30 March 2021
Dave Hill examines the fragmented nature of the revolutionary left in England and looks to Greece for a different way of organising.
The Disorganised Left
It is not a startling revelation to note that the revolutionary Marxist Left is fragmented in England.
Some comrades remain in the Labour Party, though tens of thousands of left social democrats and revolutionary Marxists have left in response to Kier Starmer’s rightwards gallop, many being `investigated, suspended, or expelled. Some of those remaining in the Labour Party are members of the Labour Left Alliance (I am also a member). The LLA nationally focuses on internal machinations, on maintaining and trying to build socialist (revisionist and Marxist) resistance to the Right in the Labour Party. Around a third of the national Organising Committee are affiliated with/ members of the CPGB (Communist Party of Great Britain)/ `Weekly Worker’ group practicing entrism, around a third are left social democrats with the Labour Party.
Other revolutionary Marxists, those outside the Labour Party and in most cases also outside the Labour Left Alliance, are in an alphabet soup of parties and groups, each with their own programmes, leaderships, traditions, forms of internal party organisation ranging from democratic centralism to exhaustive individual members’ democracy), histories, triumphs and tragedies. These include the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Party, Socialist Alternative, RS21, CPB (Communist Party of Britain/ `Morning Star’), Socialist Resistance- and now, ACR, the (in effect) merger of Socialist Resistance and Mutiny.
And yet others have given up, or refused to participate in party organisation and activism such as electoralism/ parliamentarism and put their efforts into social and solidarity movements such as XR, Black Lives Matter, Acorn, and/ or, into Trade Union work.
Should we in A*C.R or LLA for that matter, try to bring Revolutionary anti-capitalist Marxists together in an organisational, collaborative way? In addition to the spontaneous or short-term or medium-term planned direct actions in which we have come together over the decades- from short-term actions such as the Battle of Cable Street in 1936 to the more medium-term actions of the Anti-Nazi League of the 1970s and 1980s to the Poll Tax Rebellion of the late 1980s /early 1990s to the current `Kill The Bill’ (opposition to the current draconian, repressive, Police and Crime Bill) resulting this week in demonstrations in Bristol, London, Brighton- and throughout the country.
How to Organise the Revolutionary Left
If it is desirable to bring seasoned revolutionary Marxist activists together in an organised form, extending beyond joint street actions/ demonstrations of a short term nature, or umbrella organisations (such as the Anti-Nazi League) of a medium-term nature, then how should we organise?
At the national LLA (Labour Left Alliance, which has 2,300 `supporters’) conference on 22-23 August 2020, I proposed a form of organisation based on that of Antarsya, the revolutionary Marxist coalition in Greece, as a form of Organisation for a Coalition/ Federation/ Grouping/ Type of United Front in England and Wales. Here are some details about Antarsya currently, updated as of this week, some figures are approximations.
Organisational Form- membership either through affiliated / member parties/ groups, or individual membership
Within the Antarsya Coalition in Greece, membership is on an individual basis. Party Members and independent comrades all have to apply for membership in Antarsya. Party Members, eg of the Greek Socialist Workers Party (SEK) or our Fourth International comrades in OKDE-Spartakos, for example, are not automatically members of Antarsya. They have to apply for membership to their local Antarsya branch.
In Antarsya, the composition of membership is such that no one group/party over dominates, none has a majority of votes at the national conference.
The ability of one group or party to over dominate, or, to have veto power over decision making was the major problem with the Socialist Alliance and TUSC in England and Wales, with Syriza in Greece, and with the United Left Alliance in Ireland.
Prior to the 2015 general election in Greece, the largest party/ organisation within Syriza wasSynaspismos, the ex-Eurocommunist party led by Alexis Tsipras. It had a majority inside Syriza and instructed its constituent parties/ organisations to dissolve. Transitioning from a coalition to a unified party. This was a key organisational problem for Syriza. It is a problem from which Antarsya does not suffer. Within Antarsya no one party/ organisation over dominates.
Antarsya in Greece has individual membership. Membership in one of the coalition parties and groups- such as OKDE-Spartakos, NAR, SEK, ARIS, EKKE, does not automatically imply membership in Antarsya. The constituent groups maintain their own party organisation, be it democratic centralism or exhaustive individual membership democracy, programme, leadership, traditions, meetings. There are also local Antarsya branches (which meet), the Antarsya national conference, an Antarsya identity.
In Antarsya, an effort is made to have unanimous decisions otherwise decisions are taken by a 2/3 majority. At every level, from the local branch to the PCB to the National Committee, decisions are taken by 2/3 majority when non-unanimous.
Antarsya does not function with democratic centralism.
Constituent Groups within Antarsya
I am including this information about Antarsya and Syriza in Greece to demonstrate that the heterogeneity of the UK/ English revolutionary Marxist Left need be no barrier to a United Front organisation of one type or another. For information, the constituent groups in Antarsya as of 2020 were as follows:
NAR (New Left Current) the largest group in Antarsya – it is a split off from the Greek Communist Party (KKE) because KKE entered a coalition, 1989-1991 with the conservative party, ND (New Democracy)
SEK (the Greek SWP, the second largest group in Antarsya)
OKDE-Spartakos, the Greek section of the Fourth International.
ARIS (Left Regroupment) a mainly student and ex-student group, an outcome of the left-wing student movement of the 1980s.
EKKE (Revolutionary Communist Movement), a Euro-Maoist group (that is not, actually, in the Marxist-Leninist tradition, it developed from the German Maoist Party the DKP, in the early 1970s)
A small group of 20 or so comrades split from ARAN when ARAN left Antarsya to join Popular Unity (LAE) around 6 years ago
Also some Pabloites in a Discussion group
There are around 200 comrades who are individual members of Antarsya without being members of or affiliating to/ with one of the constituent organisations.
TUSC in England and Wales was an electoral coalition of the SWP, SP, for a time Socialist Resistance, and independent Marxists in the ISN- plus the might of the RMT trade Union then led by Bob Crow. Between approximately 2010 and 2015 there was, in this one respect, similar to the situation with Antarsya, a group of 50 or so independent Marxist individuals who grouped together in the ISN, Independent Socialist Network. (I was a member of ISN, and, indeed, fought the 2010 and the 2015 Parliamentary Elections as a TUSC candidate in Brighton).
Antarsya National Conference and Branches
At the national conference of Antarsya (usually held every 2 years) people vote individually, though each group usually `bloc votes’, with parties/ organisations usually `whipping’ their members.
This individual voting is also a feature of the local Antarsya branch meetings, There are about 50 local branches, Athens has a number, Thessalonika has 4, Piraeus has 1, Volos has 1, there are others covering a wider geographical area (e.g. one branch for all the Ionian islands).
Some Antarsya branches meet weekly, others do not. Local branches used to meet monthly under regular, pre-Covid, circumstances but can meet daily when there is a need to run a campaign In electing delegates for the national conference, care is taken to include independents in the delegation.
At National Conference, NAR has around 500 delegates around 40%+ of the delegates, SEK has around 35%, ARIS 25%, OKDE-Spartakos has 55 delegates, a bit less than 10%, EKKE 3% … these figures are approximations and vary from conference to conference- it’s a big conference (around 1200 delegates, elected as 1 delegate per 3 members).
There is a National Co-ordinating Committee of Antarsya of 21 members, in proportion to the strength of the various organisations: (these are approximations- this is not the definitive list)
1 or 2 Independents
Apart from the NC of 21 members (every organization, even the smallest, has at least 1 representative), there is a body of 101 members, the Political Coordinating Body, elected directly by the National Conference meets twice a year.
Organising Revolutionary Marxists Together in the City and Nationally
I set out this model for discussion as a contribution to the debate on how to maximise our strength as Revolutionary anti-Capitalist Marxists.
At a local level in Brighton, we, the Brighton and Hove LLA, unlike the national LLA which has an almost total focus on work within the Labour Party, are trying to bring together various Marxist organisations and Social Movements that are outside the Labour Party. I recently chaired a Brighton and Hove LLA open zoom public meeting which involved representatives from the SWP, SP, Socialist Alternative, Socialist Resistance, Labour Left Alliance and Black Lives Matter. Consequently, we are organising a city-wide Conference of Resistance, including the above organisations- and other organisations and movements. The theme of the zoom meeting and the upcoming city Conference of Resistance is `How can we work and organise together'.
Of course, there are many historic and current differences of opinion- and to be honest, there is visceral long-term hatred by some in some groups towards other groups. On the other hand, there is enormous goodwill by many comrades towards those in different organisations, often resulting from political and trade union work over years or decades.
Major differences are over (i) the form/ type of internal party organisation (briefly, `democratic centralist' or democratic/ membership-led); (ii) over the type of Programme- Minimum, Transitional or Maximal (I contrasted the Antarsya Transitional Programme and the Syriza Minimal programmes in 2012, elsewhere (the online reference is at the end of this article); (iii) whether the organisation/party sees itself and only itself as the answer, as being `the light the truth and the path', or whether it sees itself (as does A*C.R) as being part of an answer, as having a role to play in association with others); (iv) the balance between electoralism/ parliamentarism and direct action; and (v) whether or not to stand electoral (Council/ parliamentary etc. candidates against Labour, or against Left Labour candidates.
With goodwill, a degree of political modesty, and the threat of `creeping fascism'/ authoritarian neoconservatism and enforced neoliberal/ post-neoliberal austerity and immiseration, there is and will be a deepening awareness of class struggle. And increasing participation in those struggles, in the streets and in electoral fora. We have a role to play. We must play it.
This is an attempt to move beyond demonstrating together into organising together, an attempt to move beyond short-term, spontaneous, and medium-term `under the same umbrella’ organising together. Into a class fighting organisation together for the longer term.
For revolutionary unity.
Dave Hill is a member of the Anti-Capitalist Resistance, England, and of the Fourth International (Socialist Resistance in England and OKDE-Spartakos in Greece, and, within the Fourth International, member of the TRI- Tendency for a Revolutionary International); also former Labour Parliamentary Candidate, TUSC (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition) Parliamentary Candidate, Labour Group Leader, elected regional trade union chair, and, for 10 years, shop steward/ union rep.)
Reference: Dave Hill (2012) Greece: Vote for Antarsya and a Transitional Programme. Online at http://4thinternational.blogspot.com/2012/05/vote-in-greece-in-june-17-2012-election.html; and at https://radicalnotes.org/2012/05/27/greece-vote-for-antarsya-and-a-transitional-programme/