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Euro-crisis – is this the anti-1989?

Greek masses on the move

1989 was the year that so-called ‘Communism’ in Eastern Europe reached the point of collapse. A collapse that subsequently, as everyone knows, spread to the USSR itself, as this whole bloc of anti-working class tyrannical dictatorships over the working class was swept into the historical dustbin. Unfortunately, it also seemed to have swept the socialist and communist project away with it.

1989 was also the year that Francis Fukuyama, a Japanese-American Professor of political science and ideologue of American imperialism, proclaimed that the ‘The End Of History‘ had arrived, in an audacious attempt to re-appropriate Hegel for the bourgeoisie and turn elements of Marx’s historical vision against Marxism. Fukuyama probably more than anyone else tried to give intellectual coherence to the totalitarian neo-liberal trend that in the past three decades or so has become known as ‘neo-conservatism’. His famous essay declared that all possibility of a systemic political alternative to capitalism and ‘liberal ‘bourgeois democracy had disappeared, and was effectively impossible in the future.

This was an exercise in what many have aptly called ‘bourgeois triumphalism’. It was not the abstract counterposition of political systems that was rendered impossible in Fukuyama’s pseudo-Hegelian scheme, but rather that capitalist class rule was deemed to have decisively won out. This was in fact an example of the bourgeoisie’s false-conciousness, its belief that communism is simply the conspiracy of a handful of malevolent and criminal fanatics, and that therefore the collapse and discredit of the Stalinist regimes, which claimed to speak in Communism’s name, necessarily meant the permanent eclipse and discredit of the very notion of replacing capitalism with socialism.

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Labour’s Electoral Rise – A Tepid Reformism Reconsolidates

Ed Miliband

The victory of the Labour Party in the local elections has consolidated Ed Miliband’s leadership of Labour and set the political direction of Labour for the next period. For the first time since the death of John Smith in 1994, Labour has a leadership whose politics can be broadly characterised as social democratic, albeit very tepidly and timidly so.

The first hesitant blow against the Blair/Brown legacy of aggressive privatisation at home and imperialist wars abroad was struck by trade union members in the autumn of 2010, when they overruled the purged, cowed and largely middle class ‘aspirational’ Labour Party membership and installed the Green-tinged soft-left former Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, as Labour leader, defeating his brother David whose entire political profile was as a clone of Tony Blair. David Miliband, as foreign secretary in the later New Labour years, is personally culpable in such crimes as ‘extraordinary rendition’ – i.e. illegal kidnapping (with torture) of Muslims suspected of Al Qaeda activities or even just sympathy, for transport to the United States or its then client regimes like Libya or Syria, in contradiction to even formal legal norms.

Ed Miliband, though not in parliament at the time, claims to have been opposed to the Iraq war as waged by Blair, Brown, his elder brother and the entire Labour leadership. It is typical of Ed Miliband’s vacuity that there seems to be no credible evidence that he ever said or did anything in opposition to that criminal invasion. Not a single speech or article can his supporters produce to substantiate this claim of opposition. His claims on this are not really credible at all – probably the most that can be said for Ed Miliband is that he wishes that he had had the courage of his claimed convictions and spoken out against the war waged by his own party leadership. But he didn’t. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Has Cameron Cocked It Up In Europe?

David Cameron

“We are disappear backwards into a flag-waving, nationalistic hell. One of the reasons I’m now looking at getting out while I can.”

So says a very pessimistic commenter on the Socialist Unity website, discussing the aftermath of David Cameron’s veto of the Merkel-Sarkozy proposed changes to the Lisbon Treaty in the early hours of Friday morning.

That’s a pretty dire, pessimistic perspective to put forward on the basis of a couple of opinion polls after Cameron’s priceless piece of political ineptitude. Opinion polls, in a situation of what is likely to be considerable volatility, say that Cameron has struck a chord with large sections of the public, possibly through being seen to ‘stick it to’ the French and Germans, show a bit of the ‘Bulldog spirit’ and similar nonsense. Though if anything, it is just as likely to involve a degree of disquiet at the unelected, technocrat governments now emerging from this crisis in parts of Europe. Given that the mission of this government is to impose similar extreme austerity on this country, and given that the parties, especially the Lib Dems, stood for election promising something rather different, even this could be a two-edged sword.

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Occupy London: A Germ of Socialist Democracy in Action

capitalism is crisis banner

Telling it like it is

“Capitalism Is Crisis” reads the main banner at the Occupy London camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral. This new anti-capitalist movement seems to have a lot more going for it than the previous anti-globalisation movements that pursued the leaders of the G7 advanced capitalist countries from summit to summit a few years ago. The difference this time is the economic context. Starting in Spain, with the Indignados protesting since May against the massive austerity imposed by the social-democratic government at the behest of the IMF, EU and bankers, protest movements fuelled by rage at economic disaster and rampant inequality have spread widely.

Most notably to the United States, where the Occupy Wall Street movement rapidly took off in reaction to the continuing economic crisis and impoverishment of working class America. From Wall Street and Manhattan it has spread around the country. In many major and not-so-major cities there is an ‘Occupy’ movement, camps and protests. This has flowed outside the traditional expressions of working class organisation, the trade unions, whose leaders have been co-opted and whose members have been hammered for decades. But this movement could well be a spark that leads to a new radicalism in the unions also.

At the Occupy London public assembly

And now it is underway here. Occupy London is not huge … yet. But it has huge potential. The resonance is palpable, and so is the fear in the capitalist media. The movement itself is highly democratic in the way it is organised, with public assemblies twice a day, and all decisions taken pretty much on a principle of unanimity. It is possible for minorities to vote to ‘block’ a measure that might have majority support which undoubtedly leads to the formulations of decisions that really do have broad support. A ‘block’ can only be overturned with a 75% majority. It could appear that this kind of ‘ultra-democracy’ might lead to paralysis, but it hasn’t yet.

Indeed, the idealism and decency of those involved shines through in the statement of solidarity issued by the occupation with those resisting the eviction of the Travellers site at Grange Farm, Essex. This produced something of an outcry from elements online who claim to support the aims of the occupiers but not ‘divisive’ stands like Dale Farm. But of course, it would be wise take such claims to ‘support’ the aims of the movement with a very large pinch of salt, as indeed the occupiers have done. In fact, as is to be expected, the dawning of this movement has produced a rash of such people, patronising the occupiers that ‘of course’ they support what they want, if only they would refrain from raising ‘divisive’ issues like anti-capitalism, or anything remotely at odds with the status quo.

A whole brace of such trolling critics have appeared in the comments on their website, and it is testament to the energy and openness of the people running it that they have kept it open for free discussion despite such aggravations.

Occupy London statement of principles

Democracy In Action - agreed Occupy statement of principles on public view

I went along this afternoon to the St Paul’s camp for a couple of hours, having been unable to make it last weekend and unfortunately also yesterday. At the public assembly, at this point there was little real controversy among the occupiers. There was considerable cheer at the establishment of a second camp, at Finsbury Square, on the other side of the City Of London, as a further sign that the movement is making progress.

The most contentious point was the closure of St Paul’s Cathedral by the Dean, who after an initially friendly feint towards the occupiers, now has reverted to the archetype of the Church Of England as the ‘Tory Party at prayer’, closing the Cathedral on spurious ‘health and safety’ grounds and complaining bitterly that the Cathedral’s commercial interests are suffering because of the camp.

In fact, the occupiers have made considerable efforts to accommodate the Dean, and have liaised with both the Health and Safety Executive and the London Fire Brigade about issues concerning fire risk and other safety matters. They have written to the Dean and management of the Cathedral seeking details of their alleged concerns, but to date have received no response. Which needless to say, is not surprising.

Their openness also extended to allowing a couple of people to denounce them for supposedly ‘closing’ the Cathedral from the mike at the assembly. One of them was an elderly woman who seemed misinformed, the other was a fairly vehement Christian who oozed contempt for the occupiers, but was counterbalanced by a Christian minister who was supportive and said that not everyone in the Church supported what the Dean had done.

The occupiers are mainly young people, many unemployed, some students, and a smattering of older people, academics, and others who have the free time to devote to something like this, who will undoubtedly be a kind of vanguard of the movement. But the movement is only going to be successful if it works with lots of workers who have jobs and/or family responsibilities who are not going to be able to camp out overnight. As indeed, they seem well aware, and are very welcoming, though for obvious reasons decision-making is the preserve of those actually involved in the occupation itself.

public assembly open mike

Open mike at the public assembly

One thing they are doing with apparent flair is the organisations of discussions, seminars, public meetings etc in the new public space that the occupation has given birth to. I attended a session of ‘Tent City University’, in which a moderator ran a pretty informal discussion on ‘human nature’. It was not the conventional kind of meeting where you have a presentation, followed by a discussion. Rather, the discussion is the meeting, the moderator gives out a printed sheet containing points relating to the topic being discussed, and invites free-flowing comments and discussion on them.

It was a novel way of discussing, and somewhat unfamiliar, but i managed to speak a couple of times in the discussion, putting a communist view of the malleable and socially conditioned nature of ‘human nature’, and found a considerable degree of agreement with many of the participants. Whether this is the best format for discussions of a more complex and controversial nature is open to doubt, but it certainly was a change from the usual format of left meetings where a single person (or sometimes a panel) gives the main content of the meeting in a presentation and the discussion from the floor is something of a subordinate event. Here the discussion from the floor was the main event.

Anyway, Occupy London needs your support. It has the potential to really shake up this country in a way not seen for many years, it has resonance with a very wide layer because it is capturing a mood of anger and betrayal by all the parties that promote the interests of big business. It needs the support of socialists, trade unions and all opponents of oppression and seekers after progressive social change.

 

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“Occupy Wall Street”: A New Socialist Movement In the Making?

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall St protesters in Washington Square Park, New York

The ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement has resonated around the world. Its significance, in the middle of an economic/financial crisis that the head of the Bank Of England, Mervyn King, says may be the worst ever in the history of capitalism, could be enormous. Unlike some of the ‘anti-capitalist’ and ‘anti-globalisation’ movements that have sprung up and died down over the past couple of decades, this is directly linked to a sense of failure of capitalism itself. It is also intimately linked to working class discontent and rage at the conspicuous enrichment of the super-rich continuing through an enormous decline in working class living standards, unprecedented since the 1920s.

This at last offers up the opportunity for the re-emergence of a mass-based left. Capitalist failure is obvious to many millions today. It is also what we on the Marxist left are in business to lead humanity out of. Ultimately, we have the arguments why capitalism is not a rational system that maximises the productive potential of humanity and uses that potential in a rational and humane way, but rather an obsolete method of organising social production.

Capitalism played a progressive role in earlier times in industrialising important parts of the world and creating the material basis of an advanced human civilisation freed from blind subjection to uncontrolled natural forces. But at the same time, having outlived that progressive role, through its deep social, economic and ultimately political contradictions, it threatens to destroy the fruits of that earlier progressive development. Economic collapse, destruction of the environment to the extent that life on this planet is under threat in the longer term, the threat of future world wars waged with nuclear weapons, all are part of the capitalist system and eloquent arguments as to why it needs to be superseded. But to be replaced by what?

There is only one thing that can supersede capitalism in a progressive sense. That is democratic control and management of the world economy. Major productive forces cannot be allowed to be the private property of individuals or private corporate bodies that are in fact collectives of owners of productive forces that control the lives of all of us in practice. These productive resources must be controlled by all of us – equally and democratically. The economy must be planned democratically, for the benefit of all. Decisions as to what is to be produced must be taken rationally, by accountable bodies elected by the mass of the people affected by those decisions, and recallable by them if they mess things up. Living standards cannot and must not be limited by the ability to pay in a society where inequality has never been greater.

Decent living standards must be available to all that contribute to society. And anyone who is able to work must do so – in decent jobs with decent pay and./or benefits in kind to reward their work. Those who are unable to work through disability must be looked after and have full social and economic equality. If there are no jobs in existence for people right now, they must be created, either through public works or by sharing out available work among all potential workers with no loss of pay. The crippling debts, both for ordinary working people and for whole nations, that are the result of the capitalist financial crisis must be cancelled, and those who have been profiteering from them have their wealth confiscated and reduced to the level of the 99%. Basic social and economic equality can only be achieved by taking all the large-scale industrial resources out of the hands of the big capitalist elite.

With small capital more flexibility is needed, we cannot simply abolish business in a rigid and punitive manner. But we can modify it to stop the reproduction of profiteering and the regeneration of a new big capitalist class We can use democratic measures such as enhanced workers rights, workers control, the encouragement of elected workers representative with real power over management, and the conversion of smaller companies into cooperatives, to modify the small business sector to the point where it mutates into something very different, a grass-roots cooperative socialism.

This could be envisaged only in the context of the abolition of big capital as an economic and political force, which would create a massively different relationship of forces and environment when addressing questions involving small-scale enterprises. But the thrust of this is clear, the domination of big capital over everyone’s lives, the system of capitalism, rule by big capital where the political system, though formally democratic is in fact bought and paid for by big capital, has to be torn up by the roots and replaced by real popular control and democracy.

And this cannot be done in one country, on a local basis. That is what is good about the spreading of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. The capitalist press calls it ‘copycat protests’. Good! We need an international movement against capitalism, attempting to build some isolated fortress of socialism while capitalism remains intact in the rest of the world will fail. Globalisation is a good thing, but in its capitalist form it has been a curse allowing capital to move across borders whereas workers are hounded and impoverished when they stay in their own countries and persecuted, shunned, treated as outlaws, often brutally abused and sometimes even murdered when they try to migrate for a better life.

We need to turn the tables on this, we need to bind the capitalists hand-and-foot so that they cannot move their property, obtained through exploitation and robbery, anywhere without workers’ permission, but workers have the right to move anywhere they like in pursuit of a better life. Yes to workers control over all capital movement, and smash all immigration restrictions on workers! For socialist globalisation and a world citizenship of a socialist world!

 

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