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Frank Furedi, How Fear Works: a Review, “The Red-Brown Dreadnoughts”.

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Mr Dreadnought Faces Fear.

Frank Furedi How Fear Works. Culture of Fear in the Twenty-first Century. Bloomsbury. 2018.

“I pass, like night, from land to land;

I have strange power of speech:

That moment that his face I see,

I know the man that must hear me:

To him my tale I teach.”

The Ancient Mariner. Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

“In recent times” announces Frank Furedi, “ I have given around eighty lectures on the culture of fear a round the world.” This will come as a surprise to many who associate the one-time leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, RCP, (defunct in 1997) Emeritus professor of Sociology and self-identifying humanist with his progeny in Spiked. That on-line magazine is best known for its claims to defend free speech; libertarian attacks on environmentalism, and “political correctness”. So predictable is its “contrarian” stand that a left-wing prophet regularly forecasts coming articles by editor Brendan O’Neill. Unaided I imagined a heavy swipe at Greta Thunberg. A second later and this came up on Google, “The cult of Greta Thunberg.

Over the last couple of years Spiked has been an outlet for pro-Brexit sovereigntist and ‘working class’ nationalist identity politics, and a strident defender of national populism. Funding from the hard-right Koch Foundation is probably as well known as the ideas Spiked and its nebulae of fronts promote (How US billionaires are fuelling the hard-right cause in Britain 

Populist politics are far from a contrarian joke. The Brexit Party. In discussing How Fear Works, on the friendly platform of Spiked Furedi said, “critics of populism accuse populist movements of using the politics of fear. But more concerning is the fear of populism.” (The Fear of Populism is really the fear of the masses). He has poured scorn on “project fear” Not only have contributors to the site stood as candidates for Nigel Farage’s rally, but one, also ex-RCP, the broadcaster Claire Fox, is now one of their best known MEPs.

Relentless in his global preaching How Fear Works is, as the author points out, the latest in a number of his fearful works, including The Politics of Fear (2005) That book talked of the end of distinction between left and right. “It is amongst the left-wing intelligentsia” Furedi asserted, “that the greatest scorn is reserved for the ideas of progress associated with the Enlightenment” The “conservatism of fear” could be seen in those protesting “against capitalism” in the ‘alter-globalisation’ movement of the time. Their concerns for regulation and the environment demonstrated a “misanthropic mistrust of human ambitions and experimentation”. (1)

Green Catastrophes. 

In this respect Furedi bears comparison to the jeremiads against the Green movement’s “catastrophism” by Pascal Bruckner, Le Fanatisme de l’apocalypse. Sauver la Terre, punir l’Homme/The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse (2013).  At present one expects The present book on the “ascendancy of the culture of fear” and the “unawareness of any cherished values” is more ambitious. It ranges from such “eschatological anxieties”, the “perils facing society” to the “psychology of fear” and the “way it was perceived in previous historical epochs”. In this respect he asserts that, “History provides an important intellectual resource for illustrating how people managed to tame their fears and move forward.” (2)

A substantial part How Fear Workers is devoted to sociology from newspaper clippings, or rather what I saw on the Web. If the media is not “an omnipotent force” creating the culture of fear, it is Furedi´s prime source. Written into this “cultural script” of dread is everything from population growth, emotional harm, and how “the evidence of reason and science provides the motivation for fearing threats”. This authority is used for “Warnings about obesity, flue epidemics, SARS and superbugs”. Toning down his previous resolutely sceptical approach Furedi indicates that campaigners on global warning sometimes engage in “distortion of evidence”. “Fear entrepreneurs” and “moral entrepreneurs” are out to protect the public. Safety has become a value in itself.  I saw it somewhere on Facebook.

Furedi offers a reconstruction of the place of fear in, a bite sizes, of  the history of the moral imagination of human beings. Personhood he indicates, has drawn back from responding to fear with “wisdom, courage, moderation and justice”. But what ancient virtues can be detached from the societies that embodied them?

Heroic Virtues.

The one time New Leftist Alasdair Macintyre sketched the ancient “heroic virtues” and the Aristotelian hierarchy of virtues, engaged in a “quest” to reunite our fragmented ethics. “Truthfulness, justice and courage” would replace subjective emotivism, the therapist and the ‘value neutral’ manager. Furedi is more ambitious, calling on the “Judaism and Christianity” for “moral principles” and the “contribution of the Ancients – Greeks and Romans – Christian philosophy and the Enlightenment” to back a move forward towards “openness to experimentation” and risk-taking. It is at odds with our “precautionary culture”, though perhaps, amongst the previous “resources” not all together at once. (4)

Moving from the importance of free debate, the need to take risks, the “virtue of courage” we find that a  “loss of faith in public life and in people’s decision-making” runs through modern politics. Like critical theorists of “post-democracy” the one-time Revolutionary Communist is outraged at “contempt for the public”. He, mirroring the often-expressed view of writers such as Jacques Rancière, considers that the term “populist” is used to belittle popular democracy.

Interviewed in 2017 he talked of being a “genuinely committed European” and the welcome Brexit vote. “The EU is risk averse, it believes that if something moves it should be regulated. It represents risk as a form of danger not an opportunity.” The alternative is national sovereignty, “National sovereignty is not simply about waving the flag, it’s about understanding that only through the institutions of a nation state can you have a sense of control over your destiny and hold your leaders and politicians to account. It is only in this terrain that democracy has any real meaning.” How exactly a nation state enables people to take control over one’s (personal or collective?)  “destiny” is not explored. Furedi belongs to that class of people who think that sovereignty gives the power to rule the waves and turn the oceans into lemonade. While negotiating a Brexit on WTO terms.

In his horror story, which extend from the European Union outwards, Furedi   relies on assertions about the power of “political oligarchy ”, the “elite” is working against the masses . Why and how, backed by empirical evidence,  it fabricates ‘fear’ is less than clear. Outside of news clippings and reflections about the philosophy and history of being afraid we have a theoretical and practical vacuum.

For Spiked and the ex-RCP one thing remains clear. Against the home of that upper crust, the EU, stands the Brexit Party. It, after the failures of the labour movement and the actually existing left,  is the bearer of new hopes. National sovereignty in the hands of Farage and his crew looks an unlikely vehicle for open-minded experimentation and risk. Most would consider than the Brexiteers’ political project is centred on creating a safe space for their emotional needs. They have one home in Spiked. It has a niche. It has developed as a pivotal part of the Red-Brown front. Spiked relayed through its allies within the broader Full Brexit and other has reached out to a fraction of some who call themselves ‘left’. They include Blue Labour types worried about the erosion of ‘community’, those raving at the cosmopolitan EU, identity politics that erodes centuries of indigenous working class culture, and who enjoy the odd burst of Shelly from Claire Fox. Nobody can hide that the online magazine and its panoply of allied Academy of Ideas events has allied them to Nigel Farage, the extreme right of the European sovereigntism.

Encouraged by their Dreadnoughts the Brexit Party is already acting on the political stage. Their antics in the European Parliament indicate the poverty of their nationalist ambitions.  It is, as Furedi will recognise, hard to see how we on that internationalist left that he loathes, will lack the courage to continue our implacable opposition to this department of the culture of fear dominated by the “language of emotionalism”.

*****

  1. Page 67 and 11, Politics of fear. Beyond Left and Right. Frank Furedi. Continuum 2005
  2. Page 244. How Fear Works. Culture of Fear in the Twenty-first Century. Bloomsbury. 2018.
  3. Page 127. Page 99. How Fear Works
  4. Page 192 After Virtues. Alasdair MacIntyre. Duckworth. 1987. Page 244. How Fear Works
  5. Therapy Culture. Cultivating Vulnerability in an Anxious Age. Frank Furedi. Routledge. 2004

More material on the origins of Spiked/the RCP:

Triangulating Bobism 2: The Furedi cult

Who Are They? Jenny Turner reports from the Battle of Ideas

Libertarian Humanism or Critical Utopianism? The Demise of the Revolutionary Communist Party Dave Walker

From New Interventions, Vol.8 No.3, 1998

 PLATFORM FOR WORKING CLASS UNITY? THE REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST PARTY’S RED FRONT AND THE 1987 ELECTION

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Brendan O’Neill Gets the Hump about “McCarthyite assaults on everyone associated with the Brexit Party.”

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Far-right outfit, loopy too.

Brexit Party: The elite’s smears won’t work, because they just aren’t true.

Brendan O’Neill opines,

The elite is throwing a lot of shit at the Brexit Party, but it just isn’t sticking.

Ha! Ha! Ha! 

In extraordinary amount of character assassination – or rather, attempted character assassination. Claire Fox’s political past is dredged up, by those who clearly have nothing of substance to say about her political present and her arguments in defence of democracy.

As in:

As in,

Witness Nick Cohen’s boilerplate column in the Observer yesterday in which he bemoaned the media’s failure to shift politics away from Brexit and in a more ‘desirable’ direction – this is the wail of a collapsing establishment horrified that its fury and bluster and conspiracy theories make no impact whatsoever beyond certain parts of London.

Ha!

O’Neill terminates his prose peroration.

Call off the thinkpieces, park the conspiracy theories, chill your McCarthyite urges….]

Not a bleeding chance me old china!

 

See also: on Medium John Rogan

Socialist Party, (former Militant) in Total International Split over those who have “buckled to the pressures of ‘Identity Politics’.”

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From Alf Garnett Rants Against Climate Change Demos to Split. 

The Socialist Party, apart from the split in the PCS union, has  apart from its hard-line pro-Brexit stand, and links with the likes of the  Arron Banks national populist Trade unions against the EU’ has not campaign has not made the news these days.

Even the Alf Garnett  rants have not won it a wider audience.

Rant against climate change demos by the hard-line pro-Brexit ‘Socialist’  Party,

“R’s insufficient programme and its rejection of politics inform its strategy…”

In reality, the manifesto leaves capitalism intact while seeking to remove its worst aspects. But this vague vision of an alternative society is utopian – and would not even mitigate the effects of climate change.

The idea of individual martyrdom is typical of a middle-class approach, and contrasts unfavourably with the democratic, collective traditions of working-class struggle.

Perhaps this latest row will get people’s attention note the bit, “further reflection of this capitulation is in shown in the Euro election where the main slogan of the Irish section’s candidate is “for a socialist feminist”.

 

“To all CWI members.

Declaration of a split from the CWI.

The Non Faction, Faction (NFF) last week circulated an open letter signed by a series of IEC members, (full and alternates) together with some visitors and translators who attended the IEC meeting in November 2018 together with some CWI members who were not present. In their statement the NFF rejected the decision of the International Secretariat to convene a meeting in November 2019 and appealed for the IS and the openly declared international faction to reconsider its position and commit to participating in an IEC meeting in August. Now they have taken the decision to convene a meeting of the IEC in august themselves. This action is part of the objective of the NFF to carry through a “regime change” in the leadership of the CWI. We entirely reject this action which is ithe declaration of a split from the CWI.

In the statement the NFF once again ignored the central political issues of difference which have clearly emerged in this debate. As we stated at the IEC in November 2018 there are clearly two main divergent trends developing in the CWI. This has been clarified during the course of six months of debate. It is clear that there is a decisive difference now on the crucial issues of orientation, perspective and programme.

“Socialist feminist” a major step backwards.

It is evident to us that some sections of the CWI have buckled to the pressures of ‘Identity Politics’. Others have gone even further and have or are in the process of capitulating to them. This was recently demonstrated in the debate in US in Chicago. Andy M (US NC) who led off and replied for the NFF – no US EC member was present – argued that the IS “did not understand the new world situation” and comrades argued that the womens movement was detonating the struggles of the working class. A further reflection of this capitulation is in shown in the Euro election where the main slogan of the Irish section’s candidate is “for a socialist feminist”.

This divergence is reflected by a turn away from systematic trade union work in a number of sections and abandonment of an orientation and emphasis on the centrality of the working class. This is clearly reflected in Greece and the non- Trotskyist approach of the section towards intervening in the environment movement and the approach taken towards the workers in gold mining industry.

There is a major divergence between the NFF and ourselves on the question of a systematic and consistent orientation and intervention to the working class and its organisations. We defend this orientation and in doing so up hold the historical foundations on which the CWI was build. The NFF are opposed to it and are moving away from it. This is not a secondary issue as the NFF allege. It is a crucial question on which there needs to be agreement in order to establish a “principled revolutionary unity”.

The leadership of the NFF evade serious debate on these crucial questions of divergence. In debate after debate they have alleged that the IS is conservative, out of touch and now represents “the old guard”.

They have tried to rally support on the basis of an emotional appeal for “unity” but evade explaining what the principled political basis of “revolutionary unity” is based on. The only thing that unites the leadership of the NFF is opposition to the IS. The failure to debate the political issues and only call for “revolutionary unity” without political agreement is the receipt for a split.

Throughout the debate the NFF have denied that it is a question of “regime change”. However, as Sascha S made clear in his recent statement this was explicitly posed by Eric B (Belgium) at the IEC meeting in November. Now other representatives of the NFF have also posed the same issue in recent debates. Paul C (representing the NFF in England and Wales) explicitly posed this in a debate in the eastern region. Now the removal of Peter T from the IS has been raised in a debate in the US and the representative of the NFF in the debate, Andy M, failed to comment on this.

Regime change

It has been revealed during the debate that some NFF members have been preparing the ground for a regime change for a number of years. From Austria comrades report that they were informed some IEC members were organising against the IS in 2016. Younger comrades in England and Wales were told by Danny B that they would have an important role to play “especially if there was a split in the CWI” at about the same time!

All comrades have the right to oppose the IS and argue for a different political approach. However, this should be done openly and honestly. This was not done by these comrades. This dishonest method has sunk to new depths during the course of the debate. All members of the CWI need to pose the question if there is to be regime change – which is the right of comrades to propose – what is the political basis to elect a new leadership? The only unifying stance of the NFF is to deny that substantial political differences exist and opposition to the International Secretariat. We have published our political platform. What is the political platform of the NFF if it carries through a regime change? Comrades will search in vain for a political platform they all defend. We are confronted with a non, faction, faction with non principled principles! A regime change of this character will destroy the CWI as a viable Trotskyist international organization which we are not prepared to accept.

The NFF demand that the COC resumes its functions. Yet this body is perceived by the NFF as an “alternative to the IS” which we reject. We reject the calling of the IEC in August by the NFF as an attempted coup or preparation for a coup against the current IS.

The NFF claims that the IEC majority represents the majority of the CWI. We do not accept this. As we have explained the IEC as currently composed is not representative of the CWI. Its composition is weighed towards the smaller groups like Cyprus, Poland, or Australia with 1 full member whose active membership is less than some branches in other sections! Or Russia with 25 members and 2 full IEC members and not a single full timer. Greece with 302 members has 4 IEC members the same as England and Wales with 2000 members. 3 sections – Cyprus, Australia and Russia – have a total of 66 members and 4 IEC members!

Against the background of a political and theoretical abandonment of Trotskyism by the NFF leadership we cannot agree to participate in or recognise the August IEC which is aimed at enacting a regime change which will mean the destruction of the Trotskyist principles the CWI was founded upon. We have defended and will continue to defend the Trotskyist methods and principles on which the CWI was founded and continue to build it on those methods in the coming period. We therefore appeal to the comrades not to participate in this meeting called by the NFF on a non-principled political basis, which in reality is a split from the CWI.

Those participating in this are placing themselves outside the CWI and in a rival organization. We appeal to comrades to support the international conference called by the international faction ‘In Defence of a workers’ and Trotskyist CWI’ and the programme and platforms which we have defended. This is the road to build a powerful Trotskyist international based on the working class and the methods of the CWI.”

“Against the background of a political and theoretical abandonment of Trotskyism by the NFF “

Harsh words….

They appear to have split on the basis of some of their sections having some kind of of way of relating to mass politics.

That is, against the Millies’ standard practice of refusing to  work with anybody on an an equal basis as opposed to the normal practice of this funny sect, which thinks, bizarrely, that it is a leading force for socialism (let alone ‘Trotskyism).

Their criticisms of ‘identity politics’, lety aline their hostility to Climate Change demos, have the odour of another age: what they mean is working with other people on the left.

They have done that, “we are in  charge” stuff since the anti-Poll Tax movement and the ant-racist campaign, and, one could list their hollow fronts at length.

It looked ridiculous, from a groupuscule of aged dogmatists,   in the past and now….

One would suggest that the weakness of their politics has been cruelly exposed over Brexit, which they stridently backed, even to the extent of supporting the Arron banks linked right-wing Trade Unionists against the EU.

They publicly supported the hard right Brexit project, the extent of being key members of the NO to EU Yes to Democracy front of the labour aristocrats of the CPB and the RMT

The right-wing trajectory of the anti-European Union Taafe group  continues...

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 20, 2019 at 1:00 pm

James Robertson, Founder of the Sparticist League, and Progenitor of the Private Eye Columnist, Passes On.

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Sparts’ British Supporters.

James Robertson, (born 1928) was National Chairman of the Spartacist League (US), the original national section of the International Communist League. Robertson is now, it is reported (Marxism List), a consultative member of the ICL’s international executive committee in the depths of Hades.

Contacted by this Blog the venerable scion Comrade Dave said,

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Julian Assange,  Aaron Bastani…and now Comrade Robertson, who has not been the victim of the racist declining British empire as it is smashed by the Spartacist League/Britain  which will honour his memory in our fights to build such a revolutionary workers party, one that stands as the tribune of the people in defending all the oppressed including the downtrodden. Building such parties internationally is part of reforging the Trotskyist Fourth International as the world party of socialist revolution.  As Trotskyists, we stress that just as workers in the US must defend their unions against the bosses despite the sell-out union leadership, the international working class, especially in the US, must stand for unconditional military defence of the Deformed North Korean Workers’ State against imperialism and internal counterrevolution.

Down with the Pabloite Revisionists!

Glory and Hail to the Memory of the Robertson Victorious Red Army!

Dave Spart: Chair of the Aldeburgh Climate Collective/Free Julian Assange, People’s Brexit Alliance.

Full accounts of his life and his passing, the public mourning,  and planned commemorative meetings have yet to appear.

For those who only know the Sparts from the celebrated offspring’s regular Private Eye Column the excellent Hatfull of History offers this introductory guide, which concentrates on their British activities.

Taking a break from writing book chapters and ARC proposals, I have been plunging into bizarre world of the Spartacist League (UK) through the recently digitised Spartacist Britain (1978-84) and Workers’ Hammer (1984-2011), made available online through the Riazanov Library Digitization Project and the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism Online. The Spartacist League were a breakway group from the Workers Socialist League (led by Alan Thornett) who had broken away from Gerry Healy’s Workers Revolutionary Party in the mid-1970s. The SL joined up with other Spartacist groups in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, forming the International Communist League – a version of the Fourth International that opposed the Mandelite Fourth International which the IMG belonged to. In his 1984 work, John Sullivan described the Spartacist League as ‘very unpopular’ and ‘increasingly unbalanced’ and are probably best known nowadays for their absurd defence of regimes such as North Korea (accompanied by unintelligible placards announcing their position – see here).

SECTARIAN HILARITY FOR THE LEFT-WING TRAINSPOTTER! THE UK SPARTACIST LEAGUE’S PAPERS FROM 1978-2011 NOW DIGITISED AND ONLINE

(Note if I could be arsed there is an issue which denounces ‘Bully Boy Coatesy’ to boot).

 

A guide is offered in the Bible, our look-up-to, As Soon as This Pub Closes. (1988) – one could update it at length, right to the recent expulsion of the Polish section (maximum 3 members, “ICL Expels Members of Polish Section. Statement by the International Executive Committee. 5th of April 2019).

THE Spartacist League (Sparts for short) are a colony of an American group of the same name who split from the American SWP in the early 1960s, when the parent group became Castroites, lost interest in the labour movement, and became ardent supporters of armed struggle (except in the United States, where guerrilla war is illegal). Consequently, the SWP fired Gerry Healy, who had been their British concessionaire up till then, made it up with their old enemies Pablo and Mandel, and created the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. Those, mainly in the SWP’s youth wing, who could not accept the change in policy were expelled and eventually became the Spartacist League. They tried to work with Gerry Healy, who the Sparts’ leader, James Robertson, recognised as a kindred spirit, but Healy demanded unconditional obedience and worship at his personal shrine. If the group was to escape from national isolation it needed its own International, so teams of missionaries were despatched to strike at the revisionists’ European base. Although less successful than the Mormons, they managed to recruit some natives and now have a group of about 60 people, which publishes a journal named Workers Hammer.

The Sparts’ complete parasitism on other groups makes them very unpopular on the rest of the left, so, regrettably, little attempt is made to understand the theory which explains their behaviour. The Sparts’ core belief is that, for the foreseeable future, it is impossible for revolutionaries to address themselves to significant sectors of the working class, as anyone open to revolutionary politics is already a supporter of one of the groups which falsely claim to be revolutionary. The key task of revolutionaries is, therefore, to win over supporters of these Ostensibly Revolutionary Groups (ORGs), by heckling their meetings and hoping to be thrown out. The Sparts will in this way achieve the primitive accumulation of cadres which is a necessary stage to be gone through before proceeding to a direct involvement in class struggle. The belief in the long slow haul is combined with the view that there is not much time left to build the vanguard party before the final struggle between socialism and barbarism. Such a theory may be contradictory, but it is necessary if the group is to maintain revolutionary fervour while confining its activity to a propaganda onslaught on the ORGs.

Surprise is sometimes expressed that such an introspective strategy comes from a group born in the stirring 1960s, heyday of youth revolt and the movement against the Vietnam War. Are the Sparts not too kind to the ORGs, in spite of continually bad-mouthing them? As usual, an examination of the group’s own history and political predicament will provide an explanation which eludes us if we confine our attention to the realms of grand theory where the Sparts would like to contain it. The core of the Sparts joined the SWP in the late 1950s, after splitting from Max Shachtman’s Independent Socialist League, a formerly Marxist organisation which moved rapidly to the right during the 1950s. Shachtman had split from the SWP in 1940 and ended up supporting the Vietnam War, so the young men who joined the SWP were accepting that that party embodied the revolutionary tradition. They were almost alone in joining what was already an ossified liberal sect, which is why they immediately dominated its youth movement and breathed some life into a decrepit structure.

When the Sparts found themselves outside the SWP, they had, in order to justify joining it in the first place, to construct a myth that it had degenerated recently. The contention puzzled other American leftists. Some of the old SWP members were loyal and dedicated comrades, but the party’s intellectual level was abysmal, it had hardly any industrial clout, and young people, apart from those who were to become the Sparts, saw it as an irrelevance. So did their younger sisters and brothers, when the anti-Vietnam War movement developed in the 1960s. James P. Cannon, the Healy prototype, who the Sparts continue to see as the American Lenin, retired from active leadership but retained political solidarity with the subordinates who replaced him. The SWP, after the departure of the Sparts, acted as handboys of the liberal Democrats in opposing the more radical elements in the anti-war movement. Our indigenous Sparts are carefully brought up in a myth which dates the SWP’s degeneration a decade-and-a-half later than the facts warrant. The contradictions in the Spart view of the movement’s history conditioned their inability to understand British politics, once they stepped ashore. The antics of the American SWP’s co-thinkers here were appalling, so the Sparts slated them mercilessly. On the other hand, the theory said that such groups embodied the revolutionary tradition, in however deformed a fashion, so the Sparts could not abandon them and search for a healthier corpse to feed off.

Why stick with such a contradictory theory and live in such a repulsive environment? It is a more intellectually satisfying variant of the Mandelite belief in the revolutionary potential of the flotsam of that milieu, and fulfils the same function of providing a justification for avoiding the working class. No one unfamiliar with American society can appreciate the enormous difficulty in maintaining a hold on reality in an environment where student radicals have to compete with Hari Krishna and Lyndon La Rouche, a former Spart who is now a leader of a Moral Majority sect. It is surprising, not that the Sparts are crazy, but that they are not even madder. The Sparts’ belief that the ex-Trotskyist movement was healthy until the 1950s allows them to avoid any discussion of the much more important discussions of the 1940s. They cannot help but be aware that the British section of the Fourth International, the Revolutionary Communist Party, was one of the healthiest and most working-class and that their hero Cannon helped in its destruction when he imposed his clone Healy as its leader. Consequently, their anti-British chauvinism seems like a mirror image of Militant’s patriotism. The Sparts’ fixation on their very individual view of history and their chosen field of operations limit their interests. They found it easy enough to outrage your average middle-class trendy by reiterating traditional Marxist views on such issues as Black and Female separatism. As unusually learned Marxists, they are well aware that the founding fathers’ views on Gay Liberation are even more shocking to many of those who consider themselves their followers, but they wisely decided not to press that point. [1] It is more difficult to extend this method to cover areas such as political economy where the trendies do not have a view. In any case, the Spart heart was not in this. Once the overriding aim to zap the ORGs is understood, everything else about Spart activity falls into place. For example, a revolt in South Africa is intrinsically less interesting than the wrong response of the Dutch or German Pabloites to that event. As illusions in Eurocommunism, feminism and the youth vanguard crumbled in the mid-1970s and the radical left was thrown into crisis, the Sparts hoped to benefit from the decline of their softer rivals. In practice, the collapse of that milieu had a calamitous effect on them in the early 1980s. When the dog dies, the fleas also die. Unused to developing the independent activity which was clearly necessary, now that there was not much meat on the ORGs, the Sparts lost most of their cadre in Britain.

Because many of the Sparts’ formal positions are more acceptable to labour movement activists than the lunacies peddled by their competitors, there is the danger that people outside the radical middle-class milieu will want to join them. To prevent the inevitable tensions which would result from recruiting working-class militants, reasonable positions are expressed in an intolerably harsh manner that works quite well. American ex-Sparts describe a very Healyite organisation where Robertson sits behind a steadily growing pile of empty beer cans carrying on a rambling drunken harangue interspersed with senile laughter, yet we have found Robertson charming on his visits to London. It is true that many of the leading Sparts go in for a macho-man image of guns and swords. The perfectly reasonable call for the abolition of the licensing hours is elevated to a central demand, and there are signs of a flirtation with Scots nationalism. As befits its American origin, the Sparts are individually competitive. New ideas are floated, and if successful their originators get promoted, while if the idea is found to be revisionist they are demoted. If you believe that she who lives by the sword will die by the sword, you have probably guessed the Sparts’ destiny. In the early 1980s, a group of veteran Sparts in the Bay Area of California, where they had their only toe-hold in the labour movement, defected. The renegades, who originally called themselves the External Tendency, had absorbed their Spart training well. They re-classified their parent group as an ORG and turned up to intervene at its meetings, carefully restraining themselves against attempts to goad them into violence. Innocents in Bootle or Lyon can hardly be expected to understand that the main purpose of all Spart literature is to discredit that tiny group in California.

Goaded by the External Tendency, the Sparts became increasingly unbalanced, and now agree with the despised Pabloites that a wave of sexual repression is sweeping over Britain. If the External Tendency (now known as the Bolshevik Tendency) are able to smuggle a colonist with the requisite ethnic qualifications past Thatcher’s racist immigration police, so that she or he could do to the Sparts what they do unto others, they would lose control completely and go the way of the Healyites and accuse their rivals of working for the CIA. The Bolshevik Tendency is an extremely small flea, but its bite could well prove fatal.]

See also: (1964), EXPULSION LAID TO TROTSKYITES; Socialist Workers Accused of Arbitrary Actions

 

The Socialist Workers party the American Trotskyite group, has been accused of expelling members solely “on the basis of opinions,” allegedly for the first time in its 35‐year history.

The charge is being circulated by the expelled members, led by, James Robertson and Geoffrey White. Mr. Robertson is the editor of a new 16‐page bimonthly, Spartacist, started here by the ousted group; Mr. White is the West Coast editor.

Mr. Robertson said in an interview last week that “more than a quarter of the membership,” including Mrs. Myra Tanner Weiss, former Vice Presidential candidate, and Arne Swabeck, a founding member, had opposed the expulsions last December although many disagreed with the opinions of the expelled group.

Farrell Dobbs, national secretary, has declined to comment on the charges, circulated in a Spartacist edition of 2,000 copies, according to Mr. Robertson.

Mr. Robertson asserted that past expulsions had been based on actions outside the party. He cited the ouster of Max Shachtman and James Burnham in 1940 after they began operating an independent publication.

While the Socialist Workers party does not make known its membership, Mr. Robertson estimated it was down to about 500 members nationally. A subscription drive recently brought its weekly publication, The Militant, up to perhaps 7,000 to 10,000 subscribers, he estimated.

The Trotskyites’ policy flows from the world Communist program of the late Leon Trotsky. The party is currently running a Presidential ticket headed by Clifton DeBery, who Mr. Robertson said was Mr. Dobbs’s sonin‐law. Mr. Dobbs polled 40,165 votes as party candidate for President in 1960.

Mr. Robertson said that five members of his so‐called Revolutionary Tendency group were expelled by the national committee on Dec. 28 on charges of having a “hostile attitude.” He said the five were not granted “the formality of a trial.”

Another, he said, was expelled by the New York local on Feb. 13 for having picketed Queen Frederika of Greece “without prior consultation or approval.” Five more, he went on, were expelled by the local last Thursday on charges that included their having voted against a report branding his group “a hostile faction.”

Mrs. Weiss voted against the latest expulsion on the ground that the party should allow “different democratic interpretations” even though she opposed the Robertson group politically as “sectarian and ultra‐leftist.” Those expelled are demanding readmission and could appeal to a national convention.

The Revolutionary Tendency group was formed in 1961, The Spartacist said, in response to what it called the national committee’s “surrender of all Marxist responsibility toward the Cuban Revolution through abasement as an uncritical apologist for the Castro regime.”

The group asserted this had been repeated with regard to the Ben Bella regime in Algeria. Most recently, it contended, the majority engaged “within the United States in a will‐o’‐ the‐wisp chase after Black Nationalism.”

Of those expelled, Mr. Robertson said, the oldest was Mr. White.

Mr. White, 37 years old, is a former chairman of the Communist party of Rhode Island. He resigned from that party in 1957 after Premier Khrushchev’s disclosures of Stalinist terrorism.

Mr. Robertson said that Mr. White then joined the Socialist Workers party and polled 2,000 votes as its candidate for the City Council in Berkeley, Calif., Jast year.

Mr. Robertson said he himself was 35 and had joined the Communist party in California at the age of 18 in 1946. From 1949 to 1957, he said, he belonged to Mr. Schachtman’s Workers party, called the Independent Socialist League in its later days, and then he joined the Socialist Workers party.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 12, 2019 at 4:24 pm

John Rees (Counterfire/People’s Assembly/Stop the War Coalition) Compares anti-Brexit March to “mild (as yet)” “mass fascist or populist right wing” movement.

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Clive Lewis and Lloyd Russell-Moyle “Angry Middle Class moblised for its own purposes by sections of the elite”.

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John Rees is a leader of the groupuscule, Counterfire, a split from the Socialist Workers Party. He is a national officer for the Stop the War Coalition (STWC) and a key figure in the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.

Counterfire has worked with many groups and individuals, as part of what they pretentiously call “united fronts”, including George Galloway of the Respect Coalition and Andrew Murray, now an adviser to the Labour Leader on Brexit.

Recently they have engaged with the Full Brexit, an alliance of the Family Faith and Flag Blue Labour, the Communist Party of Britain, writers for Spiked, left “magic money” Sovereigntists, and bee-in-bonnet anti European Union loud-mouths. Two of the groups involved, Labour Leave, and Trade Unionists Against the EU, have received money from hard-right millionaire, Arron Banks.

Feyzi Ismail from Counterfire spoke at their hundred strong Rally in London this Monday.

Rees, and Lindsey German, have close links with Jeremy Corbyn, including a long history of joint work in the StWC.

Rees claims to be inspired by revolutionary Marxism.

A revolutionary organisation remains the indispensable tool for overcoming the unevenness in working-class consciousness, maximising the effectively of working-class struggler recalling the lessons of past victories and defeats, and educating and leading workers in struggle. Formed from the working class by working-class people to help generalise and organise the struggle of the whole class it is itself a dialectical organism. Without the struggle to build such an organisation, the danger remains that the dialectic of capitalist development will remain blind or destructive; but if the struggle to build such and organisation is successful, we have a change – more, not less power – to make the leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom.”

Page 302 The Algebra of Revolution. The Dialectics and the Classical Marxist Tradition. John Rees. Routledge 1998.

With these arms in hand Rees has seen fit to advise Labour on strategy.

In February this year he wrote,

Corbynistas! Up your game, or lose the game

….Jeremy Corbyn, who has historically held an anti-EU position only altered under pressure from the right wing in the first days of his leadership, and now aware that Labour would lose the next general election if Labour deserts the very large number of Leave voters, is embattled at the head of his party.

One way of improving Labour’s prospects would be to face down the remainers and second referendumers. All the placatory talk of Labour being a broad church which can accommodate diametrically opposed views is doing nothing to quell the determination on the part of the remain right-wingers to see the end of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

..

At a moment when the Parliamentary system is manifestly failing, when every dog in the street knows that the government is willing to sacrifice the interest of ordinary citizens on the altar of Tory party unity, why would any left-wing organisation simply play by the Parliamentary rules?

Mass activity can never be a ladder which activists climb and then kick away once leadership has been attained.

The Labour Party and the trade unions should have by now called a second demonstration to ram home to the political establishment the simple message that voters will not tolerate a government which flouts every day democratic norms to stay in power no matter how many votes it loses in the House of Commons.

Call the rallies now. Send left leaders of the movement out to address them. Call a mass national demonstration now. Call on every Labour movement organisation to build for it. Break the bounds of the Parliamentary deadlock and give ordinary people the chance to shift the political spectrum to the left, open up the path to a general election, and win a left Labour victory.

The People’s Assembly held such a march earlier this year on the 11th of January.

Barely noticed, a  few thousand strong, it ended in confusion and fisticuffs between far-right Yellow Jackets and the ‘real’ Yellow Jackets of the demonstration (Hundreds of protesters have joined a ‘yellow vest-inspired’ anti-austerity march through central London this afternoon. The demonstration is organised by The People’s Assembly Against Austerity, which is calling for a general election. Metro.)

Understandably Rees is pleased when the only mass activity in sight has been the campaign for the People’s Vote.

He could have followed Socialist Worker which today describes the call for a Second Referendum by last Saturday million strong march, an ” anti-democratic outrage”.

Rees goes further.

He begins with claims that the march was set up by the wealthy to further the aims of the “overwhelming majority of big capital”.

It is a “middle class movement” with a “vanishingly small” union presence (where it was before it began to vanish is not described).

It is a “variant” of a “mild (as yet)” mass fascist or populist right wing” groundswell.

In other words, confusionist words, the Counterfire leader claims that the gentle anti-Brexit protesters  are manipulated by big business, the “elite”, “grandees” the “high Establishment” into something, which the expert in Dialectical Algebra can see: the beginnings of a “mass fascist or populist movement”.

Rees lectures, in the stentorian tones of somebody who he has spent his entire life in universities, that one should have a “respectful and engaged tone” to some of the demonstrators.

Like calling them part of a proto-fascist movement….

Perhaps Labour MP Clive Lewis could answer the learned dialetician best.

This is a racist Brexit, not fit for the 21st century but for the 19th century. That’s what it represents – deregulation, low taxes, imperialism 2.0. Don’t quote me on that: quote the former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson.

..

One of the other things you might know as well is this. There aren’t that many black MPs supporting Brexit. Do you know why? We’ve got a bit of a spider sense when it comes to shit like this. We can see that Brexit wasn’t going to end well for us, for black people, when it has targeted EU migrants. EU visitors here – welcome, welcome comrades. You are comrades, not a bargaining chip.

..

I’m not talking about “Remain and reform”. I’m talking about “Rebel and transform”, to turn Europe into a global entity that can tackle climate change and rebuild this world.

Speech at the Left Bloc Rally at the start of the 23 March People’s Vote anti-Brexit demonstration. The Clarion.

 

“Convulsive Crisis” in Committee for a Workers’ International. Breaking News.

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The authentic ideas, traditions and policies of the Militant Tendency.

Everything that exists is material and is derived from matter; that matter is in a process and constant change; and that all matter is interconnected and interdependent.

Dialectical Materialism and Science  (SOCIALIST APPEAL)

Like a cloud burst this letter has just broken in the international socialist and workers’ movement:

Open letter to the members and former members of the CWI

The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) has been plunged into a convulsive crisis, which is most likely going to end in a split. At the centre of the crisis are developments in their Irish section. From the material available to us from their internal discussions it appears that the Irish section is being accused of adapting to identity politics, concentrating on women’s and LGBTQ+ issues to the detriment of work in the trade unions, bending towards reformism and at the same time adopting a sectarian stance. This emerges both from the criticisms of the International Secretariat (IS) majority faction and of one of their MPs, Paul Murphy..

The heavily ‘Labour Party orientated’ Socialist Appeal group – just a newspaper and sympathisers, and the odd abandoned telephone box,  – in the shape of the International Marxist Tendency traces the roots of the convulsions in the Socialist Party’s practice over the last decades:

Unfortunately, a bureaucratic clique, led by Peter Taaffe, slowly emerged within the tendency over a number of years.

Militant, as it was known, had its own split.

this led to the quest for shortcuts, which pushed the Tendency in an ultra-left and sectarian direction, breaking with all the traditions and methods that had led to the outstanding successes of the previous period.

Alas,

Ted Grant, together with Alan Woods, Rob Sewell and other comrades, attempted to resist this turn to adventurism, but it proved to be too late and they were met not with genuine discussion, not with any attempt at reaching agreement through democratic debate, but with bureaucratic methods and outright hooliganism that were completely alien to our democratic traditions. The opposition, inside the Militant in Britain and around the world, was expelled in the most arbitrary manner in early 1992. As Taaffe put it, the Opposition had “placed itself outside the organisation”.

This marked a decisive break with the genuine traditions of Trotskyism and eventually led to the destruction of everything we had achieved over a period of 40 years of patient revolutionary work. Under the leadership of Peter Taaffe, the gains we had made in the labour movement were gradually lost.

Lacking the load-stone of Marxism they were adrift, and look what befell them….

Not good stuff, not at all.

This is precisely what has happened to the leadership of the CWI under Taaffe. It made a big mistake in abandoning the Labour Party perspective and has not had the honesty and courage to admit so.

Mandelism.

Taaffe accuses his opponents in Ireland and elsewhere of all kinds of heinous political sins (liquidationism, opportunism, Mandelism, etc.). But if there is opportunism and liquidationism in the ranks of the CWI, these tendencies have not arisen overnight. The leadership is fully responsible for this chasing after short cuts, which is the basis for opportunism. It has been visible to all for quite some time.

The must-read of the day ends on this poignant note.

Comrades! The authentic ideas, traditions and policies of the Militant Tendency have been consistently preserved and defended by the IMT.

..

If you agree, we appeal to you to join the International Marxist Tendency, the true heir of the best traditions of the Militant, and its fight for a new International, and help us build the forces of Marxism with the healthy methods of Ted Grant.

March, 2019.

Further Reading: Socialist Appeal conference 2019: building the Marxist voice of Labour and youth

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 25, 2019 at 6:35 pm

American Socialist Worker, “a momentous convention devoted to addressing the organization’s unaccountable leadership structures and a damaging internal culture.”

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As the British pro-Brexit Socialist Party’s ‘international’, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) appears to be disintegrating amid a dispute with the Irish group, the US International Socialist Organisation (ISO), which produces its own Socialist Worker (often a source of real news and serious analysis) is in trouble.

There are reports of acrid exchanges on Facebook and other social media.

From above which is publicly viewable:

I’ve been a member of the International Socialist Organization for 19 years and it’s time for me to speak some truth. It has recently come to light that Joe Richard, elected to our leadership body this year, raped someone in 2013. Instead of expelling him, Sharon Smith, author of “Women and Socialism”, and Nicole Colson, a leading contributor on gender oppression to Socialist Worker, covered it up and protected him. Luckily, Sharon and Nicole were not elected to leadership this year and Joe is no longer in leadership now that this has come out. I don’t yet know who else knew about this in our leadership when this happened.

The same year, in San Diego, it came out that a comrade who I had been friends with for many years, Chuck Stemke, attempted to rape someone. Another longstanding member, Avery Wear, protected him. It took other people outside of the organization making it public for Chuck to be expelled, but Avery is still a member.

I joined the International Socialist Organization because I wanted to fight for the liberation of women, of all oppressed people, and of the working class. I have fought within this organization for justice for survivors of sexual assault. At the same time, I have accepted or gone along with many destructive practices of keeping information internal (or among a select few) and enforcing ideological purity. Those practices have been harmful, particularly to people of color in the organization, women, and trans comrades. I am going through a process of grappling with what that means for me and how to make amends and build in a better way.

Because we have elected almost all new leaders and I trust a number of them to clean house, I am remaining in the organization for now. There is a lot to answer for. Some people need to be expelled. Some people, who were in proximity to the disgusting cover-ups, need to be removed from all leadership positions. A handful of people who were in leadership then remain on leadership bodies now and I think that might need to change.

There is a possibility that I will face backlash and/or disciplinary consequences in the organization for making this information public before our leadership bodies have decided to do so. I have determined that it is far more important for everyone to know what has gone on, than it is to protect my own standing or follow bureaucratic procedure. I firmly believe that any organization existing in our deeply racist, sexist, and exploitative society will face situations like these. The test for us is how we choose to respond. Many left organizations have fallen apart because they failed to root out sexism and racism from within. I am choosing to put everything out on the table because I think it’s the only chance we have to build a left that can change our world for the better.

The ISO has not responded in the attempts at papering over the difficulties, that is, following the way its |(former) British counterpart did to the Comrade Delta crisis.

A MESSAGE TO OUR READERS

 

THE INTERNATIONAL Socialist Organization (ISO), publisher of Socialist Worker, is in a deep crisis whose immediate cause is the exposure of a 2013 sexual assault case that was horribly mishandled by our national leadership at the time. Last Friday, Socialist Worker published a public version of the letter written by our recently elected Steering Committee to ISO members regarding the revelation and initial steps that had been taken in response.

The news about the 2013 case came shortly after a momentous convention devoted to addressing the organization’s unaccountable leadership structures and a damaging internal culture that had a disproportionate impact on people of color and others with oppressed identities. The convention resulted in a thorough change in our national leadership and a commitment to chart a new direction so the ISO could be more engaged in struggle and with the new socialist movement.

In the convention’s aftermath, many ISO members felt a mixture of hope, pain and uncertainty. Those feelings have been replaced by ones of rage, despair and betrayal. Some have felt they can no longer be a part of the ISO. Those who remain recognize how difficult it will be to reckon with this crisis and all the damage it has done.

Certainly, there is a shared understanding among all that the only future for the ISO begins with a frank and searching discussion. So regardless of what the future brings, the main goal of Socialist Worker in the coming weeks is to be of service to current and former ISO members and the wider left by providing a platform for socialists to grapple with the many issues that have led us to this point.

It’s unclear at what pace these articles will appear. We plan to begin this process with contributions from current or recently resigned ISO members, and we won’t rush those into publication. So as much as we want SW become a forum for continuing discussion and reflection, we can’t yet say how regularly we will be running articles in the coming days.

More via above link.

See (from the present blog (2014): The American International Socialist Organization (ISO): Facing its own SWP Crisis?

One can only commend the ISO’s present open approach to these issues.

LETTER TO THE ISO MEMBERSHIP

The International Socialist Organization’s Steering Committee sent this letter to members about a deep crisis in the ISO. We are sharing it publicly here on SW. We have edited it slightly to be published on a public website and have added updated information.

THREE WEEKS ago, the ISO held its most important convention (translator’s note, National Conference), which was also its most painful. Much of the convention was devoted to reckoning with the damaging impacts of our past practices and internal political culture. As branches have reported back and opened up these discussions, more examples of a damaging political culture have come to light. This brief letter from the new Steering Committee (SC) was written to update comrades on those incidents and on timelines with respect to mandates voted on by Convention delegates, while offering some thoughts on how to proceed.

As this letter was being drafted, the SC (as well as several members of the National Committee (NC) and several socialist feminist allies) received a document from a former member (FM from here forward) on March 11, detailing the ways in which the 2013 SC had badly mishandled an allegation of rape in 2013. Moreover, the document explained that the respondent in the allegation had recently been elected to our SC at this year’s convention. FM was on the National Disciplinary Committee (NDC) that originally heard the case. FM’s account has been corroborated by other members of the NDC at that time who remain active members of the organization. We are grateful to FM for having taken the time to write this and reach out to us. FM also copied on the e-mail allies outside of the ISO whom we have worked in socialist-feminist and queer activism.

The SC held an emergency meeting on Tuesday night, and then a joint meeting on Thursday night with the NC and other members, including members of the National Branch Council ad hoc organizing committee, the survivors’ caucus and the #MeToo commission, to begin a discussion of the implications of this document and what next steps need to be taken. Here are some of the immediate steps we have taken:

 We immediately responded to FM and to the allies who were copied on the e-mail to thank FM for sending it, informing them that we would be sending it out and discussing as a leadership, and stating that we take this very seriously.

 On Tuesday, after SC members asked that the respondent identify himself and resign, he did, voluntarily resigned from the SC and said he would take a leave of absence. The SC voted to suspend him and stipulate that a decision would be made on his membership status later.

 On Thursday, the joint meeting of the NC, SC and other members agreed unanimously to expel the respondent according to the original decision of the NDC. In addition, the meeting voted to suspend from membership three members of the 2013 SC directly involved in the outcome of the case, while a complete investigation of what happened in 2013 takes place. The meeting also voted to suspend from a position on any leadership body any member of the 2013 SC, along with a recently elected NC member who had played a role in undermining the work of the NDC, for the duration of the investigation.

 We now need to empower a body independent of the current SC that can investigate the conduct of the 2013 SC and other participants in that 2013 process. Whether that should be the recently formed #MeToo commission, the NDC or some other body still needs to be determined, but will be soon.

 Another joint meeting of the same participants this weekend will continue the discussion and develop a process for a further public statement. It will also be discussing how to create spaces for membership-wide discussion. All members are invited to a meeting via conference call that is being set up for Monday.

 A member from Portland is organizing a support call for survivors or others triggered by this document. A survivors’ caucus is being formed and resources for survivors are being collected.

The document from FM is very clear, and rather than editorializing, we will leave comrades to assess it for themselves. We will be writing much more and providing space for analysis and discussion of what took place, lessons learned from it and what needs to change in the coming weeks. We believe it speaks both to failures of our political culture that we have identified as well as failures to adequately address the needs of survivors, a lack of understanding of the dynamics of rape and sexual assault, and the failure to create a process that could prioritize doing our best to determine the truth of what happened over bureaucratic proceduralism. This is not separate from the issues we have been reckoning with and the culture we are fighting to transform — though this experience is a particularly acute and devastating manifestation of this culture. There is no way to move forward from this without the utmost honesty and critical assessment.

The rest via link above.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 20, 2019 at 11:57 am