The “Alliance for Workers Liberty” – the dynamics of a malignant cult

The Alliance for Workers Liberty or AWL (formerly known as Socialist Organiser) is among the most hard-line of the British Trotskyist groups. It has around 50 to 80 members, and when it holds conferences gets an attendance of around 100 to 150. There is a small core of committed activists, and an ever changing periphery of those temporarily brought into their orbit. It is a group that has been in existence since the early 1960s, and has therefore prioritised ideological homogeneity over growth.

It was not considered significant enough for consideration, except in passing, in John Callaghan’s definitive academic study “British Trotskyism, Theory and Practice” [Basil Backwell, 1984], however the acidic but impartial and usually accurate booklet by John Sullivan “As soon as this pub closes, the British Left Explained” [written using the pseudonym “Chus Aguirre and Mo Klonsky”, Estate of Prunella Kaur, 1986] describes them as a group characterised by “intransigence and hardness verging on personal rudeness”. It has been built as a cult around the charismatic leadership figure of John o’ Mahony (usually transliterated to a Gaelic spelling of Sean Matgamna); an example of the deference to the leader is that their paper (Solidarity) regularly prints Matgamna’s poetry alongside theoretical articles, although the poems have neither obvious merit nor relevance. (An example, can be read here: http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2009/12/17/what-be-done  )

Sullivan observes that the AWL has been bewilderingly inconsistent in their political positions over the years, but that this has always served an institutional interest in creating sharp differentiation with other Trotskyist groups. In particular, the AWL has followed a unique path of courting every other Trotskyist group, merging, and then acrimoniously splitting, taking handful of converts won through the sharp polemics.

This is a strategy modelled on the work of the veteran American Trotskyist James Cannon as described in a collection of his essays “The Struggle for a Proletarian Party” [Resistance Books, 2001], and is a practice known as the “French Turn”, following advice from Trotsky to his followers in France in 1934 to join the mass Socialist Party / SFIO (equivalent to the British Labour Party), and take over its youth wing. The French Trotskyists agitated against the Socialist Party forming a joint front with the Radical Party to oppose fascism, and then used this as a pretext to split the SFIO, thus creating an acrimonious and divisive faction fight that diverted energy away from the urgent struggle against fascism.

There is therefore a conscious and historically developed theory informing the AWL’s behaviour, which manifests itself as being completely charming and grooming potential converts, or appearing as model members of organisations they are seeking to enter; and then once they have built a relationship, they deliberately exacerbate a climate of tension and polemic to either force potential converts to choose whether to join or leave the cult, or to split organisations they have joined, hopefully taking some recruits with them. The AWL is candid about its rather creepy grooming technique [ http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2010/04/07/winning-battle-ideas-methods-contact-work-lutte-ouvriere   ]

One area where the AWL has nevertheless been consistent is their extreme hostility to the socialist countries and anyone who sees any merit in them. They praise the American Trotskyist, Max Schactman, as the major theoretician informing their view of actually existing socialism. Schactman argued that the USSR was as bad as Nazi Germany, and he therefore supported both the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by the USA, and the American war in Vietnam.

Similarly, the modern AWL argues in an on-line article [“What is the Bolshevik-Trotskyist tradition?”, http://www.workersliberty.org/node/5146  ] that “According to every criterion the labour movement throughout its history had measured by — civil liberties, political democracy, the free existence of labour movements, free press, speech, sexuality — the USSR, China, etc. were at least as much of a regression as Nazism had been.”

Naturally, as the AWL believes that members of the Communist Party and members of the Labour Party who, for example, support Cuba, are effectively supporters of something as bad as, or worse than Nazism, then this provides self-justification for their extreme hostility to all other currents in the broader labour movement.

Callaghan [1984, p25] argues that all Trotskyism is potentially problematic because they believe that “one party can represent the ‘historic interests’ of the working class as a whole without critical opposition”. This is particularly incompatible with trade unionism where the union needs to represent the broad spectrum of beliefs of its membership, and respect the pluralism of its activists. Reference to an inherently virtuous historic mission can also serve to validate sharp practice.

Other groups on the British left, such as the Socialist Workers Party, (SWP), and Socialist Party, (SP), are sufficiently rooted in the practicalities of the broader labour movement that, while they may argue for positions that are idealistic or impractical and may occasionally cause practical problems, they have sufficient members involved in real trade union activity to mainly moderate their more hubristic aspirations. In particular they are aware of the nature of trade unions as inherently pluralist institutions that have to represent all members, with a variety of political beliefs.

In contrast, the AWL has limited trade union implantation (their most famous former member, Mark Serwotka, nowadays shares little of their politics). A recent document of theirs refers to their aspiration “to build a rank and file network independent of the union officialdom…”. [ http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2009/04/22/what-we-do-week-life-awl    ] To this end they produce regular activist bulletins for Royal Mail and for the London Underground workers. Given the very small size of the AWL, then any cluster of AWL supporters and members or supporters is suggestive of deliberate planning. Indeed, I have read internal AWL documents that argue that members should only get jobs where there is already a cluster of AWL members, or where the work gives them enough spare time for the routine of “party building” activity.

The AWL perceive the need for a rank and file network because they believe “Unions in Britain, and in most countries, are dominated by middle-class bureaucrats, on huge salaries and expenses, who see themselves as peacemakers between workers and bosses and fear working-class struggle. … … We fight for “rank and file movements” in every union to challenge the bureaucrats and organise the struggle when they won’t.” [10 reasons you should join Workers' Liberty, http://www.workersliberty.org/10reasons  ]

Various “Rank and File” strategies have been tried in the unions through the years, usually seeking to increase the capacity for grassroots lay activists to act independently from official union structures. However, what characterises the AWL’s approach is the prescription that the so-called “Rank and File organisation” should fully mirror the AWL’s own politics instead of reflecting the plurality of views among trade union activists [See the ironically named, “We need a rank and file movement in the UCU, not a political front” http://www.workersliberty.org/node/6495 ]. The network they are seeking to build would therefore take its leadership from the AWL.

On London Underground, the AWL’s regular leaflet Tubeworker [ http://www.workersliberty.org/twblog  ] describes itself as “ a platform for rank-and-file London Underground workers, telling you what the bosses and bureaucrats won’t.” Given that AWL member Janine Booth is now London Transport rep on the RMT’s national executive, and that AWL is deeply hostile to the politics of Bob Crow, then it is hard to see how productive relations between lay members and full time officials can be maintained, when Janine is committed to writing leaflets that undermine officials who the AWL describe as bureaucrats, and by implication break confidences (telling you what the “bureaucrat” won’t)

The AWL says that their aim in RMT is to “prioritise recruiting new AWL members”. Significantly this is regarded as more important than strengthening the union. To this aim in May 2011 they set up a Tube workers’ AWL branch that caucuses around introducing their controversial politics into RMT branches. “We have prioritised political discussion in the branch, increasing our confidence to sell the paper to more and more people. Together, we discussed, wrote and moved an amendment on Libya to last month’s regional meeting. Although we lost the vote, we impressed some people by articulating clear, distinctive and thought-out views” [AWL expands on London Underground, http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2011/05/04/awl-expands-london-underground  ]

Paradoxically, while the AWL constantly seeks to foster polarised political debate, (even where it is manifestly inappropriate), the organisation is antipathetic to pluralism, and pigeon-holes other political activists as “reformists” (by which they mean mainstream Labour Party members), “Stalinists” (by which they mean anyone who believes that – for example – Cuba is socialist, or who believes that post-colonial governments in the developing world are progressive), or “kitsch socialists”, which is how they describe all other Trotskyist groups.

One of the consequences of such pigeon-holing is the pattern of love-bombing followed by hostility. When first encountering someone who shares some political views similar to the AWL’s then that person is flattered and courted, but as soon as it appears that this potential new convert retains some loyalty to “reformism”, “Stalinism” or “kitsch socialism”, then they are regarded as a potential enemy to the AWL’s aims.
As such, the AWL represents an exaggerated parody of the internal regimes of the official communist parties in the Stalin era. The Sovietologist academic, J Arch Getty [ "The Road to Terror", 2002 ] argues that the Leninist project inherently seeks to establish “a hegemonic and obligatory political ideology”:

“The documents of the Bolshevik elite … provide a case study in the deliberate and intentional production and refinement of a prescribed belief system. Ideological definition was an important part of Bolshevik tradition and Stalinist rule. Lenin spent much of his life producing and debating political programmes. For the Bolsheviks before the revolution (and especially for the intellectual leaders in emigration), hairsplitting over precise points of revolutionary ideology was much of their political life. To a significant extent, Bolshevik politics has always been inextricably bound with creating and sharpening texts”

J. Arch Getty argues how internal bulletins and statements from the Bolshevik leadership were carefully drafted, with the expectation that exact phrases and careful linguistic constructions would be analysed and used, shaping both action, and a shared perception of reality within the group. Competing theories and texts were therefore hard to assimilate or compromise with; and a particular aspect of Leninist thought is the creation of symbolic categories of opponents, who are demonised, often through the use of apocryphal “atrocity stories” .

This is a practice that is consciously replicated by the AWL, whose documents stress the virtue of fierce polemic, and require all members to participate in perpetual political education classes. Their documents clearly give a messianic significance to such training as being of world-historic significance in perpetuating what they believe are the only ideas that can lead to human liberation.

 The nuanced approach required to move the whole labour movement forward based upon mutual respect is therefore replaced by an a-priori dismissal of other points of view. Political polemic is regarded as always appropriate, even where the audience may not understand the terms of the argument, as an AWL document explains:

“A serious Marxist organisation has no tolerance for denial of [the need for constant polemical argument], or for demagogic pseudo-workerist demands for levelling down — no one has a right to know more, or if they know it, to express more than us poor workers can effortlessly understand — of the sort the — essentially petit bourgeois — Thornettites once made notorious in our ranks. The Marxist movement levels up, not down.”

(The demonising of Alan Thornett with the code word “petit-bourgeois” is amusing – the son of a farm labourer who left school at 14 and worked as a lorry driver)

Because the AWL both believe that all other left currents are enemies that need to be removed, and believe in a polemical and aggressive approach to debate, they will work in alliance with more conservative forces; for example by targeting Cuba as “undemocratic”, the AWL seeks to win the support of conservatives to oust from position those socialists who support Cuba.

A long term characteristic of the AWL’s behaviour is dissembling. During the 1980s they gained a number of full-time sabbatical positions on the National Union of Students executive. This was achieved by gaining numbers of NUS delegates far beyond their real influence, by taking officer positions in FE colleges on a non-political basis, and then only revealing themselves as AWL (at that time, Socialist Organiser) members at conference. During the period of the AWL’s influence in the NUS the atmosphere became increasingly hostile, stressful and acrimonious.

It is worth considering the question of whether the AWL a Cult?

The accusation that a political group is a cult is a serious one, because it implies that their behaviour is not to be judged only on their ideology and political practice, but also on the suspicion that they are inherently manipulative (and as individuals themselves manipulated by their group). A normal political faction with ideas that are rash or misguided can be contained by the normal democratic processes, but a cult that employs manipulation and itself seeks to subvert those democratic processes by subterfuge and even brainwashing becomes a problem to be managed.

Following the definition in Luis A. Cordón’s “Popular Psychology: an Encyclopedia”, [Greenwood Press, 2005, pp 46 - 47] there are a number of behaviours of the AWL that are reminiscent of “coercive persuasion” or brainwashing.

Cordón describes a number of conditions characteristic of coercive persuasion, although not all need to be present:
i) application of stress;
ii) constant repetition of a single simple solution to all problems;
iii) entrapment, where intrusive and increasingly unreasonable demands are made upon those being initiated into the group, and whereby cognitive dissonance can only be avoided by compliance;
iv) weakening pre-existent ties with those outside the group, this can be achieved by keeping cult members always busy;
v) unconditional acceptance within the group, provided any transgressions do not cross the boundary of group loyalty; creation of a group identity;
vi) weakening critical evaluation of the group’s ideology, both through continually stressing urgency, and through mockery of those who doubt the group.

When a combination of these techniques is employed then group consciousness subsumes individual will; one of the manifestations is that individual personalities converge towards the group norm. Cordón stresses that these techniques work on anyone, and not just the stupid or weak willed. Therefore cult members can appear highly intelligent and impressively socially adept, and yet their loyalty to the group overrides moral norms of how they behave to people outside the group.

Stress:
The AWL specialises in creating stressful conflicts in conferences, based around unnecessary political polarisation. Much of their political practice was developed in the National Union of Students, where conferences involve meetings through the night, lack of sleep, and a highly factional atmosphere. This is a perfect environment for forcing new converts to take sides in debates and identify with them. The AWL blog “Shiraz Socialist” describes how the AWL set up a debate in 2009 with the Cuba Solidarity Campaign that then became stressfully heated: “shouting, heckling, cheering and booing could be heard eminating from a nearby room. It turned out that this was a super-heated debate on Cuba, between the AWL’s Paul Hampton and the RCG’s Helen Yaffe (accompanied by quite a few vociforous Cuba Solidarity Campaign supporters, so she wasn’t outnumbered). I gather both speakers gave as good as they got and it all nearly spiralled out of control, but stopped short (just) of blows.” [Cubana Bop, http://shirazsocialist.wordpress.com/category/cuba/  ]

The AWL’s practice towards individuals also includes showering affection on potential recruits and making them the centre of attention, and then seemingly inexplicably switching to become hostile when that new recruit questions an element of AWL orthodoxy. This creates a stressful pressure for people to accept the AWL’s point of view in order to regain favour and be rewarded again with affection.

Constant Repetition:
Despite their self-deception that they have a high level of theoretical debate, the AWL’s documents provide a very simple and Manichean view of virtuous “rank and file” workers, evil governments and bureaucrats, and the cathartic remedy of revolution. Sullivan [1986, p37] described this phenomenon of carefully circumscribed debate well: “Group discussion fills a … modest function. It fills in the detail of an outline which has already been agreed on, and allows new areas to be explored so that group members can together agree upon its interpretation. … [There is] implicit agreement that discussion must not disturb accepted truths”

Entrapment:
People being initiated into the AWL need to go through a number of ritual hurdles over a period of months before they are accepted as member, during which time they become habituated to the demands of the group.

“The serious Marxist organisation will normally insist on a process of recruitment and induction where the aspirant member is put through a basic minimum education in Marxism, and does not acquire full rights inside the organisation until such an education is completed.”

[“What is the Bolshevik-Trotskyist tradition?”, http://www.workersliberty.org/node/5146  ]

Progressing in any organisation with increasing status and acceptance is of course a normal part of institutional life; but the distinctive feature of the AWL is that this progress is combined with losing ties with those outside the group, and accepting inherently irrational demands, for example, their constitution requires written permission to reduce activity even when a member is ill.

[ http://archive.workersliberty.org/resources/constitution.html  ]:

“A member suffering from illness or other distress may be granted a total or partial leave of absence from activity for up to two months; but the leave of absence must be ratified in writing by the Executive Committee, and the activist must continue to pay financial contributions to the AWL.”

Immersion into the AWL culture requires not only agreement with their politics, but extremely detailed training in every aspect of their practical activity: on how to talk to people, how to read and understand texts, what they call “meeting choreography”, (how to use body language and where to sit in a meeting)”, and what small talk to use while giving change after selling a paper. AWL training even includes role-play where the trainee pretends to be selling the paper, and other members pretend to be passers by. Most amusingly, training is offered on how to deal with the situation that a “Recruit … finds AWL “too middle-class”. [ http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2011/01/18/training-sessions   ]

Weakening pre-existent ties with those outside the group:
The AWL has a punishing and unreasonable requirement for non-stop activity that makes the maintenance of relationships with those outside the group problematic. Each week the branch organiser lists all the activities for the forthcoming week on an official form, and each member has to sign which activities they will do, with the expectation there will be one or more activity every day.

[ http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2009/04/22/what-we-do-week-life-awl  ]

Members who only sign up for a few activities will be publically rebuked [ http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2011/05/31/activities-schedule-form-awl-branches   ].

They require the total commitment of zealots:

“we call for the adherence to our ranks of serious socialists, determined to devote, not the spare evenings of dilettantes, but active dedicate lives [sic] to the greatest cause in the world”

[“What is the Bolshevik-Trotskyist tradition?”, http://www.workersliberty.org/node/5146  ]

Unconditional acceptance:
For an avowedly feminist organisation, the AWL is remarkably indulgent of older male members behaving in a sexually inappropriate way.

But most revealingly in demonstrating their cultish indulgence o fgroup  insiders, Birmingham based AWL activist and UNITE member, Jim Denham, has a reputation for drunkenly disrupting meetings, offering to fight people, publishing scatological abuse about political rivals on his Shiraz Socialist blog, and even making racially insensitive insults.

An example of Jim Denham’s approach is this comment posted on this website, Submitted on 2012/03/04 at 12:23 am

Nooman = stooge of Assad. Should be shot on sight.

Yet as someone who has been a very long term insider, he is defended and regarded as beyond criticism by the AWL, and other AWL members affectionately collude with him by refering to him as “Father Jack”. Last year Jim Denham libelled UNITE official Andrew Murray, and Guardian journalist, Seamus Milne, falsely saying that they were members of the Stalin Society. [Stalinism and Unite: Mr Murray’s reply, http://shirazsocialist.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/stalinism-and-unite-murrays-reply/  ]. This resulted in no public rebuke of Denham from the AWL, but from the comments on the Shiraz Socialist blog we see that Murray’s denial sparked a renewed round abuse of him.

Weakening critical evaluation of the group’s ideology:
The AWL has a clearly messianic self-assessment, as their leader Sean Matgamna has argued “Socialism is one side in the struggle for the future of humankind, and on socialists winning that struggle may depend whether we are going to survive at all. … … the revival of socialism depends on the victory of [the AWL’s] ideas, and that means on how well we fight for those ideas, on how well we educate and organise ourselves to fight for them.”
[Has the Left Lost Its Way?, http://www.workersliberty.org/node/8833  ]

Given this urgent task for the AWL, the punishing routine of activity every day, repeated creations of stressful and polarised situations, and the demonisation of all other left and trade union activists as “reformists, Stalinists and kitsch socialists”, then AWL members are discouraged from stepping back and considering the relative merits of the group’s ideology.

Indeed the level of commitment and substantial financial contributions mean that to question the politics is to question their own judgement in making such an investment in the first place. The more someone pays for a fake the more they are inclined to believe it is genuine.

There is certainly an arguable case that when compared to the benchmark of other left groups, like the Communist Party, the SWP and the SP, the practices of the AWL are much closer to the dynamics of a cult.

Taken in combination, the characteristics of the AWL make their participation in broader labour movement organisations or campaigns potentially problematic.

At the very least, the level of commitment, dedication and training in pre-meditated factional activity of AWL members, and their sense of group loyalty to each other which over-rides the norms of trade union behaviour, makes them a source of disruption. This is especially the case given that their primary motivation seems to be to gain recruits for their group, regardless of whether the process by which they do so damages a union or campaign.

360 comments on “The “Alliance for Workers Liberty” – the dynamics of a malignant cult

  1. prianikoff on said:

    The opening sentence is rubbish and the rest of the article’s not any better.
    The AWL hard line Trotskyists, with an internal regime based on Stalinism?
    Gobbledegook.
    They’re a bunch of sectarians.

    Presumably Andy Newman hasn’t read the material that “Workers Fight” put out in its early years.
    The political volte face that Matgamna made when the USSR disintegrated isn’t described at all, let alone explained.
    Matgamna had a completely superficial understanding of what was happening there and tried to surf an anti-communist wave.
    This led him towards some very dangerous rocks.
    From being a “hard-line Workers Statist” organisation, the AWL lurched into a 3rd Campist sect modelled on Schachtman’s Workers Party.
    This also entailed a complete change in Matgamna’s positions on numerous other issues including Irish Republicanism and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

    As Trotsky spent his final years polemicing vigorously against Shachtman, the description of the AWL as “hard-line Trotskyists” is absurd.
    A closer examination of Matgamna’s history, going back to the Irish Workers, SLL, “Militant” and the IS would show that he’s never really had consistent politics
    He’s a contrarian, who’s picked fights with the leadership of every group he’s ever been in.
    Somewhere along the line he got access to enough funds to indulge his penchant for verbose polemics.
    Matgamna however is a sectarian with enough experience of trade unionism and the Labour Party to direct his young contacts to do consistent work in those organisations, which is more than his sectarian rivals have always done.

  2. Mike Martin on said:

    Andy, what is a “joint front” supposed to mean?

    “The French Trotskyists agitated against the Socialist Party forming a joint front with the Radical Party to oppose fascism, and then used this as a pretext to split the SFIO, thus creating an acrimonious and divisive faction fight that diverted energy away from the urgent struggle against fascism.”

    Trotsky’s position was for a United Front of workers organisations involving action rather than a mixing up of political programmes. The Stalinists promoted Popular Fronts – alliances with bourgeois parties on limited aims which was followed disastrously in Spain. Your joint front smells rather like the latter. Both the SP and the Radicals were congenitally incapable of a principled fight. Trotskyists entered the SP to reach a new generation of workers that had grown up without the experience of the SPs great betrayal of 1914.

    Much of your article reeks of sociology even “sovietology” rather than politics. How can you call AWL Trotskyist when they have evolved into third camp radicals who reject much of Trotksy’s views

  3. prianikoff: As Trotsky spent his final years polemicing vigorously against Shachtman, the description of the AWL as “hard-line Trotskyists” is absurd.

    I think that your definition of Trotskyism and mine differ in important aspects.

    You believe that when I refer to “Trotskyism” I am describing a difference of opinion within the labour movement, relating to their attitude towards the former USSR and “international revolution”

    On the contrary, I use the term “Trotskist” to describe self-indulgent, factional and ultra-left bevaviour of a political group that acts in a self-serving and destructive way, contrary to the broader interests of the labour movement. That’s is what it says under the heading of “Trotskyism” in my dictionary.

    I jest of course, I am not interested in creating a new symbolic category of “Trotskyists”. Suffice to say that Trotsky was the founder of the Red Army, a significant intellectual figure in the far left during the 20th century, and that his ideas ar open to a myriad of interretations when applied to the modern world, some of them sensible. For the purpose of the current article, the AWL’s own self-designation of themselves as “Trotskysts” is sufficient for me.

    prianikoff: A closer examination of Matgamna’s history, going back to the Irish Workers, SLL, “Militant” and the IS would show that he’s never really had consistent politics
    He’s a contrarian, who’s picked fights with the leadership of every group he’s ever been in.

    I am fully aware of this, which is why I wrote:

    “Sullivan observes that the AWL has been bewilderingly inconsistent in their political positions over the years, but that this has always served an institutional interest in creating sharp differentiation with other Trotskyist groups. ”

    Given that you yourself acknowledge that the AWL’s formal politics laregly serve their institutional interests, rather than having any internal coherence or consilience; then it hardly matters what exactly they beleive at any one time.

    If you feel that there is any merit in treating the AWL’s political views seriously enough to actually analyse them, then you have rather missed the point of their cult dynamics.

  4. Mike Martin: Trotskyists entered the SP to reach a new generation of workers

    How did that work out? they grew from 20 to 80? I bet the fascsists were quaking in their boots at such a mighty force being assembled against them.

  5. Michael M on said:

    The same defition of ‘cult’ could and should be applied to all far left groups,whether Trot or Guevarist type, as all are utterly absurd. [SEXIST COMMENT DELETED]

  6. Mike Martin: Much of your article reeks of sociology even “sovietology” rather than politics.

    Becausae the formal “politics” of the AWL are less important to understand them than their dynamic as a cult.

    Would you bother finding out exactly how a Muggletonian or a Skoptsy conceive their difefrences with mainstream chrsitianity?

  7. Michael M on said:

    this blog is so fucking PC, fake feminist nonsense. Surely a group being described [SEXIST COMMENT DELETED] is a compliment??!!!

  8. prianikoff on said:

    #3 So you can’t be bothered to analyse the AWL’s political development and just dismiss them, along with the SWP, as “a cult”.
    You’re now beginning to sound like a right-wing witch-hunter. Transport House may have further uses for you.

  9. When Andy Newman mentioned he was writing something accusing the AWL of being a cult, I was intrigued to see what he’d come up with. Even by his standards, this is seriously poor stuff.

    Perhaps we’ll bother writing a reply, perhaps we won’t. While I’m here, just one thing:

    “For an avowedly feminist organisation, the AWL is remarkably indulgent of older male members behaving in a sexually inappropriate way.”

    I am astonished by this – totally invented – claim. If you believe you are serious about it please email me at sacha@workersliberty.org so we can investigate. But I very much doubt you will because you have nothing to say.

    Also, on a much less important note, what do you base your figures for our membership on, since they’re wrong?

  10. andy newman: I think that your definition of Trotskyism and mine differ in important aspects.

    You believe that when I refer to “Trotskyism” I am describing a difference of opinion within the labour movement, relating to their attitude towards the former USSR and “international revolution”

    On the contrary, I use the term “Trotskist” to describe self-indulgent, factional and ultra-left bevaviour of a political group that acts in a self-serving and destructive way, contrary to the broader interests of the labour movement. That’s is what it says under the heading of “Trotskyism” in my dictionary.

    I jest of course, I am not interested in creating a new symbolic category of “Trotskyists”. Suffice to say that Trotsky was the founder of the Red Army, a significant intellectual figure in the far left during the 20th century, and that his ideas ar open to a myriad of interretations when applied to the modern world, some of them sensible. For the purpose of the current article, the AWL’s own self-designation of themselves as “Trotskysts” is sufficient for me.

    Reading Brother Newman’s latest exercise in shark jumping I’m strongly reminded of another political philosopher to which he bears close resemblance:

    “There’s glory for you!”
    “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
    “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,’ ” Alice objected.
    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
    “The question is, ” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

  11. prianikoff,

    No. While the Swp exhibit some cult dynamics, they are not a cult. In the context of a robust argument on a blog I dont mind throwing the accusation as an insult, that is because I enjoy being rude. Why else would you run a blog?

    However the AWL actually are s cult, and their infiltration into labour movement organisations needs to be seen as a problem to be managed, not as a legitimate political challenge within the norms of the movements democracy.

    This article is of course a redacted version of something I wrote for another audience.

  12. Mike Martin on said:

    4 and 6

    “Would you bother finding out exactly how a Muggletonian or a Skoptsy conceive their difefrences with mainstream chrsitianity?”

    Actually, I would. Ideas need to be understood in their context. Some of the Skoptsy castrated themselves so I suppose the differences were important to them.

    The only way to deal with a tendency is to confront its ideas. Ranting about cults is a poor solution. Likewise gloating over the small numbers that supported Trotsky. The dominance of Stalinism and social democracy over the workers movement was a bloody tragedy – still is in some respects.

  13. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Post 11 say “No. While the Swp exhibit some cult dynamics, they are not a cult. In the context of a robust argument on a blog I dont mind throwing the accusation as an insult, that is because I enjoy being rude. Why else would you run a blog?”

    I find this absolutely politically disgusting. What a political waster the labour supporting contributor is! No attempt to raise the political and class consciousness of the blog at all. Just navel gazing Stalinist style abuse of the contributions. What a sad life Newman must lead in the trade union movement and the labour party. No wonder the Left is trying to build an alternative leadership in the Trade Unions and socialist movement when we have individuals like Newman. Of course this will never see the light of day because Newman, et all, are too scared of the Left, that is why the bile from them on this blog, and would rather denigrate than enlighten.

  14. A previous poster wrote: “Ideas need to be understood in their context. Some of the Skoptsy castrated themselves so I suppose the differences were important to them.”

    An intriguing parallel with Comrade Newman, who appears to have offered his knackers up on the twin altars of New Labour and Stalinism. May the smoke rise up to Heaven, and may Uncle Joe welcome you, when the time comes, into his hirsute bosom!

  15. Mike Martin: The only way to deal with a tendency is to confront its ideas. Ranting about cults is a poor solution.

    Yes but that doesn’t follow if they actually are a cult.

    Look at the evidence: training in every aspect of behaviour, how to stand, how to give change, where to sit. A sign up sheet for activity requiring something every day, and public denouncing of people not doing enough, written permission to have time off sick. publishing Matgamna’s god awful adolescent poety as if he is the “Dear Leader”, etc. The creation of pschological stress, etc.

    This is a cult.

  16. The only way to approach a political grouping is politically. In fact the reasons for the AWL’s organisational malfunctionings are primarily political. THe lesson to be learnt from the AWL is one of how a seemingly revolutionary group adopted rapid anti-communist positions that has led them to ever greater concessions to imperialism. Remember how they were calling for a banning of the Communist Party in Russia after the collapse of the USSR? So Stalinism = Fascism and therefore ban the CP. A similar process has been their move towards being the far-left representative of the pro-war left. These are positions of such bankruptcy that drives their deterioration organisationally and underpins their behaviour in the labour movement.

    There is however a disturbing blanket condemnation of Leninism here. While the interpretation of Leninism by many Trotskyist groups in the West has led them into further isolation, the organisational model of Leninism should be seen in a wider context, one which is flexible and one that has had great successes historically. It should not be a dogma, but it does provide many lessons from the left. I mean the Russian and Chinese revolutions should not be dismissed with a wave of the hand; and the people that led these revolutions should certainly not be compared to the AWL.

  17. #12 But sometimes the way an organisation functions and relates to others is more significant than its ideas.

    And there is frequently a lack of immediate connection between the two factors.

  18. Gavin: There is however a disturbing blanket condemnation of Leninism here. While the interpretation of Leninism by many Trotskyist groups in the West has led them into further isolation, the organisational model of Leninism should be seen in a wider context, one which is flexible and one that has had great successes historically. It should not be a dogma

    But within that tradition, it is also widely recognised that – even were they historically justified, which I am not convinced of – the characteristics of the Lenin/Stalin period, such as the ideological conformity, the textual approach to consenual truth building, the leader cult, etc, were extremely negative.

    Obviously, for example, any mass party like the CPSU could not be a cult; but understanding the social dynamics that led to the GReat Terror, is important. One contributory factor was the Leninist paradigm of political pollemic, building symbolic categories of opponents. While that led to tragedy in the USSR, in the hands of tiny groups of delusional hobbyists in the Western Trotskyist groups, it leads to farce.

  19. Would any organisation that is not a cult publish this drivel:

    Author: Sean Matgamna

    V. Credo
    Trotsky knew:
    I see the bright green strip of grass
    Beneath the wall.
    And the clear blue sky
    Above the wall
    And sunlight everywhere
    Life is beautiful
    Let the future generations cleanse it
    Of all evil, oppression
    And violence
    And enjoy it to the full.

    Zbigniew knew:
    Go upright among those
    Who are on their knees:
    Let your anger be like the sea
    Whenever you hear the voice
    Of the insulted
    And beaten.

    Marti knew:
    With the poor people of the earth
    I want to share my fate.

    Connolly knew:
    Impartiality as between
    The strong and the weak
    Is the virtue of the slave.

    Marx knew, Engels knew:
    History is the history
    Of class struggles
    That each time ended
    Either in a revolutionary
    Reconstitution of society, or
    In the common ruin
    Of the contending classes.

    Engels knew:
    Labour power, wage-slavery,
    Produes value greater
    Than it costs
    The capitalist

    Marx knew:
    A state of society
    In which the process of production
    Has the mastery over man
    Instead of being controlled by him.
    To buy and use.

    Rosa knew:
    The proletarian revolution
    Is at the same time
    The death knell
    For all servitude
    And oppression.

    Rosa knew:
    When the working class
    Seizes the entire power
    Of the state
    In its calloused fist
    And uses it
    To smash the head
    Of the ruling classes,
    That alone is Democracy,
    That alone is not
    A betrayal of the people

    Connolly knew:
    To increase the intelligence of the slave
    To sow broadcast the seeds
    Of that intelligence
    That they may take root
    And ripen into revolt;
    To be the interpreters
    Of that revolt, and finally
    To help in guiding it to victory
    Is the mission we set before ourselves.

    Çonnolly knew:
    Contemned and despised though he be
    Yet, the rebellious docker
    Is the sign and symbol to all
    That an imperfect civilisation cannot last
    For slavery cannot survive
    The awakened intelligence of the slave.

    Trotsky knew:
    A party or a class that rises up
    Against every abominable action
    Wherever it has occurred,
    As vigorously and unhesitatingly
    As a living organism reacts
    To protect its eyes
    When they are threatened
    - Such a party or class is sound at heart.

    Gramsci knew:
    Reality is the result
    Of the application of wills
    To the society of things:
    To put aside
    Every voluntary effort
    And calculate only
    The intervention of other wills
    Is to mutilate reality itself.

    Trotsky knew:
    Face reality squarely;
    Do not seek
    The line of least resistence;
    Call things by their right names;
    Speak the truth
    No matter how bitter it may be;
    Do not fear obstacles

    Lenin knew:
    To say that socialists cannot
    Divert from its path
    The labour movement created
    By the material elements
    And material environment
    Whose interaction creates
    A certain type of labour movement
    And defines its path
    Is to ignore the truth
    That consciousness
    Participates
    In this interaction and creation:
    With Catholic labour movements
    The difference is
    It was the consciousness of priests
    And not the consciousness of Marxists
    That participated.

    Connolly knew:
    The only true prophets are those
    Who carve out the future they announce

    Trotsky knew:
    Be true in little things
    As in big ones;
    Steer by the logic of the class struggle
    Be bold
    When the hour for action arrives.

    Lenin knew:
    It is necessary to find
    The particular link in the chain
    Which must be grasped
    With all one’s strength
    In order to keep the whole chain in place
    And prepare to move on
    Resolutely to the next link.

    Marx knew:
    For the producer, co-operation,
    And the posession in common
    Of the land
    And the means of production.

    Gramsci knew:
    The emancipation of the proletariat is not
    A labour of small account
    And of little men; only he
    Who can keep his heart strong
    And his will as sharp as a sword
    When the general disillusion is at its worst
    Can be regarded as a fighter
    For the working class
    Or called a revolutionary.

    Zbigniew knew:
    Let your sister scorn
    Not leave you;
    Be courageous,
    Whenever the mind fails you,
    Be courageous:
    Only that is important.

    Tsintsadze knew:
    Woe to him who cannot wait!

    Tsintsadze knew:
    Many others too have died
    As I am dying,
    In prison or internal Exile:
    It will enrich our tradition;
    A new generation, learning
    From the struggle
    Of the Bolshevik Opposition,
    Will know
    On whose side truth lies.

    Marx knew:
    The knell
    Of capitalist
    Private property
    Sounds

    Marx knew:
    The integuement is burst asunder:
    The expropriators are expropriated.

    Gramsci knew:
    Only the one who wills something strongly
    Can identify the elements
    Which are necessary
    To the realisation of his will.

    Cannon knew:
    The thing that inspires life,
    That makes life worth the living
    In face of all the dangers,
    Uncertainties
    Insecurities
    Calamities
    Disappointments,
    Is to have committed ones own self
    To the effort to change it.

    Rolland knew:
    Pessimism of the intellect,
    Optimism of the will!

    Pearse knew:
    Did ye think to conquer the people
    Or that law is stronger than life
    And than our desire to be free?
    We will try it out with you,
    Ye that have harried and held,
    Ye that have bullied and bribed,
    Tyrants, hypocrites, liars!

    Connolly knew:
    Hope, and fight!

    *Aisling is Irish for ‘vision’: an aisling is a “vision poem”
    April, 1989.

  20. Patrick Smith on said:

    How inept do you have to be in order to pen a hatchet job that embarrasses yourself more than anyone else?

  21. Wow. I’d hate to see the unredacted version. I’m curious, Andy; what was the unspecified audience for whom this polemical tour de force was originally intended?

  22. SSDO: I’d hate to see the unredacted version. I’m curious, Andy; what was the unspecified audience for whom this polemical tour de force was originally intended?

    Can’t say. But I have removed references to individuals, and their activities.

  23. neprimerimye on said:

    Andy while its nice to have an article that is not about the SWP I DEMAND more dirt. C’mon give us the skinny on assaults sexual and otherwise. I want knowledge of financial fraud and of weird midnight ceremonies. Line changes and bureaucratic stitch ups. Drug abuse and sexual shenanigans. Just give us the DIRT.

    As for me personally I can forgive the AWL almost anything but having to read Sean’s poetry…

  24. First the SWP now AWL. What are you playing at? Is it demolition derby of the left of labour groups? You’re knocking them off one at a time? – meantime the leader of your party starts to play the racist card and not a peep from you or anyone else on this site.

    Prianikof makes valid points on the AWL politics but since you characterise them as a cult there is no need in your eyes to answer the points made. What arrogant buffoonery.

    Let me be clear I have little time for the unpleasant sectarians of the AWL. I first came across Workers Fight in Manchester and Matgamna and his mob ran one of the IS branches in the city. No one outside his faction could work with him so a special branch for his sect was set up. Cliff in his move to isolate the libertarians attracted to IS was happy to make an alliance with Matgamna to bolster the Democratic Centralist forces in IS and paid for this bit of opportunism with an unpleasant faction fight.

    The AWL need to be addressed politically, like the SWP, and not with smears and innuendo.

  25. Andy Newman,

    Some of this may be true. But the centralisation and terror enacted in the Soviet Union was more to do with its backwardness, encirclement and isolation. I do agree that the left should look at how the Leninist model has contributed to this, but also recognise how the democratic centralist model in its true meaning made many contributions to the advancement of the left and humanity. In the twentieth first century we can see new forms of organisation developing and the left needs to learn for example from Venezuela. But the success of Leninism in helping to remove the majority of humanity out of the capitalist system for a period of the twentieth century cannot be reduced to the experiences of some sects in the UK.

    Oh and that poetry is gut wrenchingly awful.

  26. Vanya: #12 But sometimes the way an organisation functions and relates to others is more significant than its ideas.And there is frequently a lack of immediate connection between the two factors.

    That’s true and when the ability to actually implement the ideas is vastly remote then the need to maintain the organisation becomes the sole strategy and all other considerations are subject to it.

    Hence the bizzare twists and turns and the need to denounce apostates. Its like the Plymouth Bretheren without the business acumen.

  27. Gavin: the centralisation and terror enacted in the Soviet Union was more to do with its backwardness, encirclement and isolation. I do agree that the left should look at how the Leninist model has contributed to this, but also recognise how the democratic centralist model in its true meaning made many contributions to the advancement of the left and humanity

    This is true, but also note SA’s point:

    SA: when the ability to actually implement the ideas is vastly remote then the need to maintain the organisation becomes the sole strategy and all other considerations are subject to it

    The original leninist paradigm was about creating mass parties, and the attempt to generate a new hegemonic – and indeed compulsory – ideology was about transforing society through practical tasks.

    To transpose that same technique onto small propaganda circles is inherently problematic. Recall that for a group like the AWL, almost nothing they do makes any difference to anything, and its success or failure is judged only on its impact on the health of their group.

  28. Harry Sinclair Waugh on said:

    This is absolute nonsense.
    I’m a forrmer member of the AWL, I left for non political reasons and am still in contact with them. When I was having personal problems and still in the group I experienced the absolute opposite of ‘application of stress’ various members offered me support, and at no time was I forced to commit time to the organisation. Your point about Entrapment is also completely ridiculous, at no point were unreasonable demands made on me, again quite the opposite, I was given time and when I missed meetings people understood.
    And instead of just ignoring the points I made like you did with Sacha’s I’d like you to post an actual response to my points! not just childish rubbish like ‘ooh scary’

  29. Gavin: But the success of Leninism in helping to remove the majority of humanity out of the capitalist system for a period of the twentieth century cannot be reduced to the experiences of some sects in the UK.

    That is of course true, but the success of Leninism was also an historically contingent one, and it is necessary to understand how the expereince was shaped by those circumstances.

    What makes no sense is to ape the organisational and political forms of leninism, as if by so doing, the historical circumstances that created leninism can be recreated. That is a cargo cult.

    Were I actually writing about the experience of the USSR, then I would factor in the histrical context; but the lnk between the AWL and the heroic historical expereince of the October revolution exists only in their self delusion.

  30. Harry Sinclair Waugh: Your point about Entrapment is also completely ridiculous, at no point were unreasonable demands made on me, again quite the opposite, I was given time and when I missed meetings people understood.

    BUt what seems reasonable becomes conditioned by the norms of the group, not the norms of wider society.

    The entire project which the AWL sets itself, to create a “revolutionary” leadership of the working class in Britain, based upon propaganda circles and polemic is inherently irrational, and the tempo of activity that the AWL engages in is largely incompatible with maintaining normal relationships with people outwith the hot-house of the far left milieu.

    The evidence is from the AWL’s own documents, which I quote above, describing the weekly routine, and the training; as well as the polarising polemic towards other groups.

    Obvioulsy, they were indulgent of the reasons which you were less active, because the reasons posed no threat to their shared group self-image.

  31. Harry Sinclair Waugh: I was given time and when I missed meetings people understood.

    That was big of them! The very fact that your relationship with the group was so subaltern that it was necessary for them to “understand” your non-attendance at meetings, itself suggests that the relationship was unhealthy.

  32. Gavin: I mean the Russian and Chinese revolutions should not be dismissed with a wave of the hand; and the people that led these revolutions should certainly not be compared to the AWL.

    BTW, I missed the implication here, which is of course true. That comparing the AWL with Stalin is deeply unfair to Stalin, after all Sean Matgamna has acheived nothing, while Stalin industrialised the USSR, and smashed nazism.

  33. radicalorbital on said:

    As someone who ‘has been brought into their orbit’, as well as having been on the peripheries of several activist groups and left organisations, i have several comments..

    Two key things strike me after having been involved with AWL, firstly their commitment to internal democracy is very strong. The internal structure of decision making is a genuine bottom up approach, that is a very hard to match in these sort of circles, from what i can see.

    Openness to dissent, Solidarity features numerous articles and letters that reflect ongoing differences within their ranks, that these are actively tolerated and encouraged is a sign of the intellectually healthy organisation that the AWL is.

    This is a pretty cynical attempt to discredit them. Putting all allegiances to one side, anyone can see that this is mud throwing and is not becoming of a serious activist or organisation. Kind of resembles the banalities of parliamentary politics.

  34. Matt Lewis on said:

    Surely an honest analyst would recognise that Schachtman was driven out of the Trotskyist movement following prolonged thoeretical struggle waged by Trotsky himself and that therefore his views of the Soviet Union as worse than fascism rather than as a deformed workers’ state requiring a revolution to remove the parasitic bureaucracy have nothing whatever to do with Trotskyism. An honest commentator would also acknowledge that many AWLers like most Stalinised cults and sects nowadays favour the pseudo thoeretician Gramsci to cover their opportunism. But you are not an honest commentator.

  35. Harry Sinclair Waugh on said:

    Your points made are so stupid that I almost can’t be bothered to respond. Political disagreement and discussion among members was, and still is, actively encourgaged in the AWL. At all events I went to members disagreed with each other on key issues, that was one of the reasons I joined in the first place, because I think debate is extremely important in left wing politics. Also, I can assure you that they were reasonable like anyone else in normal society would be.

  36. radicalorbital: Two key things strike me after having been involved with AWL, firstly their commitment to internal democracy is very strong. The internal structure of decision making is a genuine bottom up approach, that is a very hard to match in these sort of circles, from what i can see.
    Openness to dissent, Solidarity features numerous articles and letters that reflect ongoing differences within their ranks, that these are actively tolerated and encouraged is a sign of the intellectually healthy organisation the AWL is.

    Firstly, there is a conceit in the AWL about their “internal democracy” which reflects their ideological capitulation to the self-image by which Western liberalism promotes itself.

    But secondly, like in the weekly worker sect, the ritual of debate is within very circumscribed limits, contained within an envelope of acceptance of the basic “revolutionary” paradigm, by which the group judges itself

  37. I would never have expected to find myself sticking up for the AWL in public but an article like this makes it necessary despite my strong disagreements with them, particularly on Palestine and some of their methods.

    The article reads like the prelude to a witch hunt, though from what and why isn’t completely apparent and it would be interesting to know what the original audience was. There may be a clue in the scorn poured over the concept of a bureaucracy in the labour movement. It exists and its influence on the organised working class is much more pervasive and malign than all the far left groups combined.

    Just to conclude on an anecdote. Martin Thomas from the AWL attended the funeral of our comrade Dave Packer earlier this year. I asked him why and he said that even though he didn’t know Dave terribly well he just wanted to acknowledge his contribution to revolutionary Marxism in Britain. I thought it was a very honourable gesture towards someone with whom he had major political disagreements.

  38. Richard on said:

    “Firstly, there is a conceit in the AWL about their “internal democracy” which reflects their ideological capitulation to the self-image by which Western liberalism promotes itself.”

    I’ve read that sentence 7 times and it still doesn’t make any sense…I see the ability of the far left to communicate its ideas has not improved over time!!

  39. saothar on said:

    So, that’s a trashing of the AWL to go with the trashing of the SWP in recent days.

    I have a lot of political differences with both of these groups, but to see old cynical tankies, who transferred their abject reformism with ease to the ideological dead-zone of Corporate New Labour upon the collapse of their old, failed organisations, criticise any group on the Left is laughable.

    Yes, Joe Stalin did industrialise–finally–but at what cost to the many workers who perished in what were effectively slave labour conditions?

    And given the sterling way in which he prepared the Red Army for war in the period 1936-39, I think it rather ridiculous to hang the garland of destroyer of Nazism around his neck too

  40. Hch:
    I think Andy Newman is a cult.

    No, you’re just addicted. He gives you as much time off as you like, but still you keep coming back for more.

  41. “No. While the Swp exhibit some cult dynamics, they are not a cult. In the context of a robust argument on a blog I dont mind throwing the accusation as an insult, that is because I enjoy being rude. Why else would you run a blog?”

    I’m having this framed and put on my wall above my computer.

  42. It looks as though Andy’s trying to have the AWL framed and put on the wall above his computer…

  43. I’m sad to see that Socialism in your book is now exclusively socialism from above, delivered by saviours from on high, Andy. Any effort to organise the rank and file appears to you the handiwork of whackjobs. But to put it to you in homespun country & western terms – which I know you’ll appreciate – I guess you are just a product of your raisin’.

  44. Michael M on said:

    The AWL are notorious wreckers from the student movement, to the unions. Daniel Randall destroyed the anti cuts campaigns at Sheffield University through his work of co-opting and intimidating others on the left into taking positions that meant wider work was impossible. @ Sacha, I would look at the Sheffield organisation if you want to investigate dodgy sexual practices

  45. Richard: “Firstly, there is a conceit in the AWL about their “internal democracy” which reflects their ideological capitulation to the self-image by which Western liberalism promotes itself.”

    Quite straight forwards.

    The imperialism of the West has been cloaked in hypocritical self-justfication about individualism and human rights, particularly the ideal that political liberty means that everyone has equal rights.

    In reality this is a conceit, because while there is political and legal equality, there is no equality of wealth and power. There is no equality between the weight of Rupert Murdoch’s opinion, and the weight of opinion of – for example – an NHS cleaner.

    In particular, Westen imperialism has been prepared to export violence to the rest of the world; and even within the metropolitan imperial states, any serious threat to the status quo may well be met with extra-legal coercive power.

    Nevertheless, the Western propaganda campaign against the former socialist countries, and post colonial goverments beats them up with an idealised concept of political freedom, tha sadly much of the Trotskist left has joined in with, especialy the AWL.

    The AWL therefore places great store on its liberal approach to internal debate, not only because it massages their own self image of being different from the model of actually existing socialist countries; but also because it is a USP compared to the rest of the far left groups, and is paticularly appealling to conceited middle class individualists it hopes to recruit.

    But it is still a scam, becasue the envelope of debate is circumscribed both by the limits of the AWL’s facile revolutionism; but also by the stultifying conformity of the group think, and the mockery of views outwith the AWL’s own acceptable limits.

  46. Dr Paul on said:

    The AWL is a rather sensitive group. I once wrote a brief, rather sarcastic letter about the AWL to the Weekly Worker, and Sean Matgamna replied in his group’s paper, devoting an entire page to a furious denunciation of me. One might have thought that the ganzermacher of a left group would have more pressing things to write about than denouncing a short letter by a practically unknown person in an obscure paper.

  47. Jellytot on said:

    Another good article and unique perspective.

    I particularly enjoyed the quotes from J Arch Getty and Luis A. Cordón, especially the latter’s six cult markers.

    While I take Andy’s point about the SWP not being a full blown cult I certainly saw evidence (to varying degrees) of numbers 2,4,5, & 6 whilst in the group and number 4:

    iv) weakening pre-existent ties with those outside the group, this can be achieved by keeping cult members always busy

    reminds me of a criticism made by Cliff of Scargill’s then newly formed SLP. He stated that he doubted how Scargill could keep the group together without constant high levels of cyclical activity (i.e. “Let’s build for the action/demo/march/strike on…..”)

    Cordón’s first point about the application of Stress (with it’s associated ‘guilt tripping’ and bullying) is very important and is a hallmark of all the Trot cults from the present day AWL through to Healy’s old WRP.

    @47I think it rather ridiculous to hang the garland of destroyer of Nazism around his (Stalin’s) neck too

    Well, if the CCCP didn’t then who did?

  48. Jellytot:

    Well, if the CCCP didn’t then who did?

    I understand the CCCP forces and Nazis paraded together on September 22, 1939 during the invasion of Poland in the city of Brest-Litovsk.

  49. Jellytot on said:

    @60I understand the CCCP forces and Nazis paraded together on September 22, 1939 during the invasion of Poland in the city of Brest-Litovsk.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raising_a_flag_over_the_Reichstag

    P.S. The bizarre and ever-so-unhinged abuse being thrown at Andy over this article by AWL’ers illustrates the issue. Compare with the calm and level-headed reactions of SWP members like ‘stuart’ on here recently in relation to articles about their group.

  50. I suppose for once (and unusually on the British left) this instance of Nazism is referring exclusively to NSDAP.

  51. Richard on said:

    #56

    “There is no equality between the weight of Rupert Murdoch’s opinion, and the weight of opinion of – for example – an NHS cleaner.”

    Of course that is very true – but it’s no reason to junk the ideals of political equality, freedom of association or freedom of expression???

    Surely a better response would be to highlight the difference between “formal” (i.e. legal) equalities and enormous material inequalities and campaign for a more just distribution of wealth (and a more powerful TU presence in politics), without taking the rather dismissive response to civil liberties that so discredits much of the left?

    Also – it is rather telling that much of the criticism of atrocities committed by the US/Western Powers overseas is also couched in the language of “liberal individualism”!!

  52. Stephen Kane on said:

    I don’t understand the point of this article. As far as I can tell, the AWL is one of the few groups where its rule book, constitution and other internal documents are laid open online for all to read, even if they could lead to the kind of strange article such as the one above.

    Otherwise, the practices that the author rejects are just a mixture of Leninism and good sales techniques, the latter of the kind that any high street shop – or serious political party (remember New Labour, anyone) – or trade union (do members of the TUC Organising Academy not learn how to speak, how to convince workers of their arguments, etc.? of course they do) or NGO (Greenpeace, Amnesty, etc.) teaches to their employees or members or activity.

    I look forward to other “ooh, scary” articles in this series, maybe on the CPB, Socialist Action, the SP, Socialist Appeal, the CPGB-ML, etc. I can hardly wait!

  53. Richard: Surely a better response would be to highlight the difference between “formal” (i.e. legal) equalities and enormous material inequalities and campaign for a more just distribution of wealth (and a more powerful TU presence in politics), without taking the rather dismissive response to civil liberties that so discredits much of the left?

    I think the point Andy is making is the hypocrisy involved in using the lack of political freedoms as a stick to beat states and societies emerging from decades and more of western colonialism, responsible for keeping them in a state of underdevelopment, while ignoring the fact that those same political freedoms mask the huge disparity in economic power that exists in the West.

  54. Vincent Doherty on said:

    Since the early days of the Communist movement there has been widespread intervention by agents of the state. This is par for the course. Such infiltration has been a fact of life not only in the Communist Party’s but also withing the Trotskyist movement. For example up to 20% of the long term leadership of the American SWP were agents of the FBI and this percentage was even more prounouced in those ultra left ‘Party’s’ who saw as thier primary task as the destruction of the main far left currents in the workers movement. The Spartacists are the most obvious example of such a cult based tendencey and of course O’Mahoney’s group which has had more incarnations that a large family of cats, all of them with the same outcome. To splinter and divide the working class movement. Case of whoever pays the piper calls the tune!

  55. saothar on said:

    The people and army of the USSR destroyed Nazism.

    This was despite the ‘leadership’ of Stalin, not because of it.

    Unless you consider purging the army of large sections of its officers for no reason other than the paranoia of the leadership of the government, and then signing a pact with Hitler, to be evidence of astute and far sighted leadership, as opposed to acts of real treachery to the principles of proletarian internationalism by an utterly discredited dictatorship.

  56. This piece is just astonishingly stupid. It’s not just ill-informed its almost insane – politically and personally

  57. Jellytot on said:

    @68The people and army of the USSR destroyed Nazism.

    ….under the leadership of the CPSU.

    Given his Red Army background, Trotsky would concede that armies need strong structures and firm political direction (although that thinking seemed to go AWOL in Spain).

  58. Jellytot: Compare with the calm and level-headed reactions of SWP members like ‘stuart’ on here recently in relation to articles about their group.

    I think that while Stuart is often completely wrong, and I admit I have been too rude to him and the past, he has shown both himself and the SWP in a good light over the last week.

  59. saothar: Unless you consider purging the army of large sections of its officers for no reason other than the paranoia of the leadership of the government, and then signing a pact with Hitler, to be evidence of astute and far sighted leadership, as opposed to acts of real treachery to the principles of proletarian internationalism by an utterly discredited dictatorship.

    What a load of nonsense.

  60. saothar on said:

    What a load of nonsense.
    —————————————–
    So there was no purge and no pact with the Nazis then?

    Maybe in your world, Andy

  61. Dear Andy,

    What a magnificent analysis. Seriously though, now that you’ve exposed the AWL as a cult, will you be following through and offering de-programming for those of us damaged by years of stress and mind control? I do hope so.

    Kind regards,
    Tom Unterrainer
    Cult Member

  62. Albion 4 Ever & The Brits on said:

    If I lived in Swindon I’d take part in some real trainspotting, somewhere by the railway lines – much more interesting than this.

  63. Jellytot on said:

    The AWL’s practice towards individuals also includes showering affection on potential recruits and making them the centre of attention, and then seemingly inexplicably switching to become hostile when that new recruit questions an element of AWL orthodoxy. This creates a stressful pressure for people to accept the AWL’s point of view in order to regain favour and be rewarded again with affection.

    I used a version of this technique to train two of my American Bulldogs. It’s use on human beings on the British Left is concerning.

  64. saothar: signing a pact with Hitler, to be evidence of astute and far sighted leadership

    In fact, the pact with the Devil that the USSR signed with Hitler was indispensible in buying time for rearmament.

    According to Walter Dunn’s “The Soviet economy and the Red Army 1930 to 1945″, a book by an American academic more inerested in the military than in politics, from January 1939 to June 22nd 1941, the Red Army received 82000 new artillery pieces and morters, 7000 more tanks, and 18000 new combat aircraft.

    the third five year plan under Voznesenskii started in 1938 was extremely successful in bringing on line new American capital plant and factories, and the imbalances between raw material supplies and industrial requirements had been brought into equilibrium by summer of 1940, providing the industrial capacity for the mammoth military production during the war years. By 1941 Soviet armaments production was more efficient, better tooled and had higher throughput than their German competitors, what is more, a lot of it had been moved east of the Urals.

    In 1939, much of the industrial capacity for war production was still not on line, and there were serious skilled labour shortages and fuel shortages – the extra time gained by the Molotov pact really did provide the foundation for the future sucess of the Red Army.

  65. saothar: purging the army of large sections of its officers for no reason other than the paranoia of the leadership of the government

    See Roger Reese’s article “The Red Army and the Great Purges” in the book “Stalinist Terror” A Arch Getty (Ed), Cambridge, 1993.

    “after 1938 repression within the military was virtually negligable“

    In total 7.7% of the officer corps were discharged in 1937 and 1938, but out of 34301 removed from their positions, by May 1940 11596 had been reinstated.

  66. prianikoff on said:

    #11 “This article is of course a redacted version of something I wrote for another audience.”

    Were this “audience” paying you for it?

    This talk of AWL “infiltration” is all rather suspicious.
    The AWL has never been regarded as a problem by the labour bureaucracy.

    But some of the AWL’s opponents- the sort who suck up to the same bureaucracy – might be unprincipled enough to stir up a witchunt against them, in an attempt to get them out of the way in the NUS and RMT.

    In a similar vein, the wartime CP tried to get its Trotskyist opponents banned by the state.

    Of course, the AWL bears very little political resemblance to the wartime WIL, which makes this article even more absurd.

  67. prianikoff: Of course, the AWL bears very little political resemblance to the wartime WIL, which makes this article even more absurd.

    glaring non-sequitor.

    Who gives a flying F*** about the WIL !

  68. I think there were a number of similarities between Matgamna’s group and another cult that grew out of faction fights in the old IS- the one that started out as the Revolutionary Communist Tendency and is now some wierd libertarian outfit.

    Both seem(ed) to base much of their politics and behaviour on telling ‘the left’ what was wrong with everybody on ‘the left’ apart from themselves and having contrarian or extreme positions.

    The most shocking example I can remember was the debate in a pub in Manchester between Matgamna or the AWL and Phil Hearse of Socialist Outlook (prior both to the fall of Apartheid and the ‘velvet revolution’ when the former stated approvingly that South Africa was more democratic than Czechoslovakia.

    Unsurprisingly their front page a few years later just after Chris Hani, the leader of Umkhonto We Size, was murdered was mainly devoted to saying what a Stalinist scumbag he was.

    At the time I was probably far more tolerant of these characters than I should have been, possibly because I do have a general feeling that we’re all part of a wider family and like most families we have relatives we’re really embarrassed by.

    Ironically that’s the way I see the old USSR.

  69. If Andy Newman is on a mission to destroy all left sects/cults then he should be applauded, probably. I certainly think sects can easily turn into cults, especially when they are not getting anywhere! Cult would seem the appropriate label for the AWL, except there will be no mass suicide. More is the pity.

    But, really, why are you wasting your time writing about these irrelevant fucking tossers?

  70. prianikoff on said:

    “Who gives a flying F*** about the WIL !”

    The British state certainly did in WW2, when it jailed several of the WIL’s leading members for leading strikes against attacks on workers’ pay and conditions under the war-time emergency regulations.

    The WIL developed considerable support in the unions as a result. This was based on swimming against the stream of the Wartime Popular Front (not in an AWL sort of way)
    It was an important episode in the history of the British Labour movement and is well worth studying:-

    see “The War and the International” by Al Richardson and Sam Bornstein.

  71. #80 ‘The AWL has never been regarded as a problem by the labour bureaucracy.’

    There was a mini-witchunt when Socialist Organiser was banned in the early 90s. Prior to that one of their supporters was selected as ppc for Wallasey and no action taken against the next door Labour MP Frank Field when he advised Labour supporters to vote SDP.

    On the other hand I remember a very dodgy article being written by one of their more unsavoury members in support of the GMB bureacracy withdrawing support from a strike by asian womwn in Smethwick. I’m talking about the one who looks like he’s either going to take a swing at you and miss or ask you for 50p for a cup of tea.

    Their anti- bureacratism, like their hostility to radical islam is very much as and when it suits.

  72. #87 The ppc in question btw was notable for having led a militant struggle to try to save jobs at the local shipyard.

  73. Why do Trotskyists still think Trotsky was right about the United Front? He was wrong and, uncomfortable though it might be to admit it, Stalin was right.

  74. Martin Wicks on said:

    This is bizarre. This could have been written any time over the last ten years. Why now? How many visits a week these days to the site?

    Why all this energy expended on this piece? You would have thought that there were enough disasters befalling the working class to devote time to, to take one example, expose the destruction of the NHS taking place, or some other attempt to destroy what remains of our gains. Or promote some resistance.

    Perhaps something a little more constructive?

  75. saothar on said:

    Andy Newman: See Roger Reese’s article “The Red Army and the Great Purges” in the book “Stalinist Terror” A Arch Getty (Ed), Cambridge, 1993.

    “after 1938 repression within the military was virtually negligable“

    In total 7.7% of the officer corps were discharged in 1937 and 1938, but out of 34301 removed from their positions, by May 1940 11596 had been reinstated.

    ——————————————–

    So, even if we stick to just this one source that you are introducing, we can see that over 20,000 officers hadn’t been re-instated by May 1940. And the figure would obviously have been even higher if the cut-off point was September 1939, when the pact with the Nazis was signed. It is indefensible whatever you way you look at it, but you keep trying to do that.

    Or maybe you think, Andy, that those officers deserved to be removed and executed, as many were, along with those Old Bolsheviks, ‘unmasked’ as spies and fascists during the show trials of this era.

  76. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    I had a drink with a senior figure in the Unite union who’s a good friend of mind last week. They mentioned in passing that they used to, about a year ago or more, check in to this site *every* morning because “you got a selection of interesting articles from the broad left and you could see what the left was saying to itself”. They don’t do that any more.

    I carry no brief for the AWL, as I’m sure anyone who knows me and them would realise. Nor does my Unite friend. But since this site has been kind enough to publish a number of articles by me, and since it continues to have a readership, I do care about having somewhere where serious discussion can happen. This post and thread is not it. Nor has been some other recent stuff. There is a danger of it becoming a bad melodrama – and losing the plot.

    I’d still want to have things I produced put up here because it would be read and would, in my experience, elicit some thought-provoking response. But if this trend carries on I’m much more likely to want to get things out elsewhere (at least in the first instance). That’s not some childish threat. More a sober confiding.

  77. Jellytot on said:

    @93They don’t do that any more.

    It can be a difficult balancing act but I think this blog gets the mix of different kinds of articles and features broadly correct.

    @93it continues to have a readership

    Yes, it does and articles like these draw hundreds of comments while articles on other subjects barely draw any.

    I can imagine many younger progressives, socialists and those finding their way in the movement read this blog (at least I hope they do). All I can state is that I wish there had been something like this around in the 80′s:

    “forewarned is forearmed”

  78. Rebecca Mallowan on said:

    As a recently joined AWL member, imagine my disappointment on reading that I missed out on having any affection lavished on me. Mind you, balanced out by relief to have avoided ritual hurdles, being isolated from loved ones, drilled on where to sit in meetings, propositioned by senior members etc… I know members of other Trot groups who aren’t even expected to turn up to meetings. If expecting your members to organise and self educate is sinister, so be it.

  79. Jellytot on said:

    @93But if this trend carries on I’m much more likely to want to get things out elsewhere

    That would be a genuine shame as many of us, I’m sure, enjoy your unique perspectives of politics and events in the Middle East.

    But many of us are also interested in Andy’s unique perspectives on subjects like this.

  80. Kevin Ovenden: But if this trend carries on I’m much more likely to want to get things out elsewhere (at least in the first instance). That’s not some childish threat. More a sober confiding.

    hu·bris (hybrs) also hy·bris (h-)
    n.
    Overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance:

  81. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Jellytot: as you say, you will read and comment anyway. The point stands. Others won’t. What characteristic is it again that ridicules those who are not in the committed core?

    Ok – that was too near the knuckle. But I must tell you that people I have a lot of respect for in the movement are raising this problem. And there is no reason for it. There are huge numbers of stories, controversies and serious debates that are underreported on the British left. This site can play a role in rectifying that. It did. I hope it can again.

  82. John,

    Really, John, is that necessary? Kev is a knowledgeable commentator and longtime activist and is worthy of more respect than that type of comment.

  83. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    John: hu·bris(hybrs) also hy·bris (h-)
    n.
    Overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance:

    Ok, John. That kind of sardonic quip is very clear. And, given that you are one of the editors of this site, so is its direction. I had hoped that there might be some discussion about the latest foibles. But no. Ok.

    And if you are going to respond with some toy-town stuff about me being “thin-skinned” or something, please don’t. My hide has had to deal with material objects not verbal pea-shooters.

    Others who read this and who contribute can consider the merits of this. I hope the people who are responsible for the site in toto do the same.

    I’ll wait for that before bothering again.

  84. Omar: Really, John, is that necessary? Kev is a knowledgeable commentator and longtime activist and is worthy of more respect than that type of comment.

    Is he?

    And so is Andy Newman, yet Kevin feels it necessary to engage in the kind of condescension that I just find objectionable.

    Oh, and Kevin, enough of the faux histrionics about material objects and such like, please.

    I for one could not care less whether you contribute here or not.

    Just so you know.

  85. Kevin Ovenden: I had hoped that there might be some discussion about the latest foibles.

    What kind of insufferable arrogance is this? Really? Andy devotes a huge chunk of his own time to running this blog, to ensuring it’s updated, providing a platform that many have utilised over the years, and because you disapprove of a couple of recent articles you feel you have the right to lecture him like Moses descending from Mount Sinai?

    Seriously.

  86. I’m sure Newman is a state plant nothing else could explain his destructive spoilt posh schoolboy behaviour over the last few years.

  87. John,

    I don’t think he was being condescending whatsoever, but expessing opinions about the priorities of this site, some of which I think has merit to it. I think his contributions here are something you should care about very much as they manage to be insightful AND non-sectarian. Take a step back for a minute,ffs.

  88. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Post 94 it is alright saying ‘“forewarned is forearmed” ‘ but unfortunately that is not the case on this thread and many other threads in the past few months. What the editors write, in the main, but specifically Newman, when they offer a critique of opposing Lefts it is based on personal bile, bitterness and spleen constructed on innuendos and personal idiosyncrasies in the capitalist world; not a political and theoretical critique of the other Left political tendencies within the labour and trade union movement. I have over the past few weeks tried to post political points, both in my own words and links to a political argument, but they have been deleted. Personally speaking I was surprised the post I put this morning was allowed. All Newman seems to be worried about is creating a diatribe against both pseudo- and genuine Trotskyists, which are then taken up by his hangers-on, rather than raising the intellectual and class consciousness of the readers as a means to fight the capitalist system and its consequences. Kevin Ovenden is absolutely correct in this case in post 93. I expect this post to be deleted because Newman will not want someone from the CWI to point out that he is no different from the cult figures he continually disparages.

  89. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    John – Let me say this, and I really don’t want to say any more. I’ll talk directly with Andy, whom I’ve known for very many years and for whom I have a great deal of respect.

    You just speak for yourself. It’s better that way. Then everyone can be clear.

  90. Jimmy Haddow,

    Oh,Jimmy,please. Andy and Tony,amongst others, have provided plenty of theoretical critique to your repetitive comments, and can usually demolish you in far less space than your comments usually take up. You just choose not to acknowledge it.

  91. Omar: I’ll talk directly with Andy, whom I’ve known for very many years and for whom I have a great deal of respect.

    Yes, you should have spoken to him privately in the first place. That would have been the respectful thing to do.

  92. John,

    FFS John, your attack on Kev is way out of line. You write some great articles on here but you can be so aggressive and arrogant that it makes reading these threads really unpleasant. Kev’s had a few smashing articles on here recently, i can’t believe you’re treating him with such disdain.

  93. pete: you can be so aggressive and arrogant that it makes reading these threads really unpleasant.

    I seriously regret you feel that way. I’ll try to be less so in future. I mean that.

    I’ve said all I intend to say on this.

  94. Jellytot on said:

    @112

    In John’s defence, Kevin did make a statement at the end of #94 that could be perceived as a threat, and an attempt to influence editorial policy, and maybe it was this that rubbed John up the wrong way?

    People do have the option of not reading posts on subjects they don’t agree with and/or have no interest in. I do.

  95. cliff foot on said:

    As delightful as ever to see comrade John entering into the seasonal spirit of goodwill towards others on the left, even it seems, those who write for this site.

  96. Hi Andy, on the subject of this article… I really feel there are many many more important, relevant issues to talk, write and debate about than this tiny little outfit that bears no influence on the future of the left. You said it yourself; it has 50 to 80 members. They’re not taken seriously and that’s reflected in their inability to recruit members. I would imagine most union activists just don’t care much about the AWL or if they’ve even heard of them (they’re viewed as a laughing stock in my union the RMT). Surely our focus as the left, (and SU as a platform for moving it forward) could be used more wisely?. I would have much prefered a detailed analysis of the rise of UKIP, or gun crime in the US for example. A much better use of your talents!

  97. Sarah Keys on said:

    So can we get back to the matter in hand that is much more important than all of this…bashing the SWP. Haha. What next, an “exposé” based on the contents of the Weekly Worker’s website?

  98. EddM:
    “…require all members to participate in perpetual political education classes.”

    EDUCATION? DEMOCRACY? ACTIVITY? What a DISGRACE to the left. A disgrace to the socialist countries/union leaders/students.

    I’m really glad you’ve outed them about all that sexual impropriety. Who needs facts when you’ve got pure conjecture? I bet they’re all a bunch of filthy deviants. Oh and yes, I heard Sheffield was particularly bad too. Need castrating, the lot of them.

  99. pete: I would have much prefered a detailed analysis of the rise of UKIP, or gun crime in the US for example. A much better use of your talents!

    Let me give you an insight into my life. Tonight I chaired a strike meeting attended by 55 GMB members who work for Carillion at the Great Western Hospital in swindon, to discuss the progress of the Employemt Tribunal hearing they had last week.

    The meeting started at 8:30 and went on until 10, at which point I still had to eat.

    I am not one of those people who regards writing a blog as their primary political activity, and between the union and the Labour Party, along with my childcare, and even occassionally having fun, I don’t have unlimited time to write about whatever is the issue f the hour.

    This particular article was very easy to write as I just had to edit down something i had written for another purpose.

    And while there may be all sorts of subjects that are more important, sometimes this blog is just about what we feel like writing about.

  100. Absolutely hilarious, Nooman. If you want a punch-up any time, just get in touch. I promise not to have you shot on sight, although that’s what you deserve. Stalinist scum.

  101. Kevin Ovenden: I’ll talk directly with Andy, whom I’ve known for very many years and for whom I have a great deal of respect.

    Kev – yes speak to me. I have my reasons for running this article.

    Kevin Ovenden: I had a drink with a senior figure in the Unite union who’s a good friend of mind last week. They mentioned in passing that they used to, about a year ago or more, check in to this site *every* morning because “you got a selection of interesting articles from the broad left and you could see what the left was saying to itself”. They don’t do that any more.

    WEll it is a good point, I don’t check into this blog every day myself either. What has changed? Well over the last year I have been instrumental in leading a major on-going industrial dispute involving 145 mainly South Asian women, in a fight with Carillion about the most appalling levels of racism and extortion from managers, so far we have had 21 days of strike action, and the campiagn has now spread to include the campaign against blacklisting.

    That industrial dispute takes literally days of effort from me every week, and simply means that I don’t have the time to devote to this website.

  102. pete: You write some great articles on here but you can be so aggressive and arrogant that it makes reading these threads really unpleasant.

    I feel a bit worried that JOhn might tae over my role – It is my job to be the rude and unpleasant one.

  103. Jimmy Haddow: I expect this post to be deleted because Newman will not want someone from the CWI to point out that he is no different from the cult figures he continually disparages.

    Indeed, I bulk ordered some koolaid only this morning.

  104. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Andy, I’m sure Pete appreciates that. As he and I appreciate your efforts on the blog. He will empathise as well: he’s a trade union activist, like you.

    We are all in the same universe and can converse. Some of the stuff above, however, is not conversing. And it is not from a trade union/activist position but is instead directed in a most destructive way at a conversation that includes those people who are active in the labour movement.

    I believe the audience for this site is already very great. I’ve encouraged people to read it and have made a modest contribution to its content. I may even do more. But what I’ve seen tonight, and not only tonight, is so thoroughly off-putting – not only to me, but to many people who’ve seen it and contacted me – that I urge that a line is drawn, and in so doing far greater numbers of people would drawn into contributing and engaging.

    Just my thoughts. In the spirit that I know you and I share.

  105. Sarah Keys on said:

    Can you not at least hint at who the “original audience” were?
    Some “broad left” grouping? A trade union executive meeting?

  106. Trot cult groups like the AWL are almost entirely focused on infiltrating, spliting, destroying and attacking trade unionists and campaigners. They do their up most to ensure that poisonous disunity is encouraged in unions and that successful campaigns collapse.

    However, there are hardly any of them, the few members that they do have are very strange weirdo types that are the butt of all jokes. Thankfully they are easily isolated and so have little effect.

    They are at best ignored. Even acknowledging the existence of their pathetic websites and ‘newspapers’ only fuels their over excited imagination.

    If any idealistic activist new to the movement thinks we can work with the trot cults constructively at least we can point to this page as prove they are nothing but cults looking to harvest the souls of the weak and unstable.

  107. lone nut on said:

    “other AWL members affectionately collude with him by refering to him as “Father Ted”.”
    I assume you mean “Father Jack”. Father Ted is an affable and benign figure.

  108. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Post 131, there we go again from the Manchester Communist, the Stalinist contention to everything, no political argument but superficial abuse and manipulation to “any idealistic activist new to the movement”. Why do these “Trot Cults” need to be ignored? Why do these “Trot Cults” get over excited? And so on and so on. Not one iota of reasoned debate to raise political clarity between the different Left groups, whatever their size, in the British Labour and trade union movement. Anyway I will not be able to return to this thread until this evening. I have to go to a workfare job search this morning and them this Trot has his final political stall this afternoon in Edinburgh attempting to convince all the naïve people of Edinburgh and the Lothians that the means to really fight the ConDem government, and the SNP government in Holyrood, and the capitalist crisis is to campaign for an independent working class political party; and for a socialist society.

  109. Most of what I’d want to say has been said, but a few things:

    1. Andy, if you can’t see how badly you’ve embarrassed and discredited yourself with this, then you’re even more drunk with Stalinist vitriol than I thought.

    2. On this
    “On the other hand I remember a very dodgy article being written by one of their more unsavoury members in support of the GMB bureacracy withdrawing support from a strike by asian womwn in Smethwick. I’m talking about the one who looks like he’s either going to take a swing at you and miss or ask you for 50p for a cup of tea.”
    I know nothing about this, but will find out today.

    3. On claims of sexually inappropriate behaviour: unless people make specific allegations, here or by emailing us (sacha@workersliberty.org) then I don’t really know what we’re supposed to do. All I can say is that the claims (if you can call them that – they’re so vague) are, in my view, invented.

    4. On poems: we have from time to time published poems, verse, lyrics etc by a number of our members, eg we regularly publish stuff by one of our members who is a hip hop artist and spoken word poet, and poems by a sympathiser in Scotland. I don’t like all of it, by any means, but a) it’s not the case that, as you’re trying to suggest, we just publish stuff by Sean, our “great leader”; and b) I think the idea a socialist paper shouldn’t include material of this sort is seriously philistine.

    5. Lastly, I agree: I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this is the prelude to a witch-hunt in the Labour Party or one or more of the unions. Andy, can you clarify: do you support the ban on us in the LP? And do you think demand our expulsion from the unions?

  110. By the way, in terms of being “wreckers” – you might want to speak to many, many independent left activists from the student movement, where we have been the only Trot group that defends and helps build democratic activists coalitions in which independent activists can operate without being a tightly-controlled appendage to a group. I have in mind particular the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, which now has a flourishing internal democracy but without us would long ago have been broken up and dispersed by the SWP, Socialist Action etc.

  111. And one more thing: precisely the reason that Andy attacks us is that, although we are very small we do in fact have some and growing influence in a number of areas – several unions, the student movement, the Labour Party. We are an organisation primarily of well-rooted trade unionists, of various ages, and of energetic young people. And that’s why, despite our size, we worry people like Andy.

  112. Ex-AWL Member on said:

    There are elements of the AWL(the sacred texts, the unshakeable belief that Lenin and Trotsky were as presented in their own writings and not mass murdering totalitarians, the unchanging central leaders, the millenarian urgency which prompts the demands for such high levels of activity etc.) which are cult-like but they share these with all the other Trot groups too.
    In many ways they are much less cult-like than other Trots(the freedom to publicly disagree with the leadership, propose contrary motions and win them for example) so I suggest ulterior motives for this article.
    Something I just found downright strange was the idea that changing your politics based on re-evaluating things and seeing you were wrong in the past is cult-like behaviour. At least the AWL accounts for changes in line rather than just deny it like the SWP do.
    I was an AWL member for more than ten years and can honestly say that at no point was I told to talk to paper buyers about a) the weather, then b) the price of fish and then c) what about that local sports team? I was also never told to sit 3rd row centre in large meetings.
    Now I am a mainstream Labour ‘reformist’ and I often agree with what you say against the ‘ultra-left’ of all stripes on the ‘bread and butter’ issues but this has made me(and by the sound of it many others) sympathise with the AWL.

  113. Karl Stewart on said:

    I quite liked the article, and the discussion’s been informative.
    However, I’m still not clear on the political reasons why the AWL split from the International Committee of the Fourth International Unified Secretariat.
    Any details on that Andy?

  114. lone nut: I assume you mean “Father Jack”. Father Ted is an affable and benign figure.

    At the risk of pouring fat on the fire I disagree. Fr Ted is venal and self serving. He appears affable and benign only in comparison to the vicious and malign Fr Jack and the eejit Dougal. What a great show three generations of my family used to watch it together.

    Less controversialy I think the article that generated this thread has a place here. It is surely fair enough to express an informed view as to whether a Left grouping, whatever its self image, is useful or not. Otherwise we are saying if you cannot respect the group at least respect the cloth. That’s an unhealthy deference.

    Of course if Fr Jack is under scrutiny can Ted and Dougal escape the light? Well Jack does stand out, Ted knows the score but poor Dougal, he does rush in.

    Oh and I should say I greatly enjoy Kevin O’s articles here and would like to read more from him.

  115. Until this article was posted I never even heard of the AWL, and from reading all the heated posts about occult meetings sexual impropriety and filthy deviants I only have one question.

    Where do I sign up?

  116. John Grimshaw on said:

    #140 Does Sean Matgamna wear a dark cape, have pointed front teeth and have a pale complexion? :)

  117. “the unchanging central leaders”

    In the nominations booklet for our National Committee this year, the date each person joined the organisation was included. It was a very wide spectrum going from founder in 1966 to 2009. On our Executive Committee (elected and recallable by the National Committee), which I guess is the “central leaders”, the comrades who are currently members joined the AWL (or its predecessor organisations) in the following years: 1966, 1970, 1983, 1985, 1999, 2004, 2007. So I think the “unchanging” is a bit dubious to say the least.

    “the millenarian urgency which prompts the demands for such high levels of activity etc”

    Say what you like about the AWL, but we are neither “millenarian”, nor in a permanent state of emergency or anything like that. In fact one of the central facets of our criticism of other Trot groups is precisely that. If you’d come to our school on Gramsci on the weekend, you would have heard that one of the big themes for discussion is what his ideas can bring to a movement that is orienting to building for the long term, for the long haul of transforming the labour movement, rather than pretending it’s an all or nothing crisis right now, or at any point. By all means criticise the demands we make on our members, but this is simply wrong.

    On everything else: thanks!

  118. PS Obviously “millenarian” and “in a permanent state of emergency” are not the same thing – if I’d been able to, I would have redrafted that last para. But I think its basic point stands.

  119. “the tempo of activity the AWL engages in is largely incompatible with maintaining normal relationships with people outwith the hot-house of the far left milieu.”

    This is simply rubbish.

  120. The discussion unfortunately reflects the article that does not focus on the politics of the AWL. I couldn’t really care less about the organisational practices of the AWL, what does concern me is that an anti-Communist, Islamophobic, pro-Israel grouping parades itself as being part of the left. Any attention paid to this group should be on this.

  121. Karl Stewart on said:

    CJB:
    Until this article was posted I never even heard of the AWL, and from reading all the heated posts about occult meetings sexual impropriety and filthy deviants I only have one question.
    Where do I sign up?

    I reckon you’ll have to hurry CjB, Andy’s article has seriously boosted their profile and I’ve heard there are literally dozens of people trying to join now!

  122. Gavin: I couldn’t really care less about the organisational practices of the AWL, what does concern me is that an anti-Communist, Islamophobic, pro-Israel grouping parades itself as being part of the left. Any attention paid to this group should be on this.

    The one has a relationship to the other.

  123. pete: FFS John, your attack on Kev is way out of line. You write some great articles on here but you can be so aggressive and arrogant that it makes reading these threads really unpleasant. Kev’s had a few smashing articles on here recently, i can’t believe you’re treating him with such disdain.

    On this. I wasn’t going to comment on this publicaly, but I think I have to.

    John Wight has my complete confidence as a colleague and as a friend, and I respect his politics, his writing and his judgement.

    I think the tone these commenst by Kevin, were hubristic:

    Kevin Ovenden: I’d still want to have things I produced put up here because it would be read and would, in my experience, elicit some thought-provoking response. But if this trend carries on I’m much more likely to want to get things out elsewhere (at least in the first instance). That’s not some childish threat. More a sober confiding.

    Kevin Ovenden: I had hoped there might be some discussion about the latest foibles.

    Let us not pretend this website is more than it is. Some like minded people write about what interests them, and then there is a knockabout discussion, that is sometimes well informed, sometimes it isnt.

    I particularly object to the insinuation that JOhn Wight is some overbearingly rude person who intimidates hoards of sensitive souls from commenting.

    FFS, it is a blog. JOhn is no more rude than i am, and frankly, I see nothing wrong with some robustness in debate. There are plenty of people on the left who would benefit from a becoming better acquainted with some home truths, and there is no point in beating about the bush,

    What I don’t understand is this moralism that SU should be covereing more important topics. We write about what we want to write about, and if you dont like an article, dont read it. And if someone doesn’t want to submit an article to us, then just don’t – but also don’t make a public song and dance about it.

  124. OK, I didn’t think bits and bobs of the Left could stoop much lower, but this claptrap really is scraping the barrel. At a time when socialists should desperately be looking outwards and engaging in united action against an extremely nasty, inadequately mandated Tory-led coalition what do I find here, all kinds of squalid sectarian back-biting. Sure, I get a kind of guilty frisson for a moment or two reading through the arcane twists and turns, but it is about as relevant to most people’s lives as Simon Cowell’s latest hairdo. I did my time in the SWP. At its best, it gathered some of the best activists and taught them some key lessons about united action. I left in the mid nineties and haven’t given the disputes of the various self-appointed popelets of the different groups much thought since. It doesn’t affect my activities defending public services or trying to save libraries. I don’t know much about this AWL outfit and don’t want to. One accosted me at a cuts conference in Sheffield and I thought she was a Tory until I was rescued by one of the organisers and told what sect she belonged to. Am I tempted to visit the grouplet’s publications? Not on your Nelly. Some socialists need to pull themselves together, talk the language of the majority of the population, address their concerns, adopt a code of conduct which is respectful and positive and actually try to make a difference or be even more condemned to irrelevance than they are already. There should be a counterpoint to an extremely disappointing, spineless and ineffective Labour Party. For a blog which does from time to time run some excellent articles to even bother with this tosh is really rather sad.

  125. Andy Newman,

    “And if someone doesn’t want to submit an article to us, then just don’t – but also don’t make a public song and dance about it.”

    Why not? While I’ve certainly participated in “knock-a-Trot” discussions, I do believe, as I suspect Kevin does, that there are more pressing issues that a left-wing blog can focus on, especially with the current economic and political crisis.

  126. prianikoff on said:

    #139

    Matgamna has written a 2 part a memoir of his political development here:-
    http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2009/12/17/sean-matgamna-finding-my-way-trotskyism

    Whatever else you can say about him, Matgamna is a self-educated working class militant.
    After immigrating from Ireland, he joined the YCL in Manchester in the early 1960′s.
    He rapidly became a sympathiser of Gerry Healy’s SLL, but remained in the YCL for a further 6 months.

    Within the SLL, he developed political differences with Healy’s leadership on a number of issues:-
    Their negative reaction to the Cuban revolution
    Their decision to leave the Labour Party
    Their sabotage of a strike by engineering apprentices at Trafford Park.

    By 1965 Matgamna had come within the orbit of Ted Grant’s proto-Militant group the RSL.
    This had tried unsuccesfully to become the British section of the Fourth International and was a small group operating in the Labour Party.
    The official section of the FI, the IMG, was committed to an “Open Turn” and grew to around 600 members after the mass radicalisation of 1968.
    Matgamna’s supporters declared themselves in “political solidarity” with the USFI, but refused to join the IMG.

    Instead, he answered an appeal for “left unity” issued by Tony Cliff’s IS group, which by now had around 3,000 members.
    Despite joining IS, Matgamna viewed it as a centrist organisation.
    He set up an internal opposition called the “Trotskyist Tendency”.
    This rejected both “State Capitalism” and the “Permanent Arms Economy”
    Matgamna always regarded these theoretical innovations of Tony Cliff as sectarian shibboleths.

    The TT issued a series of internal bulletins critical of the IS leadership on Ireland, the Common Market etc.
    When it refused to dissolve after losing a conference vote, the IS leadership expelled it.
    Matgamna set up his own paper called “Workers Fight” and a theoretical journal called “Permanent Revolution”
    These had an independent existence for a number of years before WF underwent a series of fusions with Workers Power and the WSL.

    The politics of the modern-day AWL are unrecogniseable from those of Workers Fight.
    I’d argue this stems from Matgamna’s confused and opportunist reaction to the disintegration of the USSR.

  127. SA: At the risk of pouring fat on the fire I disagree. Fr Ted is venal and self serving. He appears affable and benign only in comparison to the vicious and malign Fr Jack and the eejit Dougal.

    This is a very astute observation. Ted is really a rather unpleasant character, who the audience is sucked into identifying with just because he is more normal than the other grotesques, and we sympathise with anyone exiled to Craggy Island.

  128. Gavin:
    The discussion unfortunately reflects the article that does not focus on the politics of the AWL. I couldn’t really care less about the organisational practices of the AWL, what does concern me is that an anti-Communist, Islamophobic, pro-Israel grouping parades itself as being part of the left. Any attention paid to this group should be on this.

    Well said…

    My family and I have been heavily involved in the trade unions for a number of years, from the shop floor to branch duties and above, and one thing we have all come to realise is that corruption and opportunists exist at every level within every union and left group, and I’m not even talking about infiltration from the outside agency’s but from free loaders and dickheads with no backbone that couldn’t organise an orgy at a AWL meeting “Apparently”. all the while talking bollocks too the members and people and masquerading as champions of the working man and woman, I say never mind what faction or belief system you adhere too, if its left that’s a start, we shouldn’t be looking for what divides the groups, but looking for what connects all the groups, mass organising is required to effectively change anything and that is not happening, the general public are not being reached and if they are not being reached they are not receiving the information and truth that is required for a shift in ideology to create mass protests, this Tory government is having a laugh and doesn’t give a toss about the odd union officials saying this and that or about the occasional outbreak of a strike somewhere, they will plough ahead and destroy the few employment rights and benefits we had, giving corporations more powers too hold over the workers paying them half the wage they got before and twice the work, also with the increased costs of living and worse working conditions than ever before, creating the perfect conditions for a slave to debt, what chance does the working class or the poor have if the organisations which all claim to have their best interests at heart cant even be united in the one thing apparently they all agree on, capitalism doesn’t work and that its time for a change…

  129. I think some people are being very unfair on Father Ted Crilley. It should be remembered that the money was temporarily resting in his account.

    As for dealing with more pressing issues for the working class, I’ll refer again to the NHS thread that I referred Martin Wicks to.

    I would also refer people to today’s Morning Star front page article- 6 weeks redundancy period ffs!

  130. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Ok. John couldn’t care less about someone writing for this blog or its standing among people who used to advocate for it. Andy completely agrees with him. Egal.

    A narrowing of vision accompanied by a growing climate of intolerance, abuse and bullying – I for one have seen this movie a couple of times before, and know well the last reel.

    So no song and dance, just ciao – bella.

  131. John

    So your response to all of this is to say that you can be as self-indulgent as you please cos I don’t have to read it. I’m a regular reader and I really thought you guys had more ambition than that.

    God knows the AWL are a nasty little outfit which does it’s best to screw up and poison, particularly inside the unions. I really do get it and they should be despised. But these sort of posts only really have two outcomes a) appear as sectarian (to your regular reader) and b) serve to give a degree of validation to them as an issue worthy of consideration. Which given the backdrop of cuts and aggressive attacks from the right seems like an insane waste of time an effort.

    Threads like this are great for people who hate the AWL and pretty much nothing else. You can sit back with a bucket of popcorn and watch the inevitable row unfold, but where does it leave us? Even i find it fun to a degree but bloody hell it’s such a needless distraction. My guess is that most regular readers (who like me probably don’t comment that often but read it every day) get turned off by this sort of stuff.

    Your argument reminds me somewhat of that reactionary one you hear as a union activist from time to time: “if you don’t like the job well you can go and find another one, it’s your choice”. If that’s your attitude then the blog will lose it’s wide appeal to readers like me.

    Of course I appreciate you’re a busy chap and I’m not saying there’s an expectation that you should provide day by day commentary and analysis on the news agenda but there’s been way too much inward looking sniping at the left on this blog recently, it’s just not helpful even if everything you write is valid (and being a jaded ex SWPer I concur with you). This sort of stuff will quickly tarnish all the good work you do on here to reach outside the tiny walls of the far left and give a loud voice to progressive people. I really like the direction this site has been going in but the obvious amount of time that’s gone into these articles and the hectoring language from John, from my point of view, looks like an unravelling of all the good stuff.

  132. Oh and Jimmy Haddow, please remember to update us as to how you get on with all your interventions in the class struggle today. I always want to know about all the useful things other people are doing while I waste my day doing f*** all.

    If I didn’t want to lower the tone I’d add that you should tell us how many times you pick your noe and scratch your arse as well. But I don’t so I won’t even ‘though I could.

  133. Vincent Doherty on said:

    This will be cause for widespread celebration in the O’Mahoney homestead this Christmas Rebecca, One new recuit this year, means that the organisation is way ahead in the 5 year plan to build the alliance into a ‘mass party of the working class.”
    Rebecca Mallowan,

  134. Nick Fredman on said:

    I’ve been involved in a number of training sessions involving role-plays and detailed discussions on how to talk to and recruit people. A couple were put on branches of the Australian DSP, presumably a sign of its cult nature. Two, with far more detailed and specific instructions on how to talk to and recruit people, were union delegate training sessions put on by the training unit of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, presumably a cult also, albeit one with 2 million members.

    I don’t presume to know whether the AWL is particularly better or worse organisationally than other far left groups which are all unavoidably affected by relative isolation. When their Australian group of maybe a couple of dozen was in the Socialist Alliance here they were a bit annoying on Palestine and Iraq and eventually had some spurious reason to withdraw but seemed sane enough at conferences. A couple of them have recently got involved in a broader group we have to support our local councillor position in Melbourne and appear to be genuine and constructive enough. They seemed to have played a good, long-term role in the broad left group in the NSW public sector union, which has just won a clean sweep of positions, ousting the useless Laborite time-servers there.

    I’m not surprised at Liam’s anecdote about Martin Thomas. I’ve not really met him but over the years have been in a few meetings and a conference in Brisbane that he attended, as he seems to spend some time there, and he seemed a decent chap who contributed constructively to events with no likely recruitment prospects at all.

    Andy’s view that Bolshevik discourse was a significant contributor to Stalinist terror is teleological, idealist nonsense. I’d suggest more useful that Getty’s decontructionism is Lars Lih on the early Bolsheviks and John Riddell on the early Comintern, both of whom show the flexibility and debate of these periods along with the argy-bargy.

  135. pete: But these sort of posts only really have two outcomes a) appear as sectarian (to your regular reader) and b) serve to give a degree of validation to them as an issue worthy of consideration. Which given the backdrop of cuts and aggressive attacks from the right seems like an insane waste of time an effort.

    Well no, this is to strip the word “sectarian” of any meaning.

    In the few unions or campaigns where the AWL have a toe-hold, then the way they operate is disruptive.

    This article is an attempt to step outside the self-referential paradigm of the Marxist left, and instead of scrutinising the professed beliefs of the AWL and comparing them to the textual authorities, it seeks to look at the nature of the organisation.

    I think that the outraged reaction from many is twofold:

    i) that I start from the assumption that the political project of building a “revolutionary socialist” group in Britain in the 21st century is inherently irrational; and

    ii) that in discussing the cult dynamics of the AWL, some of behaviours I describe are a little close for comfort to many other people involved in the left groups.

    Also, I don’t think you can be so categorical about who the “regular readers” are.

    Out of the several thousands of articles we have published here, there have been three recently which have been highly critical of the organisational and political paradigms of the far left. Regular readers of this blog may recognise that there are often clusters of articles around a similar topic for a while, and then we move on to different preoccupations.

    It is not my intention that there will be regular and sustained discussions here about the far left, however, neither do we shy away from discussing the left groups when the occassion arises.

    Given that there are myriad trade union committees where you will meet members of the SP, AWL, SWP, CPB or whatever, then a large number of mainstream activists do bump into them.

    Clearly, one of the issues I have been drawn to thinking about lately has been what you might call the social-anthropology of how the left organises; and whether the organisational paradigm, (and the ideological presumptions that accompany it) entail the negative aspects of how the far-left behaves.

    Therefore, the discussion of the AWL is not because I think the AWL is inherently interesting or important; but because it is an extreme case, and one which self-documents its own pathology in quite an open way.

    Having said that, the original commission of this article was because of a practical situation in a labour movement body, where people with mainstream social-democratic politics wanted to understand the strange beastie suddenly in their back garden; and outwith the fevered circles of the far-left, the AWL is not as well known as the other left groups; and therefore the peculiarities of the AWL which cause most of us to give it a wide bearth are not understood.

  136. pete: My guess is that most regular readers (who like me probably don’t comment that often but read it every day) get turned off by this sort of stuff.

    Well so far 184 people have hit the “like” button. The thing about SU is that we have many different audiences.

    What I have written here is not a standard left critique of the AWL, which would take as its starting point their professed politics, and contextualise the debate largely within a paradigm shared by the AWL themselves.

    I have written it from the perspective of how someone with mainstream social-democratic politics within the unions would experience the AWL if they encountered them; and sought to locate the AWL’s behaviour not in their ideology, but in their form of social organisation. As someone once said “ It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”

    Now while this may be an unusual approach, it is not I think without merit. Nor do I think it is without interest to some of our readers

  137. Nick Fredman:
    I’ve been involved in a number of training sessions involving role-plays and detailed discussions on how to talk to and recruit people. A couple were put on branches of the Australian DSP, presumably a sign of its cult nature. Two, with far more detailed and specific instructions on how to talk to and recruit people, were union delegate training sessions put on by the training unit of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, presumably a cult also, albeit one with 2 million members.
    I don’t presume to know whether the AWL is particularly better or worse organisationally than other far left groups which are all unavoidably affected by relative isolation. When their Australian group of maybe a couple of dozen was in the Socialist Alliance here they were a bit annoying on Palestine and Iraq and eventually had some spurious reason to withdraw but seemed sane enough at conferences. A couple of them have recently got involved in a broader group we have to support our local councillor position in Melbourne and appear to be genuine and constructive enough. They seemed to have played a good, long-term role in the broad left group in the NSW public sector union, which has just won a clean sweep of positions, ousting the useless Laborite time-servers there.
    I’m not surprised at Liam’s anecdote about Martin Thomas. I’ve not really met him but over the years have been in a few meetings and a conference in Brisbane that he attended, as he seems to spend some time there, and he seemed a decent chap who contributed constructively to events with no likely recruitment prospects at all.
    Andy’s view that Bolshevik discourse was a significant contributor to Stalinist terror is teleological, idealist nonsense. I’d suggest more useful that Getty’s decontructionism is Lars Lih on the early Bolsheviks and John Riddell on the early Comintern, both of whom show the flexibility and debate of these periods along with the argy-bargy.

    I’d suggest more useful would be looking at the history of the period the Bolseviks held state power before Stalin took over the reigns, including the red terror, and then looking at the period while Stalin was in power.

    Which party was Stalin in and who created the Cheka?

    The failure to accept the bleeding obvious about this issue is one of the main reasons so many trot organisations have an internal regime that has more in common with stalinism than many ‘stalinist’ groups.

    It’s worth bearing in mind that the trot tradition that probably has the best record in terms of internal democracy is the one that looked most critically at the period while Trotsky (and Lenin) still had power.

    And the idea that anyone thinks that they can say that the USSR was so bad within little more than 10 years of its creation that it was worse than capitalism, possibly as bad a nazism, and yet the bolshevik model is of some value as a political frame of reference, and then convince significant numbers of serious rational people to join them shows a level of delusion which becomes more staggering as every year goes by.

  138. pete: Your argument reminds me somewhat of that reactionary one you hear as a union activist from time to time: “if you don’t like the job well you can go and find another one, it’s your choice”. If that’s your attitude then the blog will lose it’s wide appeal to readers like me.

    Wel not really, because an employee is realy stuck in job due to economic pressure.

    If this blog fixated upon the far left, then that would be a problem, but even in the last week we have published more articles on Norther Ireland than on the far left; and taking the output of this website over the longer period, clearly we don’t focus on the left.

    This is only the fourth article I have written about the far left in as many years.

    So people who don’t like a particular article really can wait for a while, and there will be something else on here. Even where we start a topic, the commentators often take it in another direction.

  139. #167 I was only responding to the bit about stalinism and bolshevism there. My Blackberry can’t select bits of text very easily to quote in a reply.

    I am reluctant to comment on the spat between Kevin and John because it had the appearance of an argument that really should have been private but was held in public.

    I may contact the relevant people privately as to my views (for what they’re worth). All I will say here is that I very much hope that Kevin continues to contribute. The last piece in particular was excellent.

  140. pete: I really like the direction this site has been going in but the obvious amount of time that’s gone into these articles and the hectoring language from John, from my point of view, looks like an unravelling of all the good stuff.

    How does that work?
    It is surely up to the people who write articles on here how much effort they put into them?
    I resist the implication that I should be doing something else better with my time.
    Not that it is much your business, but as I have explained, this article about the AWL took me ten minutes to delete some sensitive and less generic material. The article on the SWP took a similar ten minutes to write.
    With regard to the alleged “hectoring” language from John, he was responding to a bit of an ill considered comment from Kevin, that would have been better handled as a private conversation.
    One of the things I have experienced with this blog over the several years I have been involved with it, is that we have a lot of people out there who really don’t like us, and who have sought to bully us with caricatures.
    I don’t think we should give any currency to the false implication that John is a troublesome rude oik, intimidating the sensitive souls. Actually John is probably less rude than I am, and over the last couple of years especially John has been a very considered and thoughtful contributor to debate. The other false caricature is that we have an excessively strict moderation policy, whereas of course in reality it is pretty permissive.
    It is absurdly melodramatic to suggest that a couple of articles which ruffle feathers are jeopardizing the overall reputation or standing of the blog.

  141. Kevin Ovenden: John couldn’t care less about someone writing for this blog or its standing among people who used to advocate for it. Andy completely agrees with him. Egal.
    A narrowing of vision accompanied by a growing climate of intolerance, abuse and bullying – I for one have seen this movie a couple of times before, and know well the last reel.

    Kevin, I think you need to exercise a little self-reflection here yourself as well.

    Your initial comment was less than felicitous in the way you expressed yourself, and would have far better been handled in private.

    What ensued is a storm in a tea-cup

  142. Going back to the AWL, the portrait Andy’s article paints of them is not so very different from my experience of Socialist Organiser and Socialist Students in the National Organisation of Labour Students (SSiN). Politically they were, well obnoxious, they seem to love finding a strongly held belief and then finding a leftish sounding argument to oppose it- the two key in my time were support for the PLO single state solution, and the ‘Liberation campaigns’, women, Lesbian and Gay (As was), and Black Sections. It was their own brand unique selling point- maybe they had a point from a marketing point of view, it did make them stand out from the crowd.

    What they were was very well organised, like Militant in the North West, they found a crumbling Labour Party structure, in their case NOLS and the Area Convenors full-time positions of the NUS (A god forsaken job if ever there was one), and they used the the Convenors roles to parachute FE sector delegates into NUS conference. Their tactic of calling the first demonstration in Fresher’s week under one of their anti-cuts front organisations was a brilliant way of getting to first year students. They completely out maneuvered the SWP and the Millies at the time, who while good at an individual student union level seemed to be totally confused at a national level. Indeed the only other minute group that did as well in elections for the NUS was us in Communist Students, at one time we had 6 Communists on the NEC which was pretty amazing as we had under 20 active members.

    It always felt like dealing with an onion when dealing with them, there was their anti-cuts front, then SSiN, which did attract a lot of genuine left labour types, then Socialist Organiser, then their core membership which it is true did contain a few of revolutionary monk types, a la Lutte Ouvriere over here in France. We use to ask them if they had a membership card for the International Communist League/Union, a friend once went through his mates wallet to see if he could find one, which was then superglued to his forehead, the SO comrade in question being in a state of advanced alcoholic stupor snoring on the floor at the time. Can’t remember the exact name of the IC whether it was league union or party as I wasn’t too far behind myself.

    On a personal level however I find myself well at odds with Andy’s portrayal, maybe they are very different now and only the revolutionary monks are left. Back in the mid 80s they were an open boisterous crew, hard drinking, friendly, and always good for a drunken row. The MANUS crew were hilarious in their complete and utter lack of understanding about anything to do with Trade Unions, maybe that explains why they were done for confusing NUS funds with their own personal finances. May be the likes of Paul Brenner and Simon Pottinger are well gone, those two could double a pubs weekly revenue in an evening, a trait that their great leader had at the time. Yeah there was a fair amount of revolutionary incest going on, but SO were not exactly the only ones up for that, but the women comrades I knew in the leadership of SO were not ones to stand for any bullshit, and were certainly not backwards in coming forward if anyone was out of line.

  143. Jellytot on said:

    @160A narrowing of vision accompanied by a growing climate of intolerance, abuse and bullying

    In the spirit of openess that the internet provides, Andy and his team should be commended for shining a light on the far-left’s ‘dirty little secrets’ and the more negative aspects of their modus operandi in recent weeks and months. I think it’s brave of them and isn’t it preferable for articles of this nature to have political context and solid reasoning?

    Now, there is a view in that Dirty Linen shouldn’t be washed in Public and an attitude of, “They may be bastards but they’re OUR bastards”….both of which you may or may not hold Kevin…..but in the end this just exacerbates the problems and enables bad practice.

  144. jack ford on said:

    Posts like these should appear around Fresher’s Week to protect students from being suckered into these cults.

  145. saothar on said:

    Vanya: And the idea that anyone thinks that they can say that the USSR was so bad within little more than 10 years of its creation that it was worse than capitalism, possibly as bad a nazism, and yet the bolshevik model is of some value as a political frame of reference, and then convince significant numbers of serious rational people to join them shows a level of delusion which becomes more staggering as every year goes by.

    —————————————————————

    Some truth in that comment.

    Even worse are those ‘socialists’ who from their current vantage point of membership of a party that has bought into neo-liberalism and imperialism (making a significant contribution to both in the late 90s-early 2000s)look at that past and argue against all the evidence that the USSR was a healthy, functioning well-led socialist state.

    But you tend to find that those people are not delusional, just deeply cynical

  146. saothar,

    Not delusional, but looking to build socialism based on refining existing models rather than subscribing to pie-in-the-sky,unproven theoretical acrobatics.If you reflect on that, you may understand why your tradition holds such little sway with the workers of the world, despite your “internationalist” pretensions. Agree with the critique of New Labour, mind you.

  147. Karl Stewart on said:

    What’s the point of “Trotskyism” today though?

    More to the point, why do today’s “Trotskyist” groups organise separately from the Communist Party?

    My understanding is that Trotsky founded the “Fourth International” in 1938 with the intention that it would act as an “external faction” of the world communist movement.

    At that time, there was no means by which political opposition could be voiced, or organised, Stalin having established a terroristic dictatorship following the 1934 Kirov murder.

    But following Stalin’s death in 1953, and in the years since, communists and communist parties have developed a comprehensive political critique of the crimes of the post-Kirov period of Stalin’s rule, and of the dangers of the “leader cult” and more recently, of bureaucratism and the need for collective and accountable leadership and for the open exchange of competing ideas.

    That’s what you’ll find in today’s CP.

    So what is the point of “Trotskyism” today? It has no cohesion as a body of political theory, “Trotskyism” only existed as a reaction to Stalin’s one-man dictatorship.

    Surely all communists should organise in the Communist Party.

  148. saothar on said:

    Those who were in the CPGB, with all that entailed, but who joined Labour in the early 90s, once their old party had folded and who remain there still, notwithstanding the decrepit nature of the organisation and its neo-liberal programme. I encountered quite a few of them during my period as a UCATT activist, before I changed occupations. They were always the most hostile to anything that involved rank-and-file initiative, not under their deadening bureaucratic control. They and their ilk are still around, spouting the same old rubbish about the USSR, whilst acting as card-carrying New Labourites.

  149. Karl Stewart,

    Some do Karl, in the PCF we have two open Trot factions, and maybe another 2 submarine ones, The Leninist after was a faction(ette) in the CPGB. Actually maybe The Leninist shouldn’t count, any organisation than can have an all members aggregate in phone box can’t really be taken as an example.

    In the UK the question could be reversed why have a Communist Party of less than a thousand, maybe the CPB should join one of the larger Trot organisations?

  150. Sarah Keys on said:

    Andy Newman,

    Andy Newman: Not that it is much your business, but as I have explained, this article about the AWL took me ten minutes to delete some sensitive and less generic material.

    Does this mean the original speech/presentation was libellous in some way? If you’ve got something correct and genuine to say, publish. The article as it is is more than a bit thin – especially as it is largely based on, as far as I can tell, the contents of the workersliberty website.

    I train trade unionists in how to organise, incidentally. I know other groups in the Labour Party (when I lived in England) used to train their members in speaking, argumentation, “pushing their line”. I think in particular of Progress, leading factions of Labour Students/NOLS, the UJS, “Clause 4″ (remember them?), Socialist Action. If the writers of this blog weren’t quite so interested in navel-gazing, I bet they’d be doing the same.

    Maybe that speech which is the supposed background to this blog post was part of an “education session”, no?

  151. Sarah Keys: Does this mean the original speech/presentation was libellous in some way?

    What a delicious insight into your world, that you assume something confidential must also be libelous and untrue!

    Sarah Keys: The article as it is is more than a bit thin – especially as it is largely based on, as far as I can tell, the contents of the workers liberty website.

    Well I would have thought that was a reliable source about the AWL? no?

    But there is other material, which I have redacted as it is based upon testimony from a number of people about real life expereince, and therefore contains confidential information, and also information from other peoples’ investigations

    Sarah Keys: when I lived in England

    misdirection :)

    Sarah Keys: Maybe that speech which is the supposed background to this blog post was part of an “education session”, no?

    it was not a speech.

  152. #181 Karl you’ve got the history slightly wrong there.

    I was going to reply but realised that to do so properly would take too long.

    I’ve noticed that you seem to have quite a strong interest in trotskyism, but frequently miss the point.

    I feel torn between the instincts to put the record straight on the one hand and not to waste my time on theories that have little modern relevance on the other.

    I will say that (a) there was a move by some in the post-war FI to do precisely what you suggest , (b) that the Italian PCR contained several trotskyist tendencies, (c) I believe that the French section of the Grantite international the IMT are organised in the PCF (d) the FI was formed when Trotsky concluded that the Comintern could NOT be reformed and therefore the International Left Opposition stopped attempting to operate as an external faction. As you know the Comintern itself was dissolved in 1943.

  153. Karl Stewart: why do today’s “Trotskyist” groups organise separately from the Communist Party?

    Pablo of course did encourage his supporters to join the CP, although in Britain, only JOhn Lawrence did so.

  154. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: I feel torn between the instincts to put the record straight on the one hand and not to waste my time on theories that have little modern relevance on the other.

    Such is life.

  155. Sarah Keys on said:

    Andy Newman: What a delicious insight into your world, that you assume something confidential must also be libelous and untrue!

    Maybe. I find it interesting though that you seem to assume that people who take libel action do it because the statements they object to are automatically false.

    Anyway: do other left sects publish as much about themselves in the public domain as WL do? If not, do the AWL make themselves an easy target? I’m interested in your opinion.

  156. Sarah Keys: . I find it interesting though that you seem to assume that people who take libel action do it because the statements they object to are automatically false.

    Good luck with taking a libel action over something that is true!

  157. Andy Newman,

    I have not had access to a computer since I first posted hence the delay in replying,
    The speech that Miliband delivered could have been made by Boris Johnson if you delete references to New Labour. The speech is full of the dog whistle phrases that you can hear in any workplace or pub and I don’t believe that you are naïve Newman so you know perfectly well what Miliband (or NL press department) was doing. Labours relatively poor showing and vulnerability in some marginals in the north was the trigger

  158. Sarah Keys on said:

    Andy Newman,

    A lot of people try it, no? Archer springs to mind. Savile threatened it a lot, and got apologies. There was another case re a blogger, but thankfully I can’t remember her name.

    The “true” information can’t be very confidential if you pass it on to others – so why not here?

  159. “The “true” information can’t be very confidential if you pass it on to others ”

    Eh ?

  160. Karl Stewart: More to the point, why do today’s “Trotskyist” groups organise separately from the Communist Party?

    This debate is symptomatic of a hopelessly idealist notion of what a Communist Party exists to do and of the organisational mechanisms that correspond to these aims.
    An example. There is a comrade working in a hotel in London who was an officer in the Portuguese army in Africa. His task on the eve of the 1975 rising was to immobilise the armoured cars in his depot. This instruction was given to him anonymously. In the previous years his only contact with the party had been an annual 15 minute meeting in a cafe when on leave in Lisbon.
    This required on his part extreme discretion combined with great discipline and courage. There was not much in the way of a free exchange of opinion and by the abstract standards that characterise this debate he was the instrument of a rigidly centralised ‘stalinist’ apparatus.
    Any alternative way of conducting his work in the clandestine apparatus of the party would have exposed him and his comrades to the secret police and made practical revolutionary outcomes impossible.
    There are trotskyites who it is possible to see working with trust in these circumstances, but not many and they mostly have seperated themselves from their original organisations.
    The basis of this way of working was trust. If the PCP leadership had not enjoyed the confidence of their members they would not have been able to operate successfully or grow exponentially when more open methods became possible. To retain that confidence the party leadership had to remain rooted in reality and draw on the widest range of experience even though formally democratic mechanisms were extremely difficult to devise. Collective leadership and strict discipline were essential.
    There is no guarantee that party leaderships will always work in this way and we have enough examples from our own less fraught political conditions to demonstrate that in this most human of enterprises even those who boast of their democratic principles do not always apply them in practice.
    Political differences are natural and arise from the material conditions of life in capitalist society. They do not automatically translate into factional activity. Factions grow when the leadership loses the confidence of the membership, when the political line and practical functioning of the organisation do not correspond to the needs of the hour and when the authority and power that the leadership possesses is misused. And factional activity, no matter how justified or even necessary in certain conditions, is full of dangers.
    Some Trotskyite organisations in Britain combine the worst of all worlds. Fetishing factions whilst maintaining internal regimes based on cultish leaders and power structures imperbvious to change. Even if their political analysis more closely corresponded to reality ( and the existimg level of working class comnsciousness) such regimes are inherently unstable.

  161. Sarah Keys on said:

    Omar,

    Andy writes that the original version of this article, as presented to those who supposedly commissioned it from him, contained “testimony” and “confidential information, and also information from other peoples’ investigations”. (Sounds like it’s the CID of the left, here, officer.)

    If it was “confidential”, why write it down/present it to others/use it at all? Oh, it was originally in the first version of this article (etc.) as distributed/presented – so it isn’t actually “confidential” at all. Publishing it online could be a problem though – though it is all true and certainly not libellous, as libel is only a problem – if you have faith in the legal system as it currently stands – if someone’s lying about you.

    I do wonder why it won’t be put on line. All mouth(keyboard) and no trousers?

  162. Jellytot on said:

    Sarah Keys

    You seem to be trying to concoct notions of Kafkaesque show trials and secret speeches where they don’t seem to exist.

    Unsurprising to note that the finely honed Trotskyite sense of paranoia hasn’t diminished down the years.

  163. In response to tigger the Miliband speech is here http://www.newstatesman.com/staggers/2012/12/full-text-ed-miliband-immigration-speech
    It seems very positive and sensible to me though I haven’t gone through it with a fine tooth comb. Amongst other things Ed M says:
    I am the son of immigrants.

    I love Britain.

    I love its diversity.

    and earlier he says

    Some people say that what we should aim for is what they call assimilation.

    They say that people can come here and be part of our culture but only on the condition that they just abandon theirs.

    Why is this vision so wrong for our country?

    Because it ignores fundamental truths about the British people and who we are.

    I think of the family I met on the train station in Leicester last week.

    A young woman of twenty asked what I was doing there.

    I said I had a long day at Labour Party events.

    I asked what she was doing there?

    She said she had had a long day at a family party in Leicester.

    “Typical African family party” she said with a shrug.

    And then she told me her story.

    Her parents had come from Sierra Leone as refugees and she had been born here.

    She had never actually visited Sierra Leone but she was so proud of her family’s culture and roots.

    And she was proud to be British.

    And that is the real story of Britain today.

    The reality of our multiple identities.

  164. Karl Stewart on said:

    That’s an excellent contribution from Nick at (194). A concrete example of the practical necessity for tight organisational discipline in a specific set of circumstances, alongside accurate criticism of the rather unreal fetishising of “discipline” in a more abstract context that occurs in so many of the “democratic-centralist” organisations.

    I’m not currently a CP member, but when I was, I think they got this right – the balance between collective responsibility and open exchanges of views.

  165. saothar on said:

    We have said we will learn lessons from Eastern European migration and ensure maximum transitional controls in future.

    And, as I explained earlier this year, we will look at the whole system of control for non-EU migration, including the Government’s cap, to ensure a system that works.

    Britain must always control its borders.

    It is clearly in the national interest that we do so.

    ———————————————————-

    Matty, you missed out this section of vacuous Ed’s speech

    What a great socialist he is.

  166. #191 Northerners, people who inhabit pubs and (shock, horror) workplaces- bunch of fascists eh?

  167. Vanya: #191 Northerners, people who inhabit pubs and (shock, horror) workplaces- bunch of fascists eh?

    Indeed Vanya, and given all that, its amazing that the Gateshead Peace Pledge Union beat the fuck out of the Blackshirts back in the day on the High Level Bridge. Yet they did – Northerners eh. Pubs too, all part of the problem. Muesli hating fuckers what can be done with them?

  168. James H on said:

    Combrade Ismail:

    ’4. On poems: we have from time to time published poems, verse, lyrics etc by a number of our members, eg we regularly publish stuff by one of our members who is a hip hop artist and spoken word poet, and poems by a sympathiser in Scotland. I don’t like all of it, by any means, but a) it’s not the case that, as you’re trying to suggest, we just publish stuff by Sean, our “great leader”; and b) I think the idea a socialist paper shouldn’t include material of this sort is seriously philistine.’

    Not very convincing. The objection is not philistine – I’m all for seeing a space for poetry, coverage of arts and literature in the left press. But not such abjectly awful and self-indulgent doggerel as Matgamna’s… if I joined the organisation, would you publish my selected oeuvre of poetry in a printed collection?? (I’m only aware of said Matgamna collection, as occasionally choice selections are circulated on Facebook…)

  169. James H on said:

    Incredible everyone’s been so restrained as to leave the AWL’s Zionism to one side… the only Trotskyist group I’ve ever seen openly admit to ‘Zionist’ as a positive descriptor, or circulate photos saying ‘Solidarity from Tel-Aviv’… what a weird and (kinda) wonderful world we live in.

    But at least the ‘kitsch left’ knows now not to condemn an Israeli nuclear attack on Iran… a service to us all.

    Thank you Andy also for uncovering some of the rather incredible internal documents buried away in the AWL vaults, although I thought these ‘role-plays’ were at least as good as the ‘contact thinks we’re too middle-class’:

    4. Recruit is a trade-union activist, all very good, but constantly misses general political activity on grounds of being “too busy” with union work.

    6. Recruit is visibly pulled between us and her and his family and friends, who are not specially right-wing but see AWL as bizarre and extreme.

  170. Andy Newman: Pablo of course did encourage his supporters to join the CP, although in Britain, only JOhn Lawrence did so.

    In Britain, Pablo encouraged his supporters to join the Labour Party, as it happens. He favoured entry into the CPs only in countries where they were the mass party of the working class, e.g. in France. He never advocated entry into the CPGB so far as I’m aware, and I used to take an interest in that kind of thing.

  171. saothar: Matty, you missed out this section of vacuous Ed’s speech

    What a great socialist he is.

    Well, Matty can no doubt speak for himself but so far I haven’t seen anyone here claiming that Miliband (whether he is great or otherwise) is a socialist.

    But irrespective of that, are you presuming that part of the definition of a socialist is that one is opposed to a state having control of its borders?

    Perhaps you are confusing socialism with anarchism.

  172. Just to add, I think Andy’s lost the plot here. The AWL is your classic sect, I would say, which “seeks its raison d’être and its point d’honneur not in what it has in common with the class movement, but in the particular shibboleth distinguishing it from that movement”. But it’s not a cult in any meaningful sense.

    One of the shibboleths the AWL uses to distinguish itself from the rest of the far left is that it encourages critical thinking and internal debate. Which is hardly the characteristic feature of a cult. Matgamna’s one of the few far left leaders I’ve met who doesn’t just explode if you suggest he may be mistaken. Again, hardly the mark of your typical cult leader.

  173. Here’s a section of an e mail from Mike Davey, Staff Side Chair & UNISON Branch Secretary, Lewisham Healthcare NHS Trust. He’s complaining about “outsiders” resisting the carve up of the NHS. If you read it closely you can spot similarities between its message and the point being made in this article. In effect he’s taking the side of management.

    “It is not fully clear as to who all of these individuals are and why they are being invited onto Trust premises in order to attempt to encourage staff to take part in such “occupations” but it is known that political organizations external to UNISON such as the Socialist Workers’ Party and/or the Socialist Party (amongst others) are behind them. It is an unfortunate fact of life that there do exist in other local branches a tiny minority of SWP/SP members who hide behind the facade of being stewards of UNISON (as well as other Trade Unions) and use their positions to continually undermine their branches and push their own brand of extreme and minority politics.”

  174. Noah: But irrespective of that, are you presuming that part of the definition of a socialist is that one is opposed to a state having control of its borders?

    ——————————————————————
    I’m presuming that opposition to racist immigration policies is part of being a socialist.

  175. Jellytot on said:

    @207it encourages critical thinking and internal debate.

    Most groups encourage (or at least tolerate) critical thinking and internal debate.

    However, are there many instances of leadership decisions being reversed, or lines changed, as a result of pressure from the rank and file?

    “Debate, discuss but finally accept that we’re right” seems to be the order of the day.

  176. saothar: I’m presuming that opposition to racist immigration policies is part of being a socialist.

    So, your critique of Miliband’s speech is that he did not set out the components of a non-racist immigration policy for the UK?

    In which case, surely your starting point should firstly be to explain what a non-racist immigration policy for Britain would consist of.

  177. Nick Fredman on said:

    Andy Newman: Nick Fredman: A couple were put on branches of the Australian DSP, presumably a sign of its cult nature.

    it has been said

    I had an anarchist uni mate in the early 90s, who, a bit older than the rest of the rest of the rather friendly far left milieu at an outer-suburban university, used to gather us around to tell us harrowing tales of bizarre cult-like practices of the Socialist Labor League as a member in the early 80s. Then when he had us well sucked in he’d go on to solemnly describe how DSP members would gather in a secret room of the inner Sydney headquarters to worship at shrines of Lenin and Trotsky and go on to the more bizarre for as long as he could avoid bursting out laughing or avoid the things we’d start throwing at him.

    The AWL could be as bad as Andy and certainly others have claimed, and it’s certain there are, sadly, far left cults. But to make too much of a generalised social anthology derived from extreme cases as applying to most cases is a big methodological error, is to confuse quantity with quality, and to confuse some unavoidable problems with a disaster area.

    Yes there’s certainly contradictions with maintaining a socialist group in a relatively stable capitalist country but with some sense and self-awareness these can be reasonably managed. There’s also contradictions with trying to maintain socialist politics in much broader organisations. There’s been no visible socialist politics in the Australian Labor Party for 30 years and recently some socialists in the Greens have left and/or have complained bitterly about shifts to the right which they can’t seem to do anything about from the the inside.

  178. Noah: However, are there many instances of leadership decisions being reversed, or lines changed, as a result of pressure from the rank and file?

    A few years ago, when the the Communist Party debated electoral strategy, and as what was to become Respect emerged the Political committee took a position broadly in favour of participation, the executive was evenly divided and the special delegate congress narrowly against.
    An extremely heated debate with sharply contrasting positions took place. A line was agreed.
    The Weekly Worker, as usual, predicted a major split,
    No split took place, nobody left, nobody was expelled, no crisis ensued. Leadership continuity was maintained. The debate continues – based on a whole new set of experiences, a new consensus has emerged. Life continues.
    That is what democracy and centralism combined means. The widest debate, conducted as sharply as necessary but with comradely regard for the sincerity of opposing positions based on an understanding that these divergences naturally emerge in real life and are resolved in political practice.

    The important point is this: unless a minority submits to the majority and carries out the line in a disciplined and organised way then the correctness, or otherwise, of the line cannot be tested.
    The other advantage of this approach is that life is inherently more civilised and debate more productive.

    Try it sometime.

  179. Matty,

    I know what is in the speech I read it. It was hedged with all sorts of trite NL gubbins + the motherhood and apple pie nonesense we expect from those who follow in the wake of Blair. BUT the way it was spun by NL was a clear dog whistle to racism among labour voters who might be tempted to switch allegiance.

  180. Karl Stewart on said:

    Noah: In which case, surely your starting point should firstly be to explain what a non-racist immigration policy for Britain would consist of.

    Under capitalism, open borders.

    Under socialism, open borders among socialist states.

    —————————–

    And on the subject of the CP debate over Respect, before the debate itself, there were pro and anti arguments published in the Morning Star and in the debate itself, there were strongly argued contributions on each side of the debate all day long.
    It was a huge credit to the Communist Party that its general secretary argued openly and honestly in favour, then having lost the crucial vote, fully accepted it, as did all the others.
    No split, no whining, no flouncing off in a huff, just serious communists getting on with business.
    Just wouldn’t have happened in other left parties.

  181. #171 “…this article about the AWL took me ten minutes to delete some sensitive and less generic material. The article on the SWP took a similar ten minutes to write.”

    Really, that long?

    Actually, I don’t agree with the po-faced comments from the likes of Kevin Ovenden about how this sort of thing is lowering the tone, etc. If most people who check this site out are honest, they’d admit they love it. Look at how many comments these threads get.

    In fact, all the other tedious stuff should be junked, and just go full throttle with the gossiping, curtain-twitching, examining-the-naval snide-fest. A sort of Now magazine for the left. We like nothing better than when we’re ripping each other to shreds. Embrace it.

  182. andy newman on said:

    Liam: In effect he’s taking the side of management.

    well not really. I would have to read the whole letter from Davey, and you haven’t said whether the letter is issued from the UNISON branch, or from the staff side unions; but it is a perfectly reasonable point for a union body to make that union members shoud make their own decisions.

    From my own expereince of organising in the NHS, the call for “occupations” in the current time is so far distanced from the real level of consciousness, confidence or organisation, that it can only be counter productive.

    A UNISON branch would need to explain to members that such a cal was not coming from them, or through their structures; and if there were shop stewards acting in an ill-disciplined way then it is not unreasonable for a UNISON branch to say so.

    The key thing here is that while shop stewards and lay structures should be encouraged to push organisation and combativity as far as possible, they have to be able to deliver it. Don’t push for things you can’t delever, or you are exposed as a paper tiger.

    UNISON in particular do seem to have a problem with a layer of politicised activists who argue for actions they can’t deliver; often undermining collective decisions that have been made by lay member committees in UNISON.

  183. andy newman on said:

    Nick Fredman: But to make too much of a generalised social anthology derived from extreme cases as applying to most cases is a big methodological error, is to confuse quantity with quality, and to confuse some unavoidable problems with a disaster area.

    Agreed Nick, I have no expereince of the DSP, but seen from this far distance, you seem to be a likeable bunch, with some reflective modesty about the strengths and weaknesses of your organisations.

    There is a deifference between showing some symptoms, and having the disease.

    Any small group pushing against the ideological stream will have some tendency towards defensive behaviour.

    Coercive persuasion, and cult behaviour, exploit inherent featues in human psychology that also exhibit in normal collective organisation, so care needs to be taken not to confuse the display of some symptoms, with actually being a cult.

  184. andy newman on said:

    Sarah Keys: I train trade unionists in how to organise, incidentally

    Pity the poor union who suffers your input, if this is the quality of your reasoning:

    You start by saying, that because this article has had confidential information removed:

    Sarah Keys: Does this mean the original speech/presentation was libellous in some way? If you’ve got something correct and genuine to say, publish.

    Let us leave aside the obvious point that if something is not published, then discussing whether it would have been libellous had it been published is a bit silly.

    In response to you i said that if the deleted content were true, then it could not be libellous. This is a correct statement of the law.

    You are presumably concerned that the deleted details within the original draft could be damaging to AWL members and supporters; and you pointed out that some people have pursued libel even when the things written about them are true:

    Sarah Keys: Archer springs to mind. Savile threatened it a lot, and got apologies.

    So your BEST defence of the AWL members is that they are – in your view – in the same category as a convicted perjurer and a serial paedophile rapist?

    You then share this gem with us:

    Sarah Keys: The “true” information can’t be very confidential if you pass it on to others – so why not here?

    Let me explain:

    Alex asks Betty to prepare a report for him about things happening in Alex’s organisation. That report is confidential between Alex and Betty.

    Charles tells Betty some things conditional on them only being used in the context of the report Betty is producing for Alex. The full testimony is confidential between Charles and Betty, and the parts that are shared with Alex, are confidential between the three of them.

    David works for Alex’s organisation, and has made his own investigations, when David hears that Betty is producing a report for Alex, David shares information with Betty. David’s information is confidential between David and Betty, and the parts that are shared with Alex, are confidential between the three of them.

    Were Betty to publish information that identified Alex’s organisation, or discused what had happened within it, that would be a breach of confidentiality. Were Betty to publish true information that had been given to her by Charles or David, then that would be a breach of confidentiality.

    However, Betty may have – in the course of compiling her report – found some non-confidential and generic material, which Betty could publish without breaching the confidentiality of Alex, Charles, or David.

    Edgar, reading the non-confidential extract from Betty’s report, could not justifiably conclude that the confidential parts which he had not read were untrue.

    It is truly remarkable that you confuse the two concepts of truth and confidentiality.

  185. Sarah Keys: I know other groups in the Labour Party (when I lived in England) used to train their members in speaking, argumentation, “pushing their line”. I think in particular of Progress, leading factions of Labour Students/NOLS, the UJS, “Clause 4″ (remember them?), Socialist Action. If the writers of this blog weren’t quite so interested in navel-gazing, I bet they’d be doing the same.

    *really* – do Progress do this:
    http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2011/01/18/training-sessions

    (If you work in training perhaps you wrote this yourself?)

    MENTORING

    New recruits, or sometimes older members who are in difficulty or are returning to activity after a lull, should have an individual in their AWL branch who works with them as a “mentor”.

    This is different from formal educationals. The mentor should meet with the recruit weekly, at least. This can be informal: a coffee after a paper sale, a drink after a branch meeting.

    The aim is to talk through with the recruit what she or he has done over the past week, what they plan over the next week, and issues they are unsure or curious about. The arrangement should provide recruits with “moral support” and a chance to talk through doubts and perplexities.

    The process will also be instructive for the mentor. There is no better way to learn something than to explain it to someone else. Do not bluff if the recruit asks you a question you don’t know the answer to. Say you don’t know, and then find out. To operate effectively as a mentor, you will need to own a decent stock of basic Marxist pamphlets and AWL literature, and be ready to lend the recruit stuff to read on issues she or he raises.

    Some mentoring should happen, and has always happened, without formal arrangement. The aim is to set up a system and train ourselves for it.

    “Play” some of the following scenarios:

    1. Recruit is very keen, and showers mentor with questions, often off the wall. Reads a lot but randomly. constantly picks up half-garbled ideas from her or his reading.

    2. Recruit is shy. Is reliable in activity, but never speaks in meetings, never volunteers questions, and evades activity like contact work or speaking in meetings.

    3. Recruit seems confident enough but always makes excuses when asked to sell papers.

    4. Recruit is a trade-union activist, all very good, but constantly misses general political activity on grounds of being “too busy” with union work.

    5. Recruit finds branch discussions over her or his head and finds AWL “too middle-class”.

    6. Recruit is visibly pulled between us and her and his family and friends, who are not specially right-wing but see AWL as bizarre and extreme.

  186. Sacha Ismail: 4. On poems: we have from time to time published poems, verse, lyrics etc by a number of our members, eg we regularly publish stuff by one of our members who is a hip hop artist and spoken word poet, and poems by a sympathiser in Scotland. I don’t like all of it, by any means, but a) it’s not the case that, as you’re trying to suggest, we just publish stuff by Sean, our “great leader”; and b) I think the idea a socialist paper shouldn’t include material of this sort is seriously philistine.

    James H: The objection is not philistine – I’m all for seeing a space for poetry, coverage of arts and literature in the left press. But not such abjectly awful and self-indulgent doggerel as Matgamna’s…

    To be fair, if Sasha’s best defence of Matgamna’s Vogon poety is that they also publish the woefully cringe-inducingly god-awful output of the “Ruby Kid”, then they are the true philistines, judging “art” on the merits of the authors politics.

    Perhaps, the AWL could use this to generate poetry for their paper:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/vogonpoetry/lettergen.shtml

  187. lone nut on said:

    I wouldn’t hesitate to characterise the DSP as a cult – to be honest, any organisation that promotes the work of James Cannon merits the appellation. The irony is that I have much more sympathy for the DSP’s politics than would be the case with any Trotskyist group, and their theoretical journal, Links, is of genuine interest. Also it’s worth pointing out that the DSP has led struggles, that it emerged from an anti-Vietnam war activist group and that it puts significant efforts into providing a resource and communications base for the Pacific and south Asian left. The AWL in contrast has done nothing and built nothing in nearly half a century of existence, and in the one area where it has had any influence, the student movement,its only contribution has been to increase a level of hysteria, bile, careerism and dishonesty which would admittedly have already been very high without their intervention.

  188. jim mclean on said:

    Those who condemn the former Eastern Block should look at the fate of the immigrant contract workers of East Germany after unification. Not nice as politicians play the “race” card.

    ”There was such friendship then,” said the slight Vietnamese woman, who came to East Germany offering ”fraternal assistance” to fellow Communists, and now finds herself unwanted in a reunified Germany.
    Nguyen Lien quoted in New York Times

  189. prianikoff on said:

    Karl Stewart #181:
    “My understanding is that Trotsky founded the “Fourth International” in 1938 with the intention that it would act as an “external faction” of the world communist movement…..
    So what is the point of “Trotskyism” today?”

    Your understanding is wrong. It also completely ignores the level of repression conducted against Trotskyists during the 1930′s, which made membership of the CP’s almost impossible.

    When Trotsky first formed the *International Left Opposition* in the late 1920′s, it operated as a de-facto external faction of the Comintern.
    i.e. it had a perspective of reforming the Comintern, but was prevented from having open membership by the expulsions and repression that began in the USSR and spread throughout the Comintern sections.

    Trotsky’s perspective on the Comintern changed when Hitler assumed power in Germany.
    At #90, Chris asserts that “Stalin was right” about the United Front without providing a shred of justification for this statement.
    Stalin’s policy was utterly and completely wrong and allowed the Nazis to divide the CP and SPD and assume power.
    Trotsky therefore concluded that that the Comintern was dead for the purpose of socialist revolution.
    When the Fourth International was launched in 1938 it was seen as the inheritor of the traditions of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Internationals, not as an external faction.
    Stalin duly obliged by dissolving the Comintern during the War to appease his Western capitalist allies.

    If anything the recent policies of the Greek CP have shown how just relevant this critique still is.

    #205 “He (John Lawrence) never advocated entry into the CPGB so far as I’m aware.”

    John Lawrence was in St Pancras LP when it flew the red flag over the town hall, but later became a member of the CPGB ( there was an internal debate about his application). Eventually he left to become a libertarian socialist.

  190. lone nut: I wouldn’t hesitate to characterise the DSP as a cult – to be honest, any organisation that promotes the work of James Cannon merits the appellation. The irony is that I have much more sympathy for the DSP’s politics than would be the case with any Trotskyist group, and their theoretical journal, Links, is of genuine interest.

    I am happy to bow to your superior knowledge. It is impossible for me to judge, based upon my limited expereince.

    You are right that Links is a good publication(and so I think is GLW, within its remit)

  191. jim mclean: ”There was such friendship then,” said the slight Vietnamese woman, who came to East Germany offering ”fraternal assistance” to fellow Communists, and now finds herself unwanted in a reunified Germany.

    That is broadly true, but even with a militantly anti-racist government, the DDR did still suffer from racism, and sometimes institutional racism of a pernicious kind. Of course, having a socialist government did not sweep away the legacy of Germany’s colonialist, and Nazi past from the minds of citizens.

    There is a good discussion in Young-Sun Hong’s article about International Solidarity and race in the DDR, in the collection “Socialist Modern” Edited by K Pence and P Betts, Ann Arbor 2008.

  192. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    What is the point of Trotskyism Today is the question being asked?

    I post a link to an article by Peter Taaffe, General Secretary Socialist Party (CWI England and Wales) on this very point. I will not be back home till late in the evening so I cannot expand on this question itself during the day, but if comrades read the commentary then maybe they will understand the significance of Trotsky’s ideas in the modern epoch. Please do not delete this because it adds to this continuing debate.

    http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/4451

  193. Rorschach on said:

    The AWL is a horrible outfit; not as bad as the RCP or ‘Fight Racism’ perhaps but ghastly nonetheless. I’m not sure about ‘hard line’ though – we used to call them soggies. Either way, I think they toxify the ‘brand’ of socialism in this country to an extent that is alarmingly disproportionate to their size. Time to die.

  194. Noah: In which case, surely your starting point should firstly be to explain what a non-racist immigration policy for Britain would consist of.

    My starting point as you put it is open borders and free movement of people.

    What is yours?

  195. saothar: My starting point as you put it is open borders and free movement of people.

    And the consequences of that would be beneficial because…

  196. prianikoff: Stalin’s policy was utterly and completely wrong and allowed the Nazis to divide the CP and SPD and assume power.

    Stalin’s judgment was proved wrong on the ability of the Nazis to assume and retain power in Germany, but at the time his analysis was based on material conditions which supported the view that capitalism, convulsed by a global depression, was near collapse and that the rise of fascism was a prelude to revolution by the working class.

    But even supposing Trotsky’s policy of unity of the German KPD and SPD was followed, there was no guarantee the Nazis would have been defeated.

    The fact is that both the SPD and KPD mounted a courageous resistance to the Nazis in Germany throughout the 1920s into the early 1930s. Thousands from both organisations paid with their lives.

  197. On the Comintern, I think there was always tension at the heart of the project between the interests of the USSR and those of the national sections. But at least in the early days, those issues were openly discussed and debated before decisions were taken. I did research on Irish communism at the Moscow archives and was struck for example by how at the 1920 Congress, Lenin, who chaired the meetings of the National and Colonial Commission, was prepared to alter his views in line with arguments coming from activists in colonial states. Put simply, they felt he was not distinguishing sharply enough between revolutionary and reactionary colonial nationalist movements, and wanted to ensure that the Comintern advised temporary alliances only with those that were genuinely revolutionary. The theses that were adopted reflected this.

    The difference between this approach and the situation at the 1935 Congress is like night and day. But by 1935, those tensions that I referred to had been resolved in favour of the interests of the soviet leadership

  198. SA: And the consequences of that would be beneficial because…

    Well for a start, it would benefit those people who are trying to build better lives for themselves, but who are here, or in any number of other countries, illegally and who have no access to legal employment etc or benefits. It might do something to break the connection between criminality and the movement of peoples all over the world. More broadly, the removal of these legal restrictions on where people want to live their lives is a basic extension of their human rights. Immigration and emigration are part of the human condition and should not be restricted.

    But SA, instead of asking smug questions, why don’t you tell me what your position is on immigration?

  199. saothar: I think there was always tension at the heart of the project between the interests of the USSR and those of the national sections.

    This may have had something to do with the massive imbalance between a Communist State of 150-180 million in the mid 1930s and international Communist parties that were mostly marginal within their societies in terms of their social weight and represented comparatively miniscule constituencies.

    It made it inevitable that the Comintern’s primary function would be to act as an arm of Soviet foreign policy.

  200. prianikoff: #205 “He (John Lawrence) never advocated entry into the CPGB so far as I’m aware.”

    If you read what I wrote, you’ll see that it was Pablo I was referring to, not John Lawrence.

  201. #236 I think you may be underestimating the the potential to stop Hitler that a united left had. Leaving aside Trotskyist commentary, the description by Isherwood of the anti-nazi mobilisation outside KPD hq in Berlin in january 1933 by ordinary Berliners is a poinant indication of what was possible and how vulnerable the nazis still were even at the 11th hour.

    But what many people who (correctly) point out that the divisions between the KPD and SPD aided the nazi rise to power fail to appreciate or at least to factor in sufficiently is the extent to which ultra-leftism and sectarianism were strong inherent features within the KPD, and that the ’3rd period’ line much derided by critics of Stalinism found fertile ground in which to grow.

    Not insignificant either was the fact that the SPD leaders had helped murder Rosa Luxembourg and Karl liebknecht.

  202. Vanya: Not insignificant either was the fact that the SPD leaders had helped murder Rosa Luxembourg and Karl liebknecht.

    This is the key point, which certainly informed KPD and Soviet policy towards the SPD thereafter.

    On your other point re the possibility of stemming the Nazi advance, we obviously analyse these events now through the prism of historical hindsight. What sometimes I think we underestimate on the left is and was the attractions of fascism in times of economic crisis. The popularity of Nazi ideology grew exponentially as a solution to the postwar chaos and economic depression of the decade that followed. The fusion of national mythology and racial purity instils a national pride that blurs class lines.

    Re 1933 there was certainly incidents of resistance and a fully functioning underground resistance thereafter. It just wasn’t strong enough. Most German workers, even members of the SPD and KPD, by 1933 were focused on personal survival than risking their lives and those of their families in a futile attempt at resistance.

  203. Jimmy Haddow: I post a link to an article by Peter Taaffe, General Secretary Socialist Party (CWI England and Wales) …. if comrades read the commentary then maybe they will understand the significance of Trotsky’s ideas in the modern epoch. http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/4451

    OK – Ill bite, this is complete bollocks, for example this quote:

    But the essence, surely, of the current situation of world capitalism is that it is incapable of solving even the basic needs of humankind, particularly for the two thirds living in the neo-colonial countries. This was summed up by the manifesto of the previous Haitian president, Aristide, who pledged to abolish the “obscene poverty” which affected his country but after his assumption to power replaced it with “acceptable poverty”! Not even this was achieved as the catastrophic situation following the earthquake in Haiti demonstrates today. Trotsky’s idea of the ‘permanent revolution’ retains its validity for countries in the neo-colonial world. This holds that the democratic revolution in the modern era cannot, ironically, be carried through by the capitalists. The tasks of land reform, a real parliament and democracy, freedom from the economic and political shackles of imperialism are impossible for the weak ruling classes in these countries and regions. Only the working class in alliance with the poor peasantry is capable of completing the national democratic revolution.

    No mention of the specific progressive policies which Aristide actually pushed through, which still make him extremely populat with the poor in Haiti

    Aristide symbolized the popular aspirations for good reason. He was a person of deed, not just of word. Among the accomplishments of his second government are the following:

    – Building more schools than all of Haiti’s preceding governments combined.

    – Expanding Haiti’s medical cooperation with Cuba, including opening the country’s first medical school in 2003. (The school was taken over by U.S. Marines in March of 2004 to be used as a barracks, and then passed over to the UN troops for the same purpose)

    – Creating the country’s first-ever ministry of women’s affairs.

    – Building social housing on a scale never before seen in Haiti.

    – Improving the country’s historical patrimony–monuments, public buildings, etc.

    – Doubling the minimum wage.

    – Bringing reforms to Haiti’s agriculture that would make it possible for peasants to survive and grow food.

    – Resisting the international pressures to privatize the state telephone, electricity companies and the Port-au-Prince docks.

    No mention by Taafe of the fact that Aristide was actually overthrown by an invasion by Canadian and French soldiers!

    No recognition by Taafe that part of the reason for his overthow was his demand for reparations from the French government.

    As Peter Hallward explained in New Left Review: following US financial sanctions introduced by the Clinton administration the desperately cash-starved Aristide attempted to rally his countrymen in April 2003 with the demand that, in the bicentennial year of Haitian independence, France should reimburse the 90 million francs that Haiti had been forced to pay between 1825 and 1947 as compensation for the loss of slave owners’ property. Assuming a low return of 5 per cent in annual interest, he calculated that the sum was now equivalent to 21 billion American dollars. Aristide got a lot of support for this demand both inside and outside of Haiti, particularly in Africa and Latin America. Unlike most slavery-related reparation demands currently in the air, the Haitian claim refers to a precise and documented sum of money extracted in hard currency by the colonial power.

    This was a huge diplomatic embarrassment for France one of the richest countries in the world, exposed for having extorted a fortune from the most impoverished country in the Western hemisphere, and stunted its economic development for more than a century. Within a year of the reparations claim being made French troops were on the streets of Port-au-Prince, and the grateful Haitian mobsters installed by the French and Americans to replace Aristide dropped the claim against France.

    The coup was a devastating set-back for Haiti’s poor, as a report from the Haiti Action committee shows, writen in the immiediate aftermath of the earthquake.

    Hundreds of families … had to flee their homes in the face of repression, thousands of grass roots activists in prison because of their association with Aristide’s Lavalas movement, literacy projects and schools destroyed, community-based activists forced into exile, Haiti returned to elite control in the name of “stability” and “security.”

    We also saw the beginnings of the United Nations occupation, labeled “peacekeeping” by UN (Minustah) authorities, but clearly seen by the popular movement as the beginning of an international take-over of Haiti.

    The coup devastated Haiti. It shattered the promises of a truly democratic period in Haitian history. It interrupted a process of building schools (more schools were built under Lavalas governments than had been built in all of Haitian history), establishing health clinics and parks in the poorest communities, support for literacy efforts among women, , respect for the indigenous religion of Vodou, and a commitment to the development of Haitian agriculture in the face of the flooding of Haitian markets by U.S. goods.

    … Fanmi Lavalas, the most popular political party in Haiti, has been banned from participating in elections, with the full support of the United States. The Preval government has tailored its policies to what the United States demands, rather than to what the people need. There is a deep fissure between the people and the official government, a deep gap between the occupied and the occupiers.

    What Taafe overlooks are the real word pressures on a government.

    Not only did Aristide have to contend with ruling the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, with very few resources to use as a foundation for growth; but Haiti is too poor, and lacking cultural and social weight to rely upon any international support or solidarity.

    Taafe’s article demonstrates that the brand of Trotskyism that pontifcates to progressive governments in the developing world, withut offering them any solidarity, just reflects and augments the neo-colonialist assumptions that dominate “common sense” of liberal opinion in the imperial powers

  204. Calvin: What would be the outcome, and how would it benefit the working class?

    More people would be able to move freely without the fear of being criminalised, sent back to where they came from if caught or impoverished should they be unable to get under-the-counter work in their destination country or become ill etc.

    In my eyes, quite a lot of those people are working class–are they not in yours?

    Anyway, Calvin why don’t you give me your views on immigration and immigration policies?

  205. Lawrence Parker on said:

    Sacha 135 ‘I think the idea a socialist paper shouldn’t include material of this sort is seriously philistine.’

    I don’t think anyone would suggest that it is a good idea to exclude good artistic work.

    However, I think the AWL opens itself to ridicule by consistently publishing SM’s poems (and let’s be honest, they’re usually by him). Everyone on the left (including some members of the AWL, it must be added) has come to the conclusion that they are laughably awful. I think if that is the situation, people are bound to ask: why does that happen? The same way that they asked why the WRP entertained Healy’s philosophical gibberish.

    It’s obvious that no one has sat him down and said: “hey, cock, we don’t need another Pam Ayres on cheap steroids — publish this crap yourself.”

  206. saothar: But SA, instead of asking smug questions

    Its just an obvious question. Three people have asked you it so far.

    Now as a socialist however you might define that, why is an open borders policy beneficial to the working class? How does it make their lives materially better?

  207. > I don’t think anyone would suggest that it is a good idea to exclude good artistic work.

    You say that, but I don’t know of any other left-wing paper in Britain that publishes artistic material.

    Who is to decide what is “good”? I think most of Sean’s poetry is crap, but that’s my view. “Good” is hardly a clear line of demarcation.

    For many years have occasionally printed a poem by Sean (and others – yes, Sean, more than others, because he has asked more than others). For the past six years, Daniel Randall has performed regularly at benefit events. More recently another comrade, Sarah Weston, has performed dramatic pieces at events too. Perhaps Sean, Daniel and Sarah are all our ‘great leaders’?

    I’m going to stop posting now – Andy, you have really hurt yourself here.

  208. George Hallam on said:

    John: Most German workers, even members of the SPD and KPD, by 1933 were focused on personal survival than risking their lives and those of their families in a futile attempt at resistance.

    source?

    As far as the KDP is concerned, Allan Merson’s account conflicts with this.

    Perhaps you meant 1936-37?

  209. saothar: I asked you a question SA, so why don’t you answer it?

    You are asking everyone questions rather than explain the thinking behind your statement. Is this because you didn’t know what you were talking about but just wanted to make a noise?

  210. Sacha Ismail: Andy, you have really hurt yourself here.

    *really*

    In what possible way have I “hurt myself”

    Enough of the passive-aggressive threats. I am a hard person to intimidate, and your pathetic minnions have no sway in my world.

    I note that you have still not commented on Jim Denham’s comment on here, shall I remind you?

    Nooman = stooge of Assad. Should be shot on sight.

    As long as that drunken bully, Jim Denham, continues as an AWL member, then you have no moral authority whatsoever.

  211. George Hallam: source?

    ‘Nazism 1919-1945, Volume Two: State, Economy and Society 1933-1939: A Documentary Reader (Exeter Studies in History): Vol 2′

    After the Reichstag Fire in 1933 the KPD was comprehensively purged and was forced underground. Within a year it went from being a mass party of 360,000 members to a clandestine organisation of around 36,000 active members. But the key was the position of the German working class. Their passivity in the face of the fascist juggernaut was crucial. Bear in mind the economic boom that resulted as a consequence of rearmament and the public works programs that were intitiated by the Nazis.

  212. George Hallam on said:

    John: Bear in mind the economic boom that resulted as a consequence of rearmament and the public works programs that were intitiated by the Nazis.

    OK.

    Have you read Tooze on the this?

  213. John: Within a year it went from being a mass party of 360,000 members to a clandestine organisation of around 36,000 active members

    The Nazis were also quite cunning, that while they sent many KPD members into the KZ camps in 1933, around 1936 they released most of them – except the big names. The word quickly got around what the camps were like, and encouraged people t keep their heads down. The Nazis were also paradoxically quite liberal about people with former KPD membership, as long as they stopped being active. this drove a hard wedge between the committed core, and the less active supporters.

    According to Detlev Peukert: “Inside Nazi Germany: Conformity, Opposition, and Racism in Everyday Life”

  214. saothar on said:

    SA: You are asking everyone questions rather than explain the thinking behind your statement. Is this because you didn’t know what you were talking about but just wanted to make a noise?

    Very good SA–I’ll take that as a refusal to give your views on immigration.

    Regards my views, I did actually answer the question someone put to me about the working class. Maybe unlike you–and I use the word ‘maybe’ because, as we have seen, you won’t express your view– I don’t regard the ‘working class’ as a purely national construction. Huge numbers of working class people all over the world, North and South, move from country to country in search of work, or a better life. Ed Miliband’s speech, if acted upon, would close the door to them, consign those who are here illegally to continued high levels of exploitation and insecurity and panders to racist agendas set by other agencies and organisations in this country.

    Ive absolutely no interest in taking part in some kind of Socratic exercise led by you SA, where you repeatedly ask questions but don’t give your own views, so I will ask you once again-what are your views on immigration and the question of immmigration policies?

  215. saothar: Regards my views, I did actually answer the question someone put to me about the working class.

    No you did not, all you said was

    saothar: it would benefit those people who are trying to build better lives for themselves, but who are here, or in any number of other countries, illegally and who have no access to legal employment etc or benefits. It might do something to break the connection between criminality and the movement of peoples all over the world. More broadly, the removal of these legal restrictions on where people want to live their lives is a basic extension of their human rights. Immigration and emigration are part of the human condition and should not be restricted.

    How does this materially benefit the working class in the country you live in? That working class is what you have to work with if you are a socialist and you have to make the case for open borders to them. So what is it?

    Many social and economic liberals are keen on open borders because they benefit from it in economic terms. You must remember them braying in the msm about their plans to put a Polish nanny under the stairs. How they yearned for the return of servants. Working class interests are different though are they not?

  216. saothar on said:

    Ah, so its the working class in Britain we are now focusing on? Or a section of it anyway. The question to which I referred was not so specific.

    Anyway, I see you are avoiding my own question SA–for the third or fourth time.

    Like I said, I have no intention of indulging your wish to take part in a one-sided dialogue.

    Start answering my questions to you regards immigration and the issue of immigration policies and outline your own position so I can see where you stand.

  217. Vincent Doherty on said:

    Why do none of you clowns ever use your own names and own up to who you are? Like do you really think you are that important to ‘the underground’ that you identity needs to be hidden. Grow up. If you are a serious opponent of the state you can rest assured they know who you are. Pseudonames are an invitation to infiltartion from not just the state but to all sorts of weirdos with multipile identiies and personalities. It’s impossible to have a propre discussion with people who only exist in the vapor of cyberspace!

  218. Jellytot on said:

    @242Not insignificant either was the fact that the SPD leaders had helped murder Rosa Luxembourg and Karl liebknecht.

    It was very significant.

    SPD politician and Defence Minister Gustav Noske was also dubbed, correctly, “Father of the Freikorps” and this would have been a very recent memory for many of the Communist cadre, happening, as it did,a mere ten years before.

  219. saothar: Like I said, I have no intention of indulging your wish to take part in a one-sided dialogue.

    Four sided surely, three people have asked you the same question. You cannot answer. There you go.

  220. Jellytot on said:

    @223To be fair, if Sasha’s best defence of Matgamna’s Vogon poety is that they also publish the woefully cringe-inducingly god-awful output of the “Ruby Kid”, then they are the true philistines, judging “art” on the merits of the authors politics.

    Most of these Trot groups have their “pet” artists and, yes, most were/are awful (did anyone mention ‘The Redskins’ who used to mix in snippets of Tony Cliff’s speeches into their songs?!).

    Of course it’s subjective, but I liked some of Stereolab’s stuff and whilst they weren’t members (I think) they were close to the old RCP. I once saw Easterhouse live as well and enjoyed it. The RCP were just a bit too Cool for me though.

  221. saothar on said:

    Four sided surely, three people have asked you the same question. You cannot answer. There you go.

    Well 2 actually–only you and Calvin asked about the working class.

    And I did begin to discuss the issue, before asking you to give me some idea as to where you stand on it. I would have been more than willing to take the discussion further, if you had given me an answer.

    You couldn’t answer.

    There you go.

  222. saothar: I would have been more than willing to take the discussion further, if you had given me an answer.

    Why do you need to know what I think before you know what you think? Surely you know why you commented?

  223. saothar: More people would be able to move freely without the fear of being criminalised, sent back to where they came from if caught or impoverished should they be unable to get under-the-counter work in their destination country or become ill etc.

    In my eyes, quite a lot of those people are working class–are they not in yours?

    You’re avoiding the issue. You support a policy of open borders so unless you’re an idiot you must have considered the likely outcomes.

    How many people do you and your group estimate would come here during, say, the first five years of this policy being implemented? And how have you arrived at that figure, what studies are you relying one etc? Are you talking about relatively modest numbers (say an extra million or two), or are you expecting tens of millions?

    Please clarify.

    Once you have, please explain how your policy of open borders and whatever figure you place on the consequent immigration would be beneficial for the working class?

    These are not trick questions and I am not trying to catch you out or trip you up with minor details. It’s your policy and I cannot understand why you are finding it so difficult to explain it.

  224. Jellytot on said:

    @267Is it true ot urban myth that the mighty Shakin’ Stevens was once in the YCL?

    As Pete said, he was and it’s mentioned on his Wiki page. I see the guy in a whole new light now.

    One of my favourite artists Robert Wyatt was CPGB and his “Nothing can Stop Us” album is in my all time top 10.

  225. Jellytot: As Pete said, he was and it’s mentioned on his Wiki page. I see the guy in a whole new light now.

    I love Shaky, who sits in the tradition of professional entertainers who regard it as a good job, but it doesn’t make them any more special than lots of other skiled workers.

    It gave me great pleasure to learn on one of the ubiquitous 100 best shows on TV that Shaky has sold more records than Paul Weller.

  226. mahrooq on said:

    I disagree with Andy’s statement about the Ruby Kid’s output being “Godawful” “cringeworthy” etc. I don’t like the politics of the AWL at all but I’ve seen the Ruby Kid live and thought his poetry was very euphonically pleasing and rich in imagery. Maybe it doesn’t work as well written down.

  227. Mahrooq: I don’t like the politics of the AWL at all but I’ve seen the Ruby Kid live and thought his poetry was very euphonically pleasing and rich in imagery.

    Fair enough mate, it is after all a question of taste.

  228. Pete Shield: The Gang of Four was also very popular amongst Yorkshire SWPers

    And on that very tenuous connection, in the best Kevin bacon tradition, this is Jon Langford from their mates the Mekons. I love this, cutting edge country music:

  229. mahrooq: I’ve seen the Ruby Kid live and thought his poetry was very euphonically pleasing and rich in imagery

    On relection, I was a bit harsh on Daniel’s poetry, it is no where near as bad as Matgamna’s William McGonagall style doggeral, and Matgamna’s lack of self awareness.

    Daniel is also young enough to improve; especially as he does have the bottle to perform it live, and therefore get feedback from real punters – so I do take that back.

  230. prianikoff on said:

    John #236 (Stalin’s) analysis was based on material conditions which supported the view that capitalism, convulsed by a global depression, was near collapse and that the rise of fascism was a prelude to revolution by the working class…there was no guarantee the Nazis would have been defeated.

    The problem being that Stalin’s “analysis” was pure nonsense.
    The deep economic depression polarized the classes in Germany.
    It made the impoverished German petit-bourgeoisie prone to political extremism.
    Since the working class was divided and proved unable to take power, they tended to gravitate towards the strongest force.
    Ultimately though, National Socialism represented the interests of the big capitalist monopolies.

    Rather making the task of achieving a socialist government easier , the capitalist economic crisis meant political tactics were even more important.
    The majority of the German working class still followed the leadership of the SPD and voted for it in large numbers.
    Its militia, the Reichsbanner was an important bastion of the “democratic” state.
    This made the question of a workers’ United Front against Fascism an urgent *political necessity*.
    There was absolutely no chance whatever of “revolution by the working class” if the fascists took power.
    But the Stalinist leadership of the KPD behaved as though it might be a stepping stone towards their own victory!

    Vanya #242
    “ultra-leftism and sectarianism were strong inherent features within the KPD, and that the ’3rd period’ line much derided by critics of Stalinism found fertile ground in which to grow”.

    Partly True, but an argument often used by CP supporters to deflect criticisms of Stalinist policy.
    Ernst Thälmann had a long history on the ultra-left wing of the KPD.
    For instance in the abortive Hamburg uprising in 1923, after national action had been abandoned by the KPD leadership.
    Many of these ultra-lefts had been Spartacists and were bitterly opposed to both the SPD leaders *and* its members.
    But it was only after the Stalinist bureaucracy had consolidated its hold in the USSR that Thälmann rose to leadership in Germany.
    Moscow actively encouraged his sectarian positions towards the Social Democrats and spread these policies internationally.
    Many other former ultra-lefts in the German party didn’t followed this path.

    Bob #241 “…it was Pablo I was referring to, not John Lawrence”.

    Point taken, but I think Pablo’s “Rise and Decline of World Stalinism” implied that the CP’s would be forced to take power internationally by mass radicalisation at their base.

  231. George Hallam on said:

    John: It made it inevitable that the Comintern’s primary function would be to act as an arm of Soviet foreign policy.

    Have you read this?

    Nicholas N. Kozlov, Eric D. Weitz “Reflections on the Origins of the ‘Third Period’: Bukharin, the Comintern, and the Political Economy of Weimar Germany” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Jul., 1989), pp. 387–410 JSTOR

  232. George Hallam: Have you read this?
    Nicholas N. Kozlov, Eric D. Weitz “Reflections on the Origins of the ‘Third Period’:

    I certainly haven’t, and for those of us who don’t work in universities, such journals are inaccesible

  233. prianikoff on said:

    To clarify the last point at 286;
    The document was called the “Rise and Decline of Stalinism” and was co-drafted by Michel Pablo.

    A critique of it was written by the veteran Chinese Trotskyist Peng Shuzi in 1955. He defined Pablo’s thesis in the following terms:-

    “In countries where the C.P.’s constitute the majority of the working class, they can under the pressure of the masses be led to project a revolutionary orientation counter to the Kremlin’s directives, without abandoning the political and theoretical baggage inherited from Stalinism. They will do this all the more because the masses, which are still seeking, as they will continue to seek for a whole period to come, to make use of those parties to satisfy their aspirations, have acquired a more critical attitude towards their leadership than in the past and are no longer prepared to follow any turn of these parties, regardless of what it may involve.
    This perspective, the understanding that what is involved is not an organizational disintegration of the mass communist parties, but rather a disintegration, molecular in its nature for an entire period, of the Stalinist ideas inside those parties, as well as of the bureaucratic relations which extend from the Kremlin down to the ranks of these parties…. (“Rise and Decline” p. 34-35).”

    Peng Shuzi “Pabloism Reviewed” (from correspondence)
    http://www.marxists.org/archive/peng/1955/jan/01.htm

  234. brianthedog on said:

    #271 Calvin, i think we as socialists should get into the festive spirit and declare complete open borders. And to prove we are even more radical and left than Saothar we should go one better and offer free transportation to the UK from anywhere in the world. I don’t know about you but to not be trumped i would even suggest next day delivery.

    We would soon have an extra 60 – 100 million people living here.

    Sod the strain on resources such as hospitals and schools, or on housing, the environment and jobs.

    The working class would love it and we would end up having a revolution, only it would be a fascist one!

  235. lem
    brianthedog: The working class would love it and we would end up having a revolution, only it would be a fascist one!

    Why not solve that problem by letting the immigrants have their jobs, at lower wages?

    With such downwards pressure on wages from immigration on that scale, the working class would have no economic power to bargain with.

  236. saothar on said:

    Calvin: How many people do you and your group estimate would come here during, say, the first five years of this policy being implemented? And how have you arrived at that figure, what studies are you relying one etc? Are you talking about relatively modest numbers (say an extra million or two), or are you expecting tens of millions?

    Please clarify.

    Once you have, please explain how your policy of open borders and whatever figure you place on the consequent immigration would be beneficial for the working class?

    These are not trick questions and I am not trying to catch you out or trip you up with minor details. It’s your policy and I cannot understand why you are finding it so difficult to explain it.

    Tens of millions? You should stop reading the Daily Mail, Calvin. Even those countries that neighbour others undergoing civil wars don’t have that level of migration, and I would not expect it to happen here–it hasn’t in the past when this country had more open immigration policies and there is nothing to suggest it would in this day and age.

    Anyway, leaving aside the fact that your question seems to be based on a fossilised view of the working class, I will put forward some points in reply.

    Like a lot of issues facing workers in the globalised system we live under, the question of immigration is not going to be resolved with reference to just one country. I can’t envisage Britain moving on its own to such a progressive state of affairs as an open border policy, while the rest of Europe remains shut. More broadly, I think the challenge for the Left is to build links across borders and try to collectively challenge the so-called common sense views of the world that serve re-inforce capitalist rule. That includes on immigration.

    You ask about benefits for workers. Maybe first we should look at what it doesn’t do. Firstly, it doesn’t create a reserve army of labour, or drive down wages and conditions of workers. As Marx showed, capitalism does this all by itself. Wages right now are in decline in Britain…but so too is immigration. And if you look at the past, for example the 1930s, this was an era of low immigration to Britain, but low wages too. Many academic studies on the link between wages and immigration levels show a negligible effect. One major piece of research in the USA, looking at the time-span of 1990-2004 found that immigrants generally do not compete with local workers–they are to be found more in the very low or high paid sectors, to which the great majority do not belong. Given the way that capitalism works, the sectors of the workforce that might be affected by immigration–low paid–tend to experience this on a temporary basis. The expansion of the economy stimulated by immigration tends to create more unskilled and low paid jobs, eventually pushing up wages again.

    Neither does it result in less resources for ‘British workers’ To look at one aspect of this, the housing crisis, that again was caused by neo-liberal policies, which saw the public sector stock being sold off and councils banned from replacing them like for like. Labour in its 13 years of power did nothing to change that situation, but that’s why we have one million people on council waiting lists today. But it sounds better if you blame the immigrants, I suppose. I could go on and on, but all of the problems facing workers in this country are structural, and relate to the way that capitalism operates–they have sod all to do with immigration.

    What can it bring? Presumably, if I was to look at the situation as it might be under socialism, you’d accuse me of pie-in-the-sky thinking, and not relevant to workers today in the here and now. Well, even under the present system of capitalism, you can make an argument that it has benefits. With immigration, more goods and services are produced. In other words, the market in goods or services adjusts to immigration, rather than the labour market. This means that people who otherwise would not have done so have had their bathrooms re-furbished by Polish plumbers, for example. The market for plumbing services expands, rather than there simply being more competition to refurbish a fixed number of bathrooms.

    Nor do bosses look on immigrant labour as simply a means of cutting wages. Around 2005-6, the Bank of England surveyed 200 companies employing 275,000 workers about their use of migrant labour. Less than 2 percent of them said they employed immigrants because they were cheaper, while 60 percent said they did so because there was a scarcity of local workers. Here we see how immigrant workers help the economy grow, which has the knock-on effect of creating more jobs.

    And I think that most workers would probably think that more jobs is good for everyone, including ‘British’ workers

    Now let me hear your views on the question, Calvin. Do you support immigration policies, and if so, why?

  237. George Hallam on said:

    Andy Newman: George Hallam: Have you read this?
    Nicholas N. Kozlov, Eric D. Weitz “Reflections on the Origins of the ‘Third Period’:
    I certainly haven’t, and for those of us who don’t work in universities, such journals are inaccesible

    Oh dear, I must have touched a nerve.

    Sorry I asked.

  238. Jellytot on said:

    On immigration, why not learn from nations like Canada who seem to negotiating this issue with some success?

    This country absorbs large numbers of immigrants with the demographics in cities like Vancouver now majority BME (specifically East Asian). They have enacted a relatively succesful application of multiculturalism and while its main political parties have differences on the issue there is a broad consensus that immigration is a good thing. Also any kind of fascist or far-right presence is miniscule being relegated to a few skinhead gangs. All this with socialised healthcare and a broad welfare state.

    The issue just doesn’t seem to have the toxicity there as it does elsewhere.

    Take a listen to the late Jack Layton of the opposition NDP on the issue:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDZ_pxY__Ek

  239. saothar: Tens of millions? You should stop reading the Daily Mail, Calvin

    I don’t and I didn’t suggest a figure. I asked you what your figure was and on what studies you based it on. Please just answer the question.

  240. Gallup says that there are 640 million people in the world who would like to emigrate and 45 million of them would like to come to the UK.

    Were the UK to become the only advanced industrial country to have open borders, it is likely that some of the remaining 595 million would-be immigrants would also come to Britain as it would be the only available option.

    Do you agree or disagree with Gallup’s findings?

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/153992/150-Million-Adults-Worldwide-Migrate.aspx

  241. prianikoff: The problem being that Stalin’s “analysis” was pure nonsense.

    I never cease to be impressed by the abiding arrogance inherent within Trotskyism.

    This after all is a political current that has never successfully made a revolution, formed a government, organised, developed, or ran an economy.

    Yet it remains a current fixated with dismissing the history of really existing socialism, which for all its faults has done all of the aforementioned with the participation and support of tens of millions of workers across the world.

    Astonishing.

  242. saothar on said:

    Calvin, you’re obviously at the wind-up here. I don’t know who you are or what you represent politically, but it certainly aint socialism. Look at the wording of the question on that gallup poll. That pretext simply doesn’t apply to the situation we have under capitalism, because the overwhelming majority of people will never have the opportunity to move anywhere. So, no there will be no question of 45 million people moving to Britain–you and the rest of the Daily Mail reading world can rest easy.

    I also made it clear in my previous posting that the type of progressive political change necessary before we ever have the return of an open immigration policy here will be something that will happen across borders–the idea that you can take control of a national state in isolation with a ‘vanguard’ party and build socialism failed and died many decades ago. In today’s more globalised world, it is even less likely to succeed. The hegemony of the international capitalist ruling class, its grip on the minds as well as the bodies of workers is something that will be broken only on an international basis. Immigration is one issue here, but there are many, many more that need to be challenged. The most charitable interpretation of your silly questioning is that your attitude is one that accepts defeat, and effectively states that it can’t be done. That’s fine–but please be honest about it and admit that you have no attachment to socialism as an idea that can ever be realised.

    As for immigration, I think I’ve said enough on it for now. I have offered a philosophical defence of it, seeing it as intrinsic to the human condition and human development throughout the ages–look at the surnames in a phone book anywhere in this country for example–and an inalienable right that all humans have. I’ve spoken about how it would improve the plight of workers who have to move to find work in different countries–and there are plenty of them in this country today, as there are all over the world today. I’ve also covered how, even under capitalism, immigration can have positive economic effects, helping to grow the economy and pave the way for more employment for all. And I’ve dealt with some of the bogeymen of this debate and exposed them for the rubbish that they are.

    You, on the other hand have said nothing, despite having many opportunities to do so.

    Says it all really.

    Anyway, I don;t see any point in continuing this 1-sided discussion with you.

    Maybe someday you can let me know what your views are.

    Bye bye, Calvin

  243. Jellytot,

    #295
    Jack Layton was never in a position of power to affect Canada’s immigration policy. The storied welfare state in Canada has slowly been disassembled since the 90′s and under the current right-wing Tory government of Harper,that process has accelerated. Also, I believe Canada narrowed the eligibility criteria considerably over the last decade to favour “skilled” labour or the rich. Immigration is certainly a hot-button issue there.

  244. Rorschach on said:

    Andy Newman,

    Yes – of course. But they were wishy washy too from the perspective of Trotskyism: genuflected to identity politics, campaigned for the so-called ‘two state solution’ and so-on.

  245. saothar,

    Why can’t you just answer the question? How many people would come to Britain if we had an open border?

    Now you seem to to be backtraking and introducing provisos such as ‘open borders but only after progressive change and so long as other countries also do it’. Which isn’t the same thing at all. In the meantime your policy of open borders is looking a bit like deceptive and hollow.

  246. Jellytot on said:

    @302Jack Layton was never in a position of power to affect Canada’s immigration policy.

    Layton sadly died but the left/progressive NDP, being the official opposition, could well form a government in the not-too-distant future.

    @302Also, I believe Canada narrowed the eligibility criteria considerably over the last decade to favour “skilled” labour or the rich.

    But a lot of those skilled workers are Chinese and Indian and is introducing lots of young, highly qualified and dynamic immigrants into your economy necessarily a bad thing?

    Until recently its definition of what consituted “skilled labour” was fairly broad:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-brings-down-curtain-on-foreign-strippers/article4388100/

    (only included to illustrate the traditional liberality of the immigration system in that country)

  247. Jellytot on said:

    @302Immigration is certainly a hot-button issue there.

    Is it?

    Why wasn’t it even close to being a top issue in the 2011 Federal (general) election?

    Post #295 was more about illustrating Canada’s success with immigration over the long term.

  248. Jellytot,

    Well I’m in daily contact with my Canuck friends (I lived there for 27 years) on FB so I get alot of news links and such.Agree that Canada was traditionally quite liberal ( it had to be given it’s area to population ratio) but the Tories have definitely made entry requirements more difficult. I think the fact the NDP did well in the last election was because of Layton’s charisma and the sympathy for him as he was campaigning with cancer and the complete disarray of the Liberal Party. I would be pleased as punch if the NDP could pull off that kind of result regularly but they are usually a distant third.

  249. Calvin,

    This is all very well, but Miliband signalled out immigrants from Eastern Europe after they gained EU membership. SO let’s be clear, we are in favour of the movement of labour between EU countries right? The statement of Ed saying that it was a mistake to open up to migrants from Eastern Europe and his decision to vote with the Tory eurosceptic right on the EU budget were both to the right even of the Blairites. Especially when taking into consideration the social consequences of reintroducing capitalism in Eastern Europe.

  250. Morning Star reader on said:

    Shaking Stevens didn’t join the YCL – he was too old. He was, for a time, a fully paid up member of the old CP. But it was more for sentimental reasons and out of personal friendship, not ideological commitment. Nevertheless – bless!

  251. Socialists should not support the capitalist state regulating where workers can live. To oppose immigration control by the capitalist state is part of the fight for working class political independence from Capital. To campaign for immigration control by the capitalist state is to help divide and subordinate the working class to the capitalist order. However simply to call for the free movement of labour would be hopeless since it does not pose a socialist alternative. The social problems that confront workers are not caused by immigrants or other workers but by the capitalist ownership of the means of production

    sandy

  252. @302″Immigration is certainly a hot-button issue there”.

    Purely anecdotal but the only time i can recall hearing anything in Canada that could be construed as anti-immigrant / immigration was whilst in Quebec. As for the rest of the country, I have heard plenty of vitriol directed towards the inhabitants of that particular province, but nothing towards the multitude of recent arrivals from the sub-continent and East Asia.

  253. Gavin,

    I don’t know why you’re calling my name. I have merely asked a simple question. If the proponents of open borders can’t say how many would come to Britain as a result, how can anyone debate the merits of such a policy, let alone argue for it?

    Saothar’s meandering and evasive discourse and his bizarre denouncing of me (on the basis of what he doesn’t say) has all the hallmarks of someone pushing the line of a sect without having thought it through.

  254. jack ford on said:

    Immigration controls are a necessary evil. Whether we like it or not all things being equal if you have a sudden large influx of immigration there is going to be a tendency to reduce wages and inflate housing costs. There’s a class dimension to this. The working poor suffer from competiton from immigrants while employers benefit. Plus the import of skilled workers from poor countries to rich ones harms poor countries if they lose some of their best educated people having paid to educate them in the first place.

    To avoid a dangerous backlash against immigrants it is necessary for govt to ensure that there is affordable housing. The left should campaign for immigrant workers to be unionised so they are not used to undercut local workers and erode their rights.

  255. Jellytot on said:

    @299I am.happy not being an academic, not least I couldn’t afford to live on the crap wages

    Bad pay maybe but there is the compensation of never really having to leave school :-)

  256. 314 the class dimension is that prior to the working class taking power socialists should not support immigration control since it is always used by capital against the interests of the working class. Once you start campaigning with a section of Capital for immigration control you are lost. You are dividing worker from worker and promoting nationalism. You end up debating which workers should be excluded from Britain and in such a debate only the forces of the right can win. And if you want to be radical why just exclude? Why not deport? More jobs and houses to go round then! The problem is not foreigners but the capitalist control of production and we need to fight for workers unity if we are going to transcend capital and build socialism

    sandy

  257. brianthedog on said:

    #317 Sandy what you have just said (and to cut and paste a sentence from Calvin) has all the hallmarks of someone pushing the line of a sect without having thought it through.

  258. Of course if you’re in a sect you don’t have to think it through because you know that you’re never going to deliver it and hence never going to take responsibility for the consequences. It’s vacuous abstract graffiti which by definition could only be composed by a sect. It was never meant to be subject to scrutiny – it’s an expression of revolutionary purity, and not in any meaningful sense a policy.

  259. If open borders are predicated on the working class taking state power and international socialism, then why is Milliband, who, whether he ultimately believed in any of that, has the more modest goal of becoming prime minister of Britain, being condemned for not advocating them?

    On the other hand, if as Sandy argues, we should only be advocating open borders while there’s a capitalist state, does that mean that in the event that the revolution happened we would then close the borders? That would certainly make the idea of socialist revolution popular with a whole new layer of people.

    The problem with the way this issue, like so many contentious questions that are a concern, rightly or wrongly, to masses of working class people- including those who belong to ethnic minorities- are discussed by so many on the far left is that they are posed in terms that make it absolutely clear that these people have zero concept of the idea of having any responsibility or power in real terms.

    The society they advocate is an idealised big rock candy mountain which can only come about as a result of so many pre-conditions that they can be safe in the knowledge that the business of getting their hands dirty and taking responsibility for it isn’t going to be any day soon, if ever.

    And just for good measure the model to supposedly follow is a revolution that happened nearly a century ago which for the majority of them failed decades before most of the rest of the world realised it had.

    To devote large chunks of your free time and disposable income to such projects. What an attractive proposition!

  260. Jellytot on said:

    @312Purely anecdotal but the only time i can recall hearing anything in Canada that could be construed as anti-immigrant / immigration was whilst in Quebec.

    Some Quebec separatists blamed the ‘No’ vote by relatively recent immigrants for their loss of the incredibly close 1995 referendum on Quebec Sovereignty

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money_and_the_ethnic_vote

    If true then Canada can thank these voters for essentially keeping their country together.

  261. Manzil: Here you go. If that doesn’t work, I can upload elsewhere.
    Bloody mad that journal access is so restrictive.

    Thanks mate. Looks like an interesting article

    It does make sense that journals are only available to those who pay for them, otherwise the funding model would be unsustainable.

  262. Back to the main topic, is no one else suprised at the selective blindness where AWL members, especially Sasha, have not felt obliged to remark on this appalling comment posted on here by Jim Denham?

    Nooman = stooge of Assad. Should be shot on sight.

    Instead, Sasha underlines the threatening tone, with this passive-aggressive semi-threat:

    Sacha Ismail: Andy, you have really hurt yourself here.

  263. I’m sure there are a lot of problems with the AWL. That they require activity of members is not one of them. Counting passive donors as “members” is toxic to party democracy. It is also totally incompatible with any serious conception of a revolutionary party.

  264. Karl Stewart on said:

    I think Sandy’s got it more or less right at (317).
    Of course we on the left should support a policy of open borders – on the basis that human beings should be allowed to move freely.
    What’s wrong with arguing that human beings should be allowed to move around freely?

  265. skip: It is also totally incompatible with any serious conception of a revolutionary party.

    You might argue that sanity and common sense are totally incompatible with any serious conception of a “revolutionary party” in Britain, in 2012.

  266. Of course immigration controls dont apply to the rich- in general they can move freely between nations and the state wont interfere.
    Immigration controls are aimed at workers who must seek permission to leave their national prison.

    Once you start siding with your “own” boss class against other workers you are lost. As imperialism destroys large areas of the world and capitalism shows itself to be in decline and incapable of providing a future for humanity expect more fake “leftists” calling for tighter boarder controls. The alternative is to advocate socialism i.e. the working class coming together to take power and produce a good life for all

    sandy

  267. Back to the main topic, is no one else suprised at the selective blindness where AWL members, especially Sasha, have not felt obliged to remark on this appalling comment posted on here by Jim Denham?

    Jim Denham commented on it – he threatened you with violence again. In addition, he confirmed that you deserve to be shot on sight.

  268. Karl Stewart on said:

    good points Sandy,

    If you live in the Greater London area as I do, the best thing about it is the fact that there are so many people living here who were either born in other countries or whose parents were.

    For me, an out-of-towner on a day trip is more of a “foreigner” than the Polish family who live in another flat in my building and the Bengalis who run the shop downstairs.

  269. Calvin:

    Probably shouldn’t have highlighted you particularly, I was just trying to add to the debate that you were involved in. I agree with your comments about the AWL policies, but it does disturb me (not saying you think this) that a section of the British left is taking up the discourse that the opening of labour markets in 2004 to migrants from Central Eastern Europe was a mistake. This is what is being said by MIliband, whilst at the same time supporting a cut in the EU budget. Both of these policies are a backward step and undermine the most progressive elements of the EU.

  270. tony collins: Jim Denham commented on it – he threatened you with violence again. In addition, he confirmed that you deserve to be shot on sight.

    Thanks Tony, I overlooked it.

    For those of our readers who don’t have access to our spam bucket, this is what Jim Denham wrote:

    Absolutely hilarious, Nooman. If you want a punch-up any time, just get in touch. I promise not to have you shot on sight, although that’s what you deserve. Stalinist scum.

    Note, that no-one in the AWL has commented to say that they thought Jim Denham’s original comment, that I should be shot on sight, was unacceptable.

    For me, this completely justifies the acusation that they are a cult. NOt only the offensive reaction to any perceived threat to their group; but also the clear indulgence of Denham, just because he is a group insider.

  271. Karl Stewart: If you live in the Greater London area as I do, the best thing about it is the fact that there are so many people living here who were either born in other countries or whose parents were.

    True, most native Londoners are quite objectionable, so supplementing them with people born overseas can only improve the place.

    :)

  272. #325 Do you think that applies to all countries?

    Should Cuba have open borders? Should the DDR have had them?

    Genuine question btw.

    #328 I’m not surprised at all.

    It would be interesting to know what further action might be taken though- the individual concerned is a publically well known member of Unite (not sure of his position if any) and I’m sure my union has a dim view of those who advocate violence, particularly against another union activist.

    And no Liam, I am not advocating a witchhunt. I’m sure the FI still has a principle of opposing violence within the workers’ movement.

  273. Karl Stewart on said:

    Andy Newman: True, most native Londoners are quite objectionable, so supplementing them with people born overseas can only improve the place.

    Nice one! “…them lot in that there London with their fancy London ways….”

    Vanya:
    #325 Do you think that applies to all countries?
    Should Cuba have open borders? Should the DDR have had them?
    Genuine question btw.

    My view is I definitely think we should argue for open borders here in the UK today.

    I think open borders among the countries of the socialist community was right – as I understand it, the original intention of the USSR was that as nations became socialist, they would join it and the USSR would eventually become a world-wide union of socialist states.

  274. 333# Turning “socialist” Britain into a prison where people are not allowed to leave ( as in the DDR) would neither be socialist nor a vote winner. Keeping foreigners out is what Milliband and the “left” fakers propose. Even they dont suggest that British workers should be walled in!

    As to poor old Cuba- I dont think there are masses of people wanting to move there so immigration control by their government is probably not a big issue

    sandy

  275. Morning Star reader,

    Mark Ashton, the last full timer for the YCL had a certain Michael Barratt YCL membership stub stuck on the wall of his office in the rafters of St John Street- now knowing Mark he could have just done it for a laugh.

    According to wiki “In the late 1960s Stevens was associated with the Young Communist League (YCL), the youth wing of the Communist Party of Great Britain – playing at YCL events. At the time the YCL was associated with several leading music industry figures, including Pete Townshend.”

  276. Nick Fredman on said:

    andy newman: Coercive persuasion, and cult behaviour, exploit inherent featues in human psychology that also exhibit in normal collective organisation, so care needs to be taken not to confuse the display of some symptoms, with actually being a cult.

    Fair enough. DSP founder Jim Percy used to quip that upon viewing the madder sectarian one might usefully intone, “There but for the grace of God go I”.

  277. sandy: Turning “socialist” Britain into a prison where people are not allowed to leave ( as in the DDR) would neither be socialist nor a vote winner.

    But you do seem to have a rather austere vision of socialism yourself, how would you cope, if for example, all the skilled engineers were being poached by higher wages and a better life elsewhere?

  278. 338 Andy- All skilled workers would be put under round the clock surveillance and a curfew. No skilled worker would be allowed to leave the country. A big wall may be needed to keep workers in and the construction of such a wall would provide employment for all. Socialist murals could adorn the wall.

    Alternatively any workers who wanted to leave could.

    sandy

  279. Nick Fredman on said:

    lone nut: I wouldn’t hesitate to characterise the DSP as a cult – to be honest, any organisation that promotes the work of James Cannon merits the appellation. The irony is that I have much more sympathy for the DSP’s politics than would be the case with any Trotskyist group, and their theoretical journal, Links, is of genuine interest. Also it’s worth pointing out that the DSP has led struggles, that it emerged from an anti-Vietnam war activist group and that it puts significant efforts into providing a resource and communications base for the Pacific and south Asian left.

    Well there’s a nice case study in idealism. Judging cult status by a few books in an organisation’s bookshop rather than what it does in the class struggle.

    BTW any cognescenti of the Australian far left might be interested that one smallish chunk of the DSP that split in 2008 is joining the main IS group (but not part of the IST) Socialist Alternative, on the basis of the latter dropping state capitalism and calling for revolutionary unity. The greater part, that I remained with, “merged” into Socialist Alliance, which has developed into more of a broad revolutionary group, and is also having talks, more tentatively, with Socialist Alternative. The latter is a bit, well, intense, but has grown, opened up links locally and nationally and built up a Marxism conference that had 1000 people this year, the biggest socialist conference here since 1990. So interesting times here.

    Advocates of “mass politics” might feign a languid yawn but it’s worth considering that while there’s 1000-1500 members of far left groups here, Labor insiders have admitted ALP active membership is now barely a few thousand, and the Greens have disappointed many by increasingly accepting the neo-liberal agenda.

  280. lone nut on said:

    “Well there’s a nice case study in idealism. Judging cult status by a few books in an organisation’s bookshop rather than what it does in the class struggle.”
    I think the DSP’s relationship to Cannon goes beyond having a few of his books in its bookshops. In any case, if I saw a few books by L Ron Hubbard on somebody’s bookcase I think I would be entitled to make a similar “idealistic” judgement. And my assessment of the DSP is also based on contact with members of the organisation and its predecessor groups, going back to the days when it had, shall we say, somewhat different politics.

  281. sandy:
    Alternatively any workers who wanted to leave could.

    Serioulsy.

    Imagine that there was a socialist government in Brtain.

    Imagine that there wasn’t a socialist government in the USA, and the American government was hostile to socialism and therefore to the Uk government.

    Imagine that the US government was prepared to grant citizenship and a big increase in wages to any skilled workers coming from the UK.

    Imagine that the USA also combinded this with a massive propaganda campaign about how dreadful britain was.

    Imagine that there was consumer bling avaialble in the USA, that was not available in socialist britain, because the socialist government had democratcally decided on other priorites.

    You could easliy imagine critical skill shortages developing, as people voted wth their feet and went to America.. Your socialist government will therefore have to adddress those skill shortgaes, or the economy goes to helll in a hand cart.

    One option would be to increase pay differentials and privileges of skilled workers; the other would be to place travel restriction on them.

    You it seems would just appeal to their altruism. Good luck with that.

  282. Andy Newman: It does make sense that journals are only available to those who pay for them, otherwise the funding model would be unsustainable.

    I suppose; I just wish there was at least a rolling window, whereby things were made available after a certain period of time. That way institutions still have the incentive to subscribe, and people can actually have access to academic research. Otherwise journals don’t actually serve an educational role.

    Besides, let’s be honest; academics are so bloody in need of outside validation, they’d still publish things (online etc.) even if for-profit publishing collapsed in on itself. :D

  283. #342 In fairness it could be argued that a socialist government of the type you allude to would be unlikely to come into existence without a significant change in consciousness and therefore there would be an extent to which altruism as you call it would be a factor.

    After all the Cubans send doctors all over the place who could probably get better pay in the West but they don’t all get on their toes do they?

  284. Andy Newman: You might argue that sanity and common sense are totally incompatible with any serious conception of a “revolutionary party” in Britain, in 2012.

    Instead of citing right-wing sociological pseudoscience, it might have been easier for everyone if you just said in your article that the AWL are crazy because they are revolutiony socialists.

  285. Morning Star reader on said:

    Thanks Pete (336). I now think that Mike Barratt’s YCL membership must have been genuine, and I stand corrected. I had heard about him having a CPGB card a little later – and found it difficult to believe he would have had any continuity of Communist affiliation. Perhaps my source was mistaken!

  286. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Andy Newman: Serioulsy.Imagine that there was a socialist government in Brtain.Imagine that there wasn’t a socialist government in the USA, and the American government was hostile to socialism and therefore to the Uk government.Imagine that the US government was prepared to grant citizenship and a big increase in wages to any skilled workers coming from the UK.Imagine that the USA also combinded this with a massive propaganda campaign about how dreadful britain was.Imagine that there was consumer bling avaialble in the USA, that was not available in socialist britain, because the socialist government had democratcally decided on other priorites.You could easliy imagine critical skill shortages developing, as people voted wth their feet and went to America.. Your socialist government will therefore have to adddress those skill shortgaes, or the economy goes to helll in a hand cart.One option would be to increase pay differentials and privileges of skilled workers; the other would be to place travel restriction on them.You it seems would just appeal to their altruism. Good luck with that.

    I think all these things would be likely to happen. Indeed, in the 1960s and 1970s, if not later, there were Americans who thought the UK was practically a Communist country, esp. when Labour was in power. An actually socialist Britain would have faced various attempts to undermine it from across the pond. Indeed, it might have gone even further, with at least threats of war and actual subversion, and opposition parties and groups, perhaps even ones with a “left” cover, receiving “democracy promotion” money from US governments and private foundations.

  287. You lot are witch-hunting scum, and appear to be in the pay of (or, if not, offering your services free iof charge to) the right wing of the labour movement. You will be hunted down and punished, I personally promise.

  288. Tim Vanhoof on said:

    Rorschach, “The AWL is a horrible outfit; not as bad as the RCP or ‘Fight Racism’ perhaps but ghastly nonetheless.”

    The AWL is actively racist and pro-imperialist and therefore much worse than the RCG et al.

  289. I note that no one from the AWL has been prepared to distance themselves from Jim Denham’s threats of violence.

    Here is anothr one from Boxing day posted by that long term AWL member:

    Submitted on 2012/12/26 at 6:30 pm
    You lot are witch-hunting scum, and appear to be in the pay of (or, if not, offering your services free iof charge to) the right wing of the labour movement. You will be hunted down and punished, I personally promise.

  290. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    Andy I would just like to say, and meant to say earlier, that as a long term opponent of the AWL primarily for their terrible pro-imperialist politics, I also appreciate this different, more sociological critique of them and don’t share the criticisms of it that have been made above. A good ten minutes work I say =)

  291. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    ps for those of you who haven’t followed the whole thread, “10 minutes work” isn’t meant to diss or diminish Andy’s effort, just how long he said it took to edit this down from another source!

  292. Jara.Handala on said:

    Andy Newman,

    re #350

    Andy, you say unambiguously that that disgraceful posting was by Jim Denham but is it possible it was posted by someone else using his name?

    Please tell us why it had to have been done by him.

    Thank you.

    And best wishes to everyone involved in keeping the blog and comments going.

  293. I’m not gonna say exactly how we know, but on the web it’s possible to identify a number of factors, from hardware and software to location and style, which can give you a large degree of accuracy in working out if someone is who they say they are.

    And it starts from the fact that he has a reputation for threatening violence against people in the movement, and the AWL has a reputation for letting him get away with it.

  294. Danial young on said:

    What a fucked up Leninist line you cats have.Seems like a party Stanalist,with all the put downs.What hope socialism in all your bigoted knowing.

  295. Jara.Handala on said:

    I don’t think my comment covers old ground because although I haven’t read all of this long thread the search engine came up empty.

    The standard writings on the cultness of far left groups are by Dennis Tourish & Tim Wohlforth; the former was a Militant full-timer in Ireland, the latter the ex-leader of the US ‘Healyites’. Not surprisingly they draw on their own experiences.

    The 1998 Tourish article, ‘Ideological Intransigence, Democratic Centralism and Cultism: A Case Study’, is online (with a 2003 introduction by him), as is a review of the 2000 Tourish & Wohlforth book, On the Edge: Political Cults Right and Left (amazon lists the book but has no excerpts). The review, by the ex-WRP Bob Pitt, refers to Sean Matgamna.

    http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/pages/back/wnext27/intro.html
    http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/pages/back/wnext27/cults.html
    http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/pages/back/wnext17/reviews.html#review1

    Obviously all far left groups should give these materials to each prospective member, & obviously they won’t. The revolving door keeps revolving – and doing its damage, albeit miniscule compared to the carnage wreaked by the accommodations offered up by reformists.

  296. Bloody hell, missed this. Actually it reads like a reprint of a document published by the right wing of Labour Students in the late 80s, almost word for word. That was when the LP was banning SO and expelling a number of its members. I read this article to be calling for something similar in the trades unions.

    What made me chortle back in the 80s when I saw the original, was the portrayal of life in SO as being undending paper sales, iron discipline and so on. My memory is that only the IMG were worse at it that than us. Which probably explains a lot.

    There is one issue that I do want to debunk is the description of SO’s student work. SO was close to winning leadership of the NUS on more than once, due to the hard work at a grass roots and national level and non good campaigning. The picture painted of conning FE students is a nonsense. Both the SWP and Militant panicked as SO started to grow and started to back NOLS candidates in preference to SSIN/SO in key elections: the former using the middle east as a pretext, the later didn’t need one, we were ‘a sect’. The low point when both the SWP and Militant worked with NOLS to get SO students thrown off the NUS Executive. I could go on Not everything we did was great and we made mistakes, but we had a real go at trying to mobilise a lot of young people and for our size did well. This account of those times and my experiences of the AWL could not be further from Newman’s.