Category Archives: Nationalism and internationalism

Our Europe, their Europe

Marxists are by definition internationalists. Therefore we are opposed to nationalism in all its variants, whether it be the classic Little-England type or the ‘left’ version of socialism in one country (national socialism) – something normally associated with Stalinism.

How does this impact on the Brexit debate? For a very large part of liberal opinion, and the left which tails it – such as Another Europe is Possible -, the actually existing European Union has become an emblem of everything that is progressive – the cherished ideal of anti-racism harmony in marked contrast to the increasingly rancorous nationalism of the UK Independence Party, the European Research Group (headed by the weird retro-Victorian Jacob Rees-Mogg), the desperate Boris Johnson, etc. A social democratic refuge from the onslaught of neo-liberalism and the market.

Does that mean Marxists are enthusiastic about today’s EU or would consider voting ‘remain’ in any possible future referendum? The answer to both these questions is no. In reality, the bloc is committed heart and soul to market values, for all of the flummery about “human dignity”, “tolerance”, “fundamental rights”, and so on. The whole project marches according to the rhythm, requirements and restrictions imposed by capital. Indeed, the EU constitution is a paean of praise for the market and the virtues of competition.

Then remember how the European Commission – in cahoots with the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – imposed a regime of savage austerity upon Greece for daring to defy its diktats, driving millions into penury, homelessness and even suicide.

However, it does not follow that Marxists call for the UK to pull out of the EU because it is a “bosses’ club”, or because it is not “socialist” – silly and also a criminal desertion of internationalism. One might just as well suggest pulling the working class out of the “bosses’ club” of Britain. Or is the pound sterling more socialistic than the euro?

Capitalism and the capitalist state, as it historically presents itself in the here and now, is where the socialist project starts – in this case, the EU. The idea that the working class and the fight for socialism would be collectively strengthened if one or two of our national battalions aligned themselves with this or that faction of the bourgeoisie with a view to forcing a Britain, a France, a Spain or an Italy to withdraw from the EU displays a complete lack of seriousness. Disastrously, we would be weakening our forces.

Instead, Marxists argue for a positive programme. A Europe without unelected bureaucrats, technocrats, monarchies, and standing armies. Communists strive for working class unity within, but against, the existing EU – ultimately we want to overthrow it, just like the British state. Winning the battle for democracy in the EU and securing working class rule over this relatively small but strategically vital continent is the best service we can do for our comrades in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australasia – as opposed to building “Fortress Europe”.

In other words, we are for a republican United States of Europe. Armed with a continental-wide programme, the United Socialist States of Europe can be realised – the “bosses’ club” is replaced by a workers’ club. In turn, such an internationalist perspective directly points to the necessity of organising across the EU at the highest level – crucially a revolutionary Marxist party covering the entire European Union.

No to a second – or any – referendum

Referendums, by their very nature, are undemocratic. At first, this might sound paradoxical or counter-intuitive – you get to vote in an act of ‘direct democracy’, after all. But, whilst referendums have the great virtue of appearing to be the epitome of democracy, the reality is quite the opposite. They bypass representative institutions and serve, in general, to fool enough of the people enough of the time. Often complex issues are simplified, drained of nuance and reduced to a crude choice that cuts across class loyalties. Hence today, thanks to Brexit, one half of the working class is found in the ‘leave’ camp – the other half is with ‘remain’. That is hardly a situation to be celebrated.

There are very few situations where there is a simple binary choice in politics, and that can be illustrated by what followed the referendum. Yes, a relatively small majority voted ‘leave’, but on what terms – hard Brexit, soft Brexit, Brexit-in-name-only? If there had been a ‘remain’ victory, as most people had expected right to the wire, we would have been confronted by the same conundrum – ie, how to interpret the result.

Furthermore, what about the long-term validity of that result? For example, many of those who argue against a second referendum today claim that ‘the people have spoken’ and so their verdict must be regarded as final. But in fact the 2016 poll was itself the ‘second referendum’ on the subject. In 1975 Harold Wilson called one to decide whether Britain should remain in what was then called the ‘European Community’ (or ‘Common Market’), even though it had only joined two years earlier. There was a substantial 67% majority to stay in the EC. Clearly people can change their minds.

The problem is that referendums are totally inadequate compared to representative democracy. The latter is based on the election of well-tested working class representatives, who must be made accountable to those who elected them. Under such a system we should trust those representatives to take the necessary decisions – and ensure that they face the consequences if they embark on a path that is not in our interests. Referendums, on the contrary, tend to divide the working class, weaken its party spirit and produce the strangest of bedfellows. For example, in 2016 committed socialists were urging the same vote as the far right, while others were aligned with the liberal establishment. Now we find Nigel Farage on the same side as George Galloway.

In 1911 Labour leader Ramsay MacDonald called referendums “a clumsy and ineffective weapon, which the reaction can always use more effectively than democracy, because it, being the power to say ‘no’, is far more useful to the few than the many”. Yes, a couple of decades later he completely sold out by agreeing to lead a national government with the Tories, but in 1911 he was totally right.

The Labour Party should be opposed to referendums as a matter of principle.

Moshé Machover: Zionist colonisation and Armageddon

As Israel moves further and further to the right, Moshé Machover says religious fanatics are becoming increasingly influential

Binyamin (‘Bibi’) Netanyahu’s motive for calling an early election to the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), on April 9, one year before the end of its term, was purely personal: it was his ‘stay out of jail’ card. His former friend and appointee, attorney general Avichai Mendelblit, could not endlessly procrastinate, and would eventually feel bound to indict him for multiple, firmly attested charges of bribery and corruption. 1)Haaretz February 28 2019 Netanyahu calculated that, if he managed to win an election before being indicted, he would be able to breathe freely for the next five years at the very least.

Winning, in Israel’s system of party-list proportional representation, does not mean getting a majority, or even the largest number, of Knesset seats, but being the only party leader able to form a ruling coalition. Netanyahu reckons that if he puts together a coalition with the two main religious parties and two or three small extreme-right parties, then he can get through the Knesset a bespoke law giving him immunity from prosecution.

Netanyahu knew that his chances of winning the election were pretty good. In this he could count on more than his mastery of rightwing, populist rabble-rousing, fabrication of ‘facts’ and whines of persecution by a hostile elite and ‘leftist’ media. Propaganda apart, Israel’s economy is buoyant and, although inequality remains very high, even the poorest sections of the population – those on minimum wages or social benefits – have experienced some improvement. Unionisation of workers has been increasing, and consequently the number of workers benefiting from improved pay and conditions thanks to collective bargaining has been rising.

Also, since the last elections (March 2015), Netanyahu has avoided large-scale military adventures that exact a toll in Israeli military and civilian casualties; so Jewish Israelis have not felt they were paying a high cost – in human losses or insecurity any more than in economic terms – for ruling over the Palestinian occupied territories. As far as foreign relations are concerned, Netanyahu could count on more than a little help from his friends, including Trump 2)Haaretz March 25 2019 and Putin. 3)Haaretz April 4 2019 Not many national leaders can boast of warm personal relations with both Donald and Vladimir Vladimirovich.

But, leaving little to chance, Netanyahu took several steps to secure his electoral victory and the subsequent prize of immunity from criminal prosecution. In order to make sure that his preferred prospective coalition partners – those of the extreme annexationist and ultra-racist right – would reach the threshold of 3.25% of the valid votes required to win any seats, he acted as match-maker between two such parties, each of which may not have reached this threshold individually, and persuaded them to form a bloc. This ran as the Union of Rightwing Parties, duly passed the threshold and won five seats. In exchange for their complicity in passing a law keeping him out of prison, Netanyahu had promised to accede to their hearts’ desire: annexation of parts of the West Bank.

The most serious rival of Netanyahu’s Likud party in the elections was the newly formed centre-right bloc, Kahol-Lavan (Blue and White – colours of the flag of the Zionist movement and the state of Israel), led by retired general Benny Gantz, two other retired generals and a civilian windbag, Yair Lapid (the only one of the four with some political experience, having served as minister of finance in a previous Netanyahu-led government).

Lacking any coherent programme, it attracted many voters disgusted with Netanyahu’s corruption and rightwing populism. Netanyahu’s way of fighting off the potential threat represented by this nine-day wonder was to point out that it would not be able to block a Likud-led government (let alone form a ruling coalition) except in collaboration with Arab parties. The three generals and the windbag, bowing to popular Israeli-Jewish racism, duly vowed that they would never collaborate with Arabs, thereby confirming that they pose no real danger to Netanyahu.

Many Arab citizens, feeling alienated and excluded, were clearly going to boycott or ignore the elections. But to ensure low Arab participation, Likud resorted to intimidatio. 4)Haaretz April 10 2019

In the event, Netanyahu’s Likud won 35 out of 120 Knesset seats, the same as the Blue-and-White contender. But the latter’s 35 elected MKs have little to hold them together. The hastily assembled, disparate quasi-party may well fall apart before long. Its main contribution to Israel’s political history is to have sucked voters away from the bloc formerly led by the Israeli Labor Party, and reduce Labor, with its pitiful six seats, to a mortally wounded relic, crawling towards a well-deserved demise.

Messianic fanatics

Evidently, the outcome of Israel’s elections is part of a worldwide shift to rightwing authoritarian regimes led by elected illiberal demagogues. Netanyahu has much in common with Trump, Putin, Erdoğan, Orbán, Bolsonaro and their ilk. But equally obviously, Israel’s rightwing populism comes with a special Israeli twist: that of a Zionist colonising regime, increasingly inspired by a creepy messianism. This growing importance of eschatology in Israeli politics has not received sufficient attention.

Religions tend to have their lunatic fringes – crazed zealots lurking in the obscurity of the relatively harmless margins – who under certain political and social circumstances may emerge as if out of nowhere and shock the world with horrific and dangerous acts. Judaism is no exception to this rule. In my article ‘Israel and the Messiah’s ass’ (Weekly Worker June 1 2017), I called attention to the emergence in 1967 of messianic religious Zionism. Extremist forms of this political theology or theological politics have steadily grown in importance. Following the recent elections, its most fanatic true believers are openly represented in the Knesset, as members of the Union of Rightwing Parties, and will no doubt be part of the ruling coalition.

The size of this bloc – a mere five seats in the Knesset – understates the real influence of messianic fanaticism. A significant number of supporters of this ideology must have voted tactically for one of the larger and well-established religious parties (Shas and United Torah Judaism), or for Likud.

Messianic activists differ in one crucial respect from other followers of orthodox Judaism: they are determined to take actual steps to bring about the establishment of a renewed biblical Jewish kingdom. A key part of this plan is the building of a third Jewish temple on the old hallowed hill (the first two were destroyed respectively by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the Romans in 70 CE). An obvious obstacle in the way of the third temple is that the Jews’ Temple Mount happens to be the Muslims’ Haram al-Sharif – Islam’s third holiest place, site of al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. These will have to be demolished to make way for the third temple.

Plans to bring this about are by no means new. From 1979 to 1984 a secret cabal of settlers, known as the Jewish Underground, engaged in terrorist actions against Palestinian civic leaders. It also hatched a plot to blow up the Dome of the Rock; but just in time members of the group were arrested and brought to trial on charges of terrorism. Most served short terms, and the ringleaders were pardoned in 1990. 5)Haaretz April 10 2019 Unrepentant, the zealot leader, Yehuda Etzion, and his mates continued to make plans for the third temple. But now they have moved from the margins into the centres of political power. And their numbers have multiplied. A recent TV documentary series has drawn attention to an extensive network of activists making practical preparations for building the third temple and performing the rituals in it. 6)The very revealing first part of this series can be seen – unfortunately without English subtitles – on www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6NzLD-0laQ&feature=youtu.be These include detailed architectural drawings and models for the temple itself, sewing and embroidering vestments for the priests that will officiate in it, and practising animal sacrifices in the vicinity of the holy site. In order for the priests to be allowed to enter the temple and perform their rituals, they must first be purified with the ashes of a burnt, unblemished red heifer. Red means totally red – even two black hairs disqualify it. A cattle rancher in the Israeli-occupied Golan, by the name of Menahem Urbach, has been commissioned to produce a red heifer by selective breeding. Interviewed on TV, he claimed that the desired animal is expected to be delivered quite soon.

It will be televised

Explosives are easily accessible to the activists, who reside in armed settlements; and some are no doubt stashed away for use, as and when required. Of course, the Muslim world is likely to react violently to the destruction of the holy mosques. This can easily escalate to a major conflagration in the entire region, and possibly beyond.

The messianic zealots are not particularly bothered by this prospect: they regard it with the same kind of hopeful anticipation that extreme Christian evangelicals have for Armageddon.

In fact, both bunches of dangerous nutters, whether Jewish or Christian, share many beliefs (except that the former are expecting the first coming of the messiah, while for the latter it is going to be the second – following which the Jews will have to convert or die). As the Daily Express reported recently:

Biblical conspiracy theorists believe the construction of a third Holy Temple in Jerusalem will precede the imminent return of Jesus Christ. Jewish eschatology concerning the end times claims the Holy Temple will rise up from the ground for the third time when the apocalypse nears. Talk of a third temple being built emerged this week in response to a letter penned by the powerful Jewish assembly of rabbis known as the Sanhedrin.

Jerusalem is heading into a mayoral election next week and the Sanhedrin urged both running candidates, Ofer Berkovich and Moshe Lion, to rebuild the temple. …

The Holy Temple plays a crucial role in Jewish tradition and is a central player in prophecies and tales concerning the apocalypse.

Christian pastor and doomsday preacher Paul Begley has now claimed the signs of the end times are coming to fruition. The Indiana-based preacher said: “The rabbis of the Sanhedrin court are calling both mayor candidates to include in their plans for this city the rebuilding of the third temple …”

According to Irvin Baxter of the End Time Ministries, the third Holy Temple will be rebuilt in the last seven years of the world’s existence. The doomsday preacher said this will happen in the first three years of the end times and will be the “most visible sign” of the end times finally arriving.

Mr Baxter said: “As that cornerstone is laid on the Temple Mount, every network on Earth will be televising this incredible event.”7)Daily Express March 18 2019

Will Israel’s security services act in time to prevent an explosion on the sacred site, as they did back in 1984? I do not wish to sound too alarmist, but, when watching Israel careering to extremes of racist populism and annexationism, we should also keep an eye on the movement of messianic fanaticism.

I would like to thank comrade Ehud Ein-Gil for his help in researching this article.

References

References
1 Haaretz February 28 2019
2 Haaretz March 25 2019
3 Haaretz April 4 2019
4 Haaretz April 10 2019
5 Haaretz April 10 2019
6 The very revealing first part of this series can be seen – unfortunately without English subtitles – on www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6NzLD-0laQ&feature=youtu.be
7 Daily Express March 18 2019

Moshe Machober: Zionist chutzpah

On the 70th anniversary of the nakba, Moshé Machover notes a remarkable piece of hypocrisy

this article first appeared in the Weekly Worker

The besieged people of Gaza have been marking the 70th anniversary of their dispossession and ethnic cleansing, the nakba, by a series of unarmed mass demonstrations – a largely symbolic attempt to assert their right of return and break out of their repeatedly ravaged cage, the world’s largest concentration camp. Israel, for its part, has also been marking the anniversary: it has deployed well-trained marksmen, instructed to kill or maim those daring to approach the prison fence, using ammunition designed to cause horrendous injuries. 1)For evidence suggesting the use of expanding (‘dumdum’) bullets, see the Médecins Sans Frontières report of April 19, ‘Palestine: MSF teams in Gaza observe unusually severe and devastating gunshot injuries’: www.msf.org/en/article/palestine-msf-teams-gaza-observe-unusually-severe-and-devastating-gunshot-injuries. See also Satar on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Satar_Gaza/status/982562328477683713.

The British media have hardly reported on this ongoing massacre: they have been too busy accusing Labour Party members supporting Palestinian rights of ‘anti-Semitism’. The main Israeli media (with the honourable exception of Ha’aretz) and the overwhelming majority of Hebrew Israelis, have been wholly supportive of ‘our children’, who are ‘defending’ the beleaguered homeland against ‘terrorists’ threatening its destruction. This moral blindness – the inverted perception of who is the victim and who is the oppressor – pervades Israeli Hebrew society, from the ideologues at the top right down to the ‘Kill all Arabs’ mob.

But in this month of nakba anniversary I would award the first prize for a combination of hypocrisy, cynicism and lack of self-awareness to brigadier general (retired) Ephraim Sneh, a former Labor Party minister and currently head of the Strong Israel mini-party. So, in Israeli terms, he belongs to the centre, or even centre-left, rather than to the extreme right.

In an article published on May 7, he proposes what he obviously wants to be regarded as a fair historical deal between the worldwide “Jewish people” and the Palestinian Arab people. He sets up an apparent equivalence or symmetry between two conflicting claims over the whole of the “Land of Israel” (that is, pre-1948 Palestine). And he urges both sides to give up their right to return to certain parts of it:

… anyone wishing to advance an agreement in the Land of Israel – and such an accord is ineluctable – must create a narrative of conciliation, built not on ignorance, but on an understanding of the sensitivities of the other side …

The most sensitive and loaded emotional issue for both sides is their historical affinity to this land, in its entirety … Palestinians must understand that the cradle of the historical legacy of the Jewish people lies in the heart of the West Bank. Jeremiah and Amos did not prophesise in Bat Yam or Holon, but in Anatot and Tekoa. Our national past is rooted in Shiloh and Beit El, on the road to Efrata.

Yes, we have a right to return to these places. However, all Israelis who support a two-state solution and a division of this land relinquish the exercising of this right, even at the heavy, but unavoidable, cost of evacuating tens of thousands of Israelis who have exercised this right. This concession is aimed at enabling a peaceful life in the Land of Israel, which includes a Jewish and democratic state on most of its territory.

The Palestinians cleave to the ‘right of return’, but they have relinquished the return. Abbas said so publicly with regard to his family home in Safed, attracting heaps of abuse from Hamas. They know refugees will not return to live within the boundaries of a sovereign State of Israel. There is a reason Hamas finds it difficult to mobilise masses to participate in its provocative displays on the Gaza border. However, when they say ‘right of return’, the Palestinians are referring to their historical affinity with Jaffa, Lod, Ramle and hundreds of villages that were abandoned in 1948. We as Israelis must understand and respect that.

One must distinguish between a right and its realisation. A narrative of conciliation can be built on the understanding that for the sake of coexistence between two national entities in this land both sides relinquish the exercising of what each one of them sees as their historical right.2)E Sneh, ‘The mutual right of return’ Ha’aretz May 7: www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-the-mutual-right-of-return-1.6060664

Note that in his hypocritical advocacy of ‘sensitivity’ there is no recognition that the Palestinian people have been the victims of Zionist colonisation and ethnic cleansing by Israel. He refers to their right of return in scare quotes, making it seem suspect. But his claim of a Jewish right of return is apparently in no need of any reservation. His sense of history makes one gasp in amazement. He forgets to mention that the Palestinians were deliberately exiled from their homeland by Israel, within living memory. 3)See Moving Forward special nakba issue, May 1 2018: http://fowardd.com/editorial/unearthing-truths-israel-the-nakba-and-the-jewish-national-fund. Not even the most ardent Zionist could claim that the Palestinian Arabs expelled the Jews from their homeland, many centuries ago. The widespread story is that the Jews were expelled by the Romans; but as a matter of historical fact this is a myth, for which there is no evidence. There was no expulsion. 4)A useful summary of the well-established contrary evidence is in Shlomo Sand’s The invention of the Jewish people (London 2009).

Note that the “heavy but unavoidable cost” that he is prepared to concede is that of “evacuating tens of thousands of Israelis who have exercised [the] right” to colonise the occupied West Bank. So the vast majority of the 800,000 settlers should continue to exercise their divine right to steal the land of the indigenous Palestinian people.

Sneh is so devoid of self-awareness and so full of self-righteousness that he wants us to accept that the Palestinian right over the homeland of which they were dispossessed in his own lifetime is inferior to that of the “Jewish people”, which is based on an ancient religious myth. He proposes a partition of “the Land of Israel” (aka Palestine), in which “a Jewish and democratic state [would keep] most of its territory” in exchange for allowing its indigenous people to hold on to the fragmented leftover.

But this piece of chutzpah is the best you can expect even from a relatively moderate Zionist.

Notes

1. For evidence suggesting the use of expanding (‘dumdum’) bullets, see the Médecins Sans Frontières report of April 19, ‘Palestine: MSF teams in Gaza observe unusually severe and devastating gunshot injuries’: www.msf.org/en/article/palestine-msf-teams-gaza-observe-unusually-severe-and-devastating-gunshot-injuries. See also Satar on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Satar_Gaza/status/982562328477683713.

2. E Sneh, ‘The mutual right of return’ Ha’aretz May 7: www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-the-mutual-right-of-return-1.6060664.

3. See Moving Forward special nakba issue, May 1 2018: http://fowardd.com/editorial/unearthing-truths-israel-the-nakba-and-the-jewish-national-fund.

4. A useful summary of the well-established contrary evidence is in Shlomo Sand’s The invention of the Jewish people (London 2009).

References

References
1 For evidence suggesting the use of expanding (‘dumdum’) bullets, see the Médecins Sans Frontières report of April 19, ‘Palestine: MSF teams in Gaza observe unusually severe and devastating gunshot injuries’: www.msf.org/en/article/palestine-msf-teams-gaza-observe-unusually-severe-and-devastating-gunshot-injuries. See also Satar on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Satar_Gaza/status/982562328477683713.
2 E Sneh, ‘The mutual right of return’ Ha’aretz May 7: www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-the-mutual-right-of-return-1.6060664
3 See Moving Forward special nakba issue, May 1 2018: http://fowardd.com/editorial/unearthing-truths-israel-the-nakba-and-the-jewish-national-fund.
4 A useful summary of the well-established contrary evidence is in Shlomo Sand’s The invention of the Jewish people (London 2009).

EU: There will be no reciprocation

David Sherrief says that the Tories seem determined to put the interests of party above those of capital. However, instead of presenting itself as a defender of British business, Labour needs a socialist vision when it comes to Europe

Theresa May’s government is deeply divided and looks set to take Brexit negotiations to a disastrous ‘cliff edge’. Despite article 50 and the tick-tocking of the Brexit countdown, there is little progress being made in Brussels. No agreement over the divorce bill. No agreement over Northern Ireland. Then there is Boris Johnson and his Sunday Telegraph article calling for a low-tax, low-regulation Britain finding a “glorious” future outside both the single market and the customs union. A cat in the nest of singing birds.

True, the government comfortably got the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill through its second reading in the Commons. The final vote was 326-290. However, the war is far from over. Tory MPs – not least Nicky Morgan, Dominic Grieve and Anna Soubry – have tabled amendments aimed at shooting holes into May’s Brexit plans: eg, they want to include the EU’s charter of fundamental rights. There will also be challenges to the use of so-called Henry VIII powers and demands for a vote on the final terms. This brings the distinct possibility of a government defeat. Of course, that would not trigger a general election. For the moment at least, May is secure. She would win a vote of confidence. Nonetheless, the government is vulnerable and we should expect compromises, gruelling late-night sittings, MPs being brought in from sick beds and desperately fought by-elections.

But, surely, the government’s main problem is that a hard Brexit runs counter to the interests of the dominant sectors of big capital in Britain. For example, the recent Downing Street approach to large private companies and selected FT-100 firms, in the attempt to obtain endorsement for the government’s post-Brexit plans for a “global Britain”, was greeted with derision. Technology, aerospace, pharmaceutical, energy, manufacturing, banking and financial services firms have all warned that the drifting Brexit negotiations in Brussels could lead them to transfer some operations from Britain. Toyota is already openly questioning the future of its Burnaston plant in Derbyshire.

Many capitalists fear that they will face tariffs and other damaging barriers after March 2019 … if there is no deal. Nor do they have any liking for the government’s leaked proposals to limit immigration post-Brexit. The markets confirm what the personifications of capital say. Since the June 2016 referendum the pound sterling has fallen by around 20%, compared with other major currencies. Reports that outward investment has doubled in the last quarter shows the thinking of collective capital. Despite having to pay what is in effect a 20% premium, the bet is that Britain is heading for difficult times. In other words, Brexit is bad for making a profit.

Of course, at Phillip Hammond’s prompting, there has been an acceptance that Britain will need a negotiated transition period. This has been cautiously welcomed by many of the CEOs and boardrooms of blue-chip companies. But the lack of detail causes uncertainty, frustration, even anguish.

A recent survey of 1,000 UK businesses reported that more than two-thirds of them needed to “know the details of any transition arrangement after Brexit by June 2018 – just nine months from now – in order to plan properly”. If investment and recruitment decisions that have been put “on hold” are to be “unblocked”, 40% of the businesses say the government must set out what the transition will involve, when it comes to vital areas, such as the movement of goods, capital and people, as well as legal arrangements.1)Financial Times September 12 2017

Far from May and her cabinet providing Britain with ‘strong and stable’ leadership, big capital worries that party interests are being put first. Hence addressing widespread concerns amongst voters about ‘unrestricted’ immigration is being prioritised over guaranteeing access to the single market. Private meetings and frantic lobbying have had little effect on David Davies and his department for exiting the EU. The government says it has its mandate and appears intent on brushing aside the interests of big capital. All in all, therefore “big business is in a difficult position”, says John Colley of the Warwick Business School.2)https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/businesss-government-lobbying-brexit-isnt-working-heres-143415309.html

Maybe the loss of direct and indirect influence over the Conservative Party, the inability to exercise control, reflects the increasingly cosmopolitan nature of modern capitalism. For instance, foreign investment in Britain stood at around £950 billion in 2015.3)House of Commons Library Debate pack Number CDP 2017/0159, September 8 2017 A few big businesses, such as JCB, Westfield and Bloomberg Europe, have donated considerable sums to the Tories.4)The Guardian April 1 2015 But most of the money going to Tory HQ nowadays comes from very wealthy – often very quirky – individuals (many of them after access to government, dinners with ministers, knighthoods, membership of the House of Lords, etc).5)www.cityam.com/264987/party-donors-biggest-names-bank-rolling-conservative Over the years the number of companies making donations has declined.6)B Jones (ed) Political issues in Britain today Manchester 1999, p313 Yet, with the bulk of Tory finances coming from the rich and the super-rich, with hundreds of Tory parliamentarians holding directorships, with Tory MPs coming from business and going back to business, with the visceral hostility to trade unions, it is clear that the standard Marxist description of the Conservative Party as the party of big business remains correct, albeit it with qualifications.

Nevertheless, the tension that exists between the interests of big capital and the direction being taken by May’s party and government is unmistakable.

The origins of this divergence lies squarely in electoral calculation. Having outmanoeuvred her rivals and taken over from the hapless David Cameron – following his June 2016 referendum humiliation – Theresa May clearly thought that she could inflict a massive general election defeat on the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party … if she seized hold of the political programme of the UK Independence Party. Of course, her gamble did not pay off. May’s presidential campaign proved to be a disaster, while Jeremy Corbyn’s For the many, not the few campaign was, by contrast, a brilliant success.

Now, irreversibly committed to a hard Brexit, the Tories resemble the Loony Tunes cartoon character, Wile E Coyote. Fixated on chasing the Road Runner, his nemesis, Wile E Coyote, suddenly finds himself in mid-air over a precipitous canyon. His legs still move and so does he. For a brief moment it appears nothing is wrong, that the momentum can be maintained. But, inevitably, Wile E Coyote realises that he is suspended in mid-air … then comes the long plunge to the ground.

Since the 48.11%-51.89% referendum result, Britain has not suffered the economic disaster George Osborne, Mark Carney, Peter Mandelson and co predicted. No yanking recession. No flight of capital. This has allowed little UK Europhobes right and left – from the Daily Mail to the Morning Star – to claim vindication. But a Brexit referendum result hardly amounts to Brexit. True, statisticians report that the British economy has been growing slower than the euro zone. It is, though, a case of anaemic growth compared with anaemic growth. Projected long-term, that heralds Britain’s continued relative decline.

Nonetheless, a negotiated hard Brexit deal – let alone a hard Brexit non-deal – could quite possibly result in absolute decline. Such a prospect deeply worries big capital. Unless control over the Conservative Party can be reasserted, the choices it faces are all unpalatable: tariffs on goods going to the EU, reduced supplies of cheap labour, running down investment in Britain, decamping abroad, sponsorship of a national government, etc.

Meanwhile, Keir Starmer has succeeded in getting the shadow cabinet to come out in favour of staying in the single market. Hence the striking paradox. On Europe Labour is articulating the interests of big capital. Not that big capital will reciprocate and back the Labour Party. It is, after all, led by Jeremy Corbyn: pro-trade union, pacifistic and a friend of all manner of unacceptable leftists.

For the sake of appearances, Kier Starmer pays lip service to the 2016 referendum result. There is no wish to alienate the minority of Labour voters who backed ‘leave’. More through luck than judgement, ambiguity served the party well during the general election campaign. The contradiction between Corbyn’s historical hostility towards the EU – now represented in the Commons by the Dennis Skinner-Kelvin Hopkins rump – and the mass of Labour’s pro-‘remain’ members and voters resulted in a fudge.

However, instead of getting embroiled in the argument about what is and what is not in the ‘national interest’ – eg, staying in the single market versus leaving the single market – Labour needs a class perspective. Marxists have no illusions in the European Union. It is a bosses’ club, it is by treaty committed to neoliberalism and it is by law anti-working class (note the European Court of Justice and its Viking, Laval and Rüffert judgements). But nor should we have any illusions in a so-called Lexit perspective.

On the contrary the EU should be seen as a site of struggle. Our task is to unite the working class in the EU in order to end the rule of capital and establish socialism on a continental scale. That would be the biggest contribution we can make to the global struggle for human liberation l

References

References
1 Financial Times September 12 2017
2 https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/businesss-government-lobbying-brexit-isnt-working-heres-143415309.html
3 House of Commons Library Debate pack Number CDP 2017/0159, September 8 2017
4 The Guardian April 1 2015
5 www.cityam.com/264987/party-donors-biggest-names-bank-rolling-conservative
6 B Jones (ed) Political issues in Britain today Manchester 1999, p313

Establishment looking to dump Trump

First the salacious dossier, then the huge, but liberal-led, women’s marches. The left must maintain its political independence, says Jim Grant

World-wide over 2.5 million marched after Donald’s Trump’s inauguration. There were protests in at least 600 towns and cities. Truly, a mass outpouring of disappointment, anger and desperation. Not only did the US fail to elect its first female president, but Trump is an odious xenophobe, misogynist and a sworn enemy of virtually every progressive cause.

It is vital that we are not led by the nose in what could well be a carefully choreographed campaign to impeach Trump at the earliest possible opportunity. Who spoke at the rallies and what they said tells us everything we need to know about the politics of the organisers. In Washington speakers included Madonna, Katy Perry, America Ferrera, Ashley Judd, Michael Moore and Scarlett Johansson. Their message: stand up to racism and sexism. In London it was Sandi Toksvig and Yvette Cooper (she was there as unofficial Labour – somewhat stupidly the Labour front bench stuck to its NHS action day). Their message: stand up to racism and sexism.

On Twitter, Hillary Clinton, the unsuccessful Democrat presidential contender, thanked all who attended for “standing, speaking and marching for our values”. As for the media, it gave generous pre- and post-publicity.

But Trump cannot be impeached simply because he is an odious xenophobe, misogynist and a sworn enemy of virtually every progressive cause. That is where the infamous Trump dossier comes in. The author is widely assumed to be a certain Christopher Steele. His 35 pages of allegations against the president and his people range from the dubious to the treasonous, to the downright bizarre; all rendered in the bland, grey prose of the MI6 house style.

Steele, a former operative at the Circus gone private, and his firm, Orbis, are merely one of a whole nexus of private intelligence firms operating in London, whose previous claim to notability consists in compiling evidence of corruption at the top of football’s governing body, Fifa, on the UK government’s dime, which issued ultimately – after the information made it to Washington – in the dramatic arrests of mid-2015 and the resignation of Sepp Blatter.

Steele’s name came up after it was admitted that the source of all these allegations is a Briton, which in the end is hardly surprising. Britain has the right combination – slavish obedience to US policy, coupled with a most hospitable environment for Russian oligarchs to stash their fortunes. No doubt there are many Russian gentlemen with ambiguous relations to the Kremlin available for a ‘private chat’ in the right sort of Mayfair club. A whole industry, it appears, has grown up around this fortuitous position, with ex-spooks very quickly replacing their income (and more) in the private sector.

There are, now we think of it, a few parallels between Blatter’s case and Trump’s: both men are sexist buffoons, for a start; and what Blatter achieved within the small circles of football’s governing elite (founding a firm and unpleasant regime on the support of more marginal constituencies) Trump aims to replicate on the grander stage of American society. They are both, above all, men who are liable to make enemies, and Blatter’s ultimately caught up with him.

While the interest of the secret state and its semi-detached private apparatchiks like Steele in the black heart of international football is merely a testament to how bizarre the distempers of the imperialist world order can get, the interest in Trump’s Russian adventures is more easily explicable. US state department doctrine in the recent period has been dominated by the objective of encircling Russia, in order to ensure ready American access from western Europe all the way to the far side of the Mediterranean and the Arabian peninsula. Such activity has increasingly clashed with Russia’s perceived interests in its near abroad – a policy that has provoked crises over Nato expansion and the recent wave of fatuous doublethink over who may be said to have liberated cities from Islamic State in the Middle East.

Compromised

Trump’s stated foreign policy represents, on this point at least, a dramatic shift. He has made no secret of his admiration for Russian president Vladimir Putin, and is gleeful in ramming home the point that the Russians have a freer hand to bomb the hell out of jihadist militants than the United States, such is the diplomatic cat’s cradle the latter has built for itself in the region.

The Steele dossier alleges in substance that the new president’s approach can be explained simply thus: Trump is compromised by Russian intelligence. His close advisors are accused of collaborating in the hacking of Democratic national committee emails. It is alleged that the Russian authorities, while ‘cultivating’ Trump as a presidential hopeful for five years, were simultaneously gathering compromising material (kompromat) as a guarantee of good behaviour, including the eye-catching claim that he paid prostitutes to piss in a bed once used by Barack and Michelle Obama, while he watched.

Trump’s response was, of course, to call all this so much “fake news” and a “political witch-hunt”, which raises inevitably the question of exactly how much there is in these claims. An interesting piece on the website of the London Review of Books by Arthur Snell, a former foreign office apparatchik, makes the point that there are rarely smoking guns in strategic intelligence, which is not so much post-truth as para-truth. What the poor, beleaguered spook has to work with is essentially hearsay:

At the heart of this game of betrayal is trust: the source of the intelligence must be trusted by his or her handler. The reader of the intelligence report has to trust the provider of the intelligence, while remaining critical. Intelligence is about degrees of credibility, and reading it is not the same as reading reportage, or a piece of political analysis. In order to make an assessment of its reliability, a reader needs to examine how it’s been sourced, insofar as that’s possible.1)www.lrb.co.uk/2017/01/17/arthur-snell/how-to-read-the-trump-dossier

All news outlets, especially in libel-crazy Britain, are keen to point out the unsubstantiated nature of all these allegations; and it certainly seems at least that the most straightforwardly damning one (that Trump ally Michael Cohen met with Russian intelligence on a particular date in Prague to discuss dirty digital tricks) is factually incorrect. As for the business with the bed, it is unlikely that any interested parties in the west are going to get any DNA swabs from the sheets. Who knows?

The more interesting question is perhaps not whether such things are true in the narrow sense, but whether they are advanced in good faith. The story being told about Steele is that, having been commissioned by the Democrats to look into Trump for them, he was so spooked by what he discovered that he went to the FBI, who merely sat on all this stuff, not wanting to be seen to intervene in the election. In this version, Steele (or whoever) investigated and reported the allegations out of concern for the west’s internal security, and the leak is essentially a disaster, shifting the terms of debate from the probabilistic models of the securocracy to the less nuanced arenas of the civilian legal system and media scrutiny.

There is the alternative explanation, which is that the whole thing is straightforwardly a fabrication – a Zinoviev letter for the right, playing on Manchurian candidate-style fantasies of the White House somehow being seized by an enemy agent.

The Steele dossier then has two potential uses – the one, being employed as a pretext for impeachment early in Trump’s reign, in a ‘very British coup’ (spooks, sex, the whole works!); the other, being used to make it politically difficult for Trump to pursue his thaw with the Kremlin without appearing to confirm the idea that he is Putin’s catspaw.

Left response

On January 20 the transition of power was complete and Donald John Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States of America. A new era of global politics has begun.

How should the labour movement – in this country and the States – respond?

It is no surprise that there have been huge protests; indeed, protests have barely let up since the election. The horror among liberals, progressives and socialists is palpable, and understandable, at the rise of this narcissistic, bigoted cretin to the Oval Office; and we are disturbed by the apparent reality that he succeeded in part not in spite of, but because of, his posturing machismo and gleeful chauvinism. Trump has exposed a rottenness at the heart of political culture in the Anglosphere; the question is merely what exactly it is that is rotting.

Yet it is a peculiar age indeed when America’s business, political, secret and cultural establishment and the Socialist Workers Party are eye to eye on anything, never mind their attitude towards a newly elected president: “We don’t want Trump – but neither do the bosses,” says SWP leader Alex Callinicos. But all he can offer is “redouble building” the Stand up to Racism front.2)http://internationalsocialists.org/wordpress/2016/11/we-dont-want-trump%E2%80%94but-neither-do-the-bosses-alex-callinicos/ Indeed the SWP’s main slogan, ‘Dump Trump’, is identical with the interests of what is commonly called neoliberal capitalism. There is no independent class politics. No independent class strategy.

The sad fact of the matter is that the SWP is far from alone. The identification of the left with the establishment, the meat and potatoes of the American (and European) right, is being successfully exploited in elections by Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Gert Wilders, Frauke Petry and Marine Le Pen.

Unity with the ‘liberal elite’ is paralysing any meaningful counter-strike against rightist national chauvinism; and the radical left has failed to benefit because it fails to acknowledge that mere ritual denunciations of racism, sexism, etc have not only lost the dissident edge they once possessed, but are now official establishment ideology throughout the so-called western world.

Hillel Ticktin lambasts John McDonnell’s economic timidity

This is an edited version of a speech given by Critique founder Hillel Ticktin at a London Communist Forum on November 13

Clearly, with the election of Donald Trump, the bourgeoisie is entering a period of difficulty – as is to be expected at this stage of the decline and decay of capitalism.

However, the Corbyn wing of the Labour Party is putting forward a very weak economic programme. It is, of course, difficult for shadow chancellor John McDonnell to openly propose what he has held in the past (and may continue to hold till the grave), because he believes it to be unacceptable – the Labour right is in fact attacking him as a fantasist.

McDonnell’s programme begins, as does Trump’s, with investment in infrastructure – something like £500 billion. £250 billion would be invested directly, and £150 billion would be spent through a nationalised bank, plus £100 billion to be raised from taxing the capitalist class. To give you some idea of what £500 billion means, it is close to the total spent in the government budget every year. Trump, of course, is putting forward a figure of $600 billion, but in the context of the United States this figure is trivial. The GDP is $16-18 trillion a year; while the official arms budget alone is $700 billion.

At the present time the bourgeoisie has realised that the policy of austerity cannot continue as it is. It has been the policy since the downturn and has been enforced worldwide, whether the government imposing it is conservative or ‘socialist’. That is obviously true in France, Britain and Germany, and effectively it has been the same thing in the third world, with certain exceptions.

So a switch to infrastructure represents a change – and, of course, Trump presents it as a very big change. It is not new, however: it was in a sense Barack Obama’s policy, but he could not get it through congress, and it has been the policy of the International Monetary Fund for the last few years. Since the IMF is an institution largely controlled by the US, this is not so surprising. The IMF has been insisting on the importance of infrastructure, which should be built up in all countries. You do not need to be familiar with Keynesian economics to know that if you expand your budget and invest in the economy then you will have growth and increase the number of people employed. The result being that the tax take will grow – and it can grow very considerably. That is elementary logic – you do not need to know anything about economics to understand it.

But economics has become a huge industry in itself. Lawrence Summers, who was Bill Clinton’s treasury minister in the 1990s and is now professor of economics at Harvard, keeps writing in the Financial Times along the lines of what I have just said: there is no reason not to spend on infrastructure, since it would not cost the bourgeoisie a single penny. Employment and the tax take would rise, and consequently there would be no increase in the budget deficit, so technically it could have been done a long time ago.

But, of course, it was not really about a budget deficit at all. The reason they did not adopt such a policy was because they preferred austerity – they actually wanted large-scale unemployment. They wanted a reserve army of labour, which would hit the working class hard, in order to control it. They wanted to re-establish commodity fetishism – the eternal, permanent nature of the market. They wanted to re-establish the ideology. That was the intention. But could such a policy succeed? One could argue – and this obviously is what a section of the capitalist class, and whoever advises May, must think – that it just does not work. The working class voted for Brexit because it was antagonistic to the establishment, in the words of Nigel Farage. If that is so, clearly austerity is not actually working, or working sufficiently. That is what this government believes and what the far right has been arguing in its own, anti-establishment language – it is what Trump is arguing.

Capitalist ‘socialism’

In fact McDonnell is actually far less radical than Trump in terms of what he is proposing. And in the context of the new May government he is not that radical either. The fact that rightwing Labour says it is a fantasy shows the nature of rightwing Labour – it does not understand the system it is supporting. So there is no reason for McDonnell to back down – indeed he could go very much further. But he has not put it in this overall context. So, while Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell both talk about socialism, they are not even very radical, let alone socialist.

Indeed they both talked of socialism at the Labour Party conference in October. But it was simply amazing – deputy leader Tom Watson came out with a speech about the wonders of capitalism and afterwards was congratulated by Corbyn! This must be a new type of socialism. In a recent TV interview Corbyn was asked if he was in favour of a socialist, planned society. And he said no: that went out with the Soviet Union, and Labour was in favour of the market. So what on earth is he talking about? On the one hand he talks about socialism, and on the other hand the market. Obviously McDonnell is anxious to distance himself from Stalin’s regime, but he is not prepared to explain the difference between that and what a socialist society would be like.

The case for a socialist society starts with the abolition of abstract labour. Obviously Corbyn and McDonnell are not going to use those words, but what it amounts to is abolishing the measurement of, and control over, labour. A society where such control exists is a society marked by an economic force which socialism aims to abolish. You might put forward a demand like, ‘There should be control from below, and managers should receive the same wages as ordinary workers.’ If McDonnell did that he would be laughed at, of course. But it would be a necessary feature of socialism, which entails self-management throughout society, from top to bottom, and movement between positions, whereby people are trained to take part in the planning and management apparatus, as monotonous, soul-destroying jobs are abolished. This is not just an ultimate aim: it is one which needs to be brought into being.

Quite obviously McDonnell does not go near it. Yes, he says he will tax wealth, but it is not very clear to me why he does not propose a very heavy tax on incomes. Why should anybody get £5.5 million, the average salary of a CEO today? I looked at the income tax statistics for 2010, and what they show is that there were around 11,500 people who ‘earned’ more than £1 million a year, the average among them being £2.5 million. Since then, the average has gone up to £5.5 million – their salaries have more than doubled. If you multiply 11,500 by £5 million, you get close to £60 billion and the budget deficit is £70 billion!

So McDonnell could produce these statistics to really back up his claims for ‘higher levels of equality’. Of course, the reply would be: ‘There’d be no incentive for the wealth-creators, the entrepreneurs, those who come up with the ideas.’ One could argue in reply that such capitalists are actually a hindrance, but if he did that he would be viciously attacked and derided as an idiot.

So instead he proposes a fairly anodyne wealth tax, which is opposed using the argument that old people – usually women – who have big houses should not be penalised in that way. Along with this he has put forward a £10-an-hour minimum wage. I do not understand why he is being so miserly – the government itself is proposing £9 and there is still inflation. McDonnell clearly wants to be seen as a ‘moderate’ leftwing shadow chancellor, whom the newspapers will take seriously. But the result is just incoherent and stupid.

Even on the obvious question of the full nature of austerity, why he does not commit to restoring all benefits I do not know. The argument in 2010 was that Britain had to go for austerity because it would go bankrupt otherwise, and there were comparisons with Spain and Greece. But Britain is not actually in the same position, even though it has a huge budget deficit. In the case of Greece and Spain, the largest percentage of the deficit is owed to external lenders; in Britain two-thirds is owed internally, to various pension funds and so on. The fear was that investment in Britain would cease, but that has not happened, and was not likely to happen. There was no reason to assume that pension funds or asset management funds would go under and that is even more true today.

It is hard to see how McDonnell’s programme gets anywhere near appealing to the majority of the population. He does say that Labour would repeal the anti-trade union laws passed by Tories, but he does not go beyond that. The laws were not exactly pro-union before that. It really is a case of ‘extreme moderation’.

There is the usual statement about corporate greed and the need to deal with tax avoidance and evasion. Personally, I do not think socialists should bother with that. It is absurd. What you need to do is raise taxes, full stop. If a corporation refuses to pay tax, then you deal with it. Tax avoidance is deliberately built into the budget statement: it is 100% legal. You cannot argue against it except by arguing against the whole budget and the philosophy behind it – which is what McDonnell should do. But to talk about cracking down on tax avoidance … well you can’t: a considerable percentage of the population takes part in it. ISAs (individual savings accounts) are legal tax avoidance, built into every budget, so talk of cracking down on it is extreme reformism, of an absurd kind. If you are going to propose a budget at all, then you need very high levels of taxation on the rich. If someone has a £5.5 million salary, charge them £5.4 million in tax: if they refuse to pay it, put them in jail!

It is the same with tax havens, even though Britain itself is one of the top tax havens in the world anyway. And it is not that the Channel Islands, Bahamas, etc simply act on their own: tax havens are part of the capitalist system as a whole. The idea that an isolated Labour government can do anything about it on its own is a fantasy, but there is no attempt to look for an international response: it is just Britain and its ‘tax problems’.

However, McDonnell has never held a revolutionary position, although it is understandable that the bourgeoisie attacks him so viciously (and, in its own stupidity, the Labour right has turned Corbyn into a hero). But what they are proposing has very little to do with socialism – except in one important sense. We are living in a period of crisis for capitalism, which is why the bourgeoisie has reacted to Corbyn in the way it has. It really does not have a way out. So, even though McDonnell is a confused reformist who is not going very far, people may force him, in spite of himself, to go further. He has obviously decided to try and conciliate the people attacking him, but in time he will discover that will not work, unless he capitulates completely.

His first demand should have been for full employment; after all, the recent results of votes in the US and Britain precisely reflect current high levels of unemployment. He ought also to have made a statement on pensions, which for most people are appalling at around £8,000 a year. But some in the Labour Party seem to go along with the idea that the cost of pensions is getting too much. The Labour MP, Frank Field, has expressed this view and was not repudiated. Nor has McDonnell proposed anything near enough regarding the national health service, which is clearly cracking today.

Efficiency

And in terms of the overall system, he should have stood up and said, ‘We don’t believe in competition. Competition is not part of socialism. On the contrary, we stand for equality, including equality of power. We stand for people working because they want to work, because work has become humanity’s prime want.’ But he did not do so; he is clearly prepared to accept the overall capitalist philosophy.

Although Corbyn and McDonnell at various times have talked about control from below, now there is no mention of what some people call economic democracy. Nor, what is crucial, did he attempt to take on Tom Watson’s line, which is basically that capitalism is highly efficient, more so than any other system. He ought to have explained that only socialism is efficient, and then given examples of how inefficient capitalism is. The meaning of the socialisation of production – that he does not touch upon. Socialism is a very different system which is bound to come about, which is in the process of coming about.

Both The Economist and the Financial Times have recently made the point that today we have a level of monopoly higher than it has ever been, even though bourgeois economics disputes this. Today, according to The Economist, there are three finance-capital firms, which control 40% of the stock exchange – and that 40% accounts for 80% of output. So there are three firms effectively in control – I do not think such a situation has ever existed before. One would not expect the Labour leaders to really understand what that means, but one would expect, perhaps, that their economists will eventually catch up with reality.

Capitalism is going the way Hilferding and Lenin predicted, even if some on the left say they were wrong. That is the way it is, and yet McDonnell seems to be in some other space.

Boycott the AWL’s “Stop the Labour purges” scab conference

Should we call on members of the Labour left to attend the forthcoming ‘National conference to fight the purge’, organised by the campaign, ‘Stop the Labour Purges’? It does sound like a good idea to do something to fight for the rights of the thousands that have unjustly been suspended, expelled or denied a vote in the recent Labour leadership election, surely?

Our answer in short: no.

Stop the Labour Purge has been set up by members and supporters of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. For a long time, the campaign concentrated exclusively on those being suspended and/or expelled from the Labour Party for their association with the AWL. However, they show less solidarity when it comes to others experiencing the same fate – especially those painted with the scandalous ‘anti-Semitic’ brush.

Jackie Walker is the prime example here, of course. When the pro-Zionist Jewish Labour Movement leaked the secretly taped contributions from comrade Walker to the media and Labour’s unelected compliance unit a few weeks ago, members and supporters of the AWL went into witch-hunting overdrive. Although she had just been suspended by the Labour Party – for the second time! – they made no efforts to defend her.

Instead, they posted old articles about “left anti-Semitism” (which is a title they stick on anybody who opposes the state of Israel or Zionism), called her comments “unacceptable” and argued that she should be removed as vice-chair of Momentum.

As is now well known, the two AWL supporters on Momentum’s steering committee, Jill Mountford and Michael Chessum, wholeheartedly supported the move by Momentum chair and company owner Jon Lansman to remove Jackie Walker from her position of national vice-chair – in fact, they proudly reported it online. As an aside, Jackie Walker, on the other hand, has stuck to the request of the steering committee not to comment on her demotion and simply pointed to its mealy-mouthed statement (see LPM bulletin No3). A mistake, in our view. Outrageous decisions like the one taken by the steering committee should be openly discussed and debated by Momentum branches up and down the country. Her view on the matter and on the process of her demotion would help.

The organisers of the Stop the Labour Purge conference have tried to cover their backs by publishing a statement on comrade Walker, in which they now ask that the Labour Party should “reinstate” her … on October 7 – ie, more than full week after her suspension. This is too little and way too late to convince anybody.

In our view, members and supporters of the AWL have behaved in a truly treacherous way. They have given ammunition to the right wing in the Labour Party and the mainstream media. By supporting and pushing for comrade Walker’s demotion, they have given credence to the ludicrous notion that the Labour Party is ‘overrun by anti-Semites’. In effect, they are sabotaging Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left.

And this is not the only scab campaign they are involved in. They are also pushing the open letter, entitled ‘Speak out on Syria’, that criticises Jeremy Corbyn on his “silence” on the war in Syria, urges him to support an unenforcable no-fly-zone and “condemn, clearly and specifically, the actions of Assad and Russia in Syria, which have caused the overwhelming majority of civilian deaths and which present the biggest obstacle to any workable solution to the Syrian crisis”. Click here for a good article by Yassamine Mather on the role that imperialism has played in bringing about the disastrous situation in Syria – and now we are supposed to call on US and UK imperialism to sort it all out again?

Again, the AWL are playing right into the hands of the rightwing media, the right in the Labour Party and even Boris Johnson, who seemed to have been paying attention to the AWL in his speech in the House of Commons this week: “There is no commensurate horror, it seems to me, amongst some of those anti-war protest groups. I’d certainly like to see demonstrations outside the Russian embassy. Where is the Stop The War Coalition at the moment? Where are they?” (Daily Mail October 10).

We urge all Labour Party members and those purged to boycott the AWL’s conference. Instead, we call on the Labour left to move motions in Labour Party and Momentum branches and Labour organisations that condemn the purges, the demotion of Jackie Walker by Momentum and call for democratic structures in our organisations. There are a number of model motions available on the LPM website.

Carla Roberts, Labour Party Marxists
(letter to the Weekly Worker)