Thursday, 31 March 2011

Enterprise Zones - Part 2

In fact, the EZ's established in Geoffrey Howe's 1980 Budget were not all in Inner City Areas.
In fact, EZ's became essentially an extension of existing Regional Policy, and a number of them were established on existing renewal sites. The benefits firms on the zones enjoyed included:

* Exemption from rates on industrial and commercial property

* Exemption from Development Land Tax

* 100% allowances for Corporation and Income tax purposes for capital expenditure on industrial and commercial buildings

* Employers exempt from industrial training levies and from requirement to supply information to Industrial Training Boards

* A greatly simplified planning regime;developments that conformed with the published scheme for each zone did not require individual planning permission
Remaining controls to be administered more speedily

* Applications from firms in zones for certain customs facilities were to be processed as a priority and criteria relaxed

* Government requests for statistical information reduced

But, most of the sites presented considerable problems. Shutt quotes one local planner in Dudley where one zone was to be sited as saying, the site was like a bar of aero

“including land exposed to previous shallow unmarked mining, steep slopes and uncontrolled tipping.”

All the land was privately owned, and for years both Tory and Labour Councils had tried in vain to get them to bring it into productive use. But, the reality was that such land could only be brought into productive use, if first huge amounts of public money was invested in it to make it suitable for development. Shutt refers to the analysis of the zones done by Roger Tym and Partners 1983 “Monitoring The Enterprise Zones, in which these and other contradictions for the Thatcher Government were elaborated.

“They point to the limits of a Monetarist strategy which claims that capital in the UK can be resuscitated with less state interference. The two zones locate in Greater Manchester provide a typical illustration of these contradictions.”

These two Zones were established alongside the Manchester Ship Canal, an area which had developed both due to the docks in Salford, and due to the industrial development that occurred in Trafford Park at the end of the 19th Century and into the 20th Century, based upon large industrial complexes.
By the 1980's the area was suffering massively both from the decline of the docks as containerisation started to come in, and as a result of the de-industrialisation that arose as large industrial companies found that they could make higher profits by locating production in low-wage economies in Asia, with abundant supplies of the type of unskilled labour required for mass production, assembly work, with increasing levels of infrastructure needed for efficient transport of inputs and finished goods, and with Capitalist States in place, prepared to ensure the reproduction of the Capital-Labour relation.

The zones covered 3 districts in Salford and 3 in Trafford Park, covering 780 acres. 435 acres were available immediately for immediate use. The purpose of the EZ's was to stimulate NEW enterprises and new employment, so the Councils sought to include as much land as possible that did not include existing businesses. It may have been by design, or not, but some of the main beneficiaries were Big Capital. The biggest beneficiary was the Manchester Ship Canal Company itself. 200 acres of its dock area were included in the scheme. But, prior to the scheme there had been some development in Trafford Park via speculative developments backed by major institutional investors. Some of these estates too were included in the boundary of the zones.

If it was large companies as landowners who benefited from the zones, as their land now became more valuable, it was the small firms of around a dozen employees that were characteristic of those who set up on them. And as I set out in my blog The Small Business Myth, although it may be true that these small businesses at times account for the majority of new jobs, they also account for the majority of jobs lost, for the same reason reason.
The firms involved had generally low profitability, which is why they could only exist if they were given these kinds of support, and allowed to impose even worse conditions on their employees than normal, and consequently the security of employment for those working in them was tenuous, as the failure rate of these companies was high.

Unlike the Science Parks that have developed mostly on University Campuses, there was little evidence that there was anything innovative in any of the firms established in the Zones, which is not surprising for the reasons I have given above about the nature of their location.
Even before the zone was formally announced, some of the small firms in the area managed to move location, so that they came within its bounds. Shutt says,

“Hospital Engineering Ltd, who employed twelve workers moved from the United Trading Estate just outside the zone to the Monarch Trading Estate inside the enterprise zone, in October 1980. This resulted in a saving of £3,350 on the firm's 1981 rates bill following the formal declaration of the EX. International marine Ltd., chandlers and yacht brokers employing twelve staff, moved rom Ordsall Lane in Salford, to the Salford Zone and saved £11,000 on their rates. Yet, by mid 1982, only thirteen firms had moved into the Salford Zone, whilst in Trafford, twenty four firms employed only 212 people.”

According to the Tym Report they all employed fewer than 50 people, and most employed fewer than ten. This movement of firms from outside the zones to units within them was typical. But, as Shutt comments,

“The movement of this 'local' concern did not generate 'new' employment in the conurbation, although many enterprise zone officials throughout the country, backed by the Government, find little difficulty in presenting such shifts as job creation.”

But, it was obvious why such an approach was bound to create problems. As Shutt sets out, many of the small business organisations OPPOSED the establishment of the zones, despite the fact that it appeared that it was precisely these kinds of firms that had most to gain. But, the reason for the opposition was precisely because the role of the Capitalist State is supposed to provide some kind of level playing field for Capital. What the EZ's did was to create a very unlevel playing field, in which those small firms able to locate within them, had significant benefits over other firms outside them! Shutt comments,

“In practice, however, many of the institutions representing small scale indigenous capital have opposed the zones, recognising the damage to capitalist competition caused by subsidising the production costs of a minority of firms, who compete with others, in relatively confined geographical locations. In the early round of zone declarations, many small entrepreneurs established their own action groups to campaign against zone declarations. In Trafford, the Enterprise Zone Action Group was spearheaded by the managing director of a warehousing and distribution company located just outside the zone boundaries. The fact that one of the company's major competitors was, by coincidence, located inside the Wakefield EZ no doubt provided a poweful impetus to the campaign! The Action Group argued that 'Many companies on the outside have suffered a severe and serious loss of property outside the zone. Some 2,000,000 square feet of empty premises are unable to secure occupation even with offers of new units at 99p per square foot. Established owner-occupiers are imprisoned in their premises while their competitors in the zone enjoy a rate-free holiday for ten years. In fact, they are paying rates and taxes in order to subsidise those inside.'(Guardian 31st September 1981)”

In Dudley an Industrial Ratepayers Action Group was set up. In Wellingborough, the Secretary of the Chamber of Trade and Commerce proposed a ban on all small firms moving to the Park Farm Estate EZ. The West Midlands regional group of the Chambers and Commerce made loud criticisms of the EZ policy along with Tory MP's and Councillors from Birmingham. Asked if more EZ's should come to the area, the Chairman of the West Midlands Regional Group of Chambers of Commerce told the Birmingham Post according to Shutt,

“The answer is a clear no. The zones have so far failed to attract new industry from outside their regions, merely the transfer of factories across their boundaries.”

Back To Part 1

Forward To Part 3

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Enterprise Zones - Part 1

As a central part of its “growth” strategy the Liberal-Tory Government has decided to establish a series of Enterprise Zones around the country. The idea is not new. The last Tory Government established Enterprise Zones and Freeports in various parts of Britain.
The idea is supposed to be that by removing businesses from restrictions of bureaucracy and regulation in parts of the country where industrial development is low, and unemployment is high, Capital will flow in, stimulating growth, and providing alternative employment for those hundreds of thousands of workers from the State Capitalist sector who are to lose their jobs. The experience of the last experiment back in the 1980's does not bode well for the success of such a plan. There is no evidence that they created any additional growth, nor any new employment. Moreover, not only did they provoke opposition from Trades Unions – though not much – and from the Labour Party – on paper at national level, but not at local level – but they provoked even more opposition from local small business people that found themselves discriminated against where their businesses were just outside an enterprise zone. Moreover, as part of a plan to reduce Public Spending they were a complete failure. In order that an Enterprise Zone could be established, a huge amount of investment and planning, and other work had to be done by the Local Councils and other bodies in the area. Huge amounts of State intervention were required for the establishment and functioning of Enterprise Zones, including large amounts of Public Expenditure. Moreover, in order to remove some of the regulation and controls from the local councils etc. other bodies had to be established, and so the commitment to reduce the number of Quangos was also undermined. But, like most of the Liberal-Tories policies today, the idea is not so much to do with an economic strategy for growth, or even to promote the interests of Capital – Enterprise Zones have little to offer Big Capital, and as stated above they tend to even divide the local small Capitalists – and everything to do with promoting the ideology of the Liberal-Tories.

John Shutt gave an excellent account of the original Enterprise Zones in an article in Capital & Class 23, in Summer 1984. The Liberal-Tories recognise that there will be opposition to their plans for Cuts, and privatisation. The strength of the opposition from within Higher Education last year probably shocked them in its intensity.
Moreover, the Liberal component of the Government will undoubtedly find that its grass roots begin to rebel as they are faced with implementing these policies, and worse for them, of losing their Council seats in the process. The Government like all bosses recognises the importance of the tactic of divide and rule in such circumstances.

Shutt comments in relation to the proposals for Freeports and Enterprise Zones,

“In fact, freeports, like Enterprise Zones, are important for the Government because they pitch locality against locality. They provide a means of dividing the Labour Movement and coaxing Labour controlled authorities into supporting and implementing Tory policies. A clearer analysis of this strategy is required if the Left and the Labour Movement is to combat the way in which small policy initiatives like enterprise zones and now freeports can be utilised to force through much wider attacks on the local state and on the Labour Movement itself.”

In fact, the Tories were able to use this strategy on a wider basis. The introduction of the Single Regeneration Budget, extended the tactic to every local authority in the country. Under SRB, Councils were forced to bid for grant aid that would previously have been allocated automatically. Straight away it set Council against Council, but more significantly it set one part of a Council area, against another part of a Council area, as they competed to be defined as a deprived area.
The consequence of the strategy was heightened as a result of the requirement by Councils to match fund any SRB grant. At a time of restricted Government financing, it meant that any Capital Councils had went almost exclusively to match fund SRB projects, ensuring that other parts of the Council area got nothing. It ensured division and hostility, thereby weakening the Council, and local Labour Movement as against the Government.

The concept of Enterprise Zones had been elaborated by Professor Peter Hall, who argued that in the same way that such zones had provided rapid economic growth and dynamism in South-East Asia, they could also provide a solution for Inner City deprived areas in developed economies. The idea only has to be given slight consideration to see just how ridiculous it is.
In South-East Asia, it was not Enterprise Zones per se that were responsible for the rapid development of the Tiger economies. Such Zones were a means of the State in these countries concentrating its resources to ensure that infrastructure was created. The development of that infrastructure was necessary if foreign Capital was to be attracted to set up in these areas. But, the real reason, once that basic infrastructure is in place, for that foreign Capital setting up there is not the existence of an Enterprise Zone, but the existence of a large amount of exploitable Labour Power at very low wages. In the early stages, the role of Bonapartist regimes to enforce labour discipline in the interests of that Capital perhaps performs a useful function, but, in reality the living standards of the former peasants drawn into such employment was often so abysmally low, and tenuous that even the poor conditions, and low wages offered in the EZ, were an improvement. Initially, foreign Capital is able to set up in these areas, because they formed very low cost production centres, using very low-paid, unskilled workers who were using large amounts of modern equipment, to produce large runs of commodities that were in the mature phase of the product cycle.
That is they were products whose development costs had already been sunk, whose production now required only unskilled machine minding or assembly work, and which operated on a high volume, low profit margin basis. As essentially assembly and export centres, these firms provided little in terms of internal development, because their output was for export rather than a home market, and the labour employed provided little in the way of stimulus of a home market, or the development of a skilled workforce. It is only when the MNC's setting up in these countries begin to source inputs for these factories from within the country, often via the kind of decentralised and putting-out system developed by Capital in the 1980's, that I have described elsewhere, that this has an effect on developing a home market, and providing the basis for rapid development.

But, the point is that it is ridiculous to think that the low wages and poor conditions that could be applied in South-East Asia in the 1980's could ever have been implemented in the Inner City areas of Britain or any other developed economy. And, without that, businesses establishing on that basis would be bound to fail. In a race to the bottom, South-East Asia and other such areas were bound to win. The only basis upon which small businesses could have been established in Inner City or any other areas in developed economies, that would have been able to operate on a globally competitive basis would be if they were competing on the basis of either quality, or on the basis of high value products produced by high value adding labour.
But, it is precisely that kind of high value added, very skilled labour that did not exist in those deprived Inner City areas. Moreover, at the time the Tories were scrapping Apprenticeships, and Industrial Training Boards, and much else that would have been vital to providing the education, skills and training, for those young and sometimes not so young workers, in the Inner City Areas, if they were to be turned into such skilled workers. Moreover, the kinds of Capitalist required to establish such firms was hardly to be found in such areas either. To produce quality products along the lines that the German economic model developed along, or high value products requiring large amounts of expensive technical equipment, and high waged workers capable of using it, and developing new products etc., requires Capitalists with access to lots of Capital, and prepared to wait some time before the payback in profits from its investment. Such Capitalists are hardly likely to be that bothered about whether they can avoid this or that insignificant regulation that might save them a few quid, or even whether their already high paid workers want to join a Trade Union.
It was always likely that the whole ethos of Enterprise Zones would be to attract precisely those kind of Capitalists whose business model DID rely on penny-pinching, and screwing already low paid workers. It always was going to attract the cowboys, the fly by night's and so on.

Forward To Part 2

Friday, 25 March 2011

Northern Soul Classics - Mr. Bang Bang Man - Little Hank

This is roots of the scene stuff, back to the Twisted Wheel, and played at the Torch in the 60's in the days when you could get in during the week for nothing, or next to it, in the days before the nighters.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Debt Slavery

The other week in a blog - Economy Sinking Into The Mire - I mentioned about a friend of mine who had told me about someone he knew who had found a problem with obtaining a re-mortgage. The problem basically is with people who took out fixed rate or similar mortgages a few years ago, that are now coming to the end of their period and need to be replaced.
The problem he said was that, because house prices have fallen, the Banks and Building Societies will now only provide a mortgage for the lower valuation and, because the initial price of the house remains outstanding, people are having to find considerable sums to make up the difference.

In fact, he hadn't mentioned it, but it occurred to me today that the situation is actually worse than that. The situation he was describing was the result of falling house prices, which as yet have not fallen anywhere near as much as I and other economists think they are going to fall.
But, the effects of the Financial Meltdown, and the restrictions on lending, that the Banks and Building Societies now have to impose, increase that problem several fold. Suppose someone had a £100,000 mortgage accounting for 100% of the price of their house. If the price of the house has fallen 10%, then that is the maximum value on which the Bank would lend. However, the Banks are now only prepared to lend around 75% of the value of properties, so, in fact, they would only provide a mortgage of around £72,000 (75% of £90,000). That means that the mortgagee needs to find a lump sum of £28,000 to make up the difference to cover the repayment of the original mortgage.
Given that many people have been unable to save deposits for houses, its unlikely that people, who took out mortgages 3 or 5 years ago, with no requirement for a deposit, and on low rates of interest, will, during that time, have somehow managed to save such an amount. That leaves them with the problem of raising these additional sums or face being thrown out of their house. That will undoubtedly occur in some cases, with the consequence of pushing house prices down even further. Of course, those who took out not 100% mortgages, but 125% mortgages in the madness of the pre Crunch era, will find themselves in an even worse position, especially as interest rates are on the rise, just as real wages face the biggest squeeze for 90 years!

Others will be forced to find the additional funds by borrowing at much less favourable rates on their credit cards, or via bank loans and overdrafts to find the lump sums. But, under current conditions that looks like sticking your finger in just one of an increasing number of holes in the dyke.

In fact, as I pointed out in my blog UK Debt The Facts although the Liberal-Tories have hyped up the issue of Public Sector debt, the real problem is not Public but Private Sector debt, the debt that individuals hold in mortgages, credit card debt, student debt, overdrafts and so on. This private Debt is twice the amount of Public Sector debt. The importance of that can be seen by looking at what happened in Ireland, and what has happened in Portugal, and what is about to happen in Spain.
In Ireland, the Banks essentially went bust - despite the Eurozone Bank Stress Tests passing them as fit only weeks before - because they had lent recklessly to finance a housing bubble, and consumer credit that was tied to it. When the Banks went bust, the Irish State, rather than forcing the shareholders of the Banks - which include many British and European Banks and Pension Funds - to take a haircut i.e. to lose the money they had pumped in, decided to bail-out the banks using Taxpayers money i.e. taxes taken from the pockets of Irish workers. When even that was not sufficient to save the banks, and when the consequence of the Irish State indebting itself meant that its creditworthiness was called into question, it found itself facing impossible interest rates to borrow money for day to day activities.
Hence the EU/IMF bail-out. In Portugal, the Government did not run up a large deficit bys spending money. Its problem is that its economy is old and alcking in investment. As a result it is incapable of generating sufficient income to pay its way in the world. It actually needs to massively INCREASE its borrowing to finance the investment in new infrastructure and Capital that would renovate its economy, and enable it to pay its way. But, precisely because of the problem it has, it is considered a bad credit risk, and so its problems have been made worse, precisely because it cannot borrow money at affordable rates of interest.
The credit rating agencies were busy downgrading it again this week even before the prime Minister resigned, because the Parliament refused to back any further austerity measures. Of course, the whole point of the Eurozone as a single Monetary Zone, should be that all members of it are able to borrow money at the same rate of interest as the other side of giving up control of their currency and interest rates. But, the Northern Europeans will not agree to that at the moment, because it would mean them paying higher interest rates. Spain is in the same position as Ireland. Its Regional Banks the Cajas have lent out vast sums of money to finance the Spanish Property Bubble, and a consumer credit bubble that inflated on the back of it.
But, Spain's problems are compounded compared to Ireland's. In recent years Ireland has experienced some consierable economic growth on the back of some significant investment by mostly US, but not exclusively, companies in areas of ICT, and advanced Technology. The title of Celtic Tiger was not entirely unjustified. But, Spain's much larger economy was heavily dependent upon property, and the construction industry that grew on the back of it. It does have other industries, but the largest ones tend to be in the old areas of auto production, where low wage economies in Asia and latin America have a significant advantage. It has a significant agricultural sector, but again it is under pressure from new low cost producers around the globe, especially as the vagaries of the Euro make earnings from that sector uncertain.

The reality is that the Cajas are in a worse position, probably, than the Irish Banks. Spanish property prices are a fiction maintained by Estate Agents, Property owners, the Cajas, and the State, all of whom an interest in pretending that prices are higher than they really are or should be. If the properties on the Cajas books were realistically priced, then many of the Cajas would be bust. Yet, in a recent evaluation that no one in the financial community believed, least of all the Credit Rating Agencies, the Spanish Government proclaimed that only a minimal amount of recapitalisation of the Cajas was needed. It is like De Ja Vu all over again. It is the same ridiculous attempt to present a fiction right up until the last minute of collapse that was seen in Ireland. And when Spain goes in a few months time, the consequences will be much more important than the collapse in Greece, Portugal and Ireland put together.

But, the reality is that the massive build up in Britain of private debt, the fact that hosue prices are FOUR TIMES what they should be on an historical basis, and that collapses in house prices always go way beyond what is needed to just get back to the average, means that Britain is in at least as bad a position as Spain,
not because of Public Sector debt, but because of the private sector debt that has built up, and been encouraged by UK Governments going back to at least 1970, and the Barber Boom, and arguably back to the Tory Chancellor, Reggie Maudling in the early 60's.

Moreover, Public Sector debt is easy to deal with. The Government can pay it down whenever it wants simply by printing more £5, £10, and so on notes. That is what Governments have done going back to the time of Moses! Individuals cannot do that without facing a long gaol sentence. And at a time of squeezed incomes and rising inflation, their ability to cover the debt charges, especially as interest rates rise is highly doubtful.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Loose Talk

There has been a lot of loose talk about Libyan “rebels” and “revolutionaries”. Precisely, because such historical events are so important, not least to those whose lives are at stake within them, Marxists have always felt a duty to not simply bandy such terms about willy nilly, but to give some kind of precision to the events and forces they are describing.
I have yet to see any kind of sociological or political i.e. Class analysis of the forces in Libya being termed “revolutionaries”, to who those who bandy this term about want to tie the fate of workers in Libya, and around the globe. Let me be clear, I do not feel in any position to provide such an analysis either, but its precisely for that reason that I feel the need to be circumspect about providing blanket support. The most I can go on is the limited information that is available.
On that basis the leadership of the “rebels” represented in the “Transitional Council” appears to be divided between essentially three groups.

Firstly, there are those leading former members of Gaddafi's regime that have set themselves up in opposition to Gaddafi. The fact that these elements only yesterday were the people butchering the Libyan people, does not fill me with confidence about their progressive nature or future intentions.
In fact, this group is similar to the Generals in Egypt who have carried out a Coup against Mubarak, but who could easily yet, as has happened so many times in history roll-back the progress made so far. They are similar to the military in Yemen that has similarly struck out on its own, and presumably also for its own purposes.

Secondly, there are the Eastern Tribal leaders. Libya has a history of tribal conflicts. It is, in fact, that area of Barbary referred to by Engels in the quote I previously gave from him in his 1848 article on “Progressive Imperialism”.
There has been a history of tribal revolt from these Eastern tribes throughout Gaddafi's rule. A number of specialists on Libya interviewed on Aljazeera have highlighted the danger of the country erupting into Civil War, once the central state of Gaddafi was removed, as different tribes seek to gain control. Once again that gives me little confidence that such elements hold out anything progressive for the Libyan workers.

Thirdly, there are Islamist elements. No one should give any credence to the crap that Gaddafi has been coming out with about Al Qaeda. It would be surprising if Al Qaeda did not have some support, and probably involved in such events. Libya will be seen by them as some kind of secular devil regime. But, they clearly are not a dominating influence within the rebellion. But, many of those doing the fighting interviewed by news teams do seem to be Islamists of varying degrees, and a British Islamist was captured in Libya, having gone there specifically for the purpose of fermenting rebellion. But, it is a Muslim country, and so finding Islamists there is hardly surprising.

In the Panorama programme the other night, most of those who were featured in Benghazi were petit-bourgeois elements – doctors, professionals of various types. Once again that is not surprising. The initially leading elements in bourgeois democratic revolutions are always the petit-bourgeois, and elements of the radical bourgeoisie. However, it should be remembered that these are the very forces, who unless the conditions are extremely favourable to the workers are the ones who will quickly turn on the workers themselves.
It is these elements who were responsible for the brutal massacre of thousands of the Paris Communards.

Marx had learned this lesson back in 1848. It was why he and Engels were very cautious about tying the fate of the workers to these elements, arguing the need for the workers to concentrate on building up their own forces, completely separate from the bourgeoisie.
They argued that within the development of Capitalism the workers should focus on building their own property via the Co-operatives, their own Trades Unions, and their Own Party, and via all these means also build their own democracy, and state organs. It is why Marx advised the Paris workers against revolt in 1871, because he believed that they were not yet ready to bid for power.

This was codified by Lenin and the Communist International in the Theses on The National And Colonial Questions. They set out the need for the workers not to get simply drawn along with these alien class forces, and to maintain strict separation from them. They could ally with some of these forces under certain conditions. The relevant parts of the Theses are:

“4) From these fundamental premises it follows that the Communist International’s entire policy on the national and the colonial questions should rest primarily on a closer union of the proletarians and the working masses of all nations and countries for a joint revolutionary struggle to overthrow the landowners and the bourgeoisie. This union alone will guarantee victory over capitalism, without which the abolition of national oppression and inequality is impossible...

fifth, the need for a determined struggle against attempts to give a communist colouring to bourgeois-democratic liberation trends in the backward countries; the Communist International should support bourgeois-democratic national movements in colonial and backward countries only on condition that, in these countries, the elements of future proletarian parties, which will be communist not only in name, are brought together and trained to understand their special tasks, i.e., those of the struggle against the bourgeois-democratic movements within their own nations. The Communist International must enter into a temporary alliance with bourgeois democracy in the colonial and backward countries, but should not merge with it, and should under all circumstances uphold the independence of the proletarian movement even if it is in its most embryonic form;

sixth, the need constantly to explain and expose among the broadest working masses of all countries, and particularly of the backward countries, the deception systematically practised by the imperialist powers, which, under the guise of politically independent states, set up states that are wholly dependent upon them economically, financially and militarily. Under present-day international conditions there is no salvation for dependent and weak nations except in a union of Soviet republics.”
Theses On The National And Colonial Questions

The importance of the second paragraph in relation to Libya, given what I have said above ought to be obvious. But, this too also has to be taken into consideration with what Lenin had previously said in relation to the Democratic Revolution. Following on from Marx and Engels concern that workers not be hustled into such a revolution before they were ready, before they were able to act to defend their interests against those very bourgeois and petit-bourgeois forces doing the hustling Lenin once more emphasised that the workers should not get involved in bids for power before they were ready. In other words, Lenin was separating himself from the Blanquists.

“Let us take the principal and basic difference between the idea presented by the Vperyod and that presented in the resolution. The Vperyod set the revolutionary proletariat of Russia an active aim: to win the battle for democracy and to use this victory for carrying the revolution into Europe.”

Two Tactics Of Social Democracy In The Democratic Revolution

We should focus our attention on building up the working-class in Libya, and on a programme to further its particular interests. The winning of bourgeois democratic freedoms are important for workers. The right to free speech, to organise, to belong to Trades Unions, to strike etc. are basic tools that the workers need to organise and to be able to develop their own forces, their own property, their own organisations, their own democracy. The right to vote i.e. Universal Suffrage is important, but not as important as the winning of these other freedoms, which enable the workers to develop their own superior alternative to bourgeois democracy, a bourgeois democracy that is in fact only a means by which the bourgeoisie more effectively exploit and dominate the workers.
The winning of Bourgeois democracy is NOT the goal of the workers, it is the goal of the bourgeoisie and petit-bourgeoise. No sooner it is achieved than the workers have to begin an all-out struggle against it. As Lenin says in State and Revolution,

“Another reason why the omnipotence of “wealth” is more certain in a democratic republic is that it does not depend on defects in the political machinery or on the faulty political shell of capitalism. A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell (through the Palchinskys, Chernovs, Tseretelis and Co.), it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it.

We must also note that Engels is most explicit in calling universal suffrage as well an instrument of bourgeois rule. Universal suffrage, he says, obviously taking account of the long experience of German Social-Democracy, is

“the gauge of the maturity of the working class. It cannot and never will be anything more in the present-day state."

The petty-bourgeois democrats, such as our Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, and also their twin brothers, all the social-chauvinists and opportunists of Western Europe, expect just this “more” from universal suffrage. They themselves share, and instil into the minds of the people, the false notion that universal suffrage “in the present-day state" is really capable of revealing the will of the majority of the working people and of securing its realization.”

What is most certain is that the working-class in Libya or anywhere else cannot be built up by relying upon the forces of Imperialism, of the Big Capitalist States that for over a century have sought to exert their influence around the globe either directly or indirectly. We should not pretend to the workers in Egypt that the immediate cause of their oppression and exploitation resides in some ephemeral “Imperialism”, when in fact, it is clear that their immediate enemy is the Egyptian State, and Capital in Egypt – be it home grown Egyptian Capital such as Orascom, or foreign Capital such as Vodaphone. But, nor should we pretend to the workers in Libya that this Imperialism is their friend or saviour as against Gaddafi. It is the same Imperialism that has armed him with the weapons he is now using against him. It is the same Imperialism that will arm the next tyrant or bourgeois democratic regime that replaces him, and which will in turn be used against them unless they can overthrow it, and install a Workers State.

The only forces we can rely upon are those of the working class itself in Libya, through the Middle East and North Africa, and throughout the globe. If those forces are not sufficient, as yet, if they are not organised enough yet, if they are not conscious enough yet to provide the support needed for the workers in Libya to win, then that is unfortunate. Such proved the case with the British miners in 1984.
Until we build our forces, organisation and class consciousness such defeats will be more numerous than our victories. It is all the more reason to learn those lessons to build those resources, and to keep our powder dry until such time as we are ready, not allowing ourselves to be drawn in by alien class forces to fight their battles, especially when the conditions for that are not conducive. The lesson we most certainly should NOT learn is to place our faith in our class enemies. As Lenin said in Two Tactics, our attitude to them has to be “extreme revolutionary opposition”.

Monday, 21 March 2011

What Air Strikes?

I put the following video up with very great caveats. Russia has its own axe to grind in the Middle East, and the Russian Media may not be as independent as some. Putin has today, jumped on the growing opposition to Imperialist agression in the Arab street, by talking about "Crusader mentalities" and so on. In some ways its a bit like the Suez crisis. When Britain and France invaded Suez in 1956, some say with a US nod and a wink - just as in fact Wikileaks have proved the statements made years ago by US military insiders that the US had tipped Saddam the wink to invade Kuwait - the main beneficiary was the US, which then replaced Britain and France as the most important economic power in the area, providing it with important access to oil resources. Today, its the West in general that is on the wane, and Russia, China, India and other powers that are on the rise. The position adopted by Russia and China, now facilitates them coming in to attack the bombing, lining themselves up with the same criticisms being levelled at Imperialism by the Arab League.

Whatever, the facts in relation to whether Gaddafi's jets were flying or not, there is no doubt that his forces on the ground were launching murderous attacks on the people in Benghazi and elsewhere. We have a duty to oppose that where it is disproprtional, just as we would oppose the similar disproportional and murderous attacks of the massive Imperialist backed Israeli military against its own groups of rebels in Gaza etc.

All that being said, and considering the fact that the rebels themselves had tanks and planes, the evidence provided by Russian satellites that there had in fact been NO attacks by Gaddafis airforce, is worth looking at. It should provoke the demand for an international inquiry into the claims, at the very least. After all, there have been none of Gaddafi's aircraft shot down as part of the "No Fly Zone", whilst Cruise Missiles and other munitions have been dropped on Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli, and on the naval base - were these flying boats or something? - as well as on military vehicles on the road.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Northern Soul Classics - Walking Up A One Way Street - Willie Tee

Keeping it cool and mellow. This is a Twisted Wheel classic from Willie Tee, from back in 1965. Check out the official site for some more great tracks of the same tempo like "Teasin You", and "Thank You John".

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Where Failure To Oppose Imperialist Intervention Leads You

In my blog post, a few days ago, The Politics Of Pontius Pilate, I discussed the abstentionist position of the AWL in relation to Imperialist intervention.
It examined how that was being applied by the AWL in relation to Libya, in their article Yes To Libya, Not No To USA.

The main things wrong with their position are:

1. They provide uncritical support for the Libyan "rebels" without anywhere providing any analysis of exactly who these rebels are, or what they stand for other than that they are "anti-Gaddafi", which now seems good enough for the AWL to give their support to some group!
So we have no idea of knowing whether, in fact, such support will simply hand over the workers to an even worse fate than Gaddafi.

2. They fail to oppose intervention by the US or other big powers, and the basis on which they do so, is to mislead workers into the beleif that such intervention would be in some sense "impartial".
The basic responsibility of Marxists is to demonstrate to workers that the Capitalist State is NOT neutral, but acts on behalf of the Capitalists. For that reasons, we should not in any way act or fail to act in a way, which leads the workers to beleive otherwise.

3. Socialism cannot be achieved other than by the self-activity, and self-government of the working-class. As Marx set out in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, and many other writings, in providing solutions for the working-class, we focus on precisely that point.
The solutions we propose are solutions that the workers themselves create and impose, they are solutions which require the workers not only mobilising, but mobilising in such a way that they create their own new organisations and forms, which provide an immediate solution to the particular problem. They occupy a workplace threatened with closure as a first step in taking it over, and running it as a Co-operative, for instance. They mobilise to oppose fascist attacks, or attacks by the Police on their community, or attacks by thugs employed by bosses to break strikes, and having mobilised they do not limit themselves to that mobilisation, but develop out of it, Defence Squads, Militia, Democratic forms such as Factory Committees, or Neighbourhood Committees that do not demand rights from the bosses State, but take them.
As Marx and Engels put it in the Communist Manifesto, the demands we raise are ones which not only provide the workers with an immediate and practical solution to their problems of today, but also take care of the movement of tomorrow, by building new workers power in society - new workers' property, new forms of workers' democracy, and new elements of an emergent Workers' State.

But, as usual, there is nothing in the AWL position of this basic Marxism.
They see no role for the working-class in relation to Libya outside some elementary Trade Union politics, basic Economism, and pressure group politics on "Democratic Imperialism".

4. The argument used by the AWL to justify failing to oppose Imperialist intervention would have applied perfectly to Imperialist intervention against the Bolsheviks in 1917.
At that time, the Bolsheviks had not only come to power by means of an armed insurrection, but had been decisively beaten in a Popular Democratic Election. The Bolsheviks had responded to their electoral defeat by using armed power to shut down the Assembly. Faced with opposition centres of power throughout Russia, just as Gaddafi faces such opposition centres today, they again responded by unleashing the greatest military might they could assemble against those opposition centres, and with a brutal reign of Terror, via a secret police under the leadership of Stalin, which ruthlessly rounded up opposition leaders and shot them.
A humanitarian crisis erupted, in which the economy collapsed, and all of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse stalked the land - War, Famine, Pestilence and Disease. Tens of thousands were dying as a result of this disaster, and thousands of workers left the starvation in the cities, in order to try to find food back in their villages.
It makes what is happening in Libya appear trivial. On the AWL's argument, there would have been no basis for them to have opposed Imperialist intervention against such an illegitimate Government, under such conditions.

In the debate on that initial article on their site, just where this kind of politics leads can be seen. Having begun by saying,

"Their history and their nature mandates an attitude of complete distrust to the US and British military."

The AWL, within the article itself began to show anything but complete distrust. They began to talk about why it was unlikely, actually that the US would intervene in Libya in any other form but the institution of a no fly zone.
In actual, fact, as I said at the time, and as anyone who watched TV knew, it was clear that it was impossible to impose a no fly zone without military action on a much larger scale. One of the US Military's top representatives had himself said that a No Fly Zone would constitute, a classic Declaration of War. The US Military had said that it would have to begin by bombing Libyan Air Defences, and anyone who knows anything about such military action knows that it begins with the insertion of Special Forces, who act as spotters, who laser tag those targets.

But, it was also obvious that, in fact, a No Fly Zone would be ineffective, because Gaddafi's forces are rolling Eastwards by land not by air.
As UK Ambassador, Christopher Meyer, said on TV a few days ago, if action were to be taken it would have to be much tougher including bombing Gaddafi's forces and so on. In the debate on their website over the last few days, the AWL have gone from telling us that we should have complete distrust for the US, to spending much of their time, expanding this argument about why the US either would not intervene at all, or else would have no desire to intervene other than in the form of a no fly zone. In other words they effectively turned themselves into mouthpieces of the US State.

But, Imperialism is never thankful for those who sometimes represent its interests - just ask Saddam Hussein. In fact, the US has now put a resolution to the UN, calling not just for a No Fly Zone, but for any measures necessary to remove Gaddafi.
In other words we have gone from Humanitarian Assistance to Regime Change in just a few days. That is precisely why Marxists should be clear in their opposition to intervention by powerful states. The AWL, may now make one of their famous zig-zags, swinging wildly from one position to another, swept along like so much flotsam on the sea of history, as they scramble to accommodate to the very situation they have spent a week arguing was not going to happen. But, not only will that further diminsh any credibility they have, but it will also mean that the argument they then try to make in opposing such intervention will be weakened, because as Meyer, himself has pointed out, if what you really want is "humanitarian relief", then logically you should argue for what will bring that about, not something that will not!

But, in truth, in any such wider intervention, the AWL have no idea WHO will be getting support against Gaddafi. The one thing we can say for sure is that it most certainly will not be revolutionary workers! A couple of years ago, the AWL said they had learned their lesson from supporting the anti-Shah forces in Iran in 1979, and their failure to warn against Khomeini.
But, clearly they have not, because it is just as likely that some clerical-fascist force could be the main beneficiary of such intervention in Libya!

According, to Channel Four's Lindsey Hilsum, reporting from Bahrain, Obama rang the King of Bahrain on Tuesday asking him to pull back the troops and tone down the attacks on protesters.
The King refused in no uncertain terms. It seems, she said, that the US requested support from the Arab League, and from the Gulf Co-operation Council for action against Gaddafi, before it would make such a move. The quid pro quo was that the US has to keep out of the affairs of the Gulf regimes as they unleash their own military forces against the peoples of their own countries.
And, as I have suggested previously, that applies to the Bonapartist regime in Egypt too. In recent days, it has been having negotiations with the Muslim Brotherhood, and is introducing proposals to define who can be considered an Egyptian in order to have the right to vote.
The stringent controls, which mimic some of those put forward by the BNP to define "British", will according to a spokesman on Aljazeera disenfranchise many of the new Middle Class in Egypt, i.e. precisely those forces that were out in Tahrir Square demanding democratic reform.

The job of Marxists is to look after the interests of the working-class, not just in one country, but as a whole, not just for now, but for the future. We can only do that, by at all times inisisting upon the independence of the workers from all other class forces, by insisting that it is only the solidarity, and collective action of the working-class that can be relied upon to provide solutions for workers. A failure to do that even by ommission, and the suggestion that workers can rely on other class forces to fight their battles is a betrayal of the principles of Marxism. The consequences of not opposing the intervention of the big powers in Libya, could well be the rolling back of the democratic revolution throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Popular Revolt & Civil War

Civil War is often a consequence of popular revolt. The English Civil War, was initially a popular revolt. The Peasant War in Germany was a popular revolt that became deepened into a Civil War. The French Revolution was a popular revolt that also turned into a Civil War. The Russian Revolution was a popular revolt that ended in Civil War.
But, likewise, there can be Popular Revolts that do not end in Civil War, just as there are Civil Wars that have nothing to do with Popular Revolt. The opposition to the Poll Tax was a Popular Revolt, that ended in the abandonment of the Tax, but no Civil War. The Civil War in Rwanda had nothing to do with a Popular Revolt.

Coming on the back of Popular revolts in Tunisia, and Egypt, and the apparent spread of such revolts to Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, and also some protests in Jordan, Lebanon etc. it was not surprising that the revolt against Gaddafi in Libya, should be seen to be part of a growing movement of Arab revolt. However, as I pointed out in my blog, Has Gaddafi Gone?, lumping all of these events into the same boat was a mistake.

“Care needs to be taken in lumping all of these protests together, however. In Bahrain, for example, the struggle could be complicated by the fact that the ruling group are Sunni, and the majority of the protesters are Shia.
In addition, it is clear that, in Egypt, for example, the recent economic development has created a sizeable Middle Class, and large numbers of workers. These both form the basis of the establishment of bourgeois democracy, and the latter provide the basis of effective organisation and mobilisation, particularly given their economic muscle, and potential for armed resistance. It is not clear that in a number of the other economies that this is the case, as they continue to be highly reliant on Oil, rather than having extensive economic development.”

The last week has seen the correctness of that approach. Firstly, in relation to Libya. As I pointed out in my blog The Politics Of Pontius Pilate, when the AWL write,

“We should support the people of Libya - and especially any democratic or working-class forces in the anti-Qaddafi movement. We should distrust the US government, but not let kneejerk "no to the USA" reactions dominate our thought”,

they simply reflect the crude, subjectivist nature of their politics. For them Gaddafi is bad, and so anyone opposing him is good. In the same vein, others in the “anti-imperialist” Camp see “Imperialism” as “bad”, and so anyone opposing it is “good”, which has caused them some significant problems with Gaddafi, who for years was one of their standard bearers of anti-imperialism.
Now few, other than the WRP, are prepared to stick with him, whilst the other “anti-imperialists” have had to scramble to show why really he had already gone over the the dark side, and was just as much in the “imperialist” camp as Mubarak and co.

But, in Libya, as much as in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere, what was missing from any of these analyses was any consideration of CLASS, which should be the starting point for a Marxist. That is because those like the AWL are merely a mirror image of the “idiot anti-imperialists” they spend much of their time arguing against. Neither side of this coin, really concerns itself with developing a strategy for the working-class to develop its own forces – outside a debilitating and limited Economism – because neither actually believe that the working-class IS capable of fulfilling its historic mission. So they look to larger social forces – which inevitably means looking to alternative class forces – as the champion for their world vision, with the workers reduced to nothing more than walk on actors.

Compare the AWL's position, stated above, with their position in respect of Iraq, for instance. In Iraq, they did not argue for support for the people of Iraq, as they now call for support for the people of Libya. On the contrary, they opposed the formulation of such a response, precisely because a large proportion of the people of Iraq were hostile to the US/UK presence in the country.
Even for an organisation as prepared to perform the political contortions to justify its positions as the AWL, it would have been difficult to argue for support of the people of Iraq, and their opposition to the Occupation, at the same time as arguing against calls for the Occupation to be thrown out!

Of course, the AWL were right to oppose those “anti-imperialists” who were so blinded by their “anti-imperialism”, that they forgot about being socialists, forgot about the need to build the working-class as an independent force separate from those other “anti-imperialist” forces in Iraq, who were just as much the enemies of Iraqi workers as were the US/UK Occupiers.
But, having given up, in practice, on the historic role of the workers, the AWL were then left with no option but to oppose those demands which could have built the working class, and helped it take the lead in the anti-imperialist struggle, because those demands, and that strategy, meant opposing the AWL's own champion within this process – “Democratic Imperialism”.

But, the question in relation to Libya is what does it mean to call for support for the “people of Libya”, even if it is limply qualified with the phrase, “especially any democratic or working-class forces in the anti-Qaddafi movement”. Does this mean that in Libya, for instance, that the AWL are prepared to support the same class forces, the same clerical-fascist forces that they opposed in Iraq, just so long as they are, in this case, part of the “anti-Qaddafi Movement”? After all their qualification is only “especially any democratic or working-class forces”. If so, they should explain why that is the case, in this instance.

And the reality is that we do not know who the “anti-Gaddafi forces” are. Some of them, are ex-members of the Gaddafi regime, for example. And, as I said recently elsewhere, on a Channel 4 News broadcast last week, asked who their commanding officer was, some rebel forces replied, “Allah.”
That sends warning signals to my mind, about the political nature of at least some of these forces. And, as I said then, there has to be questions about the extent to which what we see in Libya is a Popular Revolt of the kind we have seen in Tunisia and Egypt. In both those cases, their nature, as Popular Revolts, was demonstrated by the fact, that their epicentre was in the main population centres, in the Capital Cities. But, we have not seen that in Libya. Even after large parts of the country had fallen to rebel forces, there was no large-scale rebellion in Tripoli where the majority of the population live. Nor can that be put down to the response of the Gaddafi regime. In fact, as my blog set out, at the time it was written, Gaddafi was clearly on the back foot, there were, indeed rumours that he had fled the country. Everyone believed his days were literally numbered, and his regime was fracturing visibly. Those are precisely the conditions where you would have expected to see a Popular Revolt break out in the Capital City, and if it had, it is likely that we would have seen the military, which has not been particularly favoured by Gaddafi, fracture, which would have dealt immediately with the question of air-power, and prevented the kind of counter-attack that is now under way. It seems clear to me that what we have in Libya is something more complicated than a Popular Revolt.

Part of the explanation for that is probably to be found in the continued role of tribal allegiances in Libya. In fact, we see something similar developing elsewhere, and a number of factors inter-relating with each other. As I'd pointed out above, one part of the situation in Bahrain, for example, that had to be taken into consideration, was the division between the Sunni rulers, and the Shia majority, who were discriminated against. The importance of that has been revealed in the last few days. The Shia majority have begun to become increasingly radicalised, no longer happy to settle for some kind of Constitutional Monarchy, but demanding an end to the Monarchy, and establishment of a Democratic Republic. Now, the Sunni rulers have called upon their brethren in Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf States, to come to their support. Saudi Arabia has sent 1,000 troops to bolster the Bahraini regime, with police and other forces coming from other Gulf States. The Shia in Bahrain, facing a clampdown and physical attacks from these forces, are now understandably declaring this an act of war. Given the tensions between the Gulf States, and the Shia regime in Iran, the consequences of this are obvious. In the meantime, although, the US and EU called on the Egyptian Generals to get rid of Mubarak, which they did, and although they told the Bahraini regime to take its troops off the streets, which they did, we are not seeing a repetition of those calls, we are not seeing overt pressure being put on these regimes to stop their attacks on their people, that we are seeing in relation to the attacks of Gaddafi's regime on its people, even taking into consideration the difference in ferocity – for now – of those attacks. As I said in my blog Egypt What Is To Be Done

“If Mubarak continues to hold on to power, and if no quick, effective move is made against him, then it is inevitable that one of two courses will develop. In one course, the movement will run out of steam, and be dissipated, to be met by an equally inevitable clamp down, arrest of protest leaders, and period of reaction to prevent the possibility of any repeat for a long time.

Those western governments who are now giving warm words to the protesters will wring their hands, proclaim their most profound indignation, and then continue to deal with Mubarak or his chosen successor.

The situation in Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, and probably in Libya, is not the same as the situation in Egypt or Tunisia. The latter two states have over recent years developed economically, and that development is at root the material basis of the revolts that have been seen. Although, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have experienced considerable economic growth, based upon the rising price of oil, their economies remain largely rent based, relying on oil revenues, rather than having expanded into other manufacturing as has happened in Egypt.
The same is true, in large part for Libya. Political Sociologists talk about “cross-cutting cleavages” within societies. By this they mean that societies are stratified horizontally according to class and status, but, in addition, they are divided vertically along other lines such as sex, ethicity, religion, sexual orientation etc. In other words, there are people in every social class and status group who are men as well as some who are women, and so on. The extent to which these vertical divisions are important, depends upon the nature of the society, its history, and current relations. In general the more homogenous a society the less these other factors will play a significant role, and the more the horizontal divisions of class will be determinant. As Engels puts it in his letter to Bloch,

“According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life. Other than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract, senseless phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure — political forms of the class struggle and its results, to wit: constitutions established by the victorious class after a successful battle, etc., juridical forms, and even the reflexes of all these actual struggles in the brains of the participants, political, juristic, philosophical theories, religious views and their further development into systems of dogmas — also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles and in many cases preponderate in determining their form.
There is an interaction of all these elements in which, amid all the endless host of accidents (that is, of things and events whose inner interconnection is so remote or so impossible of proof that we can regard it as non-existent, as negligible), the economic movement finally asserts itself as necessary. Otherwise the application of the theory to any period of history would be easier than the solution of a simple equation of the first degree.

We make our history ourselves, but, in the first place, under very definite assumptions and conditions. Among these the economic ones are ultimately decisive. But the political ones, etc., and indeed even the traditions which haunt human minds also play a part, although not the decisive one. The Prussian state also arose and developed from historical, ultimately economic, causes. But it could scarcely be maintained without pedantry that among the many small states of North Germany, Brandenburg was specifically determined by economic necessity to become the great power embodying the economic, linguistic and, after the Reformation, also the religious difference between North and South, and not by other elements as well (above all by its entanglement with Poland, owing to the possession of Prussia, and hence with international political relations — which were indeed also decisive in the formation of the Austrian dynastic power). Without making oneself ridiculous it would be a difficult thing to explain in terms of economics the existence of every small state in Germany, past and present, or the origin of the High German consonant permutations, which widened the geographic partition wall formed by the mountains from the Sudetic range to the Taunus to form a regular fissure across all Germany.

In the second place, however, history is made in such a way that the final result always arises from conflicts between many individual wills, of which each in turn has been made what it is by a host of particular conditions of life. Thus there are innumerable intersecting forces, an infinite series of parallelograms of forces which give rise to one resultant — the historical event. This may again itself be viewed as the product of a power which works as a whole unconsciously and without volition. For what each individual wills is obstructed by everyone else, and what emerges is something that no one willed.

Of course, as Engels points out, there is a relation between these things. The fact that Catholics were divided from Protestants in the North of Ireland, was not solely a question of a vertical cleavage along the lines of religion. The division also rested upon a material foundation of the unequal treatment of Catholics, economically and politically within the society, and these real material divisions also act to harden the ideological/religious differences too. Something similar can be seen in relation to the situation of Shia in Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. If we were to dig enough in Libya, we might find some similar division, which provides a material basis for the opposition to Gaddafi in the East of the country, and his relative support in Tripoli.

It is, as Engels makes clear above, a crude determinist version of Marxism, which seeks to reduce everything down to a matter of economics, or economic class divisions, and it is frequently these other divisions, which can have powerful ideological and motivational force, which often explain the eruption of Civil Wars, and also inter state wars, that do not represent what would normally be termed popular revolts in that they do not represent a clear class based uprising across all segments of the oppressed masses. It should be clear that in these instances, Marxists have no responsibility for choosing sides within such disputes outside the basic requirement to oppose oppression of minority groups. Our task is not to pick sides, but to present a solution to the oppression of the Minority on the basis of building working-class unity across those divisions.

The one thing that does apply across all of these societies from Libya to Egypt, to Saudi Arabia is the need for Marxists to focus their activity on building up the working-class within, and across these societies, and pushing forward its class interests as primary within any of the struggles taking place.
In fact, what we have seen in the last week shows the importance of that. In the same way that the revolt in Tunisia, acted to spur on the revolt in Egypt, and so on, we appear now to be seeing the same thing in reverse. Gaddafi, has used the resources available to him, and the support he still appeared able to mobilise in Tripoli, to bring to a halt the rebellion based largely in the East. Having done that, he now seems to be in the process of rolling up the revolt, only part of which can be attributed to his access to air power. Seeing his ability to do that, without the US or EU intervening to stop him, it appears that the feudal and Bonapartist regimes elsewhere have learned from him. First Saudi Arabia launched attacks on Shia protesters the day before its proposed “Day of Rage”, and used its media, the religious clerics etc. to warn any potential protesters of what would befall them if they came on to the streets. Having achieved that, and having seen that the Shia in Bahrain were becoming more radical, it has also moved to roll-up the opposition in Bahrain too. We are likely to see a similar development in relation to Egypt and Tunisia, unless the Egyptian masses, and in particular the Egyptian workers continue to develop their organisation, and to build their own defence to quickly remove the Egyptian Bonapartists. At the time of the downfall of Mubarak, I pointed out that this move should be seen as a Military Coup, by those General, not a decisive victory of the protests. In Military Coup As Egyptian Workers Appear On The Stage, I argued,

“The celebrations in Tahir Square are understandable as the events of the day are seen in the positive light of Mubarak standing down, but in reality the Military that have now pushed him aside, possibly on the back of heavy prompting from the US, are the same Military top brass from which Mubarak himself came, and which supported Sadat before him, and which supported Nasser before him. In reality Egypt has merely swapped the political regime of a Bonapartist leader resting on a military-bureaucratic elite, for the open rule of that same military-bureaucratic elite.”

So long as the political regime remains in the grip of these military/bureaucratic elements, or in the hands of feudal rulers such as those in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, any gains made by the workers or the middle classes will be extremely fragile. More than ever, we need to build the strength of the working class on all fronts.