Archive for Leninism

Michael Parenti – Globalization The New Imperialism

Posted in Alex McGuigan, Class Solidarity, Hezbollah, Historical Materialism, History, Ho Chi Min, Human Rights, Imperialism, International socialism, Irish Republican Socialism, Michael Parenti, Socialism, Solidarity, Syria with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2018 by The Plough & The Stars

anti us imperialism

Ireland: Trade unionism and Republican Socialism by Peter Black

Posted in Peter Black, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2016 by The Plough & The Stars
jim_larkin

Big Jim Larkin, an Englishman who united Catholic, Protestant and dissenter during the 1907 Dock Strike. Even persuading the RIC to go on strike!

The so-called “expert writers” on the Irish Trade Unions have no experience of the trade union culture in Ireland. Many of these trendy lefties have never attended a branch meeting, or participated in any trade union activity. Indeed some of these people live and work in Ireland and do not see the need to organise in their own non-union workplace.

According to the European Union half the working population in Ireland are trade unionists. Union density overall in Ireland was around 50% for a number of years in the 1970s and early 1980s, but by 1987 it had fallen to 43.5%. There has once again been a growth in membership since then, and current union density is estimated to lie at around 50%.

These British, French, Italian trendy lefties rather than criticise the Irish Unions should look at their own back yard; at the very least become involved in the trade union movement. Contrary to belief amongst the Continental trendy left, Irish trade unions have both a democratic content and mechanism.

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Republican Socialists acknowledge the Irish Trade Union movement as the organised working class. As such, it is our only access to organise workers. It is not our aim to control and manipulate but rather to give a lead with ideas and action within our specific unions. Republican Socialists need to mobilise trade unionists on the ground to re-engage with their trade unions by participation within the democracy of trade unions at all levels.

However, it must be admitted that it was through this democracy that trade union bureaucracy set in. The struggle to transform the unions inevitably comes up against this conservative bureaucracy, whose jobs depend on maintaining their role as middlemen in the struggles and negotiations between workers and bosses. The top three officials in SIPTU receive nearly £80,000 a year.

In 1987 the propaganda machine of the Free State government and the bosses worked overtime to sell the Social Contract. Trade union leaders too were keen to sell their members the idea of social partnership; management and unions would get together to cooperate over improving the state of the Irish economy in order to share out the subsequent wealth generated. The Programme for National Recovery committed these ‘social partners ‘ to “seek to regenerate the economy and improve the social equity of our society through their combined efforts.”

As long as workers worked harder the size of the national cake would grow and consequently the workers share would grow to.

Today the government and the bosses yell bellicose attacks at workers fighting to defend themselves that there must be no conflict, no challenge to the social partnership, which has produced this redistribution of wealth to the rich, or the whole boom will fall apart.

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Is it the case that the boom was created and is sustained by the social contract, which holds workers wages in check while the bosses rake in super profits? The social contract has been the cover behind which foreign capitalists have sought to boost their profits by rising productivity, that is changing working conditions to make us all work harder and longer.

As ICTU put it, partnership means moving from “the clenched fist of confrontation to the open hand of cooperation.” They are tied to the idea of social partnership, more accurately class collaboration. They act like referees in the fight between workers and bosses rather than leaders. Yet they are not the ones suffering short-term contracts or total quality management.

Nevertheless, this can change. One Republican Socialist openly opposed this bureaucracy [and] moreover, using the same democratic mechanism was elected with more than 50% more votes under his hat than the bureaucrat.

Revolutionary change of the unions is about a fight to change the leaders and in many cases the structures and rules whereby all trade union officials are elected, recallable. Moreover, to achieve this requires the organisation of the rank and file of the unions against the bureaucracy. Remember every vote in the trade unions is by postal ballot. It is worth noting that in some cases for a trade unionist to be elected on to the Executive, it takes 5 times as many votes as a local authority councillor. Trade unions might be “schools for socialism”, but trade union consciousness is not spontaneously socialist.

Some have asked the question why trade unions exist. Workers are aware what the Unions do. They know that they defend wages and conditions, and provide legal aid both inside and outside the place of work. These things are important. However, why was it important to fight for them?

The answer to this question is to be found in the foundations of trade unionism and more importantly socialism also. Workers had to fight for these things because the employers and governments were not prepared to give them until they were forced to. That is true and the force which they used was based upon their power to stop work, in other words in their power to strike. For that reason, Trade Unionists have always aimed at 100% organization, and have regarded the non-unionist as a danger and the strikebreaker as a “blackleg“.

Why have the workers had to rely upon their power to withhold labour? “For the reason that workers have no other power than their labour power.” In a capitalist society, the working class is in a distinctive position. In comparative terms, workers have no property. It is dependent upon the class, which exploits it. The capitalist, owns the factories, mills, mines, railways, transport. That is why the removal of labour by the workers can be so powerful a weapon when used on a large scale.

When Trade Unionists fight the employers on wages questions and the conditions of labour they are really fighting against consequences of the capitalist system. The existence of the private ownership of the means of production means also the private ownership of the things produced and their sale as commodities in competition with one with another.

Labour also is a commodity and those who sell their labour power, the members of the working class, manual and brain-worker alike, also compete (…)

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Trade unions are the basic organisation of the Irish working-class. However; they are much more than that. They are the kernel of the future Irish society within the old.

Of course, since the workers’ organisations exist in a capitalist Ireland they are subjected to alien class pressures. This includes both the Irish Ruling class and US imperialism. These pressures weigh heavily on the upper stratum and this often leads to degeneration. We are not dealing with an ideal norm, but with the mass organisations, as they really exist in class society. The distortions that occur, especially in periods when the working class is not on the move, can produce a feeling that the unions cannot be changed. This serious mistake is contradicted by the historical experience of the movement. Repeatedly the workers have moved to transform their organisations into organs and schools of solidarity, struggle and socialism.

The history of the Irish unions is not a straight line. On the contrary, it unfolds in an uneven fashion with various contradictory shifts in one direction or another. It is constantly characterised by the struggle between two traditions and two tendencies. A revolutionary one, reflecting the unconscious will of the working class to change society, and a subservient one, reflecting the pressures of the ruling class on the upper stratum, that then attempts to block the movement to change society and lead it instead like a lamb into safe channels.

In normal periods, the consciousness of the workers is affected by the dead weight of tradition and routine. In such times, most people are prepared to accept the leadership of the Professionals, Bourgeois and reformist politicians, Members of the Dail, Parliament, councillors and trade union leaders.

The Venezuelan CTV (the old national trade union federation) sold its soul to the old two-party capitalist system and governments it produced. For 40 years, the Venezuelan trade union movement lived through its worst period, because workers were puppets in the games played by the old parties (Copei and AD) and the bosses’ organizations. Venezuelan still remember how AD (Democratic Action) decided the fate of workers, bought and sold contracts and worked with the government to control the unions and the CTV. We should remember that the bosses’ strike of 2002-3was led by the CTV and Fedecamaras (the bosses’ organization) working hand in hand. The Irish trade unions were doing just the same when they signed the social contract.

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However, there are periods of crises and upheavals, when the working class is shaken out of the old apathy and begins to take action, demanding solutions, asking questions. Being close to the class, the unions reflect this changed mood very early on. Moreover, what happens in the unions today will be expressed perhaps as problems in the Irish Republican Socialist Party tomorrow?

The pioneers of Irish Labour, Connolly and Larkin were inspired by a vision. They believed that the trade union movement and Republican Socialism would become a powerful weapon of social emancipation. This revolutionary aspiration was, and in many cases remains, enshrined in trade union rules and constitutions.

Through the experience of collective struggle, the working class gradually raises itself to an understanding of the need to change society. It develops a sense of its own power and ability. One can see this in every strike. Marxists base themselves on this fact and strive to develop this tendency and bring it to the fullest expression.

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The role of Marxists in the trade unions is to make conscious the unconscious will of the working class to change society. The working class has within its ranks a tremendous strength and resilience. Even when it suffers a terrible and crushing defeat, it recovers and again reasserts itself. It is like the Greek god Antaeus of ancient mythology, who when thrown to the ground, drew strength from his mother the earth.

Whatever obstacles lay in its path, the objective conditions of life force it to continually struggle against the system of capitalist exploitation. Those who argue that the class struggle is out of date are obviously out of touch with the reality of Ireland in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Trade unions must be organised to recognize that all the efforts of the working class must be directed to the goal of the conquest of political power. Their fight in the industrial field must be linked with the fight to obtain a Socialist Government which, backed by the might of the working class, would transfer the ownership of the means of production and distribution from private hands to social ownership.

By Peter Black

(Edited by Alex McGuigan.  This article by Comrade Black was originally published in The Plough, E-mail newsletter of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, Vol. 4- No 25, Monday, 19th November 2007)

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The Revolutionary Party versus Economist Socialism

Posted in Economism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2015 by The Plough & The Stars

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Economism in the socialist context is a revisionism of Marxism and the path to creeping reformism. The basic doctrine of economist socialism is to restrict or limit the proletariat to, at best, trade union consciousness without the need for a revolutionary party.  Lenin identified this tendency among the nascent international socialist movement in pre-Socialist revolutionary times.  The Economists saw trade union demands, for instance, for better working conditions, better wages etc as a means to an end with no revolutionary political program.

We see contemporary examples of this tendency in the European social-democratic parties, Fabianism and especially the iron fist of Capitalism clothed in the metaphorical soft glove of ‘social democracy’ in the Scandinavian countries’ regimes which are used as bulwarks against real revolutionary socialist parties’ growth and during the Cold War, the best way to win workers away from the great threat to them from the USSR to the East.

Historically Eduard Bernstein was the influential chief ideologue of this counter-revolutionary tendency who used his past friendship with the co-founder of scientific socialism, Friedrich Engels, to sell his brand of pseudo-Marxism.  This reformist tendency in contemporary times can be seen in the likes of the British Labour party, the SDP in Germany and other social democratic parties aligned to what is misleadingly referred to as the ‘Socialist International’ which is the rump of what was known as the ‘2nd International’ (it even includes the SDLP in it’s ‘tendency’) that revolutionary socialists left well over a century ago as hopelessly reformist.

In 1901, Lenin demolished the reformist/economism of Bernstein et al and can be read in ‘What is to be done: Burning Questions of our Movement’ in which he critiqued this revisionism of Marxism, that advocated the end to revolutionary socialist parties and their replacement by parties of mere social reform, not to mention embracing bourgeois institutions.  As Lenin stated:

“This fear of criticism displayed by the advocates of freedom of criticism cannot be attributed solely to craftiness (although, on occasion, no doubt craftiness is brought into play: it would be improvident to expose the young and as yet frail shoots of the new trend. to attacks by opponents). No, the majority of the Economists look with sincere resentment (as by the very nature of Economism they must) upon all theoretical controversies, factional disagreements, broad political questions, plans for organising revolutionaries, etc. “Leave all that to the people abroad!” said a fairly consistent Economist to me one day, thereby expressing a very widespread (and again purely trade-unionist) view; our concern is the working-class movement, the workers, organisations here, in our localities; all the rest is merely the invention of doctrinaires, “the overrating of ideology”, as the authors of the letter, published in Iskra, No. 12, expressed it, in unison with Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 10.”

Of course, in the contemporary context with Capitalism’s cyclic dynamic creating the most vicious, draconian offensives against the working-class, militant trade unionism is progressive and much needed as one of the only mass organisations of the proletariat.  However, one must be cognisant of trade unions’ limitations for real change.  For a lasting freedom from austerity, a revolutionary party with clear political aims can be the only vehicle for the creation of a Socialist Republic in Ireland and in other countries.

Workers of all lands unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win!

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Alex McGuigan

The Misuse Of James Connolly

Posted in 'The Troubles, Alex McGuigan, Anti Fascism, Anti-IRSP revisionism, Belfast, Bourgeoisie, Class Solidarity, Community, Dublin IRSP, Easter Commemoration, Fallen Comrades, History, Imperialism, Industrial Action, International socialism, Internationalism, Ireland, Irish Citizen Army, Irish Republican Socialism, IRSM, IRSP, James Connolly, Jim Larkin, Karl Marx, Murals, Polarisation of the classes, Primacy of politics, Proletariat, Reformism, Revisionism, Socialism, Solidarity, Trade Unions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2013 by The Plough & The Stars

It is glaringly irrational for purely nationalist parties in Ireland, notably Sinn Fein, to continue to pretend  to Connolly’s ideological legacy but not surprising given that entity’s flare for revisionism and political opportunism.  It goes without saying that if Connolly were alive in these early years of the 21st Century, he would certainly not be a member of Sinn Fein!

Before anyone makes the habitual statement that no person alive today can really second guess the possible contemporary actions or attitudes of dead revolutionaries, well in James Connolly’s case we can. It is well documented that Connolly during his political life in Ireland was never a member of Sinn Fein, a party that was founded in 1905 and of which he was very much aware of.  Connolly, the Marxist and revolutionary trade unionist would have been diametrically opposed to a party that largely backed William Martin Murphy and the employers during the Dublin Lock-out of 1913.  In actions that would be familiar today, the then Sinn Fein leader, Arthur Griffiths, refused to support the workers movement, describing it as ‘”sectional‘”.  When English trades unionists organised relief ships to help the striking workers, Griffith’s little Irelander hackles were raised and condemned the solidarity action as “an insult” to Ireland.

Sinn Fein And Socialism

James Connolly’s Sinn Fein And Socialism, published in April 1908 in The Harp, which critiques the shortcomings of that party’s one dimensional nationalism, was actually used in true revisionist form by the contemporary party during their hijacking of the centenary of Connolly’s residence in Belfast by quoting out of context the first few lines of the article which welcomes really only the the meaning of the English translation of the term Sinn Fein,

“That is a good name for the new Irish movement of which we hear so much nowadays. Sinn Féin, or in English, Ourselves”.

 Of course, the unlikely Connolly centenary celebrants of anti-Marxist Sinn Fein studiously ignored the rest of Connolly’s article and it’s mesage which is roundly critical of their ideology and pours scorn on their non-socialism and the absurdities of their early Habsburgian/monarchist leanings:

“As we all know the methods adopted by Hungary to reconquer its Parliament from Austria are the trite illustrations of the Sinn Féin orators. In fact during the early stages of the movement in Ireland before the felicitous name of Sinn Féin was coined the ideas as promulgated got the name of ‘the Hungary system’.

I remember one critic declaring that “the Hungary system was only fit for hungry men!”

It could be further added that any perceived ‘praise’ for Sinn Fein, was not for the party but used by Connolly to make the point that the working-class must rely on ‘ourselves’, not the national bourgeoisie (of which Sinn Fein was then a small but component part) who must be swept away so that,

“the era of the strutters and poseurs will end”

Connolly, the Marxist, in complete contrast to the limitations of bourgeois nationalism, ends his article by re-affirming that only the working-class can fight and win the fight for both national liberation and real economic freedom ie Socialism,

“we will realize at last what was meant by Marx when he spoke of the revolt of those who

Have Nothing to Lose but their Chains.”

No Reds In Their Beds!

Therefore, it is very much in the eye of the beholder to decide whether the, at best, nationalist Centrist party called Sinn Fein’s highly tenuous claims to the legacy of the Marxist, James Connolly, are the result of revisionism, political opportunism or a confused ideological compass (or perhaps a combination of the latter two?)

Certainly, it would be the height of irrationalism for a party such as Sinn Fein to attempt to claim the legacy of the Marxist Connolly, when there are such concrete assertations from the present party leader stating:

“There is no Marxist influence within Sinn Fein, it simply isn’t a Marxist organisation.  I know of no-one in Sinn Fein who is a Marxist or who would be influenced by Marxism.”

We saw echoes of this edict recently when members of that party’s youth section condemned Republican Socialist G8 protestors for having the temerity to carry red flags, the symbols of international socialism.  (The youthful McCathyites then camped out nearly 100 miles from the G8, reportedly near the Giant’s Foot [no pun intended] while of course their leadership salivated at the prospect of being permitted to join the chorus line of clapping seals welcoming the most insidious cabal of global war criminals and imperialists to Ireland!  However, the above statement from Adams is a completely rational assertation from a party whose well documented aim is for a unitary Capitalist Ireland that sees no contradiction in gladhanding the world’s most vicious imperialists, such as Obama et al.

History Vindicates Irish Republican Socialism

Ironically for a party who at one stage, using crude reductionism, viewed the modern partitioned 26 counties as a neo-colony of (British) imperialism (a view that was jettisoned during the heyday of the Celtic Tiger), it is now entirely comfortable with a future where Ireland would be a minor cheerleader of Western imperialism as it massacres it’s way around the world in search of oil, commodities and profit.

In conclusion, Connolly’s Republican Socialism, his militant trade unionism, his adherence to Marxism, his membership of the Irish Socialist Republican Party and his rejection of one-dimensional nationalism, are irrefutable and uncomfortable truths for those who have erroneously attempted to hijack his legacy.  The contradictions of these attempts are glaringly obvious for those whose minds have not been befuddled by neo-liberalism’ double-speak nonsense and blatant revisionism. By the same token the ‘gas and water socialists’ of the Brit-centric Left and two-nations ‘socialists’ who choose to ignore the British imperialist elephant in the living room who periodically pay homage to Connolly, conveniently chose to ignore his central tenet that national liberation and true socialism are symbiotically linked.

Today’s heirs of Connolly’s legacy are those who unreservedly adhere to his most oft quoted ‘thesis’ that:

“If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.”

Saoirse go deo!

References:

1.http://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1908/04/sinnfein.htm

2.http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/ws88_89/ws29_1913.html

3.http://www.irishleftreview.org/2009/12/17/long-march-political-strategy-sinn-fin-19812007/

Alex McGuigan,
Belfast
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