This is no peace
The SWP and their Stalinoid allies in the leadership of the Stop the War Coalition have been working hard to present their 10 December “Peace Conference” as a left-wing, labour movement-oriented event. Its sponsors include not only the usual trade union and Labour left suspects such as Paul Mackney and Jeremy Corbyn, but international trade union figures including activists from the Korean Confederation of Trade Union and Democratic Labour Party, and Hassan Jumaa from the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions.
In fact, far from providing an organising space for working-class anti-imperialism, 10 December is not even a “peace” conference in any meaningful sense of the word. Its headline speakers from Iraq include Ayatollah Jawad al-Khalissi, an Islamist leader and general secretary of the Iraqi National Foundation Congress, an organisation which provides “a political centre” for Iraq’s clerical fascist and neo-Ba’thist “resistance”; and Sheikh Hassan Al Zagani of the Al Sadr Movement.
The Al Sadr Movement, led by Shia Islamist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, is emphatically not in favour of peace - its stock-in-trade is holy war against the unbelievers. In areas dominated by its militia, the Army of the Mahdi, it has created a rigid and highly violent Islamic regime. In March, its troops attacked a group of students from Basra University’s engineering faculty, killing two of them. In response, virtually the entire student population of Basra struck and demonstrated for six days, finally forcing Al Sadr’s representative to issue an apology.
This has not stopped the Sadrists continuing their campaign of terror against unveiled women, gay people, shops selling alcohol, cassette players and everything else they consider un-Islamic. In one case they simply bulldozed a mainly-gypsy town near Basra off the map.
The irony is that this ultra-violent, quasi-fascist movement is not above doing deals with the new Iraqi establishment. The Al Sadr Movement is part of the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shia communalist political list which won the recent elections and now dominates the government. The Sadrists provide “radical”, “anti-imperialist” cover for Iraq’s new prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who positively supports the presence of US and UK troops. (Sadr and Jaafari are united, of course, in their opposition to democratic and above all workers’ rights in Iraq.)
Hassan Jumaa from the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions is also a supporter of the United Iraqi Alliance who says “troops out now”. As a workers’ leader, he deserves our solidarity, but the SWP and co. are not interested in him for that reason.
Whatever the intentions of some of its participants, the 10 December event is essentially propaganda for a reactionary Islamist war‚ against the occupation of Iraq, true, but also against Iraqi leftists, women and workers.
The Respect Coalition’s total disregard for gay rights exploded into the headlines in November when lefty LGBT group OutRage! publicised the links (previously exposed in Solidarity) between Respect and a far right, homophobic sect called the Islamic Party of Britain. The IPB’s Home Affairs spokesman, Dr Naseem was Respect’s single biggest financial donor for the general election, providing the coalition with £15,457 or 29% of its total campaign budget.
In return, Dr Naseem was promoted as a Respect candidate in Birmingham and onto Respect’s national council. Moreover, the Respect leadership ensured the exclusion of any substantive mention of gay rights from its election manifesto — no doubt much to the satisfaction of the IPB, which regards homosexuality as an “unnatural condition” requiring treatment, wants to ban “public advocacy” of gay rights and advocates the death penalty for “public displays of lewdness”.
Obviously stung by OutRage!’s criticism, the SWP has struck back, using a resolution at Respect’s November 19-20 conference to attack Outrage! for supposedly devoting disproportionate attention to homophobia in black and Muslim communities. In other words, the Respect leadership wants to tar as Islamophobic and even racist anyone who dares to raise the issue of gay rights and thus, even implicitly, criticise their shamelessness on this issue.
we woz wrong
In the latest issue of the International Socialism journal, SWP hack Alex Callinicos admits that his group’s view of the “new imperialism” in the 1990s may have been “mistaken”.
“Panitch and Gindin’s critique of the idea that inter-imperialist rivalries persist is a useful corrective to the mistaken claim that, for example, I made in earlier writings that the end of the Cold War would see a return to the fluid and potentially disastrous economic and geopolitical competition among the Great Powers that prevailed during the era of classical imperialism between 1870 and 1945.
“. . .As a result of the integration of advanced capitalism into a single ‘Western’ geopolitical and ideological bloc, economic rivalries among capitals did not have the same potential to become military confrontations as they had had in the earlier era of classical imperialism.”
Callinicos goes on to quote Claude Serfati on why “there is no chance that the inter-capitalist economic rivalries among countries of the transatlantic zone will break out into military confrontations”.
This admission knocks away a major prop from the theory the SWP used to justify its Yankophobic stance during the Gulf, Kosovar and Iraq wars (though the relationship between the “inter-imperialist rivalry” theory and the conclusions never made much sense anyway). Callinicos himself will not draw the political conclusions, of course, but other SWPers might want to reflect.
Brother of ours?
Listen to Respect’s Yvonne Ridley on the Jordanian jihadi Islamist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi currently active in Iraq. The same guy who’s supporters recently cold-bloodedly bombed hundreds and killed 57 people in Jordan’s capital. That Zarqawi who has recently been disowned in an open letter from hundreds of his own family members: “I’d rather put up with a brother like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi any day than have a traitor or sell-out for a father, son or grandfather.”