Lansman: the left should stop using the word “Zionism”

May 3, 2016 at 1:38 pm (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, history, John Rees, left, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", zionism)

Mapam campaign poster 1944
Mapam (left-Zionist) poster 1944

Jon Lansman, long-standing Labour leftist and founder-member of Momentum, has written a piece for Left Futures blog, arguing that the left’s habitual use of the word “Zionism” is unhelpful and counter-productive.

The latter part of his article is good. But much of the article – inconsistently with the latter part – seems to suggest no more than a change of language (don’t say Zionist – say Israeli nationalist).

The problem with that becomes clear when he quotes Jacqueline Rose’s suggestion that instead of saying Zionism equals apartheid, people should say: Israeli nationalism equals apartheid. Would it be acceptable, by analogy, to say: German nationalism (necessarily) equals the Holocaust?

And the upshot of ‘Israeli nationalism equals apartheid’ is no different from the upshot of ‘Zionism equals apartheid’, i.e. boycott Israel.

Rose was one of the instigators of the academic boycott. There’s a lot of articles explaining what’s wrong with her politics on the Engage website.

Lansman also buys into the Rose/Lerman line of drawing a distinction between good (or potentially good) diaspora Jewry and bad Israeli Jewry. Hence his claim that “British Zionists are a world apart from Israeli Zionists”. But still, it’s a thoughtful article that reaches at least one correct conclusion: the left should stop using the word “Zionism” as a pejorative.
_______________________________________________________________________

Why the Left must stop talking about ‘Zionism’

By Jon Lansman

There is every justification for talking about the rights of Palestinians, for campaigning against the profound injustice that has been done to them and for criticising the actions and policies of the Israeli government but there is no defence for antisemitism, whoever makes the accusation. As the Jewish Socialists’ Group (JSG) has rightly argued, “accusations of antisemitism are currently being weaponised to attack the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party with claims that Labour has a “problem” of antisemitism.” A group of Jews also wrote to the Guardian this week to add that:

The tiny number of cases of real antisemitism need to be dealt with, but we are proud that the Labour party historically has been in the forefront of the fight against all forms of racism.”

But one of them, David Rosenburg, a leading member of the JSG, also argued on the same day that in spite of efforts to “to deconstruct the ‘problem with antisemitism’“:

Ken Livingstone’s crass intervention yesterday was a massive setback for those efforts, and a free gift to those manipulating the issue for right wing purposes….

My plea to fellow anti-racist, anti-Zionist, socialist activists is: don’t waste any of your precious time today trying to rationalise, defend or explain away Livingstone’s comments, but concentrate on challenging the terms of the debate as set by the right-wing alliance that are exploiting this whole issue.

  • Concentrate on how to persuade and split off those who are genuinely worried about rising antisemitism from those exploiting the issues;
  • Concentrate on showing how the Left can demonstrate that the fight against antisemitism is tied up with the fight against all racism including Islamophobia;
  • Concentrate on exposing how those feigning sympathy for Jews are implicated in racism against others; and
  • Concentrate on ways to ensure free speech and rational debate about the realities of what Zionism and Israeli policy is enacting daily against the Palestinians.

So how do we achieve that? I would argue that it is time for the Left to start talking in a new language – one that expresses our views about Israel, about the policies and actions of its government and about the rights of Palestinians without alienating any of those who might agree with us. It is not necessary to abandon any non-racist criticisms of Israel, however robust they may be, in order to do so.

Why is a new language necessary: because British Jews, most of whom support a Palestinian state (71%), and see the expansion of settlements as a major obstacle to peace (75%) and feel a sense of despair when they are expanded (68%) generally see themselves as “Zionists” (59%) with more who also “possess some traditionally ‘Zionist’ attitudes“) – all figures from The Attitudes of British Jews towards Israel). Zionism takes many forms, and British Zionists (at least those who are Jewish) are a world apart from Israeli Zionists. In Israel, tragically, a plurality of Jews (48% versus 46%) believe “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel” and disagree that “a way can be found for Israel and an independent Palestinian state to coexist peacefully with each other” (45% to 43%) – data from Pew Research Center.

Like Didi Herman at Critical Legal Thinking, Professor of Law at Kent Law School and a Jew who used to describe herself as an anti-zionist but does no longer, I therefore think the Left should stop talking about “Zionism” or “Zionists”. As Herman argues:

Zionism has become a dirty word for many on the left. It has become synonymous with Israel itself, the racist practices of the Israeli state.”

Herman quotes Jacqueline Rose, a Professor of English Literature (whose views on Israel have – completely unreasonably – been described as an “anti-semitic anti-Zionism” by Avner Falk) arguing that “Zionism emerged out of the legitimate desire of a persecuted people for a homeland” and, in spite of her opposition to what she calls “the ‘blood and soil’ form that zionism eventually took in Israel” she also says:

I am not happy, to put it at its most simple, to treat Zionism as an insult. A dirty word”

There is, Herman argues, “a stark reluctance amongst left scholars… to take the history and psychology of Jewish communal survival seriously” and continues:

The identification of a generic Zionism with nothing but racist practice in Israel entrenches an understanding of zionism not just as a dirty word, but as a pariah form of thinking unrelated to any other (except apartheid thinking).”

Far better she says to “use ‘Israeli nationalists’ or ‘Israeli fundamentalists’ or better yet ‘Netanyahu’s regime’ “:

These alternatives won’t provide an easy shorthand in the way ‘Zionism’ does, for example, ‘Israeli nationalism = apartheid’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it, but I suppose that is my point — easy options often sacrifice understanding for rhetorical force.”

Abandoning use of the term “Zionist” will not be enough on its own. There needs to be clarity, guidance and even training about what is appropriate. Unfortunately, we will not be able to have a rational debate about how to change the terms of the current debate unless we are also able to open our minds to the possibility, regardless of who points it out or their motive for doing so, that people on the left may also demonstrate some prejudice of their own.

So consider this by John Rees of Stop the War whose comment was shared on the Young Jewish Left closed Facebook page — copied because “it needs some comment“:

Was rung up this evening by some semi-educated BBC producer asking if I’d come on and debate a troll on the issue of ‘Is the left anti-Semitic?‘ I said that as a follower of the most famous political Jew of the 19th century and the most famous political Jew of the 20th century, and as someone who learnt my anti-Zionist politics from a Palestinian Jew called Ygael Gluckstein, it was an insult to even ask me that question. And that as someone who has opposed the fascists, especially when their main target was Jews not, as it is now, Muslims I’m not participating in a debate whose purpose is to demonise the left.”

Julia Bard, another leading member of the JSG who signed the Guardian letter, commented:

I can see why he might not have wanted to participate in the debate on the terms offered, but to imply that being a follower of Karl Marx or Tony Cliff, who were Jewish, somehow immunises him against antisemitism, comes perilously close to “Some of my best friends are Jews.”

And to assert that because the Left is committed to anti-racism, no one within it is susceptible to a powerful racist ideology with centuries-long roots in European culture, would suggest that socialist movements (or at least those with the correct line) are populated by paragons of political virtue who have no need to think about or change their views on anything. Does anyone (including John Rees) actually think this? If so, we’ve got more of a problem than I thought.

Come on, comrades. You have nothing to lose but your counter-productive slogans.

Permalink 12 Comments

The articles that Stop the War has tried to delete …

December 13, 2015 at 9:58 pm (anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, conspiracy theories, From the archives, John Rees, Lindsey German, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", stalinism, Stop The War)

This site is a resource for all those who need or want to know what the Stop the War Coalition really says and means.

Got a 404 when you visited the Stop the War Coalition site? That’s because Stop the War has launched a war against its own website. Stop the War Coalition is desperately filleting their web site of incriminating, nauseating and racist material.

If you are looking for an article from the Stop the War website that blames everything on the West, or one written by or referencing an active antisemite, it may now have been deleted.

If so, this site could be for you.

It is a collection of links, references and short critiques that relate to the British Stop the War Coalition. We’ll also be highlighting articles not yet culled that lurk in the depths of the Stop the War Site.

Stop the War’s co-founder and their past chair, Jeremy Corbyn, is now leader of the Labour Party. Pure speculation, but the recent Night of the Long Knives at the Stop the War website may possibly be related to the sudden and uncomfortable scrutiny that STW now find themselves under and the rash of revisions to their published content.

But the truth must out, so this is a record of the Stop the War Coalition’s stupidity, nihilism and pandering to racism.

Enjoy!

[Thanks to Saul for the idea.]

Soupy

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Poetry, racism and Stop the War

On October 25th 2015 Stop the War published a poem by Heathcote Williams entitled “Evil on the Streets”.

The archived STWc article can be found here

This webpage is now one of the many 404 pages on STW’s website.

The poem was inspired by the supposed killing of Ahmad Saleh Manasra, a 13 year old Palestinian boy who attempted to knife to death a 13 year old Israeli boy during the spree of attacks on Israeli civilians and the inevitable response and Palestinian deaths, following tensions around the Temple Mount in October 2015.

Whilst Heathcote Williams and other UK supporters of the Palestinian “uprising” recounted the death of Ahmad, he was in fact photographed alive and receiving successful treatment in an Israeli hospital.

What is striking about the poem is not so much its simplistic, gut-wrenching interpretation of a complex, impossible situation or even its unsubtle parallels between Israel and Nazi Germany; the brown uniforms of the Zionist/ ‘fascist’ Jabotinsky – referencing Mussolini or the Sturm Abteilung who people ‘Zionism’s very own holocaust’ – but rather it is the over-riding invocation of the blood-libel.

It is the blood-libel – the time-old accusation that Jews kidnap and murder children to use their blood as part of their religious rituals – that lies right at the heart of this insult. The Jews surround the child, torture him, taunt him (detail; ‘in Hebrew” – that ancient language giving voice to the ancient ritual which, in the eyes of the poet, never really went away), and then the final triumph – Zionism:

a murderous contraption

Still controlled by Moloch, eater of children…”

Moloch – the ancient Canaanite god who demanded the ultimate sacrifice.

Heathcote Williams is clear here; Jews are a nation of child killers.

Stop the War are also clear here.

By EP

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Munich Olympics, dead Jews and Stop the War

On 5th February 2014 Stop the War coalition published an article on the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.

The archived article can be found here

The author was journalist/polemicist Alison Weir, who founded the “If Americans Knew” organisation, which argues that American support for Israel is as a result of domination of US media and politics by Jewish interests. A number of Jewish groups now regard this organisation as an openly antisemitic grouping.

Alison Weir regularly appears on the Free American radio show, which is hosted by white supremacist Clay Douglas. She has alleged that Israel regularly harvests organs from murdered Palestinians, both in Israeli prisons and during harvesting raids into Gaza, a crude version of the blood libel antisemitic trope that Jews use the blood of murdered gentiles for their sustenance.

In her piece on Munich, Weir states that whilst some hostages were “accidentally killed” by the Palestinian Black September terrorists, German Special Forces killed the rest. She claims that the terrorists had no plans to harm the Israeli athletes and that attempted rescue by German forces was “botched & unnecessary” and used as a pre-planned pretext for Israeli raids against Syria and Lebanon.

So – Stop the War published a conspiracy theory about the massacre of Jewish Israeli Olympic athletes, written by a discredited fringe activist known for her use of antisemitic tropes.

Saul Freeman

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stop the War: In game of Great Power politics, if we have to pick a side over Crimea, let it be Russia

This is a stub article pointing to the offending Way Back Machine link.

Stop the War: In game of Great Power politics, if we have to pick a side over Crimea, let it be Russia

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stop the War: Reasons why it’s not anti-Semitic to say the state of Israel should not exist

This is a stub article pointing to the offending Way Back Machine link.

Stop the War: Reasons why it’s not anti-Semitic to say the state of Israel should not exist

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stop the War: A tale of two sieges: what have Yazidis in Iraq got that Palestinians in Gaza have not?

This is a stub article pointing to the offending Way Back Machine link.

Stop the War: A tale of two sieges: what have Yazidis in Iraq got that Palestinians in Gaza have not?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An Insidious Form of Antisemitism

‘United States of Israel? How the Great Liar Netanyahu twists America round his finger’ by Matt Carr was published on March 5 2015.

The title is using an antisemitic trope – playing into the ages-old idea, loved by antisemites, that Israel controls the United States – its banks, its media, or as here – its foreign policy.

The article makes the claim, too, but the hatred is between the lines. On the surface it’s simply an article attacking a world leader, in this case Benjamin Netanyahu –

‘one of the most repellent and dangerous politicians in the world today’, a man ‘who trades on fear and war, a cynical and amoral manipulator without a trace of honesty in his entire body, who lies as easily as he breathes’.

I think this is all fine: it’s not a compelling argument in itself, of course, simply levelling a series of insults at a politician, and personally I can think of many who are more repellent and dangerous. But it’s a valid enough opinion: Israeli leaders can of course be strongly criticized in such ways without any malice towards Jews being meant.

Carr also accuses Netanyahu – ‘the Great Liar’, as he calls him – of cynically invoking the Holocaust, the Munich massacre and more for political gain in his address to Congress.

The article then veers into much more unpleasant territory as he discusses the reaction of American politicians to Netanyahu’s speech and talks about the:

‘Zionist propaganda that it has been injecting into its veins for years’.

The image conjures up not simply an idea of Israel being a carrier of poison into America, but that it is doing so without Congressmen knowing. It evokes Manchurian Candidate-style brainwashing – and of course the antisemitic trope (beloved of the Nazis) that Jews secretly controlled the unwitting dupes of the world to gain power.

Carr continues the theme by presenting members of the US Congress listening to Netanyahu in terms familiar from 1950s science fiction. They are

‘glassy-eyed zombie-politicians…..sucking up Netanyahu’s fearmongering, warmongering poison like alien seed pods in Invasion of the Bodysnatchers’.

Carr adds that they have also ‘had their minds well and truly snatched’.

This idea of Jews having such influence over others that they practice a kind of mind control has long been a favourite theme of antisemites, and is still used today. The theme runs through this article by Carr.

No cartoons of Jews with hooked noses or references to a world Jewish conspiracy, but here where antisemitism rests just below the surface, it is truly at its most insidious.

Jeremy Duns.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stop the War: Has the FIFA corruption crisis saved Israel from vote to expel it from world football?

This is a stub article pointing to the offending Way Back Machine link.

Stop the War: Has the FIFA corruption crisis saved Israel from vote to expel it from world football?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stop the War: Heathcote Williams: Ahmad Saleh Manasra

Stop the War: Heathcote Williams: Ahmad Saleh Manasra

On October 25th 2015 Stop the War published a poem by Heathcote Williams entitled “Evil on the Streets”.

This webpage is now one of the many 404 pages on STW’s website but you can find it in the title link above.

The poem was inspired by the supposed killing of Ahmad Saleh Manasra, a 13 year old Palestinian boy who attempted to knife to death a 13 year old Israeli boy during the spree of attacks on Israeli civilians and the inevitable response and Palestinian deaths, following tensions around the Temple Mount in October 2015. Whilst Heathcote Williams and other UK supporters of the Palestinian “uprising” recounted the death of Ahmad, he was in fact photographed alive and receiving successful treatment in an Israeli hospital.

What is striking about the poem is not so much its simplistic, gut-wrenching interpretation of a complex, impossible situation or even its unsubtle parallels between Israel and Nazi Germany; the brown uniforms of the Zionist/ ‘fascist’ Jabotinsky – referencing Mussolini or the Sturm Abteilung who people ‘Zionism’s very own holocaust’ – but rather it is the over-riding invocation of the blood-libel.

It is the blood-libel – the time-old accusation that Jews kidnap and murder children to use their blood as part of their religious rituals – that lies right at the heart of this insult. The Jews surround the child, torture him, taunt him (detail; ‘in Hebrew” – that ancient language giving voice to the ancient ritual which, in the eyes of the poet, never really went away), and then the final triumph – Zionism:

a murderous contraption

Still controlled by Moloch, eater of children…”

Moloch – the ancient Canaanite god who demanded the ultimate sacrifice.

Heathcote Williams is clear here; Jews are a nation of child killers.

Stop the War are also clear here.

By EP

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stop the War: Paris reaps whirlwind of western support for extremist violence in Middle East

This is a stub article pointing to the offending archived link.

Paris reaps whirlwind of western support for extremist violence in Middle East

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stop the War: Missing facts of the 1972 Munich Olympics’ massacre: Israelis weren’t the only victims

Stop the War: Missing facts of the 1972 Munich Olympics’ massacre: Israelis weren’t the only victims

On 5th February 2014 Stop the War coalition published an article on the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. The post has now been deleted from the STW site, but you can find it at the title link above.

The author was journalist/polemicist Alison Weir, who founded the “If Americans Knew” organisation, which argues that American support for Israel is as a result of domination of US media and politics by Jewish interests. A number of Jewish groups now regard this organisation as an openly anti-Semitic grouping.

Alison Weir regularly appears on the Free American radio show, which is hosted by white supremacist Clay Douglas. She has alleged that Israel regularly harvests organs from murdered Palestinians, both in Israeli prisons and during harvesting raids into Gaza, a crude version of the blood libel anti-Semitic trope that Jews use the blood of murdered gentiles for their sustenance.

In her piece on Munich, Weir states that whilst some hostages were “accidentally killed” by the Palestinian Black September terrorists, German Special Forces killed the rest. She claims that the terrorists had no plans to harm the Israeli athletes and that attempted rescue by German forces was “botched & unnecessary” and used as a pre-planned pretext for Israeli raids against Syria and Lebanon.

So – Stop the War published a conspiracy theory about the massacre of Jewish Israeli Olympic athletes, written by a discredited fringe activist known for her use of anti-Semitic tropes.

Saul Freeman

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stop the War: Groundhog day in Syria as Mr Benn goes bombing

This is a stub article pointing to the offending Way Back Machine link.

Stop the War: Groundhog day in Syria as Mr Benn goes bombing

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stop the War: Time to go to war with Israel as the only path to peace in the Middle East

This is a stub article pointing to the offending Way Back Machine link.

Stop the War: Time to go to war with Israel as the only path to peace in the Middle East

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Permalink 7 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

Keep Unite affiliated! No new Popular Front!

May 12, 2015 at 5:58 am (Champagne Charlie, class collaboration, John Rees, labour party, stalinism, unions, Unite the union)


Andrew Murray: Popular Frontist

” … the [Labour] party’s leaders in parliament know that if they were to lose Unite, there could be an English Syriza formed with more resources and dynamism than the party it would replace” – Counterfire

It hasn’t been widely publicised, but for the last couple of years Unite leader Len McCluskey has been saying that in the event of Labour losing the general election, Unite would seriously consider disaffiliating from the party.

Many of us considered this a bizarre position to take: surely the aftermath of a Labour defeat, and the ensuing ideological struggle between the Blairite right and various more left-wing currents, is precisely the time when affiliated unions should be exerting their influence?

McCluskey’s strange position seems to have been a concession to anti-Labour forces within the union, which include the Socialist Party (and their pathetic TUSC electoral front), various free-lance syndicalists within the United Left, a significant number of Scottish members (antagonised by Miliband’s handling of the Falkirk row, and now pro-SNP), and -perhaps most importantly – his  ‘Chief of Staff’ Andrew Murray, to whom he has in effect sub-contracted the running of politics within the union. Murray, a member of the Communist Party of Britain who is on record supporting North Korea, has a record of deciding the union’s political “line” without reference to the union’s executive, in accordance with his own Stalinist predilections.

Murray is part of the current within the CPB that favoured closer links with Galloway and Respect and, through his  prominent involvement in the Stop The War Coalition also has a close relationship with John Rees, Lindsey German and their small ex-Trotskyist organisation Counterfire.

This influence over the union’s leadership accounts for the enormous resources Unite has poured into Counterfire’s initiative The People’s Assembly, the union’s declared (but undebated) support for Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets, and also for McCluskey’s unwillingness to call for a Labour vote in Scotland.

Counterfire and its Stalinist friends have two prominent supporters in the mainstream press, Seumas Milne (in the Guardian) and Owen Jones (in the Independent and New Statesman), both of whom, immediately prior to the election, were promoting the idea of a popular frontist anti-Tory coalition, and the idea that a Tory minority government would be, in effect, a ‘coup’ against the anti-Tory parliamentary majority. There was even a ‘Counterfire’-inspired proposal for a demonstration against the ‘coup’, although this didn’t take place under its planned slogans, due to the reality of the Tory absolute majority.

Counterfire is a small and politically insignificant outfit, but via Murray, it wields influence within Unite (despite the fact that it has only one known member within the union!) Therefore when articles like this and this appear on the Counterfire website, Unite activists who understand the vital political importance of maintaining the Labour link, should prepare for battle against the defeatists, class collaborationists and syndicalists  who’ll be arguing for a break with Labour and the creation of  a lash-up with the SNP, the Greens and even (according to the schema put forward by Murray’s pal Seumas Milne) sections of the Lib Dems! They may present it as “an English Syriza” reacting to the “Pasokification” of Labour (“English” because the SNP’s autonomy in Scotland must be respected), but in reality it would be a new variation on an old, class-collaborationist theme: the Popular Front.

Permalink 4 Comments

‘Stop The War’ (sic) backs Putin

February 17, 2015 at 6:40 pm (ex-SWP, John Rees, Lindsey German, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, stalinism, Stop The War)

By Chris Ford (via Facebook):

So Stop the War are off the fence and jumped into bed with the ultra-Stalinist campaign ‘Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine’ –
I note that it is holding a joint protest at the USA Embassy under the ironic slogan of ‘Peace for the Donbas’.

This from a campaign who supported the annexation of Crimea, support the war in Ukraine as ‘anti-imperialist’, refuse to call for a ceasefire, support restoring by arms a Tsarist colonial state of ‘Novorossiya’, branded all of us who supported an appeal from the Ukrainian miners union as ‘a bunch of scabs’, and generally spend all of their time spreading smears lies and intimidation against anyone who engages in sane or rational disagreement with them.

My question to comrades who are anti-Stalinist who are in StW – what now?

 

Permalink 26 Comments

Searchlight warns of “Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine” scam

June 4, 2014 at 10:04 pm (apologists and collaborators, fascism, Jim D, John Rees, Lindsey German, reactionay "anti-imperialism", stalinism, Stop The War, strange situations, wankers)

Above: sub-Stalinist and Putin supporter Andrew Murray addresses the meeting

The following warning to the Left comes from Gerry Gable of Searchlight, the UK’s longest-established anti-fascist publication. It was published on 1st June, the day before the inaugural meeting of ‘Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine’:

The so-called Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine has called a meeting on the evening of Monday 2 June at SOAS. The British left and anti-fascist movement has been canvassed to take part.

The warning below, which exposes these political crooks, comes from genuine anti-fascists in Ukraine. President Putin’s media Trojan Horse, the Russia Today TV station, presents as commentators Nazis from Germany and the UK, and people involved in the far-right LaRouche cult group without explaining who they really are.

Over the past few weeks RT has featured Paul Weston from the tiny Islamophobic Liberty GB party, who has been associated with the English Defence League. Weston was described on screen as a civil rights activist. Also on was Manuel Ochsenreiter, editor of Zuerst!, a glossy German Nazi magazine. Then came the man from LaRouche’s international Executive Intelligence Newsletter, the happy hunting ground of several intelligence services. This is the group responsible for the death in 2003 of the British student Jeremiah Duggan in Germany, a death that will be subject to a new inquest in the North London Coroner’s Court next February.

Our comrade who has written the paragraphs that follow, is one of the most experienced investigators of what really goes on in Moscow and  Kiev. He expresses his sorrow, as do I, about the way part of the British and European left are being manipulated by these enemies of the true anti-fascist struggle.

The so-called “Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine” is simply a scam.

Borotba, which “represents” the Ukrainian side (their guy will address the meeting on Skype), is a fake left-wing organisation the representatives of which are now travelling across Europe to get funding for their dodgy activities. No decent left-wing group in Ukraine is cooperating with them. This is very much worth reading:

http://avtonomia.net/2014/03/03/statement-left-anarchist-organizations-borotba-organization/

At the same time, Borotba has been cooperating with the so-called “Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine”. Its leader, Natalya Vitrenko, is a long-time associate of LaRouche:

http://schillerinstitute.org/lar_related/2009/lyn_russia_antiglob.html

http://www.larouchepub.com/pr/2014/140407_vitrenko_appeal.html

Borotba also supports the self-proclaimed Donetsk People Republic, the “constitution” of which proclaims an authoritarian clerical regime.

It’s really painful to see that so many people fall victim of the idiotic propaganda.

***************************************************************************************************

H/t to Comrade Coatesy for drawing our attention to this bizarre affair. Coatesy also gives more detail about Lyndon LaRouche (aka “Lyn Marcus”):

The name LaRouche should send alarm bells ringing.

I will just cite this (there are thousands of pages on the Net about him) about this creature, ” Why is LaRouche considered a crank in some circles? Consider the following tidbits drawn from numerous similar statements over 30 years. According to LaRouche, The Beatles (who “had no genuine musical talent”) were created by the “British Psychological Warfare Division” and promoted “by agencies which are controlled by British intelligence.”

Furthermore, the Queen of England and the British royal family run the global drug trade. 37 LaRouche asks: “Who is pushing the world toward war?” It is “the forces behind the World Wildlife Fund, the Club of Rome, and the heritage of H.G. Wells and the evil Bertrand Russell.”38 Having a hard time as a political activist? LaRouche has the cure! He is “confident and capable of ending your political-and sexual-impotence; the two are interconnected aspects of the same problem….I am going to make you organizers…by taking your bedrooms away from you….I shall destroy your sense of safety….” From here.

We urge you to read Coatesy’s account, which is rather more even-handed than we’re inclined to be, and includes a link to a statement from the ‘Anti-Fascist Resitance in Ukraine’ campaign and from Borotba, putting their side of the argument. But there can be no doubt that this so-called “anti-fascist” campaign is a quite extraordinary rotten bloc of genuine dupes of Putin, sub-Stalinists, degenerate ex-Trotskyists and far-right conspiracy theorists with Nazi links.

See also: Dale Street on the Prime Minister of  the Donetsk People’s Republic

Permalink 6 Comments

Boko Haram, ‘my enemy’s enemy’ and ‘left’ isolationism

May 6, 2014 at 2:57 pm (africa, apologists and collaborators, child abuse, ex-SWP, fascism, Human rights, internationalism, islamism, Jim D, John Rees, reactionay "anti-imperialism", relativism, solidarity, Stop The War)

“As Lenin put it, those who wish to see a pure revolution without nationalist revolts in oppressed countries, will never live to see a revolution. Such revolts can manifest all sorts of religious and nationalist prejudices. But Lenin argued the political complexion of the leaders of small nations–be they nationalist, fundamentalist, dictators or democrats–should not determine whether socialists in the major imperialist countries support them against imperialism. It is enough that a victory for imperialism would set back the cause of oppressed nations everywhere for socialists to commit themselves to the side of national liberation. Whether the leaders of such nations are despots, or merely murderous “democrats” in the George Bush mould, it is the task of the working class of these nations to settle accounts with them. Any interference by the imperialist powers would only be to secure profits and strategic interests.”-

As well as (I would contend) misrepresenting Lenin with an out-of-context quote, Rees fails to acknowledge that, if taken seriously, his formula would amount to “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”; put much more crudely and honestly here. It also exposes the truth that many of us have known all along, that the likes of Rees are not really anti-war at all, but invariably support the anti western side, even if that means Saddam, Putin or the Taliban – or, presumably, in the event of a western intervention – Boko Haram.

Us Shirazers are not always fans of Nick Cohen, but he nails Rees and the latter-day “left” isolationists and pro-whoever’s-anti-western “leftists” of the War Coalition variety, good and proper:

220 schoolgirls haven’t been ‘abducted’ by Boko Haram, they have been enslaved

Boko Haram is a vile manifestation, yet the liberal press stays silent, fearful of ‘demonising the other’

Terrorists from a religious cult so reactionary you don’t have to stretch the language too far to describe it as fascistic attack a school. The assault on a civilian target, filled with non-combatant children, has a grotesque logic behind it. They call themselves “Boko Haram“, which translates as “western education is forbidden”. The sect regards learning as oppression. They will stop all teaching that conflicts with a holy book from the 7th century and accounts of doubtful provenance on the life and sayings of their prophet written hundreds of years after he died.

A desire for sexual supremacy accompanies their loathing of knowledge. They take 220 schoolgirls as slaves and force them to convert to their version of Islam. They either rape them or sell them on for £10 or so to new masters. The girls are the victims of slavery, child abuse and forced marriage. Their captors are by extension slavers and rapists.

As you can see, English does not lack plain words to describe the foulness of the crimes in Nigeria, and no doubt they would be used in the highly improbable event of western soldiers seizing and selling women.

Yet read parts of the press and you enter a world of euphemism. They have not been enslaved but “abducted” or “kidnapped”, as if they will be released unharmed when the parties have negotiated a mutually acceptable ransom. Writers are typing with one eye over their shoulder: watching their backs to make sure that no one can accuse them of “demonising the other”.

Turn from today’s papers to the theoretical pages of leftwing journals and you find that the grounds for understanding Boko Haram more and condemning it less were prepared last year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 27 Comments

The crisis in Ukraine: a new statement from Stop The War Coalition

April 1, 2014 at 2:27 pm (imperialism, John Rees, Lindsey German, posted by JD, Stop The War)

The highly dangerous situation in Ukraine has brought into focus the threat of a new cold war, and the possibility of military conflict. It is in the interests of no one for such military conflict to take place.

We oppose all foreign military intervention, and it is in that spirit that we now wish to clarify our position on the present crisis.

We take no lessons from those who have supported intervention in the past in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and who proposed major air strikes in Syria as recently as last August. Nor should we believe concerns about national sovereignty from countries which have launched drone attacks on Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.

There are many political differences in Ukraine that can only be resolved politically and by respecting the language and civil rights of all concerned.

The Stop The War Coalition recognises that in some of our previous statements we may have given the impression that Putin’s actions towards the Ukraine were justified and that, in any case, the job of any anti-war movement is to oppose only its own government’s wars. We now recognise that this was a mistake, and wish to put the record straight.

Firstly, the suggestion that the overthrow of the corrupt president Yanukovych was the work of US imperialism, rather than a genuine, democratic social revolt, was clearly wrong. Secondly, the repetition of Putin’s slander that the Ukraine protest movement and the interim government are dominated by fascists, whilst repeated in good faith by ourselves and many others on the left and the peace movement, has now been shown to be false.

We now call for the complete withdrawal of Russian forces from areas close to Ukraine, no further annexations and an end to attempts to bully Ukraine back under Russian domination.

At the same time, we call on the West to act with restraint (in particular, to reject calls for any kind of military response), to cancel Ukraine’s debts and to encourage devolution of power  within Ukraine.

These are the steps required in order to avoid a new cold war, a war which is against the interests of the people of the world, whether in Ukraine or elsewhere. The Stop The War Coalition apologises for any previous statements that may have suggested that we hold to any other agenda.

Permalink 11 Comments

The Stop The War Coalition and the rise of neo-Stalinism

March 5, 2014 at 8:35 pm (apologists and collaborators, capitalism, class collaboration, democracy, Europe, ex-SWP, Guest post, history, Human rights, imperialism, internationalism, John Rees, Lindsey German, Marxism, national liberation, Shachtman, socialism, stalinism, Stop The War, trotskyism, USSR)

Above: neo-Stalinists Rees, Murray and Galloway

Guest post by George Mellor

“The attempt of the bourgeoisie during its internecine conflict to oblige humanity to divide up into only two camps is motivated by a desire to prohibit the proletariat from having its own independent ideas. This method is as old as bourgeois society, or more exactly, as class society in general. No one is obliged to become a Marxist; no one is obliged to swear by Lenin’s name. But the whole of the politics of these two titans of revolutionary thought was directed towards this, the fetishism of two camps would give way to a third, independent, sovereign camp of the proletariat, that camp upon which, in point of fact, the future of humanity depends” – Leon Trotsky (1938)

Many readers will be familiar with the concept of the ‘Third Camp’ – independent working class politics that refuses to side with the main ruling class power blocs (or ‘camps’) of the world. At the outbreak of WW2 the majority of would-be revolutionary socialists (and quite a few reformists as well) supported Russia, seeing it as some form of socialist state. However a minority (the ‘Third Camp’ socialists, mainly grouped around Max Shachtman) disagreed, viewing it as imperialist – of a different type to Western imperialism, but imperialist nevertheless.

Some on the left who came out of the Third Camp tradition (and, remember, the SWP was once part of that current and over Ukraine has shown signs of returning to it) now come to the defence of capitalist Russia. In doing so these acolytes of Putin – the neo-Stalinists – use the same framework to defend Russian imperialism as their predecessors did to defend ‘Soviet’ imperialism.

The basic framework they take from the arsenal of Stalinism is the view of the world as divided into two camps: on the one hand the peace-loving countries who supported Stalin’s USSR and on the other, the enemies of peace, progress and socialism. In the period of the Popular Front (1934-39) this found Russia aligned with the bourgeois democracies of the West, but between 1939 and ’41 that policy was superseded by an alliance with Hitler and the Axis powers. The consequence of both policies (and the intellectual zig-zagging required of Comintern loyalists) was that communist politics were subordinated to Stalin’s foreign policy, effectively cauterising the revolution in the inter-war years and disorientating socialists for over a generation.

For today’s neo-Stalinist the world is divided into Western imperialism on the one hand and China, Russia and other states (like Iran and Venezuela) that broadly identify with them against the ‘West’ on the other. Their conclusion is that socialists must stand up for China, Russia, or, indeed, any state or movement (eg the Taliban) that finds itself in conflict with ‘The West’. Seeing the world through this lens has led them to support Russian imperialism against Western imperialism, turning them into Putin’s Foreign Legion.

With the advent of the Ukraine crisis the neo-Stalinists were faced with the following problem: Russia invaded (using traditional Stalinist / Fascist methods) another county, after the people of that country overthrew the incumbent, corrupt, government. From what bourgeois – let alone socialist – principle does Russia have the right to invade an independent country? Of course there is none and so the neo-Stalinists have to invent one or two: the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) ten point statement is just such an invention.

The StWC statement provides a rationale which adds up to telling us the fact Russia has invaded a sovereign country is not as important as the new cold war (I feel a moral panic or, perhaps, political panic coming on as StWC functionaries stalk the land warning us of the dangers of ‘the new cold war’). Woven through the ‘ten points’ is the continual attempt to demonise the 1 million-plus movement which overthrew the Ukrainian government. They claim the movement is fascist / neo-con / in collusion with the European Union – in fact every bad thing one can think of. Such demonization is straight out of the Stalinist playbook, a classic example of blaming the victim. The character of the Ukraine movement has been largely shaped by its experience of greater Russia chauvinism: the idea that a pure democratic let alone socialist movement would spring fully formed out of the Euromaidan was never a possibility. For sure fascist and ultra-nationalist forces played a prominent role, and maybe even paid agents of the EU were present: the point is how should socialists relate to the million-strong movement and how can we seek to influence it? This is simply not an issue for the neo-Stalinists because they have written off the Ukrainian rebels as one reactionary mass not worth a second look.

In truth the StWC statement is neither here nor there, (a blogger at The Economist has taken apart the non sequiturs, half-truths and downright lies of the neo-Stalinists in a point by point rebuttal): it is simply a particularly crude example of the ‘campist’ world view.

For the neo-Stalinists the `hard headed’ geopolitical realties of the need to defend Russia against the ‘West’ always trumps the truth, morality, political principle and consistency: just as they support the invasion of the Ukraine and fit the facts around this, so they support the butcher Assad (crimes against humanity, mass murder, poison gas user, indiscriminate use of barrel bombs, starvation, state-sponsored terror, wholesale torture) and in that case, support for sheer barbarism.

Of course socialists are unlikely to affect events in the Ukraine, let alone Syria: however even if we can only proclaim it, we have a right – and a duty – to say we support neither Western or Russian imperialism but fight for independent working class action.

Permalink 21 Comments

Statement from the Stop The War Coalition

February 28, 2014 at 6:38 pm (apologists and collaborators, imperialism, internationalism, Jim D, John Rees, Lindsey German, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, spoofs)

StWC Logo.png

PUTIN: HANDS OFF UKRAINE!

‘The Stop the War Coalition opposes imperialist interventions wherever they occur, and by whatever government carries them out. We didn’t stop the war in Iraq, but we did create a mass anti war opinion in Britain and throughout the world. That tide of anti war opinion has made itself felt in the past few days. We now have to reject all attempts at intervention in Ukraine and call upon President Putin to to develop a foreign policy which is based on equality and justice, and the rights of national sovereignty. We will  demonstrate on Saturday against this intervention. It is the aim of the anti-war movement  to ensure that Putin is forced to abandon the attack on Ukraine now that the country with which Russia is supposed to enjoy a ‘special relationship’  has carried out an exercise in national self-determination.’

[NB: if it’s not obvious…ONLY JOKING!]

Permalink 16 Comments

Next page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 618 other followers