Saturday, 31 October 2020

COVID, Lockdown and Logical Dissonance

Last night, on Sky's Paper Review, Susie Boniface, of the Daily Mirror, gave another example of how proponents of lockdowns are allowed to get away with thoroughly illogical statements unchallenged.

She claimed that, because people were not abiding strictly by existing restrictions, a new lockdown was inevitable.  Indeed, it seems like that is what is coming, as Boris Johnson makes yet another U-Turn.  She said that it was necessary, because people did not seem to understand what the risks of a pandemic entailed.  The example she gave was of people stepping out in front of a bus.  If you do that, as an individual, she said, its you that is taking the risk of being knocked down, not anyone else.  But, with COVID, she claimed, its not just you stepping out, but you are pulling a hundred other people into the road behind you.  That is absolute nonsense.

Every individual is free to make their own choices - or at least they were until governments withdrew such civil liberties by introducing lockdowns.  I am as free to decide whether to take the risk of going to the pub or a restaurant, as I am to choose whether to step out into the road or not.  In making that choice, I will bear in mind the risks to me.  In the case of COVID, because I am over 60, and suffer from asthma, my assessment is that I am not prepared to take the risk of coming in contact with anyone from whom I might contract the virus.  That is why since march I have been self isolating, and avoiding such contact.  Indeed, it makes me furious to see on TV lots of elderly people, often not wearing masks, out in town centres, when there is no need for them to be.  But, it is their choice to put their lives at risk by doing so, though I might have some thoughts about my taxes going to pay for their hospital care, for the potential self-inflicted damage they are risking.  It is their decision to take that risk, and no one should seek to limit the freedom of younger people, who are not at risk, in order that they can do so.

It doesn't stop me going out for a run, into the garden to exercise, or to meet with my son and his partner.  In fact, it didn't stop me going to collect some things from the local Screwfix a while ago, where they have measures in place that avoid contact.  It doesn't stop me taking the dog for a walk.  All it requires is sensible measures to avoid contacts that might lead me to become infected.  I have no desire, therefore, to prevent anyone else from making such choices.  I certainly have no desire to prevent millions of young people, and those under 60 from going to work, going out to pubs and restaurants and doing all the other things that young people usually do, because, contrary to what Boniface says, their choices are totally irrelevant to my own well-being.  Their own risks from COVID are next to zero, and, in fact, precisely because of that, if they do go out and mingle, they will safely develop herd immunity, which is the most effective means of killing off the virus itself.

In fact, the choices those younger people make do affect me, but not in the way Boniface means.  If all those younger people, the backbone of the workforce, decide to lockdown, or if that decision is made for them by the government, then it means that all of the goods and services that I, and everyone else, depends upon, do not get produced, or get produced in smaller quantities, and at higher cost.  That is far more likely to impact on me than any risk to me from COVID from them presents!  Indeed, as it appeared that another lockdown was likely, I began again stocking up, to be able to last over the Winter, some weeks ago.  Many other vulnerable people will not be so lucky as to have done that.

To say that younger, healthier people's decisions on what activity to engage in necessarily affects me, is complete nonsense.  It doesn't.  There is no reason why I or any other person in the vulnerable section of the population needs to come in contact with them.  If we do so, it is purely out of our own choice to put ourselves in that danger, not the responsibility of the young to protect us from it.  My youngest son has a serious nut allergy.  Boniface's argument means that I shouldn't eat nuts, because having nuts in the house could have exposed him to them, and caused an adverse reaction.  But, again, of course, that is nonsense.  All that was required was to ensure that he kept away from the nuts, and that we didn't contaminate anything else with nuts that he might come in contact with.  He has been fine.  Nor would I expect society to ban nuts and nut products as the sensible solution to a minority of people having the possibility of dying from an allergic reaction to them.  Instead we simply enable those with the allergy to avoid contact with nuts and nut products.

That is all that needed to be done with COVID.  It simply required the government to enable the 20% of the population at serious risk from it to isolate for a few months until such time as herd immunity was developed in the rest of the population as it safely went about its business.

Labour, The Left, and The Working Class – A Response To Paul Mason – Lessons For The Left - Part 13/15 - Lesson 8 – Programme and Politics (i)

Lessons For The Left

Lesson 8 – Programme and Politics (i) 

Labour's 2019 Programme was a confused mess. At the heart of that mess was the contradiction it faced over its commitment to pursue Brexit. The clearest manifestation of that contradiction was its attempt to combine that with a similar commitment to hold another referendum. Labour's position had been correct in 2016. We support remaining in the EU, but we reject the current neoliberal (conservative social-democratic) political regime that dominates it. Of course, that political regime is simply a reflection of the fact that the same conservative social-democracy dominates the national parliaments of the majority of EU nation states. That, in itself, shows how ridiculous Lexit was as an idea, because the most conservative of those conservative social-democratic states, was Britain itself! Having adopted the correct political position in 2016, based upon a correct analysis, and understanding of the reactionary nature of Brexit, Labour should have stuck to that principled position, irrespective of the referendum result, which could not change the truth of the underlying analysis. 

Had Labour done that in 2017, its quite possible that it could have won a majority in the General Election. It could certainly have deprived the Tories/DUP of a majority to push through Brexit. In 2019, the pro-Brexit stance taken by Corbyn saw Labour eviscerated in the Spring local and European elections, as it haemorrhaged votes to the Liberals, Greens, Plaid and the SNP. Corbyn was forced to pull back from that disastrous position, but it was too late, and the resultant position was clearly ludicrous, with Labour saying it would try to negotiate a have cake and eat it “Labour Brexit”, but that, even if it got it – which was never going to happen – it would, in any case, still argue for Remain in a following referendum! No wonder voters saw Labour as incompetent and dissembling. As it became ever clearer that Labour was losing, the party took its already bloated manifesto, and daily added more bribes to voters that were uncosted, and for which there had been no prior work done to win support for them amongst the working-class. It was a shambles. 

The idea that there could be some have cake and eat it “Labour Brexit” was ridiculous, and relied upon the same kinds of ideas that the Tory Brexiters themselves had been propounding, about how the EU would need Britain as much or more than Britain needs the EU. But, in Labour's case it was worse. It relied on the Utopian, reactionary ideas of Lexit, founded upon the notion of building Social Democracy in One Country. In this Little Icara scenario, not only would Britain get this marvellous deal with the EU, but it would, simultaneously, be able to nationalise large parts of the economy, increase taxes, so as to significantly increase public spending, and would also be able to introduce all sorts of new environmental protections and so on. At least the Moggites realised that the truth about Brexit was that it would necessitate and bring about a carnival of reaction, of increased competition, of lower wages and living standards for workers, a bonfire of regulations in order to allow businesses to reduce their costs so as to compete with capital internationally. 

This was the contradiction at the heart of Labour's programme and politics. And, in that regard nothing has changed. Yet, Starmer, the great architect of Labour's Six Tests, and champion of the second referendum, no sooner than becoming Leader, has become a bigger Brexiteer than Corbyn! Gone is even the call for a second referendum, or any opposition to a Tory Brexit. Instead Starmer calls on Johnson to get on with his hard Brexit negotiations, in the same way as he has goaded him on to implement even harsher restrictions on civil liberties as part of the idiotic lockdown. There is no commitment from Starmer to oppose Brexit, or to promise to negotiate a British re-entry into Europe, even as each day passes shows that the effects of Brexit will be disastrous. 

And, here, Paul also offers no progressive alternative, but also collapses into the same delusions as the Lexiters. 

“Labour’s offer should be to amend the FTA — or to seek one in the case of No Deal — in a way that gives maximum access to the Single Market; and to reform the points-based immigration system based on principles of social justice, while offering full UK citizenship and voting rights to every EU citizen who wants it. For clarity, we should not try to build a political narrative around reversing Brexit or a return to Freedom of Movement.” 

This is just a repetition of the policy of have cake and eat it. There is no maximum access to the Single Market without Single Market membership, or acceptance of Single Market rules, and that will involve acceptance of free movement. Failure to argue for reversing Brexit means giving up on Scotland, and accepting Scottish independence, because federalism will not provide the answer that Scots require in relation to Brexit. It also means giving up on trying to win back the votes of Liberals, Greens, Plaid and indeed many progressive, young Labour voters. It also means that any radical Labour agenda becomes utopian, because no such agenda is feasible outside the EU, which is precisely what was wrong with the economic nationalism of Corbynism. As for offering full UK citizenship to every EU citizen, how can you do that without giving all EU citizen's the right of free movement to Britain? But, what is equally important is obtaining full EU citizenship for all UK citizens who want it, so that they have free movement in Europe! 

The basis of any credible, progressive social-democratic agenda, let alone socialist agenda is internationalism, because in a world of international, and increasingly globalised capitalism, any programme must start from at least that scale. There can be no purely national solutions to any problems of workers, be it in relation to environment, taxation, investment, wages, employment, or industrial democracy.

That is one reason why, today, there is no such thing as progressive nationalism. A starting point for socialists is the unity of workers across borders that have become increasingly irrelevant, and anachronistic. The starting point for socialists, and progressive social- democrats, therefore, must continue to be opposition to Brexit, and commitment to Britain's re-entry into the EU. At the very least, it requires currently, insistence on a commitment to free movement, and to adherence to the rules of the Single Market and Customs Union. Labour should vote against anything that does not provide that. It is the best way, not only of protecting workers interests in the short-term, but also of creating the conditions in which the next Labour government can simply take Britain back into the EU. 

Paul is doing what Starmer and every opportunist does, whose focus is solely on winning the next election, rather than developing a principled programme as the only sound basis for any progressive social-democratic government. As part of an electoral calculus, it seems to think that those younger Labour voters in the cities will continue to vote Labour solely on the basis of a progressive agenda, having accepted that Brexit is a settled issue. But, for most of those young voters, who have 40, 50, or 60 years of their life ahead of them, Brexit can in no way be considered a settled matter, and it immediately affects them. Such a calculation makes the same mistake, but in a different way to that made by Blair, that he could continually suck up to the interests of the middle class, to win over centrist voters, whilst the core vote would continue to back him. It didn't, which is one reason that Labour faces the problems it has today. 

The mistake being made now is that those young voters will continue to vote Labour. But, why would they? Moreover, as described above, Labour's supposedly radical agenda is not credible outside the EU, anyway. All that is being prepared is failure and the necessary disillusion that follows it, which is the prelude to reaction. As Trotsky put it, 

"Fascism is a form of despair in the petit-bourgeois masses, who carry away with them over the precipice a part of the proletariat as well. Despair as is known, takes hold when all roads of salvation are cut off. The triple bankruptcy of democracy, Social Democracy and the Comintern was the prerequisite for fascism. All three have tied their fate to the fate of imperialism. All three bring nothing to the masses but despair and by this assure the triumph of fascism.” 

(Phrases and Reality) 

And, by the time, this disillusion and despair manifests itself, at the end of the next Labour government, its likely that we will, indeed, have reached that point in the long wave cycle that is equivalent to the period of the 1920's, and so where the parallels with the rise of fascism become relevant once more. 

The calculation is that the appeasement of nationalism, and the acquiescence in the promotion of reactionary “values” will somehow enable Labour to win back those votes of reactionary Labour voters in the decaying urban areas. The reality is it won't. For one thing, many of them were never Labour voters to begin with. As I said earlier, the old people in those decaying towns are dying out, and their inherited reactionary ideas are dying out with them, as those ideas themselves were generated by a different world that has gone. But, also those towns themselves are dying and changing. In ten years time, smaller towns, some filled with people who have migrated from high cost cities, as COVID encourages a more rapid move to home-working, will have entirely new populations that more closely resemble the cities in their attitudes.

Northern Soul Classics - Scott's On Swingers - Edwin Starr


Friday, 30 October 2020

Friday Night Disco - S.O.S. Edwin Starr


What The Friends of the People Are, Appendix III - Part 2

Lenin's own narrow conception of this class struggle is conditioned by a number of factors. Firstly, the later volumes of Capital had only recently become available, a lot of their interpretation coloured by the contents of Volume I, as well as by Marx's own earlier writings such as the Communist Manifesto, much of the content of which Marx and Engels had themselves described as historical relics. Secondly, the expansion of socialised capital was still a relatively new phenomenon, and, in Russia, newer still. Finally, Lenin's position is often formed by his need to polemicise against others, here the Narodniks, and Legal Marxists, which leads him to inevitably “bend the stick” in order to make his point. 

Lenin, however, does arrive at the correct conclusion that the whole point is to analyse these social developments, and thereby to precisely understand what has changed within them, what new antagonisms have arisen on the basis of them, and to explain this to workers on the basis of moving forward from them. Its on this basis that Lenin rejects Economism. The Marxists job was not to act simply as militant trades unionists, assisting the workers in their economic struggles for higher wages etc. It was to explain to workers that their exploitation resided in these specific forms of ownership and control of capital that results in these repeated skirmishes. It was to explain why that can only end when workers have ownership and control of the means of production. As Marx had put it, 

““We do not say to the world: Cease struggling—your whole struggle is senseless. All we do is to provide it with a true slogan of struggle.” (letter to Ruge (dated September 1843)) (p 328) 

The Narodniks, like the Sismondists, and Proudhonists, when they saw poverty only saw poverty. Looking at their writings, 

“you will be astonished that socialists could be satisfied with a theory that confines itself to studying and describing distress and to moralising over it.” (p 328) 

The Narodnik solution was to offer up schemas of future development that avoided the capitalist development that was proceeding apace around them, and which Engels in his letter to Danielson had said offered Russia “new hope”. But, whilst Lenin rejected the dead-end of such Utopian schemas, of alternative paths of economic development, as well as other forms of Economism, he also rejected the other extreme of constitutionalism, as represented by the Narodnoye Pravo party. As between the two, Lenin clearly sees the bourgeois constitutionalists of Narodnoye Pravo as progressive, as against the reactionary Utopians of the Narodniks. The former recognised the reality of capitalist development in Russia, and its progressive nature. They sought to follow through on that progressive development by a political campaign for the same kind of constitutional reforms and bourgeois democratic rights and freedoms that capitalist development had brought in its train in Western Europe and North America. 

However, Lenin says that for the socialists to join a bourgeois party that limits itself purely to such a constitutionalist struggle would spell death to it, because the whole point of the independent organisation of the socialists is to highlight the separate and antagonistic interests of workers to those of the bourgeoisie. Here, in fact, is an early indication of the Marxist opposition to the concept of the Popular Front. The socialists could share temporary, short-term interests with the bourgeois liberals, for example, in demands for constitutional reforms, and demands for political rights and freedoms, but they could never join them in any single organisation, because their fundamental class interests were antagonistic. Indeed, in the 1890s, Lenin advocated several alliances to achieve such demands, but these were always short-term tactical alliances. And Lenin notes of the Narodnoye Pravo, 

“It must, therefore, be admitted that they are taking a step forward by basing an exclusively political struggle—unrelated to socialism—on an exclusively political programme. The Social-Democrats whole-heartedly wish the Narodopravtsi success, wish that their party may grow and develop, that they may form closer ties with those social elements which take their stand by the present economic system and whose everyday interests really are most intimately bound up with democracy.” (p 331) 

Lenin meant here that they were standing with those that put their faith in the development of capitalism, in Russia, as the basis of the extension of their political rights and freedoms, as against the Narodniks who were prepared to forgo any extension of political rights simply in the hope that state bureaucrats and intellectuals would return Russia to its “natural path of development”

“The conciliatory, cowardly, sentimental and dreamy Narodism of the “friends of the people” will not stand up long when attacked from both sides: by the political radicals for being capable of expressing confidence in the bureaucracy and for not realising the absolute necessity of political struggle; and by the Social-Democrats, for attempting to represent themselves almost as socialists, although they have not the slightest relation to socialism and not the slightest inkling of the causes of the oppression of the working people or of the character of the class struggle now in progress.” (p 332)

Care Home Shame

Sky News have reported that COVID cases in care homes in Leeds have now exceeded those from the previous peak earlier in the year. This is a disgrace, and another example of how the strategy of the proponents of lockdowns amounts to geriatricide. 

A couple of weeks ago, it was being claimed that the rise in infections in places like Leeds was all down to students returning to Leeds University. But, given that those students come mostly from other parts of Britain, its obviously not them who have been visiting care homes in Leeds, and spreading the virus there! More likely, is the other fact announced today that the introduction of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme was responsible for a big rise in infections. That is likely to be because, as lockdowns were eased, large numbers of older people came out to take advantage of such schemes, as well as to flood back into town centres, pubs and other such places, where they became infected. Many of them will be the ones also who have transmitted the virus to care homes. 

But, that anyone should be transmitting the virus to care homes, at this stage, is a disgrace, and indication that no serious attempt has been made to lock down such facilities, and ensure that their residents are isolated from the risk of infection. Had the government, from the start, told everyone over 60, or with underlying medical conditions, to isolate themselves, had they put all their resources into ensuring that care homes and hospitals could be properly isolated, for example, by setting up small specialist isolation units, then there is no reason why tens of thousands need to have died, because they could have been protected from the virus from the beginning. Instead, the government continued to push the mantra that everyone was equally vulnerable to the virus, and all efforts were, therefore, diverted into a national lockdown, and billions of Pounds were wasted on a test and trace system that could never work. 

If even a fraction of the £12 billion spent on the failed test and trace app had been used to introduce isolation units, and to provide proper PPE, and contact protocols for health and care workers, tens of thousands of lives of the elderly and sick could have been saved. But, that this continues to be the case, now, 8 months after the lockdown was introduced is scandalous on epic proportions. 

Thursday, 29 October 2020

The Left Should Operate Inside Labour As Though Its a Police State

In the past, I have criticised the Left sects for their playing at being revolutionaries with the use of “party names” and so on, in conditions where, unlike Tsarist Russia, there was no police state. However, with Starmer's provocation of the Left, in the suspension of Corbyn, not for anything he has done, but simply for expressing an opinion, its clear that Starmer has introduced police state conditions inside Labour, in preparation for large scale expulsions of the Left, the closing down of branches, CLP's and so on, if they resist, and if he cannot provoke them into leaving voluntarily as the Militant did in the 1990's. The Left inside Labour must now operate on the basis that it is a police state, where the thought police are standing by to use any pretext to suspend and expel members of the Left.

It was under those conditions that Lenin wrote “What Is To be Done”, as a manual for how revolutionaries should deal with that kind of police state and censorship of thoughts and ideas. Starmer's removal of Rebecca Long Bailey from the Shadow Cabinet, followed by the sacking of Nadia Whittome, was clearly the warm up for Starmer's suspension of Corbyn, as he seeks to provoke the Left into leaving or waging the kind of response that would create the pretext for him expelling large numbers of activists, and closing down party organisations. This is a forerunner to pulling back in all of those Tories and scabs that left Labour to join the TIGs. Starmer's police state tactics, and denial even of basic bourgeois-democratic rights to free speech to party members follows hard on the heels of his support for the illiberal measures and withdrawal of civil liberties by Boris Johnson's Bonapartist regime. Its quite clear what the Left is now facing whether it comes in the guise of Johnson or Starmer.

Those like Paul Mason who naively called on us to back Starmer have again seen the consequences of such an approach, consequences that, as I have set out in my response to Paul, over the last few weeks, any Marxist who has studied history could and should have foreseen. Paul Mason has a heavy responsibility on his shoulders to engage in some serious self-criticism for his error, and to come out strongly in defence of Corbyn. But, he should beware that in doing so, he will put himself in the firing line to be also suspended by Starmer's stormtroopers and thought police. After all, when the Right were developing the anti-semitism meme as the spearhead of their attack on the Left, he too had been the subject of such scurrilous accusations.

But, for the rest of the Left, the most important thing now is not to respond to the Right's provocation. It is important to stay and fight, and not to give Starmer and the Right the opportunity to expel and suspend people either individually or wholesale. In Tsarist Russia the Social-Democrats (Marxists) had to ensure that in their public utterances they abided by the rules of Tsarist censorship to prevent their journals and printing presses being seized, and to prevent themselves being locked up or exiled. The Left has to operate in the same way in Starmer's police state Labour Party.

Lenin proposed that the Russian social-democrats at the same time operated illegally to get around the Tsarist police state, in conjunction with their open legal activities. That was the purpose of the party names to hide the identity of writers in the illegal publications that went outside the limits of Tsarist censorship. Today, the internet makes that an easy task. It is easy for the Left to circulate its ideas entirely online, and for those writing in those journals to use party names to do so. It seems incredible given the advance that the Left made after 2015, that it now becomes necessary to do so, but is probably an indication of just how much that advance put the shits up the right-wing establishment of the labour movement, and its bourgeois backers, and masters.

It is necessary to build a massive online and anonymous resistance to Starmer's police state tactics, and his relentless drive to hand the party back to the Right, and the bourgeoisie. But, at the same time, the Left should ensure that in its public utterances, they say nothing that could be used to suspend or expel them. Instead, we must simply get on and do what Corbyn should have done after 2015. That is, we must educate, organise and agitate amongst all those hundreds of thousands of new party members, to draw out the lessons for them of what has just happened. To show why walking away cannot be the answer, and why, instead, its necessary to double down, to draw in even more activists, including all those who will be appalled at the action of Starmer and his right-wing cronies in suspending Corbyn, and undertaking this provocation of the Left. We need to calmly, quietly and efficiently, just get on with the task of removing all of the existing right-wing, Blair-right, and soft left councillors and careerists, and promoting the kind of democratic reforms and rebuilding of the labour-movement required to clear out all of this rotten dead-wood for good, including Starmer himself.

Let's reclaim the Party for the working-class, and clear out all of these open apologists for capital, and begin the process of promoting the interests of the working-class and of Socialism.

Corbyn's Suspension - A Provocation By The Right

At the start of the year, I predicted that Labour would split.  Paul Mason, whose Popular Front strategy for building a broad Left Alliance, inside Labour, I have been discussing in recent weeks,  rightly argued against the Left leaving the Party, but rather naively argued that we could somehow build this alliance behind Starmer, against the Right.

But, as I have argued Starmer is the stalking horse of the Right, just as Kinnock was their stalking horse in he 1980's.  The left cannot build an alliance behind him, because the Right have already done so, supported by the big battallions of the bourgeois media, and the right-wing bureaucratic establishment of the Labour movement itself.  Starmer victory was the equivalent of the defeat of the Paris Commune, and what is happening since is the equivalent of the blood letting that followed it.  No one can be in any doubt that Corbyn's suspension was done with Starmer's prior approval.  He is not even being suspended for anything actually contained in the EHRC report, but merely for exercising his democratic right, of free speech to voice his disagreement with its findings.  If anyone should be suspended its those who now want to deprive Labour Party members of that basis bourgeois-democratic right of free speech, just as they have been rushing to back Boris Johnson's own limitation of individual freedoms!

Paul Mason said that members of the Left should not be goaded into leaving.  He is right, but this suspension of Corbyn is clearly a provocation by the Right, with Starmer at their head, trying to get the Left to leave the party so as to clear the ground for the Right to take over once more.  It is the equivalent of the witchhunts of the 1980's.  Then the Left made the mistake of leaving the Party.  The Militant claimed they were all expelled, but they were not.  The vast majority of their members could have stayed and fought.

We should not make the same mistake again.  On the contrary, its necessary to respond by drawing in even more Left activists, to ensure that the half million new members who joined because of Corbyn learn the lessons of the last five years, including the lessons of Corbyn's own failures, to have democratised the party.  We should respond to the provocation by doubling down on our efforts to democratise the party, to hold he Right and soft left to account, because "We are many, they are few".  But, they have all of the machinery of the bourgeois media and state behind them, including the forces responsible for producing the EHRC Report, an unforgiveable intrusion of the bourgeoisie into the affairs of the workers organisations.

We can see where this process is leading by all those comments from the scabs that did abandon Labour to form the TIG's, and so on, whose purpose was to enable the Tories to win the last election, just as they attempted to do in 2017.  As I said in response to Paul Mason weeks ago, the left cannot form an alliance behind Starmer, because Starmer represents a huge defeat for the Left, he is merely preparation for a Rightist restoration.

Labour, The Left, and The Working Class – A Response To Paul Mason – Lessons For The Left - Part 12/15 - Lesson 7 – Strategy, Tactics and Principles (iii)

Lessons For the Left

Lesson 7 – Strategy, Tactics and Principles (iii) 

Paul says, 

“Because the liberal+centrist vote is clustered in the big cities, or in the exurban constituencies we already hold, there is no route to government unless you regain votes lost in the ex-industrial small towns.” 

Again, this assumes that the most important thing is being in government. But, of course, the old people in those decaying towns are dying out, and their inherited reactionary ideas are dying out with them, as those ideas themselves were generated by a different world that has gone. But, also, those towns themselves are dying and changing. In ten years time, smaller towns, some filled with people who have migrated from high cost cities, as COVID encourages a more rapid move to home-working, will have entirely new populations that more closely resemble the cities in their attitudes. Indeed, as I wrote some time ago – Metropolitan Elite Myth, already in those decaying towns, there are also young working-class people, who already share all those same values, as their metropolitan counterparts. Its not a metropolitan v old industrial town dichotomy, but simply a young, educated, progressive working-class v old, ill-educated, reactionary working-class and petty-bourgeois dichotomy. The only factor is the weight of each of these in the different locations. 

So, Paul is completely wrong when he says, 

“The left is strong when it’s broad” 

All experience says otherwise. Broadness is simply a symptom of lack of class consciousness, vagueness, lack of political development and amorphousness, more characteristic of the peasantry and petty-bourgeoisie, which is why, as Marx says, they could never form a ruling class. There is a huge difference between a Left that is large, and enjoys mass support, and a Left that is simply broad. The latter will simply fall apart on first contact with reality and battle, as the experience of the 1980's showed, when the soft elements of that Left capitulated, or has happened with the Popular Front in Spain and elsewhere. 

Paul says, 

“I’m part of a left that wants to engage with Starmer’s project and to help shape it, defending its core agenda of climate, social and economic justice from the inevitable pushback from the party’s right, and by solving through practice the strategic problems outlined below.” 

The best way to shape it is as an independent Left with its own agenda, not as an appendage of the centre. 

Paul continues, 

“The left should critically support the Starmer project and lead the attempt to define what radical economic change means post-Covid and post-Brexit.” 

That depends on what you mean by critically support. The Left should adopt the position that Starmer represents a significant defeat for the Left, and should start from a position of deep suspicion, pointing out that he is almost certainly merely a stopping off point in a further rightward movement of the party, unless the party rank and file mobilise to prevent it. In so far as Starmer does things that can be supported, we should provide critical support, but that is all. If attacked from the Right, we should oppose those attacks, but not by liquidating our own politics in favour of Starmer's. The only reason that Lewis would have been preferable to Starmer, is his greater commitment to democratisation of the party, which would have helped preventing the Right undermining the party rank and file, and because Lewis's anti-Brexit stance would have put us in a better position to advance a socialist internationalist position. 

Paul sets out four strategies to win an electoral majority: 
  • For an alliance with other parties 
  • Become the coalition inside Labour 
  • Stick with Corbynism and wait for the electorate to change 
  • Ditch social liberalism and economic radicalism so as to win over those reactionary voters in old urban areas. 
But, the fifth strategy is none of the above, and to recognise that whilst the socio-economic aspects of Corbynism were far from perfect, amounting to merely warmed up Wilsonian social-democracy, it did mobilise a large degree of support behind it in 2017, but did so in conjunction with a view that Labour offered the hope of stopping Brexit. As I pointed out some time ago, many of those who said that they could never have voted for Corbyn in December 2019, clearly must have done in 2017!

It was the abandonment of that hope that did for Labour in 2019, as Corbyn's pro-Brexit stance turned away the young progressive voters, and his continual appeasement of the Right, dithering and appearance of simply offering uncosted bribes made him look incompetent and untrustworthy. The way forward is for Labour to be the party that mobilises that coalition of voters it won in 2017, by being the clear party of socialist internationalism in opposing Brexit, and committing to going back into the EU, fighting alongside European workers, but to do so on a clearer programme of economic and political reforms than Corbynism offered, that emphasises the need for an extension of industrial democracy, for example, as the only means of making real changes in the distribution of wealth and power in society. 

Paul says, 

“So this is going to be hard. So hard, in fact, that it would be a lot easier just to become an “opposition” to Starmer, defending every line of the 2019 manifesto while fighting each other over Brexit. If so, the outcome is predictable: the Labour right will get to define the next Labour government.” 

But, again, these are not the only options. As the Bolsheviks said, it was possible to be with the workers always, and even with the workers' leaders sometimes. We can be with Starmer, in so far as he does things that can be supported, whilst simultaneously recognising the nature of what he represents as a significant shift to the Right, which will almost certainly be merely a temporary situation until the Right can use him to defeat the Left, and undermine the party rank and file, before re-establishing their own control. Nor is there any need to defend every line of the inadequate and confused 2019 Manifesto, in order to offer up a principled opposition to the policies of Starmer, as they inevitably drift rightwards. On the contrary, precisely because the 2019 Manifesto was confused and inadequate, and had at its heart the problem of Corbyn's pro-Brexit position, its necessary to reject it!

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

What The Friends of the People Are, Appendix III - Part 1

In this appendix, Lenin turns his attention to a critique of the Legal Marxists, who confined their presentation of Marxism to a banal formulation that removed all conceptions of the role of class struggle and class antagonisms from the theory. This enabled them to present their ideas within the limits imposed by Tsarist censorship, but meant that Marxism was portrayed in the very narrow terms that also enabled the Narodniks to criticise it. 

But, Lenin's presentation itself bends the stick too far in the other direction. He says, 

“Marxism, as they expound it, is practically reduced to the doctrine of how individual property, based on the labour of the proprietor, undergoes its dialectical development under the capitalist system, how it turns into its negation and is then socialised.” (p 326) 

Lenin himself has misunderstood and misrepresented this process, as outlined by Marx in Capital I, Chapter 25 and Capital III, Chapter 27, as well as by him and Engels elsewhere. Lenin interprets the “expropriation of the expropriators” as being synonymous with the proletarian revolution, but it isn't. He presents Marx's description of private capital being a fetter, as being a description of a fetter represented by capital itself, a fetter that can only be “burst asunder” by the proletarian revolution, but that is clearly not what Marx and Engels say, and that fact is reinforced by what he and Engels say in Anti-Duhring, and by what Engels says in his Critique of the Erfurt Programme

When Marx talks about the monopoly of private capital what he means is that form of capital that exists and accumulates on the basis of the private ownership of means of production themselves, i.e. by individual capitalist families, i.e. prior to the growth of the joint stock company, and socialised capital. These are the kinds of business that predominate prior to the development of socialised capital, and Marx describes their evolution as the small capital expropriates the small producer, then the development of larger private capitals owned by millionaire capitalists sees them expropriate the small and medium capitalists. It is these latter that represent the fetter, because even these richest of families could not mobilise the capital on the scale required for the new mammoth businesses that developed on the basis of the new productive forces. As Engels put it, 

“Many of these means of production and of communication are, from the outset, so colossal that, like the railways, they exclude all other forms of capitalistic exploitation. At a certain stage of development this form, too, no longer suffices: [the large-scale producers in one and the same branch of industry in a country unite in a “trust”, an association for the purpose of regulating production.” 

(Engels, Anti-Duhring, p 358) 

It is the individual families that own these means of production that constitutes the monopoly of private capital, and which, because of its limits now constitutes a fetter that must be burst asunder, and it is burst asunder not by the proletarian revolution, but by the development of socialised capital, of the cooperative and corporation, the trust and so on. The expropriation of the expropriators is not a consequence of the proletarian revolution, but of this development of socialised capital, as the transitional form of property, as Marx describes it, as the destruction of capital as private property within the confines of capitalism itself. 

And, its odd that Lenin makes this error, because he has earlier set out that Marx does not make predictions about the future, but only describes reality as it has already unfolded, and is continuing to unfold. The “expropriation of the expropriators” was not, and could not be, for Marx, a prediction of the future, of the proletarian revolution, because that is antithetical to Marx's method of historical materialism. It was a description of what had already occurred, and was continuing to unfold. 

In Capital III, Chapter 27, Marx describes the process of socialised capital as arising naturally from the laws of capitalist development, and the concentration and centralisation of capital itself. It is a process which itself results in new forms of class antagonisms, and class struggle. For example, socialised capital, in the form of the worker owned cooperative, is not only constrained to continue to operate as capital, because it must compete within the capitalist economy, on the basis of continued commodity production, it is also faced with attempts by the owners of money-capital to extract surplus value from it in the form of interest. Private ownership of capital now takes the form of the ownership of loanable money-capital, and consequent ownership of fictitious capital, in the shape of shares, bonds, property and their derivatives. The interests of the ruling class, as owners of this fictitious capital, is centralised in the institutions of the banks, central banks, stock exchanges, the financial media, as well as in the state itself. 

Consequently, the growth of the worker owned cooperative is itself constrained by law, for example, competition law that prevents workers creating cooperative monopolies. But, it is also represented in company law relating to the other form of socialised capital, the join stock company. The shareholders of these companies do not own their productive capital. That is owned by the company itself, which, as Marx says, can only be considered as the associated producers within it. The shareholders are only creditors of the company, who lend money-capital to it, in the same way as does a bank, via credit, or a bondholder, or in the same way a landowner loans land to the company for it to use. But, company law gives shareholders a right to control this collective capital they do not own. 

New social relations, and new antagonisms, thereby, develop as a result of socialised capital expropriating private capital, and as a result of the capitalists having abandoned their ownership of means of production, and their social role in production, in favour of the ownership of fictitious capital, and a life as mere “coupon clippers”

A clear manifestation of this is that there is no limit to the interest that shareholders can receive on the money they lend to a company, via the purchase of shares, in the form of dividends. However, the liabilities these shareholders have for losses incurred by the company is limited to the same money they have paid for the shares. This is an early example of privatised gains alongside socialised losses being incorporated into bourgeois property law. There is no problem with shareholders liability being limited, provided they do not expect to exercise control of the capital they do not own. That control can only legitimately be exercised by the associated producers that comprise the firm. 

Its for these reasons, as Marx sets out, in his Inaugural Address, to the First International that the class struggle must assume the form of a political struggle waged by a Workers Party. That political struggle must translate the actual changes in the social relations that have occurred that now posits socialised capital in antagonistic opposition to fictitious capital, into its appropriate legal and political reflection.

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Labour, The Left, and The Working Class – A Response To Paul Mason – Lessons For The Left - Part 11/15 - Lesson 7 – Strategy, Tactics and Principles (ii)

Lessons For The Left

Lesson 7 – Strategy, Tactics and Principles (ii) 

Paul says, 

“As a result of this they have consolidated a new and highly defensible “position” (in the Gramscian metaphor): a populist, authoritarian government, with the support of both the socially-liberal middle class and parts of the traditional working class, which promises to “move fast and break things”, including all the traditional checks and balances in our unwritten constitution.” 

But, who exactly is it that has consolidated this position? Not the ruling class, or at least its dominant component, the owners of fictitious capital. This is near to being the worst of all possible worlds for them. The last thing they require is a hard Brexit government in Britain, which simply compounds the instability created by Trump in the US. As Lenin described it in The State and Revolution, 

“A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell ... it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it.” 

The last thing it wants is to have its direct access to the levers of power disrupted by the intervention of authoritarians; the last thing it seeks is these secure and stable relations disrupted by rogue elements who promise only to break things and create unnecessary disruption. And, the fact is that the rogues that propose to do so, do not propose such actions in the name of the ruling class, but in the name of their class enemies, the reactionary petty-bourgeois. They must operate in such manner, precisely in order to undermine and break the power of the capitalist state, which acts in the name not of the petty-bourgeoisie, but of the bourgeoisie proper. 

Paul comments, 

“As Gramsci taught — a mass party of the working class has to not only mobilise and represent its own base: it has to enable its members to assume the intellectual and moral leadership of the whole of society. That is the meaning of the term commonly associated with Gramscian politics: hegemony.” 

True, but its necessary to learn to walk before you run. Moreover, hegemony is achieved by first asserting the interests of the revolutionary class, and thereby showing to the rest of society that it is only those interests that can liberate society as a whole. It is not achieved by liquidating your own ideas and programme, so as to simply chase after the illusion of a mere parliamentary majority. 

Paul says, 

“Only Labour can create a left government” 

But, the current Labour Party cannot create a Workers Government, and Paul's suggested programme certainly does not amount to that. Its necessary to change the politics of Labour to have any chance of creating a “Left government”, let alone anything approaching a “Workers Government”. And, having changed the politics of the LP, a precondition is to clear out all of those right-wing, Blair-right, and soft Left MP's – those who, in 1917, would have been the components of the Kadets and Octobrists – and the same applies to all of the Labour Councillors, and other elected representatives. But, before any consideration of creating a “Left government” becomes possible, it is necessary for that party to have won broad support for its politics amongst the working-class itself. To try to establish a “Left government” without having done so is simply dangerous adventurism that would lead to disaster. Of the kind that Engels warned against in The Peasant War in Germany. As Lenin says, quoting Engels, 

“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”. 

(State and Revolution) 

And, herein lies the problem in Paul's approach, which makes the winning of an election, and the formation of an unprincipled electoral coalition so as to achieve that, the central objective, whereas the real task is to develop the kind of programme, including not just the required “Economic” demands, but also the required political demands around which the class struggle can be waged, and a majority be formed. The point about hegemony, here, is that its not a question of winning over those conservative voters one by one. Its a question of changing the nature of the ruling ideas more like a meme. The point that Marx, Engels and Lenin make is that if the advanced section of the working-class is large enough, and clear enough in its ideas, it drags behind it, these conservative elements, naturally, or at least neutralises them, because, within its milieu, these ideas become commonplace. Trying to win over, one by one, conservative and reactionary voters, or trying to win them over wholesale, by appeasing them, is a fool's errand. 

That is precisely why, at the present time, the focus must be for the Left to clarify its own ideas, and to sharpen its own programme. It is necessary first to organise and educate all of those new forces that have been drawn into the political struggle since 2015, forces that are centred in the cities, but which are also present amongst the youth in those old decaying towns. Today, they form the vanguard that must be forged to lead the way forward, in the same way that Lenin rejected the appeals of the Narodniks to appeal to the old sources of Peasant Socialism, and instead had a precision focus on the industrial workers in the large conurbations. Properly forge the tip of the blade and it will enable the rest of the sword to follow behind it.

The Proponents of Lockdown Are Guilty of Geriatricide

Those that have proposed the strategy of lockdowns in response to COVID19, are everywhere guilty of geriatricide.  They have the avoidable deaths of tens of thousands of elderly people, from COVID itself, on their hands, along with the deaths of millions of other people, globally, resulting from the economic consequences of lockdowns.  They did not intend that to be the case, as the conspiracy theory nuts might want to suggest, but it is the inevitable consequence of their idiotic policy of lockdown, which required the perpetuation of the lie that COVID strikes indiscriminately, and that, therefore, there was no need to specifically isolate, and protect the elderly.

Proponents of lockdowns have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people, in Britain alone, but, also, in every other country that imposed lockdowns, because their strategy was based upon a known lie.  That lie was that COVID19 affects everyone indiscriminately.  The facts from China, contained even in the original Imperial College study that sparked the COVID panic, showed that was simply not true.

Age group
% symptomatic cases requiring hospital
hospitalised cases requiring critical care
Infection Fatality Ratio
0 to 9
10 to 19
20 to 29
30 to 39
40 to 49
50 to 59
60 to 69
70 to 79

In other words, those over 80 were around 1500 times more likely to die than those under 40.  And, that is what the number of deaths has shown in Britain and elsewhere.  In Britain, more than half of COVID deaths are those over 80.  Add in those over 60, and the figure rises to 92%, and its amongst these age groups that the vast majority of hospitalisations, and serious illness also occurs.  Saying, therefore, that COVID strikes indiscriminately was patently untrue.  Its also known that it affects those with other underlying medical conditions, who account for around 7% of the remaining cases; its known that there is a higher prevalence amongst BAME communities, though cases amongst BAME as opposed to white populations are only about 4 times higher, as against the 1,000 times plus higher rate amongst the elderly as against younger people.

The Imperial study states, 

“Analyses of data from China as well as data from those returning on repatriation flights suggest that 40-50% of infections were not identified as cases. This may include asymptomatic infections, mild disease and a level of under-ascertainment.” 

However, most studies now indicate that around 80% of people have no or only mild symptoms from COVID19, and this explains why the number of infections is much greater than the number of people who have symptoms and seek medical treatment.  Its known that the original Chinese data was wrong, for example, because the mortality rate was measured only against reported infections, not against actual infections, and China even took out of the reported infections numbers those known to have had the virus, but who had obtained immunity!

By continually perpetuating the lie that COVID strikes indiscriminately, they spread the lie that older people were, therefore, at no more risk from it than younger people, which was quite clearly untrue.  By spreading that lie, they failed to ensure that older people, who were, essentially, the only people seriously at risk from the virus, took appropriate measures to isolate themselves from the risk of infection.  That meant that those older people were being put directly into the firing line of the virus, by the proponents of lockdowns, who had to spread that lie in order to justify locking down the whole of society, rather than simply focussing attention on protecting the elderly and otherwise vulnerable.

The most obvious manifestation of the consequence of that was that everywhere, as they tried to lock down the whole of society, they failed to adequately lock down and isolate the places that needed to be locked down and isolated from the virus.  They failed absolutely to lock down and isolate hospitals and care homes.  They failed to establish isolation wings or hospitals for those suffering with COVID, and in so doing they ensured that thousands of vulnerable, and often also elderly people, going into hospital for other conditions, or even just routine treatment, became infected with the virus, just as some years ago, NHS hospitals infected people with MRSA, leading to their deaths.  To make matters worse, they knowingly sent people with the virus back to care homes, where they then spread the virus amongst a vulnerable population.

The simple fact that shows that the proponents of lockdowns are guilty of geriatricide, is not only that they perpetrated the lie that COVID strikes indiscriminately, and that in doing so they failed to isolate the elderly actually at risk from it, but that there negligence meant that around a third of all deaths from the virus occurred in care homes themselves.  In other words, the place where elderly people should most easily and effectively isolated from the virus, and protected from it, was the place where they were put at most risk from it!  But, care homes are only a glaring example of that failure, because the other main source of COVID deaths is hospitals themselves, again the place where you would expect that people ought to be safe from infection from it.

When the NHS did begin to establish isolation hospitals for COVID, instead of creating small specialist units to deal with the virus, they created the huge, expensive, showpiece Nightingale hospitals, like that at the Excel centre in London, kitted out to service 8,000 people, but which only ever had 25 patients, at any one time, and treated less than 60 in total!  They were a complete waste of money and resources, which was dragged from elsewhere where it was needed.  It is another example of how the medical-industrial complex channels huge sums of money into the pockets of the health service bureaucracy, and the medical supply industry, whilst doing little to improve the health of the majority of people.  

Because the proponents of lockdown perpetrated the lie that COVID affects everyone indiscriminately, they failed to put their attention into locking down hospitals and care homes, they failed to provide adequate isolation hospitals, or to provide adequate PPE, or contact protocols, for any of those places, or for care workers visiting the elderly and sick at home.  The Nightingale hospitals were themselves totemic of the lie that, because COVID was indiscriminate, thousands of  people, from all age groups, were going to flood into hospitals, requiring the establishment of such huge charnel houses.  We were told that huge mass burials and cremations were going to be necessary, which was just one part of the way a huge moral panic was created by the media.  It was the necessary consequence of the lie that the mortality rate amongst the elderly was going to be the mortality rate across society, leading to an exponential rise, not only of infections, but also of hospitalisations and deaths, when all the data showed that was never going to be the case, because COVID is a virus that selectively targets the elderly.

In fact, although the relative proportions of deaths and hospitalisations, contained in the Imperial study, have turned out to be approximately right, the actual mortality rate, has, again, turned out to be far less, as also happened in relation to Imperial's projections of deaths from Swine Flu some years ago.  Because the number of actual infections is about ten times higher than the number of reported infections, all of the mortality rates, in the Imperial table above, have to be shifted to the right by one decimal place, at least.  The overall mortality rate, as against actual infections appears to be around 0.1% or less, as against the figure of 1%, suggested by Imperial, and the mortality rate for the elderly is around 1, not the 9% suggested by Imperial.

If you were being unkind, you would say that the proponents of lockdown spread that lie, because they had a hidden agenda of killing off the elderly, who they signally failed to protect as they focused all their attention on spreading the lie about its indiscriminate nature, so as to justify the lockdown of the whole of society.  But, that is not the case.  The real basis of the proposal for lockdown is the underlying ideology and dominance of health policy by the medical-industrial complex that sees healthcare almost entirely in terms of dealing with illness, rather than preventing illness, or promoting wellness.  It begins with the assumptions about the necessity of very expensive medicines and medical treatments, which of course, promotes the interests of the big pharma, and big medical supplies businesses, as well as the interests of the health service bureaucracy, centred in the huge district hospitals, and with the medical science institutes now attached to them, and closely aligned with, and dependent on funding through the medical-industrial complex.

Many of those supporting lockdowns did so for the same reasons that many are drawn along behind the overwhelming power of the military-industrial complex that promotes the idea that people can only be safe if they are constantly in danger of being blown to smithereens by nuclear weapons, and by a constant huge and expanding expenditure on the latest weapons technology, and ever expanding surveillance technology.

The proposal for lockdowns is motivated by the idea that the solution to COVID comes from very expensive testing and tracing, for example, as a stop-gap prior to the introduction of very expensive vaccines, and other medicines produce by the medical-industrial complex.  If the solution is effective test and trace, but such systems are not yet available, then lockdown society till they are; if they longer term solution is very expensive vaccines, and other medicines, which are an indeterminate amount of time in the future, then again lockdown and advocate test and trace as an interim.

But, of course, test and trace cannot work, because the vast majority of infections are asymptomatic, but, in any case, the £12 billion spent on developing a test and trace computer system, has not even produced a functioning system anyway.  Despite all the dangerous short cuts, to speed up production of a vaccine, it still looks unlikely to be available until the middle of next year.  In fact, on the current basis of spread of infections, its likely that herd immunity will have developed in most countries long before vaccines can be generally administered, as the situation in Sweden, now seems to suggest.   Recent claims that antibodies may only remain active for three months, as well as undermining the argument for vaccines being a saviour, also emphasise the degree to which current tests are failing to pick up actual immunity, when compared to the situation in Sweden, where deaths from the virus have more or less been eliminated.  Its likely that as with other coronaviruses such as those that cause the common cold, even where antibodies diminish, further contact with the virus, quickly prompts the body to create them once again, or that immunity comes from cell immunity.

Governments realised that although they locked down social activity rather than the economy, the knock on effects of that were catastrophic.  Even where test and trace was supposedly implemented efficiently, such as in Germany, it has seen the number of infections quickly surge once again, as elsewhere in Europe and North America.  The idea that a lockdown of six months did not work, but a lockdown of 2-3 weeks will, is clearly absurd.  Those proposing it cannot take it seriously, but its real purpose is just to drag things out for longer, in the hope that a vaccine will become available.  It won't, so governments will extend their proposed circuit breaker lockdowns indefinitely, as populations increasingly rebel against the absurdity.  In the meantime, they will pump even more resources into the promotion of test and trace systems that have no chance of working, ever more money into the medical-industrial complex, whose greatest fear must be that anyone will look at the example of Sweden and ask, why are we imposing all of this misery on ourselves unnecessarily, why are we putting tens of billions of Pounds into the pockets of the medical-industrial complex for things which are not working, and have no chance of working?

In the meantime, lockdowns, and the economic damage they have caused, have led to a sharp rise in excess deaths in Britain and elsewhere, because thousands of people suffering from cancer and other serious illnesses have been denied treatment, even whilst occupancy rates in most hospitals fell to around 40%.  The number of excess deaths has risen for reasons that have nothing to do with COVID, but are directly the consequence of lockdowns.  We know that economic hardship leads to big rises in ill-health and death, and lockdowns have caused economic hardship on a large scale; we know that the lockdowns have increased mental ill-health, an increase in suicides, and in domestic violence.  The longer term economic damage from lockdowns will be even more severe, leading to widespread ill-health and death for decades to come.

But, whatever damage lockdowns have had in developed economies is nothing compared to the effects across the globe in developing economies.  Around 500 million additional people have been thrown into absolute poverty as a result of the damage done to the global economy as a result of lockdowns.  Millions have been put into the category of malnourished as a result, and these conditions will persist long after COVID19 has disappeared from the news headlines.

Monday, 26 October 2020

What The Friends of the People Are, Appendix II - Part 6

Lenin notes that Danielson attacks Struve for using “terrible words” like reactionary, and Utopian to describe his position. These “terrible words” are supposed to be a means of setting the readers against Danielson, in place of actual argument. In the age of the Internet, we are all familiar with the tactic of ad hominem attacks, but, as Lenin says, use of words such as reactionary or Utopian can only be considered as such insults if they are not based upon some reasoned argument, showing that the person so described is indeed a Utopian or reactionary. Lenin compares Danielson's complaint with the use, by Danielson himself, of similar criteria in describing the liberal Slonimsky. Danielson says of Slonimsky that his defence of small handicraft industry and small peasant ownership was “reactionary” and “Utopian”, and accused Slonimsky of “narrow-mindedness” and “naivete”. But, Lenin says, all of these descriptions are valid in relation to Slonimsky's position. But, then Lenin says, apply the same criteria to Danielson's position. 

Struve does not simply use these epithets as insults, but sets out clearly why they apply to Danielson's position. 

“Firstly: desiring the “socialisation of production,” Mr. Nik. —on “appeals to society” (sic!) “and the state.” This “proves that Marx’s doctrine of the class struggle and the state is completely foreign to the Russian political economist.” Our state is the “representative of the ruling classes.” Secondly: “If we contrast to real capitalism an imaginary economic system which must come about simply because we want it to, in other words, if we want the socialisation of production without capitalism, this is only evidence of a naïve conception, which does not conform to history.”” (p 323-4) 

Struve is right, Lenin says, Danielson did not take account of the role of class struggle

“He evidently believes that the state could have behaved this way or that, and, consequently, that it stands above classes.” (p 324) 

And, Struve's second argument that the idea of the socialisation of labour via the the village community is a myth is also formulated clearly. Danielson himself had described how the organisation of labour, prior to 1861, could not be developed, and so “capitalism broke out of the narrow bounds of the earlier productive units and socialised labour throughout society. Mr. Nik.-on, too, admitted this socialisation of labour by our capitalism. Therefore, in wanting to base the socialisation of labour not on capitalism, which has already socialised labour, but on the village community, the breakdown of which for the first time brought about the socialisation of labour throughout society, he is a reactionary utopian. That is Mr. Struve’s idea. One may regard it as true or false, but it cannot be denied that his severe comment on Mr. Nik. —on followed with logical inevitability from this opinion, and it is, therefore, out of place to talk of “bug bears.” (p 325) 

Danielson accuses Struve of wanting to dispossess the peasants of land, in the same way that the Narodniks made a similar claim in relation to the Russian Marxists. It has to be borne in mind that Struve was writing in the censored press, where arguments could only be couched in particular terms. What Struve says is that he seeks the socialisation of labour, and seeks it via the very development of capitalism that was actually taking place, in Russia, the same process that had occurred in Western Europe, North America and elsewhere. 

“... and therefore desires to base himself on the forces that will be visible in “the clear light of the open class struggle”.” (p 325) 

So, Danielson's claim was the opposite of the truth. 

“And if we bear in mind that Mr. Struve could not in the censored press speak of the forces which come forward in the clear light of the open class struggle, and that, consequently, Mr. Nik. —on’s opponent was gagged—it can scarcely be denied that Mr. Nik. —on’s method is altogether “inappropriate.”” (p 325)

Democrats Should Impeach Republican Judges

If, as seems now likely, the Democrats win the Presidency, an control of the Senate, they should put in place the machinery to impeach all of the Republican appointed Supreme Court judges, who could stand in the way of any progressive legislation by the Executive.  The Republicans have pushed through the Senate the appointment of Trump's nomination, Amy Cony Barrett, at the last minute, in an obvious attempt to be able to frustrate any Democrat legislation, and in order to attempt to overturn much of the progressive legislation and court decisions of the last 60 years.  That is just a part of the reactionary, petty-bourgeois counter-revolution they have been undertaking, in the same way that a similar counter-revolution has been undertaken by the petty-bourgeoisie in Britain, in the form of Brexit.

That Supreme Court judges should be able to frustrate the wishes of the population, via their elected representatives decisions, is itself clearly an affront to democracy, that those judges are political appointments for life is an even greater insult.  The Republicans moves to get Barrett's appointment ratified at this stage, is clearly a political manoeuvre, but only marginally less so than their other appointments under Trump.  Ideally, socialists should push the Democrats to complete the bourgeois-democratic revolution itself, by scrapping the Electoral College, and making all Supreme Court judges subject to annual election, but introducing any such constitutional amendments would itself run into opposition from a Supreme Court stuffed with Republican nominees put their to further the counter-revolutionary coup being undertaken by the petty-bourgeoisie, and its representatives within the Republican Party.

The Democrats should feel no compunction about using the impeachment process to get rid of those Republican political appointments, because impeachment is itself a political rather than legal process.  It is quite clear that the impeachment of Donald Trump by the House of Representatives demonstrated that he had broken the law, backed up by all the evidence from Mueller et al, but that his acquittal by a Republican controlled Senate was a political decision, pure and simple.  So, Democrats should feel no issue about using impeachment in he same political manner to remove the Republican judges that have been stuffed into the Supreme Court.

Socialists in the US, however, need to be aware that this counter-revolutionary coup is being undertaken, not just in the US, but in Britain and elsewhere too.  We should follow Marx's advice in standing, in action, with the progressive bourgeoisie to defeat that counter-revolutionary coup, but standing with them in action, does not at all mean subordinating our own organisation, politics or tactics to theirs.  We demand that the liberal and social democrats, and those that call themselves democratic socialists, at the least stand up for the revolutionary ideas under which the bourgeois revolutions were fought in the 18th and 19th centuries.  But, we warn workers that these allies cannot be counted on to do so.

In the US, workers should vote Democrat, and prepare to fight, in the elections.  Just getting rid of Trump is not enough.  Its necessary to defeat the the counter-revolutionary coup of the petty-bourgeoisie, and to do so by advancing our own proletarian revolutionary ideals.  Its necessary for socialists to use the elections to talk to millions of workers, to draw them into the political struggle being fought out within the Democrat Party itself, to take that political struggle into the trades unions, and all other organs of civil society, turning the Democrats outwards to the struggles of the working-class.  It is necessary, by these means to build the revolutionary core inside the Democrats that can create a real, mass, revolutionary, workers party.