It is election time again for the Labour Party’s national executive committee, with constituency nominations required by June 17, and voting after that. Unlike last time, when the secretive Centre Left Grassroots Alliance was able to cohere its ‘acceptable’ left groups around a single slate, this time a failure to agree is apparent.
One of the CLGA’s core constituent groups, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, is promoting a slate of five candidates under the banner of the ‘Grassroots 5’. They are sitting NEC members Gemma Bolton, Yasmine Dar and Mish Rahman, plus newcomers Jess Barnard (chair of Young Labour) and Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi (media officer of Jewish Voice for Labour).
However, Momentum is branding its slate as the ‘Grassroots Voice 4’. The difference being the omission of Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi - clearly the ghost of Jon Lansman’s Zionism still haunts that organisation, despite the Forward Momentum make-over. In her personal statement Wimborne-Idrissi states: “I will stand firm against proscription of left groupings; defend those unjustly accused; oppose anti-democratic actions by the leadership …” - clearly too confrontational for Momentum.
But it gets worse. Momentum attempts to justify the exclusion of this supporter of Palestinian rights with dishonest formulations (bear in mind the left won five seats last time):
“Why we are only backing four candidates? The Grassroots Voice 4 candidates are supported by all organisations of the CLGA, and in the interests of left unity, Momentum is only backing those candidates that have this broad support. To win this election we need maximum unity and coordination across the left, as under STV, if too many left candidates stand, we risk distributing the left’s total vote share too thinly and damaging our chances.”
The first reason is spurious, as Momentum is the organisation that doesn’t back Wimborne-Idrissi: apart from them she does have “broad support”.
The second reason attempts to blame the single transferable vote (STV) system for something that is a feature of ‘first past the post’: that is, splitting the left vote amongst too many candidates. Under STV, votes are transferred from unsuccessful candidates, so they always count. In fact the way to waste votes under STV is to stand insufficient candidates, thus preventing transfers.
Like other left groups in Labour, Momentum is clearly suffering under Starmer’s ‘no tolerance of socialists’ regime. Its response is to avoid fighting and hope to preserve its careerist machine for better days. But what remains is just a hollow shell of the movement that emerged with so much potential back in 2015.
These are terrible, terrible days. A young Ukrainian woman described to me, with tears in her eyes, the conditions for her bed-ridden grandmother, for relatives and friends, some with toddlers and babies, in many parts of Ukraine. Any remaining uncertainties I may have had on one question disappeared; this war is a crime, an awful crime; it is correct that so many are demonstrating and demanding an end to it.
But in marching and demonstrating, in Germany, the USA or elsewhere, it would be wise to look carefully at some who are next to you, or up there on the speakers’ platform, waving blue and yellow flags and loudly praising resistance, democracy, people’s sovereignty and other fine goals. Am I mistaken in wondering: didn’t I see some of them before, actively opposing just such goals? And don’t some of them smell suspiciously of luxurious skyscraper corner offices?
Was it not their forebears who began the 20th century by wresting Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines from Spain, but then, like general Jacob Smith, when facing fighters who had expected freedom, gave his soldiers this command: “I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn - the more you kill and burn, the better it will please me. I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in actual hostilities against the United States.”
Until 1990 such attacks were largely motivated by a deep hatred of anything even slightly connected with that fearsome menace, socialism, and its threatened confiscation of the millions - billions today - which they or their fathers had piled up, thanks to the muscles, brains and sacrifices of the other 99% of the world’s population. Not a penny should be taken from them, they determined, and this made them mortal enemies of the USSR and the so-called eastern bloc.
But after 1990, with this motivation and rationale gone, others were needed. ‘Human rights’ were again invoked, sometimes in curious ways. This soon included more killing from the skies, long before Kyiv or Kharkiv. In 1991, during the Persian Gulf war, the destruction of the Amiriya bomb shelter in Baghdad killed 408 civilians, most of them burned alive. In 1999 the ‘human rights’ of Kosovo were bravely defended by Nato’s bombing of civilians in Serbia. Then came 9/11 and the need for a full-scale ‘war against terror’ - 20 years of death and destruction in Afghanistan.
Not only manufacturers of armaments are waving blue-yellow flags with one hand and concealing profit calculations with the other. If their real hopes come true, if Putin’s move goes awry and ends up with a regime change in Red Square - as in Maidan Square in 2014, but far bigger - what new opportunities would be opened up! What this all adds up to is a continuing hope for world hegemony.
When East German annexation was agreed upon in 1990, Soviet army withdrawal was matched by the American and West German verbal promise to a very trustful Gorbachev that Nato would never expand past the Elbe River into East Germany or beyond. The promise was soon broken. The Pentagon-based Nato moved its military technology on to Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Balkans, the Baltic countries, thus surrounding all but the southern flank of European Russia with an increasingly tight, hostile ring.
Since that goal of world hegemony in many wealthy American brains, Republican and Democrat, was never abandoned, and only Russia and China stood in the way, Ukraine was clearly being built up as a counterforce against one such barrier, indeed as a ramp for further action. Which leads us to 2022.
Was this extreme hostility by media and politicians the reason for Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine? Despite hours and piles of paper and ink regarding the question, I see absolutely no basis for warnings that Putin has plans to ‘expand his empire’; I have not seen a single word threatening Finland, Poland, Romania or the Baltic trio, which are often loudest in exhortations. And Germany? The idea of attacking Germany is totally unthinkable - though not enough to hinder big armament expansion plans in Berlin.
In the past Russia was systematically threatened and also attacked - and is surrounded by a world with over 750 American military bases, with an American military budget bigger than the next 10 countries combined, and with four times as many Nato soldiers as Russians in uniform.
We must strictly reject any nonsense decrying the will of the Ukrainians to remain independent and sovereign - though not as part of a Nato-led threat. And yet Putin’s soldiers, tanks and planes have invaded Ukraine, with results just as horrible for those affected, even if not on the same scale, as American attacks in the Philippines and Vietnam, Nicaragua and Iraq - or in two of the worst crimes ever committed by humankind: at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Whatever Putin’s motivation, it has caused great misery in Ukraine - and also given an immense steroid push to the forces of the political right: the traditional Russia-haters, those thinking constantly of protecting and increasing their fortunes and those who want no peace, but only victory over Russia. They want to demolish not only the reign of Putin, but of Russia in general as a barrier to capitalist hegemony, ruled from Washington, Wall Street and the Pentagon.
Perhaps more explanatory background facts will emerge some day. Today, however, I feel most clearly; I am against killing and destruction. I will therefore join in a march for peace - but not in step with the greedy, violence-hungry forces who have taken up this issue to pursue their own disastrous goals. They are not my allies and I fear the atmosphere of hatred now being cultivated, even against books and sopranos. It is getting dangerous. My overriding hope is that current talks may lead to peace, to an end of death and destruction, and to the repair and renewal of all efforts to build a world without exploitation, without aggrandisement, without aggression, without war.
In my opinion, the Ukraine war features two different parties which are facing the imperialistic military offensive by the Russian state: (1) the Ukrainian people; and (2) the Ukrainian state, as the representative of the bourgeoisie in the country that is supported by Nato, the USA and the European Union.
The Russian state’s army has attacked and raped the people of Ukraine, invading the cities, killing ordinary people and destroying residential buildings, displacing a very large mass of people. Thus the alignment of the Ukrainian people with their state (except, of course, the majority in the three independent zones of Luhansk, Donetsk and Crimea, where the majority of the populations is of Russian descent and Russian-speaking) is natural and normal.
Nevertheless the people should try to organise and create their own independent role against the Russian state’s military forces; in this case also the Bewusstsein of the people about the bourgeoisie will be promoted, as possibly will the creation of the necessary political formation for countering and struggling against this state, especially after the war. It is clear that the struggle of the Ukrainian working class for a socialistic revolution and transition to socialism in the true sense is not feasible in the current situation because of unfavourable conditions globally.
In my opinion, the actual cause of the Russian invasion and increased authoritarianism is the threat of Ukraine’s membership of Nato and thus being besieged by this imperialistic military organisation. But the role of Nato, the US and EU is not considered part of the current redivision of the region. The previously blatant colonial exploitation and plundering of colonial and semi-colonial countries no longer exists in the present historical epoch. Today the imperialists seek allies, as they compete with each other.
In my opinion, the working class and all the relatively progressive currents and individuals in any country, especially in Russia, should take a stand against Nato, the US state and the EU administration, while completely condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and demanding an immediate end to this war and the complete withdrawal of the Russian forces.
I agree with Mike Macnair that the Bolshevik policy of supporting national struggles in the face of the west’s invasion of Russia did shape the Chinese Communist Party’s nationalist orientation (‘Cementing US control’ March 10).
The Chinese, however, were already autonomously following in the footsteps of their own independence reformers and of the 1850 Taiping rebellion and the anti-foreigner 1899 Boxer Uprising. Thinkers like Mao Zedong though were firmly against the official national culture that made the people supine in the face of emperors and imperialism. This explains both his authoritarianism and voluntarism: he was China’s ‘coach’, stirring up dynamism and containing this.
It’s unfortunate that the later Soviet policy of ‘socialism in one country’, represented by the five-year plan, encouraged these ‘China first’ tendencies. The urge to make China great gave the CCP an early lead in defying the head office (besides the guerrilla-led Yugoslavia) and a flexibility in establishing detente with Nixon and with India - with whom China was to be both enemy and ally.
We now acknowledge the nationalist mistake, from whatever sources it came: internationalism is the road to global change.
Whilst some might find this a silly nitpick, I do think the front cover of last week’s issue does a major injustice to Psychrolutes marcidus.
Contrary to the claims of the editor(s), this poor bastard of nature, always being picked on, is not spineless.
Psychrolutes marcidus is a member of the phylum Chordata and its subphylum Vertebrata (from the Latin word vertebratus, meaning ‘joint of the spine’ - Wikipedia).
It is also a member of the order of Scorpaeniformes, meaning their close comrades include the scorpionfish and the lionfish - ie, more spine than not!
If comrade SJ Gould were here, I am sure he would be very disappointed with our mistreatment of one of life’s wonderful oddities.