I was curious reading the Weekly Worker group’s Draft programme (2010) to see very little discussion, if any, about the main expected characteristics of the socialist revolution, which will be required to end the rule of the capitalist class and start to establish socialism - this despite Chapter 4 being headed ‘Character of the revolution’.
(I use the term ‘Weekly Worker group’ not in order to irritate or annoy, but simply because I think it is inappropriate for you to use the term ‘CPGB’. While I completely agree with your strategic aim of forging a single, united Communist Party, which includes the great majority of Marxists and revolutionary organisations, and while such an organisation may well include the words ‘Communist Party of Great Britain’ in its title, it will be for that organisation to decide. The Communist Party of Britain is the political and organisational continuation of the original Communist Party of Great Britain, established in 1920, and also has legal ownership of the title CPGB).
Chapter 3 - ‘Immediate demands’ - is a very detailed section, setting out a wide range of what appear to be ‘transitional demands’, which respond to many of the issues facing the class today and are technically deliverable and affordable under capitalism. But, because the bourgeoisie can never concede these without questioning the existence and operation of said capitalism, they point to the need for capitalism to be replaced by socialism and communism.
Chapter 4 opens with a brief section about the main classes in the revolution and the need for the working class to prise the middle class away from capital, taking advantage of the dissolution of its privileged positions and increasing proletarianisation - and, of course, taking advantage of and helping widen fissures and splits within the bourgeoisie itself.
It then goes straight onto ‘The working class constitution’, which presumably can only be established following a socialist revolution, but there is no discussion of how that revolutionary process might take place. The need for socialist revolution is a key distinguishing feature, separating Marxists and communists from reformists, even if some of the latter profess to believe in socialism.
Clearly, we can’t expect to predict, prescribe or map out in detail how socialist revolution might take place, but surely we can discuss what might be some of its universal features (learning from the Paris Commune of 1871, the October Bolshevik revolution, the 1949 Chinese Revolution, among many others), and what the specific conditions and history of the United Kingdom might also mean for socialist revolution in practice.
We might want to factor in the experiences of the defeat of the 1919 German Revolution; the establishment of the people’s democracies in eastern and central Europe, following liberation by the Soviet Red Army, and their consequent evolution to socialism; the 1973 Chile coup; the 1975 victory in Vietnam and the establishment of socialism in that united country; plus Laos, Cambodia and North Korea.
We would want to consider the contribution of great Marxist theoreticians to the body of work on the theory and practice of socialist revolution in addition to Marx, Engels and Lenin, including Stalin, Mao, Luxemburg, Morris, Bordiga, Gramsci and Togliatti.
Your declaration and summary of principles published in each edition of the Weekly Worker contains one cryptic reference to the fact that “The capitalist class will never willingly allow their wealth and power to be taken away by a parliamentary vote” - which is certainly true, but hardly constitutes a programmatic entry.
I have a copy of a more detailed version of ‘What we fight for’ (I don’t know how old it is, whether the detail is still valid or why only a drastically shortened version is now published), which adds: “They will resist using every means at their disposal. Communists favour using parliament and winning the biggest possible working class representation. But workers must be readied to make revolution - peacefully if we can, forcibly if we must.” This does sound more like the start of a programmatic statement ...
I have noticed in recent years some of your leading articles in the Weekly Worker have started to become more specific about the nature and characteristics of socialist revolution. A good recent example was James Marshall in ‘A company union?’ (July 4 2019), including: “Marxists are convinced that the bourgeois state machine must be broken apart, demolished, smashed up”; “with a genuinely powerful workers’ militia it becomes a realistic possibility to split the state’s armed forces”; “Engels concluded that the key to revolution was mutiny in the armed forces” (also in ‘Abolish the standing army, establish a citizen force’, October 5 2017).
Other examples include: “How can there be a revolution if you have not split the army?” (Eddie Ford, ‘A very British cover-up, June 7 2018); “Revolutions do not happen because a lot of people are unhappy or have gone on so many marches - there needs to be a split within the ruling class and, crucially, the army” (Eddie Ford, ‘The royal wedding and platonic republicanism’, May 17 2018); “The overthrow of a modern state will require that the state’s armed forces are broken up along political lines. This was a point already argued by Friedrich Engels in his 1893 Can Europe disarm? and his 1895 introduction to The class struggles in France” (Mike Macnair, ‘Arms and the man’, March 1 2018).
So why no discussion within your Draft programme about the expected nature and character of the socialist revolution? My own view is that the capitalist class can only have their power and wealth removed through force. Force does not necessarily equal violence. The mass democratic socialist movement of the working class, including armed formations, are required to make socialist revolution - with, of course, the leading and guiding role of a mass Communist Party.
It is possible that, faced with the organised and armed might of the working class, the capitalist class may choose to give up its power and wealth peaceably. However, only through preparing to carry out socialist revolution by force can we create the possibility of a relatively peaceable transition to socialism.
Comrade Jennifer Maynard says she is doubtful that attributing the risk of totalitarianism to Marxism is correct. She also says that we are sleep-walking into a totalitarian world, which has nothing to do with Marxism (Letters, August 8).
She is, of course, right on both counts, because I did not attribute the risk of totalitarianism to Marxism in my previous letter, nor did I claim that the trend towards it comes from Marxism. Marxism is not in power, so we can’t blame it for that trend - which, however, can use it when it is in power.
The question is, which of these two trends - democracy or totalitarianism - does Marxism lean towards? I think it has a tendency to gravitate towards supporting the totalitarian trend, rather than siding with democratic values, due to the central role it places on dictatorship. Marx never, to my knowledge, defined what he meant by the term, ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, and sometimes used the phrase, ‘rule of the proletariat’. I read somewhere that Marx borrowed the idea from Blanqui, who wrote of the need for a revolutionary dictatorship. It was Lenin who defined and defended the term in his battles with Kautsky. For Lenin, dictatorship means rule untrammelled by law.
Lenin’s definition of dictatorship is correct; but, unlike the Roman republicans - who had the wisdom to place some limitation on the exercise of dictatorial powers, which may in fact be necessary in certain situations - Marx and Lenin used the term to mean the rule of the working class, with no limitations on the dictator whatsoever.
The point I am making is that the worship of dictatorship in Marxist theory fosters an intolerant, anti-democratic attitude in some people. So when in power Marxism can facilitate the development towards totalitarianism. John Pym, who led the parliamentary struggle against royal dictatorship in 17th century England, was more progressive than most Marxists on this question. The lack of democratic values in Marxism is what helps totalitarianism in a socialist context.
Comrade Maynard also speaks about artificial intelligence, but this is only part of the transhumanist agenda to fuse humans with technology, via the microchip, bringing us all under totalitarian state control. If you are troublesome to the system, click-click, you are gone. If the left was truly conscious it would be researching and alerting people to the totalitarian, Borg-like, transhumanist agenda to prevent the socialist transformation of society.
Defending a rat
It’s not so much that “fine, upstanding members of the establishment should automatically be believed by the police”, which Peter Manson sarcastically suggests, but that alleged ‘victims’ should not be automatically believed by the police (‘Abuse and cover-ups’, August 8).
Ever since the hue and cry which followed the posthumous allegations against Jimmy Savile, a moral panic has been in full swing - the basic principle that a person is innocent until proved guilty has been thrown out of the window. Police were instructed that all people making sexual allegations had to be automatically believed. This meant anyone with a tale to tell would be given a crime number and - win, draw or lose (or no action) - they could claim compensation. The fact is that ridiculous sums of money are being paid out for ‘crimes’ which nobody has ever proved took place.
But this also changed the entire way in which the police investigated allegations. The person being accused cannot be ‘innocent until proven guilty’ if you set off from the assumption that the person accusing them is telling the truth. So house searches and confiscation of all electronic devices, phone records, online records, diaries, etc have been conducted not to investigate whether the allegations hold up or not, but in order to prove an offence has been committed. This seriously affects what the police are looking for and what they are not interested in. Objective investigation goes out the window and the police act as prosecutors in endeavours to prove the crime they are already convinced has been committed. In their headlong rush to bang up the accused person, they have been less than thorough in investigating the character and evidence from the person doing the accusing - in a great many cases actually withholding key pieces of evidence, which they know proves the accusation to be a lie.
In recent times cases have collapsed, as evidence emerges that the police have withheld from the defence and the court itself key evidence which disproves the allegation. Their endeavour from the word go has not been to test the validity of the accusations, but to construct a case proving them in such highly partisan ways as to rig the evidence and manipulate the court. One used to have a touching belief that the Crown Prosecution Service acted as a sort of independent judge on these cases, throwing out bad cases and dodgy evidence - not any more. Cases since Savile show that the CPS works hand in glove with police officers in preparing charges and evidence. Vital pieces of evidence are lost in huge court bundles marked ‘not of assistance’.
What makes matters much worse is that innocent people have the allegations against them splashed across the media and spread wholesale before any trial or a shred of evidence is presented. Worse again, when the police then launch local or even national media campaigns, urging witnesses and ‘victims’ to come forward, in recent cases they have added, “You will be believed”. They often accompany this with door-to-door investigations, telling whole neighbourhoods about the accused person and asking if anyone has anything they want to say about them. This is not unbiased investigation: it is institutionalised and biased canvassing.
So, when Tommy Robinson photographs and slags off people who are accused of sexual crimes as they go into the court and before any trial can be held, that is slander likely to result in a miscarriage of justice, for which he was jailed. Tom Watson did exactly the same thing, heroically wading in to advocate the case of a poor victim against men he charged as vile and inhuman, before any such charges had been made, let alone proved. The truth is, he likes witch-hunts, trial by media and distortion, but hates common justice and I’m surprised Peter finds space to defend the t.
This is not a case of protecting members of the establishment, who are just as likely or unlikely to be guilty of as many crimes as the general public: it is a case of basic human justice that a person is innocent until proved guilty and that is carried out through unbiased and balanced investigation with no suppression of evidence and witnesses. The truth is, despite now being instructed that they have to approach all accusations in a balanced fair and impartial way, the police are still carrying on as they have done, as this is now an established part of their training and outlook.
Peter should know, by the way, that of the 450 people who came forward to lay allegations against the deceased Savile the number now shown to have fabricated their stories in order to get the share of his vast estate now exceeds 250 and is rising. Apart from all this, there is the veritable child protection, sexual assault and harassment industry, which has spawned a whole army of unscrupulous compensation lawyers, and self-made ‘experts’ and advisors.
Nothing is worse than anyone of any age being raped or sexually assaulted and especially so when it happens to a child. Second only to that is being accused of having done such a thing and seen your life and that of your family and friends shredded, when you are totally innocent. Being found totally not guilty or that there is no case to answer will never undo the stain and damage done by such gross lies and distortions - often, as in the case of Carl Beech, it’s done for huge cash handouts and publicity.
Watson is an unscrupulous rat without a shred of humanity in his worthless body and I certainly shall not be standing in his defence. What we should be upholding four-square the principle that a person is innocent until proved - by fair and unbiased investigation - to be guilty, and that principle should also extend to the press. Witch-hunts are witch-hunts, no matter who they are directed against.
I largely agree with Gerry Downing - though, since his opponent is Paul Mason, that may not be saying much. But there are many calls now for Corbyn to ‘get off the fence’ and ally himself with the Liberal Democrats and co, and come out as a fully-fledged remainer (Letters, August 8).
For all of his weaknesses Corbyn has tried to maintain his position, taking forward the policy of last year’s conference and the Labour Party version (perhaps?) of the class struggle - For the many, not the few. The class struggle is still the most important political struggle in the UK and the world; whatever one’s views on Brexit, it is a secondary or tactical issue rather than a strategic matter
After all, why did people vote for Brexit? The majority of them, I imagine, were Tory fantasists, dreaming their imperial delusions that normally only get an airing at the last night of the Proms. But large numbers of working class voters saw an opportunity to hit back at those who have been hitting them for the last 40 years - there have been plenty of vox-pops in the press and on TV along those lines.
For Corbyn to go for ‘remain’, a ‘Peoples’ Vote’ and all the rest of it would be a vicious kick in the teeth for those people who have suffered at the sharp end of neoliberalism for all these years. It would be the traditional Labour Party swerve to the centre - ‘We mustn’t frighten the voters’ - and the same old, same old of the Blair, Brown, Mandelson consensus/triangulation. Apart from anything else, it could mean the loss of 30-60 seats in the ‘Labour heartlands’, repeating the Mandelson/Brown triumph in Scotland.
The Lib Dems are flavour of the month for centrist remainers, but these are the same Lib Dems who brought in the bedroom tax, universal credit, closed down the Sure Start children’s programme, etc, as well as raising student fees to unpayable levels, further privatising health and education, etc, etc, etc. The Tories led it all, but they couldn’t have done it without the likes of Vince Cable and Jo Swinson.
Chukka Umunna and co have gone to their natural home and there are plenty of Labour MPs who should join them, but, as Gerry says, “the most precious commodity the working class possesses is their class independence” - submerging that into a “popular front”, even for a few days, would be a terrible betrayal.
Also those calling for such a turn like Mason don’t seem to know what comes next. So Corbyn comes out as a remainer - so what? The parliamentary arithmetic doesn’t change. They couldn’t even get a no-deal vote through. Johnson would have a clearer target for cries of ‘Betrayal!’, but what else? There are plenty of comings and goings to watch in the next few months, but crashing the Labour Party is not one for socialists to encourage.
Marina Mazzucato is correct in her view that public spending aimed at brightening people’s lives is a positive investment in the public good (‘World’s scariest economist?’, August 8).
People are happier in their environment when they have attractive public spaces, parks and recreational/sporting facilities as a feature of their community. Community centres for both the elderly and the young add value to society. For the elderly there is care and companionship. For the youngsters there is activity, guidance and mentoring that might be lacking in their home life.
Tory austerity has slashed the budgets for these good things - society has been hollowed out and is paying the price in ever increasing national health service costs to look after our old folk. The police service, probation service, judiciary and prison service are dealing with disaffected young people who’ve drifted into criminality - their future lives now ruined by the taint of a custodial sentence.
In the long run spending pennies from the public purse on the ‘good things’ will save pounds that don’t have to be spent on the ‘bad things’, leaving more money to be spent positively - for the common wealth.
Ms Mazzucato gets this. It’s not socialism, but it is a step forward.