Looking left: SWP and clerical fascists; CPGB; Stop The War and Tories

Submitted by AWL on 11 May, 2005 - 10:23

The SWP and the ‘clerical-fascists’

In Britain the SWP usually claims that it is a “slander” to say that their allies, Muslim Association of Britain, are an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest Islamic fundamentalist party in the Arab world.

But the latest number of the SWP’s magazine IS Journal carries an article saying that the left in Egypt should work with the Muslim Brotherhood itself, which SWP founder Tony Cliff, when he was still active in the region, called “clerical-fascist”.

The article regrets that the Brotherhood has softened: “The higher ranks of the Muslim Brothers are getting more bourgeois, in the sense of accepting totally reformist methods”.

But: “They are no longer openly hostile to the left. We do not hide our positions at all on the issues where we disagree with the Muslim Brotherhood, whether it’s Copts or whatever. But we cannot refuse to work with them over issues like Palestine or Iraq or the Cairo conference against imperialism, which is due to take place in late March. Other sections of the left hate us for this...”

The previous number of ISJ contained an article on Islamic fundamentalist Iran, likewise slamming the Iranian left for alleged “sectarianism” because “most left wing groups do not support the reformist movement in Iran” — the “moderate” Islamist wing of the regime.

The article claims it is “racist” to say that Iran is a “theocratic state, dominated by medieval mullahs”. On the contrary, it “still has the critical support of the majority of the population. They see the state as defending their nationalist, religious and cultural aspirations against Zionism and Western economic, political and cultural domination”. The article seems to concur with that critical support.

“What is important is that the improvement in lran’s social conditions and standard of living since the mid-1990s [has] opened up the political system”. Does the SWP see any problem with the position of women in Iran? Well, “women’s oppression is universal”, so not all is perfect there. Nevertheless, the way the SWP see it, “women in Iran exercise more rights than in US-backed states in the region”.

Rhodri Evans

* The British Humanist Association approached political parties for their position on separation of church and state. The only party that refused to participate was Respect.

Galloway yes, Radcliff no?

According to the CPGB’s Weekly Worker (28 April), all Socialist Green Unity Coalition candidates were worthy of votes — except for Pete Radcliff of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

Ouch. Pete must have done something pretty awful to deserve this treatment. So what was it? Is Pete perhaps a supporter of New Labour’s privatisation mania? Is he in favour of the racist war against refugees and asylum-seekers? Does he back city academies and the creeping privatisation of education?

Did he support the US-UK imperialist invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq? Maybe he crossed a picket line?

Nope — it’s none of these things. On all of these issues Pete has always been absolutely solid. So what was his terrible sin? It’s that he opposes the use of the slogan, “Troops out now”, to summarise policy towards Iraq, preferring an orientation to solidarity with working class forces fighting the occupation on the ground.

Pete is in now way positively in favour of the presence of the troops. But along with everyone else in the AWL he thinks that helping the Iraqi workers’ movement build up and develop fighting organisations is better than shouting “Troops out now”.

In the same issue, the CPGB explained that it would be calling for votes for only four Labour candidates. Are they, perhaps, the only four candidates fully committed to the idea of independent political representation for the working class? No — apparently they’re the only four candidates who have demanded “Troops out now”. Tough luck, Jeremy Corbyn or Katy Clark.

The CPGB also lent support to candidates of the rump Stalinist Socialist Labour Party and the nationalists of Forward Wales. Never mind that these candidates have no perspective of solidarity with the Iraqi working class, never mind that they have little or nothing to say about what should happen when the troops do leave, never mind that many of them appear entirely indifferent to the fate of the Iraqi workers’ movement — as long as they use those three little words often enough then they’re okay by the CPGB.

For some reason, the CPGB has completely recalibrated its political compass. Its central dividing line for politics is no longer class and labour representation, but just one issue: the occupation of Iraq. And on Iraq, the CPGB does not even base its political judgement on candidates’ attitudes to our class brothers and sisters in Iraq, or to the occupation as a whole (it backs, for example candidates of the Alliance for Green Socialism — an organisation which supports UN intervention). The CPGB’s judgement is based simply on how prominently the candidates use the word “now”.

As a consequence of this nonsensically anti-Marxist perspective, those who keep a keen eye on the left will have witnessed the bizarre spectacle of the CPGB — a self-proclaimed revolutionary socialist organisation — wholeheartedly supporting George Galloway while making propaganda against Pete Radcliff — a committed fighter with a proven record in class struggle — simply because he has objections to the use of a particular slogan.

Daniel Randall

Stop the war and vote Tory?

Stop the War activists in the Constituency of Dulwich and West Norwood ran a campaign to urge voters not to vote for Tessa Jowell, Government Minister and supporter of the war on Iraq. The leaflets they distributed to homes in the area called for a tactical vote for Lib Dem, Green or Tory candidates, who had all pledged opposition to the war!

In the 2001 election, the Conservatives were second after Labour with the Lib Dems some way behind. The 2005 result saw a swing of 9% against Labour, with the Lib Dems increasing their vote by 9%. Turnout was up 4%.

When challenged by Southwark anti-war Labour Representation Committee activists about their incitement of voters to support anti-war Tory candidates, the Stop the War activists defended the call for tactical voting.


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 13/05/2005 - 14:47

I'm puzzled as to why anyone in Iran would feel threatened by zionism. I know there are Israelis who want to expand beyond the official borders of Israel into the occupied territories, but surely they don't intend to go as far as Iran?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 14/05/2005 - 10:24

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

umm why would Iran fear Israel- oh gosh i have no idea why this state would fear the most heavily funded USA client state in the world- I mean the USA poses no threat to Iran at all. Mr Bush has not threatend Iran - no course not. This is the logic of the AWL- perverse pro Israel imperialist apologists.

Submitted by Janine on Sat, 14/05/2005 - 10:46

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

This response simply runs "Israel" into "USA" with very little logical explanation. As I understand it, your argument goes "The USA is threatening Iran, and the USA funds Israel, ergo Iran has got very good reason to fear Israel".

Maybe, but then it would also have very good reason to fear many other states that receive funding and support from the USA, wouldn't it? So why single out Israel?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 18/05/2005 - 00:26

In reply to by Janine

oh no there is no connection between Israel and the rest of the middle east????? why single out Israel - well Janine if you hadn't noticed Israel happens to be in the middle east and is the 4th largest military power with the population of wales- why is that??? Perhaps the funding of America has something to do with it. Perhaps Israel uses its military might to defend amercian imperialist interests. But then Janine perhaps this is to marxist an explanation for you.
What is your reply to the above post that says Iran should not be worried?

Submitted by Janine on Wed, 18/05/2005 - 09:58

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I think that if I lived in Iran, then I would (as I do) oppose Israel's repression of the Palestinains. I would also fear the prospect of a US war against Iran in which I might be killed.

I would also fear and oppose the Iranian state. And, given that I am a socialist, a trade unionist, a secularist and a feminist, I would have very good reason to.

I probably wouldn't put 'Zionism' at the top of the list of things that I fear.

I think the main points of contention here are:
(a) the conflating of "Israel's military strength / repressive actions" with "Zionism", which is (at best) unhelpful; and
(b) the elevation of "ant-Zionism" on to a pedestal way bigger than opposition to other nationalisms, and of opposition to Israel to a level way higher than opposition to other repressive states. After all, the last country that Iran was at war with was Iraq, not Israel.

PS. Marxism is about understanding things in class terms, not about seeing everything in terms of US imperialism. So no, not "too Marxist" - not Marxist enough.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 18/05/2005 - 11:21

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Perhaps you could explain how Israel uses its military might to defend American imperialist interests. Israel does use its military might aggressively to serve its own national interests in a way that brutally oppresses the Palestinians. In that respect, it should be opposed - although it does have the right to defend itself. It is hardly unique in middle east on the count of brutally oppressing people.

Israel has roughly the same population of Wales and also not much more land area than Wales. It's territory (even including the occupied territories from which it should withdraw) is dwarfed by neighbouring Arab states such as Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Israel has no oil resources and it doesn't use its military might to try to seize territory rich in oil resources from its Arab neighbours. When the USA launched the invasion of Iraq they used military bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Turkey (for example) but not Israel (the fact that Israel is a Jewish state makes it a less useful ally for such imperialist actions than Arab and mainly Muslim states).

The USA does heavily fund Israel. It also heavily funds Egypt. Israel is highly militarised but perhaps Israelis also have their fears. After all, for decades the Arab states refused to recognise Israel's existence - in other words, if they had been militarily strong enough (and if Israel was weak enough), they would have invaded Israel and held its people under brutal oppression.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 14/05/2005 - 23:51

What an excellent piece. The rise of "mumbo-jumbo", as Frances Wheen puts it, particularly among elements of the left, is an extremely worrying development.
And, similarly worrying, is the naive view that all of the woes that imperialism can inflict upon a country will disappear when the last of the occupation troops leaves.

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