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On the Police Infiltration of British Left Wing Groups. Back the Campaigns Against Spy Coppers.

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Police spies infiltrated UK leftwing groups for decades

 

Police deployed 24 undercover officers to infiltrate a small leftwing political party over a 37-year period, the Guardian can reveal.

The police spies infiltrated the Socialist Workers party (SWP) almost continuously between 1970 and 2007, often with more than one undercover officer embedded within the party.

Four of them deceived women into sexual relationships while using their fake identities. One spy met one of his wives during his deployment and had a child with her.

About one-third of the total number of undercover officers embedded in political organisations that have so far been publicly identified infiltrated the SWP, a Trotskyite party of a few thousand members that advocates the abolition of capitalism through revolutionary means.

Before going any further this is important to bear in mind.

The infiltration also involved nasty coppers who deceived people into having relationships with them, and wroke havoc with their lives.

It involved the notorious Bob Lambert, who became an expert on Islamism (advocating ‘dialogue’ and defended by ‘Islamophobia Watch’ Can those who smear Bob Lambert claim such anti-terrorist success? Posted on  by Bob Pitt )

Robert Lambert MBE is a British former academic and former undercover police officer. He served in the controversial Special Demonstration Squad and posed as a left-wing animal rights activist from 1983 to 1988, fathering a child with an activist during his deployment.[1] Until December 2015 Lambert was a lecturer in Terrorism Studies at the University of St Andrews and a senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University‘s John Grieve Centre for Policing.

In the course of his police service, Lambert infiltrated activist groups (environmentalists, animal rights activists and anti-racists) using the alias Mark “Bob” Robinson. To gain credibility as an activist, he formed friendships with other movement members; he also embarked in long-term relationships with women as a means of establishing a cover story.

He fathered a child with one of the activists he was spying on[1] although he already had a wife and children in the suburbs.[8] After that relationship ended he embarked on another with a woman who was politically conscious, but was not herself an activist. His colleagues at Special Branch raided her home in order to bolster his image as a hardcore militant.[9][10]

Lambert was confronted about his past activities by members of London Greenpeace (which he had infiltrated in the 1980s) as he spoke at a conference in October 2011.[7] Lambert subsequently apologised to other activists and to the woman whom he had used as a “lover” (who said she felt “raped by the state” after learning about the deception).[11] Though he had earlier denied that reports in The Guardian newspaper were true, in July 2013 he acknowledged that he had conducted four such relationships under false pretences, saying that he “made serious mistakes that I should regret, and I always will do.”[12]

On 23 October 2014, the Metropolitan Police Service agreed to pay £425,000 to a woman called Jacqui whose child was fathered by Lambert; she did not know at the time of their relationship that he was an undercover police officer. The payment was part of an agreement for her to drop her legal action alleging assault, negligence, deceit and misconduct by senior officers. She was a 22-year-old activist at the time of her relationship with Lambert, who was using the pseudonym Bob Robinson, and she gave birth to their son in 1985. When the boy was two years old his father vanished, and she told BBC News she had received psychiatric care after learning the officer’s real identity.

The unprecedented payment resulted from a legal battle with women who said they were duped into relationships with officers who were spying on them. Scotland Yard said it “unreservedly apologises for any pain and suffering” but added that “the Metropolitan Police Service has never had a policy that officers can use sexual relations for the purposes of policing”. Scotland Yard had previously refused to either confirm or deny whether Bob Lambert was a Special Demonstration Squad operative, despite his own admissions to journalists. However, it was forced to change its position in August 2014 after a legal ruling. Lambert did not respond to BBC requests for comment on the settlement but had previously said that he wanted to apologise to women with whom he had relationships and that he had made some “serious mistakes.

Comrade Helen Steel was also a target of another ‘Sypcop’.

Helen Steel and John Dines: The spy who loved me

In the early 1990s, Helen Steel was a member of a British social justice group called London Greenpeace when she began a relationship with a man she knew as John Barker. They were together for more than two years and he told her he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Then one day he disappeared. A letter arrived for her a few days later. “If I manage to sort my head out, I will be back,” he wrote.

She was both devastated and concerned about her partner’s emotional state and would spend much of the next decade looking for him. That was before she made a series of shocking discoveries: his real name, John Dines, a record of his marriage, and the death certificate of a child, Philip John Barker, whose identity he had assumed. But it was not until 2010 that she got confirmation her lover had been an undercover police officer employed as part of a secret London Metropolitan Police project to infiltrate protest groups.

Sydney Morning Herald.

This is the site which the Guardian bases its report on:

Spycop Targets: a Who’s Who

Who's WhoEveline Lubbers,

From 1968 to 2011, undercover police officers spied up on more than 1,000 political groups. However, no definitive list of these groups has ever been made public. That is changing now. Working with The Guardian, we present a Who’s Who of Spycop Targets, listing what is known to date from official sources, whistle-blowers and our own investigations

The list gives an idea of the breadth of groups that have been targeted through the years and reveals some patterns, such as the focus on particular groups, and lack of attention given to others. Many of the groups will question why they were infiltrated or reported on.

To help you find out more, you can search for names of groups, on certain periods of time, for specific political categories and by cover name of spycops. You will also find links to profiles of the undercovers published by the Undercover Research Group, to The Guardian or to the SpecialBranchFiles.uk project for a greater insight into the groups and how they were targeted.

Additionally, we also present an interactive timeline of all SDS spycops known to date, and their deployments over the years.

A work in progress

We started from the minimal list provided by the Undercover Policing Inquiry, adding groups that we know were infiltrated from our own research, work done by Rob Evans (and Paul Lewis), and from whistle-blower Peter Francis. We only included groups that were targeted by officers from the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit – the two Special Branch units which carried out the vast majority of such activities.

The Who’s Who project is very much a work in progress, and will be updated as soon as more information emerges. If we have missed any out, please let us know. Likewise, if you have suggestions to improve the descriptions or if you are aware of website we can link to that will help others learn more, do get in touch. Even if you didn’t encounter the undercovers, broadening out our knowledge of the groups is always helpful.

Undercover Research Group, 15 October 2018.

This story has just come out:

 I was 15 years old when I was spied on by the British state.

It’s been well documented that undercover police officers have stolen dead children’s names, had secret families, and spied on activists. I was one of those activists. I met Marco Jacobs in 2007 at No Borders meetings in a time when Cardiff was experiencing a renaissance of political activism as the war in Iraq mobilised the country.

No Borders is a loose network of groups worldwide working to resist and dismantle borders and immigration controls. Marco was funny, charismatic, and outgoing. He was around 5”9, white with a broad northern accent. Marco said that he worked driving trucks, which explained the long periods of time away from Cardiff. He liked heavy metal, cracking jokes and drinking lager. He built our relationship knowingly and slowly with a charismatic personality and a wicked sense of humour. It’s easy to bond with people on things like demonstrations, as we frequently had visible pickets outside the UK Border Agency (now UK Visas and Immigration) in Cardiff, protesting the racist border regime.

Then, he would show up to the same punk gigs I was at, and give us all lifts home afterwards. I always felt extremely safe with him. I had his mobile phone number and he was one of my friends on Myspace. On one occasion, I had acute anxiety at a punk gig where I received repeated unwanted advances from a man nearly 10 years older me, and Marco stepped in and stayed at my side throughout the night. He knew where I lived and what school I went to. I was especially comforted by our conversations where he offered me emotional support when a mutual friend was deported. I was devastated. Now, I wonder if that was genuine concern or part of a wider plan to get me to lower my defences around him.

The Guardian confirmed that Marco Jacobs was an undercover officer sent to infiltrate radical activist spaces, soon after Mark Kennedy – an undercover London Metropolitan police officer who infiltrated activist groups – was outed by climate change activists in 2011. We began to suspect Marco might also be an undercover police officer, and one friend once asked him straight. He deferred the question with  nervous laughter. Within a few months, Marco had left to be a gardener in Cyprus and we never heard from him again.

Many activists and trade union branches support the campaign against Spycops!

(Twitter)

We all should.

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Written by Andrew Coates

October 15, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Hal Draper and Socialism from Below.

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Image result for The "dictatorship of the proletariat" from Marx to Lenin (

Hal Draper (1914 – 1990) remains a seminal influence on Marxists.

Along with Maximilien Rubel (1905 – 1996, probably less known in the English speaking world) he offered a strongly democratic interpretation of Marx and Marxism based on serious historical and textual study.

Draper’s unraveling of the historical and political origins and use of the term ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’  (The “dictatorship of the proletariat” from Marx to Lenin 1987) is something many turn to whenever the issue of the Russian Revolution comes up.

His  Anatomy of the Micro-Sect (1973) while situated firmly within the context of the marginalised US left and, in this Blog’s view wildly and wrongly indulgent towards Lenin himself, offers insights into the way many small left-wing factions operate across the world.

In this important article Joel Geier offers an overview of Draper’s contribution to the left and not just on those who call themselves ‘revolutionaries’ or indeed agree with his interpretation of Marxism.

Hal Draper’s contribution to revolutionary Marxism

The piece is long but this extract gives some of the flavour.

Fifty-one years ago the Berkeley Independent Socialist Club published Hal Draper’s The Two Souls ofSocialism.1 Of the hundreds of radical pamphlets published in the 1960s, Two Souls has had perhaps the longest-lasting impact. Appearing at a time when various forms of top-down versions of socialism—social democracy, Stalinism, and Maoism—were in vogue, its emphasis on workers’ self-emancipation set it clearly apart. Moreover, Draper did not merely reintroduce genuine Marxism to a new generation; in its originality and clarity, Two Souls—and the subsequent work that elaborated in detail on his arguments—presented a different way of looking at the world, at socialism, and at competing ideologies.

Traditional interpretations maintained that the essential divisions in the socialist movement were between reform and revolution, pacifism versus violence, and democracy versus authoritarianism. Two Souls took a somewhat different angle, namely, that “throughout the history of socialist movements and ideas, the fundamental divide is between Socialism-From-Above and Socialism-From-Below,”2thus introducing the vocabulary, narrative, and ideas of socialism from below as the contemporary representation of revolutionary Marxism.

The unifying feature of the many varieties of socialism from above, Draper argued, is distrust or opposition to the working-class’s potential to recreate society based on its own initiative. Socialism from above, Draper specified, is the idea that socialism “must be handed down to the grateful masses in one form or another, by a ruling elite not subject to their control in fact.”3 Distrust of the mass’s ability to rule and denial of democratic control from below are the core tenets of the many variants of socialism from above that have dominated the history of the socialist movement.

The heart of socialism from below is the understanding that “socialism can be realized only through the self-emancipation of activated masses in motion, reaching out for freedom with their own hands, mobilized ‘from below’ in a struggle to take charge of their own destiny, as actors (not merely subjects) on the stage of history.”4 These few words summarize what Draper would later work for decades to restore and defend as the heart of revolutionary Marxism in his analysis of the entire body of Marx’s political writings, as presented in numerous articles, as well as in his indispensable, magnificent multivolume series, Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution (KMTR).

A major thesis of Two Souls was that social democracy and Stalinism, the two major self-styled socialisms from above, despite their real and obvious differences, both identify socialism with the statification of the economy, and both reject workers’ democratic rule as the foundation of socialism. Long before Stalinism, Eduard Bernstein, the theoretical father of social-democratic reformism, was the first to revise Marxism to eliminate working-class self-emancipation from its essence, substituting “superior educated” parliamentary representatives for the “uninformed masses” as the agency for socialism. Social democracy and Stalinism, whose advocates strongly denied their similarities, were the dominant radical ideologies that divided the socialist movement during Draper’s political life, which was split between those who supported “democratic” Washington or “socialist” Moscow. These constrained political choices debilitated the working-class movement long before the wrecking operations of neoliberal capitalism began.

Read the full article on Socialism From Below in the International Socialist Review.

Those who are very far from enthusiasts for Trotsky or ‘revolutionary’ Marxism but who are democratic Marxists have learnt a lot from one of the best socialist writers of the 20th century.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 7, 2018 at 12:41 pm

Fully Automated Luxury Communism: Confusionism for Happy Bunnies.

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Image result for playpower richard neville

Oddly Absent from Aaron Bastani’s pick of five books to understand Marxism (Guardian. May 2018)

I had hoped that by ignoring Bastani he would go away.

Apparently not.

Respected commentators, or sages as we call them, such as Hegemony describe him in terms of a “huckster and half baked ideas” and the below as “essentially what you get if you filter the Utopianism of the hard left through Iain M Banks’ Culture science fiction novels, and then have the result narrated to you by a gym-bunny.”

Then,

Very redolent of the late 60s and early 70s, an era of hucksters and grifters pushing half-baked ideas on the populace, mystics and futurologists competing in the marketplace of ideas and actually being taken seriously.

So here is some background.

Located on the futurist left end of the political spectrum, fully automated luxury communism (FALC) aims to embrace automation to its fullest extent. The term may seem oxymoronic, but that’s part of the point: anything labeled luxury communism is going to be hard to ignore.

“There is a tendency in capitalism to automate labour, to turn things previously done by humans into automated functions,” says Aaron Bastani, co-founder of Novara Media. “In recognition of that, then the only utopian demand can be for the full automation of everything and common ownership of that which is automated.”

Bastani and fellow luxury communists believe that this era of rapid change is an opportunity to realise a post-work society, where machines do the heavy lifting not for profit but for the people.

“The demand would be a 10- or 12-hour working week, a guaranteed social wage, universally guaranteed housing, education, healthcare and so on,” he says. “There may be some work that will still need to be done by humans, like quality control, but it would be minimal.” Humanity would get its cybernetic meadow, tended to by machines of loving grace.

Guardian.

Many people will have thought he was a bleeding idiot on this basis alone.

And,

In the run-up to the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016, Bastani initially campaigned for the UK to leave the European Union. Bastani went on to change his position on pragmatic grounds two weeks before the referendum.

 

But Bastani keeps popping up , including on the paradigm of luxury communism, the Venezuelan media TeleSUR,

 

 

Bastrani has his eye on the future,

Interplanetary Gold Rush  

As outlandish as it sounds, space exploration, like AI and renewables, is an important terrain on which a rising left must fight. The technology is changing, as are the legal frameworks; we need a politics which understands the possibilities of the future and puts them at the service of social justice and abundance – the province of us all – rather than private profit and scarcity.

Not everybody likes the idea,

Fully automated luxury communism: a utopian critique  mcm_cmc

Fully automated luxury communism thus rests on a highly optimistic vision of the potential of technology to meet our desires with a minimum of human labour. But is this a practical vision? One point that challenges the luxury communist notion is the way in which conceptions of goods as luxurious are often tied up with exclusivity. For example, a Cartier watch isn’t valued for its superior timekeeping abilities as compared to other watches or for its staggering beauty (they are often quite ugly) so much as that they are known for being expensive and thus owning one confers the status of being able to buy something other people cannot afford. ‘Cartier for everyone’ would thus make it meaningless as a status symbol and destroy the very reason it was viewed as a luxury in the first place.

Beyond this, the well established problems of limited natural resources and the damage done to the environment by production raises questions about the possibilities for the growth in production that luxury communism must be predicated upon. Our reliance on maintaining the earth’s environment for our very survival means that sustainability is a key concern to any future vision whilst the new technologies of late capitalism, including technologies such as the internet that rely on vast banks of mainframes consuming large quantities of electricity, have a major impact on the environment, the effects of which we are already seeing. There may well be technological developments that can attenuate or even go some way to reversing these effects, however it would be foolhardy to assume that technology will pull through and avert disaster in the end.

In addition, the limited quantities of materials available for production must inevitably act as a limitation on productive expansion. Thus environmental concerns must limit this promise of ‘luxury for all.’ Older limitations of scarcity may have been overcome, but the problem of environmental scarcity is more pressing than ever before.

Finally, by focusing on work as the production of goods, fully automated luxury communism risks overlooking other forms of labour such as those involved in social reproduction and care. Care work, such as the raising of children, looking after the sick, disabled and the elderly and the everyday tasks required for staying alive remains a large (and proportionately growing) burden of labour time, one for there seems no easy technological fix. Sure, care robots and other forms of automation have been suggested and implemented in part, but these are ill suited to accommodate the complex needs, requirement for human interaction and demands for dignity and agency which must surely be a key part of the provision of care in any future communist society.

As Sylvia Federici argues ‘while production has been restructured through a technological leap in key areas of the world economy, no technological leap has occurred in the sphere of domestic work significantly reducing the labour socially necessary for the reproduction of the workforce.’5

****

If production isn’t infinitely expandable and the scope for the technological replacement of labour power is limited then we will need to rethink what we mean by ‘luxury’, and indeed what we mean by ‘communism’. Here it is necessary to think more generally of a transformation of social relations and relations between humanity and nature, looking towards the creation of a ‘public affluence’ rather than the ‘private luxury’ of capitalist desires.

Luxury communism focuses on the fulfilment of privatised, materialistic desires as they exist now through technologically created plenty. This approach has the benefit of clearly resonating with popular demands without telling people what they ‘should’ want, however if this plenty is limited then we need to look more carefully at the transformation of social relations and how desires are constructed.

For example, the promise of a work free society resonates with people’s unhappiness in work; work is something we do to survive and given the choice we would prefer to not do it. However, if it isn’t possible to replace all these tasks with machines what should the alternative be? Aaron Bastani touches on this with the promise of a 10 hour week, and certainly this would be preferable to working 40+ hours. However, this would still mean 10 hours a week in the same miserable, unsatisfying labour.

Readers of this Blog will hardly need reminding of James Bloodworth’s book Hired which describes the use of new technology to make people’s lives a misery of surveillance and hard labour. Not to mention the fate of those ‘freed’ from work relying on benefits. Or the fact that the Italian Movimento 5 Stelle , now in power, has, faced with the obvious difficulties of implementing the idea in a large country, quietly shelved the idea of a Universal Basic Income.

We can “demand” full automation and full common ownership as much as we like, but without agencies organising people with an interest in socialisation, and without real plans to divest the present owners of their power, this has much likelihood of any effect as Richard Neville’s Oz era advocacy of the ‘alternative society’ replacing the old world with playful “heads”.

For a more in-depth analysis of some these ideas on the end of work in the form advocated by André Gorz, see, André Gorz. Une Vie. Willy Gianinazzi. Review.

 

Paris May Day: Trade Unions Prevented from Marching by Black Bloc Violence.

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Image result for Paris May day le black bloc

Black Bloc Halts Trade Union May Day in Paris.

In Paris on Tuesday, the traditional trade union parade was deflected and then dispersed even before arriving in the Place d’Italie because of violent incidents.

A Paris mardi, le traditionnel défilé syndical a été dévié puis s’est dispersé avant même d’arriver place d’Italie à cause de violents débordements.

(Libération)

The march was slowed to a halt by a large group of demonstrators clad in black, with many wearing balaclavas and some with gas masks, who broke into a chant of “Everyone detests the police” on the Austerlitz bridge across the Seine. The Paris police prefecture estimated the size of the group at 1,200 so-called “black bloc” protesters.

Some 276 protesters were arrested, 109 of whom remained in custody as of Tuesday night, police said, adding that 31 businesses had suffered damage, two of which had been set ablaze.

France 24.

The traditional autonomist  tactic of trying to take over the head of the march this year led to a  burst of exceptional violence.

Antifas, black blocs, anars : ce « cortège de tête » qui a fait dérailler le 1er-Mai syndical  (le Monde)

The French media refers to them as “masked casseurs”, (casseurs encagoulés). That is those who riot and smash things up, from casser, to smash, to shatter, to break.

Initially one of the best known figures of the French left,   Jean-Luc Mélenchon  (la France insoumise) claimed that they were ” issus de “bandes d’extrême droite”. (bands from the far right).

He has since recognised his error, directing his opprobrium for the  “fils à papa” (daddys’ boys, spoiled brats) who smashed up the MacDonald’s (Les Black blocs cassent le 1er mai: Jean-Luc Mélenchon admet s’être trompé en désignant les “fachos“)

The anarchist movement properly speaking, FA, la CNT, CGA and AL , had its own peaceful march in the afternoon. (le Monde libertaire).

About 2,000 people attended.

Background (2016),  Tonino Serafini.

«Pour les autonomes, l’objectif est de rendre visible une guerre invisible»

The Ministry of the Interior calls them “ultra-leftist” or “anarcho-autonomous ” activists ,but they generally reject any form of categorization. They meet and often act on affinity (some sociologists speak of “amilitants”). These are often students who take part in actions in support of undocumented migrants or against police repression. They try to integrate their libertarian political ideal in all spheres of their life, making sure to be perfectly autonomous, that is to say, to depend neither on the State, nor on an owner, nor of an employer to subsist. There are many who live in community squats where they grow, for example, their food to spend money as much as possible.

Most of them are outside the classical political spectrum and see themselves as neither left nor right. From their point of view, far-left organisations are part of the “system”, the “Empire” to use their terminology. They themselves categorically refuse to participate directly or indirectly in this society, and thus despise political parties such as trade unions. Between them, they are called “totos”, in reference to the autonomous movement.

What are the historical origins of this movement?

The autonomous movement appeared in Italy in the 60s and developed in France on the ashes of May 68 to take various forms, the most famous will lead to Direct Action. Today, these groups are of course no longer at such a level of violence, even if injured police officers and broken windows are now challenging public opinion.

More than a movement, the autonomists form a movement, an informal network crossed by many divergences, and whose members do not share any fixed ideological corpus, apart from their libertarian aspirations. They do not have a clear political line. The debates between them are quite lively: some refer to Marx, while others are part of an anarchist doctrine.

What relationship does the autonomous movement have with violence? Is it a key element of their political strategy?

Autonomous women generally see violence as the only possible answer to the violence of the “Empire”. The main objective of this violence is to make visible to everyone the invisible war that is going on according to them in our societies. That’s why they incorporate protests, usually covered in dark, masked outfits – the so-called Black Blocks – to generate maximum disorder by confronting the police, whom they see as the “guardians of the peace of the rich “. They are difficult to approach: they are as suspicious of journalists as they are academics who they say are part of the system.

This is a very broad-brush introduction.

For the views of those involved, cretinous as they are, see:

Suite aux menaces proférés par Delpuech Michel, préfet de police de Paris, à l’encontre de la manifestation du 1er mai, le service de la communication du « cortège de tête » diffuse ce communiqué.

1ER MAI – COMMUNIQUÉ DE PRESSE DU CORTÈGE DE TÊTE

Essentially it says they would react to the “provocation délibérée” by Paris Police Chief, Delpuech Michel. The Head of the March (oh how we giggled…) said they wished to rise beyond the levels of May 68 attacks on property, and the traditional attacks on estate agents, car dealers, banks and insurance companies (no mention of the all important globalising bus shelters!) They ended with a call for an invasion of the Latin quarter when the May Day demo ended.

Very funny.

You can ‘ave a further laugh by following this lot: La coordination contre la répression et les violences policières .

Meanwhile the NPA ( Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste) has some sympathy with destroying McDos, perhaps reviving the thwarted dreams of the days of the early ’70s Front communiste révolutionnaire (urban guerrillas?)

Si nous ne partageons pas la politique des groupes autonomes, nous comprenons la colère grandissante d’une partie de la jeunesse, qui fait face à la violence sociale et policière dans sa vie quotidienne. C’est du gouvernement que vient la responsabilité de la confrontation actuelle.

If we don’t share the strategy of the autonomists, we understand the growing anger amongst young people, who live confronted with  police violence in their daily lives. It’s the government that bears the responsibility for the present violence…..

Malgré les violences policières, la mobilisation se poursuit

And they wonder why people do not trust the NPA…..

Between 143.500 people took part in May Day marches  210.000 in France.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 2, 2018 at 12:19 pm

Hold The Press: Labour Against the Witch-Hunt Faces Key “political fight for democracy”as Keabalism Tries to Shut down Debate.

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Image result for esperanto stan keable

Britain’s leading Esperantist Communist Accused of Manoeuvres against Socialist Fight. 

The international consortium of investigative journalists on the latest in the developing story that is Labour Against the Witch-Hunts. 

04/01/2018 by socialistfight

STOP PRESS: This evening at 22.45pm, first Ian Donovan and then Gerry Downing received the email from Stan Keable that had previously been sent to selected non-SF LAW supporters (see below), inviting them to a meeting at an un-named ‘nearby’ new venue this Saturday 6th Jan at 12pm. Democratic forces on the left should go to the Calthorpe Arms at 11.30am and be prepared for a political fight for democracy.

This was after the same comrade had been emailed by Tony Greenstein and told that the meeting was off, and SF would not be welcome at future LAW meetings.

Evidently the landlord of the Calthorpe Arms, good socialist that he is, feared making excessive profits from drink sales if significantly larger crowds, mobilised by articles in the Independent and the Times of Israel, descended on his pub on a Saturday afternoon.

More grounded, materialistic people might suspect that someone feared they would lose the vote a second time and ‘arranged’ this. They still could. And even if they don’t, this messing with venues and trying to exclude people who voted entirely legitimately on 2 Dec, would tarnish any votes taken.

This is fearful stupidity.

And thus LAW’s misleadership brings the whole thing to the level of farce. How on earth did they think they would get away with this on the left in the internet age?

 

The Plot Thickens

Tony Greenstein tells us the meeting is cancelled, Stan Keable tells a selected core (containing a Socialist Fight snout, unfortunately for him) that a nearby alternative venue has been found.

Read more, if you dare….

Written by Andrew Coates

January 5, 2018 at 1:47 pm

Solidarity with the Anarchist Bookfair.

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Image result for anarchist book fair london 2017 

A statement in solidarity with the London Anarchist Bookfair Collective. From some friends of the Bookfair.

From here.

On Saturday 28th October the 2017 London Anarchist Bookfair took place in North London. As usual several thousand anarchists and fellow travellers from diverse tendencies attended, ran stalls, held meetings and other activities.

The Bookfair is organised by a small voluntary collective of five, with a wider group of supporters who help out with setting up, facilitating areas or aspects of the events on the day, collecting donations to cover costs of this free event, tidying up at the end, and so on. It is a monumental amount of work, that generally falls on this small group of people (with families and lives, like the rest of us), who come together to spend much of the year running up to October facilitating the staging of an event and a space for several thousand others in the movement. The Bookfair Collective have always shown willing to take on board suggestions, follow up ideas, and include people and organisations with a view to broadening the range of ideas encompassed and the diversity of the program. They have always been open to more involvement in running the Bookfair.

Saturday’s events and the Open Letter

There were a series of incidents at the Bookfair this year which included distribution of leaflets about the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act being consulted on and an ensuing stand-off. Several people intervened to stop what looked like a developing potentially physically violent incident against a lone woman activist by a group of people. We would hope that most people reading this would do the same.

Some of the people who intervened to do this were members of the Bookfair Collective but they were not doing so as a group in ‘authority’ on the situation, but as individuals and friends supporting a comrade; just as other bookfair-goers in the past have stepped up to stop others being chucked out. We would suggest it is a misinterpretation of events, and the role of the collective, to see this as a ‘Bookfair Collective intervention’ in order to stop the self-organisation of the group involved.

In the wake of the events on Saturday, an Open Letter has been written and circulated online, calling for changes to, and a potential boycott and/or picket of, next year’s Bookfair. Other public statements are also being discussed around withdrawal/disaffiliation with the Bookfair, here for instance.

The open letter claims

“a pattern of response from Bookfair organisers where incidents of transphobia, anti-semitism, islamophobia, racism and misogyny are ignored” and “organisers have stepped in to defend and support those who use oppressive, violent and dehumanising language to perpetuate racist, colonial and patriarchal systems of oppression.” and the collective “allows racist imperialism, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny and ableism to ingratiate themselves as part of the culture of the Bookfair”

We would dispute this and would call for specific examples for any of the above, and evidence that we can reasonably judge from, enough to prove a pattern that the Bookfair Collective have refused to deal with them when raised.

What is the Anarchist Bookfair?

More fundamentally, we would ask to whom are the demands in the open letter really directed?

The Bookfair is not set up to be the representative body for anarchists, nor can it be. It is neither a membership organisation, nor are members of the collective Mediation Practitioners, there to settle the sometimes seismic differences and different perspectives that attendees bring to the event.

Come the day of the Bookfair that space the organisers have facilitated is filled with the politics brought into it by the anarchist movement itself, in all its initiatives, vivid colours and traditions. If a chasm of difference exists over issues that flare up, such as last weekend, the Bookfair Collective are not in a position, nor have the physical resources to arbitrate. So we ask: whose responsibility is this and how do disagreements (sometimes leading to threats of violence or actual violence) get dealt with? The existing statement on these issues can be found on the Bookfair’s website.

We are left to wonder whether anarchist practice has become so inculcated by ‘customer service’ culture that even the Bookfair is attended by consumers forgetting the fundamental essence of DIY, self-organisation and self-regulation of events.

The Bookfair Collective operates on the principle that it is not for the small collective that organises it to take on defining and enforcing a rigid policy on safety and behaviour; it is for the wider movement that takes part in the Bookfair to do so, along anarchist principles of opposing centralized authority with dispersed and grassroots responsibility.

Points raised in the open letter call for a radically different event, with a much more centralized program, organized or tightly overseen by the collective. If we as a movement, decide that this is what we want, many more of us will need to commit time and energy to organising and supporting this annual event.

Where next?

We reject transphobia and have all actively supported struggles against oppression. We support the right of trans identifying people to live their lives free from harassment and abuse, to organise, campaign and engage in debate with whoever they choose; and to be addressed by the gender pronouns of their choice. We support the rights of all women to be heard. We recognise that both trans activists and gender critical feminists are currently feeling attacked, at times to the level of their very existence and identities. We would hope that everyone participating in London Anarchist Bookfair would treat each other respectfully and continue to believe that dialogue is possible so that we can strengthen our struggle against oppression and build a better world. We reject bullying and intimidation – in physical or written form.

The Bookfair can never be the ‘dreamed of Utopia’ the open letter imagines, despite all our desires and dedication. We agree with the open letter on one thing, that we should all always be challenging ourselves and each other to widen liberation and ensure the Bookfair is a safe and respectful event, drawing in communities, and reflecting them. But we also believe it needs to allow for discussion and dissent, while excluding hatred and oppression.

We are not members of the Bookfair Collective but some of us have been in the past, and some of us have been involved in wider support work for Bookfairs. All of us are long-time attendees of the Bookfair. As such we hope that it continues, we offer our solidarity and practical support to the Bookfair Collective. We urge the Collective to look beyond the signatories of the open letter to the many wider groups and individuals who attend and take part in the event every year, and to realise that they do have a groundswell of support out there.

Rather than calling for a boycott of the Bookfair, we would challenge the writers of the open letter to engage meaningfully with the Collective and others to help create the change they want. In the light of the statement’s refusal to engage with the Collective until their minimum demands are met, the Bookfair Collective would be reasonably entitled to ignore the open letter.

So we stand by the Bookfair Collective, and salute how the Bookfair is organised; recognising the immense work done in making it happen every year. But it remains up to all of us who attend and take part in it to ensure that it measures up to the standards of love, solidarity and empowerment that we all desire. It is not possible for the small collective that currently facilitates the space to police them. Nor is it fundamentally anarchism.

Background:

Transphobia at the London Anarchist Bookfair 2017

Reading this ‘debate’ makes me if anything more supportive of the above declaration.

Comment.

I am not an anarchist but like many people I consider our anarchist comrades fundamentally part of the left.

I am not an anarchist but I have attended this bookfair in the past and found it a good event, an important occasion to learn and to talk.

I am not an anarchist but I stand in fundamental solidarity with this statement. 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 3, 2017 at 11:52 am

Two Years of Wandering. A Menshevik Leader in Lenin’s Russia. Fedor Il’ich Dan. Review.

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Two Years of Wandering. A Menshevik Leader in Lenin’s Russia. Fedor Il’ich Dan. Translated, Edited and Introduced by Francis King. Lawrence and Wishart.

Fedor (Theodore) Dan was a leading figure in Russian social democracy. A prominent Menshevik during the 1917 Revolutions, he had chosen their side after the 1903 split with the Bolsheviks in the RSDLP (Russian Social-Democratic Workers; Party). During the Great War, King notes, Dan was a “Siberian Zimmerwaldist”, that is he opposed the conflict while under administrative exile in Russia’s far East and during his compulsory mobilisation as a Doctor in Turkestan. King writes, that Dan was described by Nikolai Sukhanov as, “one of the most major figures in the Russian revolution, one of the most outstanding actors in both the Russian workers’ movement and the events of 1917.” (Page 9)

Known to many on the left as the author of The origins of Bolshevism (in English, 1964), this is the first translation into any language of Dan’s Two Years of Wandering. Francis King is the Editor of Socialist History. His introduction outlines Dan’s background and his role in the crises of 1917. Dan, in conditions of political freedom, was part of the leadership of the Petrograd Soviet. Still calling for a “general peace” he took the Menshevik line of ‘revolutionary defencism”, which committed the country to continue fighting until this could be reached and support for a coalition Provisional Government.

This policy, opposed by its left wing around Martov, played a key role in the ‘end’ of Dan’s career in Petrograd. Bolshevik victory in October was not the only indication of their political dead-end. In the All-Russia Constituent Assembly elections of 1917 they won just 3% of the vote.

Continuing to support, “the idea of popular sovereignty, universal suffrage, and the Constituent Assembly” and demanding an end to terror for economic liberalisation, the Mensheviks tried to work within the new soviet structures. But what had begun in the Spring and Summer of 1918 with the “arrests and harassment of non-Bolshevik activists”. In June 1918, they, and the Socialist revolutionaries, were removed from the Soviet CEC. Yet they continued political activity. They focused on the defence of “the rights of labour” and the “defence of trade unions, with as a backdrop plans to make unions agents of “labour discipline” and “compulsory labour service” or the “militarisation of labour” exalted by Trotsky in Terrorism and Communism (1920). With their position set out in What is to be done: The Menshevik Programme July 1919 they had had a wider echo, Marcel Liebman and others record, within the official bodies (1)

For Trotsky the Mensheviks had in 1917, “together with the bourgeoisie, declared civil war against the Soviets”. In the Winter of 1920-1 the Mensheviks were systematically suppressed. (2)

In Lenin’s Gaols.

Dan’s serious travails began in 1919, when he spent 3 months in the Butyrka prison. Mobilised, again, in his medical capacity, he was put in charge of the Surgical Subsection of the Department of Medical Supplies. This was impossible task, faced with general chaos, the “constant inference of organs of the Cheka”, the sabotage of those who hoped for a return to private ownership and the prevalence of bribery. After protests, in an atmosphere of increasing hostility to the Mensheviks, Dan was reposted in what he describes as “official exile” to Ekaterinburg (Yekaterinburg), where he continued his “work service”. Further “wanderings”, which took him back to Moscow, then to Minsk and the Front in assault on Warsaw and finally to Petrograd, his native city, where Dan was finally caught in the Bolshevik repression and sent to Peter-Paul Fortress.

Two Years of Wandering is shot through with insights into those years of upheaval, the gaoling and exile of “thousands of socialists and non-party workers who (had) been so bold as to doubt the divine infallibility of the Bolshevik authorities, with all their fantasies, scandals, petty tyranny and occasional 180-degree turns. “(Page 53) From the famous 1920 visit of the British delegation to a meeting addressed by Printers’ leaders and Mensheviks, which criticised the “terrorist dictatorship of the minority”, the last Congress of Soviets at which the opposition was reluctantly tolerated, to the crackdown after the Kronstadt (1921) which marked the beginning of systematic elimination of dissent, the Mensheviks were disorganised. (3) A party that “had adapted all its tactics to the struggle for an open existence despite the Bolshevik terror.” was unable to mount any effective challenge (Page 98).

Dan was in prison during the Kronstadt revolt, which, when the news of this, following a strike wave, reached them, convinced those arrested that they were about to be shot. There were indeed mass killings. A gaoler, ‘S’ regaled Dan with tales of massacring whites. He also had this anecdote, “some Jewish trader they had arrested on suspicion that the leather he was carrying in his cart had concealed weapons under it. There were no weapons, but before letting the trader go, he wanted to have his ‘little joke’ at the expense of the ‘bourgeois’ so he stood him against a wall and ordered that he be shot – but they fired blanks. They did this three times – just to they could bring a little happiness to their prisoner when they told him he was free to go – although he could easily have died of heart failure.”(Page 121)

Sent to Remand gaol, Dan observed waves of new arrivals. Protests and demonstration were followed “on each occasion, a few intellectuals and party workers, together with hundreds of grey, non-party workers, would pass through the prison. There were tramway workers, workers from the Skorokhod, Obukhov, Putilov and Rechkin factories – all of working class Petersburg.”(Page 138) Conditions deteriorated, but perhaps what was most striking is that “once entering a Soviet prison, nobody can know even approximately how long he will be in there and how the imprisonment will end.” (Page 142)

Dan met an American ‘K’, identified by King as Adolf S Carm, arrested at the Third Congress of the Communist International “According to him he had been arrested on the strength of a denunciation by another American delegate, Haywood, in revenge for a polemical pamphlet K, had published against him in America. K was obviously very frightened and repeatedly stressed his devotion to everything the Bolshevik government did, including the practices of the Cheka.”(Page 155) Carm was released a couple of months later….

Dan was then sent to Butyri, a Cheka ‘internal prison’, a place where the “smell of human blood” was in the air. “the most dreadful aspect of it is the ordinariness of the circumstances in which this mass slaughter of people is taking place, where it has become an everyday occurrence.” (Page 145)

Hunger Strike and Exile.

For Two Years of Wandering hunger strikes, and a campaign “waged in the workers’ parties and working-class press of Europe” rather than kindness towards people who “had been in the same organisation at the Bolsheviks” The first response of the Bolshevik leadership came to them in the shape of the news that the All-Russia Cheka Presidium had sentenced all Mensheviks to be exiled for one year, and members of the party Central Committee for two years. As negotiations proceeded, their strike ended with the alternatives of, for imprisoned Mensheviks, either administrative exile in remote areas, or departure from Russia (Pages 179- 80) He chose Germany and arrived in Berlin in the winter of 1922.

As Francis King writes in his introduction – a significant contribution to the history of Menshevism in its own right – “it is the immediacy of this book which makes it so valuable” (Page 36). Dan shows understanding towards a variety of people, including anarchists, and a grasp of the plight of even imprisoned ‘whites’, that demonstrates the highest “common decency”. But Two years of Wandering is more than a personal memoir; it illustrates the “creation of a “large body of political of political police, operating with few constraints” built to enforce the governing monopoly of one party, the Bolsheviks” (Page 37).

Nevertheless, the Menshevik project of creating a ‘bourgeois’ democratic regime without a bourgeoisie that backed it was far from a viable alternative to the Bolsheviks, lacking, as King observes, both the “will” to govern and the instruments to do so. Dan’s evolution towards a form of “reform communism” also missed the tide of history. Yet, apart from its striking honesty, the book, smoothly translated, is a powerful antidote, written from the losing side of history, to the view that the early years of Bolshevik rule were only a joyous carnival of the oppressed.

********

(1) Trotsky’s reply to the Menshevik was, “If it were true that compulsory labour is unproductive always and under every condition, as the Menshevik resolutions says, all our constructive work would be doomed to failure. For we can have no way to socialism except by the authoritative regulation of the economic forces and resources of the country, and the centralised distribution of labour-power in harmony with the general state plan. The labour state considers itself empowered to send every worker to the place where his work is necessary.” Page 153. Terrorism and Communism. Leon Trotsky. New Park Publications. 1971. Pages 249 – 251. Leninism Under Lenin. Marcel Liebman. Merlin. 1980.

(2) Page 15. Social Democracy and the Wars of Intervention. Russia 1918 – 1921. Leon Trotsky. New Park Publications. 1975.

(3) King reproduces the speech of the Socialist-Revolutionary leader Viktor Chernov to this meeting with the British Labour delegation in Appendix 1. Liebman called his invitation ”an act of provocation” Liebman. Op cit. Page 251.

See Socialist History Society Newsletter.

Also, What is to be done: The Menshevik Programme July 1919

Economic Measures

1. The peasants should retain, on a collective or individual basis as they may freely decide, the public and privately owned lands which they seized and parcelled out at the time of the Revolution. Other lands, not as yet distributed, should be leased on a long-term basis to needy peasants and peasant associations, except for those lands on which large-scale model husbandry is being, and can continue to be, carried out by the state or by leaseholders. The decrees abolishing the Committees of the Poor should be put into effect without exception.

Agricultural communes should not be established by force, either directly or indirectly. Government-held supplies, agricultural implements and seed should be equitably distributed not only among communes but to all peasants who need them on communes and soviet lands.

2. The present food supply system should be replaced by one on the following basis:
a. The state should purchase grain at agreed prices involving a large application of the barter principle; it should then be sold at low prices to the poorest dwellers in town and country, with the state making up the difference. The state should make purchases through its agents, co-operatives or private traders on a commission basis.

b.  The state should purchase, at a price equal to the cost of production, a certain proportion of the grain surpluses held by the better-off peasants in the more fertile provinces, the proportion being decided with the advice of freely elected representatives of the local peasantry.

c. Grain should be purchased by co-operatives and workers’ organisations, who should at the same time make over the stocks they have procured to government organs concerned with food supply. The state retains the right to requisition supplies from large landowners who are deliberately hoarding them for speculative purposes. Transport arrangements are under the primary control of the state, co-operatives and workers’ organisations. All anti-profiteer detachments should be disbanded. The transfer of foodstuff from a particular locality shall not be prohibited save in exceptional circumstances and by a decision of the central legislature.

The state shall assist, materially and by administrative measures, the transfer of workers and their families from places where food is scarcest and their resettlement in fertile areas.

3. The state should retain control of major industrial enterprises that are fundamental to economic life, such as mines, metallurgical plant, the chief branches of the metal-working industry, etc. However, in all places where this seems likely to improve or animate production or to extend its range, recourse may be had to organising such enterprises by a combination of state and private capital, by the compulsory formation of a trust under state control or, in exceptional cases, by means of a concession.

All other large industrial enterprises except where state control is desirable for fiscal or other reasons and would not be deleterious to production, should as a rule be gradually transferred into private hands, by leasing to a co-operative or a new entrepreneur, or to the former owner on  condition that he accepts the obligation to restore and organise production. The state shall regulate the distribution of fuel and raw materials to different branches of production, enterprises and areas.

4. Small-scale industry should in no case be nationalised.

5. The state shall regulate the distribution to different areas, in accordance with a fixed plan, of the chief articles of mass consumption such as textiles, farm implements, salt, lighting materials etc with the aid of co-operatives and private traders.

6. As regards trade in other articles of the firs necessity and also in luxuries, the state should refrain from imposing restrictions and should allow co-operatives and private enterprises to function freely except in cases where regulation or even monopoly is desirable on account of the extreme scarcity of the product, e.g. medical supplies.

7. The credit system should be so reorganised as to facilitate in every way the use in trade and industry of available funds accumulate by producers in town and country and to afford scope for private initiative in trade, industry and agriculture.

8. The repression of speculation and trading abuses should be left to the courts and governed by specific legal provisions. All arbitrary acts of requisition, confiscation and the detention of goods should be punished. The law should protect rights of ownership in the case of all industrial and commercial concerns that are released from nationalisation. In future, when expropriation is required by the public interest it should take place on the basis of a decision by the supreme legislative bodies and on conditions determined by them.

9. Workers’ unions, in addition to taking a direct part in the work of regulatory bodies, are also and primarily representatives of the interests of the proletariat vis-a-vis the sate and private entrepreneurs. In this latter capacity they should be wholly independent of any state bodies.

10. Wage rates in state enterprises should be raised and minimum rates fixed for private enterprises in accordance with the commercial price-level for necessary goods….

11. The decree on consumers’ communes should be revoked. Workers’ and general co-operatives should be preserved as autonomous organisations, without the imposition of appointees or other interference in their internal affairs. They should also have the right to carry on non-commercial activity such as publishing, education, etc.

Political Measures

The right of voting for members of soviets should be extended to all workers of both sexes. Town and village soviets should be elected by all workers, with a secret ballot and freedom of canvassing by word of mouth and by the press. Soviets and Executive Committees should be subject to re-election at fixed intervals. Soviets shall not be entitled to exclude individual members or groups from their midst on political grounds. All officials and public bodies shall be subordinate to local soviets and Central Executive Committees.all workers of both sexes. Town and village soviets should be elected by all workers, with a secret ballot and freedom of canvassing by word of mouth and by the press. Soviets and Executive Committees should be subject to re-election at fixed intervals. Soviets shall not be entitled to exclude individual members or groups from their midst on political grounds. All officials and public bodies shall be subordinate to local soviets and Central Executive Committees.

2. The Central Executive Committee of Soviets should once more function as the supreme legislative and administrative body, its proceedings being open to public observation. NO law shall come into force without being discussed and approved by the CEC.

3. Freedom of the press, of assembly and of association should be restored, and any party representing the workers shall have the right and be allowed to use premises for meeting, paper supplies, printing workers. Etc. Any restriction of this right that may be necessitated by the war against counter-revolution shall be established and clearly defined by the legislature; it shall not infringe the basic liberty and shall be applied only by the courts and institutions under their direct control.

4. The Revolutionary Tribunals shall be reorganised in such a way that the judges are elected by all the workers. Together with their subordinate investigatory commissions they shall have sole responsibility for combating counter-revolution. All officials should be directly liable to prosecution before these Tribunals for illegal acts committed in the execution of their duties, at the suit of the injured party in each case. Terror shall be done away with as an instrument of government; the death penalty be abolished , and likewise all investigatory and punitive organs independent of the courts, such as the Extraordinary Commission (CHEKA).

5. Party institutions and cells should be deprived of state authority, and party members of all material privileges.

6. The bureaucratic apparatus should be simplified by the extension of local self-government.

7. A policy of understanding should be pursed vis-a-vis the nationalities which have for any reason broken away from Russia, in order to put a speedy end to the Civil War an restore the unity of the state on a basis of national self-determination. The Cossack districts – Don, Kuban, Tersa, The Urals, Astrakhan, Orenburg, etc – should be allowed the widest possible autonomy and there should be no interference in their internal affairs or system of land tenure. Siberia should have regional self-government, and the independence of Finland and Poland should be recognised.

Central Committee of the RSDLP, 12 July 1919
Sotsial-demokratiia i revolutionsiaa. Sbornik dokumentov (Odessa, 1920), pp 9-15.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 17, 2017 at 12:28 pm