No 1588 January 2021
Out-negotiated by Europe and incapable on the pandemic, the incompetence and incoherence of blustering Tories reflects the panic and fearfulness of a ruling class no longer able to rule – its confidence shot to pieces by the ever deepening monopoly capitalist crisis and its competitive weakness as inter-imperialist trade war deepens. All that keeps it in place is the craven grovelling of the class-collaborating Labourites who vote to support the government when they could bring it down on issue after issue; Trotskyite anti-communism; and revisionist capitulation to “British” jingoism. Toppling the Tories would raise class war revolutionary perspectives that none of the “left” really want to contemplate despite their posturing pretences about Marxism. None of them see the humiliation that the Irish national-liberation struggle adds to the Brexiteers’ defeat and its revolutionary significance too. None draw the workers state lessons from the virus. Meanwhile Grenfell proves that reformism is useless. Build Leninism
The chaos, venality, incompetence, greed and arrogance of the ruling class and its out-of-time profit system is ever more sharply exposed by events.
Domestically, a humiliating Brexit “deal” is forced on the loser Tory reactionaries; Covid chaos kills thousands through money-grubbing croneyism and callous self-interest and incompetence; and the Grenfell fire inquiry revelations reveal the sick and indifferent profiteering of a rotten alienated system.
Internationally, there is non-stop warmongering and bullying threats of more to come; constant Zionist genocidal repression of Palestine and murderous raids in all directions; universal arms rackets, and Goebbels big lie blame-making excuses and provocations (against China, Russia, Iran etc,) along with near civil war in the US and the unstoppable widening growth of revolt and upheaval (usually labelled “terrorism”).
All, and more, underline not only the daily depravity of the crisis-ridden capitalist order, and its increasing inability to keep control, but equally the hopeless inadequacy of the fake-“left” circus, all shades.
The imperialist world is sinking ever more obviously into the sick barbarity that is its true and unchangeable nature but they still refuse to, don’t want to, or cannot even grasp the need to, put the devastating crisis collapse of the whole monopoly capitalist order at the heart of all analysis, the central issue that Marxist-Leninism has always focused on as the core of its scientific leadership (notably in the three volumes of Capital but throughout 100 volumes of writings and polemics by Marx, Engels, Lenin and others).
The petty bourgeois souls making up all the endless proliferation of “left” groups constantly boasting their hollow “Marxist” credentials, are afraid of the obvious consequence (spelled out by Lenin) of such an onrushing disaster, – the need for the world’s masses to wage all-out class-based civil war on this stinking, out-of-time depraved profit system to turn it over and end it for good, so that a rational and socially coherent socialist world can be built.
It is the only perspective that can make sense of events and guide the working class in its necessary and unavoidable struggle to change the world, but they still they go through the motions to bolster up the same old Labour party and its gross class collaborating treachery, or they take sides on the Brexit diversion, helping the ruling class’s whipping-up of chauvinism and diverting attention from the only question that matters, ending capitalism.
Until that happens, under the firm control and authority of the working class taking power, the gross profiteering and insane inequality, exploitation and plundering greed of the fatcat bourgeoisie will continue dragging mankind towards complete breakdown.
Already it has brought to world to a Catastrophe, now unravelling all political, social, environmental and economic life on a scale which has never been seen – not even in the appalling Depression and colonialist skirmishing in the run-up to the two horrifying world wars of the twentieth century, the only comparable experiences historically.
Only demented credit creation keeps anything going at all since the global meltdown in 2008 (and in fact for decades before that too) but it is heading for the greatest implosion of all, the economic equivalent of two black holes spinning around each other for aeons and then fusing in a sudden acceleration sending out gravity waves to shake the universe.
The existence of everyone on the planet will be disrupted and turned upside down in a way far beyond the damage done by the Covid pandemic (a shock development which has helped the bourgeoisie so far to hide the total failure of its system, behind the pretence of an “unforeseen natural disaster” which it lyingly pretends will eventually be “recovered from”) though perhaps tasted already by the devastated and blitzkrieged millions in the Middle East, Ukraine, Serbia etc.
Once there are vaccines in place, the world will see this virus was just a complicating factor, accelerating but not causing the already unfolding Great Crash of the entire profit based system.
The world was already riven with trade war hostility and fear (the wave ridden by Trumpism), worldwide “terrorist” revolt, the destruction of country after country in the Middle East, mind-numbing philistinism and the insane damage of ecological breakdown and world polluting consumerist waste, before this additional agony for the austerity hammered masses.
And capitalism’s contradictions mean it is inexorably heading for the devastating and destructive all-out war which is the only “way out” capitalism has ever had to its repeated crises.
Only in this context can the extraordinary shot-in-the-foot Brexit chaos being idiotically pushed through by the reactionary empire-nostalgic wing of the British bourgeoisie be understood.
Despite the extraordinary costs (for the masses, not the fatcats' hedge funds and other speculations) that the whole ludicrous exercise is imposing in lost production, red tape bureaucracy, shattered international relations and the breaking of the ever-more internationally interconnected supply chains and complex globalised production processes, there is one major benefit for this ruling class; that is the whipping-up of jingoism, idiot flag-waving chauvinism to try and stampede the population behind the “national interest”, drowning out all reason and rationality in a frenzy of vicious scapegoating hatred.
As Dr Johnson famously remarked, patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel and no more so than for the bourgeoisie when it is in trouble, to divert attention from the failings of its own system and prepare the masses for the blamemongering and international conflict to come.
It goes hand in hand with taking sides, in preparation for when the ever deepening international cutthroat competition becomes all-out beggar-thy-neighbour economic and then outright shooting war.
But it is a fraught business, particularly for the ossified British ruling class, caught between the grindstones of the great US Empire monopolies and the rival European bloc, dominated by the efficiency of German monopoly finance and industry (and with further pressure from giant Japan and to some extent the complicating factor of China’s use of capitalist methods for a part of its economy, successfully outcompeting the West).
Hence the agonising splits tearing the Tories apart for decades and their pale TUC/Labourite opportunist echoes too.
As many times explained, this ruling class turmoil is about which side to take in the coming inter-imperialist conflict.
The working class can have no skin in this game, which will leave it dominated by powerful monopoly exploitation either way, be they US and international combines or the monopolies of the “European bosses club” which much shallow fake-“leftism” declares wrongly to be the problem (thereby helping feed the flag-waving and chauvinist diversion).
For the moment the “traditional” wing of the bourgeoisie, lost in hopeless empire nostalgia and hollow fantasies of past greatness, has been carrying the day (with much help from twisting and breaking the rules even further of the already completely bent bourgeois “democracy” racket – witness the ridiculously manipulated referendum, the laughable and illegal December 2019 General Election and the contemptuous single-afternoon 4-hour “debate” just held to steamroller the “deal” through in a contemptuous parody of the “parliamentary sovereignty” supposedly just “reestablished”).
But it has gone horribly wrong.
Even if the bourgeois bluster and bravado about “outfacing the European Union in negotiations by being ready to walk away” had ever had been likely to produce the promised outcome, it was always going to be a disaster; a stand alone British economy is a nonsense in a world dominated by gigantic monopoly corporations.
The actual result is humiliation as various bourgeois analyses set out:
The threat of a no-deal Brexit has always been a hoax – and it has been one of the most successful deceptions in British political history. It was never a real option but has systematically lowered domestic expectations for a deal and allowed the government to avoid any serious scrutiny.
The idea that no deal was a plausible option never made any sense. When Theresa May first threatened that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, in her January 2017 Lancaster House speech, it was a bluff. It was an attempt to act as if Britain – by far the weaker party in the negotiations – had some leverage. It didn’t.
No deal would have been an act of colossal self-harm, disrupting food and medical supplies and undermining global financial stability. Even without the pandemic, it would have knocked the UK and European economies into recession. It would have been bad for the EU but far worse for Britain. No prime minister – or government – would have ever survived the fallout. It was never a real option.
The obvious alternative to a deal was never some imaginary doomsday after 31 December but the continuation of the status quo. Despite the rhetoric, transitionary agreements that kept everything the same for “as short as possible, as long as necessary” have been the revealed preference of both the EU and the British government as Brexit deadlines have come and gone. It would have been no different this time.
No deal was never a credible threat to the EU, but rather a powerful force to shape domestic politics.... the threat never carried real credibility in Brussels because the asymmetrical impact was so blindingly obvious.
The real policy of the government has been that any deal is better than no deal. The deal that has been struck is a lopsided agreement that secures the EU’s economic interests while undermining ours. In many respects, it offers poorer market access than recent deals between the EU and Japan, and the EU and Canada, while imposing much tougher obligations to ensure a “level playing field”. The most generous description is that it is a “thin deal”.
Yet the pro-Brexit British press is triumphant, hailing Johnson as some kind of hero. There is no reflection of reality in much reporting: the stronger party has secured most of its objectives, while the weaker party has accepted what it must. Even serious analysts pull their punches by prefacing their analysis with various formulations of “while it is better than no deal”. After a terrible year, most of the public simply feel relieved.
The fact that so many played along speaks volumes about our political class and media elite. It reveals a lack of critical thinking and remoteness from the real economy, from manufacturers to farmers to financiers. It also shows a predilection for political drama and titillation at wanton destruction... And with the official opposition not offering any opposition whatsoever, it has exempted the government from any serious scrutiny.
..voting through the deal will (not) bring closure....it simply reveals how disconnected Westminster is from reality. The deal will be costly for business and inconvenient and undignified for Britons travelling to the continent. It will create new tensions with Northern Ireland.
The final settlement is even more humiliating than that: after all the huffing and puffing about fishing rights, the Europeans get to keep a major percentage of their access, sailing to a 6-mile limit while the British must remain 12-miles outside their waters. Gibraltar, another sacred cow for the demented empire-nostalgics is to be absorbed into the European Schengen zone with Spain having a significant say on passport control, and with the long-term implication of eventual return of the colonised rock, bullied out of Spain in the eighteenth century.
The climbdown deal for the “Empire” throwbacks, still living in a nineteenth century haze of alleged “British superiority” built on the murderous, even genocidal, suppression and ruthless slave exploitation of colonies across the world, is most sharply lit by its retreat on the Ireland issue.
Either because they seriously fool themselves, or just cynically hope to tap petty bourgeois chauvinist backwardness, these arrogant Brexit attitudes are inextricably linked to the delusion that Britain’s writ still runs in “Northern Ireland”, the not-quite-six counties gerrymandered portion of the nine counties of Ulster ripped out of Ireland in 1921 by brutal black-and-tan violence to form a bastard colonial statelet for the Orange reactionary colonists (who were settled there on stolen land from the Stuart period onwards, maintaining their dominance by endless triumphalist and bloody violence and oppression against the Irish population).
This last remnant of 800 years of British colonial brutality and exploitation in Ireland and around the world (save weird exceptions like Ascension Island and a few Caribbean tax havens) was clung onto by a sour and truculent Westminster after the overall Irish national struggle had finally forced it to relinquish its grip in 1921, a deliberately sabotaging creation of a bastard “country” supposedly to remain part of the “United Kingdom” in perpetuity, its existence “democratically” ensured by the careful drawing of the border to give the colonist collaborators with imperialism a permanent majority, and leaving the “taigues” as forever underdogs, condemned to the worst housing, unemployment or menial work, without any rights and in permanent humiliation.
But the dogged and heroic national-liberation struggle by the Sinn Féin/Provisional IRA, fighting a military and political war against staggering Gestapo-style police and military repression, torture, deathsquads, and concentration camps for 30 years finally completed the centuries of Irish liberation struggle with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which in practice means the ending of British occupation and the ending of the Orange colonists' dominance, the steady transfer of authority and control to Dublin and eventual outright formal reunification of Ireland.
As the EPSR alone has analysed during this long and brutal guerrilla war struggle, the British began their retreat decades ago, no longer with the imperial clout and influence to hold on in a world of anyway steadily declining imperialist power overall (see EPSR Book Vol 8 on Ireland, EPSR 1195, 1224 eg, and (forthcoming) Books Vol 22 Ireland Two).
Notably from the Anglo-Irish Agreement under Thatcher in 1985 (after the political triumph of the terrible Hunger Strikes) Britain has slowly given ground since in a “snail’s pace” retreat from the Occupied Zone, always covering its tracks in order not to provoke a painful and destructive “Carson Trial” revolt by the Orange colonist reactionaries (though in reality their capacity to carry through a UDI was no longer up to it) and, just as importantly, to obscure and hide any indication that it was the armed revolutionary struggle that was pushing them back.
London was further leaned on by the rest of world imperialism, in Europe as well by Washington with its own huge and powerful Irish diaspora, to get the whole mess of fascist repression off the agenda, where it was poisoning the West’s efforts to pretend it stood for “freedom” against the “communist menace” – and which if continued with might push the whole struggle towards communist revolution itself rather than the more limited nationalist anti-imperialism of the Sinn Féin republicans.
The Good Friday Agreement which finally recognised the nationalist cause was hedged around with wool-pulling pretences about “democratic paths”, all tacitly agreed to on all sides as part of the settlement to cover over London’s retreat, even though it was understood that the future led only towards ultimate reunification.
The “no surrender” colonists had surrendered, despite the endless prevarications, “Unionist” foot-dragging, outrageous RUC and British intelligence provocations and stunts to try and sabotage the agreement continuing for nearly a decade until the St Andrews agreement in 2006 finally saw the establishment of power sharing.
The entire “left” ever since has failed to see any of this as the huge victory it was for the nationalists, as the EPSR was pointing out in 2004, declaring the republican struggle to have been-:
...both inevitable AND of colossal importance for the SOCIALIST revolutionary future of the British working class, (although SF is not socialist itself but strictly nationalist).
It was precisely the SLP, where these Sinn Féin groupies like to congregate, which DISMISSED the SF/IRA national liberation revolution as a failure, supposedly defeated by a “US imperialist imposed peace settlement” (meaning an end to the original national-liberation war ambitions).
Other ‘lefts’ described the Good Friday Agreement as a “capitulation to a now guaranteed-perpetual British ‘Northern Ireland’ statelet for ever”; and Scargill privately scorned the GFA by sneering that he would “never have settled for anything less than the immediate reunification of Ireland’, etc, etc, - the “revolution” by “left” demagogy to the last.
And this entire fake-’left’ is STILL getting it wrong, and STILL can’t see it, — that the Good Friday Agreement in fact precisely amounts to the END of the separate armed sectarian Orange-fascist-British-colonial statelet IN ALL BUT NAME, — and guarantees Ireland’s reunification in the not too distant future.
Which is exactly why the “Unionist” fascist-degeneracy political leadership STILL cannot bear to implement the GFA in spite of five years of stalling (which the British imperialist government goes along with for now, Dublin in tow, because of its own embarrassed reasons of wanting the reality of its capitulation(to Irish national liberation war aims in the GFA) to continue unrecognised for as long as possible, and to become as confused and murky as possible by all this subsequent 5 years of indecisive messing about. The cowardly Dublin Green Tories share exactly the same cynical interests with the British bourgeois establishment). (EPSR No 1224 16-03-04)
The murkiness has been stirred up all over again, post-2008, by the racketeering of the colonists, paralysing Stormont over corrupt heating subsidies, and then by Brexit and its attempts to inflame “empire” jingoism, to escape the paralysis of a ruling class hammered by the world crisis and Britain’s ever weakening position relative to its competitors.
Not least, the splits and turmoil in the austerity-paralysed Tory ruling class gave the diehard colonists an extraordinary and artificially magnified leverage for a period, especially during Theresa May’s government when they held the balance of votes in parliament, along with the most reactionary and backwoodsmen section of the Tories.
Their blackmailing attempts to turn to clock backwards with painfully forced declarations from Westminster that “Northern Ireland would always be part of the United Kingdom” and demands for extra funding, have stalled the snail’s pace process even further, but have also backfired badly, most obviously during the last general election, losing seats to the nationalists as many of the former colonists, now used to a peaceful existence, have turned away from re-starting the old triumphalism, reviving the “Troubles” once again.
The coordination with the South and free social and economic interchange, expressed symbolically by the essential disappearance of the border on Ireland is increasingly accepted, particularly as there is clearly no future privilege to be had from remaining “British” (however many £billions could be temporarily squeezed from a desperate London during a near-hung parliament).
The culmination, pushed by the Tory “empire” reactionaries too, who hated the Irish settlement from the beginning, has been the attempt to use the stampeded Brexit populism (now rapidly disintegrating anyway) to try and reverse the obvious steadily progressing fusion-in-practice of the north of Ireland with the 26 counties.
But this is a circle that cannot be squared as every halfway rational bourgeois politician (including John Major, Tony Blair and others who finally negotiated the GFA) have constantly warned, implying as it does the need for a “hard border” with the Irish south, which remains in the EU.
To impose one could only revive the nationalist struggle (however balanced and restrained the Sinn Féin, now able to use the “democratic means” denied it for centuries), and lead to an escalating need for police and military force, all the way back to complete occupation once more.
But that is the war that was already lost, and British imperialism has even less prestige and capacity now than it did then.
Blair etc know very well the reality of the GFA, and that its acceptance of a republican victory was implicit - to be manifest in the snail’s pace changes - and that tearing it up would be not only an abandonment of international principle and obligation but further proof of the untrustworthiness and duplicity of imperialism, openly inviting further armed struggle ultimately not just in Ireland but throughout the world.
Staggeringly, that is exactly what the Brexiters were blusteringly threatening throughout the long and fraught EU negotiations and even made explicit this year with their threat to renege on the “no-hard-border” agreement made as part of the leaving treaty last year.
Its fascist contempt is entirely in line with the Trumpite-Brexit belligerence against Europe in particular, driven by trade-war, and against the post-war settlement among all the major imperialist powers, with its elaborate conceit of an “international order” of “democracy and the rule of law”, “warcrime tribunals” and a “united Nations” as a cover for the imperialist Cold War alliance against communism and for policing suppression of the Third World (with the overwhelmingly dominant US Empire shouldering most of the cost of bribery for fascist stoogery, coup skulduggery and non-stop military interventions – at least 400 since the Second World War).
Trumpism reflects the US bourgeois wing which sees the cost of its gendarme role as now too expensive to maintain as crisis bites harder and the need fight the trade war competition becomes decisive for survival - which by no means implies any winding down of its military, but simply its redirection against its rivals.
Brexit wants to cut loose from the EU and line up on the US side but immediately ran into the Irish issue which could only be overcome by trampling across the GFA as proposed by the Internal Market bill.
There should be no “border in the Irish Sea” as the intransigent colonist reactionaries were pressing.
But there has to be a border somewhere if Britain is separating itself from the EU - which can only mean all the tariff, customs, health and product certification checks being done on the artificially created “Northern Ireland” border.
But the “international community” which forced the British to settle the issue in the first place has not gone away and most of all America itself, with tens of millions counting their “Irish descent” (including Joe Biden) a powerful influence; damage the GFA the US was forced to declare and all bets are off on future trade agreements – crucially important to a British bourgeoisie which is desperate to shelter behind US imperialism in the intensifying trade war (the main purpose of Brexit). Republicans and Democrats were together:
The bipartisan Ad Hoc Committee to Protect The Good Friday Agreement released a statement to that effect and signaled that it was mustering extra forces to shore up the GFA, even as the rift between Dublin, along with its EU partners, and London grows ever wider.
In a statement, the committee, co-chaired by former Congress members Bruce Morrison, a Democrat, and Jim Walsh, a Republican, stated that it had received a briefing from Irish Ambassador to the U.S. Dan Mulhall on the current Brexit negotiations and had requested a similar briefing from a senior diplomat at the Embassy of Great Britain.
The statement said: “We remain vigilant and with a new sense of urgency we are actively recruiting additional Irish American leaders and organizations to build a green wall to protect the Good Friday Agreement. We fully endorse and commend Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Richard Neal and Congressman Brendan Boyle for their strong and rapid response to the recent political decisions by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that have rashly put the Good Friday Agreement in jeopardy.
Britain said on Tuesday it would drop clauses in draft domestic legislation that breached the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement after it clinched a deal with the European Union over how to manage the Ireland-Northern Ireland border.
The deal is separate to wider trade talks, which have yet to find a solution on how to manage nearly $1 trillion of annual trade between Britain and the EU, despite having just weeks until temporary arrangements expire.
But the agreement removes what was a major point of contention between Britain and the EU, with Brussels warning that no wider trade deal would be possible if London went through with its threat to unpick the exit treaty.
U.S. President-Elect Joe Biden had also raised concerns about the clauses, casting doubt on British-U.S. trade deal talks, amid concerns that any form of border controls between the two parts of the island could undermine Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace deal.
Repeated British proposals to solve the issue using technology ended up coming to nothing: in the end, the price of an open border being compatible with Britain leaving the single market and customs union was new controls on trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain – the rest of the United Kingdom. These “east-west” controls contrast with the “north-south” controls that the agreement sought to avoid.
Some have described the new arrangement as a “sea border”, but it won’t mean you’ll need a passport to cross. The main people who will see a change will be those exporting and importing goods in Northern Ireland.
The exact nature of the east-west controls that Britain signed up to is disputed by the UK and EU, but they both accept there will be some.
What we know for sure is the UK will be imposing some controls on goods that come from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. There will be extra paperwork and spot checks. Some companies have said this could mean they stop exporting products to Northern Ireland.
There are also likely to be controls on goods in the opposite direction, notably “exit summary declarations”. The UK says these shouldn’t be necessary, but they are in the EU customs code, which Boris Johnson agreed to implement.
As well as underlining the losers hand played by the Brexit bluster, this climbdown is further confirmation of the EPSR’s analysis of the Irish struggle’s victory against all the defeatism poured out by the fake-“left” (as in the quote above) which continues to this day.
The momentum towards reunification becomes ever more apparent with most bourgeois commentators predicting that the growth of the Sinn Féin both north and south will soon make it the largest party on both sides of the border and able push for the border poll (referendum) that would formalise the unity of Ireland, the culmination of the Irish nationalist struggle.
Typical is the line from the CPGB revisionist Weekly Worker defying the evidence in front of their eyes, which sneers at any such outcome, declaring that the Green Tory reactionaries in Dublin are “not keen” (which is perhaps why their electoral position has been collapsing???) and turning Sinn Féin’s success (the party that has “benefitted most”) on its head:
The economic and political uncertainties caused by Brexit for both Belfast and Dublin have been some of the main reasons why reunification has become such an important issue in both jurisdictions. Polls seem to suggest that Brexit has shifted even unionist opinion on the possibilities of reunification and - combined with the emergence of groups like Ireland’s Future, made up of middle class northern nationalists - much of the political and media commentary plays up the idea that there is a growing momentum for Irish unity in the short term.9
The party that has most benefitted from these developments has been Sinn Fein: it has traded on its historical name and identification with the republican struggle for self-determination to seemingly place itself at the head of demands for Irish unity. Its electoral success in February’s Irish general election, its continuing lead in the opinion polls and its dominant position amongst the nationalist electorate north of the border reflect both the strength of these moods throughout Ireland and the ability of Sinn Fein to capitalise on them.10
However, Sinn Fein does not lead, nor does it seek to build, a militant mass movement campaigning for Irish unity. Despite positioning itself as an anti-establishment party on the left south of the border, its role in the Stormont executive shows its real commitment is to both the constitutional and economic status quo. Thus, Sinn Fein’s president, Mary Lou McDonald, argues:
Our immediate task is preparation for constitutional change. That needs to commence. In my view it would be reckless not to begin planning now. We want a referendum on unity, and we want to carry the day and we want to win it well. We want it to be orderly and peaceful and successful.11
These demands on ‘Irish unity’ focus on a border poll in Northern Ireland as stipulated in the Good Friday agreement. The mechanism for calling such a referendum is in the hands of the British secretary of state for Northern Ireland, who must decide whether it is ‘likely’ that a majority for reunification would result. The evidence that needs to be considered in making such an assessment is not defined in the legislation, and clearly the power of initiative remains firmly in the hands of a British government.
Even if opinion polls continued to point to growing support for Irish unity and Sinn Fein became the largest single party in the assembly, there is no legislative imperative for the secretary of state to accede to demands to call a referendum. Given the Johnson government’s hostility to another referendum on Scottish independence and fears about the break-up of the UK, the possibilities for such a border poll look exceedingly remote.
As well as relying on the good offices of the secretary of state, Sinn Fein’s ‘strategy’ for reunification talks up the “historic, inevitable momentum” towards Irish unity, resulting from “the rapid changes wrought by Brexit”, and the political implications of the shifting demographic balance between Catholics and Protestants in the Six Counties. 12 These assumptions about how the growth of the Catholic population will translate ‘ automatically’ into votes for reunification have been rightly questioned in the light of recent assembly and Westminster election results, and evidence that many middle class Catholics have come to terms with their secure position as a recognised part of Northern Ireland’s ‘new dispensation’.13
Such demographic determinism and reliance on blind economic forces is far removed from the political subjectivity and agency of the militant Irish republican tradition or the promise of revolutionary transformation contained in the demand for self-determination and the democratic resolution of the national question. So too are the Sinn Fein leadership’s ideas of the gradual evolution of the structures of the Good Friday agreement towards reunification, with the British government acting as persuaders for peaceful orderly change.14
However, if Sinn Fein’s line on reunification is a triumph of hope over experience - a utopian wish list in place of a strategy - then the Irish left in general does little better in its approach to the national question and the new possibilities opened up by Brexit.
As I discussed in my last article, many on the Irish left sidestep reunification as a political issue by counterposing demands for socialism and class politics to the national question. The Socialist Party, for example, makes “workers’ unity between Protestants and Catholics against sectarianism and capitalist exploitation” a precondition for the ending of partition through the common struggle for socialist change and a “socialist Ireland”.15 Similar thinking can be found amongst the comrades from Solidarity and Rise, who variously argue for a “socialist Ireland with no coercion and the rights of minorities guaranteed” on the basis that “there is no just or democratic solution to the national question on the basis of capitalism”. Rounding off these demands with an internationalist flavour, they call for a “free, equal and voluntary socialist confederation of Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales as part of a democratic, socialist Europe”.16
To declare Sinn Féin “does not lead a militant mass movement”, must be one of the most astounding inversions of reality ever along with the notion that it is committed to the “status quo”.
But its use of “constitutional means” is possible only because it waged the long and bitter armed national-liberation war which finally forced Britain into the long slow retreat of the GFA - and tacit acceptance that reunification was coming, hidden behind the veil of “democratic means”.
Of course it “trades on” that history, because that is what it won.
Like all the fake-“left” this petty bourgeois impressionism is in thrall to the ruling class which it seems can simply refuse to hold a referendum and thereby stymie the nationalist momentum.
But Westminster, and the colonists, said “no surrender” for decades - and where are we now?
And the Brexiters were saying “no” to the soft border - and where are we now?
Not surprisingly these petty bourgeois pretenders go on to rely on “middle class Catholics” who apparently will say “no” too.
Makes one wonder why the Americans are getting so worked up - or rather why these mountebank pretend Marxists cannot see why.
However drawn out the process, the Irish reunification is coming, achieved by the republicans’ heroic fight.
Its impact on Brexit, forcing the Tory climbdown is further evidence for the EPSR’s understanding.
It will help undermine further the backward and reactionary British nationalism which the ruling class is trying to mobilise, to confuse the working class and divert its attention from the only way forwards, the struggle
As Marx understood long ago, the British working class would never free itself for as long as it colluded with the ruling class in the brutal suppression of other nations and peoples, poisoning itself with colonialist-racist prejudice and hampering its own understanding of the need to wage a revolutionary class war to overturn the whole system.
But while Sinn Féin’s momentum helps clear the decks of such defunct “empire” hubris, it only goes so far, its strictly nationalist perspective falling well short of the Leninist understanding needed everywhere and giving few clues about the unstoppable crisis collapse about to hammer Ireland, united or not.
The posturing of the fake-“left” “socialists” in Ireland, missing or decrying the significance of the SF advance, and equating the colonist “workers” with the Irish working class is no answer - and in the case of the CPGB itself, so addle brained that it was long calling for a new smaller 3-county “northern Ireland” for the Orange bigots to lord it over for yet more generations, in a weird perversion of the “right of nations to self-determination” - see EPSR No1110 30-10-01 eg).
This relentless defeatism colouring the “left” on all issues, means they fail to understand the failure and weakness of a ruling class that is floundering badly in the face of the crisis.
Jingoistic flag waving is supposed to cover-up and distract from the disastrous collapse of the world economy, and the ever more obvious monstrousness of capitalism, gross at the best of times and with no more serious “communist threat” to blame, the obvious cause of the deepening poverty, repression and war disintegration in the world.
But when its trumpet blowing bragging is so obviously hollow, the opportunities open up to spell out both the need and the possibilities for the working class to take up the revolutionary cause.
Both the Covid floundering and the revelations around the horrific Grenfell fire inquiry pose revolutionary questions - but still the fake - “left” fails to set out the obvious lessons.
Even bourgeois commentators have been making the point that the Covid disaster and the incompetence, confusion, prevarication and profiteering it has exposed, along with the grotesque inequalities, which put those who must work (and those without work or much to survive on at all) at the greatest risk, demands a complete re-think of how society is organised.
None of course present it as challenging the fundamental class structure of society, but by implication they swing close, like the “soft” Tory Simon Jenkins:
Come the day of reckoning, who gets blamed? No one could call this week’s reopening of England’s local schools anything but a shambles. The prime minister has declared that all primary schools are “safe … very, very important to stress that” and must stay open. That appears not to apply where they stay shut, as in London and possibly Manchester, Newcastle, Slough, Brighton ….
The appearance is of a man embattled in Downing Street, wholly out of touch with the country he is governing. Inconvenience, cost and stress are inflicted on millions, with Boris Johnson seemingly concerned only for his daily press conference.
No government in Europe has had an easy ride over the past nine months, but none has had a worse one than Britain’s. Indecision on lockdown was followed by chaotic PPE supplies, the “world-beating” test-and-trace shambles, school exam confusion and now the multi-form bureaucratic deterrent to potential vaccinators.
British politics likes to keep blame simple.
Certainly Johnson’s lack of grasp over his government is distressing to see. He sacked many of his best colleagues from Theresa May’s team and replaced them with nonentities. The nation is paying a high price for a prime minister who puts blind loyalty before ability.
But the current incompetence of British government is due not just to poor ministers. The PPE contract scandal exposed deep-seated cronyism in state procurement. The decanting of sick elderly people from hospitals into care homes showed institutional NHS contempt for private care. Last year’s exams algorithm debacle was the result of officialdom’s obsession with quantification. The multibillion-pound test-and-trace fiasco resulted from Whitehall’s aversion to local government.
Coronavirus has revealed a country so ill-governed that current politicians cannot be blamed for all of it. The traditional model holds that ministers decide on the general direction of policy and officials interpret and implement it. This balance of roles has been eroded at least since the turn of the century, largely by a ministerial craving for headlines that led to a daily welter of central initiatives, interventions and vanity projects. Officials are expected not to challenge but to obey.
This has clearly affected the calibre and morale of the civil service, with high-profile departures from Downing Street, the Home Office and Foreign Office. Johnson also gave too much prominence to scientists, hoping to blame them if things went wrong, and then found himself in perpetual conflict with them. This in turn allowed Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to appear blessed with decisive and clear-sighted leadership by contrast.
Come the inevitable inquiry into the events of the past year, it is not only politicians who should carry the can. All the components of Britain’s government, central and local, should be tested – the constitution as a whole should be under examination.
What this cannot bring itself to explain is that it is capitalism itself to blame, not just because of its contemptuous alienating profiteering but because of its entire individualist, antagonistic “competitive” society and its “freedoms” which are no freedom at all, but the domination and dictatorial control and exploitation of great mass by the property “owning” bourgeoisie.
Nor will he bring out the long slow counter-revolutionary decline (starting with Reagan/Thatcherism) which has torn up all the public provision of the post-war years, which opportunist Labourite parliamentary reformism (backed by assorted “lefts”, even to this day) promised the working class would be the road towards a steady improvement of their lives, eventually reaching, step-by-step, the uplands of a fair socialist society.
Plenty of other nervous commentaries declare too that “things must change”.
But none will look to the obvious lesson delivered by the pandemic, which is the calmness and coherence with which the collectively organised societies, and most obviously China, Vietnam and Cuba, have dealt with the Covid threat.
Because of the voluntarily accepted collective discipline followed in the workers states under the planning and control of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the public provision and organisation of services, the pandemic has been kept under control, deaths limited to a few hundred (against hundreds of thousands in the US for example) and normality restored as far as possible.
Test and tracing was efficiently set up and crucially, provision made to support and look after daily needs for everyone obliged to stay in quarantine so that they were not forced out to work etc.
Socially and economically, life has been restored and Wuhan, the city initially most affected, was able to celebrate the New Year as normal, with streets full and a population filling the bars and cafes.
There is plenty that can be criticised about Beijing’s revisionist leadership and has been and will be, by Leninism.
But the central lesson which overrides all else is that society can only move forwards once it has overturned the dictatorship of the bourgeois and its degenerate profiteering, to establish the firmest of working class control.
Even as petty bourgeois doubt about society deepens, shaken by events, the bourgeois press, particularly the Trot-saturated “liberal” Guardian where Jenkins pens his pieces, has been working overtime to make sure that no such lessons are learned, pouring out bilious hate story after story of mischief making, distortions, and outright lies about China in particular, fed them by the endless “democracy foundations” and other mysterious think tanks, mostly funded by American billionaires, the US government or western intelligence agencies
Specious stories, nonsense and outright lies about “forced sterilisation”, “slave labour” have supplemented the distortions about “China failing to control the virus” etc - the most ludicrous being the staggering hypocrisy of the new Jewish Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis protesting the “human rights” of Muslims in Xinjiang province – fresh we assume from praying for the preservation of the Zionist occupation of Palestine, the landtheft “Israel”, which is probably the leading oppressor and slaughterer of Muslims in the world with its non-stop genocidal repression of Gaza and the West Bank, blitzkriegs and general smiting of the entire Arab world (save the backward stooge feudalism in Saudi and the Gulf).
None of this gets effectively challenged by the poisonous fake-“left” Trots of course whose petty bourgeois minds are so totally hostile to working class discipline that they swallow and regurgitate virtually all this garbage (often supplemented by their own lurid anti-communist embellishments).
But neither does the revisionist wing of fake-“leftism” – ostensibly pro-workers state – do anything effective to give the working class any leadership on this either; the museum Stalinists in Lalkar/Proletarian cannot even bring themselves to say that China is a workers state at all, just “anti-imperialist”.
But this is the pivotal question - either the world is run by the bourgeoisie and its dictatorship or the working class overthrows it by class war, to establish its firm class rule under which socialism can be built. There has been no counter-revolution in China however many doubts can be raised about how far it allows capitalist methods to run and a billionaire group to develop.
But the revisionists long ago lost their edge under Stalin, retreating to a “permanent peaceful coexistence” philosophy which abandoned the understanding of revolution as the crucial principle to guide all understanding and practice (see Unanswered Polemics EPSR Books Vol 21) and with it the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The continuing inquiry into the horrifying 2017 Grenfell tower block fire disaster in which 76 people died, is also delivering lessons in the venality and cynical callousness of capitalism, and on the hopeless opportunism of the fake-“left” and its refusal to draw revolutionary lessons for the working class.
Quite apart from the sheer contempt and arrogance of the ruling class for workers and proletarians revealed by a disgusting catalogue of gobsmacking incompetence, overwork, cutbacks, lax procedures, bribery, financial bullying, profiteering, rule-breaking and indifference (see following cuttings), the testimonies and admissions at the inquiry have also undercut all politics of “steady progress” and reining-in and “controlling the excesses” of capitalism.
Housing is one sector of the economy that embodies nearly all the principles of Labourite and TUC reformism, from the “provision of council housing” in the first place, and setting of “decent standards” of accommodation, to building safety and comfort. It is bound around with provisions for design standards, materials standards, safety standards and fire safety rules. A slew of organisations and sacrosanct professional principles supposedly tests and checks materials and their application, designs, the implementation, the choice of contractors and their work standards. There are fire safety officers, building regulation inspectors, site control officers etc etc. to oversee and monitor.
But from top to bottom the evidence is of forced cost cutting, cheapskate contracts, use of (cheaper) untrained staff, profiteering and fund siphoning, slipshod, bent and fixed testing (knowingly to supply inflammable materials), and networks of croneyism, backscratching and blind-eyeing, all deliberately encouraged by a ruling class culture of money making and cheeseparing with utter disregard for ordinary lives.
And this normality of capitalism in even the best of times, in which the drive to make profit will nearly always override and find ways round any “regulation", was compounded by the imposition of Slump driven draconian cutbacks and “privatisation”, reducing training, staffing levels and resources, so that even the most well meaning of officials were overworked and harassed.
And what does the “left” do? Simply ride in behind the calls for “justice” for the victims, when what needs to be said is that firstly there can never be any justice for those who have been killed or suffered agonies of bereavement; and that even if a few selected scapegoats were eventually to be punished (and even that is not guaranteed), capitalism overall will trample allover the working class.
The same profiteering and freemasonry rackets will not only go on but worsen as the capitalist crisis deepens and the cutthroat battles to survive push companies and organisations to the limit
And it certainly will not change in the future; even now half a million people live in nightly terror in similarly clad and deadly towers, their properties valueless and vast sums demanded of them for reparation, while landowners and corporations evade any responsibilities.
And nothing will change because making profit is the entire rational for bourgeois society in the last resort, ready to override all safety principles, environmental considerations, ecological damage and human degradation – and what cannot be done legally will be done illegally, through corruption, dirty dealing, freemasonry and mafia operations as some of the inquiry reports have been making clear:
The insulation manufacturer Celotex said it was “shocked by the tragic events”. The “rainscreen” maker Arconic was “devastated” and stressed that the causes of the fire were “not yet known”.
Kingspan, which made some of the insulation, said everyone at the firm had been “deeply shocked”.
The public inquiry into the Grenfell fire has finished its work for this year, after weeks in which it has heard remarkable testimony that has put these firms under harsh scrutiny; on occasions, contrasting public pronouncements with what they were saying in private.
Adrian Williamson QC, counsel for the bereaved and survivors, said the evidence revealed “an industry in which Arconic, Celotex and Kingspan were content to push hazardous products into the marketplace and sought to market them dishonestly”.
For instance, the inquiry heard how in 2013 Celotex executives had known that “in the event of a fire [its insulation] would burn”. In 2007 Kingspan’s tests had also caused “a raging inferno”.
In 2009 an Arconic executive had shared images of a burning tower fitted with similar panels to those it sold to Grenfell “to show you how dangerous PE [polyethylene] can be when it comes to architecture”.
Ivor Meredith had been “a bit of a DJ and a raver” as well as a technical manager for Kingspan. The inquiry was told that when he had not been making party trips to Amsterdam, his job was to help get the Irish firm’s insulation on to the tall apartment blocks sprouting up everywhere in Britain’s cities.
Since 1992, any material on a high-rise had to be of limited combustibility, but the rules changed in 2005. If a combination of materials passed a fire test it could be used.
That year Kingspan had carried out a test on a 6-metre high wall using its K15 brand of phenolic foam.
It had been “unrepresentative of normal cladding construction”, but it passed. Meredith’s job was to maintain the impression that the material could be used in line with building regulations.
This had been made harder when Kingspan altered the foam’s chemical mix. When tested in 2007 the new formula had become a 600C “raging inferno”.
Meredith sent an “animated report” to make sure his bosses were aware, but he was “criticised for not being very positive about our products”, he told the inquiry.
Despite the new formula, Kingspan had stuck to using the 2005 test pass to help sell the foam boards. Meredith had run more tests “to get the technology to pass, to justify our lie”, he said.
One strategy had been to test the spread of flame across the foil which covered the boards. This was “a bit of a cheat”, the inquiry heard.
Adrian Pargeter, Kingspan’s director of technical, said the test had been in line with building regulations guidance that either “the product or surface material of a composite product” meet fire standards.
But this effectively meant “you could staple the foil facer to dynamite and put it on a building above 18 metres and call it class 0”, suggested counsel to the inquiry, Richard Millett QC.
More full-scale tests failed in 2007 and 2008 but the results had not been communicated to clients, Meredith said.
If Kingspan was challenged it had responded aggressively. When Wintech, a facade engineering company, had raised questions, the technical manager Philip Heath had told Meredith: “Wintech can go f*ck themselves, and if they are not careful we’ll sue the arse off them.”
Heath had been similarly dismissive when a contractor had complained: “You have not substantiated … on what basis the Kooltherm K15 is suitable for buildings over 18m?”
“[They] are getting me confused with someone who gives a dam [sic],” Heath said.
The role took its toll on Meredith, who told the inquiry he “always had concerns about K15”.
“I tried to do my best to sit on my thoughts,” he said. “It was a nightmare.”
For 18 months before he was sacked his recreational partying had become a serious drug habit.
He had summed his predicament up in an exit interview: “I have been put in a situation where I have had to maintain performance that perhaps our products don’t deserve.”
Construction materials come with safety certificates which designers, builders and building control officers rely on as assurance they aren’t breaking fire safety laws.
It is an arcane world: the British Board of Agrément (BBA) rules on a material’s performance; Local Authority Building Control (LABC) decrees if a material meets regulations; and NHBC, a warranty and insurance provider for new homes, assesses risk.
They are supposed to guarantee safety but product manufacturers at Grenfell treated them as “mere marketing tools”, the inquiry heard.
It was “great news” in 2009, when Heath told colleagues that LABC had awarded K15 a certificate for use on high-rise buildings, saying that it was “limited combustibility”.
It had in part been based on a certificate acquired the previous year, which had made no mention that it related only to testing of a specific use of the material against a masonry wall. Kingspan had not told the BBA about the change in the foam’s chemistry making it burn like a “raging inferno”.
Heath told a colleague they had thrown so much data at the LABC certificator “we probably blocked his server”.
“We didn’t even have to get any real ale down him!” he had said.
Later, when the BBA had been alerted to concerns about its certificate, Heath had told his colleagues to “let the file gather dust”.
The reason for stalling, Meredith explained, had been that if changes were made “it could limit sales”.
The inquiry heard testimony that influential people had known there were problems.
In 2014 the NHBC called the LABC certificate “all garbage”.
In Whitehall, Brian Martin, the government official responsible for building regulations about fire, had also heard about foam insulation being used on high-rise residential towers and had emailed NHBC with “a friendly warning” that such foam insulations were not of limited combustibility.
But Kingspan had pushed back saying there had been two successful tests, even though the inquiry heard one of these had been a fail.
It was “a deliberate lie”, counsel to the inquiry Kate Grange QC suggested to Kingspan executive Tony Millichip.
The Grenfell Tower landlord rejected professional help to check that the planned refurbishment met building regulations in order to save £30,000, the public inquiry into the disaster has heard.
In the latest evidence of cost-cutting before the June 2017 fire that claimed 72 lives, it emerged the Kensington and Chelsea tenants’ management organisation decided to do the job itself to keep costs down. The total cost of the works was around £10m.
Philip Booth, a project manager for Artelia, a construction consultant that was already working for the landlord, told the inquiry that his firm made a detailed offer to carry out the role of client design adviser, which would have involved it checking the multiple changes made from the original plans by contractors. These contractors included Harley, which was responsible for installing the combustible facade blamed for spreading the fire.
In early 2014 Claire Williams, the project manager for the Grenfell works at the TMO, asked Artelia to put forward a proposal for the role. It had carried out the same task on a neighbouring leisure centre and academy project for the council. Artelia told Williams it could review the builders’ plans and make sure they met British and European standards and “all statutory and planning requirements”.
Booth told the inquiry that on a project such as Grenfell, which underwent significant cost-cutting, having a client design adviser was a good idea. But the proposal was rejected.
Booth said its proposed role would have included checking against building regulations, including on fire safety, but Williams “was very clear that she felt that the TMO with their experience and expertise did not need the extra support … and could do it themselves and did not need the additional support and fees”.
The inquiry has already found that the facade, constructed using cheaper materials after the cost-cutting exercise, breached building regulations. Plastic-filled cladding panels swapped in for zinc in the original, more expensive design were the main cause of the spread of fire, which engulfed the 24-storey tower in less than 30 minutes.
Booth was asked by counsel to the inquiry: “Did they expressly say that to you – ‘we don’t want to incur the additional fees’?”
He replied: “Well, yes, they were very much about: do we need this role, you know, it’s 30 grand or whatever it was.”
Earlier this week another Artelia witness, Simon Cash, told the inquiry that the tower’s owner, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, changed the priorities on the project so that “value for money” was placed ahead of quality.
The fire engineer on Grenfell Tower did not look at plans showing the building might be wrapped in aluminium cladding panels before advising that the works would not increase the risk of fire spreading across the building.
Appearing at the public inquiry into the disaster that killed 72 people, Terry Ashton, a senior associate at fire engineer Exova, was asked whether he created a “false sense of security” in the design team after he admitted he had not looked at plans emailed to him about overcladding the building.
Ashton’s role was to advise on the fire safety of the refurbishment and its compliance with building regulations, but he denied abdicating his responsibilities by not finding out about the cladding, which would later be found to have been the prime accelerant of the 14 June 2017 blaze.
In October 2012, architects Studio E sent him a detailed design report spelling out plans to overclad the building, possibly with aluminium panels. It included plans and sections showing how the cladding would be fixed and a detailed diagram of the build-up of the system, showing the insulation and existing building. But he did not open it.
Ashton said he did not know about plans to clad the building and that he did not look at the designs as he was not specifically asked to. He said his decision was partly because they were “very lengthy documents”.
He subsequently produced a fire safety strategy that made no mention of plans to reclad the tower, and concluded: “The proposed changes will have no adverse effect on the building in relation to external fire spread, but this will be confirmed by an analysis in a future issue of this report.” The wording remained the same in two subsequent reports.
Neither was there anything in his fire strategy about the need for cavity barriers to prevent flames spreading through the cladding system, or the building’s “stay put” strategy. The first phase of the inquiry has already found that lives were lost because of the advice to remain in place, and that cavity barriers failed to prevent flames and smoke racing up the building.
Only revolution can ever change this sick degeneracy, but the fake-“left” still avoids putting this at the top of every analysis, if they mention it at all.
Of course the relatives and bereaved fighting for their justice should be supported, but the best way to do that is in the fight for revolutionary consciousness.
Back to the top
Exposure of the pernicious influence petty-bourgeois ideology has on the proletariat starts from the battle to correctly analyse the latest world developments in the international class struggle against capitalism’s degeneration into slump and war catastrophe. A focus on subjective personality flaws is harmful because it diminishes the role of revolutionary theory and has the potential to shut down debate
Unrestrained polemical struggle to understand all issues confronting the working class has to take place if revolutionary perspectives for overturning capitalism and the building of collective socialist societies is become the dominant ideology of the proletariat once again.
The role of the revolutionary party is to lead this battle for a return to an international Marxist-Leninist outlook for the creation of proletarian-dictatorships to end the bourgeois-capitalist system of poverty, alienation and war for the masses, and unimaginable levels of wealth and power for the very tiny few.
Chris Barratt’s letter on “inner-party life” [EPSR 1586] (which follows a decade of at times heated and fractious debate on cadre development and party-building) makes some useful points on how to lead this party-led discussion in a way that ensures that dissenters to the party-line on specific issues are not driven away unnecessarily.
Unfortunately, the useful aspects of his argument has been obscured by a lot of out-of-context exaggeration, hyperbole and lurid personal allegations that provoked an overly defensive response at times.
Being open to the working class about differences within the party, and willing to fight them out publicly to a conclusion that best reflects objective reality are crucial, as Leninism has always understood. A way needed to have been found to bring the dispute within the EPSR’s supporters group out into the open when it first emerged a decade ago, whilst avoiding a descent into a he-said-she-said squabble, so that the political differences could be drawn out and clarified.
The point of this letter is not to go over all the allegations levelled against the EPSR’s leadership over the last decade. Don Hoskins’ two recent letters discusses some of this. Rather, it is an attempt to challenge the philosophical perspective around the question of party-building and the importance of theory that seems to underpin Barratt’s arguments.
Despite the useful points made, the comrade’s piece overall turns the materialist outlook of Leninist theory on its head by one-sidedly isolating the individual from any real world context, and suggesting that any advancement towards building a revolutionary party has to start from combatting subjective personality weaknesses and “psychological” flaws.
For all his claims to be “fighting for Leninism”, the struggle for a revolutionary theory based on a correct understanding of the objective world barely gets a look in.
Instead, we are told that the key to “strengthening the EPSR and building the confidence of its supporters and leadership” is to focus on combatting in individuals something he presents as a psychological illness or flaw which he capitalises as “PBI” (petty-bourgeois individualism).
Although touched on very briefly, the necessary exposure of the negative influence petty-bourgeois ideology has on the proletariat is largely hidden from view in his letter and replaced by an internal battle to suppress internal “petty-bourgeois individualist drives” he claims were formed during childhood.
This new “PBI” is a different phenomenon from petty-bourgeois ideology or influences. As Hoskins pointed out in his two responses, it appears as a “thing-in-itself”, a substance that can only be “exposed” if cadres are alert to various “signs” of its manifestation in an individual’s “words and actions”.
Barratt abstractly describes thirteen “signs” (which are presented as symptoms of an illness) and then treats the existence of “PBI” as an established objective fact, despite the comrade not providing any factual scientific evidence to prove its existence. “PBI” is merely asserted to exist. This contradicts the Leninist approach to scientific enquiry.
Lenin describes how theory starts from the concrete circumstances of any phenomena in question. It then attempts to build up an overall understanding of it from the totality of the “precise and indisputable” facts related to it, and establish the inter-connections between these facts so that the specific context becomes clear in which the subject under examination is emerging:
The most widely used, and most fallacious, method in the realm of social phenomena is to tear out individual minor facts and juggle with examples. Selecting chance examples presents no difficulty at all, but is of no value, or of purely negative value, for in each individual case everything hinges on the historically concrete situation. Facts, if we take them in their totality, in their interconnection, are not only stubborn things, but undoubtedly proof-bearing things. Minor facts, if taken out of their totality, out of their interconnection, if they are arbitrarily selected and torn out of context, are merely things for juggling with, or even worse.…We must seek to build a reliable foundation of precise and indisputable facts that can be set against any of the general’ or ’example-based’ arguments now so grossly misused in certain countries. And if it is to be a real foundation, we must take not individual facts, but the sum total of facts, without a single exception, relating to the question under discussion. Otherwise there will be the inevitable, and fully justified, suspicion that the facts were selected or compiled arbitrarily, that instead of historical phenomena being presented in objective interconnection and inter dependence and treated as a whole, we are presenting a ‘subjective’ concoction to justify what might prove to be a dirty business. This does happen ... and more often than one might think.
[Lenin, Statistics and Sociology, January 1917, Collected Works, volume 23]
Here, Lenin is writing about the role of statistics in helping to understand historical situations, but fact-based evidence is also necessary if an objective, materialist theory about the psychological development of individuals is to be developed. Chris Barratt doesn’t provide any proof. He merely asserts “PBI” to be true.
The comrade could have based his polemic on “inner-party life” on the international proletariat’s rich historical experience of leadership and revolutionary party-building, including Lenin’s leadership of the Bolsheviks in comparison to the later leaderships of the Soviet Union, or to Castro’s maximum-leader model, or Grenada’s New Jewel Movement’s attempts at developing collective leadership; or even the EPSR’s own experiences of fighting for Leninism.
Or better still would have been to start from the EPSR’s attempts to analyse world developments as they unfold, including any possible shortcomings or mistakes – inevitable given its limited resources and the tiny number of supporters engaged in the discussion at present. This could include a written analysis of the dispute with the SouthWest over Obama, where he argues that mistakes were made in responding to their objections (including his own admitted errors), and how he thinks it should have been handled differently.
As quoted from EPSR No0803 in Hoskins’ second letter, revolutionary leadership starts from correctly analysing the world situation, and the party’s relationship to the working class is undermined if it gets its analysis wrong. The strength and confidence of cadres comes from having a leadership that interprets the world correctly. This is the only possible basis for unity.
However, the comrade has taken as a starting point an Internet article by Stephanie MacMillan (see Barratt’s letter for the reference), which may profess to be “anti-capitalist” and “for revolution”, but it does not make any claims to Leninism, or have anything to do with building a revolutionary party of leadership.
Her article is not based on any concrete historical situations but on her own subjective notions of how individuals engaged in an activist collective should conduct themselves, and so Barratt’s piece turns out to be an abstraction built on an abstraction.
Take his point 4 as an example:
4. Subjectivism. This is not always easy to spot because people can have elaborate ways of convincing themselves they are being objective; but one giveaway is that PBI has struck when a comrade admits that they were thinking about something before an incident which is what led to their flashes of anger at another comrade; in other words they are not thinking objectively about the latest incident or discussion with a comrade, they already have a negative response in their mind from stewing over it previously.
The opening clause does not make any sense. It would be more comprehensible if the argument is that “people can have elaborate ways of convincing others they are being objective” … but convincing themselves?
Just because someone has found a way of convincing themselves they are being objective, it does not follow that it is not clear to others that the individual is taking a subjective position if they have a good understanding of the phenomenon discussed.
Taking the above quote from Lenin as a starting point, the way to expose a subjective response to a specific argument is to try to present the phenomena discussed in its totality and demonstrate where the contradictions in the critic’s argument are. This may be extremely difficult to do, and may require a lot of study. One individual cannot know the totality of everything, and so mistakes or one-sidedness arising from their limitations of knowledge are possible.
A revolutionary party therefore is required to correct such subjective short-comings through discussion and debate towards an agreed collective understanding of objective reality. By participating fully in the debate, the confidence of party cadres are enhanced as their understanding of the subject grows. They are then better able to respond to criticisms as they emerge.
“Subjectivism” in the sense that Lenin describes it in the above quote – selectively or arbitrarily tearing individual minor facts out of context and juggling with examples to justify an argument – reflects a petty-bourgeois class influence and an attempt to avoid looking at material reality in its totality. An honest, but limited or flawed attempt to understand the world does not necessarily come from the same class position.
How is it possible to distinguish between the two, except through a polemical debate aimed at raising understanding to a higher level?
But the comrade does not seem to have theory in mind. He does not describe a party-led battle to win the proletariat over to a correct perspective on the world (i.e. - Leninism); and he does not explain what he means by ‘subjectivity’. Here, it is presented as a symptom of a psychological disorder that can “strike” an individual and lead them to display “flashes of anger”.
Although he does not describe a concrete situation, it is clear from the way the example has been written that he has a specific incident in mind (presumably one in which he was involved), but the abstract way in which he describes it merely obscures the question. Explaining the “incident or discussion” involves describing all the facts in their totality, including the context in which it took place, and their connections with the facts of the previous “incident” he mentions. Only then can the situation be fully understood.
Apart from this cryptic example, he says nothing else about subjectivism, and so the explanation itself becomes one-sided – i.e. subjective.
The comrade does mention
“building Leninist revolutionary theory”, “seeking UNITY and conflict” (why the capitalisation?), “communist discussion” and “inner-party discussions”
at various points throughout the piece, but this merely hints at the understanding that these discussions are aimed establishing a correct revolutionary perspective on world events around which people coming towards the party can unite.
Perhaps the comrade did not spell this out explicitly because he assumes that it is understood and so no further comment is needed; or perhaps he thinks that the understanding that the EPSR has built to date is enough and no further advancement is needed. However, this would be a recipe for disaster as new phenomena emerges all the time. History is constantly shifting and changing. The EPSR’s understanding has to be continuously reassessed in the light of new developments if it is to keep up with events and win the confidence of workers.
In a discussion on party-building, this fight for theory has to be put to the forefront as it is the reason why the revolutionary party exists. The over-riding concern in the comrade’s letter is how party cadres conduct themselves in discussions. It doesn’t seem to matter what a comrade says as long as it is not said too harshly. “Unity” is to be achieved simply by striving for “maximum comradeliness” alone, it seems.
The comrade is right to say that in any disputes between comrades (such as the dispute ten years ago against the SouthWest over Obama which led to a split and still resonates today in this latest challenge – though not expressed explicitly) should be conducted in the most enlightened way possible; that the polemic should be allowed to run its full course; and that a too rigorous response initially risks shutting the a line of argument down before it has been allowed to develop, and thereby driving people away.
Unfortunately, despite making a valid point, he stops short of explaining it clearly, and uses an odd choice of words. Instead of pointing out the need to further develop understanding by giving full rein to any opposing arguments raised, he writes in point 8 about “seeing and understanding their concerns.”
It is unclear why he writes about “concerns” rather than “arguments”. It can suggest a top-down approach in which an already established party-line is handed down from the leadership to cadres, who in turn might express “concern” if they do not feel they have been listened to properly or talked to in the right way. However, it does not follow from this that they are necessarily given the opportunity to raise criticisms or develop the understanding further.
Inner-party disputes can become very unpleasant and rancorous, and a lot of heat can be raised from all sides. But it this does not mean that irritability or angry words or looks signify some sort of deep-seated unconscious mental illness (“PBI”) as the comrade claims.
Anger is a basic human emotion. Even Lenin got angry at times and he could use very sharp language to express it, as can be seen in these private letters to his sister, Anna:
Bulgakov simply made me mad; such nonsense, such utter nonsense, and such eternal professorial pretentiousness—what the devil is this?! No wonder Syn Otechestva has already praised him! We’ll see how he finishes up.
I’m very sorry the écrivain did not write anything about Gvozdyok. I wanted to curse him for all I was worth, but I saw he was a contributor to the same journal and felt myself to be duty bound to be as gentle with him as possible. It would have been strange to squabble in the same journal. [Letter 89]
Holding the conflicting opposites fast can be extremely challenging, and requires a high level of confidence from the leadership in its own understanding. Toning down the language wherever possible when debating with comrades so as not to drive dissenting voices away and thereby shut down the polemic prematurely is important. Finding the right balance requires a lot of confidence.
Lenin made conscious efforts to maintain a friendly nature and tone when arguing against his own side (whilst ensuring that the differences were not covered up) although it wasn’t always possible if he felt that the way the arguments were presented was destructive and needed firmly knocking down:
I shall send to Mother’s address by the next post an article on Kautsky and Bulgakov. Please send it on to the writer with a request that he inform you immediately whether the editors accept it. I believe it quite possible that they may not do so, because the écrivain is probably on Bulgakov’s side and may find polemics inconvenient, especially sharp polemics. As far as possible I tried to modify my tone but I was unable to speak coolly about that disgustingly professorial and clumsy article, which strikes a terribly dissonant note. I do not, of course, want to restrict the editors’ right to make “corrections”, but there is no need to write about this since it is understood, unless the author makes specific provisos. [Letter 86]
At last I have received Nachalo—two issues, complete. By and large I liked it very much. But Bulgakov’s article is outrageous. Kautsky he distorts outright, and then there is that attack on Zusammenbruch —it is an echo of Bernstein’s “criticism” ... I am writing a second article against him. Of course, polemics among one’s own people are unpleasant and I tried to tone the article down, but to keep quiet about differences is not only unpleasant, it is downright harmful— and, furthermore, one cannot keep quiet about the chief differences between “orthodoxy” and “criticism” that have come to the fore in German and Russian Marxism. Our opponents are already taking advantage of the differences anyway ... While polemicising among ourselves we can agree on general solidarity against the Narodniks. I want to do this at the end of my article. One of Bulgakov’s chief faults is that he did not say exactly in what he agrees with Kautsky against the Narodniks. [Letter 87]
Being considered about the language used is important in a polemic against comrades. However, Lenin argued against toning the language down once there has been a decisive split. This can be seen in the following quotes from his sister’s article about his letters to his relatives referring to his polemics against Bogdanov and the Machists in his manuscript for Materialism and Empirio-criticism:
When there was no question of censorship he wrote to me: “Please do not tone down anything in the places against Bogdanov, Lunacharshy and Co. They must not be toned down. You have deleted the passage about Chernov being a ‘more honest’ opponent than they, which is a great pity. The shade of meaning you have given is not the one I want. There is now no overall consistency in my accusations. The crux of the issue is that our Machists are dishonest, mean-spirited, cowardly enemies of Marxism in philosophy.”
Further he said:
“Please do not tone down the places against Bogdanov and Lunacharsky’s popovshchina. We have completely broken off relations with them. There is no reason for toning them down, it is not worth the trouble.” (March 9, 1909.)
[A.Ulyanova-Yelizarova, Apropos of Lenin’s Letters to Relatives, Lenin’s Collected Works, volume 27]
At this point, the debate had run its full course. It had become clear to everyone that the Machists’ philosophical position was anti-communist, and so the language needed to reflect this.
Barratt refers to Lenin’s relationship with Bogdanov, but not in this context of striving to develop theoretical understanding. Again, he writes vaguely about “concerns” and “issues” when he argued that Lenin took Bogdanov seriously:
.. there should always be time for tackling the concerns of the party membership and comrades with issues should surely be taken as seriously as Lenin took Bogdanov.
Lenin spoke in very positive terms about Bogdanov’s earlier contributions; he wrote an approving review of his A Short Course of Economic Science with some supportive criticisms written in a friendly tone, for example [see Collected Works, volume 4]. What Lenin took seriously was “god-seeking” and the attempts by Bogdanov, Lunacharsky and others to smuggle religious views into Marxism, not whatever personal issues or concerns they may or may not have had. He had already broken off all relations with them at this stage, as stated in the quote. Getting the analysis correct was his over-riding concern.
Their bourgeois-idealist attack on Marxism was exposed through polemics, not by searching for any psychological “PBI issues” the Machists might have had. Taking the latter approach could easily become a means of avoiding polemical conflict, which Lenin says above would be “downright harmful”.
The “PBI” theory has cultish aspects to it. The comrade’s attempted psychological explanation of how “PBI” is claimed to take hold of an individual has similarities to some of the coercive techniques used by various sectarian groups and cults to control their members.
He asserts that there are two willpowers – (1) “PBI drives” that are somehow formed during childhood and which contains “egotism, selfishness, individualism and even anti-collectivism”, and (2) “communist understanding” that stems from “enlightened self-interest” and seems to be formed when someone “arrives at communism”. These unite into a “complete willpower”.
The stronger the “complete willpower”, the more influential the “PBI drives” can become. If an individual is “unconscious” of the “PBI” aspect of this willpower, damaging negativity can result. When threatened, “PBI” can supercede “communist understanding” and compel the individual to “lash out at any challenges to itself,” and this can “come out in anti-communist forms.” The task of party cadres is to be alert to “PBI” in others, and expose it when they spot it in order to make it conscious.
This has many similarities to a “theory” used in the 1970’s by a weird fake-“left” cult (the O.) to control its members, as described by a former member, Alexandra Stein, in her book Inside Out: A memoir of entering and breaking out of a Minneapolis political cult:
Finally he quoted one of the papers to me: “Whoever is the Dominant Influence [my father] automatically determines one’s Ideological Form. How can this be? The Ideological Form of one’s [Principal] Internal Contradiction is a bourgeois birthmark inherited from one’s Dominant Influence. Thus, the only way to erase the bourgeois birthmark from one’s life is to transform one’s bourgeois world outlook to the proletarian world of dialectical materialism. The only way one can do this is by developing one’s proletarian PIC with the objective material condition of being a Marxist-Leninist organization.” (p44-45)
The O.’s “Dominant Influence” is very similar to Barratt’s “PBI drives” in that both contain the ‘original sin’ of negative individualistic traits formed in early childhood. The “Principal Internal Contradiction” in which in an individual’s psychological make up holds both a bourgeois and a proletarian world outlook mirrors the contradiction between “PBI drives” and “communist understanding”. Just as in Barratt’s theory where unconscious “PBI” is “intensely self-protective” and “lashes out at any challenge”, so the O.’s individual values its “has a lot of value tied to their bourgeois side” and can feel threatened and become angry when instructed to give it up (see quote below). And both give the Leninist party the primary task of “supporting” the individual in reducing the influences of negative individualistic drives.
Another similarity is that the O. also had its own set of abstract symptoms or “signs” which it called “The Handbook of Bourgeois Mannerisms”.
One difference between them is that the O.’s theory gives the appearance of being more redemptive, with semi-religious notions of people “transforming” themselves for the greater good. Barrett’s “PBI” is more like an ever present demon, containable only when it is made conscious.
The logic both of these theories leads to is that revolutionary advancement can only come once individuals engage in an internal struggle to change their psyche and become ‘better people’. The battle is in the head, not in the external world:
George picked up the paper and began to read: “Basically, the PIC stated means that you think you know best what is needed for your development. This subjective view has resulted in relative non-development. You have not developed an occupational skill. You have taken leadership with groups without sticking to them, and, because of this lack of commitment you have, in fact, upheld capitalist relations of production. In essence, you have a pattern of running from struggle… The recommendations are that you develop an occupational skill and work with a group to develop it in a process. Specifically, it is suggested that you become a machinist while continuing to work on your development within the O.”
George smoothed the papers on his knee and repeated, “It is your bourgeois intellectual arrogance that makes you think you can determine the best way to contribute to the revolutionary struggle.”
… “It’s a normal reaction for people to get angry when they get their assessment. In fact, it’s predictable. After all, you have a lot of value tied to your bourgeois side, and until you have an opportunity to develop your proletarian side it’s very threatening to give up that value. But with struggle, you will be able to identify how your PIC operates and how it holds back development. Remember, the Left in the U.S. failed because it never addressed people’s internal stake in the system, and their bourgeois values. Until we are able to struggle internally, we will be unable to sustain a successful revolutionary process.” p44-45
The last point is similar to Open Polemic’s insistence that the formalised party structures and mechanisms for democratic centralism needs to be in place before a struggle for revolutionary understanding can start. It also echoes single-issue PC demands that workers have to be anti-racist, anti-misogyny, anti-homophobia, anti-transphobia, etc., etc. first (see Don Hoskins’ second letter on both).
The O’s mechanistic, inwardly-focussed approach to tackling bourgeois influences led to a suppression of all discussion, and Barratt’s “inner-party life” document could potentially head in the same direction if taken to its logical conclusion.
All criticism or opposition is identified as ‘proof’ that the negative side has taken over, so there is no debate, as Stein finally had the confidence to argue after a decade of living under a tyranny of psychological manipulation and isolation:
“This is what always happens,” I said. “Whenever a criticism is raised of the organization it’s always turned back on the person making the criticism. It’s always their ideological problem. I knew this would be an attack on me – that we wouldn’t discuss the criticism at all. How can there be co-operative and constructive discussion in this climate?”
Debbie smiled. “You see there it is – that’s your idealism coming out...”
The idealism here is the notion that the world can be changed if only people change the way they conduct themselves; it has nothing to do with revolutionary theory.
It is the alienating conditions of life under capitalism and its acceleration towards total slump and war catastrophe which have psychologically damaged everyone in some form, and will continue to do so until monopoly imperialist rule is overthrown.
More balanced forms of human behaviour can only be achieved in the more stable environments that only collective societies of socialist cooperation can provide. That necessitates revolution. To get there, the guidance of a party of revolutionary theory and leadership is needed.
Chris Barrett’s “inner-party” document merely hints at this, – and there is no place at all for a theoretical battle to understand the objective external, material world in fake-“left” sects and cults like the O., as these notes from Stein’s contemporaneous journal shows:
The political (and ideological) isolation has been extreme. No study. How can we develop the objective aspect without study? Study is the means by to grasp the patterns in the world into which our subjective falls. Without study the subjectivity of some (or one) simply becomes dominant – it announces itself as objective. And what is objective cannot be questioned.
No discussion. Intense “compartmentalization” of people. No discussion of: Panama, Grenada, Perestroika, and Glasnost ..., reunification of Germany, Tienanmen Square, South Africa, Nicaragua, the situation in the Gulf. P245
Only a party dedicated to correctly understanding all world developments through an unrestrained polemical battle for the truth can and will gain the confidence of the working class and build unity.
Achieving that requires overcoming nervousness and fears that conflict will drive people away. The crisis will draw advanced workers towards the party that explains the world correctly to them. The Leninist party will only win their confidence if it gets the analysis right consistently. Only this will provide the revolutionary perspective that can form the basis for unity and increased numbers. There are no short-cuts.
To get there also requires the strengthening of the leadership confidence needed to hold the contradictions together within the party so that the full range of arguments are free to run their course.
The better the leadership is in understanding the world, the more confident the party becomes all-round.
The focus needs to be on this fight for Leninist theory above all else. Phil Waincliffe
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Reexamining the Grenada revolution
Part Three (continued from issue No 1587) -concluded
Once in power, the bourgeoisie, in alliance with US imperialism, will use all the means it has at its disposal to try to ensure that there is no return to proletarian class rule, as Grenada’s post-invasion experiences of fascist persecution under Scoon and afterwards shows.
Such returns to open fascist rule are signs of imperialist weakness, not strength, The brutal means used by Scoon and afterwards to suppress revolutionary unrest and restore bourgeois rule, the tearing up of many of the proletarian gains of the revolution, and the weakened state Grenada’s economy was left in once US financial support to prop-up the counter-revolution melted away, stirred up all the old resentments that led to the revolution in the first place. It will, however, take another socialist revolution and a long period of proletarian dictatorship to defeat imperialism. Colombian fascist death squads have stepped up their killings of leftists following FARC’s agreement to disarm and fight through “democratic” means. Morales’s suicidal stepping down in Bolivia following electoral defeat (instead of recognising the necessity of proletarian dictatorship) was also a disaster that has led to massacres of his supporters. (See EPSR No 1584.)
Venezuela continues to survive in the face of endless destabilisation campaigns, economic blockades and threats of war despite holding and winning elections that have been both “free and fair” (as far as they go), but much of the rest of the bourgeois-nationalist “Bolivarian revolution” regimes that claimed to have found a new, 21st century path to socialism, that avoids the establishment of proletarian dictatorships, have been brought down by various means.
Whilst imperialism may allow such “democratic-socialist” reformism to stay in power to head the working class away from revolution at times of crisis, or may be forced to concede ground following a defeat, it will never stop campaigning to destabilise them to ensure that any reforms made do not go to too far, or topple them once they have outlived their usefulness as a diversion.
The problem was that the NJM had a too relaxed approach to the bourgeoisie, which gave them space to conspire against the revolution alongside the British and US imperialists; and that they were not firm enough with Bishop’s erratic and unilateralist behaviour once he had turned against the collectively-agreed party decision for the joint-leadership arrangement.
Even worse is the defeatism expressed by Ewart Layne, who was senior officer in the People’s Revolutionary Army, in his prison account of the Grenadian Revolution:
I still consider the US invasion of 1983 to have been illegal and unwarranted. I believe that post 19th October 1983, Grenadians, with help of our Caribbean neighbours and other Commonwealth nations, could and would have found a solution to our problems; a solution that fully restored constitutional rule and the all the rights [sic] of our people in a reasonably short time; and would have provided justice according to law rather than according to political imperatives and expediency: This would have been achieved without the loss of scores of Grenadian lives and additional trauma which flowed from the invasion. Events which took place in Eastern Europe in the years shortly after the demise the Grenadian Revolution strengthen my belief in this regard. [JE Layne, We Move Tonight, chapter 30]
Which Caribbean neighbours would Layne call on for help? Would it be those neighbours who conspired with US imperialism to have Grenada thrown out of CARICOM (but failed)? Could it be Tom Adams in Barbados who had held regular meetings with political and military officials in Reagan’s administration in preparation for some kind of military operation against the revolution, and whose police tortured Phyllis Coard to obtain confessions prior to the trial (Unchained chapter 4)? Or maybe the right-wing prime ministers of St Lucia and St Vincent who, along with Adams, attended the meeting that established the Washington-friendly New National Party? Or Edward Seaga in Jamaica, maybe, whose campaign of terror on behalf of the CIA helped to bring down the “democratic socialist” Michael Manley? Or maybe Dominica’s Eugenia Charles who was at Reagan’s side when he announced the US invasion to the world?????
Would Britain, as head of the Commonwealth, whose governor-general Scoon gleefully became US imperialism’s Nazi commander-in-chief of the occupation of Grenada, facilitate this???
And what “constitutional rights” are to be restored by these benevolent regional benefactors – those provided by Gairy and the Mongoose Gang thugs, perhaps, since is was their 1974 constitution that was abolished by the NJM’s revolution????????
And, finally, what is heartening by the events of Eastern Europe since the late 1980’s, which has seen restored fascism across the region to intimidate the working class and try to prevent a return to communism – including parades celebrating the Waffen SS on the streets of Latvia and Estonia; torch-light parades by supporters of the Nazi quisling Stepan Bandera in Ukraine and the slaughter of east Ukraine’s anti-fascist working class; similar torch-lit parades and erections of statues to the (Second World War) clerical-fascist Admiral Horthy in Hungary; renaming of streets in Poland to commemorate the pre-war fascist dictator Józef Pilsudski; anti-Roma riots in Bulgaria; restored Ustashe fascism in Croatia following the US imperialist destruction of Yugoslavia etc, etc; - and now more attempts at reimposing fascism in Belarus by CIA stooges waving Nazi-era flags in Belarus???
As the EPSR’s predecessor publication (ILWP Bulletin) said in 1992:
The only revolutionary movement to have stayed the course “in the face of an adverse national and international environment” in this region is the Cuban revolution, - distinguished from all the others by in practice running a proletarian dictatorship as the only basis for courageously dismissing US imperialism’s efforts to restore counter-revolution in Cuba. And to his credit, Castro even openly sings the praises of proletarian dictatorship from time to time (despite sadly failing to simultaneously subject such deceitful garbage as Allendeism to withering scorn, which is all it deserves.) [Bulletin No 654, June 23, 1992]
Thirty-one years later, Cuba’s inspirational struggle for survival against a brutal US-imperialist blockade is still proving in practice that proletarian dictatorship is the only means to stay the course. Unfortunately, its world perspective is still hampered by the Third International revisionist nonsense (beginning with Stalin’s Economic Problems of Socialism, 1952) of “peaceful coexistence” with monopoly imperialism until capitalism capitulates to socialism’s “economic superiority”.
Stalin’s revision of Leninism failed to fully understand the boom-bust nature of capitalism, with its system then in midst of a vast credit-fuelled international trade boom and able to out-pace non-exploitative socialist production methods, but now facing the greatest economic catastrophe ever and needing levels of destruction of surplus capital beyond WW1 and WW2 in a desperate last gasp attempt to get out of it.
Havana’s revisionist mistakes of not exposing Allendeism, not putting up a fight against the US invasion of Grenada because of Castro’s friendship with Bishop, not giving a revolutionary proletarian dictatorship perspective to the Sandinistas (and more recently Venezuela, Bolivia, etc.), pressuring the FARC to give up the armed struggle, denouncing “terrorism” and more, all lead back to Stalin’s 1952 retreat from Leninism to pacifist struggles for peace.
The lessons of Chile, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela, etc. show that any concessions made to bourgeois “democracy” illusions (as opposed to the genuine proletarian democracy that is dialectically only possible under a revolutionary party-led dictatorship until capitalism is wiped out from the planet – as the Grenadian experience proves) will be seized upon by imperialism and used to intensify its subversion of revolutionary anti-imperialist movements.
The deadening weight of such revisionist perspectives continues to hold down the world struggle for revolutionary theory today. Sadly Coard and Layne’s, (and others in the Grenada 17) apparent retreats reflect this.
But imperialism would have continued plotting to drown the NJM movement in blood whether it had “electoral legitimacy” or not.
(The US only backed off from going through with the death sentences following international protests – which even some sections of the European and British Commonwealth bourgeoisie supported as a means to reassert their influence in the region, against US dominance.)
The ultimate blame for the tragic end to the dispute lies on the continuous imperialist destabilisation of the Grenadian revolution from day one. The struggle by the majority Coard faction to correctly impose party discipline within the NJM was necessary to give the revolution a fighting chance for survival against this onslaught.
The wealth of information now coming out richly confirms the EPSR’s general understanding of the 1983 crisis as presented in book form at the time. Further analysis is needed of the claims from Coard and others that, other than the crucial question of leadership, there were no ideological differences between the Bishop faction and Coard’s supporters.
From its analysis of the limited bourgeois press available at the time, as well as Cuba’s Granma and various twisted fake-“left” anti-Coard accounts, the EPSR’s understanding is that Bishop had been on a right-wing path and, seduced by US imperialism on a trip to Washington in June 1983, was attempting to create a government acceptable to the US:
The rightwing American magazine Time’s reconstruction of the counter-revolution confirmed: “According to a series of mostly handwritten minutes of the Central Committee meetings of Grenada’s New Jewel Movement that took place after July, Bishop proposed that the party take on a more moderate stance towards the west. The idea was rejected. Warned one unidentified participant: ‘If the revolution is turned back now, it has regional and international implications.”
Once again, the proof is plain. Bishop had been taking a much-criticised rightwing line throughout the course of the Grenadan revolution – and towards the end had made his notorious trip to Washington to prepare the way for even greater capitulations.
… Bishop’s criminal negligence towards the suspicious American medical school, - allowing it to stay open to become a centre for CIA spies and the “final” excuse for Reagan’s fascist invasion – was on a par with another dangerous compromise – also bitterly criticised by the NJM majority – in leaving the imperialist governor Sir Paul Scoon in office.
“He will be no trouble,” Bishop assured his colleagues, - and regularly played tennis at the weekends at the Governor’s luxurious residence. Coard’s warnings were arbitrarily over-ruled by the ‘figurehead’ Bishop. And Scoon it was who ‘legitimised’ Reagan’s fascist counter-revolution. [EPSR Book Vol 12 on Revisionist retreat and the Grenada Revolution].
Coard now presents each of these points – Bishop’s visit to America, keeping the American medical school open, and allowing Scoon to stay in office – as tactical decisions on which he and the party agreed, and he gives no indication that that Bishop was taking a rightward direction. However, the minutes of the Central Committee’s July meeting as quoted here by the American Time’s magazine suggest that he (Bishop) had capitulated to US pressure, as do the the accusations made by Layne and others at the September 1983 Extraordinary Meeting of the CC that “the CC was on a path of right opportunism”. There is also the statement made after Bishop’s defeat on 19 October 1983 by Austin (who had abstained during the joint-leadership debate) which declared that Bishop had led a mob of “right opportunist and reactionary forces”; that he had said to PRA officers at Fort Rupert that “he did not want to have socialism built in this country”; and had openly stated that “he was going to build a new Party and a new Army – to defend the interests of the bourgeoisie”.
There were also reports from the time that Bishop had, early on in the revolution, opposed Coard’s calls to (correctly) close down local bourgeois press outlets that had published provocative CIA-planted stories.
It is certainly the case that Bishop chose to listen to those small hostile elements within the NJM who were opposed to the party’s moves towards Leninism rather than the majority NJM leadership. Furthermore, various reactionary business leaders and other anti-communist elements participated in Bishop’s putsch attempt, alongside a number of CIA agents; and, by having violently rejected Leninism, Bishop had placed himself on the side of right-wing counter-revolution whether that was his conscious intention or not.
An important part of the revolutionary party’s Marxist scientific approach is to continuously update its understanding of past events in the light of new information as they emerge, correcting any analytical weaknesses or critical mistakes made at the time in front of the working class, in order to strengthen the revolutionary party’s overall grasp of events as they unfold today.
Rebuilding the Leninist approach to party building is urgently required today.
Build Leninism. Phil Waincliffe. [Concluded]
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