Monday, May 3, 2010

Past Tense Reply - No Parliamentary Elections in any circumstances

Apologies for the lateness of this reply… The author of the past tense leaflet was away when Dale post went up, and since then has been busy with work and childcare… Finally here is our respsonse. We have dealt with some of the points, one by one, so sorry if it seems slightly disjointed.

Past tense doesnt call itself anarchist, though some of us have spent time in the anarchist scene over the years… Some useful ideas come from various traditions, including those that label themselves, communist, anarchist, socialist or feminist ; we are unhappy with some elements of these strands of thought, and are open to other influences. As well as evolving our own ideas, shock horror.

Our opposition to the state, and to parliamentary democracy has nothing to do with what Proudhon (mostly a spokesman for petty-bourgeois individualist small property-owners) or Bakunin (a masonic fetishist for secret conspiratorial uprisings) said, or wrote. Universal suffrage in itself is not THE counter-revolution, and achieving it or not has no real effect on the attainment of socialism, communism or anarchy [or whatever].

Despite acknowledging that parliament is an integral part of the state that defends the interests of the ruling class politically and economically and that a political change by itself, without fundamental economic and social changes, leaves the ruling elites in power, you say universal suffrage was a radical demand. THEN, it may have been, when people thought both that access to parliament would mean a share of political power, and that political power was the key to radical changes in how wealth was distributed, as well as resolving other underlying social questions… As advances are made previous radical demands lose their revolutionary power. If we achieve changes then we up our ante, especially if the changes dont provide the solutions we expected.

Entirely predictably you bring up Chartism and womens suffrage. As we said above, radical demands are often concede once no longer so radical, or can be recuperated intp a clever and adaptable capitalist system.
Neither the Chartists nor the Suffragettes were monolithic in their ideas, some in both movements (a sizable minority in the case of the Chartist movement) came to believe that working people, the producers of
all the wealth, should have more than a share of power, but should control the disposition of that wealth entirely. A substantial portion of the Chartist movement supported the planned uprisings of 1839-40, of
1848… Like the Chartists, for many in the womens suffragist movement the aim was not merely to win the vote in itself, but as a stepping stone towards other social changes. Class divisions, splits over the criminalising of sex-workers, disputes over whether or not to support the imperialist first world war, (as well as over the use of violence and sabotage) had riven the movement by 1918 (when women over 30 were granted the franchise). Sylvia Pankhurst and others in the East London Federation of Suffragettes had, by then come round to regarding the winning of the vote as irrelevant compared to the possibility of social revolution (which in fairness they considered imminent in the light of the Russian Revolution…) An interesting point about the extension of the franchise in both cases isthat neither movement was granted the vote, at the time of the height of their strength and activism… The concession of the vote to working men was NOT granted during the 1830s or 40s, when the Chartist movements was allied to powerful radical utopian socialist currents as well as an (intermittent) upsurge in unionism but 20-40 years later when skilled workers had achieved some moderate economic prosperity, craft-basedunions had been partially successfully integrated into workplace relations, and the working class movement was much more concerned with respectability, and was allied to the Liberal Party. It was correctly gambled that the vote at this point wouldnt bring revolution but support for existing moderate parties.

You say we do a Disservice to Jeremy Corbyn? we owe no-one any service. But actually we dont think all politicians are corrupt. Some are. Most possibly arent. Some are genuinely good at representing their constituents, and not all of them are lefties like Gerbilly Corbyn. Thats not the point, its that capitalist society really isnt organized that way. We are not ruled by parliament, strictly speaking, we live as part of a worldwide socio-economic system that pervades every aspect of our daily lives. And its in all our daily lives that change has to be addressed. Even if all MPs were as house-trained to our desires as Dale reckons
Jeremy Gerbil is, or as mythologically leftwing as the 1945 Labour intake, we want to run things ourselves. Representative democracy always ends up being unrepresentative inevitably. Giving up power to representatives in itself means abdicating control, apart from usually ending in the creation of new elites, hierarchies and bureaucracies… Its not even really the fault of the representatives themselves, many are sucked in gradually to evolving clearly different interests to those they represent (witness the slow change many union reps undergo). Its clear to us that the only practical socialism, or communism, or anarchism, comes from people controlling their own destinies, or at the very least fighting to control them. The process of attempting to take hold of our own lives for ourselves is as real socialism as the (however far-off) ultimate ends.

That tabloid press briefly express ideas that sound like ours is no business of ours. It would be churlish to mention how much the idea of vote for anyone to keep out the BNP appears in the tabloid press

It also seems stage that Past Tense should use this phrase that became famous when used by that authoritarian Karl Marx in his book the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

We had no idea it was Marx what said History repeats itself etc… the author of the leaflet has mostly not read him (bar the Communist Manifesto and the Civil War in France). Of course we know history doesnt repeat itself, it was a flippant phrase used on a leaflet, which seemed to fit and take the piss. Sense of humour bypass or what.

The Labour government that came to power in 1945 setup the welfare state that many of us now defend against attacks to dismantle it.

Many of us want a whole lot more a health system based on wellness, controlled by its users and workers, not a patch up job to keep us all working then stick us on trolleys in a corridor when were past working age. Like almost everything introduced by the 45-51 government the NHS was always a pathetic half-hearted reflection of how life could be if working people controlled our lives for ourselves. The Fabian dream of socialism introduced on behalf of the worthy poor by their properly appointed betters. Betters who have never had any qualms about enforcing their vision of socialism; by sending in troops against strikers as the dockers,  Smithfield porters, gas workers, power station workers (and the boiler stokers at Buckingham Palace!) of the late 1940s knew well. (Not counting endless other examples, from Labour govts to labour councils…) You argue that you know all this history but still maintain we should defend competent and proven defenders of capital against rightwing fractions.

The fascist BNP is now making inroads and beginning to look respectable. It has European MPs, and Nick Griffin, its leader is being giving public platforms to air his views. If the BNP were to gain a sit in parliament it
would be a setback for everyone from liberals to socialists to libertarians, and a great victory for fascism! The BNP is a real danger and must be taken seriously! Griffin will be opposing the Labour Party candidate Margaret Hodge - former government minister - in Dagenham. I would argue that it is the duty of all libertarians to oppose the BNP and this would mean voting for Hodge. In the UK we have certain political
freedoms, fascists seek to end these. It is the duty of libertarians to defend these rights, to ignore this process would be to do so at our own cost. Wherever the BNP has a chance of winning then vote against them.

This paragraph made me physically retch, and reminded me why day to day leftist politicking nearly drove me to nervous breakdown. Oh the endless boring hypocritical politics of calling for and fighting for things we dont believe in for a change we like to fight for what we DO believe in, not just shuffle empty priorities amongst meaningless slogans.

Opposing the BNP yeah weve done it, on the streets, many times, and been arrested, beaten up, been named in Redwatch, but were not going to translate that into support for opportunist ex-left diamond heiress apologists for war. Labour since 1997 have been administering many of the policies the BNP can only dream of… just as every Labour administration since the 1960s has brought in or strengthened immigration controls… After talking about Thatcher why not mention New Labour and the non-repeal of union rights legislation… For many complex reasons, there are strong racist, xenophobic currents among working class people; fighting these influences needs complex responses, which we wont go into in detail… One point worth making tough is that groups like the BNP are able to (often quite successfully) present themselves as rebels against an establishment that ignores white working class communities. Its bollocks, clearly, but Labour has played into their hands, identifying with capital and the bourgeoisie. Theres a widespread perception of a liberal PC establishment working against white working class interests (theres no space here for a discussion of how the co-opting and recuperation of the black, womens and other 1960s-70s liberation movements into the local state has contributed to this, and set back liberation for all in favour of an institutionalized diversity industry…) In attempting to expose the fallacy of this idea, how useful for anti-fascists to be seen supporting Margaret Hodge. Whatever you are fighting, identifying with the rich and powerful is a mistake.

Your whole defend shit against shit thats a bit worse argument sounds just like lefty bollocks… The BNP are as much a pressure group on the Labour Party as trotskyist groupuscules (as were the NF in the 70s rightwing groups flourish when Labour gets to power and does its usual trick of ignoring the white working class communities it considers its natural support (or used to I guess), and which in many ways still consider Labour to be their party… The 70s NF collapsed when the tories got in and stole their thunder. What would you advise if only the tories could beat Griffin vote Tory? Its possible that a liberally Tory administration might produce a different result for the neo-nazis, but the real point here is that support for the BNP is a SYMPTOM of working class disillusion with traditional Labour lies and eternal Fabian bourgeois manouevering. So instead of offering genuine alternatives that suggest people organize for themselves and attempt to break out of the Labour myth, you propose - supporting Labour. What kind of libertarian did you say you were again?

A general election is an important time, because many people start to become engaged in politics, and many for the first time.

So, great, suck them into your leftist magic roundabout. In 100 years well still be in the same shit and commemorating some suffrage anniversary or other. Fuck that. If the only communism we live is the day to day dance of defiance well take that any day over your living death by parliamentary committee.

Vuk O Dlak

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