London and Manchester meetings: steps towards unity among internationalists
We are publishing here two short reports on recent meetings in London and Manchester which showed some small steps forward in developing collective discussion and activity among genuinely internationalist groups and tendencies.
WR public forums: internationalism at the heart of the struggle against war
WR's last two London forums have focussed on the question of revolutionaries and war. Why? Why not the crisis, surely that is currently the focus of workers' thoughts, especially with the threat of unemployment hanging over so many. Perhaps true, but despite the attempts of the bourgeoisie to anaesthetise the working class to the barbarism of war through the use of professional armies and their claims of ‘defending democracy' from fundamentalism or totalitarianism, war remains a constant presence in decadent capitalism. In Britain the ruling class may be able to use the patriotism displayed at Wooton Bassett to ideologically bolster their claims that the conflict in Afghanistan is ‘humanitarian' and ‘against terror', but they can't hide the fact that scores of young people, who more often than not are effectively economic conscripts, are returning home in body bags while chaos continues to reign throughout the region.
There is another factor: the undefeated nature of the working class. Since the end of the period of counter-revolution in the late 1960s the working class internationally has continued, through many ups and downs to develop its combativity. We only have to look at the recent strikes in Turkey, Greece and Britain to see evidence for this. The bourgeoisie is only too aware of this, and it is these struggles, or the threat of what they may lead to, that are important factors in holding back a slide towards more generalised war. The failure of the bourgeoisie to fully dominate the social scene, prevents it, however sophisticated its ideology, from marching us to world war as it did in 1914 and 1945.
By its very nature the working class is an international class, it has no country to defend, no side to support in wars between capitalist states. Workers in all countries must, as Lenin wrote in 1914, turn imperialist wars into civil wars, and fight the only war that can end all wars: the class war. The ideological fog of patriotism that descended in 1914 and 1939, which obscured this necessity, has to some extent been blown away by the class struggle but revolutionaries must work for its complete dispersal in order for the working class to see the capitalist state for what it really is: a militaristic monster drunk on blood.
It was these ideas that dominated the discussion at both of our meetings. At the first meeting in November, on internationalism and WWII (presentation available online), the focus was on the how the bourgeoisie uses ideology to defend imperialist war and what the proletarian alternative to war is. But it was the discussion at the second meeting in February, on how internationalists respond to war, that was the most interesting. Over the last few years the ICC has seen the world-wide development of a new internationalist milieu. Some of these new groups identify with the communist left tradition while others identify with anarchism and syndicalism. But whatever their origins they have internationalism at the heart of their politics. These developments have forced us to rethink our attitude towards anarchism. It is a broad movement with a range of positions and left communists, rather than relying on old schemas, must find a way of working alongside the internationalist elements in this milieu whenever possible. With this in mind WR explicitly invited comrades of the Anarchist Federation, Solidarity Federation and the Communist Workers Organisation to the meeting with the idea of clarifying where we agree and where we disagree and how internationalists can intervene together in the future.
What was made clear in the meeting was that all present (comrades from the CWO and AF along with some unaligned anarchists) agreed on the centrality of internationalism in response to imperialist war. The presence of a member of the Trotskyist International Bolshevik Tendency made this explicit when all present denounced their version of anti-imperialism, essentially a crude anti-Americanism, based on calling on the exploited and dispossessed to support their own bourgeoisie, the ‘lesser evil' against the bigger imperialism. There was also some agreement, based on the shared experience of the No War But the Class War groups in London and Sheffield, on how left communists and other internationalists can discuss and work together. The stunts and frenetic activism of the past were rejected in favour of further discussion and principled united interventions at any forthcoming war campaigns and pacifist demonstrations.
This meeting represents a small step forward in relations between internationalists in Britain and as such must be welcomed but there is much more work to be done. This preliminary discussion needs to be developed and we call on all internationalists, whatever current they identify with, to contact us, organise joint meetings and take the discussion forward.
Manchester Class Struggle Forum on elections
At a time when Britain is facing a general election that has become all the more newsworthy because of the general concern for a ‘cleaner' politics following the MPs' expenses scandal, it is important that a forum has been created in Manchester where individuals can participate in discussion that attempts to articulate a proletarian perspective. And the Manchester Class Struggle Forum which is organised by the Manchester branch of the Anarchist Federation and supported by The Commune, took up the question of elections in its first meeting.
Most of the people in the meeting shared the view that voting has no value for the working class today and that despite many workers still having illusions in the Labour Party here (someone in the meeting referred to it as the ‘lesser evil'), the LP has, almost since its formation in the early 1900s, demonstrated its complete loyalty to the ruling class rather than the working class. And it's not just in Britain: left-wing governments everywhere have a record of imposing austerity (another person mentioned PASOK in the current situation in Greece as an example) and supporting war (the trade unions and the Labour Party have a strong pedigree here both last century and this and the recently deceased left firebrand, Michael Foot, was referred to as an enthusiast for the Falklands war).
Although the reading list circulated before the meeting (Gorter's Open Letter to Lenin and Lenin's Left Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder) and the presentation directed attention to the debates in the Third International in which anti-parliamentarism became a key position of the Left Communists, there wasn't scope in the time allowed to develop a real discussion of this, but different views of Lenin and the Bolshevik's intentions/concerns at this stage (1920) of the Russian Revolution were aired.
The other political groups present were the ICC and Solidarity Federation and there were a number of people who were not in any groups. The meeting was conducted in a fraternal atmosphere and the forum will meet again on Thursday, April 1st.