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Whither Left Unity?

This weekend saw the launch of Britain’s newest political party. Left Unity is officially alive. Since Ken Loach called for a left alternative to Labour back in March, there has been a tortuous road to today’s founding conference, as the cpgb’s coverage and comment has demonstrated in anything but gripping detail. Yet 10,000 Facebook likes, 1,000 paid up members, and a founding conference later, the new party is with us. The closing speaker remarked Saturday 30th November *could* be a historic day. Is this boosterism for the troops, the usual left hype that attends these sorts of events; or, *gasp*, could Left Unity be a real contender?

Let’s be blunt. Unity initiatives on the far left have a chequered history. It got to the point of absurdity when the two main Trotskyist outfits – the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party – had their ownunity/recomposition projects. Off the top of my head, since 1996 we’ve had the Socialist Labour Party, the Scottish Socialist Party, the Socialist Alliances in England and Wales, Forward Wales, Respect, The United Socialist Party, Socialist Green Unity Coalition, Campaign for a New Workers’ Party, Solidarity, Left List, No2EU, and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. This does not count fringe-of-the-fringe projects like Republican Communist Network, Campaign for a Marxist Party, and Anti-Capitalist Initiative. There’s probably more I’ve missed. The point is all at best were still born or worst fractured, ironically leaving the constituent parts at a further remove than was the case at the outset.

If the best indicator of future behaviour is past behaviour, the odds are stacked against Left Unity breaking the sectarian mould. That said, there is something slightly different about LU that gives them an edge over these failing and failed projects.

The cpgb argues that if the revolutionary left practiced democratic centralism Bolshevik-style, i.e. open factions, open platforms, open debate and discussion, but unity in action, then the intractability of far left sectarianism would be resolved. Remember what I said about latter day Leninists unwilling to use Marxism to look at themselves? Sectarianism exists not because everyone bar the cpgb have misread Lenin’s writings, but because they negatively express the outlook of the petty apparatuses/bureaucracies each far left organisation possesses, the material imperative to compete against revolutionary Others in a small but crowded marketplace, the strategic orientations to the different milieux they target, and the need to main discrete party identities. Sectarianism is deeply rooted in the far left’s conditions of existence, and is reproduced unreflexively in a party’s outlook. One can easily pay lip service to overcoming sectarianism, while obliviously reproducing that sectarianism. Hence self-decribed Leninist organisations share slight variations on a ‘party-first’ theme that structures their activity. This is why “unity” between different parties ostensibly standing for exactly the same thing has always come undone, and is never likely to be superseded.

LU’s is immediately at an advantage because it avoids this. The SWP aren’t interested, not that anyone would have anything to do with this increasingly depraved cult anyway. And the SP think their self-important TUSC front is a significant step toward their mk II Labour Party. If only the misleaders of the working class and Elvis could be shoved aside. LU therefore can’t be turned on and off at will by unaccountable cliques of ultra-correct revolutionary leaders. Smaller Trot outfits like Workers Power are in, and will no doubt make a pain of themselves in the LU branches they live in, but they are very much a minority – even in a membership as low as 1,000.

Neither is LU beholden to a Galloway-like figurehead. Ken Loach might make films lefties hold dear, but a man with the populist touch he isn’t. And to be fair he has not sought such a position. He has used his platform to cohere a regroupment process that has led to today. He does not claim to be the leader. He has no wish to stamp the new party with the semi-Trot politics he holds. Despite the grumbles of the cggb and the various tiny platforms recognised prior to conference, LU appears to break fundamentally with two key drivers that have broken up unity projects of the past.

Well, perhaps not fundamentally. From casually observing LU’s comments section on occasion, and seeing who gets named in Weekly Worker reports, there’s more than a few folk involved who’ve been through the sorry experience of unities past. Most are veterans of the left, of activists without an abode to call their own. And had either the SWP or SP been involved, I’d have bet my bottom dollar that many would not have touched LU with someone else’s. The second point regarding sectarianism is that LU is now a proper “player”. It might have the ambition to reach out to the great mass of working people, but along the way it will have to compete with the Trots who are doing the same. Especially the SP’s TUSC, who despite mustering tiny of handfuls of votes think they’re The Most Significant Thing Ever because Bob Crow every year convinces RMT conference to endorse them. It will mean clashes in council and parliamentary votes, and perhaps a jostling for position on future demonstrations.

Nevertheless, as tenuous a bureaucratic relationship the SP’s TUSC has with the RMT, on paper it does have that labour movement link. What of LU? Among its members are union activists, branch secretaries and so on. Yet, as the SP might argue, they represent no one but themselves. The party is a coming together of atomised lefties and micro-Trots. But then again, unlike TUSC, LU exists for itself. There is a possibility, however remote, that it could become something other than it is. That will never be the case with the SP’s electoral vehicle.

Ah, prospects. Ruminating on the prospects of a ‘left UKIP’ earlier this year, I then argued there is some political space to the left of Labour. It is much tighter than was the case during the Blair/Brown years, but a constituency of pissed off ex-Labour voters and leftish anti-politics types does exist. Typically this manifests itself in the 1-2% you can expect to vote for far left candidates at election time. And as the Greens, BNP, and UKIP have shown, if you can sort out unity among your milieu you can face outward instead of inward. There’s a few more percentage points to be grabbed and theoretically LU could build up a presence equal to the Greens.

This is only if it plays its cards right, and at present the new party holds only dud hands. To make its mark it has to exhaustively contest as many elections as it can,but unlike TUSC LU has to work them consistently to build up a base. To build its profile it has to work systematically in the labour movement and the procession of protest movements that come and go. To be fair (again? What’s up with me?) there is no suggestion from what I’ve seen that they anticipate nothing but a slog.

But the single biggest thing, the challenge I think LU will find insurmountable is, as always, Labour. Only the most blinkered pretend it is fundamentally the same beast as it was in 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2010. It might be more complex than the rigid schemas of the far left allow, but Labour has shifted back to social democratic politics. It has cottoned on that living standards are being hammered and, as a result, the party is the only one addressing those concerns. When the two main parties find themselves on opposite sides on the bedroom tax, NHS privatisation, house building, energy prices, apprenticeships, economic strategy, care for the elderly, breaking up the banks, and workplace rights, it’s obvious who should form the next government. And while LU is something looking to become something else, so is Labour. Who, for instance, is going to listen to LU when Labour has a realistic chance of putting its policies into practice? Who will be tempted to support LU when it will be massively squeezed by the next election’s high stakes?

Ultimately, while LU has got the potential to be much better than its various Trotty forerunners, as far as its prospects go the most it can ever hope for is minor party status. And I don’t think it will ever come close to UKIP levels of support. If so, then what is the point?

This article first appeared at A Very Public Sociologist

31 Comments

  1. Rod says:

    “what is the point?”

    No need to wait for the rain before repairing the roof, as Cameron almost said.

    Now that we’re living in a era of permanent war it’s not going to be too long before the value of an electoral alternative to Labour becomes apparent.

    Let’s not forget: during the parliamentary debate before the Syria vote Miliband responded to Dominic Grieve who, earlier in the debate, had set out the conditions required under Responsibility to Protect for legality to be achieved, should an attack on Syria proceed.

    Miliband agreed with Grieve – that action could commence once these conditions had been. Importantly, under Responsibility to Protect, a UN vote is not required. The Tories and Miliband were on the same page.

    Just as Miliband supported intervention in Libya (how are things looking in Libya at the moment, Phil?), he was prepared to do the same in Syria and the consequences would most likely have been disastrous. Just as well that public opinion saved Miliband from himself.

    If Miliband wins 2015, as seems likely, nothing will be more important than a properly democratic alternative to the Progress-heavy, austerity-promising, war-mongering Labour Party.

    Even a small party, with a non-sectarian outlook, could be capable of providing an electoral focus to the many sensible campaigning groups which are now populated by people who have given up on the undemocratic Labour Party.

    If LU can fulfill that role, so much the better. It’s certainly worth a try.

    Never forget:

  2. Ric Euteneuer says:

    Not sure deleting *all* the comments was the best idea, to be honest – that’s not what we as socialists and democrats stand for.

  3. Robert says:

    It is a habit of the left mind you to control what is said.

  4. Dave Roberts says:

    The seeds of the demise of this new project are already sprouting. They are described by words such as leninism and democratic centralism. It is doomed before it has got off the ground.

    Any individual or group that takes its starting point as the Bolshevik coup de etat of October 1917 hasn’t got a chance. Its predecessors have been rejected by the electorate time after time and this new adventure will go the same way.

    Like it or not the Labour Party is the only option to the Tories and while it is obvious that a lot of people don’t like it they will have to lump it.

    Apart from anything else it comes too soon after the Respect fiasco. Most people who would welcome this new initiative are still shell shocked and trying to work out what happened. If Respect hasn’t been examined and learnt from what chance has this new venture?

    The only attempts at what happened with Respect are the SWP claiming that Galloway moved to the right and Galloway claiming that the SWP was manipulative and disorganised spending cash on LGBT festivals and the campaign for fighting unions. If that’s the best that can be done this Respect or whatever mark whatever will never get out of the starting gates.

    In spite of the economic crisis here in Spain, and there really is one, there is no alternative to the PSOE and its regional equivalents and the same is true in the UK.

    Get rid of the shackles of Marx and Lenin, recognise that so called democratic centralism was always a lie and work within the Labour Party. There is no alternative.

  5. Rod says:

    Dave Roberts: “Any individual or group that takes its starting point as the Bolshevik coup de etat of October 1917 hasn’t got a chance.”

    It’s not clear LU are doing that. Certainly, if internal democracy is practiced (instead of the centralism favoured by Trots and Progress) the fantasist revolutionaries will be sidelined.

    I’ll have to disagree about there being no alternative to Labour. When Cameron threw in the towel following the Syria vote (everyone was expecting a another vote a week later) it wasn’t anything done by the PLP that forced his hand – it was the weight of public opinion.

    The rising tide of anti-military interventionist opinion doesn’t have it’s origin in the Labour Party (which has favoured intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria (see comment above); instead it has arisen from a broad range of people, some of whom will be LP members, who have not been taken in by the “we’re going to be bombed in 45 minutes” and “Blair is the new Churchill” nonsense.

    And there’s the matter of privatising the NHS. Both Labour and Tory parties have favoured NHS privatisation yet public opinion remains resolutely opposed.

    The defeat of Cameron over Syria and the continuing, sometimes successful, resistance to NHS privatisation serves to remind us how political activity opposing the priorities of the Lib-Lab-Con can be effective even without powerful parliamentary representation.

  6. David Melvin says:

    IU are in coalition with the PSOE in Andalusia. The PSOE are dependent on the IU. Without them there would be a PP administration. The opinion polls give the IU 10%. There is a left alternative to the PSOE in Spain. The parties affiliated to the European Left Party show what there is in the rest of the European Union. Only is Britain is the centre left party unchallenged from the left. An electoral alliance between the Greens and Left unity could be worth supporting. Could Left Unity be the sort of party which Ralph Miliband said in 1994 “is essential if the Left is to prosper….their reformism has a radical edge which social democratic at present lack.” The left in the Labour party should not pre-judge Left Unity.With a fair wind and a Labour party with a Progress agenda perhaps…….?

  7. James Martin says:

    I really don’t get the feeling that many people have actually noticed LU – it’s certainly never been a topic of conversation at any union meeting I’ve been to recently. Perhaps this is another London thing. Not that I’m opposed to it, or any other external left group, doing well as I believe that it can then create better conditions inside the LP and the unions for socialist arguments and positions. That said, this all seems a bit artificial to me…

  8. Ric Euteneuer says:

    But Spain has devolved administrations, proportional representation and a whole host of other issues (such as PCE credibility for their participation in the Civil War) that influence the make up of politics in this particular country – it’s not as easy to draw parallels as people are making out.

    A “Left of Labour” project under the present electoral and political system is more or less doomed to fail.

    And that’s before we get to a whole host of groupscules ready and willing to use a “New Left Project” group to recruit to their own very narrow brand of cultish politics, however much the founders of LU claim it’s not.

    And there is a huge difference between ordinary Labour Party members and indeed the PLP than the Labour Party leadership – Progress haven’t completed their Stepford style rebuilding of the party – yet.

  9. Dave Roberts says:

    IU need the PSOE as much IU need the PSOE. I agree and am aware of that as I live in Andalucia. It is true that continental style proportional representation favours smaller parties which is probably why the Labour Party are not in favour of electoral reform in the UK. They would, it seems, rather be out of power than sharing it.

    The PCE has no credibility as a result of the civil war, rather the reverse as the crimes of the NKVD and the whole betrayal by Stalin are widely known with a mass of documents from Soviet archives having been translated and widely circulated and discussed.

  10. David Melvin says:

    A UKIP of the left could flourish, even under this first past the post voting system, if Labour lost the next general election. As Len McCluskey said in the Guardian on 10 September: “I fear for the existence of the Labour party. None of us know what would happen after a defeat of that nature.” Any leader who replaced Miliband after such a defeat would complete the Progress takeover over the Labour party.

  11. Dave Roberts says:

    A UKIP of the left would almost guarantee a conservative majority. Fortunately we have a UKIP of the right to take Tory votes.

  12. Dave Roberts says:

    And before I go to bed. Has anyone tried to post on the story about Aaron Kiely and his trip to Venezuela? I have a had a post waiting moderation for an hour or so. I’m not making any value judgments in it just pointing out that his track record as a councillor doesn’t do Labour any favours. See you all tomorrow.

  13. TimP says:

    Despairing story after despairing story on this very site reveals the fact that the Labour party is no longer a party of the Left in any meaningful sense. It is not even a social democratic party. What is more important is that there is no mechanism by which the Labour membership can change this – unanimous votes on renationalisation at Labour conference? We in Left Unity are under no illusions about the odds against us – and the internal and external difficulties we will face – but at least we will have tried to bring Socialist principles back into politics.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Despairing story after despairing story on this very site reveals the fact that the Labour party is no longer a party of the Left in any meaningful sense.” – TimP

      Not true. Labour is by far the largest party of the Left. Tens of thousands of left-wing members support left candidates in internal ballots and selections. They win the backing of many more on policy issues at a local level. What is missing is party democracy. The leadership of Ed Miliband, although it has moved Labour back towards social democracy, has failed to reverse the centralisation of power which took place under Kinnock, Blair & Brown – indeed he has continued the process under the cover of “Refounding Labour” and by abolishing Shadow Cabinet elections. The situation is:

      Electorally, the space to the left of Labour is presently filled by…the Labour Party.

      So said Andrew Murray, Chief of Staff of Unite, and now revealed to have been the author of a pair of articles on Left Unity (now updated in the 50th issue of the Socialist Register).

  14. Ric Euteneuer says:

    Thanks Jon, you’ve made the point more eloquently than I ever could have.

    Personally, I go where the democratic socialists and activists are – and the vast majority have been, remain and *are* in the Labour Party. As you said, what’s missing is the democratic component that would allow the actual members of the party a voice in how it is run and the policies that it espouses – something I imagine that the groupscules that will gravitate to Left Unity would regard with some horror. How ‘democratic’ are the SWP, for instance?
    Time and again when ordinary Labour Party members have actually been given a real choice, they have generally gone for policies and candidates of the centre left.

    Additionally, I’m active in Stevenage Labour Party in the community – and I NEVER, EVER see people from the Socialist Party, SWP, or members of the unaffiliated left active in the local community, in community groups, or even local local trade unions. Unless and until people like this get active in the community (and I don’t mean setting up front groups to recruit members, as they have done), then they will remain in the windswept, well meaning ghetto of discussing fine Marxist theory rather than actually ever putting any of it into practice.

  15. Rod says:

    Jon L: “party of the Left.”

    The word ‘Left’ is problematic.

    For a start, the majority of people don’t have a clue what it means and those who think they do will argue and bicker interminably about what it means.

    Of course, labels are important for some. There are people who wouldn’t drive a car without the word ‘Porsche’ attached, and there are some who find comfort in having the word ‘Left’ attached to their political party or sectional interests.

    But when all is said and done, and when all the shouting it over, it all comes down to a matter of policy.

    Better, instead, to focus on the policies already enacted by a party and/or focus the policies proposed by a party. And on opportunities available within a party for participative engagement.
    Only then is it possible to put aside the comfort zone rhetoric and make a wise judgement on which to support.

  16. Dave Roberts says:

    Ric Euteneuer.
    ” then they will remain in the windswept well meaning ghetto of discussing fine Marxist theory”.
    Brilliant mate, sums it all up and goes back to my earlier comment about parties and people who take their starting point as the storming of the Winter Palace in October 1917.

    Until the those who consider themselves to be on the ” left” of the Labour Party ditch once and for all any connection with Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and any or all of the other mass murderers they will remain in their own little ghetto condemned forever to pass composite motions in pubs!

    The implosion of the SWP through the Respect fiasco will, I hope, prove to be the turning point for the democratic left to finally ditch getting on for a century of authoritarian Marxist poison in the Labour Party and the wider movement.

  17. Ric Euteneuer says:

    I hasten also to add that Karl Marx wasn’t a mass murderer, nor did he ever advocate the same. I do wonder how many people who link him with the atrocities committed in his name have ever actually read a line of his not refracted via some other ideological lens. The point I was trying to make – perhaps badly – is that a proportion of people who call themselves ‘Marxists’ dedicate themselves to a life of debate and dialectics, without ever actually ever getting their hands dirty with anything actually as proletarian and gritty as helping people out with real life problems such as housing benefit payment delays/getting rubbish removed/gardens cleared/ASB addressed.

    I’m as happy as the next man to discuss fine Marxist theory in my windswept well meaning ghetto but I’d have more respect for people involved in projects like Left Unity (et al.) if they ever actually did things rather than just ‘building the party’

  18. James Martin says:

    But Dave, I am a lifelong Marxist and a Labour Party member for almost as long. Last time I checked I wasn’t a mass murderer. Unlike Tony Blair of course. What was it at the last count? 100,000? 150,000? Well, what does another 50,000 innocent civilians matter to the average lying neo-con eh?

  19. swatantra says:

    I think ‘whither’ is the key word. Left Unity will simply disappear without trace like countless other splinter groups before it. If you want ‘change’ you will have to go through Labour, even if you have to hold your nose to do it.

  20. Dave Roberts says:

    In Respect of Marx I should have said that being an intelligent man he must have known what his theories would lead to. There is no need to discuss his theories, they have been tried and failed and failed and the Marxist tag on any party is a sure sign of failure at the ballot box.

    Why does anyone have to hold their nose to go through Labour? It’s a social democratic party and with pretty loose guidelines as to who it admits. What you see is what you get. You don’t like it go and form your own party and call it something like LU. That’s called democracy.

    James Martin. You’re not a mass murderer because you have never been in a position to be one as the electorate have consistently rejected Marxism and because of NATO and the subsequent collapse of communism you never will get to run a gulag or an NKVD unit.

    The figures you give for deaths in Iraq/Afganistan are faction killing faction and there is no way to stop that, it’s simply a fact of life however tragic. While many ordinary Labour voters would certainly regret what is happening it’s not something they are going to lose any sleep about or go to the ballot box about.

    I have found over the years talking to Marxists, or people who described themselves as such, that when asked how they intended to create a situation where they would be in power they woffled and prevaricated.

    Allende included no Marxist government has ever been elected, they have always seized power against the wishes of the majority and then proceeded to exterminate anyone who opposes them. That’s the way it has always been. Read” Stasiland” by Anna Funder and come back to me on this. Off to walk the dogs as they are tearing at the furniture.

  21. Ric Euteneuer says:

    I don’t think Marx planned that his philosophy would be use to practice mass murder any more than a variety of Conservative economists “knew” that their free market solutions would inevitably end up in armed conflict over resources and territorial disputes, when the competitive free market could only end in war.

    I do beg to differ vis a vis the oft repeated maxim “no Marxist government has ever been elected” – that presumably excludes the existing democratically elected Nepalese Communist regime, numerous democratically Communist governments in Moldova from 1991 to 2009, a 30 plus year stretch for the Communist Party of India in West Bengal (and CPI rule in other Indian states), as well as Communist Party participation in democratic state governments up and down the world. That’s before we get on to radical Socialist regimes like Venezuela, where, despite some faults and copious rightwing claims to the contrary, a flourishing opposition exists who came very close to winning the recent presidential elections.

    I am under no illusions that Communist Party rule in a variety of states in Eastern Europe and beyond from 1945 to the 1990s were in any way, shape, or form either ‘democratic’ or ‘socialist’. But oppression of the opposition and seizing power against the wishes of the majority and extermination of anyone who opposes them is by no means under the sole proprietorship of oppressive “Communist” regimes – almost the whole of South America in the 1970s and beyond squirmed under the bootheel of murderous rightwing military dictatorships – fully backed by America and NATO, with barely a whimper from the existing UK government.

  22. Dave Roberts says:

    What you are doing is trying to use the fact that Communist parties participated fronts, always as minority parties and always there to make up the numbers, in some way mitigates the fact that when they had absolute state power they were absolutely murderous.

    I spent time in West Bengal at various times under various Jhoti Bhasu CPI (M) administrations and they were typified by rampant free/black market economics, a massively corrupt inefficient state sector in which a bribe was required for everything and continuous intervention by the central government to prevent Bhasu and co overriding the constitution and imprisoning people even to the left of him.

    Permits for businesses were obtained by bribing the local communist party chiefs. Capitalism continued as usual but in a totally chaotic manner punctuated by occasional intervention by the centre as it was always known.

    The situation in Nepal was ditto. Massive corruption and a capitalist economy that staggered on propped up by backpackers and dope with local officials requiring bribes for everything including the simplest forms from the local post office.

    During the period you mentioned in Moldova the old oligarchy enriched themselves by selling off the state archives and engaging in all sorts of other corruption which included the trafficking of women to brothels in Western Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

    In no way can these regimes be compared to the former Eastern Europe as you well know and to try and do so you are grasping at straws.

    In terms of South American regimes you are indulging in childish whataboutism. No one defends the murderous regimes except the deluded European leftists who supported Galtieri and the Junta as being anti imperialist in invading the Falklands and still hail Cuba as a workers paradise.

    Your last paragraph is pathetic in the extreme even for a Marxist. The regimes imposed on the eastern European states by Stalin and endorsed by the left in various ways, were they state capitalist or deformed workers states, were murderous tyrannies that destroyed the lives of millions in one way or another.

    This was done by everything from a bullet in the back of the head to the destruction if families broken up by edicts of ” people courts”.

    I hear from you a plea that your life hasn’t been spent in vain or wasted in defense of the indefensible but it has. Why not just cut your losses and admit the whole thing was a massive murderous mistake and salvage what you can of what you have left on this earth?

  23. Rod says:

    Dave Roberts: “Why not just cut your losses and admit the whole thing was a massive murderous mistake and salvage what you can of what you have left on this earth?”

    Goodness! This is remarkably similar to what I often find myself saying to Blairites.

  24. Dave Roberts says:

    But would you say that about communism? One of the reasons the far left is nowhere and going nowhere is that they hate New Labour and Blair more than they do the Tories and for that, amongst other reasons, the electorate will continue to reject them.

    In interesting programme on BBC2 last night about the opposing nuclear submarine fleets in the cold war. The Russian submariners rations were so good they contained things they never saw in the shops and one sailor brought all his chocolate home for his sister who had never seen any. “Back in the USSR” sang the Beatles with irony.

  25. Rod says:

    “But would you say that about communism?”

    But why should one focus on what is no longer relevant? I have better uses for free time.

    Unfortunately Blair’s mistakes are still with us and will be with us for a long while yet. And Blair’s followers still populate the PLP – some are hell-bent on replicating his mistakes. Other Blairites achieve influence through the undemocratic trot-like Progress party.

    So really, as I see it, there’s no need to get one’s knickers in a knot over irrelevancies. In my view it’s better to focus on addressing more immediate and tangible political concerns – such as the widening wealth gap between the rich 1% and the rest. And the New Labour numpties who align themselves with the Al Qaeda approach and favour ‘humanitarian’ war/military intervention as a political solution – see Al Qaeda and What it Means to be Modern – John Gray:

    http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2003/may/11/society.politics

  26. Ric Euteneuer says:

    Dave Roberts typifies a certain type of poster who blasts on with an argument irrespective of context or indeed, the issue under debate.

    Firstly, he stated Communist regimes had never been democratically elected. I gave a number of examples where this was patently not the case. I didn’t comment on the regimes, or their conduct, I just wanted him to know that this contention – oft repeated by the right of centre -was, in essence wrong.

    I could also comment that, in West Bengal for instance, the corruption encountered was inimical to much of Indian politics, and did not derive from any existing Communist or Marxist theoretical stance, but I am not seeking to defend them, just to say they gained power , like the PCRM in Moldova, and the Communists in Nepal gained power democratically via the ballot box, something that he appears to have ignored. Additionally, despite the allegation that Communists participate in government limited only to popular front regimes in post war regimes solely to take ultimate power – one could hardly apply that reasoning to Communist participation in Mitterand’s first PS-PCF regime from 1981-1983, nor indeed to RC/PCI involvement in a variety of Italian regimes in the 1990s, none of who advocated mass murder, or even workers’ control of the means of production. I’m guessing the Communist Parties of Uruguay and Brazil – both of them participating in their respective government there are just ITCHING to get people sent off to their respective gulags, aren’t they ?

    He also conflates the Russian regime(s) past and present with Marxism – not just Marxism in practice, but Marxism in theory now and in the past.

    I’ve personally read plenty of Karl’s oeuvre, and nowhere, absolutely nowhere does it say that there “must be a single party, oppressive regime to ‘liberate’ the broad masses”. I’ve never defended an oppressive regime, irrespective of colours political, and I certainly don’t regard China or Cuba as a “worker’s paradise” – anything but. Mr Roberts, please tell me where I have defended the USSR and Russia in my points ? I do not (and never have) regard the USSR regime and the like as ‘deformed workers states” or “state capitalist” -just oppressive regimes, full stop. Just because the USSR and CPSU said they were Marxists does not mean they practiced Marxism – anymore than their claims to be “democratic” or to exercise any level of workers’ control was also laughable.

    But why argue against the points I actually make when that gets in the way of some deluded rightwing anti-Marxist rant, eh ? Can I suggest Mr Roberts reads what I wrote rather than what he thinks I wrote ?

  27. Dave Roberts says:

    Rod and Ric, could be a comedy duo could it not? Eh Eh Calm Down!

    You both do as Marxists do when confronted with reality, flaff around and say that you have been misquoted, taken out of context, misunderstood, there, there!

    Firstly let’s define a communist regime. To have a hammer and sickle on your flag and the rest of the attendant outward and obvious signs such as May Day parades, clenched fist salutes, pictures of whichever dear leader it is along with Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and old uncle Tom Cobley and all doesn’t mean you are a communist.

    In order to be a real one it is essential to actually take over a state and install a repressive regime which impoverishes the people, stamps out all protest and murders millions. If this isn’t achieved then you are a wannabbee not an actual.

    It’s a bit like all of the Eastern European dictatorships and others having the obligatory “democratic” in the title of the state when of course they were nothing of the sort.

    Form is nothing, essence is everything. To start using West Bengal where I have lived, Nepal and various Popular Fronts as examples of communists being elected is of course ridiculous and the apologists for it make themselves look so.

    The arguments for Marxism as some form of cure for the ills of the world foundered on the rocks of reality years ago and unless people who purport to be Labour Party supporters begin to acknowledge that then the opposition is handed a weapon with which to beat you.

    Given the choice between communism, take your pick as to what it is, was or might be, the vast majority of the population of the world have rejected it, either through the ballot box or with their feet. It’s finished, get over it. You lost.

    Attempts,as here, to portray Marx as some benign misunderstood benefactor of humanity whose schemes, given the chance, would have worked are individuals trying to make some sense of the waste of their lives in adoration of a god that failed. The last being the title of a nineteen fifties book by a former Daily Worker editor who just walked out of the office one day and never went back.

    The only difference between the Jhoti Bhasus of West Bengal, the current lot of ex leaders of the SWP/WRP/AWL/ and anything with (ML) after it and the mass murderers of Eastern Europe is that the ones didn’t have state power and the others did. The intentions were the same.

    Criticism of this government or previous Labour ones is perfectly justified but if you want anyone to take you seriously leave out the Marxism, it’s so dreadfully passe.

    1. Ric Euteneuer says:

      I’ll keep this short – Dave, no-one other than yourself is getting hysterical here. All I have done is point out the flaws in your arguments. That there were “no democratically elected Communist regimes”; that Marx either advocated violent upheaval or “should have known” that his philosophy would be used to do this; and that anyone who is a Marxist is automatically either a supporter or an apologist for a variety of brutally repressive dictatorships since 1917. All of which, at length, I have explained or wrong or are false or at worst, deliberately fallacious assumptions.

      I’m not a Communist. I am a Labour Party member who takes his philosophies from a variety of authors. I also am not shy of criticising Marxists – particularly for their lack of application, as you can see from my earlier postings.

      But, hey, why not complete ignore the evidence, the arguments brought to you, indeed the questions asked, if it otherwise allows you to quote irrelevant and inappropriate examples to back up your own philosophy.

  28. Rod says:

    @ Dave Roberts

    There you go again Dave, getting your knickers in a knot over a position that appears to be your own personal obsession.

    Let me be clear: I am not a communist/Marxist; nor do I support any politician, party or regime, past or present, claiming to be such.

    It’s as simple as that really. So there’s no need to invent a pro-communist/Marxist position, attribute it to me and then start arguing against it. If you want an argument with yourself perhaps you should consider posting under two separate identities and conduct your own dialogue – it’d save me a bit of time, at least.

  29. swatantra says:

    The fact is many of the liberation struggles for independence went under the label of Marxist/Communist popular fronts, against their colonial occupiers. But they weren’t Marxist/ communist at all just because a few of their leaders had read a few textbiooks whilst being bunged up in prison. Similarly in South America where many of the dictatorships were overthrown by rebellions, only to be replaced by another form of dictatorship of the proletariat.
    I doubt if Philby and Blunt were actually communists; they loathed the idea of actually living under a communist regime. They spied for the thrill of it.
    Marxists in NE India have traditionally had a strong foothold, and their vision of Marxism has been adapted to the Sub Continent. Even russia didn’t practice true Marxism; they followed the long line of Tsars and Dictators.

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