SWP v anti-rape campaigners

March 31, 2013 at 9:44 am (Feminism, homelessness, Jim D, misogyny, protest, sectarianism, strange situations, SWP, thuggery, women)

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.”

See also:http://twtrland.com/profile/glebbityshem

and https://twitter.com/CathElliott

H/t: Mod and Jelly (an unlikely pair…)

Permalink 9 Comments

AWL on left unity and the ‘People’s Assembly’

March 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm (AWL, capitalist crisis, Cuts, John Rees, Respect, socialism, solidarity, SWP, unions, welfare, workers)

From the AWL website and Solidarity newspaper:

peoples assembly fb pic

Left Unity

Unity must be linked to real action

The crises and splits in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and Respect have spurred more talk about left unity. The left needs systematic unity in action where we agree, and honest dialogue where we differ, in order to reinstate socialist ideas as an option in the working class.

On 26 March the Coalition of Resistance (within which the key force is the SWP splinter Counterfire) held a press conference to promote a “People’s Assembly Against Austerity” for 22 June (previously announced in a letter to the Guardian on 5 February). Workers’ Liberty supports all such gatherings; but, worryingly, the press release described the event as a “rally” rather than a conference.

There is a back-story. In late 2010 and early 2011, as anti-cuts campaigns flourished in the first angry response to the Tory/ Lib-Dem government, a number of left groups called conferences to try to make themselves the hub of the anti-cuts movement. The SWP called one (Right to Work, since morphed into Unite the Resistance), and the SP called one (National Shop Stewards’ Network). Counterfire’s effort, the Coalition of Resistance, was the biggest.

More than 1,000 people attended the Coalition of Resistance conference on 27 November 2010. Listening to many platform speeches from celebrities calling for militancy against the cuts, including from Unite leader Len McCluskey (who also backs the June event), some of those thousand must have felt they were in on the start of a real new movement.

But not much came of it. CoR has run an informative website, and some useful stunts; but for local anti-cuts committees usually the best contribution that CoR has been able to make is to refrain from organising CoR local groups as rivals to the main committees (and CoR has not always refrained).

The CoR conference was dominated by top-table speakers, 20-odd of them in the opening and closing plenaries. Little came of most workshops. At the workshop billed as dealing with political representation, speakers were a Green Party councillor; Liz Davies, who declared herself a critical supporter of the Green Party; Billy Bragg, whose speech was a straight plea to vote yes in the May 2011 referendum on AV; and Guardian contributor Laurie Penny. It was chaired by a Green Party member and allowed little debate.

The conference applauded a call from the platform for a week of action from 14 February 2011, but there was little action that week. CoR faded.

There is also a back-story to the “People’s Assembly” trope with which Counterfire hopes to revive CoR. They did it first on 12 March 2007, as a People’s Assembly Against War, when the people who now run Counterfire were in the leadership of the SWP. That event drew a good crowd, too — 1,000 or more — but its contribution to unity in action or to serious dialogue on differences was smaller than the attendance. There were almost 40 celebrities speaking from the top table.

On 25 March, film-maker Ken Loach and writer Gilbert Achcar co-signed a letter to the Guardian promoting the “Left Unity” initiative started in December 2012 by Andrew Burgin and Kate Hudson after they had quit George Galloway’s Respect movement. The initiative’s website claims that 3000 people have signed up on the web to back Ken Loach on this. No conference has been announced, but the website reports on local groups.

If those local groups can act as left forums, bringing the left together in joint action where we agree and honest debate where we disagree, then they will make a contribution.

Again, there is a back-story. Burgin had previously been active in Gerry Healy’s Workers’ Revolutionary Party as well as Respect; Hudson, in the Communist Party of Britain before she joined Respect. Loach was close to the Workers’ Revolutionary Party, and then in Respect.

There have been quite a few other unity initiatives in recent years. A weary shrug (“not another one!”) would be wrong; but so would the idea that we need not think about and learn from why they didn’t work.

In 2009, both AWL and SWP made proposals for left unity (only, it turned out that the SWP’s idea of left unity didn’t include talking with AWL…) The Convention of the Left, launched in September 2008 by John Nicholson (previously Labour deputy leader of Manchester City Council, and then in the Socialist Alliance) won wider endorsement than any of the current efforts — Morning Star, Red Pepper, LRC, Respect, Labour Briefing and Socialist Worker, as well as Workers’ Liberty. It agreed to set up local left forums. Trouble is, the forums never really got going, and the “convention” turned into a series of conferences, of diminishing vitality.

The Left Unity Liaison Committee, set up by activists from the Socialist Alliance, brought together different groups to discuss, but also petered out (in the end, AWL was the only one of the activist groups attending regularly). According to the Socialist Party, their electoral vehicle, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, is the best hope for left unity. AWL was able to get a loose alliance with the SP and the Alliance for Green Socialism — the Socialist Green Unity Coalition —up to 2008-9, but the SP and AGS then pulled out in favour of No2EU and what became TUSC.

The Anti-Capitalist Initiative, in which the main force is splinters from the Workers’ Power group, also promotes itself as the way to left unity.

None of these, not even CoR which was perhaps the best effort, has had enough substance of agreed united action or of real open debate.

Paradoxically, it often happens that the smaller and more splintered the group which proposes itself as the hub for left unity, the better the initial response it gets. But it’s not necessarily easy sailing from there on!

If an activist group with a known record of political activity makes a call for unity, then people judge it partly according to their opinion of that record. If a splinter of a split of a splinter (just two people initially, as with Burgin and Hudson, or a few dozen, as with Counterfire) makes an appeal, and puts it in the vaguest terms — Burgin and Hudson suggest no more political definition than “rejects austerity and war, advocates a greater democratisation of our society and institutions, and poses a new way of organising everyday life” — then everyone can read into it what they want.

Everyone who wants to build a socialist organisation, but is unsure about how to do it, and so holds back from joining any of the existing groups, can believe they have found a short cut. Just a click on a website, or a “like” on Facebook, and they’re already part of the big movement they want!

Burgin and Hudson cite Syriza in Greece and Die Linke in Germany as their models. But neither of those dropped from the sky in response to a few activists writing a letter to the Guardian, or doing a press conference. Syriza builds on a long political tradition — that of the Greek Communist Party, since the 1920s the main force in the Greek workers’ movement – and on sharp political battles which separated Syriza’s core both from the old Stalinists and from the soft reformists now in Greece’s Democratic Left. Die Linke rests on having been able to take over a chunk of what was the old ruling party in East Germany.

Also, neither of them is adequate. If Syriza did not have organised left groupings like DEA and Kokkino battling within it against its mainstream leadership, then there would be no hope for it doing anything other than collapsing into reformist adaptation. Die Linke is more Keynesian than socialist, and has supported cuts where it is in provincial coalition governments.

Unity is good. But talk about unity will be just a way of floating yet another left splinter unless it is translated into specific unity in action and specific dialogue about differences.

To the credit of Burgin and Hudson, they have posted on their website a thoughtful contribution from SWPer (or ex-SWPer?) Keith Flett. “However, and however frustrating some may find it, there is no way of by-passing the weight of Labour and perhaps in particular Labour activists in the unions and localities in all this…. The electoral support of Labour and its impact can’t be ignored.

“It may be argued that membership is hardly what it was in the 1950s but that is true of all political parties. It may also be argued that the hold of Labour’s approach to political change is less, but it is an argument not an historical fact.

“Even if we accept time scales change with context, historically it has taken time to build left parties.

Not just time, but effort, argument, education. And politics! Talk of unity is good, but only if it leads to specific united action and specific dialogue. Not if it becomes only a way to float yet another left splinter making its claim as being the one which is really for unity…

AWL will work with the Left Unity forums, and the People’s Assembly, on that basis.

Burgin/Hudson initiative

People’s Assembly

AWL leaflet to first Coalition of Resistance conference

Coatsey’s rather more enthusiastic view of the Assembly Against Austerity

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Something about Lee Wiley

March 29, 2013 at 6:55 pm (jazz, Jim D, love, music, song, theatre, United States)

After a long search, I’ve just obtained a deleted CD by my favourite singer, the now nearly forgotten Lee Wiley. It originally appeared in the mid fifties as a 10″ album called Lee Wiley Sings Rogers and Hart and the CD includes an added bonus: the original sleeve notes by George Frazier (no, not the boxer, but one of the finest jazz writers ever). As one of our missions is to bring you great writing from perhaps unexpected sources, I thought I’d reproduce the notes here. The Youtube clip, by the way, is of Lee singing Rogers and Hart’s Glad To Be Unhappy, but from an earlier (1940) recording, with Max Kaminsky (trumpet), Joe Bushkin (piano) and Bud Freeman (tenor sax) in the band:

George Frazier wrote:

Lee Wiley is one of the best vocalists who ever lived, with a magical empathy for fine old show tunes and good jazz. Indeed, I know of no one who sings certain songs quite so meaningfully, so wistfully. She is, however, an artistic snob and, consequently, simply awful when (as is blessedly rare) somebody persuades her to experiment with mediocre material. When she doesn’t get a lyric’s message, you might as well call the game because of wet grounds. But given a number worthy of her endowments — well, she is miraculous, as, in fact, she is here.

This is a portfolio of songs by Rogers and Hart — not Rogers and that other fellow (who would be Oscar Hammerstein II, who, no disrespect intended, no Larry Hart, he). These are haunting songs — songs that have withstood the ravaging headlong rush of the years, the fickleness of public taste, and the debasement of the lyric to the nadir where we are subjected to, forgive the expression, Be My Life’s Companion. But whatta hell, whatta hell. The gratifying thing is that Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart (who, although dead and buried these many years, is more artistically alive than the no-talent author of Be My Life’s Companion) turned out some lovely, lovely stuff and that Lee Wiley has a superb affinity for it. To my mind, indeed, she is the definitive interpreter of Rogers and Hart.

I do not in the least mind admitting that it gets me livid when most girl singers make it big, for it is my dour conviction that, by and large, they have plenty of nothing. Lee Wiley, however, is an artist. About the vast art of Miss Wiley there is a sophistication that is both eloquent and enduring  and utterly uncontrived. Technically, she may leave something to be desired, but artistically she’s simply magnificent, projecting emotion with dignity and warmth, expressing nuances with exquisite delicacy, and always making you share her bliss or heartbreak. She came to New York from Ft. Gibson, Oklahoma, and before long all the right people were bewitched by her incomparable magic. There is no room here to catalogue all the individuals  — that is, the prominent ones — who are Wiley devotees, but right offhand I can think of Bing Crosby, Dorothy Kilgallen, Ted Straeter, Victor Young, Louis Armstrong, and Marlene Dietrich. It is my feeling that they, along with a great many other people, will be grateful for this anthology. To my way of thinking, no better Rogers and Hart collection is available. Since de gustibus and so forth, I should probably mention at this point that I rather wish Miss Wiley had substituted, say, The Lady Is A Tramp or the rarely-heard Imagine for Give It Back To The Indians, but this is carping and, in any event, you cannot really fault Indians. As for my enthusiasms, the rendition of Glad To Be Unhappy is marvellous — a great love song interpreted in all its dark splendour.  It is all the love affairs ended, all the marriages put asunder, from the beginning of years. It is Fitzgerald’s rich boy walking into the Plaza that stifling Saturday afternoon and suddenly coming upon his girl of once upon a vanished time, married now and big with imminent child. It is an ineffably haunting song, robust yet gentle, and this is its finest reading. It explains, I think, why Miss Wiley is an unqualified enthusiasm with such not-easily-impressed critics as, for instance, Roger Whitaker of the New Yorker, George Avakian of Columbia Records, and Jack O’Brien of the New York Journal-American.

And here, along with Glad To Be Unhappy, are such other small (and maybe not so small) miracles as My Heart Stood Still, Funny Valentine, It Never Entered My Mind and Mountain Greenery, all of them redolent of the suspenseful moments when the house lights lowered and the curtain went up on another show by Rogers and Hart. These are literate tunes, civilised tunes. Where, if you will, is there a more nearly perfect lyric than in It Never Entered My Mind? To me, it seems the greatest lyric ever written, but until I heard Miss Wiley do it, I never realized that it is the greatest by a prodigious margin.

Right about this point, I suppose, there should be the department of how-about-a-great-big-hand-for-the-boys-in-the-band. As it happens, this is a fine little ensemble, providing an accompaniment that is cohesive, rhythmic and gratifyingly unobtrusive. Its members are all, as Professor Kitteridge used to say of Sam Johnson, good men and four-squares. I would, however, like to put in an extra word or two about the stylish young trumpet player. His name is Ruby Braff and, to my ears, he sounds rather in apostolic succession to the late Bunny Berigan, who, coincidentally enough, accompanied Miss Wiley when she recorded a Gershwin anthology a decade or so ago.

Indeed, if I have any objection to this portfolio, it is that it will doubtless assail me with bittersweet memories — with the stabbing remembrance of the tall, breathtakingly lovely Wellesley girl with whom I was so desperately in love in the long-departed November when the band at the Copley Plaza in Boston used to play My Heart Stood Still as couples tea-danced after football games on crisp Saturday afternoons, with reawakened desire for the succession of exquisite girls with whom I spent many a crepuscular hour listening to cocktail pianists give muted voice to Funny Valentine, of the first time I saw Connecticut Yankee, of — Yes, of the first years of my marriage and listening to Lee Wiley late at night. My wife, who knew more about show tunes than any woman has a right to know, had a special affection for You Took Advantage Of Me and she always sang it when her spirits were high. Afterwards, when she had long ceased to sing it, when a judge had severed that which no man is supposed to put asunder, I lived for more than a year with a girl who I had hoped would make me forget. She was not witty or talented or, for that matter, particularly pretty. But she was very, very sweet and she tried very, very hard, even pretending to appreciate the Wiley records that I used to play over and over again as I clutched at the past and, for a little while indeed, it would actually seem to be kind of wonderful, with the mournful, wailing tugs in the river below and in the distance the Fifty-ninth Street Bridge stretched like a giant necklace as we sat there listening to the songs of heartbreak. There were even moments when I rather fancied myself falling in love again. But always such moments fled, because when Miss Wiley sings, there is nothing affected. So I would sit there and hurt more and more with the remembrance of other, never to be recaptured nights in the same room. Lee Wiley can do that to you — damn her! But damn her gently, because she is, after all, the best we have — the very best.

NB: “She drank like a fish, cussed like a sailor, could treat musicians abusively, and had no qualms about stealing married men – including the star trumpeter and bandleader Bunny Berigan, with whom she recorded. ‘They had a pretty torrid affair,’ says Dan Morgenstern, the celebrated jazz historian. ‘Bunny’s wife hated her.’ But Wiley got away with a lot, for she was a dish, with smoldering sex appeal and dark hair that tumbled past her shoulders.”: from a rather more critical take on Ms Wiley, here.

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Steve Hedley issues statement

March 29, 2013 at 4:47 pm (Free Speech, RMT, strange situations, tragedy)

As we published the allegation against him, we’re now publishing his response (having been exonerated by an RMT internal investigation), in the interests of fairness and balance:

It is with great sadness that I have to release this statement to clear my name and to protect my family and friends who have been subject to  verbal assault cyber assault and even  threatened with physical violence. I also truly hope that it will give men who are suffering violence and abuse in relationships some encouragement to come forward and report their abusers. I have already been contacted by a number of men in the trade union movement who have suffered domestic violence but who were afraid to make a public statement out of a misconceived shame and embarrassment about being abused. Up until this point I have not commented upon the allegation that I assaulted Caroline Leneghan as I did not wish to add to Ms Leneghan’ s  mental health problems and an  RMT internal investigation was ongoing . I feel that now I need to comment as my family are being seriously effected by the unfounded allegations which have been spread on the Internet by people who are not in possession of the facts.

Ms Leneghan made a complaint to the police more than a year after the alleged event(which she claims took place in January 2012), Firstly she said she had no photographic evidence of the alleged “assault” saying that it had been deleted and only laterproduced some very dubious and undated pictures more than a yearafter the event claiming to show her injuries.  The police questioned me investigated the allegation thoroughly, had the case reviewed by a senior officer and took No Further Action. Ms Leneghan also made a complaint to my employer the RMT trade union which has carried out an exhaustive investigation and found that I had “no case to answer”. During both investigations I provided hundreds of texts and emails that showed that Caroline Leneghan had been abusive to and assaulted me on several occasions. During the 18 months I spent with Ms Leneghan I was slapped, deprived of sleep, punched, pinched, scratched, elbowed in the ribs, kneed, had shoes ,belts and other objects thrown at me, had paint rubbed in my face and was kicked in the stomach about a week after I had an operation for a hernia. I stayed with Ms Leneghan  because she was attending therapy twice a week in an attempt to control her violent outbursts, she  suffers from a condition known as Borderline, Personality Disorder and has a history of violence ,severe self harm and attempted suicide. On the day she alleges the assault took place I was assaulted by her and whilst trying to take a screwdriver away from her(on previous occasions I had to take razor blades and knives away from her and call ambulances to treat her from self inflicted  razor cuts on her arms legs and stomach)   we both fell to the floor, Ms Leneghan landed face down and I landed on top of her. Ms Leneghan then went to her room and appeared the next day with bruising on her face. Ms Leneghan accepted that this was an accident and explained to several people at the time what had happed(several people made statements to the police to this effect). The assault allegations only arose over a year later when I finished my relationship with Ms Leneghan after being kicked in the stomach by her whilst on holiday  just a week after I had a stomach operation for a hernia. When I broke off the relationship with Ms leneghan she pretended to be pregnant and threatened to have an abortion unless I had her back ,she even threatened to commit suicide which led me to spend several hours at her address on 1 January 2013 trying to calm her down. (this is all confirmed in the emails I gave the police and my employers). Ms Leneghan then hacked my facebook account on 21 January 2013 and discovered that I was going out with someone else, she made several abusive phone calls to me and sent very abusive and threatening texts and emails to me and my girlfriend  and threatened  me  by text that “you are going down Steve”(which I did not reply to on solicitors advice but provided the evidence to the police and the RMT investigations). Ms Leneghan then went to the police and my employers as I have described. Having spoken to Mankind an organization that deals with domestic violence against men I was informed that abusive women often continue to abuse their victims when a relationship is finished by making false allegations to the police. I hope now that the investigations are complete and I have been cleared of any wrong doing that I can draw a line under this and move on with my life . I hope that  Ms Leneghan can also move on  continue with her treatment for her illness and find happiness uninfluenced by those who wish to make politically motivated attacks on me and my trade union.

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Taliban kill (another) teacher

March 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm (assassination, crime, Education, fascism, Human rights, islamism, Jim D, misogyny, Pakistan, secularism, terror, thuggery, tragedy, women)

Shahnaz Nazli, a teacher at a girls’ school in the Northwestern Khyber district of Pakistan, was murdered earlier this week. Officially, the motorbike-riding  killers are “unknown” but they are clearly the same brand of  gynaephobic fascist bastards who tried to kill Malala Yousufzai. The killing was quite widely covered by the likes of CNN, but I could find nothing in the Guardian or on the main liberal-leftist websites.

Can it be that sections of the Western liberal-left have come to simply accept that this kind of thing is inevitable in certain cultures? Or that sections of the so-called “left” even harbour a degree of sympathy with the Taliban as some kind of “resistance” movement?

Maybe Nick Cohen has a point.

And this book is essential reading.

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Not-so-Permanent Revolution

March 28, 2013 at 6:03 pm (Jim D, left, political groups, socialism, strange situations, trotskyism)

Far left groups implode from time to time (eg the SWP at the moment and, back in 1985, the WRP). And not infrequently, new far left groups are formed (sometimes out of the wreckage of the implosions). What is very rare is for a far left group to simply jack it in, give up the ghost, voluntarily disband. I believe the US Independent Socialist League (the ‘Shachtmanites‘) did it in 1957 or ’58, but off hand,  that’s the only example [I have been corrected – see comments below – JD] I can think of. Until now:

Permanent Revolution – dissolution statement


Permanent Revolution was established in 2006 following the expulsion of a
number of members of Workers Power in July 2006. The original intention of
the organisation was to continue to try and build an organisation based on
the core principles of revolutionary Trotskyism that we had all long
adhered to while still members of Workers Power.

During the following seven years we produced 24 issues of a journal that we
think made a significant contribution to debates within the far left, that
attempted to develop Marxist theory to address new issues and that offered
coherent programmatic answers to key issues facing the international
working class. As a consequence the journal developed a significant
audience and our ideas won a hearing across the left and the labour

This literary contribution was matched by the activity of our comrades who
led struggles in a number of areas and a variety of arenas – union,
community, anti-cuts, anti-racist and so on.

However, with the development of a number of new campaigns, networks and
organisations, combined with the decline of the established far left
groups, we recognise the need for the left to organise itself in radically
different ways. As a result we have now decided to cease publication of our
journal and website.

Instead we will direct our efforts and resources to building those
initiatives, regionally, locally and nationally, that we believe offer a
way forward that is more effective than the maintenance of ourselves as a
distinct group – for example, the Anti-Capitalist Initiative, Marxist
Networks and radical trade union and campaigning organisations that are
working to renew the labour movement and the left in working class

We would like to thank you all for your support over the past seven years
and we know that we will continue to work with you in common struggles in
the years to come.

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Guest post from Alex Callinicos

March 27, 2013 at 9:21 pm (SWP)

Guest post from Alex Callinicos:

I have to offer some corrections to a piece by Jim Denham, who has omitted some significant passages from my missive to the Organizing Committee of the Historical Materialism conference in India.

Denham quotes:-

I understand of course how important the issue of rape and sexual violence is in India, especially after last December’s gang rape and murder in Delhi. It is also a very important question in Britain, and for me personally, as it is for the Socialist Workers Party. We are strongly committed to women’s liberation. We took the rape allegations against a leading member extremely seriously; the controversy over how the party handled these allegations is indicative of that seriousness.

The next paragraphs should read:-

Furthermore, our experience of dealing with rape allegations is invaluable. We have much to offer in models of procedure for how the gang rape incident in Delhi should be treated. We have developed a revolutionary method whereby some friends of the accused hold a private inquiry on whether they are guilty or innocent. If I can employ the loaded term “common sense”, who is more likely to know if someone is guilty of a crime than his long term comrades?

In the unlikely event an accused person is found guilty he should not be allowed to use that particular bus-line for a year.

We have followed this procedure for all charges of rape, sexual assault or harassment in our Party for decades now, and we can confidently assert that we have eliminated these evils totally. Similar procedures could be implemented in Delhi. It will soon lose its reputation as an unsafe city for women, especially when all those who object publicly to our failsafe methods are banished from the city or incarcerated.

Comrade Denham has seen fit to pass over these constructive suggestions for a revolutionary process of eliminating sexual violence within our society.

Jim Denham then quotes:-

This is to say nothing of the personal inconvenience and expense you are exposing me to by withdrawing your invitation a week after you had circulated a programme that included me as chairing one session and speaking at another, and barely a week before I was due to fly to India.

However again he has been highly selective in his quotation, omitting a further passage:-

I have had three different jabs for this impending trip, which have caused me considerable discomfort, I’ve stocked up on anti-malaria tablets, which aren’t cheap, and I had a nice little beach-break in Goa tacked on at the end of the conference.

I can only conclude that Denham’s selective quotations and omissions are through sectarian malice.

[NB: more from Redfriars and its Acting Headmaster Stallinicos, here]

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Huey Long: a study in populism…and racism

March 27, 2013 at 7:26 pm (Andrew C, Cross-post, Democratic Party, fascism, history, Jim D, Latin America, populism, Racism, United States)

With populism  in the air at home and abroad, our old friend Coatsey draws our attention to this exposé of the horrible (but still supposedly “left”) CounterPunch magazine’s attempt to paint the racist Huey Long as some sort of progressive in the Hugo Chavez mould. Regular readers will know that here at Shiraz we don’t share the prevailing liberal-leftist adulation of el Comandante, but to compare him to the racist Long is simply an insult to Chavez (and a particularly ironic one: see below). It’s time that some leftist idiots realised that anti-capitalist rhetoric does not a socialist make.

Mike Whitney has posted an article on CounterPunch titled Our Chavez: Huey Long. There seems to be an effort in recent years on the part of some people to try to portray the sometime governor of Louisiana and U.S.Senator as a great champion of the people, no doubt because of his anti-capitalist rhetoric. Yet when one takes a closer look at his life, it becomes clear that things were not that simple.

During Long’s lifetime, most of the Left regarded him with deep wariness, if not outright hostility. There were good reasons for that. First of all, he governed Louisiana as a virtual dictator. He even organized a secret police force to keep watch on his opponents as well as on his followers.

Long was also a white supremacist. He maintained Louisisana’s Jim Crow laws. (Long would sometimes smear his opponents by spreading rumors that they had “coffee blood”. This gives a bitter irony to calling him “our Chavez”.) Long’s apologists point out that he didn’t talk about white supremacy in his speeches. This was perhaps because he didn’t need to. In 1935, Roy Wilkins interviewed Long for The Criis. They discussed an anti-lynching bill that Long opposed in the Senate…

Read the full article here

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Prof Callinicos suffers “personal inconvenience”

March 27, 2013 at 12:28 am (Asshole, Beyond parody, Jim D, misogyny, SWP)

Above: this man has been personally inconvenienced

The organisers of a Marxist Conference (‘Historical Materialism’) in India have withdrawn their invitation to Professor Callinicos. He seems to be quite upset, and has tweeted  (https://twitter.com/alex_callinicos/status/316678538310864897) as follows:

Dear Organizing Committee,

I was very surprised to receive your communication. You ask me ‘to withdraw [my] decision to attend’. But I only made that decision in response to an invitation to participate in your conference. So what you are in fact doing is withdrawing your invitation, as is indicated by the fact that you have already deleted me from the conference programme. I think you should take full responsibility for the decision you are actually taking.

I understand of course how important the issue of rape and sexual violence is in India, especially after last December’s gang rape and murder in Delhi. It is also a very important question in Britain, and for me personally, as it is for the Socialist Workers Party. We are strongly committed to women’s liberation. We took the rape allegations against a leading member extremely seriously; the controversy over how the party handled these allegations is indicative of that seriousness. The special conference that we recently held to resolve this controversy has set up a committee to review our procedures, and we intend to use this to reinforce our efforts to combat the oppression of women.

It is not for me to judge how grave the danger of disruption to your conference is. But an appeal circulated by an academic at JNU does not reflect well intellectually or morally on those agitating against my presence at the conference. This document is a farrago of nonsense that treats allegations as proven fact, cites tendentious opinion pieces as ‘reports’, and includes the laughable assertion that ‘the journal Historical Materialism is allied, and  … is known to be principally operated by Socialist Workers Party members and supporters’.

Since this is a conference sponsored by Historical Materialism, let me remind you that I am a longstanding supporter of the journal and, along with Marxist intellectuals of many political tendencies, a member of its International Advisory Board. I have tried to support HM’s development both in Britain and internationally. Your decision damages HM’s commitment to promote Marxist theoretical development independently of organized political alignments.

So I regret your decision – not just for this reason, but also because I value my long-standing connections with the Marxist intellectual left in India. In taking this decision, based directly or indirectly on interested misrepresentations of debates inside the SWP, you run the risk of compromising your own intellectual and political integrity.

This is to say nothing of the personal inconvenience and expense you are exposing me to by withdrawing your invitation a week after you had circulated a programme that included me as chairing one session and speaking at another, and barely a week before I was due to fly to India. This is quite unacceptable in what is meant to be an academic conference, and it is also not how socialists should behave towards one another.

In comradeship,
Alex Callinicos

[NB: Statement from the organising group of the Delhi HM Conference, here]

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Remembering CLR James

March 26, 2013 at 11:46 am (black culture, history, intellectuals, internationalism, liberation, London, Marxism, socialism, solidarity, trotskyism)

From the CLR James Legacy Project:


The CLR James Legacy Project will be hosting our first conference in London on Saturday April 13 and we would love to see you there. The event will be preceded the evening before with the CLR James Annual Lecture (‘The Importance of the Black Vote’) at the Dalston CLR James Library. Details of this and other CLR James-related events, here.

As ever, please get in touch if you have articles/news for our website or want to offer your services to keep the legacy of CLR James thriving. We are at present working on very limited resources – both human and financial – so could do with the active help of supporters. Please email andrea@hackneyunites.org.uk if you feel you can help.

The Life & Legacy of CLR James – London Legacy Conference

Saturday April 13 11am-6pm

Venue: WEA, 96-100 Clifton Street EC2A 4TP

This free conference is organised by the CLR James Legacy Project in partnership with the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA).

The conference will involve a day of discussions, workshops and performance around CLR James’ life and his relevance today. Confirmed speakers include Darcus Howe (broadcaster, writer and activist), Mike Dibb (film maker) and Selwyn Cudjoe (Wellesley College and co-editor of ‘CLR James: His Intellectual Legacies’). There will also be contributions from Ngoma Bishop (BEMA) and Andrea Enisuoh (Hackney Unites) who led the campaign to keep the name of CLR James on the Dalston Library when the local council threatened to drop it. Friends and comrades of CLR will also be presenting and contributing to the discussions on the day.

Bookings: click here

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