Clearly Mike Macnair is obsessed with intersectionality - he sees it under the bed of every dispute in Left Unity. In the Communist Platform report he is quoted as claiming that Lambeth Left Unity’s resolution on Bianca Todd to the LU national committee was driven by anger over her refusal “to lend support to the campaign against Steve Hedley” (‘Relating to the left as it is’, November 6).
This is completely untrue. Lambeth LU passed a resolution asking for a written explanation from Bianca Todd following accusations in the national press that the social enterprise company that she was head of services in was found guilty at an employment tribunal of failing to issue a contract to workers. Three workers were awarded £2,000 in unpaid wages and sick pay against the company.
When an elected national spokesperson of a socialist party is accused of such a thing they have to be accountable and issue an explanation. That was all our branch asked for, but she resigned rather than do so. There was no Steve Hedley or “intersectionality” agenda ever raised by us. It is a Weekly Worker fiction.
It is revealing that Jack Conrad, in the same report, thinks this is an ‘utterly trivial issue’ to raise. It just shows how much concern leading members of the CPGB have with workers’ rights.
Yassamine Mather, who is an elected member of the national committee of Left Unity declares that “Left Unity is probably the most dysfunctional of all the so-called ‘unity projects’ previously experienced”. The “picture”, she says, “appears bleak”. National ‘leaders’ such as these are clearly part of the problem rather than the solution and the sooner she is democratically removed from the national leadership, the better.
Left Unity has none of the large socialist groups stitching up deals behind the scenes and laying down the line, as we experienced in the Socialist Alliance, and it’s all the better for it. It is 2,000-plus individual socialists trying to bring together a new socialist party that can challenge neoliberal capitalism. It will involve muddle and mistakes, frustration and setbacks. If it is to succeed, it will be built from below, in struggle, by branches committed to actively supporting every local struggle against austerity, cuts and insecurity; fighting against Tories, Lib-Dems and Labour to establish a party workers can trust.
That is why the CPGB and its Communist Platform will play no role in building Left Unity except as self-appointed Marxist lecturers telling us all where we are getting it wrong. It’s the role of a passive propagandist sect.
Gift to Zionism
Ian Donovan repeats his false allegation that such groups as the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods pretend to be “in some ways uniquely ‘morally’ qualified to pronounce on matters to do with the Israel/Palestine question” (Letters, November 6). This is rubbish - and remains rubbish, however many times it is repeated.
However, such groups are uniquely qualified to refute the Zionist lie that Israel represents all Jews around the world and acts on their behalf. Who is better qualified to do so? This is the raison d’être of these groups, and has nothing to do with claims of moral superiority.
But Donovan’s prejudice regarding Jewishness blocks his understanding of, and interest in, their progressive role. On the contrary, it inclines him to minimise the significance of the distinction between Zionism and Jewish identity - his gift to Zionist propaganda.
Ian Donovan has shown considerable political courage in exposing the role played by Jewish comrades in transmitting Zionist ideology. Those who doubt this role have to answer: how could they do other than play it? Jews have gone from an oppressed ethnicity, excluded even from bourgeois country clubs until the 60s, to the richest ethnicity and religion. The rise in status of the Jews, from an oppressed to a privileged caste, coincided with the deepening imperialist alliance with Israel.
Jews are used by imperialism for more than mustering support for its Zionist aircraft carrier. Jews - historically without a country - have played a large role in furthering the financiers, and agro-capitalists’ programme of promoting open borders. (Unfortunately, Ian has no problem with open-borderist reaction.)
But, most importantly, latent Zionism in the left is responsible for the perspective of building a ‘revolutionary party’ that includes Israeli settlers (they’re all settlers!), whose ‘rights’ are irreconcilably counterposed to the Palestinians’.
The result is that Ian can only complain of “communalism”, when in the end, he supports the ultimate legitimacy of the Hebrew presence. Marx’s speculation about “backward peoples” headed for the dustbin of history applies, if nowhere else, to the Israeli settler population.
Feel the poppy
The poppy business is safe, sanitised. Better if poppies were frozen blood, melting on the TV presenter’s shirt or blouse, soaking through, so they could feel it on their chest. That would make remembering more real.
The only white poppy I saw on Sunday was on a TV shopping channel. It was worn by a guy selling storage boxes - an unintended twofold metaphor. A consistent communist is not a pacifist, but, wading through the maudlin, one can only admire this man. Respect.
Andrew Northall makes many valid points about the Adult Work website and escorting in general (Letters, October 23).
Most people think of an escort as a short-skirted, heroin-addicted young woman standing at the kerbside in the dark. The reality is very different. The reason why the media does not portray escorting in a positive light is because the reality of escorting is very boring. Escorting, like car repair and maintenance, is just another business like any other.
Andrew asks why each October I do an analysis of the adult workers index - the total number of female escorts with profiles on Adult Work, the UK’s premier website for putting escorts in touch with potential clients. My interest is a reaction to the oppressive moral conservatism of the Militant Tendency, and its Socialist Party and Socialist Appeal successors, both of whom are very prudish when discussing matters of sex, including escorting.
If Andrew was to take the trouble to check out the Adult Work website he would find 35 profiles from escorts based in his home town. None of these women are being exploited or are being forced to do this, apart from the economic pressures to become an escort - although some women do it because they enjoy sex or the feeling of empowerment gained from knowing men are prepared to pay to meet them.
Andrew writes that escorts only get a fraction of the average £100 an hour they earn. This is utter rubbish. Most full-time escorts, if they are sensible, are registered with HM Revenue and Customs for income tax purposes. At the same time, many female graduates are able to make enough money through escorting over a three-year period to enable them to fully pay off their student loans.
Andrew would like to know my views in regard of the legalisation of prostitution. Frankly, I am against legalisation. In Australia, the legalisation of prostitution has led to companies which run brothels being listed on the stock market. Is this something Andrew would like to see in the UK?
Decriminalisation of prostitution, however, is a completely different matter. Decriminalisation has been a great success in New Zealand, and is the policy of both the Royal College of Nursing and the English Collective of Prostitutes. It is also part of the CPGB’s Draft programme section on women.
Last week, an amendment by the Labour MP Fiona Mactaggart to the modern slavery bill, based on Swedish prostitution law, was dropped, despite cross-party support. This was an attempt by the do-gooders within New Labour to attack sex workers by criminalising their clients. Sex workers mobilised hundreds of individuals and organisations, including the Royal College of Nursing, the Hampshire Women’s Institute, Women Against Rape, trade unionists, academics, church groups, lawyers and anti-racist and anti-poverty campaigners, to write letters urging MPs to oppose the legislation. Opposition within parliament was coordinated by leftwing Labour MP John McDonnell.
The English Collective of Prostitutes argues that criminalising clients would undermine women’s safety, and drive prostitution further underground.
Reacting to reports in the local media about plans to open a new ‘free’ primary school, the Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition has undertaken some research and is concerned at what it has discovered.
The plans are somewhat mysterious, and very worrying. Free schools are run by charities and trusts. In Rugby, this would appear to be an education management company called the Bellevue Place Education Trust (BPET). It has significant financial backing from a small number of British and Swiss families, according to the company’s website. It runs 11 private (independent) schools in the UK, many acquired recently. Now it is looking to create three free schools, including one in Rugby. Why would such a company want to do that? We have many very good state-run primary schools locally - why do we want or need a new school outside the state sector?
We also have concerns and questions about the running of this new school. Its lead proposer, Tom Legge, needs to clarify his interests. Mr Legge is board director of BPET. He is also a director of Waddington Mathews, a private limited company with a registered office in Rugby. Is the BPET linked to it? If so, why? The Waddington Matthews website is “currently under construction” despite Mr Legge being a director of it for over 12 months. The business website, 192.com, lists it as a “consulting engineer in Rugby”. Under the heading ‘Nature of business’, 192.com states: “Other business activities not elsewhere classified”. What does that mean? This strikes us as mysterious, maybe suspicious.
Tom Legge is also chair of governors at Rugby’s Eastlands Primary, which a couple of weeks ago announced it was applying to become an academy. Now there’s a surprise! Or is it? Many of the arguments against ‘free schools’ equally apply to academies. Both are attempts to undermine and fragment state education - we suspect to try and make a profit out of it. This would be in line with Tory thinking. This September, education secretary Nicky Morgan said she had not ruled out the possibility of introducing for-profit schools. Her predecessor, Michael Gove, stated he had no ideological objection to free school providers making a profit from running schools. Rugby MP Mark Pawsey supports the establishment of the Rugby ‘free’ school: does he agree with his leaders that it is fine for it to make profits at some stage in the future?
There are many reasons for being concerned generally about free schools.
They draw money and pupils away from other schools. The much needed library or classroom at a local state primary may have to be shelved.
The way free schools are approved - by the department for education, not the local authority - means there is less local planning for places.
They are unaccountable to their local communities and are run by unelected individuals - in Rugby’s case, an educational consultant, a manager, a solicitor, a business person who prepares children for scholarships to private schools, and a local Tory councillor.
Analysis of their intake show ‘free’ schools aren’t representative of the communities they serve.
They set their own pay and conditions for staff, which has obvious implications.
They may not recognise trade unions, which would protect that pay and those conditions.
They can employ unqualified teachers - 13% of teachers in ‘free’ schools were unqualified in November 2013.
‘Free’ schools don’t necessarily raise standards, and a number have been judged to be ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted, with 45% of their pupils judged to be in schools that required improvement or were classed as inadequate at the time of inspection.
The conclusions that can be drawn suggest that, if this proposal for a Rugby ‘free’ primary school goes ahead, parents should think more than twice about whether to apply to send their children to it. There are so many questions to be answered, and so many concerns about the real political reasons for promoting ‘free’ schools and academies at a time when spending on state education is being seriously cut.
We call on Tom Legge, and Mark Pawsey MP, to answer the questions we raise, and if the plans for the school go ahead, we will continue to organise opposition to them. We will also ask Rugby Borough Council to refuse planning permission to the organisers for wherever they eventually decide the site for this new school will be - in the interests of preserving state education for all children.
In the September 11 issue of the Weekly Worker Steve White declares his agreement with my analysis of the trends in education policy, including further ministerial centralisation of power, union busting, attacks on wages and conditions, open privatisation and so on, but disagrees strongly with the conclusions drawn in the article and also by other Weekly Worker writers (Jack Conrad, Sarah Black) that the labour movement ought to take the slogans and phraseology in favour of ‘free’ schools at face value, and demand our own such establishments. Comrade White imagines a whole plethora of impassable Chinese walls that would render such an orientation futile.
In the first instance, Ofsted would find the values of the labour movement more offensive than the comparably “bland” values of various faith groups, businesses and so on and would close them down immediately. Though at present, technically, this is unlikely, because, as I pointed out in the article, free schools are not currently inspected by Ofsted, and instead a network of mini-Bonaparte, directly elected local ‘education commissioners’ is being mooted. Perhaps only a minor issue - surely these people too would seek to close down labour movement schools?
Comrade White continues: “Then there is the question of teachers and their conditions of employment.” He asks: “Will labour-movement free schools … employ unqualified teachers to teach whole classes? They may be forced to, because the funding is likely to be squeezed by future governments.” Lastly the possible negative “divisive” effects upon the general, undefined community are considered against the background idea that labour-movement schools - if successful - would alienate sections of society precisely because of their values: labour-movement values, socialist values.
It seems therefore that the criticisms comrade White makes fall into two categories. In the first category the objection is basically that pursuing such a policy would be complex and full of possible pitfalls and setbacks. The second objection actually concerns the “divisive” effect of the values of the labour movement itself. Both are recipes, it seems, for inaction, and accommodation to existing, non-labour-movement, non-socialist values, for fear of provoking enemies of those values and of the socialist project as such.
The fundamental problem here is that, in the first place, life is complex and full of potential pitfalls and that, moreover, this is even truer for those who place themselves in opposition to the ‘default’ values of existing society and who have to act within the world of reality in order to realise their aspirations. Such arguments could be used against every kind of organisation and action within a capitalist society. Do trade unions not have to strike wage bargains which keep them within the relations of private property? Does a workers’ cooperative not face tremendous difficulties obtaining funding, and have to overcome numerous legal hurdles? One could go on.
What is more important, I believe, is the ‘make lemons from lemonade’ point. Reality is not as we would like it, but what we have, and the constant changes within society force us to seize at new and varied ways to point a way towards an entirely new society. In a sense the ‘final goal’ of setting up labour-movement free schools is entirely less important than the process required to fight for such thing, the naked class antagonisms such a campaign would bring out, and the positive vision for the running of society and how that is the necessary ideological corollary.
As for the values of the movement being alienating and divisive to those opposed to them - total surrender is the only alternative.