• What is the pseudo left?

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 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-06-12 06:49 PM

Comrade Youngmarxist
To answer the questions you put: just bear in mind the famous line of Marx. " In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of (bourgeois) private property". 

To this end, any measure, nationalisation, wealth taxes, progressive income taxes etc that reduces the wealth  of the ruling classes weakens their power. For instance, Rupert Murdoch is feted wherever he goes by industrialists and politicians alike. Take away his money and property and no-one cares what he thinks any more!

Sure, there is a formal feedback with the ABC and there probably is the same with the capitalist channels too. But if that's all you think is the difference you're missing the point. Questions can be asked in parliament about the ABC, (and yes we understand the limitations of parliamentary democracy but we use it while its there), if things got really bad the we could organise a demo to protest about the way it runs and their programs. It wouldn't make any sense to do that with , say, channel 9, would it?

There is a drought in Queensland at the moment. The governemnt have to answer to the public for the water problems.The public aren't happy and give the politicians a hard time . Sure, it could be better with more accountability and worker democracy but would you rather that the water supply was owned by a consortium headed by the Maquarrie Bank? That is the choice.

You are absolutely right about the internet. Its marvellous. I'd like to nominate Tim Berners-Lee for the Karl Marx medal of honour (if there were such a thing).  Its virtually impossible to get any sort of leftish letter published in the capitalist press, at least in Australia,  but thanks to the internet and good left sites, like LS :) , the capitalist classes don't have it all their own way any more.


Comrade Dr Barry,

You didn't agree with my comment about the Howard government being the most reactionary that Australia has had in a long time and asked how the ALP or the Greens would be better. I'm spoilt for choice for answers, but there is one that stands out above all others and, I think it must have slipped your mind , otherwise you wouldn't have asked the question.

Their treatment of asylum seekers. To ship people off to Nauru just to keep them away from the Australian legal system doesn't strike me as very progressive. Furthermore, to accuse some of them of throwing their children overboard into the sea, knowing full well that it wasn't true, just to pick up votes from the most bigotted sections of society is just absolutely appalling. And you think the ALP or the Greens are just as bad? 

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by youngmarxist at 2007-06-12 08:03 PM
Cyberman, abolishing private property is not the same as 'reducing' the wealth of the current ruling class, or making them more 'accountable'.

 Taking away a little bit (or even a largish chunk) of the ruling class' power is not the same as overthrowing them and taking over power ourselves. They are utterly different strategic ideas.

 If you advocate reformist measures as a way to exhaust the capacity of capitalism for reform (which, I do, in principle) you have to be aware that at one stage or another, the capitalists will strike back

Therefore a revolutionary strategy must take (at least) the following factors into account:

  • 1) What reforms would make the working class hungry and ambitious for more, and what reforms would be likely to create a complacent, unambitious working class, happy with what it has got?
  • 2) How far are the working class ready to push the ruling class? Are they more or less revolutionary than our ideas?
  • 3) What do the working class want? What reforms and what assistance will convince them that revolutionaries are reliable allies whose ideas might be useful? What would finally convince them that revolution is a viable option?
  • 4) When the ruling class strikes back, how will the working class organise itself to win the overt class war that will have just been launched? What reforms in the pre-strike-back phase will give the working class the greatest possible capacity to win that war?
Do you have anything to say about these factors? Or is there more pious wittering in store?

"Accountability" , "workers democracy" and so on are dead ends if they leave the capitalist ruling class in control. They have nothing to do with revolution. The point is not to make Mr Murdoch more 'accountable', the point is to seize his property and for the working class to use it for their own purposes.

Do you want to 'reduce' the power of the ruling class or make them 'accountable', or do you want to get rid of them entirely?

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-06-12 09:29 PM

Yes I think you do have a point. They will strike back. Of course you hav eto be aware if that. If we could do it all in one go that would be good but a stepped approach is more realistic.

One tax we haven't talked about are death duties. Marx himself called for all rights of inheritance to be abolished. I personally would settle for less taxes while I'm alive and more after I'm dead! I'm sure that the working and middle classes would generally support this idea.

One of the constant themes from some LS comrades is how much better capitalism is than feudalism. In its modern social democratic form, rightly so. However, because of increasing social inequality we are in danger of creating a new feudal elite. The new earls and barons are the super rich. If you want a latter day equivalent to Marie Antionette look no further than Paris Hilton. 



 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by keza at 2007-06-13 02:36 AM
(1) Cyberman writes:

It's virtually impossible to get any sort of leftish letter published in the capitalist press, at least in Australia

That's correct. However the capitalist press, especially The Age is full of letters-to-the editor(and articles) with a pseudo-left bent, especially on green issues.  This is also apparent on ABC radio and television. I would say that many of the views you express  are quite well covered in the capitalist press.  It amazes me to hear pseudo-leftists constantly whining about how the "corporate press" excludes them, That's simply not true.

Also I can't see any reason why it wouldn't be possible to organise demonstrations against privately owned media if people wanted to. What's the difference here?  We are free to protest against both the bourgeois state and the bourgeoisie.

(2) Nationalization under capitalism has nothing in common with the abolition of bourgeois property.  It simply puts that property in the hands of the bourgois state.  Sometimes the bourgeois state will run various things better (more efficiently), but just as often it will run things worse.   However any nationalization which occurs under capitalism will never be directed at "weakening the power of the bourgeoisie by reducing its wealth".

(3) In comparing the ALP and the  Greens with the Liberal party:  I suppose you have forgotten which party  introduced mandatory detention?   It was the ALP under Keating.  (As far as I know they still support mandatory detention and are  proposing only some cosmetic changes.) 

The Greens used to take an open anti-immigration stance - it was part of their platform because they believe that Australia is already over populated.  Under pressure they have modified that policy slightly and  do now  have a more progressive attitude to  refugees. Nevertheless they continue to maintain that ideally Australia's population should be kept low and "sustainable".  (And of course their general line is that ordinary Australians ought to be prepared to take a cut in living standarsd in order to reduce their carbon foot print)

In any case my objection was to the phrase  "the Howard government is the most reactionary we've had in a long time" .  A related phrase that  I've heard rather too frequently is "the Howard catastrophe".  This way of talking  is characteristic of the pseudo-left conviction that everything has got worse, that we need to get back to the mythical "good old days",  and that the most urgent requirement is to get rid of the source of the evil - which is something called "the Howard government".  That's just misleading and doesn't lead people anywhere.

We have a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.  It's pseudo-leftism to suggest anything else. 

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-06-13 03:37 AM

Comrade Keza,

You write:

"It amazes me to hear pseudo-leftists constantly whining about how the "corporate press" excludes them, That's simply not true."

Well I know from my own experience that it is true. Recently I've tried my hand with six letters to the Brisbane Courier Mail. The first five were rejected. I think my best effort was one at Easter time when the local religious right were complaining that the religious significance of the festival wasn't being properly respected. One guy went as far as to say that if you weren't a Christian then you shouldn't be entitled to the holiday. I wrote in pointing out that the name Easter derived from the Norse Goddess 'Oster' and asked if followers of hers could have a holiday too.  The second  was when there was a bit of debate going on: Workchoices vs the Old Award system. I suggested that workers should be able to have a democratic ballot and choose the one that suited them best.

I began to think that the letters editor either thought that my writing style was totally crap or that maybe he just wasn't reading emails. So, I sat down and deliberately wrote quite a bland,  boring letter, on the subject of road safety. It was published!

Yes I agree that Green issues gets a fair run. But then, I would say that most people, but maybe not you and I, would regard these as mainly scientific issues rather than a political ones.

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by byork at 2007-06-15 04:37 PM

I do not have the time or inclination to try and keep up with cyberman, but I'll respond now to a number of points he has made over the past week.


1. Marxism and Nationalization

First, he is very slippery when it comes to Marx. In my opinion, he is a social democrat rather than a Marxist. Support for nationalization is part of this outlook within the framework of capitalism, as is the belief that the trade union bosses represent the interests of the workers. Marx and Engels changed their 'platform', as Arthur showed, because the obejctive conditions around them had changed by the 1870s, not because in some abstract vacuum they had reformulated previously held views. The essence of Marxism is dialectical materialism. The materialism bit indicates that reality is the starting point for analysis, for struggle, for 'platforms'. Marx and Engels opposed nationalization and they started using the term '(labour) aristrocracy' in the 1870s because sufficient experience had been developed to understand that nationalization in no sense challenged capitalist property relations (and that unions were tying workers to capitalism). Engels argued in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific that:


The modern State, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the State of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage-workers – proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is rather brought to a head.


cyberman will try to seize on the final sentence to argue for nationalization - but this is only because he cannot see, or does not want to see, that capitalist social relations are already more than a century past their used-by date. The 'capitalist social relation' is already 'brought to a head'. Nationalization is just a demand for a strengthening of the old national capitalism and that is why working class people generally do not take to the streets to demand it and nor do they vote for political parties, like Pauline Hanson's One Nation and the Greens, who oppose the privatization of government-owned companies. What the mass of people also do not support, of course, is the overthrow of the social system that keeps them wage-slaves. This, however, is what Marxists do support. And nationalization has nothing to do with that goal.


By the way, Engels was quite light-hearted in his dismissal of those who conflated nationalization with socialism. Even back then, he saw it as quite silly. He suggested in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific that such people would have to regard Frederick William 111's attempt to take over control by the state of the brothels as an attempted act of socialism! He also quipped how:

... since Bismarck went in for State-ownership of industrial establishments, a kind of spurious Socialism has arisen, degenerating, now and again, into something of flunkyism, that without more ado declares all State-ownership, even of the Bismarkian sort, to be socialistic. Certainly, if the taking over by the State of the tobacco industry is socialistic, then Napoleon and Metternich must be numbered among the founders of Socialism.


2. Trade unions


Consistent with an old-fashioned social democratic 'make the most' out of capitalism mentality, cyberman also fails to see why Marxists oppose the trade union bosses. The unions began as class-conscious vehicles of struggle for 'a fair days pay' and parliamentary political representation for the workers but, again with developments in the real world, this situation soon changed.  By 1871, at the London session of the First International, Marx was using the term "aristocratic minority" to desribe the union leaders. This was later developed into a theory of 'labour aristocracy' by Lenin. The trade unions exist to keep the workingclass tied to capitalism - this is what Marx and Lenin understood and what cyberman doesn't understand. They do this through the slogan of the fair day's pay. It is inconceivable that the union bosses and the institutional structures they represent, would ever advocate the overthrow of the wages system. Yet to pseudo-leftists, the unions are taken to represent the workers. From a Marxist and Leninist point of view, it isn't a matter of militancy, which is quite a red-herring, but of the role of the unions in relation to capitalist property relations and wage-slavery.


cyberman, you asked something about how I (back in 1973) would regard me today. For now, let me assure you that 'BY' back then (well, actually back in 1968-1971) learned about the reactionary nature of the trade unions under capitalism because I was a member of the communist party, not the labor party. Ted Hill (for overseas readers: the late chairman of the Communist Party of Australia-Marxist-Leninist) and others, including veterans who were attempting to lead certain unions, were very clear on this point: the unions existed to serve and maintain capitalism. This is why they were communists - they wanted to see a different form of working class organization, one that would do away with the redundant class and allow the working class to flourish as human beings. I was personally close to one who led a significant union in Melbourne and his interest in being in that position was not limited to the union role of defending pay and conditions under capitalism, he tried to use his position to educate the rank-and-file in Marxist theory. He had some very funny yarns about the difficulties in trying this. Back then, the days of BY in the late 1960s-early 1970s, the unions actually could claim to represent a significant proportion of the working class in most industries. Today, the union bosses can't even do that - they represent only a minority of the workers. Today, the union bosses don't even pretend to be interested in anything other than maintaining capitalism - making the most of the system. They are openly corporatist, as their reactionary harking back to the century old industrial system reveals. cyberman, by all means, do your best to convince the workers to stop leaving the unions in droves - today the union bosses only represent about a fifth of the workers - but I doubt that you'll succeed. Workers are too clever to be duped and it's not too big a leap to expect them to eventually be convinced that they don't need union bosses - or any other kind of bosses (including owners of means of production) - to do their thinking for them.


So, 'BY' back then, in more rebellious times, took essentially the same view of unions as he does today. This was a product of his education in the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist). (Note: I became disillusioned with that party in the mid-1970s and formally resigned in 1980 - reading its paper occasionally today it seems they have forgotten much of what the old leaders 'got right').


I should also point out that, while I only worked in factories for about 18 months of my life, I did have direct experience of how the unions stultify the workers on the factory floor.


As for your question about crossing a picket-line, my decision on that would be either one of principle (ie, whether I agreed with the aim of the action or not) or one of tactics (ie, an assessment of the short-term consequence - such as the chances of me being beaten up for crossing it - I have also experienced the thug mentality of some miltiant union bosses). So, a picket line at a wharf where a boat-load of migrants is about to disembark set up by militant unionists who oppose the 'selling out' of 'Aussie jobs' (oi! oi! oi!) to 'foreign workers'  - you betcha, I'd have no qualms in crossing it.


3. Education


Somewhere, you criticised me for being contemptuous to those who fought hard for the free education that you presume I received. As usual, you misrepresent others rather than look at yourself self-critically. I have always supported free education - then and now. Whitlam, however, is one of the most over-blown prime ministers in our history. He removed the administrative fee - university education was still bloody expensive (books cost a fortune back then). Now, unless your pseudo-Marxism informs you that Australia was socialist under Whitlam, this was just a case of the capitalist state abolishing a fee that it felt, through the government, was restricting unnecessarily the admission to universities at a time when the needs of capitalism required an extension of higher education, a more educated work-force. As it turns out, I didn't benefit much from the capitalist state's 'free' education system in the 1970s. As one of the low-income working class kids to get into university (in 1969), my debt of 'thanks', as you would put it cyberman, should, by your logic, go to one Henry Bolte, the reactionary Premier of the State of Victoria, who introduced a studentship scheme which paid a grant to people who agreed to be bonded as teachers on graduation for two years. Again, this scheme happened because capitalism, after the war, needed a heap more teachers.


4. The Capitalist Press


One of the most annoying things about the pseudo-left is the way they pretend that the mainstream media is against them. I probably watch slightly more commercial television than public teelvision, and the same goes for my listening to radio. It's just absurd of cyberman to claim that the commerical channels don't give the pseudo-left a go. Every morning this year, Channel Seven's Morning show has been campaigning on the environmental issues: no, not scientific-based stuff, but the Al Gore nutty scenarios. This, cyberman, is what sells newspapers and gets ratings. And it's not just about Green issues. The front page of the tabloid newspaper, Daily Telegraph, back in 2002 ran a large headline, on its front page, "NO WAR". It was gleefully reporting on the public opinion polls which revealed, back then (as now) that the majority of Australians oppose the war in Iraq. Back then it was somehting like 67% who opposed any commitment of Australian troops to any war in Iraq. I still have that front page, as for 30 years I have had a hobby of collecting front pages of newspapers. The Age and the SMH are notoriously favourable to pseudo-left material, as is the national broadcaster. I watch CNN and BBC World on cable TV. If you did, you'd know that they are defeatist on Iraq. Stop pretending that pseudo-left views are oppressed by the mainstream media - as discussed above, people who think Whitlam (and Bismark) were socialists don't in any way threaten the established order. The capitalist press gives people like Pilger and Tariq Ali a run precisely because they are comfortable with them being portrayed as representatives of genuine leftwing thought, rather than Marxist-influenced leftwingers.



PS - cyberman, please make sure that you address responses to the person who is making the points. You confused me with keza earlier, and you have on other occasions confused other posters. This is not a site where there is uniformity of thought among a core of people, though it seems this is what you expect and seek. And I really don't have your kind of time, which allows such persistent and frequent postings. I have taken up more than two hours of my Saturday morning compiling the above post and now need to get into the domestic routine which will preoccupy me until Sunday night.


PSS - To other regular contributors to this site, a genuine question: was it worth my effort in writing the above? (cybermen and daleks need not reply!)









 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by arthur at 2007-06-15 08:24 PM
Hi Barry!

Re your PS, I was certainly cheered greatly by your post, which went deep.

On the wider sense of futility posting here I have not shifted from my view expressed at length a while back that the site is non-functional talking to ourselves and that this will not change unless keza acknowledges that her approach to running it was and is wrong. I am not able to do anything about that.

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-06-15 08:41 PM

Comrade Barry,

I can well appreciate your point that defending the LS position must  difficult and time consuming. But, you can hardly complain,  if you and your  comrades do go to the trouble of setting up a political website. However, I'll make this brief.

You do raise valid questions on capitalism and the nature of the capitalist state. You are quite right, nationalisation of the means of production, per se, is not a sufficient condition for the establishment of socialism. However, it can be argued that it is a necessary condition.

It is possible to make a good case dismissing the modern state as an instrument of bourgeois capitalism. You go much further and dismiss all workers’ organisations under capitalism as tools of the capitalist classes. Unions aren’t perfect, far from it, but this seems naive in the extreme and to misunderstand Marx and Engels completely.

Your position is quite illogical as shown by your comment: “I have always believed in free education”. I presume that you don’t just mean after the revolution. We have our children to educate here and now! If you  believe in this,  or anything else for that matter, what can you do about it?  Following your own line of argument, it’s not possible for you to say or do anything, because to do so would put you into the same 'reformist' or 'social democratic' boat as the people you seem to despise.

PS Sorry, if I have confused any names on previous posts.

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by byork at 2007-06-16 03:28 PM

cyberman, as usual, you don't quite engage in debate but rather just make assertions or reiterate previous positions. Having read most of your postings, it strikes me you are good at expressing yuor own point of view but nothing like the 'hard but fair' debater you promised.


What I mean by debate is a direct engagement with the points of view and evidence of those with whom you disagree. For instance, when I show, as I did yesterday, how nationalization has nothing to do with socialism in the Marxist sense, it's not 'debate' to just somewhat condescendingly remark that I "raise a valid question" but reiterate, without reasoning, the position we already know you hold because you've expressed it before.


The same applies to the question of the unions. Despite the evidence to the contrary, which you don't tackle directly, you just reassert your view that there is a complete misunderstanding of Marx and Engels involved. See, if the misunderstanding is so 'complete', then you should have no difficulty demolishing my evidence which was drawn from Marx and Engels (and Lenin). This is what would happen if you engaged in debate and, given that you claim to accept the premises of Marxism, I think you would end up having to acknowledge that the world had changed by the 1870s and that Marx and Engels started a different analysis of the role of the unions, in keeping with the experience of the previous decades.


I have been involved in many struggles for specific reforms in my life-time and, again, you misrepresent in order to 'score a point'. This approach, which has nothing in common with debate, renders you unconvincing. If you really want to convince and persuade, you'll need to stop misrepresenting those with whom you disagree. In the 1960s and early 1970s when I was a 'Maoist' communist, I supported reforms on that basis. This meant uniting with people who were non-communist, but it never meant pretending that I was coming from the same position as them but rather we all shared the same short-term objective. I was taught by the old CPA(ML) leaders about 'indepednence and initiative' within such united fronts and, while generally ballsing it up, occasionally got it right too. It's called the 'united front' (as I know you are aware), a way of actually having an impact and improving the chances of winning, and hopefully exerting influence along the way. I recruited people into the party as a result of such struggles for achievable goals within capitalism. This is a very different thing to seeing reforms to the system as an end-in-themselves, and it's totally different to wanting to thwart reforms that open up new possibilities for the people because of some reactionary yearning for a by-gone era.


There's nothing new about attempts to 'civilize capitalism' - the Australian Communist Party was established in the 1920s precisely because it rejected the social-democratic/liberal Labor Party that saw the world in those terms. Australia's twentieth century history reveals that significant 'civilizing' reforms have been introduced by non-Labor governments too which again, to me, highlights the fundamental difference between Marxists and the other political parties. Marxists are the ones out to overthrow capitalism rather than reform it. To deny this is to strip Marxism of its revolutionary essence.


And by the way, my problem is not with being able to respond intellectually and politically, but with the rate and quality of your posts. You seem to dash them off very quickly and this means that you (and dalek) end up with the final word - that is, your posts are the first that readers see on the site. This was not why the people who established the site went to all that trouble.







 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-06-16 06:36 PM

Comrade Barry,

Thank you for taking the time to respond. You'll probably be quite annoyed to see another posting from me. I do get the feeling that you guys might take your ball and go home at some stage, so it might be best if I just asked questions for now :

  • I notice that you always use the term 'trade union bosses' whereas I just refer to 'trade unions'. Are we talking at cross purposes here? The trade unions are more than just the bosses of course. Can you expand on this?  What about 'rank and file' organisations of workers? Are you  for or against these?
  •  I agree entirely with what you say about united fronts. Do other LS comrades agree with your comment " I recruited people into the party as a result of such struggles for achievable goals within capitalism" ?
  • What achievable goals would (and would not) LS , as part of a united front,  struggle for at the present time?
  • I agree with what you are saying on the question of reforms, although I might express it a little differently. I've always taken the simple minded view that reforms strengthen society but weaken capitalism. If they strengthened capitalism, as some LS comrades seem to argue,  then there would be no need to struggle for them, the capitalists would, of course,  make the reforms themselves.  Each success is a step towards revolution and each defeat is a step backwards. Given the provisos that you have attached to reforms in your last posting: is there any common ground here?
  • I entirely agree that "Marxists are the ones out to overthrow capitalism" and   "This is a very different thing to seeing reforms to the system as an end-in-themselves". So why all the disagreements about reforms? If we bear in mind the lessons that you were taught in the sixties, is there any real contradiction?
  • I personally have no interest in "demolishing " any evidence from you or anyone else. It would be better if there was more playing of the ball and less of the person. Why not introduce more cordiality into the discussions by using the term 'comrade' even when there are some disagreements?


 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by byork at 2007-06-16 07:14 PM

cyberman, let me assure you that I knew with certainty that you would respond within a matter of hours. And I also knew that you would not debate but just 'move on'. So, actually, it's best for you not to ask questions but to start debating. You might begin by responding to Arthur's post, some posts ago, that showed your lack of understanding of Marxism and to either accept that you were wrong or point out how he was wrong or something else that actually engages with the argument and evidence provided.


The term 'trade union bosses' is exactly what we called them in more rebellious times. It is a leftwing way of describing them, and a sad reflection of the times that what passes for the Left today is enamoured of the union bosses and the only people who seem to use the term in public currently are conservative politicians (who, needless to say, do it for reasons unrelated to the goal of overthrowing capitalism). It's just further evidence of the absence of a significant Marxist-influenced Left.


If we rightly saw the unions/union bosses in that way back then, I see no reason to stop using the term today when the union bosses only represent, at best, 20% of the workforce and have openly adopted a type of soft-fascist corporatism. In the old days, they at least could claim to represent the majority of workers in given industries and used the lingo of 'class struggle' at times. The union bosses today will fight very hard to avoid the further dimuntion of their power over the workers.


On the issue of 'cordiality', as I come from a lower-income working class background, I was steeped in notions of being polite, well-mannered, etc. This was because people in that situation learn that it helps to be polite and well-mannered to get ahead. However, when I moved Leftwards in my politics, I started to realize that politeness, cordiality, etc., are just a way of keeping people in their places. Of course, it depends on the circumstances but I just don't see much point in demanding "Smash capitalism, please", or "Smash capitalism, if it's not too inconvenient". My lack of cordiality to you reflects my belief that you are entrenched in your pseudo-left views and that you don't really want to engage in debate. I also suspect that you (and dalek) consciously seek to have the last say on the most current threads as a way of undermining the intended purpose of the site. (I may be wrong on that latter view). The Bible says the meek shall inherit the kingdom of god; well, I tend to the view that the brash and arrogant, the well-informed and imaginative - in a word, the rebels and revolutionaries - will inherit the future here in this universe.


As for use of the term "comrade", why should I give your pseudo-left views that kind of credibility?



PS - Definitely cannot post more today - so expect to hear from cyberman very soon. He may have hte last post - but not the last laugh!



 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by anita at 2007-06-16 08:40 PM

Hi Barry;

Regarding your question about whether it was worthwhile you spending time responding to Cyberman I think it was.  I found your reflections upon your earlier political life very clear and helpful.  When you mentioned the ML line on unions I was silently cheering you on, as this position fits with my little pet theory about ideology.  (Being that which masks the contradictions.  As in a fair day's pay etc)


The stuff peddled by the current union and labour (Union and Labor party) leaders (the same lot that had to set up ‘apprenticeship’ schemes to recruit their next generation from University campuses) is classic.  I can’t see their looming extinction as anything other than positive in the current context.  When you have so called ‘party of the workers’ competing with the Greens to argue how much to lower living standards for the sake of the planet something has reached a use by date.


The Trade Union movement's recent High Court challenge regarding unfair dismissal was AMAZING.

Instead of arguing that the unfair dismissal clauses of the work choices legislation would and ought not be allowed to have flow-on downward affects for ordinary workers, with some actual workers as examples, their test case related to a sacking and resulting re-employment after downgrading a managerial position from being a $100,000 pa position to a $75,000.  They argued this would mean that all companies can sack workers and re-employ at reduced wages with impunity. 

A few weeks later we have the Juliabot, (how many times can she say clever politician in an interview with a slight snarl?) arguing that the Enterprise Bargaining system brought in by the Keating government is what is at the heart of the improved productivity being reaped by the Howard government, and saying that EBz mean that there is no flow-on of wages and conditions between sectors.  As she puts it where industries are doing well there will be increased wages negotiated where not there will be no expectation of flow-on!  How can it be both? Either there is flow-on or there is not!

Regarding the clever politician line I think it's counter-productive and doomed can’t see how the Larvatus plodders are so smug and confident about the victory that will be theirs.  Trying to turn the word clever into something that has a derogatory meaning will not wash with the punters IMV.  This is the pseudo-left having moved so far away from anything meaningful to other than millionaire yuppies. 


Regarding Tweedledum I was totally turned off Rudd before he became leader, after I once heard him comment critically about the early wheat board scandal I think, by saying the government can't even get its story straight.  Imagine what collusion etc will be going on if we have Rudd properly managing those little mistakes.   

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-06-17 05:04 PM

Comrade Barry,

You were saying something about a technical KO? I really don’t know what this is all about. I know Arthur included a link and said, in effect, ‘read this and you'll see you are wrong about the ten point plan’. I did read it and sure enough, Marx was saying that the Communist Manifesto was outdated 25 years later. It’s even more outdated now and I suggested a few ways in which it could be brought up to date. For example, I’d add something about free health care for all.  I didn't see any similar LS suggestions. Have you thought of any since?

I hope that you will find time to answer the rest of questions that I put. If you are claiming to be an expert Marxist theoretician, there are other people reading the site and this is an opportunity for you to explain to Comrade Anita and others where I've gone wrong! I don't want to get too involved in trading quotations from Marx, though. Comrade Youngmarxist, notwithstanding his own name, gets on to me for that! He does have a point, of course. We, including Arthur, should try to explain our positions, in our own words, in plain modern English in ways that make sense with or without knowledge of Marx.

I was musing over your Engel’s quotation about "Frederick William 111's attempt to take over control by the state of the brothels as an attempted act of socialism". Engels was being flippant but there is a more serious side to the suggestion.  Many female comrades would be quite adamant that brothels would and should disappear under socialism of course. However, if they were to continue in existence, it would be interesting to ask how a genuine socialist brothel may operate! Using the 'nationalisation alone isn't a sufficient condition but it is a necessary one' argument we would find that the buildings and the business would be owned by the state. However, the workers would also elect their own management, which would be the workers' council. At least until we've worked out a way to eliminate money transactions everything else would carry on pretty much as before. If we are to have brothels, it's much better that they should be controlled, not by capitalists or criminals, but by the workers who would organise regular health checks etc and make absolutely sure that no-one was working against their will. The international trafficking of women for the sex ‘industry’ is a modern form of slavery  which we should take seriously rather than flippantly. Hopefully, I can be against slavery without some LS comrade accusing me of being  ‘social democratic’, ‘reformist’ and 'just wanting to make capitalism equitable and bearable’.

It’s hard to believe that you mean the slogan of "Smash Capitalism" with or without a 'please' on the end. You seem to want to support it rather than smash it.  LS comrades have moved too much to the right. The Australian newspaper wouldn’t have allowed you so much as a single sentence unless that they’d been similarly convinced. Dropping the term "comrade”, not just for me, but for everyone else, even people you agree with, is indicative of your political stance, and probably sensible, especially if you are hoping to be able to write a few more articles for the Murdoch press.

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by youngmarxist at 2007-06-17 11:29 PM
Once again Cyberman makes "arguments" that simply ignore what has been said in response to him previously. When Cyberman starts to address the strategic questions that have been put to him, I might think he's worth responding to.

As to the word 'comrade', I'm reminded of the Soviet-era joke about the difference between a 'droog' (roughly 'mate', or 'buddy') and a 'tovarisch' (comrade). If you were on the run from the police, a droog would protect you, but a tovarisch would definitely turn you in.

I wonder what opinion of the actual working class has about the word 'comrade'? Still, Cyberman clearly loves to worship the forms of leftism while understanding nothing about the spirit..

Wow, this is much easier than actually debating. I can see why Cyberman and Co. do it so often.

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-06-18 01:15 AM

Comrade Youngmarxist,
I've been accused several times of avoiding  questions by yourself and others. I really don't agree that I have, but just to make sure that I don't miss anything if you list them 1, 2, 3 etc , I'll answer them 1,2 3, ....

On the question of the use of the word Comrade: Most of my political activity has been back in the UK. If you go to meetings of the Labour Party ( I think still even under New Labour), the SWP etc that's how you'll be addressed. Its just a good tradition. I don't think it is any different in Australia. In fact I have heard the term at May Day rallies and the big anti invasion demos of 2003..

A question for you. As a Marxist, you'll understand that the theory that the working class or proletariat are the only revolutionary class. This is not to say that we don't disagree with them at times. Of course we do , but at the same time we do in in a way to win them over , and with all due respect. Even to the extent of using the title of 'comrade'! However, if you disparage  their industrial  organisations ( the unions) as instruments of capitalism, how can you still possibly think that they are in any way, even potentially,  revolutionary?


 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by anita at 2007-06-18 03:03 AM

It is truly dopey to insist that real Marxists call each other comrade.  I remember being in a group at Uni and we all called each other comrade - i remember feeling really good about it at the time - however this unfortunately did not equate with being open, honest and above board, rather, when it all boiled down people would conspire behind the scenes to get their own way.  It was a bit like the smiling assassin.  Sadly, I was a much more jaded person after that group than before.

Calling each other comrade is all form and no essence, the real point is that people act towards each other in a comradely fashion, which i think means being open, honest, and above board.  Don't you get it the 'left' you talk about is so discredited because it wasn't about thinking, and analysing but was about 'policy development' and cliche. 

People who tend to post here are IMV definitely not about cliche neither are they right-wing. 

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by youngmarxist at 2007-06-18 03:50 AM
I listed 4 questions here, Cyberman, which you ignored. They were even numbered 1), 2), 3) and 4).

 Please do answer them.

 I don't think that most of the working class regard unions as 'their' organisations at all, they regard unions as someone else's. Which they are.

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by anita at 2007-06-18 07:53 AM

When I started off in the student movement the NUS was just affiliating campuses.  My campus was the first to run an affiliation campaign in South Australia and it was when I first really got involved with political campaigns.  At the time the SWP 'comrades' opposed the affiliation, some of my lot thought of them as scabs - I was new and a bit more open to hearing their arguments as to why not to affiliate but was not convinced and threw my lot in with the Union - that is after all what real left's do. 

Mostly, my lot had a fair bit of sympathy for the criticisms that were offered by the Resistance (SWPers) but had adopted the policy of critical support.  Well for the next 4 years we tried to move the Union to be a more democratic organisation - each conference was attended with optimism and each time we would be just short of the numbers, or have them and yet be unable to get our policy or candidates up because of numerous dirty tricks. etc  At first we came back to campus and said very little because if we had told the truth about what had happened in student papers etc. student support for the Union we were working in would disappear.  So for a couple of years we took shit and shut up, and even then our criticisms were moderate as to have told the truth about the shenanigans, and how most policy never even got voted on at conference because the ALP students were too busy wheeling and dealing over office bearer positions to be bothered with the conference business we judged to be far too damaging. 

Involvement in the Union on a policy of critical support took its toll on our group as there were always debates between those who were arguing enough is enough and others saying let's try something different or let's work harder this year etc. etc.

By 1994 it was clear to me and many others that the Resistance mob were right it was impossible to do anything with a Union that was so flawed at inception - ironically it was around this time that Resistance came to support the Union and try to become delegates etc.   (I think they probably saw the vacuum and wanted to fill it).  Anyway, 1994, you might be aware was the year that some Universities brought in up-front fees for Post graduate courses and there was a very strong student movement and particularly so at Flinders University and it became obvious just how significant NUS was at hampering campus by campus organisation

So, early in 1995, it was evident that the best thing for the student movement was to run disaffiliation campaigns which we attempted at Flinders, sadly, unsuccessfully.  Unsuccessfully because the Labor students who were running the NUS state branch, and had friends in high places on campus unconstitutionally put the question to referendum during an election for the equivalent of the student organisation executive. 

So, our constitutional call for a referendum to be held later in that year (thanks to NUS provisions relating to notification etc) was never put, and the Labor students instead bypassed the provisions of both the NUS constitution and the Students' Association provisions and put the question in the affirmative.   With no notification of the referendum there was no opportunity  to  run any kind of effective campaign. 

Anyway it is a long story which I won't tell now, (suffice to say that it was enough to forever despise the culture that has developed in the ALP) that referendum was the beginning of the ALP coup at Flinders University that saw the Students' Association office bearers change 4 times in one year.!!!   They had no qualms about bringing the organisation down in order to take control. 

I have no qualms about running campaigns to bring the ALP unstuck. 

I know that Cyberman's comments are about Trade Unions, and there is a difference, students are not the proletariat, but the political lessons are comparable and the facts are that sometimes it is best to give the Union a wide berth.  Regarding the views of ordinary people I hear them saying that they are on their own. (You've got to look after yourself) As they see it they have no friend in John Howard and also none in the ALP. 

Regarding the revolutionary potential of the class, that potential is not mediated through the leadership of various organisations but is much more dependent upon the material conditions and circumstances.  Those currently not being conducive to much in the way of actual revolutionary tendency.  However, the potential in the theoretical sense remains, and is not associated with Trade Unions, it is rather more organic and even if the Liberals or other were to smash the current Union movement completely that revolutionary potential of the class would not be diminished.   

To wrap this up I made all the mistakes in the book in my first years of involvement but came out the end with eyes firmly open, now I would answer the question what ought  a real left-e do - with the answer that we need to trust the masses with the truth, expose myths and challenge tradition where necessary. 

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-06-18 11:51 PM

Comrade Youngmarxist,

Sorry if I didn't answer you at the time. I wasn't intending to avoid any questions.

1) What reforms would make the working class hungry and ambitious for more, and what reforms would be likely to create a complacent, unambitious working class, happy with what it has got?

The period of the biggest reforms under capitalism occurred in Western Europe in the immediate aftermath of WW2. In all countries capitalism yielded concessions that were unimaginable prior to the war. Good free or highly subsidised health care, subidised housing, free education including at university level, and unemployment benefits were previously thought by many to be only attainable by a violent revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system. In addition, in most European countries after the war,  many of the key industries, the so-called 'commanding heights of the economy' were nationalised. Unions were, by law, represented on company boards and as late as the mid to late seveties, certainly in the UK, the question was of how much more should be nationalised. The election of Margaret Thatcher changed all that. Before 1979 I'd never heard of the word privatisation.

I think your phrase "complacent, unambitious working class, happy with what it has got " was certainly applicable by the mid seventies. In Germany a section of the left, the Red Army Faction,  were so frustrated by the lethargy of the working class they resorted to direct military, most would say criminal, action to try to kick start the revolution.

We can debate what went wrong. One factor was the lack of workers control in the nationalised industries. Another was the failure of the left to match right wing propoganda. In the UK, after the closure of the Daily Herald in 1964 the press, with the possible exception of the Daily Mirror amd Morning Star, was very right wing. For instance the railway system in the UK under the old "British railways", in many ways, was far superior to the privatised system that now exists. Yet, it was a constant target of attack. I could go into this more, in future postings: how the left should have worked to transfer more power directly to the working class which would have had the effect of making them hungry and ambitious for more , as you put it.

So you may be thinking what's the point of going down the same road again? But what's the alternative? Harold Macmillan , PM of the UK in the 60s, famously and condescendingly jibed that the working classes had never had it so good. From a revolutionary perspective it would have been much better if they hadn't started to buy cars and send their kids off to free unis etc. But then if the revolutionaries had been seen to deliberatly try to make things worse or been seen to be less than enthusiastic about the benefits that reforms brought, how much credibility would they have had anyway?  

2) How far are the working class ready to push the ruling class? Are they more or less revolutionary than our ideas?
The working class in most western countries aren't revolutionary, or hardly, at all at present. You could try stopping a 100 people on the street at random and you'd find maybe one person? The ruling class have been doing all the pushing in the last few years and ground has been lost. This has been possible by the relative success of capitalism in the last 25 years. As working class incomes, not to mention capital gains from housing etc, have increased, the resolve to defend previous gains ,  free health and education etc,  has diminished.

3) What do the working class want? What reforms and what assistance will convince them that revolutionaries are reliable allies whose ideas might be useful? What would finally convince them that revolution is a viable option?

If you believe what David Mc says about capitalism in his book,  the you may as well forget any thoughts of revolution for the next 100 years at least. If you have everything you need why would you risk everything with a revolution? Marx claimed that capitalism created the seeds of its own destruction but I'd say it has been more resiliant than he expected. The ruling classes have learned how to avoid revolutionary situations developing, at least up until now in the western economies. Its different in South America and potentially much different in Asia.

4) When the ruling class strikes back, how will the working class organise itself to win the overt class war that will have just been launched? What reforms in the pre-strike-back phase will give the working class the greatest possible capacity to win that war?

During a period of crisis, the bourgeois state  and  the working class will become increasingly drawn into conflict . If the working class are well organised , they will be strong enough to force concessions. The ability to win reforms will be an indicator of the strength of the working class movement. The capitalist classes aren't stupid - they'd rather offer a few concessions than risk losing control completely. In the final stages, if the system is unable to yield then a revolutionary situation will develop. Capitalism has been fuelled by cheap oil for the past 50 years which has allowed for a remarkable period of growth. If this comes to an end, and economies stagnate, it could all become unravelled very quickly.

Even now there signs of tension especially among the young. They are priced out of the housing market, they have limited or no job security, they have to repay education debts and they are going to be screwed in the years to come to fund the pensions of the retired. In western Europe and Japan the capitalist class will be bolstered by the ranks of the retired workers and petit bourgeios, many of whom will have large amounts in capital in their pension funds. Capital being used as the means of extracting surplus value from the workforce as we all know!