Friday, November 03, 2017

On Moshe Machover's Labour Party membership

Veteran Israeli-born Marxist and former member of the  Moshe Machover authored a leaflet on antisemitism, Zionism and Nazism circulated at Labour Party conference in Brighton in September 2017. The leaflet: alleged an Israeli-organised conspiracy to silence criticisms of Israel by using false allegations of antisemitism; selectively quoted unrepresentative German Zionists in the 1930s (when German Jews were in abject fear but did not yet know where Nazi antisemitism would lead) to portray Zionism in general as pro-Nazi; and selectively quoted a senior Nazi to portray the Nazis as pro-Zionist.

Machover was investigated for antisemitism, but in the course of the investigation it was noticed the leaflet was published by a group ("Labour Party Marxists" (LPM) - a brand used by the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee), better known for their newspaper the Weekly Worker) deemed incompatible with Labour Party membership.

After four weeks, the party concluded that he did not support these organisations in a way that would lead to automatic suspension:
The Party remains of the view that any reasonable person looking at the evidence available in public (which includes at least one video of you speaking at an event sponsored by CPGB and LPM, 44 articles published with your permission by CPGB’s own publication and primary form of campaigning, the Weekly Worker and 17 videos of you speaking published on CPGB’s website as of 6 October 2017) would conclude that you have given support to at least one, if not both, of these organisations over a period of ten years including while you were a member of the Labour Party. Such support is incompatible with Labour Party membership, so thank you for clarifying that this was not your intention to provide such support.
And the Labour leader's office issued a statement saying they are "glad" that Machover's "auto-suspension" has been rescinded.

Below here I have embedded a Storify including my comments at the time of the suspension and links around the reinstatement. First, just briefly, a few thoughts on the case.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

This is the face of the alt-left

I just did a quick Tumblr post on the alt-left, as revealed by responses to Morgan Freeman's call for Russia's manipulation of US politics to be properly investigated. All the usual suspects, including George Galloway, Len Pen supporter Sarah Abdallah, etc.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

What is anti-fascism?

The word "antifa" - not so long ago an arcane term in English, used mainly by anarchists to refer to a very specific form of militant anti-fascism that comes out of the German autonomist tradition - has, in the age of Trump, become a widely used, but also widely misunderstood and misused term. The right has done most to popularise the term. For them, "antifa" (often illustrated by fake pictures) are the "real fascists", because they cover their faces and advocate violence.

Liberals, centrists and smart anti-Trump neocons have jumped on the same bandwagon, arguing that antifa are at least just as bad as the alt-right. Meanwhile, over on the brosocialist dirtbag/Salon/Baffler/Intercept edge of the (alt-?)left, anti-fascists are condemned for attacking Trump and the alt-right when, as we all should know, the real problem is Hillary Clinton and centrism (some examples documented by Comrade Motopu here). Most recently, ageing celebrity anarchist professor Noam Chomsky has weighed in, condemning antifa as a gift to the right and bizarrely equating it to the New Left terrorist cell the Weather Underground (see this excellent critique from libcom here).

The sudden interest in anti-fascism in general and antifa in particular has driven a spike in clicks on - and frenzy of edits to - the Wikipedia pages about these topics. I started contributing to the editing there, but it's a bit too confusing, so I thought I'd write this instead.

1.

First, anti-fascism is something more specific than opposition to fascism.

The term "fascism", in our broad culture, has become almost meaningless. When everyone calls whoever they like least a "fascist", opposition to fascism is the mainstream ideological norm, but tells you nothing. Anti-fascists, in contrast, are obsessive about precision in defining and understanding fascism, in limiting its meaning. (Six months ago, I gave some pointers to that effort here.)

Anti-fascism, although not homogeneous, is a movement with a commitment to a particular body of ideas; it has a specific body of traditions, a specific literature, a distinct genealogy.

2.

Second, anti-fascism cannot be reduced to antifa.

Antifa, in my view, should be seen as a specific current within militant anti-fascism. Militant anti-fascism has many sources and has had many manifestations over the years. In the UK, which I'm most familiar with, that runs from the Battle of Cable Street to the 43 Group to the 62 Group to the  Battle of Lewisham to Anti-Fascist Action and beyond. (This recent AK book is about their story, and also about the parallels in other countries.) The "antifa" current - although its history is longer than is often realised - is just a chapter in this larger narrative.

Militant anti-fascism is defined primarily by its willingness to physically resist fascism - but it is not a form of thrill-seeking adventurism. It takes violence seriously and does not resort to it lightly. And militant anti-fascists always engage in ideological struggle against fascism as well as physical force. If you're criticising individual thugs who beat up random strangers for next to no reason, you're not criticising anti-fascists, you're criticising individual thugs who think it gives them licence for their thuggery.

And militant anti-fascism is itself only one of the main forms anti-fascism has taken, alongside liberal anti-fascism. (Liberal anti-fascism is exemplified by figures such as Benedetto Croce, Primo Levi and Norberto Bobbio.) There are also examples of conservative anti-fascists, such as the group of anti-appeasement Tories, some associated with the Spectator magazine, who chose in 1938 to work with Communists and anti-Munich Labour politicians such as A.D. Lindsay rather than their own party leadership. And there has also been Christian anti-fascism and feminist anti-fascism.

3.

How, then, can we describe this diverse but distinct thing, anti-fascism? Thanks to Doug Weller for the following quotes from Christopher Vials' 2014 Haunted by Hitler: Liberals, the Left, and the Fight against Fascism in the United States on what he calls "American antifascism", which capture it well:
Though the variants of American antifascism are many, it generally posits fascism as a force slumbering in the very bones of all modern nations, a menace that arises as reactionary social movements create vast public spaces for those who overidentify with the dominant hierarchies. Though originating in the 1930s, it has changed shape over time to meet new historical conditions and has resisted full incorporation into the celebratory narratives of the Greatest Generation and the American way."
Vials also mentions briefly the attempt (which I would think of as analogous to the regressive left's equation of conservatives such as George Bush with Hitler) by groups such as the Tea Party to label the left as fascist or George Bush conflating Saddam with Hitler: "The fundamental novelty of recent rightist meldings of Hitler and Obama is their place in the cultural field: they are heard more loudly because left-wing antifascism has diminished in volume as the social movements that produced and sustained it recede from memory." Recovering that memory is therefore urgent.

Weller says Vials discusses the American anti-fascism (as opposed to Communist antifascism) of Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here, which drew on  the antiifascist tradition "as a frame to interpret populist, right-wing nationalism". Vials writes that:
Antifascism in the sense I use the term does not refer to just any aversion to Nazis, Blackshirts, and their perceived American equivalents. The antifascism I trace is a more specific modality, more familiar to Europeans than to North Americans, marked off from other rejections of fascism by its intensity and historicity. By intensity I mean it is not a reflex aversion, nor does it use fascist as a casual slur. 
For antifascists, fascism is not one problem among many but a force so menacing and so present that it requires concentrated effort to check. It is an urgency that inspires the creation of serious, detailed cultural work aimed at revealing its social bases and possible sites of emergence in civil society. And what I call antifascism possesses historicity in the sense that it comes within range of accurately identifying its target."
The historian Dan Stone makes a related argument in his account of anti-Stalinist German and Italian exiles in Britain in the 1930s, such as Aurel Kolnai, Franz Borkenau and Sebastian Haffner, whose sharp, experience-honed understanding of continental fascism helped, via platforms like the Left Book Club, to shape British militant and liberal anti-fascism.

4.

Anti-fascism has been at times co-opted by Stalinism (although at various points in its history Stalinism actively collaborated with the Nazis - see this thread on Twitter and the pplswar thread it links to). This enables conservatives, liberals and centrists to equate anti-fascism with totalitarianism and fascism itself.

Heterodox Marxist historian Enzo Traverso rejects this equation carefully, as quoted here by Alan Wald:
“It is certainly possible to criticize the intellectuals who maintained the myth of the USSR for having lied to themselves and contributed to deceiving the antifascist movement, making themselves propagandists for a totalitarian regime instead of the antifascist movement’s critical conscience.”... Acutely conscious that an amnesiac socialist tradition is a fragile one, Traverso makes no bones about affirming that, even in the mid-1930s, “it was possible to be both antifascist and anti-Stalinist, and that the fascination exercised by Stalinism at this time over the antifascist intelligentsia was not irresistible.” (267)
Retrieving the anti-fascist tradition requires a reckoning with this complex enmeshing - neither shrugging it off (as too many on the left do), nor using it to dismiss the anti-fascist legacy.

5.

Finally, a caveat: as my friend Jim Wald pointed out, the potential danger in drawing too close a line between today's anti-fascists and those of some earlier periods is that it can glamourise the contemporary far right, who are far less significant than the fascists of yesteryear. Despite the undeniable rise and increasing boldness of the far right in recent years, I really don't think we are in some kind of 1938 scenario. However, it is wrong to think of the old fascists as somehow "real" and the new ones as somehow "not real". Today's fascists are not on the verge of power - but they are a real and present danger.






Friday, July 21, 2017

Is Stand Up To Racism and SWP front?

Tired of being asked to "prove" that SUTR is a front organisation for the Socialist Workers Party, I made this quick Storify:

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Ken's sources disagree with him

UPDATE: As you'll have seen by now, Ken was found guilty of bringing the party into disrepute, but given an extra year suspension. I've added a conclusion in bold at the bottom of this post. 

As I write this Ken Livingstone is awaiting a judgement on his expulsion from the Labour Party for bringing it into disrepute by his obsessive invocation of Hitler. Note, the charge is not antisemitism (I don't think Ken is "an antisemite", although he seems to have something of an obsession with Jews these days). Nor is the charge getting historical facts wrong, so in a sense this post, which is about facts and their interpretation, has no bearing on the separate question of whether he should be expelled or not.

Ken has seized on some facts about Nazi-Zionist co-operation, and interpreted them in a very particular way. I have already pointed out that his interpretation is at odds with his first source - the highly controversial and fascist-promoted pseudo-historian Lenni Brenner.

This week Ken has been citing, instead of Brenner, a 1970s article by Francis Nicosia. The trouble is, while Nicosia does detail a lot of co-operation between individual Zionists and parts of the Nazi machine, his interpretation of the facts is sharply at odds with Ken's.

Remember, Ken's claim is that Hitler "was supporting Zionism - this is before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews." So, to be clear, that's Hitler, not the Nazi Economics Ministry, and supporting Zionism, i.e. the aspiration for a Jewish national state in Palestine, and not (some) Zionist organisations. However, here's Nicosia, who has earlier in the article described how the Haavara Agreement was developed by Nazi officials without Hitler's involvement, with Hitler finally endorsing the project in 1937:
Hitler's initiatives in 1937 and early in 1938 in the emigration question and Palestine can best be understood in terms of Uwe Dietrich Adam's phrase Hitlers Verknupfung von Kriegsnlanung und Rassenpolitik. There is little likelihood that Hitler troubled himself to any extent with the theories and arguments of those involved in the debate over Palestine in 1937; nor is there any evidence that he expected an independent Jewish state to emerge as a result of the Peel Commission recommendations, or that he believed that German emigration policy affected the course of events in Palestine one way or the other. There can be little doubt, however, that Hitler's initiatives in all aspects of Jewish policy, especially after 1937, were prompted by the ideological requirements of a National Socialist Weltanschauung which made racial doctrine the ultimate basis of German foreign policy. That foreign policy was geared toward an eventual war for the achievement of a new racial order in Europe; its prerequisite was a new racial order in Germany. However, by early 1938, this had not yet been accomplished. The decision to continue pushing Jews to Palestine was part of an effort in 1938 and 1939 to complete the new racial order in Germany before embarking on a war for a new racial order in Europe. It was to be accomplished through the final elimination of Jewish participation in the economy, and through the forced mass-emigration schemes of the SS.  
On several occasions after 1933, Hitler expressed his intention to wage war to achieve his aims in Europe. In his speech before the Reichswehr generals on 3 February 1933, his address to an assembly of Gauleiter and Party officials in Munich in September 1935, his memorandum announcing the Four-Year Plan in August 1936, and his famous Reichskanzlei meeting of 5 November 1937, Hitler indicated that he would go to war in the near future. He also believed that a domestic consolidation was a prerequisite to waging war successfully. As early as 1924, Hitler had asserted that only nach dem innern Sieg would Germany be in a position to break die eiserne Fessel seines Susseren Feindes. In his Zweites Buch, Hitler described the racial foundations of National Socialist foreign policy objectives, and the domestic pre-conditions for the success of that policy. In January, 1937, Hitler again referred to the necessary domestic ends in the Jewish question for the successful attainment of Germany's future political and military objectives. Finally, in a speech in Munich on 24 February 1938, Hitler alluded to imagined gains reaped by world Jewry in past wars, and indicated that the Jews of Germany would no longer be in a position to aid the conspiracy from within.  
By early 1938, the Jews of Germany had already been removed from the political, social and cultural life of the nation as a result of legislation between 1933 and 1935. Yet, with some restrictions, Jewish participation in the economy continued to be tolerated through 1937. Moreover, there were still some 350,000 Jews in Germany by the end of 1937, although upwards of 130,000 had emigrated by the early weeks of 1938. The so-called Jewish question had not yet been solved in Germany after five years of Nazi rule; this fact was evident to the Nazi leadership as it prepared for a war which would dramatically transform the scope of that question.
What this means is clear. Hitler belatedly came to support the agreement (possibly decisively, when other Nazis were questioning it) and Jewish emigration to Palestine at a very particular point. This point was not "before he went mad", but rather after it looked like the policy did not run the danger of creating a Jewish national state (something which Hitler and other Nazi thinkers strongly opposed), and before the Nazi state had the ability to move on to Hitler's ideal solution to the Jewish question. That preferred solution was of course elimination, the solution that was already outlined in Mein Kampf before Hitler had even come to power, on which the Nazis embarked once war started in 1939.

---

Ken has also embellished Nicosia's claims. Ken says “The SS set up training camps so that German Jews who were going to go there could be trained to cope with a very different sort of country when they got there [Palestine].” Nicosia only says the SS approved of the Zionist policy of setting up training camps.

And now Ken says the "Gestapo worked with Israeli agents in Mossad”, which Nicosia obviously doesn't say, as Mossad was not formed until 1949. (Nicosia refers intead to Mossad LeAliyah Bet, a completely separate agency, focused on illegal immigration into Palestine, disbanded I think in 1952.)

---

Ken's original claim - Hitler "was supporting Zionism - this is before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews" - was historically illiterate, misleading, inaccurate and offensive. Historically illiterate, misleading and inaccurate because the narrative it sketches simply does not accord with the weight of the complex evidence we have. Offensive because of the flippant way it deals with the genocide of the Jews, not to mention mental health issues. And offensive because it effectively uses the Holocaust against its victims, the Jews. 

Ken could easily at this point have simply clarified, apologised, said that he misspoke, that he was speaking off the cuff on the radio and then stated a more careful position, e.g. that there was some evidence of co-operation between Zionist officials and Nazi officials. Instead, he doubled down. He compounded the offensiveness. This is what brought the party into disrepute. He became an embarrassment, clutching at straws to put Hitler and "Zionism" together. He kept talking about "collaboration", a pretty loaded term, as a description for efforts made to save the lives of German Jews.  

First he reached for a discredited pseudo-historian favoured by the far right, Lenni Brenner. When it became clear Brenner was, as Ken admitted, "not authoritative", he turned to the internet and to Nicosia's obscure but authoritative 1970s article - but he cherry-picked them for facts that fit his narrative. Now, in defending himself, he is not even getting these facts straight, throwing in references like "SS camps", "Gestapo" and "Mossad" which hit buttons with those with a conspiracist worldview.

---

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Back to the 1980s with Straight Left

Image result for "back to the future" stalin
Back in October, in my friendly advice to Jeremy Corbyn, I suggested that the no.1 priority for the party was to get a communications strategy. I suggested that putting Seumas Milne in charge of strategy and communication was at best a disaster, at worst a sign that fighting factional battles (not winning elections) was all Team Corbyn wanted to do. But I optimistically added that rumours that Milne's days are numbered were an encouraging sign we might have gotten past that. Sadly, the rumours turned out not to be true, and instead of losing Milne we have lost Simon Fletcher, his ideologically questionable (Socialist Action linked) but quite competent deputy.

Fletcher's replacement is Steve Howell, brought in from a PR firm in South Wales. Howell has not been politically active for a while, as far as I can see, but does have history: like Milne and Andrew Murray he was active in the Stalinist faction Straight Left. Howell, then based in Sheffield, led its Yorkshire group. Their faction was called "the artists" - most of its key figures were Oxbridge types, in contrast to the salt of the earth workerists who led the main rival tankie faction, the Communist Campaign Group.

At that point in the 1980s, hardcore Stalinists (known as "tankies" for their support for the tanks sent in by the Soviets to crush dissent in its various satellites) were fighting to keep the Communist Party of Great Britain loyal to the memory of Uncle Joe Stalin, who was seen as something of an embarrassment by its Eurocommunist leadership. Straight Left sought to re-orient the party towards operating in the Labour Party and trade union movement. 

Some of the denunciations of its tactics by rival Stalinists from the time are amusing, but also a bit sinister now it finally has achieved getting some of its activists into key positions in the Labour Party. 

This is from the ultra-tankie Leninist newspaper (forerunner of the Weekly Worker) in 1983:

And this is about Straight Left's strategy of covertly using the Labour Party rather than Communist Party as the vehicle for promoting Stalinism, a strategy the Leninist denounced as "liquidationism":
I have no idea if Howell has, like Murray, remained true to his Stalinist roots. (His schoolmate and old comrade in Hendon Young Communists, Peter Mandelson, clearly hasn't.)

What is worrying, though, is that, like Murray, Howell seems to be rather soft on Syria's dictator Assad. 
Most recently, he's tweeted support of Tulsi Gabbard, the Trump-aligned and David Duke-endorsed US politician and her plan to stop the US funding Syria's rebels and civil society. When called out on this by Twitter, he responded with this tweet:

That's a link to a HuffPo blogpost by a completely oddball blogger who in 2014 was endorsing the far right Rand Paul for American president. The lack of judgement involved in thinking this was a decent link to back up your views is a bit of concern in Labour's new campaign chief.

+++

Image credit: International Stalinist Society

Friday, February 24, 2017

The ethics of punching fascists, continued

File:Partizanke na Dinari (1943).jpg
Some women who punched fascists, Yugoslavia, 1943
I wrote four very short throwaway posts on punching fascists these last few weeks, since that viral video of alt-right pin-up Richard Spencer getting punched. I posted them on my Tumblr site rather than here, as I scratched them out on the bus on my phone, and they have a kind of tentative, provisional nature, so I wasn't sure I wanted to post them here. But I'll link to them now:

1. On punching fascists
2. A bit more on punching fascists
3. Defining fascism
4. Why I think we are already under attack

I got a lot of stick for this on Twitter, mainly from liberal friends. Almost all of it was a variation on the trite and logically flawed responses that "it's a slippery slope: what's to stop you punching other people you don't like?" or "punching fascists is a bit fascist itself isn't it?"

However, Tom Owolade, one of the smartest people on the internet, has written a far stronger response to views like mine, and I am going to try to take a bit more care in responding to him. It's a great post, and the final paragraph is an especially fine piece of writing.

Tom starts by noting the amorphousness of the category "alt-right", which I think he is correct to say. "Alt-right" and "fascist", as well as "far right" and "Nazi", in my view, are overlapping but not identical categories. (This is a really good piece I read this morning by Matthew N Lyons on the "alt-right" and where it sits in the constellation of right-wing movements.) In what follows, I will defend some forms of violence against fascists specifically and not against the right in general or the "alt-right" in particular. I am not defending attacks on Milo or his supporters, nor the specific attack on Spencer that started this whole thing off (although I think Spencer probably does qualify as a fascist).

Then Tom does a brilliant job of elegantly setting out some of the defences of punching fascists, some of which are ones I'd subscribe to:
"The genocidal legacy of fascism is too potent to brush away as a historical memory. Fascism doesn’t respect the norms and values that underpin a liberal society: it celebrates violence and aggression; it rejects tolerance and peace; it is assertively anti-rational. Invoking liberal tolerance when talking about an intolerant belief-system is scandalously myopic, so the argument goes. If someone doesn’t recognise the basis by which you can articulate your liberal vision, denies the basis of black and Jewish and brown people’s claim to moral legitimacy, threatens the safety of minority groups through eliminationist rhetoric, this doesn’t constitute a mere disagreement — this is irreducibly dangerous rhetoric. It is thus justifiable to punch and to prevent, by any means necessary, people like Richard Spencer from speaking publicly."
He then holds this argument up to some scrutiny, based on actual evidence, and finds it wanting on many counts, and it is this part of the post I will respond to.

There are,  in my view, a number of flaws in Tom's case. Here are some of them.

1. Punching fascists is not a form of "protest"

Tom frames his argument mainly in terms of whether violent protest is effective. He martials some evidence that it isn't. However, I don't think this is at all relevant to the matter at hand. "Protest" is designed to persuade authorities not to do something, or perhaps to persuade publics in order to indirectly persuade authorities. I would agree with Tom that violence is generally counter-productive as a form of protest.

However, punching fascists is not protest. It is not sending a message to the government; it is delivering a message to the fascists themselves. Or, rather, it is not communicating a message so much as performing an action: to practically stop fascists from organising in our communities.

2. Support for violent "protest" does not preclude support for non-violent "protest" too

Tom compounds this mistake by adding this: "A corollary of [the belief in violent resistance] is that non-violent resistance is a less effective way of dealing with far-right politics." He frames a choice: violent or non-violent. In fact, in reality, few who advocate violent resistance to fascism advocate only violent resistance. Here's one example, Britain's Anti-Fascist Action from the late 1980s to 2000, as related by academic Nigel Copsey:
"[AFA] applied a ‘twintrack’ strategy: physical confrontation combined with ideological struggle. AFA not only wanted to restrict, contain, and ultimately eradicate fascist activity through a physical war of attrition with fascists on the streets, it also counteracted fascist propaganda, typically through public-speaking, organising concerts and other events, and leafleting working-class housing estates."
My view is that fascism can not be defeated without violence, but it can not be defeated only by violence.

3. Arresting the electoral rise of fascism is not the only thing that needs to happen to stop fascism

Tom's first case study for showing the ineffectiveness of violent protest is the defeat of the National Front in 1979, which he attributes (using Chris Husbands in Marxism Today) to Thatcher stealing their thunder and winning right-wing voters. This is undoubtedly true (although the early work of the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism also buoyed up an anti-racist popular culture that blocked the growth of the NF among the young - see this post by Dave Renton on this debate). We are seeing the same thing now with the collapse of UKIP (not fascist, but hard right) as Theresa May's Tories revive an authoritarian populist form of Conservatism. Tom notes that the BNP also fell as society became less racist and as its voters switched to the more electable UKIP.

The problem with this analysis is it sees stopping fascism only in terms of stopping fascism rising to power electorally. If that was our only aim, supporting authoritarian populists in mainstream parties would be the best strategy. But actually, fascism is not only dangerous in power; it is dangerous as a movement within liberal democracies. It is dangerous as a movement because it works by inflicting intimidation, terror and violence on the groups it despises (e.g. the Jews of Whitefish, Montana).

If we look at British history, we see two different types of far right strength. Generally, when we have had Labour governments, the far right has attempted to work electorally: the NF in the late 1970s, the BNP in the 2000s. Under Conservative governments, we have seen violent street movements: Combat 18 and the BNP in the 1990s, the (proto-fascist rather than fascist) EDL in the 2010s. These are two different sorts of threats, which need different tactics and strategies.

4. The psychological motivation for taking a moral position (e.g. on punching fascists) is irrelevant to whether the moral position is right or not

Tom argues that the desire to punch fascists responds to a psychological urge on the left, linked to the self-righteous desire to be on the right side of history. Tom is undoubtedly right about this. But it does not mean in itself that the "deontological" case for punching fascists is wrong. This is like "virtue signalling", with which the Eustonite left and Spectator right are obsessed. Tweeting about punching fascists may fulfill a psychological urge to be regarded as noble by fellow leftists. But the fact people are showing off how right they are does not mean that they are wrong.

5. Punching fascists and resisting Trump is not a zero sum choice

Finally, Tom makes this powerful point:
"Trump is the dream for the writer who has transitioned from writing dark comedy to writing tragedy; his hostility to the New York Times and the free press would be funny if he wasn’t the elected executive of the most powerful liberal democracy in the world; his humiliation of the social conservatives who have excused his wandering phallus and serial dishonesty would be funny if the victims of his predation and lies were not vulnerable women and ethnic minorities; his exposure of the liberal tendency to cry wolf at previous president’s alleged racism would be funny if he wasn’t the wolf stalking the forest. Some of the responses to him would be funny if he wasn’t manifestly a threat to the norms and institutions of liberal democracy. The seriousness of the threat he poses needs robust opposition, not one ready to celebrate vigilantism and the costs, both consequential and moral, that come with it."
That is true, but it misses the point. Most people who argue that we should punch fascists are not arguing that Trump is a fascist. The relationship between Trump and fascism is complicated. To put it crudely, Trump's rhetoric emboldens fascists, and thus fascism as a movement becomes dangerous, not because it will rise to power but because it spreads terror. So, we have to seriously respond (non-violently) to the serious large-scale threat Trump poses - but we also have to seriously respond (perhaps violently) to the serious if small-scale threat that resurgent violent fascism poses in our communities. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

January blues

I wrote most of this post on the eve of the inauguration of President Donald Trump, anticipating a bleak dawn for America and humanity tomorrow. I didn't have time to tidy it up, so am doing that on the day Theresa May is in Washington to fawn before him. It's also Holocaust Memorial Day, and at no time in my memory does it feel like remembered the Holocaust has seemed so necessary. 

I started blogging around this time of year, over a decade ago, and used to always write a lot at in January. This bleak winter, I'm not finding time to write much, so I thought I'd share with you some snippets from my January archives.

2005

One of my first ever posts quotes the American conservative writer Victor Davis Hanson praising George W Bush's international engagements. It seems such a long way now from that heroic age of neoconservatism, as we transition from Obama's global ineffectualism to Trump's realignment of America with Putin's authoritarianism, and as the movements for democracy that were sparking in 2005 in the Middle East and elsewhere barely flicker now.
This is the first time that an American president has committed the United States to side with democratic reformers worldwide. The end of the cold war has allowed us such parameters, but the American people also should be aware of the hard and necessary decisions entailed in such idealism that go way beyond the easy rhetoric of calling for change in Cuba, Syria, or Iran: distancing ourselves from the Saudi Royal Family, pressuring the Mubarak dynasty to hold real elections, hoping that Pakistan can liberalize without becoming a theocracy, and navigating with Putin in matters of the former Soviet republics; all the while pressuring nuclear China, swaggering with cash and confidence, to allow its citizens real liberty.
The day before, I quoted another expression of the neoconservative credo, from Condoleeza Rice:
"The world should apply what Natan Sharansky calls the 'town square test': if a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a 'fear society' has finally won their freedom."
That day seems much further off in 2017 than it did in 2005.

2009

January 2009 of course saw the inauguration of Barack Obama, and a key moment in the shift away from the historical period which shaped my blogging, a period which had been defined George W Bush, the neocons, the decent left and the war on terror, on one hand and the anti-war movement, "anti-imperialist" scene and Islamism on the other. My first post about the new president shows a bit of wariness about his hope/change show.
Barack Obama was absolutely correct to take steps to close down the Camps at Guantanamo as one of the first moves of his presidency. The Camps are a stain on America, a stain on humanity.

But it will be interesting to see the extent to which those European liberals who have clamoured so vocally for its closing are equally vocal in welcoming the released inmates to their shores.

And, as inmates are released but cannot be returned to their home states because they will be tortured or executed there - such as the ethnic Uyghurs, who cannot be returned to China because of the routine detentions and extra-judicial executions of those Uyghurs who call for the self-determination of their 8 million-strong people, or the Algerians, whose government imprisons its lawyers simply for calling attention to the impunity of its judiciary - it will also be interesting to see the extent to which the liberals' loathing of George W Bush for his war crimes is transferred to these other regimes, whose carceral systems make Camp X-Ray look like Sunday School.
Of course, Obama did not manage to close down the camps nice and quick, but the hope/change show did spread to some of these autocracies (most notably Egypt, Tunisia and Syria), and sadly, when it mattered most, neither Obama nor the anti-war left proved as supportive of that hope/change movement as they might have been.

2011
Image result for jasmine revolution
2011 was the year that started to play out. One big link round-up themed around optimism and pessimism concluded with this:
Terry Glavin, Canadian social democrat, is blogging about Iran, from the perspective of working class solidarity, in a post entitled “Will you be a lousy scab or will you be a man?” While my location in inner South London gives me cause for pessimism, Terry's more global perspective gives him cause for optimism. He sees a coming convulsion led by the youththings getting better, and an "anti-totalitarian surge". Kellie Strom also highlights the same anti-totalitarian wave in the Mediterranean.

A choice phrase from Phil: "Saudia Arabia, long the Costa Brava of forcibly retired tyrants". The (over-optimistic?) conclusion: "With sustained struggle and determined action, the dictatorial obscenities of the Middle East could be entering their final days. Let despots everywhere tremble as the revolutionary gale howls about their ears."
The gale did howl. Some despots fell. Others have been clinging on, and we in the West have mostly just let them.

I also began 2011 with an attack on nationalism. This is an argument I have obviously been losing consistently since 2011, and in 2017 it seems to me more necessary than ever. If 2011 opened up a period of hope and resistance, it was perhaps nationalism that has killed that off; the new configuration which 2016 ushered in will be one dominated by nationalism and hopelessness.
I believe that nationalism is one of the greatest evils in the world. I distinguish nationalism from what Orwell calls patriotism or Rudolf Rocker calls “national feeling”. Patriotism or national feeling is a potentially benign affect, whereas nationalism is an ideology. Love of one’s homeland or one’s compatriots is common, healthy, perfectly compatible with sentiments of international solidarity, cosmopolitan justice, ethnic pride or class consciousness. It can be mobilised for good aims, such as resistance to tyranny or social solidarity within the nation.  
Orwell writes that: “Both words [nationalism and patriotism] are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.” 
The nation is a fairly recent invention, and the organisation of sovereignty on the basis of nations is so far but a fairly brief phase in human history. Organising sovereignty on the basis of nations is, in my view, inherently problematic, because it always excludes those who, while living within the state’s territory, are not “of” the nation – it excludes them from the right to participate fully in the affairs of the state. Historically, we know where this leads: to ethnic cleansing, to genocide. 
In the late twentieth century, there were signs that the deadly allure of the nation-state-territory trinity was weakening. The cosmopolitan project of the United Nations and the building of institutions of international law, the supra-national project of the European Union, the dissemination of the American model of “civic patriotism”, the number of countries who shifted from the principle of blood (jus sanguinis) to that of birth (jus soli) in their citizenship policies – these gave some grounds for optimism. 
Now, after the massacres in Sudan, Sri Lanka, Rwanda and Yugoslavia, after the renewal of communalism in the Indian subcontinent and its re-emergence in Iraq, after the flowering of infra-national conflicts in the former Soviet empire, after the Second Intifada, there is little space for hope. More than ever, I believe, we require the political imagination to relegate the deadly age of the nation-state to the past.
The cosmopolitan projects I invoked here are now lying in tatters. The principles of responsibility to protect and global justice were tarnished by the war on terror under Bush and Blair which used them as an alibi for self-interested but incompetent deadly military adventures, then made a joke by Obama who spoke fine words while abstaining from any action. The Brexit vote and Trump election, and similar trends globally, show that the nostalgic desire for national sovereignty ("control", "greatness", isolation,) carries far more weight than cross-border solidarity; even civic nationalism is suspect in a time when "citizen of the world" is an insult; more people want walls than bridges.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top posts of 2016

Well, not many people I know will be missing 2016, a year of slaughter in Syria, of repression in Turkey, of starvation in Venezuela, of global electoral swings towards reactionary and authoritarian leaders, when truth was de-valued and unfashionable forms of racism were mainstreamed again, when our favourite musicians died, when Putin consolidated his geopolitical power, when the poor got poorer and the rich got richer.

I didn't blog much, but here are my top posts of the year, by number of readers:

1. Trots!
This post, from July, was on the silly demonisation of "Trots" within the Labour party, arguing that the real danger was Stalinists. Since then, bizarrely, we have seen Momentum's leadership and its publicists (Laura Murray, Owen Jones, etc) take up the anti-Trot crusade (not always honestly). With Stalinists claiming Trotskyism is the new neo-conservatism and the American right accusing US liberals of McCarthyism and red-baiting for questioning Putin's role in the Trump election, it almost feels like we are in the age of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact or the KPD's Third Period, when Trotskyists were denounced as social fascists and Hitler was seen by some of the left as the lesser evil. Perhaps it's time to rescue Trotsky's legacy of anti-Stalinist leftism?


2. Strivers and skivers
This post, from April, was my first, rather un-impressive, attempt at creating a visual meme. I think it sums up 2016 well, featuring the Tory/UKIP businessmen and Russian oligarchs who bankrolled the Brexit campaign while patriotically stashing their cash in Panama, juxtaposed to British steelworkers made unemployed by Tory economic policy and the Tory veto on the EU's power to stop Chinese steel-dumping.

Image result for corbyn labour 20163. Free advice to Jeremy
This post, from October, was about what I think the Labour Party needs to do. I probably need to do an update on this, as it has gotten even worse on some of these things but slightly better on others.

4. Undigested thoughts on Labour's antisemitism problem
This post, from April, was a quickly written rant about Labour and the Jews. Conclusion:
I would strongly defend Labour from those who say that this stuff is "rife" in the party. It's not, contra Boris, a "virus" in the party. Most party members are appalled by it. But I do think that Labour, and the left as a whole, does have some kind of a problem with antisemitism. And it needs - we need - to face up to it.
5. Lenni Brenner says Ken's wrong
Following on from no.4, this post showed that even Lenni Brenner, the anti-Zionist pseudo-historian Ken Livingstone invoked to defend his weird views on Hitler, did not support what Ken said. Includes a long and interesting comment thread.

6. Confusionism in Brockley: A cautionary tale
This post, from November, was on some new age fascism close to home.

7. Pegida UK, UKIP and the mainstreaming of anti-Muslim bigotry
From back in January, on Anne-Marie Waters and the new anti-Muslim hard right.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Confusionism in Brockley: A cautionary tale


Note: some updates in the comments 30.11.2016

Ideas for Change?
The "Brockley Festival of Ideas for Change" was advertised some time ago, with an odd, eclectic collection of mainly left-wing speakers, and sponsored by the local civic amenity association, the Brockley Society and with some kind of affiliation from the local university, Goldsmiths. The excellent Goldsmiths exhibition on the Battle of Lewisham was to be shown, and there were talks by interesting local activists.

Ivo Mosley, the grandson of fascist leader Oswald, was a committee member, along with his wife Xanthe, and there seemed to be a strong emphasis on the evils of the money economy.

For some local people, the first alarm bell was that one of the billed speakers was Jackie Walker, the Labour left activist with local links who has stirred considerable controversy in the past year with a series of comments on social media and in public interpreted by many as antisemitic or at least legitimating antisemitic conspiracy theories (see e.g. Andy Newman, Joe Mulhall, Padraig Reidy).


Slightly louder alarm bells started to ring around 9 November when the main organiser, Anthony Russell of a group called "The Chandos" (not to be confused with the Brockey Rise pub of the same name), tweeted the odd combination of Julian Assange, George Galloway and Russell Brand to invite them to the festival.

When I commented on this on Twitter, Anthony Russell responded with an odd series of comments, which unfortunately I didn't screenshot and are now deleted. He said something to the effect that he what he thought I took to be "racism" was in fact people "pigeon-holing" themselves by race. I clumsily replied that I hadn't used the word racism but that Walker, Assange and Galloway have all said things which sit uncomfortably for many Jews. He replied that there are plenty of things that sit uncomfortably for him "as a white man", and then stopped tweeting.

Things hotting up
Then louder still alarm bells rang when it was noticed that Russell had posted a rather strange Facebook post about the event:


Two of the classics of coded antisemitic themes jump out: the "official" (whatever that means) media is "captured" (by whom?); politicians are in thrall to "higher powers" (which higher powers?). And then the modern classic: the 9/11 attacks (given scare quotes) were apparently "unexplained and highly suspect" - a claim made by conspiracy theorists of the left and right, often linked to antisemitic paranoia. And also one of the staples of the contemporary generation of conspiracy theorists: the idea that there is no civil war in Syria (apparently the popular uprising against a dictatorship simply didn't happen) but rather it was "invaded" (presumably by some combination of the US, Mossad and the Gulf states). 

In the last day or two before the festival - really too late for anyone to do anything about it - a few people started looking more closely at Anthony Russell. What they found wasn't pretty.

"Controversial"
There were two sets of posts that were worrying. First, there were some that implied Holocaust denialism. Here he is, on Twitter (now deleted) and on his website, meeting David Irving in late 2013:


David Irving is described as "distinguished" but "controversial". Well, the second of those terms is true: he is famous as a Holocaust denier. In fact, as Wikipedia puts it
Irving's reputation as a historian was discredited[4] when, in the course of an unsuccessful libel case he filed against the American historian Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books, he was shown to have deliberately misrepresented historical evidence to promote Holocaust denial.[5] The English court found that Irving was an active Holocaust denier, antisemite, and racist,[6] who "for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence".[6][7] In addition, the court found that Irving's books had distorted the history of Adolf Hitler's role in the Holocaust to depict Hitler in a favourable light.
What is more interesting, perhaps, is the way he phrases it in his tweet: that study of WWII took him to Irving. What study of WWII would lead you towards, rather than away from, Irving? Not a study of actual facts or historiography, but perhaps spending too much time in the conpiratorial corners of the internet.

Here are two more:


The first of those is a link to a perfectly legitimate article, but it is interesting what he chooses to quote from it in the tweet. Here is the full extract:
President Roosevelt told French military leaders at the Casablanca Conference in 1943 that “the number of Jews engaged in the practice of the professions” in liberated North Africa “should be definitely limited,” lest there be a recurrence of “the understandable complaints which the Germans bore towards the Jews in Germany…”
In other words, it is FDR's antisemitism he chooses to disseminate. 

The second one is a little different. It implies that Ken Livingstone's claims about Hitler being a Zionist are true. And it implies that speaking this truth is somehow an act of bravery, presumably because of Zionist power in our society. More alarming still is where Russell takes the article from: an actual Nazi website. Here it is:

"Jimmy Saville is innocent"
As well as these few examples of Russell's interest in Holocaust denialism, there are also a couple of examples of disturbing sexual politics:




All's well that ends well? [Section amended 30/11/2016]
All of the social media activity - on Twitter and on local Facebook pages and so on - meant that the other committee members were in a slightly embarrassing position, and rather late in the day to do anything about it. Wisely, Jackie Walker on Facebook has said that she withdrew when she learned about Russell's background - see this comment. It seems the organisers were as shocked as we were, and he agreed not to speak at the event. I sympathise with them, as there was really little else they could do so late on, and nobody in Brockley is likely to want to have anything to do with him again. 

I guess there's a lesson here about due diligence, and a lesson that an apparent "gentle buddhist persona" is no guarantee of moral decency. 

But I think there are also lessons about the nature of fascism in today's post-truth digital age. 

Buddhist Confusionism
US anti-fascist activist and researcher Spencer Sunshine gave a couple of talks last week in which he explored what he calls "unorthodox fascism", the mutations of classical fascism which enable it to reach out to engage non-traditional constituencies, whether through apparently left-wing or ecological movements, libertarianism or music subcultures - from Occupy Wall Street to neo-folk to the Rock Against Communism skinhead scene. Although most of these spaces might in themselves be fairly insignificant, it is striking how many possible vectors there are for fascism's toxin to enter the mainstream.

German anti-fascists talk about the concept of the querfront, cross-front, a conscious project of left-right crossover. As Elise Hendrick puts it:
Craving the legitimacy that an alliance with progressive forces can provide, reactionaries seize on ostensibly shared positions, chief amongst them opposition to corrupt élites, to create the impression that progressives could benefit from making common cause with them.
Andrew Coates introduces English-speaking readers to the French term confusionism, the blurring of left and right, and usually of the worst of both.  

The Festival of Ideas fits into this mould, I think: an apparently "progressive" organisation, stressing peace and spirituality, but some disturbing fascist-aligned ideas when you scratch the surface.

Post-truth
One of the things that strikes me about the affair is the way that Russell positions himself as a seeker after truth. He claims it is research that took him to David Irving. He talks about Ken Livingstone daring to speak the truth about Zionism. The intense distrust so many people feel towards "official" or "mainstream" sources of truth, combined with the easy click of a finger digital access to such an enormous excess of (real and fake) information, breeds this esoteric approach to the truth.

The truths told by experts - by historians about the Holocaust or the slave trade, by scientists about the climate, by economists about the effects of Brexit - are simply not trusted, and people opt instead for "truths" they imagine to be somehow deeper. The authority of charisma replaces the authority of scholarship.

Because anyone can "do the research" (i.e. google, and click on a couple of links), the craft skills involved in pursuing genuine knowledge are de-valued. The fractal, hyperlinked geometry of  internet seareching breeds a conspiratorial worldview, which invests unwarranted significance in often quite arbitrary connections. I don't know how we counter this, but we urgently need to work out that out.


***

Sunday, October 16, 2016

#SWPCulture: Stand Up To Racism/Stand up to rape culture

Image result for confronting rape culture swp

Here are two letters published in Media Diversified, relating to something I wrote about here. The first is from 6 October:

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Free advice to Jeremy

Image result for corbyn labour 2016
I wrote the first draft of this post last weekend, when conference was just beginning. I am now more optimistic about some of these things than I was then, but less optimistic about others...
So the dust has settled from the Labour right's utterly inept leadership challenge and Jeremy Corbyn has been decisively elected as leader of the Labour party with an increased mandate.

Although I knocked on doors in 1992 election, I left the party in 1991, as it was far too tepid and right-wing for my appetite. Since then, a mixture of love and hate, but it's always been there. I've lived all of that time in safe Labour wards in a safe Labour constituency, feeling like my vote was taken for granted by the party, but also taking the party for granted. In 2015, everything changed - on the one hand a chance for a party more in line with my views, on the other hand a party that seemed unlikely to ever win an election. And if the Labour Party can't ever win elections, it seems like it has no reason to exist. I rejoined this summer, but have never felt so politically homeless.

So here, for what it's worth, are a few things, in no particular order, that I think Corbyn's Labour need to do to have any chance whatsoever of having any reason to exist. Some of them are small and some are big, but perhaps the smallest ones matter the most symbolically. The extent to which they are even vaguely achievable is the extent to which it is worth sticking with the Labour project for the forseeable.

1. Get a strategy and communications strategy

As I said, if the Labour Party can't win elections, it has no reason to exist. To win elections, it needs a strategy, and it needs to be able to communicate that to voters. The first year of Corbyn's leadership did not show much sign it could. To be fair, a huge amount of Team Corbyn's efforts were put into fighting factional battles (although a lot of energy was put into keeping the battles going). Actually, fighting (mostly losing) factional battles is most of what Corbyn and his allies have ever been good at; they never imagined before they'd be anywhere near the process of making policies, so they had a lot to learn. Putting Seumas Milne in charge of strategy and communication was at best a disaster, at worst a sign that fighting factional battles (not winning elections) was all Team Corbyn wanted to do. Rumours that Milne's days are numbered are an encouraging sign we might have gotten past that.

Getting a strategy and communicating it means finding the vision and messages that will win over millions of Tory voters, stop votes leaking to UKIP in the eastern half of England, stop centrists and Remainers from defecting to the Lib Dems, and mobilising the non-voting millions (especially young people - but especially the ones who live in marginal constituencies). That's a big task, but it could be possible. Owen Jones starts to spell out what it means here

2. Clear out the Stalinists
Image result for morning star corbyn
Talking of Milne... the Labour right are obsessed with the menace to the party allegedly posed by Trotskyists, but the real danger in my view is from Stalinists. While "moderates" harp endlessly (and often inaccurately) about the AWL (a small and largely benign force) and SWP and Militant (who are nowhere near Team Corbyn), the left factions who are actually holding some of the key levers of power are less commented on. It is not Socialist Worker in which Corbyn has had a weekly column in; it is the Communist Party of Britain's Morning Star, and he has used that column to promote a basically Cold War second camp worldview, most recently in promoting Kremlin lies about Ukraine. Corbyn needs to break with this legacy - which seems unlikely while he is surrounded by Stalinists.

After leaving Oxford, Seumas Milne cut his political teeth in a group called Straight Left, whose USP in the small but crowded market of the far left was that it thought most other Communist groups were insufficiently appreciative of Stalin's achievements. Milne has stayed true to that formation, regularly arguing that Stalin's achievements (e.g. in the field of marriage equality) outweigh his crimes, and generally projecting a pro-Kremlin geopolitical line.

Although Milne might soon depart his place at the top of the Corbyn machine, there are rumours that another graduate of Straight Left, Andrew Murray, is a potential next General Secretary of the Labour Party (and Murray's 27-year daughter Laura has recently been given £40K job as Corbyn's "political adviser"). Murray is Chief of Staff for Unite and as such quite a player in the labour movement - but is a member of the Communist Party of Britain. The CPB, among other things, recently affirmed its support for North Korea and for Assad's genocidal fascist regime. How a member of the CPB could even be considered as a potential senior Labour official is mind-boggling.

And then there is Socialist Action, a formerly Trotskyist party but now basically Stalinist (it worships the Chinese Communist Party and Fidel's Cuba). Its cadre Simon Fletcher, formerly part of Ken Livingstone's team, was Corbyn's campaign chief of staff and under Ed Miliband apparently designed the £3-a-vote system that got Corbyn elected; its leader, John Ross, is allegedly very influential on Team Corbyn. Although the SA clique seem to have been side-lined this year, they remain part of the machine.

Until people like this are nowhere near positions of power in the party, it cannot be a healthy democratic socialist party.

3. Rein in the deselectors
Image result for deselect blairites
Corbyn has offered an olive branch and clean slate to his right-wing antagonists and at least some seem to be willing to meet him half-way. And yet on social media, the demand for deselections continues to clamour among the Corbynista rank and file. And with the corrupt Tory redrawing of electoral boundaries approaching, they will get ample opportunity to get their way if they can mobilise in branches. 

It is not that serving MPs have a god-given right to keep their seats. But most of the targets of the deselection mania seem to be precisely the most able, locally popular constituency MPs who, while perhaps not as ideologically pure as Corbyn's loyalists, have the best chance of getting Labour a presence in parliament after 2020. Unless there is a concerted pulling together - in practice and not just in public rhetoric - then disaster is certain.

4. Take antisemitism seriously

Image result for labour antisemitism

Obviously there's a lot I could say about this (here was my first attempt), but I'll try to rein myself in. The problem is not that Corbyn doesn't say he won't tolerate antisemitism (usually "and all other forms of racism") often enough. The problem is that the factional rage of so many rank and file Corbynistas is so intense that any discussion of antisemitism on the left in general or in the party in particular is shut down before it starts. Instead of openness, reflection and learning, the culture is to get defensive and hunker down. When specific allegations of antsisemitism are made, the default reaction of most Corbyn supports is to claim they are made in bad faith, to describe all allegations of antisemitism as driven by an animus to Corbyn (either because he supposedly "threatens the establishment" or because of his views on Palestine). Instead of Ken-style doubling down, Labour could learn from Naz Shah's gracious apology and commitment to dialogue. As Rachel Shabi puts it:
[The left] are not inoculated against being antisemitic or racist – or sexist, for that matter. Progressives for whom the Palestinian cause is important can have blind spots over, and be desensitised to, antisemitism. Yes, it’s hard to admit susceptibility to such “isms”, but acceptance (we are all susceptible) really is the first step. And the onus is on the progressive left to get this right (this step being one of the things that “progressive” means). So it doesn’t work for the left to counter accusations of antisemitism by saying the Tories have a bigger racism problem: true, but hardly the point.
I take a little bit of hope from the fact that quite a lot of Momentum supporters - Barbara Ntumy, Manuel Cortes, Andy Newman, Aaron Bastani, Owen Jones, among others - have unambiguously criticised Jackie Walker for her series of dodgy comments about genocide, slavery, Zionist conspiracy, and Jewish fear of antisemitic violence. Although a small number of Jewish anti-Zionists are providing her with cover, I feel the tide might be turning on the tolerance of this sort of thing on the left.

5. Cut ties with Stop The War
Image result for stop the war corbyn
Nothing symbolises what's wrong with the British left as much as Stop the War, an organisation that Corbyn has been intimately involved in from its formation. Lots of sensible people opposed the Iraq war in 2003 and therefore might forgive StW its early work, but its ugliness has become clearer and clearer since the slaughter of Syria began in 2011.

StW seem unable to make an unqualified criticism of the main perpetrator of deaths in Syria - the Assad regime and its backer Russia. It refuses to let Syrians speak at their events unless they are actually mouthpieces of the military junta. StW's leaders include Andrew Murray (see above), as well as Counterfire's Lindsey German, who recently tweeted an endorsement of an almost unbelievably awful article by crackpot ex-ambassador Craig Murray which claimed that actually barrel bombs aren't that bad. I could go on, but this post by Paul Canning sums it up well. In short, as long as Corbyn remains close to this outfit, no internationalist, no-one who is genuinely against wars, can whole-heartedly endorse him.

6. Cut ties with Stand Up To Racism


And the other toxic organisation with which Corbyn remains associated is Stand Up To Racism - indeed, he's speaking at one of their events this coming week. This group, which overlaps organisationally with Unite Against Fascism, is a front for the Socialist Workers Party, and is led by people who were on its Central Committee of the SWP during its "Comrade Delta" period. As ex-SWP member Dave Renton summarises (via Coatesy):
In 2010 a man called Martin Smith (“Comrade Delta”) was the National Secretary of the SWP, its day to day leader, the person who employs the other party workers. In July of that year, a 17 year old woman (“Comrade W”) complained that he had mistreated her. She didn’t use the word “rape”, but the people who met her and heard her knew what she was talking about. From the start, Smith’s supporters (including Weyman Bennett, who worked with him on the SWP’s anti-fascist campaign) put pressure on the women who helped Comrade W, calling one of them a “traitor”, ostracising and dismissing them and forcing them out of the SWP.
So, yes, stand up to racism - but not by associating with this lot.

7. Fight against racism and for migrant rights

Standing up to racism has to be a top priority for Labour. The wave of post-Brexit violence against migrants and minorities has been truly terrifying. Labour needs to take leadership on this, not pander to the lowest common denominator on these issues. Corbyn needs to stand firm against the voices, mainly on the right of the party (most recently Rachel Reeves and Stephen Kinnock as well as, more surprisingly, Jonathan Freedland) who think that being anti-immigration is the "realist" way back to power for Labour.

Too often, an embrace of anti-immigrant politics is justified by an appeal to "the white working class", even though this a largely mythical beast. (Inconvenient fact: only around 39% of Leave voters were working class and only around 32% of working class voters actually ticked the Leave box in the referendum.) Yes, we need to listen to the "concerns" of those people who feel left behind by globalisation; but we don't have to embrace positions we know are wrong because we think that might win them over.

Most British voters, if asked if immigration is a problem for their area, say it isn't; they say it is a problem for the country. They're most likely to say that (and voted Leave in the largest numbers) where there are the least immigrants. That suggests that the media and politicians constantly talking up the migrant threat - rather than actual experiences in communities or in the labour market - drives anti-immigrant sentiment. And that means it is the responsibility of decent politicians and of the labour movement to take some leadership in challenging those narratives.

8. Defend free movement

The defence of free movement is a vital symbol of what Labour values should be on migration issues - I'd even say a red line issue. Corbyn and McDonnell seemed lukewarm about free movement after the Referendum, but are starting to firm up a more positive position. The key point, I think, is that the right to free movement of labour is our right. Whether the UK gets access to the free market post-Brexit, capital always finds ways of moving across borders; our right to cross borders is something to defend in a globalised world. Abandoning free movement is to embrace a nationalist idea of the working class. Labour values instead should be about solidarity, about the common cause of working people born in Britain (including those left behind in a globalised world) and those born abroad.

9. Promote a more consistent internationalism

Although Corbyn's supporters see him as an internationalist, it seems to me his internationalism is highly selective. True, he has performed brilliantly in denouncing our links with Saudi Arabia, and he has a track record (muted in recent years) of championing unpopular causes like the Kurds and Western Sahara. But his appalling Stalinist views on Ukraine, his dreadful positions on Venezuela (reflecting a problem on the wider left) suggest a less impressive picture.

Although geopolitics is not a vote-winning topic, the silence of Corbyn and other Labour leaders on Syria at conference - in a week when chemical weapons and barrel bombs were raining down on Aleppo - was glaring to many people far beyond the usual Syria solidarity scene. Corbyn's inability to name or blame the perpetrators and his refusal to countenance any action in support of those suffering is one of his most shameful positions. Labour - in the spirit of Jo Cox - needs to speak out on this, and now.

10. Push forward young faces

Finally, the cause for hope that some of this stuff might be possible is in the younger generations of activists and politicians. It is common these days to denounce the apathy and clicktivism of millennials, but my impression is that younger activists - free of the baggage of the 2003 Iraq war moment and of Cold War "anti-imperialism" - represent a better sort of politics than the left's old guard does. This week, many mainstream journalists noticed that Momentum was not full of shady old Trots but included energetic, savvy young people from all sorts of walks of life.

This trend might also be reflected in the impressive younger MPs and younger grassroots activists on the party's left and its right (many of them women) who have come to prominence in the last year. Unfortunately, many of the non-Corbynista ones (e.g. Stella Creasy, Lewisham's Heidi Alexander, Jess Phillips) have been treated so shabbily by team Corbyn that they will remain marginal rebels, but they, as well as people like Clive Lewis, Lisa Nandy and, outside parliament, Barbara Ntumy, perhaps point to a possible future Labour party.