An appeal to the Socialist Party and the SWP

Submitted by AWL on 14 May, 2009 - 11:21 Author: Cathy Nugent
Socialist Alliance

It is an emergency! For the 2010 general election we should recreate something like the Socialist Alliance of 2001 — a coordination of the activist left able to offer voters a third alternative, a working-class socialist stance opposed to the mainstream parties and to the racist populism of the BNP.

The fascist BNP may well win a Euro MP in the 4 June elections. With the economic crisis, and the growing discredit of mainstream politicians, it can place itself to make serious advances in next year's general election.

Forming a new Socialist Alliance would be difficult? It would. But what is more urgent: dealing responsibly with the rise of fascism, or cultivating our factional habits and interests?

We urge you to respond.

(Cathy Nugent edits Solidarity)


Submitted by AWL on Fri, 15/05/2009 - 11:46

It's true that fascism and parliamentary (bourgeois) democracy are two forms of the rule of the capitalist class; and that for socialists, fascism vs "democracy" in the abstract is not the correct way of posing the question.

So therefore we should say "No difference", "We don't care whether fascism crushes bourgeois democracy" etc?! This is madness - like (but worse than) saying "We don't care if there is a monarchy or a republic", "We don't care if women have the right to an abortion" or "We don't care if there are anti-union laws" - since after all, even with a republic, reproductive freedoms and trade union rights, the rule of the capitalists remains. Logically this rules out any struggle for changes or reforms short of overthrowing capitalism and establishing working-class rule.

The point, surely, is that bourgeois democracy, for all its shallowness, hollowness and limitations, is a better form of capitalist rule for the working class to struggle within. Not only because it exercises certain popular limitations on the capitalists' government doing whatever it likes (and because it establishes certain general human rights), but crucially because it allows a certain amount of space for elementary workers' democracy - eg trade unions, workers' political parties - to exist and grow (through a struggle against capital, not by some automatic process). Fascism, by its very nature, destroys all shoots of workers' democracy. That is the role it plays for capital, and why capital helps bring it to power in situations of extreme social crisis.

Clearly that doesn't mean endorsing bourgeois democracy, or giving up on workers' struggle against it. In fact, it flows from the whole analysis that only through independent working-class struggle can we a) win real democracy, ie workers' democracy, and in the short term also expand democratic institutions within capitalism; and b) defeat the growth of the fascist threat. Unity with a section of the capitalists in the name of "democracy" in the abstract undermines both goals.

So in other words we should reject
a) The view that there is "nothing to choose"; but also
b) The view that, because bourgeois democracy is better for the working class than fascism, we should give up our independent struggle against it and for workers' democracy.

Defend bourgeois democracy against fascism - and most crucially, defend the space for workers' democracy to exist and grow - but by the methods of working-class independence and class struggle!

Sacha Ismail

Submitted by AWL on Fri, 15/05/2009 - 14:04

Yes, all things being equal, bourgeois democracy is the "best possible political shell for capitalism" (Lenin, State and Revolution) - the cheapest, most overhead-free, and crucially the best for hegemonising the masses. Does it follow that workers should be indifferent to the existence of democratic institutions within capitalism? Of course not.

If there is simply no difference for the working class between different bourgeois regimes, then why did the Bolsheviks - led by Lenin - mobilise the Russian workers to defeat Kornilov's coup against Kerensky in August 1917? Yes, they mobilised on the sort of basis I outlined above, by the methods of class struggle - but nonetheless, judging that the workers were not yet able to take power, they blocked this proto-fascist military coup against Kerensky's (actually not very democratic) regime. They were not neutral! If they had been, they would not have been able to mobilise the masses in such a way as made the October Revolution possible very shortly after.

You resort repeatedly to misrepresentation. Where did I claim that a republic is fundamentally better for workers than a constitutional monarchy? I never claimed we should line up with bourgeois republicans - in fact, as is clear from what I wrote, I oppose this. Yes, the working class should demand a republic, but on the basis of its own mobilisations and as part of its wider democratic and social program. Do you think it was wrong to fight for the right to vote? By your logic, isn't this just encouraging workers to have illusions in the capitalist state? Sectarian madness!

On abortion you introduce another layer of sectarian confusion, since in fact Workers' Liberty has been at the forefront of those fighting for abortion rights as part of a broader campaign of reproductive freedoms accessible to working-class and poor women - fully funded abortion on demand, universal childcare, a rebuilt health service and welfare state - and criticising those who pose the issue in the abstract, as if abortion just being legal means that most women have real choice.

More fundamentally: yes, there are bourgeois and working-class women, but that doesn't mean that women as women are not oppressed - any more than class division means that eg racism or national oppression doesn't exist. Perhaps you think the right to vote for women was a distraction from the class struggle? Or the fight against racist laws and segregation in the United States?

My point about anti-union laws is that, logically, you should be indifferent to whether they exist or not - since the existence or freedom of unions doesn't abolish capitalism, which seems to be your one and only demand. Which begs the question of how we get from here to overthrow capitalism! Are you in favour of workers joining unions or not?

Are you in favour of voting bourgeois elections at all?


Submitted by Jason on Fri, 15/05/2009 - 19:08

A new socialist alliance? I've been saying this for years- and I thought no one was listening!

EMO come on- workers campaign vigorously for democratic rights- that's not at all the same as supporting bourgeois democracy which is a hollow sham. However, to equate fascism and bourgeopis democracy is a dangerous mistake. Socialists should practically enforce the right to organise, against attacks on the working class and for the extension of workers' democracy to all of society- an extension that will require a momentous fight against the bourgeois and for its revolutionary overthrow. As part of this general fight we should be for organised self-defence against fascism and rdrive them from the labour movement and estates both by organising class struggle and thereby winning workers to socialism.

Submitted by AWL on Thu, 21/05/2009 - 15:09

I was in Middlesbrough last night, and present at a discussion about the growth of the BNP in that area.

There was a relatively strong Socialist Alliance in Middlesbrough. If the SA still existed, it would be the natural focus for those who understand that defeating the BNP requires the building a working-class alternative, not rallying to the bourgeois parties.

The need for such a formation is clear everywhere you go, basically.

We should think seriously about how to fight for this call to be put into practice.

Sacha Ismail

Submitted by Jason on Sun, 24/05/2009 - 09:54

I agree, Sacha, that defeating fascism requires most of all building a workers' alternative. However we need concrete steps. What do you suggest?

I suggest that where possible locally- and perhaps as a stepping stone to nationally- meetings are convened to co-ordinate campaigns- against job losses, privatisation, against cuts and racism- to netowrk, organise, plan and implemetn radical direct action: , strikes, rallies, occupations, militant organised self-defence.

This could be proposed to the different left groups and campaigns and most of all to rank and file trade unionists, trades councils, militant trade union branches etc.

It's no good just talking about these things- defeinte concret proposals need to be made and then acted on.

How do you suggest we move forward, Sacha?

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