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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.

 

Bans and the SWP Bullies (from Feminism to Black Revolutionaries).

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Up to their Old Tricks.

This is an important statement which should be taken with the next Blog Post (from Phil, a Very Public Sociologist and Howie’s Corner).

Bans, the SWP and the struggle to defend feminism on campus.

27th of November.

International Socialist Network.

Extracts:

We oppose a moral panic over free speech in student unions: they are member organisations not the state. However, we think we need the highest and most rigorous standards around free speech. Free speech cannot be absolute; it has to be negotiated by our community. We have a duty to provide a secure environment for all. We must have consistent positions on where the limits are, and be very clear and open in the reasons for these limits. We don’t think the no-platform policy against the SWP is being applied consistently. A consistent approach could ban most mainstream political parties and the Catholic Church from student unions on the same grounds used for the SWP’s ban. A better approach to the SWP and SWSS in student unions is not to shut down the society, nor to ban them. We should support and fight for unions to have decent membership disciplinary policies for misogynistic behaviour. If any SWP or SWSS member in a student union is behaving in a misogynistic way then they should be told to change their behaviour by the union. Failing that, they must be disciplined as a member of the student union, as any normal member would be for misogynistic behaviour.

…..

Many comrades in what remains of SWP can still be debated with. However, the moments of internal opposition have passed. Opposition activists have left; many into rs21 and the IS Network. Bans and no-platform policies will probably further stifle honest discussion in the SWP, and may ultimately be counter-productive as the SWP would use the attempts to ban it to try to regain legitimacy by rallying people around it in a fight for free speech.

SWP Bullies London Black Revolutionaries (from All that is solid.)

27th of November.

As you might expect, hearing a bandwagon trundling along in the distance, the SWP tried to get a piece of last night’s LBR-arranged 5,000 strong ‘FromLondon2Ferguson’ protest outside the American embassy. According to this LBR statement below, the SWP didn’t take kindly to something being organised without their “assistance”. It has been lightly edited.

We would like to clarify a recently alarming statement on behalf of Stand Up To Racism posted to us by Dennis Fernado and Sabby Dhalu.

From the hours of 25/11/14 3:00pm – 26/11/13 1:00am. LBR Organisers received a bombardment of calls from SUTR organisers.

We would like to refute some accusations being made.

At 1am of the 26th of November. SUTR approached us with the possibility of some of their Non-Socialist Workers Party members to speak as speakers of both events. We made the democratic decision to of course allow the families of those killed in police custody to speak at the event, as some have been arranged too already. We would like to convey respect and solidarity to all speakers of both events.

Our organisation received a plethora of threats from Weyman Bennett over the phone, ranging from the threat to dismantle and “go to war” our organisation if we continued to “ignore the leaders of the movement” and secondly, if we ever organise events within Anti-Racism, that we must be obliged to speak to SUTR/SWP.

Phil comments,

What strikes me about the statement is the entitlement of Bennett and his acolytes. Remember, the SWP is an organisation that has suffered the worst crisis in its 60 year history and recently appealed for unity among leftists. What this episode demonstrates is this toxic tub of toy town Trots have learned nothing from their rape allegation cover up, nothing from the revulsion they inspire in the wider left, and nothing about how to repair their organisation. Their attempt to bully London Black Revolutionaries demonstrates why they should be avoided at all costs and never be allowed to pimp off campaigns and movements not of their making.

The story comes via Howie,

SWP shenanigans over Ferguson demo

The outcry over the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black youth in Ferguson has focused a lot of attention on racism and justice in the USA. Unsurprisingly the protests has attracted coverage in the media and the attention of political activists on the far-left who have organised a vigil outside the US embassy today (26th November).

As usual the Socialist Worker Party has tried “muscling in” on the demo which has led to a fallout with the London Black Revolutionaries, an organisation I have no previous knowledge of.

LBR have published a lengthy statement, (see via link).

See the statement in full.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 28, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Anti-Fascism, Britain, Human Rights, SWP

Tagged with , ,

Goldsmith College Students Vote to Ban SWP. What a Band of Tossers!

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Goldsmith College Students ‘ Union Official Grub.  

“this week students at Goldsmiths University voted to ban the creepy Socialist Workers’ Party along with its affiliate student society. They also decided to burn the cult’s literature outside the student union – in the upside down world of student politics book and newspaper burning is a hallmark of enlightenment.”

JAMES BLOODWORTH  shutting down abortion debates and banning the SWP – what a terrible week for free speech

Background here:  Don’t ban the SWP! Challenge and protest!

This is sheer, utter gobshite.

Utter utter gobshite. 

Fascist gobshite en plus.

Still the shrimpy tossers look tasty.

Now, Back the Kurds!

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tatchell

Comrade Tatchell’s Call is the Right Response. 

Few will have much time for those who simply dismiss any action against the genociders of ISIL as “imperialism”.

It is unfortunate that those who wish to “stop the war” rely on arguments that conflate the murders of a totalitarian gang with all the other forces at play.

It is even more unfortunate that ‘Little Englander’ arguments are used against the war, about its expense, and the fear that killers may attack “us”.

But we should be extremely wary of getting enthusiastic for a bombing campaign without clear objectives, and without a real chance of a democratic outcome.

It would be misguided to jump on the bandwagon that looks as if it’s going to lead to moves for “regime change” in Syria – a recipe for more chaos, suffering and the growth of Islamist killer forces.

But there is one dimension in which we can support intervention.

Patrick Cockburn states

What the plans of President Obama and Mr Cameron lack is a diplomatic plan to bring the war between the non-Isis parties in Syria to an end. The two sides fear and hate each other too much for any political solution, but it may be possible for the foreign backers of the two sides to pressure them into agreeing a ceasefire. Neither is in a position to win against each other, but both are threatened by Isis, which inflicted stinging defeats on both Assad and anti-Assad forces in the summer.

Britain should press for such a truce even if it is only engaged militarily in Iraq, because it is the outcome of the war in Syria that will determine what happens in Iraq. It was the Syrian war beginning in 2011 that reignited Iraq’s civil war and not the misdeeds of Mr Maliki.

If Isis is to be combated effectively, then the US, Britain and their allies need to establish a closer relationship with those who are actually fighting Isis, which currently include the Syrian Army, the Syrian Kurds, Hezbollah of Lebanon, Iranian-backed militias and Iran itself. The necessity for this is being made tragically clear in the Syria Kurdish enclave of Kobane on the Syrian-Turkish border, where Isis fighters have already driven 200,000 Kurds into Turkey.

Perhaps as the Stop the War Coalition has published Cockburn they might heed what comrade Peter Tatchell says,

The truth is that if the US and UK are serious about fighting ISIS they should start by aiding the people on the ground who know the region best, have local roots and who are already leading the fight against the jihadist menace – the peshmerga army of the Kurdish regional government in Iraq and guerrillas from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and allied movements in Syria. This aid could include training, weapons, military intelligence, food and medical equipment. With extra assistance and supplies, they could be a powerful, effective counter-force to ISIS. The aim would be to empower them to liberate themselves.

Kurdish protesters made this call in London during the last week. They want international military aid to enable Kurdish fighters to roll back the ISIS advance.

Sadly, the UK Stop The War Coalition (STWC) has allowed its opposition to war to trump support for democracy and human rights. It is laudable to oppose western military attacks but a betrayal to show no solidarity with the democratic, secular, liberal and left forces in Iraq and Syria who are fighting ISIS and Assad’s blood-soaked tyranny.

Not backing military aid to these progressive forces, as an alternative to Western intervention, is a serious misjudgement. STWC’s failure to support those fighting an emerging genocide has a whiff of de facto acquiescence and collusion.

I hate war and see it as a last resort. But to stave off a bloodbath and enslavement, the progressive anti-ISIS fighters deserve assistance from the West and the whole international community. If military aid to partisans fighting Nazi fascism was the right thing to do in the 1940s, then surely support for those opposing ISIS clerical fascism is the right thing to do today.

We can discuss for hours the ultimate responsibility for the rise of Islamic State.

But there is one major problem that affects everything here and now:  the actions of the Turkish government, nominally a backer of the anti-ISIS coalition.

The Guardian today publishes this report, on the attitudes of the Kurds,

Like the majority of Kurds here he firmly believes that Ankara is actively supporting Isis with heavy weaponry, medical care and money – a charge that the Turkish government vehemently denies. Facebook pictures and YouTube videos that appear to back up their suspicions are eagerly shared among the picnickers, and continuous attacks by Turkish security forces on Kurdish activists gathering in border villages is proof enough for most that Turkey does not want the Kurds to prevail in Kobani.

“We arrived on Monday from Siirt,” explains Mehmet, 55. “We want to show support and be there for our brothers and sisters across the border. We want to show them and the world that we will not give up on them. We will stay as long as we have to.” Guardian.

Yesterday Le Monde reported complicity from Turkey towards the Islamic state in an on-the-spot (and lengthy) report, (A la frontière du dijhad).

So, how are we to back the Kurds?

George Galloway, after some distasteful rhetoric, and for all the distaste we have for him, had a brief moment of good sense in the House of Commons yesterday,

Galloway eventually outlined a plan when Rory Stewart, the Conservative chairman of the Commons defence select committee, challenged him to “please bring us towards his solution to this problem”. The MP for Bradford West called for a strengthening of forces already fighting Isis; arming the forces fighting Isis; and strengthening of Kurdish forces. Guardian.

If Galloway’s Moment of Clarity was not to last (he has since been raving in support of Assad and people’s right to set up states based on Islamic ‘law’) this is of rather more weight:

The Morning Star says (Editorial, Friday),

What’s needed instead is support for those anti-Isis forces in the region which are genuinely broad-based and secular.

The Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish authorities on the ground should set the terms for assistance in that struggle, endorsed by the United Nations, not the US president, his wire-pullers and their imagined allies in Turkey and the Gulf states.

With this consensus growing on the British left * (one that already exists on the largely pro-Kurd Continental left) – outside the depleted ranks of the SWP and other die-hard ‘anti-imperialists’ – we hope that others will voice their backing for the Kurdish fighters.

* See for example, (Socialist Resistance) STOP THE BRUTAL ATTACKS BY ISIS IN KOBANE, and the declarations by groups such as the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (see this important article, ISIS horror forces a culture shift on the left) and the general trend towards  backing the Kurds, amongst many other declarations.

The French bloc Ensemble (in the Front de Gauche) refuses to back “national union” behind the air-strikes but then adds a call for  “un engagement dans le soutien aux peuples en lutte contre l’Etat islamique, essentiellement de la force de la résistance kurde et syrienne, qui sont des acteurs essentiels pour l’avenir de la région et par le refus des interventions déstabilisatrices des grandes puissances.” A commitment to support the peoples in struggle against the Islamic state, principally the Kurdish and Syrian  resistance, who are the central actors in assuring the region’s future, against the destabilising effects of the great powers’ interventions.

Islamic State, “Only a popular mass movement is capable of confronting it and the authoritarian regimes.” says SWP, but no mention of Kurds.

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Brave Kurdish Fighters or Western “Pawns”? 

Say no to war on Syria and Iraq by Simon Assaf, says Socialist Worker.

Fear of the revolutions lies behind the latest wars. Bashar al-Assad’s regime used Islamic State to help break the popular revolution.

“Assad and Islamic State had an unofficial agreement not to attack each other,” explained Ghayath.

“This left the regime free to bomb cities, while the Islamists murdered secular activists.”

Assad now sees a chance to regain “legitimacy” with the West as part of an alliance against Islamic State. Ghayath added that there is a “consensus” among rebel groups to welcome the West.

“The regime and sections of the opposition are competing to become the most effective US ally in the battle against Islamic State,” he said.

But the West is no ally of the struggle against dictatorships or Islamic State.

The roots of the problem lie with the West.

Islamic State is the child of the Western occupation of Iraq and the sectarian disaster that followed,” said Ghayath.

“Only a popular mass movement is capable of confronting it and the authoritarian regimes.”

Children, most claim, have no moral responsibility.

So demands to bring them, and the foreign jihadis (including from the UK) to justice are not considered,

But what of the “mass popular movement”?

What about the Kurdish forces?

Do they not exist?

Are they not part of a “popular mass movement”?

We learnt in August what the SWP’s view on the Kurdish movement  is,

Arming the Kurds won’t stop Iraq’s brutal civil war

David Cameron has announced that Britain will arm Kurdish forces fighting the growth of the reactionary Islamic State group in Iraq.

Many on the left think this a good alternative to direct Western intervention, which has been responsible for the spread of sectarianism in the region.

The Kurds live in an area divided between Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey and have been fighting for a Kurdish state. Socialists support this struggle.

But only Western imperialism will benefit if in the process the Kurds become a pawn in the spiralling conflict.

Injecting Western arms will not stop Iraq’s slide into sectarian civil war.

The West has always defended its own interests in the region through backing brutal dictators.

….

Already in some parts of northern Iraq protests have taken place demanding the expulsion of Arabs from Kurdish areas, as if they were all Islamic State supporters.

Poor nationalist movements can’t always choose who to source arms from.

But despite the horror at what the Islamic State is doing, Western intervention will only prolong the fighting and intensify the divisions.

The SWP ‘supports’ the Kurdish struggle by knowing better than the Kurds what is in their interests.

The Stop the War Coalition gives ten reasons not the back the Western Intervention.

1) The West’s last operation in Iraq ended just three years ago. For those with a short memory it didn’t go well. More than half a million people died, millions fled the country and Iraq’s infrastructure was devastated. The operation generated deep resentment against the West.

2) The current chaos in Iraq – including the rise of the reactionary Isis – is largely the result of the eight years of that occupation.

3) Bombing always kills and terrorises civilians. Recent coalition bombing raids on Raqqa in Syria have brought death and panic to its residents. One civilian there told western reporters ‘I would not wish them on my worst enemy’.

4) All three of Britain’s major military interventions in the last thirteen years have been disasters. In 2001 we were told an invasion of Afghanistan would rout the Taliban. Thirteen years and tens of thousands of deaths later the Taliban have grown in strength and the country is broken. The bombing of Libya in 2011 was justified as essential to stop a massacre by Gaddafi. After it began an estimated 30,000 were killed in a terrifying cycle of violence. The country is now a failed state with no real government.

5)  The coalition that has been put together for the bombing of Syria – apparently in an effort to give the attacks legitimacy – comprises some of the most ruthless and benighted  regimes in the region. Human Rights Watch reports that nineteen people were beheaded in Saudi Aarbia in August.  Qatar and UAE have notorious human rights’ records that include the use of forced labour. All three have funded violent Jihadi groups in the region.

6) Bombing raids will increase hatred of the west. One of the wider results of the ‘War on Terror’ has been to spread Al- Quaida and other terrorist groups across whole regions of the world. In 2001 there were relatively small numbers of such militants, centred mainly on Pakistan. Now there are groups across the middle east, central Asia and Africa.

7) The timing is cynical. David Cameron has recalled parliament to debate an attack on Iraq just two days before the start of the last Tory Conference before the general election. This at a time when he is engaged in pushing a right wing, nationalist agenda for party political purposes.

8) Mission creep is almost inevitable. There are already more than a thousand US military active in Iraq and senior US military figures are arguing they should now be openly involved in fighting. In Britain a growing number of voices fromTony Blair to Lieutenant General Sir Graeme Lamb are recommending British boots on the ground.

9) The attack will cost money much needed for other things. One Tomahawk cruise missile costs £850,000, enough to pay the annual salary of 28 NHS nurses. The US has already fired about 50 of these missiles at Isis targets in Syria. It is estimated Britain spent between £500 million and one billion pounds bombing Libya in 2011. This was roughly the same as the savings made by ending the education maintenance allowance (EMA); or three times the amount saved by scrapping the disability living allowance.

10) The vote will have a global impact. On Friday, MPs have a chance to make a real difference on matters of peace and war. The US wants Britain on board to prove it is not isolated. When MPs blocked Cameron’s last push for airstrikes, on Syria a year ago, they stopped Obama launching attacks too. A no vote could help reverse the drift towards another full scale western war in the middle east.

We can set aside the importance of the fear that bombing will “increase hatred of the West”.

If it is possible to increase the level of hatred the ISIS genociders hold then loathing their enemies for attacking them is not a bad thing.

The cost is a non-issue: we do not put a price on preventing genocide.

This is perhaps the most ignoble argument possible. 

The essential of the argument is that bombing will not be effective, it will not work, it will result in a chain of reactions that will end up with more killings, and will involve bolsytering deeply unpelsant regimes.

These points carry weight.

But what about backing the Kurds who have asked for help.

What about some international solidarity with the victims of the killers?

Back the PKK for a start!

“The PKK engaged Islamic State forces in Syria in mid-July 2014 as part of the Syrian Civil War. In August the PKK engaged IS in Northern Iraq and pressured the Government of Turkey to take a stand against IS. PKK forces also helped “tens of thousands of Yazidis escape an encircled Mount Sinjar.”

Wikipedia.

And watch this: Syrian Woman Wears Hidden Camera to Reveal Life Under ISIS Rule

Written by Andrew Coates

September 26, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Standing up to UKIP? A Critical Appraisal.

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Will this Defeat UKIP?

Some on the left remain in mourning for the failure of the Scottish referendum to “bring their country into the world of free and sovereign nations”. Some console themselves that Alba is already a “transformed, empowered country.” (Neil Ascherson. Observer. 21.8.14.)

Westminster Centralism appears on the wane. A large constituency demands a “grant of real responsibility to local communities.” This means, they say, a change in the structure of the British constitution, perhaps an English parliament, certainly greater control for regions and cities inside and outwith Scotland’s borders.

Constitutional issues are not the preserve of Scottish nationalists or the new regionalists. UKIP has made its transition from pressure group to serious political contender by demanding that Britain be ‘free’ from the legislative power of the European Union. The issue of sovereignty is the central concern of Nigel Farage’s party. UKIP is, first and foremost, anti-EU. It wants ‘independence’ for the British people from ‘Brussels’. It is not ‘Eurosceptic’; it is Europhobic.

The Scottish separatists want to see the back of ‘Westminster’, for the good of their own people. Some, notably in the SNP, claim to see the European Union as a positive force that would help them towards that aim. With their common concern with national power we can call both parties, despite this major difference on the EU, “sovereigntists.” The party once led by Alex Salmond believes in a limited degree of pooled sovereignty in order to ‘save the nation state’ (as Milward called it), UKIP is simply wants to shore up the nation state. (1)

Stand up to UKIP.

Left-wing activists, called to support the campaign Stand up to UKIP, which plans a major demonstration outside the Party’s conference next weekend, can be forgiven for forgetting the word “independence” in the title. The launch of this campaign, after all, declares,

“It has built up its electoral base by both presenting itself as a party opposed to the European Union, but more importantly by spreading poisonous lies and hatred towards migrants and MuslimsWe believe UKIP is a racist party. This may be something Farage and the party’s leadership is quick to deny. But in the run up to the European elections UKIP’s mask slipped. UKIP presents the anti-racist movement with a major problem – dragging British politics to the right.”

Let us leave aside the claim that UKIP specialises in ‘anti-Muslim’ campaigning. This will come as news to the Bangladeshi organisers of the Ipswich ‘Multi-cultural festival’ at the end of August this year, who included a full page UKIP advertisement, along with Labour and Tory endorsements, in the day’s programme. It will also be a surprise to anybody reading official UKIP material, which does not single out the topic of Islam, but instead includes it within a blanket condemnation on multi-culturalism – the real reason to be astonished at the Ipswich anomaly.

Andy Jones argues, “UKIP is the main organised expression of the new anti-immigrant racism.” (International Socialism. June 2014. No 114) Nobody can deny that it has gained support for its hostility towards migration – their leaflets warning of a mass Bulgarian and Rumanian invasion are still fresh in people’s minds. Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin point to their ability to “recognise and often moblise public resentments of immigration and ethnic minorities among the white majority” (Page 159 Revolt on the Right. 2014). 

Is this part and parcel of a “party of bigots, sexists, Islamophobes and homophobes”? Perhaps. But does this imply that they have won votes as this kind of party? Stand up to UKIP clearly seems to think that “exposing” them as such will eat away at their support. Others consider that this is part of their appeal.

Ford and Godwin state that UKIP’s “electoral base is old, male, working class, white and less educated, much like the BNP’s (Ibid). Their analysis of the attitudes within the group they identify would tend to support the view that many of UKIP’s less attractive and prejudices attitudes have an echo within their constituency. Others note that the Stand up to UKIP list of bigoted opinions, slightly more politely expressed, is shared with middle class and upper class voters, the readership of the Daily Mail, Telegraph, and the Times. That UKIP voters are by no means largely working class. (2) 

In the publicity for the 27th demonstration at UKIP’s conference it’s stated, “UKIP likes to say it is the “people’s army” in opposition to the political elite in the mainstream parties. But it is a racist party that blames migrant workers for the problems in society it is acting as a shield for the bankers who are really responsible for the economic crisis.”

Is shouting “racist party” outside the UKIP meeting going to change anybody’s opinions?  I say shouting, but screaming ‘racist’ is the likely prospect. The involvement of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) signals the direction the protest is taking. This Sealed-Knot re-enactment of the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) demonstrations of yesteryear is a dead-end. The chorus, conducted by the Socialist Workers Party (Stand up’s main initiator) is not going to win over anybody outside their ranks. 

Revealing the role of UKIP as “shield for the bankers” is as unlikely undermine their support as “unmasking” them as an unsavoury load of old racists. The competition created in the labour market by migration is  – on at least some evidence deliberately encouraged by employers – is the material basis on which people ‘blame’ foreigners for low wages.

A trade union approach is to set a standard, the Living Wage, and high social benefits and work protection for all. Only unions are capable of grappling with these problems directly, bringing the actual and potential UKIP voters together with migrants on the basis of common interests. The left needs to focus on campaigns by the TUC and its affiliates, to prevent the bosses from setting one group against another. It is the European Union which should create the conditions for continent-wide higher wages and social benefits, a strategy of upgrading standards. Any form of sovereigntist politics, from UKIP, the SNP (which advocates lower corporation tax in Scotland) to the Conservative Party’s own Eurosceptic policies (the most direct threat), is an attack on this internationalist approach.

Defeating UKIP.

After Douglas Carswell’s resignation from the Tory party and decision to stand for UKIP in Clacton on the 9th of October the party is rarely out of the headline. Polls gives Carswell a wide lead. The group now has 39,143 members. The left has to think, deeply and seriously, without yelling, about how to deal with UKIP’s appeal. 

UKIP’s biggest weakness is not that it is a party with an exceptionally high membership of obsessives, xenophobes and oddballs. Having set out on a ‘populist’ path, that is, with the call for the British to rise up against the Brussels elite, its focus anti-European policies cut if off from the large numbers of people who (correctly) identify the ‘elite’ with a domestic Establishment. Many in these circles, including those who are virulently opposed to ‘Brussels’, are attracted, with a degree of ‘cultural cringe’ to the United States. They are prepared to cooperate with Washington and Wall Street in enterprises like TIIP, which open the way to an even greater extension of free-market power.

Farage’s organisation does not combine their prejudices with a degree of ‘social’ demands (protecting ‘the British worker’ ‘our NHS’). It opts for hard-line free-market policies. Continental populists, by contrast, are often opposed to ‘globalisation’ and ‘neo-liberalism’. Some European ‘populist’ parties, like the French Front National, have even tried to influence trade unions (3). This may reflect their middle class base, although the French FN equally benefits from electoral backing in middle class and wealthy areas (the traditional fiefs of the right and extreme-right in cities like Paris). 

Yet UKIP’s electoral success (27.5% of the vote in the European elections) has had exactly the same effect: a constant drag towards the right, hauling political players towards its brand of patriotism.

That they are braggarts, demagogues, that their xenophobic policies (directed against other Europeans) have racial overtones (against any ‘foreigners’ – that is, including British citizens, ethnic minorities), is important. This should be brought out and attacked.

But the only way Farage’s party will be sent back to the margins is by facing up to the issue of Sovereignty. To Stand up to UKIP is to stand up for the European Union, to engage in the transformation of its structures and to build a European Social Republic.

****

Note: for a real anti-racist campaigning group see Hope not Hate which has covered everyday racism, UKIP, the BNP and other UK far-right groups, including Islamists.

(1) The European Rescue of the Nation State (1999) by the late Alan Milward.

(2) “The data on which Ford and Goodwin base their analysis of Ukip voters consists, as they acknowledge, of people who intend to vote Ukip, rather than those who have. On the occasions when Ukip’s vote increases dramatically (such as in European elections) their new or temporary voters are more likely to be middle-class, financially secure and from Conservative backgrounds. And, while Ukip did indeed attract more former Labour voters during the later New Labour years, they have won a substantially higher proportion of Tory voters since the coalition came to power.

So there might be another explanation for the high Ukip vote in Labour areas. As the BBC’s political research editor, David Cowling, points out, in Labour’s safest seat in the country at the 2010 election, 28% of voters still supported other parties. This is not because Liverpool Walton is peppered with enclaves of bankers and stockbrokers; it’s because a substantial section of the working class has always voted for parties other than Labour and now that vote is going to Ukip. Ford and Goodwin argue that Ukip’s success has reduced the swing to Labour among old, poor and male voters. But that’s different from saying that Ukip is eating into the existing Labour vote, as it clearly is into the Conservatives’.” David Edgar.

(2) See the collection of articles in Nouveau Visages des Extrêmes Droites. Manière de Voir. Le Monde Diplomatique. 134. Avril Mai 2014.

Update: SWP Party Notes,

Stand Up to Ukip: Doncaster 27 September
Ukip look odds on to win their first MP in the Clacton by-election on 9 October following the defection of Douglas Carswell to Ukip from the Tories.
Nigel Farage hopes to exploit the tensions inside the Tory party together with rising Islamaphobia to increase Ukip’s influence. This will drag politics further to the right, further boosting racist scapegoating.

The demonstration outside Ukip’s conference in Doncaster on Saturday 27 September is a key step in developing campaign against Ukip.

Every branch needs to think about transport to Doncaster. Approach trade unions for sponsorship and to publicise the demo and we should produce tickets to sell. (a template is attached). We should leaflet FE colleges and universities as they return. Using the Stand up to Ukip statement, which has an impressive list of ‘big’ names on it around work and with people we know locally is a good way to talk to people about the importance of coming to Doncaster and showing that there is organised opposition to Ukip.

More transport has been put on over the last week – including from Huddesfield, Chesterfield, Nottingham, West Midlands, Newcastle, Derby. For the full list go to standuptoukip.org

There are SUTU public meetings tonight in Manchester and Cambridge.

To order colour 2-sided A5 leaflets advertising the demo in Doncaster, emailinfo@standuptoukip.org – 1,000 cost £15.

Another French Left Group (Ensemble) Backs Arming Kurds.

with 2 comments

What is at Stake in the autonomous Struggle of progressive Forces against the Islamic State. (Extracts – Adapted)  

The announcement of an “international coalition” to fight the “Islamic state” is the latest act in a string of disasters caused by Western imperialist interventions in the Middle East. This – a reminder –  is not part of any genuine anti imperialism,  but allows us to understand the dynamics at work, which have been reshaped since  the US intervention in 2003,  in the current situation.  As with 2003, Western imperialism produce disasters, then intervenes to “fix” the consequences of these catastrophes, and then creates further disasters of an even greater magnitude – a succession of links in an endless chain.

Thus, we cannot admit that there are  “humanitarian” motives at work inside the US  administration or support the coalition that they seek to put in place in order to maintain their hold. Nevertheless, it is impossible to denounce, simply, American imperialism, and remain indifferent to the devastation caused by the Islamic State, IS (mass killings, persecution of religious minorities, Sunni disagreements, the tens of thousands of Yazidis left to die in the Sinjar). This would equally be to ignore the actions of the reactionary and authoritarian and regional powers. We need not simply to react to the massacres and repression perpetrated by the IS but also to stem the wave of disasters engulfing the region. Indeed, imperialism finds its strongest basis in  these religious confessional and national divisions..

Faced with these obstacles, it is necessary to defend movements of  local self-defence rather than increasing the stranglehold of imperialism. This implies, therefore  support (including weapons) for progressive forces in the region to combat the Islamic State.  That is, for the Popular Committees in Syria who have been abandoned to their fate, and for the broad movement around the Kurdish PKK.

…..

(There follows an analysis which lays the blame for ISIS’s rise in Syria on Assad’s willingness to foment divisions in his opposition, and on Turkey, which is charged with “complaisance” towards the rise of the Islamists.)

Kurdish forces and issues

The main armed resistance opposed to the Islamic State  is represented by various  Syrian opposition movements and the PKK, the main Kurdish political-military organization of Turkish forces.

The PKK was born in the social and political ferment of the 70s Turkey, created by Kurdish leftist students. Its historic leader, Abdullah Ocalan, is held in prison in Turkey but still leads the PKK and the movement that revolves around it.Following a tradition that can be termed “Stalinist” the PKK has managed to supplant other Kurdish organizations in Turkey and has a mass base in the bulk of Turkish Kurdistan. The  PKK “mouvance” (broad movement)  can often have a very opportunist line – but retains a  military capacity, is the political representative of the large Kurdish minority in Turkey. Note also that the whole movement around the PKK is highly feminised (both in recruitment and in access to positions of fighting and political-military leadership).

……

..an essential part of fighting is taking place in Syria where this movement already existed. However, it is true that the PKK stepped onto Iraqi territory in the mountains of Sinjar to fight IS and to rescue tens of thousands of Yezidi (a Zoroastrian religious minority from Kurdish-speaking areas).  In keeping with its normal practice, the PKK has sought to create a local sister organization, with the Yezidi, the Resistance Units Kirkuk-Mexmour. In northern Syria, the PYD unilaterally declared independence in the territories it controls (the Rojava, that is to say, the Western Kurdistan). It  has been criticised by other Kurdish organizations in Syria gathered in the Kurdish National Council. This tension between the PYD and CNK is only a reflection of the broader opposition among the Kurds between the PKK and the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) of Massoud Barzani, the “feudal” political leader who heads the autonomous Kurdish regional government Kurdish in northern Iraq (and which is bound by the CNK in Syria).

Briefly, the PKK reproach, rightly, to Barzani and the Kurdish autonomous regional government in northern Iraq with having links with the Turkish government, leaving the Islamic State free to continue their progress  progress in northern Iraq, and, as a  result of this alliance, to be so directly responsible for the progress of EI and the fall of Mosul. Conversely, Barzani accused the PKK-PYD of having links with the Assad regime. …

(There follows detailed analysis of these ties, claims and counterclaims.)

The important points of the Ensemble analysis are these: they back “active local defence “, that they regard this as a “medium-term challenge ” to ” imperialist logic” and believe that will contribute towards the “healing” (assainissement) of the Kurdish national question” which is one of  “the elements of division between the most important people of the region.” 

The Stop the War Coalition (StWC)  warns against US-led intervention in Iraq and Syria.

It has yet to offer any comment on demands for “support (including weapons) for progressive forces in the region.”

By contrast  Socialist Worker said in August, Arming the Kurds won’t stop Iraq’s brutal civil war.

More recently (September 16th) they found nothing to say on the Kurdish struggle against the Islamist genociders.

Instead they warned  US missiles will worsen Iraq crisis.

Apparently one of the main dangers is that, “This will be a green light for targeting Muslims and increasing Islamophobia as all Muslims are portrayed as a terrorist threat.”

Written by Andrew Coates

September 21, 2014 at 11:24 am