Solidarity 419, 12 October 2016

Industrial news in brief

Submitted by AWL on 12 October, 2016 - 2:26 Author: Gemma Short, Ollie Moore,Simon Nelson and Peggy Carter

Workers at the Ritzy Picturehouse cinema in Brixton struck on Friday 7 October, and will strike again on Saturday 15 October. The Ritzy cinema was completely shut down by the strike, and films due to be shown as part of the London Film Festival moved to other venues.

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Corbyn under fire

Submitted by AWL on 12 October, 2016 - 2:14 Author: Martin Thomas

Jeremy Corbyn has come under fire from both right and left for speaking at a “Stand Up to Racism” conference on 8 October.

The complaint is that the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) plays a big part in SUTR. Its co-convenor is Weyman Bennett, a central committee member of the SWP. For the right-wingers, this is bad because the SWP is a far-left group critical of Labour.

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The world of neoliberalism, three years on

Submitted by AWL on 12 October, 2016 - 1:56 Author: Colin Foster

Three years ago, we surveyed “the world of neoliberalism” as it had emerged from the 2008 financial crash and the acute phase in 2010-12 of the eurozone government-debt crisis.

Many patterns have continued since 2013. Overall economic growth has been slow by historical standards, even slower by comparison with the rates expected in recovery from a big slump. Of the global growth, the bulk, 63% in 2015-6, has been in China and India, and the Chinese growth figures are dubious.

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The puzzle of the 20th century

Submitted by AWL on 12 October, 2016 - 1:48 Author: Martin Thomas

For anyone who denies that capitalism is the end of history, Stalinism is the great theoretical puzzle of the 20th century.

Comments

Submitted by Jason Schulman on Thu, 13/10/2016 - 00:39

None of the traditional Trotskyist explanations of what the USSR was proved to be true. The degenerated workers' state thesis has no supporters in the AWL so I won't bother with that; I agree it is simply wrong.

The official WP-ISL position on the USSR was that "bureaucratic collectivism" was a *new mode of production*, even though that phrase was rarely used in WP-ISL literature. While people like Robert Brenner and Barry Finger did a good job at explaining the USSR's "laws of motion," they didn't prove that there was a distinct bureaucratic-collectivist mode of production—and the end of the USSR, which occurred without a revolution, plus the *evolution* of China and Vietnam towards capitalism, should have been enough to make it clear that the theory was wrong.

As to state capitalism. I used to believe in a version of this theory as well. But it doesn't work. Stalinist societies could only be capitalist if in such societies concrete labor—labor directed towards satisfying real human needs—was still reduced to a monotonous, routinized activity through the dominance of abstract labor, which continued to serve as the substance of value. But it didn't.

As Hillel Ticktin explains, and Martin surely knows, abstract labor is "the imposition of the specific social form of homogeneous human labour on the labour force in order to ensure a uniform rate of exchange. Without workers working at similar rates there is no basis for value and so price." But under the Stalinist states each person and each section of the enterprise and each enterprise effectively worked in their own way at their own rates. Hence, though *alienated* labor existed in such societies, *abstract* labor did not, and hence "profit" was at most a minor indicator in a system of success indicators. Workers in the USSR, Eastern Europe, etc. did not actually *sell* their labor power: workers had to work by law, on pain of imprisonment; there was only one employer (the state); and housing, health, education and the utilities were outside the "wage" system. I say "wage" because the wage in the USSR wasn't like capitalist money, hence the Soviet phrase "we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us." In reality the relationship of the worker to the Soviet firm was analogous to the serf industrial production of 18th century Russia.

So on this specific matter Ticktin (whom van der Linden seems to like, at least to my reading of him) is right. There was no mode of production at all in the USSR—that is, no "stable, relatively harmonious, combination of a social form and a material content" (Chris Arthur's words).

As for Marx's definition of class: Marx was trained as a lawyer, and as such I think he would have agreed that class is an *inheritable* relation to the means of production, grounded on the social institution of private property in the means of production.

But the Russian nomenklatura couldn't pass on state property to their children, nor could they pass on their status in the Soviet party-state. Hence, no (state-)capitalist class or "bureaucratic-collectivist class." There was instead an elite; not a workers' elite or workers' bureaucracy, but a sort of peasant and petty-proprietor elite. Stalinism wasn't workers' Bonapartism, as Ted Grant liked to say; it was *peasant and petty-proprietor* Bonapartism.

(I leave North Korea out of this discussion because it's hard to say what exactly the DPRK is. It resembles an absolutist monarchy more than anything else. And Titoist Yugoslavia may have been a form of state-capitalism.)

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"A clear break with the old politics": interview with Peter Frase of Jacobin

Submitted by Matthew on 12 October, 2016 - 12:51

Peter Frase of the US socialist magazine Jacobin visited the UK from 23 September to 7 October and took part in a tour of Momentum groups and student Labour Clubs to speak about his book Four Futures: Life After Capitalism. He spoke to Martin Thomas and Sacha Ismail.

Comments

Submitted by Traven on Fri, 14/10/2016 - 01:37

Correct Jacobin link: https://www.jacobinmag.com/

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Becoming a “Trot”

Submitted by Matthew on 12 October, 2016 - 12:35 Author: Simon Nelson

When I was little my Dad would tell me stories with monsters he called “Lamonts” and do an impression of Douglas Hurd’s voice. I didn’t know who Norman Lamont or Douglas Hurd were, but I knew my Dad thought they were stupid or bad. That was my first introduction to politics.

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Brexit: Tories’ difficulties are our opportunities

Submitted by Matthew on 12 October, 2016 - 12:28 Author: Editorial

Jeremy Corbyn has defended freedom of movement for workers between the EU and Britain even after the Brexit vote. Sections of the Labour Party machine, and even of the Labour left, are however pushing a different line.

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Morning Star witch-hunts “Zionists” and TrotskyistsMatthewWed, 12/10/2016 - 12:18

The Communist Party of Britain newspaper Morning Star used the controversy in Momentum about Jackie Walker to launch an attack against the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

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