D’ye ken Martin Bright?

From the Morning Star, a review of a television programme:

Bright’s fright night
(Tuesday 22 January 2008)
ANDREW MURRAY
Martin Bright’s feeble TV hatchet job on London Mayor Ken Livingstone may have missed its target, but it speaks volumes for the pro-war ‘left,’ writes ANDREW MURRAY.

THE most remarkable moment in this week’s partisan hatchet job on London Mayor Ken Livingstone on Channel 4 was not in fact about the mayor at all.

It was the moment when reporter Martin Bright, in the course of a segment about Venezuela, dismissed the Chavez regime in terms straight from the Bush State Department handbook – allied to Iran, associated with cocaine-smuggling guerillas and accused of human rights abuses.

With that passing phrase, Bright managed to align himself with the global neocon agenda on the Middle East and Latin America as well as the matter ostensibly in hand.

For make no mistake, the travesty of journalism that was the Dispatches programme reveals two things above all. First, getting Livingstone out of office is now priority number one for the warmongering, Muslim-bashing neocon “left.” Second, they are now prepared to openly embrace even the reactionary Toryism of Boris Johnson in order to further this end.

One of only two people can be elected mayor this year – Livingstone or Johnson. And Bright, seconded by his soulmate Nick Cohen in The Observer, has effectively come out for a Johnson victory, so great is his venom against anything even approximating to an authentic socialist left.

That was made abundantly clear in the Evening Standard, in which Bright hyperventilated on his personal mission to see the mayor driven out of office.

“I feel it is my duty,” he intoned with a pomposity worthy of a higher office than political reporter on a small-circulation weekly, “to warn the London electorate that a vote for Livingstone is a vote for a bully and a coward who is not worthy to lead this great city of ours.”

Bright himself has form working to the agenda of the global right. He teamed up with the Policy Exchange, which is run by charter neocon and former Daily Telegraph chief leader-writer Dean Godson, to produce a pamphlet telling Britain’s Muslims how they should behave.

This venture earned him a public commendation from Richard Perle, the leading imperial strategist for the Reagan and Bush administrations and one of the chief boosters of the Iraq war in Washington. The Policy Exchange has since been accused of fraudulent research in a subsequent Muslim-baiting television programme.

Research was not an issue for “BoJo” Bright. When the shadow secretary of state for business and enterprise Alan Duncan popped up in the programme in the guise of a “former oil trader” to bear expert witness on Venezuela, we knew that we were not really in the realm of Woodward and Bernstein but in the party political broadcast zone.

A similar incidence of “research-light” was the risible interview with Marc Wadsworth, a former anti-racist activist who sensationally announced that some of Livingstone’s advisers were affiliated to the “Communist Fourth International based in Moscow.” Did no-one bother poor “Bright” with the news that the Communist International and the Fourth International were two entirely different and bitterly opposed bodies and that the latter has never ever been based in Moscow, a famously inhospitable location for Trotskyists?

As for the attack on “Socialist Action,” surely John Ross, Redmond O’Neill and the rest can, after eight years, be judged on their contribution to the running of London rather than their membership of any particular political group. This is simply McCarthyism at a puerile Daily Express level, an attempt to scare the Tories of Orpington and High Barnet into getting to the polls in May before the Soviet comes to town.

There was Peter Tatchell passing through as a “former informal adviser” to the mayor, which does not sound very much like being on the inside track but did give him the opportunity to reprise his riff about the left having let him down by hanging out with dodgy Muslims once more.

And then came star exhibit Atma Singh, who I recall from years back as an amiable bloke but a couple of contradictions short of the full dialectic as a Marxist, who revealed a plot hatched by the Livingstoneites in 2000 to not only “make London economically powerful” but to do so in the interests of a “bourgeois democratic revolution,” which all sounds harmless enough. Bright didn’t ask Singh why he stuck around City Hall on a salary for a further five years advancing such devilish work.

Singh’s turn was accompanied by an unsourced allegation of a quote by Ross urging the workers to kill the capitalists, but this is presumably some sort of a misunderstanding, since that is not how “bourgeois democratic revolutions” carry on. Nor does it correspond to the actual conduct of economic life in contemporary London where, sad to say, oligarchs pass to and fro unscathed.

“BoJo” Bright’s own tuppence-worth was to slag the mayor off for endeavouring to “impose a personal agenda on the city.” Hello? That’s what politicians get elected to do – when they win, they’re allowed to. But then Bright also felt that “undermining the opposition” was somehow beyond the democratic pale, which suggests that his grasp on the conduct of democratic political life is unsteady.

It took the programme a full 50 minutes to get to any issue of relevance in the forthcoming mayoral election and when that issue did arrive – the congestion charge – it became completely unclear what point Bright was trying to make, although it seemed to turn on the notion that having fewer cars going through central London did not reduce congestion. Whatever.

Now, if all this had either been billed as a piece of Tory Party propaganda or had been balanced with other points of view, one could have merely enjoyed the parade of the embittered and the never-weres waffling on about Trotskyism, how they never got to meet O’Neill and the mayor wasn’t taking them seriously.

The bemused bloke from Stoke Newington who said that he hadn’t seen anything or anyone next door for three years or maybe longer – the man could be a Dispatches reporter soon – was a personal favourite, run a close second by the Liberal lady who claimed that a glass of wine before a meeting was fine, but a glass of whisky during it probably wasn’t.

But, as an investigation of the problems of governing London, it was a travesty of journalism and a prostitution of Channel 4 to a hard-right, neocon agenda.

The giveaway, apart from Bright’s little anti-Chavez rant, was the ringing endorsement that the programme received from Nick Cohen in The Observer last weekend. He picked up on some of Bright’s allegations at the weekend and threw in the corpse of the long-dead Gerry Healey, with which he seems to have developed a mildish fixation, for good measure.

Cohen, remember, is the dining companion of Iraq war mastermind and disgraced World Bank boss Paul Wolfowitz – see, this stuffed-by-association stuff is pretty damn easy – and the man who sold us the Iraq war on the grounds that CIA chancer and bank fraudster Ahmed Chalabi was Iraq’s answer to Nelson Mandela.

Chalabi won no seats at all in the Iraqi elections, even with The Observer’s backing. So, Cohen’s decision to call for a vote for Boris “piccaninnies” Johnson in preference to Livingstone, thus presumably completing his journey across the political spectrum – although there is still room for further movement if he really is indifferent to racism – is by no means bad news for the mayor.

At any event, the best efforts of the Perle-Wolfowitz “left” to smear Livingstone will have the sure and certain effect of consolidating anti-war, trade union and generally decent London opinion behind him.

And everyone should now firmly and finally grasp this about Bright, Cohen and the rest of the pro-war, anti-Muslim Western supremacist “left” – they are not left at all. When the chips are down, they back a Tory rather than a left-wing victory.

Hungarian rights?

[Friday]

Resisting privatisation can get you in trouble at the best of times, but this is something else…

The entire leadership of the Hungarian Communist Workers Party is being placed on trial on Friday 21 September at the City Court of Szekesfeheervar. The prosecution arises from a previous legal action by the Budapest City Court in 2005. This ruled the proceedings of the party’s 21st Congress in June 2005 to be null and void. The Presidium of the HCWP declared this judgement to be political and an unjustified interference in the internal democracy of their party. It is for this statement that the Presidium is now being prosecuted. If sentenced, they face two years imprisonment.

The leadership of the HCWP argue that the prosecution is in clear violation of Article 61 of the Hungarian constitution guaranteeing freedom of expression.

The Communist Party of Britain and other Communist and Left parties based in Britain are picketing the embassy in protest at the prosecution. A letter will be handed in to the Ambassador calling on the Hungarian government to defend the civil rights of the Hungarian people.

Robert Griffiths, general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain, comments:

“This prosecution represents a serious attack on civil liberties of concern to all progressive people across Europe. It is an attempt to silence the main political force in Hungary which is currently resisting the current tide of privatization being imposed by the Hungarian government. The HCWP has already collected two million signatures against the privatisation of the Hungarian health service. The prosecution comes after previous anti-communist legislation that makes it illegal to wear a red star or display the hammer and sickle. As well as being in breach of the Hungarian constitution it also violates the declarations on human rights by the Council of Europe. We call on all those concerned with civil liberties to make their own representations”

Check out Neil Clark’s blog for more details.

I’ve blogged on anti-communism in Europe before, back in April when there was rioting in Estonia:

The bourgeoisie in the former socialist countries in Europe are keen to portray the restoration of capitalism as the restoration of democracy and liberty. But there is no evidence to suggest workers wanted privatisation, structural unemployment, migration, deprivation, people-trafficking and prostitution.

It is obvious now that a shake-up of the socialist systems of Eastern Europe, involving the retention of the planned economy and the extension of worker management, would have been preferable to the restoration of capitalism. The beneficiaries of the ‘liberation’ from the ‘Soviet Empire’ were not millions of workers but the millionaire bosses in Western Europe and the newly-crowned oligarchs. There was never a clear choice offered to the masses of Eastern Europe, but few would have chosen neo-colonialism.

[…]

The reason for the banning of the KSM [Communist Youth Union] was not, as originally claimed, their supposed espousal of violent revolution, but their support for public ownership of the means of production! This is a frightful notion for the bourgeoisie – a planned and managed economy is not focused on the accumulation of wealth for the disposal of a minority. The ban was because of the success of the group in gaining support among workers, not because they were planning violent acts against the state.

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Salmond Hussein?

[Thursday, again]

This is a delightfully sniffy article – or should I say articles? – about the SNP. Not a smear piece, exactly, it has a little bit more sophistication: it’s a smart-arse smear. But note well the unease at Salmond’s opposition to imperialist wars…

This version is from OpenDemocracy

Scotland’s nationalist-Muslim embrace
Tom Gallagher

Scotland’s establishment has responded to an abortive terrorist operation by reaffirming support for the country’s Muslim minority. The silences as well as the words are politically significant, says Tom Gallagher.

9 – 08 – 2007

The terrorist attack that narrowly failed to inflict mass slaughter at Glasgow airport on 30 June 2007 has had a singular impact on Scotland’s public life. A universal sense of shock was followed by vigorous official efforts to build bridges to the country’s approximately 60,000 Muslims. A week later, on 7 July, the cream of Scotland’s establishment gathered in George Square in Glasgow’s heart to offer them protection and reassurance. The institutions represented included the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP), the police, the Church of Scotland, the trade unions, and the vocal anti-war movement. Nobody wondered aloud about the religious dimensions of the violent ideology that had evidently motivated the would-be massacre. Indeed, Scotland’s health minister and SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon was explicit that “Islam is a religion of peace”.

Muslims at the 1,500-strong rally mixed freely with the representatives of political and lobbying groups who made up the bulk of the crowd. The central spot was reserved for Osama Saeed, an articulate young Muslim activist (and former SNP candidate) whose intensity and fluency have made him a sought-after guide to the mood and concerns of Scotland’s Muslims since the airport attack. Saeed’s argument that the Muslim community’s moderation is a given might be confirmed by the absence (in those parts of Glasgow where most Scots Muslims reside) of the Islamic bookshops, bitter young men and fully-covered women that are characteristic of parts of London and of other English urban conurbations with large Muslim populations.
Tom Gallagher is chair of ethnic peace and conflict studies at Bradford University, northern England. Among his nine single-authored books is Theft of a Nation: Romania since Communism (Hurst & Co, 2005), published in the United States as Modern Romania (New York University Press, 2005)

Tom Gallagher has written extensively on sectarian and religious issues in modern Scotland, including Glasgow, The Uneasy Peace: Religious Tensions in Modern Scotland (Manchester University Press, 1987). He is currently embarking on a research project exploring the reaction of the British state and society to the emergence of Muslim radicalism from the Salman Rushdie affair of 1988 to the present

Also by Tom Gallagher in openDemocracy:

“Understanding Slobodan Milosevic: between the cold war and Iraq” (13 March 2006)

“The European Union and Romania: consolidating backwardness?” (27 September 2006)
At the same time, Osama Saeed is an unapologetic advocate of the hardline Islamism espoused by the organisation whose Scottish branch he heads, the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB). He has enthusiastically defended the idea of a global Islamic state and urged Muslims not to cooperate with the police. Media outlets which have reported police appeals for vigilance have not raised with Saeed his political track-record; none appears to have approached him in the spirit of sceptical inquiry that animates coverage of other prominent figures (for example, suggesting that there might be a tension between his extravagant condemnation of the Glasgow attack and support for radical Islamism, even that that this combination might be part of an intellectual taqiyya [deception]).A shaken Scotland, it seems, is not in the mood for tough questions.

A story for solidarity

Glasgow’s brush with disaster has proven to be a windfall for Scotland’s left-of-centre pro-independence Scottish National Party, which has led the government since the May 2007 elections to Scotland’s devolved parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. The SNP has assiduously cultivated Scotland’s Muslims, and its historic (if narrow) victory in May included the election of the country’s first Muslim MSP, Bashir Ahmad. The party’s shrewd leader (and Scotland’s first minister) Alex Salmond has used the airport attack as an opportunity to place his party at the foreground of national affairs in much the same way as Tony Blair used the death of Princess Diana in 1997 to project himself as New Labour’s leader of destiny.

At the 7 July rally, Salmond’s chief lieutenant Nicola Sturgeon offered perfunctory praise for John Smeaton, the airport-worker whose presence of mind and unassuming manner on 30 June has made him a hero in many quarters; but she soon moved on and declared that “I wish to particularly praise the Muslim community in Scotland”. On 1 July, hours after the foiled atrocity, Salmond had made a well-publicised visit to Glasgow’s central mosque to assure the city’s Muslim religious leaders of his determination to prevent the community from being an object of attack. Sturgeon reinforced the point, promising that Scotland’s tough legislation designed to stamp out public aggression between feuding Catholics and Protestants would be used against anyone tempted into a twisted form of retaliation.

The tenor of the SNP’s public statements suggests that Salmond, in private conversation, did not ask for greater effort from religious leaders in challenging extremism or disavowing attacks on free speech even when Muslim sensibilities are offended.

The SNP is a grievance party par excellence. Salmond is proving skilful at stage-managing events in which an inept central government based in Whitehall is seen as reluctant to consult with the elected Scottish government. In this light it is not surprising if a party adept at exploiting the real discontent felt by many Scots towards a British state which often seems to reflect English priorities also appeals to increasing numbers of Scots Muslims. Many of the latter have travelled far to settle in Scotland and worked mightily from a starting-point at or near the bottom of the social scale to establish a sustainable life for themselves and their families. A land whose repertoire of national, public attitudes includes on occasion a finely honed sense of grievance can thus offer to a minority a resource which can provide a convenient channel to aid integration – all the more so when the minority itself is not the object of suspicion.

In some respects at least, south Asian migrants to Scotland (many of them Muslim) have found their path easier than in parts of England because they have arrived in a society that often defines itself as a minority culture – one where articulate nationalists (and not only they) have portrayed the national story in terms of a constant struggle to exist in the shadow of a larger, arrogant and sometimes threatening English neighbour. The dominant Scottish self-perception is that of a small outward-looking country with robust anti-imperialist traditions (even though Scots were arguably the main architects of empire in many places during the heyday of Britain’s overseas role). This progressive anti-imperialist image too is one that a significant number of Muslims find it easy to relate to.

An additional factor is that the Scottish establishment’s embarrassment – even guilt – about two centuries of religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants (one that has affected education, housing patterns, sporting rivalries and employment) means that it nowadays makes great efforts to accommodate minorities.

Alex Salmond’s moment

The Glasgow rally on 7 July was the first public opportunity to view the balance of forces in the Muslim community after a week of turmoil. Elderly figures like Bashir Maan, Scotland’s first-ever Muslim city councillor, had their place of honour. But a younger generation of campaigners, who helped organise the assembly in the city’s main square just days after co-religionists almost succeeded in destroying the city’s airport, are now making the running. Osama Saeed declared that the community had nothing to apologise for and roundly criticised the “rightwing press” for asking uncomfortable – and in his view divisive – questions. He called for an enquiry into the root causes of terrorism in Britain and appeared confident that the finger of blame would be pointed at departing prime minister Tony Blair, who was condemned at the rally more often than any bomb-carrying doctor.

Alex Salmond may never have worn a uniform, but he is projecting himself to religious minorities previously loyal to the Labour party – not just Muslims but the much larger Catholic one mainly drawn from past waves of Irish immigrants – as Scotland’s answer to Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt or the Irish leader Michael Collins, who both struck out against an overmighty Britain in the last century with impressive effect. The cause of Scotland’s freedom was personalised in the May elections by a ballot-paper which said “vote Alex Salmond for Scotland’s First Minister”. This natural populist in a country usually known for its colourless politicians likes nothing better to tweak the tail of the mangy old British lion. For Salmond the equivalent of the Suez canal is Britain’s fleet of nuclear submarines whose home base is in a deep-water loch northwest of Glasgow.

A potent aspect of Salmond’s ebullient political persona is his lack of shame, a quality reinforced by an amnesiac media who show no willingness to examine his record in relation to issues where Muslims have been centrally involved. In March-June 1999, for example, Britain was a leading participant in the war over Kosovo in the attempt to halt the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic’s systematic repression of the (mainly Muslim) Kosovar Albanians. Salmond was a vehement opponent of the Nato campaign, and famously described the organisation’s (so far) only military action on European soil as “an act of unpardonable folly”. This capped a decade when he had remained silent throughout years of Milosevic-sponsored aggression against the Kosovars’ co-religionist Bosniaks in former Yugoslavia.

The British foreign secretary at the time of the Kosovo war, Robin Cook – also the country’s most respected centre-left leader at the time of his premature death in 2005 – witheringly branded Salmond as Belgrade’s stooge, “the only European leader to stand side by side with Milosevic” in a way that showed him as “simply unfit to lead”. The SNP’s poor performance in the inaugural elections to the Scottish parliament in May 1999 (while the war was underway) was widely attributed to Salmond’s intervention.

The world’s wind

Alex Salmond’s dream is for Scotland to join an arc of prosperous north Atlantic nations from Ireland and Iceland to Scandinavia. But it might at best prove to be a northern version of Ken Livingstone’s left-leaning multicultural metropolis in London. The party lacks skilled political leaders, other than Salmond himself, and it seems hard to imagine a majority of Scots voting for independence. But perhaps such a scenario could come to pass if the increasingly neurotic mood among large sections of English opinion, as their identity is seen to be threatened in multiple ways, leads to a backlash against the Scots.

Scotland receives considerably more in state subsidies than much of England. It is not beyond reason that Scottish policies, such as the decision to absolve Northern Irish students from tuition-fees at Scottish universities which English ones must nevertheless still pay, could result in a coherent campaign in which Scotland is told to exit via the door marked “Britain” and not come back. Salmond would relish such an outcome,and some believe he is trying to provoke it by upsetting English sensibilities.

A separate Scotland could turn out to be a modern, efficient state that harnesses the energies of its people, including those achievers who previously had to go abroad to make their mark in the world; or it could be a kind of leftist London authority on a larger canvas, committed to redistributionist policies and a neutralist foreign policy garnished with fashionably right-on rhetoric in the hope that a durable patriotic consensus would emerge.

Whatever Scotland’s ultimate fate, the times ahead are bound to be testing. Scotland’s Muslim minority will not be immune from the same attention as their co-religionists elsewhere as long as a terrorist threat persists in western Europe. At least some Scots Muslims may find it difficult to remain aloof from transnational radical currents that see Islam primarily as an ideological tool to create a revolutionary new state. The resources of political Scotland are at present being mobilised on the community’s behalf, but not always in a thoughtful or acceptable way. Whether Muslims will find the Scottishness on offer an acceptable way to combine a religious identity with a national, secular one remains to be seen.

Gallacher defends himself against claims he is a stooge of imperialism in the comments section with this amazing line:

There are other forms of imperialism much worse than that produced by the mangy British lion and whose true potential for causing harm in the world has not been fully realised.

And this is another version of the article from the dire Prospect:

August 2007 | 137 » Web exclusive » Scotland’s radicals

Alex Salmond’s willingness to fish in the wilder waters of Muslim politics is irresponsible and offensive to the heroes of 30th June

Tom Gallagher

Alex Salmond is fast turning into one of the most nimble politicians in British politics since Lloyd George. Since becoming Scotland’s first minister, Salmond has proven not only to be a skilful media politician but a formidable operator in the corridors of power. Since taking charge of the executive in May, with a one-seat majority, his Scottish National party (SNP) has launched a blizzard of initiatives.

Unusually for a nationalist leader, Salmond has cultivated a range of minorities, notably Scotland’s growing Muslim population, which is concentrated in a number of seats the SNP hopes to wrest from the Labour party. On 31st July, Salmond held a reception for Scottish Muslim leaders at his official Edinburgh residence where he declared that, in terms of engaging with Muslims, “We are ahead of virtually every other European country.”

He made more headlines on 7th August when he presided over a civic reception in Glasgow in honour of the men and women whose courage helped save Glasgow from disaster on 30th June, the day when two would-be bombers struck the terminal building of Glasgow airport. One of the heroes that day, 31-year-old baggage handler John Smeaton, later commented that he was only doing his civic duty when he intervened to help the police overpower one of the bombers. Yet there is growing evidence that Salmond is intent on strengthening his support among those members of Scotland’s 60,000-strong Muslim community who are all too ready to champion an ethno-religious identity rather than a civic one.

The chief tactician upon whom Salmond relies to build bridges with Scottish Muslims is Osama Saeed, the Scottish organiser of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAP). Saeed stood as an SNP parliamentary candidate in 2005, and has enthusiastically defended the idea of a global Islamic state in the press, on one occasion urging Muslims to withhold co-operation from the police. Following the failed bombing, Saeed was chosen by the BBC in Scotland to speak for Scotland’s Muslims. Largely excluded from the broadcast media were Muslims such as Glasgow university lecturer Amanullah de Sondy, who appealed in the Scottish press for more attention to be directed at “what I call progressive Muslims, the silent majority who do not wear their religion on their sleeve, and are open to discussion and debate about western dress, gender relations, social norms and other aspects of Scottish life.”

This July, Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, his deputy first minister and close ally, went to great lengths to deny the argument that religious ideology might be motivating Muslims to carry out acts of mass terror. The contrasting position had in fact already been argued in the press with considerable fluency by ex-radicals such as Ed Husain and Hassan Butt. Sturgeon repeatedly stated on television, and at a rally organised by the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) on 7th July, that “Islam is a religion of peace.” While this may be true, Sturgeon’s repeated use of the phrase betrays an unwillingness to offend the sensibilities of religious pressure groups whose value is their capacity to swing voters towards the party that is most amenable to their agenda.

The MAB has campaigned against the British presence not just in Iraq but also in Afghanistan, and is closely linked to the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood. Salmond, who has a long aversion towards western military engagement, shares many of the MAB’s concerns. He has met with its best-known figure, Azzam Tamimi, who declared in 2004, “If I can go to Palestine and sacrifice myself, I would do it.” In December 2005, while addressing Islamic activists in Glasgow, Tamimi declared that the SNP was the best party in Scotland to represent Muslim interests. He cited the party’s stance on Iraq, Palestine and the war on terrorism, declaring, “We have been impressed by the warm and welcoming attitude of the SNP.”

Salmond’s willingness to fish in the wilder waters of Muslim politics is clever—albeit risky—electoral politics. Despite his tiny majority, he intends to stay in government for a full four-year term by picking strategic quarrels with Downing Street and Whitehall not only over Anglo-Scottish matters, but over British foreign policy too. Yet the strategy conceals a glaring absence of both religious literacy and—I would contend—public responsibility.

There is no sign that Salmond wishes to reach out to those Muslim Scots who are committed to integration. Such people don’t usually form lobbies capable of delivering baskets of votes to parties at election time. They prefer to fit in with the rest of society rather than to emphasise their separation from it.

The message being promoted by Alex Salmond is: in Scotland, Muslim identity is welcome, while British identity is a thing of the past. But surely there is a danger that Scottish nationalism, because it is so clearly lacking in substance, will end up disappointing young Muslims searching for a durable radical cause. The SNP’s obsession with alleged English “overlordship,” and its failure to move beyond gimmicks and slogans on many policy areas, is unlikely to impress idealistic Muslims preoccupied with global concerns.

Salmond’s party is uninterested in engaging with many of the social problems that blight urban Scotland, instead preferring to grandstand on constitutional issues. In 2004, Nicola Sturgeon opposed the plans of the Labour administration in Edinburgh to target gang violence through its antisocial behaviour bill. She argued that it risked causing a complete breakdown in relations between young people and the police. This was not long after “Operation Gadher,” set up in 2002 to confront an Asian gang culture controlling much of Glasgow’s drug trade, was closed down because it was considered politically incorrect in influential quarters. Gangs, including Muslim ones, blight Sturgeon’s Glasgow Govan constituency and the neighbouring areas. There is a danger that the party’s privileging of religious identity could give urban violence a disturbing Islamic edge.

Much though the SNP hates to be reminded of it, establishing a partnership with religious figures and community activists—rather than reaching out to individual Muslim citizens—is a failed English policy. It backfired on a Conservative home secretary, Michael Howard, after he was instrumental in setting up the Muslim Council of Britain, and it backfired on Tony Blair and Jack Straw, who for even longer periods sought to manage Muslim concerns by working through religious gatekeepers.

Salmond seems to be uninterested in the new thinking from Whitehall about the need to treat Muslims as individual citizens, not as part of an amorphous and ill-defined community. This enables the concerns of women and other disadvantaged groups to be noticed, groups that religious campaigners usually prefer to overlook. It will be ironic if Salmond emerges as a social authoritarian eager to remake the face of the biggest Scottish cities, whose voters have vexed the SNP by rejecting it on numerous occasions. Plenty of evidence this summer suggests that this is exactly the direction he is moving in. It may well mean that Smeaton and the other heroes of 30th June will be wondering why Salmond is saluting them for their civic valour on the day the bombers tried and failed to destroy Glasgow airport.

I expect that it is only a matter of time before Gallagher is quoted in the gutter press as an authority on the dodginess of the SNP in power. The day will come when The Sun prints an Islamophobic hit piece on the SNP with the headline, SALMOND HUSSEIN!

PS:
There is another version for The Spectator, luridly entitled The SNP is playing a deadly game with Islam, which includes the following:

Despite leading a supposedly mainstream party, Salmond seems intent on copying Trotskyite agitators who seek to prosper by sweeping young Muslims into their ranks on an ‘anti-imperialist’ agenda. To the chagrin of English revolutionaries, their sects are proving only a halfway-house for young Muslims who prefer a revolutionary cause based on global Islam. Will Scottish nationalism prove a more attractive long-term draw for idealistic young Scottish Muslims? I doubt it.

Well, that says it all, really…

We’ll have to wait and see where he pops up next. Certainly, he is adept at tailoring the message for the audience. A thinking man’s Nick Cohen?

SNP’s secret socialist scandal!

[Friday]

I have only just stumbled upon this article, which appeared in The Scotsman in June:

The sharing out of wealth, workers’ co-ops and a uniform wage for all – a controversial Nationalist vision for Scotland

PETER MACMAHON
SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT EDITOR (pmacmahon@scotsman.com)

WITH proposals to create workers’ co-operatives, introduce a “citizen’s income” and take the “profit motive” out of all public services, the political manifesto is a world away from the modern, pro-business image the SNP is trying to portray.

Yet this is the radical left-wing policy programme that one of the Nationalists’ own MSPs has set out for Scotland’s future.

In an intervention which will anger party leaders, Bill Wilson also dismissed the idea of using Holyrood to advance the cause of independence.

Mr Wilson, who challenged John Swinney for the party leadership in 2003 and is seen to be on the “fundamentalist” wing of the SNP, set out his vision in a recently published collection of essays entitled Is there a Scottish Road to Socialism? – an echo of the British Communist Party’s post-war manifesto The British Road to Socialism.

Although there is no formal fundamentalist caucus within the SNP group at Holyrood, Mr Wilson is known to have support from Bob Doris – his agent when he stood against Mr Swinney – and several other MSPs.

In his essay, Mr Wilson, a regional MSP for the West of Scotland, proposed a wide range of policies which he says should be achievable in an independent Scotland.

He argues: “A socialist society would institute a system of public services and transport free from the profit motive and run them solely for the purpose of serving the public.

“We require more hospital cleaners, cheaper and better connected public transport, prisons aimed at cutting recidivism, not even larger profits in the hands of the few.”

The MSP calls for trades unions to be “free of regressive legislation”, arguing that a failing of trades unions is their “excessive closeness to a neo-conservative government”.

Mr Wilson calls for the introduction of a “citizen’s income” – a policy of the Green party which the SNP used to support but has dropped – which he says would “contribute significantly to wealth redistribution”.

The citizen’s income is a monetary award paid by the state to every man, woman and child, paid for through a tax on all other incomes and reducing tax allowance and other benefits.

He says that, in an independent Scotland, co-operatively run industries should be encouraged as they are in the Basque country. And he calls for a press managed by workers co-operatives, “a democratically controlled media” with a “central agency” to accept advertising contracts and distribute them to newspapers on the basis of circulation.

Mr Wilson is also scathing about the strategy of pursuing independence through Holyrood, a cornerstone of SNP strategy under Alex Salmond. He writes: “Both New Labour and the SNP are far too concerned with regulation and control for one to expect any major breakthrough there [the parliament].

“Where the Scottish Parliament offers promise is it shows that the people of Scotland can be united in the national cause.”

Mr Wilson, whose challenge precipitated Mr Swinney’s eventual decision to stand down as leader, said yesterday that he had written the essay two years ago but had not changed his mind on the central themes.

Asked if his views were compatible with the pro-business views of Mr Swinney, the finance secretary, and Jim Mather, the enterprise minister, he said: “I am not suggesting the mass confiscation of business by the state. There is a wide range of opinion within the SNP and I am sure there are colleagues who share some, if not all, of my views.”

Des McNulty, a Labour frontbench MSP, said: “This shows there are some in the SNP who differ strongly with the business-friendly face John Swinney and Jim Mather are trying to present. Bill Wilson is part of that group of fundamentalists who regard the parliament as a staging post on the march towards a vision of nationalist socialism which very few voters share.”

An SNP spokesman said: “As a backbench MSP, Bill Wilson is free to suggest ideas.”

FUNDAMENTALIST WHO ROSE TO PROMINENCE IN BITTER LEADERSHIP BATTLE

BILL Wilson rose to prominence within the SNP in 2003 when he challenged John Swinney for the party’s leadership.

Up until then Mr Wilson was a little-known activist, but his decision to stand against the then-leader and his denunciation of the “New Labour” tendencies of spin and control-freakery in the SNP gave him a national profile.

After a bitter election campaign, Mr Wilson secured just 111 votes to Mr Swinney’s 577 at the SNP conference in 2003. However, the election left Mr Swinney weakened and he stepped down in June 2004 after the SNP failed to make progress in the European Parliament elections.

Mr Wilson, 43, who has a degree in zoology from Glasgow University and came to the parliament last month, is seen to be on the SNP’s “fundamentalist” wing.

Although he says he accepts the SNP manifesto, which included the pledge of an independence referendum Mr Wilson, like other fundamentalists has always been hostile to the idea. In the past, he has supported using any future SNP majority of Scottish seats at Westminster or Holyrood to move straight to independence.[Emphasis added.]

Why would this pointless piece of reportage interest me, or you for that matter?

Well, I have noticed the increased linkage of leftism and nationalism (in alarmist tones) in both Scotland and Wales. Remember the Plaibour Party?

What, dear reader, do you make of it all?

A Lib-Lab Con

[Friday]

With the aid of coffee-fuelled insomnia, I pour forth on capitalist peace in Northern Ireland, pre-emptive coalitions that backfire, the flawed perspective of Jon Cruddas and the labour bureaucracy, the shaky leadership of Liberal Democrats, the chances of co-ordinated industrial action in the public sector, and what we can expect of a Brown premiership. I think I’ll have a lie down now…

You’re the one for me, Paddy
As I commented hastily only the other day, Gordon Brown’s promise of a “government of all the talents” has materialised as a recipe for a unity government. Why he should need to invite Lord Ashdown to be Northern Ireland Secretary is beyond me – in fact, why does Northern Ireland or British imperialism even need a Secretary, talented or not, from the British government?

The Provisional IRA has disbanded, British imperialism’s involvements in the Middle East have led to a reduction in the number of service personnel, and Sinn Fein now co-operate with the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The Democratic Unionist Party’s Ian Paisley is First Minister with Sinn Fein’s Martin Maguiness as his deputy.

What problems are there to be solved in the province by Paddy the so-called peace-maker that cannot be dealt with by Stormont? The last rump of the British Empire’s colonies has been cowed; the people of Northern Ireland have a power-sharing government of unionists and republicans. Who needs Lord Ashdown’s “talent” now?

Invited gatecrashers
Labour’s backbenches will be seething, as will members of the cabinet who are hoping to hang around after Blair’s departure. It is known that those lacking in Scottish accents are though to have more secure cabinet careers than fellow Scots in a Brown administration, but there are plenty of Welsh and English people in the PLP, and some of them must be skilled. Why is Brown not seeking to promote talent within his own party? His offer to Liberals betrays a lack of confidence in the abilities and priorities of Labour MPs.

Claims that Brown is seeking a “new politics” are disingenuous. I understand that, like Labour, the Liberal Democrats are ostensibly a centre-left outfit, but why enter an effective coalition if there is no need to? Could it be that Brown fears Labour’s base in the trade unions and traditional class perspective will prevent him carrying out the work of the capitalist class?

The Liberal Democrats might differ from Labour over the planned ID cards scheme, the burgeoning DNA database, the Trident nuclear weapons system, and the necessity of a new nuclear power stations – but on economic matters, the Liberals are just as committed to neo-liberalism, and despite their opposition to the intervention in Iraq and Blair’s complicity in last summers Israeli assault of Lebanon, they are most certainly not anti-imperialist.

As I said, the “government of all the talents” idea, trailed at the launch of Brown’s campaign for the premiership, was thought to refer to bringing private sector figures into government – or rather, contracting-out policymaking to capitalists. Now it appears that Brown is preparing for a unity government.

Back to basics
There will be an expectation on the part of the labour movement and those who have stuck with the party that Brown can be held back and perhaps even won over. Jon Cruddas, the leftwing deputy leadership challenger who has the most support in the labour movement, wishes to become a conduit between the party’s base and leadership rather than take a cabinet post and run a ministry.

A left-winger breathing down his neck is the last thing Brown wants. Cruddas and the trade union leaders wish to reverse Labour’s commitment to the neo-liberal agenda. Not so much Old Labour but Real Labour, claims Cruddas. And there could be some truth in this: Labour has traditionally opposed aspects of the capitalist system, but at the same time lacked a coherent alternative. Cruddas has been derided as indicative of Labour’s “lurch to the left”, but he himself is not immune from red-baiting, characterising the party’s internal conflicts in the early eighties as a struggle against people who wanted to “abolish the police and invite the Russians in”.

Doubtless much of Cruddas’ support will come from class conscious working people, and while this could get him elected to the deputy leadership, there is little hope in him being able to influence policy. And because Labour is so discredited, lacking in democratic structures, and dependent on funding from wealthy businessmen there is no possibility of an independent working class party being constructed, not even if Brown has a Damascene conversion to the cause of the proletariat.

Gordon’s Liberal bias
Brown’s courting of the former Liberal leader has left the current Liberal leadership fuming. The Tory strategy has been to suggest that the Liberals will hop into bed with Labour after the next election – expected to result in a hung parliament and therefore necessitating a coalition government.

Sir Menzies Campbell has been aiming to muscle in on Tory territory; he succeeded in getting his party to scrap their commitment to a 50% tax rate for those earning more than £100,000 a year, perhaps their most distinctive and progressive policy, in favour of regressive green taxes.

His predecessor, the affable Charles Kennedy was derided as a weak figure, a more a chairman than a leader, because he was unable to get his party to back the privatisation of Royal Mail. Campbell is unlikely to follow Kennedy in addressing anti-war demonstrations – he has claimed that the opposition to the Iraq war contained anti-American elements and backs the occupation of Afghanistan.

A weak [sic] is a long time in politics
Campbell has experienced a rumour campaign within his own party, partly because of the inefficacy of his own leadership. Though the party is not floundering, there has been a distinct lack of coverage of Campbell’s Liberals, compared to the high-profile maintained by Kennedy. The Liberals have been left out because of the resurgence of the Tory party under David Cameron and Campbell has been derided as being too old in comparison. This ageism is robustly challenged by Campbell, but it is not his age that is the issue.

The Liberals gained some support from Labour voters for their opposition to the invasion of Iraq and can be said to be the only party that has a presence within England, Scotland and Wales. The Tories have been unable to break into the northern cities of England whereas the Liberals have not experienced these.

As a third party in Westminster, the Liberals are confined to a permanent opposition – unless they decide to collaborate with Labour in the event of a hung parliament. Though they have shared power with Labour in the devolved governments, Liberal big shots are keen to stress the differences between central and devolved government in terms of electoral procedure and legislative function.

This reasoned response is not as strong as the emotive line from the Tories that Labour will be kept in power by the Campbell and that those seeking a change would do better than to vote for the Liberals come election time. One might counter, that since Cameron has come out as the heir to Blair, there would be little change in terms of policy in the event of a Tory victory in 2009.

Polytricks (an interlude)
When the ailing Charles Kennedy was forced to admit he had been seeking treatment for alcoholism, he announced that he was stepping down as “chairman”. This sparked a leadership contest in early 2006 that brought about an Orange Revolution within the Liberal Democrats. It was the man partly responsible for Kennedy’s downfall, Sir Menzies Campbell who assumed leadership of Britain’s “third party”, whereupon he set about repositioning the Liberals to the right on economic issues

It has to be said that Campbell was an unusual choice for the leadership due to his age and lack of prominence, though it was expected that the right-wing Orange Book group would dominate policy-making; Simon Hughes, the party’s loquacious President, was initially a front-runner because of his popularity with party activists and ability to communicate (at length) the party’s message. He was, though, seen as more of a left-winger, and this might have been why he was subject to a character assassination.

A homophobic smear campaign conducted by sections of the tabloid press scuppered his leadership bid and Hughes was forced to admit his bisexuality. This would not have been so bad, but the election contest that first brought Hughes to Westminster in 1983 was marred by a disgusting amount of homophobia towards the Labour candidate, Peter Tatchell, who is now a prominent human rights activist, and Hughes’ campaign team was party to the abuse and insinuation.

In this age of tolerance, there was no possibility of suggesting Hughes’ sexual orientation precluded him being an MP or even leader of a political party – the emphasis was very much on the lack of openness and on the earlier hypocrisy. This was the line adopted, but it failed to convince. For the interest in private matters was in marked contrast to the lack of concern about the nefarious role played by top Liberal figures in toppling Kennedy.

Hughes’ political opinions and actions account for far more importance than his personal life and it says much for the bourgeoisie’s commitment to equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people that he was outed in this manner. The infamous by-Bermondsey election occurred almost a quarter of a century ago, and in a much different political climate. Since Hughes had not voted against LGBT rights legislation, the suggestion that his outing was in the public interest did not hold water.

So why the interest in Hughes’ sexuality? Surely not because The Sun was concerned about homophobic incidents that occurred years previously and for which Hughes had apologise? Peter Tatchell, now a member of the Green Party, said he wished Hughes well in the campaign to become party leader “because of all the contenders he is the most progressive on human rights, social justice and environmental issues”. So I suspect it had something to do with his talking up of the inequalities that have grown under New Labour – if he had been leader of the Liberals he would have been able to highlight the gap between expectation and reality on social justice.

As if to counter my theory, there’s the case of Mark Oaten: another of the candidates for Liberal leadership in 2006 and one of the contributors to the Orange Book, Oaten was revealed to have used male prostitutes. A married family man and supporter of “tough liberalism”, Oaten was forced to resign from his post as Home Affairs spokesman.

Kennedy, by the way, is believed to be interested in getting his old job back. But unless Ming the Merciful quits or kicks the bucket, a contest for the position of Third Man is as unthinkable as the possibility of a split within the party.

Crisis, what crisis?
Back to the issue, at hand, Brown’s preparations for a government of national unity lead to a series of questions. For one, why does he desire a coalition before it is necessary – is he trying to embarrass the Liberals or is he a maladroit political operator? Does Brown foresee a crisis in the national or international economy or some other momentous political event that might require a united front for the capitalist class?

If Brown was not intending to compromise the Liberals and does expect the imminent ruination of the economy, why did he make a move on Campbell and then Ashdown? Forgive me if I have constructed a case in reverse, but I am drawn back to the Labour Party and the broader labour movement.

Efforts towards political strike action against below-inflation pay increases and in defence of jobs and services in the public sector have not yet resulted in a concrete plan of action. The labour bureaucracy is split between engaging with Brown and confronting him; modifying the agenda and opposing it. Naturally, he would like neither engagement nor confrontation, but I suspect he would prefer the latter – it would allow him to win brownie points with the bourgeoisie, not that he needs any, by taking on the unions, and perhaps eating into the Tory lead over Labour in the polls as a result of positive media coverage.

There is a danger that because of the lack of organisation in the private sector and the fact that the wages of public sector workers are paid out of taxation, the bourgeois media will be able to conduct a successful disinformation campaign. Already, in the case of the CWU’s dispute with Royal Mail, the government has been party to this. Unfortunately, the postal union is quick to dismiss suggestions that the upcoming strike has a political character or concerns more than pay – the CWU did not put up much of a fight when the government implemented an EU directive to end the Royal Mail’s monopoly two years in advance.

The weak shall inherit… 10 Downing Street
Brown and Blair have only personal differences; politically, they are indistinguishable. But that is not to say that Brown can or will be as strident as Blair. The towering majority gained in the 1997 landslide victory has ebbed away and Labour may be forced to go into coalition with the Liberals in the next session of the Westminster parliament.

The Labour Party had 407,000 members when Blair’s New Labour project was swept to power in 1997, by the start of this year membership has fallen to 177,000. Ten years of New Labour rule and the wars in the Middle East have cut the party to shreds organisationally and in the opinion polls. The trade unions may reconsider bailing Labour out when the leadership can easily secure party finances by selling peerages to rich businessmen…

Brown lacks charisma, a power-hungry parliamentary party, and the air of expectation that surrounded Tony Blair’s elevation to Prime Minister. Whilst his predecessor was elected, Brown has become party leader by default. Blair became PM after the party had won a parliamentary majority in a general election; Brown will enter Number 10 two years from parliamentary elections, trailing the opposition in the polls, with the expectation of a hung parliament in 2009.

He might have concluded that since electoral participation is in a downward spiral and Wales could follow Scotland on the road to political independence, Labour is finished. The Tories are committed to pick up on the direction New Labour set out on and are playing on Brown’s reputation as a control freak to portray him as a Stalinist in favour of more state control.

All that remains then is to piece together a coalition and cling on for a while longer. And to think he’s not even through the door of Number 10…

Clunking fist
So Brown appears weak, how will he remedy this?

As a Scot representing a Scottish constituency at a time when the SNP have recently come to power in Scotland, beating New Labour, Brown will have his work cut out in proving he is the British PM. Curbing the rights of Scottish MPs to vote on matters which only concern England and Wales is a proposal that has been supported by the opposition leader David Cameron. Brown is unlikely to endorse such a measure, for obvious reasons.

Proposals for a written constitution and a Bill of Rights are expected; Cameron has come out in favour of a written constitution, so Brown is sure to shoot his fox. And a review of the Barnett formula – the equation that determines funding for the public expenditure of Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales – will probably be announced within the first one hundred days of the Brown administration, not least because of Tony Blair’s admission that higher per capita public spending in Scotland than England is a bribe to retain the Union. Plaid Cymru are seeking to secure tax-varying powers for the Welsh Assembly, and the SNP are naturally seeking fiscal autonomy for Scotland.

There will be an expectation of withdrawal from Iraq, but Brown is not in a position to disappoint the US or distance himself from the Bush administration, he is a confirmed Atlanticist. Majority opinion in the UK is that troops should be brought home from Iraq and there is support for withdrawal amongst sections of the British ruling class because the venture is not successful, that is to say profitable, and may weaken the influence of Britain in future.. On the Afghan front, Brown is likely to commit to more funding for the mission; though he will try to dispel the notion that British forces will occupy the country for thirty years, not least because of the demoralisation the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan have cause the armed forces.

Walkouts and walking away
After the fire-fighters’ national strike in 2003, the Fire Brigades Union decided to disaffiliate from the Labour Party. The Communication Workers Union could do the same in the wake of planned strike action – if the membership were given a choice I suspect they’d rather tip the political fund into a drain than hand it over to Brown.

A break by the CWU could lead to momentum for breaking the union link with Labour completely if other unions decide to review the situation. Certainly, it would harm Brown in that he would lack funds and unless the cash for honours scandal is completely forgotten about, very few rich businessmen will be arranging to make donations. Still, he could always introduce state funding of political parties and get the new Chancellor (if there is one) to write the cheques for the next election.

But where would the unions take their cash? In Wales, it could be conceivable that there would be funding for Plaid Cymru, which is to the left of Labour, or continued support for Welsh Labour. Is it all that unimaginable that the unions might support the SNP in Scotland? The Scottish Trade Union Congress narrowly supported Labour before the last election, and the reforms being implemented by the nationalists might be more appealing than the reformism-without-reforms of New Labour.

For class conscious working people in England, there is little to choose from and electoral politics might seem like a dead end at this point. Organisationally, workers are weak in terms of self-defence and pro-active political intervention is unlikely to get results until there is greater unity in action.

In the past, I have pointed to the Scottish Socialist Party as a model for going forward in England (excising from my memory the Sheridan split and the failure of previous endeavours, namely the Socialist Labour Party and the Socialist Alliance). As I have long believed that the break-up of Britain will be the key to revolution in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, perhaps attention should be focused on constitutional arrangements and the industrial struggle rather than any further attempts at a unified pluralist workers’ party.

Here’s Jonny
Cruddas winning deputy leadership would make Brown respond to complaints from the labour bureaucracy and at best could provide a focus for the left within the Labour Party – but since the leader of the party is more interested in connecting with members of other political parties, what hope is there of rebuilding Labour’s electoral base?

Reviving participation in elections will only become an issue for the bourgeoisie when the legitimacy of the capitalist system comes under question. State funding of political parties may emerge as a solution to the unseemliness of capitalist funding of the parties, which was brought to public attention in the cash for honours scandal – the police investigation of which has yet to conclude.

It comes down to a different approach to politics. Brown doesn’t mind blundering on, targeting swing voters whilst alienating Labour supporters with neo-liberal policies and imperialist wars; Cruddas sees the need for Labour to make amends with its base, apologies for the war in Iraq, and try to move forward with policies that benefit working class people.

Brown’s passionate desire to be Prime Minister, supposedly assured in a deal made with Blair in a restaurant called Granita, looks set to be realised, though it may not last. What does Cruddas want? Not much, and that’s what he’s bound to get if he wins the powerless post of deputy to the President-unelect.

Breaking news: Brown’s been turned down by a second unelected figure. Sir John Stevens, the former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has declined an invitation from the Iron Chancellor to join his administration. Yes, that’s right – Brown will build a police state…

though traitors sneer…

[Monday]

And on Booktalk this week: the obnoxious Nick Cohen, peddling his grubby little book, What’s Left?, which purports to be a devastating critique of the left. It is aimed at the American market, by the sounds of it; Cohen uses “liberal” in the US rather than the UK sense. The book comes with recommendations from such left-wing figures as Lord Bragg…

I have yet to read the book from cover to cover. I can’t seem to get a grip on it: Cohen’s scattergun approach neglects to build up any firm critique, nor back assertions with facts, or at least, elucidation.

Cohen is defending the “anti-fascist” left and does it spectacularly badly. He’s gradually turning into his chum Christopher Hitchens, an ex-Trot journalist, who appears to have sobered up a bit.

The “decent” left has published the Euston manifesto, which concerns the issues surrounding the Global War on Terror rather than a coherent analysis of the world situation. If you look at the people who swirl around this online document, you will see that there can be no firm ideological trend: the “decent” left is so diverse that the centre cannot hold, indeed most of them aren’t of the left, to put it lightly.

For Cohen, socialism is dead. Perhaps if he had been a middle-aged traitor during the Cold War he would have a better case as to the ominous threat facing the world. No, there’s no vast communist conspiracy. “Political” or “radical” Islam is the new threat, claim Cohen and co, following the crazed conspiracies put out by Bush and Blair. The sad thing is that they appear to believe it is the cause and not the symptom.

Though Anglo-American imperialism seems to have killed and be killing more people than the few Islamic fundamentalists it used to fund (see Afghanistan in the eighties!) Cohen believes that the real threat to the world is not imperialism, but “Islamo-fascism”.

A bit of background to the man: Cohen’s career as a leftish journalist went wonky around 2003 when he backed the “liberation” of Iraq by Anglo-American imperialism. If we take his word, the Empire wanted to free the Iraqis from a tyrant. Which is why they brought Saddam Hussein to power in the first place, bombed the country and imposed crippling economic sanctions, denying food and medicine to Iraq because of the actions of their government.

The Empire was also going to create a regime that respected the rights of women, workers, and gay people before all else. In fact, the first thing to be secured was the Iraqi Oil Ministry; they didn’t even bother trying to track down those WMDs that were supposedly going to hit us in 45 minutes. The US imperialists kept the anti-union laws on the books, backed sectarian death squads, failed to provide for the Iraqi population, illegally liberalised and privatised the economy, and so on. And on.

In a way, I feel sorry for Cohen. He has dug himself into a hole and can but dig. And dig. At least, with this new book, he can make a mint out of his old comrades. Of which, there is little evidence. Cohen was a lefty reporter, not a committed activist. Now that he has joined the ranks of the cruise missile left, the pro-capitalist commentariat, and doesn’t have to commit to anything. We can but wonder where he will end up, but if the Euston manifesto and Cohen’s glib dismissal of socialism are anything to go by, he has a lucrative career ahead of him repeating the same old shit.

Now, as you can tell I was pissed at watching Cohen get such an easy ride from the host, Mark D’Arcy. Perhaps D’Arcy is in agreement with Cohen, perhaps there wasn’t enough time. Cohen has been subjected to an unacceptable degree of anti-Semitic abuse, despite not the fact he is not Jewish, and abuse in general; he and his host made much of this. It is unfortunate that people have used racist abuse rather than attempting to criticise him calmly.

Cohen’s slander of the left is that it is supportive of the new fascism, displays a moral relativism with regards to human rights in the oppressed countries, all because the left no longer has anything to believe in or agitate for. Cohen is essentially saying that the left is no longer needed, it is reactionary in its crude anti-Americanism.

The short answer is that socialists must support those people resisting imperialism even if we don’t agree with reactionary views that they hold. We ask do not ask workers in an industrial dispute if they share our views on equal rights for minorities before we support their struggle. We support their struggle and try to argue our case on other matters.

I hear Cohen go on about Iraqi trade unionists. What about those killed by the death squads of the puppet regime in Iraq? Do these acts not reflect on imperialism, or is it that humanitarian intervention is to prevent workers from organising?

The Iraqi resistance does not just mean men with guns fighting the occupying armies, it means the massive street protests and strikes, involving women. The brave oil workers who are uniting to defend the wealth of their nation, are they not resisting imperialism? The left is supporting the will of the Iraqi people in their struggle against imperialism and also against the terrorists who can only thrive in Iraq because it is an occupied country.

On recent events in Estonia

At the end of April, 2007 in Tallinn, Estonia, there were two nights of rioting in which one man died, dozens were injured, and hundreds arrested. The cause of the conflict centred on the removal of a public war memorial by the government.

That Estonia’s capital was consumed by riots over a war memorial would appear surprising. If there are riots in a former Soviet Republic sparked by the actions of the government you would expect them to be in reaction to poverty and unemployment rather than the disappearance of a statue.

The rioting was about more than a statue, and certainly about more than the Red Army. Most of the protestors were Russian, an ethnic minority in Estonia comprising a quarter of the population. Russians in Estonia face discrimination in employment and healthcare and are exempt from the rights Estonians have as citizens of an EU state. Taking the statue away, and rounding up Russians on the street after the protests, have made the Russian population feel even more marginalised.

At the end of World War Two, the Red Army liberated Estonia from Nazi oppression and Estonian Jews from Nazi extermination. Supposedly, it is not the Estonian government’s contention that this should not be commemorated, rather it is their feeling that the statue symbolised ‘the oppression of Soviet occupation’.

Though the Western media will no doubt portray the events in Estonia as, at best racial unrest and, at worst, disaffected dinosaurs causing trouble, the removal of the statue is in fact part of the European Union’s attempt to criminalise history. Anti-communist legislation banning the hammer and sickle and drawing parallels between Communism and Fascism has been discussed in the European Parliament and the EU has backed the Czech Republic’s outlawing of the youth movement of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, the KSM.

This is not merely a handful of reactionaries using their positions of power to work anti-communism into law, it is an attempt by the ruling class to criminalise class struggle. Already there an international campaign in solidarity with the KSM has been launched.

The removal of the war memorial is part of a campaign of historical revisionism which is attempting to counter the nostalgia amongst workers for the stability and security that was provided under socialism. The bourgeoisie in the former socialist countries in Europe are keen to portray the restoration of capitalism as the restoration of democracy and liberty. But there is no evidence to suggest workers wanted privatisation, structural unemployment, migration, deprivation, people-trafficking and prostitution.

It is obvious now that a shake-up of the socialist systems of Eastern Europe, involving the retention of the planned economy and the extension of worker management, would have been preferable to the restoration of capitalism. The beneficiaries of the ‘liberation’ from the ‘Soviet Empire’ were not millions of workers but the millionaire bosses in Western Europe and the newly-crowned oligarchs. There was never a clear choice offered to the masses of Eastern Europe, but few would have chosen neo-colonialism.

The claims to democracy seem laughable in light of these events. The statue of the Red Army soldier had to be removed at night – and only after a tent had been erected to obscure this act of official vandalism. The reason for the banning of the KSM was not, as originally claimed, their supposed espousal of violent revolution, but their support for public ownership of the means of production! This is a frightful notion for the bourgeoisie – a planned and managed economy is not focused on the accumulation of wealth for the disposal of a minority. The ban was because of the success of the group in gaining support among workers, not because they were planning violent acts against the state.

US military bases have replaced those of the Red Army in Eastern Europe, not that this troubles the EU – not yet, anyway. For now, militarised inter-imperialist rivalry in Europe is limited to provocations by the United States against the Russian Federation. Plans for an American missile system to be situated in Poland and the Czech Republic have been met with public protest, and the Russian government has recently expressed its dismay by ripping up a treaty with the US.

Watch this space…

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