Eyes on the prize
Peter Kirker review for Red Pepper April 2005 issue
Paul Feldman and Corinna Lotz may be unashamed crusaders for the Gerry Healy school of political theory, but with A World to Win they have produced an open-minded piece of work that will reach out to activists right across the left spectrum.
The book's main strength is a penetrating analysis of the status quo, an analysis that is copiously illustrated with shocking facts and statistics. You itch to turn to the last pages, to find out, whodunit style, what's to be done.
When it comes to finding answers, however, the authors are a little less impressive. We are told, for instance, that the banks ought to be put under public ownership, with no explanation of how this might be achieved, and that there should be 'massive' investment in solar energy. It's all a bit woolly, particularly in comparison with the detailed research at the book's heart.
Feldman and Lotz acknowledge that the global economy is here to stay. And they would have no problem with that, provided only that capitalism is taken out of the equation, and that the extensive powers usurped by transnational corporations were restored to democratic governments.
And yes, they do see a continuing role for the nation state in the new world order - if it has an exclusively defence-orientated military, and puts its major employing enterprises under worker self-management. One difficulty with this is that it's been tried and found wanting - before, in, for instance, Tito's Yugoslavia.
The authors are on stronger ground, and commendably pragmatic, at the short-term tactical level. It is a pity they don't make more of the scope for mutuality as a non-capitalist source of investment, not least in the UK, now so unhealthily exposed with PFI: that scam that even the Tories had considered a fraud too far.
But Feldman and Lotz do give a passing glance to the Mondragon complex in the Basque region: still run as a workers cooperative and still going from strength to strength nearly 50 years after its inception. Strange indeed that this stunning adaptation of Robert Owen's simple principles has inspired no comparable initiative elsewhere.
Andrew Fisher reviews A World to Win for Labour Left Briefing
A World to Win ends by quoting Marx: "the proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win." The value of this book lies in the combination of sharp political analysis and creative practical solutions - a direct descendant of the feature of Marx's writings which made them so enduring.
In contradistinction to other books that have emerged from the left in recent years, there is no harking back to a golden industrial age that has now passed. Feldman & Lotz positively embrace the new scientific and technological developments of the globalised world and consider the potential they have, under democratic control, to bring about human liberation.
This work focuses on the dehumanising and alienating effects of capitalism, which are too often overlooked when the global impact of imperial capitalism is considered. Material gain is contrasted with the social results of alienation, such as drug abuse, depression, crime and a loss of autonomy.
Feldman & Lotz analyse the decay of democracy in Britain since Thatcher, which has continued under New Labour. The ever-expanding role of the private sector in ever wider spheres of government, and its consequences, are catalogued, as is the destruction of civil liberties and the gradual erosion of the legal system.
The UK left has struggled to find the correct term for the current political system. Some have labelled it "Thatcherite" - intuitive to UK audiences but ignoring the global structure and personalising the systemic. Others have chosen "neo-liberalism", which implicitly accepts an economic definition for liberalism, or neo-conservative, with its US heritage, which conceals the rapacious (and far from conservative) nature of the beast. As you read through this book, which catalogues the increasingly undemocratic world in which we live, only one word fits: "fascist".
However, the authors use only "global capitalism" - all the erosions of liberty, democracy, solidarity and equality stem from the logic of global capitalism. The expanding power of global institutions and transnational companies is explained in a detailed yet accessible way.
A World to Win is a forward-looking and well-researched tome, but a complex section on dialectical materialism only serves to obscure this fact and interrupts the otherwise accessible, coherent and thought-provoking narrative. The concluding call for a revolutionary party - and the intuitively democratic and radical form proposed - continue the previous structured clarity that characterises this intelligent work.
Paul Feldman, Ted Knight, and John McDonnell MP will discuss issues arising from this book under the title "Democracy, the state and the future for socialism" in a public meeting in the Wilson Room, Portcullis House, Westminster, on Wednesday 9th March, at 6.30pm.
Public v private
Peter Arkell review for The Teacher, monthly magazine of the National Union of Teachers
Anyone concerned by creeping privatisation of the education and health services, or the domestic and global growth in inequality, or the nob- bling of science and almost everything else by corporate interests, will find this book an eye-opener, Laying bare the workings of globalisation, the authors show how national governments are dancing to the tune of the transnational corporations and building market states in place of the welfare state. The emphasis is on "partnership" with business, deregulation, the free movement of capital and flexibility of labour. With this come threats to basic rights, including education. But the book also has proposals for transforming society in the 21st century. Mercifully free of jargon and cliches, the book has a dialogue between Glenn Rikowski, of University College, Northampton, and Prof Rich Gibson, of San Diego University, about how education could thrive in a not-for-profit environment.
A dynamic guide to the future
By Peter Arkell
A World to Win shows how capitalism has already developed many of the basic features of a fully-integrated system of production and distribution. A new democratic society serving the needs of the majority would ensure that the benefits of this production were made available to all.