Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Factionalism in the time of Coronavirus, Part 2: Counterfire.

with 10 comments

About - Counterfire

Why Indeed Should Anybody Join Them?

Counterfire, for those who do not know, is the principal force in the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) and the People’s Assembly (just about the only group left doing anything in the latter).

They, like the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), have a close relationship with the former Labour leader through the StWC and with Andrew Murray, his former adviser, the  UNITE Chief of Staff, a member of the CPB until 2016. Lindsey German, leading Counterfire member, is the Convenor of the Coalition. Her partner, John Rees, an admirer of György Lukács and the ‘actuality of the revolution’, has been heavily involved in the leadership of the People’s Assembly (Against Austerity).

This is the latest event from the StWC.


Many people on the left are very critical of the StWC, notably for its failure to show real solidarity with those oppressed and murdered by the Assad’s regime in Syria.

They say that that the Coalition has shown no sign of supporting what democratic position there is, and that it’s failure to stand, clearly, with the Kurds fighting the Daesh genociders was unforgivable.


How are Counterfire bearing up after the General Election, a new Labour leader, and the Coronavirus pandemic?

Recently German has been writing – sometimes  useful – articles on the government’s response to the Covid 19 crisis.

A failed government in a failed system – weekly briefing

With Britain having one of the worst records on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, you might think some caution, humility and even a change of direction might be in order. But as the government stumbles from one failure to another it seems both incapable and unwilling to change course.

But let’s not forget the political stand they have towards the Labour Party.

German also states the following,

So it is very often up to working people themselves to defend conditions – and that means unions. They have many faults – they are often slow and cautious, marked by years of defeat and legal restriction. Their leaders are also content very often to negotiate rather than take more militant action. Their ties to Labour lead them to further caution, and this is likely to get worse under Keir Starmer’s leadership. 

In February the revolutionary socialist groupuscule  instructed the left,

No socialist should vote for Keir Starmer

If Keir Starmer were to win, he would take Labour back to the centre-ground that proved so disastrous for Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and social democracy across Europe and beyond. He is no friend of the left and no committed socialist should vote for him.

This is how, in April,  they greeted the arrival of Keir Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party.

Sir Keir Starmer’s deadly crusade: supporting big business and undermining unions – CounterBlast 15 April

This morning the new Labour leader Keir Starmer used an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme to urge the government to provide an exit strategy for the lockdown this week and suggested that schools should be among the first to go back.

It is a signal to the establishment and big business that they can trust Starmer to look out for their interests. And it’s deadly for working-class people.

Starmer’s intervention can only strengthen the government in its desire to return to ‘business as usual’ as soon as possible. No wonder Boris Johnson was so keen to invite him to government meetings – a ‘privilege’ denied of course to Jeremy Corbyn.

By May this had become:

Starmer’s foreign policy and the spirit of Blairism

Blair’s foreign policy represented a ruthless reaffirmation of this Labour tradition as the West’s ambitions expanded in the wake of the Cold War and Russia’s collapse as an imperial power of global weight. Corbyn offered a break with this tradition, inspiring many, but incurring the wrath of the establishment both inside and outside the Party. Starmer now seeks to expunge the very memory of this break. Guided by the spirit of Blairism, his foreign policy is certain to be one the Foreign Office will be only too gratified to call its own.

The hard-line pro-Brexit group has been gloating at the EU’s difficulties.

Covid-19, the crisis and the European ideal

As Europe reels from being the centre of the Covid-19 outbreak, the EU is creaking at the seams and may not recover, argues Martin Hall.


German has the merit of  being open about her Leninist politics.

This is an example (April 21st).

The Dilemmas of Lenin

Written to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the Russian revolution, Tariq Ali’s book also speaks to those of us involved in contemporary politics here in Britain. A new politics has been unleashed with the electoral advances of Jeremy Corbyn and widespread revulsion at the consequences of neoliberalism, epitomised most strongly by the Grenfell Tower disaster. This era is opening up a new interest in political discussion, and with it a real thirst to know how the left can achieve its aims against the vested interests of the few, aims which cannot be achieved through parliamentary legislation but will require the systematic transformation of society.

In this debate, people will return to past experiences of working-class history, including the Russian revolution – which changed the history of the twentieth century – and to the ideas of the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin. In doing so they will hopefully see past the distortions on both right and left which have so obscured and sometimes vilified that history, and see the incredibly brave, prescient and committed politics which made Russia the powerhouse of revolution.

It is hard to see what kind of role Counterfire will have in the coming months.

Serious articles, and some interventions around the pandemic, enter a crowded field.

Their political moment has passed.

There is not going to be a new Corbyn in the foreseeable future.

The role of opposition to Starmer inside the Labour Party is already taken by other small groups like the LRC and he cartel in “For a Broad Left Network“, some of whose members are not known to be friendly towards Countefire.

They have nothing to say about the fight in Momentum between Forward and Renewal factions,not to mention pro-European Momentum Internationalists. (1)

Finally we note that Counterfire has not responded to the CPB’s call for a new Popular Front involving the People’s Assembly.


More on this: Undemocratic, backroom politics. Sacha Ismael. 

May the 18th.

A new grouping, Forward Momentum, is in conflict with those who run the Momentum office (which means, in Momentum as currently constituted, run the organisation). The office people seem to be supporting a counter-initiative, Momentum Renewal. Both will run candidates in the imminent National Coordinating Group elections.


10 Responses

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  1. Good news! Jon Lansman has stepped down as the leader of Momentum.
    Though he will still on the NEC of the Labour party, even though he thinks it “isn’t fit for purpose”
    Truly this man is a saint!
    Though will supreme irony he was disappointed that “We didn’t succeed in democratising the party sufficiently…”
    What the fuck does that even mean? Either an organisation is democratic or it isn’t.

    Steven Johnston

    May 21, 2020 at 3:38 pm

  2. Anybody with any experience of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) – where Lansman learnt his politics from in the 1980s – would have be wary of taking claims about supporting more “democracy” cautiously.


    Andrew Coates

    May 21, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    • Would he have been a left-wing version of Dominic Cummings? Equally contemptuous of the masses but with better dress sense.

      Steven Johnston

      May 21, 2020 at 5:00 pm

      • No idea.

        I have not met him, though those who know him well say it a good bloke.

        Although he grew up in Southgate, he did not, unlike my good self (Bounds Green, which is both Haringey and Enfield), go to Southgate comprehensive, but to the fee-paying private school, Highgate School : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highgate_School

        Andrew Coates

        May 21, 2020 at 5:21 pm

  3. Andrew Coates

    May 21, 2020 at 5:59 pm

    • Just a reminder that on this Blog homophobic insults can piss off.

      Andrew Coates

      May 21, 2020 at 6:58 pm

      • But insults about the death(s) of homeless people, unlawfully killed by the “rozzers” are positively encouraged.

        Steven Johnston

        May 21, 2020 at 8:30 pm

        • How we laughed:

          Andrew Coates

          May 21, 2020 at 9:32 pm

  4. What should be pointed out is just how self delusional people like German, Rees and Ali are. The latter is still proclaiming his revolutionary input in 1968 and era he seems to think still exists. I remember reading his book ” The Coming British Revolution” in the early seventies and thing what crap it was even then. German is of course famous for abandoning gay and women’s rights when the SWP cosied up to the Islamic Forum Europe and other ultra reactionary Islamic groups to found Respect along with serial chance George Galloway.

    When that collapsed, as it has to when all but one of its councillors were Muslim, the left was rocked and still hasn’t recovered. The SWP split and the main mover became Martin Smith, Comrade Delta, who was a serial sexual abuser of young women. That scandal more or less finished the party and , as far as I can see, it just staggers on as a website and a printer of placards. I think one of the reasons people like Rees/German/Ali keep going is because it is very difficult after a lifetime in a movement to say in the twilight of your years that it was all a waste of time. For that reason if no other they still pick over the predictions of a long dead mass murderer like Lenin looking for a reason to keep believing. Sad and pathetic.

    Dave Roberts

    May 22, 2020 at 8:20 am

    • Some here thought support that mass murderer Trotsky. Despite never doing a days’ soldering he took the title of “general” and had a penchant for wearing military uniforms.

      Steven Johnston

      May 22, 2020 at 5:31 pm

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