Debate: Should socialists support gun control?

Author: 
Amina Sadiq

The shooting of innocent Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes by the Metropolitan police on 22 July poses issues not just about the arming of the police, but about the broader question of who should have access to guns.

Whatever the qualifications introduced by the difficult issue of suicide bombers, I think socialists should continue to oppose the police in general being armed. We do not want a situation like that which exists in the US, where police officers routinely carry guns and wield armed force, often against working-class and in particular black working-class people, with relative impunity. But what do we say about gun control exercised not over the agents of the state but over its citizens?

The US constitution famously states that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed”; historically, revolutionary democrats insisted on this right as a guarantee against arbitrary state power and the development of tyranny. But the early United States was a society composed predominantly of independent small farmers, with only a small urban population. It is obvious that carrying a gun around your farm is different from carrying a gun in the hot house of a big city packed with people, full of social tension and with numerous potential flashpoints for violence.

Nonetheless, in recent history too, some socialists in the US have opposed gun control on the class grounds that the working class movement should not endorse - even when it is not strong enough to decisively challenge - the bourgeois state’s monopoly of force. This was the position of the James Cannon and the American SWP, for instance. As Trotsky put it in the Transitional Programme, socialists must dispute the reformist idea “that the sacredness of democracy is best guaranteed when the bourgeoisie is armed to the teeth and the workers are unarmed.” The working class and oppressed groups may need arms for self-defence, as in the late 1960s when the Black Panthers armed themselves for protection against the police. In a revolutionary situation or even major class struggle, this becomes more important still — how can we even begin to prepare the ground for a workers’ militia if we have supported laws which prevent anyone except the state from acquiring weapons?

The problem, of course, is that the current beneficiaries of guns being freely available will not be revolutionary workers' organisations but petty criminals, not to mention the kind of disturbed individuals who carried out the Dunblane massacre and numerous shootings in American schools. Gun-related crime is a massive problem in US and increasingly some British cities (for instance Nottingham); and the victims of it are almost always working-class (and again often black working-class) people. Moreover, in Britain the situation is somewhat different from the US: although we generally oppose the police having guns, there is not a threat to the workers' movement and the oppressed from armed police and right-wing vigilante militias in the way that there at least has been historically in the US. It therefore makes a lot less sense to insist on the right of citizens to be armed.

In addition, the police are not the only threat working-class people face, and there is nothing progressive about communities being flooded with weapons. This suggests a case for some kind of gun control, but the question is how this can be done without strengthening the repressive powers of the state and disarming — ideologically and, in the end, physically — the workers’ movement.

Perhaps the solution is what I understand some socialists in Australia have advocated: gun control administrated not by the police but by the labour movement (or is this simply advocating revolution under another name?) In any case, there is an urgent need for a debate on these issues, and first of all among the revolutionary left.

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The Right to Bear Arms

The actual wording of the US Constitution does not actually give everyone the right to bear arms - though the NRA and gun lobby interpret it that way. The actual wording is

Article [II.]
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a
free State,the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

In other words the last bit is always referred to, but the first bit is not. There is a big difference between people owning guns as part of "A well regulated militia", and any old lunatic running around with an AK47.

I would suggest that the original formulation provides the answer. It was the foundation of the "Dad's Army" in Britain during the war, which I think I am right in saying was put forward by the CP, and consequently in the beginning met with some resistance. The Left should begin to argue for some of these concepts of self organisation and reliance. In Stoke a few years ago in one of the rougher areas where there was problems with anti-social behaviour, petty crime, and violence residents formed themselves into patrols. Of course they were condemned as vigilantes etc., but they were far more effetive than th police. Of course there is the potential for vigilantism, or just for individuals settling scores, which is why such self-policing has to be developed within the context of working class organisation within their own communities around, tenants and residents associations, and socialists should work in and promote such organisations as much as they work in the Trade Unions or other areas of working class everyday life.

The left has abandoned whole sections of workers everyday lives and concerns, and the bourgeois state has stepped in to provide its own solutions, solutions which are usually ineffective, and always geared to meet the needs of the boiurgeoisie rather than ordinary workers. The SWP is just an extreme version of the Left in general, parachuting in to this or that area with the prime objective of "building the organisation". It may bring the odd recruit, but at the cost of pissing off most of the ordinary workers. Whatever the limitations of the routinism of the Labour Party it did at least establish some relevance for the day to day lives of ordinary workers through this routinism, whether it was dealing with problems with Council House Repairs or whatever, and workers at least knew that it wasn't going to disappear off to some new hunting ground when better prospects opened up.

Trotsky once compared the Transitional programme to a bridge, but complained that there was not as yet a road to the bridge. Today there is not even a footpath to the road to the bridge. It is necessary to somehow find a way of combining routine work that is relevant to ordinary workers, with the wider political agenda. That combination is achieved within the Trade Unions, but in many respects that is just preaching to the converted other than when a strike or some event occurs which draws in workers outside the usual ring of activists.

Arthur Bough

Gun Control - Anti Socialistic

Collective ownership of the means of production is the central tenant of the Socialist ideology. Yet so many socialists by arguing in favor of gun control, they argue against the collective ownership of the means of production of violent force.

The second amendment is two clauses representing separate ideas:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a
free State," being the first clause is an acknowledgment of the fact that states need well regulated militias. It was a rhetorical device used to pre-emptively acknowledge some arguments against the second clause ",the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Basically what they were saying was: Yes, we understand that we need to have well regulated militias in order to ensure the security of a free society, BUT, we will not infringe upon the right of the people to keep and bear Arms.

If you are really a socialist, then you can appreciate the collectivist nature associated with this amendment.

The foolish notion that once the "workers" have control of society it would be OK to round up all the guns and place the power to exercise violence into the hands of a few is exactly how Stalinist Russia got off track from true Marxism and ended up being one of the most brutal and oppressive things ever to happen to the people it governed.

The workers will always need to have their own arms so as to be able to protect themselves from the armed elitists who would subdue them.

Isn't it a bit ridiculous...

...to read our attitude to gun control legislation in the here and now backwards from our attitude to revolutionary violence or the use of weaponry by some future workers' militia in defending some future form of workers' rule against some future counter-revolutionaries?

Saying "we believe guns will be necessary at some point, therefore we should oppose all gun control, at any point, on principle" is a bit like saying "we're against wages, therefore socialists should stop going to work." Only worse, because the practical application of the former position is more likely to get people killed...

Gun Control

Unfortunately as a person living in the United States, being armed has almost become a necessity, especially for women. That you are raising this issue demonstrates an excellent sense of awareness for open debate. Incidentally, I posted a link to this article at www.gnostics.com/newsletter.html

Regards,
Suzanne Radford,editor
Gnostics & The Social Revolution
www.gnostics.com

Individual v Collective Action

You say that in the US it is almost impossible to do without a gun, especially as a woman. I can understand this from an individual perspective. However, as socialists surely we look to providing solutions based not on an individual response, but on a collective co-operative response. I would be grateful for example to hear your impressions of the role of the Guardian Angels on the transport system. Some years ago in Britain, at a time when women were being attacked at night time, women organised a "Reclaim the Streets" campaign asserting the right of women to be out at night time without fear of attack. It would be useful to know what socialists and feminists in the US are doing to use their collective power in similar ways in the US.

I am an economist rather than a sociologist, but it seems to me that the main cause of violent and anti-social behaviour is the individualist culture which capitalism promotes ideologically and which is reinforced outside the workplace, even if its economic system leads to the socialisation of labour and drive for a collective response within the workplace. It seems to me that socialists have to take the concepts of solidarity developed within the workplace, and create similar reinforcing structures outside it, in order to challenge bourgeois structures, and bourgeois ideology, especially in societies where increasingly workers are employed on temporary contracts, in small unionised or anti union workplaces and consequently, where without some form of collective organisation workers will be at the mercy of individualist ideology, and where a dog eat dog society will drive them to seek solutions to their problems based not on working class ideas, but on individualist bourgeois ideas even to the extent of resorting to crime and anti-social behaviour.

In Stoke the pottery union when faced with a situation of many small workplaces where it was difficult to organise during the 19th century organised itself on the basis of lodges based on where workers lived rather than where they worked. This had the advantage of allowing workers to organise collectively on issues wider than just the workplace, and to deal with employers as a whole rather than on a workplace by workplace basis, every dispute becomes a dispute with all employers and all the workers act collectively. Of course, when workplaces became much larger such organisation was not the most suitable for dealing with workplace issues, and the union bureaucrats kept the old set-up as a means of limiting workplace militancy. But a combination of both seems to me a way forward, especially as we move to more general unions.

Arthur Bough

guns suck

I don't believe its in anyone's interest for there to be more guns in private hands, certainly not working class interests. Surely more guns just mean more profits for the arms trade and more misery for working class people who are the main victims of gun crime.

Furthermore if a group of workers were to use guns to fight the police or army we would just be slaughtered and labeled as terrorists. The bourgeois would love it.

Gun Control

Actually I agree with the views stated above more than I disagree. My leaning against Gun Control in the US however, IS individual. I do not support vigilantte groups. I wish I had the time right now to pursue a response deserving this issue & don't want to appear dismissive of other people's opinion's with what might appear to be the utilization of mere slogans. I do think that the the firearm culture in the US colors dialogue. For example, almost every (working to middle class) family I knew when growing up as a child possessed at least one firearm. I am against hunting for sport, but just about everyone I knew did it. It does often leave a psychological bias. I will continue to read other people's views here & please don't misunderstand if I don't respond further. I'm more with you than against you.
Regards,
Suzanne Radford
www.gnostics.com

A Certain Logic is Missing Here

Sean you say that if workers fought the police and military they would get slaughtered. Besides the fact that workers have been fighting the police and military throughout the history of working class struggle both with and without guns, there is a slight lack of logic in your argument here. If workers are going to be slaughtred if they end up in a fight with the police and military with guns, they are even more certain to get slaughtered in such a fight if they do not have guns.

Your logic would only have any meaning if you assume that the bourgeois state will only confront workers if workers are armed. All history shows that such hope is rather forlorn. Marx believed that socialism was possible in Britain and France through Parliamentary means, but he added even there the capitalist class would undoubtedly stage a "slave holders revolt" which would have to be put down. In just the last few days the US evangelist has called on the US special forces to assassinate Hugo Chavez. Imagine what the capitalist class's response would be to a socialist government.

There is only one scenario that I can comprehend in which your logic would hold. That would be if the capitalist class becomes replaced by the working class as the economically dominant class just as the capitalists replaced the aristocracy. Such a scenario is not impossible. If for example, the idea discussed in Solidarity based on the Swedish example in relation to pensions were adopted whereby firms had to place a proportion of their profits into a fund each year, if trade unions did the basic logical thing of demanding that the vast sums of money in existing workers pension funds were brought under the democratic control of the workers whose money it is supposed to be, it is theoretically possible that in developed countries at least workers could gain majority control of major companies. But such a scenario is highly theoretical. First it assumes that workers have the power to demand that companies do contribute to such a fund, and that they continue to contribute, which did not happen in Sweden. Secondly, it almost certainly has to be done on a European basis or capital will simply respond by relocating. Thirdly, it requires that capitalists take no other measures to counter the effect via share dilution for instance. Fourthly, it could put workers in control of large companies but still operating within a capitalist market (though on a European wide basis this may not necessarily be a problem because even after a succesful revolution market relations would likely have to be kept for some considerable time).

In short it is not wise to base possible responses to the capitalist state on the idea that it will just roll over and die.

Arthur Bough

Passive resistance

I really don't see how we could beat the army and police using armed resistance. Even if we could would we get a desirable end result? I think Gandhi proved violence is unnecessary for regime change. I don't think the capitalists will just roll over whether we use violence or not. I just think that ordinary soldiers and police officers have more in common with the working class than they do with their bourgeois masters. If we can convince them of this then there will be no need to fight them. You may think this post shows incredible naivety but I'd warrant a bet that many people said the same of Gandhi and MLK and look what they achieved through peacefull means

Naivete

I think that if you believe the indpendence of India was achieved because of Gandhi's passive resistance that certainly is naive.

In a certain sense the ordinary coppers, and soldiers do have more in common with the workers than the bosses, but a foreman has more in common with the workers than the bosses yet his job is to act on the bosses behalf, and he does so. I didn't see many of these coppers or soldiers showing working class solidarity with the Miners during the 84 strike, quite the contrary. There have been occasions when the soldiers have come over to the workers for example during the Russian Revolution, but these were conscript armies, not today's professional army, made up of people who join because they want to (by and large there is some element of economic conscription), and who have a certain perspective therefore to begin with. In any case proceeding on the basis that they will join the workers is a gamble I wouldn't want to take. The best chance their is that they would come over is if they were faced by overwhelming odds, and they didn't fancy a bloodbath. And history shows that in a revolutionary situation a well armed, organised, mass can defeat the military. It has done so time and again.

Would we get a desirable end result? That's a different matter for a whole host of reasons. It depends on the extent of the fighting. It depends on whether the forces of reaction are supported by foreign capitalists. It depends on how strong, and ideologically developed and committed hte workers are, and related to that, what social forces emerge as leading the revolution, what measures have to be/are introduced to deal with the revolutionary situation and threats to it.

Arthur Bough

Thanks

Arthur Bough I thank you for some really interesting comments. Your answers to my comments and questions are very enlightening.

How do you imagine the revolution will occur and what form will do you think it will take? I see it happening through social evolution, more like the Industrial Revolution than the French Revolution. However, I don't think the present democratic system is capable of anything other than legitimating bourgeois oppression. Is there any body of Marxist opinion that sees a non violent route to the worker's state other than participation in rigged elections?

I am interested in what you said about the working class becoming economically dominant. This idea of taking control of pension funds from the bourgeois, who have demonstated time and time again that they cannot be trusted with them, is something that would gain a lot of popular support today.

I am really reaching for an alternative to violent revolution as I am afraid we would replace one oppressor with another

Gun Control

I realize that I have waffled on the original question, Should socialists support control? Let me preface my "vote" by stating that just yesterday there was a US news report that a young boy found a loaded gun in his home & accidentally shot & killed his 10-year old sister. Such occurences are common in the US gun culture. However, I do NOT support socialist involvement in gun control, nor do I support gun control in general. My reasons are, (1)The Capitalist State must not have a monopoly on weaponry. (2) The "liberal" Democrats & politically correct social fascists are using this issue in order to herd people into the Democratic Party. (3) Social conservatives who support this issue are using it to herd people into the Republican Party, as well as to support a whole array of other conservative issues such as anti-abortion. Of course we all would like to see (the ever more illusive) Social Revolution be essentially non-violent in nature, but this is hardly likely as the Capitalist Oligarchs will not relenquish their stranglehold on society without utilzing all the fire power at their disposal. I find a grim inspiration from the insurrection of the Polish Jews in the World War II Warsaw ghetto who determined to go down fighting. I know that if the worst happens & the neo-fascists come for me, I want to be able to take a few of the bastards down with me.

In hope for Solcialist Unity,
Suzanne Radford, Editor
Gnostics & The Social Revolution
www.gnostics.com

violence

The basic lesson of history is that the more well-organised and armed the workers are, the less violence there is, and vice versa. In Chile in 1973, the government refused to arm the workers, but that didn't stop thousands being massacred. In France in 1968, with millions of workers on strike - and fighting the police in the streets - the riot police eventually refused to move against the workers.

Nobody except a psychopath wants violence. But as you say, the ruling class won't just roll over. The need to be prepared for what they're ready to do to hang on to their power and privilege is the basic point.

Siege

If the working class seize power using violence all over the world then I think a violent revolution could result in true social improvement with a genuine improvement in the conditions of life for working class people. However, a simultaneous global revolution would be a very neat trick indeed. Marx predicted revolution would happen in countries where the proletariat was most advanced but modern history does support this hypothisis. It seems revolution is more likely where capitalism is weakest, not where the proletariat is strongest.

If the revolution begins in America, arguably the most advanced capitalist nation, then American millitary and economic power could be harnessed to assist the proletariat worldwide to overcome their bourgeois oppressors.

Let us imagine the revolution begins in the UK, as Marx predicted, but fails in mainland Europe. We are imediately blockaded by capitalist Naval and Air superiority putting us under siege. A ruinous arms race, similar to the cold war, would be likely to ensue. Personal freedoms would be likely to be curtailed in order to prevent capitalists exploiting them to infiltrate and undermine our society. I fear the net result would be a deterioration in the conditions of the working class.

If a revolution begining in one European country spreads throughout Europe but fails to take hold globally then surely we arrive at a similar position to the post war stand off that existed between NATO and Warsaw pact untill the late eighties. The conditions of life for working people may well have improved in the Soviet Union but this is from a peasant population to proletarianisation. The same could be argued for the proletarianisation of Asian and African peasants today. It isn't Communism or Socialism that improves their quality of life its industrialisation that owns that credit.

The productive capacity of industrialisation and the creative power of the working class can only truely be harnessed on a global scale by communism. National or regional Communism seems to result in at least as much oppression as Capitalism due to the need for protection from counter revolutionary neighbours

Some Thoughts

Sean, I'm sorry for the delay in replying - I've been in Spain for just over three weeks. It was beautiful, but spent last night in hospital after a severe asthma attack on returning to England's climes. Perhaps the doctor could give me a prescription to live in Spain.

Back to the guns and revolution. While I was away I was finishing reading Capital and read Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution again, along with a WL pamphlet. It prompted some thoughts which I have written down, and will try over the next few days to type up.

I agree with what you say above. Marx thought that the revolution would occur first in Britian or France, and warned against trying to skip stages in relation to Russia (though you have to be careful how you interpret this). He also said in relation to Britain and France that socialism could arise through a peaceful Parliamentary procedure, but that even here there would undoubtedly be a "slaveholders revolt" which would have to be put down. Take this together with the other statements made by Marx and Engels in Capital III about the role that Credit would play for workers in constructing socialism, along with their comments in relation to the establishment of workers co-operatives, it seems to me that Marx's views were far less apocalyptic in relation to the revolution than say Lenin's, and also seem to me to lay far more stress on direct workers control and co-operation as the basis of socilaist transformation and the beginning of planning, than is contained in the rather statist top-down approach of both Lenin and Trotsky.

But be under no illusion Marx was not the reformist which for instance comrades of the Militant used to portray him - he was a revolutionary, and believed that the best way of minimising counter-revolutionary violence whether of the slaveholders revolt variety or the more serious Civil War variety is best achieved by warning the workers that the bosses will not go quietly, and insisting that they rely on their own organisation, and strength.

I think this debate has to be linked to other debates going on at the moment. In particular it has to be related to the debate concerning crime and anti-social behaviour which I have contributed to previously, and which Martin has now written an excellent piece on. Socialism is not about providing solutibns for the distant future, but solutions that workers can adopt now. These may well amount to reformsa rather than revolution - but what the hell if workers can't even win reforms what chance do they have of gaining the strength for a revolution. Moreover, the reforms workers have won in the last century have improved their lives far more than any revolution did during that time. Unfortunately, Marxists have become bedazzled by the romantic version of revolution along the lines of Russia, largely due to the malign influence of Lenin's view of the Party it is in essence a view of revolution as a "Political" revolution, whereas Marx's view of revolution was something far more deep seated - social revolution. Not the seizure of state power by the supposed political representatives of a particular class (though he obviously believed that was the culmination) but the root and branch replacement of the domination of all aspects of society by one class for the domination of another - the repalcement of the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie with the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Lenin's view was that the latter was only possible after the revolutionary party had carried through a political revolution. I disagree. I think Lenin's view led and leads to Stalinism - it is the grave digger of the workers revolution. Having read Trotsky's History again I am even more firmly of that view - even though it contradicts Trotsky's own view.

The kinds of things that Martin talks about and that I have raised previously such as Tenants and residents Associations are only what Marx tells us to do - look at what the workers do spontaineously such as create Trade Unions - understand why they have done it, codify it, explain back to workers the significance of the things they have done, and how they prefigure their own ability to control their own lives, and dominate society without the bosses. It is the materialistic conception. It is workers creating socialism within capitalism, developing their own societal forms, asserting their own independence, and along with the changes in economic relations which capitalism creates by its own dynamic creates the skeletal structure of socialism. These transitional forms are far more significant for the independent growth and development of the working class as a class for itself, conscious of its own power and role, than the semi-trickery demands of the Transitional Programme whose function is not to generate such class consciousness in a positive manner but to generate merely a negative class consciousness, a desire of the working class to reject capitalism rather than a positive desire to create socialism. The former is a programme for slow, but solid development of the class which at the same time generates organic changes at a social level, whereas the TP is a programme merely for leading workers towards a showdown with capital, an insurrection, a political rather than a social revolution.

The second area where the connection should be made is in relation to Iraq and other national liberation struggles - I disagree with the AWL's position here, and having read the WL's pamphlet "The New World Disorder" I think the AWL's argument is inconsistent. Having said that it is far better than the position of most orgfanisations, and as one of the people who wrote documents on the side of the majority in the faction fight with the Thornettites over Argentina I am quite clearly in favour of the AWL's chamioning of independent working class politics, as opposed to camp politics based on logic chopping, and quotation mongering.

I think the issue relating to guns is connected precisely from the perspective of independent working class politics, and my disagreement with the AWL's position is that I don't think it is independent enough for a number of reasons. Firstly, take the issue of national liberation itself. The legacy position of all Leninist groups is that we have to support demands for national liberation. No we don't. Marx and Engels during the 19th century opposed in clear words demands for national independence of a number of small European nationalities, because they believed on the basis of the needs of the working class, and the bigger picture some of these demands were reactionary. I take that view in relation to Palestine for instance. I think history has passed the Palestinians by. That may sound harsh, but the first duty of Marxists as Trotsky put it is to tell the truth no matter how harsh. I see no possibility of a credible Palestinian state as a separate entity, and the continued struggle for it brings only the growth of reactionary organisations, fostering Islamic fundamentalism, and working class division. I could no more support the demand than for a separate state for Ian Paisley and the Northern Ireland Protestants. In my opinion, a view I have now held for twenty years, the most prgressive solution for Palestine would be the same as that the AWL proposes for Ireland - a federal secular state guaranteeing the rights of both Jews and Arabs.

I disagree with the AWL in relation to Iraq, because I think it is impossible to logically argue that a national liberation struggle is not taking place. The country is occupied, and although it now has a government of sorts it is one effectively installed by the occupiers, and the vast majority of people want the occupiers out (at least at some point), some of them are fighting to bring that about. In WL 2/3 the AWL say they would support even Saddam Hussein if the US tried to occupy Iraq (I wouldn't I would oppose both), just as they would have defended Argentina if Britain had threatened Argentina rather than merely fighting to restrore the Falklands. But if its possible to support Saddam against a US invasion it mkaes no sense withholding the same support from those engaged in the same war (if you ask what the politics were of which this war is then a continuation) after the real occupation has occurred.

I would have given no support either to Saddam or now to the insurgents, but I would have asserted Iraq's right to national independence, and would have asserted that such independence is necessary for and a staging post to the working class furthering its own interests, and for that reason would have argued for independent working class resistance to the occupation in whatever form was achievable with the clear goal of removal of the occupation at the earliest opportunity, and by whatever means the workers felt necessary to achieve it, and would argue that the workers movement internationally should support them, economically, morally, politically and physically just as the International Brigade did in Spain. Without such a position how on earth is it possible to attract to the workers cause those millions who have not reached any kind of working class consciousness in Iraq, for whom the occupation is the primary concern, and for whom therefore only the Islamists would provide an answer. I would not even be averse to such an indpendent working class resitance conducting joint military occupations with the insurgents (it will probably soon be illegal to make that last comment in Britain) to the end of removing the occupation provided the workers maintained clear political and organisational indpendence.

The AWL's position (and this applies to Kosova too) of supposedly advocating an independent workoing class alternative, whilst condemning both protagonists is correct, but having read the AWL's arguments I think it is logically inconsistent in their practice for the simple reason that it is stated in words that basically nullify it i.e. it is couched in the context basically of saying we are in favour of an independent working class alternative but because we recognise the weakness of the working class we know it won't happen so we'll verbally condemn both sides, give no credibility to either whilst in reality hoping that one of them wins because they are the lesser evil i.e. we give no credibility to NATO but if they beat Milosevic that will be a good thing. The logic now being that if NATO bomb Albania in response to the subsequent pogroms against Kosovan Serbs that would also be a good thing, though not one the AWL would advocate or give any credibility to. We oppose the US and UK in Iraq, but if they get rid of Saddam that will be a good thing (but according to the AWL's previous positions not such a good thing as they argued for defending him against the US). This is the worst kind of saying one thing and doing (worse hoping for) another. It ends up in the same kind of lesser evilism as campism, and militates against building a real indpendent working class response.

This might seem a diversion from the issue, but it isn't. We have to take the current weakness of the working class as the starting point. That is materialism. We have to look at how workers themselves have overcome such weakness in the past, codify it, and relate those lessons back to the workers, and use that as a means of udnertaking real practical action now that deals with current problems (even if that weakness limits what can be done), and at the same time builds independent working class organisation and strength, and begins here and now to posit the new society as an alternative to the old.

No confidence in the police as an alternative to independent working class organisation and action through Tenants and Residents Committees.

Opposition to imperialism (another article to come elsewhere on what imperialism is). No confidence (even hoped for) in imperialist policing or bourgeois liberation movements as an alternative to independent international working class action for national liberation and democratic rights. Build a democratic international workers Defence organisation.

The same is true on the economic front. If you start from a materialist position the workers appear weak (though not so weak in some parts of the world where workers organisation is on the ascendant), in terms of organisation and consciousness. But in other respects workers are strong. As a result of their previous struggles they have achieved (even in the US) high levels of Social Security which undermine (but by no means remove) the bosses ability to use the Reserve Army of Labour against the workers, they have high levels of education and culture compared to the working class Marx described, they have won wide ranging democratic rights which the bourgeoisie cannot easily remove, and a living standard for most, if by no means all, Marx possibly could not have conceived this side the revolution. The real strenggth of the workers and the real social transformation that has occurred is the fact that faced with a huge economic catastrophe looming as China, India and other developing economies rapidly industrialise and replace western products and jobs, the bosses have not been able to slash pay and conditions at anything like the rate they need to to avoid disaster. That is of course not to say that they are not doing so, and that they would like to, and will try to increase those attacks, it is to say (and partly this is a positive effect of the Russian Revolution)that they know that if they push too far too fast their will be a severe reaction, one which will be destabilising for capitalism and its long term viability. So instead they use other methods. They buy time by encouraging consumption through the extension of credit, they borrow huge sums from developing countries to finance their own over consumption, and they basically trash their own currencies through the unheard of expansion of the money supply. Partly, this last is an old capitalist tactic for boosting profits and cutting real wages, rents and interest payments through inflation. The problem is that globalisation and the supply of most manufactured goods by China has meant that consumer price inflation has not increased due to global competition from these low cost producers, instead the massive increase in money supply has gone into fictitious capital, the creation of various asset bubbles such as the NASDAQ bubble (share prices are still way overvalued), the house price bubble etc. and explains the growth of various get rich quick TV programmes. In one sense the paper wealth these create even for workers form the basis of a mirage of propserity, and also of further borrowing to fund consumption, but as the collapse of such bubbles has shown in the past also lay the basis for a monumental economic crisis. (in many ways its like the way the French peasants were robbed of their newly acquired land in the 19th century, workers may find their homes, cars, pension schemes and other assets dissapear overnight as a credit crunch raises interest rates to multiples of their current level, and the wonderful array of loan companies that now dominate TV advertising try to call in their dodgy high interest loans before they themslves go bust.)

Workers should be proposing their own solutions now. For example, in place of the return of usury in the form of credit card companies, and loan companies we should champion Credit Unions both as a means of securing non usurous loans, but more importantly as a means of educating workers about the pitfalls of debt, and of building social solidarity.

You mention the issue I raised about pensions. In a debate I was having with a US Libertarian on another Discussion Board I put to him that workers as a basic democratic right should have control over the money in their pension schemes (after all he had been arguing that workers and capitalists were both the same now as workers owned vast amounts of capital in these same pension schemes). Faced with this proposition he suddenly lost his Libertarian belief in the individual and asserted that workers do not have the knowledge and skill to be able to control their own money in these schemes!!! Yet it seems to me that (especially faced with workers experience of state capitalism in the form of nationalised industries) a powerful, democratic demand for socialists to raise which every worker can understand and support is that they should have control over their pensions funds (especially given some of the corrupt practices of both pension funds and CEO's which workers control could guard against). I have no doubt that just like the US Libertarian the bosses would fuight tooth and claw against such a demand, and that in itself would be a valuable lesson for workers about economic domination, and profit. But were it achieved together with proposals to demand the payment of profits into these funds it would represent a significant increase in the economic power of the working class to control the way capital functions.

Finally, just before I went away I watched a TV programme on compensation for the descendants of Britain's slaves. It put a figure of seven and a half trillion pounds on the compensation due. Now the the theft of peasants lands and means of production at the end of the 18th beginning of the 19th century through physical seizure, and through the Enclosure Acts, Highland Clearances are well documented. Marx lists some of the beneficiaries such as the Duchess of Sutherland. If compensation were paid for this theft to the workers who are the descendants of these peasants that were expropriated and forced into the factories from the descendatnts of those that so benefitted the compensation would run into hundred of trillions of pounds. As compensation is being paid by JP Morgan in the US to the descendants of some US slaves, as compensation is being paid to other groups of dispossessed around the world isn't a basic democratic demand in Europe and Asia compensation for the theft of the means of production of our ancestors. After all capitalism places the right of property at the top of its list, and abhors acts of theft of property. Now that would expropriate the expropriators.

Arthur Bough