of Scotland and in particular the working class, in which they have shallow roots, in any active independence campaign. With the Labour Party having moved so far to the right, they have found an electoral niche. To appeal to Scottish workers, they make election ‘promises’ of traditional social democratic-type reforms. But these promises quickly evaporate whenever the capitalist class, including its Scottish SNP supporters, e.g. Sir Tom Farmer, call for greater austerity. The SNP’s role in Scottish government, and in many local councils, shows that they are quite prepared to administer Westminster cuts. They are also willing to privatise services and enforce major pay cuts, as the case of the Edinburgh street cleaners has shown.

 

The role of Communists, Socialists and Republican Democrats

Our role then is to initiate or participate in campaigns that raise the issue of the social and political character of such an independent Scotland, specifically raising the issues listed in the Declaration of Calton Hill and developing these as part of a specifically republican socialist campaign to reshape Scotland and hence the UK, along with partitioned Ireland.

In order to do this we will need allies beyond the borders of Scotland, in the rest of the UK and Ireland in particular, but also in the EU and across the world. We have already started this process by initiating the Republican Socialist Convention, drawing together socialist republicans, and communists from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland (North and South).  We hope to organise another later this year.

Should an independent Scottish republic be torn out of the UK state we believe that this will weaken it, and the current US dominated imperial order, inspiring others to join us in delivering the fatal blow.  Such an event would be celebrated by all those consciously active in the cause of suffering humanity across the world.

 Allan Armstrong & Bob Goupillot (Republican Communist Network)

 

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THE PARADOX OF NATIONALISM AS INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW

In their own words, Bob Goupillot and Allan Armstrong of the Republican Communist Network (RCN)  “are not in the business of trying to create an economically independent Scottish state, either under capitalism or socialism” (see part 3 of The RCN replies to Joe Thorne’s “The RCN’s ‘Internationalism from Below’ and the Case of Scotland: A Critical View” at:- http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2010/08/25/the-communist-case-for-internationalism-from-below/ They want to create a new global order. Yet their starting point for a communist transition is a national territorial framework in general, as they acknowledge, and Scotland in particular. But they argue that they are not nationalists, but internationalists with a strategy of internationalism from below, in which small nation nationalism can be transformed into internationalism. This is a rhetorical paradox. What is their tactical and strategic standpoint?

Bob and Allan locate themselves, not directly on capitalist crisis and class antagonism, but indirectly and strategically on the fault lines of anti imperialism. To prepare for revolution directly would be simply propaganda for the Comrades, so the RCN look for political weaknesses to undermine the British State. Scottish independence would break up the British state and weaken the USA, the major imperialist power;  since Britain, is its main political ally. This tactical stance is based on an analogy with the political support of Marx and Engels for various national movements against reactionary Russia in the mid Nineteenth century. Another influence is John Maclean’s politics of breaking up Britain and its Empire shortly after the First World War.  This shows the RCN that nationalism can be progressive, even proletarian, without having any illusions that it can overthrow capitalism, just like trade unions can be progressive and undermine capitalism, short of revolution. But in any case, they have a conviction in the right of Scotland as a nation to self determination.

Firstly, for the RCN to tactically stand on the ground of anti imperialism begs the question of what do they really stand for? Anti imperialism is not sufficient in itself for communists. What do the RCN support? In Allan’s view, oulined recently in a response to Eric Chester at http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/04/06/scottish-independence-referendum-debate-part-2/, to restrict oneself to communist principles would be abstract propagandism. That is Allan’s maximum programme. But in the here and now the RCN seek real leverage in high politics. Any kind of Scottish State would be a step forward, even Independence-Lite with the Scottish state sharing the Monarchy, Sterling, a banking sector, and the British army. Why would it be a real step forward? It would be anti unionist and weaken the Labour Party, Lib Dems and the BNP. This is a lesser evil argument. But there is a conviction that independence for Scotland would be a gain for the working class, in its own right, and begin to democratise the capitalist state in Scotland. While Scottish independence is considered strong the working class is considered to be weak, so Allan considers the only realistic battle can be on the terrain of SNP constitutionalism. This does reveal the narrow focus on democratising the state in the RCN’s practical politics .

But in the context of the great recession or one of the longest and deepest capitalist crisis why would class struggle be refracted through constitutionalism? Most of the RCN theorising appears to have elaborated prior to the crisis or do not make the crisis central to their politics. But an independent Scottish state would  not be independent of global capitalism. Its independence would be nominal especially if there is a shared currency and banking sector. If Scotland applied for membership of the EU, again the state would have to toe the neo-liberal line. Scottish Nationalists can no longer point to an arc of prosperous small nations such as Iceland and Ireland. The powerlessness of the Greek government for its finances shows the hollowness of national independence. What will be the effects on the working class in Scotland of a small capitalist state fighting for economic survival. It will be a race to the bottom for working class living standards as corporation tax is cut. In any case there is no abstract right to self determination and Scotland has not been an oppressed nation as any comparison with the history of Ireland demonstrates.

Analogy is a weak form of theorising; but the analogy comparing American and British Imperialism with the empires of the Habsburgs and the Romanovs and the tactics of Marx and Engels, does not stand up. The lesson of the 1848 springtime of peoples was that the bourgeois were not revolutionary and the future was not national democratic revolution led by Bourgeois modernisers. Marx was in favour of German unity, but that unity was imposed by counter revolution from above by Bismark under the hegmony of Prussia. Marx tactically focused on the threat of semi feudal Russia to capitalist development and the embryo of a workers movement in Europe, not states that embody the most advanced forms of capitalism. This focus missed the growing antagonism between German and British capitalist imperialism which resulted in world war. Marx’s tactics on national movements are debatable. They rapidly became dated and were used out of a specific context – something Allan is also guilty of –  by the leaders of German Social Democracy to justify Germany’s so called civilising mission in the First World War. There was no argument by Marx for a genaral right to self determination, even for Poland. And Marx and Engels generally supported large units not small breakaways. Again, some of the arguments of Engels paticularly on non historic nations were, to say the least, dubious.

The analogy with John Maclean’s break up of Britain is no better. John Maclean stood for a Scottish Workers Republic and nothing less. Any strategy of phases or a constitutional road to a classless society would have been anathema to him.  While the future leaders of the CPBG focused on the practical politics of trade unionism or calling for peace, John Maclean was the only significant workers leader preparing for international revolution during the First World War. This cannot be dismissed as abstract propagandism. Rather than look for changes in the state, or focus on a narrow view of what might be possible, John Maclean looked to street meetings and economic classes to prepare for a Petrograd in Scotland. But Maclean was marginalised by Theodore Rothstein during the formation of the CPGB. But in any case, even though Willie Gallagher, Harry Pollitt and Rothstein proclaimed themselves revolutionary, Maclean knew from personal experience their tactics and strategy were far from revolutionary. Even if he joined he would have been expelled for independence of mind, like Sylvia Pankhurst.  So Scotland must lead itself in the context of what he expected to be a war between Britain and the USA over economic competition. With Scottish workers considered to be in advance of their English comrades, Scotland could follow the example of Ireland and fight to break away from Britain and help bring down the Empire.

Lenin also thought that the break down of Empires by Nationalism and Nationalists would clear the way to Socialism and Communism. Historically his critics have been proved correct. Attempting to link the national struggle with the workers cause resulted in historical defeats for workers movements. But Maclean did not theoretically link nationalism with the workers cause, unlike James Connolly, who did conflate Labour’s cause with nationalism. He considered the origins and rise of private property in Ireland was caused by an English invasion of Ireland; contrary to Marx and more importantly modern research.  But Maclean did seem to uncritically absorb aspects of Scottish identity. There were scattered comments such as: “don’t let Scottish lads fight for john Bull”; “We are justified in utilising our Scottish sentiments”; “the primitive communism of the clans must be re-established on a modern basis”. And so on. But the clans were more primitive feudalism. Although national sentiments in Scotland were growing in Maclean’s time, Scottish workers joined their English and Welsh comrades in the British Trade Union Movement and the  Labour Party, which CPGB helped to establish at a local level. Maclean tried, but failed to break this reformist mold.

Today, Scottish nationalism is on the rise again, with the decline of British Imperialism and Capitalism and the dismantling of the “welfare state”. Although polls suggest that support for Scottish independence is still minority politics. And the failure to win Glasgow in the recent local elections shows the high tide of nationalism might be ebbing. To criticise the SNP for not arousing the workers for Scottish independence, as the RCN do, or vote for Scottish independence even on a capitalist basis, seems to be more than engaging with nationalism. Voting for independence or critical support for a SNP referendum can only serve to help tie the working class to nationalism and the future of a capitalist state. Alex Salmond in alliance with Rupert Murdoch. It would weaken the working class not capitalism. Scottish identity was formed at the same time as Britishness. Scottish upper class people were at the heart of the British Empire as troops and politicians and at the top of the British Parliament in London. To say Scotland is oppressed because there is not a constitutional right to secede from the British state, as Allan does, is a utopian or constitutional view of revolution. To echo a critic of Karl Kautsky: a high politics road will not be a different route to the same destination – communism, but a track to a different destination.

Barry Biddulph, May 6th 2012

 

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THE PARADOX OF ‘NON-NATIONALIST’ LEFT BRITISH UNIONISM

 

i)            Introduction

Barry’s reply, The Paradox of Nationalism as Internationalism from Below, to our article, The Scottish Independence Referendum [1], is a further contribution to the debate over the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum, which the editor of the commune asked us to start off [2]. We are pleased that Barry has responded so quickly. There has been an undoubted frustration shown by some members of the commune about the organisation’s inability to intervene effectively in the growing class struggles precipitated by the ongoing capitalist crisis. However, we think a significant role that the commune can play is to encourage clarity of thinking amongst communists, as these struggles develop and manifest themselves in different forms.

The issue of national self-determination was first debated by the RCN and members of the commune at the second Global Commune event [3]. With the election of an SNP majority government to Holyrood, in May 5th 2011, this has become a more pressing issue in the UK. The SNP government is proposing to organise a Scottish independence referendum in 2014. This opens up the possibility of a constitutional crisis. We will argue that this just one aspect of the deepening crisis facing the corporate capitalist imperial order [4].

Barry, however, argues that struggles for national self-determination can not lead anywhere but to further defeats for the working class and to victories for capitalism [5]. He does not support the right of self-determination for Scotland, or for any other nation for that matter. The RCN has already written a critique of the type of arguments used in the first of these propositions [6]; whilst Allan has dealt with Barry’s attitude towards the ‘right to self-determination’, and calling for rights under capitalism in an earlier debate [7].

 

 ii)             No oppression in Scotland and no Scottish self-determination?

Yet, despite repeating some arguments that RCN members have been already answered, Barry does add some new material, which means the debate can be further advanced.  Thus, as a back-up to his dismissal of the right of self-determination, Barry states that “Scottish identity was formed at the same time as Britishness [8]. Scottish upper class people were at the heart of the British Empire as troops and politicians and at the top of the British Parliament in London.”

We think that what Barry is suggesting here is that Scotland can not be seen as a potentially independent nation anyhow, since a Scottish national identity only emerged within the British state. One problem with his argument is that the first part of it could be said, with even more reason, of both Ireland and India.  Whilst the second part is also true of Ireland. The majority of ‘nations’, in the world, which went on to become independent states, have probably been formed in the context of empire or union [9]. Indeed, it is precisely this experience that has led so many national movements to fight for self-determination.

Barry supplements this argument with another frequently used on the British Left. “Scotland has not been an oppressed nation as any comparison with the history of Ireland shows.” Using the same argument about relative oppression, you could say that, for the last eighty years Ireland has not been an oppressed nation either as any comparison with Palestine shows. The RCN has already dealt with this type of argument over degrees of oppression, and the common Left conflation of oppression and repression, in our debates within the commune [10].

The RCN has defined oppression as the denial of democratic rights. In the case of Scotland this takes the form of the lack of a constitutional right to secede from UK state. Barry somewhat mysteriously dismisses this “as a utopian or constitutional view of the revolution.” This particular instance of the denial of democratic rights is a fact stemming from the existence of the UK state, not from any “utopian or constitutional view of revolution.” It ranks alongside other facts such as the UK state’s constitutional ability, under the Crown Powers, to depose elected governments (e.g. that of Gough Whitlam’s Australian Labour Party in 1975), or to evict the Diego Garcia islanders (1968-73). Whether a particular example of UK state behaviour, under the Crown Powers, produces serious opposition, a constitutional crisis, or even contributes to a revolutionary situation can not be pre-determined. However to dismiss any communist support for opposition on the grounds of this being “utopian”, seems to be a sure fire way of letting the British ruling class and its UK state ignore challenges to their rule.

Now, looking around the world today, the RCN would be amongst the first to agree that on the scale of oppression (and particularly repression) found internationally, Scotland does not figure very high on any list. What gives the seemingly modest demand for the exercise of Scottish self-determination a much greater significance is the likely reaction of a British ruling class, desperate to maintain its imperial profile in the world. For a declining imperial power like the UK, any perceived threat to its rule provokes a way-over-the-top response. It was not the demand for the withdrawal of British troops and a united Ireland that led to Bloody Sunday in 1972, but the demand for civil rights in a Northern Ireland within the UK.

It can not be determined, in advance, whether the UK state’s response to the demand for Scottish independence will create a deep constitutional crisis, or give rise to a revolutionary situation. However, already the public reaction of British politicians and other figures, to even the prospect of a referendum on the issue, has often been near hysterical. Given the fact that the British ruling class is almost unanimously opposed to Scottish independence, you can be sure that resort to those hidden measures constitutionally sanctioned under the Crown Powers, are already being quietly prepared.

Furthermore, the situation will not be determined solely by events in the UK, but by the widening class antagonisms emerging from the current international crisis of capitalism. However, we would like to think that the Left throughout these islands is better prepared than it turned out to be in Northern Ireland in 1969 [11].

 

iii)            Capitalist crisis – just economic or political too?

Barry then goes on to introduce some other arguments. He claims that, “Bob and Allan locate themselves, not directly on capitalist crisis and class antagonism, but indirectly and strategically on the fault lines of imperialism”. For Barry there seems to be no direct connection between these. Therefore, he raises the important question of what is meant by capitalist crisis and class antagonism and how, or if, these can be related to these “fault lines of imperialism”. If we wish to advance this debate further still, then we need to account for the differences between Barry’s own thinking and our theory. To comprehend our understanding of the significance of national democratic struggle, you first need to examine our theory of capitalism and imperialism.

Our own view of capitalism begins by seeing it as system of both exploitation (the extraction of surplus value through the imposition of wage slavery) and oppression [12] (utilising a distinctive form of state to maintain a system of generalised wage slavery). We have argued this before in the commune [13], using an article by another non-RCN member, to illustrate our theory [14].

“Only the development of capital as a social relationship… brings about the separation of the political sphere from the economic… This makes the capitalist form of class exploitation different from the previous ones… A feudal lord… disposed of both… ‘economic’ and ‘legal’ power.”

We then went on to explain:-

“It is this understanding of capitalism, with its distinct ‘economic’ and ‘political’ spheres, through which exploitation and oppression are enforced, which also informs the RCN’s thinking.  The contradictions, which arise from capitalist exploitation and oppression, produce class struggles in both the economic and the political spheres of capitalism… Workers experience exploitation in the workplace, and oppression both in our workplaces and outside in our communities. Furthermore, others face oppression too – women, gay men and lesbians, certain nations, ethnic groups and religious minorities. All of these groups are class-divided, with a considerable proportion belonging to the working class.

Exploitation and oppression are rarely meekly accepted. There is nearly always resistance, either passive or active. Sometimes resistance takes ineffective or counter-productive forms – escapism, sectionalism, or various forms of chauvinism directed against others. It is the job of communists to push for resistance, which takes effective forms through class struggle, practical solidarity – including internationally, and most importantly, through the creation of independent class organisations.

When resistance to exploitation is targeted at capitalists, it usually takes the form of industrial struggles around immediate economic demands – e.g. better wages, improved conditions, defence of jobs, etc. When resistance to oppression is targeted at the state, it takes the form of political struggles around immediate democratic demands – e.g. the ending of anti-union laws, for abortion on demand, equal rights for women, gay men and lesbians, removal of occupying troops, etc.

Once you acknowledge that the division of capitalism into economic and political spheres produces both exploitation and oppression, which each give rise to resistance, then it is much easier to appreciate the significance of political struggles around immediate democratic, including national democratic, demands.”

Thus, the RCN sees a whole number of class antagonisms extending across that economic and political divide specific to capitalism. We have provided examples of resistance arising from these class antagonisms in the economic (e.g. industrial struggles) and political (e.g. democratic struggles) spheres [15]. Our comparisons between such struggles are something Barry might dismiss as making “analogies”. Barry does not like “analogies”. However, Barry’s own reply ignores the prior theory we had already outlined, which is summarised above. Thus, whilst we should always be aware of the limits of analogies, the examples given were not a substitute for providing a theory. They were given as illustrations of our theory of capitalism and its class antagonisms, which had been provided beforehand.

Nor does Barry really explain what he means by “Allan and Bob directly locat{ing} themselves not on capitalist crisis…” Perhaps what Barry is suggesting that today’s capitalist crisis has come about through a combination of the unfolding Credit Crunch, which has revealed the capitalist class’s inability to restore profitability; and the struggles that workers have been undertaking in response to this. We agree that these two features have contributed very significantly to the current phase of the capitalist crisis [16]. Yet the RCN still sees the ongoing capitalist crisis taking wider and deeper forms than the undoubtedly significant economic problems the system undoubtedly faces at present.

To move this particular part of the debate forward in a more positive way, Barry needs to outline his own understanding of what constitutes capitalism, its recent dynamic [17], and the resulting class antagonisms leading to the ongoing capitalist crisis (or point us to sources where it can be found).

 

iv) What do we mean by imperialism today?

In the second part of Barry’s sentence, concerning our alleged neglect of capitalist crisis (in reality, as we have just shown, a different understanding of all the forms of the present crisis), he criticises the RCN for concentrating “indirectly and strategically on the fault lines of imperialism.”  The RCN has already characterised the present stage of capitalism as corporate capitalist imperialism. We do not see the contradiction between capitalist crisis and imperialist crisis that Barry seems to imply above.

Now, there are two well-known Marxist theoreticians, who do make a strong distinction between the current global capitalist order (which they confusingly term ‘Empire’) and imperialism. Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt have argued in their book, Empire, that there is no longer any imperialism. Instead, the global multitude (in effect, the international working class) now directly confronts global capital (which has no national base). This view, whatever its failings [18], at least provides a theoretical underpinning to oppose struggles for national self-determination.

So, let us further develop our understanding of the development of the current imperialist phase of capitalism. Sam Gindis and Leo Panitch have provided a convincing theory of this in The Making of Global Capital. They do not see global capital rolling itself out uniformly over the world, following a compelling inner logic imposed by the alienated categories of capital [19]. They see the current world order as having come about through specific class struggles conducted within a hierarchically structured (i.e. imperialist) world of states, in which US corporate capital and the US imperial state work together and are dominant.

Somewhat confusingly, Barry does argue, a little later on, that, “Anti-imperialism is not sufficient in itself for communists.” We agree. However, does this not suggest that perhaps imperialism is still an important phenomenon facing us today? This means looking to those “fault lines of imperialism” and understanding the nature of the class antagonisms and resulting class struggles that have arisen from global corporate capitalist exploitation and oppression. These have led to the different forms of resistance we have outlined. Therefore, it is not immediately clear why Barry opposes communists who relate to “the fault lines of imperialism”. We think, though, this is because Barry’s thinking is trapped within certain fixed categories.

 

v)            Fixed categories prevent you from understanding the multi-facetted nature of the current crisis

We have already argued that class antagonisms are not confined to the direct wage/capital relationship at the point of production, or to the problems of capitalist profitability, vital though these are to our understanding. To use an analogy  (sorry Barry!) –  a car (capitalism) certainly does require an engine (surplus value) powered by petrol (our labour power); but there are also many other features that can cause breakdown (crisis)  – including a seriously damaged chassis (the state). This is why class antagonisms and any consequent class struggles appear in both the economic and political realms of the capitalist system. The ongoing capitalist crisis is taking place in a global corporate imperialist order, so these antagonisms and struggles have emerged on many fronts – economic, social, political, cultural and ideological.

Barry’s thinking does not allow him to see this though. He states, “In the context of the great recession or one of the longest and deepest capitalist crises why would class struggle be refracted through constitutionalism?” Our answer to this is – in the context of the great recession, or one of the longest and deepest capitalist crises, how on earth could the class struggle not manifest itself in all the arenas of capitalist control, leading, amongst other things, to a constitutional crisis within the state?

But we can see how Barry avoids this conclusion. He does not use the term ‘constitutional crisis’. This would opens up the possibility of an extra-constitutional challenge, but instead he falls back on his dismissive term ‘constitutionalism’. This attempt, to collapse a particular characteristic, its underlying contradictions and the oppositional challenge into one category, is a recurring feature of Barry’s arguments.

Barry follows this up by criticising the RCN for “more than engaging with nationalism”, in our support of democratic struggles for Scottish self-determination. Here, Barry’s term ‘nationalism’ [20] is another example of his use of fixed categories. ‘Nationalism’ is also used very widely on the British Left, without a hint of self-irony, to stigmatise any democratic demand for Scottish independence.

Others on the Left have dismissed the struggle for women’s emancipation (which could also be characterised as women’s self-determination) as ‘bourgeois feminism’. Now certainly, nationalists (both bourgeois and petty bourgeois) and bourgeois feminists will try to place themselves at the head of these respective struggles against oppression and emancipation [21].  Trade union bureaucrats also try to place themselves at the head of workers’ struggles on the economic front. We could even designate those current advocates of ‘social partnership’ as ‘bourgeois syndicalists’ (although the old IWW term ‘labour fakirs’ is undoubtedly better). However, communists should not throw out the baby with the bath water, but relate to all partial struggles against exploitation and oppression. We need to show how these are linked, and how human emancipation and liberation can only come about in a generalised struggle for a global commune.

Furthermore, when Barry dismisses any democratic struggle as mere ‘constitutionalism’, it is a bit like having to argue with those academic managerial theorists who dismiss workers’ strike actions as nothing more than a problem of ‘industrial relations’. Yet, when it comes to workplace and immediate economic struggles, Barry is able to comprehend their wider political significance, and to see their potential to bring about independent class organisation.

The RCN, however, does not just view our class as being created, maintained and becoming aware of itself in the workplace and through economic or socio-economic struggles. This seems a rather restricted and economistic view to us. We live, for example, within specific communities and states. We also have a desire to lead more fulfilled lives, not only materially but culturally.  This is why there are so many partial struggles, in so many arenas, involving workers and other oppressed groups. These can also act as ‘schools of struggle’ for a more generalised challenge to capitalist rule.

 

vi)            ‘Revolutionary passivity’ and the Jeremiahs of the Left

Barry also tries to get to grips with what he thinks could happen if Scottish political independence came about. “An independent Scottish state would not be independent of global capitalism. Its independence would be nominal especially if there is a shared currency and banking sector.” And later, ” If Scotland applied for membership of the EU, again the state would have to toe the neo-liberal line. Scottish Nationalists can no longer point to an arc of prosperous small nations such as Iceland and Ireland… What will be the effects on the working class in Scotland of a small capitalist state fighting for economic survival. It will be a race to the bottom for working class living standards as corporation tax is cut.”

Now these are all points that the RCN has already made. Whilst being prepared to participate in partial struggles, including national democratic struggles, we do not argue for a subsequent ‘freezing’ of existing class relations within any new national state; just as we do not argue for the suspension of other forms of class struggle in the preceding struggle for national self determination. Indeed, we see such struggles as supporting and mutually reinforcing each other. We advocate ‘internationalism from below’ to extend independent working class organisation internationally, the better to prepare ourselves for when a revolutionary situation develops, in order to spread the communist challenge to the existing order across the globe.

To illustrate his own position, Barry draws an analogy for Scotland. Yes, even Barry thinks “analogies” can be useful at times! He states that, “The powerlessness of the Greek government for its finances shows the hollowness of national independence” [22]. Now, that would certainly be true for any future SNP or pro-capitalist government in an independent capitalist Scotland. But the formation of any new Scottish state would not be the endpoint for workers in Scotland. There is a strong possibility that we would be confronting a considerably weaker and, as yet, not fully consolidated Scottish ruling class. This would open up new prospects. However, this possibility would depend largely upon the working class mounting its own independent campaign beforehand.

Now, of course, you could join the many Jeremiahs on the Left, who pinpoint the ‘inevitable consequences’, if the SNP achieves its ‘Independence-Lite’ through the Scottish independence referendum. And, if communists stand back and fail to contribute to an independent class campaign, this is certainly a possibility. However, given the current balance of political forces, a more likely result is a victory for British Unionism and its allies – but then the British Left does prefer to deal with what is familiar to it. The many years of Left retreat have led to growing pessimism and ‘revolutionary passivity’. Instead, some reassurance is often sought in making self-fulfilling prophecies.

Furthermore, what is not clear from Barry’s analogy is whether or not the Greek working class should ever take power on a national basis. A failure to do so would be a sure recipe to encourage passivity and allow others to impose their own ‘solutions’ on Greece. If though, you support an ‘internationalism from below’ strategy, then you would hope to see Greek workers taking power [23], and to use this as a base to spread the revolution internationally.

 

vii)            The class contested nature of the demand for Scottish self-determination

The RCN has argued that a major aspect of the current constitutional crisis in the UK is the British ruling class’s inability to satisfy the demand for national self-determination. Furthermore, we have also emphasised that the SNP government will face considerable problems satisfying this demand too. To do this effectively would take far more fundamental changes than the SNP’s leaders could ever contemplate. This is why the wider demand for national self-determination can not just be written off as simply an SNP ‘con’, or be viewed as mere ‘nationalism’. The RCN rejects the argument [24] that only sees struggles for national self-determination as conflicts between existing and wannabe ruling classes, or their political representatives – the British Unionist parties and the SNP, in the UK case.

The RCN has certainly long  highlighted how the SNP, in its attempt to place itself at the head of the struggle for Scottish self-determination, continues to accept the continued role of global corporate capital, the US/UK imperial alliance, the UK state’s Crown Powers, and the need to discipline the working class, including acceptance of the need to impose austerity measures in the face of the present economic crisis [25]. This is because the SNP leadership is desperate to create a wannabe Scottish ruling class, which needs constant reassuring that their interests that will remain paramount. Yet, the demand for more effective Scottish self-determination goes wider than the SNP. Even amongst many of its supporters, this is coupled to a very different vision of the future, compared to that of the SNP leadership and any wannabe Scottish ruling class backers.

However, Barry has decided to interpret the RCN’s thinking over this as amounting to “criticism {of} the SNP for not arousing the workers for Scottish independence… or {to} vote for Scottish independence even on a capitalist basis”. Now, the first part of this is another one of Barry’s straw men arguments [26], without any supporting quotes. The RCN has instead argued against those on the Left, who want a campaign to pressure the SNP into mounting a more effective campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote. Such a campaign could prompt the SNP to make some more social democratic promises. However, these would have as little substance as all those other promises they have already ditched in government, at the behest of their big business backers. More likely, though, the SNP leadership could cynically use Left Nationalists to try to persuade enough workers that “things can only get better” after ‘independence’ [27]. In the meantime we should just ignore our own immediate needs, and confine our activity to placing an ‘X’ on the referendum ballot paper!

Therefore, our criticisms of the SNP (and their Left nationalist apologists) are addressed to the working class and to the Left, in order that we can act independently of the nationalists and develop the struggle for Scottish self-determination along a socialist republican ‘internationalism from below’ path.

The second part of Barry’s argument, ruling out such democratic struggles, because they do not replace capitalism, flows from what appears to be a kind of economistic split in his thinking. This has been already hinted at by his limited notion of the extent of the class antagonisms resulting from the current crisis.

Thus, Barry’s stance allows him to promote or defend certain economic reforms or gains under capitalism (e.g. over wages and conditions), whilst he stubbornly resists any political reforms whilst capitalism remains. The immediate practical demand for the abolition of ‘wage slavery’ can be delayed, whilst we conduct our economic struggles, because we are not in the revolutionary situation, which could allow this (and here we would agree with Barry); but political struggles, with aims short of the overthrow of the capitalist state have to be vehemently opposed (which is where we disagree). At least the SPGB, which opposes all “palliatives” short of the abolition of money, is consistent on this.

 

viii)            Relating to all struggles against exploitation and oppression

The underlying question we have to address, when a particular struggle emerges, is whether it is really against exploitation and/or oppression. Then, we have to determine how the struggle can be advanced on a communist basis, i.e. developing independent class organisation and increasing unity across our class [28].

The struggle for greater Scottish self-determination has the ability to undermine the top-down imposed bureaucratic ‘internationalism’ of the British unionist state, with its formidable anti-democratic Crown Powers, at the same time as developing our own independent class organisations on an ‘internationalism from below’ basis. For RCN members living in Scotland, this can only be done effectively by also opposing the SNP’s continued attempt to build its own ‘internationalism from above’ alliance of big Scottish business leaders and the global corporations. For they are determined to maintain as much of the machinery of the British state as possible, including the Crown Powers –  albeit draped in tartan.

Achieving meaningful gains can not be guaranteed in advance of any struggle. During revolutionary situations, partial struggles can become more generalised, leading to the possibility of a more fundamental revolutionary challenge. However, even in these  situations,  it is still possible to have ‘counter-revolutions within the revolution’. Those in the lead of a revolution may have intended to bring about wider emancipation and liberation, but either through an inadequate understanding of what they have to deal with, or through being forced back on to the defensive, they end up placing further constraints on the revolution, before finally emerging as a new ruling class themselves. Barry has promised members of the commune his take on the ‘Russian Revolution’ [29]. Hopefully, in the process, he will highlight the ‘counter-revolution in the revolution’.

Barry argues that the “attempts to link the national struggle with the workers cause resulted in historical defeats for workers movements”. As Allan has argued elsewhere, with regard to the followers of Rosa Luxemburg in Poland, and of the Bolsheviks in Finland and Ukraine, so also has the failure to link specific national struggles with the workers’ cause resulted in historical defeats for workers’ movements. Indeed this was one of the contributory causes of ‘counter-revolution within the revolution’ during the ‘Russian Revolution’. Allan has suggested that one of the reasons for this is that the majority of pre-First World War revolutionary Social Democrats and post-war official Communists failed to adopt an ‘internationalism from below’ strategy, which could adequately address the ‘National Question’.

Barry does not seem to appreciate that the criticisms he makes of those trying to link specific national struggles with the workers’ cause, because they failed to sustain any gains or encouraged new forms of inter-state competition, including wars, can also be made of many attempts to link struggles against exploitation with the workers’ cause. Capitalism still rules, and most gains are being snatched away from us. But, once again, the RCN has already addressed this type of argument [30].

 

ix)            Falling back on ‘abstract propaganda’ or fully engaging in the struggles of our class?

And this brings us to another argument used by Barry. “In Allan’s view… to restrict oneself to communist principles would be “abstract propaganda” [31]. Barry provides no direct quote, so let us see what Allan actually said. “What socialist propagandism seeks to do is to win over individuals to small organisations (e.g. SPGB), but is extremely wary of becoming involved in wider campaigns with others who might not agree with all their politics. One thing that socialist propagandists want to be able to say is that they have never betrayed their principles; but that is because they don’t engage in the actual struggles of our class”.

First, the RCN is very much in favour of communist propaganda. We are currently undertaking an organised discussion on how to put across the idea of communism more effectively [32]. Indeed, this is the reason why we co-sponsored the first Global Commune event – ‘What do we mean by Communism?’ [33] – along with the commune, held in Edinburgh on January 16th, 2010. This certainly enthused Barry.

We would go further still. Since one of the main jobs facing communists today is to develop independent organisations for our class, it would be a considerable step forward if, rather than communists just confining ourselves to episodic propaganda, more permanent schools of communist education could be set up – furthering the tradition established by John Maclean.

What Allan meant, though, by “abstract propagandism” is the failure to engage in the actual struggles of our class, around aspects of an Immediate Programme. We can be fairly sure, though, that Barry threw himself into the November 30th 2011 Pensions Strike, rather than dismissing this in advance, because of its obviously limited aims and its even more obviously treacherous leadership. Did Barry condemn the strike because it could not lead to revolution, or failed to place ‘abolish wage slavery’ on its banners? We doubt it. Nor do we think that Barry confined himself to cheering on the strike leaders, asking for more of the same, as the SWP and SP did. Therefore, it is quite possible to become involved in partial struggles in a non-revolutionary situation without going over to the other side. The real issue is what should communists try to achieve in such situations?

 

x)            What are the possibilities in non-revolutionary situations?

So what was possible in this non-revolutionary situation on November 30th? Well, communists could have tried to develop independent organisations for our class [34], and show how this could achieve the type of concerted action that might make some gains, albeit for a limited period unless class struggle developed on a much wider front.

But Barry appears to attack such an approach as believing “trade unions can be progressive and undermine capitalism, short of the revolution”. Once again, the wording is Barry’s, not ours. What we would say is that work within trade unions on a rank and file basis, coupled to militant action, can make limited gains for workers and undermine the position of the bosses. However, unless these struggles become more generalised, and that involves the creation of an ever-widening array of independent class bodies, leading to a revolutionary challenge to the whole capitalist class, then capitalism will recoup any such gains, and in the process break, neutralise or tame our own organisations.

Political polemics can have the effect of exaggerating differences. However, with regard to the socio-economic struggles of the working class, we suspect that Barry’s practical approach would not be very different from our own.

Quite clearly, though, the categories that Barry invokes to dismiss the democratic struggles of our class, do lead to a marked disagreement with us in this regard. Barry writes that for “the RCN nationalism can be progressive, even proletarian, without having any illusions that it can overthrow capitalism”. We know that Barry likes to avoid direct quotes, so it is not surprising that this is not our actual view.

What we would say is that certain national democratic struggles, especially those led by independent working class organisations, can help to remove sources of national oppression and division, and further widen independent working class organisation on the basis of ‘internationalism from below’. And, as in the case of militant action on the economic front, it may also be possible to make some limited democratic reforms, which are of benefit to workers and others. However, as with militant ‘industrial’ action, unless these struggles become more generalised, and are able to replace the capitalist social relations causing exploitation and oppression, then they too will be recouped.

Barry further adds that, “Most of the RCN theorising appears to have been elaborated prior to the crisis or does not make the crisis central to their politics”. The RCN was certainly elaborating a theory of ‘National Question’ for a considerable period before 2008.  However, the subsequent much deeper economic aspect of the crisis, heralded by the initial Credit Crunch, has badly damaged the USA and UK economies and their standing in the world. This deepening crisis has shown little sign of abating. It has helped to undermine the ideological credibility of neo-liberalism [35], which the political leaders of the US and UK (Republican or Democratic; Conservative or New Labour) have promoted for so long. However, the relative decline in these states’ economic positions has led them to resort to even more military force to compensate – hence the never-ending imperial wars. We have integrated the most recent aggravated phase of the capitalist crisis into our thinking.

Yet, as we have seen, Barry seems to hold a more limited view than us of what constitutes the current capitalist crisis. He does not seem to appreciate all the multifaceted class struggles we are confronting today, arising from the class antagonisms the capitalists face whilst trying to maintain their global corporate imperial order [36], including its increasingly stressed political framework.

 

xi)            John Maclean in revolutionary and non-revolutionary situations

It is good to see that Barry has some time for that very important Glasgow-born revolutionary – John Maclean. Barry does make some passing criticisms of Maclean, and more so, of that Edinburgh-born revolutionary James Connolly. It is not the RCN’s intention to create revolutionary idols, beyond challenge, although we would maintain that these two individuals still stand head and shoulders above their British Left contemporaries. Instead, we place ourselves in the tradition of ‘internationalism from below, which they developed to apply to the UK.

However, Barry creates some confusion, when he states that, “Maclean stood for a Scottish Workers Republic, nothing less”. Maclean only arrived at this position in the context of the 1916-21 International Revolutionary Wave. Indeed, it was not until the 1919 highpoint of this particular revolutionary wave, following Maclean’s visit to Dublin, where he witnessed the revolutionary potential of national democratic struggle, that he moved decisively to a ‘break-up of the UK and British Empire’ strategy.

During the non-revolutionary period, preceding 1916 [37], Maclean concentrated on providing Marxist education classes to Scottish workers. He was also involved in the everyday activities of the British Socialist Party (BSP) – participating in elections and supporting strikes. Of course, Maclean thought that this political work was still developing the independent working class party needed for the future revolution he passionately believed in. However, when a revolutionary situation did develop, he soon appreciated how wrong he had been about the BSP – and maybe that first initial ‘B’ had something to do with this! Thus, it was only the emergence of the international revolutionary situation that changed Maclean’s political thinking, and led him to promote “a Scottish Workers’ Republic, nothing less.”

The RCN does not make the particular analogy, Barry claims we do, between the non-revolutionary situation we face today and the revolutionary situation Maclean faced between 1919-23. What we would argue, is that the contradictions and tensions within the UK state (and British Empire), highlighted by the situation then, are very likely to reappear in a period of growing crisis. If this led to a new revolutionary situation, then you could attempt to create “a Scottish Workers Republic, nothing less”, coupled to an ‘internationalism from below’ perspective of having “a workers’ republic in every country and a World Council… to knit the various republics into one worldwide social organisation” [38].

Now, just as Barry does not appear to appreciate the political difference between Maclean’s approach before and after the emergence of a revolutionary situation, neither does he see the full significance of the defeat of the 1916-21 International Revolutionary Wave, for Maclean’s ‘internationalism from below’ strategy.  The British government was able to contain the developing revolution in Ireland through pogrom-induced Partition in the ‘Six Counties’, and by backing the anti-Republican Irish Free State forces during the Civil War in the ‘26 counties’. It was this, rather than the failure of Maclean (who died in 1923 as the result of his many privations at the hands of the UK state), that turned socialist and official Communist politics firmly down the old Hyndmanite ‘British road to socialism’.

‘The British road to socialism’ took the form of supporting a Labour Party seeking Westminster office, or of the newly founded CPGB, mesmerised by another unionist state – the USSR. The degree to which the most conscious workers abandoned Maclean’s internationalism from below’ break-up of the UK strategy, was the degree to which they accepted British reformism [39]. This political retreat followed the ending of the International Revolutionary Wave. As a result, a ‘British road to socialism’ strategy became hardwired into the British Left. It was not confined to the CPGB, who formally adopted a particular variation for the name of their programme in 1951. The SWP, Militant/SP, AWL and CPGB-Weekly Worker have all adhered to their own versions of a  ‘British road to socialism’ strategy.

 

xii)            The relevance of analogies drawn from Marx and Engels

Barry also highlights the fact that our own theory of the significance of the ‘National Question’ in the UK (which has addressed the situation in Ireland fairly comprehensively too) has focussed for some time on an assessment of the longer-term role of US imperialism and its UK ally in propping up the current global order. And Barry is quite correct in pointing out the historical precedent we make about Marx and Engels’ own understanding of the global order found in their day, and the central role of Tsarist Russia and Hapsburg Austria in upholding it. We do indeed argue that a similar role is currently played by US imperialism and its loyal UK state ally.

Barry is unhappy with this “analogy” and questions Marx and Engels’ understanding of the role of Tsarist Russia in particular. He makes some quite valid points about how the German Social Democratic Right later used Marx and Engels’ earlier reasoning to justify its participation in the imperial slaughter of the First World War. However, the Internationalist Left, which ranged from people like Pannekoek, Luxemburg, Trostky and Lenin to Yurkevich (a Ukrainian ‘internationalism from below’ advocate), was never taken in by such argumentation and strongly opposed it [40].

It is not widely appreciated though, that from the late 1860’s, Marx and Engels changed their previous understanding of the role of Tsarist Russia as the mainstay of reaction. They moved on from their earlier support for what Engels called ‘historic nations’ against those ‘historyless peoples’, whom they saw as allies of Tsarist Russia. In the process, Marx and Engels adopted a more ‘internationalism from below’ approach, and despite what Barry believes, they did begin to support the right of self-determination, or, as it was then styled in the First International, “the right of every people to dispose of itself” [41].

The “analogy” we invoke between the present role of US and British imperialism in upholding the world order, and that of Tsarist Russia and Hapsburg Austria, is confined to the period between 1815 and the late 1860’s. Barry claims that, “This focus missed the growing antagonism between German and British capitalist imperialism which resulted in world war.” However, this was hardly relevant in the period concerned [42].

Of course, our own assessment of the current role of US and British imperialism stands quite independently of this nineteenth century “analogy”. To undermine our stance, Barry would need to challenge our current political assessment of these two state’s roles in the world today, rather than our nineteenth century “analogy”. We invoked this comparison to demonstrate aspects of Marx and Engels’ approach, which we think could still be useful today, provided their context is fully appreciated.

 

xiii)            I’m British – so I can’t be a nationalist!

Lastly, bringing us up to date, Barry takes some heart from “polls {which} suggest that support for Scottish independence in recent events is still minority politics”. This is certainly the case at present, and is likely to remain so given the SNP government’s totally constitutional approach [43], and its desire to appease the Scottish and British establishments and US imperialism.

Barry began his reply by raising the paradox of ‘nationalism as internationalism.’ We have shown that the solution to Barry’s paradox lies in breaking out of his fixed category – ‘nationalism’ – which subsumes national oppression and the democratic struggle against it under the one term. It is certainly very important that we combat nationalism (both as an ideology and practice). Nationalism does either lead to working class disunity, or can see no possible future beyond the continued existence of nation-states. However, once you also examine the class antagonisms which national oppression (and repression) bring about, and the opposition and resistance this leads to, then you begin to appreciate the need for ‘internationalism from below’. You can also see why this is not, as Barry thinks, some variation of nationalism. Instead ‘internationalism from below’ offers a communist strategy that challenges both British unionism and Scottish nationalism, including its Left variants.

Many Left British unionists equate internationalism with the existence of a British Labour Party and British trade unions, or their preferred British Left political organisations. Barry does not take this particular British Left stance, although his comments, without further qualification, concerning Scottish workers joining British political parties and trade unionists, are ambiguous in their political intent.

More worrying, though, is Barry’s next comment that, “the failure {of the SNP} to win Glasgow in the recent local elections shows the high tide of nationalism might be ebbing”. If Scottish independence is indeed only supported by a minority in Scotland, as shown by the vote for the SNP on the May 3rd local elections, then the combined vote of the Labour, Lib-Dem, Tories and UKIP, shows support for British unionism and the UK [44]. Yet here, as with the rest of the British Left, Barry appears not to see British unionism as also being nationalist. This is probably why he thinks that  the ability of British unionism to outvote and contain the SNP’s advance represents the ebbing of nationalism. This is the as yet unresolved paradox in Barry’s own thinking!

But some of us in the RCN were once Left British unionists (we have members who used to be in the Labour Party, CPGB and IS/SWP) – so we are very familiar with the kind of arguments Barry and others use. The fact that we have changed our minds, and have been able to reconnect with the communist tradition of ‘internationalism from below’, which rejects both British and Scottish nationalism, means we are still confident that others can change too.

In the meantime, we thank Barry for giving us this opportunity to further develop our communist case for applying the strategy of ‘internationalism from below’.

Allan Armstrong and Bob Goupillot, 17.5.12


[1]             Barry’s reply also deals with parts of The RCN replies to Joe Thorne’s “The RCN’s  ‘Internationalism from Below’ and the Case of Scotland: A Critical View” on http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2010/08/25/the-communist-case-for-internationalism-from-below/ and Allan Armstrong replies to Eric Chester on             http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/04/06/scottish-independence-referendum-debate-part-2/

[2]             See Allan Armstrong and Bob Goupillot, communists and scotland’s referendum in the commune, no 29

[3]             This day school was jointly hosted by the RCN and the commune, and held in Edinburgh on May 22nd, 2010 – see Allan Armstrong, The Communist Case for ‘Internationalism from Below’ and David Broder, The Earth is not Flat, and the ensuing discussions involving Allan Armstrong, Clifford Biddulph and Joe Thorne on             http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2010/08/25/the-communist-case-for-internationalism-from-below/

[4]              For our use of this term see 1. Confronting the Jeremiahs of the Left in The RCN replies to Joe Thorne’s “The RCN’s ‘Internationalism from Below’ and the Case of Scotland: A Critical View.

[5]             There are others, particularly from an Anarchist background, who would also oppose the right of national self-determination, because it would mean setting up a new state. Anarchists oppose all states on principle. Barry appears to draw some support from such thinking. He has also used arguments found in some Marxist theories on the ‘National Question’. Rosa Luxemburg’s argued that ‘the right of nations’ (or any other ‘rights’, such as the ‘right to work’) is meaningless under capitalism. Bolsheviks such as Georgi Pyatakov and Nicolai Bukharin, and later many Left Communists, went on to develop a neo-Luxemburgist theory, which opposed any struggle for national self-determination, on the grounds that imperialism was now a totally integrated socio-economic and political system, which could not be challenged from a national base.

[6]             See Explaining Some of the Contradictions in Present Day Corporate Imperialism in Section  A of The RCN replies to Joe Thorne’s “The RCN’s ‘Internationalism from Below’ and the Case of Scotland: A Critical View”.

[7]             See Abstract Propaganda or Active Involvement in all Struggles of our Class:- Allan Armstrong replies to Clifford Biddulph’s ‘no nationalist solutions’ on http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2010/08/25/the-communist-case-for-internationalism-from-below/

[8]              True, this argument is good for winding up a certain type of nationalist, who champions the historical continuity of their ‘nation’ back into the mists of time – Calgacus, Kenneth MacAlpine, Robert the Bruce, Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie, matched of course by Boudicea, Alfred the Great, Richard the Lionheart, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. For a detailed explanation of the development of the UK state, its constituent nations and national identities see Allan Armstrong, Why we need a Socialist Republican ‘Internationalism from Below’ strategy to address the crisis of the UK State on  http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/01/11/internationalism-from-below-2/

[9]             Other examples of ‘nations’ forming within unions can be found in France where, for example, Algeria was once a department of the French state, whilst a whole host of nations, e.g. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, developed within the Tsarist Empire and Soviet Union.

[10]              See section 4. Orthodox Marxists and the confusion between national oppression and national repression in The RCN replies to Joe Thorne’s “The RCN’s ‘Internationalism from Below’ and the Case of Scotland: A Critical View”.

[11]             ibid.

[12]             Our exploitation and oppression are mediated through our alienation under capitalism, which takes various forms, with commodity fetishism being prominent. However, this important  aspect of capitalism is not central to the arguments developed here.

[13]              See A5, The significance of the separation of economic and political spheres under capitalism in The RCN replies to Joe Thorne’s “The RCN’s ‘Internationalism from Below’ and the Case of Scotland: A Critical View”.

[14]              See Oleg Resin, no escape from theory: cuts and the state debate, in the commune, issue 17, also at http://thecommune.co.uk/2010/08/02/no-escape-from-theory-remarks-on-the-movement-against-cuts/#more-5603

[15]               See A.6. The fight against the cuts is important, but leaves us firing only on one (economic) cylinder in The RCN replies to Joe Thorne’s “The RCN’s ‘Internationalism from Below’ and the Case of Scotland: A Critical View”.

[16]             This theory of the economic aspect of the crisis seems to us a better explanation of what we are currently facing than say the theories provided by Stuart King, a theoretician for Permanent Revolution, and Arthur Bough of Boffy’s Blog, who both deny the existence of  any global capitalist crisis. They see the current troubles as either marking the awkward transition to a reinvigorated global capitalist order, buttressed by the emergence of countries like China, ushering in a new period of growth (King); or reflecting certain Right wing capitalist parties’ incompetence in handling the economic changes needed by large scale capital, despite capitalism entering a new (Kondratieff) wave of unprecedented growth (Bough). Nevertheless, their writings often provide much to think about, and are worth reading.

[17]              Our theory does not see the crisis coming about as the inevitable working out of the alienated categories of capital, but as the result of particular class struggles, conducted on several fronts. David Harvey has outlined such a historical, class struggle-based approach in his History of Neo-liberalism.

[18]             See, for example, John Bellamy Foster, Imperialism and “Empire” in Monthly Review, volume 53, no 7, on http://monthlyreview.org/2001/12/01/imperialism-and-empire

[19]             This is the type of approach that David Harvey also criticises in his History of Neo-liberalism.

[20]             Of course, there is a quite legitimate use of the term – ‘nationalism’. However, it needs to be defined more exactly, and not just used as a catch-all bogeyman word. Nationalism can only  conceive of a world constituted by nation-states (however defined, whether on an ethnic or  multi-ethnic basis). It can not conceive of a future world without nation-states, and often has problems understanding the dynamic of societies before the emergence of nation-states.

Today’s Nationalists seek what they see to be their nation’s rightful place (whatever they think that to be) in an already existing and permanent world order of nation-states. Communist internationalism, or ‘internationalism from below’  accepts that nation-states are a  reality under capitalism, and not merely a bourgeois ideological mystification, that can be dispelled by propaganda. However, to attain a future global commune without nation-states or borders, involves moving beyond capitalism and uprooting the material basis of nation-states, and hence of nationalism. There is also another non-communist tradition of  ‘internationalism from above’, i.e. between national elites.

[21]             And one way to aid them in this is for communists to abstain from participating in struggles for national self-determination.

[22]             The current Troika (EC, ECB and IMF) running of Ireland provides an even closer example of this.

[23]             Their failure to do so at present can hardly be blamed on Greek workers though. They have struggled heroically against the Troika and Greek ruling class’s attempted austerity measures.  But as yet, they can not see much evidence of effective wider international support. There is no Workers’ International, another indication of the current more general absence of  independent workers’ organisation.

[24]             See Explaining Some of the Contradictions in Present Day Corporate Imperialism in Section A of The RCN replies to Joe Thorne’s “The RCN’s ‘Internationalism from Below’ and the Case of Scotland: A Critical View”.

[25]             Here are some examples – sections xv) The wannabe Scottish ruling class and the SNP will cooperate with the British ruling class and big business to prevent any radical break-up of the UK and xvi) The SNP will play their part in upholding the hegemony of US/UK imperial alliance in the global corporate order in Allan Armstrong, Why We Need a Socialist Republican ‘Internationalism from Below’ Strategy to Address the Crisis of the UK State on http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/01/11/internationalism-from-below-2/

[26]            See the section, The difference between nationalism and national struggle, and between  bourgeois ‘internationalism’ and working class internationalism in Abstract propaganda or Active Involvement in All Class struggles – Allan Armstrong replies to Clifford Biddulph’s no nationalist solutions, at http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2010/08/25/the-communist-case-for-internationalism-from-below/

[27]             We seem to remember Left Labour supporters, and their ‘revolutionary’ outriders creating similar illusions in New Labour, back in 1997, in Tony Blair’s ‘Cool Britannia’.

[28]            Even in cases, where workers’ struggles emerge directly from their workplace situation, it does not follow automatically that these increase worker unity, as the ambiguous stance of the Lindsey oil refinery workers’ strikes showed in 2009:- see Mary MacGregor, Brown’s Appeal to Chauvinism on http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2009/03/20/browns-appeal-to-british-chauvinism/

[29]             Allan has pointed to the wider national dimension to the struggle in the Tsarist Empire, which the use of the term ‘Russian Revolution’ often disguises. We would also locate this revolutionary process context of the International Revolutionary Wave, triggered off by the Dublin Rising in 1916 and brought to a close by the crushing of the Kronstadt Revolt in 1921.

[30]             See Explaining Some of the Contradictions in Present Day Corporate Imperialism in Section A of The RCN replies to Joe Thorne’s “The RCN’s ‘Internationalism from Below’ and the  Case of Scotland: A Critical View”.

[31]             Barry is referring to Allan Armstrong replies to Eric Chester, in The Scottish Independence Referendum Debate, Part 2, at             http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/04/06/scottish-independence-referendum-debate-part-2/

[34]             The RCN had already organised the third Global Commune event in Edinburgh on January  29th, 2011, ‘Trade Unions – Are They Fit For Purpose?’ – which discussed the possibilities of  creating such independent class organisation on the economic front:- see  http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2011/02/11/report-of-the-third-global-commune-event/

[35]             Although, as we have argued within the commune, this has also led to a neo-Keynesian revival, including amongst the Left –  see Allan Armstrong, Beyond Props for capital on http://thecommune.co.uk/2009/08/30/beyond-props-for-capital/#more-3305

[36]              Indeed, we have just skimmed the surface of these contradictions. There is also the question of continued environmental degradation, leading to the possible collapse of vital life-sustaining resources and organic circuits. This aspect of the crisis of global corporate capitalism has been well covered by John Bellamy Foster’s The Ecological Rift – Capitalism’s War on the Earth.

[37]             Maclean, however, was jailed in 1916, and only freed as a result of the demonstrations held in Glasgow in support of the February 1917 Russian Revolution.

[38]             See SWRP Election Manifesto, November 6, 1923 on http://marxists.org/archive/maclean/works/1923-munic.htm

[39]             We have already addressed the issue of the appropriate territorial framework for trade union organisation in Allan Armstrong, Independent Action Requited to Achieve Genuine Workers  Unity in A Reply to Nick Roger’s Workers’ Unity not Separatism on  http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2010/04/26/a-reply-to-nick-roger’s-workers-unity-not-separatism/ and in Getting Over the Hee Bee GBs:- An ‘Internationalism from Below’ Critique of the British Left.

[40]            We have also had apologists for Imperialism, such as the late Bill Warren, resorting to selected writings by Marx, whilst a whole swathe of capitalist ideologues and  journalists have more recently invoked Marx’s early writings to justify their support for corporate globalisation.

 [41]             See http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2010/04/26/a-reply-to-alan-johnstone-of-the-spgb-from-allan-armstrong/ now published in the RCN pamphlet, Getting Over the Hee Bee GBs:- An ‘Internationalism from Below’ Critique of the British Left. A fuller account can be found here of Marx and Engels’ changing ideas on the ‘National Question’. The second volume of  Allan Armstrong, Internationalism from Below, subtitled, The World of Nation States and Nationalism between the Communist League and the early Second International (1845-1895),  also addresses these issues in a lot more detail, and an electronic copy is available free on request.

[42]             It would have been very difficult for Marx and Engels to forecast this particular imperial clash in their lifetimes. The British ruling class did not anticipate this either at the time. For a considerable period, UK state diplomatic strategy promoted Prussia/Germany to counter-balance the more immediate perceived imperial threats from Tsarist Russia and France.

[43]              And of course, the UK constitution’s Crown Powers, which the SNP does not challenge, gives the British ruling class access to a whole host of coercive forces, without any public accountability,

[44]             It would need another article (see http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/05/31/what-do-the-may-5th-local-election-results-mean-in-scotland/) to assess to what extent the vote for the SNP represented current support for Scottish independence. Furthermore, our cursory comments about the council election results do not mention the Socialist vote (they are split over the issue of  Scottish independence). But, in any case this formed such a small proportion of the total vote  – so all the more credit to Jim Bollan, SSP, who did hold his council seat in West Dunbartonshire.

 

________________________________________

 

Below are three different viewpoints from the British Left on the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum.

1) Defend Scottish Rights, Arthur Bough (Boffy’s Blog). This can also be found at:-

http://boffyblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/defend-scottish-democratic-rights.html

2) Scotland: Independence or autonomy, Stuart King, Permanent Revolution, no. 22. This can also be found at:-

 http://www.permanentrevolution.net/entry/3395

 3) Climax of tartan nationalism, James Turley, CPGB-Weekly WorkerThis can also be found at:-

 http://www.cpgb.org.uk/article.php?article_id=1004691

They all support the right of Scottish self-determination. However, none of these articles supports a ‘Yes’ vote, although they divided over what to recommend.

 

This is followed by a critique of these British Left arguments:-

 4) A reply to the British Left, Allan Armstrong

 

________________________________________

 

1. Defend Scottish Democratic Rights, Arthur Bough 

 

The Liberal-Tory Government are trying to limit the right of Scots to determine their own future. Like previous British Governments, they are very good at advocating bourgeois democratic freedoms for people in far flung parts of the globe – so long, of course that they were not part of the British Empire, whose subjects were kept in abject slavery – including as recently sending British troops to fight and die for them, but very poor when it comes to allowing those rights to its own citizens. The Scottish people like every other nation has a right to self-determination, including separation from the rest of the UK if they so choose. That is no less a right than many in the Tory Party, or in UKIP or the BNP advocate in relation to Britain leaving the EU. The Scottish people have the right to choose the time, place and manner by which they decide if and when to leave the UK. Cameron and all other British Governments and Parties should keep their nose out of that.

The Scottish people have their own Parliament, and they have a right, to determine the timing and nature of the referendum on leaving the UK, through that Parliament. All British socialists and consistent democrats should insist upon that basic democratic right of the Scottish people, and should insist that the British Government, does not interfere with it in any way. When, Norway and Sweden separated, as Lenin says, the Norwegian Parliament simply passed a resolution saying that it was no longer a part of Sweden. All that should be discussed, after a decision to leave, are the terms of relations between the two sovereign states, and the settlement of outstanding affairs.

But, of course, a Marxist does not desire that Scotland should separate from the rest of Britain, any more than a Marxist desires that the UK separate from the EU, and for the reasons that Lenin sets out. The reality is that, more now than when Lenin was writing, small states are reactionary, and increasingly unviable, just as is the case with small Capitals against large Capitals. In the same way that Marxists are opposed to the break up of Monopolies and Trusts, and see in the latter a progressive development, so too we are against the break up of larger states into smaller states.

Larger Capitals, Monopolies and Trusts, represent a more mature stage of Capital, a step closer to its ultimate demise and replacement with Socialism. They also facilitate within them the collective organisation of the workers, their Co-operative production, the greater planning of output. In other words they begin to presage socialistic production. We do not want workers brought together in such ways to be broken apart, only for the Capitalists once again to be able more easily to divide them against each other. The same is true of the bringing together of workers within larger state structures.

Marxists defend the democratic rights of the Scots in determining their own future. Marxists, however, should argue that the Scottish workers should determine their future within a single British State, within a single European State alongside their British and European comrades, rather than by lining up alongside their own bosses.

 

12.1.12

 

2. Scotland: Independence or autonomy, Stuart King

The globalisation of capital exerts its power across not only nations but continents, and the ability to unite tens of millions of workers in the struggle for socialism across large states is not something to give up lightly. A workers’ movement fragmented and disunited across small states will be no match for international capital.

We are already seeing the whipping up of such disunity by the nationalists on both sides of the border. The SNP declares that the English are “stealing” its oil while the Tories declare the Scots a bunch of subsidised layabouts. Neither English nor Scottish nationalisms are a pretty sight and will be used in this campaign to poison relations between workers.

While we are opposed to independence we are, however, absolutely in favour of the Scottish people having a vote on whether to separate via a referendum if they so wish. Indeed, a question on full independence should have been included alongside the devolution question in 1997.

And if the Scottish people decide in the next few years that they wish to separate from the UK, it will be the duty of all socialists in England and Scotland to support that decision in everyway they can.

As socialists we also favour a high degree of autonomy, for the nations, regions and municipalities throughout the British state. Fighting for genuinely democratic and autonomous local structures, under the direct control of working people, is the best way to weaken the control of a ruling class directing matters from Westminster.

For that reason we are absolutely in favour of “devolution-max”, where the Scottish people are able take control of the ability to tax the rich, introduce social and economic programmes and public works to give unemployed jobs, to direct their economic development themselves and decide whether or not they want military and nuclear bases in their country.

The struggle for socialism and revolution in Britain could only be strengthened by such an outcome for Scotland.

Winter, 2012

 

3. Climax of tartan nationalism, James Turley

 

It is paramount for communists to support the right of Scotland to self-determination, and also to protect the hard-won unity of our class.

Squaring that circle means taking democracy seriously as a political task for the working class; and that means first of all pointing out that this merry dance between the SNP and Westminster is a sick parody of self-determination from beginning to end.

It begins with a referendum, which is in itself a profoundly anti-democratic manoeuvre, the favoured method of rule among Bonapartists, fascists and every other species of crooked demagogue. Inordinate power is granted to he who sets the question, the possible answers and the time and manner of the plebiscite – hence the bun fight between Cameron and Salmond over exactly those matters. It ends either with a sham ‘independence’ which is, in reality, junior membership of the EU, or a sham mandate for the continuation of the blood-soaked union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as presently constituted.

The only appropriate response to such a referendum is a spoilt ballot – combined with serious propaganda for a democratic federal republic in Britain, in which the Scotland and Wales have full national rights, up to and including the right to secession. Our job is not to provide left cover for the break-up of existing states – no matter how far up the imperial food chain they are – but to build the unity of the workers’ movement across all borders, and fight to place the workers’ movement at the vanguard of the struggle for extreme, republican democracy.

19.1.12

____________________________________

 

4. A reply to the British Left, Allan Armstrong

 

Many on the British Left claim to support the right of Scottish self-determination, but are opposed to any vote for Scottish independence.  However, they differ on what this means in practice.

Thus, Arthur Bough has used his blog [1] to argue that, “Marxists defend the democratic rights of the Scots in determining their own future. Marxists, however, should argue that the Scottish workers should determine their future within a single British State, within a single European State alongside their British and European comrades, rather than by lining up alongside their own bosses.”

To give Bough his due, he does begin his article by calling on “Cameron and all the other British Parliaments {presumably meaning Westminster, Cardiff Bay and Stormont} and Parties to keep their noses out…” (as if!), but his logic would appear to be, Scottish workers should still vote ‘No’.

James Turley for the CPGB – Weekly Worker also supports the right of Scottish self-determination, but argues instead for active abstention.  “The only appropriate response to such a referendum is a spoilt ballot – combined with serious propaganda for a democratic federal republic in Britain, in which the Scotland and Wales have full national rights, up to and including the right to secession” [2]. Given the CPGB’s inability to move beyond propaganda and to successfully implement practical activity over its desire to unite all British (or is that UK) Marxists into one party, highlighted by its dismal performance in the Campaign for a Marxist Party, it is doubtful that their “serious propaganda” will have much impact in Scotland.

Stuart King for Permanent Revolution (PR) also supports the right of Scottish self-determination, but takes a different tack. He argues that,  “While we are opposed to independence… as socialists we also favour a high degree of autonomy… For that reason we are absolutely in favour of “devolution-max” [3].

One problem with this, is that nobody but Stuart has yet argued that “devolution-max” (in effect – UK federalism) allows the “Scottish people to decide… whether or not they want military and nuclear bases in their country.” To achieve this you would need to have, as a minimum, the SNP’s proposed ‘Independence-Lite’. So maybe Stuart will have to change his mind about which option to vote for!

Furthermore, it is not clear whether Stuart would go beyond the CPGB’s “serious propaganda” approach to get his ‘devolution-max’, or whether he would be prepared to join in activity with those, such as former Labour Scottish First Minister, Henry Macleish, in pushing for his “devolution-max” option on the ballot paper (something the current SNP First Minister, Alex Salmond, would also like to see).

The key thing uniting Bough, the CPGB and PR is that they see the existence of the UK state as historically progressive (Bough and the CPGB certainly); or at least responsible for creating a united British working class (Bough, CPGB and PR). Therefore, for them, the break-up of the UK could only represent either a historic economic step backwards, or lead to greater disunity amongst the British working class.

Ironically, elsewhere, Bough has argued that the anti-EU policies adopted by the Con-Dem Coalition, as current political representatives of the British ruling class, are more or less guaranteed to lead to further economic retrogression for Britain relative to other capitalist powers, and greater European disunity  [4]. He has also pointed out that significant sections of the British Left, who otherwise share his belief in the historically progressive, British working class unity-promoting role of the UK state and/or the ‘British nation’, have also adopted a profoundly anti-European attitude reflecting the currently dominant reactionary section of the British ruling class. This was highlighted by the CPB’s and SPs’ support for No2EU/Yes to {British} Democracy, with its thinly disguised racist call for ‘No to social dumping’. Not many signs of British progress or greater working class unity there!

When you examine more closely what form all three articles think British working class unity takes, then you soon see the problems of equating the continued existence of the UK state and the ‘British nation’ with greater working class unity. If working class unity is seen to be largely a reflection of, and reaction to, the British ruling class’s UK territorial state, and their creation of a ‘British nation’, then this comes at a very high cost.

British workers’ organisations adopting this framework have long accepted the legitimacy of capitalist social relations and the UK state. Thus, the British Labour Party and the TUC have never sought the abolition of wage slavery, but have accepted a social democratic desire to lift workers from a position of being capitalism’s ‘field slaves’ to being more privileged ‘house slaves’, through the promotion of better wages and conditions (including the state’s social wage). Today, under the conditions of capitalist crisis, this means begging for the UK state to create more wage slaves. This is also true of the British Far Left, with the SWP’s ‘Right to Work’ campaign and the SP’s ‘Youth Fight for Jobs’. They just can not see beyond capitalism, even when it is in severe crisis. They have no notion of building greater socialist unity in Europe beyond the current European Anti-Capitalist Alliance, an essentially electorally focussed body, which now amounts to little more than diplomatic stitch-up between the USFI’s and SWP’s European sections.

Furthermore, the British Labour Party and the TUC have never seriously contested the anti-democratic nature of the UK state with its Crown Powers, whilst they have frequently acquiesced in the maintenance of British imperialism. For, if your aim is to improve wages, then one way of achieving this is to try to maintain ‘your’ state’s position in the imperial pecking order.

In other words, far from the existing UK state and the ruling class’s ‘British nation’ forming a historically necessary building block in the construction of wider international working class unity, in reality they constitute a brick wall, which needs to be broken up.

10.5.12

Here the CPGB recognise “full national rights” for Scotland, which presumably means they have abandoned the position they held at the time of the 1997 Scottish Devolution referendum, when they denied that Scotland was a nation, but claimed that Scots were a particular nationality (ethnic group) living within the ‘British nation’. The CPGB have taken the reactionary implications of exercising self-determination on an ethnic basis, even further  with regard to Ulster Loyalists (termed British-Irish by the CPGB, which would hardly be welcomed by those ‘Ulster’-British Loyalists they hope to woo!). They have raised the possibility of further partition of Ireland, this time of ‘the Six Counties’ – an idea also advocated by sections of the (‘British-Irish’) UDA, only accompanied by ‘nullification’ or ethnic cleansing of Irish Nationalists.

_________________________________

To access the first two sections of the debate on the Scottish Independence Referendum go to:-

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/04/06/scottish-independence-referendum-debate-part-2/

 http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/03/26/scottish-independence-referendum/

 

 

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Dec 12 2011

the 99%, the 1% and ‘anti-finance’

Oisín Mac Giallomóir of the commune argues the Occupy movement needs to oppose capitalist production not just capitalist finance and governments

A lot of people have commented that a problem with the Occupy movement is that it is not clear what they are for. I think that is a smaller problem than the lack of clarity about what they are against. It is against the rule of the 1%. But who are the 1%? What role do they have in society?

The statistical fact that there is a very, very small section of society that is in ‘control’ is clear but the nature and basis of their control isn’t. Certainly the argument is in some sense ‘anti-capitalist’. We are against the tiny minority who control the majority of the earth’s wealth and in the process have huge political power. And we are against the system that enables this to happen. But after that questions arise. What is the system that enables this to happen?

Two ideas have sprung up which are both wrong and dangerous. Firstly, there is the idea that is expounded by the Ron Paul loving, Ayn Rand reading, Austrian economics skimming, right-wing libertarians. An argument presented by many of these is that we are not truly living under capitalism but rather under corporatism, that is under a situation where the government and market are not sufficiently separated. The trouble here is supposedly the fact that people are not engaging in free market exchange, but rather the economy is being controlled by the big banks, large corporations and the government who are all hand in glove with one another.

The state

Here there is a failure to understand the nature of the state in capitalism. In previous types of society, the economic/political distinction did not exist in the manner it does under capitalism. We can think of how in feudalism the serf worked unpaid labour under their lord and for their lord on the basis of a direct threat of violence from the lord. The lord was both a direct political power and the direct economic exploiter. While it may seem that workers who freely sell their labour are not exploited and that the government has no rightful place in this exchange, the truth is far different. Today, the exploitation of workers is mediated by money. Workers work for their employers for a wage. Employers pay their workers less than the value of the product of their labour, thereby enabling them to earn a return on their investment, be it in the form of interest or profit. Here this takes on the seemingly neutral form of a market exchange. But it is not a neutral exchange. It can only happen if workers are excluded from control of the means of production. Workers only work for a wage because they do not have a means to live independent of waged work. Workers are excluded from control over the means of production because the means of production are privately owned. This private ownership is secured as a legal right with the full force of the violence of the state behind it. So far from the state being an imposition on free market capitalism, the latter cannot exist without the existence of the state to secure property rights. While in previous societies economic and political power were united, in capitalism they are divided but mutually dependent. The market requires the existence of the state. The further division of the state from the market as advocated by those who argue that the state needs to stop intervening in the economy fails to recognise the violence inherent in the system. The only reason there is poverty in the presence of great wealth, as in today’s society, is because that wealth is held privately and defended by the armed force of the police, the army, the courts and prisons.

Finance

The second wrong idea which has substantial currency in the Occupy movement is the vilification of finance. This is closely tied to the above delusions about the naturalness and political neutrality of capitalism. Finance is portrayed as parasitic on the real economy. The idea of a parasitic financial class is of course an old one.

But this is a fundamental failure to understand the nature of finance in capitalism. The perception often is that finance is simply about moving money around and not engaging in productive activity. This is revealed today with the calls for an end to central banking, fiat currency, fractional reserve banking etc. People say we need to get back to the real economy where people trade useful things and services. This is of course attractive even from a crudely Marxist perspective. Communists want a society where production is based on the production of useful things that satisfy human need not on the production of money and profit. But under a system where production is directed towards exchange the problems of capitalism will remain.

When a person produces for the market their productive activity is based on getting as much as possible in exchange for what they produce and minimising the costs of what they produce. They maximise revenue and minimise cost, or to put it more simply: they try to maximise profits. They act as a capitalist. The form in which this profit comes is secondary, whether it be in the form of paper or gold, provided it enables the capitalist to accumulate wealth and exchange it in the future, it works as money. Thus we see Marx’s famous description of capitalist production: M-C…P…C’-M’. Money (M) is invested in commodities (C: these commodities can be divided into means of production and labour power) and these commodities produce (P) commodities of greater value (C’) which results in the capitalist acquiring greater money than at the start of the process (M’). Taking out the question of production, we can simplify capital to a very simple process M-M’; self-expanding value; the use of money to create more money. But according to the anti-finance people, money creating money is precisely the perverse kind of capitalism for which the banks are at fault. But this is no perversion of capitalism and it does not happen because of the banks.

The function of banks or any financial intermediary in capitalism is to transfer funds from savers to investors, or put more simply, moving money from people who have it to capitalists who can invest it and make money out of it. They therefore play a very major role in capitalist production. Their role is far from parasitic on capitalism.

Worse, in the past this supposed ‘parasitism’ of the financial class was generally racialised in a manner that raised its ugly head again at an Occupy protest in Los Angeles. Patricia McAllister explained why she was protesting saying “I think that the Zionist Jews, who are running these big banks and our Federal Reserve, which is not run by the federal government… they need to be run out of this country”.

Banks play a major and central role in ensuring that capitalism works; that investments through which profits can be made are found and exploited. Without banks no capitalism. But equally, without capitalism no banks.

The idea of a pure free market capitalism unspoiled by government and finance is a fairy tale. Both violent government and financial intermediaries are necessary for capitalism. What is not necessary is capitalism itself.

 

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Nov 20 2011

New issue of the Commune (no 27)

N30: there is an alternative – The Commune’s editorial looks forward to the 30th November strike against austerity

there’s more to politics than westminster – Greg Brown asks what is the way forward for students’ struggles after last year’s defeat on fees and EMA

make or break for the ‘sparks’ – Adam Ford reports on developments in the electricians’ movement

bishops, tents and the city – Sharon Borthwick reports on the occupations at London’s St Paul’s and Finsbury Square

all eyes on oakland  – Donagh Davis reports from Occupy Oakland

the same old slogans? – Bristol Communards headed down to their local ‘Occupy’ space

the 99%, the 1% and ‘anti-finance’ – Oisín Mac Giallomóir argues the Occupy movement needs to oppose capitalist production not just capitalist finance and governments

occupy tel-aviv: the israeli summer – Lee Meidan writes from Israel on a rare wave of social unrest

dale farm: a community under siege – Dominic Fitzgerald reports on the eviction of the Dale Farm traveller site

travellers, the state and the meaning of solidarity – Richard B. argues that traveller support must now become a part of our movement

the power to make change for ourselves – David Broder was unconvinced by ‘Anarchism: a Marxist Critique’ by John Molyneux

‘when the crisis comes’ – an essay by Henrik Johansson, exploring the perverse ideology perpetuated during capitalist crisis

a platform for struggle – Sheila Cohen, co-editor of Trade Union Solidarity, writes on the new venture

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Oct 07 2011

New issue of the commune (no. 26)

the euro in crisis

editorial – opposition and the cuts

balls to miliband – Clifford Biddulph

pickets and porkie pies at fujitsu – Mark Harrison

cleaning up the industry – Siobhan Breatnach

sparks fly in electricians’ dispute – Siobhan Breatnach

a weekend camping at dale farm – Daniel Harvey

a state of uncertainty – Pete Jones on the Palestinian bid for statehood at UN

italy – a very political crisis – David Broder

the whac-a-mole approach to fixing the euro – Oisin MacGiollamoir

three myths about the crisis – Conrad Russell

a beginner’s guide to Marx’s capital

life as a ‘chugger’

the land of the free -Sharon Borthwick

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Aug 19 2011

The First Shoots of a New Industrial Fightback?

The following encouraging developments on the industrial front highlight two of the strategies discussed and debated at the Third Global Commune event, the report of which can be found at:-


Report of the Third Global Commune Event

1. Major gains for Lower Paid at Heron Tower Dispute

2. Brian Higgins and the Anti-Blacklist Campaign Success at Brussels

3. Report of Rank & File meeting for UNITE

1. IWW – Major Gains at Heron Tower Dispute

Following negotiations with the cleaning contractor LCC, who covers contracts at the prestigious Heron Tower – the IWW Cleaners and Allied Grades Branch has secured significant gains to the benefit of our low-paid.

The IWW had launched a campaign to secure full payment of the living wage £8.30 per-hour for, a resolution of staff shortages, issues of  unfair dismissal and anti-union conduct by management.

The IWW has reached an agreement which has secured full-payment of the London Living Wage with back pay until May 2011, the staff shortage to be filled and confirmation of the trade union rights of workers. Further discussions are underway on a recognition agreement with the IWW.

As result the IWW Cleaners Branch and London Delegates Committee has cancelled the demonstration called for tonight {19.8.11} at the Heron Tower. We thank all trade unionists and fellow workers for their solidarity and support.

Once again the independent workers union the IWW has shown that direct action and solidarity of all union members in support of each other achieves results in the interests of our members.

The message to cleaners across London is clear – don’t live in fear – get organised!

Alberto Durango, Latin American Workers Association, IWW

2.Brian Higgins and the Anti-Blacklist Campaign Success at Brussels

Northampton grandfather Brian Higgins this week achieved a major breakthrough in his campaign against the illegal blacklisting of trade unionists. On Thurs 30th June 2011, Brian Higgins secretary of Northampton branch of UCATT (the building workers union), led a delegation of trade unionists from the Blacklist Support Group to Brussels to hold private talks with László Andor, European Union Commissioner with responsibility for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion to discuss potential EU wide legislation to outlaw blacklisting. (Photo attached – see Editors Notes)

During the 45 minute meeting, Commissioner Andor was presented with documentary evidence in the form secret blacklist files kept about trade unionists in the UK construction industry. The files were compiled by the Consulting Association and provide damning evidence that major multi-national building firms systematically dismissed and victimised workers who raised concerns about health & safety issues or unpaid wages (see Editors Notes). The largest blacklist file in the country relates to Brian Higgins (49 pages)

The secret files contain appalling levels of personal intrusion with sensitive information including; names, addresses, national insurance number, work history, medical history, press-cuttings, union meetings attended, speeches made, political affiliations. Many entries on the blacklist files are supplied by senior Industrial Relations managers from major construction firms relating to when an individual had spoken to their site managers about safety breaches such as asbestos or poor toilet facilities. The information in the blacklist files was circulated amongst multi-national building firms and used to deny workers employment on major construction projects. For many blacklisted workers this resulted in repeated sackings and long-term unemployment merely because they had raised concerns about  safety on building sites.

Ex-bricklayer, Brian Higgins said after the meeting:

The Blacklist is an economic , social and political prison in which I have served a life sentence and others continue to be imprsoned. My wife and family also suffered because of the terrible pressure which resulted from us only having my wife’s wages to hold things together. But my message for those who caused this is, it was difficult , extremely so at times, however we did hold it together and stayed together in spite of you and your Blacklist. We refused to let you grind us down and I’m still fighting.

Brian Higgins added

When Northampton Ucatt Branch initiated a campaign for an EU Law against industrial blacklisting to try to counter dreadful performances of Ucatt and Unite General Secretaries and lawyers after the discovery of the Consulting Association Blacklist and contacted Glenis Willmott MEP. They could never imagine their secretary would end up with other blacklisted trade unionists and the Blacklist Support Group, a law professor and Stephen Hughes MEP at a meeting with Lazlo Andor the EU Commissioner in Brussels and get his sympthy in return. The genuinely positive response from Commissioner Andor exceeded all our expectations – It is truly amazing.

The construction companies identified as participating in the blacklisting operation include household names based and operating across Europe including: Skanska (Sweden), Bam (Netherlands), Vinci (France), Laing O’Rourke (Ireland), Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Kier, Costain, Carillion (UK) to name but a few. (See Editors Notes)

Also attending the meeting was Professor Keith Ewing from Kings College London (a leading academic in international law and human rights issues) who presented possible legislative options open to the European Union highlighting the fact that many of the companies involved in the blacklist were European based.  He also drew attention to the fact that blacklisting violates many provisions of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and that the EU had the authority and responsibility to respond to this major violation of health and safety standards.

The meeting was arranged by Stephen Hughes MEP and Glenis Willmott MEP (Labour’s Leader in Europe Parliament) who are taking up the issue in the European Parliament.

Stephen Hughes MEP said:

Blacklisting is a genuine issue which affects all member states and I will work with colleagues to address this serious concern and apply parliamentary pressure to trigger action.

This meeting is the beginning, not the end, of a process. Once we have planted the seed with Commissioner Andors, we will follow up with action in the European Parliament’s Employment Committee and the full Parliament. It will take time but we don’t give up easily!

The right to join a trade union and not be be victimised because of it is enshrined in Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights but lack of any specific EU wide legislation against blacklisting of individuals for safety reasons means that thousands of workers have suffered appalling financial and family hardship because of the covert actions of multi-national building firms.

Brian Higgins added:

We have been victimised by these firms just because we have stood up for safety issues; a cabin to dry wet clothes, asbestos, holiday pay. For many of us this conspiracy has meant years on the dole and family strains. But we are not just fighting for ourselves. This evil practice is almost certainly taking place in other industries and across Europe. I refuse to stop campaigning for the trade union rights on safety, working conditions and wages the blacklist is meant to prevent us doing. Now we’re taking the fight to Europe on behalf of workers here and the likes of Poland, Spain, Ireland and Greece. In fact anywhere blacklisting is going on.

Notes to Editors:

1. For individual interviews with the delegation about the talks with EU Commissioner Andor & their personal experience of blacklisting contact blacklistsg@gmail.com

2. Attached photo shows (Left to Right): Professor Keith Ewing, Brian Higgins, Stephen Hughes MEP, EU Commissioner László Andor, Steve Acheson

3. The blacklisting of trade unionists in the construction industry was only exposed after an investigation by the Information Commissioners Office (UK data-protection watchdog) in 2009. The companies identified by the Information Commissioners Office as using The Consulting Association secret blacklisting are all household names including:

Amec, Amey, B Sunley & Sons, Balfour Beatty, Balfour Kilpatrick, Ballast Wiltshire, Bam Construction (HBC Construction), Bam Nuttall (Edmund Nutall Ltd), C B & I, Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd, Costain UK Ltd, Crown House Technologies, Carillion, Tarmac Construction, Diamond M & E Services, Dudley Bower & Co Ltd, Emcor (Drake & Scull), Emcor Rail, G Wimpey Ltd, Haden Young, Kier Ltd, John Mowlem Ltd, Laing O’Rourke, Lovell Construction (UK) Ltd, Miller Construction Limited, Morgan Ashurst, Morgan Est, Morrison Construction Group, N G Bailey, Shepherd Engineering Services, Sias Building Services, Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, Skanska (Kaverna / Trafalgar House Plc), SPIE (Matthew Hall), Taylor Woodrow Construction Ltd, Turriff Construction Ltd, Tysons Contractors, Walter Llewellyn & Sons Ltd, Whessoe Oil & Gas, Willmott Dixon, Vinci PLC (Norwest Holst Group)

4. Blacklist Support Group was set-up to act as a support network on behalf of the 3216 individuals on the Consulting Associationdatabase following a meeting held at the House of Commons in June 2009 organised by John McDonnell MP. The Blacklist Support Group has led the campiagn against blacklisting by organsing fringe meetings at union conferences, entered submissions to proposed legislation, organising direct action, produced campaign video’s and is currently involved with a variety of legal challenges.

also see:- Brian Higgins Anti Blacklist Campaign

and:- Campaign To Fight The Blacklist And To Support Brian Higgins;

3. London: Report of the fantastic ‘Rank & File’ construction workers meeting.

Gerry Hicks stood as the Rank and File candidate For UNITE.  Len McCluskey won as the ‘left’ bureaucrat. Gerry came second and has continued with the work of building a rank and file movement.  Below is a report of a recent rank and file meeting in London.

500 Electricians and pipefitters sent out a clear message to JIB/HVCA employers and Unite the union that they will not accept the de-skilling of their trade or the pay cuts to their national agreements. The meeting, on Saturday 13 August, was organised by Unite rank and file activists from London and the south coast. Conway Hall was packed, standing room only.

The main issues were the pay cuts 8 firms had said they would be implementing in March 2012. There would be 3 new grades for electricians – metalworker £10.50 per hour, £12 for wiring, £14 for terminating. At the moment electrician’s JIB rate is £16.25p per hour across the board.

The meeting opened and elected a Chairperson, who gave an excellent speech saying, it was time for everyone present to stand up and fight these attacks all the way, to spread the word on sites and in their workplaces. It was not about blaming overseas workers, it was our fight and we must be united, disciplined and determined. The battle begins right here right now. We must win this fight. Future generations are depending on us. He also stated the idea that forming a new union should not be considered. It had been tried and had failed miserably in the past with EPIU. Now we are back in the same union we are far stronger.

A blacklisted electrician was the first speaker and was given a standing ovation for his incredible work fighting the blacklist.

Jerry Hicks was up next and gave a thunderous speech, which was wildly applauded. “JERRY JERRY JERRY JERRY!” the crowd chanted. The mood was electric, the biggest meeting since 2000 – the days of the Jubilee Line.

There were then discussions from the floor and questions and answers to 2 London officials who were really put on the spot about Amicus/EETPU failings in the past. Even with the new union many of the old guard are still in control, the bad old days of Tom Hardacre are still hanging around with mistrust in new officers. Time will tell whether Bernard Mcauley and his new team are any different.

The rank and file made it very clear that Unite need to perform in this current dispute or the anger shown by many at the meeting will be vented at them. A motion was passed unanimously that ‘Unite must immediately ballot members who are working for JIB firms who have been told that the terms and conditions will be changing in March 2012, and a campaign must be set up by Unite, distributing leaflets to all sites around the country opposing these attacks on our industry and to have regular feedback to the members.’ It was agreed to call for unofficial action ASAP on large sites and that other sites should come out in solidarity, rather than wait for a ballot, as this would put the whole issue out in the open.

A national rank and file committee was elected by those in attendance: 2 electricians, 2 pipefitters, 1 for the civil and also Jerry Hicks.

Moving forward, there is a stewards meeting in Leeds 17th August. 2 from the elected committee will be going, armed with the motion and a mandate from 500 people. Further rank and file meetings will be held around the country in the coming months, one before Xmas maybe in Manchester or Liverpool and also other areas next year. This new movement is on a high and we can spread the mood around the country and throughout construction. There will be attacks on other trades too. We should try and build things involving UCATT and GMB members as well.

Finally from the Chair of the meeting, “I personally felt proud and extremely happy as I supped a cold pint of Fosters after the meeting. Thanks to everyone involved – booking of the hall, contact lists, leafleting, and a magnificent collection too, many thanks to one and all. Our time has come comrades, let’s not miss this opportunity. In solidarity”.

(Some names have been left out deliberately to guard against any employer retribution.)

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the commune free issue 2 can be downloaded at:-

http://thecommune.co.uk/page/3/

editorial

riot in the city – the editorial discusses the crisis in capitalism and our communities

no state bans – on self-defeating calls for a ban on EDL protests

struggles news in brief – an overview of different stuggles happening at present

news and local perspectives on the riots

liverpool: police on the offensive – James Roberts writes on the attacks on young people in Merseyside, and the community response to the riots.

peckham: the fury must not be forgotten – Sharon Borthwick reports on the riots in south-east London

ruling class justice system shows its true face – Taimour Lay explains the meaning of the post-riot show trials

riots analysis

Our website featured an extensive debate on the riots, and many more views than could be fit into the paper can be found there.

…or does it explode? – Joe Thorne introduces the debate

nothing to lose, nothing to win – David Broder explains what he sees as the political vacuum underlying the riots

when ‘normal’ behaviour is meaningless – Clifford Biddulph argues for an engagement with the chaotic and elemental nature of class struggle

economy

unhappy economies: greek debt, PIIGS and eurozone crisis – Oisin Mac Giollamoir explains the current european crisis and the relationship between debt and class struggle

giz a fightback – Terry Liddle reflects on his experience of the 1980s unemployed movement

education

200 day occupation delivers – Liam Turbett reports on Glasgow students’ victorious uni occupation

why is there class in the classroom? – Dave Spencer explores the reasons for working class under-achievement in the classroom

libya

any hope for libya? – Joe Thorne writes on NATO’s role in post-Gaddafi Libya

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DEBATE ON THE RIOTS

in the commune

Clifford Biddulph suggests that we need to find a way to engage with the contradictory and elemental nature of class conflict in events like the recent riots:-

When Normal Behaviour Is Meaningless

Javaad Alipoor continues our debate on the meaning of the UK’s riots:-

no justice no peace: the riot is the rhyme of the unheard, let us begin to listen.

Joe Thorne looks for the meaning of the recent wave of inner city riots

or does it explode?

David broder explains what he sees as the political vacuum underlying the riots

 

nothing to lose, nothing to win 

 

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OTHER CONTRIBUTIONS ON THE RIOTS 

REFLECTIONS ON THE ENGLISH RIOTS
 
27 August 2011

A personal note by John McAnulty (Socialist Democracy, Ireland) 


The French radical Voltaire, writing from England in the 18th century, spelt out in the “Philosophical Letters” his admiration for the civilization and tolerance of the English in contrast to French absolutism. However, in a throwaway comment, he remarked that, while London represented the civilized profile of English society, Ireland represented its ragged backside.

Today in London we see the ragged backside of British capitalism. The need for vengeance, for revenge, the need to inspire fear in the lower orders, has subsumed every other consideration, including the legal system’s own rules concerning the rights of children. Conveyor belt justice rushes thousands into jail. A facebook comment nets a four year sentence. Politicians vie with each other to suggest new punishments, new restrictions on civil rights, new weapons to apply the iron heel to the neck of the lower orders.

And then there is what the British capitalists do best – hypocrisy on a level so monumental as to beggar belief. 

For what we are told is that the issue is an issue of morality and that savage measures are needed to install moral responsibility into the nation’s youth.

We are told this by politicians mired in scandal, by governments that ruled in tandem with the Murdoch press, by a press accused of sickening corruption, and finally by a police force guilty of killing and brutality at the lower levels and corruption at nearly every level. 

In common with all other forms of social corruption goes almost total impunity.

“News of the World” editor Rebekah Brooks admits to a group of MPs, on camera, that the News International group bribes police and nothing happens. Murdoch gives evidence which is clearly untrue, crime after crime is listed against his group, but only the protestor who attacks him with a foam pie goes to jail. 

Many MPs fix their expenses but only the most blatant suffer. Meanwhile Blair cashing in to the tune of tens of millions goes unnoticed.

All the top cops, forced to resign because of their links to the Murdoch press, are cleared within days. Lower down the chain of command savage beatings and killings go unpunished, even many assaults caught on camera.

This impunity reaches its height when chief constables, who have presided over a total collapse of the force, exchange insults with equally incompetent politicians about an imaginary police independence – the debate led by Hugh Orde, whose ability to meet the political needs of his masters led him from investigating the RUC in the North of Ireland to being appointed their leader, and whose subsequent rise was fuelled by his political ability to represent the demands of unionism and the programme of the British government in relation to Ireland.

The savagery and hypocrisy of the capitalist counter-offensive has produced much analysis and comment from socialists. The problem is that much of this analysis accepts the narrative of social breakdown and riot. Real events were considerably more complex than this.

The initial event of the uprising was the killing of Mark Duggan, accompanied by a transparent cover-up – a cover-up that involved both the police and the supposed investigators of the IPCC – a cover-up that is ongoing and involves a press blackout on the issue. 

A political protest by the family of the dead man was treated with contempt by the police. This incident, following years of racial harassment, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Local youth came on to the streets determined to extract revenge.

The rapid spread of the riots saw white youth join their black compatriots. Again the focus of the uprising was revenge – three police stations and an undisclosed number of vehicles were burnt out. A widespread view among the youth was that they had nothing to lose. Mass unemployment (standing at 20%) was the rule and access to further education was being cut off.

The police understood very well that they were the target. They waited over a week before admitting that firearms had been used against them. Their withdrawal from riot zones was not due to mistaken tactics, but an attempt to avoid the casualties that the youth were so anxious to inflict. 

It was against this background that wholesale looting took place. It was the looting that was used by capitalism to avoid any examination of the widespread hatred of the police or any concern about the programme of savage austerity that they intend to deepen. 

However the looting can be seen as a consequence of the failure to build an opposition. The majority of the looters did not themselves have a determination to confront the police and their actions were opportunistic and random, involving attacks on other workers and small shopkeepers. Political movements, when they confront the state forces, have the ability to apply a discipline on bystanders and sweep them up in a common cause that militates against looting.

Media commentators have compared the youth to the mob of the past. The mob, the urban underclass, displayed a spontaneous undirected violence and a low level of politics. They were supplanted by the organised working class.

The English youth are not the mob. They do not come before the working class nor are they separate from them. What they face is exclusion from the working class or admission to dead-end jobs and a life of penury.

The working class haven’t gone away. They were present on the streets of London not so long ago in a march of 250,000. Unfortunately they marched in a cage constructed by the trade union leadership, designed to make violence impossible and restricted to calls to apply the cuts less harshly and over a longer time frame. New Labour not only endorses the austerity, but also is at the forefront in demanding the harsh punishment of those accused by the police.

The socialist movement can transform the anger and rage of youth into support for socialism. However it can only do so as part of a project for the self-organization of the working class around its own program. 

We should not become trapped in moralism  – that will leave us in a corner with the capitalists discussing the problem of the rioters. The reality is that the crisis of capitalism is mirrored by a collapse of the traditional organizations of the working class. The labour and trade union leaderships support an economic programme that will inevitably lead to mass poverty. They are unable even to stand against the wave of mass repression that is being unleashed following the riots. The small socialist movement tends to close its eyes to this reality and to seek unity with union bureaucrats on terms dictated by the bureaucrats – terms that make the construction of an independent working class movement impossible.

Class conflict happens of its own accord. It will take whatever form is available to it. The alternative to chaotic and apolitical upsurges is an effective opposition, able to confront capitalism and put manners on the police. Socialists can strain every sinew to build this movement or it can emerge on its own, with all the blood, false starts and blind alleys that this could entail.

 

 

‘NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE’ AND BLOOD AND FLAMES ON ENGLAND’S STREETS:
1981, 1985 and 2011

 12 Aug 2011

 By David Black – Hobgoblin

The “Tottenham Riots” of 1985 began with a protest outside Tottenham police station over the fatal collapse of Cynthia Jarret during an illegal police raid on her home on the Broadwater Farm housing estate, after the wrongful arrest of her son. The police station protest developed into a pitched all-night battle between police and the Caribbean youth of Broadwater Farm, ending with the killing of a police officer.

 Twenty-six years later, on Saturday 6 August 2011, another protest took place outside Tottenham police station, this time over the killing two days earlier of former Broadwater Farm resident, Mark Duggan, in a stake-out by armed police. The initial police statement claimed that an officer had been shot and wounded before other officers returned fire. But the family and numerous friends of Mr. Duggan challenged this version of events and organized a 200-strong vigil outside Tottenham police station. Stafford Scott, a community activist in the area, told Sky News,

 “We came to the station to have a peaceful demonstration, and it was largely peaceful. And what we explained to the police is that we wanted someone senior from the police service to come and explain to us what was happening. They kept on prevaricating. The most senior person they gave us was a chief inspector. We said that person wasn’t senior enough… Eventually they sent for a superintendent, but by then it was too late.”

It was too late because as night fell local gangs of youth – beyond the control of protestors – began to converge on the police station. Two empty police cars and a double-decker bus were set on fire and a full-scale riot ensued. Shops were looted and buildings torched – seriously endangering the lives of residents living above shops, whose homes were destroyed. By dawn looting had spread to nearby Wood Green, where the high street was freely looted by youth pushing trolleys full of phones, shoes and clothes before the police finally arrived at dawn.

The next day, Sunday, saw looting at shopping centres in more affluent areas such as Oxford Street in the West End, and the northern suburb of Enfield, where the youth involved were predominately white. The Metropolitan Police managed to quell these few “copy-cat” outbreaks, but the events of the following day, Monday 8 August, totally overwhelmed the 6000-strong force assigned to “keep the peace.” All across London, pulling in youth of all colours and ages, starting at 10 or 11 years-old, looting broke out on a mass scale at major chain stores, as did extensive fighting between youth and riot police in the thoroughfares. A spate of a dozen serious fires across the city engulfed large department stores, whole sections of high streets including small shops and residences, and a huge Sony warehouse. In Hackney, an East End  borough with a long history of radical and Black activism, barricades and burning cars blocked the movements of police as youth bounced missiles off riot shields and police vehicles, and looters invaded the shopping malls. Outside of London, there were over a hundred arrests in disturbances in Birmingham.

The next day, Tuesday, raging Right-wingers demanded that the police use water cannon and rubber bullets, and that the army –already severely stretched by overseas wars and facing cuts — be sent into the “trouble spots.” More reasonably, many shopkeepers and residents in the “disturbed” areas protested at the police’s poor response to their emergency calls. The Metropolitan Police, promising to get tough and take-the gloves-off, called in the reserves to boost the anti-riot force to 16,000 officers. This time, however, those who had defied or fought them the previous nights declined the return match and stayed at home. Perhaps, for the angry, the point had been made — and how painful it is for Londoners to see what were fine old buildings now conjuring up images of the Blitz and the doodlebug [V-1 rocket] raids. For the self-interested looters the overhanging fruit had already been picked – the best shopping targets had been emptied. And for the protestors there are – or should be — other ways to fight, that address the roots of the problem.

Further North however, the rage took hold in several cities. On Wednesday in Manchester and Salford large  numbers of youth  looted shops, started fires and fought the police.  In Nottingham a police station was firebombed. In Ealing, London Sikhs took the streets to protect their businesses from looters. There was a similar mobilization in Enfield, but the people there were angered when the police stupidly tried to kettle them as the “enemy.” Most tragically, when Muslim men in Birmingham began patrolling the streets to protect the local shops, three of them were killed by a murdering coward who deliberately ran into them at speed and then fled the scene.

Liberals and social democrats concede that the protest over the shooting of Mark Duggan was legitimate; especially as it is now emerging that Mark Duggan didn’t draw a gun or fire it at the police. At the same time liberals, rather than mourn their dead, failed neoliberal ideology, have moaned  constantly, with their dead, clichéd phrases, about “tiny minorities” of  “mindless thugs” tearing up the “community”. As the student  protests of last winter have already shown,  a huge proportion of youth feel that for them either there is no such “community”, or if there is, they have no stake in it and no say in how it is run.

Whilst the “ Uprisings” of 1981 and 1986 were marked by a conflict between youth and police that had been simmering for years, in 2011 the disaffection has gone a step further, with youth expropriating the commodities that “consumer society” denies them, and in some cases burning the big stores that stock them. The innovations in telecommunications now available to youths for organizing purposes are obviously important, but arguably balanced out by CCTV and other surveillance and tracking technologies now deployed by the police. Politically the key difference is that in the 1980s, although the “uprisings” obviously were not “led” in any political sense, rebellious youth did look to radicals for leadership on political campaigning and ideas, notably Linton Kwesi Johnson, Bernie Grant, Diane Abbot, Paul Gilroy and Darcus Howe. In 1985 Bernie Grant, as Tottenham’s Member of Parliament, sided with his constituents against police racism, despite the brutal killing of Police Constable Blakelock in the “Battle of Broadwater Farm.” His controversial stand was later vindicated when the convictions of four youths for the murder were overturned because it was proved that the police had faked the evidence against them. Today Tottenham has a Black New Labour MP, who has condemned the rioters as “mindless yobs” and Haringey has a New Labour business-friendly council, committed to “social cohesion.” But today Tottenham is an even more dismal area than it was in 1985; and relations between police and the youth of the area – as multicultural as can be found anywhere in the world – are as bad as ever. In equally poor and strife-ridden Hackney Diane Abbot is still the MP, but she is now a New Labour loyalist and no radical.

In contrast with the New Labour crowd, veteran activist and broadcaster Darcus Howe, interviewed  by the BBC on Tuesday, highlighted the police harassment  of Black youth such as his grandchildren, and said of the previous night’s events, “I don’t call it rioting. I call it an insurrection of the masses of the people. It is happening in Syria, it is happening in Clapham, it is happening in Liverpool, it is happening in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and that is the nature of the historical moment.” Completely ignoring what Darcus had just said, BBC’s Fiona Armstrong  jumped in with “Do you condone what happened in your community last night?” to which he responded “Of course not! What am I going to condone it for?” When she continued her hostile interrogation with “You aren’t a stranger to rioting, are you? You have taken part in them yourself” he responded, “I have never taken part in single riot. I have taken part in demonstrations that ended in conflict. Have some respect for an old West Indian Negro and stop accusing me of being a rioter… you just sound idiotic.”

Certainly, few – even BBC hacks — can be surprised that, with the Tories back in power, rioting has returned to the inner cities of Britain. As the Tories prepare to showcase London for the 2012 Olympics, the economy is faltering and the pain of public service cutbacks is now being felt. But the young dispossessed of Syria,  Clapham, Liverpool and Port-of-Spain, Trinidad have today NO political leadership — a fact as disturbing as the opportunist and thoughtless violence and destruction that has been inflicted on a lot of innocent home-owners and small  business owners. But what has been happening in Britain – call it the “rebellion,” the “uprising” or the “riots” – is a direct result of what successive Tory/New Labour/Liberal regimes have been doing for years: attacking civil liberties and free speech whilst living off a corrupt and criminal relationship with media barons like the Murdochs; waging illegal wars; and – worst of all — heightening economic inequality to the sort of level the working class Chartists of the Nineteenth Century would have been prepared to take up arms against.

 

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On Living in the Real World by Aaron Kelly

see Platform piece on Word Power Bookshop Website at:- http://www.word-power.co.uk/viewPlatform.php?id=590

 

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Jul 28 2011

The Commune Issue 24

The Commune recently decided to make their newspaper the commune free. You can download the latest issue from their site here

The articles topics include

news
J30
anti-cuts
international
the left

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Jan 17 2011

Trade Unions – Are They Fit For Purpose? – Global Commune Event

3rd Global Commune Event

Trade Unions – Are They Fit For Purpose?

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Registration 10. 30 for 11. 00 – 16.30

Out of the Blue Centre,
Dalmeny Street,
Leith
Edinburgh

In both the UK and Ireland today, the overwhelming majority of trade union leaders have signed up to social partnerships. These effectively reduce unions to a free personnel management service for the employers. However, the traditional Broad Left response of electing alternative leaders has shown itself unable to counter social partnerships. Indeed many current union leaders, who now accept social partnership, were themselves earlier Broad Left members. The third Global Commune event, jointly sponsored by the Republican Communist Network and the commune, asks the question – Trade unions – Are they fit for purpose? A number of different approaches to organising workers will be discussed in workshops over the day.

Cost

£5 for full-time employed
£2 for others

First session 11.00 – 12. 30

Panel followed by workshop sessions and follow up plenary

1. Working within trade unions – the rank and file perspective – Allan Armstrong

Allan is a member of the Republican Communist Network and the commune group. He was the convenor of Lothian Rank & File Teachers and involved in the three month long independent industrial action of Scottish teachers in the mid-70’s. He later became the Chair of the first regional Anti-Poll Tax Union, which was formed in Lothian.

2. Working with the IWW – Alberto Durango

Alberto is a member of the Latin American Workers Association, UNITE and the IWW. He is worker from Colombia who has been centrally involved in the campaigns of migrant workers cleaner in London. This culminated in an attempt to victimise him by the Swiss bank, UBS, which prompted a solidarity campaign. UNITE union officials tried to sabotage this, so Alberto has looked to the IWW (which comes from an industrial unionist tradition) to organise cleaners.

3. Building the Independent Workers Union – Tommy McKearney

Tommy is an organiser for the Independent Workers Union in Ireland. He is also the editor of Fourthwrite, a journal designed to promote debate amongst communists, socialists and republicans. Ireland was the first place in these islands where a government/employer/trade union social partnership was formed. The IWU was created to organise workers opposing social partnership.

4. Supporting workers from outside – an autonomist perspective – Mike Vallance

Mike comes from an autonomist tradition, writes for Counterinformation and is involved in the Autonomous Centre for Edinburgh (ACE). Mike was a dedicated activist in the anti-poll tax struggle. ACE has recently been providing support to the street cleaners employed by Edinburgh City Council. They have been involved in a longstanding dispute, hamstrung by local UNITE officials.

How do communists organise in trade unions? – Stuart King

Stuart is a member of Permanent Revolution. He will be drawing on the experience of the Minority Movement in the early Communist Party to show possible lessons for today.

Second Session 1.30 – 15.00

Community unionism – Should trade union membership be confined to employed workers? Patricia Campbell and Paul Stewart

Patricia is a member of the IWU and has been centrally involved in health workers struggles in Belfast. She has also been to Palestine to examine the health implications of the Israeli occupation. Paul is co-author of We Sell Our Time No More – Workers Struggles Against Lean Production in the British Car Industry. He has produced a short film, which will be shown. This shows examples of union organisation in the community, particularly in Japan.

Workshops

15.00 – 15.15 – break

Third Session 15.15 – 16.30

Repeat workshops followed by plenary

There will be a chance to continue the discussion informally afterwards.

Further information can be had by contacting Allan Armstrong at:-

allan.armstrong.1949@hotmail.co.uk

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Feb 26 2010

Republican Socialist Convention Debate

The contribution by Allan Armstrong (SSP International Committee) at the Republican Socialist Convention in London on 13 02 2010

Allan Armstrong (SSP) welcomed the participation of the veteran campaigner, Peter Tatchell, a ‘republican in spirit’, to the Republican Socialist Convention. However, there was a formalism about the republican principles Peter advocated. This was because Peter had not analysed the real nature of the British unionist and imperialist state we were up against, and the anti-democratic Crown Powers it had its disposal to crush any serious opposition. Nor did Peter outline where the social and political forces existed to bring about his new republic.

Back in the late 1960s, socialists (e.g. Desmond Greaves of the CP and those involved in Peoples Democracy) had been to the forefront of the campaign for Civil Rights in Northern Ireland – equal access to housing and jobs, and a reformed Stormont. The particular Unionist/Loyalist nature of this local statelet, and its relationship with the UK state, was largely ignored or downplayed, in an otherwise militant and vibrant campaign. Every repressive institution used by the UK state is prefixed by ‘royal’, e.g. the RUC, ‘her majesty’s, e.g. the prisons, whilst ‘loyalists’ is the name given to those prepared to undertake the more unsavoury tasks the UK state doesn’t want to own up to in public.

Socialists paid a high price for this negligence, when 14 people were gunned down in Derry by British paratroopers on January 30th, 1972. The socialist republicanism, which should have informed the struggle had been absent, and the Civil Rights Movement gave way to the combined physical force and later political republicanism of the Provisionals. When Irish socialist republicanism did emerge, the leadership of the struggle had already largely passed to others.

Some of those earlier socialists, such as Bernadette Devlin/McAliskey, recognised the need for a new socialist republican approach. However, the Provisionals were adroitly able to widen their political base, and keep genuine socialist republicanism marginalised by a resort to populism, through addressing some social and economic issues. Now that the Provisional leadership has made its deal with the UK state, under the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements, these populist social and economic policies are being jettisoned.

There is a strong lesson in this for socialists in Scotland and the UK today. Scotland, with its valuable oil resources, and key British military bases, is far more central to British ruling class interests, than Northern Ireland was in the 1960s. There is a growing National Movement in Scotland. Many supporters link the idea of an independent Scotland to an anti-imperialist vision (opposition to participation in British wars and to NATO) and to defence of social provision in the face of ongoing privatisation. This National Movement is wider than the SNP. Meanwhile, the SNP is taking the road of parties like Catalan Convergence, PNV (Euskadi) and Parti Quebecois. Its leadership is seeking a privileged role for the Scottish business within the existing corporate imperialist order. The SNP is tied both to the ‘Scottish’ banks and to cowboy capitalists like Donald Trump.

The SNP’s election manifesto pledged support for an ‘independence referendum’ to address the issue of Scottish self-determination. Although, the SNP leadership has been in full retreat over this issue, it will not go away, since there is a wider National Movement, and the probable election of the Tories at Westminster will once more raise the political stakes.

The SNP has no way of achieving Scottish independence. It is too tied to Scottish business interests, which want no more than increased powers for themselves – Devolution-Max. Recently, Salmond has come out in favour of the British monarchy. What this means is that the SNP accepts that any future referendum will be played by Westminster rules.

In the 1979 Scottish devolution referendum, when the British ruling class was split over the best strategy to maintain their Union, the non-political Queen was wheeled out to make an anti-nationalist Christmas speech, civil servants were told to bury inconvenient documents, mock military exercises were launched against putative nationalist forces, whilst the intelligence services conducted agent provocateur work on the nationalist fringe. Compared to the role of the British state against Irish republicans, this was small beer. However, given the timid constitutionalism of the SNP, a further resort to Crown Powers was not needed at this time.
Furthermore, the taming of the once much more militant Provisional Republican Movement, so that it now acts as key partner in British rule in Ireland, shows that the British ruling class has little to fear in the ever-so constitutionalist SNP.

Today, the British, American and EU ruling classes are united against any move towards Scottish independence, so will be even more determined in their opposition than in 1979. This is why any movement to win Scottish self-determination must be republican from the start. It must be prepared, in advance, to confront the Crown Powers that will be inevitably utilised against us. Because genuine and democratic Scottish independence represents such a challenge to British imperialism and the UK state, we need allies in England, Ireland and Wales too. We need to be committed to a strategy of ‘internationalism from below’. We are socialist republicans and link our political demands with social and economic campaigns. This was the course advocated by two great Scottish socialist republicans – James Connolly and John Maclean. This is why the SSP is in London today seeking wider support.

A reply to Allan Armstrong’s arguments from Nick Rogers, CPGB (Weekly Worker 805, 18 02 2010)

Allan Armstrong of the Republican Communist Network and the SSP turned to the national question in Scotland. He thought Peter Tatchell’s rather abstract republicanism was exactly what was not needed.
The Scottish National Party had shown that it was prepared to play the parliamentary game to prove that it did not pose a disruptive challenge to the corporate status quo. It was now in favour of retaining the monarchy – not even offering a referendum to the Scottish people on the issue.

A Scottish republic, on the other hand, would ditch the monarchy, throw out USA and British military bases, and reverse the cuts and privatisation. The British state would use all the resources at its disposal to resist the loss of North Sea oil and the Trident bases. Scottish republicanism was a strategy to strike a blow against the imperialist UK state, break the link with the US and build internationalism from below.

Toby Abse declared he took a Luxemburgist position on the national question. Far from believing the break-up of existing national states to be progressive, he thought the creation of a European state would provide better opportunities for socialists.

I said… we should encourage a class-based identity that encompassed migrants and the working class internationally.

However, in Scotland and Wales there clearly was a strong sense of national identity and national questions existed. The demand for a federal republic was the way to relate to the question, both in England and in Scotland and Wales.

The English must make clear that they had no wish to retain either nation within a broader state against the will of their people, but neither would they force them to separate. As for socialists in Scotland, comrade Armstrong’s argument hardly provided a ringing endorsement of the case for independence, since it would be precisely the conciliatory SNP that would lead moves to split Scotland from Britain, making every attempt in the process to avoid rocking the establishment boat.

The strongest possible challenge to the British state was to be made by the working class across Britain – and preferably across Europe, raising the demand for a European republic.

David Broder and Chris Ford of Commune spoke after me and expressed support for the RCN’s internationalism from below and the perspective of breaking up the UK. Comrade Broder did not see why unity with Europeans was more important than, say, with Bolivia, where British multinationals were just as involved as in many European countries.

Comrade Ford spoke about the opportunities the national question created for socialists. The break-up of the UK would strike a blow against a major imperialist state. For his part, comrade Healey thought that the break-up of the UK was as inevitable as the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Time was now fast running out and in a short reply comrade Armstrong commended the arguments of the Commune comrades, while telling comrade Abse and me that our arguments were typical of the “Brit left”, without actually replying to them…

Comrades Colin Fox (SSP Co-convenor) and Allan Armstrong attended as representatives of the SSP’s international committee. Treating England as a foreign country is bad working class politics and fails to recognise the reality of the British state.

A reply from Allan Armstrong (24 02 2010)

As Nick points out in his reply, I believe his comments are indeed typical of the ‘Brit Left’. The reason I didn’t reply to him at the second Republican Socialist Convention, but stated that Chris Ford and David Broder of the commune had made some of the points I would have used, was that I wasn’t given the time.

The preference of the SSP International Committee would have been for the second Republican Socialist Convention to have devoted far more time to the discussion of the relationship between the National Question and Republican Socialism.

The non-attendance of many from the British Left, invited by Steve Freeman of the Socialist Alliance (Convention organiser), still did not create anything like enough time for this debate. The first session contributions by Peter Tatchell and Colin Fox usefully highlighted the debate between bourgeois and socialist republicanism, whilst Mehdi Kia (Middle East Left Forum and HOPI) was most informative about the current situation in Iran.

However, personally, I thought the last session could have been sacrificed in order to enable the broader discussion on the National Question to be aired. The ignorance and lack of comprehension of much of the British Left over this issue needs to be addressed.

If, as I had hoped, there were also to be speakers from Ireland and Wales, then time for discussion would have been even more curtailed. Neither Dan Finn of the Irish Socialist Network, nor Marc Jones of Plaid Cymru/Celyn were able to make it. I thought that any republican socialists in England would have made contacts amongst the quite extensive Irish republican and socialist republican community in London, but this turned out not to be the case. I then suggested to Steve that Ann McShane (Ireland) and Bob Davies (Wales), both of the CPGB, be invited instead to fill the gap and enable the debate between Left Unionism and Internationalism from Below to be more fully aired.

So, let’s examine Nick’s points. I’ll start at the end of his contribution. Treating England as a foreign country is bad working class politics and fails to recognise the reality of the British state.

The first point I would make is that Nick must hardly have been listening. The whole thrust of my contribution (see above), taking on Peter Tatchell’s abstract republicanism, was exactly to highlight the imperial and unionist nature of the British state, and the formidable anti-democratic powers the British ruling class has under the UK’s Crown Powers.

Nick, somewhat revealingly, talks of me treating England as a foreign country. Now England certainly is another country. This is even recognised under the terms of the Union – which recognizes England, Scotland, Wales and part of Ireland (officially Northern Ireland, but colloquially and wrongly, Ulster) as separate entities. However, I have never used the word foreign to describe England. Is that how Nick describes Ireland, France, or any other country in the world? There are some words and phrases, such as social dumping and foreign which I think form part of the language of hostile nationalist forces and should be rejected in socialist discourse.

Now, the CPGB takes some pride in the solidarity work of HOPI, a united front organisation it initiated. Do CPGB members consider Iranian socialists to be foreign? Does the CPGB secretly think that joint work can not be effective because British and Iranian socialists don’t live in the same state? Nick invokes a mythical international unity provided by the British Left. However, a great deal of the CPGB’s work has been trying to combat the opposition of the largest ‘Brit Left’ organisation, the SWP, to HOPI. The largest socialist organisation in Scotland, the SSP, voted to support HOPI at its 2008 Conference.

The SSP is more than willing to go to meetings in England, Wales and Ireland, organised by others, to argue the case for united action across these islands. Internationalism from below is a hallmark of how the SSP tries to organise. Our International Committee organised the first Republican Socialist Convention in Edinburgh, with socialists from all four nations. The SSP has subsequently sent speakers to both England and Ireland.
Whatever reservations we may have had about the limited time for discussion of the National Question, Socialist Republicanism and Internationalism from Below, provided by Steve at this Convention, we engaged fully, providing two platform speakers and another three members in the audience.

So let’s now look at the second largest ‘Brit Left’ organization, which was invited to participate, the Socialist Party. I will quote Nick’s explanation for their failure to turn up at a meeting with representatives of the largest socialist organisation in Scotland. Quite possibly SPEW deliberately avoided a potentially embarrassing meeting. Embarrassing for who? Certainly not the SSP.

Nick also says, We should encourage a class-based identity that encompassed migrants and the working class internationally. So how does the British Left, which Nick champions, match up to this? Last year we saw the EU electoral challenge by the Left British chauvinist ‘No2EU/Yes2D’ campaign (with its notorious opposition to ‘social dumping’), bureaucratically cobbled together by trade union officials, the SPEW and CPB. It also had the somewhat incongruous Left Scottish nationalist bolt-on provided by Solidarity (although to their credit, many of its members refused to engage, and one prominent member advised people to vote SSP).

In contrast the SSP stood as part of the European Anti-Capitalist Alliance EU-wide electoral challenge, bringing Joaquim Roland, a car worker member of the New Anti-Capitalist Party to address meetings in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee.

So, given the choice of ‘No2EU/Yes2D’ and the EACA, where did the CPGB stand? Quite frankly it made itself look foolish. It never raised the idea that ‘No2EU/Yes2D’ should form part of the EACA’s international campaign. It placed nearly all emphasis on demanding that ‘No2EU/Yes2D’ put support for citizen militias in its manifesto (support for migrant workers facing combined state, employer and union official attacks would have been far more appropriate). Then, failing to get support for citizen militias, told people to vote instead for the Labour Party and hence the very non-citizen militia, British imperial troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere! Even the SWP and SPEW didn’t stoop this low.

When Nick mentions his support for a class-based identity that encompassed migrants, he also fails to mention the woeful record of the ‘Brit Left’, in Respect or the Campaign for a New Workers Party over this issue. The SSP voted at its 2008 Conference to give its support to ‘No One Is Illegal’.

Chris Ford made the valuable point that the UK state, far from uniting the working class on these islands, divides it. The ongoing partition of Ireland is only the most striking case. The bureaucratic institutions of the British Labour Party, and the trade unions (TUC, STUC, WTUC, and the Northern Committee of the ICTU) frequently divide workers and play one national group against another.

Nick takes up the argument made by Toby Abse, to elaborate his own position. Toby had argued that the successive acts of Union {1535-42, 1707 and 1801} had had the effect of creating a united British nation, and that the British working class and its institutions were now organized on an all-British basis. Therefore, following Luxemburg, he believed that attempts to address the National Question in Scotland or Wales were either irrelevant or divisive. To be consistent, Toby should have argued that all UK state institutions, currently devolved on a ‘national’ basis, should be abolished, since they must, from his viewpoint, promote disunity.

However, Nick, who has certainly also called himself a Luxemburgist in the past, is now a member of the CPGB, so in opposing Toby, he has to make some contorted arguments. The CPGB believes there is a British nation and a British-Irish nation (the Protestants of the ‘Six Counties’) but only Scottish and Welsh nationalities. So Nick goes on to say that. In Scotland and Wales there clearly was a strong sense of national identity and national questions existed. First, you would wonder, if the historical thrust of the creation of the UK has been to bring about a united British nation (for most of the ‘Brit Left’, Ireland quickly drops from view!) and a united British working class, why you should consider it at all worthwhile to make any concessions to what could only then be reactionary national identities.

The reality, however, is that the UK state was formed as part of a wider British imperial project, which tried to subsume Welsh, Scots and Irish as subordinate identities. Whilst the British Empire ruled the roost, there was a definite thrust towards a British nation, but this was partly thwarted by the unionist form of the UK state. Once, the British Empire went into decline, those still remaining hybrid imperial identities, Irish-British, Scottish-British and Welsh-British have gone into decline too, as more people have asserted their Irish, Scottish and Welsh identities. This decline in British identification has been most rapid amongst workers and small farmers, whilst support has been clung to most fiercely by the ruling class and sections of the upper middle class.

Only amongst in the Unionist and Loyalist section of the people living in the Six Counties has a more widespread British identity been retained (although this has moved from Irish-British to Ulster-British). Indeed, it is in the Six Counties that the true nature of British ‘national’ identity is shown most starkly. It is here, amongst the Loyalists, that fascist death squads and other forms of coercion have created the worst repression, way beyond anything achieved by their ‘mainland’ British admirers, in the National Front or British National Party. The British Conservatives have just linked up with those more ‘genteel’ Ulster Unionists, but still sectarian and reactionary.

The moves to break-up the UK have their origins in wider ‘lower orders’ movements, such as the Land League in Michael Davitt’s days, the independent Irish trade union movement of James Connolly (founder of the Irish Socialist Republican Party) and Jim Larkin’s days. It was John Maclean (founder of the Scottish Workers Republican Party), with his support, particularly amongst Clydeside workers, who offered the most consistent challenge, from 1919 onwards, based upon active campaigning for the ‘Russian Revolution’ and the ongoing Irish republican struggle. He adopted a ‘break-up of the UK and British Empire’ strategy.This was sharply marginalized as the post-war international revolutionary wave came to an end between 1921-3, allowing a Left British and reformist perspective to strongly reassert itself.

In other words it has been the National Question, which has been to the forefront of the democratic and republican struggle in these islands. Without seeing this, you are left, like Peter Tatchell, supporting a rather formal republic, with no real idea where the support is coming from. Nick conjures up The demand for a federal republic… both in England and in Scotland and Wales. This is but a left cover for the last-ditch mechanism used by the British ruling class, from the American to the Irish War of Independence, to hold their Empire and Union together. The Lib-Dems keep the Federal option in their locker, to be dragged out whenever other mechanisms such as Home Rule or Devolution fail to hold the line.

Colin Fox also made clear in his contribution that the British ruling class could even accommodate a formal republic, if it felt it was necessary. So Nick’s republican suffix to his proposed federalism provides another paper cover. We saw the nature of such republicanism in the Rupert Murdoch-backed campaign for a republic in Australia. What it amounted to was a repatriation of the current Crown Powers, and their investiture in the Presidency. Not surprisingly, this proved not to be a winning formula!

Middle class nationalist attempts to renegotiate the Union have also emerged as the British Empire went into decline. The Irish Home Rule Party, Cumann na nGaedhael, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, and (I would argue) the post-Good Friday Sinn Fein have all fitted this mould. Whatever, their formal political position (e.g. an independent Scotland, or a united Ireland), as these parties have become the vehicles for local business and middle class interests, this has been matched by a retreat from their original stated goals, and new compromises with the UK state.

Just as I would argue that the CPGB’s blanket support for the British unionist and imperialist Labour Party candidates, at the last Euro-election, provides a classic example of left British nationalism in action, I would also argue that any socialists pursuing a strategy which tail ends their local nationalist party, e.g, the SNP, act as Left nationalists.

The strategy behind the SSP’s republican socialism, exemplified in the Calton Hill Declaration, is to take the leadership of the National Movement here from the SNP. To counter the SNP’s own ‘international’ strategy – support for the global corporate order, for the use of Scottish troops in imperial ventures, for the British queen, and acceptance of a Privy Councillorship (Alex Salmond), the SSP’s International Committee counters with a genuinely international strategy based on anti-imperialism, anti-unionism, and internationalism from below.

The British Left tries to mirror the UK state in its organisational set-up. This attempt to apply an old Second and Third International orthodoxy was always contradictory. Applied to the UK it just seems to confuse the ‘Brit Left’. Occasionally debates emerge within the CPGB about, whether to be a consistent Leninist, it should not reconstitute itself as the CPUK, and in the process, add its own twist to Irish partition. Both the SWP and SPEW operate essentially partitionist organisations in Ireland, highlighted by their failure to raise the issue of continued British rule (with its southern Irish government support) in elections there.

The UK currently acts as a junior partner to USA imperialism. It has been awarded the USA license to police the corporate imperial order in the North East Atlantic, and to ensure that the EU fails to emerge as an imperial challenger. Apart from its membership of NATO, the provision of military bases, and such ‘police’ actions as bringing the ‘terrorist state’(!) of Iceland into line to bail-out the banks, the UK performs this wider role, with the 26 county Irish state acting as its own junior partner.

Politically, the ‘Peace Process’ (with the Good Friday, St. Andrews and now the latest Hillsborough agreements) and Devolution-all-round (Scotland, Wales and ‘the Six Counties’) represents the British and Irish ruling class strategy to provide the political framework to most effectively maintain profitability for corporate capital in these islands. In this, these two states can draw upon the support of the EU and the USA, as well of course, their ‘social partnerships’ with the official trade union leaders.

The SSP has realized that the British and Irish ruling classes have a political strategy, which covers the whole of these islands. You could be forgiven for thinking that much of the ‘Brit Left’ finds it difficult to see beyond Potters Bar, or where its members do live further afield, thinking their politics just depends on the latest dispatches sent out from their London office.

Nick somewhat condescendingly says that, The English must make clear that they had no wish to retain either nation {Scotland, or Wales} within a broader state against the will of their people (that’s very good of you Nick!), but then bizarrely adds neither would they force them to separate. Well Nick, we all know the ‘Brit Left’ have no intention of forcing us out of the British unionist and imperial state and its alliance with USA imperialism. That is the problem.

The SSP, though, is quite prepared to take the lead in making this decision ourselves. However, we will continue to insist that the break-up of the UK and ending of British imperialism are something that workers throughout these islands have an immediate interest in achieving, and will continue to argue our case to socialists in England, Wales and Ireland. We do want unity, but not the ‘Brit Left’ imposed bureaucratic unity from above, rather a democratic ‘internationalism from below’.

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Nov 25 2009

Global Commune Meeting

The Global Commune

It is now 20 years since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. For most people this signalled the end of communism. However, there has always been another view, which understands that the USSR and its satellites and emulators were never communist, socialist or workers’ states. They represented the negation of communism. The socialist transition is not based upon ‘The State’ taking over the functions of private capital, nor ‘The Party’ taking over the functions of a self-organised working class.

Today we face the worst economic crisis for nearly eighty years, accompanied by growing environmental deterioration, and increased powerlessness and loss of hope. Yet the majority of socialists today are not prepared to make the case for a viable alternative social order to get us beyond the ever-deepening capitalist crisis. Often we get little more than vague populist sloganeering – ‘Make Poverty History’ or ‘Make Greed History’. To most workers these sound as hollow as the world of ‘virtual reality’ pushed by the corporate media to divert our attention from the very mundane, or sometimes, desperate reality, we face in our everyday lives. Furthermore, calls for people’s largely passive support through five minutes spent at the polling station can seem a poor alternative, even compared to the promise of ‘five minutes of fame’ in the corporate media spotlight.

Pushing for more state intervention (never asking whose state they seeking to further strengthen), or opting for purely local initiatives (which may be desirable, but limited in their impact) can never break the overall control of corporate capital and the even bleaker future its continued rule will bring to our world. We need to highlight the impasse their corporate imperialism has brought us to, and the grave threats involved in all attempts to bolster their capitalist order. We need to think internationally.

Rosa Luxemburg once said that if we fail to overturn capitalism, we would face ‘Socialism or Barbarism’. Ever worsening exploitation and oppression, two devastating world wars, countless brutal imperial interventions and recurrent economic crises, mean we should update this to say ‘Genuine Communism, or Barbarism – if you are lucky’.

Genuine communism means complete human emancipation and liberation, where society is organised on the basis of ‘From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs’, and ‘Where the free development of each is the condition of the free development of all.’ The socialist transition involves workers creating this new society using new forms of association in a global commune. We need to build upon workers’, peasants’ and indigenous people’s current resistance and outline a communist vision which develops their independent class struggles and offers humanity a real alternative.

This is why, the RCN, with the support of The Commune, has organised The Global Commune day school so that socialists today can lift their sights higher, and begin to seriously discuss how we can break free of the legacy of ‘official’ and ‘dissident’ Communism, and begin to create the type of society that we wish to live in, if humanity is to have a real future. Come and join us. Register your intention to take part on:-

globalcommune@republicancommunist.org

The Global Commune

Day School organised by the Republican Communist Network and supported by The Commune

Saturday, January 16th, 2010
11.00 – 17.00

Out of the Blue Centre
Dalmeny Street (off Leith Walk)
Edinburgh

  1. Opening session – 11:00 am – 13:00 – Platform speakers from the RCN and The Commune followed by an open session.
  2. Lunch – 13:.00 – 14:00
  3. Workshops – 14:00 – 14:45
    1. The Legacy of Official and Dissident Communism – or What Communism Isn’t
    2. How Do Communists organise and operate?
    3. What Would Real Communism Look Like?
  4. Break – 15 minutes
  5. Workshops repeated – 15:00 – 15:45
  6. Report Back and Plenary Session – 15:45 – 16:45
  7. Summing up by platform speakers – 16:45 – 17:00.

Republican Communist Network
The Commune

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Jul 10 2009

The Need for Socialist Unity

A contribution from Allan Armstrong of the Republican Communist Network. This is immediately followed by a supplement analysing the European election results, which assesses the current balance of political forces in the EU.

In Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales the main lesson of the 2009 European elections is clear – we need Socialist unity. In Ireland, this is needed to take some of the impressive gains just made to an altogether higher level – especially those of the Socialist Party (SP), but also by People before Profit (SWP) and the Workers and Unemployed Action Group (WUAG).

This will not be easy, given past political sectarian divisions, the continued pull towards Left populism, and the usually unacknowledged political significance of the partition of Ireland, which both the SP and the SWP downplay. Thus, for example, despite the electoral successes in ‘The 26 Counties’, Socialists vacated the electoral terrain altogether in ‘The Six Counties’.

There are independent Socialist groups beyond the SP and SWP in Ireland, such as the Irish Socialist Network, as well as journals to promote debate between Socialists and with Republicans – Red Banner and Fourthwrite. They may find some difficulty being heard in the face of the likely triumphalist clamour coming from the SP and SWP after their recent electoral successes. Nevertheless, the job of promoting principled unity needs to be undertaken now, even if it does not bear fruit until sometime later.

Very soon, the Irish ruling class is likely to want to organise a rerun of the Lisbon Treaty referendum. Given that Eurosceptic Libertas leader, Declan Ganley, seems to have thrown in the towel, after failing to win a Euro-seat in North West Ireland, the responsibility for opposing this neo-liberal treaty falls much more squarely upon Socialists. The reactions of Sinn Fein (previously opposed to the Treaty) and Labour (previously supportive) will be interesting. This could provide Socialists with real opportunities to make their mark on Irish national politics.

However, this will mean striving for real Socialist unity, if the whole of Ireland, not just Dublin, is to be covered properly. The ability of the WUAG to organise effectively in small town Ireland (in County Tipperary) shows the possibilities. Furthermore, it is to be hoped that Irish Socialists can take a leaf out of the French NPA, and organise an internationalist campaign against the neo-liberal Lisbon Treaty.

In England, Respect, which provided the main Socialist Euro-election challenge in England in 2004, albeit in Left populist colours, had already split and then dropped out , before the 2009 Euro-election. There is also a warning here for the SWP’s ‘People before Profit’ in Ireland, which is still following the Left populist strategy now abandoned by their comrades in Britain, at least for elections, after the fiasco involving Respect councillors in Tower Hamlets, and the tail-ending of George Galloway.

Furthermore, in the context of more direct action by workers and communities facing draconian service cuts (e.g. the Glasgow Save Our Schools campaign), there is an increasing possibility that the Mainstream parties, holding council office, will victimise Socialist councillors, who identify strongly with such actions. The SSP has already had this experience with Jim Bollan, suspended for nine months by SNP-controlled West Dumbarton Council. So the pressures on Socialist councillors (and trade union activists) will be considerable.

The demise of a once more united Respect allowed their now vacated 2004 electoral space to be contested by others in the recent Euro-election. Scargill’s SLP made a pitch for the Left celebrity vote, whilst the openly Europhobic, Left nationalist and populist No2EU, tried to appeal to some of the same chauvinist sentiments as the Right populists.

Wales Forward provided the main Socialist challenge in Wales in 2004; the Left unionist, Respect came a poor second. Both presented themselves in Left populist colours. There was debate in Wales Forward over how Socialists should address the national issue. After Wales Forward’s demise, members split between its Left nationalist component, most going into Plaid Cymru, and its Left unionist, mainly former Labour component. The two Socialist slates in the 2009 Euro-election in Wales, the SLP and No2EU, had nothing to say on the Welsh national issue, and confined their appeals to largely English-speaking South Wales.

The resurgence of British Right nationalism, represented by the Conservatives becoming the first party in Wales, UKIP taking their first seat, and the BNP taking their largest % increase in the vote, highlights the need for Welsh Socialists to unite to more effectively to counter British chauvinism. The recent production of a Celyn, a magazine emulating Scottish Left Review, and involving debate between Welsh Socialists from different backgrounds and in different political organisations, represents a tentative first step.

Unfortunately, the current dire political situation, throughout the UK, could well lead to a further retreat into Left populism amongst the existing divided Socialists here. The SWP looks as if it wants to draw others into another Left unity campaign against the BNP, shifting the focus away from the Mainstream parties. However, it is these parties, especially New Labour, which have largely been responsible for creating the economic and social crisis that has allowed the Fascists to emerge into the limelight in the first place.

In the late 1970’s, the old Anti-Nazi League (ANL) adopted this same Left populist approach, invoking Second World War, British opposition to the German Nazi menace. Whilst making some contribution to the demise of the National Front (NF), the ANL completely failed to mobilise to defend those Irish victims of the very British, Union Jack-waving Fascism of the loyalist paramilitaries and their ‘mainland’ supporters. Furthermore, this very British Fascism had the behind-the-scenes support of the British state. Irish Republicanism then represented a real threat to the British ruling class.

The ANL also failed to offer any political challenge to the sitting Callaghan Labour government, which had inflicted pay restraints and cuts under the Social Contract, thus creating the situation in which the Fascist NF could thrive. It was the Thatcher’s incoming Conservative government that finally halted the rise of the NF, after she resorted to Right populist, racist rhetoric about being “swamped by people of a different culture”. The prospect of rolling back the current BNP electoral advance, by means of another Conservative, or a returned New Labour (unlikely it is true) government, is hardly a very reassuring prospect.

The Socialist Party (SP) in England and Wales, and its International Socialist (IS) outrider inside Solidarity in Scotland, offer another road to Left unity, which also needs to be questioned. They do want to build a political alternative to New Labour, but by further developing the bureaucratic, Left British nationalist, European electoral front, No2EU. They want to merge it with the SP’s own Campaign for a New Workers Party to form a new party based on the existing undemocratic, bureaucrat-dominated trade unions – in other words, an Old Labour Party mark 2. They also hope to win over whatever sections of the Labour Left still show any life. This is the current French Left Front and the German Die Linke approach. Rifondazione Comunista and Left Unity in Spain have already made similar attempts, with predictable results.

There may be critical analyses going on amongst members inside the bureaucratically centralised SWP and SP. How has the SWP become so marginalised and how did the Socialist Party end up inside the politically suspect No2EU project? These parties’ internal regimes do not encourage much independent thinking. Nevertheless, there is also a good number of Socialists outside the two largest British Socialist organisations, some of whom gathered last September as the Convention of the Left. So, it is to be hoped that together with any critical voices there may be inside the SWP and SP, independent voices advocating principled Socialist Unity can yet emerge. Any ‘red’ shoots need to be encouraged.

The need for Socialist unity is most starkly demonstrated in Scotland, where the Socialist vote fell from 5.2% in 2004 to 3.8% (on the most optimistic interpretation, which includes the SLP vote) or 1.8% (if the Scottish Socialist Party and Solidarity votes alone are considered).

Furthermore, despite the SSP’s considerable achievement in winning Socialist unity in Scotland in 2003, attempts to recreate this unity today may prove very hard, given the impact of the past, and likely future court case (involving Tommy Sheridan, and both SSP and Solidarity members) and the acrimonious split.

The political decline of Solidarity was demonstrated, by a section of its members’ involvement in the Left British nationalist bureaucratic, Europhobic, No2EU campaign (with its ill-fitting, Left Scottish nationalist, Sheridan bolt-on). However, it is a good sign that sections of the Solidarity membership refused to go along with this. Socialist unity was discussed at Solidarity’s first post Euro-election Scottish Council meeting. It remains to be seen how much this mirrors the political manoeuvrings of the SWP and SP HQs in England, and how much this represents genuine new thinking.

The SSP still remains divided between a more outward looking wing, which wants to get involved at all levels of politics, and understands the need for wider Socialist unity, involving other political groups; and those, mainly, but not exclusively from Glasgow, who are still suffering from the traumas of the previous court case and the split. They believe that the SSP can ignore other political groups, particularly Solidarity, and build itself as the dominant force in Scotland, mainly by working in local campaigns. Some appear to see the SSP as little more than a political and social network for Socialists in Scotland, with most of their contributions made on the electronic media – a sort of virtual party.

Therefore, when the decision was finally, if belatedly, taken, to stand in the 2009 Euro-election, in the face of this internal opposition, this represented a real advance for the SSP. Even better was the fact that, despite the differences between those for and against standing, this debate was conducted in a comradely manner in all public party arenas (let’s leave aside website discussions dominated by the virtual Socialists!).

Furthermore, the biggest gain, agreed by Conference, after the decision to stand was won, was the unanimous vote to campaign as part of the European Anti-Capitalist Alliance. This motion was presented by the RCN and backed by Frontline, who also invited a French NPA speaker, Virginia de la Siega, to address Conference. During the Euro-election campaign itself, the SSP then brought over another NPA speaker, Joaquin Reymond, to address public meetings in Dundee and Edinburgh and Glasgow.

However, Left populism also surfaced during the SSP’s election campaign. This came about due to the decision, taken after the Conference, to launch a ‘Make Greed History’ campaign. Originally conceived as a way to attack the bankers and others responsible for the economic crisis, this perhaps had greater purchase when the Westminster MPs’ expenses scandal broke out. However, the essentially populist nature of this slogan was highlighted when even Gordon Brown and David Cameron (hypocritically) promised to deal with their own greedy MPs.

The overall focus of the SSP election campaign, should have been the ‘Make the Bosses Pay for Their Crisis’, put forward by our alliance partners, the French NPA. It could then have been supplemented by the much more specific, ‘A Workers’ MEP on a Workers Wage’, once the expenses scandal broke. Given that our former SSP MSPs actually implemented this policy, when they were in the devolved Holyrood parliament between 1999 and 2007, this could have made a lot more impact.

The SSP’s back up materials and meetings should have drawn potential supporters to our full politics, summed up by, ‘Make Capitalism History, Make Socialism the Future’. However, one problem here is that there is no unified understanding within the SSP of what constitutes socialism, or even capitalism for that matter! Developing our theory and furthering this debate is a no. 1 priority. The RCN, for example, is beginning this very necessary work, hoping to work with others, such as The Commune group, which has members in England and Wales.

Now, although 10,404 people do not represent many votes, they do represent a lot of Socialists whom the SSP needs to actively draw to the party. Unlike the SLP or Solidarity, the SSP still has meaningful regularly meeting organisation on the ground, a vibrant website, and a paper to build for the future. The main task is to create a new generation of committed, knowledgeable and engaged Socialists, who can show the way through this serious and developing, economic, social and political crisis. This means an ability to highlight, not only the dead end represented by neo-liberalism, but that other weapon in capitalism’s armoury – neo-Keynesianism. The current crisis is likely to deepen, even when governments are reluctantly forced to make further interventions in the economy. We should be preparing now for this eventuality, so that Socialists can make real advances in the future.

The ‘Make Greed History’ campaign might only have been a temporary feature of the Euro-election, but it appears to have taken on new legs. It seems to have provided a definite Left populist focus inside the party. This would appear to go along with a totally dismissive attitude towards everyone in Solidarity. This is not helpful when key sections of the wider working class appreciate the need for Socialist unity.

The SSP needs to welcome moves made by others to promote greater Socialist unity, even if some of these people have sometimes previously promoted disunity. People can learn from their mistakes. Each unity initiative needs to properly discussed and assessed. We need to show patience and diplomacy, whilst also ensuring that any Socialist unity is established on a principled basis. This unity does not mean an unprincipled stitch-up, pretending that nothing has happened in the past.

Dire though the consequences of the split have been, there have been important lessons we have learned. First, Socialists can only make permanent gains by abandoning celebrity politics. The evidence for this comes, not only from the attempted promotion of Solidarity as the Tommy Sheridan Party, but of Respect as the George Galloway Party and the SLP as the Arthur Scargill Party. Any united socialist organisation needs to be thoroughly democratic and treat all members as equals.

Future Socialist unity must be thoroughly internationalist, offering support to all workers (or would-be workers) living here – not just those deemed to be ‘subjects of the Crown’. International working class unity is central to principled Socialist unity at this time. This means opposing both Left British and Left Scottish nationalism. The SSPhas become increasingly Scottish internationalist and republican socialist in its politics. These gains also need to be defended in a wider political context.

When it comes to proposals for joint action, we should avoid being panicked by the SWP into pretended threats of a Fascist takeover. There will be no BNP ‘March on London’, far less Edinburgh or Glasgow. Those at the sharp end of BNP/loyalist attacks will mainly be individual migrant workers. This is why it was so important to oppose No2EU, with its thinly disguised racist opposition to ‘social dumping’. Support for ‘No One Is Illegal’ allows us to come to the help of all those migrant workers, legal or illegal, who face either BNP attacks or state persecution.

Furthermore, there could be a rise in loyalist sectarian/racist attacks in Scotland, in the future, following recent attacks in Northern Ireland, and the new Mainstream political alliance on the Conservative and Unionist Right. The SWP’s equation of Fascism with German Nazism, and the SP/IS ‘a plague on both your camps’ stances, are not the ways to confront this particular prospect. The loyalist paramilitaries are very British Fascists. They are the active upholders of the British state and promoters of racism and sectarianism. Their victims need defended and any non-sectarian Republican opposition supported.

Socialists do need to make more active links with trade unions, but unlike the SP/IS, this does not mean making concessions to union bureaucrats, no matter how Left-talking. Alongside a ‘Workers’ MP on a Workers’ Wage’, we also need to see ‘Trade Union Representatives on a Workers’ Wage’, and subject to regular election. Just as important is the building of a new rank and file movement in the unions that sees sovereignty lying amongst the members in their workplaces, not in the bureaucrat-controlled head offices, or Broad Left-dominated Executives. Workers need to be able to take independent action whenever needed, with the aim of building enough support to defy the anti-democratic anti-trade union laws.

Given the difficulties of uniting Socialists within each of their respective nations – Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland – we face considerable difficulties uniting Socialists from all these countries. Yet, the British and Irish ruling classes are united in promoting the interests of corporate capital in these islands. Their agreed political strategy involves the continued promotion of the ‘Peace Process’ in ‘The Six Counties’, closer cooperation between the UK and Irish governments, and developing ‘Devolution-all-round’, all to create the optimum conditions for capitalist profitability. It also involves them giving open (British government) and tacit (Irish government) support for continued US imperialist war drives.

Nor, is it surprising that much of this strategy has the open or tacit support of the British, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh trade union bureaucrats, through ‘social partnerships’. These have rendered trade unions almost completely ineffective as a means to defend their members. Trade union leaders now ask, as a way to counter the current economic crisis, that bosses accept their share of the pain too, in return for workers being prepared to accept massive job losses, pay cuts and reduced social spending. No wonder the bosses are ‘laughing all the way to the banks’ (now, of course, protected at our expense, by their political friends in government).

The British and Irish ruling class strategy can not be opposed successfully by means of the organisational model – one state/one party – supported by the parties of the British Left (and their Irish satellites) – the SP, SWP, CPB, CPGB and AWL, etc.. Although in Britain this usually means forgetting that the UK state does not consist solely of Britain, but also includes ‘The Six Counties’ of Ireland.

Clearly this model is useless, when the nation itself is divided, as in the case of Ireland. This tends to lead to the acceptance of partitionist politics, which plays into the hands of both the British and Irish ruling classes. Furthermore, even in its attenuated ‘one British state’ version, one-state/one party advocates have been unable to consistently counter British chauvinism, or to appreciate the democratic aspect of the emergence of national movements in Scotland and Wales.

Both the CWI affiliated SP, and the SWP, formally exist as a single party in Ireland but, in practice, follow partitionist politics, especially in their accommodation to continued British rule in ‘The Six Counties’. The CWI in Britain has provided different degrees of autonomy for their members in Scotland (Scottish Militant Labour, the International Socialist Movement – which then left the CWI – then the International Socialists-Scotland), but nothing equivalent in Wales. The SWP appears to have no autonomous organisation in Scotland, merely expecting its resident members to implement the British line. The CPGB has flirted with the notion of constituting itself as the CPUK to cover Northern Ireland. It is also prepared to contemplate repartition of ‘The Six Counties’. The AWL share similar pro-British ideas, but as yet have not suggested reorganising themselves on an all-UK basis.

This organisational problem is merely an aspect of a wider political problem. This can be seen by the British and Irish SPs’ inability to offer a coordinated strategy to confront both the shared British and Irish ruling class political strategy for these islands. These two SPs have a record of adapting to local circumstances in a way that produces glaring contradictions. Thus in Britain, they support an ‘independent socialist Scotland’, but merely a Welsh Assembly with more powers. In Ireland, they virtually ignore partition in their everyday politics and election material in ‘The 26 Counties’, whilst in ‘The Six Counties’ they have flirted with working class loyalists. The SWP also have no overall strategy to confront the British and Irish ruling class alliance.

Neither, though, is the largely ‘go-it-alone’ Left nationalism, which emerged in sections of both the SSP and Solidarity, the answer. Any democratic and republican advance in Scotland can only be secured by similar advances in Ireland, Wales and England; just as a future socialism needs to spread internationally, if it is to survive.

The SSP made the first small steps towards an alternative ‘internationalism from below’ approach, when it organised the Republican Socialist Convention last November. This involved socialists from Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales. The SSP will need to vigorously defend this ‘internationalism from below’ principle in any future, wider, Socialist unity discussions, both against any Left Scottish nationalist isolationists in our own (and Solidarity’s) ranks and, against the Left British nationalists who also figure prominently in Solidarity, especially the SWP and SP. These two organisations have already brought about so much disunity with their top down bureaucratic attempts at imposing ‘unity’, which just mirror the methods of the British state. The UK remains an imperial state, albeit a junior partner with the USA. There can be no ‘British road to socialism’, only a ‘break-up of the UK state and British Empire road to communism’.

However, genuine communism, following from an international socialist transition, means not total state control, but the end of wage slavery, in a society based on the principle of from each according to their abilities; to each according to their needs and where the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.

Supplement

The 2009 European Elections – a political assessment.

The European elections provide us with a snapshot view of the current state of politics. The following analysis looks at the election results in Europe, the UK & Ireland and, in a bit more detail, in Scotland, in order to identify some significant political trends.

A) Europe

1) The Mainstream

a) Mainstream Right

Despite the ongoing unresolved economic crisis, following the ‘Credit Crunch’, the main beneficiaries in the Euro-election have been those Mainstream Right parties belonging to the wider European Peoples Party (EPP).

Right Centrists have traditionally been pro-business, drawing their support from the middle class, and upholding conservative values. At times, in the past, these parties have accepted pragmatic state intervention in the economy and social welfare measures. This phase of Right Centre politics was most associated with overlapping Butskellite Conservative/Labour and Christian Democratic/Social Democratic support for social market or mixed economy policies, from the late 1940’s to the mid 1970’s in the UK, and later in mainland Europe.

In response to capitalism’s crisis of profitability in the mid-1970’s, Mainstream Right parties, beginning with the British Conservatives, have moved to the neo-liberal economic policies aggressively pushed by corporate capital, sometimes supplemented by Right populist appeals to social conservatism, defending ‘family values’ and ‘national traditions’.

The parties of the EPP, which made the biggest electoral gains in the Euro-election, currently hold office, either with other Mainstream Right parties or, in Merkel’s case, in a coalition with the Social Democrats. They gained 20 seats overall (1). Today, the dominant politics of this grouping stretches from the Right Centrism of parties like Merkel’s CDU/CSU to the Right populism of Berlusconi’s PdL. In between lies Sarkozy’s (2) UDM.

Until the ‘Credit Crunch’, these Mainstream Right governments were avidly pushing neo-liberal measures to further deregulate their economies and to roll back their own state’s social-market welfare provisions.

Nevertheless, despite a strongly shared commitment to the European Union and further political integration, coupled to neo-liberal economic measures, these Mainstream Right-led governments quickly took action in breach of EU rules and neo-liberal orthodoxy. As Sarkozy shamelessly argued, The idea that markets were always right was mad… Laissez-faire is finished. The all-powerful market that always knows best is finished (EU Observer, 26.9.08). It is difficult to imagine Brown, Darling or Mandelson being able to come out with such words.

Thus, faced with the possibility that the unfolding ‘Credit Crunch’ could undermine capitalism itself, Mainstream Right governing parties moved quickly to protect their countries’ perceived immediate national interests. They reassured domestic voters that they were prepared to intervene in the economy to ward off the economic chaos brought about by the previous deregulated ‘free market’ they had recently advocated.

Government intervention by such Mainstream Right parties is largely seen as a pragmatic response to the current economic crisis. It does not raise any unwanted spectres of creeping state control in business circles. So most Mainstream Right-led governments have been able to make their economic policy adjustments in response to the economic crisis relatively easily, without having to look over their shoulders. Thus, for all those voters, especially the majority of the middle class still in reasonably secure jobs (for the present), but with some nagging doubts (for the future), a vote for this pragmatic Mainstream Right appeared to be a safe option.

Berlusconi’s PdL and Sarkozy’s UDM made substantial gains in this Euro-election – 16 and 11 seats respectively. Merkel’s CDU/CSU did lose 7 seats (its Social Democratic government coalition partners managed to hold on to theirs), but 5 of these were picked up by the pro-business FDP. Whilst currently benefiting from being in opposition, the FDP has often formed a coalition partner with the other Mainstream parties in the past.

However, a further deepening of the economic crisis could undermine the current complacency of the middle class, which, at present, leads them to look to minimal changes and for a ‘safe pair of hands on the tiller’. Italy provides us with an example of the likely trajectory of the Right, if the Right Centrist policies, currently being pursued by Merkel and others, are unable to hold the line.

Despite, the poor economic situation in Italy, Berlusconi’s Right populist PdL-led government has extended its hold, both in the 2008 Italian general election and the 2009 Euro-election. It has done this by increasing the big business hold on the state (most obviously by Berlusconi’s media companies), and by a barrage of public attacks on migrants. Berlusconi’s Right populist allies, the anti-migrant (and anti-Southern Italian) Northern League also made big gains in the election (+5 seats). Together, these parties have created a political climate that allows physical attacks (including murders), particularly upon Roma and African immigrants to occur, without much official challenge.

In this particular election, Italy has gone further Right than any other western European country, eliminating not only any official Communist/Socialist Left (3) opposition but also any independent Social Democratic and Green electoral presence in the European Parliament. The corporate capitalist ‘Americanisation’ of politics, (where the Republicans and Democrats form two wings of the ‘Business Party’) is now quite far advanced in Italy.

b) Social Democratic/Labour Centre

Many commentators thought that Social Democrat/Labour parties should do well in this first post-‘Credit Crunch’ election, now that neo-liberalism is discredited. A return to the pre-1980’s mixed economy, based on the Keynesian economics, very much associated with earlier Social Democratic/Labour parties, and maybe even a recommitment to social welfare, was briefly touted. The neo-Keynesian (i.e. capitalist) case for government intervention in the economy is so widely acknowledged (4), that it has even been adopted in the USA – first, very shame-facedly by Bush’s Republican government, now with more enthusiasm by Obama’s new Democrat government.

However, both the new US Democrat government, and the long standing British Labour government, have been quick to claim that those nationalisations, which they have reluctantly been forced to adopt, are merely temporary expedients. Those new nationalised companies have been left under their previous bosses’ control, with promises to reprivatise later, no doubt on very favourable terms. Most bosses can hardly believe their luck, and are rapidly returning to awarding themselves big bonus payments and other perks.

The fact that the traditionally pro-business Mainstream Right was the main beneficiary in the European election will probably reinforce most sitting Social Democrat/Labour governments in seeing neo-Keynesian measures as being short lived. The enforced nationalisations are very definitely not being used to provide greater economic security for their workforce in the ongoing economic crisis. Their workforces are being subjected to redundancies, short-time working, pay, conditions and pension cuts for their workers, so these companies can be returned to private hands in a more profitable state (e.g. Chrysler in the USA and the Royal Bank of Scotland in the UK). Nor have these governments given any thought to using these nationalised companies’ existing production facilities and workforces to helping meet social needs in environmentally sustainable ways.

If, as is very likely, the current economic recession further deepens, governments may be forced to resort to much more comprehensive neo-Keynesian measures. However, any final abandonment of neo-liberalism, and more general acceptance of neo-Keynesianism, does not represent creeping socialism, as some Socialists still seem to believe. In today’s competitive global economy, such a strategy can only mean the state taking on even greater responsibility for implementing austerity measures, increased beggar-thy-neighbour protectionist policies and preparations for war – in other words not socialism – but state capitalism.

Ironically, Social Democratic/Labour governments have found it more difficult than the continental Mainstream Right to respond to the current economic crisis. Social Democratic/Labour leaders are now more cautious about moving away from neo-liberal non-interventionism. They fear the ending of their recently won big business and media backing, if seen to pursue neo-Keynesian interventionist policies too keenly. These leaders have also gained much better access to the spoils of office, as well as to very lucrative business patronage.

Furthermore, Social Democratic/Labour politicians not only call upon the working class to pay for ‘our share’ of the costs of the crisis, but actively pursue measures to ensure this happens. They use their links with the compliant trade unions to help them, e.g. through social partnerships in the UK and Ireland. In contrast, any pleas these same politicians make, which suggest that bosses should shoulder some share of the costs of the crisis, remain pious calls not backed by any effective measures of enforcement. Therefore, it is not surprising that many previous Social Democratic/Labour working class voters now think these parties have little to offer in the current crisis. So they either abstain or look elsewhere to register their protest.

Meanwhile, sensing the unpopularity of existing Social Democratic/Labour governments, and realising their decreased ability to deliver a ‘bound and gagged’ working class, big business backers are turning back to the Mainstream Right parties, which appear to hold more immediate electoral promise.

However, even when existing Social Democratic/Labour parties are ousted from office, big business will still continue to exert pressure on them to defend their interests, when called upon later. The neo-liberal Right wing of Social Democracy will regroup and not just disappear, as many on the Labour Left hope. The advantages to business of achieving an ‘Americanisation’ of politics are too great (5). Thus, despite the biggest crisis seen in the British Labour Party for 80 years, it is still the Right that calls the shots, with Lord Mandelson firmly in control. His programme for fighting the next general election is stepped-up ‘reform of the public sector’, i.e. further attacks on workers’ pay, pensions and conditions, further widening in the quality of provision in education, health, etc, and more privatisations (6). The parliamentary Left has been virtually silent over the current crisis in the party.

Thus, a striking trend in this Euro-election has been the very poor performance of Social Democratic and Labour Parties. Overall, the European Socialist Party (ESP) lost 35 members. Compared with the successes of incumbent Right governments in Italy and France, sitting Social Democratic/Labour governments (whether alone, or in coalition) fared particularly badly, losing seats in Austria (-3 seats), Belgium (-2 seats), Estonia (-2 seats), Hungary (-5 seats), Netherlands (-4 seats), Portugal (-5 seats), Slovenia (-1 seat), Spain (-3 seats) and the UK (-6 seats).

Social Democratic parties also did badly in Denmark (-1 seat) Finland (-1 seat), Poland (-1 seat), where they don’t hold office, but are also committed to neo-liberal policies. Two examples of Social Democratic parties doing spectacularly badly, despite not being in office, are to be found in France (-9 seats) and in Italy (7) (-12 seats). Again, these particular parties remain committed to the neo-liberalism, which has hit their own working class voters hardest. In Italy, the majority Social Democrats no longer even stand independently, but form part of the liberal Democratic Party (DP).

c) Liberal Centre

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) (which includes the British Liberal Democrats) also fell back 5 seats in the European Parliament (despite 5 gains by the affiliated oppositional FDP in Germany). Such parties often form parts of wider coalitions, and hence, with little different to offer, they have suffered electorally from a combined incumbency/irrelevancy factor during the current economic crisis. Most Liberal parties have largely abandoned their earlier social liberalism for neo-liberalism.

In Ireland, Fianna Fail also now forms part of ALDE. It leads the West European government responsible for the biggest attacks so far on workers in response to the current crisis. Although, it only lost 1 seat, this is significant, for it no longer has a Euro-seat in Dublin (Fine Gael 1, Labour Party, 1, Socialist Party 1).

2) Beyond the Mainstream Centre

For those most badly affected by the current economic crisis, the Euro-election provided an opportunity to show their disapproval. Many of the most disillusioned just abstained. This European election had the lowest overall turnout ever, down from 45.5% in 2004 to 43.1% in 2009 (8). The overall participation rate continued to decline in the majority of EU member countries. However, the striking feature of this election was the relatively limited political scope of the shifts in electoral choices made by most of those who did vote for non-Mainstream parties.

a) Nationalist parties

Indeed, in the case of Catalunya, Euskadi, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it could be argued that votes given to the following nationalist parties – CiU, PNV, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Sinn Fein – are now, in effect, being awarded to alternative but specific local Mainstream parties. All these parties are now well established in the machinery of their particular states, forming the leaderships of, or joining coalitions in devolved administrations (9). These parties all accept, either enthusiastically or pragmatically, the existing corporate capitalist order, whatever limited constitutional and social reforms they might put forward, which continue to upset the Mainstream unionist governments and parties in their particular states – Spain and the UK.

A resurgent Right British nationalism has been a strong feature of this election in Wales and Northern Ireland (see later UK and Ireland section). Something similar can be seen in Spain, where the ultra-unionist Union for Progress and Democracy (10), drawing support from both the Right and Left, has gained a seat. They want to abolish all the devolved national and regional administrations in Spain.

Whilst the long standing up-and-down political battles between unionism and nationalism in Wales and Euskadi may explain these particular resurgences of unionism, there is also perhaps a fear amongst many voters that solutions to deal with the ongoing economic crisis can not be met at a small nation level.

b) Populism

Populism is a politics that appeals to the more economically and politically marginalised, without situating itself firmly on the grounds of class. At one time this meant populism drew its main support from the petit-bourgeoisie – small farmers, small business owners (e.g. shopkeepers) and artisans, etc. However, where effective working class organisation has fallen apart, leaving many workers atomised and feeling unable to alter the course of events by their own actions, populism has been able to make inroads here too.

Thus, populism has both Right and Left variants. To its Right, populism merges with Fascism based on the petty bourgeoisie, the economically threatened sections of the middle class, and the atomised sections of the working class. To its Left it merges with Socialist (or Labour Left) politics based on the organised (or would-be organised) working class.

Populism has been the main overall winner of the votes of those wishing to express their political discontent with the Mainstream Centre in the current economic crisis. Many disenchanted people were prepared to vote for the populists’ eye-catching political, economic and social proposals, despite these being essentially minimalist or dangerously diversionary.

c) Right populism

In most cases, it has been Right populism that has benefited in these elections. It has already been pointed out that, despite being an Italian Mainstream party, and a constituent of the largely Centre Right EPP, Berlusconi’s PdL and its Northern League ally, have successfully made Right populist, anti-migrant appeals to the Italian electorate.

Another big electoral winner was the Right populist and national chauvinist UKIP in Britain (11) (+2 seats). UKIP emerged in this election with the second biggest number of votes after the Tories. UKIP’s electoral advance was all the more remarkable given the early defection of its most well known spokesperson, Kilroy-Silk, and the jailing of one of its first MEPs for corruption, after the 2004 Euro-election. In Austria (+2 seats), Finland (+1 seat), Greece (+1 seat), and particularly in the Netherlands (+4 seats), anti-migrant Right populists have all made considerable gains.

d) Fascist/Right populist alliances

However, to these constitutional Right populist parties, it is also necessary to add the votes and seats won by those former Fascist and those still Fascist parties, which have now either fully adopted Right populist politics (e.g. Fini’s National Alliance component of the PdL), or which use such politics to mask their own continuing support for a full-blown fascist project (e.g. the BNP). This is because where these parties have been electorally successful, it has been by making Right populist, and not openly Fascist appeals.

Ironically, the political compromises, which have led some Fascist organisations to adopt Right populist clothing (and an acceptance of constitutionalism), have produced parallel tensions amongst the Fascists, to those found amongst Socialists, where the pull of Left populism is just as strong.

One hallmark of a fully developed Socialist organisation is its readiness to use mass democratic action in defiance of the existing anti-democratic constitutional order to advance its aims. In today’s non-revolutionary situation, still largely marked by a continuing Capitalist Offensive, the Socialists can only to aspire to such levels of opposition and organisation. Instead, we try to build for such future action by promoting, for example, independent (‘unofficial’) strikes or occupations.

In the meantime, though, many on the Left get drawn into the central running of bodies, which by their very nature are involved in the day-to-day running of capitalism, e.g. trade unions, quangos, etc. This can lead many to accept gradualist Reformism and/or a resort to Left populism.

In comparison, the hallmark of fully developed Fascist organisations is the use of goon squads and/or paramilitary forces to win control of the streets, and to deny any political (or public) space for Socialists and others (e.g. ethnic minorities, gays, etc.). However, present day Fascists do not currently enjoy the support of their ruling classes, so such activities, when exposed, can lead to spells in jail. Therefore recently, such parties have tried to downplay this particular characteristic and appear ‘respectable’.

In the absence of concerted working class resistance, European ruling classes can still bring about the counter-reforms they need, by resort to legal attacks on workers’ livelihoods, rights and organisations (e.g, anti-trade union laws), with the help of the existing Mainstream parties. These all try to meet the needs of the existing corporate capitalist order, whatever other policy differences may divide them. Therefore, the extra-legal services of the Fascists are not yet required.In the meantime, Fascists get drawn into working on community and local councils, and parliaments. Some mellow in the process, becoming subordinate partners in wider Broad Right alliances, and pushing constitutional Right populist politics.

This means that those Fascists not just satisfied with just moving Mainstream politics further to the Right (which could lead to their co-option or marginalisation in the future), want to maintain their hardcore cadre through attacks on migrants, gays and others (these attacks can still be publicly disowned by the official leadership).

For these Fascists, new anti-migrant laws are not ends in themselves, but a means to create a wider climate of racism and chauvinism in which the Fascists can move ‘like fish in water’. Today, attacks on individuals, or upon small marginalised groups, particularly in areas where Fascists have some electoral support, are the main type of activity giving the initial training they require, for a time in the future, when they may yet be called upon by sections of the ruling class and the employers to physically crush workers’ organisations.

In the current political situation, Italy shows us the most likely political impact of the rise of Fascist and other xenophobic Far Right forces on the politics of other western European countries. There is not going to be any immediate ‘March on Rome’. Fascists have been able to move the Mainstream parties to the Right, by promoting anti-migrant and anti-sexual liberation policies. These help to keep the working class divided.

In the past, Thatcher contributed to the demise of the National Front by adopting some of their racist rhetoric, and Sarkozy has tried the same in France. Berlusconi’s Italy is also instructive. The Right populist PdL has absorbed two former fascist organisations, Fini’s National Alliance and Alessandra Mussolini’s Social Action.

Germany, like Italy, has its own fascist past. However, in marked contrast to the Italian Fascists, most present day German Fascists remain full-blooded Fascists, i.e. anti-Semitic Nazis, when most others have switched their hatred to Moslems or Roma (tacitly encouraged by many official state policies and the tabloid press). Consequently German Nazis have been unable to make any breakthrough into national politics (whilst still remaining a grave physical threat to migrant workers, particularly in the many of the depressed parts of former East Germany).

Parties spanning the Fascist/Right populist spectrum did well in Eastern Europe, where nearly all the Mainstream parties are to the right of their western equivalents, reflecting their continuing reaction to the legacy of Russian ‘Communist’ domination (12). In Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, seats have been won by the violently chauvinist, anti-Roma, anti-gay, Jobbik (+ 3 seats), Greater Romania (+ 3 seats) and Attak (+2 seats) parties. The current economic crisis has hit Eastern Europe particularly hard, and Socialism (at least in its genuine internationalist form) is still associated in many minds with old-style Stalinism, so the political situation here is looking increasingly grim.

e) Left populism and Socialism

The Greens are the best example of a populist politics that makes most (but not all of) of its appeal to left of centre voters. The Greens made small, but nevertheless significant advances in Belgium (+1 seat), Denmark (+1 seat), Finland (+1 seat), Germany (+1 seat) (where they have been out of coalition governments for long enough that many people have forgotten their past record in office). Overall, they gained 13 seats in the European Parliament, only losing seats in Italy and the Netherlands, where Right populism made significant advances. Elsewhere, the Greens increased their vote, except in Portugal (where they are in the same party – the CDU – as the official Communists) – and in Ireland, where they have paid the cost of being in an unpopular governmental coalition with Fianna Fail.

Furthermore, Greens have made serious inroads into the voting base of certain Socialist groups (whether ex-official Communist or Left Social Democrat/Labour), which also adopt Left populist politics. These inroads are apparent in the election results, for example, of France, Britain (including Scotland), but perhaps most spectacularly in Denmark, where the 2 MEPs of the Socialist Peoples Party (SPP) (+1 seat) now sit as observers in the Green Euro-group.

France has seen some of the biggest class struggles in Europe in recent years, with massive strikes and resistance by migrant workers. This has resulted in a willingness to vote left of the Mainstream Centre in the Euro-election. The Fascist/Right populist National Front lost 3 seats showing how class struggle can shift the terms of political debate.

However, despite some favourable opinion polls, the Trotskyist, LCR-initiated, New Anti-Capitalist Party, a very recent Socialist formation, just failed to get MEPs elected. This was partly because a major push was made by the French establishment to marginalise this latest challenge (just as it did, when the National Front’s Le Pen emerged as the main alternative when the Right Centrist Chirac in the 2007 French Presidential election).

Thus the Greens (13) in France were seen to be a relatively safe alternative, and they managed to corral the majority of the left of Centre protest votes. They won another 8 seats bringing them up to 14 (3 more than the British Labour Party!)

Furthermore, the Left Front, consisting of the French Communist Party (PCF), the Left Party (a breakaway from the French Socialist Party, which hopes to emulate Germany’s Die Linke) and the Unitarian Left (a rightist breakaway from the Trotskyist LCR, which did not join the NPA) formed another Left populist electoral alliance, united around Left nationalist politics (14).

The Left Front managed to gain 2 more seats (albeit on less than a 1% increase in the vote for the 2004 PCF-led Euro-slate). Therefore, although they contributed to just stopping the NPA from winning any seats, the overall 6.5% vote gained for this Left Front populist slate merely disguised the continued downward spiral of its main component, the PCF. It also highlighted the lack of support for those Left Social Democratic forces that joined them, whom the PCF and others have long sought to woo.

In Germany, as in France, most of the protest vote went not to the right but to the left, albeit more weakly, with one new seat won by the Greens and one by Die Linke (15) (which was expected to do better). Die Linke is an alliance of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) (successor to the Socialist Unity Party, the former official Communist Party in East Germany) and the Labour and Social Justice Electoral Campaign (WASG), Lafontaine’s Left breakaway from the German Social Democratic Party.

Where it holds offices in the local administrations (in the former East Germany), the SED behaves like other Social Democratic Parties, implementing cuts. The western-based WASG has opposed this course so far. However, the new Die Linke leadership supported the bail-out of German banks in the Reichstag, and tacitly supported Israel in its Gaza invasion, so, in the longer term, Die Linke looks fated to follow a similar path to Rifondazione Comunista in Italy and the United Left in Spain, where working class support slumped after these parties gave their support to cuts-implementing Social Democratic governments.

f) The long term decline of official Communism and the EUL/NGL

Any examination of the official Communist-led EUL/NGL Euro-group shows that, despite the current economic crisis, it is a largely declining force, mainly due to the Communist parties’ one-time links with the failed USSR, but also to their member parties’ willingness to join, or prop up Social Democratic Centre governments administering cuts or promoting imperial wars. Overall the EUL/NGL lost 5 of the Euro-seats that it held in 2004. In Italy, Rifondazione Comunista representation in the European Parliament was wiped out (following a similar setback in the Italian general election in 2008).

In Spain, the CP-led United Left also lost a seat. Even in Greece, despite the recent massive upheavals, the local Communist Party, the KKE, still lost a seat. The SYRIZA alliance, its newly formed rival, also fell back on the % vote won by its largest constituent organisation, Synaspismos, in the 2004 Euro-election (as well as that it gained in the 2007 Greek general election). In Greece, against the grain, the Social Democratic PASOK vote held up and emerged as the main winner in the Euro-election. This is probably due to a combination of being in opposition, and a longstanding ability to adopt Left populist (and Left nationalist) rhetoric when necessary.

Only in Cyprus has the local Communist Party, AKEL, really held its own, retaining its 2 seats. Uniquely for the EU, a Communist Party forms the elected government in Cyprus. However, this is more due to it being seen as the best bet for reuniting a country, still partly occupied by Turkish armed forces. Much of AKEL’s appeal is Cypriot nationalist.

In both Sweden and Denmark, Left nationalism is the declared principle of the two the Left populist EUL/NGL affiliates in these particular countries – the anti-EU Left Party and the Peoples Movement Against the EU, respectively. Both of these parties include former official Communists, now that their parties have dissolved.

The Left Party lost a seat in Sweden, where the party leading the current government, the Centre Right Moderate Party, and the libertarian populist Pirate Party, made the biggest advances. In Denmark, the parties forming the sitting Liberal/Right Centre/Right populist government all advanced, whilst the Social Democrats fell back sharply. The EUL/NGL affiliated Peoples Movement against the EU (principally backed by the Red Green Alliance in Denmark) was able to substantially increase its vote in these propitious circumstances, but without gaining an extra seat (16). A much bigger proportion of the Left vote in Denmark went to the non-EUL/NGL Socialist Peoples Party, which did gain an extra seat.

In the Czech Republic, the local Communist Party, KSCM, lost 2 seats. Here however, in one of the few exceptions to the trouncing of Social Democrats, the Czech SD party gained 5 seats. This was partly due to the continued decline of the KSCM, once of course, the ruling party in the whole of Czechslovakia. The KSCM is the last official Communist Party from Eastern Europe with European Parliament representation to remain in the EUL/NGL (17).

So, although in France and Denmark, official CP backed, Left populist alliances – the Left Front and the Peoples Movement against the EU – both increased their votes, as part of a general Left populist swing in these countries, in these countries other Left populist parties did better – the Greens and the SPP respectively.

g) An emerging Socialist alternative to official CP Left populism?

The two countries where local EUL/NGL affiliates did best are the Netherlands and Portugal. In the Netherlands, the Socialist Party’s vote largely held up, and it retained its 2 Euro-seats, despite the unnerving slide by most protesting voters to anti-migrant, anti-Islamic Right populists. However, the Socialist Party does not come from the official Communist tradition. It comes from a Maoist background, although now long abandoned, and stands on an openly Socialist platform, based on working class politics.

The Left Bloc’s results in results in Portugal were remarkable. The Left Bloc, like the Socialist Party in the Netherlands, has Maoist roots, which it has abandoned. However, it has opened itself to other Socialist forces, and unlike the Socialist Party in the Netherlands, it also forms part of the European Anti-Capitalist Alliance (EACL). Nor is the Left Bloc the only EUL/NGL affiliate in Portugal. There is also the Democratic Unity Coalition (CDU), the permanent Left populist alliance between the official Communists and the Greens, which stand together under this name in European, national and local elections.

In a situation where the incumbent Portuguese Socialist Party (Social Democratic) government lost spectacularly in the Euro-elections, most of the non-Mainstream vote went left. However, it was not the initially better placed CDU, which gained. Its vote fell back slightly, whilst retaining its 2 Euro-seats. It was the Left Bloc that hugely increased its vote and won 2 more seats. Thus, the Portuguese Left Bloc has picked up the lead baton for Socialists in Europe.

The failure of the NPA in France to win any Euro-seats is hopefully a temporary setback in the formation of an alternative, more clearly working class-based, Socialist alliance in Europe. Relating to the rising level of class struggle, the NPA stood on the basis of clear class politics – ‘Make the Bosses Pay for Their Crisis’. That is the way to give a political lead to workers involved in current class struggles, where the official trade union leaders and Social Democratic parties try to limit the purpose of any action to ‘sharing’ the costs around – i.e. workers should accept some cuts as an example for the bosses to follow!

It will be interesting to see the political direction taken another Socialist – Joe Higgins of the CWI-affiliated Socialist Party. He won the Dublin seat previously held by the Irish EUL/NGL affiliate, Sinn Fein (18). Will Higgins take an active part in the European Anti-Capitalist Left (EACL), and help contribute to the formation of a distinct international Socialist Left group within the EUL/NGL? Or, will he behave like another Trotskyist group, Lutte Ouvriere from France, which won 3 seats in the 1999 Euro-election (with another 2 going to its then electoral allies, the LCR), but then proceeded to try and advance its own group’s interests above those of the wider international socialist movement? It lost all of its seats in the 2004 Euro-election.

Many Socialists may be critical of the politically ambiguous names of the NPA or the Left Bloc. Nevertheless, so long as they remain democratic organisations, positively engaged in the class struggles in their countries, with an unwavering commitment to internationalism, those Socialists in these countries, who really want to influence events, should be participating, whilst Socialists elsewhere in Europe should be helping to build the EACL.

Footnotes

1. Until recently the EPP grouping also included Cameron’s British Conservatives, so the defection of their 26 MEPs, underestimates the real gains made by the Centre Right, since the 2004 Euro-election.

2. Sarkozy has a Right populist anti-migrant past, but more recently, after major social revolts, has been forced to adopt a more Right Centrist public position

3. Italy is a country where the CP was once a considerable force in politics. Furthermore, as in Spain, most of the Socialist Left worked inside the CP.

4. Unlike those on the Left who equate capitalism with anti-state economic interventionist neo-liberalism, genuine Socialists/Communists have long understood that capitalism is always prepared to resort to a more statist model, when in difficulty, without changing its essential nature. The essence of capitalism is not the promotion of unfettered market relations – neo-liberalism – but the promotion and defence of wage slavery by both economic and political means.

5. One indication that this pattern has been firmly established, will be when we hear of companies which fund both Conservatives and New Labour, just as some US businesses fund both Republicans and Democrats.

6. The next stage of Royal Mail privatisation has only been temporarily shelved.

7. Wikipedia lists 12 of the 25 MEPs in the Christian Democrat/Liberal/Social Democrat (including former Communists)/Green 2004 Olive Tree alliance as sitting with the Social Democratic ESP. After the 2009 election, it lists all 21 MEPs from its Democratic Party successor, as forming an independent Euro-group.

8. This can not just be put down by the accession of Bulgaria (39% turnout) and Romania (28% turnout), two new member states from eastern Europe, where there has been traditionally been a low turn-out rate.

9. The PNV recently lost control of the devolved Euskadi administration, after being in control for more than 2 decades.

10. An equivalent party in Scotland/UK might unite Tam Dayell and Michael Forsyth.

11. Despite its name, UKIP does not stand for elections in Northern Ireland, although the UUP would share quite a few of this party’s characteristics. However, in a not widely understood move by Cameron, the Conservatives have already linked up with the more genteely sectarian UUP (as opposed to the more openly sectarian DUP), as well as with Right populists from Poland and the Czech Republic to form a new Eurosceptic alliance in the European Parliament.

12. One example of this is the Social Democratic Party in Slovakia, which has even been thrown out of the ‘Socialist International’, because it formed a government coalition with an anti-Roma, hard Right party!

13. The Greens Left populist (and Left nationalist) credentials were helped by the participation of Jose Bove, a popular figure from the Anti-Globalisation Movement.

14. In many ways the Left Front is like the wider British electoral alliance, No2EU, hoped to create, being based on populist politics.Although in the case of the No2EU, it accommodated further right, ditching not only the word ‘Socialist’ but even the word ‘Left’ to dish the BNP.

15. Unlike the NPA, Die Linke is not opposed to joining coalitions with Social Democrats. Nevertheless, most of the political forces supporting the European Anti-Capitalist Left in Germany have joined Die Linke as distinct tendencies, just as many previously joined Rifondazione Comunista, in its earlier left-posing days.

16. However, in this case the actual MEP elected belongs to the Trotskyist. USFI. The Red Green Alliance was formed by members of the former official Communists, the USFI affiliated Trotskyists, former Maoists, and a section of the Left Social Democrats (most of whom went to the Socialist Peoples Party, however). Danish USFI supporters appear to be on the USFI’s more Left populist wing, compared with say those in the NPA in France. The Red Green Alliance has faced similar controversy in Denmark over alliances with Muslim politicians to that caused by Respect in the UK.

17. Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the traditional Communist parties have reformed themselves into Social Democratic parties, joining the ‘Socialist International’. They are all very much on the ‘modernising’, ‘market reform’ accepting wing of European Social Democracy.

18. Sinn Fein, currently the only EUL/NGL affiliate in Ireland, is rather the odd party out in this Euro-group. It has no other past or present official or dissident Communist affiliations. Its connection dates from the time Sinn Fein was more keen to be seen as part of the international anti-imperialist movement, where association with official Communists brought about valuable links, e.g. with South Africa. Sinn Fein’s has maintained its seat in Northern Ireland, where politics is dominated by constitutionally enforced sectarian allegiances. Here, Sinn Fein has cornered the Catholic nationalist market.

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