Distinctions on left antisemitism

November 29, 2017 at 8:42 pm (anti-semitism, AWL, israel, labour party, left, palestine, posted by JD, Racism, stalinism, zionism)

Left antisemitism

By Martin Thomas (also published in the present issue of Solidarity and at the Workers Liberty website)

Workers’ Liberty has been debating theories of racism and their relationship to left anti-semitism. This contribution is a response to Carmen Basant (Solidarity 454).

Modern political antisemitism consists in damning the very existence of the Israeli state (however modified) as inescapably racist and imperialist, and thus damning all Jews who fail to renounce connection to or sympathy with Israel (however critical) as agents of racism and imperialism.

More traditional racial antisemitism consists in damning Jews, as a hereditary supposed “race”, as constitutionally malevolent and disruptive.

There is no Chinese wall between these forms of antisemitism, or indeed between either of them and other forms of antisemitism in history (Christian, reactionary anti-capitalist, etc.) However, there are distinctions, and it is important to understand these if we are to convince left-minded people influenced by strands of antisemitism rather than only cursing them.

I adduce five reasons for distinguishing between political antisemitism and racial antisemitism.

1. The term “racism” has acquired a diffuse width of meaning, and at the same time come to be cognate with crimes and immoralities rather than with erroneous (or hurtfully erroneous) ideologies. When we are arguing with people who have strands or traits in their thinking of political antisemitism, but who (by their own lights) abhor racial antisemitism, to call them “racist” cuts short the argument. It conveys to them that we do not wish to dispute political ideas with them, but instead to brand them as criminal.

2. Antisemitism is much older than racism. It is possible, of course, to stretch the term racism by back-defining it to cover many phenomena from centuries before the term existed. But to do that blurs rather than clarifies. In particular, it blurs the ways in which antisemitism operates quite differently from general racism (or, if you insist on putting it that way, from other racism).

3. It is indeed, as Carmen points out, disorienting to identify racism exclusively or overwhelmingly as an offshoot of European colonialism. But it is equally disorienting to identify it as a characteristic offshoot of nationalism, presumably of irredentist and revanchist Arab nationalism. Political antisemitism has a dynamic different from both nationalism and racism.

4. Being Jewish does not license antisemitic views, any more than being a woman licenses hostility to feminist demands. But the high-profile Jewish political antisemites are clearly not “self-hating Jews”, either.

5. If we abandon the distinction between political antisemitism and racism, then that makes us no longer able to point out and denounce where people drift over the line. Read the rest of this entry »

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That UK-Irish border problem: the zeppelin solution

November 28, 2017 at 9:33 am (Beyond parody, Brexit, comedy, Europe, fantasy, Ireland, Jim D)

Above: one possible drawback

Zeppelins are part of a proposed solution to the UK-Ireland border problem after Brexit.

An influential British think tank has suggested that drones or airships could be used to monitor the Irish border after Brexit.

The Legatum Institute raised the possibility of patrolling the skies in a paper entitled Mutual Interest: How the UK and EU can resolve the Irish border issue after Brexit”. In the paper, they also suggest ground-based solutions, such as unattended ground sensors, cameras, and ground-wave radar. The think tank is considered influential with some government ministers, according to the BBC.

It states that “persistent surveillance of the border region” could be achieved through patrols by unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) or deployment of aerostats (airships or hot air balloons).

But it concedes “that these solutions are subject to a number of limitations, not least weather and cost”.

Still, it remains the most practical solution yet put forward by the British side, who after all, created the problem in the first place.

Other possible solutions include fairies.

H/t: Marina Hyde of the Graun (for the Zepplins) and Colin O’Driscoll (for the fairies)

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China: “new era” but same old repression

November 27, 2017 at 10:07 am (China, Human rights, nationalism, posted by JD, stalinism)

CCP congress

By Carman Basant (this article also appears in the current issue of Solidarity and on the Workers Liberty website):

In October, the 19th national China Communist Party (CCP) congress took place in Beijing. China’s president, Xi Jinping, used the propaganda event to push his distinct brand of CCP rhetoric, which sounded vacuously futuristic and echoed the party’s nationalistic and imperially ambitious past.

To achieve the “Chinese Dream” would be “no walk in the park”, he declared, it would require “more than drum beating and gong clanging to get there” (Xi Jinping, cited in Phillips, 2017).

The CCP announced power in 1949 under the leadership of Mao Zedong. This came after a civil war with the main political rival and party-in-power, Chinese Nationalist Party or Guomindang (led by Chiang Kai-shek). At that moment, the CCP had popular support because of its more consistent and passionate anti-Japanese position (China’s main imperialist threat) and its promise to alleviate pervasive poverty and hardship and end exploitation by landlords. The Nationalist Party fled to Taiwan while proclaiming its intention to return at a future point to retake mainland China, whilst the CCP claimed sovereignty over Taiwan. The present-day geopolitics of this region continue to the shaped by historical tensions between China and US-backed Taiwan and Japan; moreover, Chinese nationalism has both “enemies” close in mind.

Under Mao, the CCP dragged China’s population through various traumas. In the 1950s and early 1960s, the Hundred Flowers Campaign was followed by the Anti-Rightist Movement, which purged critics of the state that were first encouraged to speak out, and the Great Leap Forward — a campaign to launch China as an industrial equal to the West that resulted in tens of millions of deaths. Mao’s initiative in 1966 of the Cultural Revolution was intended to reassert his authority and reflected a fanatical cult of personality (particularly amongst the youth cadre) to eliminate both internal and external critics of the Party, so-called bourgeois elements. China descended into a decade of chaos, destruction, loss of life, and widespread human rights abuses. The Cultural Revolution came to a close in 1976, the year of Mao’s death.

Post Mao, China entered a new period under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, known as opening and reform. In the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution a spontaneous grassroots space opened up in Beijing for the public airing its emotional trauma and the social and political questioning of the Party, known as the Democracy Wall Movement. This was generally seen to be tolerated by a “new era” Party, but that was a mistake. Deng Xiaoping’s new era of openness and reform meant a pragmatic approach to the economy: a recognition that China’s economic development would come from moving away from a closed economy and plugging into the global economy. Deng’s vision did not include political openness.

The Democracy Wall Movement, which begin in 1978, was shut down in 1979. The balancing act presented by Deng’s CCP then is one that continues: the State opens China’s doors to global capital and acts as the guardian at the door to protect the populous from foreign bad elements.

An earlier example of this is the Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign of 1983. The growing desire amongst the students and workers of China’s cities for political change amidst its economic opening and reform proliferated into the extraordinary grassroots democracy movement of 1989 Tiananmen Square.

The image of a courageous student attempting to block a line of tanks moving in to crush this movement is one of the most iconic images of the twentieth century, and a reminder of what so-called “Chinese socialism” actually is – a gross betrayal of its namesake.

Xi Jinping announced the beginning a “new era” at the 19th national CCP congress, promising to transform China into a “mighty force” and to rid the Party of corruption (cited in Phillips, 2017); in earlier times, both Mao and Deng pushed the same discourse, seeking economic and imperialist power alongside tight political control.

Director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, Elizabeth Economy, sums up Xi’s vision well: “Xi Jinping sits on top of the Communist world, the Communist party sits on top of China, and China sits on top of the world” (cited in Phillips, 2017).

Xi’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics” never had a grassroots democratic basis, nor did it ever have a parliamentary basis: this was and remains an authoritarian state.

Still today, Chinese political dissidents navigate a precarious existence – amid an insidious second Cultural Revolution — in which the Party can quite simply, as some of my personal contacts in China put it, “make disappear”.

Reference
Phillips, Tom (2017) “Xi Jinping heralds ‘new era’ of Chinese power at Communist party congress”. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/18/xi-jinping-speech-new-era-chinese-power-party-congress?CMP=share_btn_tw

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In loving memory of George Avakian

November 24, 2017 at 12:22 pm (culture, good people, jazz, love, music, posted by JD, RIP)

By Ricky Riccardi at The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong

The way I feel about this record can be summed up in this way. When I die, I want people to say, ‘That’s the guy that it if it hadn’t been for him and Louis Armstrong and W. C. Handy, there wouldn’t have been that great record, Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy.” — George Avakian, 1954

George Avakian passed away this morning [Nov 22] at the age of 98. I can’t believe I just typed that sentence. It really felt he would live forever. It goes without saying that the music he created will most assuredly last forever. And for those fortunate enough to know him, our memories of being in his company will linger as long as we have memories.

Louis Armstrong, WC Handy and George Avakian

When a loved one passes, it’s tempting to eulogize the departed by talking solely about one’s self. I’m not going to lie, I’m probably going to do that right now. You have to forgive me: George Avakian’s albums changed my life. The fact that I got to know him and call him a friend is something I never, ever took for granted and as I process the fact that there’ll be no more visits to see “Uncle George,” I feel like I need to write my memories down.

If you don’t know who George Avakian was (is), Google him and prepare to spend the next several hours reading about his rich history. While still a student at Yale, George practically invented the concept of a concept album with Chicago Jazz on Decca, then pioneered in Columbia’s influential series of reissue albums shortly after, digging up some previously unissued Hot Five and Hot Seven masterpieces from the Columbia vaults. After the war, George continued to move up the ladder at Columbia, eventually heading the pop music album department after long-playing 33 1/3 albums exploded in the 1950s. Into the late 50s, he produced essential recordings by Louis, Miles Davis, Erroll Garner, Eddie Condon, Dave Brubeck, Buck Clayton, Duke Ellington….what more do you need? Even after leaving Columbia, he continued to have the master touch, helping to discover Bob Newhart and later overseeing Sonny Rollins’s fantastic RCA Victor recordings, plus managing young talent like Charles Lloyd and Keith Jarrett.

My life would not be the same without the music described in the previous paragraph. Around September of 1995, I had my first run-in with Louis Armstrong when he unexpectedly showed up in the middle of The Glenn Miller Story to steal the film with a hot version of “Basin Street Blues.” My curiosity was piqued. Shortly after, I told my mother to take me to the local library in Toms River because I needed to check out some more of this Satchmo fellow. I don’t remember how many choices there were but there were many. Perhaps my life would have changed if I grabbed some inferior-quality bootleg. But no, there was one cassette that looked appealing and I liked the concept: 16 Most Requested Songs. Read the rest of this entry »

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Never forget the “left” apologists for Serb genocide

November 22, 2017 at 8:09 pm (apologists and collaborators, Bosnia, Chomsky, crime, Europe, genocide, hell, history, Human rights, murder, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", serbia, Stop The War, SWP, terror)

The war criminal Ratko Mladic has finally tasted justice: today at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, he was sent down for life, having been found guilty of crimes including genocide for the massacre at Srebrenica in July 1995, when more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered, and sniping and shelling attacks on besieged civilians in Sarajevo.

The cowardly thug shouted “I’ll fuck your mother” before being forcibly removed from the courtroom.

Mladic was indicted in 1995, but went into hiding in Serbia where he was sheltered by the army. But it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t just Serb nationalists who supported and excused him, Karadzic and Milsosevic: a lot of the so-called “left” have some answering to do, as Stan Crooke explains below. The particular culprits here are the SWP, who a few years later started puffing themselves up as “fighters for Muslims”. At the time they refused to side with the Bosniac and Kosovar Muslims fighting Serb conquest, focusing their sympathies on Serbia as the victim of  NATO. They quietly went along with those who anathematised the Bosniac Muslims (mostly secularised) as the catspaws of Islamic-fundamentalist conspiracy.

It’s come to something, hasn’t it, when (not for the first time) “communists” ally with fascists…

We’re talking SWP and their equally shameful, Chomskyite offshoot ‘Counterfire’… and perhaps most notoriously, the so-called ‘LM‘ outfit (since reborn as ‘Spiked Online’ and ‘The Institute of Ideas’).

We republish, below, an article by Stan Crooke written just after the arrest of Mladic in May 2011, and published in Workers Liberty’s paper Solidarity:

Above: Mladic (left) and Karadzic in Bosnia, April 1995

The “safe haven” of Sarajevo was besieged for 44 months by Serb forces, the longest siege in modern warfare. Serb forces stationed on the surrounding hills used artillery, mortars, tanks, anti-aircraft guns, heavy machine-guns, multiple rocket launchers, rocket-launched aircraft bombs, and sniper rifles against the civilian population.

An average of 300 artillery shells a day hit Sarajevo during the siege. On just one day in 1993 more than 3,500 shells hit the city. Overall, an estimated 10,000 people were killed and another 56,000 wounded during the siege. 35,000 buildings were destroyed, including 10,000 apartment blocks.

Ethnic cleansing and war crimes were also carried out by the forces of the Croatian Republic of Herzeg Bosnia.

In February 1994 an American-brokered deal, the Washington Agreement, brought an end to the fighting between Bosnian and Croatian forces. In September 1995, NATO finally moved against Milosevic and his allies, in a month-long bombing campaign.

Workers’ Liberty commented: “Yes, the Western powers are hypocrites… But to reckon that NATO’s bombardment of Mladic’s siege guns calls for protest meetings, and Milosevic’s atrocities do not, is to condone Serbian imperialism… Sarajevo relieved by a NATO offensive designed as a lever for an imperialist carve-up is bad; Sarajevo still besieged is worse.”

Others on the left rallied to a “Committee for Peace in the Balkans” focused on denouncing NATO. They said NATO action was about “enforcing Western interests” on Serbia. Back in 1991, the SWP had disdainfully said “neither of the nationalisms currently tearing Yugoslavia apart has anything to offer”. It had maintained the same disdain towards the Bosniacs’ struggle against Serbian conquest and ethnic cleansing. It backed the anti-NATO campaign.

In fact, the NATO bombing paved the way for an American-brokered peace deal, the Dayton Agreement. It ended the massacres, and set up Bosnia-Herzegovina as a quasi-independent state, for most purposes a loose confederation between Serb and Croat-Bosniac units, with an external “High Representative” as overlord.

In the course of the war between 100,000 and 176,000 people had been killed. More than 2.2 million had fled their homes. 530,000 of them had managed to reach other European countries, despite the European Union responding to the outbreak of war by imposing a visa regime on Bosnians.

After the end of the fighting Mladic continued to live openly in the Serb-controlled area of Bosnia. In the late 1990s he moved to Belgrade. Only after the overthrown of Milosevic in 2000 did Mladic go more or less underground.

Meanwhile Kosova, an area under tight Serbian control but with a 90% Albanian-Muslim majority in the population, was stewing.

The Kosovar majority organised a virtual parallel society, with underground schools, hospitals, and so on, beside the Serbian-run official institutions.

The big powers opposed Kosovar independence, but pressed Milosevic to ease off. From mid-1998 Milosevic started a drive to force hundreds of thousands of Kosovars to flee the province. The big powers called a conference and tried to push Milosevic into a compromise deal.

Milosevic refused. NATO started bombing Serbian positions, apparently thinking that a short burst of military action would make Milosevic back down. Simultaneously the Serb chauvinists stepped up the slaughter and driving-out of Kosovars. After two and a half months of bombing (March-June 1999) the Serbian army finally withdrew. By then around 850,000 Kosovars had fled.

From 1999 to 2008 Kosova was under UN rule. During that period there were a number of persecutions of the small remaining Serb minority in Kosova. In 2008 Kosova declared independence.

Far from being converted by the war into a crushed semi-colony of some big power, Serbia benefited from its defeat. In October 2000, following rigged elections, Milosevic was ousted by mass protest in the streets, and Serbia’s chauvinist frenzy began to dissipate.

Dispute on the left over the Kosova war was sharper than over Bosnia. Workers’ Liberty said that, while we could not and did not endorse NATO, the main issue was Kosovar self-determination. The SWP and others threw themselves into a “Stop The War Campaign”, later recycled for use over Afghanistan and Iraq and still in existence.

“Stop The War” here meant “stop NATO and let Milosevic have his way”. On Milosevic, their main message was that he was not as bad as painted; and on Kosova, that the reports of massacre were probably exaggerated, that nothing could be done about it anyway, and that the Kosovar revolt was undesirable because it could destabilise the whole region.

Michael Barratt Brown, a veteran socialist economist, was typical of a whole school of thought on the left claiming that the driving force in what he called “The Yugoslav Tragedy” was a conspiracy by Germany in particular, and the West in general, to gain “control over the oil supplies of the Middle East”.

He wrote “Once Croatia’s independence was recognised … war between Serbs and Croats was assured inside Croatia.” In fact the big powers pressed the subject peoples of Yugoslavia not to declare independence. Germany was less convinced about that than other states, but even Germany did not recognise Croatia until six months after the outbreak of war. And why shouldn’t states recognise Croatian independence demanded by over 90% of the people?

Consistently, Brown wrote of the actions of Milosevic and the Serbian government as if they were mere responses to the actions of Bosnian and Croatian nationalists, rather than the expression of an aggressive regional imperialism.

“Nationalists in Serbia followed enthusiastically where Slovenes and Croats had led”, he wrote, but he praised the “federal” army, which had already committed a succession of war crimes by the time Brown wrote his book, as “the one remaining force representing Yugoslavia”, and one which was engaged in “a state-building project.”

In To Kill a Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia, published in 2000, Michael Parenti argued that the West’s hostility to Milosevic was triggered by the Serbian government’s commitment to the defence of the country’s “socialist heritage”:

“After the overthrow of Communism throughout Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia remained the only nation in that region that would not voluntarily discard what remained of its socialism and install an unalloyed free-market system… The US goal has been to transform Yugoslavia into a Third World region, a cluster of weak right-wing principalities.

“As far as the Western free-marketeers were concerned, these enterprises [in Serbia] had to be either privatised or demolished. A massive aerial destruction like the one delivered upon Iraq (in the first Gulf War) might be just the thing needed to put Belgrade more in step with the New World Order.”

In fact, the Serbian government pursued privatisation and pro-market policies of its own volition from the late 1980s, imposing cuts in public services and increasing social inequalities. And its old reformed-Stalinist structure was nothing to cherish.

After the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic in 2001, the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic said:

“Crimes were committed in Yugoslavia, but not by Milosevic. … His real offence was that he tried to keep the 26 nationalities that comprise Yugoslavia free from US and NATO colonisation and occupation.”

The chapter on the Bosnian war in The Liberal Defence of Murder, written by the SWP’s Richard Seymour and published in 2008, has similar arguments: Milosevic’s regime and its war crimes were not as bad as they were made out to be; the Bosnian and Croatian governments were not only at least as bad as that of Milosevic but were also guilty of the same kind of atrocities.

“In the run-up to that atrocity” [the Srebrenica massacre], he claimed, “a wave of terror, including rape, by Bosnian Muslim forces in surrounding areas had killed thousands of Serbs”.

The SWP itself, mostly, did not bother discussing the atrocities one way or another. It simply stated that NATO was “imperialism” and the job was to oppose “imperialism”. In other words, it put its opportunist concern to “catch the wind” of miscellaneous disquiet about or opposition to NATO military action in a region which most people knew little about above any internationalist concern for lives and freedoms in the region … (read the full article here).

. Chomsky’s culpability and apologetics

Dossier on the Kosova war, Workers’ Liberty 2/3.

Introduction to that dossier.

Review of the SWP’s pamphlet on the Kosova war.

. The SWP and fake-pacifism

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Progressive United Left (sic) Scotland

November 21, 2017 at 9:05 am (labour party, reformism, scotland, sectarianism, Unite the union)

Above: Lennie, some flowers, and Agnes
 .
By Anne Field

Even by its own sorry standards, the grossly misnamed “Progressive United Left Scotland” (PULS) – summoned into existence by the bureaucrats of Unite the Union Scottish Region in 2016 – excelled itself at the recent Unite Scottish Region Labour Party Liaison Conference.

(Regional Labour Party Liaison Conferences are open to all Unite members who are CLP delegates. Apart from hearing speeches, they also elect the Regional Labour Party Liaison Committee for a three-year term of office.)

The PULS slate for the Scottish Labour Party Liaison Committee was elected in its entirety. Who was on the slate was rather less significant than who was not on it, i.e. who had been targeted by PULS for removal from the Committee. These included:

Helen McFarlane: Vice-chair of the United Left at a national level. Labour candidate for Airdrie and Shotts in the general election. Lost by just 195 votes. (Pity that no-one in PULS bothered to campaign for her.)

Scott Walker: Former chair of the United Left Scotland. Current chair of the Unite Scottish Region Executive Committee. Unite convenor.

Jim Harte: Current chair of the United Left Scotland. Was chair of the outgoing Labour Party Liaison Committee. Labour councillor on Renfrewshire Council. One of the founders of the rank-and-file electricians’ campaign of 2012 against BESNA.

Vince Mills: Former chair of the Campaign for Socialism, and current vice-chair of the campaign. Currently setting up a “Morning Star Readers Network” in the Campaign for Socialism. (In the United Left’s political universe, that counts as a good thing.)

Other one-time members of the Labour Party Liaison Committee did not need to be voted off it by the PULS slate.

In 2016 three PULS members, handpicked by Unite Scottish Regional Secretary Pat Rafferty, sat on a ‘disciplinary panel’ and banned three members of the United Left from holding office in Unite for a minimum of five years.

Not content with removing leading Labour Party and trade union activists from the Labour Party Liaison Committee, PULS made a laughing stock of itself by not only including Agnes Tolmie on its slate but also ensuring her election as the Committee’s vice-chair.

That’s the same Agnes Tolmie who joined Les Bayliss’s “Workers United” grouping and backed Bayliss against McCluskey in the first post-merger election for Unite General Secretary.

The same Agnes Tolmie who long ago lost the support of the United Left Scotland after circulating a series of unfounded and scurrilous criticisms of members of the United Left Scotland.

The same Agnes Tolmie who had a hand (or rather more than a hand) in dragging Unite in front of the Certification Officer after the Unite National Executive Council had voted unanimously – with the exception of A. Tolmie – to allow a blacklisted member to remain on the Council.

The same Agnes Tolmie was backed by the right-wing and pro-Coyne Unite Alliance when she sought re-election to the Unite National Executive Council earlier this year – because no-one else was prepared to go anywhere near her.

She lost. But, thanks to PULS, has now re-emerged as a stalwart of the Labour Party Liaison Committee.

How ironic that just when Richard Leonard’s election as Scottish Labour Party (SLP) leader signals a shift to the left in the SLP, PULS is dedicating itself to driving the SLP’s biggest affiliate in the opposite direction: from bureaucratic inertia to full-blown sclerotic paralysis.

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The Irish border problem: the dogs in the street know who’s to blame … but not Her Majesty’s Loyal Communist Party

November 20, 2017 at 9:10 pm (Brexit, CPB, Europe, Ireland, Jim D, nationalism, stalinism, statement of the bleedin' obvious, Tory scum)

 The highly fortified police station in the border village of Crossmaglen, Northern Ireland, in 2005. ‘Given that the border could not be secured with army watchtowers during the Troubles, it is not at all clear how a new policing operation will work.’ The highly fortified police station in the border village of Crossmaglen, Northern Ireland, in 2005. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The Irish have an expression, “even the dogs in the street know…”, meaning a statement of the bleedin’ obvious.

Well, when it comes to the potential disaster that is the likely imposition of a hard border within the island of Ireland, the dogs in the streets of both parts of Ireland, know who to blame: the arrogant, careless Tory government and the lying Brexiteers who don’t give a toss about the Irish people, North or South.

If Theresa May had not given in to the Brexit-fanatics and, instead, made it clear that Britain would remain in the single market and/or customs union (a mix of the Norway and Turkish options), the Irish border problem and the threat to the peace process would not have arisen. But this has been ruled out by the UK government.

Which leaves just two further possible options for avoiding a hard border:

1/ A border down the Irish Sea, giving the North special status  with the single market and customs union. This is anathema to the DUP and unacceptable to the British government as it would be seen as dividing the UK .

2/ The Hammond plan for  the UK to remain within the single market and the customs union for a two year  (or longer) transitional period. But this is unacceptable to the Brexit-fanatics within the cabinet and the Tory party, although the Irish government strongly favours it.

These realities, and British (well, English) culpability for jeopardising the peace process, have been spelt out time and again, for instance by the respected Irish commentator Fintan O’Toole (here and here).

The people of Ireland, North and South, Protestant and Catholic, Loyalist and Republican, know this and overwhelmingly oppose Brexit. The dogs in the street know it. Only the Tories and their Brexit-fanatic press deny this reality (or simply choose to ignore it). Oh yes, and the Morning Star, mouthpiece of Her Majesty’s Loyal Communist Party, who dutifully toe the Tory /English nationalist line and manage to blame “Brussels”:

Border threats from Brussels


Nov
2017
Saturday 18th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

IRISH Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Foreign Minister Simon Coveney insist they will obstruct the next phase of London-Brussels negotiations without a British government assurance.

Varadkar told Theresa May: “Before we move into phase two talks on trade, we want to take off the table any suggestion that there would be a physical border, a hard border, new barriers to trade on the island of Ireland.”

His stance is shared by Sinn Fein, whose leading MEP Martina Anderson held recent meetings with EU negotiator Michel Barnier and European Parliament co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt.

She told them that the Leave agenda pursued by the May government is incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement, especially in view of the Tories’ dodgy deal with the DUP.

But where is the evidence that the British government or any significant player in either Britain or Ireland wants to change current Irish border arrangements?

What the Fine Gael-led Dublin government and Sinn Fein omit to mention is that the demand for a hard EU border comes from the EU Commission itself.

Brussels wants to site that border not on the already existing demarcation between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic but between Northern Ireland and Britain.

It insists on a special arrangement for the six counties to place it inside the EU single market and customs union, effectively extending the EU in defiance of the UK leave vote.

Britain’s refusal to accept this formula is portrayed as a dangerous provocation that could scupper the Good Friday Agreement and reignite sectarian hostilities.

It is understandable that Sinn Fein, a party with Irish reunification at its heart, should adopt an EU ploy to effectively detach the six counties from the UK, but Fine Gael has a diametrically opposed historical record.

This EU negotiating ploy gives added strength to the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) view that “Irish interests are being used as a pawn in the ‘talks, no talks’ saga.”

While equally committed to the goal of a united Ireland, as is the Morning Star, the CPI monthly journal Socialist Voice reminds readers that the core tenets of socialism and republicanism are independence, sovereignty and democracy.

It points out that Ireland “cannot be a sovereign country under any imperialist apparatus,” whether dominated by Britain, the EU or the US.

“In the context of Brexit, to campaign for a united Ireland under the pretext of the six counties rejoining the EU shows the lack of ideological opposition to imperialism.”

The clear thinking of Irish communists, shared by their comrades in Britain, is in stark contrast to that of others on the left in both countries who see in the EU, through rose-tinted spectacles, an international co-operative body based on solidarity and respect for workers’ rights rather than a bloc devoted to the interests of transnational capital.

There is no truth in the EU assertion that having different tax systems in the two parts of Ireland makes a hard border inevitable.

The republic and the six counties already have different levels of corporation tax and VAT, but this has not prevented smooth cross-border trade.

Those flagging up future difficulties, which, given goodwill, are quite easily surmountable, do so to bolster different political ambitions.

UK voters have made their choice and will not favour efforts to thwart it just as the people of Ireland on either side of the currently hassle-free dividing line will not welcome duplicitous attempts to reintroduce a hard border.

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Len McCluskey, Unite and Jewish Voice for Labour

November 19, 2017 at 5:41 pm (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, Jim D, labour party, Unite the union, zionism)


Len has never witnessed anti-Semitism: 4.16

Len McCluskey (BBC Newsnight 26/10/2017): “I’ve never recognized [that Labour has a problem with anti-Semitism]. I believe it was mood music that was created by people trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. In 47 years of membership of the Labour Party, I’ve never been at a meeting where there was any anti-Semitic language or any attacks on the Jews. They would have had short shrift in any meeting I was at.”

“Unfortunately, at the time there were lots of people playing games. Everybody wanted to create this image that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour had become misogynistic and anti-Semitic because they wanted to bring Jeremy Corbyn down.”

Shami Chakrabarti (replied): “With the greatest of respect to Len, I was the person charged with investigating this. It wasn’t Len,” she said. “I have seen things which Len hasn’t seen. I would ask Len to read my report.

“There are real reasons why someone like Len may not have experienced racism and anti-Semitism. There is an obvious reason why he may not have experienced it. I was charged with investigating by Jeremy and the National Executive and I set out my findings, warts and all.”

In the same week as making those ill-advised comments on anti-Semitism, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey attended the launch meeting of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) at this year’s Labour Party conference in Brighton.

Describing itself as a “network for Jewish members of the Labour Party”, Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) already had the backing of such absolute anti-Zionist outfits as the ‘Free Speech on Israel’ campaign and the ‘Electronic Intifada’ website; at the meeting, McCluskey and Aslef’s  Tosh McDonald seemed to affiliate their unions to JVL.

JVL’s chair is Jenny Manson, described in a JVL press release as “a retired tax inspector”, the Garden Suburb branch chairperson in Finchley and Golders Green CLP, an active supporter of Jews for Palestine, and editor of two books (one of them on consciousness: What It Feels Like To Be Me).

Manson was one of the five Jewish Labour Party members who submitted statements in support of Ken Livingstone in March of this year. According to her statement:

“… These actions by Ken were not offensive, nor anti-Semitic in any way, in my view.

 … In my working life as a Tax Inspector I saw a (very) few instances of anti-Semitism, such as the characterisation of ‘Jewish Accountants’ as accountants who skated close to the edge. I have never witnessed any instances of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

 Anti-Semitism has to be treated as a serious issue, which is entirely separate from the different views people take on Israel and Zionism.”

 The JVL’s brief “Statement of Principles” includes the following:

“We uphold the right of supporters of justice for Palestinians to engage in solidarity activities, such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. We oppose attempts to widen the definition of antisemitism beyond its meaning of hostility towards or discrimination against Jews as Jews.”

A JVL press release likewise states that the new organisation:

“Rejects attempts to extend the scope of the term ‘antisemitism’ beyond its meaning of bigotry towards Jews, particularly when directed at activities in solidarity with Palestinians such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.”

In other words, this “network for Jewish members of the Labour Party” will be campaigning in support of the ‘right’ to boycott Jews, and in favour of restricting the definition of antisemitism so as to exclude the most common forms in which contemporary antisemitism manifests itself: Perhaps this is why McCluskey felt it appropriate to affiliate Unite without having consulted the Executive of the union – supposedly the highest decision-making body of Unite (which prides itself upon being a “lay member-led union”).

The JVL website (well worth visiting if you want an insight into the true politics of this organisation), hailed McCluskey’s support as a major breakthrough, but when I commented:

“Did Len consult anyone (even the Exec) before stating that Unite supported JVL? … Ironically, many of those associated with JVL are very keen on democracy elsewhere, and under other circumstances, within the labour movement”

… I was admonished by the “JVL’s webperson” thus:

“No need to be snide, Jim. Len knew that it would have to go to Unite approval [sic]. That process is in train” 

… which would seem to suggest that McCluskey and JVL had done a deal in advance, without consulting the Unite Exec, or any other Unite body.

McCluskey no doubt thought he was doing Jeremy Corbyn a favour by backing an organisation whose main objective seems to be to deny that Labour has any kind of problem with anti-Semitism, beyond that of false accusations cooked up by right wingers and agents of the Israeli embassy. Unfortunately, as Chakrabarti’s response to his foolish Newsnight comments, demonstrates, McCluskey’s hasty and undemocratic backing of JVL is likely to cause Corbyn a lot of embarrassment.

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The top quality of Mercer

November 18, 2017 at 12:51 pm (good people, jazz, Jim D, song)

Johnny Mercer was born in Savannah, Georgia on November 18 1909; he died in Los Angeles, 25 June 1976.

He was one of the Twentieth Century’s great song lyricists, and was also a fine singer himself. He recorded as a vocalist with Paul Whiteman, Wingy Manone, Benny Goodman and Jack Teagarden.

He duetted with Teagarden on what is surely the best jazz Christmas record of all time (not that there’s a lot of competition, Christmas Night In Harlem. For a Southern white guy, he was also remarkably enlightened and free of prejudice: he just loved music and couldn’t give a damn about skin pigmentation. When Nat Cole was having a hard time from racists, Mercer offered him personal support and publicly denounced the racists (though, it must be said, Cole was signed at that time to Mercer’s Capitol label, but I like to think he’d have done it anyway).


Above: Mercer on the Nat ‘King’ Cole TV show

Mercer’s most famous song is Moon River , written (with Henry Mancini) for the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Personally, I have to say I don’t find it a very engaging tune or lyric. But I’m glad it brought Johnny some wealth and security towards the end of his life.

I much prefer Blues In The Night, his 1941 masterpiece, written with Harold Arlen. Here’s the Benny Goodman version, with Peggy Lee on vocals. The rather strange falsetto scatting following Peggy’s vocal is by trombonist Lou McGarity (how do I know that? Am I a bit sad or what?);  Benny himself, on clarinet, briefly returns to his wailing Chicagoan roots in the closing bars of the number:

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Zimbabwe: how Mugabe and ZANU rose to power

November 16, 2017 at 1:56 pm (africa, history, Human rights, liberation, Marxism, national liberation, nationalism, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", war)

Above “Comrade” Mugabe in characteristic pose

A useful and well-researched background article by Stephen O’Brien (first published in Links, 2008)

His Excellency Comrade Robert: How Mugabe’s ZANU clique rose to power

Towards the end of 1975 a movement of young radicals organised in the Zimbabwe People’s Army (ZIPA) took charge of Zimbabwe’s liberation war. ZIPA’s fusion of inclusive politics, transformational vision and military aggression dealt crippling blows to the white supremacist regime of Ian Smith. However, it’s success also paved the way for a faction of conservative nationalists led by Robert Mugabe to wrest control of the liberation movement for themselves.

The fact that Mugabe, a former rural school teacher, and his cronies would become the ruling capitalist elite of Zimbabwe by crushing a movement of young Chavista-style revolutionaries doesn’t sit well with their anti-imperialist self-image.

The ZIPA cadre emerged from the wave of young people who, experiencing oppression and discrimination in Rhodesia, decided to become liberation fighters in early 1970s. Unlike many of the first generation of fighters, they volunteered to join the respective military wings of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)[i]

In 1975, key nationalist leaders — such as Robert Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo, Ndabiginini Sithole, Jason Moyo, Herbert Chitepo, Abel Muzorewa, James Chikerema and Josiah Tongogara — had become entangled in factional rivalry and long-running and fruitless peace talks with the Smith regime. The young recruits who would shortly form ZIPA sought to reinvigorate the struggle as the war stalled and as the old leaders became marginalised.

A group of ZANU officers based at training camps in Tanzania consulted widely among the liberation forces. They approached President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Samora Machel, soon to be president of newly liberated and independent Mozambique, for support to restart the war against Smith. Both Machel and Nyerere had initially supported peace negotiations and the resulting ceasefire with Rhodesia, but by October 1975 had lost patience with the whole process, and listened with sympathy to the ideas of the young officers.

ZIPA formed

The ZANU officers also sought unity with ZAPU, the long-standing rival organisation from which ZANU had split in 1963. ZAPU agreed and in November 1975 ZIPA was formed with a combined High Command composed of equal numbers from both ZAPU and ZANU. The alliance with ZAPU disintegrated after a few months partly because ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo had continued to negotiate with Smith. Nevertheless, it was an important attempt at unity which defied the prevailing trend of division.

ZIPA’s nominal head was Rex Nhongo (later known as Solomon Mujuru he would become head of the Zimbabwe Army under Mugabe), but strategic and tactical leadership came to be held by his young deputy, Wilfred Mhanda.

Wilfred Mhanda

Mhanda had been a typical recruit to ZANU and its military wing, the Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (ZANLA). He had been involved in school protests and on leaving his studies helped form a ZANU support group. Like many who were to become part of ZIPA, Mhanda had been influenced by the youth radicalisation of the 1960s. In 1971, with the special branch in pursuit, Mhanda’s group skipped the border into Botswana and joined ZANLA. He took the war name of Dzinashe Machingura. He was later sent for training in China and progressed through the ranks to became a military instructor, political commissar, commander of the Mgagao camp in Tanzania and then member of the High Command.[ii]

ZIPA theory, tactics

Theory influenced ZIPA’s tactics. Its fighters were not regarded as cannon fodder, lines of retreat and supply were secured, counter-offensives anticipated and strategic reserves made ready. Senior ZIPA commanders visited the front. ZIPA’s aims went beyond winning democracy, to the revolutionary transformation of Rhodesia’s social and economic relations. The previous conception of the old-guard nationalists had tended to regard armed struggle as a means to apply pressure for external intervention to end White minority rule.

The Zimbabwe People’s Army relocated its troops from Tanzania to Mozambique and in January 1976, 1000 guerrillas crossed into Rhodesia. The entire eastern border of Rhodesia became a war zone as the guerillas launched coordinated and well-planned attacks on mines, farms and communication routes, such as the new railway line to South Africa.

ZIPA established Wampoa College to help institute its vision and ran Marxist-inspired courses in military instruction and mass mobilisation for its fighters. It educated its cadre against the sexual abuse of women and sought to win the support of the Zimbabwean peasantry through persuasion rather than coercion.

Historian David Moore’s study of ZIPA notes: “The students made their political education directly relevant to the struggle, so that Marxism could better direct the war of liberation.’’[iii] ZIPA’s political approach lead to it becoming known as the Vashandi, a word which means worker in the Shona language, but which, according to Mhanda, took on a broader meaning as the revolutionary front of workers, students and peasants.

Smith’s regime reeled under the offensive. Repression was intensified, “psychopathic’’ counter-insurgency units such as the Selous Scouts were deployed, so called “protected villages’’ intensified control over the population and raids were launched against refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Rhodesia was forced to borrow 26 helicopters from apartheid South Africa, and in order to deploy 60% more troops, increased the military call-up for whites. In his memoirs, Ken Flower, head of the Central Intelligence Organisation under Smith (and later under Mugabe), recalls that by July 1976 “Rhodesia was beginning to lose the war.[iv] Read the rest of this entry »

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