Resolutions passed for Counterfire Conference December 2016
Resolution 1, Racism and anti-racism – Steering Committee
1The continuation, in the UK as elsewhere, of the state-led Islamophobia that has accompanied the ‘War on Terror’ and its fallout since 2001, with initiatives such as the Prevent agenda legitimising and encouraging racist attitudes towards Muslims.
2 The racist anti-migrant arguments expressed by both official campaigns in the EU referendum debate, the increasingly central role of the migration issue in British political debate, and the toxic nature of this debate.
3The combination of Fortress Europe and Fortress Britain, as the European Union continues to deny refugees sanctuary, allows the deaths of thousands of refugees in the Mediterranean and increases border controls, while the British government responds pitifully to the refugee crisis.
4 The election of racist demagogue Donald Trump to the US presidency and the growing threat from far-right parties and movements in many European countries
1That racism, especially Islamophobia and anti-migrant scapegoating, is a central problem of contemporary Western politics, both in the neoliberal mainstream and in the growth of various ‘radical Right’ tendencies, and consequently anti-racism must be a priority for the Left.
2That principled anti-racism must be integral to the Left's arguments for what form Brexit should take, so that any case for a ‘People’s Brexit’ must include the defence of freedom of movement, protection of migrants’ rights and opposition to Fortress Europe as well as economic demands.
3That a key challenge for the Left is to connect anti-racist positions with positive economic alternatives, in order to undermine the influence of racist arguments and the appeal of ‘radical Right’ solutions.
4That, while racism is an endemic menace in contemporary politics, those on the Left who argue that we are witnessing a carnival of reaction, characterised by a lurch to the right and even creeping fascism, have a one-sided and over-simplistic perspective that sees only the dangers in the crisis of the neoliberal centre and the accompanying political polarisation.
1To use Counterfire's paper and website to develop socialist analysis and arguments that cut through the widespread myths about Muslims and migrants, consistently challenging the racist ideas that come from the top of society and have gained respectability in mainstream politics and media.
2To participate in (and promote) broad-based anti-racist initiatives that oppose Islamophobia, champion migrants’ rights and freedom of movement, or challenge Fortress Europe and the horrendous treatment of refugees, seeking support in the labour movement for such initiatives.
3To make the connections between racism, austerity and war - and opposition to them - through our campaigning in the People’s Assembly and the Stop the War Coalition.
4To co-operate with others on the left in developing ‘People's Brexit’ campaigns that link anti-racism with economic demands that resonate with wide layers of working-class people.
Resolution 2, Corbyn, Labour and the Left – Steering Committee
1That Jeremy Corbyn’s second victory confirms the strong demand for a change of course among Labour members and the wider mood for a challenge to neoliberalism.
2That his opponents in Labour have been divided and disorientated by the victory. For now, the soft-left approach is to try and limit Corbyn’s radicalism, especially on foreign policy questions. Some centrists are also co-operating in order to try and tame him, in particular pushing for concessions to the Right on immigration. For the Blairites and others, the aim is still to remove him.
3That the pause in hostilities has allowed Corbyn the room to attack the Tories. This is likely to lead to progress in the polls.
4That Corbyn’s good response to Brexit creates the space for a mass left response on the issue. This campaigning must take a clear position on free movement.
5That the impact of this situation is contradictory. Corbyn’s success has helped to popularise left arguments but it also pulls some activists away from the movement and into pure electoralism and internal bureaucratic politics. It raises all sorts of political questions that because of the contested situation can't easily be answered within Labour.
6That the mass movements are crucial to building Corbyn’s reach and popularity, to reinforcing his political positions and defending him against Labour's right. The movements’ success depends on the involvement of organised revolutionaries.
7That ideological clarity for socialists is at a premium, given the renewed pull of reformism and the complex and volatile situation.
1To continue our support for the Corbyn project, especially by building the movements on various fronts.
2To use our media and meetings to defend Corbyn, develop the Left’s arguments and criticise when real mistakes are made.
3To organise regular political Counterfire meetings - weekly where possible - in as many areas as we can, to provide much needed political analysis, reassert and renew the revolutionary tradition and serve as organising centres for the Left.
Resolution 3, The centenary of 1917 – Steering Committee (as ammended)
1That the economic crisis which started in 2008 is a continuing economic earthquake, still producing tidal waves in the ideological and political spheres across the globe.
2That the major crisis of legitimacy for the ‘extreme centre’, general volatility and polarisation to right and left across the globe means that growing numbers will be open to revolutionary arguments, both because of events abroad and in the UK.
3That the attention drawn to 1917 in Russia on its 100th anniversary will be an excellent opportunity for revolutionary socialists to raise their arguments in public about the continuing relevance of the revolutionary experience and of Lenin, Trotsky and other Marxists in the 21st century.
4That both the legacies of Stalinism and the anti-Communist hysteria that followed the collapse of the Stalinist states mean that to engage in uncovering the history of the Russian Revolution can help rediscover the authentic spirit of socialism from below, the centrality of the working class to transformative change and the role of the revolutionary party as an emancipatory project.
5That rediscovering Lenin and other revolutionary Marxists does not imply repeating the past but recovering it in order to provide new generations with a set of tools to craft a set of revolutionary strategy and tactics relevant for the changed world of today.
1To build the ‘Revolution’ conference on the centenary of the February Revolution as widely as possible.
2To set up a website with weekly posts on the anniversary of key events in 1917, as a way to bring the experience and understanding of the revolution to a new generation of activists globally.
3To use the Facebook community page and event page as interactive forums to put new people in touch with revolutionary ideas in the movements in which we participate.
4To integrate these strands of activity to our various activities as an organisation (the paper, website, meetings, Dangerous Times Festival).
5To use these as a means to help refresh revolutionary ideas and recruit a new generation of revolutionaries.
Resolution 4, US imperialism and the Trump presidency – Steering Committee
1That Donald Trump is the most right-wing US President in post-war history.
2That Trump is an establishment maverick whose foreign policy is an unknown quantity. This is in comparison to Hillary Clinton, whose positions were clearly demarcated as on the hawkish end of the establishment political spectrum.
3That Trump’s pronouncements in the Presidential campaign were a mixture of isolationism (scepticism about NATO) and hardline interventionism (bomb ISIS, break the Iran deal, support for Jerusalem as the capital of Israel).
4That US foreign policy has already developed a ‘isolationist’, risk-averse strand under Obama, characterised by a reliance on drone warfare, proxy warfare and targeted assassinations rather than full-scale shock and awe Iraq-type military operations.
5That this is one element of the US ruling class’ response to the failure of the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan and to its longer-term economic decline.
6That discontent with the Obama foreign policy has already been building in the last year, with calls to do more in Syria and to combat Russia.
7That we live in an era where the US has suffered a severe strategic setback in the Middle East and is no longer fully able to control the consequences of that reverse.
8That US imperialism remains by far the most powerful force in the competitive state system but that it now faces challengers able to make regional bids to erode the reach of US power.
1That the state structures of US imperialism, the Pentagon, the NSA, the CIA etc, will shape Trump’s foreign policy more than he will shape them.
2That Trump’s paradoxical stance reflects a very real dilemma for US imperialism and that his maverick status will exacerbate this paradox, making US policy less predictable for enemies, allies and the Left.
3That the cabinet appointments that Trump makes will be a significant guide to the direction of his foreign policy. If either John Bolton or Newt Gingrich take major foreign policy portfolios we can expect a return to the full-blown neo-con agenda of the Bush years.
1To analyse and explain the development of Trump’s foreign policy as it unfolds.
2To participate through the Stop the War Coalition and the People’s Assembly in the mobilisations on the day of Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.
3To ready ourselves to initiate with our allies in the Palestine solidarity movement a campaign against any attempt to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
4To work to deepen the organised presence of the STWC in British society.
5To examine the feasibility of calling an international anti-war, anti-austerity conference in the UK in the course of 2017.
Resolution 5, Strengthening and expanding local Counterfire groups – Jack Hazeldine, Bristol
1That following the model put into action in London and now Bristol, local Counterfire groups should aim to host public meetings (talk & discussion) at least every fortnight, and every week where possible.
2All members should be encouraged to lead a discussion – with appropriate notice and support – on a subject they feel able to approach, ideally one of relevance to the developing political situation in theoretical or practical strategic terms. This might mean a brief introduction (10 minutes), where support in discussion is offered by other group members, or where possible a more developed ‘talk’ allowing for deeper analysis. This will require rolling planning of several meetings at a time, weeks ahead, where a flexible approach is adopted in relation to important political events (moving dates etc). Arrangement of a weekly venue and time slot will facilitate this process and bring a regularity and familiarity to the public face of the group, so as to further enable sustained engagement from potential new members, whilst building commitment and raising the level of analysis and understanding for all members Where a public discussion is not possible, members should still meet weekly in the same slot.
3That local organisers will recommend, where appropriate, important texts for reading to local members and specific individuals, in order to assist in the regular discussions and general political development. This would not be an obligatory or arbitrary scheme, but could be supported by a list of advised key texts by the Steering Committee.
4That local organisers should encourage all members to write for the Counterfire website, including commissioning reports on rallies, demonstrations and local political events, as well as opinion or analysis pieces on areas of particular experience and understanding.
Resolution 6, The Counterfire paper - Steering Committee
1That the last 18 months have seen a major change in the political atmosphere. There are growing signs of political radicalisation, the most obvious of which is the election and re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. However, the new mood goes far beyond this, with the themes of the left on inequality and rejection of many of the nostrums of neoliberalism now being part of both public discourse and everyday conversation.
2That one of the key ways in which Counterfire has intervened in this heightened political atmosphere is via its paper, which it has now produced regularly for 18 months. In that time, it has acquired a recognition within the movement.
3That the paper has been well received amongst the political milieu which can broadly described as being Corbynista. This has been achieved without compromising our positions on questions where our position differs, such as on the fundamental nature of the Labour Party or on the EU referendum.
4That the paper has distributors across the country, though still in not as many places as we would like. It is also distributed in venues such as cafes and bookshops on a limited scale.
5That where this has been done on a consistent basis, such as in Bristol, the political message of Counterfire has got out there and the local group has reaped the benefit.
6That since its inception the paper has been on a steady upward curve in terms of its quality, both in content and production values. This has been limited however by the paper’s limited human and financial resources. As a free paper, it cannot function without a flow of regular donations.
7That the paper is mostly produced by voluntary work by our members. We need to expand the number of people who can and do contribute to the paper. The development of a core writing team is also necessary and an aspect of the paper’s production which should always be a task of the EB, as new talent must always be nurtured and developed. This needs to be a priority in the paper’s next stage of development.
1That local groups should develop a pro-active and consistent approach to the distribution of the paper.
2That new sources of income and donators need to be identified and utilised.
3That the EB needs to be developed, new members inducted and new writers found in accordance with the needs of the paper in the coming year.