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Factionalism in the time of Coronavirus, Part 2: Counterfire.

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About - Counterfire

Why Indeed Should Anybody Join Them?

Counterfire, for those who do not know, is the principal force in the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) and the People’s Assembly (just about the only group left doing anything in the latter).

They, like the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), have a close relationship with the former Labour leader through the StWC and with Andrew Murray, his former adviser, the  UNITE Chief of Staff, a member of the CPB until 2016. Lindsey German, leading Counterfire member, is the Convenor of the Coalition. Her partner, John Rees, an admirer of György Lukács and the ‘actuality of the revolution’, has been heavily involved in the leadership of the People’s Assembly (Against Austerity).

This is the latest event from the StWC.


Many people on the left are very critical of the StWC, notably for its failure to show real solidarity with those oppressed and murdered by the Assad’s regime in Syria.

They say that that the Coalition has shown no sign of supporting what democratic position there is, and that it’s failure to stand, clearly, with the Kurds fighting the Daesh genociders was unforgivable.


How are Counterfire bearing up after the General Election, a new Labour leader, and the Coronavirus pandemic?

Recently German has been writing – sometimes  useful – articles on the government’s response to the Covid 19 crisis.

A failed government in a failed system – weekly briefing

With Britain having one of the worst records on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, you might think some caution, humility and even a change of direction might be in order. But as the government stumbles from one failure to another it seems both incapable and unwilling to change course.

But let’s not forget the political stand they have towards the Labour Party.

German also states the following,

So it is very often up to working people themselves to defend conditions – and that means unions. They have many faults – they are often slow and cautious, marked by years of defeat and legal restriction. Their leaders are also content very often to negotiate rather than take more militant action. Their ties to Labour lead them to further caution, and this is likely to get worse under Keir Starmer’s leadership. 

In February the revolutionary socialist groupuscule  instructed the left,

No socialist should vote for Keir Starmer

If Keir Starmer were to win, he would take Labour back to the centre-ground that proved so disastrous for Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and social democracy across Europe and beyond. He is no friend of the left and no committed socialist should vote for him.

This is how, in April,  they greeted the arrival of Keir Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party.

Sir Keir Starmer’s deadly crusade: supporting big business and undermining unions – CounterBlast 15 April

This morning the new Labour leader Keir Starmer used an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme to urge the government to provide an exit strategy for the lockdown this week and suggested that schools should be among the first to go back.

It is a signal to the establishment and big business that they can trust Starmer to look out for their interests. And it’s deadly for working-class people.

Starmer’s intervention can only strengthen the government in its desire to return to ‘business as usual’ as soon as possible. No wonder Boris Johnson was so keen to invite him to government meetings – a ‘privilege’ denied of course to Jeremy Corbyn.

By May this had become:

Starmer’s foreign policy and the spirit of Blairism

Blair’s foreign policy represented a ruthless reaffirmation of this Labour tradition as the West’s ambitions expanded in the wake of the Cold War and Russia’s collapse as an imperial power of global weight. Corbyn offered a break with this tradition, inspiring many, but incurring the wrath of the establishment both inside and outside the Party. Starmer now seeks to expunge the very memory of this break. Guided by the spirit of Blairism, his foreign policy is certain to be one the Foreign Office will be only too gratified to call its own.

The hard-line pro-Brexit group has been gloating at the EU’s difficulties.

Covid-19, the crisis and the European ideal

As Europe reels from being the centre of the Covid-19 outbreak, the EU is creaking at the seams and may not recover, argues Martin Hall.


German has the merit of  being open about her Leninist politics.

This is an example (April 21st).

The Dilemmas of Lenin

Written to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the Russian revolution, Tariq Ali’s book also speaks to those of us involved in contemporary politics here in Britain. A new politics has been unleashed with the electoral advances of Jeremy Corbyn and widespread revulsion at the consequences of neoliberalism, epitomised most strongly by the Grenfell Tower disaster. This era is opening up a new interest in political discussion, and with it a real thirst to know how the left can achieve its aims against the vested interests of the few, aims which cannot be achieved through parliamentary legislation but will require the systematic transformation of society.

In this debate, people will return to past experiences of working-class history, including the Russian revolution – which changed the history of the twentieth century – and to the ideas of the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin. In doing so they will hopefully see past the distortions on both right and left which have so obscured and sometimes vilified that history, and see the incredibly brave, prescient and committed politics which made Russia the powerhouse of revolution.

It is hard to see what kind of role Counterfire will have in the coming months.

Serious articles, and some interventions around the pandemic, enter a crowded field.

Their political moment has passed.

There is not going to be a new Corbyn in the foreseeable future.

The role of opposition to Starmer inside the Labour Party is already taken by other small groups like the LRC and he cartel in “For a Broad Left Network“, some of whose members are not known to be friendly towards Countefire.

They have nothing to say about the fight in Momentum between Forward and Renewal factions,not to mention pro-European Momentum Internationalists. (1)

Finally we note that Counterfire has not responded to the CPB’s call for a new Popular Front involving the People’s Assembly.


More on this: Undemocratic, backroom politics. Sacha Ismael. 

May the 18th.

A new grouping, Forward Momentum, is in conflict with those who run the Momentum office (which means, in Momentum as currently constituted, run the organisation). The office people seem to be supporting a counter-initiative, Momentum Renewal. Both will run candidates in the imminent National Coordinating Group elections.


Syria: The Left’s Forgotten War.

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Labour Candidates for “Party of Peace” Ignore Syrian War Crimes.

Nobody can say they did not know this was happening: it’s been on the television every night.

Oz Katerji writes,

The promises made by the international community after the fall of Nazi Germany have once again been shown to be worthless. 

We’re going to see a massacre on a scale that has never been seen during this entire war.” These are the words of UN deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Mark Cutts, speaking to Sky News about the Assad regime’s ongoing Russian and Iranian-backed slaughter of Idlib.

For years the entirety of the international community has had exhaustive and irrefutable proof that Syria’s dictatorship has been carrying out a campaign of human extermination against its civilian population, with a death toll in the hundreds of thousands. There is indisputable evidence that the regime has been responsible for using chemical weapons and deliberately targeting hospitalsUN aid convoys, paramedics, schools, civilian homes and civilian infrastructure.

This regime has used starvation, torture, rape and displacement as weapons of war. How much worse can it get? Idlib is home to three million Syrians, one million of them children, with the overwhelming majority of the population already displaced from other parts of the country. How did those people end up in Idlib?

The Syria Campaign is deeply concerned.

Our co-fouder, Abdulaziz almashi, was on Sky News today to talk about the current situation in Idlib. He says the international community must come together to stop the upcoming massacres in Idlib. #IdlibUnderFire #SpeakUpForIdlib

Yesterday the Morning Star headlined,

Long-Bailey and Burgon the only candidates to declare Labour should be ‘party of peace’

People would be forgiven for thinking that when it comes to issues of war and peace the Labour Party candidates had taken an interest in the worst civil war of the 21st century, Syria.

The article continues,

The candidates were asked whether they each agreed that recent wars waged by Britain have been “disastrous” and whether they, if they were to be elected in leadership roles, would call for an end to foreign policy based on “wars of aggression.”

The letter also had questions over whether Britain’s foreign policy should be independent of the US, whether the candidates would support the immediate withdrawal of troops from the Middle East, and if Britain should end arms sales to oppressive regimes.

Not a word on Syria there but,

Ms Long Bailey’s response was received on Thursday. She said that outgoing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn apologising for the party’s role in the Iraq war under Tony Blair’s premiership was a “moment we should all be proud of, but never should have been necessary.”

She added: “Not only must Labour be a party of peace, we must have an internationalist approach that we can achieve peace and global justice and through this ensure global stability.”

Ms Long Bailey also condemned arms sales to Saudi Arabia, spoke against “outsourcing” foreign policy to the US and Donald Trump’s “one-sided attempt to impose an unjust solution on Palestinians,” and in favour of “ridding the world of nuclear weapons.”

Mr Wakefield said that it is important that the next cohort of Labour leaders are anti-war to reflect the membership.

It concluded,

“Anyone who wants to lead the party needs to show that the previous Labour government’s record on these issues was a disaster, and that they would follow a different course,” he said.

“It’s disappointing that we haven’t heard from the other candidates, and it’s not a good sign going forward.”

Leadership candidates Sir Keir Starmer and Lisa Nandy, and deputy candidates Dawn Butler, Angela Rayner, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan and Ian Murray had not responded to the letter at the time the Star went to print.

In fact about the only theme one can see is that these candidates support “Don’t Bomb Syria”.

It is not forgotten that the liar tweeting below got support from some sections of the British left, including former MP Chris Williamson.

This moral bankrupt expresses the only issue that matters to some of these “anti-imperialists”:

This, meanwhile, is happening:



Written by Andrew Coates

February 22, 2020 at 1:25 pm

Counterfire on “Post-Corbynism”, “Rebecca Long-Bailey is not continuity Corbyn enough” .

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Image result for the sea of faith arnold

Labour in vain? – weekly briefing

Lindsey German, on “ Post Corbynism” .

The leader of the revolutionary socialist Counterfire is already retreating from Long-Bailey.

And what’s more, she has, in-between defensive remarks based on her own group’s unique standpoint, begun to talk sense.

The main thrust is to undermine the claim that Long-Bailey is the ‘real’ left candidate to lead Labour.

The problem for the left however is that Rebecca Long-Bailey is not continuity Corbyn enough. She advocates the use of nuclear weapons. She declared herself a Zionist at the Jewish Labour Movement hustings. And she has signed a statement over trans policies in Labour which contradicts the manifesto pledges, and which threatens to lead to a witch-hunt against some feminists. I understand the pressure that she is under, but we can see from the experience of Jeremy Corbyn himself over the past four years that giving in to pressure doesn’t mean it gets easier further on down the line.

Lindsey German may be wrong to highlight ‘Zionism’ as a be-all-and-end-it all issue.

She ignores the pressing issue of Syria. Many would like to see Labour leadership candidates confronted with the need to support the Kurdish fight and that of democrats against Assad and wider Middle East. Other democratic struggles, across the world, are pressing, from Hong Kong to South America.

Labour’s whole flawed foreign policy needs dropping.

As Rohini Hessman says,

The attempt by the Corbyn team to cover up the brutality of Russian airstrikes in Syria illustrates what I call their pseudo-anti-imperialism: opposition only to Western imperialisms while supporting non-Western imperialisms like Russian imperialism and Iranian regional imperialism, which share responsibility with brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad for over half a million dead and over half the population displaced in Syria.[17] Putin’s is a far-right regime which has provided funding and other support to neo-fascist parties throughout Europe,[18] and to far-right politicians – including Trump – in the rest of the world. Evidence has emerged that it has supported Boris Johnson too.[19] One reason why it has bombed Syrian civilians and democracy activists in support of Bashar al-Assad is to entrench its power in the Middle East; but another is to support its neo-fascist allies in Europe by giving them an ‘enemy’ to demonise, namely millions of Syrian refugees fleeing for their lives.[20] It is disturbing that Corbyn’s team would want to cover up the crimes of such a regime; equally disturbing is the implicit contempt for Syrian working people struggling against unemployment, poverty and authoritarianism.

 It is important that the Labour left – and indeed all socialists – abandon the simplistic notion that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ which has been used to support anti-Western tyrants and imperialists, and take a consistent position in solidarity with all struggles against oppression and exploitation. They need to be able to deal with complexity; to understand that it is possible to oppose military assaults on Iran and sanctions that hurt ordinary Iranians, and at the same time oppose the repressive, extreme right-wing Islamic regime; to acknowledge that prejudice against Jews is racist and antisemitic, but denying Palestinians the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is also racist, and campaigning for those rights is not antisemitic.

German continues on Long-Bailey,

She will get the majority of the left’s votes, although some of those will go to Keir Starmer, who is tacking very much to the left at the moment. His support for Owen Smith back in 2016, his record at the DPP, his ultra-remain politics, are all on the back burner for the next month and a half. Lisa Nandy is the most right wing of the candidates and has already signalled retreat on nationalisation. All three of the remaining candidates have distanced themselves from Jeremy Corbyn in a number of ways, even though December was clearly a Brexit election and even though there are many signs that Labour’s policies were, and remain, popular.

This is where it get sticky.

The Brexit election…German means an election in which Counterfire backed Brexit, and,  with the help of a rag-bag of parties like the Communist Party of Britain, the SWP, left sovereigntists, ‘traditional’ Labour nationalists helped confuse politics by supporting an imaginary ‘People’s Brexit’.

‘Remain’ was the right policy for internationalists, the prefix “ultra” signifying Counterfire’s annoyance at the consistent and principled influence on the left and the Labour Party of groups like Another Europe is Possible.

German opines further on Labour’s  popular policies,

Equally fanciful is the idea that the left-wing policies put forward by Corbyn were unpopular. Indeed if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then we should look at the way in which Johnson’s government is scooping up a number of these policies and claiming them as its own. We’ve already had the nationalisation of Northern Rail, and rail nationalisation is likely to go much further. Now Johnson has declared massive spending on bus services, something that Corbyn was ridiculed over just a couple of months ago.

As has been said time and time again, such clear policies were swamped in the sheer volume of announcements the Labour Party put out.

The faith in Corbyn, a man with many merits, but not a charismatic leader for most of the population, is disintegrating.

Is this one answer?

Rebecca Long-Bailey would offer Jeremy Corbyn a place in her shadow Cabinet

The need to remove the failed team, the “corridor cabal”  that botched an already hard election battle, and to build a united Labour party, would suggest otherwise.

One threat has emerged.

On trans issues German says,

It should be possible for socialists to discuss these issues and reach a position which opposes all oppression. The trans debate in the Labour Party is in danger of ending up in a bad place if it does not do this. Some of the pledges put out by the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights are in my view unacceptable, especially those calling organisations like Woman’s Place UK transphobic, and calling for expulsions of transphobes (presumably including members of WPUK). What I find most worrying here is that women who are good socialists are being branded as transphobes because they have a different perspective on women’s rights and trans rights, and that there are repeated moves to close down this discussion. This is being done in an authoritarian manner through threatening expulsion. We have already seen protests at WPUK meetings, attempts at no platforming women such as historian Selena Todd, and attempts to sack women who disagree.

This leads to a situation where it is impossible to move the debate forward. Labour’s manifesto called for full support for trans rights, but also for retention of rights relating to women as a sex under the 2010 Equality Act. Both Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey seem to have dropped this approach in favour of signing the pledge. Laura Pidcock’s eminently sensible call for discussion led to a stream of abuse directed at her. It really has to stop.

For a very different view (this Blog tends to agree with German on this issue but this is an important, heartfelt, article) see:

What’s Wrong With Woman’s Place?

There have been few more bitter struggles on the left in recent years than the conflict between those who support trans inclusion and those who style themselves as Gender Critical and refuse to accept that trans people should be socially or legally treated as their aquired gender.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 17, 2020 at 12:43 pm