I am not going to attend Momentum meetings any more due to my disgust at people like Jon Lansman. My opinion is that his attitudes are divisive and authoritarian.
I have heard that he recently insulted leftwing Jews by saying that Jewish Voice for Labour is not part of the Jewish community. I note on his Twitter account that he made an anti-trades unionist comment by applauding the employer for sacking George Galloway. His values are intolerant and totalitarian in excluding any opinions which do not conform to his own. We should not condone sacking as a punishment on political grounds. If we follow Lansman’s principle we will end up with a society where employment is secured by obedience to the party line.
In a tweet I noted he used the term “rooting out” and “retraining” in respect of Chris Williamson, who he complained had not shown “contrition”. The fact that these attitudes are accepted in a democratic movement makes me shudder at the thought that people like Lansman could ever get into any position of real power. There is something unhealthily fanatical and ideological going on and I don’t feel comfortable with it.
I became a supporter of Momentum, because I believe in Jeremy Corbyn, but Lansman’s sentiments and terminology contrast totally with his. Bullying and punishing people because you don’t like their views is simply wrong. I know others who are similarly unhappy. All this excluding and expelling of decent socialists is unsavoury and nasty.
I supported Momentum because of a vision of freedom of expression and thought, and opposition to all forms of oppressive ideology, and I do not wish to be part of something which is run by sanctimonious ideologues, who believe that only their own views are acceptable and any deviation from their position results in punishment and exclusion. This is precisely the form of socialist values which Orwell warned about and it is this which ought to be the focus of any rooting out.
Vermin in ermine
It is reported this week that three lords have resigned the Labour whip because of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Actually they resigned a few days ago, but the news has obviously been held over for a more opportune moment. Like now, when Panorama is busy doing a hatchet job on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
One of them is ‘Baron’ David Triesman. Those of us who have been around awhile remember Triesman from the 1970s and 80s, when he was only a rising opportunist, not the risen one he has become. In the halcyon days of the Inner London Education Association Triesman was the doyen and leader of what was then the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (Natfhe).
He was also the chair of the (then) CPGB group within Inner London Natfhe. To give him his due, he was an excellent negotiator. He never gave up and never lost his temper - although most of the time, with the ILEA, Natfhe was beating on an open door. On the other hand, the negotiating style that Triesman brought was the ‘one voice’ protocol - and that voice was always his.
The Communist Party group was rigidly controlled - its officers had pre-meetings before every members meeting - local, area or national - pre-meetings before full meetings before every conference: every vote was decided on in advance, every argument hashed out beforehand - in the name of democratic centralism, of course. In all of these meetings, he was never heard to be vocal about anti-Semitism.
Eventually, Triesman became a full-time official for Natfhe, then climbed his way out to become general secretary of the university lecturer’s union. In Natfhe he was known as a bit of a fabulist. Among his other fables was his boast that he had had a try-out for Spurs (his life-long football club). Someone in Natfhe discovered that this had never happened. Then, during the after-meeting of a conference executive, unfortunately one of the officers died. DT went around telling people he had given him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, which again, according to everyone who was there, didn’t happen.
From there he went on to become general secretary of the Labour Party. He started as he meant to go on by trying to convince the world (including Britain’s journalists) that he had always been a member of the Labour Party from when he was young. But he reckoned without the press being able to find out that in the interim he’d been a very active member of the Communist Party. Eventually, he was rumbled. Now it’s even on his Wikipedia page. He went on to serve in the Blair government. Again, he was never heard to say anything about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
When he became a baron, he was so popular that some of the Natfhe people who had worked with him christened him the “vermin in ermine”. From being a communist he went on to become a merchant banker, and now a cross-bencher. He is again climbing onto the bandwagon of his own aggrandisement, now by claiming to be horrified by anti-Semitism.
‘Baron’ indeed - barren of principle, barren of loyalty and barren of respect.
Dave Douglass and I are clearly talking past each other and I’ve no wish to prolong the agony (Letters, July 4). So just a couple of points.
I’ve often seen - though not from scientists - this reference to 50% of climate change put down to humans and 50% natural causes, and I just wonder which half is ours.
Dave says: “The Brazilian government demands the right to develop and bring the country up to the living standards and expectations of the west, and why not?” but I feel sure that Dave will agree that the Brazilian government - especially the current one - has no more interest in general living standards than the coal owners in old England had for us here.
However, we do agree at least, as Dave implies, that we are on much the same page as to what is needed worldwide.
I have some agreement with Maren Clarke’s letter in the same issue. But governments are not going to help us - the only people they will help are the capitalists. Any major interventions in the world regarding climate, plastic, non-stick chemicals or anything else will require government spending - ie, taxes or borrowing. One can note Michael Roberts’ ‘G20 and the trade war’ last week: government investments, especially in the US, have been slashed for a long time.
Governments don’t invest any more and I think we can rely on the big companies to follow their example - unless they can sell their products. In environmental projects that would mean selling to governments, but governments aren’t spending. I would suggest that any capitalist ‘solution’ to our environmental ills will cost us a lot of money and make things worse - so we can spend even more on the next round of ‘solutions’.
Maren asks why scientists are not resorting to terrorism. I think it’s probably for the same reason as anyone else: it doesn’t work, it is counterproductive, and it could get you killed.
We need class action on a worldwide scale, which, among other things, will provide full-time employment for decades (at least) clearing up the mess.
In Paul Demarty’s article, ‘Fetishising the web’ (June 27), you say regarding Socialist Resistance:
“The other [recent event] was the formal liquidation of the paper, Socialist Resistance, which was the organ of the right-opportunist Trotskyist group of the same name ... SR has rebranded itself from a revolutionary organisation to an ‘anti-capitalist network’, which may or may not be related to the need to protect its members from the tender affections of the Labour Party machine (for instance, comrade Fred Leplat, who was suspended last year, but later reinstated). It is notable that SR has not stated formally that it has ceased publishing a physical paper: it just does not do so any more” (my emphasis).
So which is it, comrades?
On a printed paper, as opposed to an online version, Demarty says: “Even the writing is likely to be better, simply because the need to fit things on a physical sliver of dead tree enforces some economy of wording.” This seems self-evidently not to be the case - at least as far as his article goes, with its excursions into cinematography, redundancy and flowery exposition.
The question of whether a serious grouping needs a hard-copy paper is worth addressing, but it is not done properly here. I would personally define Demarty’s characterisation of the left’s internet efforts as “substandard” as hardly harsh enough. In general the left seems to imagine that its meetings - probably not very interesting in the first place - when posted to the net (often with chronic sound quality) somehow become watchable.
Not only does the right have its big hitters, such as Ben Shapiro, Katie Hopkins and Milo Yiannopoulos, but there are many conservatives who gain up to 10,000 views in a few days on YouTube from their kitchen and have a regular following. This must have a cumulative effect on consciousness.
This begs the question: with its oikophobia, pro-Islamic apologetics, and ‘safe space’ for anyone with mental issues, does the current ‘left’ really have much that the sane individual would be interested in?
The 2016 referendum marked a significant change in the UK’s constitutional practice. It shifted the democratic centre of British politics. England and Wales voted to leave the European Union, and Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain. Nobody voted to leave the single market or the customs union. It required Her Majesty’s Government to negotiate a deal with the EU and, in recognition of popular sovereignty, return to the people to ratify in a yes/no referendum.
The Tories rejected most of this. Leaving the single market and customs union is the crucial aspect of their version of Brexit, with their plan for free trade with Trump and US health corporations and to ramp up immigration control and build up a hostile racist environment. The Tories, as English unionists, are determined to impose their policy on the majorities in Northern Ireland and Scotland, who voted to remain in the EU.
Corbyn seized the centre ground. He took a ‘remain’-democrat stance when he voted to trigger article 50, in the 2017 general election manifesto and in the 2018 Labour conference resolution. Labour already supported a ratification referendum, but not a ‘remain’ question. However, it fudged the democratic issue in calling for ‘a’ customs union, instead of remaining in the actual one, and aligning with the single market instead of remaining in it. Most significantly, Labour failed to demand the democratic right of Northern Ireland and Scotland to remain in the EU.
Nevertheless, Labour’s imperfect version of a ‘remain’-democrat position enabled Corbyn to block the Tory Brexit and wage a successful parliamentary struggle against it. May was beaten three times in the Commons and eventually forced to resign. Thanks to Labour’s fight, the UK is still in the EU at least until October 31. Those who oppose leaving should be singing Corbyn’s praises. But the very opposite is true. He has been isolated, as former allies like John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Paul Mason and others have backed Tom Watson.
There has been a massive campaign waged by Watson and the Labour right to destabilise and eventually overthrow Corbyn. Watson’s ‘transitional programme’ demands Labour switch to a second referendum for ‘remain’ and reform, expel the socialist left through the anti-Semitic witch-hunt, and demand the sack for Corbyn’s closest advisors. It has been a continuous barrage of lies, slanders and misrepresentations, which has brought Labour into disrepute.
The real winners in Watson’s battle against Corbyn are the Tories. By adopting a liberal ‘remain and reform’, unity in the Parliamentary Labour Party may break down. Mays’s deal, which was defeated in parliament, could conceivably be resurrected and repackaged. A section of Labour MPs - released from any need to follow Labour discipline - may vote with the Tories. The unintended consequence of Labour shifting to ‘remain’ could be victory for a Tory Brexit.
Corbyn has been resisting and standing by the 2018 conference policy, backed up by Len McCluskey. But on Monday five union leaders, including from Unite, backed a switch. Corbyn signalled the change after the shadow cabinet meeting. He wrote to Labour members: “As democrats, Labour accepted the result of the 2016 referendum. In our 2017 manifesto, Labour also committed to oppose a no-deal Brexit and the Tories’ Brexit plans - which threatened jobs, living standards, and the open multicultural society that we as internationalists value so much.”
He continues: “Labour set out a compromise plan to try to bring the country together, based around a customs union, a strong single-market relationship and protection of environmental regulations and rights at work.” He reassures members: “We continue to believe this is a sensible alternative that could bring the country together”; and says: “Whoever becomes the new prime minister should have the confidence to put their deal, or no deal, back to the people in a public vote.” So far democrats can agree.
However, Corbyn has added the call for a ‘remain’ question on any ballot paper. This introduces a new compromise into Labour’s existing compromise. Labour still wants a general election for a Labour government to go to Brussels and negotiate an alternative deal. But then it comes back and supports ‘remain’ in a referendum against its own deal! This is a real problem, without an answer as yet.
As an occasional reader of your website, I do wonder at your editorial policy. I understand that you have an open publishing stance and that you produce material you don’t always agree with. Very good.
But I don’t understand why you engage obvious cranks - we can include here the ultra-repetitive Steve Freeman. But at least these people are confined to letters. Rex Dunn, on the other hand, is indulged to a ridiculous degree on the basis of articles that are boring, pompous, dogmatic and, in the case of his pseudo-writings upon culture, using up acres of space to say precisely nothing. Such writings wouldn’t be indulged by any serious journal, so I do wonder why the Weekly Worker wants to lower its reputation by producing such garbage.
I had a look on Rex Dunn’s website and he claims he was “no-platformed” by the Weekly Worker in relation to an article on transgender that was not printed (thank god!). The idea that Rex Dunn has been no-platformed by the Weekly Worker is so ridiculous that no further comment is required on that. However, Dunn produces part of an email from the editor: “Initially, the editor was happy to print my critique: ‘It’s 5000 words - a two pager!’, he said.” This gives a disturbing insight into the Weekly Worker editorial team becoming excited over vast quantities of words arriving in their inbox. Sure, this particular Dunn article was turned down, but we can envisage how plenty of other non-controversial articles have made it, given that they had a vital ability to fill up space.
Doesn’t this take us back to the production ethos of the famous Soviet one-tonne nail: a triumph of quantity over quality? Dunn is probably working on these assumptions right now, brewing up 5k of nothingness. Fixing a hole where the rain gets in.
Somewhat belatedly. I read Jack Conrad’s June 20 piece on deep greenism the other day. I particularly enjoyed the section on the Wandervögel youth movement - a topic that is of considerable interest to me - although I’m not sure about some of comrade Conrad’s claims.
It is true that the German youth movement’s various post-World War I reincarnations comprised so-called bündische youth groups, many of which adopted an outlook that was elitist and völkisch (ie, ethno-nationalist and therefore anti-Semitic) and adhered to the Führer principle.
However, as Conrad himself concedes, even then there existed working class, leftwing and even outright communist-leaning sections in the movement - such as, for instance, the immortally named Order of Proletarian Armed Templars. Some were influenced by national Bolshevism - a Soviet-friendly and subjectively socialist political current, hailing for the most part from the ultra-right. Others still, such as the Naturfreundejugend (Young Friends of Nature), merged ecological concerns with working class politics, anti-militarism and democratic socialism. When the bündische groups were outlawed in 1933, some were integrated into the Hitler Youth, while others continued their lifestyles in illegality and even outright opposition - the Edelweiss Pirates, whose activities ranged from plain non-conformism to genuine anti-fascist resistance, spring to mind.
With regards to the original pre-World War I Wandervögel, however, I think it is incorrect that “most were overt racists and many viciously anti-Semitic”. There certainly were some anti-Semitic, anti-Slavic and anti-French currents, and by 1913 some groups had begun to exclude Jewish youths. But, by and large, the romantic nationalist streak that ran through the Wandervögel movement was not significantly informed by racist ideas - many groups had Jewish members. Let us also remember that assimilated Jews were among the most fervent German nationalists during that period and were greatly overrepresented among World War I volunteers.
It was not until the youth movement’s rebirth after the war that anti-Semitic ideas took hold to a considerable degree. That’s also when Jewish youth began to form their own bündische groups, which later became the Zionist youth movement.
The humorous description of the pre-war Wandervögel as “rightwing hippies” contains some truth, but not the whole truth. One ought to think of that movement as eclectic and, typically of the 1890s, subject to a great deal of ideological cross-pollination. At most, it contained seeds that could, under certain circumstances, grow into something Nazi-like - as is indeed true for the hippie movement of the 1960s, which was also a mixed bag of reactionary and progressive ideas.
I understand there was a big debate on the 1980s German left as to the political character of the youth movement. More recent German literature on the subject does suggest that it was overwhelmingly anti-Semitic and proto-fascist. Alas, much of it tends to depict virtually all of German history, including the history of the left, in that light and is extremely unreliable. Usually, it is written by establishment ‘leftists’ who know on which side their bread is buttered.
Finally, yes, I’m sure there were “homoerotic overtones”, as comrade Conrad writes, but it is not true that the Wandervögel and bündische youth groups were male only or generally segregated. This differed from group to group, and indeed the question of whether groups should be mixed-gender or not was a topic of heated debate - as was the question of ‘alcohol consumption v teetotalism’.
I read Pete Gregson’s letter asking that people “also seek to get their cities twinned with Palestinian ones”. Last time I checked, Britain and Palestine were capitalist states, so the cities aren’t theirs - theirs being the working class. So all we are doing is twinning cities in capitalist countries.
Seriously, what on earth has this to do with socialism? Nothing, as far as I can see. What will it do to alleviate the problems that the working class in Palestine face? Again nothing. In Palestine, the working class are oppressed, just as they are in Israel and every other capitalist country. The only way to end this is to replace capitalism with socialism.
The summer 2019 edition of Unite Landworker - the magazine of Unite the Union members working in rural areas - has an interesting article titled ‘Introducing … “Robocrop”’.
The article is about the world’s first raspberry-picking robot. Initial trials of the robot have just been completed at a farm in west Sussex. Fieldwork Robotics - a spinout company of the University of Plymouth - is focussing on raspberries because they are hard to pick. As the article says, “Robotic fruit and vegetable pickers - as well as other technologies, such as autonomous dairy farms - are set to revolutionise food production in the coming years.”
Unite the Union has an industrial strategy called ‘Work, Voice, Pay’, which focuses on how automation can be made to benefit workers. The problem here is that Britain is a low-wage economy based on cheap labour. If communists are to see new technology introduced in agriculture on a mass scale, then the wages of rural workers need to be raised substantially to make it worthwhile investing. Communists therefore call for: (1) an end to piecework; (2) raising the minimum wage to £500 a week; (3) trade union control over hiring and firing; (4) sharing out the work with no loss of pay; and (5) reducing the working week to 20 hours or less.
Communists must embrace new technology, including robotics, lasers, artificial intelligence, etc, so we are seen as the most modern politicians. This way we can make communism become a reality in the not too distant future.
Someone asked me recently if there was anything to choose between the two candidates for the leadership of the Tory Party and the UK prime minister. I said: “One’s a liar. The other’s slyer.”
Keep it up
Thanks to a number of generous donations, our July fighting fund running total has increased by £265 since last week - we now have £805 towards our £2,000 monthly target.
Let me start by listing the six standing orders we received - thanks go to FK (£35), CG and NH (£30 each), DV and GD (£25) and SM (£10). Then there were three PayPal gifts from comrades CL (£25), MS (£10) and KV (£5). But the pick of the week was LT, who wrote us a £50 cheque.
She says: “I only just came across the Weekly Worker - what a great surprise it was to see how close your views are to mine on the Labour Party, anti-Semitism and Momentum. How much we need things stated as consistently and clearly, as you do!”
Thanks for those kind words, comrade - and thanks also to VT for the more modest donation of £20 he added to his subscription.
Anyway, we’re doing quite well, with only 10 days of the month gone. Let’s hope things continue at this rate, so we reach that £2K again! l
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