Labour - Nazis - Haiti - Situationists - Theatre
I'll vote in solidarity with my class
As an ex Labour Party member, the issue over the vote for New Labour seemed like a straightforward matter of principle and a week ago I was still adamant that I would not vote.
After reading the debate in Socialist Review I realise it is not straightforward at all ( Socialist Review, March 2010). The sense of anger and betrayal that Tony Blair has left as his legacy could well become his encore because he would have delivered us straight back into the lap of the Tories.
It is very difficult not to see a vote for New Labour as a vote for Blairites and for all the repugnant things they do in the name of Labour - it has been for me - but our vote was never given for them.
In 1997 our landslide vote was given to shake off 18 years of Tory abuses we thought we would never see the end of. It was a class vote and a call for change.
Those working class aspirations are still there and the class is still there. It's still a class vote but this time we will have learned we can expect no change from New Labour unless we fight hard for it ourselves.
I'll vote with my class and only through solidarity will we make our own change.
Let's raise awareness
The Labour Party will continue to ignore the left and continue to move to the right unless it worries about losing that vote. So supporting Labour is counter-productive ( Socialist Review, March 2010).
There is also a question of raising political awareness - the electorate hearing other points of view than those of neoliberals and breaking the political hegemony. The only hope of this happening is if the two major parties get less and less votes - either vote for another party or not at all.
We should be actively supporting electoral reform to obtain the above.
We can't vote Labour
Peter Crack is absolutely correct to ask the question what happens next time if there is still not a socialist alternative to Labour ( Socialist Review, March 2010). As long as socialists content themselves with "holding their noses" the urgency to provide the working class with a realistic socialist choice will be dimmed.
The working class of this country are in desperate need of a voice to defend them now, not in four years time, ten years time, or whenever. The threat to the working class has not been greater since the early Thatcher years.
It makes little difference which party will win the general election. There are going to be cuts in public services, redundancies, and further privatisation of the NHS and other key public services such as education as the incoming government makes the working class pay for the billions spent on the rescue of the capitalist system.
If the Tories should win the election perhaps more protest will be needed, but at least the trade unions are less reticent to take action against their traditional foe.
Lenin was scathing about those parties who make grand resolutions when seeking support from the working class, but when in power succumb to pressure from the ruling classes and fail to follow up these grandiose statements. If the working class really is still at the heart of the Labour Party then the workers should claim the party back from the petty bourgeoisie who have infiltrated it over the last 20 years.
Our energies need to be completely devoted to building a socialist alternative to represent the working class in this country!
Unity is central
It's no surprise that the Nazi BNP chose Barking and Dagenham to focus their election effort - and a weak and discredited Labour party has a lot to do with it. However, in the run-up to the general election, some of the severest aspects of a combined economic and political crisis will come to a bitter collision here.
In this case, it is not the role of revolutionary socialists to disengage from the social democrats or the parliamentary process (Feedback, Socialist Review, March 2010). This would be a fatal mistake. We must unite with anti-fascists and talk to people not simply about who they might vote for but also about organising a fightback.
But backing Labour is not simply a strategy about keeping the fascists out. Revolutionaries have united with Labour Party members and others over the years in many campaigns like Stop the War - this unity is central to an understanding that it's not a revolutionary vanguard by itself that will force change upon the world.
Undoubtedly, a Labour government will mean cuts and attacks on swathes of the working class. But if we cut ourselves off from arguments and forces larger than ourselves we lose any hope of influencing the change that is so urgently needed.
Barking & Dagenham UAF organiser (pc)
Never forget the Nazis
The failure of the mainstream parties to capture the support of the electorate is pushing people to support the far-right policies of the BNP (Feature, Socialist Review, March 2010).
I find myself forever in conflict with colleagues and friends who are influenced by the right wing press on issues relating to immigration and the welfare state. Educated people, who in the past sympathised with the plight of people seeking asylum, are now scapegoating asylum seekers.
We are living in a crucial time. Stop this sway to the right or we may well live to regret it. Remember the Nazis? Well then, don't forget.
Stockton on Tees
The presidents' role
While Socialist Review's coverage of the earthquake in Haiti was largely relevant in a journalistic sense, there were, sadly, portions that served as a mere continuation of propaganda on the subject of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (Feature, Socialist Review, February 2010). Mike Gonzalez referred to Aristide's second presidential term (post-first coup) as "at best inefficient and at worst corrupt", the story commonly told by mainstream media sources.
This sentiment ignores the perpetual aggressive role that the US has played in the "government of Haiti", whoever the "elected official", since the first Marine invasion of the island in 1915.
With Aristide still exiled in South Africa after repeated requests to return to his country, the US has instead sent former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush II to run the show. Both were responsible for forcing neoliberal policies that have devastated the economy and contributed to the widening gap between rich and poor; both backed repressive military coups that killed thousands of people.
To be fair, only one is currently the star of a YouTube video which depicts him shaking the hand of a Haitian, only to then wipe it on the other president's shirt.
Clinton has apologised publicly for disastrous "structural adjustments" which fundamentally destroyed the agricultural system of Haiti. This did not stop him, however, from announcing the continuation of precisely the same policies. Haitian economic priorities were, are, and always will be based on the Haitians' remarkable ability to be used as a cheap labour source for goods meant for the US market. Translation: cheap Disney t-shirts.
Forget the Situationists
Why does Socialist Review perpetuate the myth that Situationism "played a significant role in the great events of May 1968 in France" (Books, Socialist Review, March 2010)? The Situationists had a negligible influence among students and few, if any, of the 10 million workers who struck and occupied had ever heard of them.
In June 1968 de Gaulle's government banned a number of revolutionary groups. The Situationists were not included - doubtless nobody had noticed them. Nonetheless they immediately fled to Brussels, while the real left got on with the job of rebuilding their organisations. So much for "rage and desire".
The Situationists were cowards and charlatans. Forget them.
The West End is a dead end
Jack Farmer's round-up of 2009 theatre, in concentrating on plays in the West End, is only partial and lacks context (Culture, Socialist Review, January 2010). As Lucy Prebble says, the West End aims at a middle class audience - after all, look at the price of the tickets! To look for political theatre there is absurd.
Thirty years ago one of the first of Margaret Thatcher's cuts was funding to socialist theatre companies such as Belt and Braces. Small-scale touring theatre companies were massacred.
Though the grants were tiny in comparison to those given to the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, they had been enough to allow such companies to take plays to deprived areas, schools, hospitals and workplaces. Their styles were often innovative and daring and fed much mainstream theatre. Well known actors and playwrights first performed or wrote for some of them and some of their productions transferred to the West End or to the National Theatre.
The funding cuts meant companies collapsed, with the loss of many talented actors, dancers, designers and writers.
The cuts have not stopped. At the beginning of 2008 the Arts Council announced another round of cuts. In East Anglia this would have meant the loss of a major touring theatre company, a very good one which deals with political and social issues: Eastern Angles.
They were also proposing cuts to the Norwich Puppet Theatre and the organisation which booked touring plays from other areas, Creative Arts East. The salary of the Arts Council officer was far more than the salaries of those workers who were providing the services, and in fact was more than the cut in the grant to Eastern Angles.
But these organisations fought back, as did their audiences, organising a large demo in Norwich and writing to MPs and the Arts Council itself.
The protests managed to save the first two companies, although the funding was reduced. Sadly, Creative Arts East lost its Arts Council support although it has managed to get grants from other sources. If we want political theatre, or good theatre of any kind, we can't look to the commercial West End for it. We must support small companies, often local, who are struggling on tiny budgets, and campaign for better funding for them.