Saturday, 9 February 2013
Standing on the shoulders of giants
From the moment I could read I was sure that capitalism would collapse.I was what Americans call a 'red diaper baby'.My family and all their friends were members or supporters of the Communist Party.
Our family were the 'reds in the village', our daily paper was 'The Daily Worker' and on Sunday we got 'Reynolds News'(the Co-op paper)I was the only kid in the village who didn't get The Sunday Post'.
Any Scot will tell you that the Dundee published Sunday Post is the heartbeat of mawkish sentimental Scotland.It combines a Presbyterian prudishness with a shortbread tin vision of Scotland.
it's ill named fun section had creatures who never existed in the real Scotland. Eejits who used words like'jings' and'crivvens' and 'help ma boab'.
many of my relatives up there thought I had a deprived childhood, others thought I had a depraved childhood!
The Communist Party in the 1950's was a secure sort of place,we were cocooned in our belief system that we were the winning side, that Uncle Joe had it right and the innate superiority of the Soviet Union would justify everything.
Trouble was being in the party was a bit like being an exclusive brotherhood, a bit like a cult.
With the Khrushchev speech in 1956 the certainties started to fade,maybe we had got it wrong.
There was always the Trotskyite alternatives, if Stalin-ism was the problem, then maybe its polar opposite was the answer, and as we all knew capitalism was certainly doomed .
I found many of the Trotskyite sects alarming, they seemed dour and grim faced, and in truth their papers had all the attraction of a damp day in Skegness.The worst was the SLL that later became the WRP the grouplet led by Gerry Healy and paid for by the Redgrave's and a bunch of dodgy middle east states.
Whilst in Hackney YCL we came across Tony Cliff and his wife Chaimie Rosenberg, the founders of International Socialism that morphed into the SWP.
They were the most charismatic and generous ideologues I ever met, Cliff was a fiercely intelligent Marxist who welcomed discussion and debate and was always stimulating.
I might easily have fallen into the arms of IS, but the siren call of Maoism and the Red Guards convinced me that the revolution was only days,if not hours away and there really wasn't time for slow enterism of the Labour Party.
Why waste time in a petty bourgeois excuse of a party when we were already collecting hammers and nails for the street barricades!
Well the day has gone, communism collapsed in Eastern Europe and the USSR, China has reverted to a state capitalist economy(Cliff was right about that) and the old battle between Stalin-ism and Trotskyism is as dead as a dodo,or at least Uncle Joe.
But capitalism is now in it's death throws, and Marx was absolutely right.Yet the left has disintegrated!
The SWP is falling apart like every other cult, and is following the route of the WRP.
The Labour Party is now a hollowed out shell for careerists and as the crisis develops can only urge its supporters to 'go out and listen' It is not much better than the cults on the far left and has replaced any vision it once had with a lust for power at all costs.'Never mind the quality feel the width'.
Yet I believe that there is something stirring once again, and it's not the Neanderthal UKIP bunch.There is a political force starting to build again, from the bottom up, centred in issues not personalities and looking at the bigger picture.
Right now it is inchoate, a directonless movement,sometimes ranting on the pavements,occupying buildings and wearing silly masks.
But there is something stirring, people are starting to look once again at the trade union movement.Not in the old craft way,or as organisations based in factories and workshops, but rather as organisations rooted in communities,representing not a trade or a profession,but rather a class.
The most exciting development has been the emergence of the Community membership of Unite.It is bringing the organisation and strength of trade unions to people in desperate need as capitalism bites into their living standards in the most brutal way.It defends the unemployed,the tenant,the patient,the pensioner,the homeless and the disaffected youth of our land.
I see a red sun rising,and as parties become increasingly irrelevant I( see a new giant emerging, to stand on the shoulders of those who went before.
And who knows, out of community trade unionism a new political movement might emerge, perhaps it's time to look for my hammer and nails!