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Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste Seeks to “save” capitalism, says International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI).

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Flags Waving to Save Capitalism says ICFI. 

Just when you thought you could be smug about the charming but eccentric ways of our old chum Bob Avakian this comes along,

The pseudo-left New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) has reacted to the formation of the new government of Prime Minister Manuel Valls with empty, hypocritical criticisms to mask its responsibility in the installation of this deeply right-wing government, which the NPA will continue to defend.

The World Socialist Web Site, published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) continues in this vein (8th of September) – at length. (1)

For those mourning the withdrawal of cde Tony Greenstein from the fray this site comes as a blessing,

What the NPA fears above all is that the collapse and discrediting of France’s ruling Socialist Party (PS) will provoke a crisis of rule in which the NPA could not stifle a political movement of the working class directed at the PS and its political satellites, including the NPA itself.

There is more but this mighty blow against the NPA stands out,

The NPA, by its hostility to a socialist and revolutionary perspective, contributed to the installation of the most right-wing regime France has known since the World War II-era fascist Vichy regime.

And this,

In fact, it is the NPA that is neither revolutionary nor anti-capitalist. It does not seek the overthrow of capitalism, but to save it under conditions where it threatens to provoke war and economic collapse, and the conditions for an eruption of social revolution are fast being prepared.

Not to mention that

This anti-working class party is ready for unprincipled alliances with organizations of all types, whose only common point is their hatred of the working class and of socialism.

 

(1) The International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) is the name of two Trotskyist internationals; one with sections named Socialist Equality Party which publishes the World Socialist Web Site, and another linked to the Workers Revolutionary Party in Britain.

Both groupings originate in the struggle against “Pabloite liquidationism”,

“To sum up: The lines of cleavage between Pablo’s revisionism and orthodox Trotskyism are so deep that no compromise is possible either politically or organizationally. The Pablo faction has demonstrated that it will not permit democratic decisions truly reflecting majority opinion to be reached. They demand complete submission to their criminal policy. They are determined to drive all orthodox Trotskyists out of the Fourth International or to muzzle and handcuff them.”

The British section, the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), has published the ‘Theoretical Foundations‘ of the organisation which explains this at length.

Despite this background many of the SEP’s  ideas would meet with approval or at least some agreement  from a lot of people on the left: they are for the United Socialist States of Europe, oppose austerity and cuts.

And,

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) calls for a decisive and unambiguous No vote in the September 18 referendum on Scottish independence.  All claims that “independence” is a democratic demand, offering an alternative to cuts and austerity, are lies.

The move for separation from the UK is being led by right-wing forces espousing nationalism, whether or not they attempt to dress this up in fake left language. The aim is to transform Scotland into a low tax, cheap labour platform for the benefit of the banks and transnational corporations.

The victims of this will be workers on both sides of the border, who will see a deepening of the ongoing offensive against jobs, wages and conditions that has been waged by all the major parties in both Westminster and Holyrood

Their French membership is believed to hover at 2.

 

 

 

Bob Avakian (Revolutionary Communist Party USA) Has a Sob.

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Yet….even Comrade Bob sometimes has a Wee Greet.

In a spirit of comradely solidarity  we post this important and fruitful article from the website of the Revolutionary Communist Party (USA)

Watching Fruitvale Station With Bob Avakian. (Unsigned. August 2014)

“Not too long ago, I watched Fruitvale Station with Bob Avakian (BA), chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party.  Towards the very end of the film, agonizing, heartbreaking and infuriating scenes are shown: The cop shooting Oscar in the back; Oscar’s girlfriend frantically rushing to the scene, trying to find out what happened; Oscar’s loved ones gathering together and waiting desperately to find out if he would make it, only to find out he was gone forever.

As these scenes unfolded, I looked over at BA.  He was sobbing.  Not just misty-eyed. Sobbing.  And he continued to cry tears of heartbreak and rage for several minutes, as the closing credits rolled.”

This made a very big impression on me.  BA did not know Oscar Grant personally. But he felt the sting of his murder in an extremely raw and visceral way. And I think his reaction speaks volumes about who Bob Avakian is, what he represents, and what he is all about.

BA has literally been fighting against this system for 50 years.  He has been a revolutionary communist for about 45 years.  He has been shouldering the responsibility of leading the Revolutionary Communist Party for almost 40 years. And over the course of the last several decades, he has forged the theory and deepened the science for the revolution humanity needs to get free, while also providing practical leadership to the party and movement working for that revolution.

And all of this has involved not only tremendous work, but also tremendous risk and sacrifice on BA’s part as anyone with a sense of U.S. history, and/or BA’s personal history—specifically, what this reveals about the way the U.S. government viciously goes after revolutionary leaders—should well understand.

And over all these decades, and through everything described above, BA has never lost an ounce of his love and feeling for the masses of people, his sense of outrage and hatred for all the ways in which the masses suffer needlessly, and his fire for revolution to emancipate the masses all over the world.  Not one bone in his body has become numb.

Amor Vincit Omnia.

The Humble Servant of the People is indeed an example.

I’ll say it again: We had better fully recognize and appreciate what we have in BA, and act accordingly.

Say it again, say it twice, say it thrice,

And when I say “we had better,” that “we” is addressed to many different people and audiences. Yes, I am most definitely speaking to revolutionaries and communists and to all those who are already deeply familiar with and supportive of BA.  But in saying “we,” I am also speaking to those who are just now—or just recently—learning about and getting introduced to this revolutionary leader—including, to quote BA, “Those this system has cast off, those it has treated as less than human” who “can be the backbone and driving force of a fight not only to end their own oppression, but to finally end all oppression, and emancipate all of humanity.”

” BA is not only the leader of the revolution, he is also a best friend to the masses of people.” As is said, “Every Communist working in the mass movements should be a friend of the masses and not a boss over them, an indefatigable teacher and not a bureaucratic politician.” (Mao Tse Tung) My new best friend – BA as we chums call him – has more qualities,

“He is a leader who has done decades of work in the realm of theory to bring forward the scientific method, strategy and vision needed to make revolution and bring into being a radically new world where all the horrors that humanity suffers unnecessarily would be no more. He is continuing to develop the advanced scientific method that he has forged, and apply that method to all of the big questions and obstacles confronting the revolution.”

We all love advanced scientific methods.

“Investigation may be likened to the long months of pregnancy, and solving a problem to the day of birth. To investigate a problem is, indeed, to solve it.” (Mao Tse Tung)

The world awaits.

“We must study, and learn all we can from his incredible body of work on the biggest questions of revolution and human emancipation, as well as the lessons of who he is and what he stands for as a revolutionary leader. “

We shall indeed BA.

“To behave like “a blindfolded man catching sparrows”, or “a blind man groping for fish”, to be crude and careless, to indulge in verbiage, to rest content with a smattering of knowledge – such is the extremely bad style of work that still exists among many comrades in our Party, a style utterly opposed to the fundamental spirit of Marxism-Leninism. Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin have taught us that it is necessary to study conditions conscientiously and to proceed from objective reality and not from subjective wishes; however, many of our comrades act in direct violation of this truth.” (Mao Tse Tung)

But what is this we hear? Hark! The Bob (BA) is in danger!

This means taking very seriously the need to do everything we can to protect and defend BA. This means denouncing and not giving a millimeter of space to those who slander and personally attack BA, because these attacks and slanders are part of creating the poisonous atmosphere and conditions that would make it easier for the powers-that-be, or those doing their bidding, to take BA from the people of the world.

Plunged into the slough of despond at this what can we do?

Protecting and defending BA, and building a wall around him, also means boldly and sharply challenging those who may not be part of the camp of the enemy, but who are wallowing in, or at least being influenced by, arrogance, cynicism and snark, and who seek to dismiss without seriously engaging what BA has brought forward; this arrogance, snark, cynicism, and dismissal, regardless of the intent of those who fall into it, stands in the way of BA and all that he has brought forward having the reach and societal influence that this urgently needs to have.

Too true, too very true.

But the good news is: It is not too late.  We, and the masses of the planet, have BA right now. We had better realize, and let everyone know, what that means.

Heed the call and build the wall!

Maybe one day we might even get around to seeing Fruitvale Station.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 9, 2014 at 11:25 am

Charlie Kimber, SWP and Bears – a Cautionary Tale.

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Happier Days for ‘Red’ Charlie Kimber. 

 

How a respectable public schoolboy fell amongst reds and came to a horrible end.

 

“Young Charlie Kimber was a real hard red,

He even read Das Kapital in bed,

At Eton, where he studied hard,

The scholars thought him quite a card.

 

When Kimber, he was twenty-three,

His daddy bought him S.W.P.

His comrade, the honorable Alex,

Was both his helpmate and his bollix.

 

Charlie stopped the  port and vintage wine,

and going out to restaurants to dine.

Just mushy-peas and Mars-bars fried,

no more tomatoes ripe sun-dried.

 

He dropped his ‘aitches one by one,

And shouted when the Gunners won.

He drank white cider by the bucket,

And stacked his tinnies on the buffet.

 

One day their paper made a joke,

A first – against a younger Eton bloke.

A Bear and death, were cause for fun,

And a very  laboured pun.

 

Dukes and Lords, they cut him out

The papers loathed the filthy lout,

Kimber, he was full of glee,

He kept right on his prolo spree.

 

One day he journeyed to the Zoo,

It was a conservationist do.

He drank Jack Frost till he was tight,

And then he sailed off to the night.

 

Pausing by a large black cage,

A Polar bear in hopeless rage.

A paw reached out, and struck him dead.

That was the end of Charlie Red.

 

Moral

It is the duty of the wealthy man,

Not to ape the artisan.

 

 Polar Bear in London Zoo: not unlike the one that thumped Charlie Kimber.

Below: Socialist Worker. See The Independent.

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 12, 2014 at 11:08 am

The Return of Martin Smith (SWP’s ‘Comrade Delta’).

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Martin Smith (Comrade Delta) is back!

Hat-Tip Howie’s Corner.

Apparently with the support from some people  based in France.

By an obvious oversight, and no doubt mindful of some ‘other’ controversies involving members of political parties, Smith does not mention his most celebrated achievement.

But this is what he and his new mate say,

“Over the past 30 years both of us have been involved in one way or another with the struggle against racism and fascism.

On this blog we will carry news, discussion and debate on the rise of the far right and fascism — and the movements that are developing to challenge this threat both in Britain and Europe.

But our interests are many and varied. We will also write about other political and cultural matters.

If you don’t like football, you should look away from posts about West Ham or Spurs!

Please feel free to join the debate by posting comments.

We welcome serious comments and discussion — whether you agree or disagree.

We hope you enjoy the site.

Martin Smith and Tash Shifrin”

Dream deferred logo

The site posts this  poem.

A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore — And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over — like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes

No sores on Delta then!

Our old comrade Tony Greenstein offered in 2013 the best summary of (what most people thought) lay behind Smith’s career-ending débâcle ,

SWP Crisis Over Cover-up of Rape & Sexual Harassment Allegations against former National Secretary Martin Smith

The catalyst for the crisis in the SWP were the allegations of rape by one member of the SWP and the sexual harassment of another member by Martin Smith, former SWP National Secretary.  It is of course impossible to know whether there is any foundation to the rumours, although it is unlikely that there is no smoke without fire, but how they were dealt with by the SWP leadership speaks volumes about the mentality of the leadership clique led by Alex Callinicos and Charlie Kimber and their attitude to ordinary members.  It also speaks volumes about their commitment to socialism since it is difficult to imagine a more serious and vile act than rape by a senior member of the leadership of a political group against a young comrade.

Martin Smith is, regardless of the truth of these allegations, a particularly unpleasant individual, both politically and personally. Weekly Worker of 12 July 2007 Stop thuggery in workers` movement  described how Simon Wells, who was expelled from the SWP, was attacked without provocation by Smith, at Marxism 2007, when he refused to hand over the ticket he had paid for when queuing to go into a session:  “The SWP`s national organiser angrily demanded comrade Simon`s ticket to the Marxism event and, when he refused, Smith instantly attacked him. Wrestled to the floor, comrade Simon sustained bruising, abrasions and back strain.” 

It was also Smith who was primarily responsible for the SWP hosting and politically defending Gilad Atzmon against accusations of anti-Semitism.  From 2005 to 2009 the SWP was content to make use of Atzmon’s status as a leading jazz musician, regardless of his racist views.  Martin Smith, a devotee of John Coltrane and jazz, was content to ignore Atzmon’s views as taking secondary priority to his musical affections.

We believe Smith is no longer a member of the SWP.

But we were wrong about the end of his ambitions.

There are many articles about this whole affair.

This is one particularly worth looking at: Martin Smith: a retrospective.

In his capacity as head of LMHR Smith also embarrassed the party by forging a relationship between our organisation and the jazz musician Gilad Atzmon. Smith invited him to speak at Marxism in 2004, when Atzmon began spouting some of the anti-Semitic rubbish he now specialises in. Despite SWP members challenging Atzmon from the floor, Smith continued inviting him to SWP events, and to perform with him at concerts as late as 2007.

Update: Two British leftists (originally linked to the SWP), France based, SWP influenced,  and members of Ensemble, Colin Falconer (Gauche anticapitaliste, one of the components of Ensemble), see: Le Nouveau Poireau Rouge) and John Mullen (also in Ensemble, see :John Mullen à Montreuil -Blog anticapitaliste)   participate in Martin Smith’s enterprise (as can be seen, publicly named by a Mullen article, Guest post from France: the need for a united fight against the fascists on it).

Anybody reading their attacks on the French secular left should remember who this pair are prepared to work with.

One wonders if other members of Ensemble are aware of their comrades’ British connections.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 8, 2014 at 11:18 am

A new Left Opportunity? Podemos and its Critics.

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Podemos Tries to Build New Organisational Model.

Podemos, the Spanish radical left alliance, has created a lot of interest in Europe and further afield.

In the May European elections they got 7.97% of the vote and 5 seats.

The Izquierda Plural,(Plural Left) IP, an older left alliance, got 10.03% of the vote and 6 seats.

Podemos however presented itself in the ballot box for the first time this year, while the Izquierda Plural, notably its main component, the Izquierda Unida, has been around in various forms since the mid-1980s.

The best known public figure of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, cites the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) led by Alexis Tsipras as an inspiration.

It appears that Podemos, like Syriza, is itself being taken as a possible political model for leftist groups in the rest of Europe.

Adria Porta Caballe writes on RS21 (one of the groups that left the British SWP), shortly after the above results, offering an explanation for their success 

Podemos has achieved this with a different method that rejects the traditional conception of party militancy and an unconditional commitment to popular self-organisation. In particular, the last 5 months offer three examples of Podemos’ participatory nature. First, when Pablo Iglesias made the first step, he also made clear from the very beginning that he would not go further unless he was backed by at least 50,000 people. He easily achieved that number in a day, establishing a precedent of direct democracy from start.

The second and most important example of how Podemos achieved popular empowerment was the creation of so-called “Circles”, local spaces of debate and action where everybody can attend no matter his or her political affiliations. Today there are around 400 Circles spread over the Spanish State and anywhere else where its citizens have had to exile since the crisis started for economic reasons (London, Berlin, Brussels, etc). The motto “all power to the circles” represents a dose of democracy to the regime and an unprecedented tool of popular empowerment.

Finally it is also worth mentioning that Podemos is the only party in the country which used open primary elections to choose its candidates. A quick glance to the more than 50 candidates who run in the open primaries is enough evidence of what distinguishes Podemos from the rest: workers, unemployed, precarious, students, teachers… but no professional politician. No wonder that with this different method, Podemos could not reach an agreement with the traditional euro-communist party Izquierda Unida to run together in the elections. Apparently the latter was only worried about exchanging some seats in a common candidature, while Podemos was obviously demanding a much more fundamental change in the way the left approaches internal democracy.

This model has not been settled.

Nor is at all clear that they have “achieved popular empowerment”.

The French site Ensemble noted that following the elections there was a “lively” internal debate inside Podemos, opposing

 some of the party’s base, who advocate greater power for the ‘circles’ in the process of decision making, and the self-styled Podemos “promoter group”, which defends a model with less power for circles and which is all open to all citizens and voters. The fundamental question, ultimately, is to define the organisational form to be taken by Podemos and the role of the circles, and that of those not enrolled in them,  in the decision-making party people.

(El País – reporting this)  has so far identified in this debate two sides supposedly in confrontation. On the one hand, there is the Izquierda Anticapitalista (IA, anti-capitalist Left), a political party built around the initiative since its inception and, secondly, the promoter Podemos group, headed by Iñigo Errejón, and Juan Pablo Iglesias and Carlos Monedero.

In the El País article on the 9th of June supporters of the “promoter group” are cited accusing the “base” (Iquierda Anticapitalista, IA) of wanting Podemos to be the “izquierda de Izquierda Unida” – the left of Izquierda Unida”. Pablo Iglesias’s right-hand man,  Juan Carlos Monedero went so far as the accuse the IA of attempting a “coup d’état” ( “golpe de Estado”) inside the organisation – as  a party within a party.

The Izquierda anticapitalista  is in sympathy (that is, affiliated) with the Fourth International (USFI).

One of its supporters, Teresa Rodríguez, is said to be the “Number 2″ of Podemos.

Not surprisingly the Fourth International has published an article by Guillem Murcia that refers to this dispute suggesting that the El País  report may not be entirely trustworthy (given the daily’s own political allegiance, which was, in the past, with the Spanish Socialist Party, the PSOE).

Dick Nicols in Links on the 1st of July (Spanish state: Eruption of Podemos sparks turmoil left and right) does not downplay the dispute as revealed by El País and has its own analysis of the problems facing Podemos,

According to a report in the June 9 El País, close Iglesias collaborator, fellow university lecturer and La Tuerka co-presenter Juan Carlos Monedero at one point explained the need for a closed list in these words: “The idea of the [closed] lists doesn’t seem very sensible to us, but there are people conspiring to lay hold of Podemos and we don’t feel like copping that. People with responsibilities in other parties have sent emails to sympathisers giving instructions as to what to do on June 14 [date of a national meeting of Podemos sympathisers].”

This was a reference to the Anti-capitalist Left (IA), co-founder of Podemos along with Iglesias and his supporters. In response to Monedero’s comments, which included the observation that some Podemos sympathisers wanted to convert the organisation into “the left of IU”, a June 9 statement of IA said: “Whoever sees conspiracies and coups where there is only democracy has very little faith in the intelligence of Podemos people…Only those who are afraid of democracy fear debates.”

Earlier Monedero had said: “Maybe this has to break up, maybe there are two incompatible models inside Podemos, some want to turn it into a party of delegates and into an old party…If we carry on with this line of talk, what happened with 15M could happen again—we were radically democratic and radically ineffective.”

He continues,

One concern was the role in Podemos given to the maverick politician and political consultant Jorge Verstrynge, ex-leader of the post-francoist Popular Alliance and variously PSOE member, adviser to the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) and the Venezuelan military, and exponent of a massive program of deportation of migrants from Spain.

Another was the decision, taken by election campaign team to incorporate a portrait sketch of Pablo Iglesias into the official Podemos ballot paper logo, on the grounds that Iglesias had much greater visibility than the name Podemos.

A third was the removal from the final Podemos election program of any specific support for the November 9 consultation in Catalonia, even though Iglesias continued to speak out for the Catalan right to decide.

The incessantly churning Spanish social networks have not been slow to comment on such choices, with Iglesias being tagged as “the little Napoleon”, and much worse. More soberly, many have pointed out that internet-driven decision-making in “new” party-movements can cohabit with “all power to the charismatic leader”, as in Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement. There the leadership (basically Grillo?) decides what the options for voting by internet are, after which “the membership decides democratically”. For the recent decision as to which European parliamentary group the Five Star movement’s MEPs should join, Grillo offered his members the “choice” of Europe of Freedom and Democracy (chairman Nigel Farange of the xenophobic United Kingdom Independence Party), the European Conservatives and Reformists group(dominated by the British Tories) or No Grouping.

Many, on the basis of what we so far can tell, will agree with Dick Nichols’ conclusion,

Podemos will face critical questions that can’t be solved from a “people v. politicians” formula. Critical will be the concrete basis for unity with IU and left-nationalist, left-regionalist and green forces. This is particularly pressing in the Spanish state because of the disproportionality in the rigged national Spanish electoral system, which only starts to disappear after a party wins 20% of the vote. (That score wins 18% of seats, while 15% wins 10.3% of seats and 10% of the vote just 5.1% of seats.)

The consolidation of Podemos as a revolutionary-democratic movement against austerity with rigorously democratic functioning and the convergence of its advance with that of a reformed IU will surely determine the fate of the anti-capitalist struggle in the Spanish state.

But it is by no means certain that the complicated ‘on-line’ democracy and the ‘circles’ at the base of Podemos, – the one drawing to leadership power, the other away from it, will help in this.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 4, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Tony Greenstein Resigns from Left Unity: World’s Progressives Shaken.

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Tony Greenstein in a temperate mood.

Comrade Tony Greenstein’s resignation from Left Unity sent shock waves last month throughout the world progressive, labour, and socialist movement.

The news was published in the august pages of the Weekly Worker on the 5th of June.

Now on his Blog he explains his standpoint.

I resigned from Left Unity nearly a month ago. Set up in a blaze of publicity, it has fallen victim to identity politics and navel gazing. It reports that it has 2,000 members. If so they make next to no impact. There is no internal life in the organisation, no paper or journal, and criticism of policies such as ‘safe spaces’ for women are frowned upon or, as is the case in Manchester subject to censorship and suspension

Using dialectical tools honed in years of struggle Brighton’s Best continues.

It would be a pleasure to reproduce the text in full but for reasons of space and attention-span we confine ourselves to extracts.

Cde Greenstein has no doubt where some of the blame for the rise of UKIP lies,

….most mailings from the Centre have concerned elections for the multiplicity of posts in LU. Barely a word has been issued concerning prioritising campaigns such as the destruction of the NHS or the welfare state. Bogus issues of interest to just a handful of careerists, such as intersectionality, have been deemed of more importance instead.

It is little wonder that LU didn’t see fit to stand candidates in the European elections when it has such pressing internal issues to deal with. The result is that UKIP and its anti-immigration policies have been given a free ride and LU has abandoned what could have been an effective platform for introspective navel gazing.

This post continues in this vein and reaches this conclusion,

LU’s leadership could do worse than to look at the success of Syriza in Greece and try and learn some lessons. However I fear that they are too fixed in their views and politics to learn lessons from anyone. They insist on following the same strategies that embraced Respect and destroyed the Socialist Alliance. Politically LU has demonstrated complete impotence on questions like Ireland. My conclusion is that the time for success has now passed and what is left is a terrible missed politically opportunity.

I have therefore decided that no purpose is served by my continuing to remain a member and I have decided to resign from Left Unity.

In case anybody has sympathy with some of these views – which include  criticisms of ‘intersectionality’ (poor old Richard Seymour’s latest  hobby horse) and ‘safe spaces’, not to mention Greenstein’s comments on the LU failure to campaign on welfare – this has been brought to the Tendance’s attention (ME),


Daniel Randall and Sacha Ismail 
Lies, Damn Lies and Tony Greenstein (What Next?)

TO THOSE on the left who derive sado-masochistic entertainment from the more bilious of its internal debates, Tony Greenstein will need no introduction. But for anyone who doesn’t think that spending endless hours on email discussion lists and internet message boards is an appropriate and productive use of their time, it is necessary to provide a little background.

Tony Greenstein is a socialist based in Brighton who engages in a form of political masturbation that consists basically of attacking the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty in the most poisonous terms known to him at every possible opportunity. Tony attacks the AWL for its small size, but he is not on very firm ground arguing numbers with a group more than 100 times the size of his own: the Tony Greenstein sect of one.

Tony’s ferocious hatred of the AWL overrides all rational political thought; so, for example, when Tony stood as a candidate for the Socialist Green Unity Coalition (in which the AWL also participated) in the 2005 General Election, Tony felt it appropriate to write a letter to the CPGB newspaper Weekly Worker attacking the AWL in characteristic terms, even though he knew this would harm the coalition of which he himself was part. This sort of behaviour is illustrative of Tony’s general approach – not rational, worked-out criticism but frenzied slander. His diatribe in What Next? [‘The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty – Britain’s Revolutionary Imperialists’] is no different. It is embarrassing in its lack of rigour, in the way it substitutes anecdotal slander for political critique, and in its use of blatant lies, distortions and half-truths.

More on What next? site.

In a long political career on the outside of the outside left Cde Greenstein has accumulated a broader range of enemies than the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL)  – they extend, let us say, from senior figures in the trade union movement to just about every party and groupuscule  on the left (his latest bug-bear is Socialist Resistance).

He has even got the goat of somebody genuinely loathed by all progressives,  Gilad Atzmon.

Respect!

Left Unity and the Affaire Laurie McCauley.

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Is this Working Out?

Left Unity notched up a success last week with its Homes Not Spikes campaign in London,

“The spikes are gone. Tesco buckled under the outcry after it was found to have put in ‘anti-homeless spikes’ outside a central London store, and the company was forced to remove them.”

The Tendance welcomes this result.

Left Unity has many good policies, and, unlike some of the inward looking UK left, resembles  the rest of the  (stronger)  radical European left . These include calling for continental cooperation to ‘refound’ the EU on a social basis, backing for far-reaching democracy, feminism,  and a ‘radical reformist’ set of domestic economic and social policies.

Left Unity has some respected and energetic activists and has inspired a wider audience.

These features outweigh the potential damage caused by the influence of one figure on its race policies, which look like a step backwards to 1980s  and Left Unity’s  confusing adaption to ‘intersectionality’.

While rightly opposing the deep-seated hostility to migrants and minorities, it treats “communities” as blocs. Indeed it falls victim to its own attack on hostility to “the representation of Muslims as a monolithic bloc” by defending ‘Muslims’ ….en bloc!

It is right to give priority to the racism of the government and parties like UKIP.

But without a strategy to build unity against the oppression that religious ‘communities’ can create Left Unity risks isolating itself from activists fighting for their own emancipation from “community leaders”.  This misguided approach can be seen when Left Unity ‘defends’ community leaderships, distant from the left and the labour movement,  in the Birmingham academies. The failure to see groups like Islamists as part of an international extreme right-wing movement, further weakens Left Unity’s politics

But I digress.

One area seems to have created rising tension is linked to the ‘safe spaces‘ policy.

The key contentious points include guidelines :

To behave decently toward each other and try to consider other people’s needs (as would be normal in a well unionised workplace).

Venom should be reserved as far as possible for those who would destroy our organisation and our political actions .

Tolerance of other habits and norms will be expected - for example, The Youth and elders might make more noise!

We will not ignore examples of oppression or of transgressions in matters of safe spaces, or situations where transgressions occur.

Discrimination of any kind is unacceptable and will be challenged.

Respect should be offered to each other’s physical (and emotional) boundaries.

Members are asked to try to be aware of the positions and privileges they may be conveying, including racial, class and gender privilege. Be aware of the language you use in discussion and how you relate to others

If a member of an oppressed group requests that you change your use of language, be respectful and change your use of language. Do feel free to ask for clarification on this.

……

There follows a section of Bullying.

The way out of any dispute is said to be through Resolution procedures” operated by “Reconciliation teams.”

These are real problems, shouting, screaming, bullying and harassment, are endemic in political parties of any stripe.

But will these guidelines help solve them?

Anybody with any political experience, or at least most of them, can see the potential for destructive disputes that could come from this policy. Choices of “language”, a call to be aware of “privilege”, “emotional boundaries” “tolerance ” of other people’s habits – all are open to exactly the kind of emotional manipulation (not to say intolerance) that they claim to “protect” people from.

Mike Macanir has unpicked this policy to death. He observes that, “the proposed method of addressing these issues of oppression – by mixing them up with party disciplinary/disputes procedures – has been tried and failed, over and over again, and not merely failed, but proved positively destructive.” “The method of ultimatums backed by prominently displayed anger – “speaking bitterness” – is clearly visible in comrade Dowling’s contribution and those of her supporters. It is inherent in tying together the equalities policy with the disputes/disciplinary procedure in the draft ‘safe spaces’ policy. It was unsuccessful and destructive in the movements of the oppressed in the 1970s-80s and it will be unsuccessful and destructive if we try it again in Left Unity”

Cde Macnair’s detailed argument against rules which encourage people to “speak bitterness”  can be seen here.

The Affaire Laurie McCauley.

Now with the Affaire Laurie McCauley some people’s boundaries are being sorely tested.

According to the latest Weekly Worker Left Unity “have suspended Laurie McCauley from membership for having the temerity to write a “public article” in the Weekly Worker.1 Specifically his ‘crime’ was to include “personal attacks”, “breaches of members’ privacy”, “unreasonable attacks on our branch” – and other such outrages against socialist morality. Frankly, the comrades responsible for this move should hang their heads in shame.

Is it a straightforward matter of free-speech?

For those willing to go into the “Affaire Laurie McCauley” this is the offending article, Left Unity: What ‘Safe Spaces’ lead to. (22nd May).

It begins,

I approach this short report with a certain amount of trepidation. Not because of concerns about ‘exposing’ Left Unity’s right wing here in Manchester, but because the levels of dishonesty and sheer lack of vision on show are simply embarrassing. Nevertheless it is important, as a service to the movement – and in the hope of rescuing the branch – that recent goings-on, culminating in the shutting down of the branch’s email discussion list and attempted censure of one member for comments thereon, are documented.

Left Unity was supposed to be different. A pluralist party, we were told, which could accommodate varied views within its ranks. The mistakes of the ‘old left’, of enforcing a false ideological unity that only led to splits, would be avoided. Openness and transparency were to be the order of the day.

Regular readers will know how quickly this has fallen apart in LU’s Manchester branch, where the email discussion list was shut down amidst the unedifying spectacle of one comrade – former deputy leader of Respect Dawud Islam – being demonised for the heinous crime of not coming to a snap judgement on the guilt or innocence of Steve Hedley.1Hedley had been accused of domestic violence by a former partner, but was found to have no case to answer by the RMT union and is not under investigation by the police. Comrade Islam declined to immediately sign an e-petition calling on the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition to withdraw comrade Hedley’s candidacy for the May 22 local elections. He explained, reasonably enough, that he did not know enough about the specific case, and also expressed his view that candidates’ politics are the most important thing.

Comrade McCauley now chronicles the response to this piece (19th June),

This triggered an avalanche of outrage, accusing him of at best not taking violence against women seriously, and at worst of defending those men who perpetrate such violence. Dawud refused to be hounded into signing, however, and restated his position. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was a two-line email from myself suggesting that “innocent until proven guilty” was a pretty progressive principle. This prompted Ian Parker of Socialist Resistance, who had initially posted the petition, to declare the topic “no longer suitable for discussion on this list” – an ad-hoc committee put the list under moderation tout court: all “political” and “personal” postings are blocked, with only banal organisational stuff slipping through the net.

Comrade Parker actually submitted a motion at the next meeting to censure Dawud for his comments – which were not even public statements, existing only on the branch’s internal discussion list – and refer him to LU’s disputes committee. At the most farcical point in this meeting, Ian proposed that comrade Islam actually put his own name to the motion! In the end, comrade Parker backed down after a pseudo-apology from the ‘accused’.

….

Incidentally, the dispute involving Dawud was resolved shortly after publication. But having the branch’s dirty laundry given a good airing in the pages of the Weekly Worker was clearly too much for comrades Parker and Keenan. Their appetite for cracking the bureaucratic whip was evidently only whetted by Dawud’s dressing down, as on June 8 two motions were circulated on the email list calling for myself to be referred to the disputes committee. The first motion claimed that comrades’ interventions in meetings and on email lists should be treated confidentially – hardly the model of transparency LU is supposedly committed to. The second called for my suspension from the branch, until the disputes committee had reached a decision on the case being brought against me. Both motions were unsigned, as if comrades had taken my description of Dawud’s experience as “Kafkaesque” as an encouragement.

And the case against me? The second motion condemned the “personal attacks” and “reports in public of our internal branch discussions” in my Weekly Worker article. The first point can be usefully translated as ‘criticising what someone actually said’. My report did not focus on a critique of comrades’ hairstyles or fashion sense, or anything else that could be remotely construed as a ‘personal attack’. Rather it was the politics – or lack thereof – that I had targeted. As for the second allegation, I have already made the point about transparency.

The second motion also contained nebulous and entirely unsubstantiated claims of “persistent oppressive conduct towards other members” and “persistent disruption of LU internal meetings”. No examples of this “oppressive conduct” or “disruption” have been given – nor had anyone previously pulled me up for such alleged misdemeanours. Anyone present at the meetings I have attended – or who has more than a passing acquaintance with me frankly – can only find these claims risible. I have volunteered to lead off two branch discussions, with no-one complaining. In fact the one time we had a genuine political newbie along was at one of these meetings, and we later learnt that she had decided to join her London branch of LU following our meeting.

For those still with the will to live after reading this, all we know from Left Unity’s site is that the June NC minutes record , “Report to executive on Leeds dispute, with call for Disputes and Appeals Committees to convene ASAP – Felicity Dowling – Endorsed.”

Not knowing the people involved we are not going to get bogged down in personal rancour.

Or in pub gossip.

One thing looks more than probable.

The charges relate to the Safe Spaces policy, even if apparently the Manchester Branch puts them down to behaviour that would not be accepted in any political party.

It could well be that this is not a free-speech issue, or one dependent on the rules we have discussed.

But for many it seem that this is involved, and is being used to settle scores not to end them.

The resulting row must surely exacerbate personality clashes.

It is not, as one Left Unity theorist might say, an aleatory happenstance.

It’s hard not to hope matters will be clarified, but things do not look promising.

There is already talk about another dispute erupting in Leeds involving Workers Power.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 20, 2014 at 11:19 am