Scotland: defend our unions against Tories and SNP!

November 6, 2015 at 5:54 pm (Cross-post, labour party, posted by JD, protest, scotland, SNP, solidarity, unions, workers)

By Ann Field (also published at the Workers Liberty website)

STUC Parliament Lobby poster

Unsurprisingly the recent Scottish Labour Party conference voted unanimously to oppose the Tories’ Trade Union Bill. But the motion, from Unison and three Glasgow Constituency Labour Parties, had its weaknesses, saying, for instance that trade unions are “good for business”. But if unions are good for business, why do so many employers derecognise them?

The motion called for ongoing campaigning against the Bill, including organising rallies and further weeks of action. Unfortunately more specific proposals for campaigning disappeared in the course of compositing. Even so, the motion provides a basis for trade union and Labour Party activists in Scotland to ramp up campaigning against the Tories’ plans to shackle the unions. We need to make sure that the campaigning actually take place and feeds into the national campaign against the Bill. One immediate focus is the lobby of the Scottish Parliament called by the Scottish TUC for 10 November, when Holyrood will be discussing the Bill. It is on a weekday at short notice. Rank-and-file activists can make a crucial contribution to the turnout on the day. They also need to make sure that the role of the lobby is not one of simply being “claqueurs” for the SNP’s anti-Tory verbiage. Campaigning against the Tories’ attacks on the unions’ right to engage in political campaigning needs to go hand-in-hand with campaigning against the SNP’s decision to attack the unions-Labour link.

According to reports in the Scottish Sunday press, the SNP will be asking Scottish union leaders to switch their unions’ funding from Scottish Labour to the SNP. This is based on the lawyer’s argument that because the Scottish Labour is now “autonomous”, those unions affiliated to the Labour Party are not thereby affiliated to Scottish Labour. Instead, with the SNP having won 56 of Scotland’s Westminster seats (goes the nationalists’ argument), unions should switch their political funding to the SNP. But this — deliberately — confuses how individual trade unionists vote in a particular election with how trade unions, as collective organisations, decide to pursue their political strategy. It also ignores the organisational ties between affiliated unions and the Labour Party. And with Corbyn’s election as Labour Party leader, the answer to the question of whether trade unions should stick with — or re-affiliate to — the political party which they created, or whether they should switch to the SNP, is straightforward.

Labour Party shadow chancellor John McDonnell turns up on picket lines to support them. SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney crosses them. The SNP is not interested in a united trade union fightback against the Bill. Its parliamentary amendments to the Bill are that it should not apply to Scotland. English workers can look after themselves. And in Scotland itself it now targets the unions-Labour link. Nothing could better illustrate the poisonous divisiveness of the SNP. With the union-Labour link under full-scale assault from the Tories, the SNP is launching its own attack on the link!

Permalink 11 Comments

Have Stop The War finally jumped the shark?

November 5, 2015 at 9:10 am (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, Cross-post, Human rights, John Rees, Lindsey German, Middle East, Paul Canning, Peter Tatchell, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, stalinism, Stop The War, Syria, war)

By Paul Canning


On Monday night the Stop The War Coalition (STWC) held a public meeting at the House of Commons – Syria: the case against military intervention.

Diane Abbott MP was the Chair. There were the usual suspects as speakers plus Tory MP Crispin Blunt, whose Foreign Affairs Select Committee had just delivered a report against any British involvement in Syria. Plus Alex Salmond and Caroline Lucas. Conspicuous by their absence as speakers were Syrians, the STWC refused to give any a platform.

Salmond’s SNP did give a Syrian a platform, Dr Amer Masri, on stage at their recent conference (many in the audience wept). Praising this, the Syria Solidarity Movement (SSM) noted the STWC refusal this last Monday and that:

Nor were any Syrians invited to speak at Stop the War’s meeting on Syria for the Labour Conference fringe in Brighton; nor were any Syrians invited to speak at Stop the War’s meeting on Syria in Manchester. When Syrian civil society activists wanted to speak at a Stop the War meeting on Syria in London in September, they were told it was “not appropriate”.

SSM were also blocked from speaking at an April solidarity with refugees march – by STWC. This led to an apology from the march’s organisers!

Last month Birmingham STWC dared to invite a speaker from SSM but were forced to withdraw the invitation and were told SSM ‘backs imperialists’.

When SSM leafleted a “overwhelmingly white and middle aged” STWC conference in June they were insulted, and called in language which would make Kremlin propagandists proud “the pro-ISIS lot”.

Yet they do not have an issue with some Syrians. In 2012 STWC platformed a Baathist and in 2013 the controversial nun Mother Agnes – which backfired when no one would sit on the same platform as her.

On Monday at the House of Commons, says Peter Tatchell:

Some Syrian victims of Assad’s brutalities turned up anyway but were not allowed to speak. They eventually shouted out in frustration, turning the meeting into momentary chaos, as they were jeered by some of the audience and as STWC stewards tried to eject them – allegedly threatening that they’d be arrested. The police turned up soon afterwards.

Order was eventually restored.

When it came to questions from the floor, other members of the audience were asked to speak but not the Syrians.

Near the end of the meeting, I personally appealed to Diane Abbott to let the Syrians have their say but she refused and closed the meeting.

Said Omar Sabbour (of Sussex Friends of Syria):

Delores Umbridge

To wind down the clock to stop Syrians speaking, Abbot literally allowed a history lesson by an old man (who said the Arab spring..was a fiction) to drone on, the license given him was so long (initially before panel was challenged only quickfire Qs were allowed) that even the crowd started to scorn, whilst Abbot sat listening with her head resting on her hand with her Umbridge-like smile.

(Dolores Umbridge is a Hogwarts villain in the guise of a respectable middle-class English lady).

Sabbour claimed that STWC had called police, that STWC stewards had threatened him with arrest and that ’emotional’ Syrians and other Arabs told STWC “you have become our oppressors.” The raucousness of the meeting was live Tweeted by the BBC’s Ross Hawkins.

Amr Salahi, an activist from the SSM, told James Bloodworth, Editor of Left Foot Forward:

Clara Connolly, an immigration lawyer and activist with Syria Solidarity UK, later told the STWC they were silent about Assad’s crimes but they didn’t care. I told the speakers they just wanted Assad to keep killing people. Clara kept trying to make the point to the speakers that they had nothing to say about what was happening on the ground. All she got in return was silence. Then some of the organisers went up to her and warned her that if she didn’t be quiet, she would be forced to leave.

Says Tatchell:

I was shocked, surprised and saddened by Diane Abbott’s unwillingness to invite Assad’s victims to express their opinions.  Not listening to victims of Assad’s war crimes is arrogant, insensitive and appalling. It has a whiff of ‘we know best’ and Syrian opinions ‘don’t count’.

You think?

Salahi said:

Syrians are not allowed to have an opinion about their own country. Only Westerners are allowed to talk about Syria.

Yet in an increasingly angry back-and-forth on Twitter with Tatchell later on Monday evening STWC’s Lindsey German flat out denied that any of these events had happened, calling the Syrians ‘wreckers’. She even called the no-platforming of Syrians a, quote, “lie”!

The news from the meeting was the BBC saying that Labour Foreign Affairs Shadow Minister Catherine West (a speaker at the meeting) had promised to consult STWC on Syria policy, later headlined as Labour giving STWC a “veto”. This was untrue, she had been addressing Syrians in the room, as confirmed later by Syrians present and by her in a statement.

But it was highly noteworthy that as she addressed this the Labour PR team directly undermined her by saying that, yes, they would consult outside the party, specifically naming STWC. Labour PR is now run by Seumas Milne, a prominent ally of STWC working for a party leader who used to chair the group.

West was later reported to have spoken to Syrians before the meeting and to have expressed great concern to them that they be consulted by the Labour Party, which she confirmed in a tweet – She clarifies she wants to consult Syrians then Labour PR (Milne) clarifies will talk to STWC. What does that tell you?

Peter adds that it was ‘ironic’ that STWC would put Tory Crispin Blunt on their platform when Blunt has said “he would support military action in Syria in certain circumstances.”

Andrew Coates noted that Andrew Murray, another panelist and STWC Chair, is a leading member of the Communist Party (CPB) who “explicitly do support Russia “bombing” Daesh and backing Assad, explicitly!” Murray reportedly said at the Monday meeting that “only sovereign forces from Syria + Iraq” can defeat ISIS.

(See Andrew’s post on Murray and STWC’s ‘confused’ position on bombing.)

In a lengthy dialogue on Twitter the following day between myself and several others with a STWC treasurer, Stephen Bell, when pushed on why they refused to put a Syrian on their platform he claimed that all the Syrian solidarity groups support bombing, which is not true, and that STWC were within their rights to not give a platform to anyone who ‘supports bombing’.

To which SSM member Mark Boothroyd wryly noted that:

if you haven’t noticed Syria is still being bombed so your “victory” is meaningless for those actually affected.

The “victory” being claimed by Bell, of course, being news reports that Prime Minister David Cameron had delayed a vote on whether the UK would join in with bombing ISIS in Syria. This when Labour’s Catherine West had explicitly stated at the meeting that it was Russia’s intervention which had made the prospect of the UK’s intervention “more remote.”

But Bell’s emotive, deliberately simplistic and repetitive statement that STWC would not give an airing to anyone who ‘supports bombing’ was contradicted not only by the presence of Blunt and Murray but also by Lindsey German herself who in her Twitter exchange with Tatchell said that STWC would not have “speakers who support intervention.”

*Pic actually from German satire website

What ‘intervention’ might mean is, of course, something which the Syrian ‘Stop The War’ movement, Syrian civil society and Syrian socialists have widely discussed. There are a number of proposals, many of which, for blindingly obvious reasons, do not include ‘bombing’.

Yet German could not have been more obvious in saying that STWC does not want to hear any of them and will, in fact, as long experience has shown, use their leading role to silence any Syrian who does not support Assad, whose crimes STWC always cover up. Of course she won’t listen to Syrians when STWC continue to paint all opposition to Assad as Islamic fascists.

In a lengthy explainer – ‘The Syrian Revolution and the crisis of the anti-war movement‘, do go read – Mark Boothroyd nails where the toxic politics which led to Monday’s absurd scenes of so-called peace activists shouting down Syrian refugees comes from:

Too many leading figures in the British anti-war movement chose to view all these revolutions through their relation to the US/UK and its intentions. This approach erased the agency of the oppressed Syrian people engaged in struggle with the regime, and gave no responsibility to the role of imperialist powers like Russia in propping up the dictatorship. It served to obscure the complex reality of the multi-polar world system, split between competing imperialist powers, with no single dominant power overwhelmingly determining the course of events.

Instead of analysing the actual relationships of regional and global powers that were thrown into flux by the Arab Spring, the approach of the anti-war movement was shaped by a framework of Cold War power relations, massaged to fit leftist prejudices and domestic alliances developed during opposition to the “War on Terror” and Iraq War.

Syrian and pro-revolution Arab voices have been marginalised, while outright apologists for the Assad regime like George Galloway have been central to developing it and propagating the position of Stop the War.

Many, through social media, have this week witnessed the ugly true face of the so-called Stop The War Coalition in this rowdy silencing of Syrian voices.

It is to be hoped that this exposure does not get forgotten and that those drawn to them question harder how these people ever became leaders of the ‘peace’ movement. Already, Boothroyd notes, STWC inaction on supporting any solidarity with Syrians has alienated Muslims who have been engaged in humanitarian support.

However the news the following day was that another far-left project, ‘Stand Up To Racism’, which is a front for the Socialist Workers Party, has a ‘Refugees welcome here’ rally in London tonight. Thirteenth on the bill of speakers is a – faceless, nameless – ‘Syrian refugee’.

S/he’s inclusion is surely welcomed but plainly an afterthought.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

  • Thanks for input from Peter Tatchell, Andrew Coates and Bob from Brockley.

Edited to add: I checked the timeline of ‘Stand Up To Racism’ after the event and they did not mention the ‘Syrian refugee speaker’ once. Though I did establish that the nameless refugee speaker was infact there, via, ironically, a SWP student tweet.

See also:

Permalink 9 Comments

#Momentum for Labour and Corbyn

October 11, 2015 at 6:02 pm (Cross-post, labour party, left, posted by JD, reformism)

By Jon Lansman (of Left Futures)

#JezWeDid. And now we have #Momentum

Momentum icon smallIt is no secret that when Jeremy Corbyn received his 35th nomination and entered the race to be Labour’s leader, we didn’t expect to win. What we did expect was that we could build a broad alliance of people committed to Jeremy’s straight talking, honest, new kind of politics:

  • We did expect to draw large numbers of people into or back to Labour.
  • We did expect to pull the debate to the left.
  • And we did plan from the outset to build a new movement that would campaign for the policies and values Jeremy supported, and which we believed were necessary for Labour’s survival (many would say re-establishment) as an alternative to the Tories, long after the contest was over.

That was the plan. We new it would be an uphill struggle to win the party and to win in 2020, but we believed that if we didn’t Labour would continue to see its core vote eroded. Indeed the erosion of  our core vote could turn into a rout as it already had in Scotland. But now that uphill struggle will take place with Jeremy as leader.

And today we are launching Momentum. The social movement that Jeremy promised that will carry on Jeremy’s campaign for a new, kinder politics. For peace and justice, equality and a better life. For proper jobs with fair pay, for decent homes at a genuinely affordable cost, for a society that looks after all it’s people.

Momentum will campaign for a Labour victories in 2016 in Wales and Scotland and London. None of them will come easily.

It will back Labour’s campaign to register voters before the end of 2015 to minimise the effect of the Tories immoral, self-interested attempt to gerrymander the forthcoming boundary commission, just as it attempting to fatally damage the finances and organisational capacity of both the trade unions and the Labour Party with its trade union bill.

It will campaign in our communities and workplaces against evictions and for rent controls, against benefit caps and the iniquitous work capability assessment that amounts to nothing less than the persecution of disabled people. And alongside trade unions, for secure jobs with reasonable conditions, and for wages that afford people a decent standard of living without having to rely on benefits.

And it will also campaign inside the Labour Party to change it into the campaigning organisation we need, rooted in communities and workplaces, a truly democratic party with polices to match the needs of the many not the interests of the few.

This is a positive outward-looking agenda and that is as it should be but there is a defensive agenda too. The fact that those who were threatening a coup until days before Jeremy’s victory stopped doing so when they saw the size of his majority does not mean that they have all changed their minds. But what they do, when they choose to strike, will depend in the first instance on what happens in the elections next May – elections which in Scotland, Wales and London were never going to be plain sailing whoever was leader of the Labour Party. Making sure that Labour does as well as possible is as much in Jeremy’s interest and in the interest of the Labour Party as a whole.

In the launch email, the signatories (Richard Burgon, Katy Clark, Clive Lewis, Becky Long-Bailey and Kate Osamor) described the new organisation as follows:

Momentum will be our grassroots network to continue the work we have begun:

  • To organise in every town, city and village to create a mass movement for real, progressive change.
  • Make Labour a more democratic party, with the policies and collective will to implement them in government.
  • To bring together individuals and groups in our communities and workplaces to campaign and organise on the issues that matter to us.

Momentum will be your network; please help build it. But right now, as we begin to organise new events and campaigns, and to launch Momentum online, we need you to help us spread the word about these plans. 

Please help the campaign: Like Momentum’s page on Facebook and share it with your friends. Follow Momentum on Twitter. Email your friends and get them to sign up. And please donate to Momentum – it isn’t going to be bankrolled by supermarket owners or global corporations.

  • Comrade Coatesy comments here

Permalink Leave a Comment

Donbas can starve say Russian-backed ‘rebel’ leaders

September 28, 2015 at 5:47 pm (Cross-post, national liberation, Paul Canning, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, thuggery, Ukraine)

By Paul Canning (cross-posted from his blog):

Last winter there were some reports that people had starved to death in Eastern Ukraine. The reason was that humanitarian aid was being stolen by the criminals who run the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk ‘People’s Republics’ (DPR/LPR).The insidiousness of Russian propaganda is shown by what you’ll find if you look for that information, which is widespread Western media reports of deaths being blamed on Ukraine and not the ‘rebels’. This is because Ukraine stopped social payments and because some truck convoys were blocked.

That humanitarian aid to the Donbas was being stolen was the claim of former rebel leader Igor Girkin on Russian TV. Another rebel commander, Pavel Dremov, said that only one in ten of Russian aid convoys actually reached the people. Trucks supposedly delivering aid through Ukrainian checkpoints have been found to be carrying alcohol instead.

International agencies operating in the Donbas have come under increasing pressure. Monitors from the OSCE, there because of agreements signed by the ‘rebels’ and by Russia, have been harassed and had their vehicles destroyed. In April the International Rescue Committee, which looks after refugees, was expelled after being kidnapped and accused of ‘spying’. Aid from the European Union that does get through has been repackaged to appear to come from the ‘republics’.

Now, just weeks before temperatures plunge, the rebels have expelled every single international aid body bar the Red Cross – and Russian groups. This includes the United Nations and Médecins Sans Frontières. The Red Cross may be next given that they have been harassed in the past.

According to the UN, this is the situation in Luhansk:

Sick children deprived of essential medications, patients forced to undergo surgery without anesthesia, and food prices so high that many residents can’t afford to eat properly.

The UN also said that when the ‘rebels’ switched pension payments to rubles they “duped” pensioners by rigging the exchange rate.

Said the UN’s Stephen O’Brien:

Some 150,000 people are not receiving monthly food distributions, 1.3 million people’s access to water is at risk, and more than 30,000 people have not received shelter materials and household items they urgently need.

Those most at risk are in the villages and small towns, especially in the east. Well away from Donetsk itself, so unlikely to be seen by Western journalists. Much trumpeted Russian humanitarian aid convoys have time and again been found instead to contain weapons.

So why are the ‘rebels doing this? According to the newspaper News of Donbass it is because of “a new strategy for the external security and counter external and internal threats.” Specifically a “threat posed by these counter-revolution within the republic.”

Just let that sink in. So because of politics, because of ideology, because of paranoia their ‘people’ can be sacrificed? 

The mentality that ‘foreign’ organisations must be a threat of course comes from Russia, where numerous human rights and even scientific groups have been effectively closed down after being labeled as ‘foreign agents’. It is also indulged by many in the West who think that Russia is ‘surrounded’ and at risk of a Western supported ‘colour revolution’. Russian TV (all the people in the Donbas are allowed) is devoted to feeding this paranoia so of course a benign humanitarian group like Doctors Without Borders cannot be what the sane people reading this blog post see it as. No, it must be peddling ‘illegal psychotropic drugs’!

But these are the lunatics that the likes of Unite’s Andrew Murray, the RMT union and Stop The War Coalition’s Lindsey German (and many, many others) are supporting. So called ‘anti fascists’ who think the UN will foment counter revolution and who are prepared to see their ‘citizens’ starve or die in agony, the weakest among them first.  Thousands will die because of this decision.

It is not like there has not been fair warning aplenty before but this should be the final straw. ‘Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine’ should shut up shop and anyone on the left who continues to back these people deserves to be shunned. 

Edited to add: KHRPG reports that:

Ukrainian billionnaire Renat Akhmetov’s humanitarian aid is also not affected by the ban.  Jock Mendoza-Wilson from Akhmetov’s Foundation is reported to have suggested that the militants are hoping to receive humanitarian aid from Western countries via Russia.  His idea is that the aid would be presented as though from Russia.  It seems difficult to believe that western agencies would agree to this, especially given that they would be in breach of Ukraine’s law on temporarily occupied territory if they entered such territory from Russia, without Ukraine’s permission.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Corbyn wrong on Ukraine says leading human rights campaigner

August 28, 2015 at 11:29 am (Cross-post, Human rights, Paul Canning, Russia, stalinism, Ukraine)

Cross-posted by Paul Canning:

The author of this piece is one of the most respected figures on human rights in Ukraine. She has been fearless is going after all abusers, from all sides.

Her organisation, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, was birthed from the legendary Russian human rights group Memorial. Reblogged with permission.



By Halya Coynash

Jeremy Corbyn, frontrunner for the UK Labour Party leadership and therefore a potential UK Prime Minister, affirms a commitment to human rights on his website. He demonstrates none when it comes to recent events in Crimea, the rest of Ukraine and Russia, and this is not through lack of attention to this part of the world. His assessment of Russia’s annexation of Crimea coincides nicely with that presented by Russian President Vladimir Putin and on Russian television and he has simply ignored grave human rights concerns under Russian occupation.

In February and March 2014 Russian troops seized control and forcibly annexed Crimea. Ukraine was too weak, even with the undoubted support of the Crimean Tatar population behind it, to defend its sovereign territory. The security assurances given by Russia, the USA and UK to Ukraine via the1994 Budapest Memorandum proved meaningless, and Crimea remains to this day under illegal Russian occupation.

The UK’s unwillingness to risk military conflict with Russia is understandable. Corbyn’s justification for non-intervention is much less so. He first expressed his views on March 8, 2014, two days after the leaders who had been installed at gunpoint had announced a largely alternative-less ‘referendum’ on joining Russia to be held ten days later, on March 16. Corbyn did note that “Russia has gone way beyond its legal powers to use bases in the Crimea. Sending unidentified forces into another country is clearly a violation of that country’s sovereignty.” He then added the non sequitur that Russian President Vladimir Putin had called ex-President Viktor Yanukovych “political history” and expressed woolly hopes for a “reduction of tensions”.

He asserts that one must “recognize the history lurking behind the drama”, and that “Ukraine’s national borders have ebbed and flowed with the tides of history”. He then claims significant collaboration with the Nazis during the Second World War and states that “their descendants could be seen bearing Nazi insignia and spouting racist slogans in Kiev only a week ago.”

This is the first of a number of assertions that parrot attempts to discredit Euromaidan made first by Yanukovych, then by Putin. They are to this day pushed by Russian state-controlled media, including Russia Today which Corbyn is on record as praising for objective reporting. The refrain is heard again in an article for Morning Star in April: “The far-right is now sitting in government in Ukraine. The origins of the Ukrainian far-right go back to those who welcomed the Nazi invasion in 1941 and acted as allies of the invaders.”

The narrative Corbyn repeats, both with respect to Euromaidan and to subsequent events, has been repeatedly refuted by prominent Jewish figures in Ukraine and by Viacheslav Likhachev, the main researcher on anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Ukraine. It has also been debunked by the results of both presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014, where both far-right parties did extremely badly.

Corbyn’s chief villains in all parts of the world appear to be the USA and NATO. In the above articles written shortly after Russia’s invasion of Crimea, he effectively suggests that Russia is protecting itself against attempts by NATO to “encircle it”. From the Morning Star article, one could forget that it was Russia who breached international law by invading Crimea, and by funding and manning those who were by then already seizing control in parts of eastern Ukraine. Russia’s behaviour was, he claims, “not unprovoked, and the right of people to seek a federal structure or independence should not be denied”. This is how he describes the seizure of government buildings, airports and military units in Crimea by Russian forces.

It is supposedly NATO whose “belligerence endangers us all”, although there was no question back in Spring 2014 of Ukraine joining NATO. Corbyn from the comfort of his North Islington home is against Poland and the Baltic States having been allowed to join NATO, although the Baltic republics are now seriously concerned that even such membership will not prevent Russian aggression.

This, Corbyn will claim, as does the Kremlin-funded Russia Today, is all US / NATO imperialist propaganda.

On a recent interview for Russia Today, Corbyn is reported to have suggested that he would seek closer ties with Russia. He is in interesting company with the same closer ties currently being promoted by a number of far-right parties in Europe including France’s National Front; Hungary’s Jobbik; and Bulgaria’s Ataka Party. It was members of a number of far-right and some neo-Nazi parties who were invited to Crimea to ‘observe’ the March 16 ‘referendum’, and then in November ‘elections’ held by the Kremlin-backed militants in Donbas.

It is obvious why Russia Today ignores or denies the mounting evidence of human rights abuse in Crimea and in areas under Kremlin-backed militant control in Donbas. It is unclear and disturbing why Corbyn is following suit.

The following are just some of the developments that cannot be attributed to US or NATO propaganda.

A serious attack on Crimean Tatar leaders and the Crimean Tatar Mejlis or representative assembly. Crimean Tatar leaders Mustafa Dzhemiliev and the Head of the Mejlis Refat Chubarov have been banned from their homeland. Dzhemiliev’s son Khaiser has been taken to Russia and is facing a lengthy term of imprisonment with his father unable to even visit him. The Deputy Head of the Mejlis, Akhtem Chiygoz has been in detention since Jan 2015 on legally absurd charges of involvement in a demonstration on Feb 26, 2014, i.e. before Russia’s invasion and annexation. The vast majority of Crimean Tatars opposed Russian occupation from the outset and they have been increasingly targeted in repressive measures aimed at forcing them into exile or silence. Chiygoz believes that his ongoing detention is specifically because he has made it clear that Crimea is his homeland and he is not leaving. Russia forced virtually all Crimean Tatar and independent Crimean media to close or move to mainland Ukraine. The investigation into the murder of Reshat Ametov, abducted from his peaceful protest outside parliament and tortured to death has been terminated, and the occupation authorities have made no attempt to investigate the abduction and / or forced disappearances of a number of other civic activists and young Crimean Tatar men.

A Euromaidan activist Oleksandr Kostenko is facing a 4-year sentence on equally absurd charges relating to an alleged incident in Feb 2014, before annexation and in Kyiv, not Crimea. His father has disappeared in mysterious circumstances and all attempts to get the clear evidence that Kostenko was subjected to torture have failed.

The same is true of Russia’s “absolutely Stalinist” Crimean show trial of renowned Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov and left-wing civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko. They, together with two other opponents of Russian occupation were arrested, almost certainly tortured and then taken by force to Russia where Sentsov has now been sentenced to 20 years quite literally for nothing.

At least one blogger is in detention for writing articles critical of Russian occupation. Ukrainians who held a meeting where they laid flowers in honour of the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko and read his works were prosecuted for holding a ‘prohibited symbol’ – a Ukrainian flag. Similar cases of harassment are ongoing.

All faiths except the Russian Orthodox Church are facing repression in Crimea. The same is also true of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics in Donbas.

The list of very serious concerns – of hostage-taking; extra-judicial executions and torture carried out by Kremlin-backed militants in Donbas – is very long.

Does Corbyn really see all of this as the fault of NATO? Does he genuinely believe that Amnesty International, Russian human rights organizations, as well as the slain opposition politician Boris Nemtsov were all duped (or paid?) by NATO when they revealed details of direct Russian military involvement and deaths in Ukraine?

Or does he not care? This, one assumes, is the case with former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who found it lucrative to move to Russia and become a spokesperson for Gasprom. It is likely that Marine Le Pen has similar reasons for supporting Russia’s position on Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

It would be a damning position for a future leader of the United Kingdom.

Permalink 14 Comments

What a big rally in Croydon tells you about the Corbyn campaign

August 14, 2015 at 7:30 am (AWL, Cross-post, democracy, elections, labour party, posted by JD, reformism)

The following report, by Sasha Ismail, also appears on the Workers Liberty website. We think it gives a good, if brief, overview of both the strengths and weaknesses of the Corbyn’s politics. It does not, however, deal with the issues on which most Shiraz contributors would have our sharpest difference with Corbyn: international affairs.

Above: overspill meeting at Ruskin House, Croydon

I was slightly late for the meeting Croydon Trades Council held for the Jeremy Corbyn campaign on 4 August (“privatised trains”, joked Corbyn, who was even later than me). By the time I got there, the hall at the back of Ruskin House was full, as was the garden next to it, with more people inside the main building – perhaps just short of five hundred in all.

There was, genuinely, a real mix of people there – young and old, black and white, men and women, established labour movement activists and people pulled into political life by the Corbyn campaign. The hall was full of local trade union banners.

Croydon Trades Council collected details, advertised upcoming events and had a good profile. GMB organiser Nadine Houghton gave a very good speech on its behalf about fighting the government’s Trade Union Bill and defending the right to strike. I guess most Corbyn meetings, except perhaps the central London ones, are organised by and will help boost similar local labour movement organisations or networks. That’s one of the most positive elements of the campaign.

It was very easy to sell literature and have conversations (though I noticed there weren’t many organised socialist groups there). Interestingly lots of the people I approached, at random, were pretty new to political activity.

So far, so good – excellent in fact. It was great, inspiring to be at such a big, lively meeting. What about the content? What did Corbyn say?

He said lots of good things – about housing, about wages, about benefits, about public ownership of the banks. He called for an end to austerity, an end to pandering to the Tories, a start to fighting the cuts and fighting for the rich to pay. Even for someone who wants something more radical, as I do, it was good hearing all this from a politician with a decent chance of leading the labour movement.

The best bit of the speech, in a way, was Corbyn’s call to replace technocratic Blairite dictat with democratic labour movement discussion. He argued for an end to “secluded policy forums in leafy hotels” and for a “grittier process of discussion and decision-making in community centres and union buildings across the country”. He said that the policies he’s advocating are “not finished” and that the campaign wants ideas and argument.

In that spirit: there were some things on which I thought he was a little woolly. On lots of issues he cited detailed proposals; but on immigration he limited himself to condemning Tory and Blairite “rhetoric” and arguing for a “humanitarian approach”. From the press and reports, I’d guess that is his general pitch. More specific policies – about detention and deportation, about access to services, about immigration controls more generally – are necessary.

The other thing to say is that while Corbyn’s speech had “socialist values”, to use his phrase, it was not particularly socialist. It didn’t make an explicit case for class politics, or do more than hint about the possibility of replacing capitalism with a new society. I asked a friend what she thought about that: at first she was surprised I didn’t think the speech was socialist, but when I explained she said “Well, it’s a step”.

And for sure it is. The Corbyn campaign has potential to break the blockade – not just of socialism, but of anything approaching a labour movement political voice – which Blairism has maintained for twenty years. The excellent meeting put on by Croydon Trades Councils shows that, as do similar meetings up and down the country.

If Corbyn wins, big possibilities will open up. To maximise the impact and opportunities, socialists need to argue within this movement for clearer, more consistent, more explicit socialist ideas.

Permalink 24 Comments

The Guardian and the ‘Pompey Lads’: the Delusions of British Liberalism and Multi-Culturalism

July 28, 2015 at 5:02 pm (Cross-post, fascism, Guardian, islamism, multiculturalism, posted by JD, relativism, religion)

A Briton has been killed fighting for Isis in Syria, a leading observer of the conflict has claimed. Mamunur Mohammed Roshid was one of six, aged between 19 and 31, who left Portsmouth to join the militants. He is the third of the group to have been killed, with one having been convicted and two others thought to still be fighting.

I wrote the small piece below in response to an article on The Guardian website by Emine Saner on 27 July (also in today’s G2). This reports that the final member of the ‘Pompey Lads’ believed to be fighting for the Islamic State in Syria, Asad Uzzaman, has been killed. The Guardian, and especially its Comment is Free section, has a tendency to remove my comments, so I thought I would duplicate them here. 

The most telling thing about Emine Saner’s article is part of its title – “How the Pompey Lads Fell into the hands of ISIS.”

Perhaps the Pompey lads took a rational decision that ISIS broadly met their beliefs, and the caliphate was an ideal worth fighting for?

It is remarkable how readily good liberal journalists can now infantalise people from ethnic minorities in a way we would never see with others. During the conflict in Northern Ireland, did we ever talk of young Catholics in west Belfast ‘falling into the hands’ of the IRA? Or young unionists who joined loyalist paramilitaries in such terms?

Its the same with the woman and girls who have traveled to live in the Caliphate – they are always ‘groomed’ or ‘lured‘ . Despite every one of them being over the age of criminal responsibility, we are asked to pretend nobody ever takes a rational decision.

I wonder if the war in Syria, the emergence of the Islamic State and British Islamist support for it actually tells us more about the crisis of liberalism and our staunchest advocates of multi-culturalism, than it does about the state of British Islam. Whatever you want to say about British Muslims, they are certainly not as prone to deluding themselves as our liberal media….

Permalink 8 Comments

Bernie Sanders’ black problem

July 27, 2015 at 6:10 pm (Anti-Racism, Cross-post, Democratic Party, Paul Canning, United States)

Cross-posted by Paul Canning:

The rest of the world loves to laugh at America’s never ending election process. Heck, Americans laugh at it. Jon Stewart for one. But those vaguely playing attention, especially those reading The Guardian, will have had their ears prick up at the campaign of one Bernie Sanders.

Senator Sanders is that rarest of things in the good ol’USA, an actual socialist. His rallies for the Democratic party’s nomination have been massive so of course a Guardian writer, Mary O’Hara, is waving to get Brits attention yelling that “it’s invigorating to witness what’s happening in the US.” My friends at Shiraz Socialist are no less dizzy saying that the Sanders’ campaign is “probably the most exciting development in US politics since the 1930s.”

Oh my. Thing is the Sanders campaign just got knocked sideways by black activists. So much so that one of the largest grassroots progressive groups, Democracy for America, has now changed its nominating process. They “will ask how candidates will support the Movement for Black Lives and confront racism and our “culture of white supremacy”.” Other groups are certain to follow. That is, that all the assumptions about why a self-proclaimed socialist would automatically win progressive endorsement have been changed. For ever. Sanders has consistently polled low numbers with minority voters but things came to a head when he did not react well to a stage invasion by #blacklivesmatters activists at the Netroots Nation conference, a big leftwing shindig. Those theatrics drew the attention but the warning signs were already there, as Tommy Christopher points out in this analysis of an earlier interview with George Stephanopoulos.

Says Christopher:

Sanders decided to tell Stephanopoulos that black voters would love him if they just understood things better, an idea that is uncomfortably similar to the conclusion reached by the Republican Party’s infamous 2012 “autopsy report,” and an echo of the GOP’s point man on minority outreach, Rand Paul.

Sanders’ argument, that the policies he advocates for everyone should also be particularly attractive to black and Hispanic voters, is an approach that is favored by politicians who take minority votes for granted, as well as those who take for granted that they won’t get those votes. Sanders’ problem is that Hillary Clinton supports all of the policies he cites, but he has not taken up any of the issues that Hillary Clinton has used to solidify her support with the Obama coalition.This is no accident; Sanders has long emphasized winning white voters by deliberately avoiding what he considers “demographic stuff” in favor of economic issues.

Sanders problems are not just presentational, they’re political. As one of the biggest black websites bluntly puts it “a job isn’t going to stop a bullet”. Christopher:

Substantively, Sanders’ philosophy misses the point that many of those “demographic” issues are economic issues. For black Americans, the criminal justice and policing reforms that Hillary Clinton has advocated are directly tied to their economic well-being, or that of their close friends and relatives. And while Sanders decries the role of money in politics, the Obama coalition is much more urgently concerned with whether they’ll even be allowed to vote in the next election.

The political problem for Sanders is underlined in another area in this article by Jesse Berney on abortion access, which is a enormous issue in America where access remains under constant attack.

In an interview with Rolling Stone a few weeks ago, Bernie Sanders spoke about the economic populism driving his campaign. “Once you get off of the social issues — abortion, gay rights, guns — and into the economic issues,” he told writer Mark Binelli, “there is a lot more agreement than the pundits understand.”

This formulation isn’t uncommon, even among progressives like Sanders. It’s easy to ascribe the fierce debates on issues like abortion and LGBT rights to cultural differences, and to wish we could just push them aside and finally convince rural white voters to vote for their “economic interests.”

But putting abortion rights in a box separate from economic issues ignores the reality of the women who find it increasingly difficult to obtain an abortion in this country. Abortion is an economic issue: wealthy women will always have access to abortion, while restrictions and obstacles affect low- and middle-income women disproportionately.

Berney explains how Clinton is getting it right.

Sanders puts economic inequality and corporate power at the top of his agenda, and deliberately excludes reproductive rights from that list.

In a recent event in Iowa where she shared the stage with Sanders and the other Democratic White House candidates, Hillary Clinton made a point to say traditional “women’s issues” are actually “economic issues.” Clinton has mostly stuck to issues safer than abortion – like family leave and child care – when talking about the economic impact of issues that have traditionally been “women’s issues.”

But she’s doing the work to erase that distinction, while Sanders draws that line ever more clearly. These priorities matter, and the candidates’ words matter.

Berney warns that Sanders risks losing a whole other part of the Democrats base, the majority, women:

Abortion rights are under severe threat in this country, and exiling them to an imaginary “social issues”category necessarily relegates them to second-class status.

Immediately after the Netroots Nation fiasco the Sanders campaign made some tweaks, as Imani Gandy notes in her fabulous, excoriating piece ‘You’re White and Marched With Dr. King: So What?’ – But Sanders’ supporters are giving a very good impression of learning nothing at all from the exercise.

Progressives are complaining that the protesters were disrespectful and rude. They’re whining that interrupting a speech isn’t an “invitation for solidarity.”

I’ve seen some white folks complaining that they no longer feel safe at Netroots because—you know—unruly Black women. The horror! Still others don’t think the protest “looks good.” (Because as we all know, change comes when you politely ask for it, not when you disrupt and demand it, which, by the way, is what Dr. King did. White people tend to forget that Dr. King was a disruptor when they are using him as a Pokémon to shut Black people up.)

Rather than support these brave Black women activists in what is quite literally a fight for the lives of Black people, there you are in all your pearl-clutching glory talking about how disrespectful the activists were, and how it’s such a shame that the uppity Black people were being so rude to an obvious ally, and how the #BlackLivesMatter movement is so disorganized and is protesting the wrong things at the wrong time in front of the wrong people.

“Why are you alienating allies?”

“Don’t you know how much Bernie cares for you?”

“What’s wrong with you people?”

“Hillary would be worse!”

“What are you going to do, vote for Donald Trump?”

“Why won’t you ever be satisfied?”

“You’re doing it all wrong!”

“You’re going to make us quit caring about Black lives if you don’t shape up and act the way we want you to.”

Most Black voters want the answer to one question: What is Sanders’ plan to address the police brutality crisis in the Black community?

And the answer to that question is never: “Bernie marched with Dr. King.”

I can vouch for this reality because even I got whiny tweets after retweeting Gandy, who tweets at @AngryBlackLady.

And it is not like there aren’t black people trying to patiently explain what Sanders’ may be doing wrong. Here’s Roderick Morrow, who got so fed up with reaction from so-called ‘progressives’ that he started the joke hashtag. #BernieSoBlack.

It’s like they’re almost trying to outblack us. “Oh, you’re a black person, what could you possibly understand about our candidate? He was marching before you were even born!” Okay, that’s cool, but you gotta stay on top of it. So I made a joke that’s like, “Bernie’s blacker than us! Bernie’s SO BLACK!” That’s how it feels when they come into our mentions and tell us that we don’t know what we’re talking about, and even though [Sanders] doesn’t talk about #BlackLivesMatter right now, we should just kind of shut up. So I was just like:

Honestly, the joke is not even on Bernie Sanders. That’s what’s so funny — the joke is on the defense of him, which is, if you extrapolate to the furthest extent, he can do no wrong on race. Like, we should not even expect anything of him, he put in his time already, we need to just shut up.

I’m sure it does happen, but I can’t imagine people doing this to other constituencies, because you do rely on those votes. At Netroots Nation, you’re going to be addressing a very diverse but very black-centric audience, and to not really be prepared to talk about race there is a little bit of a slap in the face. So for us — and when I say “us,” I just mean black people, I’m not any level of an activist or anything — for us to just say, Hey, you kind of did a bad job, hope you do better in the future, and then get bombarded with “He marched in 1968!” it’s like, All right, man, I don’t know what to tell you.

That. That right there.

Edited to add@BobFromBrockley has pointed out this socialist response, not to this but to the entire movement (I think)! A progressive I have followed for years, Martin Bowman, has also written despairingly here, comparing the movement to a marriage and fearing that we’re heading for divorce.

I won’t Fisk either but I would point out one thing. I’m a white gay man and I’m from the generation that lived through HIV/Aids. So there is a connection I have to a ‘crisis’ of people dying and there is also a connection to having to yell and scream to get attention – from everybody. So we had Act-Up and Peter Tatchell invading pulpits, but then we also had lobbyists and McKellan having tea with John Major. Movements always piss people off. From what I can tell the people supporting Sanders are pissed off and from my perspective, as another minority, then I don’t know why that’s a bad thing.

Edited to add: It’s also worthwhile noting these comments (via Nancy LeTourneau) from Dara Lind:

There is a legitimate disconnect between the way Sanders (and many of the economic progressives who support him) see the world, and the way many racial-justice progressives see the world. To Bernie Sanders, as I’ve written, racial inequality is a symptom — but economic inequality is the disease. That’s why his responses to unrest in Ferguson and Baltimore have included specific calls for police accountability, but have focused on improving economic opportunity for young African Americans. Sanders presents fixing unemployment as the systemic solution to the problem.

Many racial-justice advocates don’t see it that way. They see racism as its own systemic problem that has to be addressed on its own terms. They feel that it’s important to acknowledge the effects of economic inequality on people of color, but that racial inequality isn’t merely a symptom of economic inequality. And most importantly, they feel that “pivoting” to economic issues can be a way for white progressives to present their agenda as the progressive agenda and shove black progressives, and the issues that matter most to them, to the sidelines.

So Sanders’ performance at Netroots confirmed the frustrations that his critics felt. And Sanders’ supporters’ reaction to the criticism was just as predictable.

Permalink 28 Comments

The problem with Bernie Sanders

July 21, 2015 at 10:05 am (Cross-post, Democratic Party, elections, Eric Lee, posted by JD, reformism, United States)

Supporters with Robin Hood faces of Bernie Sanders (Photo by Charlie Leight/Getty Images)

By Eric Lee

The Bernie Sanders campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination is probably the most exciting development in US politics since the 1930s. And it’s not a coincidence that both the resurgent left of that decade and the Sanders phenomenon have followed the spectacular economic crashes of 1929 and 2008.

The Sanders campaign is a phenomenon. He’s not only rising rapidly in the polls, posing a clear threat to Hillary Clinton, but he’s raising millions of dollars in small donations and filling arenas with supporters – including in some surprising places, like Phoenix, Arizona.

A self-described democratic socialist and a former member of the Young Peoples Socialist League (YPSL), Sanders was influenced by an early visit to a kibbutz in Israel in the 1960s, and by the model of Scandinavian social democracy. He’s proposed a number of radical reforms that put him far to the left not only of any other mainstream presidential candidate this year, but to the left of anyone in living memory.

There’s not been a campaign like this since Norman Thomas led the Socialist Party to its second-best result ever in 1932, polling just under 900,000 votes. (The Communist Party back then polled only a fraction of the Socialist vote.)

But there’s a problem with Sanders’ call for a “political revolution” in America. It’s not going to happen without organisation. And a presidential election campaign is not an organisation. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 7 Comments

MH 17: Russia did it, endof?

July 18, 2015 at 2:55 pm (Cross-post, imperialism, Paul Canning, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, Ukraine, war)

Cross-posted from Paul Canning‘s blog (17 July 2015):

#MH17 victims of #RussiaInvadedUkraine Mo, Evie and Otis Maslin

A year ago today hundreds of Western bodies tumbled out of the sky in the middle of a European war zone.

Nobody predicted the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 but with hindsight they could have. The war in Eastern Ukraine was at a turning point. Despite a corrupt and crumbling army and 92 thrown together groups of ragtag militia, the Ukrainians were turning the tide on the rebels.

But if it was not obvious that the exact same ‘little green men’ scenario played out in Crimea was being played out in the Donbas it should have by the time that the first planes started getting shot down. The fighter jets started going down and then the high flying transport planes.

Those transport planes were being shot down by some very sophisticated weapons, ones that took a lot of coordination and a lot of training to operate. They did not, to turn around Putin’s joking phrase, from when he was still pretending that those in Crimea were ‘local volunteers’, ‘come from a shop’.

We now know thanks in large part to the work of one British man, Eliot Higgins, almost beyond all reasonable doubt, that MH17 was shot down by a Russian missile system. This means a Russian crew, precisely because of the training required to operate such a system and Higgins just said that his Bellingcat team now have Russian names and have provided them to the official investigators, the Dutch Safety Board, where he is an official witness.

How could they know Russian names? Because those Russians posted the evidence themselves, on social media. After the jump watch the film by Vice News’ Simon Ostrovsky where he follows up on evidence gathered by Higgins of one Russian soldier’s presence on the Donbas battle fields. Ostrovsky finds the exact same spots where one soldier took his selfies. That soldier was from Buryatia, a Russian region whose people are Mongols. Hence the soldier got noticed in Eastern Ukraine.

After MH17 the tide turned back and the rebels with their Russian ‘volunteer professional assistants’ ensured that the war did not end last August but carried on, as it still does today, Minsk ‘peace’ or no ‘peace’.

10% of Ukraine lost, 6000 dead and over 2 million displaced.

Russia has come up with five, to date, explanations for MH17, none blaming themselves of course and some out of science fiction. One by the Defence Ministry is described by Bellingcat as Russia’s “Colin Powell moment”.

That moment when the former American Secretary of State went before the UN Security Council to argue for war on Iraq has become a poster for Russia’s lavishly funded international propaganda TV network RT. You may have seen it on the Washington Metro or on London’s Tube. But just as the West tolerates RT so does Western media have ‘balance’ and thus MH17 will remain ‘he said, she said’ until the official report comes out in three months time.

That ‘balance’ and essential fairness which underpins our Western societies is used against us by Russia. Their security services and their ‘political technocrats’ know full well that with something like MH17 they can muddy the waters enough that many in the West won’t blame Russia. They can somehow wriggle out of this.

The FSB and the Kremlin will find willing partners on both the left and the right but they will also find unwitting ones like journalists. Journalists such as one Mike Kelly writing today for the Newcastle Chronicle. (Newcastle is where two of the British victims hail from.) Kelly presents MH17 as a tale of ‘versions’ and he condemns the ‘squabbling’ over whodunnit, comparing this notion of his with the ‘quiet dignity’ of today’s memorials.

Putin could not have said it better – in fact he has said it with his talk of the politicisation of the MH17 inquiry. But just as climate change is not about ‘sides’ of equal veracity neither is MH17, to say otherwise is to damn the whole profession of investigative journalism and to sign up to the Russian propaganda meme of there being no such thing as the truth! And it is no service to the victims’ loved ones to pretend otherwise.

Tomorrow Ukraine will disappear from people’s radar but come October we know what the Dutch report will say. Not because we are arrogant but because others have done the hard work.

Even when we then have a Russian war crime spelt out in black and white I predict we will still hear the siren voice of appeasement, from the left and from the right. Business will still go on and London palaces will still be bought with corrupt money.

For shame.

  • Others than Higgins have of course investigated. Two are James Miller and Michael Weiss and they have a long read at the Daily Beast spelling out how come we know Russia dunnit.

Watch Simon Ostrovsky’s astonishing report tracking down one Buryat soldier to one of Russia’s remotest regions:

Permalink 1 Comment

Next page »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 579 other followers