left unity: we need an alternative system, not just an alternative party

21 04 2013

In Britain there is a growing desire for the left to get their act together & to start to make an impact. We now have Left Unity (http://leftunity.org/) taking off as a result of Ken Loach’s appeal for a new party of the left. A genuinely socialist electoral force is to be welcomed. But alongside this we very much need the creation of an alternative system; one that challenges the whole concept of professional politicians & so-called ‘representative democracy’ says duvinrouge.


Left Unity was initiated by Andrew Burgin & Kate Hudson, both of whom use to be in George Galloway’s Respect – itself an attempt to build a left alternative to Labour. Burgin & Hudson are married & have both been involved with the Stop the War Coalition. Hudson is the General Secretary of CND & was previously in the Communist Party of Britain. Burgin use to be in the Trotskyist Workers’ Revolutionary Party, as was the film director Ken Loach.

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the crisis in the swp

21 01 2013

Members of Britain’s Socialist Workers Party are resigning from the party in droves, says duvinrouge. The impetus comes from a sexual assault allegation against a senior member of the party, & allegations that it wasn’t investigated properly. But unpinning this is the discontent due to the lack of party democracy.


The SWP is a Leninist party & therefore internally organises in a way that is termed democratic-centralism. The basic idea being that the majority decision is decided upon & then there is unity of action led by a central committee. It actual fact it’s a fig-leaf ideology to allow a few to justify their life as professional revolutionaries, dreaming of their place in history, whilst the rank & file members sell the paper to fund this lifestyle. It’s much like parliamentary democracy’s claim to represent the wishes of the people & gives us the illusion of having a say.

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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.

what’s wrong with iops?

2 11 2012

What is IOPS?

IOPS is the International Organisation for a Participatory Society. It offers a vision of a society where people have a greater say in the decisions that affect their lives. The general principle is people have a say in proportion to the extent that the decision affects them. Its core values are:

  1. Self-management
  2. Equity/Justice
  3. Solidarity
  4. Diversity
  5. Ecological stewardship
  6. Internationalism

What is the theoretical foundation of IOPS?

Michael Albert has been the key figure in shaping the theory. Analysis is divided into four spheres:

  1. Community/culture
  2. Kinship/gender
  3. Polity/power
  4. Economy/class

These four spheres have two contexts:

  1. Ecology
  2. International Relations

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crisis! so what else can we do?

1 11 2012

The Commune is hosting a debate on organisation this month. Roy Ratcliffe offers his contribution.

Among the anti-capitalist left there has been much debate of what is an appropriate course of action in the present circumstances of developing capitalist crisis. A great deal of conflict exists together with considerable impatience. Discussions and debates among the ‘left’ are tending to orientate around assisting and initiating class or population wide actions, and this via competing forms of organisation. Such attempts are largely by either invigorating existing ones, such as trade-unions and political parties, (eg the Labour-Party in the UK) or initiating new ones such as Occupy and Syriza in Greece.

However, some of these initiatives stem from a mistaken view, that small groups, with the correct orientation and ideas can stimulate  significant and sustained actions, involving large numbers of people – before the vast majority of the population are ready to do so. In this case, they are bound to fail. And of course, simply turning out in large numbers to demonstrate or vote will be insufficient to solve this present structural crisis. A parallel problem is that promoters of these initiatives generally appear to have insufficient understand of the dynamics and evolution of protest, uprisings and revolutions.

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what kind of anti-capitalist organisation is iops?

18 10 2012

Michael Albert is visiting England next week to promote IOPS  (International Organisation for a Participatory Society). Duvinrouge asked him some questions.

duvinrouge – Michael, you are coming to England to speak at the Anarchist Bookfair to promote IOPS, what is the key message you want to get across?

I am speaking three times at the bookfair, I believe, once on Anarchist economics, once on a three book set called Fanfare for the Future, and once about IOPS. For that matter, the trip is also taking me to Norway, Sweden, Belgium, France, Germany, and Denmark for broadly similar talks.

For the anarchist economics panel, my focus will be that to be anarchist economics ought to understand existing economic relations and their implications but with special emphasis on the structures that impose restrictions on people controlling their own lives, including, in particular, markets and corporate divisions of labor – not simply private ownership.

The Fanfare talk, I suppose, is to introduce the books, so I will focus on trying to explain their motivation and broadly what they encompass, including how they try to provide the tools needed for full and effective participation in analyzing current relations, envisioning and advocating goals, and developing organization and program for reaching those goals. I will also try to summarize a cross section of the insights in the books.

The third talk, the IOPS presentation, is where I will try to make a case that IOPS visionary, strategic, and organizational commitments are, or at least in my view ought to be, highly congenial to anarchists. I will discuss the features that I think justify that claim. There will also be time, and I look forward to answering questions that raise people’s concerns about IOPS.

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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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20th october

14 10 2012

protest: justice for cleaners at john lewis

20 06 2012

Come to a lively protest to stand in solidarity with the cleaners at John Lewis
This Saturday, 3pm
John Lewis, 300 Oxford Street, London, W1A 1EX

The cleaners are demonstrating because they are….

1) All on the minimum poverty wage of £6.08 p/hour and are demanding the London Living Wage of £8.30 p/hour.
2) Often not paid for the hours they work.
3) Not provided appropriate equipment or protection.
4) Discriminated against by their managers. For example, some Hindu cleaners are called ‘bloody Indians’, whilst some larger employees are called ‘pig heads’
5) At threat of seeing 50% redundancies. The remaining 50% of the cleaners would be expected to cover the work of those made redundant with the same hours and with no extra pay!
6) Prejudicially excluded from the so-called John Lewis partnership. Read the rest of this entry »

sparks show the way

15 06 2012

This month’s editorial is written by Adam Ford and compares the workers that are winning, and those who are not

The wildly different trajectories of two recent industrial disputes provides us with an almost perfect lesson in both how they can be won and how they are generally lost. In both cases, the workers were members of the Unite union, as are around three million others in the UK, and in both cases the industry concerned was what might be called a ‘blue collar’ one. But one won, and is winning, while another lost badly. Read the rest of this entry »

urgent protest: justice for cleaners at the lse

12 06 2012

From IWW Cleaners Branch
Come and stand in solidarity with the cleaners at the London School of Economics on Wednesday 13 June 2012, from 1PM – 2:30PM
LSE, Houghton Street, City of Westminster, WC2A 2AE – Just by Natwest bank

The IWW Cleaners at London School of Economics will be staging a lively protest to…

1) Stop the LSE from reducing the cleaner’s working hours
2) Stop the LSE from intensifying the cleaner’s working day
3) Stop the LSE from giving with one hand and taking with the other
4) Stop the LSE from treating the cleaners like second-class employees
5) Publicly expose Resource’s management’s inveterate practice of racist bullying Read the rest of this entry »

why the phony war?

6 06 2012

London based college worker Siobhan Breathnach writes about the top down nature of the UK public sector pensions dispute

We got notice of the 10th of May strike on a Friday afternoon ten days before, in the middle of an emergency meeting about redundancies. The first response was “They have got to be fucking kidding.” There was a general expression of dismay and disbelief. So what is the problem? Why weren’t we pleased about being called out? Read the rest of this entry »

time to cut the anti-cuts campaigns?

16 03 2012

In the lead-up to the latest national strike day on 28 March, Sheila Cohen asks whether the anti-cuts campaigns are working

I have been asked to write an article about anti-cuts campaigns, and said I don’t know much about them. I don’t know much about them because I don’t think they work. I don’t think they work because the government and ruling-class generally are rabid hyenas without an iota of inclination to give a flying **** about the needs and wishes of so-called “ordinary people” – if they did give such a thing they wouldn’t be, well, ruling. But I was asked to write nonetheless.

The several large demonstrations against the cuts programme have presented a confident outward image, mocking the Coalition: but what power do we actually have to stop Cameron and co.?

As a dutiful writer, I began preparing for this piece by doing (admittedly, a very small modicum of) research. One dedicated anti-cuts organisation I turned up which shall be nameless, but describes itself on its website as “a diverse collation of…groups and individuals that have come together to challenge social exclusion and promote social justice” includes as part of its many activities a project to unite unemployed workers, a “celebration” of its locality with a “one day community event” and, of course, intransigent opposition to racism – and quite right too. The community event was warmly received, with one participant commenting that it had, indeed, given “a real sense of community”. So what’s not to like? Read the rest of this entry »

strikes and solidarity

3 02 2012

If this year’s strikes are to have power, we must take our lead from the electricians, bypassing union attempts at defusion by offering each other solidarity in new ways and across artificial divides, writes Deb Harris.

Solidarity is illegal. Thatcher said so. She only permits us to strike if we have a specific and identifiable common complaint – we are not allowed to strike together in recognition of the general horror. In 2011, submissive as ever, the unions found the only thing that the public sector can legally unite around – pensions – and conveniently forgot that everyone is angry about a lot more than that. Their speeches, placards and leaflets were all about pensions. As if we had given up on anything but retirement. Read the rest of this entry »


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