Socialist Wanker

Digesting some of the material about the collapse of the British SWP. Here are some of the links that are relevant beyond UK sectariana but of interest to those interested in Marxist theory and Trotskyist history more broadly. For those interested in the gory details, go to Jim Jepps’ ever-growing link list, from which a couple of the items below are pilfered, or to Mikey’s tabloid version. Apologies this is so un-chronological, with stuff from January through to April.

Leninism, vanguardism, party democracy, activist culture:

Theorising Marxism and feminism:

Tony Cliff, founding figure of the British Int...

Tony Cliff, founding figure of the British International Socialists. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The “IS tradition”:

The radical movement in Britain

Historical Materialism journal:

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From the archive of struggle, no.72

Thanks once again Petey for spotting an error in my last post. I’ve reposted the link below, with extras. Thanks once again, of course, Entdinglichung, whose archival gleaning is becoming impossible to keep up with.

Cover of "Waterfront Workers of New Orlea...

“The roots of multi-racial labour unity in the United States” was published in International Socialism 2:63, Summer 1994, and can be read either at MIA or the SWP’s own archive. It’s a review  of Eric Arnesen, Waterfront Workers of New Orleans: Race, Class and Politics, 1863-1923 (New York and Oxford, 1991). Here’s the intro:

The idea that white workers in the US have historically benefited from racism is widely accepted on both the academic and political left. Even those who hesitate to draw such conclusions concede that a class analysis is insufficient to explain the persistence of racism in the US. [… For socialists in the US the question of the ‘socio-economic nutriments’ of racism is a matter of practical politics. The persistence of racism cannot be accepted as a ‘baffling phenomenon’, but is either explicable in terms of the class struggle, or, if race can be proven to be a more fundamental social division than class the struggle for workers’ power in the United States is sheer utopianism.

Previous articles in this journal have taken up the relationship of race and class in general and racism in the US in particular.2 Therefore there is no need here to recount the theoretical debates on the centrality of class. Rather this review article will attempt to show how multi-racial workers’ unity could take root in seemingly the least likely context: the segregated 19th century South. It will argue that whites did not benefit from the exclusion of blacks from the ranks of organised labour, but that such divisions were disastrous for black and white workers alike.

Further, despite white supremacy, black workers North and South often rejected alliances with the small, but influential, conservative black middle class to make common cause with white workers in trade unions and socialist organisations. It will conclude by arguing that the struggle against racism in the US working class is above all a political question that cannot be resolved within the economic framework of trade unionism. Rather it must be rooted in the struggle for socialism and black liberation.

You can read Lee Sustar elsewhere,at ZSpace (on various historical and political topics), at International Viewpoint (on Egypt), at Viewpoint (on Karl Marx) and even at NPR (on Dennis Brutus).

Here’s some recently posted material from Entdinglichung, including stuff I’d missed last month.  (more…)

Ken Coates

Ken CoatesI once wrote this about Ken Coates:

The pacifist tradition that Baker and Kurlansky inherit is not an ignoble tradition. In the UK, its home was, for many decades, the Independent Labour Party. I have a lot of respect for the ILP and its heritage. Ken Coates is the contemporary figure who probably most represents the political tradition of the ILP. Over the years I’ve been influenced considerably by Ken Coates, his humanist socialism, his advocacy for workers’ control, his sense of industrial democracy as an extension of the republican liberties fought for by the likes of Tom Paine. However, in his little magazine, The Spokesman, I have long noted an unpleasant drift towards sloppy conspirationist thought, anti-American hysteria, a “New World Order” mentality. Habibi at Harry’s Place nails this trend, and shows how it spills over into very unpleasant antisemitic territory.

I still hold to that opinion, and was saddened to read about his death on the 27 June. Ken Coates was one of the most thoughtful of British socialists, and one of the most activist of its theorists. His work on workers’ control is indispensable. This came out of his own proletarian experiences, out of an engagement with the experiments in self-management in Tito’s Yugoslavia (the cause of his 1948 break with Stalinism) and then out of Michael Raptis’ development of the Titoist model within the context of Trotskyism.

At the same time, I think that the dark side of Pabloism – its excessive enthusiasm for a Second Campist kind of national self-determination, which led it into supporting some authoritarian “anti-imperialist” regimes – also coloured his thinking. This element came to the fore in his later years, when geopolitics rather than class struggle became his central concern at The Spokesman. (See, for instance, this rabbit’s eye view of his use of Christian antisemitism in his late rhetoric.)

'The dirty war in Mr Wilson. Or how he stopped worrying about Vietnam and learned to love the dollar', 1966Among the groups Coates passed through, after the Communist Party, were the Revolutionary Socialist League, the International Group, forerunner of the International Marxist Group, the the Institute for Workers’ Control, the International Socialists (he was one of the journal editors in the 1960s, its greatest period, although I am not sure if he was ever a member), the Labour Party (several times, including a fair few expulsions), the Independent Labour Network and the  North Derbyshire Socialist Alliance.

Please read Andrew Coates’ eulogy to this great man. Andrew has other links too: Guardian Obituary Here – letters about it here, Independent Here, Blog Three Score Years and Ten Here, Five Leaves Blog Here. Also: Socialist Unity.

Below the fold, some treasures from the archive: (more…)