22 December, 2015

Interdisciplinary Research – Dance

What is to be Done: IV
The essential tasks for the Marxists of today

Many years later, I was developing Multimedia Resources for the Teaching of Dance (mostly Ballet and Modern Contemporary Dance). The main reason for this methodology was that we considered that the very best exemplars should be used at every level, and these could only be available in recordings. We also needed to intervene in any recording with perfect control plus easy and accurate access. A teacher HAD to be able to go directly to the movement she was teaching, and once at that moment to sensitively control its playing, with repeats and loops and slow motion. The DYNAMICS of each and every movement had to be precisely delivered, whatever way we were allowing its manipulation.

We therefore could NOT use Video Tape as the necessary access and control was too tedious and frankly impossible to effectively use. So we used Laser Disk technology. These contained a series of concentric tracks, each one containing a single 1/25th of a second frame. BUT, vitally these frames had been captured in an Analogue way. Moments from EVERY part of that 1/25th of a second were present within each and every frame. We had chosen Laser Disk for its controllability, but we had also chosen the ideal medium for delivering perfect movement dynamics.

We devised sophisticated and powerful Access & Control methods, which our users picked up in seconds and used with great power and subtlety to reveal the very essence of the movements.

The system worked like a dream and we won a British Interactive Video Award (BIVA) in Brighton in the Autumn of 1989.

The system worked extremely well, but we didn’t know why until we were required to do the same sort of processes using the “latest thing” – Digital Video. It turned out to be impossible!

I had to STOP the authoring of the new Multimedia Pack and find out why it didn’t work. I wonder if you can guess the reason for its inadequacy? It was Digital, hence though it still built movement out of 1/25th of a second frames, these were very different. They were each frozen STILLS. There were a series of such stills, each of which were held for 1/25th of a second and then replaced by the next still. All dynamics had been lost. Such a technology was fine for animation and fantasy, but Reality in movement was IMPOSSIBLE. After a long diversion researching the problem I was able to reveal the reasons for failure resided precisely in the “new” technology. It just could not cope with detailed analysis of movement. Indeed the movement NOT covered by the separate individual frames – indeed totally absent from the recording amounted to over 97%, and a fast moving hand could move (totally unrecorded) almost a yard between frames. I checked on sports events using digital cameras, and was amazed at the record of Paula Ratcliffe winning the New York marathon – there were only THREE positions of her arm in the record of a single swing, and, of course, such a movement was particularly slow. Imagine trying to study the dynamic detail in a delivery by a fast bowler with such an inadequate technology! Slow motion was a farce, and the dynamics of subtle movement always totally absent. No wonder it didn’t work!

You will have noticed, of course, the occurrence of the very same problem as I have mentioned several times already. Once again, we have a pragmatic solution to representing movement in terms of descrete moments – Descreteness was being used where Continuity turns out to be essential!

The information delivered by Digital Video for human vision and interpretation, which was to be used to recreate actual movement was clearly totally inadequate to the task. The only interpretations possible were crude and simplified extrapolations between inert stills.

But Dance, like Music is packed with subtle accelerations and decelerations, which deliver the Art involved, and these were crucially entirely absent!

So, why did the old alternative, Analogue Video, work so well, while Digital Video was useless?

Without going into the fairly complex detail of the results of my work, what I discovered was that elements from the whole of the 1/25th of a second duration of a frame were indeed present in the analogue version as a sort of “smeared still”. But, when you looked at such a frame in isolation, it appeared confusingly blurred and seemingly entirely useless. The Digital Frame in comparison was completely crisp and clear.

The universal consensus was (and still is) that ONLY the clear, focussed images available via Digital stills could facilitate the serious study of movement. And of course, in one respect they were correct. For while accurate, positional information could be extracted from a Digital Still, no such useable positions were possible from the smeared, Analogue alternative. But the myth was that widely spaced crisp positional information was sufficient to deliver the actual dynamics of the movement involved.

It wasn’t and never can be.

It was the age-old myth that precise numeric information is everything. In movement, that is never the case. The subtle variations in functional movement – the DYNAMICS – is what delivers the real content, and Analogue “smeared stills”, when delivered as a MOVIE, was the only way to deliver that. The very fact that each and every smeared still contained something from every moment of the frame period made it possible for the human Eye/Brain system to correctly interpret the movement. There can be no doubt that the analogue version was ideal for delivery in sequence, and also that our human facilities were ideally equipped to extract the maximum from that seemingly blurred and useless record.

I could go on and explain what could be delivered by slow motion, by looping and by many other techniques, but suffice it to say that on ALL these counts Digital was useless and Analogue was supreme.

Though, I have to admit, that I am in a minority of ONE in taking this position. The voluminous data from digital frames stills seduce the majority of “experts” in this field.

Do you recognise the SAME problem as we saw earlier in the Calculus and in Zeno’s Paradoxes?

It was, and is, the problem of Continuity and Descreteness once more!

Believe it or not, we solved the problem.

I will NOT burden you here with all the details, but suffice it to say that we, that the work led to the appropriate delivery of dynamics and even to the design of an entirely NEW camera for recording and studying movement, which I have called the Twin Movement Camera.

This may seem a long way from Marxism, but it is at the philosophical heart of it!

No-one else had even noticed what was being lost, and still the Digital avalanche continues unabated, and experts use Digital cameras to analyse movement in Sport and many other areas without discovering the inadequacy of their chosen means.

In contrast, a Marxist working alone, without either funds or facilities, cracked the problem, while literally thousands of scientists working in this field world-wide have failed to do so.

The legacy of this research continues in the current work by Bedford Interactive, and their pioneering software FORMotion.

If you think that the correct interpretation of movement in Ballet is resoundingly unimportant, may I change tack completely and go on to questions concerning the Nature of Reality and the universally accepted methods of Science to further my case?

This post is the fourth in a new blog series entitled "What is to be done?" on the crises in both Marxism and Science, and how a revolution is necessary in both. This body of work will eventually be published in Shape Journal as a Special Issue. Watch this space!

This post is the fourth in a new blog series entitled "What is to be done?" on the crises in both Marxism and Science, and how a revolution is necessary in both. This body of work is AVAILABLE NOW as a Special Issue. Read it all here!

14 December, 2015

Professional Research

What is to be Done: III
The essential tasks for the Marxists of today

Let us consider a couple of my research areas.

When I was teaching “A” Level mathematics in the late 1960s, I had to teach what is called The Calculus. This was a series of techniques independently and more or less simultaneously invented by both Isaac Newton and Leibnitz to deal with the mathematical study of Rates of Change. These covered all such situations in Reality, but are most clearly and accurately encapsulated by the series of relations involving Distance, Time, Speed, and Acceleration.

These are a closely related set: the rate of change of Distance with Time being termed Speed, and the rate of change of Speed with Time giving us Acceleration. Now relations between pairs of these variables could be experimentally studied, and the results fitted to standard forms available from Mathematics. But, it was soon clear that scientists needed to move between these various variables at will, and some natural relations required different selections from the set to deliver what was required. For example air resistance is related to speed, and so MUST involve that Rate of Change in its descriptive formula. So though Scientists and Mathematicians could manipulate the separate equations, they couldn’t convert one form into another. Such a process was NOT mere manipulation. A whole new level of conversion was found to be involved, but these involved the plotting of the pair of related variables onto Graph and thereafter to construct lines on the graphs which could deliver (by calculation) the required rate-of-change values. Various frigs (or short cuts) were found, but these just had to be remembered. What was needed was general method of doing these tasks covering ALL possible equations. AND, most important it had to be the job of a teacher to explain why these tricks worked, and even to supplying a general way of doing it for ALL possible cases.

The classic route is to plot out the given equation as a graph. For pairs of variables this was very easy to do, and students could follow the processes as demonstrated, but for any number of variables above two, the graphical method was at first difficult, and then impossible.

Needless to say most students did NOT like this area of Mathematics.

Let us see what was involved for just two variables, and then see how Newton and Leibnitz then cracked it for ALL cases. What was required was to find out the rate of change of one of the variables with respect to the other.

For example we might require the change in Distance with Time - we were requiring the Speed!

Now such things were easy when speeds were constant, but if these were changing moment by moment they were seemingly unobtainable. It had long been the practice of Mathematicians to construct a straight line addition onto the graph at the point where we need the rate of change.

Obviously, such a construction has to try to match the “slope” of the graph accurately, and a right angled triangle constructed with this line as its hypotenuse. The Tangent of the angle of slope would give us our required Rate of Change.

Thus, the instantaneous Rate of Change, at the given moment, was extracted from the graph. Also, it is clear that for every point where we required this information, this whole process would have to be repeated. This is a tedious process and needed to be replaced with something more accurate and quick.

What Newton did was to correctly assume that this crucial slope could be directly derived from the original equation WITHOUT all this geometrical construction and trigonometry. His researches discovered a manipulative technique wherein the “slope” of (say) y = x3 was shown to be 3x2 at every point on the curve (i.e. for every situation covered by this equation). This led him (and Leibnitz quite separately of course) to a general form where for y = xn, the slope would be nxn-1 This general process was given the name Differentiation, and was expanded to cover all known formulae.

But why did this (and the following related techniques) work? Remembering such a trick was useful but NOT really informative.

Both inventors attempted to establish their manipulations by geometrical proof. It amounted to drawing a Chord between two points A and B, on the curve of the equation, and setting up a right angled triangle with these two points giving the hypotenuse of that figure.

The coordinates of the points at A and B could easily be used to find the lengths AC and BC and a very inaccurate estimate of the required slope (at A) could be obtained from that of the chord AB.

What happened next was philosophically very interesting. Both inventors assumed that perfect Continuity pertained for the given equation, and B could be brought closer and closer to A. As this happened, the calculated slope of AB would change, until it STOPPED at a final and accurate value just as the point B became coincident with A. At that precise moment, the slope of the chord AB would be identical with the slope of the curve at A.

But, there was a problem.

At this final situation the triangle used to calculate the slope completely vanished, so that the slope at A (the Tangent of the angle at A) became BC/AC which was 0/0 (A and B were the same point). But surprisingly the slope didn’t vanish too. It actually reached its correct finite value. But how could we find it from 0/0. Both inventors were able to establish, theoretically, the final form of each Differentiation from this construction, but it certainly posed important questions. Their modified versions after differentiation worked well, but they had only demonstrated rather than proved why this was the case. The whole idea of 0/0 being all sorts of different and finite things seemed WRONG. Our mathematicians had come up against the consequences of the assumption of Continuity.

Indeed, this anomaly was merely swept under the carpet, and students were told just to remember the frig to get the right answers. But, it was, of course, very unsatisfactory. The mathematicians had used an argument, which they had taken to The Limit, and without a clear justification conjured up the Right answer out of a simple Frig. The students naturally wondered why I had bothered to point out this situation. “Surely”, they insisted, “if the correct answer was obtained, then what could possibly be amiss?”

So, I asked them to consider the division of things in general into smaller and smaller pieces. “Could this go on forever?”, I asked. The answer was clearly, “No!” So I proposed that the assumption of Continuity was only OK, so long as we remained within the limits of Applicability of an equation. Indeed ALL equations had this limit, and would fail if it were transgressed. They began to see that Mathematics was NOT absolute but conditional and limited.

It was an important lesson. All philosophies that attempted to construct an absolute picture of Reality based on Mathematics were simply wrong. Mathematics was NOT the essence of Reality, but a pragmatic and limited bag of practical frigs.

Now, for many years a similar discussion had been going on in Science (or more precisely in Physics) as to whether everything studied was similarly perfectly Continuous. But researchers kept finding descrete particles, which could never be shoe-horned into a conception of total and universal continuity.

The assumptions of Newton and Leibnitz could be wrong! The assumption that perfectly continuous equations covered all of Reality came into question.

Now, this everyday pair of assumptions: “Reality is Continuous” and “Reality is made up of Descrete fundamental units”, had been first revealed 2,500 years ago by Zeno of Elea (in ancient Greece). Zeno was so taken aback by the consequences of these two assumptions that he designed a series of Logical Paradoxes to show that BOTH of these assumptions led to contradictions when used in the study of Motion. No-one was able to refute the towering logic of his case. Indeed, they didn’t even know what his purpose was! They thought that he was saying that Logic is impossible, whereas, of course, he was saying NOTHING about Logic as such (indeed he himself was using it to make his points). He was, on the contrary, attempting to draw attention to our underlying, everyday assumptions that were the basis for subsequent logical arguments and derivations. He proved that the Foundations for our Logic were both man-made and inaccurate.

Needless to say, I taught Zeno to my A Level students and Mathematics was set alight!

This post is the third in a new blog series entitled "What is to be done?" on the crises in both Marxism and Science, and how a revolution is necessary in both. This body of work is AVAILABLE NOW as a Special Issue. Read it all here!

13 December, 2015

Issue 41 of SHAPE: Quantum Disentanglement

This edition is a collection of essays and reviews on Quantum Entanglement, and why the concept is almost certainly nonsense. I have been working on picking apart these ideas for several months now, and a Special Issue is in the pipeline for early 2016, with the working title Entangled Universe, which will aim to debunk this area of “Physics” once and for all.

Until then I thought it would be a good idea to collate here my earlier attempts to tackle this mess, many of which have already been published on the blog and in previous issues, as an introduction to this work, and for many, an introduction to the concept of Quantum Entanglement itself.

11 December, 2015


Having now watched many of Professor Richard Wolff’s video offerings on the current crisis in Capitalism, and, in particular, his position on Social Democracy, he certainly seems to be positioning himself in a new place politically.

He is, of course, an archenemy of Capitalism, but he certainly isn’t a Stalinist – he abhors what happened in Russia and China, and he only mentions Trotsky in passing.

So, where exactly does he actually stand? What is his recipe for bringing about the demise of Capitalism?

He is well aware of his responsibility in this regard, and he clearly proves conclusively that Social Democratic regulations, imposed from above, upon a still Capitalist Economic System will inevitably fail to effect such a transition. He makes it absolutely clear that, in his opinion, an alternative to Capitalism involving Workers’ Ownership and Control of the means of Production, Distribution and Exchange is vital. He even relates what happened in Russia, during the Revolution, with a certain relish, when immediately after the taking of power by force and the Congress of Soviets, the Stock Exchange was closed forever, and the stock documents ripped up as so much waste paper, and the Banks occupied. The Soviets – Workers’ Councils, everywhere and in every possible context took control.

Yet Wolff doesn’t call upon the organisation of parties to fight for such a Revolution – which is exactly what was necessary in both Russia and China!

What he does concentrate upon are Workers’ Cooperatives, such as the Cooperative Wholesale Society as established in my own City of Manchester, which grew to be enormous, and even sponsored Labour candidates in British General Elections, and describes in detail the major such Cooperative, currently in existence, in the Basque Region in Northern Spain.

Now, as a supporter of that sort of organisation in Britain, myself, he clearly has a point,

But, exactly how these should inter-relate isn’t clear, and the British experience was that the supporters of Cooperative Organisations, left the question of the switch to Socialism entirely to the Social Democratic Labour Party, which in spite of its courageous effort following the Second World War, in the end failed completely, and all its gains are now dismantled.

What is clear is that no matter how things started in the Russian Revolution, they were soon emasculated by an emerging bureaucracy within the hierarchies of the national Soviet System, with the crucial reins in the hands of Stalin and his cronies.

And, as Lenin and later the Trotskyists insisted, Socialism could not be established in a single country, as the Capitalist Ruling classes across the globe would work tirelessly to isolate and undermine any state which managed to remove Capitalism entirely.

Yet, in the flux of Revolution, as was related by John Read in his book, Ten Days that Shook the World - the natural and crucial initial functioning of the Soviets was clear to see. The Smolny Institute (home of the Congress of Soviets) was thronged with many delegates from Soviets all over Russia. And, a constant stream of messengers from these far-flung Soviets, were constantly being validated. What they were carrying were updates and mandates as to how their delegates had to vote, along with replacement credentials for newly appointed representatives to replace current ones who had lost the confidence of the majority of representatives back home in their Soviet.

These messengers, almost invariably, had the new delegates accompanying them. Instant Recall & Replacement was the rule: no waiting for another General Election.

Clearly, the credentials of the messengers were crucial, and these people were invariably Bolshevik Party members, or someone else who both the sending Soviet itself, and the officers of the Congress, could trust.

This gathering at Smolny was for every single Soviet across the country, and all shades of opinion were represented there. But, as always the Social Democratic organisations were invariably dominated by educated middle class delegates, while the majority of Soviets were not so dominated. Discussions at the Congress were across the whole range of approaches. 

But, in the midst of a crucial debate, Lenin was able to announce that the Winter Palace had been taken and the whole of the Provisional Government arrested. The whole atmosphere in the Congress changed. The general reaction was rejoicing, but the Social Democrats denounced it as a Coup by the Bolsheviks, and withdrew en masse from the Congress.

The mood of the Congress, however was clear, and fell silent as Lenin, now elected leader of the Congress, approached the rostrum and announced, “We shall now construct the Socialist Order!”

10 December, 2015

Anti-Revisionist or Marxist?

What is to be Done: II
The essential tasks for the Marxists of today

Political Stance, Campaigns and Theory

We were supposed to be Marxists! And that meant that though we could not ignore the enemy within, the esoteric arguments were simply insufficient to equip us for the many more important fights to come. The main theoretical strategy MUST be, what it has always been - that is to be active present day Marxists, advancing the body of Theory, and continuing to outstrip all major non-Marxist tendencies in interpreting ALL aspects of the World, and on the basis of this, formulating the correct paths to further work.

There was a major disadvantage however.

England had been a major imperialist power for centuries, and, as with present day Americans, this led to an anti-theoretical, and self-confident pragmatism, which really was very impatient with Theory. The idea of locking yourself away in the British Museum Library to crack important theoretical questions was certainly anathema to the British socialists I knew. In addition, it was certainly very difficult to recruit the best minds, and keep them, when our Theory was not trouncing the opposition with its mainline to Truth. It must be admitted, we didn’t have the people for the job! There were many good and committed comrades, but clearly no-one of the intellectual power of a Lenin or a Trotsky to help.

We had, quite correctly, turned to the only potentially revolutionary force within Society – the Working Class, and its vanguard – the Youth, but we won their respect with our energy and activism, and NOT by our penetrating and inspiring Theory. Most members seemed to get by totally without any discernable Theory, requiring only a clear task list to keep them busy. The decline of the organisation was inevitable. It didn’t deliver what it seemed to promise.

In spite of a series of excellent campaigns, such as the support of strikes throughout the country, these never coalesced into anything bigger.

I well remember my own intervention at a factory near Leicester, where most employees were Indians, and could only keep their jobs by paying off the foreman. I got a full report into the paper, and sold it outside from early in the morning till the whistle blew for the end of the shift. Workers were coming out in droves to buy the paper, and all hell had broken loose within the management. The foreman was sacked and the protection racket ended. But, this excellent intervention led to no new recruits or support for our other ventures in the city. Our activism did NOT have an effective transition strategy: it was an end in itself!

The Workers’ Aid campaign, to support the miners of Bosnia-Herzegovina, though conceived of and organised by a Serbian colleague, did not develop into a continuing movement. We seemed to be slipping into single-issue politics like everyone else. The party began to lose its famous members and generally shrink and even split. In the end most of the best people had left, and at the present time, it has effectively ceased to exist.

I was involved actually in political work in and around this organisation from 1959 to 1986, but for the last 10 years of this period I was no longer a member. In Scotland in the 1980’s I set up Youth Training course for unemployed youth in Brigton, Glasgow, with the support and occasional presence of Vanessa Redgrave, then still involved with the Party, but it was a yet another one-man show, and when I left Scotland for another job, it seemed to fade away.

And it had by then been long evident that there had been NO development of my personal grasp (or use) of Marxism. I was even occasionally reprimanded for asking questions at education classes, with the criticism that I obviously hadn’t read the appropriate texts. I had, of course, but they had multiplied the questions, not addressed them – quite as it should be, if you think about it. The conception that you only have to read the words of the Master to completely understand things, is Error Number One, in the process of attempting to understand something. Indeed, I had probably read a great deal more than anyone else in the room. My library at the time was around 600 books, and has expanded at a similar rate ever since. But you don’t learn Marxism as a “given thing”, you must “create” it, day in, day out! Theoretical activity is the most powerful weapon that we can have, and handed down formulae are insufficient. You have to “light up” the problems with constantly replenished Truth. But, such a conception was not evident to me within the organisation, and sadly within any of the other Trotskyist tendences either (for I did read their stuff).

The period of the Thatcherite Reaction more or less put paid to the revolutionary tendencies as a force in Working Class politics. The citadels of working class strength – the Coal Industry, Heavy Engineering and Car Manufacture were dismantled, along with the rights of the organised working class. The power bases of the Class were deliberately dismantled, as long fought for Rights were taken away, and replaced by a “Tory-inspired democracy”, and, finally, the capitalist, globalisation boom of the New Labourites seduced most workers into a frenzy of consumption.

But such periods are not unknown in history. They happened to both Marx and later on to Lenin. And what did they do, when faced with such periods? They used the lull in activity to concentrate on sharpening their essential weapons. They stepped up their theoretical work to being THE all-consuming task!

And, we must do the same!

Now, you might with justice respond with, “Are you doing this? What contributions have you made?” To which I must reply by saying that these are the right questions. And I must respond to them, and justify my position before I go any further.

Well, I wasn’t well trained in this endeavour. I was aware of its necessity, but you always assume that others are much more able and qualified to take on such important tasks. So, my initial contributions were fragmentary.

Then, slowly at first in the 1990s, and thereafter, beginning to accelerate over the next decade, the tempo increased until today I work on theoretical questions 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. It is now all I do, and I have been working at this level now for over three years (by 2005 ed.).

Though my initial contributions were limited to my specialist areas, the experiences of the last couple of decades have forced a widening of my accepted remit, such that my work today is clearly interdisciplinary, and has led to some significant contributions.

Now, the activist will certainly still admonish me with, “So, you haven’t been active in politics for twenty years, and yet STILL presume to be able to make a contribution to Marxism? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? Are you not just a classical bourgeois philosopher, criticising the World from the comfort of your “armchair-and-slippers” retirement?”

Well, no!

Perhaps I have missed out a few things in the trajectory of my life, which are perhaps relevant to this discussion. First, I have been a teacher, lecturer and finally a professor in London University, in a career spanning 32 years. I was a qualified physicist, but went on to teach Mathematics, then Biology, then Computer Science at levels ranging from Primary schools to Universities, in cities such as Leicester, Hong Kong, Glasgow, Bedford and London. 

If you know about computer software, it may interest you to know that I wrote a Machine-independent Fortran compiler in the 1970’s. In that same decade I built the first Community Computer Centre at a Further Education College in Leicester, which ended up teaching ONE THIRD of the city’s Secondary Schools pupils for FREE, via Link Courses. I also in the same period set up the organisation CURE, which acquired and delivered (all for FREE) 25 mainframe computers to educational establishments throughout the UK. Meanwhile, I was also pursuing mathematical researches into Re-entrant tilings, and invented an infinite 3D strand, with re-entrant faces, which stacked together to completely fill space. This strand also was shown to possess great similarities with the general double helix for of DNA, and could be used as a former to replicate itself.

This work was appreciated enough for me to finally make the leap to Higher Education, when I secured a job at Hong Kong Polytechnic, and within a year had been promoted to Senior Lecturer. On my return to the UK in the 1980s, I secured a post in what is now Glasgow Caledonian University, where once again within 2 years I was promoted to Principal Lecturer and proceeded to set up a support arrangement for researchers, which supplied tailor-made software for their research objectives, and which transformed the use of computers in control in research at that institution. My computerisation of a Gas, Liquid Chromatograph elicited requests for reprints from over 60 countries across the World. I also set up a dedicated educational system on a new mainframe computer, which facilitated submission, correction and return of written work by students, made possible by a secure system on the mainframe and the straight-forward access of innumerable PC computers to the shared mainframe. To those who in 2008 consider this commonplace, may I point out that this work was completed by 1986.

On moving to Bedford, this time as Computer Manager for the institution which included Teacher Training, Degree level courses and Further Education within a single College. I started working with Jackie Smith (now Dr. Jacqueline Smith-Autard) to develop and publish Multimedia Resources for the Teaching of Dance, for which we received a BIVA award in 1989, and which has since led to 12 separate products, sold all over the world to all sorts of institutions ranging from Primary Schools to Universities. On moving to London University, where I was the Director of Information Technology (a professorial level post) at a College world famous for its teaching of the Arts, I was immediately in charge of, and commissioned, the first Campus-Wide Fibre-Optic Network anywhere in the University. This was up and running by 1992.

Now, this has been my academic grounding. You may baulk at my long gone 27 years in active politics, and you may also feel somewhat hostile to my obviously purely academic career, but I know what I can do and have done it to the best of my ability throughout that career. I make NO apologies for the 46 years I have spent in teaching and research.

For we must remember that Marxism was never merely a series of recipes for political action. It was, and still is, a world embracing philosophy, absolutely necessary for addressing ALL issues in every sphere of human endeavour. Indeed, it was exactly that aspect of Marxism which conquered the World towards the end of the 19th century. It recruited minds of the very top quality into its ranks – because it delivered. Can we honestly say that it still does this today? It SHOULD! There is nothing to stop it, but it doesn’t happen because Theory on the Global and multi-discipline scale is no longer addressed by those who profess to be Marxists. All work is put into the overtly political areas, and the rest of our energy is consumed in political activism.

The final realisation of this crucial lesson was generated out of the problems that I encountered in a whole series of my non political researches. Let me show how what might be seen as totally irrelevant areas were lit up and made available for solution via the Philosophy of Marxism – or to put it more generally by Dialectical Materialism.

This post is the second in a new blog series entitled "What is to be done?" on the crises in both Marxism and Science, and how a revolution is necessary in both. This body of work will eventually be published in Shape Journal as a Special Issue. Watch this space!

This post is the second in a new blog series entitled "What is to be done?" on the crises in both Marxism and Science, and how a revolution is necessary in both. This body of work is AVAILABLE NOW as a Special Issue. Read it all here!


What is to be Done: I
The essential tasks for the Marxists of today

Epiphany, Activism, Election and Expulsion

Having become a sort of Marxist on purely intellectual grounds, aged 19, while a student at Leeds University, it was clearly immediately necessary for me to learn a great deal more, and, of course, to actually find out what such a conversion, and indeed commitment, would entail politically. It wasn’t immediately evident what I should do as I was totally unaware of what politics was, and did not arrive at my decision for political reasons, but as I have said, for purely intellectual ones. I considered that I had merely “found” a means whereby I could begin to understand the World, and commence the necessary ascent to make full sense of things, and why these were the way they were.

I, of course, read crucial texts such as “The Part played by Labour in the Ascent from Ape to Man” by Engels; “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism” by Lenin, and “Ten Days that Shook the World” by John Read, and anything else that seemed appropriate. I was hooked! But what then must I do?

I joined the Communist Party!

Where rather surprisingly, I wasn’t asked to DO anything! There were discussion groups and votes in the Students’ Union, but little else. It didn’t seem to be a very active sort of commitment. So, off my own bat I persuaded the local “Librarian” of the Party to supply me (on sale or return) with some books to sell on a weekly stall within the Union Building. After a slow start the interest began to pick up, and assuming most political people were like me, I filled the stall with whatever I thought would interest my fellow students.

In a very short time the stall had expanded and was doing good business. I obviously had read what I was selling, and could advise potential customers as to what they may read. A typical example was “A Painter of Our Time” by John Berger, which had been remaindered, but of which I spoke so highly that I was able to sell all the stock that the Party could supply. But as to real political activity, there was none!

Now, the clients for my stall were by no means all Party members. Indeed, there wasn’t that many among the students. The majority were Socialists and many professed to being Marxists, but they certainly had differences with the Party itself. I’m afraid I was in no position to either inform them, or to argue with them, so the conversations around my stall were mostly about the books available there.

Among my “customers”, another tendency began to take my eye. They were also Marxists, through and through, but insisted that they were the true inheritors of Marxism. They were Trotskyists. And it soon became clear that there was no shortage of political activity within that Grouping, though it was still limited to the Student Body only.

At an important Debate in the Student Union, which was, as they say, “totally packed out”, the speaker for these Trotskyists trounced all other participants with his arguments and political position. This was more like it. I, thereafter, went around saying that I was a Trotskyist. Please remember I was only 19 and had never come across any of these things before. My parents never mentioned politics (but voted Labour), and not a word was mentioned by anyone at the Grammar School that I had passed my Scholarship to attend.

My idea of political activity was to support these Trotskyists on votes within the Union, but I didn’t join! No body even asked me to, and I knew no-one among my fellow students who even professed to be a member.

The surprising thing was that though activity within the Union was prodigious it was also remarkably limited in scope– so much so that any Tories that were about had to hide, or pretend that they were some sort of Socialist. [It was, after all, the first generation of Working Class youth to get to University in any sort of numbers, and Leeds was an obvious place for these “new students” to be accommodated. And they certainly dominated proceedings there. What had been the sole privilege of the Middle and Upper Classes was now open to the “cream” of the Working Class and they grasped it with both hands. The Vice President of the Students’ Union was a Communist, and he had been elected by the Student Body, and captured their support, so Left Wing Politics were everywhere and seemed to include everybody. This was 1959.

But, not a single worker was in sight.

On finishing my Degree and moving to Leicester to do what was termed a Cert. Ed. (after which I would be able to work as a teacher), I was pleased to have two political friends from Leeds there along with me. One was a close friend who had been in the same “digs” as myself for the last two years at Leeds, and the other, it turned out, was a committed, and well informed Trotskyist. He KNEW what had to be done.

His group had developed a position to recruit working class youth into politics, and the method had been worked out as the so-called Entry Tactic. This involved entering the Labour Party (as the usual party of the British Working Class) and there to build its youth section – the Young Socialists into a Marxist and Revolutionary Youth Movement.

We quickly joined him in this endeavour, joined the Labour Party AND became members of the Trotskyist tendency – the Socialist Labour League.

Starting initially with tiny meetings at Labour Party Headquarters in the City, we soon moved out to where the Youth were situated. The tactic was extremely successful, and how could it be other? We worked exclusively on the working class estates and provided facilities that no-one else would. We were soon running Youth Club type meetings all over the city, providing Dances and Football matches, but with a clear unapologetic anti-Tory standpoint, and obviously commitment to the Working Class.

By 1964 we had grown nationally to have as elected members of the National Committee of the YS, 10 out of 12 of the country’s Regions, and the National Secretary was also one of us. And a General Election was nigh!

In the Election Campaign we gave the Tories hell. We followed them about the city disrupting their meetings and condemning their policies. They couldn’t get a word in edgeways. We regularly sold our newspapers outside Factories at the crack of dawn, and spent most evenings doing the same in Working Mens’ Clubs and in pubs.

Within a short time we were all expelled from the Labour Party, for such reprehensible and underhand activities. But they were too late! We took the bulk of the Young Socialists with us. Interestingly, all other Trotskyist tendencies were not expelled, neither did they join us outside the Labour Party, they remained in what had to be renamed as the Labour Party Young Socialists. Of course, you can see why. The Young Socialists was now clearly the Youth Movement of the SLL, and the other tendencies were not going to subordinate themselves to that organisation.

Within a short time the SLL became the WRP (Workers Revolutionary Party) and managed to produce a Daily paper – the Workers Press, while continuing to build the Young Socialists. By 1968 we had organised a major intervention in the International Anti-Vietnam War demonstration in Liege, Belgium, and even raised sufficient money to hire a ferry and a train to take a large body of youth to this significant Demonstration.

But, in spite of so-called Education Classes, little or NO further development in Marxism took place. A same-age peer of mine from Leeds University soon came to the fore as the Economics expert, but he had had the same “education” as I and though he was a great bloke, you could not say that he was advancing Marxism (just as I wasn’t of course!).

On the other hand, the theoretical preoccupations of the Party were understandable, but deadly. They were essentially retrospective and defensive against Revisionism. The failures of the First, Second and Third Workers’ Internationals had been due to this middle class cancer, and were just too pernicious to allow to flourish yet again. So in the Fourth Trotskyist International, there was no doubt that the latest variety was in danger of repeating the demise of that organisation too. The biggest party in the world was the American Party, and it had focussed in on a “Hands off Cuba” Campaign, which left most of the crucial tasks unattended. Single issue politics were rapidly growing and they decided to join the rush.

But, internecine fights could NOT be the answer to the necessary theoretical developments of the Party in the UK....

This post is the first in a new blog series entitled "What is to be done?" on the crises in both Marxism and Science, and how a revolution is necessary in both. This body of work is AVAILABLE NOW as a Special Issue. Read it all here!

09 December, 2015

What is to be done parts 1 and 2

Due to a technical error What is to Be Done part 1 has disappeared from this blog. Both part 1 and 2 will be published here tomorrow.

What is to be done: 1 has now been republished.