Tina Werkmann seems bewildered at the passivity and fear of political discussion on Red Line TV, the political successor to the long-lived Labour Briefing (‘Unconscious cancel culture’, January 5). In fact Labour Briefing, doggedly produced by the ever patient Graham Bash, had for more than 20 years been a passive and dull social democratic reporter on the bleeding obvious, unable to tolerate political ideas being debated.

In the Corbyn years Briefing became an utterly uncritical supporter - Bash and his veteran co-thinker, Chris Knight, regularly describing John McDonnell as the “best ever Labour MP”. Given McDonnell’s craven capitulation to Starmer over the US imperialist proxy war in Ukraine, which followed his capitulation to the European Union ‘overturn the referendum’ mob (which destroyed the Corbyn project in 2019) and his support for the Labour right lies on anti-Semitism, this uncritical support reduced Bash and Knight to figures of ridicule. Their capitulation, like many others, to social-imperialism in the US imperialist war was an inevitable degeneration.

But, of course, it was not always so. Tina seems puzzled why self-describing ‘Marxists’ end this way. It poses an inevitable question - whether or not a prolonged strategic approach to the Labour Party inevitably leads to capitulation to social democracy and imperialist wars. I can attest that Bash and Knight began with the purest revolutionary understanding. That tendency, including the original Chartist, had excellent anti-imperialist politics in the tradition of the brave British Trotskyists of the wartime Workers International League. For a period through the intense class struggle of the 1970s and 80s Chartist and Labour Briefing directed their fire at the Labour right and took a clear anti-imperialist line.

But, with the long decline in class struggle from the defeat of the miners’ strike in 1985, political degeneration occurred. Most of the founders dropped out or in some cases defected to the right of the Labour Party, and various social democrats, from the late Mike Marquesee to Andrew Fisher, moved in. Bash and Knight succumbed to social democracy (although Knight occasionally staged theatrical republican stunts and, of course, produced interesting work on anthropology).

Some will argue that prolonged engagement within the Labour Party inevitably led to this political decline, but the existence of many veterans with their revolutionary politics intact from that period suggests that is not so and the strategic orientation to the mass organisations of the working class can be sustained, whilst retaining a class-based Marxist approach (subject to occasional repressions and expulsions from the social democrats, and worse from the far right of the movement).

Graham Durham
Socialist Labour Bulletin

Join Counterfire

That was an interesting account by Tina Werkmann of her departure from the confused compromisers of the Labour Left Alliance and Red Line TV (‘Unconscious cancel culture’, January 5). We have much in common, and Tina as anchor of the shows I joined, looked rather like a square peg in a round hole. She’s also spot-on about the top-down fraud that is Enough Is Enough.

She ought to consider joining Counterfire, which adheres to a revolutionary Marxist analysis, whilst also understanding and applying the politics of the united front - in the fight against Tory austerity, against imperialist war and against Anthropocene catastrophe.

Richard Purdie

Oh Jeremy

On Sunday January 15 thousands from across Europe watched the world premiere in Berlin of a shocking film about how the establishment crushed the Jeremy Corbyn Labour leadership.

The sell-out screening was held a day after the 28th International Rosa Luxemburg Conference, attended by over 3,000 people, when Oh Jeremy Corbyn - the big lie was launched. This documentary feature film tells the story of the rise and fall of the Corbyn movement, including the critical role of the mainstream media and false smears of anti-Semitism.

Jackie Walker, who addressed the conference, said: “This film shows the closest the left in any European country has come to gaining real political power. But, importantly, it spotlights the mistakes the left made - because we must learn from those mistakes.”

Walker, former vice-chair of Momentum, who is now one of the presenters of the Red Line TV Zoom show, believes the movement which supported Corbyn could be revived at any time. She said: “Our hopes of political change were dashed in 2019 - but many people were radicalised by the events of that time and those people will be the best recruits for a new grassroots movement which the establishment will find much harder to derail.”

The film, produced by award-winning film-maker Platform Films, will get its first UK screening on Thursday February 9 in Conway Hall in central London. As its producer I can tell you that it hasn’t been easy to get a venue to screen the film - to put it mildly. It’s a subject that remains totally out of bounds, as far as the mainstream media is concerned, and many people are scared to screen it in case they get accused of being ‘anti-Semitic’.

This film is about a disgraceful chapter in British political history - a huge injustice done to Jeremy and so many ordinary people who have been falsely smeared. But I hope we have now made an important step on the path to get the truth out there.

Tickets for the first UK screening at 7pm on February 9 in Conway Hall are £10. For more details see: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/film-screening-oh-jeremy-corbyn-the-big-lie-tickets-511919975427

Norman Thomas

No support

We need to fight against what I see as both the evils of capitalism and the arrogance of the bourgeoisie, despite the panic in the media directed against workers and the lack of real support from both Labour and the unions. Alongside this is the apathy of the Trades Union Congress - in Britain we have not only the strictest restrictions ever in the shape of anti-union laws, but also the worst TUC leadership ever.

With Labour MPs unable to join picket lines (with the threat of suspension), the TUC bureaucracy gives a smokescreen of support to workers. If Frances O’Grady, or her next in line, had made a speech on TV, radio or the internet in their support, the effect would have been profound. Not since the ‘winter of discontent’ in 1979 has there been so much collective unrest by the mass of union members. You may well ask where the left Labour MPs are calling for support for these strikes despite the ban on them taking part in picket line protests.

The truth is the left is sterile in the Labour Party - the so-called party of the working class, which wants to represent workers - where MPs ignore the side effects of the food banks and the fall-out over universal credit, which is on their doorstep. If the Labour Party is a party of labour, where is the mass Labour support?

Ian Reynolds

Class impurity

Jack Bernard’s letter of January 5, as well as his second letter of January 12, attributes the splintered character of the far left to the role of “egoistical intellectuals” - in particular students and ex-students. This argument is embellished with quotes from Trotsky, and from Lenin in 1915 blaming the “labour aristocracy” of the imperialist countries (highly organised and hence well-paid skilled workers) for the collapse of the Second International into competing social-chauvinisms.

This argument would be more plausible if splintering was either (a) peculiar to groups with large numbers of students and ex-students or (b) peculiar to the imperialist countries. But neither is true. For example, the British Trotskyist movement in the 1930s and 1940s was almost devoid of ‘intelligentsia’ types, but radically splintered, as can be seen from the two volumes of Bornstein’s and Richardson’s history (Against the stream and War and the International). The Latin American far left (not just Trotskyists) has throughout its history been just as splintered as today’s far left in Britain, for example.

Conversely, in my own experience in the (student- and ex-student-dominated) old International Marxist Group/Socialist League in the 1970s-80s, the students, far from showing individualist egotism and indiscipline, showed sheep-like willingness to vote for and parrot the latest fads of the organisation’s full-time leaders. It was the trade unionists who were more likely to back oppositional trends.

Andrew Northall’s reply to comrade Bernard blames the phenomenon on the peculiar “20th century disease” of Trotskyism. This argument would be more plausible if the phenomenon was peculiar to Trotskyism, but it is, in fact, shared with Maoism and other forms of Marxist-Leninism (see, for example, Max Elbaum’s Revolution in the air on the US ‘new communist movement’ of the late 1960s-70s). The same is, in fact, true of ‘anti-revisionist’ communist groups - those that lost their connection to some state (USSR, China, and so on), which could stabilise their bureaucratic centralism, either by direct police intervention (the ‘ruling parties’ of the USSR, etc) or by the worship of real existent Sozialismus (among the western parties).

That it is bureaucratic centralism, not (mainly) intelligentsia egos, which produces sectarianism, can also be seen in the pre-1875 history of the German Lassallean Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein and the pre-1914 history of the De Leonist Socialist Labour Parties and of Luxemburg’s, Jogiches’s and others’ Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania.

Lenin’s argument about the ‘labour aristocracy’ was proved false in the last years of World War I and after, when the well-organised skilled workers radicalised, but the ‘less privileged’ and less organised became the base of the right wing. In Britain the ‘unskilled workers’ of the Transport and General Workers’ Union was, down to the 1950s, a bastion of the right against the skilled engineers, railworkers, etc. The attribution of all political disagreements to ‘petty bourgeois’ or ‘labour aristocratic’ class impurity or ‘privilege’ is, regrettably, part of the dynamic of bureaucratic centralism and unprincipled splits - Elbaum, again, provides several examples.

Mike Macnair

Mr president

It’s hard to believe the war on Syria started 12 years ago, in 2011 - although not so hard to believe perhaps for the people living under the hardships they are enduring for a foreign-inspired, funded, trained and armed regime-change operation, culminating in the theft of Syria’s national resources of oil and wheat.

An illegal covert war declared on the Syrian Arab Republic by the enemies of freedom - the imperialist west and its attack dog in west Asia, the rogue apartheid regime of Israel. The illegal, unilateral, coercive sanctions that reduce food and fuel supplies to Syrian society, which are in abundant supply, are being redirected out of Syria with the connivance of the Kurds into Iraq and further afield to be sold for profit. While the Syrian people starve and have domestic and commercial restrictions placed on their energy consumption, someone, somewhere is making vast, obscene amounts of money on the back of the sufferings of Syrian society.

The sanctions are not only illegal: they are barbaric and they are immoral. The war on Syria, which followed a well worn path of provocation and demonstrations, which are then used to cover acts of wanton violence and murder of state officials, gives rise to a narrative of state repression followed by spontaneous revolution. Nothing could be further from the truth. These violent uprisings are well coordinated, meticulously planned, armed and financed, while given political cover by the west.

So we have another dictator to be overthrown by the people or another regime-change operation to remove a government and president who refuses to subject their economy to privatisation by western corporations and see their national assets stolen for profit by Anglo-American oil and gas companies (because, believe me, that is the bottom line). Neocolonialism via financial occupation, via the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, etc, rather than military occupation of the state, is the desired outcome.

I have met president Bashar al-Assad twice. On one occasion he informed us that the American administration threatened him with war if Syria didn’t fall into line behind their policy in the region. I said, “Mr president, you are a very brave man. Many leaders would have fled, putting their own lives before those of their people, but you stayed to protect the republic.” I said that in 2017 and I stand by it today. I gave him a copy of my book, My walk with Palestine, in 2019.

With a potential rapprochement with Turkey on the horizon in 2023, perhaps a light can be seen at the end of the tunnel. America has no friends, no allies, no coalition of the willing. It has a series of lesser nations that it bullies and threatens into compliance. One simple word and friends and foe alike fall into line: ‘sanctions’. Personal, economic, regional and national sanctions ‑ and that’s before we even mention the 800-plus officially declared American military occupation bases strategically stationed throughout the world.

America and its evil accomplices have failed to defeat Syria, thanks in part to the cooperation of Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. The axis of resistance - strengthened and fertilised with the blood of the Iranian national hero, Lt General Qassem Soleimani - might yet fully liberate Syria. America has succeeded in balkanising Syria with the treacherous help of the ‘socialist Kurds’, who accept imperialist protection from America and Israel as the price of their autonomy in Syria, while in Iraqi Kurdistan they are building a second Israel, complete with Zionist American and European military advisors, while they use the Kurdish region bordering Iran to send murderers and terrorists into Iran to foment civil war.

Once the price of extracting the oil and wheat from Syria becomes too high, the Americans will soon leave - it is, after all, their main interest now. Once the Americans leave, the Kurds will fold like a house of cards. And Syria can once again take its place at the forefront of the axis of resistance.

End the war on Syria now! End the sanctions now! End the proxy Nato wars! ‘Peace’, ‘liberty’, ‘freedom’ and ‘full national sovereignty’ should be the bywords for Syria in 2023.

When we are denied our liberty, our right to national self-determination, our right to the profits from our labour and the national resources which rightly belong to us, we are indeed slaves. For 12 years Syria has been shackled and chained, weighed down by the overlords of western imperialism, beaten and brutalised.

Slaves from Spartacus to Frederick Douglass have had to fight for their freedom. Syria is no different and, like Spartacus and Frederick Douglass, Syrians long to feel the sun on their faces and breathe in the fresh air of freedom.

Fra Hughes


There was some good discussion at the online Winter Communist University held last weekend.

One was on Mike Macnair’s presentation, ‘Our socialism’ - the definition of what it could be, along with communism (that word with the terrible reputation). Macnair discussed the principles of transition, as well as (counter to other groups, who offer themselves as ‘the party’), the project to promote an “inspiring alternative”. What followed featured a debate on how much detail you’d need to inspire people now. Attendees put forward various ideas, which they thought might be inspiring suggestions, necessary to convince the despondent and give them hope.

Of course, there’s all the difference between a tight blueprint that would allow no mistakes and a sketch which people could find plausible. This would involve, as comrades pointed out, distinguishing between a convincing transition to a better world and previous ‘experiments’ in a non-capitalist society (USSR, China, etc). This need not be ‘utopian’, but must contain some reasonably clear ideas about global economic and political decision-making, rather than simply calling for the removal of money and the nation-state.

Mike Belbin