Letters: Sinead O’Connor
It was wonderful to see the article on Sinead O’Connor in the January Socialist Standard. I wasn’t aware just how clearly she had come out about the money system, and it is very heartening to think that this stuff is getting discussed.
I had been more conscious of her strong feelings about the abusive upbringing of children. and your article has inspired me to set out my ideas about how the two areas relate to each other. I hope I can put this fairly succinctly.
To live under capitalism is to live for some other purpose than our own fulfilment, as Erich Fromm recognises. We strive and suffer, not to grow more fully ourselves, but to amass figures on a screen somewhere. Our lives only have meaning, and our needs will only be met, if someone else can extract some value from us.To live is to be used.
Does this not echo the reality of a child whose parents simply use her to carry their hopes and fears, and do not value her for who she is? Perhaps capitalism can be seen as a big abstract parent, telling us what we can’t have, punishing us for not being good enough. In the face of this system, our deepest needs have to be set aside as we try to satisfy its endlessly changing demands.
I have great respect for the Socialist Party’s realism in facing the fact that workers choose capitalism, that we are often resistant to ideas of liberation, no matter how rationally argued. Perhaps our acceptance of such a punitive social system is merely our replaying in a different form our punitive childhoods. The resistance to change and new ideas certainly has a very rooted quality to it. I am conscious that you may react with suspicion to these suggestions on the grounds that I may appear to be saying “It’s not a matter of economics, but of personal insight”. But I’m not saying that. As long as we have a money system, leaders, coercion. countries, buying and selling and all the rest of it, then humanity will be held back from realising our true potential. and poverty and violence will remain endemic. What I am saying is that this personal dimension seems to me to be a hidden obstacle on the road to a truly free and humanistic society.
I am a parent myself, and no stranger to the pain of wondering if I’m being as supportive and respectful towards my children as they need me to be. Maybe sticking with what we know is a way of avoiding the fear of looking at who we are and how we relate to other people. Maybe the struggle towards a healthy society is connected with the struggle to become healthy individuals.
In any event, best of luck to you (and best of luck to Sinead O’Connor).
Rest assured, we don’t regard the ideas of Erich Fromm with suspicion. Quite the contrary, in fact—Editors.
Class War again
It was a pleasure to read your article on “The Politics of Class War”. The subject was dealt with very sympathetically and I hope that any members of the CWF who happen to read it. take up your offer to discuss their views further.
Although the article stated that the CWF attracted the attention of the tabloids down South, I had never heard of them or seen any reference to their organization in the Scottish Press—although, admittedly, I am out of touch with political affairs.
Nonetheless, their viewpoint as stated in your article seemed familiar. About fifty years ago when I was active in working class politics, there was a European organization—I think they called themselves “Council Communists” or Spartacists (I can’t recall which)—whose literature was sold by a Glasgow organization the “Workers Open Forum”. The “Open Forum” was just that—an open forum which provided a platform for all shades of working class opinion. Every Sunday evening workers could go to the Open Forum and hear speakers from the SPGB. the SLP, the ILP, the CPGB, the Anarchist Federation, the RCP and the Labour Party. Its committee also organized debates between the various organizations mentioned. Literature from these organizations was sold at all these meetings. As you will appreciate there was little opposition from the “Telly” in those days and the meetings were well attended.
It was at these meetings that I obtained the literature of the Council Communists and, speaking from a somewhat snaky memory, I recollect that their views were similar to the CWF. The exponents of their case that I most remember were Anton Pannekoek, a Dutch astronomer, who dealt with philosophical and scientific matters, and Paul Mattick who dealt with economics. I remember them mostly for their articles in the Western Socialist.
I further recollect that they organized a meeting, either in Paris or Amsterdam, to which the SPGB was invited as an observer. The Executive Committee of that time (some forty or so years ago) declined the invitation. At the time I thought the EC were mistaken in their attitude but I can no longer remember the arguments.
Can it be that the CWF are the modern counterparts of the Council Communists? Whether they are nor not, I hope that your invitation to a dialogue is taken up.
As far as we know there is no direct connection between the Council Communist group you mention and Class War— Editors.
Reading the October issue I thought I’d outline a few political points regarding Class War and anti-fascism, and the naive line of the Socialist Party.
I feel there is a great misunderstanding of the transformatory process, and the tasks to be carried out by the revolutionary working class. A revolution will entail new forms of power being used by the working class; both externally for the political struggle against the class enemy/counter-revolutionary forces, and internally for the control of anti-social behaviour (as I do not believe it will disappear overnight).
The sorts of working class active units I have in mind are closely related to the local workers councils or general assemblies. These decision-making bodies monitor the decisions made; and continuous action from, by and for the class is run by the local working class active units. Accountability in the struggle guides effective working class action on problems faced, and methods used in the past to see if they’re working properly, and to devise new tactics if necessary.
“Punishment” may include violence if the class enemy is involved, and educative measures within the working class (historically this is the case). This does depend upon the particular situation facing the class though.
Also, no-go areas are not the only revolutionary strategy Class War has. I envisage widespread strikes, demonstrations, pickets, riots etc. Imagining that “the capitalist minority will be likely to cave in peacefully” is unrealistic, lacking historical backup, missing the range of bourgeois forces lined up against the working class, and the levels that they have dropped to and will drop to again.
You also misunderstand the nature of anti-fascist violence (back page, Socialist Standard, October), violence is only fascist if it is used with fascist ideas and intentions behind it. Anti-fascist violence is done with revolutionary working class ideas behind it, being one of the elements of revolutionary working class strategy.
Gerry Gable (bigwig of Searchlight) is against giving a (bourgeois) democratic platform to fascists; he recently said “I was in Germany recently and the coverage they were receiving was disgraceful. They would show young thugs attacking refugee hostels,’ which was okay—it showed them for the mindless fools they are but then they would return to the studio and some well-dressed articulate neo- nazi would go on to justify these attacks in what some people would accept as a plausible fashion”. One of the working class anti-fascist strategies is no platform for fascists, the others being education and agitation.
Finally, I suggest Socialist Standard readers read The Coercive State by Hillyard and Smith. It’s a bit liberal but it carries lots of useful information on the “State of Democracy”. Since it was published, however, things have got worse—people off the electoral register because of poll tax, etc. The message to be drawn is that we will never win on their terms.
I support Class War (and class warfare) because it is the war to end all wars!
The danger in the “transformatory tasks” outlined is that the revolutionaries punishing, educating and guiding the rest of the population might well take on the authoritarian attitudes of a new ruling class. The only way to avoid this is to ensure that no revolution proceeds unless and until a majority of workers understand and want it. It is Class War’s failure to see the crucial importance of conscious majority action which could lead them, like “revolutionaries” in the past, into the rut of leadership tactics.
We do not agree that only intentionally fascist violence is fascistic. We are hostile to fascists, not least for their policy of dragging working-class politics into the mire of violence, and we shall play our part in defeating their pernicious ideology, using the force of scientific reason. (See the article “What the Fascists Need” elsewhere in this issue).
We have read the book which you recommend, which does indeed offer a piercing critique of the viciousness of the modern British state. For the record, one of its authors is a member of the Socialist Party and can therefore be expected to understand what the state is all about—Editors.