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Posts Tagged ‘Stalinism

Hal Draper and Socialism from Below.

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Image result for The "dictatorship of the proletariat" from Marx to Lenin (

Hal Draper (1914 – 1990) remains a seminal influence on Marxists.

Along with Maximilien Rubel (1905 – 1996, probably less known in the English speaking world) he offered a strongly democratic interpretation of Marx and Marxism based on serious historical and textual study.

Draper’s unraveling of the historical and political origins and use of the term ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’  (The “dictatorship of the proletariat” from Marx to Lenin 1987) is something many turn to whenever the issue of the Russian Revolution comes up.

His  Anatomy of the Micro-Sect (1973) while situated firmly within the context of the marginalised US left and, in this Blog’s view wildly and wrongly indulgent towards Lenin himself, offers insights into the way many small left-wing factions operate across the world.

In this important article Joel Geier offers an overview of Draper’s contribution to the left and not just on those who call themselves ‘revolutionaries’ or indeed agree with his interpretation of Marxism.

Hal Draper’s contribution to revolutionary Marxism

The piece is long but this extract gives some of the flavour.

Fifty-one years ago the Berkeley Independent Socialist Club published Hal Draper’s The Two Souls ofSocialism.1 Of the hundreds of radical pamphlets published in the 1960s, Two Souls has had perhaps the longest-lasting impact. Appearing at a time when various forms of top-down versions of socialism—social democracy, Stalinism, and Maoism—were in vogue, its emphasis on workers’ self-emancipation set it clearly apart. Moreover, Draper did not merely reintroduce genuine Marxism to a new generation; in its originality and clarity, Two Souls—and the subsequent work that elaborated in detail on his arguments—presented a different way of looking at the world, at socialism, and at competing ideologies.

Traditional interpretations maintained that the essential divisions in the socialist movement were between reform and revolution, pacifism versus violence, and democracy versus authoritarianism. Two Souls took a somewhat different angle, namely, that “throughout the history of socialist movements and ideas, the fundamental divide is between Socialism-From-Above and Socialism-From-Below,”2thus introducing the vocabulary, narrative, and ideas of socialism from below as the contemporary representation of revolutionary Marxism.

The unifying feature of the many varieties of socialism from above, Draper argued, is distrust or opposition to the working-class’s potential to recreate society based on its own initiative. Socialism from above, Draper specified, is the idea that socialism “must be handed down to the grateful masses in one form or another, by a ruling elite not subject to their control in fact.”3 Distrust of the mass’s ability to rule and denial of democratic control from below are the core tenets of the many variants of socialism from above that have dominated the history of the socialist movement.

The heart of socialism from below is the understanding that “socialism can be realized only through the self-emancipation of activated masses in motion, reaching out for freedom with their own hands, mobilized ‘from below’ in a struggle to take charge of their own destiny, as actors (not merely subjects) on the stage of history.”4 These few words summarize what Draper would later work for decades to restore and defend as the heart of revolutionary Marxism in his analysis of the entire body of Marx’s political writings, as presented in numerous articles, as well as in his indispensable, magnificent multivolume series, Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution (KMTR).

A major thesis of Two Souls was that social democracy and Stalinism, the two major self-styled socialisms from above, despite their real and obvious differences, both identify socialism with the statification of the economy, and both reject workers’ democratic rule as the foundation of socialism. Long before Stalinism, Eduard Bernstein, the theoretical father of social-democratic reformism, was the first to revise Marxism to eliminate working-class self-emancipation from its essence, substituting “superior educated” parliamentary representatives for the “uninformed masses” as the agency for socialism. Social democracy and Stalinism, whose advocates strongly denied their similarities, were the dominant radical ideologies that divided the socialist movement during Draper’s political life, which was split between those who supported “democratic” Washington or “socialist” Moscow. These constrained political choices debilitated the working-class movement long before the wrecking operations of neoliberal capitalism began.

Read the full article on Socialism From Below in the International Socialist Review.

Those who are very far from enthusiasts for Trotsky or ‘revolutionary’ Marxism but who are democratic Marxists have learnt a lot from one of the best socialist writers of the 20th century.

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Written by Andrew Coates

October 7, 2018 at 12:41 pm

Morning Star – Brexit Bolsheviks join “La gauche antimigrants”, the anti immigrant Left.

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Image result for The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got

Morning Star Says Brexit Means “Freedom to control our own borders.”

Le Monde has just published a long article on what they call the “anti-immigrant/anti-migrant” left”.

A ‘left in favour of national sovereignty and closing borders.

The French daily cites the German Aufstehn movement of  Sahra Wagenknecht, the “ambiguities” of Jean-Luc Mélecnhon’s La France insoumise, and Danish Labour and ‘populist’ left forces.

Lo and Behold the Morning Star, Britain’s leading organ of the Brexit Bolsheviks has just published this (which will appear in the Saturday print edition).

Time to get tough with the EU and our own anti-democrats

The benefits of being free of the EU neoliberal restrictions far outweigh anything else, writes JACQUI JOHNSON.

What do we do when we are free of the membership fee and from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice? Any of these things is complex, open to offers and counter-offers, stand-offs and compromises, but none overrides the ending of our EU membership.

Here is a very prominent ‘benefit’.

Leaving means freedom to control our own borders. Immigration policy can be part of a comprehensive employment plan based on equal rights for all who live and work here.

…..

The benefits of being free of all of these neoliberal restrictions on our economic prospects far outweigh anything else. Rebuilding and transforming Britain does not depend on trading arrangements, it depends on investment in our people to produce and transform society. You can’t trade if you can’t produce.

 

The anti-migrant writer of this, Jacquie Johnson is former president of NATFHE, now UCU,.

She is, by no coincidence at all, linked to the notorious “Trade Unionist Against the EU” – which received funds from far-right millionaire Arron Banks.

From this year’s TUC Fringe,

EMBRACE BREXIT – REBUILD AND TRANSFORM BRITAIN

Brexit offers opportunities we never had while members of the EU. This is now being recognised by almost everyone, even the Guardian. Jeremy Corbyn said, ‘the next Labour government will … [take] advantage of new freedoms outside of the EU to allow Government to intervene to protect our industrial base’. The speakers will explore the opportunities offered by Brexit and discuss how the trade union movement can take part in this most exciting phase in the history of our country. Contributions from the fl oor will be welcome.
Speakers: Mick Whelan (General Secretary, ASLEF), Sarah Wooley (BFAWU), Kelvin Hopkins (MP), Professor Costas Lapavitsas (author of Left Case Against the European Union)
Chair: Jacquie Johnson (former President NATFHE/UCU)
Venue: The Briton’s Protection, 50 Gt Bridgewater St, Manchester M1 5LE
Refreshments provided.

Amongst her further comments we find this:

It is no accident either that one of the most virulent asset-strippers of Greece, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, manages to drape himself in “left-wing” colours . He wants to stay in the EU, “but not this EU”).

“It’s no accident” ………

How that hackneyed  phrase reminds one of these days:

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 5, 2018 at 5:41 pm

Has the Morning Star Gone Totally Mad as it calls for “Militant Opposition” to “Paedo Gangs’ ?

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“I can already hear the allegations of Strasserism, of trolling, of “letting the right set the terms of the debate.” says Morning Star Brexit Bolshevik Red Browner Alex Birch. 

The working class has no use for liberal hand-wringing

The majority of working-class people oppose the EU, almost all dislike fundamentalist religion and almost all hate paedophiles. They are correct on all three counts. In each case, the left (with honourable exceptions) has failed to indicate its agreement clearly, because it is panicked that these issues are the stamping ground of the right, and that saying what we actually think would give inadvertent support to racists.

Yet,

Instead, the left is derided as the “politically correct brigade” and called “soft on paedos.” How can that do anything but damage our credibility with the ordinary person and provide the right with an opportunity to pose as the only people taking paedophilia seriously?

It really isn’t complicated — debunk the racist ideas in circulation around paedophilia, and at the same time make it clear beyond all possible doubt that the left is militantly and aggressively opposed to all forms of it.

He continues,

From Brexit, at the most important level, to backing England in the World Cup, at the most trivial, large sections of the left are abandoning their posts at the first sign of trouble, on subjects and areas of culture that the right have no natural claim to.

Alex Birch is an NEU rep and executive member of his Labour CLP…..

He has just won the coveted prize for “political confusionist” of the Year.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 1, 2018 at 2:09 pm

Not Forgetting Stalin. Under Two Dictators. Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler. Margarete Buber-Neumann.

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Image result for Under Two Dictators. Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler

Not Forgetting Stalin.

“There were twenty-eight men and Betty and I in our group. Betty and I, an old professor and a prisoner with a wounded leg, were taken on in a lorry. The men had to walk. We got out on the Russian side of the Brest Litovsk bridge and waited for them to come up, looking across the bridge into occupied Poland. The men and arrived and then a group of GPU men crossed the bridge. We saw them retiring after a while, and the group was larger. There were SS officers with them. The SS commandant and the GP chief saluted each other. The Russian was a good head taller than the German.

The GPU officials still stood there in a group watching us go. Behind them was Soviet Russia. Bitterly I recalled the Communist litany: Fatherland of the Toilers, Bulwark of Socialism, Haven of the Persecuted.”

Margarete Buber-Neumann. 1949

Buber-Neumann was one of around 350 Soviet prisoners handed over to the German authorities between November 1939 and May 1941. This, on Russian initiative, selected, often arbitrarily, Germans held in Gulag and sent them over to the Nazis. Some, on arrival, were interrogated and, if cooperative, were set free. She was not. From time in the Soviet Karaganda forced labour complex, Buber-Neumann was put in

Translated into English in 1949 Under Two Dictators. Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler remains a unique account of Stalinism from a victim of the Gulag, and of Ravensbrück.

The wife of a former leading figure in the German Communist Party, the KPD, Heinz Neumann, the author had sought refuge in Moscow from Hitler’s rule. This was never a safe haven. The focus of internal party attacks, as a “troublemaker” and target for their failure to resist the Nazi advance, he was marked. The Great Terror began. In 1937 the NKVD murdered Heinz for “fractional activity”, after a ritual confession. His death came amongst hundreds of other German, and other exiled, Communists.  The spouse’s arrest came in 1937. She was found guilty of “counter-revolutionary agitation and organisation against the Soviet State.”

In Karaganda they “slept on the bare ground with our head top the walls all in a line, and about five or is yards in front of us a soldier sat on a stool with his rifle over his knees to see that no one made an attempt to escape” (Page 91) In the Gulag she came across the orphans “produced by the forced collectivisation and the famine.” (Page 116). There was back-breaking work, in freezing conditions during the winter, for a daily pound and a half of bread.

Initially the transferred prisoner found the German camp, though grim, was run “with typical Prussian thoroughness” and a higher level of provisions. Nevertheless conditions were harsh. She became a “slave of the Assembly line” in the Industrial Complex, beset with suspicion by Communist prisoners who considered her a ‘Trotskyite’ and “more or less the scum of the earth”. Buber-Neumann was deeply affected when the health of her friend, Jesenka Milena (the recipient of Kafka’s Briefe an Milena) and she  died of kidney failure.

As the war reached its end Buber-Neumann met Auschwitz prisoners who told her of the mass exterminations. It was not long before the Ravensbrück authorities began to murder the old and unfit in two crematoria. She survived and wandered a devastated Germany. Her memoir ends in a moment of joy as the prisoner of two dictators was reunited with her mother and sister in Thierstein.

Kravchenko Trial.

Buber-Neumann was a key defence witness in the 1949 Victor Andreevich Kravchenk  libel case. The author of I Chose Freedom had described the Soviet Union in these terms, “The magnitude of the horror has never been grasped by the outside world. Perhaps it is too vast ever to be grasped. Russia was a battlefield strewn with corpses, blotched with gigantic enclosures where millions of wretched ‘war prisoners’ toiled, suffered and died.”  (2) This, and his other works, were attacked by the French Communist Lettres françaises. They criticised it as “fake news”. of”being a traitor, a draft dodger and an mebezzler. His ex-wife appeared as well, accusing him of being physically abusive and sexually impotent.  They described Kravchenko as vain, a drunkard, and a “traitor” to the USSR. “He had fabricated the book’s material with the help of US disinformation services, and was himself a creation of the American secret services.

Whatever Kravehenco’s promotion by the US and right-wing long-standing anti-Communists  his key facts, Buber-Neumann’s evidence underlined, were correct. A recent history of the period notes that her testimony played a significant role in establishing Kravcehneko’s credibility. Les Temps Modernes registered that after her book “one cannot dispute the existence of concentration camps in Russia.” (3)

The independent minded left-winger David Rousset began a parallel prosecution for libel. The same Lettres françaises had claimed that in his writings had “invented” the Russian Gulag, “forging the texts of the Soviet laws, and spreading misinformation.”

The growing evidence – Rousset was able to cite the Russian penal codes own punishments – told. The Communist journal lost both the cases and was condemned for defamation. The result was a public controversy that swept the left. It undermined the influence of the Parti Communiste français (PCF), above all amongst the reading public.

The Gulag and the Left.

The debate about the existence of Soviet camps was far reaching. Were these just crimes of Stalin? It raised again the Soviet-German Pact, the backdrop of the decision to send Margerte Buber-Neumann from one universe of camps to another. What means could be justified (as already discussed and decided largely in Communism’s favour by Merleau-Ponty in Humanisme et Terreur. 1947) in terms of the eventual “goal” of equality and freedom? Was the Gulag, far from disappearing with victory in the Second World War, an essential pillar of a system?

The French left – in common with other lefts – has since that time been shaped by the fall-out from different stands on these issues.

After an initial discussion about whether the Soviet system, which left at least some people alive, was better than the Shoah, a debate, which has yet to conclude, on the nature of the USSR began. The place of forced labour and mass murder at the heart of Stalin’s USSR – was perhaps the most decisive. Claude Lefort, who considered that Moscow’s ‘totalitarian” regime rested on forced labour and repression of dissidence, fell out with others in the leading intellectual left journal of the time, Les Temps Modernes. He, and Cornelius Castoriadis, in Socialisme ou Barbarie, argued that the French Communists, did not just defend the Soviet Union against all comers, but would try to inflict these practices at home. They were a junior part of the same bureaucratic exploiting class.

Other did not and do not consider tyranny and murder to have been the motor of the USSR, but as part of a historically contingent wrong course. Some, even Sartre for a time, thought that the world Communist movement was the only hope for the future whatever regimes and parties may have been at the present. Many of the independent French left while wary of the Communists, pointed to their strength amongst organised labour. They refused to reject their policies en bloc. Orthodox Trotskyists continued to consider that the fundamentals of the USSR, state ownership, were, for all the bureaucratic pile up, privileges and repression, sound.  One can find the same positions across the world’s left.

Coming to terms with the Fall of Official Communism remains a central difficulty for the left. Today, in Britain, all that remains of an already small Communist Party of Great Britain (with some influence in the trade unions and intellectual life) is a minuscule Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and ultra-Stalinist fragments. But there is a more diffuse legacy from those who supported Soviet Union, that continues within the labour movement. Some on the left have not come to terms with the basic facts about Stalinist crimes. Key figures around the Labour leader promote a Boy’s Own view of Stalin, as, if nothing else, a dashing and successful War Leader. Margarete Buber-Neumann reminds us that Stalin’s darkest side was there at that very moment.

****

(1) Page 143. Under Two Dictators. Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler. Margerte Buber-Neumann.1949 Pimlico. 2008.

(2) Page  303. I Chose Freedom. Victor A. Kravchenko. The Personal and Political Life of a Soviet Official. Transaction Publications. 2002.

(3) Pages 351 – 360. La Révolution rêvée. Michel Surya. 2004.

Red Famine, Anne Applebaum. Stalin’s War on Ukraine. A Review.

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Red Famine, Anne Applebaum. Stalin’s War on Ukraine. Allen Lane 2017.

“I saw one cart, it was stacked with the bodies of children. They looked thin and long – faces like dead birdies, sharp little beaks. Some were still making cheeping noises: their little heads were like ripe ears of grain, bending the thin stalks of their necks…”

Everything Flows. Vasily Grossman. (1)

The catastrophes of the 20th century leave deep traces. The famine in Ukraine, portrayed in Grossman’s uncompleted novel ((begun in 1955, and worked on until his death in 1964), rendered his witness to one of the greatest tragedies of history immortal. In the middle of the 1930s the anti-Stalinist leftist Boris Souvarine estimated that more than 5 million died across the USSR in the mass hunger that followed the collectivisation of agriculture of 1932 –3. (2)

Anne Applebaum totals 5 million who perished in the Holodomor (Hunger-extermination in Ukrainian) alone. This mass starvation was a “famine within the famine, a disaster specifically targeted at Ukraine and Ukrainians.”(Page 193) In this the author of Red Famine follows Robert Conquest who considered that the deaths were deliberately inflicted for ethnic reasons and constituted genocide (The Harvest of Sorrow. 1986). More recently Timothy Snyder has called it “premeditated mass murder” (Bloodlands. 2010).

In Iron Curtain (2012) Applebaum narrated the post 1945 strangulation of Eastern Europe’s politics and civil society in Stalin and his satellites’ embrace. But the ordered effort “to control every aspect of society” barely describes what Isaac Deutscher called the “pandemonium” of forced collectivisation at the beginning of the 1930s which precipitated these mass fatalities. (3)

Spurred by the prospect of national, notably urban, food shortages in the late 1920s, Stalin, Applebaum observes, ordered the programme to ensure “internal accumulation” for Soviet industry. The peasants were driven into Kolkhozes, collective farms, and the “liquidation of the Kulaks as a class” met resistance. By the end of March 1930 the secret police, the OGPU recorded 2,000 mass protests in Ukraine alone.

The response was coercion. Teams of ‘activists’ herded people up, lectured them, poked their noses into their meagre belongings, and confiscated at their whim. Armed Soviet agents surrounded rebellious villages with machine-gun and forced them to surrender. There were mass deportations.

The Marxist Deutscher compared the fate of the peasants to that of “mere factory hands”. In the USSR this meant life ruled by party appointed bosses, internal passports, and military discipline. They did not welcome their new lives. In the collective farms, badly supplied, and ramshackle, people worked as little as possible. Vast tracts of land were “left untilled”.

But rules began to grip. Recalcitrant districts were blacklisted. “With no grain, no livestock, no tools, no, money and no credit, with no ability to trade or even to leave their places of work, the inhabitants of blacklisted villages could not grow, prepare or purchase anything to eat at all.”(Page 200)

The Mass Famine.

The reduction of the independent peasantry to appendages of the state bureaucracy, and the deportation of the slightly better off kulaks, took place against the backdrop of famine.

From exhortations, backed by violence to join the Kolkhozes, the state focus shifted to procuring food. The quest for gain through forcible requisitions became a prime activist task. Bringing back memories of marauding armies in the Civil War, appeared “a man who brandished a gun, spouted slogans and demanded food”.

In a haunting description Applebaum outlines the peasants’ dilemmas. They were forced “give up their gain reserves and die of starvation, or they could keep some grain reserves hidden and risk arrest, execution or the confiscation of the rest of their food – after which they could also die of starvation.”(Page 195)

By the winter of 1932 –3 people in the countryside had exhausted their supplies and started to search for “everything edible”. Many were unable to find anything. There were harrowing incidents of cannibalism. The result was that, demographers estimate, 4,5 million people starved to death.

Stalin’s Policy Against Ukrainians.

Red Famine states that there was policy behind the disaster in Ukraine. Stalin was hostile to Ukrainian nationalism, from the 1917 Rada onwards, and Ukrainians, including their own Bolsheviks whom he believed favoured the national movement and culture. This had a basis in that millions of Ukrainian peasants had wanted “a socialist revolution, but not a Bolshevik revolution” and distrusted anything that came from Moscow. If those with such views in the villages could be sorted out by direct force, the intelligentsia presented another obstacle to be met with by the same methods. Beginning with Stalin’s consolidation of power all signs of national consciousness were repressed; above all, the educated Ukrainian speaking elite were targeted in successive purges.

Stalin, while adept at claiming a certain distance from those “dizzy with success” I applying his decrees never admitted any responsibility for the deaths in the early 30s Apologists such as visiting French Minister Édouard Herriot, concerned to make a treaty with the USSR, and the US reporter Walter Duranty aided his work. The Pulitzer Prize winner replied to evidence of famine from the young journalist, Gareth Jones, with the headline, “Russians Hungry, not Starving.” The facts reached only a limited audience. Not only was there no international movement of protest, but the Soviet Union neither appealed for helps from other countries, nor set up its own relief operations. To talk of the wretched conditions of the victims was a crime. 

Image result for russians hungry not starving

For Applebaum the evidence is clear. Stalin “helped created the conditions that led to the famine”. “Starvation was the result, rather, of the forcible removal of food from people’s homes; the roadblocks that prevented peasants forms eking work or food, the harsh rules of the blacklists imposed on farms and villages; the restrictions of barter and trade; and the vicious propaganda campaign designed to persuade Ukrainians to watch,unmoved, as their neighbours died of hunger.”(Page 354)

If Stalin did not seek to eliminate all Ukrainians, but the “the most active and engaged Ukrainians, in both the countryside and the cities” was this a crime of genocide? It is distressing to broach the issue. The reader, shaken by this book, can only express humility towards those determined to commemorate the Holodomor and a wish to stay clear, very clear from those who still attempt to rehabilitate Stalin’s rule in the USSR and slander the martyred Ukrainians.

*******

(1) Page 145. Everything Flows. Vasily Grossman. Translated by Robert & Elizabeth Chandler with Anna Aslanyan. Harvill Secker. 2010. On Stalin’s role Grossman notes, “This fusion of party and State found its expression in the person of Stalin. In the mind and will of Stalin, the State expressed its own mind and will.” (Page 205) “It was Stalin – who was both a European Marxist and an Asian despot – who gave true expression to the nature of Soviet statehood. What was embodied in Lenin was a Russian national principle; what was embodied in Stalin was a statehood that was both Russian and Soviet.”(Page 205)

(2) Le paysan soviétique. Boris Souveraine. In Cauchemar en URSS Paris, Revue de Paris, 1937. 

(3) Pages 324-5. Stalin. Isaac Deutscher. Penguin. 1990 (1949).

Written by Andrew Coates

March 16, 2018 at 1:53 pm

George Galloway Predicts Armageddon as Russia Today (RT) Ban Looms.

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“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”

Channel could lose licence if Russia found to be responsible for Sergei Skripal poisoning

RT, the Kremlin-controlled news channel, faces being forced off air in the UK if the poisoning of Sergei Skripal is found to be an “unlawful use of force” by Russia against Britain.

The broadcasting regulator Ofcom, which has the power to close a TV channel if it decides it is not a “fit and proper” holder of a licence in the UK, said it had written to RT warning that a Russian act against the UK would trigger a fast-track investigation to potentially revoke its licence.

“We have today written to ANO TV Novosti, holder of RT’s UK broadcast licences, which is financed from the budget of the Russian Federation,” Ofcom said. “This letter explained that, should the UK investigating authorities determine that there was an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the UK, we would consider this relevant to our ongoing duty to be satisfied that RT is fit and proper.”

“Ofcom has an ongoing duty to be satisfied that all broadcast licensees are fit and proper to hold a licence,” said the spokesman.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 13, 2018 at 6:21 pm

The Morning Star and the Left. “Why I will no longer write for the Morning Sta. Rabbil Sikdar.”

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The Morning Star Newspaper by Party9999999

Paper of a Faction of the left?

Some people on the left, more than a few at any rate, read the Morning Star.

It has good labour movement, that is trade union, reports. There are useful articles about social issues, like Universal Credit. There is proper reporting on the goings on of  those privateers trying to milk profit from second rate public services and those demanding rent for providing utilities.

The daily is accessible, and has a human side, even if not everybody would wish to follow the recipes of hard-line vegetarian Commie Chef (typical: take 200 grams of brown organic rice. Boil. Serve with grated turnip).

Following Andrew Murray’s use of the paper to launch a factional bid to readmit George Galloway to the Labour Party questions are being asked about the paper’s  ‘broad’ remit.

The Star is clear about where it is coming from – if your read the fine print,

Since 1945 the paper has been owned by a broad-based readers’ co-operative, the People’s Press Printing Society (PPPS). The paper’s editorial line remains anchored in the political programme of the Communist Party of Britain but it offers a broad left perspective on political, industrial and international issues.”

More ambitiously it describes itself as the People’s Daily and, often, as the paper of The Left.

To critics the daily is in fact the paper of a small section of the left, the pro-Brexit, pro-Assad Left with more than a few bees in its bonnet about Israel and a tolerant (though not uncritical) attitude towards Russia’s President Putin.

Rabbil Sikdar launched a relevant attack on this left a few months ago in the Huffington Post.

The Left Are Losing Their Internationalism

It’s the left that backs Brexit and the left that can witness a massacre take place and deny its existence if the west wasn’t responsible for it. It’s the left who will criticise the USA and Saudi Arabia but ignore Russia and Iran. To them, it’s futile to criticise others and more useful instead to focus on one’s own government and allies. Theresa May and the Tories are rightly criticised for indulging Saudi Arabia despite their treatment of women yet Jeremy Corbyn has never been criticised for taking money from Press TV, the state channel for Iran – a country that violently represses gays and women. When it comes to ethical consistency in foreign policy and relations, the left are dangerously wayward. Oz Katerji, a journalist, explained this to me as “hypocrisy based on outdated ideological assumptions about the world where discussing our international responsibility to protect civilians from harm, a fundamental precept of international law, is gas-lighted as British imperialism.”

He concldued,

Genocide happens and parts of the left simply erase it on a consistent basis. I dialled down my criticisms of Corbyn after 8th June but it’s immoral to remain silent over something as important as this. The Labour Party is becoming a political home for awful genocide apologists and it runs right through to the leader himself.

It is far from the case that the Labour Party, and the Corbyn leadership can be so brutally accused.

What might be true is that the Labour leader, like everybody else, has no easy answer to the problems of violence across the world.

It is equally the case that this left is not the left.

There are many, from radical left groups to left-wing defenders of human rights who would not recognise themselves in Sikdar’s broadside.

But there is a section of the left, which has a stand about a key area that matters a great deal at present – Syria – which is at odds with basic human rights politics.

Sikdar focused last year on Syria in an  attack the embodiment of this left, the Morning Star.

His views had all the more force in that it is a paper he had written for.

Why I will no longer write for the Morning Star Rabbil Sikdar

I wear my socialism on my sleeves and will never shy away from that. Every Political Compass test has me basically nailed down as a ‘hard left’ person. The things I believe in, radical to some, sensible to others define my sense of socialism: fair wages, fair taxes, strong public sector, social housing and a compassionate welfare system.

He announced,

 I no longer write for the Star and for a while had been winding down my contribution. By the end it was just sport content because of my respect for the sports editor. For the other part, I have a lot of things to be angry about with the Star.

For a newspaper that subscribes to left wing values, that should include free speech and right to criticise politicians. Unfortunately this never extended to criticism of Corbyn’s failing leadership, or Diane Abbott; it didn’t include the ‘Lexit’ vote — and where it mattered most crucially, it did not include Russia and Assad.

The paper has never criticised the Assad regime or Putin. Lines that go along with “we’re no fans of the Assad regime but…” are poor condemnations. In fact, they’re not condemnations at all. Someone recently described it quite well as imagining defenders of the British Empire dismissing the Amritsar Massacre. Likewise, saying “we condemn all bombings” gravely misunderstands who is doing the bombing and draws a false equivalence between aggressive actors and those responding to the violence. The Syrian Network for Human Rights reported in 2015 that the Assad regime was responsible for more than 10,000 deaths. ISIS, for all their barbarism, had killed just over a thousand. Since then, those statistics have continued in underlining the basic fact that Assad — backed up by Russia — has been responsible for the brutal carnage.

And this,

One of their long-time contributors John Wight, a staunch unwavering supporter of Assad and Russia, called me a “liberal apologist for murder” (paraphrasing here) in a heated Facebook row. It led to one of the editors apologising to me, but it was then I began noticing something.

Wight is known to this Blog as a former author at Socialist Unity, until he fell out with Andy Newman.

Always a bit of an amateur military strategist Wight now produces material for Putin’s Sputnik.

It is a relief to find him anti-Brexit, but as for the rest, well,

The launch of the military operation to liberate Idlib province in northwestern Syria brings with it the prospect of a final military victory over Salafi-jihadi terror groups in the country, which congregated there upon the liberation of Aleppo back in January.

Together with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a partial withdrawal of Russian troops and personnel from the country, it is evidence that the conflict has entered its last stage.

Sputnik.

That aside, the chief, and most significant complaint, is what Sikdar “began noticing” – the following,

Whenever I wrote articles that were critical of Assad and Putin, they were never published. I never even got responses on them. Other times articles had lines critical of Assad tweaked, removed entirely often. I wrote a football article about the Middle East, talking about Egypt, Iraq, Palestine and also Syria. The point about Syria was enough to get the entire article pulled. What was the point? “In Syria, the Civil War saw the football destroyed. Players and coaches took sides, willingly or reluctantly, Assad or the pro-democracy rebels. There were more who were neutral. Others left the country, compelled by intimidation or fear for safety. Some players such as Musab Balhous were imprisoned for supposedly helping rebels. More left because they came to regard the Syrian national team as associated with Assad…Incidentally, though the league system has been resuscitated, the power has shifted, tilting towards clubs in Damascus who are free from Assad’s ruthless bombing. Since the league was restarted, the last two titles have gone to Al-Shorta and Al-Jaish, clubs from the capital. Those from rebel-based cities have suffered immensely.” Again, this paper failed to acknowledge even the slightest of criticisms of Assad. Why?

Sikhar concludes,

My anti-imperialism is consistent and just as with my socialism, it’s not something I’ll ever apologise for. It applies to America and Russia. Saudi Arabia and Iran. Assad’s Syria and Netanyahu’s Israel. It doesn’t excuse and apologise for a genocidal fascist simply because USA are on the opposite side and because he’s a secularist. We measure the barbarism and cruelty of ISIS by the thousands they have killed. Well, Assad has killed hundreds of thousands. But the Star would have us believe this man is a “liberator”. And they would silence internal criticisms within the paper.

Perhaps they will answer.

For us we would also ask: is the Morning Star the paper of the Left or a faction of the left?

If it has tried to open its pages to a wider range of writers is it, on Syria (and we can be sure, on Brexit) it has, on this evidence, begun to narrow their selection down.

A much more recent example was their indulgence of Andrew Murray and his cracked call for George Galloway to be admitted into the Labour Party.

No doubt they do not fit with the “political programme of the CPB” “people’s sovereignty” and all  the stale remains of the British Road to Socialism…..

Written by Andrew Coates

December 18, 2017 at 2:09 pm