Tuesday, 24 June 2014
Can the NSSN be a rank-and-file movement??
I was told last night by a socialist party member after I pointed out the upcoming public sector strikes over pay on the 10th of July were more than likely to be sold out once again by the union tops. I was told we need to do something so I suggested a rank-and-file movement to hold the union leaders to account and prevent them selling out any dispute. So in return the National Shops Stewards Network the NSSN was suggested my way. I do not believe this to be the best vehicle for this and I will explain. The NSSN is simply a anti cuts group as a front for the Socialist party to cozy up to left union bureaucrats and curry favour in terms of influence and positions in the unions not really interested in building a mass fightback to win. The problem with unions isn’t poor leadership, but a set of circumstances where the only way they can maintain their ability to negotiate with management is by enforcing law and order on its membership, and either sabotaging or co-opting independent action (or even just undesirable militancy). These circumstances will remain in place no matter how “left” the leadership is groups like the NSSN fail to understand this crucial fact and carry on lobbying the TUC and the lefts in the unions regardless. One of the more entertaining elements of hanging around on the political left is the insistence of the various leftie parties that they are “open and democratic,” usually moments after they’ve been caught out playing silly buggers within a broad church movement. "Open and democratic" is a phrase which obviously has a lot of baggage when it comes to any democratic centralist (Trotskyist, Stalinist, Socialist etc) outfit, tarred as they are by years of capitalist propagandising on the failings of the Soviet Union. Similar and connected is "entryism," the practice of joining a burgeoning movement en masse and attempting to capture it by packing votes and capturing/creating powerful leadership roles. But that baggage becomes heavier rather than lighter when incidents like the Socialist Party stitch-up of the National Shop Stewards Network happen, continuing a long line of similar Lenin-inspired efforts stretching back into anti-war, anti-racist and class struggle history all the way back to 1917 and beyond. Lenin’s crew pioneered and continue to offer the pinnacle of such tactics in the 1910s and 20s when they used the bodies they had captured to destroy grassroots organisations they considered to be rivals, effectively ending any hope of a genuine communism emerging in Russia. Since then, Trotskyists, Stalinists and the like in Britain have attempted the same tactics within an ever-dwindling circle of sympathisers and lefties, seemingly unaware that every time they do so they help put another generation off left-wing politics entirely. Now I have to confess I was once a socialist party member myself and once sat in on a NSSN steering committee meeting the body which controls what the group does and campaigns on. In the meeting there was only one non socialist party member present and before the meeting we caucused or whatever the trotskyist term is and were given the line we were to go with in the proper meeting with this one individual who was in no party at all oddly who stuck around after the split in the NSSN back in 2010 which set about making the NSSN another anti cuts group on the left. I was once a keen member of the SP but became so disillusioned and eventually my disagreements grew too large so I left not before facing all sorts of intimidation and trouble off various people involved locally. Incidents like those linked to above, picked off the top of my head out of a list of hundreds in Britain alone, would be best summed up by the famous Albert Einstein quote “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” And so today, on a much, much tinier scale, we have the Unite the resistance formally Right to Work (SWP), the Peoples assembly formally the Coalition of Resistance (Counterfire), the National Coalition Against Fees and Cuts (AWL, sort of) and the People’s Charter (CPB) while the Socialist Party’s gone a bit anti-cuts crazy with two separate front groups, Youth Fight for Jobs and now the NSSN. All squabbling among themselves and prioritizing not the fight against cuts but their own level of influence within the left ghetto. In fact the only group of any note not fronting itself is the CPGB, which is making a bid for non-sectarian status by calling for a uniting of all the different fronts into a kind of super-front capable of looking, at least initially, like something big enough for local groups (and fronts) to sign up to. The mind boggles. Because the thing is we already know what all the possible outcomes of both normal fronting and super-fronting are, none of which have the least bit to do with improving things for working people or threatening business as usual. Because we’ve already seen it over and over again. The peoples assembly has been the only one to mobilize ny sort of numbers seeing around 50 thousand on their against austerity march the weekend just gone. What really needs to happen to these groups is for the sound and solid people to leave. If you are in one of these outfits, just go and do what you should have been doing in the first place, acting as an independent militant whose work focuses on the REAL big picture and attempts to form a resistance without this inane, counterproductive bullshit. We need to help local and workplace comrades to organise themselves and stop trying to trick them with false promises of democracy when you could be helping create a genuine one accountable to its members rather than your far-removed central committee. We’re not idiots, when your high command tells you to pack a meeting and pretend it’s democratic because “every view got some time” we notice these things and it kills wider participation. Your leaders on the other hand, because they refuse to learn the lessons of their own history, are. Doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over. Let’s build genuine resistance on the ground with no leaders and no hidden party political agenda's.