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Posts Tagged ‘SWP

SWP, Isis and the Kurdish Struggle: Two Weights, Two Measures.

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Demonstrators outside Holloway prison condemn charges against Ozcelik. Photo: ANF.

Demonstrators outside Holloway prison condemn charges against Shilan Ozcelik: No Backing from SWP.

Right whip up Islamophobia over Isis  reports the latest Socialist Worker (17th March).

by Annette Mackin

Detainee rights campaign group Cage and its director Moazzam Begg have been the target of more Islamophobic smears.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper claimed it had evidence that Moazzam visited the camp where Londoner Mohammed Emwazi allegedly trained as an Isis fighter.

It quotes unnamed “official sources” speculating over the identities of men wearing balaclavas in a photo from around 2012.

The paper had already attacked Cage and Moazzam for saying that it was Western imperialism and state terror that helped make Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John”, into an Isis fighter.

Mohammed Tasnime Akunjee, the solicitor for the students from east London who have allegedly travelled to Syria to join Isis, has also come under attack.

Andrew Gilligan in The Telegraph newspaper said that he is an “extremist” with links to “terror apologists” Cage. This was after the solicitor criticised police handling of the case.

The sisters of the students also now face “radicalisation” tests as the tide of Islamophobia grows higher around such cases.

This week three teenagers from Britain were arrested in Turkey on “suspicion of preparing terrorist attacks”. They were bailed pending further inquiries.

Is the SWP complaining that those who go to support Isis, a murderous reactionary group, are arrested?

That nobody should do anything to stop people – enthused at the idea of participating in their ethnic cleansing, and genocides – joining them?

This contrasts with the complete absence of any Socialist Worker coverage of the plight of Shilan Ozcelik (from the Kurdish news site Rudaw).

LONDON – Demonstrators converged outside London’s Holloway prison in support of Shilan Ozcelik, a British girl of Kurdish descent who is believed to be the first UK citizen to be arrested for trying to fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).

Saturday’s demonstration followed a statement signed by various Kurdish organizations, among them the Roj Women’s Association, the Kurdish Youth Assembly and the Kurdish People’s Assembly.

”The Kurdish community and supporters of the Kurdish struggle are incensed at the arrest and imprisonment of 18 year old Shilan (Silhan) Ozcelik, who is accused of wanting to join the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS),” the statement said.

”The UK government has been criminalising the Kurds for at least 13 years, yet not one Kurdish individual has been charged and convicted of being a PKK member, despite many raids, arrests and intimidations,” it added.

”The case of Shilan Ozcelik is the most recent chapter of this story and the Kurdish community are now concerned that the UK government will once again criminalise the community who have been the biggest supporters of the international fight against ISIS terror and fascism,” Friday’s statement declared.

The PKK, which is in peace negotiations with the Turkish government after a three-decade guerrilla war for greater rights for the country’s large Kurdish population, remains banned in Turkey and is regarded as a terrorist group by the European Union and United States.

However, calls have been growing for months for a reappraisal of the group, since its YPG affiliate in Syria has had a frontline role in fighting ISIS and has been backed with limited arms supplies and airstrikes by the US-led coalition.

Firat News, which is close to the PKK, has called the charge against Ozcelik a “scandalous decision.”

Ozcelik has been charged with a terrorist offence under the UK’s 2006 Terrorism Act.

The teenager from London was arrested earlier this year at Stansted airport. Her supporters say she travelled to Brussels in an attempt to try to join the YPG or its women’s YPJ wing. She was arrested on January 16 as she returned from Brussels.

Neither the YPJ or YPG are themselves banned in the UK.

Campaigners have condemned the charge against Ozcelik and launched a petition, writing to British Prime Minster David Cameron and Home Office Minister Theresa May to call for the immediate release of Ozcelik.

Several foreign fighters have traveled to Syria and neighboring Iraq to fight with Kurdish forces battling ISIS.

Last week, Ivana Hoffman, a native of South Africa with German citizenship, was killed fighting alongside Kurdish forces in Syria in the war against ISIS, according to agency reports.

Before that, a British man, Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, and an Australian Ase Johnson, were reported killed while battling ISIS.

Foreign fighters also have joined the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq, which remains a staunch US and Western ally in the war against ISIS.

All the SWP has to say about ISIS (Ignoring completely the heroic struggle of those fighting them, above all the Kurds), is this: Isis – the real problem is Western imperialism.

There is no need to read any more.

Is Martin Smith (Comrade Delta) Back as Milo Samuels in Unite Against Fascism?

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Most of you will know why this is significant, but just in case here goes. Unite Against Fascism (UAF) is a front organisation for the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), and is mostly funded by trade union affiliations. I’ve covered it here and elsewhere.

One of its most prominent figures was Martin Smith, who was also national secretary of the SWP. (Others include vice-chair Azad Ali, also spokesperson of the far right Islamic Forum of Europe, and Weyman Bennett.) Smith was at the heart of the “Comrade Delta” controversy in the SWP, in which serious allegations of rape were covered up by the party, causing most of its members to leave. (For details on that see, e.g., Dave RentonAndrew CoatesTony GreensteinPham Bin or more from Jim Jepps.)

During his time at the forefront of the SWP’s alleged fight against fascism, he kept up a good friendship with fellow jazz musician Gilad Atzmon, who he helped get a political platform to spout his increasingly antisemitic views, as I’ve documented here. Former party member Dave Renton summarises:

In his capacity as head of LMHR [Love Music Hate Racism] Smith also embarrassed the party by forging a relationship between our organisation and the jazz musician Gilad Atzmon. Smith invited him to speak at Marxism in 2004, when Atzmon began spouting some of the anti-Semitic rubbish he now specialises in. Despite SWP members challenging Atzmon from the floor, Smith continued inviting him to SWP events, and to perform with him at concerts as late as 2007.

After Smith was finally forced to step out of the SWP leadership, for embarrassing the party rather than because of anything he was actually alleged to have done to female party members, he also stepped down from his UAF position.

Unsurprisingly, Atzmon defended Smith, although probably not in a way Smith would have liked to be defended:

“Between 2005-10 I worked closely with Martin and the SWP. At the time I was the SWP’s official Kletzmer. I toured with Martin, performed and spoke in quite a few of those Red gatherings. I met some very nice people in the SWP, but I also came across their many Jewish gate-keepers and tribal operators. But the one thing I never detected in any of those political gathering was a trace of libidinal enthusiasm let alone sexual desire. I assumed at the time that these militant young Marxists had decided to postpone having sex until after the revolution.

However, it didn’t take long to realise that Martin Smith was not being pursued because he is a ‘sex offender’ – he surely isn’t – no, our so-called ‘progressive’ tribals chase Smith because he is a Jazz lover and an enthusiastic fan of my music. They harass him because he gave me a platform in spite of the Jewish demand to ban me. They want to bring Martin Smith down simply because he didn’t obey his tribal masters. So If anything, it is Martin who is the rape victim in this saga – he is punished because he refused to bow down to the tribal junta.”

Presumably, Smith’s move out of full-time SWP/UAF work left him in need of income, so luckily for him a professor at Liverpool Hope University, Michael Lavalette (who happens to be a leading SWP member) got him a paid PhD studentship in, believe it or not, a Social Work department. He also started a blog called Dream Deferred which the SWP have promoted.

UAF have been less prominent since the Comrade Delta debacle, but they were the main component of the Newcastle Unites counterdemonstration against Pegida UK last month and are a major component of the forthcoming Stand Up to Racism and Fascism demo this coming Saturday. (George Galloway, another ally of Gilad Atzmon, a speaker at both events – a bit ironic for a supposedly anti-racist organisation.)

More recently, UAF has secured funding from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) political levy to publish a magazine called Unity. Someone with no other web presence named “Milo Samuels” has been appearing in it, billed as “a Love Music Hate Racism activist”.

For instance, in the most recent (Autumn 2014) issue, he interviews rock band Kasabian. (Kasabian played the Love Music Hate Racism festival in Stoke in 2004 – which Martin Smith organised.)

In the previous (Summer 2014) issue, he has an article on Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”. (Coincidentally, Martin Smith used to show a documentary about the song at SWP meetings.)

More essential reading on Bob’s site.

 

 Martin Smith – under his own name –  has certainly not gone away.

This (on his site A Dream Deferred) is what he said about the Charlie Hebdo massacre (he wrote this on the 7th of January, just as the atrocity had taken place)

while we share revulsion at the killings, we disagree sharply with those who have responded by reproducing Charlie Hebdo covers “in solidarity” with the magazine or supporting its politics.”

Charlie Hebdo has a long record of producing deliberately offensive anti-Muslim cartoons and other material, loaded with racist stereotypes. ”

“Charlie Hebdo has gleefully helped to stoke this Islamophobia in France, attacking a vulnerable, discriminated-against minority under the guise of “free speech”.”

“At Dream Deferred, we did not support Charlie Hebdo’s nasty racism before the attack, and we do not support it now.”

“The brutality of the killings should not allow anyone to get swept into the idea that publishing offensive racist cartoons is positive or progressive. It is not.”

After having spat on the still warm bodies of our martyrs Smiffy also sagely noted  – regarding the big Je Suis Charlie demos – this,

Some dangers with the ‘Je suis Charlie’ movement

 “Sadly large sections of the French left do not have a good track record on opposing Islamophobia and support uncritically the concept of laïcité – the separation of church and state.”

We would certainly welcome clarification on the identity of Milo Samuels.

But Martin Smith seems perfectly capable of ploughing his own reactionary furrow – along with the SWP, Tariq Ali and other haters of democratic secular freedom.

Galloway Number 3 in ‘House of Scroungers’ says Socialist Worker – er, Not.

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Socialist Worker says,

House of Scroungers

Tory MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind says it’s “quite unrealistic” to expect MPs to live on their salary of £67,000 a year.

They note that,

“Gordon Brown, the former prime minister, declared additional income of close to £1 million. Geoffrey Cox, the Conservative MP, declared earnings of £820,000—12 times the annual MP wage.”

And conclude:

As Jack Straw with great foresight said in 2010 “Their behaviour, prima facie, does indeed bring the Parliamentary Labour Party, as well as parliament, into disrepute, because it appears that former Cabinet ministers are more interested in making money than they are in properly representing their constituents.”

For an unaccountable reason George Galloway got left off Socialist Worker’s little list, so we have helpfully supplied the full one.

Unite Against Fascism and the SWP’s ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’.

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SWP Leadership: One to Command and 921 to Obey.

Citizen Camembert: Charlie Hebdo Editor.

Paris, a surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions,  Laïcité , Islamophobia, republicanism and by the lust of vengeance and of hate.

Some little time before sunset, and the place, the West Barricade, Charlie Hebdo Offices The wicked journal was about to be published – again! A hideously ugly crippled former shoe-maker, the Vieux Cordelier was putting the paper to bed.

The same hour, back in England, in the SWP Headquarters, Sir Sir Percy Callinicos and his valet Charlie Kimber were talking. The pleasant oak-raftered coffee-room of the building.

A beautiful dusky French mademoiselle entered the room.

“And to whom do I owe my saving from the clutches of the Charlie Hebdo?”

“The Scarlet Pimpernel, Mademoiselle Caroline” he said at last “is the name of a humble English wayside flower; but it is also the name chosen to hide the identity of the best and bravest man in all the world, so that he may better succeed in accomplishing the noble task he has set himself to do.”s.

His manservant interjected.

“Gad, mademoiselle, that Charlie Hebdo!”

“Gadzooks!” continued Sir Percy. “That blaggard Camembert, the big cheese, is behind it all. It’s one thing to make fun of the almighty between chaps like us: but Charlie’s for the brutes in the street!

She paused, this band of young and dashing Englishmen had, to her own knowledge, bearded the implacable and bloodthirsty tribunal of Charlie Hebdo, within the very walls of Paris itself, and had snatched away condemned victims, almost from the very foot of the Weekly’s guillotine.

As she prepared in her mind a speech at the Unite Against Fascism Conference Mademoiselle recalled her dramatic recuse. Sir Percy had explained it casually enough. “Yet, ’tis simple enough, m’dear,” he said with that funny, half-shy, half-inane laugh of his, “you see! when I found that that brute Charlie meant to stick to me like a leech, I thought the best thing I could do, as I could not shake him off, was to take him along with me.”

A charred copy of the rag still lay on the sumptuously carpeted floor.

With the help of the valet, Kimber, she  recommenced writing her Conference rallying-call against the vile Charlie Hebdo.

……

That Monday was held the brilliant wedding of Sir Richard Seymour with Mlle. Caroline de Tournay de Basserive.

Afterwards at the function at which H. R. H. the Prince of Wales and all the élite of fashionable society were present, the most beautiful woman there was unquestionably Lady Callinicos, whilst the clothes of Sir Percy Callinicos were the talk of the jeunesse dorée of London for many days.

They seek him here,

they seek him there,

Those Frenchies seek him everywhere,

Is he in heaven?

Is he in Hell?

That damned elusive Pimpernel!

The SWP (Socialist Review) Instructs Charlie Hebdo on How to do Satire.

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Tim Sanders * in Socialist Review tells satirists how they should do satire….

“The savage killing of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and journalists by terrorists in Paris is utterly contemptible, but not inexplicable.”

And,

There’s been a vocal campaign extolling the “western values” of free speech and the right to offend, claiming that satire should be free from constraints and able to offend indiscriminately. This is where I part company with the satirists of Charlie Hebdo. The point of satire is to attack the powerful, to expose their hypocrisy and absurdity, and of course to be funny. If satire is directed downwards it is not satire, it’s bullying.

And, on Charlie (which he suddenly on expert on),

Sadly Charlie Hebdo had been drifting away from its roots in the revolutionary events of France 1968 for some time. In the aftermath of 9/11 its output became blatantly Islamophobic and increasingly Zionist. They carried cartoons which were vile racist caricatures of the sort I haven’t seen since the National Front and BNP published such stuff in the 1970s and 1980s. Worse, some of the anti-Arab cartoons are so stereotypical that the addition of a Star of David would immediately turn them into the sort of anti-Semitic filth produced by the Nazi Third Reich. These are images designed to offend and humiliate a marginalised and persecuted minority. Yet they went largely unchallenged.

Ach…Zionist – what would racism be like without ‘Zionism’?

Not that there is any evidence of this, or the rest – gleaned no doubt from Sander’s quick Google of the Front Pages of (16 page long) Charlie Hebdo.

But there are rules of satire – which is seems have to be followed.

Expliquez-nous les règles cher Maître de conférences…..

“Satire should spear the powerful.”

 But printing nasty and bad taste cartoons, attacking religious authority,  is beyond the pale.

They get a magic card, if they are ‘Muslims’ (as if all people from an Islamic background remain ‘Muslims’ for ever) showing that they are not “rich and powerful”.

Many might indicate that the Islamists and other religious bigots have both of these qualities.

The Mosque’, like ‘The Church’ (all exceptions counted), has wealth, whatever the believers’ money.

Back to the “rules”:

Satire: Do not do anything that might help ‘the state’.

Satire: do not laugh at Muslims,

This is worse than bullying; it is satire in the ideological service of the state (and Charlie Hebdo receives a hefty subsidy from the French government). Islamophobia is not satire. Laughing at Muslims is like sharing a joke with the Nazis of the Front National. And I don’t think any cartoonist worth their salt would relish the idea of their deaths being mourned by the likes of Netanyahu, Hollande, Merkel and the other world leaders who headed up the march in Paris after the killings.

There are some things – religious figures (Charlie only attached gods, prophets, religious dignitaries, and fanatical activists, from Catholic ‘ultras’ to  Islamist ‘barbus’ ) – which are too sacred for SWP supporters to satirise….

Any laughter is…bullying – from a small circulation weekly which nobody is obliged to read.

Charlie is apparently proved guilty by the character of those who (officially) mourned the deaths….

Oh, and Charlie received money from the French state after the atrocity.

But Tim Sanders can’t be bothered to mention this fact.

The sight of these champions of free speech (the same ones who have banned Muslim women from wearing the veil and outlawed pro-Palestine demonstrations) marching in the name of free expression seems almost beyond parody. Fortunately many cartoonists and satirists have already proved this fear wrong with merciless exposure of these hypocrites. I have a radical, non-satirical idea to prevent further atrocities like this: How about not invading other people’s countries?

No mention of the Jewish victims in the Kosher supermarket: Yoav Hattab, 21, the son of the Chief Rabbi of Tunis, Philippe Braham, in his 40s, Yohan Cohen, 22 and Francois-Michel Saada, in his 60s.

Perhaps they were also “Zionists”.

One assumes that they should have stopped invading ‘other people’s countries’ as well.

In any case, Charlie was ridiculing a “a marginalised and persecuted minority” (what is the evidence for the persecution by the way – are Muslims as Muslims prevented from following their religion in France?).

The slaughter was not “inexplicable”.

For the SWP it is eminently explicable.

They had it coming to them.

*****

No doubt following this, and in line with the policy of “unconditional support for Muslim communities”, the SWP will back the prosecution of Charlie Hebdo for blasphemy in Ireland,

The sale of the Charlie Hebdo magazine published after the Paris atrocity is threatening to become the first major test of the Irish Republic’s blasphemy law, Muslim representatives and secularists have warned.

Ireland’s Islamic Cultural Centre has said the presence of a depiction of the prophet Muhammad on the front page of the satirical publication, on sale now in Irish shops, is a clear breach of the country’s blasphemy legislation.

The Irish Republic is the only nation in Europe to have introduced a blasphemy law in the 21st century. Secular and atheist groups in Ireland have been campaigning for its abolition since it came into being in 2010 – the last year of the Fianna Fáil-Green government.

The advocacy group Atheist Ireland is to meet the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, in Dublin next Tuesday, to urge the taoiseach to hold a referendum on abolishing the law before the general election in 2016.

Ahmed Hasain, the executive secretary of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Dublin, said: “In our view, the sale of this magazine is a breach in Irish law. It is blasphemous and it is illegal under the legislation. It’s against the law here in Ireland, that is quite clear.”

Hasain said that while the centre has not decided whether or not to lodge a complaint to the Irish authorities, individuals or groups have the right under Irish law to use the legislation to prosecute those distributing the magazine since last week.

He described the law introduced by the former Fianna Fáil justice minister, Dermot Ahern, as very helpful. “It’s good that the law is in place as it protects every faith,” he said.

Michael Nugent, writer and co-founder of Atheist Ireland, agreed with Hasain that technically speaking the sale of around 1,500 copies of the Charlie Hebdo edition in the state had breached the blasphemy law.
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He said: “The Charlie Hebdo cartoons seem to meet the first test of the Irish law, that is that it is ‘grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion’. The next test in the law is ‘thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion’.

“So if anyone wants to try to have a prosecution brought, [cases must be brought by the state ] what they would have to do is demonstrate that outrage has been caused. But it would be irresponsible to encourage or show outrage at a time like this. People who are offended should respond more proportionately than by showing outrage. That is a major flaw in the Irish law – it encourages outrage.”

Ahead of its meeting with the taoiseach, Atheist Ireland announced a new international campaign against blasphemy laws. The organisation has joined forces with secular groups from Britain, Canada, Iceland, the US and New Zealand. They are organising an online global petition against laws which they say “legitimise mob violence, vigilantism, and persecution of minorities”.

Prof Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion, has advised Atheist Ireland to keep up the pressure in the republic to repeal the law.

“Of course you are right that the major damage done by this legislation is the international one,” he told the organisation. “I wouldn’t expect any harsh verdicts being handed down in Ireland, but those countries that continue to have an intimidating anti-blasphemy practice like to quote European countries to unmask western hypocrisy.”

Blasphemy in Ireland is a crime punishable with a fine of up to €25,000 (£19,000).

Guardian.

* Background:

Tim Sanders was born on 8 October 1957 in Castle Donnington, Leicestershire. He attended the King Edward VI School in Lichfield from 1970 to 1976, and studied at the Harrow School of Art from 1976 to 1979, specialising in illustration and leaving with “a perfect ability to draw fire extinguishers”.

Sanders draws pocket cartoons and political cartoons, using the signature “Tim”. He was cartoonist for the Socialist Worker, and in 1995 a collection of his cartoons was published as “In the Heat of the Scribble.” In 1999 Sanders began working as pocket cartoonist for the Independent, replacing Chris Priestley.

As well as working for The Independent and Independent on Sunday, Sanders has drawn cartoons and illustrations for a range of publications, including The Guardian, Observer, Daily Telegraph, Mail on Sunday You Magazine, Nursing Times, Broadcast, and Red Pepper. Sanders is also a Spanish speaker and a scholar of Hispanic art.

Sanders is not cited, I note, as a fluent French speaker.

Ian Birchall Publishes On Why the SWP Deteriorated So Quickly.

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Let Party Skullduggery Run Rampant.

Ian Birchall’s resignation from the SWP was announced in December last year.

The news was quickly broadcast on this Blog (not to say all over the left).

We posted under the heading “A greatly respected comrade”.

“Ian Birchall’s resignation is …. something of great significance  for the left. It is perhaps a sign of the respect in which Ian is held that his critics, like myself, feel that we have to make our appreciation of him clear.”

Today we learn (from Louis Proyect) of, “SO SAD (TO WATCH A GOOD PARTY GO BAD). Ian Birchall.

On 15 December 2013 I resigned from the Socialist Workers Party, after some fifty years membership. I was no longer prepared to trust the party leadership with my money, nor to accept its discipline. I said at the time that I would make no further public criticism of the SWP and I have tried to stand by this. There are many more useful and interesting things to do than engage in arguments between small far left groups. Polemics about splits in small revolutionary organisations tend to be very tedious; I have no desire to add to that literary genre.”

Now we have Ian’s further thoughts on the “the problem as to why it happened. Why did an organisation which, though I knew its imperfections, seemed to me to be by far the best thing going on the British left, and of which I was proud to be a member, deteriorate so quickly?”

People will have to read the full – heartfelt – article but these are some extracts and observation.

So Sad centres, without dissimulation, on the core of the recent SWP crisis:.

Edward Platt in the New Statesman earlier this year summarised the initial spark for the party’s deterioration (on the left we would talk of its ‘degeneration’),

The first complaint against Comrade Delta was made in 2010. A woman who was referred to as “Comrade W” accused him of sexually harassing her, and he stepped down as national secretary while remaining part of the party’s leadership: its central committee, or CC. The party was told about the allegations at its conference in 2011.

This is Ian’s account of how he reacted,

On the basis of information available to me I don’t know if Delta was guilty of rape (though the evidence is that few women make false accusations of rape). What is clear on the basis of accounts accepted on all sides is that he behaved inappropriately and irresponsibly, and abused the privileges of the party office he held. (Here I should mention the suggestions made, not by the CC but by some CC supporters, that one or both of the women complainants could have been state agents. I think this is clearly megalomania: there is no evidence that the current SWP poses the sort of threat that would lead the state to use such measures. But if there were any possibility that such means might be used, then Delta, as a senior party official, was grossly culpable in not being much more careful about the relationships he entered into.)

I do not question the sincerity of the members of the Disputes Committee. But it is clear that they failed in their task. It was essential that justice was not only done, but was seen to be done, both by the membership and by the world outside, which undoubtedly would be watching what was happening. Both in the selection of personnel and in the procedures adopted, the Disputes Committee signally failed to convince that justice had been done.  The CC must share responsibility for this situation.

This seems to me to be a better response than those who scatter round accusations of “rape apologists” or “rape deniers” (a remark which I know will not make me popular either).

Ian sums up what it the nature of the SWP’s offence, “What some comrades clearly were guilty of is what might be called “rape trivialisation”.”

This is Platt’s observation which was exactly what most of the left thought at the time.

The party’s decision to investigate the allegation internally, through its disputes committee, rather than referring it to the police, is the most remarkable aspect of the affair: it has astonished people outside the SWP, and some within it, too. “What right does the party have to organise its very own ‘kangaroo court’ investigation and judgment over such serious allegations against a leading member?” wrote the former Socialist Worker journalist Tom Walker in his resignation letter. “None whatsoever.”

There is a great deal of detail of how the internal party crisis unfolded, which I find less than interesting.

But this rings completely true.

 I won’t go into detail about the pre-conference period. Some supporters of the CC acted extremely badly – for example making fraudulent phone calls to cancel room bookings for perfectly legitimate opposition meetings. Maybe the CC did not positively encourage such actions, but it made no attempt to rein in its more enthusiastic supporters. However, it seems to be a fact of history that in faction fights everybody behaves badly, and doubtless some opposition members conducted themselves in less than an ideal fashion.

The CC won the conference, with many supporters of the majority doing their best to encourage the opposition to leave, with moronic foot-stamping – something I do not remember from party events in earlier years. Not surprisingly some hundreds of members decided to depart.

Anybody with Ian’s life-long commitment would have already  left the party.

But, he stayed for a while.

Then,

For me the final straw came in September, when the CC announced that every single member of the CC that had screwed up so badly would be standing for re-election on the CC slate. After that I went through the motions of the pre-conference period, but I was clear that there was no future for me in the party.

Throughout 2013 the style of leadership offered by the CC seemed to be summed up by a song by the late Pete Seeger, “The Big Muddy”  (originally written as a comment on the Vietnam war). A platoon of soldiers on manoeuvres are ordered to ford a river by their captain, and though it becomes clear that the river is too deep, the captain obstinately refuses to change his instructions: “We were waist deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool said to push on”.

We note with concern that far from crawling away to a hole to lick his wounds – never to come out again - Martin Smith (Comrade Delta) – is at present running a Blog with the cooperation of at least some in the SWP orbit (based in France). 

Many of the details of how the SWP organisation has been run (or come to be run) are of wider interest,

In more recent years, when the number of a district’s conference delegates has been based on vastly inflated and totally unrealistic membership figures, districts have often been unable to find a full complement of delegates. At the North London report-back meeting in January 2013 Weyman Bennett very frankly admitted that most years he went to sleep during CC elections; obviously he found them boring and irrelevant. And yet his position in the organisation and his right to make decisions derived from such elections. That a CC member should have such contempt for the democratic process is obviously a matter of some concern. But the real problem is the fact that the membership – myself included – paid so little attention to the democratic processes within the party.

This claim could perhaps be contested,

Indeed the SWP in general has been a very tolerant organisation, much more so than most far left organisations I know of. I’ve spoken at most Marxisms and at hundreds of branch meetings,  and never been given more than the vaguest indications of what the CC wanted me to say. I’ve written repeatedly for the party press. Occasionally articles were changed or even blocked, but very rarely.  Of course I exercised a degree of self-censorship. But I generally felt trusted and able to try and exercise a degree of influence. I should add that when I submitted the first draft of my biography of Cliff, I confidently expected to be asked to withdraw a few passages which I thought would be seen as excessively critical. It is greatly to the credit of the CC and of Alex Callinicos in particular that my draft was published virtually unchanged.

Outsiders have not noticed this tolerance when they got closer to the actual party apparatus.

My own experience is that a vocal minority of the SWP are the grip of the hallucination that they are steel-hardened Bolsheviks

The following anecdote is only one of many I could cite.

Nonetheless over the years there have been worrying indications of an unhealthy style of debate. Let me give just one example which has stuck in my mind. When the decision to join Respect was made, there was an aggregate meeting in London to endorse the decision. It was an enthusiastic, optimistic meeting – we felt that the party was on the brink of a significant step forward. Almost all the contributions from the floor favoured the strategy; I certainly shared the meeting’s enthusiasm.

Then one woman who spoke raised the question of Galloway’s flattery of Saddam Hussein (“Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability”). Several people began to heckle her and one particularly thuggish young man in front of me attempted to shout her down. She was unable to finish her speech. This was of course entirely pointless; there was no danger that the massive majority in favour of Respect would be affected. It also occurred to me forcibly that this was precisely the sort of question that might be asked in the course of an election campaign, which is what we were about to enter. I suspect the hecklers would have run a mile if asked to campaign on the doorstep; heckling when the majority is on your side is an easy option. Neither the chair nor the CC member delivering the main report reprimanded the hecklers. I have always regretted that I did not speak to criticise the hecklers; so I bear as much responsibility as anyone else for what was a symptom of a declining standard of debate.

Not that the left, or indeed any political party, is immune from similar behaviour.

Comrades from the Labour Representation Committee will find these comments about “heckling” resonating all too clearly.

As I said Ian Birchall is greatly respected.

His article in New Left Review No 80 (2013) Third World and After, takes up (amongst other things) the contribution to the left by the anarchist-Marxist-libertarian Daniel  Guérin (a figure mentioned previously in Andrew Coates reviews: Revolutionary History Vol 16, No4: Ian Birchall (guest editor) European revolutionaries and Algerian independence 1954-1962).

I would like to think that Guérin‘s ‘centrist’ democratic socialist principles have something to contribute to the list Ian ends So Sad on,

The International Socialist stream will take certain ideas and attitudes into the river, in particular:

a)      The rejection of not only Stalinist state capitalism but of the very idea that state ownership is any part of the definition of socialism;

b)      The insistence that our starting-point must always be the actual struggle of workers at the point of production/exploitation rather than any abstraction such as “workers’ parties” or “workers’ states”;

c)      The stress on beginning with actual struggles, not preconceived strategies or programmes: in Rosa Luxemburg’s words “Mistakes committed by a genuine revolutionary labour movement are much more fruitful and worthwhile historically than the infallibility of the very best Central Committee.”

Here at least Ian has the last word.

For many years the SWP defended those ideas within the socialist movement, and I remain proud of what we achieved. The débâcle of 2013 was profoundly sad, but the fifty years before that were not in vain. Like Edith Piaf, I regret nothing.

 

Bans and the SWP Bullies (from Feminism to Black Revolutionaries).

with 6 comments

Up to their Old Tricks.

This is an important statement which should be taken with the next Blog Post (from Phil, a Very Public Sociologist and Howie’s Corner).

Bans, the SWP and the struggle to defend feminism on campus.

27th of November.

International Socialist Network.

Extracts:

We oppose a moral panic over free speech in student unions: they are member organisations not the state. However, we think we need the highest and most rigorous standards around free speech. Free speech cannot be absolute; it has to be negotiated by our community. We have a duty to provide a secure environment for all. We must have consistent positions on where the limits are, and be very clear and open in the reasons for these limits. We don’t think the no-platform policy against the SWP is being applied consistently. A consistent approach could ban most mainstream political parties and the Catholic Church from student unions on the same grounds used for the SWP’s ban. A better approach to the SWP and SWSS in student unions is not to shut down the society, nor to ban them. We should support and fight for unions to have decent membership disciplinary policies for misogynistic behaviour. If any SWP or SWSS member in a student union is behaving in a misogynistic way then they should be told to change their behaviour by the union. Failing that, they must be disciplined as a member of the student union, as any normal member would be for misogynistic behaviour.

…..

Many comrades in what remains of SWP can still be debated with. However, the moments of internal opposition have passed. Opposition activists have left; many into rs21 and the IS Network. Bans and no-platform policies will probably further stifle honest discussion in the SWP, and may ultimately be counter-productive as the SWP would use the attempts to ban it to try to regain legitimacy by rallying people around it in a fight for free speech.

SWP Bullies London Black Revolutionaries (from All that is solid.)

27th of November.

As you might expect, hearing a bandwagon trundling along in the distance, the SWP tried to get a piece of last night’s LBR-arranged 5,000 strong ‘FromLondon2Ferguson’ protest outside the American embassy. According to this LBR statement below, the SWP didn’t take kindly to something being organised without their “assistance”. It has been lightly edited.

We would like to clarify a recently alarming statement on behalf of Stand Up To Racism posted to us by Dennis Fernado and Sabby Dhalu.

From the hours of 25/11/14 3:00pm – 26/11/13 1:00am. LBR Organisers received a bombardment of calls from SUTR organisers.

We would like to refute some accusations being made.

At 1am of the 26th of November. SUTR approached us with the possibility of some of their Non-Socialist Workers Party members to speak as speakers of both events. We made the democratic decision to of course allow the families of those killed in police custody to speak at the event, as some have been arranged too already. We would like to convey respect and solidarity to all speakers of both events.

Our organisation received a plethora of threats from Weyman Bennett over the phone, ranging from the threat to dismantle and “go to war” our organisation if we continued to “ignore the leaders of the movement” and secondly, if we ever organise events within Anti-Racism, that we must be obliged to speak to SUTR/SWP.

Phil comments,

What strikes me about the statement is the entitlement of Bennett and his acolytes. Remember, the SWP is an organisation that has suffered the worst crisis in its 60 year history and recently appealed for unity among leftists. What this episode demonstrates is this toxic tub of toy town Trots have learned nothing from their rape allegation cover up, nothing from the revulsion they inspire in the wider left, and nothing about how to repair their organisation. Their attempt to bully London Black Revolutionaries demonstrates why they should be avoided at all costs and never be allowed to pimp off campaigns and movements not of their making.

The story comes via Howie,

SWP shenanigans over Ferguson demo

The outcry over the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black youth in Ferguson has focused a lot of attention on racism and justice in the USA. Unsurprisingly the protests has attracted coverage in the media and the attention of political activists on the far-left who have organised a vigil outside the US embassy today (26th November).

As usual the Socialist Worker Party has tried “muscling in” on the demo which has led to a fallout with the London Black Revolutionaries, an organisation I have no previous knowledge of.

LBR have published a lengthy statement, (see via link).

See the statement in full.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 28, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Anti-Fascism, Britain, Human Rights, SWP

Tagged with , ,