Archive for March, 2011

Arnold Feldman 1922 – 1977

March 30, 2011 1 comment

A very short obituary of Arnold Feldman, taken from Solidarity: For Workers’ Power, Vol. 8 No. 6 (April 1977)

Arnold Feldman died suddenly on Tuesday, April 19, 1977 of a heart attack, at the age of 55.

Arnold had been active in politics for many years. Towards the end of the war he had been active in the RAF, as an electrician, in the great agitation concerned with repatriation and demobilisation. Like his long-standing friend Joe Jacobs he was for a while influenced by Trotskyism but soon saw through it and moved instinctively to libertarian socialist ideas. He worked for a while in the tailoring trade, and then as a traveller.

He played a very active and positive role in the great London tenants’ struggles of the late 1960’s. The experience left a deep imprint on him.

In 1970 Arnold joined the London Solidarity group and between then and the moment of his death he was deeply involved in every aspect of the life of the group. Always cheerful, always kind and considerate (even during th emost heated arguments), fond of music, and a great raconteur (often of outrageous jokes), he was the sort of person everyone liked.

A year ago he underwent major cardiac surgery and his courage and cheerfulness during the whole ordeal were an inspiration to all. We shall miss him greatly.

‘this is only the beginning.’ but of what? – Commune leaflet for 26 march

March 26, 2011 Leave a comment

This is our leaflet for 26 March. Download a PDF here or read the front page article below.

Read more…

Solidarity National Group Ballot Paper

March 19, 2011 1 comment

What’s the alternative – SPGB leaflet for March 2011 TUC demo

March 18, 2011 1 comment

“What’s the alternative?” As capitalism remains mired in crisis, and criticisms of the system become more commonplace and compelling, expect to hear this question asked more and more. It is often used politically and rhetorically – because every sensible person is supposed to know the answer. The idea that “There Is No Alternative”, or TINA, is one of Thatcher’s enduring political legacies. It will often be asserted angrily in political debate, which is revealing. No one feels the need to angrily assert the truth of the law of gravity. No one, then, should feel the need to angrily assert the fact that there is no alternative if there isn’t one. They do because there is.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has organised this national demonstration against the government’s spending cuts. It has been called a ‘March For The Alternative’. Which sounds great. At last, after decades of ‘TINA’, an alternative! Unfortunately, the TUC’s alternative looks much the same as ‘business as usual’. The alternative, according to them, is ‘Jobs, growth, justice’. This is indistinguishable from what every political party in this country, whether of the left or right, promises every election time. We should not be too surprised by this. The TUC, like all trade unions, exists to win a better deal for wage-slaves. This is a laudable aim, and we support it. But we do not just want to win a better deal for wage-slaves. We want to abolish slavery. We are wage-slavery abolitionists. As one socialist famously put it, we ought not to exaggerate to ourselves what these trade-union struggles and demonstrations and ‘actions’ can achieve. “We ought not to be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerrilla fights incessantly springing up from the never ceasing encroachments of capital or changes of the market.” Instead,
we need to organise for something new.

That was Marx in 1865. Unfortunately, his advice has been mostly ignored, including by those counting themselves as his followers, ever since. In the words of the linguist and social critic Noam Chomsky, “the effort to overcome ‘wage-slavery’ [has] been going on since thebeginnings of the industrial revolution, [and] we haven’t advanced an
inch. In fact, we’re worse off than we were a hundred years ago in terms
of understanding the issues.”

Chomsky is right, and it’s the reason we in The Socialist Party devote so much of our time and energy to promoting an understanding of the issues. We seem, in fact, to be the only political organisation in this country to take this task at all seriously.

The alternative, then, is not the amelioration of our suffering under the wages system. It is the abolition of modern slavery – the emancipation of labour. Under slavery, you are sold to a master once and for all. Under wage slavery, you hire yourself out by the hour or the week or the month. The basic relationship between master and slave has not changed. We need to get rid of the master, take the means of making a living under our collective ownership and control, and organise our own lives, democratically, and on the basis of freely organised, freely given work.
In a word, the alternative is Socialism.

The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.

Tel: 0207 622 3811. Email:

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Solidarity and the Swamp: Up to Our Eyes and Sinking (Class and consciousness)

March 17, 2011 1 comment

I don’t know what the heck this it about.

What differentiates Solidarity from the traditional left is the insight that the consciousness of the working class becomes revolutionary only when it is no longer imposed from the outside. But in recent months there has been little sign that either this insight or this differentiation are taken seriously any more. Only the indiscriminate use of the word “we” has been able to provide any semblance of general agreement within the group.

Where the perspective of class has not been totally absent – as in hollow statements about the universality of one form of oppression or another – we have been treated to definitions of class and consciousness which owe more to theoretical speculation than t any observation of social events. Nowhere is there any conception of everyday resistance to capital being implicitly socialist and potentially revolutionary. Socialism, if we are to believe the latest pronouncements, is now to be a matter of “the way people relate to each other”. Political discussion has been reduced to a series of moralistic propositions about personal conduct.

The present insistence on small workshop groups intended to solicit the fullest possibly participation does not derive from any mistaken notion of self-activity. It answers to the sense of exclusion suffered by radical intellectuals who find themselves deprived of any social anchorage and so attempt to construct an artificial identity by using the group as a crutch. Introspection, allied to a dogmatic assertion of the general validity of personal experience, is accompanied by anxious glances in the direction of “consciousness-raising” groups, irrespective of their political colouration, aims and practices.

The end result is not merely a failure to make the crucial distinction between what is personal and what is social and public, but also an equally debilitating avoidance of argument. Debate now means no more than a frenetic search for areas of agreement and an endorsement of attitude which alternate between patronage and sycophancy. And this has resulted in accusations of oppressive behaviour and bad faith in place of any political response to attempts to challenge the ideas and assumptions underlying this egocentrism, despite the fact that many of these ideas have been borrowed uncritically from groups still seeped in leninist practices. It comes as no surprise that debate has been replaced by a ritualized evocation of oppressions, real or imagined, since to challenge a person’s ideas is now held to be an assault on the personality. A stultifying atmosphere has been created in which certain forms of expression and activity (notably formulas of support for and agreement with any opposition to “sex-roles conditioning”) comprise of a new orthodoxy, and all ideas which pay lip-service to it are accepted as equally valid and equally inviolable.

It is not our intention to issue a call for ideological purity. But it is necessary to challenge the dubious assumptions which support prevalent notions of personalized politics, since their practical result has been an abandonment of any revolutionary perspective rooted i the social realities of class domination. What we find instead is the cerebral prescription of “emancipated” consciousness, itself merely an extension of alienation, although in a form to which the enlightened can give their assent.

Consciousness is not the monopoly of small groups, the be manufactured in isolation from the class struggle; it is both a component and a product of social (and not personal) relations which can be understood only in class terms. The whole spectrum of neurosis, anxiety, guilt, self-censorship, and privatised solutions are social manifestations resulting from sacrifice and submission in pursuit or defence of class (and sectional) interest. And it is in these terms that the present avoidance of political debate within Solidarity must be seen.

The proponents of personalized politics have recently introduced several amendments to “As we see it”, apparently with the intention of eviscerating its content. As a gesture of their disillusionment with revolutionary socialism, their action gives eloquent testimony to the present uncertainties and divisions within the group. Yet it is difficult to see how these can usefully be discussed, let alone resolved, as long as we are offered unsubstantiated and insistent assertions in place of reasoned argument.

Bill Beveridge
Paul Gordon
Dave Lamb
Keith Millar
Peter Silock
George Williamson

2 July 1979

Reply to ‘Now we see it, now we don’t’

March 15, 2011 2 comments

The document found below was handwritten by a Solidarity member based in Leeds. It was hard to decipher and unreadable sections are represented by square brackets. One of the square brackets represents an occasion where I could not read my own handwriting…

The above document takes a typical either/or attitude. It appears that one must either be locally involved (primarily out with the groups activities) or do nothing else. Let’s look at the facts and the real situation.
In Glasgow, apart from one member, very active in a capacity and with the groups [????].

In London, the groups is very [] towards publishing, but there are several [] involved in external [] and [] one being the car industry.
Throughout the country – Edinburgh, Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, Coventry, Exeter, Lancaster are people very active in local groups and among them are some who want to contribute to Solidarity’s[…. …………….. ].

Isolation makes it a [] on the London activities

When Glasgow refuse to participate they can hardly complain when reports on internal meetings go out without their consultation.
Those who can complain are those who are willing to participate.

Solidarity (Glasgow) – Now we see it, now we don’t

March 12, 2011 3 comments

An ‘open’ letter so Solidarity (London)

We would like to express our deep concern at recent trends in the ‘Solidarity’ movement and at the implications these have for all involved in libertarian revolutionary politics.

There was something in the tone of the report on the National Solidarity meeting (in Sol. Vol.7No.6) which makes it important for everyone concerned to understand what is happening to Solidarity. While we know very little about the political views of the four people who are reported to have left the group at the meeting, we were appalled at the way they were discussed in the report. Apart from questioning the reasons for Solidarity washing its dirty underwear in public, which it hasn’t done in the past, a reader of the report would have great difficulty in understanding what brought about the disagreements or in learning anything about the views of the ‘four’. The report is reminiscent of the ‘denunciations the Stalinist press have always used against their ‘enemies’.

What is absurd in the report are the suggestions that a few people constituted themselves into a ‘Marxist faction’ and that (1) “they had gone to the wrong shop and bought the wrong goods” and that (2) “they entered a group hoping to win over some of its members”. These statements reveal much that is wrong with Solidarity’s politics and may help to explain why many more then four have moved away from Solidarity in the last year or so.

(1) The first statement entails the idea of politics as a kind of SUPERMARKET ………….. that socialist ideas are a commodity displayed on shelves to be bought or ignored by the public at large. If people don’t like them, they can go elswhere …..which is the standard capitalist answer to the problem of ‘choice’ Solidarity’s political practice seems to reflect this in its concentration on selling ideas rather than becoming involved in political struggle. “As We See it” for instance as a main statement of Solidarity’s ideas, fails entirely to outline any suggestions for political activity for revolutionaries. Instead it leaps straight from Point 4 which correctly states that workers must control their own struggles to Point 5 which describes Solidarity’s view of established socialism. How we get from one to the other is not discussed. The question is barely touched on in Points 6, 7 and 8 which reinforce the idea of “autonomous self management”… as a means of achieving political consciousness. The only task Solidarity seems to see for those revolutionaries who do become politically conscious is that of producing a newspaper or magazine in which revolutionary ideas as presented as a commodity.
While much Solidarity activity is concerned which commenting on events and writing about ideas, individual members are involved in political activity …. or at least some are. But the publications give us little guide to this. Most reports on political and industrial struggles are from the sidelines. Solidarity is almost, one might say “about the struggle” and thus is able to take a rather self righteous attitude to activists who appear to compromise their ideological purity by getting involved.
(2) The second statement suggests that the four comrades had entered Solidarity to win over others. This shows how static Solidarity’s view of political theory has become. The report implies that revolutionaries take up fixed ideological positions which cannot change and that Solidarity’s views are the final correct, be-all and end-all of revolutionary theory. It seems to rule out the possibility that people are attracted to Solidarity’s ideas, have become politicised by them but then become aware of further problems to which Solidarity does not provide a satisfactory answer. The issue of intervention has been mentioned, but there are others. An attempt to find answers to such problems requires an actively critical approach to all ideas including those of Cardan as well as those of Marx. The ‘four’ for all we know, may have moved ‘backwards’ to some for of outdated Marxism, but how are we [to] know from the unfair sniping in ‘Solidarity’.

The Solidarity report tells us that the ‘four’ produced a document which is “hectoring, nit picking and a systematic misrepresentation”. This is Solidarity thinking for us ……so much for political self consciousness. How can we form an opinion when the document in question is not published in all or part and we are not told where we can get hold of a copy. If anyone is hectoring is would seem to be Solidarity. The report seems a worthy successor to the pamphlet “Solidarity and the neo Narodniks” which provided a hysterical denunciation of the Big Flame group some time ago.

In the last couple of years Solidarity seems to have become more sectarian and rigid. It seems no longer able to genuinely debate questions which remain unsolved for many libertarian revolutionaries. By its inordinate stress on the ideas of Cardan, Solidarity has hampered meaningful theoretical development. By its stress on remaining aloof and being unwilling to discuss in any depth the issues of intervention, Solidarity has hampered the development of political action.

So much debate on the left takes place in the form of shadow boxing on declared or implied ‘positions’, rhetoric or lables. Concern with rhetoric can become so great that a group can stop thinking critically about its own political practice. We believe that this has to some extent happened to Solidarity. In this out own group in Glasgow has been as much at fault as any other.
What then is the answer to the question of political practice? We don’t pretend to have the complete answer. But one thing is certain, it should involve more than producing a newspaper or magazine which is just a commodity on the left wing market.

The first principle of political practice should be to work primarily in your own locality. That sounds rather obvious but for revolutionaries rushing from one national meeting to the next debating issues of which they have little experience, concerned with issues of administration and bureaucracy, it is a point which must be forcibly made. We must start from where we are – at work in our neighborhood, in all the agonising ‘non-political’ activities in out own districts. In this way we can build up a network of contacts, come to some understanding of the present consciousness of ordinary people and spread revolutionary ideas by both word of mouth and publications. In this way publications can have a meaning for people because we can discuss the contents with them rather than trying to impersonally sell them as a commodity.

We should also make contacts with people involved in particular struggles strikes, occupations etc. To have a hang up about intervention is to nullify one as a revolutionary. It is necessary to become involved, not just hanging about at the factory gates. To accept the rejection as outsiders by trade unionists is to accept their bureaucratic and divisive attitudes.

Many revolutionaries will say they agree with all this, but add that a national organisation is needed to keep in touch, to share experiences and make wider links. This is of course necessary, but it is useless as a substitute for local action. However much care and discussion goes into finding the right kind of machinery for such an organisation, it will be useless unless built on genuine commitment and involvement of local groups. The national organisation can bring people together to help develop political theory, but only if the organisation consists of people who are prepared to think critically, to honestly generalise from their political experience, to take part in genuine debate aimed at better understanding. Such a national organisation can forge links between local activists and help them learn from others, but only if the members are actively involved in their own areas.

The tragedy of the present situation in ‘Solidarity’ is that some people are involved in local activity which they keep separate from their membership of the Solidarity group. As libertarians it is essential to promote our ideas in political situations and in the way we work ourselves. It isn’t enough to talk of ‘workers councils’ as the magic solution to all revolutionary problems. Workers’ councils ( or people’s councils ) will have to be built from the local level by people taking matters into their own hands. National political groups dominated from London ( even if the say their members groups are autonomous ) will conflict with this way of doing things. They will merely reinforce peoples’ existing acceptance of the idea that they should do what our leaders …those in the ‘centre’ tell us. We have to sow the idea of working collectively where we are and then linking up. There is on point in forming a national org ( or taking power at a national level _ and then hoping to generate local activity or support. It is so easy for revolutionaries to form part of a tiny fraternity of people on a national or world wide basis talking to each other, and much harder to work with people who have different ideas ….but who may live next door. But it is the latter who have to be politicised if the task of giving ‘revolutionary proletarian consciousness an explicitly socialist consciousness’ is to be fulfilled.

In thinking about our own future development as a group we believe that in order to be effective we must develop out politics in out own locality. In doing this we still hope to contribute to and learn from the experiences of other on a national basis. At present however, the national organisation of the Solidarity ‘movement’ as well as its ideas, attitudes and practice, would actually be an impediment to genuine political work.

We see no possibility in changing its structure and attitudes at the moment, indeed such change would not be possible until a number of active and viable local groups were in existence. We decided, therefore, that while remaining together as a political group. We must withdraw from the Solidarity movement. We hope our reasons are obvious from the criticisms we have made. In withdrawing we do not with to dissociate ourselves with everything that Solidarity is or from all the people who make it up. Solidarity has given us a basis from which we hope to move on. We have taken the trouble to describe out views at length in the hope that we may get some response from other people who have had to face similar problems and also to try and get others to think critically about future plans for ‘Solidarity’.

May 1973