The "Third Camp" explained

June 30, 2006 at 10:41 pm (Jim D, SWP)

There is a bit of an argument going on over at “Lenin’s Tomb” (see link on the right), about the “Third Camp”. For those of you who have no idea what the “Third Camp” is, a rough definition would be:

“We are socialists who will never support our own ruling class, in war or in any other matter: However, we also do not give automatic support to its enemies, because the enemies of our ruling class are sometimes *more* reactionary than they are: we do *not* subscribe to the doctrine of “My enemy’s enemy is my friend. We take an independent, pro-working-class stance”.

The term “Third Camp” was first coined by Leon Trotsky in 1938, to make the point that the proletariat should not be required to choose between rival sections of the capitalist class (even when one of those sections was fascist), but should retain its independence.

Today’s SWP – apologists for the anti-working class Iranian regime and Islamic fundamentalism in all its forms – now deny that they were *ever* “third camp”: when it is pointed out to them that the ‘Socialist Review’ group in the 1950’s adopted te slogan “Neither Washington nor Moscow, but International Socialism”, today’s SWP’ers claim – bizarrely- that that slogan wasn’t “third camp”, but meant something else in the context of the cold war.

So, finally, I offer this – published in “The Origins of the International Socialists” (pub: Pluto Press, 1971), texts prepared by Richard Kuper, and introduction by Duncan Hallas (both, then, leading members of the International Socialists: the group that in 1975 became the British SWP). It’s about the issue that got Cliff and his supporters chucked out of the official Trotskyist “Fourth International”: their (the Cliffites’) neautrality on the Korean war:

“The War in Korea”

“The writer is one of the leaders of the Trotskyists in Ceylon. First printed in the 8 July 1950 isse of *Janata*, organ of the Socialist Party of India, this article was quoted in *Labour Action* on 11 September)

“V Karalasingham:

(Excerpt):…”If we are to support the decisions of the UN, then it is tantamount to an abandonment of the position we have hitherto taken on neutrality as between the two power blocs – a position that distinguishes us from all other currents in the left movement. Our Third Force position – ‘Neither Western Capitalism nor Stalinist Totalitarianism’ – demands that we lend no support to either camp in Korea. Instead our solidarity is with the Koreans in their struggle against both war camps and for national independence and democratic socialism”.

“Published in *Socialist Review* 1/2 January 1951”

As a matter of fact, think Cliff and his supporters were wrong about the Korean war: but don’t anyone try to tell me that they weren’t “third camp”.

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Ever had one of those emails…

June 30, 2006 at 7:14 am (Uncategorized)

… from someone claiming to be a Nigerian businessman (or Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, or more or less anyone else), offering you untold riches if you’ll only send him a couple of grand to help get his ill-gotten gains out of the country?

Then you’ll love this, from the brilliant scambaiters at It’s long but worth it. Enjoy.

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Tinfoil Hat of the Week

June 30, 2006 at 6:14 am (Uncategorized)

It has to be Melanie Phillips, for her bizarre appearance on BBC Question Time last night. Many of you will know Mel as the author of many a hysterical right-wing rant against the evils of human rights legislation, Muslims and other horrendous nightmarish bogeymen. Her latest effort, “Londonistan” (which at some point I intend to dissect properly), is the culmination of her paranoid ravings over recent years. Last night she was no longer Mel the right-wing writer. No, then she was Mel the weird woman dressed in all black with the harsh looking specs, who managed to make Conservative MP Julie Kirkbride look like a progressive. She did this by the simple method of spouting possibly the largest amount of reactionary crap that I’ve ever seen crammed into an hour of TV.

There is no comment that I could add which fully illustrates the car-crash that was Mel’s performance. If you missed it, you can watch it online here; just click the link to “video of latest programme”.

Melanie, you have taken the Tinfoil Hat from a man who believes he is specially empowered by God to police the internet: be proud.

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A mixed blessing

June 28, 2006 at 9:25 am (Uncategorized)

When a Palestinian boy was killed by Israeli soldiers last year, his parents donated his organs — saving the lives of three Jews. Hailed by some as a triumph of humanity amid the horrors of the conflict, it has also caused controversy.

a Mixed Blessing

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In pictures: Palestinian refugee children

June 27, 2006 at 10:46 pm (Uncategorized)

On Saturdays I sometimes do leafleting for the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign – this last Saturday was a bit different, because some of us were invited to meet a group of young Palestinian students. They were between the ages of 12 – 16 – a charitable cause had sponsored this group to come and visit England for 12 days.

Anyhow, we met them just in time, before they had to head back. They were still at the beach.. I could see that some of the students really wanted to stay, even when they were walking away – I could see of them leaning over the seafront barrier – looking back and having to be encouraged to rejoin the group to go to the train station.. this was not because they actually liked Brighton – but simply to stare at the sea for as long as possible – they had never actually ever seen the sea. This quite an experience for me to see – to say the least it really humbled me. I am just glad they were able to come when the British weather was at its best!

The UN have marked World Refugee Day, by exhibiting some images of Palestinian children. After 58 years – Palestinians make the worlds largest group of refugees.

Palestinian Refugee Children

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The Uighur of Xinjiang

June 27, 2006 at 6:29 am (Uncategorized)

I thought I might break for a moment from my usual political muckraking, to write a post about a subject that’s rarely mentioned in the UK. It concerns the Uighur people of south-western China, in Xinjiang province. A Turkic people, via whose lands today’s Uzbek, Kazakh, Azeri, Turkish and all other Turkic peoples of west Asia may well have migrated, the Uighur are subjected to daily repression by the Chinese authorities. They are routinely oppressed by the Chinese military, with innocent herdsmen being accused of being a part of separatist movements. The Uighur are Muslims, and the Chinese government has jumped on the “war on terror” bandwagon in order to intensify its repression of this predominantly peaceful (there are separatist movements, but the overwhelming majority eschew violence) people. Mosques are summarily closed by the authorities and the Uighur language is banned from use in universities. Uighur people are regularly forced to work, unpaid, building gas lines and similar projects.

Incidentally, lest any of you are harbouring illusions that “there’s no smoke without fire” or “they wouldn’t do it without a reason”, I would ask you to remember that this is the regime which arrests people for believing that moving around slowly in a park is good for the soul. And executes them, and harvests their organs. Are you gonna believe them, or the Uighur?

There are Uighurs in Guantanamo Bay, again thanks to their being swept up in the so-called “War on Terror”. They have serious trouble getting lawyers nominated to represent them, as is required in the USA, because elderly relatives on a hill in Xinjiang are not likely to be contacted by anyone in the USA, and even if they were, their familiarity with US law is likely to be somewhat sketchy. Such are the rights of prisoners in Freedom Central. There are organisations working to help the Uighur, but they face a regime in Beijing determined to treat their people with unimaginable brutality, and a western “human rights” movement that largely neither knows nor cares about their people’s plight.

So I would especially say to those of you who believe in an “anti-imperialism” which treats any regime that “counterbalances” the USA in a “multi-polar” world as a good thing, just you remember the Uighur. Just you remember that blithering on from London about how “we mustn’t criticise” such regimes until after imperialism is beaten, is so much easier than doing so whilst standing in front of a weeping bereaved mother in Xinjiang, whose son has just been executed for “political crimes”.

And to those of you (of all political and religious stripes) who claim to be speaking up for Muslim people worldwide, I have a question. Why are these people so much less deserving of your voice than the Palestinians, the Chechens or the Iraqis?

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To the Euston Station

June 25, 2006 at 9:42 pm (Uncategorized)

The Priest and I met up a few days ago, in a real ale pub recommended to us by a member of the Socialist Party (the Group Formerly Known As The Militant Tendency). We had a bloody good row over some bloody good beer, about whether the SWP are politically and morally worse than the Euston Manifesto lot. I won’t go into details of that for now (or who was arguing what) ; but how interesting to see that John O’ Mahoney’s article, published in the present issue of “Solidarity” and also on the Workers Liberty website, on the Eustonites, has attracted an unprecedented 2,500 (or so) “hits”. And not one single reply.

Come on, you Eustonites: reply to ol’ Sean. I’m sure it’s not that you can’t. Or that you don’t want to hurt him with your ripostes. As for me: I got off at Watford Junction.

PS: I’d provide a link to the Workers Liberty Website and O’ Mahoney’s article, if I knew how. But I don’t. So you’ll just have to Google it.

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Well, I never…

June 23, 2006 at 7:10 am (Uncategorized)

OK, I know this post is way below my usual deep level of political insight (oi, stop heckling at the back). But seeing as it’s Friday, and just to prove that the internet really is the premier source for fascinating trivia, I give you the Literary Chicks on the world of nautical wonders of nature:

“A barnacle’s penis is about 10 times its body height. Ten times. That’s the largest penis-to-body size ratio in the animal kingdom. Now you know why barnacles don’t get around much.”

So there you are: scientific fact. That’s why barnacles always look tired. Don’t even ask how it came to my attention, it’s a very long story. And faintly disturbing…

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Our Maddie of the Sorrows has left the Guardian

June 22, 2006 at 2:09 pm (Uncategorized)

It will no doubt do my blood pressure good not to have to read any more of Madelaine Bunting’s vacuous, self-righteous, self-contradictory religiosity and cultural relativism in this Monday’s (UK) Guardian. But will I miss her? Time will tell: I get a certain kick out of working myself up into a paroxysm of rage over complete and utter bollocks especially if it’s pretentious bollocks into the bargain. Bunting ‘s valedictory column last Monday (June 19th) was a typically shoddy, dishonest (or else, maybe, just stupid) piece of rambling nonsense, including the extraordinary claim that:

“Many areas of science are legitimising religious thought in ways regarded as inconceivable for much of the past centuary and half. Quantum physicists question our understanding of reality and Hindus respond: ‘So what’s new?’; neuroscientists formulate understandings of consciousness and Buddhists retort as polititely as possible: ‘we told you so.'”

Now I ask you: what the hell are we supposed to make of that? What is she actually saying? That quantum physics and neuroscience validate religion? Or just that reality and consciousness are complicated and difficult and that religion sort-of recognises that…and so does science? So science and religion are sort-of the same? Actually, Bunting’s drivel was nicely demolished by one Josephine Grahl in a letter published in the next day’s Guardian:

“Religious beliefs are based upon a blind certainty without material proof; scientific theory is built on empirical evidence which must suggest a testable theory. Madeleine Bunting’s equation of developments in neuroscience and quantum physicswith the beliefs of Buddhists and Hindus is sloppy romaticism and shows a surprising level of scientific illiteracy…”

“Hear, hear, Ms. Grahl” says I , except for the word “surprising”: there can surely be nothing “surprisng” about scientific illiteracy eminating from Our Maddie.

Previous Bunting outrages against reason, logic and sanity have included: her attack on the Enlightenment (it “never happened“, but was, nevertheless, a “retrospective creation in the nineteenth century designed to make the eithteenth century look silly”) ; her claim that Richard Dawkins’ militant atheism helps creationists; that western liberalism is an “intolerant…arrogant assumption of…superiority…as dangerous as any other form of fundamentalism” and that “liberalism is right to assert that there are universal moral principles (such as the rights of women, free speech and the right to life), but wrong to insist there is only one interpretation of those principles…Rights come into conflict and every culture negotiates trade-offs between them”.

If you’re as baffled by that last quote as I was, Maddy’s true meaning is revealed by her finest hour: her notorious ‘interview’ Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi published in the Guardian on October 29 2005. You can just picture our Maddie, simpering before the great man like a latter-day Diana Mitford, while he explains how suicide bombings are justified in Israel (but nowhere else, so he’s a ‘moderate’) and expounds his views, unchallenged by Maddie, on homosexuality (“humans should not succumb to their lusts” – he doesn’t mention that he favours stoning gays) and domestic violence (“Islam doesn’t call for beating but it is necessitated by certain circumstances for a certain type of woman and within limits” – and there is no record of Maddie the great feminist even challenging this; maybe those words “within limits” makes it OK?).

Maddie first came to my attention on December 3, 2001, with a Guardian article (“The new anti-semitism” – strangely now absent from the Guardian‘s internet archive of Buntingology) calling for “a comprehensive religious descrimination law comparable to that which covers racial discrimination. Only that would trigger the reshaping of the welfare state (education, health, housing, social services) to meet the specific needs of Britain’s biggest minority -the near 3m Muslims”.

This divisive, dangerous nonsense recieved a crushing reply on the paper’s letters page a few days later from a Dr Sara Gwenllian Jones of Cardiff University. It should have shut Our Maddie up once and for all; but – of course – it didn’t:

“Madelaine Bunting argues that ‘the welfare state (education, health, housing, social services)’ should be reshaped to meet the religious needs of British Muslims. Is this special treatment to be extended to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Mormons and pagans? Will atheists, agnostics and casual believers in a Higher Something be catered to? What will be the qualifying criteria for special treatment? Population numbers, vociferousness, formal structures of worship that conform to establishment notions of what constitues a bona fide religion?

“How about people who whose political beliefs are held as intensely as any religious belief? And when this increasingly atomised multi-theocratic British society erupts into the inevitable violent antagonisms, which group does Madeleine Bunting imagine will suffer most from the fallout?

“Religions are acquired belief systems of sentient human beings. Faith is not and never will be comparable to inborn identities such as race, gender and sexuality. In a multicultural liberal democracy, the rights of everyone to follow their own religious or non-religious path are protected not by state-funded religious isolationism but rather by a secular state wherein religion is a matter of private practice.

“The state needs to become more, not less, secular. Of course Muslims, like everyone else, must be protected from harassment, abuse and assault. But we already have plenty of laws designed to protect us from these things – on the basis of our common humanity”.

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More Palestinians killed in Israeli missile attacks

June 21, 2006 at 10:55 pm (Uncategorized)

I don’t care what group you’re in, or what particular progressive view you hold. If stories like this don’t make you feel a righeous sense of injustice on behalf of the Palestinians, then there’s something wrong with you.

Do something about it.

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