Different revolutionary socialist organisations have two distinct theories about how to achieve socialism, which is reflected by their differing strategies on all sorts of issues including defeating austerity (cuts, the public sector pay cap and other attacks on the living standards of the masses):
Revolution happens (or starts) in one country first, which inspires the masses in other countries to rise up and overthrow their ruling classes too. This was the model pursued in Russia flowing from the October 1917 revolution, but a combination of factors meant it didn’t work – Russia being a semi-feudal country at the time, about 20 foreign armies invading to try to restore capitalism, naivety of the German Communist Party combined with the assassinations of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht preventing the revolution spreading, and the disastrous decision to abolish the Constituent Assembly (after campaigning for it when the capitalist Provisional Government that came to power in February 1917 refused to call any sort of elections). Some argue that it is necessary to wait until election time before changing governments, but many countries (including the USA and UK) have very undemocratic electoral systems (I advocate proportional representation under capitalism or in a future socialist society as explained in my About Steve Wallis page) and the mood of the masses may dissipate if forced to wait for months or years (with many suffering and even dying in the meantime).
Revolutionary movements happen more or less simultaneously, either due to a concerted mass movement initiated by the masses across the world (at a time of our choosing, such as International Workers’ Day aka May Day (1 May) or a summit of world leaders) – with the ability of workers to withdraw their labour, via general strikes or particularly mass strikes from below as advocated by Rosa Luxemburg, key (notwithstanding the power and courage of activists occupying public spaces, demonstrations and direct action) – or due to another massive global financial crisis (such as in the eurozone or a repeat of the 2007-8 credit crunch which led to many banks across the world being bailed out by capitalist governments). Nowadays, the high level of globalisation with interconnected multinationals cause economic crises to quickly spread, and activists using social media are able to cut across big business propaganda to quite a large extent (in countries where there is a reasonably low level of censorship at least).
This blog entry (that I am also submitting as a letter to the Weekly Worker, which as usual will undoubtedly cut it significantly but without distorting my points) is about uniting much of the left in the new broad socialist party Left Unity – with the People’s Assembly Against Austerity which also held a conference recently going some way to uniting the left in a single anti-cuts organisation. I argue that we should not just put forward radical (and sometimes revolutionary) demands but consider the implications rather than dogmatically taking up positions which make a socialist revolution less likely.
In (“‘Moderate’ party takes shape”, 3 April), Peter Manson writes about the policy-making conference of Left Unity in Manchester on 29 March: “the obsession with political ‘broadness’, with anti-democratic constitutionalism, risks disabling the project from the start.” As CPGB members in the Weekly Worker have made clear many times, they are in favour of a solely Marxist party (which they sometimes call a “Communist Party”). Apart from the word “Communist” putting people horrified by the crimes of Stalinism (with “Marxist” having similar connotations to many), such a party could never gain mass support. When they actually put that theory into practice, uniting with the Democratic Socialist Alliance and the Critique journal, in setting up the Campaign for a Marxist Party, that campaign completely failed to take off.
I have argued for “a revolutionary platform” within Left Unity, and supported the Socialist Platform, but to make LU more revolutionary and unite together revolutionary socialists in preparation for a potential huge economic crisis (that could even be more severe than the 2007-8 credit crunch) rather than to totally take over LU, which is not practical anyway even if we tried to. I want a “broad socialist party” involving reformists as well as revolutionaries, with at least some members openly mentioning their revolutionary views. Apart from other significant political differences, including the emphasis on “the working class” suggesting that middle class people like Russell Brand (who incidentally plugged Left Unity via Twitter a Guardian article by Ken Loach on the eve of the Manchester conference contributing to the quick recruitment of 200 new members) should be disenfranchised, I wouldn’t be keen on joining the Communist Platform due to its name. Continue reading →
The current edition (20 February 2014) of the Weekly Worker (the newspaper of the Communist Party of Great Britain) includes a letter of mine. I disagree with quite a lot of their politics instead of a broad socialist party like Left Unity, they advocate a Marxist party, and set up the Communist Platform of Left Unity to argue for such a party and “communist” views in LU), but their letters page is open to a wide range of left-wing arguments. This issue is broader than just the CPGB, since the SWP and Socialist Party are in favour of some sort of “workers’ state” rather than a society where everybody is in control.
Although I have had a few letters published on the subject of proportional representation (which had some success in them supporting PR, albeit with a party list system which gives a lot of power to party machines, whereas I generally favour single transferable vote but am not particularly prescriptive nowadays), they have always previously cut out sections of my letters in which I argued for PR under socialism – rather than just something to advocate under capitalism to be replaced by some sort of “workers’ state” after a revolution.
My (fairly) minor gripe is that the section of the Communist Platform on “republican democracy”, that I praised wholeheartedly, was cut from the letter. [It is at http://communistplatform.org.uk/?p=30 and I had previously added a comment there on much the same lines, which had been approved by a moderator.] That section reads as follows:
Left Unity does not counterpose democracy to socialism. Democracy is much more than voting every four or five years. Democracy is the rule of the people, for the people, by the people. To make that aspiration real necessarily means removing all judicial, structural and socio-economic restraints on, or distortions of, popular control from below.
Left Unity stands for republican democracy. That means demanding:
Abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords, and a single-chamber parliament with proportional representation, annual elections and MPs’ salaries set at the level of a skilled worker.
No to the presidential prime minister. End prime ministerial appointment of ministers and all other forms of prime ministerial patronage.
Disband MI5, MI6, special branch and the entire secret state apparatus.
For local democracy. Service provision, planning, tax raising, law enforcement and funding allocation to be radically devolved downwards as far as possible and appropriate: to ward, borough, city and county levels.
The daily newspaper of the Communist Party of Britain, not to be confused with the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee) or the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), has a report on the higher education strike yesterday – completely ignored by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 early evening news bulletins. Somebody posted a link to it on Facebook, and there was lots of what appeared to be Latin next to it.
Well, perhaps the Star has gone highbrow, reflecting the new interest in Latin and “Classics” generally (a way of preventing the masses from understanding what the ruling class was talking about in olden times) in British universities! Read on!