Building TAS in 2024

This is a revised version of an introduction given by Will McMahon at the ‘Talking About Socialism – from a Marxist Point of view’ online discussion given on Monday 8 January 2024 to take account of events taking place in the following week

Building Talking About Socialism – from a Marxist Point of View

Welcome to the first Talking About Socialism from a Marxist point of view discussion of 2024. In 2024, we are looking to build on the modest successes of TAS achieved in 2023. Since our first Zoom meeting on 20 March 2023, we have held a total of 20 fortnightly discussions, and our existence now has a modest register among sections of the left. It is worth restating the premise of the Talking About Socialism project as expressed in the statement we published towards the end of 2023. 

We believe the only force capable of resisting war, poverty, and attacks on democratic rights is the international working class. The worldwide mass protests against the murderous attacks on Gaza show that there is resistance. 

The question hanging in the air is how can this and other mass movements against imperialism and capitalism be turned into an international movement for fundamental change to the way that society is organised?

To do that effectively, and ultimately to destroy capitalism and replace it with a new society based on the common ownership of the world’s resources, with production planned for need rather than profit, requires the building of a new, mass socialist/communist party. 

Our aim, as set out in the statement is to urgently build “… a serious, democratic organisation for Marxist ideas and activity, with the aim of building support for socialist/communist ideas and for the construction of a mass socialist/communist party.

“Through discussion and activity, we aim to promote the ideas of socialism/communism, to make them popular within the working class and to build a group that campaigns to bring into existence the embryo of the new mass socialist/communist party that we need. 

“To this end, we invite all who share our aims or who are interested in finding out more to join our discussions.”

In 2024 we intend to continue with our regular fortnightly Zoom discussion. We also aim to hold public face-to-face meetings in selected cities and towns around the country. We want to increase the number and range of articles on our website and look to increase recognition of TAS.

To achieve this, and more, we need your help. Can you help us to organise an ‘in person’ meeting in your area? Do you know others who might be interested in joining our discussions? Can you write for our website? 

Do you have administrative or technical skills that will assist in organising and promoting TAS to others? We want to hear your views on how we can improve things.

There are two sorts of issues that face Talking About Socialism in 2024 that we need to discuss.

The first is the political situation that the working class faces – what is the context it is operating in?

The second is what do you, as those who have accompanied us on the development of TAS in 2023 think we should do to develop TAS as a practical political project?

Before I discuss those two points – I just want to re-affirm the desire that we have for TAS to be an open forum of discussion for socialist and Marxist politics, where we welcome comradely debate. We want to develop a group that encourages comradely debate as that is the only way to develop democratic working-class politics.

We achieved this culture in 2023 and we want to build on it in the next twelve months.

What political situation does the working class face in the period ahead?

I always believe in starting at the level of the totality – at a world level.

Inter-imperialist conflict is heightening. It looks like we are on the road to World War Three unless the international working class can stop it. At present, inter-imperialist conflict is focused on three areas. In Gaza the role of the US and UK role is clear. The Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestine is underway and would be impossible without US arms. 

In Eastern Europe, the mid-2023 Ukrainian counter-offensive has failed and at present Ukraine will likely be forced to negotiate a peace it doesn’t want. In one sense this is due to a miscalculation by NATO to a degree, but it should be noted that even if Ukraine is forced to accept the freezing of the current border NATO will have a willing partner in what remains of Ukraine for decades to come. NATO’s support was never about real self-determination for Ukraine.

In the Far East, the dispute between China and Taiwan and the struggle over control of the South China Sea has been simmering for decades. The result of the recent Taiwanese elections and the growth in military spending across the region look like a war drive on all sides. 

A key issue for the international working class is to stop this march to war and in trying to do so, avoid two sorts of fake anti-imperialism.

First, is the emergence of a form of multi-polar world politics, focused on the BRICS, that washes out any criticism of opponents of Western imperialism through a simple support for China or Russia, or both, almost irrespective of the context. It is simply the belief that my enemy’s enemy is my friend clothed in form of long gone anti-colonialism.

Second, is the notion that it is the struggle of the ‘democratic’ West against the barbarians at the gate – translated as the light of the European Union allied with the United States against Russian and Chinese imperialism

We need to resist these two approaches 

A bit closer to home 

The European Union is going to have a significant set of elections in June 2024. For the last two decades the far-right has been building a presence across the continent, latterly exemplified by Geert Wilders’ Islamaphobic and authoritarian Freedom Party becoming the largest party in the Netherlands.

As I detailed in my introduction on the far right last November it is not unlikely that in 2024 we will see the growth of the far right block in the European Parliament.  

By contrast the socialist and communist left in the EU has weakened. Between 2010 and 2020 the broad left party strategy comprehensively failed across the continent, particularly in Spain, France and Germany. You can see Chris Strafford’s introduction on Broad Parties or read his article on the TAS website to get the background on this.

There has been an almost wholesale failure to build a socialist/communist block across the continent following the great financial crisis of 2008.

A bit farther afield, there are elections to be held in the United States. Right now the Democrats are busy demobilising any chance of winning the elections by backing the genocide in Gaza while there is a mass mobilisation against it amongst the most progressive and radical voters. The Iowa caucus result on Tuesday 16 January demonstrated Trump’s ascendancy over two opponents who are simply positioning themselves to replace Trump in the medium term.

So the world could look very different this time next year. 

Britain after Brexit, Corbynism and Covid

In Britain, following the Brexit vote, the rise and fall of Corbynism and the pandemic, we face a general election at the end of the year which Labour could win, although the implementation of constituency boundary changes means that Starmer will require the biggest ever swing in electoral history to ensure a majority.

At our final meeting of 2022, Chris Strafford introduced a discussion on the attack on democratic rights. The common sense of the discussion was that Starmerism may make Blair look tame in his attack on the last vestiges of the post-war settlement.  

In this context, what should socialists/communists campaign for in 2024? A Labour victory? For genuine socialist candidates who are standing? What should we do? These are debates that socialists need to have as the General Election approaches.

All of this is set against a backdrop of a growing environmental crisis. The combination of human-made global warming, combined with the El Nino heating of the Pacific, will create some very hot weather and some very stormy weather in 2024. It is not just heat and stormy weather. Multiple environmental crises are unfolding as the 1.5C global warming target is breached.

So 2024 is going to be tumultuous in political terms across the globe.

I am going to be much briefer on the second question, which is what do you as the people who have accompanied us on the development of TAS in 2023 think we should do to develop TAS as a practical political project in 2024?

In 2024 we intend to continue with our regular fortnightly Zoom discussion. We also aim to hold public face-to-face meetings in selected cities and towns around the country. We want to increase the number and range of articles on our website and look to increase recognition of TAS.

We believe that there are a large number of socialists/communists who see the need for a mass party of the working class based on socialist/communist politics. 

Can you help us to organise an ‘in person’ meeting in your area? Do you know others who might be interested in joining our discussions?  

Or, on the other hand, do you think we are mistaken in our belief and should be following a different strategy in 2024? 

Or did you just think that these events were just a Talking Shop About Socialism but would like to discuss how we create a more boots-on-the-ground campaign for the creation of a mass socialist communist party?

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