A Kensington Town Hall Eyewitness

GrenfellMarch

by Rosa Soros

We joined the gathering outside Kensington Town Hall which was occupied on Friday, June 16th by outraged people affected by Grenfell. We heard impassioned speeches from local residents, teachers, and members of the community who are in mourning but also righteously angry. Everybody there knows why this horrific fire happened, how it could have been prevented, and why still today the government is hesitant to release official numbers of victims who perished in their homes the night of the ferocious fire. This atrocity, which caused countless deaths, many to flee for their lives, throw their children from their flats desperately to save them, sacrifice their own lives for their families, children waking up in hospital screaming in terror because the last thing they remember was being in the pit of a burning inferno surrounded by the smell of charring bodies and the weeps of sobbing victims who have realised their worth to the state: this atrocity was no accident. We began marching in defiance, through the affluent areas of West London where many international playboys have their holiday homes, and where many luxury houses lay empty. We shouted “We’re coming for your houses!” as posh onlookers stood awkwardly gawking and embarrassed.

Reports were coming in that other demonstrations were taking place, one started in Westminster but dominated, predictably, by the rape apologist Trot cult, Socialist Worker’s Party. Like the grief vultures they are they will undoubtedly tack on to a community in mourning and attempt to recruit off of this atrocity. They are not comrades of the working class, not least of all to women and survivors of sexual violence. I felt relieved to have made the right choice in joining the demonstration led by the community affected by this horrific fire. Any attempts by the few Trot-organisers on our demo who tried to intervene was quickly drowned out by the angry locals.

As we grew closer to the site the walls were plastered with posters of those still missing. We heard the wails of some of the mothers on the march who began to sob, shouting curses to the sky, asking God why something like this was allowed to happen. The mood of the march tempered as the remains of Grenfell tower came into view. A somber chill fell onto the crowd. It was ghostly, eerie, strange: this was the first I’d seen Grenfell tower after the fire for myself and not in a picture. You could still smell the smoke in the air and it was suffocating.

The sadness soon turned to rage as we grew closer and saw the police protecting – what? What were they protecting? It was a little fucking late for them to suddenly give a shit about the community who the state would rather push out to the pockets of the the city, who the rich do not want to look at. It was clear that the police took a stand-off approach when we were marching through the richer areas. They didn’t want to cause any undue stress on to the wealthy: just let them have their little march and then when they’re back in their own ends that’s where we will get em. And it didn’t take long for the righteous fury to take hold and the pigs to get mobbed. Local youth, who were the angriest because they haven’t had a lifetime of being eaten and spat out by the system, were proactive and impressive. Until the self-appointed community leaders (all men) tried to tame them, shouting “we want peace” which took hold in the demo and things were tempered as protesters chanted “peace peace peace!”. This was infuriating to watch. The state forfeited their right to peace when they let hundreds of poor die in a tower block because they value the lives of the wealthy, and because this is the easiest way to enact their programme of social cleansing. So no, we don’t want peace, we want fucking justice.

As the march ended people weren’t ready to leave. Pockets of activity began organically taking shape, local residents on makeshift soap boxes expressing their anger, their pain, and their resolve. This was moving. The people are not going to let those responsible get away with the murder of their families and friends. This really feels like class war. People, of all different ethnicities and religions standing together, fighting together. The vigil started at 10PM, but many of the speakers, prayers and songs were drowned out by the rumbling of the police helicopter that refused to fuck off and let a community mourn. We sang together, we cried, we stood in silence too and let the events of the last week sink in. As the vigil came to an end I overheard local people saying “now the mourning is over it’s time for action.” The unyielding resolve of this community is sobering, inspiring, and gives me strength.

This is only the beginning. This was no accident and we are right to be angry, we want justice, and we want revenge.

Grenfell Tower is the Real Face of London

JusticeForGrenfell

Theresa May has just announced five millions pounds in payments to the families who lost everything, including the lives of loved ones, in the fire which destroyed Grenfell Tower. This is a case of too little, too late. Where was this money when local residents pleaded with the RBKC council to investigate the unsafe living conditions years ago?

This tragedy was not fated, but created. It would be too kind to claim that the oligarchs who run our society merely neglected the poor residents of Grenfell Tower: when residents organised themselves and warned of the immanence of such a tragedy, they were accused of “defamation” by the council. Will there be accountability for what the protesters today rightly condemned as murder? Or will all of this simply be swept under the rug, treated as if it were a natural disaster?

Experts warned against the installation of flammable cladding, but as we all know now, the fire, itself the result of lax regulations and shoddy infrastructure that is the norm for the poor, was made worse by this cladding, which was chosen because it was cheaper for the council, and at any rate would make the tower less of an eyesore for Grenfell’s bourgeois neighbours. The lives of the poor, as always, were not even a factor in planning for the very places where the poor live.

This is the real face of London. Burning public housing where fire alarms don’t go off, and officialdom warn the doomed residents to stay put, the result of a local council which ignores the pleas of the poor to protect them from a disaster they can see coming, while all around their city is transformed on the whims of the wealthy from around the world.

Theresa May wants the state to be able to pay blood money to the victims and have the problem go away. We don’t want their money. We want our lives. We want our families to be safe in their own homes, we want safe housing to be a human right, we want to build cities where tragedies like this won’t happen. Theresa May, and all those like her, want to be able to factor in the deaths of our people as emergency expenses. We want all culpable parties jailed. We want the poor in charge of housing, and for our fears and concerns to be taken seriously before dozens are killed.

This is the real face of London. Third world conditions for the poor in the centre of finance capital of one of the world’s great imperialist powers. The neglected minorities on whom all social ills are blamed, left to burn to death in their homes. Our people don’t deserve such treatment, they don’t deserve hypocritical Tory apologies, and they don’t deserve Sadiq Khan’s mealy-mouthed words. They deserve to not be murdered.

Any justice we can achieve will come from our own will to expose and bring down these corrupt oligarchs. And we can do it. Today, young women and men poured out into the streets to chant down Babylon. On a hot Ramadan day, the real London sought to confront their oppressors. Fights broke out, and Kensington Town Hall was stormed. These are moments of high tide in the people’s struggle. We must seize on these moments to unite with the masses in their struggle.

But we must be there with them in the aftermath as well. Where the bourgeoisie abandon the poor to our own misery when the headlines do not shame them into action, we must not allow ourselves to be isolated between headlines. Capitalist society wants us to become atomised individuals for easier exploitation. We are pressured to retreat into our own private worlds where we might cynically condemn our oppressors over a pint. We must fight against this as well. The Grenfell Action Group were unable to prevent this tragedy because we were not there for them. If their numbers had been greater, if the networks had been stronger, perhaps a victory could have been achieved.

On the night of Corbyn’s election, observers of diverse political allegiances agreed that Corbyn represented a change in how politics in the UK would be done. Momentum have achieved great recruiting success on the premise of representing a new left-wing trend for Britain. We represent many young Marxist-Leninists who have answered this call. Let us keep our word. Local council politics are our politics. Housing organisations are our organisations. Meet and work with your neighbours, not only to agitate and spread propaganda, but because if you don’t, it could be you next!

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Workers and oppressed peoples of the world – unite!

What Happened on June 8th?

Unelectable
The results are in, and leftists across Britain are rightly ecstatic. May’s attempts to use a snap election to ambush all opposition (but in particular the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn) have backfired due in large part to the mass support for Corbyn’s principled opposition to austerity and a politics of fearmongering, as well as the Labour leadership’s articulation of a post-Brexit economic policy geared more towards the interests of the popular classes than the political and economic elite.

Corbyn, together with Momentum, has articulated a vision of a reformist party whose reforms are based on popular participation in politics and on the basis of their own problems, rather than a series of a priori assumptions about what the “least bad” deal the working class can get out of Westminster is; assumptions themselves dictated by Westminster elites, and all segments of the masses who fail to fall in line with the programme are duly condemned as lacking “class consciousness”, if not expressed in so many words.

This ignorant and arrogant perspective on electoral politics is reflected in the popular idea that those who failed, even this election, to vote for Labour, must simply be “stupid”. In fact, it is years of alienation from the Labour Party that have driven millions of people who suffer under the Westminster regime into the waiting arms of the Tories, who make the electorate they feel they belong not by proposing a politics based on a future they can picture themselves in, but by hammering on about a collective memory of a past which the Tories claim they will bring back (although naturally they cannot bring back the past, if the past Tories and their electorate imagine ever existed).

“So what? That’s all behind us now. Corbyn’s in charge, the Tories are on the run, and we’ll win the next General for sure. Onwards to victory and socialism, aye?”

While celebrations are certainly in order, we must be modest and self-critical above all else. While a new left is stronger in Britain than in most imperialist states, we must not overestimate our own strength or underestimate that of our enemy.

Terrorism

A significant part of the lead-up to this election was dominated by desperate attempts by the bourgeois media to paint Corbyn as “soft on terrorism”, all while Theresa May has been shown to have effectively allowed ISIS attacks to be carried out in England. Theresa May doubled down on this tactic of equating Corbyn’s empathy for “the other” days before the election by implying that British people (tacitly implying British Muslims) have too many human rights (!), a dog-whistle statement meant to convey that Muslims in Britain will have their civil rights further infringed upon in the days to come.

And we know that it is Muslim believers, and not Islamist terrorism, that are the real source of discomfort for Theresa May and her ilk, and the group on whom the public’s attention is meant to be fixed. In addition to their manifest failure in preventing (and tacit aid to) ISIS attacks in England, the Tories have no principled commitment to preventing terrorism as such: the Tories have wasted no time in reaching out to the DUP, who are unapologetic for British state terror and UDA “extra-state” terror against the Irish people in the North of Ireland, for her “strong and stable” coalition. There is no question that the UDA took more lives in trying to prevent civic and national rights for Irish people in their own land than the IRA took in trying to force the British state to accept those rights, and yet the bourgeois media treat Corbyn as if he is the one coddling “terrorists” for his principled defence of peace in the North of Ireland and his friendship with Gerry Adams.

Stormont and Westminster

Earlier in the night, Sky News went to Gerry Adams to get his views on the possibility of sitting in the Westminster parliament to keep Theresa May out, as a favour to his “old friend”. Adams responded that Sinn Féin had been elected on a platform of not standing in Westminster, representing the views of Republicans in the North of Ireland who reject the colonial Stormont regime. To compromise on this most basic political point to help out social democrats in England would throw away the very thing that made Sinn Féin and Corbyn distinct among parliamentary politicians: honesty.

If Westminster is to prop up its legitimacy on its colonial administration of the North of Ireland through the Stormont regime, this concerns every one of us, Irish or not. Irish Republicans, particularly dissident Republicans, are about to be targeted by a fiercer repression, not least of which through the so-called “PSNI” and their friends in Stormont. Stormont’s Unionist character is being strengthened by the very forces in Britain that we struggle against, who in turn are about to rely on them to rule through the Westminster parliament. They are two opposing sides of one unified trend, and we must likewise unite our struggle against austerity in Britain with the Irish struggle against Stormont.

Wales and Scotland

The news from Wales was extremely positive, with the Liberal Democrats losing their lone seat to Plaid Cymru, and Labour taking three Tory seats. This election shows that despite Wales’s reputation as a timid and easily ignored part of Britain, that both national and class consciousness are on the rise, particularly among younger Welsh, who with their votes show that they reject the alienation which has been imposed on them by Westminster and its capitalist-imperialist exploitation of Wales. While the Welsh struggle is still in its infancy, all gains represent a growing popularity of progressive reformist elements, and the nationalist Plaid Cymru’s left wing will be emboldened by Labour gains.

Sadly, Scotland represented an opposite trend. The SNP remains the largest party in Scotland with 35 seats, but most of the lost 21 went to reactionary parties (the Liberal Democrats and the Tories), with only a third going to the Labour Party, and while those seven seats were almost certainly won thanks to the “For the Many, Not the Few” manifesto, Blairite power is likely still especially strong within Scottish Labour. It is significant that Mhairi Black maintained her seat while Alex Salmond lost his. Further proof, if any was needed, that the SNP’s success in 2015 was built not on nationalism, but on progressive values which are national in form but quite universal in content.

As the SNP abandon their plan for a second independence referendum, we continue to hold that such a referendum would be desirable in any event, and call on all progressive Scottish elements to continue uniting the struggle against austerity with the struggle for full Scottish national rights, from language to culture to economy, and to unite both of these with all forms of progressive struggle, from women’s liberation and LGBT liberation to environmentalism and education.

Likewise, all progressive Welsh elements must raise higher the Welsh people’s struggle for self-determination in all forms, pouring themselves into local people’s resistance against neoliberalism, austerity, patriarchy, cultural genocide, and all other symptoms of capitalism-imperialism.

Corbyn and Organising

It is entirely likely that we will quickly be plunged into another election cycle, due to the resounding vote of no confidence in a Tory government that the June 8th vote represented, coupled with the fact that they will likely only rule due to support from collaborationist forces within the colonial Stormont statelet. In such an event, naturally all progressive forces will almost certainly find ourselves dedicating almost all of our time and energy to electoral struggle (as we have in the lead-up to the election on June 8th).

However, the elections, on their own, will never save us. Corbyn was not elected by our votes, but by our voices in the streets, on social media, in our workplaces and schools and homes. Corbyn is able to present himself as our hero and saviour because, through Momentum, he runs on a platform of popular participation in reshaping what the Labour Party is. For us, as revolutionaries and Marxist-Leninists, there can be no ignoring the masses themselves as the material basis for electoral struggle, and indeed, the electoral struggle as a means of agitation and propaganda and recruitment.

The time will come, sooner in the North of Ireland than in Britain, where elections will be rendered obsolete, even on a local level, by a crisis of the ruling classes who can no longer rule in the old way. We must prepare for that day using every method available to us.

Elections are part of this struggle, and are one of the clearest means of reaching the broadest masses with the broadest message. But we must also be constantly training cadre who are capable of intervening in every part of their own lives and social contexts, from strikes to student occupations to anti-fascist actions to community organising.

If Corbyn inspires you today, remember how he got where he was: this “great man” has built his career on being arrested and maligned for standing in solidarity with oppressed peoples around the world, for putting people before profits, and for declaring unapologetically that it was more important to build a party which reflected the interests of the people and lose elections than to win elections without principle. Such is our method of organisation. Such is the lesson we must draw from Corbyn in all our dealings with politics, at home and abroad!

Workers and oppressed peoples of the world – unite!

 

 

Bert Ramelson, Communists and Labour in England. A reply to Lol Franek.

051d42c2-7d6c-4ee2-9d2f-df48a8988827by London Clay

“Jeremy Corbyn is himself a representative of these contradictions. In the last two years he has refused to be engaged on labour council cuts, shared platforms with known rape apologists, and been accused of unacceptable compromise on such key issues as Zionism, immigration, and policing. He has however ignited a passion for his politics and persona that no one else in recent history has been able to do. Though the voluntarist far left and the ultra left have both tried to pull this movement in different ways, they have both largely failed in this regard. This not only speaks to their historic failure, to the emptiness of their pretensions to representing a “vanguard”, but is a sign that something else is emerging which threatens to supersede them, to succeed where they have failed, to cast them into the overflowing dustbin of the failures of the British left.”

While it is true that something else is rising to replace the tawdry sects, it is equally unfortunately true that no such equivalent can exist without and above the Labour Party. Nor should it exist without and above the Labour Party.

Later in the recent contribution on the Red Century blog from which the above extract has been plucked, the writer, Lol Franek, makes the point that the movement in Britain is quite unprepared for the onset of the coming financial catastrophe. This is correct. Interest rates are at 0.25% in order to protect an equity-driven mortgage-based micro-economy sustaining the pension pots of a whole generation of proletarians by transforming them into bit-part landlords oppressing the generation below them with ever expanding rents. Interest rates cannot realistically be pushed any lower. Somehow however, the imminent mortality of this system is obvious to none. It is the “keep calm and carry on” effect, that Teresa May is doing her best to preserve.

In this atmosphere of unparalleled economic weakness and instability, Teresa May presents herself as “strong and stable” to a now more openly conservative proletariat than has existed since before Thatcher. Short of excessive electoral efforts on the part of our activists, and perhaps a miracle or two, this essentially conservative working class will return a resounding Tory majority.

The conservative proletariat is, strangely not conservative so much out of a desire to defend its privilege, but rather from a desire to regain it. Its wages have fallen 10% in the previous ten years, its public assets are now largely owned by the taxpayers of foreign countries. It is a proletariat that is “labour aristocratic” in its mentality, while its condition is ever reduced to that of the poor man of Western Europe. In its refusal to accept that it lives no longer in a Britain of the pre-Suez Crisis era, it bets its retirement plans on Brexit. It perhaps voted Labour once, then UKIP, now Tory, as it hopes against hope that everything will be fine in the “strong and stable” hands of a ruling party that can continue to find ever smaller decimal points to shave off the national interest rate.

Communists and the labour movement

May is not wrong to empathise strength and stability over any actually beneficent policy. The masses want strong leadership in times that they do not understand and cannot predict. Labour, meanwhile, has spent two years disgracing itself in the eyes of the masses as its neoliberal wing has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the alliance of social democrats, trade union bureaucrats and institutional communists represented by the Corbyn leadership. From the ashes of the calamity of a May victory, will rise a Labour Party that, shorn of some number of its rightwing MPs, will be much reduced in influence, but will nevertheless be far closer to existing as a true party of labour, taking its policy cue from the much-maligned trade unions.

At its helm however, this time round, will be the product of Ramelson’s Century: the mafia of communists and ex-communists that for decades have moved slowly into this position at the helm of the labour aristocracy, such that it exists. Bert Ramelson was the CPGB’s Industrial Organiser for most of the 20th century. He is accredited not only with the invention of the flying picket, but with the transformation of the Yorkshire National Union of Miners from a rightwing, labour aristocratic body into the fighting vanguard of the working class that nearly brought down Thatcher in 1984-85. Previously, Ramelson had played probably the singularly most important role in the collapse of the Heath government in 1974, such as it was effected by the CP’s tremendous organisation in the engineering unions.

Bert Ramelson’s idea was Lenin’s idea. Merge the idea of communism with the proletariat; merge the Communist Party with the proletarian party. In other words, work towards overturning the Labour ban on affiliation of the CP, thenceforth to affiliate, such that Communists might exercise open and formal influence in the Labour Party. Now what is required is a Communist Party to merge with it, the foundation of which will necessarily involve the process of more clearly defining who is and who is no longer a communist, such that the lines have become somewhat blurred in the generation that has passed since Ramelson’s death, the collapse of the USSR and of the CPGB.

Communists and the proletariat

The likely outcome of this General Election will be a Tory government that moves quickly to ban transport strikes. This move will drive a dagger into the heart of Britain’s “last fighting union”, the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT). Such as the average train guard already earns something in the region of the relatively modest sum of £2000pcm pre-tax, now their earnings and job security will be so radically reduced as to bring them in line with the broader mass of the emiserated, impoverished, petty-bourgeois, Americanised proletariat. The cumulative effect will be every ultraleftist’s wet dream of the death of the labour aristocracy, the last organised – and fighting – section of the British working class.

Lenin argued that we communists must be “tribunes of the people”. That is, leaders in relation to all classes of the oppressed majority, seeking to forge from them the kind of united front that is capable of leading a national movement, and ultimately a social revolution. The December 2010 students represented to a certain degree the movement of one of those classes, the August 2011 rioters represented the movement of another class, the Corbyn movement, in its turn, represents the movement of another class.

Each of these classes – or, more accurately, sub-classes of the broader proletariat – is to a greater or lesser extent petty-bourgeois in its relation to other sub-classes. This is the nature of class society in the declined state of the oldest imperialist power in the world. The trade unionist becomes a landlord, who oppresses the hipster, who drives the plebeian from out of his urban home. The plebeian oppresses the taxpayer, and to the extent that he is able to get ahead in life, becomes one himself, becomes then perhaps a trade unionist, a landlord, and has hipster children.

Expressed in another way, the trade unionist may, by and large be better off than either hipster or plebeian, but then he is by definition, organised, through his trade union, and empowered thereby by his collective strength. Hipster and plebeian, to the extent that either is organised, do not possess the collective strength of the trade unionist, and can do little in pursuit of improvement but to aspire to the trade unionist’s status. As trade unions become weaker and weaker with each successive neoliberal administration, so too are they levelled down with hipster and plebeian, with all brought together in miserable union, and pursuit of a political answer to their woes.

We can either mope about this situation, attach ourselves to sectional interests and join the demoralised rat race of the sectarians, or we can live up to the great honour that befalls us, of building a real movement for communism in this oldest of imperialist powers, with its most sophisticated systems of control, as perfected by the near uninterrupted 1000-year Reich of its ruling class. The only way we will do this is by achieving the union of at least these three sub-classes with one another, and with the republican and national movements in the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. In this way, we will consciously redefine the English proletarian identity in the post-Thatcher period, just as our predecessors did in the time of the Chartists, from the inspiration of modest Protestant radicalism. However, this time, if we are any use in answering the call of history, the proletarian identity will be significantly less distinguishable from communism.

This means forming a Communist Party that rebuilds on its position of influence in the trade unions and the Labour Party, but that has its own independent source of funding, and an independent means of permeating the other sub-classes. This will almost certainly involve an independent origin, but an eventual coming to terms with what remains of the old CP. The task of the next generation will be not only to build that party, but to build it to the effect that it merges ever closer with what remains of the party of labour, eventually to affiliate to Labour, to exercise formal control over it, and finally to realise the goal of the communists of being the hegemonic force in the organised working class.

Compromise: its muddy glory

In the section quoted above, Lol Franek makes reference to some of the compromises of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. It is worth correcting the idea that his sharing a platform with the Socialist Workers’ Party was a personal compromise as such; Corbyn is old friends with some of the SWP leadership and will doubtless have taken their side in the dispute that split that organisation in 2012. Whether it was a compromise of the movement is another matter, but if you get into bed with Trotskyists, you can expect to be dusted with the flecks of their disgraces.

Corbyn did, however, compromise his personal, pro-Palestinian beliefs by appeasing the various pro-Israel lobbies in the party. This was, however, at a time when the same pro-Israel lobbies were deliberately attempting to foment a national crisis around anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, in order to weaken its standing in the polls. We have to hope that in, future, a more serious communist opposition than currently exists, is not itself faced with such a battle for political hegemony over the working class that Corbyn has faced. That would, however, be a deeply naive, somewhat forlorn hope.

Thirdly, Corbyn did not refuse to engage with Labour council cuts, he stated very clearly, from the early doors of his regime, that he was opposed to the setting of illegal “needs” budgets by local authorities, such that the only possible outcome of a needs budget is the seizure of control of the local authority by the state.

That is a compromise, but an historic one, based on the strength of our organisation. Political power, in the Labour Party, lies in the possession of its parliamentary safe seats. If you want a shout at being an MP, the current balance of power requires that you have been a local councillor first.

Tory austerity has played the great gag of understanding this contradiction in our movement, using it to see the left savaging itself for 7 years as though it were reduced to a sack of rats. Most of those rats have since been consumed by the largest rodent of our compromise, such that only one or two, tiny, unbloodied morsels survive by basically leaching off the blood of the giant. They survive only because of an integral ideological hostility to the organised working class, and a subsequent singular inability to have any orientation whatsoever to the Labour Party, except to feed from its cancerous issue to temporarily boost their own demoralised ranks.

Meanwhile, the big, bloody red rat has taken over at least one local authority, and has used its cunning to devise a new strategy for the construction of the first batch of social housing exempt from right-to-buy legislation for the best part of half a century.

Where hundreds of communists, ex-communists and social democrats choose to take up positions as Labour councillors in the coming months, the ultraleft will wildly wave their skinny arms and shout squeaky-voiced about being Marxist-Leninists. Actual communists will use the position of the left in local government to cut dirty deals that help us build communist institutions, that help us find and fund venues for our boxing clubs and music venues to our food banks and meeting rooms and offices. We’ll build trade unions and other mass organisations with the power to force budget shifts from Parliament, or rather, to eventually supplant Parliament itself. Meanwhile, all true ultralefts will hold protest after powerless protest, exhausting all the enthusiasm of their troops, and driving them anyway all either into retirement or into the welcoming arms of our party.

While Lol Franek’s article does well to attempt to bridge the gap between those communists inside the labour movement and those without it, we must be careful not to do so at the expense of reason and experience, lest we end up, like the ultraleft, to profess our desire to lead, whilst being not yet prepared to do so. To paraphrase Christ (to whose unmaterialistic communism the ultraleft can surely relate), the ultraleft will always be with us. And so they will, just like the poor, to the extent that we are incapable of really achieving socialism; by the socialist power of our socialist institutions.

The Heritage We Sublated: Dialectics and Actually Existing Socialism

WdL

by Muhsin Yorulmaz

Among “left-wing” ideologies, Marxism is distinguished from anarchism and reformism by its understanding of reality as a combination of dialectical processes. Among the “three sources and three component parts” of Marxism: German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism, the dialectics of German philosophy are most likely to strike the uninitiated as obscure and arcane. The importance of a dialectical understanding of the world is often neglected.

Dialectics is what makes Marxism uniquely itself, and not just an especially virulent form of “anti-capitalism”. Indeed, Marx’s view of capitalism as playing some historically progressive, indeed, revolutionary, role, is in line with his rather Hegelian view of history.

All of this is well-known. Less discussed, but certainly of no less significance, is that the history of 20th century socialism was marked by a gradual vulgarisation of Marx’s method, distancing “dialectical materialism” from the Hegelian method that birthed it. Perhaps this is part of the reason for the popularity of obscene comedian-masquerading-as-scholar Slavoj Žižek: While himself a gadfly generally more interested in provocation than serious analysis, academic Marxists experience a sense of relief at seeing one of their own burst from the ivory tower and discuss matters of interest to ordinary people in an occasionally comprehensible way, and from the other side, non-academic Marxists are enthralled at a figure who bring an energetic philosophical angle to discussion to our ideology lacking from the hypocrisy of the CPB, or the fake militancy of the CPGB-ML and the Spartacist League.

Of course, it is easy to wave one’s hands at all this by saying: “Oh comrade, those are all simply fake Marxists!”. And it is certainly true enough that the CPB, the Spartacist League, and the CPGB-ML are all frauds. But we would also have to acknowledge that the frauds have come to outnumber us, and we should ask why that might be.

Those of us used to doing politics in the English-speaking world have all at some point been subjected to the fairy tale, completely the product of a “Great Man” theory of history, that the Soviet Union diverged from the correct line of struggle when Stalin, rather than some other figure, succeeded Lenin as the main “interpreter” of Marxism. An interesting enough narrative for recruiting liberals to the SWP, but hardly a convincing answer for our purposes.

Contrary to the constant appeals that I am subjected to by the uninitiated to read Lenin’s Testament (and more intelligent Trotskyites know better than to pretend Lenin’s Testament was a love letter to Trotsky, or that it wasn’t openly read during the Stalin era), if I am kept up at night by a warning which Lenin left us, it is the warning that if we are to “hold [our] own in this struggle and carry it to a victorious finish”, we must not merely be materialists, but “conscious adherent[s] of the materialism represented by Marx, i.e., […] dialectical materialist[s]”.

When it is asked of me “what went wrong” in the 20th century experience, I try to not open with my deep hatred for Khrushchev (as deep as that hatred is), but rather confess that collectively, in many social contexts (not only the Soviet Union), we failed to “arrange for the systematic study of Hegelian dialectics from a materialist standpoint” within the very organisations whose task it was to study history.

When scoundrels such as “Rosa Liechtenstein” blame “dialectics” for the dangerous deviations from Marxism such as the “Juche” theory of the Workers’ Party of Korea, one can hardly hold back laughter. This amounts to claiming that the current DPRK leadership, the supposed pinnacle, in the fevered imagination of Trotskyites, of “Stalinism” and the dialectical “perversion” of Marx’s analytical economic thought (!), is a party which has followed Lukács’s advice to deal with the problems they face, following Lenin’s WWI example, in “extraordinarily deepen[ing] and differentiat[ing their] conception of dialectics in [their] reading of Hegel”.

I leave it to “Rosa Liechtenstein” and her inversion, the CPGB-ML, to claim that the DPRK leadership are such high-grade dialecticians.

On the contrary, just as Lenin warned might be the case in the event of the revolution’s failure, we find ourselves surrounded by the most vulgar caricature of Marx’s critical method. Most organisations one meets in English-speaking countries provide a theoretical education limited to a few positions and historical talking points, repeatedly dogmatically, and rather deserving of the scorn which non-Marxists often feel for our ideology. Ideological education should rather extend well beyond the critique of political economy and into the philosophical approach to history and its complex dynamics, developed by Hegel, which produced this specific critique.

While we cannot expect to produce an army of philosopher-warriors overnight, one cannot help but look at Marxist groups in the UK today and see a group of “statist” “anti-capitalists” who cannot creatively engage with the complex dynamics unfolding before them in light of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Without theoretically advanced cadre, no matter how many we are, we have no security against the danger of treason to the class and to the oppressed.

It would be easy to blame the Trotskyites (with their cultish worship of a Bolshevik-turned-agent years after his defining theoretical claims were exposed as counter-revolutionary) and the revisionists (who have substituted state actors for popular dynamics almost entirely in their political analysis) for this climate in which communists are the butt of a cruel joke, with no practical political relevance. Certainly in England in particular, these are the trends which have been dominant, and do deserve some of the blame. But we cannot imagine we have a purely “negative” relationship to these trends, that by opposing them, we can simply end them. On the contrary, we must seek to understand the revisionism in our own history if we are to overcome them, in theory and in practice. And the truth is, if we look back and sum up the 20th century experience, we have to understand that revisionism has roots even in the heritage that we do not renounce.

I must say before proceeding further that I do not claim that a formalistic commitment to the study of dialectics is a shibboleth which can be used to explain all errors of 20th century practice. This would itself be highly undialectical, and indeed idealist: No matter how brilliant the theoretical leadership, we are all held hostage by the objective conditions, including the fundamental class dynamics and their concrete expression in politics. However, it is my claim that our failure to take advantage of favourable conditions, or inability to always turn unfavourable conditions into favourable ones, is in large part because our understanding of the primacy of the material over the ideal resulted in a political approach which trended towards a vulgar positivism distinguished from bourgeois politics principally in being the furthest left.

Of course, Marxism-Leninism is materialist, and it is the primacy of the material that drives us, and even explains the Bolshevik Party’s own shortcomings: Lenin did not want a study group of philosophy students, he wanted a group of militants willing and able to intervene in real politics, overturn the established order, and bring the poor and the oppressed to power. This must be understood, in the first instance, as correct. After all, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”

But in the final instance, we must exercise extreme caution to ensure that revolutionaries are properly educated to carry on this struggle with all its contradictions, all its twists and turns, in all its fields of struggle. This means philosophy as much as it means economics and militancy. Following the death of Lenin, can we say that Comrade Stalin endeavoured to realise this in practice? In some sense, we can, in the compiling of the work Dialectical and Historical Materialism and the incorporation of “DIAMAT” into Soviet education. However, even as I appropriate Dialectical and Historical Materialism as a work in general, it had the shortcoming of focusing entirely on those contradictions which gave rise to the affirmation of socialism, and left comrades ill-equipped to discuss the contradictions which would and did remain within (or even arise within) socialist society.

The Khrushchevite revisionists, in their alleged “correction” of Stalin’s errors, vulgarised Marxism further. Contradictions were erased entirely (even in the name of adherence to “DIAMAT”), inside and outside of the Soviet Union (the only contradiction was apparently the “competition” between socialism and capitalism), reducing “Marxism-Leninism” to the cartoon version popular in “official” communist parties today. Revisionism was itself a process, not ending with Khrushchev, nor beginning with him. But it is a negative process, and one that we must stand against. Its roots lie in losing the Hegelian method which actually stands at the root of Marx and Lenin’s theoretical contributions.

The anti-revisionist trend, exemplified by the lines of Mao Zedong in China and Enver Hoxha in Albania, was itself a response to, or more properly a negation of these weaknesses which came to the surface with the clear deviations of the Khrushchev era in the Soviet Union. While they existed as socialist societies, they aided our struggle immensely and provided us with great hope. But only China claims to have preserved “socialism”, and the “socialism” it preserves is weaker than that of the very Soviet Union of which the original “pro-Chinese” camp was so critical. A formal commitment to being “pro-Hoxha” or “pro-Mao” would not actually be sufficient to actually oppose the Khrushchevite revisionism, but even if it may have seemed to be so decades ago, today we are looking at these as past moments in history, not red base areas.

What went wrong in China and Albania?

Again, I must emphasise that the dialectical method is the ideological side of a struggle that was also lost in the material realm in these same countries. The ideological and material find their reflection in each other, their relationship is not exclusively negative. A thorough discussion of the many twists and turns in actually existing socialist states ought to incorporate so many questions that I will not be treating in detail here, including the role of imperialism, the question of how internationalism functions in practice, etc. But as this is an intervention into ideology, into theory, into the philosophy of revolutionary struggle, I will briefly discuss the ways in which both the Chinese and Albanian parties fell short in terms of revealing the dialectics of their struggles to develop socialist society.

In both Albania and China, struggles were launched within and against these parties with an eye to preventing the emergence of corrupt upper level cadre who would become the new bourgeoisie within the party and rebuild capitalism within the socialist state. The critical approach was not merely against the enemy in the guise of capitalism-imperialism, but inwards. This is to be commended, and indeed shares much with Hegel’s own observations about what made the world-historical French Revolution so unique:

In this time of upheaval and commotion any specific thing was intolerable. Fanaticism wills an abstraction and not an articulate association. It finds all distinctions antagonistic to its indefiniteness, and supersedes them. Hence in the French Revolution the people abolished the institutions which they themselves had set up, since every institution is inimical to the abstract self-consciousness of equality.

The Chinese experience is better known, and in particular it is known for its failure. As the Albanian party observed at the time, the later Mao period was marked by an all-out assault on (formal signifiers of) “old society”. This “Year One” (or “Year Zero”?) approach understood the “new society” purely in terms of its negative relationship to the old, which is undialectical in the extreme. The effort was carried out largely for correct reasons and with good intentions (and the party of “Cultural and Ideological Revolution” did not condemn the Chinese Cultural Revolution for its struggle with revisionism, but for its understanding of how this struggle was to be carried out), but the laws of motion were such that when this negation was negated, Mao had to make a choice. In practice, Mao found himself forced to side with Deng and his revisionist clique, embracing the Three Worlds Theory, which set back pro-Chinese Marxist-Leninist parties for decades in terms of their analysis of international dynamics.

On the other hand, despite a generally principled stance in international politics, heroic exposure of revisionists, and selfless aid to anti-revisionists in other countries, Enver Hoxha’s own “DIAMAT” was but an alternate timeline of the Bolshevik one, where Stalin lived longer and the contradictions were put off later. There was not a higher level discussion of dialectics, a higher level discussion of contradictions in socialism (although Enver Hoxha was concerned with the ongoing contradictions in socialism, thus the ongoing struggle with revisionism). While the Maoists may have a poor model for the continuing struggle in socialism, the line of Enver Hoxha doesn’t provide us with some higher answer than Lenin’s.

But this is precisely why we call it Marxism-Leninism, and do not actually refer to ourselves “Stalinists” and “Hoxhaists” in earnest: Hoxha, like Stalin, was a symbol of our defiant will in practice, but was also student of Marxism-Leninism like us. We can never hope to have a Marxist-Leninist party worthy of the name by simply telling ourselves and others that Stalin or Enver Hoxha were heroes who lived once. We must find a reflection of ourselves in struggles today, and only then will heroes emerge from us as we reflect those struggles. Stalin, Che, Mao, and Hoxha did not rise to the position where they could be a symbol of hope for the downtrodden and strike fear into the hearts of reactionaries by professing Marxism-Leninism in symbolic form, but as the concrete manifestation of the people’s own struggles expressed through Marxism-Leninism.

So what is our Marxism-Leninism, today, in the 21st century? It is dialectics, and it is materialism. It is finding the particular contradictions in our social context, and it is applying the universal lessons of our 20th century history. It is study, and it is action. It is uniting in struggle, and struggling in unity. It is discussion and organisation and struggle in every field of life. It is learning from the masses who lead us, and teaching the masses who we lead.

It will be a contradictory and complicated process, and for this we must be armed with a fiercely critical approach of all actually existing conditions, born out of struggle and taking an active role in it. It will not do to go forth into the dangerous world we live in today, armed only with some paper Marxism, that is just another cult peddled on a street corner to the poor and the oppressed to save them. Rather, it is they who will save Marxism-Leninism. When we can build positive organisational structures which thrive on the dynamics between the masses and the vanguard, between the upper and lower cadres, between persons of different backgrounds whose commonality can be found in the totality of struggle, then, and only then, will a revolutionary party be born in these islands.

Workers and oppressed peoples of the world – unite!

Rebuilding the Movement: Labour, the election, and communist organising

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by Lol Franek

On the 17th of April, the Prime Minister of the UK Theresa May called an election for June 8th, stating the lack of unity in parliament over Brexit as the primary reason. The public will go to the polls in just under 8 weeks to decide who will run the country. The choice, however, isn’t actually about Brexit. but between Labour and the Tories, Corbyn and May, austerity and hope. May has done what no one else in the last 20 years of the tory party has been able to do. She has managed to mobilise all sections of reactionary opinion, and seeks to consolidate this unity by increasing her majority in the House of Commons. In doing so, she asserts her authority over the factions within her party still bruised from the very fractious referendum campaign. Corbyn is a committed socialist at war with his own party. He has the support of hundreds of thousands of people, and has put forward some of the most creative and, if not ‘socialist’, redistributive policies that have been put forward by any party to a voting electorate of this country. There are multiple contradictions at play, within Corbyn’s movement and between the two camps, but due to the calling of a snap election, we have a singular clash between that which is reactionary, and that which is progressive – that is progressive for the proletariat in the class struggle as it appears in this concrete situation.

What is the position of communists on this? At the moment, there isn’t one. There isn’t a strategy, or even a fixed idea of what a common line might look like. In this essay, I seek to answer why, and to propose a strategy which takes into account the monumental importance of this situation, and the struggles that are bound up within it.

Contradictions

“Contradiction is present in the process of development of all things; it permeates the process of development of each thing from beginning to end. This is the universality and absoluteness of contradiction”
-Mao Zedong, On Contradiction

There are a number of contradictions which we must fully understand before we can build a correct strategy for organising.

The class character of the movement around Corbyn is composed predominantly of progressive petty bourgeois elements, and malcontent members of the labour aristocracy who are in a process of re-radicalisation owing to their share of imperialist super profits decrease through wage repression and the destruction of social welfare following neoliberal economic reforms around the end of the Cold War. This provides us with a historic opportunity which has yet to be politically articulated. A space is opening for an alliance between an increasingly proletarianised labour aristocracy and the rest of the working class in the UK. We thus have the uncanny power of the movement around Corbyn. While some parts of the left have noticed this important change, none have come up with a coherent strategy to mobilise around it successfully.

Firstly, we must note the changing class dynamics which have produced this moment of struggle within the Labour Party. The movement around Corbyn is composed of those petty bourgeois and members of the labour aristocracy who oppose austerity and/or the UK’s imperialist wars. Corbyn represents an ideological rebuilding of class consciousness among an increasingly re-proletarianised labour aristocracy in the UK.

However, the Labour Party (and the institutional labour movement) has a long history of crushing dissent, colluding with bosses, closing borders to the poor, and instigating bloody campaigns of imperial destruction to the benefit of the bourgeoisie represented by Westminster imperialism.

But in spite of this history, it has now become the place where a door has been wedged open just an inch, owing to the material conditions of the labour aristocracy and Labour’s own institutional links to the unions which represent them, allowing the return of a radical discourse surrounding solidarity and socialism. However, decades of culpability for neo-liberal reforms and imperialist foreign policy present these trends with a very shaky foundation, even still.

Jeremy Corbyn is himself a representative of these contradiction. In the last two years he has refused to be engaged on labour council cuts, shared platforms with known rape apologists, and been accused of unacceptable compromise on such key issues as Zionism, immigration, and policing. He has however ignited a passion for his politics and persona that no one else in recent history has been able to do. Though the voluntarist far left and the ultra left have both tried to pull this movement in different ways, they have both largely failed in this regard. This not only speaks to their historic failure, to the emptiness of their pretensions to representing a “vanguard”, but is a sign that something else is emerging which threatens to supersede them, to succeed where they have failed, to cast them into the overflowing dustbin of the failures of the British left.

Against this background, we have an extra-parliamentary left which constantly strives for organisational independence but is chronically unable to build beyond local issues, small sects, or waves that break against the forces of state repression.

The uncanny power of the movement around Corbyn is isolated within the Labour Party because we have not been able to build elsewhere. This is due to the weakness of the revolutionary movement in the UK today.

The ‘Far Left’ in Britain Today

“Anarchism was not infrequently a kind of penalty for the opportunist sins of the working-class movement.”
-Lenin, “Left-wing” communism – an infantile disorder.

We have two main strands of “leftism” outside of labour in the country of any note; one Trotskyite, one ultra-leftist. The Trotskyite strand is by no means unified. It is best described by a tawdry collection of sects who’s only achievement is to keep going thirty years after they stopped being relevant. They collect in the lower and middling rungs of the trade union bureaucracy and outwardly liberal campaigning apparatus, and more often than not sell out their own long term interests – and that of the working class – to clamp down on anything to the left of them or outside of their control.

The ultra-leftist strand has been more acutely aware of contemporary and vital struggles which have often been excluded from institutional political representation. This strand has always remained small except for some moments where it has been able to play a part in leading a mass movement. More often than not they are smaller in number and far less organised than the opportunists, and take comfort in minor local victories, seeing them as a sign that their politics is still vital even after the wave has crested and they have been unable to take a mass struggle to a higher level.

These strands sometimes overlap, sometimes take on characteristics of the other, and are both often related to a back bone of single issue campaigns which mostly agitate in the legal and institutional spheres, often (but certainly not always) unaware of the class nature of their activity.

In recent years, despite many valiant efforts, a movement has not grown outside of the Labour party. This is for several reasons. Both of these strands were unable to capitalise on the student struggles in 2011, or the English uprisings sparked by the murder of Mark Duggan by police the same year. One was hampered by a devotion to spontaneity and anti-hierarchical ethics, the other was so sectarian that they couldn’t work with anything that did not have their particular sect in control, was seriously undermined by its abusive and chauvinist practices, the root of which (a hostility to non ‘class-based’ politics) too many still refuse to refute. In Scotland, the social question was best articulated as a form of civic nationalism. Finally, often the left often lagged several steps behind these flashes of popular consciousness, and was ultimately unable to inspire with a socialism that only turned up when conflagrations had turned to embers.

What we have is the fundamental failure of the Trotskyites and the ultra-lefts alike to build beyond themselves into and within true mass movements. Under current conditions, this is not acceptable, and it robs both of these strands of legitimacy. If their line is not borne out by social practice, then it is not correct, and must be abandoned. The left in this country has proved completely unable to see this, and thus will never see realmovement which abolishes the present state of things.

Neither position hold the correct line on the question of Corbyn and the Labour party. One seeks to exploit “entryism”, and we see a number of parties entering Momentum and bringing it to a halt with ceaseless petty arguments which threaten to destroy it. The other seeks to toil in obscurity, not seeing anything particularly special about the current moment, and even using it as evidence to continue organising as they have been doing. These positions are both deeply inadequate, and must be thrown by the wayside before we can progress.

We can’t carry on the way we are, thinking that a lack of current success is only a prelude to an uprising that is beyond the horizon, but seems forever beyond our reach. The crisis continues, and we should be using its every political expression to build our movement.

What is to be done?

“There are three alternatives. To march at their head and lead them? To trail behind them, gesticulating and criticizing? Or to stand in their way and oppose them? Every Chinese is free to choose, but events will force you to make the choice quickly.”
-Mao Zedong, Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan

“The upsurge of the masses proceeded and spread with uninterrupted continuity; it not only continued in the places where it began, but spread to new localities and to new strata of the population (under the influence of the working class movement, there was a renewed ferment among the student youth, among the intellectuals generally, and even among the peasantry). Revolutionaries, however, lagged behind this upsurge, both in their ”theories“ and in their activity; they failed to establish a constant and continuous organisation capable of leading the whole movement.”
-V. I . Lenin, What is to be done

There are three positions we can take on Corbyn and the Labour Party. We either fight against him, fight with him, or ignore him and carry on doing as we have been – do nothing essentially. I am arguing here for the second position, obviously. But why? What makes Corbyn and the movement around him any different from the many left Labour MPs and groups who every so often challenge the rightist hegemony of the party, but mostly provide left cover for its numerous abuses?

Put simply, the 2008 crisis changed everything. We are at a crucial moment in the history of capitalism, in the history of class struggle, and our movement is woefully unprepared, incredibly weak, and utterly disorganised. It is clear to even non-Marxists that there is something deeply wrong with the way that capitalism is running at present. It is quite possible that it is entering a terminal decline – reaching a critical breaking point not due to the subjective action of the gravediggers it created, the proletariat, but by its own sheer objective destructiveness. To do nothing is not an option; we must grasp every moment of class struggle and push it further. To actively fight against Corbyn and his movement is to render ourselves completely irrelevant. To be blunt, what power do we have to do anything in opposition to this movement that takes us further than where we are now?

I am writing long after the failure of Syriza, and the electoral stalling of Podemos and other left populist parties in Europe. Why get on board with what is seemingly another variation on this theme?

Let us look at the case of Syriza. Without question, they failed catastrophically. This may have been destined to happen due to the reformist nature of the party, the inability to think beyond the narrow frame of modern economics, and an unwillingness to take a jump into the unknown. What they were able to do however was bring together the wide base of opposition to Troika imposed austerity and articulate at a state political level. This is something that the KKE or the Anarchist movement were not able to do. Indeed so sure were they of their dogma that the KKE refused to enter into coalition with Syriza, empowering the right wing of Syriza and pushing them into the hands of open reactionaries. Similarly, smaller ultra-left factions in Greece refused to join and help steer the course of the conflict, or did only to jump ship and declare themselves prophets, hoping the masses would join up afterwards, as in the case of the Greek CWI affiliate Xekinima.

As communists, we must lead the class struggle. We must push for the socialisation of the means of production under the dictatorship of the proletariat. But we are in a position where our movement is so weak, that we are unable to do so at this moment where an opening up to the future presents itself. The same old question is being asked: socialism or barbarism? And we are not in a position to provide an answer.

We come back to the question which we must all continually pose to ourselves: What is to be done?

The answer here is not so much one of ideology, but one of strategy. We need a strategy that is capable of winning, but which allows us to maintain a fidelity to the masses of oppressed people not only in this country, but those who experience national oppression as a result of British and hegemonic US imperialism around the world. The answer lies in rebuilding a movement which has a dialectical relationship with the masses.

Class struggle in Britain today

“The vanguard of the masses must establish proper and close relations with the masses. It must stand for the people’s interests in all fields, above all in the political field and it must adopt a correct attitude towards the people and lead them by correct methods before it can forge close links with them. Otherwise, it is fully possible for the vanguard to become divorced from the people. In that case, it will no longer be the vanguard of the people, and it will not only fail to perform the task of emancipating the people, but will also face the danger of outright destruction by the enemy. This means that the vanguard of the masses must follow a thorough-going and clear-cut mass line in all its work.”
-Liu Shaoqi, On the Party

This dialectical relationship has taken a number of different forms in all successful revolutions. It is present in the works of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, the prison writings of Gramsci, and in the theory and practice of “Mass Line” organising developed by Mao Zedong that was essential for the initial success of the Chinese Revolution.

Mao articulates this simply as the principle of ‘from the masses, to the masses’. It means we must go to where class struggle is happening; learn from those engaged in this struggle, and present a theory back to them which is able to take this struggle onto a higher stage. It means, alongside this, engaging in all struggles, engaging in mass work, to build a communist movement from the disparate threads of struggle which are beginning to emerge in this country.

What is needed are disciplined, but flexible cadre who are bound together by a kernel of correct theory. They must be agile enough to inculcate themselves with in mass movements and make these issues their own. They must approach these movements, and events of historical significance directly at the point of contradiction, with a view that they can be turned to their favour. They must not shy from contradiction because it seems insolvable. It means an organisation distinct in structure and intent from those we currently have, the seed of a (new) party of a new type.

The best parts of Momentum are already grasping towards. A few forward-thinking members see Momentum as an opportunity to undertake mass work and bring the insight gained into the party proper. They see the role of Momentum as being involved in local struggles like running food banks, reading groups, or even crèches so over worked parents can get involved in politics. They are moving towards a star of class struggle which leaves behind the dogmas of the past.

This must be articulated theoretically. As a practice, it must move far beyond the Labour Party. At the moment, under these conditions, we must begin with the movement that is centred around Jeremy Corbyn.

Going Forwards

“Two types of social contradictions – those between ourselves and the enemy and those among the people themselves confront us. The two are totally different in their nature.”
-Mao Zedong, On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People

I have spoken to committed activists about this, comrades involved in housing struggles who are fighting Labour councils engaged in destroying working class estates for parasite development companies. How can I ask them to go to those same people and ask them to vote Labour, when Labour has treated them so appallingly?

My answer is that whether you do or don’t must be based on investigation, and investigation under current conditions, with a correct analysis of what is a stake. The correct handling of contradictions among the people isn’t trying to make them bend to an unerring line. We must recognise that contradictions within the people exist, and they exist particular to a situation, for a particular reason. Currently, our class is fragmented along many different lines, different levels of class consciousness exist, and different levels of ideological hegemony prevail. It is not a communist’s position to raise consciousness by sheer iron will and determination. We must investigate; we must bring to the masses something that is beyond their lived experience, and take from the masses a concrete understanding of their conditions of struggle so as to better understand the entirety of social relations. This is the job of communists. This is the only avenue available after the utter failure of “pure” spontaneity, reflected in so many “movementist” and “identitarian” struggles. We need an organisation of cadre that ‘moves amongst the people like fish swim in the sea’. Only from this can a new communist movement grow.

Corbyn probably won’t win this election, and even if he does, this brings to the fore an entirely new set of contradictions. The struggle is just beginning, and will take ever newer and higher forms. Ours is not a strategy for winning an election. Ours is a strategy for leading the movement against neoliberalism, austerity, against the pain and suffering inflicted upon us since 2008, and ultimately against capitalism and imperialism. This is a strategy for building. And that is what we must do now: build.

Bury the Tories!

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Theresa May is calling for a snap general election, claiming that “the country is coming together, but Westminster is not”. The divisions within Westminster to which Theresa May refers are in fact contradictions among the ruling classes of Britain that we can and must exploit in our fight against capitalism-imperialism.

While Theresa May seeks to campaign for a united and patriotic “British” front against EU imperialism, we stand for a popular front of the exploited classes and oppressed peoples against Westminster Imperialism. The Lib-Dems and their equivalents are taking this opportunity to call for a vote of no-confidence in Brexit. We call for a vote of no confidence in their Britain.

Jeremy Corbyn is attacked for “secretly” wanting Brexit, on “socialist” terms, we call for support for Corbyn on exactly those grounds. The alliance of capital represented in Westminster frets about the risk of Brexit pushing Scotland towards independence, we call on the Scottish to push forward with their plans to exercise their right to self-determination against Westminster!

We call for youth and workers of diverse backgrounds across Britain to redouble their efforts to stand in the way of the Tories and austerity, in the ballot box and in the streets. Vote Labour in England, vote Plaid Cymru in Wales, vote SNP in Scotland. In Ireland, vote against the occupation and for a united socialist Ireland.

In every political discussion, hammer home to your friends and neighbours that the austerity regime being imposed across the world is an attack on our living standards and workers rights, make clear that the EU supports this programme in it’s entirety, as does Theresa May’s Brexit Regime. In every workplace, in every public square, in every school, wherever you go, underline the importance of solidarity between ordinary people against the Tory austerity programme. The divided ruling class desires to see us either join the ranks of deluded EU flag waving liberals or xenophobic Union Jack waving reactionaries. Many are being hoodwinked by this shameful state of affairs, we must resist it with all our might.

Who will raise high the banner of the poor and oppressed, the people whose blood, sweat and tears are fed upon by the parasitic ruling class represented by Westminster and the EU? Who will stand and fight for a society built by and for these ordinary people?

May has proved an enemy of women since she entered government. We reject her own self-identification as a feminist and instead judge her by her actions. Her term in the Home Office was marked by increased deportations of vulnerable women. She turned maternity care into a border control for vulnerable migrant women. She handed contracts to G4S, the private security company complicit in the psychological and sexual abuse of women detainees at Yarl’s Wood. She has never stood up against her governments closure of vital services for working and poor women: domestic violence refuges have been deprived of funding, while cuts to NHS funding have denied easy access to maternity care for many. Almost all of the misery inflicted by Tory austerity imposed upon the people of Britain has disproportionately affected women and children. There is no reason to suspect her term as premier will be any less of a disaster for working, vulnerable, and poor women than her term in the Home Office.

A Tory victory means an unrelenting assault upon the rights of workers and the oppressed to organise. As we have previously seen with the anti Trade Union Laws, once in place, they are very hard to overturn. Already there have been rumblings of a bill to ban transport workers from striking, no doubt in preperation for an all-out campaign to smash the Rail Maritime and Transport Union.  This cannot be allowed to happen. Every trade unionist has a duty to mobilise against this.

Theresa May poses herself and her cronies as the ultimate patriots. Through our ballots, our voices, and our actions, we must show ourselves as the real defenders of people in Britain. Of the English workers whose futures were stolen by the Thatcher regime which May seeks to replicate with her new Reagan across the pond. Of the Scottish people who see their neighbours go without when their supposed champions, the Labour Party that they worked so hard to build, betray them for Blair’s “pragmatism”. Of the Welsh who are impoverished more than most of Europe despite living just down the M4 from London. Of the London workers, of immigrant and refugee families, who push themselves to the limit to get by in a glittering city of plenty, a playground for the international parasites of imperialist finance capital, the kingdom of Midas.

In our words and our deeds, we will expose that the flag-waving reactionary Tories and their overtly fascist allies do not love or care for the people of these islands, for their land, their histories, or their futures. The ‘patriotic’ grandstanding of the Tories is a hollow gesture made by objective enemies of the people, no more accountable or “local” than the Brussels regime their voters rejected!

Workers and oppressed peoples of the world – unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains, you have a world to win.

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Against Imperialism, Fascism and Takfiri Islamism: Statement on the Westminster Attack

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On the 22nd of March, a terrorist attack claimed by ISIS was carried out in Westminster. The attack consisted of ramming pedestrians on Westminster Bridge with a hired car, killing several of them, then the stabbing to death of a police officer outside Parliament.

It goes without saying that we Marxist-Leninists condemn in every case such terrorist attacks, which are the nihilistic products of disturbed individual’s sadistic impulses. Such attacks, while carried out for ostensibly political aims, are in fact acts of desperation by people who have no means of engaging in the social reality of politics or forging militant connections to the downtrodden masses, and defending them.

In the case of ISIS in particular, we note that their bankrupt ideology cannot in any meaningful sense be claimed as a defence of any population and could never command the support of the masses. ISIS is by design a death cult, rejected even by the masses of conservative Sunnis whom the bourgeois media associates with them. We can see this concretely in the territory ISIS controls. When they are not simply slaughtering those living under their rule, they exploit, oppress, and place in harm’s way millions of Sunni Arabs for the sake of their predatory state building project. Lacking popular legitimacy they are forced to rely almost exclusively upon foreign Takfiri volunteers to administer the territory they control and repress it’s population. This stands in contrast to the role foreign volunteers play in the Rojava Revolution, where they fight as auxiliaries of the Kurdish liberation movement to defend the revolution the Kurdish people are making.

In the context of Britain where the “local” (white, Christian, and in particular English) reactionary forces exploit the emotions of the masses when Takfiri “Islamic terrorism” is concerned to advance their reactionary agenda, we must emphasise that here it is the communists and other radical leftists who literally join the fight against the Takfiri forces in Syria. These are the same left-wing forces that the British bourgeois media accuses of coddling Islamists. These volunteers fight for Kurdish liberation, for women’s liberation, and to crush the retrograde Takfiri ideology ISIS represent.

Conflict in the Muslim world between between Leftist and Takfiri forces is not new: the current situation must be understood as the result of years of Cold War sponsorship of Sunni Islamism by British Imperialism, its allies, and clients. In recent years fascist and reactionary elements in the western imperialist states have increasingly focused their attacks upon Muslims and characterised their racist campaigns as a fight against Islamism. It is essential when struggling against anti-Muslim bigotry that all Leftists make it perfectly clear that those fighting and dying in the struggle against ISIS and other Takfiri forces globally are just those that the reactionaries and fascists attack: Muslims and Leftists.

As we write this statement, the bourgeois media have descended into hysterics in the mourning of this “heroic” police officer (Keith Palmer), killed “in the line of duty”. It should not escape the reader’s notice that this officer, killed no more senselessly than those bystanders on the bridge, is being treated as if his life is more valuable than theirs.

The claim that usually accompanies the worshipful martyrdom cult of dead soldiers and police is that they died “protecting us”, that they bravely faced down danger. Indeed, it is a collective feeling of people around the world that those who knowingly face danger to protect others are “heroes” in some sense. But Palmer did not rush to the scene to rescue victims of this terrorist attack. Palmer was an unsuspecting victim of this nihilistic attack, no better or worse than those poor souls who died on the bridge.

The state reflexively treats every person who dies in its service as more important than the masses of people who it supposedly represents. The bourgeois media, which ultimately represents the same class interests as the imperialist Westminster state, falls over itself to reproduce the narrative of “heroic” police and soldiers, no matter the circumstances of their deaths.

Meanwhile, actual heroes travel thousands of miles to confront ISIS directly. They face death fighting side by side with the Kurdish liberation movement and the Turkish and Kurdish Marxist-Leninists of the International Freedom Battalions in Rojava. Today, like every day, they will be liberating villages, protecting civilians from the predatory ISIS thugs and rescuing children from recruitment into their retrograde Takfiri worldview. They will be physically beating back ISIS’s territory so as to cut off its oil lifeline which ties ISIS to the international market, defending the gains of the Rojava Revolution and fighting for its victory. These heroes are the heirs to the internationalist anti-fascist fighters of the Spanish Civil War.

While the bourgeois media glorifies one dead police officer, it devalues the lives of the civilians killed in the Westminster attack and depicts the western volunteers fighting in Syria as curiosities. Our eyes are turned again and again to this single police officer who died tragically in a senseless attack by ISIS, we are asked to look with suspicion on our Muslim neighbours and told to have some sympathy for the “native” white, Christian, English fascists who harass them while leaving ISIS unscathed. We are to rally around the banner of the Westminster state because London experienced for a moment what Syrians experience every day, even while the aggressive imperialist forces turn their attention to the task of directly bringing down the Syrian regime. Just as ISIS and al-Qaeda are on the threshold of defeat, the Gulf Cooperation Council and Turkey now rub their hands with glee at the thought of replacing the Assad regime with a loyal Islamist client state akin to ISIS in its mentality!

The aim of those in the media who feign tears for PC Keith Palmer is in fact to silence dissent against the Westminster state, even as it aids those responsible for his death, even as it arms Saudi Arabia to slaughter Yemenis, and arms Turkey, who pass their weapons on to ISIS itself, so that hand in hand they can slaughter the Kurds!

The state blinds us with its impressive apparatus to the actual interests it represents, and to the real worth it places on our lives, which is nothing next to the profit motive that actually drives British imperialism at home and abroad. While the reactionary forces in imperialist countries boast to the masses of their plans to crush ISIS, it is the leftists they despise who are wiping out ISIS in practice! The anti-Islamism of the Western states and their local Fascists is a lie: a cover for imperialist aggression and a tool with which to turn the masses against each other.

We salute all of our comrades fighting Takfiri forces and call on all Leftist and progressive forces to support them and hail their heroism as the antidote to the reactionary establishment ideology which launches attacks on Muslims while supporting Takfri forces against anti-imperialist and progressive struggles across the world. British leftists have answered the call of the Rojava Revolution for support in the struggle against the Takfiri forces of ISIS. We must spread word of the Revolution and champion our heroic volunteers, doing so will expose the bankruptcy and deception of this reactionary anti-Muslim ideology which in reality both feeds on and aids the Takfiri forces which inspired the despicable terrorist attack in Westminster.

Workers and oppressed peoples of the world – unite!

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Between Westminster and Edinburgh: Whither the Scottish Proletariat?

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As the SNP calls for another referendum on Scottish Independence, the entire island of Britain is experiencing a collective flashback to the media circus of the first: Scottish elements excitedly plot a glorious new Scottish future, while Westminster repeats its fevered pleas for “British” unity, a unity built by imperialist collaboration and conquest.

It is an almost emotional position for those of us dedicated to the destruction of the imperialist Westminster State that Scotland should secede. What’s more, there is good theoretical basis for this position: Scotland as an “independent” state would not have the economic power abroad which Westminster has, and which is the basis of the latter’s status as an imperialist power. Like the South of Ireland, an “independent” Scotland would be a type of dependent country, not so dominated by foreign capital as semi-colonial countries such as the North of Ireland, but unable to play a significant role in the division of the world on its own.

In short, an “independent” Scotland does not set back our struggle outside Scotland’s borders, like the continued existence of Westminster imperialism does. On the contrary, the desire of the Scottish bourgeoisie to dominate its “own” market in post-crisis Britain poses a significant threat to the economic base of Westminster imperialism “at home”. From the perspective of the class-conscious proletariat in England or Wales, the point is not simply that the Scots have a right to self-determination. It is in the interest of our fight against Westminster imperialism that they exercise that right through the formation of an independent state. Dividing the Scottish bourgeoisie from the English bourgeoisie as much as possible is in our interests.

There are those who speak of the danger of “dividing” the proletariat through Scottish secession. But the proletariat of Scotland is already divided from that of England by their separate cultural, historical, economic, linguistic, and geographic formations. The Westminster state imposes on the Scottish proletariat a “unity” with their more numerous southern neighbours. The English proletariat, particularly in the South of the country, is generally less revolutionary. Lenin noted this in Imperialism and the Split in Socialism, and it still holds true today. It follows that this artificial unity of the English and Scottish proletariat holds back the revolutionary potential of the latter. Further, there is as much proletarian as bourgeois impetus for the rise of the SNP: Figures from the left wing of the SNP, like Mhairi Black, explicitly describe the rise of their party as the manifestation of the Scottish proletariat’s discontent with the domination of Scottish Labour by the Labour Right.

But we must have no illusions: The SNP are no saviours of the Scottish proletariat, and the Scottish bourgeoisie has real limitations in its progressive potential. Even if the Scottish were a colonised people in need of national liberation of the type seen in semi-colonial countries, this liberation would not guarantee a “progressive state”. Their relatively progressive position within the sphere of British politics is not preordained, but a result of very specific and concrete conditions. The advance of progressive forces in an “independent” Scotland is entirely dependent on the internal development and dynamics of struggle by the Scottish people themselves, and the proletariat in particular.

One can easily imagine that following a “YES” vote for secession, the new Scottish state could become a repeat of the “Free State” experience of the South of Ireland. The right wing of the SNP, or a newly ascendant reactionary Scottish nationalist party, could become hegemonic. Concealed behind the Saltire, will the progressive hopes and dreams of so many patriotic Scottish youth today be stamped out in the name of national unity? This decision lies entirely in the hands of the Scottish people themselves.

As the crisis deepens, it seems increasingly likely that the Scottish people will succeed in declaring their formal independence, that their country belongs to them and not to Westminster. But many Scottish people, as can be seen from Sturgeon’s rhetoric, feel that the EU – an entity which is predicated specifically upon neoliberal economic policies and imperialist cooperation – would be a suitable replacement. Internationally Scottish secession is unambiguously desirable and therefore a “YES” vote must be defended within and without Scotland. Locally in Scotland, however, the ascendency of the Scottish bourgeoisie may simply reproduce a particular form of the universal problems of capitalism. It is naive, politically irresponsible, and undialectical to assume the eternal and unqualified progressive character of “Scottishness” counterposed with “Britishness”.

As the Scottish people struggle against the imperialist Westminster state, they take the first step towards challenging the capitalist-imperialist world order. The struggle against capitalism is the struggle against a world founded on the exploitation of our labour, where nothing is sacred, and everything is for sale. If the Scottish people desire to preserve their rich linguistic and cultural heritage, international capital will not spare it simply because the Union Jack no longer flies above Edinburgh. If Scottish women want control of their own bodies, there are Scottish reactionaries who will fight against that right just as there are English ones.

Secession is an important step for Scotland, and Scottish people are right to reject unity with the Westminster state. Standing together with progressive forces among the English people (and all peoples), not only does not require, but is diametrically opposed to unity with their exploiting classes. But progressive forces must not merely tail the SNP. We must understand that the SNP came to represent the most progressive values in Scotland based on the historical-material conditions. The campaign for Scottish secession from the UK is a prime opportunity to raise the Scottish proletariat’s consciousness of their own worth and own potential. It is the Scottish people who will decide Scotland’s future, not Westminster imperialism. All people must decide their own future, which neither begins nor ends with the drawing of borders. Every part of Scottish life is a field for struggle against alienating, exploiting, oppressive forces as large and as powerful as the state, and as small and seemingly insignificant as an abusive husband.

WORKERS AND OPPRESSED PEOPLES OF THE WORLD – UNITE!

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TOWARDS A RED CENTURY

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Today, March 8th, 2017, marks the official launch of Red Century. We have chosen
this date consciously to reflect the values we look to carry forward in our writing and
organising. March 8th is International Working Women’s Day, and we salute all
women comrades around the world struggling for liberation today, and every day.

Today is a uniquely important International Working Women’s Day: It is the 100th anniversary of the February Revolution, which began with Russian women striking against the imperialist war the Tsarist state was imposing on the peoples of the Russian Empire. This democratic revolution marked the beginning of the revolutionary process that was to culminate in the October Revolution, the world-shaking moment which still inspires millions around the world today.

There is a new February happening in Rojava (Western Kurdistan), born out of a struggle against ISIS fascism, a reactionary force far more sinister than even the Tsarist autocracy the Bolsheviks faced. Yesterday, March 7th, was the anniversary of the martyrdom of Ivana Hoffmann, a Black German lesbian Marxist-Leninist who proudly took her place in the trenches with her party, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Turkey and North Kurdistan, to fight for Kurdish liberation, for women’s liberation, for a new February and towards a new October.

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Drawing on the lessons of the past hundred years since the February Revolution, we work to bring socialism into this century, to bring down capitalism, imperialism, and fascism. Our struggle is an international struggle. We are inspired by heroes like Ivana Hoffmann who fought to the very end for these revolutionary values. We follow her leadership in our stand for women, toilers, and the oppressed all around the world.

Red Century is the voice of this struggle. It is the voice of the faraway international brigades fighting for women’s liberation against ISIS, and it is the voice of women here in Britain fighting for their rights against the dictates of Stormont and Westminster. It is the voice of the rebel youth who stand against the rising tide of fascism, and the working people of all nationalities bled dry by the pursuit of profit.

Red Century is a source of revolutionary news and analysis for the peoples of Britain today. We seek to contextualise today’s struggles, at home and abroad, within a critical approach based on dialectical materialism, grounded in Marxism-Leninism. We are inspired by the call for a year-long celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the 1917 revolution that gave birth to the Soviet Union by the International Coordination of Revolutionary Parties and Organizations (ICOR), an organisation of diverse revolutionary groups from all over the world.

From February to October, 1917 is our history, our heritage. This is our century.

LONG LIVE RED CENTURY!

WORKERS AND OPPRESSED PEOPLES OF THE WORLD – UNITE!

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