Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Videos from IS Network Marxism Fringe Meeting posted by Richard Seymour

The IS Network website has posted videos of last weekend's fringe meeting at Marxism 2013.  Well worth watching all, including the audience discussion.

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More Bad News Gospel posted by Richard Seymour

Apparently, tomorrow's stats will show forty one straight months of wage contraction in the UK.

The ONS also said earlier this month that 91% of days lost to strike action were over pay - but also that the level of industrial action was the lowest since a historic low in 2005, just 250,000 days lost, and that over 75% of such strikes last no longer than a single day.

The impact of such strikes on profits is likely to be negligible - not just because most such strikes will be in the public sector.  In the US, the Bureau of Labour Statistics counts the percentage of total working time lost to stoppages. In recent years, it's so low, below 0.005%, that they don't even bother calculating it accurately.  If the same calculations were done in the UK, it would probably be a similar plop in the ocean.  The ruling class is winning this massively.

Get used to this. Any talk of a 'vanguard' or a 'rank and file' as anything other than a distant aspiration in today's situation is frankly delusional.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

"There's never been a better time to be a socialist" posted by Richard Seymour

And other comforting lies:

My brief talk from last night's meeting on European left parties organised by the IS Network, Socialist Resistance, and the Anticapitalist Initiative.

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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Neoliberalism and austerity politics posted by Richard Seymour

My talk from Socialism 2013 is now online.

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Monday, July 08, 2013

SWP opposition statement posted by Richard Seymour

Following yet another crack down on the opposition by the SWP's central committee - this one abysmally timed and pitched - the opposition has cohered around a statement which deserves support:

The SWP’s National Committee met on Sunday 7 July 2013 and voted by 26-6 to suspend four comrades and make wider moves to shut down any organised opposition to the party leadership. This move is a smokescreen. It is a deliberate attempt by the leadership to escalate the crisis rather than address the critical problems facing the party.
The state of the party today testifies to the poor quality of the Central Committee’s political judgement. At each stage since the complaints of sexual predation against Martin Smith first came to light, the CC has decided upon actions that have exacerbated the situation and deepened the polarisation within our organisation.
Over 400 people have resigned their party membership since January. Attendance at the Marxism festival looks set to be half that of last year. Significant sections of the left are boycotting the event in horror at the leadership’s actions. The overwhelming majority of our student members have left, and there is no strategy to rectify this situation. Over 15 party workers have resigned their positions since January – or been sacked.
Urgent action needs to be taken if we are to avoid the total collapse of our organisation. The latest decisions advanced by the CC and agreed at NC demonstrate beyond any doubt that the party’s leadership would rather shut down political debate by using crude disciplinary measures than engage with the very serious political questions this crisis has exposed. This is despite the CC’s own declaration in January that “members of the SWP are of course free to discuss face-to-face or online and … to get together to seek the outcomes that they want to achieve”.
The appalling handling of the second complaint against Martin Smith – complaints that he sexually harassed a party worker reporting directly to him – further demonstrate the complete failure of the party leadership to put our politics on women’s oppression into practice.
The leadership’s first reaction was to deny that a second woman had come forward. Then they turned to delaying tactics, stringing the complaint out for over four months with a series of contradictory excuses. The disputes committee twice refused to hear the case. Under pressure they have now offered a hearing, subject to certain conditions, and are presenting this as an adequate resolution to the whole issue.
We demand the following immediate measures as a first step towards acknowledging the seriousness of this crisis and beginning to redress it:
● the four suspensions must be immediately lifted
● end all disciplinary threats against dissident members 
● open up the pre-conference discussion period now
In the meantime all remaining party workers who support the SWP opposition have resigned from their positions in solidarity with the four victimised comrades. We refuse to fall silent and allow the leadership to continue on a course that will destroy our party. We urge the central committee to step back before it is too late.

200 comrades have signed thus far.

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Socialism 2013 posted by Richard Seymour

Now, I am - as you know - a humble, repressed small town boy from the rugged wilds of Ulster, unlettered in the ways of big cities and far off places.  But this year, I was invited to speak at the ISO's Socialism 2013 event in Chicago.  I mean, the place where Kenan & Kel was set, right?  Imagine how much of my childhood and adolescence unspooled before my eyes as the plane descended over those glittering big city towers.

I actually didn't see that much of the city.  I spent most of the time there immersed in the event, and talking to ISO members (and others from Solidarity and international organisations, as well as departees from the Canadian IS) over coffee - or rather talking at them hyperactively until their eyes glazed over and they hared off in the direction of the bar.  Still, I have a few observations.

1) I made a speech, based on a forthcoming article which was all about embracing revolutionary pessimism, and breaking from habits formed by erroneous boosterish perspectives.  I hope the audio will be online soon, because it is the first time I've given a speech where I was so warmly received - literally, whooping (for shit's sake) - and so widely disagreed with.

2) Of the sessions I managed to attend, the notable thing was the lack of a set of 'lines'.  I know ISO members who are straightforwardly 'state cap', others who are 'bureaucratic collectivist'.  I know members who are 'Political Marxists', others who are more orthodox - none who are althusserian or poulantzian, but I'm working on this.  This is a far more diverse ecology inside one organisation than I have been used to, and it was reflected in the event.  Sam Farber's discussion on class, for example, drawing from Hal Draper's work, was certainly heterodox from a 'state cap' point of view.  And, while there was debate, there were none of those 'interventions' by seasoned party-line managers to correct the heresy.  Well, apart from me.

3) Very similar debates happening in the US as on this side of the Atlantic.  Ahmed Shawki's keynote speech on 'Perspectives for the Left' was striking for expressing, in stark terms, the kind of sharp break with past lines of thinking that we are embarking on.  Specifically, it repudiated mistaken perspectives coming from the 1980s and 1990s which attempted to deny the dynamism of neoliberal capitalism and insisted that the generational rupture separating socialists from newly radicalising layers can only be overcome by abandoning the sect model of organising with pre-determined lines.  More generally, there was a discussion of issues which most of the revolutionary left has tended to ignore in the past - intersectionality, for instance.

4) The International Socialist Network, which had two speakers present (China and myself), a couple of members present as observers, and one member there under his own steam, was very well received.  Trust me.  It isn't normal that you get up to speak, say what organisation you're from, and people immediately start applauding.  Groaning is far more common.  ISO members have been immensely supportive, but one didn't quite know how much they were cheering us on.

5) The Socialism event is always a bit pumped up, or so I am led to believe.  But this event was in tremendous ferment.  Partly, it was because of the star of the show.  Glenn Greenwald's excellent speech, talking about Edward Snowden and the NSA revelations, broadcast via Skype, was a bit of history in itself.  It resulted in the event 'trending' on Twitter for a while, which is mankind's first objective metric of what is 'historic' and what is not.  But partly I get the sense that debates which are opening up inside the ISO - about feminism, about organisation, about Leninism, about the relationship between class and oppression, and so on - are a source of energy and optimism, not a threat.  Imagine that.

Long story short, Chicago isn't what I remembered from Kenan & Kel - in fact, for some reason I thought it was also where I would bump into Cagney & Lacey, no? - but I totally want to go back.  Awesome, as the Americans say with bewildering frequency.  Awesome to the max.

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