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Monday, 11 May 2015

This is not our defeat

reblogged with thanks to red and black leeds The results are in, and once again, the British electorate have voted in the party the rich and their friends in the media told them to. Despite pre-election predictions of hung parliaments, "progressive" coalitions, or minority governments, the Conservatives walk away from this election with a slender majority, having increased their share of seats in parliament to 330. Another five years of Tory government now seems assured. There are those on the left who are greeting this news with despair. Despite it’s history of betrayal and failure, every election season the British left lines up behind the Labour Party time and time again. This campaign was no exception. The trade unions, of course, backed Labour to the hilt. Even the left-wing nationalist SNP and the anti-austerity Green Party were touting themselves as eligible partners to a Labour government. Many on the radical left were trying to talk themselves into believing a Labour victory would bring meaningful social change just a fraction closer. Even for those of us who put no stock in parliamentary politics it’s easy to slip into the habit of rooting for the parliamentary opposition. Just the mere fact of them nominally opposing the repulsive Tory crooks who’ve been in power for the last five years made Miliband and his outfit instantly seem sympathetic. But the truth is these people have nothing to offer us and we know it. We’ve been down this road before, for 13 long years of Labour administered misery. This is the party that brought you tuition fees and the Iraq War. They are not friends to the working class. They never have been. As anarchists, we’re critical of voting and elections in general as a strategy for change. For a summary of the anarchist arguments against electoralism, it’s worth reading the recent series by Phil Dickens for - amongst other things, the idea that we can get what we need by just voting for a different set of politicians to run everything fosters illusions in the very system we’re trying to oppose. As Phil puts it: parties can’t pull the state leftward, but mass social movements can force concessions from it. The former is a massive drain of time, energy and effort from the latter. Worse, it creates the illusion that the latter isn’t necessary since we can just vote ‘radically’ instead of all that inconvenient hard work of organising and fighting. No government, Labour or Tory, will offer us anything unless we fight for it. Left-wing electoralism, when it succeeds in capturing state power, encourages us to trust the state and in state officials, bureaucrats and politicians – instead of trusting each other, and our own collective ability to take action and change things. But the other side of this problem is that when left-wing parties fail, as the Labour party did catastrophically this time round, those who’ve invested so much, both emotionally and physically, in electoral success are faced with despair. We see friends and comrades who believed a Labour government would bring at least some relief from the horrors of Tory austerity now downhearted, defeated, at the point of giving up hope altogether. This is just another pitfall of the tried and tested and failed strategy of trying to vote things better. So to all of you out there who were disappointed with the result of Thursday’s ballot: you have our sympathies, but remember, Miliband’s loss is not ours. The Labour Party has failed you, but they would have failed you anyway. Your best chance to make things better isn’t some Oxford-educated millionaire with a red rosette – it’s ordinary people getting together to fight back. It’s your workmates, your neighbours. We’re still here. We’re not going away. Our struggle will go on, under this government, and the next one, and the one after that, until they have no governments left to throw at us. Until we win. jolasmo | 05/09/2015 at 12:49 | Categories: Blog | URL:

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Why I’m scared for our future

You may say what future and you may have a point… Today we saw another government take office this time a fully Tory Tory one and lets be honest not many expected them to gain a outright majority how they managed it is open for debate but they have done and we must face facts. The labour party shouldn’t go without comment in their disgraceful backing of tory austerity they have been a hammered in the polls and rightly rejected yet we are left with the proper tories at least we know what this lot stand for and that is outright destruction of the working class if they get their way. As a disabled person I have been worrying all day what will happen to us come the next 5 years. Chills of dread have flooded me and the horrors of the last 5 years tell me with Tories on their own they can get away with so much more not that the Lib Dems stopped them with any of their brutal cuts but this time it feels we are facing the abyss in terms of our welfare state, our NHS and our public sector services. A total of 12 billion pounds is to be slashed from the welfare bill and this will I tell you now directly will hit the poorest the most vunrable in our society I fear for many of us I really do. A leak last week suggested the following cuts have already been drawn up by the Tories The proposed cuts included: • Limiting support to 2 children in child benefit and child tax credit, so cutting up to £3,500 from a family with three children. • Removing the higher rate child benefit from the first child, an average cut of over £360 for every family with children. • Means testing child benefit – cutting £1,750 for a two child middle income family • Removing child benefit from 16 to 19 year olds – a cut of over £1,000 for parents of a single child. The Conservatives have been under sustained pressure to detail how they will cut £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-2018, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank confirmed this week the Tories have so far disclosed only 10% of these cut in the form of a two-year freeze in working age benefits. With further cuts to benefits surely on its way the DWP have wasted no time in outlining plans to slash the access to work scheme a benefit which is close to my heart and helps me every time I go to work. The attacks on this particular benefit already destroy the lie that the Tories are there to help the disabled in to work and in work they just do not care and are taking the axe to this next benefit. How it will affect me long term we will have to see but be sure I will not let any attacks on me working go unheard. In a piece in the independent tonight it is said. The DWP has moved further to examine cutting a scheme that helps disabled people into work – just hours after the Conservatives won the election. The fund helps people and employers cover costs of disabilities that might be a barrier to work. The biggest single users of the fund are people who have difficulty seeing and people who have difficulty hearing. A policy document originally quietly announced in March suggests capping the £108m Access to Work fund. An impact assessment of the policy was released on the day the general election results. “[Spending] has risen significantly over the past five years … One of the significant strategic questions we face is how to establish the right balance between the need to support as many disabled people as possible and what it is reasonable to offer individual users,” the assessment says. The first option outlined by civil servants in the document is “to set a cap on the maximum value of support per user”. The party's manifesto boats that "last year alone, 140,000 disabled people found work" but says that "the jobless rate for this group remains too high. "As part of our objective to achieve full employment, we will aim to halve the disability employment gap: we will transform policy, practice and public attitudes, so that hundreds of thousands more disabled people who can and want to be in work find employment," it pledges. The overall spend on Access to Work in 2013/14 was £108m, covering 35,540 people. • An earlier version of this story indicated that the policy had been announced in the hours after the general election result. In fact the impact assessment for the policy was issued in the hours after the general election result, while the policy itself was issued in the run up to the general election in March This is just a glimpse of the tories aims in this next 5 years. Be under no illusion they are coming for you and they will not give a stuff about who you voted for or anything. Its time to organise ourselvesin our communities find common allies and fightback in whichever way we can using any means at our desposable. We may never see the welfare state ever a gain if we do not fightback now. The last 5 years was justa warm up for what is coming next …..

Monday, 27 April 2015

Angry not apathetic: what anarchists do instead of voting

As the 2015 general election approaches, the Anarchist Federation explains the anarchist alternative to voting for social change. The general election is here, and once again the parties are all over us like a rash, promising that they will fix things. But you don’t have to be an anarchist to know that nothing changes, whoever gets in. This is why politicians are keen on new methods such as postal voting. Labour, Tory, Liberal Democrat, nationalist (Plaid Cymru, SNP, Sinn Fein), ‘principled’ or ‘radical’ (Green Party, or leftists in some alliance), or nationalist-racist (UKIP etc), the fundamentals of the system are the same. Whether we have the present electoral system or proportional representation, or however many people vote or don’t vote in an election or referendum, as we have just seen in Scotland, capitalism is at the driving wheel globally. As working class people, we are exploited whether we can take part in ‘free’ elections or live under an authoritarian regime. Capitalists and property owners continue to control the wealth that we create, and they protect it through the police, legal system, and military. You can’t complain Non-voters are told that, “If you don’t vote you can’t complain”. But voting under these circumstances is just pretending that the system we have is basically alright. It lets the winning party off the hook. The fact is, we have next to no say in the decisions that get taken by the people we elect. This is called ‘representative democracy’. Anarchists organise by ‘direct democracy’, where we can have a say in every decision, if we want to. We don’t put our power in someone else’s hands, so no one can betray us and abuse it. This really could work globally! Ask us how… Campaigning against voting A “don’t vote” campaign on its own is just as much a waste of time. The same goes for a protest vote for a leftist or novelty candidate. The time and money spent campaigning could be better used fixing some of the problems we face in our lives. Protesting, whether it is spoiling a ballot paper or marching in the street, fails to offer any real challenge. So, anarchists say, vote, or don’t vote. It won’t make any difference. What is more important, is to realise that elections prop up a corrupt system and divert us from winning real change. Don’t vote, organise! We should organise with our neighbours, workmates, other people we have shared interests with, and others who don’t have the privileges that some people have. We are the experts on what we need, and on the best way to run things for the common good. We need to use direct action to achieve this. Direct action is where we solve a problem without someone else representing us. By this we mean, not just protesting and asking for change, but things like occupying, sabotaging, working to rule, refusing to pay their prices or their rent, and striking (but not waiting for union leaders to tell us when we can and can’t!). For example, when workers aren’t paid the wages owed them, rather than asking the government to give us better legal protection, we take action to force employers to pay. The Department for Work & Pensions has even named the Anarchist Federation and the Solidarity Federation among groups that are a serious threat to workfare, because we have shut down programmes. This was achieved with only a few hundred people. Imagine what could be done with thousands! Taking it back In reality, people are understandably afraid of taking the state on. But direct action doesn’t have to mean an all-out fight to defeat capitalism in one go. Anarchists do think that ultimately, there has to be a full revolution. But by confronting the system directly at any point we can start to take control. In fact, all the good things we think of as having been created by the state – free health care, free education, health & safety laws to protect us at work, housing regulations, sick pay, unemployment benefits, pensions – came about historically to put an end to organised campaigns of collective direct action that threatened their power. And where we would fail as individuals, together we can win.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Hertford and Stortford Ware hustings General Election 2015-

As you may or may not know I’m not the biggest fan of elections. But this coming April the debating society I am a member of are hosting the local hustings for the coming general election. I am on the organising committee and am happy to help. As you may or may not know I’m in no political party at all and am increasingly turned off by all party’s whether they be soft left or hard left. I am struggling to mount any enthusiasm for any party to vote for. As an anarchist now I should not vote at all which I stand by I don’t think I will. But the local situation has obvious interests to me and I am happy to help out and organise a hustings if that is what people want. I feel it is fair and right that there is such an n event given the heightened awareness of politics in this current year. Whilst I can’t lend my support to any of the candidates standing I do wish them well as there is a financial cost and also a physical cost in terms of the work involved. In this hugely Tory Tory seat held by former housing minister MarkPrisk there is lots of hope from candidates hoping to make a dent in his 15 thousand odd majorities and I can’t see why not at present. I as people well know am no Tory supporter and detest all that they stand for but as it stands mark Prisk has not agreed to join in with the Ware general election hustings to be held in the Ware Drill Hall on the 24th of April starting at 7.30 pm all welcome and no entrance fee required. Standing for this seat will be the Labour party, Lib Dem's, UKIP, Greens and the sitting MP who is a tory as far as i know there is no one else at this stage . I have my views on the Tories and Mark Prisk as a person given the replies I have had from him and his office down the years in disagreement with many of his ideas and party policies but I would for democratic fairness like to see him turn up on the 24th of April. I would like to see him challenged and held to account as any MP or elected representative should be. We currently have no reason as to why Mark can’t attend but I do hope before the 24th he will reconsider and join the hustings with the other candidates who have been more than happy to get involved. As I said earlier I am part of a debating society called Cogers debating society which have continued the tradition of discussion and debate from a very very early time. We are proud to host such an event in Ware but we are aware how big this election could be on the whole. What happens in East Herts on the face of it may not matter too much but everyone in this area has a say and deserves to be heard. If they wish to turn up on the night they will be more than welcome and encouraged to join in and ask the candidates questions from the floor. As a libertarian socialist with roots in economic Marxism and the ideas of anarchism as a practise I am not against all elections as a rule just I am not sure we as a class, the working class can gain much from any bourgeois election. Even whilst I hold this view I still maintain a curiosity on how big elections go and who wins or forms the next government despite what we say will be a big thing and dictate how we react and take things forward as a militant class. Please attend the Ware General Election hustings if you can Venue: The drill Hall Ware, Hertfordshire, Amwell end Time: 7:30 pm start advice to get in early to gain seat Duration: roughly finishing at 10:00 pm with a scheduled interval at 9pm for an all to stretch legs or refresh yourself Hosted by: Ware society of Cogers Entrance: free to members of the public Time: 7.30 pm to 10 pm --- roughly Open to: all members of the public who wish to question the candidates for the Hertford and Stortford seat in the coming general election

Monday, 30 March 2015

Benefit scrounger rhetoric has gone too far now

Reading in the Telegraph today about a blind man who arranged a charity darts event to raise money for Guide Dogs for the blind has now been investigated by the DWP for frauding the system. This idea of scroungers has gone too far now and is causing unnecessary stress and unease on many innocent disabled people. This has got to end. The fact someone would report someone to the DWP for attempting to do normal things as a blind person so thinking they can’t be blind is a disgrace and brings real shame on us as a society. I know people who have been refused disabled benefits as they can walk to their local pub all be it in great pain but they do it because they wish to get out and socialize. If we are going to start going down this route of if you are not at home all the time practically bed ridden you are not disabled in the DWP's eyes. This incident roubles me greatly on many levels. It will send out the message that trying to live independent and be active in your community is not to be encouraged as you may be suspected as being on the take in terms of your benefits. What a ridiculous situation we are in. "A blind man who held a charity marathon darts event was investigated over benefit fraud because he was too good. Visually-impaired Robert Boon, 50, organised a ten-hour "arrow" throw to raise £500 to buy two guide dogs. Mr Boon is registered blind as he is completely blind in one eye and only able to see shadows in the other. He scored an impressive 61,000 points on the night by standing and playing darts on his own for ten hours. Mr Boon said due to the repetitive action of dart throwing he was able to maintain some degree of accuracy. But shortly after the event he was called to a meeting by the Department for Work and Pensions to assess his eligibility to claim benefits. He was stunned to discover a member of the public had reported him - claiming someone that good at darts could not possibly be blind. Robert Boon, of Paignton, Devon, said: "I got a letter saying I had to attend a meeting. "I felt humiliated because I don't think it is right to report me when I have tried to do something good. "I rang the hospital to get my medical records on my eye condition. I don't see why people should put me down. "I feel really intimidated now. I am registered blind and can't see virtually anything out of one eye and shadows in the other. "To be fair when I spoke to the DWP they said they would not be taking the benefits away. "I have other things lined up now including a comedy night and don't intend to stop." "It's only right that we investigate a person's benefit claim when we receive information that suggests they may not be entitled." Mr Boon held the charity event at Pond Coffee Shop in Paignton as part of a larger fundraising drive to raise £10,000 so he can buy two guide dogs. " For me this is deeply worrying and something which we should all be aware of. The deep suspicion in this country now that all disabled people if they show near normal signs of living are to be suspected as fraud is a troubling development. This links into disability hate crime where many more disabled people are being targeted due to the scroungers rhetoric coming from our dear media and politicians With extracts from the Daily Telegraph piece Peoples uncaring and untrusting attitudes worry me in this day and age, Where is this all leading, I dread to think.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Why our mental health is just as important as our physical health

I’ve not posted to this blog for a while but a few things caught my attention this wek which were worthy of comment I felt. This week there has been a few big stories of people who have struggled with their mental health both with tragic outcomes. The first was a young rock singer known as Little Chris who came onto the scene through a reality talent show on Channel 4. Actor, singer and TV personality Chris Hardman, whose stage name was Lil' Chris, has died aged 24. The cause of death is believed to be suicide. Hardman rose to fame on Channel 4 series Rock School in 2006 and went on to star in the stage premiere of James Bourne and Elliot Davis's musical Loserville. Speaking to WhatsOnStage, Davis said it was "awful, awful news", and confirmed that Hardman suffered from depression. "He was a super talented guy, so naturally gifted," Davis added. "He just had something that the nation saw and it catapulted him to early fame, which perhaps caused problems." As Lil' Chris - a nickname he picked up on Rock School - he released his debut album in 2006. Davis described him as a "fantastic" songwriter. He subsequently hosted his own talkshow Everybody Loves Lil' Chris on Channel 4. In Loserville, which premiered at West Yorkshire Playhouse in summer 2012 before transferring to the West End's Garrick Theatre, he played Francis Weir. "When you work with people on shows you become a close family very quickly," said Davis. "He suffered from depression and like many people had struggled to find a way through it." We also have seen the sad and devastating crash which looks now to be a deliberate act of suicide by co pilot of the ill fated German Wings airplane which crashed landed in the Alps this week. Investigations are ongoing but it looks as though the co pilot who locked himself in the Cockpit was suffering from depression and had been off work for a time previously. Also we have seen the 5th band member of One Direction Zane Malek leave the world famous band due to stress and not being able to cope with the limelight. So what should we make of these news stories and has the stigma around mental Health gone away or is it still very much an issue. Are these individuals weak for taking the difficult decisions they have done? Do we condemn them out of hand for being lesser human beings or should we look closer and look underneath as to why they felt they had been left with no more choice. These are just a few high profile cases of late but for sure there are many out there who suffering in silence everyday. Its time to hear their thoughts and feelings Do we really understand mental health? Speaking as someone who has felt very low at times and have seen professional help about my lack of self confidence and other issues I can say that society still does not get mental health illness’s and yes I do think they are illness’s and people do need help. Sometimes people don’t know how to get help but it is always out there if you need it there are people who can help you don’t forget that.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

The party is haunting us again

A brilliant post just put up on captures a lot of my feelings right now on the question of a new workers party and why it isnt what we desperately need right now. The article i republish below with thanks to LibCom explains it in greater detail than i ever could. The National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) recently split from the African National Congress (ANC). As part of this it is exploring establishing a mass workers' party in South Africa. This article examines why this path is deeply flawed. Karl Marx once said that history repeats itself, first as a tragedy then as a farce. A case in point is that in South Africa sections of the left are once again calling for a mass workers’ party (MWP) to be formed to contest elections – this they believe will bring us closer to revolution. History says otherwise. Of course the new calls for a MWP stem from the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) breaking from the African National Congress (ANC). As an outcome NUMSA is exploring the possibility of setting up a MWP to contest elections. Many Marxist and leftist influenced organisations, but also cadres within NUMSA, are therefore providing reasons why activists should be interested in such a party. Some of the reasons they have been giving in support of forming such a party have included: a good showing by such a party will strengthen struggles; a MWP party can unite the working class; a MWP can provide the working class with the correct ideological line of march; a MWP in the legislature – whether at a local, provincial or national level – will be able to make mass propaganda for the cause of socialism; gains and pro-working class policies could be secured by contesting state power; a MWP heading the state could provide greater welfare; and if a MWP gains control over the state it could nationalise key industries, bringing socialism closer. Others, while advocating for a MWP, have taken a slightly different view influenced by the notion of ‘revolutionary parliamentarianism’ and they argue such a party could enter into parliament to expose the sham of parliamentary democracy and the current state; and that through this it could supposedly open the eyes of the working class, bringing revolution nearer and setting the stage for a so-called workers’ state. Looking back over the history of MWPs, which first appeared as social democratic parties in the nineteenth century, none have fully lived up to the promises cited above. Throughout history no MWP has united the working class. This is because within working class politics different traditions have existed and an anti-party and anti-electoral strand has always existed. For a period between 1870 and 1920 it was the dominant form of revolutionary politics amongst the working class. In fact, the First International, which existed from 1864 to 1871 and aimed to bring working class organisations internationally together, split around the issue of MWPs and electoralism; with some including Marx going the MWP path and a majority rejecting parties and electioneering in favour of anti-state revolutionary politics through anarchism/syndicalism. Today in South Africa there are also many activists, certainly within community organisations and struggles, that are anti-party and anti-electoralism. The vast majority of these activists are not anarchists (given the very limited influence of anarchism in South Africa), but have a deep mistrust of political parties, and politicians – even left-wing ones – entering into the state. This comes from experience. A new MWP, therefore, will in all likelihood not receive this section of the working class’s support. Thus, a MWP, given history and given the anti-party sentiment of a section of the working class in South Africa, will not bring unity to the working class. Gains for the working class have also very seldom been brought about simply by MWPs winning elections or even gaining hold of state power. Rather struggle, including strikes, protests, revolts and revolutionary upheavals, have led to the working class winning gains from the ruling class. How the working class first won an 8 hour working day is a prime example of this. Two of the first states to concede to an 8 hour work day were Germany and Spain. In these countries it was not due to the clever parliamentarian work of MWPs, nor them having state power, that led to workers winning an 8 hour work day; but rather massive struggles outside of the electoral realm and against the state by the working class. In Germany the 8 hour working day was implemented in 1918. It, sadly, was implemented not because of the sterling work of a MWP, but rather was legalised as part of a betrayal by a MWP – the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) – of a working class revolution. At the time the SPD still claimed to be Marxist and said it wanted to overthrown capitalism while promoting and practicing electoral politics. In November 1918 workers, sailors and soldiers in Germany were establishing councils and were pushing for a genuine form of socialism based on direct democracy. It looked as if there was a possibility of them overthrowing both capitalism and the state. In this context a MWP, the SPD, made a deal with the ruling class in Germany. It defended capitalism in return for gaining state power. As part of this it set up army corps that were loyal to it and even supported and deployed the right-wing paramilitary Freikorps to put down and break the revolution. The SPD-controlled unions also agreed to prevent workers seizing the means of production in exchange for capitalists recognising these unions and agreeing to an 8 hour working day. It was thus the spectre of revolution, eventually crushed by the SPD in alliance with right-wing paramilitaries, which led to the 8 hour working day being conceded to and legislated for in Germany. Likewise, in Spain the 8 hour working day was not implemented due to a MWP pushing for it in parliament. It resulted from the concessions the ruling class were forced to make as a result of massive pressure from a 44-day general strike in 1919 by workers in anarchist/syndicalist unions. Indeed, the working class has never won any benefits without struggle and to think simply electing people from MWPs into legislatures will bring gains is dangerous. More importantly, no MWP in history has come near to establishing socialism, even when they have headed up a state. This holds true even for the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union under a so-called workers’ state. In other words, no MWP has ever brought about a society where exploitation and alienation has been ended; where direct democracy in the workplace and in society in general has flourished; where all forms of oppression, including racism and sexism, have been ended; where there are no rulers and ruled; where the divisions between mental and manual labour are broken; where the economy and wealth are socialised; and where society is based not on profit, but on meeting all people’s needs through democratic planning. In the cases of the SPD and the Bolsheviks in power, they even actively fought against this. Thinking that a MWP could begin to deliver on socialism, therefore, ignores the facts of history. Those advocating for a MWP in South Africa should perhaps bear this in mind. Centred towards state power One of the central reasons why MWPs have not brought about a genuine form of socialism – as opposed to reforming capitalism or embarking on state capitalism – is their orientation to contesting and capturing state power. Indeed, many of those advocating for NUMSA to form a MWP have taken words such as those of Leon Trotsky to heart when he said: “Every political party worthy of the name strives to capture political power and thus place the State at the service of the class whose interests it expresses”1. The problem with such thinking, and a fatal flaw within the logic of MWPs, is that the state cannot simply be taken over by the working class and wielded as a revolutionary tool, even if it is a so-called workers’ state. States can’t be used for liberation The reason for this is that states emerged to ensure that elite minorities could and can wield power over a majority. States, therefore, came into being when societies based on class first arose. The purpose states were built to fulfil was to ensure that an elite could rule and accumulate wealth through using the state they controlled to keep a majority subservient, oppressed and exploited. As such states have always been tools and instruments of elite rulers and their class. This defining feature of all states means they can’t be used for liberation; it is not the purpose for which they arose. In fact, if there was no inequality or class rule, states would not exist. How states work to ensure that the ruling class maintains power and wealth can easily be seen under capitalism. Today we have huge states that ensure the interests of the ruling class (capitalists, politicians and top officials in the state) are protected and furthered. Through the state’s legislative, judiciary, economic, military and policing arms, the state always protects and enforces the property interests of this class by protecting and enforcing minority property ownership, whether it be private and/or state-owned property. Along with this, states today legalise exploitation along with attempting to create an environment in which capitalism can generally function. These massive institutions cannot be simply wielded in the interest of the working class. Indeed, their function is to keep the working class oppressed. Of course states use ideology and propaganda to ensure the working class accepts its own oppression. One source which states often perversely use in an attempt to ideologically neuter the working class is the fact that they provide some welfare and socially-useful services. Of course states, as discussed above in relation to the 8 hour working day, were forced to provide such services due to massive working class struggles and, often, the real threat of revolution. As such, welfare represents a gain of past mass struggles. Nonetheless, states and the ruling classes controlling them were also willing to make concessions based on the calculation that to do so would limit the possibility of future revolts. States then, for propaganda purposes, falsely claimed that it was their ‘benevolence’ that led to welfare. This is then used by states even today in order to claim they exist for the benefit of all classes. In other words they use the provision of welfare to try and mask the fact they exist to enforce class rule by an elite minority. What is, of course, not mentioned is that the need for welfare only exists because of class rule and capitalism; and that the resources states spend on welfare ironically also originally derive from the exploitation of the working class. A MWP in state power providing greater welfare does not overturn this reality. The greatest weapon states – and the elite that control and influence them – have for ensuring class rule is the legal monopoly they have on violence. When strikes or protests escalate states deploy the police and even military to put them down. Even peaceful protests and strikes often face police repression. If open revolt against capitalism or class rule breaks out, states have always reacted violently, even to the point of waging civil war. Under the Soviet Union, even under Lenin and a so-called workers’ state, this too took place. There the state was used to violently defend Bolshevik rule and the privileges of those who headed the state. For example, the Soviet state ruthlessly put down strikes in Petrograd in 1921. Many of the workers involved were questioning the lavish lifestyles that Communist Party officials and managers were living. Later in the year, the Soviet state also used the military to crush a revolt in Kronstadt – those involved in the revolt questioned Bolshevik rule because the Bolshevik leaders had become an elite. These workers wanted the state to be replaced by a genuine form of working class democracy based on worker councils (Soviets). Far from being used as a weapon of liberation, MWPs therefore have a history of using the state to violently ensure their own rule once in state power – as such they have not brought about socialism. The question for South African activists is: would a MWP in state power in South Africa really act differently? States too are also capitalist entities in their own right. Many states still own factories, farms, mines and banks and in these workers are oppressed and exploited. A prime example is how the South African state exploits workers in Eskom. But such exploitation is not limited to South Africa. Workers in factories owned by the Venezuelan state also face exploitation and oppression. Indeed, major struggles have been fought in the steel factories owned by the Venezuelan state. No state throughout history, even when MWPs have headed it, has allowed socialism to blossom or the working class to genuinely control the means of production. Even under the Soviet Union, it was a state bureaucracy that controlled the means of production. The working class remained oppressed and exploited and under the heels of the Bolshevik-controlled state. As a matter of fact, it was the Bolshevik Party in the aftermath of the October Revolution of 1917 that created this situation: it nationalised factories that were taken over by workers, it destroyed workers’ self-management and replaced it with one-man management and it destroyed working class democracy in the Soviets. The Soviet Union, therefore, was not a socialist state, but rather a form of state capitalism – it never allowed the working class to have genuine workers’ self-management/control. If a MWP nationalised the means of production in South Africa this would not be socialism. Consequently, to call on people to form and vote for a MWP in South Africa on the basis it will nationalise the means of production runs the risk of fostering a false belief amongst the working class that nationalisation equals socialism. The reality is under nationalistion, the state would own and control factories, banks, farms and mines; not the working class. Indeed, if the working class genuinely had power and control over the means of production there would be no need for a state and nationlisation – states only exist because a few need to enforce their rule and control over the economy. The centralisation of states has consequences In order to carry out the rule of an elite, all states have been centralised and hierarchical. As such, orders in all states flow down a chain of command. Only a few can and do rule. To carry out instructions from above, large bureaucracies always develop. This too attracts opportunists and careerists, as through states individual wealth and power can be accumulated via large salaries, patronage networks and corruption. The reality is so even under a parliamentary system. Most high-ranking state officials, including generals, director-generals, police commissioners, state legal advisors, state attorneys, judges, managers and CEOs of parastatals, officials in the various departments and magistrates are never elected by the people. They are not answerable to the working class, but to their line of managers. Most of their decisions, policies and actions will never be known by the vast majority of people – the top-down centralised structure of states ensures this. Even if a MWP was formed in South Africa and came to head some form of state, it could not change the centralised nature of the state. Centralisation and the state go hand-in-hand. Likewise it is parliamentarians and the executive (presidents, premiers, mayors and all their ministers) that make and pass laws; not the mass of people. In fact, parliamentarians are not truly accountable to voters (except for 5 minutes every 5 years) and this is so even where MWPs have entered into parliament. While a MWP may occasionally make noise in parliament, there is actually a very long history around the world of parliamentarians of MWPs acting in their own interests, including voting for high salaries and betraying the working class. This is because parliamentarians, even from MWPs, don’t receive mandates and are not recallable by the working class. The way parliamentary democracy functions means parliamentarians vote and decide on policy and legislation within the confines of legislature – they don’t go back to the working class to gain approval for their actions. Those advocating for a MWP in South Africa, therefore, consciously or unconsciously avoid revealing this truth to the activists they are trying to convince. States and rulers States, too, generate an elite and a section of the ruling class. This is central to the reason why MWPs going into the state and electioneering will not and cannot deliver socialism and an end to class rule. When people enter into top positions in states – including, historically, in so-called workers’ states - they gain access to the means of administration and coercion and to new privileges. Being part of a few who have the power to make decisions for and over others and the ability to enforce those decisions, creates a position of a ruler. As such, the centralisation of power, which defines states, generates an elite. This can be seen in Venezuela today where a so-called MWP heads up the state. There top state officials rule, they receive large salaries and they have joined the ruling class. Power there does not lie in the hands of the working class. It would be no different if a MWP were to come to head the state in South Africa. Consequently, even where MWPs have come to gain state power and even when they have headed what many Marxists have called a workers’ state in the early days of the Soviet Union, the leadership of these parties have become a new elite. They have, therefore, either become a new ruling class outright or they have joined the existing ruling class. Indeed, even if a MWP elected to only pay its parliamentarians, top state officials, ministers and President/Prime Minister/Chairperson an average workers’ wage, they would still be rulers, they would still have power and they could still decide on policies and law and enforce those. The working class would still not have power. The state cannot, therefore, be used to bring about socialism nor end class rule. It is preposterous to think that by entering into top positions in the state that a MWP can bring about socialism or even constantly make gains for the working class. The centralised and hierarchical nature of all states throughout history, even so-called workers’ states, means this is not possible. States and elite rule are synonymous with one another. This means that a new MWP in South Africa, because of its tactics of centering towards the state, is not going to lead the working class to socialism and end class rule. It may change the faces of the ruling elite, but it will not get rid of the rule by an elite few. The dangers of a MWP MWPs and electioneering, consequently, hold many dangers. The orientation towards the state and electioneering carries the danger of creating illusions amongst the working class that the state can be used for liberation. This is a danger even in cases where advocates arguing for the MWP say that it should only stand in elections to expose the class nature of the current state. In such cases it is unlikely such tactics will bring the revolution closer. Indeed, why call on people to vote representatives into a state when you know it is a sham? Far from leading to people seeing the state as part of the problem, it is likely to create illusions. Consequently, it also leads to the possibility that the working class will view elections, rather than mass struggle, as a focus of their energy. Indeed, many MWPs have diverted people’s energies away from struggles, strikes and protests towards electioneering with disastrous consequences. The idea of the MWP also carries the risk that the working class will shift the focus from building their own organs of struggle towards building a new party. In fact, if NUMSA is to play a revolutionary role, the task of NUMSA comrades is to transform their union into a revolutionary union. That means fighting in the union, too, to make it radically democratic. If a MWP is formed in all likelihood this won’t happen – precisely because energies will be diverted into creating something new, the MWP. Likewise, it is also likely that mass struggles and organising in the townships will wane as energies too will be diverted away from building on what already exists into building a MWP. The greatest threat that MWPs and their orientation to electioneering and the state (even a so-called workers state) pose is promoting the idea amongst the working class that freedom and salvation will come from above and not through its own existing organisations and struggles. Indeed, it promotes the idea that a MWP can substitute for the working class; and that if a MWP had power it would bring freedom. The reality though is liberation won’t and can’t, by definition, come from above or through substitutionalism. If socialism is to be created it will be created by the working class through its own actions, organisations and struggle and not through the state and a MWP. Indeed, only the working class can liberate itself; and given the nature of states it, by definition, can’t come though such structures. Rather build a revolutionary working class counter-power Another path, instead of a MWP, which the working class could go down is to rather build its own revolutionary counter-power against not only capitalism, but also the state and all forms of oppression including racism and sexism. Throughout history there have been instances where a counter-power has been built by the working class itself, including Russia during 1917, Germany in 1918, Spain in 1936 and South Africa in the early 1980s. It is, therefore, possible for the class itself – without the so-called guidance of a MWP and without a MWP taking state power – to build its own counter-power. This is perhaps a more long term project and perhaps even a harder task than building a MWP, but it is a task that the working class will have to embark upon if it is to have power in its own hands one day. The advantage of building a counter-power, though, is that history shows that it could be built through the organisations and movements the working class itself has already begun to create, be it community organisations, unions and worker committees. To build a counter-power the working class would, though, have to strengthen these movements and organisations and transform them into organs of working class direct democracy. They would also have to be infused with a revolutionary politics that aims not just to transform the state and capitalism, but to replace these with a new society. To build a counter-power though does not mean ignoring the struggle for immediate gains. The working class needs better housing and a decent lifestyle today and can’t simply wait for the revolution to have the basics of life. As such the struggles for the things that are needed today to improve the lives of the working class, which includes placing demands on bosses and politicians because they have stolen from the working class, is vital. Indeed, things like corruption, repression and poor delivery can only be resolved in favour of the working class by the working class organising itself outside and against the state and placing demands on and even imposing its will on the bosses and state through mass direct action. Importantly though, it cannot also relax if the ruling class do provide such concessions. Rather, winning immediate gains has to be used as a school of struggle and immediate gains have to be used to build on towards revolution. As part of this, the working class also needs to build towards the goal of seizing the means of production directly through its own organisations and structures; and from there socialise the means of production to meet the needs of all. It can’t rely on a MWP or state to do so; because then another power other than the working class would in fact control the means of production. History shows that the means of production can be seized directly by the class in revolutionary situations; for example in Russia in 1917 many factories were seized by the working class and were briefly run by workers’ themselves using democratic committees in order to plan production – unfortunately these were destroyed once Lenin and the Bolsheviks consolidated their so-called workers’ state. Instead of MWPs and hoping elections or even a workers’ state might bring gains or even revolution, the working class needs to build democratic revolutionary organs and fight so that one day it can take power in society itself and run society through direct democracy without a party instructing it or a state. This can be done using federated organs of direct democracy like worker councils, community assemblies and committees to allow everyone to have an equal say in how society is run. MWPs and voting in parliamentary or municipal elections brings us no closer to building such structures of counter-power. Rather all it does is run the risk of generating further illusions in the state and it risks keeping the working class in chains far into the future. The working class has been in chains for far too long; it is time for the class itself to begin breaking those chains. Only it itself has the power to do so. Link esterno: with thanks to Malatesta Black from libcom