Friday, October 05, 2018

Brief notes: the alt-left and Labour

Just a couple of items on British politics: a new book on Corbynism, the alt-media on the Skripal case, and Jacobin's buy-out of Tribune.

Corbynism: A critical approach

Matt Bolton and Harry Pitts have a new book out on Corbynism. It looks great. There's a sample chapter online. It comes from a Marxist perspective and looks at the two-campist tradition of geopolitics and how left populism can shade into conspiracy theory.

i newspaper has an interview with Matt. Here's an extract:
Bolton and Pitts links Corbyn to Tony Benn’s Alternative Economic Strategy... the other side of Bennism is the idea that the British economy and industry were “under attack” from finance – and that Britain needed to build a “siege economy” to throw off the shackles of the bankers, Bolton says. “We think that’s a form of economic nationalism – protecting British jobs and British industry from foreign intruders,” he says. “That’s dangerous"... 
Bennism’s sense of attack from the financiers leads Corbyn to describe the economy as “rigged” – something that might be intuitive to a lot of left-wingers. But left-wingers aren’t the only people who use it, Bolton points out – Donald Trump, Bannon and even Michael Gove have adopted it too. “The political ambivalence of the ‘rigged economy’ term alongside the economic nationalism is quite dangerous,” he says. It’s this sort of thinking that leads Corbyn into his anti-Semitism rows. “If you see capitalism as something that’s imposed on workers rather than something more general, it’s not inevitable that you end up with anti-semitism, but the potential is there. “The combination of that and the good vs bad world view, you can end up repeating or stumbling into anti-semitic tropes.”
I should particularly draw your attention to footnote 26, which says "We have learnt a lot in particular from lynchpins of the principled left blogosphere Bob from Brockley and Tendance Coatesy (see and"

The Skripal case and non-mainstream media

An extraordinary investigation by Bellingcat and The Insider – Russia into the two Salisbury poisoning suspects has managed to identify one, "Ruslan Boshirov”, as Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, highly decorated Russian intelligence officer bestowed with the country's highest state award. The report is quite a read, both for what it found out and for an account of the value of using open source data alongside more traditional modes of investigative journalism. The best in non-mainstream media.

Should be salutary reading for anyone who indulged the likes of Craig Murray in their attempts to obfuscate about the case, including any Labour activists who continue to share or defend fake news websites which have promoted this nonsense, such as SkwawkboxThe Canary and Evolve Politics. Not to mention those leftists who decided right-wing commentators like Peter Oborne, Peter Hitchens and Rachel Johnson were worth promoting because they gave cover to Corbyn's initially "cautious" approach to the case. And it should be required reading for Emily Thornberry, who derided open source investigations in a Commons speech.


The venerable democratic socialist magazine Tribune has been bought by the youthful American alt-left entrepreneur Bhaskar Sunkara (of Jacobin). They launched the new version (beautiful front cover) at Momentum's World Transformed conference in Liverpool. The strapline contains a lie: "Tribune is Britain’s oldest democratic socialist publication." Actually, that'd be the Socialist Standard, founded in 1904. And its anti-Stalinist writers of yesteryear, like George Orwell, would be a bit disappointed to see its new team complimenting the tankie paper Morning Star. And it is surprising in 2018 to see the first issue's male contributors outnumber female ones by more than 2-1.

The relaunch has come with a little bit of controversy. American labour magazine Payday Report has reported an accusation of the new owners reneging on an agreement to pay the existing staff. PplsWar has published the former staffers' letters to Sunkara about this, and their factcheck of Sunkara's responses.


Is Vanessa Beeley a reliable source?

This post is part of a series I am calling the Reliable Source Project. It contains no original material, but only extracts from already published materials. Where text is in bold the emphasis is mine. 

Who is Vanessa Beeley?

From Olivia Solon's Guardian article on the White Helmets smear campaign:
[One] of the most vocal sceptics of the UN’s investigation [into the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack of 2017] include the blogger Vanessa Beeley, the daughter of a former British diplomat who visited Syria for the first time in July 2016...

Is Eva Bartlett a reliable source?

This post is part of a series I am calling the Reliable Source Project. It contains no original material, but only extracts from already published materials. Where text is in bold the emphasis is mine. 

Who is Eva Bartlett?

From Channel 4's FactCheck (2016):
Eva Bartlett is a Canadian citizen who describes herself as an “independent writer and rights activist”. She writes a blog for the state-funded Russian media outlet Russia Today and is candid about her support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting Syrian rebels with Russian and Iranian help.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Reasons to be angry, and the war on truth

This week's miscellany...


Right-wing watch
The UKIP conference has started. Hope not Hate have produced a primer on some of the far right nuttery we can expect.

A step further to the right, they also reveal that Anne-Marie Waters' For Britain proto-fascist party has lurched even further to the extreme, inviting a Holocaust revisionist (as well as the odious Katie Hopkins) to address their conference.

Britain is fucked

A brilliant rant by Peter Ryley on Brexit and the dreadful state of Labour.


I wrote a thread on Twitter about the so-called "de-militarisation" zone agreed in Idlib:

Please especially check out the last link, to the Marxist writer Sam Hamad on how Russia is using acts of peace to prepare for war.



The rest of this post is about the truth wars - the wars fought by authoritarian governments (from Trump to Orban to Sisi to Putin) and their outriders (from Frank Furedi to Susan Sarandon to Andrew Murray to Boris Johnson) to stifle, not just open, just and democratic societies, but also to stifle the free press which makes such societies possible.


A great piece by Oz Katerji on how the Corbyn left, and especially its alt-media and its Stalinist apparatchiks, has ended up doing the work of the Kremlin propaganda machine.

Bellingcat does more of what it does so impressively, in this case using open source materials to comprehensively demolish the claims made on Russian TV by the suspects in the Skripal poisoning.


An article on Susan Sarandon's Viper Club - a movie based on the story of James Foley's mother, but without her permission, and ironically produced by YouTube, which also screened and failed to remove Foley's actual beheading. The great Middle Eastern correspondent Emma Beals has been taking issue with this film on Twitter, and Sarandon's response, which includes some tinfoil hat stuff about how "corporate media" (i.e. the companies that employ people like James Foley and Marie Colvin) are lying to us about Syria to suit some war-mongery agenda, reminds us what a dreadful person she is politically.

Chemical attacks

Brian Whitaker forensically shows how right-wing contrarian Peter Hitchens' blogging on Syrian chemical weapons attacks is completely divorced from any understanding of what's involved. (Although in an earlier post, Brian also carefully brings out some of the unanswered questions on Douma in light of recent UN reports.)

Scott Lucas explores the Russian continuation of "false flag" conspiracy theories about chemical attacks on Idlib.


I hate to link to the Spectator, but this by Anne Applebaum is great on how Orban duped the Brexiteers. Coatesy has also been writing on this topic, focusing on the Brexiteers of the ex-left.

Fake news

Finally, Egypt's Sisi taking a leaf out of Trump's book by designating journalism as "fake news" to clamp down on dissent.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Latest dispatch from a messed up world

Syria, anti-imperialism and solidarity


Labour's national socialist turn



Anti-fascist prisoners in Russia

Anti-Stalinist history
[Image at top is from Leila's article in Freedom, of an anti-Assad protest in Idlib last week.]

Friday, September 07, 2018

Summer's end

Another one of my usual round-ups. Not so long this time.

Call to action
SyriaUK on what Britain can do in light of the Assad/Russia assault on Idlib.

Street politics
History is Made at Night on Trump as monster tyrant, and our opposition to him.

The left
Tom Harris in Clarion on three dreadful Labour MPs. Louis Proyect on the Jacobin/Spiked convergence (Jacobin being the outlet that is taking over the UK's  81-year old Tribune magazine, former home of George Orwell and Michael Foot - see also this long pplswar Twitter thread on Jacobin).

The right
Two from Spencer Sunshine: Why the Alt Right May Gain Momentum in 2018 and Anti-Immigrant Rampage in Germany Shows Expansion of Right-Wing Violence. Comrade Motopu on whether fascism is a form of socialism.

Left-right convergence
Louis Proyect on Normal Finkelstein, Patrick Cockburn and the other leftists who publish with the neo-Nazi Unz.

John McCain
Oz Katerji on McCain's complex legacy. Bill Weinberg on persistent myths about McCain meeting Syrian kidnappers (and a 2013 piece by Josh Rogin that should have put this particular story to bed then).

Patrick Cockburn
Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel on left-wing orientalism.

Mary Ellsberg on massacres, coups and misinformation.

Leila al-Shami asks What next for Idlib? Delphine Minoui on Daraya's secret library.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Three footnotes on Red Action and Jeremy Corbyn

I've added these three footnotes to my weekend post on Jeremy Corbyn and Red Action: one on the usage of the term "IRA", one on the possibly connection between RA and the Warrington bombs (whose 25th anniversary is the occasion of the BBC drama Mother's Day tonight), and one on Republicanism in the London left. I am pasting them into the longer post, but also here in case you've already read that post.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Jeremy Corbyn and Red Action: Sorting truth from smears

[POST SLIGHTLY EXPANDED 3 SEPTEMBER. I have added in three footnotes, corrected some typos and added a couple of links. The footnotes are also here if you already read the whole piece. If you have any additional details or I got anything wrong, please do leave a comment or contact me directly.]

The Sunday Times of 19 August published an article by Andrew Gilligan entitled "Police examined Jeremy Corbyn links to pro-IRA group Red Action". (A screenshot of the article can be found here; an article in the Belfast Telegraph based on it can be read here.)

Andrew Gilligan is former Press TV employee, Boris Johnson acolyte, best known for his role in the events leading up to David Kelly's suicide.

Red Action were a smallish group who emerged at the end of the 1970s/start of the 1980s from activists - mainly young, mainly male, overwhelmingly working class, often of Irish background - who had gotten involved in the Socialist Workers Party via the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism out of anti-fascist conviction. Many were involved in "squads" which protected left-wing paper sales from violent right-wing attacks. The SWP wound up the ANL in 1981, but as early as 1978 had been trying to dial down militant confrontation with fascists in order to keep ANL's appeal to the mainstream (as this recollection by Jim Kelly makes clear, as do Steve Tilzey's and Red Action's own accounts) and eventually the militant activists were derided as "squadists" and expelled (much as the Italian Communist Party in the 1920s expelled those who formed squads to combat Mussolini's rising power). The SWP had only recently (in 1977) constituted itself as a Leninist-style party, veering away from the more libertarian, Rosa Luxemburg-inspired Marxism of its forerunner, the International Socialists. By 1978, the SWP guru Tony Cliff saw a "downturn" in working class militancy, and the expulsion of the working class "squadists" more or less coincided with the purging of the party's industrial "rank and file" organisations formed in the early 1970s, as both of these offered models of potentially autonomous working class militancy that didn't prioritise party-building.

Subsequently, Red Action developed a unique political perspective that had three distinguishing elements: uncompromising support for physical alongside ideological resistance to fascism, a sophisticated critique of the middle class left and in particular the Leninist tradition exemplified by the SWP from which they emerged, and strong commitment to Irish Republicanism.

Some context for my interest: I was involved on and off in Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) between about 1988 and 2000, not in any kind of leadership role but just as a rank and file footsoldier. Red Action played a central role in AFA and so I got to know quite a few members, and read their newspaper. I liked a lot of things about them (their militant anti-fascism and critique of the left), but also had some strong criticisms (specifically of their version of Republicanism), as will be clear from the rest of this blogpost.

Andrew Gilligan on Red Action and Corbyn

In the first sentence, Gilligan claims "Jeremy Corbyn came to the attention of police after becoming involved with Red Action, an ultra-left group that expressed its “unconditional and uncritical support” for IRA atrocities and included members of an IRA bombing team." There's a lot going on in that first sentence, including a lot of misdirection.

First, the "after". It's not clear if he is suggesting Corbyn came to police attention because of a Red Action link, or simply chronologically later. Later, he sort of specifiies that a "senior police officer from the period" said Corbyn came to their attention "for" these links "and" for hosting IRA (he means Provisional IRA - see footnote 2) and Sinn Fein speakers at parliament. It also makes clear the police found insufficient evidence to pursue anything. Former Special Branch officer Peter Francis ("Officer A" in this story) adds that Corbyn was investigated "over his IRA links", without any mention of Red Action. Given that we already know that MI5 and Special Branch had files on Corbyn for his IRA (i.e. Provo) links in this period, and that those links were extensive, it seems unlikely any connection with the marginal Red Action would have been the reason for any police attention.

The sentence ending, that Red Action "included members of an IRA bombing team" is also a little disingenuous. We now know that the 1993 Harrods bomb (no victims) and a bomb planted on the train to Ramsgate a few weeks later (no victims) was carried out by two Englishmen, one of whom, Patrick Hayes, was a Red Action member, on behalf of the Provisional IRA. Although Hayes' collaborator, ex-soldier Jan Taylor, has been described in the Irish Times and other papers as a Red Action member, more detailed sources don't mention it, and other sources dispute it. Moreover, as the bombings hadn't happened yet, Corbyn couldn't have known them in the 1980s or 1992. In fact, Hayes' involvement was a complete surprise to everyone that worked with Hayes in Red Action and AFA too.

More problematic is precisely what "becoming involved" meant. The links that Gilligan spells out are all fairly flimsy. The sum total of Corbyn's "involvement" seems to be:
  1. "Corbyn spoke at at least three Red Action meetings between 1985 and 1992"
  2. The group "sometimes met at his then constituency office"
  3. RA "provided security for Corbyn and others" at pro-Republican events
  4. RA were central to AFA, and Corbyn was connected to AFA
Let's look at those one by one.

Did Corbyn speak at Red Action meetings?

Gilligan claims Corbyn was a keynote speaker at RA's national meeting on 23 February 1985 and then "In mid-1992 Red Action co-ordinated a speaking tour with Corbyn and others to protest against the treatment of republican prisoners."

Red Action's paper mentions the national meeting of 1985, but doesn't mention Corbyn speaking there. A history of AFA narrated by Red Action activists mentions his presence in the building, describing how the meeting was violently attacked by fascists with hammers. But the wording suggests Corbyn was at the venue (Caxton House, St Johns Way - a community centre in Corbyn's constituency, which hosted all sorts of community and political events) for a different meeting:
"So I’m standing there when Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn opens the door of the centre and peeps out. ‘Have they gone?’ he says. ‘Yeah,’ I say. ‘Were they here for you or me?’ he says. ‘It was us,’ I reply. You could see the relief visible on his face. ‘Oh, good!’ he remarked cheerfully. Then, with a quick look in both directions, he skipped off down the road. I remember laughing at the time. How ironic, I thought. Here we have a Member of Parliament, no less, having to skulk around his own constituency for fear of rampaging fascists everyone else seems determined to deny exist.” (p.104)
Gilligan's claim is too specific to be totally made up, but I'd like to see what his source was, as it seems really unlikely that a Labour MP would speak at the annual national meeting of a group that was completely opposed to any support for the Labour Party.

The 1992 claim,  in contrast, is very vague, and I suspect that RA were just one group on a list organised in some kind of prisoner support meetings, i.e. that these weren't "Red Action meetings" in any way that anyone normal would use that phrase. Again, there is nothing in the 1992 issues of the RA paper to confirm Gilligan's claim.

Verdict: may be half true.

Did Red Action meet at Corbyn's office?

Gilligan details this allegation later in his article, stating that meetings were held at 129 Seven Sisters Road in Finsbury Park, including one in 1990 at which Corbyn wasn't present.

Anyone familiar with the London left will know that this was the Red Rose Club, which was used by a huge range of groups. Here's an oral history of the building. It was rented from a dairy by the local Labour Party, and Corbyn sub-let a tiny caretaker's flat above it to use for his constituency surgeries for a while. Corbyn moved out around 1990. Centrist NEC candidate Eddie Izzard, Jo Brand and Mark Lamarr were among the acts who performed at comedy nights there. I myself went to Spanish classes there, which presumably means Corbyn is also responsible for all the times I broke the law.

Verdict: almost certainly false.

Did Red Action provide security for Corbyn?

Here's the claim in full: "Red Action's journal, seen by The Sunday Times, says it provided security for Mr Corbyn and others in their work with the Troops Out Movement and Labour Committee on Ireland, which sympathised with republicanism." We already knew that Corbyn (along with Livingstone, Abbott, McDonnell, and actually quite a wide range of people on the left - see footnote 4 below) were involved with TOM and LCI, so the new "revelation" here is that RA provided security for some of its events.

As anyone who was involved in Irish causes at the time would tell you, RA stewarded lots of events in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Republican events were frequently the targets of far right violence (the English far right had close connections to Loyalist paramilitaries (see this story, this story, this story).

But Gilligan appears to be being a bit dishonest here: unless he has evidence otherwise, there's no reason to think that Corbyn would have been the person who arranged security for these meetings he spoke at. 

Verdict: probably a half truth at best.

Did Corbyn work with Red Action in AFA?

Gilligan claims Corbyn was either the national secretary or honorary president of Anti-Fascist Action when it launched in 1985, that he was "involved with it" until the mid-1990s, and that RA "made up the activist core" of AFA.

It is indeed true that Corbyn held such an office in AFA when it was formed, as can be verified in Nigel Copsey's excellent academic history of anti-fascism in Britain, as well as another article by him, and a 2012 MA dissertation for which Corbyn was interviewed.

However, what Gilligan doesn't mention is that this incarnation of AFA came to an end within a couple of years, as described here by Copsey:
However, this original AFA unravelled due to internal tensions between militant anti-fascists and more moderate anti-racists. ‘The basic contradiction, from which everything else flowed’, we have been told, ‘was between the opposing concepts of AFA as a militant action group and AFA as just another law abiding anti-racist protest group independent from political affiliations’. By 1988, fractured by in-house sectarianism, AFA had all but collapsed. The following year, however, AFA was resurrected as a militant, physical force antifascist group.
The dissertation similarly says that the question of physical violence divided AFA, with Corbyn falling on the side of non-violence:
This strategy would spit AFA in 1989, Jeremy Corbyn whilst stating he believed there was no ‘absolute right to free speech’ believed that only purely defensive physical confrontation should take place, thus, no pre-emptive violence.
I can't find a source for when Corbyn ceased to hold office in AFA, but am confident it was before the 1989 relaunch. The student dissertation says he was "involved until 1989". What's crucial to note is that the 1985 incarnation was a broad-based organisation, involving liberals and Labour members (and Red Action was briefly suspended from membership by the liberal leadership in 1987) - whereas it was the 1989 incarnation in which Red Action made up a good part of the activist core. I was involved in this later period, and I am 99.5% certain that Corbyn wasn't. That is, I am pretty sure that Gilligan is wrong when he says Corbyn was involved until the mid-1990s.

Corybn is mentioned twice in the "official" history of AFA, Beating the Fascists [pdf/buy], which reflects the Red Action version of the story. The first is the 1985 incident noted above. The second (p.121) is to note that he spoke an AFA event on Remembrance Sunday in 1986, a peaceful event designed to reclaim the day from the fascists who had been marching through London annually. There were violent incidents involving AFA in the 1985-89 period, but Corbyn was not involved in them; nor did he endorse the use of violence by AFA members.

Verdict: barely half-true.

Did Jeremy Corbyn have anything to do with the Warrington bombings?

There is one small further twist in this story, which is a bizarre claim made in 2013 that Red Action was somehow connected to the 1993 Warrington bombs claimed by the Provisional IRA. The claim seems to be based solely on some circumstantial similarities between the Harrods bomb, whose co-perpetrator, Patrick Hayes, had been a Red Action member; it is pure speculation, with absolutely no evidence. Because this speculation was mentioned in a Wikipedia article, David Aaronovitch raised it in a tweet in the wake of the Gilligan story (see footnote 1 on the role of Wikipedia in this story, see footnote 2 for whether the Warrington speculation has an plausibility).

Unlike Harrods and Ramsgate, there were victims in Warrington, so if they were involved this would add weight to the case against Red Action. However, in relation to Corbyn, this story simply adds another degree of separation and speculation. Corbyn may have had links to the Provisional IRA, but not via Red Action.


Having looked at this fairly thoroughly now, whatever grains of truth in Gilligan's account are heavily diluted by half-truths and falsehoods. I am not making this point to defend Corbyn, but to defend truth. If Corbyn is to be indicted, let it be for things he actually did.

Red Action's legacy is a mixed one. Its support for the physical force form of Irish Republicanism is highly problematic, and the fact that some of its members were passionate enough about this to get drawn into the P.IRA's terrorism accentuates this. On the other hand, Red Action did more than any other group to defeat the violent fascists who were a significant presence in England up until the mid-1990s, and should be celebrated for this. It is important to remember that far right activists murdered or inspired the murders of several black people in Britain in that period, regularly physically attacked left-wing paper sales, and sold openly Nazi material in public; Red Action and AFA curtailed this.

Red Action's politics were contemptuous of the form of leftism Corbyn represented. Like Orwell, they derided "sandal-wearing", pacifist, do-gooding leftists. They accused the Labour Party of having abandoned working class communities. I don't agree these days with Paul Stott (a former AFA activist who has written about Red Action academically), but this thread captures the relationship between RA and JC well:

1. A footnote on Wikipedia

The pro-Corbyn alt-media has of course also been keen to debunk any relationship between Red Action and Jezza, including alt-left conspiracy-mongers The Canary, blogger Tim Fenton of Zelo Street and George Galloway. They have drawn attention to the role of Wikipedia in this, suggesting some kind of co-ordinated smear against Corbyn involving the Murdoch press and Wikipedia editors.

It is true that after Gilligan wrote about Red Action, someone edited the Red Action page to mention the article, and that this occurred before Aaronovitch tweeted. But this is easily explained by the fact that people who edit Wikipedia might be looking at pages relating to stuff in the news. More Corbyn defenders than Corbyn attackers have been editing the relevant pages since this event, presumably not as part of a co-ordinated action but because they care about what Wikipedia says. This paranoid narrative about co-ordinated smears seems to have attached itself to Wikipedia in the last four months, with George Galloway and his followers promoting various bizarre and elaborate fantasies about GCHQ or Murdoch newspapers directing Wikipedia edits (Galloway offered a £1000 reward for the identity of one Wikipedia editor). This kind of conspiricism is a feature of too much of the pro-Corbyn internet, and makes it harder, not easier, to disentangle truths from smears in the media frenzy around JC.

2. A footnote on the "IRA"

Gilligan, and many of those who talk about Corbyn's IRA connections, use the word "IRA" rather sloppily. The term is used for a number of different organisations. In particular, the organisation known as the IRA from 1922 onwards split in 1969 between 
The Official IRA (OIRA), the remainder of the IRA after the 1969 split with the Provisionals; was primarily Marxist in its political orientation. It is now inactive in the military sense, while its political wing, Official Sinn Féin, became the Workers' Party of Ireland.
The Provisional IRA (PIRA) broke from the OIRA in 1969 over abstentionism and how to deal with the increasing violence in Northern Ireland. Although opposed to the OIRA's Marxism, it came to develop a left-wing orientation and increasing political activity. (Wikipedia)
The Official IRA was initially the larger of the two IRAs, although the P.IRA soon outgrew it, and was often called "the Stickies", due to the stick-on lillies they sold on Easter Sunday; the P.IRA is more often known as "the Provos". The Stickies were less engaged in armed struggle (and mainly directed violence at the British military, rather than civilian targets), particularly after declaring a ceasefire in 1972.

The INLA was a breakaway from the O.IRA that opposed the ceasefire, and one former Red Action member, Liam Heffernan, was involved in planning a foiled INLA terror campaign (convicted on the evidence of a paid informant turned MI5 agent), and Red Action probably had closer links with the political wing of the INLA than with either of the IRA wings. Heffernan is mentioned in the Gilligan piece as another indictment of Red Action, although it is unlikely other RA members knew of Heffernan's INLA connections, and inconceivable that Corbyn might have.

The point to take away is that when Gilligan and his ilk throw the term "IRA" around without qualifying who they are referring to, they show their ignorance of the complexity of the Troubles, and their lack of credibility in reporting on this.

3. A footnote on the Warrington bombs

I think there are lots of reasons to be doubtful about the speculation about Warrington.  Hayes himself couldn't have carried out the Warrington bombs - the perpetrators of the first Warrington bomb, in February, were caught, and Hayes was already in prison when the second one occurred in March. So the speculation is that he was somehow "connected" to it, e.g. was part of the supply chain for the explosives, or that it was someone "like Hayes", i.e. another Red Action member. In fact, it is unclear if Hayes was actually a "member" of the P.IRA, if the campaign Harrods was part of was "sub-contracted" to him (a very unusual practice in P.IRA history - they were extremely paranoid about infiltration) or if he was working in their name and under their influence without being a formal operative (much as many terror actions are carried out by "self-radicalised" individuals in the name of ISIS who are not actually ISIS "members"). Hayes had a large quantity of weaponry in his flat when arrested, which has very rarely happened with actual P.IRA operatives, who would not take that risk. He was already known to police because of his work with AFA, so it would be risky to use his active service too widely. All his other actions were in the London area. He confessed at his trial to incidents in the London area he was not charged with, yet never mentioned Warrington. All in all, the association between Hayes or Red Action and Warrington is completely tenuous.

4. A footnote on Republicanism in the London left 

Image from History is Made at Night
As noted above, support for one or another form of Republican militancy was not unusual in the London left in this period, especially in parts of London where there was a large Irish community, such as Corbyn's Islington (then only at the beginning of the gentrification that has remade it as a middle class area). Even Peckham's Harriet Harman, for example, can be seen here engaging with the Communist-dominated Connolly Association, which maintained links with both P.IRA and O.IRA, and the Association and the Labour Committee on Ireland successfully lobbied for Labour Party support for Irish unification. Rubber bullets, a covered up shoot to kill, miscarriages of justice, the daily persecution of Catholics in Belfast and Irish migrants in London all contributed to a sense of solidarity from many on the left for the cause, if less so for the tactics - and the escalation of terrorism against mainland security targets in the early 1990s did a lot to erode that support.

The Troops Out Movement was one of the more broad-based pro-Republican groups, which didn't explicitly support armed struggle. I remember attending their London march in around 1991, probably one of the annual Bloody Sunday commemorations, which were supported by a range of other Irish groups and well attended. By the later 1990s, I had turned against all forms of nationalism, but did, as part of AFA, help steward a couple of these kinds of events, as they were regularly subject to fascist violence. For example, over 300 fascists were arrested attacking the 1993 march. The obverse, intimacy between the English far right and armed Ulster Loyalism in this period, is also now little remembered. This context is vital for understanding Corbyn and McDonnell's politics. 

Further reading: 

Friday, August 24, 2018

White Helmets, black blocs, red flags

Rohini Hensman
In his epilogue to Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon calls for a “new history of man,” separate from the fake “humanism” preached by colonial Europe, which was itself the negation of humanity. In the same vein, those of us who believe in the ideals of socialism must articulate a new conception of democratic internationalist politics informed by a radical humanism, to pit against the synthetic “anti-imperialism” of neo-Stalinists, Assadists and soft isolationists. We must also reclaim the poetry and vivacity of human rights that have long been sterilized by legalism and instrumentalized by liberal hawks and neo-conservatives for their own nefarious agendas.
That's a quote from Ralph Leonard's review of Rohini Hensman's important new book Indefensibile: Democracy, Counterrevolution, and the Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism, published a couple of months ago by Haymarket Books (here's another review by Paul Hampton). For some reason, there is a lot of Ralph in this month's (mercifully shorter than usual) round-up of essential reads from across the web. This spirit - the renewal of democratic internationalist politics - is, I guess, what animates this blog in general and today's post in particular.

One of our key challenges is combating what the French call "confusionism" and the Germans call the "querfront: the strange and unsavoury alliance between the far right and parts of the left. We can see elements of this convergence currently articulated around two key themes: the defense of national sovereignty against a supposed "globalist" elite and the rejection of key truths as a "mainstream narrative" that needs to be countered by amplifying alternative "truths".

While adherents of the querfront often do so in good faith, out of ideological conviction, its politics also serve the purpose of the Russian state in its hybrid war against Western power, and so the Russian state invests resources in amplifying confusionist voices and narratives.

Syria has been one litmus test of this confusionism, with the growth of a Russian-resourced disinformation and propaganda network tasked with winning the battle for global hearts and minds for the criminal Russian war in Syria. That network scored a major victory last week when Labour MP Chris Williamson endorsed one of the key nodes of the network, Vanessa Beeley.

In the New Statesman, Oz Katerji wrote this essential piece: Labour can be Jo Cox’s party or Chris Williamson’s – it cannot be both. If you only click on one of today's links, make it this one. Here's an extract:
Beeley’s conspiracism doesn’t stop with Syria; she has written crank conspiracies on the Charlie Hebdo massacre, which she described as “oxygen for this dying piece of shit Zio media”. A Swedish university also triggered a backlash and was forced to apologise after hosting a lecture by her that was widely condemned by visiting students. 
In 2014 Beeley appeared on a panel in Paris alongside French “comedian” and convicted anti-Semite Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, notorious for creating the inverted Nazi salute “la quenelle”, and far-right former Belgian MP and convicted Holocaust-denier, Laurent Louis. 
Beeley also has a history of anti-Semitic statements, including saying “Zionists rule France” and that French-American journalist Shawn Carrie was likely an “Ashkenazi Jew” and labelled him a “Zionist agent” after he published an article questioning the dubious funding behind the pro-Assad activism of Bartlett and Beeley and their associates. Speaking to the New Statesman, Carrie accused Beeley of anti-Semitic abuse, claiming her purpose was to “slander journalists and stir up hatred”.
The other key site (with some overlaps with the Beeley network) for the UK version of the querfront is in the pro-Brexit scene that includes the Morning Star, Counterfire, Blue Labour, Labour Leave, the Arron Banks-funded Trade Unionists Against the EU, Full Brexit and the former Trotskyists at Spiked. Here's Andrew Coates on one of their recent initiatives and on why anti-fascists need to shun them.

Everything else

Friday, July 27, 2018

Fisking Robert Fisk's latest shoddy Syria report

Robert Fisk is published by the Independent - notably in their "Voices" section rather than in their foreign reporting - and hasn't said anything interesting or useful for ages. A lot of what he says isn't actually true. Here I go though his latest article..

Still not there

Still trawling through the backlog...
Image result for socialism in one country

Against Lexit idiocy
I'm getting increasingly irritated at the Fully Automated Luxury People's Brexit brigade (you know who I mean), with their endless sneering at those of us who care about the fact that the Tory Brexit they are objectively backing will devastate huge swathes of our industries and public services, and in particular the way they (themselves mostly professional chatterers living in the metropolis) try to label all Remainers as metropolitan liberals - a mirror of the proto-fascist faux anti-elitism of their right-wing twins Farage, Banks and co. Here's Simon Hannah on the nasty and brutish discourse emerging, Martin Thomas on industrial policy in one country, and Michael Chessum on the disastrous wedge between the political left and the anti-Brexit movement.

While the Fully Automated Luxury Lexiteers also like to sneer at "centrists" and "gammons", when the topic turns to Brexit they are increasingly indistinguishable from their gammony bedfellows who I like to call Full English Breakfast National Socialists, such as Paul Embery and Giles Fraser. Here's comrade Coates taking on Embery's blood and soil ranting.

The rising right
Ralph Leonard on the strange case of Douglas Murray. Matthew Lyons on the alt-right and on how Trump uses right-wing populism to unite divergent groups. Peter Ryley on populism v democracy. Libcom on Kill all Normies. Natalie Nougayrède on Bannon's mission to radicalise Europe. Nick Cohen on why the Israeli right are not friends of the Jews.

A fucked left
Clay Claibourne on the white left (and part 2). Asad Haider on getting beyond identity politics.  Ceren Türkmen for a new internationalist left.  Bill Weinberg on the left's betrayal of Russian dissidents.  Luke Fawly on how the Stalinists tried to turn back 1968. Martin Thomas on Bennism. Rob Marchant on Corbyn's geopolitical failures. Richard Reef says don't blame Trump on liberal smugness. Charles Davis on Jill Stein's recount millionsMaximillian Alvarez on Antifascism and the Left’s Fear of Power. Finally, if you live in Hawaii please read pplswar and then vote for Sherry Alu not Tulsi Gabbard.

Syria, anti-imperialism and the right to tell stories
Cody Roche on Syria and the alt-left. Brian Whitaker on Pilger and the Syria truthers. Kellie Strom reviews Kassem Eid's My Country and Bronwen Griffiths reviews The Burning Shores. In the first Hummus for Thought podcast Sarah Hunaidi and Joey Ayoub look at ‘the personal as political’ and reflect on the Syrian revolution, being a migrant or refugee and the right to narrate. Joey Ayoub on Rohini Hensman’s Indefensible. In antidote zine, a powerful Greek anarchist text on the failure of anti-imperialism and need for solidarity with the Syrian revolution. Leila al-Shami on women in the frontline of struggle in Idlib. Bill Weinberg podcasts on Nicaragua and Syria. Blood for oil: Bill Weinberg on Putin's petropolitics in Syria. The Communist Workers Organisation reassert genuine internationalism against anti-imperialism. Analysis of how Russia won Syria's war. Oliver Kamm on anti-western dogma and conspiracy theory. Mattia Silvia on the Leon Sedov Brigade (previously written about by Cody Roche).

Clay Claibourne on Gaddafi's slave auctions. Via Jeff Weintraub: Andy Markovits & Heiko Beyer on the long-standing interaction between anti-Americanism and antisemitism. Bill Weinberg on AMLO-Trump populist convergence. Louis Proyect appreciates Anthony Bourdain. History at Night remembers Brixton Reclaim the Streets 1998. Why Picturehouse is not cool. Carly Pildis on who gets to define antisemitism

Friday, July 06, 2018

May turns to June and June turns to July

Well over a month since my last round-up, so this bunch of links to recent must-reads might be even more obese than normal...

Call to action
SyriaUK on why the UK must act on Southern Syria before it's too late.

Useful idiots
James Bloodworth brilliantly anatomises the six types of useful idiots. An extract from the entry on the power worshipper:
While [George Bernard] Shaw was singing the praises of Stalinism the Soviet Union was gripped by a terrible – and entirely avoidable – famine. Yet the spell cast by Stalin’s flattery overpowered any potential concern on Shaw’s part for the starving peasantry.
In more recent times fringe journalists such as Vanessa Beeley have travelled to Syria only to return to Britain toeing the regime line that President Bashar al Assad is engaged in a manichean struggle against the terrorists of the Islamic State. In return for such obsequies, those like Beeley, the daughter of the late British diplomat Sir Harold Beeley, have received access to parts of Syria such as Aleppo usually denied to independent journalists.
In normal circumstances Beeley would be considered a crank. She believes that the deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in 2015 was a false flag operation and that Al Qaeda was not responsible for 9/11. But Beeley is useful to the Russians and their client state in Syria, and appears regularly on English language Russian State media.
The willingness of Beeley – as well as other activist-cum-journalists including Neil Clarke and John Pilger – to champion the Kremlin line has the happy side effect (for those in question at least) of opening up large media platforms denied to them by the mainstream, spreading disinformation about Russia’s blood-soaked foreign policy.
The new right
From Bella Caledonia: Inside Climate Denial, Disinformation and Fake News. This long piece is on the full Brexit populist ideologues around the Spectator and Telegraph, particularly those who are part of the sinister former Trotskyist LM/RCP network (famous for genocide denial and excessive hair gel). An extract:
The approach of Dacre, Clark and James Heartfield (also known as James Hughes and William Deighton) is to divert attention away from political crisis, legal implication and the obscenity of social housing and bring the readers gaze back to their comfort zone of bashing greens and denying climate reality. Heartfield (or whatever he’s called) has written for Living MarxismCulture Wars, the Pro-Choice Forum and Spiked, speaks at the Battle of Ideas and is a director of building promoters Audacity. He is a member of the new Full Brexit group and is the pivot point between ‘libertarianism’ and the far right. He started the defence of smacking children in the 1990s as part of a campaign against ‘taboos’ and here he is interviewing Neil Hamilton way back in 1994, where the mutual appreciation is palpable, Hamilton ends: “‘My preferred reading matter is the Daily Telegraph and LM these days’, he adds.

The red-brown zombie plague
Alex Reid Ross’s diagram of the interplay between the Russian propaganda apparatus and fascist or Red-Brown groups – from
An essential series in NZ's Fightback by Daphne Lawless on how fascist ideas are becoming popular on the Left: 1. The pod people and alt-imperialism; 2. Vectors and Germs of the Red-Brown Virus (cites Anton Mukhamedov and also Amar Diwarkar's “The Permutations of Assadism”); 3. The three germs of red-brown convergence. (Previous useful texts by Daphne: “Against Campism”, November 2015“Against Conservative Leftism”, February 2016“Trump, Brexit, Syria… and conservative leftism, December 2016”.) An extract:
It’s common sense in liberal and Left circles that ideas like “9/11 Truth”, the theories that Barack Obama’s birth certificate was forged, or that the victims of the Sandy Hook or Parkland school shootings were “crisis actors”, are wild fantasies either made up by the bigoted and ill-informed to justify their prejudices, or else false narratives being deliberately fed to such people (for profit or political gain) by unscrupulous media operatives such as FOX News or Alex Jones’ InfoWars. We are appalled when parents of school shooting victims are harassed by unhinged strangers calling them conspiracy operatives and telling them that their dead children never existed.
And yet this is precisely what much of the Western Left has been doing to the people whose children died of chlorine poisoning in the basements of Douma, Syria. Experienced Western journalist Robert Fisk even took a trip to Douma – courtesy of the Syrian government – to find an anonymous doctor who would confirm such fantasies. This, while actual Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inspectors were still barred from the site, so that the regime and its allies could make the evidence disappear. 
The motivation is clear. “False flag” theories are based on the idea that elaborate lies are being told by a secret conspiracy to manipulate public opinion, and that mainstream sources are part of this conspiracy. Alex Jones claims that school shootings are arranged/faked by the US state (or a secret faction within it, known as the “Deep State”) to take away US citizens’ rights to bear arms. The Left argues the same about atrocities in Syria, only the goal of the conspirators is to build support for a “regime change” invasion of Syria. Similar stories are currently circulating on Leftist social media about the protests against social welfare cuts in Nicaragua, and their murderous suppression by that country’s government (search “Nicaragua CIA” on Twitter). The far-Right and the Left end up with the same narrative – there is a conspiracy within the current US State to fake atrocities and protest movements so as to expand its influence, which must be pushed back. In fact, American fascists are just as keen as any on the US Left to deny chemical attacks in Syria – the Snopes article cited above reproduces a tweet from alt-right celebrity and star of the famous “punch in the face” video, Richard Spencer, doing just that.
Daphe's text is taken from the June edition of Fightback, which is a special on fascism/anti-fascism. Among other features, it includes "Fighting the Fash since 1932: a history of Antifa in Germany" and an interview with the great Australian anarchist anti-fascist blogger Andy Fleming, aka slackbastard (see his blog here). And here's a snippet from Michael Lyons' book Insurgent Supremacists on the US far right.

The hard right and its apologists
Diminiutive petty hoodlum, self-publicist and Islamophobic demagogue "Tommy Robinson" (Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) has been much in the news for getting himself arrested for contempt of court. The Secret Barrister explains the legal case. David Aaronovitch attacks the Jews who stupidly jump on board with his racist message. Here's one example of an Islamophobic activist in the UK Jewish community.

Russia and the multipolar spin
The repression of dissent in Russia is deeply ingrained. In particular, anti-fascists and anarchists are targeted. Joshua Yaffa in the New Yorker has an important piece about this (HT Andy F). Russian libertarians autonomen regularly report on these issues - an essential read to get a feel for the Russia its state media don't like to report. See also People and NatureLibcom and oDrussia.

Renewing left politics - against Lexit populism and political confusionism
Matt Wrack on socialism, Stalinism, Grenfell, Momentum and more, Martin Thomas on Industrial policy in one country. Andrew Coates on Aaron Bastani's Fully Automated Luxury Communism: Confusionism for Happy Bunnies, and on Giles Fraser's turn to antisemitic national socialism.

Robert Fine z''l
One of the most important thinkers of our time on some of these issues - developing arguments against left nationalism and left antisemitism, from a cosmopolitan perspective - has been Robert Fine. His premature death last weekend is a devastating blow to radical politics. Here's some memories by comrade on the left and here's an obit in Engage, which has this set of links at the end, to which I've added a couple more.

Freedom of movement
An interview with Swiss philosopher Andreas Cassee by Papierlose Zeitung in AntidoteZine on the case for global freedom of movement.

Friday, May 11, 2018

A pint of the usual

This week's round-up...

UK Politics and Election 2018

Lewisham East

My take on the runners and riders in the forthcoming Lewisham East by-election, and on the selection process. (A thread that will be out of date by Wednesday night, so read it now.)

Labour antisemitism

Daniel Allington on how antisemitism slips beneath the radar on left-wing social media. Rob Marchant on Len McCluskey's bullying of Labour "moderates". Rosa Doherty: Millennials are proud of being “woke” – so why don’t they call out antisemitism? Some stats on Labour and the Jews, by Stan Anson.

The right, the far right and the really far right

Shiraz Socialism on the hypocrisy and racism of the Tories.

UKIP: Hope not Hate on UKIP's election failures.

Is this Britain's most influential far-right activist? The BBC investigates Jim Dowson.

The hard left

The information war, Syria solidarity and Putinism

Leila Sibai on the tragic fall of Syria’s Eastern Ghouta.

Omar Sabbour on why the White Helmets aren't the West's puppets. Brian Whitaker on Vanessa Beeley, the Kremlin's "goddess" of propaganda. From 2016, but newly republished at Pulse: Charles Davis on why disagreeing on the internet isn't the new McCarthyism. Sam Hamad on the alternate reality that makes genocide possible. Louis Proyect on the contradictory nature of pro-Russian accounts of chemical attacks. Luke Harding on how Russia fights the Salisbury propaganda war.
Anton Mukhamedov on why you aren’t antiwar if you aren’t anti-Assad’s war. Mohammed Sulaiman on the Left’s Erasure of Syrians. Joshka Wessels on how Assad chases, tortures and kills the best of Syria’s young pacifist leftists. Joseph Dahar calls for a rebuilding of revolutionary humanism and genuine anti-war movement. Idrees Ahmed asks if there are really no good guys left in Syria.