Previously unpublished: Victor Serge on Trotsky’s ‘Their Morals And Ours’

June 24, 2015 at 8:35 pm (democracy, From the archives, good people, Human rights, intellectuals, Marxism, posted by JD, socialism, trotskyism)

Victor serge.jpg
Above: Serge

Unpublished Manuscript on Their Morals and Ours


Translated: for Marxists.org 2015 by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2004.
Translator’s note: This 1940 manuscript, which we thank the great Victor Serge scholar Richard Greeman for providing us, and which has never before been published in any language, is an essential text in the Serge canon. It demonstrates his distance from what was left of Bolshevism as well as his critique of the dogmatism of Trotsky and Trotskyism. His admission that the germs of Stalinism can be found in even the Bolshevism of the heroic period is a key element in understanding both the Soviet Union and Serge’s development. Of especial interest, as well, are his nuanced comments about the European social democratic parties, a bugaboo of the revolutionary left but which Serge finds to have played and continue to play a valuable role. The illegible sections of the manuscript, as Greeman has pointed out to me, are testimony to Serge’s poverty: he couldn’t afford new ribbons for his typewriter.


The need for this critique recently struck me while translating Leon Trotsky’s remarkable essay Their Morals and Ours. There are surely no other contemporary documents that better express the soul of Bolshevism, by which I mean, of course, the Bolshevism of its great years and also, as we will see, the Bolshevism of its decadence which, while courageously opposing Stalinism, the doctrine of the Thermidor of the Russian Revolution, nevertheless bears its mark. And there is absolutely no doubt that no one will ever write anything comparable on this subject, for the great Russians of the three revolutions of 1905, 1917, and 1927 are dead, and we know all too well what kind of death that was. Trotsky remains the last representative of a great historical event and of the type which was both its product and its highest achievement. The modern world owes these men a great deal; the future will owe them even more. Which is even more reason not to blindly imitate them and to try to discover to precisely what extent the socialism that is on the march owes them its approval.

One is immediately struck by the tone of Trotsky’s book, though not by what is peculiar to it, that is his incisive and clear style , but rather by the domineering tone of Bolshevik speech of the great years, along with its echoes of the imperious and uncompromising style of Karl Marx the polemicist. And this is something of great importance, for this tone is essentially one of intolerance. With every line, with every word it implies the claim to the monopoly of truth, or to speak more accurately, the sentiment of possessing the truth. That this sentiment is born of an assurance that is often useful in combat is undeniable. But that this assurance is at bottom unjustifiable is also undeniable. The truth is never fixed, it is constantly in the process of becoming and no absolute border sets it apart from error, and the assurance of those Marxists who fail to see this is quickly transformed into smugness. The feeling of possessing the truth goes hand in hand with a certain contempt for man, of the other man, in any case, he who errs and doesn’t know how to think since he is ignorant of the truth and even allows himself to resist it. This sentiment implies a denial of freedom, freedom being, on the intellectual level, the right of others to think differently, the right to be wrong. The germ of an entire totalitarian mentality can be found in this intolerance.

Trotsky confounds under the same rubric and with the same contempt democrats, liberals, idealists, anarchists, socialists, left socialists (the “centrists”), right communists, and even left communists (“Trotskyists”) who offer any objections to what he thinks. Through purely mechanical reasoning he considers that they constitute a united front “against the Fourth International.” The existence of the latter is, however, still only a problem, but even if it were already a reality this way of viewing it would still be surprising because of its disdain for the facts. The anarchist Berneri (and quite a few of his political friends), the Menshevik Rein-Abramovich, the POUM militants Andres Nin, Kurt Landau, Arenillas, Mena and so many others) are dead, along with hundreds of thousands of poor Spanish buggers crushed under the weight of international reaction. Along with Rykov and Bukharin, the right communists in Russia [rest of the sentence illegible]. To say after all this that only the Fourth International “suffers the pressure of international reaction” is truly a bit of swagger. But we can see how this swagger has become possible: however weak it might still be – and this means however far from real political existence it might be – the Fourth International alone is the bearer of revolutionary truth. And so… etc, etc. Read the rest of this entry »

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Unite and Labour: an open letter to Nick Cohen

June 7, 2015 at 4:11 pm (AWL, democracy, labour party, posted by JD, red-baiting, socialism, unions, Unite the union, workers)

article_update_3a2b80c56b171d26_1373032762_9j-4aaqsk.jpeg 
Above: Unite general secretary Len McCluskey: bogeyman for Tories and Blairites alike

Nick,

I’d guess you still regard yourself as being on the left. So why was one of your first comments after the election an attack on the trade union movement from the right?

You can say you weren’t attacking trade unions as such, but that’s how your Spectator article read – particularly when it was published in the house magazine of the Tory right. At a time when the Tories are proposing new attacks on workers’ right to strike and on trade unions’ right to fund a political voice, you chose specifically to assail trade union involvement in politics.

What struck me about your article was how fluently it combined left-sounding arguments with right-wing conclusions.

What sense does it make to point out that “poverty and inequality are everywhere growing in part because of the shocking failure of the trade union movement” to organise the unorganised – but then condemn, not unions’ lack of boldness and militancy, but “sectarian poses that will stop Labour building broad alliances with everyone from the church leaders to Liberal Democrats”?

In this article at least, you do not criticise more right-wing unions affiliated to the Labour Party – eg Unison, whose leadership is so determined to prevent rank-and-file control of its structures and grassroots campaigning that, to take just one instance, it drove out hundreds of low-paid, precarious outsourced workers at University of London. Instead you focused solely on Unite, the main union being targeted by the capitalist media – targeted for allegedly being too left-wing.

Shamefully, you repeat the Blairite/Tory/media lie that Unite has “used its influence to rig selections”, adding in the same breath that it has “sponsored Labour MPs in Westminster”. (The latter is a problem, why? In fact the problem is that Unite fails to hold most of these MPs to its account.) At the same time you say nothing about the Labour leadership’s continual abuses of party democracy and rigging of internal processes (including in Tower Hamlets – and Falkirk).

It is bizarre that you condemn Unite’s forcing out of Jim Murphy – hardly an electoral success story or an ally of low paid workers! Worst of all, your main solution is for the Labour Party to “show Unite the door”.

Whether this means expelling Unite specifically, or ending the Labour’s union link more broadly, what you are promoting is essentially an ultra version of the program of the Blairite right wing of the party.

You’re right that Labour’s program in the election was “incoherent” and “failed to convince millions of voters”. You’re also right that supporting the SNP is wrong; that backing for Lutfur Rahman shows the left going astray; and that McCluskey’s chief of staff Andrew Murray is an extreme representative of the Stalinist politics deeply entrenched in the union.

But such criticisms are useless when combined with de facto support for the Blairites.

The political forces on the right of the Labour Party which, intentionally or not, you are lining up with are enemies of workers’ interests. They are deeply implicated in the weakening of the labour movement, its failure to take opportunities to build its strength, its abdication from struggle after struggle – both through the policies they have pursued, in government and opposition, and their baleful influence over most union leaders (including ones, like McCluskey, who see themselves as being on the left).

Unite needs to be criticised not from the right, but from the left – for insufficient aggressiveness and militancy, for lack of political boldness, for not taking its own agreed policies and strategies seriously, and for failing to inform, inspire, educate and mobilise its members as an essential part of recruiting more. Part of that is its failure to really push forward in the Labour Party, not only declining to campaign for its own policies but more than once voting against them in deference to the Labour leaders (eg voting at Labour’s National Policy Forum in favour of continuing public sector cuts). The latest example is what looks like backing for Andy Burnham over left-winger Jeremy Corbyn in the party leadership race – despite the fact that Corbyn champions numerous Unite policies and Burnham champions almost none.

Issues with what it advocates aside, the fundamental problem with regards to Labour is not that Unite has exercised too much influence over the party, but that it has exercised too little.

For sure, McCluskey et al’s flirtation with walking away from Labour is part of the problem. But this tendency is determined above all by the Unite leaders’ refusal to consider the alternative of launching and carrying through a serious political fight. Least of all is the answer to justify the drive from the Labour right to wipe out union influence in the party. The Unite leadership’s “strategy” should be attacked not for challenging the Labour leaders, but for helping them – in some cases directly and in some through lack of fight.

I would argue that Unite’s current approach has provided ammunition for the labour movement’s enemies, external and internal, without doing much to actually push them back, win gains and make progress. That is very different from regarding Unite itself as an enemy, as you seem to.

You write that after what you regard as “the death of socialism, [many on the left, including in Unite] go along with any movement however corrupt or reactionary… against the status quo”.

Arguing that socialism is dead is bad enough. You also seem to believe that, as a logical corollary, militant trade unionism is and should be dead too. Given that, all that is left is a “non-sectarian” lash up with Blairites, Lib Dems, church leaders – and presumably employers.

This is a recipe to (even) further disorient and demoralise the left. The real left – those who are serious about turning our labour movement around – will oppose and fight the ideas and program your Spectator article suggests.

Yours

Sacha Ismail
Alliance for Workers Liberty

PS I just saw your second article, about Unite suing you. Obviously this is absurd and wrong, a scandalous abuse of Unite members’ money. But I don’t think what you write about it changes anything fundamental in the political argument.

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AWL on the election result: Regroup and fight back!

May 10, 2015 at 12:57 pm (class, democracy, elections, labour party, posted by JD, scotland, socialism, solidarity, workers)

We face a government which has promised to continue and increase cuts, and to bring in new anti-union laws which will effectively ban large, multi-workplace public sector strikes.


See also: The cause of labour is still the hope of the world


Yet the small upturn of an industrial fightback which has already begun as the economic slump eases off (for some, at least), and unemployment recedes a bit (from 8.3% in November 2011 to 5.5% today) will continue.

The Tories have only 36.9% of the votes cast, almost the same number as in 2010. Most people don’t like the Tories. Their parliamentary majority is small. So long as activists remain resolute, the new Tory government can be pushed back on many fronts, in the same way as the Tories were often on the back foot in 1992-7, despite winning re-election in 1992.

The Tory mayor of London, Boris Johnson, sought to capitalise on his party’s victory by claiming that Labour lost because it went too far left and abandoned the so-called “centre ground”. The claim is nonsense, but some people in the Labour Party will pick up on it.

Labour had about as right-wing a leader in Scotland – Jim Murphy – as can be imagined. Result: the SNP landslide in Scotland was even bigger than expected.

Murphy should go, and the left should make a solid challenge in the new Scottish leadership election. There will be a new contest for the Labour Party leadership across Britain. The left should challenge there too, and certainly not let the contest be a shoo-in for Yvette Cooper or Andy Burnham or some such.

Ed Miliband’s combination of sporadic sallies against “predators” and in favour of “working people” with commitment to continued cuts; only microscopic, piecemeal additional taxes on the rich or restrictions on big-business profiteering; and no challenge to the banks – that combination didn’t work.

The bulk of the labour movement failed to challenge him. Although all the big unions have, on paper, more left-wing policies, none campaigned visibly on those policies during the election or, by way of loud clear demands on the Labour leadership, in the run-up.

The Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory, which we supported, got a better, wider response than we expected. But it was starting from a low base in the labour movement left. Some labour-movement-left bodies which nominally backed the SCLV, such as the Labour Representation Committee, did not even summon up the energy to circulate and publicise the campaign.

With the onset of the great economic slump in 2008, political shifts of some sort became likely. The sober fact so far is that, with exceptions here and there, the left has not gained seriously from the shaking-up effect of the slump. Protests against the cuts in Britain were loud and lively in 2010-11, but have diminished since then even as the cuts have become more damaging. The Tories were able to make some headway with the idea that the cuts were after all “necessary”.

The strand in politics which has gained most from the slump, not just in Britain but worldwide, has been different sorts of “identity politics”. In Britain: the SNP and, fortunately to a smaller extent than once looked likely, UKIP. Elsewhere, very varied forms, in some cases very different indeed: the BJP, ISIS, the Front National, Catalan nationalism…

“Identity politics” comes in liberal or leftish variants as well as its more organic hard-right variants; but even the liberal or leftish variants are a hindrance in the fight against the ruling class. The SNP was able to present itself as leftish despite its record of cuts when governing Scotland. Its showing on 7 May makes another referendum for Scottish separation likely. This signifies, essentially, that anger against the Tories has been diverted into a nationalist blind alley instead of into class struggle.

The labour movement and the left can combat that diversion only by contesting the SNP from a position clearly to the left of it, not by adaptation to nationalism.

The left-of-Labour efforts, TUSC and Left Unity, did poorly, even when they had candidates quite well-known locally and a solid local group of campaign activists. What makes that worse was that both groups decided to run not on full socialist politics but on a trimmed-down “anti-cuts” platform, hoping that would bring them electoral success short-cutting the otherwise arduous process of winning people to socialist ideas. Getting a small-but-solid result for an explicit class-struggle socialist platform may be a real step forward; registering that 0.4% of an electorate have voted “against cuts” is not.

There is no way forward other than redoubled effort in workplaces and within the labour movement to win the arguments for socialism.

In 1992 there was a slightly similar election result. Most people expected Labour, under Neil Kinnock, to win narrowly; in fact the Tories won a fourth successive election victory.

The dismay on the left which followed that result was widespread and harmful, possibly even more harmful than the result itself. Within months of the election, in September 1992, the Tory government’s credibility was shattered by a financial crisis.

Realistically, it now looks difficult to stop the new Cameron administration triggering some developments which will take us backwards: the separation of Scotland (which Cameron doesn’t want, but which he is effectively promoting); the collapse of the Labour Party in Scotland into a rump, or maybe its formal winding-up; and the withdrawal of rump-Britain from the EU (which Cameron is also effectively promoting, and may or may not want). It will be harder to resist those developments because much of the left foolishly sees them as positive.

The point here, however, is that Cameron’s victory on 7 May does not at all guarantee that he can, for example, push through cuts and anti-union laws as drastic as he wants.

The Tory government elected in 1992 was unable to do anything decisive to take further Thatcher’s programme of crushing the labour movement and the welfare state. Then, the damage inside the labour movement from demobilisation after the election defeat was more long-lasting. By 1994 Tony Blair was able to win the Labour leadership by a large majority, on a clearly right-wing programme, and start to shut down the channels of democracy and accountability in the Labour Party. The main union leaders backed him.

Local Labour activists kicked up a stir when Blair dumped Labour’s public-ownership Clause Four in 1995, but the demobilisation of the activist left after 1992 left us much less able to grasp the opportunities created by the Tories’ disarray, and unable to stop Blair’s bandwagon.

The lesson for today is: don’t mourn, don’t mope, don’t mumble. Organise!

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Vote Labour and fight to transform the labour movement!

May 6, 2015 at 5:25 pm (elections, labour party, posted by JD, reformism, socialism)

Vote Labour Tomorrow!

SOCIALIST CAMPAIGN FOR A LABOUR VICTORY: WHERE WE STAND

Another Tory government – ruling by themselves, with the Lib Dems or, worst of all, in coalition with UKIP – would be a disaster for the working class. As socialists, we want a Labour victory, not because we support Labour’s current position – a softer version of austerity and anti-migrant politics – but to throw out the Coalition, and because Labour is linked to workers’ basic organisations, trade unions. If the unions choose to fight, they can change Labour’s direction.

We don’t want to “hold our noses” and vote Labour as a lesser evil. We want to combine campaigning for a Labour government with making clear working-class demands, to boost working-class confidence, and strengthen and transform our labour movement so it is fit to fight.

We must challenge the idea that the working class should pay for the capitalist crisis through increased inequality, lower pay, job insecurity, workplace stress, draconian ‘performance management’ and cuts to services. The labour movement should be championing every working-class fightback against the bosses’ drive to squeeze more and more profit out of our work and our lives.

In place of the dog-eat-dog, exploiting society of capitalism, we socialists are fighting for a world of collective ownership, equality and sustainable planning for people’s needs, not profit. We want to spread these ideas in the working class and among young people.

A socialist transformation of society is not immediately on the cards. Socialism is only possible when a majority of workers are convinced and organised to make it happen. But if we work to strengthen the left and working-class struggles, and reinject socialist ideas into political debate, we can push Labour to shift course and deliver at least some positive changes for the working class.

Whether on the Living Wage or the NHS, free education or zero hours contracts, rail renationalisation or fracking, we need to up the pressure on Labour. We need to advocate radical policies like reversing all cuts, taxing the rich and taking the banks into democratic public ownership. The labour movement should aim for a government that serves the working class as the Coalition serves the rich.

We are fighting for democracy in the Labour Party so that working-class voices, muffled by the New Labour machine and union bureaucracy, can be heard.

We need a labour movement responsive and accessible to the working class in all its diversity, fighting bigotry and oppression. We oppose Labour’s shameful accommodation to anti-migrant agitation by UKIP and other right-wingers. British and migrant workers have the same interests. We support freedom of movement and equal rights for all. We want working-class solidarity across Europe and the world.

In the run up to the election, we are building a network of socialists to carry out this fight. Help us, get involved!

Demands:

As part of fighting for a socialist alternative to capitalism, we are fighting for the labour movement to campaign around a “workers’ plan” of demands in the interests of the working-class, such as:

1. Stop and reverse the cuts. Make the rich pay to rebuild public services. Tax the rich! Expropriate the banks!

2. A decent income for everyone: attack inequality and precariousness. Tax the rich, curb high pay. Nationalise companies that axe jobs; create decent, secure jobs in the public sector. Wage rises that at least match inflation for all workers. Raise the National Minimum Wage to the Living Wage. Full, equal rights for part-time and agency workers; ban zero hours contracts. Stop the war on the poor, unemployed and disabled: decent benefits. Good pensions for all, public or private, at no older than 60.

3. Rebuild the NHS. A comprehensive public health service providing high quality care for all, not a logo above a marketplace of profit-making companies. End outsourcing, marketisation and PFI. A free, public social care system.

4. End privatisation and outsourcing. Expand public ownership, starting with the railways, Royal Mail, the energy companies and other utilities, under democratic and workers’ control.

5. Stop scapegoating migrants. Freedom of movement and equal rights for all. End deportations and detention.

6. Promote workers’ rights. Scrap the anti-union laws. Introduce strong rights to strike, picket and take solidarity action, and for union recognition and collective bargaining, in individual units and sectorally.

7. End the housing crisis. Build millions of council houses. Repopulate empty homes and estates; take over property left empty; tax second homes; end the sell-off of public land. Control rents.

8. Free education. A good local, comprehensive school for every child. Abolish “free schools”, academies, grammar schools, public funding for religious schools. Reverse cuts in FE. Scrap tuition fees, a living grant for every student. Reverse cuts to Sure Start, invest in early years education.

9. Strong action for equality. Crack down on police and state racism. Ensure and make real civil rights for LGBT, black, disabled people and women, and expanded social provision and redistribution to fight inequality. Universal, free public childcare and nursery provision so no parent is forced to choose between work and care. Ensure equal pay and a Living Wage for all. Free abortion on demand.

10. Slash military spending: scrap Trident. Aid for working-class and democratic movements around the world, not support for dictatorships and imperialism.

11. Drive down carbon emissions. Public investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Stop fracking. A public, integrated transport system with radically reduced fares. Workers’ plans for a just transition to a sustainable economy.

12. Expand democracy. A federal republic of Britain: abolish the monarchy and House of Lords. Votes at 16. Re-empower local government. Extend civil liberties and rights to organise and protest. Disband MI5 and special police squads, disarm the police. MPs should only be paid a worker’s wage.

We need to transform our unions so we stop just adopting good policies on paper and start fighting effectively for the interests of the working class – in strikes and struggles, but also by putting forward a working-class political alternative, including demands on Labour. What we can win depends on to what extent we can convince, organise and mobilise people to fight, and in the process renew our movement and change it for the better.

We will prioritise support for Labour candidates who advocate these kinds of policies and represent a voice of working-class opposition within the party.

Support this campaign (see list of signatories).

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Socialist Campaign For A Labour Victory 2015

March 15, 2015 at 7:02 pm (elections, labour party, posted by JD, socialism)

Cover Photo

Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory

SOCIALIST CAMPAIGN FOR A LABOUR VICTORY: WHERE WE STAND

To add your or your organisation’s name email socialistcampaign@gmail.com or go to https://socialistcampaignforalabourvictory.wordpress.com/sign-the-statement

Another Tory government – ruling by themselves, with the Lib Dems or, worst of all, in coalition with UKIP – would be a disaster for the working class. As socialists, we want a Labour victory, not because we support Labour’s current position – a softer version of austerity and anti-migrant politics – but to throw out the Coalition, and because Labour is linked to workers’ basic organisations, trade unions. If the unions choose to fight, they can change Labour’s direction.

We don’t want to “hold our noses” and vote Labour as a lesser evil. We want to combine campaigning for a Labour government with making clear working-class demands, to boost working-class confidence, and strengthen and transform our labour movement so it is fit to fight.

We must challenge the idea that the working class should pay for the capitalist crisis through increased inequality, lower pay, job insecurity, workplace stress, draconian ‘performance management’ and cuts to services. The labour movement should be championing every working-class fightback against the bosses’ drive to squeeze more and more profit out of our work and our lives.

In place of the dog-eat-dog, exploiting society of capitalism, we socialists are fighting for a world of collective ownership, equality and sustainable planning for people’s needs, not profit. We want to spread these ideas in the working class and among young people.

A socialist transformation of society is not immediately on the cards. Socialism is only possible when a majority of workers are convinced and organised to make it happen. But if we work to strengthen the left and working-class struggles, and reinject socialist ideas into political debate, we can push Labour to shift course and deliver at least some positive changes for the working class.

Whether on the Living Wage or the NHS, free education or zero hours contracts, rail renationalisation or fracking, we need to up the pressure on Labour. We need to advocate radical policies like reversing all cuts, taxing the rich and taking the banks into democratic public ownership. The labour movement should aim for a government that serves the working class as the Coalition serves the rich.

We are fighting for democracy in the Labour Party so that working-class voices, muffled by the New Labour machine and union bureaucracy, can be heard.

We need a labour movement responsive and accessible to the working class in all its diversity, fighting bigotry and oppression. We oppose Labour’s shameful accommodation to anti-migrant agitation by UKIP and other right-wingers. British and migrant workers have the same interests. We support freedom of movement and equal rights for all. We want working-class solidarity across Europe and the world.

In the run up to the election, we are building a network of socialists to carry out this fight. Help us, get involved!

INITIAL SIGNATORIES (all in a pc):

John McDonnell MP
Ian Hodson, National President, Bakers’, Food & Allied Workers Union
James McAsh, London Young Labour Committee
Maria Exall, CWU Greater London Combined Branch Secretary

Read the rest of this entry »

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Oscars for the Most Barking Mad Left Comment of the year

February 22, 2015 at 6:56 pm (Andrew Coates, comedy, conspiract theories, cults, posted by JD, socialism, wankers)

We are proud to join with Tendance Coatesy in co-sponsoring this prestigious and coveted award:

The ‘Barking': Top Award for Mad Left Writing.

The Oscars tonight will be overshadowed by the new ceremonies for the ‘Most Barking Left Writing’ (Hat-Tip: Dave Osland).

The principal coveted trophy, (pictured), will be awarded this evening in the Spring Road Allotment Shed – former Telephone Box.

The past year has seen some strong contenders for the prize.

We have had John Tummon, of Left Unity, and his ‘Calpihate motion

To show solidarity with the people of the Middle  East by supporting the end of the  structure of the  divided nation states imposed by the Versailles  settlement and their replacement by a Caliphate type polity in which diversity and autonomy are protected and nurtured and the mass of people can effectively control executive authority’. Left Unity distances itself specifically from the use of intemperate, inaccurate and moralist language such as ‘terrorism’, ‘evil’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘viciously reactionary’, ‘murderous’, genocidal’, etc in discussion about the Middle East; these terms are deployed by people and forces seeking not to understand or analyse, but to demonise in order to dominate, and they have no place within socialist discourse.”

We have had Socialist Worker publishing Hassan Mahamdallie who compared the outsiders fighting for the genociders of the Islamic State (Da’esh) and the foreign  volunteers who backed Spanish democracy (“in the 1930s radicalised young men from the same mining communities illegally made their way into Spain to take up arms against general Franco’s fascist army”.

He added this sentence, “It has been disheartening to watch establishment Muslim leaders apologetically rushing out with condemnations. They have pointlessly distanced themselves from “John the Jihadi”—who is alleged to have killed Foley—and declared that Isis is “un-Islamic”.

The tonnes and tonnes of material written about the Ukraine has been ruled worthy of a special award – to follow.

The slaughter at Charlie Hebdo, and the Hyper-Cacher, has brought a fine crop in.

Tariq Ali set the bar high by announcing after the attack (this is a version from the 28th of January),

How serious is Islamophobia in France and other European countries?

France is the worst in Europe and tries to mask it by proclaiming its secular values (sound familiar?), but these values don’t apply to Islam. In fact, French secularism means anything but Islam. And when satirical magazines taunt them, they react. It’s as simple as that.

Only yesterday he tried to keep in the running by saying (Guardian), of Charlie.

In the 80s it had become a stale magazine, and people have told me that one reason for attacking the Muslims and reprinting the Danish cartoons was to boost circulation.” He argues that Je suis Charlie stickers express something other than support for freedom of expression and condemnation of those who murdered in the name of Islam – a loathing for Muslims.

Note: Charlie Hebdo stopped publication from 1981 t0 1992 except for a special issue in 1982.

The Socialist Workers Party Central Committee gave Tariq his angle on the 8th of January,

Racists and right wingers are trying to use Wednesday’s horrific killings in Paris to divide working people, justify imperialist intervention and whip up Islamophobia.

Almost everyone will recognise that the attacks are wrong and completely unacceptable. We must not let them be exploited to generate racism, justify more wars, or to give a boost to the far right.

The media present Charlie Hebdo as simply a “satirical magazine”. But it is not the French equivalent of Private Eye as some commentators have suggested. It may have been once, but it has become a specialist in presenting provocative and racist attacks on Islam. That does not justify the killings, but it is essential background.

Let’s unite against racism and Islamophobia.

The ever-reliable John Wight on Socialist Unity said this (8th January)  as the dead still lay unburied,

The free speech ‘merchants’, those who were so up in arms over matters related to the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, who use free speech as a sword rather than a shield, would like nothing more than to silence one of the only voices in the country’s national life who dares challenge the demonisation of Muslims and the Muslim community, establishment support for the apartheid state of Israel, and a political status of quo of military intervention overseas and social and economic injustice at home.

But it’s the Economic & Philosophic Science Review that stands out,

Fake-”left” line-up once more with imperialism to “condemn terror” over the Paris attacks, proving even further their craven capitulation to the warmongering demonisation being used to whip up World War Three. Attacking the Islamists as “reactionary” is opportunist sophistry, as is writing them off as “isolated individual terrorists” . Such pretend “Marxism” is just a cover for petty bourgeois moralising and “free speech and democracy” reformist humbug that solves nothing but helps feed the “kill them all” fascist revenge mentality stirred up by capitalist cynicism.

Further afield Ramzay Baroud‘s efforts post-Charlie in the Morning Star to pin the blame for hatred of Muslims and the crimes of Imperialism on the New Atheists merits an honourable mention.

Socialist Fight, Gerry Downing and Graham Durham of the Crickelwood People’s Republic (twinned with the Donbass),  is outstanding.

Ian Donovan is also one to to watch, “in his opinion, there is a Jewish “pan-national bourgeoisie”, which has constituted itself as ruling class “vanguard” in key imperialist countries, and it is this that accounts for US support for Israel.” (Weekly Worker).

Donovan’s recommendation, Support George Galloway MP for Bradford West, is surely in line with these views

The Weekly Worker’s Letter Page has rich crop notably this which is clearly the front runner:

Sounds absurd?

Phil Kent has accused me of holding positions I never held in relation to Stalin, the issue of peak oil and reptilians (Letters, January 15). He also claims I am an elitist, because I believe in leadership.

Firstly, I never argued that Stalin’s victims “deserved to die” – I challenge Kent to prove otherwise. In passing, it’s interesting to note that following the demise of the Soviet Union, when Boris Yeltsin released the figures for individuals in Soviet prisons, these were lower than the USA. The capitalist media went silent.

Secondly, I never argued that rising oil prices would “soon” mean the end of capitalism. What I argued is that rising oil prices in the period of declining oil production, following the global peak, would lead to the collapse of capitalism, if no viable substitute for cheap oil was found. World oil production goes through three stages: rising production, peak and decline. We are still at the peak stage, when oil supply is at its maximum.

Thirdly, I never claimed that the future of humanity “may rest on the beneficence of extra-terrestrial reptiles”. I replied to Andrew Northall’s letter of December 18 and referred to the reptilian control theory, which argues that for thousands of years humanity has been controlled by a reptilian race, using their mixed reptile-human genetic bloodlines, who have oppressed and exploited humans, while claiming descent from the ‘gods’ and the divine right to rule by bloodline. Ancient and modern society is obsessed with reptilian, serpent and dragon themes, possibly due to this heritage. Even the flag of Wales has a dragon on it.

Most people have closed minds, depending on the issues. Mention the possibility of aliens secretly manipulating humanity behind the scenes and the shutters come down. Perhaps Kent should contemplate Einstein’s words: “If at first an idea does not sound absurd, there is no hope for it.

Tony Clark Weekly Worker.

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James P. Cannon on the separation of church and state

January 22, 2015 at 6:02 pm (atheism, Catholicism, Christianity, Civil liberties, class, Free Speech, From the archives, Human rights, James P. Cannon, Marxism, posted by JD, religion, socialism, trotskyism, United States)

In view of the craven capitulation of sections of the “left” before religion in recent years (and, notably, following the Charlie Hebdo murders), it seems timely to reproduce the views of the great US Trotskyist James P Cannon. This article, entitled ‘Church and State’ originally appeared in the Militant (paper of the US Socialist Workers Party) of November 19, 1951. It was later republished in Notebook Of An Agitator (Pathfinder Press, 1958).

James P Cannon

It’s a fairly safe bet that President Truman didn’t know exactly what he was doing when he announced his decision to send a US. ambassador to the Vatican, nominating General Mark W. Clark to the post. Inhibited by training and constitutional disposition from seeing anything more important or farther in the future than the next election, he probably thought he was just firing off a cap pistol to attract “the Catholic vote in 1952. He didn’t know it was loaded.

But the recoil of the gun and the noise of the explosion leave no doubt about it. The shot heard ’round the country has had results undreamt of in the philosophy of the Pendergastian politico in the White House. A bitter controversy, long smoldering, has burst into a flame that brings both heat and light into American politics. Sides are being chosen for a fight. In my opinion, it’s a good fight worth joining in.

The First Amendment

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” So reads the first clause of the first amendment to the U;S. Constitution, adopted under the pressure of the people to protect their rights and freedoms. The meaning of this constitutional provision is quite clear to all who have no special interest in muddling it. It is the doctrine of “the separation of church and state.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Samuel Farber: The Alternative in Cuba

December 28, 2014 at 6:47 pm (democracy, Latin America, posted by JD, socialism, stalinism, United States)

Greta Gabaglio / Shutterstock

By Samuel Farber at the excellent US Jacobin magazine and website.

(Farber was born and raised in Cuba. He is the author of Cuba Since the Revolution of 1959: A Critical Assessment).

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

The Alternative in Cuba

The resumption of US – Cuban relations is a real victory. But Cuban workers face renewed economic liberalization with little political opening.

On December 17, 2014, Washington and Havana agreed to a pathbreaking change in a relationship that, for more than fifty years, was characterized by the United States’ efforts to overthrow the Cuban government, including the sponsorship of invasions, naval blockades, economic sabotage, assassination attempts, and terrorist attacks.

The new accord set free the remaining three members of the “Cuban Five” group held in US prisons since 1998 and, in exchange, Cuba freed the American Alan Gross and Rolando Sarraf Trujillo, a previously unknown US intelligence agent imprisoned on the island for almost twenty years, in addition to over fifty Cuban political prisoners. Far more consequential are the resumption of official diplomatic relations and the significant relaxation of travel restrictions and remittances to Cuba.

The agreement covers the political normalization but not the full economic normalization of relations: that would require Congress repealing the Helms-Burton Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996.

Past failures

There were previous efforts to resume political and economic relations between the two countries since the United States broke ties in early 1961. The most important was undertaken by the Carter administration, which in pursuing an initiative originally undertaken by Nixon, renewed secret negotiations with the Cuban government in 1977, when the Cuban exile right-wing in South Florida was still a negligible political force.

The two countries made mutual concessions that included the establishment of diplomatic “interest sections” in Washington and Havana and the lifting of the ban on tourist travel to the island, a restriction later reinstated by Reagan in 1982. In the wake of the Carter-Castro negotiations, the Cuban leader released most political prisoners, of which about 1,000 left for the United States, and in 1979, Cuban-Americans were, for the first time, allowed to visit their relatives on the island.

Yet the reconciliation process came to a halt. While the presence of US troops throughout the world was taken for granted by Washington as an imperial entitlement, the deployment of Cuban forces in Africa became an obstacle to the normalization of relations. Many in the US blamed Castro’s foreign involvement as the decisive reason for the collapse of the talks both under Nixon and Carter. But there were other more important factors at work.

For one thing, the Carter administration was itself divided on the question. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance supported the resumption of normal relations with Cuba, while Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s powerful national security adviser, opposed the move. But it was domestic political developments in the US unrelated to Cuba, that ultimately stopped the process.

The American right was becoming agitated over the negotiations concerning the transfer of the Panama Canal back to the Panamanians. In September 1977, Carter suspended negotiations with Cuba until after the Canal treaties were ratified by the Senate.

The suspension turned out to be indefinite. Faced with attack over Panama, the Carter administration decided to shore up its right flank by adopting a tougher posture on Cuba, a stance that was shortly after reinforced by the victory of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, and by the political weakening of the Carter administration as a result of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian hostage crisis.

American capitalists approve                      

Why did Obama succeed where previous US administrations failed? More than anything else, the end of the Cold War, the departure of Cuban troops from Africa, and the less militant stance of Cuba in Latin America have, through the years, qualitatively downgraded the importance of Cuba in American foreign policy, as witnessed by the fact that practically all US government strategic studies in the last two decades don’t even mention the island. Read the rest of this entry »

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Scottish Labour: vote Findlay and Clark!

November 27, 2014 at 3:51 pm (elections, labour party, left, scotland, socialism)

Jim Murphy claims the Prime Minister behaves like a 'foreign dignitary' on his visits to Scotland

Jim Murphy : skeleton
 
By Dale Street
Neil Findlay MSP is the left challenger for the position of leader of the Scottish Labour Party, with Katy Clark MP standing as the left candidate for deputy leader.

Both of them are committed to rebuilding electoral support for Labour by a return to “the timeless Labour values of community, solidarity, fairness and justice.” They want Labour to adopt policies to attack poverty, unemployment, exploitation in the workplace, and health and wealth inequalities.

Both of them also have an established track record of campaigning for such policies. Unlike one of their competitors in the elections — Jim Murphy MP — they have not discovered such issues only after the resignations of the previous leader and deputy leader.

Neil and Katy have won nominations from Unison, Unite, GMB, UCATT, ASLEF and TSSA.

Constituency Labour Parties backing one or both of the candidates include Glasgow Kelvin, Cunninghame South, Coatbridge and Chryston, Almond Valley, and Carick, Cumnock and Doon Valley.

Hundreds of CLP and trade union activists have volunteered to help build support for their election campaigns.

In deciding which candidate to support for leader and deputy leader, Scottish Labour members and members of affiliated organisations need to face up to reality and recognise the tasks now confronting the party.

Between 1997 and 2010 Labour Party national membership fell by over 60% (from 440,000 to 180,000). Over the same period Labour lost five million votes and two trade unions disaffiliated from the party.

Scottish Labour membership is now around one fifth of that of the SNP. The party lost the 2007 and 2011 Holyrood elections. Electoral support slumped by a third between 1999 and 2011 and although an overall majority voted “No” in the recent referendum, what had once been Labour urban heartlands voted “Yes”.

Recent opinion polls put Labour on around 23% of the vote and the SNP on 52%. In a Westminster general election this would give Labour just four seats, and the SNP 54.

The politics which have reduced Scottish Labour to this pitiful state are the politics represented and embodied by Jim Murphy.

Murphy voted in favour of spending billions of pounds on war in Iraq. He has also voted in favour of a benefits cap for claimants. That sums up his politics: billions for war, but more attacks on the unemployed and low paid.

In an earlier life as President of the National Union of Students Murphy railroaded through the dumping of NUS policy opposing the scrapping of student grants. On a scale of one to ten, his chances of rebuilding support for Labour among young people are therefore zero.

People in Scotland, like elsewhere, are disenchanted with politicians. Murphy is not going to restore their faith in them. He rented out his property in London, and then exploited the parliamentary allowance of £20,000 to rent a property for himself.

Murphy has certainly won more nominations from career-minded parliamentarians than the candidates of the left. He has also won nominations from small and poorly attended CLP meetings. And the right-wing media have boosted him as the “odds-on favourite”.

But, symptomatically, the only union backing Murphy to date is Community (although USDAW may end up nominating him as well) – and Community is very small, very right-wing, very bureaucratic, and renowned as the union for labour movement careerists.

The problem is not that Murphy has a lot of skeletons in his cupboard. The problem is that he is the skeleton.

If Murphy is elected Scottish Labour leader, the party should rename itself Dignitas Scotland – the only difference being that Dignitas is about people dying with dignity whereas a Murphy-led party would be more likely to die a lonely, miserable, poverty-stricken death in the gutter of Scottish politics.

The time is long overdue for Scottish Labour members to have a leader who is not an embarrassment, one for whom they are not constantly required to apologise.

The last leader invoked Thatcherite language to attack Scotland’s supposed “something for nothing culture”. Her predecessor ran away – quite literally – from political argument. And his predecessor, despite having overall responsibility for the entire Scottish budget, could not even keep track of the rental income from subletting part of his constituency office.

Nominations by CLPs, trade unions and affiliated societies closed last week. The next stage will be to win further support for Neil and Katy in the balloting period, running to 10 December.

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A rejoinder to the AWL’s detractors

November 14, 2014 at 8:57 am (AWL, islamism, Marxism, mccarthyism, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD, secularism, socialism, solidarity, students, trotskyism)

Pete Radcliff writes:

There are some particularly unpleasant sectarians in important positions on the left, in Nottingham and elsewhere, who vilely denounce my friends in the AWL (as well as me) as ‘Zionist’ or ‘pro-imperialists’ – because whilst supporting the Palestinians they advocate a 2 states solution for Israel/ Palestine – or they accuse the AWL of being ‘racists’ because they have always criticised ‘Political Islamism’.

There was a recent attempt by student union officers, under the influence of a group called the ‘Student Broad Left’ in UCL, to ‘no platform the AWL’. They basically argued that the AWL was a physical threat to Muslims because the AWL supported a motion to the NEC of the NUS written by a Kurdish student officer from Edinburgh. It is pretty bizarre stuff – to support a campaign against ISIS makes you Islamophobic and a physical threat to Muslims. Here is my friend and comrade Omar Raii‘s response: http://uclu.org/blogs/omar-raii/rejoinder-to-awls-detractors

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