Those who receive circular reminders from Labour HQ will have seen this recent pep-message:

“Polling day is a week away, and every party is focused on the Batley and Spen parliamentary by-election.

“We know the Tories will be digging into their deep pockets to splash out on advertising. We know that George Galloway will be cosying up to people in a community he’s barely spent a month in.

“But we have the force of our movement, thousands of Labour members, who just like Kim - our incredible candidate - care about the community.”

Arguably, the activities of Galloway - who has shown good taste in praising at least one Weekly Worker letter analysing anti-Semitism and its purported opponents (December 10 2020), and who has spent time canvassing and then representing many Muslims in Bradford and indeed in Tower Hamlets - are far less pernicious than those of the longstanding Yorkshire tyke, Keir Starmer, who has put up a “senior Labour official” to rubbish Muslims (and us), depicting them as collectively anti-Semitic. You may have noticed a fairly full account in the Groaniad (June 21), which claims that Starmer’s “stated intention” of not allowing an “issue of the subcontinent to divide communities here ...” Voters there may well recall the speed with which Starmer endorsed Modi’s breach of the constitution of India and of international agreements about Kashmir.

So Starmer and the Labour Party are building a partition wall between South Asian heritage British subjects and their families and friends in the subcontinent. Can they succeed? Even the partition wall of Starmer’s friends in the Israeli state, in spite of splitting families and forbidding the cohabitation of Palestinians with their spouses, have not yet succeeded in destroying the Palestinian and indeed the entire Arab community. Can the “100% Zionist - no ifs, no buts” Starmer succeed in inflicting such damage on British subjects?

As for the libel that all British Muslims are anti-Semitic, I have seen no evidence that this piece of carefully anonymous Goebbelsry has been repudiated.

Perhaps the Labour Party game plan is to outdo Thomas Mair, the local ‘premature’ advocate and practitioner of Red Wall politics. It would, and perhaps will, be interesting to learn. My personal take is (slightly) more charitable: it is the imperial instincts that make Labour secretaries of state (actual or shadow) yearn to be ‘honest brokers’ re Palestine, Africa, Northern Ireland and indeed some voters in Batley and Spen - not to mention the West Midlands. Many will find that Kim Leadbeater’s local and professedly unpolitical history does not stop them from finding her incredible. The solar topee or pit helmet do not suit genuine democrats - nor does prating about the ‘White Man's Burden’ (second edition).

Jack Fogarty

Moving right

Although I’m in the retired section of PCS members, I was able to observe the union conference held on June 13-14.

I have written previously about the arrangements for the annual delegate conference being held online (Covid prevented it being held at all in 2020) and most of my misgivings were correct. Although branches this time could register as many delegates as they wanted, only one for each branch could actually vote and every vote was based on their branch membership. This means the NEC could simply rally their largest branches to get their favoured motions through and I think this happened a few times. At a physical conference delegates can see the hall and the balance of voting for and against, but now all we could see was either the president, Fran Heathcote, calling for delegates to vote/move/speak on motions or the speaker on the motion under debate.

Motions were decided by branch memberships, so we could not see or be told how many delegates voted for or against motions. No emergency motions were allowed and all delegates wishing to speak on a motion had to register in advance. So only the president knew who they were - we didn’t know how many of those wishing to speak were called. And delegates who decided they wanted to respond to points made during a debate could not then ask to speak.

Conference did discuss the move to a Zoom conference, criticising the undermining of membership democracy, but that motion was lost.

Readers may know that general secretary Mark Serwotka’s previous open interference in the elections for assistant general secretary had split Left Unity down the middle, with a new group called Broad Left Network (BLN) of mainly Socialist Party members and ‘Socialist View’, being Serwotka loyalists. The unprincipled pact called Democracy Alliance (Left Unity and PCS Democrats) dominated the NEC elections as usual, with 14 new members getting elected. BLN had some limited success, but overall lost some previous places, The Independent Left (dominated by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty) went their own way again.

Let me go through the main motions I found of interest. As usual Mark Serwotka, with his fan club on the national executive committee, dominated conference and got through everything he wanted with little dissent. I hear that PCS Left Unity - the majority of which today gushingly lauds Serwotka - had no model motions, so content are they with the NEC.

A motion from the NEC on national pay policy was “overwhelmingly carried”. This contained a lot of the usual aims, such as seeking coordinated strike action with other public-sector unions (something the PCS continually asks for, but never sees delivered), with another national strike ballot to be held “at the earliest appropriate opportunity”. PCS has failed to win two national ballots in a row - the most recent got a 48% turnout, when Tory legislation now requires a 50% turnout for strike action. There was some justified criticism of the union leadership for having negotiated multi-year pay deals both in the department for work and pensions and in revenue and customs (HMRC), which sold terms and conditions of service for an above-inflation pay rise. These are two of our biggest departments, which were, as a result, taken out of national strike action over pay. The HMRC has been vicious against PCS reps, trying to get them sacked. It is hypocritical for Serwotka to condemn ‘fire and rehire’, whilst accepting the deal for worse terms and conditions.

Then there was the Labour Party. Previous PCS policy was to recommend members vote for a Corbyn-led government (even though the PCS is not affiliated to any party, past conferences having voted against affiliating to either Labour or Momentum). Clearly this policy needs revising. There were no motions wanting us to affiliate to Labour under Starmer, nor urging a vote for Labour. NEC Motion A38 suggests conducting a reassessment of our policy concerning parliamentary, mayoral and council elections for a further decision in 2022. The assessment will concern itself with how political campaigning can assist members to win disputes, how this could build our union, etc, and might take us back to seeing which candidates support PCS policies.

Criticism was made at conference that PCS had dropped this policy in favour of simply supporting all Labour candidates in the 2019 general election - even those on the right hostile to Corbyn. So the PCS focus will no longer be just on what the Labour Party is doing and tying us to them alone. Good! Interestingly the Morning Star on June 14 carried a feature by Ian Hodson, the BFAWU union president, stating that a majority of its members do not trust Labour now or think they represent their interests or values. Most would not vote Labour if they still promise another EU referendum. I think a similar survey of members should be taken by Unite, Unison and the GMB.

Turning to the strategic future of the union, I previously thought that the NEC would drive through a merger with Unite, but the leadership has decided to persevere with PCS for a while (motion A9) - £1.4 million has been saved due to using Zoom instead of physical meetings, so there is no longer any urgency apparently. Motion A9 listed the areas where we are looking to improve turnout, whether in elections or strike ballots, Three other motions were lost (because A9 was carried): A10, calling for a recruitment review on where we are losing/picking up members and why, while A11 and A12 concerned the election of more full-time officers. There were the usual arguments against, citing the low 2021 NEC elections turnout of just 7.5% , which demonstrated that ‘the members aren’t interested in this’. A damning indictment, you may think, of the record of the ruling NEC factions since the creation of PCS in 1999.

Overall I am concerned that nowadays the NEC comprises a number of activists I have never heard of or seen speaking at conference. I did not like it when SPEW and the Scottish Socialist Party dominated the NEC, but the calibre now is actually weaker.

Anyone daring to criticise Mark or the NEC is condemned as being ‘sectarian’ and just ‘having a go’. Those doing so may well have been in the BLN or IL, but their comments were legitimate and shared by many outside their factions. But those controlling the NEC and conference now want a happy-clappy atmosphere, where everyone just does whatever the NEC proclaims is good for the PCS - rather like the Labour Party and the TUC then. The NEC elections, the motions from the NEC and restrictions on membership democracy represent a clear move to the right - and to think this is where Mark Serwotka came in, when the rightwing ‘moderates’ controlled the PCS at its formation.

Dave Vincent


Readers can decide for themselves about Daniel Lazare’s argument that the firing of Jeffrey Toobin - a leading writer for the New Yorker magazine until accidentally caught on camera fondling himself in a Zoom session with colleagues - is a major symptom of ruling class decline (‘Paralysis of ruling elite’ Weekly Worker June 17). I am rather writing to take issue with his assertion that Christine Blasey Ford’s 2018 accusation of attempted rape against Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh - since elevated to the court - was “no more convincing than what liberals had to say about Russian collusion …” On the contrary, I found Blasey Ford’s accusation eminently believable.

The absence of corroborating testimony in this case was hardly out of the ordinary. Rape is seldom attempted in the presence of witnesses, and the only other person said to have been at the crime scene was a male classmate of Kavanaugh’s, Mark Judge, whom Blasey Ford alleged to be his accomplice (Blasey Ford testified that she knew Kavanaugh and Judge - then students at a boys’ school near the Maryland girls’ school she attended - by name at the time of the incident). Judge’s subsequent failure to remember the event was therefore hardly remarkable.

Nor was it suspicious that Ford could not recollect the address of the beer-drenched soirée at which the assault was alleged to have taken place, or the route by which she got there or went home. It is understandable that the particulars of the assault - being forced into a bedroom by Kavanaugh and Judge, who were both drunk, thrown onto a bed, while Judge played loud music to drown out her screams, then mounted by Kavanaugh, who tried to rip her clothes off and, groping and grinding, covered her mouth with his hand until she feared being smothered to death - were more firmly etched in her memory than the topographical details of an evening in 1982, 36 years before she went public with her account.

Blasey Ford’s accusation, moreover, was not without supporting evidence. She volunteered for, and passed, a lie-detector test. In 2012 - six years before she came out with her charges - her therapist noted that she recounted in one session being attacked by pupils “from an elitist boys’ school”, who went on to become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington”.

More importantly, however, Lazare and others who doubt Blasey Ford’s story must account for her motives. They must explain why a prosperous and successful academician and research psychologist would, after nearly four decades, bear false witness against a powerful jurist - especially when her accusation was sure to expose her to intense public scrutiny… and worse: Blasey Ford, in fact, received multiple death threats, forcing her to move house four times during the ordeal.

Kavanaugh did not claim that Blasey Ford was exaggerating or misremembering a real incident. He flatly and indignantly denied everything. Does Lazare believe that his accuser invented her lurid tale out of whole cloth at the bidding of Nancy Pelosi or the Democratic National Committee to keep Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court - or perhaps imagined the incident out of her own intense political animus toward Kavanaugh and the Republicans? Readers can also weigh the plausibility of such conjectures.

Lazare takes aim at some of the right targets, then perpetrates overkill. It is true that Democratic politicians often take refuge in anti-racism and anti-sexism to appear ‘progressive’ without offending their corporate benefactors. Identity politics is indeed an obstacle to class-consciousness, especially in its more extreme iterations. Some ideologues of the Black Lives Matter movement view the first importation of enslaved Africans to the colonies in 1619, rather than the War of Independence, as America’s founding act, and tend to view black-white conflict as the motor force of the country’s history. More than a few Me Too spokespersons fail to distinguish between minor sexual misdemeanours, ill-chosen words and sexual assault. Censorious, moral self-righteousness and virtue-signalling are now rampant in universities and professional middle class circles.

None of this, however, means that black people are not routinely brutalised and murdered by police, or young women not preyed upon and raped by powerful men. Socialists, in my view, need to make a point of opposing these things. There is a difference between events themselves and how they are understood and used politically. One can fight black oppression without being a black nationalist, and uphold gender equality without being a feminist. Identity politics should not be combated by denying or deeming insignificant actual instances of extra-class oppression. Lenin taught us that, among other things.

Jim Creegan
New York


This is a belated reply to Tony Clark’s letter (May 20), which itself was a reply to my obituary letter for Cliff Slaughter the previous week.

Tony Clark says that Marx raised “dictatorship into a principle of socialism” (we mustn’t mention the dictatorship of the proletariat, lest we distinguish between the Russian Revolution and Hitler’s coup of January 1933). Trotsky advocated “socialist revolution in backward countries, which were not ready for it”, explains comrade Clark, and so he is responsible “for most of the things which went wrong in the Russian Revolution and the Chinese revolutions” - and also for the crimes of Pol Pot, etc, because of that rotten and ridiculous theory of permanent revolution. He must really hope that his readers do not take the trouble to look up the theory or read how Trotsky defended it until he was assassinated by Stalin’s agent in August 1940. Oh, why would he assassinate his own inspirator if comrade Clark’s analysis is correct?

Of course, central to permanent revolution are two inextricably linked ideas: combined and uneven development; and the international nature of all - socialism is impossible in a single country, just as today we understand that the battle against women’s oppression, against racism, against climate change and against the Covid-19 virus cannot succeed within single countries or even continents. And the class-consciousness of workers internationally is global also as a consequence.

Trotsky explained in his Theory of permanent revolution (1931):

“With regard to countries with a belated bourgeois development, especially the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the theory of the permanent revolution signifies that the complete and genuine solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation, above all of its peasant masses … The democratic revolution grows over directly into the socialist revolution and thereby becomes a permanent revolution … The completion of the socialist revolution within national limits is unthinkable.”

Comrade Clark is a convinced popular frontist despite the appalling record of that ‘tactic’, or rather its outright abandonment, in both the semi-colonial world and in the imperialist heartlands. “Class alliances are based on the political goals for the revolution,” he correctly informs us, but if you want an alliance with the ‘democratic imperialists’ you must murder all the militant anarchists, Trotskyists and other Marxists, because the goal is to save democratic capitalism and prevent socialist revolution, as in Spain in 1936-39. Such was the fear that Stalin’s counterrevolutionary bureaucracy had of revolution in Spain that it was in 1936 that the Great Purges began in earnest in the USSR, where every remaining member of Lenin’s 1917 central committee, with the exception of Alexandra Kollontai, was executed as a counterrevolutionary, along with every other direct participant in the revolution, apart from Stalin himself and Molotov.

But to abandon the popular front is “an ultra-left approach to revolution”, opines comrade Clark. We must defend the good name of Dimitrov, who explained so well to the seventh and last congress of the Comintern in 1935 why we must abandon class struggle in order to keep the ‘democratic imperialists’ happy. And if you couldn’t do that, then why not have a go at keeping the fascist imperialists happy, as in the Stalin-Hitler pact of August 1939?

And that - together with Mao’s Great Leap Forward of 1958 and his Cultural Revolution from 1966 - is all Trotsky’s fault. Really?

Gerry Downing
Socialist Fight

UFOs guff

Are other readers of the Weekly Worker not jolted to the bones, as certainly I am, by how letters as well as main articles recently have been devoted to such matters as UFOs, aliens, their ‘genetic engineering’ of homo sapiens, etc?

Do the generators of suchlike guff see no other priorities for consideration and development? In turn, does no comrade out there in the vast shit-heap that is the capitalist paradigm not ask themselves that simple but stark question of how the hell did scientific/dialectically materialist Marxism get to this? Equally so, how any amongst us holding this type of attitude is promptly shot down by the very same sterile and insulated hyper-intellectualism that generates such nonsense in the first place - needless to say, in that combination of self-mutilating and decadent manner. Nothing whatsoever of ‘virtue signaling’ is intended here, because, of course, we’re all in one boat when it comes to near-total isolation. And when ‘decadence’ is referenced that’s not in any horribly bourgeois moral sense, but purely insofar as decay is maybe the inevitable stage we’ve reached as a result of that isolation.

Bruno Kretzschmar