The last week or so has seen a sudden change in the political atmosphere in Europe (including the UK) on migrants and refugees. A progressive shift seems to have happened, originating in part from below.
The bloody dead end of the Syrian Civil War, with both main forces, that of Assad and of Islamic State, engaging in atrocities and scaring the hell out of much of the civilian population, has augmented the already large numbers fleeing from Libya, bloody local dictatorships such as Eritrea, as well as other conflict zones derived from imperialism’s wars such as Afghanistan and Iraq and the Palestine/Israel conflict. Other major refugee flows around the world include the flight of Rohingya Muslims from racist/religious persecution in Theravada Buddhist Myanmar; though this is perhaps somewhat remote from immediate mass interest in Europe.
The following text is the rewritten statement of political purpose of Socialist Fight, a magazine initiated by a grouping led by comrade Gerry Downing, a long time Trotskyist whose political origins were in the Workers Revolutionary Party. The magazine has now broadened out its political basis and I have agreed to join the editorial board. This re-written statement contains some important departures from some characteristic political weaknesses of the Trotskyist movement.
In particular, attention should be drawn to items 20 and 21 in the statement, which in effect argue for a different type of party model from that of the Trotskyist movement, and indeed different also from that movement’s progenitors in the early Communist International. In explicitly recognising the right of members of a revolutionary party – which we seek to build – to engage in public debate, criticism and disagreement about matters of theoretical analysis, and about strategy and tactics, the statement goes beyond the flawed model of the Third (and by political inheritance, the Fourth) International.
The new phenonemon represented by the SYRIZA/ANEL (Independent Greeks) coalition has not been theorised by the left as yet. The question of the coalition with the Independent Greeks is something of crucial importance, which has to be addressed theoretically and programatically.
My strong suspicion is that even those who are most enthusiastic about the politics of SYRIZA are uneasy about it. Various people have expressed real reservations about it, saying it is a bad sign, that it will not last long, etc, and they may well prove to be right about that. But no one has offered a theorisation of what is going on here.
Lets be very clear. This is a popular front government, and the situation is very dangerous. It could be just as dangerous as the Chilean Popular Unity experience for the working class. Though that is not certain; there are some complexities and differences also.
The following exchange illustrates the pointless and self-defeating effect of political dishonesty in communist politics. In bourgeois, i.e. capitalist politics, the point of political activity is to bolster and defend the position of a small, exploiting minority, the owners of capitalist property, against the great mass of the population who have no such wealth. It is obvious that this kind of politics would necessarily be replete with corruption and mendacity, since the maintenance of injustice and social and economic inequality requires fooling the mass of the population to acquiesce in their own victimisation and exploitation. The only way to do this is by systematic lying, in order to create and promote myths, and also to create and maintain divisions among the working-class majority.
Communist politics, on the other hand, has truth as its only weapon. In order to understand the real situation, the mass of the population need to have a accurate picture of political, social and economic relations, which can only be developed over a long period by a political leadership that uses truth as its main weapon. Such a politics is fundamentally different from bourgeois politics. Whereas bourgeois politics promotes mystification and lies in the interest of a minority, communist politics must ruthlessly tear away mystification and expose all social lies. If a would-be communist organisation begins to engage in lying itself, it digs its own political grave, since the only basis on which it can garner and keep support on a healthy basis is through this process of exposing difficult truths.
A shortened version of the letter below was published in the Weekly Worker of 22nd Jan. Given the evasive response of Peter Manson, and the furious but even more evasive (and apolitical) response from Tony Greenstein in this week’s paper, I reproduce the original here. As people will see, it was radically cut, despite being solicited in this form by the editor of the paper himself. Which is of course the editor’s prerogative, in a way. Though one slightly unsavoury aspect of the way the paper is put together is that material is sometimes trimmed in a way as to blunt or distort their political content, and a ‘reply’ is then put together that exploits the problems caused by the editing.
Be that as it may, a reply will be sent to Manson’s evasiveness on the main point: the contradiction between claiming to stand for the Palestinian ‘right of return’, and the demand for the ‘right of self-determination’ of Israeli Jews, i.e. their right to maintain a state created by the exclusion of the Palestinian majority from their own country. It is not possible for even the most evasive centrist confusionists to do both in the real world.
Below is an edited version of a political response I posted on the Google/Usenet group alt.politics.socialism.trotsky, which appears to be heavily influenced by a current around Stephen Diamond (former member of the US Workers League from many years ago), VN Gelis (a long time Greek Trotskyist who, when I encountered him in the 1980s, was a supporter of the Archeo-Marxist Greek Workers Vanguard group), and their co-thinkers. This current combine a left-wing, anti-capitalist rhetoric with a virulent anti-immigrant nationalism that leads them to be politically soft on all kinds of deeply reactionary imperialist forces who are hostile to immigration.
I have no interest in a shouting match with them over this, as one could have a shouting match with all kinds of reactionary- and racist-minded people in numerous parts of the internet if one sought them out – it would be a waste of precious time, effort and energy. But I strongly suspect that these views are, at least in part, the result of a flawed understanding of Marxism and misunderstanding of current social and economic reality. Those kinds of things are worth debating. Such errors and misunderstandings give meaning to the commonplace that ‘the road to Hell is frequently paved with good intentions’. In that spirit, it may be fruitful to debate with this current, who though badly flawed in their nationalist responses, are at least in a flawed way, partially addressing real issues.