Tag Archive: anti-capitalists


Ukraine Fraudsters Again – A Message from the LRP

League for the Revolutionary party
April 2014


Reports on the events in Ukraine in recent months have mentioned three activists whose names some readers may recall: Oleg (Oleh) Vernik and Zakhar Popovych in Ukraine and Ilya Budraitskis in Russia. In the early 2000s, while members of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI), they conspired to assume multiple fake personal identities as representatives of several fictitious socialist groups in Ukraine. Under these disguises they posed as supporters of a number of far-left groups in North America and Europe, from whom they stole funds, time and other resources. Their crimes further corrupted the reputation of a socialist movement already burdened by mistaken association with the heinous crimes of Stalinism.

We reported on this political and financial scam in CWI Group Guilty of Ukraine Fraud (Proletarian Revolution No. 69, Winter 2004), and we posted personal identifying information at Photos of the Perpetrators on this website. A list of many other articles on the affair at the time is at Statements from various sources on the Ukrainian fraud (wwww.bolshevik.org). A summary of the fraud, the CWI’s response and the current activities of these perpetrators was recently posted on the website of the Greek organization Communist Revolutionary Action. See Maidan and Ukranian Story of a Lasting Fraud.

The perpetrators of the fraud have not to our knowledge ever issued any explanation of, or apology for, their political, personal and financial dishonesty. Today Vernyk is chairman of the All-Ukrainian independent trade union “Zakhyst Pratsi” (Labor Defence). See tradeunion.org.ua. Budraitskis belongs to the Socialist Movement of Russia, which is affiliated with the organization long known as the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USec). See for example his article Ukrainians fighting for a better society.

Popovych belongs to “Left Opposition” in Ukraine whose views are also disseminated by the Usec’s magazine International Viewpoint. See A mass revolt for democracy. He also made a widely reported visit to London where he spoke about the Ukrainian events. See for example Russian and Ukrainian socialists speak out. A video of Popovych speaking at a public meeting at the House of Commons is at Crisis in the Ukraine (House of Commons Meeting) – Videos. By comparing this video with the photos of Popovych in the original articles about the fraud, one can see that today’s activist is the same person as yesterday’s fraudster.

We warn the left in Ukraine and around the world: these people are not to be trusted in their political, organizational and financial adventures.

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Housing-For-AllSale Of Small Council Homes Condemning Thousands To The Bedroom Tax – The VOAG Investigates

Thousands of one and two-bedroom council homes have been sold off since 2010, preventing tenants affected by the “bedroom tax” from downsizing to avoid the penalty, research by The Independent shows.

The controversial policy is meant to free up social housing space by encouraging hundreds of thousands of tenants to move to smaller properties, by cutting their benefits if they have a spare bedroom.

But figures obtained by The Independent show that a severe shortage of smaller council homes across the country is being exacerbated by the right-to-buy scheme – leaving many victims of the bedroom tax with no choice but to accept reduced benefits.

In the areas hardest hit by the housing crisis, more than two-thirds of council homes sold off under right-to-buy since the Coalition came to power had one or two bedrooms, figures obtained under Freedom of Information show.

Central London is suffering from the biggest sell-off of small homes. In Camden, 81 per cent of properties sold since 2010 had two bedrooms or fewer, and 49 per cent had one bedroom. Figures for Hammersmith and Fulham show that 77 per cent of sales were of small properties.

In Southwark, 74 per cent of those sold were small, with 32 per cent one-bedroom properties, and in Lambeth, 74 per cent of its right-to-buy sales were of the smallest homes.

Brighton and Hove council has sold 111 properties since 2010, of which 74 per cent had one or two bedrooms. Although Bournemouth council sold just 20 homes, all of them were small.

The analysis of 125 council areas found that of 14,616 properties sold across England, 45 per cent had one or two bedrooms. About 61 per cent of England’s total social housing stock is made up of one- or two-bedroom properties, suggesting that some councils appear to be selling off a disproportionate number of smaller homes.

Alison Garnham, the chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said the figures exposed the bedroom tax as “a hasty shambles” which had forced some of the most vulnerable children into unfit housing. “It’s often pushing them into the worst quality housing in the private sector – places that aren’t fit for habitation because of problems like damp and mould.”

Labour’s shadow housing minister, Emma Reynolds, said: “The truth about David Cameron’s bedroom tax is that there are simply not enough smaller homes for people to move to. With the Government failing to keep its promise on replacing every home sold through right-to-buy with a new home built, the shortage is getting worse.” Labour plans to scrap the policy if it wins a majority in next year’s general election.

Government efforts to reform the welfare system have resulted in tenants being moved out of expensive areas. But even those cities receiving families who are priced out are losing smaller properties through right-to-buy. In Hull, for example, 44 per cent of houses sold since 2010 had one or two bedrooms.

The housing charity Shelter urged the Government to review the bedroom tax in the light of the findings. “This research points to a serious contradiction at the heart of government policy,” said Roger Harding, Shelter’s director of communications, policy and campaigns. “Unless sufficient one- and two-bed homes are made available the bedroom tax is an unfair penalty on people who have no choice but to stay where they are.”Voag-Logo-catapult2

VOAG-Logo-(Brick)a8Ukraine and the Rebirth of Fascism in Europe

The violence on the streets of Ukraine is not a simple expression of popular anger against a government.  Instead, it is merely the latest example of the rise of the most insidious form of fascism that Europe has seen since the fall of the Third Reich.

Recent months have seen regular protests by the Ukrainian political opposition and its supporters –  protests ostensibly in response to Ukrainian President Yanukovich’s refusal to sign a trade agreement with the European Union that was seen by many political observers as the first step towards European integration.  The protests remained largely peaceful until January 17th when protesters armed with clubs, helmets, and improvised bombs unleashed brutal violence on the police, storming government buildings, beating anyone suspected of pro-government sympathies, and generally wreaking havoc on the streets of Kiev.  But who are these violent extremists and what is their ideology?

The political formation is known as “Pravy Sektor” (Right Sector), which is essentially an umbrella organization for a number of fascist groups including supporters of the “Svoboda” (Freedom) Party, “Patriots of Ukraine”, “Ukrainian National Assembly – Pravy Sektor”.  All of these organizations share a common ideology that is vehemently anti-Russian, anti-immigrant, and anti-Jewish among other things.  In addition they share a common reverence for the so called “Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists” led by Stepan Bandera, the infamous Nazi collaborators who actively fought against the Soviet Union and engaged in some of the worst atrocities committed by any side in World War II.

While Ukrainian political forces, opposition and government, continue to negotiate, a very different battle is being waged in the streets.  Using intimidation and brute force more typical of Hitler’s “Brownshirts” or Mussolini’s “Blackshirts” than a contemporary political movement, these groups have managed to turn a conflict over economic policy and the political allegiances of the country into an existential struggle for the very survival of the nation that these so called “nationalists” claim to love so dearly.  The images of Kiev burning, Lviv streets filled with thugs, and other chilling examples of the chaos in the country, illustrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that the political negotiation with the Maidan (Kiev’s central square and center of the protests) opposition is now no longer the central issue.  Rather, it is the question of Ukrainian fascism and whether it is to be supported or rejected.

For its part, the United States has strongly come down on the side of the fascist.  In early December, members of the US ruling establishment such as John McCain and Victoria Nuland were seen at Maidan lending their support to the protesters.  However, as the character of the opposition has become apparent, the US and Western ruling class and its media machine have done little to condemn the fascists.  Instead, their representatives have met with representatives of Right Sector and deemed them to be “no threat.”  In other words, the US and its allies have given their tacit approval for the continuation and proliferation of the violence in the name of their ultimate goal.

In an attempt to pry Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence, the US-EU-NATO alliance has, not for the first time, allied itself with fascists.  Of course, for decades, millions in Latin America were disappeared or murdered by fascist paramilitary forces armed and supported by the United States.  The mujahideen of Afghanistan, also extreme ideological reactionaries, were created and financed by the United States for the purposes of destabilizing Russia.  And of course, there is the painful reality of Libya and, most recently Syria, where the United States and its allies finance and support extremist jihadis against a government that has refused to align with the US and Israel.  There is a disturbing pattern here that has never been lost on keen political observers: the United States always makes common cause with right wing extremists and fascists for geopolitical gain.

The Fascist Menace Across the Continent
Ukraine and the rise of right wing extremism there cannot be seen, let alone understood, in isolation.  Rather, it must be examined as part of a growing trend throughout Europe (and indeed the world).

In Greece, savage austerity imposed by the troika (IMF, ECB, and European Commission) has crippled the country’s economy, leading to a depression as bad, if not worse, than the Great Depression in the United States.  It is against this backdrop of economic collapse that the Golden Dawn party has grown to become the third most popular political party in the country.  Espousing an ideology of hate, the Golden Dawn – in effect a Nazi party that promotes anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant, anti-women chauvinism – is a political force that the government in Athens has understood to be a serious threat to the very fabric of society.  It is this threat which led the government to arrest the party’s leadership after a Golden Dawn Nazi fatally stabbed an anti-fascist rapper.  Athens has launched an investigation into the party, though the results of this investigation and trial remain somewhat unclear.

What makes Golden Dawn such an insidious threat is the fact that, despite their central ideology of Nazism, their anti-EU, anti-austerity rhetoric appeals to many in the economically devastated Greece.  As with many fascist movements in the 20th Century, Golden Dawn scapegoats immigrants, Muslim and African primarily, for many of the problems facing Greeks.  In dire economic circumstances, such irrational hate becomes appealing; an answer to the question of how to solve society’s problems.  Indeed, despite Golden Dawn’s leaders being jailed, other party members are still in parliament, still running for major offices including mayor of Athens.  Though an electoral victory is unlikely, another strong showing at the polls will make the eradication of fascism in Greece that much harder.

Were this phenomenon confined to Greece and Ukraine, it would not constitute a continental trend.  Sadly however, we see the rise of similar, albeit slightly less overtly fascist, political parties all over Europe.  In Spain, the ruling pro-austerity People’s Party has moved to establish draconian laws restricting protest and free speech, and empowering and sanctioning repressive police tactics.  In France, the National Front Party of Marine Le Pen, which vehemently scapegoats Muslim and African immigrants, won nearly twenty percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections.  Similarly, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands – which promotes anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant policies – has grown to be the third largest in parliament.  Throughout Scandinavia, ultra nationalist parties which once toiled in complete irrelevance and obscurity are now significant players in elections.  These trends are worrying to say the least.

It should be noted too that, beyond Europe, there are a number of quasi-fascist political formations which are, in one way or another, supported by the United States.  The right wing coups that overthrew the governments of Paraguay and Honduras were tacitly and/or overtly supported by Washington in their seemingly endless quest to suppress the Left in Latin America.  Of course, one should also remember that the protest movement in Russia was spearheaded by Alexei Navalny and his nationalist followers who espouse a virulently anti-Muslim, racist ideology that views immigrants from the Russian Caucasus and former Soviet republics as beneath “European Russians”.  These and other examples begin to paint a very ugly portrait of a US foreign policy that attempts to use economic hardship and political upheaval to extend US hegemony around the world.

In Ukraine, the “Right Sector” has taken the fight from the negotiating table to the streets in an attempt to fulfill the dream of Stepan Bandera – a Ukraine free of Russia, Jews, and all other “undesirables” as they see it.  Buoyed by the continued support from the US and Europe, these fanatics represent a more serious threat to democracy than Yanukovich and the pro-Russian government ever could.  If Europe and the United States don’t recognize this threat in its infancy, by the time they finally do, it might just be too late.

Update – Ukraine’s Gold:
Meanwhile the Russian newspaper, Iskra reported on March 11th, that two days previously, in a mysterious operation under the cover of night, Ukraine’s gold reserves were promptly loaded onboard an unmarked plane, which subsequently took the gold to the US:

“Tonight, at 2:00am, an unregistered transport plane took off took off from Boryspil airport. According to Boryspil staff, prior to the plane’s appearance, four trucks and two cargo minibuses arrived at the airport all with their license plates missing. Fifteen people in black uniforms, masks and body armor stepped out, some armed with machine guns. These people loaded the plane with more than forty heavy boxes. After this, several mysterious men arrived and also entered the plane. The loading was carried out in a hurry. After unloading, their plateless cars immediately left the runway, and the plane took off on an emergency basis”.

“Airport officials who saw this mysterious “special operation” immediately notified the administration of the airport, which however strongly advised them “not to meddle in other people’s business. Later, the editors were called by one of the senior officials of the former Ministry of Income and Fees, who reported that, according to him, tonight on the orders of one of the “new leaders” of Ukraine, all the gold reserves of the Ukraine were taken to the United States”.

Indicatively, according to the latest IMF figures, Ukraine’s official gold holdings are just over 40 tons, having doubled in the past decade. Lets hope the Ukranians haven’t just “liberated” of all their gold, which after a brief stay 80 feet below the surface at 33 Liberty, will promptly find its way either to the Bundesbank, or to the billionaire oligarchs, based either in London or elsewhere, and currently in charge of “post-liberation” Ukraine.The Voag is everywhere

voice of anti-capitalismIs our meat fit to eat?

Just when last year’s horsemeat scandal was finally beginning to fade, Britain’s carnivores have now been hit with more bad news about meat. According to the union representing meat inspectors, diseased and dirty meat could end up on Britain’s dinner plates as a result of new legislation. Unison says that proposed law changes will reduce the ability of its members to inspect suspect meat and make sure diseased cuts don’t make the human food chain.

A spokesman for the union said that the new rules could mean meat that “repulses us” making it onto our dinner plates. “Most people do not know that there are a small group of meat inspectors and vets that keep them safe from harmful and repulsive additions to our sausages, Sunday roasts and beef pies,” she added.

It’s just the latest in a string of bad headlines about what, for many of us, is the best part of any meal. So, what are the health implications of producing, processing and eating meat, and is it time we thought about going veggie?

Diseased meat
What many of us don’t know is that millions of carcasses are thrown away every year before their meat can make it onto our plates. They may be carrying parasites such as tapeworm or come from animals infected with pneumonia, septicaemia, peritonitis and tumours.

Meat inspectors fear that, if the new rules come into force, more of that meat will end up in our stores and restaurants. But the health implications aren’t clear. Some of this meat might repulse us, but it won’t necessarily make us sick.

Chicken contaminated with faeces is another story, however. It’s the leading cause of campylobacter, the most common form of human food poisoning in the UK. There are 460,000 reported cases each year, 22,000 hospitalisations and 110 deaths. In the last two years nearly three million chickens contaminated with faeces were removed from the food chain.

The risk is still small, though. Thorough cooking kills campylobacter, and the bacteria is only found in a tiny percentage of chickens slaughtered each year.

Factory farming
But the health risks associated with meat don’t begin at the slaughterhouse. There is a convincing body of evidence to suggest that intensive farming methods which produce a large proportion of our meat are potentially harmful to human health.

Many human diseases have originated in farm animals. Scientists think tuberculosis and the common cold probably came to us from cattle, and influenza from ducks. But many experts think that diseases that may prove harmful to humans have more chance to evolve, and to evolve quickly, in intensively reared animals.

“In recent decades,” writes Dr Michael Greger, author of Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, “previously unknown diseases have surfaced at a pace unheard of in the recorded annals of medicine: more than 30 newly identified human pathogens in 30 years, most of them newly discovered zoonotic viruses.” (Zoonotic viruses are those that can be passed from animals to humans.)

“Factory farms represent the most significant change in the lives of animals in 10,000 years. This is not how animals were supposed to live.”

And it’s not just that new diseases develop more quickly. It’s also that we lose the ability to control old ones. Some scientists fear that antibiotic use in intensively reared farm animals – which is now tightly controlled in Europe but still widespread elsewhere – is leading to the rapid rise of antibiotic-resistant microbes.

Processing
The final link in the chain from farm to plate is processing. Some meat is not processed at all, of course – a juicy steak is a juicy steak – but a considerable amount is turned into sausages, bacon, burgers, pie filling and ready meals. One risk of processing is that we can’t always be sure where the meat in our burger originated, a problem highlighted by the horsemeat scandal.

But even when the meat is bona fide, the general medical consensus is that we should cut down on the processed stuff. According to a study of half a million people across Europe published last year, the biggest consumers of processed meats are 44% more likely to die prematurely from any cause than those who eat little of it.

But cut down to what? Bridget Benelam, senior nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) says: “For red and processed meat, the government guideline is to consume no more than an average of 70g per day. Some people in the UK do consume more than this and so need to reduce consumption, but, on average we are actually consuming about this amount so it’s not necessary for everyone who eats meat to cut down.”

Quit meat?
But others take a more hardline view, and say the health and environmental implications of meat production make it difficult to defend. So, should we be encouraged to quit meat altogether? Is a sausage the new cigarette? It seems that, even if we’re not going vegetarian, more of us are becoming concerned about our meat intake. In 2013, meat-free sales increased by 6.6% over the previous year, while Quorn products leapt by 20%.

Nevertheless, many experts don’t advise that we give up meat, just that we eat less and better cuts. “Meat can be rich in nutrients and national surveys suggest that meat and meat products provide 34% of our zinc intake, 28% vitamin A, 22% vitamin D and 17% iron so it does make a significant contribution to the diet,” says Benelam.

That can also mean eating free-range or at least RSPCA-approved meat. It can be a little more expensive, but eating better meat less often can make it more affordable. When even Richard Turner, executive chef of the famed steakhouse Hawksmoor, urges consumers to eat less but well-farmed meat, and treat meat as a luxury rather than a daily staple, maybe we should all sit up and take notice.Revolution-Enemy Is Profit

The Friern Barnet library victory shows the way to
campaign against cuts

Local residents, Occupy activists and squatters have worked together to force the council to re-open Friern Barnet library.Friern Barnet library

The Guardian, Nov 15th, 2013
Local residents, Occupy activists and squatters have worked together to force the council to re-open Friern Barnet library.

When Bob Marley and Peter Tosh wrote the classic protest song Get Up, Stand Up they could not have envisaged that it would be adopted by a group of mainly white, middle-aged, middle-class north Londoners who have formed a remarkable alliance with a group of squatters and members of the Occupy movement to oppose a library closure.

On Tuesday, all of the above joined hands in a human chain around Friern Barnet Library in north London. It was closed in April 2012 due to council cuts, and occupied by squatters five months ago, who reopened it with the help of local volunteers almost immediately.

Needless to say the council was not pleased. It has now reopened as a community library with financial input from the council who shut it down. Together, the disparate group of library fans sang an adaptation of their song that Marley and Tosh would probably have approved of – Get Up, Stand Up, Save Our Libraries.

The council threatened to close the library in 2009. Residents and Labour councillors staged various protests, including leafleting, a five-hour sit-in and the temporary establishment of a pop-up library. When the library closed the council brushed off the pleas to reopen it on that site.

When the squatters climbed through an open window in September and began working with local residents to restore a library service in the building the council was stymied.

Officials had to lodge court proceedings to evict the squatters, and as the weeks ticked by before the case was heard the disparate groups forged genuine and trusting relationships and the initially empty library shelves swelled until they had more than 10,000 donated books on offer to lend.

The library became a community hub with events for children, yoga classes and book signings with the likes of Will Self. Barnet county court granted an eviction order in December. But local residents speedily formed a legally constituted group of licensees who offered to take over the running of the library when the squatters moved out on Tuesday. They are now negotiating a long-term lease with the council and plans to sell the site off to a developer have been shelved – for now at least.

When David Cameron put forward his “big society” idea he probably wasn’t advocating unusual alliances of people working together collaboratively to overturn closures of public services implemented by radical Tory councils such as Barnet. But, arguably, this is the big society in action.

The Occupy movement has raised a great deal of awareness of global inequality but has not focused on or achieved small, concrete wins such as this one. The Barnet residents’ protests fell on deaf ears until the squatters supported by Occupy moved in. Squatters have had an opportunity to rebrand themselves as socially responsible, community minded individuals who are working to restore closed-down public services. The local residents are clear that without the input of the squatters and Occupy, the library would not have reopened.

The squatters know that without the huge support from residents they would have been unceremoniously evicted from the library premises much sooner and Barnet council would have gone ahead with its plans to sell the site to a commercial developer. But together the different groups formed a potent alliance. Assisted by a strong legal team they were able to argue in court that they were providing a greatly valued public service. Their arguments were reflected in the judge’s ruling. While granting Barnet council an eviction order, district judge HHJ Pearl recognised the right to protest and said of the occupied library: “There is no suggestion that this is anything other than a happy, pleasant, well-run place.”

The relationship between the various groups involved in the library protest and occupation has been characterised by gentleness, mutual respect for the range of views put forward and a very sincere spirit of collaboration. The residents have become more tuned in to the issues raised by the squatters and Occupy, and the latter have worked sensitively with the locals to help them achieve their objectives of restoring a much-loved public service.

As those gathered to celebrate the establishment of Friern Barnet community library on Tuesday lit candles on a very long cake modelled on Eric Carle’s classic children’s book, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, the unity of purpose resonated around the room. Could this kind of unusual alliance be the future of campaigning against cuts in services and other matters of public concern? This unprecedented reopening of a closed down library suggests that it could.Voag-Logo-Darker

socialist-actionFive Precedents For Understanding Egypt’s July Coup

 

Socialist Action 2nd October 2013
The Egyptian army’s July coup was met with widespread confusion  on the left. Within Egypt and internationally some socialists actually supported  the coup, others were explicitly neutral in the struggle between the Muslim  Brotherhood government and the army.
The article by John Riddell that appears below considers these  issues from the point of view of the experience of the international communist  movement from 1917 to the 1930s, drawing out why these positions are dangerously  wrong.
 
John Riddell, a Canadian Marxist, is the foremost historian of  the Comintern and translator of its proceedings. His article is reproduced, without  permission, to inform the debate amoungst activists in Guildford,

Five precedents for understanding Egypt’s July coup

By John Riddell, September 15, 2013
Two months after Egypt’s generals ousted its elected Muslim Brotherhood  government, there is still a wide spectrum of views among socialists regarding  the meaning of this event. (See my “Egypt:  Socialists Need to Rethink”) This discussion can be deepened by considering  a few precedents from socialist history – some well known, others obscure.
 
1. 1917: The Kornilov coup
My first and best-known example of workers’ response to an attempted rightist  coup took place a year and a half before the Comintern was founded. In August  1917, workers and soldiers in Russia united to block an attempted coup by  General Lavr Kornilov against the Provisional Government of Alexander Kerensky.  At the time, Kerensky’s regime, a coalition of reformist and bourgeois forces,  was blocking progress on key revolutionary goals like peace and land reform  while repressing the Bolsheviks and other revolutionary forces.
The Bolsheviks recognized that the working class, not Kerensky, was the real  target of the reactionary military forces. Together with most other Left  currents and in alliance with Kerensky, the Bolsheviks rallied workers to oppose  the coup. Workers won a quick victory, while the Bolsheviks and their allies  gained respect and confidence from the masses. This outcome set the stage for  the Russian soviets to assume power two months later.
Surprisingly, discussions in the Comintern during its early years contain  almost no references to the Kornilov episode. In 1930–33, however, Leon Trotsky  repeatedly cited this experience as a precedent for the united front of  working-class forces needed in Germany to beat back the rising danger of  Fascism. His fullest treatment was in section  6 of What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat (1932). A detailed analysis of resistance to Kornilov appeared in two chapters  of Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution, published in  English the same year.
 
2. 1920: The Kapp putsch
Two years later, workers in Germany faced a similar situation. A Social  Democratic-led government had waged a brutal war against revolutionary workers  and was building up the state’s forces of repression. On March 13, 1920,  however, far-right forces made a bid for power. They led army detachments in  seizing the capital, seeking to replace constitutional government with military  dictatorship. The coup became known by the name of one of its leaders, Wolfgang  Kapp. Trade unions reacted to the coup with a call to general strike. Amazingly,  the German Communist party (KPD) called on workers not to take part in the  struggle. The strike was immensely powerful, and the KPD rapidly rectified its  stance. Only four days into the strike, the coup regime was toppled. (The story  of the Kapp Putsch is well told in chapter 18 of Pierre Broué’s masterly  history, The German Revolution 1917–23, Merlin: 2006.)
Despite their initial error, the Communists played a leading role in several  aspects in the anti-Kapp movement. In one important industrial city, Chemnitz,  the KPD led workers’ councils, representing all workers’ parties, in forming a  municipal government during the period of most intense struggle. Communists took  part in armed workers’ detachments that, for a time, drove the army out of  significant areas of the country. At one point, the KPD gave guarded support to  a union call for a government of unions and workers’ parties.
During the Kapp struggle, workers in action provided clear answers to a  series of strategic issues that were much debated in the Comintern at that time:  united front, response to rightist coups, and governmental power. However, after  an initial flurry of debate, the Kapp experience was rarely mentioned in  Communist International discussions, and its lessons were not assimilated.
 
Drawing the parallel
There are striking similarities between the Kornilov and Kapp experiences and  the military takeover in Egypt. Still, I have seen only one attempt to draw the  parallel: by Vancouver-based socialist Roger Annis.
A few days after the Egyptian takeover, Annis  wrote of the Kornilov and Kapp coup attempts: “These were both cases of  military intervention by the old orders to try and forestall and ultimately  destroy developing revolutionary situations. The Russian and German military  officers played on political deadlocks in the respective political situations in  which neither the capitalist nor the working classes could deliver a decisive  blow that would decide who would rule. In both cases, the immediate targets of  intervention were discredited or increasingly unpopular governments led by  social democrats or political equivalents.” The Egyptian situation is different in important ways, Annis says, but  “perhaps there are useful analogies here.”
 
3. 1923: Abstention in Bulgaria
During the Comintern’s early years, its Bulgarian section, a formidable mass  party, was widely regarded as the Communist movement closest to the Bolsheviks  in history and outlook. Bulgaria was ruled from 1919 by a radical peasant party,  the Agrarian Union, led by Alexander Stamboliski. Threats of a rightist coup  against his regime did not, however, lead to an effective alliance between the  peasant forces and the Communist Party. By late 1922 the Agrarians and  Communists were locked in enmity.
Elections were held April 1923, and the Agrarians were re-elected with an  absolute majority of the vote. Two months later, the rightist bourgeois  opposition mounted a coup to oust the peasant government. Resistance was  crippled by abstention of the Communist Party, which declared its neutrality.  The Stamboliski government had “used its power to defend its class and clique  interests,” the party declared. “The working masses in town and village will not  participate in the armed struggle … between the urban and rural bourgeoisie,” it  stated. (Joseph Rothschild, The Communist Party of Bulgaria, p. 120) The  coup triumphed rapidly.
The Comintern Executive Committee sought to convince the Bulgarian party of  its disastrous error. The response in Bulgaria to this critique, however, was a  premature and poorly prepared attempt at an uprising by the Communist forces  alone, which was quickly suppressed. The Comintern response to this fiasco was  ambiguous. Comintern President Gregory Zinoviev endorsed the Bulgarian party’s  conduct, while the Comintern’s representative in Bulgaria condemned the party  for “having shown itself incapable of maneuver and of leading the mass  movement.” (Broué, Histoire de l’Internationale Communiste 1919–1943, pp.  333–35)

4. 1926: A ‘socialist’ general’s coup in Poland
In our fourth example, Communists in Poland actually fought alongside rebel  army detachments in a brief civil war against defenders of a constitutionally  established but discredited bourgeois government. The coup’s leader, Joseph  Pilsudski, reputedly represented the bourgeoisie’s more progressive wing.  Indeed, Pilsudski had long been a leader of right-wing Socialist forces in  Poland, before emerging as the leader of Polish armed forces on the  Austro-Hungarian army during World War 1 and then as the president of newly  independent Poland from 1918 to 1922.
In 1926, Poland was gripped in economic crisis. Its rightist government, just  installed, was displaying authoritarian ambitions. Pilsudski, formally retired,  in fact led and inspired the bourgeois opposition. The Communist Party declared  conditional support for Pilsudski’s movement, “if they fight to defend  democratic institutions.” On May 13, troops loyal to Pilsudski rose in revolt;  the Communist and Socialist parties declared a general strike in their support.  The strike, widely effective, was decisive in enabling the rebels to win out in  a four-day civil war. Although Communists fought on the rebel side, they were  being arrested by Pilsudski’s forces even before fighting ended. Pilsudski’s  regime, which lasted until his death in 1935, preserved some democratic forms  but was heavy-handed and repressive toward the working class.
Party members quickly regretted what they ruefully called their “May mistake”  but differed in explaining what the mistake was. By now, the Comintern was  deeply influenced by Stalinism, which obstructed a correction. In 1927, an  ultraleft current took the party’s helm, wrongly explaining the Pilsudski  movement to be “fascist.” (Broué, Histoire, pp. 472–75)
 
5. 1932. Germany’s ‘red referendum’
Six years later, the German Communist Party launched a campaign in support of  a Nazi initiative to unseat the Social Democratic-led government of Prussia, the  state containing two-thirds of the German population and its capital, Berlin. By  this time, the Comintern had embraced Stalin’s assertion that Social Democracy  represented another form of fascism, “social fascism,” which had to be opposed  as strongly as the Nazis. The Communist Party claimed it would transform the  Nazi initiative into a “red referendum” for workers’ rule.
The Nazi initiative was not in itself a coup, but it was an important step  along the road to fascist power. If the referendum had won, it would have forced  new elections, which the Nazis and their allies felt sure they would win. Even  with Communist support, however, the Nazi campaign fell short, winning 38% of  the vote.
The Communist Party declared the result to be a victory, “the greatest blow  of all that the working class has yet dealt Social Democracy.” Trotsky commented, “The most rabid foe could not have thought up a surer way  of inciting the Social Democratic workers against the Communist Party and of  holding up the development of the policy of the revolutionary united front.” (Tony  Cliff, Trotsky: 1929-40)
It was three years before the Comintern abandoned this sectarian approach –  only to flip over to a “people’s front” policy that aimed for alliances with  parties of the imperialist bourgeoisie.

Summary
What can be learned from these disparate examples? Some conclusions:
· None of these examples is fully comparable to the events in Egypt. There is  no textbook here.
· Even in the Comintern’s best years, its parties sometimes, under the  pressure of events, became entangled in complicity with right-wing military  coups.
· In every such case, Communists soon realized that involvement or tacit  support had been a serious error.
· The most damaging aspect of these episodes was not the error itself but the  failure to correct it clearly and openly.
This article is reproduced, without  permission, to inform the debate amoungst activists in Guildford,Voag-Logo-Darker

The VOAG is Watching - The VOAG is Everywhere!For Adebolajo and Oluwatobi,

Against Imperialist wars in Muslim lands:

LCFI statement on the Woolwich killing: 31 May 2013[1]


Gerald Downing, Socialist Fight. May 2013 (Reposted without permission)
The LCFI is a proudly anti-Imperialist Trotskyist internationalist grouping which never equates the violence of the oppressor with that of the oppressed. We stand with Lenin unequivocally on these questions: Lenin: We are defending… not the national interests, for we assert that the interests of socialism, of world socialism are higher than national interests, higher than the interests of the state.[2]
The killing of the British soldier Lee Rigby, 25, in Woolwich, South London, on 22 May, who was identified as a British soldier by the Help for Heroes t-shirt he was wearing, was a political act. One of the assailants, Michael Adebolajo, immediately made this clear in a statement: We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. Your people will never be safe. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying by British soldiers every day. We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I apologise that women had to witness this today but in our lands our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you. Do you think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? Do you think your politicians are going to die? No, it’s going to be the average guy like you, and your children. So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so we, so you can all live in peace.
We sympathise with the family of the dead British soldier, it is terrible to lose a son, husband and father in any circumstances but the full blame lies with British Imperialism’s wars of aggression and drone strikes – the kill ratio is thousands to one and they all have families too and the so called “Islamacist terrorists” combatants are “guilty” only of heroically defending their own lands; Lee Rigby was a professional mercenary soldier paid to implement David Cameron’s predatory Imperialist foreign policy and he paid the price of this dangerous assignment. The seeds of violence were sown by British Imperialism; together with other European Imperialist powers they shipped upwards of fourteen million black Africans across the oceans in cages as slaves. How many countries have they invaded and destroyed to exploit and rob their wealth and natural recourses? When was the last time a Muslim group invaded a country for its resources and killed a million people?
We will not condemn Michael Olumide Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Oluwatobi Adebowale, 22.According to Paul Cahalan in an article in The Independent on Sunday on 26 May Michael Adebolajo was arrested with six others in Kenya under suspicion of being at the centre of an Al-Qaeda-inspired plot in 2010. He was tortured before being released without charge, it seems because MI5 agents thought they could recruit him as a spy. MI5 constantly harassed him and his family in an attempt to make him work for them after he returned home.[3] This was their answer.
However we do not agree with their methods of struggle. As with all so-called “acts of terror” or the shooting of British soldiers by Irish Republicans we say that for national liberations fighters the army of occupation is a legitimate target. But we do not endorse individual action like planting bombs against civilian populations (which this was not) or killing of individual soldiers in a public street not only because it cannot achieve its aim of defeating imperialism but because it has the exact opposite effect on the mass of their potential supporters, the organised working class. Our approach is the traditional Marxist one of “unconditional but critical support”. As Trotsky said (and we would not use the epithet “terrorism” today): In our eyes, individual terror is inadmissible precisely because it belittles the role of the masses in their own consciousness, reconciles them to their powerlessness, and turns their eyes and hopes towards a great avenger and liberator who some day will come and accomplish his mission. The anarchist prophets of the ‘propaganda of the deed’ can argue all they want about the elevating and stimulating influence of terrorist acts on the masses. Theoretical considerations and political experience prove otherwise. The more ‘effective’ the terrorist acts, the greater their impact, the more they reduce the interest of the masses in self-organisation and self-education. But the smoke from the confusion clears away, the panic disappears, the successor of the murdered minister makes his appearance, life again settles into the old rut, the wheel of capitalist exploitation turns as before; only the police repression grows more savage and brazen. And as a result, in place of the kindled hopes and artificially aroused excitement comes disillusionment and apathy.[4]
However we cannot make our support for anti-Imperialist fighters conditional on them agreeing to our methods of struggle. This was not a “terrorist” act but a response to massive Imperialist terrorism against the Muslim lands with which the pair clearly identified. Under the cloak of religion there are very powerful anti-Imperialist sentiments in that statement above with which we solidarise, without in any way conceding to the religious prejudices of Fundamentalism. We must learn how to support the one and oppose the other without ever taking our eye off the main enemy, World Imperialism.
As Trotsky says: The struggle against war, properly understood and executed, presupposes the uncompromising hostility of the proletariat and its organizations, always and everywhere, toward its own and every other imperialist bourgeoisie…[5]
The war dead of Imperialism
Estimates of the war dead following the 2003 invasion of Iraq are as high as one million. Taken with the death toll from the previous sanctions campaign and the First Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm, 1990-91) combined with the invasions of Afghanistan, Libya and the sanctions campaign against Iran etc this pushes that figure to close to two million dead. Almost all these occupied lands[6] have seen the life expectancy of the general population decline dramatically, infant mortality rise sharply, previously free education and hospital services devastated by privatisation and delivery into the hands of US and other multi-nationals, now affordable only by the rich. Their infrastructure and services like transport, electricity, water sanitation and sewerage have been enormously degraded and their whole economies reduced to worse conditions than they endured half a century and more ago under colonialism. Radioactive fragments from depleted uranium shells in war zones from ex-Yugoslavia to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Mali have caused and will cause countless deaths and birth deformities in these regions.  All to serve the global war aims of US-dominated Western Imperialism, to enhance the profits of the great banks and finance houses and their allied multi-national companies. A new fascism is looming, a Fourth Global Reich with the same social values as the Third. As State, Power & Bureaucracy put it: Over everything (in Nazi Germany) loomed the banks: as the banker Schroder put it at his Nuremburg trial: “They had a powerful influence on the party and on the government.” We cite a German couplet from the period: Who marches in with the first German tank? / Herr Director Rasche from the Dresden Bank.[7]
Before the Second Gulf War of 2003 Iraq suffered enormously from the sanctions against it imposed by the US. On May 12, 1996, Madeleine Albright (then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) appeared on a 60 Minutes segment in which Lesley Stahl asked her “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” and Albright replied “we think the price is worth it.”
This is all caused by Imperialism’s drive for profits, to capture markets for their products, to eliminate rival semi-colonial regimes by installing their own puppets in these countries. Even pliant national rulers can become a barrier to the finance capital masters of Wall Street, the City of London and the Paris Bourse; Saddam Hussein was installed as Iraq’s ruler by the CIA, Assad was a steadfast ally of Imperialism until they found better ones and Gaddafi had made his peace with Imperialism but nonetheless it was not enough to established today’s needs of unrivalled global domination by the US and its allies.
It is the masses of the US, British, French etc. working class who have the power to end Imperialist oppression. To those the oppressed and relatives of the slaughtered in the semi-colonial world must appeal for justice. And revolutionaries in the metropolitan countries have a duty to respond to these appeals and to encourage them and to fight for the rights of the workers in Iraq, Libya, Syria etc always against Imperialist aggression whether by direct invasion of via their proxy armies from Benghazi or from the Free Syria Army.
How have the far left in Britain responded?
The SWP have taken quite a good position on the Woolwich killings: Guerrilla fighting in the Global South, and attacks in the West, won’t end as long as the West continues to wreak havoc across the world. We should respond to the anger that imperialism fuels by pointing to the role of imperialism and demanding solidarity with those who are oppressed.[8]
The Socialist Party have taken a dreadful Islamophobic pro-Imperialist position: The unprovoked, barbaric and vicious murder of an unarmed soldier in Woolwich yesterday is a horrific event which must have been profoundly traumatic for the people who witnessed it, and, of course, an appalling tragedy for the victim, and the victim’s family and friends. Local residents showed incredible bravery in intervening to try and assist the victim. The Socialist Party completely condemns this attack just as we condemned 7/7, 9/11, and all similar attacks aimed at indiscriminate slaughter.[9]
Workers Power’s statement is weak at the beginning; it should not begin with the immediate horror and its effects on the family of the victim and onlookers (Iraq’s slaughtered have families too and their citizens have seen far worse) but with its cause, which it does tackle well later in the article. In that respect the SWP article is better that theirs: This is a horrific act, committed in front of ordinary civilians, women and children. We sympathise with the family of the victim and those traumatised by witnessing such appalling scenes. But London Mayor Boris Johnson’s claim that it has nothing to do with British foreign policy and the claim that British soldiers are bravely defending us in Britain and fighting for freedom in Afghanistan is a brazen lie.[10]
As might be expected the Alliance for Workers Liberty take a clear pro-Imperialist stance. Sacha Ismail tells us that “The young men” were “supporters of violently reactionary theocratic politics”. With their single victim there are not in the same “violently reactionary” league as those who are responsible for two million war dead, he might have mentioned. And what about: For the most part, the threat posed by Islamists – whether ultras like these ones, or softer varieties – is not directed against off-duty soldiers. It is directed against women, LGBT people, atheists and secularists, dissidents and critical-minded people in Muslim-majority countries and in some Muslim communities in countries like Britain. [11]
This is just a straightforward lie. The “threat posed” to whom? To the interests of British Imperialism or to British citizens or British soldiers or are all these things the same? The entire concern of British Imperialism is the opposition to their invasions and seizures of lands and they could not give a hoot what happens to women and LGBT people and others in “Muslim-majority countries”. To bring in that in this context is to give direct propagandistic support to the war cries of the Sun and Daily Mail. And finally the direct equation of “radical Islamism and nationalist racism” as twin evils. Note that “radical Islamism” comes first in the list of dangers to us all and fascism has been prettified as “nationalist racism” because, of course it is in fact better than “Islamo-fascism”, the favourite AWL term for Fundamentalism: This is, or should be, a wakeup call for the labour movement and socialists. If we cannot build a political force in working-class communities capable of appealing to the angry and dispossessed, then reactionary ideas like radical Islamism and nationalist racism will continue to spread.[12]  Naturally there is no mention of Imperialism and its wars on North Africa and the Middle East as a possible motivation for the attack, as we would expect from such an Islamophobic pro-Imperialist group.
CND General Secretary, Kate Hudson, leading light in Stop the War and in Ken Loach’s new Left Unity project has an unequivocal national chauvinist (the safety of our troops) position: “We deplore the brutal murder of an unarmed British soldier in Woolwich yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. Acts of violent retribution against individuals can never be justified as a response to the crimes of states and governments. As we have repeatedly stated since 9/11 and the engagement of our troops in the wars and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, the best way to ensure the safety of our troops…”[13]
Lastly we will look at Lindsey German, ex-SWP leader, Stop the War and Counterfire. Her statement is all couched in what is best for British Imperialism. And she cannot even openly acknowledge that it is a normal and understandable response to the mass murders by US and British troops – just look at the italicised words below, say motivated, claimed and supposedly similarly motivated. Even US filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted: “I am outraged that we can’t kill people in other countries without them trying to kill us!”[14] Who could believe a “terrorists” when they say they are opposed to Imperialism slaughtering their co-religionists in Muslim lands – they are just “nutters”?
The attack in Woolwich yesterday was horrific. There can be no justification for a murderous attack on an individual soldier in the streets of London. It must have been awful too for the local people who witnessed it… So we know what these men say motivated them. They claimed that the killing of the soldier was in response to the killing of Muslims by British soldiers in other countries. One said that the government did not care for people and should get the troops out.
The Boston bombers last month were supposedly similarly motivated. The Woolwich attack, carried out by two men now shot and wounded and under arrest in hospital, appears to represent a phenomenon that was pointed out nearly a decade ago by the security services in Britain: that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would lead to a growing threat of terrorism in Britain. Those of us in Stop the War have long predicted that these sorts of attacks would happen because of the war on terror.[15]
The rise of fascism – EDL/BN
T
he English Defence League are taking full advantage of the situation; 2,000 marched in Newcastle on 25 May, Mosques have been attacked and people racially abused. We must mobilise all our forces in opposition to this. It is telling that the UKIP leader Nigel Farage has only met serious opposition from the left in Scotland because of the serious failure of the left to combat anti-immigrant hysteria from bourgeois politicians and the mass media.
The main anti-fascist organisation in Britain is the Unite Against Fascism, a front for the Socialist Workers Party. It is a purely Popular Front-type organisation, spreading illusions in the ‘neutrality’ of the capitalist state by having the Tory Prime Minister David Cameron as one of its supporters. It is funded by the TU bureaucracy and has developed a very cosy relation with the police on anti-fascists demonstrations. In Newcastle on Saturday 25 May the Revolutionary Communist Group reported the following:
On 25 May, as the racist English Defence League (EDL) marched through Newcastle, police arrested 14 anti-fascists, detained them for up to 10 hours, and raided their homes, seizing computers and mobile phones. Seven FRFI supporters were among the detainees. They were seized half-an-hour before the counter-demonstration organised by Newcastle Unites was due to assemble. In the weeks before the EDL march, Newcastle Unites, a coalition of Labour councillors, local trade union officials and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), was determined to exclude FRFI and other militant anti-fascists from its march. Its planning meetings were held in secret and its members physically assaulted FRFI supporters to exclude them. On the day of the march, Newcastle Unites stewards colluded openly with Northumbria police to identify our comrades for arrest.[16]
These methods are in many ways the opposite side of the coin methodically to individual acts of violence against the state forces, though we will not equate misguided but heroic anti-Imperialists with police collaboration. This Popular Frontism also displays its contempt for the organised working class and its potential to overthrow capitalism by denying that fascism is a class question.
We put forward the following points for anti-fascist work as against the SWP and others internationally:
1.            We stand by Trotsky’s classical definition of Fascism; “The historic function of fascism is to smash the working class, destroy its organizations, and stifle political liberties when the capitalists find themselves unable to govern and dominate with the help of democratic machinery”.
2.            Fascism has no fixed ideology of its own; it can be characterised globally as consistent reaction against the organised working class and those aspects of a state’s constitution which are publically perceived as assisting the progressive advancement of socialism or which they perceive as posing the threat of revolution including bourgeois democracy which allegedly allows socialist ideas to flourish.
3.            We defend unequivocally the traditional Marxist position of No Platform for Fascists. As Trotsky observed in Whither France, “The despairing petty bourgeois sees in fascism, above all, a fighting force against big capital, and believes that, unlike the working-class parties which deal only in words, fascism will use force to establish more ‘justice’. The peasant and the artisan are in their manner realists. They understand that one cannot forego the use of force”.
4.            Fascism depends vitally on mobilising the middles classes to crush the organised strength of the working class, Whither France again, “The petty bourgeoisie is economically dependent and politically atomized. That is why it cannot conduct an independent policy. It needs a ‘leader’ who inspires it with confidence. This individual or collective leadership, i.e., a personage or party, can be given to it by one or the other of the fundamental classes – either the big bourgeoisie or the proletariat”.
5.            The emergence of the BNP/EDL signifies that a section of the British middle class and some declassed workers have lost hope in the organised working to solve their problems and, via the medium of the fascists, are coming under the sway of the imperialist bourgeoisie, the fascists’ ultimate masters. Whither France again, “But the petty bourgeoisie can also find a leader in the proletariat. This was demonstrated in Russia and partially in Spain. In Italy, in Germany, and in Austria, the petty bourgeoisie gravitated in this direction. But the parties of the proletariat did not rise to their historic task. To bring the petty bourgeoisie to its side, the proletariat must win its confidence. And for that it must have confidence in its own strength”.
6.            The responsibility for the rise of fascism lies with the TU and Labour party leaders who have failed to fight the austerity policies of the ConDem government. By criticising “cuts too far, too fast!” they signal that they intend to make the working class bear the burden of the capitalist crisis if Labour wins office and make only a few cosmetic changes to the programme of the ConDems. They do this to defend their own privileged positions as administrators and defenders of that corrupt system.
7.            It is therefore vital to use the tactic of the United Front of the organised working class against the fascists and the reject the Popular Front as advocated by Searchlight (Use your vote, Hope not Hate) and the Socialist Workers Party (‘‘The strategy for anti-fascists is to unite the broadest possible forces against the Nazis”) which ties the working class to parliamentary democracy and even allows voting Tory, “as a last resort”, to keep the fascist out.
8.            Similarly we reject the political position of those like the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Communist Student who oppose No Platform and advocate ‘free speech for Nazis’ as a libertarian excuse to avoid the class struggle necessary to defeat fascism and the capitalist system which breeds it in its decline.
Notes
[1] In line with Trotsky’s article; For Grynszpan, Against Fascist Pogrom Gangs and Stalinist Scoundrels, (1939) http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1939/xx/grnszpan.htm
[2] Lenin was speaking of the first workers state then! Report on Foreign Policy, Joint Meeting of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and the Moscow Soviet May 14, 1918 Collected Works, Vol. 27.
[4] Leon Trotsky, Why Marxists Oppose Individual Terrorism, (November 1911),http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1911/11/tia09.htm
[5] Trotsky, Leon. Resolution on the Antiwar Congress of the London Bureau, (July 1936).
[6] Apart from Afghanistan, already devastated by the USSR war of 1979-89 against the Mujahideen who were supported by China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the US via the CIA. Estimates of the dead here vary from 850,000 to 1, 500,000.
[7] Dragstedt, A and Slaughter C, State Power & Bureaucracy, New Park 1981 p. 95
[8] Socialist Worker, The wars that fuel the rage behind Woolwich attack,http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art/33448/The+wars+that+fuel+the+rage+behind+Woolwich+attack
[9] Socialist Party, No to terrorism! No to racism! No to war! Statement from Greenwich Socialist Party on the Woolwich killing, http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/16739/23-05-2013/no-to-terrorism-no-to-racism-no-to-war
[10] Workers Power, Woolwich: the War on Terror on our doorstephttp://www.workerspower.co.uk/2013/05/british-soldier-killed-woolwich-london/
[11] Ismail, Sacha. Woolwich, Islamism and the racist, authoritarian backlash,http://www.workersliberty.org/woolwich
[12] Ibid.
[13] Hudson, Kate, the Woolwich attack, http://leftunity.org/the-woolwich-attack/

A Marxist Critique of
“A Scientific Critique of Unscientific Marxism”

A Marxist Critique of “A Scientific Critique of Unscientific Marxism”
Reply by Gerry Downing to Steve Ballard’s “A Scientific Critique of Unscientific Marxism”

Gerald Downing, Editor Socialist Fight.  2012
This short document is a synopsis of a much longer one by Steve. However in neither document does he use actual quotations from Marx and Engels. He makes assertions that they ‘recognised’ this, they ‘hypothesised’ they ‘elaborated’, etc. but makes no attempt to prove these assertions. Supplying an academic apparatus would make his “scientific critique” far more scientific. His original text is in bold in quotation marks and this is followed by my reply.

Steve Ballard writes: “Marx and Engels were the first to recognise how:- The essence of capitalism is a system oflaws, created by dynastic owners of surplus property, which ranks their self-aggrandisement above all other socialobligations, including the obligation to nurture all life, human and otherwise.”

The essence of capitalism is not a “system of laws” but, in common with all forms of class society, the private ownership of the means of production. Wealth is privately owned under capitalism but socially produced. The conflict this creates between capital and labour, the means of production and the social relations of production is the class struggle and according to the first sentence of the Communist Manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing (class) society is the history of class struggles”

Already we are on the wrong idealist track, Capitalism rests not on a “system of laws” but on this objective relationship, independent of will and consciousness. We might  therefore acknowledge that whilst Marx and Engels regarded “historical processes as law-governed processes” these laws are derived from a study of the evolution of capitalism and are the laws of Historical Materialism.

It is the task of the revolutionary party to make this historical processes a conscious process, we must become the “conscious expression of the unconscious historical process” (Trotsky, My Life). “Marx determined that the concealed essence of capitalism could be found in its history, and that this essence and history were then preserved in disguise within its existing institutions and beliefs. History thus was the entry point for the study of capitalism. This is the materialist interpretation of history, based on the view that what gives history its meaning is material life, meaning economic forces. From this standpoint, Marx was studying classical political economy, but the method he selected is what married this study to Hegelian philosophy. The dialectical element, derived from Hegel, emerged from the realization that there is extreme tension caused by the unequal relations between the superior and inferior classes within society. The main driving force of historical change is thus seen to be the class struggle, and this is associated with a dialectical view because it reveals a contradiction located within all modes of production, a contradiction between the forces of production and the relations of production.”(Marx on Historical Change & Capitalism) http://www.lotsofessays.com/viewpaper/1702624.html)

We really do not know what “surplus property”, might be, the expression is found nowhere in Marx or Marxism and can only refer to a reformist notion that the rich have too much property and we should take some of it off them because they do not need it all. This is in line with the current thinking that if only we could retrieve the bankers’ bonuses and invest that all would be well with the capitalist economy. Such notions are pushed by the SWP and the World to Win in their LEAP stuff for John McDonald and the Labour Representation Committee. Feldman performed a like service for Ken Livingstone in his WRP days. There is, of course, “surplus value”, an entirely different concept which forms the bedrock of Marx’s study of Capital.

And really the notion that the owners of this supposed “surplus property” are very nasty  and irresponsible beasts which, “ranks their self-aggrandisement above all other social obligations” and could not give a hoot for their “obligation to nurture all life, human and otherwise” is simply another reformist moralist gripe about the nastiness of the ruling class. And anyway some of them do give a stuff; that nice Mr Gates gives away untold millions to help the poor, surely  he takes his “social obligations” seriously? Even if that is true that he does he is, of course, amongst the foremost defender of the system that starves a great proportion of humanity materially and whilst the world obviously has the capacity to feed, cloth, give proper healthcare, education, etc. to every individual on the planet. But that capitalism can never do, with the best will in the world.

But here we really need to go into some detail about the effects this private ownership of the means of production has on humanity in general; the details of how these social relations distorts and deforms the human psyche of the whole of humanity (including the capitalists) via the four forms of alienation analysed by Karl Marx’s in his Theory of Alienation:

(1)There is the alienation of the worker from the work s/he produces, from the product of his/her labour. The product’s design and the manner in which it is produced are determined not by its actual producers, nor even by those who consume the products, but rather by the capitalist class, which appropriates labour – including that of designers and engineers – and seeks to shape consumers’ taste in order to maximize profit.

(2) This is coupled with the alienation of the worker from working, from the act of producing itself. This kind of alienation refers to the patterning of work in the capitalist means of production into an endless sequence of discrete, repetitive, trivial, and meaningless motions, offering little, if any, intrinsic satisfaction.

(3) There is the alienation of the worker from himself as a producer, from his or her “species being” or “essence as a species”. To Marx, this human essence is not separate from activity or work, nor static, but includes the innate potential to develop as a human organism.

(4) Alienation of the worker from other workers or producers. Capitalism reduces labour to a commercial commodity to be traded on the market, rather than a social relationship between people involved in a common effort for survival or betterment. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/Marxism.htm)

“Alienation (which) describes the separation of things that naturally belong together; and the placement of antagonism between things that are properly in harmony…Alienation (Entfremdung) is the systemic result of living in a socially stratified society, because being a mechanistic part of a social class alienates a person from his and her humanity… Although the worker is an autonomous, self-realised human being, as an economic entity, he or she is directed to goals and diverted to activities that are dictated by the bourgeoisie, who own the means of production, in order to extract from the worker the maximal amount of surplus value, in the course of business competition among industrialists.”(Marx’s theory of alienation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marx%27s_theory_of_alienation, Wiki – our numbering)

“The capitalist system of secular laws must eventually overwhelm all pre-capitalist systems of religious laws, because of capitalism’s façade of freedom, its semblance of scientific neutrality and objectivity. Capitalism’s self-perpetuating, self-serving, quasi-scientific ideology of ‘survival of the fittest’ obscures the underlying oppression of whole populations, by owners of the greatest amount of surplus property, with complete disregard for the needs of any life that does not serve their self aggrandisement, human and otherwise”.

“Religious doctrinal laws oblige whole populations, including their most self-aggrandising clans, to nurture all life, human and otherwise, however imperfectly and inequitably; capitalism’s state-enforced repudiation of the socially-necessary obligation to nurture all life (a consequence of science’s repudiation of religion), must eventually cause the disintegration of all societies, pending the development of scientific socialism.”

Here again the problem is posed as if it was ideological and even on this level it is wrong. Only in a very few historical instances were whole societies governed totally by religious laws; Israel and Judea in Roman times, the reign of Mohamed, etc. Even the old Islamic Empire of the Ottoman Turks and modern Islamic Republics like Iran are mixtures of secular and Sharia laws. Already by the early Middle Ages conflict between church and state saw increasing secularisation of the state. And this was a progressive thing, an inevitable step in the preparation of society for the socialist revolution and the taking of power by the working class and so to the abolition of all classes. “Religious doctrinal laws oblige whole populations, including their most self-aggrandising clans, to nurture all life, human and otherwise, however imperfectly and inequitably;” seems to suggest that the development of
capitalism was reactionary and not progressive, this is surely a reference to noblesse oblige, a mere hypocritical principle to justify the jus primae noctis etc. And again we really do not know what “pending the development of scientific socialism” means if it does not signify some vague ‘raising of consciousness’ project and not the socialist revolution.

Look at how Christopher Hill describes this transformation in his great analysis of the intellectual and ideological conflicts that took place in the approach, during and after the English Civil War, The World Turned Upside Down (p242-3)

“One of the fascinating problems in the intellectual history of seventeenth-century England is the collapse of Calvinism. It was as though it had performed its historic task with the establishment of a society in which the protestant ethic prevailed. Before 1640 Calvinism had been attacked from the right by sacramentalist Laudians;[1] during the Revolution it was attacked by rationalist Arminians[2] of the left – John Goodwin, Milton, Quakers. Presbyterian discipline was unpopular both with the ungodly lower classes and with upper class anti-clericals. More serious, Calvinism had proved unable to sustain its defences against Antinomianism.[3] So long as the elect were respectable bourgeois Puritans, their sense of freedom through cooperation with God brought no fundamental danger to the social order. But it was impossible, once discipline brisk down, to decide who the elect were. The radicals rejected as hypocrites those Puritans whose faith did not result in works of love. Artisan Fifth Monarchists[4] proclaimed that they were the saints who should rule. Mechanick preachers and lower-class Quakers[5] were convinced that the Holy Spirit was within them. Some Ranters preached a dionysiac Antinomianism that would have subverted all the moral standards of a propertied society”.

Failure to agree who the elect were drove the men of property back to works — by their fruits ye shall know them. Standards and norms of conduct could be established and enforced by lay J.P.s with no danger of a clerical Presbyterian discipline. This was a very different theology of works from that of Catholics or Laudians; it was non-sacramental, in no “dependent on a mediating priesthood. It avoided both types of clericalism. And the sects themselves, once they had accepted the world and the sinfulness of man, cooperated in enforcing a morality of works on their members. We are all so Arminians now that it requires a great imaginative effort think oneself back into the pre-revolutionary society which Calvinism dominated.

The Catholic counter-reformation at the Council of Trent (1545–1563) decreed that an excerpt from the Gospel according to St John which begins; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” be read out in the vernacular (the only part that the mass of ‘the  common people’ could understand, the rest was unintelligible Latin and Greek until the 1960s) in all churches. It was very important for organised reaction to counter the rising materialist ideology which put men above God and welfare above that of the church.

In the Enlightenment it fell to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to demolish this idealistic reaction in the words of Faust: “This is how ’tis written: “In the beginning was the Word! Here now I’m balked! Who’ll put me in accord? It is impossible, the Word so high to prize, I must translate it otherwise If I am rightly by the Spirit taught. ’Tis written: In the beginning was the Thought! Consider well that line, the first you see, That your pen may not write too hastily! Is it then Thought that works, creative, hour by hour? Thus should it stand: In the beginning was the Power! Yet even while I write this word, I falter, for something warns me, this too I shall alter. The Spirit’s helping me! I see now what I need and write assured: In the beginning was the Deed!”  Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

All serious Marxists side unequivocally with Goethe, it is not “thought works, creative, hour by hour” but thought-driven practice, it was not the “battle of ideas” that determined the outcome of the great British miners’ strike of 1984-5 but the Battle of Orgrieve, which they lost. “Marx and Engels hypothesised that the only means to overcome the quasi-scientific ideology of capitalism would be science ­— the deeper and wider understanding of the unity and interdependence of all life, human and otherwise. They characterised their approach as scientific socialism to distinguish it from democratic or ‘utopian’ socialism, which disregards the particular significance of science’s discipline and methodology in the development of society.”

Anyone with the slightest knowledge of Marx’s theory of alienation would refute this sentence. Marx never saw the objective as simply the raising of consciousness and enlightenment. We are revolutionaries because bourgeois ideology is constantly re-imposed on the consciousness of the working class by the social relations of production all workers are forced to enter into in order to make their living. They must sell their labour power to the capitalist; they must subordinate their will to the capitalist in a humiliating relationship as explained by Marx:

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters.