AWL supports Zionist Israel ... and, alongside it, a Palestinian Bantustan

Sir Keir’s little helpers

Behind the kitsch leftwing decoration there is anti-anti-imperialism, defence of Zionism and the aiding and abetting of the ‘anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt. Mike Macnair looks at one of those confessional sects calling for a blanket Labour vote

Nailing its colours firmly to the mast the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (better called, Atlanticist Witch-hunting Loyalists) has decided to call for a Labour vote in every constituency. The front page of this week’s Solidarity (better called, Western Solidarity) carries the main headline “July 4th: Vote Labour, but fight for a workers’ government” (May 29). One of the secondary items on the front page is “No to Yakoob and Galloway. Anti-Labour ‘independents’ are not a way forward”. The leader on page 2 argues:

Solidarity backs a Labour vote in the July 4 general election. Labour is still the party linked to the labour movement. We continue the battle to transform the labour movement even in its adverse times, of which this is surely one.

Even Labour’s wretched offer means some improvements, and there is a base in the unions and the Labour Party to push a Labour government to concessions. We also fight for a workers’ government.

The second article on page 2, by Rhodri Evans, is headlined “Why we say vote Labour everywhere”. It begins with denouncing the Labour Party’s refusal to allow Jeremy Corbyn or Diane Abbott to stand as Labour, and admitting that “We do not let our disputations stop us seeing the good side a Corbyn victory in Islington North would have in rebuking Starmer” - but then goes on to argue: “But, for us, politics is about building a movement, not about pushing this or that good person into parliament.” And:

If Corbyn’s campaign does anything to build a ‘movement’, it can only be either that network or the Communist Party of Britain (the party behind the Morning Star). Although the Feinstein network includes people with a genuine Labour left past, we believe both that and the CPB are political dead ends.

Galloway, and Akhmed Yakoob in Birmingham Ladywood - the two figures in the network most likely to win in their constituencies - are in our view demagogues and de facto rightwingers.

On page 4 Jim Denham denounces the Morning Star for failing to have the courage of its convictions by not calling for all trade unions to support Corbyn: the article is bizarre, because it is half about why in Denham’s view Corbyn’s candidacy is not supportable. On page 8 Satya Pine denounces “Yakoob, Galloway and the ‘independents’”: “On some level the candidacies show an appetite for left-of-Labour electoral options, but they cannot really be ranked above the Green Party, which at least is a party and is broadly leftish.”

Weasel words

All these arguments are, essentially, weasel words. Galloway’s political ideas are those of the old ‘official’ Communist Party before the Eurocommunists of Marxism Today took over (with the end result of liquidating it in 1991). They are, as a result, political ideas commonplace on the Labour and ex-Labour and trade union left. The AWL’s claim, then, is that the severely disorganised state of the left wing of the labour movement, and its weak politics, mean that the Labour Party, even though controlled by the right - which means, in turn, controlled by the capitalist state through the securocrat, Sir Keir Starmer, and by the capitalist media - is to be preferred to the disorganised left.

It is worth noticing that there is no mention at all of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. “Vote Labour everywhere” on the ground of the disorganised state of the left providing an excuse, and the AWL’s preference for Atlanticist Labour rightism over ‘official communist’ politics as the real motivation - but no account of why there should be no votes for Tusc.

The Atlanticism is fundamental. The AWL began to be anti-anti-imperialists in the 1980s, when it was still using the name Socialist Organiser; it was the ground of its break with Alan Thornett and others. Since then, it has elaborated and theorised its anti-anti-imperialism, and deepened its identification with the politics of Max Shachtman, who moved from the ‘third camp’ in the 1940s to the ‘first camp’ (support for US imperialism) with refusal to condemn the Bay of Pigs attempted invasion of Cuba in 1961, and opposition to the anti-Vietnam war movement in the later 1960s. Indeed, already by 1949 the Shachtmanites were supporting Walter Reuther’s purge of the communists from the US Congress of Industrial Organisations trade union confederation.1

Last days

The AWL’s anti-anti-imperialism had a sort of plausibility in the last days of the USSR and the period of US and capitalist triumphalism in the 1990s. As the practical consequences of the fall of the USSR (mass unemployment and impoverishment and falling life expectancy) played themselves out, that plausibility was reduced. With 9/11 and the opening of the ‘war on terror’ from 2001, and the choice of the Bush administration to take the focus off Afghanistan and target Iraq - a French, German and Russian trade partner and not a sponsor of al-Qa’eda - the theory became utterly implausible.

The AWL now owes the workers’ movement an accounting for its claim over the Iraq war in 2003-04 that the US and its ‘coalition of the willing’ were bringing the possibility of trade unions and workers’ parties to Iraq by bombing the country, flattening Fallujah (with the number of deaths still unknown) and shutting down most of Iraqi industry, and so on. It owes an accounting for its support for the Anglo-French and US air campaign against Libya in 2011, which the AWL still defends in spite of the transparent result of producing state failure and endless civil war: Martin Thomas claims that this is the result of the “failure of the Arab Spring” in spite of this sort of outcome being the routine result of US military and covert interventions since the middle 1970s.2

And it owes an accounting - now more than ever - for its positive role in promoting the smear that ‘anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’. The AWL may have been the actual inventor of the claim that the slogan, “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea”, which promotes the idea of a single, democratic and non-sectarian state in Palestine, is an anti-Semitic code for genocide; if not, it was certainly a very early adopter. The AWL has been campaigning against ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’ again since the 1980s - twisting valid arguments about the limitations of this policy into excuses for a campaign which has prepared the ground for the witch-hunting operations of the US state and its allies, which have emerged more recently.

Today Western Solidarity weeps crocodile tears for the tens of thousands of Palestinians dead in Gaza, but will still not call the Israeli state’s operation genocidal, and still campaigns against any sort of actions which could promote (however indirectly) working class action to stop US support for the state of Israel. The AWL will still not call out the supposed ‘two state solution’ of the ‘Oslo accords’ of 1993-95 as a proposal for ‘Arab reservations’ under Israeli military control (and, even at that, one which no Israeli government has accepted).


Western Solidarity for May 15 (two weeks ago) carries an article by Martin Thomas on the anniversary of the 1948 Nakba, headlined “15 May: no, nations do not have hereditary guilt”. But actually, the continuing expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank - which is the context for the unexpected success of the Gaza prison breakout and the Israeli collective punishment operation which has followed it - shows that there is no issue of “hereditary guilt”: the ethnic cleansing policy of the Nakba is the continuing policy of the Israeli state, and it is a policy which the USA has been willing to criticise in words - but never ever to stop US resupply of arms to Israel.

The same issue carries an even more pro-Israeli response to the Nakba anniversary from Eric Lee of LaborStart (who remarked in 2021 that “Joe Biden is part of our family”3). And it carried an article by Rhodri Evans, headlined ‘Don’t reject the IHRA definition’ - which has been from the beginning the basis of the witch-hunting of all forms of opposition to US policy in the Middle East as ‘anti-Semitic’.

This week’s issue carries a full-page article by Caro Ambrose, ‘Open up debate in student camps!’ complaining of Bristol student occupiers’ unwillingness to “debate Hamas” with her and her eventual ejection from the camp. But Ms Ambrose, and the AWL in general, should accept that pro-Palestinian (and pro-Corbyn) protest has for the last nine years in this country been met by witch-hunting operations accusing protestors of anti-Semitism, using ‘journalist’ finger-men to promote confrontations, which will then be used for prosecutions, sackings, vilification in the daily press, and so on and so on. The AWL has drawn no self-critical balance-sheet of its own (secondary) involvement in this witch-hunting operation. It has, in consequence, made itself into the finger-men and finger-women for the new McCarthyism, just as Shachtman fingered communists for the rightwing trade unionism of George Meany and Walter Reuther in the 1950s-60s USA.

The AWL continues to pretend to be part of the left - unlike ‘Spiked’. This pretence is visible, for example, in its ongoing series for the centenary of Lenin’s death, on the early history of Russian Marxism. It has, however, decisively broken with the fundamentals which separated the communists from the social-democrats: opposition to our own countries’ wars and their imperialist operations.

It would be more honest for the AWL to memorialise not Lenin, but Eduard Bernstein, Friedrich Ebert, Arthur Henderson, Jimmy Thomas and such-like characters.

  1. www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/laboraction-ny/1949/v13n46/split.htm.↩︎

  2. www.workersliberty.org/story/2021-08-25/libya-2011-yes-we-were-right.↩︎

  3. en.davar1.co.il/283234.↩︎