In the ongoing battle over the Assange rape allegations, Heather Downs (Letters, September 13) cites my description of Israel Shamir, who has apparently written an article attacking the two Swedish women at the centre of the allegations in Counterpunch, as a fascist and anti-Semite. I stand by that description.
What worries me most is not the allegations of rape against Assange, but his links with Shamir, which has enabled him to run the Wikileaks operation in Russia and Belarus, in the latter case passing on information on dissidents, according to the Index on Censorship website, to the regime of president Lukashenko, which was unredacted. Shamir is also a supporter of Putin and these connections are indeed worrying.
As for the allegations of rape against Assange, they appear to be bogus and contrived. One of the two women alleged, so I understand, that he didn’t use a condom prior to penetration, as previously agreed. Indeed both women stated to the police that they were not alleging rape or violence. Subsequent to their sexual experiences with Assange, they actually boasted of the encounters in text messages. Indeed one of the women was so upset by the fact that the police were alleging rape that she refused to sign her statement. Although he stayed in Sweden for a further five weeks, the Swedish police showed no interest in interviewing Assange.
I suggest that Heather Downs reads both Naomi Klein’s ‘Something rotten in the state of Sweden: eight big problems with the “case” against Assange’, and the comment underneath by Jettatura (http://markcrispinmiller.com/2011/02/eight-big-problems-with-the-case-against-assange-must-read-by-naomi-wolf), and then say that this case doesn’t stink to high heaven. The open letter by Michael Moore, a left Democrat, to the Swedish government makes it abundantly clear what the real agenda is (www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/dear-government-of-sweden).
Barely 10% of rape allegations in Sweden even make it to court and then the majority of those accused are acquitted. So why was Assange charged and then after the charges were dropped recharged on lesser counts? Could it have something to do with the fact that the Swedish government have hired one Karl Rove as an ‘advisor’ to them on the case? Rove, lest it be forgot, was one of the authors of extraordinary rendition, a programme in which Sweden played its full part in extraditing two asylum-seekers to Egypt, where they were duly tortured.
Women Against Rape may be alone and the brainchild of Selma James, but that doesn’t make what they have to say irrelevant. It is a fact that allegations of sexual violence and rape have been used against black men for decades by colonial and racist governments. Perhaps Heather has not heard of the Scottsboro Boys, nine black boys and men in Alabama who were sentenced to death for rape at the hands of an all-white jury. Their cases led to all-white juries being outlawed by the Supreme Court.
Or perhaps the black peril in Rhodesia and other colonies, where black male sexuality was used ideologically to defend the idea of white femininity and preserve bourgeois values? Feminism posits the unity of women despite class and race. As such it connives with those forces and it is no accident that New Labour was imbued with rightwing feminists such as Harriet Harman, who nonetheless were ardent supporters of Blair’s wars.
We see the same today with Amnesty International’s US chapter using the values of feminism to support the Afghanistan war (http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/amnesty-international-usas-support-for.html). That war too is a defence of feminist values.
Feminism in defence of imperialism is nothing new. Andrea Dworkin, icon to the radical feminist movement, was a diehard Zionist. In the 1980s I clashed with Labour Briefing precisely on the issue of Zionist feminism. All too often socialists have been guilt-tripped into saying nothing for fear of having the finger pointed at them.
If there is any merit to the allegations against Assange then the answer is simple. Let Sweden give a cast-iron guarantee that they will not deport him onwards to any third country after they have finished their questioning. If they are incapable of agreeing to this then the reasons for requesting extradition should be blindingly obvious.
When the ruling elite wish to destroy someone, they generally use dog whistle charges that will encourage an attitude of repugnance towards the target and allow the accusers to occupy the high moral ground. In the case of Michael Jackson, it was accusations of paedophilia; in the case of Julian Assange, rape. By ‘dog whistle’ I mean charges which will attract a bunch of people who will attribute automatic guilt, or at least a ‘case to answer’, to whomever is being accused.
In the case of Assange, the dog whistle aspect has not been as effective as the accusers probably hoped, as Paul Demarty shows in his excellent exposure (September 13). Along with his article in the previous edition, Demarty manages the difficult task of throwing more light than heat on the ‘Assange affair’ by placing it into a class perspective.
The rape allegations, not least what constitutes ‘rape’ as regards Assange, are complex, but, back in the real world, two questions strike me as relevant. Firstly, is it likely that someone who had been raped would then consensually choose to meet the rapist a second time? Secondly, is it likely that someone who had been raped would have texted her mates boasting of having bedded Assange? It appears that these two women did not realise that they had been raped until informed of this by Swedish intelligence.
It is not very politically correct, but I talked to some young (heterosexual) women regarding Assange and their, obviously anecdotal, view was that, with his looks and profile, Assange’s problem would be managing the queue rather than having to coerce anyone.
Some of Assange’s tormentors make light of the proposal to extradite him to Sweden, as if his contention that he would then be passed to the USA is simply ‘paranoia’. However, as Assange’s lawyers have mentioned, there is a secret grand jury currently constituted in the USA, Sweden has an atrocious record of handing people over to the Central Intelligence Agency for rendition and Assange has been publicly threatened with death by leading US politicians.
As for the British government’s claim that they are duty-bound to extradite Assange to Sweden, compare this with the case of mass murderer Augusto Pinochet, who used rape as a tool of repression against Chilean women: every type of apology was conceived by members of the ruling class to ‘explain’ why this sordid man should not be extradited to Spain.
Minimum justice for Assange demands a full public apology, substantial financial compensation and the option of either staying in Britain or free passage to wherever he wants.
Mike Macnair, referring to the motion passed at the TUC conference calling for the consideration and practicalities of a general strike, asserts: “That does not mean that the immediate task is an all-out, indefinite general strike to force the government to give in” (‘Partly off one knee’, September 13). His conclusion is: “This political work is work not for the trade unions or even the TUC.”
Macnair has misread the situation. He makes some correct criticisms of the Socialist Party in England and Wales and Socialist Workers Party. These are both centrist organisations veering between socialist demands calling for a 24-hour general strike and drawing closer and closer to the left wing of the trade union bureaucracy vis-à-vis their support for McCluskey in the recent Unite election for general secretary and for Crow of the RMT and Serwotka of PCS. SPEW, through its organisation, the National Shop Stewards Network, was able to mobilise a significant section of workers on the eve of the TUC conference. To bring 800-1,000 workers to Brighton on a Sunday from places as far away as Scotland and Wales is a significant development.
As a Marxist, you have to understand the contradictory development of these movements. The working class is a revolutionary class, as Marx stated. It is testing out all leaderships in practice. For revolutionaries there has to be a genuine rank-and-file movement as an independent alternative to the bureaucracy, which, as Lenin argued in Leftwing communism: an infantile disorder, is the reflection of imperialism in the workers’ movement - “until these opportunist, social-chauvinist traitors are exposed, discredited and expelled”.
In the Transitional programme, Trotsky stated: “The chief obstacle in the path of transforming the pre-revolutionary state is the opportunist character of proletarian leaderships.” Therefore, the task is to penetrate the trade unions and its left wing, like the NSSN, and win workers to a principled rank-and-file movement independent of the bureaucracy. Grassroots Left is such a movement. It is through practice guided by revolutionary theory that we will win workers to take on and defeat the bureaucracy - the main obstacle in the struggle for socialism and workers’ power - not by separating the political and the economic, as Macnair does. The task is to build a genuine rank-and-file movement, not by remaining aloof from the struggle, but consciously building that leadership in the workers’ movement.
Gabriel Levy’s article on ecology and socialism predicts that “in a future world nobody will have to work in dirty, dangerous holes in the ground” (‘The trouble with economic growth’, September 13).
I’m not sure if that’s because they will no longer be dangerous and dirty or because Gabriel thinks this future world will have abolished the need for mining and we won’t need ores and minerals, so no iron, copper, gold, silver, rare earth metals, coal, uranium, potash, platinum, or any other of the hundreds of the key components we mine for almost everything we do on the planet. Of course, you always have the far more ecologically damaging open-cast mining, which doesn’t involve working underground, which we as miners’ unions across the world oppose, or perhaps we envisage an army of underground robots remotely operated from the surface of deep mines - not inconceivable, of course, by any means. But unless we are contemplating going back to a world of wood and wicker, we will, for the foreseeable future, always need the minerals we mine. I hope too that a future world will not demand anyone work anywhere if they don’t want to, and dangerous and dirty or mind-bogglingly boring and alienating work on the surface is also subject to equal scrutiny, not just mining, which seems to stir the anger of the greens and ecologists.
It does indeed throw us back to the ‘dialogue of the deaf’ when myself and Arthur Scargill invited ourselves to the Kingsnorth power station anti-coal climate camp in an attempt to engage this movement in discussions on clean-coal technology, energy, climate change and class struggle. We had a massive follow-up meeting in Newcastle, organised by the National Union of Mineworkers, to which we invited all the greens and rail and energy unions. There was no agreement found there either.
The division, as one might expect, was industrial workers and union activists on one side; academics, greens and primitive anarchists on the other. We see coal, our communities, our union and its values as crucial elements to energy policy, together with clean-coal production and consumption, and carbon capture and storage. They see coal and, by extension, the miners as the problem; the best they can offer us and our communities is what they call a ‘just transition’, which basically means we do whatever they have ordained is best but we will be given a little time to get used to the idea. The 4,000 or so greens who squatted the fields round Kingsnorth were not really interested in a discussion with the workers at the power station, the community or the NUM. Anyone who was there will tell you that about 100 people out of the 4,000 turned up to debate with us. Arthur was heckled throughout his contribution because he, like myself, was saying something which these people regard as blasphemy.
The NUM produced a four-sided A4 leaflet for the camp, addressing the issues and offering our view. Distribution of this document, in what one assumed was a libertarian camp, was highly contentious and I was asked a thousand times if I had had permission to give it out. “The committee has to approve anything given out,” I was told by squatters and their stewards. I did point out that they hadn’t asked the permission of the farmer to have their ‘climate camp’ and, if they wanted to stop me, they should perhaps ask any of the hundreds of coppers to arrest me. I have since written a fuller version of this document, Clean coal technology, climate change, the miners, the greens and those bliddy windmills, which is now out of print. If the Weekly Worker gets a couple of slack weeks, you might like to serialise it, although, since it challenges many given assumptions and deeply held instruments of the climate change faith, it is likely to be as controversial as something like the furious ultra-Islamist reaction to the US ‘anti-Muslim’ film for what seems to be similarly irrational reasons.
Coming to Gabriel’s assertion that many of the young miners in the vanguard of the 1984-85 strike “had no intention of working in the mines for the rest of their lives”, these are young miners I have never met. I’m assuming you mean our working lives and not until we drop. Yes, we had every intention of working in those mines until it was time to go out to pasture. Certainly, we were demanding retirement at 50 on a full pension, a four-day week and a six-hour day, but we indeed expected and demanded to see out our working days as coal miners. Contrary to many earlier generations, we also demanded that our sons followed us into the mines if they wanted to, that recruitment lists at collieries gave priorities to young unemployed lads from the community before outside labour. I’ve tried to explain in this paper many times that being coal miners afforded us much more than just the highest paid manual work in Britain, with good holidays and numerous rest days. We also had licence to say ‘fuck it’ when we wanted, rag up and go home or just stay in bed, because the other part of being a miner, perhaps the most important part, was the existence of our union, the NUM.
Being miners and occupying a strategic position over the power source of the economy meant we could intervene socially and politically in life; we could put our stamp on what happened or at the very least seriously challenge what was planned by others for us, not always successfully. The degree of job control we exercised at work on manning, overtime and how the job was done rendered this work less alienating, coupled with the physical challenge and job satisfaction of hard, physical, collective labour. We were proud to be miners and would have chosen it against almost anything else (other than not working at all on full pay, of course). So I don’t know which miners Gabriel is talking about.
Certainly, after we lost the great strike, divisions opened up between men who couldn’t live with losing, with the new impositions of jackboot management, with attacks on controls and concessions, etc and those determined to fight it out to the end in the hope of turning the tables and winning it back. We thought perhaps that movement of millions in 1992-93 might just be the turning tide, but the other side was stronger than our movement, and we were less capable of taking on an all-out fight-to-the-death struggle again.
But back in 1984-85 the lads on those picket lines were indeed fighting to remain miners, on our terms, as union miners in an advancing struggle for ourselves and society in general. That is what it was about. To that extent it wasn’t really about coal mines as such.
I really enjoyed the articles covering the debate around ‘What sort of party do we need?’ (September 13) - and especially those by Mike Phipps and Ben Lewis. I thought Simon Hardy from the Anti-Capitalist Initiative was a bit off the wall. Yet another perfectly formed micro-fragment which is going to become the mass movement. I think not.
The Communist Party’s British road to socialism used to have a very good phrase in it to the effect that ‘changing the politics of the Labour Party is bound up with changing the politics of the working class’. Absolutely right. The Labour Party is a product of the labour movement in capitalist society. The issues and problems we have with it and its leadership are integral to the problems we face trying to develop a revolutionary alternative perspective in the oldest capitalist and imperialist nation in the world.
As Ken Gill once said, if we can’t persuade the trade unions, trade unionists and individual Labour Party members to turn the Labour Party into a genuine workers’ party, rather than, as Lenin put it, a “bourgeois workers’ party”, then how are we going to persuade them to break away from that existing party and create something more progressive? It is pointless writing off the Labour Party and seeking to create some alternative Labour Party mark two. If we don’t address and tackle the issues which result in the Labour Party being what it is today, we will only recreate these issues and problems again and again.
Mike gave a powerful and captivating picture of the potential for transforming the Labour Party into a genuine mass party of the working class. Ben correctly identified the Labour Party as a prime site for struggle for revolutionaries and complemented this with the struggle to develop a truly unified Marxist party. If the struggle to transform the Labour Party fails or is superseded, we need to focus on creating and building the revolutionary party, not another capitalist, social democratic party.
In these days of open ruling class offensive and attack on the rights and living standards of the working class and on the organised working class movement itself, it is easy, but classic opportunism, to wish for a reborn social democratic party and politics. We forget Lenin’s analysis that social democracy is the hand-maiden of the modern imperialist state and is just as much about maintaining the rule of the bourgeoisie as open class attack.
I remember very well the last social democratic Labour Party government in the 1970s. It was atrocious and led directly to 18 uninterrupted years of Tory government. And, ultimately, to New Labour.
It isn’t at all clear to me what the political philosophy of the ‘original’ Labour Briefing group is (‘An irresponsible split’, September 13). Now there are two magazines, both of which were sent to me, and two websites. This can only cause confusion. I am all in favour of socialist pluralism and everybody joining every socialist group, to exchange ideas and strategy, but confusion is surely not desirable. Sectarianism is the enemy of the political left.
Sentimentality and an attachment to the way things were in the past are no justification for hanging on to that past. We need a rigorous, reasoned approach. Of course, emotions are valid, but they need to be rationally explored, not separated from rationality. Comrades in the ‘original’ Labour Briefing should be involved in an ongoing dialogue, not wilfully separated from those they once regarded as friends. It’s a shame and a political failure that this division now exists.
Nick Rogers confuses terms in his latest response (Letters, September 13).
Firstly, he confuses capital with capitalists. In his analysis Marx distinguishes between ‘capital in general’ and ‘many capitals’. In relation to the latter, he gives examples using real firms. That is what I did in referring to my own experience working for a protective clothing firm. That is different to a concern for the fate of individual capitalists, which is an aspect of the temporal single-system interpretation (TSSI), and Nick’s argument. If the owners of the firm I worked for had pocketed a capital gain, as a result of a revaluation of the capital assets of the firm, and walked away with it, having sold the business, that would not at all have changed the nature of the individual capital they walked away from. It would simply be owned by a different capitalist!
He then talks about a revaluation of capital across the economy and confuses this with “capital as self-expanding value”. In fact, in Capital Marx specifically distinguishes between a revaluation of capital and the self-expansion of capital as a consequence of the accumulation of surplus value. And quite rightly, because any revaluation of capital due to the labour-time required for its production rising implies a devaluation of the money capital required to purchase it of equal amount.
This is just another example of the way Nick fails to recognise that he works with a constant value of money theory. So, for example, he previously believed that a money capital of £4,000 at t2 was worth twice the value of £2,000 at t1. But, at t1, £2,000 bought as much cotton as £4,000 at t2. In other words, the value of the money had halved. In fact, contrary to Nick’s assertion, I did demonstrate this in relation to the TSSI, in direct debate with Andrew Kliman on Michael Roberts’ blog. Nick can’t seem to decide whether he wants to attack me for not dealing with Kliman’s argument or for not dealing with his.
As for the single moment of time, Nick has not answered my and Trotsky’s argument. As for his reference to black holes, it doesn’t help him. Black holes are also subject to change over time. He once more confuses two things. Having made this point, he later says, “But since when is measuring change across a specific time period (the ‘discrete blocks’ of time to which he objects) a non-dialectical practice?”
That is the whole point. It is the rejection of the existence of points in time I reject, not periods of time, precisely because any point is itself a period. Periods of time are themselves purely arbitrary, man-made constructs. But Nick is wrong to say that even these man-made periods have a discrete beginning and end.
When we say that the financial year ends on April 4, that is an approximation in itself. We do not mean necessarily at 12 midnight, but at close of business, for instance. I would love to see Nick explain, in fact, exactly when April 4 ends and April 5 begins because, I can assure him, that the divisions of time leading up to midnight can be divided into smaller and smaller quantums without actually arriving at the ‘discrete moment’ he thinks exists, just as the moments after 12 midnight can be divided down into infinitely small divisions.
Nick also confuses the fact that I understand his concept and disagree with it with not trying to understand it. In his concept he also confuses values and prices. His concept proceeds on the basis of market prices, which indeed are affected by all the things he describes, and confuses that with values, which are not. Nick is wrong in his analysis of the example I gave. Had a contract been won, the cloth would have been bought on the basis of the previously agreed price with the cloth manufacturer. However, it’s true that this would not necessarily be its future replacement cost, say at the time the clothing was produced. That is a difference between value and price. Usually, if substantial variations arise, there is the potential to adjust prices. But the point is, as Marx points out, these changes in market prices relative to prices of production tend to cancel each other out.
I have not at all misrepresented Marx’s letter to Kugelmann on the law of value. It is precisely, the “distribution of social labour in specific proportions” which constitutes the law of value, according to Marx! At the beginning of the letter he even writes: “The unfortunate fellow does not see that, even if there were no chapter on value at all in my book, the analysis I give of the real relations would contain the proof and demonstration of the real value relation. The chatter about the need to prove the concept of value arises only from complete ignorance both of the subject under discussion and of the method of science.”
In Capital, Marx describes the operation of the law of value at different times of man’s history on this basis, and even in relation to Robinson Crusoe: “His stock-book contains a list of the objects of utility that belong to him, of the operations necessary for their production; and lastly, of the labour time that definite quantities of those objects have, on an average, cost him. All the relations between Robinson and the objects that form this wealth of his own creation, are here so simple and clear as to be intelligible without exertion, even to Mr Sedley Taylor. And yet those relations contain all that is essential to the determination of value” (www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm#S4).
Nick also has it the wrong way around in arguing that it is Marx’s understanding of exchange value which is crucial to understanding value, precisely because value predates exchange value both historically and logically. Humans were producing use values that contained value - ie, a quantity of human labour-time - long before they were producing commodities, and therefore exchange value. Moreover, because exchange value is itself an average of the values of individual use values, those individual values themselves logically have to exist before any such average can be determined. What is more, exchange values themselves have existed for thousands of years, predating capitalism by a similar amount. Exchange values come into existence at the point societies begin to exchange use values on a systematic basis. Moreover, as Marx sets out in the Critique of the Gotha programme, they will continue to exist even after capitalism has been overthrown. What Marx argued is not what Nick claims, but that the specific capitalistic form of the law of value only becomes fully mature when commodity production, and particularly wage-labour, has become all-pervasive.
Nick once again misrepresents what I have said about capitalist crisis. I argue, as did Marx and Engels, that a crisis of overproduction arises because capital expands faster than the ability of markets to consume at prices that enable capital to be reproduced. But not all crises are crises of overproduction. Marx, for example, details the crisis caused by the credit crunch arising from the 1844 Bank Act. Marx also distinguishes clearly between ‘financial crises’ and ‘economic crises’. The latter, he says, may always appear to be due to a shortage of money, even though that is not their real cause, but he says that “must be clearly distinguished from that particular form of crisis, which also is called a monetary crisis, but which may be produced by itself as an independent phenomenon in such a way as to react only indirectly on industry and commerce. The pivot of these crises is to be found in moneyed capital, and their sphere of direct action is therefore the sphere of that capital: viz, banking, the stock exchange, and finance” (note 1, p137, Vol 1).