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.
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:
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.
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).
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.”
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.
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 »
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.
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
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.
Pro-Russia separatists in Eastern Ukraine: our enemy’s enemies are our friends?
|Guest post by Dave McGuire|
Since the break-up of Yugoslavia the British left has been split along the following lines; one side of the divide has come to fetishise imperialism becoming uber anti-imperialists on the other side are the third camp socialists. Here I consider the consequences of the ubers approach to some of the major events of the last two decades.
One of their most striking characteristics has been the reworking of the Stalinists framework for viewing the world. The Stalinists divided the world between the socialist and imperialist camp. Behind this division was the idea that Stalin’s Russia was building socialism and so was progressive in relation to capitalism. In the 1930s much Marxist literature including that of the Trotskyists, was devoted to showing the superiority of the planned economy.
This was always a monstrous calumny against the idea of workers power and socialism, Stalin’s Russia was the victory of the counter revolution and a regression from capitalism. By the early post war years this was plain to see to anyone who cared to look – what society could be called an advance on capitalism were slave labour was integral to its economy?
Today the Uber anti-imperialists look at the world through a similar bi-polar lens. The division however is no longer based on the positive, if erroneous, view that the Stalinist states were an advance on capitalism. Rather they divide the world solely on the negative; opposition to whatever the imperialists and `their stooges’ (such as the Maidan revolt, the Iraqi trade unions and the Kurds) do, and support for nearly anyone who is seen to be opposing them. In this redrawn view of the world there is no need for any concrete analysis of the forces ‘fighting imperialism’ – whether these forces are progressive, reactionary or working class – all are lumped together into a single undifferentiated mass, the “anti-imperialist” camp. Most powerful of those aligned against the West is Russia and its satellites and allies, such as the mass murderer Assad. From the struggles in Eastern Europe, through the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, into the Arab spring and now around the Ukraine, almost all international confrontations all are understood through this bi-polar analysis – either one is in the imperialist or anti-imperialist camp. Even the struggle against the barbarians of Isis is seen by some through this lens.
The most significant consequence of the Ubers’ view is that they lose the centrality of the working class both as the driving force in history and as the focus for socialists. Filling this vacuum is not there abstract catch all notion of anti-imperialism but the political results of their campist view nihilism. They have switched tracks from being consistent democrats, supporters of labour movements and advocates of socialism to being cheer-leaders for countries and movements who are against the West and in many instances against progress itself.
The starting point for this regression is their assertion that any military intervention by the west is always wrong. While socialists should never give positive support to their governments, and in most instances should be against interventions … “most” does not mean not “all.” In some cases the rule should be broken, for example NATO bombing in Kosovo, and Libya to name two, in both instances the consequence of non-intervention would have led to massacres and the enhancement of Serb nationalism/imperialism (Kosovo) and Gaddafi (Libya). So why would one be against intervention in principle? For sure the Ubers would be sorry to see massacres happen, but they simply have to oppose anything the West does, as the ‘principle’ of non-intervention transcends all other considerations. Read the rest of this entry »
From the AWL’s paper Solidarity and the Workers Liberty website:
Which “us”, which “them”?
“There are five million of us in Scotland, but sixty million in the rest of Britain. We’ll always be in a minority. That’s why we’ll never get the government we want.”
That’s the SNP case for a ‘yes’ vote on 18 September. Anyone who has attended referendum debates will have heard this argument – word-for-word – from SNP MSPs.
Even if not always expressed in exactly the same terms, that’s also the argument being fired back on the doorsteps by people who are saying that they will vote ‘yes’ on Thursday of next week.
That argument also explains why socialists should oppose a ‘yes’ vote.
“We in Scotland”, from a socialist perspective, are not in a minority.
The “we” that counts for socialists are the working class: people who work, the unemployed, those retired after a life of work, and their families. They are the majority of the population in Scotland, and they are the majority of the population in the rest of Britain.
This is not a coincidence or some transient state of affairs. Capitalism, by definition, is a society based on massive inequalities of wealth and power. A small minority lives off the wealth created by the majority of the population.
That is why, for socialists, it makes no sense to say that “we” are in a minority or to accept that argument from other people. In England, in Scotland, in Britain, “we” are the overwhelming majority of the population.
We might not, and do not, get the government we want.
But that is not because we live in a state called Britain. It is because of the checks and controls over elected government which exist in every capitalist country (and which would also operate in an independent Scotland). Read the rest of this entry »
But today’s ‘Great Lives’ on BBC Radio 4, introduced by the former Tory MP Matthew Parris (a good broadcaster, despite his politics) gave the life and thought of Antonio Gramsci affair hearing.
Dr Tom Shakespeare, a disability activist and former Euro-Communist, supported by Professor Anne Sassoon (‘expert witness’) presented a sympathetic and generally fair profile of Gramsci that is well worth listening to, here.
Naturally, I don’t agree with the Euro-Communist slant of the presentation, but that doesn’t detract (much) from the quality of the case put forward by Shakespeare and Sassoon, which will, hopefully, introduce a lot of new people to the ideas of this heroic figure and giant socialist intellect.
Once you’ve listened, you could do a lot worse than move on to this…
Please forward on to union brothers and sisters.
Dear Friends, Comrades and Family,
As you know, Tom died on the afternoon of Tuesday 5 August 2014. The funeral will be held at Clandon Wood Natural Burial Reserve, at 2pm on Thursday 14th August (details of how to get there below). It will be a secular celebration, followed by a natural burial, in the woodland. The reception will be held at the Fox and Hounds, Surbiton from approximately 5 p.m
Dress however you feel most appropriate, please bear in mind the burial will take place in woodland, so you should wear shoes which are relatively easy to walk in.
Flowers: We ask that if you would like to bring / send flowers, they be hand-tied rather than wreaths (no plastic, please). Tom was not a man who would have been hugely concerned with his own funeral but would have approved of flowers; if you would prefer to recognise the occasion in another way, you might like to make a donation to Keep Our NHS Public or the Doncaster Care UK strikers, as Tom was passionately committed to public healthcare and we appreciate all that the health professionals did for him toward the end of his life.
Thank you to everybody who has already contacted us to send love, solidarity and support, it really is appreciated.
With love and solidarity,
Johnnie Byrne and the Cashman Family
If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting to Clandon Wood Natural Burial Reserve
Clandon Wood Natural Burial Reserve,
Set Sat Nav to Epsom Road, GU4 7TT
Parking available at the Burial Reserve
By Public Transport
Nearest train station is Clandon, which is served by trains from London Waterloo and Guildford.
478 GUILDFORD to LEATHERHEAD – Operated by Reptons Coaches
462 / 463 GUILDFORD to WOKING – Operated by Arriva
479 / 489 GUILDFORD to EPSOM – Operated by Excetera
It is a thirty minute walk from Clandon Station to the burial ground, unless you prefer to walk we will be arranging to collect people from The Onslow Arms, a pub on The Steet, West Clandon, very close to the station. Click here for map of The Onlow Arms
Getting to the reception at Fox and Hounds.
60 Portsmouth Rd
Parking: Small car park at rear of pub, free street parking from 4pm locally, if both are full there are a number of local public car parks.
We hope to arrange to drive, all or most people travelling by public transport, to the reception. Please speak to Alastair, on the day, if you have space in your car.
By Public Transport:
Nearest train station is Surbiton (5 mins walk), trains run direct from Clandon.
We hope to arrange to drive, all or most people travelling by public transport, to the reception. Please speak to Alastair, on the day, if you do not have a car.