Scottish left: still grovelling to nationalism

July 18, 2017 at 5:27 pm (elections, identity politics, nationalism, posted by JD, reformism, scotland, sectarianism, Socialist Party, SSP, SWP)

Image result for picture Scottish Socialist Party SSP

By Dale Street

“The Labour Party in Scotland has been wiped out.” That was the verdict of the Socialist Party Scotland (SPS) on the 2015 general election. The next step was: “The trade union movement must now prepare to build a new mass party for the working class.”

In alliance with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the SPS had stood ten candidates in Scotland under the ‘Trade Union and Socialist Coalition’ (TUSC) banner. Their votes ranged from 0.2% to 0.7%, and amounted to only 1,772 in total.

But that did not constitute a “wipe-out”.

The slump in the Labour vote in 2015, explained the SWP, demonstrated that “the crucial task for all on the left in Scotland is to quickly discuss and organise for a united left alternative in next year’s Scottish Parliament elections.”

The SWP was contemptuous of “some in the Labour Party who argue that what is happening in Scotland is just a wave of nationalism.” What this “failed to understand” was “the shift in the political landscape and the potential for the left to grow.”

Apart from allying with the SPS to stand TUSC candidates, the SWP had also given a tacit call for a vote for the SNP: “The SWP is not calling for a blanket vote for the SNP on 7th May” (in effect: a call to vote SNP in most constituencies, but not all).

For the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) Labour’s performance in Scotland in the 2015 general election had borne out its pre-election predictions:

“Make no mistake about it. We are witnessing the end of an era. Like the Liberals prior to the labour movement, Scottish Labour is a beast that will soon be almost extinct over the next decade.”

The election result was further proof of the need for unions to disaffiliate from Labour:

“The unions in Scotland need to stop propping up the bankrupt project that is Labour. We’ve seen attempts by the biggest of all unions, Unite, to drag Labour back to the left. That’s proven utterly futile.”

“Union leaderships should combine with the SSP and all genuine socialists to build a mass working-class socialist party to stand up for Scotland’s working-class majority population.”

The SSP had stood four candidates in the election – after the SNP and the Greens had, unsurprisingly, ignored SSP proposals for a single pro-independence ‘Yes Alliance’ candidate in each constituency. Their total vote was 895.

In their approach to this year’s general election and analysis of its results, the SPS, SWP and SSP struck a very different tone. But it was no better that that adopted two years earlier. And it was certainly a lot more incoherent.

The SPS stood no candidates in the general election. Nor did TUSC. Nor did the non-existent “new mass party for the working class” which the SPS had looked forward to after the 2015 general election. Instead, the SPS “campaigned in support of Corbyn’s manifesto.”

But this did not mean campaigning for a vote for the party in Scotland (Scottish Labour) which was standing on the basis of that manifesto (however inadequately it promoted its contents in its election campaigning).

The SPS coupled its support for “Corbyn’s manifesto” (minus support for Scottish Labour) with “pointing to the need to adopt a far more sensitive approach on the national question”, including “as a minimum the right to a second referendum when there was a majority in favour of one.”

After the election the SPS talked up “significant swings to Labour in working-class areas in Glasgow and across the West of Scotland”. In fact, the popular vote for Labour in those constituencies was either static or less than in 2015 general election.

The SPS also fell over itself with helpful tips about how Scottish Labour could have improved its performance and “doubled their numbers (of MPs) in Scotland”. But such belated advice would have had more credibility coming from an organisation which had actually campaigned for a Labour vote.

In the run-up to this year’s general election the SWP again made an implicit call for a vote for the SNP, using the formulation “We call on our readers to vote Left in every constituency – to choose the candidate who is best able to carry forward the fight against austerity and racism AND FOR INDEPENDENCE.” (Emphasis added.)

Any number of Scottish Labour candidates would have met the first two criteria but none would have met the third. But in England and Wales all Labour candidates were endorsed by the SWP, for what it was worth, simply because they were Labour.

In other words: it was okay to vote for a right-wing Labour candidate in England, but wrong to vote for a left-wing anti-independence Labour candidate in Scotland!

The SWP looked on in awe when a thousand people turned up to hear Corbyn speak in Glasgow during the election campaign. But this was coupled with criticism of Corbyn for not supporting a second referendum on Scottish independence.

Corbyn was “on the side of the majority of Scots who don’t want a second referendum,” complained the SWP. But the normally let’s-not-waste-our-time-with-any-of-this parliamentary-shite SWP was aggrieved by Corbyn’s failure to “respect the majority for a second referendum in the Scottish Parliament”!

In its analysis of the election result the SWP concluded that “using the crude measure of first-past-the-post elections, independence has won this election”. The three anti-independence parties, explained the SWP, had won only 40% of the seats.

But in the real world, using the only slightly more sophisticated measure of the popular vote, independence lost. Anti-independence parties picked up 63% of the vote.

Inconsistently, the SWP attributed the SNP’s loss of seats to the fact that “the SNP leadership staked so much on a second independence referendum.”

So: independence won the general election in Scotland, according to the SWP, but the party which had championed independence had lost seats because – errrr – it championed independence.

The SWP was realistic in its analysis of Scottish Labour’s poor showing in the election and the fact that its increase in the number of seats held masked a more basic electoral stagnation. But, at the end of the day, this was all irrelevant.

With the election – yawn – out of the way, the SWP could get back to business as usual:

“We should not postpone the fight against austerity to focus on a second referendum and let the SNP off the hook. Battling against those attacks now should be at the centre of the left’s political action.”

Like the SPS’s “new mass party for the working class”, the “mass working-class socialist party” which the SSP had looked forward to in 2015 had also failed to materialise by the time of this year’s election.

Left to its own devices, the SSP stood four fewer candidates than it had in 2015, i.e. none.

“But that does not mean that we will not be campaigning,” the SSP explained. It would be campaigning – for independence:

“Our annual conference last weekend committed all SSP members to spend the next six weeks making the case for independence and helping to ensure this become the ‘independence election’.”

This was the vital task confronting SSP members because “Theresa May is heading for a 60-70 seat majority at Westminster, and Labour is heading for a hiding.” Only Scottish independence could provide a defence against the approaching Tory onslaught.

Boldly, the SSP declared its readiness to criticise the SNP for failing to be sufficiently pro-independence:

“In the very important debate Alex Salmond initiated last week between him and Nicola Sturgeon about this being ‘the independence election’, we are bound to say we agree with Alex. … We will press the SNP to put an unequivocal commitment to independence in its manifesto. And we will criticise them if they do not.”

Unfortunately for “Alex”, having the SSP on his side turned out not to be enough to save him from defeat.

But the SSP was as good as its word. In an article snappily entitled “Independence Offers Our Only Escape From a Zombie Tory Government” SSP co-convenor Colin Fox let the world know:

“Our party will be writing to the SNP to insist they put independence at the epicentre of their manifesto. We will be campaigning to increase support for independence with a series of sparkling initiatives which we will unveil in the next few days.”

But the election result was not as predicted by the SSP. May’s credibility, the SSP acknowledged, was “in tatters”. Corbyn’s gains had shown that socialist ideas “are highly popular, and this must be welcomed.” And a second general election was “a strong prospect.”

The SSP attributed the loss of 21 seats by the SNP to “their failure to make the case for independence – supposedly (sic) their core belief.” This is the same SNP which, according to the SWP, “staked so much on a second independence referendum.”

The SNP’s defeat, concluded the SSP, “underlined the case for a reinvigorated broad-based Yes movement.”

In other words: prospect of strong Tory government necessitates Scottish independence; actual election of weak Tory government necessitates … Scottish independence.

Some things never change. And one of them is socialist organisations which have collapsed into tailending nationalism – even when the nationalism they chase after is in electoral decline.

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The SWP: adulation for Corbyn, abstentionism towards Labour

July 10, 2017 at 7:22 pm (Europe, fantasy, labour party, political groups, posted by JD, reformism, revolution, sectarianism, SWP, wankers)

Image result for picture SWP Marxism 2017

By Martin Thomas (this piece also appears on the Workers Liberty website under the title SWP: fifth wheel of Corbynism?)

There were about 500 at the opening rally of the SWP’s “Marxism” summer event in London on 6 July. That’s fewer than in some previous years, I think, and older – about a third grey or white-haired.

Nevertheless, enough not to sneeze at, and the closing rally on 9 July was near 1000.

The worrying thing was more the politics. Most of the opening rally was given over to speakers, some eloquent, from the Parts cleaners’ dispute, the LSE cleaners’ dispute, the Grenfell Tower campaign, the Scottish further education lecturers’ dispute, and the campaign about Edson da Costa’s death in custody.

Two speakers had the job of presenting the SWP’s political purpose.

Gerry Carroll, a “People before Profit” member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, made a speech most of which could have come from Sinn Fein. Carroll’s first criticism of the DUP was about its demurral on an Irish Language Act. (Although the Irish language already has status in Northern Ireland from the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, and the DUP is willing to boost that status with a new law so long as it also boosts Ulster Scots, a language spoken by a tiny minority of Unionists).

The difference from Sinn Fein was that Carroll denied that the Brexit vote of 23 June 2016 had strengthened the Tories.

Alex Callinicos, the main leader of the SWP, took up the same theme. In fact, he said, Britain has moved “sharply” left, and the right has suffered a “devastating defeat”. The vote for Brexit was a product of squeezed real wages and growing class antagonisms.

(Huh? Tories and Ukipers voted for Brexit to show adherence to working-class struggle? So why did the big majority of left-minded people vote against Brexit?)

Callinicos’s basis for that claim was the 8 June election result. He ignored the Tories’ high poll ratings from July 2016 to May 2017.

Yes, the boost to the right from the Brexit vote was not infinitely durable and powerful. Theresa May’s hubristic election campaign, and the vigorous Labour manifesto, undid it, though arguably more by mobilising left-minded people who had previously not voted than by shifting people from right to left.

Callinicos made no criticism of Corbyn’s politics. He specifically endorsed Corbyn’s current stand on Brexit, and said that the only “valid” reason for worrying about the Brexit vote was the status of EU citizens currently living in Britain. (So free movement for those people’s friends, families, and neighbours to come to work or study in Britain – or for British young people to work or study in Europe – doesn’t matter?)

He further praised Corbyn’s speech on the Manchester bombings, hearing only that Corbyn had blamed the bombings on the UK’s support for “the USA’s war to dominate the Middle East”. In fact Corbyn, rightly, was much further from the simplistic “blowback” theory than that; and in fact, much of Corbyn’s speech was an implied call for more spending on the police.

Anyway, Callinicos praised Corbyn on those issues. He saw no need to raise any programmatic difference with Corbyn. Public ownership of the banks? None of that.

Callinicos still thought there was a role for the SWP. A left reformist government will be thwarted by “unelected centres of power” unless there are demonstrations and strikes. And the SWP favours demonstrations and strikes. QED.

The closing rally was more polished. Islamist Moazzam Begg (see here and here) gave a smooth liberal speech, getting a standing ovation both before and after.

Brid Smith from the Irish SWP spoke, and Amy Leather made the final speech. (Since 2016 Leather has been joint national secretary of the SWP with Charlie Kimber; at the time of the “Delta” scandal in 2013-4, she was an oppositionist, criticising Kimber and Callinicos for being too “soft” and apologetic in response).

Leather’s speech was better crafted than Callinicos’s, and she did (though briefly) mention opposition to capitalism, support for socialism, and support for open borders. But her basic argument was the same as Callinicos’s: Corbyn is doing what needs to be done in politics, but the SWP has a role in stirring up the strikes and demonstrations required to support him.

There is, if not the great general shift to the left which Callinicos claimed, a new mobilisation of a new left-wing political generation. Socialists should be in among that new generation (which means being active in the Labour Party and Young Labour, not standing on the sidelines like the SWP).

And our prime duty is to help new people organise and also to develop and debate politically to regroup around a socialist programme which goes beyond the redistributive measures in the Labour manifesto to establish a cooperative commonwealth with an internationalist perspective.

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Unite the Union, Scotland: Mark Lyon “in the wrong meeting” …

January 8, 2017 at 1:52 pm (Guest post, reformism, scotland, sectarianism, Unite the union)

Image result for Picture Mark Lyon Unite
Above: Mark Lyon

By Ann Field

Len McCluskey launched his campaign for re-election as Unite General Secretary at a meeting held in Glasgow last Saturday. Thanks to Mark Lyon, the International Transport Workers Federation full-timer who chaired the meeting, it ended in a fiasco.

In fact, the fiasco had been built into the meeting before it even started.

Since the summer of last year Lyon has dedicated himself to splitting the United Left Scotland (ULS), the Scottish ‘section’ of the national United Left (UL), which functions as a kind of ‘Broad Left’ within Unite.

Stage one of Lyon’s efforts was a meeting held in late August, which he dishonestly presented as a ULS meeting.

Details about the meeting were sent from unitedleft.scotland2016@gmail.com (not the actual ULS e-mail address, but a close imitation). The e-mail was headed “United Left Scotland Meeting” and signed off as “United Left Scotland”.

Lyon did not inform elected ULS co-ordinators of his meeting. Other ULS activists were also left off the e-mail list used to publicise the meeting. But Scottish Unite full-timers certainly attended the meeting in numbers – at the behest of the Scottish Regional Secretary.

Stage two occurred in mid-November, when Lyon sent out an e-mail which proclaimed the existence of the Progressive United Left Scotland (PULS), proclaimed who the PULS candidates would be for the Scottish territorial seats in this year’s Executive Council (EC) elections, and proclaimed himself as elections co-ordinator.

This meant that two PULS candidates would be standing against the two ULS candidates who had been selected at a ULS meeting to contest the Scottish territorial seats. And one of the PULS candidates was not even a UL member.

(In fact, prior to some last-minute juggling by Lyon in his personal selection of the candidates, neither of the PULS candidates he had initially chosen were UL members.)

Stage three followed quickly on the heels of stage two. In late November Lyon circulated a splenetic e-mail on the national UL e-mail address list.

Longstanding ULS members were subjected to personalised abuse, the UL National Chair was denounced for a “deeply personal, vicious and unwarranted attack” on Lyon, the ULS was dismissed as an “oppressive and undemocratic body”, critics of PULS were scorned as “a few self-interested individuals”, and the outcome of ULS-PULS ‘negotiations’ was systematically misrepresented.

Ironically, among the spurious criticisms of the ULS most consistently raised by Lyon were his claims that it was undemocratic and suffered from a culture in which abuse and bullying were condoned.

And yet here was Lyon – in the absence of any meetings of PULS members (insofar as it has a membership in any meaningful sense of the word) – proclaiming the existence of a new organisation, announcing the names of its candidates for EC seats, and launching into a prolonged tirade of personal abuse against ULS and UL members.

In December Lyon sent the first of a series of e-mails publicising last Saturday’s meeting. As had been the case in August, Lyon excluded ULS co-ordinators and a layer of ULS activists from the list he used for all e-mails publicising the meeting.

(Lyon has yet to master the art of blind-copying e-mails. Who he deems worthy, and unworthy, of receipt of one of his e-mails is therefore visible to all.)

But what was the status of Saturday’s meeting?

Was it a PULS meeting? One e-mail publicising the meeting had the header “PULS National Slate and Campaign Materials” and was signed off as “PULS”. An eve-of-meeting e-mail also referred to “our PULS meeting tomorrow.”

Was it another sham ULS meeting? Lyon used the unitedleft.scotland2016@gmail.com address for most of his e-mails about the meeting. And in one e-mail Lyon had declared: “PULS is not a replacement for the ULS. It is the ULS.”

Or was it just a personal venture by Mark Lyon, not subject to any kind of accountability to any broader body? One e-mail publicising the meeting was simply signed off by “Mark” and sent from Lyon’s personal e-mail address.

Another question raised about the meeting was Lyon’s statement in one of his e-mails that the meeting would be attended by “the seven Executive Council candidates we [presumably: PULS] are jointly running in the forthcoming election.”

But who were these seven candidates which PULS was “jointly running”? (And jointly with whom?)

Lyon’s problem was that by the time of the meeting the full UL slate for this year’s EC elections had been published on the UL website.

The two candidates on the slate for the Scottish territorial seats are ULS members, not the PULS nominees. And there are six, not five, Unite members from Scotland listed on the slate as standing for various industrial seats.

Saturday’s 80-strong meeting was no larger than the meeting organised by Lyon in August. In fact, it may have been marginally smaller – despite the presence of an additional five Unite full-timers who had not attended the August meeting.

So much for Lyon’s claim in his splenetic e-mail of last November: “I am part of a group of about 150 people in Scotland and growing. … We grow daily in number and strength in our region.”

It was only towards the end of the meeting, when Lyon announced “our” seven Executive Council candidates, that the fiasco-in-waiting finally came to the surface. Fortunately, McCluskey had left the meeting by this point and was spared witnessing the debacle first-hand.

Lyon introduced “our” five Scottish candidates for various industrial seats on the EC. The sixth Scottish candidate – a member of the ULS, and an official UL candidate – was not asked to address the meeting. In fact, Lyon had not even invited him to the meeting.

Lyon then introduced “our” candidates for the Scottish territorial seats. They were the two PULS candidates whom he had personally selected in November – not the ULS members listed on the official UL slate (whom Lyon had likewise not invited to attend the meeting).

When it was pointed out from the floor that Lyon had failed to mention the ULS members standing for the Scottish territorial seats and officially recognised as UL candidates, Lyon curtly responded:

“You’re in the wrong meeting. They are not United Left candidates. We are supporting our candidates who have been democratically agreed. We are the United Left, we created the United Left, we’re not a different group.”

Lyon clearly thinks that he, rather than the UL, can decree who is a UL candidate. He likewise believes that he, rather than the UL, can decide what constitutes the UL. He even thinks that his own individual personal opinions amount to “democratic agreement”.

And his quip that “you’re in the wrong meeting” might have seemed very clever at the time (if only to Lyon himself). But it is a comment he will hopefully come to regret.

The person who, according to Lyon, was “in the wrong meeting” was an official UL candidate for a territorial seat on the EC. If that UL candidate was “in the wrong meeting”, then that tells you everything you need to know about the nature of Lyon’s meeting.

In fact, if anyone was “in the wrong meeting” – even if he exited it before Lyon’s plea to support non-UL candidates – then it was arguably the United Left’s own candidate in the General Secretary election, i.e. Len McCluskey himself.

The meeting which he used to launch his re-election campaign was one which denied a platform to three Scottish UL candidates, called for a vote for candidates standing against two UL candidates, and refused to call for a vote for a third UL candidate.

Although Lyon made a half-hearted attempt to present the meeting as a UL event, he deliberately withheld information about the meeting from ULS co-ordinators and activists.

And it was a meeting where the disproportionately large number of union full-timers in attendance – including Lyon himself – was at odds with McCluskey’s description of Unite as being primarily about “lay-member radical activism”.

To beat Coyne’s shameless campaign of right-wing anti-migrant populism, McCluskey needs to promote “lay-member radical activism”. But, thanks to Mark Lyon, he could not have chosen a worse event to launch his campaign than last Saturday’s meeting.

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Momentum: don’t break it!

December 5, 2016 at 5:30 pm (campaigning, Johnny Lewis, labour party, political groups, reformism, sectarianism, stalinism)

By Johnny Lewis

From Labour’s defeat in 2015 socialists were confronted with two tasks: organising for Labour to win the next election and – regardless of its outcome – establishing Labour as a social democratic party; in effect transforming the Labour Party. While it is possible to work for a Labour victory without working for Labour to become a social democratic party it is inconceivable that transforming Labour can be achieved outside of the campaign to win the next election. These tasks were equally applicable in the wake of the 2010 defeat, the major changes being that Corbyn has massively increased the possibility of achieving the second of these goals and Labour is much closer to fragmenting under the impact of the populist Right.

It may be this timeline is truncated by a snap election (a disaster) it may be the tempo of the class struggle changes demanding a change in approach but these are maybes and we need to work from where we are rather then speculate on what might be.

Rather than seeing these tasks as a `struggle for socialism’ they are concerned with class power as both an election victory and Labour becoming a stable left wing party are predicated on how far we are able to halt the competition between workers and develop the class as a whole both in its material well-being and organisational strength. This approach stands in contrast to the idea of a faction which sees the Party as a recruitment opportunity or as a vehicle for the politics of identity. In the latter case parties, movements or campaigns are an aggregation of identity based groups and individuals are understood by, and political activity is mediated through ascription.

The class-based approach can only be undertaken by a tendency which holds on tight to the Labour Party, and is concerned with putting down roots in the working class movement and through its activity bring into its orbit existing labour movement activists, radicals who have joined through Corbyn and most importantly the union rank and file. The Party membership provides fertile ground for such a tendency as a majority of long-term constituency members are on the left alongside the Corbynistas

The many thousands who have joined in support of Corbyn fall into two groups 58% (106,521) were never in a political party – of the 42% ‘retreads’ 31% (56,933) are re-joining the party, the other 11% coming from the Greens and the far left. While the dominant ideological trend among the `never beens’ is  heavily influenced by identity politics (something many of the retreads have also absorbed), their core views are rooted in various strands of neo-Stalinism: support of Stop the War, failure to understand the importance of bourgeois democracy and the view of Jackie Walker as a ‘victim’.

Some 20,000 of these Party members are now in Momentum and it is Momentum which should be the crucible in which this class tendency is formed. It would do so by combining three interlocking areas of activity:

  1. Winning over other Labour Party members and pursuing the internal struggle to democratise the party.
  2. Taking part in Labour’s policy debate not by putting forward a programme rather taking proposals for discussion and debate. The model here is the Fabians and the most pressing proposals need to focus on an economic alternative.
  3. Campaigning activity: the primary aim of such activity would be to decouple the white working class vote from the populist right, to develop class consciousness to a point where workers are ready to vote Labour. Such campaigning activity should be undertaken jointly with the unions and dictated by Labour and the unions rather than Momentum or non-Labour party campaigns or organisations.

It is these practical and common tasks that should bind Momentum together as a class tendency while its activity would transform the Party, reconfigure relations between Party and unions and ‘reset’ Labour’s relations to the working class.  

Momentum is very far from becoming that tendency. They show little interest in such prosaic matters, rather they are focused on the three way factional dispute between the organised left, the neo- Stalinists (animated around Walker’s removal) and the leadership. By all accounts this is a vituperative fight infused by identity politics and has effectively paralysed the organisation: it would be astonishing if it were to survive another six months in its present form.

Standing behind the immediate issues which generated this faction fight is the broader question of Momentum’s relationship to the Labour Party. Although a majority view themselves as Labour Party supporters, the organised left and the retreads have introduced the ‘New Party’ question: ie the formation  of a new party or social movement (I use the shorthand NP to cover both) to supersede Labour. It is this conflict between transforming Labour and the NP which underpins the faction fight.

The NP proposition came to prominence during the heyday of anti-austerity campaigning and should have died with the 2015 election results.  At first glance its representation inside Momentum seems absurd but many of the  Corbynistas are but a sub-set of anti-austerity movement transposed into the Labour Party, and for many of them NP ideas are deeply embedded in their political makeup. This ambivalence towards Labour is also reflected in Momentum’s structure with its adherence to social movements and the frankly bizarre notion that it should be open to non-party members.

There are two types of NP advocates – those who have a casual attitude to the LP, viewing it as a convenient staging post to some undefined alternative and those who argue Momentum should take programmatic positions on a range of issues. Whatever type of alternative they may wish to peruse the crux of the matter is they view Momentum as the embryo of the NP and so its focus is always something other than the Labour Party. NP ideas are wrong-headed for a number of reasons – most obviously the lack of a mass movement to which they can engage.

It was the depth of the recession that determined one of two types of working class response to the economic crisis. Where the crisis was severe in Europe, political and state institutions come under pressure from below. Witness Spain where some 8 million participated in the 15-M Movement or Ireland where around 17% of the population demonstrated – equivalent demonstrations in the UK would have mobilised 4 million on the streets. In these cases, as with Greece, mass movements fragmented existing left parties and a process begun of establishing new political formations which have yet to mature into political parties. A second permutation which was seen in the UK was one where the crisis was limited. In this instance while the anti-austerity movement drew many into political activity it never reached the scale where it constituted a mass, insurgent, or social movement. Without such a mass base there was no pressure from below to challenge Labour to the point where it would fragment. Instead political institutions have remained largely intact with right wing populism and left wing radicalism flowing into their respective parties which moved them away from the centre ground to the political poles. This is not to argue these political institutions are not undergoing a process of degeneration rather the tempo and character is very different from counties where the recession was deepest.

As important as the scale of the movement is its social composition: where mass movements emerged there was a definable working class element, but this was not the case in the UK. The social profile of the Corbynistas, (a proxy for the anti-austerity movement) shows them to be similar to the pre- Corbyn Labour Party membership except a tad more middle class, socially liberal, politically radical and older.

Whatever variant of the NP project some Momentum members might hold, without a mass movement attempts to will the NP into existence are futile. Such NP supporters are, `trapped’ within the confines of the Labour Party’s existing structures and routines, and it is this reality Momentum’s NP supporters refuse to acknowledge.

Non-acceptance of this reality is expressed through counterposing a NP belief to the actual struggle taking place within the Labour Party. In practice this ‘non acceptance’ can take a number of forms, for example refusing to support a Labour Party campaign because its demands are not radical enough or believing one should run a Momentum campaign separate from the Party because `your’ demands are more radical, or attempting to get Momentum to adopt ‘your’ programme. In this manner the NP advocates separate themselves off from the struggle in the Party: this represents another form of sect building, well described by Hal Draper. The practical consequences are to separate themselves off from Momentum members who disagree with their programme and stymie Momentum’s activity within the Party.

While sect building is as old as the left, what is an altogether new twist (at least outside of a Stalinist state) is how the left has substituted Corbyn for the mass anti-austerity movement and in so doing has raised him up as the personification of that movement. His deification obscures any understanding that it is the Labour Party which oxygenates both Him and the Corbynistas. Without the Labour Party you could not have Corbyn, and outside of the Party he would rapidly wither on the vine while the Corbynistas would find themselves thrown back onto another imagined mass movement, the People Assembly. However to grasp this point would mean facing the fact the Party is not the repository of a mass movement which Momentum can somehow lead to a life independent of the Party.

It may be Momentum can pull back from the brink, although I doubt it has either the collective will or for that matter the interest. While the consequence of a split will lead to rancor and recrimination among the combatants it will also provide an unpalatable lesson for NP proponents. A cold wind will blow around the would be masters of the universe as they find there is no mass movement for them to lead rather like Corbyn they draw sustenance from the Labour Party and that their relationship is first and foremost with the Party not the Corbynistas.

A split however will do so much more. One has to ask what lesson those outside the faction fight will draw when they see on the one hand the populists at the gates and on the other hand Momentum’s response – a faction fight. While the factional participants will rationalise ‘the struggle’ the lessons most will draw is the inability of the left to ‘make’ anything of value. However the real tragedy is that the potential for transforming Labour will at best be set back indefinitely, but all too likely lost altogether. Such an outcome will play no small part in letting the populist Right breach Labour’s walls.

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Introducing: Unite the Union’s very own Baron Munchausen

November 24, 2016 at 11:24 pm (comedy, fantasy, scotland, sectarianism, surrealism, Unite the union)

Image result for picture the adventures of Baron Munchausen

 By Anne Field  

 The Story So Far:

In late July selected members of the United Left Scotland (ULS) and a considerable number of non-members of the ULS received an e-mail from unitedleft.scotland2016@gmail.com (a close imitation of the actual ULS e-mail address).

Although the e-mail had not been sent out by the ULS, it was headed “United Left Scotland Meeting” and was signed off as “United Left Scotland”. The e-mail invited its recipients to a meeting to be held in Glasgow on 27th August.

At the same time Unite Scottish full-timers were instructed by the Scottish Regional Secretary to a) attend the meeting of 27th August; b) mobilise members in their sectors for the meeting.

The meeting went ahead despite the chair of the United Left at national level advocating that it be called off. 14 Unite full-timers attended the meeting. The ratio of full-timers to members at the meeting was around one to six.

At the meeting itself Mark Lyon (Unite Executive Council vice-chair and International Transport Workers Federation full-timer) regaled attendees with horror stories about the alleged iniquities of the ULS, each of which was as lacking in substance as the next.

In the course of his ramblings Lyon denied all knowledge of the e-mail which had been sent out inviting people to the meeting.

Announced by a bogus e-mail; falsely described as a “ULS” meeting; invites sent only to selected ULS members and non-members; opposed by the national chair of the United Left; and mobilised for by full-timers – only in the fevered imagination of a latter-day Baron Munchausen could the meeting be regarded as anything other than a sham, organised by charlatans for the purpose of wrecking the ULS.

Now Read On to Learn of Baron Mark Munchausen’s Latest Whacky Escapades:

At the end of last week Mark Lyon issued an e-mail to Unite members he believed had bought into his fantasy. The e-mail he sent out came from unitedleft.scotland2016@gmail.com.

Whoops! That’s the e-mail address which the Baron had denied all knowledge of at the 27th August meeting!

The e-mail proclaimed the existence of an organisation called “Progressive United Left Scotland” (PULS), announced two PULS candidates for the Scottish territorial seats in next year’s Executive Committee elections, and declared that Mark Lyon would be running “an amazing campaign” (sic) for PULS candidates.

Lyon’s e-mail showed up the non-democratic, non-inclusive and top-down nature of PULS itself.

There had been no members’ meetings to decide on the creation or name of a new organisation, to select candidates for the Executive Committee elections, or to decide that Mark Lyon should be in charge of an election campaign.

Although Lyon’s e-mail admitted that “having a meeting would be ideal”, it continued: “It is unlikely we will be able to have a general meeting before the end of the year.”

But one of Lyon’s criticisms of the ULS was that its meetings were supposedly too irregular and its members supposedly excluded from decision-making.

This e-mail was small beer compared with another e-mail and attachment circulated by Lyon earlier this week on the national United Left e-mail group.

Lyon’s three thousand words of delirium read like a latter-day version of “The Singular Travels, Campaigns, Voyages and Adventures of Baron Munchausen.”

Or, more aptly, like a later edition of the same work: “The Vice of Lying Properly Exposed, Containing Singular Travels, Campaigns, Voyages and Adventures … Also, An Account of a Voyage into the Moon and Dog-Star”.

The Vice of Lying Properly Exposed:

 A blow-by-blow rebuttal of the Baron’s fantasies would be nearly as tedious as reading the three thousand words of dreary prose in which they are couched. But some prime examples should suffice:

“We have tried every avenue to avoid conflict, including … not forwarding new members’ details to the national list.” Fact: PULS has been asked by national and Scottish United Left office-bearers to forward names on the PULS address list. It has simply refused to do so.

(In fact, Lyon’s own record of the decisions taken by the sham ‘’ULS’ meeting of 27th August includes the action: “To inform national UL of new members welcomed to our organisation.” Lyon has refused to do what his own meeting instructed him to do!)

“We have tried every avenue to avoid conflict, including … opening our meetings to everyone.” Fact: A whole raft of ULS members were not informed of, and thereby excluded from, the sham ‘ULS’ meeting of 27th August. And since 27th August PULS has not even had a meeting.

“We have tried every avenue to avoid conflict, including … honouring the agreements reached with the help of Martin (ULS national chair).” Fact: PULS agreed with the ULS national chair that it would pass on the e-mail addresses of its ‘members’, but has failed to do so. (See above.)

“We have tried every avenue to avoid conflict, including … not requesting seats on the United Left national co-ordination committee.” Fact: United Left national supporters’ meetings and national co-ordinators meetings have recognised the ULS as the only body in Scotland entitled to send delegates to the national co-ordinators committee.

“The vast majority of comrades in Scotland are not supportive of the minority ULS grouping.” Fact: Whenever there were differences of opinion in debates and discussions in the ULS, Mark Lyon and his followers lost the argument. The most obvious example: Their defence of Agnes Tolmie’s conduct and attacks on Unite Executive Council decisions.

(And if the ULS has only minority support but PULS has the support of the majority of ULS members, why did the inner circle which runs PULS walk away from the ULS? Answer: They walked away because they lost the arguments and were consistently in a minority.)

“Instead of attending our meeting of 27th August, [a member of the ULS] led a group of people in the street giving out offensive and insulting flyers discouraging people from attending.” Fact: The flyer did no more than point out that the meeting had not been convened by the ULS, quoted concerns about the meeting expressed by the United Left national chair, and explained to its attendees how to join the ULS. No-one complained about it.

“Our United Left Scotland candidates were finalised this week as Eddie Cassidy and Ann Crozier.” Fact: Eddie Cassidy is not a member of the ULS. And while Ann Crozier is a member of the ULS, until the end of last week the second PULS candidate was to have been Linda Pollock – also not a member of the ULS.

“Over 60 people from both ‘groups’ in Scotland agreed to run four recognised candidates at a meeting in Edinburgh on 12th November. It was agreed by everyone that we would run four recognised candidates.” Fact: This was not agreed by anyone. The 12th November meeting was NOT a decision-making meeting. No vote was taken on the proposal for four candidates.

The only person to advocate four candidates for the two Scottish territorial seats was Mark Lyon. And that sums up the essence of Baron Mark Munchausen: He substitutes his own fantasies for reality, and hopes that if he exudes sufficient bluff and bluster then no-one will notice how detached from reality he now is.

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Socialist Unity’s Kronstadt Moment

October 31, 2016 at 6:24 pm (reformism, Rosie B, sectarianism, solidarity, stalinism)

Via Howies Corner we have been informed of the split in Socialist Unity. John Wight has been ousted and the forces of the trade union left have taken over in the person of Comrade Andy Newman.

To follow the lead up to these events check out the comments section at the site. Nationalism vs socialist trade unionism was the root cause.

Note one disgraceful comment:-

John Wight has had his ‘jumping the shark’ moment and has increasingly descended into delusions of grandeur and with it all the hallmarks of a sociopath. Heaping abuse and smearing those who dare disagree with his increasingly bizarre statements as cowards or racists is beyond the pale.
He does have a home at Shiraz Socialist and they are welcome to him.

We totally deny this calumny. We at Shiraz join in the denunciations of John Wight. The personnel at Shiraz Socialist have been on Wight’s banning list for years. Indeed I can date my Kronstadt moment with Wight. It was 30th March 2012, the day after George Galloway won the Blackburn/West Bradford by-election. While Wight was exulting and gloating I said Gallows had run a terrible sectarian campaign, calling his opponent “a bad Muslim”.

That got me deleted, then exiled to Siberia.

gulag

Others writers and commenters at this blog would have had similar experiences. Please share if you do .

And your spell in the Gulag of being made an unperson by Wight is now at an end. Comrade Newman has lifted the banning order.

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Mackney of Greece Solidarity denounces Morning Star

July 2, 2015 at 7:23 pm (Europe, Greece, internationalism, posted by JD, sectarianism, stalinism)

Well-respected Labour movement activist Paul Mackney, former general secretary of the UCU and currently secretary of the Greece Solidarity Campaign, has written this sharp letter to the Morning Star which was published in today’s edition:

Image result for morning star logo

I am in Greece, where the people are preparing, more or less on class lines, to vote in the referendum on EU austerity demands next Sunday.

I was appalled to read your editorial mirroring the position of the KKE which voted in parliament not to have a referendum.

After years of reporting which ignores the realities of the new social and political movements in Greece, with regret, I have decided to cancel my daily copy of the Star.

The facts are that the KKE got 5 per cent of the vote in the last election and that Syriza got 36 per cent.

Syriza was clear with the people, who were overwhelmingly pro-EU and pro-euro, that it would try initially to find a solution within the Eurozone, which has involved negotiations which have been transparent.

We have to stand with the Greek people.

As the Greece Solidarity Campaign slogan has it: “In or out of the Eurozone, Greeks will never fight alone.”

PAUL MACKNEY London N22

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Don’t laugh: the SWP appeals for unity on the left!

October 15, 2014 at 5:49 pm (Beyond parody, Champagne Charlie, political groups, sectarianism, socialism, SWP)

The latest edition of Socialist Worker carries an extraordinary appeal for far-left unity, closing with the following observations:

The problem is the extreme fragmentation of the radical left, compounded by the mutual hostility that exists among these fragments. This is, if anything, worse in Scotland than it is in England and Wales. Wallowing in the rights and wrongs of these divisions is futile and self-destructive.

The combination of the Scottish referendum and Ukip’s rise demands that we change.

We have to shake off the petty narcissism of our different projects and work together to create united left wing alternatives to neoliberalism both sides of the border. 

History will judge us very harshly if we fail.

Those of us who, over the years, have witnessed the SWP’s unique combination of self-important bombast, ultra-sectarianism towards others on the left, opportunistic grovelling to the likes of Galloway, intolerance of internal dissent and regular expulsions of oppositionists, will have difficulty suppressing our laughter – especially at the stuff about “wallowing  in the rights and wrongs of these divisions” and the wonderful phrase “petty narcissism’ which just about sums up the present SWP leadership and much of its middle cadre.

Unity on the far left would be a wonderful thing, but at the moment it looks further away than ever. And it seems (to put it mildly) highly unlikely that the SWP will have any positive role to play in the process of honest accounting and open debate that will be necessary in order to eventually achieve this desirable but elusive objective.

In the meanwhile, serious socialists would be better advised to devote their energies to work in the labour and trade union movement.

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JK Rowling and the Nasty Nationalists

June 15, 2014 at 9:04 am (misogyny, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Rosie B, scotland, sectarianism, sexism, thuggery)

feature image number one

JK Rowling has donated £1 million to the Better Together campaign. Rowling is a long-standing Labour supporter

By Rosie Bell (via Facebook):

When J K Rowling wrote best-selling children’s books that even children who didn’t read, would read, she was a force for betterment.

When she showed that a writer could hit the jackpot she was a creatives’ beacon of hope.

When she insisted that the popular film adaptations or her books should not be Hollywoodised she was a patriot.

When she recalled her own years of being a single mother dependent on welfare payments and reiterated her support for Labour she was a good socialist.

When she donated considerable sums to clinics treating multiple sclerosis and campaigned for research on the disease because of her own mother’s illness she was a heart-string puller.

I think Scots may have even been a wee bit proud that this unassuming woman of considerable achievement chose to live in Edinburgh. At least one coffee house has put up a plaque noting that she used to hang out there.

But now she is a bitch; a whore; a traitor; a Tory; a deluded wee hen, all with added sweiry words. Oh, and English as well.

All because she wrote a sane, reasoned article on why she thought Scotland should not go independent and contributed some money to a campaign she believed in.

No wonder I hate this referendum.

Update:

Since Game of Thrones has come up in the comments thread, here’s a video which covers both Game of Thrones and Edinburgh:-

 

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The alleged ‘Jihadist plot’ to take over Birmingham schools

March 12, 2014 at 10:41 pm (Brum, children, crime, Education, islamism, Johnny Lewis, law, religion, religious right, sectarianism, Tory scum)

Shiraz Socialist has for some time been in possession of documents that seem to show a conspiracy by Islamists to exploit the Tories’ academy programme in order to take over schools. We have, up until now, refrained from using this material or commenting upon it, because we were not clear on its provenance and not satisfied of its authenticity. There must, properly, be the suspicion that the documents have been faked in order to stir up anti-Muslim feeling. However, this material is now in the public domain (the Birmingham Mail, the Independent, the Daily Mail and the Times have all carried articles), so we’ve decided it’s time for us to cover the story.

Firstly, what do the documents contain?

The documents’ central and most alarming content is what seems to be a letter from a Birmingham Muslim fundamentalist to a co-thinker in Bradford.

This details a five-point guide called ‘Trojan Horse’, for taking over schools and urges the rolling out ‘Trojan Horse’ to Bradford and then Manchester, boasting that  considerable success has been achieved in schools in predominantly Muslim areas of Birmingham

The documents outline alleged successful plots carried out against a number of Birmingham headteachers and other members of staff.

The documents also give a step-by-step guide for targeting “under-performing” schools with dirty tricks methods, involving the spreading of lies about the school heads.

The recipient is first urged to identify any Salafi (ie: hard-line fundamentalist)  parents sending pupils to the school.

‘They are always the most committed to the faith and are hardliners in that regard and once charged up they keep going for longer,’ says the letter.

‘When the parents have been identified, we start to turn them against the headteacher and leadership team.

‘The only way to do this is to tell each parent that the school is corrupting their children with sex education, teaching about homosexuals, making their children pray Christian prayers and mixed swimming and sport.

‘If you can get them to be very vocal in the playground as they drop off or pick up their children that will stir up other parents.

‘The parents MUST be given direction and told not to discuss this with anyone, you only need a maximum of four parents to disrupt the whole school, to send in complaints to question their child’s education and to contact their MP and local authority.’

Once the head has been forced out, Islamist governors push through plans to make the schools academies.

The academy status, as promoted by the Tories, allows them to be run out of the control of the local authority, with funding provided direct from central government.

The letter states: ‘’Operation ‘Trojan Horse’ has been very carefully thought through and is tried and tested within Birmingham, implementing it in Bradford will not be difficult for you.’’

Trojan Horse, the letter states, has been fine-tuned so that it is ‘totally invisible to the naked eye and allows us to operate under the radar. I have detailed the plan we have in Birmingham and how well it has worked and you will see how easy the whole process is to get the whole process is to get the head teacher out and our own person in.’’

The documents propose that schools with poor Ofsted reports and with large Muslim student populations should be targeted for takeover.

They add: ‘’The poor performing schools are easy to disrupt, the better performing with strong head teachers is much harder and so we have to manufacture a strong enough reason, but rest assured we have not failed yet, no matter how difficult removing the head teacher may be. You just have to be clever and find the most appropriate way to deal with the school.’’

The documents add: ‘’This is all about causing the maximum amount of organised chaos and we have fine-tuned this as part of operation Trojan Horse. You must identify what the heads strengths are and build a case of disruption around that.’’

One passage reads: “We have caused a great amount of organised disruption in Birmingham and as a result we now have our own academies and are on our way to getting rid of more headteachers and taking over their schools … Whilst sometimes the practices we use may not seem the correct way to do things you must remember this is a ‘jihad’ and as such all means possible to win the war is acceptable.”

Yesterday’s Times (11 March) drew attention to “glaring errors” in the letter, suggesting that it might be a fake. The main “glaring error” is a reference to  the ousting of the former head of Springfield School in Sparkhill/ Moseley, Birmingham. The letter states “We did this perfectly to Noshaba Hussain from Springfield School. However, the Governors reappointed her so now we have another plan in place to get her out.” In fact, Ms Hussain was dismissed in 1994 and was not reinstated. The Times also states that “the crudeness of the apparent forgery is underlined by another error. It identifies two Birmingham schools where the plotters claim credit for removing head teachers late last year. However, the author seems to have muddled up their departure dates.”

The Times goes on to quote Tahir Alam, a former “education chief” at the Muslim Council of Britain, and named in the letter as involved in the plot: “This ridiculous assertion is based entirely upon a leaked document nonsensically referred to as ‘Operation Trojan Horse’ … the authenticity of which any decent and fair-minded person would question and quickly conclude as a hoax. Any reference to me is a malicious fabrication and completely untrue.”

As against this, Shiraz can report that we’ve spoken to a number of teachers from some of the schools named in the documents, and they are of the opinion that the documents are probably genuine – if only because their content tallies with verifiable events in at least two of the schools named in the documents. The former headteacher of Saltley School, Balwant Bains (who we have not spoken to) is reported as saying he was “bullied and intimidated” in the months before he resigned last November after clashing with the school’s governors. The Birmingham Mail (10 March) reported that “Friends claim the respected head, of Sikh origin, was undermined when governors over-turned his decision to expel a Muslim pupil found with a knife. The harassment of Bains included an anonymous text message branding him a “racist, Islamophobic Head teacher.” Five non-Muslim governors of the school have resigned, leaving 12 Muslim governors out of 14. The problems at Saltley School began, according to our sources, when Mr Bains was asked by governors to make curriculum changes, including the scrapping of sex education and citizenship classes because they were allegedly deemed “un-Islamic”. He was, we’ve been told, instructed to introduce Islamic studies into the curriculum and told that only halal food should be served to pupils, even though Saltley is a non-faith school. Mr Bains resigned after an Ofsted report concluded that he had a “dysfunctional” relationship with the school’s governors.

Shiraz has also been told by Birmingham teachers that at another school named in the documents, Adderley Primary,  four Teaching Assistants have been forced out following the school’s receipt of resignation letters that the four denied having written. As a result of the ‘Trojan Horse’ documents the police have now re-opened their fraud investigation into the letters. At least one of the Teaching Assistants is now pursuing an unfair dismissal claim.

Shiraz Socialist will be following this bizarre affair and will report on developments. In the meanwhile, whether or not the ‘Trojan Horse’ documents prove to be genuine, what is clear is that the Tories’ academy programme is opening up education to religious fanatics, sectarians and bigots, making a mockery of the government’s proclaimed commitment to social inclusion.

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