Posts Tagged ‘‘Democratic Centralism’’

Paul Mason: Elite About to Go Tinfoil over Momentum

September 20, 2016

Paul Mason on Saturday posted a long, but excellent piece discussing the way the elite were changing their tactics from attacking Jeremy Corbyn, to attacking his support group, Momentum. This followed the appearance of an article in the Times about the group’s supposedly dodgy activities in Liverpool, based on an anonymous dossier put together from a Labour member, who had visited their chatrooms. He quotes right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes and the Time’s editorial about how Momentum are really cuckoos in Labour’s metaphorical nest, seeking to infiltrate and take over the party. Mason points out that two other films are also scheduled to attack Corbyn and Momentum this week, and notes the way the story being peddled by the Blairites and the elite has changed. Whereas before it was just Corbyn and a few members of Momentum who were infiltrators, with Smudger demanding the right to address their rallies alongside Corbyn, in a speech last week Smudger equated Momentum with Militant Tendency in the 1980s, and almost suggested that Momentum should similarly be thrown out of the party as Militant was.

Mason points out how ridiculous the comparison is, and compares the open and democratic structure of Momentum with both Militant and the Blairite successor group, Saving Labour. He writes

With 18,000 members Momentum is four times bigger than the Militant Tendency ever was, even at the height of its influence in the mid-1980s. Momentum is organising The World Transformed — an open, free, largely unstructured culture and ideas festival alongside Labour conference in Liverpool as a way of attracting non-party activists and local young people. The organisers have arranged open press access and gained sponsorship from two Labour-affiliated unions and a major NGO. Indeed until last week their main problem was convincing the press to cover it.

Militant, by contrast, was a rigid grouping, with two layers of secrecy, an internal command/control structure and an elected leadership along Bolshevik lines. It operated like this because that is how the Labour right operated. It was in some ways a mirror image of the bureaucratic hierarchy it tried to oppose.

Today, that is still how the Labour right organises: Saving Labour, for example, is a website co-ordinating attacks on Corbyn which has still not reveal who funds it or owns it. Labour Tomorrow is collecting funds from rich donors for purposes as yet unannounced. It has no publicly accountable structures at all. Momentum, by contrast, is an open and democratic group.

Mason states that the intention behind these stories is to begin a witch hunt against Momentum if Corbyn loses. If, on the other hand, he wins, it’s to form the basis of the Blairite’s legal campaign to gain the party’s name, bank account and premises on the basis that these had been illegally stolen by infiltrators. He notes also that these attacks on Momentum itself are based on the failure of the attempts to uncover dirt and smear Corbyn himself. Corbyn is popular with the party’s grassroots and his views poll well with the public.

Mason feels the solution would be to make Momentum and Progress, their Blairite opponents, affiliated sections of the Labour party so that their members become Labour members, and are subject to Labour party rules. But this would need a change in the party’s regulations. He is happy to see anyone become a member of Momentum, though, provided they don’t campaign for rival parties like the TUSC, the Greens and SNP. But Mason also believes that Labour members also need to join Greens, Left nationalists, anti-political people and even Lib Dems in grassroots campaigns on issues like Grammar schools. He also makes the point that the reason why Momentum grew so rapidly after Corbyn was in reaction to the dull, hierarchical and very bureaucratic structure of the existing party, and particularly hostility by the Blairites.

He goes on to make the following recommendations on what the party needs to do to attack the government and counter its policies:

•to de-select the (hopefully few) MPs who insist on actively sabotaging and abusing Corbyn;
•to bring forward a new “A-list” of candidates — more representative of the class, gender, ethnic and sexual-orientation of the UK population than the present PLP;
•passing coherent radical policies Labour Conference 2017 and the next National Policy Forum;
•deepening the left’s majority on the NEC and reversing the purge;
•focusing activist resources into geographical areas where the official party is weak;
•and turning Labour’s regional structures from anti-left “enforcement” operations into local networks of co-ordination to fight the Conservatives.

Mason states that Social Democrats in the Labour party should defend it as one of the remaining elements of the party’s Left wing, going back to the Clarion newspaper in the 1920s. And he also makes this point that it can be seen that it is not a far left movement can be seen from the fact that the true far left parties don’t like it:

And one of the clearest indicators that Momentum is a genuine, democratic formation is that the surviving far left — the SWP and Socialist Party–stand separate from it and their leaderships are wary of it. This suits me — because I have no sympathy for the bureacratic and hierarchical culture of Bolshevik re-enactment groups; it is precisely the open-ness, cultural diversity and networked outlook of Momentum, and the generation of youth drawn to it, that terrifies them.

He further argues that Social Democrats should support it, even if they disagree with its policies, as it has prevented the Labour party from undergoing a process similar to the collapse of PASOK in Greece, where the party has been ‘hollowed out’ and replaced by a party of the far left.

He concludes

The bottom line is: Momentum has a right to exist within the Labour Party and its members have a right to be heard.

If you’re a member of it, the best way to survive the upcoming red scare will be to smile your way through it. This is the tinfoil hat moment of the Labour right, as it realises half a million people cannot be bought by the money of a supermarket millionaire.

So get out the popcorn. You’re about to see what happens to the neo-liberal wing of Labour — and its propaganda arm — when the workers, the poor and the young get a say in politics.

In modern parlance: they are about to lose their shit.

See: https://medium.com/mosquito-ridge/elite-goes-tinfoil-over-momentum-dd544c9d8f1c#.fwtj82i9m

I think Mr Mason’s exactly right about all this. He is certainly is about the highly centralised, and rigidly hierarchical nature of the real parties of the Far Left – the Communists and Trotskyites. Parties like these, such as the SWP and the Socialist Party, have a very un-democratic party structure based around Lenin’s doctrine of ‘Democratic Centralism’. In order to prevent the party splitting up into various competing factions, Lenin stipulated that the party must be organised around the leadership of committed revolutionaries, who would be responsible for laying down policy. These could be questioned up to a point, but the moment the leadership took a decision, further debate was outlawed and absolute obedience demanded from the members. There is also a very rigid attitude to party doctrine. Only the leaders’ view of Marxist ideology is considered authentic and conforming to objective reality. Any opposition to it is labelled a ‘deviation’ and its supporters purged, very much like heretics from a religious group. Stalin clawed his way to power by fighting a series of campaigns against his opponents in the party, who were labelled ‘deviationists’ of the Left and Right. When Tito in Yugoslavia decided he wanted to purge Milovan Djilas, one of the architects of workers’ control, he accused him of ‘anarcho-syndicalist deviationism’.

Momentum doesn’t have that mindset, but the Blairites – Progress, Tomorrow’s Labour and Saving Labour, certainly do.

As for the opaque nature of Saving Labour’s funding, my guess is that much of it comes from big business and the Israel lobby. This isn’t an anti-Semitic smear. Blair was funded by the Zionists through Lord Levy and David Sainsbury. It’s because the Zionist lobby is massively losing support through the BDS movement, which is also supported by many Jews fed up with Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians, that the Zionists in the Labour party have accused Corbyn and his supporters of anti-Semitism. My guess is that Saving Labour won’t reveal who funds them because it would show their opponents to be right about their connection to the rich and to the Israel lobby.

Advertisements

Mikhail Gorbachev on Worker’s Control in Perestroika

May 31, 2016

One of the most interesting aspects of Gorbachev’s plan to restructure the Communist system in Perestroika was the re-introduction of workers’ control. Lenin briefly introduced this after the Bolshevik coup of 1917, but it was reversed when it was found that, contrary to Bolshevik expectations and dogma, the workers couldn’t manage industry on their own. Lenin himself was fiercely autocratic and intolerant, and the Bolshevik monopolization of power offended not only liberal democrats, but also other committed Marists, like Karl Kautsky and Rosa Luxemburg, who wrote articles denouncing it. Much of the intolerance and oppressive nature of the Soviet system came directly from Lenin and his doctrine of ‘democratic centralism’. This was the dogma that once the leaders of the Communist party had made a decision, no further discussion was permissible, and their commands should be carried out with any further debate or protest. Nevertheless, Gorbachev harkened back to Lenin and his supposed espousal of democracy in order to invigorate the moribund and sclerotic Soviet system. The reintroduction of workers’ control was part Gorby’s wider programme of democratizing Soviet society.

In his 1987 book, Perestroika: New Thinking for our Country and the World (London: Collins) Gorby writes

We are taking a new view of the correlation between one-man management and the participation of work collectives in handling production tasks. this is a topical issue. There will be no progress without workers’ involvement in management through the corresponding mechanisms – at the work team, factory shop, plant and integrated works level. Furthermore, a work collective must have the right to elect its manager. And the latter receives the right to one-man rule on behalf of the collective, uniting everybody by his willpower.

Elections of economic managers are direct democracy in action. Initially people were frightened by this, claiming that we had gone too far, that things could come to a bad end. But those who reason that way forget the main point, that common sense always prevails. Group interests, a practice of covering up for one another, will somewhere make themselves felt. But basically everyone wants his work team, factory shop, enterprise, collective or state farm to be headed by dependable, intelligent managers capable of leadership, of opening up vistas for improving production and life. Our people understand this, and they certainly do not need weak management. They need people who are talented, considerate, yet demanding in a fair way.

People want to see changed attitudes on the part of the plant manager, shop superintendent and foreman. People expect a moral example and they expect it particularly from their superiors. There are several such examples. Where there is a good manager, there is success. He takes care of people. Everyone wants to talk with him. He need not raise his voice in giving out orders. He may look quite ordinary, but he sees and can explain everything. It is now extremely important to be able to explain the situation. People will agree to wait if they see why some of their demands cannot be satisfied fully right away. (Pp. 103-4).

The former General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party also wanted to restore greater powers to the trade unions. These did not have the same roles and responsibilities as western trade unions. As the Soviet Union was a workers’ state, the Communists reasoned that trade unions should have no power to block or interfere with the authorities, who were the workers’ representatives. Nevertheless, the Soviet system granted them vast powers. The were to be consulted on economic planning, and the sacking of employees was only legal if the union had been consulted. The trade unions were also given the responsibility for running the health, medical and leisure programmes in Soviet plants, factories and industry. Gorbachev was concerned that the trade unions were acquiescing too much to the demands of management. He wished to alter this situation by giving them the power to represent the workers’ interests against management as well as improving healthcare and leisure at Soviet workplaces. He wrote

What our country is undertaking and the issues it is tackling implies a re-evaluation of the role of trade unions in social affairs.

It should be said first and foremost that our unions are a formidable force. No labour law can be drafted unless endorsed by the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions. On all questions concerning labour laws, their enforcement and the safeguarding of the working people’s right the trade unions have the final say. If a manager fires a worker without asking the union for approval, a court of law automatically makes the decision invalid without any deliberation, inasmuch as the trade union has not been consulted for its opinion. No economic development plan, for one year or five years, is submitted to the Supreme Soviet unless approved by the trade unions. When the plans are in the making, the trade unions participate as well at all levels.

Social insurance, the running of sanatoriums and recreation resorts, tourism, physical training and sports, and the rest and recreation of children are all the responsibility of the trade unions. Consequently, they wield real power. But, all, over the past few years there has been less trade union activity. On some issues, they have yielded their prerogatives to economic managers, while not enjoying some rights effectively enough.

So, having set about restructuring, we saw that the work of the trade unions could not be termed satisfactory. During my trip to the Kuban region, I reproached trade union leaders for pandering to managers, sometimes going so far as dancing to their tune. I asked them whether it was not high time they took a position of principle, and stood up for working people?

The new role of the trade unions in conditions of perestroika should consist primarily of giving a stronger social orientation to economic decisions, offsetting technocratic encroachments which have become widespread in the economy in the last few years. this means that the trade unions should be more active in elaborating the social sections of economic plans, and, if need be, setting forth and upholding their own alternative proposals.

Trade union committees should have teeth, and not be convenient partners for management. Bad working conditions at some enterprises, a poor health service, substandard locker rooms- trade union organisations have got used to all this. but Soviet trade unions have the right to monitor managerial compliance with labour contracts, the right to criticise management, and even the right to demand that director who fails to comply with the legitimate interests of the working people be removed from office.

It would be wrong to think that under socialism the working people do not need any protection. They should be protected even more, for socialism is a system for the working people. Hence the tremendous responsibility of the trade unions. All Soviet society is vitally interested in more vigorous work being undertaken by the trade unions. (Pp. 113-4).

All this was discarded during Yeltsin’s administration, when the economy was privatised and the voucher system introduced, which transformed the co-operatives Gorby had been setting up into bog standard capitalist enterprises. If Gorbachev had been successful, he would have created a democratic Socialist state, very close to the vision of the ownership of the means of production by the workers themselves that motivated Socialists as far back as the Owenite John Francis Bray in the 19th century. While not demanding the abolition of capitalism, Ha-Joon Chang states in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, that in countries where there is state interest in industry, or workers’ representatives on the boardroom, firms actually do better than when left simply to managers and shareholders. But unfortunately, that it what we are left with after thirty years of Thatcherism. And its continuing and accelerating under Cameron.

We need a change. British trade unionism needs to be revitalised, and we do need workers’ representatives in our boardrooms. As for Thatcher, her ideas were always bankrupt. They should have been thrown out before she ever took office.