Posts Tagged ‘socialist’

April 1917 – a crucial moment in the Russian Revolution

April 2, 2017

2017

The Russian Revolution was where capitalism broke at its weakest point. This post is largely based on the latest in  a series of articles in the socialist, which follow the events of that historic year.

At the end of February 1917 (dates are from the Julian calendar, which was then in use in Russia) Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, having been overthrown peacefully in the storming of the Winter Palace. He was unable to find any regiment of the army willing to defend him. He attempted to pass power to his brother, Grand Duke Michael,  but this was refused. A provisional government then took power on the 2nd March, headed by Prince Georgy Lvov – with no mandate, it was very weak and unstable.

Russia was entering a period of dual power, nominally the state had control, but real power was in the hands of soviets – the translation from the Russian is simply “committee” – where ordinary people had taken control of their farms and workplaces. The Bolshevik’s slogan for “Bread, Peace and Land” summed up in simple terms what they were fighting for, and could be easily understood, even by illiterate people – Russia was a very backward country at the time and most of the population was extremely poor, working on the land under a feudal dictatorship under the Tsar.

At the beginning of April, both Lenin and Trotsky were in exile – Lenin was in Switzerland, and Trotsky in a prisoner of war camp in Canada – seized by British naval officers on board a ship bound for Russia, and sent to Halifax. In “My Life” – he says he did not join in a protest about their incarceration, because he didn’t see much point in “complaining to Beelzebub about Satan” – he was accused of being a German agent, backed by the British government and Milyukov, the foreign minister of the Russian provisional government.

The objective conditions for a successful revolution had been met: the Tsar had been overthrown and it was clear to the left wing of the Bolsheviks at least, that power must pass to the soviets in order that the gains that had been made could be consolidated. However, as well as this, workers and peasants must also be willing to fight to bring the revolution to a successful conclusion.

On Lenin’s return to Russia, he wrote the April Theses. This is a draft of speeches he gave at assemblies of Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, two factions of the Russian Social Democratic Party, which had split previously. The Mensheviks argued that revolution needed to be postponed to a distant future, whereas the left wing of the Bolsheviks argued that people needed to take control over the state for themselves – the names mean “minority” and “majority” in English. Trotsky, before the events of 1917, was in the middle ground – another faction which sought to unite the two conflicting positions – but as this revolutionary year unfolded, he came over to the side of Lenin.

The position of some leading Bolsheviks, such as Kamenev and Stalin,  was that of a gradual transition to socialism – they were caught unprepared by the willingness of the mass of people to fight against the Tsar, the demands for basic necessities, the right to govern themselves, and the soldiers returning from the front, who were sick of trench warfare. All of these factors forced the ferocious pace of events of 1917. Kamenev and Stalin were leading the soviet in St Petersburg – they advocated conditional support of the provisional government, and only advised that “a most vigilant watch” be put on the government.

Lenin made the following key demands:

1. To break completely with the capitalist and imperialist war, and for this to be explained to troops at the front.

2. We have got rid of the Tsar, but he has been replaced by another government of the bourgeoisie – we now must place power in the hands of the workers and peasants.

3. No support for the provisional government – we must expose their lies.

4. The Bolshevik party is in a minority at the present time – but we must explain to the people that our the soviets are the only organ capable of bringing true emancipation, and we must tailor our explanations to the needs of the masses’ and their political outlook.

5. For a republic of soviets of workers and peasants throughout the country. To abolish the police, the army and the bureaucracy. For salaries of all officials (to be subject to recall and to be elected) not to be more than the average wage of a skilled worker.

6. Confiscation of landed estates and the nationalisation of all land – to be handed over to the peasants.

7. For workers’ control of the banks, which would be nationalised and amalgamated into one central bank.

8. Production should be brought under control of the soviets.

9. For an immediate Bolshevik Party Congress. To change the name of the party to the All Russian Communist Party, to alter the party’s positions on the war, the state and its minimum programme.

10. For the establishment of a new socialist International.

Lenin made these points repeatedly. Defeated initially by the right-wing Petrograd Bolsheviks, he took his campaign to the Mensheviks and to the party membership at large and won widespread support for his ideas. At the Bolshevik Party conference on April 24th, Lenin’s motion to transfer all power to the soviets was carried by 149 to 3 votes – and the party had now rapidly grown, enthused by his ideas – it now numbered 79,000, with 15,000 members in Petrograd (St Petersburg) alone.

An important breaking point in the provisional administration was the First World War – should it support or condemn the imperalist conflict? Milyukov said they would “pursue the war to its glorious conclusion” – this resulted in huge May Day demonstrations, which forced his resignation in April 21st. Six socialist members of the Petrograd soviet then joined the provisional government. Milyukov resigned and Trotsky was then released from incarceration.

If it were not for the intervention of Lenin at this key point, and more importantly the support of the masses – whose ideas echoed with his, the revolution may well have been just another wasted opportunity as has happened in many countries since – the Arab Spring, Allende’s Chile, France 1968 to name but a few.

In May the Bolsheviks adopted Lenin’s programme, with the slogan “All power to the soviets”.

This shows the importance, even if all the other factors for revolution are in place, of having the correct programme and being able to win people to your side in order to carry through a successful socialist revolution. The Russian Revolution was unique in being able to accomplish this, but it was isolated. With the subsequent civil war, the death of Lenin and the exile of Trotsky, the USSR tragically became corrupted by Stalinism.

The Socialist Party in the UK is still fighting today, as part of the Committee for a Workers’ International, which is fighting in 50 countries worldwide, to establish true socialism. Capitalism is still failing the vast majority of people. If you are not a member of the socialist party, then join us!

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From cradle to grave?

July 6, 2014

This is a recent article I wrote for the socialist newspaper on the state of the NHS in Leicester and the need to fight against cuts and privatisation.

The Chief Executive of University Hospitals Leicester is being paid over £200,000 a year to slash jobs and services. He is planning to cut maternity services at Leicester General Hospital, so that care for “low-risk pregnancies only” may be delivered at the hospital – he says that a full maternity service is not viable in the future. As well as this, intensive care will be reduced from the three hospital sites in Leicester to just two. This is to avoid a projected £400m funding gap by 2019.

These cuts will inevitably cost lives – critically ill patients and women with complications in childbirth will have to travel from one side of the city to another. A pregnancy can start off normally, but complications can be fatal. The loss of beds will have a further impact on the hospital’s ability to treat patients, especially in the winter. Locally, hospital services are already hugely stretched and the waiting time for A&E treatment is more than four hours. At a recent public meeting on the state of the NHS organised by Keep Our NHS Public, a nurse spoke of patients having to be sectioned, not because they needed psychological treatment, but simply to ensure that they would get a bed.

The Trust gives excuses for the cuts, talking about a move towards “care at home”. When it was set up, the NHS was intended to provide a “comprehensive” health care service, “from cradle to grave”. This responsibility was torn up under the Tories’ infamous Health and Care Act. But would Labour do anything any different? They introduced “Foundation Trusts”, making hospitals compete with each other for funding,rather than co-operating to deliver the best possible care and opening up the NHS to the private market. Labour also expanded the use of PFI, or “Profit From Illness” as Dave Nellist has called it. This has allowed private companies to take over the running of facilities and services. The profits of companies such as Capita, Serco and Interserve are the real reason for the cash crisis in our hospitals.

The Socialist Party would end our reliance on PFI, and kick out fat cats from our NHS, without any compensation. If capitalism is not willing to pay for decent healthcare, then it is not the NHS we cannot afford, it is this rotten economic system itself, which puts profits before people.

The Socialist Party stands for the complete renationalisation of NHS services and democratic control by workers and patients in the NHS. The NHS has had its funds frozen by the government, breaking promises made in 2010 that front-line staff would not be affected, and there would be no major top-down reorganisation of our hospitals – just before the government pushed through a major privatisation of services, seeing billions of pounds of funding going to the private sector. That money could instead be invested to meet the needs of the people of Leicester, but it is only going to happen if rapacious companies are kicked out of our public services for good. This would get rid of costly middle-men and reduce bureaucracy in our NHS.

Trade unions on July 10th, representing 1.5 million workers, are taking part in the biggest strike action since the pensions dispute of November 2011, in defence of members’ terms and conditions. We must pressurise the leadership of unions to keep up the pressure this time and refuse to climb down. Health workers have faced the same squeeze on our wages, with years of below-inflation pay rises, outsourcing and underfunding and therefore their unions also need to take part in joint strike action. It is difficult in a caring profession to abandon your job, but the reality is that the NHS will be destroyed unless we fight to keep it.

Support TUSC and join the Socialist Party to campaign to save our NHS services.

Don’t Let the Politicians Rip You Off – Vote TUSC!

April 11, 2014

The main parties are all the same – why we should support TUSC, from a supporter of TUSC in Coventry. So far around 500 candidates across the country have been nominated for TUSC. This represents the largest left-of-Labour electoral challenge since the Second World War.

Vote Socialist in Coventry May 22 2014

One of our supporters, Mike F from Wyken, wrote this piece about why he’s voting for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in May, and why he’s signed up to the Socialist Campaign Team:

Coventry TUSC protesting against council cuts Coventry TUSC protesting against council cuts

“Forget Labour and the Liberal Democrats, they both sing an all too similar tune to the Tories with their policies of humiliation to to the working class. They want you not to vote, it works out excellently for them, because they have plenty of rich supporters who very politically aware – they want to keep you underpaid, part of a vast reservoir of cheap labour for their companies.

Why the hell should the taxpayer have to subsidise businesses who refuse to pay a decent wage, despite making massive profits? They should pay a living wage – and pay their taxes too!

Oh yeah, they also have you thinking that you are infested…

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Lies, damn lies, greenwash and statistics

January 28, 2014

David Cameron commented on the recent British floods by saying that “he thought they were probably due to global warming”. While a single incidence of flooding is not in itself evidence of climate change, extreme weather events are becoming more and more common – the flooding in the UK has been linked to a cold snap across the Atlantic and a shift in the jet-stream, which has brought the stormiest month to Britain since 1969. It seems that meteorological records are being broken routinely, and there is evidence that the planet’s climate is changing.

While Cameron’s remarks are infinitely more helpful than the homophobia and ignorance of the UKIP councillor David Silvester, who blamed the floods on homosexuality, this rhetoric is not matched in terms of Conservative party policy. Why are the Tories pursuing fracking and nuclear power so aggressively? Why can’t the money being used to buy more nuclear power stations and give tax breaks to companies pursuing fracking instead be invested in developing renewable energy?

Of course, the reason is lobbying of politicians by energy companies with vested interests in keeping the status quo, of making as much profit as possible from the remaining fossil fuel resources, without regard for the long-term necessity to stop global warming. We need to get rid of career politicians and elect people who will stand up for our interests. In Britain, Labour, Lib Dems and Tories are all wedded to the system of capitalism. New Labour are no different; papers have been released showing collusion between Blair and Thatcher to keep the Conservative’s neo-liberal, privatisation agenda alive and well throughout Blair’s tenure. There is no sign that Milliband offers anything different.

The evidence for human-induced global warming is overwhelming. We have known of the principle behind global warming since 1896, when the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius first put forward the science behind the theory. The warning from our own solar system, of the danger of runaway global warming is stark – look at the uninhabitable surface of Venus. Capitalism has had 100 years to do something about this, yet in the face of the over-riding desire to create profit for a few, the result has been over-exploitation of the world’s natural resources. What little is being done, is far too late to make any difference now. The best case scenario, if we managed to convert to a 100% carbon neutral economy, is a 2°C rise in global temperatures by 2100. This would still be catastrophic, displacing millions of people and destroying ecosystems.

A more likely scenario, put forward by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which represents the scientific consensus, is that our world will warm by 4°C by the turn of the next century. However, this still entails a sea-change in policy and a willingness for global co-operation which is unprecedented. With every international conference – Kyoto, Copenhagen, Rio – the result has been a fudge, with countries seeking to shift the blame onto others and mitigate their own responsibility, rather then looking to actually address the problem.

So what is the solution? We need co-operation on an international scale. We need to put the control of the economy in the hands of workers, not politicians. We need to end the rule of profit, and replace this with democratic decision making worldwide, so that decisions can be made in the interests of the many, not the few. We need to elect leaders who are accountable to us, not big business.

The CWI (Committee for a Workers International) has organisations in around 50 countries worldwide. We have just recently elected representatives in the Canary Islands, Spain, as part of the United Left, and Kshama Sawant as Socialist Alternative in Seattle. We are standing Donal O’Cofaigh as a candidate on an anti-fracking position in Ireland. We are offering an alternative to corruption, sleaze and politicians squabbling and dithering over vital issues like the environment. We are growing as a political force and around the world, protesters are calling for change. However, leadership from traditional parties and right-wing trade unions is woefully lacking and time is short – we must build the socialist alternative.

In Britain, we are looking to stand as TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) in as many seats across the country in the forthcoming local elections to offer voters a democratic, socialist alternative to this market-driven madness. If you agree with us, please support our campaign, and consider standing yourself as a candidate.

Thirty years of hurt . . .

May 12, 2009

Thirty years of hurt (we’re fighting back) – apologies to the Lightning Seeds

Sadly it was 30 years ago that Thatcher was voted in to Number 10. The result was decimation of industry in Britain, mass unemployment, rioting and wealth for a select few at the cost of poverty for the vast majority of people.

New Labour have carried on where she left off, and Cameron would be no different. We may not have a mass working-class party yet, but the RMT’s No2EU Yes to Democracy campaign is a step in the right direction.

The main three parties only offer sleaze and corruption. We need a new party that is not going to join either the Westminster or Brussels gravy train and will stand up for ordinary people.