Lonely Trot Baiters

April 29, 2007 at 10:44 am (left, stalinism, trotskyism, unions, voltairespriest)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketFollowing on from Jim’s post about the comically dire amicus.ttt website, I took a look for myself. What instantly struck me as ironic, was that the tank(s) who presumably run the thing had set it up at least in part to provide a counterweight to amicus.cc. And in doing so had succeeded in creating something even worse. Which is going some.

Anyhow, I initially decided that the site was evidently an online home for lonely people with Stalin fixations. However, whilst boredly flicking through the various pages of twaddle with which it presents us, I happened across their “discussion forum”. It quickly became clear that when I’d thought it was a home for lonely “people”, I might have been overestimating slightly on the numbers involved. If you look at the forum, you’ll see that it appears to have slightly less members than Michael Meacher’s leadership campaign. Still, of course, if any Shiraz readers would like to tell the owners of amicus.ttt exactly what they think of the whole pile of red-baiting shite, than at least they’ve been kind enough to provide you with a platform… all in the same spirit of comradeship that amicus.ttt was set up to foment, you understand.

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Amicus ice-pick lumpens

April 28, 2007 at 11:39 pm (Jim D, left)

This blog has, in the past (scroll down to “fuckwit c.c.“), been very critical of the ‘amicus c.c’ website, and its apolitical, Private Eye-style gossip (usually inaccurate) about internal Amicus affairs and – even worse- about the  T&G, where Beaumont gets everything wrong. However, it has been drawn to our attention that there is a much worse Amicus website: this lumpen, Stalinist affair is the brain-child of Amicus Assistant General Secretary Les Bayliss – evidently a nasty piece of work. Within the new union, the T&G Broad Left (where left-reformists, serious Trotskyists and  thinking ex-Stalinists co-exist) is clearly going to have to take on Mr Bayliss and his lumpen friends, and teach them a few lessons in proletarian democracy.

Hat-tip: Ian of the T&G

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April 27, 2007 at 6:38 am (Jim D, spain, war)

This Friday is the 70th anniversary of the destruction of the Basque town of Guernica by German bombers acting on behalf of the Francoist forces in the Spanish Civil War. Although it was not the first aerial attack on an undefended civilian town (the Italians had done it in Abyssinia; and in Spain German bombers had previously destroyed Durango), and although the scale of the casualties was subsequently eclipsed by what happened
in WW2, Guernica came to symbolise the brutality of modern aerial warfare. This is largely because of Picasso’s painting:


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Total cults

April 26, 2007 at 3:04 pm (Jim D, Respect, Uncategorized)

All proportions guarded: no way am I suggesting that a pair of vainglorious, posturing, sexist perjurers are in the same league as the 20th Century’s joint-leading mass-murderer. But it is something of a co-incidence that today’s Grauniad gives away a rather dinky pamphlet-version of a (highly edited) transcript of Khrushchev’s speech to the 20th Congress of the CPSU, denouncing Stalin and “the cult of the individual”…while inside the main paper is this nausea-inducing report.

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The Iraq war’s sleeping giant

April 22, 2007 at 9:39 am (Civil liberties, Human rights, iraq, iraq war, kdp, kurdistan, left, liberation, national liberation, pkk, puk, socialism, turkey, voltairespriest)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketOver recent weeks, stories have begun to filter into the public press in the west that the Turkish government and army are increasingly discontented over the seeming haven given to PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) fighters in Northern Iraq. Predictably it’s taken a while, as both the mainstream media and the left wing press in the UK have a tendency to “skip” Turkey on their way to Palestine, Iran and Iraq when covering the area. Which is all the more bizarre seeing as at more than one ethnic and cultural group straddles several of those countries at the same time, but that’s an issue for another post.

Many of you will know that in the 1980s and 1990s the PKK and the Turkish army fought a running civil war in the south-eastern region of Turkey, whose majority population is Kurdish, and whose regional centre is the city of Diyarbakir. At the same time, Kurds were less than second-class citizens in law, their language being barred from most media, and their nationality being generally referred to as “Mountain Turk”. Most of the left in the west (left and centre-left parties in Turkey were more divided) sided with the PKK as a national liberation movement, in spite of some queasiness over their tactics which included attacks on civilian targets. Nevertheless, given the organisation’s at least formally Marxist politics, and the appalling mistreatment by the Turkish government of those who it stood to defend, it is easy to see why the majority of the left took, and still takes, this stance.

However by the late 1990s the Turkish Army had gained the upper hand and the PKK’s influence was radically reduced. The symbolic capture of iconic PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999 appeared to mark the beginning of the organisation’s end. Furthermore, the election in 2002 of the nominally Islamist AK party led by current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan led to an unprecedented liberalisation of the laws on language in broadcasts and schools, and to a stream of of public investment in south east Turkey being opened up. This in turn seemed to bleed support further from the PKK.

The PKK went through a couple of transitions, as KADEK (Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress) and Kongra-Gel (Kurdistan People’s Congress) in the early 2000s, in an effort to reverse its decline. In 2004 however it reversed its unilateral ceasefire that had been imposed since Ocalan’s capture, and began operations within Turkey once again. These operations have once again included attacks on civilian targets, which have produced outcry in the mainstream Turkish press, but not a huge amount of comment among the western left. Large numbers of PKK fighters were, and are, based in Northern Iraq where their former rivals in the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, hold sway.

All this brings us up to date. Obviously the Iraq War has in many ways entrenched the positions of KDP leader Massoud Barzani and (even more so) PUK leader Jalal Talabani in their political fiefdoms. Further, it has provided the PKK with an opportunity to regroup militarily, subject to their not-always-easy dealings with Barzani, whose forces control most of the Turkish border area. It has also infuriated generals and politicians in Ankara, who in addition to seeing a revived PKK, are also having to resist ultra-nationalist calls for outright military intervention to safeguard the Turkoman poplulation in Kirkuk. The AK government which as well as having to deal with nationalist tide currently enveloping Turkey is also the main electoral rival of Kurdish nationalist parties in the East of Turkey, is under severe pressure to act. Only days ago, Turkey’s special envoy on the PKK, General Edip Baser said:

“It’s hard to understand why we should not use one of our international rights, as this terrorist organization is still active and coming into my country, and acting in my country, killing people and then going back to northern Iraq… Why I shouldn’t go after them?” [1]

This came along with similar sabre rattling from Turkish army chief General Yasar Buyukanit and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, amongst others. And let’s face it, it’s quite hard to argue for restraint in Northern Iraq (as western governments have been doing) on Turkey’s part whilst you’re busy razing the rest of the country to the ground. Further it’s hard to talk about the democratic rights of those invaded when the country doing the invading is an electoral democracy claiming to be protecting the rights of an endangered ethnic minority and eradicating terrorism. Again, sound familiar?

Furthermore, Barzani, part of a Kurdish coalition government in Northern Iraq that wants Kirkuk as its capital, appears to be alert to the mood in Turkey. In response, he has threatened to step completely off the fence in the PKK’s war against the Turkish government:

“Turkey is not allowed to intervene in the Kirkuk issue and if it does, we will interfere in Diyarbakır’s issues and other cities in Turkey” [2]

This carries with it the veiled threat of a call to arms for the majority of people in Turkey’s Kurdish region, for whom Barzani’s father in particular is a folk hero figure. It also marks a potential alliance between the PKK and KDP, whose mutual antipathy has contributed a great deal in the past to Turkey’s ability to manage the region.

So, what happens next? Obviously to anyone such as myself who is basically sympathetic to the Kurdish cause, there is an emotional impulse to hope that the floodgates are lifted, there’s a heroic struggle, and a unified Kurdish national liberation movement sweeps to power across the region on a cry of “Biji Kurdistan!” and the smoke from a peshmerga’s Kalashnikov.

The reality is it won’t work like that. Turkish military intervention in Northern Iraq would massively strengthen the hands of the ultra-nationalist right in Turkey, who are already riding high amid political and legal moves to strangle liberal voices in that country. Pan-Turk sentiment which always bubbles just beneath the surface in parts of Anatolia would have an opportunity to pour out in solidarity with the (genuine) plight of the Turkomans. Turkey is a regional superpower with over 1 million men under arms and modern equipment. Such civil rights as Turkish Kurds have gained in recent years would be washed away under a tide of brutal military repression. The consequences for the Iraqi Kurds of an outright military confrontation with Turkey would be apocalyptic. And the west would be powerless to stop a NATO ally from doing what, after all, is only the same thing that it is doing in the rest of the country.

It is only to be hoped that some kind of solution can be found – and it is far from clear that the PKK is the same organisation that it was in Apo’s day, in order to be able to find the tactical nous to exercise such restraint. Barzani is a master political tactician (whatever one may think of the tribal and conservative KDP’s actual politics), but whether he could put the lid back on Pandora’s box were he to open it with a call for a rising in Diyarbakir, is very much in doubt. Thus far outside interventions in the dispute have been largely limited to toothless criticisms from the Baghdad government and US officials.

And what are we on the left to say about it? I think that we should speak clearly and loudly against Turkish military intervention in Northern Iraq. We also obviously support the Kurdish right to self-determination, which is clearly the wish of a large majority in Northern Iraq and probably a majority of Turkish Kurds as well. Finally, we stand in defence of the rights of the Turkoman minority in Iraq to live free from harrassment and to enjoy the same democratic rights as Kurdish citizens in the Kirkuk region. 

I certainly support an independent Kurdish state – it is one of the greatest historical injustices in that region that one of the oldest nations in the world does not control its own borders, and one that is to the abject shame of western imperialists past and present. But for all that, I don’t think that the left should endorse either the PKK’s actions or Barzani’s tactics right now – they strike me as foolhardy and likely to lead to the destruction of liberationist political forces in Kurdistan, which would lead to that nation’s realisation being set back for decades. Of course every person wants to be his own king, but not of a devastated and desolate realm.

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Sad men with search engines

April 21, 2007 at 5:29 pm (blogging, blogosphere, geeks, internet, voltairespriest)

Sometimes when looking at the reasons why people read this blog, I find things that both amuse and disturb me. Let me explain.

With a WordPress blog, as with most others, you can find out what search terms people used when looking for your blog, if they came via a search engine. In many cases you’ll get sticky-fingered weirdos flicking through in the course of massive searches for “hot goat sex” or whatever, on the basis that these random words exist simultaneously in one of your blog posts. But do we get such normal things at Shiraz Socialist? Do we bollocks, oh no.

For example, let us look at yesterday’s searches. The single most used set of search terms was “Amicus.cc”. Fucking Amicus.cc?!?! I know the left has some sad bastards on it but the idea that my post about that risible website had any one person (let alone more than one!) searching for it in the course of a day, really does drive me to despair. Second favourite was “I am at a loose end”. I mean, dear God.

Today, we have something about the 2007 Mr Hungary competition – if anyone can track down a post where Jim, TWP or I even mentioned this in the course of a post then please send answers on a post card to me at the usual email address. Or indeed add it in the comment box if you know anything about the Mr Hungary competition. Is there a Mr Hungary competition anyway? Some things are just too sad even for me to research.

There are however some redeeming features. We also have people who searched on “Falklands War Argentina”, which suggests that they were interested in reading Jim’s wise thoughts on the subject. And last but not least we have a lone warrior who reached us yesterday by searching on the terms “John Sentamu Cunt”. Sir, this blog salutes you.

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No more heroes

April 21, 2007 at 4:34 pm (Jim D, left, Uncategorized)

I suppose it’s a sign of growing up, that you lose reverence for your childhood heroes. As a bloke in his mid-fifties, I sometimes wonder if I have ever really grown up: I was genuinely shocked, recently, to hear Tony Benn spouting simplistic, incoherent anti-American, utter bollocks. I had previously heard him compare Islamicists in Iraq to the ANC, and wondered if he had lost his marbles. I now conclude that he has. I am informed that he never got over the loss of his beloved wife.

Another once respectworthy leftist who seems to have lost it, is John Pilger. This former hero of mine (he once even wrote a book called “Heroes”) now simply blames ‘The West’ for everything  that’s wrong in the world and -unforgiveably – acts as an apologist for the clerical-fascists who rule Iran. Mark Osborn ‘fisks’ his most recent piece very effectively in the latest ‘Solidarity’. Nevertheless, I feel sad and sorry for Pilger, a once serious leftist commentator, who is now a preposterous and reactionary joke: a living embodiment of the utter stupidity of the old saying, “My enemy’s enemy is my friend”. But a very good advertisement for the advisability of reading ‘The Communist Manifesto’, especially Section 3.

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Santiago and Mahmoud, our brothers

April 19, 2007 at 3:21 pm (Human rights, Jim D, socialism)

The following is from Eric Lee at Labourstart, and I have nothing further to add:

“In unions in different countries, we call each other by different names. Some unions use the word ‘comrade’ , others use ‘colleague’. And many use the terms ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ to describe fellow union members.

“Are we simply using these words because we always have, or do they still have any real meaning?

“I ask the question because in the last few days one of our brothers has been brutally tortured and murdered, and another one, an innocent man, jailed.

“In Mexico, Santiago Rafael Cruz, a 29-year-old union organizer from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC, AFL-CIO) was brutally tortured and murdered. Santiago was a successful organizer in the USA who moved down to Mexico to run the union’s office there. His activities aroused the hostility of those who fear the growth of trade unionism among farm workers, and generated attacks in the media, threats of deportation, robberies and intimidation, culminating in this terrible crime.

“Santiago has a family in Mexico, a mother, father, sisters and brothers. But his family is much larger than that; it includes all of us. We must grieve together with his family, and we must fight together with them as one large family to ensure that the Mexican government prosecutes those responsible, and ensures the safety of union activists in that country.

“Please take a moment to send off your message today:


“About the same time that union-hating murderers were ending the life of this courageous young man in Mexico, on the other side of the world Iranian security forces lured union activist Mahmoud Salehi into the local prosecutor’s office on the pretext of discussing plans for this year’s May Day celebrations. Salehi, a former president of the bakery workers’ union in the city of Saqez, was then arrested and put in jail for a year with a three year suspended sentence on top of that. His crime was that in 2004 he organized a May Day demonstration.

“Tell the Iranian authorities to release Mahmoud Salehi now, and to drop all charges. Send off your message by clicking here:


“I doubt very much if Santiago and Mahmoud ever met – and yet they are brothers. One now languishing in an Iranian prison, the other in a Mexican grave.

“If these two men were not just fellow trade union members but actually your brothers, the sons of your mothers and fathers, how would you react? I know you wouldn’t be silent – you would be up in arms and the whole world would know your anger and pain.

“Please pass this message on. Let’s tell the Mexican and Iranian governments that we in the international trade union movement are a single family, and we will not tolerate our brothers and sisters being tortured, jailed or murdered anywhere in the world.

“Eric Lee”.

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West “could lose propaganda war to al-Qa’ida”

April 18, 2007 at 10:17 pm (Human rights, Jim D, SWP)

This report in today’s Independent stunned me: the bourgeois democracies of the West are, apparently “in danger of losing the propaganda war against al-Qa’ida”, according to a British cabinet review of foreign policy.

The report is, amazingly, “one of six policy statements designed to secure Mr Blair’s legacy”! Some fucking legacy, that: losing the propaganda war to people who differ from classic European fascism only because (1) they’re not European, and (2) they’re more reactionary.

Given that outright Lord Haw-Haw types are few and far between, and that support in the media for appeasement is limited to a few self-haters, how the bloody hell have the latter-day fascists and their supporters/appeasers got the upper hand in this way? Supporters of the misguided adventure in Iraq may like to ponder that question. And all thinking people would do well to tune in to BBC Radio Four this Monday (at 8.00 pm), to hear the second part of Justin Webb’s excellent examination of anti-Americanism, “Death to America“.

But perhaps the real lesson is that democracy is too important to be left in the hands of bourgeois democrats.

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Eradicate Capitalism: Support the Right to Arms

April 18, 2007 at 11:34 am (Civil liberties, TWP)

Every time a tragedy befalls the United States in the form of the most recent school shooting, the liberal and conservative pundits (in the UK at least) come out in full force to call for the end of the second amendment to the US constitution, the right to bear arms. The origin of this amendment was in order to ensure that despots could never take power and ensured the right of armed resistance to such despots in a country where the bourgeoisie overthrew the tyranny of a feudal monarch. The bourgeoisie didn’t set up this law out of the kindness of their hearts once taking power, but in order to restrain the revolutionary fervor of the masses. It was a concession won by the masses in the fledgling colonies from the bourgeoisie in order to stave off the type of situation that occurred in France more than a decade later which attempted to carry the initial revolution beyond a bourgeois democratic one.

In my discussions on this subject previously with members of the UK left, I have often been at a loss as they describe their opposition to the ability of the working class to purchase and own weapons and quite frankly, their inability to understand that the second amendment was won by the masses from the bourgeoisie. In fact many people say it is irrelevant for the US working class (or even the UK working class), which has been so defeated and smashed under foot, to have the right to weapons because they would simply be crushed by the superior might of the US military in any case.

Now certainly, one would have to be some kind of fantasist to claim that the working class in the US is anywhere near a situation that would require them to organise trained citizen armies to overthrow the US government, but a vital question remains. Why do liberals and even some socialists call for the eradication of the second amendment in the US?

The argument is usually along the lines that in order to stop such tragedies as occurred earlier this week from occurring, guns should be made illegal for the majority of US citizens and only be allowed in the hands of the state via the army and police or various private security firms.

There are two fundamental problems with this view. First, the state is the ultimate perpetrator of violence, however horrible these individual events of kids shooting up kids in schools may be. It is completely backward and irrational to call for the disarming of the US population while leaving the state, army and police armed. This is clearly evidence by the death tolls coming out of Iraq daily.

Secondly, this view is understandable if one is a liberal and supports the capitalist system but is inexcusable for a revolutionary, who believes in the overthrow of capitalism. The demand for the eradication of the right to bear arms in the US gives support to the lie that revolutions happen peacefully through democratic means.

One might ask why, then, do the conservatives in the US hold on so dearly to this amendment while the more progressive elements tend to call for its eradication? To me the answer is clear. They know that they may not always be in power nor have the majority of the population or even the military on their side. However, the leadership of the conservatives in the US know that it’s better to have armed supporters when the going gets tough. This is by no means to say that people generally outside of a small group at the top think in this strategic manner. For most people, having the right to a weapon has to do with hunting, self-defence or defence of property.

However, if one is looking at the issue from the point of view of a revolutionary socialist, it is clear that calling for only the state to have weapons is entrusting the state and not the working class to make a better society. Notice how the Guardian and the Daily Mail ask the same questions about why US citizens are still allowed to own weapons.

Why, then, do kids walk into schools with guns and shoot up their classmates? Why do kids in London stab one another? These are social problems created by the capitalist system itself, not because these kids have access to guns or knives. Capitalism perpetuates violence by its very nature. It encourages alienation, isolation and individualism. It is this system that must be eradicated and not the right of US citizens to bear arms against tyranny.

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