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Michel Collon, Conspiracies, Political Confusionism and…… Steve Hedley (RMT).

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Michel Collon, Conspiracy Theorist and Confusionist. 

Michel Collon is a member of the Parti du travail de Belgique  PTB (English here) and sits on its central committee. This party, which counts around 10,000 members, has 47 local councillors and 2 MPs in the Federal Parliament and a number of other representatives, and at present is said, according to opinion polls to be the second largest political force in Wallonie. It is of a ‘Marxist-Leninist” origin, that is pro-Chinese ‘Maoism’, publishing in 1994  a book in support of Stalin, Un autre regard sur Staline (éditions EPO) and supported Kim Il Sung. Since 2008 it claims to have become an “open” party, turned towards electoral campaigning as a party of the working class, with references to other European lefts from different traditions, including the Portuguese Communist Party (Parti du travail de Belgique : du maoïsme au parlementarisme ?). It’s success in the last year owes a lot to the massive corruption scandals affecting the Belgium  Parti socialiste  and the PTB’s ability to carry out grass-roots campaigns on immediate issues such as public services.

Collon has his own past which includes, “Il a participé à la conférence “anti-impérialiste” Axis for Peace, organisée en 2005 par Thierry Meyssan du Réseau Voltaire“. That is he took part in a conference held by the far-right, conspiracy (9/11 Truthers) Meyssan and the Réseau Voltaire which has been accused of anti-Semitism. It is at present, pro-Assad in Syria. In 2015  Collon claimed that the murderers of the Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper-Cacher were armed, trained and indoctrinated by French Socialist Minister Laurent Fabius as part of the war in Syria and Libya, “en réalité, ils ont été armés, formés militairement, endoctrinés par Monsieur Fabius et ses amis ; qui ont envoyé pendant trois ans des milliers, des dizaines de milliers de frères Kouachi, faire encore pire qu’à Charlie, en Syrie et en Libye. ” (Michel Collon sur les attentats de Charlie Hebdo : « les frères Kouachi ont été armés par Fabius »).

In his most recent book Collon has nevertheless attacked the conspiracy theories Alain Soral, on the grounds that Soral does not understand the mechanisms of capitalism behind these affairs. (Pourquoi Soral séduit  2017). It goes almost without saying that he is a writer for RT (Russia Today) defending Putin’s regime against US plots to demonise the state. (A quoi sert la diabolisation de la Russie ?)

Collon now runs a web site, InvestigAction (founded in 2004) which publishes in French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish and (American) English. It is a classic “conspi” site, whose aim is as follows, “Investig’Action’s mission is to provide an alternative point of view about the world news and denounce medias’ lies.

 This is from their mission statement,

How did the Western media cover the various wars that followed the first Gulf war? Are there similarities regarding the way the media covered each of these events? Are there major “war propaganda” principles? Yes, there are.

 Hiding the interests. Our governments fight for human rights, peace, or whatever noble ideal it might be. A war should never be presented as a conflict between divergent economic and social interests.Each war must be preceded by a spectacularly big media lie in order to win public support. And after that, keeping on demonizing the enemy, especially by showing continually pictures of atrocities the latter committed.Hiding History. Hiding the historical facts and geography of the region, making local conflicts that are stirred, or even provoked by the Great Powers themselves, incomprehensible. Organizing the amnesia. Avoiding any serious reminder of past cases of media manipulation – it might make the public too suspicious.

Without tiring the reader this is an example of their approach to the popular protests in Iran,

Q: Why do you think the western countries are trying to use people against Iran and not use military force? What is the difference?.

Followed by,

Iran: Surviving another attack supported from abroad

Venezuela,

Western Journalists Threaten Venezuela.

North Korea, (Robert Charvin).

In spite of everything, and paying the price for it, the People’s Republic of Korea has remained sovereign, counting only on its own capacities, creating a spirit of uncompromising resistance to this day, blending in its ideology Marxism and Confucianism, in which journalists from the great Western press do not have the least bit interest.

I think we can guess before reading what their views on Israel and Zionism are.

But here it is, (November 2017)

Two stories reported by Haaretz on Wednesday underscore the unchanging goal of Zionism: the destruction of the Palestinians as a people and as viable communities, and the theft of their land for exclusively Jewish colonial settlement.

The site has received numerous criticisms from the French speaking left including this,  Michel Collon, un militant de la confusion ! (2014) which amongst other descriptions in the same vein calls it an “une imposture journalistique”. Ornella Guyet notes that Collon has attended events, alongside figures from the far-right,  to support the following, “Mouammar Kadhafi et de Bachar Al-Assad”.

Steve Hedley is a former member of the Socialist Party (resigned in 2013).  He is Senior Assistant General Secretary of RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers. An active campaigner for leaving the European Union he attended the ‘European’ Rally of the small Trotskyist party, the Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique (POID) in May 2016.

He has now found another odd far-left  crew to talk to, Investig’Action.

Brexit, Corbyn and trade unions: interview with Steve Hedley (January the 14th 2018).

Responding to the question as to why he and his union are against the Eu Hedley replies.

Very simply, because the European Union was and is a rich man’s club. It was set up as a bulwark against the Soviet Union. NATO was the military arm and the European Union was the economic arm. It’s a trading bloc that is competing against other trading blocs. If you look at the history of the European Union, it has free movement of capital, free movement of labour, and a neoliberal economy written into the treaties. Therefore to be part of the European Union is to accept all of those things.

More grist to the mill of Collon’s conspi site.

 

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Mark Fisher (1968 – 2017) a Tribute from Ipswich.

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Mark Fisher (1968 – 2017)

On Saturday, on the anniversary of her friend’s death, Nina Power circulated a beautiful tribute, In Memoriam. She wrote, “Since you have gone I find it hard to go back to your writing. I think it is because there is still so much life in your words, but so much ghostliness too. And it was just so good, it just is so good. You captured exhilaration in writing like nobody else.”

This is also a contribution to Mark’s memory, written since our paths crossed at an Suffolk People’s Assembly meeting in Ipswich (Exiting the Vampire Castle), and because this recent reader of Capitalist Realism. Is there no Alternative? (2008) is deeply impressed by the work he left behind. (1)

Mark Fisher was a radical cultural critic. This expression barely covers the career of talented man whose research in the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit writings on the K-Punk Blog were marked by keen radical political feeling.

Capitalist Realism.

Capitalist Realism was, and is, a landmark study. It hits you from the first page with its quality. The book hooks the reader by an account of the film The Children of Men (2006), less a “cinematic dystopia” than a permanent state of emergency. Fisher reflects that it reminds him of a phrase attributed to Frederic Jameson and Slavoj Žižek, “that is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.” This captured the meaning of “capitalist realism”, “the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.” (Page 2)

The scenario of The Children of Men, which revolves around mass sterility, the end of public space and where nihilist religious eschatology is all that is left for the masses wandering in camps to cling to, is striking in itself. While the state had yet to be reduced to the military and police, Fisher extended the plot to capitalism, a world now where, “all that is left is the consumer-spectator, trudging through the ruins and relics.” (Page 4).

Jean Baudrillard wrote of the French Socialist governments of the 1980s, well before the collapse of Communism, of the “end of the dialectic” “the end of history” and above all the “power of simulation”. (La Gauche Divine. 1985). Fisher evokes other French theorists, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, whose Capitalisme et schizophrénie. L’anti-Œdipe (1972) to him saw capitalism as a “dark potentiality” and “unnameable thing” which has only begun to be deterritorialised through finance. One might suggest that something of this complex work, which is, amongst many things, a critique of psychoanalysis remains in Fisher’s concern with the link between the new forms of capitalism and mental illness, though the relation with Guattari’s own therapeutic practices remains to be discussed. (2)

Fisher captures these themes in the sense of “sense of exhaustion, of cultural and political sterility”, preferring capitalist realism to the term “post-modernism”, an expression, he justly noted, loaded with ambiguities, ranging from politics, economics  and cultural trends. Perhaps more significantly the idea that that there is “no alternative” focuses on the propositional nature of the expression. That is it can be contested, without succumbing to the belief of theorists of the Baudrillard school, that the world has been absorbed in the “hyper-real” in which nothing beyond trivia  happens any more.

Capitalist Realism indeed describes the effects of free market liberalism; an iron cage of its own imposed in the area he knew best, education. Managerialism, targets, a bureaucracy that “invades all areas of work” (P 51). The Big Other, the “bewildered frustration of the individual in the call centre labyrinth” is an “expression of the ultimate cause-that-is-not a subject capital. (Pages 65 and 70) If the latter seems a reflection of an Althusserian subjectless process commentators have been more struck by the expression of ‘hauntology” – the individual’s nostalgia for “lost futures”.

New Political Terrain.

This reader was more impressed by Fisher’s effort to think beyond these limits. The final chapter of Capitalist Realism ends with a defence public services, what is slightly tongue in cheek called a ‘Marxist supernanny”. Not that he was anything but critical of defensive politics. “It’s well past time for the left to case limiting its ambitions to the establishing of a big state. But being ‘at a distance from the state’ does not mean either abandoning the state or retreating into the private space of affects and diversity”. (page 77)

If capitalist realism survived the credit crisis of 2008, and the end of capitalism was not in sight, a “new political terrain” remains to be conquered. With its own authentic universality, a term he understands in Alain Badiou’s ‘ontological’ that is foundational, sense), This implies, “resurrecting the very concept of a general will, revising – and modernising – the idea of a public space that is not reducible to an aggregation of individuals and their interests.”(Page 77) He defended ‘worker autonomy’. How the General Will can subordinate the state, at a time when the People has emerged in some left circles as a substitute for the working class, remains to be seen. (3)

Mark Fisher’s Exiting the Vampire Castle begins with a description of his dispirited state, looking at the left, and squabbles on the Internet, which was  rendered acute by attacks on Owen Jones. It continues,

One of the things that broke me out of this depressive stupor was going to the People’s Assembly in Ipswich, near where I live. The People’s Assembly had been greeted with the usual sneers and snarks. This was, we were told, a useless stunt, in which media leftists, including Jones, were aggrandising themselves in yet another display of top-down celebrity culture. What actually happened at the Assembly in Ipswich was very different to this caricature. The first half of the evening – culminating in a rousing speech by Owen Jones – was certainly led by the top-table speakers. But the second half of the meeting saw working class activists from all over Suffolk talking to each other, supporting one another, sharing experiences and strategies. Far from being another example of hierarchical leftism, the People’s Assembly was an example of how the vertical can be combined with the horizontal: media power and charisma could draw people who hadn’t previously been to a political meeting into the room, where they could talk and strategise with seasoned activists. The atmosphere was anti-racist and anti-sexist, but refreshingly free of the paralysing feeling of guilt and suspicion which hangs over left-wing twitter like an acrid, stifling fog.

I was one of the organisers of that meeting and can say that this passage cheered me up immensely. There are people on the left who have “exited” the Vampire Castle of ‘identities’ (perhaps code for an academic cultural left) that Fisher described, although our own fortresses are no doubt just as daunting. It is of interest that many of the people at the Fore Street Co-op Education Centre were active in the Labour Party at the time, and many more are today, from the present Ipswich MP, councillors, to trade unionists.

We are trying to make real if not the General Will, at least Left politics, and have a good stab at the ‘capitalist realism’ comrade Mark Fisher so brilliantly described, and for which we will remember him.

See also:  Journey back into the vampires’ castle: Mark Fisher remembered, 1968-2017

Thanks to Roger for sending me a copy of Capitalist Realism.

(1) We may well have directly met. I recall a conversation in Ipswich with somebody about post-modernism and Derrida – not one may imagine a frequent topic in the town.

(2) See Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari. Biographie croisée. François Dosse. La Découverte. 2009. This book contains a wealth of details about their lives and theories. Guattari was a supporter of a version of ‘anti-psychiatry. Some consider that Mille plateaux (1980)  is more useful for its description  of how states “capture” people and territories. 

(3) Ed Rooksby’s review of Capitalist Realism in Historical Materialism, Vol 20 No 1. 2012, asked how literally we could take these suggestive ideas.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 15, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Roy Hattersley, Momentum, and ‘Labour’s worst crisis”.

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Roy Hattersley, Momentum, and ‘Labour’s worst crisis”

“Socialism requires the use of collective power to increase individual rights and to extend individual freedom.”

“Public ownership in the form of state corporations, centrally owned, planned and administered, is essential for the public utilities.”

Pages 120 and 185. Choose Freedom. The Future for Democratic Socialism. Roy Hattersley. 1987.

Sunday’s Observer saw elder Labour statesman, Roy Hattersley, launch a call to arms (This is Labour’s greatest crisis. Time to fight back. 3.12.17). Momentum, the pressure group dedicated to winning elections for Labour and supporting the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, aims to move the party to the “far left of the political spectrum”. The “threat” to Labour from their “extremism”, “Corbyn’s revolutionary guard” is carrying out a “cull of councillors” and the “replacement of moderate MPs”. It must be “beaten”. The task is to “save British social democracy from extinction”.

Hattersley’s polemic has its moments. Many enjoyed the phrase struck, with successful comic effect, describing former Militant supporters, “the old gang” in Liverpool now apparently active again in the party, “All that is changed is that the Militant now travel to meetings with their bus passes.”

Less appreciated was his effort to explain other local developments. On the challenge to Haringey’s Labour leadership, the former Labour Deputy leader is seriously awry. Aggressive newcomers were also at work. ‘New recruits’ brandishing a call for “democracy” were to blame for new councillor selections. A reference to the disastrous implications of the council’s plans to redevelop council housing by removing some estates from “public ownership” and handing them over to a private dominated development (“the biggest transfer of local authority resources to a private entity in UK history, and would see Lendlease own a fifty per cent stake in a company which will profit from public assets for at least twenty years”)  in which the poor have no place is missed. Absent too was the long, very long, history of disputes over ‘modernising’ Labour in Haringey, which predate Momentum by….several decades. (1)

 

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Momentum.

Momentum can no doubt reply for itself and there are already many commentaries on Labour’s Greatest Crisis. It is hard to identify the pressure group with the ‘far left’. When Militant, now known as the Socialist Party, tried to move in en masse, attempting to create its own “Trade Union Momentum”, they were rebuffed. Another group of left-wingers, after several figures were removed from national office, put some effort in forming Grass Roots Momentum. It has foundered. No doubt individuals from various leftist factions are active in Momentum, a proportion of the membership put at lower single figures.

Some on Labour’s right appear to believe that Momentum’s interest in ‘extra-parliamentary’ activity is anti-democratic. The term is misleading. Public protest is no more opposed to electoral work (which is the core of the movement’s existence), than UNITE Community’s Day of Action against Universal Credit, or demonstrations on the NHS. Or indeed, at the labour movement’s foundation, strikes for better pay and conditions leading to negotiations for collective agreements. Complaints about UNITE’s efforts to influence Labour more directly seem even more paradoxical, if criticism is directed at anti-Westminster politics.

There are legitimate concerns about some aspects of the way the Momentum operates. Conferences attended by delegates selected by lot, a practice adopted in France by President Macron’s En Marche! party and used for a percentage of attendees at Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise, may quell factionalism. But despite reference to the ancient Athenian Constitution, this method of choosing representatives is not today widely accepted as a democratic method.

No doubt we will learn just how democratic the opposing slate of candidates for Labour’s NEC emerged. At present there are none.

On what other grounds does Hattersley accuse Labour of moving to the far-left? The party programme, its policies? Labour is committed to re-nationalising public utilities. One might disagree about the claim that “market distribution” can be fixed to respond to “demand” when, as he noted in Choose Freedom, that income is so unfairly distributed. The objective of developing a replacement for Universal Credit, still in its early stages, can surely be modelled in with traditional social democratic redistribution. In his 1987 book he cited John Rawls’ ‘difference principle”, that is judging reforms by their ability to make the poorest better off. This remains a workable gauge of real reform of welfare. Hattersley’s “struggle for democratic rights” equally remains an objective which unites otherwise divided strands of democratic socialism. The Corbyn and McDonnell leadership indeed puts it at the centre of their policies.

Sunday’s broadside is a shot from the bows at ..what? The vast majority of members are united around the need to elect a new Labour Government. Yet, behind this there are serious issues at stake within the party. They do no neatly fall into a division between “far left” and “moderates”, or even different appreciations of the Blair and Brown years.

New Dividing Lines?

At the risk of whittling down a whole forest of contentious issues some stick out.

  •  Europe. The Labour Party contains both a small right wing ‘patriotic’ anti-EU current, a left-wing ‘Lexit’ (left-exit) current, and a big majority, from the centre to large parts of the left, which wants the smallest possible break from Europe. Some do not want to leave the EU at all. The Lexit left is in disarray as their glee at seeing Britain leave the ‘Bosses Club’ has turned to ashes faced with the complexities of exit, and the prospect of being at the mercy of the WTO and stronger economies, from the EU itself to the USA.
  • Specific Policy. Labour’s stand on Brexit, is seeking the ‘best deal’ and letting the Tories tear themselves apart in Brexit negotiations, while balancing its statements with an electoral strategy that attracts anti-EU voters. This has left many unsure about what a possible Corbyn led government will do. On a key aspect, failing to debate the Freedom of Movement at Conference, an issue brought up by left wing activists, does not mean the issue has disappeared.
  • Internationalism. While the majority of the Labour party, including the activist left, are committed to defending universal human rights (leaving aside weighty philosophical agreements on the topic), there are differences on where to start. Some groups, in numbers only groupuscules about with wider influence within the Party, give priority to fighting ‘imperialism’, that is the USA. Those backing ‘anti-imperialist’ forces have watered down their public rhetoric. But as recent pronouncements by Andrew Murray, chief of Unit’s political strategy and the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), and of the indicate, there remain elements prepared on international issues who are prepared to align openly with forces hostile to democratic socialism.

As this sketch illustrates, disagreements within the Labour Party and broader left, have moved on from the stark divisions with which Roy Hattersley tries to frighten his readers. Far from being in a position to stifle these differences in a Labour Party that excludes “everyone with whom they disagree” Momentum is obliged to confront them. The progress made so far to elaborate a “synthesis” between different strands of thought in Labour in a policy platform that is resolutely democratic socialist gives one grounds for hope.  That they, Momentum, – and it is hard to call such a disparate group a ‘they’ – have a core objective it is an eminently Parliamentary one, electing the next PM. One hopes the former deputy leader will do his best to work for that. .

 

(1): On this see: “We Took the Last Option”: The Fight for Democracy in Haringey. New Socialist.

As Labour Against the Withchunt Collapses in Infighting: “Third-Camp Stalinoids bring Witchhunt into ‘Labour Against the Witchhunt’ (that’s enough Witchhunts ED)

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Witch Hunters themselves, say Socialist Fight.

Amongst the eternal classics of the workers’ movement, As Soon as this Pub Closes stands tall.

A dog-eared copy exists in the Coatesite archives.

It opens with this,

THE entrance to the conference hall is nearly deserted. The delegates have retired to adjacent hostelries to sink enough pints to allow them to sleep through the afternoon debate, so most literature sellers have taken a break.

Only two groups remain. One, the Spartacist League, are chanting ‘General Strike Now’, while another, the International Communist Party, try to drown them out with ‘Build the ICFI’ – International Committee of the Fourth International to the uninitiated. Do they hope to convert each other? Or myself, the only other listener? Surely not, but each feels that the first to leave would be chicken. I am glad my daughter is not in sight as she is probably warm and dry – on the other hand, she has my coat. Resisting the temptation to raise my own slogan – ‘Smash neo-Kantian revisionism!’ – I leave both groups to the sardonic screaming of the gulls. The rain drizzles from a lead-grey sky as I walk to the station. ‘So what’, you may say, ‘I never did care for Brighton.’ However, the two groups, and their rivals who have gone to lunch, form the core of organised British socialism. If a bureaucrat temporarily wakes from his slumber during the afternoon and feels any guilt about applauding the hypocritical rhetoric coming from the platform, he has certainly in his youth been a supporter of one of the socialist groups. This work is to be commended for providing the uninitiated with a guide through the labyrinth.

Yet the Tendance considers that even John Sullivan would find it hard going navigating this one.

Breaking news from our Ace reporters…

Hold the Front Page: anti-semites not to be expelled!

To our considerable relief and greatly to the credit of those attending the meeting, the proposal to exclude Socialist Fight from the Labour Against the Witchhunt campaign, made by the three members of the executive, was rejected. In fact, two votes were held effectively on the proposed exclusion, one was closely lost and one slightly different but in effect the same was tied, therefore also falling. Our own broader motion was lost 5 votes for, 8 against and 8 abstentions.

In the interests of getting LAW on an even keel, we are not going to go into more detail. But we do note that SF supporters were the only organised left tendency present arguing for a non-exclusionist united front campaign of the entire Labour Left against this witchhunt, with the only real condition for participation being a complete, principled opposition to all exclusions of the people on the left. Outside of that, there should be no exclusions of any left-wing current from the campaign.

We in Socialist Fight welcome this victory for working class norms of democracy and will do everything we can to build LAW as such a principled united front campaign, aimed precisely at broadening the space in the Labour Party for political and programmatic debate, including over contentious questions involving political Zionism and the Middle East.

Once the issue of our non-exclusion was resolved, there were some useful discussions on among other things organising a LAW public meeting in January in London, with another one planned for Birmingham on 30th Jan also. There were some important debates about the wider Labour Left and the witchhunt; the meeting voted to withdraw support from Ann Black as an NEC member nominated and supported by the left who has participated enthusiastically in the witchhunt, and to demand a wider repudiation of Ms Black by the left.

There was a powerful speech by Grassroots Black Left activist Mark Wadsworth, a Labour member and long-time anti-racist campaigner who was outrageously suspended by Labour for ‘anti-semitism’ for challenging the collaboration of right-wing MP Ruth Smeeth with the Tory media at the Labour press conference on the launch of the Chakrabarti Report into antisemitism on 30 June 2016. The comrade’s address drew considerable applause. A model motion for Labour Party bodies, coming from the Grassroots Black Left, containing a very powerful attack on the unlawful trawling of social media by the witch hunters, was approved by the meeting. We will reproduce it later when we have the text.

LAW resolved to meet monthly; we will hold the next meeting in early January. And the interim executive was expanded to include Steve Price of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and Deborah Hobson of the Grassroots Black Left, making a broader-based five-strong executive.

Seek ‘Safe Space’ from real Anti-Imperialism/Anti-Zionism

It would seem absurd in the middle of a campaign against socialists in the Labour Party, for part of the left, itself under attack with suspensions and expulsions, to refuse to defend others and imply that some socialists really are worthy of expulsion. Such behaviour would surely be regarded as grotesque treachery by any class conscious worker.

Apparently three members of the Steering Committee of ‘Labour Against the Witchhunt’, an organisation that has held one national meeting (on October 21st) have decided that Socialist Fight, one of only two organised Marxist trends at the initial meeting, are to be excluded. A statement to this effect was published in the Weekly Worker of 23 November..

Socialist Fight (SF) finds the weak point in the arguments used by this crew. Why exclude the AWL for their hostility to all forms of anti-semitism, including a left-wing version, when they’ve got rid of their groupuscule on the grounds that it is ‘anti-semitic’ (in reality, informed sources suggest that the reason is that SF is seen by even committed ‘anti-Zios’ as too wild, a tactical rather than principled decision).

So apparently the AWL are unwelcome, not for their actions, which our intrepid three cannot quarrel with in principle judging by the above, but for their ideas. Conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, and thus believing in ‘left-wing anti-Semitism’ which is apparently a ‘myth’.

But if ‘left-wing anti-semitism’ is a ‘myth’, how come Socialist Fight is being excluded on the basis of the same myth? For two of the three signatories of the above statement are fellow-travellers of the Weekly Worker/CPGB, supporting its allied group in the Labour Party, known as Labour Party Marxists, as is comrade Keable, or a years-long sympathiser and contributor, as is comrade Greenstein. It is not clear where comrade Walker stands with regard to this, but she appears to concur with them in any case, so the question is abstract.

Consistency is not the CPGB’s strong suit. Their anathema against our analysis of the role of Jewish bourgeois in the diaspora in bolstering Israel’s strength in the older imperialist countries goes back to 2014, when one of our now-leading members was driven out of the CPGB-initiated ‘Communist Platform’ in Left Unity, before the Corbyn movement emerged. That anathema stated that our comrade had to be driven out because..

We leave it to Cds to read the rest, though this stands out as an indication of how fast this lot are disintegrating,

This would be too ‘anti-imperialist’ for the CPGB, whose cowardice here is similar to their flinching over the witchhunt against Galloway over Iraq in 2003-04. We submitted our motion on 19 Nov. On 22 Nov we received the following communication from Stan Keable on behalf of the three-person rump steering group of LAW (Pete Firmin, the fourth member, had resigned due to difficulty in working with some of the others).

Pete is, unfortunately for Donovan, a real human being and a genuine democratic socialist…..

Not to mention this,he CPGB are sabotaging the potential of Labour against the Witchhunt to unite socialists in Labour against the witchhunt. They actually are trying to turn it into a confessional sect, in their own terms. We would actually have no objection to working even with the Alliance for Workers Liberty in a body like LAW, provided they were prepared to defend all victims of the Labour bureaucracy against the right. Of course, this is a big if. But ideological proscriptions, based on spurious smears, in a body whose purpose is to unite the left against a witchhunt, indeed amount to sectarian sabotage. Even more so when the ideological proscriptions are incoherent and self-contradictory, as demonstrated above.

Observers may feel that Donovan has a point.

How can Greenstein go on claiming that there is no such thing as left wing anti-semitism, or, in a weakened form, that the charges of anti-semitism against  people in the Labour Party are trumped up ‘Zionist’ fabrications and then go on to exclude poor old Gerry and Ian for anti-semitism?

There is more to this spicy soup – we leave it to others to relish the attack on Hal Draper – on grounds one can guess…..

Unconfirmed reports suggest that the author of this text, one Ian – International Jewish bourgeoisie – Donovan suggested that George Galloway lead the campaign.

  • The claim that left-wing anti-semitism is a ‘myth’ appears accepted by all sides of this barney and is the bone of contention.
  • The claim that there is a “witchhunt” against Socialist Fight.
  • None of them accept the findings of the Chakrabarti Inquiry, in particular ” Labour members should resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine in particular.”
  • This puts them at odds with Labour Party policy.
  • The whole crew are barmy.

Evidence, M’Learned Friends,

Greenstein’s Blog,

A Sense of Humour Failure – The case of the JLM’s Ella Rose
Ella Rose is a free transfer from the Israeli Embassy to the Jewish Labour Movement where she is now Director.  She played a starring role in the Al Jazeera undercover programme, The Lobby. She came across as a petulant, foul-mouthed, potentially violent young woman.  She threatened physical violence against Jackie Walker because ‘she’s like 5’2” and tiny’ and ‘’if it came to it I would win that’s all I really care about’ which is a perceptive comment on Zionism and its ideals.  In the course of her musings Ms Rose stated ‘I’m a Zionist, shoot me.’  To which I responded that it was tempting.

 

Stalin. Waiting for Hitler. 1928 – 1941. Stephen Kotkin. A Democratic Socialist Review.

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Stalin. Waiting for Hitler. 1928 – 1941. Stephen Kotkin. Allen Lane. 2017.

The Yugoslavian communist, A. Ciliga, a sincere man and an unimpeachable witness, one of the few who has escaped alive from the Soviet convict gangs, has written in his book, Au pays du grand mensonge: “Those who have not lived in the Soviet prisons, concentration camps and places of exile in which are shut up more than five million convicts, those who are not familiar with the greatest jail history has ever seen, where men die like flies, where they are beaten like dogs, where they are made to work like slaves, can have no idea what Soviet Russia is, what Stalin’s ‘classless society’ means.”

Boris Souvarine. Postscript to Stalin: a critical survey of Bolshevism. 1935

The first volume of Kotkin’s study of Stalin, Paradoxes of Power, 1878 – 1928. (2014) portrayed the dictator as the product of “immense structural forces”, the legacy of Tsarism, the mode of government he took over from Lenin and the Bolsheviks “castle in the air” version of socialism. But the author could not neglect the character of his subject, whose “cold calculation and the flights of absurd delusion were products of a single mind, he was shrewd enough to see right through people, but not enough to spare him a litany of nonsensical beliefs.” (1)

That these “closely mirrored the Bolshevik revolution in-built structural paranoia” is only one of the many elements that contributed to the harrowing themes of the present book. This begins with the mass murders, starvation and famine of agricultural Collectivisation, followed by the mid-1930s Great Terror, and concludes with Stalin’s’ miscalculations faced with the threat of Hitler’s Germany

There are few grimmer tasks for the left than facing up to the reality of Stalin’s Russia. What enthusiasm can be mustered for the October Revolution has to face the totalitarianism that followed. This is not a new dilemma. That Stalin was, in his own and Kotkin’s opinion, a “communist and revolutionary” and that he developed within “the moral universe of Marxism-Leninism” was galling – and contestable – to radical left critics of the first hour, like Boris Souvarine.

This cosmos was bleak. The collectivisation and war against the Kulaks, the first Five Year Plan, took place against the background of famine and epidemics which “probably killed between 5 and 7 million people between 1931-33. Perhaps 10 million more starved nearly to death ” (Page 127) In response Stalin accused peasants of “not wanting to work.” (Page 128) Yet industrialisation began, investment quadrupled to 44 % of GDP in 1932. At the time well-wishers of the burgeoning New Civilisation were enthusiastic But, Kotkin observes, “unrelenting optimism spread alongside famine, arrests, deportations, execution, camps, censorship, sealed borders. (P 305) “Stalin’s anti capitalist experiment resembled a vast camp of deliberately deprived workers, indentured farmers and slave labourers toiling of the benefit of an unacknowledged elite.” (Ibid)

The Great Terror.

Stalin. Waiting for Hitler tackles the Great Terror. There is a lengthy account of the assassination of Kirov by Nikolayev, the pretext for the mass killings and imprisonments that followed. The hysteria reached its peak in the Great Trials of the middle of the decade. At its height, “just for two years, 1937 and 1938, the political police, the NKVD, would report 1,575,259 arrests, 87% of them for political offences, and 681,692 executions.”(Page 305)

It is hard to get a measure of the suffering of so many victims. Vsevolod Meyerhold, one of the country’s top theatre directors was one of the countless to fall into the hands of the butchers. In 1939 he was tortured and made to confess to spying for Britain and Japan. After systematic beatings, “Meyerhold’s interrogators had urinated into his mouth and smashed his right (writing) hand to bits” (Page 649) A footnote adds that while this was happening NKVD chief Beria awarded the larger part of his flat to one of his mistresses (Page 1029). He was executed by firing Squad in February 1940. 

Kotkin is not engaged in the history of the Gulag, only the contours of the Archipelago are sketched, and there are no Kolyma Tales Nor are there accounts of how Communist self-criticism ended in denunciations, or the whispers by a population-turned-delators to the NKVD. We are brought instead to the party machine and to Stalin’s Little Corner in the Moscow Kremlin, where he scanned lists of those caught in the lights of the hunt. “At least 383 execution lists signed by him have survived, containing the names of more than 43,000 ‘enemies of the people’, mostly the highest-level officials and officers (P 490). What kind of man performed filled his days with this never-ending work? Faced with a flood of letters of those appealing for those caught up in the murders, he “showed no sign that he was in the least tormented by the slaughter” (Ibid).

This was a war that hit the masses and the elite, clearing the way, Kotkin suggests for an intentional renewal of the bureaucracy. The new cadres, who took the posts of those found out as ‘wreckers’ ‘spies’ of anti-Soviet elements’, were described as “healthy young representatives of a healthy young people”. With rising salaries they were rewarded as such (Page 603) Stalin engineered human souls reinforced an already privileged caste, “The terror that murdered officials en masse accentuated the ascendancy of the functionary class.”(Page 604)

Over half of Stalin. Waiting for Hitler is occupied, as its title indicates, with Soviet foreign policy and, above all, with the build up to the war with Hitler’s Germany. From the Spanish Civil, an occasion to further Stalin’s obsession with Trotsky through attacks on the ‘Trotskyist’ (anti-Stalinist Marxist) POUM, Trotsky’s 1940 assassination, the ill-judged war with Finland (met with mass resistance by the Finns), the division of Poland with little perceivable long-term gain, to his wavering dealings with Mao in China, there were few signs of strategic genius.

Above all Stalin failed to prepare properly for the confrontation with the German army. This was not just the result of the purges of competent military and intelligence personnel. His tactical abilities were flawed. “Instead of acting cunningly, Stalin fooled himself. He clung to the belief that Germany could not attack before defeating the UK….”(Page 897)

A landmark.

Kotkin’s achievement as a historian of Stalin should not be overshadowed by the often hard to digest text. Key developments risk being submerged by lengthy day-to-day accounts. The plodding style, and turns of phrase such as the “wee hours” are not a help to the reader. But nobody can fail to recognise that the work is a landmark.

With such a protagonist in his sights Waiting for Hitler raises deep issues about the nature of the USSR under Stalin. One commanding thread lies in an effort to come to terms with the basis of the tyranny of the ‘vozhd’, the Leader, as Stalin came to be called. The author’s observation that he operated within a “near permanent state of emergency” could be said to cast light on the nature of Stalin’s rule. Lenin has used exceptional measures – a monopoly of political power, imprisonment of opponents, execution of ‘counter-revolutionaries’, censorship – in ‘defence’ of the revolution. These were indefinitely prolonged. That alone gave the Lenin appointed General Secretary scope for his efforts to impose his brand of ‘Marxism Leninism’ on his most “precious resource”, the people of the USSR.

Could both the original disregard for law and independent justice in the name of higher interests, the need to fight the Enemy, be compared to the pro-Nazi political theorist, Carl Schmitt’s speculation on the foundations of politics? Does the justification of the “state of exception” as a “transcendence” of normal politics cast light on the arguments of those who try to justify the “exceptional” circumstances of the Bolshevik Revolution to treat its opponents with contempt? In Stalin’s career, there is little doubt that the division of the world into friends and foes, with no-holds barred in the fight, “gave free rein to his savagery”. To those who seek psychological explanations for his behaviour Kotkin states, “Stalin’s sociopathology was to a degree the outgrowth of dictatorial rule”. (Page 5)

“Marx had never advocated mass murder but freedom” (Page 302). This may be scant consolation for those crushed by Stalin, his successors and emulators. But it important for those of us who are democratic socialists to make sure that the real history of Stalin’s rule is as familiar inside our own camp as that of those whom we venerate. We look forward to reading Kotkin’s Death of Stalin.

******

(1) Page 736. Stalin. Paradoxes of Power. 1878 – 1928. Stephen Kotkin. Allen Lane. 2014.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 26, 2017 at 2:07 pm

Nigel Farage: Catalonia Demonstrates EU Democratic Failure.

with 4 comments

Catalan officers stand in front of protesters as they gesture at Spanish police a day after the referendum.

Main unions’ statement, “CC OO and UGT are not calling the general strike for October 3,” said the country’s top two unions in a joint release. “Our organisations in Catalonia are encouraging participation in protests against the excesses committed on October 1. In no way are we going to support positions that provide backing for the unilateral declaration of independence”

“The regional government and Barcelona City Hall are allowing their employees to strike today without docking them the corresponding day’s pay, as would usually be the case for a stoppage.”

“All three production lines at the Seat carmaking plant in Martorell (Barcelona) are working at full speed. The factory has not been affected by the general strike and only a reduced number of employees have decided to stay home, said the works council.”

El Pais.

The  repression in Catalonia continues to have a wide international fall-out.

“Right-wing British politician Nigel Farage expressed support for the Catalan separatists’ cause inside the European Parliament, where he strongly criticized the Spanish government over the events of last Sunday. Esteban González Pons, leader of the Spanish delegation in the European People’s Party group, said that it is the far right that supports independence in Catalonia.”

In Catalonia we have seen how the EU does ‘democracy’. Why can’t Remainers see it too?

Telegraph.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 3, 2017 at 10:23 am

Against Madrid’s Repression, Against Middle-Class Catalan Breakaway State.

with 27 comments

 

Catalan Independence Supporters to Oversee Polling Booths in Break-away Election.

Grupos de activistas pro referéndum toman las escuelas para garantizar su apertura el domingo)

From the Statement of the International Committee of the Fourth International (Northite).

Rarely do we agree with this group, but here they say some important truths which most of the English speaking left seems unable to articulate.

We would add that it is astonishing that anybody who claims to be socialist or left, in the case of the Catalan ERC  Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, ERC; IPA:  and the smaller  pro-nationalist ‘radical’ left outside, can justify an alliance of the Catalan nationalist left with a corruption riddled (and much larger) pro-business party, the Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català, PDeCAT), also known as the Catalan Democratic Party (CatalanPartit Demòcrata Català). It was founded in Barcelona on 10 July 2016, as the successor to  the now-defunct Democratic Convergence of Catalonia. Why the name change from its former incarnation, the Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya   ? There is one family name that sums the reasons up, Jordi Pujol, a byword for sleaze and insider backhander, something that marks out modern Catalan nationalism.

The strategy of this alliance, which won 47% of the regional vote in 2015,and 71 out of 135 seats in the devolved parliament, has been to blame ‘Madrid’ – with overtones of the profligate, lazy ‘Southerners’- for all their economic and political problems.

Appararently this is ‘civic nationalism’.

But then there are people who can convince themselves that the SNP is ‘left-wing’.

 

30 September 2011

Oppose the state crackdown on the Catalan independence referendum!

For working class unity! No to separatism in Spain!

 

Catalonia is Spain’s richest region, representing a fifth of the country’s GDP. The separatist parties aim to create a new mini-state, through which they can claw back taxes presently paid to central government, while establishing direct relations with the global banks, transnational corporations and the European Union. They hope to transform Catalonia into a low tax, free trade area based on stepped-up exploitation of the working class.

The Catalan nationalists and their pseudo-left backers dress themselves up as progressives. However, nothing fundamental distinguishes Catalan separatism from similar separatist formations across Europe—the Scottish Nationalist Party in the UK, or those of an explicitly right-wing character such as Italy’s Northern League and Belgium’s Vlaams Belang. In all these instances, separatism has emerged in regions enjoying some economic advantage over the rest of the country, which the local bourgeoisie seeks to exploit to its own benefit.

An “independent” Catalan republic, were it established, would be nothing of the sort. It would be even more dependent on the major powers, in Europe and internationally. In alliance with the EU, it would continue the policies the Catalan separatist parties pursued in their alliance with Madrid: brutal austerity, slashing funding for education, health care and other social needs and using police to smash strikes and protests. It would be a dead end for workers.

 

Against capitalist Spain and the creation of a capitalist Catalonia, the ICFI calls for building the United Socialist States of Europe!

Written by Andrew Coates

September 30, 2017 at 8:56 am