Tuesday, February 26, 2019

No Room for Dissent (2016)

Journal Review from the April 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marxist World Issue 1 – Spring 2016. £3.50 inc.

This is the first issue journal of the small split from the Trotskyist so-called ‘Socialist Party of England and Wales’ (known as SPEW and not part of the World Socialist Movement) ostensibly over the causes of economic crisis. The journal carries articles on the character of China’s economy, experiences in the Labour Party, Marx’s Capital, Bernie Sanders, a reprint of an article by Peter Taaffe, ‘The Greek Road to Socialism’, Electronic Voting in the Trade Unions and a book review.

Marxist World claims SPEW hold an underconsumptionist view of economic crisis; that there is not enough purchasing power to buy back commodities produced, whereas they claim the ‘tendency of the rate of profit to fall’ since the 1970s has caused the current economic crisis. This did not sit well with SPEW leader Peter Taaffe, and after some debate two critics were ‘indefinitely suspended’ and eleven ended up leaving.

The Labour Party account included here is one of left-wing Labour members’ disagreements with right-wing Labour members (business as usual in the Labour Party) and the left-wing author concludes by seeming happy to remain on this merry-go-round. The Peter Taaffe reprint argues the old Communist Party was reformist, Marxist World use this to argue SPEW are reformist. The Bernie Sanders article is a good exposé of Sanders, but boils down the problem to the wrong leader, never considering that leaders are unnecessary if not harmful.

In fact this goes to the heart of the problem of Marxist World, who welcome only activists adhering to general ideas of ‘Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky’. They claim willingness to ‘join any revolutionary organisation’ that ‘guarantees genuine democratic centralist rights and faction rights based on open discussion.’ But where has ‘democratic centralism’ ever allowed factions for long? Where has ‘democratic centralism’ allowed challenging incumbent leaderships? Where has ‘democratic centralism’ allowed public dissent?

Trotsky answered at a Bolshevik party congress in 1924 ‘Comrades, none of us wants to be or can be right against the party. In the last analysis, the party is always right, because the party is the sole historical instrument that the working class possesses for the solution of its fundamental tasks. I have already said that nothing would be simpler than to say before the party that all these criticisms, all these declarations, warnings, and protests – all were mistaken from beginning to end. I cannot say so, however, comrades, because I do not think it. I know that no one can be right against the party. It is only possible to be right with the party and through it since history has not created any other way to determine the correct position.’ And ‘We can only be right with and by the Party, for history has provided no other way of being in the right’.

The lesson here we should conclude is: don’t swap leaders, especially not living ones for dead ones.

50 Years Ago: Eight Years of CND (2016)

The 50 Years Ago column from the April 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

Always, there are groups in protest against some aspect or other of this social system. CND’ers come into this category. They leave intact the very thing which spawned nuclear weapons  –the private property basis of Capitalism –so their cause is hopeless.

Supposing the Bomb could be banned. If two Nations, possessing the necessary technical knowledge, should quarrel seriously enough over the things wars are really fought for – markets, sources of raw materials, strategic Bases, etc. –and even supposing they commenced fighting with ‘conventional,’ ‘moral’ weapons, would not the losing side set its scientists to producing nuclear weapons in order to stave off defeat? If history is anything to go by, the side which was winning would use the Bomb and justify this by claiming it had brought hostilities to a speedier conclusion.

It would require several volumes to deal with every ‘solution’ which CND’ers have dreamt-up over the years. From World Government or alignment with the ‘uncommitted Nations’ (some strange bedfellows in this lot), to ‘disengagement’ and the farcical ‘Steps Towards Peace,’ every straw has been clutched at.

Anyway, even if it were possible, Capitalism minus the Bomb would not solve the problem of war; a world based on the common ownership of the means of wealth production, alone, will do that. So, being after something fundamentally different, we have no alternative but to oppose CND.

One final point. We do not deny the sincerity of many campaigners; the energy and ingenuity they displayed in tackling a job they considered important provided further proof that once working men and women get on the right track Capitalism’s days are numbered.

(from article by V.V., Socialist Standard, April 1966)

Rear View: Revolutionary romantic (2016)

The Rear View Column from the May 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

Revolutionary romantic
‘A TV interior designer and curators at the William Morris Gallery were among the speakers at a school’s exhibition and celebration of his life last week. Over 330 people crowded into the chapel at Forest School in College Place, Snaresbrook last Thursday (March 24) on the artist’s birthday for an evening of talks and an exhibition of his work. One of the guest speakers was TV personality Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, who is part of the campaign to put Morris on British bank notes ahead of the 200th anniversary of his birth in 2034’ (guardian-series.co.uk, 31 March). What a silly way to celebrate the birthday of a Marxian socialist, author of the Socialist League’s manifesto – upon which our Declaration of Principles, written some 30 years later, drew heavily – countless pamphlets and polemics and the utopian novel News From Nowhere, which describes what life could be like in a moneyless post-capitalist world of common ownership and democratic control.

Ferengi-free future
Morris and those who founded the Socialist Party would likely be astonished and appalled that worldwide capitalism continues into the 21st century. Even the confused James Connolly saw over a hundred years ago that the day for patching up the capitalist system had passed and that it must be replaced. Yet we must not despair as more recently groups and individuals who would not necessarily describe themselves as socialist embrace ideas that are clearly part of our tradition: ‘what makes Star Trek particularly attractive for many viewers is its progressivism. Star Trek depicts a future where the scourges of sickness, racism, poverty, and war have been eradicated on Earth and throughout much of the Federation, an inter-planetary alliance of which the Earth is a founding member. The elimination of poverty, hunger, and wage slavery has resulted from overcoming capitalism, markets, and currencies’ (dissidentvoice.org, 1 April). Add to this books such as Life Without Money and Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek and we just need to convince those excited by a world of free access and production for use to join our movement and make it so.

War and want
‘Weapons spending worldwide increased in 2015 and now stands at a mind boggling $1,676 billion, according to new data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute today. This 1% increase from 2014 marks an important shift: since 2011, military spending stayed at more or less at the same level. It is now going up’ (greenpeace.org, 5 April). War is endemic to capitalism as is poverty. Ending the latter would cost just a fraction of the wealth spent on weapons: ‘eradicating extreme poverty and hunger – two of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by the United Nations in 2015 – may seem far out of reach. But, according to a new study, it could done with about ten percent of the world’s military spending’ (commondreams.org, 6 April), yet, armageddon aside, ending war and want can only achieved in a world without wages.

Chinese capitalists
The Panama Papers are a reminder that the 1 percent, like capitalism itself, exist worldwide. They also add another nail to the coffin of Chinese so-called communism. ‘Directly connected to Xi is his brother-in-law, Deng Jiagui, who is named in the documents. Deng married Xi’s elder sister, and it was reported in 2012 the couple already held hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets including real estate and shares. In 2009, at the time that Deng was the sole director and shareholder of two British Virgin Islands-based firms under Mossack Fonseca’s purview, Xi was rising within the Chinese Communist Party, en route to becoming its head. The documents also name Jasmine Li, the grand-daughter of Jia Qinglin, a top ranking official in the Communist Party. Li reportedly received her first offshore company as an undergrad at Stanford University, and through a number of complicated ownership agreements, Li was able to hide her holding of several offshore companies (mashable.com, 5 April). Putin, his family, and entourage have also apparently stashed funds overseas. Joshua Kurlantzick adds to the socialist nail gun: ‘the most serious threat from state capitalism is that the two big state capitalist authoritarian powers, China and Russia, will use their state companies as weapons in conflicts with other countries, as vehicles to control certain types of natural resources, as vehicles for obtaining and stealing sensitive technology from other nations, or as tools for undermining environmental and labor norms in countries where their state companies invest’ (State Capitalism: How the Return of Statism is Transforming the World, OUP USA, June 2016).