Labour Against the Witch Hunt “cannot retain any credibility if it includes a group whose positions are anti-Semitic”

December 15, 2017 at 10:00 am (anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, Beyond parody, conspiracy theories, CPGB, labour party, posted by JD, wankers)

Above: August Bebel: “anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools”

By Tony Greenstein in the present issue of the Weekly Worker (and it should go without saying that whilst we welcome Mr Greenstein’s belated recognition that anti-Semitism exists on the left and – specifically – within his and the CPGB’s ‘Labour Against the Witch Hunt’ outfit, we regard much of the rest of this piece as incoherent nonsense):

On December 2 a Labour Against the Witchhunt meeting was effectively ambushed by a small Trotskyist grouping, Socialist Fight. A series of close votes was taken, the result of which meant that the previous decision of the steering committee, that Socialist Fight should no longer participate in meetings of LAW, was overturned.

Stan Keable, the secretary of LAW, had written to inform SF that it was no longer welcome at our meetings, but despite this their comrades turned up. For various reasons – not least that most people were unaware of the full extent of the anti-Semitic positions of Socialist Fight – those present voted against the steering committee position.

It is now incumbent upon LAW to demonstrate clearly and unambiguously that it wants to have nothing to do with Socialist Fight. Not only because its positions are anti-Semitic, but because a campaign whose purpose is to reject the false anti-Semitism campaign of Iain McNicol, the compliance unit and the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement cannot retain any credibility if it includes a group whose positions are anti-Semitic.

I was not aware, at the time of the last meeting, that Ian Donovan – a ‘left’ supporter of the overtly anti-Semitic Gilad Atzmon – had penned an obnoxious and anti-Semitic article the day before, entitled ‘Third-camp Stalinoids bring witchhunt into Labour Against the Witchhunt’.

There is no future for Labour Against the Witchhunt if Socialist Fight and its members remain an integral part of the organisation. For that reason I believe that it is essential that the next meeting, on January 6 should overturn the previous decision. If my views do not prevail, then I will resign from the organisation – as I believe will Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth of Grassroots Black Left.

It may seem incongruous to have an anti-witchhunt group itself excluding people, but we have no choice. It is a fact that the Labour Party’s witchhunt primarily takes the form of the weaponisation of anti-Semitism – the smearing of people as anti-Semitic for no other reason than their support for the Palestinians and opposition to Zionism.

It therefore flows, as night follows day, that LAW cannot include in its ranks people who advocate politics which are anti-Semitic. To include Socialist Fight or its members within LAW, given their stated policies, would be to concede that the Zionist attack on the left as anti-Semitic has some substance. It would be political suicide.

It is extremely unfortunate that a socialist group believes that in the age of modern capitalism the Jewish question survives. It was primarily a question of the social and economic role in the feudal era of Jews as what Abram Leon termed a “people-class”. It only survived politically in the capitalist era as a result of the memory of that role, combined with the delayed and arrested development of capitalism in eastern Europe.

It is noticeable that even today in countries like Poland and Hungary there is still considerable anti-Semitism because of their underdevelopment compared to western Europe. The Pew global attitudes survey shows the difference in anti-Semitic attitudes very clearly between western Europe and eastern Europe (leaving aside Greece and Italy). In France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Britain, anti-Semitic attitudes can be found in 10% or less of the population.

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Labour Against the Witchhunt admits anti-Semites -“but let that not detract from the useful role that LAW intends to play”

December 8, 2017 at 9:02 am (anti-semitism, Beyond parody, conspiracy theories, CPGB, labour party, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", wankers)

Above: Gerry Downing of the anti-Semitic ‘Socialist Fight’ on the BBC’s Daily Politics last year, following his expulsion from Labour

Extracted from the current issue of the Weekly Worker:

The meeting included a discussion on the participation within LAW of Socialist Fight. The steering committee had taken the decision to exclude SF from the campaign because of the group’s position on Jews, which can only be described as anti-Semitic (my emphasis – JD).

SF declares that Jewish “overrepresentation” amongst the bourgeoisie is a major factor explaining imperialist backing for Israel. At the meeting itself SF’s Ian Donovan stated that, while this “overrepresentation” “doesn’t determine everything”, it “determines quite a lot”. He also talked about the undue influence of “Jewish communalist politics”, while the SF leaflet handed out at the meeting stated that “Jews” today have become “an oppressor people”.

The SC sought approval from the meeting for its decision to exclude SF from LAW – on the basis that a campaign which places a large emphasis on its opposition to the disgraceful, knowingly false accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ wielded by the right against principled anti-racists should not itself tolerate individuals whose public pronouncements are clearly anti-Semitic. To do otherwise opens us up to claims that we cannot be taken seriously when we say the right’s accusations are nothing but smears – after all, it would then appear that we ourselves cannot tell the difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

Labour Party Marxists put forward a motion, directed against not only Socialist Fight, but also the social-imperialist Alliance for Workers’ Liberty:

LAW does not wish to be associated with those who excuse the ongoing witch-hunt in the Labour Party: ie, support the expulsion of Ken Livingstone. Nor do we wish to associate with those who advocate anti-Semitism: ie, those who explain US and other imperialist countries’ foreign policy on the basis of the number of Jews in the ruling class.

Unfortunately neither this motion nor one from the steering committee, which called for its decision to exclude SF to be endorsed, was successful. Only nine comrades were in favour of endorsing the SC position, with 12 against, plus a number of abstentions; as for the LPM motion, there were 12 votes in favour and 12 against, and so it was not carried either.

One of the arguments that carried a good deal of weight amongst those who voted against was the claim that an organisation set up to oppose exclusions should not itself exclude people. SF’s own motion quoted the official (but largely ignored) Labour Party position that “the mere holding or expression of beliefs and opinions” should not be grounds for exclusion.

This is at best a highly naive position. Should we welcome into LAW out-and-out reactionaries and open racists? (I am not, obviously, including SF in this category, whose comrades seem to sincerely believe that their line is not anti-Semitic!). There is also a difference between a specific campaign like LAW and a party like Labour, which today contains all manner of viewpoints, not least warmongers such as Tony Blair.

At least the SF motion – which not only favoured ‘free expression’ (including for anti-Semites) within LAW, but also called on the campaign to invite George Galloway to “play the role of our honorary president” – was also defeated. It received five votes, while eight comrades opposed it – the clear winners on this occasion were the abstainers.

While, of course, we in LPM accept LAW’s right to make democratic decisions, the participation of Socialist Fight remains in our view a problem that might well have to be revisited.

But let that not detract from the useful role that LAW intends to play – now is the time to really step up the campaign.

  • Coatsey’s view, here

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Machover cites a Nazi as a reliable source against “the Zionists”

November 9, 2017 at 5:56 pm (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, CPGB, fascism, history, labour party, Livingstone, posted by JD, zionism)

Moshe Machover’s expulsion from the Labour Party has been rescinded and he is once again a member. The expulsion was not due to the contents of the leaflet discussed below, and neither is his re-instatement. His expulsion was due to concerns about his relationship with the so-called ‘Labour Party Marxists’, the CPGB and the Weekly Worker paper: these concerns have now been cleared up.

Reinhard Heydrich
Above: Machover’s source

Dale Street comments on the leaflet:

Had it not been distributed as a leaflet at this year’s Labour Party conference, Moshe Machover’s article “Anti-Zionism Does Not Equal Anti-Semitism” would have been just another turgid and distasteful article which had found a natural home for itself in the pages of the Weekly Worker.

A longer version of the same article – entitled “Don’t Apologise – Attack” – had been published in the Weekly Worker four months earlier. According to that article:

• Anyone who thought that a retweet by Naz Shah MP – which had suggested that Israel (and, presumably, its population) should be relocated to the USA – “was anything but a piece of satire should have their head examined.”
• Jackie Walker “has been suspended for saying that there was not only a Jewish holocaust but also a black African one too.” (Wrong: that was not the reason for her suspension.)
• There was nothing antisemitic about NUS President Malia Bouattia describing Birmingham University as “something of a Zionist outpost”.
• Ken Livingstone was “certainly inaccurate” in having said that Hitler supported Zionism until he went mad. At the same time, “the point he was making was basically correct”.

The inclusion of a shorter version of the article in a “Labour Party Marxists” bulletin distributed at Labour Party conference rescued it from obscurity.

Overnight, Machover’s article became a cause célèbre for left antisemites (and antisemites in general).

Zionism is essentialised. Machover unceasingly refers to “the Zionists … the Zionists … the Zionists.” Unlike any other nationalism, Zionism is portrayed as a uniformly negative monolith.

Legitimate complaints about antisemitic arguments and ways of thinking are dismissed as a Zionist concoction: “And so the Zionists and their allies decided to launch the ‘Anti-Zionism equals Anti-Semitism’ campaign.”

This “campaign” is an international (cosmopolitan) one: “The whole campaign of equating opposition to Zionism with antisemitism has been carefully orchestrated with the help of the Israeli government and the far right in the United States.”

Antisemitism is defined in such a way that its existence in the labour movement can simply be denied as being of no account:

“The handful of people of the left who propagate a version of the ‘Protocols of Zion’ carry no weight and are without any intellectual foundation.”

Unlike others who share his current politics, Machover does not define Zionism as a form of antisemitism. But he does portray collusion with antisemitism as inherent in Zionism: “You can also attack Zionism because of its collusion and collaboration with antisemitism, including up to a point with Nazi Germany.”

This brings Machover round to the trope of Zionist-Nazi collaboration: “Let us now turn to the Zionist-Nazi connection. … The Zionists made overtures to the Nazi regime, so how did the Nazis respond? … In other words, a friendly mention of Zionism, indicating an area of basic agreement it shared with Nazism.”

The “friendly mention of Zionism” cited by Machover is a quote from an article written in 1935 by Reinhard Heydrich, published in the Das Schwarze Korps, the in-house magazine of the Nazi SS:

“National socialism has no intention of attacking the Jewish people in any way. The government finds itself in complete agreement with the great spiritual movement within Jewry itself, so-called Zionism.”

Heydrich was a hardened antisemite from the early 1930s onwards. He was one of the architects of the Final Solution. Only a few months earlier he had made clear his attitude towards Jews in another article in Das Schwarze Korps:

“In order to preserve our people, we must be harsh in the face of our enemy, even at the cost of hurting an individual or being condemned as rabble-rousers by some probably well-meaning people. …

“If someone is our enemy, he is to be vanquished subjectively and without exception. If, for example, out of false compassion, every German should make an exception for ‘only one decent’ Jew or Freemason whom he knows, we would end up with 60 million such exceptions.”

Ten years before Heydrich’s article Hitler had already dismissed a Jewish state as “a central organisation for their (Jews’) world swindling … a haven for convicted scoundrels and a university for budding crooks.”

Thus, to illustrate the “basic agreement” which Zionism supposedly shared with the Nazis, Machover quotes an architect of the Holocaust, from an article in the magazine of the organisation which played a leading role in carrying out the Holocaust.

It is not about supporting the Palestinians. Machover says explicitly: that’s not enough. You must also demonise “the Zionists” as an evil essence running through history to link Jews today back to the taint of the Nazis.

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AWL on developments in ‘Left Unity’

September 17, 2013 at 2:28 pm (AWL, capitalist crisis, CPGB, ex-SWP, posted by JD, reblogged, sectarianism, socialism, trotskyism, TUSC)

Left Unity

By Martin Thomas (at the Workers Liberty website):

Two and a half months’ debate: socialism or vote-catching?

Over the next two and a half months, a fundamental debate will be run among some hundreds of left activists, most of them at present politically homeless and looking for a way forward.

At the founding conference on 30 November of the Left Unity group, the main debate will be between the “Left Party Platform” (LPP), proposed by Kate Hudson and others, and the “Socialist Platform” (SP), proposed by Nick Wrack, Soraya Lawrence, Will McMahon, Chris Strafford, Cat Rylance, and others.

Former Socialist Worker journalist Tom Walker, now a member of the SWP-splinter ISN, explains his support for the LPP in these terms: “The Left Party Platform stands explicitly in the ‘European Left Party’ tradition, encompassing parties like Greece’s Syriza, Germany’s Die Linke, Portugal’s Left Bloc, France’s Front de Gauche…

“We’re told that it’s a statement that almost anyone to the left of Labour could agree with. Yes — exactly! That’s the point!” The LPP’s proposed political basis is, as Walker puts it, “inclusive of socialism”, but not explicitly socialist.

The (rather manipulative, but also very unrealistic) philosophy behind this approach is that masses of people can be inveigled into left-wing politics, or at least into voting for a new leftish electoral effort, by offering them something just a bit to the left of Labour but vague enough not to startle them.

The SP people, some of whom have in the past been involved in other projects based on a similar philosophy (Respect, TUSC, etc.), declare, on the contrary, that any worthwhile left-wing project must clearly declare itself socialist and working-class from the start, and look to building up through patient activity to convince working-class people rather than catchpenny schemes for instant electoral glory.

The SP met on 14 September in London. It was a difficult meeting, but we got through it. The scene is now set for arguing the issues among people attracted to Left Unity over the next two and a half months.

The core numbers are not large. So far the LPP has 140 signatories and the SP 106. At its national coordinating meeting on 7 September Left Unity was told by a central organiser, Andrew Burgin, that LU membership “ran into hundreds”. No more precise figure could be elicited, despite the story from the Burgin camp in LU that LU can quickly become a British equivalent of Syriza or Die Linke.

Even those hundreds include some who are not activists, but have just clicked on a website to pay a nominal amount. But there are said to be another 9,000 who have clicked on the Left Unity website to express some level or another of interest. The challenge facing the SP is to reach out to them.

Some people at the 14 September meeting spoke about that. Ruth Cashman of Lambeth LU said that so far the LPP has been able to build an image of being more “outward-looking” than the SP. As well as arguing the general issues, SP supporters should argue in their LU groups for practical and principled proposals for week-to-week activity. Matt Hale of Sheffield LU spoke about the need to link up with trade-union struggles.

Most of the time was taken up with other things. The meeting opened with a wrangle about rival agendas. It then debated a proposal, put jointly by the Weekly Worker group and Ian Donovan (ex-member of the WW group, and ex-member of many other groups too), to expel AWL members from the SP on the grounds that we are “pro-imperialist”!

The quality of their bill of indictment can be judged from the fact that it included the claim that the AWL supports the USA bombing Syria. The issue of Solidarity on sale at that very meeting carries a headline: “Against US bombs” [in Syria].

Replying to the WW/ Donovan proposal, Ruth Cashman pointed out that only a couple of months ago Tina Becker of the WW group had proposed to her, Ruth, that AWL and WW cooperate in starting a left platform within Left Unity. This report caused outcry among the WW people, subsiding into the claim that it was just “something said in a pub”.

If only the WW arguments had reached the level of drunken pub gossip…

WW had made an all-out mobilisation for the meeting, but their proposal was defeated by 28 votes against the 15 they had from themselves and some ex-members like Donovan.

Some time was then taken up with amendments from WW to the Socialist Platform text. The meeting had already decided only to discuss and take “indicative” votes on these, since it is scarcely practicable to amend the platform on which the political battle is being fought in Left Unity midway through the process to the November conference.

Most of the amendments were literary and textual, and some unobjectionable. I and others abstained in the vote on most of them. One amendment did help, by sparking a little discussion on Europe.

The next major round of elections in Britain, May 2014, includes the European Parliament elections. The RMT and some of the left (SP) will probably push a “No2EU” slate again, as in 2009. UKIP will be prominent. The SWP and the Socialist Party will be vowing that they will vote for “Britain out” if the much-talked-about referendum on EU membership comes.

Refreshingly, no-one in the Socialist Platform meeting dissented from the argument that a capitalist Britain outside the EU is no advance on a semi-united capitalist Europe; that a capitalist Europe with newly-raised barriers between nations is a step backwards even from a bureaucratically semi-united capitalist Europe; that our answer to the bureaucratically semi-united capitalist Europe is not to seek a break-up into walled-off nation-states, but to strive, through cross-border workers’ unity, and a common struggle to level up standards, towards a workers’ united Europe.

Left Unity has a “policy workshop conference” (a non-voting affair) in Manchester on 28 September, and a caucus there will be the next get-together of SP supporters. The main task in the next two and a half months is to get life into the local LU groups and argue the case that nothing less than explicitly socialist and working-class politics can serve as a response to the current turmoil of capitalism.
The Socialist Platform: what it is, and how to sign up for it
How to join Left Unity and register for the 30 November conference
Nick Wrack explains the Socialist Platform
•Click here for Pete McLaren’s report (as ever, comprehensive and careful) from Left Unity’s 7 September National Coordinating Group meeting.
Documents from when the WW group flipped out in 2008, accusing AWL of favouring an Israeli nuclear strike on Iran.

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Weeky Worker’s ignorant misogyny exposed and denounced

April 7, 2013 at 3:54 pm (CPGB, Feminism, Human rights, Jackie Mcdonough, liberation, Marxism, misogyny, reblogged, revolution, rights, sexism, socialism, stalinism, SWP, wankers, women)

A comrade wrote this to me recently:

“I’ve only just read this article. Really really awful.

And the Weekly Worker‘s extraordinary, ignorant and frankly embarrassing, misogyny (in the name of “Marxism”!) continued:

Now, someone has got their act together and replied. It’s pretty devastating:

The man doth protest too much, methinks….

April 6, 2013 by

Oh dear….

Poor old Paul Demarty. You gotta sympathise with him, he writes a piss-poor article on feminism and the SWP and he’s shocked by the tsunami of criticism. Poor lamb. Though he provides me with much comedy. Alas, poor Demarty, a fellow of infinite jest. Your flashes of merriment were wont to set Comrade Harpster a roar!

There is nothing in feminism as a core set of ideas that contradicts Marxism. Demarty, in this rather over-the-top shtick claims that the relationship between feminism and Marxism has “tortured the far left” since “at least’ the 1970s. No, comrade, it’s tortured workerists who fail to understand feminism. If you take an essentialist view in your analysis, i.e. radical feminism locates women’s oppression in patriarchy, understanding it as a monolithic entity without seeing the relationship between capitalism & patriarchy. There’s a mirror image between what Demarty is arguing and radical feminism… essentialism. Demarty’s essentialism is workerism. Or to use the phrase Barbara Ehrenreich used back in those “tortured 1970s” … Mechanical Marxism.

And Demarty is shocked I say, shocked due to the comments that ranged from supportive to mildly irked, to downright hostile. 

What does he expect?

Demarty is sloppy in his analysis but also dishonest. He fails to understand the power relationships between men and women in a capitalist patriarchal society, which is also reflected on the Left. People are angry precisely because the SWP dealt with a rape allegation appallingly, it also reflects those power dynamics between men and women, it is about the abuse of power. Something that Demarty is incapable of understanding due to his workerist politics.

Just how pathetic and insulting is this statement:  As for “other violence”, the comrades Grahl ought to try selling theWeekly Worker outside the Marxism festival, especially when things are generally tense, as they will be this July. It increases your chances of intimidation and assault a great deal more effectively than merely having a vagina.

Say what, Demarty? Merely having a vagina…

Demarty sez this about Comrade Whittle (er, that’s me): I believe she is playing dumb, but this paragraph is a little needlessly jargon-heavy, so I will spell it out.

Patronising, much?

Demarty wrote in his previous piece: Rape – and domestic violence – are not conducted, by and large, by people who explicitly hold women in contempt, but are rather symptoms of an underlying social psychopathology, a deformed consciousness that does not manifest itself in a way that it can, as the writers of the statement imagine, be “confronted” or “challenged” in a direct way.

Again, I say…  Huh?  I don’t have a clue regarding this. Not playing dumb just don’t have a scooby-do!

Where’s the empirical and rational basis for this? Psychobabble nonsense mixed with this “deformed consciousness”… Where does this fit in with a rigorous Marxist analysis, which I am sure Demarty is keen to display. And it still stands, he can still be accused of “highfalutin’ verbiage” which once picked away you are left with… empty arguments.

Oh, and “safe space” policies… Does Demarty actually understand what is meant by that because I believe he hasn’t got a … clue. Actually does he believe in the opposite, “unsafe spaces”? Safe spaces aren’t just about physical safety but about psychological safety i.e. not demeaned, not being sneered at, not undermined nor bullied. Is that such a hard concept for him to grasp? It should be a safe place where comrades can challenge each others ideas. It’s also about showing solidarity to women who have experienced violence. Again, what is so difficult for him to comprehend?

A reader’s understanding of feminism: “I have always thought of feminism as simply the belief that the liberation of women from oppression is a priority, that this oppression seeps into all the pores of our society and finds expression in multitudinous ways, and that those at the sharp end of that oppression should play a leading role in combating it.

Demarty’s understanding of the above: There are two problems with this definition. The first is that it is at a very high level of generality, which fails to tell us anything useful about what feminism does. A definition of Christianity might be offered – the belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ. No more precise formulation would avoid excluding one group or another of Christians. Not all believe Jesus was the son of God. Not all accept the biblical accounts. There are Trinitarians, Unitarians and all the rest.

Again, let me reiterate, say what? Sometimes you do talk about things in a general level, it’s to be as succinct as possible about a complex and dynamic form of ideas. That’s perfectly acceptable. If you didn’t go into more depth that would be a problem but the reader is giving a general indication of what they believe feminism is about. So far so good. Demarty tries to explain the problems with generalising by using Christianity as an example. It doesn’t work….

Insultingly… On the basis of the actual history of feminism as a movement, more fissile than Trotskyism and Maoism put together, this claim is transparently false, but it is still a serious motive force.

Demarty argues again in an essentialist manner. And with essentialism you hit the skids quickly.

Finally (as to be honest…. reading through this article was like wading for treacle…)

So here is the “line in the sand”. It is necessary for Marxists to fight for the class solidarity of women and men, to oppose all oppression of women and all expressions of sexist ideology, be they religious or secular, explicit or implicit. Failure to do so is a dereliction of duty. Feminists, on the other hand, fight for the unity of women as women. The Weekly Worker is unequivocally on the former side of the line. The two positions are not compatible. There are no doubt many self-described ‘Marxist feminists’ who are also on our side of the line. That is all well and good, but in that case their feminism is adding nothing to their Marxism, and they may as well drop it, for clarity’s sake.

Here we go… feminism and Marxism are not compatible! Demarty and Co. have a real fear of feminism, because it’s alternative power structure, an alternative source of organisational strength. Ooh scary. To explain in simple terms to him and the rest of the anti-feminist WW crew about socialist feminism.

A socialist feminist perspective takes the position that the patriarchy is not a separate or superior form of oppression to class oppression. Rather it is a phenomenon that has developed alongside and intertwined with class society and with class oppression. As political activists we are confronted by the question of what are we going to do about the issues that we face? Do we struggle against oppression or do we shrug our shoulders? Is our cause strengthened by challenging oppression or is it better to decide as the reformists are prone to do which things we can be bothered to face. Historical materialism developed as a recognition that the capacity of things to be changed through struggle. It is part and parcel of Marx’s dicta about our role being to change things as opposed to merely understand them. Patriarchy is based on men perceiving a benefit in, for example, having household skivvies around who are also sexually available to them. Many working class men may decide (very often do decide) that this advantage outweighs the conflicting interest they have in fighting for a society of equals. Is it not to be open to women to organise against such matters?

As Heidi Hartmann argued in her essay, “The Unhappy marriage of Marxism and feminism”, We must understand the contradictions among social phenomena, the sources of dynamism and the likely directions of changes, learning from our inevitable mistakes and keeping on with the struggle.

The forms of struggle that we take must reflect this dynamic complexity or the organisations that are supposed to combat oppression will end up causing it.

Unfortunately most of Demarty’s article is insulting, patronising and offensive to women. And if he wanted an honest debate around feminism he’s scuppered it with his incoherent and nasty rhetoric (you aint winning any points comrade…). Language that says, “great collective shriek” which is no doubt aimed at those “left feminists and their blind rage”…

Boy, Demarty just can’t handle angry feminists. Men.. they can get angry but not women. Yes, there’s a lot of anger around and it’s very understandable. Yet he finds these debates have distinctive features: repugnant, laughable, paranoid and hypocritical.

Bit like Demarty’s writing style….

Finally… and this is the kicker: Given that this all started with a provocative headline, let me end with another provocation: this is all sound and fury, signifying nothing. The trolls scream only because they have nothing to say.

And who are the trolls, feminists perchance?! Well, this troll is unimpressed if this is all WW can muster regarding arguments against feminism.

When it comes to his writings he is no wordsmith, no crafting of any cogent arguments and no elegance. If Demarty was a gunslinger he would take aim yet fire from the hip in all directions, missing his targets in this stream of consciousness manner. He’s no sharpshooting gunslinger. When he shoots from the pistol in his left hand his aim is dictated by the recoil from the shot he’s just fired from the pistol in his right hand. In other words, he can’t carry an argument rather he blunders, blathers and babbles.

Weekly Worker… you are going to have to raise your game.

[NB: the Weekly Worker/ “CPGB” people have collected the responses together and posted it all up on one page.]

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HOPIng for a miracle?

May 2, 2009 at 9:54 am (CPGB, left, sectarianism, SWP, voltairespriest)

The predictable failure of the recent attempt by Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI) to affiliate to the Stop The War Coalition (STWC) has produced a round of recriminations, especially from aggreived HOPI supporters. The CPGB’s Weekly Worker reports last Saturday’s STWC conference, and the paper’s cover has a picture of Coalition chair Andrew Murray with the captioned word “bullshit” emanating from his mouth over and over again. Stroppy has nominated the STWC (which she swiftly qualifies with “well its executive and those voting against HOPI”) as her “Friday Fuckwits”. Jim J, who was one of the Green Party delegates supporting HOPI’s affiliation, gives a balanced but critical report of the conference, which he feels was showing signs of political narrowing.

On the one level I couldn’t give a toss about this little affair. I’m not a member of HOPI, and my union (Unite) is not an affiliate as far as I am aware. However for me it does raise two interesting questions:

1) I simply cannot believe that the CPGB and individual leftist members of HOPI seriously thought there was a prospect of the SWP/CPB battalions changing political direction and allowing HOPI to join. Neither of those organisations has a track record of doing this, and there was no reason to think that last Saturday’s conference was any exception. Was the decision to try to affiliate then led by the sort of hopeless naiveté which causes people to serially join SWP front organisations thinking “this time it’ll be different”? Or was it a case of trying to make cheap political capital by howling “exclusion” once the inevitable “no” vote happened?

2) The STWC relies for its legitimacy upon being perceived as a national, broad organisation which represents the majority of anti-war opinion in the UK. Whilst it can present a long list of formal “affiliates” to support that perception, it doesn’t reflect reality. The real political forces behind the STWC are the SWP and CPB, with some involvement from the Muslim Association of Britain. Conferences like the one last Saturday are politically dominated by the bloc of SWP members/periphery and Stalinists: therefore to claim that they represent a broad coalition is a nonsense. The fact that a national political party (the Greens) could support HOPI affiliation at this event – and still lose – tells you all you need to know. This then brings me on to another point: why would HOPI, whose affiliation would most certainly have diversified the STWC’s affiliates list, want to lend a veneer of legitimacy to such an organisation? That is surely what their affiliation would have helped to do.

I don’t bear any particular animosity towards HOPI – its objectives don’t strike me as abhorrent and broadly speaking I think its existence is a good thing. However for me this episode has the smell of being about a bit more than “nasty SWP bullies and their mates keep poor HOPI from joining the Garrick”. It looks to me like a propaganda exercise, at least on the part of those who would have known the way this was going to play out.

Comrades, I think you knew that motion would fall from the moment when you decided to draft it. I wish you every success, but spare me the crocodile tears.

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NO2EU: desperate, useless and reactionary

April 12, 2009 at 3:00 pm (anonymous, capitalist crisis, Champagne Charlie, class, CPGB, elections, Europe, labour party, Socialist Party, stalinism)

With New Labour openly committed to the worst excesses of free market capitalism and closed to working class input,  it’s little wonder that the genuine left is looking round for an electoral alternative. The trouble is that recent attempts – the  Socialist Alliance, the Alliance for Green Socialism, the Campaign For A New Workers Party etc, etc – have all been unmitigated disasters. The horrible miscarriage called Respect, I do not recognise as being on the “left” at all. In this situation, you can’t really blame some comrades for becoming desperate and willing to clutch at any straw.

Even so, the two latest get-rich-quick schemes conjured up by sections of the British left, are franky abysmal. The Peoples’ Charter is a petition for general good intentions, unrelated to any concept of how to actually achieve its stated objectives. It’s an unobjectionable but ineffectual waste of time and effort.

But however desperate and demoralised we may be, there has to be a bottom line – a limit beyond which no self-respecting leftist should go, even in these dog days.

NO2EU is much nastier and more dangerous than the inoffensive Peoples’ Charter and should be actively opposed. Apart from being, in reality, the latest effort by the little-Englanders of the Stalinist Communist Party of Britain (CPB), to whip up and cash in upon inescapably reactionary anti-EU nationalism, it’s also a scandalous misuse of  the subs of RMT members, misappropriated without proper debate by Bob Crow and his posturing, Stalinist mates.

Robert Griffiths, the general secretary of the CPB, has denounced left critics of NO2EU as “ultra left”: so it’s “ultra left” is, it, Mr Griffiths, to object to the denunciation of “the so-called ‘free movement of labour'” in the EU and “the social dumping of foreign workers in Britain“?

This is not the same thing as the Lindsey oil refinery strike which, for all the stuff about “British Jobs For British Workers”, was a legitimate trade union action in defence of a national agreement. NO2EU is irredeemably tainted by its nationalism and  little-England isolationism: it’s a reactionary dead-end that should be opposed at every turn. RMT members should ask Crow what the hell he thinks he’s playing at, wasting their money like this. The fact that some good comrades (like the Socialist Party) are – with reservations – supporting this nonsense, is a sign of the desperation that prevails amongst even some of the better sections of the left these days.

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CPGB: liars and hypocrites, even on booze!

November 20, 2008 at 12:15 am (AWL, beer, CPGB, Jim D, political groups, Uncategorized)

The petty bourgeois shysters of the CPGB, having been exposed as liars, and roundly defeated in debate, have fallen back upon calling AWL members (including myself), drunks.

Here’s what Tami  (aka TWP ) – no friend of the AWL , but an honest observer – has to say to the CPGB’s Mark Fischer (here):

Gravatar Mark – You guys are just plain wrong on this. Who was it that was on Church Street the other night when I was walking home who was very drunk and ready to get into a fist-a-cuffs with a member of Class War over….. what was it now? Oh yeah… politics! Does is make it somehow more acceptable that you were acting this way in the street instead of a meeting??? Surely the points you make about civilised debate extend outside of organised functions as well and I am sure I am not the only one who has experienced your drunken style of debate outside of meetings Mark, something for which you are infamous!!! Your argument isn’t consistent – either you should advocate teetotalism for activists in order to facilitate the comradely debate you fear is lacking, whenever and wherever it may occur, or you should accept the fact that activists will drink, get pissed and act like arseholes on occasion both inside and outside of meetings. And yeah I know it was Broder who called the guy a “scab” and thus got the guys feather’s ruffled but for you to go on about the AWL’s supposed culture of drink is frankly…..wank – and you know it.


Your favourite Bakuninite

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Groundhog Day on the Left?

November 15, 2008 at 10:59 am (AWL, CPGB, crap, left, voltairespriest)

Weekly Worker 745Yeah yeah, I know it’s puerile to post about left sectariana. But it’s the Strictly Come Dancing of left-wing blogging; you all love it at the same time as denouncing it, so fuck it – why not?

Looking blearily across t’internet this morning, I found myself browsing that august population, Temperance Man’s Digest The Weekly Worker. I haven’t looked at it for a little while. And what did I see before me but an article by Mark “R Whites” Fischer… ranting on about the AWL and CPGB’s bad-tempered negotiations over a debate on Iran. I can’t for the life of me recall the man having written about anything else for some time now, so I presume the Provisional Central Committee have decided this is a national priority for the class and befitting therefore the full time attentions of one of their most accomplished comrades. As you would, of course. It merely amazes me that Martin Thomas’ statements about whether or not Sean Matgamna would be on the platform in such a debate were somehow overlooked in last night’s BBC News headlines.

Anyways, R Whites is clearly most exercised by the whole affair. You must read the whole thing to get the full effect, but here’s my favourite paragraph, reproduced here just as a taster:

Thomas has ducked, dived, wheedled and whinged. He was argued himself into a position so irrational that, if you did not understand that this was a man desperately attempting to ensure that a debate did not happen but at the same time trying to pin the blame on us for the ‘no-show’, then you might actually fear for his sanity. Or, as I put it in one message, the tension between what he was saying and what he clearly wanted to happen (or not happen more like) was making him appear “slightly unhinged”.

If I could offer my own thoughts, I can actually think of a format for the next debate. Mr Denham and I are aware of a very pleasant Catholic community centre in Birmingham that has both a bar which can cater for AWL members’ drinking needs during the course of the debate (and if ever there was a reason to have a bevvy it was listening to a gruelling 3 hours odd of sectarian ranting last time the groups tried this). It also has a church nearby so that CPGB members upset by the drunken excesses of the shandy-quaffing AWL members can retreat for a moment’s quiet contemplation. I am also sure that the nice people who run the bar could be persuaded to lay on some bread rolls for members of the two groups to hurl at each other in the course of the evening. All in all it’d be a great night out and it’s less than 2 hours out of London, so what are we waiting for? Let’s get it on!

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Hot Air and Brickbats

October 18, 2008 at 10:26 am (AWL, CPGB, Iran, israel, left, political groups, sectarianism, voltairespriest)

Last Sunday’s AWLCMP debate about Israel and Iran was certainly one of those events where one can say forever after that “I was there”. Not that one would necessarily want to do so in polite company because it would be rather like admitting publicly to having attended a pro wrestling or UFC cage fighting match. Nevertheless it was quite a spectacle. I suppose  therefore it’s as well to write something about it because all of the testimony I’ve seen about it thus far has come from the two real protagonists in the room, the AWL and CPGB.

What was noteworthy about the two main platform speakers (Sean Matgamna of the AWL and Moshe Machover of the CMP) was that neither one actually got into the issue which sparked the extraordinary sectarian mud-wrestling in the weeks leading up to the debate, namely Sean’s article about a hypothetical Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran and what stance the left should take towards it. I will freely state at this point that I thought the article was awful, and that it certainly left me with the impression of a growing squeamishness on the part of the AWL towards opposing belligerent and ideologically driven western actions in the Middle East region. However, it does not actually call for, nor “excuse” such an Israeli attack, and much of the hyperbole thrown at the AWL by various other groups about this is simply straw-manning. But back to the debate.

If you really have nothing better to do, you can hear the debate via this link on the AWL site, or watch it here on CPGB TV. What should strike you first is that the CPGB had no platform speaker, an interesting tactic given that they evidently think they, and not Machover or the “CMP” were the ones supposedly debating the AWL. Certainly both groups had submitted lists of “priority speakers”, leading to the bizarre situation of there being not one floor speaker between opening speeches and summations whose choice was not pre-determined. Indeed, real speeches from the floor were not taken until after the summations, lending the whole thing even more of a contrived air than it already had.

After Sean had delivered what largely struck me as the AWL’s line on Zionism and the state of Israel and Moshe had responded in kind, those “priority speakers” began. It was really this section which set the tone for the evening, which can fairly well be equated to watching a fight. For hours on end. Reflecting yet again how weird and quirky they can be, the CPGB had clearly gone into the room (above a pub, lest we forget) determined to make drinking one of the big issues of the day, as is reflected in Mark Fisher’s rather odd write-up of the event in the latest Weekly Worker (AWL version of events here). He’s certainly not a secret lemonade drinker, and I daresay the R Whites Customer of the Year award is on its way, comrade. This was certainly reflected in a speech from Ben Lewis, whose contribution could perhaps rather adroitly be described (to borrow Paul Hampton’s description of Lewis himself), as being one “for whom truth is an incidental convenience, much like the broken clock which tells the right time”. It was a trult vile, petty and sectarian rant, which contained (amonst other things) outright untruths about people who write on this site. Lewis pretty well admitted as much on the latter when I spoke to him about it after the meeting. Make of that what you will.

The other CPGB contributions were in a similarly goading vein, and certainly in my view bear a large part of the responsibility for the generally acrimonious atmosphere which led Steve Freeman, in the chair, at one point to despairingly offer to call the meeting to a halt should people prefer to resolve the debate via a “punch up” downstairs. That having been said, full marks for comedy to Peter Manson for a speech which reduced the room to giggles when he proclaimed that the Weekly Worker would never tell a lie whilst he was its editor. Either way that group’s whole interventionlooked to me like it was designed to do nothing more than provoke hostility, an impression further reinforced by the fact that they did not have to defend their own politics on the topic of the meeting at all, having not put them forward from the platform in the first place. Naturally, Fischer’s account of the meeting, whilst bewailing the hostility directed at the CPGB, neglects to mention what built up to it.

The trouble is, the AWL fell for it. Paul Hampton’s belligerent contribution is mentioned by Fischer, but the truth is that many of the AWL floor speakers were not dissimilar in tone or content. Whatever one thinks of the AWL’s politics, they are usually nimble and sure-footed performers in set-piece debates. But on this occasion the overall impression that came across was one of blind rage – which did not serve them well given that response was, to me, clearly the one which the CPGB had come looking for. It didn’t look good, comrades. Indeed, as I’ve mentioned briefly in comments on my pre-debate thread, I ran into a young woman outside the meeting, who would have made a thoroughly sensible contribution were it not for the fact that she was worried about the reaction she would get. Comrades, you must share the responsibility with the CPGB for such perceptions.

There were several bloggers present at the meeting, and I would imagine that Dave Osler’s look and muttered “fuckin’ ‘ell” as we passed on the stairs rather sums up what most of their reactions to the hideous but perversely fascinating spectacle will have been. I finally gave up during the final section (actual contributions from the floor, after the summations) and went downstairs for a break. There I got chatting with Messers Eric Lee and Dave Hirsh, which was probably the most sensible piece of political debate I saw all night.

All in all, the meeting was ultimately pointless, albeit oddly entertaining for a jaded character such as myself. Really the debate need never have happened, and indeed could hardly be called a “debate” as such. If this is the left in discussion about politics then we really are finished. I hope very much that future debate on the Middle East does not look like that.

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