Monday, January 16, 2006

Weekly Worker 608 Jan 19th 2006

Weekly Worker is following up earlier critiques of environmentalism with a cover featuring a very-classical Greek-looking illustration of someone being pecked at by a bird and 'the case for revolutionary Prometrheanism and sustainability'. I'm usually bored by 'Jack Conrad's' theoretical pronouncements, too much of the group guru SPEAKS about them, but 'Prometheanism and nature' is of interest. Conrad traces a false dualism between nature and society and thus 'greenism' and 'technological Prometheanism', both are 'one-sided abstractions'. For Marxists nature ans society are dialectically bound together. Conrad also distinguishes the revolutionary identification with the Promethean spirit from Aeschylus, Shelley and Marx and the mechanical materialm of technological Prometheanism. Conrad admits that such a reading can be found in the Introduction to The Contribution to the critique of political economy and that on this basis there is a possible view that 1917 was premature. But human activity has to be taken in to account. Francis Bacon is defended from accusations that he fathered this strand of thinking, but a strand of 'left economistic narrow-mindedness' is detected and traced from Proudhon through Lassalle and Stalin to John Rees and the SWP (natch) for saying 'The workers create all the wealth under capitalism" in' Where We Stand' and quotes p81 of Collected Works Vol 24 for a direct quote saying 'Labour is not the source of all wealth'.

Conrad also quotes Stephen Jay Gould (Structure of Evolutionary Theory - doesn't sound as much fun as the Gould books I've read!) to attack any idea of an evolutionary 'ladder of progress' (or of art). The linking of biological evolution with progress is put down to Herbert Spencer, although Darwin was willing to compromise his theory with Spencerian notions.

The apogee of technological Prometheanism is placed in the '50s and '60s and a false and triumphalist ideology of capitalism as universal development with a utopia of affluence around the corner. But the contradictions of capitalism ensured this wasn't going to happen, and indeed the technological Prometheanism contributed to the 'metabolic rift' between human society and nature.

This is the springboard for a surprisingly detailed account of the modern British agrarian question, down to a sad reqieum for the disappearance of the house sparrow.

Of course some readers read Weekly Worker for news (or is gossip, as members of the SWP, including a cross and abusive letter-writer to this edition) of the rest of the left. So there's a page, illustrated by George Galloway dressed as Dracula) devoted to Galloway and Celebrity Big Brother, but, as usual, focussed on the SWP. The strange and demeaning anctics of the inmates are discussed, but Peter Manson gives voice to the political vision behind Galloway's choice: connecting with the millions of people turned off by official politics.
The usually disageeable Ron McKay is given a good showing:
“This was not meant to enhance a media profile; it was meant to show his anti-war profile.”
He told the Sunday Herald: “Respect was totally isolated, blacked-out and neutered by
the mainstream media … We realised we needed alternative ways to reach the public.
Since 9/11, George has done almost 2,000 public meetings and travelled tens of thousands
of miles. He gets big audiences but they usually agree with him. When he started doing
those ‘An audience with’ evenings he got to reach people he didn’t usually meet at public
meetings. That was the lead-up to the thinking behind going into Big brother (‘What on earth
were you thinking, George?’ Sunday Herald January 15).
McKay reports that, although people in his personal team expressed doubts about this
“high-risk strategy”, they were also “naive”, in that they “didn’t reckon on Channel 4 saying,
‘You can’t use this as a soapbox’, and censoring his every political utterance … It seems you
can talk about animal rights and killing animals, but not the killing of human beings.”
He added: “Two million people marched against the war in Britain and it was ignored. Any
avenue to get their message across is now justifiable. This is not about personalities: it’s about
the message. His idea is to be applauded. If he has to do some stupid jape, then so what?”

Well, McKay is giving a good corrective to the moralistic cries of 'disgrace', as does Anas Altikriti (Muslim Association of Britain), who is quoted as saying:
“I think George proved he is a man that connects with the common people and that’s important.
Being a cat wasn’t something he just brought upon himself. It was a task he had to do and he acted
diligently, otherwise he would have been seen as a hypocrite. You can’t have it both ways”
(The Guardian January 14).

The CPGB line is that Galloway is doing this to counterbalance the SWP, while questioning his long-term commitment to Respect. He is building his own personal political profile. The SWP are clearly unhappy, even if they are putting brave face on it. Respect itself seems defensive. Members are quoted being very critical (ooh, they won't like that). But for the CPGB its the SWP's own fault. They've built up the individual personalities, they've rejected calls for accountability. Manson dismisses the 'claptrap' criticisms of Galloway, but has his own, including the old 'workers wage' bug-bear, but also accountability and that Galloway's donation of money to Interpal is to an 'obsurantist organisation' (but I think he means obscure).

The RMT conference on working-class representation is the focus for a number of pieces. 'Dave Craig' of the RDG has a page entitled 'Festival of Labourism?'. He provides a short history of 'Labourism' as background to his usual argument that we need a republican socialist party on the model of the SSP. Various others attempts to build a left-wing party from the SLP, Socialist Alliance (Mark 2), Respect, Labour Representation Committee have failed or will fail because they are Labourist - it's in their 'political DNA'. The RMT conference provides some hope, but the bright spot is the relaunch of the Socialist Alliance!

The CPGB's own interventionist position is on their back-page: it's going to be tame, the RMT executive have got to do it, but aren't that keen and it doesn't have much clarity and nothing is planned to come out of it. The CPGB wants us to have something with the programme of Marxism. More interestingly there's an interview with Greg Tucker, who hopes that Respect and the RMT can work together and that maybe there could be something bigger than Respect - better than the view that Respect is 'it'.

Elsewhere Weekly Worker has a page defending free speech for Abu Hamza, not out sympathy for his political positions, but to avoid giving more power to the state. The standfirst compares Nick Griffin to Abu Hamza, but doesn't call ffor the trial to be called off. And it also recounts some of the debate in SW about the Religious Hatred Bill as evidence that cracks are opening in the SWP.

Eddie Ford draws out the irrationalities of the current state of law and debate about sex offenders and teaching in 'Victims and victimised'.

And finally an interview with Michael Lebowitz (the CPGB are studying Beyond Capital), taking us through his lengthy and interesting political history - involved with Studies on the Left, helping draft the Port Huron Statement and involvement in the SDS, rejecting the CP (in Canada by then) and working in the New Democratic Party and involvement in community organising in Vancouver. Lebowitz talks about having a compartmentlised conception of politics separated off from theory. Lebowitz agrees with his interlocutors quoting of E.P.Thompson about the development of a sense of class through struggle and that leads on to the view that Capital is one-sided and a book on wage-labour is necessary. Marxists are criticised for seeing the working-class only as the 'other' to capital, instead the working-class has to be understood in its 'many-sidedness'. So the left is 'economistic' and many Marxists engage in 'democratic struggles' for instrumental reasons. So Lebowitz criticises the way Mark Fischer spoke about democratic struggle, instead it has to e seen as practice, struggle and self-transformation. Democracy is practice, and that is why he's excited about events in Venezuela: people are starting to assert themselves from below in a context of a constitution that stresses the 'development of human potential' and with the encouragement of Chavez. Well I think this interview is a good reason for checking out the book.


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24 January 2006 at 04:32  

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