Monthly Archives: March 2014

The minimum program and the transitional program

The strategic task of the next period – prerevolutionary period of agitation, propaganda and organization – consists in overcoming the contradiction between the maturity of the objective revolutionary conditions and the immaturity of the proletariat and its vanguard (the confusion and disappointment of the older generation, the inexperience of the younger generation . It is necessary to help the masses in the process of the daily struggle to find the bridge between present demand and the socialist program of the revolution. This bridge should include a system of transitional demands, stemming from today’s conditions and from today’s consciousness of wide layers of the working class and unalterably leading to one final conclusion: the conquest of power by the proletariat.

Classical Social Democracy, functioning in an epoch of progressive capitalism, divided its program into two parts independent of each other: the minimum program which limited itself to reforms within the framework of bourgeois society, and the maximum program which promised substitution of socialism for capitalism in the indefinite future. Between the minimum and the maximum program no bridge existed. And indeed Social Democracy has no need of such a bridge, since the word socialism is used only for holiday speechifying. The Comintern has set out to follow the path of Social Democracy in an epoch of decaying capitalism: when, in general, there can be no discussion of systematic social reforms and the raising of he masses’ living standards; when every serious demand of the proletariat and even every serious demand of the petty bourgeoisie inevitably reaches beyond the limits of capitalist property relations and of the bourgeois state.

The strategic task of the Fourth International lies not in reforming capitalism but in its overthrow. Its political aim is the conquest of power by the proletariat for the purpose of expropriating the bourgeoisie. However, the achievement of this strategic task is unthinkable without the most considered attention to all, even small and partial, questions of tactics. All sections of the proletariat, all its layers, occupations and groups should be drawn into the revolutionary movement. The present epoch is distinguished not for the fact that it frees the revolutionary party from day-to-day work but because it permits this work to be carried on indissolubly with the actual tasks of the revolution.

The Fourth International does not discard the program of the old “minimal” demands to the degree to which these have preserved at least part of their vital forcefulness. Indefatigably, it defends the democratic rights and social conquests of the workers. But it carries on this day-to-day work within the framework of the correct actual, that is, revolutionary perspective. Insofar as the old, partial, “minimal” demands of the masses clash with the destructive and degrading tendencies of decadent capitalism – and this occurs at each step – the Fourth International advances a system of transitional demands, the essence of which is contained in the fact that ever more openly and decisively they will be directed against the very bases of the bourgeois regime. The old “minimal program” is superseded by the transitional program, the task of which lies in systematic mobilization of the masses for the proletarian revolution.

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Their full-employment and ours

So Tory Chancellor George Osborne has announced his latest policy goal to be full employment.  This is a policy we here at the Committee for a Unified British Section of the Fourth International have been pushing for some time.

For us of course it is a transitional programmatic demand that poses the question of power as it is one of the conditions for the continued existence of capitalism that it maintains in desperation and penury a reserve army of unemployed workers as a weapon against organised labour and rising wages.

Why then has Osborne gone for this policy and what does he mean by it. Well we can definitively say that what is not indicated by the adoption of this policy is the final transition of the Conservative Party into a workers’ party.  It naturally suits the right, and the more right they are the more it suits, to adapt left policies and language in populist and demagogic form and this is a prime example.

By full-employment Osborne means benefits and wages so low that more and more workers will be forced into the increasingly third world conditons that prevail in the British labour market.  He wants to make use of the reserve army against the organised movemen.  He also wants a huge reduction in taxation to make being an employer in Britain profitable which means the end of state provision of services such as health and education which, due to the ever decreasing wages, means that these basics will be available only to the rich.

Full-employment in the hands of a `Red Tory’ means the return of workhouses and the introduction of concentration camps where workers can be worked to death or discarded when used up.  The truth is, nothing can restore capitalist profitability.  Workers are now seen more as a source of immanent danger to the already accumulated riches of the capitalist monopolists than a potential source of surplus value stretching into the indefinite future.  Full-employment is a euphemism for the unsustainable, very short-term using up and obliteration of the working classes.

The term full-employment dribbling from the lips of the representatives of the vicious boss class means class struggle unto death.

Of course the policy means the same for us in the same but opposite sense.  We envisage the realisation of full-employment as the final victory of the working class over the capitalist class.

So what do we mean by it?  First of all, and this we agree with Osborne about, we do not mean expensive, pointless job creation scams.  Nor, however, do we see full-employment as some kind of desirable target as it has been seen by the reformist opportunists when they have championed it to be achieved in some distant future through economic manipulation which always ends in inflation, a new bout of mass unemployment and a the next Tory government.

No, we mean a regime of full-employment to be implemented immediately.  A regime that overnight abolishes unemployment once and for all and save an entire generation from the scrap heap for which they are currently destined.

This regime, operating locally through various labour movement organisations, will bring all school and college leavers and unemployed workers, male or female, who cannot find their own jobs into the workforce to share in the available productive work.  Each will be paid the minimum of a trade union living wage not matter how short their hours.  Very quickly part-time will become the new full-time and every single adult of working age will be in employment with the exception of those too sick or disabled whose needs will be taken care of out of the social surplus.

This policy will lay the foundation for a whole new type of society.  A society in which the battle between classes is ended and the war of the sexes dumped decisively into the dustbin of history.

Ultimately, the quesiton of what precisely is meant by full-employment may well form the basis for the coming final showdown between British capitalism and the British working class.

`Lenin was wrong’ say Leninists

V_I_Lenin

When I think of Leninism I think primarily of the great Bolshevik and Russian Revolutionary leader’s analysis of capitalist imperialism, its degenerative impact on the labour movements in the imperialist centres and of course the way it necessarily en-cages all other nations in semi-colonial states and tyrannies to create a global system of exploitation.

Lenin’s explanation to the incredulous capitalist democrats, reformists and opportunists as to how a capitalist system built on sovereign nation states with all those democratic niceties gained in bitter struggle with the old feudal imperial empires out of which they carved themselves could itself degenerate into imperialism is his greatest gift to the world working class.

Marx gave us historical materialism but boy did Lenin make use of it.

Capitalism was not, as the masses were constantly led to believe, he told us on a trajectory towards a world based on sovereign nation states living in harmony or to their complete eradication and the creation of a One World nirvana but like every other class system before it was historically contingent and destined to end in wars and revolutions.

So, it was with a certain amount of in-credulousness that I read in The Weekly Worker, a paper that claims to be Leninist, that Lenin on the question of imperialism was completely wrong.

Imperialism, it seems is not the highest stage of capitalism as Lenin described it in his book of the same name but a passing phase in an endless series of passing phases in the never-ending life of capitalism. World War One was not a vicious war for the re-carving of the world by opposed imperialist gangsters but simply the product of the break up of the British Empire. Capitalism it seems was always imperialist and so to describe imperialism as its highest stage must be wrong.

What is the logical conclusion: capitalist imperialism is not really a useful category and in any case no longer exists. And so it is that our sages in denying Lenin wind up not with something fresh and radical but side-by-side with that old traitor Kautsky one of the main targets of Lenin’s analysis.

All this was in the name of attacking the notion of an anti-imperialist united front in the semi-colonies because as is the want with neo-Stalinist `theory’, they no longer exist. But of course it remains entirely legitimate for the workers’ party in a semi-colony to make a united front with the democratic revolution against imperialism and its satrap semi-colonial tyrannies so long as political independence is maintained.

In Syria socialist revolutionaries are engaged in united fronts with democratic forces fighting the Assad butchery whilst sticking resolutely to the principles of permanent revolution. In Ukraine too socialists unconditionally support the revolution against gangster capitalism that toppled Yanukovytch and defend it against imperialism whilst at the same time attempting to develop for and with it a correct proletarian policy.

Our Weekly Worker chums at the CPGB have done away with Lenin and with him the national democratic revolution and with them both the world proletarian revolution. This, my friends, is neo-Stalinism. Not the extreme version which sides with the semi-colonial tyrants and their imperialist puppet master Putin against popular uprisings but a more subtle version that more or less denies their existence but which unfortunately is no less anti-revolutionary for that.

In actual fact this outlook reflects the CPGB’s anti-revolutionary position on Europe. Abusing the Trotskyist critique of the Stalinist theory of socialism in one country they insist that only a Europe-wide revolution, and not in the metaphorical sense but in the event sense, will do. This means that every manifestation of the French, German, British, Spanish, Greek, etc, etc, revolutions they will be compelled to denounce.

Anti-imperialism and meta-revolutionism both in the service of anti-revolutionism.

* One thing is for sure, George W Bush would have done well to have read Lenin’s pamphlet. He would have realised that in trying to establish and consolidate global US-hegemony and `super-imperialism’ he was bringing into being the very powers whose emergence he was trying to prevent leaving America bankrupted and bogged down and his successors to manage the fall out as the film of globalisation winds off backwards.

Anatomy of a crisis

1. In the 1970s the post-War boom based on US-sponsored globalisation and Stalinism’s peaceful co-existence with it started to stagnate under monopolisation and the bankrupting level of state spending needed to prop it up.

2. The US policy of containment of the Soviet block after the Vietnam debacle was beginning to look like it was failing as the West wilted under the expense.

3. The West launched its neo-liberal assault on wages, unions, jobs and customs tariffs creating an ever more integrated and ever more truly global economy. It cranked up the military pressure on the Soviet Union and Stalinism surrendered.

4. The ruling class decided to put the decrepit, frail economy on steroids. and it privatised the money supply in what was known as the financial Big Bang kicking off a global credit bubble soon-to-be Ponzi Scheme the like of which the world had never before come close to witnessing.

5. The West went on a consumer frenzy paid for by credit whilst jobs were moved to China and Eastern Europe.

6. The first of the overly leveraged poor started to lose their jobs when the factories they worked in had over-produced such that they could not make what they were making cheaply enough to turn a profit. The market in sub-prime mortgage backed bankster bonds collapsed and it was clear that the global financial system was irretrievably bust.

7. 30 years after the Big Financial Bang came the Bigger Financial Crunch. The steroids had induced a massive and fatal heart attack in the doddery old patient. Now the world economy was moribund, stagnant and bankrupt. In a word dead.

8. The process of US-sponsored globalisation is now unravelling. The global economy is fragmenting and inter-imperialist rivalry is reasserting. This process, if not checked and reversed by world socialist revolution will result in a New Dark Ages. It is socialism or barbarism.

A real Communist Platform for Left Unity

The Communist Platform group in Left Unity, which is the CPGB plus one, has put forward a slate of candidates for election to the National Council. It is to their credit that they have put forward a platform that is more or less what they believe in when they are just the plain old CPGB. That is more than can be said for other groupings whose platforms and programmes would seem to bear not relation to their private sect beliefs.

Unfortunately when you read the election statements of the CPGB’s 14 candidates it becomes painfully clear that they will never rise above the condition of propaganda group and that they will not be able to challenge Left Unity’s dominant right wing in any meaningful sense.

They oppose the notion of a transitional programme with a Stalinist-like zeal which leaves their statements looking like tired old platitudes with zero or at best abstract policy attached as an afterthought. This is the so-called maximum-minimum approach which leaves the opportunists on the right making all the running when it comes to actual programme. As ever the left, of whatever it is, thinks of itself as no more than a pressure group abdicating its programmatic responsibilities to the right whilst it concentrates on the glorious but oft-postponed future.

Had I been standing for Left Unity National Council having not decided that it is a lash up of professional centrists, hole-patchers and flea-crackers with zero purchase in the working class I would have put forward the following election statement:

`Left Unity claims to want to offer an alternative to New Labour by which I assume they mean a socialist programme. In which case if elected to the National Council I would argue for a programme of transitional demands that address the most objectively urgent interests of the working classes and point inexorably towards the dictatorship of the proletariat over capitalism.

`The programme would include the need to end the bail out of the banks and establish a People’s Bank lending at base rate to small business and facilitating social investment in accordance with a democratic plan. It would propose a regime of full-employment by first of all sharing the available productive work. The socialisation of the profiteering corporations and cartels and the replacement of fat cat executives with worker’ elected leaders would be next on the list. It would also call for the defence of all necessary and desirable public and welfare spending and the collection of sufficient income tax to pay for them whilst outlining the need to build working class and community defences against fascist and state attacks. Finally it would propose to replace the Union with a federation of sovereign British nations and the north of Ireland and to renegotiate the founding treaties of the EU in accordance with socialist principles such as an EU-wide Living Wage and EU-wide full-employment.

`Internally I would fight for a regime of full democracy. The knowledge, wisdom and experience of every single member should be marshalled to arrive at our decisions, perspectives and policies. But decisions, perspectives and policies there will be. I would seek to ensure that we promote our programme not only for election purposes but in the day to day class struggle in unions and communities.’

That said, if you are in Left Unity you would do well to vote for the Communist Platform slate. Let us see if they really can offer an alternative to the Left Unity right let alone New Labour itself.

We want full-employment not another crappy job creation scam

Apart from sounding like some Orwellian nightmare New Labour’s proposed Compulsory Jobs Guarantee is about as pathetic an attempt to come to grips with the burning issue of mass youth unemployment that it is possible to imagine this side of those of the current Tory Coalition government.

The scheme will offer `starter’ jobs for anyone between 18 and 24 who has been out of work for a year. The government will pay, for the term of the next Parliament if New Labour is elected, the wages and employers’ national insurance contributions for 25-hours a week for a period of six months. Where it isn’t simply a blatant subsidy for employers who would have employed somebody anyway it is no more than a cosmetic exercise creating expensive pseudo jobs to massage unemployment figures.

Apparently the scheme will be paid for by taxing bankers’ bonuses, I thought they were already taxed, and by tampering with the greatest tax avoidance scheme of the lot by slightly restricting tax relief on pension contributions for those earning over £150,000 a year.

Be sure however that this policy is not proposed in the interest of young workers. First they have to have been unemployed for a year to qualify, secondly they get a part-time wage and thirdly the purpose of the scheme is not to give them permanent employment but merely sufficient training to act as the army of unemployed that should, that is as a proper downward pressure on wages. No point having an army of unemployed who cannot even pick their noses let alone operate a coffee machine.

No, this simply won’t do. Young workers must demand a regime of full employment by which every unemployed worker and school or college leaver who cannot find their own job is immediately bought into the local workforce to share in the available productive work with each paid the minimum of a trade union living wage however short their hours.

A real socialist government would surely enable the dictatorship of the proletariat over capital. In this case capital’s right to maintain an army of unemployed workers which this wretched scheme far from addressing actually facilitates. New Labour showing once again that it is the interests of capital that come first for it.

C.U.B.S. of the FI Resolution on Ukraine

The Committee for a Unified British Section of the Fourth International proposes the following resolution on the situation in the Ukraine. If you support this resolution let me know. If you oppose it let me know. If you want to amend it or completely re-write it let me know. At the moment however it is official policy of the Committee as it stands:

Victory to the Ukrainian National Democratic Revolution

1. A schism in the Ukranian gangster capitalist class that seized property and power following the collapse of the Stalinised Soviet Union has made possible a popular democratic movement against it and its military-police tyranny.

2. This movement forced the kleptocrat-in-chief Yanukovytch to flee to his Russian imperialist sponsors who then launched a pre-planned, criminal annexation of Crimea.

3. The abdication of Yanukovytch left the corrupt bunch of gangster-capitalist politicians that infest the Ukraine parliament temporarily in charge.

4. The official response of the United States to the annexation of Crimea has so far been appeasement. Putin is very much seen as part of an alliance of great powers in the so-called War on Terror not to mention a location for lucrative investment and a source of billions in stolen capital currently propping up Western stock exchanges, banks, football leagues and property markets. There is, however, a very vocal but currently impotent group of hard right neo-Conservatives who would like nothing more than to confront Russia militarily over the corpses of the Ukrainians. Still others would like to see Russia bogged down and preoccupied Iraq-style in an unwinnable and resource-sapping invasive war. None of these actors have the interests of the revolution or the Ukrainian people at the forefront or even the back of their minds.

5. The revolution and the international labour movement must oppose the annexation of Crimea. Revolutionaries must urge the revolution to sweep aside the gangster-capitalists whether they be pro-Russia or pro-EU and their rancid Parliament of Sycophants and Lackeys.

6. The future of Ukrainian workers or indeed any worker does not lie in one imperialist `trading’ block or another. Russia has proved that its relationship with the Ukrainian people is that of a thief to a blind beggar whilst the EU, though many will see it as a potential bulwark against the lawlessness of the gangster capitalists, eyes the Ukraine in the way that a plague of locusts views a field of corn.

7. The revolution must pursue policies that will unite East and West Ukraine under a revolutionary democracy. It has no interest in a futile confrontation with Russia simply to make the Parliament of Thieves and Lackeys look good or in hosting an inter-imperialist war in which millions of its citizens will die for the satisfaction of US Senator John McCain. It must however defend its territorial integrity as it stands and demand the withdrawal of Russia from Crimea.

8. Ukraine proves that the spectre that has long haunted the European elites is coming back to life. That spectre is the working class and it is they who must lead the struggle for democracy. The Ukrainian national democratic revolution must be made permanent or it will collapse to fascist land grabs in the East and the West that will put an end to the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people for many years to come.