Thursday, September 30, 2021

For A Democratic Labour Party

Labour movement elections, like those of the bourgeois parliament Labour’s leaders have consistently upheld, were historically designed so that the smallest number of people could manipulate the largest number of votes. The old block-vote system was based on the principle that those who paid the most in membership affiliation fees got the most votes. Whilst this did put enormous power into the hands of faction chiefs, it did allow the activist rank-and-file a say in mandating their representatives. But even this was too much for Labour’s MPs, who simply elected their leader from amongst themselves in much the same way as the Conservatives and Liberals in the “mother of all parliaments”. Although the unions carried considerable sway at the annual Labour Party conference, this forum was in practice reduced to an advisory committee and their collective decisions could be, and indeed were, often ignored by the Parliamentary Labour Party.
    The unions didn’t get back into the leadership race until 1981, when an electoral college was established to broaden the electoral base. The tripartite college gave votes to all of the major stakeholders in the party, including MPs, affiliated trade unions and constituency parties, and this system continued until the introduction of the one-member, one-vote (OMOV) voting system in 2014 by the Blairites, who wanted to cut the unions out of the decision-making process altogether.
    So it’s amusing to see those who slagged off the collegiate system now clamouring for its return in order to ensure that another Corbyn doesn’t return to plague them again. Whether Starmer & Co get it through Conference next week remains to be seen. But with the careerists swarming round Starmer and the Corbynistas ducking for cover, resistance is likely to be confined to protests outside the Brighton Centre and impotent rallies for those who’ve already been purged.
    Starmer says this move, which is part of a large tranche of rule-changes designed to strengthen the grip of the bureaucracy over the Party, is returning some power back to the unions. In a sense that’s true. But it’s equally true that none of the major unions were calling for it and few, if any, were consulted about the proposals in the first place.
    The New Communist Party opposed OMOV from the start precisely because it cut the unions out of Labour’s democratic process. But simply returning to the old collegiate system that gives Labour MPs the same clout as the massed ranks of organised labour is not the answer.
    Communists must campaign, through their unions, for a democratic Labour Party that reflects the wishes of all its affiliates and not the whims of the class-collaborators in parliament. That was the intention of the old Labour Representation Committee (LRC), founded in 1900 as an alliance of socialist organisations and trade unions to increase representation for labour interests in parliament.
    We must campaign for a democratic Labour Party controlled by its affiliates. A Labour Party whose policies reflected those of a democratic union movement would become a powerful instrument for progressive reforms that would strengthen organised labour and benefit the working class.
    The fight for a democratic Labour Party is linked to the fight for a democratic trade union movement. In the unions, we must struggle to elect genuine working-class leaderships, who are prepared to represent and fight for the membership against the employers and against the right-wing within the movement and to campaign for the removal of all anti‑trade union legislation.
    At the same time we must build the revolutionary party and campaign for revolutionary change. Social democracy remains social democracy whatever trend is dominant within it and, as we know, it has never led to socialism.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

A Petty Move against China

China's new ambassador Zheng Zeguang was banned from entering Parliament in response to the Chinese government's decision to impose sanctions against a number of anti-Chinese peers and MPs.
`    Five MPs and two members of the House of Lords were sanctioned by China in March for spreading slanderous rumours and disinformation about the situation in the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang. They were singled out after the Johnson government imposed asset freezes and travel bans against four Chinese government officials as well as a Xinjiang security body for alleged “gross human rights violations” against Uyghurs and other minorities in the Chinese region.
    Zheng Zeguang was set to speak in both Houses of Parliament, but Peers and MPs led by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, Lord Alton and Baroness Kennedy, campaigned to bar the Chinese diplomat from entering the Palace of Westminster. The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, said: "I do not feel it's appropriate for the ambassador for China to meet on the Commons estate and in our place of work when his country has imposed sanctions against some of our members. If those sanctions were lifted, then, of course, this would not be an issue."
    The Chinese embassy has rightly dismissed this as “a short-sighted, reckless and cowardly move. We despise and strongly condemn this”.
    So do we. This petty and vindictive act, done to ingratiate themselves with the Biden administration, can only make things worse. Instead of crawling to the USA, the British government should take advantage of the economic freedom that came with Brexit to expand our trade with China, and indeed everyone across the world, without strings and without the blessing of Washington.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Johnson’s new tax is grossly unfair to workers

Boris Johnson was back on form this week fending off a backbench revolt over his plan to raise National Insurance rates to help the health service and social care for the elderly while at the same time mocking the ineffectual Labour opposition which takes its lead from the utterly useless Keir Starmer.
    Johnson’s new tax is grossly unfair to working people and it will raise nowhere near enough to address the current problems of the care home community.
    Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is calling for a “National Care Service” for all, funded by progressive taxation, including a wealth tax while Richard Burgon from the Corbynista camp spelt out the demand for a 10 per cent tithe on the super-rich - those with assets over £100 million – that could raise £69 billion to deal with the funding crisis.
    Even Dame Margaret Hodge, the Blairite MP for Barking, said Johnson was ignoring a "raft of better alternatives" including raising income tax or dividend tax. Sir Keir Starmer, however, confined himself to the usual platitudes, accusing the Tories of “putting their rich mates and donors before working people” while avoiding making any concrete counter-proposals.
    Starmer’s crowd will make the usual ineffectual statements. Union leaders will make paper calls for “action” and the assorted left poseurs will tell us that the only answer is to sign their petitions and join their factions. We shouldn’t be surprised at this. They've been doing the same thing for over 100 years.
    Labour’s first Prime Minister was Ramsay MacDonald in 1924. He talked about “socialism” – but only as a dream for future days. His job, he said, was to administer capitalism which he loyally did in the 1920s before openly betraying the labour movement to join the Tories in the bogus “National Government” of the 1930s. Tony Blair never talked about socialism at all. Nor does Starmer.
    Well, we need to talk about socialism. The capitalists do it all the time. Before the Russian Revolution they said that socialism sounded good in theory, but it could never work in practice. After 1917 they said it wouldn't work in the Soviet Union. And when the Soviet Union did survive they argued that it wasn' t really socialist and they presented it as a distortion of what it really was.
    They say, in essence, that the only economic and political system which works is one in which a tiny minority -- themselves -- exploit the rest of the population to ensure that they live lives of ease and luxury.
    If we were Martians observing the Earth from afar we would see how absurd and self-serving this theory is. Unfortunately many working people believe this because they are brought up to accept their own slavery.
    We have to prove them wrong. We have to say that capitalism is brutal and oppressive system that exists solely to ensure that the rich can continue to live the lives of Roman emperors on the backs of workers and peasants.
    Capitalism is the dictatorship of the rich. Their “democracy” is democracy for the exploiters and dictatorship for the exploited. Bourgeois elections are used so that the smallest number of people can manipulate the largest number of votes
    We don' t need to make any concessions to the ideology of the ruling class. Its system is failing and socialism is the only way forward.
    Capitalism had a progressive role once when it emerged from the feudal period. It's certainly not the case now. It's outlived its sell-by date. It's an oppressive and backward system which stifles the hopes and ambitions of the people who produce all the wealth of the world. The 21st century belongs to us.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Crimes at sea

by Ben Soton

Vigil : six-part series. BBC1, 9pm.Also available on BBC iPlayer. Stars: Suranne Jones, Rose Leslie, Shaun Evans, Paterson Joseph and Martin Compston.

Underwater adventure is a genre that’s been around for over 150 years. Jules Verne kicked it off in 1869 with Captain Nemo and his Nautilus in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas and hundreds of books, films and documentaries have followed set in both World Wars, the Cold War, and fantasy and science fiction scenarios.
    BBC1’s latest Sunday night drama, partly set on a nuclear submarine, raises issues over Britain’s so-called independent nuclear deterrent, the Trident nuclear weapons system.
    In episode one a sailor, Petty Officer Craig Burke (played by Martin Compston), is found dead and a civilian police officer, Amy Silva (played by Suranne Jones), is sent aboard to investigate. Tension mounts between Silva and senior members of the crew who view her as an interfering outsider. In an earlier scene Burke had raised concerns about the sub’s descent causing the sinking of a fishing trawler.
    Back on dry land Silva’s partner, Kirsten Longacre (played by Roe Leslie), discovers that Burke was in a relationship with an anti-nuclear campaigner, opening up possibilities for a conspiracy or cover-up. Meanwhile, events on the sub show that those in charge of this highly dangerous and not to mention expensive piece of kit (according to CND the total cost comes to £205 billion) are not as competent as they should be.
    The series is a reminder that Britain has not faced the threat of invasion for 80 years, whilst raising issues around the dangers of this country’s independent nuclear deterrent in the form of the Trident submarine. Firstly, it is not independent but under de-facto US control. Secondly, in terms of deterrent, it is comparable to using a hand grenade to swat a fly. In other words, more of a danger than a deterrent.
    After watching this drama, I’m relieved that this county’s risk of invasion is so small – but one might ask the question that if Britain is in any danger at all why does it have so many troops stationed abroad?
    As the series continues it transpires that a foreign sub may have been responsible for the sinking of the trailer. In total, six world powers have nuclear submarines: Britain, the USA, France, People’s China and India. Any of these states, with the likely exception of China and India, could have had a submarine in the North Sea at any time. But the opening credits of the drama show footage of the Russian President Vladimir Putin giving viewers the idea that the responsible vessel must have been Russian.
    Could this be part of the New Cold War against Russia (and China) with the narrative that Britain is not adequately defended with naval personnel involved with na├»ve but well-meaning peace campaigners, thus encouraging viewers to support increased defence spending and a further crack-down on dissent and protest?

Sunday, September 05, 2021

A planned energy policy now!

Extinction Rebellion (XR) campaigners are back in town this week doing their best to “tell the truth about climate change” in colourful street protests to demand the urgent action needed to tackle the climate and ecological emergency.The ecology movement was established following a call from several academics and veteran green campaigners in 2018 to set up a movement that embraces Gandhi-style civil disobedience to take their demands to the streets and fire a common sense of urgency to tackle climate breakdown.
    Their sit-down protests and efforts to paralyse traffic in London over the last two weeks are part of XR’s long-term campaign to compel government action to avoid tipping points in the climate system, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse.
    Few would disagree with them on this. Twenty or so years ago the jury was still out on climate change. The capitalists deployed battalions of well‑paid ‘experts’ to deny global warning, to claim renewable energy is costly and that nuclear energy is cheap and clean. Now only the likes of a Donald Trump are in denial. UNICEF has warned that a billion children are now exposed to a deadly combination of climate and environmental crises and with some changes to our climate now inevitable and irreversible, humanity has now been given an unequivocal ‘code red’ warning.
    XR says that if we are to have any hope of coping with the emergency, we must move beyond the politics that have so far held us back and into listening, dialogue and towards unity and action. The eco-warriors say they don’t want to seize power but simply want to place power in the hands of citizens through “citizens’ assemblies”.
    Members of a citizens’ assembly are typically assembled at random from the general public – like a jury – to look at an issue and then make recommendations to parliament or other elected bodies. To a limited extent they already work as advisory committees to bourgeois parliaments. The Climate Assembly UK is one of them.
    All bourgeois politicians, left, right and centre, now pay lip-service to the eco-lobby but few, if any, are prepared to challenge the super-profits that the banks and corporations get from their fossil fuel investments.
    The key issue is winning over the unions and the working class their leaders claim to represent to an ecological agenda to meet the pressing demands of the day.
    The Johnson government has set an ambition for two million green jobs by 2030 – jobs in insulating homes, making electric vehicles and rolling out wind turbines. And last year the Government launched the independent Green Jobs Taskforce, which includes representatives from the TUC and the Prospect union as well as industry and academia – to ensure that the climate transition delivers quality jobs and leaves no workers behind.
    Back in 2010 a major academic study, Zero Carbon Britain 2030, showed that with existing technology Britain can almost entirely eliminate its dependence on fossil fuels in two decades.
    Britain’s onshore and offshore wind and wave potential alone could provide two‑thirds of future carbon‑free energy need; available energy‑efficient construction can cut domestic housing energy needs by 70 per cent; and transport energy use can be cut by 63 per cent.
    What we now need is a planned and integrated national energy policy to reduce Britain’s dependence on energy imports and giant energy corporations, and to create skilled employment in new technology industries.

Days of hope in Stuart London

by Ben Soton

The Royal Secret by Andrew Taylor. HarperCollins 2021. Hardback: 480pp; RRP: £14.99; Kindle: 476pp; RRP: £7.99.

This is the fifth novel in the Marwood & Lovett series set in Restoration London. James Marwood and Cat Lovett are children of Puritan republicans, which puts them in a difficult position under the restored Stuart monarchy. By the fourth novel however, they are both doing rather well for themselves. Marwood works for Lord Arlington, Charles II’s intelligence chief. Meanwhile Lovett owns a thriving architecture business inherited from a late husband.
    Being a male and female in their 20s or early 30s, the novels contain an element of suspense as to whether there will be any romantic involvement between them.
    Taylor manages to bring Restoration London to life by giving a warts and all account of the period, covering all social strata from lowly servants to the king himself. Although the message of his novels is somewhat disappointingly pro-monarchy, he correctly points that there were many, including Catherine Lovett’s late husband, who harked back to the Commonwealth. They also show a period rife with corruption where most people seem to be on the take; an atmosphere common to periods of political demoralisation, such as after the collapse of a progressive regime.
    The Royal Secret centres around a Dutch plot to disrupt the signing of the Treaty of Dover between Stuart England and Bourbon France. Charles II was expected to convert to the Catholic faith at some later date and support France militarily in a war against the Dutch Republic in return for a £230,000 annual pension, a huge sum of money in those days.
    In those days the Dutch Republic was a bastion of Protestant progressive capitalism whilst France at the time represented reactionary feudal absolutism. Many Protestants would sympathise with the Dutch in a similar way as progressives today would side with Cuba, China or People’s Korea.
    In the novel Catherine Lovett is tricked by a Dutch agent into assisting his attempts to disrupt the treaty. Meanwhile a jealous Marwood chases a trail of murder and mayhem involving, amongst other things, a blackmailing servant and a pet lion. The question is will Lovett succumb to the seduction of the mysterious Dutchman, who may attempt to play on her possible republican sympathies? After all, this is a time of divided and complex loyalties – again, not everyone was glad to see the back of the English Republic.
    With the main characters still young, I look forward to seeing the adventures of Marwood and Lovett develop as the Stuart monarchy lurches from crisis to crisis until its eventual overthrow in 1688. Meanwhile, Taylor’s novels give an all-round insight into a sometimes-overlooked period in English history.

Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell
1599 -- 1658

That 'tis the most which we deteremine can
If these the Times, then this must be the Man
Andrew Marvell

by Andy Brooks

OLIVER CROMWELL, the leader of the bourgeois English Revolution, died on 3rd September 1658. Stricken by a malarial fever that proved to be fatal the Lord Protector willed himself to live until his auspicious day – the day his first parliament met in 1654. The day he smashed the Scottish Royalists at the battle of Dunbar in 1650 and forced the young Charles Stuart to run for his life the following year when the Royalists were routed at the battle of Worcester.
Cromwell led the parliamentary forces to victory in the civil war which began in 1642 and ended with the trial and execution of the king, Charles Stuart, in 1649. He presided over the establishment of the Republic of England, or Commonwealth as it was styled in English, and in 1653 he became head of state, or Lord Protector. Cromwell’s death was marked by genuine mourning throughout the country. His state funeral was the biggest London had ever seen. Two years later the Stuart royalty were back.
Today Cromwell’s death passes largely unnoticed but Oliver is not quite forgotten.
Marie Lloyd, the Victorian musical hall queen, sang about “the ruins that Cromwell knocked about a bit”. Elvis Costello wrote Oliver’s Army, a sardonic song about the modern British Army in 1979, and a radical punk rock band took the name of Cromwell’s New Model Army for their own. The name of Cromwell is preserved in the streets of London. Countless books, and articles have been written about his life as well as two feature films and a number of television documentaries and every year enthusiasts re-enact the major battles of the civil war.
The Quakers we meet on the peace demonstrations were founded by George Fox, whose pacifist beliefs were borne out of the violence of the revolution. Robert Owen, the founder of the Co-operative Movement, and William Morris, the Victorian socialist and artist, were both influenced by the writings of Gerrard Winstanley, the leader of the Diggers, the “True Levellers” whose attempt to establish co-operative farms in Surrey and other parts of the country were suppressed during the Commonwealth.
Irish nationalists call Cromwell a brutal English invader while many Protestants still see him as a religious reformer who fought for freedom of conscience for all faiths apart from Catholicism. And the Jewish community still remembers Cromwell as the leader who allowed Jews to live, worship and work in England for the first time since the pogroms of 1290.
But for the bourgeoisie Oliver is best forgotten, even though their ascendancy began when their ancestors took up the gun in the 1640s.
The ruling class abhor revolutionary change today because it threatens their own domination, so they naturally deny that their class ever came to power through it in the first place. For them the English republic is an aberration, a temporary blip in the steady advance of bourgeois progress, which is the myth they teach us in school. If they elevate anything at all it is the ‘glorious revolution’ of 1688, when the last of the Stuarts was deposed and replaced by a king of their own choosing. Though not as bloodless as they claimed – plenty was shed in Ireland – the establishment of a monarchy that was the gift of Parliament was achieved without the involvement of the masses, which was precisely what was intended.
For romantic socialists Cromwell represents the well-to-do Puritan merchants and landowners who dominated the Army Council – the Grandees who crushed the Levellers and the rest of the democratic movement in the army. But Marxists always recognised the historic role of Cromwell. In 1948 British communist leader Harry Pollitt said: “When the growing capitalist class, the poor farmers and craftsmen, led by Oliver Cromwell, shattered the system of feudalism, and executed King Charles I in the process, reigning monarchs and ruling nobilities everywhere saw the pattern of future history unfolding. The name of Cromwell was reviled, then, as much as Stalin’s is today, by the ruling powers of the old and doomed order of society.
“The English Revolution is ‘great’, because it broke the barriers to man’s advance. It allowed the capitalist class to open the road leading to modern large-scale industry. It permitted science to serve the needs of the new, capitalist society. And, because of these developments, it provided the basis on which, for the first time, a new class, the working class, began to grow, to organise and itself to challenge the prevailing system of society.
“Capitalism, at first progressive, in so far as it led the way for technical advance, developed to the point limited by its own structure. It became, as feudalism was before it, a barrier to the further advance of man. It ceased to serve a useful purpose. It had built up enormous productive forces, but was incapable of providing the majority of the people with a decent standard of life.
“Throughout the world, the working class, with the Communist Party at its head, now goes forward to put an end to capitalism and to build socialism. The English Revolution set this train of historic events in motion. That is why our Party is proud to honour its memory.”

World mourns loss of renowned “Red poet”

by Chris Mahin

The world has lost a great poet – and a militant communist. Jack Hirschman died suddenly on 22nd August at his home in the North Beach district of San Francisco. He was 87 years old. He died in his sleep, shortly before he was scheduled to take part in a Zoom meeting of the World Poetry Movement (WPA), a group of which he had recently been appointed coordinator.
    As the sad news spread, expressions of sympathy poured in from around the world – from other poets, former students, and fellow revolutionaries and political activists. In a statement issued to the Turkish news media, the World Poetry Movement called Hirschman’s death “a great loss to American and world poetry.” The organisation’s statement pledged that “WPA and the poets of the world, who share his humanist and revolutionary ideals, will keep the memory of this great poet alive; will continue to work … for a freer, more just and egalitarian world.”
    Jack Hirschman was a brilliant poet, scholar, and translator -- and a proud communist. (The documentary film made about him in 2010 is fittingly entitled Red Poet). In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he stated: “The most important thing as a poet is that I worked for the communist movement for 45 years, and the new class of impoverished and homeless people.”
    In addition to publishing more than 100 volumes of his own poetry, Hirschman translated over two dozen books from languages including Russian, French, German, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Albanian, Yiddish, Vietnamese, and Creole. He was deeply committed to ensuring that the works of revolutionaries like Pablo Neruda of Chile, Nazim Hikmet of Turkey, and Rene Depestre of Haiti were available in English in the United States.
    Hirschman was named poet laureate of San Francisco in 2006 by then-mayor Gavin Newsom, a post that allowed Hirschman to create the San Francisco International Poetry Festival. Three years later, he became the poet in residence at the San Francisco public library.
    Jack Hirschman was born on 13th December in New York City in 1933 into a Russian Jewish family and grew up in the Bronx. While still a teenager attending the City College of New York, he worked as a sub-editor for the Associated Press. Later he taught at Dartmouth in New England and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Hirschman was fired from UCLA in the 1970s for encouraging his students to resist the draft during the Vietnam War.
    In 1973, he moved to San Francisco where he became part of the city’s vibrant literary scene, becoming a close friend of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the writers from the Beat generation grouped around City Lights bookstore in North Beach.
    For decades, Jack Hirschman was a constant presence in San Francisco’s streets and cafes, attending innumerable poetry readings and political rallies, distributing copies of his poetry and the People’s Tribune newspaper. Hirschman served as the assistant editor for the literary journal Left Curve, formed the Union of Left Writers in San Francisco and was a founder of the Roque Dalton Cultural Brigade, the Revolutionary Poets Brigade, and the League of Revolutionaries for a New America.
    I first met Jack in the early 1980s. He was always warm, funny, and totally unpretentious. He went out of his way to encourage anyone who wanted to write – provided they were going to stand on the side of the oppressed. Whenever I sent him an issue of the New Worker containing an article on US history that I had written, the man who wrote more than 100 volumes of poetry somehow always found the time to write back. His response would invariably contain kind words of praise for my article and for the New Worker – often with a few exclamations in Italian or Russian thrown in for emphasis.
    Above all else, Jack Hirschman had a warrior’s spirit, a fierce determination to oppose injustice anywhere in the world. As he himself once wrote: “Poetry is really a weapon. It’s a spiritual weapon for the transformation of the world. And, of course, all my poems are love poems. The nicest thing in the world is to propagandize for love.” Rest well, Comrade Jack. Others will take up your weapon.