Stupid pillocks who – if they do anything – help the Tories

April 19, 2015 at 4:27 am (Beyond parody, democracy, elections, political groups, posted by JD)

A list of petty bourgeois wankers, from ‘All That Is Solid…’

On the Far Left’s General Election Campaign

As well as being a pretty weird general election, 2015’s will see a record number of far left candidates standing. As if to underline the peculiarity of the campaign, even anarchists are standing. So let’s have a bit of a burrow into the lists and see what it says about the far left party family.

No one in a revolutionary socialist or anarchist outfit now would say women’s rights and the question of gender are distractions from the hard graft of knuckling down and prosecuting the class struggle. At least aloud, or for public consumption. As self-declared representatives of the most class conscious sections of the British proletariat, they’re the best fighters for women’s liberation. The implementation of their programmes would strike a permanent and irreversible blow for equitable gender relations. We’re a long way off from that happy day, however. So how do women fair as a percentage of far left candidates? I make it 52 out of the 223 listed so far. That’s 23.3%. For TUSC specifically of 131 seats contested women are standing in 34 of them, or 25.9%. What to say about this. The LibDems say that just 26% of their candidates are women. Annoyingly, comparable figures for the Tories and Labour are hard to come by (I don’t have the inclination to run through every single constituency). But of interest 29 for the former and 54 for the latter have been selected for the parties’ top 100 winnable seats. Among all party selections done up until last November – including incumbents – it was 73-27 men-women. Of new candidates, Labour had selected 39% women, the Tories 31%, LibDems 30%, Greens 37%, and UKIP 12%.

Pretty poor for the far left as a whole to be outdone on women’s representation by all bar UKIP, and to be less representative than the field of candidates as a whole. However, the far left should be cut a bit of slack, but only a little. They can only stand the activists they have on the books, and in the Socialist Party’s case – who’ve provided the bulk of TUSC candidates – the party comprises one quarter to one third women. To be fair, during my membership they did encourage women to come to the fore and its leading body, the executive committee, had a slight female majority. Still, the same searching questions about why more women aren’t involved have to be asked.

The second thing I want to look at is how much the election campaign is a party building opportunity. We know that far left candidates generally get pretty poor results – see last year’s European election and 2010’s outing, for example. To try and build a head of steam behind your campaigns, you require consistent electoral activity in a given area and a long-term strategic plan. Can we see evidence of that here? Last time, the far left contested 120 seats with 135 candidates. Have they built on this? Well, 92 of our candidates are standing in seats that were previously contested, which is 41%. This doesn’t look too good but do remember that TUSC has massively upped its electoral game. 53 were contested in 2010, 26 of which were under TUSC’s banner (I’ve included here the four Socialist Alternative candidates). Quite why the 17 that previously had TUSC haven’t been so visited this time is a mystery. Also, only 15 candidates are standing in the same seat as 2010, ten of which are TUSC. Sitting MPs aside, I expect the proportion in the bigger parties is about the same or even lower. However, when you’re in the business of building a radical alternative consistency and continuity between elections is important provided the candidate has been working the seat hard in the meantime.

All this begs the question of why. I doubt the CPB, SEP, CL, and WRP central committees sat down to determine their general election intervention believing a general breakthrough lies just over the horizon. Sure, like the SPGB, AGS, Workers’ Party, SSP, and Class War, it’s an opportunity to get the organisation and your work known. You’re taking advantage of a wider interest in politics than is hitherto the case. But is it worth it? Taking 2010 as our benchmark, polling scores were more often beneath one per cent than not. However, the far left tend not to measure success in terms of votes scored – as anyone familiar with post-election write ups by those concerned will tell you. It’s about the breadth of the message, of the leaflets distributed, papers solds, contacts made, and recruits who’ve signed up. There is also the experience of taking part in the campaign itself. To be involved and live in the micro universe of a campaign can be a gratifying experience, even if you don’t win. It’s an occasion of forming close ties, of working together collectively around a clearly definable common objective, of deepening one’s relationship with the group. It’s the stuff fond memories are made of. Or can be, provided it’s not deeply dysfunctional and characterised by fraying friendships. So for a small party, it’s a bonding experience, of toughening up collective discipline and identity. But it’s a risk. For newer recruits the poor result can be an occasion for disillusion and burnout.

TUSC is qualitatively different. While the general election is an occasion for party building on the Socialist Party’s part (and, to a lesser extent, the SWP’s), the objective is to work TUSC up into an electoral force that will be taken seriously over the longer term. It’s their contribution toward the new workers’ party they believe is a necessity since Labour stopped conforming to what they think such a party should look like. Implicitly, TUSC exists to show an electoral life for leftist class politics outside Labour is possible. However, there are a number of problems.

As we know, the Green Party has grown massively since last summer, a growth reflected in its spread of candidates. TUSC’s challenge, however, is not a result of organic growth. As far as I can tell, the SP is roughly the same size it was five years ago and the SWP, of course, are much diminished. Nor has there been an upsurge of active opposition to never-ending austerity that can power TUSC’s 100% no cuts message. Why then such an effort which, lest we forget, is also supported by about 600 local council candidates?

There are two things going on here. SP cadre are keen to flag up how much more advanced TUSC is compared to UKIP after the first five years of its existence, while accidentally on purpose forgetting the last 25 years of the SP standing against Labour under a variety of labels. TUSC appears to be a project that has stalled. The 2010 results were down on its predecessor’s 2005 efforts, including in its Coventry and Lewisham “strongholds”. Since then local election results have given little cheer, even if they had a councillor elected last year … on an independent ticket. As growth eludes TUSC, voluntarism has stepped into the breach. By pulling out all the stops and standing absolutely everywhere they can reflect back a sense of dynamism to their members, that this project might actually be going somewhere. The second issue is their friends in the RMT. As the sleeping partner in the TUSC initiative, it remains a source of acute embarrassment that barely any of its 72,000 members are aware of what TUSC is, let alone that their union is an affiliate. Even the much-missed Bob Crow studiously avoided all mention of the coalition of which he was a founder on his Question Time appearances. And now the RMT has Mick Cash, a Labour Party member at the helm, it’s reasonable to suppose the union’s support is living on borrowed time. In this context, to try and keep them on board, running a large campaign is about showing the RMT that another party is possible. It won’t deliver the votes, but the SP must be hoping that the sheer size of the “biggest post-war left electoral challenge” will squeeze out a respectable – by far left standards – result. Because without the RMT, not only does TUSC go the way of the dodo,their perspectives suffer ignominious collapse and a good chunk of their membership will be profoundly demoralised.

But can TUSC and the other comrades standing in the election expect a continuation of poor results? Thanks to the rise of social media, the traditional press and TV matter less this time than has ever hitherto the case. They may be locked out of the leaders’ debates but they can, to a degree, bypass them. There is also the general mood too. If by some dark miracle the Tories scrape their way into power again, it won’t be because of a resigned acceptance of the need for more austerity. It’s not uniform, it’s complex and contradictory, but the much hallowed centre ground has moved left on a number of key issues. And also the far right has disappeared up its own backside. However, with established “anti-establishment” parties in the shape of UKIP and the Greens, and with the latter fielding its own anti-austerity message, it’s hard to see how TUSC and family can hope to poll anything other than derisory votes in the absence of name recognition, consistent work, and in competition with more viable alternatives to mainstream politics.

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CWU: Hayes ousted by Ward

April 19, 2015 at 3:17 am (democracy, elections, labour party, posted by JD, unions)

CWU logo

Left Futures reports:

Dave Ward who has been the deputy general secretary (postal) of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) since 2003 was this afternoon (April 16th) declared elected as general secretary to replace Billy Hayes who has held the post since 2001 and was standing for a fourth term. CWU is the biggest trade union in the communications sector with 200,000 members working in companies including BT, Capita, EE, O2, Parcelforce, the Post Office, Royal Mail, Santander and UK Mail. Dave Ward takes over the role of general secretary from 1 June.

It is not yet clear what practical difference this will make to the union or its politics. Dave Ward is also widely regarded as being on the left, and as a member of the Labour Party he has previously served on its national executive. Whilst Billy Hayes has been a critical friend of Labour, Dave Ward who promisesno more something for nothing, blind loyalty to Labour” may be rather more distant. He does, however, promise to “make Labour and politics work for usand recognises that “the general election will be very close and we need to fight against austerity and the divisive ideas of UKIP for a Labour victory.” His stance may become clearer in 10 days time when the CWU conference will discuss several motions which seek to break the link with Labour and, in some cases, consider backing other parties including  the Grens, Plaid Cymru, SNP and TUSC.

Billy Hayes has been a very prominent figure in the trade union movement, the Labour Party and the wider Left for many years, and has also been a contributor to Left Futures and an active supporter for 35 years of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy at whose AGM he was the keynote speaker earlier this year. More recently, he was an opponent of the changes to the Labour-Union link which were agreed last year in the Collins report.

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A CWU member told Shiraz:
“Billy lost for many reasons. One of them is that he is more ‘left wing’ and political than most CWU activists.

“Dave is no better industrially than Billy and in fact is more accommodating in his dealings with Royal Mail. He is not really that militant I don’t think – its just industrial relations in the postal sector are red in tooth and claw so you have to be prepared to take action in a way that would be resolved in other sectors.

“Dave  is very limited in his wider union approach for example to organising the whole communications sector, to equality issues etc. The real difference  between them is that Billy (though flawed – and I could give you chapter and verse on those flaws!) at least has a broad political approach to his trade unionism.

“The fact that Dave is sceptical about the LP-TU link, something he really played up in this election, and previously, is not of course evidence of him being more left wing or  having a political view at all. Its just narrow minded ‘sub syndicalist’ trade unionism I would say.It is my opinion that if Dave had been the GS when Mandelson tried to part privatise Royal Mail  we would have a had an unprincipled deal rather than the fightback that Billy led on the political front.

“Dave’s election is a step back for the CWU.”

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Avnery: for an Israeli Salvation Front

April 6, 2015 at 6:16 pm (Anti-Racism, democracy, elections, Human rights, israel, left, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD, solidarity, zionism)

Gush Shalom

Veteran Israeli leftist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement, Uri Avnery, gives a considered response to the recent Israeli election. Two points strike me: firstly, that this is much more pessimistic in tone than his immediate response, and – secondly – that the Morning Star (which also republished this article today) seriously and deliberately misrepresented what Avnery is saying, in they way they headlined and introduced the piece. Judge for yourselves, here. Below we reproduce Avnery’s piece exactly as he wrote it:

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The Israeli Salvation Front

THE 2015 election was a giant step towards the self-destruction of Israel.

The decisive majority has voted for an apartheid state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, in which democracy will slowly disappear.

The decision is not yet final. Israeli democracy has lost a battle. It has not yet lost the war.

If it does not draw the lessons, it will lose the war, too.

All the justifications and alibis of the Israeli Left are useless. It’s the bottom line that counts.

The country is in existential danger. Not from the outside, but from the inside.

An Israel Salvation Front is needed now.

We have no other country.

FIRST OF ALL, the full extent of the debacle must be acknowledged and full responsibility must be taken.

The leaders who lost must go. In the struggle for the life of the state, there is no second opportunity.

The struggle between Isaac Herzog and Binyamin Netanyahu was a match between a lightweight boxer and a heavyweight.

The idea of a National Union government must be rejected and roundly condemned. In such a government, the Labor Party would again play the contemptible role of a fig leaf for the policy of occupation and oppression.

Now a new generation of leaders is needed, young, energetic and original.

THE ELECTION pitilessly exposed the deep chasms between the different sectors of Israeli society: Orientals, Ashkenazis, Arabs, “Russian”, orthodox, religious and more.

The Salvation Front must encompass all sectors.

Every sector has its own culture, its own traditions, its own faith(s). All must be respected. Mutual; respect is the foundation of the Israeli partnership.

The foundation of the Salvation Front needs a new authentic leadership that must emerge from all sectors.

The State of Israel belongs to all its citizens. No sector has exclusive ownership of the state.

The huge and growing gap between the very rich and the very poor, which largely parallels the gap between the ethnic communities, is a disaster for all of us.

The salvation of the state must be based on a return to equality as a basic value. A reality in which hundreds of thousands of children live under the poverty line is intolerable.

The income of the upper 0.01%, which reaches to the heavens, must be brought down to a reasonable level. The income of the lowest 10% must be raised to a humane level.

THE ALMOST total separation between the Jewish and the Arab parts of Israeli society is a disaster for both and for the state.

The Salvation Front must be based on both peoples. The chasm between them must be eliminated, for the good of both.

Empty phrases about equality and fraternity are not enough. They lack credibility.

There must come into being a sincere alliance between the democratic forces on both sides, not only in words but in actual daily cooperation in all areas.

This cooperation must find expression in frameworks of political partnership, joint struggles and regular joint meetings in all areas, based on respect for the uniqueness of each partner.

Only a permanent joint struggle can save Israeli democracy and the state itself.

THE HISTORIC conflict between the Zionist movement and the Palestinian Arab national movement now threatens both peoples.

The country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is the homeland of the two peoples. No war, oppression or uprising will change this basic fact.

If this conflict continues without end, it will endanger the existence of both peoples.

The one and only solution was and is their co-existence in two sovereign states: a free and independent State of Palestine side by side with the State of Israel.

The two-state solution is not a recipe for separation and divorce. On the contrary, it is a recipe for close co-existence.

The 1967 borders, with mutual agreed changes, are the basis of peace.

The co-existence of the two states in the joint homeland does necessitate frameworks of partnership at the highest level, as well as open borders for the movement of people and goods. It also needs solid security arrangements for the good of both peoples.

Jerusalem, open and unified, must be the capital of both states.

The painful tragedy of the Palestinian refugees must find its just solution, agreed upon by the two sides. This solution will include return to the Palestinian state, a limited symbolic return to Israel and the payment of generous compensation by international funds to all.

Israel and Palestine shall work together so as to achieve a return of Jewish property left in Arab countries or the payment of generous compensation.

The State of Palestine will keep its affinity with the Arab world. The state of Israel will keep its affinity with the Jewish people in the world. Each of the two states will have sole responsibility for its immigration policy.

The problem of the Jewish settlers in Palestine will find its solution in the framework of agreed border changes between the two states, the inclusion of some settlements in the Palestinian state with the agreement of the Palestinian government and the re-settlement of the rest of the settlers in Israel.

Both states shall cooperate in the creation of a democratic regional partnership, in the spirit of the “Arab Spring”, while resisting anarchy, terrorism and religious and nationalistic fanaticism throughout the region.

The masses of Israelis and Palestinians will not believe in the chances of peace and co-existence if there is no real and open partnership between the peace camps of both peoples.

To establish such a partnership, organizations and individuals of both sides must start right now to conduct joint political action, such as constant consultation and joint planning on all levels and in all areas.

THE JEWISH character of the State of Israel finds its expression in its culture and its affinity with the Jews throughout the world. It must not express itself in its interior regime. All citizens and all sectors must be equal.

The democratic forces within the Jewish and the Arab public must join hands and work together in their daily actions.

International pressure by itself will not save Israel from itself. The salvation forces must come from within.

World-wide pressure on Israel can and must assist the democratic forces in Israel, but cannot take their place.

BASIC VALUES do not change. However, the ways of talking about them with the public must change.

The old slogans are ineffective. The values must be re-defined and re-formulated in up-to-date language, in line with the concepts and language of a new generation.

The two-state vision was defined after the 1948 war by a small group of path-blazers. Since than, huge changes have taken place in the world, in the region and within Israeli society. While the vision itself remains the only practical solution of the historic conflict, it must be poured into new vessels.

There is a need for political unity, a unifying salvation front that brings together all the forces of peace, democracy and social justice.

If the Labor Party is able to re-invent itself from the bottom up, it can constitute the basis of this camp. If not, an entirely new political party must be formed, as the core of the Salvation Front.

Within this front, diverse ideological forces must find their place and engage in a fruitful internal debate, while conducting a unified political struggle for the salvation of the state.

The regime within Israel must assure complete equality between all Jewish ethnic communities and between the two peoples, while safeguarding the affinity of the Israeli-Jewish public with the Jews in the world and the affinity of the Israeli-Arab public with the Arab world.

The situation in which most of the resources are in the hands of 1% of the population at the cost of the other 99%, must come to an end. A reasonable equality between all citizens, without connection with their ethnic origin, must be restored.

There is no social message without a political message, and there is no political message without a social message.

The Oriental Jewish public must be full partners in the state, side by side with all other sectors. Their dignity, culture, social status and economic situation must be accorded their proper place.

The religious-secular confrontation must be postponed until after peace is achieved. The beliefs and ceremonies of all religions must be respected, as well as the secular worldview.

The separation of state and religion – such as civil marriage, mass transportation on Shabbat – can wait until the struggle for existence is decided.

The protection of the judicial system, and above all the Supreme Court, is an absolute duty.

The various associations for peace, human rights and social justice, each of which conducts its laudable independent struggle in its chosen field, must enter the political arena and play a central role together in the unified Salvation Front.

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Labour’s new video

March 31, 2015 at 12:57 pm (democracy, elections, Jim D, labour party, reformism)

Much to my surprise, this is rather good:

“But it isn’t just a choice between two different plans, two different ways of getting the deficit down. It’s a choice about what kind of country we want to live in.”

Lets have more of that, and less of this

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AWL statement on the general election

March 30, 2015 at 5:38 pm (AWL, democracy, elections, labour party, posted by JD, reformism, unions)

Cover Photo

Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory
Above: the AWL supports the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory (SCLV)

This statement, in Q&A format, appears in the present edition of the AWL paper, Solidarity and on the Workers Liberty website. We reproduce it here for the information of readers, but please note that not everyone associated with Shiraz is a member, or even supporter, of the AWL:

In almost every constituency, Workers’ Liberty favours a Labour vote in the general and council elections in 2015. But the Labour Party is committed to maintaining austerity, just like the Tories. Why vote Labour?

It’s not true that there’s no difference. While Labour’s current policy would leave the framework of neo-liberal austerity intact, the Labour Party has been forced to shift on issues like the NHS, zero-hours contracts, the Bedroom Tax, and even public ownership of the railways. On all of those issues, its policy is far less radical than socialists would like, but it is not “just like the Tories”. The Tories are committed to extending anti-union laws; Labour aren’t.

A left that insists there’s no material difference between a government committed to at least partially reversing NHS privatisation and one committed to extending it is a left disconnected from the reality of working-class life.

Those policy differences are empty promises. We’ve been here before.

Working-class social pressure is the key factor. If they do not feel under any pressure, Labour’s leaders won’t implement even the minimal policy commitments it has already made. If there is enough pressure from their trade-union base, they will move. A bit.

Only a tiny bit. Democrats are a lesser evil than the Republicans in the US; Chirac was a lesser evil than the fascist Le Pen in the French presidential run off in 2002. Workers’ Liberty doesn’t favour a vote for the Democrats, and criticised those on the French far-left that supported a vote for Chirac in 2002. Why is this different?

Although its leaders have always had pro-capitalist politics, Labour is not just a capitalist, or “bourgeois”, party. It has historic roots as an attempt by a section of the industrial labour movement to create a political wing that would act for workers in politics as the Liberal and Tory parties acted for employers, and a continuing structural link to the majority of unions in the country.

The Labour-affiliated unions (most of the big ones) can at will change Labour policy by putting proposals to Labour conference and voting them through. Mostly they don’t. Or they do, but stay quiet when Labour leaders ignore the policy. But we should call for the unions to use that political clout, not to walk away and give up.

The US Democrats, or the French UMP (Tories), are, by contrast, straightforwardly capitalist parties. Although the Democrats enjoy funding and activist support from large sections of the US trade union movement, there is no structural link through which rank-and-file trade unionists could even hope to hold Democratic politicians to account or influence the Democrats’ political direction.

The Labour leaders have contempt for the unions. They’re happy to take union money, but won’t do anything in return.

Labour’s leaders want us to see the relationship in purely financial terms : “You (the unions) give us (the Labour Party) money, and we’ll give you a slightly-less-bad set of policies than the Tories.” That’s the relationship the US Democrats have with the unions in the USA; and it’s the way many union leaders see it. But we should change that, rather than passively accept it.

Some on the left like to imagine that the history of the past few decades has been one of Labour-affiliated unions struggling hard for working-class policies, but finding themselves blocked at every turn by the pro-capitalist Labour leaders. In fact, union leaders have blocked themselves by consistently failing to stand up for their own policies within the Labour Party.

In one recent example, Unite delegates to Labour’s National Policy Forum helped defeat a resolution that would have committed Labour to an anti-austerity platform. All the major unions supported the “Collins Review”, which will make Labour Party structures less democratic. Union delegates on the Labour Party Executive, including the RMT’s Mick Cash (now the union’s general secretary), failed to vote against the launching of the Iraq War in 2003.

Surely it’s better to give up on Labour and try to build something new?

Severing, or reforming out of practical existence, the link between the Labour Party and the unions is a long-held dream of the Blairites. Why allow them to fulfil it without a fight?

Our perspective is to transform the entire labour movement. That is, to make our unions fighting, democratic organisations controlled from below, which are responsive to our day-to-day struggles at work and in the community. If it’s possible to make our unions more industrially combative, then it’s possible to make them more assertive in the political sphere too.

The never-affiliated unions are in general no more left-wing or militant than the affiliated ones. Demanding that the unions disaffiliate, rather than demanding that the union leaders fight using every avenue available to them, lets the bureaucrats off the hook.

In the AWL, we are building something new! Only, we do that within the struggle to change the whole labour movement, not by opting out.

Labour leaders have progressively chipped away at union and grassroots influence within the party. The recommendations of the Collins Review, due to come into effect in 2019, will be the final nail in the coffin. The game is up.

If the recommendations of the Collins Review come into effect and are allowed to bed down, the nature of the Labour Party and its relationship to the unions may have to be reassessed. But five years is a long time, and a lot could be done between now and then.

If the unions asserted themselves seriously, the Labour leaders would just expel them, just like they expelled the RMT in 2004.

Possibly. To be honest, the RMT more or less chose expulsion; and if a number of unions asserting themselves politically as a bloc, the Labour leaders could not just expel them.

Maybe the Blairite core of the Labour machine would hive off, perhaps to fuse with the Lib Dems or even the Tories. Maybe the Labour leaders would sever the union link. Labour would split, with the unions taking some left-wing MPs, dissident CLPs, and a minority of grassroots activists with them.
Through a campaign of consistent political self-assertion backed up with industrial direct action, we strive to push the relationship between the Labour Party and the unions to its absolute limits. A split that resulted from such a campaign would provide an immeasurably more favourable platform for the refounding of a labour-movement political party than individual unions disaffiliating one-by-one without any kind of fight.

Even if you want a Labour government, why not at least encourage people to vote for socialist candidates like TUSC and Left Unity (LU) where they can?

Our attitude to Labour is determined by its structural link to the fundamental organisations of our class — trade unions. We have different criteria for assessing far-left propaganda efforts.

Socialist propaganda candidacies are important in building up the activist minority which can then act as a lever to transform the wider labour movement. But then they have be judged on the basis of the quality of their propaganda, whether they do build up a minority, and whether that minority is a positive factor in the movement. TUSC and LU candidates will not so much be making propaganda for working-class socialism as for lowest-common-denominator anti-austerity politics.

If TUSC or Left Unity were:

•meaningfully democratic, with functioning local groups
•explicitly working-class socialist, foregrounding policies about expropriation, social ownership, and working-class rule
•open about their function as propaganda candidacies aimed at raising the profile of radical socialist ideas, rather than pretending to be mass-parties-in-waiting
•clear about the need to get a Labour government to kick out the Tories, and therefore did not stand in marginal seats

… then Workers’ Liberty would be involved. We helped initiate the Socialist Alliance from 1999, and attempted to resist it being sidelined by the SWP when it cooked up the “Respect” project with George Galloway. Some TUSC and LU candidates tick some of those boxes. But, on the whole, their campaigns fall short.

You’re telling left-minded people to vote against their own beliefs, for a Labour Party with neo-liberal politics.

People also vote on the basis of what kind of government they want. A Labour vote for many working-class people on 7 May will not be a vote for Labour’s neo-liberal agenda, but a vote against the Tories, for a party they see as at least minimally connected, if only in a historical sense, to working-class people and our interests. We should not be cynical, or stay aloof from, that entirely legitimate aspiration to kick the Tories out.

True, defeats and setbacks have led increasing numbers of us to see politics (which, for many people, is basically reduced to elections) as an essentially individual, atomised process, a consumer choice.

We want to change that. We want politics — not just elections, but the entire processes of how society is organised and governed — to be a collective experience, which people engage in in a permanent and collective way, through mass organisations. Fundamentally for working-class people those organisations will be trade unions — the only genuinely “mass” organisations in British society, and the only ones which organise workers, as workers, at the point of production.

Getting a Labour government on 8 May will be the beginning, not the end, of a renewed fight for working-class political representation. If, in the campaign to win that government and kick out the Tories, socialists have been able to build up a caucus of workplace and community activists who want to push Labour much further than its neo-liberal leadership wishes to go, we will have used the election time to good purpose.

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Uri Avnery on the Israel election: ‘Sad, but not the end of the world.’

March 25, 2015 at 9:09 pm (Anti-Racism, civil rights, democracy, elections, israel, left, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD, zionism)

Veteran Israeli leftist and founder of Gush Shalom, Uri Avnery, offers a surprisingly optimistic assessment of the prospects for the Israeli left in the aftermath of Netanyahu’s shock victory. I’d recommend reading it together with this and this.

Gush Shalom

THE MESSIAH HASN’T COME and Bibi hasn’t gone.

That’s the sad outcome.

Sad, but not the end of the world.

As the American saying goes: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

I would say: “Today is the first day of the battle for the next elections!”

The battle for the salvation of Israel must start right now.

SOME PEOPLE say that the best course now is a so-called National Unity Government.

Looks like a nice idea. Unity always sounds nice.

I can muster some good arguments for it. The combination of the two major parties creates a bloc of 54 seats (of 120). Such a coalition needs only one other party to form a majority. There are several possibilities, headed by Moshe Kahlon’s 10 seats.

The advocates of this choice have one good argument: it’s the Lesser Evil. The only other possibility is an extreme right-wing-religious government, which will not only stop any step towards peace, but also expand settlements, enact more laws to choke democracy and impose reactionary religious laws.

It’s a good argument, but it has to be rejected outright.

The Unity Government would be dominated by the Right. At best it would be a government of total immobility. It would be unable and unwilling to make even the slightest move towards ending the historic conflict, terminating the occupation and recognition of Palestine. Settlements would expand at a frantic pace. The chances of an eventual peace would move even further away.

It would do a lot of harm. The Labor Party would be obliged to justify and beautify this disastrous course, disarm the Obama administration and progressive Jewish forces throughout the world. It would be a huge fig leaf for evil.

It would also leave Israel without an effective opposition. If the government coalition broke up somewhere along the way, the Labor party would be too besmirched to constitute a credible alternative. The initial success of Yitzhak Herzog in rousing the old party from its comatose state cannot be repeated a second time. Labor would become a spent force, a vegetable.

Fortunately for the Labor Party, this possibility died almost immediately after the election. Netanyahu killed it with one stroke.

BY THE way, a curious side effect of a National Unity Government would have been that the leader of the (Arab) Joint List, Ayman Odeh, would have become Leader of the Opposition.

By law, the title is bestowed automatically on the chief of the largest opposition party. It confers on its holders many of the privileges of a cabinet minister. The Prime Minister is obliged to confer with them regularly and share government secrets with them.

But even if there is no Unity Government, and Herzog becomes Leader of the Opposition, one outstanding result of the election is the changed situation of the Arabs in the Knesset.

There is a certain humor to this. It was Avigdor Lieberman, the almost pathological Arab-hater, who induced the Knesset to raise the minimum threshold to 3.25%. This was intended to eliminate the three small Arab parties (including the Communists, who also have some Jewish voters), who responded by overcoming their mutual disagreements and animosities and forming the joint list. Lieberman had great difficulties in crossing his own threshold, and Eli Yishai’s party, which includes the heirs of the fascist Meir Kahane, was – thank God – left outside the Knesset. Read the rest of this entry »

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Just who the f**k does Alex Salmond think he is?

March 23, 2015 at 8:55 pm (Asshole, democracy, Jim D, labour party, populism, scotland, Tory scum)

Above: the Tories wasted no time in rushing out this bizarre video

One thing emerged very clearly from Alex Salmond’s appearance on the Andrew Marr Show: the Scottish Nationalists are bare-faced opportunists and liars. Nicola Sturgeon has already back-tracked on the SNP promise not to vote on issues that effect only England; on Sunday Salmond made it clear that his earlier promise that the referendum would settle the question of Scottish separation “for a generation” has also gone by the board. He hinted in unmistakable terms that a pledge to hold a new referendum is likely to be included in the SNP’s 2016 Holyrood manifesto.

But it was his arrogant boast that the SNP would, in effect, control the policies of a future Labour government that was most memorable: “If you hold the balance, you hold the power” he gloated. Socialists should not be taken in by Salmond’s claim that the SNP would use its power to insist on some policies of which we might approve (dumping Trident and moving away from austerity): Salmond’s vision of the SNP as the force that will make or break a Labour government is both profoundly anti-democratic and a calculated gift to the Tories. Say what you will about Salmond, he’s not an idiot, and knows full well that his arrogant boasts about holding Labour to ransom (the accurate description used by the Tory press) make it more likely that the Tories will win in May – something that it’s pretty obvious that the SNP leadership relishes.

And, of course, the SNP has form when it comes to de facto support for the Conservatives.

Despite the Scottish Labour Party’s disastrous choice of the wretched Blairite Murphy as its leader, serious people who want a Labour government know that a Labour vote is essential everywhere – including Scotland.

Miliband should make it clear that no deal of any kind (including so-called “confidence and supply”) is on offer to Salmond, Sturgeon and the Tartan Tories.

And a final point: Alex Salmond is not the leader of the SNP and even if he is elected to Westminster in May, he won’t lead the party there (that role will remain with Angus Robertson). So who the f**k does this potential back-bencher think he is, to be dictating terms to anyone?

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Letter to Seumas on Ukraine

March 6, 2015 at 6:55 pm (apologists and collaborators, democracy, Guardian, imperialism, national liberation, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, stalinism)

This was written in ·  – six months before Seumas’s latest pro-Putin apologia in the Graun. But it strikes me, now, as more apposite than ever: 

Above: Seumas (right) and his hero

 A Letter to Seumas Milne (and much of the expertly British Left) regarding Ukraine

By Dmitri MacMillen

I have made little secret of my disappointment with much coverage and discussion of the ongoing developments in Ukraine this past year, but rarely more often so than when it is stirred by certain elements of the British left. Earlier this week I happened to see Seumas Milne, a Guardian editor and columnist, as well as a leading voice on the British left regarding capitalism and imperialism, at an event and thought it appropriate to approach him and confront him over his poor reporting on Ukraine; unfortunately, the opportunity did not arise. As an individual who sympathises with many of Milne’s and the left’s arguments, I find it disheartening when they fail to apply standards of moral consistency and objectivity for the likes of Ukraine and not only.

So I wrote him two emails of varying lengths, openly expressing my frustrations with his coverage of Ukraine, and also his chairing, days earlier, of a discussion featuring Putin at the Valdai conference. To a large degree, I can say that the impressions penned in these emails are an accurate summary of not only my dissatisfaction with Milne’s politics, but also that of swathes of the left (John Pilger comes to mind) in this country and others, who refuse to contemplate embracing anything other than a ‘tunnel vision’ disproportionately suspicious of the West and its allies, consequently producing material which regrettably falls short of balanced and well-researched journalism. The correspondence is as follows:

28.10.14

Dear Seumas Milne,

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Dmitri and I am a student at a London university. I was also present at the event last night at the Argentine embassy, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to speak to you as I would have hoped to.

There is much that I admire about your work and writings, in particular that what you have written regarding the War on Terror, Palestine and the effects of capitalism in this country. However, and to be frank, I have begun to despair of your writing of late.

As a matter of disclosure, I am a Russian citizen, and one appalled by the events for over the past half year in Ukraine, to a very large extent instigated by my own government. Your writing on Ukraine has been unimpressive to put it mildly, almost entirely pinning the blame for the conflict on the West (funnily enough, not a word from you about Russia’s own devastating intentions and actions – just mere apologism) as well as propagating the notion of swathes of fascists and neo-Nazis roaming in the Ukrainian establishment and society; the absurdity of your latter thesis was effectively laid to rest by the results of Sunday’s parliamentary elections and the nature of their conduct.

As someone whose reputation as a campaigner and journalist is to a large extent seen as having been consistently grounded on anti-imperialism, to see you sharing a stage with Vladimir Putin just days ago was bewildering, if not exactly surprising by now. If you are serious on seeking out the dangerous forces of fascism, I politely advise you to reread a transcript of Putin’s Q and A session at the session you moderated and look at his comments regarding ethnic Russians in Crimea, just for a start. If this does not incite concern in you, then that is unfortunate and equally inconsistent.

You are a powerful voice on the left and one which many read and look up to. You are a writer of considerable talents and one whose campaigning I have often admired. However, if moral consistency across the board is not something you wish to strive for, and your politics are really defined by an innate suspicion of the West, but not the rest, then so be it. If you want to exclusively judge the likes of Ukraine on the basis of a pre-conceived world view, rather than carefully examining the country’s own circumstances, then so be it. But that is a tunnel vision, and it is rarely worthy of wider respect. And I, alongside many other erstwhile enthusiastic readers of yours, deeply regret that.

Best wishes,

Dmitri

A courteous reply promptly ensued, the exact contents of which I shall not publish here but instead paraphrase. In brief, Milne said he disagreed with my interpretation regarding responsibility for the events in Ukraine over the past year as well as my criticism of his portrayal of the far right’s significance. He added that moderating Putin’s speech in no way constituted endorsement of him, given that journalists are often asked to fulfil such a role. He did not accept that his politics are innately anti-Western, but underlined the imbalance in power between the West and its allies and that of powers such Russia and others in world affairs. I followed up with a reply.

29.10.14

Dear Seumas Milne,

Thank you for courteous reply, for which I am grateful considering how harsh some of what I may have said did sound. I hope you don’t mind if I make a few points regarding the aforementioned.

Regarding the far right in Ukraine, I in no way dismiss it. I am of direct Ukrainian Jewish descent and my family have had their own experiences with Ukrainian nationalism, so I am more than aware and also wary of its potential dangers.

But the role of the far right in Ukraine, as you and others have put it, as it now stands, is too often exaggerated and overblown. You may insist otherwise, but the impression that many gathered from your readings was that Maidan was effectively a fascist coup (and no, I do not subscribe to the comfortable and simple narrative of a pro-Western, pro-democratic revolt against Russia). Maidan was complex, as were its origins – there is no straightforward interpretation. The nature of Ukrainian nationalism and the far right is also fairly complex and deserves scrutiny. But to describe it all with broad brushstrokes, often entirely ignoring the real significance to modern-day Ukrainian nationalism of basic figures such as Stepan Bandera, no matter how unpalatable to some like myself, is intellectually dishonest. Accusations of an astronomical surge in xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Ukraine, as a result of the protests, have time and again been disproved by public figures and protestors, many of them of the very ethnic backgrounds that you would believe are most at risk from marauding fascists. In fact, many of these communities have stated time and again that those most responsible for fascism in Ukraine are not the far-right, but Putin and his very actions in Ukraine.

At the beginning of the Maidan, the fascists were almost invisible. After the New Year, as the protests radicalised in the face of government intransigence and the subsequent crackdowns on the square, their presence grew (although they were still a minority). You suggest Yanukoyvch was overthrown in a coup. A figure as repulsive as Yanukoyvych, who in the face of popular pressure was prepared to resort to armed force on his own people, plundered the national budget in the billions and ran away to Russia of his own volition (a coup?) at a time when statesmanship was most needed (with the assistance of the Russian state, as you would have heard at Valdai), surely also merits some condemnation from you too.

To say the government that came after Maidan had many fascists is dishonest; there were at best a few. To see how badly the far-right did in this Sunday’s elections (and this at a time when Ukraine is fighting a war with an external aggressor, that has historically been a catalyst for Ukrainian nationalism, struggling to retain its eastern provinces and fighting on so many other domestic fronts) is by and large a testament to the maturity of a great deal of the Ukrainian electorate and also the relative irrelevance of fascists in Ukrainian politics, at least on a substantive level.

Yes, the West no doubt bears some responsibility for what has taken place; but why cannot you bring yourself to recognise Russia’s more than considerable role? If fascism is what you feel strongly about, why don’t you also condemn Russia for fuelling some of its worst effects, especially in Ukraine? Why cannot you condemn the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea (especially when it is grounded on such spurious and equally disconcerting arguments such as a supposed threat to Russian-speakers and ethnic Russians – why is it neither imperialism)? Is it not fascism when Russian rule has led to thousands of Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians and others having to leave Crimea, or the abductions and murders of local pro-Ukrainian activists and Tatars (none of which have been investigated), coupled with attacks on local religious minorities or communities, all with Russian acquiescence? Or is the installation of puppet states in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, professing totalitarian and rabidly pro-Russian nationalistic narratives, ostracising and oppressing, with often murderous and gruesome consequences, locals supportive of Ukraine and its territorial integrity, not fascism? That is fascism and its real life consequences; overtly totalitarian and militaristic tendencies, insisting on dividing people on ethnic markers which until recently were of very little relevance on a daily basis, and now bearing devastating repercussions.

I am not advocating whataboutism; I am in no way blind to abuses committed by the Ukrainian establishment. But I ask for consistency – something which I have not felt apparent in your writings.

Regarding moderating the Putin event; I understand journalists might need to moderate these events, but where does the buck stop? You have accepted that he is authoritarian (although to leave it at there would be simplistic); but is it still acceptable? If you were invited, in the unlikely event, to moderate an event featuring Barack Obama, would you go? Would you reject an invitation by a certain government? Is there not a moral compromise in any case by involving oneself in these events in such a capacity?

I am happy to discuss this further.

Best wishes,

Dmitri

I rest my case.

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Morning Star’s ‘anti-fascist’ label for rebels in East Ukraine crass and niave

March 3, 2015 at 6:43 pm (anti-fascism, democracy, fascism, history, imperialism, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", stalinism)

Ever since the Maidan uprising against Putin’s stooge Yanukovych just over a year ago, the Morning Star (indirectly controlled by the British CP and funded by many UK trade unions) has persisted in referring to the Kiev government and its forces as “fascist” and the pro-Putin rebels as “anti-fascists.” The M Star‘s circulation is small, but it carries some weight within the trade union movement and sections of the left. This makes its grotesque misrepresentation of what’s going on in Ukraine, and its uncritical repetition of Putin’s propaganda, so politically poisonous. No article or letter published in the paper has challenged their version of events, until this letter, published today. Shiraz Socialist has no idea who the author is; we’re republishing here because we broadly (but not in every detail) agree with it and because letters published in the M Star‘s print edition do not appear on its website:

IMAGE CREDIT: PREDICTHISTUNPREDICTPAST.BLOGSPOT.COM

Naïve ‘anti-fascist’ label for rebel Russians breathtaking in its error

YOUR description of the eastern Ukrainian rebel soldiers as “anti-fascist fighters” is breathtaking in its crassness and naivety.

They’re no more fighting fascism than Mussolini was.

As ethnic Russians whose ancestors were moved in during the Soviet era (and possibly before), they have simply spotted an opportunity to have the area they live in returned to Moscow’s control.

In this we have seen the encouraging hand of Vladimir Putin, just as in Crimea and Georgia.

Please don’t insult our intelligence by describing Putin as some sort of defender of the left — he is a dictator who maintains his position by imprisonment and assassination of political opponents and by strict control of the media to ensure re-election.

At least in the (later) Soviet era there was some sort of brake by the Communist Party on excesses by the leadership.

Hitler, Franco, Mussolini, Pinochet and their like were fascists.

You are simply losing all credibility by desperately trying to tar the Ukraine government with the label. Shame on you.

I am considering ceasing to buy the Morning Star, despite your support (with which I agree) for the Jack Jones Square campaign in Madrid.

PETER CARR, Sawbridgeworth

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PCS: hold the Socialist Party and Serwotka to account!

February 12, 2015 at 6:57 pm (AWL, democracy, elections, posted by JD, Socialist Party, unions)

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka speaking at the union's 2012 annual conference

Above: Mark Serwotka

By James Marine (at the Workers Liberty website)

The Socialist Party (SP) has defended the PCS civil service union’s decision to “suspend” national and Group elections for up to a year. (Groups are the major sub-parts of the union.)

The SP headlined its article: “PCS: Safeguarding its future in the face of vicious Tory attacks”.

“Faced with a temporary but very sharp drop in income as a result of check-off ending, the PCS National Executive Committee (NEC) has had to make difficult decisions to cut expenditure, including suspending for one year the union’s annual elections”.

This is nonsense. Yes, the PCS is facing a financial tough time but not so bad that it cannot afford elections. (Even Greece can afford to vote).

The elections would cost about £650,000 to run yet the union’s magazine costs £700,000 a year to produce. Instead of putting that publication online for a year, the NEC choose to keep it whilst dumping elections.

Then there are full time officer wages. PCS is being colonised by SP members. If they lived up the SP’s policy of full time officers (FTOs) being paid a workers’ wage, then we could “afford” democracy.

The union is selling its headquarters for £25 million. A big chunk of that will plug the hole in one of the union’s pension schemes. Yet there will be more than enough left over to run several elections, let alone just one this year.

Our affiliation to the TUC costs nearly £650,000. In a choice between members having a vote on who represents them or paying hundreds of thousands to the TUC and subsidising Francis O’Grady’s lifestyle, having a vote wins hands down.

In other words there are plenty of ways to afford democracy but the SP doesn’t want them.

By suspending the elections the SP using a real crisis to avoid being judged by the members. There is a good chance this year that the SP would lose seats on the Executive. That could mean putting a proposed merger with Unite in danger.

The Socialist Party and PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, must be condemned across the labour movement. Their actions are disgraceful. If the right wing did this then there would be howls of indignation from the left; because it is Mark Serwotka [known as a leftist and presently in very poor health – JD], the criticism is muted at best. The SP, and Mark Serwotka, have crossed a fundamental line and must be held to account.

But course the best method of accounting, national elections, has been denied members for the time being. When the time comes, then the SP and Mark Serwotka must be driven out of office.

Addendum: in a further article in The Socialist, John McInally (PCS vice president and Socialist Party member) launches into what can only be described as a near-hysterical rant against Unison and critics on the left. At one point (towards the end of the piece) McInally even compares PCS’s refusal to hold elections with the NUM’s decision not to ballot its members in 1984 – a ludicrous comparison with a union that (rightly or wrongly) took a tactical decision in the heat of a major industrial dispute. It’s bizarre, desperate stuff that may well be a sign that the SP feels under pressure – maybe from some within its own ranks – JD

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