Prefiguring the more public row over trans rights in the Labour Party, last week Tribune editor Ronan Burtenshaw felt it necessary to clarify the magazine’s position in 18 words from page 61 of their latest edition. The words in question, written by Laura Pidcock, ran as follows: “The women’s movement needs the space to talk about sex and gender, without fear of being ‘no-platformed’.”
Burtenshaw ran to Twitter to clarify in a now-deleted response that Tribune will not be providing any such “space”, implying he agrees with the no-platforming and expulsion of prominent socialist-feminist union activists involved with groups such as Women’s Place UK on the grounds that they are transphobic.
It is a sad indictment of the state of much of the Labour left that, having learnt absolutely nothing from the anti-Semitism witch-hunts, they are now prepared to call for the expulsion of anyone who dares to express the belief that women’s historic oppression may be based on biological sex. Indeed such is the degradation of the left on identity politics that some are supporting Dawn Butler - who believes babies are born without a biological sex, that 90% of giraffes are gay and has a pre-Corbyn history of voting, as you’d expect an MP of the Labour right to do on various issues such as benefits sanctions, 42-day detention and others - for deputy leader over the obvious left candidate, Richard Burgon.
I wait with interest to see what position the newly formed Labour Left Alliance takes on identity politics. It has been formed with a clear position around the anti-Semitism witch-hunts, but that is not the only free speech issue live in the Labour Party or the wider movement, and any group worth its salt must put freedom of thought and debate at the apex of its raison d’être in the current climate of denunciation, expulsions and the prioritisation of optics over all. Meanwhile I’ll continue enjoying the Weekly Worker’s culture of lively debate rather than waste £10 a quarter on Tribune’s glossily presented pages of worthy windbags, writing the same articles over and over again.
For or against
Ian Donovan has charged that I was Nazi-baiting everyone I conflicted with on the philosophical origins of Nazism. I ‘Nazi-baited’ Sebastian Burgen of Historical Materialism because I criticised his softness on Friedrich Nietzsche; I ‘Nazi-baited’ Tony Greenstein because I criticised his softness on Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt; and Toby Abse ‘Nazi-baited’ Jack Conrad over his disagreement on Norman Finkelstein.
The light dawned when you realised that the reason these political positions had to be defended by Ian Donovan, Gilad Atzmon and others was because many Zionists attacked these people as Nazi ideologues and whatever the Zionists attack must be OK, relatively speaking. Ian sees the whole world in terms of ‘for or against Zionism’. If you are against, you could be any kind of a Nazi and that is OK. If you agree with what a Zionist says on any subject whatsoever, you are a capitulator to Zionism. I will leave the reader to conclude where lies anti-Semitism in this.
There is a traceable line of the development of thought lodged in the philosophical idealist - as opposed to the dialectical materialist - view of history. The idealist tradition came from god, as the origin of all, though to Nietzsche “God is dead” and only the Übermensch can rule and the Untermensch must serve them. And that does ultimately lead to a justification of Nazism, even if that was not the original intention. Elements of the thought of ancient Greece, Plato and Rome, Kant and Hegel, which led to the mystical Arthur Schopenhauer and thence to the elitist Nietzsche, the individualist Wittgenstein and Heidegger - the uber-Nazi who never abandoned his Nazism and never apologised for his part in promoting and defending the holocaust. And he never expressed a genuine ounce of sympathy for its victims, in the holocaust or in the war itself.
Of course, elements of ancient Greece, Heraclitus, the 18th century Spinoza, Kant and Hegel also led to Ludwig Feuerbach and thence to Marx and Engels, and from them to Lenin and Trotsky.
So modern philosophy must explain Heidegger: why is this Nazi regarded as the greatest philosopher of the 20th century by so many liberal intellectuals? Why were Jean-Paul Sartre and so many others so strongly influenced by this philosophy of the Übermensch? Why wasn’t Heidegger executed in Nuremberg post-war? Why did the Jewish liberal, Hannah Arendt, become his lover after 1923 and then from 1950? Her piece, ‘Heidegger at 80’, is a shocking defence of his philosophy in general. And is it possible totally to separate his politics, his Nazi Übermensch supremacism, from his philosophy, which is supposedly progressive?
Can human thought be bifurcated in this manner? Of course not. The truth is that his philosophy is a defence of capitalism in general against the appalling vista of the socialist revolution, as it appeared in Russia in October 1917. In the 1930s Nazism was necessary to prevent socialist revolution in Germany, so it served that purpose. In the 1960s it served Sartre, Stalinism and the French philosophers to defend against revolution in France in 1968.
And it served Hannah Arendt to defend Israel ultimately against the Palestinians, albeit now in a liberal, democratic form - still counterrevolutionary, but no longer bearing the stigma of Hitler. So ponder the contradictions of liberal men and women forced to rely, like Hannah Arendt, on a Nazi philosopher to defend their privileges against the dreaded socialist revolution.
Join the WPB
I welcome Paul Demarty’s article, ‘George’s marvellous medicine’ (February 13), about the new Workers Party of Britain.
As Paul correctly points out, “the 2019 general election result will have dashed very many dreams against the rocks amongst the Corbynites. Though many will no doubt simply fall into cynicism and despair, some will find new political homes.” This, is where the Workers Party of Britain comes in. Its name doesn’t have the baggage of the ‘Communist’ Party of Britain, or the ‘Socialist’ Party in England and Wales, or the ‘Socialist’ Workers Party, or the Scottish ‘Socialist’ Party. As the revisionist Alliance for Workers’ Liberty learnt many years ago, the words ‘communist’ and ‘socialist’ have negative connotations, whereas the word ‘workers’ has a positive gloss to it.
In the video of George’s speech at the founding rally of the WPB in Birmingham on February 1, he explains how he keeps a close eye on the local election result for the Labour Party. He concludes that the Labour vote has recently fallen to around 20%. As Paul writes, “Galloway is no fool, however, and, if he can use the Brarites to bootstrap his organisation, he can perhaps build himself another power base to edge them out later on.”
The models of the Party for Socialism and Liberation in the US, the Workers Party of Belgium and the Socialist Party in the Netherlands are good ones. Interestingly, in the latter party, both the International Marxist Tendency and Committee for a Workers’ International have members active inside it. Talking of the CWI, I read in the February edition of its Socialism Today magazine that its Scottish comrades are seriously discussing the formation of a Scottish Workers Party, given the death agony of the Labour Party in Scotland.
The key word here is ‘Workers’. George Galloway and the CWI have both learnt, with different conclusions, the need for a new party to represent the ‘left-behind’ working class in the former ‘red wall’ seats of the north of England and the west Midlands, and in Scotland - although George is opposed to the Scottish nationalism of the CWI and the SNP.
As George said in his Birmingham speech, “Labour is rapidly going the way of the French Socialist Party and the Greek Pasok - big parties can become small parties, and small parties can become big parties.” The best news for the Workers Party of Britain will be if, as seems likely, Sir Keir Starmer becomes leader of the Labour Party. Interestingly, even Corbyn’s own Islington CLP voted to nominate Starmer for leader - such is the mood of Labour activists in metropolitan London.
Rebecca Long Bailey would be a disaster as leader. As both the Weekly Worker and the Socialist Party have pointed out, Rebecca is a new Neil Kinnock, who is travelling to the right at a speed of knots. Hence her commitment to press the (nuclear) button and support for the anti-Semitic witch-hunt led by the misnamed Jewish Labour Movement.
I have now become a supporter of the Workers Party of Britain. After a six-month probationary period, I will apply to become a full member of the party. I suggest other disillusioned Corbyn-supporters who read the Weekly Worker do as I have and join the WPB.
Comrade Ann McShane makes a lot of interesting points in her article, ‘Sinn Féin’s success, left’s collapse’ (February 13). However her statement, “Sinn Féin transfers under the PR system went as often to the Greens as to the left”, is completely false, as even a cursory perusal of the actual counts would demonstrate.
In Dublin South West, Paul Murphy of Rise got 3,444 transfers and Sandar Fay (SP) got 1,571, while the Greens got 590. These transfers were key to Paul retaining his seat. In Dublin South Central, Brid Smith (PBP) got 4,794, Joan Collins (Independents4Change) got 1,747, the Greens 408 - both left candidates retained their seats. There are many other examples.
Overwhelmingly Sinn Féin voters transferred left where there was a candidate; they also transferred to the centre-left Social Democrats, left independents and Labour. There was a huge campaign, both formal and informal, amongst activists on social media for transfers to be targeted. This was a class-conscious vote, directed at removing the centre-right from power. It wasn’t a vote for social revolution, but then there were no candidates of that strain standing.
I suspect an element of the PBP’s desire to cosy up to SF is influenced by the enormous rate of transfers it received and indeed on which the election of all of the six most leftwing TDs visibly depended.
When I read about the deportations commented on by Eddie Ford (‘Cruel and unusual punishment’, February 13), it reminded me of an episode of That was the week that was from nearly 60 years ago, which included a satirical interview with ‘Henry Brooke’, the then home secretary. He had, among other things, decided to deport a woman to Jamaica for £2 worth of shoplifting, but then backed down after an outcry. After listing other crimes of his, the punch-line of the sketch was: “If you’re home secretary, you can get away with murder”.
I must admit that I had to check the details online, but it has come to mind so often over the years. The real question must be, with deportations to Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, as well as the West Indies and other places, is there any home secretary who does not have blood on his or her hands?
The last few years have seen such a rush of deportations, including the Windrush scandal, that we are looking not just at murderers, but at a string of serial killers. But, of course, they don’t care.
The Weekly Worker has never been too hot on humour, and in these grim times we all need a bit of a laugh. So I was delighted to read the parody by Elijah Traven (Letters, February 13). This brilliant piece of satire will have been particularly appreciated by older readers like myself; younger comrades may find it hard to believe that people - more or less - like this once existed in real life.
My only complaint is that it went on a bit too long. A good comedian knows when to stop. You should offer comrade Traven a regular humorous column - but impose a strict word limit.