What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Archive for the tag “SWP”

Salma, George and who do we let in?

 On the 11th September, following the furore caused by George Galloway’s bizarre defence of Julian Assange and his definition of rape, Salma Yaqoob honourably resigned as leader of the Respect Party.

Approximately thirty seconds later, online speculation began as to whether Ms. Yaqoob would be joining Labour, The Greens or pretty much any other left of centre party.

Although within Labour the debate has divided into two predictable camps, with Rob Marchant at Centre Left giving a detailed “No” and Andy Newman over at Socialist Unity being pretty positive to the idea, it was, inevitably that arch-opportunist Caroline Lucas of The Green Party who was first out of the traps in the race for the Order of the Brown Nose:

I really hope that Salma Yaqoob’s resignation from Respect doesn’t mean she’s leaving politics – we need her vision and clarity

Now this roughly translates from Politician to Human as “Ooh! Join my lot please! Then we can stick it to Labour and no mistake!” Which, considering the former Green Leaders’ endorsement of Salma at the 2010 election comes as no surprise, and it could very well be that Salma Yaqoob joins Lucas, if only for want of another political home. It also ties into the Greens’ courting of Muslim Association of Britain, which in 2010 led to MAB urging its supporters in southeast England to vote Green…

Lets be clear, Salma Yaqoob has campaigned consistently against not just the Iraq war, like many Labour members have, but also against the Labour Party. Now this is not a new phenomenon, as a look at our past reveals. Dr John Reid, Peter Mandleson,Denis Healy, Denis Howell, Bessie Braddock and Ellen Wilkinson were all at one time members of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and as such campaigned against Labour before joining.  Salma Yaqoob has had a pretty good record as politician in saying that she is standing up for those ignored by New Labour, and talking about this in terms relating to class. So far so good, especially when you take into account the threats and harassment meted out to her by the banned extremist al Gurabaa organisation in 2005 – for having the audacity to be a muslim woman involved in politics. (Despite having MAB support)

Yet I fear any move to incorporate a politician who can prove to be so divisive, just for the sake of a few votes, possibly on the basis of perceived “muslim” support. It smacks of the Blairite realpolitik that led to Labour re-admitting Ken Livingstone after 2000, and we know here that led now, don’t we?

The wider issue for Labour is not simply whether or not a formidable local and national campaigner now wants to join Labour, or even if she is allowed to join our party, but what our attitude should be towards the thousands of people who have at some time or another since 2003 joined and campaigned for parties such as Respect. People like Andy Newman, who I pretty much disagree with on most things, has decades of campaigning under his belt for example. Not just in the SWP,ANL, Stop The War and Respect, but also as a trades union activist and Labour Party member in the early 1980s. After his pretty open split with the SWP a few years ago, he has run a non-sectarian blog at Socialist Unity (often full of Stalinists and Trots, but nobody’s perfect…). The nature of his split from his former comrades means that he is certainly not an entryist vanguard, and the nature of his sterling work with the GMB for its members at Carillion in Swindon means that he is the kind of activist we need with the party.

Particularly since the election of Ed Miliband, people have been coming back to Labour, not just as voters, but as members – and in general, this is a good thing. But as Rob points out in his blog, we must be careful who exactly is joining. We certainly have to avoid the 1980s experience of Militant and others using the party for their own ends, to our detriment. Leaving aside personalities, I think that so far the balance has been well kept. It would be pretty difficult for anyone within the party to make a convincing case for the return of George Galloway, and, to a much lesser extent, perhaps Salma Yaqoob should be treated as a former opponent who might, just might be suitable for membership at a future date.

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PROTEST, POLITICS & OOH, VIOLENCE I GUESS…

LAST SATURDAY AROUND A QUARTER OF A MILLION PEOPLE MARCHED PEACEFULLY THROUGH THE STREETS OF LONDON AGAINST THE COALITIONS CUTS PROGRAMME. Many more stayed at home, worried (if the twitter and facebook feeds are accurate) about Police “kettling” tactics seen over the previous few years.

Yet as far as the mainstream media is concerned, the story is one of “violent disorder”, of wanton destruction of property and mindless violence. Whilst I am more than happy to defend direct action by groups such as UK Uncut, who have kept tax-dodging companies in the public eye, it is impossible to defend groups such as the “Black Bloc”, the SWP and others who promote violence for their own ends, regardless of wider consequences.

However, slogging through the morass of rightwing coverage in the last few days, I have to say that it is in the main fraudulent in the extreme. We have the Boris standard beareres, Daily Mail readers, Cameroons and little Nickys brave souls all united in one assertion – that violence and politics do not mix. Ed Miliband made much the same point on Saturday as well. Yet we seem to be pursuing political goals in Libya by bombing airfields and targeting tanks in the desert. In case anyone is wondering, the RAF is indeed a violent organisation, well trained, and equipped to wreak havoc upon the Queens enemies.

“But” you say “thats different – the Forces are the legitimate source of violence within Britain, and are under control of our elected Government.” That, as far as it goes is true, but not the whole picture when it comes to political violence in British history.

There is no political party in British politics today that does not have its roots in violent conflict. Leaving aside the obvious candidates of the BNP and SWP, lets look at the mainstream parties;

The Scottish Nationalists trace their legitimacy back to Flodden, Culloden and are the first to raise the banners of ancient martial prowess when it suits them. Plaid Cymru hark back to Owain Glendwr – hardly a saint when it came to battle.

The Labour Party and the wider Labour Movement have a history that goes back at least to The Peasants Revolt, and traditions that encompass the Agitators , Levellers and Diggers of the English Civil Wars. The first shots of the modern class war were fired on Marston Moor. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, we look to figures such as Thomas Paine, Feargus O’Connor, internationally, we admire Abraham Lincoln, Danton, Herbert, Clouseret and the men of The Eureka Stockade. Is it too much to note that all of these figures countenanced violence? Even the Suffragettes had a militant campaign.

The Liberal wing of the Liberal Democrats may only look back as far as John Stuart Mill, yet historically they are the heirs of The Whigs – themselves the heirs of the more conservative wing of the Parliamentary side during our Civil Wars. And the cheerleaders for Culloden and the Highland Clearances.

And The Tories. Historically born from the Royalist Rump a bunch of Cavaliers who were more than ready to do the Kings bidding. In the early eighteenth century, when out of favour, they had no scruple in giving military plans to the French Monarchy. They were happy to wage war on the American Colonies, invade revolutionary France, set off a bloodbath in Ireland. In the nineteenth, they were the party of both reaction at home, overseeing the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, and Imperialism abroad. In the early twentieth century, they were willing to bring the country to the verge of civil war over Ireland in 1914 “Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right!” they cried. In the twenties and thirties, they flirted with Fascism, and in the nineteen seventies and eighties, they backed and supported the Juntas of Chile and Argentina in their anti-communist crusade. One Government minister gave a speech in Buenos Aires in 1981, stating that Britain and the  Argentina of  torture and the disappeared were united against the same enemies. In 1982, the good people of Port Stanley found this to be not quite the case…

…four miners died during the great strike of 1984/5. Shoot to kill. The Bloody Sunday Massacre of 1972 all these happened under Tory rule.

The Police are a (supposedly) accountable source of legitimate violence in our society, governed by its laws and customs.

For twenty-five years, middle England has been filling the seats of “Les Miserables” – a musical that makes heroes of the ABC Society – students who were willing to overthrow the state in 1830s France – do you hear the people sing..?

To deny that violence is part of politics is historically dishonest, and morally suspect – especially in the light of the events of the past few months. Whilst opposing those self-appointed guardians of “the revolutionary flame”, who have no interest in anything but furthering their agendas, regardless of real needs. I do not support the vandalism and barricades of last Saturday – yet I would like to see the whole picture. we already know that The Met like breaking heads and often arrest the wrong person. I also have no problem in general with non-violent direct action. I certainly question the wisdom of using such tactics on Saturday – it would have been better not to take the limelight away from mass protest.

Gandhi once said that “Poverty is the worst form of violence” and he had a point. Yet those who smashed windows on Saturday fundamentally missed the point, leaving all of us open to attacks from the hypocrites of the right.

The problem with Leninism…

Hey ho, lets go…

After Laurie Penny’s recent article in the Grauniad, Alex Callico Knickers of the SWP, and his band of plucky Leninist parrots have resurfaced…

Laurie can of course defend herself and views much better than I can, but with the recent student demos giving a filip to the shrinking hard left,I think it germain to weigh in, as an ex-member of both Militant and of the SWP, and now as a proud Democratic Socialist.

The Leninist theory at the root of SWP/Socialist Party/CPGB/etc.etc. practice is one that has blighted the Left for a century, and is responsible for some of the worst crimes against humanity that took place during the Twentieth Century. Yet many good class fighters throughout the world proudly bore the name of Lenin aloft and in their hearts. They were at best mistaken. Millions died to prove the theories wrong, many were proud Bolsheviks of many years standing, undone by the logic of their beliefs. Many millions more were ordinary workers, peasants and soldiers.

The Vanguard Party substitutes itself for the class. The Party Organisation for the Party, The Central Committee for The Organisation, and The Leader for the Central Committee. Trotsky pointed this out as long ago as 1902.

How many examples do you need? Russia, Spain, the awful mess in interwar Germany, China, North Korea, Cuba, Prague 1968, Poland 1980, the list goes on. And then there are the parties, both orthodox and trotskyist in the west – their zig-zags and deviations, their abandonment of womens’ and gay rights in favour of currying favour with tiny Islamicist groups … not to mention the strangulation of free Trades Unions and all dissenting voices – both Socialist and otherwise.

The expulsions, bullying, both mental and physical, the outright lies perpetrated as fact whenever the “line” changes…

Alex Callinicos is apparently a respected academic Marxist Philosopher, with tenure, so we must pay heed to the comfortable gentleman of 1968. He is no more relevant than “Congratulations” by Cliff Richard, also of 1968.

There have been, and no doubt still are good socialists in the SWP and other factions, there are those who would describe themselves as Marxist-Leninists who I would be happy to march alongside, and I have no time for witch hunts, but  for sheer pointlessness it would be hard to match their party activity. Better they use their time fruitfully rather than staging “interventions”, or selling papers.

I will give one concrete example of Leninist practice from the early 1990s: A young student comrade of about 20 ends up at a party where he then sleeps with both a man and a woman. He is a little immature, and, as many are when young, sexually confused. Embarrassed, he hopes that the incident will be forgotten and pass, as he now feels he may know that he is straight. Sadly the couple were also party members. A week later, despite his evident misgivings, he is dragooned into a party “intervention” into the founding meeting of the citys OUTRAGE Group – it is his socialist duty, it is explained, because he has recently slept with a man, to inject some socialist politics into this “bourgeois” protest group.

A good time was had by none. No useful point was served.

Aah, but it was so romantic to be caught up in Revolutionary politics…

“Soviet Communism is the illegitimate child of Karl Marx and Catherine The Great.” – How true Clement, how true…

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