Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Archive for the ‘LCR’ Category

Free Speech and the Left.

with 5 comments

Image

Peter Thatchell: “I defend free speech but also warn against UK govt bid to punish universities that don’t stop free speech violations”

 

Readers of Socialist Worker this week will see two articles on Free Speech.

The first begins, ”

The battle to defend the right to speak out for Palestine has returned to universities.

Some students in Oxford tried to stop left wing ­filmmaker Ken Loach from speaking at a university event last week.

Tory education secretary Gavin Williamson ­demands that all universities adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition and its examples to shut down legitimate criticism of Israel.

Universities fight to protect solidarity with Palestine

The second,

In the middle of a pandemic the Tories have decided to launch further attacks on the left and anti-racists, while also claiming they want to protect free speech.

Tory education secretary Gavin Williamson is demanding that universities adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. Effectively this will prevent criticism of Israel.

He is also pushing for legislation that would compensate speakers who are denied a platform at universities if they feel their free speech has been infringed.

This could include fascists.

But the Tories are not interested in giving people a voice, and you can guarantee they won’t be standing up for Palestine campaigners.

Instead they are trying to use arguments around free speech to push their agenda and to limit criticism of themselves.

…..

They are seeking to deflect anger in society away from class struggle.

That means we need anti-racist unity against Patel and the rest. The Stand Up To Racism demonstrations on 20 March are an important chance to build the movement.

We should oppose Williamson’s “free speech” charade.

‘Free speech’ campaign is designed to aid the right

The SWP wish to defend their right to speak out on ‘Zionism’, and could not care less about defending the right to express other controversial opinons. They do not look into the government’s claim that “There are some in our society who prioritise ‘emotional safety’ over free speech, or who equate speech with violence.” Nor do they discuss claims that whether there is a “free speech crisis” or not, allegations of Transphobia have also been at the forefront of  de-platforming, well beyond the confines of academia. One can only wonder at the reasons for the omission.

There is equally the issue of freedom of expression in the Labour Party, as this campaign indicates.

It is fair to say that for universities, and political parties and voluntary associations,  it up them to decide. As Ian Dunt argues (referring to academic bodies)  “It is not for government to make these decisions. It is for institutions and the people within them. That is where the fight for free speech operates. Not in the corridors of Whitehall.” But if we apply to this to the Labour Party there is no reason why the party’s rules on anti-Semitism and other forms of racism should not be applied to what is a voluntary body

In an effort to reconcile the contradictions in this approach Jewish Voice for Labour has just published an article from the left populist US journal Jacobin.

A socialist approach to Free Speech

Few writers in the USA would ever attack free speech as such. He talks of the liberal writer Timothy Garton Ash, Instead Faber offers a rambling discussion of how “social and economic inequality largely ignored by Garton Ash also play critical roles in limiting free speech. ”

But that is not exactly the point, since the view advanced is that certain speech is not acceptable.

One limit that crops up immediately is the right to offend, defended by Charlie Hebdo. To poke fun at Islam,  as they do, is not acceptable, the author judges, because he asserts that Islamophobia was rampant in France,

 

Garton Ash’s disregard for racism and discrimination is nowhere clearer than in his discussion of the vicious killings at the Parisian magazine Charlie Hebdo. In Free Speech, Garton Ash fails to mention France’s rampant Islamophobia as a factor in the attack. Indeed, at the time, he had no qualms about appealing for a “week of solidarity” in which newspapers would have simultaneously published a “carefully presented selection of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, with an explanation of why they were doing so.”

…..

What Garton Ash fails to recognize is that antisemitism or anti-Catholicism were marginal phenomena at the time of those publications, whereas Islamophobia was at its height during and following the Hebdo attacks. Supporting the right to offend as an element of free speech can still take into account whether the offended represent marginalized communities.

In a measured tone (which contrasts with most of the anti-Charlie speakers, from Tariq Ali to the above SWP)  he concludes,

This is not meant to suggest that censorship should be enacted to end Islamophobia. Rather, the government and civil society should work together to develop a political climate that strongly repudiates Islamophobia and supports the vigorous legal punishment of anti-Muslim discrimination.

In other words governments and ‘civil society’ should   create an atmosphere that repudiates Charlie Hebdo. There is no word on defending their right to satire, to caricature, religion.

Peter Thatchell expresses a contrary positon,

For the Jacobin writer, free speech should neverthless be defended with few qualification for critics of Zionism and for their activities in universities.

A Socialist Approach deplores the ,

broader campaign against critics and opponents of Zionism. PEN America’s 2016 study found that many Zionist individuals and institutions have attempted to bar the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign from campuses throughout the United States. For example, journalist Glenn Greenwald and others denounced a campaign by the Board of Regents of the University of California to ban anti-Israel criticism and activism in the name of combating antisemitism. Meanwhile, campuses nationwide have been pressured to fire pro-Palestinian professors and adopt reprisals against pro-Palestinian groups.

Farber concludes, after some reference to Rosa Luxemburg and the democratic advances of the labour movement, in these hard-to-make-sense-of sentences.

Consistent with this approach, we must defend free speech on its own terms, not merely because it helps to organize and fight for a new society. In this, free speech does not differ from the economic advances the working class and its allies have won. They are valuable both in their own right and because they strengthen the working class and its allies in their struggle for their emancipation.

By contrast most discussion of free speech focuses on why it is valuable in its “own right”. 

It is not Voltaire but the liberal, feminist and supporter of greater economic democracy.  John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873) who advanced some of the strongest arguments for free speech in the celebrated On Liberty 1859.. He was concerned with the claims of authority, the ability of governments and institutions, to repudiate and prevent differing opinons. Truth he believed would emerge in the open expression of views and debate. Socialists may wish to eliminate the inequalities of power and money that give make some voices louder than others. But is not because we consider that out definition of an emancipatory end is right that we would wish to advance the free exchange of different standpoints. We have to accept the possibility not only that truth will emerge from debate but that between different claims the “nonconforming” opinion corrects a one-sided assertion.

These are not arguments about the ‘market place of ideas’ abstracted from history. A thread owes something to Milton’s call for unlicensed printing, which sees truth emerging from darkness by expose to the light Areopagitica; (1644). But it is largely about politics in the broadest sense. From the density of controversy we can see the uncertainty of democratic political life, from the challenge to centres of authority, we can see the indeterminacy of power, the absence of a permanent office holder, of the democratic ‘absent place’, the refusal to fix society in one shape run from the centre (ideas outlined in the writings of Claude Lefort on the ‘democratic revolution’).  In short, for pluralism and a belief in the power of persuasion.

Standing for this possibility may run against claims that the ruling ideas of society, and the bodies that support them hold sway. But if the left does not have the ability to convince others of our beliefs how can we ‘make socialists’ who can counter them? ,

Like the great French defender of tolerance the British political philosopher was concerned primarily with clashes between different religious beliefs, the “rags and remnants” of past persecutions. Mill equally was out to defend amongst the  “diversity of opinion” the right to scepticism about religion. Liberty of thought, of speaking and writing should be part of the political morality of free institutions, and the rule in countries which practice religious toleration. He was, in this context and using more modern language, concerned with asserting the right to speak out against those in power (‘authority’), whether in the state or in the Church.

Here are some of his central arguments in favour of freedom of expression.

First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility. Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.

There was, for Mill, one limit (known retrospectively as the ‘harm principle’).

An opinion that corn-dealers are starvers of the poor, or that private property is robbery, ought to be unmolested when simply circulated through the press, but may justly incur punishment when delivered orally to an excited mob assembled before the house of a corn-dealer, or when handed about among the same mob in the form of a placard. Acts of whatever kind, which, without justifiable cause, do harm to others, may be, and in the more important cases absolutely require to be, controlled by the unfavourable sentiments, and, when needful, by the active interference of mankind. The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people.

It does not take a leap to see how this can be extended to a distinction between what Farber calls “racist persuaders and violent racist intimidators.” Property is not the issue here. The original tactic of “no platforming” which was a street demonstration strategy of combatting violent far-right groups, like the National Front and the British Movement in 1970s Britain who set our faces against a “mob” of King and Country racists parading through towns and cities.

This, to say the least, was not about being hurt by the expression of views during talks they they are not obliged to listen to, books they do not have to read, or media which they do not have to look at.

It is hard to deny that right of groups of students or workers at universities to invite/host who they want to come and speak (with the above limitations in mind) is an important foundation for  a lively campus civil society and to students’ and university workers’  ability to organise and campaign on political and social issues.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 19, 2021 at 11:21 am

Corbyn in Backstairs Dealing with Tories to Try for ‘Soft Brexit’.

with 5 comments

Yet Corbyn is widely reported to be doing everything he can to save Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn has said he will work with Conservative MPs to try to avert a no-deal Brexit.

The Labour leader met with senior Tories Sir Oliver Letwin and Nick Boles on Wednesday to discuss their plan for a softer Brexit.

Speaking afterwards, he said he was “reaching out to all groups in parliament” and “looking at all the options” to prevent no deal.

It comes with talks between the UK and EU deadlocked and just days left for Theresa May to secure new compromises before MPs vote against on her deal next week.

Independent.

Sienna Rodgers writes on Labour List.

All options are on the table. Some commentators and members are surprised – or perhaps just disappointed – that this remains the case: they expected that the twice-defeated Labour Brexit deal would be shelved by the party once support for another EU referendum was declared. But the leadership has made it clear all along that it is still looking to push for an alternative that involves leaving the EU (although also willing to whip for a public vote). The main reasons are two-fold: it is opposed to the idea, on ideological and electoral grounds; and it knows that a second public vote proposal is unlikely to pass in the Commons. Jeremy Corbyn has written in The Mirror today that “getting Brexit right” is his focus.

As well as publicly campaigning for “Our Alternative”LabourList understands that the leader’s office has been quietly working with the Common Market 2.0 group to draft a new Brexit amendment. Made up of Labour’s Lucy Powell and Stephen Kinnock, plus Nick Boles, Oliver Letwin and Robert Halfon from the Tories, this cross-party initiative has been campaigning for a deal consisting of single market membership and a new customs arrangement. They say it meets Labour’s six tests and only requires changes to the political declaration in Theresa May’s deal.

Perhaps Corbyn really believes that through these attempts at  backroom deals he is doing his best to secure a deal on Brexit that meets Labour’s six tests.

But the very way this is being carried out is deeply distasteful, not in front of Labour’s membership, but with Toires, and not doubt Corbyn’s famous pro-Brexit ‘advisers’. Playing along with Labour’s Brexit supporters will raise the hackles of the wider membership as well

It is equally hard to believe, despite the pro-leadership spin,  that anything that’s the result of negotiations with the Tories will meet this “2. Does it deliver the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union?” and 4. Does it defend rights and protections and prevent a race to the bottom?

The Labour List report continues on the last issue:

People’s Vote campaigners aren’t happy, of course, and say such moves contradict the conference policy agreed in September. But others contend that the composite motion – which promised “full participation in the single market” – is actually more in line with the ‘Norway Plus’ group plan than anything else. And the leadership is keen to point out that avoiding ‘no deal’ is the priority, and if a fresh public vote proposal has no chance of securing a Commons majority, isn’t backing a softer Brexit the only way to do that? Nonetheless, Clive Lewis – who is still a shadow minister – has called the latest strategy a “grave error”. PV-ers are determined not to back any kind of Brexit now. But with around 30 on the Labour benches prepared to defy the whip to vote against PV, it will be interesting to see whether that changes. If the mood does shift after their preferred plan of another public vote is substantially defeated next week, Common Market 2.0 could be the future of Brexit.

Here is  Clive Lewis:

Here is  alternative to the ‘Soft’ Brexit Labour leader’s.

On 23 March, six days away from the scheduled exit day, hundreds of thousands of people will march to demand a final say on Brexit.

We are coming together as the left in all our diversity to organise a massive left bloc and rally for the march, to put forward a clear left message and to bring as many people as possible on to the streets.

We are campaigning to transform society, not for the status quo. We are against Brexit because it is a massive assault on working-class people, on the environment, on migrants and on the communities that the left aims to represent.

We will put forward the positive politics of internationalism: for the transformation of Europe and Britain, for free movement, for international cooperation to stop climate chaos, and for solidarity between people and across borders. We urge everyone on the left to join us on 23 March at 11am at Grosvenor Square in London.

Marsha de Cordova MP, Clive Lewis MP, Kate Osamor MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Preet Gill MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Rachael Maskell MP, Sandy Martin MP, Rosie Duffield MP, Chi Onwurah MP, Anna McMorrin MP, Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley Co-leaders of the Green party, Amelia Womack Deputy leader of the Green party, Manuel Cortes TSSA general secretary, Joseph Healy Principal speaker of Left Unity, Michael Chessum Another Europe is Possible, Nadia Whittome Labour for a Socialist Europe, Zoe Williams Journalist, Julie Ward MEP

Guardian. 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 7, 2019 at 2:05 pm

David Aaronovitch’s Voodo Smear Againt Corbyn ‘link’ with Red Action.

with one comment

Many people on the left knew Red Action.

They were capable of talking the arse out of an iron pot on solidarity with the “Irish Struggle”.

I am not writing this off the top of my head…..

Apparently this is news to the above:

But  what of the link between Corbyn and the group?

As I mentioned many people on the left came across Red Action, and the group it helped create in 1995, the Independent Working Class Association.

Many suggest  Aaronovitch looked into his own oeuvre – Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theory Has Shaped Modern History  (2009) – before writing this

Zelo Street answers this.

I make no apologies for re-posting to add to the audience to this excellent piece of work:

Murdoch Corbyn IRA Bomb Smear BUSTED.

This is not a new idea from the Murdoch mafiosi: back in September 2015, the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, who claims to be the Sun’s Westminster Correspondent, claimed “JEREMY CORBYN TRIED TO FUND IRA BOMBER’S FLIGHT … The embattled new Labour leader handed over £45 to Irishman Sean O’Regan, who approached him inside Parliament to claim he was part of an IRA active service unit”.

Sadly, Master Cole was peddling a pack of lies: it was one of Corbyn’s staff who ponied up the £45, and as soon as Jezza found out, he called the cops. But now has come a new twist on the IRA claim from allegedly sensible pundit David Aaronovitch: “Finally, for a completely different reason, I’ve been going back over the 1993 Warrington bombing. There’s a big possibility that it was carried out by far-left people associated with a group called Red Action. I offer no prizes for which Labour figure was close to Red Action”.

Nudge nudge, wink wink, nod’s as good as  a wink to a blind hack,eh? But let’s take this pointless smear one step at a time. The Provisional IRA admitted responsibility for the Warrington bombings (plural) – that is, the gas works bombing in February 1993, and the town centre bombing the following month. It was speculated by a BBC Inside Out Broadcast in 2013 that it could have been an English “rogue” IRA unit.

The programme suggested that those who planted the town centre bombs were members of Red Action, despite the gas works bombing the previous month most certainly being carried out by an Irish IRA unit – some of whose members were caught in the aftermath of planting their device. And where does Jezza come in?

Indeed.

The Murdoch press is unequivocal in telling readers of its ultimate objective in attacking Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn: it wants him removed from the leadership. This reinforces the admission from the Mail last week. But thus far, the campaign has been ineffective, and so it is being stepped up. That means a new smear exercise in which Jezza gets blamed for IRA activity on the British mainland. I kid you not.

You’ll love this. The claim of a connection between Corbyn and Red Action was made last weekend in the Sunday Times, under the by-line of … Andrew Gilligan. Yes, Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan, the clown who fouled up the reputation of the BBC Radio 4 Todayprogramme single handed, but still managed to escape censure from his press pals for his part in the outing of weapons inspector David Kelly.

So what’s his best shot? “Corbyn spoke at at least three Red Action meetings between 1985 and 1992 and the group sometimes met at his then constituency office, ex-members said”.

Convenient hearsay, just in time to start the next wave of smears. Oh, and “Jeremy Corbyn came to the attention of police after becoming involved with Red Action” might sound dead good until the obvious reality check is made on the claim.

Note: everybody on the left who knows about Red Action finds this direct Corbyn tie-in beyond any credibility

The post continues:

Corbyn had to undergo an extensive security vetting to become a Privy Counsellor. If there was anything like that in his background, he wouldn’t have passed muster.

Andrew Gilligan doesn’t know any better. But David Aaronovitch should. And he should be ashamed of himself. But in the end, all this proves is that the purchasing power of the Murdoch shilling remains undimmed after all these years. I’ll just leave that one there.

Then there is the issue of the “big possibility ” that  Red Action rather than the IRA carried out the Warrington Bombing.

It is widely noted that the Wikipedia entry on this was altered the day Aaronovitch made his assertion,

This is another source:

Anti-Fascist Archive

THE LARGEST PUBLIC COLLECTION OF ANTI-FASCIST ACTION MATERIAL

The Warrington Bomb and Red Action.

2003.

Recently, BBC North West’s Inside Out programme conducted an investigation into the 1993 Warrington bombing. Ending the police’s embarrassment of not catching the killers of Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry was, seemingly, the motivation. Inside Out speculates that the perpetrators of the lethal bombing were Jan Taylor and, Red Action member, Patrick Hayes. Inside Out asks that when the police were looking for Irish suspects; should they have been looking for a rogue IRA active service unit made up of Englishmen.

The documentary’s evidence supporting their claim leaves some questions. First is the linking of the bin bombing and gas works bombing in Warrington to the Harrods bin bombing and the bombing of a gas works in Tyneside. They are linked by target but, it is also implied, by suspects. The Tyneside gas works was bombed by an Englishman; the Warrington gas works by Irishmen. That the Warrington gas bombing was conducted by Irishmen wasn’t mentioned in the documentary. Partially based upon this faulty evidence the programme reasons that the Warrington bin bombing was carried out by the Harrods bin bombers: Hayes and Taylor. The film insinuates that English IRA active service units were attacking similar targets but Warrington gas bombing was done by Irishmen.

Another problem with the same targets, same nationality of suspects theory is that Hayes and Taylor were also convicted of bombing a train. Where does the train attack fit in to Inside Out’s story?

Inside Out uses Hayes’ Red Action membership as more evidence of guilt. Firstly, the programme doesn’t make it clear that only Hayes was a Red Action member, Taylor wasn’t. The programme also points out Red Action favoured “chicken-box bombs”, like the one used by Hayes and Taylor. The fact is that Red Action has never been found to have bombed anything. The implication is that Red Action had a bombing campaign but they did nothing of the sort. Why would Red Action favour a certain bomb when they had nothing to do with bombing?

Red Action is painted as a shadowy organisation. Whilst certainly secretive it was hardly unreachable. The IndependentITV and the BBC had all interviewed Red Action. The organisation was very openly pro-IRA, it was on the front of its newspaper and on its stickers; it wasn’t a secret. It was not the underground network Inside Out would have us believe.

Another claim is that the (or these?) English IRA active service unit were rogue or not in the loop. It is pointed to that the IRA was already at the peace table so why would they need to continue bombing? Furthermore, the polices’ claim that the IRA didn’t use the correct code words is their evidence of the bombers being rogue. But the IRA disputed that the wrong codes were used at the time. It’s a ‘he said; she said’ situation in which the truth may never be known.

Inside Out’s own evidence can be used to dispute the rogue unit idea. To provide evidence that there was a campaign to bomb certain targets in England they discuss how the IRA’s top man in England was caught with a list of targets, including gas works, and semtex. If the orders were coming from the IRA’s leading volunteer in England how were the active service units rogue or acting alone?

The evidence presented implying the guilt of Patrick Hayes and Jan Taylor is hardly clear cut. The idea that English IRA units were bombing the same targets isn’t true and the idea they were rogue has little evidence. I believe the documentary provides more questions than answers. The simplest being what was the purpose of documentary? And why now?