Vic Collard, RIP

September 15, 2014 at 10:00 pm (Brum, class, ex-SWP, good people, Guest post, history, intellectuals, RIP, solidarity, unions, workers)

My friend Victor
Guest post by Mick Rice

Birmingham’s engineers march over the hill to shut the gates at Saltley coking works in 1972 (Pic: ©Tony Coult/ http://gallery.me.com/tony3ts gallery.me.com/tony3ts )

Above: Saltley Gates mass picket, 1972

Vic Collard was a friend of mine. We met in the late 1960’s when the heady days of revolt embraced the young. I was a “child of 1968” when the French events demonstrated that different politics were possible. Vic was 10 years older than me and a worker intellectual of the finest calibre. As well as being widely read he was also an AEU Shop Steward! There could have only been a handful of AEU Shop Stewards who knew about Marshall McLuhan never mind being conversant with his theories. Vic knew about the Frankfurt School. He was deeply interested in philosophy and psychology. He knew about Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse.

How much different the world might have been if the Left had concentrated on perfecting the “Orgone Box”! It has, unfortunately, so far, been singularly unsuccessful in promoting world revolution.

Vic once confessed to me about his role in the Second World War. I thought I was going to be entertained by a humorous Spike Milligan type – Adolf Hitler-My role in his Downfall – story. But Vic was ashamed of his behaviour. He had gone out, with a relative, for a walk by the canal. He must have been 5 or 6 years old. Alongside the towpath a group of German prisoners-of-war were clearing overgrown vegetation. Vic, our intrepid Brit, took a run at the first German POW and kicked him in the shins. No doubt thinking the juvenile equivalent of: “Take that you dirty Hun!” The Dandy and other boys’ comics of the time have a lot to answer for as they, of course, were bastions of British Imperialism. Vic had not yet read Marx.

The poor prisoner was probably just a conscripted German worker. However, if Vic felt that he had something to atone for, he certainly made up for it in later years. In the early 1970s the Birmingham East District Committee of the AEU was considering submitting motions to the union’s National Committee. One branch had sent in a motion supporting the boycott of goods to Pinochet’s Chile. If I remember right a Scottish factory with AEU members had already blocked the export of vehicles. Ted Williams, the leading right-winger, was pouring scorn on the motion. “These do-gooders want to interfere with international trade”, he thundered. “They risk putting in jeopardy AEU jobs”. Normally the later point was the ace that floored left-wing opposition as “AEU jobs” was paramount.

Vic played a blinder which completely changed the meeting. “No doubt”, said Vic, “If Brother Williams had been a member of this committee in the 1930s’ he would have been in favour of exporting Gas Chambers to Hitler’s Germany so long as they were made by AEU members”. Yes Vic was great with words and great at thinking on his feet.

Another time the full time officer was singing the praises of equality as he proudly told us he had negotiated an agreement to allow women to work night shifts! Vic had to point out that we wanted equality up and not equality down as working nightshifts was bad for men. It could not be regarded as a giant leap forward for womankind that they were going to be subjected to the same anti-social, unhealthy working patterns!

In the mid 1960’s Vic and his friend Geoff Johnson, were members of the “Labour Loyalist” group. They would go around meetings campaigning for an end to Incomes Policy which had been introduced by the Labour Government. Of course their intention was to be entirely disloyal to the Labour Government of the day. Calling themselves “Labour Loyalists” confused their opponents and, as they explained to me, it was really the Labour Government that wasn’t being loyal to the workers! A neat strategy that put Labour apparatchiks on the back foot! Read the rest of this entry »

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Neither Washington nor the ‘Ubers’

September 14, 2014 at 9:25 pm (Afghanistan, Guest post, internationalism, iraq war, islamism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, socialism, solidarity, stalinism, Stop The War)

Pro-Russia separatists in Eastern Ukraine: our enemy’s enemies are our friends?
Guest post by Dave McGuire

Since the break-up of Yugoslavia the British left has been split along the following lines; one side of the divide has come to fetishise imperialism becoming uber anti-imperialists on the other side are the third camp socialists. Here I consider the consequences of the ubers approach to some of the major events of the last two decades.

One of their most striking characteristics has been the reworking of the Stalinists framework for viewing the world. The Stalinists divided the world between the socialist and imperialist camp. Behind this division was the idea that Stalin’s Russia was building socialism and so was progressive in relation to capitalism. In the 1930s much Marxist literature including that of the Trotskyists, was devoted to showing the superiority of the planned economy.

This was always a monstrous calumny against the idea of workers power and socialism, Stalin’s Russia was the victory of the counter revolution and a regression from capitalism. By the early post war years this was plain to see to anyone who cared to look – what society could be called an advance on capitalism were slave labour was integral to its economy?

Today the Uber anti-imperialists look at the world through a similar bi-polar lens. The division however is no longer based on the positive, if erroneous, view that the Stalinist states were an advance on capitalism. Rather they divide the world solely on the negative; opposition to whatever the imperialists and `their stooges’ (such as the Maidan revolt, the Iraqi trade unions and the Kurds) do, and support for nearly anyone who is seen to be opposing them. In this redrawn view of the world there is no need for any concrete analysis of the forces ‘fighting imperialism’ – whether these forces are progressive, reactionary or working class – all are lumped together into a single undifferentiated mass, the “anti-imperialist” camp. Most powerful of those aligned against the West is Russia and its satellites and allies, such as the mass murderer Assad. From the struggles in Eastern Europe, through the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, into the Arab spring and now around the Ukraine, almost all international confrontations all are understood through this bi-polar analysis – either one is in the imperialist or anti-imperialist camp. Even the struggle against the barbarians of Isis is seen by some through this lens.

The most significant consequence of the Ubers’ view is that they lose the centrality of the working class both as the driving force in history and as the focus for socialists. Filling this vacuum is not there abstract catch all notion of anti-imperialism but the political results of their campist view nihilism. They have switched tracks from being consistent democrats, supporters of labour movements and advocates of socialism to being cheer-leaders for countries and movements who are against the West and in many instances against progress itself.

The starting point for this regression is their assertion that any military intervention by the west is always wrong. While socialists should never give positive support to their governments, and in most instances should be against interventions …  “most” does not mean not “all.” In some cases the rule should be broken, for example NATO bombing in Kosovo, and Libya to name two, in both instances the consequence of non-intervention would have led to massacres and the enhancement of Serb nationalism/imperialism (Kosovo) and Gaddafi (Libya). So why would one be against intervention in principle? For sure the Ubers would be sorry to see massacres happen, but they simply have to oppose anything the West does, as the ‘principle’ of non-intervention transcends all other considerations. Read the rest of this entry »

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Auld Lang Syne Afore 1968

July 16, 2014 at 7:55 pm (Europe, Guest post, scotland)

Guest post from Robin Carmody. A full version can be read here.

It was reading Yvonne Ridley’s tweets on this matter which finally got me to write this.

The one thing that matters about Scotland, the one thing from which everything else comes and to which everything else returns, , is this: 1968 never really happened there, and therefore neither did its principal legacy in the rest of Europe (but especially England), the separation of economic Leftism from social and cultural conservatism, the rendering incompatible of these two once-allied forces. This is why England can’t be Scotland. and why Scotland can’t be England, for those souixante-huitards and Black Atlanticists who would find Scotland unsettlingly folksy and homogeneous. In the end, that is all it is, and whether or not an English Leftist supports and sympathises with Scotland’s claims to nationhood depends entirely on what sort of Leftist he or she is, which criteria (1945 or 1968, basically) he or she considers most important. Maybe that’s all I need to write.

But it isn’t quite, of course; I have to write something more because I am in equal parts both kinds of Leftist; my basic inability to take sides (in itself a very English thing rather than a Celtic thing, as detailed further below) has me taking in equal parts from the 1945 and 1968 traditions, and thus from traditions with fundamentally oppositional views of the merits and worth of Scottish independence. Yvonne Ridley is, of course, is the ultimate anti-68-er (on a scale of one to ten, with the most hardline souixante-huitards rating ten, she’d be way, way down minus one). Not only has she allied herself with forces of extreme social and religious conservatism (as much of the international Left has admittedly done), she has actually joined up with such forces herself, and become not merely an ally of convenience but an actual believer (which the great majority of the Western Left has not) and moved to Scotland because within it her sense of the Left – the most extreme form of a world where 1968 never happened – seems to her to be protected and preserved. And there is nothing more unpleasant and extreme than the zeal of the convert, with which she is infected on two subtly-related fronts. Her take on Scottish independence seems defensive and negative There are others rooted in far more humanistic values, an approach to the world far closer to mine, which may be critical of the Israeli state but does not share her aggressive paranoia.. I can easily forget it when reading Ridley’s religious self-assurance, but there are plenty of visions of Scottish independence which evoke a world in which I could happily live.

The most traditionalist parts of both Right and Left in England share a conspiratorial mindset, a belief that the entire modern world represents a conspiracy against them and their approach to life. When I see the Traditional Britain Group, which represents a quasi-fascist, Third Positionist undercurrent which in my worst nightmares exploits the instability of England after Scottish secession to create a totalitarian state from which Puerto Rico status seems like a positive relief and national saviour, I could not help thinking of elements of the old Left in England, lost and homeless and yearning for what their Scottish counterparts can cling to in hope of escape, the belief that everything has been permanently corrupted and the only way out is a total retaking and restaffing of all institutions. John Pilger’s sense of the entire media saturation of the present age as a grand-scale lie, an organised delusion from a deeper truth, has more than a little crossover with this part of the Right. There is a shared hatred for both economic and social liberalism. Both yearn for a moment in history when everything was perfect, uncorrupted: it’s just that for one that moment was a notional pre-capitalist mediaeval state of being, and for the other it was 1945; one calls the world that is out to get them “cultural Marxism”, the other calls it “neoliberalism”. But both share an elemental romanticism which has been a far stronger political undercurrent among both mainland Europeans and Celts than among the English.  (Searchlight notes with some accuracy that the European intellectualism of the Traditional Britain Group may very easily turn off many of the sort of people in England they are aiming to turn on).

And both, in their own ways, are trying to find answers to the question which Scottish independence, or not, asks for their neighbours, and inwardly screaming (it can only be inward: they are, after all, English) that no comparable question can give them in turn something to live for. Living alongside something so seismic is so hard to take in isolation that it can only be that very English distrust of elemental romanticism which stops both old Left and old Right from being far stronger forces in England than they are.

In the Scottish referendum every argument from either side can reasonably be counterbalanced by the other: the Yes campaign can say with total justification that, if you can’t block out whatever is channel 865 on Sky then you can’t block out BBC1, and the inference by some in Westminster that you could is, like so many other stances taken from that end, stupid and counter-productive. The No campaign can respond, equally reasonably, that if you can’t control the global spread of media and you don’t even attempt to, then the point of secession is negated and undermined. The Yes campaign can say, quite reasonably, that Scotland’s role in Europe is being held back by people and institutions far more sceptical of the EU and its purpose than the general Scottish population; the No campaign can respond, also with a good deal of truth behind it, that Hollywood and rock’n’roll have been as important, as foundational, to proportionately as many Scots as English people. Certainly there is a tendency on the part of some Yes supporters either to deny this or almost to infer that a Yes vote could eliminate it, wipe it from the folk memory, and in the process to divert too far from the far more universally applicable economic reasons for independence; if there is a narrow No vote, this would probably be the biggest reason, just as the unfounded scaremongering, which might well partially be driven by a desire to eliminate politically inconvenient socialist tendencies from the Anglosphere, would be the main cause of a narrow Yes. People in my position frequently, with some justification, accuse the Yes campaign of selfishness (and also of hypocrisy, since they see themselves as above and separate from the drift in such a direction in post-1979 England) – of being concerned purely for their own social democratic idyll and of being indifferent to the fate of the rest of us. The Yes campaign can respond, perfectly reasonably, that we are the selfish ones for wanting to use others to give us what we cannot give ourselves.

Or maybe it is a matter of tone, a fundamental psychological difference between the English and the Celts. Over and over again I find myself agreeing with the basic meat of what Scottish independence supporters have to say, but being turned off by what often comes over to me as a rather arrogant, combative, dismissive tone to it. It was once said that, to understand Enoch Powell, you had to be conscious of his Welsh ancestry because it was the source of his “un-English, but Celtic, passion for going all the way”.

Does this mean that, underneath it all, I’m a Tory as well (at least in the gentle, diffident shire sense that Powell, the proto-Thatcherite child of a great industrial city, very definitely wasn’t, part of)? Some people would say yes, no doubt, and yes I can hear all the jokes about moderation to excess starting already. But I prefer to think of myself as a liberal humanist – in TPL terms, in the tradition which runs from On the Threshold of a Dream to ELO’s Time, and the pieces about them, not the vast, unedifying swathes of proto-Cameronite muck to come. I do cherish the English liberal humanist tradition which has been so eroded and threatened in recent times, and I don’t want it to be weakened still further, turned more than ever into a defensive, bull-headed nationalism, defined far more by what it is against rather than what it is for, which bears disturbing resemblances to Serbian nationalism as it developed in the early 1990s. Scotland has its own traditions, and they can no doubt thrive better apart. What worries me is the survival, or not, of the liberal traditions I myself was raised for, which I fear need the help of others to thrive now because those theoretically raised for them increasingly don’t really understand them.

The frustration caused by the gulf between my identification and sympathy with some aspects of Scottish independence aspirations – my basic belief that it represents a positive, progressive social model for those who can be part of it – and the way I must live, the way I am confined to live, is a cause of almost unbearable pain. In the end – for the purely emotional side of me, for the 1945 side of me – “I want the one I can’t have”. That Morrissey – precisely the sort of English Leftist who could only have thrived and really been understood if England had been Scotland – could be a wise chap, when he wanted to be.

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Ukraine: return of Putin’s useful idiots

July 13, 2014 at 10:46 pm (apologists and collaborators, fascism, Guest post, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, stalinism)

RLS - SEE / Boris Kagarlitsky: Od krize socijalizma do krize savremene levice

 Above:  Boris Kagarlitsky

Boris Kagarlitsky je ruski marksistički teoretičar i sociolog, politički disident u Sovjetskom savezu i post-sovjetskoj Rusiji. Zbog svog aktivizma, Boris je dvaput bio hapšen, 1982. i 1993. godine. Koordinator je projekta „Globalna kriza“ pri Transnacionalnom institutu i direktor Instituta za globalizaciju i društvene pokrete (IGSO) u Moskvi. Od 1994. do 2002. bio je viši istraživač-saradnik na Institutu za uporedne političke nauke Ruske akademije nauka (ISPRAN). Doktorat je stekao 1995. godine, sa tezom „Kolektivne akcije i politike rada u Rusiji tokom 1990-ih godina“. Autor je nekoliko knjiga među kojima su i Empire of the Periphery: Russia and the World System, Russia under Yeltsin and Putin: Neo-liberal Autocracy i The Mirage of Modernisation.

Sa Borisom smo razgovarali o sovjetskom socijalizmu, aktuelnoj političkoj situaciji u Rusiji, ali i o perspektivama levice u Evropi.

- See more at: http://pe.org.rs/osvrti/boris-kagarlitsky-od-krize-socijalizma-do-krize-savremene-levice-intervju/#sthash.ds4nfESE.dpuf

Boris Kagarlitsky je ruski marksistički teoretičar i sociolog, politički disident u Sovjetskom savezu i post-sovjetskoj Rusiji. Zbog svog aktivizma, Boris je dvaput bio hapšen, 1982. i 1993. godine. Koordinator je projekta „Globalna kriza“ pri Transnacionalnom institutu i direktor Instituta za globalizaciju i društvene pokrete (IGSO) u Moskvi. Od 1994. do 2002. bio je viši istraživač-saradnik na Institutu za uporedne političke nauke Ruske akademije nauka (ISPRAN). Doktorat je stekao 1995. godine, sa tezom „Kolektivne akcije i politike rada u Rusiji tokom 1990-ih godina“. Autor je nekoliko knjiga među kojima su i Empire of the Periphery: Russia and the World System, Russia under Yeltsin and Putin: Neo-liberal Autocracy i The Mirage of Modernisation.

Sa Borisom smo razgovarali o sovjetskom socijalizmu, aktuelnoj političkoj situaciji u Rusiji, ali i o perspektivama levice u Evropi.

- See more at: http://pe.org.rs/osvrti/boris-kagarlitsky-od-krize-socijalizma-do-krize-savremene-levice-intervju/#sthash.ds4nfESE

Guest post by Dale Street

An “international conference” entitled “The World Crisis and the Confrontation in Ukraine” was held in Yalta (Crimea – formerly Ukraine, now Russia) on 6th/7th July.

The background to the conference was provided in an article published on the website of the Russian academic magazine, “Politicheskoye Obrazovaniye” (1). An identical report of the conference’s proceedings was subsequently published on the website of “Rabkor” (2) and “Russian Spring” (3).

(The former is a left-wing website, edited by Boris Kagarlitsky. The latter is a right-wing website which is one of the electronic media mouthpieces of the Donetsk/Lugansk ‘People’s Republics’.)

According to its organisers, who included the “Centre of Co-ordination and Support for Novaya Rus’ (Novorossiya)” (4), the purpose of the conference was threefold:

“To create an international network of support for the movement for the creation of Novorossiya. … To provide additional arguments and emotional materials for western activists and intellectuals who support us.” (1)

“By inviting a number of western experts to Crimea, to demonstrate to the domestic (i.e. Russian) public the existence in western public opinion of a strong current hostile to the current anti-Russian campaign.” (1)

“Publications by conference participants in the western press and in the English-language section of the web (which) must facilitate the dissemination of information which is positive for Russia about the processes now underway.” (1)

The organizers also stressed the importance of the fact that the conference was being held in Crimea:

“The mere fact of the arrival in Crimea of an entire delegation of western intellectuals in and of itself is already a form of support for the changes which have taken place (i.e. the annexation of Crimea) and a blow to the various initiatives for a boycott of Russia.” (1)

The conference agreed that the overthrow of Yanukovich and the uprising in the south-east of Ukraine were both the product of the European social-economic crisis. As one of the participants put it:

“The struggle against the new Kiev authorities is really a struggle against the European Union, only not just in the form of a rejection of the politics of the destruction of the family and heterosexual relationships but in the form of a rejection of the entire anti-social neo-liberal policies of the western elites.” (2, 3)

“Banderite fascism,” the same speaker continued, was “needed by Washington and Brussels as an instrument to beat down social opposition.” (2, 3)

‘Representatives’ of the Donetsk and Lugansk so-called ‘People’s Republics’ informed the conference:

“A fifth column in Donetsk dreamed of surrendering the city to the punitive expeditionaries (the name used by the separatists to describe Ukrainian troops). They blocked initiatives to organize the rear and the defence of the city. But now order is being imposed.” (2, 3)

“We will not be raising the white flag, as desired by the oligarchs and the Banderite politicians and their American chiefs. We are very much in need of international support. We want people in Europe and beyond to know: we are fighting against the new fascism, we are fighting for freedom, we are fighting for our land.” (2, 3)

Described as “the co-ordinator of the campaign in defence of Novorossiya”, Richard Brenner (presumably Richard Brenner of “Workers’ Power”) is quoted as saying:

“For us it is very important to know what is happening in Donetsk and Lugansk, what is happening in the entire territory controlled by the junta. We perfectly understand that we are not helping some faraway incomprehensible rebels but are making common cause with the workers of Novorossiya.” (2, 3)

Other speakers stressed:

“The struggle of the people against fascism in former Ukraine has an international character. The Banderite-liberal-fascist regime in Kiev does not accord us any rights. And this is the doctrine of the USA and the EU, who are running the show on our land. The liberation struggle of Novorossiya not only has a Russian character but also a Eurasian one.” (2, 3)

An unnamed “European expert” present at the conference described the socio-economic havoc currently being wreaked by the “Euro-bureaucrats” and concluded:

“That is why we are in solidarity with you! Because we recognise that the enemy of Novorossiya is our common enemy – those neo-liberal forces who deprive us of our future.” (2, 3)

The conference concluded with agreement on an appeal to be published in English and Russian. Doubtless its politics will be on the same grotesque level as those of the conference itself.

Apart from Richard Brenner, attendees at the conferences included Boris Kagarlitsky, the American economist Jeff Sommers, Vasily Koltashov (doubtless not the only participant to have a problem with gay rights), and Roger Ennis (“co-ordinator of the Canadian Campaign in Support of the Donetsk people’s Republic”).

1) http://www.lawinrussia.ru/node/299677

2) http://rabkor.ru/report/2014/07/09/yalta

3) http://rusvesna.su/news/1405106243

4) This organization defines its role as: “The struggle against the fascist junta which has seized power in Kiev. The struggle for the freedom of the citizens of Novorossiya. The struggle of the Russian World for the right to live according to its own laws, free of Neanderthal Galician nationalism and oligarchic fascism of the Latin-American variety.” See: http://centerkor-ua.org/o-tsentre/pomoshch-soprotivleniyu.html

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Prime Minister Borodai: fascism draped in a Russian tricolour

May 24, 2014 at 3:38 pm (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, fascism, Guest post, philosophy, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, stalinism, thuggery, truth)

Aleksandr Borodai, the self-proclaimed prime minister of the pro-Russian separatists' self-declared 'People's Republic of Donetsk,' speaks to media during a press conference in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Saturday, May 17, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Alexander Khudoteply)

Above: Borodai – a ruler in the tradition of Plato?

Guest post by Dale Street

In mid-May the previously unheard-of Aleksandr Borodai was declared Prime Minster of the so-called ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’.

This fact alone should disabuse anyone deluded enough to believe that there is anything ‘progressive’, ‘anti-imperialist’ or ‘left-wing’ about the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ and its Lugansk counterpart.

In 1992 Borodai fought as a volunteer in the war in the predominantly ethnic-Russian Transnistrian region when it broke away from Moldova. In 1993 he took part in the defence of the Russian Parliament after its dissolution by Yeltsin.

Borodin went on to write for the Russian newspaper “Zavtra” – poisonously anti-semitic, full of nostalgia for Stalin, rabidly Russian nationalist, and arguably outright fascist. According to the newspaper’s owner and editor, Aleksandr Prekhanov:

“I’ve known him (Borodai) since 1991. In terms of his ideology he is a Russian nationalist. He is a supporter of a strong Russian state. … He’s always been close to me, and has preached the idea of a Russian national white – not red – imperial consciousness.”

Apart from turning his hand to running his own PR consultancies and working as deputy editor of the magazine “Russian Businessman”, Borodai helped Prekhanov to launch the “Djen” television channel in 2011.

Like “Zavtra”, the channel’s output consists of anti-semitism, Russian nationalism, conspiracy theories, homophobia, misogyny, denunciations of the decadence of European civilization, and, more recently, treatises on the ‘fiction’ of a Ukrainian national identity.

Borodai is on the channel’s editorial board and, until recently, regularly hosted its programmes. Another “Djen” regular is Konstantin Dushenov. He has served time for anti-semitic incitement and is the author of a video series entitled: “Russia with a Knife in its Back – Jewish Fascism and the Genocide of the Russian People.”

In early 2014 Borodai turned up in the Crimea, working as a “political strategist” for the peninsula’s “governor” (and mafia boss) Sergei Aksyonov at the time of its annexation by Russia.

From the Crimea Borodai moved directly to south-east Ukraine: “The territory of the Crimea is quite closely connected to the Donbass, and naturally the people who set up these popular movements are the same people, they are connected to each other. So when I finished in Crimea, I automatically came here.”

More information about Borodai’s politics can be found in an interview recently published by “Russkaya Vesna”, the website of the Donetsk and Lugansk ‘People’s Republics’:

*******************************************************************************************************

Q: “Aleksandr, how did it come about that it was you who ended up as the head of the republic’s government?”

A: “Fate decreed it to be so. I cannot answer any differently. I was prepared to take this responsibility on myself and to take up this role simply by virtue of my personal characteristics. I see what is happening as a confirmation that history has not ended, contrary to the claims of fashionable philosophers. Today it is happening in front of our eyes. And the most important thing is that it is the history of my native country.”

Q: “You are a product of the Faculty of Philosophy of Moscow State University, the son of a philosopher. You’ll recall Plato’s idea that philosophers must rule. I know you fought as a volunteer in Transnistria and defended the Russian Parliament in 1993. What are your opinions?”

A: “To put it briefly and simply, I am a Russian patriot. I consider that the extent of the Russian world was artificially reduced as a result of certain circumstances, and that the Russian world was divided by artificially created borders. Those borders divide people of Russian culture. I am convinced that the difference between the inhabitants of, say, the Rostov and Donetsk regions is to a certain degree imaginary. I therefore see my task as defending and supporting my compatriots. Basically, we are at one of the first stages (this became particularly obvious after the reunification of the Crimea and Russia), the gathering together of the Russian world, which was violently dismembered after the geo-political catastrophe of 1991.”

Q: “Is it true that you were personally acquainted with the philosopher Lev Gumilev (see below). Could one say that his creativity has influenced your own views?”

A: I was still a child when I had the good fortune to associate with him. He was often a guest in our home and spent summers in my father’s dacha.  Once he even had something like a mystic revelation, but I’ll talk about that another time. Many early but valuable memories link me to this mystic. I highly value his contribution to Russian culture and science. Absolutely, he has influenced me.”

Q: “In that case, could what is happening in the Donetsk Republic be regarded as an eruption of passionarity?” (see below)

A: “What’s happening confirms that the Russian cultural archetype is far from having exhausted his vitality. Just as in Transnistria, so too in the Donetsk Republic we are confronted with the process of the self-organisation of the Russian world, in response to the uncompromising challenge it faces. What is happening in the south-east of Ukraine can be characterized as a Russian uprising. Russian in the broad sense of the word – in terms of culture, mentality and civilization. But I’d also like to point out that ethnic Ukrainians are massively involved in the resistance movement. This process is not to be stopped.”

******************************************************************************************************

The Lev Gumilev praised by Borodai was a Russian ethnologist and anthropologist (and anti-semite) who theorized that ethnic groups went through a particular life-cycle. Such groups expanded, through conquest, when their national “passionarity” reached maximum heat.

“Passionarity” is stimulated by external, mostly natural, events (such as oscillations in solar radiation levels). Similarly, it is natural events which set cultures apart. Hence, according to Gumilev, the border between Russia and the West coincides with the negative isotherm for January.

For Gumilev, the Mongol domination of medieval Russia saved Russia from the West and Catholicism and created a Russian “super-ethnos”, through a merger of Eastern Slavs (currently: Russia, Ukraine and Belorus) with Tatars and Mongols.

Gumilev contrasted the “passionarity” of the Russian “super-ethnos” with “parasite states” which exercised only “chimera statehood”. Examples of the latter states were America and France, both of which has been created by Jews (who, lacking a “passionarity” of their own, are necessarily parasitic on other peoples).

The next time British Stalinists want to stage a protest about fascism in Ukraine – perhaps they could direct their anti-fascist endeavours towards Prime Minister Borodai and his supporters? Or are they incapable of recognizing fascism when it comes draped in a Russian tricolour?

 

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Helen Crawford: from Suffragette to Stalinist

April 26, 2014 at 2:55 pm (Guest post, history, Roger M, scotland, stalinism, USSR)

image thumbnail

Guest post by Roger McCarthy

BBC Scotland has produced a programme on Helen Crawfurd which I highly recommend for as long as it is available on iplayer (2 PM on 29th April).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0418z4q/Women_with_a_Past_Series_2_Helen_Crawfurd/

Born in Glasgow in 1877 Helen had a respectable Victorian lower middle class upbringing with staunchly Tory parents, initially dreamed of becoming a missionary and married at 21 a Presbyterian minister who was old enough to be her grandfather.

However (at least as she recalls it from her autobiography written around 1950) her Christianity always had a radical and socialist bent which led her into the women’s suffrage movement – and inspired by her husband’s preaching of the text where Jesus chases the moneychangers from the temple the Sunday before a big suffragette ‘raid’ she gravitated into its most radical direct action wing.

This led the respectable minister’s wife into multiple stints in prison for throwing rocks through the Liberal education minister’s window and that of an army recruiting office, for setting off a small bomb at the Botanic Gardens and ‘inflammatory language’ and went on hunger strike three times.

After the death of her husband and the outbreak of WW1 in 1914 she was appalled by the transformation of most of her radical suffragette comrades into white feather waving militarists and threw herself into Red Clydeside’s anti-war movement – joining the Glasgow women’s rent strike campaign in 1915, confronting her former idol Christabelle Pankhurst at a recruiting rally and becoming an increasingly prominent and militant member of the Scottish ILP, the Women’s International League and the Women’s Peace Crusade winning a reputation as one of Red Clydeside’s fieriest orators.

She also acted at some point (probably in the summer or latter part of 1915) as a courier between James Connolly and his old SLP comrades in Glasgow who around this time had taken over the printing of The Workers Republic and met Connolly himself and other Republicans in Dublin.

The October Revolution threw her further to the left as the Bolshevik publication of the imperialist secret treaties removed whatever lingering illusions she may still have had about liberal democracies and she was increasingly involved with the internationalist left-wing of the ILP arguing for joining the new Communist International.

And this led this 43-year old Scottish minister’s widow to make the difficult and dangerous pilgrimage to Russia itself in summer 1920, travelling via fishing boat, cargo ship and the Arctic port of Murmansk, meeting up with John Reed in Petrograd who gave her a tour of the revolutionary sights and finally in late August (her autobiography’s chronology is frustratingly vague) arriving in Moscow – a few days too late for the Second Congress of the Comintern itself.

Here her 1950 autobiography is probably less than fully frank as while she met Lenin (which seems to have been a standard feature of a Moscow tour at this point) and Alexandra Kollontai she has nothing to say about any meetings with Zinoviev or Radek or any of the other senior Comintern functionaries who were to become unpersons in the 1930s, but who were hardly likely to have ignored a prominent figure in the ILP who they needed to press for either its accession to the Comintern or the biggest possible split over the issue at its next conference.

She does however have a lot to say about John Reed who she met again in Moscow on his return from the Baku Congress in mid-September and accompanied him and Louise Bryant to the Bolshoi theatre, a night which 30 years later inspired one of the few lyrical passages in her autobiography:

The great Bolshoi Theatre was opened as the autumn days approached and John Reed got tickets for us to attend several performances of opera and ballet… One evening I was seated in a small box near to the great centre box … which had originally been the Czar’s . In the box on my left was an American millionaire named Vanderlip whom John Reed told me had been visiting to see if he could get a concession in Kamchatka for something or other. -

On that evening the Czar’s box was occupied by a delegation of peasants who had come from some of the distant villages for some conference. An old peasant was seated in the centre chair – the Czar’s chair – and around him were the middle aged  and young peasant men and women with bright kerchiefs on their heads. I looked at the old peasant with his greying beard and saw the expression of wonder on his face as he gazed at the magnificence and beauty of the scene being enacted on the stage. Then I turned to watch the millionaire in the small box on my left and the words of Mary in the Magnificat came to my mind ‘He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hast exalted those of low degree. Thou hast filled the hungry with good things and the rich thou hast sent empty away’. The old Russian eagle had been removed from the shield on the front of the Czar’s box and the hammer and sickle had taken its place. The men and women who were out in the fields producing the food of Russia were honoured while the American millionaire who wanted to exploit the resources  of Russia got a third rate seat. l was on top of the world.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Deen’s ‘deen': putting the fit into Fitna

April 17, 2014 at 6:44 pm (blogosphere, Guest post, Islam, islamism, music, Pink Prosecco, religion, song)

Guest post by Pink Prosecco

Adam Deen, of the Deen Institute, has been coming in for a bit of flack from (some) Muslims over his ‘modernising’ approach to Islam. In particular he has spoken out against the marginalization of women in university ISOCs, the way they have been excluded from full participation. Now he is at the centre of another controversy, this time sparked by the Happy Muslims video, which you can see at the Pharrell – HAPPY BRITISH MUSLIMS! site here. Deen appears with other Muslims, including his wife Myriam Francois Cerrah, dancing and singing to the Pharrell Williams hit ‘Happy’.

Several different objections have been raised to this project. The most predictable focus on the supposed impropriety of the video:

 “We’ve basically lost all meaning for what the word hijab means. I can’t even be bothered to explain this issue again, the fact that hijab is a state, not just a piece of cloth on the head. Anyway, whatever. This isn’t about the women anyway, this is about the mindset of *all* who support such things.”

Others complain that it is pandering to non-Muslim prejudices to put on a display of happiness and normalcy in order to counter stereotypes. A few just find it a bit cringey, and some feel happiness is rather misplaced when there is so much suffering in the world.

Here is an extract from one of the more aggressive responses, a post by Uthman Badar.

“What we have here is an attempt by Muslims to been seen as ‘normal’ by the mainstream non-Muslim white majority in response to overbearing stereotypes and allegations to the contrary. In the words of the producers,

‘We Brits have a bad rep for being a bit stiff, but this video proves otherwise. We are HAPPY. We are eclectic. We are cosmopolitan. Diverse. Creative. Fun. Outgoing. And everything you can think of.

This video is to show the world despite the negative press, stereotypes and discrimination we are burdened with we should respond with smiles and joy, not anger.’

There is so much wrong with this approach, I don’t know where to begin!

It has Muslims coming in to bat for ‘Brits’ and their bad rep. Reward for the excellent treatment received by Muslims in Britain and by Britain abroad? House-Muslim mentality?”

The quotation from the video’s publicity material, that Badar objects to above, in fact demonstrates that the participants are not complacent about anti-Muslim bigotry, yet still unequivocally identify as British, and want to reach out to non-Muslims with a positive message.

It’s a cheerful video – but I do wonder what it is for exactly. I don’t think EDL supporters will see the error of their ways after watching it – they’ll probably think the performers are practicing taqqiya. Those with more nuanced concerns may quite like the video – but wouldn’t have seen people like Julie Siddiqui as a problem in the first place.

I think Uthman Badar (and others like him) have got this all wrong. My hunch is that this video was never intended to influence non-Muslims, but rather to enable Deen and co. to position themselves in opposition to more conservative, or orthodox, Muslim voices. Participants such as Salma Yaqoob have sometimes seemed keener on differentiating themselves from Quilliam types than from Muslim ‘puritans’ (to use Deen’s term). It’s positive that the battle against real hardliners, usually waged by ultra-liberal Muslims and non-Muslims, is being joined by those who are only moderately moderate.

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A great day out with the Russian CP

March 24, 2014 at 11:25 am (Beyond parody, cults, Guest post, imperialism, reaction, Russia, stalinism, thuggery)

Guest post by Dale Street

A great day out for all the family, thoroughly enjoyed by one and all.

This was the verdict of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) on its “All-Russian Day of Action”, called “in Support of the People of Crimea and the Re-unification of Crimea and Russia, and Against the Persecution of Supporters of Friendship and Union with Russia by the Illegitimate Banderist Government of New-Ukraine.”

The nineteen slogans raised by the CPRF for the Day of Action, staged last Saturday (22nd March), included:

“We Will Not Abandon Our Kith and Kin!”, “Fascism Will Not Pass!”, “USA – Out of Ukraine!”, “NATO equals NAZI!”, “Berkut – an Example of Courage, Firmness and Righteousness!”, “Ukraine Will be Soviet!”, “Long Live the USSR!”, and “Let Us Defend the Victory of Our Fathers and Grandfathers!”

Given that the days of the USSR – when only state-sanctioned placards and slogans were allowed on demonstrations – are long in the past, participants in the Day of Action in different cities were able to “embellish” the official slogans with some of their own:

“Yankee Go Home!”, “We Went as Far as Berlin (i.e. in the Second World War) – We Will Go as Far as Washington!”, “EU, USA – Wipe Away Your Spittle!”, “We Defended Crimea – We Will Defend the Balkans As Well!”

Leaving aside the slightly tasteless “Crimea has Returned From Deportation to Russia” (given that it was actually the indigenous Crimean Tatars who suffered mass deportation from Crimea during the last war), other DIY slogans included:

“Crimea Was, Is and Will Be Russian!”, “Crimea – Welcome Home!”, “Long Live the Russian Spring!”, “No to the Euro-Banderists!”, “No to Global Capitalism in Ukraine!”, “One Country, One People!” “Victory Is Ours!” and “KPRF – For Russians! For Crimea!” Read the rest of this entry »

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The Stop The War Coalition and the rise of neo-Stalinism

March 5, 2014 at 8:35 pm (apologists and collaborators, capitalism, class collaboration, democracy, Europe, ex-SWP, Guest post, history, Human rights, imperialism, internationalism, John Rees, Lindsey German, Marxism, national liberation, Shachtman, socialism, stalinism, Stop The War, trotskyism, USSR)

Above: neo-Stalinists Rees, Murray and Galloway

Guest post by George Mellor

“The attempt of the bourgeoisie during its internecine conflict to oblige humanity to divide up into only two camps is motivated by a desire to prohibit the proletariat from having its own independent ideas. This method is as old as bourgeois society, or more exactly, as class society in general. No one is obliged to become a Marxist; no one is obliged to swear by Lenin’s name. But the whole of the politics of these two titans of revolutionary thought was directed towards this, the fetishism of two camps would give way to a third, independent, sovereign camp of the proletariat, that camp upon which, in point of fact, the future of humanity depends” – Leon Trotsky (1938)

Many readers will be familiar with the concept of the ‘Third Camp’ – independent working class politics that refuses to side with the main ruling class power blocs (or ‘camps’) of the world. At the outbreak of WW2 the majority of would-be revolutionary socialists (and quite a few reformists as well) supported Russia, seeing it as some form of socialist state. However a minority (the ‘Third Camp’ socialists, mainly grouped around Max Shachtman) disagreed, viewing it as imperialist – of a different type to Western imperialism, but imperialist nevertheless.

Some on the left who came out of the Third Camp tradition (and, remember, the SWP was once part of that current and over Ukraine has shown signs of returning to it) now come to the defence of capitalist Russia. In doing so these acolytes of Putin – the neo-Stalinists – use the same framework to defend Russian imperialism as their predecessors did to defend ‘Soviet’ imperialism.

The basic framework they take from the arsenal of Stalinism is the view of the world as divided into two camps: on the one hand the peace-loving countries who supported Stalin’s USSR and on the other, the enemies of peace, progress and socialism. In the period of the Popular Front (1934-39) this found Russia aligned with the bourgeois democracies of the West, but between 1939 and ’41 that policy was superseded by an alliance with Hitler and the Axis powers. The consequence of both policies (and the intellectual zig-zagging required of Comintern loyalists) was that communist politics were subordinated to Stalin’s foreign policy, effectively cauterising the revolution in the inter-war years and disorientating socialists for over a generation.

For today’s neo-Stalinist the world is divided into Western imperialism on the one hand and China, Russia and other states (like Iran and Venezuela) that broadly identify with them against the ‘West’ on the other. Their conclusion is that socialists must stand up for China, Russia, or, indeed, any state or movement (eg the Taliban) that finds itself in conflict with ‘The West’. Seeing the world through this lens has led them to support Russian imperialism against Western imperialism, turning them into Putin’s Foreign Legion.

With the advent of the Ukraine crisis the neo-Stalinists were faced with the following problem: Russia invaded (using traditional Stalinist / Fascist methods) another county, after the people of that country overthrew the incumbent, corrupt, government. From what bourgeois – let alone socialist – principle does Russia have the right to invade an independent country? Of course there is none and so the neo-Stalinists have to invent one or two: the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) ten point statement is just such an invention.

The StWC statement provides a rationale which adds up to telling us the fact Russia has invaded a sovereign country is not as important as the new cold war (I feel a moral panic or, perhaps, political panic coming on as StWC functionaries stalk the land warning us of the dangers of ‘the new cold war’). Woven through the ‘ten points’ is the continual attempt to demonise the 1 million-plus movement which overthrew the Ukrainian government. They claim the movement is fascist / neo-con / in collusion with the European Union – in fact every bad thing one can think of. Such demonization is straight out of the Stalinist playbook, a classic example of blaming the victim. The character of the Ukraine movement has been largely shaped by its experience of greater Russia chauvinism: the idea that a pure democratic let alone socialist movement would spring fully formed out of the Euromaidan was never a possibility. For sure fascist and ultra-nationalist forces played a prominent role, and maybe even paid agents of the EU were present: the point is how should socialists relate to the million-strong movement and how can we seek to influence it? This is simply not an issue for the neo-Stalinists because they have written off the Ukrainian rebels as one reactionary mass not worth a second look.

In truth the StWC statement is neither here nor there, (a blogger at The Economist has taken apart the non sequiturs, half-truths and downright lies of the neo-Stalinists in a point by point rebuttal): it is simply a particularly crude example of the ‘campist’ world view.

For the neo-Stalinists the `hard headed’ geopolitical realties of the need to defend Russia against the ‘West’ always trumps the truth, morality, political principle and consistency: just as they support the invasion of the Ukraine and fit the facts around this, so they support the butcher Assad (crimes against humanity, mass murder, poison gas user, indiscriminate use of barrel bombs, starvation, state-sponsored terror, wholesale torture) and in that case, support for sheer barbarism.

Of course socialists are unlikely to affect events in the Ukraine, let alone Syria: however even if we can only proclaim it, we have a right – and a duty – to say we support neither Western or Russian imperialism but fight for independent working class action.

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Ukraine: for independent working class action!

February 27, 2014 at 9:49 am (class, Guest post, history, liberation, national liberation, revolution, Russia, solidarity, stalinism, USSR, workers)

Ukraine Russia Protests

Guest post by George Mellor

Events in Ukraine are shaping up to be a re-run of what happened to Eastern Europe at the end of WW11 – one hopes with a very different conclusion. Then, a struggle took place over whether these countries would be assimilated into the orbit of either Western or Soviet Imperialism. The tragedy was that betrayal by the West (at Teheran, Yalta and the ‘percentages agreement’ between Stalin and Churchill in Moscow in October 1944) allowed the GPU and the `red army’ to place their jackboot on the necks of the workers, and these countries became vassals of Stalinism for nearly 50 years.

Then (as now) the question was (and is) how to build independent working class activity, and here we can see a difference between the imperialisms of East and West: the former crushed and atomised civil society. The norms of bourgeois democracy, the rule of law, pluralism – all the building blocks on which a free and independent labour movement could exist, were extinguished. This repression was met with sporadic revolts, all branded ‘counter-revolutionary acts’ put down by the Russians providing ‘fraternal assistance’ to the local Stalinist ruling classes.

While the Eastern European states, as well as the Ukraine, obtained independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union, all had been shaped by their experience of subjugation by Russia. For over 50 years the national question (once banished as a political question in Europe and raised by Trotsky specifically  around the Ukraine  in 1939) has shaped the body politic of these countries. Recovering from this subjugation some of these countries have fared well in nation building, others – mainly those infected by the gangster capitalism of Russia (look at the pictures of Yanukovych’s palace – the amassing by an individual of state sanctioned plunder) have not.

Russia is of course still a major power and is intent on rebuilding its empire through the mechanism of the Eurasian Union. For sure outside of a successful workers’ revolution nations will either be drawn into the orbit of either the West or Russia . For the Ukraine – which has the potential of being an important economic power- a precondition for embracing the Eurasian Union was to the need for an autocratic state seen in the centralising of power in the President.

Yanukovych’s support for Ukraine’s integration back into  Russia’s orbit  triggered the Euromaidan, a response which would not have been out of place in 1848. A movement of over 1m who have shown great fortitude and discipline in the face of continual attacks by the riot police. Far from acting like a mob ‘the people’ have organised the control of public buildings, and refused to be bowed by their so-called leaders or their ‘saviours’ the EU. This incoherent mass from the far right through to the far left linked by the single ill-defined idea of national sovereignty and independence. The idea that this civic protest could have been shaped by anything  other than nationalism would be naïve.

Russia is then faced with a mass movement of dissent from the path it has chosen for the Ukraine. So behind the scenes they will be sowing the seeds of dissention playing on the fears of  the Russian speaking regions.

In the West most of this propaganda war is being run by the successors to Stalinism, the neo-Stalinists, echoing their predecessors’ propaganda which accompanied the assimilation of Eastern Europe into the Stalinist Empire. Then the Stalinist lie was based on a false premise that Russia was exporting socialism. Today our neo-Stalinists continue to play the role of the border guards to a capitalist Russia.

However the propaganda is the same: all living movements such as we see in Ukriane are branded fascist or reactionary. Unless one wishes to be a functionary in such a Russian dominated regime the socialist who argues such a view will only succeed in cutting themselves off from any influence on the Euromaidan.

I am sure sections – I do not know what proportion – of the Euromaidan are fascists or semi-fascists: how could this be otherwise? The job of socialists is to organise against them at the same time supporting Ukrainian right to self determination including independence from Russia, arguing for maximum democracy including the right of the CP to organise and most importantly organising independent working class action.

Between now and the election in May we can only watch how events unfold; how far Putin will be able to destabilise the situation, how far the Ukrainians are going to find real leaders and weed out the false messiahs (as the election approaches workers will be faced with more false messiahs than the Catholic Church has saints.) will in part be down to how socialists intervene. However I wonder how far workers will be open to socialist ideas when their lived experience has been that of actually existing socialism  i.e. Stalinism.

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