Battle of Ideas

The Labour Party in perspective (1996)

Submitted by Matthew on 15 June, 2010 - 12:32 Author: Sean Matgamna

"The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement...

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How to go forward from 8 June

Submitted by Matthew on 21 June, 2017 - 11:12 Author: Editorial

The 8 June election result has re-energised Labour’s activist base and helped put basic working-class demands back on the agenda. The increase in turnout among young voters, and the huge Labour lead among young voters, signal a major shift in British politics. All of this opens up a new period of Labour revival and recomposition.

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Russian Revolution: when workers took power

Submitted by Gemma_S on 17 January, 2017 - 12:04
Russian Revolution

A new book from Workers' Liberty, published April 2017.

Prices include postage, for bulk order prices (5 copies and above) please contact the office on to arrange postage.


Submitted by Jason Schulman on Mon, 10/04/2017 - 20:53

I suspect this disagreement has little bearing on any political differences (or similarities!) between the AWL and myself on current questions, but...

I think the Russian working class lost its last grip on state power in 1921, not 1927. Not so much because of the Kronstadt rebellion (I'm not convinced by left anarchist accounts on that one) but when the Russian Communist Party became not a workers' party but a party of "workers and peasants." As we know, no real political party -- one that controls who joins and who doesn't -- can represent two classes at once. And the ruling parties of the "People's Democracies" always said they stood for the same thing.

If the Bolsheviks stood openly for the dictatorship of the (tiny) proletariat over the peasantry, they would lose the peasant base which they had obtained by adopting the SRs' land reform program and be destroyed by an uprising of the vast majority of the country. If they attempted to politically represent the peasantry, they could do so only by crushing the struggles of the proletariat and its most advanced sections -- by becoming a collective Louis Bonaparte. But in this case - unlike Bonaparte, whose power ultimately rested on the bourgeoisie, or the similar Byzantine or pre-revolutionary Chinese regimes, which ultimately rested on slaveholder and landlord classes -- the Bolsheviks could not count on the peasantry's class fear, but could only rely on ideology and direct coercion.

The NEP was the Bolsheviks' attempt to square this circle, at least temporarily, by making a deliberate, explicit and partial retreat to capitalism. It ultimately failed. Stalin's forced-collectivization policies from 1928 onward simply completed the shift of the CPSU to becoming the political representative of the peasantry. The peasantry *cannot rule* and in consequence it can only, when it acts independently, find a master who will coerce it to produce for the society. That master is the absolutist state.

That's what "bureaucratic collectivism" really was -- not a post-capitalist mode of production, but a sort of peasant and petit-bourgeois Bonapartism. And it began years before 1927 regardless of the intentions of Lenin and Trotsky.

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Does the labour movement need a Marxist educationalist group like the AWL?

Submitted by dalcassian on 9 February, 2014 - 10:07

An examination of the role of a Marxist “Fighting Educationalist Group” in the class struggle and in the transformation of existing labour movements.

Click here for other discussion of the same issue.

“It is necessary to find the particular link in the chain which must be grasped with all one’s strength in order to keep the whole chain in place and prepare to move on resolutely to the next link.”

V I Lenin

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The Labour Left in the 1980s and Trotskyism: a survey by banned Marxist paper, Socialist Organiser (1990)

Submitted by dalcassian on 18 August, 2010 - 2:33 Author: Editorial in Socialist Organiser

On 25 July [1990] the Labour Party's National Executive Committee voted to ban Socialist Organiser.

It is no longer "legal" in the Labour Party to sell Socialist Organiser or to help produce it. Attempts to expel those who produce the paper are expected to follow in due course.

The ban on Socialist Organiser takes the Labour Party on to a new level of intolerance, and moves it a big step nearer to being an authoritarian one-faction party.

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After Manchester: is more police the answer?

Submitted by Matthew on 31 May, 2017 - 8:59 Author: Sacha Ismail

A central part of the Labour Party’s response to the Manchester atrocity has been to emphasise its call for more police officers — and now also more intelligence personnel. Labour is also promising more prison guards and borders agents.

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The waning of Chavismo?

Submitted by Matthew on 24 May, 2017 - 10:21 Author: Pablo Velasco

For the last seven weeks Venezuela has experienced violent opposition protests intent on toppling the elected Maduro government. Since the beginning of April, over 50 people have been killed during demonstrations orchestrated by the right-wing Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD – Democratic Unity Table).

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John Reed: Soviets in Action: An Eyewitness Account of Working Class Democracy in the Russian Revolution

Submitted by dalcassian on 23 November, 2016 - 11:45 Author: John Reed

Through all the chorus of abuse and misrepresentation directed against the Russian Soviets by the capitalist press there runs a voice shrill with a sort of panic, which cries: ‘There is no government in Russia! There is no organisation among the Russian workers! It will not work! It will not work!’

There is method in the slander.

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The French presidential election, April-May 2017

Submitted by martin on 24 April, 2017 - 6:54 Author: Various


Submitted by martin on Mon, 01/05/2017 - 09:21

By Martin Thomas

  • Macron's policies are bad, they've paved the way for the FN, and if he wins and gets his way between now and 2022, then the FN is likely to come back stronger then? Only independent working-class politics can stop the rise of the FN or similar forces? Absolutely. And left groups in France which favour voting Macron on 7 May, like Ensemble, say that as clearly and vividly as those who recommending a shrug or a blank vote, or more so.
  • The candidate is different, and the circumstances and reasoning are different, but the idea of casting votes for candidates whose program we hate, for reasons other than their program, is not new. The argument that "a 'critical' vote for [Macron] will be indistinguishable from those who genuinely endorse Macron’s policy" makes sense only if we think that every left-winger who recommended a vote for Blairite Labour candidates anywhere was "indistinguishable" from Peter Mandelson. People who understood that we voted Blair-Labour despite and against the Blair program, because it still had some links with the labour movement (although it was trying to trash them), will also understand voting Macron despite and against the Macron program, to stop a fascist gaining the presidency on 7 May. "Tactical voting" - voting which is not, as the French say, a "vote d'adhésion" - is not a specialised trick of Marxist aficionados, but a commonplace.
  • Ensemble and others can say, in a way that is quite logical and widely understood, that they will vote Macron on 7 May, but hate Macron and mobilise to disrupt and defeat Macron's project. In 1998, no-one said in the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement that they were voting for it, but hated the Agreement and were mobilising to destroy it. It's hard to see how you could have campaigned that way.
  • It will look bad if Macron wins and the left is seen to have had a part in it? I don't see why. It is not so hard to understand that the left vote for Macron is coupled with mobilisation against his program. If Le Pen wins and the left is seen to have had a part in that, then it will be much worse than just looking bad.
  • And if Le Pen wins, the left will have had a part in it.
  • Departing from our tradition? In the first place, our tradition - unless we want to repudiate the left wing of pre-1914 German Social Democracy and the Bolsheviks - is one of always seeking maximum independent working-class intervention, but not of always refusing to vote for bourgeois candidates, not of saying that there is no difference worth bothering about between bourgeois democracy and fascism, and not of saying that there is no difference between a danger of fascism in five years' time and having a fascist president now.
  • In the second place, if some comrades are so unsure of their political steadfastness, then they should educate themselves rather make French workers pay the price. "Why did you decide to let Le Pen in?" "I was scared that if I voted against her, I wouldn't be able to stop myself sliding down a slippery slope to voting for bourgeois lesser evils all the time".
  • And in the third place, it is superstitious to reject a vote for Macron on the grounds that it implies that routine neoliberalism is not as bad as fascism, and so may blunt the fight against routine neoliberalism. Routine neoliberal capitalism is not as bad as fascism: that is a fact. If it is impossible for workers to hold in their heads the two ideas of a fight against capitalism, and that there are worse things than routine neoliberal capitalism, then there will never be a socialist revolution. But it is not at all impossible. The left used to be afraid of saying harsh things against Stalinism, for fear it would make routine liberal capitalism look good by comparison, but that fear was irrational and counterproductive.
  • We can't convince Le Pen voters with a vote for Macron? We won't convince them with a shrug - "not enough difference to make it worth voting" - either. The core of convincing Le Pen voters is, of course, creating a force on the left strong and clear enough to give them hope. Part of that is convincing them that Le Pen is not just a routine politician with some nationalist overtones, but a fascist.
  • The mounting evidence is that the mood in favour of shrugging among a significant minority of left voters in France - and the pro-Le-Pen mood among a smaller but still not negligible minority of them - is not the product of a shift to more left-wing views and more working-class intransigence since 2002. The contrary, as you'd expect with a drop in the revolutionary-left vote from 10% then to under 2% this time. Some of the left see large elements of Le Pen's chauvinist anti-EU and anti-"globalism" line as sort-of-left-wing. Others have been duped by Le Pen's "de-demonisation" effort, as she calls her cosmetic rebranding of the FN. Yet others are defeatist and demoralised: "if Macron wins, that only means the FN in 2022, so you might as well shrug". Or nihilistic: the slogan of the recent small anarchist demonstrations, "Neither banker, nor fascist", makes sense only if there is no difference between the general domination of capital (bankers, etc.) and fascism. There is nothing revolutionary about going along with that mood, or with the evasions to which Jean-Luc Melenchon has resorted for fear of confronting the pro-Le-Pen and pro-shrugging moods among his voters.

Submitted by Duncan on Mon, 01/05/2017 - 18:08

Cathy at the meeting on the 1st April is keen to stress that this a one-off in specific circumstances. The problem with this is that Martin citing a number of historical precedents cuts across this. He points to the pre-1914 German Social Democracy and the Bolsheviks. He argues that being positively for working-class representation never meant not supporting bourgeois candidates and this interpretation first appears tentatively with Cannon in 1950. If Martin is right then we have been wrong on in this in the immediate past and he is now reconnecting us with the authentic tradition. If that is the case it is surely not a one-off.
Martin claims a difference between being positively for working-class candidates and being negatively against bourgeois candidates. Clearly there is a difference, however the two are inter-linked. It cannot be reasonably argued that supporting bourgeois candidates even in a run-off doesn’t somewhat diminish our position on working-class candidates. We move from a position where we only support workers candidates to one where we only support workers candidates unless we are in a situation where there isn’t one. Then the calculation will begin to be (as Martin has indicated the American Trotskyists did in the past and indeed we have had similar discussion about independent candidates) where these candidates are plausible and if not then what?
Martin doesn’t address the Trump/Clinton question. Maybe in retrospect he thinks we got it wrong. If he does he should say so if not he should explain the difference. As Sacha points out that argument is essentially a ‘dodge’. Martin himself has pointed out that in the past American Trotskyists didn’t call for a vote in the American election despite the presence of ‘socialist’ propaganda candidates, presumably part of that calculation was that the election was to all intents and purposes a two-horse race.
I think that the problem with Martin’s position is a rather static and stagiest one rather than seeing, dare I say, the dialectical movement both in French politics and indeed within our organisation. Martin’s view is vote Macron and then we start again to build a left. My view is that Macron winning, whilst still the preferable outcome, will be part of the process of strengthening the nationalist right. In addition, the likely effect of this endorsement with the citing of historical precedents will set a trajectory for our group of assessing each ‘lesser evil’ candidate to see whether it is correct to endorse them. This will I think lead to diminishing of our politics.
Martin, with rather ridiculous hyperbole, claims that because we are unsure of our steadfastness, we are sacrificing the French workers (again transfer this argument to Trump/Clinton!) Firstly, our steadfastness can only be assured by our collective thought and discussion, which is what we are doing here. Secondly, I do not believe that our small British group advocating a vote for Macron will save the French working class. Indeed, what we can do is make clear the necessity for an independent working class voice and action and not take responsibility, no matter with what caveats, for the viciously anti-working class programme Macron will launch. It maybe argued that, in a panic, it is Martin who is sacrificing the future of French working-class politics.
In addition Martin impermissibly slips between having nuanced ideas, nuanced arguments and how you vote, votes by their nature do not allow for nuance. We have explained this to the Lexiteers ad nauseam. It is a vote for Macron no matter what you are muttering under your breath.

Submitted by martin on Mon, 01/05/2017 - 19:04

1. I have deliberately not used the euphemisms sometimes used on the French left - "use your vote to bar Le Pen" - and instead said plainly that I agree with voting Macron on 7 May.

2. Voting Macron to stop Le Pen is not taking responsibility for Macron's program or reducing the vigour of agitation for independent working-class politics. Any more than voting for Remain was taking responsibility for the EU's neoliberal policies.

3. The key difference with Clinton/ Trump is that there it was possible to run or back other candidates. Most of the left argued that the Bernie Sanders constituency should affirm its autonomy by voting for Jill Stein. She did poorly - the left in the USA is weak, much weaker than in France - but she did get 1,457,216 votes. The Socialist Alliance in 2001, when it did best, got a total of 58,553 votes across the country, the equivalent in proportion to population of 300,000 odd votes in the USA.

4. The American Trotskyists (SWP and WP both) "shrugged" in the 1940 and 1944 presidential elections - found themselves unable to recommend any action - both because they thought the left "propaganda" candidates too poor to back, and because they described the main bourgeois candidates as not very different from each other. In 1948 the WP recommended a vote for the SWP, the SP, or the SLP, not because the SP or the SLP had got better, but because it knew that otherwise left-minded workers might go for the Stalinoid candidate Henry Wallace. It was a judgement based on circumstances, not on worries about what this or that "might lead to".

5. I pointed out in 2002, when arguing against a Chirac vote then, that not voting for bourgeois candidates was not an absolute rule. It didn't take any "panic" to make me point that out. Of course it was and is a usual rule.

6. Probably Macron will win whatever we say. But it is entirely possible that the outcome may be depend on how the "constituency" of the left candidates goes, and that's something we should reasonably have an opinion about. (If someone asks you about voting on 8 June, you don't reply: "No point me giving an opinion, because our group is so small"). To argue against a Macron vote on specific grounds may make sense. I don't think so, because it is entirely coherent to recommend a Macron vote, on the grounds that he is not fascist, and denounce his program. But to argue against on the grounds that such a vote might lead to this or that (i.e., implicitly, that in and of itself the vote would be a good idea, but is disqualified only because of what it "might lead to") is unsound. It does amount to saying that the French working class must put up with an increased risk of Le Pen because we are unsure of our future virtue.

Submitted by martin on Tue, 02/05/2017 - 18:56

65% of the supporters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon have voted, in a consultation called by Mélenchon, for abstention or a blank vote on 7 May.

I'm not surprised. And I'm not pleased. I think it represents a compound of fatalistic demoralisation and left-nationalist complaisance towards Le Pen.

What we're seeing is not an advance of the left to a more independent and left-wing position than in 2002, but a regression.

It is epitomised by the well-known intellectual Emmanuel Todd. He will abstain on 7 May. He is and long has been considered a left-winger.

But what informs his abstention? He has become a sort of French nationalist. He was very pleased about Brexit. In advance of the first round, he said he did not know whether to vote for Mélenchon or the conservative nationalist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who has now made an alliance with Le Pen.

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Defend Jackie Walker? Not like this! Antisemitism and the left

Submitted by cathy n on 15 October, 2016 - 9:36 Author: Ruth Willis

The most informative thing about the recent controversy in Momentum — around comments made by Vice-Chair Jackie Walker at an antisemitism training event — has been less the words Jackie Walker herself said, and more the comments made by some of those who have rallied to her defence.


Submitted by John D on Sat, 15/10/2016 - 22:28

Right then, for what does the activist student left stand for:

Kindly publicize your positions, in order of importance, to involve Manchester Uni students.
We stand:

- Against Tory cuts and for free education
- For the liberation of Palestine
- For a radical solution to climate change
- Against the racist BNP and EDL
- For LGBT and Women's Liberation

* From the Manchester Uni SSWP site.

Shocked? Really?
(Pause for thoughtful analysis . . .)


"Is this kind of racist antisemitism rife on the left? No."
That's a hyper-optimistic proclamation.

I do wish there was way for an ordinary secular, mostly leftish actually Jewish accepter of Israel to have a say. Not to apologize, not to convince, just to say this is why.

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