Letters – FRFI 269 Apr/May 2019

South Africa: New Socialist Party stands in solidarity with Venezuela and Cuba

On 16 March in Johannesburg, South Africa, hundreds of members of the newly-formed Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP) held a protest outside the US consulate demanding imperialist hands off Venezuela. A list of demands was handed to the consulate, with the threat of a mass boycott and strikes at US-owned mines if they are not met within a month. A revitalised communist movement, inspired by socialist Cuba, is leading the struggle against imperialism in South Africa.

Five years in the making, the pre-launch conference of the SRWP in December 2018 saw over a thousand delegates from all over South Africa come together and begin the final process of building a new communist party. The formation of the SRWP was originally set out in 2013 at the Special National Conference of the Marxist-Leninist trade union, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the largest trade union in South Africa. NUMSA and other radical forces in the country saw the need for a new party to represent the working class, believing that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and its ally the South African Communist Party have betrayed the liberation struggle and forced disastrous neo-liberal policies on post-apartheid South Africa.

A key idea of NUMSA and the SRWP is that even after apartheid, South Africa still functions as a major hub of imperialism in Africa and that exploitation across the continent is organised by the imperialist countries through South Africa, with the support of the ANC and the ruling class. The SRWP is an internationalist party, and a key part of its policies is opposition to imperialism. Politically it is a Marxist-Leninist party which is inspired by the experience of socialist Cuba and the Cuban Communist Party, welcoming different Marxist tendencies under a united plan of action, to overthrow the capitalist ruling class both nationally and across the world.

The protest outside the US consulate was one of the first major demonstrations held by the SRWP, identifying the current attack on Venezuela by imperialists like the US and its allies as a key struggle for workers to oppose. Nearly a thousand members spent the day chanting, singing and listening to speeches from SRWP leadership and other supporters of Venezuela such as Ronnie Kasrils, an ex-commander of the armed wing of the ANC under apartheid, now a supporter of the SRWP.

While the event demonstrated working class opposition to the attack on Venezuela, it also had a clear goal of challenging the US directly: if the US does not cease its attack on Venezuela and its president Nicolas Maduro then the SRWP and the trade union movement will retaliate. One of the threatened responses would be a boycott of all US goods in South Africa, but the main point of attack would be to launch strikes across South Africa in US-owned businesses. This would include many gold mines, and the threat of sabotage and other direct actions was also raised. With these demands and threats the SRWP is showing that any attack on Venezuela is an attack on the working class internationally.

In the coming months the SRWP will hold its launch conference, voting on a constitution and finalising its structures and goals. As decided by the pre-launch conference the party will also be contesting the 2019 elections in May, using the opportunity to build branches and publicise the goals and ideals of communism on a mass public platform. The primary focus of the party in the long term will not be on filling seats in parliament, but building support and class consciousness among the working class in South Africa, paving the way for building a revolutionary movement.

Jack Clayton,


Socialist Worker: Brexit for fools

Socialist Worker gets itself into terrible contortions in justifying its support for Brexit (Brexit broke the bosses’ system, 22 March). In a lengthy article whose purpose is to argue against a second referendum, it concedes ‘Many people voted Remain for left wing reasons. They looked at the vicious racism pushed by those heading up the Leave campaign, such as Boris Johnson, Michael Gove or Nigel Farage’. That was not Socialist Worker’s way, of course. It looked at that vicious racism – and with other Lexiters lined up alongside it to vote Leave. Later on, the article declares: ‘The vote to leave was a contradictory revolt against the establishment, with progressive and reactionary ideas’. But it was neither a revolt nor did it present a single progressive idea. Brexit was led by establishment figures, by a section of the ruling class – even the Ladybird book on Brexit has figured that one out. It was motivated by naked chauvinism. ‘Fighting for a socialist and anti-racist Brexit’ as the article says is presumably Socialist Worker’s concept of a ‘progressive’ idea. But given that there will not be a socialist revolution before Brexit, there cannot be a socialist Brexit either. It is just playing with words without understanding their meaning. Supporting Remain involves taking the side of the dominant section of the ruling class and is therefore a reactionary step. But there is at least some logic to it for better-off sections of the working class. There is no discernible logic for Lexit, however: it is Brexit for fools.

Robert Clough


Newcastle tower blocks, another Grenfell in the making

We have been complaining about unsafe conditions in our tower blocks in Elswick, Newcastle that could see a similar disaster to Grenfell happen here! Our social housing landlord, Your Homes Newcastle (YHN), gave a group of tenants permission to store unregulated Calor gas bottles at ground level in an unventilated heated store room, in order to sell to other tenants for BBQs. Several us wrote a letter of complaint about the situation, pointing out it is against housing and fire safety regulations that stipulate substances that could cause explosion and fire cannot be stored in tower blocks. But instead of taking safety measures to remove the gas bottles, YHN instead summoned us, two disabled tenants, to a tenancy enforcement meeting and explained the decision to allow the gas bottles would stand.

So, we contacted the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service who ordered the immediate removal of the gas bottles. We also made a formal complaint to Newcastle City Council who, after eight months of ‘independent’ investigation decided our complaint should not be upheld! The gas bottles remain in the store room and we have been interrogated by Northumbria Police, who turned up at our door at 3am amidst complaints of ‘anti-social behaviour’.  We have sent a steady stream of letters to senior councillors, MPs and the Chief Exec, most of them ignored, and now we have been issued with ‘notice to seek possession’ – eviction threats for rent arrears, despite us having receipts showing our regular rent payments.  This is the stench of corporate corruption, complicity and complacency. Remember Grenfell!

John White and Jackie Paterson, tenants’ reps at the Larches, Cruddas Park

Statement from Peter Gregson on his failed appeal against expulsion from the GMB on anti-Semitism charges

I am the first trade unionist to be expelled as an anti-Semite under the IHRA definition.

My appeal to the Central Executive Council of the GMB against my expulsion on 5 March 2019 failed, as confirmed to me by the president of the GMB, Barbara Plant, in her letter of 6 March. I have been expelled for breaching the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism for I failed to ‘cease and desist’ in promoting ‘anti-Semitic views and material’, when I was told to by the GMB Scotland Secretary on 5 November and am therefore in breach of the rulebook.

Because the GMB adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism on 4 September 2018, promoting ‘anti-Semitic views and material’ now means criticising Israel. Until that date, anti-Semitism was defined as per the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘Hostility or prejudice against Jews’. The Orthodox rabbi who attended my London hearing told Plant and the rest of the Council, that nothing I had said or done was anti-Semitic.

Read the full Statement at http://tinyurl.com/y354qcq5

Pete Gregson

Fight back against Labour and SNP austerity in Dundee

For ten years, the ruling class have bleated that austerity is necessary because there is no cash for poor communities. Labour Party and Scottish National Party councils have not hesitated to slash services and attack wages and conditions of council employees. In Dundee the SNP would not concede that school meals costs rising from 25p a day to £2 meant serious hardship for families in low-paid work, just above the free school meals level. The Labour opposition made no challenge beyond the predictable council chambers blathers.

As Dundee Against Austerity and Unite the Community Tayside, we knew that the battle must start in earnest. We learned that SNP councillors who spoke of us as ‘Labour controlled Fenians’ had removed our posters for a public meeting against Universal Credit and council cuts up in Lochee. This is historically an area of Irish descendants of the generations fleeing An Gorta Mor, the Great Hunger of the nineteenth century.  It is one of the poorest areas in Europe.

We set up our stall determined to come back bigger and bolder. Timed to coincide with families getting their bairns from school, the response was overwhelming – even revolutionary. We explained that the Fenian tag was a badge of pride to us and that we were definitely not controlled by Labour. Our observation in the communities and at union meetings is that both the SNP and Labour are dismissed as any kind of defender of the people’s interests.

On 1 April we will mark five years of campaigning outside the Job Centre and on the streets. We will make the point that the SNP and Labour have played no part in that struggle at all. We are supporting the candidate from amongst us who is standing on a platform opposing Universal Credit and council cuts. The 2 May by-election takes place in another poor part of Dundee and gives us the opportunity to raise the banner of protest and rebellion. We are gathering support from the people and from a local left, ranging from Class War to the Socialist Party. Unity in action will have to be built in deeds, not just declarations. 

The people have had it with the SNP and Labour. A new movement must be built.

Michael MacGregor


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 269 April/May 2019


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