None of us who marched on Feb 15 2003 will ever forget it

feb15-03-crowd2

None of us who marched on February 15 2003 will ever forget the feelings of hope, excitement, and human solidarity we experienced as part of the 15 million people who came out on this day all over the world, united in opposition to the then looming war in Iraq in an international day of protest that was and will likely remain unparalleled in history.

No doubt many of us still consider the weeks leading up to February 15 – weeks which comprised packed organizing meetings, the tireless leafleting of shopping malls, workplaces, and communities, street stalls and speeches, the making of placards, writing and sending out press releases, and various other activities associated with building the demonstration – as among the most important, meaningful, and vital we have ever had.

The thing that struck many of us most at the time, and likely still does ten years on, is how this once in a generation global antiwar movement rubbished completely the lie that humanity is divided along national, ethnic, religious, gender, or any other line. Indeed perhaps the most important achievement of this historic day was the affirmation that humanity knows no borders, nation, ethnicity, race, or religion, and that what unites us is far more powerful than anything that could possibly divide us.

Looking back now February 15 still represents a beacon of hope for what we can become. Yes, the war was unleashed regardless, and no one who was involved in the antiwar movement takes comfort from being able to say in hindsight that, in the inimitable words of George Galloway, everything we said was right and everything they said was wrong. We knew the war would be a disaster, certainly for the Iraqi people, but also for us living in the West. The polarization that occurred in our own societies – the rise and spread of Islamophobia and its inevitable response in the shape of the radicalisation of many young Muslims – was mirrored in the attacks on civil liberties and the deepening of social and economic injustice.

Imperialist wars abroad are waged from a foundation of social and economic injustice at home, and any Iraqi would have been justified in concluding that that the financial and economic crisis that engulfed the West a few years later was poetic justice for the monumental crime against humanity that ‘we’ unleashed on them back in 2003, a people whose only crime, despite the monument to lies which our leaders erected to justify the war, was that their country sits on a sea of oil in a region of the world whose importance to the outrageous greed and level of consumption in the West has long been self evident.

The injustice of a war unleashed on a tissue of lies has been compounded for many by the fact that its key architects, George Bush and Tony Blair, rather than being held accountable, have prospered in the years since. Bush now lives a life of comfort as an ex-President on his Crawford, Texas ranch, while Blair has enriched himself with a second career as an international speaker, adviser to various multinational corporations, and various other enterprises around the world.

Faith in conventional politics, manifesting in lower and lower voter turnouts, was shattered for many who marched on that historic day in 2003. In its place came cynicism – a cynicism that has never ceased. This particular casualty of the war is made more profound by the fact that leading up to the demonstration, and on the day itself, idealism and optimism succeeded in raising our expectations to new heights of possibility. Many of us believed it marked the beginning of something when in fact it marked the end of something. You might say we were naive, blinded by an irrational belief in the willingness of our leaders to respond to the collective moral suasion of millions of people around the world.

But then again, were we? Were we naive? Perhaps it is more the case that many of us were unable to comprehend that the determination of those in power to wage war had rendered them impervious to reason, their humanity blinded by the lust for conquest, which in the tradition of Orwellian language long mastered by imperialists and colonialists they claimed was liberation.

And what a liberation it proved. Up to a million dead, millions more maimed, traumatised and made refugees in both the war and ensuing occupation, one that unleashed a level of sectarian violence that will likely take generations to overcome – if ever at all. A country that once boasted the most advanced infrastructure in the Arab world was reduced to chaos and carnage. Ten years on it is still broken.

This was and is their notion of liberation.

Every one of the millions who took to the streets on February 15 2003 can take pride in the fact that they stood for a vision of peace and humanity over one of war and conquest.

The antiwar movement told the truth on that historic day. It is a truth that continues to resonate and will never die. The crimes of those who unleashed this war will follow them to the grave. However, before that day comes, they should also follow them into the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

It was Malcolm X who said that if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. On February 15 2003 15 million people stood for something that can never be denied, no matter how long it takes to achieve. That something is justice.

 

 

 

110 comments on “None of us who marched on Feb 15 2003 will ever forget it

  1. uncle albert on said:

    Thanks for a timely reminder of the the importance of this event, John. For myself, I count it as the most important political event of my life – there was such vitality and variety within the protest it seemed that a number of the old, well-worn conventions of the left had been superseded.

    At the time I was never entirely convinced by the “war for oil” explanation, thinking that if the West wanted the oil then Saddam would be sure to cut a deal. Chalmers Johnson (the distinguished U.S. patriot)* provided the answer: ‘when there’s so much money to be made out of war, we’re sure to see a lot more of it.’

    So, they had their war, got the oil and, as a very significant bonus, caused enough instability to produce regional insecurity, further wars and terrorism, thus justifying the transfer of $billions from public funds into the coffers of the military-industrial complex. Job done.

    * This piece by Johnson, titled ‘The War Business’ is worth a read:
    http://www.wesjones.com/business.htm

  2. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    A complete waste of time.
    After war started, I went on a smaller demo in a European capital city that still came close to putting the US embassy under siege, made up of both Muslim youth and the radical left, and the local police were squirting pepper gas into peoples’ faces in an attempt to break the resistance. This kind of protest was more effective than the huge masses of vicars, liberals and their hangers-on in London.

  3. Mark Victorystooge: After war started, I went on a smaller demo in a European capital city that still came close to putting the US embassy under siege, made up of both Muslim youth and the radical left, and the local police were squirting pepper gas into peoples’ faces in an attempt to break the resistance.

    ooooh, you are soo brave!

  4. Mark Victorystooge:
    A complete waste of time.
    After war started, I went on a smaller demo in a European capital city that still came close to putting the US embassy under siege, made up of both Muslim youth and the radical left, and the local police were squirting pepper gas into peoples’ faces in an attempt to break the resistance. This kind of protest was more effective than the huge masses of vicars, liberals and their hangers-on in London.

    Yes, and the evidence was that they succeeded in stopping the war?

    Gives a real buzz getting into a scrap with the pigs doesn’t it?

    A lot of Muslim youth on the march in London btw. Weren’t you there or. didn’t you notice them?

  5. The interesting thing about that demo was the diversity of the marchers. For the next fortnight I kept coming across people who had been there it was a genuine cross section of society. Often I was very suprised at who had chosen to march.

    Putting an embassy under siege seems very ambitious, now burning one down that can be done but siege strikes me as unrealistic, fantastical even.

  6. This war was never going to be stopped. With or without British participation, it was going to happen.

    If two or three members of Blair’s cabinet had resigned in the run-up it would likely have precipitated the political crisis needed to make it hard for Blair to join Bush in going ahead. They did not.

    Of those who did, Clare Short resigned too late and she will have to live with her own guilt as a result. The only minister at the time who did the right and honourable thing was Robin Cook, when he resigned three days before the bombs started falling.

    The atmosphere was more celebratory and hopeful than angry or violent on the day, I recall.

  7. Charles Dexter Ward on said:

    A beacon of defeat, and the point at which the Left disappeared up its own backside and became completely incapable to respond when the crisis of capitalism finally engulfed us. :-(

  8. the left failed to gain politically from this mass movement.

    respect was a retreat from socialist politics, but it did have some success of course. it hasn’t become a large party though, does not have many active branches, and is dominated by the figure of galloway.

    so where did it all go wrong?

    to stop imperialist wars we need to make it more dangerous for the ruling class at home, threaten mass actions, strikes, direct action, sabotage, refusal to serve etc. politically though it needs a mass anti-war left wing party that threatens to take power from them and threatens the whole capitalist system. unfortunately the mass movement never progressed beyond protest and onto a political or action front.

  9. jay:
    the left failed to gain politically from this mass movement.

    respect was a retreat from socialist politics…

    If by socialist polititics

  10. jay: to stop imperialist wars we need to make it more dangerous for the ruling class at home, threaten mass actions, strikes,

    Come on Jay the Left is in no position to deliver those things and everyone knows it.

    That march made a big impact on the British State had there been credible forces in existance it might have proved a catalyst for change but there were not.

    Even so it is hard to find ordinary people who think the the Iraq war was a good thing – the marchers won the battle for ideas.

    All the more puzzling then to find sections of the Left cheer leading the Libyan and Syrian adventures while the general public say don’t touch it with a bargepole.

  11. …you mean the ultra-leftism tradditionally pushed by most of the far left then for me that ‘retreat’ was entirely welcome.

  12. uncle albert on said:

    Mark Victorystooge: huge masses of vicars

    Don’t let that intimidate you or deter you from attending future protests – the police responded with customary firmness and prevented them from causing trouble.

    Interesting though is the potential for alliances between old style conservative patriots like Johnson and the new left. Of course, they’re not going to meet in a ‘left wing party’ that exhausts itself fantasising about ‘smashing capatitalism’ so a future anti-war movement needs to be alive to the value of networks that can facilitate broad and even unlikely co-operation.

  13. ‘Some campaigners also advocate trespass and sabotage of military equipment by a few people acting in secret. Their courage and sheer tenacity is undeniable, but only through a mass popular campaign that harnesses the millions who demonstrated in London last month and who feel revulsion about the idea of any attack on Iraq can we succeed.

    http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=8351

    SWP spot on!

  14. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    #13 Then why did you shrink rather than grow out of being the leading tendency in the Stop the War movement, and then go into a series of profound crises and splits that have lasted over 5 years and now seem utterly terminal, if you’ve got everything right? And would the surrent SWP even have done what the SWP of 10 years ago did do in building StW, given that the current leadership, the Professor Darkside-Comrade Delta tendency were always StW and, especially, RESPECT sceptics at the time???

  15. jack ford on said:

    You didn’t have to be left wing to be anti war. My Tory uncle was dead agaist it. My dad’s closest universtiy friend who is as right wing and Tory as they come was dead against it. If Ken Clarke had been Tory leader he would have opposed the war and made mincemeat of Blair over the despatch box and that might have made all the difference to the vote. The tragedy was that because of their anti European obsession the Tories chose that moron Duncan Smith as their leader at the time and he was a full on neocon.

    Utterly depressing. Nobody in the West will ever be punished for the slaughter of all those Iraqis and the likes of Blair will die very rich men.

    The war did cause immense damage to the stainding of the United States in the world and did great damage to the US economy as well as hugely strengthening Iran in the region. So it was not only a crime but a mistake.

    The West has made a lot of enemies in the Muslim world and when China overtakes the US as the leading superpower much of the Muslim world may happily join he Chinese camp.

  16. uncle albert on said:

    stuart: a mass popular campaign

    This is correct, vicars and all.

    I was active in the anti-cruise/CND movement in the early 80s, when Joan Ruddock and Bruce Kent were prominent figures. At that time, within a fifteen mile radius of the small town where I lived, there were six other branches as well as our own, some in villages with a population of hundreds, all holding regular meetings and operating with a measure of independence. A good number of young people from those groups went on to continue with other forms of activism.

    The breadth and depth of this network was neither renewed nor replicated following 2003 even though circumstances were just as, if not more, favourable.

  17. George Hallam on said:

    uncle albert: The breadth and depth of this network was neither renewed nor replicated following 2003 even though circumstances were just as, if not more, favourable.

    Explanations please.

  18. #17 I’m surprised you haven’t got a complaint about the title of the post, as clearly there are bound to be some people who were on the march who have since then developed various medical conditions that will have caused memory loss, rendering them incapable of recalling the events of that day.

    I’m disapointed with you for allowing this gross and sloppy inacuracy to pass without comment, and will be reporting you to the Pedants’ Society in no more than 2 and no less than 7 days.

  19. Charles Dexter Ward: A beacon of defeat, and the point at which the Left disappeared up its own backside and became completely incapable to respond when the crisis of capitalism finally engulfed u

    It is hard to know where to start with this kind of subjective nonsense.

    “A beacon of defeat”. There now exists in this country a many millions strong strata of opinion – way beyond the disparate legions of the left – that in various ways is deeply anti imperialist in its thinking.
    Given that the ruling class, at this stage in our history, relies more on its ideological hegemony than on the other resources at its disposal this is a major advance.

    “the Left disappeared up its own backside”
    Only if you define the left as the political equivalent of what the Reverend Doctor, my Presbyterian father-in-law calls ‘ranters in wee roadside huts’.
    If you define it as that vast and growing body of progressive opinion that is still seeking creative political representation we can see new potential rather than exhausted cynicism.

    “when the crisis of capitalism finally engulfed us”
    This crisis is deep, it is profound, it has new features (especially the diminution of US power, the inability of capitalism in western countries to offer concessions and the deeper erosion of social democratic illusions) but it is still some way away from the end of capitalism as we know it.

  20. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    #9/11 Quite right Vanya, “socialist politics” (which I, you, RESPECT and the Labour left all share) does not equal simply (a given sect’s version of) “revolutionary” Leninism…

  21. Marxist Lenonist,

    The purpose behind offering the quote was in the main ironic, the author being one A. Newman. For the best insight into the difficulties thereafter I strongly recommend the current Socialist Review article by Alex Callinicos.

  22. jay: the left failed to gain politically from this mass movement.

    Well, there wasn’t an organised and systematic break with the Labour Party, despite more than a third of Labour MPs voting against the government. What support fell away fell into apathy rather than resistance. Short of that split, the chances of a political gain were always going to be difficult. It was only Galloway’s expulsion that allowed what success we did have with growth to Labour’s left.

    Vanya: A lot of Muslim youth on the march in London btw. Weren’t you there or. didn’t you notice them?

    Some young guys from the Worker-communist Party of Iraq gave me a Mars bar.

    No point to make; just still makes me smile.

  23. I love the no 2 comment. Amongst other things “a smaller demo in a European capital city” rather than say where he actually was. Either he is making it all up or is worried that MI5 or Interpol might be after him. More football chants should be like that “Those were the days my friend, we took the end of a major club in the north-west” etc

  24. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    stuart,

    Oh I get it =) I must say though that standards have slipped in SR from Andy’s very interesting article about the military industrial complex (which I have now looked at, missed before!) and Callinicos’ authoritarian gibberish of late =)

  25. #24 Matty: a smaller demo in a European capital city” rather than say where he actually was.

    I noticed that as well.

    Btw for the record, which major club in the North West of England? If it was the one I suspect you may be refering to, can you outline the details of when the end was allegedly taken and when this incident allegedly took place? And most importantly, a clue as to the identity of the team whose fans are alleged to hav taken it?

  26. uncle albert,

    The early 80s saw the rise of the Labour left and the adopting of a unilateralist position in the Labour party. But it was only a matter of time before the party would shift rightwards, especially when we consider the impact of workers’ defeats. The lack of workers’ fightback would explain the problems the left has faced over the past decade.

  27. The thing is when politicians serve themselves and their egos instead of their people what we have is a dictatorship with intervals of democracy during elections.
    Blair believed it was the right thing to do for whatever reason, it would not have mattered how many marched against the war, he believed he was right, and still does!
    Which takes nothing away from millions of marchers who showed the foresight Blair was incapable of.

  28. Karl Stewart on said:

    stuart:
    Marxist Lenonist,
    For the best insight into the difficulties thereafter I strongly recommend the current Socialist Review article by Alex Callinicos.

    Is this the article in which Alex Calinicos “celebrates” the public televised lynching of an African man by a CIA-sponsored mob?

    Or is this the article where Alex Calinicos threatens to set “lynch mobs” on SWP members who disagree with him?

    Or is this the article in which Alex Calinicos defends the summary expulsions of SWP members for holding unauthorised conversations with each other?

  29. stuart: The early 80s saw the rise of the Labour left and the adopting of a unilateralist position in the Labour party. But it was only a matter of time before the party would shift rightwards, especially when we consider the impact of workers’ defeats. The lack of workers’ fightback would explain the problems the left has faced over the past decade.

    This is a very good example of the circularity of subjective thinking. At no point does this pocket analysis relate to what was happening in the economy, the uneven development of productive forces in both the capitalist and socialists economies or the economic and political effects of the arms race on the socialist economies.
    It makes no connection with the material factors – desindustrialisation, export of capital, shift to a greater reliance on finance capital – that changed the composition of the working class and its combat potential or the political orientation of the main party that workers vote for.
    Until a year or so ago the SWP seemed to be slowly backing off from those bits of its ‘tradition’ that more obviously than others do not fit with the changed world we live in.
    The leadership’s more recent claims to continuity with this living weight of dead tradition is a desperate sign of its lack of confidence in the the younger people who challenge them.
    It is not surprising that faced with a challenge to the increasingly sclerotic nature of its foundation theory its leadership has collapsed into a pastiche police state.

  30. stuart: Some campaigners also advocate trespass and sabotage of military equipment by a few people acting in secret. Their courage and sheer tenacity is undeniable, but only through a mass popular campaign that harnesses the millions who demonstrated in London last month and who feel revulsion about the idea of any attack on Iraq can we succeed.
    http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=8351

    Yes I was pleased with that article.

    Incidently, that was the only article I ever wrote for an SWP publication. It is revealling that only after I left the SWP did I develop as a political writer.

  31. Nick Wright,

    I’m glad you’re on my side, that’s all I can say. Your consistently outstanding analysis is a tribute to the communist tradition…:)

  32. Jellytot on said:

    @22I strongly recommend the current Socialist Review article by Alex Callinicos.

    So the Review is still controlled by the ‘Lord Acton’/’Delta’ faction?

    Wonder how long that’ll last?

  33. Andy Newman: ncidently, that was the only article I ever wrote for an SWP publication. It is revealling that only after I left the SWP did I develop as a political writer.

    ‘develop as a political writer’. Nothing like a bit of self agrandissement.

  34. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    #35 You might not agree with him (I usually do, but probably not quite as often as stuart agrees with Callinicos!), but you must admit that Andy is a prolific and sophisticated polemicist. It is indeed interesting that he has become one, in his 40s, only after leaving the SWP.

  35. Marxist Lenonist,

    I have to know. Why “Marxist Lenonist”? If it’s a play on Lenin/Lennon, why only the one ‘n’.

    I have an obsessive streak that can’t get past this. Help. Me. :)

  36. Marxist Lenonnist on said:

    Incidently, that was the only article I ever wrote for an SWP publication. It is revealling that only after I left the SWP did I develop as a political writer.

    Btw why do you think that is. I can guess two things right off; that the intellectual hothouse of the SWP inner circle remained closed to you as a potentially “unreliable” lay member, and/or that writing about the real world from a more broad left perspective has just proven easier and more enjoyable than fitting every analysis into a Cliffite theoretical straitjacket?

  37. Peter Hine on said:

    It goes to show, no matter how many people are out on the streets protesting,the Tory warmongers will always go to war.

  38. daneil young on said:

    Has it changed us,surly has. Get on a bus, public place always aware, who is that musky looking person, are they friendly one of us.Amazing how communication controlled can shift a huge mind set to its needs in not so many years.

  39. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Andy Newman: ooooh, you are soo brave!

    By the rather low, concealed recording device, transcript in a brown envelope British left standards, definitely. By standards obtaining elsewhere in the world, probably not. Ever been hit by a blast from a police water cannon, Newman? One of my own non-British memories of anti-Iraq war protests, and a salutary experience for anyone who has any remaining illusions in the state.

    I was on the Feb. 15 march in Brussels, and though smaller than the London one, it was noticeably more militant than descriptions of the London one suggest. My most abiding memory of it was youthful Arabs walking around in camouflage jackets with keffiyehs shrouding their faces, with a general Islamist militant video appearance. After the war actually broke out, these type of people were even more to the fore while the Belgian equivalent of the Grauniad reader slunk away – as of course they did in Britain too.

    The big failing of the London Feb. 15 was that very few participants were anti-imperialist. Such sentiments cannot be expected from vicars and liberals, and you cannot even count on it from
    people calling themselves Leninists, esp. in the last couple of years. Blair knew that anti-war feeling was broad but very shallow and that if he toughed it out most of these people would disappear or fall into line, as indeed happened.

  40. Marxist Lenonnist:

    I’m clearly less obsessive =( But sorted it now!

    Btw where does the name Manzil come from?

    You bloody did that deliberately didn’t you (Lenonnist not Lennonist)? Either that, or you didn’t notice and the Universe made you ‘correct’ it so it’s still wrong in order to spite me. :)

    Manzil just means ‘destination’ or goal. As my creepy stalker friend Prianikoff discovered, it’s used by various restaurants (and shops etc.) where I was living when I first started commenting here.

    At the time, I was studying a lot about the emergence of Muslim national sentiment in the Raj, and came across a Deobandi scholar from the Indian UP called Zakariya who collected a series of Koranic passages that his family used to ward off bad spirits – it’s called reading manzil – which I found quite amusing, as it seemed very ‘folk religion’ for such a serious guy (although he was a Sufi sheikh). Basically, I just liked it!

  41. Francisco Ascaso on said:

    Manzil: Manzil just means ‘destination’ or goal. As my creepy stalker friend Prianikoff discovered, it’s used by various restaurants (and shops etc.) where I was living when I first started commenting here.

    At the time, I was studying a lot about the emergence of Muslim national sentiment in the Raj, and came across a Deobandi scholar from the Indian UP called Zakariya who collected a series of Koranic passages that his family used to ward off bad spirits – it’s called reading manzil – which I found quite amusing, as it seemed very ‘folk religion’ for such a serious guy (although he was a Sufi sheikh). Basically, I just liked it!

    Ah. I’d sort of assumed it was a reference to the road in Oxford where the anti-cuts rallies and May Day marches usually start, and was becoming ever more confused by the references to Hampshire in your posts. But then we all know what assume does to u and me…

  42. Mark Victorystooge: The big failing of the London Feb. 15 was that very few participants were anti-imperialist.

    If imperialist wars could be stopped by that section of the population that is anti-imperialist before hand we would not have imperialist wars.
    And we would not have to engage those bothersome people who don’t yet agree with us on everything.

  43. Andy Newman: It is revealling that only after I left the SWP did I develop as a political writer.

    But from what I can see, nothing with any originality. It’s the same old story of someone using the written word to attack his former comrades and in so doing gaining approval from the right or if you prefer ‘mainstream’. At least some of us still hold true to our beliefs from February 15th 2003.

  44. stuart: A bit rich from someone who supports crushing workers’ councils in Hungary.

    Stuart, You forgot that Karl probably supports the crushing of workers councils at Kronstadt.

  45. Nick Wright:
    Until a year or so ago the SWP seemed to be slowly backing off from those bits of its ‘tradition’ that more obviously than others do not fit with the changed world we live in.

    Can you cite some examples of what you mean?

  46. Jellytot:

    So the Review is still controlled by the ‘Lord Acton’/’Delta’ faction?

    Wonder how long that’ll last?

    Why would it matter to you which faction gained the greater influence?

  47. Mark Victorystooge: Ever been hit by a blast from a police water cannon, Newman?

    What if he has, what if he hasn’t?

    How do we know if you have you ultra-left poseur?

    And what difference does being hit by a water cannon make to your illusions or otherwise in the state? The state’s the state whether it uses them or not.

    There’s far worse things than water cannon.

  48. Francisco Ascaso,

    That’s a much cooler explanation. I hadn’t thought about that. Let’s go with that as the explanation instead! Yah boo sucks to “reality”. (We have always been at war with Eurasia!) :)

  49. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Vanya: What if he has, what if he hasn’t?How do we know if you have you ultra-left poseur?And what difference does being hit by a water cannon make to your illusions or otherwise in the state? The state’s the state whether it uses them or not.There’s far worse things than water cannon.

    There are indeed far worse things. The British left, certainly on its current trajectory, will never experience them. I don’t know if Newman has such experience but I doubt it (unless it happened abroad, as in my case – use of water cannon is not, I understand, routine in the British Isles though they may have been used in the Troubles in Ireland). My personal experience is that you have to get out of the UK to come into serious conflict with the state, “ultra-left poseur” or not. Nothing particularly incendiary happens in the UK and the British left isn’t about to make it any different.

    Of course, you don’t know if it happened to me or not. Then again, you don’t know either that the fabled recording of the SWP disputes committee, eagerly snapped up and used by this site, was not the work of a cop or an MI5 agent, do you?

    This thread also sought things that people will never forget re the Iraq War. Well, a blast of high-pressure water that was strong enough to knock me off my feet was definitely memorable.

  50. ‘Then again, you don’t know either that the fabled recording of the SWP disputes committee, eagerly snapped up and used by this site, was not the work of a cop or an MI5 agent, do you?’

    No, but I don’t see what difference that would make.

    Either it was right to post it or it wasn’t.

    Many people could be state plants. I tend to suspect from the evidence of some of the violence during the miner’s strike and the Poll Tax struggle that people glorifying and encouraging giving it to the man are quite likely to be.

    Then again, the overwhelming majority of people involved in such violence were faced with having to defend themselves and their friends against the state, possibly a few vicars included.

  51. stuart,

    Ha ha ha. Got to love how silly trots are. It reminds me of when an AWL drone came up to me and accused me to be, presumably personally, responsible for ‘the Ukrainian famine’!

    Karl was talking about events in the here and now, changing the subject by bringing up an event that occurred decades ago is simply pathetic.

  52. stuart: But from what I can see, nothing with any originality.

    Hard to know what to make of that. Look at your theoretical journal the ISJ, there hasn’t been a new idea in it for 30 years!

  53. Mark Victorystooge: I was on the Feb. 15 march in Brussels, and though smaller than the London one, it was noticeably more militant than descriptions of the London one suggest.

    Did you stop the war?

    Mark Victorystooge: been hit by a blast from a police water cannon, Newman? One of my own non-British memories of anti-Iraq war protests, and a salutary experience for anyone who has any remaining illusions in the state.

    perhaps you should give up politics altogether and become a football hooligan, if fighting with the police is your thing

  54. Andy Newman: Hard to know what to make of that. Look at your theoretical journal the ISJ, there hasn’t been a new idea in it for 30 years!

    What about imperialism after the Cold War, work around neo-liberal economics or Islamism and how to relate to it?

  55. Andy Newman: perhaps you should give up politics altogether and become a football hooligan, if fighting with the police is your thing

    The best fight I ever got in with the Police was on Brighton beach before a Jam gig when I was 17. I was a cross between a mod and a skinhead at the time. But it was all very ecumenical- there were bikers, punks and casuals all joining in. The coppers must have had some champion fast bowlers in their team though because they were brilliant shots.

  56. stuart: Can you cite some examples of what you mean?

    The idea that the economies of the socialist countries could be characterised as a variant of capitalism and that the dismantling of these counties economies and political systems was a progressive, even revolutionary advance.

  57. Nick Wright: The idea that the economies of the socialist countries could be characterised as a variant of capitalism and that thedismantling of these counties economies and political systems was a progressive, even revolutionary advance.

    Who was ‘backing off’ (your claim from post 31) from the ‘variant of capitalism’ idea ? And who said that dismantling the (state directed) economy was progressive and even revolutionary?

  58. re 26 – It was a song I only heard once or twice in the late 70′s or early 80′s. To the tune of the song made famous by Mary Hopkin.
    “Those were the days my friend, we took the Stretford End, we took the Shed, the North Bank Highbury”. It kind of tickled me being as they were three of the most fearsome ends in the country and my team’s fans would haven’t attempted such a kamikaze mission in a million years. Holding our own against marauding visiting mobs from Chelsea and Man U was about our limit (I’m using the royal “our” here by the way, I was only 14, 15 at the time and soon grew out of an admiration for football hooligans).

  59. #67 Who was your team? Looks like you’re about my age. Sadly some of us never grow out of an obsession with that side of football.

    We had joy, we had fun…

  60. stuart: Who was ‘backing off’ (your claim from post 31) from the ‘variant of capitalism’ idea ? And who said that dismantling the (state directed) economy was progressive and even revolutionary?

    The SWP welcomed the dismantling of socialism in Europe. Look it up.
    Almost all the younger people in my acquaintance who are, or were , in the SWP orbit may increasingly less attention to the holy trinities of SWP. They have a strictly instrumental attitude to the organisation, hitherto seeing it as a useful framework for organising action and a network that seems to make sense at this stage in their lives.
    Interestingly, when, in discussion, the mysteries of State Cap theory, permanent arms economy (or even the serpentine course of the SWPs internal life) have come up they seem to think my interest in these questions is rather exotic.
    For instance, on the question of Cuba they are rather enthusiastically supportive – especially those who have been there.
    I know quite a lot of people of my generation (68ers) in and around the SWP. They are generally rather loyal to it but rarely bother to defend its distinctive ideological standpoints.
    Oddly enough, the Counterfire people – many of whom I rather admire for their practical politics and organisational skills – in theory ate least, seem more committed to the verities. Not that it makes much difference to their practice.
    So there you have it.
    An organisation with an ideology that makes sense to no one but those whose identity is bound up with it.

  61. #70 To be accurate Nick, the SWP welcomed enthusiastically the collapse of the states in Eastern Europe and of course the USSR, but when questioned about the transformation of the economy into private property, described this as a “step sideways”- ie something to be neutral about.

    Rather strange as they were opposing privatisation of the public sector in Britain at the time quite militantly.

  62. prianikoff on said:

    “Towards the United Front”
    John Riddell speaks on his new book on the Comintern’s 4th Congress, published by Haymarket Books
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VL_qK8_mxL8

    Synopsis:-

    1. Far from directing the congress, the Bolshevik leaders are divided. For example, regarding transitional demands, one Bolshevik leader, Karl Radek, sides with the German delegation against the Bolshevik reporter, Nikolai Bukharin. In the end the German position carries.

    2. On many issues, the congress concludes in a different spot than where it began. Thus Comintern president Gregory Zinoviev began by insisting that the term “workers’ government” was merely a synonym for soviet rule, but by the end, he had adopted a broader view.

    3. Often the decisive impulse came not from the Comintern executive but from front-line delegates. Here’s one instance. Fascism had just taken power in Italy. Opening reports to the congress praised the record of Italian Communists, who had rejected united action against Fascist attacks. But seven delegates from the floor called for a united front against fascism, and that position won acceptance just as the congress closed.

    4. Delegates argued not so much from doctrine or from the Bolshevik example as from their own experience. For example, the celebrated categorisation of forms of workers’ governments in the congress resolution was not exhaustive, as Zinoviev explained; it merely surveyed the forms expressed in political life at that moment.

    5. Sometimes, the congress is indecisive. Thus, regarding workers’ governments once again, it published, without explanation, no less than three different versions of its resolution.

    6. Key issues are left unresolved. Is the purpose of a united front to expose and discredit rival workers’ leaders or to join with them in constructive action? Both, one might say. But in the congress, some leaders emphasised one approach and some the other, while the resolution stuck to the middle of the road.

    7. On some issues, the Comintern was visibly conflicted. Consider the discussion on colonialism. Many delegates criticised chauvinist attitudes among communists in the imperialist countries. But in addition, no less than seven different delegates assailed the Fourth Congress itself for insufficient attention to the colonial question. They were backed up by a collective protest by thirteen delegations.

    8. In another conflicted area, the oppression of women, the congress accepted ambiguity. It pledged support to the Comintern’s network for work among women, which was defined as merely an area of work to be carried out by both women and men. Yet the women leaders habitually called these structures the “Communist Women’s Movement”, called their journal The Communist Women’s International and acted accordingly.

    9. The greatest gains recorded by the Congress took place in peripheral fields of work, such as sending material aid to Soviet Russia, defending political prisoners, campaigning for colonial liberation, organising revolutionary women and youth. All these fields that all relate to the Comintern’s task of winning broad social hegemony. It was here, not in its declared goal of revolutionary party building, that the Comintern scored its most enduring successes.

  63. Nick Wright,

    Your first sentence is plainly wrong in as much as the SWP did not see a ‘dismantling of socialism’. The SWP supported those who demanded better living standards and greater democracy but the drive to privatisation came from within the ruling groups, the SWP did not support those privatising factions or the actual measures.

    People may choose to support or join the party for different reasons initially however I cannot see how one can take on serious political arguments without recourse to state cap or permanent arms at some future point.

    My hunch is that you are trying to claim a level of support for your particular brand of politics in a round about way.

  64. re 68
    I grew up in Andover so it was Southampton for me (thanks to a brother who took me down to the Dell. I was lucky enough to start supporting them at the beginning of probably the best team they ever had. I’m guessing you are a Manchester United fan?

  65. stuart: Your first sentence is plainly wrong in as much as the SWP did not see a ‘dismantling of socialism’. The SWP supported those who demanded better living standards and greater democracy but the drive to privatisation came from within the ruling groups, the SWP did not support those privatising factions or the actual measures.

    People may choose to support or join the party for different reasons initially however I cannot see how one can take on serious political arguments without recourse to state cap or permanent arms at some future point.

    My hunch is that you are trying to claim a level of support for your particular brand of politics in a round about way.

    Let’s take this from the top.

    True, the SWP did not (does not) regard the countries of ‘actually existing socialism’ as socialist and thus it was (is) theoretically unable to account for the profundity of the changes that have taken place since these economies and regimes were dismantled.
    Politically, the SWP thought that this cataclysmic blow at the credibility of the communist movement would herald a new era for ‘left’ wing critics of actually disappearing socialism.
    Trotskyites of various persuasions have done a bit better in terms of their ideological and political coherence – since the dismantling of socialism – than the other two ideological tendencies that compete for working class support.
    Social democracy has departed so far from being a practical expression of working class interests that no one but the elderly and bookworms can recollect that at one time its pitch was to clai to be a more relaible way to socialism than revolution.
    Eurocommunism, in a far as it finds a political expression in the working class movement, similarly has no pretensions to a transformation in the relations of production and in Britain has vanished.
    Where the SWP has made a significant, and in some ways positive, contribution is in the practical realm of anti-imperialist and anti capitalist struggle.
    It has done this only by parking its traditional approach and by finding ways to work with allies.
    It seems to me that it was this departure from its ‘tradition’ that has produced first a political crisis in the organisation and splits in the old guard and more recently a break by the younger generation and a reversion to older, more sectarian traditions by the leadership.
    Be clear about this. There is a good number of talented and capable people in and around the SWP making a contribution to practical and theoretical work. As far as I can see, very little of this can be related to the essentials of either state cap or permanent arms economy theoretical postulates.
    Indeed, a criticism of the SWP is that it lacks a programmatic approach to winning working class state power or a compelling analysis of capitalism in the present era.
    It is certainly a first for me to be accused of trying a roundabout way to claim support for my politics. But just for the record, I dont think the present travails of ther SWP are a vindication for any other left wing trend. In fact, in a far as they impinge on popular understanding they reflect badly on all of us

  66. Nick Wright: Where the SWP has made a significant, and in some ways positive, contribution is in the practical realm of anti-imperialist and anti capitalist struggle.
    It has done this only by parking its traditional approach and by finding ways to work with allies.

    CORRECT

    Nick Wright: It seems to me that it was this departure from its ‘tradition’ that has produced first a political crisis in the organisation and splits in the old guard and more recently a break by the younger generation and a reversion to older, more sectarian traditions by the leadership.

    PROBABLY

    Nick Wright: Indeed, a criticism of the SWP is that it lacks a programmatic approach to winning working class state power or a compelling analysis of capitalism in the present era.

    BINGO

  67. Nick Wright,

    The collapse of the ‘communist’ states affected us all on the left, including the SWP (despite their particular critique) as people in general were able to conclude that ‘socialism doesn’t work’.

    The SWP has found it easy enough to analyse how traditional reformism has shifted rightwards and created space for a ‘radical reformism’, new left formations. This creates both opportunities for joint working but dangers also. Radical reformists are still reformists, so for example SYRIZA will talk left but would certainly make damaging compromises at crucial times.

    The SWP is not a substitute for the working class, our success is dependent on working class activity, on workers fighting against their own alienation. Any approach can not rely on the likes of Len McCluskey or the wider union bureaucracy. And you are wrong to say that we have not analysed capitalism sufficiently, we offer an explanation of crises drawing on the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, we have analysed the permanent debt economy which has resulted from labour being squeezed and the capitalist need to maintain demand, and we have unlike many on the left rejected alternative capitalist solutions based on Keynes- the working class will continue to be attacked either way, they can only gain through their own resistance.

  68. Marxist Lennonist on said:

    #45 “You bloody did that deliberately didn’t you (Lenonnist not Lennonist)? Either that, or you didn’t notice and the Universe made you ‘correct’ it so it’s still wrong in order to spite me”

    The latter =) I actually corrected it later but my argument with that guy who said the Iraqis really wanted to be bombed got deleted. Good name yourself btw =)

  69. #76 The suspicion that anyone who argues for socialism is advocating a system like the one that existed in the USSR certainly has mixed blessings to say the least, as does the suspicion that anyone who argues for socialism would run society the way the SWP leadership has been exposed as running their organisation.

    But the colapse of the USSR was a disaster not merely because it appeared to provide evidence to millions that socialism doesn’t work but also because however bad an example it may have been at various times in its history it WAS a society that was directed towards the creation of socialism and presented an actual alternative to capitalism.

    The SWP I started to think was changing in reality for the better (even if programatically they still were talking rubbish imo) at the time of the Afghan invasion, the Iraq war and the early days of Respect seemed to realise that. Now it seems to have vanished.

    The fact that on a superficial level state captialist theory may provide some ‘explanations’ does not mean that it is an accurate analysis of that society or its “satellites”.

    Of course there were many in the orthodox trot camp (including people I was in a common orgainsation with at the time) who had illusions that the collapse of those states could lead to a positive outcome, so I don’t blame the state cap theory outright for such a wrong analysis but it clearly doesn’t help.

    And you can talk as much as you like about the working class “gaining” through “resistance”, what is your “programmatic approach to winning working class state power”, to quote Nick? They certainly didn’t gain much through resistance in the USSR, Romania the DDR etc.

  70. Marxist Lennonist: we offer an explanation of crises drawing on the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, we have analysed the permanent debt economy which has resulted from labour being squeezed and the capitalist need to maintain demand,

    Stuart
    We have found common ground. Following the dismantling of socialism we all suffer from the perception that ‘socialism cannot work’. Although nowadays, we all benefit from the the perception that ‘capitalism does not work’ (and from the wisdom of the crowd in the countries that were formerly socialist that they used to have work.)
    Actually, you might find that far from workers having to rely on Len McClusky, that given the level of employer, ministerial and media hostility against him, it is more that he has to rely on workers.
    Offering an explanation of capitalist crisis drawing on the tendency of the rate of profit to fall is not quite as ground breaking as you seem to think. You might also find that it is not demand that capitalists need to maintain but rather profits.
    Indeed the Keynesian critique of government policy is precisely that it neglects demand.
    Perhaps you are an unconscious Keynesian.
    (Watch out, the professor is behind you)

  71. Marxist Lennonist on said:

    #79 Btw don’t know how you ended up quoting me, but I didn’t say that, looks more like a stuart quote to me…

  72. stuart: but the drive to privatisation came from within the ruling groups, the SWP did not support those privatising factions or the actual measures.

    Stuart, this is rather an important point that you have usefully highlighted.
    The imperative to change property law to allow for the accumulation of capital was the motor for the political changes that the forces spearheaded by Yeltsin desired.
    It took them some time and the transformation of public property into private property was a rough and ready process that combined fraud, speculation and rampant gangsterism.
    It is the very violence and extensive character of these procresses that rather undermines the idea that capitalist property relations already existed in the socialist countries.
    There is an extensive discussion in communist circles about how this came about.
    http://mltoday.com/subject-areas/books-arts-and-literature/review-socialism-betrayed-042.html

  73. stuart:
    Radical reformists are still reformists, so for example SYRIZA will talk left but would certainly make damaging compromises at crucial times.

    Politics not as the art of the possible, but as the art of the ideal.

  74. Feodor: Politics not as the art of the possible, but as the art of the ideal.

    Not even that: just politics as an oppositional self-affirmation.

    Presumably in Stuart’s view, “working class activity” must be utterly autonomous from public affairs – that is to say, powerless over them – right up until the moment it assumes supreme power. From rank and file to ruling class without a misstep. Which would rely on such a cataclysmic situation, to utterly destroy the power and culture of the elite and thus allow an usurpation by the pristine forces of the radical Left, that I don’t think any but the most hardened believers would wish for the SWP path to be realised.

    #81. I read Keeran and Kenny’s (excellent) book after hearing that the CPUSA had criticised them for ‘violating democratic centralism’ by giving a talk about it to the Canada CP! Small world.

  75. Manzil: “working class activity” must be utterly autonomous from public affairs – that is to say, powerless over them – right up until the moment it assumes supreme power. From rank and file to ruling class without a misstep. Which would rely on such a cataclysmic situation, to utterly destroy the power and culture of the elite and thus allow an usurpation by the pristine forces of the radical Left,

    Well put.

  76. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Sorry I have not commented on this thread earlier but I have been quite busy over the past few days preparing for and attending the stimulating and inspirational Socialist Party Scotland two day national conference in Glasgow.

    Unfortunately, I did not attend the magnificent demonstration on the 15 February 2003 because I was in Medway hospital after I received an infection in an operation wound, the removal of my coccyx, I had a few days beforehand; and only attended the smaller demonstration after the war was declared.

    Nevertheless I did receive rousing reports about it from people including Socialist Party members who had been there and who were involved in the Stop the War Coalition, STWC, as well. Nevertheless, the London demonstration represented a unique chance for those leading the movement to clearly call on those newly mobilised masses to come behind a new political movement: a movement that could offer an alternative to the neoliberalism and war offered by establishment politicians. Yet the demonstration speakers represented a mixture of British society – reflecting STWC ’popular front’ approach to building the war opposition.

    This meant that, despite objections from the Socialist Party members, the leadership of the STWC, strongly influenced by the SWP bulldozed the decision through the STWC steering committee to allow a platform to then Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy without any public criticisms of the fact the Lib Dems only opposed the war without a UN mandate. The leadership also refused to allow any speaker directly on behalf of a socialist organisation, denying the millions who marched a chance to hear a real alternative to war and capitalism. This undoubtedly helped to build up the Lib Dems’ ’radical’ image particularly among young people, helping to pave the way for the Con-Dem coalition!

    The Socialist Party at the time explained that the planned invasion was a war for oil and would leave Iraq and the world in a state of permanent instability if it was to be carried out and would do nothing to reduce the risk of terrorism. The Socialist Party explained in leaflets and articles as well as on the STWC that unless Blair’s rule, and the interests of the capitalist ruling class that he represents, are put at greater risk from a movement at home than they would be by not going to war, Blair will not be deflected from his path. The Socialist Party also explained that this meant action before the invasion took place, as well as after; building on the magnificent turnout on 15 February with mass civil disobedience, especially strike action, and seizing the time to build a mass political alternative, preferably in the form of a new mass workers’ party.

    I was told that the former Labour MP George Galloway had said in private discussions before the big day that he was going to use his speech to call for a new anti-war political alternative to be established. But on the day he pulled back and spoke more indirectly, denouncing Blair and Bush, but only warning in general of splits in the Labour Party if Blair went ahead in supporting the war, saying that he and others would reform the Labour Party on socialist principles. In the event George Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party in October 2003, at the time of Blair’s choosing, and that opportunity to launch an anti-capitalist mass party was lost. And yet with the belated formation of RESPECT, George Galloway, the SWP and others made fundamental programmatic and organisational mistakes, which prevented RESPECT from providing an effective political channel to the masses moving into action against the war and over other issues.

  77. Jimmy Haddow:
    Yet the demonstration speakers represented a mixture of British society – reflecting STWC ’popular front’ approach to building the war opposition.
    [...]
    and seizing the time to build a mass political alternative, preferably in the form of a new mass workers’ party.

    “Represented a mixture of British society” = BAD.

    “Build a mass political alternative” = GOOD.

    Do we not think there might be a bit of a contradiction here…

  78. Todor Zhivkov on said:

    Jimmy Haddow,

    I cant believe this post is written by a member of the Socialist Party – surely an agent provocateur deliberately making the SP membership appear to be thoroughly institutionalized cretins.

    ‘over the past few days preparing for and attending the stimulating and inspirational Socialist Party Scotland two day national conference’

    ‘Unfortunately, I did not attend the magnificent demonstration on the 15 February 2003 because I was in Medway hospital after I received an infection in an operation wound, the removal of my coccyx’

    ‘George Galloway, the SWP and others made fundamental programmatic and organisational mistakes, which prevented RESPECT from providing an effective political channel to the masses moving into action against the war and over other issues’

  79. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Post 88 what an incomprehensible contribution from an incomprehensible nom de plume. I suggest that you read the correspondences between the Socialist Party and the founders of RESPECT, link below before you put fingers to your keyboard and embarrass yourself. Once you have read the Socialist Party’s attitude to the founding of RESPECT then maybe, just maybe, you will have the cogitative ability to see why I said “And yet with the belated formation of RESPECT, George Galloway, the SWP and others made fundamental programmatic and organisational mistakes, which prevented RESPECT from providing an effective political channel to the masses moving into action against the war and over other issues.”

    Read the letters dated 17/12/2003, 16/1/2004 and the Socialist Party And The Respect Convention.
    http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/respect.htm

  80. #89 Your response merely reinforces the point being made, albeit I would caution against the use by TZ of language that denigrates people with mental health issues.

    Self-evidently you said what you said because that’s what the Socialist Party says, and clearly that will be availible somewhere online for us to read as well.

    But you give no indication that you have given any thought or consideration yourself to this, or that you believe it for any other reason than that’s what the party says.

    The fact that you throw in a personal fact about yourself to excuse your non-attendance on the demo doesn’t detract from that.

    Having said that, I’m genuinely sorry to read that you had to undergo such a painful procedure and I hope that you have fully recovered, as I know what problems with the spine can do.

  81. Jimmy Haddow,

    What do you feel about the Socialist Party’s analysis?

    The abstention from Respect seems to fall down to two main objections: 1. It did not have an explicit socialist programme. 2. It lacked an open democratic structure.

    On the first point, I don’t see why Respect was substantially different from the Socialist Alliance. The main difference between it and TUSC’s programme is on the issue of state control of the banks, but this is more of a disagreement in emphasis than fundamentals: nationalised banks in a capitalist state would not necessarily be more progressive than simply more tightly-regulated banks; it all depends on the political interests and social content represented by the regime carrying it out. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto nationalised the banks, after all, but it failed to dramatically restructure the class interests of the Pakistani state.

    Additionally the SP then specifically acknowledges that a retreat from a socialist programme may prove necessary to win trade-union support, which is also the line for its caution in TUSC. So it’s not even a red line for the SP, but a question of the exact context: why is the lack of an open call for a socialised economy unacceptable in Respect but not in the SP’s idea of a “new workers’ party”, when in both cases it is justified on the same basis: broadening support for the venture amongst non-socialist layers.

    On the second point, TUSC today has little serious democracy. The SP is at the forefront of ensuring that remains the case! People are not ‘ready’ for a membership organisation etc. Indeed in the letters above, democracy and federalism are consistently conflated, and at times it even looks like the SP’s main problem was not being automatically included as one of the original, federal pillars of Respect, rather than the lack of individual control over the policies and structure of the coalition. In the Socialist Alliance the objection was the adoption of an individual membership model; in Respect it appears to be the lack of such a model – or at least the exclusion of the SP from the existing structures.

    I don’t see the “fundamental programmatic and organisational mistakes” which would justify the SP’s approach to Respect at the time, but I’m curious what you think (rather than links to SP articles).

  82. Nick Wright: You might also find that it is not demand that capitalists need to maintain but rather profits.
    Indeed the Keynesian critique of government policy is precisely that it neglects demand.
    Perhaps you are an unconscious Keynesian.
    (Watch out, the professor is behind you)

    But demand would be a prerequisite for profitability, that is why some supporters of capitalism embrace Keynes. It is not the job of socialists to back one section when it comes to debates among capitalists.

  83. Nick Wright:
    The imperative to change property law to allow for the accumulation of capital was the motor for the political changes that the forces spearheaded by Yeltsin desired.

    But this was itself a response to an economic crisis that had long presented itself. Economic stagnation arose in the state owned economy. The pattern was effectively similar to that witnesed in the west a few years earlier, a shift from the post-war, more statified economies, to what we call neo-liberalism. That is how the SWP theorised it. A state capitalist phase lasting from the 1930s, in response to serious economic crisis, to the 1970s.

  84. stuart: It is not the job of socialists to back one section when it comes to debates among capitalists.

    Are you perhaps suggesting that socialists should also remain indifferent to whether or not the group of capitalists in office adopt policies that result in increased demand?

  85. Vanya:

    And you can talk as much as you like about the working class “gaining” through “resistance”, what is your “programmatic approach to winning working class state power”, to quote Nick?

    The SWP are rightly very wary of how ‘reformism’ can be so damaging. That’s not to say we don’t work in united fronts and place demands on reformist leaders. However we would be against joining so-called ‘workers governments’. I think this goes to the heart of some of the debate around Syriza in Greece.

    http://www.isj.org.uk/?id=295

    See also Barker (ed) ‘Revolutionary Rehearsals’- examines France, Chile, Portugal, Iran and Poland.

  86. Nick Wright: Are you perhaps suggesting that socialists should also remain indifferent to whether or not the group of capitalists in office adopt policies that result in increased demand?

    Sowing illusions in any group of capitalists is extremely dangerous.

  87. #95 So in other words you make demands of people that they do what you’re not prepared to put yourselves in a position to do.

  88. stuart: I think this goes to the heart of some of the debate around Syriza in Greece.

    You need to be clear about this Stuart.
    It is pretty clear that Syriza (or at least the people in the driving seat) do not envisage a decisive break with the rule of capital or of the main institutions that buttress capitalist relations of production and the system of international treaties and alliances.
    Undoubtedly they are sincere in their desire to reform aspects of the capitalist system as it affects Greece.
    The Greek Communists – if I understand their position correctly – see no possibility of advance for the working class without a decisive break.
    In this sense, like the Communist Party in Britain, they have a programmatic approach to working class state power while Syriza does not.
    It is not ‘reformism’ if by that you mean ‘fighting for reforms’ that is so damaging but thinking that either this is enough in itself or that it would lead to socialism. Which raises the question, what is the SWP’s conception of the stages, or the processes, that we need to go through in order to win working class power in our country?

  89. stuart: Sowing illusions in any group of capitalists is extremely dangerous.

    Does this mean that it is too dangerous to call for say, increased pensions, or wages rises for fear of sowing illusions that the government, or the employers might grant them?
    Should we be indifferent to whether or not, in present conditions, government policies increase demand.

  90. Todor Zhivkov on said:

    Vanya,

    ‘SP membership appear to be thoroughly institutionalized cretins’

    just to be clear Vanya I meant institutionalized in the sense of an institution (e.g the SP) not mental institutions. Agree with you using mental illness or mental health services to denigrate political opponents is deeply offensive on more than one level.

    Back to the point. What is damaging and a particular feature of the left in england, is the way people appropriate an ideology trotskyism, stalinism, Maoism…whatever..and turn it into their religion, and the organist there attached to a substitute for the real world. Jimmys emails are infuriating not so much for the content but the method – repeating willfully naive positions because he’s taught himself (or someone else has) to believe that the STW ‘popular front’ missed an opportunity to lead the masses politically. Wont elaborate but I dont remember 2003 begin a time pregnant with growth for revolutionary socialist organisations. There was mass resistance to imperialism, objectively or subjectively, across the political spectrum. STW was rather good at tapping into that feeling or resistance – so one despairs a little reading the analysis of those who willingly subscribe to the cult (of whatever political type).

  91. #100 Fair enough- I think the word cretin was part of the problem though.

    #99 Spot on.

    #98 My experience of the KKE is that their approach is very different to the CPB, even allowing for their respective sizes and the different political culture and situation.

  92. Todor Zhivkov: Agree with you using mental illness or mental health services to denigrate political opponents is deeply offensive on more than one level.

    and you don’t think the word “cretin” is offensive? And indeed also medicalises your political opponents?

  93. Yeah, best to be on the safe side and stick to respectable terms of personal abuse arising out of historical, scatological, blasphemous, animal, or sexual references.

  94. Todor Zhivkov on said:

    Andy Newman,

    Stupidity is not a medical condition. Cretin means stupid (or it can mean infirm) and is therefore a politically correct form of abuse IMO.

    “The term cretin was brought into medical use in the 18th century from an Alpine French dialect prevalent in a region where persons with such a condition were especially common. It was used widely as a medical term in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but in recent decades has spread more widely in popular English as a markedly derogatory term for a hopelessly stupid person. Because of its pejorative connotations in popular speech, the term has been largely abandoned by physicians and health care workers”.

  95. Nick Wright: Does this mean that it is too dangerous to call for say, increased pensions, or wages rises for fear of sowing illusions that the government, or the employers might grant them?
    Should we be indifferent to whether or not, in present conditions, government policies increase demand.

    Of course we should demand reforms and of course we should accept them but that’s not the point I’m making here. In granting reforms capitalists will be attempting to bind workers to their ideology, making them believe they have a stake in their system. But it is capitalism we are talking about here, no variant of capitalism is so superior that it can be more generous over the longer term. Yes fight for reforms but don’t cheer on a particular school of capitalism. Because the reforms are being granted under capitalism then by definition attacks on workers will follow in the not too distant future.

  96. Nick Wright:
    It is not ‘reformism’ if by that you mean ‘fighting for reforms’ that is so damaging but thinking that either this is enough in itself or that it would lead to socialism. Which raises the question, what is the SWP’s conception of the stages, or the processes, that we need to go through in order to win working class power in our country?

    The position of the SWP is that in any upsurge of discontent, reformists will naturally come to the fore and could well move to the left. However, they believe in the system and do not want to challenge the state. So for the SWP the crucial factor is having in place an alternative pole of attraction to reformism. Only then can we seriously think about workers’ states.

    What particular ‘programme’ do you have in mind for achieving workers’ power?

  97. stuart: making them believe they have a stake in their system

    Of course we have a stake in the system. It is the socio-economic system that we actually live in, that produces food, shelter, clothing, transport, healthcare, education, that reproduces our culture and provides the context for our intellectual life. Interestingly, it also provides a criminal justice system, which is the appropriate way to deal with complaints of, say, rape.

  98. Vanya:
    #95 So in other words you make demands of people that they do what you’re not prepared to put yourselves in a position to do.

    We cannot just wish reformism away. There will be reformists and they will behave like reformists whether we like it or not. Reformism is very much part of the capitalist system. The task is to win workers away from ‘reformism’ by working in united fronts (but maintaining our distinct identity), testing out reformist leaderships in practice. Only then can illusions be broken to any great extent.