As the 2016 US Presidential campaign approaches its crescendo, the media promises us this election might be the most important in US History. The bombastic billionaire Donald J. Trump, representing the Republican Party, and the much berated former First Lady and Democratic Senator from New York Hillary Rodham Clinton face one another in a dramatic showdown amid a media spectacle designed to convince the populace of the absolute importance of participating in the electoral process even when neither candidate is a source of great inspiration.
What are the basic question posed by racism, xenophobia, sexism and homophobia, by all these social behaviours which reveal human alienation and which can go as far as murder. How does one explain such an unleashing of social violence; how do you understand these prejudices which seem to come from a bygone age of superstition? How, faced with these types of problems, do you guard against the ideological thinking that the bourgeois system abundantly spreads around in order to mask reality and accentuate the divisions which weaken its historic enemy, the class of proletarians?
We are publishing here a critique of the article ‘Towards a communist electoral strategy’ which recently appeared on the website of the Communist League of Tampa (in Florida, USA). We have already published previous correspondence between ourselves and the CLT, in which we welcomed their recognition of the necessity for a world communist party, while also highlighting some of the key differences between our Current and the CLT regarding the conception of the ‘mass party’, the question of whether the communist party takes power, and the relevance of the old social democratic programmes to the communist project today. With the publication of the article ‘Towards a communist electoral strategy’ by Donald Parkinson, these differences seem to have widened, or at least become clearer. A comparable process seems to be underway in the relationship between the Tampa group and its Miami affiliate, which has now changed its name to the Workers’ Offensive Group and has adopted a statement of positions which are much more in line with those of the communist left. At the same time, the Miami group has declared that it wants to maintain the discussion with the group in Tampa. We support this decision and want the discussion between ourselves and Tampa to continue as well: hence the present contribution, which we hope will stimulate a response from the Tampa group and others.
In response to the austerity demanded by the capitalist crisis, the proliferation of imperialist wars, terrorism on the streets, and the dismal prospects offered by the continuation of capitalism, there is much dissatisfaction. This discontent can be expressed in many ways, not embracing any solutions but expressing unhappiness with a reality that’s not understood. The rise of UKIP in the UK, Donald Trump in the US, as well as other examples of right-wing populism, can be seen as one form of expression of such discontent. But it’s not just right-wing populism that people have turned to. Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece, Bernie Sanders in the US have all offered a ‘new radicalism’ on the Left. It’s in this context that we can begin to appreciate the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.
This critique was originally posted on our online forum. Because of the importance of the issues raised, both the for the ICC and the wider communist movement, we decided to reply on a more formal basis.
One of the fears about workers in very precarious casual jobs, with a large proportion of immigrants among them, is that they will not be able to struggle, and so will be nothing but a competitive pressure to lower wages. Firms such as Uber and Deliveroo like to claim their workers are self-employed (so not getting minimum wage, holiday or sick leave). The recent strike at Deliveroo, which spread to UberEats drivers, has answered both questions. They are most definitely part of the working class, and most definitely able to struggle to defend themselves.
Politicians of left and right have condemned the increased xenophobic abuse and physical attacks on immigrants since the referendum, and indeed do not want the tensions in society to explode in ways that disrupt the exploitation of the working class. They may also recognise the role of referendum propaganda in encouraging the increase in these attacks. But they will never acknowledge the extent to which their capitalist system and their state are responsible for the very attitudes which feed xenophobic and racist populism. It is the nation state that defines who is a citizen, or subject, and who is an outsider, an illegal, or to be accepted on sufferance provided their work is needed and sent away afterwards, which encourages immigration when labour is scare, and turns away refugees when it is not wanted.
The list of crimes against humanity in the last hundred years often bears the name of a city: Guernica, Coventry, Dresden, Hiroshima, Sarajevo. Today the historic city of Aleppo in Syria, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, has joined the list.
At a time when the French government has just extended the state of emergency to 2017, when an atmosphere of suspicion and fear is pressing hard on a population still feeling the shock of a series of terrorist attacks, a new and highly demagogic ‘debate’ is reinforcing the current anti-Islam campaign. It’s been in the national headlines and has had considerable international coverage. We’re referring to the ‘burkini ban’ on a number of beaches. This retrograde controversy has engaged the whole political class, from local mayors in coastal towns to the highest state authorities, all of them, right and left, plunging their hands into the whole ideological mess.
The internal response to the July 15/16 attempted coup was, according to Turkish President Erdogan, a “Gift from God”. He insisted that the “cleansing” would continue and the “virus would be eradicated” along with terrorists wherever they were. Sure enough, a Stalinist-like purge, with lists of names already drawn-up, was implemented with force and the war against the Kurds in south-east Turkey immediately stepped up.