Thursday, March 31, 2016

Founding myths (2016)

Book Review from the March 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

'Who’s Afraid of the Easter Rising? 1916-2016'. By James Heartfield and Kevin Rooney. Zero Books, 2015, £11.99.

Socialists will not like this book, because of its relentless pro-Irish Republican stance.  Those who took part in the  armed uprising in Dublin at Easter in 1916 were, we are told, ‘heroes’ and ‘freedom fighters’ who fought for a ‘noble cause’. Certainly, those prepared to die for their beliefs deserve some respect, but what was the ‘noble’ cause? What was the ‘freedom’ they died for?

The rebels proclaimed an ‘Irish Republic’ from the steps of the GPO. The proclamation was a typical bourgeois-revolutionary text. The freedom and equality it invoked were merely the same as those of the bourgeois-revolutionaries who set up the first French Republic in 1793 – freedom from hereditary and alien rulers and equality before the law and in the marketplace. The aim was set up an independent, capitalist Irish state. It had nothing to do with socialism despite the participation of the one-time revolutionary socialist James Connolly; in fact, in participating in it he could be said to have betrayed the cause of the working class and socialism.

The authors make another extravagant, though less implausible, claim for the uprising: that it was anti-war and anti-imperialist, ‘the first open revolt against Europe’s warlords’, a key event in bringing the First World War to an end. Hardly, as it occurred relatively early on in the war which continued for a further two-and-a-half years. It is true that, later, nationalists seeking independence from the British Empire did look back to it as an anti-imperialist action to emulate. For the participants, though, it was a simple pro-Irish revolt.

In describing it as ‘the founding act of the Irish State', Heartfield and Rooney are going along with the Irish State’s myth of its own origin. A much more historically accurate candidate for this would be the decision of the Sinn Fein MPs elected to the House of Commons in the 1918 UK general election not to take up their seats but to meet on their own in January 1919 as the parliament of an independent state.

In any event, both were insurrectionary acts, and Heartfield and Rooney derive much fun from pointing to the embarrassment of the present ruling class in Ireland who are clearly ashamed of the insurrectionary origin of their state. A large part of the book is taken up with arguing against the views of the ‘revisionist’ school of modern Irish history which says that the uprising  was unnecessary and even harmful as, after the War, Home Rule and eventually an independent Irish state would have come about peacefully, harmful because it enshrined the gun into Irish politics.

We can agree with the revisionist historians that the myth of the Easter Rising needs debunking. The Irish Republican tradition has been harmful and anti-working class but then so has Unionism. However,  those who argue that a peaceful transition to Home Rule and an independent state was likely had it not been for the Easter Rising are assuming that the Unionists in the North would have accepted this without resorting to violence (as they had done before the war, introducing more guns into politics than the Nationalists). After all, Ireland was then of strategic importance to the British Empire, and the established industrial capitalists of the North had a vital economic interest in not being cut off from their fellow British capitalists behind the tariffs walls of an economically backward Irish state.

In any event, irrespective of how it came into being, an independent Irish state was of no interest or benefit to the working class there.

There are a couple of mistakes about names. The Randolph Churchill who played the ‘Orange card’ in 1886 was not a Sir but a Lord (the son of a duke, and Winston’s father). The Con Lyhane mentioned as helping Tom Jackson’s anti-war activity in Leeds is surely Con Lehane; both incidentally founder members of the SPGB who later went off the rails.
Adam Buick

Labour government or Socialism? (1985)

From the December 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Why does anybody join the Labour Party? Some join to make a career for themselves; to become leaders, rulers, future Labour Lords, men and women entrusted to run capitalism. At every Labour Conference it is easy to spot the opportunists: minds dominated by the opinion polls, concerned to be seen supporting whatever illusions or prejudices will win them seats in the places of power; red ties and smiles for the rank and file, but really they are aching to get away from all the noise, back to "the real job" of becoming successful politicians. The average Labour voter is being used by them.

Then there are those workers who join the Labour Party because they want modest reform of capitalism. They want to attend to this or that symptom of the capitalist disease. but will not get involved in the revolutionary work of abolishing the cause of the problems because “that would be immoderate - a vote loser". These Labourites devote hours every week and years of their life trying to make the profit system just a little more humane. They have been at it since 1906 when the first Labour MPs entered parliament: trying to empty the ocean of social distress by the bucketful. These people belong in the Labour Party because it is, at its best, a party of capitalist reform

There is another category of workers who join the Labour Party: those who want to change society — transform it. This category includes not only the infantile Leninists of the Militant Tendency (whose conception of revolution is as outdated as it is elitist), but very many other ordinary Labourites who think that the election of a Labour government is the way to bring about socialism. It is to these people in particular that The Socialist Party — an organisation entirely separate from the Labour Party — addresses itself. It is our claim that by voting for and joining the Labour Party you are not in any way furthering the cause of socialism; the election of another Labour government would indicate that the workers do not yet understand or want socialism.

From the outset there have always been Labourites who have said that they are out to achieve socialism. Their sincerity is not in question. At the 1925 Labour Party Conference. George Lansbury stated that "Socialism is inscribed on our banners . . . we intend that the land of Britain and all its resources shall be owned and used in the service of the British people". In Labour's 1945 election manifesto, Let Us Face The Future, workers were told that: "The Labour Party is a socialist party and proud of it. Its ultimate purpose is the establishment of the socialist commonwealth of Great Britain." When that 1945 government was elected many workers thought that this was it — the dawn of socialism. What happened? Industries were nationalised — only to leave workers like the miners exploited under state capitalism. Troops were sent to Korea, the NATO gang was joined, the British atom bomb was secretly initiated, and support was given to the bombing of Hiroshima — all by a so-called socialist government. The dockers' strike was smashed by the use of troops. Bevan promised there would be no homeless workers in Britain by the time the Labour government left office; in 1951 they lost the election and capitalism in all its ugliness was still wholly intact.

Then came the Wilson and the Callaghan years: radical transformation remained something to talk about at Conferences, but running capitalism in accordance with its harsh economic laws was what those governments were all about. Many workers voted Labour in 1945, 1964 and 1974 and concluded in disillusion, "If that's socialism, we won't bother to vote for it". That is why Labour s share of the vote in the last election was its lowest since 1918: workers do not believe the promises as much as they used to — and they are right not to.

"But we've got the wrong leadership". This is the perpetual cry of Labourites who are mystified as to why the great change is not coming. It is not very long ago that Neil Kinnock was the golden boy of the Left. But now he has become a "realist", as all leaders seeking to run capitalism must. The recently published Labour Party programme does not even mention the word "socialism". Tony Benn, a member of the last Labour government, has described it as "violently anti-socialist". Therefore it would seem that the only option demanded by honesty and reality must be to leave a party which possesses such a programme. Of course, you will hear rousing speeches from Leftist leaders who will tell you that "Socialism is inscribed on our banners"; you will meet Labourites who will tell you that "anything" is better than That Bloody Woman; you will hear on the grapevine that there is a new socialist leader waiting in the wings and when s/he gets power, socialism will be back on the agenda. The dogmatic belief that another Labour government is in the interest of the working class is one that will be thrown at you from every angle. But in your own mind you know very well that you will never see the establishment of socialism by sending Labour MPs to Parliament.

Socialism will only be established when the vast majority of workers understand it, want it and democratically organise for it in a party which is not out to mend capitalism, but to end it. Socialism means the total abolition of capitalism. An end to private and state ownership and control of the means of wealth production and distribution. Production would be solely for use, with all people having free access to the common store of goods and services, instead of production for sale on the market with a view to profit. To win workers to organise for socialism is a massive task and it is easy to be demoralised and deceive yourself that there is an easier way to initiate the new system. But there is no alternative to the hard work being carried out by The Socialist Party — and the sooner those who want us to succeed join us, the sooner it will be done.

Russia: state capitalism in action (1985)

Editorial from the November 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

A persistent task for socialists has been to expose the false claims of various governments to have instituted socialism in their country. It is not too much to say that in the process we have devoted about as much time to pointing out what socialism is not as to the infinitely more agreeable task of describing what it will be. The governments concerned bear a heavy responsibility for hampering the work of propagating socialism, for their assertions that their anti-socialist, anti-working class, policies and actions spring from socialist principles have spread a malignant confusion among workers as to the nature of socialism, when the urgent need is for clarity and understanding.

There is no more glaring, or more damaging, example of this than the events in Russia since the revolution there in 1917. At that time Russia was at an economic and social stage of development which nowhere made it ready to move on to socialism. The revolution, inspired by a compound of the people's frustration at the repressive Tsarist regimes, the extreme impoverishment of their lives and their calamitous experiences in the First World War, could at the most begin to move Russia from a feudal to a capitalist society. Whatever the theoretical knowledge of the Bolshevik leaders, they could not have affected this historical process. At the time, little detailed information was available about what was happening in Russia but with what scant knowledge was at our disposal, socialists could be quite certain that Russia could not leap over so vital a stage in historical development and that, whatever emerged there, it was not a revolution for socialism.

This analysis was quickly validated, as the asserted principles of the revolution, set out in so much Bolshevik rhetoric, were modified, or forgotten or ignored. Far from being a country where socialism existed (which in any case is impossible) Russia was a place of widespread conflict, repression and fear. Out of the disputes among the party leaders arose a new ruling class who in due course monopolised the means of production and distribution, as was the case in the other, admittedly capitalist, countries. With the rise of Stalin to supreme power, the disputes became concerned with open repression. exile and murder. It is no overstatement, to describe Stalin's time in power as a reign of terror. There can be no accurate estimate of the number of his opponents who were done to death but those which have been made suggest that it ran to tens of millions.

The Stalinist dictatorship was imposed by a ruthless state machine at home and through the erection of a mighty military force. This has now reached the point at which Russia is one of capitalism's greatest powers, the only one in possession of the kind of nuclear arsenal to rival that of the American capitalist class in its ability to wipe out much of settled life on the earth. This situation in Russia — an entrenched ruling class, a brutal political dictatorship, an enormously destructive military machine could hardly be the outcome of a democratic. conscious revolution to establish a social system based on communal ownership of the means of life, free access to wealth and human harmony and co-operation.

There are, of course, differences between Russia and the avowedly capitalist powers, but these are superficial; basically they all operate the same society, with an owning class who monopolise the means of life on the one hand and on the other a class who are impoverished because they depend on selling their labour power to the owners in order to live. The owning class assert and protect their privileged property rights through a coercive state machine, which operates as ruthlessly as it needs to. In their conflicts with their rival exploiters in other countries over economic advantage they maintain armed forces, some of them with nuclear weapons with all of the ingenuity of modem technology in their delivery systems. This applies especially to Russia, as many a Red Square parade testifies. The socialist analysis of 1917 has been amply justified by events. Socialism cannot be established in any part of the world in separation; as things are it cannot spring out of a feudal society. The social system which began to emerge in Russia in 1917 is fundamentally different from the socialist society which has yet to be established.

A socialist movement consists of people who are consciously socialist, who do not, therefore, need or use leaders to guide them. Socialism will be set up when the majority of the world's population possess that type of awareness and it will replace capitalism in a democratic political revolution. It will be a society in which the entire human race will own in common the entire means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth. Everything which socialist society makes will be to satisfy human needs and desires and be treated as if in a universal common pool from which all people can draw according to their self-determined needs. A state machine will not exist; there will only be an administration of things, by people delegated to organise society's affairs at the wishes of the majority. Nobody will be under a compulsion to work; production will be a voluntary, cooperative effort on the massive incentive of the common benefit. And all this will be through a democratic system, where information and knowledge will be openly available and in which everyone will participate.

All of this is fundamentally different from the capitalism which exists in Russia and for that matter in America, Britain, Japan and the rest of the world. The task of establishing socialism remains to be completed, while the events in Russia provide valuable material which, correctly analysed, can contribute to a rising socialist consciousness. 

Ultra Right (1985)

From the October 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Earlier this year, a Bengali family in need of re-housing went to look at a council house on the Lincoln Estate in Tower Hamlets. They were greeted by a pair of pig's trotters hanging over the door, inscribed with the initials NF. This type of racially motivated incident. like excrement shoved through the letter box, stone-throwing and verbal abuse, constitutes "low grade" harassment. The more serious incidents involve arson attacks and physical assaults. Over the past few months there has been a wave of arson attacks in Ilford, Leyton and Bow. resulting in the death of a young Asian mother and her three small children. Tower Hamlets in East London is one of the worst affected areas with local police figures showing that the number of "reported" racial incidents has increased from 230 in 1983, to 370 in 1984. What is going on?

One of the most popular explanations for the rising number of racial attacks is that they are being organised by the Ultra Right. David Shannon, writing in the Guardian (30 July 1985) comments:
Racist attacks continue to be the most vicious expression of right wing violence and arson is a favourite weapon.
The Commission for Racial Equality believe that the most sustained and organised racial attacks in recent history are being carried out against Asian families in the East End of London. Similarly, CAPA, the Tower Hamlets police monitoring group, argues that there has been a qualitative change for the worse in these attacks and that they may have been organised by fascist groups. Who are the Ultra Right and what are their tactics?

There are about thirty Ultra Right groups operating in Britain today, ranging from the obscure Hounslow SS. to the more familiar and rapidly declining National Front. Many of the larger groups have their origins in the time when Commonwealth immigration became an important political issue. The NF was formed in 1967 out of a coalition of tiny parties, with the aim of unifying the Ultra Right and presenting a respectable image to the electorate. On the surface, the appeal of the NF was simple as its slogan. "If they are black, send them back". In other words, the NF was the organised expression of anti-black prejudice in Britain. Martin Walker, in his book The National Front (1977) put it:
Today, as when it began, the NF's issue is race. The NF's role has been to act as a particularly effective and unprincipled pressure group in the development of British immigration policies.
This view was criticised for ignoring the way in which the NF grew, both organisationally and ideologically, out of the unambiguously fascist parties of the past. This was put right in the Guardian of 11 October 1983, when Walker wrote:
. . . the NF was designed from the beginning to use racism against the blacks as a kind of Trojan horse that carried neo-Nazi and anti- semitic doctrines secreted in its belly.
The NF was relatively successful in adopting an electoral strategy to obtain support for its ideas, winning the greatest electoral support that any Ultra Right wing party has ever achieved in Britain. The ninety NF candidates who stood in the October 1974 General Election polled 114,000 votes. In the County Sections of 1977, the NF polled 200,000 and membership stood at 20,000. High levels of unemployment, the entry of Ugandan and Malawian Asians and the skillful manipulation of publicity produced a favourable climate for the NF's obnoxious ideas. In the 1979 General Election they confidently entered 303 candidates. What followed was an electoral disaster in which all the NF candidates lost their deposits and the party's vote fell in every constituency where they had stood in 1974.

This failure was partly explained by the success of the Conservative Party in capturing the race issue with a new hard-line policy on immigration. In January 1978, Margaret Thatcher had appeared on World in Action explaining that people were really afraid that Britain "might be rather swamped by people with a different culture". Also, the media coverage of the NF has succeeded in exposing the leadership's Nazi past and identifying the party with thugs and hooliganism. The electoral defeat of 1979 led to splits within the NF and a change of political strategy. There were two main options open to the NF. Firstly, it could try to change its image and become more "respectable" to the electorate. This was the option chosen by the National Front Constitutional Movement and the British Democratic Party. Secondly, it could accept the difficulties of trying to appear respectable in order to win votes, and become more militant and confrontational in its activity. From a NF members' newsletter. Our Plans for the 1980s, we learn:
If it is true that the National Front has no hope of gaining power under conditions that are stable, economically, socially and politically, we should not be preoccupied with making ourselves more "respectable" under present conditions. We must appreciate that the "image" that we have been given by the media and which may well lose us some potential support today, will be a positive asset when the streets are beset by riots, when unemployment soars, and when inflation gets even beyond the present degree of minimal control.
This was the option chosen by both the National Front and the New National Front. The former, led by Martin Webster, wanted to pursue a more populist strategy of mass recruitment which would include skinhead gangs. The latter, led by John Tyndall and now called the British National Party, wanted to be more selective and elitist in its approach to recruitment. Webster has subsequently been expelled from the NF and has recently founded yet another organisation. Our Nation, which is partly financed by the French perfume heiress Fran├žoise Dior, who was imprisoned in 1968 for conspiring to bum down synagogues. Webster has ditched the skinheads and is now trying to recruit university students. Today, the NF is controlled by Ian Anderson, Joe Pearce and Nick Griffin. Membership is young and inexperienced and down to around 3,000. In an effort to make inroads into the white working class the NF is attempting to put the “socialism" back into "National Socialism". The National Front News and the journal Nationalism Today, talk of "wage slaves” and the "propertyless workforce '. "Tories', we are told, "put profit before people". while the NF is determined to make sure that "production is geared to need, as opposed to profit".

A number of other popular issues have also been taken up. including ecology, ritual slaughter, nuclear power, and the "national heritage". Of course the NF is still dedicated to what it calls "British Racial Nationalism" and we call racism. In the recently published Statement of Policy, (April 1985) they state:
   The National Front is committed to the ending of all non-White immigration and to the phased and financially assisted repatriation of all non-Whites, together with their dependents and descendants . . .
   We propose a truly positive policy of putting Britons first in jobs, housing, education and welfare and of providing separate facilities for Afro-Asians while they await repatriation.
The demise of the NF as an electoral force and its fragmentation into competing groups does not mean that the Ultra Right is a spent political force. In Paul Wilkinson"s book. The New Fascists (1981) he argues:
. . .  electoral showing is by no means the only significant indication of contemporary fascist activity. In Britain much of this has been channelled into street corner violence and racial attacks by skinhead gangs often incited by neo-Nazi supporters of the British Movement
The British Movement was one of the groups which temporarily benefited from the collapse of the NF. It was formed in 1968 by Colin Jordan, as a revolutionary Nazi party to replace the National Socialist Movement of 1962. In 1975 Michael McLaughlin took over the leadership and pursued a policy of recruiting young skinheads at football matches and rock concerts. The British Movement saw its role as the vanguard in the coming "White Revolution", one which would involve wholesale repatriation of blacks and the assertion of total White power. The British Movement lived up to its ugly and violent reputation, engaging in organised attacks on Blacks. Asians and Jews. According to the anti-fascist journal Searchlight (November 1984) McLaughlin has decided to fold up the British Movement and concentrate on his business. selling authentic Nazi memorabilia. Colin Jordan told Searchlight:
I deplore the fact that the organisation I started many years ago has been run down to such a state by McLaughlin, that it really isn't worth saving from going under.
Other Ultra Right groups active in Britain today include the National Socialist Action Party, the League of Saint George, the White Defence Force, The Rising, SS Wotan, Column 88, SONAR (the secret organisation for national recovery) and The Exterminators Although the last two groups are new, Searchlight has revealed that many of the above groups are organised and trained in paramilitary activities and have links within the Territorial Army and Army Cadet Force.

The evidence would seem to suggest that the Ultra Right has become disillusioned with the ballot box and turned towards the more traditional methods associated with fascist activity — street violence, intimidation and terrorism. The capitalist system, by generating social problems like unemployment. poverty, bad housing, and inner city decay, produces the fear and the racial hatred that the Ultra Right breeds on. Frightened people in need of someone to blame for the social insanity pick on an identifiable minority group, who become the target of racial hatred and racial attacks. Immigrants. like all other workers, are not the cause of social problems but the victims.
Brian Rubin

Northern Ireland - after the elections (1985)

From the September 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fellow workers,
A short time ago you exercised your democratic right to elect candidates onto your local councils. On what basis did you make your choice of party or candidate?

Because they will work in my interests?
This would seem to be a logical reason to elect a political representative. Does your experience of the past live up to your hopes for the future? Mending the pot-holes in the roads may satisfy a few motorists that the people in the Town Hall are doing a good job, but an overall view of Northern Ireland tells us that our interests, as workers or unemployed. have been served miserably.

However sincere the new councillors may be, they are incapable of waving an economic wand to conjure away our problems. No one seriously believes any more that politicians are capable of improving matters. Our interests as workers have not been served in the past and, unless we are prepared to reconsider our whole approach to politics, have no prospect of being served in the future.

Because the candidate was a Protestant, a Catholic, a Nationalist or a Unionist?
Whatever "side" you voted for, it is important to examine the difference your loyalty made in the past and is likely to make in the future. If you choose any of the major problems that affect your life — bad wages, unemployment, bad housing, or the other miseries inflicted on the working class — has it made any difference whether the people in power were "Orange" or "Green"? When you sign on the dole does the colour of the flag above the "bru" office improve your ability to stretch your Giro cheque any further? When you become frustrated because of the impoverished condition of the district in which you live, do the slogans on the walls make your poverty less obvious, or your life more bearable? When in dispute with your boss over the pittance you are paid, does it matter whether he or she is a nationalist or a unionist? If you cannot afford to feed your family, is the religion of the grocer of any relevance?

You may feel that by voting the way your parents voted you are being loyal to "the cause". Reality tells you that "the cause", whatever its colour, is laughing in your face — just as it laughed in the faces of your parents. Maintaining the "tradition" has simply meant maintaining the poverty and indignity of your working-class life. Because your parents did not learn from their mistakes does not mean that you can’t.

Well . . . what can I do?
There is an alternative to the repetitive routine of electing the same old politicians and parties to run the same failed system. We would contend that these politicians are not only incapable of solving our problems but that, in fact, all of them — irrespective of heir religion or their political label — actually ensure the continuation of those problems by administering the obscene, anti-human system which creates them.

The social system we live under is capitalism, which can only function on the basis of exploiting the working class. It does not matter whether we profess a particular religion or consider ourselves British or Irish; capitalism is immune to religion and nationality and can never serve our interests. It can only offer us continued poverty and misery.

The parties and politicians you voted for stand for capitalism. Those elected are in office now on your mandate; you elected them to preside over your own poverty and exploitation. We would suggest that you consider taking control of your own lives. Instead of electing politicians and parties to run your own exploitation, you can organise your own future. We, the working class, can mandate our own representatives to go into the seats of government, local, national and international, and abolish the entire system of private and/or State ownership of the means of living which gives the accumulation of profits priority over our needs.

We call on all workers to join us to establish a society based on serving our needs instead of the profit needs of the minority class which dominates our lives today We can create a world in which poverty, famine, slums, unemployment and international conflict could not exist. Such a system we call socialism: a moneyless, classless world in which we all share in the ownership of wealth; a world in which we co-operate voluntarily to produce all the things we need and where we will have free and equal access to satisfy our requirements.

Sounds utopian? Not as utopian as expecting our working-class lives to have changed for the better by the time the next election comes around.
Belfast Branch 

Obituaries: George Gloss & Florrie Jacobs (1985)

George Gloss speaking from the platform on Boston Common.
Obituaries from the August 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

George Gloss
On a soap-box on Boston Common, in a booming voice and clapping his hands for punctuation and emphasis, with newspaper clippings bulging from every pocket. George Gloss would deliver the socialist message to large crowds every Sunday afternoon, year after year: "There are millions of people who are hungry . . . there is an abundance of food available . . . let's get them together in a sane society". It is with sadness that we report the death of Comrade Gloss on 15 June, at his home near Boston.

George joined the World Socialist Movement in June, 1933. From the start he was an enthusiastic, active member taking part in all functions — business, propaganda and social. He had been on the Editorial Committee of The Western Socialist and was the National Secretary for many years. The NAC minutes he typed and circulated reflected his personal involvement and excitement with everything he did. They were single-spaced and several pages long (this was in the days before copy machines) and they went out all over the world. Often there would be copious personal additions to many of the recipients who wanted news from America — WSP style.

In 1954 he made a trip to Britain for the purpose of buying books (used books were his vocation), but the intent soon became a pilgrimage to as many of the SPGB branches as could be visited. Comrade Rab was his companion on this journey; together they gave and received a tumultuous greeting wherever they went. Many British readers will remember the excitement they created in London and Glasgow — much as we in the USA recall their account of the events and personalities they experienced.

George's ebullient nature was equally evident in his book ventures and he became somewhat of a Boston celebrity in recent years; he gave away many thousands of books and was the subject of hundreds of literary interviews. No stranger to the media, his passing was editorialised by the press, radio and television. Yet it must be said that no life-style diversion ever affected his enthusiasm for the socialist case or caused his convictions to waver at any time.

Florrie Jacobs
Florrie Jacobs died in early June aged 86. She joined the SPGB in the mid-thirties and supported her husband Dick in his work of founding socialist groups in places as far afield as Swansea, Southend and Poole. She was often the only other socialist at the outdoor meetings he held over so many years. Fellow socialists and sympathisers were always made welcome in her home and occasionally, when no other place was available, meetings were held in her living room. At conferences and delegate meetings she always helped with the catering, only giving up when chronic ill-health during the last decade of her life forced her into invalidism. She will be remembered with affection by her comrades.
Lily Lestor

Clear confusion (1985)

From the July 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

No socialist could support the Labour Party because it is a capitalist party. When in government it runs the profit system at the expense of the working class, for that is the only way it can be run. In every election since 1906 the Socialist Party, which was formed two years earlier, has opposed Labour: we have shown consistently that a vote for Labour is a vote for capitalism.

Those who urge workers to vote Labour are anti-socialists who deserve our unreserved hostility. The pseudo-Communist Party of Great Britain has repeatedly told workers to waste their votes on Labour mis-leaders and are partially responsible for the suffering which resulted. The so-called Militant Tendency encourages workers to vote for and join the Labour Party.

The Socialist Workers' Party is also not slow when it comes to confusing workers at election time. In 1974, when Harold Wilson was offering to do a better job of looking after the interests of the bosses than Edward Heath, the SWP ran the following message in their pre-election issue of Socialist Worker:
. . . every socialist, every worker must spend all the days before the polling day shouting two simple slogans, at work, in the home, and whenever anyone will listen: DEFEND UNIONS - VOTE LABOUR 
The striking firemen, NUPE workers, Grunwick pickets and numerous other trade unionists who came into conflict with the viciously anti-working-class 1974-9 Labour government can judge for themselves the wisdom of the SWP's advice.

But did the SWP learn the lesson? On 4 June 1983, just before the last general election. their leading confusionist, Alex Callinicos, made a prediction about the election result with which socialists could agree (we assume he arrived at the conclusion by accident and will endeavour to avoid such clarity in future): "Labour in office would attack the living standards of its own supporters in an effort to restore profits".

The headline of Socialist Worker the following week stated: "STOP THE TORIES — VOTE LABOUR".

Although the various Leftist sects all urge workers to vote for capitalism at election time, they all claim to be divided from one another by deeply held principles. The Communist Party calls the SWP and the Militant Tendency "ultra-Left" and the latter two groups have spent years telling those who will listen how wrong the other is. Now, the SWP has decided that it is time to patch up its differences with the Militant crowd (differences which are invisible to the clear eye) and in Socialist Worker of 11 May a full-page "open letter" is addressed to the editorial board of Militant. (Note that it is not addressed to the Militant followers, but to the leaders.) Now, socialists do not give a damn whether these two anti-socialist Leftist sects remain apart or unite; the only benefit to the workers would be if they ceased to propagate their confused ideas altogether. But we are sure that readers will want to study this rare gem of political stupidity:
  Our attitude is clear. We are for a Labour government. Not because we believe it will be a government in the interests of workers, but precisely to test in practice again the reformist road.
   We believe a future Labour government will not act in the interests of the working class. On the contrary, it will act like every previous Labour government — in the interests of the bosses' class.
   And. since the crisis of British capitalism is deeper now than in the seventies, a new Labour government will be more vicious, and more reactionary, than the Wilson-Callaghan governments — the first since 1945 to succeed in cutting wages, while increasing unemployment and savaging the welfare state. (Their emphases.)
Their attitude is clear, alright — clearly round the bend. Vote Labour in the next election in order to test the reformist road? And then they go on to tell workers, on the basis of previous test-runs, precisely what damage a Labour government would do.

The trouble with the SWP is that they treat politics as a game and waste the time of those who take them seriously by offering half-baked riddles rather than the clear advice socialists give: do not vote Labour because "it will act like every previous Labour government — in the interest of the bosses' class”.
Steve Coleman