Richard Seymour had two main allies in his bid to smash the Socialist Workers Party to pieces while a member: Andy Newman’s blog and John Chamberlain’s blog.
Richard Seymour’s loyalties were always to undiluted enemies of the SWP. And look what has happened to them since Richard Seymour set up his network for those who jumped before they were expelled for outrageous breaches of discipline.
Firstly, we find John Chamberlain’s group accepting that the SWP is now a victim of a witch hunt. And he knows that Richard Seymour is at the heart of that witch hunt. John Chamberlain knows that these witch hunters now argue that nineteen year old women need to be protected from themselves, and that those who reject this agitate for women being placed in an unsafe environment, and have to be driven from their jobs, have to be denied a platform in the trade union movement, have to be denied the right to free speech in the universities….
Given that John Chamberlain’s group has forever and a day demanded the abolition of all age of consent legislation, explicitly calling for men to have the right to have sex with twelve year old boys and girls, he knows that sooner or later Richard Seymour and everyone who has launched this ludicrous witch hunt against the SWP will turn on his group, pretending they were unaware of any of these views. I simply do not believe this. Nor will anyone else. Richard Seymour’s network was set up by hypocrites who worked with those who want to abolish the age of consent. That is a fact.
What about Richard Seymour’s second megaphone used to try to help him destroy the SWP? What about Andy Newman?
Andy Newman is now defending Ed Miliband’s band of wretches who betrayed the greatest victims of David Cameron’s government. There are no limits to Ed Miliband’s betrayal of working class voters that will provoke Andy Newman into protesting against the Labour Party’s front bench. Why is that?
Andy Newman is not a socialist. Andy Newman is an idiot. His approach to the class struggle is to insist that we live under a capitalist economy and there is nothing we can do about it. That is not the socialist approach, Andy.
As Marx proved for himself as a young man, the source of all profit is surplus value extracted by those who own and control the means of production, distribution and exchange. Marx had to undergo years of intensive study until he uncovered all the secrets of this system. But long before he appreciated the difference between buying labour and buying labour power, Marx took as a given the exploitative relationship between those who own the means of production and those who have nothing to sell but their labour [labour power].
When Marx went to the working men’s clubs [as Marx explained when asked about reference to ‘working men’ in another context, he was using the word ‘man’ to include both sexes, something socialists no longer do in our politically correct environment] to explain this scientific discovery to them, he found them unresponsive to his patronizing attitude: Marx was simply preaching to the converted.
Worker activists, Marx discovered, didn’t need no bourgeois intellectual to tell them what they already felt in their bones. This, by the way, is something Marxists learn quite rapidly provided we come from the so-called Hegelian Marxist tradition. Besides, contrary to the prejudiced views of philanthropists and utopian socialists, the masses had intellectuals of their own: literate men (and women) who helped explain to those comrades who did not have the good fortune to learn to read what was to be found in the economic literature of Adam Smith and David Ricardo. They knew all about the labour theory of value. They were familiar with it before Marx was. And, with class incentives Marx lacked, they appreciated its significance, and did that also before Marx did, while he was still wasting his breath with radical idealists and crude materialist followers of Feurbach.
Fast-forward to the twentieth century
By 1918, the Labour Party’s leadership realised that it was no longer in its own long term interests to bury the truth of the labour theory of value, which bourgeois economists did as soon as they noticed how worker activists were employing the method to justify socialist propaganda and agitation. Labour realised it had no option but to embrace the practical consequences of the labour theory of value. And so, they embraced the notorious Clause Four Part Four.
Does the timing of Labour’s conversion to the socialist alternative to capitalism have any significance? After all the Labour representation committee had existed for many years by now. The reality is that the embrace of Clause Four was utterly cynical. The previous year we saw a socialist revolution successfully overthrow the old order in Russia. Lead by Lenin and Trotsky, that revolution helped spark similar movements across both sides during WWI, finding ample fuel piled up during the war and long before it by capitalism and pre-capitalist modes of exploitation.
As a senior Tory was to tell his fellows as workers marched home from the continent at the end of WWII a quarter of a century later, the ruling classes were dealing with millions of wage slaves who had spent many years fighting fascism, arms in hand, collectivized as never before. And they were doing so with a burning desire not to return to the horrible lives they had lead prior to the war: including mass unemployment, homelessness and hunger. “Give them reform or they will give us revolution!”
It was an almost identical anxiety that motivated Sydney and Beatrice Webb and the rest of those Labour Party right-wingers who embraced Clause Four in 1918: “Give the British workers hope of a parliamentary road to the expropriation of the expropriators or they will take the Bolshevik road!”
Fast-forward to the late twentieth century
Tony Blair’s ripping up of the Labour Party’s commitment to the overthrow of capitalism, even as a paper commitment to do something about this at some indeterminate date, has changed the political climate significantly, and for the worse.
When I was a child, and when I began my life as a political activist, socialists managed to participate in the political debate at an official level with the bedrock of socialist ideas and they got a hearing in the media. Our representatives took as a given the exploitative relationship between worker and the employer. The source of all profits is unpaid labour. The task of the wage slaves is to find a means putting an end to this exploitation. This was (and is) ABC for every socialist just as it was ABC to Spartacus that what he needed to do was seize an opportunity to end exploitation, not to find an excuse for surrendering to it as an unalterable fact of life.
The core of socialist activists saw further than the majority of our class, and that is why they grouped themselves into activist groups, often more divided than was necessary. However, these activists always found a sympathetic majority who were happy to engage in industrial action, including political strikes (illegal or otherwise), in order to ameliorate the rate of exploitation. However, Tony Blair put an end to all this. And this has reverberated throughout out the class struggle as the BBC, SKY, Channel Four News join all print media to portray socialist activists as dinosaurs. But we are not. The mass media has simply chosen to peddle lies by burying the truth. The only difference between their censorship of reality and that of the Pope who locked up Galileo is that we are still living in a world where those who lie about surplus value extraction are utterly dominant. So, comrades, what do we do about this?
Socialists have to accept that Ed Miliband is as much an apologist for capitalist exploitation as is David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage. His perspective is also not how to end exploitation, but of how to intensify it, albeit without hurting too many of his voters, to the extent that this is possible. The problem for Ed Miliband is that everybody knows that this is not possible, not in the middle of the biggest economic crisis of capitalism since the 1930s.
Workers need to stop wasting time pretending that Ed Miliband represents any kind of alternative to the economic crisis. He so does not.
Borrowing by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls simply will not work given that it relies on capitalist markets looking favorably upon such borrowing, and we all knows that is a nonstarter. Besides, even if the capitalists thought Miliband could invest the borrowed money and by doing so create reasonable growth, why should it be paid back by taxation of workers and by cuts in our social wage? Who would we be borrowing from? Who would we be paying back? Why should the mass of the people not simply take what is ours?
As the theory of surplus value demonstrates, workers are being bled dry by the profiteers. If many workers are not fully on board with the full socialist project yet (and clearly they are not), that is where transitional demands come in. These are the bridge between our fully socialist consciousness and tasks and the more limited ones that can spark the overwhelming majority of the masses into fully legitimate and utterly credible demands in the here and now: put people before profit!
If capitalism cannot afford a decent life for the majority, then that poses a question mark over capitalism. This is the slogan of socialists who want to rouse the masses into struggles today. And it is also our slogan when it comes to by-elections too. It is our slogan in all key proportional representation elections. It is the way forward for TUSC and what we bring to the table in any negotations with other groups and individual activists who want an alternative to Ed Miliband’s Labour Party, those who are signing the statement based on Ken Loach’s views.
And this is an approach that separates us all from that other prop of Richard Seymour’s network, Andy Newman, who flounders about, stuck in the groove of capitalist exploitation, every bit as much as Nick Cohen, Tony Blair and Nigel Farage.