Saturday, July 24, 2010

*From The Wilds Of Cyberspace- The Latest From The "Socialist Action" Website

Click on the title to link to the website mentioned in the headline for the latest news and opinion from that site.

Markin comment:

I will be commenting more on the various stands of the Fourth International movement, the now very broken, organizationally broken although not progammatically broken (think the Transitional Program), movement founded by Leon Trotsky and his co-thinkers in 1938 in the future.


Fourth International Debates Party-Building Strategy

by Jeff Mackler / July 2010

More than 200 delegates, observers, and invited guests from some 45 countries attended the 16th World Congress of the Fourth International (FI), Feb. 23-28 in Belgium. The FI is the world socialist organization founded in 1938 by Leon Trotsky with the help of cothinkers worldwide, including James P. Cannon, the pioneer of American Trotskyism.

The draft reports prepared by the FI leadership to initiate the pre-World Congress on-line discussion appear in the International Viewpoint website under “Documents of the FI.” A critical assessment of these texts, entitled, “Socialist Action USA: A contribution to the pre-World Congress discussion,” appears in the same place.

Three main resolutions were presented for discussion and debate. The first two, on “The World Political Situation” and on “Capitalist Climate Change and Our Tasks” were accepted with little dissent and accompanied by a generally rich and productive discussion.

But there were sharp disagreements with regard to the third report on “The Role and Tasks of the FI.” Socialist Action cast its fraternal vote in favor of the first two resolutions and against the “Role and Tasks” text. Reactionary U.S. legislation bars Socialist Action’s formal membership in the FI. Its delegates therefore participate in a fraternal capacity only.

“The World Political Report” contained a description of the terrible effects on the world’s working classes due to the international capitalist economic crisis, a crisis that was properly judged as flowing from fundamental structural flaws in the capitalist system itself.

The second resolution and reports on the world climate crisis represented an important theoretical advance, as well as an important contribution to the world workers’ movement more generally. The text on climate change combined a thoroughgoing Marxist analysis with the science of ecology, a wealth of factual material, a rejection of a “productivist” (capitalist or Stalinist) way out, a series of transitional and immediate demands, proposals for united mass actions, and a broad appreciation of the magnitude and importance of the climate crisis issue.

The resolution began with a clear and unequivocal statement of the magnitude and importance of the issue: “The climate change that is underway is not the product of human activity in general but of the productivist paradigm developed by capitalism and imitated by other systems that claim to be alternatives to the former. Faced with the danger of a social and ecological catastrophe which is without precedent and is irreversible on a human timescale, the system, incapable of calling into question its fundamental logic of accumulation, is engaged in a dangerous technological forward flight from which there is no way out.”

Debate on “Tasks” resolution

The third resolution debated at the World Congress, “The Role and Tasks of the Fourth International,” drew serious criticism from a number of delegates. The text expressed the view that the priority of the FI today must be the construction of “broad anti-capitalist parties” everywhere—as well as a “new international based on such parties.”

The FI’s primary objective since its founding has been to build mass revolutionary Leninist parties worldwide aimed at the organization of the working class and its allies among the oppressed to take political power and construct socialist societies. Unclear in the resolution was whether its call for “broad anti-capitalist parties” was meant to supplant the FI’s historic party-building strategy.

The debate also concerned the role of FI parties that would participate in these “broad anti-capitalist parties.” Were they to organize as a tendency, caucus, or some such formation designed to win new FI members to a clear revolutionary program and party—or were they to become absorbed into such parties without a clear revolutionary program and Trotskyist identity?

This issue was particularly relevant in light of last year’s dissolution of the French section of the Fourth International, the Revolutionary Communist League, into the New Anti-Capitalist Party, and the absence of any organized FI current within the organization. Was the NPA to be the new model for revolutionaries as opposed to building a Leninist party?

The text had been prepared by the FI’s International Committee after deliberations over the course of more than a year. Some 72 comrades took the floor to express a wide range of views on the resolution.

As the discussion proceeded, it became obvious that there was little agreement among the delegates as to the meaning and purpose of “broad anti-capitalist parties.” Neither the ambiguous language of the text nor the reporter explained whether these parties were envisioned as an alternative to building revolutionary parties based on the historic program of the FI or even whether these parties were to be socialist at all.

In Socialist Action’s view, a tactical decision as to what kind of formations revolutionary socialists participate in must be subordinate to our strategic objective—the construction of revolutionary parties aimed at the organization of the working class and its allies in the struggle for socialism. Of course, party-building can take many forms, from participation in reformist or social-democratic parties, to principled fusions, or unifications with currents with whom we find major programmatic agreement and with whom we find ourselves working together toward the same goals in the mass movement.

Indeed, the struggle to unify the working class in united-front mass actions that challenge specific polices of the capitalist class (such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or attacks on immigrant rights) is a central tool of revolutionaries throughout the world to advance our common cause and simultaneously win the best fighters to socialist politics.

Build the Fourth International!

While the “Role and Tasks” text was approved by the great majority of the delegates, the vote was not without major reservations and also reflected a view that the discussion would be continued.

It was clear from the concluding remarks of the reporter for “The Role and Tasks of the FI” text that the sharp World Congress debates had an important impact on the FI leadership. The reporter essentially accepted an amendment to the text indicating that the disparate views were far from resolved and that the debate would continue at future FI meetings.

A significant number of World Congress participants were enthusiastic, serious, and well-informed youth, an indication that FI sections have been able to assemble a layer of young fighters to replace the older cadre in the years ahead.

The World Congress took place at a difficult time for revolutionaries throughout the world—a time when the attacks on the world’s working classes have taken a great toll while resistance has been generally limited. These defeats undoubtedly weighed heavily on the Congress deliberations, leading some to look for shortcut solutions that ignore the rich lessons of the past.

It became increasingly evident during the World Congress that the critical need to build the Fourth International, based on the construction of revolutionary socialist parties of the Leninist type, will remain central to the FI’s future discussions and debates.

Friday, July 23, 2010

*From The Pages Of "Workers Hammer"-On The British Labour Party, Circa 2010- A Guest Commentary

*Click onthe headline to link to a Workers Hammer article from Spring 2010 on the British Labour Party and the then upcoming elections.

*From The "Spartacist" Journal Archives-"British Communism Aborted:The Far left: 1900-1920"- A Guest Book Review/Commentary

Markin comment:

The following is an article from an archival issue of the Spartacist journal, Winter 1985-86, that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social and political questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of Spartacist periodically throughout the year.


"British Communism Aborted:The Far left: 1900-1920"- A Guest Book Review/Commentary

The Origins of British Bolshevism
by Raymond Challinor Croom, Helm Ltd., London, 1977

If knowledge is not always power, ignorance is always weakness. With the deteriorating American school system calculated to produce ignorant youth in a period of reaction and Cold War, education of Marxist cadre is a crucial task for a Leninist organization. In this spirit, the Spartacist League/U.S. has instituted a nationally centralized program of internal education in Marxism and general knowledge.

As an aspect of this educational program, a significant part of the Central Committee plenum of the S L/ U.S., held last August, was devoted to a consideration of Raymond Challinor's The Origins of British Bolshevism. This is a study of the British Socialist Labour Party (SLP) from its origin around 1900 to its rapid disintegration in the early 1920s, following the organization's refusal to participate in the formation of the British section of the Communist International. Also as part of the education program Ed Clarkson of the SL Central Committee gave an educational presentation on Lenin's "Left-Wing" Communism: An Infantile Disorder to a National Committee plenum of the Spartacus Youth League, the SL's youth section (reprinted as "Leninist Tactics and the Road to Workers Power" in Young Spartacus Nos. 130 and I3l, October and November 1985). We print below an edited version of a presentation to the plenum by comrade George Foster of the Sparta cist League Central Committee on Challinor's book.

This study of the British SLP illuminates in one important, concrete case the historic problem of forging Communist parties in the West out of the subjectively revolutionary elements in the pre-1917 socialist and anarcho-syndicalist movements. It also adds appreciably to our understanding of why the Communist Party in Britain was stillborn. The sterility of the CPGB and absence of a real Leninist tradition in Britain have been key negative conditions for the complete hegemony of Laborite reformism over the workers movement right down to the present.

The Third International

Much of the discussion focused on Challinor's parochial and nationally limited conception of revolutionary organization. The very title conveys a false understanding, as if a genuine counterpart of Russian Bolshevism was spontaneously generated on British (or Scottish) soil. Unlike the British SLP, the Russian Bolshevik Party was forged as an instrument to struggle for power amid the universal revolutionary ferment of the last years of the tsarist empire. It was this which set the Bolsheviks apart from even the best pre-World War I socialist parties in the West. In the discussion one conference participant pointed out:

"...[T]he Communist International does not fall from the skies, it comes from the experience of the Russian workers movement and the Russian Revolution— [T]he combination of a great empire; a central ethnicity that was not to be threatened, but massive national oppression; the growth of a great, raw, militant proletariat; pressures given the autocracy such that every member of the intelligentsia went through a selection process—all this churned up through wars, agrarian issues—[thus it was] that of all the parties of the Second International the Russian Social Democrats had the vanguard of experience."

The Bolsheviks' revolutionary experience was generalized and codified in the famous 21 Conditions for membership in the Communist International.

The British SLP was an example of a small Marxist propaganda group, originating and developing under relatively stable conditions of bourgeois democracy, which was then confronted with convulsive events, namely, the first imperialist world war and the Russian Revolution. The SLP had become so habituated to its prewar situation that it failed to make the turn toward the tasks of a new, far stormier period of social struggle.


Comrades all have the study guide, the questions that were prepared to be thought about in conjunction with reading the book of Challinor.

For some of these questions the answers are quite clear; others are complex and require a lot of evaluation, thought and weighing; and at least one of them ought to frighten you a bit—which is, how does a party prepare for unanticipated and perhaps unprecedented events in a situation where the tasks posed by those events may for a period be far beyond your capacity? And the simple answer that comes to mind is: go through the experiences of the Bolshevik Party. Which may seem like a tautology, but isn't. And that's the point of this talk—that comrades Lenin and Trotsky and the first four congresses of the Communist International provide us with at least the political method and structure whereby we can forge a party which has both the program and possibly the capacity to make the rapid changes and adjustments necessary to lead to the revolutionary victory of the workers over the bourgeoisie.

I'd like to begin discussing the book by reading a quote from James Cannon, pioneer American Communist and Trotskyist, which 1 think sets this book in its context. And the quote is from Cannon's review of The Roots of American Communism by Theodore Draper. You'll find it in the book The First Ten Years of American Communism. Cannon says:

"The traditional sectarianism of the Americans was expressed most glaringly in their attempt to construct revolutionary unions outside the existing labor movement; their refusal to fight for’ immediate demands' in the course of the class struggle for the socialist goal; and their strongly entrenched anti-parliamentarism, which was only slightly modified in the first program of the Communist Party. All that hodgepodge of ultra-radicalism was practically wiped out of the American movement in 1920-21 by Lenin. He did it, not by an administrative order backed up by police powers, but by the simple device of publishing a pamphlet called "Left-Wing" Communism: An Infantile Disorder. (This famous pamphlet was directed in part against the Dutch theoreticians who had exerted such a strong influence on the Americans and a section of the Germans.)"

Cannon goes on:

"The 'Theses and Resolutions' of the Second Congress of the Comintern in 1920 also cleared up the thinking of the American communists over a wide range of theoretical and political problems, and virtually eliminated the previously dominating influence exerted by the sectarian conceptions of De Leon and the Dutch leaders."

That is to say, whatever the particularities of the fate of the British Socialist Labour Party (SLP) and the impact of that on the viability of the Communist Party of Britain as it was constituted, its importance is far less of a factor than Lenin's "Left-Wing" Communism: An Infantile Disorder. Lenin's work is literally a handbook of communist tactics which solved many of the problems of the American movement—the question of "boring from within," the question of the connection between parliamentarism and industrial action, the question of industrial unions, the question of conservative-dominated craft unions, the question of dual unionism. Unfortunately for most militants of the British SLP, afflicted with many of the very same political diseases, the lessons of Bolshevism were not assimilated. This was not, as Challinor maintains, a consequence of a misinformed Lenin's attempt to arrange a shotgun wedding of unsuitable partners to found the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), but rather a consequence of the SLP's parochial failure to grasp the world-historic significance of the 1917 October Revolution.

Roots of SLP: Britain and America

Now, the British SLP, as comrades read, arose out of a split with the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) (later to become the British Socialist Party). And the split was a good split. It entailed the question of Millerandism, of Ireland, and of the SDF's very opportunistic courting of the Independent Labour Party (ILP). In the first section of his book Challinor lays out the political issues very clearly. The SDF was a rotten creation of a man named H.M. Hyndman who was not one of Marx's favorite people. Comrades, if they've read the book by Pelling on the origins of the British Labour Party [Henry Pelling, The Origins of the Labour Party}, know that Hyndman started out as a Tory radical. He was a fervid supporter of British imperialism, the monarchy and parliamentarism. He was also an anti-Semite and a dedicated opponent of militant class struggle, especially strikes. Himself a wealthy businessman, he and his cronies owned the SDF's newspaper, Justice. It was not until April 1916, under the bloody impact of the imperialist war, that the BSP— the product of a 1912 fusion of the SDF with the small left rump of the Independent Labour Party—got rid of Hyndman. Hyndman and his cohorts then formed a group called the National Socialist Party! A man before his time!
The U.S. SLP played a very big role, of course, in the formation of the British SLP. The American SLP was founded by immigrants of German and Jewish origin. Following Daniel De Leon's rise to leadership the party grew rapidly—controlling over 70 trade unions in the New York Central Labor Federation. The SLP wielded sufficient influence to secure (in 1893) adoption by the American Federation of Labor (AFL) of an eleven-point socialist program. By 1894 it had ousted Samuel Gompers from the presidency of the AFL. Gompers was not pleased. Within a year he was back in office and the SLP was out.

Which caused De Leon to renounce the tactic of "boring from within." As he put it, "the hole you're likely to bore from within is the one you're going to exit through." [Laughter.] And from these experiences came his hostility both to craft unionism and his very strong adherence to industrial unionism. The SLP attempted to set up their own industrial union federation which was called the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance, which had 13,000 members. This formation rapidly disintegrated.

De Leon later refined his conceptions of industrial unionism and actually foreshadowed, in aspects at least, the idea of soviet rule of society—rule based on industrial workers organized in industrial enterprises, i.e., Soviets. And as comrades know, De Leon played an important role, along with Debs, in forging the Industrial Workers of the World, the IWW.

The British SLP when it arose was concentrated overwhelmingly in Scotland and comrades may wonder why that was the case. Why was it that Glasgow, and in particular the Clydeside industrial belt, was the scene of the SLP's greatest strength and most influence in the proletariat? In his very detailed and interesting book called The Revolutionary Movement in Britain 1900-21, Walter Kendall aptly observes:

"Scottish radicalism also had its roots deep in a separate native cultural tradition. At the time of Charles I Scottish nobles and Calvinist clergy had combined to prevent the re-imposition of episcopacy in Scotland. In ensuing centuries the Church of Scotland retained a narrow, rigid theology, continually in conflict with English orthodoxy, a factor which gave a specifically different outlook and flavour to Scottish intellectual life. The Scottish educational system, given an initial impetus by the teachings of John Knox. remained in advance of the English until well into the twentieth century. Religion, the ideology of the establishment in Britain, had in Scotland a more striking record of national struggle. Penetrating deeper into the culture of the people, it gave them a penchant for the cut and thrust of logical argument, an appreciation and enthusiasm for dialectics not to be found in England. As John Knox was acolyte to Calvin, as John Carstairs Matheson to de Leon. So, in later years, Campbell and Gallacher were first to Lenin and then to his successor Stalin."

This is a polite way of presenting the Scottish psyche. [Laughter.]

There were other factors also ably cited by Kendall. There were a very large number of Irish immigrants in the Clydeside area, many of whom were active supporters of Sinn Fein. And as comrades know, the great Irish revolutionary James Connolly was indeed one of the founders of the SLP. Large-scale capitalism came late to Scotland and a large proportion of the proletariat of Glasgow had been uprooted from the countryside and pushed into the city, which like Petrograd had enormous engineering plants. So for a number of reasons the SLP sank its roots very deeply into Scotland and had very close links with the Irish struggle, and also, because of the large Scottish and Irish emigrations to North America, with the class struggle in the United States.

Impact of 1905 Russian Revolution

One of the enormous international impacts of the 1905 Russian Revolution was to turn the attention of socialists to the power of mass political strikes. In Germany Rosa Luxemburg and her followers seized upon the weapon of the mass strike as an answer to the social-reformist passivity of SPD [Social Democratic Party] tops, while failing to grasp the critical differences between the activities of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in the 1905 upheavals in Russia [see "The Russian Revolution of 1905," Workers Vanguard Nos. 288 and 289, 11 and 25 September 1981]. The experience of 1905 was very directly connected with the founding of the IWW in the United States in that same year. This inspired subsequently similar efforts on the part of the British SLP.

However, the British SLP's Advocates of Industrial Unionism (AIU) never managed to rise to the level of the IWW despite a very strong swing toward syndicalism on the part of the British proletariat in the period from 1905 through 1913. In those years of stormy class conflict, a response to a massive rationalization and further concentration of British capital at the expense of the workers, trade unions in Britain grew enormously. This upsurge hit its high point in 1912 with the great miners strike.

During this period the AIU managed to only hitch a ride on this elemental wave of class struggle. But this was sufficient to blood its militants in the class struggle, and root them deeply in the militant proletariat in the sprawling Clyde engineering plants. This was to place them in a strategic position during the tumultuous strikes that ripped the region both in 1915-16 and early 1919.

In comparison with its British competitors, e.g., Hyndman's BSP and the ILP, the British SLP was impressive. Indeed it compares favorably to the American SLP of De Leon. The British SLP rejected De Leon's sectarian disavowal of "immediate demands," and played an important role in the class struggle. De Leon found himself isolated from the labor movement with his split with the IWW in 1908. Already in 1900 Hillquit, Berger and Debs had led a split out of the SLP to found the Socialist Party (SP). Cannon asserts in The First Ten Years that the SLP even before 1905 was well on its way to becoming a sect, noting the SP not only pulled in all the reformists, but also most of the left, vital revolutionary elements of the American proletariat.

Forging a Bolshevik Party

Challinor definitely misleads his readers by implying that the De Leonist SLP was two-thirds or three-quarters of the way to being a Bolshevik-type party. He says, "Clearly, the SLP was among the first to see the need for an organisational and ideological split from social democracy." In discussing this matter it's particularly useful to look at the SLP through the lens of Lenin's What Is To Be Done? About a year before the SLP was born,

Lenin wrote his work. If "Left- Wing" Communism constitutes a handbook on communist tactics, What Is To Be Done? contains the blueprints for the construction of a party and a cadre. So that the whole struggle against economism, the struggle for a party of professional revolutionaries, the struggle which Lenin talks about at great length in "Left-Wing" Communism—for a political party to be a tribune of the people, to master politics in many arenas—all this is laid out of course in What Is To Be Done? You don't see anything at all like this in the SLP.

On everything from press questions to forms of organization the differences are clear. In particular they are clear on the necessity of constructing a cadre of full-time professional revolutionaries. The British SLP had difficulty keeping a full-timer and a lot of the time didn't have one. I found it a source of great irritation that Challinor holds this up as a virtue. Referring to the valiant work of SLP leader MacManus during the war, he says:

"It is hard to imagine how great the strain upon certain individuals must have been. For example. Arthur MacManus was editor of The Socialist, and in I9l5,when the Clyde Workers' Committee was formed, he became its chairman. As spokesman for this rank-and-file organization, the most powerful of its kind in the country, he played a leading role in the creation of a National Workers' & Shop Stewards' Movement. All this was done in his spare time: he also had a full-time job as an engineer at G. & J. Weir's Cathcart works, where he was the most well-known militant. Besides these commitments, which would have been more than enough for half a do/en men with only a normal amount of energy. MacManus found time to help in the struggle in Ireland. In 1915, James Connolly visited Glasgow and told his old SLP comrades that the authorities had suppressed their journal, the Irish Worker. So the SLP undertook to print it clandestinely on the Party's press at Renfrew Street. In his autobiography Tom Bell stated, 'Comrade Arthur MacManus was especially keen on doing this; working night and day to get it out, and arranged for the shipment of the paper, which he took over personally to Dublin'."

Heroic MacManus indeed was. But the inability of the SLP to provide for full-time party workers was a source of abiding weakness. It prevented the cohering of a cadre around a program, and prevented that leadership from jelling. One gets the impression of a lot of very talented, capable, tough-minded, experienced propagandists and trade-union agitators who tended to be more an association than a party. I think this explains one of the big questions that this book raises. Why was it that those elements of the SLP who were for a fusion with the Third International, who wanted to bring the SLP in as part of the Communist Party of Britain and who themselves were among the most pre-eminent of the SLP leaders, actually had the organization taken away from them and were incapable of effecting any significant split for Leninism? The answer is to be found in their inability to construct a party with the resources, but above all the perspective, of maintaining a cadre of professional revolutionists.

If the SLP started out as a good split from the SDF, on the eve of World War 1 it had a very murky split, reflecting above all the political incapacity of De Leonism to serve as a guide for revolutionary action. In 1912 the SLP lost over half its members in a dispute over whether or not it was permissible for the party to support reforms—e.g., should an SLP councillor in Glasgow cast a vote for more money to the unemployed. Defeated at the Manchester conference, the anti-reform "impossibilists" walked out of the party, taking a majority of the membership with them.

The SLP had a good line on the first imperialist war, but its activities in the unions during the war revealed weakness in the party. In short the SLP did not carry its line against the war in a way that counted into the massive Clyde strikes of 1915-1916—strikes in which the SLP played a leading role. Challinor excuses this on the grounds that for the SLP to insist that the Clyde Workers' Committee—which was running this massive strike against the Munitions Act— adopt the SLP's line on the war would have split the Workers' Committee. Again you see here a failure to grasp what Lenin later was to try to teach the British workers movement—which was that they were obligated to have their people who were working in that arena attempt to transform this strike, to agitate to infuse the strike with a political content aimed against the imperialist war and the British government. The strike was a strike against key munitions industries in wartime, and against the M munitions Act. Objectively it was a political strike against war par excellence.

Instead the behavior of SLP strike leader John Muir dragged the SLP's antiwar banner in the mud. Dragged before the bosses' court for his role in the strike, Muir cravenly swore that the strike was a purely economic struggle over shop issues and that he was for the war and war production! And the SLP tolerated this renegade remaining in its ranks! The honor of the Clyde Workers' Committee was upheld by John Maclean, the representative of the left internationalist wing of the BSP, who turned his trial into a political indictment of the bourgeoisie and its imperialist war.

British capitalism emerged from World War I profoundly shaken. Under the impact of the October Revolution the class antagonisms generated by war exploded in a massive postwar strike wave accompanied by episodic strikes and mutinies in the armband navy. In January 1919 the Clyde workers went out in a massive general strike for a 40-hour week. The government responded with armed troops. Unfortunately the strike did not spread and the strikers did not test the troops. At the time the government had only two battalions of reserves.

Challinor quotes from Aneurin Sevan's In Place of Fear, which described the famous 1919 meeting between the prime minister, Lloyd George, and the leaders of the Triple
Alliance. All I can say is, Lloyd George knew his Labour leaders [laughter]—which he ought to, since the Liberal Party and the ILP and the trade unions were very closely
linked. It reminds me of the German events of the autumn of 1918, when the troops were mutinying and forming Soviets. The German general staff pulled the same act on
the German soldiers' Soviets on the Western Front, saying, "Well, fine. You soldiers' Soviets have to withdraw two million people from France and Belgium. Here, you do it.
Are you ready?" Nope, they weren't. But that was a gamble[laughs]. In Britain a couple of the right guys in there and one might have had something approaching a 1905
situation, or at least a very big, much more massive wave ofpolitical strikes—which would have put the British workers in a lot better position both objectively and from a
standpoint of cohering a communist party. The whole incident both highlights the counterrevolutionary role of the trade-union tops, and exposes the political incapacity
of the SLP which had no idea how to overcome these roadblocks to revolution. ,

Challinor plays up the very real strengths of the SLP, while downplaying its De Leonist weaknesses—indeed, treating them as virtues. Meanwhile he presents such a compelling picture of the wretchedness of the BSP that one wonders how any chunk of this party made it into the Comintern. In fact the BSP was a heterogeneous organization that underwent a series of left-right polarizations under the impact of the war and the Russian Revolutions of 1917.

Affiliation to the Communist International

Following the 1916 split between Hyndman and E.G. Fairchild, who had a Kautskyite position on the war, the BSP moved leftward. At its April 1919 Conference the BSP declared itself for soviet rule and polled its branches on affiliation to the Communist International (Cl). Fairchild supported the Russian Revolution, but didn't consider a soviet-type revolution in Britain a serious possibility. The left majority, including John Maclean who maintained a consistent internationalist position as a BSPer throughout the war, believed the British revolution was on the order of the day and that they should link up with the Third International. The result of the ballot on affiliation to the Communist International, announced in October, was 98 to 4 in favor of affiliation.

Undoubtedly among those for the CI were a goodly number of "November Bolsheviks." Theodore Rothstein, a rotten apple, was perhaps the leading example of this layer. His trajectory was parallel to that of many left social-democratic sharpies in Europe, who thought that the Third International was the wave of the future. You had the Frossards and Cachins and scads of social democrats in the French party who went over to the Third International but didn't belong there. The main aim of the 21 Conditions was to filter such people out, and also to filter out the practices they brought with them.

The Russians were, I think, much more familiar with the BSP than SLP. All of the Bolshevik congresses except the one held in Stockholm—from 1903 to the Revolution— were held in London. Lenin himself lived for a time in London, as did some 30,000 other Russian emigres. And of those that were leftists—adherents to socialism—many belonged to the BSP. They constituted a large portion of the left wing of that organization. During the war a very large number of them were supporters of Trotsky's Nashe Slovo which was printed in Paris. Challinor makes the point that half of the circulation of that journal took place in Britain, .and the overwhelming proportion of that in London. There was also a colony of Russian exiles—and that too swelled enormously after the 1905Revolution—in Scotland, again associated with the SDF/BSP.

Litvinov and Chicherin and a number of others were associated with and had links with the BSP in London. Further, SDF members both in England and Scotland ran guns to the Russian revolutionaries from 1905 through 1907—quite a lot of them, hundreds of Brownings, millions of rounds of ammo. They would buy them in Europe, smuggle them to Newcastle, get them to Scotland, and then on to tsarist ships to smuggle them into Russia.

So not all BSPers were clones of the top-hatted and corpulent H.M. Hyndman! As with the SLP, a significant part of the BSP far left was located in Scotland. Most noteworthy was John Maclean, who as earlier indicated maintained a consistent internationalist position on the war, and played an important role in the Clyde strikes. The formidable Maclean was arguably the most capable proletarian revolutionist in Britain and a close associate of BSPer Peter Petroff, a hero of the 1905 Russian Revolution.

The Communist unity negotiations in Britain are very confusing, above all a reflection of the political confusion of the participants in the negotiations. There were three main groups and a couple of subsidiary ones. You had the SLP, Sylvia Pankhurst's Workers' Socialist Federation, the South Wales Socialist Society and the ILP left, and they all hailed the Russian Revolution—both revolutions. And some of them genuinely hailed the second one too. [Laughter.] It does strike you in reading the SLP's writings on the Russian Revolution that on the one hand, yes, they're happy it happened and... its real, main and key significance was it vindicates the SLP and its line in Britain! [Laughs.] In short, to repeat, the SLP failed to appreciate the world-historic significance of the October Revolution both in the broad sense and also in the particular communist sense that Lenin outlined in "Left- Wing" Communism.

I think Challinor makes a very good case that Lenin did not have clear ideas on everything that was going on in Britain. How could he? He was at some distance from the events, and certainly had other things occupying his mind in the immediate period after the October Revolution. Further, revolutionary Russia was blockaded by the imperialists. His information was partial.

However, Lenin did recognize something very important: that there needed to be a unified Communist party in Britain. You had all these groups claiming adherence to the October Revolution, to soviet government and for the Third International. There was an objective requirement for a Bolshevik-type party in Britain. But if there was to be such a party it had to have a policy toward the Labour Party. What gets omitted in Challinor is any policy toward the Labour Party except throwing rocks at it.

Was Britain going through a revolutionary period in 1918-1920? No. But if the Triple Alliance had decided to tell Lloyd George to shove it, we might have had something
break. But that didn't happen, and a lot of people voted Labour. There were 4 million workers affiliated to the Labour Party. The Labour Party in 1918 became socialist. You better believe that had something to do with the October Revolution and the Labour Party covering its ass. For communists the question was how to deal with this obstacle.

The most striking failure was, as I mentioned earlier, the failure of the pro-fusion wing of the SLP, the Communist Unity Group of MacManus and Bell, to carry the majority of the SLP into the CPGB. They had no conception of factional struggle for their particular position. Thus the best of the SLP, who could not understand how to conduct a faction fight in their own party, certainly could not understand what Lenin was talking about at all regarding the Labour Party. Challinor drags out J.T. Murphy's "cogent arguments" against Labour Party affiliation. These are not very cogent at all and have been answered dozens of times. Reading Murphy what comes through is: we'll either be swamped in the Labour Party or we have to destroy it. There's no conception of using class-struggle means to polarize and gut it—i.e., no conception therefore of political struggle for a political line and program. Behind that is the conception of the party as the worst sort of a passive propaganda society.

This was a fatal flaw of De Leonism, its social-democratic underbelly. The party through patient propaganda and education was to win the proletariat to its side. In the U.S. De Leon projected the SLP would eventually win at the polls and dissolve the capitalist government. Should the bourgeoisie resist, they would be "locked out" by the socialist industrial unions, which would then proceed to administer socialism. The concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat, of a transition period and of the role of the party in that transition are absent.

So the SLP had a pretty good party in terms of—not the party that made the October Revolution—but of what was floating around in England or even the U.S. in that period. They didn't make it. What stands out is their parochialism. In the U.S. out of the left wing of the SP came the Haywood wing of the IWW, Cannon. Swabeck, John Reed, the foreign-language federations and a few of the native American workers. And out of that was forged a viable Communist Party—a little too viable in its early period. Like Cannon said, they fought like hell all the time. It was the Comintern that came in and provided the lessons and the correctives to teach the young American CP how to become a Leninist party—how to solve a lot of the problems that had tied up the American party and British and German and pre-war social democracy.

The party issuing out of the 1920 Communist Unity Convention was stillborn. And the indication of that was— no fights. The recent Euro/tankie fight is the CPGB's first serious faction fight. Very early on the British party acquired a set of leaders who seemed to live forever [laughs] and didn't get any better. The congenital incapacity of the CPGB was evident during the 1926 General Strike and since, and has also had negative impact on Trotskyism in Britain. Cannon and a section of the American CP were forged into genuine Leninists who, when the degeneration of the Comintern came, were able to pick up the banner. This was not the case in Britain. Gerry Healy tries to suck glorious origins of British Trotskyism out of his thumb, but it's a fact that Trotskyism had to be imported.

The SLP in Britain disappeared very quickly after it stood aside from the Third International, in many ways like the syndicalist wing of the IWW did in the U.S. Cannon made the point that one would have thought, on the face of it, given the history of the IWW during the war which was as a semi-party, certainly revolutionary-minded and with many experienced militants, that a large number of them would have made it to the Communist Party. But, as he put it, it was the foreigners, the callow youth, only some fragments of the IWW that actually came to be the core of the American Communist Party. They didn't have the experience of many of the IWW, but in the end program was decisive. But there at least you had a germ cell that was fertilized and grew. I think in Britain what you had was a miscarriage; Challinor might more aptly have titled his book "The Abortion of British Bolshevism."

For Challinor, himself a supporter of the anti-Soviet and social-democratic Socialist Workers Party (SWP) of Britain, the abortionists are Lenin and the Communist International. Clearly he feels that it was erroneous to insist that the new CPGB affiliate to the Labour Party, as this blocked the majority of the SLP, whom he wrongly considers the "native Bolsheviks," from entering that CP.

Challinor's position should be contrasted with that of Lenin at the Second Congress. Lenin insisted that the question of the Labour Party be debated before the International. He insisted that the new International not repeat the experience of the Second International and let the British comrades get into a room and decide the question among themselves. The Labour Party question was not simply a British question but an international problem. It was the obligation of the Cl to come up with a policy and pursue it. If this led to some splits, so be it, but it would be good experience for the British party to try to implement these tactics.

Challinor does not take up the real difficulty in implementing the CIs policy. To carry it off successfully you needed a hard, cohesive, ideologically tested formation. And that certainly was not what the British CP was. We have a contradiction. If the CPGB had successfully affiliated, they probably would very likely have capitulated in just the way many of the SLPers feared they would. [Interjection: Adopt a position in favor of entry, and don't enter!] Right, right! A zero approximation of a position of shallow entry! [Laughter.] What you needed were Comintern reps on the scene to take these various would-be Bolsheviks by the political scruff of the neck, to teach them and fight with them. Lenin was very aware that a policy of affiliation was no automatic recipe for success. He thought this would be a good school for the CPGB, a school of political struggle, leading very possibly to splits and a fusion on a higher order.

Challinor, like all anti-Leninist centrists, invokes Lenin against Lenin. He quotes Lenin's criticism of the Third Congress Org Resolution that it was "too Russian." We've made the point numerous times but it bears repeating. Lenin thought that resolution was "too Russian" in the sense that it was too long and no one would read or understand it. But if you read on, he remarks (and this was his last speech to the Communist International):
"We Russians must also find ways and means to explaining the principles of this resolution to the foreigners. Unless we do that, it will be absolutely impossible for them to carry it out. I am sure that in this connection we must tell not only the Russians, but the foreign comrades as well, that the most important thing in the period we are now entering is to study. We are studying in the general sense. They, however, must study in the special sense, in order that they may really understand the organisation, structure, method and content of revolutionary work. If they do that, I am sure the prospects of the world revolution will be not only good, but excellent." —Collected Works Vol. 33
Better the road of Lenin than that of Challinor!


A question was raised about the attitude of the SLP to the colonial question, and in particular to the Amritsar massacre. Regarding this a British comrade has handed me a note stating that a reading of The Socialist, the SLP's newspaper, and also The Call, which was the BSP's, indicates that in fact they did take it up. He observes: "If it's possible to differentiate active internationalism in the building of the party from the tribune of the people, I think they were pretty good on the latter." In that sense I think they would therefore be with the best of the Second International. Comrades recall that last year we printed the following quote from Trotsky on this question from his 1932 essay "What Next?" He was referring to the German centrists, and Ledebour in particular:

"Ledebour demands that a battle be waged against colonial oppression: he is ready to vote in parliament against colonial credits: he is ready to take upon himself fearless defense of the victims of a crushed colonial insurrection. But Ledebour will not participate in preparing a colonial insurrection. Such work he considers putschism. adventurism. Bolshevism. And therein is the whole gist of the matter."

The American SLP hung on for years, and it's a question as to how this happened. It's not the same people who founded the party in the 1860s or the 1870s although, to look at them, sometimes you think so. [Laughter.] They became a sect, but some sects don't make it. The American SLP made it because they did have a base among some of the foreign-language groups. They stopped publication of their Bulgarian-language paper only a short while ago. It's been pointed out that the SLP probably got the Bulgarians in the U.S. because they were the closest thing to the Narrows [Bulgarian Narrow Socialist Party]. [Laughter.] Shachtman in '46 decided the Workers Party would become a small mass party in a very big country. The Bulgarians tried to be a small party in a small country and wound up a mass party.

As I said, John Maclean was probably the best of the BSP. Indeed Lenin singled him out as representing the best far-left, internationalist wing of British socialism. And he also didn't make it. He spiraled into creating a nationalist party, i.e., the Scottish Communist Party. He thought that the axis of a workers revolution in Britain would be an Irish/Scottish revolution. And London would follow—which is just plain wrong. You have to get the capital. In other times, from a very different class standpoint, this strategy was tried and didn't succeed. [Laughter.]
When the Independent Labour Party and the Labour Representation Committee were being formed it was not at all clear that they would forge a labor party which would capture the allegiance of the British proletariat. But indeed it did succeed, and by 1918 had become a formidable obstacle to proletarian revolution. Remember the Leeds Conference, where you had people like Snowden and Henderson coming out for "soviets" in Britain... adopting the protective coloration of pink.

In closing, to reiterate Cannon's point: the October Revolution marked a watershed not only in the broad international sense but also in the specific, communist sense. It was the Bolsheviks who taught us how to forge parties of a new type—vanguard parties, Leninist parties, combat parties. The experience of Bolshevism solved all the dilemmas that had arisen in the preceding period: the questions of "boring from within," parliamentary action, industrial action, etc. So that we stand far higher than the SLP did, but on the shoulders of the Russian Revolution. If we can see these things it's because we're the continuators. As Cannon said, "We are the party of the Russian Revolution"—our teachers.


Are You Ready to Take the Power?

We reprint below an excerpt from In Place of Fear, the autobiography of the late Aneurin Bevan.

I remember vividly Robert Smillie describing to me an interview the leaders of the Triple Alliance had with David Lloyd George in 1919. The strategy of the leaders was clear. The miners under Robert Smillie, the transport workers under Robert Williams, and the National Union of Railwaymen under James Henry Thomas, formed the most formidable combination of industrial workers-in the history of Great Britain. They had agreed on the demands that were to be made on the employers, knowing well that the government would be bound to be involved at an early stage. And so it happened. A great deal of industry was still under government wartime control and so the state power was immediately implicated.

Lloyd George sent for the Labour leaders, and they went, so Robert told me, "truculently determined they would not be talked over by the seductive and eloquent Welshman." At this Bob's eyes twinkled in his grave, strong face. "He was quite frank with us from the outset," Bob went on. "He said to us: 'Gentlemen, you have fashioned, in the Triple Alliance of the unions represented by you, a most powerful instrument. I feel bound to tell you that in our opinion we are at your mercy. The Army is disaffected and cannot be relied upon. Trouble has occurred already in a number of camps. We have just emerged from a great war and the people are eager for the reward of their sacrifices, and we are in no position to satisfy them. In these circumstances, if you carry out your threat and strike, then you will defeat us.

"'But if you do so,' went on Mr. Lloyd George, 'have you weighed the consequences? The strike will be in defiance of the Government of the country and by its very success will precipitate a constitutional crisis of the first importance. For, if a force arises in the State which is stronger than the State itself, then it must be ready to take on the functions of the State, or withdraw and accept the authority of the State. Gentlemen,' asked the Prime Minister quietly, 'have you considered, and if you have, are you ready?' From that moment on," said Robert Smillie, "we were beaten and we knew we were."

*Once Again, On The British Labour Party Question- On "Entryism"- A Short Note

Click on the headline to link to an American Left History blog entry-From The "In Defense Of Marxism" Website Via "Renegade Eye"- On The British Labour Party- A Guest Commentary, dated Sunday July 18, 2010, for the article mentioned below and my comment.

Markin comment:

I had not intended my comment about the IMT leader Sewell’s “In Defense Of Marxism” British Labour Party article to be anything other than a short commentary. However, someone here has asked me to fill in the blanks a little about the task of revolutionaries in entering (or, alternatively, at least seriously challenging from the outside) the British Labour Party for leadership of its working class mass constituency. I mentioned in that previous comment (see linked article above)the notion of splitting that party into its component parts, reformist and revolutionary, in order to drive the class struggle in Great Britain forward. The following are a few thoughts on that issue:

Look, today, in the post-Soviet “death of communism” political landscape that we are just coming out of, despite the overwhelming objective economic situation which cries out, and cries out to high heaven, for socialist solutions we revolutionaries who follow the banner, seriously follow the banner, of Marxism, especially as it follows its Trotskyist line through the history of the international working class movement are as scarce as hen’s teeth. We pose, and rightly so, as champions of the historic needs (and historic destiny, as well) of the working class. In that sense we oppose, and oppose vigorously, all reformist roadblocks, both inside that movement and out, but mainly today inside. But our forces are small, our needs are great, and our maneuverability limited.

Nevertheless we are not without tactical possibilities. And here is where the notion of “entry” (as opposed to the formal, politically obligatory, membership of individual militants) into the British Labour Party comes into play, if such a tactic is warranted today given the political trajectory of that party. While, as stated in my previous commentary, it is not at all clear to me that there is any motion that warrants such “entry” rather than working from the outside I was asked about the rationale for doing so and that is what this comment is about.

In a perfect working class universe under conditions of bourgeois rule we would want, and we would expect, given the viciousness of our blood-drenched opponent, to have one mass party, one mass revolutionary, party to confront the enemy. The history of our movement, however, even before Marx and his seminal work, and clarion call, The Communist Manifesto, in the 19th century has, repeatedly, demonstrated that such a situation is the exception rather than the rule. (The Manifesto itself, in its third part, is a nothing less than an intense polemical battle against those other socialist tendencies of the time for the “soul” of the European working class.)

Periodically the great divide between the prevailing, essentially parliamentary, reformist notions of the working class coming to power and an understanding of the necessity of a revolutionary takeover has created conditions where the advanced workers (and others, in their wake) follow the revolutionary party. That is our great shining example of the October Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917. Even there, the Bolsheviks had to fight, tooth and nail, against the Menshevik tendency (the reformist branch of the Russian working class movement of the time, although they, at least some elements of it, were not necessarily aware of it at the time given conditions in Czarist Russia) to break the workers movement from bourgeois society.

So how do those lessons help serve revolutionaries in Great Britain today. Whether the “entry” tactic is called for, or not, today the hard reality, and the hard reality especially in Great Britain, given the dead weight of the Labour party as an obstacle to revolution (hell, even to reform lately), is that one cannot reasonably expect to split that party without a life or death fight against the reformist, no, sub-reformist leadership of that party. Trying to be an organic part of Labour, to merely attempt to push it to the left (a little) and be "militant", just will not do. Generations of British revolutionaries have broken their teeth on that concept.

And as a final caveat take this: Without a perspective, as broadly outlined above, history has also shown, and shown painfully at times, that merely trying to be an organic part of the Labour Party is the kiss of death, the "kiss of the spider woman” for revolutionaries and their organizations. Look to the example of earlier generations of British revolutionaries (and not that far back either, look at the 1980s) who were spit out, and spit out unceremoniously, when the deal went down. Whether those revolutionaries explained things to the workers, patiently and soberly, or not.

*From The Pages Of The Communist International- Reply To A Letter From The Joint Provisional Committee For The Communist Party Of Britain

Click on the headline to link to the Communist International Internet Archives for an online copy of the article mentioned in the headline.

Markin comment:

This article goes along with the propaganda points in the fight for our communist future mentioned in this day's other posts.

*From The Pen Of Leon Trotsky- Writings on Britain: The Labour Movement 1906-1924: The Growth of the Labour Party

Click on the headline to link to the Leon Trotsky Internet Archives for an online copy of the article mentioned in the headline.

Markin comment:

This article goes along with the propaganda points in the fight for our communist future mentioned in this day's other posts.

*From The Pen Of Vladimir Lenin-Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder -"Left-Wing" Communism in Great Britian"

Click on the headline to link to the Lenin Internet Archives for an online copy of the article mentioned in the headline.

Markin comment:

This article goes along with the propaganda points in the fight for our communist future mentioned in this day's other posts.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

*Outrage- Darkness In America- People's Attorney Lynne Stewart Must Not Die In Jail-Free Her Now !

Click on the headline ot link to a SteveLendmanBlog entry Darkness In America:Lynne Stewart's Resentencing.

Markin comment:

The Lynne Stewart Defense Committee website has nothing up as yet about the situation, as of today. But check it, periodically, and donate money for further efforts to free Lynne Stewart (and her co-defendants).

People's Attorney Lynne Stewart Must Not Die In Jail-Free Her Now!

*A Pinprick At Modern American Capitalism- Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story - An Encore Note

Click on title to link to the Renegade Eye blog posting of a review in Socialist Appeal of the Michael Moore film, Capitalism: A Love Story.

Markin comment:

Originally, I did not intend to review Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story and was more than happy to let the linked article posted on October 29, 2009serve in that capacity leaving myself the short comment below:

"Thanks for saving me from having to review this work. While we can all appreciate the work of Michael Moore in tweaking the right (here in America) I would feel much better about his work, his person, and his politics if he didn't have that front row seat safely ensconced in the midst of the Democratic Party. Michael- Break with the Democrats! Enough said."

After a recent re-viewing of the film documentary I still do no feel any great need to review the film, although in addition to the quoted comment above, which I stand by and I believe is still good advise for Mr. Moore, I do have a couple of other comments to make:

First, although this documentary was just released last year it already has a dated feel to it, as governmental regimes have changed but not the greedy profit motive that drives the capitalist economy and which the twin governmental parties of capitalism, Republican and Democratic, each in their way, serve. Moore’s main object at the time, I assume, was to take advantage, easy advantage as the case turned out, of the villainous characters that ran the capitalist government under President Bush, under whose regime all economic hell broke loose, especially in 2008. That was then, and this is now though. The easily interchangeable cast of characters now look remarkable the same, the wars the same, unemployment still at modern day highs, Wall Street bonuses obscene, Congress still under that street's thumb (as Moore, in his great film-making capacity, really captures) under new “go to” guy Obama. Sure, plenty of people had (and still have) lots of illusions in Obama so Brother Moore was not alone, although some of the others had enough sense not to film their glee for the world to see and thus have to now shield their faces from public view after the inevitable shoe has fallen.

Second, one of the central motifs here is Moore’s notion that this country can turn itself around by going back to some form of Rooseveltian “New Deal" (his Second Bill Of Rights). But his big push is for social and political action by the “little people.” (Called by Moore, and others, the middle class, although it is really called the working class, brother, at least from the film footage interviews from such towns as Detroit and Cleveland. There is nothing wrong with calling a thing by its right name, okay?) Moore makes several plugs (including at the end) for people to “do something.” Unfortunately, such a vague statement in politics can be turned on you. In a racist-tinged, anti-immigrant, starve public services (part of which is directed at those same two groups) “Age of the Tea Bag”, political action by the “little people” is not always, without a program, a socialist program, the kind of clarion call to action that one is looking for. So political programmatic clarity, always in short supply with Moore, is a must.

Finally, although I didn’t notice it as much on the first viewing, Moore’s worldview is informed by an almost Catholic Worker movement-like (formed in the old Great Depression days by Dorothy Day and others, and later included followers like the Berrigan brothers and many ex-priests and ex-nuns) sensibility. Now, as I, perhaps, have mentioned before Dorothy Day was revered in my childhood home, especially by my devout, pious poor mother. So I can thus sense the origins of the quest for justice in Moore’s work, as that spark also drove part of my own social education, if not for his conclusions. But Brother Moore that was long ago, and I was just I kid. Grownups fight, and fight hard, under the banner-Break with the Democrats! Fight for our communist future!

*Films to While Away The Class Struggle By-"The Molly Maguires"

Click On Title To Link To A Wikipedia Entry For The Molly Maguires. Note, as always, with these entries on this site there can be problems with facts and political perspective.

Recently I have begun to post entries under the headline- “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”-that will include progressive and labor-oriented songs that might be of general interest to the radical public. I have decided to do the same for some films that may perk that same interest under the title in this entry’s headline. In the future I expect to do the same for books under a similar heading.-Markin

DVD Review

The Molly Maguires, Sean Connery, Richard Harris, directed by Martin Ritt, 1978

In a post in this space In The Time of The "Robber Barons" And The Early American Union Movement- The Molly Maguires, dated February 21, 2007, reviewing a book about these early labor militants, The Molly Maguires, Wayne Broehl, Jr., Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Ma, 1964, I hit the high points that I want to make about the Molly Maguires here and that are reinforced by this commercial film effort starring Sean Connery as a leader of the Irish coalminers in the Pennsylvania coal fields of the 1870’s, the age of the American “robber baron” capitalists, their “Gilded Age”. This film is also directed by 1950s “blacklisted’ director Martin Ritt (director of the Woody Allen film on the blacklist, The Front) so he has a feel for telling labor’s story (and providing some very naturalistic cinematography, as well). I will make additional points about the film below the repost:

“The tale of the famous “Molly Maguires” of the Pennsylvania coal fields in the period immediately after the American Civil War is another in the seemingly endless stories of the Irish diaspora triggered by the ruthless policy of the bloody English imperialists, who come what may, refused to part with their colony until forced to by the Irish national liberation fighters of the early 20th century. One can read the Molly Maguire story as one of the first attempts in the post-Civil War period to organize an industry-wide labor union in the coal industry, including its sectionalism, political immaturity and oath-bound secrecy. One can also read it as a story of atomized labor confronted by the consolidation of capitalism in the extractive industries linked up to the carrying trade of the railroads and financed by stockholders here in America and in Britain. Finally one can read the story as a police procedural, highlighting the role of the infamous Pinkerton Detective Agency and its founder Alan Pinkerton in bringing some of the alleged leaders of the “Mollies” to trial and execution on behalf of the railroad and coal bosses. That is the route the author of the book under review has taken…”

“Another point to make is how the mainly English capitalists of the area aggravated the already existing antagonisms between ethnic groups like the Irish, Welsh and Germans (and later the various Slavic groups) to their benefit in a classic example of capitalist “divide and rule” policy. Finally, the story points out the key role that privately-employed detective agencies, private police and ultimately state and federal troops played in bringing about the early defeats in the American labor movement (and continue to do so today as about one billion dollars a year is spent on keeping unions out or keeping them docile in the United States, one need only think of Wal-Mart)…..”

Sean Connery as a no-nonsense, level-headed, driven, militant labor leader of the benighted Irish Pennsylvania coalminers works here. (Of course, he also “worked” as British super-spy James Bond, but we will let that pass.) Jack (Connery’s role) tasks are not easy ones as he has to keep the younger hotheads in line, deal with the “peelers” (police), deal with planning some kind of strategy that will get labor out from under the thumb of the greedy, very greedy, coal and rail bosses who will stop at noting to break the union efforts. But most of all, and what forms the dramatic tension of the film, Jack has to deal with one James McFarland (played by Richard Harris), a willing, no, a more than willing, labor “fink” who is sent in by the bosses to round up the local labor leaders, and in the end settle scores in the only way that the “robber barons” really liked- execute the leaders. (Remember also “robber baron” Jim Fisk’s old saying-“I will hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”). Well, in the end they got old Jack, but you know he fought them tooth and nail. We could use a few more Jacks and a few less labor skates these days as we fight the one-sided and uphill class struggle.

*Films to While Away The Class Struggle By-"Strike"- A Polish Film

Click on the title to link to a Wikipedia entry for the Polish film, Strike.

Recently I have begun to post entries under the headline- Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-that will include progressive and labor-oriented songs that might be of general interest to the radical public. I have decided to do the same for some films that may perk that same interest under the title in this entry’s headline. In the future I expect to do the same for books under a similar heading.-Markin

DVD Review

I have posted the information from Netflix's description on this one. I will make a couple of comments below.

Strike(Strajk: Die Heldin von Danzig) 2006 NR 104 minutes

Cast:Katharina Thalbach, Maria Maj, Andrzej Chyra, Andrzej Grabowski, Dominique Horwitz, Joanna Bogacka

Director:Volker Schlondorff

"Inspired by a true story, this powerful drama tells the tale of an ordinary woman who helps spark a revolution in Poland. Single mother Agnieszka (Katharina Thalbach) works as a shipyard welder. Concerned about dangerous working conditions, she speaks up -- to no avail. But after an accident kills several employees, and their families are denied pension benefits, she steps up her activities, laying the foundation for the Solidarity movement."


Markin comment:

The great Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky noted back in the early days of the Communist International in the 1920s that the German Communist Party was the biggest (outside of the Russian Bolsheviks) in that organization, but the Polish party was the best. That party, after all, was the party of Rosa Luxemburg (and Leo Jogiches), and of the three W’s. Some things, some very terrible Stalinist-driven (Moscow and Warsaw versions) things went wrong from the time of that statement to the time of the end of this film in the early 1980s and the solidification of Solidarity to drive the bulk of the historically pro-socialist Polish working class into the waiting arms of the Polish bourgeoisie, the Roman Catholic Church, and their international imperialist allies.

And in its, perhaps, unconscious, unintentional, oddball, eccentric, slice-of-life way this story of a single woman worker at the historic Lenin shipyard in Gdansk (a composite of a couple of real women at that site) this film, Strike, reveals many of the problems that, in the end the Stalinists refused to deal with, or were incapable of dealing with except with the police baton (or total capitulation to the pro-capitalist forces that emerged in the Polish labor movement and elsewhere in Polish society). To, I might add, the great loss of the international working class movement today as we try to come out from under the “death of communism” siege of the past two decades. And to the great loss of Polish workers now, for the most part the sons and daughters of those who renounced a socialist perspective (of some sort, as they understood it through the distorted prism of Stalinism), who find themselves in places like London, Paris, and Brussels providing those economies with low-wage, high-skilled labor for their troubles. But enough of that. This is a film to see, to ponder over, and to try to come to an understanding of the question of where the international left went wrong in its overwhelming support for Solidarity.

Note: Agnieszka Kowalska, the Lenin shipyard worker who is the central character of this film, from the start of the film holds, and holds firmly, to her village-derived Catholicism. Although we do not attack personal religious belief, per se, it is clear that the capitulation of the Stalinists to the Polish church was factor, and not an unimportant factor, in undermining the workers state. A “vanguard” worker, at least that was the way Agnieszka was presented in the film, should have been fought with politically on that religion question. Also, as is the case for the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in defense of what, for Afghanistan, was a progressive government but which the international left overwhelmingly opposed isn’t it time, for those in the international left who supported Solidarity, to think through their support of that outfit. After all if we, as the old philosopher said, do not learn the lessons of history (and I would add reflect on them) we are condemned to relive it.

*From "The Rag Blog"-Class-War Prisoner Marilyn Buck Freed

Click on the headline to link to a The Rag Blog entry about the release of class war Marilyn Buck from prison

Markin comment:

On a day when I have to post an entry about the outrageous increase of sentence for people's attorney Lynne Stewart in New York at least I can report that we have one of own back, class war prisoner Marilyn Buck. Be well, Marilyn Buck.


VERSE / Mariann G. Wizard : The Real Dragon (for Marilyn Buck)

People who come out of prison can build up the country.
Misfortune is a test of people’s fidelity.
Those who protest at injustice are people of true merit.
When the prison-doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out.

-- Ho Chi Minh, Prison Diary

The Real Dragon
for Marilyn Buck

I dreamed you came out ~
Young dragon, hit by unspeakable change
So long ago;
Fallout from bombs you never saw,
Hidden away in darkness, growing, glowing,
With a heart of fire.

I dreamed you came out ~
And swam across the ocean
And hatched your eggs at last
In the abandoned chambers of dreams
And named them Peace,
And Justice,
And Honor,
Joy and Brother;
Sister and Love;
Flower and Power;
And a hundred hundred more
Offspring without number
From your nuclear womb,
Your hero’s heart.
Others there were, too ~
Children of your siblings,
Who learned of you in the nest,
And longed to see your face,
And bask in your radiant shadow.

I dreamed you came out ~
Our dragon ~
And swam the mighty ocean
To this strange future
We never dreamed.

You walked down streets familiar with destruction
And where your feet touched down,
Mighty forests grew.
Your eyes brought forth health clinics;
Your talons, schools;
And your teeth were stained with the blood of lies.

I dreamed you came out ~
And all that had been sent against you
Poured off your silky-armored strength
Like that small silver rain,
And all the past was prelude
And all men heard your roar:

Free, free, free at last!

Then, picking up the pieces,
You’ll dance down Fifth Avenue,
Among your retinue
With music everywhere,
And a thousand tongues
Raised in praise.
You’ll stroll through Central Park,
Munching on the new green leaves,
And smile at Liberty,
And She’ll smile back.

-- Mariann G. Wizard

*From The "Renegade Eye" Blog- On The 100th Anniversary Of The Mexican Revolution- A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to the Renegade Eye Blog- On The 100th Anniversary Of The Mexican Revolution

From 'The Rag Blog- Jonah Raskin : 'Mockingbird' is Muddleheaded and Superficial- A Very Different View

Click on the headline to link to a The Rag Blog entry reviewing Harper Lee's To Kill A Mocking Bird on its 50th anniversary- Jonah Raskin : 'Mockingbird' is Muddleheaded and Superficial Different View.

Markin comment:

I, and most leftists, especially those about six of us still left from the 1960s, can appreciate the critique by Mr. Raskin. However, he has the advantage of 50 years of improving political consciousness on the question of race in America, formally anyway. At the time the book , and later the movie, had a powerful effect, if for no other reason that they were (and are) good literature and cinema. Beyond that, as literary critic and great Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky noted, one cannot reasonably go. The other stuff, the political fight for black liberation in "real time" stuff, was (and is) up to us-forward in the black liberation struggle.

Note: Needless to say any two pages of Richard Wright's Black Boy or Native Son or any of James Baldwin's work, especially The Fire Next Time has more truth about the racial core of American society than all of Lee's book. But that is a different non-literary question.

*From “The Rag Blog”- “Bob Feldman 68” Blog- A People’s History Of Afghanistan, Conclusion

Click on the headline to link to a “The Rag Blog” entry from the “Bob Feldman 68” blog on the history of Afghanistan

Markin comment:

This is a great series for those who are not familiar with the critical role of Afghanistan in world politics, if not directly then as part of the history of world imperialism. Thanks, Bob Feldman.

And, speaking of world imperialism, let us keep our eyes on the prize- Obama- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./ Allied Troops And Mercenaries From Afghanistan!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

*From The Archives Of The “Revolutionary History” Journal- The Aylesbury By-election of 1938

*From The Archives Of The “Revolutionary History” Journal-

Click on the headline to link to the Revolutionary History Journal entry listed in the title.

Markin comment:

This is an excellent documentary source for today’s militants to “discovery” the work of our forbears, whether we agree with their programs or not. Mainly not, but that does not negate the value of such work done under the pressure of revolutionary times. Hopefully we will do better when our time comes.

*From The Archives Of The “Revolutionary History” Journal- Trotsky and the Second World War- An Exchange

Click on the headline to link to the Revolutionary History Journal entry listed in the title.

Markin comment:

This is an excellent documentary source for today’s militants to “discovery” the work of our forbears, whether we agree with their programs or not. Mainly not, but that does not negate the value of such work done under the pressure of revolutionary times. Hopefully we will do better when our time comes.

*From The Archives Of The “Revolutionary History” Journal- The Fourth International during the Second World War

Click on the headline to link to the “Revolutionary History” Journal entry listed in the title.

Markin comment:

This is an excellent documentary source for today’s militants to “discovery” the work of our forbears, whether we agree with their programs or not. Mainly not, but that does not negate the value of such work done under the pressure of revolutionary times. Hopefully we will do better when our time comes.

*From The Archives Of The “Revolutionary History” Journal- The Proletarian Military Policy Revisited

Click on the headline to link to the “Revolutionary History” Journal entry listed in the title.

Markin comment:

This is an excellent documentary source for today’s militants to “discovery” the work of our forbears, whether we agree with their programs or not. Mainly not, but that does not negate the value of such work done under the pressure of revolutionary times. Hopefully we will do better when our time comes.

*From The Archives Of The “Revolutionary History” Journal- "Revolutionary Defeatism"

Click on the headline to link to the “Revolutionary History” Journal entry listed in the title.

Markin comment:

This is an excellent documentary source for today’s militants to “discovery” the work of our forbears, whether we agree with their programs or not. Mainly not, but that does not negate the value of such work done under the pressure of revolutionary times. Hopefully we will do better when our time comes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

*Free David Gilbert! - Ex- SDS Member and Black Liberation Fighter

Click on the headline to link to a David Gilbert site for information about his case, his writings, and other materials. Also Google his name for a Wikipedia entry.

Markin comment:

The bourgeoisie does not forgive or forget its serious left-wing opponents, and we of the left should not forget our liberation struggle brothers and sisters behind bars. On a day when the name of SDSer Ted Gold, a fallen fellow radical associate of David Gilbert's, is posted in this space via a song from Bob Feldman's music blog the struggle for Gilbert's freedom comes to mind. Free David Gibert!

*For The Folkies From Muskogee And Elsewhere- The Bob Feldman Music Blog On "My Space"-His "Ted Gold's Wisdom"

Click on the headline to link to the Bob Feldman Music Blog( for lack of a better name) entry above on My Space.

Note: for the younger readers, Ted Gold was a member of the SDS Weather Underground and was killed in a bomb explosion, I believe, in a townhouse in New York City in 1970.

Markin comment:

This is great stuff for any music aficionado, especially of folk, social protest, and roots music. I am going to be "stealing" entries off of this site periodically but you should be checking it out yourselves. Kudos, Bob Feldman.

*For The Folkies From Muskogee And Elsewhere- The Bob Feldman Music Blog On "My Space"-His "They Killed The Rosenbergs"

Click on the headline to link to the Bob Feldman Music Blog( for lack of a better name) entry above on My Space.

Markin comment:

This is great stuff for any music aficionado, especially of folk, social protest, and roots music. I am going to be "stealing" entries off of this site periodically but you should be checking it out yourselves. Kudos, Bob Feldman.

*For The Folkies From Muskogee And Elsewhere- The Bob Feldman Music Blog On "My Space"-Barbara Dane And Songs Of G.I. Resistance

Click on the headline to link to the Bob Feldman Music Blog( for lack of a better name) entry above on My Space.

Markin comment:

This is great stuff for any music aficionado, especially of folk, social protest, and roots music. I am going to be "stealing" entries off of this site periodically but you should be checking it out yourselves. Kudos, Bob Feldman.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

*From Wikipedia- On His Lordship, Baron Fenner Brockway

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for Baron Fenner Brockway, a old time historic leader of the Independent Labor Party with a link to that party's history in the article.

Markin comment:

Sorry, I couldn't resist this entry. Baron Brockway, indeed!

This article goes along with the propaganda points in the fight for our communist mentioned in this day's other posts concerning the British Labour Party and its history.

*From The Pages Of The Communist International- Lenin's Sppech To The Second Congress-Speech On Affiliation To The British Labour Party

Click on the headline to link to the Communist International Internet Archives for an online copy of the article mentioned in the headline.

Markin comment:

This article goes along with the propaganda points in the fight for our communist future mentioned in this day's other posts on the British Labour Party.

*From The Pen Of Leon Trotsky- Once Again: The ILP (1936)

Click on the headline to link to the Leon Trotsky Internet Archives for an online copy of the article mentioned in the headline.

Markin comment:

This article goes along with the propaganda points in the fight for our communist future mentioned in this day's other posts on the British Labour Party.

*From The Pen Of Leon Trotsky-The Trade Unions in Britain (1933)

Click on the headline to link to the Leon Trotsky Internet Archives for an online copy of the article mentioned in the headline.

Markin comment:

This article goes along with the propaganda points in the fight for our communist future mentioned in this day's other posts on the British Labour Party.

*From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"-The United Front Tactic: Its Use and Abuse-One More Time- A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to the Workers Vanguard website for an online copy of the article mentioned in the headline.

Markin comment:

This article goes along with the propaganda points in the fight for our communist future mentioned in this day's other posts on the British Labor Party.

*From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"-British Reformists in Action-When "Militant" Ran Liverpool- A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to the Workers Vanguard website for an online copy of the article mentioned in the headline.

Markin comment:

This article goes along with the propaganda points in the fight for our communist future mentioned in this day's other posts on the British Labour Party. Ouch!

* From The "In Defense Of Marxism" Website Via "Renegade Eye"- On The British Labour Party- A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to a In Defense Of Marxism Website entry via Renegade Eye- On The British Labour Party.

Markin commentary:

A very interesting article, at least theoretically and historically, especailly on the Fenner Brockway-led Independent Labor Party in the 1930s that gave Leon Trotsky fits as it tried studiously, and with every fiber in its centrist body (I am being polite here), to avoid committing to the Fourth International. I am a little perplexed though as to why the British Labour Party is a "happy hunting ground" for leftists now that it is out of office and is badly mauled which makes me question the IMT's motives for a rush to Labourism (seemingly having been previously "bad children" they want to "come back home" after a long hiatus- back to shades of Ted Grant time). Certainly there is no apparent leftward-motion this early on that I can sense at this remove, a movement which revolutionaries would most certainly try to take advantage of with both hand. On relationships, including "entrism", regroupment, etc. and other tactics within mainstream Labour that will depend on circumstances.

What is clear though is that every militant should belong to the Labour Party, just as in the United States every militant should belong to a trade union, if possible. The British Labour Party, like the German Social Democratic, and in the past the French and Italian Communist Parties, is the mass bourgeois workers party in Britain. In the future it has to be split into its reformist and , hopefully, then revolutionary wings if the class struggle is to go forward. But revolutionaries cannot go around Labour and by this I mean go around the fight for leadership of the unions(or try, as in the 1960s and 70s, to sidestep that task by entry in the "sandbox" plaything of Labour youth leagues or constituency organizations).

Whether one supports Labour (critically, "like a rope supports a hanging man," as Lenin stated in his commentary on the Arthur Hendersen-led Labour Party days of the 1920s) in elections is a open question, depending on the politics at the time. In 2010 there was no reason, no reason at all, to call for a vote for Labour, whether eight or eight million people voted for its candidates. A simple question on that one: How, after those well-defined 13 years of Labour rule, as lap dog for American imperialism, the City of London bankers, and Her Majesty's governmental apparatus, could any self-respecting leftist call for such a vote for Labour , except to create more confusion among the advanced workers. That is our, that is we "sectarians" (read: small propaganda groups), real target right now?

By the way, as a very simple first step, although only a first step in that process, would be weaning those advanced militants away for reformism by calls for the abolition of Her Majesty's monarchy, that moribund House of Lords, and the disestablishment of those state churches. "Speak" Oliver Cromwell to those workers, for openers. To the advanced British and immigrant workers (patiently and soberly, of course) now!