Will socialist revolution start in one country then spread, or start simultaneously (e.g. a #MayDay or credit crunch)

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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).

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Bedroom tax eviction reprieve, comparison with millionaire Tory Maria Miller, and opposing austerity/cuts that kill

 

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As reported in an article in the Salford Star, an eviction partly due to the bedroom tax was given a four-week reprieve in court today, shortly before bailiffs were due to arrive to evict a Salford woman called Vicky from her home. This was the first attempted eviction that the Greater Manchester Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation was aware of within the area. Two Left Unity members, including myself, attended a 60-strong protest outside her home. I have previously posted some Non-payment advice – also about “the new poll tax”, council tax payments of up to 30%, depending on council area, demanded from people on benefits (that have had far less publicity), to help people who want to go down the road of non-payment or have no choice due to poverty. I have written a song called The New Poll Tax (which briefly mentions the bedroom tax too).

If we compare the situation of Vicky, whose rent arrears were far smaller than the £5,800 disgraced Tory minister Maria Miller was forced to pay back, to say nothing of the £45,000 that she allegedly should have repaid (but was overruled by a committee of MPs) – see the Guardian article Public disgust at MPs’ expenses is the only thing that brought down Maria Miller which counters arguments that Miller was forced to quit due to some sort of media conspiracy – or the opposite view in Paul Demarty’s Weekly Worker article Rightwing press rocks the boat for more radical analysis with a lot of details, slightly spoilt by that paper’s pessimistic (as usual) viewpoint at the end, saying that the influence of the right-wing press is “another index of how rapidly British society is moving to the right”. Anger at expenses-fiddling by mainstream parties presents great opportunities for Left Unity, and indeed the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

As reported in a news release from Left Unity, “Without getting carried away, Left Unity played its part in her downfall. Labour’s Ed Miliband, ridiculously, refused to call for Maria Miller to quit – while Left Unity called a protest at Downing Street, as covered on LBC Radio and Huffington Post. Miller resigned that morning, before the protest, but our call for her to face criminal investigation still made it into the TelegraphExpress and Herald“.

It has been a socialist tradition, to try to prevent politicians from selling out, that MPs (and MSPs, MEPs, etc.) only receive a worker’s wage (generally the average wage of a skilled worker), which was adhered to by members of the Militant Tendency who became Labour MPs and all six Scottish Socialist Party MSPs. Politicians should be allowed to claim reasonable expenses, but certainly not mortgage payments on second homes, which was used by Miller for example, and changing to rent is definitely a step forward. However, David Cameron has not kept his promise to make politicians who have been convicted of corruption subject to recall by their constituents, meaning that they would have to stand for re-election to keep their seats, and many socialists argue that even if they have not been convicted of anything, all MPs should face potential recall as well (perhaps if a petition signed by some proportion of the electorate in a constituency call for one). For example, Labour’s Hazel Blears faced a Hazel Must Go! campaign that achieved considerable support due to Blears’ expenses fiddling as reported on Wikipedia. However, when it came to the 2010 general election, and the choice was seen as being between Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat candidates, she won the newly created Salford and Eccles seat.

One of the problems of so-called “democracy” as it operates under capitalism is that waiting until politicians call a general election lets them off the hook if there is a massive mood for change in the meantime. This is not just an issue as far as individual MPs’ expenses is concerned, but bringing down massively unpopular governments – which tend to be particularly unpopular due to them breaking manifesto commitments, like “No top-down reorganisation of the NHS” (Tories) or “No increase in student tuition fees” (Lib Dems). Unpopularity often arises too from austerity measures (cuts and/or tax rises), which actually leads to people dying as my Austerity Kills song states. Although I am not in favour of a socialist society run solely in the interests of the working class, or controlled just by workers, but with a government elected by proportional representation in addition to some degree of workers’ control and direct democracy (for reasons stated in the About Steve Wallis page on this blog), I recognise the importance of workers in changing society, or in bringing a government down to force new elections which may lead to a socialist society, by withdrawing their labour – particularly in a “mass strike” from below or a “general strike” from above. I proposed an amendment to the Left Party Platform’s statement of aims at Left Unity’s founding conference, that got passed, on adding this to the party’s statement of aims (which would otherwise have been too electoral for my liking). Continue reading

People’s Assembly and #LeftUnity conferences: debating the economy and European Union – be radical but strategic

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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

My statement as a candidate for the National Council of #LeftUnity

[EDIT 23/4/14: Left Unity’s internal elections are now underway. They will close at midnight on Tuesday 6 May 2014. The statement below, that also appears on the North West elections page on the LU website, is very slightly modified from the one previously on this blog (to increase the number of issues I’m campaigning on).]

The following text is my statement as a candidate for one of the four vacant seats (at least two of which have to be female due to the women’s quota rule) from the North West region of Left Unity on the National Council. I was nominated by Alison Treacher (Stockport LU) and Tom Armstrong (Manchester LU). Left Unity members can vote via the Internal Elections page (but you will only be able to vote for me if you live in the North West of England). Continue reading

29 March #LeftUnity conference: The ongoing struggle between revolutionaries and reformists

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Me at founding conference in November

As some of you will know, I was unable to attend the Left Unity (LU) policy-making conference in Manchester on 29 March. I did attend and speak at the founding conference in London on 30 November 2013, getting one of my amendments passed making LU much more revolutionary on trade unions, as described in my blog entry Compromise between the Left Party Platform and Socialist Platform: Justification for my amendments to LPP. However, after the Manchester conference, it is even more clear that there is an ongoing struggle between those who advocate a more revolutionary approach and those who want LU to limit itself to reformist demands (even though some of the latter are actually revolutionaries or are in organisations that claim to be).

There is a concerted effort by many within LU (as well as those outside like the SWP) to portray the party as “reformist” or “left reformist”. Indeed, in opening the discussion on the economics commission document, Pete Green said that the programme in the document is reformist. This is despite the fact that when I went to the meeting to discuss the document in London, it was described as “a transitional programme” (I can’t remember whether Pete himself used that term but he certainly didn’t object).

There is a big difference between putting forward a set of demands, many of which cannot be implemented under capitalism, that is the transitional approach of the Socialist Party (formerly Militant, that I was in from 1990-98), and simply presenting a set of moderate reforms (the approach of other “left unity” approaches including the Socialist Alliance, before its abolition largely by the SWP in favour of Respect, and Respect itself as an even more moderate party that generally avoids even mentioning socialism at all). In truth, the demands on tax in the document are indeed left reformist but some demands in other sections can more accurately be described as transitional and amendments passed at the conference make LU’s economic policy even more so.

To be charitable towards Pete, part of the point of “transitional demands” is to appear reformist even if you aren’t! If you actually argue publicly (in front of those in the room and on the live stream if it was working at the time, but wasn’t, and later appearing on YouTube) that the point of those demands is to bring capitalism down, then that undermines the point of being “transitional”! Arguably a reason why LU has got much more publicity in the mainstream media than the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is that we come across as more moderate.

As far as I’m concerned, we are a broad socialist party rather than a reformist party, which is very important because gradual reforms cannot bring capitalism down, and ending capitalism (which was explicitly added to the Left Party Platform statement of aims by a Camden amendment, and accepted by the founding conference) is vital since reforms in the interest of the masses that can be afforded during booms cannot when there is a recession or slump.

It is good that both amendments I put forward (via Manchester) to make our policy on the economy more radical were accepted. Continue reading

Women’s quotas in #LeftUnity: Nearly a catastrophe for this promising new party!?

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I set the cat among the pigeons with a last minute email (and Facebook post) – well, at about midnight the night before the policy-making conference of Left Unity (LU) in Manchester on 29 March – by suggesting that the women’s quota rule (of at least 50% women) within LU’s constitution had to be scrapped!

I do think that if a decision made at the final Transitional National Council (leadiership body between adopting the constitution on 30 November and electing a new National Council) before the conference had been adhered to – of implementing the quota within the national council as a whole, rather than for the directly elected section and each region independently, it could have led to the ludicrous and highly undemocratic situation where every candidate for the vacant seats in the regions (e.g. 4 in the North West) had to be a woman!

This could have been catastrophic for LU and possibly even led to a split. Rather than simply arguing that quotas are a bad thing, I actually see merits in them, as I point out in the second and third emails included in this post, and the actual outcome is actually good! Continue reading

#Budget2014 What Osborne didn’t tell Parliament: critique of new MoneyWeek End of Britain argument – need revolution!

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MoneyWeek, which claims to be “the UK’s best-selling financial magazine” has been predicting “The End of Britain” in a slick and heavily funded advertising campaign, with the main objective of getting new readers and encouraging them to put some of their money in overseas “bolt-holes” (arguably to encourage tax avoidance as well as to guard against loss of investors’ money due to the “inevitable economic and social chaos” they predict in the UK). I wrote a critique of that video/letter on this blog in October 2013 at Is MoneyWeek’s “End of Britain” just fearmongering? What about US debt default? Is socialist revolution on the cards? Their main argument is that government debt is increasing rapidly, despite the “austerity” agenda, even when the interest rates they pay for government bonds (gilts) are around 2%, and that Britain would be “broke” and unable to pay them back if they reached a more normal level of about 5%.

[Incidentally, although “End of Britain” does not refer to the potential break-up of the country if the Scottish people vote “Yes” in the referendum later this year, Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond has recently remade an argument he put in May 2013 that if an independent Scotland was not allowed to share the pound that it would not pay a share of the national debt. This situation itself could exacerbate the crisis of capitalism and is in my view a major reason why virtually the entire political establishment (apart from the SNP of course) is opposed to Scottish independence. Apart from lack of control over interest rates etc., with Scotland not being truly independent if the Bank of England has power over the currency, this is another reason for the Radical Independence Campaign (which is arguing for a “Yes” vote on a much more left-wing basis to strongly argue for an independent currency.]

This blog entry is about a new web page (letter) by MoneyWeek called What Osborne didn’t tell Parliament (its web address looks temporary so do a web search for those words if that link doesn’t work). “The End of Britain” has been widely criticised because it was produced by MoneyWeek’s advertising department, and has biased graphs not adjusted for inflation or GDP, but this new letter is professional, written by financial experts and designed for serious investors. Its points are less controversial and difficult to argue against (with the propaganda against the welfare state omitted for example) although for those who believe in gradual reforms to capitalism to end up with some sort of “socialist” society, with such people often arguing that we are “the seventh richest country in the world” and that austerity is unnecessary, it is a massive wake-up call!

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Proportional Representation versus “a workers’ state”, and Left Unity

ImageThe 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.

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The Big Questions: Is war ever just? Stop glorification of First World War by Michael Gove: Keep showing Blackadder Goes Forth in schools! #bbctbq

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I was in the audience for the BBC TV programme The Big Questions (produced by the private company Mentorn Scotland), that has debates from a moral/religious viewpoint, often but not always on political issues, last Sunday in Salford for a pre-recorded special on the subject of “Is war ever just?”

It will be shown tomorrow (Sunday 26 January at 10am) – probably on BBC1 (possibly switched to BBC2). Nicky Campbell didn’t select me from the audience to make a point (or ask a question to the panel on the front row who dominated the show) but I’m writing this blog post to make some points I could have raised (and I will tweet links to this blog entry when the programme is aired).

My newly founded party, Left Unity (which I admitted to being a member of when asked by a woman who rang me before inviting me onto the show, perhaps influencing me not being picked to speak), has a position of opposition to glorification of war (throughout 2014 which is the 100th anniversary, i.e. centenary, of the start of what was then called “The Great War” and “The war to end all wars”, and is now known as “The First World War” or “World War I”).

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Doesn’t Gove look a nasty piece of work?

The extremely annoying and incompetent Tory toff and ConDem Education Secretary Michael Gove has argued against teachers in school showing “Oh! What a Lovely War”, “The Monocled Mutineer” and “Blackadder Goes Forth” because they put across left-wing viewpoints, in an article in the Daily Mail. That “newspaper” (very right-wing rag) incidentally supported the fascist Blackshirts in Britain and the Nazis in Germany before the World War II – see my blog post Ed & Ralph Miliband v Daily Mail (who said “Hurrah for Blackshirts”) – David Cameron’s father Ian was a tax dodger!

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#bartonmoss Anti-Fracking camp forced Cameron’s council bribe, peanuts for residents, is tidal power a better way?

ImageI went on a march on Sunday (along with around 1,000 others at the very least – the BBC apparently had the cheek to say 100-200 then, but said “hundreds” yesterday) to the anti-fracking camp at Barton Moss (in Irlam, Salford, Greater Manchester) where drilling for shale gas (known as “hydraulic fracturing” or “fracking” for short) is taking place by the company iGas.

Fracking was top of the news agenda yesterday on most if not all TV news programmes in the UK – and was also featured heavily on RT (Russia Today, Freeview 85). This was partly due to direct action by protesters that day (including getting on top of a tanker and holding up traffic) and the high policing costs that could make it uneconomic, and partly due to UK prime minister David Cameron doubling the bribe to councils from 50% of the business rates to 100% (giving back with one hand a bit of what he has taken with the other as part of the austerity agenda), clearly scared about the unpopularity of fracking, which should be massive in urban areas as long as campaigners put across effective arguments. The benefits to residents however are tiny – £100,000 may be a lot per person if there are just a few farmers nearby, but it is ridiculous to expect city-dwellers to accept a minuscule share of that money, plus the 1% of revenues if shale gas is found (compared with 10% in some countries overseas), even if there is just a small chance their tapwater will be undrinkable like in Dimock in the USA as covered up until revealed in a Huffington Post article, or even get skin lesions from showering in water contaminated by fracking: “The first person in Dimock to discover that there were problems with the water was Norma Fiorentino, whose water well exploded. And it took a little while and, for a certain period of time, some of the residents were still showering in the water and drinking the water and were experiencing a lot of the health impacts and dizziness and skin lesions. And, of course, the long-term effects aren’t known. But, over time, they started to realize that the water is not safe to use.” Some other problems are listed in an article I co-wrote for an issue of Revolutionary Platform News: Number 6: “mini-earthquakes, subsidence and noise for those who live nearby (hence reduced house prices), heavy use of water, radioactive contamination, carcinogenic chemicals”. If councils accept the bribe, expect a lot of the councillors to lose their seats in the local elections in May!

It is the point mentioned above about putting across effective arguments that I am particularly concerned about – arguing for tidal power (sometimes called “tidal energy”) and putting serious amounts of research and development (R&D) into that technology (at last taking place from 2012 in Scotland but with an investment of a mere £30 million according to this article, the same amount as the French company Total is investing into just one Lincolnshire drilling project according to the Independent due to fracking being banned in France and the lucrative profits – part of the solution to solving environmental problems is revolutionary change involving overthrowing the leaders of such companies without compensating rich shareholders and running them democratically by ordinary people). I fully agree with arguments about moving away from fossil fuels (including shale gas obtained from fracking) and opposing nuclear fission, and instead investing in renewable forms of energy. Unfortunately, however, the renewables suggested by speakers at the protest on Sunday limited suggestions to using wind turbines (which don’t work when there’s no wind or even too much wind and they produce little power compared with their cost) and solar panels (which aren’t particularly efficient either in the UK).

Furthermore, there is a shortage of rare earth metals used for both technologies (wind turbines and solar panels) as revealed in a November 2013 Yale University report  by Nicola James entitled A Scarcity of Rare Metals Is Hindering Green Technologies:

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2014: Economic & social chaos? A general strike in Britain at last? Prospects for Left Unity

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2013 was quite a good year for the left, particularly in Britain. I will summarise by listing items from my blog about some of the things that happened last year:

  • Margaret Thatcher died – giving me inspiration for this blog! I just happened to have written a song for my band Fruity Frank & the Frisky Freaks called The New Poll Tax (based on the mass campaign of non-payment that defeated the poll tax and played a large part in removing her from power), which we recorded two versions of a few days before Thatcher died, and my first post on the blog was The demise of Maggie Thatcher and my song: The New Poll Tax. The “new poll tax” refers to council tax payments by those on benefits, which can be up to 30% of the full value (and are set at 25% in Rochdale where I lived at the time).
  • There was some progress towards a general strike, against austerity (cuts) and perhaps to bring the ConDem (Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition) government down. I took part in (and spoke at) a meeting in Liverpool organised by Merseyside TUC (Trades Union Council) which unanimously decided to put forward a motion at the North West (of England) TUC Annual General Meeting (AGM) calling on the national TUC to call a general strike, preferably on International Workers’ Day (1 May, popularly called May Day although the “May Day” public holiday is always on a Monday in the UK). The motion also called for international coordination (i.e. strikes elsewhere in the world) on the same day. I created a Facebook page: Launch an international general strike on 1 May against the 1% and also modified the lyrics of a song called “The Stars Look Down” from Billy Elliot (the musical) about the miners’ strike, to refer to present day and call for a general strike and demonstrations on 1 May. I sang it with a very good female singer (a singing teacher) and put it on the internet with a video including clips of protests and strikes (etc.) on YouTube (which includes a call from Anonymous for similar action on the same day) – see The Stars Look Down – join the 1 May global MayDay general strike! As it happened, at the NW TUC AGM, a deal was struck whereby an amendment to massively water down the motion, removing any calls on the national TUC and suggestions for a particular date on bureaucratic grounds. Nevertheless, the North West became the first region of the UK in which the TUC officially had a position of support for a general strike. I handed out a newsletter before and at the (national) TUC conference (Trades Union Congress) in Bournemouth: Lobby TUC for serious coordinated strike action, fracking, Revolutionary Platform of Left Unity, Tory conference demo – a motion on it was passed unanimously but, predictably I suppose, bureaucrats in the various unions affected by attacks by the ConDems have totally failed (so far) to coordinate action. [I would like to think that my activities influenced the general strike in Greece (but there had been many before) and demonstrations by workers in Iran (but there is little internet access there) on 1 May…]
  • The campaign against perhaps the ConDems’ most vicious measure – the bedroom tax – has been strong in 2013. I helped by providing some Non-payment advice (on leaflets and my blog – with a record 560 views of a blog post on a single day). My other achievement (not to ignore the parts played by many thousands of other protesters across the country on the issue) was to appear on the BBC TV programme Question Time – playing a part in Labour leader Ed Miliband saying Labour will abolish the bedroom tax the day after I question his deputy Harriet Harman on it (if they come to power at the next election). It had been forecast, including in the Sunday People, that Miliband would make that announcement, but perhaps I brought it forward a few days from the party conference.
  • Revelations by US whistleblower Edward Snowden (particularly in the Guardian and New York Times) about spying by the US National Security Agency with its PRISM software (and similar activities by GCHQ in Britain) and a huge database containing information about virtually everyone in the world who has been on-line (including contents of emails, Facebook interactions and Google searches) plus details of phone calls, which ultimately provides the possibility of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms processing this data without need for human intervention and eliminating the possibility of further potential whistleblowers. I know that this is possible based on my expert knowledge of AI (I was the main designer and sole developer of an AI/simulation language called SDML) but such world fascism (as John Pilger has also called it) has hopefully now been averted by the Snowden revelations and the response to them. My posts The purpose of PRISM – stopping worldwide socialist revolution forever with Orwellian 1984-style society and #copsoffcampus demos against police clampdown on student protests – infiltration, PRISM & possible UK police state provide my analysis.
  • My role (perhaps) in alleged rapist Martin Smith’s resignation from the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Some will see the self-destruction of what has been (and just about still is) the largest party to the left of Labour, excluding the Greens, largely stemming from the rape allegations against their former national secretary Martin Smith (aka Comrade Delta) as positive, others negative. Make your own mind up (free will is the best antidote to such “Leninist” organisations’ propaganda and something that Marxist philosophy doesn’t seem compatible with). The fact that there is another organisation that is far better (Left Unity) and already involves some who split from the SWP in March (the International Socialist Movement) is a good sign.
  • The debate between Russell Brand and Jeremy Paxman, with Brand arguing for revolution and there being no point in voting when there’s no real choice, on Newsnight went viral on YouTube (with over 9.5 million views), and there were a large number of Facebook shares (102,000) of his New Statesman article too for the edition he was guest editor of. I wrote a blog entry Russell Brand v Jeremy Paxman on “revolution” plus bureaucratic centralism of the SWP (but not the Socialist Party) which went off at a tangent explaining why the latter has a more healthy internal regime than the SWP based on my eight-and-a-half years in it (including when it was called the Militant Tendency and Militant Labour). I didn’t argue that “democratic centralism”, as practiced by the Socialist Party/Militant was ideal though, and I am pleased to say it has not been adopted as a way of operating by Left Unity.
  • Left Unity started with a call for a new party to the left of Labour by socialist film director Ken Loach in March, although I didn’t get involved initially (I waited until I saw a meeting in Manchester advertised although there was a big one I missed). My position has been consistent, in wanting a broad socialist party but with a revolutionary “platform” bringing together people who want a “sudden thorough” change of society, as I put it, rather than gradual reforms (which wouldn’t actually lead to socialism anyway). I therefore issued a Call for a Revolutionary Platform of Left Unity. I didn’t get sufficient support for an official platform (of 10 members), perhaps due to sabotage by my email providers, and found that the Socialist Platform was basically revolutionary anyway, so dropped my own platform in favour of it. Under pressure from the Socialist Platform (which in the meantime had virtually self-destructed due to ultra-left amendments from the tiny CPGB), the strongest platform called the Left Party Platform (LPP) put forward a much improved statement of aims compared with its initial wishy-washy statement. I therefore proposed amendments to the improved statement, one of which (on improving the paragraph on trade unions to mention strike action, including mass/general strikes) as a means to winning individual disputes and changing society (with improvements suggested by other Manchester Left Unity members in also mentioning occupations and solidarity) was submitted, and (despite only having 2 minutes to speak on it and another amendment) I got it passed at Left Unity’s founding conference on 30 November. See Compromise between the Left Party Platform and Socialist Platform: Justification for my amendments to LPP. Another branch (Camden, which actually is Ken Loach’s branch, potentially undermining claims that he is steering the party in a reformist direction) getting another amendment to the LPP passed committing the party to ending capitalism – Socialist Platform main instigator Nick Wrack’s main objection to the LPP’s revised statement of aims and something I asked others to take up after failing to persuade Manchester members. Consequently, Left Unity is truly broad and reflects both revolutionary and reformist views and members will hopefully continue to put both kinds of views forward, on the website and forum (and in a publication once we decide to produce one). I also put forward a motion to keep Left Unity as the name of the party, suggesting much more than the main rival Left Party that there is an aim to unite the far left and bring many of the “57 varieties” (which should actually be 150 according to Facing Reality but is based on an old advert for Heinz soups) together rather than be just another socialist party/organisation. Another Manchester member, Ali Treacher, spoke on that motion and it won by 98 votes after transfers.

By far my most popular blog entry towards the end of 2013 was Is MoneyWeek’s “End of Britain” just fearmongering? What about US debt default? Is socialist revolution on the cards? with “End of Britain” being heavily advertised by the (allegedly) most popular stock market investors’ magazine MoneyWeek and my blog entry being in the top 10 of Google searches for it. MoneyWeek predicted inevitable economic and social chaos in Britain, and the UK going “bankrupt” if inflation reached about 5%. The issue of whether British capitalism is very healthy (as reformists who claim Britain is “the seventh richest country in the world” argue) or in dire straits (as Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert argue in The Keiser Report, on RT and YouTube, hence them shifting their TV programme from the USA to London) is probably the most important debate socialists can have to determine strategy. The former banker Frances Coppola, who “debunked” the MoneyWeek video/letter has started debating with me on the above-mentioned entry on my blog, after I demolished the arguments of Martin Odoni, a follower of the US “unorthodox post-Keynesian economist” Warren Mosler, so I am directing those particularly interested in that debate there (especially if you wish to comment on my views on the subject). But let me just leave you now with the following thoughts:

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My obituary of Nelson Mandela (edited), still big wealth gap, ANC ordered Marikana massacre, new party (WASP)

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I posted an item on this blog entitled Nelson Mandela obituary, state of ANC today (supporting Marikana massacre) and new Workers and Socialist Party on Monday, but subsequently improved it quite considerably before submitting it to the Weekly Worker newspaper, on which it appeared today entitled “Wealth gap” on the letters page. I include below my obituary as edited firstly by me and secondly by editors of that newspaper.

[I will post the entire letter that I submitted to that paper as a comment, since the Communist Party of Great Britain (PCC) that produces the Weekly Worker does edit my letters (usually quite considerably), not just due to reasons of space but due to their particular political agenda – most noticeably in opposing proportional representation under socialism (although I have won them round to supporting PR under capitalism with several letters over the years on that subject). It is an aside that I included at the end of the letter, but an important aside if a mass revolutionary movement in South Africa is not going to repeat the dreadful mistake of the Bolsheviks in Russia of implementing “the dictatorship of the proletariat” (power only in the hands of the working class). If majority support cannot be achieved for a socialist society then the revolution would not last anyway and it is much better to run society in the interests of “the 99%” rather than disenfranchising the middle class. Amandla!]

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Nelson Mandela was a very inspirational and courageous figure. He suffered so much in jail on Robben Island, enduring decades of hard labour, but refused to be broken by the evil apartheid regime. He did so much to force the regime to introduce democracy in South Africa.

The regime didn’t concede defeat out of the goodness of their hearts – it cannot be denied (whatever the mainstream media will say) that it was due to the actions of ordinary (mainly working class) people in South Africa and their allies around the world.

Obvious factors were the extremely courageous actions of black youths in Sharpeville and Soweto, brutally massacred by the regime, and the effect those massacres had on mobilising international opinion into boycotting South African goods and companies like Barclays Bank, which were propping up apartheid.

Less obvious, except perhaps to people in South Africa itself, was black, white and ‘coloured’ workers uniting in trade unions, with perhaps the possibility of general strikes (via ‘dual power’) leading to socialist revolution, forcing the regime to release Mandela and end apartheid. Their prime motive was to preserve capitalism and their own wealth, and so far that has been successful.

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Nelson Mandela obituary, state of ANC today (ordering Marikana massacre) and new Workers and Socialist Party

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Nelson Mandela was a very inspirational and courageous figure. He suffered so much in jail on Robben Island, enduring decades of hard labour, but refused to be broken by the evil apartheid regime. He did so much to force the regime to introduce democracy in South Africa. The regime didn’t concede defeat out of their goodness of their hearts – it was largely due to black, white and “coloured” workers uniting in trade unions (with the possibility of general strikes leading to socialist revolution) and of course international sanctions that played big roles. Their prime motive was to preserve capitalism and their own wealth, and so far that has been successful.

It should not be forgotten that Margaret Thatcher called Nelson Mandela, when he was languishing in jail, a “terrorist”. One report on British TV said that in an opinion poll within South Africa, 9 out of 10 white people said the same thing about him. The racist mainstream media in that country didn’t want to acknowledge that he was actually a lawyer (perhaps they didn’t want the idea that black people could be intelligent enough to qualify in that field!)

Unfortunately, for many of the poor masses in South Africa, little has changed since apartheid (there are still shanty towns) and disillusionment in the African National Congress (ANC) is rampant – particularly after their support for the massacre of 44 striking Marikana miners last year. The ANC is mired in corruption and big business still runs the country, albeit with some black bosses rather than them all being white as in the apartheid era.

We had a minute’s silence for Nelson Mandela and for others fighting (or had fought) injustice around the world at an anti-fracking protest (in Barton Moss, Irlam, Salford, Greater Manchester) yesterday. Whereas some of our political views may differ, we quite often (at least) recognise when someone with quite different views is an ally in our fight against mutual enemies.

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Compromise between the Left Party Platform and Socialist Platform: Justification for my amendments to LPP

[EDIT 1/12/13: The founding conference of Left Unity, on 30 November 2013, has just taken place. I will shortly write a report of it on this blog, including mentioning that one of the two amendments proposed by me (and included below) on considerably strengthening the paragraph on trade unions, by mentioning striking (including mass/general strikes), occupations and solidarity, was passed. My proposal on keeping Left Unity as the party name (proposed by another member of my branch) was also passed, which could prove important in encouraging people of autonomous/anarchist views (preferably non-violent as most of them are) due to such people disliking the word “party”. Most of the comments below the article were from a debate I had with Felicity Dowling of the Left Party Platform (and a former member of the Liverpool 47 surcharged councillors and one of the Militant Tendency “entrists” within Labour before Militant’s “open turns” in Scotland and then England and Wales). There is also a reply to my article by John Penney, to which I have posted a reply having just seen it after the conference. The conference is over but debates go on…]

[EDIT 8/12/13: I have now added a comment below containing details of a report by Pete McLaren from Rugby (of the Independent Socialist Network and Socialist Platform) plus two responses from me – being more upbeat about the fact that the conference decided to adopt a combination of revolutionary and reformist politics, which was basically my aim with the amendments below (one of which was passed), and that forthcoming economic crises will provide great opportunities for revolution.]

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Steve Wallis of Manchester Central Left Unity proposed changes to the Left Party Platform submission for the aims section at the founding conference, which, after discussion, were submitted as two separate amendments to those aims for debate at the conference. The justification for those amendments above the amendments are Steve’s personal views.

One of the problems of the debate between platforms is that it has, at times, become polarised between those who favour an electoral road to achieving socialism (with some such people accused, rightly or wrongly, of being content with positive reforms to capitalism) and those who favour a socialist revolution. The Left Party Platform (LPP) is in favour of a broad socialist party encompassing both (but some members particularly favour elections and others hide some of their politics to accommodate them), whereas the Socialist Platform (SP) is much more openly revolutionary.

Most revolutionary socialists, including myself, also agree with standing in elections, but think it impossible or highly unlikely for socialism to be achieved solely by electoral means. We should also welcome participation from those with autonomous/anarchist views, such as many in the AntiCapitalist Initiative, although I have used the phrase “(preferably peaceful) socialist revolution” in the second amendment below. We should not encourage the participation of people who encourage violence for the sake of it, as counterposed to defending themselves if attacked by the forces of the state – which the LPP’s Kate Hudson (general secretary of CND) informed us at the foreign affairs commission at the policy conference in Manchester is consistent with CND’s position on violence.

Discussions around the formation of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (New Anti-capitalist Party) in France included people of an autonomous/anarchist persuasion, and although they didn’t participate eventually, we should welcome members of the AntiCapitalist Initiative into LU (especially because they are involved in merger talks with two organisations that are more keen – the International Socialist Network and Socialist Resistance). I have therefore included a paragraph in the second amendment below saying that those just interested in extra-parliamentary activity rather than helping with election campaigns (or vice versa) would be welcome.

The extremely undemocratic (misnamed) first-past-the-post electoral system, which would have only been slightly improved if the Alternative Vote proposal (that only the Liberal Democrats campaigned for and which was an awful compromise from the much more proportional single transferable vote system that they advocate) had been passed, makes it extremely unlikely that socialists can make as much headway as socialist parties/coalitions on the continent, particularly Syriza in Greece. The ConDems have also passed legislation for fixed term parliaments of five years – without LU playing a key role in massive extra-parliamentary action forcing a capitalist government to resign, or otherwise forcing them from office by a general strike leading to “dual power”, we would be betraying the masses who look to us to provide a lead.

If there is suddenly another massive economic crisis, on the scale of the 2007-8 credit crunch or worse, which some financial experts predict, such as Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert in The Keiser Report, viewable on RT (Russia Today) or YouTube, or the MoneyWeek magazine’s video/letter entitled “The End of Britain” (nothing to do with Scottish independence!), it would be vital for socialists to respond by leading a revolutionary movement – if not, the far right will have a field day. Waiting for another general election is not an option!

It should also be emphasised that the massive gains in support Syriza achieved, which led to it almost becoming the largest party in the Greek parliament in 2012, could not have been achieved without the mass movements of ordinary working and lower middle class people, including strike waves, demonstrations and particularly general strikes – in which members of Syriza played important roles.

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Russell Brand v Jeremy Paxman on “revolution” plus bureaucratic centralism of the SWP (but not the Socialist Party)

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The following is a letter I am sending to the Weekly Worker, the newspaper of the CPGB (PCC). Although they have edited my letters, generally quite considerably, sometimes to fit their own agenda rather than for reasons of space or clarity, they have never distorted the meaning of them. This one is much longer than my usual letters, however, partly because there are important tangential points to make and because it’s also intended for this blog, so I certainly don’t mind them editing it quite severely!

The CPGB’s Mark Fischer and I went to the session on “What is the role and relevance of a revolutionary party today?” at Socialism 2013, an educational event organised by the Socialist Party of England and Wales (SP), on Saturday. I thought the title quite remarkable for an organisation that has generally shied away from the word “revolution”, but times have changed – if even the middle class comedian Russell Brand can talk about it in the pages of the New Statesman and on Newsnight where he brilliantly and wittily outwitted Jeremy Paxman, then obviously the Socialist Party has to too. Indeed, the current issue of their newspaper The Socialist at the event had a review of the Brand-Paxman debate (which now has nearly 9 million views on YouTube). It was particularly positive that the person speaking on the subject was the editor of The Socialist, Sarah Sachs-Eldridge.

Mark said some positive things about the SP, but accused it of operating on the basis of “bureaucratic centralism” rather than “democratic centralism” (which is how the SP claims it operates – a lot of democracy making decisions with a central leadership providing direction and the party intervening “as one” in campaigns/other organisations). I agree with many of the points made in various articles made in the pages of the Weekly Worker over the years about a large democratic deficit in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), entailing much more centralism than democracy, the bureaucracy on their central committee having too much power, and restricted rights for individual members and factions – and consequently “bureaucratic centralism” is a fair term for that organisation. This is a major reason, on top of the terrible handling of the allegations of rape by their former national secretary Martin Smith (Comrade Delta), for a split earlier in the year (to form the International Socialist Network) and the probable expulsion of another faction (Rebuilding the Party) after the SWP’s next conference in December. The first split is already involved in Left Unity (LU) and it seems to me, as a rank-and-file LU member, to be almost inevitable that the new faction will join LU too after its expulsion from the SWP.

I must disagree with Mark’s assertion that the SP operates in much the same way, based on my experience in that party (and its forerunners, the Militant Tendency and Militant Labour) from 1990-98.

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Is MoneyWeek’s “End of Britain” just fearmongering? What about US debt default? Is socialist revolution on the cards?

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[EDIT 24/3/14: This blog entry’s comments now include a short debate with financial expert and ex-banker Frances Coppola and myself, and information about a new blog entry of mine containing my critique of a new, much more serious, argument by MoneyWeek entitled “What Osborne didn’t tell Parliament“, which was actually written by financial experts and aimed at serious investors. In contrast, “The End of Britain” was  written by MoneyWeek’s advertising department, leading to it being widely criticised by economists and others who have not been fooled by biased graphs and a huge dose of propaganda. I strongly recommend reading #Budget2014 What Osborne didn’t tell Parliament: critique of new MoneyWeek End of Britain argument – need revolution! which is currently being censored by Google due to the importance of the arguments.]

The financial magazine MoneyWeek is continuing its slick advertising campaign, with its prediction of “The End Of Britain” (inevitable social and economic chaos in the UK), with a video (viewed preferably on YouTube since the video on their website doesn’t allow rewinding or fast-forwarding, a sign of untrustworthiness) or in text form (with graphs) as a “letter” at http://moneyweek.com/endofbritain/. I argue below that, while some of their arguments are false or biased, socialists should recognise the validity of some of their other arguments and be prepared for the opportunities that will open up.

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Arguing that Left Unity should be a broad socialist party that reflects revolutionary as well as reformist views

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Left Unity has a very important founding conference on 30 November in London. After a fairly long period of democratic debate (since the call for a new left-wing party was made by socialist film director Ken Loach in March), Left Unity (perhaps renamed) will finally have some sort of constitution, including aims and structures, campaigning priorities (including opposing racism and austerity) and policy on standing (or not standing) in elections. A further conference (which will probably be delegate-based rather than one-member-one-vote) will be held in the spring to come up with more policies.

During the last few days, I’ve submitted the following 4 posts onto the LU website (http://leftunity.org) to influence the direction it goes, before, during and after the November conference. The light-touch moderation on the website, with submissions for articles accepted from people with a very wide range of views, together with a forum on which messages appear immediately, is a very healthy sign, almost unheard of on the left! This must continue after the conference!

As the subject to this blog post indicates, I am trying to ensure that the fully launched party is broad enough to encompass reformists and revolutionaries, but that it does so without being based on lowest common denominator reformist politics, which has been a major reason for the failure of some other similar initiatives.

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@Ed_Miliband says Labour will abolish bedroom tax the day after I question @HarrietHarman on it on @bbcquestiontime

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Ed Miliband has finally come off the fence and announced Labour will abolish the bedroom tax if it wins the next election, the day after I spoke on Question Time about it!

I have just posted the following comment to this Guardian article:

I can’t help thinking that the timing of Ed’s announcement (inevitable as it was) was influenced by Harriet Harman’s strong arguments against this vicious measure and my question from the floor, on Thursday’s Question Time from Rochdale.

I said: “I’d like to ask Harriet Harman whether she would call on Labour councillors not to evict people from their homes, especially if they are on Jobseekers Allowance because you get a situation where people on JSA get a letter saying they are allocated the minimum amount to live on yet they are expected to pay bedroom tax and council tax. I know in this area, Rochdale council is charging people 25% on a Band A property of their council tax…” At this point, David Dimbleby interrupted me to ask if Rochdale is a Labour-controlled council, and I replied “It’s a Labour-controlled council, yes.” at which point he called Harriet Harman in to respond.

The official Labour position of expecting people to wait to see what the manifesto at the next general election says, not to mention having Labour councillors evicting non-payers (which would cost far more than it saves), that Harman unfortunately put across, was proving increasingly untenable.

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Lobby TUC for serious coordinated strike action, fracking, Revolutionary Platform of Left Unity, Tory conference demo

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[Note that WordPress is censoring me for the first time – I sent out a similar post to this one that included the full text of the newsletter. That post doesn’t appear from the main www.thatcheroftheleft.wordpress.com page and going directly to that post (at https://thatcheroftheleft.wordpress.com/?p=770) sometimes produces an error message and sometimes displays the post! I suppose this goes to show something I knew already, that revolutionary change can’t take place just on the internet. Sometimes you need to interact in the real world – and going to TUC conference to hand out paper copies of the newsletter and talking to people is part of that! This suggests I’m doing something dangerous to the powers that be (the ruling class, i.e. big business) though and I strongly recommend reading it by going to www.revolutionaryplatformofleftunity.org/news/6.html.]

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Call for a Revolutionary Platform of Left Unity

NOTE THAT I HAVE EDITED THE CALL BELOW DUE TO GOOGLE SABOTAGING MY GMAIL ACCOUNT, PRESUMABLY TO TRY TO STOP US GETTING THE TEN MEMBERS REQUIRED TO BECOME AN OFFICIAL PLATFORM OF LEFT UNITY. I AM GETTING CONSIDERABLE SUPPORT ON FACEBOOK, PARTICULARLY SINCE I PUBLICISED A LOBBY OF TUC CONFERENCE NEXT WEEK, BUT STILL NEED A FEW MORE PEOPLE TO CONTACT ME IF THEY WANT TO JOIN, TO REACH THAT TARGET BEFORE THE CONFERENCE, AND PREFERABLY BEFORE THE MERSEYSIDE PEOPLE’S ASSEMBLY ON THURSDAY EVENING. TO HELP MAKE UP YOUR MIND, YOU CAN GO TO THE PUBLIC DISCUSSION GROUP OF THE REVOLUTIONARY PLATFORM OF LEFT UNITY OR PHONE/TEXT ME ON 07725 735255. 

[EDIT 31/10/13: THIS WAS A TEMPORARY PROBLEM WITH GMAIL. ALTHOUGH I STILL THINK IT WAS DELIBERATE, MY GMAIL ACCOUNT IS WORKING FINE NOW AND EMAILING ME AT steve.wallis2460@gmail.com IS THE BEST WAY TO CONTACT ME, UNLESS YOU WANT TO RING MY MOBILE (CELLPHONE) NUMBER ABOVE (NOTE THAT IT IS +44 7725 735255 FROM OUTSIDE THE UK).

I have had an ongoing initiative to try to unite revolutionary socialists within broad socialist organisations since 2006, initially concentrating on the Scottish Socialist Party, but also with other organisations (including ones that are only vaguely socialist – Respect, Plaid Cymru and even Labour) via the Revolutionary Platform Network.

The initiative was mainly on cyberspace (there were two web-based forums, both of which became overrun by spam, and there is now a page on Facebook with over 170 likes at www.facebook.com/RevolutionaryPlatformNetwork) and I produced a newsletter (to which I invited contributions but until a co-written article in edition 5 they just contained my own views) to distribute in the real world. The time is ripe now for something more serious.

I have now come to the conclusion that Left Unity presents by far the best broad socialist organisation in Britain to unite revolutionary socialists in, and encourage others to sign socialist film director Ken Loach’s statement at http://leftunity.org (which over 9,000 have already done, more than the rest of the far left in Britain put together) and sign the Revolutionary Platform statement (by messaging me at Facebook or emailing me as specified below).

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CALL FOR A REVOLUTIONARY PLATFORM OF LEFT UNITY

I am putting out a draft statement of a proposed new platform of Left Unity, called the Revolutionary Platform (RP). The idea is to unite as many genuine revolutionary socialists as possible within LU in a single platform, to try to overcome the problem which occurred with other broad socialist organisations (including the Scottish Socialist Party) of rival revolutionary organisations competing with each other within it rather than cooperating around shared goals.

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