How do we move beyond Capitalism?

23 04 2013

Barry Biddulph reviews, Beyond Capitalism by Luke Cooper and Simon Hardy (Zero Books 2012) ,£11.99.

Luke and Simon’s starting point is the observation that the “dramatic growth of the radical left after 1968 and the much more modest gains made after the mass movements of 2011, underlie the fact Marxism has lost its position as the natural ‘go to’ in politics” (1).  Speaking from experience of 1968 and 2011 this is certainly a correct assessment. It’s also, a revealing conclusion. What does it say about the record of the Leninist left since 1968 ? They dodge this question. Instead, they side step any criticism of the Bolshevik heritage by simply declaring that the common perception of Leninism as top down organisational control and sectarian splitting “does not accord with the totality of the Russian experience” (2). Explicit Leninism is placed on one side for flexibility and popular appeal.smSimonHardy

As Luke and Simon argue, young anti-capitalists value social struggle from below rather than relying on bureaucratic hierarchies.  Trade union officialdom is a good example of bureaucracy and hierarchy, yet for Simon and Luke, “this should be the time when the unions come forward to do their job as defensive organisations” (3).  But are the trade unions fit for purpose: can they defend their members pensions, jobs and conditions? Even before the onset of Thatcherism and the anti-union laws, trade unions accepted capitalist realism. Trade union leaders are not just mediators between the bosses and the workers in the factories, and offices, they often enforce the requirements of the state and capitalism. It was the rank and file workers who went outside the official trade union structures in the 1960’s, and 1970’s to force up living standards by unofficial action.  The recent successful wild cat strikes by the Sparks was a throw back to this tradition.

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‘up the anti’ – when will the left learn?

2 12 2012

The Anti-Capitalist Initiative’s (ACI) gathering of elements of the British Left on the 1st December 2012 in London was yet more proof of their inability to adapt to today’s world, says duvinrouge.

Despite a promising start will an inspirational speech from Joana Ramiro, followed by Preeti Paul from IOPS setting out a vision of what we are fighting for, the day then descended into tedious waffle from pseudo-intellectuals lacking any ability to inspire. This wasn’t entirely the fault of the speakers; it was the old, out of date approach of having a top table of ‘experts’ preaching to an audience in that typical hierarchical fashion socialist organisations are so well known for. These high-priests of theory are often employed by universities, write books, & mainly come from middle-class families. Participation is limited to an handful of ‘questions’ which sound more like mini-speeches from windbags who aspire to be on the top table next time around.

When will these people learn that this format will never appeal to the working class?


I appreciate that a lot of hard work went into this from some very committed well-meaning people whose political vision of a post-capitalist world I largely share. For these individuals I am truly sorry if my criticism causes offence. The sad truth though is these people need to wake up & realise that this way of organising is actually counter-productive.

There is an alternative approach. It can be summed up in one word: participation.

It’s an approach I witnessed first-hand in the occupation of St. Pauls. It was also the breath of fresh-air I felt at the recent IOPS meeting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware of their theoretical shortcomings. They are not Marxists & therefore do not have the intellectual tool-kit to fully understand the nature of the capitalist system. But, however, they do have the potential to reach out to people with an attractive post-capitalist vision. An alternative that offers people the ability to gain control over their lives by participating in society as equals & having a say in decisions that affect them. This alternative can be grasped as a real alternative when people see such an approach to decision-making & debating put into practice today.

If the organisers of ‘Up the Anti’ had put this approach into practice they would have had participates split up into groups of no more than 20 discussing questions such as ‘What are we fighting for?’ Everyone who wanted to have a say could have. Everyone would have got to know others much better, which is essential for building trust & encouraging further participation. Ideas could have been collated & examined. People could have gone home inspired that they have actually been involved in something in an active way.

I hope those good people involved in the ACI learn from this experience.

britain: ‘to fight austerity we need a united left’

15 10 2012

Simon Hardy of the Anticapitalist Initiative says the urgent need for unity on the radical left is something that has been eloquently put forward by Dan Hind on the Al-Jazeerawebsite. Asking a very pertinent question as to whether there can be a SYRIZA-type organisation in Britain, Hind draws out some of the most important lessons of the Greek struggle and poses a challenge to the British left — can we break out of the ghetto as well?[1]

To plot a possible trajectory we have to be clear of the political alignment that has emerged for the left under the Conservative Party-Liberal Democrat coalition government. While Ed Miliband’s Labour Party might be surging ahead in the polls, the possibility of a Labour left revival is simply not on the cards. The Labour Party is hollowed out and bureaucratically controlled and all the best intentions and actions of Labour left activists will not change that. The Labour left is reduced to the old argument that there is nothing credible outside the Labour Party. They mockingly point to all the twisted contortions of the far left in Britain in the last decade (Socialist Alliance, Scottish Socialist Party, Respect, Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, Left list, Respect renewal, etc.) to forge a new unity and conclude that the Labour Party is the only show in town.

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