Tag Archive: surrey united anti capitalist society


Save Our Schools – Academies Are Asset Stripping Our Schools.

Mumsnet.com, May, 2013
Before the election councils in England held the title deeds to schools and land valued at over £2.5bn. But most people don’t know the very fine print of the academies bill and what it means. 

1. The title deeds of the school and the land are transferred to a private company when the school becomes an academy.

2. Michael Gove borrows £25,000 to pay the legal fees for the private companies to ensure the title deeds are transferred from the council (us taxpayers who paid to build the schools) – to these private companies).

So far £1billion of title deeds for schools has been transferred from taxpayers – with Michael Gove increasing the deficit by £481,750,000 – just for legal fees to transfer ownership of the schools from councils to private companies.

So who has the title deeds now:
Tory party member Philip Harris has his hands on £millions worth of title deeds. Philip Harris made donations to David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party. He is considered to be one of his personal friends.

Stanley Fink, another friend of Cameron has donated £2.62m to the Conservative Party. David Cameron made Fink a Lord as soon as he came to power, and has since made him Tory Party Treasurer and handed his company £millions title deeds for schools.

And today David Cameron has told us, as well as changing the law to transfer state assets to Tory Party members (and I thought only China did that) – now he is changing the laws to allow them to start selling the Land.

Just so you know – Stanley Fink – his company states in their accounts – any extra money – his company has a policy to transfer the funds to the Cayman Islands – via stockbrokers that Stanley Fink just happens to be on the board of.

Now if I remember correctly the directors of southern cross did the same thing with care homes – selling them off – the money disappears offshore, the company goes bust and pensioners are left high and dry (with taxpayers expected to step in).

Well Cameron has just announced Tory Party members who have their hands on the title deeds for our schools and school land can start doing the same thing. And just to be clear – Stanley Fink’s company accounts for the schools also state – if Stanley Fink’s company controlling the schools, the school budgets and the title deeds goes bust – Stanley Fink (Tory Party treasurer on the Times rich list) only has to pay £10.

Academies are not about education, they are about asset stripping, and parents and children will find (just like the pensioners who were left without facilities due to the directors of Southern Cross) private companies selling off the assets and disappearing in to the sunset.

Do Michael Gove and David Cameron shout from the rooftops that they are spending £25,000 per school to cover legal fees to transfer the title deeds to Tory Party members – no I wonder why not. – Could it be they don’t want parents to know the real intentions of the academies bill? It’s not about education, it’s about asset stripping by Tory Party members – thanks to David Cameron, Michael Gove, every Tory MP and every Liberal MP.

These are your schools – they do not belong to the Tory Party (well they do now). Ask Michael Gove if your council gets the money when they sell off school land. Ask Stanley Fink (ARK SCHOOLS) – will this Tory Party treasurer be selling playing fields and as his accounts state, the money be transferred to the Cayman Islands (with his stockbrokers taking a cut along the way). Serious questions – £1bn worth of assets stripped – £half billion in legal fees to pay for it (which we the taxpayers must pay back as Gove had to borrow the money).

A study of ARK accounts for the 8 schools they controlled in 2010 showed Stanley Fink and the other directors of Ark Schools under spent the education budget by 7%. The money that Stanley Fink was given to educate children which he chose not to spend, went to the Cayman Islands via his stockbrokers – to the Ark Cayman Island Fund. In its 2010 accounts Ark reported an operational surplus of £1.8 million, and in 2009 it was £3.6 million.

We paid for our schools and paid for the land. Stanley Fink did not pay 1 penny for any of the schools he holds the title deeds for. Stanley Fink did not pay 1 penny for the playing fields he is now selling. Just because Cameron and Gove changed the law does not make it legal or right. If Parents don’t stand up now and demand these schools are transferred back to councils, like Southern Cross, there will have no schools and no land.

And who is Stanley Fink selling the land to and how much for? Where does the money go? Schools are not assets for stripping – schools are there to educate. But David Cameron, Philip Harris and Stanley Fink all believe it’s not education – its assets for selling.

Save our schools – save our school land – demand the title deeds back into the safe hands of councils – after all they ran schools for years without selling the land, and the title deeds were kept in trust for you. And councils have never transferred education funds to the Cayman Islands via Stockbrokers they own, which is exactly why only democratically elected; accountable councillors can be trusted with the title deeds for our schools.Visit Guildford Against Fees And Cuts on Facebook

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2011 August Uprising One Year On –
The VOAG reviews the RKOB’s analysis

Marking the anniversary of the 2011 August uprising, The VOAG has received with interest a series of documents from the RKOB (Revolutionary Communist Organisation for Liberation).  The Austrian RKOB originated as a left wing split from the LFI (League for the Fifth International), and has since founded the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency of which it is the Austrian section.

The VOAG would like to thank the RKOB for coming over to Britain in solidarity with the workers and youth who bravely fought Street battles against the police in defiance of austerity, unemployment, police harassment and oppression.

The VOAG would like to applaud the RKOB for its internationalism and sincerity. Whilst the RKOB sent a delegation from Austria, many Trotskyist groups based in London were no where to be seen on the streets of London. Left wing groups in Britain, as the RKOB have pointed out, limited themselves to standing on the sidelines, issuing impotent statements of half hearted sympathy and understanding toward the workers and youth. Many within the Labour movement even condemned the communities that participated in the resistance, labeling them rioters.

The VOAG also congratulates the RKOB on its forthright analysis of those August Days and the attitudes of the British labour movement toward them. (4) The uprising was a test which the labour movement universally failed. The RKOB asked the question “What Would A Revolutionary Organisation Have Done” (3) The RKOB says a revolutionary party would:  “have criticised all those reformist and centrist forces which restrict themselves to merely explain[ing] why the poor and oppressed take to the streets,(…) or who only call for abstract solidarity without raising a finger for practical participation and support for the uprising.”

A revolutionary organisation would have visited the communities, distributed propaganda, and directed those involved in the uprising, as much as was possible, away from targeting small shops and personal property and towards multinational chain stores, police stations and barricades. How embarrassing, how utterly shameful that this work had to be done by a group based in Austria, whilst so called revolutionaries in London stayed at home, ignoring historical opportunities to make connections with working class youth and their  communities.

As a member of the LFI –known in Britain as Workers Power, (since expelled for being working class and left-wing) I was amazed at the attitude of my own organization toward the protests. The RKOB correctly criticises Workers Power for not participating in the uprising, even though its annual international youth camp was taking place only two miles away from some of the protests.

The VOAG agrees with the RKOB’s characterisation of the uprising and its conclusion that the lower working classes are central to the struggles to come. The VOAG echoes the RKOB’s criticisms of groups like Workers Power  for being petty-bourgeois and for turning their back on the poorer, oppressed layers of the working class, in favour of the labour aristocracy and organised workers.

However The VOAG considers the RKOB has strayed too far in the opposite direction. It puts too much emphasis on the youth and the poorer, more oppressed sections of the working class. It is true that: “ after the mass protests of the youth in the education sector and the strikes of the trade unions, the lower strata of the working class and migrants have now entered the battlefield of class struggle with their uprising”. (1)

And further: “It is precisely the poorer, the lower, the oppressed layers of the working class – including the young, the racially and nationally oppressed layers – that are often ready to resist against the massive oppression and exploitation. And this part of the working class constitutes the largest mass, the heart of our class. How absurd is – given the present development – the theory of the League for the Fifth International that the labour aristocracy constitutes the core layer of the working class (at least in imperialist countries like the UK). In fact, this part of our class is – as Lenin put it – “the craft-union, narrow-minded, selfish, case-hardened, covetous, and petty-bourgeois “labour aristocracy”, imperialist-minded, and imperialist-corrupted, (…). That is incontestable. In contrast to the false assumption of LFI, the oppressed, the lower layers of the working class can play a central role in taking the class struggle against capitalist oppression on to the streets. This is what we see today in Great Britain.”(1)

However, the corollary of the petty-bourgeois tendencies of the labour aristocracy and trades unions is the alienation and lack of leadership of the unorganised precariate, youth and unemployed. Like it or not only the organised labour movement – however aristocratic- as expressed through the unions, has the ability, organisation and wherewithal to mount effective strike action and economic resistance to capitalism.  It still comes down to who has the economic power in society. And it is they, the organised labour movement, in their aristocratic unions – with their ability to withdraw their labour in a general strike – that hold the power in society.

Whilst the poorer and oppressed layers of the working class can provide a vital push from below, the organised labour movement can give their resistance organisation and economic clout.  Both these categories of the working class have positive and progressive features as well as negative and reactionary features.

The RKOB writes: “it confirmed to us how serious the political mistakes of the unions are not to organize lower layers of the workers en mass”: These aren’t mistakes. The Trades Union bureaucracy wants nothing to do with the lower working class. The bureaucracy is implacably opposed to the radicalisation that would surely follow a serious recruitment drive among the precariate, unemployed and poor.

For this reason the VOAG agrees with the RKOB when it: “advocates that the labour movement organises the most oppressed layers.“  (2) That we need a: “revolutionary Workers International with nationally rooted combat parties…based on the working class and in particular the lower and middle strata.” (5) And that our goal must be: “an indefinite general strike in connection with the organising of youth uprisings”.(2)

 Workers Power, who along with other pretendy trot groups, have clearly chosen petty-bourgeois and labour aristocratic forces over the precariate, youth and unemployed. We as Marxists choose scientific socialism. We make objective assessments of how the class struggle is playing itself out, based on an analysis of the constantly shifting interplay of class forces. We don’t seek to subjectively counter pose one force against another; we seek a revolutionary alliance of these forces.

Note:  The VOAG broadly agrees with the RKOB’s analysis. However – No.4: Five Days That Shook Britain is an excellent document that summarises the attitudes and positions of a number of left groups toward the uprising. If you decide to read any of the original documents linked below, The VOAG recommends you definitely read this one.

  1. These Are Not Riots – RCIT 10-08-2011
  2. The August Uprising Report Of The RKOB Delegation – RCIT 13-08-11
  3. What Would A Revolutionary Organisation Have Done – RCIT 18-08-11
  4. Five Days That Shook Britain – RCIT 01-09-11
  5. On The Anniversary Of The August Uprising – RCIT 07-08-12
    Revolutionary Communist Organisation for Liberation (RKOB)

The VOAG is watching - The VOAG is everywhereOn why we must vote by simple majority and why this protects the rights of the minority. And why the Occupy movement are wrong.  

 GERALD DOWNING , Nov 28 2011  
On consensus: excerpts from Murray Bookchin’s “What is Communalism? The Democratic Dimensions of Anarchism” by Ozaki Takami

‘Libertarians commonly consider democracy, even in this sense, as a form of “rule” — since in making decisions, a majority view prevails and thus “rules” over a minority. As such, democracy is said to be inconsistent with a truly libertarian ideal. Even so knowledgeable a historian of anarchism as Peter Marshall observes that, for anarchists, “the majority has no more right to dictate to the minority, even a minority of one, than the minority to the majority”. Scores of libertarians have echoed this idea time and again.
 
What is striking about assertions like Marshall’s is their highly pejorative language. Majorities, it would seem, neither “decide” nor “debate”: rather, they “rule,” “dictate,” “command,” “coerce” and the like. In a free society that not only permitted, but fostered the fullest degree of dissent, whose podiums at assemblies and whose media were open to the fullest expression of all views, whose institutions were truly forums for discussion — one may reasonably ask whether such a society would actually “dictate” to anyone when it had to arrive at a decision that concerned the public welfare.
 
How, then, would society make dynamic collective decisions about public affairs, aside from mere individual contracts? The only collective alternative to majority voting as a means of decision-making that is commonly presented is the practice of consensus. Indeed, consensus has even been mystified by avowed “anarcho-primitivists,” who consider Ice Age and contemporary “primitive” or “primal” peoples to constitute the apogee of human social and psychic attainment.
 
I do not deny that consensus may be an appropriate form of decision-making in small groups of people who are thoroughly familiar with one another. But to examine consensus in practical terms, my own experience has shown me that when larger groups try to make decisions by consensus, it usually obliges them to arrive at the lowest common intellectual denominator in their decision-making: the least controversial or even the most mediocre decision that a sizable assembly of people can attain is adopted — precisely because everyone must agree with it or else withdraw from voting on that issue. More disturbingly, I have found that it permits an insidious authoritarianism and gross manipulations — even when used in the name of autonomy or freedom.

To take a very striking case in point: the largest consensus-based movement (involving thousands of participants) in recent memory in the United States was the Clamshell Alliance, which was formed to oppose the Seabrook nuclear reactor in the mid-1970s in New Hampshire. In her recent study of the movement, Barbara Epstein has called the Clamshell the “first effort in American history to base a mass movement on nonviolent direct action” other than the 1960s civil rights movement. As a result of its apparent organizational success, many other regional alliances against nuclear reactors were formed throughout the United States.
 
I can personally attest to the fact that within the Clamshell Alliance, consensus was fostered by often cynical Quakers and by members of a dubiously “anarchic” commune that was located in Montague, Massachusetts. This small, tightly knit faction, unified by its own hidden agendas, was able to manipulate many Clamshell members into subordinating their goodwill and idealistic commitments to those opportunistic agendas. The de facto leaders of the Clamshell overrode the rights and ideals of the innumerable individuals who entered it and undermined their morale and will.
 
In order for that clique to create full consensus on a decision, minority dissenters were often subtly urged or psychologically coerced to decline to vote on a troubling issue, inasmuch as their dissent would essentially amount to a one-person veto. This practice, called “standing aside” in American consensus processes, all too often involved intimidation of the dissenters, to the point that they completely withdrew from the decision-making process, rather than make an honorable and continuing expression of their dissent by voting, even as a minority, in accordance with their views. Having withdrawn, they ceased to be political beings — so that a “decision” could be made. More than one “decision” in the Clamshell Alliance was made by pressuring dissenters into silence and, through a chain of such intimidations, “consensus” was ultimately achieved only after dissenting members nullified themselves as participants in the process.
 
On a more theoretical level, consensus silenced that most vital aspect of all dialogue, dissensus. The ongoing dissent, the passionate dialogue that still persists even after a minority accedes temporarily to a majority decision, was replaced in the Clamshell by dull monologues — and the uncontroverted and deadening tone of consensus. In majority decision-making, the defeated minority can resolve to overturn a decision on which they have been defeated — they are free to openly and persistently articulate reasoned and potentially persuasive disagreements. Consensus, for its part, honors no minorities, but mutes them in favor of the metaphysical “one” of the “consensus” group.
 
The creative role of dissent, valuable as an ongoing democratic phenomenon, tends to fade away in the gray uniformity required by consensus. Any libertarian body of ideas that seeks to dissolve hierarchy, classes, domination and exploitation by allowing even Marshall’s “minority of one” to block decision-making by the majority of a community, indeed, of regional and nationwide confederations, would essentially mutate into a Rousseauean “general will” with a nightmare world of intellectual and psychic conformity. In more gripping times, it could easily “force people to be free,” as Rousseau put it — and as the Jacobins practiced it in1793-94. 
 
The de facto leaders of the Clamshell were able to get away with their behavior precisely because the Clamshell was not sufficiently organized and democratically structured, such that it could countervail the manipulation of a well organized few. The de facto leaders were subject to few structures of  accountability for their actions. The ease with which they cannily used consensus decision-making for their own ends has been only partly told,6 but consensus practices finally shipwrecked this large and exciting organization with its Rousseauean “republic of virtue.”

It was also ruined, I may add, by an organizational laxity that permitted mere passersby to participate in decision-making, thereby destructuring the organization to the point of invertebracy. It was for good reason that I and many young anarchists from Vermont who had actively participated in the Alliance for some few years came to view consensus as anathema.
 
If consensus could be achieved without compulsion of dissenters, a process that is feasible in small groups, who could possibly oppose it as a decision-making process? But to reduce a libertarian ideal to the unconditional right of a minority — let alone a “minority of one” — to abort a decision by a “collection of individuals” is to stifle the dialectic of ideas that thrives on opposition, confrontation and, yes, decisions with which everyone need not agree andshould not agree, lest society become an ideological cemetery. Which is not to deny dissenters every opportunity to reverse majority decisions by unimpaired discussion and advocacy.’
Gerry Downing is the editor of Socialist Fight magazine.The VOAG

The Shrewsbury Pickets And The Criminalising of Trade Unionism.

By Peter Farrell, Shrewsbury Pickets Campaign, April 2012
The essence of the Shrewsbury pickets and their jailing, was not just a Tory Government seeking revenge on trade unionists for the defeat inflicted on them in the early 70s by the National Union of Mineworkers over wages; or the Transport and General Workers Union (now UNITE) for the dockers defeating them over the Industrial Relations Act. Or that building workers, traditionally poorly organised, had organised a 13-week national strike, and had virtually shut down every site in the country and had won a large pay increase.

The necessity to launch attacks on the working class and their organisations lay in the break-up of the post-Second World War economic agreement to stabilise capitalism. Europe had waged war and its industries and economies and cities lay in ruins. The United States financed the rebuilding of the world’s economies. It was called the Bretton Woods agreement, named after the town in New Hampshire, USA, where a new international monetary system was set out. The US dollar replaced Sterling as the world’s trading currency on the basis of Washington’s gold reserves. The working class had returned from the slaughter of war being told they would return to a land fit for heroes. They swept the Tories from office in a landslide victory for Labour on a mandate to build homes, jobs, better wages, schools, a National Health Service.

They had to borrow on a massive scale – the USA economy dominated. The probelm was that the amount of cash loaned no longer matched the amount of gold the USA had. A 2-tier system developed and gold prices began to rise. In particular the Oil producing countries weren’t happy to be paid pieces of paper which no longer could be guaranteed. So in 1971 came the break-up of Bretton Woods – and inflation began to rise. Wages were eroded, oil prices soared fuelling  increased production costs .

In order to compete and cut production costs on the world markets the need for wage cuts was deemed vital. But this meant that the Trade Unions had to be stopped from defending their members’ wages. Laws limiting wages had to be backed by laws stopping TU’s from taking action to defend these. The NUM smashed the wages laws and the TGWU dockworkers defeated the Tories after blacking containers which were taking their jobs.

Defying the Industrial Relations Act, the dockers continued blacking a container port. Five dockers were arrested and imprisoned in Pentonville jail and became known as the Pentonville 5. Dockers stopped work bringing ports nationally to a standstill. An estimated 60,000 workers surrounded Pentonville prison amid the threat of a general strike as more and more workers stopped work, forcing the Tories to release the Dockers. The Dockers’  leader Vic Turner, knew that there was only one answer – as the Dockers had demonstrated – that was action by the whole TU movement. The TUC and other major unions refused to mobilise their members in solidarity with the dockers, and sold out.

The Shrewsbury Pickets were then doomed to remain in prison. Des Warren’s book “The Key to My Cell” was so named because it revealed the key to their cell lay on the desk of the TUC. This book is a must for Trade Unionists wanting to understand the trials and the conspiracy. It is all in there. Des Warren did what should have been applauded by the TUC, UCATT and TGWU – but the top leaders of the trade union movement accepted them being criminalised by a State Conspiracy. 

As Des Warren stated from the dock at the trial, “we are all part of something bigger than this trial. The Working Class movement cannot allow this verdict to go unchallanged”. He led the way in refusing to except anything other than he was a political prisoner. Des was given the longest sentence of all the pickets, 3 years. During his imprisonment he spent 6 consecutive months in solitary confinement; during four and a half months of that time he wore only a towel around his waist. He was in solitary another 2 months, as well as at other times. On 36 occasions he was put on report for breaches of discipline. Des was moved 15 times between 12 different prisons – every attempt was made to try and break him, and inflict misery on his wife and children. 

From prison he led the fight for Justice and yet every attempt to mobilise union support was met with either lies or deceit by the official TU. Because the State had used charges alleging criminal conspiracy, the TU and Labour leaders used that to squirm out of doing anything, saying Judicial reviews and an incoming Labour Government would release them. Des and Ricky Tomlinson – who had been jailed for 2 years – had decided when they were sent down not to except the sentence and fight back. Apart from “Key To My Cell”, the defence QC, John Platts Mills, in his book “Muck Silk and Socialism” and Jim Arnison’s book on the trials, the fit-up was ignored by the media. John Platts Mills wrote, the trial of the Shrewsbury pickets is the only case I know of where the government has ordered a prosecution in defiance of the advice of senior police and prosecution authorities. Police had accompanied the pickets from site to site and saw no reason to intervene, no arrests were made. 

But Building contractors had complained to their federation, who complained to Tory MPs who complained to the Home Secretary. The 2 police forces involved, North Wales and West Mercia, questioned some 800 witnesses before deciding that proceedings couldn’t go ahead because it was impossible to identify any wrongdoers. The home secretary, in defiance of the advice he had received ordered the police to bring proceedings and in February 1973, 31 men were arrested, and 24 were prosecuted some 6 months after. Throughout their imprisonment there were numerous strikes and calls for action for their release. The most famous being the campaign launched by Wigan Builders Action Committee, which marched from Wigan to London demanding a general strike to get them out. It culminated in a demonstration in London with over 5,000 workers marching.

There were numerous attempts to get Justice and answers once Des and others were released, including exposing those TU and Labour leaders and left apologists who sold out. Des had been given Largactyl – a heavy sedative – in prison which resulted in him developing Parkinson’s disease which would eventually cause his early death. Des’s son Nick describes his struggle and his determination and gives an insight to Des in his funny and moving book “Thirty Years in a Turtleneck Sweater”. Many people helped Des and attempts were made for him to go to Cuba for treatment, but he was unable to go because he was too ill.

In 2003 Des Warren was awarded the Robert Tressell Award for services to the working class at the Construction Safety Campaign’s AGM in Liverpool, together with other Shrewsbury pickets.  Des Warren died in 2004 but before he died Mike Abbott who had helped look after him, promised he’d fight to clear his name. So in 2006, after 30 years and under the 30 years’ Freedom of Information act, a meeting was organised with Ritchie Hunter and Harry Chadwick. It was decided that they would relaunch the Shrewsbury Campaign. Meetings were held which were well attended and the beginnings of the present Justice for Shrewsbury 24 pickets Campaign was born. Other meetings were held and more people wanted to help. 

In London following a packed meeting where Arthur Scargil, John McDonnell MP, John Hendy QC, Ricky Tomlinson and others spoke, the London Committee was formed. A National Committee was started and a constitution agreed and things began to move forward . Many of those who became involved were not new to Shrewsbury. In London alone 2 had participated in the London to Wigan march as had Mike Abbott, 4 were full-time UCATT convenors, 1 was chair of UCATT London region, 3 had been involved in Shrewsbury committees in the 70s, and 2 had been involved in the launch of Des’s book .

Considering that UCATT had moved a successful resolution at the TUC. It certainly was not followed up. When the Labour government was approached and Jack Straw was asked to release the papers relating to the case, the National Committee was told that for reasons of national security they could not. Consider Bloody Sunday and revelations that troops murdered 13 civilians, Hillsborough police altering statements, Orgreave police violence. The National Committee has organised a lobby of parliament, 2 Early Day motions, and 2 fringe meetings at UCATT conferences.

Fringe meetings were held at the Labour conference in Brighton, speakers at fringe meetings organised by the Blacklisted Workers Support Group went to the Manchester TUC congress and spoke at 3 meetings. We’ve produced a forty minute DVD which has been shown around the country; spoke at numerous trades councils; recently raised 1,150 pounds towards the CCRC; joint benefit do’s for Blacklisted workers; stood shoulder to shoulder with the 6 months Besna dispute and the Crossrail sackings. We’ve aslso organised meetings with TU leaders and the TUC leadership. We have participated at all the hugely successful annual Shrewsbury pickets marches, through Shrewsbury organised by Telford and Shropshire TUC.

Today the lessons of the Shrewsbury pickets and the state conspiracy and criminalisation of the TU’s are vital lessons for Trade Unionists, who are facing an unprecedented attack on our democratic rights and the very welfare state workers fought for by this coalition. It’s not just simply a case of clearing the names of the Shrewsbury pickets as Des stated from the dock. Victims or Villains, we are all part of something bigger than this trial . The National Committee fully participated in the Criminal Case Review Commission the CCRC. And we fully supports it physically and financally. But the campaign must be wider, involving the whole workers’ movement, it can’t be left to a small sectarian undemocratic group based in the North West. With occasional support of 1 or 2 TU leaders and 1 or 2 MP’s speaking on platforms, no matter how sincere they may be. The TUs could have and should have made available facilities and money for a massive campaign if they really wanted to do something.

We refuse to believe that anybody can separate all the issues that workers face today from the questions of Justice for the Shrewsbury pickets, they are intrinsically linked. Just read the evidence . The National Committee knows from messages that UCATT and UNITE officials – as well as ALL rank and file members – want to see the campaign reunited. The workers movement has been divided time and again, employers always seeks to divide and split campaigns to weaken them. we’ve always left our door open for anyone to talk constructively. Democracy in action is maintaining differences yet fighting the common enemy on decisions agreed by all.
By Peter Farrell, April 2012. (Reproduced without permission)
http://www.shrewsburypicketscampaign.org.uk/

The VOAG is everywhere - The VOAG is watching

                               Theses on the AIUF

Jim Padmore, November 2011. 
1. The tactics of communists in relation to bourgeois and petit-bourgeois led movements coming into struggle with imperialism was outlined in essence at the Second Congress of the Communist International (CI). Lenin’s theses put forward the possibility of forming an ‘alliance’ with these forces on two conditions. One, that they were in practice leading a struggle against imperialism and two, that such an alliance placed no restrictions on the communist’s independent activity aimed at organising the workers and peasants against imperialism. The theses sowed no illusions in either the willingness or the ability of the ‘national revolutionary’ movement i.e. the bourgeoisie, to take the struggle through to the end, to break the stranglehold of imperialism. They emphasised that ‘a determined fight’ needed to be waged against painting these movements in communist colours. Independence of propaganda, organisation and action was necessary because the national bourgeoisie would vacillate and compromise in the struggle against imperialism.

2. The tactic of the united front in the colonial and semi colonial world was developed more fully at the Fourth Congress of the CI. Its development was part of the discussion and elaboration of the united front tactic undertaken between the Third and Fourth Congresses, in particular in relation to the social democratic parties and their trade unions in Europe. In the period directly after the Russian Revolution and during the revolutionary crisis which gripped Europe after World War I there was little stimulus to develop the Bolsheviks’ 1917 practise into generally applicable tactics for the CI, since the mass influence of the social democratic leaderships appeared to be on the point of collapse. As Trotsky said 1f we consider the party is on the eve of the conquest of power and working class will follow it, then the question of the united front does not arise.’ Within the CI the creation of communist parties, the building of soviets and the armed insurrection were the tasks central to a revolutionary situation. By 1921, however, it was clear that this revolutionary situation had passed. Capitalism, aided and assisted by the treacherous social democratic and labour leaders, had managed a temporary stabilisation. Recognising the changed situation and the strength of reformism in Western Europe, CI launched the united front tactic at the Third Congress under the slogan ‘to the masses’. After this Congress the ECCI developed the tactics that became known as the united front.

3. The workers’ united front was a tactic, or a series of related tactics, aimed at winning the mass of the working class to revolutionary communism, to the programme of the revolutionary party and for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Not through propaganda alone but through action, and in struggle:

‘Only by leading the concrete struggles of the proletariat and by taking them forward will the communists really be able to win the broad proletarian masses to the struggle for dictatorship.’ (Theses on Tactics 3rd Congress). As a tactic the united front was subordinate to this strategic goal. To turn the united front from a tactic to a strategy, where bringing it into being (or its maintenance once achieved) becomes the perpetual long term goal, can only lead to the liquidation of the revolutionary programme; a necessary consequence of the continuation of a long term alliance with the non-revolutionary parties or organisation.

4. Not withstanding the common method of the united front which underpins both the workers united front and the anti-imperialist united front (AIUF), there are important differences between them. The workers united front in the imperialist nation rests on the unity in action of the workers organisations and their parties. Communists fight within such united fronts, however limited, to develop the demands of the common struggle, through the use of transitional demands, to a struggle to overthrow capitalism. This necessitates the fight to develop the united front, in acute periods of class struggle, into soviets and the struggle for the workers government. The AIUF however develops on the terrain of minimum or democratic demands-the struggle against imperialist domination, for national independence and unity, for democracy and democratic rights. Into this struggle it seeks to draw, not only the workers’ organisation, but those of the petit­ bourgeoisie-the organisations especially of the peasantry, the small urban property holders, the professionals, teachers etc-and even sections or elements of the national bourgeoisie itself, where ever the latter is compelled to resist imperialism by the pressure of the masses. The fight by communists to win the workers, poor peasants and the urban petit-bourgeoisie to the perspective of socialist revolution, to transform the struggle for democracy and against imperialism into a struggle against capitalism and for the dictatorship of the proletariat, to the extent that it is successful, must break up and replace the AIUP. The fight to win the masses from the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois leaders and their parties, the struggle to create workers soviets in the towns and soviets of poor peasants and agricultural proletarians in the countryside, is part of the struggle for a workers and peasants government; a government where the peasants have been broken from their bourgeois and petit-bourgeois leaders and won to the support of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

5. The united front by its very nature is a temporary agreement. Nine times out of ten, where there exists no especially favourable relation of forces or political situation, the reformist or nationalist leaders will refuse it and do their utmost to prevent their rank and file from participating. Where it is struck it will be around clear, precise and limited objects of real struggle. Its primary aim is not to produce joint propaganda (if it did it would be a propaganda bloc not a united front) but agitation around the action goals of the united front.

6. The Communist International made clear that the united front was not just an ‘appeal to leaders’; even less was it a proposal for a purely parliamentary combination or bloc: The united front means the association of all workers, whether communist, anarchist, social democrat, independent or non-party, or even Christian workers, against the bourgeoisie. With the leaders if they want it so, without the leaders if they remain indifferently aside, and in defiance of the leaders and against the leaders if they sabotage the workers united front.’ (ECCI April 1922). Thus the appeal for the united front was both from ‘above and below’. But, ‘the real success of the united front depends on a movement “from below”, from the rank and file of the working masses’ (Theses on Tactics 4th Congress).

7. The striking of the united front does not for one moment mean agreeing to end criticism. For the CI there were to be no diplomatic silences or glossing over of past or present vacillation and betrayals by the reformist leaders. Communists within the united front; ‘While accepting a basis for action must retain the unconditional right and possibility of expressing their opinion of the policy of all working class organisations without exception, not only before and after the action is taken but also if necessary during its course. In no circumstances can these rights be surrendered.’ (ECCI December 1921) Further more to maintain the united front in a bloc with reformist leaders during or after a betrayal in action, would be to become complicit in it. If it is important to know when to make a united front, it is equally important to know when to break it and thus issue an immediate warning to the rank and file workers that treachery is afoot.

8. The type of organisation appropriate to the united front is an organ of struggle not of propaganda for a programme. As such, a trade union is in one sense a united front. More correctly a united front creates ad hoc fighting bodies commensurate to the task in hand. These may be strike committees, councils of action and at the highest level soviets. Such bodies, vital for the struggle, strengthen the pressure on the reformist leaders to ‘break with the bourgeoisie’. A united front can therefore take many forms, it can be extremely episodic-for a single demonstration, rally, strike—or it can be of a ‘higher’ form, involving a series of actions and agreements-a military bloc, a rank and file opposition in the trade unions like the British ‘Minority Movement’ of the 1920’s. Whatever form it takes, it is a block for action in defence of working class interests, in which the communists neither boycott nor submerge their own programme, and they ‘march separately, strike together’.

9. The united front is not limited to defensive trade union or extra-parliamentary struggles. It is taken on to the electoral arena where reformist parties dominate the working class. It also takes up the question of government and governmental demands. The resolution on tactics at the Fourth Congress makes clear that the slogan for a workers’ government ‘is an inevitable consequence of the united front tactic’. The partial struggles of the working class inevitably run up against the structures of the capitalist state, against the government of the day and its policies. The communists have to provide society wide answers to the problems facing workers, they place demands on the workers’ leaders, put forward a programme for a workers’ government. But these are not just left as demands; they are fought for within the rank and file of the working class belonging to all workers’ parties and none, in a united front struggle to implement them via workers’ control in the factories, through the fight for soviets, via the general strike etc.

10. The basis of the anti-imperialist united front rests on the clash of interests between the peoples of the imperialised countries and the imperialist bourgeoisie. Imperialism promotes industrial development in the imperialised countries but in a stunted and lopsided form. The imperialist banks and monopolies dominate their economies, extracting super-profits in the form of repatriated profits and usurious interest payments on loans. They impose their constrictions on the economies through the imperialist agencies such as the IMP, World Bank, etc, and inevitably because of the impossibility of imposing such exactions democratically over any period, in alliance with the most reactionary elements tied to imper­ialism-the military hierarchy and landed oligarchy. The demand for ‘independent economic development’, for alleviation from debt, for state capitalist industrialisation, protectionism, land reform, and constitutional democracy, reflects the needs of those sections of the bourgeoisie and petit-bourgeoisie which suffer most from the straight jacket of imperialist domination. These demands can lead to episodic clashes between the bourgeoisie of the semi­ colony and the imperialist bourgeoisie (or its agents within the country) as in the case of the struggle against Somoza in Nicaragua.

11. However, because of the weakness of the bourgeoisie in the semi-colonial world, the degree to which important sections of it are tied economically to imperialist capital itself, and most importantly, because of its fear of the revolutionary mobilisation of the masses, which threatens its own rule as well as that of the imperialists, the national bourgeoisie only exceptionally leads or throws its weight behind serious struggles against imperialism. As a result in many countries in the twentieth century the leadership of the anti-imperialist movements has fallen to the petit­ bourgeoisie. But in the vast majority of cases its programme has remained faithful to that of the bourgeoisie despite the attempt to delude the workers by cloaking itself in socialist or communist colours – Nyrere’s ‘African Socialism’, Mugabe and the Ethiopian Derg’s ‘Marxism-Leninism’, the FSLN’s Sandinism, etc.

12. Where the bourgeoisie or sections of it, or the petit­ bourgeoisie, enters into a struggle with imperialism it is obliged to draw and lean on the mass of workers and peasants. In such cases it is the duty of communists to enter such a struggle alongside these forces. The anti ­imperialist united front aims to break the hold of the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois nationalists over the masses, in struggle. The communists neither stand aside in a sectarian fashion nor do they hide their criticisms of these leaderships or the goals for which they struggle. Unlike the popular front which is a cross class coalition subordinating the interests of the working class to the programme of the bourgeoisie, the AIUF confines itself to concrete joint actions, specific agreements which take forward the struggle against the imperialists, within which the communists retain both freedom of criticism and propaganda. Such united fronts, given the compromising role of the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois nationalist, are likely to be extremely episodic and temporary. There is no question of tailoring the slogans of struggle to those considered acceptable to the bourgeoisie, let alone ‘reserving a seat’ in the united front.

13. The conclusions Trotsky drew for the International Left Opposition from the Chinese revolution of 1923-7 were not that the tactic of the AIUF had to be abandoned but that its opportunist distortion led to disaster. Under the leadership of Bukharin and Stalin the tactic had been gutted of its revolutionary content The Chinese Communist Party abandoned its independence and submerged itself inside the bourgeois Koumintang (KMI). It had, under the guidance of the Comintern painted up the KMT leadership in communist colours, lauding its anti-imperialist credentials and abandoning all criticism of it. It had boycotted the demands of the workers and peasants which threatened to rupture its alliance with the bourgeoisie. It had turned the AIUF into a popular front which delivered the Chinese proletariat into the hands of the counter-revolution.

14. Stalin and Bukharin were aided in this by the lack of clarity of the governmental slogans put forward by the CI in its discussions of the AIUF tactic. The Chinese revolution proved the slogan of the ‘Revolutionary Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Peasantry’ not only redundant but capable of being perverted into a call for a separate bourgeois stage of the revolution. In this sense, in Trotsky’s words, the slogan became a ‘noose’ hung round the neck of the proletariat. It implied that a bourgeois solution to the struggle against imperialism was the goal which the proletariat fought for with the united front The Chinese events reaffirmed the necessity of the perspective of the permanent revolution, the struggle for soviets and the workers and peasants government Such a perspective does not mean that the AIUF can only be struck around such demands. In periods of defeat or where the masses are emerging from long periods of dictatorship, the united front may well be agreed around democratic demands, rights of free speech and demonstration, release of all political prisoners etc. The fight for a democratic constituent assembly can become an important goal of an AIUF where it is part of the struggle to overthrow an imperialist backed dictatorship. The fight for the expropriation of the landowners and for an agrarian revolution would figure centrally in the struggle for such an assembly in most parts of the imperialised world. The fight for these demands are above all conducted to strengthen the independence of the working class and its organisations alongside those of the peasants-via demonstrations, strikes, committees of struggle, soviet type organisations, etc.

15. The AIUF in no way implies giving support to so called ‘anti-imperialist governments’. Communists give no support to bourgeois governments. We support any serious action of such governments taken against imperialist interests, e.g. the nationalisations or expropriations of imperialist holdings. Communists would support and participate in military actions taken against imperialism i.e. in Nicaragua against the contras and US advisors, in Argentina against Britain in the Malvinas, fighting in such a struggle for the arming of the workers, for democratically controlled workers militias. Similarly where the political struggle reaches the stage of civil war against a dictatorship, communists might enter a military united front, whenever possible as an independent armed force accepting a common discipline in battle, making agreements under a common discipline. Aiming to strike a united front around common goals of struggle-immediate elections to a constituent assembly, legalisation of trade unions and strikes, etc. We recognise that military blocs are one form of the united front-a form not qualitatively different to united action for political goals, ‘war is nothing more than the continuation of politics by other means’. When we call for the military victory of such movements as the FMLN, FSLN, etc, fighting against imperialism, its agents or a dictatorship, normally a slogan raised where the civil war or revolutionary crisis has reached a decisive stage, we are not endorsing the victory of their political programme. Within such a united front we struggle for our programme, to break the workers and peasants from the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois leaderships and enter onto the road of struggle for a workers and peasants’ government

16. It is therefore not permissible to give the AIUF in a governmental form since the proletariat cannot share with bourgeois forces the goal of a common government. While we can join a common struggle for the convening of a constituent assembly along with petit-bourgeois and even bourgeois forces, our governmental slogan remain the workers and peasants’ government. No bourgeoisie will tolerate a genuine working class government i.e. one that rests upon the armed workers and serves their immediate and historic interests, and the proletariat must under no circumstances support a government of its own exploiters. Any government which claims to be ‘above classes’ or to represent ‘the people as a whole’ is a deception. The proletariat can indeed defend or seek to bring about a democratic regime, utilising democratic slogans insofar as these mobilise for a struggle against dictatorship and for the rights of the workers, poor peasants and the oppressed petit-­bourgeoisie. But such struggles and slogans should never be erected into a self-contained or self-limiting stage. Soviets must replace the freest parliament, and the workers’ dictatorship the democratic republic. From the moment that democratic liberties have been won-de facto as well as de jure – they become an arena for the proletariat’s struggle for power.
The VOAG is watching, the VOAG is everywhere!