The April Theses

Lenin wrote the April Theses upon his return to Russia in April 1917 and it marked an important shift in the direction of the Bolshevik Party. The main shift was a rejection of the idea that a socialist revolution could only be sought after a successful bourgeois revolution took place, paving the way for capitalism.

Essentially, Lenin recognised the idea that Two-Stage theory was flawed and Trotsky’s notion of permanent revolution should be adopted. This would mean that rather than waiting for the establishment of a bourgeois democracy and the development of a capitalist class in Russia, Lenin recognised the need for workers to take control and make demands in their interests directly; to prevent the formation of counter-revolution.

In the April Theses, Lenin called for the immediate end to its involvement in World War One due to it being an Imperialist war rather than a war which was necessary for “revolutionary defencism”. Lenin also made it clear that there were many sections of the proletariat who honestly believed that the war was being fought for the purposes of revolutionary defencism. He made it clear that the Bolsheviks should take the time to explain to the masses why they were mistaken in this belief by pointing out their error.

This is, in my view, a perfect example of how a vanguard party of the working-classes should conduct themselves. Rather than making a decision on behalf of working-class people and assuming that they will follow, Lenin highlights the importance of engaging with working-class people and bringing them round to our ideas through discussion. It is by doing so that we can remain at the heart of the working-class struggle and not an ultra-left or sectarian faction.

With the demand for an end to Russia’s involvement in the war Lenin made it clear that all annexations should be renounced in deed not just in word. This highlights a tactic used by bourgeois parties and bourgeois apologists which can still be seen in mainstream politics today.

Labour have said that they are opposed to the privatisation of the NHS, the bedroom tax and anti-union laws and yet they have made no pledges to reverse the changes. The Conservatives pledged all manner of things before the election, one of the most memorable being no top-down reorganisation of the NHS which is now on the road to privatisation. Even the Lib-Dems have betrayed working-class people with similar lies and in doing so have lost a generation of youth voters. Students will not soon forget that not only did the Lib-Dems go against their pledge to end fees for students, instead they have compounded their betrayal by being a part of seeing fees triple.

Lenin also called for no support for the provisional government precisely because of “the utter falsity of all its promises”. By exposing the vast chasm between the word and deed of bourgeois parties and juxtaposing it with the conviction of those within the Socialist Party, we will hopefully be able to win over much of the disillusioned working-class masses and encourage them to draw the revolutionary conclusions that are necessary to affect the changes needed rather than putting their faith in the hollow words of political charlatans.

Lenin also demonstrated the need to be aware of the objective situation and to act accordingly. He identified that the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies were to form the basis of a revolutionary government but also that the Bolshevik Party were a small minority against “a bloc of all the petty-bourgeois opportunist elements, from the Popular Socialists and the Socialist Revolutionaries down to the Organising Committee”. Lenin pointed out that these groups had all yielded to the influence of the bourgeoisie which has the effect of spreading the influence of the bourgeoisie amongst the proletariat.

Lenin stated that it is important that these elements need to be exposed at every avenue while expressing the necessity for power to be transferred into the hands of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies. It is thus from experience and the critical analysis of revolutionary elements that workers can learn from their mistakes and proceed in a manner that looks out for their interests and not those of bourgeois apologists. This is one of the reasons why we, as the Socialist Party, engage in Trades Councils today.

Lenin stressed that to organise as a parliamentary republic would be a retrograde step as the soviets are where the voice of the proletariat resides, not in bourgeois democratic structures. This emphasises, even today, the vast shortcomings of bourgeois political structures in catering for the interests of the proletariat; many leading trade union activists will attend Trades Councils but will rarely, if ever, be seen in the council chambers. This clearly demonstrates where the voice of the proletariat is best expressed in contemporary society.

Lenin called for the abolition of the police and a standing army as these are institutions used by the bourgeoisie to repress and restrict the proletariat. Lenin argues that the people as a whole should be armed to protect themselves against invasion rather than relying on a standing army.

This may seem like a shocking measure to those of you who are new to revolutionary politics but if you see the way the state has been mobilised to quash protests internationally you will understand the necessity for this call. Even here in Britain, there are plenty of well-documented cases of police using agent provocateurs to stir up violence only to use it as justification to come down hard on protesters.

Lenin also called for all elected officials to be limited to the average wage of the worker in order to be able to adequately represent the people they are meant to be speaking on behalf of. This requires little justification and one need only look at the state of the trade union movement to see why this demand is raised.

Many high paid trade union officials form a bureaucratic layer who slow down the movement as they are effectively on a boss’s pay and it is in their interest not to be leading an active union as it means more work for them. By pledging to take an average wage leading trade unionists remain firmly in the class of people they are elected to represent and are more likely (though by no means is this assured) to fight for working-class rights.

Lenin calls for the nationalisation of all landed estates and the consolidation of all banks into a national bank which is to be governed under the democratic control of workers. This shift of economic control from the hands of the bourgeoisie into the hands of the proletariat would mark one of the most important shifts in the transition from Capitalism to Socialism. This is because it would mean that democracy would no longer be constricted by economic factors imposed by the bourgeoisie. Thus, with democratic control of the economy, society would become much more equal in economic terms as wealth is collectivised rather than hoarded by a minority to levy power over the majority.

Lenin draws attention to the need for a new international which would have the function of bringing together working-class people from all over the world. The reason for this is that Capitalism is global in its exploitation and Socialism needs to be global if it is to truly emancipate working-class people. Without the international spread of Socialism, countries will be isolated as Russia was after the Bolshevik Revolution as it is in the class-interests of the bourgeoisie to prevent the spread of Socialism.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that Lenin’s rebuttal of Plekhanov at the end of the April Theses is admirable in that Lenin takes the time to scrutinise each and every point that Plekhanov raises and then counter these points on an intellectual basis by pointing out the error of his ways.

If you would like to read the April Theses yourself and simultaneously help to fund the Socialist Party in our struggle for Socialism you can do so by ordering the pamphlet from here for the modest price of £2:

http://leftbooks.co.uk/epages/950002679.sf/en_GB/?ObjectID=5190769

Election Reflections: A Working-Class That Bites Back First Needs TUSCs!

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As many of my friends will know, I have been frantically working hard to mount a campaign in the Southway by-election to raise the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition or TUSC Party as an alternative to austerity. On Thursday the 27th June the election took place and I attended the count with Sam to see the fruits of my labour.

With less than 1% of the vote it could certainly be said that I was underwhelming when it came to providing that alternative. However, I am not arrogant enough to think that I can speak for the working-classes, they have their own voice and are more than capable of speaking up and speaking out when they are ready to. It did of course sting a little that I only managed to muster 22 votes (0.76%) but that means that 22 people did believe in the alternative that TUSC and indeed I have to offer as a representative of TUSC.

The 22 votes that I received also needs to be analysed in the wider context of surrounding events. In many ways the working-classes spoke out with a very loud voice; only 29.24% of the electorate turned out to vote. This deafening silence in electoral politics suggests that people have very little faith in changing things through the ballot box. This could be because of apathy but more likely it is because the majority of people don’t believe that there is a viable alternative to the main parties which have all adopted the neo-liberal consensus. This is clearly something that could have affected the votes which TUSC received. However, with relatively few numbers on the ground it is hard to get the comprehensive policies of TUSC across to approximately 10,000 people in a few short weeks.

Looking at the voting patterns it is clear that an alternative is being sought. The Conservatives, who had held the seat were relegated to third place in this by-election and the Liberal Democrats received less than 3% of the vote. The independent candidate in the area, who received quite a sizeable vote (10%), suggested that Party politics needed to be rejected. It is clear that the austerity measures have caused an outcry of working-class people who have instead put their faith in Labour, and to a lesser extent, UKIP. This is not surprising as Labour would seem the obvious choice for many as a vehicle to oust the Tories and UKIP seems to be quickly becoming the established electoral protest vote.

While this may send a message to the Tories, Ed Miliband has effectively given them the green light to slash and burn the quickly shrinking remnants of the welfare state as he has said that cuts are unavoidable and will not be reversed by Labour. People may have elected Labour in resistance to Tory callousness but Labour are hardly what one would call a resistance seeing as it is hard to nail down exactly what they would be doing differently to the Tories. The Council in Plymouth has been Labour-led for some time now and yet we still have cuts, we still have the bedroom tax, we still have council reserves in the multi-millions and a population which is gradually seeing living standards decline to the point of almost universal poverty.

I have questioned the council on a number of occasions about what they plan to do regarding issues which are having a severe impact on Plymothians and I’m generally met with long-winded responses about how the council is facing tough times but they are doing the best they can. Nevertheless, the bottom line is that the council continues to sit on piles of money while people face cuts to benefits that they desperately need as the unemployment rate remains sky high, the bedroom tax is still being demanded of the poor and vulnerable, the bailiffs are being prepped to collect council tax debts and the city centre looks more and more like a ghost town with more shops closed than open, except of course for the corporate tax-dodging giants.

Here’s a link to my lobby of the council last month:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnheu6gFDLg

The issue of UKIP is also of great concern. While they are seemingly being brandished by the electorate as a stick to bash the mainstream parties with, by giving support to UKIP working-class people are making a rod for their own back. Every member of the UKIP election team that I spoke to was an ex-Tory member. For a Party that is posing as an alternative to the mainstream it doesn’t seem to have anything to bring to the political table other than more cuts and changes which would damage rather than boost working-class families. Not even the Tories have tried to tax those on the lowest incomes 27% of their wage, something which UKIP would do with their flat rate tax which would mean everyone paying the same percentage of tax whether you’re a bin-man or a banker. The Party has come under fire countless times due to bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia and some very outlandish and draconian views on certain issues. This is also the Party whose “esteemed” leader has been caught dodging taxes by setting up a trust fund on the Isle of Mann. All in all UKIP seem to be a caricature of the Parties that they claim to be opposing rather than a viable alternative to austerity.

This is the first time that TUSC stood in the Southway ward and I’m sure it wasn’t helped by the fact that the Herald seemingly forgot to publish my reasons for standing and my photo in the paper when the other five candidates were featured the day before the election. I appreciate the time they took to publish articles online about me and would like to say thanks to Sian Davies who put a lot of work into covering this election but I do wonder why I was not featured in the newspaper.

I do wonder what the result would have been if I had got that little bit of extra publicity but it is pointless to wonder what could have been. As much as it seems underwhelming to have only received 22 votes, the TUSC campaign received incredible levels of support from working-class people. With such a short amount of time to mount a campaign, we found it difficult to get our leaflets out to the whole ward and have enough time left over to do some canvassing. The few people we did manage to talk to quickly warmed to our stance of no cuts and the Socialist Party has gained a number of contacts to help our party grow. There is also the fact that in such a short space of time so many people did their best to help out where they could. I don’t have a great deal of links in Southway but so many of my friends supported the campaign in any way they could.

I have had friends advertise my election campaign material in their places of work, friends spread my Herald articles all over facebook and helped to distribute leaflets and talk to the people of Southway, Tamerton Foliot and Widewell. The Socialist Party have been stalwart supporters and contributors of this campaign and I am so glad to be in amongst their ranks. I have no doubt that in the elections of May 2014 when 18 council seats will be up for grabs, TUSC will really hit the ground running, particularly as all Plymothians will get the opportunity to vote, not just in a ward that TUSC is only just breaking ground in.

We are going to need support, volunteers and people who would be happy to stand on a no cuts platform if we are to try and fill the 18 seats coming up in May. If you would like to help out with the campaign or take up the TUSC banner and speak out for the working-class people who are bearing the brunt of a crisis brought on by bankers and tax-dodgers then feel free to get in touch with me by email on rjaldred@hotmail.com

If you would like to know a bit more about where my passion stems from and if you would like to meet like-minded people who believe that there is an alternative to austerity then why not come along to the Socialist Party Plymouth Branch’s meeting on Tuesday 9th July at 19:00 at the Plymouth Social Club (Tavistock Place, behind the Central Library).

The working-class people of Plymouth, and indeed nationally, need to make a stand against the Parties that have left them behind and forced them into poverty with austerity measures while protecting the tax-dodgers and bankers. They need a party made up of workers, who will campaign on issues that affect workers.

I would like to give thanks to Jeremy Guise, Tony Staunton, Sam Taylor-Wickenden, Clare Lattimore, Aimee Clayton, George Fidler, Keith Low and Tom Taylor for helping out with the election campaign.

I would also like to give a special thanks to Justin Pollard, Louise Alldridge, Karl Wesemann, Tom Sloman, Rob Rooney (my election agent), Alex Moore, Nigel Buckley and last, but by no means least, Steve Merritt for the superlative efforts you all put into supporting this campaign and keeping me going throughout this hectic few weeks. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with you all to build a collective alternative and it was great to see new comrades join the fray, jump straight into action and come back hungrier for more each week.

I shall leave you all with this: If working-class people are to really bite back at the greed, corruption and ideology which is making them suffer, what they need is TUSCs!