alanjjohnstone

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  • alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    "There's a worse fate than that TOGW. You could find people ignoring your posts all together."Indeed so! My transgressions were apparently to give readers the respect they are due with a full reply albeit lengthy and then also on another occasion to respond to what i considered erroneous interpretations of my post by yourself which you obviously decided did not deserve an answer. (http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/forum/general-discussion/occupy-movement?page=29)

    in reply to: more jokes ? #88050
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    If Milliband saw a trade unionist drowning 20-feet from shore, he would throw him a 15-foot rope.  Then he'd go to the TUC and solemnly announce that he had met the union movement more than halfway and ask for their support.

    in reply to: “socialism in one country” #90002
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    Like so many strands on socialist discussion lists it often comes down to this issue of consciousness and the role of socialists.We agree the majority will not understand socialism from the campaigning and educational effort of the SPGB, but from the potential effect of the social practice particularly of the class struggle.“A period of revolution begins not because life has become physically impossible but because growing numbers of workers have their eyes suddenly opened to the fact that problems hitherto accepted as part of man’s unavoidable heritage has become capable of solution…No crisis of capitalism , however desperate it may be, can ever by itself give us socialism ” – Will Capitalism Collapse?And here we also stated :-“If we hoped to achieve Socialism ONLY by our propaganda, the outlook would indeed be bad. But it is Capitalism itself unable to solve crises, unemployment, and poverty, engaging in horrifying wars, which is digging its own grave. Workers are learning by bitter experience and bloody sacrifice for interests not their own. They are learning slowly. Our job is to shorten the time, to speed up the process” – Socialism or Chaos (Socialist Party of Australia pamphlet)The search for why socialist consciousness arises is The Holy Grail of every sincere socialist and no one has the answer as yet. We hold only generalisations – and possess a political approach that when exercised will not be counter-productive or have a negative effect. One of the great principles of the SPGB is our opposition to leadership, so whatever weaknesses or mistaken views we hold or that it is accused of, they cannot be imposed upon others with possible worse consequences.As Marx explains it:“Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness , and for the success of the cause itself , the alteration of man on a mass scale is necessary , an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement , a revolution. The revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way , but also because the class overthrowing itcan only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew” –  Feurbach and Materialist Outlook Marx expected the working class to develop from a mere economic category (a "class in itself" ) into a revolutionary political actor ("class for itself")—but at least the process started even if it did get stuck on route as it were. A "class consciousness" did develop among particular sections of the working class but this did not develop into a revolutionary socialist consciousness. It stopped at trade-unionism and Labourism, the idea and practice of the working class as a class within capitalism but which wanted a better deal within this system, not to replace it with a classless and exploitation-free society. So, even if a working class "for itself" has never developed, a class consciousness of a lesser sort did. The emergence of socialist understanding out of the experience of the workers can be said to be “spontaneous” in the sense that it would require no intervention by people outside the working class to bring it about (not that such people could not take part in this process, but their participation was not essential or crucial). Socialist propaganda and agitation would indeed be necessary but would come to be carried out by workers themselves whose socialist ideas would have been derived from an interpretation of their class experience of capitalism. The end result would be an independent movement of the socialist-minded and democratically organised working class aimed at winning control of political power in order to abolish capitalism. As Marx and Engels put it in The Communist Manifesto:-“the proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority”.Socialist consciousness on a wide scale is not going to emerge from mere abstract propagandizing or proselytizing, “[class consciousness ] is not learned from books or through courses on theory and political formation, but through real life practice of the class struggle”- Anton Pannekoek, The Workers Council All we are doing in the SPGB is trying to help the emergence of majority socialist consciousness, but even if the sort of activities we engage in can't be the main thing that will bring this consciousness about, it is still nevertheless essential. People can, and do, come to socialist conclusions without us, but they hopefully can come to this more quickly if they hear it from an organised group dedicated exclusively to putting over the case for socialism. We can't force or brainwash people into wanting to be free, they can only learn this from their own experience. We see majority socialist consciousness emerging from people's experiences of capitalism coupled with them hearing the case for socialism (not necessarily from us, although it would seem that we are the only group that takes doing this seriously). The SPGB will not be the sole agent of the socialist transformation. Socialist consciousness can emerge through discussion and analyses. We come to a socialist view of the world by interacting directly or indirectly with others, exchanging ideas with them. Our main task is to find better ways of expressing our message to as many workers as possible, to evolve a strategy so that we use our resources to most effect. To bring about socialist consciousness involves understanding socialism which means talking about it, sharing ideas about it – in short educating ourselves and our fellow workers about it. Socialism will be established by the working class and that its establishment will result from an intensification and escalation of the class struggle. That follows almost by definition–obviously, if the working class are going to overthrow capitalism and capitalist class rule the class struggle is going to be stepped up. That's not the interesting question. The real question is what is it that is going to provoke the working class into intensifying/escalating the class struggle and/or acquiring socialist consciousness. Socialist consciousness comes from life experience, but that being said, why are not more people achieving this consciousness? Everything from education, accepted customs, the prevailing capitalist ideology and cultural hegemony. We can say that socialist consciousness comes from life experience, but then that automatically implies that every worker should achieve it, it should have happened. And I see this as a problem. It leads to a belief of the old "historical inevitability" of socialism, that inevitably people will come around to becoming socialists. That would indeed leave no role for a Socialist Party. We can watch it all unfold before our eyes from our cumfy chairs. However many members have not accepted this inevitability and wonder what exactly is our role? Where do we "intervene" to raise consciousness and how do we intervene? What practical measures can we take as a Party? The SPGB case is that understanding is a necessary condition for socialism, not desperation and despair and we see the SPGB's job as to shorten the time, to speed up the process – to act as a catalyst.Our Parliament pamphlet puts it:-"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…With the spread of socialist ideas all organisations will change and take on a participatory democratic and socialist character.." 

    in reply to: Winnipeg General Strike – Ours? #90019
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    The establishment of the One Big Union [see my short post here] was also a consequence of the Winnipeg General Strike which,as been pointed,  out was not for political objectives but a union solidarity strike. It is perhaps little known to a large majority of Canadian workers is the fact that what is now accepted without question – the principle of collective bargaining resulted from the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.On May 1, construction and metalworkers walked off the job, demanding higher wages; on May 15, after employers refused to negotiate with two umbrella unions, the women who worked the city's telephones walked off their shift; nobody came to replace them. Within hours, almost the entire work-force of the city had joined the strike. The city police would have also participated but were asked not to by the strike committee, but regardless most policemen were sacked for supporting the strikers.The "anarchist/syndicalist"(?) Larry Gambone writes in his pamphlet the Impossiblists "The OBU was a child of Impossibilism, most of the important leaders were members of the SPC and the rival Social Democrats had few representatives of importance. The Preamble and Constitution were written by Socialists as were other influential documents of the movement. They created a distinctly Western-Canadian form of syndicalism, strongly influenced by its SPC origins. The OBU grew like a mushroom overnight taking in most of organized labour west of Ontario……Sneered at as “out of date” by the snottily superior Bolshevik fellow-travelers and dismissed as simple-minded millenarians by labor bureaucrats, (and their academic apologists) the Impossibilist’s often libertarian message is more likely to be welcomed today than leftist demands for nationalization and state control. "  I often refer to the OBU when rebutting the claims that Impossibilism was not involved in day to day class struggles and were aloof to union organising. It is one reason i objected a month or so ago to the very miserly book purchase of the history of the SPC by our EC. I do think we should emphasise the involvement of early members of the SPC in the fights of our class. I think it would be worthwhile project to compile the experiences of the many individual members involvements in the unions eg the London bus drivers breakaway union before they too are lost in the mists of time. 

    in reply to: “socialism in one country” #89996
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    For those who insist that posts on a discussion list should not be lengthy – damn that Marx ….a critique of capitalism and he never even had the decency to do a word-count so we needn't bother with the long boring stuff !! All those writings and there are still unanswered questions, so why didn't he do a short FAQ and save us all this work of continued debate!!

    in reply to: “socialism in one country” #89995
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    "Talking of which – what counts as a majority as far as the SPGB is concerned?" Robbo askedThe question what constitutes a majority is one i have previously debated on libcom and here is what i delared.Does it mean majority of the population ? i think not . Does it mean a majority of votes of those on the electoral register,? i think not (It was the 1979 Scottish referendum that had the 40% rule which required not simply a majority of those who voted to support devolution but that it needed 40% of those on the electoral roll to support it . And of course due to the accuracy of the records it meant the dead , the dying and the exiled and not just the apathetic all suddenly had political power by the mere fact of not voting.) A majority of MPs ? I think not – its not bums on the seats in the House of Commons which is important .A Socialist Standard article has this comment:    "….The ICC attributes to us a caricatured position of seeing “the development of consciousness as an accumulation of individual socialists”, as the conversion of workers one by one to socialism until there’s a “mathematical majority”…. If we use terms such as “majority” and “majoritarian” this is not because we are obsessed with counting the number of individual socialists, but to show that we reject minority action to try to establish socialism – majority as the opposite of minority….a majority (yes, but in the democratic rather than mere mathematical sense)…."    http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/aug04/icc.htmlThe SPGB was formed in 1904 when women had no vote and when many men perhaps a much as a third did not meet the registration requirements to get the vote.The majority it called for was the majority to acquire political power.I think what we must do is talk about an effective majority , not simplistic number counting. If it was, we could do it with just a phone-in poll, or use a Gallop opinion poll . What we need to counter the trend towards formalism and maintain a class struggle position. It may be acknowledging that there is an already established world majority of socialists who have, to some extent, voted with their feet – re-organised their jobs, freely distributed food and goods, refused to go to war, or whatever. We won't just sit on our arses for Jon Snow declare the success of the revolution on a swingometer.In the fall of the Communist Party governments of the Eastern Bloc no-one waited around for a massive vote of millions of people since the malaise of state capitalism was plainly evident , allowing individual revolts in each of the countries or individual Soviet republics. Though they were the subject of competing elite groups as well, in general they were mass movements. Legitimacy was established after the fact in the following elections. This of course raises the question if you can have the revolution first, and count the ballots afterwards, what price the parliamentary road to socialism? We usually argue or imply that parliament is the engine of change, whereas in reality it might be nothing but a rubber-stamping exercise. The SPGB position should be one that we do not rely on Parliament but that we use it if we can.We think it is the most effective way to get socialism with the minimum of violence. Elections are an useful expedient, when the alternative is bloody failure on some barricade.But we're not legalists – if the capitalists withdraw the franchise or change its rules we'll have to act without it. Being dependent on the bourgeois offering us a voting opportunity for socialism is not the party case.Most revolutions of the past that have succeeded have, it is considered required no more than quarter to a third active support – which would be enough for an election of any capitalist party. If 25-35% of the population actively supporting the revolution outweighs active opposition sufficiently to achieve its goals, with the rest of our class either passively support us or just only keeping their heads down below the parapets to see what comes out of whatever crisis and comes to pass. That constitutes a sufficient majority of socialists. It should be defined as "functional majority", or such terms, and also not put in thrall of the capitalist process. Capitalist politics, when they interact with our class at all, are fraught with ballot rigging and gerrymandering. The franchise, even when considered "universal", always excludes large sectors of our class. We should also allow for the large possibility that any transition will not be that orderly – by the time we have succeeded there will be no need for such a ballot because the outcome will be obvious and have been the result of class warfare.It is essential for the revolutionary process that this majority is suffice to make socialism work as a system of society. I suspect the deciding factor on the 'majority' is going to be how many of the population will be willing to make socialism actually work.We cannot assume that all of our class will want to be actively involved – many for purely personal social or health reasons but for whatever reason will not want to stick their heads above the parapet. Also lots of our class will be in organisations that have interpreted the situation differently, whether , anarchists, even Trots or whatnot , and would be as likely to cooperate in many aspects of a revolution . We should have a revolutionary model which refers to socialism being brought about by a sufficient majority of socialists – sufficient in their political willingness and awareness, not a 100% at the polls or even a 51% active support.We tallk of as in a 1955 EC Statement: of "The overwhelming mass of the people will participate, or fall in line with, the process of reorganisation "[my emphasis] . Class societies only persist because a majority support or acquiesce to the social system. Once these start to be withdrawn we can expect a revolution.Given previous revolutions, 25-30% of the population actively revolutionised is sufficient to overthrow a government. The SPGB are not utopian bean-counters.Some members have argued if we have 25-30% support why not be patient and wait a couple or three months more and lessen the possibility of violence , because then the chances are that we would have 40-50% of workers revolutionised, but i'm willing to leave that up to the revolutiuonary period to decide.There are a wide variety of potential scenarios for revolution. We would be fools if we limit ourselves to what is theoretically perfect – and thus highly unlikely – rather than asking the question "what do we actually need to make a revolution?" and proceeding on that basis. The problem is not getting people to think "socialism is a good idea" but transforming that into mass social action. We need to be able to act in an imperfect world rather than waiting for a perfect one. Revolution is not merely an announcement of a successful ballot, it is a process, and the process itself will draw our fellows into the struggle. The revolution makes the mass party – the actual date that power can be seen to shift to ourselves is not the beginning, but the beginning of a different phase.The revolution has snowball effect . The more change is imminent the faster and bigger it grows and rolls , without conscious direction of leaders , as many vanguardists and social democrats have often found . You cannot stop an idea when its time has come ,as is frequently said. The Iron Heel couldn't maintain Marcos in Manila , the Shah in Tehran nor the party apparachiks in Moscow , Berlin or Warsaw when people decide to move. Nor in Tunis or Cairo.The State is the form taken by the centre of social administration without which modern industrial society couldn't function. We want the working class to take it over and convert it into an unarmed democratic administration of things. We want to see an end to capitalist class rule not the breakdown of society. The workers en masse don't need create a different and more democratic decision-making structure from the ground up. What they need to do is to take over and perfect the existing, historically-evolved structures. we don't need to construct socialist society from scratch; this is not the way social evolution works; there will be a degree of continuity between what exists now and what will exist in socialism as there always has been between one system of society and another. We are not utopian system-builders like Parecon or Zeitgeist.You don't abolish the state, getting rid of your control of your society at the point of actually having won the thing, and then play at utopias. You grab it and hang on against anything the capitalist class, nationally and internationally, throws at you. During this process also you are transforming the institutions you hold from capitalist into socialist ones.Many here will disagree with what i have written , many in my own party may have a different view. I want to use both fists to fight for socialism , not rely on only a right hook or be just a south-paw boxer . James Connolly recognise for the workers it will be both parliament and non- parliament means to socialism. Sinn Fein engage in the electoral process quite successfully, and even the Bobby Sands seat was held, with an increased vote, by Sinn Fein, who were never legally excluded from participation in elections(not so sure about the early 60s and the formation of the Republican Clubs). Successes convinced the Republicans that they should contest elections and led to the armalite and ballot box phase of their politics and a resurrection of the old Sinn Fein boycott of the London parliament strategy for elected MPs and eventually lead to their integration fully with parliamentary democracy in Northern Ireland.Too many of us fetishise the vote or the abstention. It is the democratic result that we want. Our case for Parliament is that it is the most efficacious application of the workers will to establish socialism, the alternative outcome is described by Murray Bookchin .    "…human beings cannot be free – except under very rare conditions , such as during revolutions and for limited periods of time ; even then , they must still leave the barricades and return to work to satisfy their needs and those of their families. They have to eat , if you please……In May 1937 in Barcelona , the workers had to conquer the Stalinist counterrevolution then and there. But they delayed , and after four days they had to leave the streets to obtain food…"We seek the least disruptive method of revolution and in the UK at this moment in time, parliament is that route. On a personal level, i had to re-appraise my romantic notions of street-fighting and rebellion when a fellow comrade developed diabetes, his concern was that during any revolution, his supply of insulin will continue. Later in life, with a mother in an old peoples home, it is brought home how dependent people are upon the maintenance of the day to day supply chain when they are physical incapable of acquiring it themselves. Often during city wide general strikes, Seattle, Winnipeg , the necessity of supporting the hospitals and the old and young with food and medicines undermined any opportunity of victory. It is the arrogance of the young and the fit that make the role of insurrection a requirement, for they have the least to risk and less to sacrifice.Simple fact is that for many at some part of their lives, other more personal events in their life take precedence over the social side of existence. We have those who will unfortunately have health problems and that illness will be their main concern .We will have those who will have emotional feelings, falling and falling out of love that will appear more pressing to them . We will have immediate family matters, sick parents, new born babies, and we will have the pure simple hedonistic concentrating on new found pleasures. I mention those because of experience of involvement in trade unions . A strike vote , or show of hands in an unofficial action may present the mandate , but follow up required for success ie a strong picket line, demonstations and protests and continued meetings were often ill-attended . The Chartists called the plans for a general strike, The National Holiday.  I am afraid to say in the everyday struggle i have been involved in, because of the work pressures of capitalism, a strike was treated by many as just that, a much needed holiday – to be with the kids, to re-decorate the house rather than stand on a picket line with your fellow worker. 

    in reply to: “socialism in one country” #89967
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    “So, alanjjohnstone, thinks that the UK despite its history of working class struggle would be a late comer to socialism” (my emphasis)All societies have a history of class struggle. “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle” – Communist Manifesto so what you say is a bit of a truism. But what we desire is a conscious class struggle with the aim of achieving socialism, not simply a reflex reaction to social conditions. That is slightly different concept. My comment was simply an aside and a purely personal view and i would be very happy to be proved wrong. Perhaps due to living recently abroad and in another culture i take a more jaded view of my compatriots, both Scottish and British, view of themselves. For example, the jingoism of the Olympics and sport in general.”does any body know which country has the largest socialist party?”That under our own definition would be presently ourselves – so it would be the UK but  perhaps in the past the Socialist Party of Canada in its heydays surpassed the SPGB in numbers and percentage of population.Relax our definition of what a socialist party is and the question leads to a number of different answers.   

    in reply to: “socialism in one country” #89963
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    Probably there would be a move towards to temporary autarky, minimalising international barter. Regardless of our sympathies and the limitations we can appreciate how Cuba has managed against the USA and still managed some degree of social progress. Likewise even North Korea can go it alone and just imagine if their resources had not ben marshalled for the military and devoted to the populace instead. Surely, a willing population would consent and endure certain hardships and deprivation for a greater good, particularly if as said the democratic features of socialist decision making have been initiated and need not mirror those regimes’ totalitarianism.In a scenario where one region has acquired socialist consciousness and could assume political power, the question really is a matter of what the substantial (and it would be substantial, wouldnt it if one region had already achieved a majority) socialist minorities do in other regions. The question ignores this aspect. They would not be passive actors.From history we witnessed the Hands Off Russia movement and docker embargos when there was a possibility of military intervention. I believe we would witness a similar movement of solidarity form from the worlds working class which would be even more effective and that would thwart actual physical liquidation of a socialist region and intensify their own class challenge for political supremacy.But it is all speculation and we should not base our current policies upon futures that cannot be determined except by crystal ball gazing. Surely we concentrate our ideas on the realities we experience right now and build from the concrete foundations of the present.In a personal view, i actually do not imagine the UK to face this issue of being a ISR since i expect it to be one of the regions to be lagging behind and playing catch-up!! Socialist parties other than the SPGB will be drumming their fingers and rolling their thumbs , wondering whats keeping many of us in Britain from making the transformation and staying in servitude to capitalism!! “Britons will forever ever be slaves” or whatever the songs words are!!!    

    in reply to: The Class Struggle – Occupy? #89132
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    The socialist measures working-class progress in terms of the development and growth of its awareness of its collective needs and aspirations. Class consciousness, in short. Do they exercise hard won electoral rights along with the right to dissent and protest? Do workers realise the necessity of building class-struggle organisations that are independent of the ruling class? Do they know the value of the strike weapon — but also understand its limitations? Economic power has no meaning when it is confined to just withholding labour power from production, economic power flows from having political control of the state machinery. Are they more and more convinced for the need for a change to the very basis of present society if humanity is to survive? These are our criteria. Socialist activity is to provide a catalyst, to increase and spur on understanding through sharing our acquired knowledge for the self-emancipation of our class. Socialists seek to take advantage of the potential for a struggle to overthrow of the system. And without a core acceptance of a libertarian socialist consciousness there always exists the threat of a movement being hijacked by reformist and gradualist leaders and diverted into a variety of pro-capitalist directions.Although, I have my differences with StuartW, i do agree with his view that people will not suddenly get out of bed one morning and find themselves convinced socialists or that it will be the result of reading the Socialist Standard, no matter how attractive and articulate it is. It will be because of struggles. Our propaganda alone will not suffice since, as often explained, the power of the prevailing ideology through dominance of education and popular culture handicaps our class in the battle of the intellect and ideas. This is not to say that socialist ideas are arrived at automatically solely through practice and it is not to say we should desist from propaganda and educational efforts. Our propaganda is vital to give expression to working class action and to validate workers’ own experiences. The more socialism is discussed and debated, the more likely that protests escalate and intensify into a decisive mass movement against capitalism and its failure as a system to satisfy and fulfil real human needs and wants. We need to relate socialism to the present and demonstrate its practicability. We need to connect struggles such as Occupy with the attainment of socialism. Unlike others who present themselves as revolutionaries we do not project socialism as a remote ideal system of the future but something to aspire for to-day. Occupy’s attempt at non-violent leaderless self-organisation was to be applauded and should have served as a bridge to the structure of socialist administration. Rather than abstaining from participation, I suggest we should have engaged more directly and intervened by means of sympathetic propaganda material aimed at facilitating the growth of socialist consciousness and which relates to current workers’ struggle and demonstrate that a viable alternative to global capitalism does exist. The real future socialist party [NB not capitalised] cannot be apart and distinct from the working class, it has to comprise the whole human community. An aroused class-conscious workers will use their party [again smaller case p] as an agent of emancipation. Our Socialist Party propaganda concentrates upon the educational and teachers are no more leaders than writers or speakers are leaders. Their function is to spread knowledge and understanding so that the workers may emancipate themselves. Our purpose as a Party is to help bring forth the latent strength of the movement.”There are but three ways for the populace to escape its wretched lot. The first two are by the routes of the wine-shop or the church; the third is by that of the social revolution.”  – Bakunin

    in reply to: The ‘Occupy’ movement #86607
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    A strange interpretation of advocating direct up-front  engagment with a movement to describe it as “dishonest” and “boring from within”. Perhaps you might define what you mean by the phrase since I would have guessed that historically it is associated with the Trotskyist policy of entryism which is certainly not my intention for the Socialist Party and it is to misconstrue the post as a proposal to do so. I would also have thought when I wrote “Nothing as drastic as becoming assimiliated and surrendering our independence” explains that we remain distinctly separate from  Occupy and be clearly identified as the Socialist Party and that we interact “not one that is based upon the ad-hoc impromptu interventions of party-members as individuals but co-ordinated in the name and as a policy of the party.” doesn’t say joining it as members to be in contravention of our rules. The degree and extent of our involvement with Occupy I purposefully said would have to be discussed within the party. “This has to be done within the party through discussion documents and analyses, conference resolutions.” I think it would also be up to debate within the party that involvement with Occupy in its present form would be lead to a breach of the hostility clause. It is clearly a much less political organisation than Zeitgeist Movement is and more an generalised umbrella working class protest movement. But if you wish to put that to the test, feel free to bring charges against me. It appears to me, when a post such as mine is (wilfully?) misinterpreted by yourself, then lengthy explanations are indeed going to be necessary in future just for clarity since you fail to understand even my short posts!!

    in reply to: The ‘Occupy’ movement #86604
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    My view has been pretty much consistent and has been expressed on our blog and by several posts on this list (which i note from a previous post, Hollyhead, you are deign to read due to their word-length). As a party, i think we had some way to go to develop a relationship with Occupy. Foremost, we have to develop a party strategy and a course of action which is not one that is based upon the ad-hoc impromptu interventions of party-members as individuals but co-ordinated in the name and as a policy of the party. This has to be done within the party through discussion documents and analyses, conference resolutions and eventually by actual practice of trial and error. We are a propagandist party with an intimate acquaintance with the various struggles in history of our class since our foundation. Our purpose is to advocate socialism, and advance the necessary pre-requisites for a movement to achieve it, primary a democratic decision making structure, whilst at the same time, identifying and criticising trends that obstruct that object, which is mainly but not entirely the diversion and siren-call of reformist platforms. Our job is to provide the ideological tools (the ideas and the theory and the evidence)  for those in Occupy to maintain an effective anti-capitalism. It is not to lead workers to socialism but to push them by discussion, argument and debate into reaching the inescapable conclusion that for society to go forward, free-access socialism is the only solution. We have to have a physical presence within those working class struggles which seek alternative answers to their problems. It means possessing a confidence in our politics and recognising ourselves as part of the working class and a legitimate expression of it. The mountain won’t come to Clapham High St.- we have to go to the mountain. It can also mean opening up and sharing resources, such as our office space for meetings, our printing facilities and our web-site for exchange of views. Nothing as drastic as becoming assimiliated and surrendering our independence or bestowing our much-needed finances.Darren, you may be right. Many have now written the epitaph of Occupy and conducted the post-mortems. I am not so sure. After all, there are ups and downs, highs and troughs. Nevertheless, Occupy presents the SPGB with the challenge of lessons to be learned and the necessary approach we will need to adopt for similar future class struggles. We have to pin-point the strengths and the weaknesses of our party-case in regards to how it is perceived. More importantly, we have to ensure that the socialist system is seen as a practicable possibility to be worked for, and not one to be casually dismissed as wishful pie in the sky.

    in reply to: The ‘Occupy’ movement #86601
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    Also to be welcomed – a good bank?”Carne Ross, is involved with an Occupy offshoot focused on “alternative banking.” In the near future, Mr. Ross said, the group plans to launch what sounds, for all intents and purposes, like a bank under the Occupy name. It will be governed by its users and staff, transparent and risk-averse, and accessible to all, he said. The group has received “tremendously good advice,” he said, from people including the ex-head of Chicago’s largest community bank, former regulators, and even finance professionals secretly moonlighting as activists. “Our vision was always to establish an alternative, not just to debate it,” Mr. Ross said.  “If we could change banking and make it embody the values of Occupy—equality, transparency, democracy—we might not only change the financial industry for the better, but also change the very nature of the economy—and thus society itself…Make no mistake, the kind of bank we are discussing is both plausible, and better, than the conventional for-profit banks. It can and should be done. These ideals are the stuff that make Occupy such an exciting movement to be part of.” – Carne Ross, Revolution Through BankingMore here Very little difference in essence from Labour Party’s leader Ed Milibands recent call for the “creativity” of capitalism to be harnessed and made “more decent” and “humane”. Socialists must be present and vocal within Occupy to combat such reformism masquerading as revolutionary before it takes root. 

    in reply to: Our Blog #88870
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    Apologies for the belated response. Computer problems are hopefully been temporarily at least resolved. My view is that it should transform into a daily e-zine. Logistics and finances determine that we can only produce a monthly journal but with the internet we have a capability of a wide ranging commentary incorporating just straight forward press clippings that often needs little comment, some deeper analyses on specific themes, and special commemorative events. It  does not lead to an overlap or duplication between the blog or the Standard but could be complementary. I have previously mentioned that writers would benefit from a search of SOYMB in preparing articles, just as i use the archives.If i said we could produce a daily newspaper even though with just a circulation of a few hundred each day but lose no money nor require paper sellers,  i am sure many would rightly say go for it.  All required is sufficient bloggers and volunteers, ideal for the armchair revolutionaries.Adam’s criticism that it should have only one daily post is something i cannot understand. Too much goes on in the world but i am sure for visitors that doesn’t mean they have too much is going on their lives that they are incapable of viewing a few posts on a daily basis, even if it means perhaps returning to a more lengthy wordy post at their leisure. There are also practical problems on determining priorities and delegation.Certainly a change in the lay-out and presentation is required. Something more easy on the eye. Word-press has been suggested and the blogs incorporation within the web-site may be beneficial although with my plagiarism i hesitate in linking the blog and the official web-site too closely.

    in reply to: The Class Struggle – Occupy? #89129
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    The observation about Occupy reflected much of my view and felt for some within the party, criticism of it was treated as being outside it. That our D of P was somehow inferior in regards to Occupy’s fluidity of principles and practice. Indeed, we should have more confidence in ourselves as a legitimate element of the working class and its class struggle. I found this article concerning the Irish anarchist group Workers Solidarity Movement of interest. In many cases the author vindicates positions held by the SPGB  for many years. Some people recently, in particular one ex-member believes that in regards to the Occupy Movement we should not be blowing our own horn but instead learning from those active within it. Those involved in Occupy are apparently more socialist and possess more consciousness than those of us within the SPGB.http://spiritofcontradiction.eu/bronterre/2012/08/16/the-wsm-a-political-analysisThe first criticism he has of the many umbrella groups, and one some of us has made of the Occupy Movement, is the unstructured means of decision making, the prevalance of concensus agreement, empowering minorities over the majority.”…the WSM was in the midst of a long-term turn towards an alternative libertarian movement. This is a rather vague term for working with people who were radical opponents of the status quo but who had an instinctive – and sometimes well reasoned – dislike of Leninism. Its institutional manifestation was the Grassroots Gathering which was organised to explicitly exclude Leninists. It provided a forum for left-libertarians to discuss and socialise…it did provide the impetus for ongoing co-operation between the WSM and the diverse range of individuals who made it up…Anarchism is just a variant of Socialism, it is alienating to mix with political activists who are, at best, deeply uninterested in Socialism and whose primary political expression is through stunts that masquerade as direct action, not to mention their tendency to display the traits of that classic label, lifestylism, especially if your lifestyle is pretty conventional and not given to veganism, poor clothes, organic farming and the like. Obviously, this somewhat facetious description of the cultural divergence between the old and the new is yet another simplification: the dreadlocks versus the cloth cap so to speak. But as usual, the simplification contains a truth and one which, over time, assumed a degree of importance… But they [ Radical activists ] were fundamentally uninterested in winning over the population to radical left-wing ideas; hence the complete lack of interest in how they presented themselves in public or in how their actions would be perceived. Political activism was an expression of moral outrage, not an attempt to effect structural change. The WSM’s ambition was to harness that moral outrage, which, after all, it shared, towards the pursuit of a more a political strategy. To accomplish that it had to ally itself with the fairly amorphous self-described libertarians…We needed to recruit. The sentiment was widespread and the anti-globablisation movement and the colleges provided fertile territory…The magnetic attraction to networking with fellow libertarians was coupled with an insatiable desire for stunts. Direct Action is one of the holy tenets of Anarchism…Anarchists have traditionally been contemptuous of electoralism, the conventional measure of public opinion because the spirited minority is of more importance than the passive majority…In general, the State completely had the measure of the direct actionists and their isolation from the population rendered them impotent…What was notably absent from our aims in of these campaigns was the desire to win over large numbers of people, or at least the willingness to do the type types of things that might make such an aim remotely likely. There was an undercurrent of subsitutionism…”[Within Grassroot Network] Quaker consensus decision making was the default mode; disciplined agenda setting and speaking were rare; the capacity to disagree strongly was inherently limited because it would lead to people getting offended, wandering off and never being seen again…[Irish] Indymedia had a certain glorious chaos about it at that point and the constant encroachment of structure was viewed by some as incipient bureaucratization…The Quaker consensus method is a boon to the status quo, transmuting every attempt at change into a trial by torture. But more than that, the toleration for low quality, hysterical ranting, not to mention the facilitation of the ill-intentioned and the genuinely mentally ill ensured that the site soon plateaued. Amongst the libertarian-left, such toleration was by no means confined to Indymedia. What is striking in retrospect is the degree to which many radicals are happy to be protesters and outsiders rather than part of a long-term counter-project. It is as if the image of radicalism outweighs the substance of socialism in terms of personal allegiance.” He continues to say that “Networks are not well suited to achieving medium-term political aims. They are okay for organising a protest against the G8 or for ad hoc activity on a fairly constrained issue. Their capacity for political discussion tends to be low, their level of organisational structure even lower and their ability to have a sustained impact barely exists. Without an institutional basis the network has no staying power but if it has an institutional basis it is no longer a network but is instead an organisation and one which has to face all the problems that any organisation faces (the basis of unity, policy, accountability, decision making etc).” Further on, he writes “One of the distinguishing features of libertarian style networks is that anybody can turn up to a meeting and have an equal say in the decisions made. This is made possible by the deliberate absence of having a definite membership list. Indymedia, Grassroots, and Seomra Spraoi all persisted for a long time in accepting anyone who might turn up at their meetings as being entitled to partake in decision making, although over time, tighter policies did arise. Such a model makes longer-term planning very difficult as policy can swing depending on who shows up for a given meeting, which is a major reason why such organisations are unable to grow beyond a very small size.”The author also makes this point “For an organisation to be capable of recruiting a mass membership the recruitment bar has to be set very low with respect to ideological unity, a centralised administrative and policy making apparatus is necessary and so forth. Marketing and branding are also important to a mass organisation in a way that it isn’t to a small group of militants. As long as the WSM was Platformist its branding as Anarchist didn’t really matter because it wasn’t geared towards attaining mass popularity for itself.  But once it became an activist organisation that attempted to replicate the function of mass organisations, albeit in a very distorted form, the branding was always going to be unhelpful, even fatal.”He concludes that ” the membership as a whole weren’t particularly interested in thinking about policy and its political consequences. Most members wanted to do things. They were very much radical activists and would have been satisfied with almost any policy that didn’t disrupt that activity or offend their sensibilities.”Some in the SPGB (along with others) offered the same critique of jazz hand decision-making and the frustration of the will of the majority by a minority. Later in the article it is stated that “There had already been mutterings about the spectre of Bolshevism during the membership debate and over various tweaks to the Delegate Council structure; the prospect of centralist organisation is one of the reliable Anarchist bogeymen that is liable to cripple any initiative.”Secondly, he discusses the flaws in the recruitment process for his organisation. The SPGB’s knowledge test is constantly the butt of many jibes from anarchists and the the Left but it seems when compared with the alternatives an efficient means of guaging understanding and agreement with our aims “It is doubtful that a single member who joined after 2004 was assessed on their knowledge of Anarchism and of the WSM in particular… it also gained many members, who however hard-working and good-hearted they undoubtedly were, were not Platformist, perhaps not even socialist: one member notoriously snorted “We’re socialists?” at a branch meeting. The constant round of political activism (protests, leafletting, attendance at libertarian meetings) and the culture of not discussing political fundamentals – hardly necessary since everyone was assumed to be an Anarchist! – hid the reality for a time…2010 was a crux year in which three major debates clarified the long developing fault lines. The first revolved around the recruitment process. It was clear from some members’ surprise at the notion that we were socialists and supportive of the labour movement that there was an issue. The lack of rigour in recruitment was also evident in the establishment of a Belfast branch that had more or less no understanding of our ostensible Platformist basis. Our recruitment process had lost its political content and had become a formulaic fulfilment of the requirement to attend three meetings and agreeing to pay subscriptions. If you agreed to do that it was assumed you agreed with our politics, but that was not actually checked. In fact, I suspect having such a discussion with some members would have led to embarrassment in that they would have been perceived it as a hierarchical move…I proposed to national conference that the secretary and two other members would be responsible for assessing whether prospective members met the criteria for joining. This provoked a lot of controversy, the crux of which revolved around the idea that Anarchists could sit in judgment over another person’s politics and refuse them membership. The opponents of the policy were unhappy with it for a number of reasons: they thought the recruitment process was more or less fine and that any difficulties could be rectified by educational meetings afterwards. They favoured a process which didn’t rely on the subjective judgments of a few or even one individual. They were concerned it would frighten off people from libertarian circles who would see it as anti-Anarchist and bureaucratic to have someone being able to sit in judgment on their politics…There was no systematic inculcation of basic anarchist doctrine; again the assumption was that the membership was familiar with that and indeed in any new group of recruits there were always some who were extremely well versed. But there were others who were not and there wasn’t any expectation that they would become so. It was left entirely up to them to whether that occurred or not… I saw Anarchism as an anti-state version of socialism that emphasised economic rather than political struggle, not as an all-encompassing anti-hierarchical philosophy.  Previously I has assumed that such views were the provenance of liberal rather than socialist Anarchists but the vehemence with which that view was advanced raised doubts not only about the level of commonality of our understanding of Anarchism but also about the utility of Anarchism as a political ideology itself. Clearly Anarchism throughout its history has been prone to an individualist strain and it began to seem that the WSM’s history and nominal adherence to socialism meant less in reality than it did on paper.” Then he moves on to the problems of social activism substituting for  fundamental objectives , and becoming the priority”One of the key problems, as the minority saw it, was the pressure to constantly be doing something. There was always a demonstration around the corner… That desire for action was not without reason however. As an organisation, the WSM depended on it for its profile. We didn’t have any significant intellectual accomplishments that we could point to. We didn’t have any electoral profile that would put us on the map. If we weren’t to lose out to other radical strands there had to be some way of alerting the public to our existence and the occasional bout of handbags filled that gap.” The author later writes “that we were completely unable to capitalise on any work done in campaigns. We had no ratcheting effect, no cumulative benefit from the hours poured into protesting against Shell, racism, war, the banks, or even on foot of our small but solid work in the Bin Tax campaign because there was no institutional basis with which we could organise whatever level of goodwill we had engendered along the way.”As well as partly sharing our analysis of trade unionism that the  leadership reflects the membership.”We felt that criticising the union leadership or putting up posters calling for a general strike, which had been the pattern of our organisational intervention in the trade unions was pointless in and of itself. Radicalism only becomes meaningful if it reflects a real-world tendency beyond the rarefied numbers of the libertarian left. Following Alan MacSimoin, we certainly didn’t think that the union base was radical nor that the union leadership were selling them out. A union leadership reflects, in a general way, the opinions of the base, most of whom are, after all, voters for right-wing political parties. If anything, the leadership is substantially to the left of the base and if by some miracle they adopted Anarchist policies they would soon find themselves out of a job. While criticism of the leadership is fair enough, it’s very much a secondary consideration to influencing that base.”We would be more associated with the “go-slowers” of the the three factions in the WSM, that historically we criticised the “radicals” and “bolshevics” of over-estimating the consciousness of the working class and being overly optimistic on the potential for revolution post -WW1″…there was a further theoretical reason that underlay the differing strategic directions. The minority of go-slowers did not think there was the remotest possibility of socialist revolution in the short-term. Insofar as there could be a breakdown in capitalism and the authority of the state, the likely result would be chaos followed by right-wing nationalist reaction. Socialist ideas just did not have a grip on much of the population.”This i believe would reflect the SPGB position of the necessity of education an socialist consciousness as pre-requisites of the socialist revolution.The other opinions within the WSM existed of a majority that “held that there was the possibility of rupturing with capitalism and the state and a libertarian socialist society emerging, Durruti-like, from the ashes.” And if “Because if revolution is immediately possible, then any event could kick it off and if you miss that event you could have missed a very brief and rare window of opportunity. The example of May 1968 and how it caught the left by surprise was invoked. This was the underlying reason for the interest in the anti-capitalist demonstrations of May 2010; what if they were the start of something big? On the other hand, if you think that not only is the prospect of socialist revolution remote but that it would actually be counter-productive for socialism if a collapse occurred, you couldn’t help but see those same demonstrations as, at best, a bit of a waste of time.”The writer also explains that “For an organisation to be capable of recruiting a mass membership the recruitment bar has to be set very low with respect to ideological unity, a centralised administrative and policy making apparatus is necessary and so forth. Marketing and branding are also important to a mass organisation in a way that it isn’t to a small group of militants. As long as the WSM was Platformist its branding as Anarchist didn’t really matter because it wasn’t geared towards attaining mass popularity for itself.  But once it became an activist organisation that attempted to replicate the function of mass organisations, albeit in a very distorted form, the branding was always going to be unhelpful, even fatal.”The third position within the WSM was those who propose “creating a mass, non-electoral party that would be set up and initially run by the WSM. A major part of it was the modernisation of the use of language (e.g. not to bother mentioning communism), but the basic politics of democracy and equality would remain. The other major facet was a complete rejection of orienting towards the anti-globablisation milieu. He aimed it at regular Joes and thought that it was important not to increase the already considerable distance between us and them by imposing unnecessary cultural barriers between us.”This criticism of the way we appear and the way we communicate such as jettisoning the red and left-wingism and the vocabulary of socialism of course has been voiced within the SPGB at various times by various people. James Connolly during the IWW anti-political constitutional amendment threw cold water over the idea that the “regular Joes” would somehow countenance the weapon of the ballot box being dismissed, and declaring that the workers would in fact use their vote regardless. The article ends with  “One cannot blame lack of dedication for the sheer unpopularity of Anarchism. The causes go deeper, down to the root of the ideology itself. Decent, hardworking people are constrained by a framework that, due its tendency to embrace inward-looking radicalism, an inability to come to terms with non-revolutionary times and an incapacity to adjust itself to the enormous development in capitalism since 1872, condemns its adherents to forever pushing the rock of revolution up an increasingly steep and slippery slope.”Something that many members of the SPGB can sympathise with when they get despondent  

    in reply to: Debt, Money and Marx #89007
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    Just for a bit clarification. “A far larger percentage of Wall Street’s profits is now derived from the financial sector than from industry or commerce” Factually untrue. Oil companies are the biggest money makers on this year’s Global 500, including besieged BP. Rounding out the top 10 earners are U.S. giants Microsoft and, of course, Wal-Mart.http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/global500/2010/performers/companies/profits/

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