Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg, Molyneux?

ROSA LUXEMBURG SOCIALISM OR BARBARISM

The more I think about it, the more I realize I have my work cut out vis-a-vis convincing TUSC to join Labour. If you think that will stop me, dream on. I have almost 19,000 Twitter followers, so I may as well make use of that account to convince the maximum numbers of socialists: https://twitter.com/derekrootboy. But the 140 character limit is a serious problem. Using this blog – as well as my Medium blog – lets me to develop arguments more coherently. But writers block (excused at least in part by terminal adhd) stops me doing that very well. When I do draft something I deem worthy of reading, wordpress’s statistics suggest these posts are not being read, making me wonder why I bother. Possibly at least some posts are read more than the stats suggest. Could be that Theresa May and Amber Rudd have been slamming super or hyper injunctions on journalists and others admitting they read these blog, with google and other search engines helping them bury the evidence. Not saying I necessarily believe that, but I’m unwilling to rule it out. Until I know better I’ll do what I can, hoping enough people share my thoughts to the right people even if wordpress and Medium tell me I’m wasting my cyber-breath. Because I have so much to say, while lacking a clear idea about the best structure for my various arguments, I’ll share everything in bits and pieces. Scattergun approach. It might work. Right?

What’s the point of this title of this post: “Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg, Molyneux”? My last blog [here] appealed to John Molyneux to join me in advocating Britain’s TUSC joins Labour. I know he won’t be convinced already; this is going to take some time, but I can wait. While I’m waiting, I’ll try my best to accelerate the process with an argument or two. Time to challenge some of John’s assumptions about who is and who is not a guardian of the Marxist method. Does he expect ‘reformists’ like me to celebrate the October Revolution the way Lenin, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg did? If not he’ll be disappointed. John Molyneux can’t insert a cigarette paper between his attitude towards the October Revolution and mine. What does divide us is our attitude towards the ability of Labour Party members arguing what Rosa Luxemburg argued in the conclusion of her – deeply flawed – analysis of the Russian Revolution:

  • The basic error of the Lenin-Trotsky theory is that they too, just like Kautsky, oppose dictatorship to democracy. “Dictatorship or democracy” is the way the question is put by Bolsheviks and Kautsky alike. The latter naturally decides in favor of “democracy,” that is, of bourgeois democracy, precisely because he opposes it to the alternative of the socialist revolution. Lenin and Trotsky, on the other hand, decide in favor of dictatorship in contradistinction to democracy, and thereby, in favor of the dictatorship of a handful of persons, that is, in favor of dictatorship on the bourgeois model. They are two opposite poles, both alike being far removed from a genuine socialist policy. The proletariat, when it seizes power, can never follow the good advice of Kautsky, given on the pretext of the “unripeness of the country,” the advice being to renounce socialist revolution and devote itself to democracy. It cannot follow this advice without betraying thereby itself, the International, and the revolution. It should and must at once undertake socialist measures in the most energetic, unyielding and unhesitant fashion, in other words, exercise a dictatorship, but a dictatorship of the class, not of a party or of a clique – dictatorship of the class, that means in the broadest possible form on the basis of the most active, unlimited participation of the mass of the people, of unlimited democracy.
  • “As Marxists,” writes Trotsky, “we have never been idol worshippers of formal democracy.” Surely, we have never been idol worshippers of socialism or Marxism either. Does it follow from this that we may throw socialism on the scrap-heap, à la Cunow, Lensch and Parvus [i.e. move to the right], if it becomes uncomfortable for us? Trotsky and Lenin are the living refutation of this answer.
  • “We have never been idol-worshippers of formal democracy.” All that that really means is: We have always distinguished the social kernel from the political form of bourgeois democracy; we have always revealed the hard kernel of social inequality and lack of freedom hidden under the sweet shell of formal equality and freedom – not in order to reject the latter but to spur the working class into not being satisfied with the shell, but rather, by conquering political power, to create a socialist democracy to replace bourgeois democracy – not to eliminate democracy altogether.
  • But socialist democracy is not something which begins only in the promised land after the foundations of socialist economy are created; it does not come as some sort of Christmas present for the worthy people who, in the interim, have loyally supported a handful of socialist dictators. Socialist democracy begins simultaneously with the beginnings of the destruction of class rule and of the construction of socialism. It begins at the very moment of the seizure of power by the socialist party. It is the same thing as the dictatorship of the proletariat.
  • Yes, dictatorship! But this dictatorship consists in the manner of applying democracy, not in its elimination, but in energetic, resolute attacks upon the well-entrenched rights and economic relationships of bourgeois society, without which a socialist transformation cannot be accomplished. But this dictatorship must be the work of the class and not of a little leading minority in the name of the class – that is, it must proceed step by step out of the active participation of the masses; it must be under their direct influence, subjected to the control of complete public activity; it must arise out of the growing political training of the mass of the people.
  • Doubtless the Bolsheviks would have proceeded in this very way were it not that they suffered under the frightful compulsion of the world war, the German occupation and all the abnormal difficulties connected therewith, things which were inevitably bound to distort any socialist policy, however imbued it might be with the best intentions and the finest principles.
  • A crude proof of this is provided by the use of terror to so wide an extent by the Soviet government, especially in the most recent period just before the collapse of German imperialism, and just after the attempt on the life of the German ambassador. The commonplace to the effect that revolutions are not pink teas is in itself pretty inadequate.
  • Everything that happens in Russia is comprehensible and represents an inevitable chain of causes and effects, the starting point and end term of which are: the failure of the German proletariat and the occupation of Russia by German imperialism. It would be demanding something superhuman from Lenin and his comrades if we should expect of them that under such circumstances they should conjure forth the finest democracy, the most exemplary dictatorship of the proletariat and a flourishing socialist economy. By their determined revolutionary stand, their exemplary strength in action, and their unbreakable loyalty to international socialism, they have contributed whatever could possibly be contributed under such devilishly hard conditions. The danger begins only when they make a virtue of necessity and want to freeze into a complete theoretical system all the tactics forced upon them by these fatal circumstances, and want to recommend them to the international proletariat as a model of socialist tactics. When they get in there own light in this way, and hide their genuine, unquestionable historical service under the bushel of false steps forced on them by necessity, they render a poor service to international socialism for the sake of which they have fought and suffered; for they want to place in its storehouse as new discoveries all the distortions prescribed in Russia by necessity and compulsion – in the last analysis only by-products of the bankruptcy of international socialism in the present world war.
  • Let the German Government Socialists cry that the rule of the Bolsheviks in Russia is a distorted expression of the dictatorship of the proletariat. If it was or is such, that is only because it is a product of the behavior of the German proletariat, in itself a distorted expression of the socialist class struggle. All of us are subject to the laws of history, and it is only internationally that the socialist order of society can be realized. The Bolsheviks have shown that they are capable of everything that a genuine revolutionary party can contribute within the limits of historical possibilities. They are not supposed to perform miracles. For a model and faultless proletarian revolution in an isolated land, exhausted by world war, strangled by imperialism, betrayed by the international proletariat, would be a miracle.
  • What is in order is to distinguish the essential from the non-essential, the kernel from the accidental excrescencies in the politics of the Bolsheviks. In the present period, when we face decisive final struggles in all the world, the most important problem of socialism was and is the burning question of our time. It is not a matter of this or that secondary question of tactics, but of the capacity for action of the proletariat, the strength to act, the will to power of socialism as such. In this, Lenin and Trotsky and their friends were the first, those who went ahead as an example to the proletariat of the world; they are still the only ones up to now who can cry with Hutten: “I have dared!”
  • This is the essential and enduring in Bolshevik policy. In this sense theirs is the immortal historical service of having marched at the head of the international proletariat with the conquest of political power and the practical placing of the problem of the realization of socialism, and of having advanced mightily the settlement of the score between capital and labor in the entire world. In Russia, the problem could only be posed. It could not be solved in Russia. And in this sense, the future everywhere belongs to “Bolshevism.” [Rosa Luxemburg, “The Russian Revolution”, Chapter 8: ‘Democracy and Dictatorship’] https://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1918/russian-revolution/ch08.htm

 

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John Molyneux defends Leninism

I bought a John Molyneux book yesterday: “Lenin For Today”. I probably shouldn’t review it until I’ve actually read it. But I already know we disagree. That’s okay. John’s “Marxism and the Party” was one of the first three books I read after joining the SWP a few days before the Falkland’s War, the others being John Reed’s Ten Days that Shook the World, as well as the short, wonderful, Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels. All three of these texts made a massive impression on me, changing my politics forever, and for the better, pretty much overnight.

I quickly realized that John and Chris Harman were (for me if for no one else) the two outstanding teachers of the Marxist method within the SWP, an opinion I hold to this day. Thanks to this pair, I chose to focus my reading on the writings of Lukacs and Gramsci, as well as the usual four revolutionary Marxist giants: Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. A handful of others were as important for me, a short list that included Rosa Luxemburg and Chris Harman, as well as the far less prolific Comrade Molyneux.

Until very recently, I could easily have echoed the conclusions set out in “Marxism and the Party”. But within the last few months, I feel I have outgrown them. I want to make the case against the kind of Leninism John continues to defend. But I want a comradely dialogue with my ex-comrades. I am not in the least afraid of being dismissed as a reformist, although I doubt anyone will go that far, probably acccepting, somewhat condescendingly, that I am a ‘centrist’. I don’t accept the accusation of centrism, nor do I believe I have abandoned the Marxist method that guided Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky or Rosa Luxemburg. I believe if Chris Harman was still alive he would agree with what I am arguing, and I look forward to convincing John Molyneux too. We shall see. We shall see.

By the way, John Molyneux spoke a few weeks ago about his new book,  and the video can be found on Youtube here. I left the following comment on it:

“This might be corrected later in this talk – or a contribution from the floor – [I began this comment as I listened, and the hoped-for correction wasn’t made by John nor anyone else. TD] but John forgets that Lenin started his research for State And Revolution to try to challenge the idea that Kautsky was wrong about the nature of the state. Bukharin alleged this, and Lenin promised he’d prove he had fallen for anarchist gibberish. It was only when he started to reread everything Marx wrote that he realized Bukharin had been right all along. At least that was the conclusion he drew from his research. In reality, the evidence is more ambiguous. But even if it was an open and shut case, that still wouldn’t prove Marx was right. I would now prefer to explore in detail the arguments for and against the parliamentary road. I’m willing to keep enough of an open mind to debate with others because I know I won’t win everyone round in a single go, and want to leave debtes on good terms, to give me a chance to do better next time. More importantly, Marxists need to reeducate the exploited and oppressed about the exploitative nature of capitalism. If only 1% of voters reject the necessity of the profit system, of its legitmacy (and I doubt it’s as much as 1% anymore), whether or not it can be replaced by parliamentary methods, is a purely scholastic question. The left has to accept the historic loss of the gains the Second, then Third International, bequeathed to us ‘Trots’. Tony Blair’s ripping up of Clause Four has lead – courtesy of the BBC, SKY News, Channel4 News etc – to censorship that deprives strikers of the categories they need to wage even the most limited class struggles. Only by means of so-called ‘entryism’ can Corbyn secure his chance to test the parliamentary road. And that is something every Marxist needs as much as he does. Anyone rejecting this necessity of testing the parliamentary road to socialism has forgotten Left-wing communism, an infantile disorder. It is only by focusing the real left in united action against our class enemies that we can ensure Britain’s Allende doesn’t pay with his life, nor the working class end up crushed by a bloody coup that will knock us back decades. With or without TUSC joining Labour, Britain is heading inexorably towards the Chilean experiment. We need to prepare because Labour MPs will be preparing, and very few of today’s PLP will be joining the struggle on the same side as the leader of their party. In today’s circumstances, joining Labour is as essential as when we ‘Trots’ joined after WW2. That doesn’t mean surrendering our backbone at the door, although it is obvious that John assumes that would be inevitable. What it does mean is accepting our class will benefit from our full particpation in all their debates. But we can do this as a tendency within Corbyn’s broad church – an open one, rather than the clandestine ones Trots set up against each other in the 1980s before being witch hunted out by McCarthyites like Tom Watson and Neil Kinnock. Marxists need to welcome dialogue, not stand on the sidelines heckling. Fraternal dialogue, yes. Noisy monologue, no. I’m not accusing John of wanting to isolate himself, but the rise of Corbyn is going to get stronger, and his movement will be derailed by hangers on now rapidly trying to weasel themselves back into Corbyn’s affections having tried to destroy him. Owen Jones name springs to mind. Comrade Owen doesn’t want the SWP to join Labour. And if pissing Owen Jones off isn’t a good enough to join, then I don’t know what is. [slightly edited, mostly to eliminate typos. TD]

 

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There’s no parliamentary road to WHAT?

Marxists need to join Labour immediately. But there’s no point doing that unless we know exactly why we’re doing it and what our long term strategy is.

I have been trying to explain my thinking for some time, from long before the general election. But I need to narrow down my focus to TUSC comrades sufficiently to accelerate this process. There is no time to waste because, despite what today’s MSM consensus now is, Jeremy Corbyn’s enemies could still topple him – even if that is only by unconstitutional means – in other words effectively splitting the party, losing in the process almost everything apart from the overwhelming majority of the PLP.

Depriving Corbyn of most members of parliament long before the left is ready to deal with such a split is something we have to take into consideration so that we can head it off as best we can.

For such a parliamentary split to take place, the PLP would resort to pretexts such as Corbyn’s refusal to grovel to the CIA, NSA, MI6, GCHQ etc over Venezuela, for example. Alternatively, Theresa May and Amber Rudd could exploit corrupt undercover cops of the Bob Lambert and Freddie Scappaticci variety. The latter would, naturally, perjure their way to framing innocent Muslims as their brothers and sisters once framed innocent Irish Catholics during ‘the Troubles’.

Theresa May and Amber Rudd could provoke riots in the hope of giving cops – and quite possibly the army too – ample excuses to impose an extremely violent authoritarianism. Streets flowing with blood?

Streets flowing with blood? Who the hell wants that? Not me. TUSC needs to join Labour immediately in order to stop society descending into that, courtesy of the state provoking counterproductive violence. If we do see such violence, make no mistake that a key cause of it will be agent provocateurs posing as part of the left, doing that specifically to frame us.

The reality is riots and terrorism are the price society pays for the lack of collective radical alternatives for the victims of exploitation and oppression. Alternatives do exist, obviously. Unfortunately, the British Establishment pays (vastly overpays) Tory editors and so-called ‘journalists’ at the BBC, SKY News, Channel4 News, ITV and C5 to keep the voters in the dark about these alternatives. And the Blairite PLP – amply assisted by so-called Labour Party ‘commentators’ – conspire with the profiteering parasites to keep voters in the dark.

The only way to get the left’s alternatives aired in the mass media is by deselecting unrepentant Tory entryists who refuse to tolerate the expressed wishes of their CLP’s. This censorship is insidious, and it works. But it is only able to work due to divisions of the left. Let’s cut out the cancer of sectarianism, comrades.

Marxists should join Labour openly. But there’s no point describing ourselves as ‘Leninists’ or ‘Trotskyists’ no matter how much we agree with a lot of their writings and what they did. ‘Leninism’ and ‘Trotskyism’ are terms associated with splits in, respectively, the Second and then the Third [Stalinised] Internationals. I propose that TUSC stops justifying splits from broad churches such as Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. There are several reasons I reject such splits.

Firstly, Jeremy Corbyn wants to unite the left, and he has more than earned his right to get us all into his one big tent. Secondly, first-past-the-post imposes on socialists compromises of a specific sort. Should we secure a different electoral system, then splits may become justified once more. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Second, it takes two to tango. Socialists denied membership of Labour are thereby liberated to let voters decide who the real splitters are. Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t want a split. But he has yet to free Labour’s membership from the ballot-rigging McCarthyites who went to the bourgeois courts to try to stop Corbyn even being on the ballot paper. Any individual member of TUSC denied his/her absolute right to participate in the broad church is free to do their own thing. And Labour voters [and, in secret, members too] may decide that any split vote is the fault of Tom Watson etc. The ball is in the Blairites’ court, not ours.

Thirdly, Marxists can’t use the alleged impossibility of a parliamentary road to socialism as a pretext for splitting the political organizations of the working class. We can’t do that because we are dealing with a situation our heroes never faced. Lenin and Trotsky were fighting for the hearts and souls of a constituency that broadly knew what socialism was. The details weren’t all pinned down, but everybody knew that it related to the expropriation of the expropriators: abolition of private property in the means of production, distribution and exchange.

Since corrupt war criminal Tony Blair robbed Labour of that Clause Four principle printed on the party cards of every single party member, the BBC, SKY News, Channel4 News, ITV, C5 has tippexed out the justification for it from the airwaves. Anyone digging up the past is demonised as a violent extremist for not bowing down before the purity of the surplus value vampires bleeding humanity dry in all four corners of the Earth.

Labour MPs no longer even feel a need to question the legitimacy of workers being endlessly exploited due to accidents of birth. This wretched state of affairs permeates the entire PLP, including most so-called Corbynite MPs. Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t yet tried to restore Labour’s 1918 commitment to the abolition of capitalist exploitation, but today’s members feel it in their bones. And TUSC needs to stand alongside these people, shaping debates at every level of the party on what to do about a tiny elite whose values corrupt democracy while legitimising the ripping up of health and safety measures responsible for the likes of Grenfell.

Marxist groups following an ‘entryist’ strategy won’t last five minutes. ‘Internal documents’ will be leaked by police spies. And ‘secret meetings’ will be taped and videoed with Jeremy Corbyn held responsible for conspiratorial work which he neither knew of nor approved. The days of excessive caucusing have long gone, comrades. GCHQ, MI5 and Special Branch has reduced the 57 varieties of Trotskyite alphabet soup to an unedible porridge. Time for the left to enthusiastically open up our meetings, and our minds. Let’s join Labour to learn as well as to teach. Let’s be generous in our praise of others, especially Jeremy Corbyn. Let’s shake hands, offer and accept olive branches when offered to us. Let’s have truces. Let’s unite against our common enemies: the capitalist exploiters and the most outrageous anti-democratic aspects of their state.

Can those of us who cast doubt in a parliamentary road to socialism coexist in a single party with those who are much more naive? In my opinion, we certainly can.

In the first place, until we are agreed what this socialism is that we are fighting for, it’s an academic question as to how we can get there. In the process of debating this question, we can tackle the question of self-defence, and we can debate how the capitalist state resorts to counterrevolutionary violence to stop the people imposing their rule by means of democracy. Remember Chile? Remember Margaret Thatcher’s chum General Pinochet? Remember what NATO is doing in Egypt today? Remember how MI5 told Tony Benn they’d assassinate him if he was elected Prime Minister? Why should we expect Tony Benn’s favourite MP – Jeremy Corbyn – to be given the kid glove treatment any more than Benn, or Salvador Allende got? Let Marxists debate these questions. And let’s do this concretely, not cut ourselves off from Labour members when they express no wish to be isolated from us.

 

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Why TUSC needs to join Labour

DAVE NELLIST CORBYN

Dave Nellist and Jeremy Corbyn

Dave Nellist belongs in Labour. He knows that. So does Jeremy Corbyn. Why are we waiting?

Everybody knows that Dave Nellist has zero interest in leading TUSC into splitting the anti-Tory vote under any first-past-the-post elections when Jeremy Corbyn is Labour’s leader. Corbyn has long been engaged in a mass recruitment of exactly the people who would once have happily cast a protest vote for TUSC, so there is no space for both parties, not today and – if the left has anything to do with it – not ever. The interests of Corbyn’s base and TUSC’s coincide. So, why exactly are we waiting?

TUSC did once have a powerful trade union affiliate – the RMT – and they support Jeremy Corbyn. All trade unions humiliated by corrupt war criminal Tony Blair are desperately trying to be part of the Labour Party family. There is no future for TUSC outside Labour, so long as there exists the unqualified right to join. Can the Blairites seize the latter proviso to keep the genuine left divided? Clearly, that is what general secretary Iain McNicol wants, but he is held in contempt by most members, so spineless he tried, unsuccessfully, to deny members their right to elect Corbyn the leader.

Keeping the real left divided is what most Labour MPs want. Their tragedy, alas, is that the members and Labour Party voters overwhelmingly want the left to unite.

A mere 6% of Labour voters cast a vote for the local candidate. On the contrary, the PLP know they owe their jobs to the attractive power of the party leader. Dislodge him they cannot. They wasted a full two years sabotaging Labour 24-7 – on television and radio – only keeping their heads down (mostly keeping their heads down) in the final month before the general election. That single month, unbelievably, was all Jeremy Corbyn needed to defuse the effects of this sabotage.

Jeremy Corbyn didn’t quite win. Nevertheless, within a mere month, he reduced Theresa May’s allegedly impregnable 20% opinion poll lead to practically nothing. This despite bias on an unprecedented scale from all five of the broadcaster networks. Tories have descended into civil war as a consequence of the loss of their majority when they’d prepared themselves for a landslide victory of maybe one hundred or more seats.  With no way out, stuck with a laughing stock Prime Minister who is in no doubt that she is detested by all her MPs but unable to dump her. They can’t dump their leader because all those who voted Tory did so to award her a personal mandate. Should Tory MPs now dump this most presidential of presidential Prime Ministers, they’d have little option but to call a second snap election. And that election would take place in the wake of an inevitably bloody leadership contests.

Tory MPs are now stuck with each other, blatantly briefing against each other, with hoards of their younger members warning the so-called big beasts wanting the top job that they’re unwilling to acccept any of them, which further explains why Theresa May has a base to hold her in office for several months yet: the younger MPs need time to raise their profile before the members get to vote on their next leader.

This so-called party of gorvernment is in meltdown. And it is in hock to a tiny reactionary party, one that doesn’t even accept Theresa May’s version of Brexit. Labour is set to draw ever more members, activists and voters. So, why are we waiting for TUSC to join Labour?

Is there any good reason for TUSC to boycott Labour? In my opinion, there are no good reasons, but I will address one or two of the bad ones.

Firstly, Jeremy Corbyn has few MPs he can rely on. Of the PLP, Dennis Skinner is the most loyal on the backbenches, with Diane Abbott his most trustworthy front bencher. Unfortunately, most of the so-called ‘Corbynite’ MPs are so in name only, most seemingly desperate to appease PLP colleagues who, alas, are overwhelmingly Blairite.

So-called Corbynite MPs seem to have already surrendered to Corbyn’s enemies and now merely desire to get their names on the ballot paper when Corbyn eventually retires. Alternatively, if they don’t expect to get the top job, they want at least to be part of the front bench when one of their colleagues takes over, relegating the Corbyn era to a footnote in the party’s history. So these Corbynites refuse to defend Corbyn as he deserves to be defended, by means of deselection if that’s the only alternative.

The reality is most of the PLP have no intention of becoming the servants of their members. They dismiss the membership as an unavoidable evil, irritating, good for nothing other than being wheeled out at the last minute to canvass for them come election time. Give us yer money and then shut the **** up. Such Blairites know their days are numbered and are barely disguising their bid to set up a new party within a party, with Chuka Umunna their current shop steward.

TUSC can’t call for a mass purge of the PLP because everything depends on the CLPs. Should members reach an accommodation with a sitting MP, then, like it or not, the left has to accept this. But by joining Labour, TUSC can participate in debates and MPs sabotaging Jeremy Corbyn will find it hard to get away with this. So, why are we waiting?

Since Jeremy Corbyn may be toppled before the PLP becomes more representative of members, would it not be better for TUSC to bide its time? Absolutely not. By standing on the sidelines, TUSC would contribute to the likelihood of the left losing its grip on Labour and a return to Blairism. TUSC would be blamed by voters if we lose this golden opportunity. TUSC’s ambitions should not be limited to picking up a few pieces after the Jeremy Corbyn experiment dies. No. TUSC needs to be a key player in this experiment.

What are the limits of Jeremy Corbyn’s experiment? Who knows. What I am proposing is Marxists joining Britain’s broad church of the left a mere three months before the hundredth anniversary of the October Revolution, the key lesson of which is – allegedly – is the indispensability of a democratic centralist vanguard party to get a socialist society. What I am proposing, therefore, seems to be a betrayal of ‘Leninism’ and ‘Trotskyism’. And, to be frank, I guess it is. However, neither of those Marxists proposed splitting the parties of the Second International until after the betrayal of international socialism by their leaders during the imperialist first world war. Lenin and Trotsky were as enthusiastic as was Rosa Luxemburg in dismissing those who defended such splits as ultra-leftist sectarians. It is for very similar reasons that I think it is ultra leftism to boycott Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

If Jeremy Corbyn manages to convince Labour’s members to allow all Marxists to join, then a split by Blairites may become inevitable. But that won’t be our fault, nor will it be his. We fight for the maximum unity of all the exploited and oppressed. If MPs prefer to climb into bed with Philip Hammond, Vince Cable, Alastair Campbell, George Osborne, William Hague and David Cameron, that’s their right. But I know how Labour voters will vote. And it won’t be for those openly discussing dumping democracy in the letters pages of the Financial Times or protecting agent provocateur police spy rapists and serial killers like Special Branch’s Bob Lambert and Freddie Scappaticci.

Is there a parliamentary road to socialism? To offer an unequivocal ‘NO!’ will probably be enough to stop Jeremy Corbyn getting Marxists past the McCarthyite gate keepers. But that’s not why I am prepared to hedge my bets on this one. Marx and Engels did think it was possible. You can’t answer this question in a 140 character tweet. Nor can you in five-minute interviews with a hostile, vastly overpaid Tory bully working to corrupt democracy for the BBC, SKY News, Channel4 News, ITV or C5. Nor has this question even been much discussed by those who split from the second international to set up the third. Time to consider this question, and I don’t think TUSC should fear being put on the spot about this. Whatever this question is, it’s hardly a key question for today. It is one we can safely put on the backburner as Marxists and non-Marxists alike unite to elect Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister, unite with our co-thinkers around the world, becoming the champions of the exploited and oppressed everywhere, fighting to turn swords into ploughshares, and helping the rich anti-democratic parasites of the world have their ill-gotten gains returned to their victims.

 

Workers of the world unite.

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Graham Stewart owes me an apology

tGRAHAM STEWART TWITTER ABUSE

BBC Scotland’s Graham Stewart owes me an apology, but I won’t be getting one if it’s up to him. I think it’s worthwhile addressing why I am blogging about this since any apology I do get will be insincere. Where do I begin?

For some time now, I’ve been calling on the left to be careful how we engage with mainstream media broadcasters on social media. Many of my fellow lefties dismiss every MSM employee as equally bad. Either that or they have a bee in their bonnet about one particular network: typically either the BBC or Rupert Murdoch’s SKY News for, allegedly, only employing right-wing clones. These are very crude and totally indefensible assertions.

It is true that there are few political broadcasters across all networks who do a good job. What qualifies as ‘doing a good job’ in this context? I would like to think we can agree on the basics. Either way, my detailed answer can be found in several of my blog posts: here, for example. But the fact that even today there are still some broadcasters worth watching/listening to means we should single them out for praise, as negative feedback won’t work in a vacuum. We should even give credit where it’s due when typically less good broadcasters pleasantly surprise us. Is there any point praising people for doing their job? Is that not what they get paid for? That is the ‘logic’ justifying the ultra-left sectarian dismissal of all the MSM/bourgeoise media. But it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, not if the left wants to win hegemony throughout society, rather than settle for being generations of angry spectators heckling pointlessly as we’re escorted off the stage of history.

Politics broadcasters who are fair deserve praise, as do those capable of making politics entertaining. Being on top of their brief, and capable of thinking on their feet during interviews is crucial for a broadcaster to be taken seriously. Most broadcasters on every channel fails on every ground, especially at the BBC. The handful who qualify as good broadcasters (and, controversially on the left, I’d include Andrew Neil on my personal list of exceptions to the rule) set an excellent example to colleagues, thereby piling up pressure on employers who have to respond to some extent to their audience, and the audiences of their competitors. But the latter depends entirely on how the left-wing part of the audience responds.

If fair journalism (of the kind we have come to expect from, say, Eddie Mair, Chris Mason, Faisal Islam, Samira Ahmed, Mark Mardell and others) is not rewarded with praise when justified, then it will be infinitely easier for right wing editors and proprietors to sack them, or to so rarely let them have access to the airwaves that it amounts to the same thing.

Unless good broadcasters elicit positive feedback on social media (and that is in our hands), their bosses will punish them as an implicit warning to colleagues: “Don’t you dare step out of line, or you too can expect similar treatment.”

Praising good journalism can do more than rein in Tory editors imposing straightjackets on decent journalists: when the good ones are warmly praised on social media, their less confident, or possibly merely careerist, colleagues may want a piece of the action. Few humans are entirely immune to negative feedback in any forum if that is all they ever receive. If broadcasters know how to stop the worst abuse they receive on Twitter, or get a better balance, possibly even earn plenty of praise, then why would they turn their back on that?

Good broadcasters are congenitally incapable (as are the bad ones) of being politically neutral. There’s no point demanding that as we can scour through histories and find enough ‘dirt’ to make everyone unfit to be a broadcaster either for being too left-wing or too right-wing while a student or whatever.

Every last one of us has an agenda, on big and small matters. We all have to deal with inhabiting a planet where others challenge the way we see things. What distinguishes the good from the bad broadcaster is their successful suppression of opinions, allowing others to have their say.

Many on the left dismiss the MSM because what they demand is blind obedience to whatever own particular hobby horse happens to be. And the left is not without divisions of our own. And we even, as individuals, change our minds. It is not in our interests to suppress other views. We are not helped by soft interviews. We can’t expect to get them. And soft interviews wouldn’t be any good for us even if we could get them.

The good interviewer isn’t distinguished from the bad by the former parroting our views. The left has to demand that we are allowed access to the media to make our case if a valid one, especially an already hugely popular one. When we do get interviews we can’t complain when our views are challenged, not if everyone faces similar treatment by the interviewer in question. And that is why I disagree with almost everyone on the left about Andrew Neil.

I disagree with him about a lot of things. But his general election interview of Theresa May was hardly designed to help her secure any kind of mandate. So, when he blocks people on Twitter for saying he was openly biased towards Theresa May in the General Election, I can’t blame him. Not just that interview sets him apart from almost every broadcaster at the BBC and across all five networks: in general, he doesn’t make things easier for Tory politicians. Our criticism of him should relate more to the absence of our voice on the telly. We, Jeremy Corbyn’s voters that is, are censored almost entirely out of the picture. We deserve a right to reply. The question is how we accelerate our visibility on the mainstream media.

And that brings me back to Graham Stewart. When he responded to my criticism of him on twitter, I was genuinely surprise: few broadcasters try to defend themselves. I hadn’t framed my tweets in a manner designed to open up dialogue, but if Comrade Stewart tried to address my concerns, then he could,  possibly, have earned a degree of respect. But his responses were poor, so I have even less respect for him than I already had. I wouldn’t have minded if he blocked me as that’s how MSM Tories tend to behave, dishing out abuse, but unwilling to stomache a taste of their own medicine. Having received feedback, I decided to engage with him to see where this got us.

Graham Stewart defended racial profiling. At any rate, that’s the only conclusion I could draw from his defence of treating a Muslim reading a book about Syria as a potential terrorist. Only racists can justify such racial profiling. Since Graham Stewart disagrees, I draw my own conclusion. I’m reading a book about Syria at the moment, and have read others in the past. Why would I be unlikely to face intimidation from the authorities if I was seen doing this on an plane? Possibly because I don’t fit the racial profile? There is nothing suspicious about reading books on Syria, regardless of clothing or skin colour, or the food you eat on a plane or anywhere else.

Listen to Graham Stewart’s apologetics for the scum who removed a Muslim woman’s human rights for daring to reading a book, and listen to his incredulity that she wanted an apology for. And then judge for yourself if you think he was even handed. If you side with him, then words fail me. Anyway, you can find this interview with Faizah Shaheen about twenty minutes into this program: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08x9tx6

I don’t think Graham Stewart has a leg to stand on. He thinks Faizah was treated fairly, she doesn’t. But maybe I’m wrong. I don’t accept that, but others might. As Faizah explained there’s a link between official Islamophobia and hate crimes against Muslims. By refusing to challenge establishment racism, Graham Stewart makes society a more dangerous place for vulnerable people, by helping the violent Islamophobes feel safe in their hate fueled fury. This is how I see things, and I don’t see why I should be insulted for making my opinion known on social media. Graham Stewart went on to tell me that I was alleging only my views should be aired on his show. This is him descending into the gutter, and he knows it.

On Twitter and a variety of blogs I’ve called for respectful debate, listening to those who disagree with us, defending those who voted both ways in Scotland’s independence referendum, both ways on the Brexit vote, and for voting several different ways in Holyrood and Westminster elections. I frequently praise good broadcasters at the BBC – and others networks -, cutting them slack when they either have a bad day or deploy devil’s advocacy or simply disagree with what we think, as is their right and inevitable from time to time.

No one who reads what I’ve written on Twitter, this blog or anywhere else could fall for Graham Stewart’s bizarre caricature of my criticism of him. If he wants to block me, I can’t stop him. Since I have zero respect for him, I’ll shed no tears if he blocks me, and it won’t do him much good.

Graham Stewart is an unapologetic clueless, reactionary who isn’t worth one penny of our license fee. Sack him and award Samira Ahmed a pay rise from the money saved.

 

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I AM NOT AN ENTRYIST. I’M A FREE MAN/WOMAN!

I AM NOT A NUMBER IM A FREE MAN

Yesterday, I made the case for all Marxists, at least in England, joining Labour immediately: here. In that article, I recommended we refer to ourselves as ‘Marxists’, rather than a subdivision of this group, specifically ‘Leninist’ and ‘Trotskyist’. I promised I’d explain why we should drop the latter terms, and I will do that now. Prior to addressing that specifically, however, I want to tackle the question of ‘entryism’.

Marxists joining Labour should reject ‘entryism’ as a label for what we’re doing. That term is nothing more than an insult used by McCarthyite ballot riggers who successfully smeared Jeremy Corbyn, mass purging his supporters while stealing their money, and rigging the party’s annual conferences by purging delegates known to be supportive of Jeremy Corbyn. As consequence of this illegal behavior, they have rigged the National Executive Committee as well. They purge people without so much as resorting to even kangaroo courts, denying the accused natural justice. These ballot riggers deserve to be persued through the courts for their illegal activities.

Are Marxists ‘entryists’? No. Not so long as we join Labour with the intention of making it our home. ‘Entryism’ implies a strategy of splitting, a smash and grab operation. I’m not proposing that. Under first-past-the-post, you only split votes if you don’t care who is the beneficiary of your electoral successes, even if they’re only measured in terms of saving your deposit. But Marxists are far from being impartial in the struggle between Jeremy Corbyn on the one hand and, on the other, Theresa May or any other alternative Tory Party would-be prime minister.

Should Britain’s electoral system enable unstable coalitions to break up relatively painlessly, then voters could feel free to vote for who they like, rather than against who they dislike most. But we deal with reality as it exists today, not how it could turn out at some unspecified point in the future. Marxists don’t intend to enter, then leave the Labour Party. We want to make this broad church our home. Marxists are not bothered about sharing a broad church with non-Marxists. And that brings me to why I reject the term ‘Leninist’ and ‘Trotskyist’.

Neither Lenin nor Trosky advocated splitting the parties of the Second International until the betrayal of their leaders during World War One. Marxists today – certainly under first-past-the-post – can’t afford to split parties like Labour, not the Labour Party of today with Jeremy Corbyn as leader. This is the party that is once more giving the exploited and the oppressed hope of a better world. Voters and activists are investing their hopes in this party, and only deluded sectarians would not want a piece of the action.

Only sectarians fear having our ideas subject to critical scrutinty. Let a thousand flowers bloom. Go to CLPs to listen, as well as have your say, and be respectful to those who disagree, turning the other cheek if necessary. No one has a monopoly of wisdom, and Marxists need to develop strategy and tactics in line with what our brothers and sisters are prepared to do. The masses are moving, and Marxists need to march with them, not criticize from the sidelines.

Why should we not call ourselves Leninists or Trotskyists? Those terms are associated with hard splits from non-Marxists based on, among other things, whether or not there is a parliamentary road to socialism. This is simply not a credible option today, not so long as alternatives exist, and exist they do.

Lenin and Trotsky split parties based on existing consciousness and organization at their time. Today’s consciousness has been thrown back a century and more, and when most people have no idea what socialism means, whether it can or can’t be achieved through parliament is a meaningless abstraction.

Tony Blair’s notorious ripping up of Clause Four changed reality. From 1918 (directly inspired by the Russian Revolution) until the Blair’s theft of the Labour Party’s leadership, every Labour membership card committed its owner, including yuppie entryists like Tony Blair to the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. The justification for public ownership derived from Karl Marx’s labour theory of value: surplus value rests on the exploitation of ‘wage slaves’ – those with nothing to sell but their ability to work. Unpaid labour is effectively stolen by a tiny class of parasites who monopolise access to the means of production as a consequence of accidents of birth.

Today, employees feel their exploitation, including those employees involved in the gig economy, mislabelled as part of the self employed workforce. Nevertheless – thanks to the censorship of Marxist ideas by the five television networks: BBC, SKY News, Channel4 News, ITV, C5 – there is zero access to the categories in the mainstream media essential to put effective resistance to capitalist exploitation into practise.

With or without Marxists, today’s Labour Party members will rediscover the key to class struggle. Why should Marxists not accelerate this process by sharing our ideas with those who have been blinded by Tory censorship, sharing our ideas while simultaneously sharing all non-Marxists’ day-to-day struggles. And part of this sharing involves full participation inside the broad church of anti-Tories: Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

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Marxists and Jeremy Corbyn

DAVE NELLIST TUSC

Karl Marx said he wasn’t a Marxist, but I am. At any rate, I try to be. When Marx insisted he wasn’t a Marxist, he was of course joking. What he meant to say was that if many of those who claim him as their inspiration are ‘Marxist’, then he wants to disassociate himself from them as forcefully as possible because they clearly didn’t understand what he was arguing. Marx and Engels were satisfied with calling themselves ‘scientific socialists’ – as distinct from the pre-Marxist utopian variety — and that’s a good enough label for all of us, surely. But Marxist is also, imho, equally as good.

It is less well known that Lenin denied being a Leninist, with Trotsky doing the same vis-a-vis ‘Trotskyism’. Part of the explanation for all them rejecting labels based on their names is they shared Isaac Newton’s modest affirmation that they were indebted to great men and women of the past upon whose shoulders they stood, seeing further than contemporaries as a consequence of this. Having sunk deep roots into the past masters of their respective sciences, they had infinitely greater prospects of adding value to what was already known.

Marxists — or scientific socialists – in Britain today should drop the labels ‘Leninist’ and ‘Trotskyist’, even if some of us have been happy to use them in the recent past. Why we should do that is something I can and will defend. But that will take more time than I have right now, and time is of the essence. I will explore all the pros and cons of dropping the terms ‘Leninist’ and ‘Trotskyist’ — but not today. Whether others drop these labels or not, Marxists are what we are. And it is as ‘Marxists’ that we need to join the Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn.

I restrict myself for the moment to the English political landscape rather than the United Kingdom as a whole, insisting that Scotland is – for a variety of reasons — a more complex problem. England on the other hand is an open and shut case: if you are a Marxist and you live in England, then you need to at least apply to join Labour immediately. And if your application to join is not initially accepted, you need to be patient. Work with Jeremy Corbyn and with the party’s rank and file. You’ll need their help to get you past today’s ballot-rigging McCarthyite gatekeepers, to climb on board Corbyn’s political juggernaut as soon as possible. We all need each other. Sectarians of every variety working to keep us apart suck bigtime.

By definition, Marxists fight for the unity of all the exploited and oppressed against our exploiters and oppressers. It goes without saying that we don’t always agree on what happens to be the correct strategy and tactics at any given point in time. Nevertheless, we’re more than willing to accept majority decisions. We can patiently let history judge who was and who was not right. Marxists who join Labour today won’t get our own way on everything, losing a great many votes. So what? We will make our case, democratically, debating with respect. We’ll campaign for the official Labour candidate whoever he/she happens to be, so long as they are the choice of the party’s local members, rather than some unaccountable Blairite parachuted into a constituency against the wishes of the membership.

Who is scared of Marxist participation in Labour? Blairites probably. Let them make their case. I doubt they’ll convince many rank and file members. The PLP is worried. They feel it in their bones that their days are numbered. Glastonbury, last week’s Durham Miners Gala and more besides suggests that Blairite MPs can only hold onto their jobs by abandoning their war against Jeremy Corbyn, a war that’s been waged 24–7 on the BBC, SKY News, Channel4 News, ITV and C5. Can they accept what Labour members want? Or would they rather split because they are either unable, or unwilling, to do enough to secure the support of their CLPs?

Different individuals will opt for different solutions. The truth is that no matter how much Blairites detest Jeremy Corbyn, they‘re incapable of setting aside their own not inconsiderable differences. They disagree with each other to such an extent that building a coherent electoral organization outside the Labour Party is a non-starter. How do we know this? Just look at their incompetence since Corbyn got his name on the ballot paper first time round.

The three anti-Corbyn candidates who stood in 2015 expecting to maximise their chances by lending each other their second preference votes got absolutely nowhere. They bitterly undermined each other, thereby consolidating Jeremy Corbyn’s alternative vision, with Corbyn coming across as a defiantly unspinable straight talker who engaged his brain as well as having a moral compass to guide him.

One year later the anti-Corbyn PLP attempted to unite behind a single anti-Corbyn candidate, hoping this would solve the problems. No such luck. They only further divided themselves due to their ‘united’ candidate’s neverending screwups, one of which being his insane bid to defeat Corbyn by pretending he agreed with 90% of his politics, which everyone knew to be a lie. Misrepresenting himself as a Corbynite exposed the Blairite candidate as a hypocrite, simultaneously alienating the PLP who felt nauseated that they were expected to vote for — and call on others to vote for — an MP whose policies they rejected, and reject to this day. Everything Blairites have tried thus far has backfired. This disunity is deeply embedded within the PLP, and it’s not going away. And that matters — a lot.

For a variety of reasons, it would be pointless for Marxists to call for the purging of Blairites. Firstly, there is no need. They are out of touch with Labour’s members, those who they’d need to canvass for them on the ground in any general election. In any fair race, they’ll come last every time. Let them apply to become Labour candidates. They’ll lose, which is self evidentally why they fear reselection so much. When they lose, can we expect them to accept the official Labour Party candidate, or is it more likely they’d split to stand as an ‘independent’ or to stand as part of a new party? The latter, obviously. But that would go down badly with voters, so lots of lost deposits beckon.

Having said that, if individual Blairites want to make their peace with the members, we need to call their bluff. Let’s see what they’re made of. If they want to wipe the slate clean, give them a chance. Don’t back them all into a corner. Why help unite them when nothing else can do that?

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