Jim Creegan takes issue with my scepticism vis-à-vis Christine Blasey Ford and her charge that Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her when both were in their teens (Letters, June 24, replying to my article, ‘Paralysis of the ruling elite’, June 17). Since he regards Ford as “eminently believable”, please permit me to explain why I disagree.
Ford’s testimony was indeed vivid and compelling - that’s why TV audiences hung onto her every word. But, while her memory seemed to be near perfect with regard to the alleged attack itself, even though it took place more than three decades earlier, it turned vague and hazy when it came to certain attendant details, such as the location of the house in which the incident occurred, how she got there, how she travelled the half-dozen miles back home, etc. Comrade Creegan attempts to explain this away by noting that “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.” Hence, “Judge’s subsequent failure to remember the event was therefore hardly remarkable.”
Yes, but Judge didn’t merely fail to remember - he dismissed Ford’s account as “absolutely nuts”. Moreover, a friend of Ford’s who accompanied her to the party also says that it doesn’t make sense. As the friend, Leland Keyser, later told a couple of reporters for The New York Times, “It would be impossible for me to be the only girl at a get-together with three guys, have her leave, and then not figure out how she’s getting home. I just really didn’t have confidence in the story.”
The Times reporters also noted that Ford’s friends tried to pressure Keyser, a recovered alcoholic, into backing up Ford’s account. “Maybe one of you guys who are friends with her can have a heart to heart. I don’t care, frankly, how fucked up her life is,” one texted. Another suggested publicising Keyser’s “addictive tendencies”, adding: “Perhaps it makes sense to let everyone in the public know what her condition is.”
This certainly doesn’t reflect well on Ford. Then there’s the sworn statement by Ford’s ex-boyfriend, which is damning as well. I didn’t mention the statement for lack of space, but now it seems more than apropos. In it, the boyfriend, who asked that his name be withheld, testified that Ford, in their six years together, “never brought up anything regarding her experience as a victim of sexual assault, harassment or misconduct” and “never mentioned Brett Kavanaugh” either. Although she later told friends that the rape attempt was so traumatic that it left her with a fear of enclosed places and thus a fear of flying because an airplane is “the ultimate closed space, where you cannot get away”, the boyfriend recounted that she “never indicated a fear of flying”, even though they once toured Hawaii by plane; and she never mentioned a fear of enclosed places despite subsequently moving into “a very small, 500-square-foot house with one door”. While Ford, who has a doctorate in psychology, testified that she had never taken a lie-detector test, the boyfriend said she once coached a close friend on how to take one, back when the friend was applying for a government job.
Is Ford’s credibility really as unimpeachable as supporters claim? Perhaps not. Then there’s the fact that she never told anyone about the allegedly traumatic sexual encounter until it came out in psychotherapy 30 years after the fact. Could it be that what we are presented with here is a typical example of therapeutically induced ‘recovered memory’ that may seem powerful and convincing at the time, but is riddled with so many contradictions and loose threads that it would never survive a serious cross-examination in a court of law? This also seems more than possible.
I apologise for burdening British readers with details about what must seem like a minor incident in a faraway land. But the Kavanaugh hearings were important because they showed how an otherwise bankrupt political party could use its alliance with corporate media to shape and control public opinion. Facts were manipulated and dissidents shouted down in a way reminiscent of both Russiagate and the phony brouhaha over Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged anti-Semitism a couple of years later. It doesn’t matter whether Kavanaugh is conservative and Corbyn leftwing - the media manipulation in both cases is the same.
Jim and I have clashed over the Democrats before. He argues that the party may be headed for a split and that the breakaway faction could conceivably provide the nucleus for the emergence of a genuine US labour party. Not only do I regard this as far-fetched, but I believe the theory leads him astray by causing him to go soft on the party’s liberal wing - the source of all his prayers and hopes. But he should think twice about rushing to the defence of St Christine and all she represents. Yes, Democrats may seem like the lesser evil in certain respects. But they’re just as bad as the Republicans in other regards and in some areas are even worse.
Media manipulation is one of them, as both Kavanaugh and the uproar over Russian collusion illustrate.
I found Daniel Lazare’s article on the self-immolation of US liberal commentator Jeffrey Toobin both interesting and infuriating (‘Paralysis of ruling elite’, June 17).
What annoys is Daniel’s idea that Donald Trump used ‘lynching’ as a neutral term in regards to geo-politics in Ukraine. The term has massive resonance in the United States as a form of extra-judicial murder. Trump clearly used the term in that context, along with all its baggage.
Comrade Lazare cites a little of the Oxford English Dictionary definition of the term - “subjecting a person to verbal/physical attack; publication of an attack on a person, vilification”. Chambers Dictionary is more succinct and direct in its definition - “to judge and put to death without the usual forms of law”.
The great democratic and rule-of-law-driven United States has a sad history of these murders. Decent, honest folk dragged out of their homes to be strung up on trees as ‘strange fruit’. And suspected malefactors removed from police custody and despatched on a lamp post before due legal process was done.
Think on, comrades.
Donald Parkinson fails to prove his assertion, in relation to the demands of the minimum programme of the Parti Ouvrier for the 1881 French legislative elections, that “if instituted in totality they would entail a break with capitalist rule over the state and establish the political rule of the proletariat” (‘Build on solid foundations’, June 24).
Many of the demands have been met. There is now, in most developed capitalist countries, enough freedom of the press, meeting and association for a party committed to the maximum programme to be formed and operate. Church and state have been separated in France since 1906. True, the national debt has not been suppressed, but how would that help achieve the political rule of the proletariat? Standing armies still exist, but their abolition is never going to be achieved under capitalism (though I believe Costa Rica has not had a standing army since 1948) and, if the working class was strong enough to impose it, they would be strong enough to win an election to implement the maximum programme. As to control of the police by local authorities, isn’t that fairly widespread in the US?
Most of the economic demands have been met too, the exception being that state industries are not run by those working in them. But, even if this was implemented, the workers would have to run these industries on capitalist lines, producing for sale on the market with a view to making a profit and so have to ‘exploit themselves’ as it were.
Instead of trying to read something ‘revolutionary’ into that minimum programme, why not defend it for what it was - measures to try to improve the lot of workers under capitalism? I would guess that’s how Marx saw it.
As it turned out, over time the minimum programme became the maximum programme of parties like the POF and they eventually evolved into mere democratic and social reform parties (allowing Bernstein to point out that the emperor was naked). A good reason, I suggest, why a party aiming at the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production by society as a whole should not have a minimum programme (nor, of course, a ‘transitional programme’ - the same thing, only more unrealistic).
Rarely have I read such an incoherent article as Eddie Ford’s ‘Blue and red walls crack’ (June 24). It encapsulates all the problems with the CPGB’s strategy towards the Labour Party and its understanding of racism.
Eddie questions the decision of the Labour Campaign for Free Speech to withhold support from Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater in the Batley and Spen by-election on July 1. Permit me to correct one misapprehension on Eddie’s part. The LCfFS is a labour movement campaign, not a Labour Party campaign. And the reason for our decision is quite clear and can be found in Dan Hodge’s article in the Mail on Sunday: ‘Who’s spreading the poison that could put the final nail in Keir Starmer’s coffin?’ (June 20).
The article quotes “a senior Labour source”, saying: “We’re haemorrhaging votes among Muslim voters, and the reason for that is what Keir has been doing on anti-Semitism ... He challenged Corbyn on it, and there’s been a backlash among certain sections of the community.” Faced with nothing to challenge the Tories with, and facing almost certain defeat on July 1, Starmer has taken the decision to play the race card in order to win the white working class vote.
Yet what was Eddie Ford’s reaction to this statement? “This might or might not be the case. The language is vague and it could be a simple statement of fact.” This is unbelievable. Compare this to dissident Tory columnist Peter Oborne, who described the statement as being “among the most poisonous political briefings in recent times. With Labour facing defeat in next Thursday’s Batley and Spen by-election, a ‘senior official’ from the party turned on Muslim voters, accusing them of anti-Semitism“ (Middle East Eye June 25).
This suggests that the CPGB has a problem understanding what racism is. Muslims haven’t objected to a campaign against anti-Semitism, but a campaign supporting Zionism and Israeli apartheid. And also for that matter the vicious communalism and racism directed at the Kashmiri people by Narendra Modi’s BJP government. There is no evidence that Muslims are any more anti-Semitic than white British people. What they are able to do more easily than white people is see through the phony nature of Starmer’s opposition to ‘anti-Semitism’.
The Labour campaign in Batley and Spen is a replica of the one that Labour MP Phil Woolas fought in Oldham West and Saddleworth in 2010, which was to “make the white folk angry”. In that case the high court threw Woolas out of parliament for lying about his Lib Dem opponent. The Labour right threw a hissy fit when Harriet Harman, quite correctly, suspended Woolas from the party. All those who were later to lead the fake ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign surfaced to express their righteous indignation.
John Mann, the Tory’s ‘anti-Semitism tsar’, leapt to Woolas’s defence. As the Financial Times reported, “Among those to have spoken out in support of Woolas was John Mann, a close friend of his.” (November 9 2010). Another was Tom Watson, who wrote: “I’ve lost sleep thinking about poor old Phil Woolas and his leaflets.”
Eddie Ford has the audacity to accuse the LCfFS of “profound strategic disorientation”, when the disorientation is all his own. We refuse to back overtly racist Labour campaigns, which seek to divide the working class on grounds of race, religion or colour. Our support for Labour candidates is not unconditional. Racism is a border we are not going to cross. The Jewish Labour Movement refused at the last election to support Labour candidates who were not Zionists. Why should the left unconditionally support Labour candidates, however racist and reactionary? This is disarming the working class, not strengthening it.
Contrary to Eddie Ford’s jibe, we are quite clear that we are a campaign for free speech. However, even free speech has its limits. My own position is that free speech does not include fascists’ right to advocate violence against racial and religious minorities or their dehumanisation. The CPGB stands in the tradition of radical bourgeois democrats such as John Stuart Mill and Voltaire, but I prefer the tradition of anti-fascism, as summed up in the slogan, ‘No Pasaran’.
Eddie Ford describes the Labour Party as a united front of a special kind. My own view is that such a formulation is just a rhetorical device to say that you support a reformist Labour Party, come hell or high water. That may be correct in most circumstances. However, there is no united front in support of racism - ever.
Let us be clear where the statement on Labour “haemorrhaging votes among Muslim voters” came from. (Angela Rayner initially called for an investigation. This was quickly dropped and the reason is clear.) The term, “senior Labour source”, is code for either Starmer’s office or Starmer himself.
Socialism will not be advanced one jot or tittle by supporting this reactionary representative of the British state.
I must take issue with Eddie Ford’s facile rejection of HS2 (‘Blue and red walls crack’, June 24). He implies the new railway is being built “to knock 20-30 minutes off a journey from Birmingham to London”, and that HS2’s role will be like Concorde: “to enable the wealthy elite to jet off to New York at more than 30 times the cost of the cheapest option”.
HS2 is not just a route from London to Birmingham. Contracts are already in place for phase 2a to Crewe, and the bill for the western leg of phase 2b to Manchester will be introduced next year. The eastern leg of Phase 2b will go to Leeds, and HS2 trains will also serve destinations further north on the conventional rail network.
The primary purpose of HS2 is not faster journeys, but to expand the rail network. By providing new capacity for inter-city trains on HS2, the existing network will be able to boost local and regional services and increase freight traffic. It is far cheaper to build a new line than to add tracks to existing routes, passing through heavily developed urban areas. Once this is understood, it makes sense for the new line to incorporate the latest rail technology, which includes the ability to travel at up to 250 miles per hour.
The fares for journeys on HS2 are yet to be decided. But, given the large number of seats on each train and the high frequency of services, it is clearly meant for routine use by the general population rather than “the wealthy elite”. Fare differentials on HS1 in Kent may provide a guide - here you pay around 16% more to use the high speed services.
There is an assumption on the left that we should campaign to stop HS2; that it is a waste of public money and an ecological disaster. The facts do not support these assertions. Rail travel can be the most environmentally friendly mode of transport and I cannot wait for my first trip on HS2.
So be it
Bruno Kretzschmar is well known as a regular - almost weekly - correspondent to the Weekly Worker who has a history of quirky takes on unusual topics. I was surprised to see, therefore, that he is calling for a restriction on topics discussed, including unidentified aerial phenomena and “such gush” (Letters, June 24). Perhaps Bruno has not quite thought this through, as more than a few of his previous letters have covered what could be termed outlandish topics or more mainstream questions in a quirky manner.
To remind ourselves I was looking at science writer Martin Gardner’s Science: good bad and bogus (1983), where black holes are viewed with some scepticism, as is the Big Bang. Both of these are now a part of conventional science, as people have looked at the evidence provided by much more powerful telescopes and so on. If the debate had been closed down 30 years ago, then obviously these discoveries would never have been made.
Bruno must also be aware that in the social sciences certain topics are more or less taboo: ranging from research into IQ and race to match-fixing in professional football. I recently became aware of a PhD candidate who wanted to do research on people interested in ‘detransition’ and the thing was viewed as potentially making too many waves for the university rather than on its intellectual veracity.
The simple point is, as Marx mentioned in his 1865 ‘Confession’, “nothing human is alien to me” and “doubt everything”, which seems good advice to me.
The last thing we need in this period of cultural relativism and ‘woke’ culture is restrictions on thought and if that means putting up with some barmy ideas on the journey - so be it.
I was fascinated by Tony Clark’s anti-Posadas proposition that UFO space visitors may not in fact be benign and ancient - which “clearly reveals that humans were genetically engineered from homo erectus into homo sapiens as slave-workers for the aliens” (Letters, June 17).
Why on heaven or earth would beings which can traverse at least one universe and conquer light speed to reach the outer reaches of this galaxy need genetically modified homo erectus slave labour? What was it that our distant primitive forebears could do that they and the aliens’ unimaginable technologies could not do? The need for physical labour of the kind suggested by slave labour would surely have been dispensed with long before they started traversing multi-universes. Even I do not envisage coal-fired spaceships, but even if we could have them, would our homo erectus forebears understand the technology of wielding a shovel, for example? Their use of very primitive tools would surely have been something even a most basic machine could handle.
Bruno Kretzschmar’s comment, on the other hand, condemning any consideration of such flippancies and irrelevancies really doesn’t understand what such speculations have to do with Marxism (Letters, June 24). Marxism is a scientific platform, upon which the study of anything is capable of consideration on the basis of dialectics and materialism. Art, design, human endeavour, religious thought of all sorts, human grasping for understanding of the earth - and the universe. Everything from theories of a flat earth to an inner earth, of ‘space gods’ and wooden gods. Consideration of our attempts to make sense of the place we occupy is the very essence of what Marxism is. Of course, we shall comment on them and put forward analyses and perspectives based upon the science of human thought and the material conditions in which it develops. I think comrade Bruno misses the point and the appreciation of human speculation and ceaseless search for answers.
It reminds me of the arguments within the Soviet leadership about film, Freud and ‘modern art’ - even of humour and its relevance to the social reality of class struggle. Too many of that bunch thought like Bruno. Anyone who has ever seen the clip of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin watching a Charlie Chaplin film in an endeavour to get them to support Soviet film-making will understand what I mean - shades of the three wise monkeys come to mind.
Juan Posadas was visionary in his consideration of aspects of humanity, spirituality and deeper understanding of a communist earth, as it affects not just humankind but all life. His ‘here and now’ perspectives, on the other hand, are based upon the inevitability of what he called ‘the workers’ states’ and imperialist nuclear war - the call for a pre-emptive nuclear strike by the workers’ states. His preparation of the Posadist international for the period before and after the nuclear war led to a highly distorted ultra-cult organisation, based upon monolithic centralism, together with fearful internal party discipline and demands upon its cadres.
David John Douglass
Gerry Downing’s comment (June 17) on my letter the previous week is strange indeed, and I find it hard to figure out its logic. Conceding that something has happened implies that one has up till then tried to deny it. But it is no concession to state that Iran and Russia saved Assad’s murderous tyranny from a popular uprising, or that the US gave support to the Syrian opposition up to a point without actively seeking to overthrow the regime. A factual account of events is one thing: value judgments another.
There was surely a strong aspect of class struggle in the uprisings of the Arab spring, especially in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria. But in the inter-imperialist rivalry which tore Syria apart, all the intervening states and their allies from abroad have been on the same side of the barricade. Unfortunately, a number of people on the left have in recent years thrown out the spirit of Zimmerwald altogether, and started to look at the world through the lenses of geopolitical campism.
Not so stupid
Fallout from Brexit continues to hit the UK economy hard. Since December 2019, 1.3 million migrants have returned to their home countries in eastern Europe.
According to the Daily Mirror on June 21, UK bosses “face the worst staffing shortages in two decades”. Given that the trade unions in the UK are useless, it is no wonder that more than 17 million people voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum. The reasoning was that Brexit would mean migrant workers going home, causing a shortage of workers, which would lead to a rise in wages of British workers.
According to the Mirror, there is a shortage of 190,000 hospitality workers; 70,000 lorry drivers, 40,000 nurses and 500,000 agricultural workers. Apparently, there could be a shortage of pigs in blankets this Christmas because of a shortage of meat-processing factory workers, given that EU nationals once accounted for up to 80% of staff at some sites. All this is leading to a rise in wages. According to the recruitment website, Reed.co.uk, average salaries in catering and hospitality have risen by 18%, with retail increasing by 10%.
The vote for Brexit therefore seems logical - the migrants have returned home, leading to a shortage of staff and a subsequent rise in wages. So those workers who voted for Brexit were not so stupid as many on the left first thought.