SWP – What is Going On?

The SWP conference took place over the last weekend.

What happened is that the conference was very hostile to John Rees, and so it was clear that if he challenged the Central Committee’s slate for re-electing itself, and from which he had been omitted, then he would be humiliatingly defeated. So I understand he withdrew his challenge.

What then happened is that his closest political allies, Lindsey German and Chris Nineham also resigned from the CC slate.

There are a number of odd things about this. Firstly, if John Rees and Lindsey German were serious about the proposed campaign they were suggesting against the recession broadly along the lines of the Stop the War Coalition, then German and Nineham resigning from the CC means that they have no leverage to make it happen.

But it also means that all of the SWP members who are officers of the Stop the War Coalition have now left the SWP CC. This is at precisely the time when the Stop the War Coalition has revived its vital political relevance. It was apparent from Alex Callinicos’s contribution to the pre-conference bulletins that there was a reassessment of the importance of the STWC going on, but events seem to have overtaken that.

The SWP remain an important part of the political landscape with the capability to play a very positive role; and a proven track record in a number of campaigns. It has been extremely healthy that a debate has taken place, but it is hard for me to make any political sense at all of the resignations of Lindsey German and Chris Nineham, except as non-political solidarity with their friend.

It is very unclear what will happen next, and whether the relationship between Stop the War Coalition and the SWP will be affected.

380 comments on “SWP – What is Going On?

  1. anticapitalista on said:

    “What happened is that the conference was very hostile to John Rees, and so it was clear that if he challenged the Central Committee’s slate for re-electing itself, and from which he had been omitted then he would be humiliatingly defeated. So I understand he withdrew his challenge.”

    So how do you know Andy? Were you there? Who did you get this info from, a member who was there?

    “It is very unclear what will happen next, and whether the relationship between Stop the War Coalition and the SWP will be affected.”

    Why do you think this relationship will be affected? Seems to me from what the SWP has put into the latest demos for Palestine that nothing has changed at all.

  2. The information is accurate, it is not in my interests to discuss my sources.

    anticapitalista. No one doubts the commitment of the SWP to solidaroity with the palestinians, and building the anti-war movement. However, the longer term institutional relatonship between STWC and SW is clearly affected, as there is no officer of the STWC who is on the SWP CC. And JOhn Rees, Londsey german, and Chris Nineham are all officers of the STWC who have fallen from grace. It is a reasonable question based upon expereince of how the SWP works to wonder whetehr this will affect the relationship.

  3. The resignation of the three named individuals from the central leadership of the SWP is of no importance for the Stop The War Coalition given that the comrades remain under the discipline of the SWP. The relationship between the STWC and the SWP should then remain unaffected.

  4. Mike #4

    that would be the formal position.

    However, even if we set aside personal rivalries, etc, there is the question that the STWC now has no champion in the SWP CC.

  5. The information is correct. Discussions with several members of the SWP from a number of areas prior to the conference suggest that Rees is personally unpopular and held responsible by many comrades for the Respect fiasco. Which is true, of course, but does evade the need to confront the roots of the SWP descent in recent years into the mires of populism and electoralism that it rightly rejected from the late 1970’s.

  6. Surely Andy makes a valid point regarding STWC considering the way the SWP have dropped campaigns they seemed committed to in the past.

  7. Barry Kade on said:

    From this report the resignations seem very a-political indeed.

    If there were differences of perspectives – were they outlined? Were the membership presented with a clear choice of different perspectives? That would be a healthy debate indeed.

    What about all the pertinent criticisms of the Party’s internal regime that were voiced by prominent members before xmas and the Gaza slaughter?

    Did we get a democracy commission or anything?

    Or has the (inspiring and necessary) outburst of mass activism over Gaza energised comrades and changed the conference tone and agenda? One downside of this great wave of activism maybe that there will be no internal changes or work around a solution to the organisations long term pathologies.

    Doubt if it would be possible to have a proper conference anyway, given Saturday’s exciting events on the streets.

  8. anticap: please pause to think before leaping in. Anyone who has friends in the SWP can confirm this.

    As for whoever claimed the Gang of Three will act under the discipline of the CC – get real. A split is happening. Sooner rather than later in my view. The SWP CC must act to preserve StW.

  9. #8 “One downside of this great wave of activism maybe that there will be no internal changes or work around a solution to the organisations long term pathologies.”

    Yes, this is a very good point. I know that there was talk of the “discussion period” in the SWP being extended for a time after the conference. I think that Neil Davidson might have requested this. Was it raised, or agreed to, does anyone know?

  10. anticapitalista on said:

    #9 Look, I am not doubting what happened, but how come you seem to know more than SWP members who were at conference?

    Where is your evidence of a split? Gossip or real? If it is real, then just enlighten us all and save us wasting our time speculating.

    #4 Seems about right to me.

  11. 1. LG/CN lost the argument and thus resigned to avoid perpetuating a factional debate. They (and JR) stated that they will remain active members of the Party and want it to go forward with a united leadership.
    2. There is to be a democracy commission and a recall conference to discuss it when it reports.
    3. The SWP continues to see STW as an important part of its work (central at this moment) and as the vehicle for mobilizing on Gaza.

  12. Barry Kade on said:

    # 12 – snout – cheers.

    “There is to be a democracy commission and a recall conference to discuss it when it reports”.

    Sounds positive.

    See how it goes, then. Feeling a lot more positive towards the party…

  13. anticap: over the last year or more you’ve been in a position to judge what people write here against real events. There is every reason to believe that what I am saying is well sourced.

  14. I know the SWP has a ‘Rule or Ruin’ approach when it comes to working with other socialist groups but I didn’t realise it also applies this approach to its own internal politics!

    Just as you sow……….

  15. Irish Mark P on said:

    Either

    1) They’ve become convinced of their opponents arguments (which I suspect is unlikely), or

    2) It’s a kind of “King beyond the Gate” strategy.

    They give the majority faction their head. Resign from leadership positions so they can’t be accused of playing an obstructive role or of paralysing the leading bodies. Then, when, as they expect, the new united leadership fall on their collective arses and screw up, they can march in with their own proposals. Presumably they realise that German and Nineham can’t win any votes on the CC but will make convenient scapegoats for every setback. They don’t want to take responsibility for leading the party on the basis of a line and approach that they think is wrong, without having the power to significantly effect that line.

    It is, in the context of the SWP’s bizarre understanding of “democratic centralism” an entirely principled approach to take. The SWP don’t think that minorities should be represented on its leading bodies after all, because they think that a leadership should be united. And it’s facilitated by the decision to hold a recall conference, which will mean that the rules against minorities organising will either continue to be suspended or will be suspended again soon for a new pre-conference period.

  16. The term I should have used in relation to the conference is ‘special’ not ‘recall’ just in case that causes any confusion. This will be a one day event to be held no more than 6 months from now. There will be a pre-conference period with 2 IBs. The first IB will be the commission report itself plus submissions made to the commission. The second IB will be open to contributions from any member, as usual.

  17. Irish Mark P on said:

    Snout, thanks for the extra information.

    I don’t think that it changes my point at all though. Within the next three months, the rules against minorities organising will be suspended again.

  18. end of an era on said:

    “There will be a pre-conference period with 2 IBs. The first IB will be the commission report itself plus submissions made to the commission. The second IB will be open to contributions from any member, as usual.”

    So one less IB than a normal conference then? Mmm – feels like the wind of change a blowing through the party….

  19. Mark – interesting point. I would guess that the right to organize a temporary faction will be triggered by the publication of IB1 and hence that the period will be less than 3 months, maybe 2. I would also guess that for a one topic conference, any factions would only be permitted to organise around that topic. But I am not sure about this. Events can always muddy the waters.

  20. anticap: patience my dear rock of Salonika. All will be out soon. Just as it was on previous occasions that you commented here disbelieving others and issuing puerile challenges. Time for you to be clear. The narrative spun from August 2007 is shot through. This conference has opened up further retrospective questioning. The six month timetable for a special conference to discuss issues circumscribed by a commission is neither here nor there. You would have to be a totally wooden formalist to believe that things will develop along that timeline. No, things are moving much faster. Thankfully, there is sufficient an immediate upswing in part of the movement for the SWP to engage in and help clarify without the demoralisation that could attend dealing with getting things so terribly wrong under the Rees-German duumvirate (the triumvir’s seat was serially occupied by various people who have now plunged the knife and is now has Chris Nineham perched on it. I kind of picture him in Cultural Revolution pose – with a dunce’s cap in the corner.)

  21. Nas wrote in post #9, in reply to me good self like, “As for whoever claimed the Gang of Three will act under the discipline of the CC – get real. A split is happening. Sooner rather than later in my view. The SWP CC must act to preserve StW.”

    Nas I do not claim that Rees, German and Nineham act under the discipline of the SWP. rather I pointed out that as members of the SWP they are required to act in such a fashion. if they do not, and I have no knowledge as to their intentions, then assuming they are delegates of the SWP they can be recalled from their functions and subjected to appropriate disciplinery procedures.

    That as Andy wrote is the formal position. I have no idea what will happen in fact.

    What is certain is that there is no split in the SWP. Rees, German and Nineham have almost zero support in the SWP. Any potential supporters left last year and removed themselves from the ranks of revolutionary socialists. Some, I hope, will find their way back once Respect has finally collapsed. Most will not.

    More important by far is as to how far the SWP is able to reform its internal functioning and whether it can make a decisive turn to the class, as I believe a fair sized part of the group desires above all else. The fate of a few insignificant individuals currently holding office due to their former function in the SWP is of no account.

    Better get off and do some work dammit!

  22. snout: that makes sense. But if people start raising the argument that the degeneration of internal democracy has at least as much to do with failed perspectives and sectarian practice as it does with weak structures of accountability (read D Hallas), then it might be difficult to limit discussion to a pick ‘n’ mix of interlocking committees and an exhortation for members to be more actively democratically engaged.

    The critical moments are coming much sooner than whatever timetable the conference voted for. Forget about what the democracy commission might come up with. The key thing for the SWP (and the left as a whole) is can we get something dynamic and right out of the next two or three months following the Gaza events (still continuing). This will be make or break. Hence, don’t let the three fools monopolise StW. It’ll be bad all round.

    At the end of the day, snout, it’s your party. But that would be my friendly advice. I hope free of any rancour.

  23. Mike: I have been so disappointed by the SWP over the years – punctuated by flurries of hope. But one thing I am absolutely confident about: whatever travails they face, they would rather stab each other to death than descend into the Trotskyite cult paradigm that you have in mind. You will, Mike, remain in a very lonely place. I cannot see the SWP joining you in communing with ghosts and spirits.

  24. Nas

    We shall see. All I can say is that the post-conference vibe feels positive. On the STW point, I cannot imagine the 3 ex-CC members leading the Party’s STW work. I’m sure all will become clear on that point soon. I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments about Gaza and the left. On that note, comrade, I think I’ve written more than enough on this thread. Snout is out.

  25. can anyone say where the gang of three and supporters are likely to go after exiting the SWP ?

    rumours even CPB ??? is being considered

  26. christian h. on said:

    I see we interrupt important work for some regularly scheduled programming (a.k.a. “SWP kremlinology” as I like to think of it). Which is progress of a kind – it’s often the other way around on this blog…

    Andy, I really don’t understand what this discussion here is supposed to achieve. I can sort of understand debating leaked internal documents, although I don’t agree with it. But this is gossip. It may be accurate gossip, but that’s still what it is. In addition, then, we have mind-reading (about motives etc.), and of course the usual slobbering anticipation of SWP self-destruction.

    What for? Let’s say destroying the SWP is not your goal – then how does this help change the SWP for what you believe is the better? How does it help the StWC? I am baffled.

    Anyway, back to serious things. Keep up the good work on that front!

  27. christian h. – you don’t live hear or have to deal with the fallout of this which – thanks to German’s role in StW – will unfortunately not be confined to the SWP and already is not.

    Nothing I’ve said implies wanting to “destroy the SWP”, quite the opposite. Watch Rees over coming days and weeks, though. There is absolutely nothing he won’t stoop to.

  28. sean – don’t believe rumours. They are going nowhere near the CPB, which wouldn’t have them anyway. Rees is poison to everything he comes in contact with now. So – those with influence must stop him poisoning StW.

  29. Barry Kade on said:

    Problem is that a ‘one topic conference’ (as snout calls it) might partition the discussion. This risks transforming the discussion into a question of depoliticised organisational formulas. However, these questions of organisation are also related to questions of different strategy and perspectives.

    I have the impression (prove me wrong) that the Party has just sidestepped that strategic debate – the one which assesses and accounts for the Party’s key moves since 2000 towards building a broader formation (be it the S.A, the S.S.P, Respect, Left Alternative). What is the balance sheet? What are the strategic options the period offers? – a) Attempting to build a broad left formation (uniting revolutionaries and reformists) and forming the mass revolutionary leftwing pole of attraction within that – or b) continuing with the strategy of recruiting individuals to the stand alone autonomous political unit the IS/SWP has been ever since its departure form the labour party and subsequent centralisation at the end of the 1960’s.

    ‘a’ and ‘b’ above represent two ends of a spectrum of possibilities. But given the experience of the Party since it joined the Socialist Alliance in 2001, these strategic polarities and the various positions between them can form the basis of a debate.

    Having said that, whatever strategic option is chosen, certain organisational formulae can apply whatever.

    These are to do whatever increases the confidence of grassroots party members to take the initiative in leading the struggles of the class and the left, and also communicates the best forms to other branches and units. More space for horizontal communication between grassroots members would facilitate this. This is not a manifesto for negating the centre in favour of the network – rather that the two modes are complementary. In my experience, successful offensives involve the interaction of both modes.

    The IS centralised after 1968 in order to best fight a state centralised capitalist class, in Cliff’s words in order to create a ‘symmetry’. Ironically, 1968 is when the capitalist class began to discover the power of networks, beginning the shifts towards the globalising neoliberalism whereby they outmanoeuvred our class and won in the class struggle for the ensuing decades. (Of course they have not abandoned centres, but transformed them through their recombination alongside networks – which is what we should do – and have often done instinctively when at our best).

    This point is tragically ironic since it was the IS that was the most in tune with the transformational 1960’s zeitgeist, more than any other group or current on the left. The orthodox Trotskyist and Stalinist groups attacked the IS in the 60’s as ‘semi-anarchist’ and ‘libertarian’.

    So increase the spaces for horizontal communication between members and branches. Relocate the centre within the network. Catch up with what you already knew when you were young, back in the ’60’s, when you were really so much older then…

  30. Nas you made some comments above that I find exceedingly strange and silly.

    Comment 1 “The key thing for the SWP (and the left as a whole) is can we get something dynamic and right out of the next two or three months following the Gaza events (still continuing). This will be make or break.”

    The key thing, as always, is can the left develop roots in the workplaces and unions. That is to say can it develop a consistent and succesful orientation on the working classes. Sadly the colonial wars of imperialism come and go with horrid inevitability and even the largest demos cannot end such wars. But the working classes can and have.

    Comment 2 “I cannot see the SWP joining you in communing with ghosts and spirits.”

    Are you suggesting here that I engage in spiritualism? I’m an atheist for God’s sake!

  31. “as always” – indeed, Mike. Who needs to think when things are, as always? Keep watching the skies, Mike, keep watching. (Oh, and get a metaphor detector while your at it – you may even see them coming!)

  32. ‘Rees is poison to everything he comes into contact with.’ ‘There is absolutely nothing he won’t stoop to.’

    Blimey. I make from that he’s a kind of bending-downy insecticidey thing.

  33. In 2005 Respect were on the rise – and on the opposite side of the spectrum so were the BNP. Respect looked as if they could turn into a real force.

    Respect underwent a damaging split eighteen months back, which has affected its electoral rise. I thought they’d at least get an Assembly seat. The BNP underwent a similar split a year or so ago.

    When the BNP split happened, lots of BNP types were accusing each other of being State assets – MI5 people deliberately aiming at crippling BNP growth. This sort of chat multiplied when the membership list was leaked.

    Whether or not any of it’s true, I have no idea. I’m just intrigued by the fact that in all the comments over the last two years about the Respect disaster, I’ve never seen a single suggestion that ‘moles’ had anything to do with it.

    Is it just that the BNP are paranoid types by nature, or are the left not paranoid enough ? After all, an MI5 agent, Julia Pirie, was PA to the CPs General Secretary for 20 years.

    Or do the left think it a possibility, but accept that witch-hunts and accusations may do more harm than a mole can ?

    Just asking.

  34. optimistic Larry Nugent on said:

    Michael,32#
    face the facts Rees is a major problem for the SWP efforts to be seen as a “respected”ally to left unity whether it is within the trade unions or the progressive movement. He is soiled goods even with sections of his party. I have noticed that over the last two years on this blog not once have you and blog have toyed with the idea of accountability.Blimey! is that not in your vocabulary. Poet

  35. christian h. on said:

    Michael rightly ridiculed NAS’s quite unhinged outburst of hatred against a comrade. I’d tell Larry that accountability starts by looking in the mirror, but then that would be pointless.

  36. terryfitz on said:

    Interesting comment from Laban Tall. Historically informers are just that and have not been used to destabilise extremist parties. Roman Malinovsky was an Okhrana informer on the CC of the Bolsheviks for years and most likely Stalin was as well as the first thing he did after the revolution was to destroy his own file with the Okhrana.

    Very few meetings of the CC of the Communist Party took place without a security services informer being present but there is no evidence that they were able to or did destabilise the party. Moredamage was done by the revelations of disillusioned former members who were then denounced as Special Branch plants who had joined the party to wreck it.

    All extremist parties fall because of the environment that they exist in. The CP just became irrelevant to Britain from the fifties onwards and well before the collapse of the Soviet Union was a spent force because it had nothing to offer, it never of course did, just thought it did. Apparently from the early sixties the state began to scale down its penetration of the CP as it realised that it was a spent force.

    I would doubt very much if the SWP are regarded as much of a threat by the state. The left in general are pretty much irrelevant to life and politics in Britain now and in the forseeable future. Usually what happens when Labour party membership is falling as fast as the stock market is that the left picks up members, that isn’t happening. If you look at the mass turnouts for various things over the last few years, STW, climate change, opposition to the G8, airport extensions or whatever these are campaigns that the left are trailing along behind.

    Take any mass demonstration recently, subtract the numbers of people who are not paid up members of a far left group and you are left with a derisory number of people. What has happened is that instead of the left initiating it is following. Apart from STW there isn’t one campaign I can think of that the Leninist left control and even if Rees/German were kicked out or resigned it would continue because it has a life of its own and is in any event increasingly dominated by radical Islam.

    The state is far more worried abour radicalised Islamic youth than splinter groups that could hold their AGMs in a phone box. It is radical Islam and the radical right that takes up the time of SB and MI5. The right have always been well infiltrated by the state and organisations Like Searchlight and the Board of Deputies of British Jews. None of the high profile exposures of informers in the NF and the BNP actually had that much effect on the fortunes of those groups and their rise or fall has been determined by outside factors.

    The NF collapsed in 1979 because its vote had gone to the Tories after Thatcher made her speach about being swamped by alien cultures. The BNP has not been hurt by a whole series of outed informers, high profile court cases which they have sometimes won or the release of an outdated membership list.

    No amount of informers can stopan organisation or a movement that is on a roll and that is where the BNP are at at the moment unfortunately. I am afraid that the current turmoil in the SWP is due to the fact that it is an undemocratic, opportunist group based on Leninist lines of organisation which advocates a form of social organisation which has been proved to have been a massive failureresulting in the deaths of millions wherever it has been tried.

    Mind you, just because you’re paranoid doesn’tmean they’re not after you!

  37. Or do the left think it a possibility, but accept that witch-hunts and accusations may do more harm than a mole can ?

    Yes. The possibility of somebody prominent in the SWP being a mole has actually been raised on SU and discussed very briefly. Most of us agreed that, while it’s highly likely that the security service is running somebody inside every radical organisation with a membership larger than 2, it’s highly unlikely that we’d be able to identify them on the basis of their actions. That being the case, yes, hunt-the-mole is a waste of time at best, divisive and damaging at worst.

  38. christian h. and Michael Rosen: You’re going to have to get used to that assessment of Rees. If you think I am being unhinged, you ain’t heard nothing yet. What I’m saying is extremely mild compared with what delegates to the SWP’s conference are saying. And this is before the coming clash between him and the party over StW.

    People at the conference openly accused Rees of consipiring to undermine leading people on the left. Others said his behaviour was the reason why the SWP is being shunned by many others on the left. I know some people knee jerk when they read that and claim the SWP is doing just fine and dandy in networking. All I’d do is ask you to ask people who were at the conference.

  39. To answer Mike’s point.

    Rees, German and Nineham are not delegates from the SWP, they were elected to the national steering committee by Stop the War conference, and the steering committee then elected them as officers. So the SWP could not simply replace them from the leading bodies of STWC, even if the SWP wanted to.

    Effectively, the defeated minority of the SWP’s outgoing cc still have positions within STWC.

    A great deal of responsibility therefore lies with Andrew Murray, Andrew Burgin and others. Unfortunately Andrew Murray went out of his way in 2007 to say that he recognised no criticism of John Rees, and therefore may not be the most neutral character to broker a solution.

  40. Nick Wright on said:

    This is a dispririting thread. A return to a sectarian ‘party building’ style of work by the SWP would be a setback for the whole of the left. (As was the Respect split and ensuing squabbles.) Too many posts on this blog proceed from the assumption that a setback for one component of the left is a gain for the some other. Not so.
    The best interests of the working class as a whole are served by greater unity in action. This does not require anyone to surrender their ideological positions or abandon their history. It does entail, however, a more civilized discourse than is sometimes apparent. We all know who are the empty vessels, who are nothing but ‘virtual revolutionaries’.

    The SWP is not unimportant. It many places its activists provide an key resource that is not matched by others and a collapse into its earlier incarnation would be harmful to the movement as a whole.

    I don’t know much about the internal politics of the SWP but it is clear that over the last period, since it changed its position in relation to the imperialist war on Yugoslavia, that the SWP has moved away from its most sectarian period. This was a good thing.

    People report that John Rees is unpopular in his own organization and that he is being scapegoated for the Respect debacle. If that is the case it is unfair as his errors were no greater than others in this sorry episode. But we must speak as we find and in my experience, working in the anti war movement and more widely, I found his conduct exemplary and his style collegiate.

    I have no special insight but if he is carrying the can for the collective electoral errors of the SWP leadership then it may be because he is a formidable organizational force himself and will undoubtedly have troubled many of his comrades to behave in a way that subverts the sectarian impulse. Incidentally, at a recent Medway trades council meeting – on the perennial theme of a new workers party – he made some generous comments about unity with left Labour MPs, Respect and others that seemed to me to signal a broad generalisation of the lessons learnt in the anti war movement.

    There is a broader issue here that relates to the way in which disciplined organizations function in the broad movement. Since the SWP allowed its best militants to accept elected office in the unions it has had to deal with the consequences of the necessary compromises that such responsibilities entail. For example, in the CWU and in PCS comrades elected to high office have found themselves in agreement with their union colleagues over compromises but out of step with decisions taken by the SWP leadership. For some it has entailed humiliating reverses and others have joined the ‘party of ex SWP members’.

    It is a sign of political maturity when organizations begin to handle these questions in a grown up way rather than with the methods of the inquisition.

  41. Derrick R on said:

    As a non-aligned lefty, member of StW but no political party, somewhere between the far left and left-of-centre, I’m really depressed by all this. I am not a natural joiner, as I don’t like discipline. But in recent months I’ve been reading a great deal on the UK’s left parties, hoping to find one with which I had enough policy affinity, respect for organisational tactics and a chance to believe in. What I find, despite the title of this website, is total disunity, splits every year or two, careerism stronger than commitment to social justice, and playing into the hands of the right wing. Is it time to give up and join the Labour party (no, I can’t quite believe I’m saying this) on the grounds that they have larger numbers, get into power and are ever so slightly better than the official right wing? Serious question. Or put it another way: What is the matter with you people? Do you have any idea how many more would join if you were actually unified???

  42. I Kissed Karl Marx and I Liked It on said:

    “A return to a sectarian ‘party building’ style of work by the SWP would be a setback for the whole of the left”

    What astonishes me is that those people who have been the quickest to attack John Rees’ behaviour and fondness for fibbing in the past are also the fastest to buy the zany notion that the SWP is retreating from united front work in order to concentrate on “party building”. This notion has been deployed within the party as part of John & Co’s factionalising attempt to drum-up support for his re-election. It is ridiculous to assume, on the basis of damaging and unsubstantiated assertions from the former CC minority, that the SWP is about to retreat to a form of organisation that was used to maintain the internal cohesiveness of the party during the period of downturn and Thatcherism’s swingeing defeats upon the workers’ movement, when the neoliberal argument was won and decisively “endorsed” in a series of general election successes for the Tories.

  43. #35

    “In 2005 Respect were on the rise – and on the opposite side of the spectrum so were the BNP. Respect looked as if they could turn into a real force . . .”

    Laban,

    I really would dispute the claim that Respect could have turned into a real force back in 2005. Yes, Galloway was elected; Yes, there were areas in the country where they punched above their weight electorally but any suggestion that they could have been a breakthrough the length and breadth of the country strikes me as far fetched.

    Not being sectarian against the Respect Project (mark 1) for the sake of it. At the height they were always only a localised phenomenon.

  44. Anyone else note the irony of needing to be a Kremlinologist to understand what is going on in the SWP?

  45. swp member on said:

    Perhaps people could wait until SW comes out, ie about another 7 hours? There’ll be a conference report in there.

  46. Andy wrote in post #43 “Rees, German and Nineham are not delegates from the SWP, they were elected to the national steering committee by Stop the War conference, and the steering committee then elected them as officers. So the SWP could not simply replace them from the leading bodies of STWC, even if the SWP wanted to.”

    That then is the formal position and thainks for the clarification. Yet it strikes me that these comrades would not have been elected had they not been leading members of the SWP. The hnest thing for them now would be to consult the incoming CC of the SWP and resign from their positions in STWC or carry on as the groups leadership requires of them.

    Any other action on their part would illustrate a contempt for the democratic structures of both the SWP and the STWC. Not to mention the wider anti-war movement.

  47. Mike, they remain ‘leading members of the SWP’ just not ‘leading members of the SWP and CC members’ as they were when elected to STWC positions.

    It is certainly not the case that all SWPers in the top leaderships of the so-called United Fronts are always CCers.

    Of course, the incoming CC could ask them to step down and then put forward its own CC member replacements to be voted on by the STWC. That would look great, wouldn’t it. A fantastic advert for an SWP supposedly in the process of democratising itself and mending fences…

  48. optimistic mark anthony france on said:

    #52 Rob M… bit off topic…. thanks for lending me the tamworth megaphone for the bromsgrove respect mass lobby… [shame I only got to shout at 2 people]… things are looking up tho… check out
    http://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/4039219.Fighting_in_Gaza_must_stop__say_protesters/

    Am hoping to share a platform with Lindsey German at a Worcester Stop the War public meeting on 27th January… shall I go easy on her and the current ‘difficulties’ in the SWP or be a bit sarcastic??

  49. Inigo Montoya on said:

    #53 “Am hoping to share a platform with Lindsey German at a Worcester Stop the War public meeting on 27th January… shall I go easy on her and the current ‘difficulties’ in the SWP or be a bit sarcastic??”

    Maybe you could rhapsodise about the unity of the Respect rump and plug Harriet Harman’s appearance at Progressive London? Or just go all the way and circulate the Sun’s Baby P witch-hunt petition and be done with it. But I certainly wouldn’t attempt sarcasm, Mr France, you’ve made it blindingly obvious that you can barely string a sentence together, let alone indulge in a display of wit.

  50. swp member on said:

    ‘shall I go easy on her and the current ‘difficulties’ in the SWP or be a bit sarcastic??’

    I very much hope you’re joking. Anyone from any group that brings up such intra-left disputes in a united front meeting at the current (or any other) time needs shooting.

  51. Karl Stewart on said:

    *53 Best concentrate on building a united opposition to the ongoing barbaric slaughter of Palestinians.
    Second thoughts, maybe you shouldn’t be on the platform at all if you see this all as a joke – your “jokes” about Haringey social workers weren’t funny either.

  52. Karen Elliot on said:

    “Perhaps people could wait until SW comes out, ie about another 7 hours? There’ll be a conference report in there.”

    Sadly, I don’t think that the SW report will reflect the depth and seriousness of the debate: let’s just say that it will err on the side of under-reporting.

    I don’t think many of the ‘out of the loop / expat / just loopy’ SWP supporters here have really grasped the depth of opposition within the party to the minority (essentially, Rees, German) – perhaps because they only ever get to read SW? Rees is not being shuffled aside, he is being closed down – and about time.

    I argued here some weeks ago that German should be forced out with him, as she was no less responsible for the Respect debacle & other crimes, but it seems that she voluntarily walked the plank when she realised that fighting would only expose how little support the minority have in the party. As far as I understand it, Callinicos and Harman wanted her kept on the CC (speculation: not out of political solidarity but precisely in order to maintain some continuity wrt, eg., StW? Or perhaps they intuited that publically disciplining and sacking two long-standing CC members might be too much of a precedent. After all, as Lady Bracknell might have said, “To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two implies collective responsibility.”)

    The idea that the minority stood aside ‘in order to avoid obstructive factional fight’ is laughable – they’ll find one way or another to manoeuve and fight back, whether inside the party or otherwise. The sooner they disappear from the SWP leadership all together, the happier I will be. For instance, whether she’s on the CC or not, hasn’t German proved her inability to lead represent the party’s intervention in campaigns such as StW? Or does anyone in the SWP still trust her in that capacity?

    Some of us have been waiting over 15 years for this particular operation to be performed. What happened with Respect only finally exposed what kind of ‘leaders’ Rees and German are… but they’d been playing that game for a long time before – sadly, with Cliff’s support. I hope the current turmoil serves to clarify and correct the party’s politics, and in particular it’s theory and practice of leadership. Frankly, sicne the party has at last shown itself capable of taking them on, I’m toying with the idea of asking if I can rejoin. If only this had happened ten years ago.

    Finally, the idea that the minority represent an outward-looking perspective against the majority’s bunker mentality is thoroughly mistaken. The reason so many SWP cadre hate Rees & German is not because they brokered the alliance with Galloway, etc., but because they (entirely predictably, imho) fucked it up quite, er, ‘royally’ with their ultimatist, bullying, managerial style of leadership and their inability to work seriously, patiently with other people. They hadn’t the confidence to take real risks, so they tried to engineer every success in advance, by stitching it up – with the inevitable results. All they saw was the opportunity to project themselves onto a national stage, and they repeatedly acted not in the interests of the wider movement, and not even in the interests of the party, but only ever to defend their own standing and positions. What happened with the SA & Respect only exposed what some members had known for a long time.

    People here need to wake up – the SWP is making a serious effort to address its problems and refactor their tradition. Of course, many people here are not revolutionaries, or not revolutionaries in the post-Trotskyist mode, or whatever, but for those who are current events look like the first ray of light after a long, dark night. Whether the process succeeds is, obviously, the responsibility of those who contribute to it as members, but it would be foolish not to wish them success, and it is merely wishful thinking on the part of (some) Respect supporters here to cling to the notion that the SWP majority want a return to the bunker – any serious review of the debate would prove otherwise.

  53. optimistic mark anthony france on said:

    #57 Karl Stewart… yep I’ll think I’ll concentrate on building the united front as my attempts at stand up comedy seem to die a death!

  54. Karl Stewart on said:

    From conversations I’ve had with SWP friends of mine, I get the impression that these changes could represent a positive step forward, away from a top-down command and control type of organisation and in the direction of more internal democracy.
    If that’s true – and it’s only an impression I’ve got from outside – then that can only be a good thing for the SWP and for the left as a whole.

    (Maybe it’s a bit over-optimistic to hope that they can also correct their ludicrous rightist policy over the Unite/amicus GS election as well – or is that just wishful thinking?)

  55. What Karen said. The important thing about the Respect debacle in all this is not that we suddenly woke up to John ‘n’ Lindsey’s faults, but that they tried to apply their existing MO on a much bigger scale. With predictably disastrous results.

  56. David Ellis on said:

    `. . . and it is merely wishful thinking on the part of (some) Respect supporters here to cling to the notion that the SWP majority want a return to the bunker – any serious review of the debate would prove otherwise.’

    Karen: I would only say that if they really do want to come out to play then getting rid of Rees and German can only be the beginning of the process. Otherwise they will simply front up another member of the sect concerned only with the prestige of him/herself and the only legal faction in the party, the CC and its apparatus. There will need to be an indepth discussion on all the fundamentals from what is a united front, what is marxism, what are transitional demands, what is exemplary work, what is party democracy if they don’t want to fuck it, themselves and us up again. I think they are going to have to look right back into their post-War roots and question everything if something good is to emerge.

  57. Chris C on said:

    This isn’t quite true, is it Karen? A serious review of the debate demonstrates that the majority have been utterly complicit in this mystifying version of Leninism for much of their political lives and still believe it has virtue. A serious review would note that, for instance, Harman and Callinicos try to hide behind falsehoods about the Respect split (including shielding Smith, who knew more about the OFFU cheque than has ever been let on).

    They astonishingly claim that a Marxist organization can have ‘good formal democracy’ without noting the irony of such a comment from alleged dialecticians and then proceed to claim that they have held private misgivings about the state of democratic debate in the SWP without ever doing anything about it. What is truly amazing is the experience of rudeness and abusive behaviour at conferences, aggregates and branch meetings (not to mention private parties), which starts with many of the characters now wringing their hands. A lot of the very best fighters were lost to the party as a result of being crushed, smeared or subjected to ugly little whispering campaigns as well as the grandstand show trials of last year. For many, to be called names and even campaigned against by the party they believed in, is still an scar.

    The mistakes listed take us all the way back to 1989 at the least. After all, it has only taken 19 years for the SWP CC to admit mistakes over the anti-Poll Tax campaign in Scotland. How long before they admit there was no need to ‘resist Galloway’?

    Yes, your caution that it is a serious debate is thoroughly correct but re-read the documents before you rush to exonerate leaders who practice denial with such cowardice.

  58. actually the comment on formal democracy precisely notes its limitations. nothing undialectical about that.

  59. prianikoff on said:

    This piece, by Maziar Razi, from the “In Defence of Marxism” web site, seems to have more than a little relevance to the problems the SWP has got itself into lately, not to mention the future of Respect and the StWC :-

    Why Revolutionary Marxists should not support Islamic fundamentalists – Part One

    Tuesday, 13 January 2009 (extracts)

    “Those on the “left” who argue the need to support the Islamic fundamentalists, in general, and the IRI regime, in particular, fall into three categories. Firstly, there are confused so-called lefts (anarchists and radical petty bourgeois trends); Secondly, there are governments, that although in their own countries have carried out important radical reforms, such as Venezuela, or have even carried out radical social transformations, such as Cuba, have established diplomatic and economic ties with the IRI and Hezbollah seeking some kind of third front, an “anti-imperialist” alliance; Thirdly, there some so-called Trotskyists and their allies (e.g., the Socialist Workers Party “SWP” and Respect in Britain) who have a flawed analysis about Islamic fundamentalism.”

    “In 1994 Chris Harman wrote a lengthy document, The Prophet and the Proletariat, in which he attempted to defend a Marxist position on the question of Islamic fundamentalism. Harman explained that, “many of the individuals attracted to radical versions of Islamism can be influenced by socialists – provided socialists combine complete political independence from all forms of Islamism with a willingness to seize opportunities to draw individual Islamists into genuinely radical forms of struggle alongside them.” So far, so good….”

    “It was in that same document that Harman wrote an oft-quoted piece:
    “On some issues we will find ourselves on the same side as the Islamists against imperialism and the state. This was true, for instance, in many countries during the second Gulf War. It should be true in countries like France or Britain when it comes to combating racism. Where the Islamists are in opposition, our rule should be, ‘with the Islamists sometimes, with the state never’.”

    Here Harman was already on a slippery road to opportunism, for although at the time he attempted to maintain a more balanced approach, it clearly indicated the tendency that was to develop later, as he confused the “Islamists” with the people governed by the Islamists. It is one thing to be with the working people of Iran against imperialism, it is another to side with the regime itself. Instead, more and more, as time has gone by the SWP has in practice played down the reactionary nature of “Islamism”….”

    “….To the surprise of many socialists and Marxists in Iran who have witnessed severe censorship and even arrests and closure of their offices for publishing or translating any Marxist work ‑ and in a country that has the highest level of censorship and repression against intellectuals and students in the world(!) – many books written by the SWP leadership have received permission from the Vezarat-e Ershad and have been published by official publishers. The major books by Alex Callinicos that have been translated and published in Iran are: Social theory: historical introduction; Against Postmodernism: a Marxist critique; Marxism and the New Imperialism; Trotskyism, Marxism and Philosophy; The revolutionary ideas of Karl Marx, and An anti-Capitalist manifesto. Books by Chris Harman include: A people’s history of the world and Explaining the crisis: a Marxist re-appraisal. In addition, official reformist newspapers like Iran and Shargh have published many articles by these two gentlemen.

    What this reflects is the following. While in their articles the SWP leaders continue to pay lip service to the need for socialism, Marxism and so on, in practice they make a whole series of opportunist concessions to the Islamic fundamentalists. Having given such “critical” or “moral” support to the IRI, the least the Iranian regime can do is allow the publication of some of the SWP’s works! It is clear that the regime sees no problem in this kind of so-called “Trotskyist” grouping. Meanwhile many genuine militants continue to be arrested, harassed and victimised. ”

    [This article is based on the interventions of comrade Maziar Razi at the IMT World Congress, in Barcelona, August 2008. The article has been written for Marxist.com.]

    more here:-

    http://www.marxist.com/why-marxists-not-support-islamic-fundamentalists-1.htm

  60. I don’t see any relevence, and in addition think that Chris’s article is one of the most important pieces he ever wrote, and neccessary reading for activists today. The author doesn’t seem to realise that Marxists have supported many national liberation movements against imperialism which have killed Marxists. Nasser’s Eygpt for example. The real problem here is a history of exaggerated illusions in anti-imperialist nationalism not shared by the IS tradition.

  61. Karen Elliot on said:

    #63: Chris,

    “A serious review of the debate demonstrates that the majority have been utterly complicit”

    More accurately, it shows that they are somewhat responsible. ‘Utterly complicit’ implies something different. Party discipline, collective responsibility, etc., meant that they covered the minority’s back for too long. But not even in the most airy and fabulous of Bolshevik fantasy games is it argued that, eg., Lenin was ‘utterly complicit’ in every mistake the Bolsheviks ever made up until his death. In the real world people have conflicting loyalties, their options are constrained, etc. Sometimes, God forbid, they even make mistakes. Organisations have their own bureaucratic logic which can never be wholly subdued or eradicated. It is not a matter of achieving Bolshevik purity (urghh!) but of constant awareness, systematic distrust of the centre (even when you are sat in it) and a willingness to stick your neck out. And so on.

    The question is not whether the rest of the CC ‘went along’ with position or event X, Y or Z, but whether they have the politics and gumption ultimately to correct the ship once it’s gone off course. The fact that they didn’t do so immediately the problem emerged is not remarkable. The extent to which they were slow to act is a precise measure of their responsibility. But the fact that they have begun to do so now means that they are not ‘utterly complicit’, unless by ‘utterly’ you only mean ‘quite a bit’. imho Alex C & Chris Harman bear a special responsibility. If nothing else, they should know better.

    Some of the CC, on the other hand – namely those brought into the equation to provide a balance to Rees et al, seem to have been on the case for quite a while, even when they had to ‘carry the line’ (and if anyone reading this bumps into Martin Smith or Charlie Kimber in the next few days, feel free to buy them a pint from me.)

    In the (infamous) ‘real world’, life gets messy, and there is a danger that, from the outside, we are all holier and wiser than the best CC. The problem with seeing them all as as equally guilty, ‘utterly complicit’, etc., is that… well, what good will it do? I mean, what would you have done instead?

    “The mistakes listed take us all the way back to 1989 at the least”

    One factor here that has been little remarked upon is Cliff’s responsibility in all this. He was the one who started the Rees cult (with German’s prompting.) I think that the habit on the CC of simply putting up with Rees and German (and their like: there were plenty of others who accepted the mould, not least of all because it is easier to pose as a bolshevik disciplinarian than to act like a revolutionary militant) began in his lifetime.

    In short – a raft of mistakes have been made, and a deal of damage done, but your position only makes sense once it is agreed that “the party’s over”… and that is clearly not the case. At the moment, I’m ‘hopeful and borderline optimistic’. But let’s see.

  62. Karen Elliot on said:

    “The real problem here is a history of exaggerated illusions in anti-imperialist nationalism not shared by the IS tradition.”

    nicely put.

  63. Recently Former SWP on said:

    I just don’t accept this line that the Rees dumping is totally positive for SWP. I think there are a myriad of different things going on.

    1)Rees represented a more overtly authoritarian leadership style –> thus his defeat is good. However don’t be fooled into thinking that the majority are overly democrats who want to open up the party. Read the CC documents and you can see that their democratic leaning is only skin deep. (that’s not to say they might not now find it hard to put the genii back in the bottle!)

    2)On classical united founts like Stop the War Rees’s position is pretty much the same as the over CC’ers. They are al (thankfully) in favour of pushing out in this positive way. –> on this score his defeat his neutral.

    3)On this issue of building what we might call broader general political groupings Rees’ position is more positive then the CC majorities. Read through the preconferecne doc’s and you can see as much. Also take note of the fact that they are overseeing a fantasy return to SWP branch meeting every week if you doubt that they represent a RETURN TO PARTY BUILDING as the answer to the question “what kind of general political organisation do we need.” Yes Rees’ conception of United front of special kind failed to break from giving priority to the SWP but the majority crew represent giving even more priority to building SWP. –> On this count Rees’ defeat is negative.

    4) The sacking of Rees allows the majority CC to escape explanation of their crimes in the Respect split –> Rees’ sacking is bad.

    Lets just hope something positive comes out of the recall conference!

  64. Point 3 only works if you see some kind of trade off between building a revolutionary organisation and building united fronts. Its an entirely false opposition. Why would anyone bother to work with you if you didn’t have anything to deliver? Obviously in my case its my extraordinary charisma and plainspeaking, but as a general rule its not how things work. Comrades have to accept that the SWP is not dissolving itself and nor is it withdrawing from United Front work. On the contrary.

  65. Frank Williams on said:

    The problem is not the SWP but the whole concept of Leninism in todays modern age. Socialist startegies need to be rethought. The old debates about revolution versus reform are obsolete. When are people going to wake up to the reality that revolution is not going to take place in the West. And even if it did has the left not learned anything at all from 20th century history-the attempt to implement socialism from above usually after the violent seizure of power all too easily ends up in dictatorship. Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies for the left was the Russian Revolution and the whole Bolshevik/Leninist expereince. Socialists who still subscribe to this doctrine today do so out of blind faith rather than a proper analysis of objective conditions

  66. RobM wrote in post #52 “Of course, the incoming CC could ask them to step down and then put forward its own CC member replacements to be voted on by the STWC. That would look great, wouldn’t it. A fantastic advert for an SWP supposedly in the process of democratising itself and mending fences.”

    I see no problem in the SWP asking Rees, German and/or Nineham to step down if the group no longer has any confidence in them. Why would that negate the internal democracy of the group? In fact, in my view, it would make it clear to the wider anti-war movement that SWP comrades who form part of the STWC leadership are answerable to their party and were not elected as individuals. That is, after all, the basis on which the SWP put them forward in the first place.

  67. Prinkipo Exile on said:

    “Alex Callinicos introduced a session looking at the party’s handling of the 2007 split in Respect and the issues that this threw up regarding the SWP’s internal life.

    He started by restating that the “fundamental cause of the collapse of Respect was the shift to the right by George Galloway and his allies” and the way in which this brought them into conflict with the SWP.”

    Socialist Worker

    “shift to the right”? Presumably none of the 22 speakers mentioned that it was two councillor members of the SWP who joined the Tories and New Labour after the split with Galloway? And that it is Galloway who is leading solidarity with the Palestinians, while the Tower Hamlets councillors who supported the SWP’s ‘left’ opposition are now firmly ensconced in supporting New Labour (or the Tories)?

    BTW Were any of Nineham, German or Rees replaced on the CC to keep up the numbers? If so, who are the ‘new blood’?

  68. Karen wrote “One factor here that has been little remarked upon is Cliff’s responsibility in all this.”

    Curiously the role of Cliff has been remarked upon by John Molyneaux in his pre-conference article. That alone indicates that some senior members of the SWP are rethinking many received wisdoms that were previously off limit.

    What is almost never remarked upon is that workplace democracy and union democracy/participation has declined alongside that of IS/SWP. These facts are not unrelated given that IS was in its heyday the most workplace orientated of all the left groups.

  69. christian h. on said:

    Karen, I am touched by your concern for ex-pat, loony etc. defenders of the SWP. It is clear that you, for one, do care about revolutionary socialism (and, it seems, the IS tradition). Good for you, and socialism. You are, however, completely missing the point. That being that debating what amounts to gossip on this blog serves no purpose at all, with the possible exception of venting. I suggest a diary for that. If you think otherwise, it means at best you are suffering from delusions about the impact some guy on the internet will have on party debates.

    Let’s be clear: everything that’s debated here is hearsay, in fact, third-hand. Everything non-members can debate is hearsay, because they get to hear, inevitably, only a tiny fraction of the internal discussion from friends, former comrades etc. (and the, let’s say, bare-bones reporting in SW).

    It really baffles me how people can think that a responsibility the SWP (or SP or CP or whoever – of course other groups are never discussed here, presumably because they’re already perfect as they are) has to the working class manifests itself as a responsibility to random comrades running a blog, or commenting on one. To be honest, that borders on the delusional.

  70. johng: a well made point. You say, “Why would anyone bother to work with you if you didn’t have anything to deliver?” And that’s the Stop the War dilemma, is it not? Lindsey and John are no longer in a position to attend a CC meeting or phone up the organisers directly and push for a particular StW mobilisation. Andrew Murray could well be forgiven for asking the question that was once asked of Pius XII, “How many divisions does he have?”

  71. christian h: you’re seriously underestimating the impact of blog discussions on the way information has spread through the SWP. I don’t mean the influence of individual commentators, most of whom have a highly inflated view of their own importance. I mean the overall impact of the discussion.

    Again, I’d ask you to talk to serious people who were at the conference.

  72. red mole on said:

    #70 Rees is hostile to any democratisation within the party – it’s clear from his article that he didn’t want to have the Democracy commission. So the removal of Rees and German from the CC may be a useful cog in the wheel of change that enables the party to transform itself. At the very least, it can give encouragement to those who support real change in the party.

  73. christian h. on said:

    Nas, all right, I’ll take your word for it. I think you’ll agree though that there’s serious discussion – trying to move things forward (although obviously people have different views how), and then there’s, on this blog quite often so, childish SWP bashing. To dredge up but one example, I see no possible way long posts about the curling of lips of SWP/UAF activists can be helpful.

    As I stated in my first comment here, I can understand debating leaked internal documents – at least there’s something to discuss. In fact, I may agree those documents shouldn’t be internal in the first place. I still disagree with gossiping though. And guessing who hates whom in the party, or on the CC, is gossiping. It is as apolitical as one can get.

  74. Chris C on said:

    JohnG: Is not the SWP tradition and Lenin’s argument that one of the most important expressions of dialectical reality is the dynamic unity of theory and practice? So it is not the form that is to be analyzed but the relationship between the form and the content. So the SWP CC has just discovered its Homer Simpson moment and you have just joined them. D’oh!

  75. Recently Former SWP on said:

    Johng: Point 3 only works if you see some kind of trade off between building a revolutionary organisation and building united fronts.

    Firstly, you conflate the two issues I try and separate into points 2 and 3. This is I suppose because you don’t see any difference between building a single/small cluster issue campaign and building a broad general political organisation. Both in your view can be viewed as united founts, maybe you don’t even think you need the “of a special kind” bit any more?

    This I think is wrong for the following reasons:

    There are always trade off’s of some sort when we choose what we will do. It drove me mad when in the SWP I was sometimes told that we didn’t need to choose SWP building or Stop the War building (for example). Rather we should just do both and that they would feed into each other.

    It is true that to some extent (especially in the long run) that they do feed into each other. But as you sit on the sofa after a long day at work about to do a ring round you have to choose – do I push the StW meeting or do I push the SWP meeting? As you wonder if you can go to another meeting in one week and which to go to you have to think strategically.

    These are real choices and to pretend they aren’t is to suggest that there is an infinite pool of human resource.

    So much is true of a revolutionary party’s relationship with both united founts and general political organisations. But with the later it really steps up a gear. Questions arise such as; how do I split the monies I pay to the organisations? What public face do I put on when I campaign? Do I use the broad parties material when building for a strike or my revolutionaries parties material? Do I seek to have political discussions debates and luring within the broad party or primary within the revo’ party? How many placards of each group should be printed for a demonstration?

    These few examples, and many other things, show that there has to be some trade off – some give and take. You can’t have your cake and eat it!

    Neither Rees’ position nor that of the cc majority recognise this but at least Rees’ formulation of united front of a special kind takes more seriously the need for a broad political organisation, where as the majorities return to ‘once a week SWP branch meetings’ does not.

  76. Does anyone really give two **** about Rees German and Nineham They are egotistical overrated and very very dispensable

  77. Well am glad rees, german and the poodle have gone. They ruined trhe swp with banbery who changed sides! Trusting editor of SW, mm how long will he last?

  78. Karen Elliot said:
    “I’m toying with the idea of asking if I can rejoin.”
    From the rotten elements:
    If you go back in Karen, we’re going in with you comrade, we’re going in with you.

  79. David Ellis on said:

    `Let’s be clear: everything that’s debated here is hearsay, in fact, third-hand. Everything non-members can debate is hearsay, because they get to hear, inevitably, only a tiny fraction of the internal discussion from friends, former comrades etc. (and the, let’s say, bare-bones reporting in SW).’

    And that is true for ordinary members too and of course under these circumstances we can only speculate.

    I love the way Rees and German are being slagged off by SWP members as if they weren’t still members and supposedly comrades. There is a definite Stalinist whiff about all this.

    Karen, if you rejoin I’d say a month and you’d be redemoralised by the stifling apolitical atmosphere and a year before you are completely distraught by the `shock’ Mandy-like return of Rees and German to the CC after a year of `excellent work on our behalf in the StW movement’. I speculate that a deal has been done and a calculation made that they will pick up members from the Gaza emergency and will be able to afford not to cut the wage bill.

    As for the discussion on Respect at the conference. Lies and that tatty old narrative that GG was to blame shows that nothing whatsoever has been learned by anybody.

  80. 74, Mike- yes, the SWP have a right to ask Rees et al to step down from StW. But they do not then have a right to appoint on-message replacements to the StW steering committee without there being an election in which others might stand (and win).
    The internal democracy of the SWP is its own concern. Democracy within StW and other campaigns, is all our concerns.

  81. Post #89 “From the rotten elements: If you go back in Karen, we’re going in with you comrade, we’re going in with you.”

    No you are not. Or have you abandoned your allegiance to the cpgb?

  82. Post #90 “The internal democracy of the SWP is its own concern. Democracy within StW and other campaigns, is all our concerns.”

    The internal democracy of the SWP is , or should be, a concern for all advanced workers. It is, after all, their party.

    As for the STWC I’m not advocating that the SWP leadership have a right to appoint members to its leading committees. But the fact is that Rees et al are where they are as SWP representatives and not on their own, rather dubious, merits.

  83. Mike: “The internal democracy of the SWP is , or should be, a concern for all advanced workers. It is, after all, their party.”

    That’s truly hilarious.

  84. I’m pleased you have a sense of humour, Nas. 🙂

    No damned idea about socialism but a sense of humour is important. Be well.

  85. Recently Former SWP on said:

    # 86 Inigo Montoya – “So what’s your solution Recently Former SWP?”

    Not sure. Some suggestions that I do have would probably be thought to be scary ‘liquidation’ and there for inadmissible by most SWP members. What I think would help us all struggle towards a new paradigm is if the revolutionary left started by accepting that there does have to have some trade off.

  86. “There is a definite Stalinist whiff about all this”

    there was a debate and a vote…….whats stalinist about that. Each side had ample room to out thier positions etc. Frankly whatever the SWP does it will get slagged off here.

    By the way, what debate was had at the recent RR jamoboree….fuck all.

  87. optimistic mark anthony france on said:

    #97…ll… stop swearing…. I am an SWP ‘sympathiser’ and have felt sorry for SWP members for over 30 years… it was a lucky escape for me that I didn’t make the step of joining back in 1977 after a few weeks selling SW on the ramp in Birmingham.

    By the way… the RESPECT RENEWAL conference back in October was not the conference of a ‘democratic [sic] centralist’ marxist sect… but an open and vibrant expression of a new and better way of organising discussion. There are loads of differing perspectives and loads of people with vastly different histories of political engagement or activism. RESPECT conference is a completely different ‘kettle of fish’ than the recent SWP Conference.

    As a proud Englishman and Brummie… I am proud of what RESPECT under the Leadership of Salma Yaqoob is achieving in practice everyday…. I watch the decline and fall of the SWP with affection and a little saddness…

    It’s like bumping into an old friend in the street and realising they have fallen on hard times and become a lonely alcholic…. All we can do is empathise and try gently to signpost them towards a better healthier future.

  88. DuncandespisedRees on said:

    Rees on the CC for 15yrs,German for 20 yrs+,and they could garner no support at conference.How shallow these peoples politics are.How much more profound the politics of those who fight and those who fought for meaningful internal party democracy.

  89. Jonathan on said:

    DuncandespisedRees

    Careful mate. I’m not sure that naming yourself as someone you despise is very healthy. Try telling us what the left can do to save the world from crisis and barbarism instead.

  90. Sigmund Fraud on said:

    I venture that his username refers to D Hallas and his alleged despite for J Rees.

    On the issue of longstanding CCers having no support in the party, I am sure that JR and, especially, LG actually have quite a bit of support. The problem is, given the way the SW works, any comrades who find themselves a supporter of the Reesite heresy, noting that the wind is blowing against them, will keep their own counsel.

    Lets look at JJ/ LL- a suitable candidate for study- who spent most of the last year defending to the hilt ever utterance and every action of JR. I don’t know what is going on now in the poor guys head- perhaps he is still pro-Rees but keeping quiet. Perhaps he was always anti-Rees but only now, with so many other knives going into Rees’ back, does he feel emboldened to get out his pen-knife.
    It is impossible to tell. All that was solid has melted into air.

  91. Post #95 “I’ve actually got a job grooming Martin Smith’s pony so I bet I get in more quickly than you.”

    I’m pleased you are in gainful employment.

    Yet politically you have next to no relationship to the IS tradition so why bother?

  92. I’m afraid I’d drive you mad then Recently former SWP member! I completely accept that exactly HOW you pull this off is the real question (ie not generally with rounds of disconnected activities). On the question of the emergence of left electoral formations, I would re-iterate a point I made some time ago. The LRC took something like fifteen years before emerging as a one member one vote body. During that entire period seperate organisations of political and economic kinds took part mantaining their distinctive identities, operating under their own steam, whilst standing candidates under a national banner.

    Obviously I’m not recommending the LRC as an actual model. I would suggest though that it contains lessons. My feeling is that this is much more likely to be the shape of the process that leads to a national level alternative, then prematurely adopting party models before there is sufficiant agreement amongst those who nevertheless have an interest in working with each other. Some of the impetous for this comes from an over-obsession with the question of Leninism from ex-Leninists in my view, coupled with a belief that it is the Leninists that are the key problem. But experiance demonstrates that its not only Leninists who have problems moving beyond a coalitional model. A coalitional rather then partyist model is I think the likely trajectory. I should stress that this is just my own view of the likely development on this front.

    My other concern is that whilst there is no doubt that electoral work contains very different logics and commitments then does agitation around demonstrations, strikes and suchlike (points which have been made repeatedly, and I think pretty compellingly by members of Respect on these forums) I do not draw the conclusion that the left should chuck in all these activities in favour of the kinds of activities that lead to votes. Because for the left the whole point is to draw connections between these things. I think some of this was lost sight of on both sides of the split (I should stress not for invidious reasons, and I’m not suggesting that anyone doesn’t ‘care’ about these issues or anything like that).

  93. David Ellis on said:

    I see johng’s polished up the old waffle iron for the occasion of the SWP’s rebirth as the old SWP.

  94. there was a vigorous debate at the SWP conference and a vote
    compare that to RR… No debate on supporting new labour in scotland!! praising alistair darling, backing Livingstone, calling a break away demo from the anti racist carnival.
    The issue is not who is right or wrong on these issues but the fact there was no debate, GG is untouchable in RR and cannot be challenged.
    I see that ANdy thinks RR is on the verge of collapse and there is no discussion round this!!! to me this hardly points to a demcratic culture.

  95. The demo last sat..,. the presense of the left showed the balance the SWP was by far and awayt he biggest in terms of the non labour left. RR had next to nothing on that demo, SP very little presence. like it or not the SWP ain’t going away.

  96. slowmotion on said:

    I shudder when participants start alluding to the mental health of others, Mike.Fun though this may be what evidence is there that the often thuggish parody of democratic centralism as operated by the SWP was even identified? With Smith and Bambery in such pivotal positions a forensic examination of the various failings of Rees seems a rather irrelevant debate. This organisation has the turning circle of an oiltanker.

  97. Jonathan on said:

    Thanks for that clarification Sigmund (102), a piece of gossip that passed me by. Still a strange moniker in my view. Is there a ‘Hallasite’ faction on this blog? I invite DuncandespisedRees to explain the key principles of ‘Hallasism’ for our delectation. Perhaps this is the unifying theme ‘socialistunity’ has been looking for.

  98. David Ellis on said:

    II, don’t you realise that there is no RR anymore just Respect? Remember, Galloway the witch-hunter stole the name blah, blah, blah? Well either they did or they didn’t surely?

    I don’t get any sense of a lively debate from the reports in SW I must say. Somebody said there should be 18 on the democracy thingy and was rebuffed and that’s it I think.

  99. optimistic mark anthony france on said:

    105# ll…Doh!…Did you see the stuff on Telly about how crap Doncaster Social Services are?… did you catch the Huddersfield Case of another dead baby…
    If you live in the ‘underclass’ in England there are some parallels to your experience to those of the people in Gaza and to be quite frank… a significant layer of public sector bosses and some of their workers behave just like the Israeli’s…
    Every Palestinian child matters so does every english child… those who brutalise them or collaborate with brutality and those who ignore brutality…. deserve a punative response.. deserve sanctions until they stop.

    ll..Are you proud that REES was sacked??

    Is John Rees going to ‘appeal’ to an employment tribunal or is he afraid it will go badly for him just Like it did for Sharon Shoesmith the £110,000 a year head of Haringey Children’s Services… Who you wanted to stay in post.

    What are you proud of?

  100. The Daily Gossip on said:

    This time next year Rees and friends will be more powerful than you can possibly imagine. Bouyed by his position in StW and the Gaza massacre he will build a faction second to none. There’ll be more unemployed SWP CC members than you can shake a stick at when he makes his comeback.

    Or, outside of the distorting influences on an SWP CC members character and thought processes he might learn to think about how we achieve our ends and actually do a better job for StW and might even find his way back to Respect if he is prepared to show some contrition.

    Voce decide.

  101. Jonathan on said:

    TDG – upon what is JR going to build this faction? And, how is he going to displace the current CC and lead the SWP, now presumably led by him again, back to Respect? The poor man would have to combine the abilities of Machievelli, Moses and the phoenix to achieve all that. Could such a superman have been defenestrated in the first place?

  102. The Daily Gossip on said:

    Indeed, better then for him to forget about the SWP, show some contrition and re-join Respect. I think Galloway once said that Rees had saved him from the political wilderness. Perhaps now is the chance to reciprocate. If he simply reconquers the SWP he will not lead it back to Respect but use it as a personal fifedom. It is the culture you see. No, better to leave and explore other, more productive avenues.

  103. “If you live in the ‘underclass’ in England there are some parallels to your experience to those of the people in Gaza and to be quite frank… a significant layer of public sector bosses and some of their workers behave just like the Israeli’s…”

    so now workers in local govt are the same as the israeli army!! what on earth are you on.
    I wasn’t aware of social workers dropping bombs, starving people, using chemical weapons, shooting their clients.

    You are frankly a disgrace, and how you are on the national exec of Respect is beyond me. For gods sake, someone in your organisation should tell you to shut the fuck up.

  104. I wasn’t aware of social workers dropping bombs, starving people, using chemical weapons, shooting their clients.

    you obviously don’t live in south east London 🙂

  105. SWP member ll #116, might wish to reflect on the following statement: “For gods sake, someone in your organisation should tell you to shut the fuck up.”

    Perhaps it is time for ll to look in the mirror.

  106. My own take on these developments in the SWP is that they are unlikely to lead to a radical change in the way that the organisation operates in the wider movement. It is not that I don’t believe that what is happening now is unimportant – and I do really hope that it is just the first step in a longer process of “glasnost” in that party.

    However, my pessimism has to do with the fact that these changes are happening in a period where the working class is still very much on the defensive and recruitment to revolutionary groupings remains very modest (notwithstanding the current “Gaza influx”). In these circumstances, it will be much easier for experienced leaders of the SWP like Harman and Callinicos, and their supporters in the “apparatus”, to make some concessions to pressure within their party now (i.e. by conceding a democracy commission) while basically retaining the prevailing bureaucratic approach intact.

    We have to remember that the SWP has been a bureaucratic centralist organisation for about a quarter of a century and it is not just the CC that has operated this method. All the leading comrades, organisers and acolytes in the cities and regions have been trained in exactly the same manner too.

    I do hope that I am wrong about this. If there were significant layers of workers and students coming into the SWP now then I would be a bit more optimistic about things. Perhaps those comrades who have seen the internal bulletins will tell me that there is now a real groundswell of support for change in branches around the country. Even if there is, I do wonder whether they will have the necessary strength and influence to effect radical change within the party at this current time. Time will tell, I suppose.

  107. optimistic mark anthony france on said:

    #116…ll “For gods sake, someone in your organisation should tell you to shut the fuck up.”

    my sentiments towards you are similar however, I would never lower myself to express them in such a crude and hateful way.

    #118…Andy Newman… perhaps we shouldn’t encourage ll or any other SWP comrades to look to long into the mirror after all we must remember the cautionary tale of Narcissus, who was doomed to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water.

    Perhaps it is time that the ‘Party’ fell out of love with itself and matured so it can play a constructive role in the defence of all the oppressed in the future?

  108. #121 Unfortunately for you, Andy, MAF is one of Respect’s elected leadership, and to that extent can be taken as representative of Respect. Do you agree with his comparison between public sector workers and the IDF? And if not, could you have a word? I’m not a fan of ll’s style of argument, and I don’t thin he’s a particularly good advocate for the SWP. But given the choice between the two, I know who’d I’d rather have in the same party as me.

  109. “If you live in the ‘underclass’ in England there are some parallels to your experience to those of the people in Gaza and to be quite frank… a significant layer of public sector bosses and some of their workers behave just like the Israeli’s…”

    Mark Anthony France national exec member Respect

    enough said.

  110. I apologise for swearing but Andy to not respond to a parrallel between the Israeli army and social workers in the UK is strange. Lets say that statement was made in socialist worker or by a leading member of the SWP, do you honestly think you and others would not respond!!?? come on be honest.

  111. vladimir antonov-ovseenko on said:

    #104 – What wisdom johng displays with hindsight. He seems to be advocating the loose federal electoral body that the SWP first rejected in the Socialist Alliance, bringing about the departure of the Socialist Party, and then in Respect, where Rees sought to concentrate all power over the party structures and decision-making in his hands through the SWP’s majorities in small meetings of members. Fair enough, but I think johng should admit the error of his organisation’s past predilections in this regard.

    #108 – The triumphalist ll sounds increasingly desperate. He boasts about the enormity of the SWP at last Saturday’s demo. The enormous majority of people at that demo are not in the SWP, the SP or indeed, I would strongly suspect, any party. The majority were Muslim I would estimate, running perhaps to a figure as high as some 50,000 or 60,000 Muslims on the demo. For most of these people George Galloway is the most well-known and respected spokesperson in Britain for the people of Palestine, as his reception at the end of the march testifies.

    Sadly for the SWP and ll, the SWP leadership, including the new Central Committee, have given very serious insult to the Muslim community who respect and admire George Gallloway. This is not just the fact that the report in Socialist Worker on the SWP’s conference reports Callinicos repeating the absurd lie about how Galloway brought about the Respect split by his dash to the right, etc, or even more absurdly saying how right it was for them to contest elections in May as tyhe Left List, all of which suggests that the optimism being raised in some circles about the SWP’s renewal may be a little premature.

    It is even more the case that there remains outstanding the disgraceful and utterly ignorant insults from the SWP leadership to Muslims active in Respect, dismissing them as right-wing fundamentalists and communalists and associating people not even born in 1971 with so-called war criminals from the Bangladeshi war of independence. What an irony that SWP members acting as stewards for Stop the War had to march arm in arm with stewards from the Islamic Forum of Europe, the main target of these smears.

    It seems to me the SWP needs to do rather more than dump Rees and German, the main perpetrators of the attempted destruction of Respect, which itself was the most successful left of Labour electoral initiative since the second world war. Those who backed them up, and in particular Callinicos, Harman and Smith, all still have a lot of accounting and not a little apologising to do.

  112. Mark Anthony is a nice bloke with broadly good political instincts, who sometime takes political positions I disagree with, and sometimes says silly things in the heat of an argument that I think are misguided.

    I am happy to be in the same political organisation as him.

    I am surprised that chjh, a long term and respetced SWP member, is as happy to be in the same party as a bullying ultra-left sectarian like ll.

  113. vladimir antonov-ovseenko on said:

    #122 Clearley chjh does not understand how a democratic organisation that is not a “democratic centralist” organisation works. People can get elected on to national bodies in a democratic organisation who are not representative of the majority of the organisation or the organisation itself. Chjh’s assertion is about as sensible as saying that Liz Davies represented the Labour Party when she was on its NEC. She did not. She represented a section of the left of the Labour Party. It is even sadder that chjh suggests he prefers being in the same organisation as ll, given what a really rancid little sectarian the latter constantly shows himself to be.

  114. Ah, whenever I see ‘Mark Anthony’ written here I think of Enobarbus lying dead of shame for deserting his leader in a gilded puddle…
    Mike asks us:”have you abandoned your allegiance to the cpgb?”
    The answer Mike is, yes.
    He also asks: “Yet politically you have next to no relationship to the IS tradition so why bother?”
    Firstly, beacause we care. Fourthly, because it’s about time Bob Crow’s famous argument that you can’t play for 2 teams surfaced again within the British left. For that will lead to his ninth famous statement, that we should Nationalise the Fish & Chip Shops…Poor, poor Enobarbus!

  115. yeah well hindsite is a wonderful thing. I did in fact argue this on this blog quite some time ago, and of course, it partly reflected trying to grapple with the logic of the disaster of the Respect split and learn from it (I can remember having discussions with some about this even BEFORE the split, some of whom ended up on the other side). Thats generally the way with these things. But I’m responding to a very different argument which seeks to attack anyone who has more then one hat. I think this is likely to lead to nothing but headcolds as a perspective.

    Incidently I don’t think its helpful to think that when other groups of activists learn from experiance they will neccessarily draw the same conclusions as you, or on the other hand that failure to do so is the product of insufficiant self-criticism. If I drew identical conclusions to you guys I’d probably be in your organisation. And then where would we be? Eh? Eh? It ought to be possible to differ about these things. That, in many ways, is the point…

  116. “Mark Anthony is a nice bloke with broadly good political instincts, who sometime takes political positions I disagree with, and sometimes says silly things in the heat of an argument that I think are misguided” andy

    Andy I am not doubting Mark is a nice bloke.

    What I find strange is that a minor spat makes him say he thinks social workers are like the Israeli army. EG They are guilty of mass slaughter, bombs, torture etc etc. This is more than a bit silly Andy it is offensive. This is of course on the back of his demand alongside Murdoch for social workers to be sacked, that social workers are over paid and don’t work hard enough. That social workers are snorting cocaine!!! etc etc etc in short it sides with the rich and against the workers.. I know thats crude marxism but sometimes it is as simple as that.

    The fact that he is a leading member of Respect does reflect on that organisation. If this is the type of politics that informs its practice then sorry but you are right to say Respect is on the verge of collapse.

    Lastly I am not at all smug about the size of the SWP, and am aware of the composition of the demo etc. But sorry to say Mark appears to be living under an illusion that Respect has mass appeal and is heading for victory. Whilst the rest know the chances at the next election are a very long shot and then the question of the viability of Respect will be raised. This is what many Respect members are talking about except it seems Mark.

  117. #98 Karen,

    yes that’s true, I played the pony Coltrane’s Live in Japan and it shat all over Martin’s lawn in its distress.

    #103 Mike,

    not everything said on here’s in deadly earnest.

    If they let you back in I’ll buy you a very big drink.

  118. Inigo Montoya on said:

    Seriously, is it really worth getting in a lather about MAF being on the leadership of Respect? Galloway and Salma ARE the leadership, what they say goes! The rest of the space-fillers on the committee are just grist for the mill. Wrack can write all the right-on pieces he likes, but the position of Respect is that Darling has done well and just needs a to do a bit more. It’s true because Galloway says so! Who in the wider world has heard of Nick Wrack or ever will? The tyranny of structurelessness is as much a problem in an organisation with “formal” democracy but no accountability for the leadership as it is for autonomist groups as all you critics of the SWP should be well aware! Maybe you guys need a democracy commission too, we’ve got a nice motion you can borrow. Of course, Galloway ain’t going to abide by any commission or any demands for accountability from Thornett etc, so it’s a moot point.

    Saying that, I think Galloway and Salma have been excellent in their response to the Gaza crisis, as you’d expect, and wish them and their comrade all the best in building resistance to the Israeli attacks. But, when it comes down to it, Respect is going to be a bunch of ex-revolutionaries left out in the cold after Galloway loses his seat in the next election. If he has any sense at all he will stand again in Bethnal Green. Sure he made promises to step aside but circumstances have moved on. He’s not going to win Poplar and standing against the speaker is apolitical opportunism.

    Worrying about the idiotic ramblings of Mark…Anthony…France should be the least of anyone’s worries.

  119. vladimir antonov-ovseenko on said:

    #133 I really think it is a little too much chutzpah for SWP members to lecture others on democracy given the Rees/German dictatorship you lot have all put up with for the last fifteen years or more. This only came tumbling down because of the humiliation inflicted on the SWP by Respect and George Galloway surviving the SWP’s attempt to destroy both, and the self-inflicted humiliation of the Left List debacle. And why SWP members should console themselves that they are going to be so much better off than the rest of us after the next election, only their therapists can tell. Most of the SWP’s good work over 25 years has been tossed away over the last 18 months, as Martin Smith in effect acknowledged at the conference. And it really ain’t going to get much better if the perspective that comes out of this is as triumphalist and sectarian as the sad and bitter comrades Montoya, ll, etc seem to suggest.

  120. christian h. on said:

    Inigo is correct. The “pluralist” form of organization, as in Respect, is precisely designed to exclude any influence of the members on the elected representatives. Sure, they can say and write anything, but it doesn’t matter one bit. This is why democratic centralist organization, with all its drawbacks, is preferable.

  121. christian h. on said:

    The “triumphalism” and “sectarianism” is all in your head, vladimir. I’m happy to see you hate social workers, too. Maybe that’s what you mean by sectarianism: not agreeing they should be fired?

  122. Matthew on said:

    Ah this is all so silly. It’s a technially degenerating debate, but what can we expect? But checking back for France’s statement (and that was pretty tedious) it seems that the hyperbolic critics of his original (and stupid) hyperbole are actually defending social service bosses (and ‘some’ of ‘their’ workers)against his accusation by analogy. Enough already. The SWP has much to be proud of, why come across as obsessively petty gits?

  123. “Sure he made promises to step aside… opportunism.” Hmmm, think you’ve managed to get this entirely the wrong way round, Inigo.

    And don’t you think it’s a bit presumptuous for the Left Alternative side of the Respect split to be advising on electoral tactics. Think it best you calm down.

  124. Inigo Montoya on said:

    Whatever Nas, you’ll be laughing on the other side of your face when Respect disintegrates after returning no MPs. There was me giving you some sound advise on what to do, too! Who knows, maybe that firebrand Abjol Miah can sneak it and he can carry the red flag into the House of Commons.

    You or Vlad want to deal with the substantive points re: Respect’s utter lack of any practical democracy whatsoever? We’re dealing with our shortcomings, you can’t even bring yourself to recognise yours. As Jesus H. Christ once said, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you don’t see the beam in your own eye?”

  125. skidmarx on said:

    Because Respect Renewal has the politics of the popular front, making up for its decline in popularity with an awful lot of front.

  126. Whatever Nas, you’ll be laughing on the other side of your face when Respect disintegrates after returning no MPs.

    Inigo, if I may say so, I don’t agree with the position of Respect Renewal supporters here any more than you do, but it just doesn’t sit well for us, having had the disaster of the Left Alternative results in London, to sneer at a rival organisation for a failure that hasn’t yet come to pass. I agree that it is unlikely that Respect will have an MP after the next election, but this is not something we should be celebrating. If that is the trajectory, as I think it is, it means that the window for left-of-Labour electoral challenges is closing for the time being, and there’s nothing to cheer about that. If it isn’t the trajectory, then this preemptive cheering will look pretty silly. There are more important things to be doing than continuing with this ridiculous pissing contest between the online avatars of two factions of a former coalition.

  127. discokermit on said:

    #110. jonathan, “hallassism” isn’t a particular school of political thought, it’s a state of mind. and the ability to sleep almost all the way through a meeting, wake up and make the most incisive and relevant contribution of the day.

  128. The Daily Gossip on said:

    Respect is an infant in political terms but it consitsts of political adults. It does not let sectarians dictate to it. If Rees and Co were to leave the SWP they would, provided they repudiated all the bollox of the past period and apologised to Salma, George and Respect in general be welcomed in. Only idiots would turn away people in leading positions in StW. The NEC of Respect should offer to induct them forthwith. Of course, there is no money on offer as Respect rightly spends it all on trying to get working class representatives elected but Rees and German have a wealth of experinece in doing the wrong thing that they could share with the whole working class so that we can all move on.

  129. Post #132 “not everything said on here’s in deadly earnest.

    If they let you back in I’ll buy you a very big drink.”

    Er, yeah I know. But I would grass you up if you did attempt to join.

    Have I said I was thinking of rejoining? Mind I’ll have the drink. 🙂

  130. optimistic mark anthony france on said:

    #146 … TheDaily Gossip…I’ll have a chat with German when she comes to Worcester on the 27th… see if her and Rees fancy taking a step forwards into RESPECT… but I do feel that some sort of apology will be inorder… you know a maoist style self criticism.

  131. I’ve just read the articles in SW about their conference. I’m no historian of marxist parties, just an observer since birth, but honestly, without prejudice, can anyone here point to a specific occasion on which the public newspaper/journal of a marxist party has published a series of articles that describe who said what and when and why in as much detail. Note, I didn’t say that it was in ‘great detail’ merely ‘in as much detail’. So, this isn’t asking anyone if they agreed with what is written there, (or disagreed) but merely with the fact that it was published and so much of it.

    My experience of marxist groups/parties that have experienced internal rifts and factions along these lines is for the wire to go quiet and for the ‘truth’ to come out many years later when enough people have resigned/joined another outfit and ‘revealed all’ at that stage – as with my parents’ old friend Brian Pearce who died recently.

    By the way, I love the imagined encounter above of Rees, German and Nineham arriving on Respect’s doorstep and recanting, then being ‘inducted’. Last time I was inducted was in the Cubs in 1955. Would it be something like that?

  132. #150. No, you would have to write a document of recantation in your own blood. Also, you need to express your love for Satan in a ritual reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby.

    Not like the Cubs in 1955 at all.

  133. Michael Rosen: the Communist Party in 1984 and 1985. They held the big discussions in public, too.

    Sorry, but this just isn’t going to fly, Michael. Lot’s of us have time for the SWP and for many of its members. You do them no favours with this kind of drech.

  134. #150

    “can anyone here point to a specific occasion on which the public newspaper/journal of a marxist party has published a series of articles that describe who said what and when and why in as much detail. ”

    Certainly both Marxism Today and the Morning Star reported in much more detail the disputes in the CPGB during the 1980s, including publication of all conference bulletins and detailed discussions of what happened at conferences.

    You can find them in the Marxism Today on-line archive if you look.

    Or you can read the details of the disputes in the Sociaist party in almost obsessivley too much detail on their web-site – both the bust up with the Grantites, and the bust up with the Scottish comrades.

  135. MIchael : “Last time I was inducted was in the Cubs in 1955. ”

    genuine curiosity, as your familly were left wng, why were you in the Cubs and not Woodcraft Folk?

  136. 152, sorry it’s dreck (or drech) but if it’s such dreck (or drech) why have you only given one example. That would suggest, if nothing else, it’s rare! The 1984/5 example is interesting. There is one way of looking at that time in the CPGB as a direct continuation of Moscow-is-right policy because the CP’s new openess coincided extraordinary closely with Perestroika and Glasnost. The CP at that time could hardly be more closed than Gorbachev’s Central Committee, could it? This is not to contradict you but merely to point out that the new openess of 84/5 did not come about as a result of an internal self-examination. Did people resign from the CP’s Central committee at that time? Was their point of view expressed in the pages of the Morning Star? (I really don’t know the answer to those questions. They’re not rhetorical questions).

    Andy, re cubs. My parents were a strange mix of stalinism and libertarianism. My best friend was in the Cubs, so I said, I would like to join. They believed that if a child wanted to do something (which of itself wasn’t massively against their principles – fuzzy area this) they would go along with it, and leave it to the child (ie me) to work out at a later stage what he or she thought of it. So I hung out with the cubs for about two years. Even went to church, and they never breathed a word of criticism. Then it was the Scouts and I myself was so repulsed by it, that I left. A similar experience happened to me when I was younger when a boy (under direction from his mother) identified me as Jewish. He said if I was Jewish i ought to go to Hebrew Classes in a place that was a kind of temporary synagogue (not many Jews in the area at the time). Completely against their principles, they said yes and I went along for a while, until one day on a trip to Chessington Zoo, they got all authoritarian with me and I gave up on it. I learnt two Hebrew letters.

    re the Woodcraft Folk, there were no branches near enough to me when I was that age, but I affiliated with a friend’s branch in Muswell Hill, so that I used to go on ‘Folk Camps’ when I was about 14 and a bit older.

    (apols to those who find this personal stuff tedious).

  137. Were the disputes in the Socialist Party written up contemporaneously with their split? Or after it? Was this over Militant and all that? I think I was looking the other way when that went on.

  138. Inigo Montoya on said:

    #141 – Lenin, you’re a smart guy, but I think maybe you want to read a little more closely. I’m “sneering” at Nas’ silly, childish response to my suggestion that Galloway would do better to run in Bethnal Green again. Why do I say this? Because, despite everything that’s gone on between either side of Respect, despite the fact that “the window for left-of-Labour electoral challenges is closing for the time being”, I’d rather see George Galloway re-elected than not. I say this because I am not a sectarian and hope Galloway and and Salma and any other left-of-Labour candidate possible does well in the election.

    I’m not happy about the fact that Respect will fall apart when, in all likelihood, this doesn’t happen. Nor will I accept that, if it doesn’t happen, it will be the fault of the SWP. A groupescule like the ISG (and various ex-revolutionaries), who bailed-out rightwards when Galloway decided to throw in his cards and support Livingstone, then go on to back New Labour in Scotland, could easily ride out being the irrelevant opposition to Galloway’s timid but vocal support for Darling’s enormous transfer of wealth from the poor to the bankers (despite his brilliant response to Gaza). The SWP would have been damaged to have bent over backwards to accommodate to that position and it is utterly correct that we read the shape of things to come and realised it was the right time to exit the alliance (even if our method of doing so wasn’t the best).

    I tell Nas’ he’ll be laughing on the other side of his face because, when I offered a piece of advice that pretty much anyone would take as fairly good, as well as hold up a mirror to the holier-than-though denizens of Respect who seem to think democracy is relevant only when not applied to themselves, I got a silly, childish response. Fine. I take no joy in the break-up of the Respect. But if people want to “sneer” at a piece of decent (if somewhat terse) criticism, well, whatever!

  139. Re posts 153 & 155 Andy N & Michael R – around the 1980’s CPGB’s open debates and the crisis of Stalinism…

    This points to one of the great paradox’s of the SWP. How come one of the most anti-Stalinist currents in Marxism – the IS/SWP, with its proclaimed traditions of ‘socialism from below’ and its related semi-libertarian élan and verve of the ’68 generation – how come we ended up with the most dictatorial internal party culture, where the new generation think WE are the Stalinists?

    Obviously to a great extent this is the legacy of surviving the ‘downturn’ and ensuing decades of defeats and retreats for the workers movement.

    But also, I think our theory of State Capitalism in the USSR – which helped immunise ourselves to the defeats of world Stalinism after 1989, (as well as providing an accurate description of the USSR and its Satellites) also paradoxically may have concealed the weaknesses in the SWP.

    After 1989 much of the left went through a period of soul searching – with many groups – both Stalinist and Trotskyist groups disintegrating, but some changing and even starting to recover.

    Many (incorrectly) blamed Leninism as inevitably leading to Stalinism. This meant that Leninist practices such as democratic centralism began to be questioned. (This can be healthy for an organisation – or if handled wrongly lead to its political self-liquidation).

    But the SWP could avoid all this as we confidently explained how Stalinism had its roots solely in the isolation of the Russian revolution – and not in Leninist politics. Thus we need not be squeamish about having a harsh internal regime.

    Added to this I remember our ranks swelling with the anti-poll-tax revolt at the time, as we strode confidently into the new decade of the 1990’s, while the rest of the left disintegrated.

    But our political strengths, this confidence and immunity from the introspection (or theoretical reckoning) that confronted much of the rest of the post-1989 far-left would also become our weakness.

    We were blind to the trajectory of increasing internal substitutionalism that beset the party in the mid-late 1990’s, where a CC employed and directed full-timer apparatus finally became the substitute for a having a democratic grassroots cadre-led organisation.

    Communication became almost one way, and the party became vulnerable to the inevitable errors made by such a narrowly based CC.

    Epistemologically, it is impossible to see all from the centre. The all seeing panopticon is in fact opaque. Such a top-down, linear, uni-directional and undialectical method of leadership was bound to crash into ever bigger problems. Thus now we have a belated self-recognition, and a palliative democracy commission.

    The question is – how can the great insights thousands of supporters can bring – how can they be enrolled in revolutionary leadership.

    Hope springs eternal!

  140. paul c on said:

    Michael Rosen @156, the documents on the SP website were written at the time of the debates in question.

  141. kieran on said:

    Re John G @ 104

    “My other concern is that whilst there is no doubt that electoral work contains very different logics and commitments then does agitation around demonstrations, strikes and suchlike (points which have been made repeatedly, and I think pretty compellingly by members of Respect on these forums) I do not draw the conclusion that the left should chuck in all these activities in favour of the kinds of activities that lead to votes. Because for the left the whole point is to draw connections between these things. I think some of this was lost sight of on both sides of the split (I should stress not for invidious reasons, and I’m not suggesting that anyone doesn’t ‘care’ about these issues or anything like that).”

    Interesting here in that I often see the broad party model counterposed to movement work by members of the IST.

    I think this is incorrect, in that a bigger united organisation can increase the weight and effectiveness of interventions into campaigns, in the same way that for example, a broad left union ticket increases the ability of the left to get candidates elected to union bodies.

    There is actuallt some tension between the tasks of building movments, building a broad party, and building the revolutionary party in a direct sense, but at least two of these aims can be at any point be combined, ie, you can build a broad party through movement work, or build the revolutionary party through movement work, but it is actually difficult to do these two at the same time- i.e you either distribute material/recruit to the broad party or the rev party at demos etc.

    One way to reconcile these three tasks is the concentric circles approach, ie you build the revolutionary party through, and to some extent as a subset of the broad party, which helps build and is to a certain extent a subset of the broader left and movements.

    The main onjection here is that, in some instances revolutionary politics is needed to intervene in movments around a sharp political debate, and in this instance the broad party may be unable to respond in a suitably clear manner. Fair enough and in this instance and because of this possibility revolutionaries need to remain capable of intervening independently. But i would suggest that these examples are not actually that common, that in many cases a broad left formation could agree on a basis left wing approach to movement building and political questions.

  142. graham roy on said:

    drop a couple of misubishis some coke and some quality red wine and listen to chris bambery,alex calinicos or if your really stoned chris harman with deadmau5 mixmag cd playing in the background and it all makes perfect sense. victory to to the techno revolution x

  143. graham roy on said:

    yes apologies to al all that take it so seriously, but come on, not exactly by deadmau5 should be a soundtrack to our cause.
    to everyone who protested against the massacre in gaza across britain,in all the demonstrations, i salute you i am with you in sprit.
    a one state solution that respects the rights of jew and arab is the only way forward, as difficult as it may be to reach.
    house music in jerusalem and tel aviv can unite us all, deadmau5 is the soundtrack to hope .

  144. graham roy on said:

    i remember a flat mate of mine writing to chris bambery editor of socialist worker, suggesting he come out raving with us to see tiesto in edinburgh and that it might be an opportunity to meet and recruit the revolutionary rave youth to the cause of international house socialism, but unfortunately he turned us down, he admitted to having a penchant for classical music and not digging and i quote ” 130 bpm rave bollocks “. we thought he was mistaken and saw it as a personal mission to get dundee swp ( where we live, natch) throwing some shapes down the nex t meeting of dundee house heads but so far no luck.can revolutionaries dig a beat ? discuss.

  145. graham roy on said:

    ok my computer is dying,so here is the last post for now, hey ray, indigo montoya, christian h hell even andy newman and nas, we arev all in this together and what unites us is more important than what divides us. our strategies, and debates are important but ultimately it it is the enemy capitalism that unites us, pushes\us into struggle and makes us question the worlde we live in , i hope we can find common ground.

  146. vladimir antonov-ovseenko on said:

    #157 is an object lesson in how to look through the telescope the wrong way, so characteristic of so many SWP members nowadays. Montoya desperately thrashes around looking for evidence that Galloway has shifted hard to the right in order to vindicate the Rees/German invention of the left/right split which German now ludicrously dates back to 2006.

    Montoya seems to have forgotten that the SWP’s position was always to support Livingstone on the second vote and also to reconsider standing against him if Livingstone faced the possibility of defeat and the vote for a Respect mayoral candidate the possibility of a squeeze.

    Salma Yaqoob argued early and correctly that a mayoral candidate against Livingstone would potentially alienate Muslim voters otherwise sympathetic to Respect, but this was just too much for the SWP Central Committee who agreed a plan to try and purge her from Respect as Livingstone’s fifth column. Far left politics does not come more barmy and sectarian that that and Martin Smith, the victor in the faction fight with Rees and German, was the leading purger.

    The Galloway/Yaqoob position was vindicated, by the way, with the humiliation German (and the SWP) suffered with her derisory vote in the GLA.

    As for the other evidence of the rightward shift, it’s complete nonsense. Galloway has not changed his political positions which were never identical with those of the SWP anyway, otherwise he would have joined the one true revolutionary party. He supports Labour against the Tories, Lib Dems and the SNP. Only in exceptional circumstances does he deviate from this line. He has done so recently in endorsing the Solidarity candidate as the real Labour candidate against New Labour’s Tory in a forthcoming Scottish by-election.

    Similarly he indicated that he thought Darling and Brown were moving in the right direction when they abandoned the neo-liberal shibboleths in the face of the economic crisis. It would have been pretty mnad not to. But he has remained extremely critical that they have not done nearly enough, and has called for example and almost uniquely in parliament for the nationalisation of Woolworths. Pretty right wing eh?

    Montoya’s most ridiculous statement, showing he has learnt nothing from the disaster that Rees, German and the other numpties brought on Respect and themselves, is that the SWP could not live with Galloway taking up these positions and that they are better off for having split. Why on earth did these idiots get involved in Respect in the first place if this was their attitude. This was an alliance with those “to the right” of the SWP. If it wasn’t why ddin’t the SWP simply stand in their own name as the SP does. The whole point was to support a formation which did not have the programme and policies of the SWP whilst the latter maintained its independence and sought to persuade individuals of the virtues of its distinctive outlook. Maintaining the coalition meant not ramming those views down the throats of those who did not agree with the full SWP programme at Respect conference.

    Montoya must have his head stuck up a very dark place if he is not aware that the SWP has been justifiably severely damaged by the idiocies of the leadership, backed to the hilt by the “nodding dogs” like Montoya. To deny it is about as plausible as that marvellous report in Socialist Worker of someone called Paul in Bristol telling conference that things weren’t reeally so bad as a result of the Respect split because they had recruited two people in Respect to the SWP. So it was fine and dandy to lose some of your best cadre, demoralise most of the rest and scupper the most promising electoral developments of the left for decades, but we recruited two people to the SWP so all is well. How bonkers does it get.

    The sad thing is that their stupidity, egocentricity and sectarianism has also set back the left as a whole. The rest of us must make sure the SWP is never in a position to do that again.

  147. graham roy on said:

    THE SIMPLE FACT MR OVSENKO IS THAT THE SWP DARED TO STAND UP TO TO THE RIGHT WING, GET VOTES AND SEATS AT ALL COSTS POLICY OF RESPECT, WHILE MAINTAINING THE NEED FOR SOCIALIST POLITICS THAT ARGUED FOR CLASS ARGUMENTS IN FRONT OF ALL OF ITS SUPPORTERS.
    WE ARE CLEAR ON OUR BASIS FOR SUPPORT FROM WORKING CLASS VOTERS, THATS WHY THE SWP CONTINUES TO HAVE A BASE AND GROWTH THAT OTHER GROUPS DON’T.THE SPLIT I RESPECT DAMAGES US ALL ALL BUT AT LEAST WE ARE CLEAE OF OUR PERSPECTIVE AND INTERVENTION.

  148. Pepita on said:

    Mr Rosen wrote in post #150 “can anyone here point to a specific occasion on which the public newspaper/journal of a marxist party has published a series of articles that describe who said what and when and why in as much detail.”

    Pretty much any congress or conference of all the parties of the Second International were far more fully reported in the socialist press of the day. The same is true of the sections of the Comintern during its heroic period.

    That the old CPGB reported its congress in detail, as mentioned by one poster above, is besides the point as that party had no relationship to Marxism in any sense.

  149. Nick Wright on said:

    Not only did the Communist Party publish its congress EC and and branch and district resolutions, branch and district amendments and final composites it also published extensive pre congress discussion documents and carried letters in the party press and the Morning Star.

    It still does.

    Branches hold pre congress discussion meetings that adhere to a strict timetable for the proposal of rule changes, nominations to the EC and Appeals Committee and the submission of resolutions and amendments. Branch returns must record attendance plus votes recorded.

  150. paul c on said:

    “THE SIMPLE FACT MR OVSENKO IS THAT THE SWP DARED TO STAND UP TO TO THE RIGHT WING, GET VOTES AND SEATS AT ALL COSTS POLICY OF RESPECT, WHILE MAINTAINING THE NEED FOR SOCIALIST POLITICS THAT ARGUED FOR CLASS ARGUMENTS IN FRONT OF ALL OF ITS SUPPORTERS.”

    So why didn’t the SWP argue for class politics in the first place like the SP did. When RESPECT was established the SP warned that it was all about Galloway cozying up to petite-bourgeois Muslims to win a seat in parliament and were called Islamophobes and sectarians for doing so. Then the split occurs in late 2007 and the SWP are making some of the very same arguments. With Galloway making noises to the effect that he wants to rejoin the Labour Party and the rest of RESPECT likely to follow him it would seem that the our position on RESPECT been totally vindicated. The only question now is will Labour have Galloway back. And after the way the SWP wrecked the Socialist Alliance to join RESPECT it will be a long time before anyone on the left trusts the SWP again.

  151. The Daily Gossip on said:

    `With Galloway making noises to the effect that he wants to rejoin the Labour Party and the rest of RESPECT likely to follow him it would seem that the our position on RESPECT been totally vindicated.’

    Sect porn.

  152. The Daily Gossip on said:

    Mark:

    `The Daily Gossip…I’ll have a chat with German when she comes to Worcester on the 27th… see if her and Rees fancy taking a step forwards into RESPECT… but I do feel that some sort of apology will be inorder… you know a maoist style self criticism.’

    An apology, a promise and a frank discussion should do the trick. Good luck with the chat but I do think Galloway should write them an NEC-sanctioned Open Letter. If they don’t want to take a positive step forward with Respect then let them grow their resentment in the SWP. Respect has nothing to lose by extending a firm handshake even if it is rebuffed.

  153. Clive Searle on said:

    “With Galloway making noises to the effect that he wants to rejoin the Labour Party and the rest of RESPECT likely to follow him ”

    This discussion has now gone drifting into the realms of fantasy. If you are going to make such comments just a smidgen of evidence might be helpful. The politics of assertion has been the downfall of much of the left – a return to an evidence-based politics may be more fruitful rather than simply trying to shoe-horn reality into the ‘position’.

  154. Inigo Montoya on said:

    Vlad, your contribution to this debate indicates several things – one is that your understanding of the mood within the SWP is rather out-of-date. The second is that you still inhabit the fantasy land in which the SWP and Galloway could have happily carried on in Respect till today. The point is that, for that to have happened, the SWP would have had to bend over backwards to accommodate Galloway. We can go over and over the arguments that all Galloway wanted was to get rid of John or to have a babysitter for him, and hasn’t that view been vindicated by John’s removal from the CC. Well, not really. The “dominance” of Respect numerically in the SWP was a problem for Galloway in a way that the ISG et al. are not. The SWP’s strategy within Respect for a turn to the class was a problem for Galloway in the way that Nick Wrack’s columns that no-one reads are not.

    I do think we made several significant errors in our role within Respect, and I don’t think that we’ve yet completely come to terms with them within the party in order to learn our lessons. But I do not think that alters the fact that we were right not to acquiesce to Galloway’s demands, for his “high-powered elections committee” which would have effectively put the SWP position into an artificial minority within the organisation to facilitate Galloway’s effective assumption of control of Respect’s electoral strategy. I’m sure you think this makes me stupid, egocentric and sectarian. You’re welcome to your opinion. But from here on, I’ll be limiting my discussion of these issues to serious comrades who don’t froth with ludicrous lines like “The rest of us must make sure the SWP is never in a position to do that again.”

  155. skidmarx on said:

    #173 “With Galloway making noises to the effect that he wants to rejoin the Labour Party and the rest of RESPECT likely to follow him.” If you are going to make such comments just a smidgen of evidence might be helpful.

    His support for the Labour Party in recent by-elections, at the mayoral election. I think that this side of a general election the current popular frontist belief that it is a New Labour clique that is the real enemy, and all sorts of Greens, Lib Dems and Tories(David Davis is a frequent guest on Galloway’s show, and I believe[could be wrong, I’m sure you’d love it to point out an error of mine] Galloway supported his being re-elected at his recent by-election]). Clearly if he rejoined the Labour Party he’d have to be more circumspect about such ecumenism (as Ken Livingstone generally manages).But while acknowledging Lenin’s reservations earlier in the thread about being too quick to predict the demise of Respect(No Future), should it conform to my expectations, Galloway’s route back into to the Labour Party would be the shortest option.

    I welcome Clive Searle’s support for evidence-based assertions.

  156. vladimir antonov-ovseenko on said:

    #174 and #175 If Tony Cliff were alive today, he would be horrified to read the moronic sectarian bile that SWP members have been coming out with on this blog. You should be ashamed of yourselves. What a very sad bunch you have become.

  157. prianikoff on said:

    Barry Kade #158:- “I think our theory of State Capitalism in the USSR – which helped immunise ourselves to the defeats of world Stalinism after 1989, (as well as providing an accurate description of the USSR and its Satellites) also paradoxically may have concealed the weaknesses in the SWP. ”

    The SWP’s analysis of Stalinism may have looked good in the immediate aftermath of 1989, when it was claiming a membership of 10,000.
    At a time when even the likes of Nina Temple and Eric Hobsbawm were being quoted approvingly by Cliff.
    But most of this paper membership couldn’t be retained.
    As subsequent events showed, the “Sideways Move” of dismantling the Planned Economy, led to a massive drop in working class living standards.
    Unlike Trotsky’s classic position, Cliff’s theory decoupled nationalisation and workers conntrol.
    It couldn’t explain why privatisation should be resisted and indeed the SWP largely ignored the issue.
    Just as they later ignored the fact that Otpor in Yugoslavia were promoting the same policy.

    Harman’s stalinophobic analysis also provided the theoretical rationale for defining the Afghan Mujahedeen as a “national liberation movement”
    Which in turn, opened the door for the non-socialist electoral front, Respect.

    Inigo M # 174

    “I do think we made several significant errors in our role within Respect, and I don’t think that we’ve yet completely come to terms with them within the party in order to learn our lessons”
    The main one was forming it in the first place. After that, significant errors were pretty much inevitable.

  158. #177

    What is interesting that over the last twenty years a huge amunt of empirical information has become available about how the Comecon countrys’ economies operated in reality , and their societies functioned. All of this information completely contradicts the State Cap theory, of how these economies were allegedly locked into comeptition via armraments competition.

    Yet there has been no attempt by the SWP to engage with this empirical reality.

    I would also say that the State cap theory contains within it a latent implicit sectarianism, as it rejects a priori other strands of the left as being no only misguided but actually in league with the “class enemy”

  159. Nick Wright on said:

    If it is true (177) that “Harman’s stalinophobic analysis also provided the theoretical rationale for defining the Afghan Mujahedeen as a “national liberation movement” then the change in the SWP position over the imperialist attack on Yugoslavia, which presaged its generally positive strategic role in the anti war movement, was a defeat for the ‘Harman’ tendency or position.

    The Mujahedeen were a direct instrument of US intelligence policy directed at the Soviet Union – and the most progressive government Afghanistan has ever experienced – and were controlled by Pakistan’s ISI. Rather different for the many muslims that find themselves opposed to US and British imperialist policies today. Anyone who thinks that the thousands of muslim youth on last weeks demonstrations are not a valuable reserve for the progressive movement is an inveterate sectarian

    The most negative element in State Cap theory is the ideological cover it provides for anti-communism and anti Sovietism (which allows people to be ‘left wing’ without challenging the basics of bourgeois ideology.) What has impressed in recent years is the precisely the ways in which the best in the SWP have abandoned these disreputable ideas, reasoned from the new reality and proved themselves trustworthy partners in united activity. It would harm the movement as a whole if the organisation went into reverse and retreated into its sectarian comfort zone.

    People (and organisations) often hold onto positions long after the circumstances which made them appear correct have changed. But facts are a hard task master and the State Cap idea – promoted by the SWP at the time – that the collapse of ‘actually existing socialism’ would allow for a renewal of the revolutionary movement is contradicted by life itself. (Big demonstrations against the IMF in the Baltic countries last week…)

  160. Inigo: it is utterly correct that we read the shape of things to come and realised it was the right time to exit the alliance (even if our method of doing so wasn’t the best)

    Thanks for that. Are we all agreed, then, that the SWP leadership took Galloway’s elections committee proposal as a cue to leave RESPECT, and if possible destroy it on the way out? Because that’s what it’s looked like from here all along, only we’ve been hearing all this stuff about witch-hunts and RR splitting from the alliance and so on.

  161. I’m all in favour of anti-Sovietism actually. Whether it was state cap, or just state or just cap or just a fuck-up for millions of people, doesn’t really matter. And the idea of trying to build a ‘socialist’ movement based on the idea that it wasn’t a fuck-up is not getting me on board. In fact, I resign before it even starts.

  162. vladimir antonov-ovseenko on said:

    #174 Could Comrade Montoya clarify whether his argument that the SWP was looking for an exit strategy because they could not control George Galloway an offical line coming down from the victorious section of the Central Committee? If it is, it shows the current leadership to be even more cynical and stupid than we ever imagined.

    However Montoya does seem to have a problem with his memory, although maybe this is a collective falsification of the history. There was a peace deal on the table agreed on all sides at the reconvened Respect National Council meeting in late September 2007. It conceded all the modest proposals made by Galloway, including the appointment of a temporary national organiser to work alongside the ineffective John Rees who had presided over the absence of any electoral strategy in May 2007 (bar getting SWP member Michael Lavalette reelected), the Southall disaster and the near catastrophe in Shadwell.

    The split came when Rees could not stomach the idea orf working with fellow SWP member Nick Wrack. Some exit strategy!

  163. Nick Wright on said:

    re 181

    Consider this Mike.

    Reflect on the relationship between the subjective and the objective factors in all our efforts. And then …
    given the almighty mess that has been made of the relatively minor enterprise that is under scrutiny in this thread would it not be worth taking a more considered view of the problems encountered in constructing the vastly more ambitious project of building socialism.
    If you are in favour of anti-sovietism as such you will find yourself on the wrong side of many arguments.

  164. State cap theory is obviously huge mistake. It was an emotional, knee jerk reaction to the crimes committed by the CPSU and led to te SWP taking an insane posistion on the collapse of the USSR. We’ve got to remember what the soviets actually were, that is the closest thing we’ve ever seen to organs of working class state power. If you are saying that you are anti CPSU I’m totally on board with that, it was the party under Stalin that destroyed the soviets. The failure of state cap theory is amply demonstrated by the SWP’s complete failure to explain why the Labour movement has found it so hard to recover from the defeats of the last 30 years.

  165. Robert Johnson, it’s all about the blues. Standing at the cross roads, Robert. We know, eh? We know.

    Nick, so I’ll be on what you say is the ‘wrong’ side? This should worry me?

  166. I assumed this bit of the conversation was about Sovietism as in Stalin’s Soviet Union, not in soviet, dual power, 1917. If true socialism is about changing the relations of production, then one of the key questions to ask is whether the SU changed the relations of production. So, yes, the soviets at the time of the revolution did but the Soviet Union established later? I don’t think so. Who owned and controlled the surplus? The workers? I don’t think so. All the repression, persecution and mass murder stems from this.

  167. The USSR followed a particular historical path, that will never be repeated, and certainly very few would nowadays defend the crimes of Stalin.

    However, it is also true that if you look in detail at the history pf the Comecon countries, there are positives as well as negatives, as you would expect from highly complex industrial societies. And what is clear is that the description of them as “state cap” or “degenerated wrkers states” or “bureaucratic collectivist” are slogans not analysis.

    If we take the example of the DDR, for example, no other modern society has ever achieved such a fundamental shift towards womens’ equality (of course there are contradictions and conutervailing factors that I don’t have the space to go into here), and when you look in detail at the economy of the DDR, what immediately strikes you is the general low productivity, lax work discipline, and generally indulgent workplace culture – that in itself had an impact on consumer shortages. Now for good or ill, it doesn’t help to describe that as any form of capitalism – and what is more many of the economic and social problems would be ones that would confront any modern industrial society seeking to operate outwith the market.

    So a realistic and open minded approach allows you to look at where the problems really came from – e.g. the effective politicisation and therefore repression of social non-conformity derived from particular ideological features of the SED, operating in the particular context and indeed of German culture. And indeed many of the political and social problems keep coming back to the accelerating economic stagnation, and those economic problems are uconnected with “who coontrols the surplus” but actually pose much more fundamental challenges to our understanding of the vialbility of any non-market economy.

    Shrugging your shoulders and simply assuming that you could do better doesn;t really address the real world challenges that these soiceties faced, and which we would also face if we had a socialist government.

  168. Well the workers did technically own the means of production they just didn’t control them, they were politically disposesed by the bureacracy under Stalin and his successors. Cliff’s theory of State Cap is an attempt to put everything into black and white terms making it easier to explain what the USSR was when the reality was much more complicated. What Socialists should have been trying to argue for during the USSR’s collapse was for the end of the CPSU’s dominance over the soviets and thier democratization. In the end the SWP took a posistion that was just as wrong as what the Stalinists were saying. It is only socialists that held the degenrated/deformed workers state thoery that have been able to exlpian why the left in general have found it so hard to recover from the defeats that occured at the end of the last century and the early party of this one. The question of the collapse of the USSR is always going to come when trying to get people to join the movement so it is vital that we can explain how and why the USSR degenerated and collapsed, State Cap theory just doesn’t do that.

  169. vladimir antonov-ovseenko on said:

    #174 – “…his “high-powered elections committee” which would have effectively put the SWP position into an artificial minority within the organisation”

    I used to think that the SWP had some of the cleverer and more talented members of the far left, but it is clear with Comrade Montoya and some of the other numpties blogging here that is is fast becoming the stupid party.

    The whole point of Respect was for the SWP to become a minority. That was the problem with the Socialist Alliance. It never got much beyond the SWP and the other small far left organisations.

    If you have any memory left, Comrade Montoya, you surely remember Bambery, no less, waxing lyrical about how the SWP wanted to be a small fish in a big pond rather than the other way round “in terms of it” (whatever that has ever meant). If the SWP was determined to remain the majority, then the Respect project was doomed because it would only ever be an opportunistic recruiting vehicle for the SWP. No ally in the coalition in their right mind would put up with this once the truth was out.

    So either Bambery was lying, something which is perfectly plausible given his track record, or the SWP leadership lost focus on what it was supposed to be trying to build as soon as its de facto control over the organisation was threatened. Incidentally, the writing was certainly on the wall as early as the first part of 2006 when the SWP used its temporary majority in Tower Hamlets to exclude Bengali supporters who it thought, wrongly, would threaten the SWP’s, or rather Rees’s, control over Respect.

  170. Well, there are plenty of reasons why the marxist left finds it difficult to explain to the exploited that they are exploited and that a society without exploitation would be better than one with it. This we know. Difficult making the point. However, one reason for why it’s difficult, and it returns again and again, is the fear that what we have in mind resembles something that’s ‘been tried before’. Of course those societies weren’t uniformly bad for everyone. They were sufficiently terrible for enough (ie millions) to make them utterly undesirable and useless as models for a humane socialism for all.

    Of course the workers didn’t own the surplus. There were no instruments through which collectively they did or could. Animal Farm is right. To paraphrase: some people were more equal than others.

  171. #188, Andy, the DDR is a nonsensical economy to cite in a discussion on the nature of socialist societies, it was under occupation by the Russians.
    Work in the DDR needs to be looked at through the prism of an occupied country as opposed to a nascent socialist society.
    Same with Poland and all the other countries conquered by Stalin during the course of WW 2.

  172. Oh yeah, Andy, the Comecon countries had really positive features for the working classes and minority nations/peoples. Shit consumer goods and not many of them, cruddy working conditions, a total prohibition of independent working class organisation, persecution of entire peoples,etc, etc.

    Sounds rather like, er, capitalism! As it was in many less developed countries.

    The opinion, expressed by Andy, that state capitalism must lead to sectarianism is absurd. Unless standing with the workers of Berlin in ’53, Czechoslovakia in ’68, Poland in ’81 is sectarian that is.

    As for paul c’s ludicrous idea that the theory of bureaucratic state caoitalism did not explain the collapse of those states that is untrue. It did not and could explain the exact form that collapse would take but the theory did argue that it would happen as a result of competition on a world scale with the so called Free World, a dispute that would engender class conflict within the state capitalist states. And that, dear chums, is what happened.

  173. Sound’s like capitalism? Not according to Tony Cliff;

    “Hence if one examines the relations within the Russian economy, abstracting them from their relations with the world economy, one it bound to conclude that the source of the law of value, as the motor and regulator of production, is not to be found in it.”

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/cliff/works/1955/statecap/ch07-s1.htm#s4

    For some strange reason beyond me Cliff then goes onto define the state as capitalist – even while explaining the economy is centrally planned and non capitalist.
    Makes sense? I don’t think so.

  174. vladimir antonov-ovseenko on said:

    #174 Not that I want to suggest that Rees was the main culprit in the whole debacle over Respect, despite the fact the SWP CC majority decided to target him. Frankly he has never farted without seeking Lindsey German’s permission. She has the real responsibility for the wrecking job. Her inability to deal with Respect and George Galloway became more and more obvious as time went on. How she ever came to the position of dictatorship she held within the SWP, historians will only marvel at, except she really was exceptionally nasty, and most SWP members were less nasty, usually much less nasty.

    As for Galloway’s departure to New Labour, the SWP members, including their Central Committee, really do need to touch base with reality or they will continue their downwards spiral.

    The fact is that George Galloway and the six Respect councillors in Tower Hamlets are the public face of the left in Tower Hamlets, whereas what’s left of the SWP is just about invisible. The much denigrated (by the SWP) Abjol Miah, for example, is the only party leader to have publicly expressed their support for victimised teacher Adrian Swain, in the lead letter of the local paper. Go to the Tower Hamlets website and look at the questions and motions the councillors put at council meetings or go to the letters pages of the Advertiser over the last year and you will get the same. In the same edition of the paper Galloway is on page three pictured with Tony Benn, Annie Lennox and Bianca Jagger leading the first mass protest against the slaughter in Gaza with a headline attacking the police.

    In fact Galloway is all over the local paper virtually every week standing up for council housing and a mass of other left wing issues. Galloway joining New Labour is just a fantasy used to excuse the lie invented by Rees and German about the left/right split. Time to change the tune.

  175. Mike Ok then in that case, if the collapse of the Eastern European “communist” states was a side ward step to be welcomed why then, has the left the world over suffered so much in the last 30 years?. By the way most of the left whether they belived that they were deformed workers states, state cap or bureaucratic colectivists stood by the workers that rose up in Eastern Europe on the occasions you just mentioned, we just argued for the democratisation of those systems rather than a return to capitalism. As for those economies not being able to compete with the “free world” that is one thing we can agree on. But state cap theory is still one sided in that ignores the many of the benefits that workers had in those countries, acknowledging only the negatives. Do you seriously think that living standards in the former soviet states were better or the same under Yelstin as they were under Kruschev for example?.

  176. #194

    Sound’s like capitalism? Not according to Tony Cliff;

    “Hence if one examines the relations within the Russian economy, abstracting them from their relations with the world economy, one it bound to conclude that the source of the law of value, as the motor and regulator of production, is not to be found in it.”

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/cliff/works/1955/statecap/ch07-s1.htm#s4

    For some strange reason beyond me Cliff then goes onto define the state as capitalist – even while explaining the economy is centrally planned and non capitalist.
    Makes sense? I don’t think so.

    Bill, the answer is really simple: the Soviet Union did not live in an abstract world of just itself but within a world of international capitalism. The point being that if you look at GM motors for eample on its own and in isolation from its competitors there is no law of value. The law of value is absolutely bound up with competition.

    The theory of state cap in my opinion was a real breakthrough. Only that theory it seems to me could give us a serious anaylasis of why the stalinist states went into crisis. That method of capital accumalation fitted a certain period of capitalism but came to be a block on the development of the productive forces. Those who wanted to defend Romaina and north Korea make me laugh. The idea these were or are workers states really takes any notion of democracy and workers control out of the fight for emancipation. Of course on these criteria as some argued Iraq under Hussein and Syria are workers states!!!

  177. By the way
    Why didn’t the workers defend their workers state?
    how did the “communists” end up being the capitalists?
    who had control over the state?
    Trotsky predicted the end of stalinism after ww2 due to it being a regime which balances between the major classes… was he right!!!

  178. II no one is is or has defended the regimes that exist/ed in Romania, North Korea etc thats just a distortion of the facts. I could equally argue that the SWP consciously defended Yelstin and his gang but I know you didn’t and i know whatever their faults the SWP were doing what they thought was right. What we were arguing for was the democratization of the former Comecon states and the preservation of the planned economy. The SWP however because they believed they were state caps ended up falling in behind capitalists, unconciously perhaps but you did all the same. Stalinism didn’t end after ww2, Kruschev et all were Stalinists they just didn’t like to admit as much, the balance between the classes didn’t fundamentally change until the USSR and the other “socialist” states fell. And yes just as Trotsky predicted the CPSU bureaucrats did become capitalists, but only after the USSR fell. Any way I’m off to bed now good night.

  179. Above post #195. My Bad.

    Post #196 “why then, has the left the world over suffered so much in the last 30 years?.”

    Possibly because most of the far left was disarmed by daft theories that Russia, China and so on were in some way socialist? Possibly because the working class was defeated in a series of major class struggles? Aw, just a couple of suggestions…

    “But state cap theory is still one sided in that ignores the many of the benefits that workers had in those countries.”

    Speaking for myself I have always acknowledged the benefits that workers forced out of capitalism. Or were grated in order to ensure that workers did not attempt to overthrow the shitheap.

    “Do you seriously think that living standards in the former soviet states were better or the same under Yelstin as they were under Kruschev for example?.”

    Do you seriously think that living standards were the same under Thatcher as they were under Churchill? Do you seriously think that rising living standards represent a move towards socialism?

  180. ll #197: “Only that theory it seems to me could give us a serious anaylasis of why the stalinist states went into crisis. ”

    Where is this serious analysis to be found?

  181. Post #199 “The balance between the classes didn’t fundamentally change until the USSR and the other “socialist” states fell.”

    Curious how in the former USSR and other formerly ‘socialist’ states that the working classes remain dispossed and exploited. Curious too how a group of people, lets call them a class, oppress and exploit them. Just as was the case before the collapse of the Stalinist system of governance. Very curious.

  182. #198. “Why didn’t the workers defend their workers state?”

    But the workers DID defend the workers state after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

    “Trotsky predicted the end of stalinism after ww2 due to it being a regime which balances between the major classes… was he right!!!”

    Yes and no. Trotsky’s mistake was in underrestimating the desire and ability of the Soviet working class to fight in defence of the socialised gains of the October revolution against Nazism despite the rule of the Stalinist bureaucracy. It was the war against the Soviet Union that broke the back of Nazi imperialism giving Stalinism a new lease of life.

    Trotsky’s mistake in this respect is one that I’m sure he would have acknowledged and rectified had he survived WWII.

  183. anticapitalista on said:

    “But the workers DID defend the workers state after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.”

    So when workers defended the capitalist states against Nazi occupation (a lot more countries that the Soviet Union) they were … err … defending capitalism?!?

  184. Inigo Montoya on said:

    “The whole point of Respect was for the SWP to become a minority” – “the SWP wanted to be a small fish in a big pond”

    Oh dear, Vlad, you’ve impaled your own argument! What a different situation to the one we were actually in. There’s substantial difference between being “a small fish in a big pond” in which the fish (let’s call it a Red Snapper) argues for it’s perspective and tries to win support, to one in which one fish is so big relative to its pond that it calls the shots but decides, after the minnows throw a strop, to not argue for it’s perspective and instead guts itself, stops snapping altogether and is carved up and used as bait to try to bring in another catch.

    Sorry about the cod-awful analogy, it only goes so far since gill-bearing aquatic animals probably don’t really argue for a perspective. But I thought it was apt since your analysis of the situation is particularly fishy.

  185. Montoya: don’t be silly. The whole point was for the SWP to break out of isolation (others in on the rev left in Europe had other tactics but faced the same problem). Try thinking rather than knee-jerking.

  186. kieran on said:

    Andy,

    You earlier argued that there is some significant body of empirical evidence arguing against the idea that military competition was a significant priority for state planners, thereby undermining the theory of state cap. Can you give me a list to read perhaps, as this condradicts alot of stuff i have read.

    Re the “Where is this serious analysis to be found?”

    In many ways i think it is not exactly that clear, but implicit in cliff’s theory.

    If you see china and soviet union as class societies, then you can see how planning was indeed interrupted, constrained by class tensions. For a start look at the agrarian question- peasants had different class interets to the beurocracy, and this lay behind the debilitating struggles over the agrarian surplus, ‘resolved’ by forced collectivisation which only produced a greater crisis and ‘producers strike’ leading to famine.

    Re industrial enterprises and others, becuase the workers in these enterprises had no real control or ownership, and their material intersts were not correlated with output, effeciency, quality or product, (and due to a lack of market relations and permenant shortage, buyers preferences) their only material intersts lay in avoiding hard work, higher wages and access to more inputs. Their manager may have had to reach some target, but agaisn this could be reached by sabotaging production one year then increasing it the next to achieve a big increase. Upper management, lower management and workers all had condradictory material intersts which paralised any possibility of a ‘collective will’ and desire to reach plan targets, which in any case were an expression of the beurocracy’s intertsts, as they produced the plans.

    Hence, what you isolate as evidence of socialism ‘a lax work environment’ is simply a parralel of the way in which workers under capitalism, especially in big organisations manage to do as little as possible, as the profits they make are not theirs to keep. In this context only commands and disipline can drive workers to greater effort.

    I am increasingly of the view that under socialism enterprises should be directly owned (leased?) and managed, with profits, subject to taxes, being free to be disbersed, invested by the elected works commitee as they wish, subject to regulations from above- ie environmental controls, subsidies and excises, profit taxes, policy frameworks)

    Well worth reading is Alec Nove’s “the economics of feasible socialism”.

  187. kieran on said:

    Re above,

    also, one major mechanism of crisis was actually related to industry size and scale- it has been shown empirically that the scale of many state capitalist industries were too small and the technological level too low to match the productivity levels of the biggest multinationals in semiconductors, oil, chemicals, even military hardware.

    but this is not just an ahistorical phenomenon.

    there is a strong argument that can be mounted that the inefficiencies of adminastrative allocation meant that individual enterprises attempted systemic vertical integration, producing a mysriad of small sub units producing inputs for their major concern. This was not based on any inherent efficiences from vertical integration, but simply a way of getting around the inefficies and unreliable nature of allocations by ensuring an internal supply.

    So there were several independent research and production projects to make fertiliser, valves for oil pipes, industrial components, etc.

    compare this to the capitalist world which moved towards horizontal integration- i.e. intel just makes chips, this is party why it is very good at it. Another aspect is that its market is very big (the whole world) and it can therefore produce on greater scale than say a soviet firm who’s overseas trade prospects was not so great, due to the way in which overseas trade was heavily restricted.

    Vertical integration reduced effeciency, it was necessary becuase allocation was ineficcient, allocation was inefficnent because it was beurocratic, it was beurocratic becuase it could not be democratic and carry out the massive industrialisation programs of the early years which required (this is debatable but within the thinking at the time) real hardships- i.e. no one votes for famines and shortages.

  188. kieran on said:

    Also essential reading is Robert C. Allen’s “From Farm to Factory” which presents a generally positive assesment of soviet economic performance and planning- he compares soviet performance with modelled counter factuals for capitalist development and alternative planning stragegies- ie palns without collectivisation.

    also on above, see this quick quote from Nurske,

    “The peasants are not likely to save the surplus voluntarily since they live so close to subsistence”, therfore “some form of collective savings ENFORCED BY THE STATE may prove to be indespensible for the mobilisation of the savings potential implicit in disguised unemployment”.

  189. Goodness me – I only mentioned the SWP’s state cap theory back in post# 158 in order to point out its political effects on immunising the party from much soul searching or self- reflexivity about authoritarian forms of organising!

    I didn’t mean to spark of yet another sterile rehearsal of all the old arguments about the USSR that we have had on the left for decades!

    However, as I cant resist diving into this quagmire myself – here is my 2p worth 😉 :

    Those opposing the theory of state capitalism here ask how come the collapse of the USSR and its satellites had such a dramatically negative effect on the world workers and socialist movements, if the USSR was only state capitalist?

    Obviously one factor was ideological: Even if its an illusion that these states were socialist – if the world workers movements subscribed to that illusion, then it will have material effects.

    But I think there is another powerful factor at work here, that needs a long view of the twentieth century to apprehend:

    Early in the 20th century Bolshevik theorists such as Bukharin and Lenin had identified a general trend towards ‘state monopoly capitalism’. The tendency towards the concentration of capital had lead to monopoly on a national scale and therefore to the the transfer of competition to the international scale – i.e.the imperialist stage of capitalism.

    Across all capitalist societies therefore, the state began to adopt the task of coordinating national capital for this international competition – and not just economic but increasingly military competition like WW1.

    Marx had also pointed to the contradiction between the increasingly collective forces of production versus their private control and appropriation. As capitalism moved into its monopoly stage, its productive forces became ever more collective or interconnected, thus intensifying this contradiction. Thus the capitalist state began to step in to attempt to manage this contradiction – by adopting the role of collective, or state capitalist.

    Imperialist, or state monopoly capitalism began to nationalise failing industries, – or even take command of all essential industries for the total wars of the twentieth century. The imperialist capitalist state also began to step up its ‘biopolitical’ task of organising the supply of a healthy and educated workforce, through beginning to establish a welfare state. Recent academic sociologists have called this the phase of ‘organised capitalism’.

    Thus capitalism, being a world system, began to impose this logic on all parts of the world economy. Therefore by the mid twentieth century we saw nationally organised state capitalisms in different political forms from Roosevelt’s USA to Hitler’s Germany, to Churchill and Atlee’s Britain, to Nasser’s Egypt, to Apartheid South Africa – and Stalin’s USSR. Such national autarchism also became the model for national liberation movements attempting to build centres of accumulation independent from imperialism. Of course all these have their national specificities and differences, with different ways of organising and disciplining the working class. But they were also all being shaped by the overarching structure of the world system of imperialism, or state monopoly capitalism.

    As we know, mainstream twentieth century social democracy saw the state as class neutral and able to take over industry and provide welfare in the interests of the ‘nation’. They saw this as ‘socialism’. Therefore, during this heyday of state monopoly capitalism, as it reached its Zenith in the mid twentieth century, social democrats and reformist socialists could imagine that ‘history’ was moving in their direction, towards a state socialism. Victory would come gradually but inevitably. This was the dominant idea which animated twentieth century socialism.

    But this state monoploy capitalist model went into crisis in the late 1960’s, as a result of its successful global spread. The period of turmoil between 1968 and 1973 opened up many different possible futures. But capitalism prevailed, and began to chart a new course. This was the emergence of globalising neoliberalism. The state-capitalist model was being abandoned by ruling classes everywhere, as Pinochet’s Chile, Thatcher’s Britain and Reagan’s USA lead the way. The USSR under Gorbachev would soon follow this global trend.

    In the 1950’s the USSR had been one of the most advanced parts of the world system – a fact symbolised by its world leading space science and exploration programme. In the mid twentieth century period of nationally organised and state lead economies – it formed the most fully developed example of a successful global model. But as capitalism shifted towards globalising neoliberalism, this model began to falter and fail.

    Nationally organised workers movements had found it easier to extract concessions from capitalism organised on a national scale. It was also weakened under the new neoliberal global models. This weakening was not just organisational but ideological. Suddenly the direction of history no longer seemed to be flowing in the direction of socialism, and the battle became harder. History and time no longer seemed our ally. Thatcher instead could imagine she was now riding the overall tide of history.

    What Cliff unhelpfully dubbed the ‘downturn’ was in fact this global restructuring of the class struggle. But we can reconstitute ourselves as a global class with a global politics, and move forward once again.

  190. I agree with Barry’s initial point that the theory of State Capitalism could have had an unintended consequence of immunizing the SWP from the effects that the Soviet Union’s collapse had on other parts of left.

    But if it did, then the results were extremely, er, ‘uneven’.

    I remember being told off for laughing at, “tankies” at various left conferences during, and immediately after, 1989 but that was simply payback, and didn’t signify much in terms of my, or as far as I could gather, the SWP’s orientation on the world.

    State Cap., for the reasons Barry deftly outlined above, meant that the Stalinist regimes’ collapse wasn’t at all surprising (to that extent, you can claim both predictive power and explanatory purchase for it). It meant that the choices on offer for humanity’s future weren’t Albanian goat herding + a bit of British Leyland with the Stazi keeping order!

    It’s (State Cap.) a powerful way of looking at the world which needs a drastic dust-off and polish to cope with a nationalised US banking system, the complete disappearance of investment banking, gigantic nation-states playing chicken on the bond markets and the inevitable conversion of those tensions into war.

  191. David Ellis on said:

    II: `The theory of state cap in my opinion was a real breakthrough.’

    It is not a theory but an opportunist, empiricist adaptation. It robbed the SWP of the ability to understand events during the collapse or to intervene positively for an independent working class policy. They tailed the restorationists and in the changed conditions were lost politically failing to spot the refounding of Russian imperialism as yet again one of the weakest links in the imperialist chain. However, just because the WRP, Millies etc retained Trotsky’s analysis didn’t mean that they weren’t also Cold War sects.

  192. prianikoff on said:

    #179 “Anyone who thinks that the thousands of muslim youth on last weeks demonstrations are not a valuable reserve for the progressive movement is an inveterate sectarian”

    Anyone who is building something as vague as “the progressive movement” will be leading them right up the garden path.

  193. vladimir antonov-ovseenko on said:

    #207 The fact is that with Respect the SWP did become a small fish in a big pool. It’s just that when it came to conferences, branch meetings, officers meetings, etc, it was usually in an (artificial) majority, sometimes deliberately engineered as at the Tower Hamlets AGM 2006 and at the annual conference 2007. It seems the leadership as well as the likes of Comrade Montoya began to think, like Charlie Chaplin, that they were bigger and more important than they actually were.

    But all of this is a little abstract. In the end the project was undone by the personal weaknesses of Rees and German and the failure of the leadership as a whole to correctly work out the nature of the project they were involved in in Respect.

    Now Rees and German have gone and few will shed a tear about that. But the SWP has still not properly theorised the nature of the project, which bodes badly for them for the future as there remains a huge vacuum for electoral formations like Respect to fill.

  194. Pepita on said:

    Post #214 “However, just because the WRP, Millies etc retained Trotsky’s analysis.”

    In point of fact they did not retain Trotskys analysis or the perspective that flowed from it. Trotsky argued that the Stalinist caste would not be able to defend Russia and would collapse. It did not and continued for another generation contrary to the explicit convictions of Trotsky and contrary to his analysis.

  195. Well we can postpone the rehashing of the arguemtn abut state cap till later – i am plannig a series of articles about the DDR for the anniversary of the berlin wall coming down.

  196. 217. “Trotsky argued that the Stalinist caste would not be able to defend Russia and would collapse. It did not and continued for another generation contrary to the explicit convictions of Trotsky and contrary to his analysis.”

    So what do you think happened with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the East European regimes about two decades ago. Trotsky’s analysis was broadly correct, except for the fact that the Stalinist bureaucracy lasted a lot longer than he originally anticipated. But ultimately in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China and Indochina the bureaucracy could not, indeed would not defend the workers state. Hence the internal decay of these regimes leading to the full restoration of capitalism.

    Also see my contribution at 205.

  197. skidmarx on said:

    “So what do you think happened with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the East European regimes about two decades ago. ”

    I assume this sentence is meant to end with a question mark. Trotsky called the Stalinist regime a sphere balanced on a pyramid, to claim that the late 1980s collapse of bureacratic state capitalism when it could no longer compete with state monopoly capitalism militarily or economically with the letter of Trotsky’s analysis is to somewhat demean the strength of his anti-Stalinism. Trotsky was explicit that if the Soviet Union survived the war a new analysis of its internal structure would be needed. He didn’t live long enough to see bureacratic state capitalism extended outside the USSR, so had no chance to deal with the bizarre idea that workers’ states could be created without socialist revolution, which completely cuts across Marx’s (and I think Trotsky’s) conception of socialism as the self-emancipation of the working class.

  198. Blimey, #220

    what a lot of trot nonsense. Instead of looking at what actually happened, you judge historical developements by what Karl marx thought might happen!!

  199. skidmarx on said:

    #194 ““Hence if one examines the relations within the Russian economy, abstracting them from their relations with the world economy, one it bound to conclude that the source of the law of value, as the motor and regulator of production, is not to be found in it.”

    If you don’t abstract them from their relations with the world economy, bingo! Voila state capitalism! Just as if we study one capitalist firm in isolation (Maybe I should continually say private capitalist firm so you don’t think I’m doing what you think Cliff is doing)competition is not apparent as the internal driving mechanism (the autarky of the firm is). When we extend our analysis to other firms, the dynamic of competition is revealed.

    billj – the last time we debated this on http://www.liammacuaid.wordpress.com you thought the same point was a killer one. I find this pattern often applies, from hours of discussions I’ve had with an ex-SWP friend who is also sympathetic to the deformed workers state analysis, to Mandel’s debat with I think Harman in the pages of International Socialism in the 80s: each side thinks that the what the other thinks are decisive points are irrelevant.I think generally there is a chasm between the state caps who desire to place each such case in its international context and view workers control as the key to socialism, supporters of dws analysis tend to view nationalisation as more crucial and look more at how the internal structure matches Marx’s definition of capitalism (no generalised production of commodoties for the market, no capitalism).

  200. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m with skidmarx. If we haven’t got the self-emancipation of the working class front and centre, we’re not Marxists. Sure, ‘actually existing socialism’ had features which made people’s lives better – in some areas better than the Bundesrepublik could offer – and we shouldn’t forget that. But you could say the same of Robert Owen’s New Lanark, or for that matter the John Lewis Partnership. Whatever its good features, the DDR was an experiment in managing people’s lives from above, within the overall context of a global capitalist economy. (Arguments like this are one of the reasons why I call myself a Marxist but not a socialist, but that’s by the way.)

  201. skidmarx on said:

    #220 Do you mean by what Trotsky thought might happen? I would have thought that was a good way to look at Trotsky’s analysis of historical events, especially when he is so explicit about the time-limited nature of his judgement. As to whether it’s worth seeing if Marx and Trotsky are a useful guide to historical events at all: I guess all I know is that you are no marxist.

  202. The collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989-91 caused the left as a whole to have a huge credibility problem – even the SWP, no matter how loudly this relatively small group has shouted “state capitalism, state capitalism” at the top of its lungs. This problem persists, and it has all kinds of fallout, like angry Muslim youths, of the kind who as far as I could see made the running at the huge Saturday embassy protest, being more likely to be drawn to some group preaching jihad than to the left.

  203. Skidmarx: “If you don’t abstract them from their relations with the world economy, bingo! Voila state capitalism! Just as if we study one capitalist firm in isolation (Maybe I should continually say private capitalist firm so you don’t think I’m doing what you think Cliff is doing)competition is not apparent as the internal driving mechanism (the autarky of the firm is). When we extend our analysis to other firms, the dynamic of competition is revealed.”

    Perahps I am worng, but in a capitalist economy is not labour sold as a commodity, and is there not a reserve army of labour (the unemployed), and is not there price competition for labour power?

    In the Comecon countries everyone was guaranteed a job, there was no unemployment, and wages and prives were centrally planned – which means that there was no market in labour power.

    Your analogy is completely false, becasue the workers in an individual capitalist firm can i) go and get a job elsewhere, where the wages are not controlled by their previous employer; and ii) the workers spend their wages on commodities where their employer doesn’t control the prices of the goods. i.e, market relations prevail.

    The question is a simply one, how are these economies capitlaist if labour power is not traded as a commodity, which si the essence of cpaitalism.

    As phil points out, many aspects of these societies were in fact better than capitalism, but they existed ina very specific historical context, and with very specific politics mistakes made, that we need to guard against in any futire socialist experiment.

    But, the very real world problems and tensions that foormed the background to their difficulties and problems cannot be simply wished away, and would surround any non-capitalist society, whether the initial motor for social change comes from working class struggle or T34s.

  204. skidmarx on said:

    “The collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989-91 caused the left as a whole to have a huge credibility problem ”

    The existence of the Soviet bloc in 1945-89 caused the left as a whole to have a huge credibility problem.

    ” the SWP has shouted “state capitalism, state capitalism” at the top of its lungs.”

    Really? Is that your final answer?

  205. Back to the thread Comrades.

    Brief conversation with SWP activist and friend last night on local Gaza protest.

    The SWP so-called ‘Democracy Commission’ decided on at conference will be 14 strong, [4 CC and ten others names as yet unknown].

    As far as I can tell they will NOT be discussing the relative merits of State Cap vs DWS !

    There may be an unconcious irony in the use of the the word ‘Democracy’, it being a sly involountary admission about the lack of it in the party.
    Or it might be an open acknowledgement that there’s a serious deficit of it in the organisation.
    Either way if it’s really a serious attempt to get to grips with the problem, rather than to kick it into the long grass, it might well be worth watching. I hope we can get advance sight of the pre-special conference bulletins on here. Nudge nudge !

    Pity about the on-going denial of the big lie about GG and the split though, but that’s the problem when you tell such woppers. IE: reveal the truth (at least too soon) and you risk bringing the whole house crashing down.

  206. the relative merits of State Cap vs DWS !

    Just to make it clear, i am certainly not advocating a defence of the theory of Deformed/Degenerated Workers States.

    These are just slogans.

  207. skidmarx on said:

    #226 Perhaps you are worng.

    I think all you are doing is proving my point (though now cast in the OrthTrot role). If you have a set of features of capitalism (presumably derived from Marx, obvious point to be made here) that you think are vital to its definition, then you are likely to rule out so describing economies that fall outside it. If one has the SWP method of looking at workers control rather than nationalisation as crucial to socialism, rather different conclusions are reached. Much of what you say is only true in part, many of the features of the classic microeconomic model of capitalism don’t operate in the real world, firms co-operate (Adam Smith says somewhere that when businessmen get together the conversation never fails to turn to how to screw the consumer) to reduce competition, to reduce labour mobility etcetera. One exapmple that comes to mind are the 2 million prisoners in the US, are they in a workers state? That’s an example of what state cap supporters would think of as a killer point. They don’t trade their labour power as a commodity.

    Privies being centrally planned does not make your analysis worth a bucket of piss. Wages depend on how well Russia Ltd. competed with the world economy, clearly there was a priveleged stratum called the Nomenklatura which I’d tend to designate as a class, which controlled production and had an antagonistic relationship to the working-class. Cliff notes the way that class relations were re-established in the army under Stalin, just as in Western armies where we can see a class divide even though ecomic relations are not the internal dynamic therein (much more so in the post-soviet Russian army, wher Anna Politkovskaya among others has shown the way officers have exploited their commands for private profit).

  208. skidmarx on said:

    #228 “Pity about the on-going denial of the big lie about GG and the split though”

    Pity that you lie in such general terms. You and your friends have gone from claiming that the SWP was in its death-throes, to claiming that the changes the SWP central committee vindicated your view and that the larger part of the SWP agreed with you, to now claiming that the SWP is in denial.Of course when Galloway’s cronies seized Respect in an undemocrtic coup when the split happened, they forfeited the ability the use terms like democracy or respect in the way that socialists normally would. I wonder how your friend reacted to being told they were a bigger purveyor of woppers than Burger King.

  209. Karl Stewart on said:

    I don’t think we’ll ever agree on precisely when the former Soviet Union moved away from socialism – 1921, 1929, 1934, 1956, 1989?
    But what shape do comrades think that socialism will take in the future?
    What will define its key characteristics?
    And how can we avoid bureaucratism, corruption and the slide back to capitalism without compromising democracy or risking dictatorship?

  210. The failure of groups like the SWP to make any real headway between 1945-1991 explains a lot about the present-day world. The USSR – ooh, bad, evil, but how much implantation have the likes of the SWP ever had in the working class, or society as a whole?
    Cliff’s theory of state capitalism was an attempt – not even a very original one – to put as much distance between Cliff and the USSR as possible. You no doubt approve of it – after all, when the theory was drafted, even the likes of George Orwell were informing on presumed Soviet sympathisers. I have always seen the theory as a political equivalent of Edward Dmytryk or Elia Kazan naming names to the House Unamerican Activities Committee. But hey, they wanted to work again. It was a cold world in Western Europe or the USA for anyone deemed to be pro-USSR c.1950, and Cliff, in my view, capitulated to the atmosphere of that time.

  211. David Ellis on said:

    The truth is, the SWP cheered the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union whilst the Stalinist bureaucrats engineered it with their imperialist chums. The SWP outlived its bureaucratised sectarian sister outfits only because of its empiricist (i.e. opportunist) adaptation (state capitalism). It was able, it thought, to ignore what was happening. However, like the others it was a child of the Cold War (neither Washinton nor Moscow) unable to orient itself in the new conditions because it didn’t understand them and that reality is catching up with it now. There is no room for bureaucratised centrist outfits lasting for decades in the new fluid situation. The Cold War is gone, melted into air. Capitalism is in constant crisis.

  212. I think the theory of bureacratic state capitalism developed intitially by Cliff was expanded into a broader theory of post-war capitalism east and west within the tradition, which provided a better explanatory handle then other competing theories on the left.

    It also led to a pretty good handle on contemporary imperialism and allowed useful dialogues with other traditions (particularly in the anti-neo-liberal movement and later in the movement against the war) as the system of state capitalism east and west went into crisis (to understand something new you have to understand what happened before). If there are merits to rival theories about the evolution of post-war capitalism on the organised left lets hear about them.

    Its worth noting though, that there has been some discussion inside the Party about the way the impact of the collapse of the Stalinist States on large sections of the left impacted on us, in the same way that the impact of the collapse of Keynsianism impacted on us, with the withering of a certain style of left reformism in the 1980s.

    In neither case however would it be an advantage to be a Stalinist or a Keynsian (although we’re happy to work with both, Battersea’s INFANTILE, not to say, ‘rotten’ sectarianism of the early 90’s, which I can remember ‘correcting’ him about on occassion after occassion notwithstanding: laughing at tankies indeed. I do remember a remark about cold winters….No, no and again no, I said. In more recent times a venerable old tankie I much respect approached me and another comrade to demand to know why we were not imposing ‘more discipline’ on our local STW group, and giving speeches about our theories and weeding out dissidents: ‘you’ve earned the right even if i disagree with you, and thats what we would have done’. I explained to him that we were a little less rigerous that way, and didn’t think that would be a good idea).

  213. Just to make it clear, i am certainly not advocating a defence of the theory of Deformed/Degenerated Workers States.

    These are just slogans.

    “Today on this thread you will hear state capitalism and deformed workers’ states and bureaucratic collectivism. All of those are just labels. We know that socialism is socialism…”

  214. Andy states he isn’t defending a deformed workers state postion which leaves one left: defense of stalinism as a socialist state. If anyone thinks that Stalinist Russia was some form of workers state and was progressive they are living in a dream world. It makes me laugh to see Galloway big up China when they are sacking millions of workers and attacking those who resist. What sort of vision of the future is that.
    State Capitalism clearly identified the motor and contradictions of the comecon countries, clearly identified with the workers when they fought back. Yes I was pleased when there were mass strikes against Caesecau in Romania.. weren’t you. He lives in his fucking mass palaces full of gold whilst the workers and peasants are starving and children in orphanges are tied to their beds. Some fucking socialism you want to defend.
    Cliff’s theory was an advance on anything else on offer and kept the IS/SWP from backing one set of ruling classes from another.

  215. Lobby Ludd on said:

    LL says:

    “Andy states he isn’t defending a deformed workers state postion which leaves one left: defense of stalinism as a socialist state.”

    Ah, I think I’ve spotted your problem, ll – you’re an idiot.

  216. Skidmarx – “If you have a set of features of capitalism (presumably derived from Marx, obvious point to be made here) that you think are vital to its definition, then you are likely to rule out so describing economies that fall outside it.”

    Well if you think that the law of value, wage labour and the accumulation of capital are irrelevent to the defintion of capitalism, and that absence of “workers control” (whatever that means!) is the characteristic, then all human societies for the last 20000 years have been capitalist. Certainly Ancient Rome has a strong a claim to be capitalist as the USSR using your criteria.

  217. skidmarx on said:

    #238 “Ah, I think I’ve spotted your problem, Lobby Ludd – your eloquence is wasted here.

    #236 I’m not sure what your getting at. I was also tempted to point out that they are labels rather than slogans.

    As regards your earlier comment, I was told last April “Phil is quite close to Andy Newman, though without the latter’s idiocy”, though I wasn’t so sure at the time.

    #232 “I don’t think we’ll ever agree on precisely when the former Soviet Union moved away from socialism – 1921, 1929, 1934, 1956, 1989?”

    1928-9 with the inauguration of the first Five-Year-Plan is a good point to consider the qualitative transformation from degenerated workers’ state to state capitalism to have been completed, with its solidification of centralised undemocratic control of production (and society). Workers’ power can only be exercised collectively, meaning that workers’ revolutions can only occur cosciously on relatively specific dates, the slow ascent of the bourgeoisie within feudalism shows that capitalist power can be gained incrementally, and so is the case with the Russian counter-revolution, where the political and physical decimation of the Russian working-class in the Civil War meant the bureaucratic state capitalist needed to raise no barricades.

    I think “Workers’ control” is the simple if glib answer to your other questions.

  218. I suspect that almost any future state where capitalist production relations are abolished will be defined by participants in this thread as a ‘deformed workers state’ (or as state capitalist).

    Unless of course they are led by orthodox trotskyists or orthodox state caps. In which case all social and human relations will be perfect and harmonious. In fact, just like the prefigurative social formations which presently give organisational expression to trotskyist and state cap ideas in our own society.

    The real problem is that these poor Russians, or Czechs, or Cubans, or whoever just lacked leaders of the calibre and sagacity of leaders such as …………………….(fill this bit in yourself.

  219. skidmarx on said:

    #239 “absence of “workers control” (whatever that means!)”

    Well I put up comment #240 before I saw yours, I’m feeling fairly vindicated. No wonder your political vision is so limited when you have trouble with the ABC of socialism. (Maybe 8 years of Bush has given you trouble with anything starting with “W”).

    If a society doesn’t fit your definition of capitalist, it must be socialist, right? So most societies of the last 20000 years must be socialist, right?

    It is the globalisation of competition under imperialism that means all contacted societies have a relationship with the world economy that forces them into the capitalist mode of production.

  220. skidmarx on said:

    #241 “Unless of course they are led by orthodox trotskyists or orthodox state caps.”

    No. Unless they are led by workers councils, or soviets as they existed in revolutionary Russia, and didn’t in state capitalist Russia, or Cuba, or Czechoslovakia. Of course with the Communist Party’s shift to belief in bourgeois democracy from the fifties if not before, I don’t expect you to understand that genuine revolutionaries think of socialism as more than just placing them in positions of power as individuals.

  221. I think competative accumulation on a world scale was the result of a 19th century capitalism that unfolded in rather different ways in the 20th century. I’m struck by the way Andy wants to stay in the 19th century on this issue but not on others. Incidently I’ve never understood why people disconnect the decline in living standards which occurs with the collapse of the eastern state capitalisms with the decline in living standards ten years before in the global south when the pattern of competative accumulation of the post war period gave way to neo-liberalism. Or for that matter the terrible impact of the collapse of welfare state etc in this part of the world. All reflect a restructuring of global competative accumulation. Its usual in such circumstances for workers to be worst off.

    Andy’s perfectly entitled to suggest that its ultraleft to reject keynsianism given that he believes distinctions between reform and revolution are old hat, but one suspects others taking part in this discussion would not share this position.

  222. As regards your earlier comment, I was told last April “Phil is quite close to Andy Newman, though without the latter’s idiocy”, though I wasn’t so sure at the time.

    By whom? I’m intrigued. (There are lots of things I disagree with Andy about, but I regard him as a political ally, a sound bloke and generally a Good Thing. I know this business about political allies having disagreements confuses some people, but there it is.)

  223. Look JohnG / Skidmarx

    This is quite simple.

    Do you accept that Capitalism is based upon::

    i) wage labour
    ii) the law of value
    iii) surplus value extracted by means of labour power being sold at its value

    This is essentially the deifinition of Capitalism from marx in “wages, Prices and Profits”, expanded of course in Capital, and other works like a Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy, and others.

    Now you have to admit that you struggle to explain moden Cuba, or the former Comecon countries in those terms, and thereofore my objection that they were not Capitalist, in the terms that Marx described Capitalism, is valid.

    Of coourse you culd redefine capitalism to also include any other form of exploitative society, bt that veryy precisely was noot Cliff’s argument. His argument was very specific that the USSR was a form of capitalism, as specifically definded by Marxist definitions

  224. #240 “1928-9 with the inauguration of the first Five-Year-Plan is a good point to consider the qualitative transformation from degenerated workers’ state to state capitalism to have been completed, with its solidification of centralised undemocratic control of production (and society).”

    Yes, I think so too.

    And I certainly think it is possible to talk about the Soviet system in the period 1918-1929 as one of a “de-generating workers’ state”. I seem to remember Lenin being quoted as saying something like “Do we have a dictatorship of the proletariat today? No, we have a dictatorship for the proletariat”. This was in 1920 or 1921, I think. He was referring to the fact that many of the main soviets had ceased to function properly because of the devastating impact of the civil war (collapse of industry, starvation in the towns, most people fighting at the front etc).

    The priority after the civil war ended was to rebuild the soviet economy and reconstitute the Russian working class so that the workers’ councils could flourish again. But with the failure of the German revolution in 1924/5 and the death of Lenin (January 1924) the path was open for the Stalin faction to pursue “socialism in one country” (after 1925).

    So this de-generation had virtually nothing to do with “Leninist ideology” as such – and everything to do with imperialist intervention and the subsequent isolation of the workers’ state in Russia.

    I have never really understood how some comrades can talk about the various forms of “workers’ state” (de-generated, deformed or deranged) when the working class is not the ruling class (e.g. Soviet Union after 1929) or when the working class did not lead the revolutionary process at all (eastern Europe after 1945, China in 1949, or Cuba in 1959). That seems to be a fundamental break with the first tenets of marxism to me.

  225. “1928-9 with the inauguration of the first Five-Year-Plan is a good point to consider the qualitative transformation from degenerated workers’ state to state capitalism to have been completed, with its solidification of centralised undemocratic control of production (and society).”

    So it appears that the Soviet Union was in a state of grace (ideologically speaking) whilst it was on its knees but no sooner has the first Five Year Plan been achieved, living standards raised, electrification begun, factories rebuilt, millions learnt to read, medical services set up, foreign invaders repulsed, White Guards crushed, etc etc. than it became [make your own choice her) a degenerated workers state/state capitalist entity.

    Obviously the Soviet workers should have abandoned these projects (ie building socialism in one country) because it was clearly a diversion from their main tasks which were……….?

  226. Again Andy, I find it very strange that you can be so dogmatic about this discussion, and on the other hand so willing to ditch catagories in other kinds of discussion. Its a peculiar combination. I don’t think you can define a dynamic system which has developed over time with a little list. What your stating is how capitalism begins. It doesn’t end there. It produces, for example monopoly, which then leads to the tendencies analysed by both Bukharin and Lenin who describe the increasing merging of state and capital, in which competition between capitals merges with competition between states, producing a global system these authors call “Imperialism” and go on to have discussions about and analyse (What intellectual and political traditions tend to do). The developments of this global system of competative accumulation does not stop there of course (and it would be utterly unmarxist to suppose it would, given Marx’s charecterisation of a system which constantly revolutionises itself). To break with dogmatism and sterile debates means not to proceed as if you were analysing religious texts but look at the actual system and the changes in it, and asking how these might best be explained. Thats what Marxist theory is supposed to be about.

  227. The idea that the introduction of central planning in the late 1920s, which saw the abolition of the New Economic Policy is to turn the world on its head.
    The New Economic Policy saw the limited re-introduction of capitalist relations. In the countryside the peasants began to produce for exchange. In the cities markets began to develop for the distribution of goods. The state monopoly of foreign trade was under threat.
    The destruction of the law of value inasmuch as it existed in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, cannot be the point at which capitalism – which rests on the law of value – is introduced.
    This simply makes no sense.
    And indeed Cliff accepted that the economy of the USSR was not a capitalist one.
    It was based on bureaucratic central planning, with a state indistinguishable from fascism – to quote Trotsky. It was not socialist. But required a revolution to overthrow that bureaucracy and introduce socialism.
    The reason that’s important today is that with the restoration of capitalism in the former Stalinist centrally planned economies the world market expanded qualitatively. In fact the present credit crunch was the product of excess profits recycled from China to the USA. Without the restoration of capitalism clearly that could not have happened.

  228. Should have said “The idea that the introduction of central planning in the late 1920s, ***was the point at which capitalism was restored***, which saw the abolition of the New Economic Policy is to turn the world on its head.”

  229. JOhn #251

    Just to clarify what you are saying.

    Firstly, you are conceding that labour power was not sold as a commodity, and the law of value did not operate in the former Comecon countries.

    And that you regard wage labour, the law of value, and surplus value extracted by wage labour being a commodity as outdated concepts no longer relevent to modern capitalism?

    This is indeed a novel argument that i have never heard before from anyone on the Marxist left. But you are logically consistent, it is probably the only way to square the circle that the former Comecon countries were capitalist, by redefining “capitalism” to abandon marxist economics altogather..

  230. I have’nt said anything of the kind Andy. whats the bee in your bonnet about this stuff Andy? You must at one point have known something of the theory, and must therefore be aware that the kind of argumentative strategy your pursuing is silly. Either your suffering a strange kind of amnesia or on the other hand your trying to prove that you know the theory of state cap best and work out if anyone can defend it. All good fun I suppose. But how would you understand the long boom of post-war capitalism, and then the on-set of crisis in the early 1980s? Unless someone can provide a theory superior to the kind of account Chris Harman lays out in “Explaining the Crisis” I’m afraid I’m sticking with it.

  231. Exactly relations of production are decisive.
    In a capitalist economy the relations of production produce surplus value. Capitalists invest money to produce more money M – M’.
    In the former planned economies of the centrally planned states that did not happen. Hence these economies were not capitalist – as Cliff himself acknowledged.
    Actually Mandel’s explanation of the long boom in Late Capitalism is much better than Harman’s, which is frankly eclectic and on key points of theory just wrong, (not just the non-capitalist nature of the centrally planned economies).

  232. skidmarx on said:

    #248 “Do you accept that Capitalism is based upon::
    i) wage labour
    ii) the law of value
    iii) surplus value extracted by means of labour power being sold at its value”

    Aren’t they just slogans? More seriously try Michael Rosen’s point at #255.

    #252&253 “The reason that’s important today is that with the restoration of capitalism in the former Stalinist centrally planned economies the world market expanded qualitatively.”

    No, I think it expanded quantitatively.

    ” In fact the present credit crunch was the product of excess profits recycled from China to the USA. Without the restoration of capitalism clearly that could not have happened.”

    Without the re-integration of China into the world market that could not have happened. Is China capitalist now? When was their couter-revolution?

    What you say around the sentence “This simply makes no sense” is hard to make sense of. I think the universalisation of bureaucratic central planning is a good point to see the final abandonment of the attempt to progress towards socialism.

    #250 “So it appears that the Soviet Union was in a state of grace (ideologically speaking) whilst it was on its knees ”

    It was already degenerated from an early period, as it became impossible to maintain soviet democracy in the face of an already small working class being halved in size defending the revolution, losing an even higher proportion of the militants of 1917. Of course any that survived were murdered by your buddies in the Thirties.[Except Stalin and Alexandra Kollontai of course]

  233. John Wight on said:

    #255

    For capitalism to exist economic activity must be focused on the extraction of surplus value and the onward investment of a portion of this surplus value to produce more surplus value – M-C-M.

    Labour in the SU was not sold as a commodity. Instead it was centrally applied to predominately the production of industrial goods with the aim of matching and surpassing the West in industrial output and development.

    Relations of production were hierarchical in the SU, more so at certain periods than others throughout its history depending, less so during the Khruschev era, when an attempt was made at decentralisation. But a hierarchy is not the same thing as a ruling class. A trade union has a leadership and a membership. That leadership is not a ruling class. Without the Marxist category of M-C-M being the object of economic activity in a given society, it cannot be said to be capitalist in any way, shape, or form – unless of course the intepretation of capitalism is in itself changed.

  234. skidmarx on said:

    #257 It’s a while since I last read State Capitalism in Russia, but I do recall he points out that from 60% of production being for means of consumption, Stalin shifts the economy so that 60% of production is of means of production. Clearly Cliff thinks there is a capitalist dynamic to the process of accumulation, not driven by the internal market, but in the first place by military competition (economic competition by other means as Clausewitz might say). I hope this gets you closer to clarity, and away from the erroneous belief that Cliff thought Russia wasn’t capitalist and that the capitalist in state capitalist doesn’t mean what it says.

    Actually I thought that Explaining The Crisis was the fucking business, and Mandel was boring and scholastic. No accounting for taste.

  235. skidmarx on said:

    #259 “A trade union has a leadership and a membership. That leadership is not a ruling class.”

    The leadership doesn’t own the means of production and the working-class doesn’t sell it its labour power. So it along with millions of other things and categories, is not a ruling class. In fact Cliff did write some stuff on identifying the trade union bureaucracy’s class position negotiating the conditions of exploitation of the working class under capitalism.

    You are saying more clearly what some of the others on your side of this argument have said, if labour power isn’t sold as a commodity, it is impossible to consider a society by the laws of capitalist development. I prefer the attitude that views capitalism on a world scale, without the need for ahistorical hodge-podge analysis of any economy that is temporarily more autarkic.

  236. John Wight on said:

    Johng – #256

    I recommend you study Ernest Mandel’s ‘Long Wave Theory’. It sets out a trajectory of capitalist development post Second World War which answers many of the questions you are asking. The crisis of the early 1980s was a combination of a number of factors – the culimination of the rise in fuel prices as a result of OPECs response to the 73 war being the main one, along with the emergence of the economies of Southeast Asia, which resulted in the contraction of exports markets for goods produced in the West. This led to a spike in the falling rate of profit, which resulted in the ruling class shifting its industrial production to the Third World.

  237. John Wight on said:

    Skidmarx:

    The leadership doesn’t own the means of production and the working-class doesn’t sell it its labour power. So it along with millions of other things and categories, is not a ruling class. In fact Cliff did write some stuff on identifying the trade union bureaucracy’s class position negotiating the conditions of exploitation of the working class under capitalism.

    Reply:

    The Soviet bureaucracy was interchangable. It did not own anything. The means of production was owned by the state, which was controlled by a self appointed vanguard, such as Lenin and the Bolsheviks in 1917 in material conditions of Cold War and capitalist encirclement. This idea promulgated by proponents of the theory of State Capitalism that a society’s superstructure describes an economic category is frankly ludicrous.

  238. The state is not an abstract entity. It is made up of people. The people in soviet society who ran the state were themselves massively enriched by it – the bureaucracy was only theoretically interchangeable. In fact, through nomenklatura it was self-perpetuating. The workers neither owend or controlled property/capital. To suggest it was an abstract entity called the ‘state’ is ‘idealist’ is it not. There were material owners and controllers of capital.

    M-C-M is fine for an ideal definition of capitalism. The key to the Soviet system from the point of view of workers is indeed the matter of the relations of production and what’s more to focus on this matter this helps direct us in both the how and the what of trying to create a better society. In order to change society to a socialist one, a workers’ movement has to change the relations of production. If it doesn’t then we go through all the various state-run efforts that we’ve seen since 1917. Another way to use Marx to on capitalism (not as definition but as useful tool) is negatively. If the workers own the means of production it sure ain’t capitalism! If the workers don’t own the means of production, it may be feudalism, it may be capitalism, it may be state run capitalism…but it sure ain’t socialism and we shouldn’t be apologising for it or justfying it.

  239. At the time this theory was published, Soviet sympathies or CP membership were enough to get you fired or worse in the “Free World”. Also at about the same time, a book of essays was published by ex-Communists entitled “The God That Failed”. It later emerged that, as with the animated film of “Animal Farm”, Western intelligence services had a hand in procuring and distributing it. And, especially in the USA, signing anti-Communist statements and renouncing the USSR was part and parcel of remaining employable, especially if you had been in or around the CP in the past.
    We err if we think Cliff’s theory is dispassionate analysis. It is a product of its period.

  240. prianikoff on said:

    Just to be a little pedantic M-C-M isn’t a formula for surplus value, M-C-M’ is.
    But I do agree that money capital is absolutely central to defining capitalism, as the present world economic crisis shows. The banking system is absolutely central to it.

    Whereas in the former USSR, money wasn’t actually very liquid. If workers or bureaucrats saved or accumulated it, they couldn’t do much more than hoard it.
    The situation changed drastically when bureaucrats and petty capitalists were able shift that money into Western banks, or invest it. Hence the present contradictory situation in which a former KGBer is buying the “Evening Standard”!

    This highlights one of the elements of Trotsky’s analysis that Mandel sort of forgot viz: the bureaucracy would attempt to restore capitalism and hence, was a counter-revolutionary force, balancing between the nationalised property relations of the USSR and World Imperialism – “the organ of the world bourgeoisie in the workers state”. That seems like a pretty accurate description of its role to me, both in Russia and China, even if their modus operandi was quite different.

  241. Well like I said M-C-M’ is the formula for capitalism – for capitalist social relations – and those social relations did not exist in the USSR, as indeed Cliff accepted.
    Hence the USSR was not capitalist.
    The idea that consumption is subordinated to production is interesting, as indeed consumption as a proportion of GDP has declined from around 50% of output in 1990 – when China was still only just a planned economy – to around 35% today after capitalism has been restored. But that is not the telling point about capitalism, which is based on the social relations – i.e. the circuit of the accumulation of capital – as Cliff says – in the USSR there was no capital – not law of value – no circuit of accumulation – no profits – no surplus value – no crisis of over-accumulation – and no capitalism.

    When was the counter revolution in China?
    Working class resistance to unemployment and inflation, dismantling of the plan and the “iron rice bowl” was destroyed at Tiannmen Square in 1990. Over the next 5 years capitalist restoration in the economy was completed. So for example in 1980 0% of means of production and 3% of means of consumption were sold – by 2005 97% of means of production and 100% of means of consumption were sold.
    Clearly a decisive transformation in the social relations of production.
    And of course I did say the Stalinist states were not socialism – repeat not socialism – with a state akin to fascism – repeat not a socialist state – as indeed did Trotsky demonstrated years before.

  242. John Wight on said:

    Michael:

    The workers neither owend or controlled property/capital. To suggest it was an abstract entity called the ’state’ is ‘idealist’ is it not. There were material owners and controllers of capital.

    Reply:

    Neither did the bureaucracy own property. It was owned by the State. A State can be controlled, it cannot be owned. In itself it describes a political entity, which at any given point is informed by the mode of production.

    M-C-M is not an ideal definition of capitalism, it IS the only definition of capitalism, unless as I said the actual definition of capitalism in of itself is changed. This is a classic case of revisionism, wherein the theory is applied to an investigation rather than being extrapolated from one. Cliff’s theory was ideologically driven under the pressure of the Cold War in order to distance his organisation from the Soviet Union and all its problems.

    State ownership of the means of production is the first stage in socialist transformation of society. In the Soviet Union that development was frozen in its embryonic stage, due to the pressure arrayed against it externally which hampered its development. Even still, its achievements in industrial output in just four decades was phenomenal. It was a society in transition, post capitalist, which impacted internally with the rise of a rigid bureaucracy.

  243. #267 “The idea that consumption is subordinated to production is interesting”

    This is not a defining characteristic of the Comecon economies, although it may have been true in cetrain countries at certain times. Indeed, there is a tendency in this discussion to assume that the USSR c 1930 is a model that was applicable to Germany or Poland in 1989, which is far from true.

    Subsequent to the July 1953 uprising the paradoxical situation arose where Ulbricht enforced a harder political line, but shifted the priorities of the ecnomomy away from rapid industrialisation towards consumer goods, and indeed big state subsidies of food, alchohol and tobacco was a defining feature of the DDR economy until 1989.

    Indeed it would be hard to understand the development of the DDR’s society through the 1960s to 1980s without understanding the prioritaisation given to individual consumerism.

    Incidenty, Bill J’s characterisation of the former socialist country’s as having a state akin to fascism is highly problematic. Contrasting the essentially humane health and welfare policies of the DDR with the murderous regime of the third Reich for example shows a complete change.

  244. The DDR was trying to compete with the BRD, and as far as consumer goods went its citizens probably had the highest standard of living in the Warsaw Pact.

    Bill J’s thought patterns lack nuance – he is on record as considering stewards last Saturday at the Israeli embassy protest as being “criminally irresponsible” – so his inability to distinguish between the DDR and Nazi Germany is par for the course.

    Bringing in the subject of Palestine, the Cold War affected that too. A right-wing pro-Zionist journalist in the British press (forget which paper) wrote around 1980 that without the Eastern bloc, “the PLO would be no more than a small and savage band of guerrillas”. Israel, of course, was the “Free World” and Palestinian identity and aspirations were merely a Communist invention.

  245. Blimey, this is all getting rather creepy. Andy, do you talk to ex-DDR people? For a whole period the DDR was run as a Soviet fiefdom. When I was there in 1957, there were Russian soldiers on every street corner – and that was in the ‘cultural’ town of Weimar! We now know that the society was a pathologically prying one with a role for the stasi in every work place and on every street. I, for one, wouldn’t argue that this was the Third Reich, but the similarily between the Stasi and the street Gauleiter principle, whose job was to report anti-Nazi comments, is undeniable.

    John W., I can see that we’re coming at this matter from opposite ends. You’re handling a concept like ‘the state’ as if it has an existence separate from human beings. I suggest that this is althusserian bollocks and is precisely the kind of thinking that leads to oppression and worse. The state is an expression of human activity. Its powers are entirely human and it can only do what it does through the agency of human beings. The only way to understand the state is to understand what the human beings who run it actually do and why – and indeed how such human beings benefit from its actions. In the Soviet system, of course those human beings who ran the state CLAIMED to be running something FOR the Soviet Union/communism/motherland etc, when in actual fact they ran it for their own benefit. This accrued directly through remuneration but also through a range of massive perks – flats, cars, dachas, servants etc etc. In other words a slab of the surplus was directed by such people to themselves and to that extent they did indeed own a chunk of the state even though it didn’t always appear on the ledger.

  246. I didn’t get a chance to finish this!

    In the Soviet Union, the bureacracy controlled the state absolutely. The working class had no collective organisation through which it could mediate or temper that control. What this means is that the question of ‘control’ or ‘ownership’ becomes semantic. Sure, individuals didn’t have title deeds of slabs of industry. It was all ‘state’. But as the state was controlled absolutely by the elite and benefited enormously as a result, then the issue of ownership becomes secondary or even irrelevant. It’s the control that is important and it’s a kind of de facto ownership.

    As for it being a ‘first stage’ then I really part company here. If I was involved in any social revolutionary movement that was eg forming soviets/communes etc and some apologist for Stalin came along and told me that state ownership was the’first stage’ I’d fight it like crazy and of course would fully expect to be lined up and shot for doing so.

  247. Lobby Ludd on said:

    Engels said:

    “the state is, in the final analysis, nothing other than a body of armed men”.

    Hope that helps.

  248. Although much is said about the privileges of the apparatchiks, individual greed was not satisfied anything like as readily as it could be in the West. One explanation for the system’s collapse, especially in the USSR, was that there were opportunities for the well-placed to become wealthy which could only be seized by getting rid of the USSR. Brezhnev might have had privileges, but could he have bought Western football teams, like Abramovich can? Among Soviet officials, too much conspicuous consumption could result in investigation of corruption, disgrace and even possibly execution. It certainly made you vulnerable to intrigue by jealous rivals. Whereas the post-USSR 1990s in Russia was an orgy of greed, from Yeltsin on down.

  249. vladimir antonov-ovseenko on said:

    #271 What Michael says is undoubtedly true. Those at the top of the system benefitted from it in a way that gave them a stake in preserving the system that supported them. I have always thought that Tony Cliff’s analysis of the Soviet bloc and its development in the hands, particularly, of Chris Harman possessed acute insights, especially in contrast to the apologetics of the Stalinists and the stale mantras of the orthodox Trotskyists.

    Nonetheless there are some difficulties with the theory at a level at least one remove from the attempts to place all of this in relation to the theory of value.

    If you read the accounts of how the leading members of the CPSU considered what they themselves thought they were doing in the late 1920s and 1930s, then it is clear they considered themselves Bolsheviks who were building somethong called Socialism which was the antithesis of Capitalism. Now you can say that that is the weird way that ideology works under capitalism, but this seems a little facile and in need of some theoretical development.

    More than that, there was an acute instability for members of the “ruling class” in the 1930s and 1940s, which did not entirely disappear in the post-Stalinist 1950s. It is difficult to see how this worked to the collective advantage of this ruling class. There was constant fear and the lives of those who were, at certain times, in the ascendancy proved very short. Yagoda lasted two years as head of the NKVD, Yezhov, the nastiest head of the NKVD, about a year and a half and even the clever Beria only 14 years before very nasty deaths followed.

    It is a remarkable fact that so many of the nomenklatura morphed so easily into oligarchs under the post-perestroika “capitalist” Russia. But if this “proves” that Russia was state capitalist and that 1989 represented a “move sideways” in the words of, I think, Chris Harman, why did they not do it a long time before, given the clear constraints on personal advance that the previous incarnation of capitalism provided, not to mention the rather fatal risks it seemed to incur for many members of the ruling elite/class.

  250. John Wight on said:

    Michael:

    As for it being a ‘first stage’ then I really part company here. If I was involved in any social revolutionary movement that was eg forming soviets/communes etc and some apologist for Stalin came along and told me that state ownership was the’first stage’ I’d fight it like crazy and of course would fully expect to be lined up and shot for doing so.

    Reply:

    Which is exactly what Lenin and Trotsky did in 1920, with the abandonment of the Soviets and the change in the role of unions from representing the workers’ wishes to the government to now representing the government’s wishes to the workers, their leaders now also appointed by the government rather than elected by the workers, as previous.

    Michael, your focus on the state and the lack of workers’ control relates to the superstructure and not the economic base, which can give rise to different superstructures. We can support a nation’s economic system whilst at the same time criticising the polices of its government. This is the position I take with regard to the SU.

    Marxism is not about the creation of a utopia. It is about the historical advance of the working class. A peoples’ cultural development is directly linked to the material conditions of their existence. Failing to take this into account when forming an analysis is to enter the cul de sac of metaphysics.

  251. Post #228 “The SWP so-called ‘Democracy Commission’ decided on at conference will be 14 strong, [4 CC and ten others names as yet unknown].”

    Of course they are known and have been well distributed by e mail. And most interesting reading they make too.

    I’m pleased to note that Cde Davidson is a member of the Democracy Commission and Umjun Mirza poled very well for the NC.

  252. Wey hey, superstructure and economic base and…the two are not unrelated, according to base and superstructure formula. Indeed, this takes me back to my original point about relations of production. Because the relations of production under stalinism were not socialist, then yes indeed you got a superstructure which spent enormous efforts in sustaining these unequal and exploitative relations – army, police, secret police, and all the propaganda forces of the state feeding into press, literature, TV, film and so on .

    That said, the idea that workers control is not in and of the economic base is bizarre. At the economic base, you have relations of production. Under true workers control, bourgeois relations have either been swept away or faded away. The true producers are the owners. Workers control is not a statement of belief or a statute. It is a matter that must be intrinsic to the very nature of production or it isn’t workers’ control.

  253. John Wight on said:

    Michael:

    Under true workers control, bourgeois relations have either been swept away or faded away. The true producers are the owners. Workers control is not a statement of belief or a statute. It is a matter that must be intrinsic to the very nature of production or it isn’t workers’ control.

    Reply:

    The transformation from capitalism to socialism involves a process, Michael, not a cataclysmic event. Marx himself said that the ‘new society comes into being bearing the birth marks of the old.’

    In his Critique Of The Gotha Programme he also said: ‘Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby.’

    If you are making your case based on the amount or lack of workers’ control over the state in the SU then you are also by definition negating the idea that there was ever something called socialism under Lenin, given that under his leadership the workers did not control the state either. Indeed they constituted a minority in relation to the peasantry at the time of October and rather than control the state along with the poor peasantry they instead supported the vanguard led by Lenin which controlled the state on their behalf.

    As for relations of production you are right to state that this determines the mode of production in any society. Under capitalism we have socialised production under private ownership. Under socialism we have socialised production under social ownership. The state is an instrument of the the class in power. A bureacracy cannot be a ruling class. A bureaucracy can only be a tool of the ruling class. In the SU the bureacracy ruled over the ruling class, the working class, based on relations of production in which there were no private ownership of the means of production, in which money had ceased to be a measure of value but instead was used as a measure of accountancy, in which the bourgeoisie had been expropriated, and in which economic activity was configured with the goal of the development of industry rather than the accumulation of capital . It is why Trotsky’s formulation of a deformed workers’ state is an accurate categorisation of the SU.

  254. #275 “It is a remarkable fact that so many of the nomenklatura morphed so easily into oligarchs under the post-perestroika “capitalist” Russia. ”

    In fact what is most remarakable about Russia, as opposed to some of the other Comecon countries is how few of the noemnkaltura made that transition. Most of the current ultra-wealthy oligarchs were not members of thr CPSU.

  255. You’ve turned into juggler. I should have said that the upper echelons were the de facto ruling class of the SU and that includes the political upper echelons. In a country where the judiciary, the executive and legislature were not easily separated from each other or from those that ran the major industrial institutions (Stalin did quite a lot of that himself, didn’t he?)I will stick with my formulation, modifying it by saying ‘upper echelons’ or ‘top cadre’. You seem to be saying that the working class were the ruling class but were ruled over by the bureaucracy. This is just a nonsense. For the phrase ‘ruling class’ to have any useful meaning, it must refer to the class that rules. To repeat, there were no institutions of the organised working class through which it could rule. It didn’t rule. It was the working class and all that that entails ie it came to the point of production and worked, selling its labour power at a price fixed by the bureaucracy/ruling class. This was oppressive, repressive and exploitative. A surplus was extracted over which the working class had absolutely no control.

    I’m glad to see that your vision of the state is beginning to be peopled with real human beings at last…albeit expressed in a fairly abstract phrase ‘the class in power’. What was extraordinary about the Soviet system was that where the institions of a classic capitalist society divvy out responsibilites and roles, the Soviet system merged and blurred some of these. Small wonder then that people are mystified by it and start talking about the working class of this terror-state as being the ruling class! No worries, pal. The effect of this massive disaster for millions of people means that anything smelling like it will be instantly rejected. Whatever socialism starts to look like, it had better not look anything like the form you’re giving the classic Trotskyist gloss to.

  256. Michael, a lot of water passed under the bridges between 1957 and 1989. I have spoken to people who lived in the DDR, after all I work relatively frequently in Berlin.

    But to look at that deeply flawed society only through the lens of the wall and the Stasi is a very poor conceptual framework, and one borrows from NATO cold war propaganda.

    The most important thing to understand is that the challenges that faced the Comecon societies are ones that would face any society trying to exist outside of capitalism, many wrong choices were made, in some cases wicked choices were made.

    But you seem to totally discount the positive acheivements (women’s rights, sexual freedom, cultural participation), and the material challenges(homelessness over 90% in some areas in 1945, 60% plus of school teachers former nazis, devastated economy, very real deliberate economic subversion by the West).

  257. Pepita on said:

    But you seem to totally discount the positive acheivements (women’s rights, sexual freedom, cultural participation)i>

    Are you referring to the splendid sexual freedom enjoyed in the GDR which was so famously celebrated by Peter Tatchell in East Berlin in 1973?

  258. De facto ruling class maybe. But does that make it a capitalist economy? Quite simply no – as the economy was not capitalist. The relations of production were not capitalist ones. There was no capital. No profits. No accumulation. No over-accumulation. No falling rate of profit. No surplus value. No capitalists. No capitalism.
    Now you might object to Trotsky’s definition. Frankly that’s up to you, but at least honestly represent what that definition was. Trotsky did not define the USSR as socialist in 1938.
    As he pointed out the state was akin fascism, it was completely undemocratic and denied the working class any control over society or their own lives.
    In other words the USSR was not socialist. But that doesn’t mean it was capitalist.
    Now if the USSR was not socialist and it was not capitalist, then you are forced to engage with what it was.
    Trotsky developed the ungainly definition of a degenerate workers state – i.e. a society with a state akin to fascism, but which rested on centrally planned economy. An accurate description of the USSR even if you object to the words.

  259. # 277 Pepita

    Re: elected members of Democracy Commission (DC). Yes indeed they would be known to those SWP members informed by e-mail. ‘Unknown’ as to me and non-members.
    The very fact of ‘Democracy Commission’ with a one day conference and pre-conference bulletins etc seems to be an undeniable admission of a democratic deficit in the SWP.

    As for the State-Cap vs Socialist States vs DWS etc, I can remember the late Duncan Hallas saying more than 25 years ago that the Law of Value certainly did apply in the USSR.
    Taking from that the extra high competition induced by the Reagan arms race and the second cold war of the 80’s that led to the bankruptcy of the USSR in the late 80’s, one can deduce that this was engineered by a deliberate plan to overstretch the economy of the USSR, as stated by Harman and others at the time.
    As the USSR had a very low wage economy for almost all workers, shielded from immiseration by state welfare capitalism, ( huge subsidies on basics: housing, food, education, healthcare, job security), workers were then exposed to the rigours of the market and they suffered immensely whilst party apparatchicks were free to exploit the remains as asset strippers to a greater or lesser degree.

  260. kieran on said:

    Re 284

    “There was no capital. No profits. No accumulation. No over-accumulation. No falling rate of profit. No surplus value. No capitalists. No capitalism.”

    But this is just wrong.

    Of course there was surplus, capital and accumulation. More was produced than consumed, with much of the remainder invested, the capital stock inceased year on year. This does not make capitalism, as surplus is a feature of all class societies, indeeed socialism too will need a surplus too for their to be any growth.

    Definately there was over accumulation and the rate of profit did fall, although not by the means you may have in mind.

    Over accumulation produced crisis as massive investment schemes went beyond the productive capacity of communist nations, creating debt and inflation. as the rate of profit in the socialist economies fell, the returns could not match the rate of interest, lesding to the onset of crisis through the lever of debt. Also inflation and shortages were other problems as a result of over investment.

    But i guess you mean here over investment leading to crisis of relative under consumption- this is one positive feature of the communist regimes- there was never too much of anything but only semi permenant shortage!

    But the rate of profit definately did fall- as did total factor productivity, especially in sov union after 1970. For example the capital stock in some industries almost doubled with only a 110% increase in output.

    Capital was wasted on a masive scale especially through a series of misguided investemts, especially the ‘renovation’ of old plants which would have been more cost effectively replaced by modern units, and as i argued earlier, duplication of small scale investments due to excessive vertical integration.

    Likewise the technological lag meant that massive capital had to be put into producing backward units- like east germany that sunk in one year half its surplus into a semiconductor plant which was still behind the best western plants.

    another factor was the labour shortage- soviet industrialisation was effective under soft budget constarints when labour was plentiful as surplus unproductive labour from countrysisde was thrown into factories. But later on the policy of high staffing levels lead to acute labour shortages which led to massive over investment in labour saving technology in an attempt to continue expansion. In other words the real cost of employment to palnt managers was well below the opportunity cost of labour employed elswhere.

    This is demonstrated empirically in Farm to Factory- the USSR had a very low elasticity of substitiution between capital and labour and very low capital productivity during its later years. Its production isoquant was almost vertical on the left hand side by 1980.

  261. vladimir antonov-ovseenko on said:

    #277 I fear the evidence is mounting that with the SWP plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. There are a number of cases where it is clear the SWP is using Stop the War to try to muscle their preferred speakers on to or off platforms on the Gaza issue. The Stop the War office itself seems to be becoming an alternative home for those central to the Left List debacle. Whatever the talents of the various individuals, this can only give the impression that Stop the War is becoming more and more a front for one or another of the SWP’s factions, which is a shame.

    The other strange development that seems to have been occuring is SWP members repeating the mantra that “they are political” in response to criticism. So two long-standing members recently said, “we (in the SWP) are not getting involved in the electoral game, we are political”, and this has not been an isolated example. I have no idea what this is supposed to mean or how it is supposed to be convincing. Are they suggesting the rest of us outside the SWP are only doing our jobs? I wonder which particular numpty on the actually existing central committee thought this riposte up.

  262. Hospital Worker on said:

    If the Soviet Union was some sort of socialist paradise, can someone explain to me why, when the bureaucracy collapsed, all these socialised “managers” could aford to buy the entire Russian economy a la Abramovich et al for 50p? Seems to me that none of these Oligarchs are former oil workers, bus drivers etc, which would surely be the case, at least in part, if this were true?

  263. John Wight on said:

    Michael:

    Whatever socialism starts to look like, it had better not look anything like the form you’re giving the classic Trotskyist gloss to.

    Reply:

    And this, to be sure, explains the fatal flaw in your conception of socialism. You’re looking for a Utopia, a vision of the future in which the working class is dancing through the fields with the sun stroking their faces and flowers in their hair, swapping their fags and their beer for organic cereal and listening to Verdi of an evening.

    I am not putting a gloss on anything, Michael. I am looking at what existed, in fact and in concrete terms, not what I want to have existed. Socialism, wherever it emerges, does so under actual and existing material conditions. This fact cannot be altered or ignored however much you try. Socialism in this country would look different from socialism in Cuba or Syria, or anywhere else for that matter to varying degrees. It describes a transition, a process in which society moves from a lower level of socialist development to higher, towards the goal of a classless society.

    An economic base can give rise to different superstructures. Capitalism has produced both parliamentary democracy and fascism. Pure socialism can only exist in conditions of abundance. The bureaucracy owned no property of its own, it could not buy and sell the means of production, their progeny could and did not inherit wealth. All property was state owned, the means of production was state owned, the aim of production was not the extraction of surplus value or capital accumulation, but the development of industry and defence against capitalist penetration and encirclement. ‘Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby.’

    The seeds of development of the SU were planted by Lenin and the Bolsheviks. War Communism gave way to NEP which gave way to the five year plans. Please explain at which stage M-C-M as an economic category became the aim of production and when labour was sold as a commodity.

  264. #288

    “If the Soviet Union was some sort of socialist paradise, can someone explain to me why, when the bureaucracy collapsed, all these socialised “managers” could aford to buy the entire Russian economy a la Abramovich et al for 50p? Seems to me that none of these Oligarchs are former oil workers, bus drivers etc, which would surely be the case, at least in part, if this were true?”

    I simply don’t understand the point being made here.

    Almost none of the current group of Oligarchs were in important roles in the USSR. You specificaly mention Abramovitch: Roman Abramovich was a black marker street trader, Boris Berezovsky was a second hand car dealer, Vladimir Romanov was a taxi driver, Mikhael Khodorkovsky owned a cafe.

    Why would you base your argument on someting that is totally factually inaccurate?

    it seems that you start with your theory, and then simply assume facts to conform to it, and ignore what actualy happened. In fact the exaxt opposite of what you are claiming is what happened

  265. #283

    “Are you referring to the splendid sexual freedom enjoyed in the GDR which was so famously celebrated by Peter Tatchell in East Berlin in 1973?”

    The DDR deciminalised gay sex in 1957. Which western country had a similar record? Indeed it was apparently doctors from the DDR gong to Cuba in the 1980s and 1990s that helped to liberlaise the culture there.

    You need to be careful in unpicking exactly what happened. the DDR was remarkably liberal in sexual matters, especially compared to West germany in the 1950s.

    But one of the terrible weaknesses of the government was to assume that any organised celebration of social non-conformity was essentialy a political opposition to the government, particularly if associated with links to the West.

    So individual sexual matters, including same sex realtionships, were very liberal, but independent gay rights political organisation (especially with links to the West) were viewed very suspiciously.

    This is a paradox, but for most gay East Germans, they were able to lead ein ganz normales Leben.

  266. Viktor Chernomyrdin, for example, was only a middle-level official under the Soviet Union, but moved quickly with its collapse, using his knowledge of Russia’s energy supply to become fabulously wealthy as Boris Yeltsin’s premier.

    The best example of a “Soviet bureaucrat” carrying over into post-USSR Russia is probably Yeltsin – he hitched a ride as a “democrat” from his position in the Moscow CPSU apparatus, led the charge to break up the USSR, became Russian president (a post which conferred immunity from prosecution) and swiftly turned out to be a corrupt alcoholic while Russia went down the tubes in the 1990s. Yet even Yeltsin was more of a bribe-taker on a massive scale than a burgeoning capitalist.

    The fact is, typical Soviet apparatchiks lacked commercial nous – it was not considered necessary to run a ministry or an office in the USSR and was even a quality thought suspect. That black marketeers under the USSR had a head start in the conditions post-August 1991 should surprise nobody.

  267. This discussion – about the conditions of life under ‘actually existing socialism – is conducted as if socialism is an ‘ideal’ against which each of the actual states in dispute are measured. Inevitably, they are found wanting as, undoubtedly, any state which that less than perfect social formation (the British working class) might bring into being would.

    Mike Rosen’s response (281) “ I’m glad to see that your vision of the state is beginning to be peopled with real human beings at last” provides a good starting point.

    The German Democratic Republic, for example, in 1957 was a country, in the words of Johannes Becher/ Hans Eisler anthem “ from the ruins risen newly”.

    Its working class included many millions of recently demobilised or released Wehrmacht soldiers and nazi functionaries. Its security apparatus, like much of its administration, was led by resistence fighters, returning exiles, released political prisoners and Spanish Civil War veterans and staffed largely by young people growing up after the downfall.

    Anyone who worked in the GDR in its last decades, or knew its citizens, or understood its role in the anti apartheid struggle, its practical solidarity with the Palestinians, or absorbed the values of its citizens (including those who remained hostile but found themselves bound into its value system) will find this discussion incomprehensible.

    As Brecht said
    “What task would you be too good for?
    Sink down in the filth
    Embrace the butcher,
    But change the world, it needs it

    http://musi.ca/refer/aufersta.MP3

  268. The DDR was indeed “liberal” in some surprising ways. There was widespread naturism in the German Democratic Republic, as there was in Tito’s Yugoslavia.

    I think people look at the Eastern bloc according to pre-conceived patterns picked up from state cap dogma, warmed-over Trotskyism and even the bourgeois media whose “balance” we have been seeing so much of in regard to Palestine.

  269. There was also an importnat role played in the privatisation of the USSR’s economy by former Russian billionaires living in Israel, Gaidamak Arkady and his (at that time) business partner Leviev, who had considerable contacts (they had left Russia only in the 1970s) and were also linked to Russia through the diamond business.

    It seems that they coached some of the emeging oligarchs, and provided them with links to capital and expertise.

  270. prianikoff on said:

    Newman’s focus on the “black market” capitalists ignores the role of political leadership within the Communist Party during Gorbachev’s Perestroika.
    The fact is that the Soviet economic system was stagnant in the early 80’s, especially in the consumer goods sector.

    This wasn’t simpy due to the pressure of having to compete with Reagan’s arms race, but also due to decades of top-down bureaucratic mismanagement.

    Gorbachev wanted to reform this system, but he relied on abstract democracy and economic liberalisation.
    Given that he didn’t base himself on the working class, this was exploited by elements linked to world capitalism.

    Gorbachev’s Perestroika eliminated the state monopoly Foreign Trade, dissolving centralised monitoring of transactions and allowing, regional, local and individual state enterprises to conduct foreign trade with Western partners. Onlly once this measure was adopted, could the black marketeers make their links to the world market.

    By selling oil and gas, they became fabulously rich. Yeltsin then helped the process on, by handing out privatisation vouchers, which they were able to buy up en-masse.

    Gorbachev portrayed himself as a neo-Bukharinite. But Bukharin died a Bolshevik, whereas Gorbachev is a millionaire, who is now a business partner of Alexander Lebedev, prospective owner of the “Standard”.
    This was a failure of political leadership. But not one that the stalinist old-guard had any answer to, other than repression and more of the same.

  271. skidmarx on said:

    #284 ” An accurate description of the USSR even if you object to the words.”
    Actually I think it is an inaccurate description for the same reasons kieran gives in #286.If you think there is no dynamic, then a better term is probably bureaucratic collectivism. But as I don’t think it is immune to the capitalist dynamic that dominates almost the entire world under imperialism, I think “state capitalism” is just dandy (as a descriptive term, not an actually existing tyranny).

    I am a little surprised that one of the petty marxologists hasn’t said “Actually, it’s M-C-P-C’-M'”.

  272. There was no over-accumulation of capital in the USSR – because there was no capital.
    The cycle of capital accumulation M-M’ did not exist.
    Rather prices, allocations of labour inputs and raw materials were determined centrally by planners, as were decisions about what was produced, how it was produced and how it was distributed, who got what.
    But nowhere did the law of value, surplus value, or profits appear in production decisions – because it was a centrally planned economy not based on the production of profit – but on the production of things.
    The bureaucracy was highly undemocratic and non-socialist and the economy was also highly undemocratic and non-socialist, but that does not mean it was capitalist.
    The reason all of this is important now is that the present crisis – the global credit crunch – was caused by the influx of surplus profits from China, Russia etc. into the West. This drove down interest rates, caused the bubble etc. If China particularly, was a non-capitalist centrally planned economy, the surplus profits would not have existed, ergo neither would the present crisis.
    There would have been other crises but not this one.

  273. Leaving aside the rest of Bill’s comment, I’m intrigued about his analysis of China’s role in the present crisis.

    Most tendencies on the left would agree that China today is a capitalist economy that isn’t centrally planned. The interesting question is how it got there. How did the CCP’s central leadership transmute from being a dominant caste in a workers state (or the government of a socialist country) to the ruling class of a capitalist state? How was the workers state (or socialism) overthrown without any form of political counter-revolution? And how come the restoration of capitalism led to such explosive growth in the economy?

  274. John Wight wrote of me: You’re looking for a Utopia, a vision of the future in which the working class is dancing through the fields with the sun stroking their faces and flowers in their hair, swapping their fags and their beer for organic cereal and listening to Verdi of an evening.

    Nice poetry but a complete misrepresentation of what I think or believe. My belief is that the shape and form of any utopia will be determined by the nature of the revolt/revolution/social movement that tries to bring it into being. In other words, it’s crucial as or when or if the movement is a mass democratic movement involving such instruments as occupation, mass strike, commune-like self-organisation – and these are not smashed either by the state or by a party that says we proceed to socialism in the stages that WE determine ie state control first, workers’ control second.

    Andy, I love the idea of you defending the DDR here, having spent many column inches decrying the lack of democracy in the SWP or lauding the new openess and democracy of the new Respect. Why do I think I’ve been here before? Ah yes, it takes me back to the 60s when CPers who would resolutely defend the Soviet Union and all things Communist (at that time) whilst claiming that their approach through the trade union bureaucracies was much more democratic than anything being offered by the ‘New Left’…

  275. “Leaving aside the rest of Bill’s comment, I’m intrigued about his analysis of China’s role in the present crisis.”

    Yes, I’m intrigued to know Bills theory about how the influx of surplus profit from China and Russia caused the current world economic crisis. There was me thinking that Western capitalism and the traders in the City had something to do with it but apparently not.

    All that international trading between Russia and the West where dollars were the favoured currency of the Stalinist bureaucracy makes it hard to justify to the Russian working class that any kind of workers state existed in cold war Russia. How did the bureaucracy trade Russian produce on the open market without having to deal with the laws of capitalism? How was it possible that international trade did not influence central planning? How does a so-called “workers state” of any shape or form inoculate itself from the influence of the capitalist system it was trading with?

  276. Nick Wright on said:

    Michael Rosen makes an important point when he argues that “… the shape and form of any utopia will be determined by the nature of the revolt/revolution/social movement that tries to bring it into being. In other words, it’s crucial as or when or if the movement is a mass democratic movement involving such instruments as occupation, mass strike, commune-like self-organisation….”

    The idea that socialism in post-war developed capitalist countries could come about by a relatively peaceful process (without prolonged civil strife) was linked to the New Left/reformist/revisionist/eurocommunist distaste for the actual arrangements that secured socialist production relations in the countries of ‘actually existing socialism.’

    Like it or not, there must be an essential symmetry between the forces attacking socialism and those defending it. This doesn’t mean they must be identical, for example, a mass movement can confront a superior armed force but cannot overcome it unless its internal cohesion is dissolved or a countervailing force is brought into play.

    A materialist analysis of the post war situation in Eastern and central Europe has to take into account the interplay of class and social forces including, for instance, the pre war strength and political development of the working class movements. This would help explain why the communist and left movements in Germany and the Czech Republic retain a substantial electoral base.

    The condition that Michael Rosen adds; “ … and these are not smashed either by the state or by a party that says we proceed to socialism in the stages that WE determine ie state control first, workers’ control second” misses the point about the ways in which power was secured.

    Among them; the socialised relations of production which gave these regimes a substantial measure of popular support, especially among workers. Additionally, full employment and tangible improvements in social welfare, education, health and housing. And very importantly, the security guarantee provided by the Red Army.

    The security apparatus of these states was, of course, made up largely of labour movement veterans, resistence fighters, returning exiles etc. But in each of these countries an armed workers militia was formed, based in the factories.
    It was these Kampfgruppen der Arbeiterklasse (400,000 strong) that surprised the western espionage structures with their swift and almost secret construction of the Berlin wall in 1961.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combat_Groups_of_the_Working_Class

    It is all a bit more complicated than the simple certainties of our island existence.

  277. Re 299

    I think you are placing too much emphesis on monetary relations- especially in defining capital in money terms.

    Capital can only be defined in a physical sense, as a thing that exists in specific relation to other things- ie its relation to the process of production.

    under capitalism paper money has no inherent value, it is just an accounting tool to regulate the value relations between things, which can in any case be determined alternatively by reducing a ‘thing’ to its constituent parts, or other things directly, as in the production of commodities by means of commodities.

    to take an example, if a simple economy with 10 farms and 10 factories produces a yeary surplus of one farm and one factory, irregardless of the money rate of profit the rate of accumulation is 10%, bacause next year there is 11 farms and 11 factories, which all things being equal (ie the capital output ratio) output and surplus will also increase by 10%.

    To illustrate by another example, suppose that the price of consumer goods was grossly elevated through taxes or speculation or error, whilst at the same time the price of produced goods were drastically depressed through subsidies etc. the rate of profit would then appear to be depressed in money terms. But we should all agree that this would be an incorrect picture or the real rate of accumulation, if this given society devoted alot of its resources (things) into producing capital goods, and its stock of them increased very rapidly. Actually this is kind of what occured in the USSR where monetary (budget) calculations underestimated the real volume of accumulation.

    we can state the circuit of capital as Capital(initial)-Commodities-Money-Capital(final)

    where across an economy Capital(final) = Capital(initial)+(output of commodities-consumption of commodities)(or surplus of commodities)

    In money terms, the second term is expressed as revenues-wages, or simply profits. Profits is just is a monetary expression of a physical surplus of commodities.

    Remove money from the equation, or change its quantity, or the relative money prices of each item, it makes no difference to the physical surplus, which is what actually determines the real rate of exploitation, surplus, accumulation and growth. It is the essential feature whereas the money expression (profits wages etc) are superficial.

    we all accept this as no one really thinks they are richer if their moneteary wage goes up but their purchasing power (their consumption of things) goes down or stays the same.

    Likewise, the fictitous profits of the US financial sector does not mean real accumulation or growth.

    So actually you can remove money from the circuit equation altogether if you want- the circuit of capital is essentially capital-commodities-capital

    Marx assumed that under near perfect competition that existed during his like, that on long term trends the monetary rate of profit would approximate the labour value rate of profit, and the physical or technical rate of profit.

    But we know that monopoly conditions means that these measures diverge. And in this case i would argue that the physical rate of profit is the more important one.

    At the end of the day, the rate of profit can be reduced to: tons of steel divided by tons of steel

  278. Absolutely not. The value of a commodity under capitalism is measured by the socially necessary labour time required to produce it, this is, indeed it must be, expressed in money in a capitalist society;

    “The leap taken by value from the body of the commodity, into the body of the gold, is, as I have elsewhere called it, the salto mortale of the commodity…. it cannot acquire the properties of a socially recognised universal equivalent, except by being converted into money.”

    Marx Volume I
    http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch03.htm#S2c

    The size of the physical surplus does not matter to the capitalist – its value, or price, or how much money it is worth absolutely does. If the capitalists steel plant produces a surplus of 200 million tons of steel instead of 100 million tons, if the value of that steel has fallen by more than half, i.e. if it was originally $100 a ton, but it is now less than $50 a ton, then the capitalist will have lost money.
    This is exactly what is happening now of course. In times of boom the money doesn’t seem to matter and the commodity seems to separate itself from the physical expression of value – money – in times of crisis it is only that physical expression that matters.
    As there was no circulation of capital in the centrally planned Stalinist economies – M-M’, then there was no capital, no surplus value, no profits, no falling rate of profit, no over-accumulation of capital, no capitalists – no capitalism.
    That does not mean this highly undemocratic and dictatorial society was socialism – it was not at all – but it does mean its economy was not capitalist.
    Therefore any definition needs to encapsulate these two divergent facts.

  279. Something that has struck me, recently and very belatedly, is that in thirty-odd years of reading Trotskyist literature I’ve seen almost nothing substantive about how the Soviet-type states actually worked. The Western media (as distinct from the Western social science) view was that ‘the Party’ decided everything and the various representative institutions were a farce and a rubber stamp. The Trotskyist view was that ‘the bureaucracy’ decided everything and the various representative insitutions were a farce and a rubber stamp.

    But this raises some questions:

    How exactly does ‘the bureaucracy’ or ‘the Party’ actually arrive at its decisions? (There must be some deliberative process, after all. Even a towering genius like Brezhnev could not possibly have made all the decisions himself, even at the time when his intervals of lucidity were longer than they later became.)

    And is it at all probable that, after going to great lengths to set up a vast and elaborate apparatus of representation and feedback – not just the national and local elections, with the whole process of (formally at least) nomination of deputies through their workplaces, etc, but also mass membership of official trade unions and of the offical party, letters to newspapers and to party and public institutions (which, formally at least, had to be at acknowledged, which very seldom if at all resulted in unpleasant repercussions for the sender, and which continued to be written in truly massive numbers all through the Soviet period), and the involvement of millions of volunteers in the work of local state apparatuses … given all that, which no one disputes actually went on in actually existing socialism (however they explain it), is it, I ask, at all probable that the vast amount of information this must have generated about the conditions and attitudes and opinions of the population was simply ignored by ‘the bureaucracy’ and had no effect on the decisions which it made through (presumably) some other (parallel and invisible) mechanism of decision making?

    If all this vast apparatus of formally representative decision making was an elaborate facade, what was behind the facade? How did the system actually function?

  280. #306

    This is the key Ken, and I woould really recommend people to read the serious academic literature that analyses these socielties, like mary Fullbrosk’s “The People’s State”, or the anthology “Socialist Modern”, edited by Paul Betts.

    Rememebr that one in five adults in the DDR was a member of the SED, and an even greater number were members of the various cultural, sporting and youth organisations.

    The Western narrative is entirely obsessed with the few who came into conflict with the regime, while discounting the greater numbers who actively supported it; and the vast majority neither actively supported nor opposed, but found that the governments priorities were often their own as well, and muddled along in passive support. The DDR was doomed once the economy began to obvioulsy fail, and the inequalities linked to shortages (incidently where SED members fared worse than non-SED members) grew worse, then the emphasis on individual consumerism that the SED itsef had encouraged fed into a huge drop of passive support for the government, and left the DDR open for the destabilisation campaign that Helmut Kohl ran after the border was opened – that sadly had all the hallmmarks of Turkeys voting for an early Xmas.

    What is interesting is that despite the clear democratic defcit at the governmental level with the SED, the voices from below had a massive impact on both society and government policy in the DDR – and while the majoroty may not have activley supported the SED, social attitudes show that most East Germans shared a basic ideological framework with the SED – as many still do.

  281. 306 How the Soviet-type states actually worked!

    A good introduction is
    Workers’ Participation in the Soviet Union
    by Mick Costello (formerly the Morning Star industrial correspondent and the Communist Party industrial organiser.

  282. David Ellis on said:

    Seems we’ve got ourselves into a dichotomized debate with the SWP characterising the ex-Soviet Union and states like the GDR as capitalist and others characterising them as socialist. Neither gets to grips with the truely contradictory nature of these entities and both rob themselves of elucidating an independent working class policy. I would recommend anybody who is genuinely interested in a Marxist analysis to read `The Revolution Betrayed’ by Trotsky as a kicking off point.

  283. In the real world the debate is not between orthodox trotskyist characterisations of the Soviet Union and revisionist ‘state cap’ ones (309) but between the orthodox bourgeois analyis and its revolutionary antithesis. The bourgeois states did not devote decades of effort in contesting the socialist countries to win an academic debate but rather to reconquer this world for profit and human exploitation.

    It is hard to see Trotsky’s The Revolution Betrayed telling us much about the post war development of ‘ actually existing socialism’. The USSR was very well described in 1936 in the following terms:

    “Gigantic achievement in industry, enormously promising beginnings in agriculture, an extraordinary growth of the old industrial cities and a building of new ones, a rapid increase of the numbers of workers, a rise in cultural level and cultural demands – such are the indubitable results of the October revolution, in which the prophets of the old world tried to see the grave of human civilization. With the bourgeois economists we have no longer anything to quarrel over. Socialism has demonstrated its right to victory, not on the pages of Das Kapital, but in an industrial arena comprising a sixth part of the earths surface – not in the language of dialectics, but in the language of steel, cement and electricity.”

    An interesting analysis of the development of a second economy within the USSR can be found here:

    http://mltoday.com/new-evidence-on-the-second-economy-395-3.html

  284. David # 309: I read The Revolution Betrayed for the first and by no means the last time in 1972! (And Cliff’s book shortly before that.) My point (#306 above) was that I’ve read lots and lots of ‘Marxist analysis’ of these societies over the years (these books plus Harman, Ticktin et al, Mandel, Furedi, Filtzer, Dunayevskaya, and Schachtmanites and state-caps and ultra-lefts) and to the best of my recollection not one of them asks, let alone answers, the quite elementary questions I raised. As Andy points out, serious ‘bourgeois’ academic literature is streets ahead of this kind of ‘Marxist analyisis’.

  285. David Ellis on said:

    “Gigantic achievement in industry, enormously promising beginnings in agriculture, an extraordinary growth of the old industrial cities and a building of new ones . . . etc.’

    And yet, Nick, it collapsed back into a semi-feudal state dominated by imperialist capital. Go figure. I think you are going to need a bit of dialectics as your empirical approach doesn’t seem to explain anymore that the SWP’s impressionism.

  286. David Ellis on said:

    Ken, you ask how the Soviet Union worked. It worked like the SWP works or the labour and TU bureaucracy works or the Stalinised CPs worked. The Stalinst bureaucracy took all the decisions bureaucratically and passed them down the chain. As the working class retreated from politics due to exhuastion induced by the civil war, encirclement and the retreat of the world revolution, the bureaucracy moved in to snuff out working class democracy in the Soviets. The bureaucracy had interests separate and opposed to those of the working class but contradictorily, just like the Labour and TU bureaucracies in the west, it rested on working class achievements. It feared the working class more than anything. Even the most bureaucratised trade union occasionaly unionises new workplaces however usually to prevent new non-bureaucatised and dangerously militant ones from emergiing and the Stalinist bureaucracy was compelled to nationalise the means of production and take socialistic measures in Eastern Europe for similar reasons.

    You rightly ask elementary questions but don’t be surprised when the answers turn out to be elementary to as opposed to the obscurantist nonsense some of those others you mention have come up with.

  287. The Western narrative is entirely obsessed with the few who came into conflict with the regime, while discounting the greater numbers who actively supported it; and the vast majority neither actively supported nor opposed, but found that the governments priorities were often their own as well, and muddled along in passive support.

    Somewhere I’ve got a 20-year-old photocopy of a polemic against E. P. Thompson – by a Danish guy if I remember rightly – accusing him of mythologising the Party and the Bureaucracy, to the point of denying that 99% of the population of the Communist states had lives worth living. The argument was particularly pointed with regard to Communist political activists and trade unionists. Perhaps there were a few cynical power-seekers in the apparat, the paper argued, but it surely made more sense to acknowledge that political and union activity within the framework of ‘actually existing socialism’ was still political and union activity, as far as the people carrying it out and their constituents were concerned.

    Even now I think this is a very good point: the system worked, while it did, because a lot of people thought it made sense and built their lives within it – and a lot of people weren’t entirely wrong. This is why 1991 was such a defeat for all of us, even long-term anti-Leninists like me – it wasn’t just the degenerate (or deformed) bits of the system that appeared to have been discredited by history, it was the whole thing.

  288. All participants in this discussion accept the existence of a ‘bureaucracy’ in the socialist countries. After all, we have one even – perhaps especially – in the SWP and certainly more oppressively in most trotskyist groups. Machinery for securing consent, or wielding power, seems to exists everywhere except in the imaginary utopias of anarchists.

    The problem lies in the how and why this ‘bureaucracy’ in the USSR and elsewhere managed to lead/manage/build socialism for several decades, defend it for longer and then eventually succumb. Perhaps the answer lies precisely in those dialectical processes that David Ellis (312) alludes to.

    Today, it is only within mainstream academic research and among marxist leninists that serious efforts are made to understand these processes. Before that, the intelligence services of the bourgeois powers made greater use of the tools of historical materialism to understand the dynamics of socialist societies than did the left, including the communists. That is why they ratcheted up the arms race, in order to sharpen contradictions between the different demands on the economies of the socialist countries.

    My point is not to defend state power as it existed in the countries of ‘actually existing socialism”. After all, if the working class and its parties were not able or willing to do it in 1991, it would be as presumptious for us decades later to substitute our judgement for theirs. The point is to understand how the continued existence of class struggle in these countries eventually manifested itself.

  289. David #313: having actually been at various times an active member of the SWP, a trade union, the Labour Party and a ‘Stalinised’ CP … these experiences tend to reinforce my point! If I was living in a society organised in the manner of any of these venerable institutions (‘which thank the Lord I’m not, sir’, I’m tempted to say), I might have all kinds of objections, but I would have very little doubt that I was living in a socialist state. And by the way, I’m quite familiar with the standard Trotskyist account of ‘how the revolution was lost’. You needn’t waste a second reminding me of it.

    As for ‘working class democracy in the Soviets’, it was succinctly summarised as follows:

    What happens is that the Party, shall we say, absorbs the vanguard of the proletariat, and this vanguard exercises the dictatorship of the proletariat. The dictatorship cannot be exercised or the functions of government performed without a foundation such as the trade unions. These functions, however, have to be performed through the medium of special institutions which are also of a new type, namely, the Soviets. […] The whole is like an arrangement of cogwheels.

    In what way does this differ from how matters were managed in the USSR of Brezhnev?

  290. UBS, the Swiss bank, have written an excellent series on the process of capitalist restoration in China. This is how they describe it;

    “As of the early 1980s the situation was relatively straightforward, in that almost all economic activity was owned and controlled by the state in one form or another. The agricultural sector was made up of communes. Urban industry and
    services were dominated by state-owned enterprises, or SOEs. Everything else was pretty much divided into so-called “township and village enterprises”, or TVEs, which operated outside the cities, and urban collectives for small-scale urban activity. These last two were never formally integrated into central
    economic plans, but were still solidly state-owned in theory. For institutions of any size, managers were directly appointed by the government, and in the rest were elected by the collective.”

    They continue;

    “Over the past 25 years, however, things have changed radically. To begin with, nearly all of agriculture was taken almost immediately out of public hands, as the communes were broken up and each family allocated individual plots of land. Next, the various smaller-scale TVEs and collectives drifted gradually out of state control as the economy liberalized. Today they still exist in the hundreds of thousands, but they are effectively private companies, without access to state financing and without significant interference by local authorities. In fact, the
    absence of a legal framework for private enterprises, most new start-ups went under the guise of TVEs and collectives right through the late 1990s.”

    And finally;

    “Since the beginning of the current decade, the patchwork has become more complicated still. The truly private sector has taken off, with tens of thousands of new and formally private enterprises established (this process is particularly well developed in coastal provinces and cities, while collectives still dominate in smaller, more inland destinations). In most sectors, foreign companies are no longer required to have a joint-venture partner, which has led to an explosion of
    wholly-owned foreign firms in China as well.”

    UBS How to think about China part 1 (2008)

    In other words before 1980 there was a system of central planning, where decisions about production were taken by a highly centralised bureaucracy who determined the proportions of inputs, labour, machinery, raw materials and outputs.
    Through the the course of the 1980s culminating in the early 1990s, that system was broken up and market relations restored. Until over the last decade a fully functioning capitalist system exists, albeit one with an unusually large state sector, which still dominates large areas of production and the banking sector pretty much in toto.
    In other words the serious bourgeois accounts completely confirm the Trotskyist description. So there you go.

  291. They summarise it again here;

    “In the traditional communist system, state enterprise balance sheets were placed directly on national, provincial or local government budgets, and nearly all commercial decisions were carried out as part of the “plan” (which, again, existed in national, provincial and regional forms). Production volumes, prices, employment and investment levels were all dictated in principle through central planning agencies and sectoral line ministries, and outlays and income were little more than quasi-fiscal line items.”

    “Now fast forward 25 years. After more than two decades of continuous reform, the situation today is very different indeed. To begin with, SOEs are no longer “budgetary” entities, which means that the government is no longer involved in day-to-day commercial operations. State firms decide their own production mix, source their own inputs, hire and (increasingly) fire according to market needs, and in most cases set prices without government interference. Firms keep profits on their own books, and are responsible for their own losses in principle.”

    You do have to conclude that “state capitalist theory” as a description of a centrally planned non-capitalist economy is basically a load of cobblers, that someone who is entirely ignorant of the facts has stitched together for their own entertainment.

  292. vladimir antonov-ovseenko on said:

    #301 – Personally I haven’t counted up the inches Andy Newman has spent decrying the lack of democracy on the SWP or praising Respect as a model of democracy, although I can’t say I’ve seen much of the latter. The SWP of course is an organisation, more than any other that has remained on the far left, which has developed an acute critique of the so-called workers’ states lacking genuine working class control or ownership and therefore not being workers’ states at all, whatever else they may be. Through the writings of Tony Cliff above all they are also an organisation which has developed an acute critique of the Satlinist model of party organisation.

    It is an irony therefore that they have ended up aping some of the worst aspects of the internal organisation of the Western Stalinist parties (before they liberalised) through a fundamental lack of internal democracy and a “nodding dog” like loyalty from its long-standing members. It is also an irony that Michael Rosen should have chosen not to comment on this aberration.

    It is a fundamental axion of traditional Marxist theory that a revolution needs a revolutionary party to be successful. I won’t repeat the ABC of why. But it surely should give pause for thought that, if the revolutionary organisation whose fundamental theory is so acute in its understanding of how democracy and workers’ power go hand in hand should have developed a leadership so cynical and authoritarian, perhaps there is a fundamental contradiction between the end and the means.

  293. Pepita on said:

    Andy wrote in post #308 “The Western narrative is entirely obsessed with the few who came into conflict with the regime, while discounting the greater numbers who actively supported it; and the vast majority neither actively supported nor opposed, but found that the governments priorities were often their own as well, and muddled along in passive support.”

    Very true Andy but exactly the same point can be made about countries which we would both consider to be capitalist. For example many working people in Thatchers Britain found that her regiimes priorities were their priorities too. However distasteful that might be it is the truth and means that your point has no validity whatsoever.

  294. Pepita # 320: many working people in Thatchers Britain found that her regiimes priorities were their priorities too. However distasteful that might be it is the truth

    Good grief! If the SWP had recognised that in the 80s the CP might have been spared a great deal of ill-informed abuse unhelpful criticism. But seriously … there is a bit of a difference between the kind of support Thatcher had, based on the real interests of workers whose aspirations conflicted with the organised workers’ movement (which had reached an impasse in the absence of a socialist perspective), and support based on the real interests of workers whose priorities were the same as those of the historic organised workers’ movement and just happened to coincide with those of the SED regime.

    Honestly – would anyone familiar with the German Social Democracy, or with the Communist Party of Germany, in the (separate) eras when we all would consider them to have been sincerely Marxist, been at all surprised at what the German Democratic Republic was like?

    There’s a very interesting interview with Lars T. Lih in the Weekly Worker (yeah, I know), in which he says:

    The SPD model certainly did not become irrelevant even during the revolution or after the Bolsheviks took power. One central feature of the Soviet state is taken directly from SPD practice: namely, the permanent campaign of agitation and propaganda. Now that the party controlled the state, it could carry out even vaster campaigns and could eliminate the competition, creating what I call “state monopoly campaignism”. A classic study of the SPD is The alternative culture by Vernon Lidtke. The book describes how the SPD used everything from an extensive party press to choral singing societies in order to inculcate the proper socialist outlook. In many ways, the Soviet Union is the SPD writ large, and Lidtke’s title could be used for a study of the Soviet era.

  295. Ken wrote “there is a bit of a difference between the kind of support Thatcher had, based on the real interests of workers whose aspirations conflicted with the organised workers’ movement and support based on the real interests of workers whose priorities were the same as those of the historic organised workers’ movement and just happened to coincide with those of the SED regime.”

    Thats an assumption based on your identitification of the ‘real interests’ of working people. An assumption that assumes that the statification of property is in the real interests of working people. Against all the evidence I might add.

    What is in the interests of working people, an assumption I share with Marx, is that the working classes must take state power. The transitional period will then allow for many anomalous forms and does not mandate the immediate statification of propoerty.

  296. Reality check on said:

    #317 gives a description of the shift from a state-controlled economy to a more market-based one in China.

    If there can be a “capitalist restoration” without a counter-revolution, doesn’t that throw into question the whole basis of marxist thinking about class rule, the state etc?

    This is effectively the same question that made Cliff question Trotsky’s view of Russia, albeit in a different form. If states could be created in Eastern Europe that were almost identical to Stalinist Russia, either they were workers states (however degenerated/deformed) without the need for workers to have a self-emancipatory revolution, or Russia was not a workers state.

    You can argue about whether Cliff’s analysis of state capitalism was the most useful for describing the dynamics of those economies or not, but I do worry about the vision of socialism and the route to it espoused by anyone who believes that China, Romania etc were any sort of workers states without the workers ever having seized power.

  297. #316 and #317 give a mostly accurate account of the shift away from central state planning in China, but they don’t answer any of the questions I raised in #300, as reality check rightly notes.

    What UBS miss out (surprise, surprise) is the question of class. If the state controlled the economy, who controlled the state?

  298. kieran on said:

    Re 305

    “The size of the physical surplus does not matter to the capitalist – its value, or price, or how much money it is worth absolutely does. If the capitalists steel plant produces a surplus of 200 million tons of steel instead of 100 million tons, if the value of that steel has fallen by more than half, i.e. if it was originally $100 a ton, but it is now less than $50 a ton, then the capitalist will have lost money.”

    Yes, money profits is what concerns an individual capitalist, but does not determine, even at aggregate levels, strictly the national rate of accumulation.

    On your above example, at the level of an economy steel is not just something to be sold, it enters into the process of producing other things.

    So yes revenues will go down for this steelmaker- but steel mills are also made partly out of steel so they will be cheaper to produce, reducing capital value. Also steel is used to produce cars etc, so the capitalists who buy steel as an input will see their profit rates go up.

    At the micro or sectoral level money profits can appear most important, and certainly problems to do with the disribution and supply of money can actually effect the real productive process, but this productive process is best quantified by the physical, relative size of the surplus and the physical capital/output ratio.

    In the USSR the capital output ratio rose rapidly in the 1970’s as labour became scarce. Hence the rate of accumulation also dropped as the rate of exploitation could not be raised sufficiantly to counteract this trend.

    Actually, the ROP fell much quicker in the SU than say japan or korea, where increased capital/labour ratios were associated with dramatic increases in labour and also in some cases total factor productivity.

    In the SU TFP went down with increasing investment becuase the new investments were either to counteract the depletion of resources- ie greenfield projects in siberia, or were insufficiantly modern to realise the economies of scale and technique of the later investments in the asian region.

  299. skidmarx on said:

    Everyone’s still here then.

    318 “You do have to conclude that “state capitalist theory” as a description of a centrally planned non-capitalist economy is basically a load of cobblers, that someone who is entirely ignorant of the facts has stitched together for their own entertainment.”

    I think that you are assuming your conclusion. I’d tend to say that your rejection of conclude that “state capitalist theory” as a description of a centrally planned state capitalist economy is basically a load of cobblers.
    I am tempted to ask if you’ve actually read Cliff, rather than having seen a few isolated quotes, because he does develop his thesis systematically in the book. Obviously on the question of planning I could note that large multinationals engage in a great deal of planning, though I’m sure you would respond by pointing out that they are ultimately subject to the market. I remember Chris Harman doing a meeting on planning years ago in which he suggested this gives too much ground to the idea of consumer sovereignty. Arms manufacturers often face little competition in their government contracts.

  300. John Wight on said:

    Kieran:

    So yes revenues will go down for this steelmaker- but steel mills are also made partly out of steel so they will be cheaper to produce, reducing capital value. Also steel is used to produce cars etc, so the capitalists who buy steel as an input will see their profit rates go up.

    Reply:

    For the steelmaker or car manufacturer to continue to remain competitive in a capitalist economy he has to continue to invest in new technologies and machinery. This determines an increase in the outlay of constant capital at the expense of variable capital in response to the falling rate of profit which results.

    In the USSR, where the aim of production was not the extraction of surplus value but the production of things, where the driver of industrial output was not competition but coordination according to five year plans, no such declining rate of profit was a factor and the cost of labour was not a factor in determining investment.

    New investments in industrial projects were determined by the needs of the overall economy, in accordance with priorities determined by Gosplan, which generally planned 10-15 years ahead. Shortages of labour were the result of deficiencies in planning or organisation. The rate of exploitation you describe you confuse with capitalist norms of production, in which the object is the extraction of surplus value. This was replaced in the SU with production quotas. By the 1970s the bureaucracy had become an obstacle to effective planning, with its priority on secrecy and rigid control concealing realistic information on resources and productive capacity, both of which are key requirements for the effectiveness of a planned economy. It was this deficiency in planning which led to declining rates of growth in the Soviet economy in the 1970s and 1980s, and the economic stagnation which led finally to its implosion in 1989.

  301. skidmarx on said:

    #328 Your argument suggests that the targets set by Gosplan were wholly arbritrary. Why wa the bureaucracy not an obstacle prior to the 1970s.

    “In the USSR, where the aim of production was not the extraction of surplus value but the production of things”
    “The rate of exploitation you describe you confuse with capitalist norms of production, in which the object is the extraction of surplus value.”

    Assertions rather than arguments. If the production of things rather than extraction of surplus value was the motive force of the Russian economy, why was there such a shift from production of means of consumption to production of means of production under Stalin? I think it was “Accumulate, accumulate, that’s Moses and the prophets!” as Marx put it.

  302. John Wight on said:

    Skidmarx:

    The bureaucracy was an impediment. By the 1970s it reached a point of critical mass. Assertions not, concrete analysis yes. I advise you to check sources other than those you’ve been relying on thus far.

    The focus on the production of industrial goods rather than consumer goods was certainly responsible for the shortages which led to the eventual implosion of the Soviet economy . However, during the Stalin era, with the country under the very real threat of invasion, with Soviet industry lagging behind the capitalist economies to such a large degree, the development of industry as a matter of priority was essential. In fact, if not for the five year plans begun by Stalin the SUnion would never have been able to defeat the Nazis.

    Your problem, which may or may not be congenital, is an inability to view events in the SU as being determined largely by the exigences of defence against capitalist encirclement.

  303. skidmarx on said:

    I don’t see it as a problem (and unless I was born with my current views, I think congenital is an unwise choice of adjective). When the Soviet Union imposed the same system on other countries after WW2/ the people of those countries embraced their liberation ofrom the evils of capitalism wholeheartedly, an analysis of the forces and relations of production which can abstract away from the specifics of the Russian experience seems necessary. And the logic of the state capitalist position is that there comes a point where that is no longer an excuse (David Ellis’ comment earlier in the thread about the SWP welcoming capitalist restoration is amusing and stupid, it is a feature of state capitalism that it doesn’t consider either system to be superior. billj- if the system is like facism, how can we say whether it should be supported vis-a-vis Western capitalism, or the other way around?).
    We(John Wight and I)are agreed that it was the military threat of capitalist Powers that was the driving force of the Soviet economy. We just disagree about whether the post-twenties SU should have been defended by socialists.

  304. Pepita # 322: Ken wrote “there is a bit of a difference between the kind of support Thatcher had, based on the real interests of workers whose aspirations conflicted with the organised workers’ movement and support based on the real interests of workers whose priorities were the same as those of the historic organised workers’ movement and just happened to coincide with those of the SED regime.”

    Thats an assumption based on your identitification of the ‘real interests’ of working people. An assumption that assumes that the statification of property is in the real interests of working people. Against all the evidence I might add.

    Well no, the argument works just as well (in both cases – Thatcher and the SED) if we replace ‘real’ with ‘perceived’ or ‘felt’ interests. And it doesn’t depend on statification of property, either – it works just as well for NEP-type or market socialist regimes (and for the ‘anomalous forms’ you correctly expect to see (and I, even more correctly, already see 🙂 in the transition period).

    The evidence that statification is (broadly) in the interests of working people is shown by the catastrophic steps backward in the condition of working people (and in many other measures of civilization) in the former Soviet and Soviet-type states after the famous ‘step sideways’.

    What is in the interests of working people, an assumption I share with Marx, is that the working classes must take state power. The transitional period will then allow for many anomalous forms and does not mandate the immediate statification of propoerty.

    Quite. One of the points I think I, Andy, and Nick would agree on is that the ortho-Trot identification of workers’ state with state property doesn’t work. I for one have found that trying to make that theory, and permanent revolution, and the dogma that all revolutions must be sudden and violent, and the dogma that ‘Stalinism is counter-revolutionary’ work for all the ‘workers’ states’ is like trying to get a dent out of a ping-pong ball. You have to look at how the state power actually worked, and see if the ‘working classes’ actually did have state power.

  305. fellow on said:

    “dogma that ‘Stalinism is counter-revolutionary’ ”

    I think you need to explain rather than simply assert this point. I for one agree 100% with Trotsky on this (as well as many other points lol). PLease tell me how Stalinism was revolutionary!!

  306. I should have been clearer. Some people the SWP calls ‘orthodox Trotskyists’ (Ernest Mandel, for instance) recognised that the Communist Parties of Yugoslavia, Albania, China, and Vietnam had led social revolutions. These CPs hadn’t just been carried to power on a revolutionary wave. So, given that ‘Stalinism is counter-revolutionary’ Mandel figured that these parties weren’t Stalinist, despite having Stalinist structures, programmes, and ideologies. Other ‘orthodox Trotskyists’ insisted that these CPs were Stalinist, and counter-revolutionary, so they had to come up with some other explanation of the revolutions, usually quite a stretch.

    I remember John Lister declaiming: ‘The Vietnamese Communist Party overthrew capitalism IN A COMPLETELY COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY WAY.’

  307. If – as Ken Macleod (332) suggests – we have to look at how state power actually worked it would be useful to conduct this discussion on the basis of personal knowledge about how the socialist countries actually operated. This might require us to stop using the term Stalinist as a substitute for analysis. If for example, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Erich Honnecker, Gustav Husak, Klement Kottwald, Yuri Andropov and my mum are all ‘stalinists’ what does this tell us about ‘stalinism’.

    As the man says “Marxism requires of us a strictly and objectively verifiable analysis of the relations of classes and of the concrete feature peculiar to each historical situation.”

  308. “If for example, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Erich Honnecker, Gustav Husak, Klement Kottwald, Yuri Andropov and my mum are all ’stalinists’ what does this tell us about ’stalinism’.”

    That you might have eneded up better if you had been adopted.

  309. Harrods on said:

    Ken: The way I see the state capitalism argument is more about moments in history than about “Stalinism”. As a result of the successful economic expansion of Italy, Germany and Russia after 1929, it was pretty obvious that they would have twenty years of emulators – whether in Britain (where wartime conservatives seriously discussed the natioanlisation of the land) or Argentine or Mexico or wherever.

    Even America went through a state capitalist moment – as decisively as it’s been going through a private capitalist moment since.

    Fascism is not bourgeois liberalism is not communism is not … but the economic convergence of all these different regimes at a set moment in history shows that something deeper was at work than just “fascism”, “stalinism”…

    Of course, politically, it made a great difference whether the state capitalist regimes were regimes of revolutionary origin, or regimes created by fascism, or by any number of organic processes in between. (I have been a huge fan of state capitalist regimes of military adventurist origin – especially when they tonked the South Africans in Angola). But under state capitalist regimes of both both left and right origin, there was a tendency to rely on torture and imprisonment.

    It’s obvious – Spain in 1939 would have been a happier country if the Russian rather than the Germans had been running the jails; but equally it’s obvious (look at Nin and Maurin) a CP-run Spain would also have been arm-deep in blood.

    It’s obvious too that the left’s equivocation when faced by these prison-states is one reason why the Lars Lih model of socialism lots its appeal, not to hundreds of thouands of people, but to millions.

    Don’t you kind it a bit weird keeping company with people like Andy; nostalgic for the days when the tanks and the prisons were “ours”?

  310. Ken at #334 – no argument from the SWP that the CPs in China, Vietnam, Yugoslavia and Albania led social revolutions. But so did the FLN in Algeria, Castro in Cuba, the Ba’athists in Syria and Iraq…you know the list. Why were some colonial revolutions that ended up with a single ruling party, nationalised industry and a pro-Soviet foreign policy socialist, while others were not? And if socialism, (or a degenerated workers state) could simply be imposed like that, why couldn’t it be imposed like that elsewhere?

    Cliff’s answer was to develop the notion of deflected permanent revolution, that what such revolutions had in common was their anti-colonial nature and the elitist nature of the leaderships, deriving from their specific class positions. This allowed us to welcome anti-colonial revolutions as blows against imperialism, without having to justify the actions of these ruling classes against their populations.

  311. kieran on said:

    In the USSR, where the aim of production was not the extraction of surplus value but the production of things, where the driver of industrial output was not competition but coordination according to five year plans, no such declining rate of profit was a factor and the cost of labour was not a factor in determining investment.

    Yes, the beurocracy was an impediment to effective planning etc but what i am getting at is that there is a technical/economic/structural reason for the slowdown too.

    In the early years of the SU there was a massive stock of under utilised labour in the countryside with negative to very little marginal productivity. Shoving these people into factories, even when the labour productivity was not high led to real growth, and at a high rate because not much investment was needed to get massive gains in output and productivity- in some cases peasants were using wooden plows etc so a 1 rouble metal blade made a big difference in output.

    Regardless of the nominal wage rate, later on the opportunity cost of labour increased- As expansion was initially largely in scale not intensity, the capital output ratio stayed quite low. But the structural shortage of labour meant that new investments had to be very capital intensive, as only a few workers were available, or that they had to be taken from areas where they were already productive so imposing an opportunity cost.

    Even under socialism some of these technical aspects will remain- ie if you want to have very high labour productivity and therefore consumption this usually requires investments which are very capital intensive.

    The lack of rational planning made many of these problems worse- say if oil could be economically extracted at a rate of 5000 barrels per day from a declining reserve, but the plan called for 8000, the 8000 may be possible but only with a insanely massive application of new capital- high pressure pumps, more exploration, tapping very marginal reserves etc.

    Becuase of the beurocratic nature of planning, there was no way of individual plant managers quantifying their achievements- ie how could one compare two techniques with differnent input intensity, output and capital outlays unless all these factors could be accounted for in common units (money). Plan firfillment was rewarded even if it was achieved with massive waste of capital and inputs.

    According to the figures of Weitzman, by the 1960’s an increase in the capital stock in the SU by 1% only lead to a .2% increase in output.

    In SU, between 1975 and 1985, the capital stock in ferrous metal production increased by 67%, employment rose 9%, but output only rose 10 %, with TFP declining 11%.

    In 1967-75, TFP growth in coal, oil and ferrous metals was 7, 35 and 14% respectively. By 1975-85 these figures were -24, -21, and -11.

    Only in gas production was there an increase in TFP growth.

    some of this is of a technical nature but alot was a result of the poor planning mechanism,

    in Japan, the elasticity of subsitution between labour and capital was 1.0 or higher as opposed to .4 in SU. a figure of 1.0 or higher implies an acceleration of growth as the capital intensity increases, .4 implies a sharp slowdown in growth.

  312. Post #339 “In the USSR, where the aim of production was not the extraction of surplus value but the production of things, where the driver of industrial output was not competition but coordination according to five year plans, no such declining rate of profit was a factor and the cost of labour was not a factor in determining investment.”

    This is plain dumb. For many statified industries in the ‘free world’ the aim of production was the satisfaction of abstract plans that did not relate to the needs of the populace. In other words the smae situation prevailed as in the so called ‘workers states’.

    What kieran cannot touch on is the lack of control by the workers and their relationship to the means of production. In the latter case because the workers in the workers states stood in exactly the same relationship to the means of production as workers in the ‘free world’.

    In plain language kieran is saying that a ‘plan’ and the statifcation of capital equals a ‘workers state’ or ‘socialism’. So we are back to the same old ortho trot or euro garbage about nationalisation. Boring comrades boring.

  313. chjh # 338: Why were some colonial revolutions that ended up with a single ruling party, nationalised industry and a pro-Soviet foreign policy socialist, while others were not?

    To answer that question you have to look at the class forces involved and the particular circumstances. I can’t claim to have done so, but from common knowledge I would suggest that (e.g.) the Ba’ath parties were never rooted in or even oriented to the working class movements of their particular countries, nor did they fuse with them in the revolution (as the Cuban revolutionaries did). It also seems that the social revolutions in Iraq, Syria and Algeria were much less deep-going than those in Cuba, Vietnam, China etc.

    And if socialism, (or a degenerated workers state) could simply be imposed like that, why couldn’t it be imposed like that elsewhere?

    It wasn’t simply imposed or ‘from above’. In many cases it was less ‘imposed’ than Soviet rule over large parts of the Russian empire after 1917, where ‘Soviet power’ arrived in the form of a troop of peasants on horseback led by an intellectual with a red star on his cap.

    Something else to bear in mind is that socialism in the generic sense is not exclusive to the modern working class. All through history, peasants and plebians of various kinds have established usually short-lived communistic societies, some of which were spectacularly horrible. (See The Pursuit of the Millennium by Norman Cohn for lots of examples.) I think the Pol Pot regime can be understood better as something of this type (a reactionary-utopian barracks communism) than as a deformed workers’ state or state capitalism.

  314. #340 “In plain language kieran is saying that a ‘plan’ and the statifcation of capital equals a ‘workers state’ or ’socialism’”

    Actually Keiran is a supporter (I believe) of the idea that the Comecon economies were state capitalist, although I also find his contribution to this debate a little opaque.

    I think Kerian’s misconception is to assume that all accumulated wealth is capital, thus confusing the means of production as accumulated use values, and capital as a social category.

    All developed economic forms of society require the accumulation of use values produced by cooperative human labour. But capital is a social category based upon the use of labour power purchased as a commodity. So some of Keiran’s argument is addressed at establishing that the USSR was an advanced industrial society – which is actually not in dispute.

  315. You see, if you look at East Germany from 1945 to about 1960, you see a very intereting process of social revolution.

    The expropriation of land, initially with distribution to small farmers, and then gradual (and peaceful) collectivisation, completely eradicated the capitalist farmer and the Junker as social classes (Junkerland in Bauern Hand). Private industry and shops were nationalised, and there were deliberate social policies to reduce the political and economic power of the Capitalist class – including very progressive measures to provide enhanced educational opportunities and career advancement to those from working class and poor backgrounds, especially benefiting women. The tax regime was also structured to benefit those engaged in productive labour, rather than managers. there was also mass popular participation in debating government priorities – not only through the SED, but also through the other block parties, like the CDU, and faremers party, but also through the trade unions, national front, FDJ, FDF and other mass organisations.

    The probelm with the state cap and trot analyses is that you discount altogether the actual expereince of millions of ordinary people, and the concrte features of the society.

    The state cap argument totally ignores the fact that the predominat economic imperative in the DDR after 1953 was the production of consumer goods – not armaments. Indeed, it is hard to agree that the “bureaucracy were an impediment” to economic growth – it would be more accurate to say that the emphasis on consumerism was unsustainable.

    The orthodox trots ignore the mass popular participation, and the way that government priorites were often moulded not from ideas popping out of Ulbricht’s head, or Honiker’s head, but by participative debate, including leading experts, academics, trade unions and other stake holders (very much as it happens in the Peoples’ republic of China today).

    Now of course there were specific features of political repression that were bad, but it is an accomodation to anti-socialist propaganda and liberalism to believe these societies were primarily chracterised by political represion.

  316. Nick Wright on said:

    Interesting insight into the problem of ‘workers control’ (Mike 340) from an impeccable revolutionary Bolshevik source

    From a Circular Letter to the Managements of Syndicates and Trusts and to Red Directors

    June 19, 1924

    … One must not fear criticism, or gloss over shortcomings; on the contrary, it is necessary to help to make them known and to see nothing discreditable in doing so. Only he can be discredited who conceals his shortcomings, who is unwilling to fight against evils, that is, precisely the man who ought to be discredited. It is necessary to be able to see the truth and to imbibe it from the masses and from all who are taking part in production.

    There is nothing worse than self-praise and self-satisfaction. It is possible to go forward only when, step by step, evils are sought out and overcome. At the same time, an end must be put to our established practice of humouring the masses – the workers.

    It should be remembered that in our country the workers, like ourselves, are not yet cultured, that often their group interests outweigh the interests of the working class as a whole; often they do not sufficiently realise that only their own useful labour, the productivity of their labour, can create the communist state, maintain their Soviet power.

    Every economic manager should wage a struggle to win prestige, to win the confidence of the working masses, but the struggle for this confidence should on no account employ the instrument of demagogy, of humouring the masses, satisfying them to the detriment and at the expense of the state, of the interests of the alliance with the peasants, of parochial requirements. The path of demagogy is perhaps the most harmful path, lulling the masses, deflecting them from the main tasks of the working class in production, diminishing the sacrifices the working class has made and, in the final analysis, one which is harmful for our industry….

  317. kieran on said:

    I was replying to 328 above quoting him but forgot the quotes. the body of text below is not my words

    “In the USSR, where the aim of production was not the extraction of surplus value but the production of things, where the driver of industrial output was not competition but coordination according to five year plans, no such declining rate of profit was a factor and the cost of labour was not a factor in determining investment.”

    Needless to say i disagree with this statement.

    My main point is that the SU, becuase of its beurocratic planning process, and also because of technical/structural issues that effect all industrialising countries was prone to economic crisis. Or more precisely the technical problems of a modern industrialised economy were unable to be adressed in a rational way due to the lack of a rational price or planning mechanism. That this was also undemocratic and workers were removed from control over the allocation of goods or even broad investment priorities also helps illustrate why it was nor socialism in terms of the emancipation of the working class and its elevation to the status of the ruling class.

    The declinging marginal productivity of new investments in the SU was an absolutely demonstated empirical fact. You can say this is very different to the falling rate of profit in market capitalism but both imply a tendency towards crisis and a secular slowdown as economies mature.

    Andy is correct I am broadly a supporter of the state capitalist theory. But also i have some slightly different views on the lever of crisis in state cap countries.

    The technological lag and economies of scale associated with autarky seem pretty important to me as well as the class divisions as levers of crisis. But on this point i think the prospects for state directed economies, including of genuine attempts to move towards socialist and on the right (ie both venezueala and china), seem to have gotten better.

    Today, the US simply cannot impose on china or even ven. a state of technological backwardness. Look at he joint ventures in the chinese car industry or even the industrial agreements and tech transfers by ven, including their new satelite- these states did not need to independently develop cutting edge tech through massive invesment programs but can just get it on pretty easy terms from overseas firms.

    In other words state economic control is no longer necessarily associated with autarcky and technological isolation any more.

    On another topic, I gave just been reading “the class nature of stalinist russia” by cliff.

    What struck me was not only the excellent examples he gives of the irrationality of soviet planning, but that he implicitely supports a move towards ‘real’ prices and the imposition of rationality through the market.

    On several occasions he argues, to paraphrase ‘if workers had any control over the economy they would do away with the arbitrary and irrational nature of planning by decree, and institute an effective price mechanism’

    Which i really did not expect to come from cliff, but also pleasantly suprised.

    The more i think about it, workers self management and direct, collective ownership of enterprises requires an effective price mechanism so that workers can be both rewarded or at the very least gauge their efforts and results against some objective criterion.

    Of course here externalities could be factored in to make prices reflect the ‘real’ value of the goods produced or ‘real’ costs of inputs, producing a superior price mechanism to that under capitalism.

    re

    “What kieran cannot touch on is the lack of control by the workers and their relationship to the means of production. In the latter case because the workers in the workers states stood in exactly the same relationship to the means of production as workers in the ‘free world.”

    Actually, the lack of control over the productive process by workers, or to be precise the class divisions in the SU is one reason why the SU was prone to economic crisis. So i pretty much agree with you here.

    Re “I think Kerian’s misconception is to assume that all accumulated wealth is capital, thus confusing the means of production as accumulated use values, and capital as a social category.”

    Well what i was trying to establish is that defining ‘productive wealth’ in the SU, or even under feudalism as something other than capital does not remove ones ability to quantify it. Nor does it allow a society to escape the fact that the magnitude and technical aspects of the ‘productive wealth’ or ‘things that produce things’ that a society posesses and produces in surplus determines its growth trajectory.

    If the SU produced even more factories and less food, and further if the factories it produced were not so expensive to build and had greater output in relation to cost, then the growth slowdown of the 70’s would not have occured.

    Of course we know that in hindsight, the SU could not produce enough ‘good factories’ to compete.

    agaisn, some of this, again was technical/structural, like the problems of technological autarcky which i believe now have diminished as a barrier to state economic development.

    But the other aspect is the fact that not only did the SU appear to produce ‘enough good factories’ but the ones that were produced were set to work making the wrong things, or in the wrong quantities or sent to the wrong customer due to the bad planningn system.

    So we have three real problems.

    1. Not enough factories (or accumulation was too low)
    2. Factories are not good enough (or tech was too low)
    3. Factories are not the sort that is needed or produce the wrong things for the wrong customer (planning was inneficiant)

    Now what i think is a valuable insight of cliff was to link problems 1 and 3 togther through a class analysis- , to try and raise the rate of accumulation and adress problem one the beurocracy had to assert itself through economic dictat, which exacerbated problem three.

    Problem 2 is tied up with inter imperialist competition- military and economic competition both enforced great demands on soviet tech, and through ensuring alot of resources went to the military restricted its long run ability to produce effeciently through neglecting civilian tech advances, which flowed onto a gap in military sophistication. also important here was the sanctions on tech transfer to china and SU.

  318. Kieran, intesesting observations, though I need to digest what you are saying a bit.

    There is another factor, that was particularly observed in the Comecon countries, that in a country with no fear of unemployment, labour discipline is weak, and productivity lower.

    So some of the predicted greater efficient of non-capitallist economies did not occur.

    We may also observe that lack of access to finance capital and restrictiosn on foreign trade coould lead to a sluggish response that led to some minor problems becoming catastrophic. For example the failure of fish finger (fish sticks in US English) production in the DDR was becasue the prodction of fish fingers overwhelmed the number of refrigerated lorries and freezer cabinets in shops, but the DDR economy could not simply overcome this by quickly importing more freezers. So instead of having a success story, a relativley minor glitch led to a catastrohic loss of the investment in the Rostock factories.

  319. kieran on said:

    Re 340 Actually what you though i meant is the exacty opposite of what i mean

    “the declining rate of profit and the cost of labour was not a factor in determining investment.”

    Whereas i pretty much would turn it around to say

    “the declining rate of profit and the cost of labour determined the rate of growth and accumulation in the SU, and these variables are key to understanding the relative dynamism of the soviet economy and its eventual crisis.”

  320. #347 Kieran

    I kind of got lost in the technalities up till now, so I was glad to see that you that you expressed some flexibility to the state cap view, which without it too often becomes a technospeak babble of dogma between the two poles of the argument.
    I would add that your point 3 (reference to the high cost of the competition generated by the arms race under Reagan) IMO needs to be emphasised to underlie the complete bankruptcy of the SU economy in the 80’s, and the picking over over of the carcass by those well connected apparatchicks and those black marketeers* ( *as Andy rightly pointed out) who personally benefited enormously.
    There also needs to be serious mention (as was given by at least one blogger) of the class nature of the SU before the economic collapse of the 80s. The dual economy of dollars and roubles with the former restricted to the priviledged, with their own access to Party shops and foreign domestic goods ( the area where the SU was most deficient at producing), the vastly higher salaries of high Party officials and some others which gave them a lifestyle miles out of reach of workers:- with servants and limos, dachas and private country clubs etc.
    All kept in line with a deeply repressive state apparatus.

  321. As far as the thread of ‘where does the SWP go from here’ .
    Having been a mostly faithful supporter/member of the SWP/IS for the 35 years preceeding the split in Respect ( engineered shamefully IMHO by the majority of the SWP cc), this partial ( and I suspect as far as the cc are concerned begrudging) recognition of a democratic deficit in the Party, I hope will be the beggining of a recognition of and repairing of the great damage done to the Party and the ‘left’ as a whole by the split.
    However the outcome of the ‘Democracy Commission’ may only serve to either limit the extent of any fundemental change or/and act as a cover to past misdeeeds ( including of course the present maintaining of the lies concerning the Respect split).

  322. The Vengence of History on said:

    Yes but Rosa you can bore for Zamosc and most of your stuff makes no sense

    Unlike this thread which is of interest

    See the difference?

  323. The Vengence of History on said:

    Is that meant to be a joke? Or is the whole web site a rather sophisticated parody of a undergraduate leftist?

    If so it is pretty good.

    A sort of Citizen Smoth of the digital age!

  324. TVOH:

    “Is that meant to be a joke? Or is the whole web site a rather sophisticated parody of a undergraduate leftist?”

    So, you can’t tell me which parts of my essays ‘make no sense’. You just like to pass offensive and baseless comments.

    In fact, you are like all the other dialecticians I have encountered over the last 25 years: you can’t defend your ‘theory’ so you just resort to abuse.

    Plenty more boorish comrades like you recorded here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/RevLeft.htm

  325. The Vengence of History on said:

    Brilliant reply

    Like it a lot

    Are you using 1970s US Maoist literature as the bais of the parody?

    One two three many piss takes of a different kind

    Great keep it up

  326. TVOH, once more, thanks for confiming my suspicions: you are a rather pathetic piss-taker and fabulist who cannot substantiate a single one of your insincere allegations.

  327. Rosa

    The difference is that you are a boring, rude obsessive with nothing new to say.

    You also have your own web-site for those interested in your views, so you should accept that those who are interested in discussing your views can do so there, whereas we do not welcome a discussion of them here.

  328. external bulletin on said:

    “The difference is that you are a boring, rude obsessive with nothing new to say.”

    As someone with broad sympathy for Rosa’s general stance, I have to second this.

  329. Andy:

    “The difference is that you are a boring, rude obsessive with nothing new to say.”

    You were the one who began the rudeness. And I note you do not deny the censorship.

    “You also have your own web-site for those interested in your views, so you should accept that those who are interested in discussing your views can do so there, whereas we do not welcome a discussion of them here.”

    You allow characters from Harry’s Place to post here, whose views are offensive. Mine are merely controversial. So you censor mine, not theirs, and that is because you can’t answer my criticisms of your ‘theory’ — as we found out to your cost a few weeks ago.

    However, we can’t have the tender eyes of dialecticians confronted with views they can’t handle, can we?

  330. External:

    “As someone with broad sympathy for Rosa’s general stance, I have to second this.”

    With ‘friends’ like this, I can do without friends!

    But, we all know that there are those who regard Das Kapital as ‘boring’, but how many of us ape Harold Wilson and only manage to read to page two?

    Moreover, Marx was an ‘obsessive’ critic of capitalism, devoting 40 years of his life to its criticism, and many millions of words to the same end. So, calling me ‘obsessive’ in my determination to rid our movement of this regressive, useless ‘theory’ (dialectics) is praise indeed. So, more please…

    And may I remind you that when I came here in 2007, I was politeness personified. But that did not stop comrades here being rude and offensive to me. In fact, Andy was very pleasant and accommodating to me in 2007. However, for no reason, in 2008 he became offensive, abusive, and began to make things up about me and my ideas.

    In reality, what comrades object to is the fact that I can fight my corner. You lot can dish it out (but not very well); you just can’t take it in return, can you?

  331. Halshall:

    “Can we please return to the thread now ?”

    Apologies; I merely wished to bring to Andy’s attention that he is extrordiarily accommodating with comrades who do not question ‘dialectics’, but the exact opposite with those who do.

    And he is inconsistent in who he censors, and for what reasons he does so. Many who post here have their own sites where they can argue about state capitalism to their heart’s content — and they are allowed to do that here, too, and in a thread *not about state capitalism*.

    But, as soon as I tried to raise doubts about the-theory-that-may-not-be-questioned (hallowed be its name) in a thread that was about that theory (!!), I was censored.

    So, I made this point here, since the obvious bias was plain to see.

    Then TROH made yet more un-called for offensive remarks, which he/she refused to substantiate. And the rest, as they say, is history.

    Providing Andy does not censor me again, and no one else is abusive, I will shut up.

  332. Rosa

    Go away. You are a compulsive unpleasant person and I don’t want you commenting here, This is nothing to do with the content of your “theories” but because of your rude, arrogant and nit-picking personality, and your obsessional habit of trying to get every discussion you post in to revolve around your own off-beat hobby horse.

    I would rather you never commented on this blog again.

  333. Communist bureaucrat on said:

    I was rather enjoying the debate about ‘actually existing socialism’ until RL tried to divert it. It showed the left in a rather better light than the infantile, sectarian sniping seen too often on other threads.
    The CPB have put the report of their delegation to China on the web, in three parts, at http://communist-party.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=51:chinas-line-of-march&Itemid=54&layout=default
    It’s in the ‘Analysis’ section, if that reference fails.
    I know the report’s been written by wined and dined Stalinist hacks, and so might not be worthy of everyone’s time here, but it has the merit of being based on (1) actually going to China and meeting workers as well as Party bureaucrats; and (2)sources of information from within China rather than just the Western bourgeois ones.
    How unlike many of the contributions on the former Soviet Union and the socialist states of central and eastern Europe in this debate!
    (Yes, I condemned Apartheid South Africa without having to go there …)

  334. The other mechanism by which the economies were undermined was by destabilising the worforce through inducing defection.

    For example, a Cuban defector to the USA will today be granted immediate residencey and work permits, even if they enter the USA illegally and without valid travel documents.

    An immigrant from Haiti would not be so lucky.

    In the case of Germany, the BRD immediteley offered citizenship and a generous wadge of DM to anyone fleeing the East.

    The violence of the DDR’s wall was obvious, but we shouldn’t forget the scale of violence that Western states use to police their borders against immigrants. Nor should we overlook the fact that during the 1950s a high proportion of those going to the West were the expropriated capitalists, and former nazis. After the wall was built a fair percentage of those fleeing actually failed in the West and many tried to return. Flight to a new life in the BRD became a delusional dream for many misfits and anti-social elements in the DDR, who beleived the streets were paved with gold in the West, and did not realise that in the West, you only get money if you have useful skills to offer. It was very much a question of the dollars on the other side of the wall being greener.

  335. David Ellis on said:

    #368 `And clearly, the failure of the Soviet Union to catch up & overtake the West in productivity was a major factor in the eventual defeat and break-up of the USSR.’

    Aye, and there’s the rub. It was misplaced prestige, fear of the working class and a counter-revolutionary self-interest that led to the bureaucracy’s efforts to build a parallel and separate economy from such a backward base that could `peacefully co-exist’ with Western capitalism and of course when it collapsed the Russian economy fell back exhausted to virtually where it was before. Building socialism in one country was an anathema to the Bolsheviks and they were relying on the spread of the revolution Westward. Socialism is a higher stage in the development of the productive forces than capitalism and you can’t even build capitalism in one country. I think Trotsky said that had he lived Lenin would have ended up in one of Stalin’s Gulags given the strength of the Thermidor and of course the Stalinists spent a lot of money making sure `peaceful co-existence was maintained when they could.

  336. Abusive as ever, Andy — but still bereft of arguments in defence of your ‘theory’. And that is of course why you are abusive.

    Naah, it’s because you’re boring.

  337. “Flight to a new life in the BRD became a delusional dream for many misfits and anti-social elements in the DDR, who beleived the streets were paved with gold in the West,”

    I am sorry Andy the idea that workers who wanted wanted a better life and yes mistakenly in many ways believed the west offered ares omehow misfits and anti social is pure stalinist rubbish. Also the idea that everyhting was basically ok i these police states and there way were just undermined by the west is fantasy. They were capitalist states of a particular form. Your arguements could only lead you to opposing the resistance of workers in the former eastern bloc. A sad trajectory on your part I am afraid.

  338. David Ellis on said:

    `They were capitalist states of a particular form. Your arguements could only lead you to opposing the resistance of workers in the former eastern bloc. A sad trajectory on your part I am afraid.’

    Yes, but perhaps an even sadder trajectory on your part was to uncritically cheer on the dismantling of these economies at tremendous expense to millions of workers.

  339. David like industries in the west those of the east that were umcompetitive went to the wall. Industries in the statified economies that were world class survived as did those extractive industries that no advanced industrialised economy can do without.

    The result in the east was the collapse of regimes that oppressed working people and were opposed by a series of mass revolts by working people. That those economies were then engulfed by economic dislocation, since rectified to some considerable degree, does not prove that they were ‘workers states’ simply that they were uncompetitive.

    The same point can be made of other derigiste or state directed economies, if you dislike the term state capitalism, in many parts of the world.

  340. Mike, repeating himself:

    “Rosa, dahling, you are repeating yourself.

    You’re so unutterably boring.”

    Still in denial mode I see.

    Unfortunately, because dialectics is so mind-numbingly boring, it is difficult for me to make any discussion of it spark even your dead brain cells to life.

  341. J MC DONALD on said:

    As a outsider and former member of a party not discimlar to yours, i find the infighting of your party is what has in the past decimated other parties. Palistine is and has always been an area concern to all socialy aware orginisation, and will be for the centurys to come.Surely your party and other of similar beliefs should be making more productive inroads to your membership and survival, by addresing the present issues affecting workers and non workers globaly, and that is the present collapse of laisse fare capitalism, to the introduction of what is now State Capitalism, good luck and in unity there is strenth.

  342. Loser Richtenstein on said:

    #364 ‘Andy: OK. I’m off.’

    17 posts later you’ve been back 3 times – this looks suspiciously like a manifestation of the interpenetration of opposites, on the other hand it may just be down to not knowing your own mind.

  343. rachel trickett on said:

    News arrives that the credit crunch and ensuing recession and depression are hitting revolutionary soicalism’s finest in the SWP. SWP employees, of whom there are far too many given the party’s reduced circumstances in terms of membership, influence, etc, have been asked to take a formidable pay cut of up to £200 per month to try and make the books balance a little better than they have been doing in recent years.

    However there are at least two exceptions to this. Under the quite extraordinarily generous redundency package offered to Comrades German and Rees, they are being paid their full whack as (foremr) full-timers through to July this year, six months after they voluntarily came off the Central Committee.

    Given the ruthlessness with which German and Rees pushed through compulsory redundancies in the past and the summary dismissal of full-timers who got on the wrong side of them, with minimal transitional arrangements, the hypocrisy of the family parachute, freely entered into by the old and the (not so) new regime, is breathtaking.

    I think I would be just a little hacked off if I was either an SWP full-timer or a hard-pressed rank and file SWP member. Seems to me it’s the Bolshevik equivalent of the Fred the Shred debacle.