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Silhan Özçelik: Convicted of Wanting to Fight Islamist Murders and Insulted By Judge.

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Brave Silhan Özçelik: Convicted and Denigrated by Judge

The Guardian reports.

A British teenager who made a graveside pledge to devote herself to the PKK cause has been convicted of intending to join the proscribed Kurdish terrorist organisation to fight Islamic State.

Silhan Özçelik, 18, from north London, ran away from home, took a train to Brussels, and left behind letters and a video for her distraught family telling them she wanted to be a guerrilla fighter and was joining the Kurdistan Workers’ party’s women’s militia.

She is the first British citizen to be convicted for trying to join the campaign against Isis jihadis in Syria.

Özçelik, who was 17 when she went to Belgium in October 2014, had been “smitten” by the PKK since she was 13 after watching a film, Comrade Beritan, about a PKK female guerrilla who threw herself off a cliff rather than face capture and died in 1992.

She had also visited the Turkish grave of Leyla Saylemez, whose nom de guerre was Comrade Ronahi and one of three female PKK activists shot dead at a community centre in Paris in January 2013.

In the 25-minute video Özçelik left behind explaining her decision to her family, she said she had taken soil from Ronahi’s grave and made a promise, which she was now going to fulfil.

The jury at the Old Bailey dismissed Özçelik’s claim that she had invented the PKK story because she was running away to meet a 28-year-old man in Belgium with whom she hoped to kindle a romantic relationship, and wanted to spare her family shame in the strict, traditional Kurdish community.

Dan Pawson-Pounds, prosecuting, said the video and letters, in which she passionately described her love for the PKK, her wish to become a militant and “bride to the mountains”, and her desire for her family to be proud of her, “couldn’t be clearer or more consistent” with her long-held ambition to be a fighter and guerrilla.


Özçelik was “passionately engaged” with the PKK cause. She spoke of her anger that Islamic State at that time was crushing her people in Kobani, the largely Kurdish city in Syria, and that no men were going out there to fight against Isis. She was attracted by the active role women were allowed to play in the PKK, the jury was told.

She wrote: “Maybe I will go to Kobani, or I will not go. That is a different matter. It is up to the PKK to decide. But I see myself as a fighter, I see myself as a militant, a guerrilla.”

Özçelik was the baby of her family. She was 10 years younger than the youngest of her three siblings and found life in the strictly traditional family home restrictive. Her father, a chef, and mother, a textile factory machinist, gained political asylum in 1993 and settled in Britain. Though born in London, Özçelik identified strongly with her Kurdish roots and told school friends she used the name Dersim, the Kurdish name for the city of Tunceli – where the family of Comrade Beritan, the nom de guerre of Gülnaz Karataş, was from.

Posters, collages and Photoshopped pictures of PKK slogans and armed female guerrilla fighters were found in her bedroom. She had “glorified” the fighting and use of guns, especially by women, the prosecution said.

At the time she ran away she was a student of media studies at Holloway College. She had gained nine GSCEs at secondary school but then dropped out of her previous sixth form, where staff described her as “insular”, with few friends and seemingly “a bit depressed”.

She had lied to friends about her reasons for going to Belgium, telling them variously that she was going to visit an uncle, to study in Germany, to go travelling, or to escape a jealous ex-boyfriend, the jury heard.

There was no evidence Özçelik had joined the PKK, made contact with PKK members or travelled to Turkey or Syria before she returned to Britain from Cologne in Germany in January 2015 and was arrested at Stansted airport.

The jurors were told they had to be sure of two things: that she had the intention to commit acts of terrorism by joining the PKK, and that she engaged in conduct in preparation for the act. That preparation, said the prosecution, involved buying a one-way ticket to Brussels, recording a 25-minute video to her family and writing two letters to them saying she was joining the PKK and giving her reasons why, and by getting on the train to Belgium.

Before leaving, Özçelik had wiped most of the data from her mobile phone, which she left behind. She told her family she would be in contact, but that when she did they could not mention her name on the phone. This, the prosecution said, was consistent with her intending to join a terrorist organisation and knowing the authorities might be monitoring her communications.

Özçelik told the court she thought making the video was “cool” and she made it so that if things did not work out with the man in Belgium – and they did not – she would still be accepted back by her family. If they thought she had been fighting for the PKK, that was more heroic than the shame of knowing she had gone to meet a man, she said.

The jury of nine women and three men took five hours to reach a unanimous verdict.

Sentencing her to 21 months in a young offender institution, the judge, John Bevan, described her as “a stupid, feckless and deeply dishonest young woman”. Although there was no evidence she did anything to “advance the aim expressed in the video”, he told her she was “immature” and the “author of your own misfortune”.

Dismissing her counsel’s appeal for a suspended sentence, the judge added “any conviction for an offence of terrorism is serious”. He was not satisfied that the PKK was her only motive for travelling, and her emotions for Mehmet, the man in Belgium she said she hoped to have a relationship with, may have been a part, but the jury had decided “for a time at least”, joining the PKK was her intention.

He said her sentence was much reduced “because of the highly unusual factors of this case”. She would have to live with the “long lasting consequences of a conviction for terrorism”, he added .

As he passed sentence, sobs could be heard from the public gallery where members of her family had sat throughout the trial.


Özçelik is very young, she was very brave, full of emotion, and she wanted to fight an enemy that is unimaginably evil.

She does not deserve this sentence, nor does she merit the despicable comments of Judge John Bevan.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 21, 2015 at 5:06 pm

UN resolution: George Galloway to Back United Bombing Campaign Against Da’esh?

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Gun’em George?

The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a France-sponsored resolution Friday sending a unified message from the world powers to the international community “to redouble and coordinate” programs to suppress terrorist acts by “all necessary measures.”

The resolution singles out the territory under the control of the Islamic State or Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS, ISIL and Da’esh, in Syria and Iraq, but also points to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, including the Al-Nusrah Front, while it condemns the “horrifying terrorist attacks” in Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon, France and over Sinai. The text condemns hostage taking and killing as well as terror attacks, calling them “a threat to peace and security.”

CBS news.

Our old friend George Galloway has been having a bit of a change of heart recently,

George Galloway on shoot-to-kill

20 November 2015 Last updated at 00:47 GMT

Former Respect MP George Galloway says Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn should be clear in his backing for shoot-to-kill powers for police officers in the event of a terror attack.

Speaking on the BBC’s This Week, he says it is important officers are backed to “gun them down if necessary”.

He adds: “I would gun them down myself if necessary.”


These are some of his most recent retweets which reflect Galloway’s interest in getting this kind of UN resolution.


We understand that a full Galloway public statement supporting the UN resolution, and “programmes to suppress terrorist acts by ‘all necessary measures.’, including bombing and other uses of military forces, by countries, including Russia and France, may well be in the pipeline.

Meanwhile his former comrades in the Stop the War Coalition are sticking to the limits of this position:

Defeating ISIS means firstly cutting its support from some of the most reactionary regimes in the region, including Saudi Arabia. Secondly it means not creating further grievances which help to fuel its support. That means rejecting the idea that bombing and intervention can make things better. We are told that we need to be ‘doing something’ in the face of these attacks. It is precisely because what we have been doing in the region that we face this threat.

Stop the War works for a world without terrorism and imperialism, and will continue to campaign for a peaceful solution to the crises in the Middle East.


Written by Andrew Coates

November 21, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Silhan Özçelik, on Trial in London, Accused of Wanting to Fight Islamic State.

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Silhan Özçelik, Accused of Wanting to Fight Daesh.

Teenage girl ‘had dreamed of joining PKK since age of 13.

Reports the Guardian today

A British teenager dreamed for almost five years of joining the PKK, a proscribed terrorist organisation, after being inspired aged 13 by a film about a leading Kurdish female guerrilla fighter, a court has heard.

Silhan Özçelik left her north London home, leaving behind a video and letters for her distraught family explaining: “As you read this letter at this moment I will have joined the PKK ranks,” a jury at the Old Bailey was told.

In two letters and a video, Özçelik, then 17, explained she had first been motivated by a film about “comrade Beritan”, and had made a promise on the grave of another female guerrilla, “comrade Ronahi”.

Özçelik, now 18, took a train to Brussels on 27 October last year, explaining in the 25-minute video that she could not stand by and do nothing while Islamic State fighters occupied the largely Kurdish city of Kobani in northern Syria.

“Right now Kobani is under occupation,” she said in Turkish on the video, a translation of which was read to the court. “Our honour is being crushed there. But no men are setting out to go.”

Isis was “behaving like barbarians”, and raping women, she said. “Our race is dying. I can’t be expected to stay quietly here.”

The court heard she said she was prepared to go wherever the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ party, sent her, including Kobani. “I thirst for the guerilla like a flower in the desert,” she wrote in one letter. She said touching the PKK flag “brings a torrent of love”, and she was “in love with this cause for eternity”.

She wrote: “When I hear the name PKK my heart feels it’s going to burst. Nothing can stop this love.”

Özçelik, who was born in London and is of Kurdish descent, denies one charge of engaging in conduct in preparation for terrorist acts contrary to the Terrorism Act 2006.

She was arrested after flying into Stansted airport from Cologne in Germany on 16 January, and told officers: “That will teach me to run away from home,” and “I feel like I’m in a movie,” the court heard. She told them she had needed space from her family and an ex-boyfriend and had met with another boyfriend in Belgium.

This is incredibly moving.

The jury heard in one letter she wrote she had “started to dream about being a guerilla” when she was 13, and had wanted to join the PKK aged 15. At 16, she had told a “friend high ranking in the organisation”, but was “not taken because of my age”. She wrote she was rejected again at 17, on the grounds it was an emotional decision, the court was told.

In the video, she said she “took soil” from the grave of “comrade Ronahi”. “I made my promise at comrade Ronahi’s graveside. All that is left to do is complete it”.

Asking her family to be proud of her, she said: “I cannot be a revolutionary by holding placards for two days.”

She spoke of the way women were exploited, and treated like slaves, said the prosecution. She wanted to be “married to the mountains,” she wrote. “You are giving your only Silhan as a bride to the mountains,” she wrote to her three older siblings, the court heard.

More in the Islington Gazette.

Islington teen was ‘so happy to have become a militant’

Written by Andrew Coates

November 18, 2015 at 5:04 pm

The Aftermath of Friday: for a Left Politics against Islamism.

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The Aftermath of Friday: for a Left Politics against Islamism.

“Croire que la religion dans laquelle on a été élevé est fort bonne et pratiquer tous les vices qu’elle défend sont des choses extrêmement compatibles, aussi bien dans le grand monde que par le peuple.”

To believe that the religion in which one has been brought up in is kind and practice every evil that it forbids are two very compatible things, amongst the highest ranks as much as within the masses.

Pierre Bayle.  Pensées sur la comète, 1682

To watch, to listen, as the slaughters in Paris unfolded, to read and to think, as they sank in, was to be overcome by sadness and fellow-feeling. As witnesses told their stories, still shaking, the dignity of the survivors stood out. Fluctuat nec mergitur! Paris is shaken but has not sunk.

These are moments of high emotions. Love, solidarity, loathing and compassion. For yesterday reason was, rightly, the slave of the passions. Today and tomorrow we have to cast a colder light on what has happened and what should happen.

That ISIS, the Islamic State, Daesh, was prepared to murder is not news. Their killings in Iraq, in Syria, in Africa, and now in Beirut – scene of a tragedy shortly before Friday, and Paris, are present in the minds of millions. ISIS joins, as Hannah Arendt described totalitarian parties, these “secret societies established in broad daylight’.” (1) Modern media have made that daylight darker.

 The Middle East is now, it is observed, the site of  “phantom states” in large parts of Syria and Iraq. Not only ISIS but also al-Nusra are trying to build Islamic disciplinary regimes grounded on the Sharia. For the Islamic State religious governance is combined with, Weiss and Hassan claim, a “remarkably successful war economy”, with oil revenue supplemented by other contraband. They regulate and control prices. But it is the operation of their Sharia commissions that are at the heart of the machinery. The murder or enslavement of all who refuse to convert or bow to their form of Islam is only one side of their operation. Detailed rules for administrative and daily life are issued. The population is placed in a “Panoptican” of religious Gaolers. (2)

State capitalism to neo-liberalism? 

The left has tended to look at ISIS in terms of the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq. Patrick Cockburn, with field knowledge, has described the “takeover of Iraq by a Shia government, an event which began a process at the heart of the present conflicts, between those supporting this branch of Islam and the Sunnites. A quasi-official article by Anne Alexander in the Socialist Workers Party’s journal, International Socialism, follows this.  She talks of the transition from Arab nationalist (‘Baathist’) “state capitalism to neoliberalism”. Daesh appeared in the post-occupation chaos made worse by economic plundering, and above all because of the Iraqi Maliki – Shiite dominated – government (‘sectarian state’) tolerated/or encouraged death squads against Sunnis and opponents. The crushing of Islamic ‘reformism’ by authoritarian government during the Arab Spring, above all in Syria itself, destroyed an alternative. In these conditions ISIS, an elitist guerrilla force, began its march towards the Caliphate, outflanking even Al-Qaeda. (3)

The SWP speaks of the “counter-revolution”. In fact one ‘Islamic reformist’ movement, once hailed as a counterpart to European Christian Democracy, predating and largely unaffected by the Arab movements, has consolidated its power: Erdogan’s AKP. With Turkey in mind it is to be wondered just how any self-declared “non-sectarian” form of Islamism, however apparently ‘democratic’, is when put to the test of political power. In Tunisia concern that Ennahda would follow the same path helped remove the Islamists from power – in a country where democratic freedoms remains relatively unrestricted The Syrian anti-Assad movement in 2011 indeed had non-sectarian and democratic parts. They not longer feature with any weight on the battlefield.

Alexander makes much of the view that Marxists do not consider that ideas have a “life of their own”. But the most important “social content” of all the groups she considers is their ‘sectarianism’, the growing violent division between Shiites and the Sunnites.  It would be hard-going to find any uniform class explanation that could cover the vast regions this affects, from Pakistan to Lebanon, from Iran to the Gulf to Yemen. To discover the effects of imperialist interventions in the murderous acts of Islamists in Bangladesh and Nigeria, or the tyranny portrayed in the film Timbuktu would be equally ambitious. How Boko Haram is a product of the failure of ‘state capitalism’, that is ‘socialist’ nationalism, or Third Worldism,  is also of interest.

A Utopian Disciplinary Machine.

If we consider that ideology is a “lived relationship” we might begin by considering at least some of the views of Tom Holland. He traces one of the sources of Daesh to do-it-yourself interpretations of the Qur’an. Abandoning the fruitless effort to assert that they are not “real Muslims” Holland suggests that the Jihadists offer, in their terms, citations always to hand, their readings of scripture. We could say that the administrative apparatus of the Islamic State, from its bureaucratic eyes of god, to those eager to inflict the Hudud punishments, is a utopian disciplinary machine. Whether its version of Islam ever had any element of kindness is beyond the point. That it competes with others, including Al-Nusra’s own blood-strained contraption, and the Assad regime’s bringers of death, indicates that it is far from established. (4)

One of the main problems is not to frame the Islamic state within class oppression and exploitation. ISIS is clearly a bourgeois state, based on an exploitative war economy, and social oppression. The difficulty is that its appearance represents more than a “phantom” at the margins of already dislocated countries, or in the heart of the Syrian civil war, poised not only against Assad but against one of the few rays of hope in the region, the battling Kurdish forces and their allies. The Islamic state has attracted support in Europe, and elsewhere, from the Maghreb to further afield, as Paris so sadly indicates. And it appears to cut right across the view that the world had seen the last of totalitarian attempts to create sweeping tyrannies that crushed the life out of millions.

The idea that religion had become a private matter between believers and their god had won wide acceptance over the years. This did not mean that faith had evaporated. It related to the principle that the Divine no longer ruled the public domain. In Britain multi-culturalism was based on the idea that one of the pillars of multiculturalism was that religious groups ‘communities’ would be protected as part of civil society, with political clout, but not a decisive say in politics. In frame the secular assimilationist state, laïcité, distanced politics from religion. Yet as Kenan Malik notes, neither country has been successful in removing all support for the Jihadists. (Observer. 15.11.15)

Marcel Gauchet has set out the influential view that in the latest turn of secularism, this  “pluraliste-identaire-minoritaire” model, behind the apaprent divergence between the two types outlined above,  is becoming universal. Serious efforts to impose religion had retreated to the margins, becoming an attempt to escape society, not dominate it. (5)

Yet now the religious flame that burned right through counties seems to have returned. In the face of Islamic both militant secularism and the fuzziest multiculturalism met something which is truly ‘Other’. Daesh is not a classical ‘totalitarian’ movement. There is no ‘Egocrat’ representing the People as One. But the concept of an embracing Ummah, functions as if it were the European far-right’s Volk, or Race. No difference from the Word and no division, religious, social or political,  within the ‘Community’ is permitted. The ideology is far from free-floating: it has a material shape in a state machine “capturing” territory and suffocating populations, pulverising and condensing class conflicts. There is no room for pluralism, different identities, or minorities. The impure have to be subdued, converted, enslaved, or exterminated. Postmodernist leftists were accustomed to claim that Orientalism, including the ‘rationalist’ Marxist and Enlightenment left  made Islam into the Other. Now we have something hard and really Other, in the….Orient. (6)

This is, as they say, a limit point. Daesh fights more against Islamic heresy than against anything else. But it is plain as a pikestaff that no form of state where the Shariah, which by its principles denies equal rights to all, starting with women, and non-believers, rules, is compatible with human rights and the ‘divisive’ labour movement.

Absolute Opposition to Islamism.

The mood remains sombre. For Malik we should be “celebrating diversity while treating everyone as citizens, rather than as belonging to particular communities.” This are good principles. Nobody should exaggerate. We should not lose our nerve. The Islamic far-right, no more than the much more influential European xenophobic and racist parties, is not in a position to put millions to the sword.  But Islamism, taken state form, is not just a problem for the Middle East. It is, as Daesh, is the object of armed intervention, from Russia, from the US, from France from – still in debate – the UK. How can these conflicts be settled by bombing? Will there be more atrocities in Europe? What will happen if those who have joined the Daesh Einsatzgruppen return? It is a political issue for us all. If only some of the previous sentences are true, the first principle the left should work with is: absolute opposition to the political-religion of Islamism and support for the left and liberal forces opposing them on the ground.

  1. Page 376 The Origins of Totalitarianism. Hannah Arendt. André Deutsch. 1986 (1951) She developed the point, “Secret societies also form hierarchies according to degrees of ‘initiation’ regulate the life of their members according to a secret and fictitious assumption which makes everything look as though it were something else, adopt a strategy of consistent lying to deceive the no initiated external masses, demand unquestioning obedience from their members who are held together by allegiance to a frequently unknown and always mysterious leader, who himself is surrounded by the half-initiated who form a ‘buffer area’ against the hostile profane world.”(Page 376) They are “based on absolute hostility to the surrounding world, is very different from the ordinary parties; tendency to divide people into those who belong and those who don’t.”(Page 377).
  2. ISIS Inside the Army of Terror. Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan. Regan Arts. 2015. Archive of Islamic State Administrative Documents. 
  3. The Rise of Islamic State. ISIS and the new Sunni Revolution. Patrick Cockbrun. 2015. ISIS and counter-revolution: towards a Marxist analysis Anne Alexander. International Socialism.. 2015. No 125.
  4. Tom Holland: We must not deny the religious roots of Islamic State. New Statesman 15.3.15.
  5. La Religion dans la démocratie. Marcel Gauchet. Folio. 1998.
  6. On totalitarianism: Un homme en trop. Réflexions sur l’Archipel du Goulag. Claude Lefort. Belin edition. 2015. (Original 1974). This picture of the state is a very brief synthesis of the ideas of Mille plateaux.Gilles Deleuze et Félix Guattari. 1980. Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la Prison. Michel Foucault. 1975 and L’État, le pouvoir, le socialisme.Nicos Polunatzas. 1978.
  7. The answer is a global human resistance to Islamism.

Will Russian Israeli Military Alliance and US-Russian ‘Tacit Agreement’ throw Stop the War Coalition and Eustonites into Confusion.

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Obama and Putin

‘Tacit Agreement’ on Syria in Sight?

Russia-Israel military alliance in Syria is a breakthrough.

Pravda. 23.9.15.

The agreement reached in Moscow between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on a “mechanism to prevent misunderstandings between Israel and Syria” is to influence the power balance in the Middle East, Avigdor Eskin, the Israeli publicist told Pravda.Ru in an interview.

The Russian-Israeli joint military group will coordinate operations in Syria. This military cooperation is the first one since foundation of the Israeli state, Eskin noted. The military alliance will operate without the US as well as other Western countries. The parties have one opponent, that is the Islamic State, and misunderstandings can occur only on the Syria’s helping Hezbollah, which is declared a terror organization in Israel.

What about Bashar al-Assad, the expert says that the Israeli authorities realized that only his army can oppose the radical Islam, and he is the only intelligible negotiation leverage in Syria. Jihadists, which are currently in the Golan Heights (a disputed area between Israel and Syria) for instance, are backed by the US, and attack the Israeli territory.

Russia and the United States have reached a “tacit agreement” on ending Syria’s bloody crisis, a senior adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said.

Damascus (Agence France Press 24.9.15.)

“The current US administration wants to find a solution to the crisis in Syria. There is a tacit agreement between the US and Russia to reach this solution,” Bouthaina Shaaban said in an interview with state television late Wednesday.

“The US recognises now that Russia has profound knowledge of this region and a better assessment of the situation,” she said.

“The current international climate is heading towards detente and towards a solution for the crisis in Syria.”

Shaaban said there was a “change in the West’s positions” over Syria’s war, which has killed more than 240,000 people and displaced millions since 2011.


Yesterday on Newsnight the consequences of the Russian-US tacit agreement were discussed in some detail by a former UK ambassador to Moscow and Timothy Snyder (author of Bloodlands).

The main message of the former diplomat was the Russia was focused on the threat from violent Islamism, Daesh. The US had not been able to create an alternative to Assad and to the genocidal Islamists. In present conditions – not least the humanitarian crisis – it was important to get rid of the Islamic State before anything else.

Snyder noted that Putin had a long history of backing authoritarian regimes and had created problems in the Ukraine.

Which did not answer the point about the Middle East and defeating the Islamic State.


Today: Syria: U.S., Russia Reach ‘Tacit Agreement’ On Ending Syrian War; Obama And Putin To Meet Monday. (HGN)

“Russia has provided and will provide adequate support to the legitimate government of Syria in the fight against extremists and terrorists of all kinds,” Ilya Rogachev, head of Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for New Challenges and Threats, told RIA Novosti on Thursday.

Moscow announced Thursday it plans to hold naval exercises in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in September and October. On Wednesday, the Syrian military for the first time began using Russian drones, and the army has previously received at least five fighter jets along with tanks and artillery.

Now that Russia is militarily involved in Syria, there has been “a change in the West’s positions” over the Syrian war and the crisis “is heading towards detente and towards a solution,” according to Assad’s adviser.

As Stratfor writes, “Russia has rightfully judged that its direct intervention in Syria will force Washington to begin direct military-to-military talks with Moscow on the conflict.”

The White House announced Thursday that Obama and Putin will meet Monday afternoon in New York during a three-day session of the U.N. General Assembly, reported The New York Times. The two will discuss the conflicts in both Syria and Ukraine.

The wider consequences of this change are too great to be examined here.

The mention of Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia,  and Iran should make it obvious that the complexities of whatever is being negotiated are enormous.

But we can observe some effects on UK domestic politics, specifically on the left and foreign policy:

  • The Stop the War Coalition (StWC) has been a leading voice in this country criticising the US and its allies’ interventions in the Middle East. But it has done more than that: it has asserted that the US, and Israel, have been responsible for both the conditions that gave rise to the Islamic State, and that their present actions have to be firmly opposed.
  • The StWC has refused to offer anything remotely realistic to secure the minimal objective of defeating the Islamic state, or indeed, to defend the group which many on the left strongly identity with, the Kurdish people’s armed wings – the principal  democratic fighting opposition to the Islamist killers.
  • Will they continue to do this when Russia is a ‘tacit’ ally of the West?
  • What alternative will they  offer? Or simply, what will they say?
  • The Eustonites, such as Harry’s Place and their right-wing allies in Parliament and the media, have been vociferous in denouncing the StWC and their former Chair, Jeremy Corbyn, for complicity towards Russia and  anti–Israeli forces, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
  • The Eustonites have advocated (without about as many specifics as a StWC policy-statement) forceful intervention in Syria to create a democratic replacement to the Assad regime – without going into the slightest detail about what this will consist of. They have been prepared to fight to the last Syrian and last Kurd to secure that end.
  • Will they now continue to do so when Assad’s ally, Russia is now about to reach an understanding with the West, and when Moscow has already made an agreement with Israel?
  • What will they say?


It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how these two opposing groupings react to  developments in the coming days.

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

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Comrade Peter Tatchell Speaks for our Left.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Could Bombing Have Averted the Syrian Refugee Crisis?

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

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

What can we do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He concludes,

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

We are immensely glad that Peter has spoken out.

Sparticist League Backing ISIS: Once Again.

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Sparts Campaigning.

Spartacist League Forms Syrian Battalion in Support of ISIS

RAQQAH, SYRIA – Marking the first time since the Bolivian National Revolution that Trotskyists have rallied in armed defence of their values, members of the Spartacist League of Britain have travelled to “the Caliphate” in order to defend ISIS from “imperialism”.

The formation of the so-called “Hammer Battalion” follows an announcement earlier this week of Spartacist League support for ISIS military victory.

“However, a senior ISIS source has hinted that not everyone in the movement is supportive of the group’s actions: “They spend more time condemning others for not being ISIS enough than actually fighting. Three of our best men were killed last month in a fight over whether the Soviet Union was a ‘deformed’ or ‘degenerated’ worker’s state.”

See more on Workers’ Spatula.

The source for this?

SL/B National Conference Summer 2015. The fight for a Leninist party

We must guard against a tendency, noted in the documents adopted by the December 2014 plenums of the ICL International Executive Committee and the SL/US Central Committee, to succumb to the pressure bearing down on our party to weaken our opposition to imperialism. The reintegration of Crimea into Russia in the aftermath of an imperialist-sponsored, fascist-infested coup in Kiev and the referenda for “self-rule” in the East Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk were largely met with howls of outrage by the liberal and reformist left in the West…. We took a correct, Leninist stance in forthrightly declaring “Crimea is Russian” and in defending the right to self-rule in Eastern Ukraine.

The US, supported by Britain, is now at war with the Islamic State (ISIS), which was initially funded by extremist Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia. [An IS motion of 23 October 2014 said:] “We have a military side with the reactionary ISIL when it engages in military conflict with the imperialists and their local forces on the ground, including the Iraqi Kurdish pesh merga, the Baghdad government, Shi’ite militias and the Syrian Kurds. We give no political support to any of these retrograde forces.”…

The justification?

Here is some background:

Workers Vanguard 3rd of April 2015.

It is the duty of class-conscious workers everywhere, particularly in the U.S., to oppose all wars and occupations carried out by the imperialists. When the U.S. began air strikes against ISIS last year, we explained that “any force, however unsavory, that attacks, repels or otherwise impedes U.S. forces strikes a blow in the interests of the exploited and the oppressed” (“U.S. Out of Iraq! No Intervention in Syria!” WV No. 1051, 5 September 2014). We take a military side with ISIS when it targets the imperialists and forces acting as their proxies, including the Baghdad government and the Shi’ite militias as well as the Kurdish pesh merga forces in Northern Iraq and the Syrian Kurdish nationalists. This does not mean we give the slightest political support to the reactionary ISIS butchers.


Workers Hammer(UK) Winter 2014 – 15.

Many liberals and reformist organisations, while claiming to oppose the imperialists’ intervention in Syria/Iraq, are simultaneously backing the Kurdish forces that are acting as imperialist proxies. In the battle for the predominantly Kurdish city of Kobani in northern Syria, the US has carried out airstrikes against ISIS and dropped arms and other supplies to fighters on the ground, mainly from the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is allied to the nationalist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) based in Turkey. PYD military forces are acting as ground troops and spotters for the US imperialists, thus tying the fortunes of the oppressed Kurdish population to the imperialists’ war against ISIS. While we uphold the right of national self-determination for the Kurdish people, who are oppressed by the bourgeois regimes in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, “championing the Kurds in the current conflict can only mean lending support to imperialist plunder”, as we explain in “Down with US/British war against ISIS!”

Workers Vanguard. 31st October 2014.

ISIS today is in battle against the local tools of U.S. imperialism, the main enemy of the world’s working people. A setback for the U.S. in Syria might give pause to Washington in its military adventures, including by encouraging opposition at home. Such opposition adds to the tinder that must be ignited in class struggle against the capitalist rulers who, in their quest for ever greater profits, beat down the workers, black people and immigrants.

In our opinion the Sparts show the ultimate degeneration of revolutionary “defeatism” (wishing the destruction of one’s own ‘ruling class’ and its military).

This is where it led during the Second World War: saying that the Allies, backed by the French Resistance, were the same as the SS and Vichy.

One might say that the ultimate blame for this moral bankrupcy can be put at Trotsky’s feet.

As this indicates –  on the eve of the Second World War.

Trotsky sharply rejected any notion of taking sides in the war:

By his victories and bestialities, Hitler provokes naturally the sharp hatred of workers the world over. But between this legitimate hatred of workers and the helping of his weaker but less reactionary enemies is an unbridgeable gulf. The victory of the imperialists of Great Britain and France would not be less frightful for the ultimate fate of mankind than that of Hitler and Mussolini. Bourgeois democracy cannot be saved. By helping their bourgeoisie against foreign Fascism, the workers would only accelerate the victory of Fascism in their own country. The task posed by history is not to support one part of the imperialist system against another but to make an end of the system as a whole.

Just as in 1914, Trotsky was urging his followers to swim against the stream. In doing so, he cut through the ideological claptrap of the ‘democracies’ opposed to Hitler. What he failed to do was to offer any real indication of a strategy which would enable the tiny Trotskyist current to relate to the broad anti-Fascist movement that would emerge in occupied Europe.

More:  With the Masses, Against the Stream  Marxists Archive.

Ian Birchall, the author of the article cited above, is a lot more forgiving to the “errors” that resulted from these words than the Tendance is.