Matgamna: What is Trotskyism?

August 23, 2016 at 5:47 pm (AWL, class, history, labour party, Lenin, Marxism, posted by JD, Shachtman, socialism, trotskyism)

We publish the following piece by Sean Matgamna (of Workers Liberty) in the light of recent scare stories about alleged ‘Trotskyist’ infiltration of/influence over, the Labour Party:

Shachtman (rt) with Trotsky & Frida Kahlo in Mexico, 1937

What is Trotskyism? (written 2007)

Click here for the debate around this contribution.

19th and 20th century socialism is a house of many rooms, cellars, attics, alcoves, and hidden chambers (not to speak of private chapels and “priest-holes”).

There are in it the utopian socialists of our pre-history reformists and revolutionists, parliamentarians and insurrectionists, “direct action” anarchists and union-building syndicalists, council communists and kibbutz-building utopian Zionists.

And then fascists sometimes proclaimed themselves socialists (national-socialists). So did many Third World political formations, often more fascist than socialist, such as the “Ba’th Arab Socialist Parties” of Iraq and Syria.

And Stalinism. The political reflections and tools in the labour movements of the Russian Stalinist ruling class proclaimed themselves “communists” and “socialists”, and for much of the 20th century were accepted as the main force of communism and socialism, in bourgeois propaganda as well as their own.

The great names of real socialism are numerous, and are far from being at one with each other: Gracchus Babeuf, Charles Fourier, Robert Owen, Etienne Cabet, Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Auguste Blanqui, Mikhail Bakunin, Ferdinand Lassalle, Louis Michel, Wilhelm Liebknecht and his son Karl, August Bebel, George Plekhanov, Vera Zasulich, Jules Guesde, Jean Jaures, Victor Griffuelhes, Paul Lafargue, Laura Lafargue, Eleanor Marx, Pavel Axelrod, Peter Kropotkin, James Connolly, Daniel De Leon, Jim Larkin, Eugene Debs, Christian Rakovsky, Henry Hyndman, Ernest Belfort Bax, William Morris, Keir Hardie, Klara Zetkin, Sylvia Pankhurst, Karl Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Vladimir Lenin, Vladimir Shliapnikov, Leon Trotsky, Chen Duxiu, Antonio Gramsci, Leon Sedov, James P Cannon, Leon Lesoil, Pantelis Pouliopoulos, Abram Leon, Ta Thu Thau, Henk Sneevliet, Max Shachtman…

The Communist International picked up and subsumed many of the threads of earlier socialism, and wove them into a more or less coherent strategy of working-class struggle for power — the direct action of the French and American syndicalists, the political “syndicalism” of the De Leonites, the revolutionary parliamentarianism of Liebknecht, the sometimes acute criticism by communist-anarchists of the parliamentarians of the pre-1914 Socialist International, the concern with national liberation of such as James Connolly, and all that was healthy in previous socialist activity and theorising.

They denounced bourgeois democracy and parliamentarism in the name of the fuller democracy of workers’ councils — their criticism of bourgeois democracy would later, like so much else, be annexed and put to its own pernicious uses by totalitarian Stalinism.

The Russian working class, in their unprecedented creativity — for instance, in creating soviets (workers’ councils) — and the Bolsheviks who led them to victory had in life found solutions to many of the problems that had perplexed earlier socialist thinkers.

What had all the different strands of socialism in common? What, with their different methods, tempos, and perspectives, did they seek to achieve?

All of them — the socialist reformists such as Keir Hardie, too — sought to abolish capitalism and the exploitation and wage-slavery on which it rested, and to replace it with a non-exploitative, rational, humane society.

Their ideas of what would replace capitalism differed greatly, for instance between anarchists and Marxists, but all the socialists sought to replace private ownership of the means of production and exchange with collective social ownership by the workers and working farmers.

All of them — in one way or another, with one qualification or another — looked to the working class, the slave-class of the capitalist era, to achieve this great social revolution.

Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 2 Comments

Leftists should not appear on Press TV

August 22, 2016 at 7:10 pm (anti-semitism, Galloway, Iran, islamism, israel, labour party, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD, Press TV, reactionay "anti-imperialism")


Above: Abdi-Aziz Suleiman tells the Iranian regime’s Press TV what it wants to hear on Israel/Palestine (a different interview from the one discussed below)

By Omar Raii (this post also appears on the Workers’ Liberty website)

In a way getting angry at someone on the left appearing on Press TV is a bit like getting angry at England playing poorly in the World Cup. It’s a dreadful and appalling thing but it happens all the time. And therefore I cannot legitimately claim to have been outraged when hearing that the Young Labour International Officer, Abdi-Aziz Suleiman of former NUS fame, spoke on Press TV to support Jeremy Corbyn. I must admit I was a little surprised that he was speaking to George Galloway who one would have thought had been discredited enough even for Press TV but I was clearly wrong. Rather than outrage my first thought was surprise that Suleiman would make such a poor PR move as to appear on Press TV while he is on the Young Labour National Committee.

For those who are unaware of what all the fuss is about, Press TV is a television news network that is funded by the Iranian state and therefore, rather unsurprisingly, parrots the Iranian regime’s line on every international issue.

For example, they will talk all day about the horrors of the Israeli occupation, of the disgraceful Saudi-led War in Yemen, of the vile rule of the Bahraini monarchy. But will you hear one word for example about Hezbollah’s murder of Syrians on behalf of the vile murderer Bashar Al-Assad? No, you’d be far more likely to hear sycophantic praise for Hassan Nasrallah. After all, isn’t he a defender of Arabs and Muslims (so long as those Arabs don’t have the temerity to demand their freedom from anyone other than Israel)?

The station often uses people with “left-wing” credentials as contributors but also people on the far-right like German journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter (the common thread is anyone with an anti-American viewpoint).

In that sense it shares a lot in common with the Russian state’s outfit Russia Today, though it has a particularly notorious record for its propaganda. It has been accused of all manner of things from publishing anti-Semitic material on its website to airing a forced confession of an Iranian journalist who had just been tortured by the Iranian state.

When speaking on Press TV, Suleiman did nothing to criticise the Iranian regime which got a lot of people, including hypocritical right-wingers, quite bothered.

As part of his response/defence, Suleiman said that there was no organised boycott of Iran and in any case appearing on its state outlets did not amount for support for the regime (but stopped short of actually criticising the Islamic Republic of Iran). He counterposed this to Israeli outlets, which he supports boycotting. This almost comical kitsch-left cliché of “look over there! What about Israel?” is a tactic used by everyone from crackpot Stalinists in Britain to Arab dictators as a form of whataboutery to avoid answering difficult questions about their own conduct. Of course, the famed Iranian regime uses the exact same tactic when, while continuing in its organised murder of Arabs in Syria on behalf of Bashar Al-Assad, it pretends to care about the repression of Arabs in Palestine.

I can’t think of a more insulting use of the Palestinian struggle than to use it as a cover for abominable regimes such as those of Iran. If Suleiman cares so much about Muslims perhaps he would take more care than to be uncritical of a regime that spends so much time terrorising some of them (alongside the numerous Baha’is, Jews, atheists etc. that it terrorises).

Why doesn’t he take the opportunity now to openly denounce the disgraceful regime? Even better had he done so on Press TV. Surely that would silence at least some of his critics.

And it also should be said now that George Galloway (the presenter that Suleiman nevertheless criticised for his recent waste of talents) never had any talent to squander. Not when he fawned after Mahmoud Ahmedinajad after the fraudulent 2009 Iranian elections, not when he described the disappearance of the Soviet Union as “the biggest catastrophe of [his] life”, not when he apologised for rape and not when he lavished Saddam Hussein with praise in 1994, six years after he had gassed 5000 Kurds in Halabja. Galloway was a reactionary since Suleiman was at least an infant so any attempts to imply his degeneration was a recent one seems quite dubious at the very least. If simply opposing the Iraq War is enough to make someone a hero, then why not extend the compliment to Nick Griffin or Donald Trump?

But why do left-wingers continually feel it’s okay to appear on outlets like Press TV and Russia Today? Who even watches them other than perhaps those left wingers who appear on them plus some weird chaps who stalk the comment sections of Youtube videos?

And why do Iran and Russia pay for them? Because they are useful to them of course. Because the British left can continue to cover for those regimes thinking that if they’re covering things like anti-EDL demonstrations or letting people on to talk about how great Jeremy Corbyn is they must be progressive. Unlike the dastardly BBC that never covers our demos. All this leads to the British left’s softness on reactionary self-styled “anti-imperialist” regimes becoming even softer, which is of course the very intention in the first place.

I can assure Suleiman and other contributors to Press TV that most of Britain’s Muslims do not watch let alone get persuaded by it. So there is no principle here necessarily so much as a tactic. If going on Press TV does nothing to persuade anyone of socialist politics but does legitimise the Iranian regime’s attempt to be a “dissenting” or even “left-wing” voice then we should absolutely not take part in that, at least not without saying something critical.

But isn’t appearing on RT or Press TV the same as appearing on the BBC for example? The BBC is obviously also state-funded. Overlooking the rather blatant differences between the bourgeois democratic nature of the British state and the others (which means that while it usually goes along with the ideas of the ruling class, it does usually have some form of criticism not only of the government but even of itself as a corporation), the main difference is that the BBC isn’t pretending to be something it’s not. The BBC does not seek out “progressive” voices from the UK as part of a cynical attempt to not only make it look like the British state is comparably anti-democratic to the Russian or Iranian state, but also to make itself look like a progressive broadcaster, and by extension make the states that fund it look progressive.

I remember when I was on the National Committee of the NCAFC I once put forward the idea that members of the organisation should not give media appearances to RT when asked, but I was unsuccessful. My feeling was, why give this outlet legitimacy as a left-wing news network? Why not minimally appear on RT but only with a T-Shirt saying “Freedom for LGBT Russians” or “Putin get out of Ukraine/Syria/Chechnya”?

In my first year of university I was on a demonstration against the BNP outside Parliament when I saw that Press TV was there. I was rather bewildered to see them at the demo and so in a fit of pique, I grabbed a placard and with a biro scrawled “Down with Khamenei” and did my best to show it onto the camera (see here). I say this not as a boast – it’s hardly the most heroic fight anyone’s ever done against the Iranian regime, I’ve met Hekmatist comrades who’ve literally fought the regime’s soldiers. I say this as an example of something that’s really not very impressive that can be done when appearing on Press TV.

Before any protestations of hypocrisy arise it should of course be said that it was no less bad when Corbyn appeared on Press TV. Though this isn’t an excuse, it seems that Corbyn’s blindness on the issue of Press TV comes from the naïve peacenik view that all TV stations are the same. Corbyn not only signed the petition in defence of a jailed (now dead) Iranian trade unionist that I was involved in promoting, but took the lead on the issue in Parliament (more info can be found here). In any case, a criticism of Corbyn I very much agree with has been written by comrades in the Iranian Revolutionary Marxist Tendency that I encourage all to read here.

Blairites and hypocrites will of course excoriate the Young Labour International Officer for appearing on Press TV but the fact that those on the right will be opportunist in their criticism is of course no excuse. The left should have higher standards. Let’s stop with these appearances on Press TV so that we can feel good about saying something left-wing on television, as if anyone is watching. All we’re doing is legitimising a regime that spent many years destroying what was once a powerful Iranian left and labour movement.

Omar Raii is a Labour and Momentum activist, and part of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts caucus on the National Union of Students national executive council.

Permalink 5 Comments

The death of grassroots democracy?

August 20, 2016 at 4:55 am (class, democracy, elections, Guest post, labour party, workers)

A discussion piece by Tim (of What About Classism?):

I’m a left of centre Labour voter, but I am not a hard left ideologue or a communist nor dream of some sort of communist utopia, or anything like that. Far from it, in fact. Like most people who are from working class backgrounds, be they black, Asian or white or whatever other ethnic minority we may come from, I simply want an economy that works for more people, including of course myself, my family and the community I come from. We are told again and again that the UK is the world’s fifth biggest economy, yet there is poverty everywhere, low wage zero hours contract and insecure jobs, the NHS is being underfunded, the North is worse off than the wealthy parts of Southern England, disabled people are being persecuted and the icing on the cake is that austerity is being forced on the poor for the greed and mistakes of an unregulated banking industry, and a political system that now whether nominally left or right has abandoned the economic working class, the economic working class being anyone black, white, Asian, immigrant or anyone else who is poor in this very wealthy country, even when they are in work in many cases.

Democracy hasn’t been abandoned at all, it has merely become the preserve of the very wealthy, the upper class, the upper middle class and the middle class, so about 20% of the population are represented, and often deftly represent themselves very well. The sad fact is that the majority of people are not represented and are not allowed to represent themselves anymore either. We have a ‘freemarket’ economy that benefits more or less the same people who are in power, and the rest of us are excluded from the benefits of a wealthy economy and political enfranchisement.

I’m not a ‘Corbynista’ either, but I notice, as many people have, that the ‘unbiased and completely impartial’ media, and the political establishment have been going at him day by day. Why is this? Many on the right make jokes about him, saying he will never be PM and actually saying they hope he stays as Labour party leader as he will never get elected. As well as this, many Labour MPs are desperately trying to oust him, saying rather strangely that he will divide the party if he doesn’t go, yet by attacking him and putting pressure on him they are threatening to almost destroy the party if they don’t get their way. It is another problem with democracy that MPs, far from being public servants, are primarily carving out lucrative careers for themselves by selling themselves to the highest bidder, or the neoliberal ideology that dominates now. Most of the new Labour party ordinary members support Jeremy Corbyn, whereas many of the MPs don’t. But the members of the party voted for him. For once in a long time, many people feel that a change is coming. It is obvious also to many of us that the system which has institutionalised economic injustice at its heart, is the preferred one for many wealthy people, regardless of the hardship and poverty this creates for millions of people. That many of us who struggle either in unemployment or low paid dead end jobs are sick of this should come as no surprise. The democracy of the wealthy and privileged is now used to deprive those who are already poor of their democratic rights, in a supposed democratic nation. That is about the bottom line. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 3 Comments

Momentum leadership must think again about conference speakers

August 19, 2016 at 6:15 pm (anti-semitism, Asshole, ex-SWP, Galloway, jerk, labour party, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", scotland)

Like me, Coatesy is a Corbyn supporter and Momentum member. Like me, he’s appalled by their choice of speakers for their forthcoming conference (his report appears below):

https://i2.wp.com/images.express.co.uk/img/dynamic/1/590x/secondary/95564.jpg

Target of Richard Seymour’s ‘anti imperialist’ mockery.

The coming Momentum conference looks interesting.

The “five-day festival” of radical politics will take place alongside the official party conference in Liverpool, and will include talks from the film-maker Ken Loach and the journalist Paul Mason. The Young Fabians’ Greg Dash will be doing a slot at the event, but tells the Staggers it is not an official Young Fabians event (the group will, however, be hosting their own fringe events alongside the conference).

It  has stirred up controversy.

I will not comment on the list of speakers, or the programme (such as available at present)  but it looks pretty obvious that a 5 Day event is going to have a broad range of opinion on the left, and that many of these views, and individuals, would not be palatable to everybody.

That is the nature of democratic debate. 

These are more balanced reports, at least about the event’s content:

Momentum launches “special event” timed with Labour’s conference – but some see it as a rival. (New Statesman)

Momentum event featuring Corbyn ‘is not Labour conference rival’ (Guardian)

It is however of concern, which the Guardian notes,  that this individual is going to have a platform.

[IMG]

Simon Weston suffered serious injuries whilst on active duty on HMS Sir Galahad when the Argentinians attacked it. His injuries included severe burns to his face.

Richard Seymour wrote in a comment:

“If he knew anything he’d still have his face”.

Seymour refused to apologise on his comment which appeared on an article written by Simon Weston in the Daily Telegraph.

The Guardian no doubt underlined Seymour’s appearance for the simple reason that they refused to have anything more to do with him after these vile, anti-disabled, comments were written.

GUARDIAN CONFIRMS RICHARD SEYMOUR DOES NOT WORK FOR THEM AFTER HATE POST.

More on this story: here. 

Apparently Seymour has not learnt to curb his tongue.

http://i0.wp.com/order-order.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/seymour.png?resize=540%2C335

It seems that Trolling is now an acceptable part of the political scene.

Or it is, if this creature is invited.

Seymour would go down well in certain quarters with further remarks – perhaps a few jokes – about making those fighting on the side of the   ‘imperialists’ disabled, or murdering them.

Well-established rumour has it that he could have them rolling in aisles.

We hope this does not include Momentum.

*************************************************************************************************
Another comrade (from Scotland) reports the following:

Line-up of some of the speakers for the big Momentum event at Labour Party conference in Liverpool:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/momentum-conference-stuffed-with-anti-labour-speakers_uk_57b5da4ce4b0c5667a0768cb

“Speakers include Cat Boyd of RISE”:

The problem with having her speak is: a) Cat Boyd; b) RISE.

Cat Boyd/RISE are rabidly anti-Labour (far more anti-Labour than the SWP). They count for nothing in Scotland (see their election results in May of 2016). One of their leaders (Jonathan Shafi) called for a constituency vote for the SNP in the Holyrood elections. Their only policy is for a second independence referendum. They took no position on the EU referendum (as it would have split them down the middle). Insofar as they have people around them, they systematically miseducate them politically. In practice, their politics are simply nationalist, not some nationalist ‘variant’ of class politics. Their members in Unite line up with the bureaucracy (as a trade off for being given places on constitutional committees).

You’d really have to go back to the RCP to find a similar bunch of preening prima donnas (with the difference that the RCP had some intellectual ‘weight’, whereas RISE are merely pretentious, and Cat Boyd – laughably described as a ‘trade union activist’ – is the most pretentious of them all).

There has been no discussion with Momentum Scotland about this invite. A post about it went up on the Momentum Scotland Facebook page a few hours ago. It attracted more comments in an hour – condemning the invite – than any other post on their Facebook page ever has.

Permalink 7 Comments

Owen Smith has destroyed his own leadership chances (such as they were)

August 17, 2016 at 4:35 pm (fascism, genocide, islamism, jerk, labour party, Middle East, posted by JD)

From the BBC News website:

Peace talks

On foreign affairs, Mr Smith suggested the so-called Islamic State would eventually have to be brought into peace talks if there was to be a settlement to Syria’s civil war.

Referring to his experience as an adviser to Labour’s former Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy, he said: “Ultimately all solutions to these sorts of international crises do come about through dialogue.

“So eventually, if we are to try and solve this, all of the actors do need to be involved.

“But at the moment, Isil are clearly not interested in negotiating.”

He added: “At some point, for us to resolve this, we will need to get people round the table.”

Asked the same question, Mr Corbyn said: “They are not going to be round the table. No.”

Speaking after the debate, Mr Corbyn’s leadership campaign described Mr Smith’s on comments on IS as “hasty and ill-considered”.

‘No negotiation’

The spokesman said: “Jeremy has always argued that there must be a negotiated political solution to the war in Syria and the wider Middle East, and that maintaining lines of communication during conflicts is essential.

“But Isis cannot be part of those negotiations. Instead, its sources of funding and supplies must be cut off.”

The comments were also seized on by the Conservative Party, with Tory MP and member of the Defence Select Committee Johnny Mercer saying it showed Mr Smith’s “unfitness for leadership”.

“It shows that whoever wins this increasingly bizarre leadership election, I’m afraid Labour just cannot be trusted with keeping us safe,” added Mr Mercer.

But Mr Smith’s campaign said he was “clear” there should be no negotiation with the so-called Islamic State, or Daesh as it is also known, “until they renounce violence, cease all acts of terror and commit themselves to a peaceful settlement”.

“Owen’s experience of helping to bring about peace in Northern Ireland is that eventually all parties who truly believe in delivering peace have to be around the table.

“In the Middle East at the moment that clearly doesn’t include – and may never include – Daesh.”

What an effin’ idiot …

Permalink 4 Comments

Rhea Wolfson: “The left needs to recognise that the Jewish community does not feel welcome”

August 13, 2016 at 8:59 pm (anti-semitism, AWL, labour party, posted by JD, zionism)

Rhea Wolfson for Labour NEC

Newly-elected Labour NEC member Rhea Wolfson interviewed by the Alliance for Workers Liberty‘s paper Solidarity:

Congratulations on your election to Labour’s NEC. What do you see as your priorities now?

The first thing is to see that the recommendations from the Chakrabarti Report are implemented. The Labour Party needs clear and transparent procedures for individuals and organisations accused of misconduct. I am particularly concerned about the suspensions of Wallasey Labour Party and Brighton, Hove and District Party. Those Labour Party organisations need to be reassured that any accusations made against them are investigated promptly and properly.

A number of Labour Party members have been expelled for being associated with Workers’ Liberty. Is this reasonable?

I oppose political expulsions. We should recognise that there are many strands of socialist opinion and Labour will be stronger if we accept that. Minimally we should expect that the Labour Party abides by the principles of natural justice in disciplinary matters, that those accused are listened to, that processes are clear and transparent, that there is an appeals procedure.

Some of the problems come from the Compliance Unit. Is there any role for this organisation?

Perhaps – if it operates using clear rules and regulations. No part of the Party should work on the basis that it can operate outside of a clear set of rules. In particular, those accused of misconduct should be able to see evidence which is said to exist against them.

Personally I have another problem because I am getting a lot of abuse through Twitter. I have had received a lot of unpleasant comment since the NEC election results were announced. There are no clear guidelines or mechanisms for me to try to stop this sort of abuse which may come from other Party members.

One of the live issues for the Labour left is what we should do about the anti-Corbyn right-wing MPs. Do you think we should deselect them?

Jeremy Corbyn is building a vibrant movement of half a million Labour Party members. Corbyn is uniting the membership. The onus is on others to show they are not harming or splitting the Party.

The relationship between the PLP and the membership has clearly been damaged. I hope it can be repaired and for that we need open political discussion and debate.

Reselection is a powerful tool. It should be used with respect and care, and not with abuse. It is not a threat. It is a democratic process.

What should the priorities of a future Labour government be?

We should pursue an anti-austerity programme. We must invest in public services to promote growth. We should borrow in order to invest. And we should increase taxation on the wealthy.

You made a strong speech at a recent Lewisham Momentum meeting set up to discuss the problem of ‘left’ anti-Semitism. What should be done about this very real problem?

We need open debate on the issue. The Lewisham Momentum meeting was a start. Although some of the contributions were shocking, I think they were not made from hate – and poor comments were challenged in the meeting.

The left needs to recognise that the Jewish Community does not feel welcome. The rhetoric of anti-Zionism is off-putting. There are progressive Zionist organisations we can and should work with.

Permalink 3 Comments

John Harris: Watson’s useful idiot

August 12, 2016 at 4:58 pm (Galloway, Guardian, Jim D, labour party, plonker, reformism, Respect, Stop The War, trotskyism)

There are journalists and commentators whose views I don’t agree with (and in some cases, hate), who are nonetheless interesting, intelligent and worth reading. John Harris of the Guardian is not one of them.

I first came across Mr Harris in 2001 or early 2002, when he first started writing for The Guardian. He was, then (like many other Guardian coumnists), an uncritical supporter of the Stop the War Coalition (STWC), and keen to defend it against any suggestion that it was led, or politically dominated by the SWP.

This was shortly after the STWC’s first conference in October 2001, when the SWP and its allies like George Galloway and Andrew Murray had ensured the defeat of calls to reject ‘Muslim fundamentalism’ as well as US imperialism. The slogan “No to fundamentalism” indicated that opposition to war did not mean support for the 9/11 attacks or the Taliban reactionaries: but the SWP, Murray, Galloway & co were determined not to alienate Islamists and cared nothing for the anti-fundamentalist views of Iranian and Afghani socialists in Britain, or the only Iraqi socialist organisation (the WCPI) active in Britain, all of whom were horrified by STWC’s alliance with Islamists.

In fact the leading members of the STWC were, and remain, soft on political Islam. This is clear from a footnote in Andrew Murray’s history of the STWC which says: “Political Islam… has expressed, in however warped a fashion, some of the anti-imperialist demands which were once the preserve of Communist and nationalist movements of the region.”

Harris wrote a column in the Guardian at the time defending STWC and denying that the SWP, etc, ran the campaign. I sent a comment to CiF calling Harris a “useful idiot” which apparently upset him at the time. Unfortunately, Harris’s 2001 (or 2002 ?) column does not seem to be available anywhere on the web, but this 2008 article gives a taste: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2008/feb/15/iraq

Since then, I haven’t spent much time reading the banal outpourings of this rather stupid ex-New Musical Express journalist, but I have noted that he claims to have been in the Labour Party Young Socialists in the 1980’s, before being driven “to despair” by the Militant Tendency and subsequently leaving the Labour Party for fifteen years.

Now, it’s a matter of record and straight fact, that those of us around in the 1970s and ’80s, can vouch for, that the Militant Tendency were a bunch of thugs, bullies, homophobes and sexists. But they’ve been out of the Labour Party since 1991 when they abandoned entryism and decided to establish themselves as a separate party. Ted Grant, the group’s founder and leading theoretician, was expelled, and his breakaway minority, now known as Socialist Appeal, continued in the Labour Party. The majority changed its name to Militant Labour, and then in 1997 to the Socialist Party. Their leader, Peter Taafe, is now making ridiculous noises to the bourgeois media, suggesting that his group now expects to be readmitted to Labour – having spent more than twenty years denouncing the Party as irreformable and the past eleven months trying to stop his members leaving to join Labour.

The idea that the hundreds of thousands of new (and, in some cases, re-joining) members of the Labour Party who’ve signed up since Corbyn’s victory last year, are doing so under the influence of the Socialist Party, the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL), or any other ‘Trotskyist’ organisation, is a preposterous conspiracy theory put about by Tom Watson in a desperate attempt to undermine Corbyn and boost the hapless nonentity Owen Smith. But the wretched Harris asks Guardian readers to believe this nonsense in a truly ridiculous article entitled If Trotsky is back at the centre of things, there’s chaos ahead. This idiot’s ignorance and stupidity knows no bounds: and while there’s no requirement upon Guardian columnists to have any knowledge of (let alone sympathy with) Trotskyism, someone writing about it might be expected to have at least an elementary grasp: Harris clearly hasn’t.

To give one simple example, Harris describes Trotskyist transitional demands thus:

The practice of Trotskyist politics has long been built around the idea of the “transitional demand”, a rather cynical manoeuvre whereby you encourage people to agitate for this or that – a hugely increased minimum wage, perhaps, or the end of all immigration controls – knowing full well it is unattainable within the current order of things, but that when the impossibility becomes apparent, the workers will belatedly wake up. In other words, the herd gets whipped up into a frenzy about something you know it won’t get, while you smugly sit things out, hoping that if everything aligns correctly, another crack will appear in the great bourgeois edifice.

The reality (as explained by the AWL) is this:

These are not catchpenny demands designed to capture or mirror back an existing “mood”. In some cases, such as open borders, they are ideas that are positively marginal and currently rejected by most working-class people. Others, such as the demand for a democratic federal republic (rather than secession for Scotland and Wales), or opposition to withdrawal from the EU, are marginal even on the far-left.

But we cannot hope to popularise them or make them less marginal except by raising them consistently, within the context of a programme which starts from the logic of our current struggles. The boldness required is the difference between attempting to create a political “space”, through the hard work of agitation and education in our workplaces and communities, and cynical attempts to manoeuvre into some existing space where people are already imagined to be by mirroring back to them slightly more radical versions of the ideas we presume them to already hold.

These wouldn’t be demands that we’d orient towards the state, necessarily, as if we expect a Tory government to implement them. They are demands that make up part of our own political narrative, our own plan for remaking society, just as the Tory policies of cuts and privatisation make up theirs.

Capital make concessions to labour either when we are strong enough to simply overwhelm it and impose ourselves, or when it is too scared of the consequences of not making concessions. For either condition, a conscious programme – a working-class socialist alternative to austerity – is necessary.

Floppy-haired ex-pop music journalist Harris is, indeed, an idiot (whether “useful” or not): first on behalf of Galloway and the SWP; now on behalf of Tom Watson and Labour witch-hunters.

Permalink 6 Comments

AWL statement: Oppose Watson’s witch-hunt!

August 11, 2016 at 12:50 pm (AWL, conspiracy theories, labour party, posted by JD, Socialist Party, trotskyism)

10/08/2016

The anti-Corbyn majority in the Parliamentary Labour Party is losing the battle for the Labour leadership.

The membership – seemingly, in its big majority – wants a Labour Party which will tax the rich, rebuild the NHS, introduce free education and abolish the anti-union laws. The members want to remake Labour as a party that fights for the interests of workers.

The Labour right finds the movement behind Corbyn threatening and they are becoming increasingly desperate. The Labour machine has attempted to rule out thousands of members from voting in the leadership election. Wallasey Constituency and Brighton, Hove and District Labour Parties have been suspended.

Now Tom Watson is attempting a “Trotsky” scare. Watson accuses “the Trotskyists” of “caucusing and factionalising and putting pressure where they can,” and “arm twisting.” In fact, this is a description of Watson’s own, normal, natural behaviour. (As we have documented elsewhere, Watson was a “fixer” for Gordon Brown during the early New Labour years: see here.)

In contrast Workers’ Liberty’s influence has been won through open debate, and by acting as honest activists inside the movement.

The Guardian (10 August) reports Watson demanding Corbyn supports bans on the Socialist Party and on us, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL). Watson attempts to adopt a reasonable, matey tone – but he’s not very good at it. He is a hack, someone who wanders around in the background, causing trouble.

Corbyn and the left should certainly defend the right of all socialists to be Party members. The Party should only require that socialists back Labour candidates in elections. The AWL backs Labour in elections.

As Watson knows very well the Socialist Party and the AWL are very different types of organisation. The Socialist Party has spent over two decades denouncing the Labour Party as irredeemably bourgeois. And as Watson also knows the Socialist Party boss, Peter Taaffe, has spent a considerable amount of energy attempting to stop his members joining the Labour Party.

Taaffe’s position is idiotic, as usual. Nevertheless – with the exception of, perhaps, a handful of strays – no Socialist Party member currently has a Labour Party card.

So why all the fuss about the SP? Watson’s target is really Corbyn, but he can’t directly denounce Corbyn. So he picks on the Socialist Party because of its Militant past. Then he pretends the Socialist Party are a threat to the Labour Party. He links the Socialist Party with the AWL because he wants to spread around as much muck as possible. Nothing about this narrative makes sense. But that doesn’t matter given the press and the media are on Watson’s side and don’t care if he makes sense, or not.

The AWL is nothing like the SP, or its forerunner, the Militant. We are not a closed, secretive sect.

The AWL openly debates differences in our paper, Solidarity. Our events are open. Our conference documents, constitution and positions can be found in plain view on our web site. Read them and find out what we do.

And we are consistent advocates of class-struggle socialism. You would not find a clown like Derek Hatton, for example, acting as our spokesperson.

The Socialist Party’s main concern in the Corbyn surge is to recruit a few members, encourage a scandal, and get some headlines. Our main concern is to defeat the Labour right wing and transform the labour movement. By acting as honest militants within the movement – people who are concerned for the movement’s strength and political health – we think we will grow in influence and also membership.

And do you know how big we are? We have 120 full AWL members. Tom Watson knows very well that we are a small group among half a million Labour members. This is the extent of the Trotskyist threat.

And yet, in the end, Tom Watson – despite his intention – has half a point. We are a potential problem for people like Tom Watson. Not because we manipulate behind the scenes – but because our message is becoming increasingly popular in the Party. We are serious Marxists, serious about ideas and consistent about their application.

Watch out, Tom Watson.

Permalink 1 Comment

Owen Jones raises some serious questions: he deserves serious answers

August 4, 2016 at 7:03 pm (blogging, democracy, Jim D, labour party, strange situations)

Picture of Owen Jones: Rob Stothard via Getty Images

Owen Jones is not a favourite of most of us here at Shiraz: in the past we’ve considered him smug, annoying and all too ready to present banality as groundbreaking original thought.

Nevertheless, there can be no denying his genuine commitment to left reformism and to the creation of a fairer society. He is a personal friend and long-standing political ally of Jeremy Corbyn and supported the Corbyn leadership bid from the get-go (even if, like Corbyn himself, he didn’t expect victory).

Now Jones has come under sustained criticism and (in some quarters) attack for criticising aspects of Corbyn’s leadership, and for warning that “Labour – and the left as a whole – is on the cusp of a total disaster.”

Some of those criticising Jones are serious comrades for whom we have considerable respect; their central objection seems to be not so much the content of Jones’s criticism, but the timing of it, during the leadership election. In response, I’d point out that all the evidence suggests a strong Corbyn victory and it seems highly unlikely that Jones’s comments will significantly effect the final result.

Other objections are just plain silly, and verge on “don’t be nasty to Jeremy“. Accusations to the effect that Jones is a “Blairite”, “careerist” , “sellout” etc are simply ridiculous and should treated with contempt.

The fact is that Jones raises some serious questions that those of us who support Corbyn’s relection (as well as the man himself and his immediate team) must address as matter of urgency: Jones is correct that Labour now faces an “existential crisis.”

Here’s the blog post that’s causesd the row:

Questions all Jeremy Corbyn supporters need to answer

Labour and the left teeter on the brink of disaster. There, I said it. I’ll explain why. But first, it has become increasingly common in politics to reduce disagreements to bad faith. Rather than accepting somebody has a different perspective because, well, that’s what they think, you look for an ulterior motive instead. Everything from self-aggrandisement to careerism to financial corruption to the circles in which the other person moves: any explanation but an honest disagreement. It becomes a convenient means of avoiding talking about substance, of course. Because of this poisonous political atmosphere, the first chunk of this blog will be what many will consider rather self-indulgent (lots of ‘I’ and ‘me’, feel free to mock), but hopefully an explanation nonetheless of where I’m coming from. However long it is, it will be insufficient: I can guarantee the same charges will be levelled

These are (in short) the crucial points:

  • How can the disastrous polling be turned around? “Labour’s current polling is calamitous. No party has ever won an election with such disastrous polling, or even come close. Historically any party with such terrible polling goes on to suffer a bad defeat.”
  • Where is the clear vision? “What’s Labour’s current vision succinctly summed up? Is it “anti-austerity”? That’s an abstraction for most people. During the leaders’ debates at the last general election, the most googled phrase in Britain was ‘what is austerity?’ — after five years of it. ‘Anti-austerity’ just defines you by what you are against. What’s the positive vision, that can be understood clearly on a doorstep, that will resonate with people who aren’t particularly political?
  • How are the policies significantly different from the last general election? “It’s less than a year in to Corbyn’s already embattled leadership: there hasn’t been the time to develop clear new policies. Fine: but surely there needs to be a clear idea of what sort of policies will be offered, not least given what is at stake?”
  • What’s the media strategy? “..there doesn’t seem to be any clear media strategy. John McDonnell has actually made regular appearances at critical moments, and proved a solid performer. But Corbyn often seems entirely missing in action, particularly at critical moments: Theresa May becoming the new Prime Minister, the appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, the collapse of the Government’s economic strategy, the abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, soaring hate crimes after Brexit, and so on. Where have been the key media interventions here?”
  • What’s the strategy to win over the over-44s?
  • What’s the strategy to win over Scotland?
  • How would we deal with people’s concerns about immigration?
  • How can Labour’s mass membership be mobilised? “a movement will only win over people by being inclusive, optimistic, cheerful even, love-bombing the rest of the population. A belief that even differences of opinion on the left can’t be tolerated — well, that cannot bode well. So how can the enthusiasm of the mass membership be mobilised, to reach the tens of millions of people who don’t turn up to political rallies? What kind of optimistic, inclusive message can it have to win over the majority?”

Jones closes with this:

Labour faces an existential crisis. There will be those who prefer me to just to say: all the problems that exist are the fault of the mainstream media and the Parliamentary Labour Party, and to be whipped up with the passions generated by mass rallies across the country. But these are the facts as I see them, and the questions that have to be answered. There are some who seem to believe seeking power is somehow ‘Blairite’. It is Blairite to seek power to introduce Blairite policies. It is socialist to seek power to introduce socialist policies. As things stand, all the evidence suggests that Labour — and the left as a whole — is on the cusp of a total disaster.

See also: Coatesy, here and (with some surprising news of a real sell-out), here

Permalink 7 Comments

Labour’s “suppressed” report into antisemitism is leaked

August 3, 2016 at 8:57 pm (anti-semitism, Jim D, labour party)

Following allegations of antisemitism at Oxford University Labour Club earlier this year, the party commissioned an inquiry chaired by Baroness Royall. This came before the more widely publicised inquiry chaired by Shami Chakrabarti into allegations of anti-Semitism throughout the party.

It has been alleged that the Royall report was suppressed (and its findings misrepresented) by Labour’s National Executive Committee at its May meeting. The official explanation from the party is that the NEC decided not to publish Baroness Royall’s full findings when it set up a wider inquiry, chaired by Ms Chakrabarti. Baroness Royall was appointed Vice Chair of the Chakrabati enquiry.

Shami Chakrabarti told the Jewish Chronicle: “My impression is that the NEC redacted it [ie: the Royall Report] because there were individuals involved who were then referred for disciplined.”

Here is the Royall report, leaked this morning: it finds that members of the Oxford University Labour Club did engage in antisemitic acts.

H/t: Sarah AB at That Place

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 632 other followers