May I add a footnote to the articles by Moshé Machover, Yassamine Mather and Mike Macnair on the nature of the Zionist state (Weekly Worker February 19, March 19 and April 16).
It might be easier to understand Moshé’s rejection of the concept of ‘Jewish nation’ to describe the Hebrew-speaking population of Israel if we gave an example of how a ‘nation’ based on religion operates in practice.
When Khomeini gave his infamous fatwa on Salman Rushdie, he was essentially expressing two linked notions. One, that all Muslims, regardless of where they were living, are members of the “nation of Islam” (umma) and therefore under its jurisdiction. It follows that the laws of Islam apply to the citizens of every other nation when it relates to a Muslim. Hence Khomeini’s ability to override British jurisdiction over its citizen (in this case Rushdie) and pronounce a death sentence on him for his blasphemy, even if that ‘crime’ was committed on British soil.
In other words, all Muslims are under the jurisdiction of Islam, regardless of where they live, and the writ of the ‘Islamic government’ runs wherever Muslims live. This is inherently despotic, as it extends the jurisdiction of non-elected and non-answerable persons. It is also an open declaration of war on national sovereignty.
The Zionist state has done the same, although diplomatic niceties and Realpolitik have prevented its naked expression. The activities of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is proof of this transposed allegiance.
I seem to have become a target of the war on terror.
On January 15, when I was travelling to Beirut, I was called aside at Heathrow by an official to find out why I was using a UK travel document after having been in this country for 19 years. I explained that I was not applying for citizenship, but only residency, so I could only use the travel document and not a British passport. After telling him that my purpose in visiting Beirut was to attend a conference, he asked how sure I was that the conference would take place in the light of what was happening in Gaza.
I didn’t expect any more problems as I returned to London after also visiting Ethiopia when the conference ended, and went through immigration formalities in the queue with those who had passports from the UK and the European Union. However, when I was travelling to Lome, Togo, I was stopped by two people after the last formalities at the boarding gate. One did the questioning, whilst the other stood by.
I was questioned about my travel document again and also asked what I had been doing in Beirut in January. I was then told that I was being stopped from joining the plane until they found out I was not a suspected terrorist. After phoning the home office or wherever, they came back to me and the man who did the questioning said: “Mr Nani, I didn’t have any doubt about what you were saying, but these things have to be done.” I asked for the officer’s full name and he replied: “Dave, the policeman - that’s all you’ll get.” If these people cannot properly identify themselves, then any cowboy can jump on anybody at the airport and pretend to be an official.
Upon returning to Gatwick, on April 26, things were worse. This time I was told by an immigration official that I was in the wrong queue and should join the queue for those with passports from other countries, not the UK queue. As I had a UK travel document and no document from any other country, it seemed strange, but I did as I was told. When I finally got to another immigration officer for the passport formalities, I was told that I was wrong to write that I was permanently resident in the UK.
My letter of residence from the home office, dated April 6 2002, reads: “Dear Mr Nani, [...] I am writing to tell you that you have been granted indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom as a refugee recognised under the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees and its 1967 protocol. This means you are free to stay in this country permanently.” But the official altered the note at his desk and wrote that I was a temporary resident in UK.
I have registered to attend the anti-war conference in Cairo in May and I am extremely worried about what is going to happen to me at the airport when I am travelling.
Readers may be interested in this noxious piece of Stalinist willy-waggling from the Former Communists e-list - a home for, amongst other detritus of ‘official communism’, several of the more dysfunctional members of the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain.
In response to Lawrence Parker’s article detailing the woes of the CPB (Weekly Worker April 23), one berk issues this threat: “The Weekly Worker group has a simple choice. Shut up. Stop spreading lies and poison. Stop trying to split and fragment the left. Or we really will take you apart and it will not be pretty. Home addresses and phone numbers could be next.”
Alarming, eh? Doorstepped by Dad’s army ...
More seriously, these sorts of foul threats against political opponents have no place in the workers’ movement. I note that the CPB’s general secretary, Robert Griffiths, ducked out of a debate with the CPGB’s Mark Fischer in Abergavenny on April 10. Pathetically, he cited some spat from 23 years ago in what Mark described on the night as “the factional bear-pit that was the party at that time”. Comrade Fischer added: “Move on, Robert”.
But, despite being unable to counter CPGB politics from the same platform as one of its leading members, I presume comrade Griffiths would have no truck with these sorts of methods. If so, perhaps he might like to tell his own members?
Peter Manson describes the ‘No to the EU, Yes to Democracy’ campaign as being “left nationalist” (‘Split over No2EU’, April 23). A typical left sectarian, he gets it completely wrong. The No2EU campaign is fundamentally socialist and internationalist.
Nearly 100 years ago, Lenin showed that imperialism was the highest stage of capitalism, having as a worldwide system become transformed from ‘progressive’ capitalism into a parasitic, decaying, moribund capitalism. How true and relevant that sounds today.
World imperialism has long since coalesced into three major centres in North America, western Europe and Japan. The European Union represents the organisation of the major capitalist powers in Europe and is therefore one of the three major pillars of world imperialism.
We are in favour of world socialism and communism. We are therefore for the overthrow and supersession of world imperialism. If we live and work in Britain and Europe, we have to challenge and confront capitalism and imperialism where we are. This means challenging and defeating the EU, as this is the means by which capitalism is largely organised in Europe.
No2EU challenges the continued existence of a system that is run in the interests of a tiny parasitical minority, and in which economic and financial crisis and chaos, war, hatred, racism and environmental destruction are inherent and endemic.
The platform of the No2EU campaign is not revolutionary socialist, but in totality it does express the need for an economy and society run by and in the interests of the working class, the vast majority of people living and working under capitalism.
It proposes a set of measures which - in order to meet the needs of the working class, end economic crisis and environmental degradation - would of necessity need to make deep inroads into the power and wealth of the capitalist class, challenging the very existence of the capitalist system itself. As in the Communist manifesto, we thereby directly connect the immediate needs, demands and interests of the working class with the need for the overthrow of capitalism, inevitably on an international and world scale.
It would be wonderful if across Europe there was a single working class socialist party we could all collectively vote for and commence the process of socialist revolution and the establishment of working class power in one of the heartlands of imperialism and world capitalism. But we have to start where we are.
No2EU is an attempt by a number of socialists, communists, greens and trade unionists in one geographical area in Europe to work together on the basis on what unites rather than divides us, and to develop a real working class, socialist and internationalist electoral alternative to all the other parties of capitalism.
The range and diversity of backgrounds, politics and traditions supporting No2EU is actually a strength, something to be celebrated, and a very small sign that it may indeed be possible one day to establish and build a single working class socialist party, united on the basis of wanting to end capitalism throughout the world.
I was reading the Jack Conrad’s article ‘Dead Russians’ (March 12) when the following sentence struck my eye: “The Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB and its precursor, the Leninists of the CPGB - founded 30 years ago in 1979 - place themselves historically in the tradition of the left and united oppositions of the 1920s, albeit critically.”
I remember being sold the first six copies of The Leninist magazine as representing the theoretical underpinning of the Leninist group, but I had no memory of the Left Opposition being hailed, let alone Trotsky being praised. Since, in a form of primitive socialist accumulation, I have retained my copies of The Leninist, I thought I would revisit them to see whether Jack Conrad’s memory was better than mine. Apparently it is and Jack Conrad is guilty of revising history, no doubt in the spirit of ‘official optimism’, about everything his organisation has ever done or said. Specifically, I looked at what the magazine said about intra-party debates subsequent to the Workers Opposition, what it said about Trotsky, Trotskyism and Trotskyites, what it said about Stalin and what it said about the 10 to 20 million “unnecessary deaths” in the Soviet Union.
The Leninist was very coy about intra-party debates. It reported extensively on the debates prior to the revolution and alluded to the Workers Opposition, especially in the article, ‘On democratic centralism’, by Rebecca Sachs (No6, January 1984), but in no case did I see the Left Opposition or the United Opposition mentioned at all. The magazine instead fast-forwarded to the debates within the communist movement in the post-Stalin era. In no open, honest or principled fashion did The Leninist uphold the traditions of the Left Opposition, although arguably they implicitly did so by advancing similar criticisms.
As for Trotsky, Trotskyism and Trotskyites, in the ‘Founding statement of The Leninist (No1, winter 1981-82) we see this: “The struggles against economism, liquidationism, Trotskyism, centrism and leftism are the heritage of Lenin.”
This is certainly a contrast to Conrad’s statement now: “It is no exaggeration to say that all worthwhile Marxist theories of the Soviet Union, no matter how partial or flawed, are derived from Trotsky in one way or another. In that sense all contemporary Marxists are pupils of Trotsky.” I also note the article, ‘A call to all communists’, referred to the Revolutionary Communist Group as having “based itself on Trotskyism, a petty bourgeois ideology.”
Jack Conrad also states: “With Lenin in hiding, Trotsky became the main organiser of the October Revolution. He chaired the Revolutionary Military Committee, which planned and directed the seizure of the Winter Palace and other vital government, commercial, military and communication centres.”
This is interesting because the above mentioned article about democratic centralism includes a page and a half describing the events leading up to and immediately after October without any mention of Lev Davidovich at all.
On Stalin, the only prolonged reference I could find was in the article, ‘The general crisis and the world balance of forces’, by Frank Grafton (The Leninist No4, April 1983). This talked about the criminal elimination of party and socialist democracy during the 1930s. Suggesting that democracy was only eliminated in the 30s is a curious assertion for a grouping based on the traditions of the left and the united oppositions of the 1920s. Still more curious is the reason given for this: “It was Hitler’s shattering blow to the Communist Part of Germany that sparked this ideological defeat.” Really? I thought that it was this ideological defeat that contributed to the shattering blow to the KPD.
Jack Conrad says: “With the first five-year plan the Soviet Union can no longer be described as a workers’ state of any sort. Deformed, degenerate or anything else. There was a counterrevolution within the revolution.”
The Grafton article says: “Stalin’s centrism reconciled the CPSU to the growth of opportunism in Comintern, but to call this counterrevolutionary, as the Trotskyites crudely maintain, is to ignore his primary motivation of strengthening and developing living socialism, albeit in a bureaucratically distorted form.”
And, as for “unnecessary deaths” in the Soviet Union, there are no references to these at all in the first six issues of The Leninist.
It seems that the open position of the Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB has actually changed considerably from that of its precursors in The Leninist. In the light of the world historical events of the past 30 years, that may be no bad thing, but it is a thing and it is false to state otherwise. Open and honest acknowledgement of past errors is a Leninist trait, is it not? Be bold and admit that your analysis now is not what it was then. What have you got to lose?