Jim Cook writes of the failure of a ‘divide and rule’ policy in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein (Letters, November 21).
I agree that there was a policy failure, but it wasn’t a case of attempting to implement a flawed policy. It was a case of having no policy at all. The US, the UK and the rest of ‘the coalition’ entered into an invasion of Iraq with no clue as to what would happen in the aftermath of ‘victory’. They had a vision of joyful people on the streets greeting their tanks and troops as liberators.
They were utterly ignorant of the tensions and divisions within Iraqi society that were kept in check by strongman Saddam’s Ba’athist regime. They had no understanding that this regime was holding a divided society together as a secure polity and functioning economy - no mean feat, given the crippling sanctions imposed on Iraq by the ‘west’. They failed to anticipate that regional powers - Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates - would seek to assert not only influence, but hegemony, over the Iraqi state so blithely destroyed by the US and its friends.
In Samson Agonistes Milton describes the mighty Samson as “eyeless in Gaza”. The blinded strongman is chained to mighty pillars for all to mock. In his rage, with his strength returned to him, he brings down the whole building, killing himself and everyone within it. Likewise the war machine of the US brought the Iraqi state crashing down on the heads of its citizens - mayhem and sectarian civil war ensued. Hundreds of thousands of lives blighted by sheer folly.
To sum up this whole sorry tragedy, I suggest an epithet for US intervention in Iraq = ‘Clueless in Basra’.
Not the messiah
I think eager young canvassers revved up to get Corbyn elected are not finding it as easy on the doorstep as they’d been led to expect. The Labour candidate for Calder Valley, has once again, in all his election leaflets (as in 2017), not made any mention of trade unions, socialism, public services or Corbyn!
Something seeming to escape comment by the left is Corbyn’s plan to allow workers a 10% stake in firms, presumably by shares they will be allowed to sell? This undermines the constant promises to repeal (all?) anti-union laws. Workers collectively getting a 10% share in the business they work for do not need to be union members. Having a stake in the company you work for has long been shown to dampen union membership rates and militancy. Workers with such shares are unlikely to resort to industrial action to gain a better pay rise, when told by the employer that any such action will undermine profitability and therefore the value of their shares! Along with those employers embracing ‘wellbeing’, ‘equality and diversity’ policies and ‘safe spaces’, workers fooled by such apparent care from their employer do not join a trade union.
The same anti-union ethos applies in having ‘worker representatives’ on the corporate board. Who elects them? - and again, they do not need to be in a union. The European Union has this in some member-states, such as Germany, and union membership rates are much lower where there are workers on the company board of directors.
Did our major union Labour affiliates not oppose these anti-union measures? If not, is it because those unions have no intention of fighting a Corbyn-led Labour government, no matter what pledges it fails to honour? You can safely repeal anti-union legislation where you have workers with shares against taking industrial action!
As for Corbyn’s disastrous Andrew Neil interview on November 26, his and the Labour executive’s failure to oppose the redefinition of anti-Semitism to now include any criticism of the actions of the state of Israel have backfired spectacularly and Corbyn deserves all the ‘anti-Semitism’ flack he is now getting. Weekly Worker articles have predicted that all his concessions to the right will not stop this campaign against him, yet he threw good socialists under the bus.
As for Steve Freeman (Letters, November 21), Corbyn will not get a “credible deal” (defined as what exactly?) from the EU and knows it. Firstly, retaining the customs union and membership of the single market is not Brexit - it is a variant of ‘remain’, so all Corbyn is offering is soft or hard versions of ‘remain’, which is therefore a total betrayal of the 17.4 million (mainly working class) ‘leave’ voters. Labour also conspired to take ‘no deal’ off the table with no people’s mandate to do so. The EU will not agree any genuine ‘leave’ deal, however soft, for fear voters may go for it.
Corbyn could not answer Andrew Neil on who in the Labour Party would present and campaign for his so called “credible” deal (there will be no shortage of takers to present the Labour ‘remain’ side, of course). This is disingenuous blather from Corbyn. If we get to this rigged ‘people’s vote’, the turnout will be low, while the anger of ‘leave’ voters feeling cheated will lead to another rise in support for the far right - and that will be the fault of all those pushing for this deceitful, dishonest ‘people’s vote’.
It is not the job of revolutionaries to foster illusions in the Labour Party - even less in Corbyn’s ‘capitalism is safe with us’ party.
Paul B Smith is right to warn that an electoral victory for Labour will foster illusions in leftwing nationalism and class-collaboration (Letters, November 21). However, from my neck of the woods in North East Cambridgeshire, I can see no sign that Corbyn will defeat Johnson in the December 12 election.
So safe is the North East Cambridgeshire seat for the Tories that Stephen Barclay (Brexit secretary) is sitting on such a comfortable majority (21,270), that he’s found time to campaign in the next-door marginal seat of Peterborough. At the same time, the Liberal Democrat candidate is “twinned” with the more winnable seat of South East Cambridgeshire. The huge vote for Stephen Barclay in 2017 of 34,340 votes, with Labour coming second with 13,070 votes, makes North East Cambridgeshire the eighth-safest Tory seat in Britain.
Why this is so is the source of much intensive debate amongst socialist activists in Fenland. There are many reasons why the Tory vote is so high, and the Labour vote so low, in a constituency having the lowest house prices in East Anglia, apart from the depressed seaside town of Great Yarmouth.
One big reason is that North East Cambridgeshire is a typical Tory shire made up of four market towns - Wisbech, March, Chatteris and Whittlesey. Whilst farmers no longer control the North East Cambridgeshire Conservative Association, they have been replaced by a new breed of petty landlords, each of whom have one or two properties to rent out.
A further reason is that Fenland has become a retirement destination for thousands of former blue-collar workers, who have bought their council house in Essex or London and moved to Fenland as part of the ‘white flight’ out of the south-east. Then there are the 15,000 ‘self-employed’ workers in Fenland, together with the thousands of people who commute each weekday from Fenland to well-paying jobs in Cambridge and Peterborough. There are also thousands of workers who still tip their cap to the Tory squire.
All the above leads to despair amongst socialist activists in Fenland. Whilst North East Cambridgeshire CLP has a budget of £5,000 for the election - using funds obtained from the rent it gets from an Indian restaurant, which occupies the former Wisbech Labour Club - there are very few activists on the ground. Those who are active are spending most of their time helping the Labour candidates in the neighbouring seats of King’s Lynn and Peterborough.
The only way to defeat a career politician like Stephen Barclay is for Labour, in future elections, to use the slogan, ‘For a workers’ MP on a worker’s wage’. This would involve the Labour candidate pledging that, if elected, he or she would live on the average wage of a Fenland worker (currently around £500 a week), with the surplus being donated to the Labour Party.
Paul B Smith’s warnings about a Corbyn government are correct. I tend to agree with the analysis of the Socialist Equality Party, which predicts that a Corbyn government will quickly go the way of Syriza as part of the final ‘Pasokification’ of European social democracy.
The Weekly Worker should not get too tied up with supporting the election of a Corbyn-led Labour government. If a Syriza-type ‘betrayal’ occurs, working class people will look for someone to blame. The Weekly Worker should keep well out of the crossfire from the fall-out of such a betrayal. The best way to do this is by building the membership of the CPGB rather than the Labour left.
As Paul B Smith concludes, Marxists should be discussing a political climate within which Marxist parties with a mass working class base can emerge.
Eyes wide open
The ‘illusion’ that either Labour or Corbynism could ever be taken in a solidly leftward direction, thus becoming a genuine vessel for socialist ideas and ideals, is made very clear by Paul B Smith. But maybe the comrade doesn’t go quite deep enough into the subtleties of things. The most striking aspect of Labour, as revamped/rebooted under Corbynism (and so also the greatest of its treacheries), is how it continues to ape the underlying but inherent traits of capitalism. Most egregiously so by its peddling of myths, methodologies and associated deceptions, whereby international matters or events are presented as distinct and largely unrelated to the domestic.
OK, jolly good to offer back the Chagos Islanders their home that was ripped away by imperialist requirements for US airbases and other colonialist rampaging; all very fine and dandy to offer verbal and theoretical support to the Palestinian cause or decry US “interference” in its Latin American backyard, etc. But, in actual fact, any such carefully rationed mini-internationalism only serves to accentuate in the minds of British citizens that rigid separation of domestic politics from the global. Implicitly it re-cements both a disguising and obscuring of how our comforts, standard of living, our advantages of lifestyle in the ‘developed’ countries are entirely reliant upon systematic, ruthless, often rabid and always oppressive economic control of workers and peasantry within the remaining three-quarters of the planet. That process represents the exploitation of the most meaningful “many” by a most significant “few”; relatively well protected as well as relatively affluent workers continuing to benefit from parasitism upon far poorer counterparts, even if only in that remarkably sophisticated/hybrid fashion.
All well and good to carry out a bit of renationalisation, the removal of hideous cultural inequities and so on. However, the refusal of social democracy or specifically Corbynism to expose an unbending interconnection between domestic and international factors is their most criminal failing. Indeed, rather than merely exposing that interconnection, what Corbyn’s and McDonnell’s outfit should be doing is relentlessly shout out and thus uncompromisingly hammer home this crucial and seminal matter to any UK workers who choose to pay attention - and then adopt fundamentally different, incomparably more effective approaches to political action.
With that comprehension in mind, all UK communists will now await the outcome of our December general election - not only with sincere optimism, but also eyes wide open.
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David John Douglass