Springing into action

A hot summer beckons but perhaps not on the political front? Mark Perryman from Philosophy Football finds some books sure to cheer up our inner pessimist.

UKiP riding high in the opinion polls, what could be a more dismal sign of the state of opposition outside the Westminster bubble. Whether or not Farage’s party of English poujadists manage to top the Euro Election poll in May and make a further dent in the 3-party domination of the local government elections on the same day too the dragging of political debate rightwards remains UKiP’s biggest achievement. There remains few signs of any similar success from the outside Left.

Twentieth Century CommunismJohn Harris has recently argued that the Left is trapped in the past. Perhaps, but part of the reason for that is that the Left’s past is a tad more interesting than its present. Backward-looking? Yes, sometimes. But a modernisation founded on an ahistorical politics fails to account for the pluses and minuses of history and has proved itself wilfully incapable of grappling with today’s fast-changing world. As an alternative take a look at the approach adopted by the hugely impressive Oxford Handbook of The History of Communism which is as comprehensive as it is challenging. Rich in scope while sharply analytical in its understanding of one of the twentieth century’s grand narratives. So grand in fact that it sparked a counter all of its own making ‘anti-communism’ which is carefully dissected by the latest, now twice-yearly, volume of one of the most startlingly original political history initiatives of recent years, the journal Twentieth Century Communism. French revolutionry of the ‘68 vintage, Daniel Bensaid’s excellent memoir An Impatient Life provides more than enough passion for even the most hardened cynic. Of course history never stands still, to treat it as such absolutely locks the Left into past, not present. Paul Kelemen’s account The British Left and Zionism carefully chronicles a changing position on Israel and Palestine that he describes as a ‘history of a divorce’. The altered circumstances, loyalties and issues given the kind of weight of understanding they deserve yet are all too rarely afforded. On the other hand history needs endless and unchanging principle sometimes too, a point well-made by the welcome appearance of contemporary writings against the First World War, Not Our War.

The new and updated edition of Seumas Milne’s unrivalled account of the 1984-85 Miners Strke, The Enemy Within provides an example of how the past continues to haunt the present. Three decades on the legacy of the defeat of the miners continues to shape contemporary trade union militancy. Richard Seymour is a writer unafraid to confront the contours of such a defeat while at the same time providing the kind of deep-rooted analysis to map out an alternative. His latest book Against Austerity is no counsel of despair, rather a hard-headed call to action of a new type. Benjamin Kunkel’s Utopia or Bust is a handy, and exceptionally well-written, survey of Left wing analysis of the financial crisis including David Harvey, Frederic Jameson and Slavoj Zizek. Kunkel though doesn’t provide a commentary simply to inform though, but to enlighten too, a brilliant read. A similar dose of well-reasoned yet strikingly original thinking is provided by the regular instalments of the After Neoliberalism Manifesto available free online. The latest contribution States of Imagination takes rethinking public sector provision in a radically modernising direction entirely different to the Blair/Brown and Cameron/Clegg model of conservative modernisation. Read it to appreciate the art of the possible and the sheer misery of the 1997-2010 moment of lost opportunity. An unashamedly theoretical account of neoliberal culture is provided by a special edition of the journal New Formations much of which is available free to download. For now though the political terrain in England at least remains dominated by the challenge from the Right, namely UKIP. The best single effort to understand this ghastly yet incredibly important phenomenon has been provided by Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin in their sublime book Revolt on the Right. Mixing empirical analysis of long-term voting trends with a well-argued case for the need to both understand and confront the roots of right-wing populism this is an absolutely essential read for summer 2014.

Darcus Howe - a political biographyAt the core of UKIP’s message, and the same is broadly true of right-wing populism across Europe, is a discourse of race and nation. The former is a subject the Left likes to think it has a decent set of ideas to construct an analysis of rooted in anti-racist values. However just how far the British Left needs to travel in order to reshape its politics via the Black British experience is revealed by the superb Darcus Howe : A Political Biography which via personal testimony revisits a history of migration, self-organisaton and resistance which exists largely outside of traditional Left politics. Arun Kundnani’s The Muslims are Coming! links together the experience of Islamophobia, the framing of extremism/fundamentalism and the ongoing global impact of the west’s so-called ‘War on Terror’. Here the left is grappling with subjects it is more at ease with understanding, though the depth to which it is transformed via that process remains in question. An insight into what that transformation might look like is provided by John Hutnyk’s Pantomime Terror which imaginatively records how popular culture has been affected by a post 9/11 world and on occasion has offered signs of resisting the reactionary, racist, consequences of that process. The urgent necessity for this kind of engagement is established brilliantly by Andrew Hussey’s new book The French Intifada. UKIP are not of the same make-up as France’s Front National, populists not fascists, yet they feed off the same fear and loathing that French politics is immersed in and this book explains why. Superb writing on the complexities of race, religion and immigration that situates this in the legacies of Empire and colonialism.

A very English heroIn all likelihood any kind of UKIP breakthrough to top the May Euro poll will be restricted to England. Their support in Wales is negligible, and in Scotland close to non-existent . They are fundamentally an English party, defining their independence, or more accurately their nationalism as against Europe and against immigration. To develop both an understanding of UKIP’s success and any kind of meaningful opposition requires an engagement with the meaning of Englishness. For some on the Left this remains unacceptable, yet this is to ignore our own history. As Wade Matthews records in his magnificent The New Left, National Identity and the Break-up of Britain. This is the kind of historiography the modern Left needs, connecting us to past yet hugely relevant debates dominated by such figures as E.P. Thompson, Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall, the kind of towering influences we so lack, and miss today. The 1956 New Left generation was formed politically in large measure by the anti-fascist Popular Front experience of World War Two. A period depicted in Peter Conradi’s A Very English Hero locating the heroism and idealism of the war hero Frank Thompson in and amongst the commitment, anti-fascism, that took him to the front line.This is a very different version of the Anglo-martial tradition we are more used to. The potential for such a rupture with this and other components of a more traditional Englishness is explored in Michael Kenny’s wide-ranging book The Politics of English Nationhood. A welcome and timely effort to think about what England after the Union might end up looking like.

But of course any such break-up won’t be decided by the English, forced for once on this island of ours to adopt the role of also-rans, but by the Scots. It isn’t to decry the central importance of September’s independence referendum to claim that in some senses the result hardly matters. Instead we need to recognise that the process towards separation, involving Wales too and more problematically the north of Ireland, has already begun and to all intents and purposes is irreversible independence for Scotland or not. What the referendum campaign has stirred up north of the border is a flowering of political debate that the English Left cannot even begin to imagine how to match. Gerry Hassan has established himself as without doubt the most imaginative and incisive commentator on all things Scottish, nationalist and progressive. Yet south of the border he, and others like him are fortunate to get even a cursory hearing. Gerry’s new book Caledonian Dreaming combines both a rare realism about the reality of the mythology of Scottish social-democracy in both its Labourist and sometimes Nationalist forms, with a vision for how the best of those traditions can be shaped by the identities, social movements and cultures that post-date them in the new Scotland. James Foley and Pete Rennard provide a more polemical broadside in their book simply titled Yes. With passionate argument they capture the energy of the coalitions around the independence cause which stretch way beyond simply the SNP. This is radical politics at its best, a testament to the potential for ideas and actions rooted in movements for change.

Fulfilling such potential depends in large part on a remaking the political so that ideas and practice are fused with cultural expressions and forms. A good example of this in the Independence debate is the work of the artists under the banner of The National Collective. Three recent books in their different ways bear witness to the scope of such an ambition more widely. JP Bean’s Bohemians by Paul Buhle and David Berger is presented in a bright and accessible format, a graphic history, absolutely right for the subject-matter. Jazz and dance, salons and clubs, utopianism and multiculturalism, all were central to this cultural rebellion. A very modern interpretation of the political-cultural fusion is provided is provided by Stitched Up by Tansy Hoskins. The book’s sub-title ‘ The Anti-Capitalist Book Of Fashion’ does its job to intrigue and tempt. ‘Of’ , not ‘against’ this is a book that embraces the joy, for men and women, of dressing up while deconstructing the industry, working conditions and rip-off merchants behind such pleasures. An incredibly original read about a subject the Left should have plenty to say but to date has scarcely seemed bothered with once it had made its mind up to be on the side of the simplicities of the ‘against’ and not so much of the contradictions located in the ‘of’.

Hitler's GirlsBut remaking the political requires not just a redefinition of politics but a new imaginary too, one that can inspire hope in what the future might look like as much as reveal what is wrong with the present. Such an imaginary must surely draw on the resources provided by fiction, the novel. Not a place the Left is all that used to looking to for ideas. Jonathan Lethem’s best-selling Dissident Gardens is about fighting for what is right, losing yet keeping on keeping on, the emotions and experiences that shape such commitment in the harshest of conditions, McCarthyite-era America. A tale of loss but also about the romantic ideal that making a difference is not only essential but feasible. Hitler’s Girls by Emma Tennant and Hilary Bailey is perhaps a more extreme example of how the novel can challenge and extend, our political imagination. A complicated plot moulded by Nazi Germany, the aftermath of WW2, far right conspiracies and modern-day hate criminals. A tale that few would fail to enjoy with intrigue in abundance.

In the search for the potential to remake the political there is no better starting point than the modern women’s liberation movement, sometimes now referred to as fifth wave feminism. International in complexion, internationalist by purpose, there are few rivals to the ionic Pussy Riot for their ability to shake up the humdrum with wit, imagination and intent. Masha Gessen’s Words Will Break Cement retells their story, mostly in their own words in a manner clearly intended to reproduce by any media necessary . Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates may seem a tad less spectacular yet is simply testament to the sheer diversity of both feminism’s content and action. Based on the trail-blazing Everyday Sexism blog she also initiated Laura’s book reveals in the most painful detail the bloody-minded endurance of a sexism that is one tiny step away from misogyny, harassment , physical intimidation, sexual violence and worse. A book, and a blog, that isn’t read to weep but to rally towards change. The response already has proven quite definitively, it works.

The book of the quarter? A book that reinforces the enduring vitality of feminism, from whatever ‘wave’, while connecting to the vital need for hope in an era of popular despair and widespread disaffection. Beatrix Campbell’s pocket manifesto End of Equality is a well-aimed polemic against a neoliberal order that is founded on patriarchy, wilfully allows sexual discrimination to flourish and cannot be understood, resisted or changed without a central commitment to gender equality . A book to shake up established thinking right, left or in-between. Nothing short of a new revolution, what a way to welcome the start of summer.

Note No links in this book review are to Amazon. If you can avoid buying from the tax-dodgers, please do so.

Mark Perryman is the co-founder of the self-styled ‘sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction’, aka Philosophy Football.

For those not in favour

In Budget week Mark Perryman welcomes a new book that demolishes the Austerity myth.

Against AusterityWhen the Con-Dems ushered in the bright shiny new era of coalition politics with a tripling of student tuition fees the wave of anger this provoked seemed to suggest almost anything opposition-wise was possible. Prominent student leader Clare Solomon described the moment, with co-author Tania Palmieri, in her book Springtime as :

“There is a new anger that melts the snow. All hail the new, young student Decembrists who challenged complacent government and simultaneously fired a few shots across the bows of an opposition and its toadies in the media, all still recovering from a paralytic hangover, a consequence of imbibing too much Nouveau Blair.”

Students occupying the roof of the Tory Party’s Millbank HQ was a glorious spectacle of revolt, occurring on the eve of the Arab Spring, militant resistance in Greece and Spain, the beginnings of Occupy in the USA. We really did seem to be on the edge of a movement for change.
Click to continue reading

Did you dig deep for the miners?

Philosophy Football have produced a T-shirt to raise funds for the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign. Mark Perryman explains why the Miners Strike 30 years on still matters.

The Enemy Within t shirtDo you remember 1984-85? Digging deeper for the miners. Frankie Goes to Hollywood at number one. Everton win the league championship. And a medium-sized t-shirt was ample big enough. For those whose principles have endured the test of time it all seems just like yesterday and Tony Blair only a bad dream.

The strike ended up as a defeat, there is no point avoiding that awkward and painful fact. But that doesn’t mean it hardly matters, then or now. This was twelve months of communities across Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Kent, the North-East of England, South Wales, Scotland and elsewhere effectively under police siege. Miners Support Groups twinning metropolitan Britain with coalfield towns and villages. Convoys of trucks full of seasonal hampers to brighten up Christmas for miners families’ who had already endured 10 months on strike. Women against Pit Closures projecting a powerful message of solidarity on and beyond the strike picket lines. Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners connecting social movements and identity politics to a common cause. Bands and stand-up comedy mobilised to put on benefit after benefit to raise not only much needed funds but the case for the miners too. Keep on keeping on kept on for twelve magnificent months.

Prolonged and courageous. British politics hadn’t seen anything quite like it for a generation or more and in terms of industrial action nothing like it since either. In the late 1970s the historian Eric Hobsbawm had provocatively argued for an analysis he called The Forward March of Labour Halted. The decade after the miners strike we were to discover not only had it been halted but it had turned decisively rightwards too. A decade after the miners strike had begun in ’84 this process saw Tony Blair elected Labour leader and the symbolic, yet politically significant dumping of Labour’s Clause IV commitment to common ownership as its model of society. As we would soon learn, things could only get bitter.
Click to continue reading

New year sports resolutions

Mark Perryman from Handbook of London 2012 Olympic gamesToo much Christmas pud, cake and ale over the seasonal break? Feet up in front of the TV for an indecent chunk of the duration? Sport defined as watching it rather than doing it? The first few weeks of January are often the period to make a personal pledge to get active, lose those bulges and finally dust off those long-forgotten running shoes, a bike, pair of swimming trunks or whatever and put them to the use they were intended for. A month later ending up back at square one, well that’s certainly the case for most of modern, inactive, Britain. Why has sport evolved into a multibillion global industry yet activity plummets, obesity rockets? This New Year resolution reading list might help us to understand why, and vitally do something about it too.
Click to continue reading

Presents tense

Mark Perryman of Philosophy Football provides a guide for books to give the Leftist in your life this Christmas

On resistanceCheer up, it could be worse? Well, under this hapless government probably not but a bit of seasonal present-giving might at least keep the temptations of miserabilism at bay. 2014 will mark the start of the 1914 centenary hoopla, you know the thing ‘ The War to End All Wars’ and all that guff.A superb read therefore over the 12 days would be the poetry collection compiled by Carol Ann Duffy 1914 Poetry Remembers, moving and thought-provoking from the War Poets and today’s verse-writers too. An equally moving recollection is provided by Nicholas Rankin’s Telegram from Guernica. The extraordinary story of war reporter George Steer, and in particular how he smuggled out from Spain in full gruesome detail the horrific impact of the carpet bombing of Guernica. Steer was part of that 1930s generation who across the political spectrum were decisively shaped by the cause of anti-fascism. Idealism and commitment from another era, and continent in Beverley Naidoo’s beautifully written Death of An Idealist. Told in graphic and merciless detail, the tale of the murder by the Apartheid authorities of a young, white, doctor who had dedicated himself to providing medical help in South Africa’s Black townships.
Click to continue reading

Socialist Workers Party: Comrade ‘X’ resigns

This article has been re-posted from Phil’s site, A Very Public Sociologist.

Socialist Worker burningThe below comes from ‘Comrade X’, the woman who, like ‘Comrade W’ made a sexual assault complaint to the SWP’s Dispute Commission about the alleged behaviour of a former leading member. Again, it is worth reiterating that “Delta” has never had charges brought against him and is entitled to the presumption of innocence like anyone else. The scandal, the putrescent stench has always been about the appalling handling of those allegations and hounding of alleged sexual abuse survivors by active SWP’ers. As you can see from X’s resignation note (original here via Ciara Squires), her experience too is of being bullied, harassed and smeared. What a disgusting bunch.

I’m glad to hear that now SWP conference has closed, those few decent socialists who’ve remained are packing their bags and bidding farewell. Good. A slow, painful fade into the footnotes of labour movement history now awaits the SWP, a decline that cannot come soon enough.
Click to continue reading

Books for a season of rain & grey skies

Mark Perryman of Philosophy Football reviews an autumn of sports books.

Culture, Politics and SportIt was three decades ago, in 1983, that Garry Whannel wrote the pioneering book Blowing the Whistle: The Politics of Sport. The book was part of a series ‘Arguments for Socialism’, created by The Socialist Society, an alliance of Left-wing thinkers writers and campaigners, and published by Pluto Press. Despite the dreadful defeats at the hands of Thatcherism , and the jingoistic aftermath of the Falklands War the Left felt livelier, more open-minded and with a greater sense of ambition and purposefulness than it sometimes does today. Garry’s book, reminding the Left that sport and leisure matters was part of this liveliness. He summed up what was then a prevailing attitude both on the Left and the Right and remains largely the same 30 years on today in the book’s neatest of phrases. “Sport is marked down as a natural, taken-for-granted activity. You don’t need to talk or write about it. You just do it.” The book was a few years ago republished in an updated and revised form Culture, Politics and Sport and remains one of the defining texts for any serious understanding of sport.

One of the huge changes since Garry Whannel wrote those words is the breadth and number of sports books published. David Epstein’s The Sports Gene: What Makes The Perfect Athlete is the kind of book, immersed as it is in the nurture vs nature debate, that connects sport, knowingly or unknowingly, to much broader issues and reveals it as anything but ‘Just Done’. Incisive, a book that examines the varied conditions that creates sport’s winners . A very different approach to the same subject was offered by Christopher McDougall in his classic book Born to Run. This is sport as anthropology, examining the phenomenal endurance running of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico then translating this into a manifesto for the simple appeal of running, including in its purest form, barefoot.

Easy RiderThe bare essentials is hardly how the modern sport of cycling is best described. With the genius behind the two-wheeled success of Team GB and Team Sky Dave Brailsford describing his philosophy as the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’ the attention paid to the smallest engineering, physiological and psychological detail is obvious. It is an evolution that is retold quite thrillingly in Edward Pickering’s book The Race Against Time. This is the story of the 1990s rivalry of Chris Boardman vs Graeme Obree and their battle for the one hour track cycling record. Boardman remains well-known today thanks to his TV work as a pundit, Obree meanwhile has become a virtual recluse, a superbly gifted athlete who doubles up as an inventor. Its a great story, which in many ways created the base for the later success of Hoy, Pendleton, Wiggins, Cavendish, Froome and Trott. The story behind the most successful sport in British sporting history, track and road cycling, is revealed in an honest and well-written account provided by Team GB Elite Coach and Team Sky Performance Manager Rod Ellingworth in his book Project Rainbow. One of the most refreshing aspects of cycling as a sport is the key protagonists’ willingness to engage openly with their public. Cycling ‘s openness may be in part due to the legacy of the criminal cover-ups that we now know dominated the Armstrong era but whatever the reason it is a sport now keen readers can acquire a fill and proper insight into, Rod Ellingworth’s book is testament to that. The same can be said for two autobiographies from cyclists who straddle cycling ‘ Before and after Wiggo ‘. For years Sean Yates was by far and away the most successful British rider in the Tour de France since Tommy Simpson. Then came Cavendish, Froome and most of all Wiggins. After retiring from racing Sean Yates was to become Team Sky’s Race Director and a figure central to Wiggins’ 2012 Tour victory. His book It’s All About The Bike is a great and once again revealing book . Easy Rider by former racer Rob Hayles covers a slightly later period. As the success of track cycling began to take off after British success at the Athens 2004 Olympics, eventually to be translated into success on the road too. Rob Hayles was one of the pioneers of that breakthrough and provides a fascinating account of the reasons why British cycling became, and remains, such a success story.

Socialist sportswriter Gareth Edwards makes an interesting case in a three-party online essay for taking the playful appeal of sport seriously. To that end many of these books are about only one, distinctly minority, aspect of sport, competition at an elite level. Most of us who ‘do’ sport just do it for leisure, recreation and pleasure Some compete, most don’t, and it is competitive sport that has suffered the most severe decline in levels of participation. The Rules : The Way of the Cycling Disciple is in this regard a very different kind of sports book. Its about the likes of us who are never going to win a race let alone enter a national, European or World Championship for glory .We just get on our bikes to stretch ourselves in the cause of some kind of enjoyment. That’s not to say such sport doesn’t have its own culture and this book seeks to catalogue precisely this, with a touch of ultra-narcissism on occasion. But perhaps we need to broaden our definition of sport, or at least physical activities much broader, to include the recreational. It would be hard to justify ‘walking’ as any kind of sport, but it is the most common form of physical activity most of us take pat in, sometimes with a dog, a relationship wonderfully chronicled in Harry Pearson’s book Hound Dog Days.

I am ZlatanOnce the football season starts, and nowadays it never seems to end, most other sports, never mind any coverage of recreational, and non-competitive sports are pushed off the back pages to the exclusion of coverage of almost anything apart from football. Two recent biographies, Dennis Bergkamp’s Stillness and Speed and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s I Am Zlatan get to grips with football’s undoubted appeal to the fans. Both are a pleasant respite from the ghost-written dross served up by most players, and managers, including Ferguson’s non-revelatory latest. Perhaps because in both cases these are foreign players, writing for a non-English audience, with well chosen co-writers, in Bergkamp’s case the superlative David Winner. And the result are books that begin to explore in a serious way football’s enduringly hegemonic appeal, now on a global scale. Mike Carson’s The Manager is a different kind of endeavour, putting fans’, and the media’s, obsession with football’s managers in a broader context of the cult of managerialism, framed primarily by business culture. Insightful and thought-provoking, a great read for the next time a club’s manager is sacked. Lose to a rival, and any manager is going to be under pressure. In world football few rivalries provoke such interest and passion as Real vs Barca. Sid Lowe’s Fear and Loathing in La Liga is unsurprisingly very good, Sid Lowe is the always well-informed Spanish football correspondent of the Guardian. Combining the historical, cultural, political because as Garry Whannel had patiently explained 30 years ago sport is shaped by all three and there’s not a better example of this truism than Barca vs Real , which Sid Lowe explains with an eye for detail and pacey writing to create a really good read. Spain are of course the reigning European and World Champions, England meanwhile have managed to squeeze past Montenegro, Poland and the Ukraine to at least qualify for World Cup 2014 but with no one, including the team captain, expecting them to get anywhere close to winning the tournament. What’s new? No semi-final appearance by England since Euro ’96, one single semi-final appearance at a tournament outside of England, at Italia ’90. So in a sense why are so many of us surprised when England’s prospects remain so dire? A combination of the ’66 legacy, the burden of Imperial history, two World Wars oh and inventing the game, plus the self-appointed Greatest League in the World. For a coach-centred grassroots analysis of what is wrong with a football culture incapable of producing enough technically gifted players to muster a decent national team there’s no better book than Matthew Whitehouse’s outstanding The Way Forward: Solutions to England’s Football Failings.

Nine years after Garry Whannel’s socialist analysis of sport was published Nick Hornby wrote the best-selling Fever Pitch. The rest is, publishing, history. The bookshop shelves are heaving with an ever-expanding range of sports titles, many of them treat sport in that ‘just done it’ unproblematic way that Garry critiqued. In his own way Nick Hornby taught us something different, the meaning of sport in general, football in particular, the way that it connects with us emotionally, as individuals, impacting on our relationships, and group loyalties. Hornby wrote in that most feminine of styles the confessional and his writing touched his audience, mainly male, in a previously unheard of way because of it. Two decades on much of today’s sportswriting has reverted to type, but there remain precious exceptions.

My book of the sporting quarter stands out precisely because it is is exceptional. Author Michael Calvin’s previous book on Millwall, Family: Life, Death and Football already stood serious comparison with Fever Pitch as an all-time sportswriting classic. With his new book The Nowhere Men Calvin has produced an even better book. The extraordinary, and untold, tale of football’s Scouts, how talent is discovered, often missed, recruited by the clubs, looked after, not always very well, and ends up the other end as a Premier League superstar. Sportswriting at its very best, investigative, compelling and revealing.

No links in this review are to Amazon. If you can avoid purchasing from the tax-dodgers please do so.

Mark Perryman is the co-founder of the self-styled ‘sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction’ aka Philosophy Football }

SWP: Party members write full narrative of Comrade Delta rape case

SWP members angry about the Comrade Delta case have contacted SU and asked us to publish this article. It was due to appear in one of the party’s ‘pre-conference bulletins‘, which are documents for members to argue and debate issues before the annual conference.

This year, the party’s leadership has done something highly unusual: They’ve been censoring these contributions. They’re removed paragraphs and, earlier in the year, refused to carry certain articles altogether. This is all related to accusations of rape and sexual harrassment against a former leading member. A large number of party members have left or are likely to leave, because the party leadership (plus an undeclared ‘secret’ faction) seems bent on destroying it rather than accept that they really have let these women down. With another SWP member alleging that she was raped and the same bad method being used to deal with it (as well as the person making the complaint being told not to talk about her experiences) this issue is far from resolved, no matter how many times the SWP’s leaders claim to have drawn a line under it.

The document below appears in full, as it was sent to us. It is a complete narrative of the story, and it shows that the leadership has done everything it can to avoid dealing with the issue – allowing bullying to run unchecked, driving hundreds of people out, and worse than all of that, doing nothing at all to help the women at the centre of these events. When you realise that party members have spent £thousands to help send Comrade Delta to university after he stepped down from his SWP job, you realise just how rotten these people’s politics and morals are. The SWP always appeals to people not to make these documents public, to “protect” people. But what we’ve seen this year is that ‘confidentiality’ and ‘privacy’ have been used not to protect political discussions and people’s jobs, but to make sure that party members don’t have access to information, and that those who want people to know what’s happened to them are forced to keep quiet.

Moving forward means acknowledging mistakes and holding our leadership to account

by Simon F (Birmingham), Viv S & Rita M (Hackney)

This document is a narrative of the events leading up to and following a Disputes Committee (DC) hearing in October 2012 in which Comrade W accused a then CC member (M) of rape. We do not go into the detail of the case here but focus on the mishandling of the situation by the CC and their deliberate campaign of misinformation and intimidation, supported by a layer of leading comrades, once the case became known in the wider party. In producing this narrative we hope to elucidate the issues needing redress before the party can move forward.

Before the hearing

At Marxism 2010 two woman comrades (Sadia J and Donna G) approached former CC member Viv S to discuss a serious allegation regarding sexual harassment involving the then national secretary (M) and a young woman comrade (W). This allegation surrounded incidents that had occurred a year earlier.
Click to continue reading

Tommy and cousin Kev quit the EDL

This is a post from Bob Pitt of Islamophobia Watch, a site that documents anti-Muslim bigotry – it’s a great resource for anti-racists and the left.

EDL members demonstrating with the National Front

The English Defence League demonstrating alongside the neo-Nazis of the National Front

Today the internet has been buzzing with the news that Stephen Lennon (“Tommy Robinson”) and Kevin Carroll have resigned from the English Defence League. It even qualified for coverage on national TV.

The EDL leaders’ break with the organisation they helped to found was announced this morning in a press release from the Quilliam group (“Quilliam facilitates Tommy Robinson leaving the English Defence League”), which quotes Lennon as saying: “I have been considering this move for a long time because I recognise that, though street demonstrations have brought us to this point, they are no longer productive. I acknowledge the dangers of far-right extremism and the ongoing need to counter Islamist ideology not with violence but with better, democratic ideas.”

Lennon and Carroll will expand on their motives for leaving the EDL at a press conference this evening which has been organised by Quilliam.

Promoting itself as “the world’s first counter-extremism organisation”, Quilliam’s pitch is that it is ex-”extremists” like themselves (the organisation was launched by former Hizb ut-Tahrir members) who are best placed to counter extremist ideology and win adherents of extremist groups back to mainstream society.

That’s the basis on which Quilliam appeal for funding. It’s an argument which persuaded the last Labour government to lavish huge sums of money on the organisation, but since 2010 the Tory-led coalition government has been less forthcoming, and at one point Quilliam was reduced to sending out begging letters.

Quilliam evidently thinks this latest media stunt with Lennon and Carroll is a real coup for the organisation, with chairman and co-founder Maajid Nawaz declaring that it “represents a huge success for community relations in the United Kingdom” and is “a very proud moment” for Quilliam. After all, what better proof could there be of Quilliam’s expertise in winning over former extremists than convincing Lennon and Carroll to give up on the EDL? Nawaz is no doubt rubbing his hands in glee at the prospect of further financial support rolling in.

However, as Anindya Bhattacharyya has noted, this is not the first time we’ve been here. Back in 2011 Quilliam were equally proud to announce that two former EDL activists, Leighton Evans and Harry Burns (Andy Hughes), had broken with the organisation and repudiated extremism. Alas for Quilliam, it all came embarassingly unstuck when they arranged for Evans to do an interview with the Guardian, in the course of which he announced his admiration for the EDL and his continuing support for its ideology.

So what evidence is there that Lennon and Carroll have not only broken organisationally with the EDL but have also come to understand “the dangers of far-right extremism”? Just over a fortnight ago, the two EDL leaders both addressed an anti-mosque protest in Sheffield, so their speeches there presumably provide an accurate record of their current thinking.

In his speech Lennon announced: “We’re here because the Muslim community are raising funds to build yet another mosque in this area.” He said the purpose of the protest was to show the people of Sheffield that “there is now a defence against the Islamification of this great city”. He declared: “We don’t want any more mosques in this country.” Lennon promised that all planning applications for mosques would be opposed and “people will no longer sit by and watch their towns and cities taken over”. He also made the inflammatory claim that “English girls in Sheffield are being groomed and raped” by “members of the Islamic community” while the police refused to arrest the perpetrators.

Carroll’s speech continued in the same inflammatory vein, consisting of a classic far-right rant about the failure of the authorities to recognise the growing problem of “racial attacks on non-Muslims”. To shouts of anger from EDL supporters Carroll recounted the familiar fascist myth about how the 2004 murder of Glasgow teenager Kriss Donald was ignored by the media. Only one newspaper, which he named as the Daily Telegraph, reported the crime, an outraged Carroll assured the mob. (It is of course true that the Telegraph reported the murder, along with the Times, the Mail, the Sun, the BBC and every other news outlet in the country.) This is the sort of rhetoric about “anti-white racism” that could have come straight out of the mouth of Nick Griffin.

So, not much sign of a break from far-right extremism there, you might think.

It looks to me like Quilliam have been suckered again. There is every reason to suppose that this is a purely cynical manoeuvre on Lennon’s part. The EDL’s decline was temporarily arrested by the murder of Lee Rigby in May, and attendance at its protests briefly picked up again, but this recovery could only be short-lived. As the poor turnout at Tower Hamlets indicated, it wasn’t going to be long before EDL supporters once again got tired of travelling round the country shouting drunken abuse at Muslims and anti-fascists, and the movement gradually fizzled out. Lennon no doubt reasoned that it was time to move on.

The EDL was in any case always something of an anomaly within the international “counterjihad” network, most of whose component groups do not consist of violent street movements populated by football hooligans and neo-Nazis. It seems likely Lennon and Carroll want to reposition themselves as the leaders of a less overtly thuggish and fascist organisation that can take its place alongside the likes of Jihad Watch or Gates of Vienna. Perhaps, too, they hope to get their hands on some of the vast funding that fuels the Islamophobia industry.

This analysis of their aims is reinforced by Lennon and Carroll’s PA Hel Gower, who told International Business Times: ”A new group, that isn’t street-based, is going to be formed. Tommy is definitely going to be in the new group, and Kevin will be in it too.”

Yes, that’s the same Hel Gower who is on record as declaring her support for both the British National Party and the neo-Nazi groupuscule the British First Party, and who joined a Facebook group calling for unity between the EDL and BNP. Quite how Lennon and Carroll hope to pretend they’ve broken with far-right extremism while publicly relying on the continued support of Gower is anybody’s guess.