Thursday, January 04, 2007

Socialist Worker # 2032 Jan 6th 2007

Socialist Worker makes an interesting start to 2007. The front page emphasises the anti-war movement with Andrew Murray building for the Feb 24th demonstration against war and against the Trident replacement, but moving to a conclusion that this is the 'last push' from the anti-war movement seems unwise, although he recovers by saying it should be the 'start of a mighty push' against occupation and Trident.

The theme is continued by John Rees in 'US is caught between a rock and a hard place'. Rees says the imperial project is damaged by the resistance in Iraq, etc.; but this is translated into political pressure by the anti-war movements. So we have the image of a vice:
"They face an enemy they cannot defeat militarily on the ground and an opposition that is growing in strength domestically."
According to Rees, Aznar and Berlusconi lost elections because of the war. Blair forced to announce his early departure as a direct result of opposition to his backing for Israel's Lebanon War.
Bush has been damaged in the mid-terms. He could 'draw down' forces in Iraq (as kind of advocated in the Baker Report), allowing for greater stability and normalisation, but that would be seen as a massive defeat for imperialism, opening up a 'second Vietnam Syndrome'. On the other hand Bush might try the Jimmy Cagney strategy with increased deployment lof troops and a more intense counter-insurgency war that would 'annihilate... the pupper regimes' it has concocted.
Whatever strategy the anti-war movement 'can play a crucial role in shaping British politics'.

Well I agree with the overall view of America's strategic choices, but do disagree that the anti-war movement is sronger than ever. It might be recovering in the US, but it seems (in terms of numbers) pretty static in Britain. In Leeds the small size of the regular meetings, moving to a regular fortnightly cycle after years of being normally weekly (except for holidays, etc.) in contrast with its heyday seems a good indication of a certain downturn in the movement. This isn't to say that it isn't still worthwhile or capable of renewing itself - and the speed of response to the Lebanon War last summer (for which I tend to praise the SWP!), but not starting from a realistic appraisal of the state of the movement helps no-one. I'd also add that the distorted versions of what happpened to Aznar and Berlusconi help no-one either. And talking about Blair going this year as a result of last summer's crisis just ignores the way the issue was posed then: which Blair gone by or at the Labour conference in September.

And the connection is made by Charlie Kimber on Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia and ousting of the UIC militias, pointing out the genuine popular support for the UIC. He maybe over-states the extent to which Ethiopia did it on behalf of George Bush, but the relationship is there. And he is certainly right about the possibilities for further violent regional destabilisation and defeat for the transitional government in Somalia.

There's a very interesting and important article by Alex Callinicos, 'Power in Our Hands', which I take to be a genuine attempt to grapple with changes in a central component of revolutionary politics: the lessons of the Bolshevik Revolution. Callinicos is concerned with 'dual power' and the Soviets, arguing that Lenin's line in the Bolshevik Party won in the Soviets, which overthrew the provisional government. "This has made the October Revolution a model for revolutionary socialists ever since."

Callinicos goes on to discuss the absence of dual power in the 1989 revolutions, but that it is returning with the challenge of the mass movements that have developed in Latin America, especially Bolivia, and most especially El Alto in October 2003 and June 2005, but according to an account in SW from April 2005 these are organised territorially and by people in the casual and informal sectors; a structural feature very common in the Global South (a reference to Mike Davies would have been nice here). Callinicos connects this to the Paris Commune, also dominated by small workshops. Nice quotes from David Harvey's Paris: Capital of Modernity emphasise the boisterous confidence of Parisian artisan workers.

Soviets came from giant industrial factories (Petrograd 1917, 68% workforce employed in enterprises of 1000 plus). If the Commune 'represents an earlier stage of class organisation' Callinicos argues that neoliberal capitalism has reactivated apparently obsolete forms of exploitation, again quoting Harvey and arguing the workshops of 19thC Paris are similar to new patterns of dependency and exploitation. Thus, "The territorial class organisation of the Commune may come to be increasingly important in the 21st century"

But the giant industrial workplace exists in the West:
"The proportion of the US workforce working in establishments of 500 or more has fallen only slightly, from 23 percent in 1975 to 20 percent in 2003."
I would really like to unpick this statement with more detail, but not quite yet.
Callinicos does qualify this by talking about the dispersal of workforces and moves quickly to say that 'new explosions of working class insurgency' will take different forms, pointing to the French student revolt last Spring as an example. But he reaffirms the centrality of workplace-based organisation and their power, but its the organisational expression of this power that changes.

There's a very good centre page feature on the Black Panthers by Yuri Prasad based on a book of photographs. A bit romanticised, but still good and great photos.

There's much more, including a letter from Michael Rosen criticising the SWP's curious relationship with Gilad Atzmon and class struggle news, especially the Metroline busworkers, the PCS ballot and regional protests against health cuts on March 3rd (and SW makes it clear it should have been a national demo).


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