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Spiked-on-Line – former Revolutionary Communist Party – Go Mad on Gaza.

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Now Justifying Gaza Killings. 

One of the many bizarre things about British politics is seeing former revolutionary Marxists , and not just any odd bod like Peter Hitchens but a hard organised crew – appear on the telly all the time giving out far-right views.

There was one last Sunday, she came across as a free market loony in full blast.

In my youth the faction, known as the Revolutionary Communist Tendency used to flog their unreadable journal to us lot in the IMG. They denounced us for our ‘reformism’.

Later they broke from the group they were part of (the RCG – don’t even ask) and became this group:

The RCP took a number of positions coined to distinguish independent working-class politics from statist reformism. These included

  • The rejection of all controls on immigration.[5]
  • Opposition to any national economic recovery strategies, such as import controls, which aimed to pit British workers against those overseas.[6]
  • Free abortion and contraception on demand.[7]
  • Decriminalisation of homosexuality.[8] and complete equality under the law.[9]
  • Unconditional support for the struggle against British imperialism in northern Ireland, on the grounds that “British workers cannot ignore the cause of Irish liberation without renouncing their own class interests”.[10]
  • A claim that the police occupied Brixton: “We have to organise on the streets and housing estates to keep the police out.”[11]
  • The party’s campaign Workers Against Racism aimed to organise physical defence against racist attacks.[12]

Now I have a bit of a history with them, I wrote a letter to their paper Living Marxism which caused some controversy.

But not compared the right-wing shite they are now putting out: from pro-Brexit onwards.

 

The demonisation of Israel is nurturing a new kind of conflict.

Brendan O’Neill.

Here is a grim irony to the florid condemnations of Israel being made by Western observers and politicians following the killing of 60 Palestinians at the Gaza border yesterday. Many of these people who are so disgusted by Israel’s behaviour, so agitated by what it has done that they plan to take to the streets later today to register their fury, have played a significant role in the great beleaguering of Israel in recent years. In the transformation of Israel into an illegitimate entity. In the reduction of it to a uniquely ‘rogue’ state. In the treatment of it as fair game for isolation, boycotting, attack, and possibly destruction: Israel is the only nation on Earth whose erasure can casually become a topic for dinner-party chatter.

And you cannot beleaguer a state like this and then feign surprise when said state feels beleaguered. You cannot contribute to the moral isolation of Israel and then be shocked to discover that Israel feels isolated, and fragile, and possibly on edge, and consequently deeply concerned with defending its borders – borders that so much of the world hates or at least contests – from a hostile incursion. At least, if you are a serious person you cannot do this.

But the second way to view yesterday’s tragic events is as the bloody offspring of the siege of Israel. As the latest, quite easy-to-predict consequence of the beleaguering of Israel both physically, in the region itself, and morally, by much of the Western intellectual elites who in recent years have come to view Israel as the key source of the world’s troubles, and even to question its validity as a nation. Every nation can be expected to defend its borders against a threatened and attempted hostile incursion; a nation whose existence is continually called into question, by everyone from extreme Islamists to Western thinkers, might be anticipated to defend its borders with a particular concern.

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

May 16, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Communism, Israel, Trotskyism

Tagged with , ,

Fred Leplat (Socialist Resistance) Expelled from Labour Party.

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Fred Leplat: stalwart of the left.

The Jewish Chronicle says,

Hard-left ‘revolutionary’ who met Jeremy Corbyn in Barnet ahead of local elections is expelled by Labour Party.

A left-wing activist who sent a letter allegedly signed by 33 members of Barnet Labour Party to news organisations, including the JC, attempting to defend Jeremy Corbyn’s record on antisemitism has been expelled from the party following an investigation into his conduct during the local election campaign.

Can I say, as somebody who has known Fred for some (very long) time, and has respect for Socialist Resistance(SR), that this report is more than incomplete.

Why was this expulsion so rapid? 

Fred and SR have never made the slightest secret about their politics.

LePlat is well known, and liked, by many people on the left and the labour movement as his position as Barnet Momentum secretary indicates.

The views of SR on broader issues in the Middle East – one of the few groups on the left to defend consistently Syrian Democrats against Assad  – should be taken into account.

As in, “Fred Leplat writes about the barbarism unleashed by Assad on the people of eastern Aleppo.” (2016)

They are what they say they are, and the letter Fred mounted is in defence of Corbyn’s support for the Palestinians and opposition to anti-Semitism, not the wild ‘anti-Zionism’ that people are rightly concerned about.

It states, opposition to  “conflation of antisemitism and criticism of the actions of the state of Israel”.

We, Labour Party members in Barnet, are firm opponents of all forms of racism, fascism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and all other kinds of oppression.

Many of us have been actively campaigning against them for many years, often alongside Jeremy Corbyn.

We know antisemitism exists in society and needs to be combated, including in political parties. But we are seriously worried about the current climate in the Labour Party, where criticism of the actions of the state of Israel is too often conflated with anti-Semitism. But anti-Zionism does not equal anti-Semitism.

What we are now seeing is an attempt to deflect criticism of Israel and Zionism, thereby weakening genuine anti-racism and opposition to antisemitism.

The real target of these critics is Jeremy Corbyn, because they oppose both his record of internationalism, in particular his lifelong support for the rights of the Palestinians, and his commitment to socialism.

In the last two years, more than 300,000 people have joined the Labour Party to support its progressive politics.

Not all of them will have much experience of, for example, recognising anti-Semitic tropes. We believe the best way to combat any such naivety, lack of knowledge or problematic choices of words among Labour’s membership is through open debate and discussion.

We therefore welcome the direction by Jeremy Corbyn to the new Labour general secretary, Jennie Formby, to at last implement the recommendations of the 2016 Shami Chakrabarti report about the party’s disciplinary procedures, based on natural justice and due process.

We pledge to mobilise with members of all faiths and none to end the attacks against the Labour Party, which damages the party’s effectiveness in helping those people most harmed by the austerity and cuts-obsessed Conservative government and Barnet Council.

Ham and High.

I and many of my comrades do not support their take on these issues, notably the blanket use of the term “Zionism”, but there is room in a democratic socialist party for disagreement within these boundaries. I note that the letter states, support for implementing the “recommendations of the 2016 Shami Chakrabarti report”.

It is not the place for this Blog to comment further on the way the letter was presented or if membership of SR is an offence leading to automatic expulsion.

Here is the full Jewish Chronicle article.

EXCLUSIVE Fred Leplat – who sent a letter which falsely claimed to have been signed by 33 Barnet Labour members to the JC supporting Mr Corbyn’s record on antisemitism – has been expelled by Labour.

Lee Harpin.

A left-wing activist who sent a letter allegedly signed by 33 members of Barnet Labour Party to news organisations, including the JC, attempting to defend Jeremy Corbyn’s record on antisemitism has been expelled from the party following an investigation into his conduct during the local election campaign.

The JC can reveal Fred Leplat was kicked out of Labour – for membership of the far-left Socialist Resistance group – only hours after he had joined other hard-left activists at a breakfast meeting with Mr Corbyn at a café in Finchley last week.

The meeting between Mr Corbyn and local activists at Café Buzz on Finchley High Road last Tuesday infuriated many mainstream campaigners involved with the Barnet Labour group.

Mr Corbyn had failed to notify them he was visiting in advance and then failed to meet any of the local election candidates to boost morale ahead of last Thursday’s polls – and it is unclear if Mr Leplat was technically suspended by Labour when he met the leader.

The disciplinary investigation into Mr Leplat started after an official complaint was made last month about the letter he had sent out attacking the “conflation of antisemitism and criticism of the actions of the state of Israel”, in a defence of the Labour’s record on antisemitism.

It claimed Party’s antisemitism crisis was in part an attempt to “deflect criticism of Israel and Zionism” which was purportedly signed by 33 members of the Finchley and Golders Green, Hendon and Chipping Barnet Labour parties.

The JC later learned several of the signatories had not wanted their names on the letter  – and that a majority at the Barnet Momentum group opposed the letter being sent out ahead of the elections, believing it disrupt their campaigning activity in the crucial final weeks.

A source confirmed: “The letter that Fred Leplat was involved with had circulated in various draft forms for some time.

“But he clearly took it upon himself to circulate the letter to six different news organisations in a decision that would only serve to stoke the antisemitism row that had dogged the Barnet election campaign even further.

“There were some people who had not even signed the letter, and others who had no idea it was going to be sent out to newspapers.”

Sources have also confirmed to the JC that during the investigation into Mr Leplat’s conduct, his membership “of an organisation incompatible with Labour Party membership” became apparent.

Mr Leplat had previously been involved with the hard-left Left Unity party(1), but joined the Finchley and Golders Green Labour CLP after Mr Corbyn became leader.

Labour’s disciplinary committee was said to have reached its decision after finding articles and speeches Mr Leplat had made for Socialist Resistance – a group describing itself as a “revolutionary, ecosocialist feminist organisation” which publishes a “Marxist periodical of the same name”.

The source added: “In the aftermath of the disappointing local election result for Labour in Barnet, the fact that Mr Corbyn ended up in a breakfast meeting with people like Fred Leplat only days before the electorate went to the polls speaks volumes.

“We kept telling Mr Corbyn to come down to Barnet and meet the ordinary voters on the street, especially those within the Jewish community, but he just wouldn’t listen.”

(1) SR make no secret of their political trajectory.

Supporters of Fred say, “There is an email trail showing people agreed to add their names to the letter.”

Some might conclude that this is an easy target but as the above indicate there are serious questions about the move.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 8, 2018 at 11:54 am

Christine Shawcroft in row over saying, “major trade unions are actively opposed” to Labour rank-and-file members.

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Shawcroft told HuffPost that she was not speaking on behalf of Momentum and had acted in ‘the heat of the moment’.

This story tends to confirm the well-informed opinion that Lansman’s Labour General Secretary challenge is aimed, not at trade unions as such, but  a ‘union shoe-in’ for their candidate for the post.

But before one expresses sympathy for Shawcroft.. (Huff Post)

Shawcroft is understood to have expressed her frustration with union ‘stitch-ups’ in the past, and in recent months told one Momentum meeting it was time to deal with the union issue once and for all.

Her outburst on Facebook came after fellow NEC member Darren Williams expressed his frustration that the disputes committee had voted on Tuesday – with union support – to refer several cases of alleged anti-semitism for a full disciplinary hearing.

And,

HuffPost understands that Momentum-backed NEC reps objected and wanted those accused to be issued with formal warnings rather than a route to explusion. But the rest of the committee heavily supported disciplinary inquiries.

On Wednesday, Shawcroft told HuffPost that she had been advised to take down her Facebook remarks because Lansman did not want Momentum associated with them.

She insisted that she was not speaking on behalf of Momentum or of Lansman.

It was just a bit of a heat of the moment thing, a personal one. Nothing to do with Momentum whatsoever. I’m just a committee member for Momentum, it’s not like everything I do or say has to be seen through that prism,” Shawcroft said.

“I don’t speak for them or tell them what to do. I’m just a member, same as anyone else.”

Shawcroft still faced a backlash for her remarks, with Unite’s Len McCluskey, GMB union boss Tim Roache  and Unison’s Dave Prentis all attacking her stance.

Responses:

More emerging now (Total Politics).

When Momentum founder Jon Lansman announced that he was challenging Unite boss Jennie Formby for the job of Labour general secretary, the battle lines could not have been clearer.

“The first major Unions/Momentum skirmish is already causing some disquiet within Labour’s ranks,” we noted in a piece on Lansman’s candidacy.

A week later that is starting to look like an understatement…

Writing on her Facebook page, veteran activist and senior Momentum official Christine Shawcroft said Lansman should be general secretary because “only someone from his tradition will support the rights of rank and file members in the CLPs”.

Going further, she claimed that the major trade unions “stick it to the rank and file members time after time after time” and even called for Labour to break its historic links with the trade union movement.

Naturally the comments from Shawcross – who is an ally of Jeremy Corbyn and has been on Labour’s ruling national executive committee for over a decade – sparked a furious backlash from union bosses after they were revealed today by PoliticsHome.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Christine Shawcroft is a member of the Labour party. The clue is in the name. We are the party of labour, founded by the trade union movement. Her proposals for disaffiliation aid the most backwards forces in our society and she should withdraw them.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis stated: “Christine Shawcroft’s comments are wrong on every count. Trade Unions are an integral and historic part of the Labour Party. This is no time for this kind of divisive nonsense – we need to focus on getting Labour elected.”

Also weighing in today was Corbyn’s former chief of staff Simon Fletcher, once described as “the linchpin of the Corbyn operation”.

He argued: “The Labour left advances most clearly when it builds an alliance of the CLP left and the unions. The demand to break the union link is longstanding goal of the right in British society. This intervention tips disorientation over into rottenness.”

 

Huffington Post more on the story.

More: 

EXCL Labour row erupts as Jeremy Corbyn supporter calls for party to break from trade unions

Veteran activist and senior Momentum official Christine Shawcroft claimed “major trade unions are actively opposed” to the party’s rank-and-file members.

Ms Shawcroft, who is head of Labour’s powerful disciplinary committee, is supporting Momentum boss Jon Lansman’s bid to succeed Iain McNicol in the powerful role.

He defied pleas from Jeremy Corbyn and his closest aides not to run in order to leave the way clear for Unite official Jennie Formby to take the post.

Ms Shawcroft, who has been on Labour’s ruling national executive committee for over a decade, launched her attack on Facebook in the wake of a fractious meeting yesterday of the disputes sub-committee she chairs.

Responding to one Labour member, she said: “Unfortunately, reviewing the disciplinary process is going to come too late for some of our comrades. This is why I am supporting Jon Lansman, or a woman in that tradition, for general secretary.

“Nothing would induce me to support a candidate from a major trade union, they stick it to the rank and file members time after time after time. It’s also time to support disaffiliation of the unions from the Labour party. The party belongs to us, the members.”

In a post on her own Facebook page, she added: “I was supporting Jon Lansman for general secretary before today’s NEC sub committee meetings, but after today I’m even more determined.

“Only someone from his tradition will support the rights of rank and file members in the CLPs (constituency Labour parties). The major trade unions are actively opposed to us, a very cursory examination of trigger ballots in mayoral “selections” will tell you that. Look at their track records before you rush to support someone.”

Her comments are highly significant because she is a key supporter of Mr Corbyn and a major figure on the left-wing of the party.

Momentum has also enjoyed support from trade unions such as the TSSA, Unite and CWU.

Labour’s new general secretary will be chosen by the party’s NEC on 20 March.

Jennie Formby has already been forced to condemn “anti-Semitic” attacks on Mr Lansman.

A Momentum spokesperson said: “We’re very proud of the strong links Momentum has to the trade union movement.

“From running digital campaigns in support of striking McDonalds workers to making viral videos highlighting Tory cuts to public services with the CWU and the TSSA – we believe Labour is strongest when trade unions and member organisations work together closely.

“The unions were central to the formation of the Labour Party, and every day they represent millions of people fighting for better rights at work. We firmly support Labour’s trade union link, and hope to see more unions affiliate in the future.”

Yet more:

Update from The Clarion Edd Mustill.

This week comments made on Facebook by a prominent figure in both the Labour left and Momentum, Christine Shawcroft, have provoked fierce criticism and some alarm. Shawcroft appeared to call for the ending, or at least weakening, of the link between trade unions and the Labour Party.

However serious these comments are or whether they were made in the heat of the moment (it should be noted that Momentum quickly distanced itself from Shawcroft’s comments), it is immensely disappointing to see a prominent leftwing apparently advocating something that has been a fantasy of the party’s Blairite wing for a quarter of a century, albeit no doubt for very different reasons.

recently argued that any debate around how trade unions formally relate to the membership of a mass socialist party should be welcomed by Labour members. That said, any calls, from any wing of the party, to end or dramatically weaken the link should be robustly resisted.

COMMENT.

This looks a mess, and entangles many themes.

But, firstly, there is a problem with the ambitions of people, and unions, coming before both Momentum or UNITE’s goals, either a social movement or ‘political union’. This does not just refer to the most visible person in this case, as those in a position to know are aware of other individual’s projects at play.

Secondly, these are really pretty secondary affairs compared to Labour’s overriding need to win this year’s local elections and the next General Election.

Finally, Labour activists are not going to be pleased with this clash being acted out in public, either by union leaders or by Momentum. Since it is not principally important for the left who is a “reliable ally” of whom, but Labour policy and direction, the dispute is highly unwelcome.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 7, 2018 at 1:36 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet things were not always so….

It was in the year 2000.

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

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

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

..

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

..

We in the CPGB share and defend exactly that approach.

Love blossomed,

Rapprochement begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Halcyon days!

CPGB-AWL rapprochement. 27.7.2000.

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

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

CPGB-AWL cooperation. 15.11.2001.

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

Alas.

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

Followed by,

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

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

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

Workers’ Liberty: Descent into cultism

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

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

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

He defended George Galloway,

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

And,

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

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

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

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Labour Party Marxist in the Thick of the Class Struggle.

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

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

This is from its mission statement,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labour Representation Committee: Reduced to a think tank?

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

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

Clause 4: Why revive a stinking corpse?

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

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

Witch-hunts: When chickens come home…

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

That over we get attacks on the real enemies.

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

Labour Right-Wing Factionalism, Labour First.

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This, circulated yesterday,  is causing a stir.

 

Labour First is increasingly behaving like the ‘factionalists’ is derides,

Labour First

Labour First, founded in 1988, is a pre-Blairite pressure group seen as the voice of the party’s traditional right. Headed by campaigner and former councillor Luke Akehurst, this faction supported ABC (Anyone But Corbyn) in the leadership election, while Akehurst himself backed Yvette Cooper. In the deputy race, it emphasised its ties to Tom Watson. The group made headlines during the leadership contest by urging fellow centrist group Progress to promote the other non-Corbyn candidates as well as its first choice, Liz Kendall. The groups have since held events together espousing moderate Labour values. Labour First says it “exists to ensure that the voices of moderate party members are heard while the party is kept safe from the organised hard left”.

Before going further it is important to note that the AWL is not, how shall I put it, at the forefront of Momentum.

Next I would point out that, Lord Hattersley notwithstanding,  there are not large real factional divisions in the Labour Party, but differences on policy issues.

Such as this:

Or this,

Just a suggestion, but if Labour First is going to go in for factionalism, they should consult the real classic studies not just do a bit of ‘organising’.

Such as this book:

 

Trigger-warning: factionalist activity in meetings is not universally appreciated. 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 9, 2017 at 1:40 pm

Stalin. Waiting for Hitler. 1928 – 1941. Stephen Kotkin. A Democratic Socialist Review.

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Stalin. Waiting for Hitler. 1928 – 1941. Stephen Kotkin. Allen Lane. 2017.

The Yugoslavian communist, A. Ciliga, a sincere man and an unimpeachable witness, one of the few who has escaped alive from the Soviet convict gangs, has written in his book, Au pays du grand mensonge: “Those who have not lived in the Soviet prisons, concentration camps and places of exile in which are shut up more than five million convicts, those who are not familiar with the greatest jail history has ever seen, where men die like flies, where they are beaten like dogs, where they are made to work like slaves, can have no idea what Soviet Russia is, what Stalin’s ‘classless society’ means.”

Boris Souvarine. Postscript to Stalin: a critical survey of Bolshevism. 1935

The first volume of Kotkin’s study of Stalin, Paradoxes of Power, 1878 – 1928. (2014) portrayed the dictator as the product of “immense structural forces”, the legacy of Tsarism, the mode of government he took over from Lenin and the Bolsheviks “castle in the air” version of socialism. But the author could not neglect the character of his subject, whose “cold calculation and the flights of absurd delusion were products of a single mind, he was shrewd enough to see right through people, but not enough to spare him a litany of nonsensical beliefs.” (1)

That these “closely mirrored the Bolshevik revolution in-built structural paranoia” is only one of the many elements that contributed to the harrowing themes of the present book. This begins with the mass murders, starvation and famine of agricultural Collectivisation, followed by the mid-1930s Great Terror, and concludes with Stalin’s’ miscalculations faced with the threat of Hitler’s Germany

There are few grimmer tasks for the left than facing up to the reality of Stalin’s Russia. What enthusiasm can be mustered for the October Revolution has to face the totalitarianism that followed. This is not a new dilemma. That Stalin was, in his own and Kotkin’s opinion, a “communist and revolutionary” and that he developed within “the moral universe of Marxism-Leninism” was galling – and contestable – to radical left critics of the first hour, like Boris Souvarine.

This cosmos was bleak. The collectivisation and war against the Kulaks, the first Five Year Plan, took place against the background of famine and epidemics which “probably killed between 5 and 7 million people between 1931-33. Perhaps 10 million more starved nearly to death ” (Page 127) In response Stalin accused peasants of “not wanting to work.” (Page 128) Yet industrialisation began, investment quadrupled to 44 % of GDP in 1932. At the time well-wishers of the burgeoning New Civilisation were enthusiastic But, Kotkin observes, “unrelenting optimism spread alongside famine, arrests, deportations, execution, camps, censorship, sealed borders. (P 305) “Stalin’s anti capitalist experiment resembled a vast camp of deliberately deprived workers, indentured farmers and slave labourers toiling of the benefit of an unacknowledged elite.” (Ibid)

The Great Terror.

Stalin. Waiting for Hitler tackles the Great Terror. There is a lengthy account of the assassination of Kirov by Nikolayev, the pretext for the mass killings and imprisonments that followed. The hysteria reached its peak in the Great Trials of the middle of the decade. At its height, “just for two years, 1937 and 1938, the political police, the NKVD, would report 1,575,259 arrests, 87% of them for political offences, and 681,692 executions.”(Page 305)

It is hard to get a measure of the suffering of so many victims. Vsevolod Meyerhold, one of the country’s top theatre directors was one of the countless to fall into the hands of the butchers. In 1939 he was tortured and made to confess to spying for Britain and Japan. After systematic beatings, “Meyerhold’s interrogators had urinated into his mouth and smashed his right (writing) hand to bits” (Page 649) A footnote adds that while this was happening NKVD chief Beria awarded the larger part of his flat to one of his mistresses (Page 1029). He was executed by firing Squad in February 1940. 

Kotkin is not engaged in the history of the Gulag, only the contours of the Archipelago are sketched, and there are no Kolyma Tales Nor are there accounts of how Communist self-criticism ended in denunciations, or the whispers by a population-turned-delators to the NKVD. We are brought instead to the party machine and to Stalin’s Little Corner in the Moscow Kremlin, where he scanned lists of those caught in the lights of the hunt. “At least 383 execution lists signed by him have survived, containing the names of more than 43,000 ‘enemies of the people’, mostly the highest-level officials and officers (P 490). What kind of man performed filled his days with this never-ending work? Faced with a flood of letters of those appealing for those caught up in the murders, he “showed no sign that he was in the least tormented by the slaughter” (Ibid).

This was a war that hit the masses and the elite, clearing the way, Kotkin suggests for an intentional renewal of the bureaucracy. The new cadres, who took the posts of those found out as ‘wreckers’ ‘spies’ of anti-Soviet elements’, were described as “healthy young representatives of a healthy young people”. With rising salaries they were rewarded as such (Page 603) Stalin engineered human souls reinforced an already privileged caste, “The terror that murdered officials en masse accentuated the ascendancy of the functionary class.”(Page 604)

Over half of Stalin. Waiting for Hitler is occupied, as its title indicates, with Soviet foreign policy and, above all, with the build up to the war with Hitler’s Germany. From the Spanish Civil, an occasion to further Stalin’s obsession with Trotsky through attacks on the ‘Trotskyist’ (anti-Stalinist Marxist) POUM, Trotsky’s 1940 assassination, the ill-judged war with Finland (met with mass resistance by the Finns), the division of Poland with little perceivable long-term gain, to his wavering dealings with Mao in China, there were few signs of strategic genius.

Above all Stalin failed to prepare properly for the confrontation with the German army. This was not just the result of the purges of competent military and intelligence personnel. His tactical abilities were flawed. “Instead of acting cunningly, Stalin fooled himself. He clung to the belief that Germany could not attack before defeating the UK….”(Page 897)

A landmark.

Kotkin’s achievement as a historian of Stalin should not be overshadowed by the often hard to digest text. Key developments risk being submerged by lengthy day-to-day accounts. The plodding style, and turns of phrase such as the “wee hours” are not a help to the reader. But nobody can fail to recognise that the work is a landmark.

With such a protagonist in his sights Waiting for Hitler raises deep issues about the nature of the USSR under Stalin. One commanding thread lies in an effort to come to terms with the basis of the tyranny of the ‘vozhd’, the Leader, as Stalin came to be called. The author’s observation that he operated within a “near permanent state of emergency” could be said to cast light on the nature of Stalin’s rule. Lenin has used exceptional measures – a monopoly of political power, imprisonment of opponents, execution of ‘counter-revolutionaries’, censorship – in ‘defence’ of the revolution. These were indefinitely prolonged. That alone gave the Lenin appointed General Secretary scope for his efforts to impose his brand of ‘Marxism Leninism’ on his most “precious resource”, the people of the USSR.

Could both the original disregard for law and independent justice in the name of higher interests, the need to fight the Enemy, be compared to the pro-Nazi political theorist, Carl Schmitt’s speculation on the foundations of politics? Does the justification of the “state of exception” as a “transcendence” of normal politics cast light on the arguments of those who try to justify the “exceptional” circumstances of the Bolshevik Revolution to treat its opponents with contempt? In Stalin’s career, there is little doubt that the division of the world into friends and foes, with no-holds barred in the fight, “gave free rein to his savagery”. To those who seek psychological explanations for his behaviour Kotkin states, “Stalin’s sociopathology was to a degree the outgrowth of dictatorial rule”. (Page 5)

“Marx had never advocated mass murder but freedom” (Page 302). This may be scant consolation for those crushed by Stalin, his successors and emulators. But it important for those of us who are democratic socialists to make sure that the real history of Stalin’s rule is as familiar inside our own camp as that of those whom we venerate. We look forward to reading Kotkin’s Death of Stalin.

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(1) Page 736. Stalin. Paradoxes of Power. 1878 – 1928. Stephen Kotkin. Allen Lane. 2014.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 26, 2017 at 2:07 pm