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Un Silence Religieux. La Gauche Face au Djihadisme. Jean Birnbaum. Review Article.

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Un Silence Religieux. La Gauche Face au Djihadisme. Jean Birnbaum. Seuil 2015.

 
“Quand on voudra s’occuper utilement du bonheur des hommes, c’est par les dieux du Ciel que la réforme doit commencer.”

When we wish to carry out some useful work for human happiness, reform will have to begin with the gods in the heavens.

D’ Holbach. Système de la nature. 1777. (1)

The Brussels killings, have “nothing to do with Islam” said the Belgian Muslim on Sky News on Saturday. Amongst the disarray that follows each atrocity, the dignified quiet of mourning, there is this statement, “It has nothing to do with Islam” – Jean Birnbaum cites the official, the specialist, the columnist, and the academic in France, as across the world. Charlie Hebdo, the Hyper-Cacher, the Bataclan, and now Brussels; the slaughters in the Middle East, North Africa, Nigeria, and so many elsewheres, have nothing to do with Islam. These are, we are informed, acts of terrorism, with ‘causes’, about which the interested will find a very long, very weighty, list. But one is stubbed out: religion, left in silence. Rien-à-voirisme, that is, “nothing to with-ism” is the response. Jihadism has nothing to do with Jihad.

The massacre in Lahore leaves us enveloped in the deepest of silences, the most profound sadness. But we have to listen. Jean Birnbaum asks, by what right does anybody have to deny the religious claims of the Jihadists? If members of Daesh are ever brought to the Hague Tribunal and judged for Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity will the religious doctrines that order their lives and by which they destroy those of others, be ruled inadmissible evidence?

Birnbaum’s Un Silence Religieux is not an essay on the failings of politicians grappling with the need to avoid scapegoating religious minorities. It is not about the generous feelings of people who wish to show respect for the beliefs of Muslims. It is not against those who point out the faulty syllogisms of the hate mongers who assert that ‘all’ Muslims are Islamist Jihadist sympathisers because…they too are Muslims. It is not, to cite a daily reiteration of his point, about the BBC’s official “rien-à-voirisme” labelling the Islamic State “so-called”.

Un Silence Religieux, the Gauche Face au Djihadisme is a dissection of the French left’s failure to tackle the fact of the irruption of Islamic belief in politics and war. His charge is that the majority fail to deal with the power of religious faith, its “autonomous force” in the lives of the Jihadists, reinforced in rituals and in murder. That Islam far from being consigned to the past, is a “universalism” with its own political impact – Islamism – is hard to accept, he argues, for a French left that is incapable to taking religion seriously.

If French left-wingers, intellectuals and activists, are more likely to dismiss faith as reactionary than, say, the English-speaking left, there remain those who take the that there is a form of “rebellion” at work in Islamism, a – distorted – projection of social causes. For every reflection on the Middle East and Islamism itself, another immediately jumps out: on Europe’s Islamists, on Europe’s states, on the French Republic, and the Salafism of the housing estates. That is to follow Olivier Roy, an “Islamisation of radicalisation”, (l’islamisation de la radicalité) a ‘nihilist’ and ‘generational revolt by those uninterested in written doctrine. (Le Monde. 30.11.15). To look for the sources in the failings of the French Republic, Western foreign policy, to look everywhere but in religion, In short, to explain away the fact of faith, that “day after day” by prayer and ceremonies guides the Jihadists, animated by the “récits mythiques et les formes symboliques” that “orientent leur esprit” (Page 31).

For Birnbaum this “community of fate” is the only ideal in the world for which young people by tens of thousands are willing to risk their lives, “le combat en faveur du rétablissement du ‘califat.” (Page 186) That claim, for all the elegance, clarity and passions he puts into this landmark essay, as they say, se discute – that is, it is very very debatable.

Un Silence Religieux traces the French left’s refusal to come to terms with the force of religion in the anti-colonialist history of North Africa. The minority of the country that stood in support of the struggle for Algerian independence and against the vicious repression of the French state was also marked by a tendency to remain silent about problems posed by the nationalist movement. Above all they treated the central role of Islam as “folklore”, the result of colonial underdevelopment that would disappear in the universalism and third-world socialism of the new society.

Four years after independence, in 1966, Pierre Maillot, closely involved in the conflict and its aftermath, sent an article criticising the Algerian programme of Arabisation and Islamisation to the ‘personalist’ left journal, Esprit. They accepted its truth, but judged it “inopportune” to publish.

Readers of the (colonial) Algerian raised Camus’ condemnation of all forms of blind terrorism, and those familiar with the section of the French left that backed the FLN’s opponents, led by Messali Hadj, and the small circulation writings of those who quickly denounced the new regime’s bureaucratic and repressive turn are familiar with some of the issues. But, as Claude Lanzmann recalls, having been overwhelmed by the necessity to defend the fight for independence against French repression and torture, the majority of the anti-colonial left was not about to denounce the efforts of the independent nation to create a new society.

One result, as Birnbaum states, was that nobody singled out the project that Maillot and a few others tried in vain to signal, the “arabo-islamisme” of the majority of those fighting against the occupiers, and the FLN’s determination to make Islam the centre of national life. Those critical of the new government concentrated their fire on these issues, and the emerging bureaucracy In Socialisme ou Barbarie, Jean François Lyotard warned in 1963 immediately after independence of the economic difficulties facing an underdeveloped country and a regime empty of democratic political life which began with populist slogans, including Ben Bella’s simultaneous railing against “cosmopolitanism” and calls for an Islam freed from “superstition”. Even the anti-totalitarian Claude Lefort, warning in the same year of the dangers of One-Party rule, considered the issue of secularism and Islamism to be a diversion from the economic – agricultural – and social problems of the country. (2)

Birnbaum argues that the legacy of this stand has indelibly marked the French left. The view that Islam is a religion of the “dominated” served to explain away the dominance of religious themes in the anti-imperialist Algerian struggle, to make it seem as if it was vehicle of revolt, and to conceal the autonomous importance of religious fervour. This had a long afterlife. In the 1980s Ahmed Ben Bella, the emblematic figure of the revolution deposed by the 1965 Boumédienne coup, was inspired by the Iranian example and became a fervent Islamist. An Arab nationalist (with all the problems that creates in a country with a strong Berber minority) he came to pronounce that Islamism was the “only authentic revolt against the economic and cultural domination of the West.” (Page 96) Freed from Maghreb detention he put his ideas into action, and, within a few years, founded an Islamist party opposed to the Algerian one-party state. Bella’s former comrades on the French left – and here I am speaking from direct experience – excused the turn. Asked if there was room for atheists in his version of the Islamic society when his template theocracy murdered non-believers it was said that a follower of Das Kapital could be considered one of the People of the Book.

It is hard, however, not to consider that the attitude of the French left towards Islam, like other European lefts, has been influenced by much wider considerations. The Bolsheviks, we learn from the Socialist Workers Party, tried in their early years to win Muslims to socialism. The early Comintern responded favourably to Pan-Islamism, as an anti-imperialist force. No less an authority than J.V. Stalin, supported the fight of the Emir of Afghanistan for independence, since his struggle “weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism.” If Trotsky’s assertion that, “the rule of Islam, of the old prejudices, beliefs and customs ……these will more and more turn to dust and ashes” was not fulfilled the tradition of supporting any movement which saps imperialist power was established. It has endured. If the principle that undergirded the strategy, that all these movements were part of the era of revolutions which would produce, sooner or later, the “transition” to socialism and a communist mode of production, has become threadbare there are still many on the left, in France and across the world, who remain trapped within its premises. (3)

From Foucault to Harman.

In this respect Birnbaum offers two contrasting accounts of the relation between Islam and revolution. The first is a sympathetic (some would say, unduly so) account of Michael Foucault’s writings on the late seventies Iranian Revolution. Foucault, we learn, was struck both by the originality of this revolt, a people united in a “ collective will” without – apparently – a vanguard – and by its originality, that is, its ‘political spirituality”. He remained, Birnbaum assures us, suspicious of “power”.

At the time Maxime Rodinson discerned the potential in the clerics for the totalitarian exercise of that power in the Iranian movement. If he charged Foucault with ignorance about the ambitions already apparent in Islamism, from the Moslem Brotherhood onwards, others have questioned the ‘anti-modernist’ project itself. In a comprehensive study of these writings, Janet Afray and Kevin Anderson (Foucault and the Iranian Revolution. 2005) ask ““Did not a post-structuralist, leftist discourse, which spent all of its energy opposing the secular liberal or authoritarian modem state and its institutions, leave the door wide open to an uncritical stance toward Islamism and other socially retrogressive movements, especially when, as in Iran, they formed a pole of opposition to an authoritarian state and the global political and economic order?” (4)

Foucault was no doubt right about the importance of the Iranian Revolution and its long-lasting effects. The evidence for that legacy is there to read on the left. Alistair Crooke’s claim that “The key event that emerge from the Islamist revolution has been the freeing of thinking from its long tutelage to the tyranny of instrumentalism” may be more muted today. Judith Butler’s claim that the Burka represents a form of oppositional spirituality to the Western gaze, follows Foucault in ignoring the struggle of Iranian feminists against the veil. For Butler the March 1979 enforcement of the Muslim dress code to cries of “You will cover yourselves or be beaten” is invisible as well. Such indeed is the autonomous power of Islamist spiritual ideology. (5)

Birnbaum then delves into Chris Harman’s The Prophet and the Proletariat (1994) for a less exalted view of Islamic revolution. Harman, a leader of the “puissant” (powerful – yes….see Page 148) Socialist Workers Party recognised the importance of the Iranian revolution. A polemic against those who considered the Islamists ‘fascists’., and those who were prepared to directly align themselves with Iran against imperialism, Harman’ account, notably of the Algerian government’s own role in encouraging ‘moderate’ Islamism in the 1970s and early 1980s, indicates the realism of the text. To Harman the class character of diverse Islamist movements, in the petty bourgeoisie, amongst ‘new exploiters’, went without any fascist ambitions to attack the workers’ movement. He noted (see J.V. Stalin, above), “the destabilising effect of the movements on capital’s interests right across the Middle East.” Their main fault in this respect was not being anti-imperialist enough; their petty bourgeois utopia envisaged justice without challenging capitalism.

Harman stated, that this, “utopia” emanating from an impoverished section of the new middle class. As with any

“petty bourgeois utopia” its supporters are, in practice, faced with a choice between heroic but futile attempts to impose it in opposition to those who run existing society, or compromising with them, providing an ideological veneer to continuing oppression and exploitation. It is this that leads inevitably to splits between a radical, terrorist wing of Islamism on the one hand, and a reformist wing on the others. It is also this which leads some of the radicals to switch from using arms to try to bring about a society without “oppressors” to using them to impose “Islamic” forms of behaviour on individuals.“ (6)

In fact what Harman advocated was not a formal alliance with the Islamists ‘against the state’ but – sometimes – being on the “same side” against racism and against (see J.V. Stalin again) against imperialism. Always naturally involving discussion, and exposing the ‘contradictions” of the Islamists’ utopian ideas and trying to win them to “revolutionary socialism.” As Birnbaum observes, this was not only an “optimistic” belief, it also rests on the assumption that the “objective” course of history, the working out of economic laws, favours the socialist left. Given the SWP’s own self-belief in the creation of its party as a “tribune of the people”, is equally, Birnbaum accurately gauges, is tied to the much shakier claim that they would emerge as the principle voice and vehicle for the oppressed.

This is not the place to more than outline the collapse of this attempt to embrace the same constituency as the Islamists. Birnbaum does not cover the grotesque alliance that brought forth the shambles and shame of Respect, a party that claimed to represent ‘Muslims’, and the SWP’s work with its leader, George Galloway, now puttering around on Russia Today, railing against Europe. Nor does he cover the miasma that came from these quarters following the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the British Je ne Suis pas Charlie, workshop organised by the ‘anti-racist’ movement, Unite Against Racism, from those who had barely heard of the Hebdo who knew, just knew, that they (and the Hypercacher victims?) had it coming to them. But Un Silence Religieux, well informed as ever, does cover the more limited attempts on the French left, in the shape of the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) to reach out to Islam. The admirable Pierre Rousset’s comment that the NPA’s acceptance of a veiled candidate in Avignon that this was (see J.V.Stalin above) an alliance against the “main enemy” and an inability to take religion seriously. And yet, as Rousset has more recently remarked, for the veiled candidate, Ilham Moussaïd, the « le voile incarnait ce projet politique » (7)

These examples would appear to show that anything but the most transient and punctual joint-action between those engaged in politics on the basis of Islam and those engaged in politics as socialists – that is those who derive their principles from the supra-human and those who base them on the world – is bound to run aground. If the British left could oppose the invasion of Iraq in alliance with a variety of forces, including the Liberal Democrats, it is hard to see how this can endure into the Syrian conflict where even the most moderate Islamists have sympathies for …Islamists who wish to create an Islamic – moderate – state. And that is without confronting the issue of secularism in its broadest and weakest sense. No Islamist, by definition, can back the principle of freedom from religion in the running of the public sphere.

Marxism and Religion.

Are there deeper fault-lines within Marxism that have contributed to this failure to come to terms with the religious reality of Islamism? Birnbaum discusses Marx’s conjecture that faith, as an imaginary projection of social relations, will evaporate once a fully transparent, communist society is created. He spends some time on the equally speculative writings on the origin of the religious imaginary in human alienation, despair and hope for the future. The feeling that somehow, at is origin, that Christianity, and – once whispered – Islam was a form of ‘primitive communism’, or at least socialistic, views expressed with some verve by Karl Kautsky and repeated by many, from Rosa Luxemburg, to, Birnbaum discovers, Gramsci, may yet encourage a renewal of that famous “dialogue” between the left and the believers that clearly some hanker after. Knowledge of the exclusive nature of these early communities, not to mention the reign of Mohammed, do not encourage imitation amongst more than small circles. The history of utopian communities is riddled with factionalism and failure. Medieval and other apocalyptic revolts with their mass killings, and hysteria, may also be important moments of early class – peasant – class conflict – but they do not inspire modern supporters of the right not to believe.

But for Islamism that time has long passed. Birnbaum contrasts the hopes for a fully human world that animated the Spanish Internal Volunteers with the Jihadist refrain of Viva la muertre! (Page 213) The social relations that are turned upside down and projected in the visions of death that appear in the jihadist wish for the “end of the world” and a “good death” are perhaps the affair of specialists, who might trace them in Olivier Roy’s nihilism. They do not fit easily into the explanations of those who wish to uncover a Universalist society of equality – a religious utopia in Ernst Bloch’s sense – amongst those attracted to violent Islamism. What we see bears a strong resemblance to another of Foucault’s visions, a disciplinary society based on obsessive regulation of every gesture by the learned interpreters of the Qur’an, or their home-made improvised pretenders. A world in which every form of behaviour, every belief we hold in our hearts under surveillance – by the vice-regents of god – and corrected. Which is ruled by punishment, always punishment. And mortal cruelty. (8)

Birnbaum asks why the enthusiasm for Islam, which has led in the form of Daesh, to a “cruel violence” a hatred of modern Reason, in its different shapes, philosophical, Marxist, bourgeois or proletarian, inspires. The left, after the Fall of Official Communism, the triumph of capitalist economics and the predatory wars of the West, briefly came to life in the anti-, or ‘other-‘globalisation movements, which have faded. We are, in sum, confronted with not the end of the ‘grand narratives’ of the left, progress, emancipation, but at an impasse.

Shoulder to Shoulder.

In these conditions what remains? If we recognise “la force autonome de l’élan spirituel” we have made a step forward: ideology is a material practice. But is that all? The rationalist strain in Marxism, which owes something to d’Holbach, has tried to concentrate on exposing the ‘error’ of religion. Yet science, atheism, or simply rational explanation, has so far fared badly faced with ideology. Translating Reason into lived experience has always looked a formidable task. But now when a world-view so all-encompassing, enforced by a web of publishers, of ‘educational’ bodies, and Courts, state backed or not, and financed so generously by the twin arms of Islamic intolerance, Riyadh and Tehran exists how can this be confronted but by open political struggle? (9)

They are already engaged in inter-Muslim warfare. But outside, from the institutions down to the jihadist micro-powers, right up to the Islamic State itself in Syria and Iraq, another battle, ideological, and ultimately, physical, is taking place. New fault-lines are emerging. It is clear, and Birnbaum admirably contributes to the literature, that there are many in the Islamic world, including those who consider themselves good Muslims, who for love of the world and its people, promote democracy, human rights, and free-thought about religion. We are less sanguine than Birnbaum’s former teacher, and one-times supporter of the Gauche Prolétarienne, Christian Jambert, on the resources available inside Islamic philosophy that can continue to the spirit of liberty. Will they, as d’Holbach suggested, be able to reform the idea of god? Will we be able to attract widely for the secular cause of freedom? For the moment it is for us to stand shoulder to shoulder with these democrats. (10)

*******************

(1) Page 67. D’Holbach. Premières oeuvres. Les Classiques du people. 1971.
(2) Albert Camus. Chroniques algériennes. 1939 – 1958. Gallimard. 2012. Pages 498 – 591 Claude Lanzmann. Le lièvre de Patagonie. Gallimard. 2009. Page. 56. Jean-François Lyotard: L’Algérie évacuée Socialisme our Barbarie. No 34. 1963. La Politique et la Pensée de la Politique. (Les letters nouvelles. 1963) Reprinted in: Sur un colonne absente. Claude Lefort. Gallimard. 1978.
(3) Page 75. J.V. Stalin. The Foundations of Leninism. Peking. 1970. Also available here, The Foundations of Leninism  THE NATIONAL QUESTIONLeon Trotsky: Perspectives and Tasks
in the East. 1924. C:\Documents and Settings\Compaq_Owner\Desktop\Temporary\Leon Trotsky Perspectives and Tasks in the East (1924).htm.
(4) Page 136. Foucault and the Iranian Revolution.. Gender and seduction. Janet Afray and Kevin B. Anderson University of Chicago. 2005.
(5) Resistance. The Essence of the Islamist Revolution. Alastair Crooke. Pluto Press.2009. For Judith Butler the Burka, “signifies belong-ness to a community and religion, a family, an extended history of kin relations, an exercise of modesty and pride, a protection against shame, and operates as well as a veil behind which, and through which, feminine agency can and does work.”(Page 142) It is related to the fear of “decimation of Islamic culture and the extension of US cultural assumptions about how sexuality and agency ought to be organised and represented,”(Page 142). The Precarious life. The Powers of Mourning and Violence, Judith Butler. Verso 2006
(6)  Chris Harman. The Prophet and the Proletariat.
(7) Pierre Rousset. Le NPA, sept ans après : projet, réalités, interrogations. January 2016. K:\Le NPA, sept ans après _ projet, réalités, interrogations – Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières.html
(8) Michael Foucault, Discipline and Punish. Penguin, 1991.
(9) Marx et la baron d’Holbach. Denis Lecompte. PUF. 1983.
(10) On the forces sustaining and dividing the power of Islamism see: Riddles of the Book. Suleiman Mourad. New Left Review. No 86. Second series. 2014. Christian Jambert. Q’est que la philosophie islamique. Folio. 2011.

As Socialist Unity Criticises Galloway only Russia In Your Face! is alternative to the lying Western LAMEstream media!!!

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As Socialist Unity Wavers Russia in Your Face Stands True.

Socialist Unity is no more.

The beacon of the left has dimmed.

The author who brought to the world the TRUTH, has turned his coat.

Was it so long ago that John Wight wrote?

Vladimir Putin is probably the most popular Russian leader there has ever been, polling up around a phenomenal 80% as recently as November 2015 in a study carried out by a team of American researchers. This makes him inarguably the most popular world leader today, though you would think the opposite given the way he’s routinely depicted and demonized in the West.

While Vladimir Putin and his government are not beyond criticism – in fact, far from it – their misdeeds pale in comparison to the record of Western governments in destroying one country after the other in the Middle East, presiding over a global economy that has sown nothing but misery and despair for millions at home and abroad, leading in the last analysis to the normalization of crisis and chaos.

Their deeds, as the man said, would shame all the devils in hell.

Counterpunch.  January. 2016.

Now it looks as Wight’s career as an Op-Ed contributor to Russia Today (RT as we initiates call it) and the American Counterpunch, is at an end. He  has taking to telling the facts and naming very different names.

Galloway and – this is important bit – his life-support machine, Sputnik on RT are out….

But back to the UK and the EU referendum, where despite the attempt by a section of the left to assert that Brexit would make the prospect of implementing progressive and socialist ideas easier – specifically when it comes to taking key industries and services into public ownership – the reality is that the beneficiaries of Brexit would be the right and far right. The politics driving Brexit are the ugly politics of anti immigration, xenophobia, and British nationalism. If successful it would propel the vile reactionary views and worldview of people like Nigel Farage into the heart of the establishment, ensuring that already under pressure minority communities would find themselves placed under even more pressure.

The EU and its institutions merely reflect the economic and political hegemony of neoliberalism. They are a transmission belt delivering policies which reflect this hegemony, which will remain a fact of life the day after Brexit. This is why those on the left who are intent on campaiging for a No vote on June 23 are playing into the hands of Nigel Farage and UKIP, allowing themselves to be recruited as unwitting footsoldiers for the far right.

There is also the Corbyn factor to consider. At a time when Labour under his leadership is garnering such huge support across the country, and with the Tories in complete disarray over the EU, for anyone on the left to oppose Corbyn over the EU now is tantamount to sectarianism of the worst kind.

There is no viable socialist or progressive case for Britain’s exit from the EU in the present political climate. There is only surrender to right wing nostrums on immigration, multiculturalism, and something called British values.

John Wight. Socialist Unity February. 2106.

Wight is rumoured to be about to run a Post on the links between anti-EU campaigners on the hard right and Russia…..

Now, alone and embattled, only Russia in Your Face Stands up for the Truth!

Open Letter to my Leftist Friends: Why we must support Putin. Angela Baker

So like, I’m a hardcore radical leftist. I’m anti-war, anti-imperialist, anti-militarism, anti-Zionism, etc. I marched against BusHitler’s war on Iraq in 2003, Obomber’s drone wars, and I’ll march against anything the US military does anywhere for any reason at any time, because I know the difference between right and wrong, and I’ll always be on the side of peace.

Russia stands up for self-determination against colonization.

Russia cares about the global south and people’s self-determination everywhere. That’s why it supports parties and organizations that are for national self-determination. For example, they supported Gaddafi and his Green Socialists in Libya before they were butchered by the Islamic terrorists who were backed by NATO airstrikes. They back Bashar Assad’s secular, legitimate government in Syria. They also back lots of other national self-determination movements such as Golden Dawn (I think it’s like African or something), Jobbik (India?), and Front Nationale (Quebec, right?). They are the main foundation of the Eurasianist movement, which has the word Asian in it, thus representing the global south.

When it comes to opposing globalization and the US global hegemony, leftists need to stop being so sectarian and start helping Russia build a multipolar world with global south nations such as Brazil and China.

These are the latest glad tidings comrades turn to in place of the lying globalised Green Lizard Lies of so-called snivelling Socialist Unity:

Russia sending troops, ships to support Scottish independence

EDINBURGH- The ships came all night. Dozens of them pouring into the Firth of Forth stacked with Russian tanks, troops and defensive nuclear missiles.

This is the new look Scottish-Russian defence force, a hybrid of Highland bravery and Russian know-how.

Unloading at the Forth Ports RIYF saw at least 40,000 heavily armed Russian soldiers greeted by crowds of Scots throwing flowers, whiskey bottles and shetland ponies in adoration.

“They’re saviours!,” cried Morag MacKrankie from the throng. “They’re gonee keck them Englesh arses!”

Ever since Scotland severed all ties from England in a surprise “polite independence” referendum, relations with England have gone from ‘actually the same country’ to ‘medieval bloodlust’.

The referendum, kindly provided for free with minimal preparation time and totally fair voting standards by Russia’s Central Election Commission, returned a 96% result for “Immediately hostile relations with the fascist dictatorship in London,” which was two of the two options on the ballot paper.

 

The demonization of the most popular Russian leader (Vladimir Putin) of all time: More Confusionisme. John Wight, Socialist Unity.

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Most Popular Russian Leader of All Time……..

This Blog commented recently that “Political Confusionism” – (from our French comrades’ “Confusionnisme”) is a growing, if marginal, phenomenon on the left.

Larousse defines Confusionnisme as “Fait d’entretenir la confusion dans les esprits et d’empêcher l’analyse objective des faits.”,  That is, “To bring (and keep)  confusion in people’s minds and to prevent an objective analysis of facts.”

From the anti-imperialism of fools to the defence by the co-Chair of the British Young Greens of the reactionary  full-face veil on the spurious grounds that it is being attacked as part of the government’s Prevent strategy we can see how this works.

Emotions, hostility to the ‘West’ and “Empire”, “Islamophobia”  and “racism” are used to confuse people and prevent solidarity with our sisters and brothers fighting nationalist strongmen,  communalist bullies and Islamism.

It is an entirely appropriate extension of the word in English to call “confusionism”  the much more deliberate ideological strategy taken up by those promoting the defenders of Vladimir Putin.

In the comments on an excellent article on Shiraz Socialist about just how reactionary Putin is, and how he has garnered supporters ranging from the European far-right ( Front National, the Hungarian Jobbik, the Bulgarian Attack, the Slovak People’s Party, and various far-right parties in German) to some people on the ‘left’.

Whether they do so for venal reasons (the Front National has benefited from generous Russian loans) or out of conviction, that the Kremlin leader is a bulwark against decadence, or a much needed-counterweight to Western power, is irrelevant.

The facts – that is the record of Putin’s rule – are obscured and confused.

Prominent amongst British confusionists is a certain John Wight, contributor to the Socialist Unity site, run by Andy Newman, unsuccessful Labour candidate (2015) for Chippenham.

Wight, not surprisingly, pops up on Russia Today (RT).

On the 25th of January Wight wrote on RT’s site.

Alexander Litvinenko: Just another pawn in their game

The sight of retired British judge, Sir Robert Owen, shuffling from a dark ante room into an international press conference in London to pronounce that Vladimir Putin ‘probably approved’ the murder of Alexander Litvinenko was pure comedy gold.

It was also a travesty of justice, given the seriousness of the crime and the implications of yet another barrage of anti-Russian and anti-Putin propaganda it has unleashed across the Western media. Yet further proof that for Western ideologues Russia under Putin’s leadership can never be forgiven for refusing to stay on its knees after the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

But as comrade Dagmar  has pointed out (comments), Wight really excelled himself a couple of days later,

The demonization of the most popular Russian leader of all time.

Vladimir Putin is probably the most popular Russian leader there has ever been, polling up around a phenomenal 80% as recently as November 2015 in a study carried out by a team of American researchers. This makes him inarguably the most popular world leader today, though you would think the opposite given the way he’s routinely depicted and demonized in the West.

Paradoxically, the main reason for Putin’s popularity in Russia is the same reason he’s so reviled in the US and Western Europe. It comes down to the simple but salient fact that when it comes to leadership and political nous Vladimir Putin is playing chess while his counterparts in London, Washington, and Paris are playing chequers.

….

The most populous country in Europe is not and never will be a Western colony or semi colony. For people who currently cannot conceive of any relationship with Russia other than as a deadly or defeated foe, the sooner they accept this reality the sooner will stability be restored in places like Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

While Vladimir Putin and his government are not beyond criticism – in fact, far from it – their misdeeds pale in comparison to the record of Western governments in destroying one country after the other in the Middle East, presiding over a global economy that has sown nothing but misery and despair for millions, at home and abroad, leading in the process to the normalization of crisis and chaos.

Their deeds, as the man said, would shame all the devils in hell.

American Herald Tribune.

This on-line journal (not to be confused with the greatly respected International Herald Tribune) publishes plenty of other articles of a confusioniste tendency:

The Zionisation of Kurdistan: An inconvenient truth (Ahmad Moussa. Janaury 22nd). And by the same author(14th of December 2015) The self-proclaimed ‘Islamic’ State’ and the ‘Jewish’ State: What’s the difference for the Palestinians? Both entities demonstrate similarities between them particularly in relation to Palestine; the only difference is the international community’s double standards when it comes to intervention.

A taste for US far-right militia-men is in evidence:The political assassination of LaVoy Finicum? January 28th.

But pride of (recent) place must go to this article:

LGBT Organization endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Becky Akers  22nd January.

Men pretending to be women support a Gorgon pretending to be human for president. Nor does the syzygy end there: group and Gorgon also share a set of initials.

“The nation’s largest LGBT rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign”—or HRC—“announced that it has endorsed Hillary [Rodham] Clinton”—another HRC—“for president,” the Washington Post trilled. For anyone blissfully ignorant of PC acronyms, “LGBT” translates as “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender.” What, no pedophiles or enthusiasts of bestiality? Seems a tad hypocritical that perverts who sue us for “discriminating” when we exclude them nonetheless exclude their fellow pervs.

At any rate, “HRC President Chad Griffin” felt he (yeah, I’m guessing here at Chad’s gender du jour) had to explain HRC’s choice of HRC: after all, the latter has wavered in her advocacy of debauchery as much as she has on everything else. Her vacillation is especially egregious when compared with Bernie “Socialist” Sanders’ devotion to deviants—but of course, Bernie can’t win, or so his unprincipled constituency at the HRC assumes.

Wight is no doubt at home amongst his confusioniste confrères

Written by Andrew Coates

January 29, 2016 at 6:33 pm

Socialist Action, Labour, and the Anti-imperialism of Fools.

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John Ross Weibo

Socialist Action ‘Guru’ John Ross.

In discussion about the Labour Party the name ‘Socialist Action’ often comes up.

We will not comment on the truth or otherwise of the details in this report,

Jeremy Corbyn acts as peacemaker between rival Labour factions after Neale Coleman quits

Labour insiders claim a pro-Livingstone group is battling for power with a camp led by John McDonnell, the shadow Chancellor and Mr Corbyn’s closest political ally.

The  Livingstone faction, dubbed “the Kennites”,  includes Simon Fletcher, a former Ed Miliband aide who ran Mr Corbyn’s leadership campaign and is now his chief of staff, the job he did for Mr Livingstone at City Hall. The “Kennites” are said to be less ideological and more pragmatic than the McDonnell group. They favour a conciliatory approach towards the Shadow Cabinet members and backbench MPs who have differences with Mr Corbyn.

The more hardline McDonnell camp includes Seumas Milne, a columnist on leave from The Guardian newspaper, who Mr Corbyn persuaded to become his director of communications after a shambolic start to his leadership. He is credited with injecting more discipline into the operation. But critics claim he is a divisive “control freak” who wants to be in charge of policy as well as communications and to supplant Mr Fletcher.

Mr Milne takes a less tolerant view of dissenting MPs than the “Kennites” and is said to have pressed Mr Corbyn to sack more Shadow Cabinet critics in this month’s messy reshuffle than he eventually did.  Shadow ministers angrily accused him of briefing journalists during a Shadow Cabinet meeting that Labour MPs would be whipped to vote against UK air strikes against Isis in Syria last December. When they saw the briefing on their smartphones, a rebellion forced Mr Corbyn to concede a free vote.

Team Corbyn have insisted there was “no row” between Mr Milne and Mr Coleman and dismissed as “complete rubbish” speculation that Mr Fletcher could walk out because of a rift with Mr Milne. One insider said: “Seumas is the conduit and gets all the flak. It’s not a clash, more growing into office pains. Everyone is learning as they go along, from Jeremy downwards. The stakes are high and everything gets magnified.”

The article continues,

Some Labour Kreminologists claim the current dispute can be traced back to a bitter split on the hard left in the 1980s when Mr Livingstone fell out with Mr McDonnell, his deputy as leader of the Greater London Council (GLC).  Mr McDonnell accused Mr Livingstone of selling out after he refused to defy the Thatcher Government by not balancing the GLC’s books. Mr McDonnell chairs the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), which he founded in 2004 to reach out to left-wingers outside Labour. LRC figures attacked Mr Livingstone’s Socialist Action group as “plastic socialists”. The rival factions have even been compared to Russia’s hardline Bolsheviks and more moderate Mensheviks, who split in 1903.

This is something in this.

Simon Fletcher was indeed a member of Socialist Action. as were other key members of the GLC team – in the 1980s and later when Livingstone returned as London mayor (200 – 2008). Redmond O’Neil, Jude Woodward,  and John Ross (who was his “Economics Adviser”) are the best known of the ‘org’. But it is rather more than ‘Livingstone’s group’.

Socialist Action learnt its trade in the 1980s, backing the Labour Campaign group,

This unusually close agreement between a parliamentary faction and an extra-parliamentary organisation resembles the alliance between horse and rider.

The MPs assure us that Socialist Action is cured of its youthful radicalism, and will cheerfully prostrate itself by selling the MPs’ abysmally boring Campaign Group News.

John Sullivan  As Soon As This Pub Closes

It is said that this prostration developed wider during Livingstone’s time as London Mayor. But being errand girls and boys is part of a broader strategy.

Socialist Action, as John Sullivan’s handbook on how to organise on the British left,  is at no pains to note,  is a descendant of the International Marxist Group.

But those of us on the left who were in the International Marxist Group in the 1970s – and others who took part in the split in the 1980s which gave birth to Socialist Action – have more fundamental reasons to be hostile to the ‘elite groupuscule’.

The leader of the IMG John Ross (also known as Alan Jones – note to journalists) and  founding figure of Socialist Action took an anti-European stand during the 1975 referendum. Even those in our opposing tendency who also supported a No vote accused him of nationalism. Those of us who were pro-Europe (we advocated abstention at the time, which was a serious error) could frankly feel this  in our bones.

To be blunt us lot – called at the time Tendency A – hated his guts.

By extension, that means anybody associated with them, right to the present day. And it’s true to say that some of the people in the Labour Representation Committee  come from those opposed to the ‘Rossites’ from way way back. But many do not- age is the most obvious reason – and yet they hold equally forthright views about the organisation.

Why?

Well there are plenty of reasons and they are less and less to do with the past and a lot more to do with what Socialist Action stands for today.

These are a few:

A central part of their present ideology is the ‘anti-imperialism of fools‘.

This is their analysis of the “current phase of imperialism” (What is the current phase of imperialism? May 2014).

Michael Burke begins by observing that after the collapse of the USSR the US has tried to impose its power – from the Gulf War, to the attempted “hijacking” of the Arab Spring. But this was now at a  standstill. The US faces an impasse. Why?

…the economic rise of China has warranted a strategic ‘pivot’ towards Asia in an attempt to curb the rise of the only economy that could rival US supremacy in the foreseeable future. Given this absolute priority and the reduced circumstances of the US economy, it has been necessary to suspend new large-scale direct military interventions elsewhere.

This curb on US power has had immediate and beneficial consequences for humanity. Syria could not be bombed and neither could Iran. In these, Russian opposition to US plans was a key political obstacle, especially as the US wanted to deploy multilateral and multinational forces to do its bidding and needed the imprimatur of the UN Security Council. The US response to this blockage has been to increase pressure on Russia, most dramatically with its ouster of the elected Ukrainian government in a coup and its attempt to breach the country’s agreed neutrality by bringing it into NATO.

This curb on US power, however limited or temporary, should be welcomed by all socialists, by all democrats and simply by all those who desire peace. Instead, we have the strange spectacle that some on the left have raised the charge that Russia is imperialist, or that China is, or countries such as Brazil, or India or South Africa are ‘sub-imperialist’!

This is not a coincidence. In the US State Department’s frustration it has produced every type of calumny against Putin, including that he is an imperialist[i] and akin to Hitler. Self-styled socialists who simply echo these charges are not highly amenable to logical argument. But it is vital for socialists to understand the nature of imperialism and its current manifestation[ii].

Rather than echo the frustrations of the US State Department, socialists and communists welcome the current impotence of the US, for however long it lasts and however limited it is. In 1997 a triumphalist US imperialism set out its bold plan to brook no global or regional opposition and to be able to fight two major wars simultaneously[xii]. In 2013 the US and its allies were unable to begin bombing Syria.

Imperialism is the enemy of all humanity and its set-backs or defeats are a cause for celebration as they represent an advance for all humankind and the struggle for socialism.

So China and Putin have thwarted the US….. that is ‘anti-imperialism‘ for the modern day.

This is a recent screed by this genius of the world revolution, (Socialist Action John Ross. 29th of November)

How to really defeat ISIS

The effective measures that would really defeat ISIS are very simple – the fact Cameron doesn’t propose them shows he is lying about trying to destroy ISIS.

1. Turkey should be told it must close within 24 hours the main supply route across its border to ISIS at Jarablus and at other border crossings. If it does not a UN Security Council Resolution will be adopted imposing financial sanctions on Turkey, as with Iran and North Korea, and the UN Security Council will authorise coalition bombing for 5km inside the Syrian border with Turkey to cut supply routes to ISIS from Turkey.

2. Saudi Arabia should be told it must cease all transfers of money to ISIS. If proof is found of any further such transfers a UN Security Council Resolution will be adopted imposing financial sanctions on Saudi Arabia as with Iran and North Korea.

If these measures are adopted they would, unlike Cameron’s bombing, lead to the crushing of ISIS. A resolution of the House of Commons should be adopted to embody this.

If Cameron refuses to adopt this policy it shows he is not in fact trying to defeat ISIS. Therefore no support can be given to his proposed bombing.

No supplies no funds, ISIS will just disappear off the face of the earth.

No more slavery, no more torture, no more genocide.

Why didn’t World Imperialism think of it before?

Cretins…..

It’s also worth noting that Ross still loves his country,

Britain is also one of the world’s great historical nations. I love my country deeply, and the enormous contributions it has made to world culture and science, and in which struggles such as the Suffragettes or to create our health service are a source of great pride. There are regrettably some things in my country’s history, as with every great state, which I am not proud of. Some of these I mentioned and were crimes done by Britain to China.

He loves China too,

Note for Jeremy Corbyn – How China made the world’s largest contribution to human rights

By John Ross. October the 20th. 

Sections of the British media present a supposed choice that Britain has to choose between either pursuing purely economic interests or criticising China over ‘human rights’. This posing of the issue is totally false – China should be supported precisely because of its contribution to human rights. China has done more to improve the overall situation not only of its own people but of humanity than any other country in the world – as the facts show.

Who doesn’t love Ross.

Well, us lot still loathe him and his mates.

But it’s more important to say this. A group that rejoices in Putin’s ‘anti-imperialist’ foreign policy – not to mention anybody who foils the  power of ‘imperialism’ and any set-back for the US (without specifying why this is in itself good) – is part of the “political confusionism” our French comrades talk about. A group that celebrates the Chinese regime, on the basis of some kind of ‘economist’ reductionist view of human rights,  has no place on the democratic socialist left. And why on earth does Ross feel the need to talk about his deep love for his “country”?

**************

See also this virulently  hostile account of the groupuscule. The strange history of Socialist Action Martin Thomas.

The Letters the Weekly Worker Dare not publish.

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https://amadlandawonye.wikispaces.com/file/view/WeeklyWorkerSmall.PNG/32322975/WeeklyWorkerSmall.PNG

Letters the Weekly Worker Dare not publish.

StWC.

Defend Lindsey German and John Rees!

 
Dear WW,

The attacks in the Weekly Worker against the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) must cease. The bourgeois onslaught against the anti-imperialist Iranian Republic is nothing but a cover for attacks on the anti-Zionist credentials of Jeremy Corbyn. As I have stated at my ward meeting of Brighton Labour Party, Cds Rees and German were right to refuse to affiliate the so-called Hands off the People of Iran (HOPI) to the StWC. Had this happened it would have meant a de facto alliance with the worst elements of bourgeois chauvinist Nick Cohenite Eustonism.

Tony Vertespierre. Brighton.

Momentum.

We pledge our undying allegiance to the Caliphate. Death to the Kufur!

John T. Mark Anthony Smith, Momentum.

Liquidation of the Remnants of the Bukharin-Trotsky Gang of Spies, Wreckers and Traitors to the County.

Dear WW,

The Trotskyite rabble, clutching their so-called Transitional Programme to their flaccid chests, are sabotaging the long and glorious road of the remarkable victories of the Baath Party in Syria.

Free from opportunism, irreconcilable towards the capitulators, and revolutionary in its attitude, Baathism is proceeding to a decisive triumph. Comrade Assad, the genius of the Syrian revolution, has nevertheless, perforce, received snivelling criticism by the so-called Trotsky human rights supporters, i.e. alien, wrecking and spying elements.

In a circular letter to all organisations dated December the 22nd 2015, on the subject of the registration, safekeeping and issuance of Party cards, the CPGB (Provisional Central Committee) it is stated that we must ensure the careful verification of the records of all Party members to ensure “Bolshevik order in our own Party home”.

As cde Mohammed Ali has said, “You looking at me, you spineless Trotskyite?”

John Wiight. Planet Venus.

Socialist Republicanism.

Dear WW,

The English republic of Southwark and Bermondsey, South Londoners Against the Corn Laws, must protest against the recent statements made by the Fourth International. James Connelly would have blessed himself with holy water to hear the carping views of Liam on the Thanksgiving Uprising. Did not Cromwell teach the Irish the lessons of socialist republicanism? The Fourth International and Left Unity should rename themselves socialist republicans forthwith.

Steve Freedman. Old Southwark.

Workers’ Militias.

Dear WW,

The Walmington-on-Sea Workers’ Militia is appalled to learn that the People’s Assembly blocked all discussion of the arming of the proletariat at its recent conference.

Our battalion has been in training since the PA called for action against a possible Tory Coup last summer. We remain on high alert in view of coming referendum on Europe.

My men are as keen as mustard: ready to go to fight Jerry.

Captain Mainwaring.

Walmington-on-Sea.

Dialectics.

Dear WW,

Plus and minus are dialectically related. Sometimes two plus two equals five.

O’Brien. Airstrip One.

Stinky poo.

Dear Weakly so-called Worker.

You are stinking poos and mingy moos.

Socialism in one Bedroom.

Hamster pee.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 23, 2015 at 12:36 pm

The Stop the War Coalition: Is Trotskyism the New Conservatism?

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Socialist Unity carries a defence of the Stop the War Coalition against Phil’s The Anti-imperialism of FoolsIn Defence of the Stop the War Coalition.

I was going to begin with this, “Given the extent to which some on the left in the West continue to call for the toppling of Assad in Syria (a goal they share with Western governments), is Trotskyism the new neo-conservatism? ” by John Wight, also of Socialist Unity.

His message?

Like latter day John Browns such voices, wielding a copy of Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution in one hand and a one-way ticket to irrelevancy in the other, unleash verbal broadsides of calumny at any who dare question the intellectual and ideological idiocy they parade with the kind of gusto one associates with the infantile disorder of a type well known.

For such people ideological templates are all the rage, employed as a convenient opt-out of the obligation to come up with a concrete analysis of a concrete situation. Revolution is but a parlour game as they relive 1871, 1917 or 1968, the years bandied around like connoisseurs of champagne discussing a favorite vintage.

But I’ve had enough champagne in recent days..

I return to In Defence of the Stop the War Coalition.

Andy Newman begins

I was very disappointed to see a rather shoddy hatchet job against the Stop the War Coalition recently, not from the usual “decent” suspects, but from Phil Burton-Cartledge, on the usually pro-Corbyn and pro-left website, Left Futures.

Newman asserts that Phil’s criticism of ‘revolutionary defeatism’ – which are widely shared and have developed on this site – are invalid.

Phil summarised this aspect of Lenin’s politics , as they have been interpreted over the generations, to mean, “The role of revolutionaries everywhere was to turn inter-imperialist war into revolutionary civil war, to prevent soldiers from turning their bayonets outwards against other workers of other nationalities to the real enemy within – the owners of capital on whose behest the Great War was fought.”

Revolutionary defeatism was its name, overthrowing capitalism its game. And then, with mass parties of workers who’d traditionally been locked out of the political system, and were familiar with socialist and, in some cases, Marxist rhetoric, it actually made sense. Whether one disagrees with revolutionary socialist politics or not, it was a real possibility in several European countries as a wave of uprisings and revolts swept the continent as decayed and weakened empires collapsed.

Some of Andy Newman’s points carry weight,

The terminology of imperialism may sound oddly old fashioned, but Britain really did have a global Empire, built upon military conquest, plunder, rapine and murder. The powerhouse of the British economy was indeed built upon the crimes of Atlantic slavery, upon the transfer of vast amounts of capital to the UK from the colonies, and destroying indigenous economic capacity in order to create mass markets for British manufacturing.

This is not only of historical interest, because Britain’s current economic endowment as a capital rich, high skilled economy has arisen from that legacy. And the prestige and influence of the British state is still bound up with the post-colonial network of military, commercial and diplomatic alliances that arose with the rise of the USA as a global superpower. And yes, British foreign policy is still shaped by those interests, and habits; and there is still a mindset of entitlement, nowadays wrapped up in rather selective concerns about human rights, that has over recent years has led to some misplaced military interventions.

Newman mistakes the object of Phil’s critique.

It is not that ‘imperialism’ has not existed, nor that there is no form of imperial – in the sense both of capital exports, control of trade, cultural dominance, and the global reach of powers such as the US and the UK, and their military extensions – have evaporated. There is a rich and important debate on the forms of this, the “new imperialism” “empire” and the neo-liberal finance-led shaping of the process of “globalisation”.

The real issue here however is the politics of revolutionary defeatism.

Lenin and Revolutionary Defeatism.

The origins of this principle lie in Lenin – few can deny that. During the Great War  Lenin was thinking in terms of the growth of the revolutionary movement resulting from military defeat at the hands of the enemy government.

This, Hal Draper observed in The Myth of Revolutionary Defeatism (1953/4), was taken by Trotsky in 1939 to mean a general view that,

 Defeatism is the class policy of the proletariat, which even during a war sees the main enemy at home, within its particular imperialist country. Patriotism, on the other hand, is a policy which locates the main enemy outside one’s own country. The idea of defeatism signifies in reality the following: conducting an irreconcilable revolutionary struggle against one’s own bourgeoisie as the main enemy, without being deterred by the fact that this struggle may result in the defeat of one’s own government; given a revolutionary movement the defeat of one’s own government is a lesser evil. Lenin did not say nor did he wish to say anything else. There cannot even be talk of any other kind of ‘aid’ to defeat.

Draper was a supporter of the ‘third camp’ position: “The Marxist alternative is to reject the whole victory-or-defeat dilemma with its “lesser evil” trap, in the consistent Third Camp fashion which characterized Trotsky and Luxemburg’s approach.”

That is, to support the interests of the workers, the people, the masses, as they exist in particular conditions come first, and then we look at the policies and  states. Left-wing international politics are not some kind of chess board where we play off pieces (states) against one another. Workers and oppressed people’s interests are independent of state power. Plainly in some circumstances of armed conflict these needs could coincide with their governments’, bourgeois or not.  When Hitler invaded independent countries it would be wrong to assert that the armed forces of one’s country should be beaten. In fact democratic socialists backed the Allies against the Axis well before the USSR entered the war on the rational grounds that they were a threat to all.

Some Trotskyists in the 1930s and 1940s  pushed the contrary argument. They stated that only special classes of movements for defence against invasion should be supported (defending the Soviet Union). This would mean, in the Second World War, that nobody could fight Hitler except completely ‘independently’ of all bourgeois taint. Whether they wished for the crushing of their own bourgeois state by another was avoided by claiming that they would organise resistance to both.

One faction of French Trotskyists illustrated the absurdity of a full ‘defeatist’ position, when in 1944, the  paper, La Verité, published this front page article, welcomed the liberation by putting the Allied invaders, the French Resistance, the Nazi occupiers and the Vichy regime on the same plane: those fighting the Nazis are the exact equivalent of the SS and Vichy.

So much for history.

Phil makes the point that today ‘anti-imperialism’ entails a very specific kind of defeat-wishing. That to will the end of imperial hegemony is to set upon the means of finding an agency to do this, free from the corrupt politics of the “labour aristocracy” of the West, “…if that is your position, it follows that anything shutting down the funnelling of wealth from the south to the north would weaken capital’s capacity to absorb the demands of metropolitan workers.” “Therefore, to be consistent, the role of the revolutionary in the imperialist West is to work for the defeat of one’s own state, and that can be done by promoting the cause of its enemy.”

Anti-Imperialist alliances.

The Anti-imperialism of Fools asserts that this explains StWC, SWP, Counterfire backing – covert or overt – for all kinds of ‘anti-imperialist’ forces, up to and including the Baathists in Iraq, the Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Iranian theocracy and not doubt Assad today. It would explain why in the  “multi-polar” world they consider the “designs and manoeuvres of rival states and enemies are benign or, at least, less harmful.” In the UK the StWC reached out not just to Muslims in protests against wars involving Islamic countries, but to Islamists, political Islam as allies in the fight to defeat imperialism and, domestically “against the State. Or, as Phil notes, crudely, its leaders whether (then) the SWP or (now) Counterfire, regard Muslims as a privileged area of recruitment (not with much success one has to say).

This is a pretty stark – bare-bones – account.

StWC leaders represent a number of different strands of thought. For many the main objection to specific  foreign interventions – as in Syria now –  is that they are dangerous adventures that cost human lives without bringing justice, or human rights in their wake. There are those who indeed have a visceral objection to ‘imperialism’ because they do not consider that universal human rights can be enforced (to echo Robespierre) by the bayonets of a democracy. This are honourable positions – largely because they happen to be right.

Andy Newman’s strongest point, which underscores the previous argument,  is the following,

given the fact that the actual lived experience of the military campaigns has been disastrous, and indeed the disastrous outcomes have been made all the worse by the ideologues in Washington who have not respected state sovereignty, and indeed seen the actual destruction of states as a beneficial outcomes – in both Libya and Iraq, and now in Syria.

But… inside the StWC  here are also those who are clearly not in favour of stopping any military campaign if it involves Russian help to Assad to defeat Daesh.

Like John Wight, also of Socialist Unity.

There are also those, in the SWP and Counterfire, who think that an Arab revolution is still out there, waiting to be ignited if the ‘West’ is defeated in the Middle East; a starting point not so different from those who think that the Arab Spring can be continued by armed Western support for Syrian democrats.

Apart from that, the vaguest of vague wishes, there is little evidence that the StWC supports the victory of just any of  imperialism’s ‘enemies’, Daesh to the fore. Overwhelmed, Assad’s defenders (Wight excepted) argue that he has to be backed faute de miuex.

The reason why Phil’s article stung – and we hope to have made our own contribution to the pain – is that he singles out the loss of a ‘moral compass’ in the StWC’s calls to ‘stop the war’ when they clearly have not the slightest idea of how this might come about, above all in Syria.

The depravity of their reaction to Charlie and the Casher-Hebdo massacres  still lingers: arguing in terms of a, if not legitimate but at least ‘understandable’, ‘blowback’ may be more muted now,

But they have indeed recycled equally distasteful ‘whirlwind’ arguments – suggesting that if people should be afraid of more Paris massacres. Posing as messengers of Peace against the harbingers of war, they want us safe at Home.

The Syrian civil war has meant over 200,000 deaths and millions of refugees. The Assad Baathist state  stands accused of mass murder and systemic torture. Daesh has created a genocidal Islamic regime with ambitions to wider totalitarian power.

Other Islamists with totalitarian ambitions are rife. Many are backed by the Saudi-brokered “anti-terrorist” alliance.

Democrats, principally the Kurdish led forces, fighting with rare courage, are attacked by one of the pillars of the Western intervention, Turkey.

In Syria and Iraq hundreds of thousands of Christians and other religious groups, such as the Yazidis,  have been cleansed from their homelands by the forces of Islamist bigotry.

These are our sisters and brothers.

The StWC considers that “Our” responsibility starts and ends at “home”.

It does not even argue for defence and military support for the one alliance which stands out as a bulwark against all forms of reaction, the People’s Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel) and their more recent allies.

The Real Problem.

The Stop the War Coalition involves groups, including leading figures, who have a contentious view of ‘imperialism’ and some are influenced by a sour unappealing version of ‘revolutionary defeatism’. At times their spokespeople come close to a “Little Englander” stand that the risks of foreign wars – costs to our pockets, our military deaths, potential domestic terrorism –  are too great. This is as unappealing as the moral puffery of those who would impose human rights at the end of a cluster bomb.

But this is not their principal problem.

This is that the StWC  have no way of conveying a political message of solidarity with those suffering in the Syrian civil war, to further the aspirations for democracy and human rights, other than UK Stop Bombing.

They, whether Trotskyist or not, are truly conservative: repeat that, and all is resolved…

Update: Stop the War Replies to Critics: People are rude about us because we are so Awesome.

They attack Stop the War because we’re an effective anti-war movement and we won’t stop.

Within the anti-war movement there will be different views about what are the solutions to peace in the Middle East — the key question for us is opposing further intervention there by British and other forces.

Some on the left seem incapable of understanding this. But then, some on the left have never really understood the importance of a mass anti-war movement aimed at our government..

One of the major successes of Stop the War has been its ability to unite different forces. We will continue to do so.

The support we have received in recent weeks is in total contrast to these witch hunts, with many people joining, donating and coming out on the streets for our demos.

Another small group, Independent Socialist Network, to join Labour: is this the way to win backing for Marxism?

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Another Group Joins Labour? 

Rethinking Labour: More of the same or change of course?

Nick Wrack is a respected socialist activist who has long argued for a new Marxist party in Britain.

He is part of the Independent Socialist Network.

The history of that current is extremely complex even by the high left’s standards (for those who so wish they can look at its site,  here.)

Like many he is deeply impressed by the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, which he describes as a “game changer for left-wing politics in Britain”.

If I may jump over the article this is something he is not impressed with,

We have considered it worthwhile participating in TUSC and standing candidates against Labour in the hope that this could be a springboard to the formation of a new party. However, that is clearly not going to happen. It puts a negative over the whole project, even more so now that Corbyn has won the leadership of the Labour Party. TUSC will obtain even worse votes in the short term and standing to obtain risible votes cannot even be justified with the argument that it is to lay the basis of building a new party. In these circumstances it is time, in my opinion, to draw a line in our participation in TUSC.

A similar situation exists now with Left Unity. Left Unity has politics no different from Corbyn, so why would any of them join it? Why join a party of 1,500 when you can join a party of hundreds of thousands, with millions of affiliated trade unionists? Its perspective for any meaningful contribution to the socialist cause is minimal, if that.

It is unlikely, we note, that these failures are due to the following, causes which he mentions,

  • No group will give up its claim to be “the one true socialist party”. As result they cannot achieve, “unification of Marxists into a single organisation.”
  • The various socialist groups have sought to limit the nature of the project to essentially reformist policies, while presenting themselves as the ‘real’ socialists.
  • In Left Unity, Socialist Resistance and other non-aligned Marxists actively prevented clear socialist aims and principles being incorporated into the party constitution, preferring to blur the distinction between socialists and social democrats because they don’t want to put anyone off.

A simpler explanation is that these ideas have little connection to social reality and popular thinking.

One might say (with reference to, Lars T.Lih. Lenin Rediscovered. 2008) that Wrack’s view is based on the common ground of Erfurt Marxism (which could be said to be shared by the pre-Third International Lenin and social democratic Second International). That is,  that the “good news” of socialism has to be brought to people by democratic politics  ((Wrack’s group has always insisted on this point, in distinction from vanguardist Leninist groups),  debate on Marxist analysis (or socialism more widely) and activism.

In this respect it is clearly false for Wrack to claim that there are “two incompatible political ideologies – revolutionary socialism-communism versus reformist social democracy (which) – have existed in opposition since the second half of the 19th century.”

It would take many pages, of earnest theoretical and scholastic debate to determine what is ‘Marxism’, but the line between “revolutionary socialism-communism” and “reformist social democracy” is pretty minor compared to the distinction between Stalinism and democratic socialism.

In reality there is no one ‘Marxism’. There are Marxisms.

Where there is a fault line on the left and between Marxists, it lies in the difference between those who wish to emphasise the importance of political liberty, before and after the winning of political power by socialist parties, and those who believe that everything – including liberty – has to take second place to gaining and sustaining that power. We could go further and say that some of the latter still believe in the ‘actuality of the revolution’ – its continued presence ready to spring into life and led to victory the right manoeuvres of small left groups. Democratic socialism is the belief that we proceed by consent and by voting to a “revolution” in social structures and culture, not an imposed political leadership, or by violence – which as our founders said, was only justified against  “slave holders'”.violent opposition.

That kind of democratic Marxism is only one strand amongst an increasingly bewildering number of other left themes, third-wave feminism, the renewed  egalitarian social democracy of the people around Pierre Rosenvallon in France,  of the vast variety of Greens, radical democrats, other-globalisation theorists, supporters of décroissance and a host of other other left ideologies,  from the broad appeal of democratic secularist anti-racism, to other ideas, with a more limited audience, such post-Negri autonomism and the tradition stemming from Cornelius Castoriadis.

To varying degrees all these ideas exist within trade unions (the ultimate ‘reformist’ bodies), and parties like the Labour Party, the French left bloc, the Front de gauche, and a long list of European left and social democratic parties.

If Marxist ideas have any value it is not because they are ‘Marxist’ but because there are Marxist researchers and activists who can help develop a democratic socialist strategy and practical policies for achieving  – amongst a very very long list:

  • an egalitarian and socialist  response to neo-liberal economics based on the classical premises of class struggle politics: in the conditions of vastly changed class structures.
  • policies that offer a democratic transformation of the European Union.
  • policies that democratise the state: end the system of farming public functions (welfare, health onwards) off to private rentiers and take them under democratic control.
  • Workers’ rights, social rights, and the whole galaxy of human rights based on popular movements, not NGO’s lists of ideas.
  • the goal of the “an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

A creative left current, with an input from all these sources cannot be reduced to ‘Marxism’.

  • There is no evidence that “true” socialism exists in which the left can unite on the basis of Marxist doctrine. There are varieties of socialist politics and parties, many of which are incompatible No democratic socialist would want to be part of a party based on the kind of democratic centralism practised in the SWP or Socialist Party. Their version of Leninism is not accepted as ‘true’ Marxism either.
  • Out of experience many on the left would not touch these parties and their various ‘fronts’ with a barge pole.

We can imagine that it’s the fact that Wrack is part of the movement, and an activist, which had the main pull in the following analysis.

Having said that, there is an enormous battle taking place now within the Labour Party and the Trade Unions. This battle is going to intensify over the next year. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are principled social democrats. They do not, in my opinion, put forward a programme for overthrowing capitalism or for establishing a socialist society. But they are sincere and honest supporters and defenders of the working class and its interests. They support workers on strike; they support workers in protest; they stand up for the poor, the migrant and those on welfare. Arrayed against them is the whole of the capitalist class, the media and their echoes in the Labour Party and trade unions.

Marxists cannot stand aside in this battle and say, “It’s nothing to do with us.” Marxists participate in all aspects of the class struggle. Marxists must do everything we can to defend Corbyn and McDonnell, while engaging in a thoroughgoing criticism of their programme. We must defend Corbyn and McDonnell but fight for socialist policies. I do not have the space here to develop details points of programmatic criticism but fundamentally the issue boils down to what Corbyn is attempting to do differently from Syriza. How can Corbyn succeed where Tsipras failed? In my opinion, the weaknesses of the Syriza approach are present in Corbyn’s programme. How can we alter this to strengthen the movement for change?

Or perhaps not.

Activism seems to get downplayed in favour of, the no-doubt to be welcomed, “through-going criticism”

I spelled out some aspects of disagreement in an earlier article. I think that both Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have already made too many concessions or compromises, in a vain attempt to appease their opponents in the Parliamentary Labour Party, where they are in a small minority. But they cannot hope to win the battle they face in the Labour Party on the basis of the PLP. It seems that they have understood the need to base themselves on their support outside the PLP and have set up Momentum to organise that support. Momentum has to develop into a genuinely democratic organisation in which its members can influence policy and tactics.

And,

For all these reasons I am now of the opinion that all Marxists should, at the very least, join Momentum. We can play a key role in helping to defend Corbyn and defeating the right. Where possible, therefore, Marxists should also join Labour. This is best done as an organised group, rather than as individuals. The purpose of joining is two-fold: to strengthen the forces in defence of Corbyn and against the rightwing in Labour and the trade unions and to argue for a Marxist ideas in the mass movement around Corbyn. There is no knowing how long this battle may last or what the outcome will be. Those coming into Momentum and into the Labour Party will include thousands of people who simply want change. But many will have no clear idea of what that change should be or how it can be accomplished. Marxists have to engage with the debate. What change? How can it be achieved? What programme is necessary?

So,

The ISN will seek to organise all independent socialists in and out of the Labour Party who want to fight for Marxist ideas in the labour movement and we will work with all who see the need ultimately to build a mass united socialist party based on Marxist ideas.

It is hard to not see just how far this analysis from the ILN is from reality.

  • How is Momentum going to change the Labour Party? Is is going to act as an organised group that will take control over local Labour parties, and Council groups, on the basis of ‘debate’? How will this work within the slow process of Labour Party internal democracy? How on earth will this group actually oeprate within, say Policy Forums, CLPs? As an alternative party or as a simple current of ideas?
  • How will they cope with set-backs? The experience of ‘new’ politics, from Podemos onwards, indicates that ‘new’ democratic methods are hard to create, and frankly, the rhythm of Labour Party internal life is going to be an obstacle to anybody wanting instant political gratification.
  • How will they appeal to the large centre-ground inside the Labour Party which has to be convinced on solid grounds of the reasonableness of the new politics? The sudden arrival of new people, who campaigned against Labour in the General Election, eager to give advice, is, perhaps not likely to impress everybody. A simple thought: you have show respect for your opponents, even work for their election in councils, and so forth. Will the ILN manage that?

It is hard to not to think that some people on the left, with limited experience of how the Labour Party actually works, and the inevitable disappointments for those with simple and clear goals of “defending” Corbyn, are going to get frustrated and bitter very quickly.