Category Archives: Uncategorized

It is not going to be easy in Catalonia

I don’t think anyone can deny that the left did badly in the Catalonian elections. Regardless of their views on independence, organisations on the left did not do well.

The vote of the realignment of Podemos after its split, Catalunya en Comú Podem (CCP), went down slightly from 8.9% to 7.4%.

The CCP has a ‘third camp’ opposition to the 2 larger nationalist blocs and opposed both direct rule and independence prior to a full referendum. It advocated an anti-austerity government pulling in both parties from independence left (CUP and ERC) and from the anti-independence left the PSC (Socialist Party). The problem is that some of these parties (ERC and PSC) are not only weakly anti-austerity but also fiercely hostile to each other.

Many on the left with illusions in nationalism have looked with great hope on CUP – the pro-independence group to which the former Podemos leader Fachin recently defected. CUP has novel democratic structures and hostility to conventional politicians. It can claim with some justification to be the activist core of opposition to the police repression during and since the October 1st referendum. But the CUP lost even more votes – going down from 8.2% to 4.5%.

Other than the the Spanish government party the people’s Party (PP), the vote of all right wing parties increased.

Most notably the home grown, fiercely Spanish nationalist and right wing party, the Citizens Party, growing from 17% in 2015 to now be Catalonia’s largest party at 25.4%

The total vote of all independence parties was less than 50% – going down slightly from 48.8% to 48.5%.

The loss of  support of the Spanish government party, the PP, can only be celebrated. It will create difficulties for them invoking direct rule. But should the new pro-independence Catalan Government declare that their October declaration of Independence stands, the Citizens Party are likely to demand Rajoy re-establishes direct rule.

Direct rule will lead to continuing repression on pro-independence politicians and people.

But if the Catalan government redeclares independence, that  will lead to dissent in the urban areas of Barcelona and Tarragon. There are large numbers of migrants from elsewhere in Spain in those areas and in them independence parties polled well under 50%.

One might hope that the Catalan government will concede a proper legal referendum and start talking about class issues with non-Catalan speaking minorities, give guarantees of their rights should independence proceed etc. But that is unlikely.

The CCP’s hope that the leaders of the PSC, ERC even the CUP could be pulled into an anti-austerity bloc was fairly naive. But hopefully the voters of those parties may balk at possible aggressive nationalist rivalries that may grow.

But is not going to be easy over the next months.


Indonesia oppression – the Act of Killing

How can they bring themselves to do it? How can they live with themselves? Are they dead inside? We often ask ourselves that of those who commit atrocities, mass murder of civilians. Whether it be in war or for political ends. 

I have just watched The Act of Killing, a film by Joseph Oppenheimer. It is a partial re-enactment of the mass murder of communists, ethnic Chinese and anyone that the new regime of Suharto needed to be rid of after the military coup against Sukarno in 1965/6. At least half a million were murdered. Possibly as many as two million.

This film is like no other I have ever seen.

The ‘stars’ of it are the leaders of the gangs allied with the fascists that committed the mass murderers. They are actively involved in the making of the film, helping in the staging of some of the re-enactments.

In the film the main figure Anwar Congo admits to have personally murdered one thousand people. Not in bombing or the use of weapons of mass killing but in personal and brutal murders of the defenceless. He is still celebrated by the rulers in Indonesia, at least those in power at the release of the film in 2014. He is now a loving grandfather, ‘lovingly’ capable of showing the filmed enactments of his gruesome murders in front of his children.

The re-enactments leave nothing to the imagination. Only once do you see anyone expressing alarm, a government deputy minister supervising a reenactment of the burning of a village in 1965 populated by ethnic Chinese and the raping of children. He express concern that this shouldn’t be shown in the way it is, as it would be bad for their image. The minister is allied to the mass fascist Pancasila militia that is still powerful.

These mass fascist militias have continued to exist for over fifty years! As the director of the film, Oppenheimer says in an interview: it is as the Nazi regime and its SS murderers in the SS had never been defeated. Instead of being brought to justice they have celebrated both by the openly fascist regime of Suharto but also its nominally democratic replacement. Throughout the period they enjoyed the continuing fear of the communities in which they operate and almost a celebrity status.

So the gang mass killers are in the habit of thinking they have genuinely done no wrong although to the end of the film Anwar starts to display awareness of the horrors of what he has been involved in.

Made one year later, the accompanying film, The Look of Killing, includes NBC footage of the time. It  reports  coldly, almost approvingly, both the massacres and the convenience to companies like Goodyear of the use of the prisoners as slave labour. Part of the NBC clip I attach here is included in the film.

It is said in another approving NBC report shown in the film that the prisoners from the camps are offered the option of release. However release would be to certain death as fascist murdering gangs are outside the camp to dispose of more bodies.

Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the world, 261 million people. Similar to Bangladesh, it has become one of the greatest magnets for multinationals looking for cheap labour, ample resources and little or no workers rights.

This is imperialism – very much in its essence. Using compliant fascist forces, openly during Suharto’s rule but more covertly since then, to deny workers democratic rights. Ensuring through military and financial support that such regimes continue. And US companies, UK companies and those of many others reap the profits.

Indonesia workers have fought back and are continuing to fight back. There has been a long running dispute at Freeport for example.

Apparently these films have to some degree opened up critical reflection on the brutalities of the past. Hopefully workers there will feel more confident to confront the regime, the brutally oppressive companies and the fascist gangs that always lurked in the background.

I would recommend everyone watching and learning from these films. As well as watching and being ready to give support to the Indonesian workers whenever inevitably they rise in defiance of their regime.

Questions for American comrades

Isn’t Trump weaker now than ever? 

The neo-Nazi forces that he makes excuses for are frightening but in no way can they be considered an effective challenge to state power. But there is no other right wing force on the streets. Trump and Bannon always wanted support on the streets and they particularly need it now. But Trump fears discouraging it one moment, he fears identifying with it at another. So Trump wildly zig-zags and Bannon scowls in anger.

Although the President is Head of State, he isn’t the state. The ruling class of the US are linked to the state by ‘a thousand threads’ not just one. It does not easily accept centralised directives except under fear of their total loss of their power. And however we might wish it, capitalism isn’t under threat in the US. The American ruling class look at Trump and will be saying ‘we don’t need this shit’.

Another question for my American comrades. 

Do you not fear that Trump might never be as weak again?

His venality, his viciousness, his threat to peace; what he threatens must be clearer to the American worker now than ever, as well as to women, blacks and minorities. Trump’s team are at each other’s throats. It is questionable whether he has ‘a team’ at all.

The US media has been recently one of the tamest medias in the West. But to watch it last night, particularly CNN, was watching a Party of opposition, mercilessly attacking the President.

Whatever is possible to be done in order to damage him, should be done now. He can be brought down and it is the radical labour movement that can build up its democratic strength amongst the working class communities in bringing him down.

A speech I gave on July 1st

I made a speech on Saturday. Below is what it should have been – I can never keep to a script. But as I wrote it down I might as well share it

Comrades, these are exciting times.

We are starting to see the stuff of which revolutions are made.

The ruling class have serious problems.

Their preferred instrument of government, the Tory Party, has moved dramatically to the right and embraced a more aggressive nationalism –  trying to distract backward sections of our class and  survive the unpopularity of the austerity they are inflicting on us.

The Labour Party has been generally looked on by capitalists as a second eleven called in when the first team was dysfunctional. But the Labour Party is no longer in,as the capitalists might consider, ‘safe hands’.

A dramatic election campaign in which Labour on a reasonably radical programme, certainly more radical than any in the last 30 years, nearly doubled Labour’s electoral support.

The result of the election was better than many of us expected and an even bigger surprise to the right.

For decades tax rises, ANY INCOME TAX RISE, had been called a vote loser by the right wing of Labour and the press. If you challenged in the press or the Party you would face ridicule.

The same thing with other ideological twaddle.  ‘Workers are aspirational’, they don’t want to think they need to live in a council house, they don’t want to feel dependent on a minimum wage’ ‘They want to dream about being millionaires’

We have had decades of this crap.

Corbyn was elected as leader in rejection of this but for whatever reason Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies didn’t get broadcasted.

When the election was announced Corbyn and McDonnell broke their comparative silence on a whole number of policy matters. The right wing of the NEC were outmanoeuvred and policies were adopted in the Manifesto that appealed directly to workers.

The £10/hr minimum wage, mass council house building, taxation on the rich and the corporations etc. And some degree of nationalisation and expansion of the public sector.

If policies like these had not been adopted there would likely have been an electoral disaster for Labour whoever the leader was – look at Hollande in France

The increased activity of the Party members was a factor but the greatest weapon Labour had in the election were its radical policies.

They are not socialism in any way – there are some worrying omissions and policies we still need to fight for – but it was indisputably the most radical Labour Manifesto in decades.

I witnessed myself the effect in Hungry For Justice actions in my constituency. The Bakers Union campaign for a £10/hr minimum wage and against zero hours contracts. Both of which were in Labour’s Manifesto.

Before this election young workers didn’t see themselves staying at whichever fast food outlet they were working in. It was the older workers perhaps in their 30s or 40s who were seriously worried that this was going to be the rest of their life. They were the ones then mainly getting organised.

But on our Hungry for Justice action during the election I found it was the 18-25 year old workers who were the most energised and interested when they heard that there could be a government that would raise their pay by 25% and more.

This is what is happening. These workers now feel themselves being heard. They are being encouraged to get organised. These are very exciting times.

Incoming waves of hope, adulation, chants even mass demonstrations, all feel great but without workers feeling strong enough to stand up to the bullying and everyday intimidation they take in their working lives, those waves can roll out as well as in.

Over time, they might go back again to accepting that life is shit and politics is a waste of time.

It is clear that the Tories won’t last long before they have to call another election. It may be 3 months, it may be 2 years but an election before 2022 is inevitable.

Those fast food workers and others attracted to some of Labour’s policies will probably wait, keeping hope that long. Some won’t. But speculation on mood is not what we should be doing. We should be organising them so they don’t feel dependent but gain confidence in themselves.

The prospects of a resounding Labour victory at the next election is undeniably there.

But as Marxists we have to analyse and look at the problems we will face. We have to learn the lessons of history.

We have to look at where are we weak? How will the class enemy fight back? How do we defend our  movement?

Let me just list a few of the problems.

  1. In the Labour Party – The Parliamentary Labour Party – the NEC and parts of the Party apparatus
  2. In the power of capital and the banks
  3. With the state of the working class movement outside of the Labour Party

Our biggest and most immediate problem is in the Labour Party itself.

The legacy of Blairism. The right wing MPs during the election were quiet but as shown at the Progress conference last week-end – you may have seen the barracking of Paul Mason when he spoke there – they haven’t given up and intend to continue their campaign of disruption.

Even before the Blairites populated the PLP, even when MPs came from and had far stronger relationships with their working class communities, bourgeois parliaments have always been incredibly corrupting places.

Corbyn and his leadership team seriously missed a trick with not dealing with the unaccountable pro-austerity MPs. The policy of the Labour left throughout the last 40 years had been one of stopping the jobs for life privileges that Labour MPs often enjoy.

Momentum, important sections of the left and Corbyn all dropped the call for mandatory reselection.

They hoped that boundary changes would get rid of some of the Blairites. They thought others might be won over.

They feared –  and it was a reasonable fear – that if they had a battle on mandatory selection, then there would have been a huge fight and a walk-out by the Blairites.

But that could have been counter-acted by a fighting organised left – what Momentum could have been, should have been and needs to be now.

Nothing could be more disastrous for an incoming radical Labour government than to risk Labour MPs voting down its radical policies. That is currently possible

And then there is the unrepresentative power of the right of the Party over the NEC – the repressive and factional Legal Department.

The level of democratic debate and organisation in the Party is still ridiculously low.

Good socialists who have often worked their whole lives for the labour movement continue to be expelled often for no other reason than they are good networked left wing activists.

We need to democratically reform the Party and fight for free speech and the right of socialists to organise. But we have to find a quicker way of doing that than the snail’s pace that it is currently being conducted.

We need to get a fighting left organised urgently in the Labour Party. Build Momentum groups where we can, organise campaigns and important discussions through the Clarion magazine.

As s a radical Labour Party approaches government we need to make Labour activists aware of the power of capital, the banks and the media under their control

Any progressive reform will be fought by the capitalist class with every weapon they have. The mind-boggling affluence they enjoy is built on the defeat and the poverty of our class.

They not only will use their influence over parliamentarians, they also and more importantly will use the state bureaucracy, the international banks even the military against us. All of these are tied to the capitalist class by a thousand threads.

We don’t simply tritely spout ‘one solution revolution’ as an answer to that problem. We don’t say parliament is a waste of time. What we do do – and we need to do it fast – is build up an extra-parliamentary workers movement alongside the parliamentary one.

We must prepare to confront the sabotage, subterfuge and threats that the banks, big business and the state might use against us.

If we don’t do that comrades, we could face either a capitalist engineered chaos and a paralysed Labour government or at the very worst a repetition of Greece in 1967 or Chile in 1973 where there were military coups and a slaughter of workers.

We know that there were senior officers of the British military who talked about a coup when Labour came into government in 1974. Jack Jones, General Secretary of the biggest trade union of the time, the T&GWU, claimed to have caused him to accept the demoralizing Social Contract compromise of that time.

That compromise led to Thatcherism. A far more radical future Labour government that is similarly compromised could lead to even worse.

Which brings me to my final point – the state of our movement and how we renovate it

Our class has suffered enormously over the last few years.

The state of our trade union movement is not good. Union membership has not increased. Too few workers feel confident to fight back.

Unions are bedrock organisations of our movement. They link to millions of workers. They could organise millions in direct struggle against the capitalists.

They could grab hold of the lapels of the Blairites who wanted to organizationally remove them from politics and say ‘take your hands off our Party’.

Have they done that? No.

Right wingers run too many of our unions. The Corbyn effect has not moved them aside.

Over the last two years, union delegations in Labour’s structures have not changed much. Some small but better unions are affiliating such as the FBU, probably also RMT and PCS but movement is painfully slow partly due to the sectarian influence of groups like the SP and SWP

Another weakness in our movement, both Party and unions, is that has done little to promote the international and European nature of our movement, politically or practically. That was a major reason for the Brexit result.

We are one class: our lives, our liberties, our rights of movement in whatever country should not be pitted against each other.

Whatever happens in the Brexit negotiations: Labour has to strengthen its links with anti-austerity, anti-racist workers movements across Europe. We politically and practically have to fight for internationalist solutions to our problems. Opposing curbs on free movement and supporting cross European struggles against austerity and capitalism.

We also have to recognise that our workers movement are not just trade unions

The appalling massacre of Grenfell Tower and the moving response to it by the community there show a crucially important part of our movement.

Workers when faced with monstrous injustices such as we have seen at Grenfell can often explode in a furious but unfocussed revolt. The history of our class is peppered with such explosions of anger through riots and street battles.

And the people of Grenfell would have had my complete sympathy if they had done that. But they didn’t. They did something far better.

The community there have had a wonderful history of fighting and campaigning, they have organised, they are demanding answers. They are exposing the criminals, the casual and murderous indifference to the risks to human live

I don’t think we can say that the moving campaign that the Grenfell residents have and are conducting is a consequence of the growth of anti-austerity and anti-capitalism in the Labour movement. More likely they are parallel phenomenon.

But we need the spirit of the defiance of the Grenfell protestors to inspire our struggle. To organise the anger and transform it into ending this madness.

  • To demand accountability.
  • To drive out the corrupt, the malign and the morally criminal bureaucrats and capitalists.

Ours should not be a parliamentary struggle alone. It is a class struggle. Whilst it may be possible to establish the leadership of a workers government in the imperfect democracy of parliament. Its lifeblood will be found in the streets of our working class communities – in a mass movement.

From there we will have to apply pressure and counteract both the machinations of the right including parts of our own Parliamentary Party

We have to build a social movement – a working class movement – that fights for victory.

A movement that talks practically and democratically about how it will build a socialist society.

Exciting times are ahead

We have everything to fight for

Migrant rights – we have to build a campaign now

I really learnt things today in conversations with European migrants whilst talking politics. Two with Labour comrades and friends, the other with an elector met on our Labour Party’s stall.

I say ‘met’ with the elector. It was mainly me pursuing her to be honest. I just had to give an answer to her initial quite angry comment as she passed our stall. She said ‘I could never vote Labour again after what Corbyn did with Article 50’. She was a very intelligent and political European, but with British citizenship and strong connections with other EU migrants in the area.

After I almost chased her down the street, we managed to have a very useful debate. Me – agreeing with her in part. I too was against Corbyn’s line on Article 50. It sent the wrong message, especially to people like her. It indicated that Labour would unconditionally accept a Tory Brexit. 

But I pointed out to her Labour had made a manifesto pledge to protect EU migrants currently here.  I also pointed out that there were those in the Party still fighting for free movement. For the future of families wanting to be reunited; for those who wanted to expand their horizons and opportunities; and in a growingly divided Europe to encourage an internationalist identity against growing and mutually hostile national ones.

I tried to explain to her the pressures that Corbyn was responding to. From the right of the Party as well as, unfortunately, the left. Those who believed, rightly, that we had to seriously engage with most working class Brexitters. But after the UKIP and BREXIT shock, they had been panicked into believing that concessions had to be made to nationalist beliefs e.g. that ‘British people had to be looked after first’. As if one human life was worth more than another.

My newly-made European friend told me about the racism that she and friends were suffering from. Her and her friends refraining from phoning home and using their own language from fear of the hostility they encountered from people around them. She told me of the distress of her friends from elsewhere who were now facing abrupt demands to leave the country – I don’t think these were citizens of an EU state but just outside. She was obvious concerns that all possible government parties might allow that to continue.

I listened, I learnt but I think I managed to persuade her that a vote for Labour was the best way for her and her friends future.

I then went to meet a friend and comrade from the Czech Republic. The story he told me was fascinating. Working in a local factory. Trying to get his union, affiliated to the Labour Party, to campaign for Remain in the referendum – just by putting a poster up in the notice board. That was refused. 

Then he told me about the change of atmosphere in the factory after the referendum. People openly implying around him that those like him were soon ‘going’. Some looking at him with hostile eyes. I imagine/ hope these were just a minority of racists – but they feel that they are in the ascendancy. He certainly felt they were widespread.

He has been here FOR OVER TEN YEARS!

In the pub, my Czech comrade and my Portuguese friend, here for about 20 years, spoke about their forthcoming battle to try and get British citizenship. The £1,000 fee – ‘the test’. 

In the test now they have to know all the dates – the date of the Magna Carta, the siege of this the battle of that. If they fail, they lose the money and possibly the right to stay here.

We obviously need to politically relate to those politically disengaged working class Brexitters. We need to explain to them the importance of working class unity of all nationalities. But don’t let us forget our responsibility to confront the growing xenophobia and stand by our European sisters and brothers.

We may and should have BME officers and campaigns. But xenophobia is wider and we are not yet organised well to defeat it.

Unite’s campaign at SportsDirect and others such as the 3 COSAS of largely migrant workers in London are indicators of what should be done. But as well we urgently need a political campaign for migrant rights.

Let’s make this election campaign the starting point.

Labour should fight nationalism – and vote against Article 50

As expected the Supreme Court on Tuesday demanded that Parliament take the decision on how Article 50 is triggered. Today (26th Jan) we will hear how the government intend to carry that out. Now the debate will intensify in the Labour Party about what it does.

To start with, we should recognise the weakness of the Tory revolt against Brexit. Article 50 will almost inevitably be triggered on Theresa May’s terms. Even Anna Soubry has confirmed she will vote for it. Poor old Ken Clarke looks to be completely on his own on the Tory benches. The Tory parliamentary majority will hold. That will make inevitable a rapid 2 year exit from the EU.

So, even though it won’t save Britain’s membership of the EU, should Labour still vote against the triggering of Article 50 when May brings it to the Commons in the next few weeks?

I believe they should. The issue is not whether Britain can be kept in the EU – Tory unity will make sure that can’t happen. But what is at issue is how the Labour Party indicates it will act in the course of the Brexit process.

While an assured Tory majority for Article 50 is inevitable, the main reason to vote against  is to make clear that we oppose what May will inevitably include in her Brexit package.

Why vote against?

A vote for Article 50 would strengthen the impression that May has wanted to portray, that 52% of the people voted not only for Brexit – but for ANY Brexit – UNCONDITIONALLY.

In other words it could concede that the result of the referendum justifies 1) accepting immigration controls and 2) pulling out of the terms of European regulations that protect the environment, workers rights, women and part-time workers rights, whipping up national hostilities through trading conflicts etc etc.

There is all sort of talk about Labour amendments to whatever Bill the government brings forward today. It is unclear exactly what tactics will be adopted on either the government or the Labour front bench. Continue reading

The Essence of Democracy

Guest post from my comrade Dora Polenta. The title is my own but summarises what I consider to be the considerable force of her argument


I find the concept of a “virtual conference” lifeless and unimaginative; as if we are surrendering ourselves to the fragmentary nature, isolation, atomisation and alienation imposed to us by this capitalist system. It feels like we are giving up on the collective memory and history of our struggles as has been imprinted to our structures and surrendering to the placebo hyper-reality of a house virtual socialism; searching for Pokemons…I find the concept of a virtual conference circumscribed, rigid, top down and inflexible as there is a very restricted repertoire of interactions and interventions, mode of communications imposed by the “media being the message” social media and platforms creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived. 
I do not want a conference of emoji’s, smiley faces, angry red faces and thumps up. I want a rowdy conference of human beings, representatives of collectives, with all their concreteness physicality and materiality. A conference of jeering, booing, cheering, occasionally swearing and ultimately comradery and collectively building breaking and re building in an open ended way our collective identity…

I want a conference of human beings, with all of our gloriously and infuriatingly different perspectives, dispositions, talents, personalities and madnessess navigating together and sketching our journey within the borders of the neighbourhood of sense. A conference of all of us that see politics not as a technique and scope of manoeuvre of what is “feasible|” within the suffocating straight jacket of their normality, but view politics as an art in itself and of itself, as the ability to make the impossible possible, the possible inevitable and the inevitable inescapable concrete reality. The socialist revolution is not timely is ever present: in the possibility of widespread destabilization, breakage of regularity, the emergence of the imagination and creativity of the collective doing.

I would not like to add anything on assessing the 3rd of December Momentum NC meeting. Other comrades, Momentum National Committee members and Marxian organised collectives have already done that from a first/third person perspective coherently and concisely. I would like to cast some random incoherent, unfocused and raw thoughts. At some points/sentences, I will be using borrowed words and quotations as my mouth is currently dry and some of my thoughts (the most persistent ones) are still resting on the realm of non-verbalised experience…

Maybe, it is my instinctive reaction and immunity against the atomisation of OMOV “horizontal e-democracy”; from participating and being a partaker within organisations that operate under the “wooden” “luddite” parochial “pre-internet revolution” democratic centralism. You see some very “educated” journalists like Paul Mason and Owen Jones would have us believed that if Lenin was borne within the context of Facebook, Twitter, OER, www, virtual reality, augmented reality, hyper-reality etc. democratic centralism, revolutionary parties etc. would not be part of our lexicons and ammunitions of struggle; we would all be enjoying our socialist virtual reality from the comfort of our own home fooling the senses and fooling the mind…

I feel fully represented by the contributions and analysis of my AWL comrades. I believe in communities, collectives, extended identities and not in the Thatcherite conception/dystopia of a country of fragmented atomised individuals …I am going to defend the delegate based under mandates and accountable to our local and regional Momentum groups ‘real-face to face’ physical and concrete conference (against Foucault’s heterotopia of a virtual conference) first of all by detaching myself from a Marxian analysis and references. By using the concept of organic unity. Or as a Greek the Aristotle quote ‘“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Just think of any great rock group-the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Spice girls, take your pick, and even as good the members of those bands maybe something special was created when they recorded and performed together. The four lads from Liverpool certainly created some fantastic music on their own after their band broke up, but few would say any of it compares to the collective output. 

The same happens when we are partakers within an organised Marxian collective/ within our local union/ within our community; when we are partakers of the active/ live/ dialectic movement that daily negates the existing order striving for human emancipation. I am not talking here about enlightened vanguards (although I am humbled to refer to most of the AWL members as my comrades as they enlighten all the shadows of my existence)…I am talking about being part of this “critical mass” of people, being fully aware that “Without a guiding organisation, the energy of the masses would dissipate like steam not enclosed in a piston box. But nevertheless, what moves things is not the piston or the box but the steam”.

Every time we are having a paper sale, every time we are having a 5 person meeting in the backroom of a noisy, not anymore smoky but staled by the smell of alcohol pub, something magic happens….This magic exceeds and supersedes its parts…crosses the boundaries between “Is” and “Not Is” creates a collective “We” and enrichens our “Is “ ..

I am appealing to the “mystified and fascinated” by the e-democracy Momentum comrades to the “carriers” of the supposedly New (against the Old) not to discard the history of our red thread of struggles as embedded in our democratic structures and formations… 

I am not appealing to the two new self-appointed narcissistic ideological leaders of Momentum, who admittedly have not attended the NC Meeting and one of them has not attended any Momentum meeting: Paul Mason and Owen Jones. These two journalists (who unjustifiably so have enjoyed numerous standing ovations and shared platforms with the “irrelevant dinosaurs of the Trotskyist hard left”) have unleashed an unpreceded attack and sometimes personal slander against comrades from the revolutionary Left utilising “Red Scare” stereotypes that even Tom Watson would have been proud of…From Jon Lansman’s “Trotskyists are not running the party in Momentum” and his axiomatic “Momentum has proven Trotskyists to be an historical irrelevance” we have now the Owen Jones mantra about “real” Trotskyists (not virtual reality ones) attempting to take over Momentum and control it for their own malign “sectarian” aims. 

They have both become the defenders of the “younger, idealistic, campaign-oriented” “movementists” against the crusty old sectarians.

Most interestingly they conduct their “debate”, not through the digital platform and e-democracy portal of Momentum, not in the space of virtual reality but in the “real” space of mainstream media (liberal or not) and publications. They are the defenders of the horizontal structure of a social (quasi virtual) movement of OMOV against the “bureaucratic-factionalism” and “top-down structures of the hard left that alienates the younger Momentum members”…However there is not a hint of horizontal, participatory, inclusive, equalitarian, direct democracy in the “Red Intellectual semi celebrity” approach that they are conducting the debate…

I must admit that I have read a lot of quasi scientific social engineering human geography analysis on the electoral results on political believes etc etc I have recently comatose myself on the “BREXIT analysis” and I must have read a surplus of newspapers supplements…but nothing compares, in terms of being binary, rigid, stereotypical and therefore idiotic, to the exploratory tool of the NC Momentum meeting as a struggle of the “old (of age bitter and Machiavellian hard left Trotskyist zombies of the fourth international) against the new young enthusiastic direct action Momentum activist … 

Finally, on the red herring dichotomy between horizontal and vertical structures on the dichotomy between direct participatory inclusive movementism democracy and bureaucratic factionalism exclusive takeover of Monentum for their own purposes by the hard left; forgive me if I am wrong but I have not experienced the celebration of direct democracy and being partaker in the decision making structures so far; if I have to visualise my experience of the stream of emails on campaigning and other info from the National Momentum headquarters and from the Momentum regional meetings, I would definitely draw a vertical line with no points of accountability mandates and delegation but of a collection of self-appointed leaders that are exercising politics as a perverse of the few (albeit Leftist few) behind closed doors….

I am going to sum up using partly borrowed words:

On one side is Jon Lansman and others who are pushing for an organisation and national conference build upon internet-based “direct democracy”; advocating an internet-based, “horizontal” method of organisation, in favour of “clicktavim” and social media bypassing the structures and living memory of the working class movement. On the other are a range of activists – young and old – advocating the best democratic traditions of the labour movement: face-to-face discussion at meetings, with elected delegates accountable to local groups.

Those of us advocating a delegate-based conference, with motions submitted from local branches, affiliates, and liberation groups, and elected delegates discussing and voting on all motions.

Jon Lansman e-democracy vision of a conference, what is actually being proposed by Jon Lansman is a “conference” entirely ran by MxV (Momentum’s “digital democracy platform). This bypasses every existing structure of Momentum. Under these proposals, local and regional groups will have effectively zero say in how Momentum functions. It represents an attempt to position Momentum as a top-down body, nominally guided by all-member ballots on predetermined or safely incidental questions. Momentum should be a true grassroots movement, and a “conference” along the proposed lines would represent the end of that movement, or at least create a solid wall blocking it off from any national representation. 

In pretending to oppose the “take over” of Momentum by “sectarians”, what these various leading figures are actually doing is supporting the defence of the control of the agenda by those who already have a prominent voice. People like Owen Jones and Jon Lansman, due to their status within the Labour movement, are able to put their ideas to a vast audience. And when people do not meet others in face-to-face democratic meetings, they become atomised and can be more easily influenced solely by these individuals, whose politics are those of timidity and compromise.

At root, this is not a struggle between “movementists” and “sectarians”, but one between those who wish for Momentum to be merely a “social movement” that carries out sporadic activism and campaigning, and those who want Momentum to be an organisation that has as its primary goal the transformation of the Labour Party into a mass political movement that fights for the working class.

Rather than rendering its membership nothing more than passive “clicktivists”, Momentum should be organising activists; educating and training members to become leaders in the Labour movement and in the fight for bold socialist ideas.

Revolutionary socialists must indeed be in the labour movement on pain of sterility. They must also on pain of a different sort of sterility be autonomous — retaining the will and the ability to promote workers’ and young people’s struggles which take place outside of, and outside the tempo of, the existing labour movement. Serious socialists do not, like the sectarians, try to “build the party” irrespective of and wilfully apart from the labour movement and the working class, but, equally, we do not sink the revolutionary group into the rhythms and norms of a labour movement which is not revolutionary and which involves only a minority of the working class. That is as much a recipe for suicide as the antics of the sectarians — by an overdose of sleeping pills rather than an excess of ‘acid’, or some other sectarian hallucinogenic.

As for our party structures… the Workers’ Party USA of the ‘40s, rejecting JP Cannon’s idea of a semi-monolithic party, presents us with one of the best models of how the Marxists should organise — the way in fact that Lenin’s party organised. Of course, the majority at a given moment has to set the politics and the organisational goals of the organisation, and democratically elected officials have to be given authority to direct work day-to-day. Within that framework, without which the organisation would be nothing but a talking shop, there has to be full democratic freedom of opinion and freedom to express that opinion.

Socialists must be: the representatives of the movement’s future, active in the here and now to carve out that future. James Connolly said it well: “The only true prophets are those who carve out the future they announce”.

Amplifying the creative activity of Marxists as an organised force in the future evolution of the mass labour movement…