The dirty infighting behind tactical votingi

The article in the Guardian today reports how angry Anna Soubry is for being excluded as the PV campaign’s preferred candidate in her constituency of Broxtowe.

She is quoted “What are they going to do in Broxtowe? The People’s Vote campaign have to get behind the people who launched the idea of a people’s vote. We were making the case in the face of total derision from some people who are now on board.”…

The article continues “Organisers acknowledge that there will be hard cases in which “brutal” decisions will have to be taken” Poor old Soubz.

[PLEASE NOTE, THE PV CAMPAIGN IS DISTINCT FROM THE CONCEPT OF A PEOPLES VOTE, OR FINAL SAY REFERENDUM. I SUPPORT THE SECOND NOT THE FIRST.]

So which way should Remain voters vote? Sure, lots of voters are confused about where Labour stands on the issue of Brexit. It took a lot of time explaining to MPs and candidates that hiding from the racist backlash within the Brexit movement was not the way forward. Some Labour MPs and candidates still stupidly refuse to personally call for a final say referendum. Continue reading

The unbelievable coyness of Amber Rudd’s being

There are two surprising things about Rudd’s resignation and the response of other business Tories sacked by Johnson.

The first is her and their complete lack of fight to save their party. They are just giving up – they appear as petulant as the leader they leave behind.

The second thing is how coy they are about their ambitions. It is as if they have never been politicians. “Nah, just not that interested”.

At this time, at this place they become apathetic? I’m sorry, I just don’t believe it.

The only sense I can make of it is that something is afoot. Continue reading

Workers must take lead in Hong Kong

Yesterday Chief Executive, de facto ruler of Hong Kong said she was considering using Emergency Regulations –

Hong Kong’s emergency powers are viciously totalitarian.

They are a remnant of HK’s colonised past – last used against ‘Cultural Revolution’ Maoists in 1967. They could be a stepping-stone into potential HK absorption into the China regime.

Many protestors expect invocation of Emergency Regulations soon and there are no end of tweets with the hashtag #HKlastwords. They expect the total closure of the Internet and their own arrest facing life imprisonment or extradition to China to face worse.

At the same time the police banned the more radical trade union federation, the CTU, holding a rally. The implications for CTU affiliated workers who work at the target of the protest – Cathay Pacific airline who have sacked 20 democrats – are extreme. They would face immediate dismissal.

The rally has been relocated but may still face legal harassment.

Hong Kong teachers, one of the most militant sections of HK workers and also affiliated to the CTU, are being named as trouble-makers by the People’s Daily of the Chinese regime. They are clearly targeted for arrest.

I think Carrie Lam is making threats on Emergency Powers that she may not be able to deliver. She doesn’t have sufficient forces of repression to enforce the totalitarian elements of the emergency powers.

The Chinese regime is known to be divided between ‘hawks’ and ‘doves’ regarding Hong Kong. If Beijing sends their army in, it will massively damage not only the Hong Kong economy but that of the whole of China.

The protestors need to stick to their demands, refuse to be intimidated and seek out additional and alternative working class methods of struggle; strikes, defiance built in working class neighbourhoods etc.

However the Hong Kong trade unions are still new. Unlike the South African trade unions during the dying days of apartheid that were modeled on the Lula-led Brazilian unions, the Hong Kong ones are modeled on British unions of the post-Thatcher era. Focusing almost exclusively on workplace bargaining. There is no history of them organising united working class political struggle.

They need to learn fast. A successful fight for democracy in Hong Kong needs them.

And new layers of working class activists are getting involved.

A general strike is planned on Sept 2-3. It’s announcement an hour ago is the first picture. https://www.facebook.com/200954406608272/posts/2394427653927592?sfns=mo

There is an informative Twitter thread on https://twitter.com/kongtsunggan/status/1166602215525625856?s=21

If you are on Twitter, Kong Tsung-Gan’s well worth a follow

Students are marching today as universities start up -2nd and 3rd pictures.

The CTU Cathay workers have just started their rally now.

There is both determination and hope in spite of the shameful silence from elsewhere in the world.

The Hong Kong protests require working class support

The situation is getting increasingly tense in Hong Kong. To the fury of the Hong Kong people their Chief Executive and de facto ruler, Carrie Lam has given no concessions to the protest movement. She is seen as the direct and transparent agent of the Chinese Communist Party leaders back in Beijing whose support she needs to stay in her position. She has been unable even to respond to questions from the press, when any answers might go beyond her latest briefing from Beijing.

The protest movement

On the other hand, the protests get ever stronger and more numerous. At the latest demo on August 18, 1.7 million came out despite torrential rain. It was called by the broad coalition, the Civil Human Rights Front. One of whose demonstrations in the past exceeded 2 million – when it had not faced such bad weather.

These figures are about 1 in 4 of the entire Hong Kong population and in between these mass demonstrations, there have been more than a hundred other demos.

Generally more militant than and frequently defying police bans and attacks, these protests have still organised hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong people. The core of these demonstrations are generally designated ‘protestors’, often distinguished from ‘residents’. Their protests have increased in frequency and militancy over the last three months. Continue reading

An electoral pact with the Lib Dems can only hurt Labour

Paul Mason, one of the most influential journalists and writers on the pro-Corbyn left, has recently called for Labour to embrace the tradition of popular fronts to oppose the ramping up of right wing nationalism that is threatened by Johnson and his Brexit. He argues that ‘a progressive pact with Greens and Lib Dems is … (Labour’s) only option’.

Mason was the first of the more avowedly pro-Corbyn journalists to demolish the pretence that there was a potentially left-wing Brexit that could be negotiated. He preceded by many months other similar journalists such as Owen Jones, Ash Sarkar and Matt Zarb-Cousins who have recently come to that position. For months he continually punctured the myths that Brexit was in any way an essential feature of working class consciousness. He attacked the delusion that that there were ‘Labour heartlands’ of ‘traditional’ supporters – conveniently defined by Lexiters as not including migrant workers, precarious workers, many BAME workers, those in education or anywhere else that challenged their assumption that ‘the workers were for Brexit’.

Those of us in the anti-Brexit left, such as Another Europe Is Possible, who have been making similar arguments for about 18 months and the more recent Labour for a Socialist Europe have a lot to be thankful to Paul for.

However Paul’s advocacy of popular frontism embraces strategies that will not strengthen our fight against the rise of the new right but weaken it practically and ideologically.

We have a problem

The alarm bells that Paul rings are genuine and a great many activists will share his concern that there is real risk of the UK being ‘ruled by a faction of elite Tories who have abandoned their moral and intellectual dividing lines with the far right’. In the face of this, those dominant in the Labour Party leadership seem almost to be in a semi-comatose state. Continue reading

Speech on Johnson’s taking power

Made at protest in Nottingham on Monday, 22nd July


50 of us in Nottingham came back on Saturday from Another Europe Is Possible’s protest in London. On this occasion 100,000 people marched under the No to Boris, No to Brexit call. The two cannot be separated.

Johnson is where he is now because of the demand from Tory members for a new party, significantly worse than any Tory Party before.

There was a time when the Tories used to promote themselves as the professionals in running capitalism. Some people, including workers voted for them because they thought they knew how to run the economy in alliance with their big business friends.

We now have a Tory Party that models itself on UKIP and hopes to pull the Brexit Party into it. Continue reading

Did the Panorama programme help or hinder the battle against antisemitism?

Panorama  in its programme “Is Labour antisemitic?” on 10th July examined the Labour Party’s treatment of claims of antisemitism against its members.

Like many others on the left of the Party, I have argued for decades that antisemitism is a continuing problem that has to be addressed vigorously in the labour movement. It is clearly and most frighteningly a threat to Jewish people. But it is also a unique and perpetual threat to the labour movement and the working class. And it has been from the labour movement’s earliest years.

Lies, such as saying that Jews (or coded references to Jews such as ‘Zionists’) are some shadowy all-powerful enemy, dominating the banks and the media as well as manipulating world politics, have to be rooted out.

That has to be done as much now as  when the lies were first compiled by the Tsarist secret police in their forging of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. Russian socialists had to fight vigorously against the influence of antisemites to stop the Russian revolution being corrupted. Eventually, of course, Stalin was to revive those antisemitic traditions both in Russia and internationally to silence his, frequently Jewish, communist critics.

German socialists also had to do the same against Goebbel’s propaganda for the Nazis. Tragically for Jewish people and for mankind, they were unsuccessful.

But did Panorama help in the battle against antisemitism in the Labour Party?

I don’t think it did.

Examples were given of antisemitism not being adequately addressed by the Party. For example, the hideously antisemitic image of an alien entity sucking the life out of liberty with the star of David on its back. The image was shared by a Party member with a comment that showed further her preparedness to offend Jewish people. It is difficult to understand why she was dealt with so leniently.

The delays in handling Ken Livingstone’s anti-Semitism were reported. Also highlighted were Corbyn’s poor response to the conspiracy-inspired mural and his invitation to antisemitic Islamist preachers.

But most of these have been in the public domain for many months, if not years. Disciplinary action has been taken in many cases. Apologies have been given, generally accepted and hopefully lessons learned.

There were however also worrying reports made by Jewish members that they had been told by other Party members that ‘Hitler had not gone far enough’. But the details of whether complaints were made against people making such remarks and what had happened to those complaints were not elaborated. If such complaints had been made and proven and such clear antisemites not expelled, then that would be truly scandalous.

Many of the Labour staff interviewed may have been taking genuine risks with their jobs. The threats by the Party that they would be breaching Non-Disclosure Agreements was stupid as well as counter to Labour’s policies.

There were also worrying reports on the levels of stress of Labour Party employees and its effects on their mental health. There was also reference to interventions from the Leader’s office that it was alleged gave  leeway to  those considered friendly to the Leadership. These are obviously issues of concern that need investigation.

However the Panorama programme did not provide the detailed evidence of what had happened in many of the above incidents.

That obviously doesn’t mean that they didn’t happen and no socialist genuinely wanting to root out racism can ever dismiss complaints about racism for whatever reason.

However lack of evidence in the processing of any complaint risks polarising the very people who need to be educated. Instead of promoting awareness of the nature and risks of antisemitism, many of those people would be left basing their assessments on belief or non-belief in the witnesses and trust or non-trust of an alleged transgressor. A terrible way to make a judgement on such important matters.

The Party’s response to the documentary – that those members of staff making complaints were ‘disaffected members of staff’ – only encouraged such a partisan response to the documentary. It was understandably considered by many to be victim-blaming.  The objectivity of witnesses is a part, but only a part of any fair investigation. The Party needs to rigorously address the substance of any complaint, regardless of where it comes from. That should have been made clear by the Party on the new allegations that were made.

Partisan judgements can only increase the biggest problem the Party has in dealing with its antisemitism problem – it being used as a factional football between some claiming to be on the pro-Corbyn left of the Party and others on the pro-Watson right.

Some, whom I believe to be in a small, though loud, minority on the Corbyn left, allege that there is no problem in the Party with antisemitism. Others in the Watson camp exaggerate the problem and argue that it is implicit in Labour’s current class politics against the rich. And the media rub their hands with glee as these two minorities battle it out in social media.

One of the problems with the Panorama programme was that those giving testimony were mainly from the Disputes Unit. It would be absolutely wrong for anyone to pre-judge the reliability of any of the witnesses without detailed and empathetic knowledge. However the strong political views of one of the participants in the documentary, Mike Creighton, the Director of that Unit up until 2017, are well known.

During the summer of 2016, motivated by a desire to reduce the left Labour electorate during the challenge to Corbyn’s leadership, thousands of Party members were rejected from membership or suspended. This weeding-out process was nicknamed as ‘operation ice-pick’, so named as it was aimed at ‘Trots’ not antisemites – Trotsky was killed with an ice-pick by an assassin working on Stalin’s orders.

Many of those expelled or suspended were guilty of no more than retweeting tweets from Green party members. Some of us (for I am one) were ‘auto-excluded’ just for being organised Marxists with absolutely no criticism made against us of any antisemitic or other abusive or aggressive behaviour.

After his resignation party, Creichton argued that Marxists like the AWL were equivalent to the BNP and deserving of immediate exclusion.

“…the team I leave behind to deal with the governance and legal issues of the Labour Party. And contrary to popular belief that’s not just about expelling Trots from the Labour Party – although they will continue to do that. Militant, Socialist Appeal, Alliance for Workers Liberty have no more place in the Labour Party than the BNP or the EDL.” http://chalkhilldigital.info/when-the-music-has-to-stop/.

It was interesting that Creichton did not mention the need to combat antisemitism in his speech or comments at the time – his pride was in having kept out the ‘Trots’. Creichton’s hatred of the left is therefore quite clear. And the arbitrary way in which he ran the disciplinary process is no answer to the arbitrary way in which it may be managed now.

The argument made after the programme by Watson and Starmer – that accusations of antisemitism should be met by auto-exclusion are also worrying. Auto-exclusion from the Party does not allow the rights of a hearing. There is no right of appeal. It is an appallingly bureaucratic process that allows powerful and unaccountable people in the Party to remove those they see as troublesome critics.

Only a couple of months ago, the right wing of the Party were criticising the auto-exclusion being used against Alistair Campbell. They were right. It should not be extended – it should be junked by a process that is speedy, based on evidence and is fair.

But more than anything, we have to recognise that the biggest problem of antisemitism comes from ignorance and ideas that have been propagated for decades –  and yes, including on the wider left whose awareness of and guardedness against antisemitism have been shamefully low. That lack of awareness has led to the prevalence of arguments such as:

  • That Israel is some uniquely bad state – it has a brutal war-like government but there are also many others.
  • That Israeli Jews are objects of history but not subjects of it. That they are not entitled to consideration of the needs of their own fight for liberation.
  • That sympathy with Jews, even recognition that there is a problem of antisemitism, can only give succour to the likes of Netanyahu.
  • And beyond that a whole gamut of conspiracy theories that see Israel behind 9/11, ISIS and every other reactionary phenomenon on the planet.

Some who self-consciously propagate such ideas deserve expulsion – but any expulsion has to be justified through a proper, accountable process. This is even more important in the factionally-ridden party that Labour currently is.

However there are other arguments that underpin the above antisemitism that also have to be addressed. On left and right people have been herded into ‘camps’. Within each camp people are expected to be uncritical or to self-censor their criticisms. Such politics dominated 2000’s politics in largest UK movement of the time – the anti-Iraq war movement, Stop the War Coalition (StWC). In those years  left wingers were told by StWC organisers that they should not condemn Jihadists, criticise Islamists or the Saddam or Iranian regimes, or StWC’s alliance with some unpleasant Islamists like the Muslim Association of Britain, whose spokesperson Azzam Tamimi was shown in the documentary. If you did criticise them you were told to be quiet because you were ‘playing Bushes game’.

On the right of the Party meanwhile things were no better. New Labour had dropped any pretence of an ethical foreign policy. Criticisms of regimes like that in Saudi Arabia were invisible during Blair’s dominance of the Labour Party when it came to defending the camp of the interests of big business and the arms industry.

Such ideas are therefore widespread – even amongst decent people on the left who genuinely abhor racism and what they understand as antisemitism. Corbyn was one of those people. Many are now learning the necessity of combatting reactionary opinion wherever it comes from. That is good and to be welcomed. We might regret the naivety and stupidity of Corbyn in the past just as with many others. But the key thing to fight for is an end to the gross political naivety that gives room to antisemitism as well as other reactionary ideas.  If we critically examine the record of Labour, both left and right before 2015, there are few who have an unblemished record.

More has to be done, much more, in consistently following through on Labour’s championing of women’s right, LGBT rights, international solidarity with all people fighting fear and oppression. These are principles that Labour should advocate in all circumstances.

But such consistency has to be fought for – amongst the whole labour movement. It has to be promoted openly through debate and education. Panorama despite some informed comments about the problem of antisemitism by Dave Rich and Alan Johnson did not help with that battle.