Saturday, 5 April 2008

Three D's and Four X's

This is a response to a Discussion on Iraq here

Having just read Martin's response to the Three D's I could not help think that the Majority were clutching at straws. Martin says the Minority do not mean what they say by "Troops Out" let alone "Troops Out Now" so the slogan is impermissible it involves having a secret meaning in the Minority's head.

But by the same token Martin's argument does exactly the same. He says, “If I am asked am I in favour of the Troops leaving Iraq, I say, ‘Yes.’" But then Martin tells us that he does not really mean yes. This "yes" has a secret meaning, a secret meaning whereby "yes" actually means "No", or "Yes" under some conditions which do not actually exist.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with this, if we get away from all the silly semantics about supposed secret meanings, which, cannot be secret, when people, as the three D's do, go into such detail about what the slogan is intended to convey. But, I would have more confidence, that Martin means "yes", in the sense he claims to mean it, too, if the Majority were more vocal about setting out a Programme of how that "yes" were to be accomplished, rather than limiting their programme simply to Economism and tea and sympathy. That is precisely what a Marxist Programme should be about as the three D's set out, it is what formulating a mobilising slogan - whether it is "Troops Out" with the necessary clarification, or whether it is some long winded slogan that accurately sums up the position but does not roll off the tongue - at least begins to do. I would have more confidence if the Majority's reason for arguing against Troops Out had remained consistent, but it hasn't. First it was, “we can't support Troops Out because the Occupation is protecting the Labour Movement”. But clearly it wasn't, and so we had the next reason, which was “the Sunni militia will come to power”. That clearly wasn't true either so we had the final variant, which was that there would be Civil War.

If the Majority line had been, "We don't call for Troops Out because we can't yet bring it about”, that would have been one thing. But, then it would not be unreasonable to ask what Programme the majority had for creating the conditions where it could be brought about. In response to Martin’s “yes, but” the next question would naturally be, “so what Programme do you have to build the Labour Movement as a political force to challenge imperialism and the Islamists?” To which Martin could only shrug his shoulders and point to calls to support Iraqi unions not on the basis of such a political struggle, but merely an economic struggle. Even a struggle for basic bourgeois freedoms is outside this remit, and left as something to be imposed by those that have the power – imperialism and its Shia clients who were originally passed off as bourgeois Constitutionalists. It’s the same approach the Economists took to the call by Lenin for the Social Democrats to fight for political demands as well as economic demands. The economists said, “the working class is too weak. We have to wait until it is stronger, and in any case the political demands are bourgeois demands at this stage so we should leave that to the bourgeoisie to fight for.” Lenin, like Dave Broder, argued that the condition for the workers becoming stronger was that they were mobilised around political demands now, not at some point in the future. But the majority’s argument hasn't been based on the argument that its pointless raising a demand that workers cannot achieve, it has been based on a justification of the progressive role of imperialism - hence Martin's defence of Mark Osborn's piece on Japan. It amounts to we have a moral imperative. We would like the working class to achieve it, but we have no faith that they can, so we will hope that imperialism will achieve it for us instead.

Martin’s argument simply ignored and misrepresented the argument put by Dave Broder. It ignored it, because it proceeded as though Dave had not set out, clearly, that there was no secret meaning to the “Troops Out” demand, that its meaning right out there in the open, as out there as Martin’s “Yes, but”, was, this is a call for the Labour Movement to mobilise to bring this about. Comparisons with other calls such as those about Catholic Civil Rights masquerading as a struggle for Workers Rights are a total red herring. The Minority's position is not like the Castlemaine XXXX advert where the 4x's stand for a four letter word that everyone knows, but which could represent some alternative four letter word if you don't particularly like the beer. No one is hiding what the demand means behind 4'X's or any other charade. I’m sure the Minority would be glad to have a slogan which spelled it out clearly such as “Build an International Workers Movement to Kick Imperialism Out of Iraq Now” were it not that such a slogan hardly slips off the tongue. The test would be would the Majority accept such a clearly formulated slogan? I doubt they would. Such a slogan would leave its adherents with no problem supporting the US Dockers action to force a US withdrawal, yet we have yet to hear from the Majority whether they support this action or whether they wish to remain consistent with their position and call for strikebreaking against such action because it could lead to a conflict with their moral imperative in Iraq. It misrepresented it by taking Dave’s comment about if the troops magically disappeared and proceeding as though such a magical transformation were possible, ignoring the very point made by Dave, here, that such magic does not happen, the troops will leave for a reason. Either they will leave because the US will have achieved its aims. The cost for it will become too great. It will be defeated by one or more groups of Islamists, or it will be defeated by the working class. The whole point of Dave’s argument is how on Earth do you achieve this latter solution, the one we want, without actually mobilising the working class around a demand for it. How on Earth can you mobilise the working class, either in Iraq or Internationally, for such a solution, when the very force you want them to mobilise against you present as being the very force that is the saviour of the situation!! Its like telling the working class you are opposed to the bourgeois state whilst at the same time raising demands that sow illusions in, and give greater power to, that very state!!! Of course, the AWL do that too, so their position on Iraq is not that surprising.

The argument in relation to Japan and Martin’s defence of it illustrates the point. Martin says, but you see Japan shows that imperialism CAN act progressively. I agree it can. In developing pre-capitalist economies it acts progressively in an objective sense. Where possible it establishes bourgeois democracy as the best condition for Capital Accumulation, and vis a vis feudal or other class based undemocratic regimes this is progressive too. But it is a far cry from recognising that it CAN do this to placing any credibility, asking the working class to RELY on it doing this in the face of its own weakness! As history demonstrates where it is in its interests it is just as likely to underdevelop economies as to develop them, is as likely to destroy bourgeois democratic regimes – Mossadegh, Allende and so on – as to establish them. It is not that the working class is the only force that can bring about progressive change, it is that it is only the working class that CAN BE RELIED ON to bring about democratic change. It is that an independent working class programme focuses on providing a solution via the agency of the working class as the revolutionary class, and placing no reliance in, and giving no credibility to any solution brought about by other social forces.

The British Government has just introduced legislation that will make it easier for workers to take action against employers for Deaths and Serious Accidents at work. It is a progressive measure that has not been forced on the Government, anymore than was the Minimum Wage, and other measures introduced by Blair and Brown. Wedgwood and other industrialists in the 19th Century called on the Government to introduce a limit on Working Hours because they argued competition would mean no such limitation would be forthcoming through voluntary agreement. Why do they do this? Because there is not Marxist reason to believe that capitalists or their State are necessarily vindictive and cruel. On the contrary many of them are philanthropic. They act in the way they do not because of any subjective character flaw but because, objectively, they are forced to act that way – as Wedgwood said because of competition. But workers should not be encouraged because of such experience to believe that they can rely on such a state acting in this way. As Marx points out in Capital after the defeat of the Chartists employers openly flouted the Factory Acts, and restrictions on working time with the acceptance of that same state. Lenin relates and propagandised against reliance on the capitalist state in Russia during the 1890’s on a similar basis showing how the law favoured the capitalists, and was even then breached with impunity. Marxists instead of reliance on the State to fight its battles whether over a fascist enemy, working hours, Minimum Wages, or Equal Pay tell the workers NOT to rely on the capitalist state, but to rely on their own strength and organisation, to fight not for such reforms within the system, but to change the system here and now by taking back if only piece by piece at first, the means of production into their own hands i.e. to engage in a process of real social revolution.

That is not the programme the AWL fights on. Its logic is that which caused Glotzer to give up on the working class and jump into bed with Zionism to achieve his moral imperative, its the same logic that leads the SWP to jump into bed with the Islamists to achieve its imperative. Dress it up how you like its the logic of the petit-bourgeois moralist not the Marxist.

See Also:Return of the Idiot Imperialists


Class war Erupts in Iraq

Arthur Bough