Solidarity 227, 1 December 2011

Egypt: protests continue as elections begin

Submitted by Matthew on 1 December, 2011 - 2:00

By Clive Bradley

Voting has started — in a process which will take four months — in Egyptian elections, the first since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February.

Polling stations in some areas had to stay open late to accommodate the huge numbers of Egyptians wanting to cast their vote.

This is despite a call for a boycott from some of the protestors who have reoccupied Cairo’s Tahrir Square and the centres of other cities. Does this reveal a gulf between the protestors and the mass of Egyptians?

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Riots backlash shows racism and class hatred

Submitted by Matthew on 1 December, 2011 - 1:53

A YouGov poll for the Sun showed 33% apparently favouring the use of live ammunition against rioters in defence of their property rights.

In the same poll, three-quarters said troops should be called in, curfews were backed by 82 per cent, using tear gas got 78 per cent and Tasers 72 per cent.

The longer-term response to the rioting has also seen a number of authoritarian measures introduced, with a large number of draconian sentences handed down to those whose involvement in the trouble in many cases involved only minor infractions of the law.

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Unilever workers take pensions fight to private sector

Submitted by Matthew on 1 December, 2011 - 1:50

A strike by thousands of workers at Unilever (which manufactures well-known food products including Marmite and other household goods) could be the first major set-piece pensions battle in the private sector, after Unite, GMB and USDAW all returned massive majorities for strike action.

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Sparks vote to strike

Submitted by Matthew on 1 December, 2011 - 1:43

Electricians working for Balfour Beatty Engineering Services have voted by 81% to take strike action in their battle against their employer’s attempt to unilaterally withdraw from the Joint Industry Board (JIB), the body which oversees union-negotiated pay and conditions.

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Cameron “answers” his critics

Submitted by Matthew on 1 December, 2011 - 12:50

David Cameron seems to think that child poverty is something one might act against only in order to keep Polly Toynbee happy.

In the Guardian magazine on 26 November, he answered questions from selected celebrities, and was asked about child poverty by Polly Toynbee. His response concluded: “There are many things I can do in life, but making Polly happy is not one of them…”, mocking her for making a fuss about the issue.

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Varieties of dialectics

Submitted by Matthew on 1 December, 2011 - 12:43

By Martin Thomas

In one of the crazy autobiographical fragments he wrote in his last years, the famous French Stalinist philosopher Louis Althusser claimed that his father, a bank manager, ran his branch on the following lines:

“It was his custom not to say anything, or to make absolutely unintelligible remarks. His subordinates dared not admit they had understood nothing, but went off and usually managed very well on their own, though they still wondered if they might not be mistaken and this kept them on their toes”.

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Anarchism without trade unions: fresh wave or utopianism?

Submitted by Matthew on 1 December, 2011 - 12:34

By Ira Berkovic

Yves Coleman’s article in Solidarity 224 Five things Trotskyists Should Know About Today’s Young ‘Anarchists’ is a little difficult to get to grips with, much like the politics of the people — “today’s young ‘anarchists’” — whose corner Yves has chosen to fight. The mirroring of content and form is a neat trick, but it doesn’t make a fruitful exchange particularly easy.

Comments

Submitted by AWL on Tue, 06/12/2011 - 01:27

How do the AWL interpret democratic centralism and how do you put it into practise internally?

Our policies are decided by collective discussion and majority votes. Once a policy is agreed upon, the discussion does not "end". Comrades who disagree with the policy are not expected to pretend otherwise, nor are they required to keep their disagreement "internal". They would be expected to explain the majority line, but are free to explain publicly that they are in a minority and give their reasons for disagreeing (in fact, if they are halfway serious about their ideas, they would be expected to do that). They are "forbidden" only from acting in such a way that sabotages or undermines the collective action of the majority in carrying out the agreed policy - in other words, they can explain their disagreement/difference publicly/externally, but they can't actively organise against the majority line.

This is from our constitution (available online here):

"All activists are obliged to support the majority decisions of the relevant AWL bodies in action. They also have the right to express dissenting opinions, to gain a fair hearing for those opinions, and to organise inside the AWL to change AWL policy.

"Activists should not pretend to hold beliefs contrary to their real ones. Minority comrades have a right to state that they hold a minority position, and to give a brief explanation, but without making propaganda outside the AWL against the majority line. They have a duty to state to the best of their ability what the majority line is, and in any vote or practical action they must support the majority line unless a decision has been taken to have a free vote."

Does the AWL accept the existence of internal factions?

Yes. From the constitution again:

"The AWL rejects the ideal of a monolithic, single-faction party, and strives to build a culture where differences are resolved by rational and constructive discussion without hard-and-fast factional lineups. It recognises, however, that as a last resort any group of members has the right to form a faction or tendency to fight for a particular point of view within the AWL, offer itself to the membership at the AWL conference as an alternative leadership, or campaign for election in the organisation.

"The AWL recognises a tendency as an ideological grouping organised for an ideological discussion within the organisation. The AWL recognises a faction as a group which sets out to fight either for a change of policy of the AWL on a particular issue or to replace the existing leadership by members of the faction.

1 - Members wishing to form a faction must circulate to all AWL members a platform explaining their views, signed by all members of the faction. The faction must make an uptodate list of its members available to any AWL member on demand. Membership in the faction must be open to all AWL activists who agree with its platform. Candidate activists can not be recruited to a faction.
2 - Factions can produce their own publications for circulation within the AWL, can hold internal meetings to put over their views, and can put up members for election on a factional platform. Factions have a right to proportional representation on the National Committee and in any election to delegates to conference.
3 - All faction meetings and documents must either be strictly internal to the faction, or open to all members of the AWL. This clause can not be used to restrict private conversation or correspondence between individual AWL activists. A faction must not carry its platform outside the AWL without the permission of the conference or the National Committee."

How does the AWL see the role and function of the vanguard party?

The "vanguard party" is the most politically-advanced workers organised into a collective political organisation. Its role is to help the rest of the class develop politically and organisationally to the point at which it is capable of taking and holding social power. In any revolutionary situation it is extremely likely that there would be more than one "vanguard party". This is a different conception from the anarchist caricature or Stalinist distortions of the idea, which conceive of a "vanguard party" as a monolithic bloc which gives the class its orders. A concept of a "vanguard" (more revolutionary layers with the working class, organising in discrete political bodies) was common to both Marxism and early anarchism.

In what way, specifically, do you see Marxism as "scientific"?

Because it starts from an analysis of material reality. We do not see it as a religious dogma or some special formula that can simply be applied to an issue to produce a cut-and-paste political line without actually having the analyse and assess the issue at hand.

Do you see the Labour Party as one of the "organisations organically generated from capitalist class relations"? Do you still see it as part of the labour movement?

Yes. Its historical origins as the political wing of organised labour (which still play a significant role in terms of workers' consciousness) and its ongoing structural link to unions representing the majority of organised workers in the UK make it very clearly "part of the labour movement". At times it's a more significant site of struggle than at other times (right now it's a more significant one than it was 5 years ago but a far less significant one than it was 25 years ago) but until that link to the unions - the bedrock organisations of the class - is literally or effectively severed then the Labour Party, like it or not, remains part of our movement.

Hope these answers were sufficiently clear. Other AWL comrades may have different interpretations on some of the questions.

-

Daniel Randall

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Euro is botched, but the root of the crisis is in global capital

Submitted by Matthew on 1 December, 2011 - 12:20

The euro, as the new Research on Money and Finance (RMF) report shows, was mismanaged from the start because of political constraints.

“The euro is not simply a common currency devised to facilitate trade and financial flows among member countries... it is an international reserve currency... a form of world money”.

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