The fascists of the Taliban, and their appeasers like Imran Khan, have been defied and (hopefully) defeated by the people of Pakistan, led by the women. Those sections of the decadent western “left” (notably the SWP) who support such fascists in the sub-continent, should be ashamed.
Millions of voters turned out to cast their ballots in Pakistan’s historic election Saturday despite Taliban threats and a series of attacks in a few volatile areas. The poll marks Pakistan’s first-ever transition of civilian governments.
Braving Taliban threats and attacks, millions of Pakistanis turned out to vote today in a landmark election marking the first transition between civilian governments in the country’s 66-year history.
Polls opened amid tight security across Pakistan with voters lining up at polling stations in some of the main cities despite the searing heat and the omnipresent fear of attacks.
By midday, the country’s election commission said the voter turnout was 30% – an indication that the total turnout looked set to cross the 44% mark of the last general election in 2008. Voting was extended by an extra hour nationwide to allow people queuing at polling centers to cast their ballot, according to the AFP. In Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, polling was extended by three hours in some constituencies because voting started late.
A series of gunfights and bomb attacks targeted party offices and polling stations in some of the volatile parts of this South Asian nation, killing at least 17 people.
In the tinderbox port city of Karachi, a bomb attack on the office of the (ANP) Awami National Party killed 11 people and wounded around 40 others. At least three other attacks – including gunfights – were reported across the city.
Gunmen killed two people outside a polling station in Baluchistan, the southwestern province where separatists oppose the election, and in the northwestern city of Peshawar, a bomb explosion killed at least one person and wounded 10 others, according to local police officials.
But the attacks failed to deter people from the polls as millions of Pakistanis, buoyed by a prospect of change and keenly aware of the historic nature of Saturday’s vote, cast their ballots to elect representatives to the National Assembly – or lower house – as well as provincial assemblies.
“This election is very significant,” said Mustafa Qadri, Pakistan researcher at Amnesty International. “Yes, there are many problems, but we should not dismiss this election – it’s a chance for Pakistan to deepen its democratic process and also for citizens to demonstrate they won’t be intimidated by groups like the Taliban into not exercising their right to choose their government.”
Violence has been a key problem in the run-up to Saturday’s vote, with the Taliban targeting three secular parties – including outgoing President Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP (Pakistan Peoples’ Party).
Security was tight across Pakistan, with the military deploying troops and additional security personnel at polling stations and counting centres amid Taliban threats to disrupt the vote.
In the most populous province of Punjab alone, 300,000 security officials – including 32,000 troops – have been deployed. Another 96,000 security forces have been posted in the Taliban stronghold regions in northwestern Pakistan.
Saturday’s vote came just days after former Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s son, Ali Haider Gilani – a provincial assembly candidate – was kidnapped during an election rally in the central Pakistani city of Multan.
The kidnapping highlighted the relentless levels of violence in a country that’s no stranger to election-related bloodshed.
“It’s been a very, very brutal and very bloody campaign,” said FRANCE 24’s Rezaul Hasan, reporting from Islamabad days before the historic vote. “There are widespread reports that there could be attacks during the polling and the army has deployed hundreds of thousands of security personnel. But it still remains to be seen whether polling will be peaceful because the militants – the Taliban – have shown their ability to strike despite all the security measures that have been put in place.” Read the rest of this entry »
A very unfortunate and, it seems, very nasty confrontation between SWP stewards and anti-rape campaigners at the Bedroom Tax demo in Glasgow yesterday. This footage isn’t, perhaps, conclusive proof of SWP culpability, so we’d appreciate comments from anyone who was there.
The person who took the film and posted it on Youtube, writes: “i should make it clear, i only got my camera out after the stewards started to push people back and started all this off, i hadn’t gone intending to record anything, just show my opposition to the bedroom tax.”
H/t: Mod and Jelly (an unlikely pair…)
Apologies to those readers who have no interest in this stuff: normal service will be resumed shortly. However, we do seem to be witnessing the implosion of the largest and most influential far-left group in the UK. This piece from Richard “Lenin’s Tomb” Seymour, usually a craven apologist for the SWP’s antics, would appear to be a de facto letter of resignation:
Laurie Penny writes an article about the crisis in the SWP, following up on Tom Walker’s very finely written resignation statement. It quotes my long-time friend and comrade China Mieville making some, to my mind, extremely well put observations about the catastrophic nature of this crisis and the roots of it in the party’s deformed democratic structures and lack of accountability. It is an excellent piece. And it stands in stark contrast to the shameful whitewash in this week’s Socialist Worker, and ironically does more service to the party.
So, let us recapitulate. A serious allegation is referred to the Disputes Committee of the Socialist Workers Party, my party, to investigate. The Disputes Committee is composed largely of individuals who know the accused. The Disputes Committee asks the person making the allegations a series of completely inappropriate questions that, had they been asked of someone making such allegations in a police station, we would rightly denounce them as sexist. Another comrade makes a related allegation against the same accused, and submits a statement. The committee subjects this comrade to similar treatment. The committee reaches a verdict of ‘not proven’. The conference of the party is then lied to about the nature of the allegations. The Central Committee and the Disputes Committee collude in a cover-up. They suppress it. This is already a disgrace.
But word does get around. People begin to hear what has happened, and are outraged. They begin to hear of senior party members spreading the most disgusting rumours about the two women involved. Many members, especially young members, begin to kick off about it. It becomes clear that this will be an issue in the party conference of 2013. So, there is a preemptive strike against four members for participating in a Facebook thread discussing the case, which is alleged – on the basis of selective excerpts – to be evidence of ‘secret factionalising’, which is prohibited. The expulsion is enacted immediately, with no due process, no disciplinary hearing. The four comrades are expelled by email. This is totally at odds with the party’s usual procedures. It is a clear bureaucratic manoeuvre to stymy the upsurge. But it produces a revolt. A group of comrades form a faction to contest the expulsions, campaign for the rejection of the Dispute Committee’s report on the allegations, and challenge the party’s democracy deficit. (Naturally I join this faction.)
We organise. But the members who raise this issue, many of them students, are yelled at in meetings, denounced for ‘creeping feminism’, or for carrying the germ of autonomism into the party. Old polemics against ‘feminism’ from the 1980s, always somewhat dogmatic, are dusted off and used as a stick to beat dissenters with. People who try to raise the issue at district aggregates are shouted down. Wised up hacks turn up at meetings, with their best ‘what, us?’ innocent expression, claiming to be shocked and horrified at the lack of trust in the party, and astonished that some people use terms like ‘hacks’. They express befuddlement about why the faction even exists. They accuse dissenters of being ‘inward-looking’. Nonetheless, the faction grows quickly. Soon, there are two factions, both opposing the expulsions and criticising the findings of the Disputes Committee. They have different emphases and different tactics, but similar objectives. They go to conference, expecting to be in a minority – after all, most comrades still haven’t got the slightest clue what is happening, or have only heard the rumours and lies. In the history of party conferences, dissenting motions generally haven’t fared well. But we find, suddenly, that there is a groundswell. The more members hear, the more they’re throwing up. And we get to conference, and our delegates face down the most appallingly bureaucratic arguments. And we are surprised, and disappointed. The party ratifies the expulsions by two thirds to one third. The party ratifies the Dispute Committee findings by a slender margin. But the reality is that despite formal wins for the leadership, this amounts to a serious crisis for them.
How do they respond? A sane response would be to say, ‘much of the party is still not convinced, we need to debate this further and work out a solution’. At the very least. More generally, a sane leadership might think about opening up year round communications so that party members can communicate with one another outside of conference season. They might think about creating more pluralistic party structures, ending the ban on factions outside of conference season and rethinking the way elections take place. Instead, they tell everyone in Party Notes that there will be no further discussion of the matter. CC members tell full-time party employees that the accused was ‘exonerated’ by conference (no such thing), insist that conference voted for an ‘interventionist’ party, rather than a ‘federalist’ party, and begin a purge. Report backs from conference either don’t discuss the Disputes Committee session in any detail or discuss it in an arrogant, dismissive manner. A CC member gives a report back that instructs members, “if you can’t argue the line, you should consider your position in the party” – as if the party was the possession of the bureaucracy. They tell members to get on with focusing on ‘the real world’. In the real world, this is a scandal. And we, those who fought on this, told them it would be. We warned them that it would not just be a few sectarian blogs attacking us. We warned them that after we had rightly criticised George Galloway over his absurd remarks about rape, and after a year of stories about sexual abuse, and after more than a year of feminist revival, this was a suicidal posture, not just a disgusting, sickening one. They continued, obliviously, convinced that this was the correct, hard-headed Bolshevik position. Now members are caught between the choice of having to expend energy on a fight to save the party and its traditions, or burying their heads in the sand, or swallowing the Kool Aid and joining the headbangers.
There isn’t enough bile to conjure up the shame and disgrace of all of this, nor the palpable physical revulsion, nor the visceral contempt building, nor the sense of betrayal and rage, nor the literal physical and emotional shattering of people exposed to the growing madness day in and day out.
This is the thing that all party members need to understand. Even on cynical grounds, the Central Committee has no strategy for how to deal with this. A scandal has been concealed, lied about, then dumped on the members in the most arrogant and stupid manner possible. The leadership is expecting you to cope with this. This isn’t the first time that such unaccountable practices have left you in the lurch. You will recall your pleasure on waking up to find out that Respect was collapsing and that it was over fights that had been going on for ages which no one informed you about. But this is much worse. They expect you to go to your activist circles, your union, your workplaces, and argue something that is indefensible. Not only this, but in acting in this way, they have – for their own bureaucratic reasons – broken with a crucial component of the politics of the International Socialist tradition that undergirds the SWP. The future of the party is at stake, and they are on the wrong side of that fight. You, as members, have to fight for your political existence. Don’t simply drift away, don’t simply bury your face in your palms, and don’t simply cling to the delusional belief that the argument was settled at conference. You must fight now.
One last thing. There is an article in The Independent about this case. It uses the phrase “socialist sharia court”. It is miles away, in tone and spirit, from Laurie Penny’s piece. I would urge people to think carefully about who wants to use the sort of language deployed in the Independent article. I think the answer is, “racists”. I would also point out that, as far as I know, the Independent did not speak to any party members. My advice is to disregard that piece.
In his increasingly undignified rightward belly-crawl from the SWP, via Respect, into a sort of incoherent Labourite Stalinism whilst playing the role of tame anti-Trot witch-hunter for unspecified audiences, Andy Nooman at least provides some entertainment this festive season. I was about to say “harmless” entertainment, but his latest ranting on his ”Socialist Unity” blog, about the revolutionary left (in this case, the AWL/ Alliance for Workers Liberty) is, by his own account “a redacted version of something I wrote for another audience.” I wonder who that “other audience” might be?
Above: Stroppybird’s cat
Nooman’s sub-political tirade is avowedly based upon John Sullivan’s ‘When This Pub Closes’ which is poor stuff but at least evinces some political grasp of its subject(s). In fact, Nooman, whether he knows it or not, is more in the tradition of the rank Stalinist ignoramous Denver Walker’s student union-level, scummy little tome ‘Quite Right Mr Trotsky.’
Anyway, there is much to be enjoyed in Nooman’s bile against the revolutionary left and his grovelling to the Labour/TU bureaucracy, but sadly he doesn’t let us link to “Socialist Unity,” so you’ll have to use Google, or copy/paste socialistunity.com/the-alliance-for-workers-liberty-the-dynamics-of-a-malignant-cult/
The comments are most entertaining as well, including:
* 23. How inept do you have to be in order to pen a hatchet job that embarrasses yourself more than anybody else? - Patrick Smith
* 123. EDUCATION? DEMOCRACY? ACTIVITY? What a DISGRACE to the left. A disgrace to socialist countries/union leaders/students.
I’m really glad you’ve outed them about all that sexual impropriety.m Who needs facts when you’ve got pure conjecture? I bet they’re all a bunch of filthy deviants. Oh and yes, I heard that Sheffield was particularly bad too. Need castrating, the lot of them – RHuzzah
* 142. Until this article was posted I’d never heard of the AWL, and from reading all the heated posts about occult meetings sexual impropriety and filthy deviants I only have one question.
Where do I sign up? – CJB
* 161. Ok. John [John Wight, Nooman's antisemitic sidekick - JD] couldn’t care less about someone writing for this blog or its standing among people who used to advocate for it. Andy completely agrees with him. Egal.
A narrowing of vision accompanied by a growing climate of intolerance, abuse and bullying — I for one have seen this movie a couple of times before And know well the last reel.
So no song and dance, just ciao — bella – Kevin Ovenden [former Socialist Unity contributor - JD]
P.S: Check out the attacks on Yours Truly: Nooman can’t even get this attempt at “humour” right, and work out whether I’m Father Ted or Father Jack…
The counting went on for hours longer than expected. Declaration of the result was delayed over and over again. There was a power cut in north London. Two batches of ballot papers were mishandled and had to be hand-counted.
Finally, more than a full day after polls closed, the winner of London’s mayoral election was announced minutes before midnight on Friday night: Boris Johnson, the floppy-haired right-wing incumbent, was narrowly returned to office.
Johnson just staved off challenger Ken Livingstone, by a margin of barely 60,000 votes — 51.53 percent to 48.47%. London’s mayor from 2000 until Johnson defeated him in 2008, Livingstone was sent home by the voters a second time, and immediately declared that “this is my last election.” For most of the Jewish community, the announcement was a major relief.
Communalist sectarians: Livingstone and Galloway
Accused of both anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, Livingstone had been clashing with London’s Jews for the best part of three decades. In the run-up to the election it had looked at times as though he might overtake Johnson, and the prospect of a mayor who did not seem to care about the community’s sensibilities — to put it mildly — had alarmed many.
“I hope that Ken Livingstone is consigned to the dustbin of history,” said David Mencer, former director of Labour Friends of Israel, a lobby group affiliated to Livingstone’s own party. He says he did not vote for Livingstone: “Why would I vote for a Jew-hater?”
But while Livingstone may be finished politically, his campaign has left the Jewish community bruised and battered. And it may have long-term implications.
Anglo-Jews, and not only those in the capital, have been left with profound questions about their place in Britain’s political system.
Livingstone’s strategy during the campaign, many claim, was to win Muslim votes by alienating the Jews. There are an estimated million Muslims in the capital, compared to 200,000 Jews at most.
During a meeting with Jewish supporters of the Labour party — intended, ironically, to heal the rift with Livingstone ahead of the elections — the prospective mayor sparked a new crisis by alleging that Jews would not vote for him because they were too “rich.”
As mayor, he showed the same tin-ear for anti-Semitic tropes, calling a Jewish newspaper reporter a concentration camp guard, telling two Bombay-born Jewish businessmen of Iraqi heritage to “go back to Iran and try their luck with the ayatollahs,” and welcoming to City Hall an Islamic preacher, Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi, who has supported suicide bombings in Israel. Livingstone himself is a passionate supporter of the Palestinians, who has excused suicide attacks and accused Israel of ethnic cleansing.
In the immediate aftermath of the election, it was still unclear whether Livingstone did indeed win the Muslim vote, and if so, how much Livingstone’s comments about “rich” Jews had to do with it.
Jonathan Arkush, senior vice-president of the Board of Deputies, the representative body of British Jews, says that voting patterns will have to be analyzed properly, but in the meanwhile he has seen “no evidence that Ken Livingstone had special support amongst Muslims.”
Other Jewish community sources say that younger, more outward-looking Muslims were under no illusions as to what Livingstone was trying to do, and resented being used.
It is similarly unclear how Livingstone’s attitude played out with the general population. Some maintain that it was not a factor at all, or only a very minor one. Others contend that it actively backfired, and that voters disliked what was seen as a return to the “identity politics” of Livingstone’s first two terms. His statements about Jews were blasted by several national newspaper columnists and Johnson, the Conservative incumbent who went on to win, positioned himself in opposition to Livingstone as a “mayor for all of London.”
“It sends quite a positive message that Livingstone lost,” says Harvey Rose, chairman of the Zionist Federation, an umbrella group for Zionist organizations in the UK. “I hope that one of the reasons is that people have seen through his cynical attempt to play Muslim against Jew.”
Nevertheless, there is concern that as the Muslim community grows, so will the temptation for other politicians to emulate Livingstone’s divisive strategy, particularly on the far left.
“The Jewish community in the UK is dwindling while the Muslim community in the UK is growing,” says Rose. “It is inevitable that their political say in British politics can only go up. This is democratic as well – the more there are those who believe in a certain way, the more their views should be taken into account.
“But it’s one of the reasons I’m concerned about the future of the Jews in the UK. [Politicians’ anti-Jewish agitation] won’t be anywhere near as blatant and unsubtle as Livingstone’s, but politics is a numbers game and this is not good news for the Jewish community.”
He points out that George Galloway, a left-wing politician known for his support of Saddam Hussein, the Palestinians, Hamas and Hezbollah, won a seat in Parliament in March by directly courting the Muslim vote.
Galloway told voters in the heavily Islamic constituency of Bradford West that he was “a better Pakistani” than his Labour Party opponent, while one of his campaign leaflets – which he claims he did not produce – quoted him as saying he did not drink. Although he has denied rumors that he has converted to Islam, Galloway, who was born and raised as a Roman Catholic in Scotland, has married three Muslim women (as well as one Christian).
For Mencer, who nowadays runs his own political consultancy, Raphael Consulting, the potential of an increasingly politically active Muslim community being seen in opposition to a shrinking Jewish community is a pan-European problem.
While he has no complaints about the way that Britain’s Jewish organizations handled this last Livingstone campaign, in general, he says, “the leadership is sleepwalking into oblivion, managing our decline without addressing the problems.”
Although the demographic tide cannot be reversed, he believes that the Jewish leadership could strengthen its position by “making our case more forcefully, constantly, not just in election times. We need to take more members of Parliament to Israel. We are losing the argument – I’ve seen it in my political lifetime and I’m a young man. But the Jewish community seems to be more concerned with in-fighting.”
A particular problem for the some segments of the Jewish community, in the aftermath of the mayoral election, is its relationship with the Labour party, which was the government in power between1997-2010 and is currently the main opposition party.
Livingstone was selected as its mayoral candidate in September 2010 in an electoral college vote comprised of London’s 35,000 party members, 38 London members of Parliament, and 400,000 voters belonging to the 14 unions and organizations affiliated to the London Labour party. He defeated Oona King, a half-black halachic Jew.
The party’s leadership was at best ambivalent about Livingstone, whose far-left politics were perceived as a throwback to a time in the 1980s and early 1990s when Labour was unelectable. He was essentially imposed on Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, who was voted into that position in September 2010, just as the mayoral candidates were decided. However, Miliband has campaigned alongside Livingstone on several occasions and members of his team urged Londoners to vote for him.
Martin Bright, the political editor of the UK’s Jewish Chronicle newspaper, argues in this week’s edition that the “sight of the Shadow Cabinet lining up to support such a clearly divisive candidate has marked a new low-point in relations between the Labour Party and the Jews.”
In fact, there were some Jews who voted for Livingstone despite their misgivings. Five prominent Labour activists, who had previously written a letter to Miliband outlining their concerns about Livingstone, last week issued a public statement in which they explained that they were endorsing him after all, with “eyes open and breathing deeply, maybe with a sigh or two.”
But they seem to be a small minority. Several prominent Jewish Labour supporters publicly declared that they would not be voting for Livingstone, including Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland and host of television show The Apprentice, Lord Sugar. And there was a general feeling that Miliband, who is himself halachically Jewish, was insensitive to the community’s concerns about Livingstone, declaring that “he doesn’t have a prejudiced bone in his body.”
Whether the Labour-supporting Jews who declined to vote for Livingstone will sour on the entire party remains to be seen. Both Rose and Arkush say that Livingstone is a maverick, far to the left of his party, and that Jewish voters will differentiate between the two.
“The decision [to nominate] Ken had nothing to do with his views on the Jewish community or on Israel,” says Arkush. “He was selected because he made himself the most electable and they were stuck with him. I didn’t see it as an expression by Labour of moving towards extremism. They were holding their nose.”
In addition, Jewish community sources say that an apology issued by Ken Livingstone in the Jewish Chronicle for the “rich” Jews debacle was highly untypical, and would never have been issued without considerable pressure from the party leadership.
Mencer, though, argues that since Labour left office in 2010 there has been a marked lurch to the left. “This includes less of a willingness to address the legitimate concerns of the Jewish community.”
Ed Miliband became leader of the party largely thanks to the votes of union members, who are often perceived as hard-liners on Israel. Much of the money currently financing the party also comes from the unions, several of which have tried to organize boycotts of the Jewish state.
The Jewish community’s historic links to the Labour party, meanwhile, have generally been intellectual rather than grassroots. The combination of labor unions, with which the Jewish community has only weak links, and the growing number of Muslim voters, constitute powerful influences on the Labour party, neither of them friendly to the Jewish community.
In his column, Bright notes that there have been several other Labour representatives who have clashed with the Jewish community recently, such as MP Paul Flynn, who accused Britain’s first Jewish ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, of “divided loyalties.” In this context, the support for Livingstone seems harder to dismiss.
“This toxin will take years to flush from the Labour Party, whatever the result on Thursday,” Bright concludes.
According to Mencer, though, Labour will have to deal with the problem if it ever hopes to return to power. Although the Jewish vote is negligible on the national scale – there are around 300,000 Jews out of a total UK population of 62 million – “in order to win power, parties need to win the middle ground, which is where the Jewish community is, by and large. It’s a great barometer – if they can win over the Jewish community, it’s a sign you’ve won over middle England.”
Does Labour care? Says Mencer, “If Labour continues to lurch to the left, it will lose the election. The might feel self-righteous, but they will lose. Labour has many shared values with the Jewish community. The right person is needed to appreciate that.”
NB: I trust it is obvious, even to the hard-of-thinking, that Shiraz Socialist has published this piece because we think it is an interesting and generally well-informed contribution to an important debate, and not because we necessarily agree with all of it: I for one do not agree with much of it, especially the stuff about “the middle ground,” ”Labour’s lurch to the left,” George Galloway being “left wing,” and Livingstone’s (alleged) “far-left politics.” - JD
The following appears in the present issue of Solidarity & Workers Liberty. Until a few years ago I would have had difficulty believing the truth of what the writer claims (or at least suspected him of wild exaggeration), but sadly it rings all too true these days. And not just about the SWP, but also other degenerate, hysterical and petit bourgeois sections of the “left” including certain blogs:
Recently, someone I know through my student AWL comrades told me about a claim a prominent student SWP member had made about me. This SWPer had told her that I changed my name to Sacha Ismail in order to sound more Muslim: the implication being that I was seeking to cover up or mitigate the AWL’s supposedly “Islamophobic” – in fact secularist, anti-racist – politics. My original name, believe it or not, was John Smith.
(Just to be clear, Sacha Ismail is my real name. My father is Bangladeshi and my full name is Alexander Salim Ismail. Sacha is short for Alexander.)
In itself, this is just ludicrous and bit bizarre – not worth mentioning in print, let alone writing an article about. I am writing about it by way of introduction to a more general point, because it seems almost emblematic of the surreal torrent of lies which gets poured out against the AWL by some others on the left – particular the SWP, and particularly in the weird world of student politics.
Unfortunately, most of these lies are more significant than me changing my name. There are so many that it’s hard to know where to start. The AWL supports the presence of Israeli troops in the Occupied Territories; we support an Israeli attack on Iran; we think Islam is worse than other religions… I have even been told, on Facebook, that we drag Muslim people into bars in order to throw them out (yes, you read that right – that was from the same person who said my name is John Smith). The claims made by a small number of “left-wingers” run on and on, becoming more and more hysterical and implausible. God knows what gets said behind our backs, when we can’t respond.
Let’s take one example which is clear and instructive.
At the National Campaign and Fees and Cuts conference, there was a motion proposed by members of various left groups to oppose war and sanctions on Iran. It said nothing about the character of the Iranian regime or solidarity with its victims. We proposed a four line amendment stating our solidarity with the struggles of students, workers, women and national minorities in Iran (see here), which passed. Because of this, the SWP, Counterfire and others who had originally proposed the motion voted against it! That was bad enough. But it was not all.
SWP student leader Mark Bergfeld got up and told the conference AWL students had proposed the amendment because the AWL supports war on Iran! This was despite the fact that our amendment didn’t remove a single word from the original motion. And despite the fact that in his speech for the amendment our comrade Bob Sutton began with our opposition to war and sanctions and repeated it several times.
It so happened that the back page of our paper that week also included a headline: “No to war and sanctions” – pretty clear evidence of our position, you would think.
The point is that members of the SWP, rather than debating their real diffrences with opponents on the left, particularly the AWL, regularly slander them. In the case of the Iran debate, they probably felt under particular pressure to do so, because their position – opposing any solidarity with Iranian students, workers etc as pro-imperialist – is really pretty embarrassing. Easier to claim the AWL is pro-war than to defend that.
If SWPers made arguments along the lines of: “We think the AWL’s opposition to war on Iran is unreliable. Despite stating they oppose an attack, they published an article saying Israel had good reason to strike Iran’s nuclear program. Is that a record we can trust? In any case, this is why we believe their stance on solidarity, despite its good intentions, weakens the thrust of the anti-war position we are trying to put forward…” – that would be wrong (in our view, of course), but at least a respect-worthy attempt to actually debate us. Why don’t they do that? I think partly because many of them are not very confident in their own arguments, and partly because slandering opponents is increasingly part of their political DNA.
My student comrades also experienced this kind of nonsense in the election for University of London Union Vice President (see here). AWL member Daniel Lemberger Cooper, who won the election, was accused of all kinds of ridiculous things by campaigners for his opponent, SWP member Ross Speer, including being a racist and a sexist. (The large number of black, anti-racist and feminist activists who backed him across London, and particularly at his university Royal Holloway, obviously disagreed.)
I’m not sure why this kind of dishonesty and sectarianism is worse in the student movement than the labour movement. But I suspect it may be to do with the fact that people stay in the student movement for relatively brief periods of time. In the labour movement, where people often work together, in the same workplaces, industries and unions, for many years, there is a built-in tendency against this sort of behaviour. If SWPers in the NUT or Unison, for instance, regularly called us racist, they would much more quickly discredit themselves in the eyes of union activists. In the student movement too, though, the SWP’s behaviour alienates a lot of people: which is one of the reasons that most independent left activists, including many who disagree with us about issues like Palestine, backed Daniel Cooper in the ULU election.
And on the other hand, there is lying and dishonesty on the left in the labour movement as well. In all cases, the willingness of the SWP and others on the left to tell lies about their opponents poisons the political atmosphere. Cut it out, comrades! Let’s debate our differences openly and honestly instead.
-Sacha Ismail, South London
“But mobilising for the physical defence of the Bengali community, an obligation for all socialists, is not the same as running a communal election campaign to get George Galloway re-elected to Parliament. It is different, and SWP Respect footsoldiers could learn some useful lessons from the best of the 1930s anti-fascists. The latter understood the distinction between mobilising alongside Jewish organisations and individuals for physical defence against the fascists, and throwing their political lot in with the leaders of the synagogues and with communal prejudices” – John Bloxam, Workers Liberty, 2007.
Communalism – the idea that people should relate to each other primarily on the basis of their community or religious identities, is a poison that the British labour movement has taken years to purge. It was once very strong, especially in Liverpool and Glasgow. The political bandit and friend of dictators everywhere, George Galloway, did his best to revive this backward tradition with his vanity-project ‘Respect’, now thankfully defunct.
But as the sun sets on Galloway and ’Respect’, that other irrepressible opportunist and irresponsible self-promoter (not to mention, tax-dodger and grade-’A’ hypocrite), Ken Livingstone, attempts to revive communalism in his bid to become Mayor of London once again. Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph (yes, I know: a Tory rag. But no-one, including Livingstone, has questioned the accuracy of this), reports the following:
Ken Livingstone has promised to turn London into a “beacon” for the words of the Prophet Mohammed in a sermon at one of the capital’s most controversial mosques.
Mr Livingstone, Labour’s candidate for mayor of London, pledged to “educate the mass of Londoners” in Islam, saying: “That will help to cement our city as a beacon that demonstrates the meaning of the words of the Prophet.” Mr Livingstone described Mohammed’s words in his last sermon as “an agenda for all humanity.”
He praised the Prophet’s last sermon, telling his audience: “I want to spend the next four years making sure that every non-Muslim in London knows and understands [its] words and message.” He also promised to “make your life a bit easier financially.”
Mr Livingstone was speaking at last Friday’s Jummah prayer at the North London Central Mosque, also known as Finsbury Park Mosque, formerly controlled by the terrorist recruiter Abu Hamza.
Hamza was removed in 2003 but the mosque is now controlled by an Islamist organisation, the Muslim Association of Britain, which has been linked to the banned terror group, Hamas. A man who has acted as spokesman for the current leadership, Azzam Tamimi, is on record as supporting suicide bombings. One of the mosque’s current directors, Mohammed Sawalha, is described by the BBC as a former senior figure in Hamas who “is said to have masterminded much of Hamas’s political and military strategy” from his post in London.
In 2009 Mr Sawalha also signed the Istanbul Declaration which calls for attacks against the allies of Israel, which include the UK. The British Government interpreted it as calling for attacks on British troops.
In 2010, the Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, a Muslim moderate, resigned from the mosque’s board of trustees and reported it to the Charity Commission, accusing the mosque of forging his signature on key legal documents.
Mr Livingstone has been dogged by allegations of links to Islamic fundamentalism. In 2010, in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, he campaigned against his own party’s candidate to back a controversial independent politician, Lutfur Rahman, sacked by Labour for his links to a Muslim extremist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE).
During his mayoralty, Mr Livingstone’s London Development Agency channelled hundreds of thousands of pounds to the East London Mosque in Tower Hamlets, controlled by the IFE, even though senior LDA managers strongly opposed the grant. In return, IFE activists campaigned strongly for him at the 2008 mayoral elections, boasting that they “got out the vote” for Mr Livingstone and achieving dramatic swings to him in their east London heartland.
Mr Livingstone also gave thousands of pounds of public money to the Muslim Welfare House, a charity closely associated with the Finsbury Park Mosque, which signed an open letter backing his re-election campaign in 2008.
In his last sermon, delivered in the valley of Mount Arafat, near Mecca in 632 AD, the Prophet Mohammed attacked discrimination, saying that “a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white, except by piety and good action.” However, he also said that men had a right to ensure their wives “do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve.”
(NB: the above is the longer, online, version of the story that appeared in yesterday’s print edition of the Telegraph).
Let’s be clear about this: if what Livingstone was arguing for was tolerance and a “live-and-let-live” attitude towards mainstream Muslim believers, or indeed offering solidarity against prejudice and demonisation, then there would be no objections from me. Indeed, given the recent outrages in France, it would be a timely and welcome intervention. But that is most definitely not Livingstone’s message: he’s promising Muslim leaders that he’ll actively promote their religion, as well as (in what can only be understood as a latter-day version of Tammany Hall-style bribery) to “make your life a bit easier financially.”
Have a look at the Youtube clip (above) of his speech and I think you’ll agree that, like Galloway before him, Livingstone is sending out a clear (and entirely cynical) message that he’s about to convert.
I’ll leave aside, for now, the decidedly dodgy nature of the present leadership of North London Central Mosque and Mr Azzam Tamimi; I’ll also leave aside Livingstone’s record of sucking up to Islamist bigots. What I’m concerned about is Livingstone’s irresponsible, opportunist and entirely self-serving attempt to revive communalist politics – a betrayal of all those who fight for working class unity and – in particular – a betrayal of progressives, democrats, women and gays within the Muslim “community.”
This sordid example of political corruption and vote-grubbing comes especially badly from an operator whose concern for the sensibilities of ethno-religious minorities is, shall we say, selective…
Unfortunately, this loathsome creature is the Labour candidate for mayor, so we have to vote for him, on an elemental class basis. But all the more reason for socialists to actively involve themselves in the Labour Party: to ensure that we don’t have to vote for anti-working class scum like Livingstone.
The stupidity and sectarianism of Stalinists never ceases to amaze, even after all these years.
By Theodora Polenta (via Workers Liberty)
Since the start of March, pictures of farmers in vans distributing potatoes to queues of people have dominated the Greek media.
Producers of potatoes in the Pieria region decided to get rid of the middleman and distribute their potatoes at €0.25 per kilo instead of €0.60.
Almost everybody across the political spectrum, including the government and the mainstream media, has endorsed this “potato movement”, though for different reasons.
The strident and significant exception is the strong though diehard-Stalinist Greek Communist Party (KKE).
The far-left coalition Antarsya, for example, has declared: “These movements show that the fat cat middlemen and capitalist bosses are not invincible… Getting rid of the middlemen is an important step so that the producers and the consumers can cope with the attacks of the [EU/ ECB/ IMF] Troika and the national unity government”.
“It is patronising to describe it as the potato movement. It is directly connected with the needs of both the producers and the people who are on the brink of starvation and social deprivation and destitution. It is connected with the future.
“It carries images from the future. It reveals the tremendous potential opened up when the producers and creators of society’s wealth take control over their products. All working class people can benefit by having access to cheap and good quality food”.
As Antarsya notes, the potato movement is connected and interlinked with the versatile, imaginative, and multiple forms of struggle developed during the last two years of Greek working-class struggle.
It is connected with the neighbourhood non-payment movement, first against road tariffs and bus fares, and lately against the new regressive property tax. It is connected with the movement of “indignant citizens” in the city squares. It is connected with all the small and big struggles in workplaces across Greece.
Yet the KKE has printed virtually an article a day denouncing the potato movement.
KKE explains the obvious — that the potato movement is not socialist collective farming; it operates within the framework of the capitalist society; it will not solve food high prices overall, or meets all of society’s food needs.
Last week the KKE paper Rizospastis declared: “Pushed by the mainstream media and encouraged by the government, a propaganda campaign is developing that has as its aim to deceive working-class people and the small peasants… This propaganda is referred to as the potato movement
“The aim of the cheap-potatoes movement is identical to that of the ‘indignant citizens’ in the city squares. It is to try to mislead the poor peasants away from the agricultural unions, away from the fight against EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, away from the fight against the monopolies…
“The feeding of the people, the production of cheap and good quality agricultural products, is a very serious problem that cannot be solved via activism, voluntarism and sporadic internet orders [the farmers involved take orders over the internet]…
“There is indeed a big gap between the price at which producers sell products to the middlemen and the price at which these products are sold to the consumer.
“But as long as the laws of the markets and the profits prevail the above problem cannot be solved…
“As long as capitalist relationships are present, exploitation will operate at every level against the people, independent of their status, pensioners, workers, unemployed, producers, consumers…
“Under a planned economy, the process of production and distribution of agricultural products will guarantee a satisfactory income for all producers, to cover their needs, as well as cheap and healthy food for all people, as well as new jobs. But that can only be achieved within the context of a workers’ and people’s government and economy”.
KKE’s hostile stance against the potato movement is in line with its stances against the students and youth rebellion movement of 2008 and against last summer’s movement in the city squares. It is in line with KKE’s sectarian policy of separate demonstrations and protests during the general strikes.
It is in line with KKE’s attempts to build separate neighbourhood movements, and its hostile stance towards any movement that is not politically and ideologically under the wing of the party. Deploying Stalinism and mechanistic conspiracy theory in classic form, the KKE declares that the potato movement is “directed by big capital, like the city squares movement”.
Recently KKE has backtracked a bit. Its secretary, Aleka Paparyga, has made a statement saying that there had been exaggerations in KKE’s response, but the main points had been right.
The movement initiated in Pieria has now spread all over Greece, gaining momentum every day, with councillors and mayors being involved to facilitate it. In some areas it has been extended to other products such as honey and oil.
There is now talk of farmers directly distributing rice, flour, olive oil, beans, and lamb for Easter. The oil will be distributed at €3 per litre (€6 per litre in supermarkets), flour at €0.50 per kilo (€1 in supermarkets), rice at €0.70 per kilo (€3 in supermarkets), beans at €3 per kilo (€8 in supermarkets), lamb at €7 per kilo (€13 in the butchers).
It all started a couple of months ago, when the producers of milk and fruit were protesting against the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy outside parliament. Instead of throwing their products at the parliament and ministry buildings, as customary in previous protests, they decided to distribute them free in Syntagma Square.
Their move gained overwhelming support, and all the products were distributed to the people within a space of a few hours.
With the economically active population earning monthly wages of €500 and €600, over one million unemployed, and 20,000 homeless people in Athens alone, of course distribution of free or cheap agricultural products results in massive responses from the people.
Alongside the potato movement there are the not-so-publicised “alternative networks of product exchange” in which people are swapping possessions, and the “social kitchens” where people are sharing resources in cooking and offering food to the destitute and unemployed. Other unpredictable forms and ways of dealing with basic needs for foods and shelter will be developed by the movement.
The left should not underestimate the danger of these movements being incorporated by the establishment, as a peaceful charity appendix of the government’s cuts, or channelled into reformist ideas and illusions about building oases of freedoms within the capitalist system.
But these movements, with their massive appeal, also carry potential to be a first step towards a concentration of forces and the building of a massive working-class movement with radical characteristics.
For that, they need to be linked with the trade union movement and the workplace struggles, and with the neighbourhood community movements, and given clear political direction by the left.
• Redistribute the land owned by the church and the big farmers to the peasants
• Create agricultural cooperatives under peasant and social control, with representatives elected, accountable to, and recallable by general meetings
• Nationalise the fertiliser and farm machine industries under workers’ social control
• Coordinate food policy and agricultural production on the basis of Greek society’s needs and respect for the environment.