Dec 03 2002

Letters

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 04RCN @ 2:12 pm

Dear Comrades,

I disagree with much of what Bob Goupillot has written in his article, Which route for political working class unity in Britain E&L 3. I sympathise with the reasons given for Cymru Goch’s resignation from the Welsh Socialist Alliance in the letter published alongside Bob’s article. I particularly agree where they write, We are unable to compromise our socialist republicanism indefinitely.

Therein lies the problem with Socialist Alliances in England and Wales. It’s obvious, even the SSP has problems with republicanism, as outlined in Allan Armstrong’s article, Republicans celebrate the jubilee, in the same issue. He states that Alan McCombe’s comrades in the ISM haven’t got the republican message despite Tommy Sheridan using the dreaded R word three times at the SSP Annual Conference in Dundee.

As a communist and republican, if I lived in Scotland, I would personally be in the SSP, because it’s the largest and most politically advanced radical organisation in Scotland, with any sort of commitment to republicanism, even if a wee bit removed from the Scottish Workers’ Republic at present. This said, I find it quite breathtaking that Bob can make such a sweeping statement, that he thinks all individual socialists and socialist organisations should be in the Scottish Socialist Party or the Socialist Alliances in England and Wales.

Leaving aside the question of whether or not the SSP is a party or a united front alliance, involving the SWP and other politically autonomous organisations, it’s worth remembering and recording that, the Scot of greatest socialist republican and communist renown, John Maclean, refused to join the Communist Party of Great Britain, when all around the vast majority of revolutionary socialists, communists and best trade union militants in Scotland and Britain flocked to it at the time. Whether he was politically right in doing this or not, he obviously felt the CPGB was not republican socialist or communist enough and neither were some of its leading lights. So it is possible to be a (even great) socialist republican or communist, or dare I say it, a smaller organisation and not be in what might appear to be the obvious or leading political organisation or party.

Bob also seems to think that the centre of revolutionary political gravity in Britain is to be found in Scotland and the SSP. This scotocentric attitude is most clearly seen when he states, Again Scotland was in the lead, in reference to struggle against the poll tax. It was in the lead at one time because the Tories and British Establishment were afraid to try the poll tax out in Northern Ireland and used Scotland to test it before taking it south of the border. Many Scottish workers, people and organisations did a tremendous job of fighting and building opposition to the hated poll tax. But it was the Trafalgar Square Riots which saw it and Thatcher off in the process. It was a truly international achievement in which English workers and anarchists had a big say.

I think the centre of revolutionary activity, organisation and struggle is still by far to be found in Northern Ireland within the working class republican nationalist communities of resistance. These people are politically suppressed and controlled by a combination of left, right and centre pro-Agreement forces. They are subject to continual physical attack and bombardment by those from the most extreme reactionary force in British politics, Ulster Loyalism, often in collusion with the British state. Yet they battle on! These communities and their leaders have vast experience and are the only ones amongst the working class in the UK struggling and sometimes dying for republicanism and national liberation, fighting and resisting the British state, its army of occupation and its paramilitary police force.

Unless we, in the rest of the UK, learn from and link up with these communities of resistance, leaders and organisations fighting against the consequences of the Agreement, along with any workers from the other side of the political divide and build one big militant, republican united front, then there is no future for socialist republicanism or socialist republics in Ireland, Scotland, Wales or England. No country, no people, no movement can do it alone.

The key to the British revolution (to coin a phrase!) and the socialist political unity of the working class is republicanism. This means especially the struggle, or struggles for republicanism with its militant political challenge to the British monarchist state, its loyal institutions such as the British Labour Party and the TUC and all its political supporters and left apologists.

Any and all serious moves towards this will need to be accompanied by United Front Republican Socialist Alliances, with the objective of forming Republican Socialist Parties in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. It needs a federated England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales-wide umbrella organisation to link and coordinate internationally. Where the main political emphasis is on militant republicanism, this can only mean one thing in the context of the British monarchist state – abolish the monarchy (mind you they are doing quite a good job of that themselves at the present but need a helping hand!), the Crown Powers and the UK state and replace these with socialist republics.

This republicanism will provide the distinctive political cutting edge and must be very firmly attached to the socialist content of such alliances. Otherwise, as we’ve all seen and experienced, socialism on its own, with its many divisive political varieties and organisations, means all things to all men and women and whatever any particular individual or organisation wants it to. Debating and getting a common agreement and understanding of what socialism is, along the way, would help enormously!

There can be no socialist political unity of the working class in Britain or Ireland unless our class eventually struggles as one social force against the British state and for socialist republics in Ireland and the nations which go to make up the increasingly fragile looking United Kingdom. Only political struggle can unite us politically – one struggle, one road, one revolution, one united working class.

By the way, I’m no John Maclean, but neither am I in the Socialist Alliance in England. Republican Socialist Alliances, yes, but then I’m still a communist, a republican and trade union militant and not a bad one of each I hope! In comradeship.

Brian Higgins

Northampton

Tags: ,


Aug 05 2002

Letters

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 03RCN @ 12:57 pm

Bob Goupillot’s article on progress in E&L 2 was illuminating. The nature of the communist society of the future is not a matter of crystal ball gazing but, for materialists, should be a matter of some urgency. It will not develop organically if we just let it grow but is there to be determined and shaped by our human, revolutionary or reactionary actions. Bob’s views open up for communists, a debate on both the shape of a communist world and a vision of how we get there. What if capitalism had been halted in its tracks at one of the points of resistance in our past? That would, to some, have been a non-progressive act. Yet surely the revolutionary resistance to the dehumanising horrors of capitalist expansion must have been causes that we would fight for?

Take the Highland Clearances. I have heard comrades declare that these murderous acts of ethnic cleansing were ultimately progressive, in a sense inevitable, in the making of the proletariat and the industrialisation of the country. Of course these comrades would condemn the brutality involved, the senseless replacement of working crofts with sheep, which ultimately destroyed the land and the enforced emigration of a people. But, they accept that as part of the process from feudalism to capitalism to communism, these sacrifices while regrettable were essential.

So today, non historic peoples, peasants and farmers have the capitalist stage to look forward to – and all the misery that that implies – before they can throw off their proletarian slavery and join us in the socialist revolution towards communism. I think I would find this orthodox version of Marxist development a wee bit difficult to sell to tribal people and indigenous people across the planet. Come and join us as communists! We promise you the alienation only found under capitalism, which will destroy much of your culture, land and population. But do not worry; liberation will come which will make it all worthwhile. There are no short cuts for these orthodox Marxists only their essential stageist approach to human history which was discredited by the Russian revolution itself which failed to follow the model. Bob’s article looks at a different way forward and one, which certainly makes the orthodox view seem not only ridiculous but in essence, anti communist. Bob looks to take the socialist revolution from where people are without the necessity of first becoming an industrialised proletariat.

I strike a cautionary note however. I always get wary when people speak of a golden age of communism in the distant primitive past. The vision of being part of an undeveloped tribe struggling to survive does not fill me with any great desire to return to the land. No matter how egalitarian the distribution of labour it was still a bloody, hard and short existence. And it still is for millions of people on this planet. I know I see the world from a Euro centric western standpoint but the communist future cannot be the denial of the scientific, medical and technological advances we have achieved. Rather we must cherry pick without of course the all-consuming profit motive as our slave master. Let us by all means question what is progress and let us look with fresh eyes at what is good, valuable, and progressive in so called “primitive” lifestyles. Our communist world will require us to have the ability to constantly think in a revolutionary way. Even if that means critical re-evaluation of Marxist orthodoxy. Only thus will it be rich, diverse and fully human.

The simple life is not for me nor I suspect for the industrialised masses. The abandoning of commodity driven lifestyles will lead to greater expression of ideas and in a sense more individuality in a positive sense. Not driven by the dictates of fashion, people will display a diversity, colour and imagination denied by the mass conformism of the fashion moguls.

I have no time for comrades who fantasise about the good life technology free existence. We want decent housing, food, clothes but with all the mod cons too. I watched my mother and grandmother bend under domestic drudgery. We surely do not want this for our sons and daughters. I am keeping my central heating no matter how ethnic the log-burning stove may look! We can all see the advantages of the Iroquois Indian over the alienated wage slave but workers have from wage slavery created many advances for human kind and these intellectual, technological and scientific achievements should not be thrown away.

But as Bob points out, communists need to be open-minded as Marx himself was. The ologies must not be dismissed as bourgeois deviations or we will ignore so many truths about ourselves as human beings. What so many of these studies show is that human beings are not innately greedy or self seeking or driven by ambition. So-called human nature is determined by our society. It is the nature of capitalism to be greedy self centred not the nature of people.

It’s the old bread and roses thing. We need to stop thinking of art music poetry etc as luxuries. They are expressions of our humanity and as that grows under communism so will our culture. In a state of abundance, people will have time and energy to be creative as technology is used to enhance the quality of life for everyone not just the privileged few.

Mary Ward

Tags: ,


Jul 26 2002

Correspondence Red

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 02RCN @ 9:02 pm

Allegiance

In this year of Jubilee and celebration of monarchy, a lot will be said about allegiance – allegiance to Queen and country. It slips off the tongue quite readily but carries a heavy message. Allegiance is a powerful emotional attachment to a cause or person or place and experiencing and expressing this deeply felt emotional bond seems to be a very human need. It feels good at the level of the individual and even better when with others who share the same allegiance. For socialists and communists simply to mock and berate people for having those feelings is a misguided approach which alienates our own class from left politics. We need to have a more sophisticated approach based on an understanding and acknowledgement of human emotional development and needs. We need to start from where people are. This isn’t to advocate reformism or liberalism or to support nationalism. It’s to stand alongside folk, acknowledge the powerful feelings that they have and then debate with them as to how best to use this allegiance.

We’re up against state, corporate and right wing political machinery that does appeal to folk’s emotional make-up. They study and use the emotional and psychological against us: to ensure a steady supply of cannon-fodder for the armed forces; to persuade us to buy the latest whatever; to whip up support for the BNP. Our feelings are constantly subverted and manipulated by the elite and the powerful to meet their own ends, to maintain their own power. Thus, we on the left need to look at the emotional and our emotional development as a legitimate site of class struggle – without diluting our revolutionary socialist convictions. As socialists we need to highlight and to emphasise that capitalists take the emotional seriously. In fact it’s necessary for them to manipulate us emotionally so that we will accept our economic exploitation. Allegiance is a powerful emotional weapon that’s used against us. Within our class our aim as socialists is to bring about a realignment of that allegiance so that it becomes a positive force. We need to feel it and use it consciously for our own good, for our own class.

Linda Gibson

Midlothian

Liberate Humanity

I was very pleased to be able to obtain your latest publication at Word Power. However, I was surprised that you decided to change the title. Communism is the only system that can hope to liberate humanity and republics are a vital stage on the road to emancipation. I preferred the previous title.

I can sympathise with your attitude regarding past difficulties involving Stalin, Pol Pot etc, but I still consider it necessary to promote greater objectivity. It must be remembered that right opportunism, ultra-left utopianism and Trotskyist syndicalism could not have been established in the circumstances. This paved the way for the Stalin line, which dominated revolutionary ideology, even beyond Hungry ’56. International revolution failed all over Europe between 1918 – 1938 and no one could have foreseen a Maoist victory even as late as 1945!

Stalin’s state controlled apparatus, establishing as it did a party bureaucracy, was bound to succeed despite Trotsky’s correct view that it would inevitably become counter-revolutionary. As for Pol Pot, he cannot be understood without reference to the fascist puppet Lon Nol and the saturation bombing of the whole region.

I am also concerned to promote organically viable production, which sees an end to capitalist methods in farming and transport. If the car is to survive it must be collectivised after massive reduction. It must be a state controlled vehicle serving isolated workers, nurses, doctors, etc. It must never, ever again fall into private hands.

As regards, farming we have to save Polish (etc.) methods from annihilation by the EEC and learn how to farm organically all over again. We must develop holistic medicine to a level now seen in China as regards acupuncture and herbs. This will mean applying homoeopathy on a scale never seen before. Their patentised vaccines, minerals and plants can replace the toxic poisons pedalled for profit by capitalist controlled phoney science.

An Avid Reader

Edinburgh

Little Scotlanders?

Do I detect a Little Scotland trend in the Scottish Socialist Voice’s coverage? I submitted this short article on an important victory in the struggle against casualisation. It wasn’t printed. Although won in England, this victory is important for all UK workers, particularly in the building industry. More recently, despite the good coverage given to the Glasgow Housing Anti-Privatisation campaign, there was nothing about the campaign in Birmingham. Certainly the Glasgow vote against was very impressive considering the odds we were up against. However, the Birmingham tenants won! Surely our internationalism can extend to England, especially when we can take heart from their successes.

Allan Armstrong

Edinburgh

A Victory Against Casualisation

At a time when increasing numbers have been forced into temporary contract work over the last decade, it is a real boost to hear of a significant victory against casual labour. Even better this victory has been won in the building industry, which has long suffered under this iniquitous system. The construction employers’ neglect of pensions, sickness and holiday pay is more than matched by callous acceptance of the industrial slaughter on their unsafe sites. Between April 2000 and March 2001 alone there were 128 building worker deaths.

On January 15th, four carpenters from Northampton finally won holiday pay they were entitled to under the European Working Time Directive. They had fought for 22 months in the face of employer intimidation and the threat of the blacklist.

Byrnes Brothers, a shuttering contractor, went to great lengths to resist the men’s claims. Behind such small sub-contractors lie many large construction companies who resort to cowboy and also gangster operators, the better to avoid any real responsibility on the sites. Therefore it was not surprising that when Byrnes Brothers lost at the Industrial Tribunal last January, they should put in an appeal. They only backed down from this last September, but held up payment until further negotiations last week.

However, almost as many obstacles were put in place by the UCATT full time officials. They managed to whittle down the original 24 claimants to four. Significantly, these four Irish and Scottish carpenters were from the Northampton UCATT branch, where the rank and file Building Workers Group have been campaigning for years. The branch was not going to be fobbed off easily. The men also had the backing of the lay London and South Eastern Regional UCATT Council.

This is a significant victory. It means that European Employment Law is now enshrined in British law. Hundreds of thousands of self employed building workers are now legally entitled to holiday pay. However, this won’t be given automatically, but will have to be fought for. The key message of the victory already gained is for members not to depend on full-timer officials but rely on their own self organisation.

The way is now open for a campaign to end the massive casualisation in the building industry. The Building Worker Group also intend to move on to direct action to stop the killings on the sites.

Tags: , , ,