Friday, December 24, 2004

Weekly Worker Dec 16 2004

The last Weekly Worker of the year, thrillingly expanded to 16 pages as a Christmas treat

Points of interest include: a report from the CPGB's aggregate with much this and thating about Respect, but culminating in WW editor Peter Manson pronouncing that with the SSP being mired in nationalism, 'it cannot be described as socialist in any genuine sense.' Hmmm.

A long article on the historicity of Jesus based on a book called The authentic gospels of Jesus by one Geza Vemes. Dismissal of Jesus is seen as 'atheistic economism' - ooh, they just love saying things are 'economistic' and for some reason they think it is important: I see there is a 'London Communist Forum' (the whole far left is following the SWP in using the word 'forum' to describe their meetings!) on December 19 on ‘Why communists should study the origins and evolution of religion’ with speaker Jack Conrad.

John Ball (surely a pseudonym!) on 'Globalisation or imperialism?', based on the Alan Freeman & Boris Kagarlitsky collection The Politics of Empire (Pluto 2004). This isn't written very well (but I blame the editor for a lot of this) and I'm not that convinced of the author's grasp of the subject. It isn't always clear how far John Ball is saying what he thinks or reporting what the various contributors to the book are saying. Ah, what it is is a garbled version of some of the arguments, with so many half-baked and confused points that it would take far too long to sort them out. The rudiment of the argument I take to be that a) 'globalisation' is real, a period lasting for the last 30 years or so'; b) globalisation sees a real shaping role being played by 'multilateral organisations' such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO; c) globalisation is marked by 'multilateral political intervention alongside the free movement of capital'; d) this globalisation has been 'an economic catastrophe, but a political triumph'; and e) this failure is now being revealed and globalisation, multilateralisation and the 'world market in capital' is 'breaking up'. The South is getting poorer (leaving China out of the equation, which it should be if 'China did not enter into globalisation' as is claimed here - the accompanying photo does at least turn this into a question) and inequality is growing. Stable government is increasingly impossible. Whole areas are 'socially destroyed', 'instruments of civil society begin to collapse'. Afghanistan is mentioned but it seems to be wider than that. And the 'possibility of continuing to implement current policy is being removed' and this is 'really what drove the US into the hands of the Bush faction, the imperialist faction of US capital..... because it corresponds to the logic of what America had to do.'
The US is building bilateral military relations instead of multilateral in a 'new strategic repositioning of American military power'.

The author also highlights and counterposes the classical theory of imperialism, and rightly points to the theme of imperialism as a competitive system, which can be seen as opposed to theories of ultra-imperialism or super-imperialism. Super-imperialism is about the US 'organising' other imperialisms and the author thinks this corresponds to the historical period we have been in. Ultra-imperialism is seen as closer to globalisation theory and sees no conflict between imperialist powers. Classical imperialism says that the imperialists will fight.
The article says that the only addition to the 'imperialist bloc' in the last 150 years has been the 80 million people of the SE Asian 'tigers' [hmm, excluding the 128 million in Japan that is, certainly not part of any 'imperialist bloc' 150 years ago!] and this 'major economic rival' has crashed in 'two waves of globalisation', showing that isn't a way out for the majority of the world. The EU isn't keeping up with the US in terms of GDP growth, but it has superior productivity, is 'running bigger and bigger surpluses', but not using those surpluses to 'raise substantially the living standards of their people'.
'This is giving rise to inter-imperialist crisis'. Multilateral institutions are used by the US to compensate for its structural weakness, but this is making it difficult for EU and Japanese capital - and this lies behind the failure to secure a 'coalition of the willing'. What brought Chirac and Schroder together on this was the realisation that allowing the US free control in the Middle East would fundamentally compromise European economic (i.e. imperialist) interests.
Multilateralism is eroding, with Ball quoting John Williamson to the effect that there is no longer a 'Washington consensus' and there is a "chasm" between the US and the rest of the world; and quoting both neo-conservatives like William Kristol and Max Boot and more liberal voices like Robert Cooper and Brookings Institute authors, 'empire' has returned to political discourse.
So the ideology of imperialism has returned and the EU is increasingly geared up for military intervention. And with the doctrine of pre-emptive war being given a European spin in terms of being the 'human face of globalisation' we have imperialisms justifying themselves.
And finally all the world is capitalist and capitalism seeks out national forms and even in Iraq the US is being resisted with a national consciousness.

Well I just think this is bad, badly written, badly argued, bad. I notice though that the Alliance for Workers Liberty web-site thinks it worth posting a letter to WW taking issue with the politics of the piece. On the level of analysis, rejecting the idea that the world is entering a historical phase similar to that of pre-World War One clashes between rival imperialisms I'm sympathetic; but the AWL critique is really focused on what they see as bad 'second camp' 'popular frontist' politics.

Tina Becker continues (poor old Tina got to keep going to ESF meetings and having a bad time, isn't it time to set her free?) on 'Which way for the ESF?' This is the CPGB setting out its stall for the ESF 'preparatory assembly' in Paris over the weekend of Dec 19th. Tina is willing to say that the London ESF was a qualified success, but that the whole process has to be reformed and improved. The major bugbears are the rules of the whole WSF process which ban parties from participating and Tina is right to say this is ridiculous and hypocritical, and, of course, the role of the SWP in all this. There do seem to be some new networks that have come out of or developed at Alexander Palace, but on Tina's account they seem pretty sporadic. Of course Tina and the CPGB want us to move to some sort of political unification, at the very least by debates that would clarify differences - but I don't get much sense that she sees how difficult and fractious those debates are going to be. Tina usefully highlights the assessment by the 'reformist lobby group' Attac which found the event to be marked by intolerance and pseudo-debate, for which they blame 'sectarian' political and religious organisations. Tina relates this to the intense criticism of the French left for its line on the ban on the hijab in schools and related issues around sectarianism. Attac seem to want to do away with plenary sessions, but also to turn the EPA into 'a real locus of decision-making', with some form of delegate ESF structure and 'more democratic and representative national committees'. Tina sees as Attac attempting to restrict the role of political parties (and she points out that Attac itself is deeply involved with party politics. Attac also wants the ESF to be biannual, which Tina thinks is now a more widespread view than before Ally Pally. Tina also tells us about the proposals from something called the French initiative Committee for the ESF (CIFS) which seems to want a stronger focus on European issues.

Tina also tells us about proposals from Italy in which the ESF would shift from being a 'space for learning' to something that facilitates network, campaigns and struggles. And of course being a space for discussion was the founding purpose of the WSF and its offshoots.

And finally: proposals from Britain. Tina sees Socialist Action (the small group of very well-placed people around Ken Livingstone and in various campaigns, which I think of as the long lost fragment of the IMG that stayed in the Labour Party) and the SWP the 'ruling ESF clique', whom she thinks wanted to go to Paris to present 'the British position' that the London ESF was an absolute success, that it was 'entirely inclusive' and the small disruptions totally unjustified. I tend to agree that the disruptions were unjustified, but also agree with Tina Becker that there is context to them that needs to be said. Tina thinks that she and a couple of Workers Power people stymied the plans of Chris Nineham to give an uncontested line to the Paris meeting.

Well we can only look forward to the reports about the Paris meeting that will hopefully be appearing on the ESF discussion lists and in Weekly Worker in 2005.

There's also a side story about the March 19th demo, which I'm hoping will be as big as possible although I haven't been convinced by the SWP comrades saying that there is so much anger about the occupation that it is going to be on the same scale as February 15th. This story says that the French and Italian proposal was was for a convergence on Brussels to demonstrate against the EU Constitution. SWP/IST comrades argued that opposition to the occupation should be included and the final statement of the Assembly of Social Movements called for national mobilisations. This has turned into a STWC demo in London to 'End the occupation of Iraq, bring the troops home'. WW think that ignoring Europe is crass economism, although I tend to agree with the SWP if they argue that people are going to be more likely to be mobilised around war and occupation, and that - at the moment - war and occupation is the overwhelmingly important issue. WW thinks that the SWP/STWC (ignoring the other forces that are represented in the leadership of the STWC) simply wants to recreate these vast turnouts as a conduit for recruitment to the SWP. This is a bit too cynical for me, and of course the experience of the past three years seems to indicate that - so far- it hasn't happened. WW also thinks STW doesn't have a political strategy against the war and occupation and that it isn't dealing the range of political questions being thrown up at the moment.

And the final thing I want to mention from this WW: the exchange of letters between key SWP figures in Respect and the SSP in the wake of George Galloway's strange shit-stirring intervention into SSP politics after Sheridan's resignation as convenor. All very murky. The CPGB sees the hands of the SWP in things, but don't seem to have convincing evidence.


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