Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Is the Socialist Party heading for a split?


The Weekly Worker ran one its' more self indulgent reports last week with an article about the Socialist Party in Ireland having a meeting to discuss the resignation of four of its members. I suppose if you belong to such a tiny organisation the loss of four comrades must be a blow, but then the real issue was the fact that the leadership seemed unduly concerned that the departees views in the form of their letters might end up in the public domain.

Actually that's fairly symptomatic of the Socialist Party and its sections in the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) for short. The Grandees of the SP really do not like differences becoming public knowledge. When they do there is nothing worse than a comrade scorned as in the case of Jane Aitchison when she fell out with them in the PCS union. She was driven out of her decade long position of President of the DWP group and her hubby was removed from the National Executive.

Back in Ireland their "General Secretary" (bit of a grand title for a group so small) seems to have learnt lessons from the SWP Professor by not tackling the issues that the departing four had raised but adopted all this nonsense about the growing crisis, the revolutions etc. You know the drill by now. It seems they had concerns about err... a slate system leading to conformity on their NC. Sounds very SWPish that does.

The reason for referring to this is that also present at the meeting was one Tony Saunous, a member of the gloriously named CWI secretariat. The CWI have recently held a summer school in Belgium. This has led to a little bit of fractious activity inside the British Socialist Party. There is an argument going on about the party line on the current crisis which appears to revolve around the theory of value or some such Marxist nonsense.

Its not the argument itself that is of interest (lost the will to live reading some of it) but the way the discussion is being suppressed true Leninist style. One member (we'll call him Bruce because that's his name), following his ban from attending the CWI bash in Poirot country writes:

Having banned me from the CWI school in Belgium the next twist in the campaign to suppress principled Marxist criticism in the CWI is a ban on posting material on the Socialist Party (England and Wales) Facebook page.
Ostensibly this is due to the following from an administrator:
‘’Hi Bruce, Just to let you know that most of the facebook admins, myself included, are presently in Belgium at the CWI school. That means that we are going to find it very difficult to moderate discussion in the group. All the material that has so far been posted in the FB group has remained up. However, I’d ask that you do not put any more material related to the debate in the facebook group whilst we are still away. For all of these reasons, you can’t continue to post material in the FB group whilst we’re away. I’ve sent a similar note to Steve FYI.’’
So apparently it’s quite alright in the CWI for the leader to get up and denounce comrades who have a principled Marxist disagreement as ‘’our dogmatists’’ but not ok to counter this with critical material on a closed FB page?! I rejected this ban but a campaign of censorship is now been run from of all places Belgium! One of the full timers attending the school is leaving sessions to trawl through the Socialist Party page and delete comments posted by comrades critical of the leadership. Not only that, this includes deleting, not just comments but educational videos on such things as THE LAW OF VALUE!
This is not all, in a further post "Bruce" continues:
Things move fast and I have now been excluded from the Socialist Party Facebook page for no reason. I got this from the moderator Ben Robinson of the SP NC who is in Belgium attending the CWI European school. I bet he was ”only obeying orders”.
”Bruce, I’ve removed you temporarily from the SP facebook group. We’ll review it on Monday when we’re back in London and able to sort the questions of access to the groups properly. Ben”
Other messages are clearly warning of mentioning the ”debate” while the leadership is to set a ”time table” for it Laughing. The debate has started already and their are a number of comrades already in outright disagreement with the leadership. Robinson obviously has little experience of the revolutionary movement or on how disagreements are dealt with
Whether there is any truth in the ”temporary” character of this further ban from a party forum has yet to be seen as Ben is methodically removing comrades who are critical of the party position and BANNING any discussion of Marxist theory on the question of the economy on Facebook.

The ominous conclusion of cde Bruce is this:

However the methods are similar if petty. Under the pretext of agreeing to a comradely debate the critical material of oppositionists is being censored and repressed while public attacks on us are made by the leadership. The idea is to soften up the membership for a quick victory over the opposition. Meanwhile lower rung members of the apparatus are carrying out petty bureaucratic policing actions on Facebook with the most spurious justification. The big difference is the modern historical context. The capitalist crisis is leading to a rising class tide and we are not in a period of reaction and therefore it will be ridiculous to expect such methods to succeed.
The debate has hardly started and the leadership thinks they can suppress ideas and contain the disagreement by keeping party members in the darkness of ignorance. It will fail utterly.
What happens next? Sounds like the SWP minus "delta". Another split in the vanguardist currents? One can only hope.

Leninism belongs in the dustbin of history.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The "forgotten" Socialist Party (of Great Britain)

The Electoral Commission has published the latest quarterly data on donations to political parties which was picked up by Josiah Mortimer at Liberal Conspiracy who published a quite interesting article on the top ten political donations of 2013. One of those donations that caught my attention, that of £295,775 from one individual, a Mr Stanley Robert Parker (a sociologist) to the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

They should not be confused with the other more high profile Socialist Party (of England and Wales) which is the name the old Militant Tendency now operate under. Indeed the old militants are still moaning about the fact they cannot stand their candidates under the "Socialist Party" label as the older SPGB has already registered that name with the Electoral Commission. The trots are forced to use the moniker Socialist Alternative.

The SPGB is not an organisation that immediately comes to mind despite the fact it is the second-oldest extant political party in the UK, (the oldest being the Conservative Party according to Wikepedia anyway). This political Coelacanth is literally a living fossil having been founded in 1904 and has hardly changed it's world view since.

The organisation has around 200 members at the moment but with this donation (and a previous one of £150k in the last quarter) obviously has no financial problems when compared to the cant resources raised by their rivals on the left. The Alliance for Workers Liberty had a fund drive for a mere £25k from its 100 or members whilst the Weekly Worker crew (who operate under the name of the Communist Party of Great Britain) seek to raise 30k in what they call their "Summer offensive".

The Socialist Party of Great Britain were renowned for "condemning" the Russian revolution within hours of hearing of it (though its a bit more complex than that), but certainly advanced the theory of State Capitalism which was eventually picked up by Tony Cliff as he developed his ideas for what became the Socialist Workers Party.

The SPGB is not a "Leninist" organisation and they have an inherently hostile attitude to "leadership" which predates the rise of Bolshevism and relates to their originating in a split with the Social Democratic Federation led by a certain H. M. Hyndman who was quite an authoritarian character by all accounts.

Unlike the rest of the rabble that inhabit the political fringe of the far left their National Committee has limited powers and all their main decisions are made at their Annual Conference. You can't just join the party either and a membership exam has to be taken about the SPGB's policies and principles.

That probably explains why there aren't that many of them and it is rare to bump into them (unless you live near their HQ in Clapham). They have a magazine called the Socialist Standard which last time I saw a copy was printed on glossy paper and didn't have things like photos, though this has changed I'm told.

What do they stand for. Socialism of course, but they are even worse than the rest of the left as everything they say or do leads to a reductionist position of Socialism is the only answer and none of our problems will be solved until everybody thinks like them. They are in essence a purely propagandist group and don't really get active in anything.

Like the trots they do get involved in trade unions but unlike them do not seek to take them over. A policy of arguing for the abolition of the wages system would hardly endear them to most ordinary workers struggling to make ends meet.

The people who originally formed the SPGB were called the "impossibilists". Not much change there then. Still they seem to have a lucrative financial base which will make their long road to nowhere a wee bit more comfortable I suppose.

Monday, 29 July 2013

An appeal from Hope not Hate by Nick Lowles

HOPE Not Hate

Last week the Government deployed two advans in London telling ‘illegal immigrants’ to hand themselves in voluntarily or face arrest and deportation. This follows on from a Home Office tweet, earlier this month, warning “There will be no hiding places for illegal immigrants with the new #ImmigrationBill”, accompanied by a picture of a handcuffed man of Asian appearance being placed into a van.
Of course these advans and tweet had little to do with reducing immigration but was the Government trying to head off a surge in support for UKIP. Politics is about to get very dirty.
The rise of UKIP has spooked the main political parties and they are all ratcheting up their rhetoric on immigration as a consequence. By all means have a proper debate about immigration but lurid headlines and cheap political soundbites only add to the problem.
Last week the Government deployed two advans in London telling 'illegal immigrants' to hand themselves in voluntarily or face arrest and deportation.
In the immediate aftermath of Woolwich we applauded the resilience of British people for refusing to allow extremists to win. But now our unity is being tested and it is time for us to take a stand. Today we are launching an appeal for £5,000 to ensure a voice of HOPE is heard.
The £5,000 will pay for:
  • A national We Are The Many leaflet
  • 15 local leaflets for our key target areas
  • A social media campaign to bring together Muslims and non-Muslims
Can you chip in a few quid to help us?
The inexcusable killing of Lee Rigby has been followed by a wave of attacks on Britain’s Muslim communities. Only last week a man was charged with murdering an elderly Muslim man in Birmingham and planting three bombs outside mosques. Virtually every day we have scaremongering anti-immigration headlines in the national newspapers. And now we have the advan gimmick.
Help us spread the We Are The Many message
A few weeks ago we stood together and said We Are The Many. Now we need to get that message out into local communities and ensure we continue to stand united against extremism, hatred and racism. And by doing this loudly and confidently we can tell our politicians – of all parties – that there will be consequences if they play fast and loose over race and immigration.
Because if we don’t then this ad campaign is a taste of things to come.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

@twitter: Add A Report Abuse Button To Tweets

A Petition launched by Kim Graham

The following petition is doing the rounds at the moment and I would call on all readers to sign it:

Background article at the Observer Here

During a 12 hour period, Caroline Criado-Perez was targeted repeatedly with rape threats. Caroline attempted to stir a response from Mark S. Luckie, Manager of Journalism and News on Twitter. His response was to lock down his account.

But abuse on Twitter is common; sadly too common. And it frequently goes ignored. We need Twitter to recognise that it's current reporting system is below required standards. It currently requires users to search for details on how to report someone for abuse; a feature that should be available on each user's page.

It is time Twitter took a zero tolerance policy on abuse, and learns to tell the difference between abuse and defence. Women standing up to abuse should not fear having their accounts cancelled because Twitter fail to see the issue at hand.

The report abuse button needs to be accompanied by Twitter reviewing the T&C on abusive behaviour to reflect an awareness of the complexity of violence against women, and the multiple oppressions women face

It's time Twitter started protecting its users.

Sign here:

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Time for progressives to stand up to Islamism

This mornings news is very much dominated by the latest clashes between the Muslim  Brotherhood and their more secularist and liberal opponents in Egypt. This conflict is not unique in the Muslim world either. Only a couple of days ago another leftist secular politician, Mohamed Bahari was assassinated in Tunisia by Islamist gunmen which led to a general strike by the largest trade union the UGTT yesterday.

We should also not forget the recent clashes between secularists and the state in Turkey as Prime Minister Erdogan continues his implementation of conservative "Islamic" values by stealth in the most modernised of all the Muslim states around the world.

This is not a conflict that can be ignored. The outcome will affect much of the Muslim worlds political development and direction for the foreseeable future. It is also a battle in which it is absolutely necessary to take sides. The core fight is over basic issues such as democracy, freedom of speech, workers rights, women's rights and more.

Such basic rights are taken for granted in the West. We can all sit down and put our thoughts on-line or in paper without the fear of being dragged off to some Iranian prison and having the shit kicked out of us or worse just because we criticise our rulers.

In this country we have fascists in the form of the BNP, they are easy to recognise and obvious to oppose, but when it comes to the clerical fascism of the Islamists many people on the left and some "liberals" to seem to either "turn a blind eye" or worse act as "appeasers" their reasoning being that any such criticism is "Islamophobia".

One of the targets of these types has been Anne Marie Waters of the One Law for All campaign which in particular dares to criticise "Sharia Law" as discriminatory against women. An unsavoury witch hunt was launched by the rather bizarre Andy Newman of the Socialist Unity website. Whilst I have covered that extensively both here and on Harry's Place, there was also some debate on Left Futures, which states it exists to "promote forward thinking for the left", yet promotes some very backward thinking from Newman.

However there is hope as a debate is now ensuing around the latest piece by James Bloodworth at The Spectator. It's only a short commentary, but well worth reading. James says:

Perhaps it isn’t surprising to learn, then, that there has been something of a backlash of late against the so-called ‘new’ atheists. In some respects this is justified. Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens together with Sam Harris have at times come across as aggressive curmudgeons demanding complete ‘rationality’ from all – in the process turning off many would-be allies.
What’s interesting, however, is that the backlash is increasingly coming from the non-religious left, which traditionally has been rather fond of rationalist politics.
This has of course got the tongues wagging. Phil BC takes up the cudgel at A Very Public Sociologist, a website worth dipping into from time to time even if you won't agree with some of the things Phil says. He argues that:

Muslims are the scapegoat and hate figures for the Tory press and far right. Take, for example, the recent controversy over Anne Marie Waters' shortlisting for the Brighton Pavillion seat and her endorsement of Catriona Ogilvy in Croydon Central. Naturally, Waters has every right to claim Islam is "new to Europe" and argue "it is not a peaceful religion". But in so doing, she absolutely deserves to be called out for it. After all, what kind of leftist sets themselves up as the atheist scourge of Islam when Mosques are getting bombed, fascist thugs are on the streets "protesting" against Muslims, and that for large swathes of the population 'Muslim' is just another word for 'Paki'. That to me is a "leftist" who needs to re-examine their politics........

As an atheist, I find some of this problematical. I see no racism in criticising what is essentially just a set of man-made ideas just like all religions which originate in "mans" desire to explain the world and his place in it. A man (or woman) can be a fascist regardless of their own ethnic or other background and I find it absurd that anyone can conflate atheism ("new" or otherwise) with the far-right and other prejudicial tendencies.

Religion is at best an irrationality, and at worst a very dangerous path for many people to take. It is very difficult to have a rational dialogue with some one who thinks they are being guided by the "hand of God". Their beliefs are all "God-given" and not open to challenge and as a result we see not only discrimination against "non-believers" in many Muslim societies, we also see violence expressed against any form of heresy.

Islam is at the centre of much atheist debate at the moment because of the growing conflicts initiated by its' more extreme elements and although many claim these people are a minority, that is clearly not the case in places like Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia where their societies appear to be equally divided.

The central demand of atheists, progressives and I would have thought of those who call themselves socialists is to ensure equality before the law for all regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion or even class. Part of this has to necessarily be achieved by the separation of "church and the state". It seems to me that is what the secularists are fighting for across swathes of the Muslim world and all of us should be supporting their cause.

Those that don't, like Galloway, Socialist Unity and the SWP are allowing the growth of reaction and oppression and must be opposed.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

"Militant" MEP calls for violence in the Israel/Palestine conflict

Readers will probably recall the old Militant Tendency that used to inhabit the Labour Party back in the late seventies and early eighties. At one point they even manged to have three of their members as Labour MPs. All that went pear shaped after the debacle in Liverpool council. Neil Kinnock made his now famous speech about "a Labour Council sending out redundancy notices by taxi to its workers. That was them and that was then.

Despite being kicked out of the Labour Party and changing their name to the Socialist Party, the same people are still around and have taken over the main civil service union, the PCS whilst their co-thinkers in Ireland have managed to get one of their number into the European Parliament. The British group is believed to have around 2,000 members and the Irish one about 100, though their Irish "Central Committee" consists of about 35 of them. Top heavy one would think.

However of all the organisations on the far-left, the Socialist Party has been considered by many to have always held a "reasonable" stance on the Israel/Palestine conflict and is ostensibly committed to a two state solution. Further they are known to be "ambivalent" on the question of Boycotts as Judy Beishon writes:

Israeli Jewish workers genuinely fear for their own security and want to protect the state that was intended to be a safe haven for Jews. This, with the constant barrage of propaganda, unsurprisingly leads them to believe that advocates of the BDS campaign around the world don’t understand the situation in Israel. Also, many of the Israeli Jews who are most critical of their government’s brutality against the Palestinians, at the same time don’t see why Israeli workers should be punished for it by suffering the effects of boycotts.

And further on:

Another major problem with blanket boycotts is that they are often promoted by organisations or groups that dismiss all Israelis as colonial settlers and are very hostile to the Israeli working class, writing it off as adopting Zionist or racist ideology and incapable of acting as a progressive force. Some organisations don’t even accept that Israel has a working class. However, while BDS campaigns can help express outrage and hit the interests of some of the Israeli capitalists, the much bigger threat to the profits of those capitalists lies in industrial action by Israeli workers. Boycotts are an irritant to the Israeli ruling class compared to the threat that determined action by Israeli workers can be to their profits – and, eventually, to their rule.

"So far so good" I suppose given their Marxist politics. Except there is now a problem, in the sister organisation of the Socialist Party in Ireland. According to the Jerusalem Post  Paul Murphy MEP:

In an interview last week with the Russia-based television network RT, Paul Murphy, a Socialist Party MEP for Dublin, said that a “struggle” along the lines of the first intifada was “necessary.”

You’ve seen significant protest, significant movement, the potential to redevelop a struggle along the lines of the first intifada.
That’s the kind of thing that is necessary,” he said.
“Such a movement could link up with the genuine Israeli left, with working people and young people, who don’t benefit from the oppression of the Palestinians, overthrow the capitalist establishment of Israel.”
In other words lets go for violence, because that's what such an "intifada" would involve and bring injury and death to ordinary Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Murphy has taken umbrage with widespread condemnation his words on RT have caused. In a press release on his blog he defends his words. In an attack on what he calls "mock outrage" by fellow MEPs he says:

The MEPs who have condemned my call for a mass movement along the lines of the first intifada as a call for violence and terror are either deliberately misconstruing my words or are entirely ignorant about the history of the Palestinian struggle. Intifada is simply the Arabic word for ‘uprising’, something that is entirely justified and clearly necessary when you look at the ongoing oppression.

The real face of the Socialist Party is shown. Despite in both this country (in the form of the Trade Union & Socialist Coalition) and in Ireland they try to present themselves as trying to create "a real Labour Party". Nothing could be further from the truth. They are followers of Lenin and Trotsky, supporters of a violent revolution to "overthrow capitalism".

Anyone who has had any direct dealings with them knows that they are hard line centralised bureaucrats that even Stalin would be proud of and cannot be trusted to act on any ones behalf.

Lenin placed a high significance on the writings of Sergei Nechaev whose most well known work was Revolutionary Catechism (1871) in which he laid down the rules of the comrades path when he wrote:

The revolutionary is a dedicated man. He has no personal feelings, no private affairs, no emotions, no property, and no name. Everything in him is subordinated to a single exclusive attachment, a single thought and a single passion - the revolution.

In other words they should renounce basic humanity.

To them people don't matter, only their ideas. That's why these people can never be trusted and why Marxism always leads to mass murder.

As far as the  Middle East goes I can only repeat the words written by Professor Alan Johnson recently:

The TUC and ITUC have worked for over forty years to build bridges between the Histadrut and the PGFTU. Those efforts bore fruit in 2008, with a landmark agreement between the two federations. We should not let sectarians and political activists in the West ruin all that work.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Brighton Labour Party selects Purna Sen as candidate

Brighton is one of three Constituency labour Party selection processes to attract attention in recent weeks. Falkirk caused a "falling out" between Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and Len McCluskey over the role and influence of the unions in selecting candidates, a punch up drew attention to Glenda Jackson's old seat in Hampstead and Kilburn and Andy Newman of Socialist Unity ran a witch hunt against Anne Marie Waters in Brighton because she dared to be a secularist.

The result of the Brighton selection process has now been declared. Ms Waters did not win, but the candidate selected seems to be a good choice for Labour. Brighton and Hove Labour Party report:

Purna Sen has been selected to stand in Brighton Pavilion as the Labour Party candidate for the 2015 general election, South East Labour can reveal.
Purna lives in the city and has campaigned for equality and justice in the UK and internationally for many years. Purna has a background in policy, politics, advocacy, campaigning and education. On top of that, she has worked with NGOs and advised governments on promoting justice for all.
Purna said: “Like many residents of Brighton Pavilion I am appalled by the damage being done by the Coalition government. People are struggling to make ends meet and those who need support are condemned as scroungers and cheats.
“I will fight for people who find it hard to pay their fuel bills, who are in danger of losing jobs, who find their rents are too high, who are turning to pay day loan companies – these problems stop people living full lives and taking care of their families.
“Labour leads the way and I will fight to protect their future as well as that of the planet where we live.”

Purna has some strong views with which most of us (Newman excepted) will support. She writes on Malala's birthday:

I went to Kabul in 2004 to work with the Education Ministries and the Ministry of Women’s affairs on issues of gender and education.  The desire to undo the harms wrought by the Taliban was deep, the commitment to catching up was strong and we worked very hard to put together ways of moving forward in policy and provision for girls’ education.  At the end of a five day training workshop I was told that a hand grenade had been left outside my training room, I was told that the Taliban was watching.  I was glad not to have been told this during the workshop but I knew the sharp distinction between the ease with which I could walk away, fly home at the end of my work and the continued dangers faced by those who would stay.
Likewise, I know that many of us whose experience of school was not of abuse and whose daughters have had similar success will not turn our backs on girls who know abuse or who do not feel confident when they leave education.  For them and for all who follow, I take a few moments today to think about the girls who are on the front line and to commit to stand with them.
Purna is a strong supporter of Trade Unions. In commenting about the excellent work undertaken by Brendan Barber (who was also one of her supporters in this contest) she writes:

At this time, I want to note and promote the importance of trade unions, to which Brendan has given his working life.  Working conditions, levels of pay, health and safety are all areas in which they have fought for and won great gains but we would be fooling ourselves if we think that victories are secure.  Each victory has to be treasured and defended – especially so at a time when real wages are falling and a flat-lining economy threatens many with increasing hardship, especially the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers, many of whom are women.
We diminish or denigrate the value of unionisation at our peril. We all have a stake in a society where everyone who is able can work, where employment is in safe conditions, where pay is at a decent and knowable level (the living wage as a minimum), where national and migrant workers aren’t played off against each other in a race to the lowest wages and worst conditions of work. Unions are critical in this and, with over six million members, not only is the trade union movement probably one of the largest membership groups in the country but workers know that Unions matter.

A candidate who deserves to win win and kick out the dreadful Caroline Lucas whose Green Party has undertaken such savage attacks on trade unionists in Brighton.

In the mean time I also hope Anne Marie Waters finds a seat to contest as we could do with a few more outspoken and independent minded women (and men) in Parliament.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A Prince is born, nay a republican in sight

As I sat down for my dinner tonight Sky News was fixated on the wait for the Royal couple to appear from St Mary's hospital with their new baby, who despite not yet being named is now third in line for the throne of the United Kingdom, or Great Britain as many, many people still call it.

There had been many royalists camped outside the hospital for days, well in advance of the paparazzi who finally turned up in force over the last couple of days. Whilst their "devotion" may seem a wee bit extreme, it does illustrate the continued popularity of the Royal Family.

We have a "constitutional monarchy" in this country and though its had its' ups and downs the Queen has managed to retain the loyalty of the vast bulk of her "subjects", even in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis.

There are numerous reasons for this. Most people, no matter what their class, have a certain patriotism of which the the Monarchy forms a central part. The reaction to the Jubilee and the celebrations surrounding it demonstrated that both the Queen and her immediate family remain part of the identity of our nation.  Certainly the young couple whose child was at the centre of everyones attention this evening have captured the public imagination.

One thing is for certain, there is no sign that any kind of "Republican" movement on the horizon.

A sign of the impotence of republicanism in the UK is shown by the banal headline in the latest issue of the Socialist Worker: "It's a Scrounger" their headline screams. Besides the fact the Socialist Worker types have no credibility themselves after recent events, it shows how out of touch the comrades are.

Even more entertaining was a comment on the Socialist Unity website where a certain Mark Anthony Francis (isn't using three names a bit bourgeois comrade) swallows a dictionary to explain to explain the meaning of Churl in order to try and present himself as a modern day peasant (you have nothing to lose but your hoes) concludes with this comment:

In England the time is long overdue for the emergence of a explicitly Republican Party that has as its goal the final break up of the Union and the destruction of the United Kingdom.
Time for an English Republican Socialist Party?

Not likely it would seem, a fellow Marxist oik helpfully provides with the e-mail address of one that already exists -  The Republican Socialist Party and no, despite being an inveterate "Trot spotter" I've never heard of it. They don't seem to write much either. Their blog hasn't been updated since August 2011, though a notice exists for something advertised as a revival of "The Putney Debates" to discuss "democracy in the New Model Army", that's back in Cromwell's era in case anyone's forgotten.

Its not far from where I live but I think I'll give it a miss. Their main speaker is the outdated and out of touch John McDonnell MP who seems to be trying to fill the vacuum where Tony Benn used to tread. Except he just doesn't have the same pull or charisma to be honest.

Phil BC over at A Very Public Sociologist makes a valiant call to end the Monarchy. He concludes:

So, as far as I'm concerned, let the Royalists and the press have their jamboree. Let them make fools of themselves as they slap themselves on the back to cries of "a king is born!" But let us republicans stop whingeing and moaning and do something to ensure that the British monarchy, the values, and the entrenched system of privilege it represents is consigned permanently to the pages of history.

Except it just isn't going to happen.

The Monarchy is here to stay for the foreseeable future, so the republicans will actually have to continue whingeing and moaning I'm afraid.

As for me? I'll raise a glass for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Monday, 22 July 2013

No 'real' unions in 'apartheid' Israel?

An appeal by Eric Lee of Trade Unions Linking Israel & Palestine

In some countries, and in some unions, it's become commonplace to talk about"Israeli apartheid" and to call for unions to break ties with Israeli trade unions.

Some Israel-haters go so far as to say that there are no real unions in Israel.

The reality is that Israeli workers -- Jewish and Arab -- are involved every day in the same kinds of struggles as trade unionists everywhere else in the world. Their unions are often on the front lines of the fight for social justice, equality and peace.

Please help me spread the word about what's really happening in Israel and Palestine.

Share this message with your fellow union members. Encourage them to get onto our mailing list here:

Here are some news stories from the last two weeks that we reported on the TULIP website:

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Martin Smith "resigns" from the SWP

The man at the centre of the recent scandals and controversies in the Socialist Workers Party finally fell on his sword and "resigned" from the organisation. This belated action by Martin Smith  was brought to our attention by the ever reliable Soviet Goon Boy who wrote:

Here’s the situation, as I understand it. First, Delta has resigned from the SWP. Second, it has been decided that, rather than trying to crudely draw a line under the affair, the Disputes Committee will proceed to hear the second complaint – the sexual harassment complaint brought by Comrade X, which has been postponed several times already – in his absence.
This seems pretty good, if a few bear traps can be negotiated.
It’s unclear, for a start, why this has happened now. I discount the possibility of Delta having had a sudden attack of conscience, because I’m not convinced he has a conscience. It seems more likely that the Central Committee, having been given a torrid time of it by the opposition recently, has leaned on him to get out of the way. That’s quite something, since it’s not so long ago that Alexander was telling anyone who’d listen that Delta – specifically his ability to forge alliances with union leaders – was so vital to the party that losing almost the entire student membership was a price worth paying.
It’s unclear, though this may change soon, what Delta is actually doing with himself. As CC members have noted, he’s not been on the party payroll for quite some time, although this has been an academic distinction as he’s been employed at a party-controlled front. Presumably he’s going to go off to be a mature student, which would explain the appeal being circulated by the Gluckstein siblings to encourage party members to support his studies.
We also don’t know what’s going to happen in the longer term. Perhaps the thinking still is that he can lie low for a period and then be reinstated. But at this point, I’m not sure that the CC actually does have a plan – and the CC has been seriously divided anyway.
Indeed how far does this "resignation" actually go? Phil BC at A Very Public Sociologist continues:

there are three quick points I'd like to raise. First, you don't need to be steeped in materialist dialectics to understand that this could simultaneously be and not be a resignation. Comrades have time and again pointed out that "Brother" Smith knows where the bodies are buried. He has a handle on the tangled web of shell companies and fronts the SWP uses to store its cash. He's the one who has the key relationships with useful folk-to-know in the trade union movement. And, of course, he's a paid employee of Unite Against Fascism. So, the subs may stop, but will the services rendered? I'm going to err on the side of doubt on that one.

Second, it does get the SWP out of a bind. There have got to be a few central committee members breathing a sigh of relief. After all, if the alleged perpetrator of two serious assaults is now outside the party, can revolutionary justice be served when the "defendant" has altogether avoided the Disputes Committee? Something tells me that it is highly unlikely the outstanding complaint against 'Delta' will ever be heard.

And lastly, is this resignation permanent or a body swerve? Is Smith going to seek a return to the fold after a decent interval of, say, a couple of years? 

Not to be left out the breakaway members of the International Socialist Network have their say:

The women's struggle for justice throws up the inescapable question of the role of the SWP's leadership. Throughout the crisis the CC has unanimously backed Delta, smeared opponents, ridden roughshod over democracy and accountability, and steered the party into the worst crisis it has ever seen. They have to go. Any chance of renewal or resetting of the party simply cannot occur while the rest of the current CC remain in place.

To any SWP members who remain we say now is the time to match the women's courage with your own. Call a special conference and pass a "No confidence" vote in the current CC.
Frankly its far to late for any of that. The SWP has throughout this disgraceful episode shown that is a cult, not a political party. At every stage they put their own organisational interests above the rights of the women who had made serious allegations against "Delta".

Far from having broken with the bureaucratic and dictatorial machinations of "Stalinism", they have shown that given the opportunity they would be no different to any of the dictators that they claim to be different from. The antics of the SWP have widely illustrated to (particularly the young) activists that Leninist forms of organisation are all equally poisonous. Their recruitment base in the universities is at an end.

The Professor and his cronies have destroyed the SWP, not a bad thing in my book and it must be remembered that this is not the first time that such a scandal has destroyed a far-left organisation as those who were around in the nineteen-eighties will recall with Gerry Healy and the Workers Revolutionary Party.

A better world cannot be built on the back of centralised, bureaucratic and undemocratic sects like the SWP and their ilk. That way leads to injustice and the Gulag.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Liberal Democrats select former Islamist as candidate for Hampstead & Kilburn

Things seem to be really hotting up in the North London constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn. Its' only a couple of days since reports emerged of an "incident" outside the Labour Party selection meeting involving a member of the Socialist Workers Party, now the area is in the news again as The Times reports:

A former member of the Islamist group Hizb ut Tahir has been selected by the Liberal Democrats to contest one of their target seats.

Maajid Nawaz, who was imprisoned in Egypt for five years over his membership of the organisation which brands itself as the non-violent advocate of political Islamism in Britain, will compete for the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency, North London one of the most hotly contested seats in the country.

Despite now campaigning against Hizb ut Tahir, Mr Nawaz, who runs the anti-extremism Quillam thinktank urged the Government not to outlaw the organisation.

"It's counter-productive and on dodgy grounds to ban them. Frankly, you are going to have to deal with the likes of the BNP and the English Defence League" he said. The best thing is to adopt legal tolerance and civil intolerance. Turn them into a taboo".

The Times claims:

His election would be a huge boost for the Lib Dems, who have failed to make much ground in delivering candidates from ethnic minorities to Westminster.

The Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems all have having a realistic chance of winning Hampstead and Kilburn. At the Last election, Labour's Glenda Jackson won the seat with 17,332 votes, the Tories came second with 17,290, with the Lib Dems in third on 16,491 votes.

Labour has selected Tulip Siddiq, a Camden Councillor whose Aunt is the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

Friday, 19 July 2013

In defence of the Histadrut: a response to Gary Spedding

This article originally appeared at Left Foot Forward on July 5th and is re-posted with the authors permission.

Prof. Alan Johnson is the editor of Fathom: for a deeper understanding of Israel and the region, and is the author of The New Histadrut: Peace, Social Justice and the Israeli Trade Unions

“Quite simply, Histadrut is not a progressive force inside Israel today. Through boycotting, the international community sends a critical message [about] Histadrut’s unwillingness to challenge right-wing anti-Palestinian policies held by Israel’s government.”  – Gary Spedding, Left Foot Forward, 3 July 2013

Every last thing about Gary Spedding’s argument in favour of boycotting Histadrut, Israel’s free and democratic Israeli trade union movement, is wrong.  Speeding does not so much put a left foot forward as trip over his own feet.

It is wrong to claim the Histadrut is not a progressive force in Israel today

It is the Israeli TUC. It leads the fight for workers’ rights and job security in Israel. It unites over 700,000 union members in one organisation regardless of religion, race or gender and has organised Arab workers with full membership since 1959 and the super-exploited migrant workers since 2009.
It supported Israel’s 2011 mass street protests for social justice and in 2012 organised a successful four-day General Strike in solidarity with Israel’s most vulnerable contract workers.

It is wrong to say the Histadrut does not challenge the Israeli government

It  supports a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Histadrut has called on the Israeli government ‘to make concessions and take courageous and concrete steps towards attaining peace.

More importantly, it is engaged in making a reality of two-states. It signed a landmark agreement with the Palestinian national trade union centre, the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) in 2008 under the auspices of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). That agreement was hailed by the TUC and the International Labour Organisation.

When Unison sent a delegation to Israel and the Territories in 2010 it reported that:

“The PGFTU in particular said that UNISON should maintain links with the Histadrut so that we could specifically put pressure on them to take a more vocal public stance against the occupation and the settlements. [The other independent Israeli pro-labour organisations] Kav laOved, Koach laOvdim and WAC/Ma’an all felt that international trade union influence on the Histadrut was essential.” [Yes, the Unison leadership was unable to carry its own report at conference, but that does not alter one jot what the Israeli and Palestinian trade unionists told the delegation.]
However, even if the Histadrut didn’t challenge the government, it would still be wrong to think this a good reason to boycott the Histadrut

Free and democratic trade unions do not boycott other free and democratic trade unions because they are not left-wing enough. That way madness lies; it is not how we do things in the international labour movement.
We do not punish trade unions for the policies of their governments. Even if unions support reactionary government policies – as most American trade unions did during the Vietnam war – we do not boycott them!

As Michael Leahy, general secretary of Community Union, wrote in the preface to the pamphlet ‘The New Histadrut: Peace, Social Justice and the Israeli Trade Unions’ (2012):

“Breaking links with the Israeli trade union movement would be a radical departure from the best internationalist traditions of our movement, in favour of a new kind of gesture politics. Progressive voices in the British trade union movement have traditionally refused to boycott other free trade unions because of what their governments do.

We have not gone in for gesture politics. We have preferred engagement, worker-to-worker links, practical solidarity and, yes, a critical dialogue. Those traditions have served us well. We should stick to them.”

Oh, and when Spedding says “the Histadrut fails to represent [Palestinian Arabs], especially in the occupied Territories” he trips over his own feet one more time. In fact, The Histadrut does not organise Palestinian workers in the West Bank by agreement between the two federations.

Nonetheless, in October 2007 the Histadrut’s campaign to apply Israeli labor laws to Palestinian workers who work in the settlements was successful. As a direct result of the Histadrut petition to the Courts, Israeli employers in West Bank settlements must now provide improved work benefits according to (much better) Israeli, rather than Jordanian law.

Former TUC general secretary Brendan Barber has praised the two federations for “carving a path that political leaders could now follow”.

Spedding’s boycott delusion would make that impossible. Guy Ryder, the ITUC general secretary said Israeli-Palestinian trade union co-operation has an important “contribution to make in promoting peace and mutual understanding in the Middle East.”

Spedding’s boycott would send all that into reverse.  That’s why not one Global Federation or national centre supports breaking links with the Histadrut. Not one. And nor does the ITUC.

The alternative to Spedding’s boycott is critical engagement

We can restart the trilateral delegations of unionists from Israel, Palestine and the UK, build concrete links with both the Histadrut and the PGFTU (exchanges, branch twinning, awareness-raising and financial support to trade unions in Israel and Palestine is the real way forward.

We can learn from the model of the FBU-Histadrut-PGFTU cooperation. We can support all steps, however small, to unite Israeli and Palestinian workers.

And we can support a just settlement based on mutual respect and acknowledgement of national rights. To that end, we should review the TUC’s relationship with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and consider supporting progressive organisations such as One Voice.

Why? Because the TUC supports the two-state solution: two states for two peoples, a secure Israel living in peace alongside a viable Palestine. The PSC does not. One Voice does.

The internationalist traditions of the British trade union movement have traditionally been all about engagement, building bridges, forging worker-to-worker links, delivering practical solidarity, and comradely criticism when it is due.

To break links with the Histadrut would be a giant step towards a different kind of ‘internationalism’  – alien to the British trade unions, demonising one party, glamorising the other, stoking divisions on the ground, and isolating the TUC from the constructive work of its global partners and the ITUC.

The TUC and ITUC have worked for over forty years to build bridges between the Histadrut and the PGFTU. Those efforts bore fruit in 2008, with a landmark agreement between the two federations. We should not let sectarians and political activists in the West ruin all that work.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

"Crocodile tears" of the Taleban

The attempt by the Taleban to assassinate a schoolgirl for standing up for the right of girls to an education shocked the world when it occurred last October. The young woman now known by her first name, Malala has become a household name and a beacon of courage against the medieval backwardsMEN of the fundamentalist Taleban.

It seems that the various campaigns around the world that pushed her suffering and heroism to the forefront of the struggle for womens' have forced the Taleban fascists to try and backtrack in a blatantly obvious PR stunt with a letter publicised widely in the media today.

The Guardian reports:

A senior member of the Pakistani Taliban has written an open letter to Malala Yousafzai – the teenager shot in the head as she rode home on a school bus – expressing regret that he didn't warn her before the attack, but claiming that she was targeted for maligning the insurgents.
Adnan Rasheed, who was convicted for his role in a 2003 assassination attempt on the country's then-president Pervez Musharraf, did not apologise for the attack, which left Malala gravely wounded, but said he found it shocking.
"I wished it would never happened [sic] and I had advised you before," he wrote.
The paper continues:

He admitted that the Taliban are "blowing up" schools, but justified the attacks on the grounds that the Pakistani army and the paramilitary Frontier Corps use schools as hideouts.
Hundreds of schools have been targeted in Pakistan's north-west: activists say some had been used by the military, but many attacks were motivated by the Taliban's opposition to girls' education.
The Taliban commander also justified recent attacks in Pakistan on health workers vaccinating children against polio by claiming the west was trying to sterilise Muslims.
The letter is clearly intended to influence opinion in Pakistan: although in much of the world Malala has been hailed as a symbol of courage, at home she has been the subject of intense criticism and vilification. Online commentators have described her as a "drama queen" and even accused her of spying for the CIA.
Absolute nonsense on the part of the Taleban of course and most people will see straight through their attempt to "redeem" themselves.  The Taleban not only oppose the education of women but also what they call "secular or satanic" education, by which they mean anything that doesn't fit their twisted view of the world.

The attacks on women's education have continued regardless of the obvious outrage expressed around the world. The BBC reported in June:

The women's university at the centre of Saturday's deadly twin attacks in the Pakistani city of Quetta has been shut down until further notice.
In the first incident a bomb on a university bus killed 14 women. Gunmen then killed 11 when they laid siege to the hospital treating the wounded.
Sardar Bahadur Khan University is the only all-female university in troubled Balochistan province.
Meanwhile it was heartening to receive this message by e-mail today:

A personal thank you from Zia Uddin Yousafzai, Malala's father

A World At School

As Malala’s father I want to express my personal gratitude and that of Malala and the whole family to you for signing the petition which gathered 1.4 million signatures in just a few weeks. 

I hope you will continue to take an interest as A World at School calls on you, from time to time, to help millions of children in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Nigeria and across the world get to school and enjoy learning.

We are very touched by the support we have received, and, as Malala said to the United Nations:

Let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons.

“One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. 

“Education is the only solution. Education First”.

Zia Uddin Yousafzai

Further information:

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Tempers flare in Hampstead Labour Party

With the current heatwave across the country it's hardly surprising that tempers get easily frayed. We've had problems over the involvement of Unite in Falkirk Constituency Labour Party, Andy Newman is busy witch hunting secularists in Brighton and now the police have been called in to Hampstead and Kilburn Labour Party.

The latest edition of the Camden New Journal carries a report of the selection meeting held in Glenda Jackson's former constituency where Tulip Siddiq has been selected as the new prospective Parliamentary candidate. She is apparently a well connected individual as her auntie is none other than the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, certainly someone to turn to for advice one would think.

Problem is it all got off to a rather unfortunate start. The paper tells us about a little incident outside the Mazenod Social Club:

The private meeting had got off to the worst possible start when a clash outside led to police and an ambulance being called. Housing protesters had demanded to see Labour council leader Sarah Hayward, who had yet to arrive. It is then claimed a party member head-butted a demonstrator, who was wearing a UNITE union T-shirt, before later apologising.
The ambulance took more than an hour to arrive despite repeated requests for assistance from two police officers outside the venue. The injured man was treated in the ambulance.
So what was this all about then?

According to our friendly informants over at Urban 75 where I picked up this little gem of a story it all falls down to a simple linguistic misunderstanding.

The Unite demonstrator was in fact a member of the Socialist Workers Party who apparently mistook being referred to as a "cult" to being called, well you can guess and upon taking offence took a swing at the perceived culprit. However it seems not only did he fail in this attempt but ended up getting head-butted, hence the attendance of the police and ambulance.

Not verified by the paper, but sounds plausible. Allegedly of course.....

Must be the heat.


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Andy Newman renews his witch hunt against leading secualrist

Andy Newman has published an alarmist article at the so-called Socialist Unity website under the title of "Brighton Pavillion Labour Party on the edge of the abyss". In this he attacks leading secularist Anne Marie Waters (again) for having the temerity of not pandering to clerical fascism like he and his dwindling band of supporters do.

For some reason the Left Futures website has reprinted this article albeit with an even worse title of
"Brighton Pavillion CLP on the brink of selecting an extremist bigot".

This disgusting hatchet job is based mainly on the "evidence" that someone in the EDL endorsed something she said on their Face Book page. In the digital age its impossible to control what is republished elsewhere as he well knows, but won't let that stop him conflating secular critiques of Islam and Islamists with the far right. But as his rather excitable mate Tony Collins (that's the one with a written form of touretes) tells us they "place no conditions on defending Muslims".

"Defending Muslims" does not however place either Islam or certain individual Muslims beyond criticism. 

First you can see what One Law for All has to say for themselves here:

And for those of you who may not have seen this article I published over at Harry's Place, here is my take on the witch hunter generals attitude to real extremists.

Andy Newman turns to the dark side of the force

When I was younger I used to feel slightly envious of the local Vicar who would wander into the pub in the evening and be offered drinks by all and sundry, always taking "just a half" until he had imbibed enough and then wander back across to the local church. Seemed like a good job to me, though not one suitable for the atheist I had already become. 

The advent of the eighties saw a rather jolting revival of religious intervention on the political scene when a mob of angry young men started burning a book that had apparently been blasphemous in intent. Since those days there has been a growing disquiet over religion and one in particular that of Islam. The rest we know since Harry's Place has covered the issues in depth.

Meanwhile Andy Newman over at the rather peculiar Socialist Unity website is continuing his witch-hunt against Anne Marie Waters, the One Law for All campaign and this website all of whom he accuses of "Islamophobia" (whatever that term actually means) in a rather torturous article entitled On not fearing Muslims

Newman seeks in particular to defend a charming character called Yusuf Qaradawi and persuade us that this reactionary cleric is not a bigoted hate monger, so lets have a quick look at this mans thoughts:

On Gays:

A homosexual should be given] the same punishment as any sexual pervert - the same as the fornicator...The schools of thought disagree about the punishment. Some say they should be punished like fornicators, and then we distinguish between married and unmarried men, and between married and unmarried women. Some say both should be punished the same way. Some say we should throw them from a high place, like God did with the people of Sodom. Some say we should burn them, and so on. There is disagreement...The important thing is to treat this act as a crime

On Women:

In his book The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam, states that wife-beating is permissible after the failure of all other means of persuasion. In such circumstances, a husband may beat his wife "lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive areas."  (Daily Telegraph)

On Genital Mutilation:

"whoever finds it serving the interest of his daughters should do it, and I personally support this under the current circumstances in the modern world. (Modern Fatwas) 

On Jews:

Oh Allah, take this oppressive, Jewish Zionist band of people. Oh Allah, do not spare a single one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one

and don't forget the holocaust:

Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the Jews people who would punish them for their corruption...The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them...Allah Willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.

Which shows any attempt to claim that Qaradawi is just "Anti-Zionist" is complete bollocks.

Yet Newman attempts to excuse this hate preacher is just a product of his "conservative society". He may well be but that's no excuse to be a bigot, others have managed to break with tradition. 

I was horrified by Newman's conflation of female and male circumcision (FMG is more akin to castration) and his argument that this is "cultural relativism" is a disgrace and shows a complete disdain for brown women's rights, since in his eyes they would seemingly have to accept their fate. Oddly he suggests that "unnecessary surgery" including " circumcision for male minors" should be illegal.

Of course the real problem with Newmans piece is that he shows no concern for those within the Muslim world who are struggling for change, like the Turkish protesters, one of whom simply stated he "wanted to hold his girlfriends hand "as Erdogan tries to crack down on "public displays of affection".

Newman and his co-thinkers at Socialist Unity are purveyors of reaction and stand in the same tradition as George Galloway with their pandering to reactionary conservatism. What this man is doing in the Labour Party, witch-hunting secular activists is open to question. He seems intent on wrecking the internal processes of candidate selection in order to keep a member of the Green Party as an MP. The Greens in Brighton are currently in dispute with their own workforce whose wages they have have cut by £4,000 a year.

In ending I would like to draw your attention to this rather enlightening quote from Qaradawi

“If they had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment Islam wouldn’t exist today.”  (Statement form Al Jazeera Interview)

In other words he'd be out of a job.