According to a substantial number of politicians and media outlets, one of the most positive outcomes of the recent British election was the fact that Labour’s surprising revival was largely based on a kind of upsurge of young people, breaking with habits of apathy or cynicism towards “politics” and seeing the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn as offering a real alternative, hope for a more equal and fairer society.
The general election on 8 June gave the UK a hung parliament. The Conservative Party were 8 seats short of the majority Theresa May had hoped to increase. This meant the possibility of a new election before the end of Brexit negotiations and further instability. This is a failure for Mrs May, and leaves her in office as Prime Minister only on sufferance until the Tory Party grandees feel it is opportune to oust her.
The survivors of the Grenfell fire, those who live in its shadow, those who live in similar towers elsewhere, those who came to manifest their solidarity, whose anger drove them to occupy Kensington town hall and march to Downing Street, were perfectly clear that this horror was no abstract “tragedy”, still less an Act of God, but as one makeshift banner put it, “a crime on the poor”, an issue of class made even more obvious by the fact that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea typifies the obscene contrasts in wealth that mark this social order, summarising them in the very visible and tangible form of the “housing question”.
In the week just after mid-May, there were three particular events in the Middle East: the first was an incident involving an attack by US fighter jets on an Iranian-backed militia in south-eastern Syria fighting for Assad; a general election in Iran; and President Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia. The context for these events, which mean a deepening of tensions and greater military dangers for the world, is the tendency for centrifugal forces to increasingly dominate over relatively stable blocs and alliances, and how this takes place in a world where American power is increasingly resented and weakening.
According to today’s pseudo-revolutionaries on the left, behind the religious slogans of al-Qaida or Isis terrorists, we are witnessing the same old struggle against national oppression that the Fenians were engaged in, and today’s marxists should therefore offer support for such movements, even if they distance themselves from their religious ideology and from their terrorist methods.
But the murderous means used by groups like Isis and their sympathisers are entirely consistent with their aims – which is not to overturn oppression but to substitute one form of oppression for another, and to ‘win’ at any cost in the gruesome battle between the one set of imperialist powers and another set (such as Saudi Arabia or Qatar, for example) which backs them up. And their ‘ultimate’ ideal – the global Caliphate – even if it is as unrealisable as Hitler’s Thousand-Year Reich, is no less an imperialist venture, demanding well-tried imperialist measures of slaughter and conquest.
The 9.6% improvement in the Labour vote between the general elections of 2015 and 2017 was the biggest increase for the party since the Labour landslide of 1945. The Socialist Workers Party said that millions had voted for “real change” and it was “a great boost” to “all who campaigned against austerity and racism”. A young apprentice put it simply to the Guardian “I want a country that’s fair to everyone, where everyone’s happy, with poverty eradicated. Something similar to what Corbyn wants. Corbyn’s on our side, not like May.” Other young people were reported as seeing Corbyn as “compassionate” and representing a “new type of politics”.
In a previous article about a discussion on libcom we commented on the fact that some comrades appear to reject the concept of decadence even though they agree that capitalism is a historically transitory system. An example of this line of argument is a 1993 text by the UK-based journal Aufheben which claims that: “The theory of the decline of capitalism is an interpretation of the meaning of Marx's insight that capitalism is a transitory system, an interpretation that turns the notion of a particular dynamic of development into a mechanistic and determinist theory of inevitable collapse”
Macron is promising to “change France” and “reunite the French” in a new national, fraternal concord. He promises to re-launch the French economy and claims to be for European renewal, partisan of a more democratic and economically dynamic euro zone. These of course are all entirely bourgeois concerns. Only the bourgeois class and its representatives can win elections. Democracy is the ideology which hides the dictatorship of capitalism and the totalitarian domination of its state. For more than a century, the electoral terrain has been a trap for the working class. Bourgeois elections are one of the key moments for the ruling class to ensure it gets a government which is in line with its interests, while at the same time intensifying its democratic ideology, through which it tries to make us believe that it’s the majority of the population which governs and makes the decisions. This is the exact opposite of reality. Democracy enables the minority to rule over the majority and the proletariat in particular. It covers up class antagonisms which in reality can’t be reconciled. It turns the revolutionary working class into a sum of individuals, of isolated, atomised, powerless “citizens” and “voters”.
The bombing of an Adriana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena with a device packed with nuts and bolts was bound to kill or injure many young people. A statement by “Islamic state” said that “one of the soldiers of the caliphate was able to place an explosive device within a gathering of the crusaders”, as they claimed responsibility for the “endeavour to terrorise” infidels at a “shameless concert arena” as a response “to their transgressions against the lands of the Muslims”. These ‘crusaders’ were typically, teenagers of 14 or 16. One of the victims was a girl of 8. So far, the death toll is 22 (including ten under 20), with 116 injured.
Like the November 2015 mass shooting in Paris at the Bataclan theatre (where 89 were killed) it was deliberately aimed at young people, except even younger in Manchester. Today, it is increasingly clear that it is not just adults but also children who are caught up in the imperialist conflicts, not just in Syria, Libya, and Yemen but also in Manchester, Paris and Nice. Revolutionaries condemn unequivocally all acts of terror, whether by the biggest military forces in the world, or by a lone truck driver or suicide bomber.
We’re publishing here the presentation and some of the issues and contributions at the meeting which was called by the ICC and attended by some of its members and sympathisers (one of whom has produced this report), two members of the Communist Workers Organisation (ICT); a former member of the group Kronstadt Kids; and several other individuals who evidently considered discussing proletarian politics a worthwhile Easter project. There were also written and Skype contributions by ICC comrades from the US and France.