Stan Keable is right to warn us that on achieving office a Corbyn-led Labour government would encounter extra-parliamentary subversion, including possible mutiny from sections of the military in alliance with the monarchy and deep state (Letters, June 15). For this reason, all of us in the Labour Party need to be aware of the dangers. We need to distinguish between office in parliament and real state power.
At the Labour Representation Committee’s members meeting in London on June 10, Stan spelled out his own personal conclusion. Because Labour’s current leftwing manifesto includes no pledge to abolish the monarchy and replace the standing army with a people’s militia, we are clearly unprepared. Even should Labour win a majority of seats, according to Stan, we should therefore refuse to form a government, let other parties rule in our place and set about educating the working class.
In reply, Nick Rogers pointed out that this would amount to organising our own coup against ourselves. Graham Bash summed up Stan’s message as ‘Labour - don’t take the power!’ - which, of course, is the opposite of Labour Briefing’s classic slogan. I regret to say that we were all splitting our sides laughing at this point.
I was later relieved to discover that Stan’s bizarre position is not necessarily that of the Weekly Worker. But I am still worried. From what I have heard, the position of the CPGB is that our immediate aim should not be to force a general election, win a landslide majority, get rid of the Tories and put Jeremy into number 10. Instead, so I am told, the left’s current order of priorities must be reversed. We must first educate Labour to adopt the CPGB’s full programme and only then seek office in parliament.
This whole position is so flatly at variance with that of Lenin and Trotsky in 1917, so contrary to everything Marx taught and - in short - so utterly absurd, that I can only hope it is not meant seriously.
Chris Knight (personal capacity)
Labour Briefing editorial board
Clearly, Dave Vincent’s expectation was that Labour would lose on June 8, and lose badly. No shame in that; many commentators concurred - including prominent writers on this paper. This false assumption presumably explains why he told us that “there is no point talking of [unions affiliating] until we see the state of the Labour Party after the general election” (Letters, June 1).
A rather docile attitude, but again not totally unreasonable. So, to give some context to our current discussion on union affiliation, shall we now have a little peek at that post-election “state” …?
We find a mass membership - including a high percentage of young people amongst the intake - with left illusions in Corbyn and the Labour manifesto. We note that Corbyn is still clearly subject to pressures from the right (and still prone to buckling to them); but he is also more firmly ensconced in the Labour Party saddle than at any time since he won the leadership election in September 2015. The Labour Party’s nature as a bourgeois workers’ party is thus reaffirmed - and given dramatic expression in that ongoing struggle between its contending wings.
So what’s Dave’s problem? In truth, he agrees with us on the historical significance of Corbyn’s victory: “if Labour loses on June 8 we would not get another leader like Jeremy for a generation, nor would we get a manifesto like the current one for a long time,” he writes. What about Labour as that awkward amalgam, a ‘bourgeois workers’ party’? Dave also ticks this box, when he castigates the Socialist Party for their “portrayal of Labour as a thoroughly bourgeois party” - it is clearly “wrong”, he states.
So what exactly is his beef? It seems to come down to the idea that “If all the unions currently affiliated to the Labour Party haven’t pulled it left, if the creation of the super-unions has not pulled it left, what are the chances that PCS, plus the RMT and NUT, can do so? What would actually happen is that PCS would be told to shut up, not to spoil Labour’s election chances and, like all the rest, we would be expected to subordinate our members’ interests to those of whatever is deemed electorally best for Labour.”
This is very odd reasoning - made odder by the fact that the comrade feels it is useful to remind us of the treacherous record of attacks on civil servants by the last Labour government: “job cuts, pay restraint, regional pay in the ministry of justice, office closures, outsourcing ...” He also speculates that Peter Manson - who challenged him to explain his stubborn opposition to PCS affiliation (‘Left should not stand on sidelines’, June 8) - “seems to have forgotten it wasn’t the Labour left that powered Corbyn onto the ballot paper in the first Labour leadership contest”, but the patronising largesse of Labour’s rightwing ‘morons’, and that “no-one, including Corbyn himself, expected him to win”.
All the above is well known - but so what, for god’s sake? We were delivered a leftwing leader of the Labour Party in the form of a political accident. However, it’s here; our job now is to take advantage of this historic opening, while it exists. Already, it has unleashed the latent mass discontent against establishment politics, against the convergence of the main parties around a pro-capitalist consensus and - crucially - given it organisational form. Despite the left’s organisational weakness and political confusion, we are now presented with what amounts to an historic opportunity to remake the Labour Party, to consolidate masses of working people into a left political organisation, to cleanse the culture of our movement top to bottom and make genuine socialism a ‘common sense’ political outlook for millions.
If anything, Dave seems a little peeved that this is happening at all. It presents an awkward challenge to a neat little template of political/union activism that has probably served him well since the days of Blair. This might account for his passive, deeply conservative outlook when he surveys the immediate prospects for Labour - he actually doesn’t want things to change and actively campaigns for no-one to try!
Thus, Corbyn’s electoral success will just mean that “after the … humble pie eating by most of the backstabbers, Labour is now united behind their leader” (Letters, June 15). No more civil war in the party - you can have that on Dave’s authority.
What of the hundreds of thousands who have been drawn into the ranks to support the leftwing leader? “If they do not attend constituency meetings (let alone have any understanding of the rules and constitution to try to effect change), how does the left influence them or the party?” Pointless trying to educate and activate them, then. Dave has decided for us. Given this “near total inactivity of the new younger members (in terms of their making any demands on the party)”, Dave can already tell us the composition of September’s Labour Party conference: “Starry-eyed youngsters, keen to become MPs, who do not make awkward demands on the party.”
He asks if the existing Labour left has grown? He asks if the “Chartists’ demand for MPs to be subject to instant recall and to be paid an ordinary worker’s wage” has been implemented yet? And “what about the expulsions and membership bars during the coup? Has Jeremy demanded these be overturned?” He wants answers on “allowing left organisations into the Labour Party”. No-one has sent Dave an email bringing glad tidings that all these criteria have been met, so the Labour Party will have to totter along without him for the foreseeable future.
Missing from all of Dave’s glum analysis is any dynamic of change, of the art of political opportunity and struggle. (This also accounts for his quite distasteful views on the alleged immutable nature of migrant workers’ political outlook. I don’t have space to go into detail on that, other than to observe that the sure-fire way to confirm the reactionary prejudices of these workers is to have the indigenous workers’ movement adopt an attitude of institutionalised hostility to them.)
He thus finishes up with a thoroughly defeatist stance, a worship of the established facts of the movement the way it is, not the tangible potential for change that is so palpable in today’s situation. All of which makes for pretty morose stuff. Dave makes Marvin the Paranoid Android look like a Butlin’s redcoat.
Peter Manson ends his ‘Left should not stand on sidelines’ article (June 8) with the declaration: “The world belongs to all its peoples and our long-term aim as communists is to abolish all borders and achieve universal emancipation within a single global entity.” I couldn’t agree more. My only caveat would be that this is not a “long-term aim” but one of our immediate demands.
But what can be said about Dave Vincent’s nationalist nonsense? According to him, it is not capitalism and its cut-throat competition of the labour market, nor its incapacity to adequately provide for the needs of people, which is at fault, but his fellow workers from abroad. All workers regardless of place of birth have but one enemy - the employing class - and Dave overlooks that fact to direct our frustrations and anger at newcomers.
Capitalism divides workers. Always has and always will. Only with socialism is there a lasting solution. The interests of the socialist movement and of the day-to-day struggle require that the workers of all nationalities be united. The struggle between native and foreign-born to sell themselves in the auction of the wage-slave market has engendered bitter xenophobic feelings and, so that they might bid more fiercely against one another, the masters fan this prejudice. Dave is proving to be an able accomplice.
Working people have only two choices: either let the bosses play us off against each other until we hit rock-bottom or unite and fight for decent wages and benefits for all. Nothing can be more dangerous for the ruling class than that indigenous and migrant workers should make common cause and, instead of fighting each other, join forces and fight the employers.
Dave simplistically blames the “Poles”, even using the invective, “scabs”, to describe them. He’d feel better if they all went back to Poland and, following his own logic, proceeded to kick out the million Ukrainian migrant workers there. And then Dave can be free to conduct a campaign to discourage the Scots and the Welsh from seeking work elsewhere, and later he can pick on those Geordies and Scousers who have the temerity to move home to better themselves. Darn, and what about those living on the wrong side of town stealing the jobs of “our community”?
On July 10, Ben Stimson will go on trial in Manchester charged with two offences in violation of the British anti-terrorist legislation - for participation in the preparation of terrorist acts, and the promotion of a third party in their commission.
The BBC interviewed him while he was with the Donbass militia in eastern Ukraine in October 2015, and filmed him saying he would be prepared to kill if his life was threatened, and he would see it as an act of war. Ben denied any involvement in military action, saying he had gone to the country to drive ambulances and at the time of the interview was trying to get away from the militia.
Ben is of Irish-Jewish parentage and was deeply affected by the explicitly fascist symbols flown by battalions like the Azov Brigade and the Right Sector. In the beginning the prison authorities confiscated the letters and the magazines I sent, because, they said, he is not allowed any political communications. The reason they gave was that the letter or publication could harm his rehabilitation. So they see it as a thought crime to oppose the work of the CIA abroad. The threat of legal action by the Revolutionary Communist Group resulted in the letters getting through.
Ben reports that he is subjected to vile anti-Semitic abuse. “Throw some Zyklon B in with him,” said one guard and another boasted of being “in the fascist party”. The prison authorities dismissed all his complaints about this, saying they were “offensive”. He says he fears for his personal safety, as jihadists are allowed on the wing and they know he is Jewish.
The “legitimate government of Ukraine” was installed in a coup organised by the CIA. The coup was led by thugs who proudly display World War II fascist symbols. In fact, the “legitimate government of Ukraine” is the only government in the world to honour as a national hero a Nazi collaborator, Stepan Bandera, who slaughtered thousands of Jews.
Historian Karel Berkhoff, among others, has shown that Bandera, his deputies and the Nazis shared a key obsession: namely the notion that the Jews in Ukraine were behind communism and Stalinist imperialism, and must be destroyed. “The Jews of the Soviet Union,” read a Banderist statement, “are the most loyal supporters of the Bolshevik regime and the vanguard of Muscovite imperialism in the Ukraine.” When the Nazis invaded the USSR in June 1941, Bandera’s lieutenants issued a declaration of independence in his name. They further promised to work closely with Hitler, then helped to launch a pogrom that killed four thousand Jews in a few days, using weapons ranging from guns to metal poles. “We will lay your heads at Hitler’s feet,” a Banderist pamphlet proclaimed to Ukrainian Jews.
Graham Philips, the independent journalist who reports extensively on the Ukraine, says in his blog: “However, in any case, Ben’s situation has my full support. As a point of principle, I absolutely support a verdict of innocent for Ben. The UK justice system must be fair, and consistent. How can it be that a man who goes to fight for a neo-Nazi Ukrainian battalion is free to walk the streets of the UK absolutely untouched?”
The reference is to Chris Garrett, who had fought for Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Azov battalion, who had Nazi flags and symbols everywhere, he tells us. He was not arrested when he returned to the UK, although he did admit to killing “a separatist” - as opposed to Ben, who said he would kill if he had to save his own life.
It is now more than three years after the Odessa massacre of May 2014. Ukrainian Maidan nationalists and Nazis were brought to the city by buses to stop the anti-government protests. They burnt alive 46 protestors in the Odessa trade union house, clubbed to death those who jumped from the windows to escape the fire, hanged a pregnant woman cleaner and the whole fascist mob cheered when her death screams ended and the murderer appeared at the window to celebrate. The Kiev government refused to investigate the case and concentrates on arresting and harassing the surviving protestors and their relatives. More than any other event, this signalled to those in the Donbass that they had to defend themselves against these fascist thugs.
And that is why Ben Stimson went to the Donbass to fight. He is a heroic anti-fascist fighter and the left and every principled anti-fascist should attend his trial and support him in every way possible.
I sent the letter below to my MP, Tulip Siddiq:
As your constituent, and member of the Queen’s Park branch of the Labour Party, I wish to extend to you my heartfelt congratulations on your - and our - marvellous triumph in the June 8 general election. This triumph is a fitting tribute to the party, to its radical leadership and to you personally.
At the same time, I must express my disquiet, disappointment and dismay upon discovering that you have subscribed to a pledge supporting the racist settler state of Israel. This is especially hurtful to me, as an Israeli socialist, lifelong opponent of the Zionist project of colonisation. How could you bring yourself to pledge yourself “To celebrate the fact that Israel is a free society and parliamentary democracy that extends to all its citizens the right to practise their religion and have access to religious sites in Jerusalem”?
You must surely be aware of the fact that this democracy is similar in one major respect to Athenian democracy: it rules over a large population of disenfranchised persons, deprived of basic human rights. In the case of Athens it was women and slaves; in the case of Israel it is the millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and in the world’s largest concentration camp, the besieged and starved Gaza Strip.
How could you pledge to support the sly “International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism”? You must surely be aware of the considered, authoritative opinions of legal experts, such as Hugh Tomlinson QC and Sir Stephen Sedley (emeritus Appeal Court Judge, who happens to be of Jewish background). These opinions clearly imply that this so-called definition is highly suspect and is disingenuously designed to conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and to shield Israel and Zionism from legitimate criticism. As such, adherence to this “definition” may well lead to illegal suppression of freedom of speech.
I cannot believe that you have signed the pro-Israel pledge out of true conviction. I would very much like to believe that you signed it carelessly, without giving it much thought. If so, I urge you to reread the despicable pledge and to rescind your signature.
There is, however, another possibility, which I hope is not the case; namely, that you signed that pledge out of opportunistic motives, so as to curry favour with the pro-Zionist section of the local Jewish community and secure their support.
If this was your motive - which, I repeat, I hope is not the case - then your signature is not only immoral, but also short-sighted on pragmatic grounds. While the pro-Zionist section of the local Jewish community is well-organised and (apparently) well-funded, it by no means encompasses all Jews in this constituency, or in the local Labour Party. In fact, there are a very large number of people in this constituency, Jews and non-Jews alike, who are highly critical of the racist state of Israel, and who would find the pledge that you have signed objectionable. Surely you cannot wish to alienate this large, and growing, number of your constituents and would-be supporters?
I urge you to reconsider and rescind your signature of the pledge.