Defensive war

Whilst Jack Conrad admits that his allegation that the Socialist Labour Network is part of a ‘pro-Kremlin’ left was wrong, he is nonetheless insistent that I am part of that very same left. Even worse, I see something “progressive in the Putin regime” and I have abandoned working class politics.

Making an assertion is one thing, but proving it is quite another and Jack offers no evidence to back up his charges. As far as I’m aware, the position of the CPGB was that this was a defensive war. Perhaps, under the pressure of the Nato Broadcasting Corporation, Jack and the CPGB have changed their position. Who knows?

However, Lenin was quite clear in ‘The principles of socialism and the war of 1914-1915’ that if, say, China or Persia attacked Russia, those “would be ‘just’, ‘defensive’ war(s), irrespective of who attacked first; and every socialist would sympathise with the victory of the oppressed, dependent, unequal states against the oppressing, slave-owning, predatory ‘great’ powers”. Perhaps Lenin had also abandoned class politics by then?

It is or should be clear to everyone except the social-imperialists of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and Anti-Capitalist Resistance that what is happening in Ukraine is not only a civil war, but, as Jack correctly says, a proxy war between Nato and Russia.

It is also pretty clear that Russia itself is in danger of defeat and, in the words of US secretary of state Anthony Blinken, being weakened. That is why a massive $40 billion is being poured into Ukraine by the United States.

The ethnic Russian Ukrainians and Russian speakers of the two breakaway republics, Donetsk and Luhansk, are in danger of being forcibly incorporated into Ukraine, along with the people of Crimea. In other words the prospect of a savage national repression of these people at the hands of a state whose military works hand in hand with neo-Nazi militias beckons.

Of course, in that situation these republics have the right to call on the support of the Russian army, despite the character of the Putin regime. Indeed the very fact that Putin, who has in the past not hesitated to work with neo-Nazis himself, is forced to characterise his intervention as one of ‘deNazification’ is in itself testimony to the pressure upon him.

And, yes, I do welcome the liberation of Mariupol from the grip of the fascist Azov battalion, as do the people of that city. Of course, it was not a revolutionary army that conquered it, but we should not mourn the Russian victory either.

If this was an inter-imperialist war, which Jack previously rejected, then, of course, our main slogan would be to wage war against our own ruling classes and a plague on both sides. This is not such a war. The United States is clearly intent on subjugating Russia as part of its pivot to Asia. That is why the defeat of Nato would indeed be a victory for the oppressed everywhere. It is not me, but Jack, who has abandoned working class politics - in his case in favour of empty sloganeering.

Tony Greenstein

King Billy

The Communist Party of Ireland has split from its Belfast branch, and CPI general secretary Eugene McCartan refers to them contemptuously as “King Billy communists”. His recent piece in the Morning Star is standard, two-stage Stalinism: united Ireland now; socialism via a bourgeois parliament later. None of that nonsense about a workers’ republic, etc.

However, he is to the left of the CPGB in assessing the “settler-colonial mentality of ‘no surrender’ … a mindset not too dissimilar to that of the Zionist settlers in Palestine, the white minority in South Africa or the white supremacists in the US”. He might have added Ukraine, but he does not talk of the right of the ‘British-Irish’ to self-determination à la Billy Hutchinson, spokesperson of the Progressive Unionist Party, or a repartition of the illegitimate state to a British imperialist-sponsored one east of the Bann, where they are in a secure majority and their fascist gangs would again have free rein against nationalists and ‘rotten Prods’.

Hutchinson repudiated the Good Friday agreement in November 2021 as “a deceptive snare”. The Loyalist Communities Council, which represents the Ulster Volunteer Force, Ulster Defence Association and Red Hand Commando, had already done so. This fascistic leopard has not changed his spots, despite sponsorship by Ted Grant’s followers and others in the past.

Let us recall how Northern Ireland was founded. On July 12 1920, Edward Carson advised the assembled Belfast Orangemen that the UVF should ‘take matters into their own hands’ and over the rest of the summer they did just that. Loyalist fascist gangs drove some 1,850 Protestant workers - the ‘rotten Prods’, which included leading leftist trade unionists - and some 7,500 nationalists out of the shipyards and other workplaces with extreme violence; ‘Belfast confetti’ - bolts and metal disks - were rained down on them and those who jumped in the Lagan to save their lives were showered with these deadly missiles and some were killed.

But today the material basis for Billy Hutchinson’s supremacism is disappearing, and we should hear no more of King Billy-type propaganda about the right to discriminate and ‘make croppy lie down’ from self-declared communists or any other leftist source.

Gerry Downing
Socialist Fight

Zero-sum game

Gerry Downing alleges that I’m “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” (Letters, May 12).

Again, this is not what we would call an evidence-based narrative. I’m not from a Stalinist background, but a Trotskyist one. I admire Trotsky as a critic and writer of genius, and think he was a superb military and revolutionary leader; so I’m a very weird “Stalinophile” on that level. Similarly, you’ll find plenty of praise for Trotsky in back-issues of the Weekly Worker, as well as criticism. The CPGB is not Trotskyist, but so what? As for “third-campist”, this is particularly laughable, given that, as a much younger CPGB member, I was part of its Manchester cell, which was hostile to the so-called ‘third camp’. I’m still highly sceptical about that trend, given that it constantly seems to veer into supporting the ‘first camp’ and the politics of the ‘lesser evil’.

So this bizarre characterisation of me is yet another wild fantasy dredged up from Downing’s imaginative junkyard. In the future, I won’t be engaging with him in print or at meetings, because it’s clearly a zero-sum game. He also appears to develop rather creepy obsessions with comrades that I don’t think it’s helpful to indulge beyond a certain point.

Downing’s bizarre behaviour has been tolerated for many years by the supposedly “Stalinophile” CPGB: sometimes he’s been ignored; sometimes he’s answered patiently; sometimes he’s the butt of a few jokes or sharp retorts, but always tolerated. I have tried to behave in the same manner, because I felt personally sorry for him. Downing is, of course, a classic product of the old Workers Revolutionary Party, where telling outrageous lies and living in a pristine world of violent imagination was merely the collective game they played under that other Gerry.

I also felt sorry for Downing from a short time in the old Workers’ International League (1985 vintage - a Trotskyist group). All of that organisation seemed traumatised by its time in the old WRP, although that generally manifested itself as a tendency to be as boringly Labourite as possible. When I met the WIL’s London leadership in the mid-1990s, it was hinted to me that Downing (also a member) was a bizarre and eccentric character, who was kept away, where possible, from anything politically significant. The WIL leadership weren’t horrible or spiteful people, but their attitude to Downing was akin to keeping a small child occupied in a hidden playpen with very soft toys.

However, pity and empathy aren’t elastic in my case and, sooner or later, answering streams of lying bullshit becomes counterproductive. So, for my part, that’s where this story must emphatically end.

Lawrence Parker

A long wait

I have to say that Tony Clark’s suggestion that we need to wait for the collapse of capitalism before we can think of moving to socialism, or creating a mass Communist Party or a socialist Labour Party, is frankly bizarre (Letters, May 5). Waiting for any such collapse would leave it far too late in the day to do anything meaningful to establish socialism, or any basis on which to establish it, given that any collapse of capitalism would likely take the world with it.

I am far from sure (how can anyone be?) that capitalism will collapse. It has proved exceptionally adaptable and resilient over the 600 or so years it has been around - utterly different from the mercantile capitalism of the Netherlands or Italian city-states, yet still by far the dominant economic and social system on this planet. Capitalism may produce an ecological catastrophe, an untreatable, deadly disease or bioweapon, a nuclear war or a myriad of other disasters, but the only real course available for anyone unlucky enough to survive would be barbarism or perhaps a stone-age primitive communism.

I am completely unpersuaded by Tony’s theory on peak oil: ie, that capitalism as a social and economic system of society is so completely dependent and defined by its current use of oil that “when the oil runs out” capitalism by definition will collapse. I seem to recall early capitalism and factories being run by water power and then by steam. Yes, today it happens to be heavily dependent on oil, because it is plentiful, has many uses and is the base for a range of sub-products, but I have absolutely no doubt that, if oil does “peak” - and/or the amount of carbon in the atmosphere reaches truly dangerous levels - capitalism will develop alternative forms and sources of energy and products, as it is clearly already doing.

On a practical level, what are those who actually believe in socialism and communism meant to do with ourselves, while we are ‘waiting for capitalism to collapse’? Give up politics completely and join the Labour Party perhaps?! Communists believe that replacing capitalism with socialism has to be a deliberate, conscious act “by the immense majority in the interests of the great majority” and so we do need to organise in the here and now, to agitate and to educate for socialism. If sufficient numbers of people are not persuaded of the case for socialism, it will never happen. That is the true meaning of the idea that socialism/communism will represent the start of real human history, that it will be the first time human beings as a collective society have truly been in command of how we live - as opposed to being subject, oppressed, crushed often, by blind, impersonal, often irrational economic forces.

Capitalism cannot collapse or evolve into socialism, because for the first time in history the majority of working people do have to become conscious of their importance and their role and have to deliberately, consciously, take revolutionary action to establish socialism, in which the majority will genuinely rule.

I did not say the Labour Party can never be won for socialism - that is possible. What I did say was we should not base our entire programme and strategy on first having to win the Labour Party to socialism. I also said that “the prospect of winning the Labour Party to socialism looks as far distant as it did in 1929”. If Tony wants to view Jeremy Corbyn as a socialist, that is up to him. I have never had any sense from Corbyn that he was in favour of socialism as a distinct social and economic system and as a replacement of capitalism. At best he only ever wittered on about wanting “a better, more decent, fairer society”.

Tony has suggested I should join the Labour Party and advocate democratic socialism. But why would I want to join a political party which for a hundred years has been a completely pro-capitalism party? Yes, Labour still has millions of working class voters and millions of affiliated trade union members, but millions of working class voters also support the Conservative Party. Yes, I try and express my views through the democratic structures of my trade union, affiliated to Labour, but frankly the party is simply not interested in hearing ideas or policies about socialism or communism from anyone. It is one of the two main alternative parties of capitalism - the second eleven of the capitalist class - and basically an electoral machine for councillors and MPs to run capitalism. Anything which detracts or distracts from that basic raison d’être is ignored or squashed.

Surely, socialists and communists should join political parties, groups and organisations whose aims and objectives they actually agree with, as a first step towards being able to try and persuade the wider working class, in an organised, democratic, disciplined, collective, supportive manner, of the case for socialism and communism? That is really what a mass Communist Party is all about.

We can’t and shouldn’t wait for any “collapse of capitalism” - its collapse will either never happen or may itself destroy any possibility of a successful transition to socialism.

Andrew Northall


Chief scout Bear Grylls and the scouting movement appear to have abandoned the principles of free speech, following the decision to suspend myself - a local parent volunteer - for criticising Israel.

I have been treasurer at the 150th Craigalmond scout group in Edinburgh for nine years and hold the Chief Scout’s Award, but now I have been suspended by district commissioner Mark Hesketh, following a complaint. Mr Hesketh was unhappy that I was, in another quite unrelated capacity, chairperson of the Campaign Against Bogus Antisemitism.

Ever careful to keep my volunteering activities separate, I have taken great care never to publicly mention to either body my passion for both young people (I was a scout from the age of 12 to 16 and a youth worker for 20 years) and Palestine. Of course, members of the local scout executive committee were aware of my campaigning activities, but I have never even mentioned my activities around challenging Israel’s hegemony at scout meetings.

The background to the complaint is this. At some point in 2017, I tried to recruit volunteers for the 150th scout executive and submitted an advert to the Edinburgh Volunteer Centre. I entered my private phone number as the contact point for those seeking more information. Somehow an individual recently found this now extinct advert and discovered that it was also the phone number of a pro-Palestine activist. On this basis a complaint was lodged with scouting HQ, claiming that an anti-Semite was being allowed to manage the 150th Craigalmond scout group finances - and that this must surely represent a danger to the young people in the group.

The district commissioner, fully aware of my long service to the scouting movement, on clarifying that I was indeed associated with the Campaign Against Bogus Antisemitism, immediately suspended me as group treasurer. I am shocked that the scouting movement feels that a mendacious complaint about my political activities appears to preclude me doing the accounts.

Mr Hesketh states that he must follow procedures and that any complaint warrants a suspension from scouting. In reality I believe what triggered this attack is the fact that I am organising a free concert for Gaza in three weeks’ time in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens (see www.twingaza.com/gig-for-gaza).

I have put the question to Grylls: “Does our chief scout support Israel? Is he a Zionist? The DC’s actions will be putting this question on every young person’s lips” - and, of course, their parent’s lips, because Grylls’s agency has suspended me for campaigning against apartheid Israel.

I would have abandoned scouting years ago if it condoned racism, which the DC presently gives every appearance of doing.

Pete Gregson


May 22 will see the international online premiere of Susann Witt-Stahl’s and Dror Dayan’s The time of slanderers - a documentary on the relationship between the Zionist project and its allies in the west, especially Germany (including on the ‘left’). The ‘Labour anti-Semitism’ campaign in Britain will also be touched on.

The film features Moshé Machover, Moshe Zuckermann, Rolf Becker and many others, and I’m very proud to have provided the English subtitles. Its international premiere will take place on the YouTube channel of Projekt Kritische Aufklärung (Project Critical Enlightenment) on Sunday May 22 and be available for 24 hours. A trailer can be seen at projektkritischeaufklaerung.de/en.

Maciej Zurowski