Tendance Coatesy

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Comrade Peter Tatchell Speaks for Us: Back Corbyn and Raise Human Rights Issues with him.

with 13 comments

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Comrade Peter Tatchell Speaks for our Left.

I’m backing Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leadership, despite his unsavoury “friends. By

This article expresses the views of many of us on the democratic socialist left.

A Corbyn premiership would reverse damaging, cruel welfare cuts and the privatisation of vital public services. He’d tackle climate destruction, rocketing rents and house prices. Trident renewal, foreign wars and the sinister Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership would be nixed. His administration would bring rail and energy companies back into decentralised public ownership. All sensible, compassionate policies. Good for him.

In my book, he is head and shoulders above all the other Labour leadership candidates, both in terms of his past political record and his political agenda for the future. But the single most important over-arching reason for supporting Jeremy is that Britain needs to turn away from the flawed and failed policies of business as usual. He is shaking up the establishment and breaking with the cosy political consensus that has been shared by Labour, Conservatives, Lib Dems and UKIP. The mainstream, middle-of-the-road policies of the last decade are not the answer. All they offer is more of the same, which is what got us into the current mess.

Comrade Peter’s article is lengthy and merits a full read.

Those will long-memories will recall that Peter has been important contributor to Labour Briefing – a significant part of the Labour left backing Jeremy Corbyn. He has also been on the Socialist Society’s Steering Committee. He is well-known to “our” left.

That is  apart from all the other campaigns and issues he has fought for so bravely.

Peter Tatchell is one of the most respected and genuine people many of us know.

After having given due weight to his merits, and the immense hope Jeremy Corbyn represents, he sums up our reservations.

Since Jeremy has his heart in the right place and is not an Islamist, Holocaust denier or anti-Semite, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Nonetheless, he has been careless in not checking out who he shares platforms with and been too willing to associate uncritically with the Islamist far right.

While I’m certain that Jeremy doesn’t share their extremist views, he does need to explain in more detail why he has attended and spoken at meetings alongside some pretty unsavoury bigots who advocate human rights abuses – and especially why he did so without publicly criticising their totalitarian politics.

He also notes problems with the stand taken on Hamas, Hezbollah, Russia and Ukraine.

There is much to say on these issues, and others – but read the article.

I will concentrate on those who are crowing that Corbyn’s opposition to direct Western intervention in Syria is another reason why he is unfit to lead the Labour Party.

One of the more distasteful claims now being made is that full-throttled backing of the Syrian opposition would have stopped the present refugee crisis.

What exactly that mean became clear as the conflict escalated in 2012- 2013 and voices became louder and louder that there should have been armed intervention, helped by aerial bombardments.

Those leading the charges against Corbyn were amongst the forces putting pressure for the British government to support military action in Syria.

Parliament voted in August 2013 against this.  “David Cameron said he would respect the defeat of a government motion by 285-272, ruling out joining US-led strikes.”

They, above the ‘Eustonites’ and the Labour right-wing, including Blogs such as Harry’s Place, have not forgiven Jeremy Corbyn for helping in the defeat of this move.

It is clearer nevertheless, by the day, that the “opposition” in Syria, that is armed groups,  that would have been aided by these measures were the very Islamist genociders (in ‘moderate’ killer or ‘extremist’ killer guise) who now create mass misery.

The result would probably have been, as Phil states, the premises are skewed.

Could Bombing Have Averted the Syrian Refugee Crisis?

The injection of large numbers of US and UK troops might have brought about an Afghanistan/Iraq-style “solution” with all the anti-insurgency actions and casualties that would have entailed, but IS would have been locked out. However, as we know neither the public nor for that matter the political and military elites were taken with such a scenario. Perhaps timing could have made a difference. Had the bombs fallen on Damascus earlier today’s crisis might have been avoided. Possibly, but as the last foray into Libya showed early intervention is no guarantee of success. If the bombs had landed in support of the 2011 uprisings, what has befallen Tripoli, Benghazi, etc. could be a window into the road not taken in Syria. That, however, was never on the table.

This was, and remains, no democratic alternative to the Assad tyranny with the force to replace it.

What can we do?

Peter’s statement on the present state of the Syrian civil war is important.

On Syria, Jeremy seems to have no policies, apart from “Don’t bomb Syria”. I concur. We don’t want escalation and war. But surely 250,000 dead, 1.5 million wounded and 10 million refugees merits some action? Total inaction aids the survival of Assad and Isis (IS).

A good start might be a UN General Assembly-authorised no-fly zone, arms embargo, peacekeepers and civilian safe havens – plus cutting funding to the IS and Assad armies by a UN blockade of oil sales.

Such measures – enforced by non-Western states such as Argentina, India, Brazil, Nigeria and South Africa – would help de-escalate the conflict and reduce casualties. Jeremy’s wariness of intervention is understandable. I share it. But surely a UN mandate designed to limit war fighting is reasonable and legitimate for a left-wing candidate?

Peter also speaks on a subject dear to our heart: the Tendance has supported movements of solidarity with the Iranian people, such as Hands off the People of Iran * – which is both anti-Theocracy and for human rights in Iran, and against Western Military intervention.

Like Jeremy, I don’t want war with Iran. I opposed the indiscriminate, blanket Western sanctions that hurt ordinary Iranians. But I’ve struggled to find examples of where he has spoken out against Iran’s mass jailing and torture of trade unionists, students, journalists, lawyers, feminists, human rights defenders and sexual, religious and ethnic minorities (such as the Arabs, Kurds, Azeris and Baluchs). Why the silence? He often and loudly criticises Saudi Arabia. Why not Iran?

It is very distressing to see Jeremy appear on the Iranian regime’s propaganda channel Press TV, especially after it defamed peaceful protesters and covered up state violence at the time of the rigged presidential elections in 2009. Moreover, how can Jeremy (and George Galloway) appear on Press TV, despite it broadcasting forced confessions by democrats and human-rights defenders who’ve been tortured into admitting false charges, and who are later executed?

He concludes,

Based on these serious lapses, Jeremy’s critics say his foreign policies make him unfit to be Labour leader and prime minister. I understand some of their reservations, but they ignore all the international issues where Jeremy has a superb record, including support for serious action against global poverty and the arms trade, and his opposition to the Saudi Arabian and Bahraini dictatorships (two tyrannies that most other MPs ignore and which Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron have actively colluded with). Moreover, Jeremy’s been a long-time champion of the dispossessed Chagos Islanders, Kurds, Palestinians and Western Sahrawis. Few other MPs have shown similar concern about the fate of most of these peoples.

We are immensely glad that Peter has spoken out.

13 Responses

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  1. ‘A Corbyn premiership’ – lost me right there…

    I am also probably voting for Jeremy but to imagine that he can survive until 2020 never mind fight and win an election as Labour leader is fantasy politics.

    Like George Lansbury he is doomed to resign at the first major international crisis – which providing he manages to go with some grace looking like a man of principle rather than a deluded idiot – may be the best possible scenario for the party.

    Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy)

    September 3, 2015 at 5:24 pm

  2. I want to see a shake up of Labour to the left.

    To bring the party in line with the social changes we’ve seen, and the need for some kind of rational alternative to the privatising-state, shambolic economy, low wages, low welfare, thieving utilities, rubbish railways and most bus services, NHS as a prey for yet more privatising useless outsourcers: the whole drift to society and public services run for the benefit of people who own shares in said contractors and use managerial power to get bigger and bigger salaries for themselves and

    I’d like to see the best of serious reformism aligned with the best of serious socialist radicalism. A kind of ‘Fabian-Marxism’.

    That’s a pretty massive objective.

    Jeremy Corbyn could help that.

    Good foreign policies would be important too.

    I can’t really look further.

    Though personally I’d like to see a councillist communism as well….

    Also though, I’m surprised that you and myself Roger, seem to use and be aware of the Landsbury reference.

    Andrew Coates

    September 3, 2015 at 5:44 pm

  3. Peter is no saint, he has kept some very unsavoury company, for example he spoke at Eton College not that long ago, one of the major ruing class institutions in the UK, which helps groom class prejudice and arrogance in children. It is also one of the many tax dodging businesses which masquerade under charitable status when it is clearly a private money pot. By having any truck with this nasty establishment institution he is giving it legitimacy. Or is he vain enough to believe as another well know lefty once did, an hour or two of his words will over ride the decade of class prejudice an elitist unbringing which is stuffed into these youngsters heads.

    Do I hold this against Peter no, of course not I have always seen him as a fine comrade. We all have faults, I would never have mentioned it if he had not chosen to attack Jeremy at this of all times. I would ask him this, who does the most damage, some pretty irrelevant Arab mockney sheik as wretched as he is, or Eton collage? Which over decades has turned out Tory politicians, imperialists and exploiters in the tens of thousands, and continues to right up until this day.

    The neo liberals are throwing enough stones at Jeremy without us repeating them, surely. What I fail to understand, if Peter has known Jeremy for 30 years why when both me get the time, hasn’t he argued these deference out privately, for even the most dim witted leftist and their are many of us about, would understand now is not the time.

    Mick Hall

    September 3, 2015 at 5:56 pm

  4. OFCOL Mick, we can’t criticise Corbyn because what? Is any criticism having any impact? No. Plus |I instinctively react against any calls not to criticise ‘great leaders’ because ‘now is not the time’. Plus, on Tatchell visiting the lads at Eton, let’s all have a rummage through your underwear, Mr Perfect, and let’s see what we can pull out.

    So here’s what I wrote which turned into covering Peter’s post http://paulocanning.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/corbyns-election-means-ukraines-stuffed.html

    I don’t think people will like it but I’m not here to make friends, comrades. Please note my point that the ‘international crisis’ Roger speaks of is coming up sharpish with the release of the MH17 final report next month. Will Jez keep his gob shut or put his foot in it?

    Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    September 3, 2015 at 9:41 pm

  5. Elsewhere (in the Jewish Chronicle):

    Jeremy Corbyn’s staff say he is ‘reluctant to confront hate’

    By Marcus Dysch, September 3, 2015

    There is growing unrest within Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign team over his approach to dealing with issues of concern to the Jewish community, the JC can reveal.

    One well-placed source within his team said that the unwillingness to deal “head-on” with these issues had come from Mr Corbyn himself.

    The reluctance, according to the source, was because the frontrunner in the Labour leadership campaign was “partly casual about Jewish concerns, partly [because he knows] hostility to ‘Zionist neocons’ plays well to his constituency”.

    Media interest in Mr Corbyn’s association with Holocaust deniers, antisemites and other extreme figures has grown in the past three weeks since the JC posed a series of questions for him to answer.

    Another senior Corbyn campaign member indicated this week that the issues raised by this newspaper were not being taken seriously by Mr Corbyn and his team and said some within the team have grown concerned at the Islington North MP’s reluctance to speak in more depth publicly about the Jewish community’s concerns.

    “This comes from Corbyn himself,” the source said.

    Despite an invitation last week from the JC for Mr Corbyn to write an article addressing antisemitism on the left and among his supporters, he refused.

    A spokeswoman blamed “time management” for the decision on Tuesday.

    dagmar

    September 4, 2015 at 4:43 am

  6. Paul
    I didn’t mean to rattle your cage, or spoil your day, my point had nothing to do with criticising those you call great leaders, my point was this is not the time to criticise Jeremy. I am certain in the future if he is elected LP leader there will be things we will disagree with him over. What is the hurray?

    I feel many of us on the left are far better at being agitators than politicians, I realised I fell into this camp long ago, its why I have never become a politicians as I realised I am unwilling to make the necessary compromises to be a success at it.(and I am not talking about selling out)

    I feel Peter also falls into this camp, full credit to him for what he does, he is an extremely brave and resourceful comrade whom I admire, but on this issue of criticising Corbyn during his leadership bid I feel he is plain wrong. As I wrote above, what is the hurray?

    As to being Mr Perfect, the very thought made me giggle on reading it, you do not reach my age without accumulating baggage you wish was not there. I suppose my biggest political mistake was welcoming the victory of Pol Pot and his murderous thugs. It still haunts me to this day. Still, it did make me question every thing to doubt.

    Comradely regards

    Mick Hall

    September 4, 2015 at 9:38 am

  7. Mick, have you ever tried to challenge Corbyn on these things?

    I have, on Iran (referred to above).

    Others have on the same issue.

    Obviously we were more concerned with the attitude of the Stop the War Coalition as a whole rather than that of one of its leaders, and we tried there as well.

    I can’t say we got anywhere at all.

    This doesn;t mean that we should not campaign for Corbyn: I and lots of us have done so, vigorously.

    But we are no more going to shut about such issues – when it’s important to make a few carefully chosen marking points – that…er when?

    Andrew Coates

    September 4, 2015 at 11:53 am

  8. Fair dos Andrew

    Mick Hall

    September 4, 2015 at 2:52 pm

  9. Incidentally I am not sure on Peter’s proposals about Syriza: I am only clear on one thing, the need to give support, including arms, to the Kurds.

    A Labour leader should also encourage backing for the Internationalist brigades in the Syrian Kurdish ranks.

    Personally on the Ukraine I don’t think that anybody has the right line Paul because there is no position you can possibly take that will please everybody.

    Putin is obviously wrong, but what about this?

    “Ukraine’s government bears more responsibility for ongoing conflict than the far-right.”

    Volodymyr Ishchenko.

    Conclusion: “What may emerge in Ukrainian politics is a frightening situation, where the main alternative to a right-wing nationalist government – is an ultra-right, ultra–nationalist opposition.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/04/ukraine-government-svoboda-clashes-conflict

    Andrew Coates

    September 4, 2015 at 5:07 pm

  10. Andrew, first congrats on fixing the commenting!

    On that Guardian piece, it happens that I just listened to the Friday PowerVertical podcast on this subject and it featured Anton Shevchenko, who you may know is the UK academic who’s an expert on the Far Right as well as a couple of others. There is so much wrong in this article but I’ll just highlight one point – it does not mention the (in)famous Azov battalion. The podcast gad a lengthy discussion on their political aims, because the others mentioned here are irrelevant now, dead.

    Nationalism is a threat in Ukraine, as is populism. But the actual far right are marginal and in reality always have been. Their hardcore in tiny.Much of the famed Right Sector, for example, were only ever in it for the money – crime. And there are over 90 battalions and even Azov makes an effort to appear to screen out real fascists. anyone making some point on Ukraine who paints the volunteer battalions as all fascist is suspect IMO. It was never the case. (they’re all integerated into the military now, save some resistance from Azov)

    The ‘both sides do it’ line on the war is just offensive and utterly wrong. I realise we get it from HRW and the BBC etc. but it’s just plain wrong.

    He is right that the left said that any cooperation with the far right would backfire (though it wasn’t just the left) but wrong that it hasn’t been dealt with at all. This isn;t the first violent episode. What it does show is the areas in which the government has not reformed and the worst of those is the judicial system.

    he is wrong on decentralisation, technically from all I’ve read, and doesn’t understand that it is needed whether or not its in a ‘peace’ treaty.

    On the podcast the only forces which could become an “ultra-right, ultra–nationalist opposition” that they discussed were around Azov. And that was on the basis of ‘what if’ rather than ‘when’. But if you get out your crystal ball you have to discuss what’s Russia going to do, which is another yawning gap in the Graun piece.

    [I looked up the author and he appears to be a Borotba fan from the politics of this piece http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/15/maidan-anti-maidan-ukraine-situation-nuance%5D

    Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    September 5, 2015 at 9:35 am

  11. clapping a long response going through :]

    Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    September 5, 2015 at 9:36 am

  12. Volodymyr Ishchenko was a featured speaker at the Marxism Festival. No wonder I’d never heard of him.

    Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    September 5, 2015 at 9:39 am

  13. Ishchenko does make some very good points here http://socialistreview.org.uk/400/socialist-case-ukraine#.VPeqNWXuyQA.twitter Although again I would question the factual basis for others. I see he’s involved with the new left party.

    Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    September 5, 2015 at 10:13 am


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