Posts Tagged ‘Peasants’

Paul McGann Makes Powerful Appeal to People to Register to Vote

May 17, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political has also reblogged a video by Paul McGann on behalf of the Labour Party, in which he appeals to people to register to vote if they have not done so yet. If they don’t, and therefore won’t be allowed to vote, then they will have no voice in how the country is governed, and over vitally important issues and causes like the NHS.

So please don’t lose your voice, and register.

This is now more important than ever. The Tories, like their vile counterparts, the Republicans, in America, have changed the voter registration legislation in the hope that this will prevent more people from voting. These changes mean that many people, who believe they are registered to vote, may not be so in fact. If they come to the polling station, they will be turned away.

And I don’t doubt for a single minute that the Tories are hoping that enough of the British people will be apathetic or so fed up with politics, that they will stay away from the voting booths, and so allow them to win by default.

Republican politicians in America have let the cat out of the bag regarding their own electoral reforms, and openly admitted that it is to prevent supporters of the Democrat party, and especially the young, the poor, students and Blacks from voting. I’ve reblogged videos from The Young Turks and Secular Talk that have covered this.

These are the groups in America that vote Democrat, and young people and ethnic minorities are also the parts of the population which are more inclined to vote Labour over here.

And despite all their attempts to appear hip, anti-racist, and entirely cool with gays and the new attitudes to gender and sexuality, I don’t doubt that these are also the groups the Tories also fear and despise. They clearly have absolute contempt for students, as shown by the massive increase in student fees and levels of debt that occurred in the seven years we’ve been ruled by these scoundrels.

So please, if you have any doubt, take McGann’s advice. You really can’t afford not to.

Incidentally, looking at McGann in the video, it seemed to me that with the distinctive haircut, long, angular face and tweed jacked, he was channelling a certain Eric Blair, alias George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm, 1984 and the Spanish Civil War memoire, Homage to Catalonia. Orwell was a convinced Socialist, who wrote a book looking forward to a revolution that would bring about a distinctively English form of Socialism in his book, The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English. He was a bitter critic of Communism and totalitarianism, because he had witnessed the way the Communist party under Stalin had betrayed its left-wing allies and murdered their members during the Spanish Civil War. Orwell, like so many other idealistic young people across Europe and America, had personally fought in the War, joining a brigade affiliated to POUM, a non-Marxist Socialist party. He was also strongly impressed with the achievement of the Spanish Anarchists in creating a genuinely Socialist society, in which the workers and peasant owned and managed the farms and industry themselves, before they were defeated and massacred by Franco.

Back in Britain, Orwell worked as a journalist as well as a novelist. He was a convinced anti-imperialist through his experiences as a serviceman in Burma, then part of the British Empire. To understand the depths of hardship working people were experiencing during the Great Depression, he lived for a time as a tramp. This led to the book Down and Out in London and Paris, and The Road to Wigan Pier. This last was reprinted a few years ago because of its relevance to the poverty caused by the Tories through austerity. He also satirised British bourgeois culture and values in Keep the Aspidistra Flying.

As a political journalist, he argued that its writing should be as clear and lucid as possible. There have been criticisms of his remarks and recommendations about how it should be written, but his comments have been taken extremely seriously. His stature as one of this country’s foremost political writers is recognised in the fact that there is a literary award named after him, the Orwell Prize, for political writing.

So in the above video, you have a brilliant actor, Paul McGann, channelling one of the greatest political writers.

Brilliant! as they used to shout on the Fast Show.

YouTube Video on the Nazi Murder of the Disabled

March 22, 2017

This video was posted by Jeffrey Davies in his comment on my piece, ‘The Culpable Silence over the Genocide of the Disabled’. Jeffrey’s frequently commented on this blog about the parallels between the government’s policy of throwing the disabled off benefits to die in starvation and despair, and Aktion T4. This was the Nazi eugenic campaign to kill the mentally ill and educationally subnormal, as well as the physically congenitally disabled. I’ve blogged about it before. The victims were rounded up and sent to special insane asylums, where they were murdered. They were killed using poison gas, and the programme prepared the Nazis for their mass murder of the Jews.

This is another film, which some may find difficult to watch. It includes a former SS officer, Reinhard Spitzy, saying that he personally heard Hitler make the comment that it would be better to use the money supporting an incurably ill person on the child of a poor peasant. The film also includes the account of one of the relatives of one of the victims, Marie Rau. This lady’s mother was placed in a mental hospital suffering from anxiety and depression over her husband. She was then diagnosed incurably insane, and sent to one of the clinics, Hadomar, which was one of the institutions for their murder. They were gassed with carbon monoxide in the clinic’s cellars in groups of 60. Over 10,000 were killed at Hadomar alone. There was an outcry about this, and the policy was ostensibly abandoned. However, it continued in secret. Instead of poison gas, the Nazis now either killed them with lethal injection, or starved them to death.

I knew the Nazis used poison gas to murder the disabled, but did not know that they starved them to death. This seems to me to be a very strong parallel to the tactics the Tories are using against the disabled today. As Mike, Johnny Void, Stilloaks, ATOS Miracles, DPAC, Benefit Tales and so many other sites are pointing out, hundreds if not thousands of disabled people have died of starvation after being found fit for work and their benefits cut off. The only difference, it seems, is that Tories haven’t rounded them up. Yet.

Because they haven’t incarcerated the disabled in death camps or murder clinics, like the unfortunates in the Third Reich, the government can now claim that it isn’t responsible for their deaths. They know, however, that this is a lie. It is clearly demonstrated in their refusal to give the numbers of people, who have died after being declared fit for work.

They are well aware their policy is killing people.

They just don’t want you to know.

Just like they want to whip up anger against the disabled and unemployed as scroungers and malingerers, in order to justify further cuts.

Reichwing Watch: Tom Hartmann Quotes Vice-President Wallace on Fascism in America

November 18, 2016

On Wednesday I put up a documentary by Reichwing Watch, which carefully showed the corporatist powers behind the rise of modern Libertarianism, and how it represents the interests of big business instead of ordinary people despite its claims to the contrary. The documentary quoted Henry Wallace, F.D.R.’s vice-president in 1944, who wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times about the threat of Fascism in America, and how this would arise through the same powerful corporate interests, who would claim to be super-patriots, but would attempt to use their political and economic power to enslave ordinary Americans.

In this clip from Thom Hartmann’s internet show, Hartmann also discusses how Fascism is based on the power of big corporations, and further quotes Wallace’s New York Times article. Hartmann begins by defining Fascism as the merger of corporate and government interests, with a bit of nationalism and racism to keep the masses distracted by hating a terrible ‘other’. He notes that Mussolini dissolved the Italian parliament in favour of a chamber of Fasci and corporations, and that Giovanni Gentile, the Italian philosopher, stated that Fascism should more properly be described as corporatism.

He then goes to quote Henry Wallace’s article in the New York Times. Wallace wrote

Fascism is a worldwide disease. Its greatest threat to the US will come after the War in the US itself. Another Fascist danger is represented by those, who paying lip service to national service and the common welfare, in their insatiable greet for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws which protect the public from monopolistic extortion.

Hartmann goes on to explain that Wallace nevertheless believed that the American system was strong enough to avoid Fascism. At that time, it was rare for a C.E.O. to enter politics, and politicians knew that they had to represent ‘we, the people’. And so Wallace continues

Happily, it can be said that Fascism has not captured a place in mainstream America. It can be found in Wall Street, Main Street and Tobacco Road, and traces of it can be seen along the Potomac, but if we put our trust in the common sense of common men and with malice towards none and charity for all, and continue building political, economic and social democracy, we shall prevail.

American Fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the poisoners of public information and those who stand for the KKK-type of demagoguery.

Hartmann makes the point that this has happened today through the alliance of right-wing news channels, the corporatists, and the White House. Wallace goes on

They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty, they claim to support free enterprise, but the represent monopolies and vested interests. Their final objective, to which all their deceit is directed, it to capture political power so that using the power of the state and the market simultaneously they can keep the common man in eternal subjection.

The American Fascists are most easily recognised by their perversion of truth and Fact. Their propaganda cultivates every fissure in the common front, and they consistently criticise democracy.

Hartmann here discusses how this accurately describes the purveyors of hate in the corporatist media, like Fox News, and how they are composed of the Islamophobes, the anti-gay religious leaders, and the corporatists determined to put worker against worker, trade unionists against the non-unionised employees, men against women, in a strategy of divide and conquer. He goes on to say that we should all be concerned about the next few years, and states that it is the most high stakes struggle since the foundation of the Republic, though not the biggest – that was the Civil War. But, Harmann asks rhetorically, can anyone remember a time when Americans were so polarised? He concludes that the struggle against Fascism begins today – and you need to get involved. Movement politics are what is needed. It simply isn’t enough just to vote.

There are a couple of things wrong with Hartmann’s analysis of Fascism. The Fascist ‘corporations’ he mentions weren’t commercial companies, but industrial associations combining both the trade unions and the employers’ organisations. Furthermore, nationalism and racism was central to Fascism, not something merely added to their foul intellectual stew in order to keep the masses distracted. Hitler and his fellow mass murderers genuinely hated the Jews, and ant-Semitism and the doctrine of Aryan racial superiority was central to Nazi ideology from the very beginning. Similarly, Italian Fascism was originally a movement of ultra-patriots intensely dissatisfied with Italy’s failure to get what they believed was its rightful territorial gains after the First World War. Mussolini sincerely wanted the Italians to be a militaristic people and to create a new, Roman Empire.

But he’s write about the importance of corporate power. Both Mussolini and then Hitler got into power because they posed as the defenders of capitalism and business against the threat of organised labour, socialism, and the trade unions. Mussolini’s Fascist absorbed the Italian Nationalists, who were right-wing businessmen. Just as the Fascists attacked the trade unions in urban areas, in the countryside they represented the big landowners, and went around trying to smash the peasant organisations, cooperatives and collectives.

Wallace’s description of the threat of a home-grown Fascism in America really does describe the coalition of power that has brought Trump to the White House: the powerful, right-wing news organisations like Fox, Breitbart and scores of local and national talk radio stations. And Trump is a corporatist, representing elite big business. But this also applies to his predecessors, both Democrat and Republican, right back to Reagan. This includes the Clintons, both Bill and Hillary, and Barack Obama, as well as the Bush family.

And it also applies over here, to Maggie Thatcher, John Major, and then Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and New Labour, to David Cameron and now Theresa May. It was Maggie Thatcher, who began the process of permitting the concentration of the British media in a few, very limited hands, including that of Murdoch. And the Tories have always maintained that they are the party of business as a rhetorical defence, whenever the purging of corporate influence from parliament is mentioned. They argue that since Labour represents the trade unions, the Tories are right to represent business. They do not, by this admission, represent ‘hard-working people’, except in the sense that they are keen to stress how hard the millionaires they represent work. 78 per cent of MPs are millionaires, and the majority hold multiple directorships. And New Labour was, in Mandelson’s words, ‘intensely laid back about getting rich’, expanded Peter Lilley’s vile PFI initiative, and promoted business to parliament and parliamentary committees, initiatives and quangos.

Trump’s a Fascist, but the rot goes deep, all the way back to the foundations of the neoliberal world order in Reagan and Thatcher, who both supported real Fascists in the death squads of south American dictators like Samosa and Pinochet.

We need to fight back. And we need to do more than that – we need to purge parliament of the very corporate interests that have wormed their way into power, in order to make our countries true democracies again, and not merely elective oligarchies providing a veneer of popular approval for corrupt, corporate rule.

The Poor Side of Life: Hammersmith Jobcentre Producing Propaganda Photos of Claimants

September 20, 2016

The Poor Side of Life have put up a piece reporting that Hammersmith Jobcentre has been approaching claimants and trying to get them to pose for promotional photos, showing them as happy, smiling satisfied customers. This follows a message they had from one such claimant, who was approached in this way by the supervisor. They turned the request down, though as the Blog states, the claimant was hard to intimidate. Others, who were more scared and intimidated by the threat of sanctions, would more likely have given in. The blog states that it has confirmed their view of the propagandistic nature of much of the material from the Jobcentre, and particularly after they found many of the claims made in support of Iain Duncan-Smith’s wretched Universal Credit misleading. The piece concludes

Now, it’s extremely rare for a claimant to be actually smiling inside a Jobcentre. You are usually extremely stressed and it’s the last place that you want to be in. And shaking an advisors hand? This very rarely happens, at best claimants are treated like they have the bubonic plague. A decent advisor still won’t shake your hand. Manners don’t really exist in a Jobcentre.

It’s just more evidence of the DWP trying to send out a completely misleading message.

Kudos to the claimant for sharing this. And watch out for the new fake smiley photos posted in local newspapers and Jobcentres.

This is the DWP building Potemkin villages for us peasants. These were fake villages put up in 18th century Russia, after Catherine the Great complained that she wanted the peasants to be better housed and prosperous. So her prime minister, Potemkin, order a number of fake villages to be built. The houses in these villages were just facades. Catherine was taken through them, and shown how fine they were and that the peasants were happy and well housed. But it was all fake. Just like this.

Jobcentres are terrible places. I’ve a young cousin, who didn’t sign on for ages because of the way the staff treated them. I’ve also had a taste of their abuse myself, after I was more or less told to stop going there and signing on. But unless you have experience of this maltreatment, or hear about it personally, then you don’t realise what it’s like. As all too many people don’t, lulled into believing that the Jobcentre really does have some kind of ethic about helping people, while since Iain Duncan-Smith and probably a few years before, it’s all been about keeping as many people as possible off benefit so the rich can get their tax cut and the government can massage its unemployment figures.

Disgusting. And it’s also disgusting that Ed Miliband was all too willing to go along with this and the Tory welfare cuts, as he didn’t want to be seen as weak on benefit scroungers. Which is how he would have been presented by the Tory press.

It’s no wonder we’ve got mass starvation in this country. And apart from the government and nearly 40 years of Tory ideology determining benefit cuts, part of the blame must lie with the people peddling these bogus stories in the right-wing press: Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay Twins and Paul Dacre. They should all be kicked out now.

John McDonnell and Anti-Marxist Scaremongering on Thursday’s Question Time

September 18, 2016

I was talking to Mike this evening about John McDonnell’s appearance on Question Time last week, when all the other panelists, including Alistair Campbell, Soubry for the Tories and Dimbleby himself all tried to pile into him and attack himself and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party. I didn’t see the programme, but heard from Mike that at one point someone attempted to score a point accusing McDonnell of being a Marxist. McDonnell said he was, and that as a Marxist he was overjoyed at the 2008 financial crisis, as this was the kind of massive economic crisis that is caused by capitalism. Mike took this McDonnell answering in the conditional: this is what he would believe, if he was a Marxist. But even if McDonnell is a Marxist – which is debateable – this still is not necessarily a reason why he should be feared or disqualified from government.

There’s a difference between Marxism and Communism. Communism is a form of Marxism, but as historians of the Soviet regime and political scientists will tell you, it is a form of Communism based on the interpretation of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. And I was taught by the tutor at College on the rise of Communism in Russia, that Lenin adapted and reformed Marxism as much as his ideological opponents and enemies in democratic socialism. I should point out here that before he began the course, he made a little speech stating that he wasn’t a Communist, and if, by some accident, he found himself in such a party, he would very soon find himself thrown out of it. This is pretty much true. The official ideology of the Soviet Union was Marxism-Leninism, and it broke with the ideas of the German Social Democrats, and particularly that of Karl Kautsky, as the leading European Marxist party. In 1910 the German Social Democrats (SPD) were world’s leading socialist party. They had 110 deputies in the Reichstag, the German parliament, 720,000 members and over 70 newspapers and periodicals. (See John Kelly, Trade Unions and Socialist Politics, p. 27).

The party had been riven by ideological conflict in the 1890s over Eduard Bernstein’s ‘Revisionism’. Bernstein had argued that Marxism was wrong, and that far from impoverishing the workers in the operation of the ‘iron law of wages’, the workers were becoming more prosperous. He therefore urged a revision of Marxist socialism, abandoning the aspects that were no longer relevant. Instead of the Hegelian dialect, he urged instead that the party should incorporate and adapt the ideals of the great German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. This did not mean abandoning socialism or the nationalisation of industry. Indeed, he saw the emergence of joint-stock companies as the type of capitalist institution, which would gradually become transformed as society developed to produce the new, socialist society of the future. Despite widespread, and fierce opposition, Bernstein was not thrown out of the party. Lenin, who had previously been an admirers of the Germans, really couldn’t understand this. When he met Karl Kautsky, the Austrian leader of German and Austrian Marxism, during his exile from Tsarist Russia, Lenin asked him that question. Kautsky replied that they didn’t do that kind of thing. Lenin went berserk, called him a prostitute, and published a pamphlet attacking Kautsky and denouncing him as a ‘renegade’.

Kautsky was no enemy of democracy. I’ve put up various pieces from Marx, Kautsky and the French Marxist, Lucien Laurat, showing how they all supported, to a certain degree, parliamentary democracy. Marx never ruled out violent revolution, but was increasingly of the opinion that there was no need, as socialists were winning considerable concessions and advances through parliamentary politics. Kautsky and Laurat fully support parliamentary democracy. Kautsky himself despised the workers’ soviets as undemocratic, and bitterly attacked the Bolsheviks for their suppression of human rights. He hated the disenfranchisement of the bourgeoisie, their subjection to slave labour and how they were given the worst jobs, and were given the worst rations. He also attacked the Bolsheviks’ monopolisation of the press and their destruction and banning of competing parties, newspapers and publications. And rather than industry being nationalised in one fell blow, as the Bolsheviks had done, he argued instead that Marxism demanded that industry should only be nationalised gradually at the appropriate moment. This was when the various capitalist firms in a particular economic sector had merged to create a cartel. It was only then that the industries should be taken over by the state, and run in the interests of the working class and the people as a whole. After the Bolshevik revolution, Kautsky supported the Mensheviks, their ideological rivals, in the newly independent state of Georgia in the Caucasus, before that was finally conquered by the USSR.

Lenin, by contrast, had argued in his 1905 pamphlet, What Is To Be Done, that the Russian socialist party should be led by committed revolutionaries, who would command absolute authority. Debate was to be strictly limited, and once the party’s leaders had made a decision, it had to be obeyed without question. Lenin had come to this view through his experience of the conspiratorial nature of Russian revolutionary politics. He was influenced by the ideas of the Russian revolutionary – but not Marxist – Chernyshevsky. He also adopted this extremely authoritarian line as an attempt to prevent the rise of factionalism that divided and tore apart the Populists, the Russian agrarian socialists that form Marxism’s main rival as the party of the peasants and working class.

Now I’ll make it plain: I’m not a Marxist or a Communist. I don’t agree with its atheism nor its basis in Hegelian philosophy. I’m also very much aware of the appalling human rights abuses by Lenin, Stalin, and their successors. But Marxism is not necessarily synonymous with Communism.

During the struggle in the 1980s in the Labour party with the Militant Tendency, the Swedish Social Democrats also offered their perspective on a similar controversy they had gone through. They had also been forced to expel a group that had tried to overturn party democracy and take absolute power. They had not, however, expelled them because they were Marxists, and made the point that there still were Marxists within the party. Thus, while I don’t believe in it, I don’t believe that Marxism, as opposed to Communism, is necessarily a threat.

It’s also hypocritical for members of New Labour to try to smear others with the label, when one element in its formation was a Marxist organisation, albeit one that came to a very anti-Socialist conclusion. This was Demos. Unlike conventional Marxists, they believed that the operation of the Hegelian dialectic had led to the victory, not of socialism, but of capitalism. The goal for left-wing parties now should be to try to make it operate to benefit society as a whole, rather than just businessmen and entrepreneurs.

Arguably, this form of Marxism has been every bit as destructive and doctrinaire as Militant. Blair seized control of the Labour party, and his clique swiftly became notorious for a highly authoritarian attitude to power. Events were micromanaged to present Blair in the best, most flattering light. Furthermore, the policies they adopted – privatisation, including the privatisation of the NHS and the destruction of the welfare state, the contempt for the poor, the unemployed, the disabled and the long-term sick, who were seen as scroungers and malingerers, resulted in immense poverty and hardship, even before they were taken over and extended massively by Cameron and now Theresa May.

Traditional Marxists in the Labour party, as opposed to Communists and Trotskyites aren’t a threat. And neither McDonnell nor Corbyn are either of those. What has damaged the party is the pernicious grip on power of the Blairites, who have turned it into another branch of the Tories. It is they, who have harmed the country’s economy, provoked much of the popular cynicism with politics, and impoverished and immiserated its working people and the unemployed. All for the enrichment of the upper and middle classes. It is their power that needs to be broken, and they, who are responsible for acting as a conspiratorial clique determined to win absolute control through purging their rivals. It’s long past time they either accepted the wishes of the grassroots for a genuine socialist leadership, and made their peace with Corbyn, or left to join the Tories.

Lenin on the Russian Soviets as a New Form of Workers’ Democracy

July 4, 2016

The word ‘Soviet’, as in the name for the old USSR – the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – meant a council. These were original councils workers, peasants and soldiers, which were set up by the Russian working people themselves during the 1905 and 1917 revolutions before the Bolshevik coup. The largest and most important was the Petrograd Soviet, in what is now St. Petersburg. They were composed of delegates elected by the workers, peasants and squaddies of the Russian Empire, in contrast to the Russian duma, the country’s parliament. The soviets were not originally the sole monopoly of the Bolsheviks. Their members included representatives from all of the Russian Socialist and revolutionary parties, including as well as Lenin’s Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries and Trudoviks. They became a pillar of the monolithic, totalitarian Communist state after the Bolshevik coup and the dissolution of all parties except the Communists. Lenin deliberately changed the name of his faction from Social Democrats (Bolsheviks) to Communists to show that the model for the new, Marxist Socialist society was going to be the Paris Commune of 1872, which rose up in protest against both the French monarchy and the German invasion during the Franco-Prussian War.

Lenin made the ideological nature of the new, governmental system through workers’ councils clear in the section ‘A new Type of State Emerging from Our Revolution’ in his April Theses. He wrote

The Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, Peasants’ and other Deputies are not understood, not only in the sense that their class significance, their role in the Russian revolution is not clear to the majority. They are not understood also in the sense that they constitute a new form or rather a new type of state.

The most perfect, the most advanced type of bourgeois state is the parliamentary democratic republic: power is vested in parliament; the state machine, the apparatus and organ of administration, is of the customary kind: the standing army, the police, and the bureaucracy – which in practice is undisplaceable, is privileged and stands above the people.

Since the end of the nineteenth century, however, revolutionary epochs have advanced a higher type of democratic state, a state which in certain respects, as Engels put it, ceases to be a state, is “no longer a state in the proper sense of the word”. This is a state of the Paris Commune type, one in which a standing army and police divorced from the people are replaced by the direct arming of the people themselves. It is this feature that constitutes the very essence of the Commune, which has been so misrepresented and slandered by the bourgeois writers, and to which has been erroneously ascribed, among other things, the intention of immediately “introducing” socialism.

This is the type of state which the Russian revolution began to create in 1905 and in 1917. A Republic of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, Peasants’ and other Deputies, united in an All-Russia Constituent Assembly of people’s representatives or in a Council of Soviets, etc., is what is already being realised in our country now, at this juncture. it is being realised by the initiative of the nation’s millions, who are creating a democracy on their own, in their own way, without waiting until the Cadet professors draft their legislative bills for a parliamentary bourgeois republic, or until the pedants and routine-worshippers of petty-bourgeois “Social-Democracy”, like Mr. Plekhanov or Kautsky, stop distorting the Marxist teaching on the state.

Marxism differs from anarchism in that it recognises the need for a state and for state power in the period of revolution in general, and in the period of transition from capitalism to socialism in particular.

Marxism differs from the petty-bourgeois, opportunist “Social-Democratism” of Plekhanov, Kautsky and Co. in that it recognises that what is required during these two periods is not a state of the usual parliamentary bourgeois republican type, but a state of the Paris Commune type.

The main distinctions between a state of the latter type and the old state are as follows.

It is quite easy (as history proves) to revert from a parliamentary bourgeois republic to a monarchy, for the machinery of oppression – the army, the police, and the bureaucracy-is left intact. The Commune and the Soviets smash that machinery and do away with it.

The parliamentary bourgeois republic hampers and stifles the independent political life of the masses, their direct participation in the democratic organisation of the life of the state from the bottom up. The opposite is the case with the Soviets.

The latter reproduce the type of state which was being evolved by the Paris Commune and which Marx described as “the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour”.

We are usually told that the Russian people are not yet prepared for the “introduction” of the Commune. This was the argument of the serf-owners when they claimed that the peasants were not prepared for emancipation. The Commune, i.e., the Soviets, does not “introduce”, does not intend to “introduce”, and must not introduce any reforms which have not absolutely matured both in economic reality and in the minds of the overwhelming majority of the people. the deeper the economic collapse and the crisis produced by the war, the more urgent becomes the need for the most perfect political form, which will facilitate the healing of the terrible wounds inflicted on mankind by the war. The less the organisational experience of the Russian people, the more resolutely must we proceed to organisational developments by the people themselves, and not merely by the bourgeois politicians and “well-placed” bureaucrats. Lenin: The April Theses, 3rd Edition (Moscow: Progress Publishers 1970) 36-8.

Plekhanov and Kautsky were two of the great leaders of European Marxism at the time. Plekhanov was one of the founders of Russian Marxism, while Kautsky was the leader of the Austrian Social Democrats. Both defended parliamentary democracy. The Cadets Lenin also criticises aren’t students at a military academy. They were the Constitutional Democrats, a liberal party and I think the largest party in the duma at the time. Most historians now also believe that Marx, Engels and Lenin were wrong about the Socialist nature of the Paris Commune. The Communards weren’t motivated by Socialism so much as the Parisian local tradition of political autonomy, against the rest of the France, and patriotic outrage at defeat by Prussia, and the government that had failed to defend France, during the Franco-Prussian War.

Parliamentary democracy is superior to a government by workers’ councils, in that it does allow everyone in the state a vote and the opportunity to participate politically. This was recognised by Kautsky, who was a bitter critic of Bolshevik tyranny. However, there is still something deeply attractive about a governmental system that allow working people some measure of direct political power, rather than relying on a class of MPs, who may become distant from their electors, as has frequently happened.

Book Review: G.D.H. Cole’s A Century of Co-Operation

July 2, 2016

Cooperative Cole

(George Allen & Unwin Ltd. for the Co-operative Union Ltd 1944).

Many of us of a certain age still remember the Co-op before it became a regular supermarket chain. It was a store in which regular shoppers – the co-op’s members, were also it’s owners, and entitled to receive a share of the profits. This meant that you were paid a dividend. This was later issued in the form of ‘Green Shield’ stamps, which could be used to buy further goods in the stores. The co-operative movement was founded way back in the 1840s by the Rochdale Pioneers, former members of Robert Owen’s socialist movement. After this had collapsed, the Pioneers then went on to apply his socialist principles to running retail stores. The movement rapidly caught on and expanded, not least because, unlike ordinary shops, the co-ops sold pure food without the poisonous substances added elsewhere. For example, many bakers added arsenic to their bread to make it whiter, and more attractive to the purchaser. The co-ops didn’t, and so their food and goods was healthier, and thus more popular. Unlike their competitors, you could be fairly sure that what you bought from the co-op wouldn’t kill you in the name of making it appear more tasty. By 1942 there were 1,058 co-operative retail societies, with a total membership of 8,925,000 – just shy of 9 million people.

I found this book on the history of the movement in one of the charity bookshops in Bristol. It’s by the great socialist and writer, G.D.H. Cole, who was one of the leading members of Guild Socialism, a British form of syndicalism, which recommended the abolition of the state and its replacement with a system of guilds – trade unions, which would include all the workers in an industry, and which would run industry and the economy. Instead of parliament, there would be something like the TUC, which would also have administrative organs to protect the consumer.

The book’s chapters include:
I: “The Hungry ‘Forties'”,
II: Co-operation before the Pioneers
II. Rochdale.
IV. The Rochdale Pioneers Begin.
V. The Rochdale Pioneers to 1874.
VI Christian Socialists, Redemptionists, and Trade Unions
VII. Co-operation and the Law.
VIII. The Origins of the Co-Operative Wholesale Society
IX. Co-operative Growth in the ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies.
X. The Second Revolution.
XI. The ‘Eighties and ‘Nineties.
XII. The Women’s Guild.
XIII. Co-operators and Education.
XIV. Co-operation in Agriculture – Ireland: The Beginning of International Co-operation.
XV. Co-operation before and during the First World War.
XVI. From War to War.
XVII. Guild Socialism and the Building Guilds
XVIII. Co-operative Development between the Wars.
XIX. Co-operators in Politics.
XX. Co-operative Employment.
XXI. International Co-operation.
XXII Co-operation Today and Tomorrow
I. the Growth of Co-operation.
ii. The Development of Co-operative Trade.
iii. Large and Small Societies.
iv. Democratic Control.
v. Regional Strength and Weakness.
vi. Co-operative Education.
vii. The producers’ Societies.
viii. The Wholesales and Production.
ix. The Next Steps.

Appendix: Who Were the Pioneers?

Cole notes that some forms of what became known as co-operation existed in various trades and businesses before the Rochdale Pioneers. Some of the capital used to set up businesses in the early 19th century, came from the workers. They tended to invest in other businesses’ than their employers, so that if their wages were cut during a recession or dip in trade, the dividends they would receive from their shares would not also suffer. Although not remarked on in the book, you could say that this shows how the working class has been disinherited. In many cases, they contributed their savings and money to the development of capitalism, but despite the existence in some firms of profit-sharing schemes, they have been and are being excluded from the profits of the modern, industrial economy.

From industry, co-operation also entered politics, with the establishment of a Co-operative Party, which is now part of the Labour party. The movement spread across Europe, to Germany and as far as Russia. Lenin was greatly impressed by the value of the co-operatives as a form of socialism. According to Aganbegyan, Gorbachev’s chief economist for perestroika, before 1950 47 per cent of all industries, including farms in the USSR were co-ops. Industrial democracy and co-operatives were a central plank of Gorbachev’s perestroika. Unfortunately, Gorby’s attempts to revive Communism failed, and Yeltsin turned them into bog-standard capitalist companies through the voucher system. Other thinkers and politicians in other countries saw co-operation as the solution to their countries’ social and economic problems. One of these was the Bulgarian Stambolisky, the leader of a peasant’s party before the First World War. He wished to organise the peasant farms into a system of co-operation, which would modernise the country by allowing them to acquire electricity and improve production and conditions. More recently, the Mondragon co-operatives, set up in Spain by a Roman Catholic priest in the 1950s, has become an industrial giant, involved in just about all areas of the Spanish economy.

Cole’s book understandably concentrates on the history of the co-operative movement from its emergence to the middle of the Second World War, and is an immensely detailed and thorough work of scholarship. Although not as prominent as they once were, co-operative businesses still exist in Britain. They were supported in the 1970s and ’80s by politicos like the great Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone, and may once again become a major force in British society and the economy.

Friedrich Engels on the Difference between Socialism and Communism

June 19, 2016

Engels Communism Pamphlet

This morning I posted up a few extracts from Friedrich Engels’ Principles of Communism, published by Pluto Press. The Principles of Communism was the first draft of the Communist Manifesto. Unlike the Manifesto, it’s short – only about 20 pages or so, laying out the essence of Communism in the form of a catechism – short answers to particular questions.

Florence, one of the great commenters on this site, posted this remark in response to the piece:

Not having a copy of the Engels text to hand, I think many would be interested in his thoughts on how socialism and communism differ. It is at the heart of many misunderstandings at the moment!

This is a really big issue, and whole books have been written about the topic. Here’s what Engels says in the pamphlet:

24 How do Communists differ from Socialists?
The so-called Socialists are divided into three categories.

The first category consists of adherents of a feudal and patriarchal society which has already been destroyed, and is still daily being destroyed, by big industry and world trade and their creation, bourgeois society. This category concludes from the evils of existing society that feudal and patriarchal society must be restored because it was free of such evils. In one way or another all their proposals are directed to this end. This category of reactionary socialists, for all their seeming partisanship and their scalding tears for the misery of the proletariat, is nevertheless energetically opposed by the Communists for the following reasons:
(I) It strives for something which is entirely impossible.
(II) It seeks to establish the rule of the aristocracy, the guildmasters, the small producers, and their retinue of absolute or feudal monarchs, officials, soldiers and priests – a society which was, to be sure, free of the evils of present day society but which brought with it at least as many evils without even offering to the oppressed workers the prospect of liberation through a Communist revolution.
(III) As soon as the proletariat becomes revolutionary and Communist, these reactionary Socialists show their true colours by immediately making common cause with the bourgeoisie against the proletarians.

The second category consists of adherents of present-day society who have been frightened for its future by the evils to which it necessarily gives rise. What they want, therefore, is to maintain this society while getting rid of the evils which are an inherent part of it. To this end, some propose mere welfare measures while others come forward with grandiose systems of reform which under the pretence of reorganising society are in fact intended to preserve the foundations, and hence the life, of existing society. Communists must unremittingly struggle against these bourgeois socialists, because they work for the enemies of Communists and protect the society which Communists aim to overthrow.

Finally, the third category consists of democratic socialists who favour some of the same measures the Communists advocate, as described in question 18, not as part of the transition to Communism, however, but rather as measures which they believe will be sufficient to abolish the misery and the evils of present-day society. These democratic socialists are either proletarians who are not yet sufficiently clear about the conditions of the liberation of their class, or they are representatives of the petty bourgeoisie, a class which, prior to the achievement of democracy and the socialist measures to which it gives rise, has many interests in common with the proletariat. It follows that in moments of action the Communists will have to come to an understanding with these democratic Socialists, and in general to follow as far as possible a common policy with them, provided that these Socialists do not enter into the service of the ruling bourgeoisie and attack the Communists. It is clear that this form of co-operation in action does not exclude the discussion of differences.

From what I learned at College, there are a number of differences between Communism and Socialism, and there are a number of different forms of Socialism.
The main difference, which split the Socialist parties off from the Communists at the end of the 19th century, was over the question of whether a revolution was needed to bring about the power of the workers. Marx and Engels were part of the European revolutionary tradition, though they did not oppose fighting elections and in part of their writings looked forward to a peaceful transition to Socialism.

Reformist Socialists, such as Eduard Bernstein in the German Social Democrats, pointed out that instead of getting poorer as Marx and Engels had predicted, the European working class seemed to be becoming better off. He therefore recommended that the SPD should concentrate on fighting elections and promoting the interests of the workers that way, rather than on trying to bring down the system through revolution.

Communism also differs from Socialism generally in that it sees the essence of history as the struggle between succeeding classes. It sees the motor of history as being economic relationships, in which each classes creates in turn the class that eventually is destined to overthrow it. Thus feudalism and the rule of the aristocracy gave rise to bourgeois capitalism. This cleared away aristocratic rule and set about instituting democracy instead. The bourgeoisie in their turn created, through mechanisation and big business, the working class, who do not own the means of production, but merely work at the big machines owned by the factory masters. The working class are therefore the last class to be created by the process of Dialectal Materialism, and will overthrow the bourgeoisie and private property.

There’s also an exclusive emphasis on the role of the working class in the struggle to create a Socialist system. The working class are seen as the only genuinely progressive or revolutionary class, as opposed to the lower middle class or the peasants. This has been modified. For example, Mao based his revolution on the Chinese peasantry, and so significantly modified Marxism in this respect. As did the Russian revolutionaries, who brought about a Communist state in the Soviet Union, when most of the population were still peasants and the working class only constituted a small minority. Marx and Engels expected the first Socialist states to be in the industrialised nations of Western Europe, and were very doubtful about a Socialist revolution succeeding in the Russian Empire.

Marxists also believe in the transvaluation of values. That is, there is no objective, eternal set of moral values. Each society develops a system of morality appropriate for its time, based on the economic foundations of that society. Thus, while Marx is scathing about the exploitation of the poor, nowhere in his writing is there a moral condemnation of that exploitation.

His attitude is in marked contrast to other Socialists, who came to Socialism through religion and ethical considerations, such as some of the Fabians. Lenin and the Russian Communists were extremely sniffy about them, as Marxism considers that it gives an objective account of the origins of society and social change, in contrast to the subjective analysis based on morality of other forms of Socialism.

Communism also differs from other forms of Socialism in that it regards Socialism as merely a transitory period during which people will get so used to sharing, that eventually the state will wither away and something like anarchism will emerge instead.

Finally, Communism in practice has largely consisted in nearly total nationalisation and a one-party state, although China is now one of the major capitalist nations, and reforming, dissident Communists like Imre Nagy in Hungary and Anton Dubcek in Czechoslovakia, and also Mikhail Gorbachev, wished to replace the coercive Communist system of Stalinism with ‘Communism with a human face’, in which other parties would be permitted and the Communist party would have to fight elections like everyone else.

Labour’s Ernest Bevin and European Union

June 6, 2016

I’ve posted several pieces pointing out that the idea of a united Europe, or a European parliament, ultimately goes back to the Quaker William Penn in the 17th and 18th century philosophers and idealists, such as Immanuel Kant. In his essay, On Perpetual Peace, Kant advocated the creation of a federal European state as a way of preventing further European wars. The great Italian patriot and revolutionary, Mazzini, also believed in a federation of European nation states, dedicated to peace.

In the 20th century, one of the great advocates for European economic union in the Labour movement was Ernest Bevin. Bevin was one of the founders, with Harry Gosling, of the TGWU and the foreign minister in Atlee’s government after the War. At the TUC Congress in 1926, Bevin urged in the name of his union that a formal resolution should be passed

That notwithstanding the political divisions of Europe, this Congress instructs the General Council to further, through the international organisations, a policy having for its object the creation of a European public opinion in favour of Europe becoming an economic unity.
(Francis Williams, Ernest Bevin: Portrait of a Great Englishman (London: Hutchinson 1952, p. 149).

Bevin was a frequent visitor to the International Labour Office in Geneva, and helped to reform the International Transport Workers’ Federation after the War. His biographer, Francis Williams, considered that his experience of the profound economic links between workers in various countries right across Europe helped shape his internationalism and support for European economic union. Williams writes of his 1927 speech in favour of economic union for Europe

“Anyone who has had to follow the transport trades of the world”, he said, “realizes that while you may satisfy political ambitions by the establishment of boundaries the economic development of the world is often in total conflict with national aspirations. I recognise and my union recognises that national aspirations and national boundaries are bound to be a great handicap to us … but we also believe that if we are to develop nationally we have got to show our people unionism in terms of raw materials, in terms of harvests, cycles of trade and exchange…”

“We have,” he continued, “debated all this week as if Britain had no industrial problem to solve. But Britain has got a problem and it is no use attacking unemployment unless we try at least to make a contribution towards its solution and one of the complications throughout Europe has been the creation of a greater number of national boundaries as a result of the Versailles Treaty… The Labour Movement should carry on a great educational work in promoting the development of all forms of national culture even to the extent of political divisions and yet at the same time to inculcate the spirit of a United States of Europe on an economic basis… Cast your eye over Europe,” he went on, “with its millions of underfed, with its millions of people with a wretchedly low standard of living. We can have mass production, we can have intensified production, but we must, in order to absorb that mass production direct consuming power ot the millions of people in Europe whose standard of living is not far removed from the animal…. When we meet our international friends (let us) talk of the real problems of Europe in terms of materials, in terms of goods, in terms of the productive capacity of the peasantry, in terms of exchange, and drive along the line of endeavouring to create a feeling of interdependence between the production of the peasantry from the land of the craftsmanship of the workshop…”

Although in 1927 Bevin no doubt underestimated the political difficulties in the way of European Economic Union and was somewhat too facile in his belief in a United States of Europe this speech is interesting not only for its evidence of the widening of his own view of the duty of the trade unions but because the premises on which it was based remained all his life fundamental to his view of international affairs. They later deeply influenced his policy as Foreign Secretary, not least in his response some twenty years later to Mr. Marshall’s Harvard speech on European economic dislocation the full significance of which, as the Annual Register at the time commented, “was not realised on either side of the Atlantic” until Bevin “grasped with both hands” the opportunity it offered of American aid in initiating European co-operation and thus brought into being the Marshall Plan.

In 1927 he was thinking aloud, dreaming a little as he said because “to be a dreamer is sometimes necessary”, and his thoughts brought many angry responses from other delegates to the Congress. Some of them opposed him because they considered that it was the T.U.C.’s business to deal with practical matters and not waste its time on large visions of this kind, others because the idea of European union seemed to them to run counter to the old socialist ideal of an all-embracing international. To this latter argument Bevin replied belligerently that he was not less an internationalist because he was also a realist. It was fine to talk about a world-wide international. but that was far away. meanwhile trade barriers to Europe were keeping living standards low and big employers were developing cartels to safeguard their own interests at the expense of the community. His resolution was carried in the end by 2,258,000 votes to 1,464,000 although both the miners and the railwaymen opposed him. (pp. 151-2).

Williams also says of his idea for a united Europe that

In the past he had been preoccupied with the need to develop trade union power in order to establish a counter-weight to the organised power of employers. Now he saw the solution to many of the world’s economic problems in somewhat similar terms, preaching the need for Britain to develop, either through participation in an economic United States of Europe “spreading from the borders of Russia right to the borders of France”, or in a Commonwealth and European bloc or both, a counter-weight to the economic power of the United States and the potential economic power of Russia. (p. 153).

This was one of the reasons the EEC, the EU’s precursor was founded – so that through an economic union European trade and industry could compete with the US and Soviet blocs. Moreover, the Social Charter in the EU safeguards some basic workers’ rights, rights that are severely threatened by the Brexit campaign.

Libertarian Socialist Rants on the Top 10 US-backed Atrocities and Brutal Regimes

April 30, 2016

Libertarian Socialist Rants is an Anarchist vlog on Youtube. Why I don’t agree with his variety of Socialism, the Libertarian Socialist has made some excellent videos making extremely incisive points about capitalism, state-committed atrocities and the vile state of politics and individual politicians in this country. In the video below, he goes through a list of what he considers to be the top ten atrocities and most brutal regimes supported by America. These are, in reverse order:

10: Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam. This is interesting because it shows you what is rarely discussed, which is how awful the regime was against whom the Viet Cong were rebelling. And he’s fairly typical of many of the dictators on this list, with massive nepotism, brutal suppression of internal dissidents, including labour organisations, and persecution of Buddhists.

9. Agha Yahya Khan of Pakistan for his regime’s brutal war against Bangladesh.

8. The Shah of Iran.

7. Fulgencio Batista of Cuba, the dictator, who was overthrown by Castro.

6. Apartheid South Africa. This is also interesting for showing how far White South Africa was supported by Britain and a certain Margaret Thatcher, because it was a bulwark against the ANC, who were Communists. The pictures in this section show Thatcher stating that she wouldn’t impose sanctions, and the infamous right-wing song, ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’. Thatcher justified her refusal to impose sanctions by stating that the ANC were terrorists. However, what this video does not say, is that they were driven to terrorism only after repeated attempts to change the situation by legal means had failed. They started out in the 1950s by simply writing letters to the South African parliament urging change, the dismantlement of Apartheid and the enfranchisement of the Black population. It was only after these were repeatedly rejected, that they did what others do when the road of peaceful protest is closed to them, and turn to violence.

5. The Chilean coup which overthrew Salvador Allende and replaced him with General Pinochet. The video also shows how Thatcher’s favourite South American thug was supported by the economists of the Chicago school. These, explains, were all Chileans taught at the University of Chicago by Milton Friedman, the founder of Monetarism. When Pinochet came to power, Friedman paid the Nazi a visit to supervise the privatisation of Chile’s nationalised industries.

4. General Suharto of Indonesia, who massacred hundreds of thousands and committed crimes against humanity in a military crackdown against Communism. He received substantial support from the US, including Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Suharto then went on to invade East Timor, during the occupation of which 1/3 of the population were murdered. This part of the video shows a discomfited Clinton being asked about his support for Indonesia’s dictatorship by a gentleman of the press. Clinton comes towards the journo, repeatedly asking him when he’s going to get to the point. Slick Willy’s demeanour is smooth, but the hack clearly has got under his skin.

3. El Salvador. This starts off with the murder of the Roman Catholic Cardinal Oscar Romero, who committed the heinous and unforgivable crime of writing to the US authorities about what was being done to the people of this country by the Fascist dictatorship. This piece also includes accounts from the teenage kids, who were forcibly recruited into the regime’s death squads, and indoctrinated and brutalised using methods copied from the Nazis’ SS. None of this video is easy watching, but this section is particularly harrowing. Among other atrocities, the regime used to decapitate whole families, including babies.

2. Pol Pot in Cambodia. He’s on the list, because Kissinger helped them into power through a bombing campaign of the country. Intended to destroy Communism, it actually increased support. And once in power, the regime received covert assistance from the US and Britain.

1. Guatemala and the United Fruit Company. This describes the long history of the country’s domination by the American United Fruit Company, which was supported by various dictators. The UFC owned extensive banana plantations and had the concession of the entire east coast railway, forming a feudal ‘state within a state’. Liberal movements demanding reform, labour unions and pro-peasant organisations were banned and brutally attacked. And when Arbenz in the 1950s dared to extend the franchise and nationalised the UFC’s plantations, the American government organised a coup and overthrew him, all with the pretext that he was a Communist, who was going to turn Guatemala into a puppet state of the USSR to attack the US.

What I found particularly interesting in this segment was the piece from a US propaganda newsreel celebrating the coup with the headline title ‘Freedom Comes to Guatemala’. The announcers voice and accent are very much the same as that of the fake Internet newsreel messages in Paul Verhoeven’s 1990s version of Starship Troopers. Verhoeven grew up in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation, and the film is supposed to be a satire on militarism and Fascism, using as its vehicle the most militaristic of Heinlein’s SF books.

The section on Guatemala also covers the long war in the 1980s that was waged against the country’s indigenous peoples, and the brutalising effect this had on the country’s children.

And finally, there’s a section at the end where the Libertarian Socialist lists a few ‘honourable’ mentions. It’s so long that it has to be skimmed through at speed. He also quotes Team America: World Police, and concludes at the end that states and corporations are not moral actors and have colluding in committing the most appalling atrocities.

It’s a very, very good video, done pretty much in the style of Adam Curtis’ brilliant documentaries, but with the use of black humour in place of Curtis’ montage effects. Be aware, though, that this is a very grim piece. It describes the various tortures these regimes have inflicted on their opponents. As the standard warning goes, some viewers may find it upsetting.