From Paul Stott’s blog I Intend To Escape…..And Come Back September 12th 2012
Salma Yaqoob’s resignation from the Respect Party last night brought much nashing of the teeth.
It was genuinely painful for some, especially for a certain type of white male leftie who had given her unconditional support over the years. If a hijab could have icon status, hers would be in the corner of many a middle class living room, placed somewhat strategically above Sunday’s Observer and those fading anti-war posters. To see where I am coming from on this, do look at the pained tweets last night from Eddie Truman, Tom Griffin, Dr Tad or the blogpost of Dr Eoin Clarke.
If you want to understand the dynamics of a political party or movement, studying its literature at times of crisis or split is indicative. When the Respect Party split between supporters of George Galloway and the Socialist Workers Party in 2007-8, it was noticeable that every external criticism of Respect that had been made, was seemingly adopted by one of the two wings in the split.
Suddenly Galloway-ites noticed the sinister Leninist practices of the SWP. The SWP discovered the communal tendencies of Respect – in Tower Hamlets where Chris Harman dished the dirt on the curry millionaires and Islamic Forum of Europe figures who actually ran the party, and Birmingham, where a white female SWP’er, Helen Salmon, was blocked from a council candidacy in favour of a slate of men of Pakistani heritage. One of these, Harman noted, had been in the Conservative Party just three months before.
Ultimately for all the talk of how refreshing and revolutionary Yaqoob was – here after all was a woman wearing a hijab who’s party supported abortion rights (even if its MP never did) – Yaqoob was at one level a deeply Conservative figure. On the ‘community leaders’ critics saw as delivering block votes for Respect’s Muslim candidates, she wrote:
“The single biggest reason such individuals acquire weight and influence is not wealth, it is reputation”. So that’s OK then. This ‘revolutionary’ figure took umbrage on behalf of all those maligned “It is insulting to our voters and supporters to reduce the prestige which certain individuals have, to some form of patronage or favour they dispense”.
Salma Yaqoob was also quick to do that most conservative of acts – to play the race card. Helen Salmon was accused of “having a problem with Asian candidates” – the type of accusation that could be made in seconds, but that could destroy Salmon on the left. When Harman alleged businessmen in Tower Hamlets were using the practice of pocket members (men who are paid to join a party just before selection meetings, in order to vote for a particular candidate) Yaqoob responded with this extraordinary retort:
“Bangladeshi members in Tower Hamlets have already had plenty of experience of condescending white members demanding ID from them as though they were having to pass an immigration entry test”.
I don’t share the view that a politics minus the above is diminished or deficient.
If this is what Clarke, Griffin and Truman consider ‘progressive’ politics – I am glad I am on the outside looking in. More seriously, their response is an increasingly common one to Muslim political or politico-religious actors. On the one hand they receive racist abuse and threats from the likes of the English Defence League, on the other they receive its mirror opposite. The submissive, supine, uncritical support of the last century left. The pro-Livingstone wing of the Labour Party was salivating last night at the prospect that Saint Salma may be persuaded to join the Labour Party. And so it continues.
In this world, nuanced, critical responses appear impossible. I almost feel sorry for Salma Yaqoob this morning. On balance though, our politics are healthier without Respect, and they are probably healthier without her.
(The quotes in this article all came from the 2008 Socialist Resistance “Respect: Documents of the Crisis”. Biased as it is towards the Galloway faction, it is essential reading.)
Sad to see that one of the most progressive organisations in student politics of recent times, the NCAFC, have once again fallen plague to the parasites of Trot organisations and other ‘liberal intelligentsia’ . How long will it take before people realize these groups are not your ‘comrades’ and will do nothing other than suck out the life blood of forward thinking organisations. Steer well clear.
Here is a report back from the Extermination Without Pity Blog.
The behavior of some groups at NCAFC conference this weekend was pretty shocking; they should be ashamed of themselves, but they won’t be. In fact from their tweets after conference they seem pretty proud. But despite repeated calls to respect some kind of safe space – to not shout over speakers, to not laugh or insult or comment about people while they talked, to not clap (which we agreed as a conference not to do), to respect the chairing – they made absolutely no attempt to do so. I have been involved with student and left politics for around nine years now, I’ve spoken at plenty of conferences and worked with a lot of people I didn’t agree with; I think I’m pretty confident in these situations. But I had to step down from the chair of the second motions session at conference and was genuinely quite upset by the reaction I got from the floor while I was chairing. Prior to this my co-chair had already had to step down after bullying from the attendees and a statement had been made saying how inappropriate the behaviour of some people was.
Gallingly those same people then complained about a lack of time given to debate liberation motions (particularly on women, internationalism and racism) while ignoring the requests from the liberation caucuses at conference. The actions of Student Broad Left, the Socialist Workers Party and Counterfire seem to be motivated far more by “embarrassing” the AWL and disrupting conference than any genuine sense of caring about these issues.
Moreover, whilst the impact of cuts, fees and privatisation on BME and women students certainly needs to be addressed, why does the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts need a position on war with Iran? And if we’re going to have a position condemning any possibility of war why is it a problem to include comments asking for engagement with Iranian trade unionists and criticising the incredibly authoritarian, theocratic government there? That so many attendees felt they had to speak and vote against that amendment says a lot about their priorities, and the suggestion that those who criticise the Iranian government must be imperialists in favour of war is utterly appalling and must be disingenuous.
I head home from Liverpool pretty demoralised frankly. We have a national committee with far more factions and far fewer independent students and on the basis of this weekend I have very little faith that the committee or the campaign more broadly will be able to coordinate any successful action in the coming months. Months, which it should be noted will be crucial in a number of important fights: over the pensions dispute in universities, schools, colleges and the public sector; over changes to employment law that will make it far easier for employers to sack someone and which are currently being opposed by no one; and in the continuing fight to stop the HE white paper being brought in b y the back door.
I hope I am wrong and the NCAFC can help provide effective opposition to these attacks, but I doubt it.
PS congratulations to newly elected reps on the NC from Scotland, Naomi Beecroft and Aidan Turner, make sure you keep it radge and don’t let all the stalinist bullying get to you.
………….When he or she is an Anarchist.
By Paul Stott from his blog I Intend To Escape…And Come Back Again
I guess at my age I should be too old to get annoyed by the Socialist Workers Party, or indeed by the wider socialist/marxist milieu in the UK, of which the SWP is representative. Every now and then however they still manage to press my buttons, in a way that it surprises me how much I can still rage at their idiocy and perversion of ideals.
The Socialist Worker website currently has an article and list of prisoners it suggests we write to over Christmas. It is a mixed list of those jailed in the student revolt, alleged and actual miscarriage of justice cases, plus a couple of examples of very long term prisoners who have been in correspondence with left wing groups for many years.
Needless to say the five anti-fascists still in UK jails for attacking members of the fascist Blood and Honour organisation in 2009 , do not get a mention. I can think of no reason for this other than the fact they are Anarchists. They simply do not exist in Socialist Worker’s ethos.
One thing that does exist in that rose-tinted view of the world is a ‘war against Islam’. Curiously two of the men who were allegedly behind the most important British Jihadist website, Azzam.com are listed on the SWP’s support list. Azzam.com, named after the spiritual founder of Al-Qaeda, Abdullah Azzam, played a key role in supporting the struggle to establish an Islamic theocracy in Chechnya, receiving praise from the likes of Ibn ul Khattab .
This article sums up the level the last century left has slumped to. Five working class men in jail for fighting Nazis on the streets of London are not worthy of a mention, yet a veteran of the Bosnian Mujahideen, like Babar Ahmad, is .
I have never really believed the argument that concepts of a ‘left’ and a ‘right’ in British politics are no longer relevant. However, on this type of evidence, and more generally on issues surrounding race and religion (especially Islam) I really can’t see where the divide exists any more. That a division between the gullible and the realist exists, I am sure. How to articulate that it wider political terms, I am, at this stage, less sure about. Perhaps my PhD is a step towards doing that.
Paul Stott can also be followed on Twitter here https://twitter.com/#!/MrPaulStott
Oh dear – you can see from my Occupation post that I am being positive about OCCUPYLSX and have suggested that sometimes it’s best for radicals like me to just get out the way and let a new movement breathe. But dear oh fucking dear. Here we have the usual tired old lefties trying to organise the one thing they love – a useless march. So suddenly the shameless SWP hack weymann bennett and equally shameless Kate Hudson of CND and COR are speakers at a rally organised by Occupy. they have had nothing to do with this movement nor have Lucas or Pilger. they are all struggling to contain it in recognisable forms which they can control. Doubtless the SWP placards are ready and waiting. I can actually fucking visualise Andrew Burgin and John Rees cooking upthis menu of rancid leftovers.YOU WILL NOTICE FROM THE SPEAKERS LIST THAT THE ONLY PEOPLE NOT LISTED ARE ANY OF THE ORDINARY FOLKS WHO MAKE UP THE FUCKING CAMP – INSTEAD WE HAVE THE USUAL SUSPECTS INCLUDING THE OBLIGATORY FUCKING COMEDIAN.
CAMPERS AWAKE – THEY ARE TRYING TO WRITE YOU OUT OF YOUR OWN STORY YOUR OWN HISTORY. FUCK THE SPEAKERS. FOR A MEETING BY THE CAMPERS, FOR THE CAMPERS AND OF THE CAMPERS. DO NOT LET THE FUCKING LEFTIES POUR NEW WINE INTO OLD BOTTLES – THESE FUCKERS WILL BORE YOU TO DEATH AND STRANGLE THE MOVEMENT.
COMRADES – NO TO THE OLD WAYS! COMRADES – IF YOU TOLERATE THIS THEN YOUR CHILDREN WILL BE NEXT – A LIFETIME OF POINTLESS MARCHES AND SPEAKERS
AHA – all becomes clearer now. On Saturday the SWP’s big rival sect – the Socialist Party – is holding a march in London to welcome the marchers from their Jarrow march useless stunt. Speakers will include Bob Crow. Now the SWP/COR are organising a different march at the same time to get one up on the Socialist Party. One lot will be rallying in trafalgar square – the other a few hundred yards away at parliament. Fucking pathetic – really shows the petty nature of the Trots. Not exactly their finest hour……………
Spot on Ian.
Beating the Fascists: The untold story of Anti-Fascist Action, by Sean Birchall (Freedom Press), reviewed by Ben Aylott
A couple of reviews below about the recently published account of militant anti-fascism over two decades in the UK by Anti Fascist Action…a must read on so many levels for all those professing to understand fascism, anti-fascism and the working class in the UK.
Beating the Fascists is a highly readable and uncompromising account of two decades of militant anti-fascism with important lessons for today. Beginning with the background to the formation of the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) in the late 1970s and the expulsion of the ‘squaddist’ street-fighters from the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in 1981, Birchall takes us on a tour of the following 20 years of Anti Fascist Action (AFA).
The book is a real page-turner, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. The description of the often brutal treatment of the fascists at the hands of the militants is graphic to the point of absurdity at times. But Birchall also has some serious points to make.
There is a sense of setting the record straight: principally in Birchall’s argument that AFA, and the militant anti-fascism it espoused, had the most devastating impact on fascism in mainland Britain in the period and that it directly contributed to the BNP’s eventual retreat, in the mid 1990s, from the Mosleyite dogma of the necessity of controlling the streets. Indeed, Birchall claims a continuity between AFA and the 43 Group of Jewish ex-servicemen, who confronted Mosley’s attempts at a fascist resurgence in the immediate post-war period.
The publication of this book has inevitably been controversial, not least because of its critical account of ‘constitutional’ anti-fascist organisations, in particular the SWP. Its recurring criticism of the British left in general is that it is largely to blame for the alienation of working-class voters who are getting behind the BNP, an argument that has taken on renewed relevance in the debate about the significance and role of the English Defence League.
Street politics: ‘Beating the fascists’
For two decades British anti-fascists fought a cold blooded battle for control of the streets against burgeoning far-right movements, Brian Whelan meets the authors of a controversial new book by activists who were there on the frontlines.
Just last year the BNP put forward 338 candidates for the UK parliamentary election, the biggest fielding by the far right the country had ever seen, topping the National Front’s 303 candidates in 1979.
The party gambled and lost, failing to win any seats and losing their 12 seats on Barking Council. The British left declared the BNP to have been finally defeated, decimated and no longer a threat.
However, veteran members of Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) have a different analysis, they point out that the BNP have more than tripled their vote and say things are going to get a lot worse.
Joe and Ian are veterans from AFA’s war against the far-right, meeting in a bar in their former stomping ground of Islington, North London, they say they must protect their identities for fear of reprisals to this day.
Their book Beating the Fascists has caused a huge stir in the UK; published by Freedom Press, the book pulls no punches in its accounts of the physical fight against fascism on the streets and the internal political tensions that often threatened to tear the group apart.
Over ten years in the making Beating the Fascists not only chronicles the bloody street battles and political squabbles but also points out how fascist filled a vacuum for a radical alternative that the left has failed to.
The BNP’s turn to electoralism and attempt to become, on the surface, a respectable political party, was a direct result of the remorseless violence they were met with by AFA in the early 90s, the authors claim.
They explain that the BNP’s decision to abandon their Mosleyite strategy of winning control of the streets through menace was due in no small part to AFA’s violent counter-strategy.
However, they say AFA always argued that unless the left could undermine the far-right’s political constituency in the white working class they would never be truly beaten.
“The NF, C18 and BNP all had the same Mosleyite strategy to win control of the streets and after that the wider political narrative would kick in,” Joe explains.
“That was their plan so I mean there was a flaw in that if they were met by equal or superior violence they would be left in a limbo and that’s the position they found themselves in in the mid-90s, so they stepped off”.
The book is an often disturbing read, each chapter switching from graphic details of violent operations with militaristic discipline against fascists to analysis of the political decisions they faced.
When questioned on whether they have exaggerated for bravado or omitted stories of fights lost, the authors claim that the book is true to events as they happened.
“The punches are pulled on a number of instances to be fair, it’s a proper history and the violence and subjective perspective of the participants is presented to allow people to see that anti-fascism wasn’t a non violent affair,” Joe explained.
They reveal inside accounts of events such as ‘Battle for Brick Lane’, a series of running battles spanning 1990-1993 which saw the far-right lose one of their strongholds in London’s East End.
“Initially fascists were operating in kings cross – we wiped them out and after that their paper sales in chapel market were destroyed,” author Joe explained.
“We had boundaries and there were no prisoners taken, once we set up north London – west London divide we started moving into east London knowing we could retreat back.”
“We had a safe area here in Islington, North London became a stronghold for us, it was a prototype for clearing out fascists.”
This strategy was expanded nationally and the group enjoyed varying success in Manchester, Leeds and Scotland.
“When we went to brick lane, it was very symbolic for the BNP, they had been there from 1979 and hadn’t been touched, then suddenly they had to fight for their pitch and lose.”
The book crudely details how members of the far-right were ambushed leaving their pubs, attacked with bricks on demonstrations and kept under watch in extensive files.
The Irish diaspora played a central role in this battle as republican marches and the Irish community became a prime target for attack by skinhead thugs.
“There were trips to Belfast by members but not by AFA officially, there is no denying it,” Joe confesses.
“There was support there for Irish republicanism. People visited militant republicans in Belfast and friendships developed.”
“There were also people involved who had a more hands on role in republican movement – stuff that was learned over there was used against state operations over here and gave us an edge on the streets.”
The authors say that the political climate allows no place for violent confrontation in Britain at present, but they express no remorse for their past activities.
“It had to be violent because the opponent was violent – if they’re going to use violence you can’t use non-violence against that, you’ll be battered into the ground.”
They still see the BNP as a great threat pointing out that after they “fought them to a standstill” the party adopted a more respectable electoral approach pushed by Nick Griffin.
“I don’t think there is room for fighting them anymore, if the BNP stand 800 candidates to be effective you’d have to confront all 800,” Joe added.
“Would that damage anti-fascism or improve it if someone is running for election and you’re kicking in their door and setting fire to their cars people will ask what you are standing for?”
Having spent a decade fighting the far right on the streets Joe now believes they are now more dangerous than ever, as they hold elected positions.
He explains that alongside the war stories the book explains how AFA predicted almost two decades ago that the BNP would inevitably make serious electoral breakthroughs.
Over the last ten years of producing their book they have seen their predictions and worst fears for the BNP’s success realised.
“You can keep saying they’re not a threat up until the point you’re walking into the camps,” Joe adds.
“Things will get worse but how it turns out in the end is anyone’s guess, nobody can disguise the fact that the left are completely finished now in London.”
“They are bereft of ideas and bereft of constituency. Unfortunately groups like the BNP are now the official radical opposition.”
Ian adds that they believe the BNP are currently only experiencing setbacks and to write them off as a threat is a great mistake.
“The left should understand what the BNP are trying to achieve is very difficult – trying to bring nationalism in from the cold.”
“That’s something the left has entirely failed to do with communist politics. Its not going to be overnight, they’re going to have setbacks and recover ground.”
Beating the Fascists could be two separate books, appealing to very different audiences. The first a brutally violent story bragging of hard man conquests, the other a vital political analysis of the rise of the BNP and detailed history of the groups that fought them.
by Truth, Reason & Liberty on Thursday, 25 August 2011 at 20:30
Recently, I made the case yet again against using the state to fight fascism. One key point in this was that by calling on the state to stop a protest taking place because those marching are fascists you set a precedent for them to do so when those marching aren’t fascists. Thus, the only thing that surprised me was the rapidity with which that point was proven right.
Hope not Hate declared the police’s decision to seek a ban “a victory for common sense.” They are jubilant that the EDL have been “foiled” in their plan “to bring violence and disorder to the streets of Tower Hamlets.” This alone smacks of a staggering level of naivety, given that the police only have the power to ban marches and not static demonstrations – as the EDL themselves proved only this month in Telford. Not to mention Leicester, where a ban didn’t stop “violence and disorder.”
Then there is the statement from the Metropolitan Police;
We are in the process of applying to the home secretary for authority to
prohibit a march in five London boroughs for a period of 30 days.
As Dave Hill (who supported calls for a ban) admits, this “applies to all marches in the boroughs concerned,” with the exception of “funeral processions and marches that take place annually and are therefore deemed part of local cultural custom and practice.”
As a result, the Socialist Worker is calling on “everyone who opposes racism and fascism” to “protest about the ban” and to still “come to Tower Hamlets to show that the racist EDL is not welcome.” Peter Tatchell is concerned that the “proposed ban on EDL march may also ban anti-EDL demo & East London Gay Pride.” He rightly calls this “a dangerous precedent.” And if the ban extends to Newham, the Disarm DSEi protest against the world’s largest arms fair is another protest potentially in the firing line.
As Tower Hamlets ALARM say;
State intervention is a worrying turn, the State stepping in and banning
EDL protests is not a sign of a left wing section of the State acting,
or even an Islamic element gaining strength, it is a sign of a further
move to a totalitarian State. We already have the camps in Yarlswood,
thug police that get away with murder and an ever watching State
gathering information on us. We don’t need to campaign for them to ban
political groups. Today the EDL, tomorrow us.
We don’t need the State to stop the EDL. We need to do this ourselves.
We need our communities to work together, overcome divisive elements and
tackle the threat of fundamentalism in whatever forms it takes.
Let’s hope that the repercussions of this ban reach enough of the left that Hope not Hate’s approach will receive much more opposition next time.
A row between members of Norwich SWP and supporters of the Norwich Community Action Group (NCAG) has the potential to damage anti-fascist unity in the city, and undermine working-class solidarity so vital for effective action against the cuts.
Bitter argument developed after NCAG supporters responded to a belated appeal by the SWP for physical support outside a public meeting the SWP had advertised to discuss ‘How to stop the EDL’.
Upwards of thirty EDLers, not all of them white, arrived at the meeting-venue. NCAG supporters were outnumbered, and a dangerous situation could easily have turned violent. In the end police arrived with dogs, and the SWP meeting was cancelled at the advertised venue, though it may have taken place elsewhere. Lack of forethought by the SWP, and their failure to take basic precautions over how to present, advertise and ensure security at their meeting, put NCAG members at significant risk on the night and left them exposed to reprisals.
An account of events posted on the NCAG website made clear the extent of anger felt towards the SWP. It has drawn a long series of comments, some of which are from declared EDLers. The article was also picked up by an EDL-supporting blog. Some SWPers are now claiming that because NCAG has allowed this exchange on their website, and because some NCAG members engaged EDLers in discussion, they are apologists for fascism.
NCAG are within their rights to criticise the SWP’s failure to take the EDL seriously as an organisation capable of mobilising members in local areas to confront the left. Lessons do not seem to have been learned from what happened in Brighton in June, when EDL members disrupted a UAF meeting in the town. Norwich SWP’s meeting about the EDL was advertised openly. The Socialist Worker website even says all are welcome to such meetings. Yet Norwich SWPers know from their own anti-fascist work that fascists are active in parts of the county. A brief look at the EDL website would have told them its ‘East Anglian division’ claims over a hundred members. This figure may well be exaggerated, but the possibility that EDL members might take the ‘All welcome” tag at face-value and arrive at the meeting should have been considered, and planned for well in advance.
The SWP’s characterisation of all EDL members as hardened fascists allows the SWP to dismiss the option in any circumstances of formally debating with EDL members, or even of talking to them. It seems to have provoked some Norwich SWPers into demonising those in NCAG who spoke with EDLers, or who engaged in online debate with them. This in spite of the fact that the same NCAG members turned out in response to the SWP’s late solidarity-appeal and put themselves physically on the line in order to protect an SWP meeting!
The nationalism of EDLer arguments must be countered with those that begin by staking out the common ground between workers on the basis of their shared class-interest. This means understanding and exposing the reactionary role of religion under capitalism, as well as countering racist, sexist and homophobic ideas as divisive of the class. The cross-class approach practised by UAF, and understood to be sanctioned by the SWP, serves to repel rather than inspire layers of the working-class. It aids the fascists who look to organise and mobilise via the EDL.