RSS 2.0

rss feed
printer friendly page email this article to a friend

a socialistworld is possible: the history of the cwi by peter taaffe
new introduction

Abandonment of Marxist position

The speeches of Tommy Sheridan are not consistently socialist and Marxist in content.

For instance, as the convenor of the SSP, he explained in an interview on the BBC that, “there are a number of countries which have a successful mix of public ownership and high taxation… like Norway and Denmark they manage to combine high levels of public ownership with high taxation for the wealthy.”

This implied that capitalist Norway and Denmark were the benchmark for the kind of Scotland that Tommy Sheridan wanted to see. He then went on to state: “I don’t think there’s a need to nationalise Tesco right now. What I think there’s a need for is to impose on Tesco proper wages and employment conditions. What we would be doing is regulating business. You don’t have to own it, you just regulate it.” (‘The Herald’, Glasgow, 30 April 2003).

In the same interview Tommy Sheridan said: “What we’re saying is that in a future independent, socialist Scotland, we want to work on training, on skills. We want to offer a very high-skilled economy, a motivated workforce for big business. If that can work in Germany and France, where they have higher wages, better standards and produce better products, why can’t that work here in Scotland?”

Leaving aside Tommy Sheridan’s wish to offer the big bosses a “highly motivated workforce”, workers in Germany, some on 2 or 3 Euros an hour, and French workers, who see their pay and conditions under attack from Prime Minister Raffarin’s neo-liberal programme, do not consider that they are “high paid”! Moreover, on a capitalist basis, “high wages” are becoming a thing of the past, in Germany and elsewhere.

In the SSP newspaper, ‘The Voice’, Kevin Williamson, a close collaborator of Tommy Sheridan and Alan McCombes, puts a non-class ‘liberal’ position (without any comment by them): “Those who see politics purely in terms of either capitalism or socialism have yet to make any serious attempt to explain how a controlling class can be prevented from arising to a position of power in a post-capitalist society. The rest of us need to put forward practical alternatives.”

The same kind of retreat – compared to when they were in the CWI – applies to the SSP’s stand on international issues. This goes from uncritical support of the Cuban state of Castro, which they describe as “socialist”, to a complete abandonment of the socialist solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – of a socialist Palestine and a socialist Israel within the framework of a socialist confederation of the Middle East. In effect, at the 2002 SSP conference, they accepted the Socialist Workers’ Party’s false slogan of ‘a Palestinian state with minority rights for the Israelis’. Although at a subsequent conference this position was watered down, nevertheless, in the SSP newspapers and the public statements of leading SSP members, the idea of a Palestinian state with minority rights for Israelis still appears. Such an abstract slogan would never be accepted by the Israeli population, with the implication that their own separate state would be liquidated and they would be forcibly incorporated into another, ‘Palestinian state’.

At the time of writing, because of the brutal, repressive measures of the Sharon regime, and their effects on the Palestinian population, with malnutrition and hunger in the Palestinian areas, the majority of the Palestinians, in despair, seem now to have abandoned hope of a “two-state” solution. One section of the Palestinian bourgeoisie has coupled the idea of the abandonment of the goal of a separate Palestinian state, with the Palestinians fighting for equal rights within the Israeli state. They hope that on the basis of demographic factors – the higher birth rate of the Palestinian population – the Israeli Jews will become a minority within their own state in ten to twenty years’ time! Of course, the Israeli bourgeoisie would never accept such a solution. They would opt, if necessary, for the forcible evacuation of even the present Israeli Arabs and the repartition of the area. In other words, a scenario for endless bloody conflict stretching into the far distance would be the consequence of any of the “one-state” solutions on offer. The same applies to the caricature of a genuine “two-state” policy, the proposal of Sharon for what amounts to a “Bantustan” for the Palestinians. Even though, temporarily, the idea of a socialist solution can seem to recede, in the long run it will gather the support of the majority of the Israeli and Palestinian population.

The political, theoretical and organisational backsliding of the ex-CWI members in Scotland has, in turn, become the benchmark for a similar process affecting other organisations formerly claiming to be Marxist. Some of them still formally claim to be under the banner of the “revolutionary left” and even of “Trotskyism”. For the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) in Australia, the International Socialist Tendency and the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI), the approach of the SSP leaders has either served as an “inspiration” for a rightward shift or even as a “model” – the prototype for the kind of party that can be established elsewhere.

From the time of Karl Marx, scientific socialism, with Trotskyism as its expression today, has always seen itself, in the words of the Communist Manifesto, as “The movement of the future in the movement of the present”. While always relating to the real level of consciousness and of understanding of the working class, the task of genuine Marxists on issues of programme, tactics and organisation is to direct the gaze of the more developed sections of the working class towards the goal of socialism. Necessarily, this involves the clear demarcation between a consistently Marxist approach and the ideas and methods of left reformism and even centrism, which can develop in periods of sharp social tension. Those who wish to tread in the footsteps of the SSP leaders are in effect sacrificing the future of the working class for short-term gains today.