Socialist Party – sentiment and practical politics

To commemorate the first publishing of Marx’s Capital the Socialist Party of Ireland posted the following on their Facebook page:


Words from Karl Marx’s “Capital”, published 149 years ago today.

The richest 1% of our planet now owns more wealth that the other 99%.

We need to fight to end the parasitic and exploitative system of capitalism and fight for a democratic, socialist society where the wealth is productively used for the benefit of all.

This is of course a nice sentiment from the Socialist Party but I wonder how this will translate itself into their day-to-day politics.

For instance what will their upcoming alternative budget look like?

Will it have the political courage to outline the need “to fight to end the parasitic and exploitative system of capitalism” and give the broad outline of what “a democratic, socialist society where the wealth is productively used for the benefit of all” would look like?

Or will it be their usual advice to the existing capitalist government on how they could use greater taxation of corporations and the rich to more fairly redistribute wealth within capitalism?

The irony that their usual “tax the rich” approach flies in the face of Marx’s own criticism (see https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/karl-marx-on-taxing-the-rich/) is no doubt completely lost on them.


Instructive exchange with a CYM youth

The Cork branch of the Connolly Youth Movement (CYM – youth group of the Communist Party of Ireland) briefly ran a series of open study groups in 2015, most of which I attended. After they decided to stop the meetings the closed Facebook group associated with the study group kept going with a small membership who occasionally post links to documents there.

A few days ago a member of the CYM posted a link to “The State: A Lecture Delivered at the Sverdlov University” by Lenin on July 11, 1919 (https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/jul/11.htm)

I made a comment that it was a shame that none of the political groups in Ireland today calling themselves socialist or communist have a programme which approaches anything like Lenin’s view on this central question of revolutionary politics.

This led to a bizarre exchange over the last couple of days with the CYM member who made the original post where he completely avoided responding to the political point I had made. Instead he went on a rant about how I was supposedly completely inactive politically in the workers’ movement. I responded with some facts about my activist record in Ireland while trying to draw him back to the actual politics – to no avail.

I post that Facebook exchange as a cautionary warning for anyone expecting anything like a rational discussion with members of the CYM.


Alex Homits
31 August at 02:19

The State: A Lecture Delivered at the Sverdlov University
Delivered: 11 July,1919
First Published: Pravda No. 15, January 18, 1929
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 29, pages 470-488

Seen by 15

Alan Gibson

“Whatever guise a republic may assume, however democratic it may be, if it is a bourgeois republic, if it retains private ownership of the land and factories, and if private capital keeps the whole of society in wage-slavery, that is, if the republic does not carry out what is proclaimed in the Programme of our Party and in the Soviet Constitution, then this state is a machine for the suppression of some people by others. And we shall place this machine in the hands of the class that is to overthrow the power of capital. We shall reject all the old prejudices about the state meaning universal equality—for that is a fraud: as long as there is exploitation there cannot be equality. The landowner cannot be the equal of the worker, or the hungry man the equal of the full man. This machine called the state, before which people bowed in superstitious awe, believing the old tales that it means popular rule, tales which the proletariat declares to be a bourgeois lie—this machine the proletariat will smash.”

Such a shame that none of the political groups in Ireland today calling themselves socialist or communist have a programme which lays out a strategy for smashing the capitalist state, instead they all present plans for winning a parliamentary majority and at best reforming the capitalist state.

Alex Homits
Your political organization exists on Skype. You’re not a member of a Trade Union. The community group(s) you were involved with don’t even let you onto their Facebook organizing page…

What is the purpose of being a “real Bolshevik Leninist” (as you claim and ascribe to yourself) if your political activity whatever it may be does not a) shift the balance of power in any shape or form towards the working class, b) does not organize or educate the working class and c) is completely limited to a computer screen?

Like the reason you come to these ultra–leftist positions is because you’re detached from reality behind a keyboard. If you weren’t you’d actually take into consideration the material conditions which shape the analysis of other political parties.

Do you not understand that whatever strategy you seem to be employing here is failing miserably?

Ultra leftism and purism is fantastic when you stand on the sideline and comment without actually participating in anything Alan Gibson and I think your analysis would change if your conditions were different, but anyway I’m sure you’ll disregard what I say regardless.

Alan Gibson
Three statements to start which are all wrong/lies.

“Your political organization exists on Skype.”

The organisation I support is indeed small but at a good number of the major demonstrations that have happened in Ireland over the past few years have seen real life IBT members distributing actual leaflets along with me.

Of course if we are playing the “my org is bigger than your org” game then why isn’t Alex a member of the SP or other larger reformist socialist group than the CPI?

“You’re not a member of a Trade Union.”

I am in fact not only a member of IMPACT but am the workplace rep where I work.

“The community group(s) you were involved with don’t even let you onto their Facebook organizing page…”

I am not an active member of Cobh CommUNITY for Change who do have a closed group. When I was an active member of Cobh Says No to Austerity there were both open and closed FB groups (the closed for security reasons when our community was actively organised in fighting meter installations).

My main political activity since being in Ireland has actually been with Cork Womens Right to Choose, now Cork Pro-Choice, which has always had an open FB page.

Anyone familiar with my political activity, no matter what they may think of my political views, will know that a statement that my political activity “is completely limited to a computer screen” is absurd.

My major regional and prominent national roles in the United Left Alliance project, the Pro-Choice movement and the Anti-Household/Water charges movements are all matters of public record.

I actually do believe that my involvement in these movements (not the ULA so much I will accept given that the SP control-freakery limited its impact) did indeed help shift the balance of power towards the working class.

I accept that as an individual my ability to “organise or educate the working class” is somewhat limited but I am prepared to stack my record on that up against most other political activists in Ireland today. Certainly I played a key role in helping Cobh provide the best organised opposition to water meter installations of any community in Ireland representing practical examples of the two things you say I do not do.

In terms of what any self-describing socialist activist has done in Ireland over the last decade I can fairly confidently state that I have actually “failed” less “miserably” than most in terms of helping move the working class closer to its historic task of overthrowing capitalism and establishing the rule of the working class along the general lines outlined in such major works of the revolutionary Marxist tradition like Lenin’s State and Revolution.

I could compare my record of political activism to yours Alex (and despite your repeated assertions to the contrary we both really know who would come out as actually more integrated into working class political struggles in Ireland over the last decade) but in terms of the correctness or otherwise of our political arguments what would it prove? Not much really.

Activism around immediate campaigns of our class is important but by itself my better record as a working class activist than you doesn’t prove anything about the correctness or otherwise of my claims to represent the politics of revolutionary Marxism in a strategic sense.

There is a slight caveat to that in that sometimes this can express itself in different perspectives within campaigns around immediate demands around issues of working class organisation.

As an example of this I am happy to stand on the record of my fight for my “ultra-left” perspectives (just the application of the ideas of the famous “ultra-left” tract State and Revolution) against the reformist bureaucratism of the SP/SWP in the anti-household charges regional and national organisations. The CPI was not a political factor of any influence in that mass working class campaign so I do not know if I would have had to fight against them as well but given the similar reformist socialist politics the CPI share with the SP/SWP I suspect I would have had to do so as well.

I know you come from the Stalinist tradition but this very crude kind of rewriting of history, and current reality, will be fooling no-one but yourself and presumably your more gullible comrades.

Perhaps that is the real point here. If you can repeat over and over to yourself this bizarre alternative reality where I am the non-activist that you outline that will somehow allow you to ignore my political arguments that consistently expose your organisations fake claims to represent the politics of revolutionary Marxism when in fact it is just standard reformist socialism.

Alex Homits
I don’t come from any tradition lmao the people who brought up Stalin at the MSG were you and your partner Anne.

Glad you’re a member of IMPACT.

Describe yourself what you want lol there is no point in ascribing to Marxism if you are incapable of acting on it


Alan Gibson
Keep repeating your mantra despite the facts. That is just like how the giants of the socialist movement approached the science of Marxism wasn’t it….

Anyway your rant was in response to a political comment that I made which by implication was criticising the CPI. If in fact I am wrong in saying “that none of the political groups in Ireland today calling themselves socialist or communist have a programme which lays out a strategy for smashing the capitalist state, instead they all present plans for winning a parliamentary majority and at best reforming the capitalist state.” it is quite a simple matter to prove me wrong without having to tell lies to yourself about my political activity.

Just point me to where any major CPI programmatic statement (like for instance your main current programmatic document “A Democratic Programme for the Twenty-First Century”) does in fact lay out a strategy for smashing the capitalist state.

Of course the real reason for your rant is that you are unable to do any such thing because my comment is completely accurate.

Just as the leader of your organisation was unable to respond to my political critique of the whole “Democratic Programme for the Twenty-First Century” (https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/republican-reformism-with-an-abstract-socialist-veneer-letter-to-the-cpi/) including a significant section on this very point.

Still why bother with substantive political discussion when you can make up lies about people and use that as an excuse not to engage instead.

Alex Homits
Delusions of grandeur are pretty funny tbh

Alan Gibson
Just facts as compared to your bald-faced lies.

But surprise, surprise, still no comment on the substantive political point.

Its simple – just point me to where in the Democratic programme for the Twenty-First Century (or similar major programmatic document by the CPI) the CPI lay out a strategy for smashing the capitalist state.

Lets not forget it is you who posted the piece by Lenin on the state.

Maybe your point was a subtle dig against Lenin for being so emphatic on this point which the CPI has nothing to say about?

Alex Homits
Lol man, you’re on a completely different planet altogether.

Alex Homits
Write all the long FB posts you want it’s not going to change anything for you

Alan Gibson
True enough.

Alan Gibson
I still have a decent enough record as an activist.

And I still keep exposing the programme of reformist socialists like the CPI in a way they can’t refute.

Alan Gibson
I was actually thinking about your point about education and it might make sense to post this thread more publicly (as this closed group has only a very small membership).

Letting a wider audience see what passes for political discussion between a member of the CYM and a revolutionary Marxist (or non-active “ultra-left” in your view) might have some educational value.

So I will be posting this thread on my blog (and thereby automatically to FB and Twitter).

As we have different audiences perhaps you can do likewise.

[At the time of this blog posting I do not know if Alex has chosen to also share this thread more widely]


Karl Marx on “taxing the rich”

This might be of interest to any members or supporters of the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party who think of themselves as Marxists while at the same time they support the programmes of their respective electoral fronts (Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit) which almost exclusively focus on a redistribution of wealth through increased taxation for the rich and corporations.

“it was in general a mistake to make a fuss about so-called distribution and put the principal stress on it. Any distribution whatever of the means of consumption is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves. The latter distribution, however, is a feature of the mode of production itself. The capitalist mode of production, for example, rests on the fact that the material conditions of production are in the hands of nonworkers in the form of property in capital and land, while the masses are only owners of the personal condition of production, of labour power. If the elements of production are so distributed, then the present-day distribution of the means of consumption results automatically. If the material conditions of production are the co-operative property of the workers themselves, then there likewise results a distribution of the means of consumption different from the present one. Vulgar socialism (and from it in turn a section of the democrats) has taken over from the bourgeois economists the consideration and treatment of distribution as independent of the mode of production and hence the presentation of socialism as turning principally on distribution. After the real relation has long been made clear, why retrogress again?”
from ‘Critique of the Gotha Programme’ by Karl Marx


Bernie Sanders – imperialist warmonger

As Bernie Sanders’ campaign to be the presidential candidate for the Democrats trundles on towards its inevitable end (when he then endorses Hillary Clinton) there still remain a surprising number of self-describing “socialists” and “revolutionary Marxists” who are politically supporting Sanders and even describing him as some kind of socialist himself.

The truth is that Sanders is a capitalist politician wedded to the Democratic Party and US imperialism. Anyone who doubts this assertion need only look at the following examples for proof:

  • Sanders voted for U.S. intervention in Somalia in 1993.
  • He supported Bill Clinton’s 1999 war on Serbia and when anti-war activists occupied his office because of that support of Clinton’s war policies, he had them arrested.
  • He voted for the 2001 Authorization Unilateral Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), which pretty much allowed Bush to wage war wherever he wanted.
  • In 2001, Sanders did not support the vote in Congress to oppose the war in Afghanistan. This was followed by his vote for appropriations to support both the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • He backed Obama’s Libyan debacle.
  • He supports an expanded US role in Syria alongside the Saudi Arabian regime.
  • He supports the building of the new F-35 stealth fighter as part of fairly consistently supporting spending on the vast US military machine.
  • He described Hugo Chavez as “a dead communist dictator”.

No genuine socialist, let alone revolutionary Marxist, would consider giving any political support to this kind of imperialist warmonger.


CPGB’s fake Marxism

The following letter (published in lightly edited form in today’s issue of Weekly Worker) is my latest contribution to the discussion on the attitude Marxists should take towards Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democrat’s presidential nomination.

In his letter in Weekly Worker #1097 (replying to my letter in #1095), Paul Demarty provides three historical precedents to justify the CPGB’s position of political support to capitalist politician Bernie Sanders.

Demarty chides me for not giving “any consideration to the surely not irrelevant fact that there is no independent party of the working class in the United States, which means that we have to fight for one”. Demarty links this to an argument that “Marx aggressively supported Abraham Lincoln in two American elections – why? Because Lincoln was the man most likely to destroy slavery – a necessary (though, as it turns out, hardly sufficient) condition for working class politics in the States.”

It is true that Marx wrote a few letters and articles supportive of Lincoln and his efforts to end slavery, most notably the 1865 “Address of the International Working Men’s Association to Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America” (https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/iwma/documents/1864/lincoln-letter.htm). The US civil war was in essence the completion of the bourgeois democratic revolution, and Marx’s support was wholly correct in the era before the advent of imperialism.  Are the CPGB asserting, as the logic of Demarty’s argument implies, that Bernie Sanders’ election campaign is in some sense revolutionary, and that the outcome of his proclaimed “political revolution” will lay the basis for an independent party of the working class? This is pure fantasy.

Demarty then refers to the Bolsheviks’ electoral arrangements with the bourgeois-constitutionalist Cadets in a few Duma elections in the early 1900s. The different understanding of the CPGB and IBT on what this represented is an existing dispute which was definitively dealt with in the letters pages of Weekly Worker less than 10 years ago – see “Bolsheviks, Ballots & the Class Line” (http://www.bolshevik.org/1917/no32/ibt_1917_32_10_CPGB_Cadets.html).

As we explained in that exchange, the Bolsheviks were quite clear that these electoral arrangements with the Cadets did not involve any political support and, to quote a 1907 RSDLP conference motion, “the only agreements permitted are those of a purely technical nature”. This reality is something that to my knowledge the CPGB have never subsequently contested – I presume because the facts presented by the IBT are simply incontrovertible.

The third supposed precedent is Lenin’s support for the 1916 Easter Rising, an analogy which borders on the obscene. On the one hand we have Lenin’s support for a military uprising against British imperialism in the midst of World War I. And on the other hand we have the CPGB’s political support to a politician with a long political history of backing US imperialism (see for instance http://screechingkettle.blogspot.de/2015/07/if-bernie-sanders-was-against-invasion.html).

I can’t help but notice that Demarty, presumably unintentionally, gives away what is probably the real reason for the CPGB’s position, i.e., his reference to the “external ridicule” that the IBT’s consistent defence of the principle of working-class independence elicits. I for one have indeed suffered ridicule from many on the reformist left in Ireland for applying this principle in the context of the recent Irish elections by telling the truth about Sinn Fein’s pro-capitalist political nature and that there should be no political support to them. Being a Marxist is not about popularity for popularity’s sake – sometimes we are unpopular and suffer ridicule, and worse, for telling the truth.

It seems that, like many other fake-Marxists, the CPGB are more interested in avoiding ridicule and courting immediate political popularity than they are about applying the principles of Marxism in any consistent way in their concrete political activity.


“Cobh 3Three”trial date set



Bernie Sanders and working class political independence

The Irish left who advocate explicit or not-so-explicit support for the capitalist Sinn Féin in the coming election usually do so despite a formal adherence to the principle of working class political independence. The same is true of the international left who are supporting Bernie Sanders in the US race to be the Democratic Party presidential candidate. I recently sent the following letter to the Weekly Worker, paper of the Communist Party of Great Britain (published this week with the heading “Peculiar”), pointing out the contradiction between their support for Sanders and their stated political principles.

In ‘The real Iowa coup’ (February 4), Tom Munday argued for critical support to capitalist politician Bernie Sanders: “It was and remains correct to give critical support to Jeremy Corbyn, knowing full well that he is a left reformist, for we appreciate that he creates a space for our arguments to be heard. This is likewise true of Sanders”.

The critical support tactic can sometimes be used to expose reformists within the workers’ movement, but extending it a Democrat – one of the twin parties of the American imperialist bourgeoisie – stands in stark contradiction to the basic Marxist principle of working class political independence.

The CPGB claims to uphold “the principle of working class political independence from the parties of the bourgeoisie” (‘Theses on the Labour Party’). Evidently we understand the word ‘principle’ differently. Your political support for Sanders is only the latest in a long line of abandonments of the Marxist principle of working class political independence (see, for instance, the relevant section of the IBT’s ‘Bolshevism vs CPGB-ism’).

Supporters of the CPGB should ask themselves why it is that the principle of working class political independence means so little in practice, while the organisational principle that the CPGB invokes to distinguish itself from other groups – ie, its peculiar definition of democratic centralism – is non-negotiable.