In April the streets of London were brought to a standstill in a protest in support of the demand to recognise an alleged ‘climate emergency’.
For those of us with a lifetime of protest and political action behind us, the reaction of the Metropolitan Police and the government was suspicious, to say the least. Contrast the treatment of these by-and-large middle class hordes - some from swish London flats and mansions - with that of the miners and their families, when we came to London to protest against our own impending environmental disaster. Contrast, for example, the indulgence with which the cops treated all those nice middle class folk stopping people going to work, to school, to hospital appointments, to catch holiday flights. Contrast the jovial and ‘all good fun’ attitude of the Met to the measures meted out to miners when we tried to stop strikebreakers going to work. Contrast the TV and liberal media sympathy and unchallenged presentation of their hysterical propaganda that we are all doomed - doomed to burn and drown or starve or die of drought. When did the media even attempt to present the case of the striking miners and our communities, or of firefighters or railworkers? Never. Why do I get the clear impression that the ruling class has no objections to all this?
Dr Gail Bradbrook, one of the founders of Extinction Rebellion, in an exchange with Adam Boulton on Sky TV about whether they were causing chaos, revealed that XR had run the whole thing past junior ministers and advisors prior to the protest. They were assured, she said, that the government “needed a social movement” just like Extinction Rebellion. That the government needed a movement to create an atmosphere allowing it to bring forward “highly unpopular measures”. The media in these situations are singing from the same script and will not draw the obvious conclusion. When the 1984-85 miners’ strike looked like it could roll all before it, the government needed a movement such as the ‘back to work’ Union of Democratic Mineworkers - and, hey, one happened.
On the XR protest thousands were arrested, but were then released without conditions, allowing them to return to the action. But during 1984-85 arrested strikers were given bail restrictions which not only banned them from picket lines and demonstrations, but any premises owed by the National Coal Board or at which coal was processed or sold! Breaching such conditions got you a prison sentence.
The more I have reflected on this, the more I see collusion between the state and those eco-stormtroopers, who I get the impression are unconscious agents softening us up for deep and swingeing attacks on our standards of life and social freedoms.
XR demands net zero emissions of carbon dioxide by 2025. This apparently means that, whatever volume of CO2 emissions we produce, the same volume has to be removed from the environment - or presumably offset by, for example, planting millions of new trees and restoring the rain forests. To demand that this be accomplished in six years time, when none of the technical and scientific infrastructure to achieve anything like this exists even in Britain, is frankly ridiculous.
Only 1%-4% of the world’s CO2 emissions come from here, so even if we did all that, we would not dent the global picture. Is such an industrial (and it would have to be industrial) transformation possible? Maybe, if we embraced carbon capture for power, steel and cement production. You would need to do that to manufacture your electric cars, using windmills, solar energy or any other renewable energy system, but what you could not do is stop using gas, coal, oil or steel. That is the part I do not think XR grasp.
Coal production worldwide is rising and, with the standard of life for developing countries resting on that, will continue to do so. The answer is carbon capture and storage (CCS) and clean-coal technology - anathema to the greens, of course, who want shot of miners and mining, never mind emissions. Carbon capture applied to steel production is technically easy, although steel production only accounts for less than 4% of Britain’s CO2 emissions. But that includes 1% caused by the transportation of coal or coke for steel.
The answer to that is so obvious - stop transporting it from Appalachia and the socially most devastating form of mining on earth (strip mining) and dig the coal here - a quarter of all the world’s prime coal is in Britain. Good god, open coal mines? St Greta - ie, Greta Thunberg the 16-year-old Swedish starlet of the international school strike movement - denounced the opening of our one and only new deep mine, in her submission to the Climate Change Select Committee. It should be noted that the crippling bill which pushed British Steel over the brink is the huge CO2 levy imposed by the European Union - although, turning the truth on its head, BS bosses blamed not the EU for their plight, but the decision to leave it. The fact is that steel prices have dropped by more than 25% worldwide, mainly through the climate extinction panic about CO2 emissions and consequent attacks on industry and manufacture, resulting in closures and the loss of markets.
No attempt whatever is made to look strategically at what can be done without halting civilisation, such as through CCS or, more importantly, stopping the decimation of the world’s forests. This alone would directly reduce by one third world CO2 emissions and, if the process was reversed, would start to rebalance the climate and atmosphere from CO2 conversion to oxygen. Trees and vegetation, of course, love CO2 - inasmuch as they can handle it, they thrive on it. It is disproportion which is the problem. This feature is directly linked to increasing meat consumption and production, which necessitates deforestation, on the one hand, and animal-produced methane emissions - a far more damaging greenhouse gas than CO2 - on the other.
There is something utterly repugnant about well-heeled, public-school-educated, rich and posh people laying down the law as to how the rest of us should live and what we have to do. I have no doubt they with all their wealth will buy their way around any restrictions they enforce on the plebs - be that electric cars, solar panels, private wells - while telling us the very important reasons why we must do as they say (not as they do).
Nowhere is this more demonstrated than in the lifestyles of the leaders and founders of the ‘rebellion’. We are told holidays abroad are a luxury we cannot allow to continue. Air travel is for emergency only and families should not fly more than once every five years and only then if absolutely necessary.
Robin Boardman-Pattison, a co-founder of the campaign, stormed out of a Sky News interview when confronted by his own Facebook page, which showed him on a skiing holiday in the Alps and his earlier seaside holiday in Italy this year. Emma Thompson, a leading supporter of XR, arrived at the protest by plane from Los Angeles. Her emergency? She had her 60th birthday bash to go to, so how else was she to get there and back? It is, she said, the only means of trans-global travel at present. Yes, Emma, that’s why the rest of us use it too, but your supporters are planning to ruin our long awaited holidays by blocking the airports.
But it is worse than that. She argued that the use of planes would continue to be an essential part of her profession as a film star. But coalminers, power station workers, lorry drivers, etc will just have to bite the bullet in the cause of the ‘climate emergency’ and lose their professions. As if that was not bad enough, she flies ‘business class’, which allows her far more room on the plane and thus leaves a carbon footprint per air mile the size of a yeti - unlike the rest of us on our occasional holiday flight.
The protestors stuck a pink yacht in the middle of the road bearing the slogan, “Tell the truth”, but the truth was the last thing they wanted to hear - all arguments or demands for reality were shouted down. I do not delight in the promise by Labour that they will introduce compulsory climate change awareness lessons for primary kids. One wonders what level of scientific fact and evolutionary history will be presented against the ‘sky is falling in’ panic one hears at every turn these days.
There has recently been great excitement among anthropologists at the discovery of ancient tools and weapons on ‘Doggerland’, the submerged peninsula which linked what is now Britain to the continent. Doggerland became Doggerbank, as rising sea levels engulfed it 10,000 years ago, due to climate change. But this was not man-made climate change: it was a perfectly natural process of the kind which long predates our brief advent onto the planet and, despite our woefully destructive lack of caution, still accounts for at least 50% of modern climate change. 11,700 years ago the last great ice age ended and the polar caps started to melt due to climate change - we didn’t do that either. So one gets the impression that natural and unstoppable climate change will not be the focus of the curriculum - we can’t let the kids form the wrong impression, can we?
When Greta Thunberg came over from Sweden to tell the school strikers they were brilliant, she also talked to a hushed meeting of MPs, as if she was speaking words of profound wisdom. One would have thought she was the Dalai Lama dispensing rare words of insight and guidance, instead of frankly ignorant dross. She is the most indulged and patronised teenager in history. ‘Nobody is doing anything’ is her theme, so we, the young, must do it instead. Those of us who see the worldwide panic over global warming, on the one hand, and the complete destruction of our mining industry, our steel industry, the end of aluminium production, the crippling of construction, on the other, beg to differ.
Now that we have mass importation of power station ash to make breeze blocks, the dearest fuel prices in the world, a rising death rate from hyperthermia each year, the destruction of our industrial communities, and regions turned into drug-smitten centres of social deprivation, we know how stupid a remark that is. She also took time to denounce the decision of Cumberland County Council to approve a new coal mine, because the world needs to stop mining coal. She is ignorant of the fact that no renewable energy can be supplied without steel and coal, to make coke to manufacture windmills or solar panels, or power the trains and track on which she sat week after week on her grand tour.
So, what’s it all about? The state is set for the most draconian of anti-carbon laws and taxes which will restrict the life styles of the working class population in a way greater than the enclosure acts and the Highland clearances, or the ‘dictatorship of the clock’, as Engels described the war on labour freedoms in the early years of the industrial revolution. Wee Greta is, I fear, destined to become ‘regretta’ - the cuddly, poor, hippy tribute band of middle class eco-ism is the social stun gun aimed at softening us up, with ‘common sense’ and ‘unavoidable’ social conclusions aimed at rolling back our social and personal freedoms and introducing an austerity of fundamental and, for us, catastrophic proportions.
David John Douglass
No Hebrew nation
I am grateful to comrade Machover for his correction of my error regarding the entry for religion in the Israeli ID card (Letters, June 13). However, on the substantive points I cannot agree with Moshé.
It is true that in most cases a nation is defined by common language, territory and economy - although, as Moshé points out, in the case of, for example, the Kurds then this is clearly not so. However, I stand by my assertion that Israeli Jews, being an active settler people, have not formed a nation. It is precisely for this reason that Israeli Jews themselves are divided on how they see themselves. Are they Israeli first - that is, defined by the territory in which they reside, or Jews who are part of a greater Jewish nation? This confusion is a reflection of the artificial nature of the Israeli state itself.
What Moshé refers to as the Israeli Jewish or Hebrew nation is defined by ‘the other’ - in this case their antagonism to the Palestinians. If Moshé wishes to call the Israeli settlers a nation, fine, but it doesn’t change the reality that this is a ‘nation’ held together through the oppression of another.
A nation is not simply a matter of ticking a box. This is the Stalinist method. It is also a matter of consciousness of being a nation and in Israel there is no such consciousness. It is not a matter of Zionist ideology, but a belief that runs from the establishment of Israel as a state that they are part of the Jewish people. There is no separate Israeli nation or even Israeli Jewish nation.
The whole aim of Zionism was to transform Jews as a religion into Jews as a nation. It was a collective form of assimilation, yet it was not to be. That is why many Israeli Jews consider they are Jewish by nationality, but not by religion. It also explains the deep hostility to those who are not Jewish.
I fundamentally disagree with Moshé over the question of Israeli nationality. Moshé states quite correctly that “Nationality/Nationalité is used to specify the citizenship status of the bearer” in a passport. However, this is not the case with Israel. Israeli citizenship does not confer Israeli nationality. That is why the entry for nationality in Israeli passports is a lie.
When Moshé states that “Israel is no exception in this respect: there is an Israeli nationality, which is listed as such in the passport ...” he is simply wrong. He refers me to the Wikipedia entry for ‘nationality’. I therefore took his advice and looked it up. What Wiki says is that “in most modern countries all nationals are citizens of the state, and full citizens are always nationals of the state”. In Israel, however, non-Jewish citizens are clearly not full nationals of the state, because it is a Jewish state. That is why citizenship can be removed so easily from, for example, the Bedouin of the Negev.
In The unJewish state by Moshé’s late comrade, Akiva Orr, he writes, in respect of the case of Oswald Rufeisen, that “The actual controversy was about the entry for ‘nationality’ (which in Hebrew means ‘membership of a nation’ and not, as in Britain, ‘citizenship’).” Akiva goes on to say that in the population registry a Palestinian Arab can enter ‘Israeli’ for citizenship, ‘Arab’ for nationality and ‘Christian’ for religion. In other words, unlike Britain and most other states, citizenship and nationality are not coterminous.
Nor is this a matter of opinion. This has been subject to rulings by Israel’s supreme court in the cases of George Tamarin v State of Israel in 1972 and Uzi Ornan v State of Israel in 2013. In the former case, chief justice Shimon Agranat ruled: “... the desire to create an Israeli nation separate from the Jewish nation is not a legitimate aspiration. A division of the population into Israeli and Jewish nations would … negate the foundation on which the state of Israel was established.” The court decided: “There is no Israeli nation separate from the Jewish people. The Jewish people is composed not only of those residing in Israel, but also of diaspora Jewry.”
Israel is remarkable and exceptional in that there is no Israeli nationality. In which other country is there no nationality? The entry for nationality in the population register is Jewish, Arab, Muslim and indeed there are hundreds of ‘nationalities’. That is what makes Israel different from all other states.
It is also incorrect that I deny the existence of a Hebrew nation, which would include members of all religions and none, because it accords with Zionist ideology! I deny it because it accords with reality. Nor do the majority of Israelis reject it because of conditioning or indoctrination. They deny it because that is how they see the reality of their own position. No amount of indoctrination could persuade people not to recognise their own membership of a nation.
Here we go again
Of course, the first question one has to ask is, what is Steven Johnston’s definition of a “safe space”? (Letters, June 13).
Those of us who occasionally listen to ‘real life’ will have heard on Desert island discs that more women were killed by their partners during the troubles in Northern Ireland than other people were killed during the entire time. Do we, as communists, ignore the plight of women who are being abused because they do not have the correct ‘line’?
It should be a source of outrage that anyone needs safe spaces because of abuse from others, no matter who they are. Denial or belittling of that need is not helpful. Does comrade Johnston not believe that women of all classes are disadvantaged economically and socially, compared to their male peers? Of course, it is true that working class women in abusive situations have fewer options in terms of escape than middle class women, so do we only allow working class women into shelters?
What Steven Johnston appears to be saying is an argument I have heard many times over the years: women’s issues are a deviation from the real struggle (akin to ‘Black issues are a deviation from the real struggle’, which I heard starting in the 1950s). The ‘real struggle’ being, of course, what men say is the real struggle - other struggles not being important enough to deal with. As a friend of mine once said, “Oh, I see, men won’t give up their power until they can take on somebody else’s.”
Without active and united support of women and other oppressed groups it is ultimately easy for the ruling class to divide and conquer. Residual misogyny in working class organisations can hold back tackling the class enemy. Comrade Johnston needs to learn the lessons of the Dagenham machinists, who had to fight the local union bureaucracy as well as the bosses for equality. Enough with the ‘horny-handed sons of toil’ mythology!
How do we win over others, comrade, speaking only to ourselves? Or maybe we should be speaking only to men, because they have the time and energy to engage in politics, while many women do not? If one believes that women are doubly exploited, surely we need to help encourage the doubly exploited into the movement? And if that is the case, how do we bring women into a movement, if not by supporting the struggles they might have in progress?
Capitalism will use any type of exploitation it can find - gender, race, nationality, religion, colour of clothing, bra size, whatever. It does us no good to believe that we can stay in a bubble and ignore other struggles going on around us.
And, yes, some abused men actually do need safe spaces too. Just not the same ones as women.
Carla Roberts reports on the Peterborough by-election, which highlighted the crisis in the Labour Party over the Brexit referendum, anti-Semitism and trigger ballots to recall Labour MPs (‘From Peterborough to Pompeo’, June 13). She describes Corbyn’s policy on the referendum as “studied ambiguity” - which Labour Party Marxists have also signed up for.
Carla says: “From a limited electoral perspective Corbyn’s position still makes a lot of sense. Coming out firmly on either side of the binary debate will do nothing to increase Labour’s chance in the ballot box.” She adds that “while Corbyn quite rightly refuses to pick a side, he has also not attempted to break out of his false ‘in or out’ dichotomy”.
Corbyn has taken sides. He has refused to side with ultra-‘leave’ or ultra-‘remain’, but has taken his stance as a ‘remain-democrat’. He is somebody who campaigned to remain, but accepted the decision to leave. This is what the Labour Party did in 2016 and in the 2017 election manifesto. He has tried to find a version of ‘leave’ which protects working class interests.
This is an honourable approach to take. More than this, it is political good sense - not least because of the divisions in the working class, the Labour Party and amongst Labour voters. My criticism is not about compromise, but that he has not found the right kind of compromise. He should have looked more carefully at the democratic mandate from 2016 and married this with the interests of the working class.
However, this is not simply about Corbyn. It is Labour policy that should be examined, not least because Corbyn doesn’t stray far from it. Labour’s 2018 Brexit resolution includes the following: “Conference accepts that the public voted to leave the EU”; and “Conference believes we need a relationship with the EU that guarantees full participation in the single market.”
Then there is: “Conference also believes a no-deal Brexit should be rejected as a viable option and calls upon Labour MPs to vigorously oppose any attempt by this government to deliver a no-deal outcome.” A number of Labour MPs did not act in line with this policy recently in parliament. They should be called to account and face a trigger ballot.
Along with the Zionist-inspired ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign, the key issue to oust Corbyn and defeat the socialist movement is the liberal demand for a second referendum with a ‘remain’ question. This is being pressed by Alastair Campbell, Tom Watson, Emily Thornberry, Paul Mason, Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Another Europe Is Possible, etc.
This ultra-‘remain’ attack cannot be defeated or even beaten back without deploying the weapon of working class democratic demands. The Labour Party conference, influenced by working people through their trade unions, spells out the answer: “Conference notes that, when trade unions have a mandate to negotiate a deal for their members, the final deal is accepted or rejected by the membership.” It adds that, if the government gets a deal which benefits working people, “they should not be afraid to put that deal to the public”.
Trade unions enable working people to vote to ratify or reject negotiated deals. The people voted ‘out’, say the ultra-leavers (Farage, Rees-Mogg, etc), but ‘out’ only means ‘out’ when the people (ie, a majority) decide what ‘out’ means by voting on it. We have to be able to debate and vote on the actual deal we have been offered, not the vague fantasy Brexit from 2016.
Carla praises Corbyn for refusing to “pick a side” between ultra-‘leave’ and ‘ultra-remain’, but criticises him for not attempting to break out of this “false ‘in or out’ dichotomy”. I blame Labour Party Marxists, who have done nothing to help Corbyn break out of this trap. The democratic trade union practice of ratification replaces this “false ‘in or out’ dichotomy” with a democratic dichotomy between ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
Carla and the LPM have offered us a false choice between the Stalinist opposition to the working class having the right to vote in a referendum and the liberal demand for a second referendum slogan to overturn the first, masquerading as democracy. Neither Stalinism nor liberalism has the answer to the democratic problem posed by the 2016 referendum.
The 2018 Labour conference never called for a second referendum with a ‘remain’ question. The resolution said: “Should parliament vote down a Tory Brexit deal or the talks end in no deal, conference believes this would constitute a loss of confidence in the government. In these circumstances, the best outcome for the country is an immediate general election.”
It adds: “If we cannot get a general election, Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.” There is no reason for “studied ambiguity” on this. A public vote is no more than a ratification referendum. It was Keir Starmer and the right wing of the Labour Party who have tried to turn “remaining on the table” into a ‘remain’ question.
The Labour Party Marxist policy - whether it is Stalinist opposition to the working class having the right to ratify or merely “studied ambiguity” over different kinds of referendum - helps the right wing of the Tories, the right of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, who are already aided and abetted by socialists like Paul Mason and Another Europe, acting as their ‘useful idiots’.
I found Paul Demarty’s article about the approaching split in Peter Taaffe’s Committee for a Workers’ International most interesting (‘Fiasco nears conclusion’, June 13).
I think at the root of this split is the failure of the left to grow following the credit crunch of 2007-08. This is a failure of theory, policy, programme and method - particularly the bureaucratic centralist method of organising of the CWI. This bureaucratic centralism has also led to the recent dissolution of the International Socialist Organization in the US.
At the same time, many radical organisations are in retreat and ceasing to produce hard-copy newspapers and magazines and relying entirely on the internet instead. For example, Socialist Resistance has ceased publication of its monthly Socialist Outlook newspaper. Its Fourth International co-thinkers have ceased publication of the quarterly magazine International Viewpoint. Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century (RS21) has also ceased publication of its quarterly magazine. Similarly, the Green Party has ceased publication of its magazine Green World and is now a monthly online newsletter.
With the Socialist Party in England and Wales and the Socialist Workers Party now each having less than 1,000 members, I would guess that their respective weekly publications - The Socialist and Socialist Worker - are a financial black hole. The same could be said for the Communist Party of Britain’s daily, Morning Star. I wouldn’t be surprised if it soon goes weekly - unless it is in receipt of Chinese gold or money from a rich member.
Whilst Marxists must now have a presence online, a hard copy revolutionary newspaper is essential for any serious revolutionary organisation. The internet has many problems for Marxists. Facebook is now becoming more and more non-political and censorship can only get worse in the coming years.
Google has recently changed its algorithms so that leftwing websites no longer appear in the top 10 of searches. A good example of this is the World Socialist Web Site. Since Google changed its algorithms, web traffic has fallen from a peak of 60,000 a day to just 25,000 a day.
It is therefore very satisfying that the Weekly Worker continues to be a hard-copy newspaper. This is a result of having correct theory, policy, programme and method. It is also due to the hard work of the production team and its supporters.
Like many disillusioned Corbyn supporters, I don’t want to be associated with a Corbyn-led Labour Party. The Corbyn surge has exhausted itself. The Labour Party will soon go into oblivion just like the German SPD, the French Socialist Party, the Italian Democratic Left, Spain’s Podemos, the Greek Pasok and Syriza, the Swedish Social Democrats and the Irish Labour Party.
Lenin famously wrote in his Leftwing communism that the newly formed CPGB should apply for affiliation to the Labour Party, fully knowing it would be rejected and hence exposing the bourgeois nature of its leadership. Whilst the CPGB did carry out some work within the Labour Party in the 1920s and 1930s, its main area of work was in building the membership of the CPGB and its paper, the Daily Worker.
In 2019, instead of trying to build Labour Party Marxists and the Labour ‘left’, the CPGB should be building its membership and the circulation of the Weekly Worker. I gather many CPGB members agree with me on this?