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General discussion and debates

We invited all left candidates, including the six standing on the slate put forward by the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance (sadly, they didn’t reply to our invite). We asked all left-wingers to comment on the NEC political platform we have put together. NEC candidates in attandence were: Roger Silverman, Crispin Flintoff, Chaudhry Qamer Iqbal, Alec Price, Carol Taylor-Spedding, Mark McDonald, Ahmad Wattoo, Ekua Bayunu, Steve Maggs, Joyce Jasmin Reid,Iram Woolley

Introduction by Moshe Machover, Israeli socialist and founder of Matzpen

A discussion kicked off by Simon Pirani, environmental campaigner, author of Burning Up: a Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption and Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. Simon is a writer and researcher of fossil fuels, a socialist and former editor of the mineworkers’ union journal, The Miner.

Will the COVID emergency make it easier, or harder, to tackle global warming? With our ruling class intent on paying for the pandemic on the back of the working class, what sort of world will the upcoming battles take place in? The multinational energy companies see the current crisis as a way of getting rid of smaller competitors and emerging stronger. Is the Labour Party’s Green New Deal fit for purpose in these changing circumstances?

Organised by LLA Merseyside. Antisemitism is routinely alleged to be at the heart of the Labour Party, but little is said or done about anti black or Muslim racism. The racist targeting of Diane Abbott over a number of years is well known, and many black Labour Party members voiced anger at the recent attacks on Diane and Bell Ribeiro-Addy. The treatment of Jackie Walker, one of the leading black militants in Labour, was at the heart of the spurious antisemitism campaign.

Introductory speakers: Kerry Ann Mendoza (The Canary), Jackie Walker and Laurence Westgaph (historian and community activist)

Organised by LLA Brighton

What has Starmer’s Labour got to offer politically in addressing domestic and international issues? Poverty and Covid-19, Black Lives Matter, Palestine, and Kashmir? Anything? Join us for a discussion with Kerry-Anne Mendoza, David Miller, and Katherine Connelly.

Speaker bios:

David Miller is Professor of Sociology at the University of Bristol and the co-author of Bad News for Labour: AntiSemitism, The Party and Public Belief.

Katherine Connelly is a writer, historian, activist, and editor of Counterfire. She led the school strikes against the Iraq war in 2003 and co-ordinated the Emily Wilding Davison Memorial Campaign in 2013. Her biography of Sylvia Pankhurst was published by Pluto Press in 2013.

Organised by LLA Northern Ireland

Donal O’Cofeigh, councillor
Anne McShane, Marxist in Cork
Sam Gibson, LLA Northern Ireland

Debate between Chris Williamson (former Labour MP) and Michael Roberts, Marxist economist

The Covid-19 outbreak has demonstrated vividly the failure of neo-liberalism and the market economy. Working class people will have to pay a high price for this failure and we are already in a recession. How ‘normal’ are such crises for capitalism – and can Modern Monetary Theory provide a solution? Former MP Chris Williamson believes that MMT “offers us an achievable way forward”, while Marxist economist Michael Roberts thinks that MMT “is neither modern, nor is it a theory”.

Momentum has just called elections to their National Coordinating Group. But with Jon Lansman having abolished pretty much all democratic structures while imposing a new constitution on the organisation back in 2017, can Momentum be wrestled from his control? Click here for some background material on Momentum’s history and current structure.

Speakers include:

  • Alec Price from the LLA steering committee, who was involved in ‘Grassroots Momentum’
  • Alan Gibbons, who is standing on the Forward Momentum slate in the forthcoming NCG elections in the North West and Wales
  • Shona Jemphrey, who is standing on the Forward Momentum slate in the forthcoming NCG elections in the South East and South West
  • Chaired by Tina Werkmann, secretary Labour Left Alliance and co-chair of Labour Against the Witchhunt
  • We also invited supporters of Momentum Renewal, but did not hear back

May 20 2020: Organised by Brighton & Hove Labour Left Alliance. Speakers included Prof Dave Hill (LLA) who spoke on Coronavirus, Capitalism and Socialism. Dr Bob Gill discussed the state of the NHS prior to Covid19; how the government has handled the crisis; the future impact of the pandemic on patients and the NHS. His film ‘The Big NHS Heist’ is available here:… More info on the film is here:
Janet Sang from Sussex Defend the NHS spoke about on Fighting for the NHS – the local issues. We also heard the viewpoint of frontline workers. Chaired by Tina Werkmann from Labour Against the Witchhunt and LLA secretary.

May 2 2020: Labour Left Alliance Northern Ireland celebrated May Day 2020 with a public discussion: Whats Left for the left? The future of Labour in Britain & Ireland.
Speakers: Donal O’Cofaigh, councillor in Enniskillen
Tina Werkmann, secretary Labour Left Alliance and co-chair of Labour Against the Witchhunt

April 21 2020: Chris Williamson and Jackie Walker have been the most prominent victims of the witch-hunt in the Labour Party.

But while Jackie thinks it is important to stay and fight in the Labour Party, even after the election of Keir Starmer as leader, Chris believes this is now “pointless”.

April 5 2020: Just after the election of Keir Starmer as leader of the Labour Party, we discussed ‘Labour After Corbyn’ – with NEC candidate Jo Bird, Moshe Machover (expert on Middle Eastern politics), Ian Hodson (president of the Bakers Union & Lee Rock (Labour Left Alliance)

Learning from Marx

An introduction to finance capital
Speaker: Peter Kennedy, editorial board of the Marxist journal ‘Critique’

Peter’s discussion paper is online here.

The old adage that ‘money makes the capitalist world go around’ was contradicted by the 2008 global financial crisis, which revealed that money can also cause capitalism to come crashing down. The decade of austerity which has followed provides further evidence (if it were needed) that capitalism is dominated by finance capital and has been for some time. The zeal with which the system attacked the working class, while taking refuge in bailouts (socialism for capitalists) makes clear who finance capital’s nemesis is. Since the crisis, finance capital, as a function and ruling class, has remained mired in ‘secular stagnation’, wallows in parasitic forms of accumulation and remains most active in preventing socialist advance.

In short, the left needs to arm itself with an understanding of the era of finance capital we live in. This session provides a basic introduction to the theory of finance capital, drawing briefly on the work of Marx, Hilferding and Lenin as a basis for considering some of finance capital’s modern-day manifestations.

Speaker: Alan Gibson is a revolutionary Marxist political activist living in Ireland. He is currently primarily active in the environmental movement but has in the past few years played a leading regional role in both the pro-choice movement that won repeal of the restrictions on abortion access contained in Ireland’s constitution and before that in the movement against water charges and meter installations. Alan is a supporter of the Bolshevik Tendency.

Alan will outline how environmental concerns were integral to the political thinking of Marx and Engels and what that should mean for socialists today.

Our history

The fate of the Soviet Union still weighs heavily on the left. For liberals and the right the Soviet Union supposedly provides definitive proof that attempts to replace the ‘natural order’ of capitalism are bound to produce, not only horrendous suffering, but ultimate failure. The left must fully explain the Soviet Union if it is to develop a viable programme. Marxism alone provides the necessary method of analysis Speaker: Jack Conrad, author
Other recommended background reading:
– Hillel Ticktin: Origins of the crisis in the USSR
– Marcel van der Linden: Western Marxism and the Soviet Union
– Leon Trotsky: The revolution betrayed

Recorded on May 5 2020: With introductions by Pat Byrne and Ben Lewis. While Pat discusses the background to the German Revolution 1895-1921 (click here for his speakers notes), Ben concentrates on some general observations and problems with the left’s narrative on what happened in 1918-1919.
Recommended background reading:
* W. Pelz, A People’s History of the German Revolution
* P. Broue, The German Revolution 1917-23
* J. Riddell, The German Revolution and the Debate on Soviet Power
* P. Nettl, Rosa Luxemburg
* B. Lewis and L.T. Lih, Head to Head in Hall

Recorded on May 1 2020: 150 years ago this month, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov was born. But are ‘dead Russians’ like Lenin still relevant to today’s Labour movement? What, if anything, can we learn from the man who led the Russian Revolution? And didn’t Lenin inevitably lead to Stalin and the dictatorship in the Soviet Union? Speakers: Bob Arnott and Lars T. Lih. Click here for the recent essay by Lars ‘Lenin the Revolutionary Social Democrat’ and here for his written speech that he delivered in the session.

How did one of the greatest events in our history turn into its opposite and the horrors of the Soviet Union? What were the objective factors that contributed to the revolution’s degeneration? Which avoidable mistakes made were? Introduction by Pat Byrne, political education officer, Labour International CLP.

Three excellent accounts of the Russian Revolution:
‘The Russian Revolution 1917’ N. N. Sukhanov (a left Menshevik)
‘Ten Days That Shook The World’ by John Reed
‘A History of the Bolshevik Party’ by Alan Woods

  • Some Useful References for the aftermath of the Revolution:
  • Lenin’s Collected Works
  • ‘The Russian Tragedy’ by Rosa Luxemburg (1918 article)
  • ‘The Bolsheviks in Power’ by Alexander Rabinowitch
  • ‘Speech on the Immediate Tasks of Party Development’ by V. I. Lenin
  • ‘Bolshevik Opposition to Lenin: G. T. Miasnikov and the Workers’ Group’ by Paul Avrich
  • ‘The Paths of the Russian Revolution’ 1922 pamphlet by Karl Radek
  • ‘Memoirs of a Revolutionary 1901-1941’ by Victor Serge
  • ‘Once More: Kronstadt’ (1938) by Victor Serge
  • ‘New Light on the Origins of the Stalinist Bureaucracy’ by Alexander Podsheldolkin
  • ‘The Origin of the ‘Slate System’ used in elections for the leadership of Leninist & Trotskyist Groups’ by Pat Byrne

Learning from Labour’s History: A series of webinars looking at the history of the Labour party and considering a number of key historical issues which remain relevant today: the relationship between Labour and the organised working-class movement, how serious a challenge did the party present to capitalism and imperialism, and the nature of the Labour left and its understanding of socialism. More details and reading materials available here.