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latest news

Scotland
Why Tommy is wrong to call for a vote for the SNP in May

27/02/2015: Philip Stott Socialist Party Scotland

  Scotland

Greece showdown

26/02/2015: Niall Mulholland interviewed NICOS ANASTASIADES, of Xekinima (CWI Greece), just as Syriza leaders agreed a four-month bail-out extension with the EU.

  Greece

Libya
War-torn country becoming new hub for IS activities

25/02/2015: Libyan people bearing the brunt of NATO’s fiasco

  Libya

Europe
Eurozone time-bomb

25/02/2015: Mired in recession, the eurozone is haunted by the spectre of stagnation

  Europe, World Economy

Greece
Syriza retreats under Troika threats

24/02/2015: Popular mood shows anti-austerity, socialist policies would win huge support

  Greece

Britain
Labour MP shows contempt for workers

24/02/2015: Three decades ago he debated with Militant leaders who warned about degeneration of his party

  Britain

Germany
Pegida at an end?

24/02/2015: German racist mobilizations split but danger continues

  Germany

History
The political legacy of Malcolm X

21/02/2015: 50 years after his assassination

  History

 Malaysia
Stop arrests of government opponents!

20/02/2015: Respect the right to freedom of speech!

  Malaysia, Solidarity

 Solidarity
Five Dublin anti-water charge protesters jailed

20/02/2015: International solidarity protests needed!

  Solidarity

Congo
Forty two killed during street protests in January

20/02/2015: Senate quashes Kabila’s plan to extend presidency

  Congo

Greece
What does Tsipras’s endorsement of Prokopis Pavlopoulos for President signify?

19/02/2015: Economic and social crisis requires independent pro-worker, socialist policies!

  Greece

Britain
2015 Socialist Party Congress:

19/02/2015: Preparing the forces to fight capitalist austerity

  Britain

Ireland
Socialist questions Taoiseach on political policing

18/02/2015: International solidarity protests continue

  Ireland Republic

Denmark
Terrorist attack in Copenhagen

18/02/2015: United struggle needed against right-wing policies

  Denmark

Spain
Is ‘Podemos’ the Spanish Syriza?

16/02/2015: Dangers of “moderation” and domestication

  Spain

 Ireland
“Dogs of war” unleashed in Jobstown

16/02/2015: The Gardai have simultaneously targeted the community of Jobstown, the anti-water charges movement and the Anti-Austerity Alliance

  Ireland Republic, Video

Malaysia
Opposition leader imprisoned

16/02/2015: Government conspires to quell growing opposition

  Malaysia

Hong Kong
Erwiana’s court victory – now to step up the struggle for migrant rights!

14/02/2015: Hong Kong court finds employer guilty of torture-like crimes

  Hong Kong

Ireland
Interview with Paul Murphy TD following arrest

13/02/2015: Socialist Party (CWI) and AAA TD Paul Murphy speaks following five days of political arrests of anti-water

  Ireland Republic

Greece
If the Troika does not back down?

13/02/2015: Let the Greek people decide!

  Greece

India
Massive defeat for ruling BJP in Delhi election

12/02/2015: Result reflects growing mass discontent

  India

 Video
Brazilian housing movement presents Kshama Sawant with flag

12/02/2015: MTST one of Brazil’s most important social movements

  Brazil, Video

 Video
Ruth Coppinger challenges government over political policing

12/02/2015: Heated exchange in Irish parliament between deputy Prime Minister and Socialist Party (CWI) MP

  Ireland Republic, Video

Brazil
CWI Latin American summer school 2015

12/02/2015: 8th Latin American school largest ever held by the CWI on the continent

  Brazil, Latin America

Poland
Miners’ strikes shake the country

11/02/2015: Biggest workers’ struggle for many years

  Poland

Egypt
Regime brutality on fourth anniversary of revolution

10/02/2015: Masses will regain confidence and willingness to fight

  Egypt

 UPDATE
Paul Murphy and others released from police custody

09/02/2015: Send protests against political policing and repression

  Ireland Republic, Solidarity

Ireland
Paul Murphy and other socialists and anti-water tax activists arrested

09/02/2015: Arrests of Anti Austerity Alliance elected representatives and We Won’t Pay activists is another cheap attempt to denigrate the movement against the water charges

  Ireland Republic

Greece
Not a single step back!

08/02/2015: Conflict between SYRIZA government and EU escalates

  Greece

Britain

Death of former Labour leader Michael Foot - The end of an era of ‘Old Labour’

www.socialistworld.net, 06/03/2010
website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI

Workers today need new party to stop bosses’ onslaught

Peter Taaffe, General Secretary Socialist Party (CWI England and Wales)

Many "Old Labour" workers and socialists will be saddened at the death of Michael Foot and will see it as signifying the death of an era. However the ideas of Michael Foot - of piecemeal socialist reform of society through successive ‘progressive’ Labour governments - died long before he physically passed away on 3 March. He is hardly known to most of the new generation, including those active within the trade union movement. But there was a time when he symbolised, for thousands, if not millions, both within and outside the labour movement, the Labour Party as a mass vehicle for socialist change.

Yet it was Michael Foot himself who acted as the gateman, along with his pupil, the execrable ‘Lord’ Neil Kinnock (now ‘worth’ £15 million), to the destruction of the Labour Party as a lever for the working class. His attack on the left, beginning with the expulsion from the Labour Party of the leaders and members of Militant (now the Socialist Party) in the 1980s, opened the door to the Labour right. This in turn led to the triumph of Blair and Blairism, the elimination of Clause 4 - the socialist aspirations of labour for socialism - and the train wreck of New Labour under Gordon Brown today.

Yet those of us who listened to Michael Foot and read his articles in the weekly journal Tribune could be forgiven - unless they were already trained and schooled Marxists - for believing that he really stood for socialism, if not the socialist revolution itself. He was a powerful orator who could rouse labour movement meetings by his passion, sometimes seemingly to fever pitch, but examine his ideas in the cold light of day and there was little of substance. Oratory is elastic and often style can triumph over content. Writing is more precise, a combination of content and style. In general, good orators are also writers. On the other hand, good speakers who are not writers are rare. Of course, great working-class speakers can nevertheless articulate the feelings and aspirations of workers more effectively than ‘practised’ speakers.

Michael Foot was a writer as well as a speaker. But his speaking style was a triumph of style over any real content as far as the struggle for socialism was concerned. He could move big crowds but never, at any time, did he really challenge capitalism and fight for its overthrow, nor did he effectively fight the Labour right wing who were the real capitalist ‘entrists’ in the Labour Party.

This was demonstrated not just by his hostility to those who were prepared to change the lives of working-class people - as in Liverpool between 1983 and 1987 - but also on crucial left issues of policy within the Labour Party when it really did, at the bottom, represent working-class people. This was clearly demonstrated during the epic struggle in the Labour Party over the need for a socialist programme following the defeat of Labour and the triumph of Thatcher in the 1979 general election.

Foot clashed with Tony Benn, who was in an alliance with the left and particularly Militant, which then enjoyed strong support in the Labour Party. Benn had proposed that Labour should stand on the nationalisation of Britain’s top 25 private companies. Foot dismissed this idea as “crazy”. Tony Benn praised Foot after his death. However, when he opposed him, both on the question of nationalisation and on his decision to stand for the deputy leadership in 1981, Benn concluded in his diaries that Foot was “fake left”, “parliamentary orientated”. This was accurate at the time and both before and since.

Coming from a Plymouth Liberal family - hence his lifelong support for Plymouth Argyle football club - like many before or since he was converted to socialism through his experiences in Liverpool as a shipping clerk in the 1930s. But politically, Michael Foot never broke completely from his Liberal traditions. He was seen as a fiery left-winger but consorted with, and received financial help from, Lord Beaverbrook - a right-wing newspaper proprietor who also ‘helped out’ Aneurin Bevan, the parliamentary leader of the left within the Labour Party in the 1950s. Incredibly, he also formed alliances with Enoch Powell, the right-wing racist Tory MP, on the issue of ‘reform’ of the House of Lords.

But such ‘friendships’ between Labour MPs, even those on the left, and Tories are not uncommon. ‘Show me who your friends are and I’ll show you who you are.’ After his death, the capitalist media have been kind to Michael Foot, some describing him as the “nicest man in politics”. And he seems to have had those qualities on a personal level. But he was not always treated as such when it came to the politics of the Labour movement. He was vilified by the ‘security services’ and some capitalist journals as a Russian Stalinist agent, mocked mercilessly for his dress sense but, particularly, for espousing left politicians, even of the mildest kind. Moreover, he was too kind to the Labour right, who had a clear pro-capitalist agenda. They did not reciprocate this ‘kindness’ towards the left - Tony Benn was compared by their friends in the press to Hitler.

To the right of Tony Benn

Michael Foot was undoubtedly to the right of Tony Benn - hence the clash between them in the early 1980s. Foot gave a leg up to Tony Blair who wrote to him in 1982 claiming that he “came to socialism through Marx”! He subsequently recommended Blair as a good prospective MP in the last available seat, Sedgefield, before the 1983 election. The rest is history, as Blair - with Brown - presided over the destruction of the Labour Party as a workers’ party at the bottom.

No such leeway was given by Michael Foot to Militant. The journal of the ‘Labour left’, Tribune, with which he was associated, attacked Militant in March 1980 when it was under the editorship of Richard Clements, who was close to Michael Foot when the latter was elected leader of the Labour Party in 1980 after the resignation of James Callaghan. In one article, Clements wrote that the ‘Militant Tendency’ should be “sued for false pretences” because of its claim to be “Marxist”. We were, it seems, a “Stalinist organisation which makes the British Communist Party look like the Liberal Party in prayer”!

Yet as we pointed out, it was Tribune itself, in an obituary of Stalin written by none other than Michael Foot, which in 1953 at the time of Stalin’s death wrote: “Of course, the achievements of the Stalin era were monumental in scale ... Who in the face of these colossal events, would dare to question Stalin’s greatness, how superhuman must be the mind which presided over these world-shattering developments?”

As Labour leader, Foot presided over the introduction of a ‘register’, the first step to expulsions of the left, beginning with Militant. Yet other Labour MPs like left-wing Labour MP Ian Mikardo had longer memories. “Recalling Labour’s National Executive Committee meeting [Mikardo] says, ‘From 1951 onwards there was never a meeting without some violent attack on the left ... Michael [Foot]’s adjective for them was “gruesome”’.” [East End News, quoted in Rise of Militant, p198.] Michael Foot as party leader denounced Militant for taking legal action over the expulsions. But in his biography of Aneurin Bevan, he showed that when Bevan was faced with a similar situation, expulsion from the Labour party by the right-wing, he threatened to go to “the highest court in the land”. This was because Bevan considered he was being treated in an unconstitutional manner.

In the 1983 general election, however, Michael Foot in Liverpool was compelled to speak alongside seven Labour parliamentary candidates, including Terry Fields, to hail the recent local election victory, in which Militant supporters had played a key role: “It was tremendous the way Liverpool has set the standard in local elections just before the general election. It was very fitting that just before we cleared the Tories out of Westminster, we, here in Liverpool, should have such a wonderful success in the council elections.”

Labour nationally received its lowest share of the poll since 1935, but the 1983 general election was not the overwhelming triumph for Thatcher which historians claim. The popular vote for the Tories fell by nearly two per cent, or 700,000 votes, compared to 1979. At the same time three million fewer workers voted Labour than in 1979. The reason for this drop in the Labour vote was due to a number of factors. The former Labour right who split away to form the Social Democratic Party and later formed an alliance with the Liberals, colluded with the capitalists and their press before the election to split the Labour Party. They failed in this but did split the Labour vote in some areas. Also the ‘Falklands factor’ - the generation of a patriotic wave in the wake of the victory in the Falklands war - which assisted Thatcher in fostering the idea of the return of Britain’s ‘imperial greatness’ and, by implication, future prosperity for the British people.

The right wing effectively sabotaged Labour’s campaign, with Denis Healey and former Labour prime minister, Jim Callaghan, explicitly distancing themselves from the manifesto and its commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament. The Labour manifesto was described by the right-wing Labour MP Gerald Kaufman as “the longest suicide note in history”. Michael Foot himself had said previously that it was the “greatest socialist programme in his lifetime”. The same Kaufman has become infamous today for his obscene parliamentary expenses including a huge flat-screen television, antique bowls, etc.

Militant’s successes

But the programme of Labour in 1983 was not a “suicide note” in Liverpool or in Coventry where Labour candidates Terry Fields and Dave Nellist - well-known Militant supporters - were triumphantly elected as MPs. Completely against the national trend there was a swing to Labour of 2%. In the council elections a month before the general election, Labour gained an extra 22,000 Liverpudlians’ votes for its programme of ‘no privatisation’, a £2 rent cut, no spending cuts, a massive housing repairs programme, 6,000 new council houses, 4,000 new council jobs and no rate rise to compensate for Tory and Liberal cuts.

Significantly, in Broad Green, soon to be the constituency of the historic victory of Terry Fields, Marxism and Trotskyism increased Labour’s vote by 50%! This gave just a glimpse of what could have been possible if Labour had adopted not just a radical socialist programme but the same fervent campaigning methods as the Liverpool labour movement and those in Coventry as well at that time.

After the general election, Michael Foot was pushed aside to make way for his protégé Neil Kinnock, who initiated a vicious witch-hunt against Militant and drove the Labour Party to the right - even eliminating Michael Foot’s cherished demand for unilateral nuclear disarmament - which in turn opened the way for Blair. The rest is well documented history.

Michael Foot, tragically an increasingly irrelevant figure, as with other socialists from a bygone age, like Denis Skinner, clung to the wreckage of the Labour Party, as unfortunately has Tony Benn. Michael Foot, like his mentor Aneurin Bevan and, unfortunately, even some Marxists today, never gave up on the Labour Party. Bevan had declared after the debacle of the 1931 election defeat: “I tell you it is the Labour Party or nothing. I know all its faults, all its dangers. But it is the party we have taught millions of working people to look to and regard as their own. We can’t undo what they’ve done and I am by no means convinced that something cannot be made of it yet.” [Michael Foot: A Portrait, by Simon Hoggart and David Lee.]

Aneurin Bevan was right at that stage, when the mass of the working class, for lack of an alternative and because it retained its working-class base, still clung to the Labour Party. It later moved, to transform it. It was true also when Militant was able to have a big effect in Liverpool, Bradford, Coventry and elsewhere in mobilising working-class people behind the Labour Party - and in the teeth of right-wing Labour’s opposition - to fight to defend and improve the living standards and the conditions of working-class people.

But a party is not an end in itself; it is not an imperishable historical factor. The struggle against capitalism is an objectively determined fact. The movement of the working class in opposition to the impositions of capitalism likewise. A party which no longer fits the purposes of historic necessity - in this case the needs of the working class against the onslaught of capital - can atrophy and disappear from the scene. Sometimes this can take the form of a drawn-out process of decay or there may be a sudden catastrophe, like the disappearance of the German Communist Party after its failure to bar the way, in a united front with social democracy, to Hitler’s rise to power.

Lenin’s Bolshevik party perished under the iron heel of bureaucratic Stalinist counter-revolutionary terror. The Labour Party has been transformed into an instrument for propping up capitalism, not furnishing weapons for the working class for its replacement by a more progressive system. It poses the need for a new mass workers’ party.

Michael Foot and his generation never faced such a dilemma as confronts the trade unions in particular at this stage. They have no party to defend them from the onslaught of the bosses - using the law, defended by New Labour, as in the case of BA against Unite - with the spectre of scab labour being used against cabin crew. A hodgepodge programme of socialistic phraseology sprinkled with liberal sentiments - which is what Michael Foot stood for - will be shown to be completely inadequate in the current situation. It is necessary to learn from the achievements but also the mistakes and deficiencies of Michael Foot’s generation in the fight for the socialist future of the labour movement.



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NEWS

Scotland: Why Tommy is wrong to call for a vote for the SNP in May
27/02/2015, Clear anti-austerity alternative necessary:
Philip Stott Socialist Party Scotland

Britain: Labour MP shows contempt for workers
24/02/2015, :
Three decades ago he debated with Militant leaders who warned about degeneration of his party

Germany: Pegida at an end?
24/02/2015, Michael Koschitzki, SAV (CWI Germany):
German racist mobilizations split but danger continues

Malaysia: Stop arrests of government opponents!
20/02/2015, Statement on arrests from Socialist Alternative (CWI Malaysia):
Respect the right to freedom of speech!

Solidarity: Five Dublin anti-water charge protesters jailed
20/02/2015, Socialistworld.net:
International solidarity protests needed!

Congo: Forty two killed during street protests in January
20/02/2015, Per-Åke Westerlund, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden):
Senate quashes Kabila’s plan to extend presidency

Greece: What does Tsipras’s endorsement of Prokopis Pavlopoulos for President signify?
19/02/2015, Statement by Xekinima (CWI Greece) Editorial Board [edited translation]:
Economic and social crisis requires independent pro-worker, socialist policies!

Britain: 2015 Socialist Party Congress:
19/02/2015, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) reporters:
Preparing the forces to fight capitalist austerity

Ireland: Socialist questions Taoiseach on political policing
18/02/2015, socialistworld.net:
International solidarity protests continue

Denmark: Terrorist attack in Copenhagen
18/02/2015, Arne Johansson, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden):
United struggle needed against right-wing policies

Ireland: “Dogs of war” unleashed in Jobstown
16/02/2015, Cillian Gillespie and Councillor Mick Barry, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland):
The Gardai have simultaneously targeted the community of Jobstown, the anti-water charges movement and the Anti-Austerity Alliance

Malaysia: Opposition leader imprisoned
16/02/2015, Socialist Alternative (CWI in Malaysia):
Government conspires to quell growing opposition

Hong Kong: Erwiana’s court victory – now to step up the struggle for migrant rights!
14/02/2015, Vincent Kolo, Socialist Action (CWI) in Hong Kong:
Hong Kong court finds employer guilty of torture-like crimes

Ireland: Interview with Paul Murphy TD following arrest
13/02/2015, socialistworld.net:
Socialist Party (CWI) and AAA TD Paul Murphy speaks following five days of political arrests of anti-water

Greece: If the Troika does not back down?
13/02/2015, Andros Payiatsos, Xekinima (CWI Greece):
Let the Greek people decide!

India: Massive defeat for ruling BJP in Delhi election
12/02/2015, Youvraj B, Pune, New Socialist Alternative (CWI India):
Result reflects growing mass discontent

Video: Brazilian housing movement presents Kshama Sawant with flag
12/02/2015, socialistworld.net:
MTST one of Brazil’s most important social movements

Video: Ruth Coppinger challenges government over political policing
12/02/2015, socialistworld.net:
Heated exchange in Irish parliament between deputy Prime Minister and Socialist Party (CWI) MP

Brazil: CWI Latin American summer school 2015
12/02/2015, Socialistworld.net:
8th Latin American school largest ever held by the CWI on the continent

Solidarity: Sweden protest against political policing in Ireland
11/02/2015, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI in Sweden):
"No more arrests"

UPDATE: Further Dublin arrests as anti-protest clampdown continues
11/02/2015, socialistworld.net:
Organise international solidarity!

Poland : Miners’ strikes shake the country
11/02/2015, Wojciech Orowiecki, Alternatywa Socjalistyczna (CWI in Poland):
Biggest workers’ struggle for many years

UPDATE: More dawn arrests of Irish water-tax protestors
10/02/2015, socialistworld.net:
Solidarity protests needed

UPDATE: Paul Murphy and others released from police custody
09/02/2015, socialistworld.net:
Send protests against political policing and repression

Ireland: Paul Murphy and other socialists and anti-water tax activists arrested
09/02/2015, Anti Austerity Alliance statement:
Arrests of Anti Austerity Alliance elected representatives and We Won’t Pay activists is another cheap attempt to denigrate the movement against the water charges

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

Greece showdown
26/02/2015, Article to be published in the March issue of Socialism Today (magazine of the Socialist Party, CWI in England and Wales):
Niall Mulholland interviewed NICOS ANASTASIADES, of Xekinima (CWI Greece), just as Syriza leaders agreed a four-month bail-out extension with the EU.

Libya: War-torn country becoming new hub for IS activities
25/02/2015, Serge Jordan (CWI):
Libyan people bearing the brunt of NATO’s fiasco

Europe: Eurozone time-bomb
25/02/2015, Lynn Walsh, article from Socialism Today (magazine of the Socialist Party of England and Wales):
Mired in recession, the eurozone is haunted by the spectre of stagnation

Greece: Syriza retreats under Troika threats
24/02/2015, Nicos Anastasiades, Xekinima (CWI Greece), Thessaloniki:
Popular mood shows anti-austerity, socialist policies would win huge support

History: The political legacy of Malcolm X
21/02/2015, Eljeer Hawkins, Socialist Alternative:
50 years after his assassination

Spain: Is ‘Podemos’ the Spanish Syriza?
16/02/2015, Danny Byrne, CWI:
Dangers of “moderation” and domestication

Egypt: Regime brutality on fourth anniversary of revolution
10/02/2015, David Johnson, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
Masses will regain confidence and willingness to fight

Greece: Not a single step back!
08/02/2015, Statement by the Editorial Board of Xekinima (CWI Greece):
Conflict between SYRIZA government and EU escalates

Kurdistan: ‘Islamic State’ driven out of Kobanê
02/02/2015, Serge Jordan, CWI:
Will the end of Kobanê’s siege turn the tide against IS?

Greece: Why did Syriza and the KKE fail to reach agreement?
29/01/2015, Article from Xekhinima (CWI Greece) website [dated 26 January 2015] translated and slightly edited:
For socialist policies to end austerity nightmare!

Greece: Syriza comes to power, as old ruling parties collapse
27/01/2015, Niall Mulholland, socialistworld.net, interviews Andros Payiatsos, from Xekinima (CWI Greece):
Left parties fail to form government - Syriza goes into coalition with populist right Independent Greeks

Cuba: Diplomatic relations with US restored, embargo eased
24/01/2015, Tony Saunois, CWI:
Threat of capitalist restoration accelerates

Russia/Ukraine: Facing a turbulent 2015
21/01/2015, Rob Jones, CWI, Moscow:
As death toll rises, economies plunge into freefall

Greece: Prospect of Syriza victory raises workers’ hopes
20/01/2015, Interview with Andros Payiatsos, from Xekinima (CWI in Greece):
Mass intervention of working class to struggle for socialist policies is vital

Nigeria: The Massacre in Baga
19/01/2015, H.T Soweto, DSM (CWI in Nigeria):
Socialism or Barbarism

Germany: What is behind the ‘PEGIDA’ anti-immigrant demonstrations?
13/01/2015, Wolfram Klein, Socialist Alternative (SAV- CWI Germany):
Unions and Left must organise against racism and for jobs and decent living standards for all

Greece: Towards a Syriza government?
08/01/2015, Interview with Andros Payiatsos, Xekinima (CWI in Greece):
General elections on 25 January

Northern Ireland: The Stormont House Agreement
05/01/2015, Michael Cleary, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland):
Agreeing Not To Agree, Again

New Year: Political and economic ingredients for volatile 2015
31/12/2014, Peter Taaffe, General Secretary Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
As crisis of capitalism worsens, vital to organise and continue the struggle

Latin America: The end of one cycle and the beginning of another
17/12/2014, socialistworld.net:
Document on Latin America, agreed by CWI International Executive Committee

World Perspectives: A turbulent period in history
15/12/2014, CWI International Executive Committee:
Signs of revival of class struggle signposts the future

Sri Lanka: Presidential Election January 8, 2015
11/12/2014, Interview with Siritunga Jayasuriya, USP (CWI Sri Lanka):
Socialist candidate challenges all other forces

Australia: Major community victory stops Melbourne’s East-West Toll Road
08/12/2014, By Socialist Party (CWI Australia) reporters, Melbourne:
Socialist Party leads successful campaign against Toll Road and for investment in public transport

World Perspectives: A turbulent period in history
27/11/2014, International Secretariat of the CWI :
Signs of revival of class struggle signposts the future