Left Unity - The Impossible Dream

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whichfinder
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Sep 5 2013 19:53
Left Unity - The Impossible Dream

Date: Tuesday, 17 September 2013 - 8:00pm

Venue: Committee Room, Chiswick Town Hall, Heathfield Terrace, W4 4JN

Directions: About 7 minutes walk from Chiswick Park tube on the District line

A talk by Adam Buick

Earlier this year radical film-maker Ken Loach issued a call for all those "left of Labour" to unite in a single organisation. The new party he called for is due to be founded at the end of November. But it won't make a breakthrough any more than Arthur Scargill's SLP or George Galloway's Respect have been able to and for the same reason -- the squabbling Trotskyist sects will create disunity as they rival each other to try to take it over.

All welcome

Audience participation invited

http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/event/left-unity-impossible-dream-chiswick-800pm

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plasmatelly
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Sep 5 2013 20:03

Hi whichfinder - is who is Adam Buick? Sounds like popcorn is required.

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jondwhite
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Sep 9 2013 18:40

The reply does not make sense.

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whichfinder
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Sep 14 2013 14:53

This is next Tuesday, 17th September at 8.00pm

http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/event/left-unity-impossible-dream-chiswick-800pm

Spikymike
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Sep 15 2013 11:36

Certainly true!..... and I dreamed I saw a genuine socialist/communist unity... but it was only a dream!

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Sep 24 2013 20:11

Letter sent to Socialist Platform

Dear Comrades

We have read your Statement of Aims and Principles for the proposed "Left Unity Party" and have noticed many similarities with our Object and Declaration of Principles and the positions we have developed and propagated over the years.

We have in mind in particular the need for a principled, explicitly socialist party that concentrates on campaigning for socialism as "capitalism does not and cannot be made to work in the interests of the majority" and which holds that "the socialist transformation of society... can only be accomplished by the working class itself acting democratically as the majority in society" using "both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary means."

As there can be no point in two socialist parties in one country we should like to propose a meeting to discuss the principle of a single socialist party, based on sound socialist principles, as opposed to forming yet another leftwing reformist party.

Looking forward to your reply

Yours for Socialism

Oliver Bond
SPGB General Secretary

ajjohnstone
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Sep 25 2013 06:49

It should be pointed out that we are addressing only the Socialist Platform, accepting fully that we hold irreconciliable differences with the various other platforms, as well as with the CPGB amendments to the Socialist Platform.

A fuller explanation to our position with Left Unity can be read here

http://www.socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com/2013/09/unity-for-socialism-or-for-reformism.html

Is this the SPGB coming in from the cold? More than likely our overtures will be spurned because of who we are and not what our principles are. Who knows?

Perhaps the Thin Red Line will also now have to address the need for some form of unity and finally accept the SPGB as the parliamentary political wing of anarchism.

Caiman del Barrio
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Sep 25 2013 21:54
ajjohnstone wrote:
the parliamentary political wing of anarchism.

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

jojo
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Sep 26 2013 01:37
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
ajjohnstone wrote:
the parliamentary political wing of anarchism.

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

Better they should be the parliamentary political wing of anarchism, than the parliamentary political wing of left communism!

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Chilli Sauce
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Sep 26 2013 07:00
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Perhaps the Thin Red Line will also now have to address the need for some form of unity and finally accept the SPGB as the parliamentary political wing of anarchism.

Wait, is this a serious statement?

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Sep 26 2013 07:44

Pull the other one - it’s got bells on!

ajjohnstone
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Sep 26 2013 11:23

None of this should come as a surprise. I already raised it on another thread
http://libcom.org/blog/%E2%80%9C-real-enemy%E2%80%9D-why-we-should-reject-left-unity-concept-17022013

The further development is that the SPGB has now formally issued an invitation to discuss unity with a group of people signed up to much the same principles as our own. We can only take them at their word until we are proved wrong. How far they and we are prepared to go to achieve this unity is somewhat a moot point. When Social Revolution and Solidarity merged, both had to make concessions.

Refusing to participate in elections and declining to vote for a socialist party's candidate has become a matter of principle for many anarchists but the very wiki article del barrio directs me to points out the CNT did in fact reverse its policy of electoral abstention.

Guy Aldred stood in local elections, Murray Bookchin advocated the same. As been stressed by the SPGB over and over again, we follow the William Morris tactic...of entering parliament as rebels.

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Entdinglichung
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Sep 26 2013 11:40

Left Unity - The Impossibilist Dream?

Spikymike
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Sep 26 2013 12:02

ajj is right to point out that many anarchists historically (including some now in Greece for instance), have been prepared to at least sanction or encourage voting in capitalist elections, though less rarely to put up there own candidates, and I think that in present circumstances this is not such a critical matter in practice.
However, the spgb's approach to elections and to the role of the state is a step beyond a mere tactical or propaganda use of capitalist elections (the justification for which is at best flimsy anyway) and could in theory place them on the wrong side of any rising class movement expressed through independent organisations, though I tend to think the spgb as with other such small anarchist and communist political groups, if still surviving in such circumstances, would be rapidly surpassed.
Non of this is an argument against some forms of co-operation at present, in for instance political discussion groups and other forums or in workplace struggles but real co-operation can only emerge through the practice of the class struggle and will often be less formal than between existing organised groups.

Caiman del Barrio
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Sep 26 2013 12:18
ajjohnstone wrote:
the very wiki article del barrio directs me to points out the CNT did in fact reverse its policy of electoral abstention.

Yes, the proudest moment in anarchist history, which has definitely never been discussed on Libcom - or indeed in depth in SF's new book.

This really is anarchy 101, you guys are smart & experienced enough to be well-acquainted with anarchist arguments for abstentionism. They are far more developed & nuanced than the lukewarm Angel's Delight of organic waste you're serving up here.

Tell ya what, just cos I'm nice, I'll follow up my Wiki link with Anarchy FAQ: http://anarchism.pageabode.com/afaq/index.html

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Entdinglichung
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Sep 26 2013 14:36
ajjohnstone wrote:
As been stressed by the SPGB over and over again, we follow the William Morris tactic...of entering parliament as rebels.

watching BBC Parliament will at least become a bit more entertaining ... but probably not as rebellious as one Green parliamentarian during the 80ies in Germany

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Sep 26 2013 22:45
Entdinglichung wrote:

watching BBC Parliament will at least become a bit more entertaining ... but probably not as rebellious as one Green parliamentarian during the 80ies in Germany

Don't be quite so sure about that... unlikely that SPGB delegates will be chucking their own blood around though. Until then:-

http://www.meetup.com/The-Socialist-Party-of-Great-Britain/photos/17565302/ October SS - hard copy and online version out soon laugh out loud

ajjohnstone
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Sep 27 2013 01:35

"... though I tend to think the spgb as with other such small anarchist and communist political groups, if still surviving in such circumstances, would be rapidly surpassed..." - SpikeyMike

A similar position as our own when we wrote

"The socialist political party (of which we are just a potential embryo) will not be something separate from the socialist majority. It will be the socialist majority self-organised politically, an instrument they have formed to use to achieve a socialist society. "
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/pamphlets/whats-wrong-using-parliament

This is a shift from the position of the 1904 founders of the SPGB who considered it to be the vehicle for socialism. Another piece of evidence that we are not an monument but a movement, willing to change our position. It was quickly realised that not all socialists mustered under our banner and numerous remained outside.

Unity based on the principles of socialism and achieved, through free discussion will be the goal of the Socialist Party.We need unity but we do not fear dissension. The Socialist Party does not shy away from mergers with groups where there is a common identity of interests. The aim must be to effect a genuine unification on a firm and long-lasting basis. We, for our part, believe that unity would be a good thing if it is firmly based and leads to the strengthening of the socialist movement. On the other hand, a unification followed by sharp factional fights and another split would be highly injurious to the movement. We must all ask ourselves when is it sectarianism and when is it political principle? We cannot accept the “lowest common denominator” approach. A socialist movement which places greater value on tactics of political expediency than on principle has abandoned the policy of the class struggle for one of class collaboration.

As our EC statement says "the socialist transformation of society... can only be accomplished by the working class itself acting democratically as the majority in society" using "both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary means."

There were reasons why the SPGB in the past over-emphasised just the one aspect of the struggle but we now continue to see a more appropriate balance.

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Sep 29 2013 20:21
Quote:
the very wiki article del barrio directs me to points out the CNT did in fact reverse its policy of electoral abstention.

Yeah, cause that turned out fantastically. roll eyes And it definitely hasn't been a source of criticism for basically the entirety of the anarchist movement ever since then.

Spikymike
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Sep 29 2013 18:45

ajj unfortunately quotes me in his post 18 above rather out of context in so far as ''...a rising class movement expressed through independent organisations...'' need not be in the form of a socialist political party as the spgb understand the term 'party' (see discussion of marxist concepts of the party on other threads) but rather through some form of equally political workers councils independent of and in opposition to the capitalist state. In that case a party or parties seeking election to capitalist parliaments (were such still to be available at the time) might well find themselves bypassed by, or indeed in opposition to such councils. The spgb's rather formal understanding of 'democracy' in relation to the class struggle now would suggest this as a real possibility and a reason to be critical of this aspect of the spgb's politics.

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Sep 29 2013 20:26
jondwhite wrote:
The reply does not make sense.
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Oct 13 2013 19:42
ajjohnstone wrote:
As been stressed by the SPGB over and over again, we follow the William Morris tactic...of entering parliament as rebels.

William Morris also said we shall use the Houses of Parliament as a dung heap. The SPGB making a start on this, would top the German Green Parliamentarian from 1983.

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Oct 18 2013 19:06
ajjohnstone wrote:

As our EC statement says "the socialist transformation of society... can only be accomplished by the working class itself acting democratically as the majority in society" using "both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary means."

There were reasons why the SPGB in the past over-emphasised just the one aspect of the struggle but we now continue to see a more appropriate balance.

There are very good reasons why the parliamentary means are emphasised. When a majority, actively demanding and working for socialism, emerges it would be folly for them to leave control of the state – and its “armed bodies of men” – in the hands of supporters of capitalism. That would be to leave a potential weapon in the hands of the opponents of socialism. Certainly, with the spread of socialist ideas even amongst members of the armed forces, it would be a somewhat blunted weapon, but one still capable of inflicting some harm. So, it would be dangerous to take the risk. Better to use the fact of being the majority to take control of the state via elections and parliament, if only to neutralise it.

But there is a more positive reason for winning control of political power. The state is an instrument of coercion, but it has assumed social functions that have to exist in any society and which have nothing to do with its coercive nature: it has taken over the role of being society’s central organ of administration and co-ordination. Gaining control of the state will at the same time give control of this social organ which can be used to co-ordinate the changeover from capitalism to socialism. Of course, it couldn’t be used in the form inherited from capitalism; it would have to be reorganised on a thoroughly democratic basis, with mandated and recallable delegates and popular participation replacing the unaccountable professional politicians and unelected top civil servants of today.

Nor should it be overlooked that, if some pro-capitalist minority should be so unwise as to resort to violence to resist the establishment of socialism, it will be an immense advantage to have control of the social institution with the power to employ socially-sanctioned force. Once any threat of this sort has disappeared (fairly rapidly, we would think), then the state can be dismantled. The armed forces can be completely disbanded and the centre of social administration and coordination can be thoroughly democratised. The state will have ceased to exist and a stateless society – an aim of socialists as well as anarchists – achieved.

radicalgraffiti
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Oct 18 2013 19:30
whichfinder wrote:
When a majority, actively demanding and working for socialism, emerges it would be folly for them to leave control of the state – and its “armed bodies of men” – in the hands of supporters of capitalism. That would be to leave a potential weapon in the hands of the opponents of socialism. Certainly, with the spread of socialist ideas even amongst members of the armed forces, it would be a somewhat blunted weapon, but one still capable of inflicting some harm. So, it would be dangerous to take the risk. Better to use the fact of being the majority to take control of the state via elections and parliament, if only to neutralise it.

The idea that a majority "working for socialism" could emerge outside of an active revolution is absurd, as is the idea that the state would simple follow orders from parliament without resisting and abolish itself if told to do so.

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Oct 18 2013 20:30
radicalgraffiti wrote:
whichfinder wrote:
When a majority, actively demanding and working for socialism, emerges it would be folly for them to leave control of the state – and its “armed bodies of men” – in the hands of supporters of capitalism. That would be to leave a potential weapon in the hands of the opponents of socialism. Certainly, with the spread of socialist ideas even amongst members of the armed forces, it would be a somewhat blunted weapon, but one still capable of inflicting some harm. So, it would be dangerous to take the risk. Better to use the fact of being the majority to take control of the state via elections and parliament, if only to neutralise it.

The idea that a majority "working for socialism" could emerge outside of an active revolution is absurd, as is the idea that the state would simple follow orders from parliament without resisting and abolish itself if told to do so.

Why is it absurd?

Even if anti-parliamentarians and anarchists can be convinced that the government we see actually is the real government and that who controls it depends on who holds a majority of the seats in parliament, they still have another objection: that even if the socialist movement wins an election and secures a majority in parliament this wouldn’t give it control of the government because the capitalist class would then stage a coup d’état.

Imagine a different situation, on the eve of a socialist election victory. Most workers would already be convinced of the need for socialism and would have organised themselves in unions and other bodies ready to keep production and administration going after the election victory. Socialist ideas would also have penetrated into the armed forces.

Given this situation it would be a bold group of plotters who would attempt a coup, which would have no chance of success. There is in fact no example in the historical record of any government trying to continue when faced with the hostility of the population: when they see the balance of forces is decisively against them they give up. The example of the collapse of the state-capitalist dictatorships in Eastern Europe in 1989-90 is a case in point. Not even the hard-line dictatorships in Czechoslovakia and East Germany sent out the elements of the armed forces still loyal to them (the secret police) to shoot down the people demonstrating against them in the streets. Ceausescu in Romania did try this, but within a few days he was facing a firing squad.

In the unlikely event of hard-line pro-capitalist elements staging a coup against a socialist majority this couldn’t last. Strikes, demonstrations and army mutinies would immediately break out and the whole thing would be over in a day or two.

If on the eve of the revolution a majority of the population are in favour of it and are organised to participate in it, why should they not demonstrate this by putting up their own candidates to oppose and beat those who do support the continuation of the capitalist system? Naturally, these candidates would stand as mandated delegates not as unaccountable representatives. Being the majority, this would be reflected in a majority of seats in parliament. And if some pro-capitalists in the boardrooms, the armed forces or the police attempted a coup, what, as already pointed out, could they do against a participating majority committed to establishing socialism?

Once there is an organised, determined majority the success of the socialist revolution is assured, one way or the other. It is then a question of the best tactic to pursue to try to ensure that this takes place as rapidly and as smoothly as possible. The best way, surely, to proceed is to start by obtaining a democratic mandate via the ballot box for the changeover to socialism. The tactical advantage of doing this is that, when obtained, it deprives the supporters of capitalism of any legitimacy for the continuation of their rule. This could be important should some of the pro-capitalists think of staging a coup: any wavering elements, especially in the armed forces, would tend to side with those who have the undisputed democratic legitimacy, i.e. in this instance those who want socialism.

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Oct 19 2013 12:00
whichfinder wrote:
Imagine a different situation, on the eve of a socialist election victory.

OK, let's imagine it. If the socialist party is genuine (e.g. the SPGB), the election wouldn't happen. The capitalists would find a pretext to put the election off and then start the repression. With the police and reliable elements of the military, they'd be able to smash us up, drive us underground and generally arrest stacks of our militants, all carried out to the soundtrack of a blood-curdling red scare. Think that they won't be able to? The State has guns and is organised to repress. Moving against an opponent organised for a Parliamentary election rather than a workers' revolution would be a piece of cake.

And waiting for an election victory isn't the way to think about it, anyway. The problem is that politics is not just about numbers, but also about momentum. When the working class comes across to communism, it will be in the midst of a major crisis, where the political middle ground with which everyone is familiar is crumbling and society is polarising to the Left and the Right. As society approaches the point of the revolutionary crisis, the polarisation speeds up. At the point of the Revolution, the overwhelming majority of the working class will be on our side - but half of them will have only come across in the previous fortnight. Further, if we miss the opportunity, there will be a political reaction that will give the extreme Right the advantage, since they will be the ones with a clear view of how to deal with the communists. By the time the election rolled around, we'd be history.

Politics moves way too quickly for Parliamentary elections. That's why we need organs like soviets, with recallable delegates. And we won't succeed with only 52% of the vote. We need a lot more support and for it to be active. Fortunately, the course of the struggle will generate that active support, as it has in all previous revolutions.

Finally, I haven't even begun to talk about the situation the SPGB would face if it had (say) 30% of the seats in Parliament and was the largest opposition party. Or about what it would do with its majorities on the councils of Manchester, London, Glasgow etc which would accompany having 30% of the seats in the House of Commons.