« Pourquoi en ces temps insidieux le Nouveau Parti doit représenter une direction éduquée ouvertement socialiste » : tel est le titre de la tribune de nos camarades Kathrine Brannan et Henry Nowak, publiée mardi 12 novembre 2013 sur le site de Left Unity. Le 30 novembre se tiendra le Congrès fondateur de Left Unity, un nouveau parti « à gauche du Labour » en cours de création à l’appel du cinéaste Ken Loach, qui réunit actuellement 10 000 signataires et 1000 membres cotisants. En vue de ce congrès se sont constituées diverses plateformes, dont la Left Party Platform, majoritaire dans la direction provisoire et qui se réfère volontiers à Die Linke (Allemagne) et au Front de Gauche (France) et la Socialist Platform que soutiennent nos deux camarades. Dans un débat qui « s’endort un peu actuellement », constatent-ils à regret, nos camarades soutiennent la Socialist Platform (SP) et répondent ici à ce titre à John Penney qui, en tant que supporter de la Left Party Platform (LPP), recommande au nouveau parti de prendre un profil bas, pour éviter de faire peur à l’électeur avec des mots supposés « effrayants » comme le mot « socialisme ». Au contraire nos camarades recommandent de « refuser de faire le coup du cheval de Troyes, d’une « gauche révolutionnaire retranchée dans les entrailles d’un mouvement radical large » dans l’attente du « moment approprié » pour surgir telle Superman. « L’avantage des idées présentées par J. Penney est d’être claires et de permettre ainsi de développer une contre-argumentation et d’ouvrir le débat », soulignent Kathrine Brannan et Henry Nowak. (le texte est en anglais)
In treacherous times why the New Party has to represent an educated openly socialist leadership
Kathrine Brannan and Henry Nowak, supporters of the Socialist Platform,
present a case against attempting to hide a Marxist revolutionary identity
within a ‘broad radical movement.’
Let’s refuse the Trojan Horse trickery of a ‘revolutionary Left deeply embedded within the broad radical movement’ waiting for ‘the appropriate moment’ to bound forth like Superman.
The ideas put forward by J. Penney for moving towards socialism have the advantage of transparency, even if his ultimate aim (socialism) is to be hidden until the ‘appropriate moment’ when all will become clear, even for the masses. His argumentation is useful for building a counter argument and political debate.
We have to assume his ideas as to the howof socialist transformation is likely to be central to the approach of the Left Party Platform : JP supports this platform and we do not recall any supporters of the LPP criticizing or disowning this approach. Certainly we know of other comrades associated with the LP platform who are Marxist and call for revolution but not in the case of LU where they seem to wear another more ‘acceptable’ hat.
The LPP does not advance its strategy openly, but limits itself to ‘progressive attitudes’; ‘Socialist, feminist, environmentalist and against all forms of discrimination. We stand against capitalism, imperialism, war, racism, islamophobia and fascism. Our goal is to transform society: to achieve the full democratization of state and political institutions, society and the economy, by and for the people.’ We would be hard put to find thinking people who disagree with these attitudes and rather vague and pleasant wishes. John Penney’s outline of how we might travel to this pleasant land allows us to demonstrate why the active strategy behind the LPP wish list is flawed.
Moving on to the substance of the argument:
It is clear what strategy J. Penney wants us to follow. He outlines three possible scenarios:
The first is a mass mobilization against the “Great Austerity Offensive”, forcing the ruling class to make some concessions “as a demobilizing tactic”. This is where, contrary to what some advocate of a “this is too abstract to discuss here and now” position would say, a grasp of Marxist economics helps : the room for manoeuvre of the ruling class, their capacity to accede to the working class’s demand is very limited: their crumbs would not feed a sparrow.
Secondly, and this is an incredible statement, we “get a social crisis leading to (…) a 1973 Allende Chile outcome’ : is the comrade seriously proposing that we deliberately engage on a path possibly leading to what amounts to a mass suicide? Does he really want to send unprepared, unarmed masses of working people against the state apparatus of the ruling class, just to make a point?
The third possibility, if we avoid (how?) the second outcome, is one of ‘Dual Power’ and a ‘socialist transformational opportunity.’ This I like better. But wait a second… Dual Power, we know where this comes from. And, those who developed this theory state that without a revolutionary party, based on a socialist program and with deep roots in the working masses, ‘Dual Power’ will inevitably end up in a bloody defeat of the insurgents. The 1871 Paris Commune, the January 1919 Spartakus uprising are cases in point. So, back to point 2. Furthermore, can anyone explain how, in a party explicitly built on a refusal of socialist identity and program, would ‘the revolutionary Left (…) deeply embedded within the broad radical movement, drawing out the political lessons for the class as the struggle deepens and progresses, and AT THE APPROPRIATE MOMENT pushing for leadership of the mass movement as it reaches that crucial political crossroads of reform/collaboration or socialist transformation.’
This is sheer daydreaming. The whole history of the labour movement tells us what happens ‘at the appropriate moment’, when the revolutionary left hasn’t built its own party. Do the names of Noske, Scheidemann, Ebert ring a bell? Does the fate of the Spanish revolutionaries murdered by Stalin’s thugs awaken some vague memories? By what magic, would revolutionary socialists, under deep cover, suddenly emerge from their foxholes and mobilize on a program they have never acknowledged before? Again, this is not a political strategy, but a pipe dream.
Trotsky spoke about the relation of masses and party in the Preface to his History of the Russian Revolution: ‘only on the basis of a study of political processes in the masses themselves, can we understand the role of parties and leaders, whom we least of all are inclined to ignore. They constitute not an independent, but nevertheless a very important, element in the process. Without a guiding organization, 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.‘ The problem we face, today, is not that the masses reject revolutionary ideas; the problem is that the ‘steam’ is not there to move the ‘piston’. The sad reality is that the working class has been absent from the political scene for the past 30 years.
Where such steam did arise, such as in the mass strike that engulfed the French West Indies in 2009, guess who was leading the movement? Total “nutters” ( as some like to warn unhidden revolutionaries will be tarred by the public): the openly communist, revolutionary, Trotskyite members of Combat ouvrier (Lutte Ouvrière’s branch in the French Antilles) and of Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire. Similarly, the defensive, but partially successful strikes at Continental tyre factory, and more recently the Peugeot plant in Aulnay, were led by members or close sympathizers of a very “nutter” organization, Lutte ouvrière, with members of other “ultraleft” tendencies playing a role. The only ones rejecting them were the scabs and company thugs! Other examples abound.
Right now,in the UK, at least four major unions are planning imminent strikes in their sectors against wage freezes and austerity measures. Never has the onslaught against the working class and it dependents been so vicious. This has been particularly evident in the crushing defeat of Unite in the Grangemouth booby trap set by the owner, Ineos. Unite had told workers not to surrender and demanded nationalisation of the plant. Workers first rejected the bosses’ blackmail and bullying. But Unite general secretary Len McCluskey finally surrendered saying the union will accept the firm’s demands “warts and all”. The warts include a wage freeze for three years and a commitment to no strikes in that same period. Obviously, retreat in the face of blackmail will encourage every boss across Britain to use the same tactics. It will encourage further assaults on pay, pensions, jobs and union rights. How to turn the tide?
The worse form of defeat is a defeat without a fight. However, to win this fight you would have to take on not only the company but the forces of international capital and the Westminster and Holyrood governments, the capitalist media, all the political parties represented in both parliaments (with the possible exception of Respect and Galloway, the British and Scottish establishments, the TUC and STUC, the Unite leadership, and the British state. A daunting fight indeed. A strategy that could have won victory would have involved occupation of the site, the cutting of fuel supplies and an appeal to all rank and file workers in Britain and beyond for active solidarity all linked in to a call for the nationalization of oil and all the energy companies without compensation. Obviously such a fighting strategy does not have mass support at this time but without it we will just go down to more defeat
Surely this desperate situation points to the need for preparing, educating through agitation, reflection and debate an openly socialist and qualified party to lead, in the coming time.
Russel Brand is certainly not the Messiah of such a movement! However, the fact that his witty and irreverent humbling of that servant of the system, Jeremy Paxman went viral is indicative of a population, especially of young people, who are certainly not ‘put off’ by ‘revolution’ or ‘socialism’ in themselves. My young hairdresser had enthusiastically recorded the TV interview which, for those who insist on ‘simple language’ contained words like ‘failed paradigm’ and concepts like ‘tacit complicity’.
At the other end of the spectrum, Mr Saatchi (former chairman of the Conservative Party) warns his peers about the danger of underestimating ‘the power of socialism’. You can be sure that well funded research of popular opinion lies behind his unusual words, which are geared to stopping his colleagues making the mistake of branding Milliband a scary’ socialist’ as he points out this will scare no-one.
So why should we be scared?
Or should we not be more worried by the void left by our non-engagement with Marxist education and the taking on of leadership roles? In the ‘broad movement of the Left’ proposed by the LPP shall we, too, run with the crowds behind the one-sandaled madcap Russell, waving our shoes to the ‘Master’, now that we too have seen ‘The Sign’? (As in ‘The Life of Brian’)
If the popularity of calls to radically change the system is noted and welcomed, who will divert that shoe waving crowd as the New Messiah (and there will be others) exhorts them (eloquently) to ‘Revolt in whatever way we want, with the spontaneity of the London rioters, with the certainty and willingness to die of religious fundamentalists or with the twinkling mischief of the trickster’? (From an article ‘we no longer have the luxury of tradition’ Russell Brand 2013). There is no quick recipe for the building of a socialist movement but it is collective action by an increasingly organised working class that the ‘corrupt establishment’ fears more than the loquacious and sometimes dangerous ramblings of a licensed court jester.