I find Dave Isaacsons comments extremely uncomradely and inaccurate. I do not think it is shambolic to get 60 mainly Labour Party activists to sit in a room for five hours on a sunny Saturday afternoon for an honest debate. At least 20 gave me their personal apologies. Some were up at Faslane, others had family commitments. In the real world outside the Weekly Worker (readership of how many?), these things happen.
Saturdays event was not meant to be a national one, but a regional caucus. We shall go on to more events and more Labour Representation Committee groups regionally and nationally.
Fourteen constituency Labour parties in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester were represented. Our choice of venue was in support of the Trades Club - which regularly supports all kinds of socialist events and will close unless it attracts more people. We chose Hebden Bridge because the McDonnell campaign had many supporters in neighbouring constituencies and two local MPs (Mike Wood and Linda Riordan) have constituencies nearby. Mike couldnt make it for entirely valid reasons and Linda and Alice Mahon were scheduled to get there at 1pm. They got stuck in traffic. Shit happens. John McDonnell was bang on time at 1.30.
I take particular exception to Daves assessment of where I stand in the Labour Party. I am no friend of Gordon Brown. What I said was that when talking to the media one had to be careful not to be wholly negative, as that is not a way to win over anybody and only gives ammunition to our enemies. In that context, a critical friend. Actually, I spend most of my time, as Dave well knows, in the Labour Party opposing New Labour and led the campaign locally to get John McDonnell on the ballot paper.
Dave also misrepresents John McDonnell. He did not say that it was not worth working in the Labour Party; he said we had to work within and without the party and take on board the (extremely) difficult situation we are in, while building the LRC.
Dave is entitled to his views about the Labour Party. I find it sad, though, that he rubbishes comrades whose major aim in gathering was to work out a positive way forward towards rebuilding the Labour left.
If John Bridges account of a meeting of the CMP is correct, then it looks like the fragile alliance between the Democratic Socialist Alliance and the CPGB, formed at a meeting in November 2006, has come to an end.
John was right to oppose the decision to elect a permanent national chair. Given that the CMP has no constitution and no elected officers, the decision is difficult to understand. The only meaning I can give it is that the DSA, having realised that only a few members of the CMP agree with their programme, has decided to impose it on them by force.
This is dictatorial. John accounts for the decision as an effect of alcohol. The consumption of alcohol before and during a meeting is indeed foolish. Alcohol influences mistaken decisions. However, it does not create them. On the contrary, the attempt to resolve political differences through bureaucratic means is typical of a long tradition of Stalinist politics.
Of course, Stalinist politics has done much more damage than predisposing leftists towards authoritarianism and alcoholism. It has killed millions of workers. It attempted to destroy Marxism both within and outwith the former Soviet Union. It created illusions in the progressive nature of nationalism. It encouraged cross-class alliances with liberal, social democratic and religious forces. It promoted stageism - the doctrine that prioritises democratic rights over the struggle for proletarian collectivity and socialism.
Stalinist politics has also confused our understanding of Bolshevism. At the same time as incarcerating and killing old Bolsheviks, Stalinism legitimated the suppression of dissent and difference through a distorted history of the Bolshevik revolution. This supported its attacks on Trotsky in particular and Marxists in general.
Marxist groups today still appeal to a Stalinised form of Bolshevism to justify irrational adaptations to bourgeois policies and practices. From my own experience, I can think of at least three recent examples:
1. The Socialist Workers Party justifies its unscrupulous alliance with political islamists on the grounds that the Bolsheviks allied with the oppressed muslim population of the former tsarist empire during the civil war.
2. A leader of the Alliance of Workers Liberty tries to stop dissenting members supporting the withdrawal of troops from the Middle East. He quotes one of Lenins criticisms of sloganeering.
3. Mark Fischer, the national organiser of the CPGB, invokes the spirit of Lenin to justify his bizarre celebration of aggressive rudeness.
The argument these examples have in common is the following:
1. The leaderships proposed policy/practice is analogous to one adopted by Lenin
2. Lenin was politically correct and cannot be challenged. Criticism of Lenin is a betrayal of Bolshevism.
3. The leaderships proposed policy/practice is politically correct and cannot be challenged. Criticism of the leadership is a betrayal of Bolshevism.
This is an unsound argument. Nonetheless, it has a useful function. It serves to suppress reason. The result is authoritarian barbarity and inanity.
John Bridge writes that he and CPGB comrades ... have been the target of frothing abuse and an uncontrolled string of calumnies on the CMP membership e-list. This is unsurprising. When the prevailing culture encourages the abandonment of rationality, individuals resort to bullying to impose their will. Bullying is a norm within both a Stalinised left and within the wider political culture of a declining capitalism. Everyone who challenges a particular groups policies or practices is a potential enemy. Everyones moral, personal or political weaknesses are exploitable targets. Truth is subordinate to a violent struggle of atomised individuals and groups.
Is there a future for the CMP? Not within its present form. Despite two well attended meetings of over 40 people, no effective campaign has emerged. The fight between the DSA and the CPGB over programme is destroying the possibility of thinking intelligently about how a campaign for a Marxist party can be built.
Jack Conrads extraordinary article in last weeks issue is an attempt at covering for the real methods used by Conrad and the group around him within the CPGB.
Conrad goes on at great length about free speech. What he leaves out is the use of insults, abuse and distortions as a primary method. The problem for Conrad is the lack of a coherent set of politics, so insults and abuse are used as a cover - using them against anyone seen as a political opponent is a means of shifting the debate away from politics by personalising it, raising the emotional temperature and trying to force people into losing it through anger.
The article also contains the assertion that Marxism must engage in a war of ideological extermination. Given Conrads Stalinist heritage and the appalling history of actual campaigns of ideological extermination in the 20th century, we could see this as a sinister comment. However, given the circumstance, we would probably be better off terming Conrad and the group around him in the CPGB as the Dalek tendency.
Dave Spencers letter last week was amazing. Amazing in its sheer inventiveness. Amazing in its repetition of half-truths. Amazing in its contempt of the majority of the members of the Campaign for a Marxist Party.
My September 27 Weekly Worker article reporting the Birmingham meeting of the CMPs committee supposedly says we were all drunk! This is simply untrue. No-one was drunk. I simply noted that some comrades drank alcohol during the meeting. I also noted that the meeting started late. Both being bad habits in the British labour movement.
Comrade Spencer desperately mixes the political with the personal. All criticism of himself or one of his fellow members of the Democratic Socialist Alliance is automatically categorised as a personal attack. A calculated way of avoiding political argument and a shoddy cover for imposing censorship on the CMPs discussion e-list. However, I shall continue to abuse, insult and ridicule the politics of DSA comrades.
Comrade Spencer says that on the CMPs e-list he has been criticised for contemplating a boycott of our November 24 conference. Indeed I made exactly the same accusation in my September 27 article.
However, what comrade Spencer fails to tell the reader is that I am quite prepared to accept his word that he is against any boycott, and I have said so. Apparently, he was not talking about himself, but unnamed others. I have asked these comrades to come forward of course. But to no avail. Not one of them has surfaced.
So why does comrade Spencer repeat this old story? Could it be that he wants to create more bad blood in the CMP?
Comrade Spencer repeats another old story. He and John Pearson were included on a seven-person slate for a new CMP committee. But he refused to serve on it. So did comrade Pearson. Comrade Spencer indignantly complains that neither of them were consulted about the slate.
Readers ought to know, however, that there was never a CPGB list. In fact the seven-strong slate was drawn up jointly by myself and Hillel Ticktin. I consulted with my CPGB comrades. Comrade Ticktin consulted with Matthew Jones, who, besides being CMP national secretary, is a member of the DSA.
Comrade Jones told us that John Pearson had to be on the slate and I had to persuade my comrades that we should be prepared to go along with this for the sake of unity. That despite our experience of comrade Pearsons disruptive record and anarcho-bureaucratic political outlook.
If comrades Pearson and Spencer were not consulted, that is not my fault. Nor is it the fault of comrade Ticktin. Hence, comrade Spencer should have taken up the issue with his fellow DSA comrade, Matthew Jones. I presume they talk. But comrade Spencer is intent on spreading disinformation about the CPGB.
Obviously Phil Sharpe, another DSA member, is part of this disinformation campaign. In his own letter he says that I have attempted to deny him a platform (October 4).
Yes, I urged Glasgow CMP comrades not to invite him as a platform speaker. I do not know whether the Glasgow comrades have done that. But that is up to them. The CMP committee as presently constituted lacks all legitimacy. It represents nothing. Except itself.
Undaunted, comrade Sharpe brands my call censorship and nothing more than the rejection of free speech within the CMP. This is just silly. Hysterical even.
Comrade Sharpe should not be a CMP speaker of any kind. His views are eclectic and can only be described as Marxist with all sorts of reservations. But there is no censorship and no rejection of free speech. He is free to speak at any CMP meeting from the floor.
I am a long-time reader of the various websites of the left, including the Weekly Worker. One of the websites I read on a regular basis is the International Marxist Tendencys In defence of Marxism (www.marxist.com).
As an Irishman, I am shocked and dismayed by the IMTs affiliation with the Irish Republican Socialist Party. The Grant-Woods tendency has long been associated with the view that Marxists should operate within the traditional organisations of the working class, such as the Labour Party. Why is it then that they associate with this splinter of a splinter from the republican movement?
The IRSP has no standing within the Irish working class and is in fact a miniscule organisation, far smaller and more remote to the Irish worker than some that the IMT would classify as sects. Not only that, but the IRSP through its paramilitary arm, the Irish National Liberation Army, has a history of violence, terrorism, internal feuding and organised crime.
How do the IMT and particularly Alan Woods, who always comes across as an intelligent, articulate man, justify this association?
Terry Liddle tells us that it is fashionable to deride puritanism. He is deadly serious about the views he expressed regarding recruiting youth to socialism and what he regards as essential to this recruitment: prohibition.
He then gives us a description of our broken society - which could have been used as a David Cameron script at the Tory Party conference. He continues by indulging himself in a nostalgic trip with his generalising claim that several generations used to live in the same street, if not the same house, creating solidarity between the generations, which must be restored. One wonders why on earth he joined the Young Communist League back in those good old days - an organisation that was committed to overthrowing such an idyll.
But his wildest claim is surely that a beverage - lager - that was little known 50 years ago, and has become very popular with all generations and classes of consumers, tastes like a cross between metal polish and syrup! He further implies that this (to most of us) very pleasant drink is only used, and abused, by the young in a desperate attempt to escape from a harsh reality that they cant change.
Terry, if our movement is to grow and attract youth, which it must, please get fashionable and deride puritanism. Please face up to the fact that capitalism has created todays society where most people are better fed, better clothed, better housed and healthier than they were in your glorious youth. This is our starting point. The society of today, not of half a century ago.
To invite youth and other generations to return to a never-never land complemented by puritanism, and overseen by a sharia law-style of authority is a reactionary proposal: it will incur scorn from all progressives and alienate proletarian youth even more than you imagine it already is.
Harry Smith asks: How are we to hold our heads up amongst the left? after a CPGB representative appeared on Newsnight giving an evaluation of crummy old Respect.
I dont know what club he belongs to, but in mine they rather take to a lefty who tells the truth as they see it rather than going all clannish.
I assume that Guy Maddox considers himself some form of left Zionist, in which case his letter is an excellent example of the limitations of that variant of colonial ideology.
The campaign to boycott Israeli universities in the University and College Union was not defeated. It has been banned by the deliberate introduction of the law into the affairs of a trade union by its general secretary, Sally Hunt. That is an entirely different matter, but it is no surprise that left Zionists rejoice at the intrusion of the state into the right of a trade union to discuss what it wants.
Maddox speaks about academic freedom - ie, the freedom of Israeli academics to pursue their policies of collaboration with the Israeli military-industrial complex. Not surprisingly, he doesnt mention the real infringement of academic freedom demonstrated by the prevention by the Israeli military of Khaled Mudallal, a Palestinian student in Gaza, who is being prevented from resuming his academic studies at Bradford University. That is the real boycott that Maddox does not mention or care about.
Unsurprisingly, Maddox accuses supporters of a boycott of fostering anti-semitism. No doubt those who supported the boycott of South Africa under apartheid were guilty of anti-white racism and those who supported the boycott of Chile under Pinochet were guilty of anti-Chilean racism. And, as for the proponents of a boycott of Germany in 1933, there can be no doubt about their racist intent!
Maddox needs to be told that accusations of anti-semitism against anti-racists are subject to the law of diminishing returns, which is why this particular libel has all but lost its appeal in the trade union movement. When such accusations were made in both the Unison and Unite/TGWU debates, they were resoundingly defeated, as it is obvious to most people in possession of their faculties that opposition to the leasing of land to Jews only, the demolition of unrecognised Bedouin villages in the Negev, the siege of Gaza and much else besides has nothing whatever to do with hatred or discrimination against Jews.
Ill leave it to your readers to decide whether Guy Maddox is being disingenuous or demonstrating his ignorance when he accuses Communist Student or supporters of the boycott of holding hands with Hamas. The evidence of the involvement of the Israeli occupation authorities and in particular Shin Bet, the secret police, in helping to create Hamas and foster islamic fundamentalism in Gaza is incontestable. For example, Amira Hass, in a fulsome and excellent obituary of Haider Abdel Shafi, informs us that: As a leftist, he was a target for attacks by the Muslim Brotherhood, which in the 1980s enjoyed freedom of action granted by the Israeli occupation authorities.
Yes thats right, Mr Maddox: the Zionist military deliberately fostered the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoot, Hamas, in order that leftists and secularists within Palestinian society were intimidated and harassed. Only this week I have learnt of the murder of a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine by Hamas (see www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/908092.html).
Maddox denies that Israel and Zionism have anything to do with colonialism. Perhaps he hasnt heard of the Jewish Colonial Trust, founded in 1901 alongside the Jewish National Fund. Or maybe he wasnt aware that the Zionist movement dedicated itself to finding an imperial sponsor before reaching an agreement with the Lloyd George government? Perhaps Arthur Balfour, after whom the Balfour declaration takes its name, an anti-semite who introduced the first immigration act (Aliens Act 1905) against Jewish refugees from the Russian pogroms, was also a socialist by Maddoxs twisted logic? And no doubt an anti-colonialist too! Could I suggest that before Maddox puts pen to paper or finger to keyboard he actually does some reading of early Zionist texts, which uniformly refer to the Zionist settlements as colonies?
It is always reassuring to welcome another frothing contribution from the Alliance for Workers Libertys most ardent Zionist, Jim Denham. Im not sure what point he is making, since being black is not merely a question of skin colour, but a politics of resistance. Black people, being the primary victims of apartheid, certainly do understand what apartheid meant in a way that the most well-meaning white people cannot. In just the same way that Jewish people understand the horrors and terrors of the holocaust in ways that someone who is not Jewish cannot.
The problem with Jim Denham is that he has neither imagination nor understanding and is now condemned to spend his political life in a political group that supports the occupation of both Palestine and Iraq.
Sleight of hand
Guy Maddox is misleading on the UK campaign against Israel and needs to be corrected.
First, the campaign worldwide is heating up. More and more organisations have signed up against dealing with the Jewish-only state. This should be self-evident by the number of news articles about the boycott.
More importantly, Maddoxs sleight-of-hand statement that the Israeli government can be criticised, as in any democracy is not the question Tony Greenstein has ever raised; that is, mere criticism of Israel. In fact, in the United States its impossible to criticise the Israeli state without being censored for anti-semitism, since the leading Zionist organisations in the US attack anyone for criticising their state. But even that is beside the point.
The real issue is that, since Israel is based on Jewish exclusivity, including for Jews born in Europe or North America, it forever privileges those who claim to be Jewish in Israel over Arabs who were born there, then the issue is democracy itself and the inability of a Zionist entity to exist as a democratic state at all. This is what Greenstein has been kvetching, correctly, about for years in these pages, and hes spot on.
Only a democratic, secular Palestine, as stated in the original PLO charter, can guarantee democracy to all the inhabitants of Palestine. And this means, in effect Arab majority rule, not white-European minority rule, which is what really exists there now, despite the fake democratic trappings of the Zionist entity.
Sleight of hand
Sleight of hand
Guy Maddoxs letter was a disgrace. Rather than socialists and Marxists rejoicing at a defeat of the UCU motion to discuss a boycott, they should be up in arms. He uses the term reactionary anti-imperialism in his letter. Surely this is an oxymoron, if ever there was one.
The first priority of socialists is to formulate an analysis and action in the interests of the international working class. Israels role as a gendarme of US imperialism is self-evident and well documented. As such, Israels defeat vis-à-vis the Palestinians would help weaken US imperialism, which is the enemy of the international working class in its entirety. His unconscious (or is it conscious?) islamophobia aside, what alternative does Guy propose in place of a boycott in solidarity with the Palestinians?
That the UCU motion has resulted in such a vitriolic reaction from apologists for Israel and the Israeli government is all the evidence needed to reveal the efficacy of a boycott. It begins to chip away at the moral legitimacy, which is the foundation upon which this apartheid state rests.
Resistance to oppression finds its own expression according to objective material conditions. As socialists we do not have friends, but we do have common interests. And in the current period our interests coincide with those of the Palestinians with regard to Israel, and with those of the popular resistance in Iraq in relation to the occupation there. When those material conditions change, then our analysis changes in response; then and only then. The Arab resistance at this juncture is playing a progressive role in historical terms.
The fact that Guy fails to see this reveals only that to him Marxism is not a guide to action but rather a catechism.
I was threatened and slandered as a paedophile when I attended the Al Quds pro-Palestinian march and rally in London last Sunday, October 7. The demonstration was supported by Respect, the 1990 Trust, Muslim Association of Britain, Islamic Human Rights Commission, Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Federation of Student Islamic Societies. The Trafalgar Square rally was addressed by Respect MP George Galloway and former Daily Express journalist Yvonne Ridley.
The Al Quds protest was supposed to be in support of justice for the Palestinian people. Thats a cause I support. I am against Israels illegal occupation of the West Bank and its divisive Berlin-style wall. But I object to the way the Al Quds demonstration also supports the tyrannical, anti-semitic Iranian regime and its fundamentalist, terrorist offshoots, Hamas and Hezbollah.
I joined the march with three members of the Alliance for Workers Liberty, who also wanted to draw attention to human rights abuses by the Tehran regime. We were part of a larger anti-Al Quds protest, but, whereas everyone else decided to protest from the sidelines as the Al Quds marchers passed through Piccadilly Circus, four of us took the decision to join the march and challenge its fundamentalist, pro-Iranian regime agenda.
I held two placards. One with a Palestinian flag and the slogan Free Palestine, and the other with a photograph of a 16-year-old girl, Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh, who was executed in 2004 by the Iranian regime for crimes against chastity, after having been sexually abused since childhood. Tehran hanged the female victim of abuse, not the male perpetrators. My placard said: Oppose the government of Iran, Support the people of Iran.
As soon as I turned up, I was subjected to a barrage of violent, threatening abuse from large sections of the crowd. Some started chanting: Tatchell is a Zionist, Tatchell is a paedophile. Get out! Get out! Get out! Despite this abuse, we handed out leaflets criticising the Iranian regime, which a number of the Al Quds marchers took and read. Following at the back of the march, we were subjected to a torrent of hatred all the way from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square. A few of the Al Quds marchers shouted things like: You are all Zionists and CIA agents. How much money did Bush pay you to come here today? These people are paranoid and delusional.
On six occasions, some of the protestors tried to physically attack me and the Workers Liberty activists. It was only police intervention that stopped them from battering us. These islamists claim to represent true islam, but in my view they behaved in a most un-islamic and unreligious way. They preach a gospel of hatred and violence against Jews, gay people and even other muslims who disagree with their fundamentalist interpretation of islam. I am sure most muslims in Britain would be horrified by their justification of violent extremism.
Many of the marchers were carrying Hezbollah flags and chanting, We are all Hezbollah now. When we pointed out that Hezbollah kills innocent Israeli civilians, and endorses the execution of women and gay people who transgress their extremist interpretation of islam, we were told things like: Thats good. Society has to have order. These punishments are necessary for the good of society.
On a positive note, several of the marchers - nearly all women and nearly all wearing the hijab - expressed their support for our protest. One said: We dont agree with the Iranian regime either. Killing that young girl was wrong. Another said: Islam is about love and peace. Dont listen to the fanatics. We are only here because we support Palestine. Such responses were very gratifying to hear.