cuba: the island of happiness ?

19 09 2010

“Even Communist Cuba has got with the programme that we need to cut  the budget deficit and actually get spending under control. We’ve got comrade Castro on the same page as the the rest of us.  We’ve just got to get the Labour Party and the trade unions on to that planet at the same time.” – David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions, September 15th

This week the state-run Cuban trade union confederation announced government plans to lay off 1 million public sector employees, some 20% of the working population. Half of the cuts will be over the next six months alone, in what marks a stunning retreat for the Communist Party and a sharp attack on working-class living standards. President Raúl Castro has targeted workers’ “dependency” on the public sector: by which he means, the same bureaucratic and management apparatus which closely monitors many aspects of everyday life in the country.

In this article Eduardo Semtei, a former Venezuelan government bureaucrat, describes his impressions of ordinary Cuban citizens’ lives. Although The Commune does not share Semtei’s politics – for instance, he harshly criticises the Venezuelan government for subsidising Cuba – his comments do offer an insight into existing social relations and the warped model of “socialism” on the island. Read the rest of this entry »





the commune bristol reading group 25th april: the soviet union

17 04 2010

The next Bristol reading group session will be on Sunday 25th April at 6pm in Café Kino on Ninetree Hill, Stokes Croft, Bristol.

The session will discuss the nature of the Soviet Union and the crushing of workers’ self-emancipation. Suggested background reading below. All welcome: email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com for more info. Read the rest of this entry »





the capitalist state and the debate over cuts

30 03 2010

by David Broder

The Labour Party’s pre-election budget has focussed attention on ‘the recovery’. In his speech to the House of Commons last Wednesday Chancellor Alistair Darling outlined a plan of government action to restore economic growth and reduce the British state’s borrowing.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats have somewhat different plans to Labour about the best means of achieving these objectives. However, what is rarely challenged, or even discussed, is the underlying consensus which structures the whole debate: the very idea of ‘the economy’ and a collective national interest. So how should communists relate to this debate? Read the rest of this entry »





bristol reading group on state socialism, sunday 28th march

10 03 2010

The third Bristol reading group session will be on Sunday 28th March at 6pm in Café Kino on Ninetree Hill, Stokes Croft, Bristol.

The session will discuss state socialism and its critics. Suggested background reading below. All welcome: email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com for more info. Read the rest of this entry »





the social fabric of stalinism

21 02 2010

Second in a series ‘Laurat in wonderland’ by João Bernardo: see here for part 1

When free expression and open organisation was allowed – before February 1922 when Lenin authorised the political police to operate within the Communist Party itself – the leftist opposition never ceased to criticise the economic system then being established. In 1920 and 1921 the Workers’ Opposition attacked the power the old management had won back in the Soviet economy and the control political organs exercised on workplace union organisation: yet this tendency was closer to the union bureaucracy than it was to the rank-and-file workers.

Within the Communist Party the rank-and-file perspective was expressed above all by the Democratic Centralist group, formed in 1919. Contrary to what one might imagine, the name of this group was not at all a reference to the Leninist form of internal party regime, bur rather the means of economic organisation. Members of this faction admitted the necessity of central planning but considered that this must be premised on democratic bases, characterised by the management of enterprises by workers’ committees: and not Lenin and Trotsky’s system of management by a technocracy of specialists, including former administrators and even the old factory owners. Read the rest of this entry »





the early russian revolution: laurat in wonderland

1 02 2010

by João Bernardo
Passa Palavra

After the fall of the Berlin Wall – which did not ‘fall’, but rather was cut to bits and sold at graffiti and souvenir auctions – journalists and even many historians promoted the illusion that  the only critiques of the Soviet system were elaborated by the social-democratic left and the anti-communist right. Read the rest of this entry »





alternatives to capitalism: what happens after the revolution?

8 01 2010

by Andrew Kliman
Marxist-Humanist Initiative

I.  Concretizing the Vision of a New Human Society

We live at a moment in which it is harder than ever to articulate a liberatory alternative to capitalism.  As we all know, the collapse of state-capitalist regimes that called themselves “Communist,” as well as the widespread failures of social democracy to remake society, have given rise to a widespread acceptance of Margaret Thatcher’s TINA – the belief that “there is no alternative.” Read the rest of this entry »





new pamphlet: the collapse of the eastern bloc and after

7 01 2010

The latest pamphlet produced by The Commune looks at the regimes which existed in the Eastern Bloc and the state of the working class in those countries today.

The pamphlet features a symposium of critical Marxists from Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, and Bosnia on the twentieth anniversary of the historic events of 1989-91 and the lessons for communists today. Click here for PDF. Read the rest of this entry »





bristol reading group, sunday 24th january: capital and capitalism

6 01 2010

The first of The Commune’s Bristol reading group sessions will be on Sunday 24th January at 6pm in Cafe Kino on Ninetree Hill, Bristol.

The series of sessions is entitled “Alternatives to capitalism”. The first session is called “Capital and capitalism”. A brief look at the features of capitalism. Capital, wage-labour, profit, capital accumulation and its effect on our lives.This first session sets the scene and will allow us to contast proposed alternatives. Read the rest of this entry »





twenty years after the berlin wall fell

16 11 2009

November marks twenty years since the fall of the Berlin wall. This event represented one of the high points of a great mass struggle against the tyrannical order in the Eastern Bloc, and led to the downfall of the Soviet Union. But with the defeats of movements opposed to both these statist régimes and the free market, the popular movements of 1989 are now used to prove there is no alternative to capitalism.

wallfall

Here we present sections of a series of interviews with communists from the former Eastern Bloc focussing on the struggles of the time, what system really existed in the “communist” countries and what has happened to the working class over the last twenty years. Read the rest of this entry »





issue 9 of the commune

12 11 2009

The November issue of our monthly paper The Commune is now available. Click the image below to see the PDF, or see articles as they are posted online in the list below.

issue9cover

To purchase a printed copy for £1 + 50p postage, use the ‘donate’ feature here. You can also subscribe (£12 a year UK/£16 EU/£20 international) or order 5 copies a month to sell (£4) online here. If you want to pay by cheque, contact uncaptiveminds@gmail.com.

are we ready for a winter of discontent? – by Sheila Cohen

post strike: this is no deal – by Joe Thorne

underground pay deadlock – by Vaughan Thomas

what is the union bureaucracy? – by Alberto Durango

occupation and state building in the new afghanistan – by Jessica Anderson

mixed reactions to cwu-royal mail deal – interview with a communist postman

manchester students build solidarity with post workers – by Mark Harrison

honduras: democracy has not been restored – by Socialismo o Barbarie

month long strike in france: ‘papers for all!’ – interview with Seni cleaners and piece from Où va la CGT?

communism twenty years after the berlin wall fell – interviews with eastern european activists

scottish ruling class: division over union – by Allan Armstrong

obituary of chris harman – by Andy Wilson

university occupations in austria – interview with vienna student activist

question time row: did the straw man really slay the griffin? – by Adam Ford

communist recomposition and workers’ representation – by Chris Ford

‘full and open debate’ on post-no2eu project: ok, when? - by David Broder

building from below: the work of paulo freire – by Dave Spencer

the global commune, january 16th

activities of the commune around britain

 





extracts from ellis hillman’s ‘the nature of the stalinist parties’

12 11 2009

note by David Black: The Nature of the Stalinist Parties – a document of several thousand words – was published in the internal discussion bulletin of the Socialist Review Group in May 1951, with five sections:

1 The Importance of the Nature of the Stalinist Parties for our Movement

2 The Classical Trotskyist Position

3 The Stalinist International as the Instrument of the State-Capitalist Bureaucracy

4 The Social Composition Of The Stalinist Parties

5 Political Conclusions

thorezussr

Hillman concluded that the SRG could make no impact on the membership of the Stalinist British Communist Party, which he sought to show was becoming increasingly petit-bourgeois. Therefore, he argued, the SRG should concentrate on building in the Labour Party. In practical terms, as Ian Birchall has suggested, Hillman was more in tune with Shachtmanite ‘Third Campism’ than James/Boggs/Dunayevskaya. The ‘immovability’ of the CP membership proved to be a temporary phenomenon; but it was only shaken up by world events (especially Hungary) rather than pressure from the Far Left. As regards Dunayevskaya, I should point out that her later analysis (from 1953 onwards) was markedly different to that of ‘State-Capitalism and the World Revolution’ (1950). The latter, in my view, while important, was wrong on a lot of things (such as the national question), and inadequate on others (especially philosophy).

Read the rest of this entry »





borys chervonyy: twenty years after the berlin wall fell

12 11 2009

Latest in a series of interviews with communists from the former eastern bloc upon the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

ukrainecomm

Can you briefly introduce yourself/organisation?

My name is Borys Chervonyy. I’m a member of the executive committee of the “Zakhyst Pratsi” (Defence of Labour) independent trade union, a member of the “New Left” movement and a member of the organisational committee of the Ukrainian Left Party (ULP). The ULP is supposed to be an international revolutionary organisation; the program of the ULP will be based on the principles of communism and social liberation in all its forms; and will stand, in particular, on the traditions of Ukrainian left thought. Read the rest of this entry »





obituary of chris harman

9 11 2009

by Andy Wilson

Chris Harman, revolutionary socialist author and activist and a long-time member of the Central Committee of the Socialist Workers Party, died of a heart attack on Saturday night while speaking at the Socialist Days conference in Cairo.

chrisharman

From a working class background, Chris joined the Socialist Review Group (forerunner of the International Socialists and the SWP) in the early 60s while a student at Leeds University. He became one of the leading activists in the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign while at the London School of Economics, although he eventually abandoned his studies to become a full-time worker for the IS/SWP. Chris remained a constant among the leadership there until the day of his death. Read the rest of this entry »








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