Above: Seumas (right) and his hero
I have sometimes been asked why Shiraz Socialist pays any attention whatsoever to the small-circulation British daily paper the Morning Star. The answer is because, despite its very limited circulation, it is influential within the UK left and trade union movement and – indeed – since the demise of the USSR (which used to fund it) is kept in business by the largess of major unions, including Unite and the RMT. Unfortunately, quite a lot of honest but gullible left-wingers and trade unionists take what the Star says as good coin.
Its coverage of the fighting in Ukraine has been a dishonest pro-Putin disgrace, branding the pro-Russian forces as “anti-Fascists” and the Kiev government as “pro-Fascist”. But it’s when it comes to the European Union that the Star really plumbs the depths of reactionary little-England nationalism, thinly disguised support for increased immigration controls and sheer all-round incoherence.
The editorial that appeared in Thursday’s print edition (Wednesday in the on-line edition) is truly bizarre. Starting out by playing to the gallery with an attack on Tony Blair, the editorial culminates in a truly extraordinary series of blatant falsehoods, conspiracy theories, non-sequiturs and self-defeating “arguments” on the subject of the EU. It is utter bollocks, even by the wretched standards of the Star’s usual commentary on Europe; so bad, in fact, that I feel the final section warrants being held up for ridicule here at Shiraz:
‘By adopting the “no referendum on EU membership” position, Miliband has put the ball in his own net.
Cameron is no less committed to EU membership than Blair and Miliband. How could he not be when this is the confirmed position of big business, especially the City of London, and it is these vested interests that the Tory leader represents?
Cameron’s plan to mobilise anti-EU feeling by offering the phantom of negotiations to “reform” the EU followed by a referendum is a swindle.
Any reforms achieved would be illusory or would underpin already weak workplace rights prior to the Tories uniting to back a Yes vote to remaining in the EU.
The Tories and their corporate backers are relaxed about their referendum pledge, looking back to the previous vote in 1975 when a concerted campaign of misinformation funded by big business and backed by the mass media swung the decision in favour of staying in.
By presenting itself as the party of EU integration, Labour is needlessly antagonising the anti-EU majority and handing votes to the Tories and their Ukip allies.’
Above: Seumas getting all excited
The ‘Popular Front’ (ie what used to be called “class collaboration”) is alive and well in the fevered imagination and wet dreams of the Graun‘s tame public school Stalinist:
“[T]he prospect of a Labour-led parliamentary alliance – including, say, Lib Dems, the SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru, the SDLP and Respect – taking Britain in a more progressive direction wouldn’t be so scary for most voters, to judge by opinion polls. It would risk being unstable and be bitterly opposed by some Labour leaders. Anything of the kind would depend on the numbers, of course, and may well be overtaken by the campaign in the weeks ahead. But it could also offer the kind of government that a large part of the population would actually want.”
By Dale Street
“The fascists are not in Ukraine, they’re meeting here!”, “Nazis licking Putin’s ass, OMG!” and “We don’t need foreign fascists here, we’ve nowhere to put our own!” read protestors’ placards outside the St. Petersburg Holiday Inn on 22 March.
The hotel was hosting the “International Russian Conservative Forum”, organised by the “Russian National Cultural Centre, The People’s Home”, a flag of convenience for members of the Russian “Motherland” party (Russian-nationalist, far-right and pro-Putin).
Organisations which sent official delegations to the conference included Golden Dawn (Greece), Ataka (Bulgaria), the National-Democratic Party of Germany, Forza Nuova (Italy), the Danish People’s Party, the National-Democratic Party(Spain), Millenium (Italy), and the Party of the Swedes.
All of these organisations are either on the far right or overtly fascist.
The French National Front, the Austrian Freedom Party and the Serbian Radical Party were invited to attend but decided not to do so for tactical reasons: participating in a conference with openly neo-Nazi organisations would undermine their attempts to appear “respectable”.
Other attendees included Nick Griffin (ex-BNP, now British Unity Party), Jim Dowson (ex-BNP, then Britain First and Protestant Coalition), Nate Smith(Texas National Movement), and Jared Taylor and Sam Dickson (American white supremacists).
Russian politicians and political activists who attended the event included members of “Motherland”, Putin’s “United Russia”party, the Russian Imperial Movement, the National Liberation Movement (slogans: “Motherland! Freedom!Putin!”), Battle for Donbas, Novorossiya, and the “social and patriotic club” Stalingrad.
Alexander Kofman (“Foreign Minister” of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic) pulled out of attending the conference at the last minute. But the Russian fascist Aleksei Milchakov, leader of the neo-Nazi Rusich brigade which has fought in the Donbas, made a point of turning up: “I’ve come direct from the front line, to make contact with European colleagues, to ensure that in Europe they know the truth about the Donbas, so that Europeans flood into Novorossiya (to fight), not into Ukraine.”
Summing up speakers’ contributions, one journalist wrote: “Overall, three things united the nationalists of the different countries: hatred of the US government, hatred of homosexuals, and hatred of the ‘Kiev junta’.”
All three themes were encapsulated in the contribution from Chris Roman, a Belgian active in the recently founded far-right “Alliance for Peace and Freedom” international federation: “In the West you’ll soon be able to marry a dog or a penguin. From the age of five children are taught how to play with themselves, and that it is normal to be gay.
“I support the Russian army, the Russian rebels. I don’t recognise the Kiev junta, a puppet of Wall Street. I don’t recognise the liberal Russian opposition, a fifth column. Politkovskaya, Nemtsov and Berezovsky are now all in hell.
“Crimea is Russian. Alaska is Russian. Kosovo is Serbian. Russia is our friend, and America our enemy. Glory to Russia! Glory to Novorossiya!”
The Russian government was not directly represented at the conference. But the composition, location and themes of the conference underline a growing alliance between Putin and the European far right.
The conference also exposed, yet again, the spurious nature of the Kremlin’s “anti-fascism” and the “anti-fascist struggle” of its puppet governments in Donetsk and Lugansk.
By Dmitri MacMillen
I have made little secret of my disappointment with much coverage and discussion of the ongoing developments in Ukraine this past year, but rarely more often so than when it is stirred by certain elements of the British left. Earlier this week I happened to see Seumas Milne, a Guardian editor and columnist, as well as a leading voice on the British left regarding capitalism and imperialism, at an event and thought it appropriate to approach him and confront him over his poor reporting on Ukraine; unfortunately, the opportunity did not arise. As an individual who sympathises with many of Milne’s and the left’s arguments, I find it disheartening when they fail to apply standards of moral consistency and objectivity for the likes of Ukraine and not only.
So I wrote him two emails of varying lengths, openly expressing my frustrations with his coverage of Ukraine, and also his chairing, days earlier, of a discussion featuring Putin at the Valdai conference. To a large degree, I can say that the impressions penned in these emails are an accurate summary of not only my dissatisfaction with Milne’s politics, but also that of swathes of the left (John Pilger comes to mind) in this country and others, who refuse to contemplate embracing anything other than a ‘tunnel vision’ disproportionately suspicious of the West and its allies, consequently producing material which regrettably falls short of balanced and well-researched journalism. The correspondence is as follows:
Dear Seumas Milne,
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Dmitri and I am a student at a London university. I was also present at the event last night at the Argentine embassy, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to speak to you as I would have hoped to.
There is much that I admire about your work and writings, in particular that what you have written regarding the War on Terror, Palestine and the effects of capitalism in this country. However, and to be frank, I have begun to despair of your writing of late.
As a matter of disclosure, I am a Russian citizen, and one appalled by the events for over the past half year in Ukraine, to a very large extent instigated by my own government. Your writing on Ukraine has been unimpressive to put it mildly, almost entirely pinning the blame for the conflict on the West (funnily enough, not a word from you about Russia’s own devastating intentions and actions – just mere apologism) as well as propagating the notion of swathes of fascists and neo-Nazis roaming in the Ukrainian establishment and society; the absurdity of your latter thesis was effectively laid to rest by the results of Sunday’s parliamentary elections and the nature of their conduct.
As someone whose reputation as a campaigner and journalist is to a large extent seen as having been consistently grounded on anti-imperialism, to see you sharing a stage with Vladimir Putin just days ago was bewildering, if not exactly surprising by now. If you are serious on seeking out the dangerous forces of fascism, I politely advise you to reread a transcript of Putin’s Q and A session at the session you moderated and look at his comments regarding ethnic Russians in Crimea, just for a start. If this does not incite concern in you, then that is unfortunate and equally inconsistent.
You are a powerful voice on the left and one which many read and look up to. You are a writer of considerable talents and one whose campaigning I have often admired. However, if moral consistency across the board is not something you wish to strive for, and your politics are really defined by an innate suspicion of the West, but not the rest, then so be it. If you want to exclusively judge the likes of Ukraine on the basis of a pre-conceived world view, rather than carefully examining the country’s own circumstances, then so be it. But that is a tunnel vision, and it is rarely worthy of wider respect. And I, alongside many other erstwhile enthusiastic readers of yours, deeply regret that.
A courteous reply promptly ensued, the exact contents of which I shall not publish here but instead paraphrase. In brief, Milne said he disagreed with my interpretation regarding responsibility for the events in Ukraine over the past year as well as my criticism of his portrayal of the far right’s significance. He added that moderating Putin’s speech in no way constituted endorsement of him, given that journalists are often asked to fulfil such a role. He did not accept that his politics are innately anti-Western, but underlined the imbalance in power between the West and its allies and that of powers such Russia and others in world affairs. I followed up with a reply.
Dear Seumas Milne,
Thank you for courteous reply, for which I am grateful considering how harsh some of what I may have said did sound. I hope you don’t mind if I make a few points regarding the aforementioned.
Regarding the far right in Ukraine, I in no way dismiss it. I am of direct Ukrainian Jewish descent and my family have had their own experiences with Ukrainian nationalism, so I am more than aware and also wary of its potential dangers.
But the role of the far right in Ukraine, as you and others have put it, as it now stands, is too often exaggerated and overblown. You may insist otherwise, but the impression that many gathered from your readings was that Maidan was effectively a fascist coup (and no, I do not subscribe to the comfortable and simple narrative of a pro-Western, pro-democratic revolt against Russia). Maidan was complex, as were its origins – there is no straightforward interpretation. The nature of Ukrainian nationalism and the far right is also fairly complex and deserves scrutiny. But to describe it all with broad brushstrokes, often entirely ignoring the real significance to modern-day Ukrainian nationalism of basic figures such as Stepan Bandera, no matter how unpalatable to some like myself, is intellectually dishonest. Accusations of an astronomical surge in xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Ukraine, as a result of the protests, have time and again been disproved by public figures and protestors, many of them of the very ethnic backgrounds that you would believe are most at risk from marauding fascists. In fact, many of these communities have stated time and again that those most responsible for fascism in Ukraine are not the far-right, but Putin and his very actions in Ukraine.
At the beginning of the Maidan, the fascists were almost invisible. After the New Year, as the protests radicalised in the face of government intransigence and the subsequent crackdowns on the square, their presence grew (although they were still a minority). You suggest Yanukoyvch was overthrown in a coup. A figure as repulsive as Yanukoyvych, who in the face of popular pressure was prepared to resort to armed force on his own people, plundered the national budget in the billions and ran away to Russia of his own volition (a coup?) at a time when statesmanship was most needed (with the assistance of the Russian state, as you would have heard at Valdai), surely also merits some condemnation from you too.
To say the government that came after Maidan had many fascists is dishonest; there were at best a few. To see how badly the far-right did in this Sunday’s elections (and this at a time when Ukraine is fighting a war with an external aggressor, that has historically been a catalyst for Ukrainian nationalism, struggling to retain its eastern provinces and fighting on so many other domestic fronts) is by and large a testament to the maturity of a great deal of the Ukrainian electorate and also the relative irrelevance of fascists in Ukrainian politics, at least on a substantive level.
Yes, the West no doubt bears some responsibility for what has taken place; but why cannot you bring yourself to recognise Russia’s more than considerable role? If fascism is what you feel strongly about, why don’t you also condemn Russia for fuelling some of its worst effects, especially in Ukraine? Why cannot you condemn the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea (especially when it is grounded on such spurious and equally disconcerting arguments such as a supposed threat to Russian-speakers and ethnic Russians – why is it neither imperialism)? Is it not fascism when Russian rule has led to thousands of Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians and others having to leave Crimea, or the abductions and murders of local pro-Ukrainian activists and Tatars (none of which have been investigated), coupled with attacks on local religious minorities or communities, all with Russian acquiescence? Or is the installation of puppet states in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, professing totalitarian and rabidly pro-Russian nationalistic narratives, ostracising and oppressing, with often murderous and gruesome consequences, locals supportive of Ukraine and its territorial integrity, not fascism? That is fascism and its real life consequences; overtly totalitarian and militaristic tendencies, insisting on dividing people on ethnic markers which until recently were of very little relevance on a daily basis, and now bearing devastating repercussions.
I am not advocating whataboutism; I am in no way blind to abuses committed by the Ukrainian establishment. But I ask for consistency – something which I have not felt apparent in your writings.
Regarding moderating the Putin event; I understand journalists might need to moderate these events, but where does the buck stop? You have accepted that he is authoritarian (although to leave it at there would be simplistic); but is it still acceptable? If you were invited, in the unlikely event, to moderate an event featuring Barack Obama, would you go? Would you reject an invitation by a certain government? Is there not a moral compromise in any case by involving oneself in these events in such a capacity?
I am happy to discuss this further.
I rest my case.
Ever since the Maidan uprising against Putin’s stooge Yanukovych just over a year ago, the Morning Star (indirectly controlled by the British CP and funded by many UK trade unions) has persisted in referring to the Kiev government and its forces as “fascist” and the pro-Putin rebels as “anti-fascists.” The M Star‘s circulation is small, but it carries some weight within the trade union movement and sections of the left. This makes its grotesque misrepresentation of what’s going on in Ukraine, and its uncritical repetition of Putin’s propaganda, so politically poisonous. No article or letter published in the paper has challenged their version of events, until this letter, published today. Shiraz Socialist has no idea who the author is; we’re republishing here because we broadly (but not in every detail) agree with it and because letters published in the M Star‘s print edition do not appear on its website:
Naïve ‘anti-fascist’ label for rebel Russians breathtaking in its error
YOUR description of the eastern Ukrainian rebel soldiers as “anti-fascist fighters” is breathtaking in its crassness and naivety.
They’re no more fighting fascism than Mussolini was.
As ethnic Russians whose ancestors were moved in during the Soviet era (and possibly before), they have simply spotted an opportunity to have the area they live in returned to Moscow’s control.
In this we have seen the encouraging hand of Vladimir Putin, just as in Crimea and Georgia.
Please don’t insult our intelligence by describing Putin as some sort of defender of the left — he is a dictator who maintains his position by imprisonment and assassination of political opponents and by strict control of the media to ensure re-election.
At least in the (later) Soviet era there was some sort of brake by the Communist Party on excesses by the leadership.
Hitler, Franco, Mussolini, Pinochet and their like were fascists.
You are simply losing all credibility by desperately trying to tar the Ukraine government with the label. Shame on you.
I am considering ceasing to buy the Morning Star, despite your support (with which I agree) for the Jack Jones Square campaign in Madrid.
PETER CARR, Sawbridgeworth
Scottish commentator Chris Derin notes the rise of anti-Semitism, and the fact that in Scotland it’s not coming from Islamists or the traditional far-right, but from elements of the supposed “left”:
Unthinkably, anti-semitism is once again on the rise across Europe. Benjamin Netanyahu’s suggestion that the continent’s Jews should move to Israel, following the attacks in Paris, Belgium and Copenhagen, has angered many of his co-religionists, but the fact he felt able to say it should give the rest of us pause.
A timely article published yesterday in Scotland on Sunday by the journalist Dani Garavelli showed concern about their safety is growing among Scotland’s Jews. Giffnock’s long-established community has seen security stepped up outside Jewish buildings, including police patrols at the synagogue and at Scotland’s only Jewish primary school. The children are no longer allowed to line up in the playground in the morning.
The number of anti-semitic attacks in Glasgow rose ten-fold last year, according to Garavelli. A woman selling Israeli cosmetics from a stall is said to have had a ‘burning’ substance thrown in her face, while a rabbi was taunted with shouts of ‘Sieg Heil’. A sheltered housing complex in East Renfrewshire was daubed with a swastika and the words ‘Jewish Cunts. Jews Out’.
It seems to be politically hip to adopt an anti-Israel stance. What used to be the preserve of the far-Right now sits more easily with the far-Left, which is currently undergoing a modish revival in Scotland. Criticism of Israel’s government, a perfectly reasonable thing to do, all too regularly shades into the dark prejudice of anti-semitism. There’s nothing cool or modern about this. Anti-semitism is the most ancient of hatreds, and it was only 70 years ago that Europe’s Jews were nearly destroyed in a mass extermination programme. Anti-semites: think of the company you’re keeping.
JD adds: here at Shiraz we’ve had cause to comment on the anti-semitism of the Scottish PSC before now: “A little bit anti-Jewish”.
By Chris Ford (via Facebook):
So Stop the War are off the fence and jumped into bed with the ultra-Stalinist campaign ‘Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine’ –
I note that it is holding a joint protest at the USA Embassy under the ironic slogan of ‘Peace for the Donbas’.
This from a campaign who supported the annexation of Crimea, support the war in Ukraine as ‘anti-imperialist’, refuse to call for a ceasefire, support restoring by arms a Tsarist colonial state of ‘Novorossiya’, branded all of us who supported an appeal from the Ukrainian miners union as ‘a bunch of scabs’, and generally spend all of their time spreading smears lies and intimidation against anyone who engages in sane or rational disagreement with them.
My question to comrades who are anti-Stalinist who are in StW – what now?
Letter to the Morning Star (emailed on January 26 2015):
I had a feeling your excellent editorial on anti-Semitism (19 Jan) might cause some consternation amongst M Star readers, if only because it noted that “attacking, criticising or making special demands upon people because they are Jewish is anti-semitism.” We all know that this happens on the left and within the trade union movement, with Jews being required to renounce Zionism and denounce Israel, in order to prove that they’re “good” Jews and avoid being tarred as “Zionists.”
It was also refreshing to read in the editorial that whilst condemning the policies of Israeli governments “is not in itself anti-Semitic” (I agree), that “at the same time, Jewish sensitivities about the conditions in which Israel was founded should be understood and appreciated.” This is a major step forward for the Star, which all to often gives space to ‘absolute anti-Zionists’ who believe that Israel has no right to exist, even behind pre-1967 borders.
So I was not entirely surprised to read Linda Clair’s letter (M Star Jan 24) stating that criticism of Israel “is not anti-Semitic at all” (by which I presume, she means it never can be, under any circumstances at all). I beg to differ. People expressing anti-Semitic views now habitually justify themselves by claiming to be merely criticising Israel and “Zionism”. According to the Campaign Against Antisemitism, 77% of British Jews recently polled, stated that they had witnessed or experienced anti-Semitism disguised as political comment about Israel.
I myself witnessed a well-known trade unionist in my local area, only a few years ago, use blatantly anti-Semitic language (in the form of a ‘joke’ about people who failed to buy a round of drinks) and when challenged, self-righteously claim that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians made his ‘joke’ acceptable.
The present state of affairs when it comes to anti-Semitism, can be summed up thus: that whilst not all anti-Zionists are anti-Semites, these days all anti-Semites call themselves “anti-Zionists.”
JIM DENHAM, Birmingham
Letter from Linda Clair (Morning Star, January 24-25 2015):
CRITICISING people for being wrong is a perfectly legitimate part of any debate, however I disagree with the comment that condemning Israel is not in itself anti-Semitic.
It is not anti-Semitic at all, them difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism must be made clear.
Our paper has a responsibility to do that and to educate many people who are unfamiliar with the ideologies.
It’s important to also recognise that extra resources for security are not forthcoming when a Muslim community is under attack and racist murders are perpetrated. The question must be asked: Why?
Now is the time to debate these questions when the way immigration is portrayed in the pre-election period will need to be challenged.
LINDA CLAIR, Rochdale
Morning Star editorial, January 19 2015:
No Place for Anti-Semitism
Anti-semitism is known as “the oldest hatred” for good reason.
For 2,000 years, Jewish people have been the targets of hatred, prejudice and discrimination in different parts of the world, in different types of society and for different reasons.
It is rooted in fear of the unknown and hostility to those perceived as “outsiders.”
But in the case of anti-semitism, this has been given a genocidal twist by the ideological conviction that Jews are the enemies of Christianity, nationhood, racial purity, socialism or — today — the oppressed people of Palestine.
These and other vile calumnies have been used by the power-hungry and the deluded to identify a convenient scapegoat, deceiving the ignorant and downtrodden to the benefit of a particular leader or movement.
Home Secretary Theresa May was right to declare that Britain must redouble its efforts to wipe out anti-semitism in her address at yesterday’s service to commemorate the four people recently murdered at a kosher supermarket in Paris.
Her urgent call for more protection for Jewish cemeteries, synagogues and other targets of anti-semitism, alongside greater efforts to combat it through education and on the internet, stands in sharp contrast to government complacency hitherto.
As late as December 29 last year, the Department for Communities and Local Government was trumpeting that its own report “highlights the great strides that Britain has made in fighting anti-semitism.”
Since then, however, a YouGov opinion poll and a survey commissioned by the Campaign Against Anti-semitism have revealed that anti-Jewish prejudice remains widespread among the general population while a substantial minority of Britain’s Jews fear for their future here.
The questions for Theresa May, Local Government Minister Eric Pickles and their colleagues must now therefore be: what additional resources are this Tory-led government prepared to plough into the police, broadcasting and education services to turn fine words into buttered parsnips?
In order to step up the drive against anti-semitism it will also be important to foster unity between all those forces that can potentially be mobilised in support.
Churches have a special responsibility to disown those in their ranks — sometimes in the past at the highest level — who have poisoned the minds of Christians against Jews and Muslims.
Politicians and parties which profess patriotism must take every opportunity to make clear that their notion of nationality is inclusive, not least by highlighting the disproportionately positive contribution that Jewish citizens have made to social, economic, cultural and democratic progress in Britain and its component nations.
Trade unions and the left — much of which has a proud record of combating anti-semitism here and overseas in the 20th century — must continue to expose the pernicious myths that most Jews are especially greedy and wealthy, are bad employers or engaged in some Jewish-led global banking conspiracy.
That, as Engels echoed more than a century ago, is the “socialism of fools.”
There also needs to be sharper clarity as to what constitutes anti-semitism and what does not.
Attacking, criticising or making special demands on people because they are Jewish is anti-semitism.
Attacking or criticising Jewish people or institutions in the sincere belief that they are wrong is not.
Condemning Israeli state policies, or the actions of Israeli governments, is not in itself anti-semitic.
At the same time, Jewish sensitivities about the conditions in which Israel was founded should be understood and appreciated.
Many Jews around the world support the human and national rights of the Palestinian people.
The fight against anti-semitism should not become the pretext for denying those rights.
The struggle for justice and democracy against oppression and dictatorship is indivisible. That, too, must be remembered on Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27.
Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine reject further peace talks and announce offensive on all fronts
By Dale Street
Russian-separatist forces based in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) have launched a major offensive against Ukrainian government forces in order to seize more territory.
The DPR was formally declared last May, after a sham referendum in which voters were not even asked if they backed independence. The DPR “head of state”, Alexander Zakharchenko, was appointed by Moscow in August, shortly before Russia escalated its aggression against Ukraine by invading the south-east of the country.
Zakharchenko won “elections” held in the DPR in November. But most opposition parties and would-be candidates for the position of head of state were banned from standing. The two candidates who were allowed to stand against Zakharchenko both declared their support for him.
The social basis of support for Zakharchenko is provided by the most conservative sections of the local population, especially senior citizens who pine for the “law and order” and moral intolerance of the long defunct Soviet Union.
Zakharchenko and the DPR are backed by western-European and Russian fascist and far right organisations, and also, of course, by the Russian government, which helped bring the DPR into existence and placed Zakharchenko in power. Read the rest of this entry »