Letters

Submitted by AWL on 17 April, 2019 - 10:57
second vote

We should advocate the revoking of Article 50 by Parliament. A second referendum was a tactic that has outlived its usefulness.

The point of a second referendum was that it was thought a more acceptable, less divisive way of stopping Brexit than revoking Article 50; and that since both parties are officially for Brexit, it took it out of Parliament’s hands.

But now the second referendum is less popular in many polls then stopping Brexit. People are tired of the division and focus on this issue. A referendum will sharpen the divisions and suck up all politics and news.

Anecdotally, plenty of people who voted Leave, like my entire family and many of my workmates, now think Brexit should just be stopped.

Moreover, there are massive hurdles over what the question would be in a referendum and how it would be carried out. A second referendum has no legitimacy or support among Leavers. There is a real danger of them boycotting it, fatally undermining its legitmacy and leaving the result open to question.

And anyway, it looks equally likely that Parliament might vote to revoke Article 50.

Luke Hardy, Leeds

We still need new public vote

Support for outright revocation has risen, but so has support for no deal. There is a polarisation going on, not solely a shift toward Remain.

There are Remainers who no longer feel there's a need for a referendum and just want revocation, and there are also Leavers hardening their views. The political dispute isn't going to go away by having this Parliament revoke Article 50 - it will only intensify, as outraged Leavers protest that there's been a reversal without even a serious debate.

At least a new referendum gives us an opportunity to have the argument out in public. Hard-core leavers will always feel robbed, but softer leavers can be persuaded that democracy has been served. We are in favour of bringing out the divisions and dealing with them in a political battle.

The alternative to this Parliament revoking Article 50 would be Labour winning an election pledging revocation. But there is a strong chance that even if Labour, or pro-revocation parties as a group, have a parliamentary majority, they would not have a popular vote majority. What then?

In any case, Labour revoking Article 50 is some distance off! We demand things of Labour that are distant hopes, yes. But they are on matters of principle and politics, not process.

We should keep our focus our agitation on pressing Labour to commit to the political point - loud opposition to Brexit - and on process keep promoting a new referendum as the most realistic path to cancellation.

Ben Tausz, London

Assange and dimensions

Around 2011, in the early stages of my political activity, I was quite vocally and actively a part of a movement that took the view that the sexual assault charges against Julian Assange were part of a fabricated plot led by US imperialists and their allies in order to undermine the work that Assange and Wikileaks had done in exposing US war crimes.

I'm pleased that as I gravitated towards the labour movement and particularly towards Workers’ Liberty there were some decent socialists and feminists who were willing to argue with me. I realised that at best this view was un-nuanced, and at worst it was a misogynistic conspiracy theory.

To suggest that Assange is just a virtuous anti-imperialist hero you have to find a method of removing the women who made allegations of sexual assault in Sweden from the equation. By claiming that the women are lying or unwitting stooges. By claiming that the laws around sexual assault in Sweden are are dramatically skewed against men. By claiming that the Swedish prosecutor was a feminist with an agenda.

Or, by claiming that because Sweden dropped the charges (for bureaucratic reasons) the allegations no longer matter. Or by conveniently “forgetting” the charges altogether, and just focusing on the nasty US imperialists.

Would the US have used Assange’s detention in Sweden to extradite him and face charges of hacking? Quite possibly, but we need to remember that essentially our politics are about defending principles, not simply defending individuals, and on that basis we defend the principle of the survivors’ right to seek justice through the law, which has no lesser value than the principle of freedom of the press and freedom from state oppression.

It is not contradictory to support the work Wikileaks did in exposing US war crimes, or that it does in releasing information for public interest, and it is not contradictory to oppose the US’s attempts to extradite Assange to face charges which would represent an alarming and draconian escalation in the restriction of press and publishers, and a severe encroachment by the oppressive arm of the state that seeks to quash any forms of resistance to militarism, surveillance and war.

These cultish political theories around Assange emerge from the dominant form of reactionary anti-imperialism on the left, where enemies and allies are dogmatically reduced to binary opposites without consideration of the nuances or apparent contradictions that social reality produces.

Andrew Francis, Milton Keynes

Aristotle plus Hegel

Martin Thomas’s references (Solidarity 499) to Aristotle’s categories of thought are brief and poorly defined. As they stand, you would never guess their centrality to helping Marx crack the problem of exchange value, or as Marx preferred to call it, the “value form”.

It might be useful for the reader to check out the many references in Marx’s work to the achievement of Aristotle and his categories of thought, in being the first and the clearest up to the emergence of classical political economy in the 18th century.

Martin does not bring clarity to Aristotle by the translation of one term, “Essence”, as “...the what it was to be” and as “soul”. Now, if this gives you the idea of a religious or supernatural system of thought, then Martin has been “successful” in introducing you to the scholastic vulgarisation of Aristotle’s works by the medieval church in Europe. He has not introduced you to Aristotle.

To do that, Martin would at least have to introduce us to the rest of the categories that “essence” is situated in. This might begin with uniting with “essence” the categories of: law, necessary and accidental change, form and content, potential and realisations of potential, adequate form and finished form.

The text of Das Kapital is saturated with these categories, as are the texts of the incomplete Theories of Surplus Value and the overall plan for Marx’s new science in the form of the Grundrisse. Of course, Marx critically develops the categories of Aristotle’s thought, they are not destroyed.

It’s worth repeating that Marx explicitly refers to the use of these categories by Aristotle in almost solving the mystery of the value form in ancient Athens! The problem being not the categories, but the reality to which they refer, not being “mature” enough yet; specifically the “finished form of wage-labour” not existing, therefore, not being subject to analysis.
Martin now brings on the Hegel. Martin says: “… a partial approximation to Hegel can be found in Aristotle...” This is something along the lines of “things changing as their essence evolves”.

Firstly, this is a tautology – when something changes, it changes. Secondly, the fundamental difference (which is the beginning of all wisdom) between Aristotle and Hegel is this: that for Aristotle, development is a property of real entities with natures that have potentialities that are realised if not interrupted by accident. For Hegel, development is a property of Logic not actual, material entities in the world, like newts and money.

In this quiz, Hegel needs to phone a friend!

Martin now brings on the Marx. Martin says, “Marx in his dialectics was particularly emphatic about rejecting ‘teleology’ (the idea of a predetermined goal inherent in things, their “essences”). “

Firstly, this appears to be a version of “teleology” belonging to Jason and the Argonauts, not Aristotle. Again, this is the vulgarised version of “Telos”, systematically taught by the mediaeval church, that is, the world governed by a guiding intelligence, e.g. God.

However, it is possible to have some fun kicking the concept of “Telos” around; consider the working class, in the form of having become a “class-for itself”, as becoming the “guiding intelligence” of the “coming-into-being” of an emancipated humanity, the Telos of communism.

Secondly, for Aristotle and Marx, entities like bacteria and societies develop from immature to mature forms, if not interrupted by the accidental, e.g. plague. The difference between Aristotle and Marx is that Marx takes the concept of “contradiction” from Hegel and makes it a central property of the real entity that is developing. Contradiction is missing as a property of real entities with Aristotle.

The whole object of Marx’s new science is the analysis of the development of the various forms “value” takes, from the simple commodity to its final form as “capital” and its generalisation to a world system. This is the reality behind the accidental and contingent events of history.

Watch Marx working on a “synthesis” of Aristotle’s “real material essences in unity” and Hegel’s “abstract unities in contradiction”, in all his work, and it remains a work in progress for comrades to contribute to.

In a final letter I will comment on maths and physics and being.

Paul Cooper, London

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