Regroupment Interview 4: The Anti-Capitalist Initiative

This is the final interview in our regroupment series which is looking at some of the new groups currently working in the UK and exploring the reasons behind their formation. We ask the Anti-Capitalist Initiative about their influences and analysis of the current state of the Left.

Originally published in September 2012.

1) What is the idea behind your project and what are it’s political influences?

The Anticapitalist Initiative (ACI) is an attempt to bring together the new political activists who have been inspired by the Occupy movement, the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, anti-austerity campaigns and the fractured groupings of the revolutionary left. We are making a conscious effort to take time to debate and discuss what politics we collectively wish to pursue. Instead of declaring a platform decided on by the initial supporters, we want to draw in a diverse range of views from across the movement. The Initiative currently has supporters who consider themselves communists, many from a Trotskyist tradition, as well as more libertarian traditions including anarchists and those who draw on Autonomism as a guide to action. Many in the movement will see the ACI as an attempt to set up a UK franchise of the French Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste, but this isn’t accurate. We have much to learn from similar processes but we ideally want to circumvent the damaging dissolution of previous projects by not repeating the same mistakes. That means taking our time to consider where our movement is and through common work and discussion attempt to articulate a credible anticapitalist alternative.

2) Does the UK need another anti-capitalist initiative? What makes yours different?

We have had several anticapitalist initiatives in the UK in the last two decades; the larger projects were crushed by bureaucratic control of this or that group. For example, the Socialist Labour Party drew in many militants from the Great Miners Strike and the anti-Poll Tax movement, yet under Arthur Scargill and his supporters the possibility of a significant left force emerging in opposition to the Labour Party was lost. The almost inevitable collapse of attempts to unite the left demands that we need to begin at the beginning. From the very start of previous initiatives a bureaucratic and sectarian tumour slowly but surely killed those projects. We want to go a different way: the ACI is not the plaything of this or that Trotskyist grouping but an open space for all of us in the movement to create a new left. We are not urging the left to repeat previous initiatives with a few democratic tweaks; we are asking the left to question the basis of its politics, activities and ultimately its existence.

What makes the ACI stand out from previous initiatives is that we have prescribed no set outcome on where we will end up. The debate over what kind of organisation we need so that we can participate in struggles in a useful fashion is completely open. Some of us would like to see a new party emerge, others a network or a united front organisation. We hope to avoid making decisions too quickly with too little variety of opinion. Where previous initiatives were rashly defined, often by confused reformist politics, the ACI is more concerned with listening and learning first.

3) What are you hoping to organise around and how are you hoping to move beyond the current limitations of the Left?

The Initiative wants to organise spaces for those of us coming from the Marxist left to learn from the new movements, libertarian activists and from our shared experiences of struggles. Our current goals are to organise in campaigns to strengthen them but also to break down the barriers of mistrust of decades of factional separation and fighting. We will also be organising forums to debate the immediate problems the movement faces but also its strategic and political problems. The left has been stuck at a dead end for over 80 years by generalising the strategies and politics from an era of political retreat when the revolutionary processes unleashed by the the October Revolution were reversed. The best way to consider the Initiative is as a reboot for the revolutionary movement, not just a democratic upgrade.

Comments

SAH-RB
Jan 30 2013 01:56

This sounds like a sincere effort that could have a positive influence and lead to a stronger anti-capitalist movement. As ACI examines divisions within the left and debates how to achieve greater unity, however, I hope that sectarianism (i.e., unwillingness to work with those who do not agree 100%) will not be their sole focus. Fundamental and substantive differences exist which need to be addressed. This brings up one possible threat to the organization's stated goals. By not declaring any platform or guidelines whatsoever, the ACI starts out as a marketplace of anti capitalist ideas. If members enter with open minds and a willingness to learn from each other, new ideas and alliances could form. If instead members see ACI as a "recruitment opportunity" then ACI has no way to avoid becoming whatever the dominant group would like it to become. One example of a substantive difference can be seen in ACI's comment, "The left has been stuck at a dead end for over 80 years by generalising the strategies and politics from an era of political retreat when the revolutionary processes unleashed by the October Revolution were reversed." Many Leftists believe that the revolutionary processes unleashed by the October revolution were throttled nearly 95 years ago when the Bolsheviks gained control soon after the revolution, not 80 years ago, with the ascendency of Stalin. These sorts of differences are not trivial; they get to the heart of what a successful revolution is and how to achieve it. In any case, I wish ACI success in stimulating discussion along with greater (and principled) unity within the left.

Spikymike
Jan 30 2013 17:17

''..the left questioning the basis of it's politics...'' sounds promissing - perhaps starting by questioning the assumption that there is a common 'left', beyond an assemblage of different protest campaigns, and which is genuinely anti-capitalist rather than a a radical version or left-wing of capitalism? Working class struggle will often unite workers from many different political perspectives and none in the struggle itself, but that doesn't necessarily imply that what passes for 'the organised left' today is useful or needed in that process.

JoeMaguire
Mar 8 2013 17:29

Isn't this ex-WP, CPGB and others? It just feels like another left unity attempt by those bad disembarking from the trot and Leninist left.