SLN correction

Tony Greenstein is quite right to correct me over my characterisation of the Socialist Labour Network as being part of the pro-Kremlin left (Letters, May 5). From what he quotes, and from what I have read myself, the organisation seems to take a principled position on the Ukrainian conflict. This is most welcome.

However, why I included the SLN in the pro-Kremlin left owes not a little to comrade Greenstein himself. He wrote a private letter to the CPGB, where he praised the SLN position and described the internal fight conducted against the advocates of social-imperialism (naturally carried out in the name of defending brave little Ukraine against the Russian big-power bully). He also recently wrote a Weekly Worker article on Ukraine (‘Pro-war socialists’, April 21). Mistakenly, I took his article as expressing the majority position of the SLN. Clearly, this was wrong and I apologise for that.

As for comrade Greenstein and others like him, they really are in the pro-Kremlin camp, seeing something progressive in the Putin regime. Though he pooh-poohs the idea, there can be no denying that comrade Greenstein refuses to call for the withdrawal of Russian troops. Why? Errrr … because he sees them as playing a progressive role. Indeed he welcomes the “liberation” of Mariupol and calls for “critical support” for the Russian army “defending” Donbas.

Comrade Greenstein says that “in essence” there is a civil war between, on the one side, Russian-Ukrainians and, on other side, Ukrainian-Ukrainians, Volodymyr Zelensky and the fascist Azov battalion. This is not seeing the woods for the trees. There is indeed a civil war, but this has been subsumed by a much wider struggle, which pits Russia against the US and Nato in what is in essence a proxy war.

Comrade Greenstein’s call for “critical support” for Russian forces results from his abandonment of working class politics and his desperate search for a substitute. He calls my criticism of himself and others on the pro-Kremlin left “sectarian”. That is only to be expected.

Needless to say, his claim that the CPGB rejects unity in action around demands such as the abolition of Nato, ending sanctions on Russia, withdrawal of British SAS troops from Ukraine, etc is also to be expected, but is equally unfounded.

Jack Conrad

For or against?

In the first half of his letter (May 5) Tony Greenstein makes a case for Russian withdrawal in agreement with the Socialist Labour Network, which condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and then, on his own behalf, he disagrees with the SLN (and with himself apparently) and acknowledges that “Russia’s intervention is clearly a defensive reaction to Nato’s expansionist aggression - a position I thought that the CPGB also adhered to”.

However ex-CPGBer Tina Werkmann tells us that “I strongly oppose the Russian invasion, which is not ‘defensive’. I strongly oppose Nato’s role in helping to create the current situation. A plague on both their houses. Both sides are led by enemies of the working class and socialists should have nothing to do with supporting.” This is a position repudiating the ‘defend Ukraine’ mob of pro US/Nato, pro-imperialist leftists around Chris Ford’s Ukraine Solidarity Campaign. Tina ends up with a position to the right of Tony and the CPGB, but at least it is consistent.

The pope has adopted Tony’s and the CPGB’s line (is he a regular reader of the Weekly Worker?): “Nato barking at Russia’s gate may have compelled Putin to unleash the invasion of Ukraine. I have no way of telling whether his rage has been provoked, but I suspect it may be facilitated by the west’s attitude,” he speculated. Does it not go without saying that Russia is entitled to defend itself, or is the only right the one afforded to the US and Nato to urge on its Azov fascist battalion to attack Russia? “It is also the case that the Ukrainian military had been massing on the borders of the Donbas prior to February 24 with the intention of invading the two breakaway republics,” Tony acknowledges and only disagrees with Russia’s attempts to seize Kyiv - a tactical rather than a strategic difference if we had conceded Russia’s right to defend itself, against all the stooge imperialist Russophobes, and himself as part of the SLN.

Why does Tina think the Russian invasion was not a defensive move? Zelensky was preparing an invasion of the Donbas and Crimea, so forced the move to defend the Russian-speakers and ethnic Russians in the Donbas and Russia itself. The Minsk agreements were brokered by Germany, France and Russia, but not the USA, which funded, trained and politically directed the Azov battalion to “fuck the EU”, as Victoria Nuland so colourfully put it, as she prepared the Maidan coup. She organised the ouster of the democratically elected president, corrupt oligarch though he was.

As Bob Pitt has pointed out, the Minsk agreements were scuppered when Zelensky visited the front line and tried to order a ceasefire and a partial withdrawal. The Azov battalion mounted ferocious opposition, threatened to assassinate him, and he was forced to tacitly acknowledge who really ran the illegitimate state, which makes second-class citizens of its ethnic minorities, as Israel and Northern Ireland do and did. And Ukraine has now banned all leftist parties and its so-called trade unions are simply corporate arms of the state with no independence whatsoever.

On Lawrence Parker and playing snooker with a rope (Letters, May 5), I have just taken my daily dose of political Viagra and would observe that he is not a Stalinist, but a third-campist Stalinophile of Stalinist origins, like the rest of the CPGB - even if his Stalinophilia is more developed than most others.

Gerry Downing
Socialist Fight

Freedom of speech

A recent Jacobin article is headlined: “PayPal has begun quietly shuttering leftwing media accounts’ (May 3). The article points to two media outlets: “Consortium News, founded by the late Associated Press investigative legend, Robert Parry, in 1995 as one of the web’s very first independent, reader-funded news outlets”; and “MintPress News, a leftwing, web-based outlet based out of Minnesota”.

Consortium News was about to launch its Spring Fund Drive and its editor-in-chief, Joe Lauria, reported that “the company said it would hold onto the thousands of dollars accumulated in the outlet’s account for 180 days and reserved the right to seize the money entirely to pay for unnamed ‘damages’”. Mintpress similarly was told that PayPal would hang on to their money for 180 days. In both cases no warning was given and Jacobin continues: “Given the outlet’s critical coverage of the Ukraine war, and given the far-reaching steps already taken in the ‘information war’ over the conflict, Lauria writes that it’s ‘more than conceivable’ the outlet is being punished for its Ukraine coverage.”

Journalists too have been targeted and both publications have been critical of US policy regarding Ukraine. The article also points out that PayPal has form here, when they, “under pressure from the US government, froze the account of WikiLeaks”.

This is a bit reminiscent of the move a few years ago, when the police here decided that Prevent should watch out for ‘extremists’ on the left and right in the UK and listed, I believe, 20 organisations allegedly falling under this rubric. It included, as I recall, the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain, but not, to our disappointment, the CPGB.

A little earlier there was an article by Max Blumenthal on the US site, Alternet, headlined: “Washington Post promotes shadowy website that accuses 200 publications of being Russian propaganda plants” (November 25 2016). A group called ‘PropOrNot’, the members of which had to have their identities kept secret to protect them from Russian hackers, according to the Post, produced this list of over 200 dodgy groups who were clearly working for Russia. As Blumenthal says, “Among the criteria PropOrNot identifies as clear signs of Russian propaganda are ‘Support for policies like Brexit, and the breakup of the EU and euro zone’; and ‘Opposition to Ukrainian resistance to Russia and Syrian resistance to Assad’.”

Quite a wide group then. This nonsense was picked up and spread on by journalists from The New York Times and Bloomberg, along with campaigners for the failed election attempt of Hillary Clinton. Blumenthal goes into some of the background of this piece of fiction, but it had its impact despite its falsity.

Over the next few weeks assorted ‘left’ sites in the US (and elsewhere?) noted a sharp drop in their readership. From being near the top of searches for various stories, they more or less disappeared from view. This had a major effect on their finances, especially if they were reliant on advertising.

I used to look at Alternet itself quite often, for instance, as they had interesting stuff, but over the last few years they have gone right over to ‘clickbait’ (eg, joining so many with their Trump stories) and have a load of short pieces that are rarely worth the click. Blumenthal himself seems to have had few articles on this site since this 2016 one. He has written a lot of good stuff over the years in quite long articles - not much use for Alternet now.

We can expect a lot more when it comes to attacks on the left - the ruling class would love to close down any disagreement or resistance.

Jim Nelson

New home

Sheffield Left was launched on May 1, International Workers’ Day, as a new political home for those who want to pursue socialist answers to the problems created by capitalism. It replaces Sheffield Labour Left that has been organising within the Labour Party locally since 2017. Sheffield Left recognises that, while some will still seek socialism through the Labour Party, for many that is no longer a political solution.

Convenor Lee Rock commented:

“Following the resignation of Jeremy Corbyn and others in the leadership of the Labour Party, for many people who share the ideal of solidarity with the working class there is no obvious political home in the current political landscape. Sheffield Left offers that home and looks to support those in struggle - locally in Sheffield, nationally against the Tories and internationally in places such as Palestine.

“We support the principle of public ownership and control over private profit, which was encapsulated in the policies presented by Corbyn in his time as Labour leader. This is not a Corbyn fan club looking to turn back the clock, but a progressive banner for those wanting, as a minimum, a living wage for workers such as those in the gig economy, fair rents on housing and a welfare system to help those least able to help themselves.

“Sheffield Left is seeking to support any group in Sheffield in conflict with employers, landlords or government exploiting their elite position of power, putting profit before people.”

What do we stand for?

New members are welcome who share such a vision. Please contact the convenor, Lee Rock (lee.rock@live.co.uk), through our Facebook group (www.facebook.com/SheffieldLabourLeft) or on our website (www.sheffieldlabourleft.org).

Adrian Roxan

Committed radical

Kathy Boudin died on May 1 - I’m sure she would have agreed it was a good date for her to go.

People my age (and probably American) will remember a ‘revolutionary’ group called the Weather Underground - an anti-war (Vietnam) breakaway from the Students for a Democratic Society. The name came from a Bob Dylan song, one line of which was: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

Kathy’s father was a well-known radical lawyer, acting for, among others, Paul Robeson and Daniel Ellsberg (remember Pentagon papers, anyone?). She went to a radical school with the likes of Angela Davis, so she had from the start a background of radicalism, and became active in the civil rights movement prior to joining the WU. Complete details of the Weather Underground, what happened to it and Kathy’s arrest can be found in various places. Suffice to say, she received 21 years to life in prison for felony murder following the killing of two police officers (she was the driver of the getaway car), and served 22 years, being released in 2003.

At the time I admired her courage, which led me to question my own, although I didn’t think the group’s policies or violence would lead anywhere politically. But what was more interesting to me about her was what she did whilst in prison and afterwards. She was a prison activist - raising money for inmates to take college classes, organising a parenting scheme for inmates, helping build a community scheme for HIV/Aids (at that time considered a frightening and unknowable illness), editing and co-authoring a book on Aids and women. In prison she got a masters degree and after release a doctorate, and continued being active in causes for the poor and oppressed for the rest of her life.

I mourn her passing. Kathy was a dedicated radical and, although we were not in the same political groups and were only active together during the civil rights era, I maintain a great deal of respect for the work she did. I was only sorry she didn’t put her undoubted dedication and compassion into a different and more fulfilling organisation.

Gaby Rubin