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Working class/communist demands

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Steven.
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Jul 3 2007 09:36
Working class/communist demands

There are a couple of arguments related to this going on, in the As+Ps, and WSM conference thread – where they voted to demand nationalisation of Ireland's oil, between myself and some others, and Dundee United. As an example:

Dundee_United wrote:
John. wrote:
Er, no dundee, it marks out communists from social democrats. We don't pretend that capital can be managed in workers' interests - because they are diametrically opposed.

Communist demands will break the economy - but that's fine, because we want to destroy the economy. It's the social democrats who want to incorporate workers demands into capital that will fail, because introducing left wing reforms causes things like capital flight, unemployment, etc.

This is insurrectionism. I'm all for communism but if you think it will be achieved by one flareup that will sweep away capitalism - as this implies - then you're playing with people's lives.

That that is nothing to do with insurrectionism is being dealt with over there. But something is coming up which to me seems quite basic, which is proving obviously to not be quite so for some.

This is that if we are workers, our interests are opposed to those of capital. We can't manage capital in our own interests, so we shouldn't try. We should make demands on our own terrain for material improvements to our conditions/wages/social wage. We should not demand how capital manages granting these reforms, because then we tie ourselves in knots.

For example, at my work there are cuts. As a worker, and a communist it's simple - I oppose the cuts. If I try to stipulate how the bosses manage this then I can't do so in a way which is beneficial to the working class as a whole. Because do I then say, like many lefties that they should raise council tax? Because that's an extra tax on workers. Or do I say like some other lefties that they should tax business/the rich? Because that causes capital flight out of the country, and so unemployment for workers.

You get contradictions like this because of the way the entire machinery of capital is set up, which is that it goes completely against workers interests.

As a worker it's not my problem how capital manages to pay for a reform if we're powerful enough to win it. In the example above it's quite easy, I just oppose the cuts.

Thoughts/disagreements/abuse?

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Lazy Riser
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Jul 3 2007 09:54
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it's quite easy, I just oppose the cuts

Easy, ineffective, irrelevant. Given you can no more manage capital than manage the earth turning, one’s opposition to “cuts” is as meaningful as one’s opposition to the sun rising.

Dundee_United
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Jul 3 2007 10:04
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We should not demand how capital manages granting these reforms, because then we tie ourselves in knots.

If the ruling class is incapable of meeting your demands, for whatever reason, and the workers are incapable of revolution then the demand is not useful. If the demand will lead to cuts in the social wage to pay for it, or job losses etc. (as many demands may), then your demand had better be worth it, and the organised working class forces had be able to take the next step. That's just a simple question of modalities. Conflating it with attempts to manage capital in the interests of the class, as I were proposing a slate of candidates for parliament, the privy council, the CBI and the bank of England, is a red herring. That was not what was under discussion, and it seems to me that in discussion of practicalities if we take your line almost anything in terms of concrete demands is reformism and the only acceptable demands are those which cannot be met by capital, and which workers do not have the power to force - hence my comparison to insurrectionism because it's coming from the same place - a lack of even very basic concrete ideas on how to take the struggle forward.

WeTheYouth
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Jul 3 2007 10:06

I agree with john, we have to have the confidence to put forward our own positions and not just put on a social democrats hat when self management of industries seems a long way off.

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one’s opposition to “cuts” is as meaningful as one’s opposition to the sun rising.

Really? say that to the Manchester community and mental health nurses, who opposed cuts in their department and struck and won. say that to the posties who are fighting to oppose the 40,000 job cuts in the Royal Mail.

LR, opposing job cuts or cuts in services is meaningful, especially when it is peoples jobs and quality of life that is under threat.

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Jul 3 2007 10:10

Dundee wrote: "if we take your line almost anything in terms of concrete demands is reformism and the only acceptable demands are those which cannot be met by capital, and which workers do not have the power to force - hence my comparison to insurrectionism because it's coming from the same place - a lack of even very basic concrete ideas on how to take the struggle forward".

This is a distortion. John clearly states that we should support immediate demands but they should be on our own terrain:

"We should make demands on our own terrain for material improvements to our conditions/wages/social wage. We should not demand how capital manages granting these reforms, because then we tie ourselves in knots".

I agree with John and I also share his reaction to the WSM demand for nationalisation. I thought some of the reactions to this on the WSM thread were wimpish, including Revol's. The call for nationalisation of Ireland's resources is pure and simple leftism. It is counter-revolutionary.

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Jul 3 2007 10:13
Dundee_United wrote:
if we take your line almost anything in terms of concrete demands is reformism and the only acceptable demands are those which cannot be met by capital

how is John. opposing cuts in his workplace an impossible demand? John. is precisely arguing we should make concrete demands for our own living standards, just not concrete plans for how capital manages it. if i'm facing wage cuts i don't come up with a new business plan targeting the export market to generate the boss enough profits to sustain my wage, i just fight the cut.

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Jul 3 2007 10:14
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not just put on a social democrats hat when self management of industries seems a long way off.

Hmm. I think it's important to say what you think, and advance an idea of the world you'd like to see, and have a programme. I wasn't talking about that. Of course every situation must be used to put forward propaganda. The question is really more about not calling for demands which cannot be achieved in the here and now and having the honesty to tell fellow workers that too.

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Jul 3 2007 10:15
Dundee_United wrote:
The question is really more about not calling for demands which cannot be achieved in the here and now and having the honesty to tell fellow workers that too.

so how is John. opposing cuts in his workplace demanding the impossible? or are you battling a straw man?

WeTheYouth
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Jul 3 2007 10:16
Dundee_United wrote:
Quote:
not just put on a social democrats hat when self management of industries seems a long way off.

Hmm. I think it's important to say what you think, and advance an idea of the world you'd like to see, and have a programme. I wasn't talking about that. Of course every situation must be used to put forward propaganda. The question is really more about not calling for demands which cannot be achieved in the here and now and having the honesty to tell fellow workers that too.

Yes i agree, but that does not mean calling nationalisation, as john said, we should just oppose cuts and not put forward a position which would call for capital to be manged differently.

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Jul 3 2007 10:18
Dundee_United wrote:
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We should not demand how capital manages granting these reforms, because then we tie ourselves in knots.

If the ruling class is incapable of meeting your demands, for whatever reason, and the workers are incapable of revolution then the demand is not useful.

This sentence is pretty meaningless for the near future. Workers are very much on the defensive at the moment, the ruling class being "unable" to grant reforms will only happen long in the future after the long, slow building of institutions of workers' power has been developed a lot further. At which point revolution would be on the cards anyway. So I don't really see your point?

Quote:
If the demand will lead to cuts in the social wage to pay for it, or job losses etc. (as many demands may), then your demand had better be worth it, and the organised working class forces had be able to take the next step.

you what?

Quote:
That's just a simple question of modalities.

Huh?

Quote:
Conflating it with attempts to manage capital in the interests of the class, as I were proposing a slate of candidates for parliament, the privy council, the CBI and the bank of England, is a red herring.

You think choosing the bosses of a massive thing like the oil industry is not comparable to this?

Quote:
That was not what was under discussion, and it seems to me that in discussion of practicalities if we take your line almost anything in terms of concrete demands is reformism

No it's not you muppet. I mentioned concrete demands in my post so you couldn't try any strawman shit. Here's another concrete demand I support - 5% pay increase or £1,000 for local govt workers, which my union is consulting over at the moment.

What would be stupid is if I say how this should be paid for - like demanding raises taxes like trots do.

Quote:
and the only acceptable demands are those which cannot be met by capital,

Where are you getting that from?

Quote:
and which workers do not have the power to force

Another completely fabricated strawman

Quote:
hence my comparison to insurrectionism because it's coming from the same place - a lack of even very basic concrete ideas on how to take the struggle forward.

Again, absolute bullshit.

WTY - cheers, I don't think it's worth engaging with lazy riser here, especially with respect to the public sector.

Alf - cheers for pointing out the distortion, and joseph for the straw-manning.

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Jul 3 2007 10:18
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LR, opposing job cuts or cuts in services is meaningful, especially when it is peoples jobs and quality of life that is under threat.

Like I say, you may as well oppose the weather. Having decided you can't change it, having decided there are no demands make other than “Stop!”, it’s about as meaningful as throwing your toys out of the pram. And as effective. All it does is reassert your dependence on your nanny.

WeTheYouth
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Jul 3 2007 10:21
Lazy Riser wrote:
Quote:
LR, opposing job cuts or cuts in services is meaningful, especially when it is peoples jobs and quality of life that is under threat.

Like I say, you may as well oppose the weather. Having decided you can't change it, having decided there are no demands make other than “Stop!”, it’s about as meaningful as throwing your toys out of the pram. And as effective. All it does is reassert your dependence on your nanny.

opposing cuts in jobs, conditions and services are demands, and if you havent noticed a set of demands which if you havent noticed formed the basis of a strike yesterday and last friday.

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Jul 3 2007 10:24
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WTY - cheers, I don't think it's worth engaging with lazy riser here, especially with respect to the public sector

Ha ha. With one of you "opposing cuts in jobs" whilst the other’s "destroying the economy", I think you've enough problems engaging with each other.

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Jul 3 2007 10:25
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If the demand will lead to cuts in the social wage to pay for it, or job losses etc. (as many demands may), then your demand had better be worth it, and the organised working class forces had be able to take the next step.

There is a general attcak on workers' living conditions. If I get a big pay rise, I know full well that the bosses will try to claw it back. Think about what you are saying though. What it amounts to is this:

"Greedy workers are destroying it for the rest of us." (hmm, I have heard that line before somewhere)

It is pretty close to this:

"Don't struggle to defend your own living standards-the economy can't afford it"

Devrim

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Jul 3 2007 11:47

John, I broadly agree with what you're saying about not managing capital and not avoiding demands because they might "damage the economy", but I don't see how this contradicts a demand that services should be paid for through progressive (for lack of a better word) taxation.

Surely capital flight is just another front that workers will have to fight on if we're making demands that hurt capital?

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Jul 3 2007 11:55
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Surely capital flight is just another front that workers will have to fight on if we're making demands that hurt capital?

Yeah. Like in “Lawnmower Man” film or perhaps “Tron”.

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madashell
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Jul 3 2007 11:58

Well hey, if we can take the fight to the internet, we've already won cool

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Jul 3 2007 12:58
madashell wrote:
John, I broadly agree with what you're saying about not managing capital and not avoiding demands because they might "damage the economy", but I don't see how this contradicts a demand that services should be paid for through progressive (for lack of a better word) taxation.

Why would you demand progressive taxation?

And a better question for you, (but mainly for) Dundee and the nationalising WSM - if reforms like this which governments can grant are good, then why don't you try to get yourselves elected to it to push them through? What's your argument against government then if you think they can help the working class?

Quote:
Surely capital flight is just another front that workers will have to fight on if we're making demands that hurt capital?

Well this is also true, when investment flows out you can strike against job cuts, closures, etc. This will happen if a workers movement in one country is significantly more militant than that in others. And you can fight it on a working class terrain. With the taxation issue there is a more difficult problem for the government, which is if it puts up taxes on business and the rich, they leave the country, and then don't pay any tax, so you're back at square 1. Paying for workers' demands is the bosses' problem, let them worry about shit like that. We know government is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Terry
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Jul 3 2007 14:51

Maybe I've missed a point there John...but.....
The opening of a new hospital.
Reduced school class sizes.
Schools in buildings rather than pre-fabs.
Secular education.
Free third level eduction.

...err surely these are all things you would support campaigns for, and all involve changes within the state, concerned as they are with services provided by the state.

In regard to the issue originally being discussed, the reason why I would support calling for a policy of greater taxation on oil and gas exploration in Ireland is twofold:

(1) An ideological weapon in the context of struggles around public services, notably health care, which is a big issue in this country, some local campaigns around hospital closures and also a nurses strike of late.

(2) Linking up a local environmental struggle (Rossport) with the concerns of working people in the rest of the country - note there are likely to be others as Exxon Mobil is operating off-shore down by Clare.

On point (1) like it or not the major weapon of the government on this is 'we don't have the money'/'we would have to raise taxes' this does have an influence with people, and simply saying well it is not our problem ain't gonna defuse it, if there were widespread knowledge that the government is giving away oil and gas it would help defuse that 'we don't have the money' weapon.

Finally I can't speak for the WSM but I would imagine the reason they do not favour electoralism is primarily because they think that the creation of socialism is all about participation and empowerment, some tactics and forms of organisation assist this, and are prefigurative, others do not. Electoralism does not. There are other reasons but I would say that is the main one.

Terry
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Jul 3 2007 14:53

Note also in regard to the issue of oil and gas exploration in Ireland capital flight is unlikely to be an issue. Seeing as you have to invest where the shit is afterall.

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Jul 3 2007 15:14
Terry wrote:
Maybe I've missed a point there John...but.....
The opening of a new hospital.
Reduced school class sizes.
Schools in buildings rather than pre-fabs.
Secular education.
Free third level eduction.

...err surely these are all things you would support campaigns for, and all involve changes within the state, concerned as they are with services provided by the state.

Those are all concrete demands, you're not saying how the state should pay for it. This is where you get problems.

Quote:
In regard to the issue originally being discussed, the reason why I would support calling for a policy of greater taxation on oil and gas exploration in Ireland is twofold:

TBH Terry, your politics seem inconsistent with respect to environmental issues - cf you being an anarchist and supporting taxes on workers taking flights.

Quote:
Finally I can't speak for the WSM but I would imagine the reason they do not favour electoralism is primarily because they think that the creation of socialism is all about participation and empowerment, some tactics and forms of organisation assist this, and are prefigurative, others do not. Electoralism does not. There are other reasons but I would say that is the main one.

What's participatory or empowering about a state-owned oil industry?

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Jul 3 2007 15:41
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considering the billions the state has just shat into Iraq and Afghanistan I think the obvious answer to anyone who suggests that workers demands are selfish or unatainable is staring you right out of the news

Spending money in Iraq etc maintains Sterling’s value. The return warrants the expenditure. If the money was spent directly realising demands, the value of said money would simply shrink to leave people no better off than before.

Terry
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Jul 3 2007 16:37
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Revol wrote: "considering the billions the state has just shat into Iraq and Afghanistan I think the obvious answer to anyone who suggests that workers demands are selfish or unatainable is staring you right out of the news, especially in regards to public services."

About 80 years ago 26 counties of Ireland left the United Kingdom.

And John I've never said nothing about taxation of air travel so kindly address the discussion rather than putting forth random lies.

Terry
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Jul 3 2007 17:10

I don't think it is that unrealistic for the reasons people on these boards have been saying...I think it would be realistic if there was a shit load of oil and gas out there - which is an unproven hypothesis. I'm unaware of what is actually meant by 'nationalisation' by the WSM in this context though...and again rather than being 'unrealistic' the normal model of things for oil and gas exploration and production is a far greater degree of state intervention than exists in Britain and Ireland. This is again a matter of applying to oil and gas standards which are possibly applicable to conditions in other industries (see for instance the capital flight issue raised above) or other situations, but not to it or in this situation,....as is the referance to working conditions in nationalised industries....I don't think this is really something that comes into the discussion on resources in Ireland because there isn't an energy industry in Ireland - the whole thing is based in Scotland and largely only involves Ireland in so far as the fields are in Irish waters, also in this context no one is putting forward the proposition that this would be a form of 'workers control' or be any sort of boon for the workforce (except that the practise of not employing Irish people might cease).

So the real criticism would be to say yeah well so what - how does state ownership (or greater taxation) necessarily relate to lower taxation, cheaper fuel, or better public services for us? Which I think is a fair point and which is why I think that the relevance of a focus on the oil and gas giveaway has to be in context of struggles around public services.

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Jul 3 2007 17:50

Right to stop this going off topic can we keep ireland discussion to the other thread? And Terry sorry if I've misrepresented your position. I thought you said that in a discussion related to Plane Stupid.

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Jul 3 2007 18:17
John. wrote:
Why would you demand progressive taxation?

Because if you're specifically demanding that public services are paid for by taxing companies and the ultra-rich, then it's harder to pass the costs on to working class people, IYSWIM.

Quote:
And a better question for you, (but mainly for) Dundee and the nationalising WSM - if reforms like this which governments can grant are good, then why don't you try to get yourselves elected to it to push them through? What's your argument against government then if you think they can help the working class?

It's not that the state can "help the working class" it's that workers can make demands of the state for our own interests. I don't see it as being different to making any other demand from the state or capital.

Quote:
Well this is also true, when investment flows out you can strike against job cuts, closures, etc. This will happen if a workers movement in one country is significantly more militant than that in others. And you can fight it on a working class terrain. With the taxation issue there is a more difficult problem for the government, which is if it puts up taxes on business and the rich, they leave the country, and then don't pay any tax, so you're back at square 1. Paying for workers' demands is the bosses' problem, let them worry about shit like that. We know government is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

The point is that you can fight against factory closures or job cuts or what have you on class terrain. It's not so easy to fight, say, flat taxation in the same way.

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Jul 3 2007 18:50

I think it depends on the goal and effect of the demands. An impossible demand - imposisble under the current arrangement - can be an expression of class anger and can be something for people to gather around, fighting for it can build a group in numbers and in quality, etc. If it's a demand for better conditions, one that could actually be met - like build a hospital, or give us a raise or whatever, I don't think it needs to be accompanied by "here's how it ought to happen" but I don't see why that's always a bad thing either. I mean, if it's a campaign to open a hospital or a campaign to keep a local clinic open, we know the money's going to come from the state some place. I think it may be worth specifying how that money comes about. I mean, if the money comes from closing another clinic across town where people aren't organized then that's not nearly as good as if the money comes from bureaucrats salaries and in a case like saying "take the money out of bureaucrats' salaries" or "raise taxes on business owners" seems to me to be better than just saying implicitly 'grant the demand however.' Same thing with fighting cuts at work - it's not just about fighting these cuts here, I mean, if you won the fight against cut but then found out later that management just cut someone else in a different facility or job class that wouldn't be much of a communist victory. Again in that case I think it can be worth specifying where the money should come from can be as good or better as not specififying.

Mike Harman
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Jul 3 2007 19:10
Quote:
I mean, if the money comes from closing another clinic across town where people aren't organized then that's not nearly as good as if the money comes from bureaucrats salaries and in a case like saying "take the money out of bureaucrats' salaries" or "raise taxes on business owners" seems to me to be better than just saying implicitly 'grant the demand however.'

What's better than that though is making contact with the clinic across town to defend that at the same time as demanding new ones. Saying "raise taxes" really doesn't mean that the people in charge will do that - they'll just shut that clinic across town anyway if there's no resistance.

Quote:
Same thing with fighting cuts at work

Yeah exactly - you fight cuts at your end, and link that with fights against cuts in other departments so it's as unified as possible. Again, saying "it should come out of the directors salary/shareholder dividends" is pointless and unrealistic.

lem
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Jul 3 2007 19:11

i don't know if demands should if possible include a demand for communism [tho it's an intersting idea]. but i would like to think they should if possible include a demand against bureaucracy [or some term i have not yet learnt].

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Jul 3 2007 19:12
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It's not that the state can "help the working class" it's that workers can make demands of the state for our own interests

It's only help if we ask for it nicely. That must be it.

Mike Harman
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Jul 3 2007 19:13
madashell wrote:
It's not so easy to fight, say, flat taxation in the same way.

Well, not so much. But things like the bin tax, poll tax as well - these are/were fightable. Anything which is presented as a fight for a new tax (even at the expense of an old one) is doomed to failure though.