Thursday, 7 August 2008

Reformism... Doesn't Pay!


I thought it might be interesting to reproduce on The Socialist Way blog, a recent exchange between myself and Tony Collins, a leading member of Galloway's Respect Party. The original subject was on housing, but what the debate clearly establishes if nothing else, is that Respect has nothing more to to offer except the old failed polices of state intervention and state control, and despite the repeated demonstrations by 'old Labour' that reformist policy put simply, don't work and that the record shows, that capitalism cannot be made to work in the interests of the majority.
Tony Collins is part of what has been describe as a re-groupment of the International Socialist Group (ISG) Socialist Resistance and a group of former members of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). In a recent statement the new group said: "The role of revolutionary Marxists is to build Respect, which will locate itself in working-class struggle - in the workplace in the community, amongst the oppressed and in the broad party".

The Exchange
TC. But Jim, unless I've read you wrong, you seem to be saying that there's no point in even fighting for reform. I think your wrong to say that most thing's have been already achieved by reforms. The struggle goes on everyday - everyday they try to take things from us, and everyday we try to beat them back. But the wider point is that Respect is not a revolutionary party. Its aim is not the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by Socialism. It is a broad coalition that is trying to get a working class voice in the political system and that will necessarily mean that most of the time we're working for reforms - better council services, an end to privatisation, support for workers on strike.
Your starting point seems to be, "no point in doing that - the only solution is revolution". At least that's what your first post meant.
I agree, in the end, that's what we want. But we're involved here with broad, old-labour - style political groups like Respect. How dose this fit in there, where reform is the thrust of everything we do?

The Reply
Jim. Tony what is an old-labour -style political group? Is it what was known as the broad church that some use to cite in the old-style Labour Party, with the likes of Gaitskell, Morrison, Healey and Hattersley?
Oh yes, Ralph Mctell's song an anthem to the homeless and dispossessed, whenever I listen to his "Streets of London" I wonder back twenty years or so and remember the hostels that housed the homeless in Tower Hamlets, and amazingly, well organised, successful campaigns led by the homeless themselves, in particular the residents of Tower House on Fieldgate Street Whitechaple.
700 men formed an association, the sole aim of which was to bring about an improvement to the appalling and horrifying living conditions prevailing at the time. Tower House was one of many purpose-built hostels, built by the plilanthropist Lord Rowton and opened in the late 1800s to provide cheap accommodation for workers needed to service industry especially the docks. By the 1980s Rowton Hostels had transformed into Rowtons PLC quoted on the stock exchange, by now specialising in hotel and banqueting with the chairman who was also a Church of England commissioner, under his leadership the companies three remaining hostels became not only run down, but the most profitable part of the whole business.
The crimes of capitalism are many and know no bounds if profit maximising. In an independent environmental health report conducted on behalf of Tower House Residents Association and reported in the Observer newspaper; it found that the 'Tuberculosis' bacterium, was on the floor and walls of the whole building, living in the sordid dirtiness, the chances of contracting or becoming infected with the illness was a hundred time higher than the national average, and in the words of a friend who sadly passed away some years ago; "I was treated better and lived in luxury as a prisoner of Adolf Hitler".

I well remember dosser, doss-house was the words everyone used back then, but the lads in all humility broke down the stereotype's and in the end along with their comrades in the sister hostel (Arlington House) helped staff unionize and fought on successfully for the compulsory purchase of the hostels by the local councils. Today Tower House is an upmarket block of apartments with rents for a one bedroom flat starting from £350 a week meanwhile the homeless as always are still sleeping (skippering) out on the streets.
I had the privilege to have been both resident and Secretary of the Tower House Residents Association. I can see, that still as ever this world is crying out for change, millions of children die each year of starvation while billionaire's spear themselves as always no indulgence, why is it Utopian to suggest a world of abundance and co-operation, a world that will never be won from beginning to end through reform!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please remove me from your mailing list.

Tony Collins

The Socialist Way

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