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Ian Birchall Publishes On Why the SWP Deteriorated So Quickly.

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Let Party Skullduggery Run Rampant.

Ian Birchall’s resignation from the SWP was announced in December last year.

The news was quickly broadcast on this Blog (not to say all over the left).

We posted under the heading “A greatly respected comrade”.

“Ian Birchall’s resignation is …. something of great significance  for the left. It is perhaps a sign of the respect in which Ian is held that his critics, like myself, feel that we have to make our appreciation of him clear.”

Today we learn (from Louis Proyect) of, “SO SAD (TO WATCH A GOOD PARTY GO BAD). Ian Birchall.

On 15 December 2013 I resigned from the Socialist Workers Party, after some fifty years membership. I was no longer prepared to trust the party leadership with my money, nor to accept its discipline. I said at the time that I would make no further public criticism of the SWP and I have tried to stand by this. There are many more useful and interesting things to do than engage in arguments between small far left groups. Polemics about splits in small revolutionary organisations tend to be very tedious; I have no desire to add to that literary genre.”

Now we have Ian’s further thoughts on the “the problem as to why it happened. Why did an organisation which, though I knew its imperfections, seemed to me to be by far the best thing going on the British left, and of which I was proud to be a member, deteriorate so quickly?”

People will have to read the full – heartfelt – article but these are some extracts and observation.

So Sad centres, without dissimulation, on the core of the recent SWP crisis:.

Edward Platt in the New Statesman earlier this year summarised the initial spark for the party’s deterioration (on the left we would talk of its ‘degeneration’),

The first complaint against Comrade Delta was made in 2010. A woman who was referred to as “Comrade W” accused him of sexually harassing her, and he stepped down as national secretary while remaining part of the party’s leadership: its central committee, or CC. The party was told about the allegations at its conference in 2011.

This is Ian’s account of how he reacted,

On the basis of information available to me I don’t know if Delta was guilty of rape (though the evidence is that few women make false accusations of rape). What is clear on the basis of accounts accepted on all sides is that he behaved inappropriately and irresponsibly, and abused the privileges of the party office he held. (Here I should mention the suggestions made, not by the CC but by some CC supporters, that one or both of the women complainants could have been state agents. I think this is clearly megalomania: there is no evidence that the current SWP poses the sort of threat that would lead the state to use such measures. But if there were any possibility that such means might be used, then Delta, as a senior party official, was grossly culpable in not being much more careful about the relationships he entered into.)

I do not question the sincerity of the members of the Disputes Committee. But it is clear that they failed in their task. It was essential that justice was not only done, but was seen to be done, both by the membership and by the world outside, which undoubtedly would be watching what was happening. Both in the selection of personnel and in the procedures adopted, the Disputes Committee signally failed to convince that justice had been done.  The CC must share responsibility for this situation.

This seems to me to be a better response than those who scatter round accusations of “rape apologists” or “rape deniers” (a remark which I know will not make me popular either).

Ian sums up what it the nature of the SWP’s offence, “What some comrades clearly were guilty of is what might be called “rape trivialisation”.”

This is Platt’s observation which was exactly what most of the left thought at the time.

The party’s decision to investigate the allegation internally, through its disputes committee, rather than referring it to the police, is the most remarkable aspect of the affair: it has astonished people outside the SWP, and some within it, too. “What right does the party have to organise its very own ‘kangaroo court’ investigation and judgment over such serious allegations against a leading member?” wrote the former Socialist Worker journalist Tom Walker in his resignation letter. “None whatsoever.”

There is a great deal of detail of how the internal party crisis unfolded, which I find less than interesting.

But this rings completely true.

 I won’t go into detail about the pre-conference period. Some supporters of the CC acted extremely badly – for example making fraudulent phone calls to cancel room bookings for perfectly legitimate opposition meetings. Maybe the CC did not positively encourage such actions, but it made no attempt to rein in its more enthusiastic supporters. However, it seems to be a fact of history that in faction fights everybody behaves badly, and doubtless some opposition members conducted themselves in less than an ideal fashion.

The CC won the conference, with many supporters of the majority doing their best to encourage the opposition to leave, with moronic foot-stamping – something I do not remember from party events in earlier years. Not surprisingly some hundreds of members decided to depart.

Anybody with Ian’s life-long commitment would have already  left the party.

But, he stayed for a while.

Then,

For me the final straw came in September, when the CC announced that every single member of the CC that had screwed up so badly would be standing for re-election on the CC slate. After that I went through the motions of the pre-conference period, but I was clear that there was no future for me in the party.

Throughout 2013 the style of leadership offered by the CC seemed to be summed up by a song by the late Pete Seeger, “The Big Muddy”  (originally written as a comment on the Vietnam war). A platoon of soldiers on manoeuvres are ordered to ford a river by their captain, and though it becomes clear that the river is too deep, the captain obstinately refuses to change his instructions: “We were waist deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool said to push on”.

We note with concern that far from crawling away to a hole to lick his wounds – never to come out again - Martin Smith (Comrade Delta) – is at present running a Blog with the cooperation of at least some in the SWP orbit (based in France). 

Many of the details of how the SWP organisation has been run (or come to be run) are of wider interest,

In more recent years, when the number of a district’s conference delegates has been based on vastly inflated and totally unrealistic membership figures, districts have often been unable to find a full complement of delegates. At the North London report-back meeting in January 2013 Weyman Bennett very frankly admitted that most years he went to sleep during CC elections; obviously he found them boring and irrelevant. And yet his position in the organisation and his right to make decisions derived from such elections. That a CC member should have such contempt for the democratic process is obviously a matter of some concern. But the real problem is the fact that the membership – myself included – paid so little attention to the democratic processes within the party.

This claim could perhaps be contested,

Indeed the SWP in general has been a very tolerant organisation, much more so than most far left organisations I know of. I’ve spoken at most Marxisms and at hundreds of branch meetings,  and never been given more than the vaguest indications of what the CC wanted me to say. I’ve written repeatedly for the party press. Occasionally articles were changed or even blocked, but very rarely.  Of course I exercised a degree of self-censorship. But I generally felt trusted and able to try and exercise a degree of influence. I should add that when I submitted the first draft of my biography of Cliff, I confidently expected to be asked to withdraw a few passages which I thought would be seen as excessively critical. It is greatly to the credit of the CC and of Alex Callinicos in particular that my draft was published virtually unchanged.

Outsiders have not noticed this tolerance when they got closer to the actual party apparatus.

My own experience is that a vocal minority of the SWP are the grip of the hallucination that they are steel-hardened Bolsheviks

The following anecdote is only one of many I could cite.

Nonetheless over the years there have been worrying indications of an unhealthy style of debate. Let me give just one example which has stuck in my mind. When the decision to join Respect was made, there was an aggregate meeting in London to endorse the decision. It was an enthusiastic, optimistic meeting – we felt that the party was on the brink of a significant step forward. Almost all the contributions from the floor favoured the strategy; I certainly shared the meeting’s enthusiasm.

Then one woman who spoke raised the question of Galloway’s flattery of Saddam Hussein (“Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability”). Several people began to heckle her and one particularly thuggish young man in front of me attempted to shout her down. She was unable to finish her speech. This was of course entirely pointless; there was no danger that the massive majority in favour of Respect would be affected. It also occurred to me forcibly that this was precisely the sort of question that might be asked in the course of an election campaign, which is what we were about to enter. I suspect the hecklers would have run a mile if asked to campaign on the doorstep; heckling when the majority is on your side is an easy option. Neither the chair nor the CC member delivering the main report reprimanded the hecklers. I have always regretted that I did not speak to criticise the hecklers; so I bear as much responsibility as anyone else for what was a symptom of a declining standard of debate.

Not that the left, or indeed any political party, is immune from similar behaviour.

Comrades from the Labour Representation Committee will find these comments about “heckling” resonating all too clearly.

As I said Ian Birchall is greatly respected.

His article in New Left Review No 80 (2013) Third World and After, takes up (amongst other things) the contribution to the left by the anarchist-Marxist-libertarian Daniel  Guérin (a figure mentioned previously in Andrew Coates reviews: Revolutionary History Vol 16, No4: Ian Birchall (guest editor) European revolutionaries and Algerian independence 1954-1962).

I would like to think that Guérin‘s ‘centrist’ democratic socialist principles have something to contribute to the list Ian ends So Sad on,

The International Socialist stream will take certain ideas and attitudes into the river, in particular:

a)      The rejection of not only Stalinist state capitalism but of the very idea that state ownership is any part of the definition of socialism;

b)      The insistence that our starting-point must always be the actual struggle of workers at the point of production/exploitation rather than any abstraction such as “workers’ parties” or “workers’ states”;

c)      The stress on beginning with actual struggles, not preconceived strategies or programmes: in Rosa Luxemburg’s words “Mistakes committed by a genuine revolutionary labour movement are much more fruitful and worthwhile historically than the infallibility of the very best Central Committee.”

Here at least Ian has the last word.

For many years the SWP defended those ideas within the socialist movement, and I remain proud of what we achieved. The débâcle of 2013 was profoundly sad, but the fifty years before that were not in vain. Like Edith Piaf, I regret nothing.

 

Balakrishnan, Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Thought, Charged.

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Not Very Funny Now.

Just announced: “Man charged in London ‘slavery’ inquiry

Police have charged a man with false imprisonment, rape and child cruelty in a suspected slavery case in London.

Aravindan Balakrishnan, 74, has been charged with one count of cruelty to a person under 16, four counts of rape and 19 counts of indecent assault.

The suspected offences relate to three women. No further action is being taken regarding his wife arrested last year.

Mr Balakrishnan, who was arrested in Lambeth in November 2013, is due before Westminster magistrates on 17 December.

Anthony Connell, senior prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service, said there was “insufficient evidence” for the prospect of conviction relating to Balakrishnan’s wife who was arrested at the same time.

The three alleged victims – a Briton in her 30s, an Irish woman in her 50s and a Malaysian woman in her 70s – were rescued from an address in Brixton in October 2013.

The false imprisonment charge against Mr Balakrishnan relates to a 14-year period between January 1999 and October 2013.

The four rape charges span periods from 1980 to 1983, and the indecent assault charges cover periods from 1980 to 1992.

Another woman connected to Mr Balakrishnan, Sian Davies from west Wales, died aged 43 in 1997 at the house where they were living.”

BBC

Balakrishnan ran the The Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought

The Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought (substituting Mao Zedong Thought after 1979) was created in 1974 when Aravindan Balakrishnan (popularly known as Bala), formerly a member of the National Executive Committee and Central Committee of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist), led a break-away from that organization. The new organisation was characterized by the ultra-left posturing and Mao worship formerly evident in the CPE (ML) or, as Bala described them: the “Communist” Party of Elizabeth (Most-Loyal).

Drawing upon the Chinese experience of base areas, the Institute argued in favour of revolutionaries being based in working class communities, “the weakest link for the fascist state system” where political mobilisation involved whole families free from the “fascist rules and regulations and job security” involved in workplaces or educational institutions. Here revolutionary cadre could integrate and learn from the “sterling qualities of the labouring people while raising the intellectual level of the workers. Taking a working class job in the community is vital for this.”

On the left, when they were active (in the 1970s) we thought this was amusing, and made fun of the sect, collecting their mimeographed ‘paper’, laughing and imitating it.

It doesn’t seem very funny now.

Wikipedia,

The Workers’ Institute of Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong Thought (known as the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought until 1979) was a small Maoist political party based in Brixton, London. It was formed by Aravindan Balakrishnan in 1974 after his expulsion from the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist). They began publishing the South London Workers’ Bulletin from a south London squat, aiming to build a “red base” in Brixton and encourage the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to liberate the area. This came to broader attention when the diarist in The Times in April 1977 reported some of the group’s material as an amusing aside.

The Workers’ Institute claimed affiliation to the Communist Party of China. A document by the group issued in 1977 argued that the British population was moving in a “revolutionary direction”.Balakrishnan prophesied that China’s People’s Liberation Army would have launched a revolutionary invasion of Britain by 1980. Their headquarters in Acre Lane, Brixton, known as the Mao Zedong Memorial Centre, opened in October 1976. “This new development”, the 1977 document asserted, “has taken the British fascist state by storm”.[5] The groups remaining members moved underground following a police raid on these premises in 1978. In 1982, Steve Rayner wrote a study of the organisation and critiqued its presentism. Robert Griffiths, general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain, said of the group in November 2013 “If one were to be brutally honest they were more of psychiatric interest than political interest. They had nothing to do with the mainstream leftwing and communist politics of the day.”

In 2013, the former leaders of the group were arrested as suspects in the Lambeth slavery case, allegedly being responsible for the enslavement and domestic abuse of three women. Balakrishnan was formally charged with multiple offences on 11 December 2014. No further legal action is to be taken against his wife.

Hatful of History (November 2013)

Inside the paranoid Maoist cults of 1970s Britain: A post at The Conversation UK

By now, the internet is awash with material on the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought and the alleged ‘domestic slavery’ case. The Conversation (UK) has published a brief article by myself on the Workers’ Institute and the political milieu they emerged from the 1970s. The piece opens with the following:

The couple accused in the case of alleged “domestic slavery” in London were reportedly the leaders of a tiny Maoist sect, the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, which had gone “underground” in the late 1970s. To understand how the Workers’ Institute ended up so far off the radar, we need to understand where they came from – the strange world of radical Maoist politics in 1970s London.

And the rest can be viewed here.

I would like thank Sam Richards from the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism Online for his help with sources and additional information, Matt Fitzpatrick and David Lockwood for reading the draft version  and Andrew from The Conversation for his editorial work.

I thought readers might also be interested in some observations made by Sam, which I wasn’t able to incorporate into the final article:

1) It was the Cultural Revolution that inspired a new wave of Maoist organisations, largely populated by (previously non-aligned) students. They were joined by some anti-revisionists (mainly ex-Communist Party members)  active in the original groups, but those original groups faded away. English Maoism was at its most active a new, radical and immersed in Maoist rhetoric and imagery.

2) These groups were consciously internationalist: the Communist Party of England (ML) was (and remained throughout its name changes) part of ‘The Internationalist’ trend led by Hardial Bains, founder-leader of the Communist Party of Canada (ML).

3) Communist Unity Association (Marxist-Leninist) judged they had “adopted ’Maoism’ as a source of slogans, ritual chants and the focus for a student cult” in Imperialism and the Struggle for a Revolutionary Party (1974).

4) While the Workers’ Institute was both small in size and largely separate from the other maoist groups, there was always the embarrassment that they would be thought of as “typical Maoists”. In fact the splintering of the Maoist trend in the late 1970s did see the largest (Birch’s CPBML) and the third largest (CPEML under their new name of RCPBML) side with Albania – that is the “supermaoists” of the sixties denounced Mao as anti-Marxist.

5) An alternative journalist viewpoint from 1978, available on EROL, showed that at the time,  the Institute was equally regarded as strange.

“A short guide to Maoists in Britain”, The Leveller, No.20, November 1978:
“An encounter with the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought [“we have undertaken the unprecedented task of building the first stable base area in the imperialist heartlands, in and around Brixton …this has driven the British bourgeoisie up the wall”], truly the most lunatic of the lunatic fringe of left politics in Britain, can be an unsettling experience. Tiny in numbers and fanatical in zeal, carrying dogmatism, rhetoric and sectarianism to ever greater extremes, it is many people’s idea of a typical Maoist group.

Not so. Terry Ilott and John Dawes report that of the numerous Maoist groups, there are some which, though small and theoretically weak (unlike their counterparts elsewhere in the world) we might take more seriously than we do.”

Sam also provided some unseen pictures of the Workers’ Institute, which you can see in this post.

And as I wrote here, the history of British Maoism still needs to be written!

Related

Tendance Coatesy has carried material on French Maoism which indicates a similar degree of political intensity, if not insanity:

Written by Andrew Coates

December 11, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Our History. Roots of the British Socialist Movement. Duncan Bowie. Review.

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Our History. Roots of the British Socialist Movement. Duncan Bowie. Chartist and Socialist History Society, £4.

Edward Thompson once talked of the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ approach to the labour movement’s past. That is, it’s ransacked for “forerunners” of present-day ideas. The academic left, no less than Leninists, tends to sift through our history, to remove the chaff of faulty thinkers. Few are willing to consider without the condescension of posterity the principles and actions of our political ancestors.

Every issue of Chartist contains an ‘Our History’ column by Duncan Bowie. The intention is to “draw attention to the writings of earlier radicals and socialists”. An individual is selected (the most recent is Fred Henderson, the first socialist elected to Norwich City Council – heard of him? I hadn’t) with a short biography and an extract from their work.

The present pamphlet contains the first 50 of these contributions. It begins with the People’s Charter of 1838, which argued for democratic universal franchise, and the “principle of self-government”. Following soon after is Bronterre O’Brien, the leader of the Jacobin tendency amongst the Chartists, underlines the early republicanism of the British left, with an introduction to Buonarroti’s history of Babeuf’s Conspiracy for Equality and a speech praising Robespierre in 1859. It ends with Keir Hardie in From Serfdom to Socialism (1907) stating that “Socialism implies the inherent equality of all human beings….Holding this to be true of all individuals, the Socialist applies it also it also to races…”

Duncan introduces us to William Linton, influenced (as was much of the 19th century European left) by the Italian republican Mazzini. His belief in the “perfectibility of the human race” may perhaps not be fashionable. But it’s a reminder that our past rests on far better foundations than those who would make us bow down before religious and racial difference. Women are represented: Annie Besant (in her socialist and rationalist pre-Theosophy period), Eleanor Marx and Isabella Ford – the first woman to speak at a Labour Party conference in support of a motion that women should be given the right to vote on the same terms as men.

Duncan has selected many who played a role in spreading socialist ideas into the labour movement and further afield. Radicals, by the end of the 19th century often aligned to the Liberal Party, those influenced by Henry George (the only non-British or Irish person represented) and his land reform programme gradually gives was to the formation of independent socialist organisations. The first British Marxist, Belford Bax, reminds us that Henry Hyndman’ England for All (1881) was not unique in that field. There is place for Christian socialists, Fabians, and, naturally for William Morris, one of the few Victorian socialist writers still widely read.

Our History is an abundance of riches. It is also dependable: Duncan has cross-referenced his articles with Labour and Radical Biographical dictionaries and has an extensive collection of the original literature. Perhaps one might extend the hint in O’Brien and Linton’s interest in other European radical and left wing thinkers to the impact that Louis Blanc had, during his long exile in London, on the British left. John Stuart Mill’s famous ‘Chapters on Socialism’ refer to him and to Blanqui, not to Marx.

A gem of a pamphlet we look forward to January’s Chartist for the next Our History.

PDF (earlier version)

Podemos: A Monolithic, Vertical, and Hierarchical Party?

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Monolithic, Vertical (Top-Down), and Hierarchical Party?

The Podemos ‘convention process’ (consolidating the new party’s structures) which began on September the 15th, ended on Saturday, November the 15th with the election of Pablo Iglesias  as General Secretary. He won 88.7% of the votes cast (96.9% valid). His list won the 62 posts for the ‘Citizens’ Council’ and 10 for the Safeguards Commission.

The level of abstention, was however, also significant: 57% of those registered, larger than the percentage  – 45% who abstained during the vote on the overall party documents (policy, programme and organisation). The proportion of blank (or null) ballots was also important: 8.5% of votes cast for the General Secretariat; 5.1% for the Citizen Council and 13% for the ‘guarantees’ Commission

Reports Ensemble. (Podemos : un parti monolithique, vertical et hiérarchique ? 22 November).

Extracts. (adapted)

The numbers of people abstaining and can be attributed in part to the ease of “affiliation” to Podemos – by free on-line registration, something which does not require a great deal of motivation or commitment.  But it is also due, in large measure, (as indicated by the blank ballot papers) to a growing malaise and disillusionment with the way the Pablo Iglesias team have operated and taken decisions. The ‘technical team’ or administration (elected in April on the basis of closed lists), is equally dominated by this group …..

The team Sumando Podemos, who had formed a partial list of 22 candidates, announced its withdrawal after examining the closed list voting system – by which one can only select – through a single click – a single  slate  Added to this is the decision of the team Claro Podemos to  present a complete list for all the internal party bodies.

As explained by MEP Pablo Echenique, a member of Sumando Podemos, (1) ” the voting system and the fact that the list of comrades from the team Claro Podemos was complete, made it extremely difficult – if not impossible – that a person who was not on the list to enter the Citizens’ Council. I think – we think – that it’s a mistake to set up a voting system in which mathematics decide as much as the people. ” According to the predictions of  Echenique, the effects of system and blocked list were obvious. They are clearly reflected in the sharp difference between the votes received by candidates at 62 (75’131) and 63 (5’337) for the Citizens’ Council and for candidates in 10th (73’955) and 11th ( 4’697) position to the Oversight Commission.

Because of Pablo Iglesias’s media fame and this voting system, the possibility of access to the internal party bodies was strongly conditioned by the prior inclusion on his list. This method largely distorts the open primary system and has reproduced in practice the “dedazo” system [from “finger”, dedo, a term which defines the practice of the holder of an office or a term designating  successors without going through any democratic procedure].

Criticism of the traditional parties ruled by a “caste” (the political ‘class’), bound by loyalty to the leader who rules as an individual, has been offered in the past. But in fact the closed list pushes to an extreme limit the effects of the (traditional) majority system. The list that receives the most votes wins control of everything – in contrast to claims (made by Podemos in the past – TC)  for greater proportionality in the electoral system.

The ban, previously issued by the party’s internal controlling bodies,  excluding  people with a  double political affiliation – included in the documents on the party’s ‘ethical’ internal principles  – also contributed to the lack of options for alternatives offered inside Podemos. Thus this rule prevented MEP Teresa Rodríguez (Izquierda Anticapitalista) to run for the leadership of Podemos. The measure prohibits “members or affiliated organisations active throughout the Spanish state” to take any positions of local responsibility. This rule is justified as a mean to exclude the possible arrival of “pushy” parties and individuals from the “caste” (traditional political parties).  This has not worked

……

It is certainly not effective against careerists who have torn up their old party card and joined Podemos in order to pursue their own interests.

…….

This has, however, meant the immediate exclusion of militants from Izquierda Anticapitalista (IA) from the party’s internal bodies, despite the fact that IA not only does not compete electorally with Podemos, but played a key role in the initial design and foundation of the organisation.

The result of this process of formalising the structures of  Podemos is that the party has changed its organisational character. It has adopted the format of a monolithic party one whose structures  are top down and hierarchical. Power is concentrated to an extreme degree in the hands of the General Secretary who has the ability to appoint the executive, while its internal organising committees have been  co-opted by a single list. This even includes the Control Commission (that exists to guarantee the rights of members) which  should self-evidently be a plural and independent body if it is to carry out  its functions properly. These rules make it difficult for a pluralist and democratic internal life to develop..

Indeed, they consolidate a plebiscitary presidential model for Podemos – something which means that it has moved  away from its previous course not to say its entire original basis.  The truly open ‘primary’ elections with independent candidates  that operated for the European elections are now consigned to the past. More distant is the foundation of Podemos as a plural and unitary organisation of candidates. That is  was born with the intention not to empty or dissolve existing organisations, but to aggregate in a common front groups and sectors not previously organised or mobilised,  using mass and civic engagement so that people who are politically active act on their own initiative. Equally distant is the political culture that emerged after the eruption of 15M, characterized by mistrust of celebrity politics and the leadership of individuals. Claims to an open and collective organisation, common decision-making and  consensus, direct grass-roots participation are also now history.

From David Lloriente. Published November 22, 2014 on the site of Viento Sur.  From the translation by Encontre.

Original: Proceso congresual y mutación organizativa (which the above is checked with).

We should point out this is the point of view of the Izquierda Anticapitalista who are aligned with the Fourth International and the French Nouveau parti anticapitaliste (NPA). 

But (1) Sumando Podemos (going beyond Podemos, surmonter in French is a more appropriate translation I feel, even literally ‘addition’ is the direct meaning in both English and French)  is not Trotskyist as such. It is grouped around the famous scientist Pablo Echenique, though is close I learn to IA it is not identical. See: Los críticos de Podemos valoran no participar en las primarias.

More information on the background from International Viewpoint:

Izquierda Anticapitalista on the decisions of the Podemos Citizens’ Assembly

Note the following: 28th November.

Spain’s poll-topping Podemos tones down radical plans in manifesto

(Reuters) – Spain’s newest political party Podemos, riding high in opinion polls just 10 months after its launch, released an economic manifesto on Friday that rowed back on earlier pledges to cut the retirement age and default on the national debt.

Podemos (“We Can”) has ridden a wave of anti-establishment sentiment, and polls for two leading newspapers have said it is on track to win the next election, which conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy must call by late next year. Another, larger, survey said it was likely to come a close third.

The party unexpectedly captured five seats in May’s European elections, and its rise is worrying international investors at a time when Spain is emerging from the worst economic crisis in decades.

“We don’t believe it is the right time to open up a wide spectrum of desires, but rather to propose what could effectively be done immediately,” Podemos said in the 68-page document, which reflects a change of tack as it builds up its party structure and gears up for the election.

“We believe that such a serious and difficult situation requires a great dose of pragmatism.”

The new manifesto outlines 79 measures, which will now be discussed with party members and experts before becoming a program for government. Among them are a tax reform that would shift the burden from labor to capital and increase tax rates for the wealthiest.

The working week would be cut to 35 hours from 40, the minimum salary and pensions would be raised, but the retirement age would be left at 65 instead of being cut to 60.

Podemos has also moved away from nationalizing Spain’s main utilities and now only plans to regulate them more tightly and control competition and price-setting in sectors where former monopolies still hold a strong grip.

The most controversial step of defaulting on Spain’s debt has also been watered down. While the party still calls for its restructuring, it says it would only do so after holding talks with European peers and creditors.

In a sign of the party’s ambitions to capture votes on the center-left, its 36-year old leader Pablo Iglesias told reporters its ideas were “proposals that any social democratic party could take on board.”

(Reporting by Julien Toyer; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Update (signaled by PD): This is an important article on Podemos putting forward a very different judgement about their ‘anti-politics’.

Understanding Podemos (1/3): 15-M & counter-politics.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 2, 2014 at 11:48 am

In Praise of the Australian Left.

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There are two journals from Australia which hold the attention of the left.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal “seeks to promote the exchange of information, experience of struggle, theoretical analysis and views of political strategy and tactics within the international left. It is a forum for open and constructive dialogue between active socialists from different political traditions. It seeks to bring together those in the international left who are opposed to neoliberal economic and social policies, and reject the bureaucratic model of “socialism” that arose in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China.”

For example:

Kurds mobilise to fight ‘Islamic State’ over vast front

“Links is also proud to be the sister publication of Green Left Weekly, the world’s leading red-green newspaper, and we urge readers to visit that site regularly.”

Latest: France: Government support plummets, left demands alternative.

There was also this whose author modesty forbids me to mention.

Britain: The 1970s and the movement for workers’ control

Written by Andrew Coates

November 24, 2014 at 11:54 am

Islamist Genociders Destroy Memorial to Victims of Armenian Holocaust.

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Islamist Genociders Destroy  Memorial to Armenian Holocaust. 

There has been a spate of articles and ‘reports’ in the media over the last few days trying to excuse those who have gone to Syria to fight for the Islamist genociders.

Bunch of lads, high spirited youth, idealists……

Well this is the latest jolly jape of their mates,

“Islamists’ destruction of a shrine to the victims of genocide marks the latest chapter in a tragic national history. Robert Fisk reports from Qamishli, north-eastern Syria

In the most savage act of vandalism against Syria’s Christians, Islamists have blown up the great Armenian church in Deir el-Zour, built in dedication to the one and a half million Armenians slaughtered by the Turks during the 1915 genocide. All of the church archives, dating back to 1841 and containing thousands of documents on the Armenian holocaust, were burned to ashes, while the bones of hundreds of genocide victims, packed into the church’s crypt in memory of the mass killings 99 years ago, were thrown into the street beside the ruins.

Independent. 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 11, 2014 at 5:40 pm

SWP Calls for Left to Get “Act Together” as they channel Bel Littlejohn.

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SWP’s New Intellectual Guru. 

We are pleased to announce that the SWP has called for “unity” on the left, and for us to get our “act together”.

(Hat-tip D/O)

Latest Socialist Worker. 

No to austerity, no to racism: Unite to win.

The left outside the Labour Party has to get its act together.

We’re too fragmented and inward-looking.

We need socialists in every workplace and community and standing in elections, who argue and organise to target the rich, not scapegoat immigrants, Muslims, and people on benefits.

Millions of people are alienated from mainstream politics. But they not anti-political.

When up to 15,000 people gather in George Square in Glasgow for a Scottish independence rally last weekend, when 1,300 meet at a People’s Question Time in east London, when 2,000 listen to Naomi Klein on capitalism and climate change there is no shortage of interest in politics.

We need a stronger left to focus it.

The Socialist Workers Party is fighting for more resistance, against racism and war, for a stronger and more united left, and for a revolutionary alternative at the heart of every struggle.

Join us

What could be fairer than that?

As one of the SWP’s most prominent intellectual gurus, Bel Littlejohn would say, “right on!” “Let’s get our act together!.

The Swuppies remain the  lodestar of the zeitgeist 

Meanwhile this is all they say on the struggle of the beloved people of Kobane. 

Western allies kill Kurds

BRITAIN AND the US are supposed to be backing Kurds fighting Islamic State in Kobane in northern Syria.

But Turkey, a member of Nato and ally to the West, chose last Sunday to murder Kurds.

The Turkish government broke a 20-month ceasefire with the PKK Kurdish group that is fighting Islamic State in Kobane.

It launched bombing raids with F-16 jets against Kurdish bases.

The Turkish Hurriyet newspaper said air raids near the south eastern village of Daglica on Monday caused “heavy casualties”.

The newspapers Cumhuriyet and Milliyet also reported clashes on Monday between the PKK and Turkish troops in the Tunceli area of east-central Turkey.

These outrageous bombing raids and assaults follow brutal suppression of Kurdish protests in solidarity with Kobane.

At least 19 people have been killed by the Turkish state during such protests in the past week and it has introduced curfews.

 Yes, that’s all.