The SWP’s descent into liberalism

First off, it’s important to put things in their proper perspective. The SWP is a far left sect that is and has been mired in irrelevancy for a number of years now. From its high water mark, when it played a central role in the antiwar movement during its peak years around 2003-04, until today, it has suffered a steep decline in the quality of its analysis and with it anything resembling influence, traction, or effectiveness. It represents the fag-end of British Trotskyism, the political residue left lying forlorn and decaying on the beach after the tide of the left’s fortunes ran out long before now.

Cheap gestures have increasingly replaced serious politics when it comes to an organisation whose rapidly diminishing ranks reflects its embrace of liberalism. In concrete terms this amounts to positions that are almost indistinguishable from those regularly carried in the pages of the Guardian. A party that once stood resolute in its resistance to the war on Iraq in 2003, a war ultimately justified by the then Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on the premise that Iraq was ruled by a ruthless dictator, Saddam Hussein, who represses his own people, is the party which stood on the side of NATO in its military intervention in Libya in 2011, justified on the basis that Colonel Gaddafi was a ruthless dictator who represses his own people. More recently, the SWP has been a vociferous supporter of the western-backed, Saudi-armed Syrian opposition in a brutal civil war that presages the dying gasp of Arab nationalism.

But this and other political missteps pale in comparison to the following paragraph from a report in the most recent edition of Socialist Worker, the SWP’s weekly newspaper, on the upcoming by-election in Croydon in which Respect are standing the respected and dedicated anti-racist campaigner Lee Jasper.

“Respect’s Lee Jasper has tapped into anger around police racism in the Croydon run-off. But Socialist Worker is not calling for a vote for him, following Respect leader George Galloway’s disgraceful and well-publicised comments on rape. Instead we encourage supporters to vote for Labour in this instance.”

Just think about this for a moment. A revolutionary socialist organisation, presumably proud of its commitment to the interests of the working class at home and its record of opposition to Britain’s wars abroad, has come out and endorsed the candidate of a party of war, privatisation, inequality, and neoliberalism, rather than the candidate of a party that has opposed all of the aforementioned consistently and vigorously since its formation in 2004.

And the reason? George Galloway’s podcast on Julian Assange, during which the MP for Bradford West emphatically and unapologetically asserted that the rape allegations levelled against the founder and editor-in-chief of Wikileaks were concocted with the objective of securing his detention by the Swedish authorities, preparatory to his extradition to the United States over the role of Wikileaks in revealing the high crimes committed by the US in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Even supposing you disagreed with Galloway’s comments, and there were those on the left who did, are we really saying they are enough to invalidate three decades of principled and tireless work championing the plight of the Palestinians, his unwavering anti imperialism and anti racism, his decades spent campaigning for social and economic justice at home, his work as not just ‘a’ but ‘the’ leading voice of the international antiwar movement, earning him the undying enmity of the political establishment and its bag carriers in the liberal media, which surprise surprise has led the witchhunt against him in reaction to the podcast?

If the SWP felt strongly enough not to endorse the Respect candidate in this by-election, it could have refused to endorse any candidate. It could have endorsed the Communist candidate. It could even have endorsed the ‘Nine Eleven Was An Inside Job’ candidate. But, no, it instead chooses to endorse the Labour candidate. And not just any Labour candidate, mind you, but Labour councillor Steve Reed, a man who’s been described as more Blairite than Tony Blair.

On a wider note, the stench of moralism has come to engulf the far left in recent years, illustrative of the yawning gap that has opened up between it and the constituency it claims to represent – the working class. This has manifested in the rise of identity politics and lifestylism as the fulcrum of political activity to the detriment of class. The result has been an inexorable lapse into the kind of political degeneration represented by this endorsement in the pages of the Socialist Worker.

Leon Trotsky, whose political legacy the SWP purports to uphold, was one of the 20th century’s most influential and inspirational thinkers, someone whose personal courage helped inspire a revolution that left the international ruling class trembling in its boots. Many of Trotsky’s works and statements have stood the test of time, none more so than this admonition, which could have been written with today’s Socialist Workers Party in mind.

“‎The party that leans upon the workers but serves the bourgeoisie, in the period of the greatest sharpening of the class struggle, cannot but sense the smells wafted from the waiting grave.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

494 comments on “The SWP’s descent into liberalism

  1. Venceremos on said:

    I agree with your assessment that the SWP was seriously disorientated on Libya and continues to be so on Syria too. These days the SWP cannot seem to tell the difference between a revolution and an imperialist-backed counter-revolution. I think the source of its errors here is wishful thinking. Counterfire’s positions on these conflicts were much sounder.

    The SWP’s failure to call for support for Respect’s Lee Jasper (and Yvonne Ridley?) and its call instead for a vote for Labour–at a time when both of the latter appear to be in with a chance of defeating the latter–is also muddle-headed. Let us recall that Assange is INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY although you wouldn’t know that from reading the bourgeois (and some of the left) media. The circumstances surrounding the allegations against Assange are very murky indeed. I challenge anyone to read this detailed, factual account of what took place in Sweden and later the UK and conclude that they are not.

    http://wlcentral.org/node/2486

    Like the UK and Australian governments, Sweden’s Moderate government is a US lapdog and the UK and Swedish governments have both actively participated in extraordinary rendition. They are both collaborating with the US to persecute Assange and discredit Wikileaks.

    Galloway’s podcast on the Assange issue was clearly motivated by an attempt to defend him against a deadly witch hunt on the part of the US and its allies because of Wikileaks revelations which have seriously damaged their interests. Assange faces eternal incarceration in some US hell hole like Bradley Manning or even the death penalty. In doing so Galloway was right to draw attention to the murky circumstances surrounding the allegations. However, he also made the mistake of trying to belittle the allegations of sexual misconduct. He also revealed his own rather old fashioned and outdated notions of what constitutes rape. Ideas about what does and does not constitute rape have been evolving since the 1970s and today there is a far more nuanced concept of what it is and is not rape. A woman (or man in a gay relationship) has the right to say no in the morning even if s/he consented to it the night before.

    Galloway had the good grace to accept some of the criticism and clarify his position as follows:

    ‘No never means yes and non-consensual sex is rape. There’s no doubt about it and that has always been my position. But if my remarks on the podcast need clarification I am happy to do that.”

    See: http://www.votegeorgegalloway.com/2012/08/statement-on-assange-controversy.html

    It is clear from this unambiguous statement that Galloway does not support rape.

    In view of this, the SWP’s reasoning for not calling for a vote for Respect in Croydon North (and Rotherham?) is flawed and reactionary. It is allowing itself to become a useful idiot in Anglo-American imperialism’s games of divide and rule. I hope that the SWP leadership will think again on these issues.

  2. The SWP are wrong on the Croydon North bye election. But the rest of the article is just pointless ad-hominem bile. yawn.

    The SWP could have done better in building a nationwide anti-austerity united front, a task they are suited to fulfill. Without such a united front, we have surrendered the initiative in calling national demonstrations to the TUC. But despite its faults, the SWP are not irrelevant, or to be dismissed in this cringingly sectarian way. grip. get one.

  3. albacore on said:

    Barry Kade:
    The SWP are wrong on the Croydon North bye election. But the rest of the article is just pointless ad-hominem bile.

    Pretty much agree with this. The Croydon reasoning seems bizarre but John can’t be surprised by a call for a Labour vote, surely, since this has been the SWP line for most of the last 3 decades.

    I think it’s a sign of my age, but I can’t seem to recall the details of the uprising against Saddam Hussein. Perhaps, John, you could give me the highlights.

  4. Jellytot on said:

    @3The Croydon reasoning seems bizarre but John can’t be surprised by a call for a Labour vote, surely, since this has been the SWP line for most of the last 3 decades.

    Not an unbroken line though.

    In the 2001 and 2005 General Elections I don’t think they did call for a Labour Vote. They called for a SA and RESPECT vote respectively in those campaigns. It was their going back to calling for a Labour vote in the 2010 GE that caused some consternation within the Party I understand.

  5. The SWP has changed its position. http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=30100 now says it “cannot campaign for” Lee Jasper because of Galloway’s comments. It says that an “editorial error” led to the paper calling for a vote for Labour. They’ve said they’re not endorsing any candidate in tha by-election.

    I think this shows that the strong, and very political, backlash against the SWP leadership’s position has had an effect. They are clearly susceptible to pressure – and given how many of their own members have voiced alarm over the call for a vote for Labour, I don’t think it’s far off the mark to say that the CC has been put under enormous pressure from both inside and outside the party.

    Well done to them for being willing to change their minds, whether or not they explain it away as an editorial error.

    I still strongly disagree with the idea that Galloway’s comments about rape mean that you can’t campaign for anyone in the party, but that’s a world away from advocating a vote for a Blairite.

    So, well done to the party for its change of mind.

  6. stephen marks on said:

    I’m not aware that the SWP ever supported NATO intervention in Libya. Perhaps John can quote chapter and verse? Of course they did initially support the popular uprising against Gaddafi, until NATO intervened militarily when afaik they took the view that the NATO military intervention was then the decisive factor. I suppose John might argue that from his point of view that means they were initially confused – but at least they came down on the right side in the end.

    Unlike a prominent left activist I can think of who moved in the opposite direction, namely starting by opposing NATO intervention, and then supporting it. Who might that be? None other than Yvonne Ridley! See

    http://www.redress.cc/global/yridley20110430

    Does that mean Respect is at least tainted with liberalism and pro-imperialism?

    Of course there are others at Socialist Unity who like to imply that left organisations they disagree with are somehow taking their political line from Special Branch agents. So how about this, also on Yvonne Ridley?

    ‘Her second husband was a detective with Northumbria Police.[6] During her time on the Sunday Sun newsdesk, she told colleagues she was an officer in the Territorial Army, based on Teesside, specialising in intelligence. She had also told the same to colleagues on the Northern Echo’. See

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

    I should immediately point out that I am definitely NOT accusing Yvonne of either of these things. I am just pointing out the ridiculous implications of the sort of political Tourette’s Sydrome which some at SU think is an acceptable form of political debate on the left.

    I would also draw the line at making political capital out of the fact that she sent her daughter to a private school since as she has pointed out, that decision was taken before she changed her outlook, became a Muslim, and joined Respect. However that view is not shared by everyone at SU, some at least of whom think it is a black mark against her. Who might be the ‘scab’ in question (to quote what apparently is the current acceptable term of abuse at SU for anyone who disagrees with voting for Respect)? Why, none other than comrade Andy Newman!

    See;

    http://socialistunity.blogspot.co.uk/2007/01/ridleys-shame-haunts-respect.html

  7. Jellytot on said:

    @6Well done to them for being willing to change their minds, whether or not they explain it away as an editorial error.

    Yes, there is nothing wrong with admitting a mistake and correcting the position, however, the “editorial error” stuff is risible.

    Will we have SWP supporters on here arguing a reversal of the line “June 22nd 1941″ style ?

    It does beg the question though about how this bunch can be expected to make the correct, vital and bullet-fast decisions in the crucible of a future British Revolution. In theory, that’s what they promote themselves as being.

    @7I should immediately point out that I am definitely NOT accusing Yvonne of either of these things.

    No, you’re just inferring it.

  8. anticapitalista on said:

    tony collins:
    The SWP has changed its position. http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=30100
    I still strongly disagree with the idea that Galloway’s comments about rape mean that you can’t campaign for anyone in the party, but that’s a world away from advocating a vote for a Blairite.

    So, well done to the party for its change of mind.

    I agree with you on this Tony as I think calling for a ‘critical’ vote for RESPECT would actually benefit the SWP much more than abstaining. Of course, it would also benefit the whole of the Left if RESPECT get a high vote.

  9. The SWP did not support NATO intervention in Libya but Yvonne Ridley did? So when we add in the fact that the SWP opposes western intervention in Syria and does in fact not call for a Labour vote in Croydon, where does this leave this thread opener?

  10. Neil Williams on said:

    Socialist Worker: “Note: An earlier version of this article called for a vote for Labour in the Croydon North by-election. This was an editorial error. Socialist Worker is not endorsing any of the candidates in the Croydon North by-election.”

    So an editorial error!! (how can a clear statement for a vote for Labour be an editorial error??). But better late than never and i can only assume that many rank and file SWP members have spoken up tonight aganist the idea of a Labour vote, so well done to them. But the SWP position in Croydon is still wrong as it calls for “not endorsing any of the candidates”. All on the Left should be supporting Lee Jasper the Respect candidate as the best left candidate there being no TUSC candidate in Croydon.

  11. Surely if Respect selected a candidate that backed NATO intervention in Libya the argument advanced in the thread opener falls, hypocrisy reigns and credibility is shot.

  12. stuart,

    Does she really?

    I had heard that she wobbled on this particularly in the days when NATO was claiming to be protecting the Libyan people from being massacred.

    This is why any support that Respect gets needs to be critical. We need to develop a more coherent critique of left reformism, including the militant left reformism of Respect, that has many weaknesses and contradictions.

    Her error here seems not that different from that of the SWP over the North of Ireland in 1969 when they refused to call for the withdrawal of British Troops on the grounds that they were the only thing that stood in the way of a masscre by Loyalists.

    I wonder what her position is on this now?

  13. stuart,

    Its a pretty feeble nail to hang this on though isn’t it? So Ridley was soft on ‘humanitarian intervention’ in Libya. She is still standing for a party that opposes these things pretty vociferously as far as i can see. That is (or may be) her contradiction.

    I don’t believe she claims to be a revolutionary. The SWP do. That is the difference.

  14. I would say that the SWP have taken their eye off the ball with their editorials because they are caught up in another faction fight. Martin Smith is getting thrown off the CC as more reports of his extra-ciricular activities have come to light, and they also trying to work out how their ex youth wing could pull off the Radical Independence Conference in Glasgow with 900 in attendance !
    http://www.thepointhowever.org/index.php/issues/126-radical-independence-conference

    http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2012/11/25/radical-independence-conference-3-observations/

  15. redscribe,

    How is Respect opposing ‘these things pretty vociferously’ if they select a candidate you describe as soft? There is simply no basis for lecturing others. End of.

  16. stephen marks on said:

    Just to clarify – my point was neither to damn Yvonne Ridley nor to come to the rescue of the SWP but rather to point out the absurd consequences of the political method of some at SU who cannot deal with a genuine disagreement on the left without denouncing their opponents as ‘descending into liberalism’, or making dark innuendoes about ‘police agents’.

    It is depressing that those who are the first to protest – no doubt with justice – at being described as ‘Stalinists’ are often the first to adopt the polemical methods of a prosecutor at a Moscow purge trial.

    And just for the record – like Andy Newman I am a member of the Labour Party, so in all the byelections I would of course be voting for the Labour candidate.

  17. The problem isn’t so much the SWP’s 30 year position on urging workers to vote Labour (although i think that is a 3D problem – Dishonest, Distasteful and Disastrous).

    The main issue for them (and, necessarily for the larger Left, due to the relative size of the SWP compared to other groups), is how do ‘ordinary’ members challenge (let alone change) that shiboleth, or indeed any other strand of the organisations policy?

    Could some comrade turn up to a branch meeting and get a proper hearing if they were to suggest a change of national line? If they were to convince the majority in their branch, would the debate be taken forward and discussed on a wider basis leading to the prospect of a changed position?

    i doubt it. Far more likely that the dissenting voices would be unpleasantly squashed by a combination of full timers and local hacks who regard it as their Leninist duty to mistrust the less advanced members at the periphery.

    Its a sad situation really, because many of the comrades are among the best and most consistent fighters for social justice.

    Anyway, all that aside, does it not occur to the SWP that simply remaining silent on the Labour issue is preferable to asking workers to vote for the warmongering freemarketeers. If a recommendation is thought necessary then it surely ought to be one of voting socialist/communist – not capitalist?

  18. stuart,

    “End Of.”

    Wow, very jumpy.

    It would be interesting to know her current views on Libya.

    If they are in tune with those of Galloway and the bulk of the Respect supporters who I know, and who post here, then all you can say is that she wobbled under pressure.

    Plenty of people do that and you don’t simply write them off.

    The SWP know these things.

    They had no problem criticially supporting Ken Livingstone in the past when he stood against Labour, even though he had supported ‘humanitarian intervention’ in Kosovo.

    He was standing as an independent at the time, so his views carried more weight than that of an individual whose party policy is clearly to oppose such ‘humanitarian’ imperialist intervention.

    If her views are not in tune with Respect, then Respect are going to have problems with her.

    As long as the political outlook of Respect does not change, then she might cause them problems, depending on her own evolution.

    That’s the most you can say about this. Plenty of otherwise good people wobbled over Libya, as even Richard Seymour recognised. The sudden shrill tone is self-serving.

  19. redscribe,

    The points you raise are not in themselves invalid, but that’s a separate matter. My beef is with the thread opener. It doesn’t stand up as a credible piece of work in its own right. It fails on its own terms.

  20. Dave Riley on said:

    I have followed this blog, and participated in its exchanges, for years. I’m no SWP groupie by any means. I think they are a large sect who often gets it right. But I know shit analysis when I see it . “Socialist UNITY” is a total scam today…and I’m forever out of here …In the meantime you lot can lurch further rightward under the umbrella of Labourism…but without me having any desire whatsoever of joining Andy Newman in this apologist mission.

  21. Why should the SWP call for a vote for Respect when its only MP and highest profile member excuses rape without any disciplinary action taken against him? Imagine if a leading member of any other left of Labour organisation made the same comments as Galloway? Their credibility would be wrecked. Some alternative to Labour that is!

    If Respect want to be taken seriously as an alternative to Labour again then they need to deal with Galloway and the comments he made. The argument that the left just ignores the rape comments and it’s business as usual does not wash. The whole of Respect is tainted by Galloway’s comments because it has done nothing about them.

  22. There is by the way a ridiculous characterisation of the Labour Party in this “debate” as if it were a centre-right party, which of course it is not.

    Some of us may lack enthusiasm for the candidate in Croydon, and have concerns about the selection process in Rotherham, but ONLY Labour represents a credible alternative government, and therefore only WITHIN the context of supporting a future Labour election victory can we discuss government alternatives to austerity.

    To ignore that context is simply self indulgence

  23. Critical Reading on said:

    John Wight’s article begins with the outrageous claim that the SWP “stood on the side of NATO in its military intervention in Libya in 2011.” You only have to use the search function at Socialist Worker to come up with numerous articles that show that this statement is the exact opposite of the truth. This one from March of 2011 is pretty representative: http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=24253. After that it’s impossible to take anything else the author says seriously.

  24. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Post 28 says “but ONLY Labour represents a credible alternative government, and therefore only WITHIN the context of supporting a future Labour election victory can we discuss government alternatives to austerity. To ignore that context is simply self indulgence”

    A pot and kettle analysis here! To suggest that the Labour is different in its political programme to the ConDem government on the question of the austerity programme is pure fantasy.

    As for the critique against the SWP its whole political theory and programme is not consistent which always invokes twists and turns and somersaults whether in the international field, as in Egypt less than a week ago, or the national area, whether it be something like the their outlook on the Lindsay Strike or on the Labour Party. Unfortunately, the politics of the SWP have been and are a major obstacle to building a strong working class socialist movement on a principled basis. Something the Labour party cannot do because it is has become a “centre-right party” because it has changed from being a worker’s party with a pro-capitalist leadership in the past to a completely capitalist party.

    What is important is the building of a principled independent working class force, whether in Britain or internationally, as a means to put forward a programme to oppose the capitalist austerity policy and to show that socialism is the only way to end the problems of the working class.

  25. Critical Reading: You only have to use the search function at Socialist Worker to come up with numerous articles that show that this statement is the exact opposite of the truth. This one from March of 2011 is pretty representative: http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=24253.

    This is disingenuous. The only way the rebels in Libya defeated the regime, the only way they could have defeated the regime, was with the aid of NATO’s no-fly zone, which amounted to an air war against Gaddafi. So to say that you are against NATO intervention while supporting an opposition completely reliant on NATO intervention isn’t credible.

  26. Karl Stewart on said:

    Ray:
    Why should the SWP call for a vote for Respect when its only MP and highest profile member excuses rape without any disciplinary action taken against him?Imagine if a leading member of any other left of Labour organisation made the same comments as Galloway?Their credibility would be wrecked.Some alternative to Labour that is!
    If Respect want to be taken seriously as an alternative to Labour again then they need to deal with Galloway and the comments he made.The argument that the left just ignores the rape comments and it’s business as usual does not wash.The whole of Respect is tainted by Galloway’s comments because it has done nothing about them.

    You’re lying Ray. Galloway’s position on the crime of rape is:

    “No never means yes and non-consensual sex is rape. There’s no doubt about it and that has always been my position.”

    Galloway also made it clear that the claims made by one person who claimed to have chosen to have had consensual sex with Assange a few years ago did not, even if true, amount to rape.

    He was absolutely right.

    As to the SWP’s view on who to vote for in today’s by-elections, if you guys don’t politically support Respect then don’t vote for them, but do that for honest political reasons. I wouldn’t vote Respect myself.

    But stop spreading the CIA’s lies – a man’s life is at stake here.

  27. George Hallam on said:

    andy newman: ONLY Labour represents a credible alternative government

    Depending on how one interprets the phrase ‘credible alternative’ this statement is either trivially true or false.

    In terms of conventional politics (as presented to us by the media) ‘Labour’ is the alternative to the present government (possibly in alliance with the Liberal Democrats).

    The scare quotes around ‘Labour’ are to alert people to the fact that what we are talking about here is the shaddow cabinet, or, more narrowly, Ed Miliband.

    Of course this media image is determined by the political establishment. By definition a parliamentary grouping only get to be an alternative government if, and only if, they are ‘credible’, i.e. a ‘safe pair of hands’.

    So in this, trivial, sense Labour is the only credible alternative government.

    The problem is that in order to maintain this status the leaders of the Labour party have to commit themselves to an agenda of the British political establishment. That is, to a set of policies that are essentially the same those of the present government.

    So for those of us who are not part of the establishment these policies don’t seem very credible. Correspondingly any government committed to them doesn’t seem like much of an alternative.

    In this sense the statement “ONLY Labour represents a credible alternative government” is false.

  28. Dave Riley: I have followed this blog, and participated in its exchanges, for years. I’m no SWP groupie by any means. I think they are a large sect who often gets it right. But I know shit analysis when I see it . “Socialist UNITY” is a total scam today…and I’m forever out of here …In the meantime you lot can lurch further rightward under the umbrella of Labourism…but without me having any desire whatsoever of joining Andy Newman in this apologist mission.

    See Dave this sort of comment is unfair. You’re only seeing what you want to see. There has been nowhere else on the British left where you will have seen the depth of analysis over recent events in Gaza, and nowhere else on the left where you’d have been able to read reviews of sports books mixed with discussions about local union disputes.

    That’s what’s silly about your comment. This site represents a serious, hard, left-wing current, and of the 3 people who run it, 2 are resolutely not Labourist – what we know is, we want to create space for the debate. And we do so, which is why our readership is going up.

    If you don’t like an article, that’s fine, don’t read it. But if you look back at the hundreds of articles published this year, you’ll see that you are drastically mischaracterising both this site and the articles it publishes.

    Actually, all of us agree that there’s very rarely any point in writing about the SWP. An interesting point is that whenever we do, it is taken to be a representation of the entire output of this site. Well, you’ve had over 10,000 words just about Gaza in the last week alone. Were none of them worthy of comment?

    You’re free to come and go. But at least be honest about it. This site carries loads of fantastic articles by excellent writers. If I had my way, I’d never talk about the SWP again. But they do have this habit of doing utterly wretched, ultra-left things that have an impact on the politics of the left. Dave, you’ll know from your own experience that the SWP really pisses people off – and not in the good way, where it could get right under your skin and force you to rethink your politics.

    I’ve got sympathy with those who say we shouldn’t run articles like this. That’s politically honest. Even when we were discussing this article yesterday, we all knew that the impulse behind the article was anger at the damage the SWP’s method does on the left. But if people don’t like this type of aricle, that’s fair enough.

    To jump from that to essentially saying that the 1 in 300 (or fewer) articles that are about the SWP are the most important ones on this site and that they make you decide never to even read its excellent articles again, well that’s just not honest Dave.

    You’ve got good experience and opinions and your outside-the-UK viewpoint is always worth hearing. Instead of declaring yourself in exile, you’re way better off mixing it up in the comments threads – and again, if you’re honest with yourself and go back and read our threads about economics or Gaza or Syria or Greece, you’ll see a serious, thoughtful, weighty debate in the comments that actually in some cases far outweighs the original article. There aren’t many sites on the left that do this – and there certainly aren’t any sites in the UK that are so resolutely anti-imperialist. We’ve never wavered or got confused about the role of the left in the UK over Libya and Syria. That’s worth 10,000 tetchy articles about dumb decisions by the SWP. And it’s worth you spending your time reading and commenting on :)

  29. John Grimshaw on said:

    Ho, hum!
    1. I fail to understand the need for this thread beginner. There seems to be no analysis or conclusion. In fact given the long silent space at the end one wonders if it was even finished. On a previous thread discussion Tony elequently explained why an SP comrade’s sectarian comments about the SWP were stupid, unneccessary and unhelpful. Especially given that SU isn’t the SP’s blog and that surely they must have plenty of their own in which to indulge themselves. Why then give over time on SU to do exactly the same?
    2. If the intention of comrade Wight is to start a meaningful discussion about the attitude of the Left towards electoral politics well and good. Although I suspect this was not his intention (see 1 above) as he presuambly knows that his article would then just encourage more boring contributions of the who did what when type. As indeed it mostly has.
    3. If I remember correctly the position of the SWP on elections was covered by the phrase “vote Labour but with no illusions” which was then changed when after the election of Labour after 1997 the SWP and others threw themselves into electoral activity. In my view little came out of this activity despite valiant efforts. The problems were two fold. First, objectively the Left electoral alliances were unable to gain enough critical mass to act as a credible alternative to Labour. The issue in my view was how to explain to the working class what the Left electoral alliances were standing for in a non-revolutionary situation, when in any case to many the party of Labour was already in power. Secondly, subjectively the Left, as usual, was hamstrung by the inevitable in-fighting and sectarianism. The attitude of the SP is one such example as was the SWP’s towards Respect which saw it as a vehicle for its own use. The constant failure of the Left to set up meaningful internal democratic structures whilst trying to argue that if they got elected they would fight for a more democratic society is some what contradictory. With hindsight I now believe that electoral mpolitics for the revolutionary left is for the moment at least a waste of time (ultra-left hey! Well someone’s gotta do it). There are of course plenty of activities the Left could be (indeed is, but perhaps not enough) involved in. Of course it is not necessarily a waste of time for the non-revolutionary Left and comrades can decide what they are.
    4. So given 3. above that still leaves the thorny question of what would I tell the imaginary worker in the pub when she says “who do I vote for they’re all the same.” Well having looked at the list of candidates for Croydon North I’d have to say its a really tricky one. A long list of rightists, nationalists and self-servers. My inclination would be not to vote, were it not for the fact that the far right is standing. If I thought they had a genuine chance of winning I’d say vote Labour, if they haven’t which I presume is the case I’d say vote Respect (although voting for either candidate sticks in the craw). So a purely tactical vote. I do not support either organisation. In a different constituency with a more genuine Left candidate or Labour candidate I would vote for them. I don’t believe that the SWP (to use them as an example) would argue for a principled stand against say Corbyn on the grounds that he is in a “New Labour” party would they?

  30. John Grimshaw: There seems to be no analysis or conclusion.

    The analysis explores the SWP’s degeneration over the past few years, for which I cite examples, culminating in this statement, which has since been partly withdrawn.

    The conclusion is the Trotsky quote, which describes the lapse into liberalism that I argue is what has happened to the SWP.

    I understand if you disagree with the article, and the analysis and conclusion, but to suggest there is none is false.

  31. George Hallam: By definition a parliamentary grouping only get to be an alternative government if, and only if, they are ‘credible’, i.e. a ‘safe pair of hands’.

    No, Labour are credible as an alternative government because they alone could win sufficient votes in sufficient constituencies to have a House of Commons majority, so that consequenty it would be the leader of the Labour party invited to Buckingham Palace to kiss the hands of her Majesty and form a government.

  32. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    I largely agree with the article, as it notes features of the SWP I have also been observing over the past few years. But I don’t think the SWP is “irrelevant”. It is a large enough organisation for its wrong turns to do actual harm. In contrast, something like Workers Power doesn’t do much harm by being wrong – it just does not have the weight to matter.

  33. Morning Star reader on said:

    John Grimshaw and others will be relieved to know that there is a genuine left candidate in Croydon North, active on the Trades Council, active in the local anti-cuts movement, opposed to all imperialist wars and interventions etc. etc. See http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/126623.
    No attacks on other left parties or candidates (unless the Labour candidate can be considered as such), no smears, no posturing … oh dear, that won’t do at all, will it.

  34. John,

    Absolutely! We should support popular uprisings against dictatorships, but only on the very strict condition that they do the decent thing and allow themselves to be defeated and massacred, rather than do anything we western lefties might regard as “politically incorrect”.

    To paraphrase Meatloaf…..”You can do anything you need to in order to win….but you can’t do THAT”.

    You can be opposed to Western military intervention in places like Libya whilst still recognising the right of the people actually doing the fighting to call for it. They are different things.

    Yes….it was right for the Left here to oppose western intervention and demand the arming of the rebels so that they could control their own rebellion. But it didn’t happen and wasn’t going to.

    But the notion that we should just “switch off” support the moment that they make a decision of their own that we don’t like is risible, and ultimately, not very anti-imperialist either.

  35. thetrotdog on said:

    ….Get real!
    “[Note: An earlier version of this article called for a vote for Labour in the Croydon North by-election. This was an editorial error. Socialist Worker is not endorsing any of the candidates in the Croydon North by-election.]” http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=30100
    …and from the local SWP branch blog http://www.croydonrebels.org/blog.html for weeks it has had articles up with quotes from Lee and one on Reed which clearly stated:
    “Councillor Reed is not a choice designed to help Labour pose to the left. He is a arch Blairite who has overseen swinging cuts to services in Lambeth. Under his leadership the council group has victimised left leaning councillor Kingsley Abrams for abstaining on the cuts budget which has devastated children’s services in Lambeth.”

  36. George Hallam on said:

    Andy Newman: No, Labour are credible as an alternative government because they alone could win sufficient votes in sufficient constituencies to have a House of Commons majority, so that consequenty it would be the leader of the Labour party invited to Buckingham Palace to kiss the hands of her Majesty and form a government.

    This is predictably jejune.

    “When the political class use the word “credibility”, they don’t intend it to be a testable proposition. It is, instead, a political “X factor” – something ill-defined but nevertheless desirable in leaders. So, for example, when the Telegraph asks “is Labour’s EU policy credible?” it could have replaced “credible” with “reasonable” or “correct”. But to have done so would have invited rational analysis in a way that “credible” does not.

    Used this way, “credibility” serves an ideological function, in three ways:….”

    For more see http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2012/11/credibility.html

  37. Lee Jasper and Livingstone’s GLA lapdog did the dirty big time in laying on really heavy duty police ops to oppose the May First central London demo’s a few years back and believe me Jean Charles de Menezes supporters were deeply shocked by how pro police Livingstone and Jasper both were in relation to full police accountability re the Menezes Police murder. The SWP did the dirty too several decades ago when the police Special Patrol Group killed Kevin Gately in Red Lion Square – they pulped the whole edition of the investigation produced by the then UP AGAINST THE LAW COLLECTIVE – which Collective went on to help the triumphant direct action East End GEORGE DAVIS IS INNOCENT OK CAMPAIGN.

    As a local Stockwell pensioner I have been campagning now for 6 years to get public toilet provision back in central Stockwell and STEVE REED has been an absolute and total shit. I have produced and blogged (on STOCKWELL TOILET WATCH) campaigning Private Eye-like political satires and Reed has categorised my efforts as abuse and covertly enabled an in-house Council I.T. operative to disable every single Council email address so that I am unable to contact via email any council Member or officer about any matter whatsoever using their published official email addresses.

  38. Michael Moran on said:

    The article makes some great points, although backing NATO twice surely trumps calling for a Labour vote??

    Let’s not get too nostalgic mind, after all, The SWP have consistently supported British and US imperialism under the cloak of an often ‘plague on both your houses’ forumula, so what exactly is new here? The SWP would have supported war against IRAQ if the Guardian, Lib Dems et al had backed it.

  39. Andy BH: Absolutely! We should support popular uprisings against dictatorships, but only on the very strict condition that they do the decent thing and allow themselves to be defeated and massacred, rather than do anything we western lefties might regard as “politically incorrect”.

    It is worth bearing in mind that there was a ceasefire proposal, supported by Russia, Venezuela, and the African Union, with the objective of bringing the conflict to an end. This position was the only credible one to take given the fact that the only way the rebels could possibly have won was with NATO military intervention.

    It is also worth bearing in mind that Libya now is in a state of chaos and that thousands were massacred both directly as a result of NATO airstrikes during the conflict, and in the aftermath, with black Libyans and African migrant workers in particular being targeted during the bloodletting that followed the collapse of the regime.

    The thing is, this outcome was entirely predictable, just as it was in Iraq and just as it is when it comes to Syria.

    I’m minded of the infamous words of Donald Rumsfeld in response to the chaos which engulfed Iraq after the fall of Saddam:

    “Stuff happens”.

  40. This reveals the entire left’s irrelvancy. Too small, too obsessed with internal sectariana, navel gazing nonsense.

  41. Let me see if I have this right – the SWP is being attacked on Socialist Unity for initially taking the same position as Andy Newman?

    I think the original article in Socialist Worker was wrong, and I’m glad it’s being corrected, but the term ‘hypocrisy’ doesn’t even begin to do justice to this article.

    If John thinks that being a Labour candidate means being “the candidate of a party of war, privatisation, inequality, and neoliberalism”, what is he doing posting on here?

  42. #40 The rebel movement against Gadaffi was utterly dependant on imperialist support. In fact, had Nato not taken advantage of, and utterly exceeded and breached the UN resolution, and the rebels not been assured by the imperialists that this would happen, they would have had no choice but to negotiate (something Gadaffi was under pressure to do from his international friends) or face utter defeat.

    The overthrow of that regime wa achieved by Nato firepower with the Libyan masses largely as bystanders (and doubtless varying degrees of sympathy for the rebellion or the regime.

    Footage of blokes driving around in cars full of ak47s and rpgs and occasionally alternating between firing them in some vague direction (mainly in the air) and ducking for cover as they (apparently) come under fire is not evidence of an effective mass uprising.

    In my view, supporting the rebellion and wanting the overthrow of the regime on the one hand, and opposing western intervention on the other is about as credible as encouraging the planting of fields of crops and then condemning the rain.

    Gadaffi was undoubtedly a nasty piece of work, hated with good reason by many of his own people, but to me that was always a matter for the Libyan people to decide and sort out for themselves. In fact even his lynching, understandable though appalling as it was, couldn’t be achieved without a Nato air-strike in the ‘no fly zone’.

    Nobody has the right to turn to me and say, ‘you know how the Arab world has been under colonial imperialist domination for x number of years, and you know that your country has been one of the main culprits and people like you have always fought against it? Okay, what we want to do is overthrow our government, but we need your country’s help because we can’t do it on our own.’, and then assume that I have a duty to agree to help withthis request.

    But would that stop me voting or campaigning for someone who took that (in my view wrong) position, in itself? Absolutely not.

    And btw yes, I know Gaddafi sided with Blair and Bush in the ‘war against terror’. I met and tried to help some Libyan Islamist victims of that collusion.

  43. John: It is worth bearing in mind that there was a ceasefire proposal, supported by Russia, Venezuela, and the African Union, with the objective of bringing the conflict to an end. This position was the only credible one to take given the fact that the only way the rebels could possibly have won was with NATO military intervention.
    It is also worth bearing in mind that Libya now is in a state of chaos and that thousands were massacred both directly as a result of NATO airstrikes during the conflict, and in the aftermath, with black Libyans and African migrant workers in particular being targeted during the bloodletting that followed the collapse of the regime.
    The thing is, this outcome was entirely predictable, just as it was in Iraq and just as it is when it comes to Syria.

    And that really is that. To deny it flies in the face of reality.

  44. #49 I said ‘same position’, not same reasoning. John Wight’s attacking the ‘Vote Labour’ postition, not just the argument behind it.

  45. chjh,

    ” John Wight’s attacking the ‘Vote Labour’ postition, not just the argument behind it.”

    That’s a bit silly, since on so many things the same position has many different rationales. If you don’t recognise that, you end up with amalgams, e.g. “the BNP opposed the Iraq war, so did the SWP therefore …. ”

    Not everyone who agrees with John Wight’s view of the SWP’s capitulation to liberalism will agree with his overall politics or some of his reasoning either. I certainly don’t. He is a Marcyite … which is the form of ‘Trotskyism’ that is closest to old-fashioned Moscow-loyal Stalinism, for want of a better term. I certainly don’t share those politics and nor do many others I am sure. That does not however mean he is wrong in criticising the SWP’s capitulation to liberalism. On that he is right.

    You can be both right and wrong for good and bad reasons, or even a mixture of the two. What is worst is being wrong for bad reasons. Which is why the SWP doubly deserves criticism here.

  46. Barry Kade,

    Spot on Barry, there is a lot the SWP can be criticised for. and a fair bit they can be praised for, but this is not a critique it’s a badly written hatchet job.

    And the claim that Leon Trotsky was one of the most influential figures of the 20th century is frankly hilarious. Inspirational yes. Influential? Only if you never leave the student union bar.

  47. Pete Shield: one of the most influential figures of the 20th century is frankly hilarious

    Trotsky did found the Red Army, and weld it into an efficient military organisation, which was surely an achievement that did have some decisive influence on the events of the 20th Century?

  48. Pete Shield: And the claim that Leon Trotsky was one of the most influential figures of the 20th century is frankly hilarious. I

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Trotsky credited with playing a lead role in the Russian Revolution? And isn’t he credited with conceiving and founding the Red Army? And isn’t he also credited with drawing up the strategy and tactics that led to the victory of the Bolsheviks/Communists in the Civil War? And weren’t the aforementioned events pivotal in changing the course of history?

  49. Jellytot on said:

    @34With hindsight I now believe that electoral politics for the revolutionary left is for the moment at least a waste of time

    “At the moment” ?!

    Then you know nothing about electoral politics.

    It’s not something you can dip in and dip out of. It takes years of mudane work, built around a constant localised electoral presence and voting strategy.

    With this attitude your party will be cobbling togther some electoral pact four or so years into the next Labour government, achieve some short term success (maybe) and then have it crash down around you again.

    @34I do not support either organisation.

    I take it though, that in Croydon, you would have supported Labour before Judith Orr’s ‘one eighty’ yesterday ?

    @56Trotsky did found the Red Army

    Trotsky was clearly an major figure in the early years of the Russian Revolution.

  50. John Grimshaw on said:

    redscribe: He is a Marcyite … which is the form of ‘Trotskyism’ that is closest to old-fashioned Moscow-loyal Stalinism, for want of a better term.

    I haven;t got a clue what this means. But don’t worry I’m working class.

  51. Err and there I was thinking that the leadership of the Red Army was a collective leadership of the working class by the Bolshevik party. But then again I come from a marxist background that tends to look at history in terms of dynamic social forces and not a bourgeois one that sees history as the action of powerful individuals.

    But if you think that history is the actions of merely the leadership then of course Trotsky was influential at that period, both as one of the leaders of the Red Army and as one of the front runners for the Stalinist regime that followed, he was after all the first commander to order the shooting of a Party member, he argued for the militarisation of labour, ie banning independent trade unions, and the storming and subsequent massacre of Krondstadt. I’e also have very serious concerns about his analysis of the state of forces in Germany and his pushing the German party leadership into an action that lead to their destruction. His leadership of the opposition against Stalin at the crucial period after Lenin’s death was, and I’ve never really understood why, hands off leaving his supporters isolated and vulnerable.

    I maintain my position that some of his writing is inspirational, but his record sheet in Russia is mixed, and his influence on world events afterwards virtually nil.

  52. Morning Star reader on said:

    John Grimshaw: I haven;t got a clue what this means. But don’t worry I’m working class.

    Heh heh, John, I’m growing to like you. I was in a union meeting with manufacturing shop stewards yesterday, and I doubt if any of them had heard of “Marcyism”. The working classes, eh, can’t live with ‘em, can’t be a revolutionary socialist without ‘em!
    I doubt if they have heard of Trotskysim or Stalinism (Moscow-loyal or not) either. I think I’ll leave them in ignorance, for fear of sounding like a middle-class tosser.

  53. Jellytot on said:

    @60I come from a marxist background that tends to look at history in terms of dynamic social forces and not a bourgeois one that sees history as the action of powerful individuals.

    But individuals are important in moulding those social forces.

    Lenin was clearly vital to the October Revolution and, at the other end of the scale, Germany wouldn’t have taken the shape it did from 1933 without Hitler as an individual.

    The rest of #60 I broadly agree with and why anybody should follow his theories today is beyond me.

  54. John Grimshaw on said:

    John: The analysis explores the SWP’s degeneration over the past few years, for which I cite examples, culminating in this statement, which has since been partly withdrawn.

    The conclusion is the Trotsky quote, which describes the lapse into liberalism that I argue is what has happened to the SWP.

    I understand if you disagree with the article, and the analysis and conclusion, but to suggest there is none is false.

    Thank you John. I did not intend to be rude. You are I guess an activist in Respect? What is your organisations strategy for building the possibility of socialism in more than one country let alone this one?

  55. John Grimshaw on said:

    Pete Shield: And the claim that Leon Trotsky was one of the most influential figures of the 20th century is frankly hilarious. Inspirational yes. Influential? Only if you never leave the student union bar.

    Spot off Pete. Love him or like him. He’s still there.

  56. John Grimshaw on said:

    redscribe:
    John Grimshaw,

    “I haven;t got a clue what this means. But don’t worry I’m working class.”

    So was Sam Marcy

    My apologies Redscribe. Clearly an interesting fella. Although I’m no supporter of Maoism. It might be useful for us to discuss why he ended up in such a political cul-de-sac.

  57. #49 The post is clearly as much if not more about the reasoning for calling for a Labour vote as the call itself. I refer you toi the words ‘rather than’.

  58. John Grimshaw on said:

    Jellytot: It’s not something you can dip in and dip out of. It takes years of mudane work, built around a constant localised electoral presence and voting strategy.
    With this attitude your party will be cobbling togther some electoral pact four or so years into the next Labour government, achieve some short term success (maybe) and then have it crash down around you again.

    Dipping in and out. Of course not, Karl but I think your missing the point. You don’t have to be doing electoral stuff and that is the only way you can do politics.

    P.S. Which party are you referrring to?

  59. John Grimshaw on said:

    Jellytot: @34I do not support either organisation.
    I take it though, that in Croydon, you would have supported Labour before Judith Orr’s ‘one eighty’ yesterday ?

    Well first of all I think I’m entitled to say who I support and who I don’t. I have no idea what “Judith Orr’s” one eighty is? You see how boring this can get!

  60. John Grimshaw on said:

    Jellytot: Trotsky was clearly an major figure in the early years of the Russian Revolution.

    Andy and others have already answered this. But lets go back to the beginning if it helps. Trotsky was not always right by any stretch of the imagination, but he was one of the major figures of the twentieth century. He was also quite brave. It ill besuits you to be so rude. :)

  61. Jellytot on said:

    John Grimshaw

    Apologies.

    From the jargon, buzzwords, detachment from political reality and overall tone of your post #34, I assumed you were SWP.

    @70I have no idea what “Judith Orr’s” one eighty is?

    On 27th November, SW editor Judith Orr was arguing for a Labour vote in Croydon. On 28th November she wasn’t.

  62. John Grimshaw: Thank you John. I did not intend to be rude. You are I guess an activist in Respect? What is your organisations strategy for building the possibility of socialism in more than one country let alone this one?

    John, no problem. If I had to check myself for being rude on here, it wouldn’t end. It’s a political blog. It can bring out the worst in people at times.

    You weren’t rude.

    In answer to your question, I’m not an activist in Respect, but I do support them from a distance, up here in Scotland to be precise.

    I think the left in this country has enough problems trying to build socialism in its own backyard than to start worrying about building it in other countries. Maybe here we should listen more to the Cubans and Venezuelans.

    I think that social democracy is possible in this country, which means to say a strong state footprint in the economy and the public ownership of key industries and utilities, with progressive taxation as the fulcrum of a society founded on the principles of social and economic justice.

    I don’t think revolution is possible nor desirable in the British context. The historical and material conditions for it don’t exist and with the rise of social democracy and Keynesianism in the 1930s, the working class in this country has been able to win major concessions when it comes to the struggle over the surplus.

  63. George Hallam on said:

    John: Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Trotsky credited with playing a lead role in the Russian Revolution? And isn’t he credited with conceiving and founding the Red Army? And isn’t he also credited with drawing up the strategy and tactics that led to the victory of the Bolsheviks/Communists in the Civil War?

    Just a friendly word.

    It may not be a good idea to venture into the field of military history. Past experience on this site suggests that most posters here have a very limited grasp of the subject.

  64. I think we all need an alternative from the three main party’s, The Tory scum slipped in through the back door and look at the damage they are doing, even if labour does win the next election I cant see any real change happening, no faith in Ed whatsoever, charisma of a polished turd…

  65. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Syria’s entire connection to the Internet has been switched off, apparently to prepare the way for major NATO psyops/military attack, proxy or otherwise.

  66. Jellytot on said:

    @78Was it Joe?

    If it was I’d like to know when and in what context. More details please Vanya.

    @76no faith in Ed whatsoever, charisma of a polished turd

    What’s charisma got to do with anything? Atlee, one of Labour’s greatest leaders, was supposedly a charisma vacuum but look what his party under his leadership achieved.

  67. On Ridley’s decision to send her kid to a private school, it should be noted that that doyenne of the left, the street fighting Tariq Ali, also sent his kids to private school. Some evidence is here:

    http://tinyurl.com/c4s38x6

    I don’t seem to remember Tariq Ali’s violation of socialist principles being held against him when it came to cooperation with him.

    So perhaps the hostility to Ridley has something else to do with it, possibly her religiosity.

  68. yes i know its ironic that im adding to the number of comments on here while highlighting the number of comments on here, but what a bunch of f**in bell ends we are commenting more on the SWP than blacklisting and Gaza discussions put together, somebody pass me a shot gun so i can shoot myself in the head to ease the pain of stupidity (im in the SWP btw)!!

  69. Tim Vanhoof on said:

    andy newman: There is by the way a ridiculous characterisation of the Labour Party in this “debate” as if it were a centre-right party, which of course it is not.

    You are correct of course. It is a far-right party.

  70. #81 To avoid the possibility of eternal damnation for committing a mortal sin, somebody else having to clear up the mess and being done for supplying you with a weapon, why not just leave the SWP? :)

    #78 & #79 No it was Mick (McGahey, former Vice-President of the NUM and member of the CPGB and later CPS).

  71. I don’t and never have bought into the SWP bashing here at Socialist unity but the idea that you won’t vote for a party just because Galloway made some comments about the sordid sex scandal between Assange and some brazen groupies is beyond belief.

    The left have led a witchhunt re Assange and his supporters. They do this in the mistaken belief that defending the brazen groupies is somehow feminist and left wing.

    Bollocks, these brazen groupies are a disgrace.

  72. Marko, your “brazen groupies” comment is exactly the kind of sexist rubbish that is being used to defend Galloway and seriously discredits Respect.

    Karl, you are being completely disingenuous by ignoring Galloway’s comment that a woman initially agreeing to sex is then fair game. This is what he actually said:

    “Not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion. Some people believe that when you go to bed with somebody, take off your clothes, and have sex with them and then fall asleep, you’re already in the sex game with them. It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said, ‘Do you mind if I do it again?’ It might be really sordid and bad sexual etiquette, but whatever else it is, it is not rape or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning.”

    Belittling the allegations by the women involved does no favours for Assange. It just alienates potential supporters on the left who believe that women must decide when to have sex, not their partner. Galloway’s comments have done far more to discredit the left than anything the CIA could concoct. The solution for Respect is simple – hold him to account on this issue.

  73. Nadia Chern on said:

    Respect did hold Galloway to account for his remarks and his clarifications. What Respect did not do was to divulge its discussion and decision publicly, giving in to a media onslaught. An entire National Council meeting was devoted to the issue and the consequences.

    Respect simply refused to be drawn into public attacks or otherwise on one of its elected representatives. Of course, this is dreadfully disappointing for our Ray Winston wannabes who predicted the end of the organization and splits while rubbing their grubby mits together. Now they merely look to rehash it all to justify their own sectarianism.

  74. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Meanwhile – after a bout of splenetic venting which seems to have worked itself out more quickly than has often been the case (an underlying trajectory of historical progress, or is that too much to ask)…

    A real world event, as we wait for what real election results which will shape the political terrain.

    Stevie Wonder has been persuaded to pull out of the Friends of the Israeli Defence Forces benefit gig.

    He is one of the most prominent performers in the world. This is a major victory for the BDS and pro-Palestinian movements, as well as for the Palestinians, of course.

    Congratulations to all who were part of the effort. This is a big fillip following Operation Pillar of Cloud and the diplomatic storm around the UN vote on the upgrade of the Palestinian delegation at the UN.

    These kinds of things are primary. Relating to them, in whatever way we can, is how you navigate the secondary – or, in the case of the thrust of this entire thread from the very beginning to the end, the infinitesimally important self-indulgence of some.

  75. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Oh – and the UN General Assembly has, on the 65 anniversary of the resolution partitioning Palestine, voted to upgrade the Palestinian delegation there to non-member state.

    The US and Canada voted against. Britain abstained after Hague’s shameful attempt to bully, bribe and browbeat the Palestinians into abject surrender in return for British support.

  76. Karl Stewart on said:

    Ray, what is it I’ve said that’s untruthful?

    The fact is that one person has claimed that she chose to have consensual sex with Assange.
    That is exactly what this person has claimed. That’s the whole sum total, first-hand account of this “allegation” that you and others on the liberal left keep banging on about.

    There is absolutely nothing else here. There is no “case” and there isn’t even an “allegation”.

    One person has claimed that she chose to have consensual sex with Assange.

    Tell me what there is there that’s untrue Ray.

  77. Disaster on said:

    “In a wider note, the stench of moralism has come to engulf the far left in recent years, illustrative of the yawning gap that has opened up between it and the constituency it claims to represent – the working class. ”

    Well, it looks as if the working class didn’t want Respect, last night

  78. Disaster,

    Three goods wins last night for Labour is good news, Lee Jasper’s result in Croydon for Respect was poor, and if taken on its own would support the idea that Bradford West was a unique peculiarity .

    However more than 8% for Respect inRotherham suggests that Respect is still positioned to capitalise where Labour gets it wrong, like they did with the. Rotherham selection

  79. Disaster: Well, it looks as if the working class didn’t want Respect, last night

    True enough. It is inescapable that Labour still represents the vehicle of change in the minds of most working class voters. However it is also inescapable that most working class people eligible to vote chose not to in all three by-elections. This has to be considered the most resounding political statement of the
    night.

    Labour still has a lot of work to do and distance to travel to reconnect with its base.

    Voter turnout was as follows:

    Croydon North – 26.4%
    Middlesbrough – 25.9%
    Rotherham – 33.6%

  80. John Grimshaw on said:

    #96 I think you are right Andy. “Disaster” has not conclusively made his point on the basis of these results. I suspect Lee Jasper was never going to get a good vote for historical reasons. The other Respect candidates did reasonably well, although still nowhere enough to challenge Labour. TUSC in Rotherham got 261 votes behind the Lib-Dems 451 by the way, which in my view still highlights the fact that there is little point in them standing.

    I agree Labour did well although if they can’t win in Rotherham or Middlesborough? The BBC has done some initial analysis of people’s main voting resons in Rotherham and unemployment (not as Farage would have us believe despicable social workers) was the single main cocncern.

    Turn out seems be the biggest victimm of these by-elections well down on the Corby result earlier. Whilst I know this is a by-election and these seats were considered to be “safe Labour”, it seems the elctorate remains very cynical about our politicians.

  81. John Grimshaw on said:

    FYI. I mention this not to enoourage a discussion here on the subject of elections. I’m sure it will come up later. But simply because we seem to be discussing recent psephological matters. Yes scotland say they have 143,000 signatures on their petition out of the 1 million they say they need.

  82. Martin Kelly on said:

    “Polling suggests that Lee Jasper, the Respect candidate, is now neck and neck with the Labour Party to win the constituency.” (Respect statement)

    What was the point in lying.
    It just adds to a general feeling amongst socialists outside Respect that George can’t be trusted.

    A rethink is due when you get beaten by the BNP, an organisation on the brink of implosion.
    Entry into the Labour Party is the only sensible option, instead of piddling around in small groups and a disintegrating SWP. Respect’s second wind has now run out of steam.

    Incidentally “the most resounding political statement of the night.” is the complete replacement of the LibDems by UKIP. Cameron will have to bin Clegg and steal some of the UKIP programme to keep his numbers up.
    Of course, Ed is still not perceived as prime minister material, but that’s a separate problem.

  83. Disaster on said:

    That 8 percent represents the percentage of Muslims who buy into Ridley’s schtick, surely?

  84. prianikoff on said:

    Respect’s poor results last night were nothing to do with Galloways comments on the Assange frame-up.
    Every election result since Bradford West has confirmed what I argued at the time; Galloway can win elections, Respect can’t.

    If the SWP’s analysis had been more coherent, they would have called for a Labour vote in ALL THREE by-elections. This doesn’t mean accepting all of the Labour leadership’s policies. Not even all members of the LP do that.

  85. Uncle Albert on said:

    101 M.K. – “Entry into the Labour Party is the only sensible option”

    Rotherham’s Sarah (13 votes) Champion now has a highly paid job for life. There are no democratic procedures within the Labour Party by which a similar selection fiasco can be prevented.

    If you’re recommending the ‘join Labour’ option you must also offer a viable strategy for tackling the Parliamentary Labour Party as a self-perpetuating job-for-life scheme for Progress supporters/Blairites.

  86. John Grimshaw: “Disaster” has not conclusively made his point on the basis of these results. I suspect Lee Jasper was never going to get a good vote for historical reasons. The other Respect candidates did reasonably well, although still nowhere enough to challenge Labour. TUSC in Rotherham got 261 votes behind the Lib-Dems 451 by the way, which in my view still highlights the fact that there is little point in them standing.

    That’s about right in my view. Lee Jasper was not the right candidate for Croydon as I said here when Respect chose him. I did not think he would poll adequately and he didn’t. Otherwise though Respect are still in the game if they are willing for a long haul.

    TUSC by comparison has seemingly no appeal to those it seeks to represent its time to stop flogging the dead horse, it aint ever getting up on its feet.

    Very good to see the Lib Dems being punished again.

  87. Martin Kelly: A rethink is due when you get beaten by the BNP, an organisation on the brink of implosion.

    Aye Martin but the Fash have extensive and deep roots in Croydon that would be more manifest if the BNP were not the omnishambles it is. That vote will outlast the BNP.

  88. Karl Stewart on said:

    Yes TUSC polled embarassingly yet again, but Christopher Chilvers does need to explain the “polling that was conducted” that he referred to in his “message from Respect” that had Respect in the lead in Rotherham and neck and neck with Labour in Croydon.

  89. Jim Monaghan on said:

    I cant help remembering campaigning with SWP comrades for Solidarity candidate Tricia McLeish in the Glasgow East byelection when George Galloway and Respect called for a vote for Labour’s Margaret Curran.

  90. Vincent Doherty on said:

    For all the good work, and dedication of tens of thousands of party members over the years the SWP continues to vaciilate on crucial questions ending more often than not with huge inconsitencies. As regards Galloway’s unfortunate interview on rape we need to remember that both Galloway and the SWP were prepared to split the Scottish Socialist Party in order to stand alongside the odious Tommy Sheridan following revelations of his sexual pecadillos. The party leadership still contains a bitter sectarian rump, who’s sectarian opportunism over the years has serioulsy inhibited and squandered the opportunities that have arisen to build a mass broad based anti-capitalist party. Surely that is the real and lasting scandal.

  91. John Edwards on said:

    It’s just a variation on the old slogan “Vote Labour without illusions”.

    I’m afraid Respect will never be the left alternative to Labour as its miserable results yesterday show.

  92. #112 The biggest scandal in that affair was that members of the SSP leadership colluded voluntarily with the Murdoch empire and the Police to help get Tommy Sheridan sent to jail.

    (So perhaps you could spare us any future lectures about the British state).

    That was shameful whatever mistakes Sheridan may or may not have made. Interesting that a member of the British (note, not Scottish) section of the USFI was strongly in support of this behaviour. Mandel and Maitin would be turning in their graves.

    I note that the same strain of toxic reactionary ‘feminism’ with its classless mixture of authoritarianism and liberalism was injected into that debate as well, showing that some people choose their fights as well as their principles very selectively.

  93. Heather Downs on said:

    John Wight’s original article is a depressingly predictable claim that Galloway’s apologism for Assange is insignificant beside the rest of his political record. Actually, many of us see Galloway’s rape apologism as indicative of his general attitude to women and therefore promoting division and undermining his credibility. His defenders desperately describe any criticism of this gross sexism as a ‘witchhunt’ on the basis of a complete lack of understanding of what ‘rape apologism’ means. Briefly; it is claiming that ‘rape isn’t really rape, or rape isn’t really that bad, that an allegation of rape is untrue or that rape allegations are often untrue and should not be taken seriously’ (Gethen blog). “Rape isn’t really rape” is a frequent claim made by those burdened by ignorance of the reality they misrepresent. In the Assange case, Galloway has claimed rape did not occur because the woman had willingly gone to bed with Assange and additional claims relating to ‘sex games’ and repeat ‘insertions’. Neither he nor Respect as an organisation has recanted on this, or demonstrated any understanding of the inter-personal dynamics or legislation involved. None of this is in any way relevant to the legal situation. Swedish law differs from English in that it is based on the use of force or coercion; English law is far more progressive in focussing on consent. But the allegations against Assange would constitute rape under both legal systems. Her consent to penetration with a condom does not imply future consent to penetration without one. Likewise, Assange’s willingness to penetrate the woman did not entail his willingness to be woken by anal penetration with a vibrator the following morning. In both countries it is recognised that an unconscious, drunk or sleeping person cannot consent. Rape Crisis web site has a useful list of myths surrounding rape, including those about appropriate behaviour of rape victims before, during and after the assault. Their clothes, dancing, flirting, previous past or recent sexual behaviour, organising or attending parties with the accused or anybody else are all completely irrelevant. Attempts to discredit rape complainants with slurs like ‘brazen groupies’, ‘CIA lies’and’frame up’ and their equivalents have been used since biblical times when they had more credibility in maintaining patriarchal values. Nowadays, it is widely acknowledged that victims of sexual violence frequently try to normalise their relationship with their attacker who is usually a friend or partner. The propagation of rape myths, touched on by Leveson, is known to influence the ridiculously low conviction rate. When about 99% of rapists go free, a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict cannot demonstrate innocence. Nobody gains from perpetuating the current situation.

  94. redcogs on said:

    Martin Kelly,

    “Entry into the Labour Party” the only sensible option??

    i can remember the late Paul Foot explaining why (for socialists)joining Labour should be regarded as an act of ‘political necrophilia’ (ie, sexual intercourse with a dead body)..

    He was correct then (about 20? years ago), and the general analysis still applies. Socialist shouldn’t waste their time trying to breath life into a war mongering free market Party of capital.

  95. Jellytot on said:

    @101A rethink is due when you get beaten by the BNP, an organisation on the brink of implosion.

    Even in their current state, the BNP, in a few select areas in the North and Essex, can still count on a fairly high residual well of support.

    Remember that they are coming down from the high electoral plateau that they reached between 2005 and 2009 and the descent has been mostly swift but sometimes more gradual. To wipe that out completly would be unrealistic. Their candidate benefited from the hue and cry surrounding the “grooming” issue and even in the BNP’s weakened state they were able to concentrate resources there.

    @109Aye Martin but the Fash have extensive and deep roots in Croydon that would be more manifest if the BNP were not the omnishambles it is. That vote will outlast the BNP.

    I think Martin was speaking of Rotherham, not Croydon where long standing fascist Richard Edmonds of the National Front did terribly.

    The rise of UKIP should be a genuine concern.

    @112The (SWP) party leadership still contains a bitter sectarian rump, who’s sectarian opportunism over the years has serioulsy inhibited and squandered the opportunities that have arisen to build a mass broad based anti-capitalist party.

    I will agree that they are very poorly led and have never managed to replace leaders of the calibre of Hallas and Cliff. For a organisation that puts so much stock in the leadership principle they’ve been thrashing around in the dark for years now.

  96. Jellytot on said:

    @116i can remember the late Paul Foot explaining why (for socialists)joining Labour should be regarded as an act of ‘political necrophilia’ (ie, sexual intercourse with a dead body)..

    Your obsession with quoting dead leaders and following the commandments of dead Russians could also be viewed as ‘political necrophilia’.

    Labour are the only game in town on the electoral front. Everything politically on the Left dovetails to them.

  97. Heather Downs: John Wight’s original article is a depressingly predictable claim that Galloway’s apologism for Assange is insignificant beside the rest of his political record.

    Heather, your comment fails to address the strong possibility that Julian Assange is being set up preparatory to his extradition to the United States for his role with Wikileaks. To try and diminish this threat by attempting to turn the issue into one of women’s rights is rather shoddy, given what we know about the US justice system and how it treats those it considers an ‘enemy of the state’, as Julian Assange has been labelled in various secret memos within the US government and security services.

    George Galloway’s comments were not motivated by malevolence towards women, but by his understanding of empire, its history and and how it operates. In other words, he considers these charges being levelled at Assange to bear all the hallmarks of a set up. Many agree with him, myself included.

    Further, he has clarified his views on rape a couple of times since, stating unequivocally that no never means yes and that non-consensual sex is rape. You’ve obviously chosen to dismiss or ignore this clarification. Why?

    You also cite Rape Crisis to bolster your argument. It shouldn’t be forgotten that an organisation based in London called Women Against Rape – http://www.womenagainstrape.net/- came out publicly in defence of Assange at the same time, setting out their reasons in the following Guardian article.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/23/women-against-rape-julian-assange

    I wonder if Women Against Rape are ‘rape apologists’? How about Naomi Wolf, feminist writer and activist, who’s also come out in defence of Assange? Is she a ‘rape apologist’?

    Finally, Galloway made it clear that Julian Assange should answer the charges that have been made against him by the women involved, but only in conditions where his protection against the possibility of extradition is guaranteed by the Swedish and/or US authorities.

    Do you think he’s entitled to this protection? Or do you think he is in fact a rapist trying to evade justice and should be sent to Sweden regardless?

    You don’t speak for all women on this issue, Heather. You simply don’t. To suggest otherwise is dishonest.

  98. stephen marks on said:

    John ignores the fact that Galloway himself made explicit that his comments about the allegations against Assange were quite independent of their truth or falsehood. He said that the allegations did not amount to rape whether they were true or not. So even if documentary ‘smoking gun’ proof from the CIA archives turned up tomorrow establishing beyond doubt that the two women involved were paid CIA agents and the whole thing was made up, the question whether the [false] allegations did or did not amount to rape would not be affected either way. And it is this question which Heather Downs is addressing.

    Conversely, even if equally undeniable evidence turned up to the contrary, proving that the allegations were factually true in every detail, that would not in itself settle the seperate issue of whether Juilan Asange’s [hypothetically] proven actions did nor did not amount to rape.

    For what it’s worth, I do think there is something distinctly ‘fishy’ about the allegations, even though as GG admits, Assange may be no gentleman where sexual etiquette is concerned. But it should be a matter of principle for socialists that such points can and must be made in language that does not consciously or otherwise echo well-known sexist stereotypes about women who raise rape claims.

    It should be as obvious as avoiding racist stereotypes when making legitimate condemnations of, say, Robert Mugabe; or avoiding antisemitic stereotypes when condemning Israel or Zionist lobbying groups.

  99. Karl Stewart on said:

    Heather, no-one is “belittling rape”.

    The fact is that all there is here is one person’s claim to have chosen to have consensual sex with Assange.

    Like you, I don’t like language like “brazen hussies” – it implies that a woman being sexually active is a bad thing – and I don’t like the term “reactionary feminism” either – feminism is a wholly and entirely progressive force.

    But what you must consider is that there is no allegation of rape against Assange, just a claim by one person that she chose to have consensual sex with Assange.

    That’s a fact Heather.

  100. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    I find it interesting to contrast Assange with the cases of Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith. The latter two clearly benefitted from establishment protection while being clearly guilty as hell, and over a long period of time. Compare this to the vigour employed in going after Assange, who may well be innocent of any wrongdoing.

  101. #121 Karl, you are either being dense or completely disingenuous.

    Firstly, there is an accusation of rape against Assange, in full compliance with its definition in Swedish or UK law. Your denial of this completely worthless.

    Whether Assange is guilty or not, your attempt to demean the alleged victim and undermine the legal definition of rape is both tasteless and deeply reactionary.

  102. It’s difficult to disgree with many of the specific points made in the introductory article but I think the piece itself serves no useful purpose.

    Firstly, there are serious problems with the mode of operation of every organization of the British Left and it seems unreasonable to single out just one in this way. Secondly, would we all really be better off without the SWP? Suppose we woke up tomorrow morning and found it had vanished. Would the cause of socialism be enhanced or damaged? I suspect that whatever comrades consider its faults to be, it’s better for us that the SWP exists than it would be if it didn’t.

  103. redcogs on said:

    Jellytot,

    i suppose obsession is the correct term. In my defence though, i imagine its a trait shared by most who attend here.

    Anyway, whats wrong with dead people? especially those who had reasonable ideas about changing the world? Bury your prejudice is my advice, after all some of the worlds best people will end up dead eventually.

  104. Heather Downs on said:

    Firstly – I didn’t try to ‘turn’ this into a women’s rights (read ‘trivial’) issue – Israel Shamir in Counterpunch turned an allegation of rape (that’s ‘rape rape’ as defined in English and Swedish law) into a smear campaign about one of the women being a CIA agent. I don’t remember those of you with a previously unspoken faith in the bourgeois courts screaming for a fair trial then.
    Second – Galloway said ‘no never means yes’ – that is irrelevent if the person is unable to speak because they are asleep. He did indicate that consent is a season ticket which can be reused any time, because it’s the ‘sex game’. I did not ignore his statement on what he believes rape and consent to be. I said it was fatuous.
    You do not deal with anything Rape Crisis have to say. The organisation you cite, Women Against Rape, is a product of the work of Selma James at Crossroads, including English Collective of Prostitutes and Wages for Housework. Selma based her work on the theory that domestic labour directly creates surplus value. This flawed theory led to a n organisation perpetuating the most reactionary aspects of the nuclear family and normative heterosexuality. The majority of the womens movement have no time for them. Likewise Naomi Wolf who reinvents the wheel with tedious regularity and provides another media (and man) friendly version of feminism.
    The requirements of the Swedish legal system apparently preclude this case proceeding while Assange is in London – from where he is at as much, if not more, risk of extradition to the USA, as less protected others have found. Has it occurred to you that he could have done a useful thing with Wikileaks AND be a rapist?

  105. Karl Stewart on said:

    No Martel, the only person who has made a statement on this matter is claiming that she chose to have consensual sex with Assange, in her own words, that’s what she’s claiming.

    Heather, this one person, the only person who has actually given a first-hand statement, has never claimed to have been asleep.
    The whole “sleeping person” issue relates to claims made about (but not by) another person entirely.

  106. Heather Downs: Second – Galloway said ‘no never means yes’ – that is irrelevent if the person is unable to speak because they are asleep.

    Heather, have you ever initiated sex with a partner in the morning when they are still half asleep or fully asleep? Has anyone ever done likewise to you in the same circumstances?

    I don’t know about you, but I do feel confident I can speak for for the 99 percent of the adult population that has.

    Heather Downs: You do not deal with anything Rape Crisis have to say.

    And you do not deal with anything that Women Against Rape has to say, nor Naomi Wolf, other than to smear them as lacking credibility. I wonder if you do so because they happen to disagree with you over Assange?

    Heather Downs: The requirements of the Swedish legal system apparently preclude this case proceeding while Assange is in London – from where he is at as much, if not more, risk of extradition to the USA, as less protected others have found.

    This is completely false. The UK’s extradition treaty with the US may be unjust as currently constituted, but it is a fact that those facing extradition to the US from the UK have been able to tie up the extradition request from the US for years in the appeal courts and in two recent cases, Gary McKinnon and Richard O’Dwyer, have managed to defeat them.

    Sweden on the other hand hasn’t turned down an extradition request to the US since 2000. In 2001 the Swedish authorities deported two Egyptian asylum seekers – Mohammed al-Zari and Ahmed Agiza – back to Egypt at the behest of the CIA, where they were tortured. Human Rights Watch produced a damning criticism of the deportation. You can read it at http://www.hrw.org/node/77209/section/8.

  107. So was Sam Marcy

    All it says on wikipedia is that ‘He studied law at St. Johns University and provided legal advice to labor unions in New York’ – unless I’m missing something, I don’t see how that makes him working class.

    (Btw, I’m not saying this to be narcy, because atm I’m looking into socialist leaders of working class origin, and was initially quite enthused that someone had suggested one I didn’t know of.)

  108. I’m speaking only for myself and this comment should not be construed as being, in any way, the opinion of any organization with which I may be associated, but I have no problem with anything George said (at least on this issue).

    Firstly, I am astonished at the persistence of the creepy fruitcakes on here who would have me believe there is some kind of equivalence between a man waking up a sexual partner by initiating sex, and a man overpowering a woman and forcing her to have sex with him against her will. But secondly, I’m astonished that the way those who have that view don’t seem to allow others of us the right to disagree. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    Obviously rape is rape. But stuff which isn’t rape certainly is not. I’m not sure if that makes me what you call a rape-denier. But attempts to broaden the definition of rape to the kind of sexual horseplay which thousands of couples engage in every day does women no favours.

    The funny thing is that in the real world this is a completely self-evident truth. It’s only on the left I find this sort of nonsense gets a hearing.

  109. #116 ‘The majority of the womens movement have no time for them.’

    Which is always such a convincing argument.

    I mean clearly as a man I have no choice but to accept that you are more representative of the true views and interests of 50% of the population of the world than Naomi Woolf or any other woman who disagrees with you on this subject.

    With you being a duly delegated representative of the ‘Womens’ Movement’, with credentials and eeverything.

    I don’t know who I have less time for- self-selected spokespeople for the ‘womens’ movement’ or ‘leninists’. You all belong in the last century if not the one before, and you represent nobody but yourselves.

    That’s why I think Karl is wrong.

    There most definitely is such a thing as ‘reactionary feminism’. Of that I have no doubt whatsoever.

  110. Jellytot on said:

    @124Secondly, would we all really be better off without the SWP? Suppose we woke up tomorrow morning and found it had vanished. Would the cause of socialism be enhanced or damaged? I suspect that whatever comrades consider its faults to be, it’s better for us that the SWP exists than it would be if it didn’t.

    SWP interventions have been damaging for the Left on occasion. I would point out their antics in Bradford in 2001 and their role in the ’07 Respect split. The toxicity around that still persists. Also the point needs to be made that they divert new recruits to their organisation down the political cul-de-sac of “Vanguardism” and “Leninism”. Imagine if those people were involved in a Party with a practical programme.

  111. Heather Downs on said:

    John,

    This half asleep morning sex thing – yes, but I’ve never been accused, or accused anyone else, of sexual assault. Unlike Julian Assange.

  112. #127 No, you are missing the point. The point is that, for whatever reasons, you believe that it is perfectly acceptable practice to smear women who allege rape and seek to rubbish their accusations.

    It is not up to internet lynch mobs to assess the veracity of rape claims.

    In this instance, it is the Swedish legal system.

  113. Heather Downs: John, This half asleep morning sex thing – yes, but I’ve never been accused, or accused anyone else, of sexual assault. Unlike Julian Assange.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the woman in question withdraw her complaint and refuse to sign the statement prepared by the police officer ?

  114. Heather Downs on said:

    John,

    You ask if I suggest Women Against Rape and Naomi Wolf lack credibility because they support Julian Assange. No, I realised they were idiots some time ago. Selma James has been widely discredited for some years, not least by Angela Davis (difficult to pigeonhole her as a bourgeois feminist); Naomi Wolf was widely celebrated for her largely derivative and vaccuuous book ‘The Beauty Myth’ and latterly the reactionary ‘Vagina’. I feel your admiration is misplaced.

  115. Heather Downs on said:

    John,

    The case has moved past questioning to the interrogation stage, involving questioning witnesses, expert evidence etc and therefore must take place in Sweden.

  116. Heather Downs on said:

    Zaid,

    Zaid – you really should read more on this subject – I recommend the section on ‘Myths’ on the Rape Crisis web site. The Hollywood style ‘overpowering’ myth derives from the Middle Ages when a woman was expected to defend her father’s or husband’s property – exclusive rights to her sexual and reproductive capacity – with her life if need be. Due to the inconvenient possibility that she might take control of access to her own body and thus disrupt the means of inheriting property (of which she formed part) she must demonstrate proven injury sustained in her struggle. Her efforts were not directed towards her own safety; only to defend her body as someone’s property. Society progressed to the extent of recognising a woman’s theoretical right to engage in sex if and when she wants to. The concept of ‘enthusiastic participation’ is a preferable standard, but at present we rely on ‘consent’ in England. In Sweden they use a modified and much improved idea of coercion over a helpless victim in the definition of sexual assault. This includes incapacity through force, threat or unconciousness. That includes being asleep or having ones arms and legs pinned down – both of which are alleged in this case.

  117. Vincent Doherty on said:

    Maybe you do, but I have to say I have no idea who you are or what you’re talking about. Perhaps you think I should know, or that you think you are more important than you actually are. AS far as I can make out you are some sort of Sheridan ‘fellow traveller”? Is that what you’re saying?
    Vanya,

  118. #144 I don’t claim to any level of importance.

    Also I don’t know what a ‘Sheridan fellow traveller’ is, unless it’s someone who disaproves of so-called socialists lining up to help News International and the Police to have Sheridan sent down, in which case I’m guilty as charged.

  119. Uncle Albert on said:

    Jellytot: The rise of UKIP should be a genuine concern.

    They will be much more difficult opponents than the BNP – there’s no holocaust deniers, no closet straight-armers and Farage possesses the common touch – he talks normal.

    UKIP certainly could present a very serious challenge to Labour. Ed, even though he may never have been in a pub in his life, does well when he goes up against out-of-touch Cameron but could be hopelessly wrong-footed (as when Brown met Gillian Duffy) if he finds himself in opposition to the representatives of a party with a convincing street-wise approach.

  120. Heather Downs: she must be the one whose arms and legs he pinned down to stop her reaching for a condom.

    So she said. And then, according to her own reported account, she then proceeded to have consensual sexual intercourse with Julian Assange, with him wearing a condom. But, in this account, after having sex with him she became convinced that he deliberately broke the condom that he had been using.

    Which, if true, is very reprehensible behaviour on the part of Mr Assange. But would it constitute rape? I can’t see how, unless consent for sex can be retrospectively withdrawn by one participant, on the suspicion of real or imagined deceit by the other party.

  121. Heather Downs,

    “… a smear campaign about one of the women being a CIA agent. I don’t remember those of you with a previously unspoken faith in the bourgeois courts screaming for a fair trial then.”

    I did not know that working for the CIA was a criminal matter that you could get sent down for. Not in the UK anyway. Working against the CIA, however, can certainly get you victimised in the UK.

    Nor does what Shamir says about Ardin seem to be in any way untrue. She has been in Cuba and has been involved in political activity in Cuba on behalf of ‘social democrats’ who want to replace the Stalinist regime with ‘democracy’.

    http://www.miscelaneasdecuba.net/web/article.asp?artID=1314

    http://www.miscelaneasdecuba.net/web/article.asp?artID=1315

    These articles can be read in English using Google translate. Not ideal, but not useless either.

    Seems to be evidence of political activity in Cuba, of a type that would almost certainly have the approval of the United States.

    On its own, this might not mean much. It’s even conceivable that someone writing such things could be well-meaning or naive. One thing is for sure though, such sentiments might get someone expelled from Cuba for ‘subversion’, but they would certainly not make the writer a target for action for subversion against the United States. Perish the thought!

    If this allegation were untrue, then it would be a simple matter to refute it. False allegations about who visited where are not difficult to refute as the recent case of Lord McAlpine showed very clearly. When someone is deported from a country, their passport is marked to make it impossible to get back in again. It would be very easy to prove this did not happen – by showing normal exit stamps – if this allegation were untrue and very easy to discredit those making the allegation.

    But if Shamir, who is a very weird Stalinist who admires Pol Pol and Stalin’s Doctors Plot purges and other appalling things (largely because of a unfortunate guilt complex over his Israeli origins and Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians), got his info from the Cuban regime he also admires and hob-nobs with, which seems likely, then I guess his sources pretty are certain to be factual on this. It is very unlikely, eccentric though he is, that he would make this up on his own initiative. Why on earth should he do that and risk total humiliation?

    For such a person as Ardin to then pop-up as Assange’s accuser several years later concurrently with a vendetta by the US government against him as a very prominent person being targeted for ‘subversion’, and also while he was being threatened with murder by the US militarist right (e.g. Sarah Palin, who called for him to be assasinated) is an incredible coincidence. Particularly since she invited him to Sweden, and arranged for him to stay in her one-bedroom flat in such a way as to make sexual activity very likely.

    I don’t believe in those kinds of coincidences.

    On the overwhelming balance of probabilities, Ardin is some kind of CIA asset. Which means that according to the criteria of innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, Assange is innocent, due to the political motive to lie. The only way this can be gainsaid is if this evidence is suppressed. Which of course is why witch-hunters are trying to suppress it.

  122. Noah,

    “But, in this account, after having sex with him she became convinced that he deliberately broke the condom that he had been using.

    Which, if true, is very reprehensible behaviour on the part of Mr Assange. But would it constitute rape? I can’t see how, unless consent for sex can be retrospectively withdrawn by one participant, on the suspicion of real or imagined deceit by the other party.”

    It is also not true. She produced a broken condom for the police to try to back up her story. It was tested and found to have no DNA from either Assange or her on it. It was unused. Which is also forensic evidence that Assange is innocent and that she is not telling the truth.

  123. James H on said:

    ‘Firstly, I am astonished at the persistence of the creepy fruitcakes on here who would have me believe there is some kind of equivalence between a man waking up a sexual partner by initiating sex, and a man overpowering a woman and forcing her to have sex with him against her will. But secondly, I’m astonished that the way those who have that view don’t seem to allow others of us the right to disagree. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    Obviously rape is rape. But stuff which isn’t rape certainly is not. I’m not sure if that makes me what you call a rape-denier. But attempts to broaden the definition of rape to the kind of sexual horseplay which thousands of couples engage in every day does women no favours.’

    Comments like this are so worrying. I find the idea of ‘waking up’ my girlfriend or partner through penetration utterly horrific and am frankly shocked that so many men on the supposed left have sought with so much of their energy over the past few months to normalise such behaviour.

    I wish some of the people who used to contributed to make SU worth reading would think about how the place has begun to look to the outside over the past few months.

    * * *

    Barry Kade at the beginning said about as much as can be said with regards to this ‘analysis’ of the SWP… Thin meal all round.

  124. ‘I did not know that working for the CIA was a criminal matter that you could get sent down for. Not in the UK anyway.’

    I’m currently working on a book about the law from a modern progressive standpoint with a view to how socialists should deal with legal matters now and in a future society.

    I don’t think such a future society would be known as the UK. Otherwise…

  125. Vincent Doherty on said:

    Vanya,

    As anyone knows Sheridan was the author of his own downfall. By lying about his sexual peccadillos he tried to force his comrades to defend the indefensible. Sheridan was already drifting to the right buoyed by his own sense of self importance he say himself as bigger than the party. By repeating the same lies often enough about the SSP leadership ffor taking a principled stand against lying to cover up Sheridan’s shenanigans you clearly hope it will stick.

  126. Karl Stewart on said:

    Heatherm you really can’t speak of events you were not witness to as if they were fact.
    The FACT is that all there is in terms of the extradition process against Assange is the claim of one person who claims, entirely in her own words, that she chose to have consensual sex with Assange.
    That’s the only actual fact that we hace Heather. All we have are this person’s own words, which recount a fully consensual sexual encounter that the person chose to engage in.

    We don’t know if she’s telling the truth, and we don’t know who told her to make these claims. But if her claims are entirely true, then what she describes is a consensual sexual encounter.

    Vanya, I think what I’m trying to say is that feminism itself is an entirely progressice force. That’s not to say that there are not reactionaries who are also feminists, just as there are reactionaries who also oppose racism and homophobia.

    But there is not a “reactionary feminism” just as there is not a “reactionary anti-racism” or a “reactionary anti-homophobia.”

    These are wholly progressive forces in themselves and if we start to say that one cannot be pro-feminist, or anti-racist, or anti-homophobic unless one is first a socialist, then we’re making the same errors that groups like Militant made back in the 1980s.

  127. Stop being horrified, James, and start being political.

    I was in my 30s before I realised it was important to take racism seriously. I thought it was enough that I was willing to sleep with a black man. But I considered myself a “lefty” of sorts.

    Let’s all take it as read that we are horrified, disgusted, upset, suicidal etc. about how terrible our opponents’ comments are, and instead of feeling superior about it (cos that’s all you’re doing, James – showing how much better you are than us, cos you don’t come here anymore), and get to the politics and to the actual job of socialists: Winning people to our point of view.

  128. And one other thing:

    I wish some of the people who used to contributed to make SU worth reading would think about how the place has begun to look to the outside over the past few months.

    If we only published things that guaranteed to double our audience, I would pulish an article attacking the SWP every week.

    To take your silly point more seriously, I do know of a tiny number of people who have said that we’re the new Hitler, that we should be shot (we still keep that comment when we need a laugh) and so on. But even your comment here is ludicrous and all over the place:

    1) The reader feedback we’re getting is growing. We’ve got a more confident audience of TU members who are feeling more drawn to reading the site cos of the depth and breadth of its articles. They like the fact that the 3 people who run the site are willing to get things wrong, and to allow debates to wander right off topic, and also to tackle complicated issues.

    2) Our readership is growing

    3) The credibility of the site is growing.

    4) Rape is a complicated subject – the more simple the slogan, the more complicated the explanation. Not just the subject in itself, but where it should sit in other subjects – for example, there are people who on any other occasion would line up with your arguments about rape, but feel that the Wikileaks/imperialism angle of this outweighs the personal angle. They might or might not be wrong about this, but on SU we know that the way people assess situations is massively complicated, and we give voice to that complication.

    5) We allow our commenters to take the debate as deeply or as shallowly as they want to. That contains risks. But the points on the whole all need answering. That’s what the comments are for on this site. We’re proud of allowing that to happen, and we’re crafting a culture that will take time, but will allow people to make mistakes with their politics but not be frightened to do so.

    6) People have said they are proud of the fact that, while not taking a wrong position on rape, we’ve allowed all the different shades of left opinion to work it out in the comments. There is just no other site that does it. One woman declared that this site was the worst site on the left. Why? Cos of the comments on one article – comments that were deeper and more political than you’d have found on any other left site. And cos I had asked two contributors – one a man, one a woman – to tone the comments down, cos they were getting too agitated for debate. Even though I’m quite aware that it’s a bit “come on love, go and take one of your pills” for a man to say to a woman “you’re getting a bit loud”, anyone who read the comments would’ve instantly seen that I had given the woman way more leeway cos she was in the minority in the debate, but that if they didn’t tone it down I would’ve had to close the comments. The alternative was to only ask the *man* to tone it down, and do you really want me to treat women as so weak, I let them do whatever they want while men are subject to different rules? I don’t hold the door open for woman but not for men. The point there is, the assumption was bad faith: That I was just another man being blind to his own male privilege. It was wrong. Both sides could’ve seen that in general I try to be really fair in moderating debate and that in a difficult subject, all decisions might be difficult. But no – that side of the debate went on FB, on other blogs, went anywhere they thought they would get an uncritical audience, and said how my comment showed how sexist this site was.

    That’s what you’re doing here. Actually, a lot of thought goes into when and how to shape debate. In that debate, I thought her side of the debate was being so antagonistic, so condemnatory of people who were arguing calmly, she was making it impossible for anyone to become convinced by her argument. I said at the time, it’s almost as if she was determined to be able to peg some men and woman as really being fucked up and impossible to argue with. In fact, it’s happened in so many places – Socialists have been shouted down instead of debated with.

    It’s why me and others have said that this issue has become dominated by moralism. What we have to do, surely, as socialists, is be able to put the moralism aside so we can convince others.

    Or are we saying we no longer want to convince others by reason and argument, and merely to make everyone aware how right we are? On SU, we won’t shy away from allowing the left to debate things that are complicated.

    7) Some of our articles may well be “thin meal”. Some of our SWP articles – we publish very few – are no doubt fueled by us being pissed off that once again they’ve tried to damage the left. But if you’re talking about “how the place has begun to look”, you are clearly making very sure that you don’t even look. There are 6,975 articles on this site. There are over 2,000 comments on articles just this year.

    If you think your job is to help change the world, then you need to examine why you are choosing to see things in this way. One of the things that sets this site apart from most of the rest of the left is that we don’t speak to a loyal party audience: You can guarantee that half our audience will be good trade union members but will have bad opinions on, say, immigration. We want this to be a place where people are exposed to loads of different shades of left wing argument and issues, and are able to be influenced by some of it.

    The one thing people are coming away from SU with about the Assange issue is that there is a small number of people who just won’t debate with others. You might think that people are coming away with the impression that we’re disgusting sexists, but the truth is, that’s a tiny number of people – the very people who won’t even debate in good faith anyway. They wanted to believe that this is a boys’ club, and nothing we can do will change their minds. The rest of the movement sees a site where people are trying to navigate with really difficult issues – and actually, I’d say we’re doing a pretty damned good job.

  129. Heather Downs on said:

    Assange’s own lawyer, Emmerson, has described how Assange penetrated a sleeping woman without using a condom, despite her previously expressed wishes. The second woman was held down while Assange tried to prise her legs apart while she was about to cry.
    He then said that their SUBSEQUENT consent to continue (and get it over with?) renders the entire encounters consensual. A creative interpretation of the law to say the least.

    What is it about this account that makes it OK?

  130. #152 What I said about the SSP leadership is based on established facts which are not denied.

    And I agree that TS was the author of his own misfortune in so far as his decision to sue the NoW.

    When people were ordered to attend as witnesses at the libel trial they had no choice but to do so. What they said under oath was a matter for their consciences.

    When TS was then prosecuted in the criminal courts the actions of members of the SSP leadership was entirely voluntary and done in alliance with News International and the Police.

    If you think such behaviour is principled you’re welcome to that view. They aren’t principles I share.

    I have no interest in covering up for TS and I don’t think I’m smearing anyone.

    #153 I am not saying that you have first to be a socialist if your support for such struggles as womens’ liberation is not to be reactionary. In fact I broke with Militant precisely because I disagreed with that type of approach.

    And yes, the ongoing struggle to end oppression and specific exploitation of women is a positive goal in and of itself. The Married Womens’ Property Act was immensely progressive even if it did essentially benefit bourgeois and middle class women. The Suffrage movement was incredibly progressive and didn’t stop being because its bourgeois leadership supported the First World War and at least one of them used their victory to become a tory mp.

    Having considered the question further, I think you’re probably right about the term ‘reactionary feminism’. But when feminist arguments are used for reactionary purposes what do you call it?

  131. Karl Stewart on said:

    Heather,
    I posted the below in response to JamesH on another thread.

    See the below link:
    http://rixstep.com/1/20110204,02.shtml

    According to this, the person spoke to the police on 20th and 21st August 2010 and the report on this is by police officer Sara Wennerblom.

    Her report concludes:
    (This person) “…says she freely consented to have sex with Assange”
    (This person) “…does not want any help from the crime victims unit”

    And at the end, the police officer states:
    “Interrogation read back and approved.”

    So, according to the above:

    This person chose to engage in a consensual sexual encounter with Assange.

    She then had the consensual sexual encounter with Assange.

    She then told the police that she had had a consensual sexual encounter with Assange.

    She then approved and signed off a formal police report stating that she had chosen to have a consensual sexual encounter with Assange.

    She also approved and signed off, in the same formal police report, that she did not want the involvement of the police crime victims unit.

    If thie above is true, then this is a consensual sexual encounter and it is not rape.

    Heather, if the above is true, and if this was a consensual sexual encounter between consenting adults as this person has claimed, then I have no view at all on the details of that encounter.

  132. innocentuntilprovedguilty on said:

    At the risk of diverting this debate once again i am posting these comments to balance the deliberate miss information from Heather Downs Post 156. Heather once again you are using the prosecution case in the extradition court and claiming its what Assange’s own lawyer agrees with – give a clear source for your statement or retract this miss information.

    Now for anmother view from wikileaks notes:
    Assange Extradition Fact Sheet

    15 Overlooked Facts About the Assange Extradition Case

    1) Julian Assange is not charged with anything in Sweden or any other country.

    [Source: @wikileaks]

    2) Julian Assange did not flee Sweden to avoid questioning. He was given permission to leave the country on the 15th September 2010, after remaining 5 weeks in Sweden for the purpose of answering the allegations made against him.

    [Source: Undue delay for Julian Assange’s interrogation]

    3) The case against Julian Assange was initially dropped, and deemed so weak it could not warrant investigation. After the intervention of a Swedish politician close to American diplomats, it was revived by a different prosecutor. [Source: Why is Julian Assange in jail?]

    4) In all instances, the 2 plaintiffs consented to sexual intercourse, which they did not take the initiative to stop: they never expressed non-consent and afterwards declared to not have felt threatened by Julian Assange. [Sources: Swedish Police Report and The offences described in the EAW are not extradition offences]

    5) A condom submitted as evidence by complainant AA, who claimed it had been deliberately torn by Julian Assange during sexual intercourse, contains no chromosomal DNA from either the complainant or Julian. [Source: Overlooked evidence in the Assange trial]

    6) Text messages exchanged between complainants and their friends contradict the factual allegations in the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued for Julian Assange and cast doubt on the allegations.

    [Source: Brief to Canberra Meeting of MPs]

    7) After the date of the alleged sexual misconduct: a) Complainant AA created then deleted evidence (tweets) indicating she was enjoying Julian Assange’s company; b) AA went as far as suggesting one of her friends (Witness C) should be intimate with Julian as well.

    [Sources: AA: The Twitter Trail, Göran Rudling Witness Statement and Police Statement of Witness C]

    8) The law firm hired in the Assange investigation is ran by Claes Borgström (politician and legal representative for both plaintiffs) and by former minister Thomas Bodström. Both are members of the Social Democrat Party in Sweden. Bodström is a friend of police interrogator Irmeli Krans, who interrogated complainant SW. [Source: Irmeli Krans: The Facebook Trail]

    9) Police interrogator Irmeli Krans is, in turn, friends with the other plaintiff, complainant AA, with whom she has political ties (Social Democrat Party). Krans also breached protocol by commenting negatively about Julian Assange on social media. [Source: Irmeli Krans: The Facebook Trail]

    10) Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, refused to provide Julian Assange or his lawyers with information on the allegations against him in writing. This violates the Swedish Code of Procedure (RB 23:18) and the European Convention of Human Rights (article 5), and the EU Fundamental Charter on Human Rights.

    Prosecution also refused all voluntary offers for cooperation that fit under Mutual Legal Assistance protocol, such as making use of alternative methods to interview Julian Assange.

    [Sources: Fair Trial for Julian Assange? and Abuse of Process: Disproportionate use of EAW and INTERPOL Red Notice]

    11) Both the EAW and the Interpol red notice were issued for Julian by Sweden just before WikiLeaks began to publish Cablegate. [Source: Brief to Canberra Meeting of MPs]

    12) The allegations against Julian Assange do not constitute an offense in Australia or in the UK. [Source: The offences described in the EAW are not extradition offences]

    13) If extradited to Sweden: still without charge, Julian Assange would be held incommunicado and placed under solitary confinement. Pre-trial detention would last for an indefinite period. Trial in Sweden would be held in secret. [Source: Fair Trial for Julian Assange?]

    14) The Swedish legal system features lay judges who are appointed because of their political affiliations. They have no formal legal training. [Source: Lay Judges]

    15) Sweden has the highest per capita rate of cases brought to the European Court of Human Rights relating to article 6.1 (right to a fair trial). [Source: Fair Trial for Julian Assange?]

    The live source links can be found below:
    http://notesonwikileaks.tumblr.com/post/15251907983/assange-extradition-fact-sheet

  133. prianikoff on said:

    #156 Is a misrepresentation of the evidence:-

    Ben Emmerson, Assange’s QC, made a submission at the extradition appeal, that SW *woke up* when he *initiated* sexual intercourse with her, without using a condom.

    His QC also stated that she *didn’t* say no to him and she *wasn’t* physically forced to have sex.
    (The previous night they’d had sex using a condom)

    There is no evidence that she was subsequently infected with an STD, or that she became pregnant as a result of this. Nor has she signed the police witness statement.
    (if she has since, where’s the documentary evidence?)

    In the case of AA, Assange agreed to put on a condom, which she’d given him. She alleges that he deliberately tore it.
    Besides the fact that it’s hard to understand such an act from a psychological point of view, the forensics don’t support this allegation. Tests showed that the condom provided as evidence had been cut mechanically (with a knife) and didn’t have anyone’s DNA on it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbxxkwBQk_o

  134. Karl Stewart,

    “But there is not a ‘reactionary feminism’ just as there is not a ‘reactionary anti-racism’ or a ‘reactionary anti-homophobia.'”

    Could this not be more a debate about terminology though. Or at least a more theoretical difference.

    In my view, the fight for women’s equality and feminism are not the same thing. The former says that women suffer from inequality and oppression and that needs to be overcome. The latter at some level identifies men in general as the oppressors of women. Being committed to women’s equality does not mean seeing men as the oppressors.

    Thus ‘feminism’ should be understood not as being equivalent to anti-racism or anti-homophobia, but as a form of indentity politics roughly analogous to black nationalism or gay separatism or gay identity politics.

    There certainly are reactionary forms of black nationalism – examples (off the top of my head): Louis Farrakhan, Holden Roberto. Or gay identity politics (Pim Fortuyn).

    It is complicated. Because many of those who have these kinds of identity politics are reacting against oppression and are very open to progressive solutions to those oppressions, solutions that have a socialist logic and which point to socialism. Though often not without contradictions.

    Incidentally that also applies to some who follow some kinds of religious identity politics, as can be seen over the Middle East with Islam, Hamas etc. It may even have been true about some left-wing forms of Zionism in an earlier historical period, when Jews suffered real oppression, though it is certainly not true now.

  135. prianikoff on said:

    #152 “…Sheridan’s shenanigans” are what exercises Doherty most. Not the spying of the Murdoch press, or the bent coppers.
    He sounds more like a closet Catholic priest than a socialist!

    Even assuming what was written about Sheridan was true, how can this possibly justify McCombe’s subsequent character assasination in his cheap pot-boiler, where he wrote:
    “Tommy, I began to discover was addicted to voyeuristic and exhibitionist sex and he was prepared to go to any lengths to feed that addiction”
    For me, the fact that a backstabber like McCombes is an editor of “Links”, reduces its credibility.

  136. Karl Stewart on said:

    Some fair enough points Vanya and Redscribe on the “is there a reactionary feminism” issue.
    And the zionism issue is an interesting analogy Redscibe, in terms of a movement that was a voice of an oppressed people and is now – in its extreme form – an oppressor of others.

    I guess it’s theoretically possible that, in the future, an oppressive form of feminism could begin to set the feminist agenda and oppress men on the kind of level that extreme zionism sets the agenda for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians today.
    Perhaps then we could talk of a “reactionary feminism.”
    And similarly with black nationalism and gay rights activism.

    But at this time, we are a very, very long way away from any of those theoretically possible scenarios.

    I think in the context of today’s reality, talk of “reactionary feminism” (or “reactionary anti-racism” or “reactionary anti-homophobia”) carries the very real risk of falling into the whole “political correctness gawn mad” agenda.

    And I think this is the greater danger at this time.

    As to how we should refer to people who have genuinely progressive pro-feminist views, but non-progressive views in other areas, I can’t think of a suitable collective label really, I guess the best way would be to work positively with them on equalities issues and build on those progressive equality perspectives to try to win them towards a left-wing viewpoint in those other areas.

    I’d be interested in your view on these points Heather?

  137. At the risk of diverting this debate once again i am posting these comments to balance the deliberate miss information from Heather Downs Post 156. Heather once again you are using the prosecution case in the extradition court and claiming its what Assange’s own lawyer agrees with – give a clear source for your statement.

    This is something I’m not clear on, because one side always says that Assange’s lawyer has admitted that Assange did this or that, but then I get told that what his lawyer was doing was laying out a response to a claim of what he could be extradited for, and that these statements were putting a response – so, these weren’t admissions, but were instead his lawyer asserting what *would* be grounds for extradition.

    I’d like to get that sorted in my mind – can you both give your sources so I can look it up? Did his lawyer actually admit that he did those things, or did his lawyer use those as hypothetical responses which could be used to decide the case for extradition?

  138. Heather Downs on said:

    I have to go out soon, but briefly – you can’t have a socialist analysis and then bolt on some women’s liberation at the end and hope it has no effect on the socialism – a wholly mistaken approach; they should be one and the same thing. You can’t formulate a coherent defence of Wikileaks that depends on the sacrifice of an informed, principled position on sexual violence.

  139. innocentuntilprovedguilty on said:

    Heather Downs Post 165. so Heather you are prepared to black a mans charcater soley based on the view on one American blogger!! Hardly a creditable source for the very mis leading statement “156.Assange’s own lawyer, Emmerson, has described how Assange penetrated a sleeping woman without using a condom, despite her previously expressed wishes. The second woman was held down while Assange tried to prise her legs apart while she was about to cry.
    He then said that their SUBSEQUENT consent to continue”

    Now i would ask you again to wihdraw this statement unless you can come up with a clear source confirming that Assange lawyer admited what you posted – if not withdraw it!

  140. Karl Stewart on said:

    Your first sentence is absolutely right Heather

    But your second sentence…

    “You can’t formulate a coherent defence of Wikileaks that depends on the sacrifice of an informed, principled position on sexual violence.”

    …makes no sense. A defence of Wikileaks is about defending the public’s right to know about the actions of their governments and their military forces and defending those who reveal that information.

    What the CIA is seeking to do is to manufacture a “legal” pretext in order to have Assange placed in solitary confinement so that he can then be “rendered” direct to a US jail to be tortured.

    If you are genuinely motivated by concern for the welfare of the person who has made the statement claiming to have chosen to have a consensual sexual encounter with Assange, then you should be directing your anger at those who are desperately seeking to exploit her as part of their “get Assange” project.

  141. Martel on said:

    #164 ‘I’d like to get that sorted in my mind’

    Do you really think that this is the forum to discuss allegations of rape/sexual assault?

    We have a situation where two women have accused a person of sexual assault. For whatever reason, you seem to fine with character assasinations of these two women, because they have the gall to report the alleged sexual offences.

    You seem to be fine hosting a gang of ill-informed yobs playing Columbo, who like to spend their free time trawling the internet, searching for details of these alleged sexual assualts, in an attempt to demean these women.

    It is a rather revolting spectacle. I think women should be able to report alleged sexual assualts with out being publically demeaned and ridiculed.

    It is up to the Swedish police to decide whether a crime has been committed. The Swedish legal system is perfectly in its rights to expect Assange’s co-operation with this investigation, whether he is guilty or not.

    If that is not enough, some of these rather maccabre armchair detectives (you know who you are), seem to combine attacking these women with seeking to undermine the legal definition of rape.

    You can see why some will find this whole charade rather unpleasant.

  142. Karl Stewart on said:

    Martel, you’re wrong there on several counts.

    One person has made a formal statement claiming to have chosen to have consensual sex with Assange.

    That’s it.

  143. Martel on said:

    #170 What you believe happened, or did not happen, is really rather irrelevant.

    Assange is suspected on reasonable grounds by the Stockholm District Court to have committed rape and two charges of sexual assault.

    He may be guilty or completely innocent, but it is up to the Swedish police to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to charge him.

    Not self-appointed internet sleuths, who spend an inordinate amount of time seeking to attack and demean two women for having the temerity to allege sexual assault.

  144. Karl Stewart on said:

    “170 What you believe happened, or did not happen, is really rather irrelevant.”

    I have no “belief” either way as to what did or did not happen.

    Like you and everyone else apart from the person who made the statement and Assange, I have absolutely no idea what happened in this instance.

    It is a FACT that one person has made a formal statement claiming that she chose to have consensual sex with Assange. That’s something we do all know.

    Whether or not this person is telling the truth is something none of us know, but if it is true, as she claims in her statement, that she chose to have consensual sex with Assange, then the crime of rape has not occured in this instance.

  145. #171 How do you know the Court has reasonable grounds?

    Surely the question of whether are reasonable grounds is subjective? People have the right to take a view as to whether the grounds are reasonable or not, and to express those views publically, unless the matter has been kept oout of the public domain. This has not, whether you like it or not.

    And talk about the women in the way you do (if there is evidence that the allegations are bogus then why should someone not have the ‘temerity’ to point this out?) suggests either that you do have a view either way as to whether the allegations are true as you say and/ or that you think that an allegation that a man has raped a woman should automatically believed.

    Well if that was introduced into the legal system it would definitely help deal with the (serious) problem of low rates of conviction for rape and may well lead to more genuine victims coming forward.

    Don’t expect a great deal of sympathy when you or one of your male friends or relatives are doing time in the VP wing with a future on release of signing the sex offenders’ register for the rest of your life though.

    After all, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs can you?

  146. Martel on said:

    #173 ‘How do you know the Court has reasonable grounds?’

    It is a legal term, the court ruled that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that Assange may have committed rape and two counts of sexual assault i.e. there is sufficient grounds (a motive and witness statements)to warrent further investigation by the police.

    ‘And talk about the women in the way you do (if there is evidence that the allegations are bogus then why should someone not have the ‘temerity’ to point this out?) suggests either that you do have a view either way as to whether the allegations are true as you say and/ or that you think that an allegation that a man has raped a woman should automatically believed.’

    I do not know if the crimes occured.

    However, I do know that it is fundamentally unprincipled to seek to demean, attack and ridicule alleged victims of rape/sexual assault.

    I think a woman has a right to report sexual crimes without being subjected to public attack and character assassination.

    Whether the claims have veracity should be decided by an appointed investigatory body or a court of law.

    Not internet lynch mobs with dubious motives.

  147. Martel on said:

    #172 ‘It is a FACT that one person has made a formal statement claiming that she chose to have consensual sex with Assange.’

    You seem not to recognise that having consensual sex with a person does not give that person a season ticket to inflict whatever sexual act they wish to in the immediate or long-term future.

    A consensual sexual act may still be followed by sexual assault or rape.

    The Stockholm District Court ruled that there was sufficient grounds to warrant police invesigation into charges of rape and sexual assault.

    Assange has an obligation to co-operate with the investigation into these charges.

  148. Do you really think that this is the forum to discuss allegations of rape/sexual assault?

    I don’t think you read what I wrote, cos there is no way that you could respond like this if you had.

    I pointed out that opposing claims have been made by people on different sides of the argument, and I want to get that sorted in my mind. If one interpretation is correct, then it is merely a legal technical issue to do with how you defend against extradition. If the other interpretation is correct, then it means the guy has as good as confessed to rape.

    My post was brief enough and impossible to mis-understand. What is fairly obvious from your response is that you were looking for an opportunity to grandstand, and to prove that you’re much, much better than they are.

    What I “find unpleasant” is that so many of you – yes, you Martel, I’ll name you, rather than do your snipey passive-aggressive “you know who you are” nonsense – start with moralism and won’t actually respond to the points made.

    In case this still isn’t clear to you, I wanted to know more about Heather’s comment earlier that Assange’s lawyer had put forward an admission. That is nothing to do with whatever moralistic nonsense you were rambling on about.

    What seems odd is that when one side of the argument posts loads of stuff, you have nothing to say. But when I ask someone to clear up the different interpretation of things said in court, you use it to make claims about armchair detectives.

    You don’t have to read this stuff if it distresses you this much. Of course, you do realise that you look like you don’t have women’s interests at heart, only the interests of bashing people who are trying to work through the political issues raised by this case.

    Finally, you said For whatever reason, you seem to fine with character assasinations of these two women, because they have the gall to report the alleged sexual offences.

    Please show me exactly where I seemed fine with any type of character assassination, and then please apologise for the smear, the claim that I somehow am against them reporting sexual offences.

    If you’re not prepared to do this, you are no longer welcome to comment here. I will also expect you to withdraw your smear about me being “fine with hosting a gang of ill-informed yobs playing Columbo, who like to spend their free time trawling the internet, searching for details of these alleged sexual assualts, in an attempt to demean these women”. If you insist that it’s true, I will expect you to provide some kind of evidence of my behaviour.

    You can start by perhaps reading the comments I posted earlier, where I tried to explain a lot of my thinking – in fact, what makes your smears all the more odd is that you clearly have no idea what I’ve said or done, cos the most you can accuse me of is talking too much.

  149. #176

    Reasonable may be a legal term, but it is not abstract and nor does being ‘legal’ leave it sacrosanct and open to no critical evaluation.

    ‘I do know that it is fundamentally unprincipled to seek to demean, attack and ridicule alleged victims of rape/sexual assault.’

    Always? Under all circumstances?

    Even if you believe you have good grounds to think the allegations are bogus and that an innocent man is being falsely accused?

    I certainly believe that women should be encouraged to come forward more and be given greater support (I have assisted victims of rape in complaints against police officers for the way they were treated btw).

    But I refuse to accept that this should be done with deferance to the ludicrous idea, implied or not, that all critical faculties should be thrown out of the window and the burden of proof reversed in the case of a rape allegation.

    ‘Not internet lynch mobs with dubious motives.’

    The only motive I have seen on this blog is the one of defending someone from being sent to the US to face a possible death penalty as a result of being extradited to Sweden on what they believe to be bogus grounds.

    Now I don’t know how realistic such a fear is, but as motives go it seems pretty good to me.

    What are your motives Martel? You see I don’t buy this objective support for the purity of the Swedish legal process for one minute.

    Change some of the names of the people and countries involved and I suspect you may be singing a different tune. Apologies if I’m wrong.

  150. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Zaid:
    It’s difficult to disgree with many of the specific points made in the introductory article but I think the piece itself serves no useful purpose.

    Firstly, there are serious problems with the mode of operation of every organization of the British Left and it seems unreasonable to single out just one in this way. Secondly, would we all really be better off without the SWP? Suppose we woke up tomorrow morning and found it had vanished. Would the cause of socialism be enhanced or damaged? I suspect that whatever comrades consider its faults to be, it’s better for us that the SWP exists than it would be if it didn’t.

    Well, it’s a large part of the British left all by itself, which makes it a magnet for criticism. Some of the things that bother me about the SWP, like the half-conscious pro-imperialism, are shared by the ISO in the USA, and the NPA in France, but these are not organised in Britain. Otherwise it involves small groups which can be ignored, other than as evidence that a kind of soft Shachtmanite syndrome is hardly unique to the SWP in Britain.

    If it disappeared overnight, it would probably be like what happened with the WRP, with a few remnants hanging about, and a large number of disorientated individuals moving to the right, if they have any politics left at all.

    I well remember one particular character, who had reputedly been a bodyguard for Gerry Healy. By the time of the poll tax he was a sort of hatchet man for the ruling establishment in the local Labour Party, and was partial to making threats against anti-poll-tax campaigners. But quite a few people have left the IS/SWP and turned into really charming people without the organisation having imploded WRP-style. Gary Bushell is one who springs to mind.

  151. Martel on said:

    #178 I disagree with discussion of the specifics of the case by both Heather and Karl etc.

    Though I must admit that I am more offended by attempts to cast these women as liars or ‘CIA stooges’ before charges have even been investigated or reached a court of law.

    I see nothing to gain from discussions about the most exact specifics of this case in graphic detail based on little more than internet gossip.

    I also see nothing to gain from seeking to assert what these women experienced is neither rape or sexual assault.

    Like I already said, this is for the Swedish legal system to decide, that has already ruled that there are grounds for further investigation.

    However I think until a case has been resolved, an alleged victim of sexual assault has a right not to be demeaned as a liar or CIA stooge. Or have details of an intimate nature thrown about to prove one political point or another.

    Now, in regards to the rest of your post. I was talking about you as the moderator rather than engaging specifically.

    The comments that provoked such a response were ones were one contributor claim that the allegations do not constitute rape/sexual assaults, are lies inspired by the CIA, there is no case to answer etc.

    One contributor claiming the women are ‘brazen hussies’ who are a disgrace. Are CIA agents etc.

    I think anyone of reasonable mind would be rather uncomfortable with women who allege sexual assault being subject to such attacks before the case has even been investigated.

  152. That’s not good enough. I know you were talking of me as a moderator, because I’m not stupid and I took the time to read what you wrote.

    I told you I wanted you to back up what you said. You haven’t even bothered trying. You’ve got one more chance. You’ve made a really serious allegation against me, and it’s false. I expect you to back it up, or as I said, you won’t be welcome to comment here again.

    It’s sort of interesting how you have been so slippery with the truth. For example, no one has called anyone “brazen hussies”. No one. Marko used the phrase “brazen groupies”, which is out of order but is not the same thing.

    Someone else then said later that they didn’t like language such as “brazen hussies”. Karl Stewart said he agreed – he didn’t like that language either.

    But you? You claim that someone has called the women “brazen hussies”.

    Very slippery, Martel.

    I want to repeat the allegation you have made against me – yes, as moderator, which is of course very important in the world of libel on the internet. Special responsibilities are placed upon people who manage comments threads.

    1) You said You seem to be fine hosting a gang of ill-informed yobs playing Columbo, who like to spend their free time trawling the internet, searching for details of these alleged sexual assualts, in an attempt to demean these women.

    Where are these “ill-informed yobs?” Evidence and quotes please. You say that these people “spend their free time” trying to find information with the express intent of demeaning these women, and that I am fine with this. Given that I took some time to explain my position earlier on today, I think you can be fairly clear what I am and am not fine with. So, please show me how these people are spending their free time trying to get information specifically to demean these woman, and please provide evidence that shows that I am “fine” with this.

    2) You said you seem to [sic] fine with character assasinations of these two women, because they have the gall to report the alleged sexual offences.

    So, you believe there are character assassinations of these two women on this website; you claim that these character assassinations are purely because of the fact that the alleged rapes were reported, and you claim I am fine with that. So even if there are ‘character assassinations’, you think that the only reason for these is because the men (it’s men, right?) doing the assassinating are trying to clamp down upon women who report sex crimes. I’ve got that right, haven’t I? You think that the specific reason for the character assassinations is because these woman had “the gall to report the alleged” offences.

    So, you make these claims, and you then claim I am fine with this.

    Again, I point you to my comments from earlier today, which tried to grapple with the way we’ve dealt with the issues. I’ve posted more than that in previous threads. I do think Marko’s language is far too sharp for the situation we’re discussing, and if go back you’ll see me asking him to tone it down. But as always, I look at the totality: Marko’s general language is quite aggressive, but he’s a regular commenter here who is open to debate. That matters – he doesn’t do what some do, which is to turn up here and try to disrupt debate, or smear and sneer. He does genuinely take part in debates. And that does mean he is treated differently to someone who posts once, gives a fake email address and uses an IP proxy.

    So where’s your evidence? It’s not just this, it’s also your failure to even try to understand (or even read) the comment to which you originally responded.

    Your comment above says “I see nothing to gain from discussions about the most exact specifics of this case in graphic detail based on little more than internet gossip.”.

    But I explained, very clearly, that I was talking about specific claims made about his lawyer. Nothing to do with gossip. Nothing to do with graphic detail. I simply want to understand something that the moralisers have used again and again to try to close down debate. They claim that Assange, through his lawyer, had admitted to certain things.

    This has turned out to be important in the many, many debates that have been had both in the real world and on the internet. If you had read my comment – the one you replied to – you would’ve clearly seen that I wasn’t asking “did he do it?” I was specifically asking if his lawyer had admitted that he had done certain things. There’s a vast difference between “internet gossip” and “public records of legal proceedings”. The fact that I raised this when I replied to you and you still referred to it as “gossip” shows that you don’t actually have any interest in honest discussion.

    I have stayed completely away from discussing the supposed facts of the case because I don’t believe I have the moral or political right to. Had you spent just a few seconds reading what I wrote earlier, you would see that I take my responsibilities on this site very seriously. The only ‘fact of the case’ I’ve ventured to discuss was to respond to Heather, asking for clarification of the “Assange’s lawyer admitted he’d done it” point which has been raised so many times.

    So, I don’t like to discuss criminal cases where I have no idea of the facts, but given that this “admission” (or otherwise) is part of the public debate over the issue, I think it’s vital that we try to get the truth. I think that if we’re serious, we have a duty to make sure that we’re using credible and verifiable facts. To not try to find out the truth of the specific “admission” claim is incredibly irresponsible, given how entrenched the “sides” have become.

    I think anyone of reasonable mind would be rather uncomfortable with women who allege sexual assault being subject to such attacks before the case has even been investigated. Again, that’s pure moralism on your part. It’s turned out to be a really important debate to have, and lots of people have clarified their opinions in what I see as the right way. I think that whatever the nastiness of the whole case, it’s important for socialists to try to tease out these arguments. Of course, the issues of male power and privilege mean that we have to be sensitive and sensible, but the way the debate has been conducted on SU is actually to the credit of most of the people taking part.

    Of course, we never get it all right, but neither do we ever get it all wrong.

    Everything you’ve said – in your original response to me, and in your response to my challenges – is wrong on both a political and moral level.

    But on a personal level, it’s worse: You’ve accused me of things I’m not guilty of. And I’m not letting you get away with it.

    So, I expect you to do a few things now: Fully and completely withdraw your claims about me, apologise for such a chronic misunderstanding, and then take part in the debate in good faith and with serious, thoughtful responses.

    If you fail to do the first 2, you won’t be given the chance to do 3 on this or any other debate again.

    I think I’ve been more than reasonable with you.

  153. Martel has declined to give any evidence at all of his claims against me, and has failed to even do anything other than offering macho platitudes about how he doesn’t need this site.

    His welcome is therefore worn out.

    I think people know I try to be adult here. You can insult me if you want, if that’s what really gets you going. But I’m not gonna tolerate accusations of the sort that he posted and then completely failed to back up.

  154. tony collins,

    “I pointed out that opposing claims have been made by people on different sides of the argument, and I want to get that sorted in my mind. If one interpretation is correct, then it is merely a legal technical issue to do with how you defend against extradition. If the other interpretation is correct, then it means the guy has as good as confessed to rape.”

    Tony, just on your question on this, the technical term for this is esto defence, where for the sake of argument something is hypothetically conceded on the basis that ‘even if it were true it would not fit what my client is accused of’ or something like that. Its particularly relevant for extradition cases, where the issue is not whether the accused is guilty or not guilty, but whether the charges are even legally coherent.

    More material on this in the comments on the ISG Scotland site when they published their outrageous ‘Assange raped two women’ article.

    http://internationalsocialist.org.uk/index.php/2012/08/assange/

  155. Karl Stewart on said:

    In response to Martel, the key points for us are that, according to the only statement that has been made, one person has claimed that:

    1. That, according to her own statement and in her own words, she chose to have a consensual sexual encounter with Assange.

    And

    2. That she asked for no involvement from the police crime unit.

    If these two key issues are true – if the statement that the person made is an accurate statement, then the rest of it is a description of a consensual sexual encounter and none of our business.

    This is the key point. If the statement is a genuine one, then those are this person’s clearly expressed views on the encounter.

    The problem for Martel and others who refuse to accept this are that they are, in essence, arguing that this woman does not know her own mind.

    According to Martel, this woman’s stated views cannot be taken at face value and need to be interpreted.

    For Martel, when this woman said that she chose to have consensual sex with Assange, for him, what she really meant was the opposite.

    Martel believes that, when this woman said that she didn’t want the involvement of the police crime unit, for him, what she really meant was that she did want them involved.

    It is not a pro-feminist position to say that, when a woman says something, that she doesn’t really mean it and that she really means the complete opposite.

    I think that when a woman or a man says something, particularly when this statement is made to the police in a formal manner, than I think that this persom means what she or he says.

    (Tony, I think it’s quite wrong to ban Martel. He hasn’t made any racist, homophobic or sexist comments, or made threatening remarks or even sworn. He should be able to come on here and make his comments. And I’d ask for him not to be banned from this site.)

  156. #185 I tend to think that making an allegation that goes to someone’s moral integrity and then refusing to justify it with evidence or to withdraw and apologise when challenged IS grounds for being banned.

    And I don’t think that applies only when the aggrieved party is the moderator, although that clearly makes such behaviour more serious.

  157. Karl: I don’t mind him making his comments. I do mind him making false allegations against me. It’s designed to damage my, and the site’s, credibility. He’s being prevented from posting for that reason. He was given 2 chances to elaborate or withdraw, and he chose not to do so. In fact his last post made the allegations worse.

  158. Heather Downs on said:

    tony collins,

    I am, presumably, one of the ‘moralisers’. This is not a debate based on abstract ‘moralism’ – it is a political debate about the fact that some on the left seem to consider that divisions in the working class following the failure to address violence against women are peripheral. That’s half the working class facing a 25% chance of sexual or domestic violence. Not an issue to be dismissed as ‘moralism’.

  159. Heather Downs on said:

    I thought I had already said I got the information about Assange’s lawyer, Emmerson, from Angus Johnston on ‘Student Activism’

  160. Heather Downs on said:

    Martel,

    The reason I have discussed specific details is to illustrate that what is alleged to have happened fits the legal definition of rape or sexual assault in both Sweden and England. It seems many commentators are very confused and misinformed on that issue.

  161. George Hallam on said:

    Karl Stewart: I don’t like the term “reactionary feminism” either – feminism is a wholly and entirely progressive force.

    If only Christabel Pankhurst had understood this.

    “On 8 September 1914, Pankhurst re-appeared at the London Opera House.. to utter a declaration not on women’s enfranchisement but on “The German Peril”, a campaign led by the former General Secretary of the WSPU, Norah Dacre Fox in conjunction with the British Empire Union and the National Party.[5] Along with Norah Dacre Fox (later known as Norah Elam), Pankhurst toured the country making recruiting speeches. Her supporters handed the white feather to every young man they encountered wearing civilian dress and bobbed up at Hyde Park meetings with placards: “Intern Them All”. The Suffragette appeared again on 16 April 1915 as a war paper and on 15 October changed its name to Britannia. There, week by week, Pankhurst demanded the military conscription of men and the industrial conscription of women into “national service”, as it was termed.

    She called also for the internment of all people of enemy race, men and women, young and old, found on these shores, and for a more complete and ruthless enforcement of the blockade of enemy and neutral nations.

    She insisted that this must be “a war of attrition”. She demanded the resignation of Sir Edward Grey, Lord Robert Cecil, General Sir William Robertson and Sir Eyre Crowe, whom she considered too mild and dilatory in method. Britannia was many times raided by the police and experienced greater difficulty in appearing than had befallen The Suffragette. Indeed, although occasionally Norah Dacre Fox’s father, John Doherty, who owned a printing firm, was drafted in to print campaign posters,[5] ..

    When the February 1917 Russian Revolution took place and Alexander Kerensky rose to power, Christabel Pankhurst journeyed to Russia to prevent its withdrawal from the war. Her circuit was like that of the French “anti-patriot” Gustave Hervé, whom she had admired in her youth. She received the commendation of many war enthusiasts.

    After some British women were granted the right to vote at the end of World War I, Pankhurst stood in the 1918 general election as a Women’s Party candidate, in alliance with the Lloyd George/Conservative Coalition in the Smethwick constituency. She was narrowly defeated, by only 775 votes to the Labour Party candidate John Davison.”

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

    Then again, perhaps it depends on one’s definition of ‘progressive’.

  162. #192 All true George but the point I made was that such activities by some of the leaders of the Suffrage movement did not stop it from being progressive.

    Many people took such reactionary positions on the war, including most of the Labour movement.

    And the WSPU leaders’ support for the war was not related to the position they took on womens’ liberation as far as I am aware.

    My specific issue is with people who take reactionary positions on issues which they relate directly to the question of womens’ liberation. Whether it is helpful to call this “reactionary feminism” or not I’m not sure, for the reasons argued by Karl.

  163. innocentuntilprovedguilty on said:

    Heather Downs “I got the information about Assange’s lawyer, Emmerson, from Angus Johnston on ‘Student Activism’”

    I call on you again Heather to withdraw your comments on Julian Assange whoes name you are prepared to black on the flimsy posting of an obscure American blogger. You dont even tell us where on this blog this information is and from what source it came from. This really wont do will it? A blog comment is not a source unless you can quote and give us the exact source your blogger got it from.
    I am alarmed at the way you are prepared to black a persons character and creditability (worthy of a Stalin show trial)on such flimsy evidence (if its that at all). You really need to back up your comments or withdraw them.

  164. Heather Downs said,

    “Nowadays, it is widely acknowledged that victims of sexual violence frequently try to normalise their relationship with their attacker who is usually a friend or partner.”

    Exactly. What we had in the Assange case was different, we had brazen groupies bringing shame to themselves and their species. To have sympathy is to cheapen humanity. In fact, Assange was more of a victim than the groupies.

  165. Hi Marko. As I’ve said before, language like “brazen groupies” is inappropriate here. We live in a society where women don’t report rape and other types of sexual harrassment, because there is a deeply ingrained culture of blaming the woman for the crime, or of making them feel that if the bloke did commit the crime, the woman must bear some of the blame. What this means is that even if you believe the women in this case are beyond the pale, it’s vital that you moderate your language to be sensitive to the environment we’re living in. You’ve got to bear in mind that by using this sort of language, you assist in allowing that culture to continue.

    To put it another way: You can make a completely compelling argument without using such language – and if you do so, the argument will be even more compelling, cos you won’t have to deal with people who are upset by the language: you can make them stick to the politics.

    So please do us a favour and moderate your language. I’m not saying anything about your opinion – you’re very welcome here, and I know I agree with loads of your politics. But on this, I’d really like you to consider the wider environment, and moderate the words you use to describe your point.

  166. I thought I had already said I got the information about Assange’s lawyer, Emmerson, from Angus Johnston on ‘Student Activism’

    I second the commenter above – you’ve made a clear point of claiming that Assange’s lawyer has admitted the offences, so it’s really incumbent upon you to do more than you’ve done. I need to be able to go and check what you’re telling me, cos this is a really important debate.

    For the sake of clear debate, please can you give me a link to what you’ve cited so I can have a read? Thanks.

    And I wasn’t calling you a “moraliser” earlier. You’d do better off engaging with what I’ve actually said to you, rather than what you think I meant when I was talking to someone else about someone else.

  167. Tony, just on your question on this, the technical term for this is esto defence, where for the sake of argument something is hypothetically conceded on the basis that ‘even if it were true it would not fit what my client is accused of’ or something like that. Its particularly relevant for extradition cases, where the issue is not whether the accused is guilty or not guilty, but whether the charges are even legally coherent.

    Thanks Redscribe. In fact, I do think I’ve read this Angus bloke’s stuff before, and he is very, very clever in how he words things.

    It is absolutely incumbent upon Heather to provide more than we’ve had so far in support of her claims that Assange’s lawyer has admitted to anything – because if my memory serves me, Angus’s articles were nicely adept at not quite stating the facts (that these were a sort of hypothetical concession) and making it look like Assange had admitted the crimes.

  168. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: the WSPU leaders’ support for the war was not related to the position they took on womens’ liberation as far as I am aware.

    Quite so.

    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

  169. George Hallam on said:

    innocentuntilprovedguilty: I am alarmed at the way you are prepared to black a persons character and creditability (worthy of a Stalin show trial)on such flimsy evidence

    Please get the history right.

    In what are usually referred to as the ‘show trials’, the defendants publicly confessed their guilt.

    It was in the more informal ‘troika’ hearings that people were condemned on (allegedly) flimsy evidence.

  170. Karl Stewart on said:

    Tony, I really do think banning people like Martel is a bad habit to get into.

    If you read back his comments about this site, it’s actually a pretty unremarkable grumpy moan, the like of which happens from time to time.

    (Come on Tony, after all we all tolerate the idiot tankspotter GeorgeH, who’s tons more irritating.)

  171. I hardly ban anyone Karl, and I’m sticking to my decision on this one. There were loads of calls to ban him some time ago, which we resisted. On a subject like rape apologism, I’m not gonna put up with it – he can be grumpy elsewhere, I’m not gonna allow him to try to make those accusations against me on here.

    His comments weren’t about the site: They were about me, specifically and repeatedly. If he was just having a moan about the site, I wouldn’t care. But if he wants to smear me, let him use one of the many other places that seem to think I’m important enough to be worth smearing.

    Enough of this now. The guy had his chances and he deliberately decided not to withdraw his smears. There’s no “habit” here, and you know it (I’m a bit annoyed at you using language like that, given how few people we ban here, and given that I’m even more flexible than Andy these days when it comes to banning people!)

    I’ve got a fairly simple set of rules tbh Karl. People can moan as much as they like, but they’d better not smear. They can shout a bit too, but they’d better not be too abusive. They can fundamentally disagree with me, but they’d better not troll.

  172. Vanya, is Yvonne Ridley not a very good example of a reactionary feminist? I mean, what kind of feminism is that of the Jamaat e Islami whom shes happy to work with? remember i read on her Facebook a couple if years ago that she accepted an award for Services to Women from Omar al Bashir on her trip to Sudan. Coincidentally that very week the great man’s police were beating up women who were demonstrating for a relaxation of the dress codes. Perhaps he has some other great achievements for feminism under his belt, I don’t know.
    i just tried to find this on google but couldn’t-so if you doubt me you’d have to read back through her fb to find it which I’m not willing to do. Doesn’t take long to fine some quite reactionary and/or deeply silly things about women and gender on her fb though.

    Re other topics, not getting into the Assange thing except for a little point of fact, Women against Rape may have defended Assange, but as far as i know they explicitly did not defend Galloway.

    Glad to see Sylvia Pankhurst getting a name check, as should happen every time someone brings up Christabel or Emily.

  173. Marko,

    “we had brazen groupies bringing shame to themselves and their species.”

    Calling someone a groupie may or may not be accurate, but why do such people merit ‘shame’, and what ‘species’ are you talking about?

    My dislike of Anna Ardin is because I think she is a sinister element trying to frame Assange. But the other woman does not appear to be part of that, she seems to be someone the state has attempted to exploit, but has refused to go along with this. In my understanding, she refused to sign the statement drafted by a cop and imputed to her, which in legal terms makes it no more than a piece of dubious hearsay.

    I am not interested in her personal life or saying anything derogatory about it. There is nothing wrong with being a groupie, even if she were one, nor is there anything wrong women being ‘brazen’ any more than there is anything wrong with men being ‘brazen’ about sleeping with people they are attracted to if consent is mutual. There is nothing disgraceful to our ‘species’ in having a personal life that does not confirm to someone else’s taste or prejudice, whether it be yours or that of say, Julie Bindel.

    There is too much anti-sex moralising in this debate, both from people attacking Assange over his ‘womanising’ ways, as well as some on the right side of the debate making dubious statements that mirror them about the women.

    Assange probably should have been more careful who he slept with given that he had a metaphorical target painted on his back and knowing that sex traps are not that difficult to set up. But apart from that consideration, his sex life is his business. And actually, the issue here is the false allegations and the frame-up, not the sex lives of the women.

    Contrary to the worst suspicions of Heather and others, I think the defence in this case should be much more interested in Anna Ardin’s activities in Cuba and her political motives as ‘background’ for what this is about, not who she sleeps with, when and how often. The latter would be a defence based on backwardness; the former is what this is really about: politics.

  174. tony collins,

    “There’s no “habit” here, and you know it (I’m a bit annoyed at you using language like that, given how few people we ban here, and given that I’m even more flexible than Andy these days when it comes to banning people!)”

    I can vouch for Tony on that :)

    I have no strong opinion on Martel. He appears to one of the less strident of those ‘decents’ or semi-‘decents’ who sometimes post on here, but he obviously lost his rag here.

    The real point of his smears though was a demand that those raising the background of Ardin as a factor in Assange’s defence should be banned from saying that. That is the classic witch-hunter’s demand to stop the question of motive for framing Assange being raised concretely. So being as he was demanding censorship, I don’t have a lot of sympathy.

  175. Heather Downs on said:

    George Hallam,

    Stalin was a Bolshevik, so your Christabel Pankhurst example doesn’t prove much really. Raise you Sylvia Pankhurst, Charlotte Despard and Dora Montefiore.

  176. Heather Downs on said:

    Vanya,

    Christabel P based her views on (eg) the not insignificant number of women, (inc. for example, Mrs Beeton)who contracted STD’s on their wedding night, rendering them infertile and adversely affecting their general health
    The support for WW1 was justified by the claim that there was no point having a vote if they had no sovereign government to vote for.
    So it is true that the reactionary views were directly connected to their interpretation of ‘feminism’.

  177. Heather Downs on said:

    tony collins,

    Assange’s lawyer Emmerson accepted that the alleged acts had happened but said they were not criminal acts under English law. He was wrong. They are.

  178. #210 Sorry, the significance of STDs escapes me. I would have thought that having the view that women being infected with clap/pox etc is a bad thing is neither progressive nor reactionary but simply obvious and I don’t see what it’s got to do with support for the first world war.

    As for the sovereign government question, I see your point. However it’s certainly no worse than (and in fact very similar to) justifications given by the majority of socialists in most of the belligerent nations for supporting ‘their’ side.

    What’s more at fault is a wrong analysis of the character of the war, rather than of the question of womens’ liberation.

    In the case of a nation that WAS threatened with or subject to domination from a foreign occupier, such an argument would be (and is) completely understandable.

  179. stuart on said:

    tony collins,

    It is right that as socialists we demand that Assange should not end up in the US against his will, regardless of what happened in the bedroom. However, we also as socialists have a duty to take allegations of sexual assault seriously- the danger is that in supposedly supporting Assange we end up disbelieving women in such a way as to give comfort to abusers.

  180. George Hallam on said:

    Heather Downs: Stalin was a Bolshevik, so your Christabel Pankhurst example doesn’t prove much really.

    ???

    For all x where x is a feminist the statement
    P(x is a reactionary) is false.

    However this is contradicted by the proposition that:

    There exists an x such that x is a feminist and the statement
    P(x is a reactionary) is true.

    I’m not sure were Stalin comes into it. But I expect it turns out that you think that he did something really, really bad.

  181. “Esto “Let it be that.” An esto argument is an alternative argument, in case the main one fails. Example: a pursuer sues for breach of contract, and the defence is that the alleged contract was
    void, or, esto it was not void, the defender was not in breach of it.”

  182. George Hallam on said:

    redscribe: “Esto “Let it be that.” An esto argument is an alternative argument, in case the main one fails.

    Also known as a Billy Bunter defence as in:

    “Oh really Wharton, I never stole your rotten cake – and anyway it didn’t have many plums in it…”

    “Oh, crikey! Ow! Oooogh! Yoooop!”

  183. innocentuntilprovedguilty on said:

    Julain Assange:
    redscribe is correct its an “esto argument” (new to me but i do now understand what it means thanks to redscribe). Even the Student Activism blog states “even assuming that Emmerson is not vouching for the accuracy of these accounts but merely offering them as summaries of the charges against his client”. So even the blog conceeds its may be an “esto argument” yet Heather is very happy to black the character of Julian Assange based on this obscure blog which itself is not even clear whats its saying.
    It really is time to withdraw your comments on Julian Assange, Heather (it would be the honourable thing to do dont you think? Dont you think as Socialists we shoud be clearer about any evidence or source material before attacking a persons character or motives?)unless you can come up with something better by way of evidence or source material.

  184. Heather Downs on said:

    innocentuntilprovedguilty,

    You serious? After what has been said about the two women? Given that all studies show around 10% of rapes/sex assaults are reported, of which about 10% are prosecuted, of which 60% get a conviction. Home Office estimates 3-8% are false reports, including mistaken identity. So that means that over 99% of women who disclose being raped/assaulted never see a conviction. Do you seriously believe they are all lying/fantasists/CIA agents? Really?

  185. Heather Downs,

    Heather, yu are promoting a logical fallacy here, while it is true that conviction rates for rape are to low, and therefore many rapists fail to be convicted, that predicate does not logicaly entail that these specific women were raped. or that the person they are accusing is guilty.

  186. Heather Downs: http://studentactivism.net/2011/07/12/assange-lawyer-concedes/
    Angus Johnston

    Heather, you are not coming over as the sharpest pencil in the stationary cupboard here; you quote from an obscure blog written by an historian, not a lawyer; and even unconvincing source doesn’t even support your argument.

    You have still produced no evidence that Assange’s lawyer has conceded either the facts nor the law. What his lawyer has done is summarise the charge as laid out by the prosecution.

    Yet based upon your own inability to folow the legal argument, and your credulity abot sources you are prepared to overturn the presumption of innocence; and further contribute to the circus which is surrounding this case, a context in which both the women and the man they have accused are being traduced by internet witsh-hunt. On such circumstances, noone can achieve justice.

    It is also worth asking what the Swedish state’s motives are, because whatever happened in the privacy of those bedrooms, the case is seemingly evidentially weak; and it is not customary for the Swedish authorities to be so persistent in pursuing such a case, based upon such weak evidence, acroiss jurisdictaional boundaries, regard;less of either cost or prospects of success.

  187. NLeftistDN on said:

    Just to clarify, the Student Activism article is misleading- it quotes Assange’s defence but without pointing out that they themselves were quoting the accusations against him.

  188. stuart on said:

    andy newman:

    Hypocrite

    I will not be intimidated by a strategy of allegations about allegations on the internet. I will point out however that the introduction to this thread is nothing less than hypocrisy writ large. It claims for example that the SWP ‘stood on the side of NATO’ in Libya- which is incorrect- but fails to mention that the Respect candidate in Rotherham actually supported NATO intervention in Libya. No lessons in hypocrisy please.

  189. The introduction into a SPECIFIC case of arguments about the low rates of conviction for rapists and GENERAL reluctance of victims to come forward as a reason in itself for taking the allegations against Assange seriously, in spite of any serious doubts that may have been raised about both the strength of the evidence and the possible unreliability of the main witness against him is a huge attack on basic natural justice.

    It’s an instrumentalist view of the law, based on the idea that it’s more important to worry about the low rates of conviction than about whether someone is innocent or guilty.

    It has some similarity with the way that until recently in disputes about child residence the mother invariably would be successful based on reactionary assumptions about motherhood ironically backed up with ‘feminist’ assumptions about the nature of men, and irrespective of the evidence case by case.

    The fact that a party like the SWP with its toxic mixture of undeveloped leninism (with no concept of the rule of law and as bad as if not worse than stalinism) and middle class liberalism makes concessions to this only makes me thankful that we are unlikely to live in a society run by them.

    Victims of sexual abuse should be helped to find it easier to come forward, but that is not an argument for demanding that when someone believes they have evidence that someone is being accused of rape based on poor evidence and an unreliable witness they should be silenced, particularly when the case is in the public domain.

    #224 By now you are fully aware from other threads what the allegation of hypocrisy relates to.

    You may choose to refuse to answer the point, but as long as it is believed by many people that the allegation is true, you will not be able to get away with shrugging it off.

    Hypothetically, if a leader of a socialist organisation resigned from his position because of allegations of sexual harassment and then was cheered by a stamping, chanting crowd would that not be a bad thing, particularly in the light of what has been discussed here, and specifically what you have said? How do you think the accusers would feel about that reaction? Would others in the same boat feel more or less happy about coming forward?

    (Note I take it at face value that you didn’t witness the alleged incident and I am not asking you to admit it happened.)

    And would it not then be the height of hypocricy for that same organisation to try to take some sort of moral highground on the question of GG’s position on Assange or in relation to others who have argued Assange’s innocence?

  190. stuart on said:

    Vanya,

    I know nothing of what you refer to other than vague allegations about allegations that I read on this blog from time to time, usually when there is some political disagreement going on. I have to say that I do not regard SU as a reliable source for the simple reason that false allegations are made about things that I’m able to judge for myself. So when I read that the SWP supported NATO in Libya I know that to be incorrect. It’s what somebody opposed to the SWP wants to believe but it’s not correct.

  191. So when I read that the SWP supported NATO in Libya I know that to be incorrect. It’s what somebody opposed to the SWP wants to believe but it’s not correct.

    It’s turning the SWP’s politics on it: The SWP in effect supported Nato despite claiming to be against it. Judith Orr’s article is the clearest example of this.

  192. Just to clarify, the Student Activism article is misleading- it quotes Assange’s defence but without pointing out that they themselves were quoting the accusations against him.

    This is what I thought. Heather Downs, a number of people have sid the same thing: That Assange’s lawyers were not admitting anything but were using the accusations against him to quote a standard legal “so what if” defence.

    Given that you, in several forums, are the one who keeps saying his lawyers have admitted it, it’s incumbent upon you to re-evaluate this evidence and possibly change your mind. It doesn’t change the politics, but it does remove some of the moralism from the argument.

  193. #226 I asked you a hypothetical question. I didn’t ask you to concede that the allegation is true or whether you believe it to be true.

    You know what the allegation is because you have participated in discussions on here when it has been outlined. And I very much doubt that if you were not present and therefore unable to know at first hand whether it’s true that you would not have asked someone else who was there.

    Because if you didn’t that would indicate that you didn’t want to know because either you couldn’t face the possibility that it was true or because you didn’t care whether it was or not. And I would not wish to suggest either.

    But all I asked you to do was to say whether it would have been a bad thing and evidence of hypocricy on the part of the SWP if it was true.

    By all means refuse to answer, but please don’t insult my intelligence by saying you don’t know what I’m talking about.

  194. Callinicos celebrates the role of NATO, comparing it to the war against Hitler and Mussolini:

    http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=26491

    Particularly dishonest for Callinicos – remember a white boy Rhodesian colonialist himself – is his saying that there was no equivocation in the Arab world supporting the fall of Gaddafi – without callinicos acknowledging that anti-imperialists and pan-Africanists right accross the African continent did oppose the fall of Gaddafi.

  195. If I may, I do think it’s a bit unfair to bring up Stuart’s SWP affiliation in the context of this discussion( and I believe the SWP finally turfed out the accused last week anyway, if I’m not mistaken)as it amounts to an ad hominem attack on him. I should think that he could certainly be making the same argument were he NOT an SWP member and if you grant him that, then the SWP case is an entirely seperate issue.

  196. Please post a link and we can have a read.

    1) There’s this interesting thing that people do during a debate. They use the term “we”, as if they represent a constituency of some kind. Stuart, you represent yourself. You can say “so I can have a read”. That’s important, because it is an attempt to isolate the other side of a debate. Look how often it’s used online. It doesn’t work.

    2) This has been gone over time and time again. Links have been provided. Analyses have been written. “We” have, I think, fairly conclusively shown that a large section of the left has got itself hopelessly confused over Libya and has given de facto support to Nato. I can’t quite remember if it was Judith Orr’s article, but one of the really confused articles that SW etc came out with was slamming the ceasefire idea, even though the only alternative at that time was Nato intervention. And let’s not forget how much of the debate was characterised by people like John G calling to “arm the rebels”. There was only one group of people who were ever going to arm the rebels. No one else was gonna. There was no international working class movement that was gonna be able to do it. When you call for the rebels to be armed, you do so surely with an understanding of the prevailing politics, the actual situation on the ground, don’t you? So when you say “arm the rebels” you are in fact calling for Nato intervention. That’s not even a leap of logic: There was no other agency in the world that would’ve been able to arm the rebels.

    Similarly in the much more complicated situation in Syria, I started to feel surprised by how often I was seeing party members (and, of course, many others, but it’s party members who claim to have the best perspective and clearest idea of how to act) saying things like “victory to the Syrian revolution!”

    I do think that much of the left has lost its way over this. If we want to use one particular barometer, you could say “the more you sound like the AWL, the more your politics have degenerated”. So, the call to actively support Labour in Croydon North purely because of some mistaken comments by Galloway was pure AWL politics. The difference is, there’s enough serious thinking in the SWP that a membership rebellion might actually have results. But similarly with Libya, while not sounding like the AWL, groups like the SWP did come remarkably close to the moralistic, pro-imperialist right-wing thinking that the AWL are masters of.

    3) As an addition to the call for “links”, this is another common feature of debates: Resetting the clock. Given just how sharp the arguments have been over imperialism, over British government action, over the left’s response to it and over the disagreements in parts of the left, pretty much everything that could be posted has been posted. It would take minutes for you to see what links were posted before, but now you want to reset the clock. Stuart, you were here at the time! You were part of those arguments! You don’t need “links”, because people like Karl Stewart took you apart many times over your organisation’s confusion about Libya. But when you say you want to see links (you, not “we”), you reset the clock and we have to go back to the beginning.

    It’s not a huge problem if the SWP gets something wrong. The real problem here is that the left in large parts of the west has gone badly wrong on imperialism. In the middle east, the coalitions in support of Palestine have gone badly wrong because when it comes to local issues, sectarianism has torn apart people’s thinking – to the point where some of the most principled people fighting for Palestine to be free have modified their positions and ended up directly saying “we want the Americans to intervene in Syria”, and when pressed on this, have responded by saying they don’t really have a problem with imperialism, they just have a problem with how much support the US gives Israel. If the US gave them a seat at the table, they’d be quite happy.

    Now, that’s sort of natural – the shifting politics of the Arab world means that lots of power plays will happen, and lots of compromises with imperialism will be made. On the whole, the response to imperialism in the 21st century has become really confused, from the small-time machinations of the British left to the possible selling out of the entire Palestinian cause by those who are desperate to prove that they’re worthy of being trusted by the US. So it’s not much of a big deal.

  197. Heather Downs on said:

    221 It is ridiculous to suggest that the probability of an event occurring over a large sample gives no indication of the probability of a specific event occurring.
    The only defence offered by Assange is ‘consent’ – implied or retroactive consent. Which is not actually consent.
    I note that my use of ‘Stalin’ 116 is criticised, but ‘stalinism’ 225 is not. I thought my comment was clear – one reactionary feminist does not mean feminism is reactionary; one Bolshevik being Stalin does not mean Bolshevism is Stalinist.
    The remarks about Angus Johnston 222 would logically preclude virtually all participants in this debate.

  198. Andy Newman,

    You must have a different definition to me when it comes to ‘celebrates’. How can anyone conclude that Callinicos ‘celebrates’ NATO intervention from reading the article? You mean you want to believe he celebrates but he doesn’t.

  199. Vanya,

    If I was present I would have cheered (at the time I would have been unaware even of SU allegations). I have since read allegations about allegations on here however as I’ve explained I do not regard this as a reliable source, the SWP is frequently misrepresented on here I believe for political purposes.

  200. It is right that as socialists we demand that Assange should not end up in the US against his will, regardless of what happened in the bedroom. However, we also as socialists have a duty to take allegations of sexual assault seriously- the danger is that in supposedly supporting Assange we end up disbelieving women in such a way as to give comfort to abusers.

    Can you explain what on earth that has to do with what I’ve said? That was your reply to my comment about banning someone who had smeared me.

    In what way has anything I’ve said or done given you reason to counter it by saying we must take sexual assault allegations seriously?

    See, by answering like that, you strongly imply that I’m not in favour taking such allegations seriously. And I’m getting pretty sick of people who are so dishonest in how they debate, they think it’s fine to drop such implications into their comments.

    So, here we go again: Please explain exactly what you think you were responding to.

    And on your main point, do you really think it’s as binary as that? You’ve just said that by supporting Assange we end up disbelieving women and that this gives comfort to abusers. So, what? We can’t support Assange? Is it really that clear-cut?

    But first, let’s have some clarity on what you think I said. Please quote posts, so that I can have a read. Not “we”, remember. I’m just representing myself here. Well, maybe I’m representing my hopes for honest debate.

    And Andy is right. Your organistion has a miserable history of covering up sexual abuse and assaults. Utterly miserable. To the point where women in your organisation don’t feel able to report such things. Can you tell me how a woman who is being abused by a member should feel after seeing the standing ovation that Martin Smith got when he stood down as national secretary cos of his behaviour? Does that look like an organisation committed to ensuring that if there is abuse, it will be dealt with properly? I’d say the same about any organisation. When I’ve seen bullying in my own union, I’ve done everything I can to try to create a culture where the bullying stops, but where if it does happen, people feel they can report it cos none of us are perfect. In an organisation like yours, of course there are gonna be bad people. But I hold you to the standard you demand I hold you to, by claiming to have the best perspective, arguments and clarity. If your organisation has created a macho thug culture where women have felt like there’s a “fuck circuit” and where serious allegations of sexist behaviour and sexual harassment are covered up, what hope is there and what reason do I have for taking you seriously when you respond to me?

    I’m sure I’m just bullying you of course, to try to silence debate. I’m sure of course that the internal goings-on of your organisation don’t have any reflection in the way its members then behave in the wider movement. Just ask the guy who Martin Smith beat up a few years ago at a public SWP event (in front of other party members, who did nothing), and just ask the student Respect member who was assaulted by one of your guys in 2008 outside an NUS meeting (in front of other party members, who did nothing). I’m sure that these things are entirely unconnected with the internal culture of your group.

  201. Heather Downs,

    “It is ridiculous to suggest that the probability of an event occurring over a large sample gives no indication of the probability of a specific event occurring.”

    Where specific events with (ostensible) evidence are concerned, ‘probability’ based on generalisations amounts to introducing prejudice. You have to based your arguments on the actual evidence, not make generalisations about other cases that are irrelevant to this case.

    “The only defence offered by Assange is ‘consent’ – implied or retroactive consent. Which is not actually consent.”

    But this is a change of tack. Previously you argued that he had admitted it through his lawyers. This is shifting the terms of the argument and amounts to abandoning that argument without saying so openly.

    The question of ‘defence’ does not really arise in an EAW extradition hearing where you are not allowed to challenge whether or not there is a prima facie case.

    Hence the esto defence, which was put because Assange’s lawyers were not allowed to put a real defence, i.e. to challenge the so-called ‘evidence’.

  202. tony collins,

    The reason that I directed my post at you was because there was a debate going on through you as administrator about whether a poster should be banned as a result of comments about the Assange case. I made no specific criticism of either yourself or anyone else, what I did was offer my socialist-inspired perspective on a complicated issue.

  203. tony collins,

    A few points.

    If it’s the Judith Orr ‘ceasefire’ article it ends with the following words..

    ‘Activists in Britain must continue to campaign for an end to all Western intervention in the region.’

    I do remember having discussions with Karl Stewart though I have no recollection of being ‘taken apart’. What I will have been saying (and I’m confident that archives would vindicate me), is that the SWP approach to these kinds of admittedly complicated questions has never really changed in essence, over many years even before the end of the Cold War.

    I confidently maintain that the SWP does not celebrate NATO support, that political opponents would like to think that they do and so they conveniently draw conclusions from complicated situations. If someone wants to believe something how can you stop them? I believe the disagreement with some on the left comes down to their greater willingness to side with Gadaffi or Assad.

  204. #234 ‘It is ridiculous to suggest that the probability of an event occurring over a large sample gives no indication of the probability of a specific event occurring.’

    Andy has already responded to this, referring to prejudice, and he is entirely correct.

    It’s the reason why for example there is always such a battle in criminal trials in this country over the introduction of bad character evidence.

    But what you and your (comrades or palls, not sure which) in the SWP are doing here is worse and more fundamental.

    You seem to be saying that an allegation of rape should be believed and is more than likely to be true in every specific case because so many rapists get away with it generally.

    I don’t even know why you are bothering to discuss any of the merits of the case against Assange.

    You are essentially saying that the rules that determine a fair trial should simply not apply to those accused of rape.

    Perhaps judges should mention low conviction rates when they sum up to the jury, and tell them to weigh this up with the evidence?

    I fully expect to be branded as a mysoginist rape apologist for saying this and of course I must be guilty as charged by the same twisted logic.

    It’s a logic of course that would lead in practice to the jails being full of men convicted of rape who were widely believed to be innocent and real genuine victims believed to be liars, reinforce mysoginist attitudes and de-valuing the whole stigma of rape as a criminal offence in the eyes of exactly the people who need to see it for the crime it is. But never mind eh.

  205. Vanya: You seem to be saying that an allegation of rape should be believed and is more than likely to be true in every specific case because so many rapists get away with it generally.

    That is entirely possible as a position. I recall sucessfully defending a member against a false allegation of racism that I knew had been orchestrated by an inadequate manager. SWP stewards advised me against doing so ‘because we shouldn’t defend racists’. Its the same logic – or lack of it.

  206. Jellytot on said:

    @233Stuart, you represent yourself.

    Does “he” ?

    I was under the impression that “stuart’s” appointed duty on here was to argue the SWP line in all matters and under all circumstances, in a fairly dry manner. I have never read anything by him/her that deviates from that.

    @237And Andy is right. Your organistion has a miserable history of covering up sexual abuse and assaults. Utterly miserable. To the point where women in your organisation don’t feel able to report such things

    The internal culture of the SWP (and other groups) clearly promoted a culture of sexism and abuse. I have observances from my own time in the Party that reinforces that belief. The “cultish” dynamic operating within them , where the leadership must be defended and the line towed, helps perpetuate such a culture.

    The dropping of Martin Smith now, I think, has as much to do with the fact that he has outlived his usefulness (what with the apparent collapse and fragmentation of the EDL) than anything to with the SWP suddenly discovering a moral compass in regards to the allegations against him.

  207. #243 It doesn’t surprise me. People like that shouldn’t even BE stewards. Recruiting sergeants for the BNP is what they are with attitudes like that.

    And imagine what a state would be like if they ever had their hands on the levers of power ffs!

    Due process? Fair trials? Bourgeois crap.

  208. Jellytot on said:

    @237Just ask the guy who Martin Smith beat up a few years ago at a public SWP event

    Fancy being beaten up by Martin Smith…..the humiliation.

    Do you think he was wearing his Stone Island sweater at the time?

  209. George Hallam on said:

    Heather Downs: I note that my use of ‘Stalin’ 116 is criticised, but ‘stalinism’ 225 is not.

    Thank you for calling this to my attention.

    In my defense I’ve been very busy and it escaped my notice.

    I will get round to it as soon as I have time.

  210. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    stuart: tony collins, A few points. If it’s the Judith Orr ‘ceasefire’ article it ends with the following words..‘Activists in Britain must continue to campaign for an end to all Western intervention in the region.’I do remember having discussions with Karl Stewart though I have no recollection of being ‘taken apart’. What I will have been saying (and I’m confident that archives would vindicate me), is that the SWP approach to these kinds of admittedly complicated questions has never really changed in essence, over many years even before the end of the Cold War.I confidently maintain that the SWP does not celebrate NATO support, that political opponents would like to think that they do and so they conveniently draw conclusions from complicated situations. If someone wants to believe something how can you stop them? I believe the disagreement with some on the left comes down to their greater willingness to side with Gadaffi or Assad.

    The Cold War was certainly a “complicated situation”. The Cliffite response was “Neither Washington nor Moscow but international socialism”. I can understand Cliff’s dilemma. You could make yourself unpopular if you lived in the USA or Western Europe and were seen to defend the Soviet bloc. Even the likes of George Orwell might be putting your name in a little book and showing it to the government. So far better to distance yourself from “Moscow” as much as possible.

    What is intriguing nowadays is that the SWP tends to openly favour “Washington”-backed forces. It certainly does not insist on any commitment to “international socialism” on the part of these forces. This sits uneasily with any claim to be “anti-imperialist”, of course, but a bit of sophistry and self-deception can do wonders. Such as claims that US imperialism does not matter because it has economic problems. Actually, imperialism is often an attempt to solve these problems through conquest, creating spheres of influence etc. And the USA certainly has money for reconnaissance drones, as the Iranian capture of one (announced this morning) indicates. Not to mention the ones fired in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen that actually kill.

    I notice Counterfire have a much more nuanced position that notes the long list of reactionary sponsors for the “Free Syria Army”. But from the SWP we get this spiral into ever more sub-Shachtmanite positions.

  211. stuart on said:

    Mark Victorystooge,

    Your contribution amounts to yet more misrepresentation, for example the bit about US imperialism ‘does not matter’.

    As I’ve argued, the essence of the SWP approach has not really changed, so when Russia occupied Afghanistan through the 1980s during the Cold War the SWP opposed imperialism on both sides, it did not argue that Russia offered a ‘progressive’ intervention. That’s why it’s wrong for posters, such as the originator of this thread, to talk of a ‘descent’ when in reality we see a continuation of approach. Not everyone on the left will agree with SWP but then they wouldn’t have in the 1980s either.

  212. Jellytot on said:

    @252That’s why it’s wrong for posters, such as the originator of this thread, to talk of a ‘descent’ when in reality we see a continuation of approach.

    The originator is right to talk about a descent from ten years ago.

    From the opening paragraph:

    From its high water mark, when it played a central role in the antiwar movement during its peak years around 2003-04, until today, it has suffered a steep decline in the quality of its analysis and with it anything resembling influence, traction, or effectiveness.

    This stands up as a piece of analysis. I agree with you though that your position on Syria today is broadly analogous with your line on Afghanistan in the 80’s.

  213. stuart on said:

    Jellytot,

    So if 2003 was ‘high water’ I would assume that the 1999 position on Kosovo was of a similar standard? Where does support for the overthrow of Milosevic in 2000 fit in to this pattern?

  214. albacore on said:

    Mark Victorystooge: The Cold War was certainly a “complicated situation”. The Cliffite response was “Neither Washington nor Moscow but international socialism”. I can understand Cliff’s dilemma. You could make yourself unpopular if you lived in the USA or Western Europe and were seen to defend the Soviet bloc.

    Mark, are you seriously suggesting that Cliff’s position was popular at the time he adopted it, and was adopted with that in mind? Your desire to clobber Cliff is leading you to over egg the pudding, I think.

  215. albacore: are you seriously suggesting that Cliff’s position was popular at the time he adopted it,

    Clearly yes. It was an accomodation to the cold war which while maybe unpopular among the ranks of the Communist movement, and the anti-imperialist left in the Labour Party and trade unions, was fashionably liberal for recruiting people who had been influenced by Cold War propaganda against the USSR, or who had liberal ideas about individualism, and who accomodated to bouregois concepts of “freedom”.

    This allowed the SWP and its predeccessors to be verbally radical in expropriating the legacy of 1917, while disowning every actualy existing progressive or socialist government in the world, bleeting the same liberal critiques of thse socialist or post-colonialist governments as the Guardian.

    the decline from the SWP’ position towards Schachtmanism was always an inherent danger, that in the last two or three years seems to have become an increasing reality. More and more it is only Israel that differetiates the SWP and AWL I

  216. George Hallam on said:

    albacore: Mark, are you seriously suggesting that Cliff’s position was popular at the time he adopted it, and was adopted with that in mind? Your desire to clobber Cliff is leading you to over egg the pudding, I think.

    I have to admit that there is a horrible fascination about these arcane disputes and the mentality of those involved.

    Thanks to the wonders of the internet a considerable amount of material is available that allows one to investigate such things.

    On the evidence of the text below I would seem that ‘popular’ doesn’t quite capture Cliff’s thinking. However, it does seem that there was a strong pragmatic element in his thinking.

    “I should mention that before the conference our secret faction invited Tony Cliff to meet us, which he did, and we had a long discussion with him about the group and the International. He had a very plausible line which went something like this:

    “If one continues to see Stalinist Russia as a workers’ state and admit that the Stalinists can carry through a revolution (Eastern Europe, China) then you end up adopting Stalinist policies (e.g., Socialist Outlook, the IS line on Yugoslavia, etc and Stalinist organisational methods are used, e.g., Healy’s group). The only way out of the dilemma was to adopt the state capitalist line.”

    http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Healy/Walters.html

  217. John Grimshaw on said:

    #256 The Cliffite line was popular amongst a serious minority of socialists for quite some time, although it may be that it is becoming increasingly irrelevant these days. For me why this was (is?) is not difficult to understand. And it had little to do with fashionable students (a standard slag off of the SWP – the SWP mobile phone joke is now seriously out of date also) or people being taken in by US anti-USSR propaganda. That last bits just patronising. Especially to those of us (like you?) who took the SWP at face value but left for real on the ground reasons. It was “popular” because there were many of us who wanted to be part of an activist socialist organisation but saw no hope in either the LP (afterall who wants to spend every other saturday at a jumble sale) or the stalinist orientated “communist movement, and the anti-imperialist left in the LP” that you refer to. It had long ago become obvious that all (the vast majority?) of the so called socialist countries of the world were simply not that. This left a conundrum and Cliff’s line seemed to offer a solution to this. I wasn’t taken in by some sinister CIA conspiracy in order to agree with Cliff for sometime.

  218. I’ve no idea, it’s not something I would know about.

    I know why every official in the RMT is in post or leaves their post. I feel ownership the union, cos I’m a member. So I play a full part in knowing who runs it and why.

    I work for London Underground. I have no idea who the directors, line managers etc. are, cos it’s of little relevance to me despite them being my employers.

    When I was an SWP member, I felt the entire point was that the member is the party, and the party is the member, and so the appointment or otherwise of the party leader or the appointment of the CC slate was something it was vital for me to know about and play a part in. The National Secretary position isn’t a management or a directorship, it’s an embodiment of the party, and as such it’s unbelieveable that you “wouldn’t know about” why your party leader stood down.

    Given how people are treated during disciplinary hearings (no right to be accompanied, even if they feel really intimidated, no time to read and construct a defence against the charges), how the party is run top-down not bottom-up, how little knowledge of the reasons behind policy changes there is, I’d say you have much more in common with an ordinary company than with any workers organisation.

    In that sense nothing has changed about its approach since I’ve known of it. The only thing that’s changed is that sometimes that approach will chime with the needs of the working class – such as the work on Islamophobia, and the anti-war movement. But it’s not revolutionary, it’s not marxist – it’s done because of the need of the party, not the need of the class.

  219. John Grimshaw on said:

    stuart:
    Jellytot,

    So if 2003 was ‘high water’ I would assume that the 1999 position on Kosovo was of a similar standard? Where does support for the overthrow of Milosevic in 2000 fit in to this pattern?

    If I remember correctly Stuart the Kossovo situation was a thorny problem: for all the left. The SWP was clearly anti-imperialist and against the bombing of Serbia. However at the time the SWP went further than this (whether rightly or wrongly) and essentially supported the Serbian regime because the KLF was supported by imperialist forces. This despite the Serb governements dubious right wing background. Of course the KLF itself had (has?) a very murky background. And this was despite the fact that the largest number of Kossovans had been oppressed by the Serbs for years especially since the collapse of the Yugoslav regime. The problem then is that whilst socialists are supposed to support the oppressed, what is to be done when the oppressed go on to be supported by the imperialist powers?

  220. Stuart, the point about the SWP’s response is, what did it mean?

    You can’t call for the rebels to be armed – something with a 90% chance of happening, and 99% chance of that being done by the west, and then call for campaigning against intervention, something which would need massive resources and a huge campaign in order to get anywhere, as if they’re equal.

    When a group calls for these two things, one can be taken seriously and one can’t. That’s why people say the SWP took a pro-Nato line, cos in effect, you did. It’s like the AWL claiming it is in favour of a Palestinian state – sure, it probably is, but everything it does assists Israel (in a tiny tiny way, in confusing the left etc.); while the SWP’s attitude to imperialism is nothing like the AWL’s of course, the articles and arguments in SW and elsewhere have consistently shown these two faces. Sure, we’ll campaign, but we’ll also reject that ceasefire idea and our members will also call for the rebels to be armed, despite the fact that the only outcome of a rejection of a ceasefire proposal and/or the arming of the rebels will be the slaughter of huge numbers of people and the victory of imperialism in the area.

    It’s similar to this macho aggressive stuff we’ve seen on here and elsewhere, with calls for “death to Assad”, but no one in the SWP ever saying “death to Blair” or any other mass murderer.

    As I’ve said, in some senses I don’t blame you – I think the left has got itself very confused.

  221. This is not either or, and nor is it the case that anyone who opposed/opposes imperialist intervention in Libya and now Syria had/has to give any support to either Qadaafi or Assad. Calling on the imperialists to arm the opposition is stupid and treacherous to be sure, because it is an invitation to them to try to take control of the opposition.

    On the other hand, they are wary about arming the opposition and have not gone whole-heartedly for that option. They prefer to take control directly when they can – but even in Libya they could not fully do that.

    Why are they scared of this? Because they do not have a basic trust in those they would be arming. They do not trust that their own arms would not be used against their own interests. And they have reason to: example, one side effect of the imperilaist-assisted collapse of Qadaafi’s regime was that Hamas acquired a lot of arms that became available because of the chaotic situation in Libya.

    The Libyan intervention was not the product of a coherent imperialist strategy. They have a strategy, but it is tentative and not coherent. Their ‘strategy’ is, when regimes that they do not really like are threatened with revolt from below, to be seen to ‘help’ the opposition in the hope (and it is only a hope, not something solid or determined) that they will be able to forge new alliances with elements of the new regimes as a result of that. But because these movements are volatile and and have a common genesis with movements in adjoining countries that are and were directed against Western-backed regimes, their allies, there are huge risks in that.

    Nothing is cut and dried in this situation. The Arab revolution is not dead. Indeed the effective defeat of Israel over Gaza recently was a result, indirectly, of the Arab revolution.

  222. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    tony collins: Stuart, the point about the SWP’s response is, what did it mean?You can’t call for the rebels to be armed – something with a 90% chance of happening, and 99% chance of that being done by the west, and then call for campaigning against intervention, something which would need massive resources and a huge campaign in order to get anywhere, as if they’re equal.When a group calls for these two things, one can be taken seriously and one can’t. That’s why people say the SWP took a pro-Nato line, cos in effect, you did. It’s like the AWL claiming it is in favour of a Palestinian state – sure, it probably is, but everything it does assists Israel (in a tiny tiny way, in confusing the left etc.); while the SWP’s attitude to imperialism is nothing like the AWL’s of course, the articles and arguments in SW and elsewhere have consistently shown these two faces. Sure, we’ll campaign, but we’ll also reject that ceasefire idea and our members will also call for the rebels to be armed, despite the fact that the only outcome of a rejection of a ceasefire proposal and/or the arming of the rebels will be the slaughter of huge numbers of people and the victory of imperialism in the area.It’s similar to this macho aggressive stuff we’ve seen on here and elsewhere, with calls for “death to Assad”, but no one in the SWP ever saying “death to Blair” or any other mass murderer.As I’ve said, in some senses I don’t blame you – I think the left has got itself very confused.

    The screams of joy from the SWP when Gaddafi was killed, the open approval of the bomb attack in the summer that killed several of Assad’s senior officials and a number of other things have been quite revealing in recent years. I am used to bromides about the “futility of individual terrorism” that emerge from much of the left when the armed group in question kills a senior official in an imperialist country. But when the targets are from a country that the West has in a “regime change” grip, the action suddenly has its “left” fans. I wonder why that is.

    It may of course be that people don’t post “Death to Blair” because they know that they might have the cops coming around for a chat at four in the morning within the framework of “anti-terrorism” legislation. Best to stick with hating the same people your ruling class does. It might even be renumerative to do so.

  223. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    George Hallam: I have to admit that there is a horrible fascination about these arcane disputes and the mentality of those involved.Thanks to the wonders of the internet a considerable amount of material is available that allows one to investigate such things.On the evidence of the text below I would seem that ‘popular’ doesn’t quite capture Cliff’s thinking. However, it does seem that there was a strong pragmatic element in his thinking.“I should mention that before the conference our secret faction invited Tony Cliff to meet us, which he did, and we had a long discussion with him about the group and the International. He had a very plausible line which went something like this: “If one continues to see Stalinist Russia as a workers’ state and admit that the Stalinists can carry through a revolution (Eastern Europe, China) then you end up adopting Stalinist policies (e.g., Socialist Outlook, the IS line on Yugoslavia, etc and Stalinist organisational methods are used, e.g., Healy’s group). The only way out of the dilemma was to adopt the state capitalist line.” http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Healy/Walters.html

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWeZ5SKXvj8

    Cliffism developed in this climate. The anti-Communism reached near-lunatic levels in the USA but less over-the-top anti-Communism was in vogue elsewhere in the West during this deep freeze point of the Cold War. Cliff adapted to this climate.

  224. Mark Victorystooge: He had a very plausible line which went something like this: “If one continues to see Stalinist Russia as a workers’ state and admit that the Stalinists can carry through a revolution (Eastern Europe, China) then you end up adopting Stalinist policies

    It was opportunism dressed up as analysis.

  225. The discussions of state cap on the British trotskyist left, if you include Jock Haston and Ted Grant whose views on State Capitalism Cliff initially began by polemicising against but eventually came to agree with and promote (Jock and Ted changed their minds back again, occurred before the cold war started.

    The theory of state capitalism has its origins not in the cold war but in the falsification of Trotsky’s prognosis after the war. Whatever one thinks about this it has nothing whatsoever to do with the ‘cold war’.

  226. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    redscribe: This is not either or, and nor is it the case that anyone who opposed/opposes imperialist intervention in Libya and now Syria had/has to give any support to either Qadaafi or Assad. Calling on the imperialists to arm the opposition is stupid and treacherous to be sure, because it is an invitation to them to try to take control of the opposition.On the other hand, they are wary about arming the opposition and have not gone whole-heartedly for that option. They prefer to take control directly when they can – but even in Libya they could not fully do that. Why are they scared of this? Because they do not have a basic trust in those they would be arming. They do not trust that their own arms would not be used against their own interests. And they have reason to: example, one side effect of the imperilaist-assisted collapse of Qadaafi’s regime was that Hamas acquired a lot of arms that became available because of the chaotic situation in Libya.The Libyan intervention was not the product of a coherent imperialist strategy. They have a strategy, but it is tentative and not coherent. Their ‘strategy’ is, when regimes that they do not really like are threatened with revolt from below, to be seen to ‘help’ the opposition in the hope (and it is only a hope, not something solid or determined) that they will be able to forge new alliances with elements of the new regimes as a result of that. But because these movements are volatile and and have a common genesis with movements in adjoining countries that are and were directed against Western-backed regimes, their allies, there are huge risks in that.Nothing is cut and dried in this situation. The Arab revolution is not dead. Indeed the effective defeat of Israel over Gaza recently was a result, indirectly, of the Arab revolution.

    Chaos is part of the imperialist strategy. Once upon a time they might have hesitated to sow chaos, because there was a danger it might pave the way for Communism, but that is clearly not their fear nowadays. They can live with some Al Qaida pseudo-gang, that they or their surrogates probably control anyway, taking power somewhere. If things go well, it will be like Saudi Arabia. If things don’t, they can always whip up Islamophobia at home or use the ready-made opportunity to engage in aggression abroad. They win either way.

    Nothing is “cut and dried”, I suppose, in the sense that the SWP could take power in London tomorrow. But we all know it isn’t going to.

  227. “chaos is part of the imperialist strategy”. This is the kind of thing which could justify including almost anything under the rubric of ‘imperialist strategy’. It seems to preclude any Marxist theory of imperialism.

  228. Mark Victorystooge,

    “Chaos is part of the imperialist strategy.”

    I really don’t think so. They want compliant puppets, or if they can’t get that, allies that become such over time through fostering dependence – military and economic.

    They were not pleased at what happened in Tunisia, or Egypt. They support repression in Bahrain. Were they pleased that Hamas was able to augment their arsenal from Libya? I doubt it. If Saudi Arabia were to descend into ‘chaos’ they would not be best pleased either.

    The SWP are not revolutionary and will not take power even when hell freezes over. Their influence in the Middle East is thankfully nugatory.

    Here is a somewhat different perspective on things from the Middle East.

  229. Andy Newman:

    the decline from the SWP’ position towards Schachtmanism was always an inherent danger, that in the last two or three years seems to have become an increasing reality. More and more it is only Israel that differetiates the SWP and AWL

    Here is Cliff on bureaucratic collectivism. The distinction between his state capitalism and Schachtmanism (for example the latter’s notion that bureaucratic collectivism is more reactionary than capitalism), and the political consequences that naturally flow from that are well laid out. I’m particularly drawn to this passage..

    ‘ serious Marxists, while seeking to hold consistently to the same principles, often change their tactics, as tactics must change with changing circumstances. Marxists should not decide on one tactic and hold to it when the justification for it is proved incorrect’

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/cliff/works/1948/xx/burcoll.htm#s8

    I think that gets to the root of at least some of what is debated here. And moreover, the piece demonstrates that surely it is wrong to talk of a recent ‘descent’- the principles and the necessaily flexible tactical approach were developed long ago.

    Further, I don’t think that only Israel differentiates the SWP from the AWL. I think the latter differ sharply with the SWP over the question of Islam , they are drawn quite closely to Harry’s Place IMO- the SWP most certainly are not.

  230. stuart on said:

    tony collins,

    I’m not aware that the change in status of Martin Smith signifies any particular disagreements over theory and/or practice. If it does then I am sufficiently confident that such a debate will be aired accordingly.

  231. George Hallam on said:

    John Grimshaw: For me why this was (is?) is not difficult to understand. And it had little to do with … people being taken in by US anti-USSR propaganda.

    OK. So how would we test this statement?

  232. Johng you are making an artificial distinction between anti-communism/anti-sovietism post- (the ‘cold war’) and pre/early WW2.

    A desire to be as little associated with the horrors of the Stalin regime was as important to those who adopted state cap positions and similar in the wake of the invasions of the Baltic states, Finland and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact as it was after the wartime alliance between the western allies and the USSR broke down.

    The problem with socialism and the cause of the working class is that it’s like family- you can’t choose who you’re related to just by making a subjective choice or doing ideological gymnastics.

    Your big brother/sister or mum/ dad may be a monster in many ways, and you may well have good reason and an obligation to condemn their monstrous behaviour, but they’re still family.

  233. Stuart, I must give you credit for being willing to debate tirelessly on here phlegmatically and respectfully. It’s a lesson to us all in how these platforms can work.

    I may disagree with your analysis, but your method is admirable.

  234. #227 I actually agree with John here and apologies Stuart if I have appeared to be accusing you of arguing in bad faith.

  235. George Hallam on said:

    John Grimshaw: The Cliffite line was popular amongst a serious minority of socialists for quite some time, …
    […]
    It was “popular” because there were many of us who wanted to be part of an activist socialist organisation but saw no hope in either the LP (afterall who wants to spend every other saturday at a jumble sale)

    Wikipedia says that the group around Cliff were in the Labour Party until at least 1966.

    Socialist Worker first appeared in September 1968. Prior to that it was called “Labour Worker” (first issue 1964).

    So your remarks appear to relate to a much later period almost two decades after the genesis of Cliff’s ‘State-capitalist’ line.

    None the less it is interesting to hear your view. One of the reasons I follow this site is to keep in touch with the thinking of younger people.

  236. Jellytot on said:

    @264Cliffism developed in this climate. The anti-Communism reached near-lunatic levels in the USA but less over-the-top anti-Communism was in vogue elsewhere in the West during this deep freeze point of the Cold War. Cliff adapted to this climate.

    I have a genuine question.

    Did Trotskyites suffer during the ‘red scare’ of the late 40’s/1950’s? Were they hauled up before HUAC, blacklisted, harrassed and had their groups monitored and banned?

    Any links on this?

  237. Vanya I don’t think the British trots of the 1940s were concerned about public opinion in the way you seem to suggest. They were a pretty tough bunch. The state cap analyses emerged out of the falsification of Trotsky’s prognosis (which were so off-beam as to throw the movement into a crisis almost everywhere). I happen to think they were right but all I wanted to stress was that whether they were right or wrong, the position they took up was not taken up to appease a dominant mood. It was not something these individuals were in the habit of doing. The state caps then remained utterly marginal for something like 20 years (those trots with a ‘campist’ position, ie critical support for the Soviet Union did far better, even after hungary ’56). In the mileu which the Socialist Review Group were situated in a state cap analyses did one no favours. Well aside from being expelled from Gerry Healy’s outfit. That must have been a relief.

    The cold war itself was past its fiercest by the time the state caps began to hegenomise the far left in Britain.

  238. #281 I think what’s more relevant is that the SWP continued to be the subject of state harassment and dirty tricks after WW2 and into the 70’s via the FBI Cointelpro operation, partly due to their involvement in the anti Vietnam war movement and before that (allegedly) due to being an obstacle to the ‘mob’ taking over control of the Teamsters.

    For the avoidance of doubt the SWP is not to be confused with the later British organisation of the same name.

  239. stuart on said:

    John (277), Vanya (278),

    Thank you for your kind remarks. I look forward to further, no doubt highly challenging debates.

  240. Jellytot on said:

    @272I’m not aware that the change in status of Martin Smith signifies any particular disagreements over theory and/or practice.

    Disagreements over Smith’s intra-party “practices” maybe?

  241. George Hallam on said:

    johng: Vanya I don’t think the British trots of the 1940s were concerned about public opinion in the way you seem to suggest.

    Is anyone accusing Cliff of being concerned with PUBLIC opinion?

    He led an extremely small group and for many years recruited from a very small pool (initially the Labour Party youth organisation).

    From what “John Walters” says it seems his main concern in 1950 was to avoid doing anything that might give any credibility to the ‘stalinism’. He appears not to have had any such qualms about social democracy.

  242. johng: by the time the state caps began to hegenomise the far left in Britain.

    To suggest that a sect characterised by an immovable inner core and a highly transitory membership as hegemonic of anything, let alone the chronically fissiparious ultra left in Britain, is to strip the term of any meaning.
    Even within the SWP it is hard to find anyone who thinks state cap theory has any explanatory power in contemporary conditions.
    The last group of young SWPers I spoke with had a greater regard for (and knowledge of) Fidel Castro than Tony Cliff.

  243. stuart: For some on the left, the SWP was wrong to welcome the downfall of Milosevic

    Oh yes, the downfall of a Western hate-figure. A regime change which ushered in the process of market privatisation and other capitalist reforms in Serbia.

    Described gushingly as “the Serbian revolution” by you guys at the time.

  244. stephen marks on said:

    ‘But other American trotskyites like Sidney Hook were actively work ing. With. The CIA.’

    A silly ignorant smear. Hook was originally a sympathiser of the CPUSA, studying philosophy in Moscow and supporting the CP’s presidential candidate William Z.Foster. Later he worked with pragmatist philosopher John Dewey in the Committee to Defend Leon Trotsky at the time of the Moscow Trials. But he never actually joined either the CP or the Trotskyist SWP. And he explicitly rejected revolutionary Marxism and denounced the Russian Revolution as early as 1938. Thereafter he refused permission for the reprinting of his highly-regarded early work ‘Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx’ which reflected the influence of Lukacs and Korsch.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that he did work for the CIA. But that was long after he had ceased to have anything to do with either of his youthful revolutionary infatuations. And I don’t know that ex-Trots were any more likely to end up on the right than ex-Stalinists.

  245. stephen marks on said:

    ‘A regime change which ushered in the process of market privatisation and other capitalist reforms in Serbia’. No, it was Milosevic who ushered this in, largely to line his own pockets and that of his mafia colleagues. As I recall Douglas Hurd was retained as advisor on bank privatisation.

  246. Jellytot on said:

    @291A silly ignorant smear.

    #289 is a factually accurate statement – Hook was involved in a number of CIA front like the Congress of Cultural Freedom, opposed US withdrawal from Vietnam and defended the harrassment of Angela Davis by then California Governor Ronald Reagan.

    Hook can be seen as a precursor to the likes of Irving Kristol, dubbed the “godfather of neoconservatism”.

    @291youthful revolutionary infatuations

    Youthful ?!

    Hook was in his mid thirties when he was working with the ‘American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky’.

  247. stephen marks on said:

    ‘Hook was involved in a number of CIA front like the Congress of Cultural Freedom, opposed US withdrawal from Vietnam and defended the harrassment of Angela Davis by then California Governor Ronald Reagan.’

    As I have explained Hook renounced any commitment to any sort of communism, whether Stalinist or Trotskyist, in 1938. The Congress for Cultural Freedom was founded in 1950. So to describe him as a ‘Trotskyist’ or a ‘Stalinist’at the time he was working for the CIA is factually false. Indeed Hook would have regarded it as a slander!

  248. John Grimshaw on said:

    Jellytot: @291youthful revolutionary infatuations
    Youthful ?!
    Hook was in his mid thirties when he was working with the ‘American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky’.

    I take your point Jellytot but George Hallam has already very nicely described me as younger people and I’m 47.

  249. John Grimshaw on said:

    George Hallam: Wikipedia says that the group around Cliff were in the Labour Party until at least 1966.

    Socialist Worker first appeared in September 1968. Prior to that it was called “Labour Worker” (first issue 1964).

    So your remarks appear to relate to a much later period almost two decades after the genesis of Cliff’s ‘State-capitalist’ line.

    None the less it is interesting to hear your view. One of the reasons I follow this site is to keep in touch with the thinking of younger people.

    You are right Goerge. I would have been 1 in 1966. Thats why the world cup win means nothing to me :) Thanks for calling me young you’ve made my day.

  250. John Grimshaw on said:

    George Hallam: He appears not to have had any such qualms about social democracy.

    Whilst I understand your point, “entrism” in the LP was a common policy (strategy) in these days and carried on by the Militant for longer until their flip round in the 1990s, and not just common to the early SWP (whatever). Stalinists had spent many years worming their way into the tu hierarchy by this stage so maybe there was some jealousy going on.

  251. In the 1950s I think we were talking of about 12 people. I think it is rather important to get this in perspective. Even Stuart Christie did a bit of entryism in the early 1960s, and of his many crimes, I don’t think a desire to cover for social democracy was one of them (cf my granny made me an anarchist, a very interesting read).

  252. George Hallam on said:

    johng: In the 1950s I think we were talking of about 12 people. I think it is rather important to get this in perspective. Even Stuart Christie did a bit of entryism in the early 1960s, and of his many crimes, I don’t think a desire to cover for social democracy was one of them (

    I freely admit that I’m not an expert in this field. For these posts my source has just been Wikipedia and the “John Walters” article I found on Google. On the basis of what the little I’ve read in the last few days I think you are being too generous to Cliff.

    In the early post-war years, Cliff, formed the view that capitalism would prosper and that there would be scope for reforms (“All that glitters is not gold” See note September 1947 http://www.marxists.org/archive/cliff/works/1947/09/glitters.htm)) .

    There would be no immediate crisis, not revolutionary situation and therefore no basis for putting forward revolutionary tasks.

    In this he was very like the leader of the RCP Jock Haston (1913–1986). The difference was that Haston became completely disillusioned with revolutionary politics, left the movement and sought to accommodate himself with the establishment. Cliff, on the other hand, worked assiduously to build his own group based on his non-revolutionary perspective.

    Note: It would be out of character of me if I failed to point out that Cliff makes the common mistake of misquoting line from the Merchant of Venice Act 2 scene VII: it should be ‘glisters’ not ‘glitters’.

  253. I echo the sentiments of #277 and #278

    Having said that, and with all due respect: Stuart, surely you must see that the links you’ve posted to support your argument are incredibly feeble.

    stuart: Here is Alex Callinicos challenging the position of Gilbert Achcar over Libya and intervention..
    http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=24350
    Are you saying that the debate is phoney because the SWP really did support intervention?

    I read that article when it was first published and I’ve read it again now. Can you quote the part where Callinicos challenges Achcar’s position? All I can see are expressions of approval and mildly qualified support. I don’t think it would be at all clear to a neutral reader that the author of this article opposes Western intervention – only that he can see some disadvantages. I must admit though, in the context of the rest of the article, the last part of the last sentence (the bit after the comma) did make me laugh.

    As for

    stuart: Here is Cliff on bureaucratic collectivism. The distinction between his state capitalism and Schachtmanism (for example the latter’s notion that bureaucratic collectivism is more reactionary than capitalism), and the political consequences that naturally flow from that are well laid out. I’m particularly drawn to this passage..
    ‘ serious Marxists, while seeking to hold consistently to the same principles, often change their tactics, as tactics must change with changing circumstances. Marxists should not decide on one tactic and hold to it when the justification for it is proved incorrect’
    http://www.marxists.org/archive/cliff/works/1948/xx/burcoll.htm#s8

    The passage to which you are so particularly drawn (i.e. the one you’ve quoted) is self-evident to the point of being trivial and most people involved in any type of politics would consider themselves to subscribe to it (whether they actually do or not is another matter). It is not the kind of profound theoretical insight which you appear to consider it to be – and, of course, Cliff certainly didn’t invent it.

  254. George Hallam: Haston …., left the movement and sought to accommodate himself with the establishment.

    No he didn’t, unless you know better, my understanding is that Haston remained active in the movement, and became a training tutor in USDAW

  255. Mark Victorystooge: Well, it’s a large part of the British left all by itself, which makes it a magnet for criticism. Some of the things that bother me about the SWP, like the half-conscious pro-imperialism, are shared by the ISO in the USA, and the NPA in France, but these are not organised in Britain. Otherwise it involves small groups which can be ignored, other than as evidence that a kind of soft Shachtmanite syndrome is hardly unique to the SWP in Britain.
    If it disappeared overnight, it would probably be like what happened with the WRP, with a few remnants hanging about, and a large number of disorientated individuals moving to the right, if they have any politics left at all.
    I well remember one particular character, who had reputedly been a bodyguard for Gerry Healy. By the time of the poll tax he was a sort of hatchet man for the ruling establishment in the local Labour Party, and was partial to making threats against anti-poll-tax campaigners. But quite a few people have left the IS/SWP and turned into really charming people without the organisation having imploded WRP-style. Gary Bushell is one who springs to mind.

    I still think it is unreasonable to single out a particular organization. The fact of the matter is that the whole of the British left has problems. To find material to illustrate my point, I have just clicked on the first few links in the list of blogs listed at the top of this page. It didn’t take long to find the following gem:

    “…This is the Libyan tragedy. The people of Libya are stuck now between a rock and a hard place – between the murderous Gaddafi regime – and the imperial greed of the west.

    “And the stench of hypocrisy rises pungently from every utterance of Cameron. For at the other end of the Middle East, the dictatorship in Bahrain is also using bloody force to crush a democratic revolution. And the forces of repression are being backed up by the pro-western absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, armed by Britain. What do we do? The Queen is inviting the murderous and brutal King of Bahrain to London to the Royal Wedding! Why don’t they be even handed and invite the murderous Gaddafi as well? The palace garden party will be full of dictators, corrupt monarchs and war mongers – he will feel in good company.”

    Notice that the author finds it very difficult to refer to governments and rulers of the Middle East without the use of colourful adjectives – e.g. “murderous Gaddafi” ( which appears twice just in this short extract) – but our own rulers are plain old “Cameron” and “The Queen”. The crimes against humanity perpetrated by imperialism are immense – but the only things this article could think of to criticize about our own rulers’ is their “hypocricy” or who they invite to tea. A clearer example of left ideological adaptation to the world view presented by our ruling class would be difficult to find.

    The point is that concessions to imperialist ideology are not unique to the SWP but pervade the whole of the British left. This needs to be combatted but I don’t think singling out a specific organization – which may come across to you as the most annoying, but that is ONLY because it is the biggest – helps to do that.

    A more fundamental point, of course, is that the socialist project in Britain has essentially collapsed. It needs to be rebuilt from scratch and there are no short cuts.

  256. George Hallam on said:

    John Grimshaw: Explain.

    Trotsky had his theory of ‘Permanent Revolution’: Cliff developed a theory of the permanent impossibility of revolution. Of course, this is an exaggeration but not an outlandish one.

    Russia was ‘capitalist’ not through the patterns of ownership instituted by the Soviet state, but by the military competition imposed on the Russian state by the rest of the world. This forced the state to accumulate and exploit workers and therefore to act in just the same way an individual capitalist acts in a market economy. Hence the term ‘state capitalism’.

    However, this military rivalry worked in more than one direction. If the Russian state was forced to compete with the United States and its allies then, in order that it to be a competition, the United States, the UK, etc. were forced to compete with Russia. This created a new stage in the development of capitalism, a stage beyond Lenin’s ‘highest stage’. This idea raised the possibility, in the minds of the theoretically inclined, that perhaps the last days had not yet arrived.

    Kidron’s analysis of the implications of the militarisation of Western Capitalism indicated that this was the case. There had been no immediate post-war economic crisis, as Cliff had predicted. But it was not a matter of just waiting a few years until the next one arrived. The nature of capitalism had changed, not because of Keynesianism, or even military Keynesianism, but because military spending operated in an entirely different way from other forms of spending. It acted to counteract the fall in the rate of profit. No the fall in the rate of profit: no fundamental crisis of capitalism, at least for the time being. This was not a conscious policy, à la Keynes, it was a result of the ‘permanent arms economy.

    The permanent arms economy meant that economic crisis in the West was permanently delayed. There was no reason to assume that material use values would not continue to increase or that there would be return to mass unemployment. As a consequence there would be no revolutionary situation and the need to pose revolutionary task was permanently postponed.

    What was to be done?

    Cliff had a solution to the theoretical problem be had discovered (or created or fabricated, I leave the exact choice of words to you).

    If revolution was off the agenda then reformism was on. So, while they were waiting, revolutionaries should mobilise the masses in a push for reforms.

    Full employment and high levels of unionisation meant that it was possible the factory floor to be the ‘locus of reformism’ rather than the floor of the House of Commons. Cliff had a slogan about the definition of a revolutionary being a reformist ‘par excellence’ (source: a friend who was in IS in the late 60’s).

  257. George Hallam on said:

    Andy Newman: Haston …., left the movement and sought to accommodate himself with the establishment.
    No he didn’t, unless you know better, my understanding is that Haston remained active in the movement, and became a training tutor in USDAW

    You may well be right. In which case please accept my apologies.

    As I said, I don’t claim to be an expert in this area.

    I had never heard of Haston until last night.

    I’ve been working from Wikipedia articles.

    This one

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

    says:

    “Haston, demoralised by the problems Trotskyism in Britain had been undergoing since the end of the war and facing harassment from Healy, resigned from the movement in February 1950. He remained active in the Labour Party for the rest of his life, becoming a lecturer for the National Council of Labour Colleges and then educational director for the EEPTU.[1] ”

    There is a reference
    1. ^ Grant, T. (2002) History of British Trotskyism London: Wellred Publications, pg.299

    Frank Chapple was the General Secretary from 1966 to 1984 so if Haston worked for EEPTU it would have been under either Chapple or Hammond.

  258. John Grimshaw on said:

    Of course George, if Haston went on to work uncritically (don’t know) for either Chapple or Hammond I think we can safefully assume he was some kind of “sell out”.

  259. George Hallam,

    Haston certainly did leave the Trotskyist movement after being driven out by Healy’s destructive behaviour, and did indeed move to the right and become a fairly right-wing official in the Electicians. From what I hear, he often had something of a guilty conscience about some of this and was not particularly useful to the right wing.

    Its a bit difficult to use his evolution to argue that Trotskyism is in some way particularly prone to such evolutions to the right, however, given the presence of the arch right-winger and former CPer Frank Chapple in the same union. If Haston’s evolution supposedly speaks badly about Trotskyism, what does Chapple’s evolution say about the CP and Stalinism?

  260. George Hallam on said:

    redscribe: Its a bit difficult to use his evolution to argue that Trotskyism is in some way particularly prone to such evolutions to the right,

    That was not really my intention. This about people who rejected orthodox Trotskyism. I wanted to some perspective on Cliff. Haston had similar a position. Yet his behaviour is in contrast with that of Cliff.

  261. redscribe: Its a bit difficult to use his evolution to argue that Trotskyism is in some way particularly prone to such evolutions to the right, however, given the presence of the arch right-winger and former CPer Frank Chapple in the same union. If Haston’s evolution supposedly speaks badly about Trotskyism, what does Chapple’s evolution say about the CP and Stalinism?

    Well all we can say is that people’s political past entails their subsequent evolution.

    In the same way that an atheist from a methodist background may have a different outlook from an atheist from a Catholic background.

    The particular strand of Trotskyism that Burnham and Hook came from made excessive concessions to individualism, and was characterised by Stalinophobia, such that Hook became an extraordinary cold war warrior, and indeed sought to push the CIA into an even more anti-Soviet stance.

  262. redscribe: Haston certainly did leave the Trotskyist movement

    There is no “Trotskyist movement” there is just a self indulgent circus of misfits, malcontents and sometimes asocial oddballs making up for their personality defects by self-important posturing, often at the expense of the broad unity necessary for the left to progress .

    The claim was not haston left the “Trotskyist movement” [sic], but that he left “the movement”, implying the labour movement – which he clearly didn’t as he continued to be in both the Labour Party and the trade union movement.

  263. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    #304 – It probably is a little unfair to get too worked up about the SWP when the syndrome is so widespread elsewhere. As in the website you quoted, the left often unconsciously transmits the assumptions planted in it by the surrounding bourgeois ideology. 1914 was the tragic example of this, what happens nowadays is more of a farce really.

    I once read a novel by Stefan Heym, Radek, based on the life of Karl Radek. This has never been translated into English as far as I know. Here is my translation of something Radek says to Karl Liebknecht in the novel, a little before the outbreak of WWI, predicting the SPD collapse into social chauvinism:

    “And I tell you, Liebknecht, on the day war breaks out the old proletarian oaths will be forgotten; feelings of a totally different kind will fill everyone’s hearts, and nobody will talk any more about ‘international solidarity’ and ‘brothers, let us join hands’. … And the leaders of the Party will be foremost when it comes to waving patriotic flags, and on top of that they will develop a political theory to justify their betrayal.”

  264. stuart on said:

    Zaid,

    # 302,

    I think the following passage from the Callinicos article makes a clear distinction with the argument advanced by Achcar…

    ‘There is the final argument, used by both Gilbert and BHL, that intervention prevented a massacre in Benghazi. The sad fact is that massacres are a chronic feature of capitalism. The revolutionary left is, alas, too weak to stop them.’

    Achcar’s position can be linked to- see footnote 1.

    Regarding the Cliff quote, well okay, as a statement it is not particularly original but my argument is that a state capitalist understanding enables this ‘self-evident’ approach to be applied consistently in often very complex circumstances. So unlike Schachtman, Cliff does not see state capitalism as superior or inferior to free-market capitalism. This guides his approach.

    So my interpretation is that we can start off with basic principles, we are against western imperialism and we will oppose it and we are against the the repression carried out by the local (state capitalist) state and we will oppose it. But as events unfold how we frame our response to particular situations may have to change over time without betraying the basic principles. What we actually say or do will come down to the actual balance of forces and this can and will vary from example to example.

    So if we apply this to a case such as Libya, a Schachtman-type position will end up supporting western imperialism whereas some of the critics on this site who criticise SWP (a Morning Star-type or maybe orthodox Trotskyist?) will be drawn to defending a Gaddafi or an Assad (as they represent a ‘progressive’ force) -even though the Cold War has finished and economic policies have changed elements of the basic analysis remain. I would finally add that we should not rule out supporting a state against western imperialism although even then it would of course be from a critical position (the state will not use the most effective anti-imperialist methods, the state will use the threat of western imperialism to clamp down on internal dissent etc).

  265. #305 George you really do sometimes compensate for your apalling pedantry and being an all-round smart arse by putting your finger squarely on the point.
    #304 Zaid you really do blow it sometimes with your ill-disguised anti-Brit inverted chauvinism.

    I went to college dressed in black on the day Bobby Sands died. I’ve marched against just about every imperialist war you can think of, been threatened at work for being a traitor to my country, a terrorist sympathiser etc etc, and yet there’s something about some of your comments that gets my back up in an almost visceral way.
    Which is a real shame because you have so much good stuff to say a lot of the time.

    But what you seem to exude is a kind of ‘Everything to do with Britain (particularly England) is shit so I don’t really give a toss’, sort of attitude. Fair enough, but instead of pretending that you have the slightedt interest in building any kind of socialist movement in this country why not be even more honest?

  266. Jellytot on said:

    @294As I have explained Hook renounced any commitment to any sort of communism, whether Stalinist or Trotskyist, in 1938. The Congress for Cultural Freedom was founded in 1950. So to describe him as a ‘Trotskyist’ or a ‘Stalinist’at the time he was working for the CIA is factually false. Indeed Hook would have regarded it as a slander!

    You have jumped from 1938 to 1950 here in an attempt to infer that there was a long gestation period between Hook’s involvement with Trotskyites and his post-war cold warrior antics.

    What’s been left out is Hook’s involvement with the “Commitee for Cultural Freedom” of 1939 – a very ‘spooky’ group that acted as a genesis for later CIA funded outfits.

    So in one year we have have Hook defending Trotsky and (literally) the next working to expose “”Stalinist Outposts in the United States”. Work that would have been of interest to the FBI.

  267. David Hillman on said:

    Vanya
    I see nothing anti-British in what Zaid wrote. Our regime TV (the BBC) still talks of Western casualties,Terrorists, extremists, Islamists, holing up, hiding among civilians, of regimes murderous and so on (unless the regimes, terrorists, Islamists etc can be allies of the “West”). You know went on in Aden, in Ireland, and what goes on in the regimes in the Middle East established and armed to the teeth by the British regime.Read Z’s comments in 304 again and tell me what’s not to agree with.

  268. stephen marks: ‘A regime change which ushered in the process of market privatisation and other capitalist reforms in Serbia’. No, it was Milosevic who ushered this in, largely to line his own pockets and that of his mafia colleagues.

    Sorry, but that’s self-serving claptrap.

    Before the overthrow of Milosevic, privatisation in Serbia was largely limited to ‘insider employee privatisation’ ie the partial sale of firms to their employees & former employees, and even that process was rolled back in the mid 1990s, leading to many enterprises reverting to becoming either almost fully collectively owned or state owned.

    Check:

    http://www.doiserbia.nb.rs/img/doi/0013-3264/2011/0013-32641191089V.pdf

    Quotes:

    “At the end of the process enterprises were left with between 1%-40% of private capital, with firms that had started the privatization process in 1993 having private ownership reduced to 1%-2% of total capital (Vujačić, 1996.pp 398-9). Thus, in effect, the whole privatization process up to that point had been reversed or significantly set back. There are differing opinions on whether or not this policy was wrong. Certainly it led to broad discouragement and great reservations in regards to the continuation of privatization. The process was basically halted and compromised. Along with this process, a process of nationalizing social capital began with large enterprises and public utilities becoming state–owned as opposed to socially owned firms.”

    And:

    “Only some 400 enterprises began privatization under the new 1997 legislation […] there was very little incentive for employees to pursue privatization on their own initiative. This went on till the very end of the Milošević regime.”

    Also:

    “The radical push for privatization began only after the interim government was formed after the democratic revolution in October 2000 […] the privatization process was seen as an opportunity for a clean break with the past system of self-management and the ensuing models of insider employee privatizations that had been judged as inadequate up to that point. Not only were the results seen as modest, but also the model itself was seen as a perpetuation of the inherited system. The model retained the dominant role of insiders, which was seen as an impediment to better corporate governance, considered to be of vital importance in a fully fledged functioning market economy.”

    So under Milosevic, privatisation was limited, was not of a fully-capitalist nature, and was in any case largely reversed. The implementation of ‘fully fledged functioning market’ privatisation began very soon after your so-called ‘revolution’ (although that policy has apparently not been an unalloyed success, with a high failure rate among privatised companies).

    Which is of course what anyone with the slightest grasp of class and imperialist reality would expect.

    Do you really imagine that the dominant Western elites, when choosing to support a ‘regime change’ movement here or there, do so without consideration to extending the dominance of the capitalist market- let alone their strategic interests?

  269. Andy Newman,

    “there is just a self indulgent circus of misfits, malcontents and sometimes asocial oddballs”

    Well, at least it didn’t produce Stalin, Vyshinsky, Moczar and Pol Pot.

    You were in that movement for rather a long time.

    That just sounds like a description of the left in general in say, the Daily Mail.

    Rather subjective.

  270. stephen marks on said:

    Noah, thanks for the link to this interesting article. It makes clear that the privatisation process was indeed initiated under Milosevic, and that its lack of progress and replacement by a policy of statification had nothing to do with any return by Milosevic to Titoite principles!

    Under the self-management system he inherited, as the article makes clear, there was actually no clear ‘owner’ of social property. There were only two ways of establishing ownership so that privatisation could proceed – either to make enterprises the property of their workers by selling or giving them shares, or by nationalising the property so that the state could then sell it [the method used in Croatia for example].

    As the article also makes clear, the limited success of the first method was due to economic uncertainty due to the collapse of the currency, which devalued the financial incentives for share purchase. So the second method was resorted to, and begun under Milosevic and accelerated under his successors. As the article also makes clear, a large part of the available private capital in Serbia was and is of dubious underworld origins, most of it accumulated under Milosevic and often through private appropriation of social property by public officials.

    No doubt if Milosevic had continued in power, with Douglas Hurd as his advisor on bank privatisation, this would have been supplemented by outside bank capital which could also have joined in, and no doubt has since.

  271. stephen marks on said:

    Andy says at 310;“Well all we can say is that people’s political past entails their subsequent evolution.

    In the same way that an atheist from a methodist background may have a different outlook from an atheist from a Catholic background.

    The particular strand of Trotskyism that Burnham and Hook came from made excessive concessions to individualism, and was characterised by Stalinophobia, such that Hook became an extraordinary cold war warrior, and indeed sought to push the CIA into an even more anti-Soviet stance.”

    Well yes up to a point. I am reminded of the old story about Bertrand Russell’s first meeting with Nehru. ‘We both have something in common’ said Russell, ‘we are both atheists’. ‘Yes’, Nehru replied ‘but you are a Christian atheist and I am a Hindu atheist’.

    But to make this apply to Haston and Chapple you would have to point out what was peculiarly ‘Trotskyist’ about Haston’s move to the Right, as opposed to what was typically ‘Stalinist’ about Chapple’s.

    I suppose you could – as the ETU’s director of education you could say that Haston was the intellectual while Chappell, as the General Secretary, was the apparatchik thug…

  272. stephen marks on said:

    But more seriously, do tell me what was the ‘particular strand of Trotskyism’ that Burnham and Hook both shared, and which therefore was presumably distinctive, and how it was characterised by ‘excessive concessions to individualism’ – a charge that afaik was not thrown at Hook when he was being denounced for philosophical heresies of a Lukacsian variety by the CPUSA, nor at Burnham when he was being criticised by Trotsky himself.

    Indeed, as for Burnham his subsequent evolution was less one of individualist liberalism than of Machiavellian conservatism.

    And how did Hook’s contribution to the CCF differ from that of other ex-communists who had never been Trotskyists such as for example Franz Borkenau, Ignazio Silone, Ernst Reuter, Arthur Koestler or Richard Loewenthal?

  273. stephen marks on said:

    And as for Andy saying at 311 ; ‘There is no “Trotskyist movement” there is just a self indulgent circus of misfits, malcontents and sometimes asocial oddballs making up for their personality defects by self-important posturing, often at the expense of the broad unity necessary for the left to progress’ – oh dear, amateur psychologising is not a substitute for political analysis. The idea that leftists are motivated by psychological hangups was already a bit stale when the Tory Canning launched the ‘Anti-Jacobin’ in 1797. And ever since it has been a cheap jibe for the right to throw at the whole left.

    Not that we can’t all think of some individuals who fit the bill. But I don’t think they are confined to any one part of the political spectrum. Tony Benn, great guy tho’ he is, also seems a bit odd. Also Peter Mandelson [ex-YCL] And were Stalin and Beria models of sanity?

    Come to that Andy, could we have a look at your psychological profile? An ex-trot who has an obsession with sniping at Trots on every possible occasion – I think Freud might have had something to say about that.

  274. stephen marks: But to make this apply to Haston and Chapple you would have to point out what was peculiarly ‘Trotskyist’ about Haston’s move to the Right, as opposed to what was typically ‘Stalinist’ about Chapple’s.

    No, you would only have to do that if it were relevent, which it isn’t.

    The political evolution of Sidney Hook is however relevant, in that his seemless evolution from Trotskyism to being a particularly aggresive Cold War liberal was predicated upon the same intelectual conceits that had driven his Trotskysism – intellectual snobbery, individualism, social elitism, exaggerated reverence for bourgeois norms of “liberty” and democracy. These were the traits which had placed him outwith the mainstream Communist movement in the 1930, and his ahistorical conflation of actualy existing socialism with fascism into the silly liberal concept of “totalitarianism” did derive from his Trotskyist background.

    That is not to say that all Trotskyites have this tndency, becasue there are 57 varieties of Trotskyist. But the evolution of Sean Matgamna is the farcical reenacment perhaps of the Sidney Hook tragedy; though of course Hook was a major intelelctual and historical figure, and Matgamna is just a socially marginal and disfunctional misfit with a Fuehrer complex.

  275. stephen marks: And how did Hook’s contribution to the CCF differ from that of other ex-communists who had never been Trotskyists such as for example Franz Borkenau, Ignazio Silone, Ernst Reuter, Arthur Koestler or Richard Loewenthal?

    I am not going to do some research for you. Read some books.

    But obviously Hook played a much more influential role in driving Cold War ideology, and Hook was wittingly and deliberately involved with the CIA, while the others you mention were unaware of the true funding and origin of the Cold War front organisations they were onvolved with.

  276. redscribe: That just sounds like a description of the left in general in say, the Daily Mail.

    Well not really, because Trotsyism has no where in the world got a mass base, and no where in the world will Trotskyists ever hold power.

    Furthermore, the particularly fractious and marginal nature of Trotyskism is related to its “truth building” approach to ideology, and its textual approach to politics; an approach which mainstream communism rejected after the 1940s, and which has always been alien to Social Democracy.

    Trotskyism today is a form of hobbyism, not a form of politics; and it is a bit of an insult to the man who founded the Red Army

  277. redscribe: Well, at least it didn’t produce Stalin, Vyshinsky, Moczar and Pol Pot.

    Firstly PolPot was a khmer nationalist with no real roots in the Communist or labour movements.

    With regard to to the others – what is Stalin except Gerry Healy with state power?

    I would refer you to the persuasive discussion of Bolshvism by Arch Getty, who argues that the Leninist project inherently seeks to establish a hegemonic and obligatory political ideology. Indeed he argues: “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 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. 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, in classic high Stalinism “Kulaks” or “Trotskyists”; for the modern SWP “Stalinists”, “Reformists” and “the bureaucracy”

    i.e., “Trotsyism” and “Stalinism” are the same thing; except that one of the identical twins won power in the USSR, and the other faction did not and were able to indulge in oppositional rhetoric.

    Whereas in most of the world the official communist movement ditched such Stalinist practices as the leader cult, and monolithic ideological certainty, paradxically the worst practices of High Stalinism have lived on among “Trotskyists”

    But of course while there was once a “high Trotskyism” that was a faction in the Communist movement, aspiring to leadership (however Quixotically) of mass organisations; today’s micro-sects, cultured on a petri-dish of fractious irrelevence and individualist posturing, are in another category entirely.

  278. stuart on said:

    Noah: Which is of course what anyone with the slightest grasp of class and imperialist reality would expect.

    A few points about Milosevic.

    When the IMF was bleeding the former Yugoslavia dry in the 1980s and workers were paying the price, he was arguing for further economic reforms. His reponse to a major strike wave was to divert the anger in racist and nationalist direction with appalling consequences. Like many ‘socialist’ or ‘communist’ leaders in Eastern Europe he was not opposed in principle to western-style reforms. The Western political elite saw him as someone they could ‘do business with’.

    The catalyst for his downfall was a miners’ strike. Of course the regime that came to power on the back of the pro-democracy movement is one that the left could in no way feel an alliance with. But even then, it was seen as essential that the new President had to be someone who was far from wholly compliant with the US.

  279. “and Matgamna is just a socially marginal and disfunctional misfit with a Fuehrer complex.”

    Andy, do you seriously not see how offensive and plain Stalinist this is?

    Would you like to try to justify it please?

  280. Sacha rIsmail: Would you like to try to justify it please?

    Not particularly, but clearly the AWL are an especially pernicious brainwashed cult, and Matgamna has devoted his life to surrounding himself with this feverish soap opera of self-important fools. It is like an historical re-enactment society who have deluded themselves that they are realy Roundheads, not just dressing up on Saturdays.

    I have actually written a substanal article on the cult nature of the AWL, which I will publish sometime soon.

  281. stuart: When the IMF was bleeding the former Yugoslavia dry in the 1980s and workers were paying the price, he was arguing for further economic reforms. His reponse to a major strike wave was to divert the anger in racist and nationalist direction with appalling consequences.

    Citations for these claims please. Unsubstantiated assertions won’t do.

  282. stuart: The catalyst for his downfall was a miners’ strike. Of course the regime that came to power on the back of the pro-democracy movement is one that the left could in no way feel an alliance with. But even then, it was seen as essential that the new President had to be someone who was far from wholly compliant with the US.

    Your knowledge of the history of the break-up of Yugoslavia is severely lacking, Stuart.

  283. stephen marks: And how did Hook’s contribution to the CCF differ from that of other ex-communists who had never been Trotskyists such as for example Franz Borkenau, Ignazio Silone, Ernst Reuter, Arthur Koestler or Richard Loewenthal?

    It doesn’t take much research to discover that the Cold war favourite of ‘transatlantic’ and social democratic theorists Ignazio Silone was far from being simply a turncoat communist ‘shocked’ by Stalinism but instead was a long time fascist intelligence asset inside the Italian Communist party responsible for the deaths of many militants.

    http://newleftreview.org/II/3/john-foot-the-secret-life-of-ignazio-silone

  284. Andy Newman: hairsplitting over precise points of revolutionary ideolog

    The polemical nature of Bolshevik writing was shaped in the peculiar conditions on pre revolutionary Europe with leaders in exile, masses of illiterate peasants and workers, repression and censorship combined with very vestigial ‘dead tree’ modes of communication. This is inevitably likely to place a premium on clarity and forceful arguments and clear political direction.
    These “precise points of revolutionary ideology’ were life and death issues then and no less important in deciding which direction the Soviet Union should take.
    Example, who could imagine that the defeat of fascism would have been possible if either Trotsky or Bukharin had been in charge of socialist construction?
    To argue that stalinism and trotskyism were ‘identical twins’ except that one won power is to set aside the reason why one did win power, defend it and build a socialist economy.

  285. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Nick Wright: It doesn’t take much research to discover that the Cold war favourite of ‘transatlantic’ and social democratic theorists Ignazio Silone was far from being simply a turncoat communist ‘shocked’ by Stalinism but instead was a long time fascist intelligence asset inside the Italian Communist party responsible for the deaths of many militants.

    http://newleftreview.org/II/3/john-foot-the-secret-life-of-ignazio-silone

    It is a while since I read David Cesarani’s biography of Arthur Koestler, and I don’t have it in front of me, but I think he mentions that Koestler was at least aware of CIA funding for cultural events and institutions he was involved in and he did not object.

  286. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    John: Your knowledge of the history of the break-up of Yugoslavia is severely lacking, Stuart.

    Otpor!, which was key in the “colour revolution” against Milosevic, turned out later to be American-funded. (Incidentally, there was an odd report the other day about Serbia’s representative to NATO suddenly being seized by an overwhelming, whimsical desire to commit suicide in Brussels. Personal unhappiness, or a sign of the gangsterism just barely below the surface of imperialism?)

    There is surprisingly little objection among today’s left to forces being in the pockets of US/Western governments, NGOs and intelligence services. I wonder why that is.

  287. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Andy Newman: Not particularly, but clearly the AWL are an especially pernicious brainwashed cult, and Matgamna has devoted his life to surrounding himself with this feverish soap opera of self-important fools. It is like an historical re-enactment society who have deluded themselves that they are realy Roundheads, not just dressing up on Saturdays.

    I have actually written a substanal article on the cult nature of the AWL, which I will publish sometime soon.

    The time before last that the Israelis launched a major attack on Gaza, an AWL member insisted on waving an Israeli and a Palestinian flag at a protest demo and complained that he was assaulted by people irate about the Israeli flag while Israelis were slaughtering large numbers of Palestinians. The AWL called it defending a two-state solution. I call it Agent Provocateur 101.

  288. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    stephen marks:
    And as for Andy saying at 311 ; ‘There is no “Trotskyist movement” there is just a self indulgent circus of misfits, malcontents and sometimes asocial oddballs making up for their personality defects by self-important posturing, often at the expense of the broad unity necessary for the left to progress’ – oh dear, amateur psychologisingis not a substitute for political analysis. The idea that leftists are motivated by psychological hangups was already a bit stale when the Tory Canning launched the ‘Anti-Jacobin’ in 1797. And ever since it has been a cheap jibe for the right to throw at the whole left.

    Not that we can’t all think of some individuals who fit the bill. But I don’t think they are confined to any one part of the political spectrum. Tony Benn, great guy tho’ he is, also seems a bit odd. Also Peter Mandelson [ex-YCL] And were Stalin and Beria models of sanity?

    Come to that Andy, could we have a look at your psychological profile? An ex-trot who has an obsession with sniping at Trots on every possible occasion – I think Freud might have had something to say about that.

    I have encountered “oddballs” or even worse in perfectly mainstream politics. A few years back I saw four Lib Dem canvassers walking along in Indian file during an election campaign. This is highly subjective, but their appearance and manner looked like something between stereotypical trainspotters and stereotypical child molesters, and their public appearance might even have lost the Lib Dems some votes. I also once watched a documentary about Sedgefield, Blair’s constituency. There was an interview with a Labour councillor out and about tackling the dog waste problem. Later on, it was reported that this ultra-Blairite was convicted for some sexual offence – it might have been child molestation but I am not sure. Nothing Trot in any of these cases.

    Given the Marxist left’s marginality, it doesn’t seem to attract the power-hungry, because there is little power to be had. The mainstream does attract such a type, however.

  289. stuart on said:

    John,

    #330, #331,

    Extract from Milosevic speech about economic reform from 22/11/1988

    ‘A contemporary, efficient and self-managing socialist, and above all democratic, society can only be built on the basis of commodity production and modern market economy. The market today is the only domocratic mechanism which valorizes business ideas and the activity of economic subjects’,

    taken from B. Magas ‘The Destruction of Yugoslavia’ p 166

    The stuff about strikes across Yugoslavia and nationalism is well documented by various authors, it would take too long to quote chapter and verse. Magas demonstrates for example how slogans of striking workers were transformed from class slogans ‘We demand bread’, to nationalist ones, ‘You have betrayed Slobodan Milosevic- you have betrayed Serbdom’, ‘Slobodan we are your soldiers- we shall kill or we shall die’, ibid p 171.

    Others describe how mass rallies and demonstrations were organised from above, built around Milosevic and Serb nationalism, directed particularly against Albanian speakers, workers were bussed in, the operation being paid for by the state, see N. Malcolm ‘Short History of Kosovo’ p 342 or T. Judah ‘The Serbs’ p 163.

    For an analysis of the downfall of Milosevic (and other similar upsurges) see http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=122&issue=107

  290. George Hallam on said:

    Mark Victorystooge: A few years back I saw four Lib Dem canvassers walking along in Indian file during an election campaign. This is highly subjective, but their appearance and manner looked like something between stereotypical trainspotters

    Are you suggesting that there is something wrong with train spotting?

  291. Mark Victorystooge: Given the Marxist left’s marginality, it doesn’t seem to attract the power-hungry, because there is little power to be had. The mainstream does attract such a type, however.

    It attracts the power hungry who like to be big fish in small ponds, and would struggle to achieve the same authority in real world politics

  292. Sacha Ismail,

    Andy Newman is wrong on a number of things, though his recent contributions on this thread are actually more political than I have seen for a while, and deserve a considered response. If he considers that Stalinism and Trotskyism are basically the same thing, only Stalinism is more successful, then his political trajectory in becoming a Stalinist is completely rational and explicable.

    Many things he says about the impotence and stupidity of modern-day ‘Trotskyism’ are true, and it is true that the Trotskyist movement today, conventionally viewed, is an insult to Trotsky’s memory.

    Conventionally viewed, that is. Maybe there should be some unconventional views.

    As I said, this deserves a more considered response.

    However, his remarks about Sean Matgamna are quite comprehensible and even quite mild compared to what he probably deserves. Certainly compared with the vile abuse against bona-fide communists and anti-imperialists that appears on the disgusting Shiraz blog, which actually celebrates the Naqba as a good thing, it is pretty mild.

  293. stephen marks: Noah, thanks for the link to this interesting article. It makes clear that the privatisation process was indeed initiated under Milosevic [… etc etc etc]

    Actually, the article does not at all make that ‘clear’.

    In fact, the (employee) privatisation process was initiated at the Federal Yugoslavian (not the Serbian level), under Yugoslav PM Ante Marković in 1989. This however was restricted in its scope, and incentives to privatisation were reduced, by the 1991 law passed by the Serbian Parliament under Milosevic.

    NB, this was not commercial market privatisation, as firms were sold only to their current & former employees, and there was a cap on the level of shares an employee could obtain.

    But even this was mainly rolled back as a result of further Serbian legislation passed in 1994.

    You claim that: “the article also makes clear, the limited success of the first method was due to economic uncertainty due to the collapse of the currency, which devalued the financial incentives for share purchase.” This is a dishonest claim. Political decision making, not merely economic uncertainty, was key.

    In fact the article is perfectly explicit that, following economic problems causing high inflation, political decision making was crucial in reversing the privatisations. The article states:

    “In fact it was the opposition party (the Democratic Party under Dindic) that proposed amendments on capital revaluation in order to rectify the drastic gap being formed between a realistic share value and inflationary undervalued company shares. The ruling party (Socialist Party of Serbia- under the leadership of Slobodan Milosevic) not only adopted these amendments but also used the application of revaluation coefficients in such a way as to basically annul the whole [privatisation] process. The coefficients grossly overvalued social capital, drastically reducing the share of privatised capital. At the end of the process enterprises were left with between 1%-40% of private capital, with firms that had started the privatization process in 1993 having private ownership reduced to 1%-2% of total capital (Vujačić, 1996.pp 398-9). Thus, in effect, the whole privatization process up to that point had been reversed or significantly set back.”

    As of the end of 1998, the ‘non-privatised’ sectors (the social, state, and mixed sectors) constituted 82% of employment and 80% of fixed assets in Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro).

    http://balkan-observatory.net/archive/uvalic.pdf

    Whereas by 2007:

    “The results of privatisation are there: private and privatised companies are now the main drivers of economic activity and contribute almost 70% in the GDP.”

    http://www.fefa.edu.rs/files/pdf/StudijeIstrazivanja/sveska01TransitionInSerbiaHistoryAndProspects.pdf

  294. George Hallam on said:

    Andy Newman: redscribe: Its a bit difficult to use his evolution to argue that Trotskyism is in some way particularly prone to such evolutions to the right, however, given the presence of the arch right-winger and former CPer Frank Chapple in the same union. If Haston’s evolution supposedly speaks badly about Trotskyism, what does Chapple’s evolution say about the CP and Stalinism?
    Well all we can say is that people’s political past entails their subsequent evolution.
    In the same way that an atheist from a methodist background may have a different outlook from an atheist from a Catholic background.

    Just to conclude this part of the discussion about effect of trotskyism(or stalinism/methodism/Roman Catholicism etc.) on peoples’ “subsequent evolution”.

    It too much to say what they become it is ‘entailed’ (i.e. a necessary consequence) by their political/ideological past.

    Obviously, it’s a factor. But people:

    a) are influenced by a host of factors other than their connection with a political/religious movement.

    b) change their mind and develop in different ways so when they distance themselves from their past this can take many different forms ranging from a decisive rejection to a passive dropping out.

    So perhaps we can all agree that all we can say is that:

    Nothing is ruled out.

    On the issue of ‘trotskyism’ and ‘stalinism':
    These are ambiguous terms at the best of times. There is no need to go into this in this discussion. However, we should recognise that for our purposes they are not equivalents because, in the context of the Cold War, one’s attitude to the USSR was a key issue

    ‘Trotskyism’ and ‘stalinism’ were not equivalents because, empirically, a break with ‘stalinism’ is almost always accompanied by a hostile attitude to the USSR (aka ‘Stalinist Russia’).

    On the other hand, a break with ‘trotskyism’ often leaves the person’s attitude to ‘Stalinist Russia’ substantially unchanged (unless, of course, they become a ‘stalinist’).

  295. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: #305 George you really do sometimes compensate for your apalling pedantry and being an all-round smart arse

    #Vanya, don’t imagine that sycophancy will divert me from fulfilling my promise to Heather Downs.

    Back at 225 you wrote:

    Vanya: The fact that a party like the SWP with its toxic mixture of undeveloped leninism (with no concept of the rule of law and as bad as if not worse than stalinism)

    Actually there was a concept the rule of law under Stalin in the 1930s and, arguably, it was strengthen compared with that in the previous period.

    It was people in opposition to Stalin who argued against the rule of law under socialism. Notably Nikolai Krylenko (1885 – 1938) and his “ally, the Marxist theoretician Eugen Pashukanis” (1891 – 1937)

    “Throughout the 1920s and 1930s Krylenko wrote dozens of books and articles in support of the theory that, under the system of “socialist legality”, political considerations and not criminal ones should play the decisive role in deciding questions of guilt, innocence and punishment. He theorized that confession was the ultimate proof of the defendant’s guilt and that material evidence, precise definitions of crime, and exact sentences (the so-called “dosage” system) were not needed under socialism…”

    “Krylenko promoted his views on socialist legality during the work on two drafts of the Soviet Penal Code, one in 1930 and one in 1934. Krylenko’s views were opposed by some Soviet theoreticians, including the Soviet Prosecutor General Andrey Vyshinsky, who argued that Krylenko’s imprecise definition of crimes and his refusal to define terms of punishment introduced legal instability and arbitrariness and were, therefore, against the interests of the Soviet state.”

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

  296. 344. That was a very interesting post George and explains a lot about some of the attitudes evident in this thread.

  297. George Hallam,

    The trouble with your argument is that it is tautological, that you define “Stalinism” by its relationship to the USSR. A more appropriate measure might be to define Stalinism by the peculiar features of the cult of personality, the regime of terror , and the caricaturing of opposition into symbolic categories.

    In which case the 20th Congress of the CPSU began a process of destalinisation, while of course continuing to govern the USSR.

    The paradox is that Stalinist forms havecendured in the trotskyite groups after becoming marginal in the official communist movement

  298. Nick Wright,

    I have sympathy for your argument here. I have no issue in looking at the historically specific differences, and clearly the left opposition’s programme was suicidally irresponsible for a party in government.

    My argument is against the habit of Trotskyists to effectively argue that “a big boy did it and ran away” as if they can identify with the heroics of 1917, but take no responsibility for the consequence

  299. stephen marks on said:

    The only difference between Krylenko and Vyshinsky was that Krylenko was honest, and Vyshinsky was bullshitting in order to maintain the pretence of ‘socialist legality’ for the benefit of ‘useful idiots’ like DN Pritt, author of the CPGB pamphlet ‘The Moscow trials were fair’.

    “that confession was the ultimate proof of the defendant’s guilt and that material evidence, precise definitions of crime, and exact sentences (the so-called “dosage” system) were not needed under socialism…” was of course the precise method followed by Vyshinsky himself

  300. stephen marks on said:

    It is of course true that Trotskyist and other far-left groups do follow a so-called ‘democratic centralism’ which mimics in many respects a sort of ‘stalinism without state power’. One explanation was that what passed for ‘leninism’ among Trotskyists was actually ‘Zinovievism’, that is to say a practice mimicking that of the Comintern in the mid-20s, which was modelled on that of the Soviet Union when it was already highly undemocratic and bureaucratised.

    Indeed the concepts of ‘Leninism’and ‘Trotskyism’ were both coined in the context of factional disputes in the 1920s to create a mythical ‘apostolic succession’ of continuous ideological consistency and correctness, which bears no relationship to internal arguments and line-ups in the kaleidoscopic and plural reality of Russia’s socialist movement before 1914.

    [actually ~I initially posted this on the ‘gotcha’ thread by mistake – but it is probably equally relevant to both so I shall leave it up there too!].

  301. George Hallam on said:

    Of course, you are right, I was:
    “defining “Stalinism” by its relationship to the USSR.”

    As I said, ‘stalinism’ (like ‘trotskyism’) is an ambiguous term at the best of times. That’s why I specified that, for the purposes of this discussion (i.e. about Hook, Haston, Chapple,Ignazio Silone, Ernst Reuter, Arthur Koestler, etc., etc.) “There is no need to go into this in this” [i.e question of the different meaning].

    In “the context of the Cold War”, ‘stalinism’ (perhaps I should have use a capital ‘S’) could be define simply as: people who supported Stalin. Hence my statement that, “empirically’, a break with ‘stalinism’ is almost always accompanied by a hostile attitude to the USSR (aka ‘Stalinist Russia’).”

  302. George Hallam on said:

    stephen marks: “that confession was the ultimate proof of the defendant’s guilt and that material evidence, precise definitions of crime, and exact sentences (the so-called “dosage” system) were not needed under socialism…” was of course the precise method followed by Vyshinsky himself

    You may well be right. It is certainly a point of view.

    However, this should not blind us to the fact that in his monograph ‘Theory of Judicial Proofs in Soviet Justice’ he specifically rejected the principle that “confession of the accused is the queen of evidence”.

    Apparently in 1947 he was awarded the Stalin Prize for this monograph.

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

    While I value your contributions to the discussion, might I suggest that you do a little more research before putting pen to paper.

    “A little learning is a dang’rous thing;
    Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
    There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
    And drinking largely sobers us again.
    Fir’d at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
    In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts,
    While from the bounded level of our mind
    Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind;
    But more advanc’d, behold with strange surprise
    New distant scenes of endless science rise!
    So pleas’d at first the towering Alps we try,
    Mount o’er the vales, and seem to tread the sky,
    Th’ eternal snows appear already past,
    And the first clouds and mountains seem the last;
    But, those attain’d, we tremble to survey
    The growing labours of the lengthen’d way,
    Th’ increasing prospects tire our wand’ring eyes,
    Hills peep o’er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!”

  303. stephen marks on said:

    George, I must assume you have a wry sense of humour – or else, before putting pen to paper you should read your own references! I am not sure that Wikipedia is the most reliable of sources but it can serve as a useful jumping-off point and it is the source you have chosen to link to.

    In the ‘Vyshinsky’ entry we read;

    “In 1935 he became Prosecutor General of the USSR, the legal mastermind of Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge. Although he acted a judge, he encouraged investigators to procure confessions from the accused. In some cases, he prepared the indictments before the “investigation” was concluded.[14] He is widely cited for the principle that “confession of the accused is the queen of evidence” despite his monograph Theory of Judicial Proofs in Soviet Justice (which was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1947) stating directly the opposite. Stalin personally gave direction on the use of confessions and the use of the death penalty. Furthermore, he edited some of Vyshinsky’s speeches”.

    Which I think confirms my point. Or are you being ‘ironic’?

  304. George Hallam on said:

    stephen marks: In the ‘Vyshinsky’ entry we read;
    “In 1935 he became Prosecutor General of the USSR, the legal mastermind of Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge. Although he acted a judge, he encouraged investigators to procure confessions from the accused…”.

    Which I think confirms my point.

    Only in your imagination. Try to distinguish between the rhetoric and facts.

    My original point was that there was a concept the rule of law under Stalin in the 1930s and, arguably, it was strengthen compared with that in the previous period.

    I have a basis for saying this.

    If you don’t mind me saying so, it seems to me that all you are doing is repeating a ‘line’.

  305. I think the important point here about the rule of law is that neither Lenin nor Trotsky accepted it as an important concept if at all, and their attitude means that there is a tendency for those whose political philosophy is based on a positive attitude towards the pre-Stalin regime in the USSR and to nothing thereafter,also to reject the concept as bourgeois explicitly or implicitly.

    On the other hand, clearly the fact that those in charge of the legal system give lip service to the rule of law is no guarantee that it will be respected.

  306. bill j on said:

    You have a basis for saying it? Is it that Stalin murdered the author of the constitution Bukharin, legally?

  307. George Hallam on said:

    stephen marks: he [Vyshinsky} acted a judge, he encouraged investigators to procure confessions from the accused.

    In England we have adversarial system where the role of the court is an ‘impartial referee’ in a contest between the prosecution and the defence.
    This simplifies legal proceeding because the contest has nothing to do with anything as abstract as ‘truth’ or ‘justice’, it is simply a matter of the prosecution presenting a case that is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

    Under the adversarial system a ‘guilty’ plea is not the same as the defendant admitting to wrong doing. It is not a confession; it merely waives the right to a trial on the charges that are before the court. This is what plea bargaining is all about.

    Correspondingly, a ‘not guilty’ plea is not the same as the defendant claiming they are ‘innocent’ of the charges presented, much less that they deny any wrong doing. It is merely challenging the prosecution to present its case in support of the charges.

    Many people believe that the English legal system is the best of all possible systems. Predictably, foreigners insist on doing thing differently.

    Many have an inquisitorial legal system, where the court is actively involved in investigating the facts of the case.

    The USSR had an inquisitorial system.

  308. George Hallam on said:

    bill j: You have a basis for saying it? Is it that Stalin murdered the author of the constitution Bukharin, legally?

    No, I hope I wouldn’t say anything that was so illogical.

    Clue: try checking the facts.

  309. stephen marks on said:

    I have produced evidence from George Hallam’s own favoured source, that Vyshinsky said one thing but did another. He prefers Vyshinsky’s words to his deeds. Clearly arguing with him about Stalin’s trials is about as useful as ‘arguing’ with David Irving about the holocaust.

  310. George Hallam on said:

    stephen marks: I have produced evidence from George Hallam’s own favoured source, that Vyshinsky said one thing but did another. .

    I quoted one statement about what Vyshinsky said: that he opposed the principle that “confession of the accused is the queen of evidence”. This statement might be false, but it is checkable. If it is incorrect I will be happy to admit that I was wrong.

    You have asserted that Vyshinsky said one thing but did another. In support of this you have quoted two statements about Vyshinsky, neither of which contradict what I said.

    a) “Although he acted a judge, he encouraged investigators to procure confessions from the accused”. This is completely unacceptable in an adversarial system. However it is standard practice in an inquisitorial legal system.
    b) “In some cases, he prepared the indictments before the “investigation” was concluded.” Your point being?

    stephen marks said “He [George Hallam]prefers Vyshinsky’s words to his deeds. Clearly arguing with him about Stalin’s trials is about as useful as ‘arguing’ with David Irving about the holocaust.”

    All I have done is introduce a small piece of information into the debate. Unfortunately this doesn’t fit the ‘script’ you have been working to. Your response has been a furious ad hominem attack.

    If you really think I’m like David Irving denying the holocaust then follow you own logic and treat me like David Irving: master the available evidence and use it to refute what I say. Don’t jump up and down foaming at the mouth because I’ve contradicted a tiny corner of you worldview.

  311. “…clearly the AWL are an especially pernicious brainwashed cult, and Matgamna has devoted his life to surrounding himself with this feverish soap opera of self-important fools. It is like an historical re-enactment society who have deluded themselves that they are realy Roundheads, not just dressing up on Saturdays.”

    It’s hard to know how to respond to the straightforward abuse, because it’s simply so far from the truth. Beyond that I guess we’re Trotskyists, so we would seem like a historical re-enactment society to you (though it’s somewhat ironic coming from someone who mourns the defeat of Stalinism).

    I always think people’s comments about Sean are much more to do with their own experience of other socialist organisations than anything to do with Sean or the AWL.

    In reality Sean has been largely out of activity for the best part of two years, because of serious ill health. The result? A power struggle? Fight over who will be the ‘successor’? Splits? Nothing of the sort, because Sean is not a dictator or even dominating figure of the Cliff or Taafe or even Brenner type.

    “I have actually written a substanal article on the cult nature of the AWL, which I will publish sometime soon.”

    I look forward to reading this masterwork – please someone email the link to me at sacha@workersliberty.org, as I don’t check Socialist Unity regularly.

  312. Sacha Ismail: I always think people’s comments about Sean are much more to do with their own experience of other socialist organisations than anything to do with Sean or the AWL.

    We note that you publish his god-awful poetry, which is as much an homage to the worst excesses of the leader cult in the period of high stalinism as anything you will find nowadays outside NOrth Korea.

    Sacha Ismail: It’s hard to know how to respond to the straightforward abuse, because it’s simply so far from the truth.

    I can be more abusive if you want to hang around. What a fucking waster of a life for Matgamna, 50 years, and all he has to show for it, is an organisation comprised of about 50 lost souls fantasising that their day will come, the flotsam and jetsam of as many individual tragedies as you have members

  313. George Hallam on said:

    stephen marks: Hook was originally a sympathiser of the CPUSA, … Later he worked with pragmatist philosopher John Dewey in the Committee to Defend Leon Trotsky at the time of the Moscow Trials.

    Does any one have any hard copy information on John Dewey political life?

    Until I read this thread I thought of the Dewey Commission as simply a brilliant coup by Trotsky.

    But what about viewing it from Dewey’s point of view?

    What made him get involved with ‘controvercial’ figure like Trotsky?

    Was he simply naïve? Or did he have a wider perspective?

  314. To Andy Newman,

    I am taking the opportunity to respond to your point addressed to me in the recently closed thread (at post 415) http://www.socialistunity.com/gotcha/#comment-628050

    The thread was closed by yourself for a reason totally unrelated to this particular line of discussion.

    Your post starts…

    ‘It is transparentlly obvious that the SWP’s position over Afghanistan and Iraq was of a differtent temper to their recent position over Libya and Iraq.’

    I think you mean Libya and Syria, not Libya and Iraq. But my main contention here is that you are really missing the point when it comes to evaluating SWP positions. You are not comparing like with like. The US interventions into Afghanistan and Iraq were attempts to carve out a New American Century. By necessity, the SWP would have to support resistance to that particular project and it would have to do so even though certain elements within the resistance have far from ‘progressive’ politics. Our alingment is with the resistance to the US because defeat for the US reduces its ability to stamp its project succesfully across the globe, to the deteiment of many.

    The US ‘project’, is not the same as the Arab Spring. The US did not initiate the Arab Spring. It was a movement born out of economic misery and political repression. The SWP would necessarily align with the movements as they took on the various dictators even though, again, some elements within the movements cannot be described as ‘progressive’. The role of the US here is more one of trying to influence and shape the movements. The response of the SWP is to oppose US and other imperialisms in their attempts to gain influence in exactly the same way that the SWP opposed the Russians in Afghanistan but also opposed US meddling. But that would not mean flipping over into supporting the dictatorships, the primary source of exploitation and the original target of the Arab Spring.

    I therefore conclude that in attempting to identify a ‘shift’ in SWP politics you have failed to account for the different contexts. There has been no such shift, rather there has been a consistent loyality to the SWP’s established theoretical insights.

  315. #363 ‘The role of the US here is more one of trying to influence and shape the movements. The response of the SWP is to oppose US and other imperialisms in their attempts to gain influence in exactly the same way that the SWP opposed the Russians in Afghanistan.’

    But you have no material or political weight whatsoever to stop the imperialists from gaining influence, other than to help campaign against imperialist intervention.

    Which of course is completely different from the situation re Afghanistan when the Soviet troops were there, because, even if it were to be accepted that the USSR was imperialist (which I don’t), by opposing them you were not opposing your own imperialist ruling class and its allies.

  316. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    What’s so annoying about this, from my standpoint, is that the SWP representatives do themselves no favours in this argument and seem to be ignorant of the tradition they espouse.

    You don’t need to agree with all of the following article from Chris Harman in 1979. I can understand and accept that many friends on the British and international left will not. But I hope it gives some indication of what the best of that tradition’s thinking was when it came to Afghanistan and other, similar questions. Whether you endorse every jot and tittle or not, it is clear from what Chris wrote that the centre of gravity was in opposing the British/Western ruling classes. SWP members today should take note at least as much as those on the left who oppose the party, for whatever reasons.

    In short – this article ends up with four lines of attack on Western imperialism in the Middle East/Central Asia, before issuing a call against the Russian presence in Afghanistan. Further, whatever else you may say – it at least does justice to the actualite of Afghanistan following the Saur revolution of 1978.

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/harman/1980/02/afghanistan.html

  317. Vanya:

    Which of course is completely different from the situation re Afghanistan when the Soviet troops were there,because, even if it were to be accepted that the USSR was imperialist (which I don’t), by opposing them you were not opposing your own imperialist ruling class and its allies.

    If we look at what the SWP was saying at the time of the Russian invasion, taken from Kevin’s link above….

    ‘ If we were in Russia, that would mean vigorously arguing against the takeover of Afghanistan and welcoming every defeat of the army of occupation. But we are in Britain, where the slogan ‘Russians out of Afghanistan’ is being used to justify in¬creased arms spending, the movement of the US Fleet to the Gulf….We have to insist: All imperialist hands-off Asia…the Russians out of Afghanistan.’

    Harman was able to claim in 1996…

    ‘We warned…..immediately after the Russian invasion:

    ‘Afghanistan will never be able to escape from the morass of oppression and poverty until it is free from the attention of all imperialist forces. The Russian troops are not going to solve its problems. Neither would the installation of a US backed “rebel” regime.’

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/harman/1996/11/afghanistan.htm

    So it was a case of opposition to western imperialism then as it is opposition to western imperialism now, but no support for the local oppressor. When Andy Newman claims that the SWP are shifting around willy-nilly he is wrong. Evidence suggests that the SWP are being consistent.

  318. Jellytot on said:

    @366

    Harman 1981

    “The Russian troops are not going to solve its problems. Neither would the installation of a US backed “rebel” regime.”

    ‘stuart’

    When Andy Newman claims that the SWP are shifting around willy-nilly he is wrong. Evidence suggests that the SWP are being consistent.

    Surely the shift is that in Syria today the SWP are arguing that a US backed “rebel” regime would be preferable to Assad…..unless the line has changed recently.

    The point should also be made that no campaigning, petitioning or solidarity work, worth its name, was engaged in over Afghanistan by the SWP back in the 1980’s. I can’t remember any, anyway, therefore, Harman’s writings on the issue do seem to have a certain ‘palour game’ quality to them.

  319. Jellytot:

    Surely the shift is that in Syria today the SWP are arguing that a US backed “rebel” regime would be preferable to Assad…..unless the line has changed recently.

    Then as now it is the case of the greater the dependency of rebels on the US the worse the eventual outcome. And the revolutionary process should be seen as dynamic, the masses will face a new oppressor after the fall of the dictator. Hopefully they can keep the process going, this is particularly pertinent to Egypt at the present time.

  320. stuart: the masses will face a new oppressor after the fall of the dictator.

    Who are the masses in Syria, Stuart? This sounds a bit vacuous to be honest. What about the masses who form the regime’s social base?

    I think JT was right to characterise Harman’s analysis of Afghanistan as the stuff of parlour games. There are no abstract truths.

  321. #368 ‘the masses will face a new oppressor after the fall of the dictator. Hopefully they can keep the process going’

    So what’s the cost/ benefit analysis of this ‘process’ Stuart?

    This ‘process’ is a civil war which has killed tens of thousands and created yet another huge mass of refugees in the middle east.

    It’s a process that had some chance of coming to a negotiated end, with the prospect of key grievances being settled.

    But with encouragement from their western allies the rebel leaders refused to countenance even giving it a go.

    Maybe without such interference they may have been more likely to do so and a few people who are now dead would be alive today.

    And all so that one oppressor, by your own admission, will be replaced by another.

  322. John,

    The ability of the Assad regime to rely on a significant social base through buying support will have been eroded over the years as neo-libral reforms became the order of the day. The less you have to offer materially, the more you have turn to repression.

    Regarding the second point, take WW1 as a concrete example. Leibknecht opposed his own rulers but would presumably condemn British actions in Ireland. Lenin opposed his own rulers but would presumably condemn German actions in Africa. It is possible, indeed imperitive, to do both at the same time- condemn your own rulers as well as their enemy.

  323. Vanya,

    What you are saying sounds vague but seems to indicate a desire on your part to keep the regime in place. Why should people want a regime that commits such brutal acts of repression to remain? How can it be trusted treat protesters peacefully?

    But in any case, what I am doing is challenging Andy’s assertion that the SWP is ‘shifting’ from a previously held position. This is not the case. The SWP support for the regime’s removal is consistent with their theoretical heritage.

    http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=28812

  324. #373 Why does it suggest a desire to either keep the regime in place or otherwise?

    You yourself state that the likely result of the regime being overthrown will be one oppressor replacing another.

    I don’t believe that having the view that such a goal is not worth the humanitarian cost we have seen in Syria is a sign of being a reactionary counter-revolutionary.

  325. #375…especially given that it will likely only come about as a result of the imperialist interference that you say you oppose.

    #374 What’s the provenance of the article you refer to? It reminds me of stuff I read at the time.

  326. George Hallam on said:

    “Even if, by some miracle, the rival imperialisms were to leave Afghanistan alone, the problems facing its peoples would be all but insuperable. The physical resources just do not exist for either capitalism or ‘socialism’ in one country.”

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/harman/1980/02/afghanistan.html

    I am aware that there are arguments against the possibility of socialism in one country, but against the possibility of capitalism in one country?

    Against this Harman seemed to think that feudalism in one country was perfectly feasible.

  327. Vanya:
    #373 Why does it suggest a desire to either keep the regime in place or otherwise?

    You talked about some kind of negotiated end. Could you elaborate more on that?

  328. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: #374 What’s the provenance of the article you refer to? It reminds me of stuff I read at the time.

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by ‘provenance’ in this context.

    Blum’s writings on writings on the CIA have been available in the UK for at least 25 years.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blum

    The chapter I gave a link to has references, so things can be checked.

  329. George Hallam:

    I am aware that there are arguments against the possibility of socialism in one country, but against the possibility of capitalism in one country?

    Against this Harman seemed to think that feudalism in one country was perfectly feasible.

    He will have meant that Afghanistan was an extreme example of ‘uneven and combined development’, so gaining a healthy niche in the global capitalist pecking order would have been very hard indeed.

  330. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: #377 My advice- don’t search too hard for logic.

    That is good advice in line with Proverbs 26:4.

    Unfortunately, I feel obliged to do my best to tease out the logic of an argument.

  331. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: He will have meant that Afghanistan was an extreme example of ‘uneven and combined development’, so gaining a healthy niche in the global capitalist pecking order would have been very hard indeed.

    Except that what Harman said was:

    “Even if, by some miracle, the rival imperialisms were to leave Afghanistan alone, the problems facing its peoples would be all but insuperable. The physical resources just do not exist for either capitalism or ‘socialism’ in one country.”

  332. George Hallam:
    In contrast, the following is illogical and wilfully ignores the U.S./Pakistani intervention in the 1973-79 period.

    But the revolt against the pro-Moscow regime was not principally a result of this intervention.

  333. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: But the revolt against the pro-Moscow regime was not principally a result of this intervention.

    How would you know?

  334. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: George Hallam:
    In contrast, the following is illogical and wilfully ignores the U.S./Pakistani intervention in the 1973-79 period.

    But the revolt against the pro-Moscow regime was not principally a result of this intervention.

    This is a misinterpreting my criticism. I pointed out that Harman had ignored the U.S./Pakistani intervention in the 1973-79 period.

    If you read the 1996 article you will see that Harman gives an account of the Soviet intervention but mentions US involvement only in the context of 1986.

    “By December 1980 it was clear to Brezhnev’s Soviet regime that the Afghan government was on the verge of collapse … In desperation it sent its own troops to seize Kabul, murdering Amin and replacing him by its own nominee, .. who it then claimed had invited the Russian army in. …
    “The war rapidly developed into the Soviet Union’s Vietnam. … By 1986 the Soviet leadership, desperate to find some way of cutting their losses and withdrawing their troops without too much loss of face, had installed a new government in Kabul.
    “Now, however, it was the US’s turn to increase the level of horror. The renewed Cold War was at its height, and the US began providing Mujahadin groups with modern weapons.”

    In this context “now” means 1986. But Carter authorised intervention in July 1979. five months before the soviets when in.

    Of course, this might be excused as a slip of the pen. However, Harman says nothing about Pakistan either.

    This is in contrast to other commentators who see Pakistan as a prime mover.
    This is because:

    1. Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan pre-dates the coming to power of the PDPA.

    “..[I]n april 1973 Sardar Daud staged a coup that ended the monarchy of Afghanistan. Daud resumed Afghanistan’s claims on Pashtun land and Pakistan (under civilian president Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) responded by helping Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar stage a failed insurrection in october 1975. After another failed attempt, Hekmatyar and other rebels went in exile to Pakistan.”

    2. Pakistan’s aggressive policy to the PDPA government pre-dates the Soviet intervention.

    “Zia realized that the communist government of Afghanistan represented a three-pronged threat to Pakistan: ethnic because of the Pashtun ties; religious because it was un-Islamic; and economic because of its land reforms (Pakistan was as feudal as Afghanistan). Contrary to what widely assumed, it appears that it was the Pakistanis who pressured the USA to counter the Soviet influence in Afghanistan, not viceversa.”

    http://www.scaruffi.com/politics/paki09.html

  335. George Hallam: “The war rapidly developed into the Soviet Union’s Vietnam. … By 1986 the Soviet leadership, desperate to find some way of cutting their losses and withdrawing their troops without too much loss of face

    This assesssment from Harman is impressionistic and inaccurate.

    The uSA lost nearly 60000 casualties in Vietnam, the Red Army lost just 26000 in Afghanistan, what is more the Afghan war had a very limited impact on civil society in the USSR. One of the biggest drivers for withdrawal seems to have been the diplomatic embarrassment the war was causing the USSR

  336. George Hallam: Except that what Harman said was:“Even if, by some miracle, the rival imperialisms were to leave Afghanistan alone, the problems facing its peoples would be all but insuperable. The physical resources just do not exist for either capitalism or ‘socialism’ in one country.”

    How would you develop capitalism without resort to the imperialism of having to rely on foreign loans?

  337. George Hallam: This is a misinterpreting my criticism. I pointed out that Harman had ignored the U.S./Pakistani intervention in the 1973-79 period. If you read the 1996 article you will see that Harman gives an account of the Soviet intervention but mentions US involvement only in the context of 1986.

    For the record the article is included in a 2002 SWP pamplet ‘Prophet and the Proletariat’. In it Harman acknowledges that information came to his attention post 1996, notably the admission by Brzezinsky that the US supplied arms to the enemies of the pro-Russian regime before the Russian invasion. Harman’s response is that Brzezinsky

    ‘exaggerated his own role in history if he believes he was single-handedly behind the revolt that erupted. The pro-Russian regime was already in deep crisis before he intervened’.

    With respect to Pakistan, even your own link acknowledges that the ‘communist reforms were causing great discontent among the traditional Islamic masses of Afghanistan’. That is consistent with the description of events in Harman’s piece.

  338. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: For the record the article is included in a 2002 SWP pamplet ‘Prophet and the Proletariat’. In it Harman acknowledges that information came to his attention post 1996, notably the admission by Brzezinsky that the US supplied arms to the enemies of the pro-Russian regime before the Russian invasion. Harman’s response is that Brzezinsky
    ‘exaggerated his own role in history if he believes he was single-handedly behind the revolt that erupted. The pro-Russian regime was already in deep crisis before he intervened’.

    Amongst those to took an interest in such things, American and Pakistani activity in Afghanistan was common knowlege at the time. I was luck to be friendly with someone who was informed.

    Harman’s cavalier dismissal of Brzezinsky statement is just a way of shoring up what was always a rickety position.

    Harman’s position was that the Soviet intervention must have been driven by ‘imperialist’ motives. This conclusion is supported by two supplementary arguments:

    a) Reaction in Afghanistan was so strong internally that that there was no prospect of any progress. The PDPA government (which he calls “the pro-Russian regime”) was doomed without any intervention by Western imperialism.

    b) Soviet intervention could not redress this hopeless situation. It could only perpetuate it and make things worse in the long run.

    In reality, this is not an objective view of the balance of forces. External interference was extremely important in fostering, coordinating and sustaining opposition to the PDPA government. For a more detailed account of the foreign role in the insurgency see Mohammad Yousaf & Mark Adkin ‘The Bear Trap (Afghanistan’s Untold Story)’

    The presence of Soviet troops was political disadvantage, but not an insuperable one. Militarily, the intervention was designed to stabilise the situation and gave time for the government to rebuild its political position and its military strength. In this the intervention was successful. This was proved by the survival of the Najibullah government after the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989. In fact Najibullah survived longer in power than did Gorbachev.

    For an account of the Mujahideen’s failure to make headway after the Soviet withdrawal see Mohammad Yousaf & Mark Adkin.

    that reaction was so strong in Afghanistan that there was no prospect of any progress.

  339. stuart,

    So until Brzezinski publicly admitted it in 1998, Harman and the SWP had no idea that the US and CIA had been covertly arming the Mujahideen in Afghanistan prior to the Soviet intervention!

    That admission alone disqualifies Harman as a serious commentator and renders his analysis pretty much worthless. Problem is, I don’t believe him. He just can’t have remained that ignorant for two decades and he must have done at least some basic research before appointing himself an expert analyst and setter of the line.

    I suspect what happened is that Harman simply decided to ignore any evidence that conflicted with the SWP’s lazy anti-Sovietism, and instead cherry-picked facts to fit the SWP’s off-the-peg theories and templates.

    Then that bloody Brzezinski pops up 20 years later and ruins it all: Hey guys, surprise, surprise, what the Soviets said was true all along. The US did in fact intervene.

    Doesn’t matter, says Harman. It’s just Brzezinski showing off. Move along, nothing to see here.

  340. George Hallam on said:

    Andy Newman: The uSA lost nearly 60000 casualties in Vietnam, the Red Army lost just 26000 in Afghanistan,

    Soviet combat deaths in Afgahanistan 11,897

    Soviet casualties in Afghanistan
    Killed in action 9,511
    Died of wounds 2,386
    11,897

    Accidental deaths, suicides etc. 739
    Died by disease 817
    Total dead 14,453

    Wounded 53,753
    Sick 415,932
    Total 466,425

    Source: “Soviet casualties and combat losses” by G.F. Krivosheev

  341. Calvin,

    The SWP will not have been complacent when it came to US imperialism or shocked at particular measures. The Brzezinski revelations will not have materially altered one’s overall assessment of what was going on at the time much as it may suit your politics to do so along with your (presumably) desire to support Soviet imperialism.

  342. George Hallam:

    Soviet combat deaths in Afgahanistan 11,897

    Soviet casualties in Afghanistan
    Killed in action 9,511
    Died of wounds 2,386
    11,897

    Accidental deaths, suicides etc. 739
    Died by disease 817
    Total dead 14,453

    Wounded 53,753
    Sick 415,932
    Total 466,425

    Source: “Soviet casualties and combat losses” by G.F. Krivosheev

    My source is the report by the General Staff Authors’ Collective of the Russian Army headed by Colonel Professor Valentin Runov , the English translation is published by the University of Kansas Press in 2002;

    the General Staff are the direct successors of the General Staff Authors’ Collective of the USSR’s Red Army, and this is their internal report for officer training college.

    They give total Casualties of the 40th Army in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989 as 26000, including 2990 officers.

  343. George Hallam on said:

    Calvin: I suspect what happened is that Harman simply decided to ignore any evidence that conflicted with the SWP’s lazy anti-Sovietism, and instead cherry-picked facts to fit the SWP’s off-the-peg theories and templates.

    Well, that is a possible interpretation.

  344. George Hallam: The presence of Soviet troops was political disadvantage, but not an insuperable one. Militarily, the intervention was designed to stabilise the situation and gave time for the government to rebuild its political position and its military strength. In this the intervention was successful. This was proved by the survival of the Najibullah government after the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989. In fact Najibullah survived longer in power than did Gorbachev.

    Yes I agree with that assessment. Najibullah had a credible strategy for building a peace process, that foundered when financial subvention from Moscow ceased; that was the time when the USA could have stepped in, if they had ever been interested in peace and stablity in Afghanistan.

  345. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: How do Yousaf and Adkin explain the factional splits within the PDPA?

    From memory, they don’t.

    Yousaf was more interested in explaining his own problems in trying to coax, bribe or otherwise cajole, Afghanis into fighting the Soviets rather than settling scores and going after pelf.

  346. George Hallam on said:

    Andy Newman: My source is the report by the General Staff Authors’ Collective of the Russian Army headed by Colonel Professor Valentin Runov , the English translation is published by the University of Kansas Press in 2002;

    Fair enough.

    Thank you for this.

  347. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: How would you develop capitalism without resort to the imperialism of having to rely on foreign loans?

    It’s not the sort of problem I’m usually asked to solve.

    I suppose I’d start by consulting the literature for a view on how this have been done in the past. For example:

    “In themselves money and commodities are no more capital than are the means of production and of subsistence. They want transforming into capital. But this transformation itself can only take place under certain circumstances that centre in this, viz., that two very different kinds of commodity-possessors must come face to face and into contact; on the one hand, the owners of money, means of production, means of subsistence, who are eager to increase the sum of values they possess, by buying other people’s labour power; on the other hand, free labourers, the sellers of their own labour power, and therefore the sellers of labour. Free labourers, in the double sense that neither they themselves form part and parcel of the means of production, as in the case of slaves, bondsmen, &c., nor do the means of production belong to them, as in the case of peasant-proprietors; they are, therefore, free from, unencumbered by, any means of production of their own. With this polarization of the market for commodities, the fundamental conditions of capitalist production are given. The capitalist system presupposes the complete separation of the labourers from all property in the means by which they can realize their labour. As soon as capitalist production is once on its own legs, it not only maintains this separation, but reproduces it on a continually extending scale. The process, therefore, that clears the way for the capitalist system, can be none other than the process which takes away from the labourer the possession of his means of production; a process that transforms, on the one hand, the social means of subsistence and of production into capital, on the other, the immediate producers into wage labourers. The so-called primitive accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production. It appears as primitive, because it forms the prehistoric stage of capital and of the mode of production corresponding with it.”

    Capital Volume I Chapter 26

  348. George Hallam,

    #398 and #400,

    There is a connection between capitalist ‘development’ (or lack of it) and the split in the PDPA.

    There was a small degree of capitalist development in Afghanistan but…

    ‘Only a relatively small segment of the population, based in the towns, especially Kabul, were fully part of the modern world of capitalism’ (Your quote from Marx is therefore irrelevant, we are talking about the difficulty in extending capitalist development across a highly under developed country using only internal resources).

    And we are supposed to be discussing the 1978/79 period, not post-invasion. We are debating the extent to which the split in the PDPA was due to a spontaneous resistance to top-down modernisation (itself a response to under development) or whether the resistance was mainly the result of western imperialism. IMO the roots of resistance are explained by the material effects of attempted modernisation.

    http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=360&issue=116

  349. Calvin,

    This discussion is about whether or not the SWP shifted its stance over the question of western imperialism over the decades (it is not really about whether the SWP are ‘correct’). Andy Newman insists that there has been a recent shift in which the SWP has become softer over the question of western imperialism. He is wrong. Back in 1979 the SWP opposed imperaialism both East and West. The SWP opposed the Russian intervention and western imperialism at the same time. The fact that the US sought to arm rebels in 1979, before the invasion, and who knew what when, is immaterial for the purposes of this debate. But for the record, the nature of US intervention does not alter the fact that the response to top-down ‘modernisation’ lead to a crisis that propmted the Russian invasion that the SWP (rightly) opposed.

  350. andy newman on said:

    stuart: ‘Only a relatively small segment of the population, based in the towns, especially Kabul, were fully part of the modern world of capitalism’

    Well the population of Afghanistan in 1979 was 17 million, of whom 600000 were working in manufacturing, mining and other industrial facilities. Some of the agricultural sector – for example fruit production, was also operated on a relatrively large sacle commercial basis.

    So while it was “relatively small” the working class in the industrial sector was not a social and economic class completely lacking any weight.

    It was – to take a not entirely random example – a proportionately larger working class compared to the general population than was in the Russian Empire in 1917.

    Nor is it at all true that there were only internal resources, As I recall, there was a railway development in the Daoud era, in collaboration with SNCF, and Afghanistan was attracting a trickle of foriegn capital investment in the 1970s.

  351. stuart,

    #401
    “We are debating the extent to which the split in the PDPA was due to a spontaneous resistance to top-down modernisation (itself a response to under development) or whether the resistance was mainly the result of western imperialism. IMO the roots of resistance are explained by the material effects of attempted modernisation.”

    I think you’re slicing the cake rather thin, Stuart, in order to shoehorn in the “neither Washington nor Moscow” line of your organisation. Former CIA director Robert Gates has admitted in his memoirs that aid to the rebels began in June 1979 and Zbigniew Brezinski, Carter’s national security adviser, has confirmed this in a subsequent interview. It was done so precisely to provoke a Soviet response.

  352. andy newman on said:

    stuart: But for the record, the nature of US intervention does not alter the fact that the response to top-down ‘modernisation’ lead to a crisis that propmted the Russian invasion that the SWP (rightly) opposed.

    There is so much confusion here.

    What do the scare quotes around “modernisation” mean? Are you opposed to modernisation?

    This is semi-anarchist nonsense. The Afghan government had been gradually promoting modernisation since the 1920s, which accelerated from the 1960s, and in the Daoud period, Afghanistan was not dissimilar to a number of developing countries in Asia or Africa. Of course given the ecnomic and social backwardness (1979 there were 2 million nomads and 84% illiteracy across the population), then it was going to be the government and thereofre “top down” reform, because the government had the monopoly of access to foreign aid, as well as being the centre of civil society – in poor developing countries, the government service is where educated people congregate and gain employment.

    How could there be anything except “top down” reform? were you expecting illiterate peasants to generate a new economic and social paradigm?

    It is also worth noting that the Islamist insurgency first arose in 1973, and failed; but even the later insurgency that prompted the Afghan government to ask for military aid from the USSR had in fact started even BEFORE the PDPA ceased power.

    Understanding Pakistan’s role here, especially thE ISI, who saw Afghanistan as their domain, is vital in grasping the way that external factors were crucial from the beginning.

  353. andy newman on said:

    stuart: Andy Newman insists that there has been a recent shift in which the SWP has become softer over the question of western imperialism.

    This is entirely abstract.

    I don’t care how you make the convoluted gymnastics in your head, after all “Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia”; what matters is that objectively the SWP, when it comes to Libya and Syria, have abandoned the welcome anti-imperialism they have demonstarted in recent years, and instead you have resoorted to a facile and contentless “revolutionism”, whereby you are celebrating the overthrow of a government without any real consideration of what social forces are likely to replace that government, and what programme they would adopt.

    This is a decent into liberalism, because you can pose as self-satisfied “revolutionatries” to yourselves, while simulataneously being able to conform to the suffocating consensus of the Guardianistas.

    Over the question of the Ba’athist regime in Iraq, the SWP took a mature position; you have now joined the third camp, of what Trotsky described as the “stampeding petit-bourgeoise”

  354. Andy Newman: But whether we take these lower end evaluations of 1/4 of US losses in Vietnam, or the higher end General Staff numbers of 1/2 US losses, they are both much lower; a

    Soviet losses in Afghanistan were comparable to US losses in Vietnam as a proportion of the number of troops who served in both wars. Soviet forces in Afghanistan peaked at 118,000 with 15,000 killed by the time they withdrew. US forces averaged 400,000 in Vietnam out of which just under 60,000 were killed.

    I agree there was nothing like the social impact domestically in the Soviet Union over Afghanistan when compared to the US with regard to Vietnam. This was obviously due mainly to the stricter controls over public dissent that existed in the SU. But the Communist Party’s Central Committee did receive thousands of letters protesting the Soviet deployment and its cost in lives and casualties, largely from the parents and family members of the troops. These letters certainly influenced the Soviet leadership as the casualties grew and it became clear that the war was unwinnable.

    The perfidy of the US cannot be stressed enough when it comes to the collapse of the Najibullah regime. The Soviets had sought to make Afghanistan a neutral state and in this regard pushed for a transitional coalition government prior to its withdrawal. It had been in UN-brokered talks in Geneva with the US and Pakistan with this objective in mind, but the US later reneged on an agreement of non interference, which meant the US would continue to arm and fund the Mujahadeen after the Soviets withdrew, thus prolonging the war.

    The Soviets under Gorbachev did their best to bring about national reconciliation in the country prior to their withdrawal, even going to far as to advise the PDPA to soften its socialist policies around issues such as land reform, and to remove those sections of the Afghan constitution which made explicit reference to socialism. In fact a new constitution was drafted which enshrined a multiparty system and a mixed economy. Moreover, the ‘Democratic’ in Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was dropped, as it was felt that ‘Democratic Republic’ was a term associated with socialist states.

    I recommend Jonathan Steele’s ‘Ghosts of Afghanistan’, an excellent comparative history of both the Soviet intervention and the ISAF occupation.

    Najibulllah also made a grave mistake, when he arbitrarily, against the wishes of the Soviets, declared himself president of Afghanistan in 1987. This scuppered any hopes of Islamist support for a coalition government involving the PDPA and Najibullah.

  355. andy newman on said:

    John: Soviet losses in Afghanistan were comparable to US losses in Vietnam as a proportion of the number of troops who served in both wars. Soviet forces in Afghanistan peaked at 118,000 with 15,000 killed by the time they withdrew. US forces averaged 400,000 in Vietnam out of which just under 60,000 were killed.

    But that is moving the goal-posts to a degree, because a much higher proportion of the American Army did serve in Vietnam.

    The force that entered Afghanisan in 1979, and continued through the first stage of the war, where there were major combat operations until about March 1980, was already over 100000 men. Over the next ten years, the Soviet force in Afghanistan hardly expanded, and in about 1985 to 1986, there was significant withdrawal. What is more, during the entire ten years of the war, the Soviet Army never once suffered a strategic defeat at the hands of the insurgents.

    In contrast, the Vietnam war was characterised not only be hugely escalating troop numbers, but also be the expansion of the war into Laos and Cambodia; and by the USA suffering major military reverses in 1968 during the Tet offensive.

    Soviet losses were also fairly regular, running at around 5 a day across 10 years; whereas American losses during their 8 year conflict were concenrtated between 1968 and 1970, and IIRC ran at up to 40 per day.

    This explains the much greater social impact, which was not just due to the USSR’s ability to constrain outward expressions of discontent.

  356. stuart,

    The problem is that Chris Harman claims to know nothing of any US intervention until 1998 when Brzezinski “revealed” the truth that everyone else who knew anything about Afghanistan already knew. Now this incredibly misinformed analyst says: Oh well, it doesn’t matter, US covert armed intervention is not significant.

    Thing is, the Afghan government of the time and the Soviet Union both argued at the time that they were responding to US and Pakistani intervention. The US lied, the media repeated the lies, and the SWP went along with it out of ingrained knee-jerk anti-Sovietism and the need to wrap the world around their slogans. Now Brzezinski has come clean, we have three of the central players (the US, USSR and Afghan govt) all talking of how US intervention provoked the Soviet response.

    But somehow the remarkably ill-informed Chris Harman, a so-called expert who (if one takes him at his word) for almost 20 years was not even aware there had even been an intervention, knows better. C’mon, be serious.

  357. andy newman: What is more, during the entire ten years of the war, the Soviet Army never once suffered a strategic defeat at the hands of the insurgents.

    True. In fact, the Afghan national army proved effective after the Soviets withdrew and were able to keep the insurgents on the back foot. It was only when Yeltsin stopped the aid when he took power that things changed and the Afghan military disintegrated.

  358. Jellytot on said:

    @408 American losses during their 8 year conflict were concenrtated between 1968 and 1970, and IIRC ran at up to 40 per day.

    Yes, prompting Life magazine to publish a famous article entitled “One Week’s Toll” in June 1969, which ran photos of the 242 American soldiers killed, whose names were released between May 28th and June 3rd 1969.

    Life noted that the numbers of the dead were average for any seven-day period during that stage of the war.

    http://life.time.com/history/faces-of-the-american-dead-in-vietnam-one-weeks-toll/#3

  359. Morning Star reader on said:

    On the closed thread, I asked Stuart and his co-thinkers to explain what the materialist basis was in Afghanistan for “Russian imperialism”.
    Unless I’ve missed it, I don’t think I received an answer. As Stuart persists with his trite and vacuous “state-capitalism” categorisations on this thread, perhaps he will answer the question here.
    I’m also intrigued to see how, after gurus like Harman are shown to be so ignorant – by accident or design – about the struggles upon which they so readily pontificate, their disciples still parrot the same superficial analysis, regardless of new information. One sure sign of a cult, I think.

  360. saothar on said:

    andy newman: n contrast, the Vietnam war was characterised not only be hugely escalating troop numbers, but also be the expansion of the war into Laos and Cambodia; and by the USA suffering major military reverses in 1968 during the Tet offensive.

    ——————————————————————

    Yes, the US did raze Laos and Cambodia, but as for suffering major military reverses during Tet, I don’t think that is quite right. The sheer scale of Tet caught the US by surprise, but after the intital shock, they recovered and inflicted significant damage on the PAVN and VC. Around 60,000 PAVN and VC were killed during Tet, compared to around 4,000 US troops. Hanoi was severely weakened by the scale of the effort

    But Tet had much more of a positive impact politically for the NLF. It showed in the starkest way imaginable the Saigon regime to be a weak puppet, totally dependent on US power, and also showed the US public that several years into the war, the PAVN and VC was capable of mounting this type of massive offensive. This was in contrast to the propaganda of the US state, which constantly spoke of how the enemy was on the brink of defeat etc. Some leading military figures like Westmoreland were effectively broken by Tet and did not believe they could win after this point. Tet also encouraged more and more South Vietnamese that the US could be beaten

    Ultimately, the two wars, Vietnam and Afghanistan have similarities in the sense that no matter how many the US and USSR killed, they could not quell the population, and could not leave any credible far less permanent political structure that would survive their departure

  361. saothar: But Tet had much more of a positive impact politically for the NLF.

    The NLF were practically wiped out during the Tet Offensive, and afterwards it was never able carry out its own military operations again. From then on it was the NVA who carried the fight against the US occupation.

    The major blow to the US as a result of Tet was psychological, the knowledge that even Saigon was vulnerable to attack. It also had a huge impact in the US itself.

  362. andy newman,

    But in the Russian example, socialism was dependent on revolutions in more advanced countries. A similar approach is taken by Harman in his 1980 article. The stuff about capitalism in one country relates to a debate with George Hallam, see post 377.

  363. John: the Afghan national army proved effective after the Soviets withdrew and were able to keep the insurgents on the back foot. It was only when Yeltsin stopped the aid when he took power that things changed and the Afghan military disintegrated.

    The basis of the Najibullah regime rested on more than the efficiency of the army in comabat operations. There was a very substantial body of civilian support – even a decisiove majority – in urban areas, very strong support among religious and ethnic minorities including in the military and security apparatus, great enthusiasm among young people and especially young women in education. The PDPA regime was even able to rely on armed youth contingents to defend their colleges while they studied.
    Foreign civilians could move around unescorted in Kabul and other urban centres.
    I discussed this with Harman at the time and it struck me then that he did not grasp the complex domestic dynamics of the situation, in particular the critical role of the Pushtun dimension to the relationship with Pakistan or the drive by the Pakistani security establishment to be an active, even decisive factor, in power broking. He was very resistant to the idea that Najibullah, in particular, had a regional power base and a measure of respect.

  364. andy newman,

    But you should know that the SWP saw the ‘developmentalist’ model as increasingly ineffective, this is alluded to in the article. Further, the article does not deny that those in rebellion would be ‘reactionary’ or that western imperialism will look to support them. But crucially, the article also opposes Russian imperialism. It opposes both sides.

  365. Calvin,

    Harman makes no indication in his 1980 article that the US would not want to intervene in the way that it clearly did. It does not alter the basis of the argument.

  366. Nick Wright: The basis of the Najibullah regime rested on more than the efficiency of the army in comabat operations.

    Sure. I was responding specifically to Andy’s point re the Soviet military never suffering a strategic defeat at the hands of the insurgency during its involvement.

    The ability of the Afghan national army to continue to operate effectively after the Soviet withdrawal was clearly a reflection on the strong civilian support enjoyed by the regime.

  367. Jellytot on said:

    @416He (Harman) was very resistant to the idea that Najibullah, in particular, had a regional power base and a measure of respect.

    The idea that so-called “Stalinist” regimes have non-coercive support in the populace blows apart their world view.

  368. stuart: the article also opposes Russian imperialism.

    I wonder if you could identify the surplus value extracted from Afghanistan by the Soviet Union during its presence in the country, Stuart.

    I think on the contrary you’ll find that the SU poured huge resources into trying to develop and modernise the country.

    I wouldn’t call that imperialism, certainly not the kind described by Lenin.

  369. George Hallam on said:

    John: Soviet losses in Afghanistan were comparable to US losses in Vietnam as a proportion of the number of troops who served in both wars. Soviet forces in Afghanistan peaked at 118,000 with 15,000 killed by the time they withdrew. US forces averaged 400,000 in Vietnam out of which just under 60,000 were killed.

    You have to factor in:

    a) Soviet conscripts spent about 18 months on active service while for US conscripts it was only 12 months.

    9,087,000 Military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam Era. Aug. 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975.

    2,594,000 Personnel served within the borders of South Vietnam. Jan. 1, 1965 – Mar. 28, 1973
    http://www.veteranshour.com/vietnam_war_statistics.htm

    Only 620,000 Soviets served in Afghanistan.
    http://www.conservapedia.com/Soviet-Afghan_War

    b) the ‘teeth to tail’ ratio was very much higher for Soviet forces in Afghanistan than it was for US forces in Vietnam.

    Of the 2.6 million, between 1 and 1.6 million (40-60%) either fought in combat, provided close combat support or were at least fairly regularly exposed to enemy attack.

    Some units had a tough time. For example, about 391,000 US Marines served in the Vietnam War 13,091 were killed in action and 51,392 wounded.
    http://alabamavva.org/stats.html

    So on a day to day basis the average Soviet soldier had a much quiter time than the average US Marine. He spent more time in the war zone but if the figure of 15,000 is anywhere near right then his chanceds of survival where higher.

  370. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: Harman makes no indication in his 1980 article that the US would not want to intervene in the way that it clearly did. It does not alter the basis of the argument.

    This will not do. In his 1980 article Harman made mention of what the US was up to.

    This was the basis of his argument.

  371. George Hallam: This will not do. In his 1980 article Harman made mention of what the US was up to.

    This was the basis of his argument.

    What do you think is meant by this?

    ‘In the east of Afghanistan, the Western powers are seeking to utilise the rebels, not to liberate the country, but to replace Russian by Western domination. The character of the rebel movements will most likely make them easy meat for such manoeuvres.’

    And this?

    ‘We have to insist: All imperialist hands-off Asia; No arms for the hangman who rules Pakistan or the slave owners who rule the Gulf states; End the American threat to Iran: the US Fleet out of the Gulf: British mercenary officers out of Oman; the Russians out of Afghanistan’

    He was never going to say, ‘the US are providing arms to the rebels (whether that was known or not), therefore we must support the Russian occupation’. He wouldn’t have said that because that would not have been consistent with the ‘neither Washington or Moscow’ line, so what is your point here?

  372. Jellytot: The idea that so-called “Stalinist” regimes have non-coercive support in the populace blows apart their world view.

    That would be a misrepresentation of their world view on your part.

  373. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: What do you think is meant by this?
    ‘In the east of Afghanistan, the Western powers are seeking to utilise the rebels, not to liberate the country, but to replace Russian by Western domination. The character of the rebel movements will most likely make them easy meat for such manoeuvres.’

    It would have been more accurate for Harman to have written:

    ‘The the US and Pakistan are utilising the rebels in all parts of Afghanistan, not to liberate the country, but to dominate it. The character of the rebel movements has made them easy meat for such manoeuvres.’

  374. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: What do you think is meant by this?
    ‘In the east of Afghanistan, the Western powers are seeking to utilise the rebels, not to liberate the country, but to replace Russian by Western domination. The character of the rebel movements will most likely make them easy meat for such manoeuvres.’

    Pity he didn’t write:

    “After Pakistan’s creation in 1947, Afghanistan objected to its admission to the United Nations. The Afghan government of the time decided not to recognize Pakistan as the legitimate inheritor of the territorial agreements reached with the British India. There were several ambiguous and often changing demands from Kabul centered around the aspirations—as Kabul saw it—of the Pashtun and Baluch ethnicities inside Pakistan. For intermittent periods between 1947 and 1973, Kabul extended support to Baluch and Pashtun nationalists inside Pakistan and even called for the creation of a new state called “Pashtunistan.” In 1973, Pakistan, grappling with territorial insecurities, resorted to extending support to Islamists dissidents that opposed Afghanistan’s Republican government of Sardar Daud. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s government created the “Afghan Cell” within Pakistan’s foreign office and assigned it a policy that included strengthening ties with and empowering Islamists in exile in Pakistan, and improving Pakistan’s influence over governments in Kabul.”

    http://www.understandingwar.org/pakistan-and-afghanistan

  375. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: He was never going to say, ‘the US are providing arms to the rebels (whether that was known or not), therefore we must support the Russian occupation’. He wouldn’t have said that because that would not have been consistent with the ‘neither Washington or Moscow’ line, so what is your point here?

    Or this:

    “Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, is an insurgent group active in Afghanistan. …

    “[Hekmatyar was born]in 1947 or 1948 in northern Kunduz province, Hekmatyar is a Kharotai by qawmi (tribal) affiliation. (Kharotai is a sub-branch of Ghilzai pashtuns.)Hekmatyar is believed to have been active with the socialist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) in the later years of high school in Kunduz and during his time in a military academy in Kabul. In Kabul University in the early 1970s, he became a member of the religious youth movements that were influenced by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Hekmatyar was imprisoned after allegedly killing a Maoist rival in Kabul University in 1972. After the 1973 military coup by Sardar Daud, Hekmatyar went to exile in Pakistan. In Pakistan, he was one of the early Islamist dissidents courted by the Pakistani government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in efforts to organize and influence the opposition against President Daud in Kabul. He was one of the founding members of Hizb-i-Islami in 1977. Like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb-i-Islami (as it was known at the outset before splitting into several faction) focused on “establishment of a pure Islamic state and utilizes a highly disciplined organizational structure built around a small cadre of educated elites.”

    http://www.understandingwar.org/hizb-i-islami-gulbuddin-hig

  376. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: He was never going to say, ‘the US are providing arms to the rebels (whether that was known or not), therefore we must support the Russian occupation’. He wouldn’t have said that because that would not have been consistent with the ‘neither Washington or Moscow’ line, so what is your point here?

    My point is that Harman might have pointed out that it wasn’t just internal opposition the Kabul government had to worry about. There was a history of Pakistan interference.

    “Considering Daud a serious threat to Pakistan integration, Pakistan government decided to support anti Daud forces in destabilizing and bringing down Daud regime. Resultantly, Pakistan welcomed Afghan Islamists with anti communist and anti Doud feelings.35 These dissidents were provided training and other supports for their incursions and uprisings inside Afghanistan. Figures like Gulbaddin Hekmat Yar, Ahmad Shah Masood, and Burhan-ud-din Rabbani escaped to Pakistan and continued controlling their armed resistance against Communists backed Daud regime from Peshawar..36 These forces succeeded in gaining momentum with in few years and attained a status of armed opposition to be reckoned with. Reportedly, around 5,000 Afghan dissidents were trained by Pakistan in its secret military camps.37″

    References
    35 Kamal Matinuddin, , Power Struggle in Hindokush (1978-91), (Lahore: Wajid
    alis, 1991)18.
    36 Khawar Hussain, Pakistan’s Afghanistan Policy, Monterey
    California: Naval Postgraduate School, 2005) 22-23
    37 Marvin Weinbaum, , Pakistan and Afghanistan: Resistance and
    Reconstruction, (Lahore: Pak Book Corporation, 1994)5

    http://www.qurtuba.edu.pk/thedialogue/The%20Dialogue/4_1/02_ashraf.pdf

  377. stuart: ‘In the east of Afghanistan, the Western powers are seeking to utilise the rebels, not to liberate the country, but to replace Russian by Western domination. The character of the rebel movements will most likely make them easy meat for such manoeuvres.’

    I think that by this Harman was demonstrating extreme ignorance. The rebels were not a national liberation movement, and therefore Harman is projecting qualities onto them, that they did not exhibit.

  378. Andy Newman: I think that by this Harman was demonstrating extreme ignorance. The rebels were not a national liberation movement, and therefore Harman is projecting qualities onto them, that they did not exhibit.

    He says…

    ‘The rebel movements did not grow up, in the first place, as national liberation movements. They emerged when the Russian presence was still restricted to a relatively small number of ‘advisors’, in opposition to the nationalist, modernising zeal of the middle class in the towns….(they stood) for petty local tribalisms as against the creation of a genuine national entity. It was these aims that gave their Islamic ideology its material content….. The fact that such (historically similar) movements gained genuine local support, even from the poorer peasants, does not make them into movements for national liberation’

  379. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    (I posted something similar yesterday but it seems to have fallen victim to the blog’s down-time.)

    Harman’s “analysis” reminds me of a book by Anthony Arnold published in the early 1980s by the US conservative think-tank the Hoover Institution, Afghanistan’s Two-Party Communism. Like Harman, Arnold downplays the role of the USA, Pakistan and their intelligence services in the unfolding events in Afghanistan. However, a later book by Arnold mentions his own long-term involvement with the US “intelligence community”, for which he appears to have been an expert on Afghanistan. Since the early 1980s, far more has come out about the role of the CIA and the Pakistani ISI.

  380. George Hallam,

    I do actually have a copy of the Socialist Review from Feb/Mar 1980, as well as the Harman articles there is some stuff on Pakistan.

    It is noted that the US raised the stakes in the Cold War through arms increases before the Russian invasion. As well as condemning Pakistan for being a brutal military dictatorship, the very specific take on events at the time is that the crisis increased the prospects of keeping together the artificial state that is Pakistan …

    ‘ For Zia it means lots of guns from the USA and China and better still, probably more financial aid to shore up the economy and more US aid to overcome ‘internal subversion’….Lord Carrington (who visited Pakistan at the time) will not have got much joy out of trying to tempt India into a bloc against Russia over Afghanistan, especially as such a bloc means strengthening China and Pakistan’

    From Socialist Review Feb/Mar 1980 (p 14)

    It is worth reminding particularly China admiring posters such as Andy Newman and Jellytot, that China was allied to Pakistan at the same time as Russian and Chinese armies faced each other along the Ussuri.

  381. Jellytot on said:

    @437It is worth reminding particularly China admiring posters such as Andy Newman and Jellytot, that China was allied to Pakistan at the same time as Russian and Chinese armies faced each other along the Ussuri.

    The shifting sands of cold war alliances, the Sino-Soviet split and the (in my view mistaken) ‘Three Worlds Theory’, especially in relation to Angola, have been recognised on here.

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

    Quite how it should impact views on China today is unknown to me.

  382. George Hallam,

    #430,

    Somehow the internet version says ‘In the east of Afghanistan’, the actual text, which I have in front of me says ‘In the case of Afghanistan’

  383. “On a wider note, the stench of moralism has come to engulf the far left in recent years, illustrative of the yawning gap that has opened up between it and the constituency it claims to represent – the working class. This has manifested in the rise of identity politics and lifestylism as the fulcrum of political activity to the detriment of class.”

    You sum up what’s happened on the left recently very nicely. It’s becoming a self-righteous, un-socialist waste of space. We need to get the moralists out (they’ll probably end up in the Tory Party eventually) and return to socialism.

  384. #437 & 438

    Interestingly (or maybe not) the most pro-Beijing grouping in Brtain at the time of the 3 worlds theory, the Communist Workers’ Organisation, wrote a criitque of the SWP entitled “Why Paul Foot Should Be A Socialist”, in which they actually criticised the SWP for being soft on the USSR (post Stalin).

  385. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: Somehow the internet version says ‘In the east of Afghanistan’, the actual text, which I have in front of me says ‘In the case of Afghanistan’

    This is better. But the passage is still mealy mouthed.
    1. “the Western powers are seeking to utilise the rebels”
    Why ‘Western’? As far as I know there was no evidence of British or French intervention at this stage. Why not just say “the US”.

    Of course, this still leaves Pakistan out of the picture. This casts doubt on Harman’s objectivity.

    2. “not to liberate the country, but to replace Russian by Western domination.”
    Implying that ‘Russia’ was dominating the country. This is just repeating Western (I‘m using the word advisedly) propaganda.

    I note that you use the same technique yourself when you call the PDPA government “the pro-Moscow regime” or “pro-Russian regime”. This is using the conventional Cold War vocabulary. The distinctive feature of the PDPA government was its commitment to anti-feudal measures. Kabul governments had been “pro-Russian” since the 1920s.

  386. #444,

    But the article on imperialism, see post 427 for link, attempts to analyse how the US and Russia are both driven to dominate particular regions. Remember, the US had just ‘lost’ Iran and Nicaragua. Russia could not afford to ‘lose’ its hold over Afghanistan- things were just starting to stir in Poland at the time for example.

    The role of Pakistan is IMO a little similar to Israel. It is a fragmented state, hard to hold together. To keep the project intact Pakistan’s rulers need to offer the state as an important player in Cold War politics. It needs to win US backing and particularly large amounts of US aid. It is a given that it will look to enhance its role within its politically sensitive region.

    However, this does not alter the fact that the rebellion was provoked by attemps at top-down, state-led ‘modernisation’, directed at an unwilling population. It seems as if you have to play up the Pakistan component to justify Russia’s actions. You making far too much of what you see as ‘omission’ in a short article.

  387. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: However, this does not alter the fact that the rebellion was provoked by attemps at top-down, state-led ‘modernisation’, directed at an unwilling population.

    Why the scare quotes around ‘modernisation’? Dosen’t the abolition of feudialism count as modernisation any more?

  388. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: However, this does not alter the fact that the rebellion was provoked by attemps at top-down, state-led ‘modernisation’, directed at an unwilling population. It seems as if you have to play up the Pakistan component to justify Russia’s actions.

    You have it backwards.

    There is a world of difference between dealing with a domestically-based insurgency and one which is actively supported by foreign powers. This is especially so, if such an insurgency has a base in an adjacent country.

    There is overwhelming evidence that the Pakistani government trained and equipped military groups with the intention of destabilising and overthrowing the Kabul government.
    Afghanistan and Pakistan share a fifteen-hundred mile long border of mountains and wilderness.

    Whatever the difficulties the PDPA government may have created for themselves these were multiplied by the Pakistani/US intervention. There is no doubt that both factions of the PDPA requested (pleaded for?) Soviet troops to provide a counterbalance to this external interference.

    Now it could be argued that the PDPA also wanted Soviet troops to protect them from their entirely domestic enemies. Was this so very wrong? Perhaps.

    GLOUCESTER
    Alack, the night comes on, and the bleak winds
    Do sorely ruffle; for many miles a bout
    There’s scarce a bush.

    REGAN
    O, sir, to wilful men,
    The injuries that they themselves procure
    Must be their schoolmasters. Shut up your doors:

    On the other hand the consequences of the soviets not sending troops would have meant that such a lesson would have been somewhat academic. Of course, to a true moralist this is irrelevent.

    JACK
    [Shaking his head.] Dead!

    CHASUBLE
    Your brother Ernest dead?

    JACK
    Quite dead.

    MISS PRISM
    What a lesson for him! I trust he will profit by it.

  389. George Hallam,

    I suppose ‘modernisation’ appeared in quotes because in the end, despite the intentions, society was driven backwards. But I think you need to recall that the article was not really very kind to the rebels, it described them as backward and also prone to manipulation by western imperialists.

    I don’t really think we disagree over that. I suspect the difference of opinion comes down to whether we support the Russian occupation. The politics of the SWP entitles them to oppose imperialism on both sides and therefore the occupation, they take a kind of 1914 approach. It is the debate over SWP politics that has lead to the present fixation on Afghanistan. Opposing your own side, your own imperialists, does not mean you have to support their enemy.

  390. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: I suspect the difference of opinion comes down to whether we support the Russian occupation

    There you go again.
    You uncritically use the term “Russian occupation” as in ‘the control of a country by a foreign military power’.

    This is certainly the way it was portrayed in the West. It was central to the propaganda for the intensification of the Cold War.

    The argument was:
    1. There was no external threat to Afghanistan.

    2. The Afghan government never requested Soviet troops.

    3. ‘Russia’ invaded Afghanistan.

    4. The aim was a general expansionism plus the desire for a “warm-water port”.

    5. The Soviet presence in Afghanistan was an ‘occupation’: ‘the control of a country by a foreign military power’.

    Do you this really think that this captures the reality of the situation in Afghanistan?

    You said:

    stuart: . The politics of the SWP entitles them to oppose imperialism on both sides and therefore the occupation, they take a kind of 1914 approach. Opposing your own side, your own imperialists, does not mean you have to support their enemy.

    Of course people are “entitled” to devise (invent) whatever principles they like. However, there is also the idea that historical accuracy is quite important.

    Sometimes this will involve challenging the propaganda version of events put out by one’s “own side”.

    Some people might argue that “opposing your own side” while failing to expose the falsity of its propaganda is a pretty half-hearted sort of opposition.

    Of course, this does not, in itself, mean that the SWP has been inconstant. It is quite possible for the SWP to have been consistently half-hearted in exposing the falsity the propaganda of its “own side”.

    I am sure that those with a greater knowledge of the activities of the SWP/IS than myself will have a view on this question.

  391. stuart: I suppose ‘modernisation’ appeared in quotes because in the end, despite the intentions, society was driven backwards.

    ‘In the end’ the society was driven backwards because of the USA’s mobilisation, arming, & diplomatic support for etc, the reactionary forces.

    Yet you seem to wish to pin the blame on the people who were trying to achieve progress.

  392. George Hallam #450, Noah #451,

    A few quickpoints.

    For the SWP one of the key things to get across is that the people of Afghanistan had been the victims of rival imperialisms for many decades, the the 1980s were a continuation of this. Of course that means not only opposing our own imperialism but also highlighting the utter hypocrisy of our rulers. It would not be difficult to demonstrate many examples of their hypocrisy- for example at the time the US were backing death squads in Central America. But it becomes harder to expose hypocrisy if you support the Russian occupation.

    On the question of modernisation, it was the case that the SWP was rightly critical towards attempts to use the state for top-down economic development. The less advanced the country, the harder it was to make such an intervention successful. It wasn’t about good or bad intentions, just an economic reality. The later the attempt to do so (as the various examples through the 20th century showed), the worse the results.

  393. George Hallam on said:

    To a casual observer this thread has become repetitious. Actually, Stuart has been slowly revealing the SWP leadership’s deontic logic. That is, with the system for deciding what ought to be the case and what is permitted.

    It would be useful if this logic were to be made explicit. Perhaps the moderators will keep the thread open until this has happened.

  394. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: Of course that means not only opposing our own imperialism but also highlighting the utter hypocrisy of our rulers. It would not be difficult to demonstrate many examples of their hypocrisy- for example at the time the US were backing death squads in Central America. But it becomes harder to expose hypocrisy if you support the Russian occupation.

    ???

    To a casual observer this thread has become repetitious. Actually, Stuart has been slowly revealing the SWP leadership’s deontic logic. That is, with the system for deciding what ought to be the case and what is permitted.

    It would be useful if this logic were to be made explicit. Perhaps the moderators will keep the thread open until this has happened.

  395. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: Of course that means not only opposing our own imperialism but also highlighting the utter hypocrisy of our rulers. It would not be difficult to demonstrate many examples of their hypocrisy- for example at the time the US were backing death squads in Central America. But it becomes harder to expose hypocrisy if you support the Russian occupation.

    It becomes much harder to expose the hypocrisy of our rulers if you use their vocabulary and stereotypes to support their version of events.

    In effect you become, not just another conduit for Western propaganda, but a means of validating it.

    As in “Well, even the Socialist Workers Party accept that…”

  396. Stuart- the logic of your position is that you would not have supported the Bolshevik regime during the period of war communism.

    As you may know, my own position is that the October 1917 revolution was a mistake, but I would have identified the government that came out of it as being on my side, no matter how much of what was done by them I feel to have been utterly mistaken and in many cases criminal.

    In Afghanistan I think the same approach would have been correct towards the PDPA governments.

    The Soviet intervention was a huge mistake, and other ways should have been found to bolster the military and political struggle to defend progressive reforms.

    I actually have some sympathy for what you say about top-down modernisation through the state, and I think that there was probably far more scope for the use of market mechanisms.

    Bottom line though is who’s side are you on? That’s the problem I have with the SWP on Afghanistan. Again, you show no idea of what a progressive government should do, only a hostility to all governments (apart from the one led by Lenin).

  397. Vanya: think that there was probably far more scope for the use of market mechanisms.

    :)

    I don’t think that is what Stuart means? But who knows: the SWP seem very keen on supporting the neo-liberal shake up of Syria and Libya, and they certainly supported the pro-market, pro-privatisation, Otpor! organisation in Serbia

  398. George H, Vanya, Andy N,

    The SWP’s attitude towards the various revolutionary upsurges we regularly discuss is informed by Trotsky’s theory of ‘permanent revolution’ updated by Tony Cliff’s excellent ‘Deflected Permanent Revolution’..http://www.marxists.org/archive/cliff/works/1963/xx/permrev.htm

    The February 1917 revolution was beneficial to British and French imperialism whilst German imperialism aided Lenin pre-October so I’m not sure where your logic would have taken you had you been around at the time. The SWP would have no problem supporting both revolutions.

    The SWP does not support pro-capitalist elements, however they would not oppose a movement against an oppressor simply because it includes such people- or because the US tries to influence the movement. Equally the SWP would not refuse to criticise a movement just because its enemy is oppressive. Taking these factors into account, how the SWP relates to a movement will depend on an assessment of the actual balance of forces.

  399. Jellytot on said:

    @459they (the SWP) would not oppose a movement…..because the US tries to influence the movement.

    “tries to influence” ?

    Trying?

    I think they’ve succeded.

    The SWP will support a movement even if the US actively arms, enables, supports and provides air cover.

  400. George Hallam on said:

    stuart: The SWP does not support pro-capitalist elements, however they would not oppose a movement against an oppressor simply because it includes such people- or because the US tries to influence the movement.

    Top tip: when you’re in a hole, stop digging.

  401. Far from being in any kind of hole I am able to show how Chris Harman of the SWP was able to come to terms with the complexities under discussion here in such a way as to anticipate the Arab Spring back in 2005, and thereby advocate a well grounded approach for socialists to take ..

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/harman/2005/03/uprisings.htm

    Jellytot on the other hand is reduced to at least having to imply that the SWP supports NATO intervention (when this is simply not true) and Andy Newman is reduced to having to pretend that the SWP has ‘shifted’ its position when there is in fact no evidence for this.

    Long live honest and serious debate!

  402. stuart: The SWP would have no problem supporting both revolutions.

    But premably when the Left SRs left Lenin’s government and called for a new revolution you would not have supported that? Or the peasants resisting having their grain forcibly removed? Or workers who were imprisoned or shot by the Cheka for going on strike? Or of course, wait for it, Kronstadt?

  403. Vanya: But premably when the Left SRs left Lenin’s government and called for a new revolution you would not have supported that? Or the peasants resisting having their grain forcibly removed? Or workers who were imprisoned or shot by the Cheka for going on strike? Or of course, wait for it, Kronstadt?

    ‘A notable saying of Lenin kept rising in my mind: ‘It is a terrible misfortune that the honour of beginning the first Socialist revolution should have befallen the most backward people of Europe’. (I quote from memory; Lenin said it on several occasions.) Nevertheless, within the current situation of Europe, bloodstained, devastated, and in profound stupor, Bolshevism was, in my eyes, tremendously and visibly right. It marked a new departure in history.

    ‘World capitalism, after its first suicidal war, was now clearly incapable either of organising a positive peace, or (what was equally evident) of deploying its fantastic technical progress to increase the prosperity, liberty, safety, and dignity of mankind. The revolution was therefore right, as against capitalism; and we saw that the spectre of future war would raise a question-mark over the existence of civilsation itself, unless the social system of Europe was speedily transformed. The fearful Jacobinism of the Russian Revolution seemed to me to be quite unavoidable; as was the institution of a new revolutionary state..’

    Taken from Victor Serge ‘Memoirs of a Revolutionary’ OUP (1967) pp 113-114

    I think the SWP would supported the Bolsheviks for reasons similar to those expressed by Serge.

  404. Jellytot on said:

    @463Jellytot on the other hand is reduced to at least having to imply that the SWP supports NATO intervention

    The situation on the ground in Libya was that the rebels (who Nato were supplying air cover to) were unconditionally supported by the SWP. Without that air support (and the special forces on the ground calling in the airstrikes) the rebels would not have overcome.

    The air campaign and the actions of the rebels were essentially one and the same and to support one is to support the other. Both existed because of the other.

    When it was drawing to a close, the lead SWP theoritian wrote an article drawing parallels with the Liberation of Italy in WW2.

    It looks like the SWP may soon get its wish in Syria. What excuses and ridiculous analogies are being devised as we debate? Berlin 1945?

  405. Jellytot: The air campaign and the actions of the rebels were essentially one and the same and to support one is to support the other.

    Including the lynching of Gaddafi.

  406. #465

    ”…The fearful Jacobinism of the Russian Revolution seemed to me to be quite unavoidable; as was the institution of a new revolutionary state..’

    I think the SWP would supported the Bolsheviks for reasons similar to those expressed by Serge.’

    But when people who also got their inspiration from the Russian revolution were involved in a life and death struggle to defeat feudalism in Afghanistan the SWP didn’t support them and in fact ended up taking sides against them.

    More concerned that they were aligned wth the USSR than that their enemies were aligned with the USA.

    And with no line on what socialists in Afghanistan should have done to promote a progressive agenda other than to say the place was so backward it wasn’t worth doing anything at all.

  407. Vanya:
    #465

    ”…The fearful Jacobinism of the Russian Revolution seemed to me to be quite unavoidable; as was the institution of a new revolutionary state..’

    I think the SWP would supported the Bolsheviks for reasons similar to those expressed by Serge.’

    But when people who also got their inspiration from the Russian revolution were involved in a life and death struggle to defeat feudalism in Afghanistan the SWP didn’t support them and in fact ended up taking sides against them.

    More concerned that they were aligned wth the USSR than that their enemies were aligned with the USA.

    And with no line on what socialists in Afghanistan should have done to promote a progressive agenda other than to say the place was so backward it wasn’t worth doing anything at all.

    It comes back to the ‘pox on both their houses’ attitude of the SWP tradition, though, doesn’t it? A side-effect of prioritising moral purity over actual engagement with class struggles as they are manifested.

    Thus the ludicrous belief that the collapse of the USSR was simply a change from one form of capitalism to another, and actually expanded the opportunities for socialist politics!

    The same happens today with, for instance, Venezuela. Now I think there are many valid criticisms of Chavez’s government. But if socialists want to be taken seriously, they need to understand the qualitative difference between a flawed but worthwhile government that can be improved, and social forces which can by definition be nothing but our irreconcilable enemies.

    Bevan’s quote about standing the middle of the road comes to mind. And quite frankly, by refusing to pick a damned side, they deserve to get run down.

  408. #469 Exactly, and I think that this question is inextricably linked to the discussion on the direction for the left on the new thread.

    Outside of the CPB or Respect(if either are to be counted as such) it’s a small minority of the far left in Britain (in terms of size of actual organisations) that actually has anything positive to say about Chavez.

  409. Vanya,

    Aye. My own involvement at the mo is the SP (don’t hold it against me) and I find it absurd when, as in Venezuela, existing political situations are routinely counterposed to an ideal, pure ‘independent working-class’ (whatever that means) intervention, as if that helps anyone as a guide to action.

    The working class exists. Its struggle are a fact, I believe a defining one, of the state of global politics. To be relevant the left must reorientate itself to that class as it exists and as it is organising.

    And that will likely not be as the old guard believe/desire.

  410. #471 You wouldn’t be the first person to get involved with one of the larger far left groups while having differences with them.

    I can think of several who did so with the Mils (as I still see them).

    It certainly makes more sense than being involved in TUSC and NOT being in the SP (just :) )

  411. Cheers comrade. Been a hectic few months.

    Vanya – don’t get me started on TUSC. (I’m a very bad SP member.)

  412. prianikoff on said:

    #474 “I’m a very bad SP member”

    I don’t understand why you’re an SP member at all.
    You don’t agree with TUSC, you appear to support the Chavez government in Venezuela and you regard the re-election of a Labour government as the only realistic alternative to the Coalition.
    Doesn’t that make you a supporter of Socialist Appeal?

  413. George Hallam on said:

    Manzil: And quite frankly, by refusing to pick a damned side, they deserve to get run down.

    Sounds like moralism to me.

  414. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: But when people who also got their inspiration from the Russian revolution were involved in a life and death struggle to defeat feudalism in Afghanistan the SWP didn’t support them and in fact ended up taking sides against them.
    More concerned that they were aligned wth the USSR than that their enemies were aligned with the USA.
    And with no line on what socialists in Afghanistan should have done to promote a progressive agenda other than to say the place was so backward it wasn’t worth doing anything at all.

    Very well put.

    It’s one of those little ironies that an organisation that has a such a record of frenetic activity and prides itself on its internationalism should have no perspective for movements outside a corner of Western Europe.

    In its place you get ‘positions’ and ‘statements’ explaining why it’s all hopeless. More a case “What is to be said” than “What is to be done”.

  415. George Hallam on said:

    John: I think JT was right to characterise Harman’s analysis of Afghanistan as the stuff of parlour games.

    You may have a point. But now Christmas is drawing near perhaps it would be useful to work out what sort parlour game it was. Then we could all play it.

    I suggest a combination of ‘Risk’ and a ‘General Ignorance’ round of ‘QI’.

    Any other ideas?

  416. prianikoff:
    #474“I’m a very bad SP member”

    I don’t understand why you’re an SP member at all.
    You don’t agree with TUSC, you appear to support the Chavez government in Venezuela and you regard the re-election of a Labour government as the only realistic alternative to the Coalition.
    Doesn’t that make you a supporter of Socialist Appeal?

    Shall I fill out a detailed theoretical questionnaire and we can see which group I meet the 100% ideological and tactical conformity requirement for membership of?

    Because it is an effective, serious organisation that is grounded in, and helps to coordinate and give a clear political line to, socialists’ and working-class militants’ struggles in the workplaces and communities where I live. And because most SP members acknowledge that it is possible to realise unity and cooperation without strict agreement on every single view you hold. Unlike you, apparently.

    Class struggle isn’t your own personal support group.

    I am a Marxist. I believe we need an explicitly revolutionary party, not a sect (and especially not a dozen sects). We do not have this. So the options are impotent inactivity, or working towards the political and organisational rearming of the labour movement and a broad left regroupment in the best way I can.

    I am not saying the only alternative to a bourgeois government is social democracy. I am saying in this specific period we have no realistic alternative to offer. Something, I believe, that results from the viciously dogmatic attitude demonstrated by the left – which, to be honest, you exemplify.

  417. prianikoff on said:

    “…viciously dogmatic attitude demonstrated by the left – which, to be honest, you exemplify.”

    Hee, hee!
    If you think I’m “viciously dogmatic” you’re just a great big twerp.
    I work with members of the SP, SWP (and others) in the anti-cuts campaigns and unions on a regular basis.
    I’ve never had a single “viciously dogmatic” argument with any of them.
    Even when I lived with a member of the SP we never argued about politics!

  418. Jellytot #466, Vanya #468,

    For the SWP the popoular rebellion against a dictator and the western attempts to co-opt an oppostion movement are two different things, two different dynamics. But if the former does become dependent on the latter then that is a negative thing, not a positive. And if the SWP regards it as a negative then they cannot be said to ‘support’ it. And indeed they do not as all the literature available will testify.

    The above stands as a basic analysis although no two situations will be entirely similar and so how a party relates to a movement does come down to balance of forces at the time. The other important factor to note is that the West may try to intervene but not get its own way in the longer term. The West are not all powerful- that is not to say we in any way support their interventions but it should be factored in to any overall analysis.

    The problem here is not with the SWP but with your own particular brand of politics. You have placed yourself into a position whereby you cannot support any popular rebellion against a dictator that the West (usually the US) decides it does not like. You are not really being socialists you are just cheerleading for whichever dictator finds himself stumbling into opposition to the West. And then you somewhat ironically join in debates about what is going wrong with the left. Why not look in the mirror? Your misrepresentation of the SWP position just comes across as desperate sectarian point scoring whilst your automatic refusal to support popular rebellion is hardly likely to win many people to socialism.

    And Afghanistan in 1978 cannot be compared to Russia in 1917. In the former case the army was used as a substitute for working class activity. In the latter, the working class played a powerful role in bringing about a revolution.

  419. #485 “And if the SWP regards it as a negative then they cannot be said to ‘support’ it. And indeed they do not as all the literature available will testify.”

    It is perfectly possible to regard something as a negative while supporting it, based on looking at the whole picture (the SWP was always banging on about critical support).

    My recollection is that the SWP supported the resistance against the Red Army and the Afghan government in spite of the clear support also given by the USA.

    stuart: The problem here is not with the SWP but with your own particular brand of politics. You have placed yourself into a position whereby you cannot support any popular rebellion against a dictator that the West (usually the US) decides it does not like. You are not really being socialists you are just cheerleading for whichever dictator finds himself stumbling into opposition to the West. And then you somewhat ironically join in debates about what is going wrong with the left. Why not look in the mirror? Your misrepresentation of the SWP position just comes across as desperate sectarian point scoring whilst your automatic refusal to support popular rebellion is hardly likely to win many people to socialism.

    No. My position is that:

    1) I opppose Western intervention.

    2) I treat movements against governments by elements of their own population on their merits. If sucb a movement is clearly supported by imperialism and I can see no conterballancing reason why it should be supported then I see no reason to give it any support.

    You on the other hand seem to think that you should automatically support any popular rebellion. Is that your position in all cases?

    stuart: And Afghanistan in 1978 cannot be compared to Russia in 1917. In the former case the army was used as a substitute for working class activity. In the latter, the working class played a powerful role in bringing about a revolution.

    Well the Bolshevik revolution wasn’t just about taking power in 1917 was it? It created one of those awful things the SWP has such a problem with- a government. It also created a new state. And the army of that state had quite a big role to play in the defeat of the old regime and in suppressing popular resistance from amongst all sections of he population to the government and in imposing goverment policies on significant sections of the population who were not happy with those policies.

    The reason you are incapable of recognising the parallels between Afghanistan in the late 70s and the 80s and Russia after the Bolshevik revolution is that you are defending a theory that has no logical basis.

    And I note that you have failed to respond directly to my point that George H quotes at #479.

  420. stuart,

    As we are talking about capitulation to liberalism, your vague use of the word “dictator” suggests a completely abstract attitude to analysing real life social forces.

  421. Vanya #486,

    If you oppose Russian occupation of Afghanistan then you have something in common with people in Afghanistan. You have a similar sentiment. But having a similar sentiment is not the same as supporting US military intervention.

    If we extend your logic then we could never vote Labour. Or if we did we would have to accept responsibilty for things like the Iraq war. Why did we vote Labour in 1997? Because we shared a similar reformist sentiment with many working class people in Britain. Were any of us shocked by Blair taking us into war several times or from having to endure further neo-liberal policies? Of course we were not. But should we feel guilty? Of course not. Because our vote for Labour was only given on the basis of showing soldarity with reformist sentiment. Labour was always more than capable of doing the damage it did and we always knew that, the only way genuine reforms could have come was through the self-activity of the working class. Similarly whilst we may express solidarity with people fighting against an oppressive ruler or an occupier, we would also say that imperialist intervention will not bring genuine liberation.

    The Russian revolution can only be seen as part of a wider European revolution. Failure of the wider revolution to succeed will mean that socialism cannot be established. The Bolshevik state may carry out measures that in different times socialists would not support, however they are defensible whilst socialism remains a possibility. Beyond that point, ‘socialism in one country’ is a non-starter- enter Leon Trotsky and later Tony Cliff. Similarly, socialism in Afghanistan was not a realistic prospect without revolutions elsewhere.

    Andy #487,

    It is interesting how you use ‘liberalism’ as a term of abuse. I really think it helps the socialist cause if we are seen to favour democracy and wider forms of participation. Here is Cliff on ‘social forces’,something you presumably used to agree with..http://www.marxists.org/archive/cliff/works/1963/xx/permrev.htm#mao

  422. stuart,

    But the Blair government did bring about “genuine reforms” – minimum wage, working tax credit, sure start, devolution to scotland and wales. Abolished clause 28. Civil partnerships. Statutory route to trade union recognition, massive investment in health and education, etc. etc

  423. Andy Newman:

    But the Blair government did bring about “genuine reforms” – minimum wage,working tax credit, sure start,devolution to scotland and wales. Abolishedclause 28. Civil partnerships. Statutory route to trade union recognition, massive investment in health and education,etc. etc

    But should those of us who voted for Labour be responsible for the negative things? Should those of us who wanted Russians out of Afghanistan or Gaddafi to fall in Libya be responsible for western intervention?

  424. stuart,

    You seem to think that politics is the question of aligning yourself with things that make you feel good about yourself.

    Surely politics is about seeking social change. Most of us voted labour in 1997 besuse we thought it would be better than the tories, and it was

  425. stuart: If you oppose Russian occupation of Afghanistan then you have something in common with people in Afghanistan. You have a similar sentiment. But having a similar sentiment is not the same as supporting US military intervention.

    You talk about people in Afghanistan. What about all those people in Afghanistan who wanted to pursue progressive reforms in their own country?

    And of course, the resistance to the Red Army, as had been the resistance to the PDPA government prior to that, was fully supported by the US.

    stuart: Similarly, socialism in Afghanistan was not a realistic prospect without revolutions elsewhere.

    So there was nothing for socialists to do in Afghanistan. Well there’s our answer.

    The stuff about voting Labour is so utterly beside the point that I won’t dignify it with a response.

  426. Andy Newman,

    But you are not responsible for the wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq even though you supported a bourgeois party and the party did what bourgeois parties do. That’s my point.

  427. Vanya,

    The SWP ‘line’ would have been to reject both ‘communist’ and Islamist conceptions of how to advance society, unlike many on the left it did not see the former as ‘progressive’ in that particular context. The SWP will have recognised the desire of the majority of the Afghanistan population to see the removal of the outside invader, although it would also have noted also that those opposing the ‘communists’ were being armed by the western imperialists- hence the characterisation was one of civil war with heavy arms from both imperialisms.

    ‘The USSR, afraid of losing influence, intervened to try to stabilise the country under its own control. It sent in many thousands of troops, murdering Amin, imposing Babrik Karmal as his successor and attempting to crush resistance using all the tried and tested forms of “ant-insurgent” warfare pioneered by the British in Malaya and the US in Vietnam. The US then upped the ante by working with the Pakistani military dictatorship of Zia ul-Haq and that country’s right wing Islamist parties to provide heavy armaments to—and exercise control over —the rival Afghan resistance forces. What would have been a nasty civil war, involving the use of light weapons, until rival factions came to a compromise, became a devastating conflict involving the most destructive modern weaponry.’

    http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=360&issue=116

    So a position of ‘neither Washington nor Moscow but international socialism’. The reference to voting Labour was an attempt to show that we have to separate out people’s specific and genuine aspirations (reforms or ‘invaders out’) from what might arise in terms of the ‘total picture’ (wars and neo-liberalism or western manipulation) when we make our political analysis, hence…

    ‘In other words, the Afghan resistance was both a people in revolt and a group of American clients. But the fact of revolt was more important. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans died in the war, and they did not give their lives for American hegemony.’

    http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=481&issue=120