Tendance Coatesy

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Fourth International and Fifth International Merger: 4 1/2 International?

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It’s a Swampy Thing: the Weekly Worker wouldn’t understand.

In the interest of international left unity we publish this news.

The first discussion bulletin Inside Left Unity  is now available (via the Weekly Worker site).

The International Socialist Network, the Anticapitalist Initiative, RS21, Workers Power (Fifth International) and Socialist Resistance (4th International) are discussing merging, and will hold a Conference on this in the near future.

The comrades from the Weekly Worker publish the first discussion bulletin involving these organisations.

We note with sorrow that the CPGB has been excluded from these discussions, despite several direct approaches to two of the participating organisations, the International Socialist Network and RS 21, for exploratory talks (see here and a comment on RS21 in this article for the apolitical rebuffs we received).

The CPGB (Provisional CC) has been “feebly bad-mouthed by most participants. ” Any suggestion that the CPGB might be included in the unity discussions would prompt an instant and a non-negotiable veto from Socialist Resistance. (SR has also been distinctly sniffy about the participation of Workers Power, of course).”

What the Weekly Worker justly calls the “Gang of Five” is, they report, on the way to creating a “sect”.

They they saintly remark that  their ‘hearts will mend”  but that, “Sadly the comrades seem on an inevitable descent into the swamp of liquidationism, and not upwards to principled Marxist unity.”

The CPGB (provisional CC) has ” written to the organisers of the April 26 ‘unity’ conference requesting observer status and – whatever the outcome of that – we will keep up our campaign that seems to cause these political trends such pain: For Marxists to unite and fight for Marxism.”

In the discussion document Socialist Resistance makes a contribution on the People’s Assembly which is worth reading,

Why PA is important for revolutionaries and Left Unity.

The PA is mobilising a similar target audience that Left Unity is building from. Activists involved in the People’s Assembly are nearly all both against government austerity and New Labour’s austeritylite ‘alternative’.  We have to be working alongside these activists not preaching from the sidelines that Unite has ‘sold out’ on Grangemouth or not yet organised a general strike or that the People’s Charter is not a revolutionary programme. We need to be there when these activists ask themselves whether consistent anti-austerity activity can co-exist with a belief that Labour can be reclaimed from the left.It was noticeable that there is a very limited number of Labour MPs or councillors signed up to the People’s Assembly and  even  fewer Labour Party branches affiliated.

We need to also collaborate with Counterfire – they may be part of a future left recomposition. Sooner or later they have to ask themselves whether the only perspective is building such united fronts and recruiting to Counterfire, turning it into a better SWP, or whether energies also need to be put into developing a broad political alternative to Labour like Left Unity. Both the CPB and Counterfire counterpose the PA to projects like Left Unity – misunderstanding the difference between a political party and a united front campaign. The CPB even talks of the PA as the most important political movement around. The PA will be around after the next elections, the debate on the left may have significantly changed. We need to be in the same room as the activists who identify it as a political movement.

It will indeed be interesting to see how Counterfire develops.

On Europe though Socialist Resistance are far from clear, or illuminating,

One area where differences were apparent was on Europe. Socialist Resistance has a long-standing opposition to European integration EU style which we believe is an important mechanism through which the European bourgeoisie attacks the gains of the working class.

That doesn’t mean that we do not prioritise building solidarity on a continental wide basis or that we would support an organisation such as No to EU – which as we have argued consistently ends up capitulating to racism by defending a British jobs for British workers line.

We don’t think in the current political situation that we should campaign for British withdrawal from the EU as a priority but we don’t agree with Simon Hardy when he argued that we should support European integration or with the Lambeth resolution when it argues that we should no more take a position on capitalist European integration than we would on the mergers of companies (actually in some situations we think it’s appropriate to take a position on the latter – it’s a question of concretely analysing a specific situation and assessing what is more or less likely to strengthen workplace and company-wide workers organisation).

So if it is not a “priority” they do they still agree to withdrawing from the EU?

We should be told.

On Ukraine there are the divisions that one imagine, SR backing the Maidan protesters, Workers Power rejecting them, and the ISN taking a balanced, “don’t take sides” position.

The bulletin is well worth reading.

Though you need a stern will to get through to the end of Workers Power’s wordy contributions, which can be summed up, everyone else is wrong but us – the pure vein of working class “rank and file” revolution.

There is one major gap.

One would have preferred some deeper analysis not of “broad” left-wing parties but of the specifics of European politics. Above all, what do Socialist Resistance think of the French Front de Gauche, whose own unitary formation  split their French counterpart organisation, the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA).

The failure of the NPA to capture the ground to the left of the French Parti Socialiste (at present in government) is perhaps one of the most important issues any attempt at left ‘regroupment’ should discuss.

It is noteworthy that Socialist Resistance fails to address the existence of the Front de Gauche nor do the contribution in the texts assembled in their key statements,  Building New Parties of the Left even broach the thorny topic.

Instead we get this, on the British left Unity  (Terry Conway)

…our view is that we need to maintain the ability of this new political party to attract those just breaking with social democracy as well as those new to political activity and more seasoned activists joining a political party for the first time from the unions and single issue campaigns.

In practice we think that with the best of these militants these difficulties will be broken down in so far as Left Unity begins to build itself in a consistent way in the localities, campaigning on the key issues that are mobilising people. As people build up a loyalty and sense of identification with Left Unity as an organisation through collective activity, these more ideological debates will become less dominant.

So, their strategy is build a broad party until the time is ripe for some ‘Ideological debate’ – sectarian in-fighting.

To return to the title of this post: if SR and Workers Power are in the same organisation will this mean that the Fourth and the Fifth Internationals will merge?

In the Four and a Half International?

Left Unity “moderate” “mishmash” or step forward?

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Weekly Worker says, economic policy  is ” mishmash“.

Left Unity is encouraged, rightly in the Tendance’s view by having achieved some national resonance.   1,520 signed-up members – and 200 in the immediate run up to their Manchester Conference.

But steel-hardened cadres beware!

Peter Manson reports in the Weekly Worker.

The economics policy commission, which made up the first real business of the day, remains a mishmash of lofty aspirations and minimalist reforms. It starts by describing the effects of the global financial crisis, yet does not go on to call for the party to be committed to a campaign for an alternative society. It states: “Radical measures are necessary to ensure a transformation in the economic structure and a reversal of the damage inflicted over the last 30 years of attacks …” It calls for “an expansion of public spending in pursuit of a policy of full employment”.

…incredibly, no debate was allowed on this monstrosity of a document.

We can only be dismayed.

Except that to most people it seems a pretty good approach to take, a radical programme of structural reforms, and a positive attempt to offer an alternative to the Privatising State and Austerity.

In general Left Unity has some pretty good policies. It refused to follow the  Gadarene herd into the sea of Scottish nationalism and an independent capitalist Alba. It rejected calls for  ‘unity’ with groups like the SWP (which some of Left Unity’s main members recently split from acrimoniously) and the No2EU supporting Socialist Party.

It would have been interesting to see  some balance-sheet of the experience of other left party initiatives, particularly a self-criticism from those who were until not so long ago part of the cabal around George Galloway’s Respect Party.

None has appeared.

Even Cde. Mason admits its policy on Europe is an excellent start,

Crouch End’s motion called for support for the statement of the European Left Party and its “refoundation of Europe on a socialist basis”. This was carried unanimously. Of course, there are big differences on what exactly is meant by that, and those around Andrew Burgin, Kate Hudson and so on who support it have very different ideas in practice on what is meant by “socialist”. But this convergence around the notion of all-Europe unity – as opposed to left nationalism – was striking.

This is a major advance for the British left.

The comrade writing in the organ of the Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB accurately  observes (following no doubt the judgement of Tendance Coatesy) that the motion on racism was a load of, how shall we put this politely, cack.

Cde Mason remarks,

“It was fitting that this intersectionalist motion was moved by Richard Seymour. He was urged by comrade Macnair to accept that the motion was “framed in the wrong way” and should be referred back.”

Comrade Macnair pointed out that its sectionalist/intersectionalist basis was “inconsistent with global opposition to capitalist rule”. Blacks (or women) per se cannot lead such opposition. Secondly, it saw no difference between the racism of old and today’s “nativism”. It accepted the whole multiculturalist agenda, which was driven by the bourgeoisie and sought to divide opposition from ethnic groups by upholding their separation from each other and promoting ‘community leaders’ who claimed to speak for them and helped sideline any united class response to cuts, etc.

Quite right comrade! (we are not being facetious  here)

In his reply, comrade Seymour dismissed the concern about intersectionality. The various oppressed groups “intersect”. So “what’s the problem?” As for the divisive nature of multiculturalism, that seemed to pass him by. Showing just how all-pervasive are the backward ideas associated with multiculturalist intersectionality, the CP was virtually alone in calling for a referral-back: the motion was carried overwhelmingly.

To repeat.

The motion passed.

This alone shows something is going wrong.

Whether Left Unity will amount to a successful intervention in national politics remains very much an open question.

One larded with doubts.

We consider that initiatives like the People’s Assembly have deeper roots and can achieve more results – fighting austerity uniting trade unionists , social movements and individuals – than a new party.

But we shall leave to conclusion to Cde. Mason.

The whole day was very tiring, but it was nowhere near as frustrating as the founding conference. But, despite some success for the “extreme left”, March 29 marked another step on the road towards Left Unity becoming a broad, “moderate” party incapable of organising consistent working class opposition to capital. However, there is a lot to play for yet.

A rather different report on the Conference in Links International.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 5, 2014 at 11:42 am

Undercover. The True Story of Britain’s Political Police. Rob Evans and Paul Lewis. Review.

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Andrew Coates:

Former Metropolitan police commissioner Lord Paul Condon has denied authorising undercover police officers to target the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

This book has become highly relevant.

http://i1.birminghammail.co.uk/incoming/article5166266.ece/BINARY/undercover.jpg

Undercover. The True Story of Britain’s Political Police. Rob Evans and Paul Lewis. Faber & Faber 2013.

Many of the reported 8,931 political campaigners on the “national data base of political extremists” took a keen interest in the publication of Undercover. Some police infiltrators had already been publicly unmasked. Mark Kennedy – “Stone” – has been fingered by Indymedia in 2010. ‘Progressive academic’ and advocate of a dialogue with Islamists, Bob Lambert, was confronted with his spy chief past at a conference to “celebrate diversity, defend multiculturalism, oppose Islamophobia and racism” in October 2011. Suddenly people on the left, and other campaigners, were reminded of the existence of intense police surveillance on our political activity.

Undercover has marked a new stage. The extracts in the Guardian, which contains fuller revelations about Kennedy and Lambert, and others’ including long-term relationships with activists, and the use of dead children’s birth certificates to procure undercover identities, did not just whet the appetite of a broader public. They raised serious issues about the involvement of what Evans and Lewis rightly call the “political police” in Britain.

One case continues to cause an uproar. On spy, Pete Black, began his work in the 1990s in anti-fascist groups, then the (what has become) Socialist Party’s Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE). He moved on to spy on community-organised fights against legal injustices affecting the black community. Black finally began to recoil when asked to “smear” those involved in the Stephan Lawrence campaign and discover anything he could to discredit the key figure of Duwayne Brooks. (Page 156)

Provocations.

Questions about their role have extended to allegations about their use as agents provocateurs. It has been claimed that Lambert helped write the anti-MacDonald leaflet by London Greenpeace (an autonomous body) – the origin of the notorious libel action. It’s also said that Lambert “encouraged and even participated in an arson campaign that caused millions of pounds of damage. Lambert has firmly denied that he planted the incendiary device at the Harrow store, of Debenehams.”(Page 43) He strongly denies this, though claims credit for putting the animal rights activists involved in prison.

Nor is this a purely domestic matter. Kennedy has been cited in the French case, the Tarnac Affair, in which he allegedly witnessed bomb making. Briefly alluded to in Undercover (Page 265) this – dismissed – claim made headlines in Le Monde. They raised questions (details here) about Kennedy’s role in the prosecution of a group of libertarian leftists.

They Steal Identities, They Break the Law, They Sleep with the Enemy. Under these words on the book cover there is a lot more detail to ponder over in this excellent book. The causal deception the spies used to maintain their ‘cover’ deceived more than their comrades and friends. “There was no specific rule against having sexual partners. It was so commonplace they, he says, it was barely remarked on.”(Page 142) The heartbreaking stories of Charlotte, and Helen Steel, abandoned by their lying long-term partners, Lambert, the mother of Charlotte’s child, and John Dimes, whom Helen was “madly in love with”, are gut-wrenching. There are plenty of others; nine of the operatives identified in the book had “meaningful relationships” with the opposite sex. (Page 322) When the time came the agents simply slunk away

History of the Political Police.

These human tragedies had their origins in government and security decisions. Undercover traces the history of the British political police. The Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), founded in wake of 1968, put in place its agents throughout the left. Ideally they would be the “trusted confidant, a deputy who lingered in the background”(Page 23) It was disbanded in 2008. Another body, which with the increasing focus on civil resistance, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) – was founded in 1999, under Tony Blair, with 70 staff. What were (are) their targets? “Domestic extremists, police decided, were those who wanted to ‘prevent something from happening or to change legislation or domestic policy’, often doing so ‘outside of the normal democratic process.”(Page 202)

Initially they went for animal rights activists, including the less than appealing Animal Liberation Front, and “environmental extremists”.Then broadened their scope, “Domestic extremists now included campaigners against war, nuclear weapons, racism, genetically modified crops, globalisation, tax evasion, airport expansion and asylum laws, as well as those calling for reform of prisons and peace in the Middle East.”(Pages 203) Today we also have the National Domestic Extremism Team, all which are brought under the control and merged of the Association of Chief Police Officers.

There is little doubt that those who offer a violent threat, not just to “the demcoratic process” but the people at large – have to followed. But this is hardly the case for those of the above list.

Why these official bodies go to the lengths they do remains something of a mystery to many on the left. Why do they need infiltrators? Is it because we are all plotting something subversive – a wide term the previous paragraph suggests covers most of the activist left’s campaigning including large sections of the Labour Party – in secret?

It is true that some groups cultivate an aura of mystery. Ian Bone once wrote that if anarchists ran the train carrying Lenin to the Finland Station they would have no identity on the side except a Post Office Box Number. The Socialist Workers Party has fought a losing battle to keep its internal discussions secret.

But most of what we do is easy to follow. Blogs, Facebook and the rest, are full of details about we do. Some people – specifically the tradition the Tendance comes from – believe in being as open as possible about how we reach decisions – by democratic vote – and what we do. To the great interest, no doubt of all coppers well up on Leftist Trainspotting and the finer points of the history of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Internationals.

Others have a way of reaching conclusions, and a distinct political culture, which may be harder for the political police to follow. That is the ‘consensus method’ of some of the groups covered in the course ofUndercover; “activists used a strange-looking ritual known as ‘jazz hands’, in which they wriggled their fingers in the air to express support for speakers.” (Page 245) But if they want to do this, why not? Wiggle away, we say, far far away from, say any industrial action where we suspect consensus would never permit a strike in the first place.

In reality, the Web, as they say, shows just about everything these days. Which may or may not be a good guide. Indeed it well may not as we found with our own visit from the local rozzers after a malicious complaint by a local Islamic cult.

It will be interesting to follow the Net news on Bob Lambert if he does, as Evans and Lewis suggest, convert to Islam. (Page 331) Perhaps he will find peace – in a religion of order. Some would say that the version he is most familiar with, from his days in the Muslim Contact Unit, Political Islam, offers many possibilities for police surveillance and repression. Or, it might be that, following Kennedy, his personality is unravelling – as indeed Bob’s last television interview seemed to suggest.

Wounds Remain Unhealed.

An open wound remains. The legal action taken by 11 of the deceived women is proceeding at a snail’s pace. The latest news suggests that the women are profoundly dissatisfied with the procedure. Public knowledge of the activities of the political police has not changed things. Post-Kennedy recommendations to clean up the system have not been implemented. Further official inquiries, are, as the authors predicted early on, less than forthcoming. Operation Herne has trawled wide, but “has not yet made a single disclosure about any undercover operation.”(Pages 327 –80)

The last word should go to Steel and Morris, to Lambert – “Shame on you!”

Originally posted on Tendance Coatesy:

http://i1.birminghammail.co.uk/incoming/article5166266.ece/BINARY/undercover.jpg

Undercover. The True Story of Britain’s Political Police. Rob Evans and Paul Lewis. Faber & Faber 2013.

Many of the reported 8,931 political campaigners on the “national data base of political extremists” took a keen interest in the publication of Undercover. Some police infiltrators had already been publicly unmasked. Mark Kennedy – “Stone” – has been fingered by Indymedia in 2010. ‘Progressive academic’ and advocate of a dialogue with Islamists, Bob Lambert, was confronted with his spy chief past at a conference to “celebrate diversity, defend multiculturalism, oppose Islamophobia and racism” in October 2011. Suddenly people on the left, and other campaigners, were reminded of the existence of intense police surveillance on our political activity.

Undercover has marked a new stage. The extracts in the Guardian, which contains fuller revelations about Kennedy and Lambert, and others’ including long-term relationships with activists, and the use of dead children’s birth certificates…

View original 1,195 more words

Written by Andrew Coates

March 7, 2014 at 5:26 pm

British Communist Party Talks Sense on Labour Party Reforms (!)

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Talks Sense on Future of Left.

The Labour Representation Committee (the largest grouping of the grass-roots Labour left) stated before yesterday’s conference,

As Labour’s special conference looks set to vote through the Collins reforms at the behest of Ed Miliband, critics on the left of the party have warned that the proposals set in train a process which could radically undermine the party’s link to the trade unions.

Although the unions have forced Miliband to back down from plans which would have seen an immediate breaking of the link, the transition over five-years to a situation where individual union levy payers will be required to ‘opt in’ as affiliated supporters represents a clear step away from the collective basis of union affiliation. Right wing elements around Progress have already made it clear that they want to re-open the question of the percentage of votes the unions hold at Conference, and their representation on the National Executive Committee in another five years.

Today we learn,

Ed Miliband secured the significant backing – and a cash donation – from former SDP leader David Owen as the Labour leader won his party’s support for reforming its links with the trade unions. Independent.

In the Morning Star on Saturday Robert Griffiths (General Secretary of the Communist Party of Britain) makes these very relevant points,

The Communist Party, on the other hand, is clear that the labour movement – and in particular the trade unions – must have its own mass electoral party which is capable of winning general elections, forming a government and enacting reforms in the interests of the working-class majority of the people.

He asks,

Is tomorrow’s Labour Party, in which the trade unions are no longer able or willing to exercise decisive collective influence, likely to perform such a role? That prospect will recede significantly when the Collins proposals are passed at this year’s Labour Party conferences.

From his perspective,

Britain’s Road to Socialism explains that it has been that party’s affiliated federal structure and its trade union and working-class composition that have ensured the existence of a significant socialist trend within it. It is this structure and composition which is now being put in mortal jeopardy.

It should be added that far from creating “one member one vote” the “reforms” will further increase the power of MPs and the circle around the Party leader.

Conferences, already reduced to impotence, a decision-making system worthy of the most Byzantine  Stalinist organisation (with powerless  members’ forms at the base and the wheeler-dealers at the  top) make claims about the changes increasing democracy and participation hollow.

In these conditions,

……the fragmentation of the labour movement’s political unity is likely to continue. New left parties and electoral alliances will proliferate, falter and reappear in new guises. More trade unionists and even some unions will withdraw from active participation in the Labour Party.

What is the alternative?

Clearly not, “Britain hosting a replay of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, or Scotland taking a separate Cuban-style road to socialism.”

Instead, we need trade union bodies at every level – up to and including the Trades Union Congress – to organise discussions, meetings and conferences to consider how many more workers and their families can be drawn into political activity and representation.

Hand in hand with this effort must go the drive to popularise the ideas and concept of socialism. Tony Benn has often pointed out that our problem in Britain is not a shortage of socialist parties but of socialists.

Many are unlikely to respond to the call for a “stronger Communist Party”, preferring a more general wish for a “stronger Left” .

But  forums like the People’s Assembly should be considering these ideas.

Perhaps the Morning Star could open wider, beyond its existing favoured circles, to debate them.

Suffolk People’s Assembly: Defend Our Unions Public Meeting.

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On Tuesday up to 60 people came to Ipswich Library Lecture room to the Suffolk People’s Assembly meeting, “Defend our Unions and Right to Resist Austerity.”

Speakers represented many different aspects of the Trade union and anti-cuts movement.

Dave Smith, a Founder Member of Blacklist Support Group, spoke on employers who witch-hunted activists out of jobs. Drawing on his experience in the building trade he outlined the long-standing campaign against the practice, and the recent actions against Crossrail and private contractors for public services.

Donna Guthrie of Joint Chair Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) talked of their grass-roots campaigning in London’s East End. In Newham they had struck deep roots in the community, from many different ethnic backgrounds. They were campaigning against cuts in social housing, and issues such as the abuse of police powers.

Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary, National Union of Teachers, said,

I’m Proud that NUT was in at the beginning of People’s Assembly and to share this platform today.

Why is the NUT is involved?

Well firstly because Teachers can’t separate themselves from the rest of working people. But perhaps more importantly because many of the children we teach see the worst effects of the austerity agenda. And it is the most vulnerable hit hardest.

Kevin described the attacks on the education system, spearheaded by Michael Gove.

How do we offer an alternative?

Kevin stated,

The Peoples Assembly shows the characteristics we need for the fight back – unity, broad base, looking for activity, something for everyone to do and contribute to And we do see very successful mobilisations all over the country – against cuts and closures in the health service, against the bedroom tax and evictions, against schools being forced into academy status.

Bill Bowring, the International Secretary of Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, and Colchester based, congratulated Suffolk People’s Assembly on its work. He listed more reasons to offer an alternative to the Liberal-Conservative government’s policies. He said that reducing legal aid, a pillar of the post-war settlement, was part of the same weakening of social rights as attacks on the NHS and education.

Roy Humphries FBU Secretary Suffolk Fire Brigades Union, spoke on the government’s plans to reduce their pension rights and raise the age of retirement to an unsustainable limit.

He described how their battles were far from over and thanked members of the local labour movement, in particular Ipswich Trades Council, who had supported their protests.

Jim Kelly, Chair of London & Eastern Region Unite the Union, spoke on  his union’s base in the private sector. He outlined the decline in collective bargaining agreements – the UK is now apparently on a par with only one country, Lithuania, for its low level of these agreements. Jim cited how UNITE had successfully fought back against employers and had, for example,  won bonus for London Bus drivers, and had defended their members. UNITE were beginning to tackle the problems created by the anti-union Gateway port employers.  What was needed were changes to the anti-trade union laws that prevented workers form organising and only a Labour government, he suggested, could do that.

On the Grangemouth dispute Jim pointed out that it was the local membership who had decided on an agreement with a ruthless employers.

In the discussion that followed a member of the SWP attacked the Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey.

Others saw the trade unions in a positive light, as reaching out to people to defend social rights and as advocates of a better society.

The People’s Assembly was mentioned as a way people  draw campaigns and unions together. The previous week Suffolk activists had supported the Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) protest against ATOS. A campaign extending our work on the Living Wage, will be launched for  Fast-Food workers.

At the People’s Assembly National Conference (15 March) Suffolk will be presenting two motions. One opposes  the government’s  policies against migrant workers. The other calls for a national campaign against Workfare and for Charities, social sector and local authorities to have nothing to do with forced labour.

Ipswich Postal workers mentioned their fight to defend their conditions, and the effects of the closure of the local sorting office.

In the pub afterwards activists considered that the meeting had been a success and a help in our efforts to campaign for progressive politics.

Sisters, Brothers! There’s a place for you – in the People’s Assembly!