What to do about the abuses of the Catholic Church? 

I’ve been living in Ireland for just over 10 years now and during that time there has been an almost constant stream of stories about horrific abuses by the religious orders of the Catholic Church. 

Surely it is time to disband these institutions of evil. Confiscate all their property and wealth. Use it to compensate those who survived that abuse and for socially progressive policies. 

And separate church and state to end the brainwashing of future generations through religious education in schools. 


A question for the IBT

The International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) recently released a statement making the case that the core elements of the Leninist understanding of imperialism are still relevant today (Roots & Fruits of Imperialism – Fundamental Continuities in the Epoch of War & Revolution).

I think the core analysis of the IBT is sound however there is one aspect that I find troubling.

In their piece the IBT outlined the classical Marxist understanding of imperialism with some pertinent quotes from Trotsky and Lenin – including the following:

“Imperialism, or the domination of finance capital, is that highest stage of capitalism in which this separation [between money capital and industrial or productive capital] reaches vast proportions. The supremacy of finance capital over all other forms of capital means the predominance of the rentier and of the financial oligarchy; it means that a small number of financially ‘powerful’ states stand out among all the rest.”
—Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, 1916

As part of their description of the changes in the world situation from the early period of the 1900’s when Lenin and Trotsky were originally writing about imperialism the IBT refer to various respectable bourgeois sources highlighting the continual growth of the gap in world income distribution between countries which is now far greater than it was 100 years ago. As the IBT point out:

“Contemporary imperialism continues to be characterized by a tendency toward monopoly, an increasing concentration of finance capital.“

My question for the IBT relates to the distinction they attempt to draw between wealthy neo-colonial states and what they consider to be smaller imperialist powers:

“Client states that sit atop valuable petroleum assets, like Saudi Arabia or Qatar, obtain a significant slice of the profits the oil monopolies earn on the world market. This provides the rulers of these oil sheikdoms with considerable political autonomy, but ultimately their survival is dependent on their imperialist patrons.”

“Even small advanced capitalist countries (like Norway, New Zealand or Luxemburg) have roles as minor subordinates that are able to benefit from the global economic “rules of the game” defined and enforced by the larger powers and their network of multinational institutions. The junior partners in the American-dominated global system are entitled to a portion of the spoils as long as they are prepared to share the overheads of foreign military expeditions, adhere to trade embargoes and generally follow the directives of the major players.”

Even though the IBT do not explicitly use the term imperialist to refer to this second group of states I know from my time as a member that they do categorise them as imperialist.

If Lenin’s understanding of imperialism includes the recognition that this stage of capitalism results in “a small number of financially ‘powerful’ states [that] stand out among all the rest” and since he was writing there has been “an increasing concentration of finance capital” how is it that countries like Norway, New Zealand and Luxembourg can be included among the imperialists today?

It is also surely obvious that the portion of world income going to the likes of Norway, New Zealand and Luxembourg is just as dependent on the patronage of the “small number of financially ‘powerful’ states” as is the portion of world income going to the likes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

It may be possible to make a case that there is a distinction between the role in the world economy of the likes of Norway, New Zealand and Luxembourg vs those like Saudi Arabia and Qatar but that is a different issue from categorising them as imperialist.

The idea that in 2017 the likes of Norway, New Zealand and Luxembourg are imperialist (in the sense that Lenin and Trotsky were using the term to describe a world dominated by a handful of imperialist states that “stand out among all the rest”) makes no sense and I politely suggest that the IBT take another look at this issue.


Chinese capitalist understands nature of state power better than many “Marxists”

I recently watched John Pilger’s documentary “The Coming War on China”.

Other than being a searing exposé of US imperialism’s ongoing crimes against peoples of the South Pacific and a highlighting of the very real threat of a war on China one thing that struck me was a comment by Chinese venture capitalist Eric Li.

This should be of particular interest to the many who like to think of themselves as “Trotskyists” or stand in the tradition of some other form of non-Stalinist Marxism but also believe that China is a capitalist state.

“In America you can change political parties but you cannot change the policies. In China you cannot change the party, but you can change policies … China is a vibrant market economy, but it is not a capitalist country,” in China, “capital does not rise above political authority,” and there is no way a group of super rich people can control the politburo, “as billionaires control America’s policy making.”

What has saddened me the most about the “Alan participated in the anti-AAA witch-hunt” farce

My experience of working with the Socialist Party is that they have a high proportion of members and supporters who genuinely believe in the socialist transformation of society. However those sincere socialists are getting some very bad political training from the SP.

For instance they seem to truly believe that my mistake in moving the motion against Ciara defines my whole attitude towards the witch-hunt against the AAA that took place in Cobh Says No from 25 March to 16 June 2015 – irrespective of all the evidence to the contrary that I have provided. That my public recantation of that motion as a mistake (for precisely the reason that it would be seen as part of the witch-hunt against the AAA!) made at the time, and repeated now, means nothing.

It seems they must believe that Marxists can never make mistakes.

On one level I guess that holding me to such an impossibly high level of infallibility is actually a back-handed compliment. Though the irony that such an implicit degree of confidence in my political ability is being used to prevent the use of that political ability in the AAA project, that they think is so essential for the Irish working class, is presumably lost on them.

But then this is an organisation which has trained these sincere socialists so “well” that they are quite happy to defend the use of the term “socialist” to describe a consistent supporter of US imperialist wars.

I guess if you have learnt how to do the internalised logic-chopping that allows you to see the term “socialist” devalued to that extent (effectively making it worthless as a political category) then their refusal to seriously analyse the evidence that I actually OPPOSED the anti-AAA witch-hunt in Cobh Says No should come as no surprise.

Just as they can similarly internally fool themselves into believing that the rejection of my membership of the AAA wasn’t really about the SP not wanting the threat of a potential alternative left-wing pole of attraction within the AAA – even if that potential threat came from a lone individual.

The political cynics who run the SP have a lot to be responsible for.


More on what “participating in a witch-hunt” looks like to the Socialist Party

As the SP seem committed to holding the line on their position that I participated in the witch-hunt against AAA members in Cobh Says No in the 2nd quarter of 2015 I went back through posts and comments on the Cobh Says No to Austerity facebook page that related to this dispute.

I was relieved to find nothing that would substantiate their claim in any way and indeed I found the following post by myself which indicates exactly the opposite. This was in response to Karen Doyle, one of the moderators of the page and a central driving force behind the split, deleting a post by one of the AAA members of Cobh Says No that was critical of the process for selecting delegates for the 1 May 2015 R2W conference.

Alan Gibson
28 April 2015

I am completely opposed to the removal of Evelyn’s post on this Facebook page.

Whatever Karen’s motivations for deleting the post the reality is that it was political censorship and I will not be associated with it. If it goes unchallenged it will create a very bad precedent for the future of CSNA. Karen should reconsider her action and publicly apologise to Evelyn.

As an aside I think the best email address for sending any concerns about the undemocratic nature of the 1 May conference is Right2WaterIRL@gmail.com

Alan Gibson
Chairperson Cobh Says No to Austerity

This is in common with all my responses to the attacks on AAA members of Cobh Says No, just for being members of the AAA – that started with my defence of their right to join the AAA at the 25 March meeting where the attacks began. Indeed it is merely the continuation of my long-standing position of defending the rights of the SP (and later the AAA) in the earlier anti-household charges campaign against those who attacked their participation under the guise of being “anti-party community activists”.

The only bit of supposed evidence of my being part of the witch-hunt against AAA members is my proposed motion to expel Ciara following her disruptive behaviour at the meeting on 2 June.

It must be remembered that I withdrew my support for this motion on 14 June and it was never voted on at the meeting on 18 June (I incorrectly reported in a previous post that I had voted against it but in actuality I was never given the chance to do so).

I can’t remember, or find evidence of, the exact date I proposed the motion to expel Ciara but at most there were 12 days in which it might be argued that because of this motion I was objectively helping the anti-AAA witch-hunt. However any such help I might have inadvertently given the anti-AAA witch-hunt was surely more than compensated for by my withdrawal of the motion and the related explanation of why I was doing so.

I think the most that can be claimed is that for those 12 days I was stupid not to see how my motion would play into the wider anti-AAA context. I actually think that would be a fair enough criticism. I was under extreme pressure in a difficult situation and made a mistake. It isn’t the first mistake I have made in campaigns and it won’t be the last.

It must also be seen as a mistake that was completely out of character with how I had acted up to that point in Cobh Says No and before that through the entire time of the Campaign Against Household and Water Charges.

Given my record of opposing any moves against the participation of AAA members in Cobh Says No just because of their membership of the AAA – both before and after the very short period of those 12 days – it seems to me the SP/AAA is clearly trying to create something out of nothing. Unless of course membership of the AAA is only open to those who have never ever made any political mistakes in their lives (or at least have never admitted to making any)…

I stand by my assertion that this is all a smoke-screen to hide the fact that the real reason my membership of the AAA was rejected. That was because my revolutionary Marxist political programme for how to achieve the socialist goals of the AAA was deemed to be too radical – unlike the SP’s much more less dangerous ideas.


SP political smears and working class democracy

Prior to signing up for AAA membership online and subsequently having that membership rejected I had been inquiring about the possibility of joining ROSA via Facebook private message to Fiona Ryan, a leading SP/AAA/ROSA member in Cork.

In the new context of my membership rejection I made a little joke:

Maybe I am banned from joining ROSA as well for having the wrong kind (too left wing) kind of anti-capitalism?

To which Fiona replied:

You know damn well it had everything to do with what happened with Ciara
The decision wasn’t just sp comrades

So it seems the SP are running with the story that I was part of a witch-hunt against AAA members in Cobh Says No and that was the real reason I was banned from joining the AAA.

Firstly I have to accept that there was indeed a witch-hunt against the AAA in Cobh Says No in the middle of 2015. Secondly it is clear to me in hindsight that I did not fully recognise this witch-hunt was occurring until too late and instead treated the disputes as primarily about personality conflicts within Cobh. Lastly it must also be recognised that it was pretty much a successful witch-hunt with the bulk of the Cobh Says No activists setting up a new group – Cobh CommUNITY 4 Change (CC4C) – that bureaucratically excluded AAA members.

However if I was part of the successful witch-hunt against the AAA there are some questions which must be answered by those making such a claim:

– why did I defend Ciara, Evelyn and John at the first Cobh Says No rep’s meeting where criticism of them joining the AAA was made?

– why didn’t I participate in the witch-hunt “victory” by joining the new group?

– why didn’t I join the bulk of the activists now organised as CC4C in their sectarian boycott of the last event organised under the name of Cobh Says No (the bill burning)?

– why did I publicly recant my one action (the motion against Ciara) because I realised it would be seen as objectively supporting the witch-hunt? A recanting that came at some considerable personal expense to the political capital I had built up as one of the central leaders of Cobh Says No.

I have publicly accepted I made a mistake with my proposal to expel Ciara but that mistake was not part of the witch-hunt against the AAA.

My mistake in moving the motion against Ciara is therefore an excuse, not the reason, for rejecting my membership of the AAA.

I believe the real reason for my banning from the AAA to have been my political programme for achieving the socialist goal of the AAA (a goal that I saw being so eloquently expressed by leaders of the AAA in videos of their recent conference) being too radical, too Marxist.

The leadership of the AAA should have the political confidence, and indeed the political honesty, to take responsibility for the real reason for their decision. However I am not holding my breath as this is fairly clearly part of a political smear campaign aimed at inoculating SP/AAA members and supporters against listening to, and seriously thinking about, the truly “dangerous ideas” of genuine revolutionary Marxism that I am putting forward in opposition to the reformism in practice of the SP.

I intend to post a comment on the Cork and national AAA Facebook pages linking to this blog post. These are moderated pages so the AAA leadership will have to decide whether to allow the comments.

Most people’s understanding of working class democracy includes the right of reply to the kind of accusations being made against me.

It is unclear to me whether the AAA leadership believes in the norms of proletarian democracy or is so tainted by their participation in, and orientation towards, bourgeois democracy that simple things like honest debate, including the right of reply to accusations, are of any interest to them – we will see.


AAA – this Marxist not welcome

Earlier this evening, just under two hours ago, I was rung by a member of the Anti-Austerity Alliance (and Socialist Party) telling me that the Cork AAA branch committee had discussed my membership application.

They have declined my application – two grounds being given.

  • That they do not believe I really agree with the politics of the AAA – particularly citing my position on the 2016 election where I opposed voting for the AAA.
  • They believe I was involved in a “witch-hunt” against an AAA member who had been involved in the anti-water charges/meters movement in Cobh.

On the first point I would simply note that they seem to think it is not possible for people to change their minds. Clearly having opposed a vote for the AAA in the recent election would have meant I would have had a lot of work to do to convince my potential comrades of the sincerity of my motivations for joining but I am confident I could have done so as my commitment to the goal of a socialist transformation of society is as real as that as any other member of the AAA.

While I think this opinion is actually primarily motivated by political cowardice on the part of the Socialist Party who politically and organisationally dominate the AAA and do not want any critical socialist voice to their left to exist within the AAA they clearly do have the right to make this assessment and decline my membership application on that basis.

However I completely reject the second allegation as a valid basis for rejecting my membership.

After the successful defeat of attempts to install water meters in Cobh in the second half of 2014 the Cobh Says No community organisation collapsed in the middle of 2015 as the result of a series of increasingly antagonistic non-political disputes that had led to a large number of activists dropping out over the preceding months.

One individual had been at the centre of all these disputes. Following an AAA public meeting in Cork city on 5 March, along with two other prominent members of Cobh Says No, she joined the AAA.

At a Cobh Says No activist meeting in April the three were attacked for having joined the AAA and not having immediately reported this within Cobh Says No. At that meeting I defended their right to have joined the AAA and argued there was no requirement on them to have announced this. The meeting descended into chaos with much shouting and walkouts.

I used what political authority I had in the campaign to try to keep Cobh Says No together despite the increasing levels of personal animosity as well as growing hostility and sectarianism towards the AAA/SP. As part of this I made a major mistake in proposing a motion to expel the disruptive individual after her behaviour at what was to prove to be the second last meeting of Cobh Says No on 2 June 2015.

In the period leading up to the next scheduled meeting on 18 June I realised that contrary to my best intentions such a motion could only be seen as an anti-AAA move and so I withdrew my support for the motion and voted against it at the meeting.

This blog post from the time explains my public recognition of the mistake – https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/correcting-a-mistake-on-divisions-in-cobh-says-no-to-austerity/

At the next meeting on 30 June Cobh Says No was formally disbanded with the bulk of the remaining activists forming a new organisation, Cobh CommUNITY 4 Change, which aligned itself with Right2Water and bureaucratically excluded people on the basis of their membership of the AAA/SP.

I did not join the new group.

It is clearly true that I made mistakes in trying to keep Cobh Says No together as a group of all those opposed to water charges and meters whatever their wider political affiliations however my actions were in no way part of any witch-hunt against the AAA. In fact I was motivated by almost exactly the opposite considerations as I think my blog post from the time makes absolutely clear.