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Submitted by AWL on Wed, 25/05/2011 - 09:38

But the "problem" with India is not that it is insufficiently independent. If in the immediate period ahead a socialist revolution swept the Middle East, one of its by-products would, for instance, be radically greater independence for the Palestinians (within a socialist federation) than they enjoy under an Israeli army boot. But it's hard to see in what sense India would, in a socialist world, be "more independent" than it is today.

Right now, already, India is a fully independent state with its own developing national industrial base and ability to steer a course independent of the bigger powers. Now "development" is not an abstract, class-neutral concept: clearly, under capitalism, this "development" will benefit primarily the Indian ruling class. There have been some positive changes for the masses: when the British left, life expectancy was 30; today it is 65. But in any case, what national independence has made possible is the raw material for the socialism - the development of industry and with it a powerful working class which will at some point overthrow the Indian bourgeoisie and landlords. (See this speech here.)

Similarly, you could claim that "really", apartheid still exists in South Africa. Or you could say, more rationally, that the way it was overthrown, under the leadership of the bourgeois ANC, meant that benefits for the black masses were kept to a minimum - in the interests of a new black bourgeoisie, integrating itself with the old white ruling class. The AWL does not need lectures on this. In the 1980s and 90s we made ourselves very unpopular on the British left by criticising the subordination of the South African workers' movement to the ANC, and advocating the development of an independent working-class party as part of a 'permanent revolution'-type strategy in South Africa. We also had these debates and discussions with South African socialists at the time.

Lastly, yes, we understand that "democracy" is actually bourgeois democracy; and we want a higher, working-class form of democracy. Read numerous articles on this site, not least our pamphlet Socialism and Democracy! But the victory of workers' democracy is not on the table in Libya; what is on the table is the overthrow of Qaddafi's tyranny and the development of (yes, bourgeois) democratic space in which the first elements of workers' organisation can develop. Re-read Trotsky on Germany in the 20s: did he want to "defend" the rotting Weimar Republic against the Nazi assault for its own sake? No, he wanted to preserve the space in which workers' democracy could exist and prepare to make the revolution. (Clearly the time-scale for replacing bourgeois with workers' democracy was shorter in Germany in 1931-3 than in Libya today, where there is as yet no workers' movement at all!) But insisting, against the fake-ultra-left Stalinists, that there was - for the working class - a difference between Weimar and Nazism did not mean giving support to the Weimar regime.

Lastly, reading Taaffe's article, he makes one hilarious claim that Martin doesn't mention: the idea that because Ed Miliband and co support a bourgeois war, Labour must therefore, obviously, be a straight-down-the-line bourgeois party. He is willfully ignorant of the pro-imperialist history of, eg, British Labour and Germany Social Democracy, amongst others. Or to put it another way: once again, the SP's determination to prove that Labour is today a straight bourgeois party leads them to whitewash and prettify "Old Labour"'s record.

Sacha Ismail

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