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Socialist Workers Party Thuggery Returns.

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“SWP stewards overturned the AWL stall, stole leaflets and threatened violence while we were leafleting at Marxism, for our meeting on the left and Brexit.”

Today (Saturday 7 July), a group of Workers’ Liberty supporters went along to the SWP’s annual Marxism festival. We wanted to talk to attendees and challenge some of the SWP’s politics, and especially their support for “Lexit” during the European referendum.

We were leafleting for a fringe meeting hosted by ourselves – The Left Should Oppose Brexit. One of the guest speakers was from Another Europe is Possible/Left Against Brexit.

The result of this activity? The SWP first overturning and breaking our stall while it was set up outside the Institute of Education. The material overturned from the stall was picked up by SWP organisers and put on the floor on the footpath. One of the organisers stole a chunk of the Brexit event leaflets. Some of the material was torn up.

Later, when standing outside Student Central (Malet Street) SWP members stood round our leafleters making petty comments and obstructing them for over an hour.

Behaving like police enforcers against picketers or demonstrators we were continually asked to move one or two metres in order to stand on the pavement. One SWPer challenged one of our members to a fight.

The image shows the result of a gang of them coming to remove us from IoE: the stall on it’s side, broken with a pile of material in the gutter, including some which has been ripped up.

The SWP have form here. At Marxism 1993 two of our comrades were physically assaulted by SWP thugs (see what we published about it here). At the time the AWL launched a campaign against violence in the labour movement. We said then and we repeat it now: the left has disagreements but these should always be resolved by discussion and debate.

It should be completely taken for granted that the left should interact without resorting to physical obstruction, removal from venues, destroying literature and threatening physical fights.

Workers’ Liberty.

The SWP has promoted a call for ” a united mass movement” against the rise in racist far-right street protests and this,

Unity protest against Tommy Robinson, Trump and the far-right.

Some on the left (Socialist Resistance) have already noted that,

Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) and Unite Against Fascism (UAF) mobilised about 300 people against them. Both these groups are front organisations of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and receive their political direction from its leadership. They are sometimes able to get Diane Abbott or Jeremy Corbyn to speak at their events but they have no relationship with Labour Party members and many on the left are unwilling to work with them because of their leaderships’ role in dealing with an allegation of sexual assault. Whatever one’s political judgement on that view, it’s a fact which won’t go away.

What kind of unity can we have with the burly SWP toughs who act in this way against political critics on the left?

Having been to the Chartist AGM yesterday where one of the main speakers in the morning was the same as the one addressing the later in the day meeting the AWL were advertising (see above), Alena Ivanova (Another Europe Is Possible), perhaps the SWP should had come to Toynbee Hall and beaten us up as well.

Some History:

This year’s Marxism was marred by a disgraceful physical assault by SWP national organiser Martin Smith. Mark Fischer demands the setting up of a workers’ commission to investigate

On July 7, the second full day of Marxism, Socialist Workers Party national organiser Martin Smith physically assaulted comrade Simon, a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Tower Hamlets branch of Respect.

Weekly Worker 11.7.2007.

Martin Smith is better known as Comrade ‘Delta’.

In 2010 a man called Martin Smith (“Comrade Delta”) was the National Secretary of the SWP, its day to day leader, the person who employs the other party workers. In July of that year, a 19 year old woman (“Comrade W”) complained that he had mistreated her. She didn’t use the word “rape”, but the people who met her and heard her knew what she was talking about.

More here.

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

July 8, 2018 at 11:18 am

New Split in Labour Against the Witch-hunt as Grassroots Black Labour Leaves.

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New Split After “difficulties encountered on the LAW SC”

Official statements from: Grassroots Black Left leaves LAW

Marc Wadsworth and Deborah Hobson of Grassroots Black Labour have decided to part company with Labour Against the Witchhunt to concentrate on GBL.

GBL’s statement announcing their withdrawal

Grassroots Black Left has decided to withdraw its representatives from the Labour Against the Witchhunt steering committee. GBL will continue to work with individuals and organisations in the fight against unjust Labour Party suspensions and expulsions, as long as they respect the important principles of black self-organisation and self-determination.

We will vigorously resist any attempts to make GBL subordinate to the will of individuals and groups who choose to misuse their power or positions. While recognising the good work LAW has done, particularly by its local activists who have helped GBL, Jewish Voice for Labour and the Labour Representation Committee make the #Justice4Marc national speaking tour a success, difficulties encountered on the LAW SC have made it impossible for us to stay on that body.

A broad-based, non-sectarian, mass campaign against the purge is desperately needed by all those comrades affected by it. GBL notes many of the victims have been black people, Muslims and Jews. They must therefore be at the heart of the fightback. GBL is totally opposed to anti-black racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. But we deplore the cynical weaponisation of false accusations of anti-Semitism, which have undermined the genuine fight against racism and support for the Palestinians. When the targets have been black, including GBL member Marc Wadsworth, this has damaged much-needed unity between black people and Jewish people.

We recognise the main objective of the right wing, who have been driving the purge, is to attack Jeremy Corbyn’s progressive leadership of the Labour Party. Appeasement and capitulation is not the best way to defeat them.

GBL will continue to work with JVL, LRC, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Red Labour, supportive LAW groups and others committed to stopping the purge, getting Marc reinstated by Labour and the Shami Chakrabarti report recommendations on the party’s disciplinary procedures implemented.

The LAW steering committee sent the following short reply

Dear GBL comrades,

We regret that Grassroots Black Left has decided, in its May 27 statement, to withdraw its representatives, Marc Wadsworth and Deborah Hobson, from the steering committee of Labour Against the Witchhunt. We hope that GBL and LAW can cooperate fully in campaigning against all unjust suspensions and expulsions of Labour Party members, including for the reinstatement of Marc Wadsworth.”

It was signed by remaining SC members Tony Greenstein, Stan Keable, Steve Price, Jackie Walker and Tina Werkmann (SC members are elected as individuals, not as delegates, by voting at membership meetings).

….

Grassroots Black Labour: Labour Party black sections reborn as a new movement (2018)

Grassroots Black Left is a new grouping aimed at revitalising black and ethnic minority participation. DEBORAH HOBSON reports from its parliamentary launch

 

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Comment: One can only guess at the ‘difficulties’ involved but the name of the first individual (aka Monster Raving)  suggests one possible reason, another  is perhaps the involvement of Labour Party Marxists, that is,  the Weekly Worker.

The latter had got extremely hot under the collar with the Tendance and our allies all last week.

Now we know one of the reasons why they were so vexed with left criticisms of their campaign – not the principle,  the campaign.

Still LAW representatives have been busy, including, we hear, giving an interview on Iranian regime Press TV. 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 2, 2018 at 12:43 pm

The Weekly Worker and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty: A Forgotten Love Affair.

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Spooky but True: the Untold Tale of Weekly Worker AWL Unity.

Followers of the minutiae of the left,  and there are them, will know that no bitterer enemies exist than the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee CPGB-PCC). and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

Both publish papers, which it has to be said, many on the left read, the former’s Weekly Worker for its articles on theory, socialist history its reports on Italy, Iran,  and some other European countries, curious letters, and serious book reviews. The AWL’s Solidarity has valuable – accurate – reports on trade union and welfare issues, the Labour Party, and covers the history of the left, and international topics. It  also carries good coverage of books.

The two groups are now locked in a never-ending battle.

“Social-imperialism” and  comparisons with ‘Stasi busybodies” are some of the milder terms used by the Weekly Worker to describe their foes in the AWL. The AWL dismisses the, admittedly groupusculaire  WW, and its key ally, the Monster Raving Geenstein Party.

Yet things were not always so….

It was in the year 2000.

Spring was coming. The world was full of daffodils and gamboling hares. And love.

Report of a partisan observer John Bridge and other Weekly Worker writers discuss the AWL 09.03.2000

Five observers from the Communist Party of Great Britain attended the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’s 7th conference over the weekend of March 4-5. In general we met with a friendly reception. There was certainly a keen interest in our ideas, as witnessed by a sale of over 40 copies of the Weekly Worker. An impressive figure and much to the credit of the AWL – especially given that there were no more than around 80 of their comrades in attendance.

..

The AWL is a small organisation of serious revolutionaries – it has 110 full and a handful of candidate members – with a relatively long history in Britain’s Trotskyite milieu. Once they existed as a faction in Tony Cliff’s International Socialism organisation. That is, until they were bureaucratically expelled. Since then, led by Sean Matgamna, they have been through a labyrinthine series of name changes, primeval unities and fragile partnerships. However, what distinguishes the AWL from that which often falsely passes itself off as Trotskyism is its culture of comparative openness and a willingness to think.

..

We in the CPGB share and defend exactly that approach.

Love blossomed,

Rapprochement begins

Two representatives of the CPGB’s Provisional Central Committee and two representatives of the AWL’s National Committee met on Friday March 3.

Discussion began with Mark Fischer outlining the history of the PCC’s struggle for a reforged CPGB and why we put Partyism at the centre of our work. It was explained to the comrades from the AWL that we have no CPGB golden age. Our project is about the future, not the past.

We also discussed the importance of trade union bulletins and trade union work. CPGB comrades assured the AWL representatives that we had no objections to trade union work nor trade union bulletins. There was, however, the matter of priorities.

Blair’s constitutional revolution was raised, along with the national question in Wales and Scotland. One AWL comrade did not see why we were so concerned with such issues. This led on to what the CPGB’s PCC understands by economism.

The entry work the CPGB carried out in the SLP was praised and criticised by the AWL comrades. We replied that it was easy to criticise from the outside.

The commitment of the CPGB to a minimum-maximum programme was touched upon. CPGB comrades questioned the AWL about their project of a new Labour Representation Committee. We were told that this was for propaganda purposes and at the moment was of no particular importance.

The principles of democratic centralism were emphasised by the CPGB comrades, as was the need for a polemical communist press in the conditions of today. We stressed the necessity of engaging with advanced workers – ie, those susceptible to theory.

Both sides agreed to hold a further meeting in mid-March and to have a joint day school in early April on the Party question. The three headings of debate will be: economism; organising the class; party and programme.

Halcyon days!

CPGB-AWL rapprochement. 27.7.2000.

Representatives of the CPGB and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty have been meeting to explore areas of difference and agreement between us. Over the coming weeks, we will feature edited minutes, starting here with those of the March 3 meeting. Comments and criticisms are welcome.

Agreed in conclusion: to put economism; organising the revolutionaries to revolutionise the labour movement; and Party and programme – minimum-maximum and transitional – on the agenda for a day school (date to be fixed). Next four-hander discussion: Friday March 17, to cover minimum-maximum and transitional programmes, and the nature of the ‘official communist’.

CPGB-AWL cooperation. 15.11.2001.

The Communist Party of Great Britain and the Alliance for Workers? Liberty are continuing to explore areas of theoretical difference and agreement, and are looking at the possibility of joint work. Representatives of the executive committee of the AWL and the Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB met recently to discuss a number of issues of current practical concern and issues of ongoing debate between the two organisations.

Alas.

The dalliance did not last, as this document (January 2003) indicates.

Followed by,

By Paul Hampton
The CPGB, those pretentious squirrels of left-wing tittle-tattle, outdid themselves by chickening out of a debate with the AWL over Iraq.

They have sought in vain to manufacture mischief with some AWL comrades who disagree with the group’s position on Iraq. After a series of private e-mails demanding that the AWL minority agitate to “clear out the leadership of the scabs”, the CPGB invited David Broder to debate with them at their overinflated “communist university”, under the title: troops out – but when? David referred the matter to the AWL office, which generously put up Sean Matgamna to speak for our politics.

The Weekly Worker responded in the shape of a piece by a certain Ian Donovan.

Workers’ Liberty: Descent into cultism

Ian Donovan assesses the current trajectory of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

Being “transnational Jewish bourgeoisie” Donovan one can imagine the angle he took on the Palestine Israel issue which divided the two groups.

Yet the vicarious-Zionist AWL has issued not one word of criticism or analysis of this ultra-reactionary phenomenon, which is one of the key, concrete manifestations of Zionism today.

He defended George Galloway,

the matter in hand is to defend Galloway against the bourgeois witch-hunt.

And,

Whether over Galloway, the question of the Iraq war, Israel-Palestine, the Socialist Alliance (where it has squandered an enormous opportunity to be joint initiators of a genuinely broad paper of a pro-party minority), the AWL is retreating headlong back into the most bizarre and unsavoury forms of sectarianism.

Our interest in this tale is waning, so I will end there, yet it remains etched on many a broken heart.

Leftist Trainspotting Fun from Labour Party Marxists, from “bewildered” LRC, “silent Corbyn”, to AWL Stasi “busybodies”.

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Labour Party Marxist in the Thick of the Class Struggle.

The Irish Socialist Workers Party has dissolved itself into a “network”. “The change in name to Socialist Workers Network reflects a decision to focus on building People Before Profit, and within that to win and educate as many members as possible in revolutionary socialist politics.” (SW Ireland)

Now while the SWN is honest about what it is doing, and has good reasons to do so given that People Before Profit has some, limited, political presence, we cannot say the same for Labour Party Marxists.

This is from its mission statement,

  1. The central aim of Labour Party Marxists is to transform the Labour Party into an instrument for working class advance and international socialism. Towards that end we will join with others and seek the closest unity of the left inside and outside the party.

No doubt about that  which it trumpets – if that’s the right word for declarations that practically nobody ever reads.

But  there’s nothing about LPM’s inks with the Weekly Worker and the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee CPGB-PCC).

The Weekly Worker is a paper which produces some interesting material, some indeed very useful articles, but whose owners, said CPGB-PCC, have taste for political stunts not to mention an alliance with cascadeur  in chief, Tony ‘Monster Raving’ Greenstein Party. 

Not much closest possible unity with the rest of the left from that quarter!

They have just issued a spate of articles on the site of Labour Party Marxists  which may perhaps indicate this….

Cde Stan Keable (today, 15th of February)  sums up last week’s Labour Representation Committee Meeting, 

Labour Representation Committee: Reduced to a think tank?

Around 120 Labour Representation Committee members gathered in London’s Conway Hall on February 10 for yet another angst-ridden ‘special’ general meeting (SGM), in which a bewildered leadership shared with its rank and file its own failure – like most of the left – to draw into membership or engage with the ‘radicalised’ mass intake of Corbyn supporters into the Labour Party.

Perhaps they ought to have debated this  other 15th of February recent article?

Clause 4: Why revive a stinking corpse?

Jack Conrad (Chamberlain) questions the worth of the ‘Labour4Clause4’ campaign being promoted by Socialist Appeal. Instead of fostering illusions in Fabian socialism, surely the task of Marxists is to win the Labour Party to Marxist socialism.

But the prize must go to this chef d’oeuvre by Carla Roberts, also on the 15th of February (a busy day for LPM indeed!)

Witch-hunts: When chickens come home…

Roberts begins by citing the case of  “Jeremy Newmark, until recently chair of the Jewish Labour Movement” now embroiled in a corruption case after his swindles came to light. A particular gripe is that the Jewish Chronicle reported the affair in depth, “The enthusiasm with which the pro-Zionist Jewish Chronicle has attacked Newmark is quite breathtaking”.

That over we get attacks on the real enemies.

Jeremy Corbyn, “Corbyn has silently stood by, allowing pretty much any criticism of the actions of the state of Israel to be branded as evidence of anti-Semitism.”

 Jon Lansman ” who literally owns Momentum”. Selecting candidates for the Momentum list for Labour’s NEC, “Jon Lansman did what he does best: went nuclear.”

And,

Hope Not Hate, while not playing an active part in the witch-hunt, is a rightwing version of the Socialist Workers Party’s ‘Stand Up To Racism’.

At the conclusion there is the inevitable: The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, (AWL),

the AWL lacks the numbers and finance for that type of campaign. It represents more the type of busybody who would report their neighbour to the East German Stasi for watching West German TV.

Oddly some people in the Labour Party, including the left, are not fond of Labour Party Marxists or their antics.

But their drive to make the Labour Party into a Marxist Party, guided by their own interpretation of Lenin, proceeds apace.

Leftist Trivia Quiz 2017.

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Following the a soaraway  success of Hatful of History’s quiz we have our own for 2017.

  1. Who developed an interest in Lenin’s support for Nudism this year?
  2. In 2016 Ben Chacko, Editor of the Morning Star, organ of the Communist Party of Britain,  sent a message of solidarity to a pro-Brexit  Trotskyist rally in Paris. What is the name of this Trotskyist group and why were they in the new again in 2017?
  3. What are the names of the groups that Gerry Downing’s Liaison Committee for the Fourth International has links with?
  4. Who is the former bag-man for George Galloway and now best mates with Counterfire, who was prepared to fight to the last French person against the Front National in this year’s Presidential election?
  5. The name of the former faction in the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) of Labour’s present Executive Director of Strategy and Communications was i) LGBT Left. ii) Straight Left.
  6. Which  issues of Socialist Worker in 2017 carried heartfelt denunciations of sexual harassment?
  7. Which group was ruled ineligible for Labour Party membership?
  8. What is the current name of Workers’ Power, British Section of the League for the Fifth International?
  9.  What is the name of the People’s Assembly 2017 Xmas song (hard one this).
  10. Who is the other member of the Monster Raving Greenstein Party?

Written by Andrew Coates

December 30, 2017 at 11:21 am

Labour Against the Witch Hunt: Downing Versus Greenstein Battle joined by “Pro-Imperialist” Fourth International.

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Downing: Responds to Witch-Hunting in Labour Against the Witch-Hunt. 

While Tony Greenstein eats his weight in mince pies, and sets up a cash appeal that the wits of the Web have dubbed, “the Greenstein Pie Fund”, Gerry Downing and Socialist Fight have not been idling away their days scarfing down seasonal goodies.

Nor has out tip-top team of international investigative reporters on the trail of the latest developments in Labour Against the Witch Hunt (LAW).

A 700 pages defence of Socialist Fight’s democratic rights hit the Net a couple of days ago,

Defend Marxism and Labour Movement democracy against capitulators to Zionism

Socialist Fight statement on renewed witchhunting in ‘Labour Against the Witchhunt’.

Workers’ democracy is under attack in the infant Labour Party campaign group ‘Labour Against the Witchhunt’. Despite a clear rejection by a properly constituted meeting of LAW on 2 Dec, of the executive’s attempt to exclude by dictat supporters of Socialist Fight, some members of the executive are defying that decision and have launched a campaign to overturn it. A flimsy motivation for this has been penned by Tony Greenstein, with the backing of the guru of the CPGB, Jack Conrad, whose organisation printed Greenstein’s article in their paper on December 14th.

On the 19th of December the Labour Movement was roused by the latest revelations from Socialist Fight.

Defend Socialist Fight, Gerry Downing and Ian Donovan

Comrades and friends,

Please see if you can make this. We would appreciate some help and votes on 6 January.

Gerry

The LAW meeting is at 12 noon on 6 January in the Calthorpe Arms, 252 Grays Inn Road, London, WC1X 8JR.

Defend Socialist Fight, Gerry Downing and Ian Donovan against the Tony Greenstein/Weekly Worker Witchhunt in Labour Against the Witchhunt on 6 January

Dear Comrades,

 On 9 March 2016 Gerry Downing, a leading member of Socialist Fight, was expelled from the Labour party without a hearing or a right to appeal on the instigation of right wing Tory blogger, Guido Fawkes, which prompted David Cameron to ask a question in the House of Commons on his anti-imperialist positions on the Twin Towers and ISIS.

He was auto-excluded within two hours. On 2 April John Lansman followed up the witchhunt by getting a unanimous vote to expel him from the Labour Representation Committee for anti-Semitism. This had to be withdrawn because their Barrister would not say who presented the charge, what the actual charge was and refused to define anti-Semitism.
The Left Unity Disputes Committee rejected earlier charges of anti-Semitism against Ian Donovan laid by the Weekly Worker’s Communist Platform on 14 September 2014.

Finally, a broad campaign, Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW), was launched on 21 October 2017 because professor Moshé Machover was auto-excluded, and, as the Labour Party Marxists reported he was only “one of a long line of socialists, Corbyn supporters and defenders of Palestinian rights expelled or suspended on bogus charges of anti-Semitism”. Socialist Fight participated in that launch in the persons of Gerry Downing and Ian Donovan and contributed to the discussion and to the collection, expecting to assist in its work.

 The sorry tale continues,

However soon after that launch one Lee Rock began a vitriolic witch hunt against us, claiming we were anti-Semitic and should be expelled from LAW. The three remaining LAW Steering Committee members, Tony Greenstein, Stan Keable and Jackie Walker (Peter Firmin had resigned), duly obliged by auto-excluding us without a hearing or right to appeal, the very practice the group was set up to overturn in the Labour party. We were instructed not to attend to next LAW meeting as we were no longer members and we were blocked from the LAW Facebook page.

However, we did turn up early for the meeting on 2nd December with 3 supporters and, as Tony Greenstein reported the meeting was “effectively ambushed by a small Trotskyist grouping, Socialist Fight” i.e. our band of 5 managed to persuade the meeting, some 24 at its height, to refuse to accept the undemocratic, not to say autocratic, decisions of the triumvirate. We were accepted back in and reinstated in the Facebook page by Tony Greenstein.

 

For those who retain the will to live after reading that there is this:

 

Unfortunately, that was not the end of the matter. On 14 December Tony Greenstein resumed the witch hunt in an article in the Weekly Worker, Anti-Semites not welcome, Tony Greenstein explains why Socialist Fight must be excluded from Labour Against the Witchhunt. In it he pledged to try again to expel Socialist Fight from the next LAW meeting. This is his stance:

“There is no future for Labour Against the Witchhunt if Socialist Fight and its members remain an integral part of the organisation. For that reason I believe that it is essential that the next meeting, on January 6 should overturn the previous decision. If my views do not prevail, then I will resign from the organisation – as I believe will Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth of Grassroots Black Left.”
 
This is an appalling political stance, a refusal to accept labour movement democracy unless his views prevail, and demanding others walk out with him. Neither Gerry Downing nor Ian Donovan not any member or supporter of Socialist Fight, past or present, are in any way anti-Semitic. We are members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and are well-known defenders of Palestinian rights and opponents of the state of Israel. No one can point to a single act or political stance that is in any way racist or anti-Semitic except in the minds of those who want to appease the Labour party bureaucracy of Ian McNichol by proving they are neither revolutionary socialists and agree with him that Trotskyists should not be afforded any democratic rights whatsoever, a throwback to the Great Purges in the USSR in the 1930s and 1940s.

 Finally….

 

We appeal to you comrades to:

1.     Attend the meeting on 6 January, come a half an hour early, and speak and vote in our defence. It is an open meeting.
2.     Append you name to this statement by email or on our website, see below:
I defend the right of Socialist Fight Comrades to attend ad participate in the Labour Against the Witchhunt and reject the slurs of anti-Semitism directed against Socialist Fight and its two leading comrades, Gerry Downing and Ian Donovan.

What promises to be the must-be-at event of 2018 will be even spicier than one of Greensteins’ many pastries after the latest spat.

We expect to see some interesting scenes at the entrance to the Calthorpe Arms.

Will LAW exclude Socialist Fight and its allies from attending?

Massed petitions, Greenstein throwing stale mince pies, and lots of wobblies, are not ruled out.

It is called Socialist Fight after all.

To add to fuel to the fire another controversy has just broken out.

The Fourth International in Manchester Group published today an unkind piece of cde Downing which included the following,

Downing, not to be confused with Gerry Healy (though that little Gerry was once the big man for our future star), has written reams about the break-up of the WRP, and he will surely beat Donovan for the role, but this time in a rather more downbeat version of the film, ‘Bus Driver’ perhaps. Socialist Fight, which proclaims itself to be the British Section of the ‘Liaison Committee for the Fourth International’ (with three other appendages), is the latest incarnation of Downing after his Workers International League and its paper ‘Workers Action’ hit the buffers. Donovan, meanwhile, has form in many different roles, having been through more far-left groups than you have had hot dinners, and he’ll get a bit part. Just as he does now in Downing’s Socialist Fight, which has given Donovan a home following his well-deserved expulsion from the CPGB-PCC. The film-score, by the way, will be by jazz saxophonist and antisemite Gilad Atzmon.

Phew!

And,

In the tiny narcissistic and paranoiac world of Socialist Fight, there is a ‘Jewish Bourgeoisie’ that has intimate direct ties to the State of Israel, and it is this conspiratorial vision of the world that supposedly explains why the Jews who are, we are told, ‘over-represented’ in the ruling class must be called out. Full-blown ‘anti-Zionism’ must, according to Downing and Donovan, name this Jewish bourgeoisie as an influence to be rooted out, and so (as many hard-line Zionists would predict and wish) anti-Zionism shades into antisemitism. This is no longer socialism as such. No wonder these two are admired by Gilad Atzmon who has made a disgusting speciality of celebrating self-hatred – a Jew who hates, he says, every bit of him that reminds him that he is Jewish – and no wonder that they return the favour.

the Manchester Fourth Internationalists compare Downing to Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, who “doesn’t really have a plan or know where he is going”.

Ideological debate on this is intense. Many other comrades think a character out of The League of Gentlemen is more appropriate, somebody who brings a certain joy to the lives of local people.

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Naturally this roused the ire of cde Downing.

The Fourth International in Manchester attack Socialist Fight. From the group that is now so pro imperialist left that it gave full support to the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya on behalf of NATO via the renegade Trotskyist Gilbert Atchcar (sic) and Syria via the imperialist backed jihadists and the fascist-led Maiden coup in Ukraine.”

And now this shower of Trotskyist renegade attacks the principled anti imperialism of Socialist Fight, whose record of support for every anti imperialist struggle, beginning in Ireland and ranging from Libya to Syria to Ukraine, South Africa and North Korea and Cuba and Zimbabwe. Unconditional but critical support via the Anti Imperialis United Front as opposed to all that grovelling before the masters of life for the FIIMG.

Socialist Fight.

All is not lost.

We learn that the Downingites have also recruited a valuable ally against Greensteinism and all of its works, and no doubt the Fourth International, “My group the International Bolshevik Tendency has disagreements with Socialist Fight but Downing is quite good at sticking to issues and steering clear from ad hominem, slander and what have you. The same can’t be said for some on the left.”

 

 

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.