Friday, November 23, 2018

Friday notes: Chris Williamson, Angela Nagle, Stand Up To Racism and more

In this post, why I hate Chris Williamson, why the "left" case against migration is dangerous, and why the left needs to stop promoting SWP fronts, plus a brief round-up of other reading...

Chris Williamson

This week Chris Williamson, MP for Derby North, is in the news as a group of London Labour student societies have refused to work with Westminster CLP after it invited Williamson, citing his antisemitism. I don't know if Williamson is "an antisemite" - I tend to reserve that term for people with a deep-seated ideological commitment to an explicitly antisemitic worldview - but I do know that he has time and again denied, minimised, apologised for or defended antisemitism in the Labour Party and is odious for lots of other reasons too.

The letter from Tessa Milligan in the Twitter thread starting here (unrolled here) gives a fairly comprehensive list of the times Williamson  defended racists and Holocaust deniers or shared a platform with expelled Labour Party members. Here is a petition calling for the party to withdraw the whip from him because of this. Here are all of The Red Roar's posts on him, including about his basically Tory policies as council leader in Derby. Here is Anti-Nazis United documenting how often he retweets antisemites.

For me, one of the most unforgivable things Williamson has done is promote Vanessa Beeley, a war crimes denier and fake news merchant. Here is an extract from Oz Katerji in the New Statesman on this incident:
Williamson, who was attending the Beautiful Days festival, tweeted of his “privilege” in meeting Vanessa Beeley, a blogger who described meeting the Syrian regime’s war criminal president Bashar al Assad as her “proudest moment” and has waged a relentless campaign of lies and distortion to promote the Assad regime abroad.
This is not Williamson’s first dalliance with pro-Assad trutherism, having voiced doubts over allegations that Assad was responsible for the gas attack on Douma while addressing a protest outside parliament in April 2018. Williamson has been no stranger to causing offence to Jewish Labour members in recent months, so his endorsement this week of Beeley, who has also been accused of anti-Semitism, marks another new low for the Labour party. 
Responding in kind to Williamson’s endorsement, Beeley said in a Facebook post “Hats off to Chris Williamson, Labour MP - a genuine human being.”... 
Williamson’s tweet provoked immediate condemnation, drawing a strong response from James O’Brien, who called Williamson a “disgrace” and referred to Beeley as “Assad’s very own Alex Jones.” 
The Washington Post’s Middle East correspondent, Louisa Loveluck, responded to Williamson’s endorsement of Beeley’s “reporting” with: “Beeley has justified the use of incendiary weapons against civilians, recycled and championed debunked conspiracy theories, and described a meeting with Assad as her proudest moment. This is cheerleading, not reporting.”
Noting that Beeley has viciously slandered the late Jo Cox (Beeley "has shamelessly accused her of being a “warmongering Blairite” and “al-Qaeda advocate” endorsing a policy of “wholesale devastation” on Syria.) Oz argues that the Labour Party has a choice between being the party of Jo Cox or the party of Chris Williamson.

Williamson's support for Assadism is of a piece with his wider geopolitical commitments: a vulgar form of Cold War second camp "anti-imperialism", in which any force, however authoritarian, that is opposed to "the West", is seen as heroic. Hence his backing for Maduro's increasingly repressive government in Venezuela.

And this vulgar anti-imperialist worldview is dangerous today, as it is easily weaponised by Russia, one of the most malignant global powers - hence Williamson's regular appearances on RT and other Russian government platforms (including on the show hosted by George Galloway), and in particular why his attempts to claim Russia wasn't to blame for the Salisbury chemical attack is so ominous.

Angela Nagle and the "left" case against no borders

US alt-left writer Angela Nagle has attracted some controversy for arguing - in an ultra-conservative outlet - that the left needs to take a strong pro-border position. 


Thankfully, Nagle's piece has received quite a bit of pushback. Here's a critique by Mike Isaacson and another by sherbu-kteer at libcom and a Twitter thread by Tipping the Elements. For background, here is a long article on Marx and migration which Nagle misquoted, and a related post on MRZine against left nativism. here is a sharp review of Nagle's Kill All Normies by Jules Joanne Gleeson in the New Socialist, Mike Harmon on Nagle's plagiarism of right-wing sources, and Libcom on what's wrong with Kill All Normies.

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton said the way to combat populism is to push for stronger borders. Not surprisingly, the luxury automated left (Owen Jones, Aaron Bastani etc) leapt to criticise Clinton, repeating their familiar mantra that centrism somehow always leads to fascism. But their failure to criticise leftists such as John McDonnell or Angela Nagle who say the same thing speaks volumes.


Stand Up To Racism

I have continued to be enraged that the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is not universally treated as a pariah on the British left, given its history of rape cover up, promotion of Holocaust deniers, and generally destructive and parasitical role in relation to any positive social movement it touches. The SWP's "anti-fascist" fronts - "Stand Up To Racism", "Unite Against Fascism" (UAF) and "Love Music Hate Racism" - are key vehicles through which the SWP launders its reputation, reaches out to the broader left/liberal world, and attracts vulnerable young recruits.

This month saw the #N17unity march, which was ostensibly organised by all three of these organisations (a joke given the three organisations are staffed by the exactly same people). The significance of the event is two-fold. It is the first major outing for the "Unite Against Fascism" brand, which was mostly shelved in favour of the "Stand Up To Racism" brand after the Martin Smith/Comrade Delta scandal became too high profile - and as such marks a rehabilitation of the brand. Second, in the wake of the disturbing rise of fascism (and John McDonnell's comment that we need another Anti-Nazi League), the demonstration appears to have attracted widespread support from the mainstream Labour left, which is coup for the SWP. 

Here is an extract from a Red Roar piece which asks the right questions:
After the rape scandal caused huge damage to its reputation on the left, the SWP set up several front groups to draw in new support, as well as funds, from people who might be repelled by the controversial party’s brand. Weyman Bennett, a member of the SWP’s central committee, became the co-convenor of Stand Up To Racism, Joint-Secretary of UAF, and Director of Love Music Hate Racism. Not only are the same SWP figures behind these organisations, their social media accounts regularly tweet identical messages
Labour frontbenchers, trade union leaders, and other public figures co-signed a letter earlier this month promoting the demonstration in The Guardian, which made no mention of its organisers. This was almost certainly a conscious decision to avoid the criticism Jeremy Corbyn and others faced for addressing a 2016 demo organised the SWP. Indeed, Weyman Bennett’s name was left off the signatories entirely. 
In 2016, journalists Owen Jones, Dawn Foster, Abi Wilkinson, and Laurie Penny, as well as figures from alt-left sites Evolve Politics and Novara Media, protested Corbyn’s appearance at the Stand Up To Racism event with letters, social media posts, and articles in national newspapers. This time around, that criticism was nowhere to be seen. Most of the well-known signatories of a letter calling on Corbyn to “not let the SWP rebuild itself through Stand Up To Racism” two years ago stayed silent during the weekend’s march, while Owen Jones and Aaron Bastani retweeted several posts carrying its hashtags. 
So why have previously outspoken critics of the SWP given in to this “cult which covered up rape”? And why do organisations with membership numbers and resources far outweighing the SWP continue to support its front organisations?

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