Amazon is the largest online retailer on the planet. The company currently employs about 1.3 million people worldwide, placing it among the top 10 employers in the world, along with the US Department of Defense, the Chinese Army, the UK National Health Service, and private corporations like MacDonald’s and Walmart.
Amazon is a U.S. multinational company that focuses its business on a global e-commerce-based postal service and secondarily in cloud-computing, streaming and artificial intelligence. It is considered one of the five major global technology companies that control almost everything that is digital, commerce, internet searches, information about all users and even more their employees.
Amazon composes the acronym “FAGA”, along with Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook. These trusts are responsible for technological imperialism, based on the exploitation of labor, obviously information control, fake news, trade wars, dumping, currency evasion for tax havens and scheduled obsolescence.
The largest contemporary capitalist private company
During the pandemic, Amazon owner Jeff Bezos increased his fortune by nearly 30 percent, adding $34 billion since January 2020. Bezos began the year 2020 owner of “modest” US$ 115 billion. But with the pandemic and increased sales during social isolation, the company’s revenue and shares skyrocketed.
The company’s slogan is “work hard, have fun, make history.” In fact, Amazon’s 1.3 million employees took the hard, hard work, while Bezos has fun and makes history and could become the first trillion-dollar employer on the planet, achieving a dizzying social ascent with a company founded in 1994. His net worth has grown 34 percent on average over the past five years. In 2012, Amazon bought Kiva Systems to automate its inventory management business. In 2017, Amazon bought Whole Foods Market, a multinational natural products supermarket. The acquisition cost $13.4 billion, expanding Amazon’s physical retail. Amazon Prime is a 48-hour delivery service that has surpassed 100 million subscribers worldwide in 2018. In addition to Whole, Amazon’s trust groups Alexa, CreateSpace, Kindle, Audible, Audible.com, DPReview, Box Office Mojo, Goodreads, Twitch.tv and AbeBooks, among many other companies and technologies. In 2019, Amazon became the most valuable company in the world, surpassing Microsoft.
Intense exploitation of work and anti-unionism
The untheoretical growth of Amazon’s largest retail e-commerce network relies on a really hard work regime. To this end, it dismantled all attempts to form trade unions in the U.S. or to unionize their workers into existing unions, with persecution and layoffs, terror and blackmail, meetings, and anti-union training courses. However, Amazon has not been able to prevent strikes, including savage strikes in both the US and the European Union. At the plants of Germany and Italy the workers have carried out powerful strikes and plucked conquests.
The company establishes journeys of up to 36 hours in a row, shifts from 10h-12h, during which, the selectors are practically all the time working standing; 30-minute intervals between shifts, restriction and monitoring of bathroom use, drinking water and changing work gloves and paying $15.30 per hour. Many workers have been dying because they have been forced to work under these massing rhythms and unhealthy conditions at Amazon’s facilities during the Pandemic.
In early 2020, Amazon fired JFK8 shed manager Christian Smalls because he was organizing workers not to contract coronavirus in the shed after seven confirmed cases, he claimed to close the shed for 2 weeks and establish paid sick leave during that period. After his resignation, the company’s executives immediately began a secret plan to turn him into a villain, accused him of the opposite of what he claimed, to put his co-workers in danger upon returning to the building and possibly exposing them to Covid-19.
The union defeat in the battle of Bessemer
One of the first struggles for the right to unionization at Amazon took place in Minnesota in 2010. However, this struggle failed to boost an internal vote for unionization. In 2014, it was the turn of the workers of the sheds of Delaware. This fight was stronger, managed to impose a vote for unionization but was defeated. In November 2020, workers at the Bessemer Distribution Center, in a poor suburb north of Birmingham, Alabama, where about 6,000 people work, filed a lawsuit with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold a unionization vote.
In one of the U.S. states with the largest anti-union tradition, Republican-controlled Alabama was where one of the largest recent battles for the unionization of Amazon workers developed. The battle took place through a vote among workers who will decide whether or not to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which represents 100,000 members across the United States.
“Alabama is one of 27 ‘right-to-work states’ where workers don’t have to pay fees to unions that represent them because employer’s legislation ‘freed’ workers from the union tax. In fact, the state is home to the only Mercedes-Benz factory in the world that is not unionized.”
In 2019, Bessemer with a poverty rate of 30% of the population was named “The worst city to live in” in the State of Alabama, (https://247wallst.com/special-report/2019/07/22/worst-cities-to-live-in-every-state-4/2/)
Alabama was one of the largest slave states in the Southern Confederacy. Today, blacks make up 25% of the population, while the national average is 13%. More than 70% of the city’s population is black. In the Bessemer shed 85% of workers are black, much more than the 22% for workers in other distribution centers in the country. Then, after the year 2020, marked by the largest wave of protests against racism in U.S. history, the union struggle united with the struggle for dignity and respect of black workers in opposition to the racism contained in capitalist exploitation.
However, in the vote inside the factory, the struggle for unionization to the RWDSU was defeated by a ratio of 2 votes to 1. Only 738 of the factory’s 5,800 workers voted in favor of the union within a total of 3,215 voters, 1,798 voted against, not counting spoiled and disputed ballots. The fact that less than 13% of workers voted for unionization at RWDSU is a defeat that needs to be explained.
The causes of defeat point to the conditions necessary for victory
Like almost everything in life, several contradictory determinations have combined for a phenomenon. One of the causes of the defeat was the fact that Amazon played hardball in its campaign, resorting to different forms of persuasion, from intimidation to conducting sympathetic anti-union indoctrination meetings, betting on different modes for different audiences, thus involving coertion, threats of layoffs, surveillance and also the appeal to individualism, the distrust of workers with the union that would only be interested in discounts on paychecks.
The company also distributed anti-union bottons “Vote No” and “asked” its employees to display them on the cords of their functional badges: “Almost everyone uses them,” said Daniel Tarvese, a 36-year-old Amazon worker. Many young workers were also seduced by the company’s demagoguery at anti-union meetings conducted entirely by gentle black instructors,
“They were nice, they were just telling us what the union was doing,” said Jeremiah Okai,19. It was the presentation on union contributions that helped persuade him to vote against the Amazon union in Alabama – The union] will take money from me – Okai said – I don’t want any money taken from me.”
As part of the arsenal of this corporate hybrid warfare, Amazon also appealed to the so-called Hawthorne Effect, developed in a light bulb factory in Australia a century ago. It is about instilling in workers the belief that they were valued, cared and that someone cared about their workplace, even when they are being subjected to the risk of dying by Covid (!). In addition, anti-union seminars were made a theater that workers were having the opportunity to discuss changes to increase productivity in the company, while collaborating with the denial of their elementary labor and union rights.
One of the main ballot boxes was installed in front of the company and managers insisted that workers fill out ballots and deposit them at the ballot box in front of them as an open vote.
But this was already expected by the bosses and it is only the purest fatalism justifying defeat just because the other side was stronger and used all its legal and illegal weapons to win, as they try to justify the union. Moreover, it is also not new that it was from corporate espionage against the political and trade union organization of workers, through Pinkerton detective agencies, that were born, in the early twentieth century, the powerful international spy agencies of the United States.
“Jeff Bezos would not be the richest man in the world if he were not versed in the fundamentals of maximizing profit – among them, the suppression of labor costs and the flight of regulations. Unionization is antithetical to this goal because unions exist to ensure better wages and safer and more comfortable working conditions, which raises labor costs and lowers profits. If Bezos gets what he wants, there will never be a shed with even unionized workers on Amazon.”
(Companies like Amazon hire spies to crack down on union formation all the time, https://jacobin.com.br/2020/10/empresas-como-amazon-contratam-espioes-para-reprimir-formacao-de-sindicatos-o-tempo-todo/)
The problem is that if on the one hand it was the largest valuable of the world’s exploitative workers’ companies, on the other hand, a bourgeois and bureaucratic campaign was carried out by the leadership of the movement for unionization. This other side merely held an identity struggle against racism but did not establish a single concrete claim of workers against Amazon, which is an essential function of the union, “forgotten” by RWDSU and the arch-bureaucratic central trade union AFL-CIO. They also did not try to build a national movement and work with other unions to try to reach various Amazon facilities across the country at the same time.
The campaign for unionization was supported by the Democratic Party, including the explicit support of “Socialist” Senator Bernie Sanders, U.S. President Joe Biden and even Republican senators like Marco Rubio. But America’s working class is too disgusted with the politics of Democrats and all their traditional political representatives, including unions. Not by chance, Trump was elected in 2016 and was voted most in Alabama in 2020 because a part of the working-class electorate, historically voters of Democrats who protested in a reactionary way, seduced by Trump’s false “apolitical” appeal and rejecting traditional establishment politicians, including the AFL-CIO that integrates the regime and supported the spin on the financialization of the economy, industrial relocations, factory closures,wage reductions that have caused one-third of industrial jobs to be destroyed in the U.S. in the last 50 years.
One of the progressive reactions to this rejection of the establishment was the “socialist” wave unheard of in the US, headed by Bernie Sanders in 2018-19, which was also soon betrayed and buried by Bernie Sanders himself.
So, it is no wonder that, on the basis of the very alienation of labor, the individualism stimulated in bourgeois society, and especially in the decadent American society, Amazon’s campaigns against unionization have worked. Even so, from this filter of demoralization and employer indoctrination, 1/3 of the workers willing to face the consequences of corporate espionage and the risk of dismissal itself still escaped. And this 1/3 is due a lot to the organization of workers in the workplace:
“Without a strong organizing committee, already involving the boss in the factory floor action, the workers did not have the ability to see the potential positive side of the union because they never saw the union in action on the factory floor before being called to vote to join it. … the organizing committee already acts as a union, winning workplace campaigns to change things and defending co-workers who face unfair discipline. … In huge facilities with thousands of workers like Amazon, the process of building a strong organizing committee and trust in the organizing committee through combined actions can sometimes take years. RWDSU had begun its campaign last June when outrage over unsafe working conditions during COVID was high. Although they showed great momentum and initial interest, they never developed a strong organizing committee that was concerned with building trust through actions on the shop floor and organization against the boss. Instead, they precipitated a union election, or did what is known in the union organization as “hot shopping,” where union organizers hope to take advantage of an outburst of anger at a facility over things like poor COVID working conditions to force and win and a fast-track union election. However, initial support for union enthusiasm collapsed under the weight of Amazon’s sophisticated anti-union campaign, which combined threats of job loss with promises of improvement if workers rejected the union. Many workers in interviews who voted against the union admitted they knew little about unions. This allowed the company, through anti-union meetings, to create fear about the change that unions could bring about, warning workers that their wages may actually decline due to a contract or, worse, that their facilities may close.”
Despite the defeat in Alabama, the fight continues and internationalizes outside and inside Amazon.
A win in Bessemer would boost a domino effect on all Amazon plants in the US, with workers feeling encouraged to put a stop to these degrading working and low-wage conditions. After the union’s defeat, many workers are likely to face retaliation. But this defeat also stimulates the construction of union and political work to organize the class patiently by ad hoc workplace. While the results were being counted in the battle at Bessemer, even not unionized, Amazon workers from Chicago began a new battlefront, with a wildcat strike, claiming wage increase of $2 per hour, division of costs of transport to and from work and modifications in the shift of 10.5 hours. They organize under the name Amazonians United Chicagoland:
Unionizing is not a moment, it’s a process. Unionizing is a moving process when workers meet to formulate claims and a plan to sign most co-workers. Unionization is happening when uninvolved coworkers join class actions against management and when a new member of the organizing committee distributes Amazonians United newsletters during the break. We’re unionizing as we develop a sense of family among ourselves as we gather for barbecues and kickbacks while helping each other through times of need. That electricity in the air after we roll up a manager, making him nervous when he delivers our petition and expressing our demands as a group, knocking him and us up. … That feeling is our union, a workers’ union, coming to be.
We’re building a real union, not a useless business union, which is simply an extracting organization of law firm employees for workers to call. We are not interested in handing over our collective power to a bureaucrat who appears every three years to ′negotiate′ a concession contract through backroom agreements with our bosses. We don’t need the recognition of the NLRB or the Amazon to form our union, grow our union, or fight as a union. Our union is us workers, organized, acting collectively, building unity, growing in solidarity, fighting as one.
So, what does it take to unionize Amazon? It will take perseverance, humility and struggle. It will lead many workers with a deep commitment to organize the spread throughout the Amazon facilities, forming OCs that face issues that resonate with co-workers. Every time we gain a change through the organization, co-workers see the power to act collectively. This is how we begin transformations across the workplace from the standard individualistic mindset to a collective mindset. This is how we create a culture of militancy where we all put our incompetent managers in their place instead of bowing our heads to their disrespect. Each organizing committee, committed to the principles of the United Amazonians, is the foundation of our union, and we grow from there, collectively developing our strategy and vision as we go. ”
Not only was the trillion-dollar slave boss, capitalist racism, the imperialist White House becoming an ally, the Democratic trade union bureaucracy, not only all these obstacles against their emancipation, some “Trotskyists” who appear to help, hinder even more. The ICFI organization, which owns the WSWS website, campaigns against unionization by releasing pamphlets that say they are not organized in the unions, organize with the WSWS (!?). Bezos thanks them and even more thanks the imperialist Democrats because with this sectarian policy the most conscientious workers will repudiate the “Trotskyist” sterility and continue to be deceived by Sanders and Biden.
Even empirically, Amazon’s most combative and conscientious workers know they need to organize for the fight against bosses, and if bosses pursue union activity, even if most unions are bureaucratized, it is necessary to boost the union’s class organization. And in this sense follow the struggle the workers of Amazon of Chicago, or Germany and Italy.
A capitalist post office, as a model of a socialist institution
As Lenin believed, the union is a school of class struggle, the first single front of workers against their employers. From this school of economic and immediate struggle it is possible to move on to the political and strategic struggle. From the struggle against an individual capitalist or corporation, to the fight against all capital, against the system of assembly and thus, advance in the consciousness of the proletariat by the expropriation of expropriators, by a new social and economic order. The communist consciousness is not only built after the passage of trade union struggle, but there is no communist organization with proletarian work of the masses, with renunciation of immediate and economic work.
Soon, soon, even the most conservative sectors, but the rearguard of the proletariat of Amazon is going to realize that they were cheated with lies and techniques of persuasion. Illusions will pass, fear will pass, only work overload, slavery and misery will remain. The fight against Amazon is a contemporary class struggle school.
The company seemed politically stronger than the manifest will of the U.S. president and his party. As it was the interests of the workers, the support of the Democrats and Biden was nothing more than proselytizing. Biden was so vehement in defending the unionization of Amazon workers when disinterested in their victory. You could have used any state device to pressure Bezos, but you didn’t. “It wouldn’t be ethical,” in their logic.
Bezos acted as if the president’s words were a dead letter, and the White House too, to the anguish of the “socialists” and Democratic unionists and the next big deal demonstrated how windy were the words of Biden’s statement. On April 13, Blue Origin, an aerospace company founded by Jeff Bezos, ran a lucrative business with the U.S. State. Bezos signed a $2.5 million contract with the Pentagon to design a nuclear-powered spacecraft. The commander in chief of the Pentagon is Biden. The outcome of this dispute also points to those who are in charge of the relationship between the imperialist state and the increasingly powerful global monopolistic corporations.
Amazon and USA; Alibaba and China
In this sense, it is a good benchmark for the contradictory relationship between the Chinese state and the Alibaba conglomerate, whose businesses, like those of Amazon, are based on electronic commerce. Alibaba accounts for 60% of the volume of deliveries in China.
The Chinese capitalist state well knows that it needs to maintain control of the market and corporations in order not to lose control of the economy if its plans are to follow its U.S. outperform route. Against Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, owner of Alibaba, the Chinese government imposed heavy fines and blocked the opening of capital of the Ant Group on the Shanghai and Hong Kong Stock Exchanges. With more than 1.2 billion users, Ant Group is in practice the world’s largest fintech.
According to the Chinese government and press, Ma was slowed by making acquisition agreements contrary to antitrust laws and having announced that he would hold the largest IPO (the initial public offering of shares) in the history of the Stock Exchanges. ‘If they leave the company uncontrolled, their own control can be eroded.’ Prevent disorderly expansion of capital’.
The Chinese techno-bureaucracy, which claims as a reference its formation in dialectical materialism (under Maoist vices), knows that controlling the growth of an individual multimillionaire is fundamental to continue with the planned advance of Chinese capitalism. So while the U.S. is bitter at the unstoppable if not world war of its hegemony on the globe, Chinese capitalism is still thriving for the time being. China’s economy grew by 18.3% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. It was the largest increase in gross domestic product (GDP) since quarterly data began to be collected in the early 1990s. 2021 surpassed the previous record increase of 15.3% in the first quarter of 1993.
Victorious today, Amazon prepares the conditions for its strategic defeat tomorrow.
The owner of Amazon is the richest individual capitalist on the planet. Amazon is the largest online retailer. Amazon with all its weapons offers us the most sophisticated conditions of contemporary capitalism to learn how to fight it. So far, the parasite Bezos and his entourage have fared better in battles. But our sidelearns, strengthens in number, before the first wave of the pandemic in March 2020, Amazon announced that it would hire 100,000 more workers for its sheds in Canada and the USA. And equally important is that the experience of battles better selects the commanders of the fight on ourside, making the Democratic bureaucrats be overcome by new combative leaders. We learn how to beat their secret agents, their technological pitfalls, their cyber espionage. Amazon won the battle of Alabama, but the private post-office company, now dominated by the dictatorship of the capital, will one day lose the class war.
The dynamics of global corporations like Amazon imposes the need for the organization of the international struggle of workers, which transcends the corporate activity of local unions. The very global character of these capitalist corporations generates the material premises for this organization of international struggle to be possible.
Referring to the post companies of his time, Lenin indicated in his work State and Revolution:
“Around 1870, a witty social democrat regarded the mail as a model of a socialist institution. Nothing fairer. Currently, mail is an organized administration, according to the type of monopoly of the capitalist state. “
However, the mail-like companies known to the socialists of the beginning of the century were state and national monopolies. Amazon is a private and multinational monopoly, that is, subject to an organized global administration, which merges e-commerce and production. Lenin continues:
“Imperialism gradually transforms all trusts into organizations of the same kind. The simple workers, hungry and overworked, remain subjected to bourgeois bureaucracy, but the mechanism of social enterprise is ready. Once the capitalists are overthrown, once broken by the iron hand of the armed workers, the resistance of their exploiters, once the bureaucratic machine of the current state has been torn down, we will be faced with the admirably perfected mechanism free of the ‘parasites’ and that the united workers themselves can very well put into operation by hiring technicians, masters and accountants and paying them all for their work as all ‘public’ employees in general, a worker’s salary. This is the concrete, practical and immediately achievable task for all trusts, aimed at freeing workers from exploitation; this task has already been initiated practically, in the governamental domain, by the Paris Commune.
We must take this experience into account. All economic life organized the way of mail, in which technicians, inspectors and accountants all employees will receive a salary that does not exceed the salary of a worker on the direction of a control of the armed proletariat – this is our immediate goal. This is the state, this is the economic basis we need. This is what will annihilate parliamentarism, while maintaining representative institutions; this is what will make these institutions, currently prostituted to the bourgeoisie, institutions at the service of the working classes.”
This year gone many billionaires doubled their wealth and 500 new ones emerged. While 150 million more pushed into extreme poverty.
Capitalism must be overthrown!
For May Day 2021 the working class internationally faces the direst situation since the early 1930s, and in some ways worse. Capitalism is squeezing our class around the world from many directions. The Covid-19 Pandemic is a result of capitalist despoilation of the environment and a terrible by- product of its wanton exploitation of nature. Its apparent origin in China is no doubt a by-product of the commodification of that society through capitalist restoration, but such despoilation of nature, which creates risks of spill-over biological events that can do enormous harm to humanity, are possible in many places. Nature is being degraded by capitalism all over the world.
We are being affected by a multi-sided crisis of considerable complexity and the need for radical and even revolutionary solutions, and the political leadership that can bring them into being, is a felt need of masses of people all over the world. The last century or so since the Russian Revolution of 1917 has been a century of wars, revolutions, and counterrevolutions. Since the 1980s, however, we saw a wave of counterrevolutions, when the conditions and gains achieved by working class people the world over have come under concerted attack from neoliberalism, the capitalist ideology that aimed to free monopoly capital from all the restraints on it resulting from a century of working class struggles and gains, in the name of a ‘free market’ which under todays concentrated, monopoly/corporate capitalism is a complete myth and lie.
The destruction of a number of so-called ‘Communist’ countries a generation ago: which were in fact deformed workers states, damaged by-products of the Russian and international workers’ struggles of 1917 onwards, has not led to a world of freedom and democracy, “the End of History” as neoliberal ideologues such as Francis Fukuyama proclaimed a generation ago in the midst of counterrevolution in the East. It has led to the unrestrained despoilation of the planet by neoliberal capitalism, and the re-emergence of pandemic disease on a scale last seen in 1918-20, after what was then the most terrible world-wide war in history, the product of imperialist capitalism.
The crises we face today: the pandemic and the millions of deaths it has already led to, the climate threat it is linked to, the economic crisis that was already a problem and the pandemic is deepening into a depression that is already desperately impoverishing the masses in semi-colonial countries in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, as well as hurting the masses in imperialist countries also. According to Forbes, nearly 500 new billionaires joined Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk last year as the world’s richest became $5 trillion richer (see https://www.businessinsider.com/billionaires-became-5-trillion-richer-during-pandemic-forbes-list-2021-4). Meanwhile, the World Bank estimated last October that the pandemic would :
“… push an additional 88 million to 115 million people into extreme poverty this year, with the total rising to as many as 150 million by 2021, depending on the severity of the economic contraction. Extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.90 a day, is likely to affect between 9.1% and 9.4% of the world’s population in 2020, according to the biennial Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report. This would represent a regression to the rate of 9.2% in 2017. Had the pandemic not convulsed the globe, the poverty rate was expected to drop to 7.9% in 2020.
All these things, like the two world wars, are products of the untrammelled capitalism that led to world war then and, unleashed, is pushing the world toward a similar or likely worse catastrophe today. Capitalism is incapable of solving the problems it has brought into being in the early 21st Century. It is incapable of ceasing to destroy our environment and thus avoiding more future catastrophes such as pandemics and wars that threaten our existence, because the fundamental nature of the system is the unlimited, expanding production and realisation of surplus value for private profit.
Only when humanity takes all production out the hands of capital and plans production and distribution in accord with both the needs of all humanity at a global level, and the preservation and sustainment of the natural world on which we depend, removing the profit motive from social production, can the future of human civilisation and nature be saved from otherwise inevitable destruction. In the meantime, we need to demand that workers, peasants and other oppressed layers around the world who are forced to quarantine by the deadly threat of Covid-19 be fully paid and compensated for their loss of income, with full sick pay. Imperialist capitalism, which sucks the blood out of the working masses of the world and has accumulated enormous wealth, whose value representation is stored away in tax-havens around the world, must be forced to pay for this, on pain of igniting an international working-class movement against them that can be the gravedigger of capital globally.
It was the existence of the workers states, latterly severely damaged, of which only Cuba and North Korea now remain, as a systemic alternative that forced the capitalists to make concessions to workers in the three decades after the Second World War, that are being plundered by neoliberalism today. Obviously, these workers states and what remains of those gains need to be defended against counterrevolution, but above all we need a new thrust towards an international revolution against capital. We need to create the mass movements and parties to lead that.
The pandemic is the immediate question of the hour facing the world working class; the trillion-dollar capitalist pharmaceutical industry is now kicking into gear and has launched mass vaccination campaigns in the imperialist countries, having perfected a suite of quite effective vaccines. The Trump regime caused hundreds of thousands of working-class people to lose their lives because it refused to implement basic quarantine measures and as part of this right-wing populist form of neoliberalism, employers routinely forced workers to work in unsafe conditions. Trump even supported protests by right-wing libertarians against State public health measures. This cost the US 575,000 deaths and counting, a calamity more than ten times greater than US losses in the losing Vietnam colonial/counterrevolutionary war, which was previously the benchmark of national catastrophe in the US. Now Trump is gone, a more efficient and formidable US imperialist administration is taking steps to eliminate Covid among its own population and has embarked on a mass vaccination drive that is rapidly outpacing anywhere else where the disease was allowed to run rampant.
This is also happening in Britain: the demise of Trump appears to have forced Britain’s mini-Trumpian Brexiter Johnson to focus on mass vaccination as the way to sustainably re-open the economy, after a year of staccato lockdowns that were repeatedly sabotaged from above before they could be fully effective. In the European Union, issues involving disputes about limited supplies of vaccines and about vaccine side-effects, mean vaccination has been slower than expected, and some similar issues have slowed vaccinations in Japan. However, particularly in Britain, this has been laced with racism. Johnson’s government changed its approach to testing and quarantine at the borders at the end of 2020, with the third wave. Previously in 2020 the government was very reluctant to close borders and indeed for part of the year, in the summer Britons were encouraged to take overseas holidays to 59 countries, notwithstanding the pandemic. In the third wave, however, they have banned all pretty much all travel. However, they plan in May to introduce a traffic light system, that bans all travel to and from a large number of mainly Global South countries, mixing those like Brazil, Mexico and India with appalling Covid epidemics and new strains of the virus which are indeed a threat, with other places that have had much lower Covid rates than much of Europe. Europe meanwhile appears to be largely exempt.
The pandemic coincided with the ascendancy of right-wing populism not just in advanced countries, but around the world, including not only the Trumps and Johnsons, but also the grotesque Bolsonaro in Brazil who has made the pandemic considerably worse.
The frustration of the masses with the left-wing populist wave of the first 15 years of the century (particularly in Latin America) in overcoming the ills of capitalism, favoured the appearance of right-wing populism. In making this observation, we do not put an equals sign between populism on the right and on the left. We defend the working masses and their historical rights against the rise of right-wing populism. We defend the oppressed countries and the remaining workers’ states against imperialism. But, at the same time, we signal the failure of populism on the bourgeois left. The working masses cannot continue to be deceived forever by different options of their class enemies, they must break and overcome the demagogues of capital in their struggle to expropriate all expropriators.
Other important countries such as India and Mexico have struggled with out-of-control Covid epidemics due to a combination of massive poverty and incompetent governments, in the case of India the desperate plight of its people has been made worse by nationalist extremism, with Modi forbidding the use of tested vaccines from abroad in favour of a home-grown vaccine that had not even got past its trial phases. India is one of the chief sites for vaccine manufacture and export, but its own home-grown vaccine programme is in chaos.
The historical dimension of the current massacre of the Brazilian people at the hands of the Bolsonaro government
No previous massacre killed as many Brazilians as the current one, neither in the criminal war of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay against Paraguay (the greatest war in Latin America), nor during the “Spanish flu” (1918), nor in the second world war. The population is being defencelessly exposed to the virus, the defences have been withdrawn by the government and the regime on which it is based. The health care system has been dismantled. Labour rights have been withdrawn. The prices of food, medicine, oxygen, fuel, have skyrocketed. The real wages of the proletariat have been reduced. The beds have been reduced. The vaccine was not purchased. The information given was untrue and all of this caused this historic amount of death. The government that was supposed to defend its people, has disarmed it for war and the people are being wiped out like never before. For all these reasons, it is not allowed to believe that there is no control over the pandemic, but an orientation clearly aimed at creating collapse, creating chaos, despair, and the precariousness of the population’s life is being guinea pig for an unprecedented experiment in history.
The analysis of the devaluation of wages allows us to unveil a main expression of this capitalist experiment. The real wages of the proletariat have been cut in half. The “emergency aid” for the pandemic, which was half the minimum wage in 2020, became a parameter for the informal and real national minimum wage has become the new reference value for the devaluation of the workforce. Now, in 2021, the misery of the masses has increased a lot, together with the inflation of goods, with dollarized prices. The “emergency aid” for the pandemic was expected to increase according to the needs of the workers but ended up being reduced to a value corresponding to 1/4 of the minimum wage. and, in increasingly broad sectors, also by new technological applications. Capital is profiting a lot from the pandemic, greatly expanding the exploitation and degradation of the workforce. Wages paid are less than the value of the labour power, preventing this class from reproducing in their normal way of life. For this reason, hunger, and many other ills favoured by misery are created, including the aggravation of the pandemic itself for the poorest. The degree of exploitation of work was also deepened by new technological tools that prolong the journey and occupy the moments of the workers’ day and night to the maximum, now with work also at home. The intensification of work and the compression of wages below their value are two causes that counteract the fall in the rate of profit, already pointed out by Marx in Capital, used by capitalists to avoid, or get out of crises for more than 120 years. Another important element of this experiment is the increase in social control justified by the pandemic. This second element favours the degradation of wages because it puts workers on the defensive even more, creating an additional obstacle for them to fight for their wage and labour rights and their working conditions.
The result was that Brazil became “a danger to the world” in the words of the president of Venezuela, Maduro, because of the carnage there and the space given for more harmful variants to evolve and accumulate. Due to the economic crisis and the pandemic that were made use of by Bolsonaro and the entire bourgeoisie that supported the 2016 coup, in 2021, 116 million Brazilians became hungry poor, and 20 bourgeois became new billionaires. Thus, despite the historic slaughter, Bolsonaro continues to have strong support from the vast majority of businessmen and bankers.
But if no fraction of the bourgeoisie, if the bourgeois opposition of the traditional right does not wish to take Bolsonaro out of power, the left-headed opposition headed by the PT also does not consistently and truly defend the mass struggle against Bolsonaro. Today, the vast majority of the working class wants the return of Lula and the Workers’ Party. The PT was beaten in 2016 and Lula was prosecuted and imprisoned for 580 days in one of the most scandalous and infamous judicial hoaxes in history, assembled from the U.S. Department of Justice during the Obama-Biden administration. This process prevented Lula from being a candidate and favoured the election of Bolsonaro in 2018, supported by Trump and the Brazilian bourgeoisie. However, it seems that Lula’s conciliatory vices remain stronger than all the possible learning during the coup process. The PT seeks bourgeois allies among those who participated in the conspiracy that overthrew Dilma, promises to privatize state companies, does not undertake to revoke all the coup measures that harm the working class, as well as social security and labour reforms, and invited the biggest billionaire in the country to be vice-president on his ticket. Even worse is that, relying on the pressure that the pandemic exerts on the working class to not take to the streets to protest, the PT, the union central CUT and the MST, do not rely on their social bases to stop the coup process and return to government from the struggle for the overthrow of Bolsonaro or even in the 2022 elections. Lula and the PT are betting on a policy of increasing commitments to the coup capital. This tactic of trusting the enemy was the one that favoured the entire coup process to be successful without the coup-takers having to fire a single shot or resort to tanks to achieve their goals. All of this means that despite all the crises and bizarre events, Bolsonaro’s maintenance in the government is also based on the weakness of those who oppose him, especially in the policy of reconciling the leaderships of the workers and popular movement with the coup regime established since 2016.
Argentina and the pandemic
In Argentina the economic situation worsened with the pandemic and inflation led to an increase in poverty levels. At the same time, the government of Alberto Fernández did not take a single initiative to investigate the debt inherited from Macrismo. The right wing and opposition media groups are promoting protests that are incipient forms of hybrid warfare, given the measures taken by the Fernández government in relation to the pandemic.
It is in this context that workers must organize themselves so as not to be victims of the pandemic and defend their living conditions, without placing expectations on the Government of the Frente de Todos or on the union bureaucracy complicit in it.
Global Health Apartheid
The most explosive issue is the deprivation of vaccines from many countries in the Global South. As reported in February, 130 Countries have had zero supplies of any vaccine. This is largely because of the patents on the products produced by pharmaceutical monopolies in Western countries, such as Pfizer, Astra-Zeneca, Moderna etc. These patents ban the production of generic, i.e., unbranded versions of these vaccines, which if it were done would allow a much greater, and global vaccination programme to be organised. No country in the world has yet defied this and violated these patents and indeed there would likely be practical difficulties in the way of doing so without cooperation from the original manufacturers in terms of assisting with quality control and safety considerations.
The Covax progamme, for supplying vaccines to poor and middle level developing countries, initiated by the WHO in conjunction with various other bodies concerned with vaccine distribution, including UN bodies, is quite slow and simply does not have the resources. A proposal to suspend patents and produce generic vaccines, proposed by India and South Africa, achieved the support of most members of the World Trade Organisation in October, but was vetoed by Britain, the US, and the EU. Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who Covid-denying paranoids denounce as seeking world domination by seeking to vaccinate the world, is in fact an important figure resisting the dropping of patents. That is a real crime, putting profit margins for capital above the need of the bulk of the world’s poor for vaccines to wipe out this deadly disease.
Another manifestation of imperialism’s callousness is Israel’s refusal to vaccinate the Palestinian population whose territories it seized, while carrying out a massive drive to vaccinate the Jewish population preferentially. The clear intention is Jews will be immune while the disease will become endemic among the Palestinian population, a genocidal policy using Covid-19 effectively as a racist biological weapon. This policy is so blatant that Israel is coming under a certain level of pressure from its imperialist allies to relent a bit on this. But the complex, overlapping relationship of the Israeli ruling class with the ruling classes of the major Western countries tends to blunt such pressure. This is because of the influence of a powerful faction, with communal loyalty to Israel, within the those ruling classes, whose core is a disproportionately numerous layer of Jewish bourgeois, most of who have Zionist politics, as well as other fellow travellers, such as Christian Zionists in the US. The only consistent ally the Palestinian people have to counter the genocidal Zionist project is a revolutionised, class conscious world proletariat.
Breaking the imperialists’ monopoly on vaccination are the vaccines created and manufactured by the Cuban workers state, and former workers states Russia and China. Cuba has three vaccines in preparation, Russia is distributing the Sputnik-V vaccine and China the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines. Sputnik-V appears to be as effective as any of the Western vaccines; China’s Sinovac vaccine appears less effective and may have been responsible for a relapse after widespread vaccination in Chile. Its other vaccine, Sinopharm, seems to have a better reputation, though so far only Western vaccines have gained full regulatory approval by the WHO.
In any case, the admirable efforts of the remaining workers states, or non-imperialist capitalist ex-workers states like Russia and China, cannot substitute for the productive forces of world imperialism, including its ‘Big Pharma’. The pharmaceutical industry needs to be expropriated, collectivised, and planned on a global level, so the global problems that increasingly globalised capital imposes on the working people, can be dealt with on a global level by the proletariat. We need to re-create the Fourth International as a World Party of Socialist Revolution to carry out such a global programme of expropriation and planning of the world’s resources for human needs on a universal basis, not private profit, or backward-looking national chauvinism.
All the terrible events of the pandemic have seemingly put in the shade the conflicts, war drives and attacks on workers and peasants, and on democratic rights that imperialism is waging around the globe. The exploitation of the pandemic by the wealthy has led to another massive redistribution of wealth from the poor to the super-wealthy billionaire bourgeoisie, just as did the financial crisis of 2007-9. The upshot of this was that workers were often mobilised behind reactionary demagogues like Trump who directed their social anger at other workers, particularly migrant workers, and created the basis for a further rise of capitalist reaction. We need to ensure that this time, social discontent is directed against capitalism, not its victims.
The pandemic has come to embody the continuation of imperialist politics by other means. The Trump administration, for instance, sought to mobilise hostility to China in the United States through dubbing Covid, in crude racist terms, as the ‘China virus’ and ‘Kung flu’. Biden has abandoned the racist crudities, but at the same time has continued with Trump’s insidious policy of innuendo and accusation that Covid was an experimental virus that ‘escaped’ from a Wuhan laboratory etc, implying it was a Chinese biological weapon. Biden is thus trying to mobilise the crank layer that wallow in conspiracy theories about Covid, Bill Gates etc, against China in the service of an imperialist war drive.
Trump lost power through a decisive popular vote in the US in large measure because of his policy on the pandemic, one of malign neglect, and the resulting carnage. His attempt to stay in power despite the loss of the election was a frontal attack on the democratic rights of the US masses, particularly the black and Latinx population, given his virtually open white supremacism. That needed to be resisted by all means.
Biden’s miserable plan will not reactivate the decaying US economy
The centre of US concerns today is the decline of its imperialist hegemony over the planet in the face of China’s growth. In the first quarter of 2021, China’s GDP grew 18%, a historic record. The USA grew 4.3%. Biden then launched an economic reactivation plan called the ”American Rescue Plan Act”. Many were impressed and have believed that this is a break with neoliberalism and a return to Keynesian politics such as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s. Firstly, we defend any material aid that will alleviate the miserable situation of workers. However, we cannot fail to highlight how miserable Biden’s stimulus package is, more concerned with seducing the domestic electorate with humanitarian and climate marketing and in the dispute against China. But, the Biden plan is much more modest than the New Deal. Roosevelt’s own plan failed to lift the US economy out of depression and reduce unemployment. It was the Second World War that reactivated the US economy in 1941, when they reached full employment. The Biden Plan does not increase salaries, does not represent any significant fiscal change against the big bourgeoisie (limiting itself to raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%), does not create a universal, public and free health care system like the NHS British or the Brazilian SUS (despite the more than 570 thousand deaths and millions having no medical assistance in the country), it does not nationalize any branch of the economy, it does not make any change in quality in relation to neoliberal policies. The plan only relieves the poorest who are on the edge. At the most, it will encourage large companies to increase their profits based on the renewal of internal infrastructure, the drive for semiconductors and energy alternatives, to technologically strengthen the United States against China. But in fact, as announced, it cannot recover the economy, much less reverse the loss of American hegemony.
Trump won in 2016 because he received support from the rust belt frustrated by Democrats’ financial and de-industrialization policies. Trump lost in 2020 because he frustrated the proletarian electorate of the “rust belt”, as well as political wear and tear with the pandemic and the biggest anti-racist demonstrations in US history after the assassination of George Floyd. Democrats took note of this and try to do electoral marketing and run out of time to seduce the electorate before the mid-term elections that take place in Congress and the Senate in 2022, where Republicans can win if the population is very frustrated with the Democrat. In fact, just as in the 1930s, the main measure of reactivation of the economy known to imperialism is the arms race and, in this Biden-Harris are working in a frantic war of positions surrounding Russia and China on all sides.
Oppose Imperialism’s War Drives!
But Biden coming to power has replaced a dysfunctional US imperialist regime with a more efficient, organised, and equally if not more dangerous enemy of those oppressed by imperialism. Biden’s policy seems to be of cutting the US’ losses, aiming a complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by September, something that had already been earmarked to carry out by Trump had he retained power. But the quid pro quo is redeployment of US resources to the Asia-Pacific region, i.e., bolstering its forces to combat China and laying the basis for future crises, confrontations or worse, with the aim of subordinating China to imperialism. The encirclement of both China and Russia with hostile forces and imperialist basis is a key imperialist stratagem.
The recent coup in Myanmar, that overthrew the semi-nationalist, semi-liberal regime of Aung San Suu Kyi, was driven by her inadequate, in the eyes of the very nationalist military, prosecution of the war against the Muslim Rohingya people, and was not directly connected with this. We do not support such coups, nor do we politically support treacherous nationalists like Suu Kyi, who herself betrayed the Rohingya, but we also oppose attempts to exploit this issue to support imperialism’s drive against China. Likewise with the imperialist outcry about supposedly genocidal terror by China against the Muslim Uyghur people in Xinjiang. We note that the sources for these allegations are few and compromised by their own relations with imperialism, and that if the Uyghurs were subjected to the Western powers, they would likely be treated as terrorists like many other Muslim peoples. This is evidently part of the same kind of hybrid war campaign we see over Ukraine, a tried and trusted imperialist tactic as part of a drive to exploit a wide variety of grievances for ‘regime change’, which only benefits imperialism. We do not endorse the Han Chinese chauvinism of the new hybrid bourgeoisie, interpenetrated with the state, that rules China, but we do defend China against imperialism and do not join in imperialist anti-China warmongering campaigns.
Other manifestations of this are Biden’s launching of attacks in Syria within only a few weeks of taking office, as well as his escalating the drive to bring Ukraine into NATO, upping the rhetoric about Russian troop movements in Russia that even the US admits are exercises. The US though is trying to follow through on a long-standing Imperialist project of seeking to subordinate Russia. At the time of fall of Stalinism in Eastern Europe, promises were made to the last Soviet President, Gorbachev, that NATO would not be extended into the former Soviet bloc. Doing the opposite has been a key element of US strategy ever since, and Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic were followed into NATO by the three Baltic former Soviet Republics. Ukraine is next on the list. We defend post-Stalinist Russia, based on a form of relatively backward dependent capitalism, against imperialist attempts at regime change through hybrid wars waged to destabilise countries on Russia’s periphery, such as Belarus, with the ultimate target being Russia itself.
The relations of US imperialism with Iran in the aftermath of Trump’s defeat are problematic, as Trump junked and broke with Obama’s 2015 deal with the Iran leadership, the JCPOA. The Israel lobby exerted ferocious pressure on Obama against this and Likudniks in the US Israel lobby were Trump’s biggest funders. Even If he wanted, Biden cannot wind back the clock to before Trump, and it is not clear that he wants to. A prolonged process of haggling and pressure is going on, as under the gun of Trump and Israeli militarism, Iran developed its nuclear processing well beyond the confines of the agreement that Trump junked. Israel has been engaged in sabotage and terrorism against Iranian facilities and given that Trump failed in his mission to destroy Iran, would no doubt like Biden to carry on with that mission. However, Obama’s deal when it was signed had bipartisan support because the US bourgeoisie in decline needed economic interaction with Iran; it is a sizeable country and would be difficult to defeat militarily without being drawn into a disaster that would dwarf that of Iraq. So, US imperialism is conflicted about how to deal with Iran.
The overall situation is that US imperialism in this period is facing resistance on several fronts when it tries to assert its dominance and hegemony. In particular from a bloc of semi-colonial countries and ex-workers states: from Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, as well as the two remaining deformed workers states, Cuba and North Korea, which are de facto a part of this non-imperialist bloc, which sometimes acts as an anti-imperialist bloc. It is in South America where perhaps the highest level of class consciousness exists, as the merging of anti-imperialist sentiment with a diffuse socialist aspiration is obvious when you look at Venezuela and Cuba. This kind of diffuse socialism was also dramatically demonstrated in the recent Bolivian election victory of the MAS, which overcame the coup imperialism mustered earlier against Evo Morales. Now something similar looks to be highly likely in Ecuador.
Blocs to counter imperialism are problematic and can prove fragile, as shown by the fate of BRICS in the past. The only consistent anti-imperialist force is the world proletariat, mobilised behind a revolutionary programme, and bringing that force into consciousness and action is still the strategic task of revolutionaries today.
Tory Brexit Britain and Labours Nose-Dive
In Britain today, the Brexit Tory government of Boris Johnson has recovered somewhat in popular support from the severe discredit it suffered because of the huge number, over 150,000, who have died of Covid. The government originally had an outrageous policy of ‘herd immunity’ without vaccines, then shifted under pressure from below to a series of half-hearted lockdowns, which it actually sabotaged by lifting them just as they were on the verge of being effective, to allow profit making to resume. Now that the widespread vaccination programme is showing signs of generating real herd immunity, Johnson’s regime is taking the credit.
It is only able to get away with this because under the Blairite Keir Starmer, there is no opposition to the government, and everyone knows it. Starmer said not long after he became leader that he was seeking consensus with Johnson, that Labour will support the government, whatever it chooses to do.
Starmer supported the reckless re-opening of schools that was the starting point both for the second wave, that essentially began in September though there was no lockdown to combat it until November, which was half-hearted and really a mockdown. Testing had been abandoned as a system in March 2020 and what was re-established in June was a gravy train for Tory donors to pocket billiions of pounds of government funding, not an instrument for tracking down and isolating to eliminate Covid. But Starmer supported all this and sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey as Education spokesperson for opposing unsafe school reopening, covering this up by smearing her as ‘anti-Semitic’. This gave the virus space to mutate into the much more infectious Kent variant which ran amok in the third wave that began around Christmas time. Starmer is as responsible for this as Johnson, as he supported all of it.
Starmer also refused to oppose outrageous Tory legislation such as the ‘undercover cops’ bill, that legalised such crimes as murder, torture and rape carried out while infiltrating those who the ruling class regard as ‘subversive’ to their power. Labour abstained on a bill that gave blanket immunity from human rights laws in military operations overseas. It was going to abstain and let the Tory Policing, Crime and Sentencing Bill, which massively expands police power to ban protests, go through unopposed. But the huge outcry over police brutality against a vigil over the murder, by a male police officer no less, of Sara Everard in South London highlighted this bill, which the Tories had been hoping to sneak through under cover of the pandemic. So, Labour had to belatedly oppose it. Starmer’s Labour people mimic the Tories in that every time Starmer or his cohorts appear on television on Zoom etc, they always have a Union Flag visible behind them. This flag-shagging, to grovel before backward ex-Labour voters who supported Johnson on a reactionary basis, has made Starmer into a despised joke.
And there is the huge witchhunt of the left in the Labour Party, hundreds of thousands, the clear majority of the party if you realise that in the leadership election in early 2020, more Labour members refused to vote for any candidate than voted for Starmer as leader because there was no leadership candidate who was not a witchhunter. The smear of ‘anti-Semitism’ is used against anyone who expresses any sympathy for Palestinian rights, and the number of expulsions and suspensions of leftists have gone through the roof. Over a hundred thousand members have reportedly left Labour since Starmer became leader, though the leadership keeps the figures close to its chest. Starmer’s pronouncement that he supports Zionism ‘without qualification’ during his leadership campaign, his open collaboration with right-wing Tory-Zionist racists such as the Board of Deputies, and Labour’s own right-wing saboteurs, against his own members, his endorsement of the Tory EHCR fraudulent report, and the victimisation of black and Asian members and even MP’s who have contradicted Labour’s virulent Zionists, show that Labour under Starmer is openly racist and Zionist and deserves no support from socialists and class conscious workers. Only those who are in some way at odds with the Starmer leadership over these things deserve support in elections. But now they are usually not allowed to stand.
Huge numbers of left-wing former Labour people, both members and those more broadly supportive, who were drawn to and radicalised by Corbyn’s rise a few years ago in hundreds of thousands if not more, despise Strarmer to the extent that they are determined to punish Labour by withholding their votes. So Starmer’s Labour, according to one recent opinion poll, is 14 points behind the Tories. This is not because Johnson is popular, in fact his government is now facing the eruption of major scandals over corruption, which may prove extremely damaging, but because Starmer’s Labour is deeply unpopular and not seen as an alternative. So, the Government is on top for now, but only because the pandemic has limited political mobilisations, and only by default.
Our British section is outspokenly not supporting Starmer’s Labour at this point in time, prominently using the slogan ‘No Vote to Zionist New Labour’ to draw the political line against those who would capitulate to the concrete manifestation of Labour treachery.
Britain has the potential for huge social struggles as the pandemic begins to wind down. The movement against Priti Patel’s law to restrict the right to protest is huge in its potential. There have been such struggles as the British Gas workers against ‘fire and rehire’ which the trade union bureaucracy stabbed as usual, but there are likely to be many more struggles against these new attacks. Masked by the pandemic, Brexit is proving a disaster. The fishing industry, which was a key force in pushing for Brexit populism, is in deep trouble because of the economic consequences of Brexit. The position of British ‘expats’, i.e., emigrants who left to live in European countries and styled themselves ‘expat’ to deny being migrants, a considerable number of whom in their arrogance supported Brexit to keep ‘foreigners’ out of Britain, is now a newsworthy issue since a number of them have fallen foul of the end of free movement and been thrown out of Spain, among other places. And the North of Ireland has been destabilised, with loyalists erupting in riots, by Johnson’s Brexit deal which has put a trade border down the Irish sea to avoid one at the border with the Irish Republic.
There is considerable potential, therefore, for a left-wing challenge to Labour from the hundreds of thousands of dissident and disillusioned Corbyn supporters, which has the potential to lay the basis for a genuine working-class party to emerge in Britain from the crisis of Labourism. Our comrades in Britain are getting involved in this through the Resistance Movement, initiated by Chris Williamson, which looks like the most promising vehicle for such a movement.
The latest episode in the efforts by PSC/Labour Party functionary Ben Soffa, and the PSC Executive, to defend their indefensible and unconstitutional behaviour in seeking my expulsion from PSC purely for my Marxist political views about Zionism, is immediately below my reply, which suggests some constructive ways out of the hole the PSC leadership has dug itself into over this case.
Below Soffa’s letter to me is an exchange between Soffa and Tony Greenstein which, in which, though it really does not solve the question, Tony makes some good points about the lack of natural justice of the PSC appeal process which asks the AGM to consider complex matters that would be better considered by an elected, impartial body. And Ben Soffa concurs, that this is a flawed process that basically denies natural justice in complex cases.
Be that as it may, breaches of natural justice and workers democracy must be fought in the here and now, and the attempts to evade this in Ben Soffa’s latest letter are obvious.
Reply to Ben Soffa by Ian Donovan, 20 April
I am sorry. There is a simple remedy for this problem. You must be aware that it simply is not even possible to encapsulate the complex political and constitutional issues involved in this case and to provide those considering the case with proof of what is said in the appeal in 400 words.
When the Labour Party did a report on multiple and questionable allegations that were made as part of a large-scale purge of this type, they ended up producing a report 850 pages long in PDF form. My appeal is 15 pages long in Word format. If it were in the desktop-published PDF format of that report it would likely be less, maybe only 10 pages. Why is such a small document so difficult for you to circulate? It’s hardly like the Labour Party report!
The text and appendixes contain evidence and context of your multiple violations of the PSC Constitution as well as explanations of the views of the LCFI on Zionism which I am being purged for. Referencing the existence of a longer text is simply not good enough since that longer text will not be circulated to the participants in the AGM and it is virtually certain that most of the participants in this AGM will not follow up footnotes references to an unfamiliar website.
This is a question of principle. It is simply wrong for evidence in an appeal of this nature to be excluded from what is presented to those judging the appeal. Particularly on the say so of the other side in a dispute of this nature. I gave you plenty of notice of the scope of my appeal, and time to refute me.
I did not drop it on you at the last minute before the 10-day deadline but sent it to you on 7th March. I gave you SEVEN WEEKS NOTICE! That was principled behaviour because I don’t believe in smears and gamesmanship. I believe in the need for workers democracy as a matter of principle. You have had plenty of time to formulate a response that refutes it in full. If you cannot, that is because your case is weak. And you don’t have any right to exclude evidence and argumentation because your case is weak, and in reality non-existent.
My appeal is not of book length. It is only 15 pages or less depending on format. You have no valid reason to suppress it. If you choose to do so the moral and political responsibility rests on you.
Even Tony’s intervention in this case does not properly address the questions of principle involved here. If the Executive breaks constitutional clauses as you stand accused of in my appeal, with considerable evidence and argumentation to back that up, it is a matter of principle that the AGM should hear the full evidence under clause 16. Not to allow that breaks clause 16, contradicts natural justice, and even more importantly puts the Executive in command of the AGM when in fact it should be the other way round.This is not my doing. You rode roughshod over democracy and the PSC Constitution at the previous AGM and part of my appeal is about holding you accountable for that.
If the AGM is to hear appeals, then it has to do it properly and allow proper consideration of the evidence in those appeals. If it does not do so and is not allowed to do so then this process is contrary to natural justice. You appear to have conceded this in your exchange with Tony on the AGM’s capacity to conduct such appeals.
And you should be aware that proceedings that are contrary to natural justice are also dubious in their legality.
An even simpler solution to the dilemma that you have put yourself in would be this: call off your purge. Simply withdraw the expulsion and allow the appeal without the need for any interruption of the AGM. I will pay the back dues to PSC over the past year or so since the incorrect and unjustified expulsion to maintain continuity of membership. And PSC should organise a proper, public debate or even policy conference of PSC members on the nature of the Zionist lobby (and what to do about it) later in the year, when hopefully the pandemic is over. I will help in organising it. There are so some powerful speakers on this who would no doubt be delighted to address PSC members, such as Norman Finkelstein, Phil Weiss of Mondoweiss perhaps, as well as Tony and myself. That will solve the problem of disruption to the AGM which has been caused by your appalling bureaucratism, not those resisting it, and begin to repair the damage you have caused.
Communist Greetings Ian Donovan
Ben Soffa email to Ian Donovan, 19 April
as you will have seen in my response to Tony, I am taking a very flexible approach in an attempt to facilitate your appeal. Despite the two previous deadlines having passed, I still stand ready to receive a statement of up to 400 words from you (which could reference the existence of a longer text) by noon tomorrow (Tuesday).
In the absence of that, the process will sadly need to continue without you putting your case directly to members – but that will be your choice.
Ben Soffa response to Tony Greenstein, 19th April
thank you for your email. I agree it is only correct to separate what is a fair process from the merits of any individual case. We are trying really hard to facilitate this and would still be willing to accept a statement from Ian of the appropriate length (I will email him further on this imminently).
As you may have seen from the correspondence Ian has published, we have now on multiple occasions encouraged him to submit a statement that can be distributed to members. We have extended the deadline when he rejected the initial request and been clear about how we would proceed were he not to make a 400 word submission.
Within the realms of the current constitution we have replaced the previous practice of a three minute speech (which as you know, caused issues for those less well equipped to speaking in such an environment) with a written statement of broadly equivalent length. With the statements being distributed ahead of the AGM this will give members the ability to consider the item more carefully and if they were to wish to, to seek out further information on the matter. I would suggest that this is not only a fairer, more accessible process, but probably acts somewhat in favour of most appellants.
I also agree that the AGM is not the most appropriate mechanism for appeals to be heard. Indeed back in 2012 we consulted on diverting appeals to a committee of three patrons. A small standalone committee elected by the AGM would also seem like a perfectly reasonable way forward. Hopefully this is something that can be resolved in the review we wish to undertake this coming year.
I would much rather be able to put both sides of the argument in front of members and have them decide than have any dispute about process, so I’d once again encourage Ian to submit an appeal of the requested length which we can distribute.
Many thanks, Ben
Tony Greenstein letter to Ben Soffa, 19th April
Dear Ben, I have only just seen this and I have read nothing of the proposed expulsion so I can’t form a view on it though I have my suspicions.
I do though have serious disagreements with Ian, as he knows, over his view on the ‘Jewish Question’.
However this is a question of democracy since Ian has the right of appeal. Clearly as you say the AGM can’t spend half the day considering this and 400 or 500 words is, on the face of it reasonable. If Ian wishes that people read a much longer document comprising 15 pages (which I doubt many will) the obvious answer is that the 400 or so word summary links to the longer document and that this is made clear in the documents sent out. That way people have a choice.
On the wider question. It is unsatisfactory that appeals should be heard by the AGM anyway, not least because they are not in a position to seriously consider them. Consideration should be given to the election of an independent appeals panel of 3, elected by PR and not consisting of employees or Executive members to hearing such appeals. That will of course require a constitutional amendment but that is the way to proceed in my opinion.
In the light of the previous chronicling of my case, as in yesterday’s article about the blatant conflict of interest involving an official of the openly pro-Zionist Labour leadership excluding anti-Zionist activists from PSC, and my original appeal itself, the latest letter from Ben Soffa on behalf of the PSC Executive blatantly tears up the PSC Constitution and all pretence that PSC is any sense a democratic organisation.
Reply by Ian Donovan to Ben Soffa, 18th April
Dear Ben Soffa,
Thank you for your email. But you already have my appeal. It was submitted on 7th March, long before any deadline or procedure that you artificially set to try to provide a flimsy pretext for this kind of malpractice on your part. It is up to you whether you rule it out of order in the same corrupt way you ruled out my motion asserting Peter Gregson’s right to appeal. In doing that you tore up article 16 on the right of the conference to ratify constitutional disputes.
Now you are tearing up the right to appeal in Clause 4, sub-clauses 5 and 6 of the Constitution. There is nothing in that clause about the right of the Executive to decide what the AGM is allowed to consider regarding the content and evidence contained within appeals.
This is a matter of principle and cannot be ducked. The constitution says that the AGM ratifies such matters and hears appeals, i.e., makes the decision on them obviously according to the rules of natural justice. If the Executive is allowed to veto evidence because there is ‘too much’ such evidence against it provided in an appeal, or to veto its content because it is objectionable to the executive, then it is the executive which is making the decision not the AGM and the right to an appeal that is not rigged, like the 2020 AGM was rigged, has been abolished.
I note that you do not specify what is ‘defamatory’ in my appeal, or who is being ‘defamed’. Is it the allegation that there is a conflict of interest between your employment by Keir Starmer’s Labour leadership as ‘Head of Digital Organising’, and being a PSC lay official, given Starmer’s widely publicised statement that he supports Zionism, the political force that dispossessed the Palestinians, ‘without qualification’? That is obviously true. Or it the allegation that Starmer himself is an enemy of the Palestinian people, given his support for Zionism ‘without qualification’? That is also true. Is it the allegation that Louise Regan is a member of Socialist Action, as are you, and that this whole purge is a factional act decided by Socialist Action in pursuit of its own interests and nothing to do with solidarity with the Palestinian people? This is also true. Or is it the allegation that the Palestinian members of the Executive are generally supporters of the Palestinian authority, which tortures Palestinian dissidents on Israel’s behalf and which the late Edward W. Said compared with the Nazi-collaborationist WWII French Vichy regime in its collaboration with Zionism? This is also true. Nothing here is defamatory. It is all true. You just find it objectionable for these criticisms to be made.
The only defamatory element in this affair is your smear that our politics represent hostility to Jewish people in general. Our views on Zionism are demonstrably based on the theories and work of Karl Marx and Abram Leon on the Jewish Question. Both for being Jewish, and for his Marxist views, Leon was murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz.
The idea that abolishing democracy in PSC is somehow in the interest of the Palestinian people is fatuous. The Palestinian people like all oppressed people have an interest in democracy, not in political corruption and anti-democratic behaviour within the solidarity movement and the left. The rights that exist in a properly constituted bourgeois court should be the minimum standard within the left and the workers movement, not something to be done away with on the pretence that this is in the interests of solidarity with the Palestinian people. If you did not want to take up the time of the AGM with this then you should not have broken the PSC Constitution in the first place!
Also, since you seem to be trying to put an ‘interpretation’ on the constitutional right to appeal that is novel, to say the least, I would point out that any dispute about the interpretation of what the Constitution says about such matters has to be ratified by the AGM according to clause 16. That means the AGM has the right to hear all evidence relating to this to decide under clause 16. So once again, you are in breach of clause 16 of the constitution in seeking to deny the right of the AGM to make an informed ratification of these matters, which means that the AGM must have access to all the evidence submitted. Since the Executive is one of the parties in the dispute, it is again contrary to the principled of natural justice for you to decide what can or cannot be given in evidence either in an appeal under sub-clauses 4.5 and 4.6, or clause 16.
This is clearly not being done in the interest of the Palestinian people. It is being done in the interests of the Zionist leadership of the Labour Party, the opportunist interest of the secretive Socialist Action group which I am informed you and Louise Regan are both members of, and that of the supporters on the Executive of Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, which maintains friendly relations with the Zionists while supressing and torturing dissidents on their behalf. The Exec obviously wants similar relations with Zionist New Labour here and you are the link man as not only a member of this secretive group, but also a Labour Party official.
So, you have torn up Clause 4 of the PSC Constitution as well as Clause 16. You have torn up the PSC Constitution itself. And you have done it in full public view. The only defamation is of me, by yourselves and this will be publicised widely as will your tearing up of the PSC Constitution.
You are not even smart tactically. If you distribute a statement of your own dismissing my appeal, but not my appeal itself, it will be obvious to everyone in the conference that you are breaking the Constitution and denying the right to appeal. Because your statement is a response to an appeal that you are not allowing the AGM to consider. You will expose yourself in front of the PSC members and delegates splendidly and it will be all your doing.
As a Marxist, I am loyal to the historic interests of the working class, not any particular grouping that claims to be for solidarity with the Palestinians, or any political group or formation. If your group betrays the movement and its interests by subservience to the enemies of the Palestinian people, by acting as enemy agents (as you are) or by attacking labour movement democracy, then it needs to be exposed and replaced with something better.
I will not compromise on the issues of principle in this case; workers democracy is a core principle. My appeal is already online and has been widely circulated and read both on the web in general and in Facebook groups of the Labour left and Palestinian activists.
Your letter will also be online shortly with this reply. So I am quite happy for you to be seen clearly by the socialist public rigging the 2021 PSC AGM. You are exposing yourself as the anti-democratic Zionist stooges you are, and that exposure is progressive.
Ben Soffa response (17 April) to Ian Donovan’s Earlier Letter (16 April)
thank you for your email, the contents of which have been noted by the Executive Committee.
Whilst you are entitled to your views, I must stress that all significant decisions, including that to terminate your membership, are taken by the full Executive Committee of PSC and not by me personally. We are not dealing with a complaint made against me, with which I would have no dealings, but with your appeal against the decision of the Executive which stems from your published statements.
As you are aware, PSC’s constitution provides that the AGM of the campaign shall consider such appeals. Whilst you state “the text of my appeal is of reasonable length by legal standards”, the AGM is not a court convened for the purpose of considering a submission of a length of your choosing, but a gathering of members to take forward the campaign for Palestinian rights, with this being one item of many on the agenda.
In common with much AGM business, there is either a word or time limit. This allows each item to be reasonably engaged with by the hundreds of activists who take part in the AGM. I would strongly suggest many more members will be able to engage with a submission of up to 400 words than will do so with your current proposed 15 page submission which runs to many thousands of words.
We wish to properly facilitate your appeal and unless withdrawn by you, the item will be considered by the AGM this coming Saturday. Under the agreed rules, the Executive Committee will be submitting up to 400 words arguing that our decision be upheld. We wish this to sit alongside up to 400 words from you in support of your appeal. However, if you fail to make a submission under the rules of the process, regrettably the statement of the Executive will stand alone and will be the sole basis on which members will be asked to vote on your appeal. This is a situation we would much rather avoid, but as confirmed by today’s Executive Committee meeting, we will hear the item in any case.
As noted, given PSC will be distributing these documents to hundreds of people in a permanent form, these submissions must not contain defamatory statements.
I therefore would like to ask once again that you submit up to 400 words by noon on Monday. This will allow the two statements to be distributed to members in good time for them to absorb the arguments ahead on Saturday’s AGM.
This exchange of correspondence relates to my appeal against expulsion from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign over a year ago, to be presented to the PSC AGM, which this year will be virtual and online, on 24th April. The entire text of the appeal is available here. Amazingly, since much of the content of the appeal is a complaint about repeated violations of the PSC Constitution in which Ben Soffa appears to have been a prime mover, if not the prime mover, I am written to by … Ben Soffa, demanding that I shorten, and censor, my appeal.
With PSC, there is not even a pretence of due process or impartiality. The person handling the appeals process is the person whose violations of the constitution the appeal complains about. There is no even nominally impartial body handling this. Key people organising the expulsion of a member of PSC purely for views/opinions, are paid officials of a political party whose leadership is opposed to everything PSC is supposed to stand for and which supports the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. This is like something out of a novel by Franz Kafka.
Further developments will be documented here. If there was some pretence of due process, and some semblance of impartiality, I might not be rushing to go public with all aspects of this correspondence. But Ben Soffa’s involvement in trying to censor and change an appeal that makes serious allegations of unconstitutional behaviour and conflict of interest against himself, is so farcical that it cannot be treated as confidential. It is reminiscent of the conduct of Boris Johnson in ignoring all sense of basic procedure. In any remotely democratic organisation, let alone one that is supposed to operate as part of the left and the workers movement, it would be a scandal.
Reply to Ben Soffa, 16 April
To: Ben Soffa, PSC Secretary
Thank you for your email. I am again actually quite astonished to be hearing from you personally about my appeal, since you are the main person complained about and accused of anti-democratic, bureaucratic, and unconstitutional behaviour in my appeal.
In my appeal I complain at length about the conflict of interest in your being the Secretary of PSC and acting to expel anti-Zionist socialists and anti-racists from PSC, when you are also an employed national official of the Labour Party, led by Keir Starmer.
Starmer is an avowed enemy of the entire purpose of PSC, support for Palestinians, due to his public statement that he supports Zionism “without qualification” and his purging of numerous Labour Party members for their opposition to Zionist racism and support for the Palestinians.
A far as I am concerned this conflict of interest makes you to all intents and purpose an enemy agent and fifth columnist.
Your demand for a word limit on my appeal has no justification at all. It is an attempt to exclude evidence of my being victimised, by you, from my appeal. Since this appeal is also an indictment of yourself and the EC for violations of the PSC constitution, your demand that my appeal be re-written is an outrage and an attempt to censor the evidence of your wrongdoing. The text of my appeal is of reasonable length by legal standards, it is necessary to explain the full complexities of the case. The appendices consist of evidence of your misconduct and that of your associates, and commentaries that provide full context. They will not be removed, and I do not agree.
The claim that PSC will be the ‘publisher’ of my appeal if it is circulated is spurious. The only defamation involved in this case is your defamation against me, and this fraudulent purge. This is my appeal, not yours, and the membership of PSC have the right to read the full content of my appeal to fully judge the context. The only item that can be safely removed from my appeal and its accompanying evidence/appendixes is the full text of the PSC Constitution, which has now been replaced by relevant extracts. That reduces it from 20 pages to 15 pages, including the images which are also evidence – of your role as a functionary of Zionist New Labour and of the left-wing, anti-Zionist activism of Peter Gregson who you also purged and whom I was purged for defending from your anti-democratic behaviour. One page for each year of my membership of PSC before being purged by Zionist stooges. Not too much to ask.
You do not even have the excuse about trying to conserve paper, as this year’s AGM is virtual, and material will be circulated online. One modest sized email attachment is hardly excessive.
Apart from that, this is my appeal, and nothing will be changed. If you are planning to censor or refuse to circulate my appeal, then that will be another breach of the PSC Constitution by yourselves on top of the previous ones. Members have the right to be fully informed of ALL the circumstances of an appeal and ALL the evidence of any appeal. That is a basic principle of natural justice.
I am copying this letter to the Labour Campaign for Free Speech and the Left Legal Fighting Fund initiated by Chris Williamson, both bodies which I support, both of which deal with Zionist witch-hunting in the Labour Party and labour movement. Your purging of me is clearly part of the ongoing witchhunt in the labour movement against anti-Zionists, of which we are the most consistent trend, and I will not collaborate or submit to it in any way. This exchange will be made public immediately.
Letter from Ben Soffa regarding appeal, 13th April
thank you for your earlier notification that you intend to appeal against the termination of your PSC membership. I note the attached document runs to some 20 pages. Please could you provide a version of your appeal edited to be no more than 400 words in length and not including any images.
As we will be distributing the text of the appeal to those attending the AGM, PSC will in effect be acting as the publisher of your statement. We will not be able to publish any defamatory statement that would open up PSC to legal liability, therefore, to ensure your appeal can be distributed in full, please avoid comments that could reasonably be held to be defamatory.
If you could please provide the statement by 5pm on Sunday 18th April, we will be able to distribute it, alongside a statement from the Executive Committee, to delegates next week.
The US organisation Solidarity with Novorossiya & Antifascist in Ukraine is holding a protest against the US/NATO backed preparations for a new stage of the war in Donbas in New York on this coming Saturday 10 April. The LCFI and its national sections have endorsed the statement accompanying the protest , and the protest initiative itself, and we urge other anti-imperialists, socialists and communists to do the same.
Statement for upcoming New York Protest
The right-wing government of Ukraine, supported by the U.S., has been at war with the people of the independent Donetsk and Lugansk republics in the Donbass region of eastern Europe for 7 years. 14,000 people have been killed, according to the United Nations. The people of Donetsk and Lugansk live under a blockade by Ukraine and its Western allies. Workers in Ukraine suffer repression, joblessness and price hikes while their government sells off the country to Wall Street. On April 3, a Ukrainian military drone strike killed 5-year-old Vladik Shikhov and wounded his 66-year-old grandmother in Aleksandrovskoye, Donetsk.
On April 4, another Ukrainian drone strike wounded a civilian in Nikolaevka, Lugansk. On March 22, a 71-year-old pensioner was killed by sniper fire near the capital of Donetsk. Many members of the anti-fascist People’s Militia have also been killed while defending residents. Since January, Ukraine has been building up its military forces on the front line of the conflict. It uses prohibited weapons, targets civilians, schools and homes in violation of international law and regional ceasefire agreements.
Battalions of troops affiliated with neo-Nazi groups have been sent to the region, replacing regular Ukrainian Army troops. But the Ukrainian and U.S. governments and mainstream media blame Donetsk and Lugansk for taking steps to defend themselves, and threaten Russia for pledging to protect the people there if Ukraine invades. Both the Trump and Biden administrations desperately want to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project that would allow Germany and other Western European countries to purchase Russian gas.
Children, elders and other civilians in Donetsk and Lugansk are considered expendable targets by Kiev and Washington as they try to provoke a crisis to give them an excuse to further NATO military expansion and punish Russia. In recent days, the U.S. and NATO have been warning of a Russian military build-up near the Ukrainian border, but never mention that one of the largest U.S. Army-led military exercises in decades has begun and will run until June: Defender Europe 2021, with 28,000 troops from 27 countries operating in a dozen countries from the Balkans to the Black Sea.
This is where the real danger of war is coming from. We say no! People in the U.S. don’t want war with Russia to protect the profits of Big Oil and U.S. banks. We don’t want the U.S. proxy regime in Ukraine to kill our sisters and brothers in Donetsk and Lugansk. We don’t want U.S. troops to be sent to fight and die in another needless conflict. We need an end to racist police brutality and anti-Asian violence. We need money for jobs, housing, healthcare and schools, not war. End U.S. aid to the Kiev regime! End all U.S. wars and sanctions!
Shut down NATO and bring the troops home!
Initiated by Solidarity with Novorossiya & Antifascist in Ukraine
Endorsers (list in formation): Jose Maria Sison, Chairperson Emeritus of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle; Phil Wilayto, Coordinator, Odessa Solidarity Campaign; William Camacaro, Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle; Sharon Black, Peoples Power Assembly; John Parker, Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice, Los Angeles; Joe Lombardo, National Co-Chair, United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC); No Pasarán Hamburg, Germany; Socialist Unity Party (U.S.); Struggle-La Lucha newspaper; Liaison Committee for the Fourth International; Frente Comunista dos Trabalhadores (Brazil); Tendencia Militante Bolchevique (Argentina) Socialist Workers League (United States); Trotskyist Faction/Consistent Democrats (Britain); Socialist Solidarity Party (Bangladesh) *For I.D. only
Starmer’s Zionist New Labour functionary in leading position in PSC, purging leftists!
Why does the PSC Executive show solidarity with racist Zionist oppressors and not Marxist Palestine Defenders?
Appeal against a corrupt, unconstitutional anti-left purge in Palestine Solidarity Campaign (with Appendices).
By Ian Donovan
I have been a member of PSC since 2005, i.e., for over 15 years. But in February 2020 I was expelled in what amounts to a proscription against the organisation of which I am a leading member, then called Socialist Fight, the British Section of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International, the latter being a left current with supporters in several countries and three continents, to which I am still affiliated as is the Trotskyist Faction/Socialist Fight, as the British LCFI section is now called.
There were two motives for my expulsion from PSC. The first was because I challenged the exclusion from membership of PSC of another comrade, Peter Gregson, a leading member of an oppositional trend in the Labour Party, Labour Against Zionist Islamophobic Racism (LAZIR). I put a motion seeking to reaffirm what it says in the PSC constitution, that the Conference has the right to ratify decisions of the Executive denying membership to applicants. It is not possible for the conference to exercise that right without the person refused membership being allowed to appeal. That motion was moved by me and seconded by comrade Jenny Flintoft, another long-time PSC member who has tragically since passed away, a victim of the pandemic. It was put in order and in good time for last year’s AGM.
It was ruled out of order by the PSC Executive, in a manner that was a brazen breach of the PSC constitution itself which has a clause (clause 16) that means that such a challenge to the interpretation of the PSC constitution is explicitly protected by the constitution and must be decided by the AGM.
Conflict of Interest – To Say the Least!
I have since discovered that the key individual involved in this unconstitutional, and likely unlawful, ruling out of order of my motion is a high-level employee of the Labour Party and remains so under Keir Starmer. Ben Soffa is the Secretary of PSC, apparently. But he is also an employee of the Labour Party. According to his LinkedIn and Twitter profiles he is still the Head of Digital Organising for the Labour Party, and that has been so from 2015 to the present day. So, while in his spare time he is PSC Secretary, in his day job he works for Keir Starmer and the Labour Party leadership.
The same Keir Starmer who swore loyalty to the 10 demands of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and who stated his support for Zionism ‘without qualification’. Soffa was originally a Corbynite, and even mentioned as such in the leaked report on The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014 – 2019. However, unlike most Corbynite functionaries he stayed on and works for the openly Zionist Labour leadership. He is evidently working both sides of the street.
The term ‘conflict of interest’ does not really quite capture how appalling this is. His employer, to whom he evidently owes primary loyalty, is a declared enemy of the Palestinian people and of everything PSC is supposed to stand for. When Starmer took over he purged virtually every individual from the Labour apparatus with even a morsel of socialist sentiment in their politics. Even Rebecca Long-Bailey, who like Starmer grovelled to the BOD and signed up for their demands, was purged. But not Ben Soffa apparently. He is part of an apparatus that is purging left-wing people and anti-Zionists from Labour right across the country. He is obviously bringing the Labour witchhunt into the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in his spare time.
After I was suspended without any reason given except ‘concerns’ about my conduct, PSC functionaries spent over a month trawling my writings online to try to find something to allege. It was supposed to take “a few days” to formulate: it took 34. They found nothing they could use without mendacious quote-chopping. Maybe these people could have taken lessons from the Israeli spy Assaf Kaplan, who also now works in the leader’s office and is likely to be working closely with Ben Soffa, as Head of Digital Organising. These are adjacent spheres, quite evidently, and the kind of methods Starmer expects Kaplan to professionalise in hunting anti-Zionists and and anti-imperialists in Labour have already been used in PSC by Ben Soffa, his Labour apparatus colleague. This is a major scandal in PSC: enemies of the Palestinian people evidently now have major input into its functioning.
Tearing up the PSC Constitution
Peter Gregson was refused membership in July 2019: he ought to have been able to challenge this at the 2020 AGM and have the Conference ratify whether his application for membership should be accepted or rejected, according to the clear wording of the PSC Constitution itself. This states in clause 4.5: “Admission to, and where necessary termination of, membership – along with the issuing of invitations to sponsors – shall be the responsibility of the Executive Committee, to be ratified at the following AGM.”
But this was denied by the Executive, and when I authored a motion to simply reaffirm the constitutional right of the AGM to decide this question, not only was the motion ruled out of order, but a fake anti-Semitism allegation was concocted to remove me from PSC for raising it. Its perfectly obvious what the motive was for suspending me: to stop me from attending the 2020 AGM and challenging the unconstitutional ruling out of order of a watertight demand that the constitution be adhered to in the case of Peter Gregson. The wording in the constitution is so clear that a ten-year-old could spot that the PSC Executive’s actions are in breach of the PSC Constitution. What they must have been particularly afraid of is that I would have raised a point of order under Clause 16 of the Constitution, which mandates that questions of constitutional interpretation be heard by the AGM, which would have put my motion back on the agenda, as it fits clause 16 exactly.
The fake ‘anti-Semitism’ allegation attacks me for supporting a Marxist tendency that puts forward an analysis and attack on Zionism that the political trends that dominate the PSC executive do not like. It amounts to proscribing a Marxist trend in PSC. Presumably, any other Palestine defender who joins the LCFI or is persuaded of the LCFI position on Zionism will also face witch-hunting and exclusion. This is a new development, and effectively amounts to PSC adopting an anti-Communist exclusion clause for the first time, akin to the Labour Party’s one-time Proscribed List – a manifestation of McCarthyism in Britain. If the PSC leadership wants to proscribe particular left-wing organisations in this way, let us see them do this openly and justify this politically. Then the entire labour movement will know where the PSC Executive stands.
Their behaviour is simply an echo of the political collapse of the Corbynite left in the Labour Party, who supported the adoption of the IHRA definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ and all of its ‘examples’ – a series of amalgams between Muslim and left-wing opposition to Zionist racism, with the anti-Semitism of Hitler and the Nazis. Many of the key members of the executive who take decisions on things like these exclusions, are members of the Labour Party, or of various factions within it, that have their own internal discipline, and pursue their own sectarian factional vendettas against others on the left who they disapprove.
Corbynites Throw the Left Under the Bus
It is an established fact, for instance, that Louise Regan, who ‘investigated’ me as the correspondence shows, is a long-standing member of Socialist Action, a deep-entryist, ex-Trotskyist faction within the Labour Party that sees its role as a group of ‘fixers’ for prominent left-wing ‘personalities’ and regard any attempt to openly win support for Marxist ideas and programme on their own merits as at odds with their strategy and something to be squashed. For at least the last 10 years, the PSC Executive has been known to be bureaucratically dominated by Socialist Action. Louise Regan was recently suspended from the Labour Party herself after raising objections within her own constituency Labour Party to the suspension and removal of the whip from Jeremy Corbyn. But in PSC she has behaved in the same way as the people who suspended her. So, while she should be defended against such a purge, she should also be condemned for doing similar things to others.
Then there is Ben Soffa, who is the person who both informed me (by telephone) that the motion to adhere to the constitution in the Peter Gregson case had been ruled out of order, that I was suspended and would be ‘investigated’ by Louise Regan, and who later wrote to me informing me of my expulsion from PSC (see Appendix G). See earlier for his role as functionary in the apparatus of Keir Starmer, who supports Zionism “without qualification”. Given that Louise Regan had worked with Soffa to purge anti-Zionist socialists who are long-time members of PSC, she is tainted by this also.
Unfortunately, the Palestinian executive members have been carefully selected by the bureaucratic pseudo-left forces that control PSC. They are pretty much exclusively supporters of the Palestinian authority of Mahmood Abbas, which pretends to speak for Palestinians, but in fact is maintained in power with Israeli support and jointly with them, has prevented any free elections in the Palestinian occupied territories since 25 January 2006. It also launched a coup in 2007 against the Hamas leadership that was clearly elected in 2006, declaring a state of emergency, in collaboration with Israel as well as other imperialist forces including British intelligence. It put elected Hamas legislators in jail and started a de-facto civil war that persists to this day, and has allowed Israel to further weaken the Palestinians and colonise the West Bank, and to crucify Gaza with repeated barbaric bombing campaigns and other atrocities, like the murder of Gaza protesters calling for the right to return. So, PSC is dominated by bureaucratic, opportunist and traitorous forces, and throws out people who oppose such treachery and fake opposition. Indeed, the late Edward W Said characterised the Palestinian Authority that grew out of the Oslo accord as akin to the Vichy regime that collaborated with the Nazis in occupied France.
It is no accident that Peter Gregson who the PSC Executive was so determined to keep out of PSC, was the leader of an organic trend within the Corbyn led Labour Party, LAZIR, whose whole purpose was to challenge Zionist anti-Muslim bigotry in Labour. Corbyn has repeatedly thrown the more radical anti-Zionist figures in the Labour Party under the bus, including prominent figures like Chris Williamson and Ken Livingstone. In the case of Peter Gregson, a much witch-hunted figure and target of Zionist rage, Corbyn denounced the supposedly ‘anti-Semitic’ LAZIR banner outside the 2019 Labour Party Conference and had the police remove it after Peter put it up.
But the banner simply reproduced an iconic cartoon by the pro-Palestine cartoonist Carlos Latuff depicting Corbyn being attacked by Benjamin Netanyahu, piloting a jet fighter firing missiles of ‘defamation’ at Corbyn. Corbyn’s denunciation of the LAZIR/Latuff banner is a gross capitulation before the Israel lobby, that brought forth a sharp rebuke from Carlos Latuff himself (see images). As is the executive’s exclusion of Peter Gregson itself, and the hysterical and anti-democratic response by the executive to being challenged over this, deepening the witch-hunt. It is importing the surrender before racist Zionist witchhunters by Jeremy Corbyn into the PSC, not to mention behaving in a similar manner to the likes of Starmer and McNichol. Between them these witchhunters and those who capitulate to them have inflicted a serious defeat on the British labour movement and need to be held accountable for that. As do those bringing this into PSC.
Zionism and Imperialist Oppression
Our tendency analyses Zionism as having implemented a highly successful strategy over the last several decades to resolve the question of the oppression of the Jews in a reactionary way, at the expense of the Palestinian people. It has done this by creating Israel as a powerful imperialist state that is unique among imperialist powers because it has a strong base of support, based on ethnic politics and its racist citizenship laws, in the ruling classes of several other imperialist countries, in Western Europe and most importantly the United States.
Without the influence of the Zionist faction in the old imperialist countries, which is at its core a Jewish-Zionist ethnic faction with a material interest in Israel though its ‘law of return’, Israel would be only a minor imperialist state with a similar lack of world power as, say Denmark. But Israel is armed to the teeth by the Western powers due largely to the influence of the bourgeois Zionist faction or lobby in the US and West Europe. It is not really a world power, but its regional military power is comparable to medium level Western imperialist nations including Britain when its arsenal of hundreds of nuclear weapons is considered. The US militarist-conservative publication The National Interest rates Israel as “the Middle East’s Military Superpower” (https://nationalinterest.org/blog/reboot/small-strong-israel-middle-east%E2%80%99s-military-superpower-173140).
The conclusion that we draw from this is that the historic oppression of the Jewish people that found its ultimate expression in the Nazi holocaust, is no more. Israel and its Zionist supporters now clearly dominate the Jewish political spectrum. Left-wing and anti-Zionist political forces are a small minority, and even if they were not that would not necessarily affect the material reality of the situation. Zionism’s successful strategy was to lead the Jews to join the world’s dominant peoples. Israel is imperialist, and political Zionism is an imperialist movement, not in any sense a movement of the oppressed, and it should not be indulged as such.
The PSC leadership says that our position amounts to anti-Jewish prejudice. The PSC Executive’s position amounts to pro-Zionist prejudice. If condemning Israel and its bourgeois supporters overseas as imperialist oppressors is equated with anti-Jewish prejudice, then logically opposition to US imperialism, British imperialism, French imperialism etc is anti-American, anti-British, anti-French prejudice. But even the apologists for the more traditional imperialist countries would not dare claim that. They would be laughed at!
The only way that the PSC leadership can justify this is by the most pathetic quotation-chopping and the technique of the ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ – people are supposed to look at our words (in a collectively approved Socialist Fight leaflet from Jan 2018), look at its evaluation of the position of the Zionist-led Jewish people in today’s world order, and pretend to see some sort of racist abuse against Jews in it. But there is none and the accusation is a feeble lie. The technique is like the population in the famous story feeling obliged to pretend that the King was wearing a fine suit of clothes when in fact he was walking around stark naked (see Appendix F).
There is nothing anti-Jewish in the contention that Jews today under Zionist leadership have joined the imperialist ‘club’ of dominant peoples, and it is an insult to those who suffered real oppression in the past to pretend that there is. As well as an insult to Palestinian victims of Zionism’s imperialist terrorism. The factual, materialist basis for arguing this is irrefutable and the allegation that mentioning these facts is anti-Jewish is a piece of anti-Communist hasbara.
This then is the motivation for my appeal against expulsion from PSC. Only the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, which also forced the postponement of the 2021 PSC AGM, have prevented this from being aired earlier. This appeal is not aimed at the PSC Executive mainstream, but at ordinary PSC supporters many of whom will be outraged at Starmer-style purges being brought into PSC by people acting hand-in-hand with witchhunters in the Labour Party.
Appendices and additional commentary.
Appendix A) Motion to PSC
This was submitted on 25 November 2019 (Around 10 days after this, I was informed by phone by Ben Soffa that the motion was ruled out of order and that I was suspended. He said Louise Regan would be in touch about this).
Motion on Peter Gregson and Membership Appeals
This AGM notes that article 4.5 of the PSC constitution states:
“Admission to, and where necessary termination of, membership – along with the issuing of invitations to sponsors – shall be the responsibility of the Executive Committee, to be ratified at the following AGM.”
This means that the constitutional position is that someone who applies to join PSC, and is refused membership by the executive, has the right to appeal to the AGM against refusal of membership.
There can be no debate about this: this is subject to ratification and therefore appeal at the AGM if the wording of the constitution means anything. If the AGM is denied the right to hear an appeal against such a decision, it is being denied the right to an informed ratification of the actions of the Executive.
We also note that Peter Gregson, of Labour Against Zionist Islamophobic Racism, was refused membership of PSC in July by a decision of the PSC executive. When brother Gregson informed the executive of an intention to appeal this to the AGM, Ben Jamal replied:
“The provisions of 4.6 in relation to appeals is … only relevant to those who have successfully been admitted to membership of PSC and subsequently had their membership terminated or suspended. As your case has been dealt with under clause 4.5 you are not entitled to appeal this decision to the AGM.”
This AGM notes that if it is not able to hear the appeal of someone refused membership, it is unable to make an informed ratification of this issue as clause 4.5 of the constitution stipulates.
This AGM therefore resolves to hear the appeal of Peter Gregson, and notes that this is a clarifying precedent.
Proposed: Ian Donovan (London)
Seconded: Jenifer Flintoft (Meon Valley)
Appendix B: PSC Constitution
Introduction: Note that the relevant clauses are highlighted. In his letter to Peter Gregson, quoted in the motion in Appendix A above, Ben Jamal claimed:
“The provisions of 4.6 in relation to appeals is … only relevant to those who have successfully been admitted to membership of PSC and subsequently had their membership terminated or suspended. As your case has been dealt with under clause 4.5 you are not entitled to appeal this decision to the AGM.”
The problem with this cock-eyed reasoning is that clause 4.5 contradicts this, as it explicitly covers both “Admission to, and where necessary termination of, membership” i.e.. both refusals of membership, and terminations (i.e., expulsions) and states that both decisions regarding admission and termination of membership are subject to being ratified at the next (ie. 2020) AGM.
Clause 4.5 covers both admission and termination of membership and explicitly states that the AGM has the right to ‘ratify’, i.e. hear appeals, regarding both. They are clearly linked in the same sentence. Clause 4.6 is about the power of the executive to suspend or expel members with a two-thirds majority. With regard to termination, therefore, clause 4.6 merely repeats what is already in clause 4.5, which already dealt with admissions and terminations and the right of the AGM to ratify them. The only new things in Clause 4.6 are the requirement for a two-thirds majority on the Executive for expulsions and suspensions, and the addition of the right to appeal to the AGM against suspension which is already present in clause 4.5 with regard to matters concerning admission to and termination of membership.
Thus, it is already clear that in refusing the right of Peter Gregson to appeal refusal of membership, the executive and its officers, in particularly Ben Jamal, breached clause 4.5 of the PSC Constitution.
It is also clear that in ruling out of order the motion put by myself and the late Jennie Flintoft on 25th November 2019, the Executive and/or its officers, in particularly Ben Soffa, blatantly violated clause 16 of the PSC Constitution. The motion we put was clearly protected by clause 16 and was placed in good order. It disputed the ruling of the executive and its officers about the interpretation of the constitution and the AGM had every right to decide on this dispute under clause 16. Ruling it out of order tore up Clause 16 and the PSC Constitution itself. This is proof of misconduct and unconstitutional behaviour by the PSC Executive and its officer here also.
As amended at AGM 2017
1. Name of Organisation
The name of the organisation shall be ‘Palestine Solidarity Campaign’.
2. Office location
The organisation, however registered, shall be in England.
3. Aims and Objectives
The aims and objectives of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign shall be shall be identical with those expressed in the Memorandum of Association of which this constitution is an integral part:
a) for the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people;
b) for the right of return of the Palestinian people;
c) for the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli state from the occupied territories.
d) against the oppression and dispossession suffered by the Palestinian people
e) in support of the rights of the Palestinian people and their struggle to achieve these rights
f) to promote Palestinian civil society in the interests of democratic rights and social justice
g) to oppose Israel’s occupation and its aggression against neighbouring states
h) in opposition to racism, including anti-Jewish prejudice and the apartheid and Zionist nature of
the Israeli state.
i) in opposition to Islamophobia.
4.1 Full Membership of the PSC shall be open to all those who agree with the aims and objectives of the Campaign and who pay the necessary annual subscription.
4.2 Paid up national members will be entitled to be members of their local branch and their details will be made available to bona fide (ie members of national PSC) branch officers for the purposes of PSC business only.
4.3 A member whose annual subscription is not renewed within six months of the renewal date shall be deemed to have lapsed their membership.
4.4 An honorary member is any person the AGM wishes to honour for services to the PSC or Palestine.
4.5 Admission to, and where necessary termination of, membership – along with the issuing of invitations to sponsors – shall be the responsibility of the Executive Committee, to be ratified at the following AGM.
4.6 The Executive Committee may, by a two-thirds majority, terminate or suspend the membership of an individual member, local branch, or affiliated organisation found to have breached the constitution, subject to appeal at the following AGM or EGM.
4.7 A member may resign from the organisation in writing posted to, or left at, the registered office of the company.
5. 1 The Executive Committee shall have the power to grant permission for the formation of local branches.
5.2. All branches shall adopt the PSC name except where there are historical reasons for another name. In these cases the branch constitution should state that the branch is a branch of PSC.
5. 3. All branches should adopt a constitution, which must contain:
a) The PSC aims and objectives.
b) A requirement for elected officers to be members of PSC.
c) A requirement to hold an Annual General Meeting.
d) Procedures for electing officers.
e) The requirement to properly account for money received and expended.
6.1 The Executive Committee shall have the power to grant permission for the formation of groupings of branches into regional structures.
6.2 Branches are encouraged to organise regional events and, where it does not detract from local activities, create a regional structure.
6.3 In consultation with the Executive Committee, regional structures should be created at the request of at least two branches, within a region and after adequate discussion by branches of its usefulness and sustainability. The creation of such regional structures should be ratified at the following AGM.
6.4 Once a regional structure is created and sustained, its main purpose should be as contained within points (3 and 6.2). At least one regional meeting per year should be organised to consider how to co-ordinate the implementation of PSC policies and initiatives within the region.
6.5 Where a duly-constituted Region exists, the EC member for that region shall be elected by a regional meeting before the AGM. In the absence of such a regional meeting, regional members for the EC shall be elected at the AGM. Voting for such regional representation shall only be undertaken by those members who are from the appropriate region.
6.6 Where a formal regional structure exists and has sufficient strength it should, where appropriate and in consultation with the Executive Committee, consider the creation and development of new branches within its region.
7. 1. Affiliated groups or bodies must accept the aims and objectives of PSC.
7. 2. Affiliated groups or bodies must pay the appropriate affiliation fee but for all other purposes are autonomous and solely responsible for their conduct.
7. 3. Such groups must apply for affiliation to the PSC AGM or (in between AGM’s) to the Executive Committee.
7. 4. Affiliated bodies may send an observer to National PSC Forum Meetings and AGM’s in accordance with point 8.3.
7. 5. PSC reserves the right to refuse affiliation or to revoke affiliation of any group or organisation whose aims, objectives or practices conflict in whole or in part with the aims, objectives and practices of PSC. Such a decision must be carried by a 2/3 majority of the AGM or Executive Committee.
8. 1. Annual General Meetings
a) Annual General Meeting (AGM) shall be open to all national members and shall be the policy making body of the PSC.
b) PSC shall hold an Annual General Meeting once in each calendar year. Not more than 15 months shall elapse between the date of one Annual General Meeting and the next.
c) The Agenda of the AGM shall include:
i) The presentation of an Annual Plan for the coming year;
ii) Report of the work of the EC since the last AGM;
iii) The presentation of accounts;
iv) Membership and affiliation report;
v) Motions submitted by members, branches affiliates, the EC and any other committees.
vi) The election of Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer, Trade Union Liaison Officer, the Campaign Officer, the Publications Officer, ordinary members of the Executive Committee and any other posts which are approved by the AGM.
vii) The Executive Committee may on behalf of the membership invite speakers to attend and address the Annual General Meeting.
d) The EC shall begin preparing for the AGM at least three months in advance of the scheduled date by inviting resolutions and nominations from branches and affiliates.
e) Resolutions and nominations for the AGM must be submitted in writing to PSC office at least eight weeks before the scheduled AGM. Amendments to the resolutions must be received in the PSC office at least seven days before the AGM.
f) Resolutions, the Annual Plan and nominations shall be circulated to branches and affiliated organisations at least six weeks before the scheduled date of the AGM.
g) All persons voting must be individual members of national PSC
h) Delegates from national organisations affiliated to PSC will have 3 votes (if they have over 100,000 members) or one vote if fewer.
i) All other affiliated organisations including PSC branches will have one vote.
j) All delegates, whether individual members or those duly nominated by their branch or affiliated organisation, must be registered with the PSC national office at least two clear days before the AGM.
8. 2. Notice of General Meetings.
a) An Extraordinary General Meeting or a Special General Meeting may be authorised by the National Executive Committee or an Annual General Meeting, whenever either body considers sufficient reason exists. Notice of why such a meeting is deemed necessary together with the resolution or resolutions to be considered must be given. Such Meetings can be called with no less than 21 days notice given to all members and affiliates. The EC shall convene an Extraordinary General Meeting on receiving a request to that effect signed by at least 5% of the full members having the right to attend and vote at General Meetings. In default those members requesting the Extraordinary meeting may convene one using the facilities and resources of the PSC.
b) Notice shall be inclusive of the day on which it is served and the day of the meeting.
c) A notice in writing may be made by email or post.
8. 3. Proceedings at Annual General Meetings and Extraordinary General Meetings.
a) The Chairperson shall preside at every General Meeting. If there is no Chair or Vice Chair or if he or she is not present within 15 minutes of the time appointed or is unwilling to preside, the members present shall elect either a member of the EC, or one of their number, to preside.
b) No business shall be transacted at any General Meeting unless a quorum of members is present when the meeting is due to commence. A quorum shall consist of 100 members or 10% of the membership having a right to attend and vote at that meeting, whichever is the lowest.
c) If a quorum is not present within 30 minutes of the time appointed for holding the General Meeting, it shall be dissolved if it was convened on the request of members, or adjourned to such a day, time and place as the EC shall think fit.
d) The proceedings at properly convened General Meetings will be conducted as laid down in the Standing Orders of the PSC.
e) Each fully paid up member who has been a member of national PSC for three months before the AGM shall have one vote.
f) Delegates from national organisations affiliated to PSC will have 3 votes (if they have over 100,000 members) or one vote if fewer.
g) All other affiliated organisations including PSC branches will have one vote.
9. Executive Committee
9.1 The Executive Committee shall be accountable to the membership for the implementation of the affairs of the PSC.
9.2 The EC shall be responsible to the membership for the proper management of the affairs of the PSC.
9.3 The EC shall be responsible for decisions made between AGM’s. It shall be responsible for strategic decisions which need to be made between AGM’s.
9.4 The EC shall consist of the Chair, the Vice-Chair, the Secretary, Treasurer, the Trade Union Liaison Officer, 1 representative of the Student and Youth Committee, the Campaign Officer, the Publications Officer, 5 Regional members, 2 representatives of the Trade Union Advisory Committee and 8 other members.
9.5. The EC shall have the power to co-opt a further six persons if this is felt necessary to aid its work and deliberations.
9.6 The EC shall constitute the Board of Directors.
9.7 The EC shall meet not less than 6 times per year.
9.8 The EC shall publish the minutes of its meetings and make available on request to all duly constituted PSC branches. In doing so it will ensure that confidentiality will be respected.
9.9 Every duly constituted branch of PSC has the right to place an item on the EC agenda and to send an observer to the EC meeting at which it is discussed.
9.9 Members attending the EC meetings shall withdraw from any agenda item which causes or may cause a conflict of interest.
10. Officers Group
10.1The Officers Group shall be a sub-committee of the EC.
10.2 The Officers Group shall consist of the Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Office Manager and up to two others to be elected by the EC.
10.3 The Officers Group shall be responsible for ensuring the implementation and decisions between Executive meetings.
10.4 The Officers Group shall be accountable to the EC.
10.5 The Officers Group must report its decisions to the EC at every EC meeting.
11. PSC Branch Forum
11.1 The PSC Branch Forum shall be a meeting for the interchange of information, discussion and training.
11.2 The PSC Branch Forum shall be open to branches, affiliates and individual members.
11.3 The PSC Branch Forum shall meet at least 2 times per year, at least once outside London.
11.4 The PSC Branch Forum may make recommendations to the NEC, which must be considered and given due weight.
a) The EC shall elect a Returning Officer who will supervise the conduct of elections and who will not be a member of the EC
b) Each fully paid up member who has been a member of national PSC for three months before the AGM shall have one vote.
c) Delegates from national organisations affiliated to PSC will have 3 votes (if they have over 100,000 members) or one vote if fewer.
(d) All other affiliated organisations including PSC branches will have one vote.
e) Nominations shall be open at least three months before the date of the AGM and any member who has been a member for at least six months before nominations open is eligible to stand.
f) Nominations must have the name of the proposer, seconder and candidate’s agreement.
g) Nominations shall close eight weeks before the date of the AGM.
h) All candidates may submit a statement of 100 words with their nomination.
i) The Election regulations shall be made by the EC and shall include advertisement of elections, receipt of nominations, confirmation of eligibility of candidature, candidature publicity, the election and counting of votes; procedure in the event of a disputed election; procedure for electing candidates to posts for which no nominations have been received.
j) EC members shall serve until the end of the AGM following their election. Retiring EC members are eligible for re-election.
a) The PSC is responsible for ensuring that funds provided to it are used only for those activities which are in accordance with its aims and objectives.
b) The EC is required to:
(i) Ensure that accounts and accounting records are kept, and that accounting information, in accordance with normal professional accounting principles is prepared.
(ii) Ensure the preparation of annual accounts.
(iii) Ensure that a normal system of internal financial management and control is maintained.
(iv) Plan and conduct its financial affairs so as to ensure that its total income is at least sufficient, taking one year with another, to meet its total expenditure and that its financial solvency is maintained.
(vi) Take responsibility for the determination of the pay, terms and conditions of service of any staff employed by PSC.
(vii) Independent examiners or auditors may be appointed by the AGM.
a) The EC shall make provision for regulations governing the following PSC activities:
(i) Terms of reference and Job descriptions for EC members, Disciplinary Procedure and codes of practice for EC members and paid staff.
(ii) Openness and accountability of the Executive Committees proceedings.
(iii) Standing Orders for Executive Committee meetings.
(iv) Procedures for compliance with EU and UK legislation.
Nothing in the regulations shall be contradictory to the meaning and interpretation of the Constitution
a) This constitution may be amended by resolution of the AGM passed by a two thirds majority of those present and voting in favour.
b) The regulations may be amended by the EC with a majority present voting in favour.
In the event of any unresolved dispute arising over the interpretation of the Constitution the matter shall be referred to the EC who shall make a ruling, which in turn should be ratified by the following AGM.
17. Winding Up
Clause 10 of the Memorandum of Association relating to the winding up and dissolution of the PSC shall have effect as if its provisions were repeated in this constitution.
Appendix C: Suspension letter from Louise Regan (10 Dec 2019)
Introduction: What is interesting about this letter is that it says that I had been suspended due to ‘concerns’ about my ‘conduct’, but the letter did not offer the slightest hint of what those ‘concerns’ were.
It is evident that the reason for this is that at the time the letter was written, the executive had not decided what their ‘concerns’ were. They had nothing. They had decided to suspend me without any evidence of wrongdoing, none at all. What corroborates this is that in this December letter she says that she will be in touch “in the next few days” but in fact it took them 34 days to come up with something. They had decided to suspend me because they did not like my motion, but it took them over a month, not a “few days” to concoct something, however feeble, to give them a fig leaf to hide their real motive.
In the meantime, they were copying their political masters in the Labour Party bureaucracy, trawling the internet and social media, looking for something to accuse me of. But they could not find anything. I have never denied the Nazi holocaust or the pre-WWII oppression of the Jews. I have never endorsed the Protocols of Zion or any similar racist propaganda against Jews. I have never racially abused Jewish people, or anyone else. They had nothing they could use to give them cover for the real reason they wanted to get rid of me. Which was to defend their blatant, corrupt breaches of the PSC constitution. What they eventually came up with was feeble indeed and insulting to the intelligence.
Following receipt of concerns raised regarding your conduct as a member of PSC I have been appointed as the investigating officer.
Following a preliminary investigation and in consultation with the Executive Committee a decision has been made to suspend your membership pending the outcome of the investigation.
The branch secretary and chair will be notified of this decision and you are therefore requested to cease any further activity in the name of PSC.
I will be in contact with you in the next few days to detail the process and to allow you to respond to the allegations that have been made.
Appendix D: Response to suspension letter by Ian Donovan (10 Dec 2019)
Dear Louise Regan,
I am in receipt of your letter dated 10 December 2019.
However I am somewhat at a loss to know what public activity in the name of PSC I am supposed to ‘stop’. Because although I support PSC and have done for many years, I have not to my knowledge engaged in any activity ‘in its name’ recently, if ever. I hold no elected position in PSC and would not presume to speak on its behalf.
You refer to ‘allegations’ without specifying what they are.
But circumstances make clear that your ‘allegation’ is that I put a motion in favour of the right to appeal against the denial of membership of Peter Gregson, of Labour Against Zionist Islamophobic racism, to the PSC AGM. This motion was submitted completely constitutionally by myself and another PSC comrade on 26 November, in time for the normal deadline.
The only objective of LAZIR is the dissaffiliation of the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel from the Labour Party. This is completely compatible with the aims and objectives of PSC and support for it is not proscribed.
I therefore take it that you oppose these objectives and support the affiliation of these Zionists to the Labour Party. That makes you a de-facto political agent of these Zionist bodies.
It’s perfectly obvious that the purpose of this suspension is to rig the January 2020 AGM and to stop this motion, which is completely in tune with PSC’s constitution, from being debated.
It is crystal clear that in denying the right of the conference to hear Peter’ Gregson’s appeal, the PSC executive is in breach of clause 4.5 of the PSC Constitution and is denying the PSC AGM the right to an informed ratification (or not) of its actions regarding Peter Gregson’s membership.
Therefore your suspension of me is an act of conference rigging and a direct attack on not only myself but of the right of PSC’s AGM to exercise its constitutional right of informed ratification of the Executive’s actions. The suspension itself is a corrupt act and the ‘investigation’ just a charade whose purpose is to defend the ‘right’ of the PSC Executive to behave in an unconstitutional and likely unlawful manner.
Therefore the ‘investigation’ is itself unconstitutional and a corrupt act. Any co-operation with this fraudulent ‘investigation’ would therefore involve complicity in a major breach of the constitution by the PSC Executive, which would itself be a breach of the constitution. Just by agreeing to ‘conduct’ this phoney ‘investigation’ you yourself are in breach of the PSC constitution and an abuse of office, which ought to render you, not me, liable to expulsion from PSC.
As I do not want to be complicit in such a corrupt breach of the constitution, I will not be cooperating in any way with this corrupt ‘investigation’. Anyone else who ‘cooperates’ or participates in this fraudulent ‘investigation’ in any way at all is likewise in breach of the PSC constitution and actively involved in AGM-rigging.
Any further attempts to contact me regarding this will not be replied to in a spirit of cooperation, but will be cited and published as further evidence of your corruption and AGM-rigging activities.
I note that your pretence of acting impartially is a fraud. I have it on good authority that you are a member of Socialist Action, which is a bureaucratic Stalinist cult around a renegade ex-Trotskyist known as John Ross.
Being ‘investigated’ by a member of such an outfit is like being ‘investigated’ by a body controlled by the thug Gerry Healy, the cult leader and rapist who abused the membership of the Workers Revolutionary Party for many years. If you think I will give any credence to the capacity of such a cult to ‘investigate’ anyone you are totally deluded.
Yours for socialism, not bureaucratic gangsterism
Appendix E: Complaint letter from Louise Regan 13 Jan 2020
Introduction: This is all they could come up with after over a month of searching for something to justify the suspension and threat of expulsion against me. Apparently criticising the creation of Jews-only groups on the left that supposedly fight for Palestinian rights separately from non-Jews by giving it their separate endorsement, is not allowed. That is what is implied, though rather weakly, since the passage is not highlighted. Since comparisons of Zionist Israel with apartheid South Africa are frequently made, it’s a reasonable question as to whether if someone had the idea of setting a group called ‘whites against apartheid’, and that was criticised for excluding non-whites, such criticism would be considered ‘anti-white racism’. That’s how bizarre this allegation is. But it is not made particularly strongly. The highlighted passage is obviously what they really are trying to portray as objectionable.
Apparently, to say that Jews have succeeded in escaping from the earlier oppression that they suffered before WWII and are now to be counted among the world’s oppressor peoples, is in some way a slur against Jews. That is an absurd contention that does not stand up to a moment’s scrutiny. It is a matter of empirical observation: is it true or not?
These people do not even bother to try to demonstrate that it is untrue. They should try to demonstrate to Palestinians, who have been dispossessed of their homeland for three quarters of a century by the Jewish state, that the Israeli Jews who have dispossessed them, are not an oppressor people. If they seriously believe that Israeli Jews are not an oppressor people, then logically they should not support a campaign in solidarity with the Palestinian people, who are clearly oppressed by Israeli Jews.
But that brings us on to the quotation-chopping. Because the feeble innuendo here is that this passage implies that every Jew on the planet is an oppressor, or that every Jewish community in every country is part of an oppressor people. If it did say that, it would hardly constitute racist abuse, but it would be mistaken. But the passage does not say that. Here is the passage which is emphasised, which appears to be the basis of the feeble non-charge of hostility to Jewish people, in full:
“Yet the CPGB and its allies deny that this phenomenon exists, and seek to deny workers democracy to those who draw attention to it. This is not an anti-racist struggle on their behalf, but a pandering to the nationalism and communalism of an oppressor people, as Jews have become today insofar as under Zionist leadership they manage to act collectively. [emphasis added by ID].
It is the flip-side of their anti-Muslim capitulations. Jews are the one people in the imperialist epoch that have comprehensively escaped from systematic oppression and joined the ranks of oppressor peoples in the imperialist world order (this emphasis added by Louise Regan). This is because the oppression that led to their persecution and attempted genocide in the mid-20th Century was rooted in feudal, not capitalist society.“
This takes account of the fact that the Zionist movement does claim, fairly accurately by all accounts, the allegiance of the vast majority of Jews in the imperialist countries. Anti-Zionist Jews are quite a small minority. Zionist Jews are organised politically in mainstream organisations that mobilise very effectively to support Israel against the Palestinians, and to witchhunt and suppress support for the Palestinians. Everyone knows this movement exists and is a potent force. Those Jews who support these movements quite clearly do politically support the oppression of the Palestinians. Since they do so on an ethnic basis they act as part of an oppressor people.
This does not include all Jews worldwide. It does not seem to include the Jewish community in Iran, for instance, whose leaders do not appear to support Zionism and the Jewish state. But those Jews who support Israel against the Palestinians clearly are oppressing the Palestinians. This should be the position of any Palestinian Solidarity Campaign worthy of the name. The fact that it can be cited as a reason to expel someone from such a campaign simply shows that PSC is led by capitulators to Zionism, at best.
Following my email to notify you that we had received a complaint regarding your conduct I am now contacting you with details of these complaints and giving you the opportunity to respond to these as part of my investigation. The complaint is:
That the following was published by you on the Socialist Fight website
https://socialistfight.com/2017/12/01/third-camp-stalinoids-bring-witchhunt-intolabour-against-the-witchhunt/ – ‘The CPGB’s bloc with Bundist-influenced Jewish socialists such as Tony Greenstein and Moshé Machover, who have played initiating or supporting roles in various Jews-only political campaigns, such as Jews Against Zionism, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-Big), etc, only underlines this philoSemitic, Islamophobic bias … by emphasising their Jewishness, to ‘kosher’ the Palestinian solidarity movement and parry the inevitable smears of anti-Semitism that Zionists throw at it. These groups … tacitly accept a key Zionist notion that is hegemonic in today’s racist society: the notion of Jewish moral superiority; that anyone who opposes Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians is guilty of anti-Semitism until proven innocent.
Jews are the one people in the imperialist epoch that have comprehensively escaped from systematic oppression and joined the ranks of oppressor peoples in the imperialist world order.’
To be clear the reason for your suspension is not related to the motion submitted to the PSC AGM. There is no suggestion that you were commenting in the name of PSC however behaviour by a member which contravenes the constitution is also reason for investigation when a complaint is raised. I also attach a copy of the complaint’s procedure. If you could please let me have any response to these concerns by Friday 24th January.
Vice Chair PSC
Appendix F: Reply to Louise Regan from Ian Donovan, 20 January 2020
Dear Louise Regan,
Would you like to explain what rule this article broke? It is an agreed statement of the Socialist Fight group, which I and others in PSC support.
If your innuendo is that this is in some way anti-Semitic, it certainly does not fit the definition of anti-Semitism in the dictionary. It certainly does not constitute “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group” as the Merriam Webster dictionary puts it.
I assume that PSC has not endorsed the racist, anti-Arab IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, with its numerous ‘examples’. But even if it had, it does not break that either, as “denying that Jews are currently an oppressed people in the imperialist world order” is not one of its ‘examples’.
So are you saying that Socialist Fight is a proscribed organisation in PSC? Or what? Are you proposing to prescribe particular left groups now?
I note that you are a member of the Labour Party which has adopted the IHRA definition. I have left Labour and cancelled my membership because I no longer an prepared to support a party that has rules that discriminate against Palestinians.
But you seem to be adopting the methods of the racist, anti-Palestinian right wing of Labour for use against Socialists and anti-imperialists in PSC. Shame on you! I regard any decision you make against me on the stated grounds as motivated by the racism of the party and opportunist faction you support and will expose you in front of the wider socialist public for this.
Of course the motive for this suspension is to rig the AGM and stop the obvious breach of the constitution the Executive committed, as detailed in our motion, from being discussed at the AGM. Your statement denying this is simply a lie. And your ‘case’ against me is a fraud, as the SF statement cited is in no sense hostile to Jewish people, only to those who support the oppression of the Palestinians.
Appendix G: Expulsion letter from Ben Soffa (PSC Secretary/ the Head of Digital Organising for Zionist New Labour)
Letter expelling me, dated 05/03/2020
Dear Mr Donovan,
On Saturday 29th February the Executive Committee of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign considered the complaint made against you relating to statements which called into question your full support for the aims of the organisation – specifically the aim to campaign ‘in opposition to racism, including anti-Jewish prejudice’. It also considered your response to the complaint.
As stated in PSC’s constitution (point 4.1 in the attached), ‘Full Membership of the PSC shall be open to all those who agree with the aims and objectives of the Campaign’. The aims of the campaign include the requirement to be ‘in opposition to racism, including anti-Jewish prejudice’.
After considering this matter, the Executive Committee concluded that you are not in compliance with the aims of the campaign and are therefore not eligible for membership of PSC. The committee voted as per point 4.6 of the constitution, unanimously approving a resolution to terminate your membership of PSC.
This decision comes into effect immediately and you cease to hold any of the rights and privileges of PSC membership. The constitution does afford those whose membership has been terminated to make an appeal against the Executive’s decision at the subsequent AGM of the campaign, which is anticipated to be held in London on 30th January 2021. Were you to wish to exercise this option a minimum of two weeks notice is required. However you should be aware that The Executive Committee voted for this course of action with no votes to the contrary and would strongly defend its position to the wider membership who have always upheld the decisions of the Executive Committee in this regard.
You may also inform us if you wish to receive a pro-rata refund on any remaining portion of your membership subscription.
Whilst I appreciate this will not come as welcome news, I hope you are able to put the needs of the Palestinian people first in your considerations.
U.S. forces based in Iraq have bombed pro-Iran militia units in Syria. This is a clear sign of continuity with Trump’s US foreign policy under Joe Biden’s new presidency. Imperialism is not only a particular phase of capitalism, but also expressed by a policy of war (conventional or not) of the state at the service of financial capital and multinational monopolies.
The ‘respectable’, ‘civilised’ image cultivated by Biden’s supposedly progressive administration is designed to distinguish it from its crudely racist, fascist-sympathising predecessor. But it is not able to hide from the masses of the world that no matter the nuances of the political regime in Washington, its relations with the rest of humanity as the world’s imperialist hegemon, do not change just because the party that rules the White House changes. As Karl Marx noted nearly 150 years ago of an earlier imperialist hegemon, Britain:
“The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilisation lies unveiled before our eyes, moving from its home, where it assumes respectable form, to the colonies, where it goes naked’ .
The Future Results of British Rule in India, Jan 22, 1853, in New York Daily Tribune
A key feature of the world situation in the 21st Century, particularly since the financial crisis and near collapse of 2007-9, is the shaking of the equilibrium of the pillars of world capitalism, the dramatic deterioration of the power of the West and the United States. Another peculiarity of this moment, which combines with the crisis of imperialist domination is the growth of the influence of a bloc composed of dependent capitalist countries, semi-colonies and workers states, as rivals of the USA.
The aforementioned dependent capitalist powers are two former workers states, centrally Russia and China. These two great nations are supported by smaller semi-colonial countries that are also in conflict with imperialism, such as Iran and Venezuela. On this multinational front are also the two remaining deformed worker states, North Korea and Cuba. They are all the target of imperialist economic sanctions. Some, like Cuba, have been under sanctions for more than 70 years. Others, like Iran, have been under sanctions for 40 years.
” In the sphere of inter-state relations the disruption of equilibrium means war or – in a weaker form – tariff war, economic war, or blockade. Capitalism thus possesses a dynamic equilibrium, one which is always in the process of either disruption or restoration. But at the same time this equilibrium has a great power of resistance, the best proof of which is the fact that the capitalist world has not toppled to this day. ”
Leon Trotsky, Report on the World Economic Crisis and the New Tasks of the Communist International, June 1921
Key to our programme today is the defence of these opponent powers of Western imperialism against imperialist attack, and of course regarding the deformed workers states, defence of them against capitalist restoration whether from within or without. These considerations overlay our entire analysis and response to such imperialist actions.
The crisis sparked the shake-up of imperialist domination and simultaneously concentrated capital in the hands of an even smaller handful of banks, monopolies and billionaires. This concentration of power in the hands of financial capital promoted a right-wing turn in globally dominant bourgeois thinking, encouraged fascist tendencies, promoted bourgeois leaders such as Trump, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsonaro, Scott Morrison, Rodrigo Duterte, Matteo Salvini, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Viktor Orbán. Fascism is a watchdog of financial capital set to terrorize the proletariat in times of crisis, to force it to submit to austerity and slavery regimes. To this end, it regiments, recruits for the state forces of the enraged petit-bourgeoisie and demoralized gangs of the lumpemproletariat, human beings that financial capital itself led to despair and fury. These trends that rely on strong material bases of capital concentration have not cooled with the replacement of one or the other of these leaders.
Iraq is in effect a US colony today. Its Prime Minister, in the latest phase of the US overlordship that has been maintained since the invasion and subjugation of 2003, is Mustafa Al-Khadami, who claims a history as a campaigner for human rights against the former regime of Saddam Hussein. But then one discovers that he is a close associate and friend of Muhammad bin Salman, the Crown Prince and de-facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, US client and close collaborator of Zionist Israel, murderer of Jamal Khashoggi, and deadly enemy of Iran. Bin Salman is waging a genocidal war against the Yemeni population and particularly the Iran-allied Shia Houthi movement, who now are leading a genuine national independence struggle against their Saudi oppressors, who act on behalf of US imperialism and Zionism.
Iraq has been rent by protest movements against corruption and occupation, the latest being the biggest since October 2019, before the Covid pandemic, which has caused huge suffering and exacerbated the plight of the populations in the entire region, including Iraq, Syria, and worst of all Yemen. This entire circumstance has led to resistance to US rule: with the Sadr movement in Iraq playing a key role, and pro-Iran Shi’a groups in Syria, such as Kataeb Hizbullah, who have been a key part of this resistance to occupation and corruption. But it goes further than a mere religious objection: these movements have class roots, though their relationship with this is complex.
In any case, the US is fearful of populations taking things into their own hands and demanding democracy and an end to US domination, demands that could fuel a challenge to capitalism itself, notwithstanding the current state of mass consciousness. For that is what is objectively posed by US imperialist domination. Breaking from it needs a more fundamental struggle then the current forces can offer, though there is always the possibility that the struggle could provide an opening for more advanced political developments.
The whole situation mixes with the consequences of the failure of the US to subjugate the region’s oppressed semi-colonies. They have not defeated Iran, pressured by sanctions, sabotage, assassinations like Soleimani’s, Israeli bombings, and hybrid warfare operations since the 1979 revolution. They do not fully control Iraq, despite 18 years of occupation. They have not destabilized or overthrown the Assad government, even if they have been trying to do this for more than a decade. During the Arab spring imperialism tried to recycle and expand its dominance in the region by relying on the popular rebellion against the economic crisis that financial capital itself provoked between 2007-9. In allied countries imperialism manoeuvred to crush the “spring”, brutally oppressed the movements of opposition to the governments of Egypt and Bahrain, allies of Washington / Israel / Saudi Arabia. In countries ruled by unreliable regimes such as Libya and Syria, imperialism armed the opposition. In Libya, the imperialist coalition managed to subdue the oppressed nation and assassinate Qaddafi. It was a colonial bloodbath, driven directly by British, French, and American forces. At that time, in 2011, imperialism had the complicit abstention of the diplomatic delegations of Russia and China in the UN Security Council. Brazil, India, and Germany also abstained. South Africa, ruled by the ANC, voted in favour of the colonialist intervention in the sister African nation. No one opposed Resolution 1973 authorizing international support for the movement for the overthrow of Qaddafi. After this tragedy, when the U.S. and Israel tried to repeat this offensive in Syria , relying on armed opposition agents, including Daesh, a military coalition of anti-imperialist forces, mainly Iranian and Russian, was constituted and managed to deliver a major blow against the U.S. and Israel, with the most important battle to conquer Aleppo in 2016.
As we wrote then in a declaration signed by the LCFI’s sections and a number of other revolutionary groups and individuals around the world:
“The final liberation of Aleppo in mid-December 2016 is a defeat of the jihadist militias sponsored by the USA and its allies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Libya, to name the most prominent. A victory for imperialism on Aleppo here would have dealt an enormous blow to the Syrian and Middle East working class.
The defeat of US-dominated world imperialism based in Wall Street’s great finance houses and their allied transnational corporations and the subordinate imperialisms in Europe and Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada etc. is a victory for the world working class and all oppressed peoples of the planet. Of course, it is not a socialist revolutionary victory but it does strengthen the struggle of the working class of Syria against imperialism and therefore ultimately against its own capitalist ruling class.”
The whole situation is intermixed with the consequences of the failure of the US to fully subjugate Iraq, despite 18 years of occupation, and more recently to destabilise and overthrow the Assad government in Syria. This grew out of the imperialist response to the initially naive Arab spring upheaval. They manoeuvred to brutally crush the movement in Washington/Israel’s allies, such as Egypt and Bahrain, while buying control of it in Libya and Syria, ruled by regimes that had sometimes shown defiance against the US and Israel. Though they succeeded in subjugating Libya and destroying Qadhafi in a reactionary bloodbath directly aided by British, French and US forces, in Syria they were foiled by a military bloc of semi-colonial nations, centrally Russia and Iran, that came to the aid of Syria to resist this imperialist conquest and succeeded in striking a major blow against imperialism by defeating the attempt, centrally at Aleppo in 2016.
Trump and Biden: Continuity and Discontinuity
Trump’s regime was particularly brutal domestically in its white supremacism and cavalier Social Darwinism over Covid-19, costing hundreds of thousands of lives at home. It brought about a hugely polarising clash between two mass camps – a proto-fascist, white supremacist movement behind Trump, vs the de facto popular-front around the Democratic Party of Biden and Sanders, that found armed expression at the Capitol on 6 Jan. Biden’s role is to neutralise that struggle and ‘reconcile and reunite’ the American population.
In foreign policy, the Trump administration was also dysfunctional, veering between national isolation and extreme militarism, between some limited troop withdrawals from the Middle East, and overt threats of nuclear war against Iran and North Korea, followed in the latter cases by pacific overtures and cranky attempts at ‘friendship’. His promotion of the fake ‘President’ of Venezuela, Guaido, going so far as to threaten invasion (and made a failed attempt to initiate one with mercenaries) if Maduro failed to comply with this aggression, was hardly pacific isolationism. Trump personally ordered the murder of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard commander Qasem Suleimani (mimicking Obama’s assassination of Osama bin Laden) and tore up Obama’s 2015 JCPOA deal with Iran that sought to limit its nuclear capabilities in exchange for the gradual lifting of imperialist sanctions. Biden formally declares he is trying to resurrect and save the JCPOA, but concretely carried out this military attack against Iran. Under this policy, the resumption of negotiations with the Persian nation would be based on a shameful capitulation, which does not seem to be in Tehran’s plans. Resuming these agreements is far less likely and more difficult than the Paris Accord on Climate Change and the World Health Organisation, which Trump walked away from right in the middle of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The JCPOA was openly undermined and condemned by Israel even when Obama was still in power, and Trump was funded by Likudniks – Sheldon Adelson was his biggest campaign donor, this being a key factor in his rise to power in 2016, demanding the abandonment of the JCPOA. This seems to be the nexus of the contradictory relationship between the bulk of the US ruling class, and the overlapping, numerous and powerful Jewish-Zionist part of it that regards Israel as just as much its state as the US itself.
It is not clear that Biden will be able or willing to simply go back to the configuration that existed at the time of Obama’s Iran deal, as Zionism has grown more powerful as an organic component of imperialism, in terms of its influence and centrality through the Trump period: Biden will not simply be a negation of everything about Trump just as Obama earlier was not simply a negation of the Bush period. Obama’s tactics and strategy incorporated strong element of Bush’s, and in turn Trump himself incorporated some Obama era policies and deepened them, e.g. Obama’s mass, million strong deportation programme. Biden in turn appears quite Trumpian in his administration’s actions after only a few weeks. These continuities occur above all because of the common class underpinning of the two US bourgeois parties, no matter the conflicts between them (which can bring other forces into conflict with each other, as recent events illustrate).
Israel sees the very existence of any strong and independent Arab or Muslim state in the Middle East as a threat to its very legitimacy and demands the destruction of Iran and similar states even if the consequences are catastrophic. This was also the role Zionists played in agitating for the destruction of Iraq in the early 2000s, when the 9/11 attacks in 2001 gave them the opportunity to win support for that policy among the wider American bourgeoisie.
The policy of the mainstream of the US bourgeoisie is not that per se. It has no objection to rampant militarism, destruction of nations through invasion and throwing its weight around the globe, but it also understands that such things are often counterproductive and tend to unite enemies against it. It prefers to divide and rule, though ‘soft power’, ‘colour revolutions’ and the destabilisation of opposing forces through hybrid warfare. But there is no absolute distinction between them either. So, when Biden distances himself from Trump’s policy and actions in abandoning Obama’s JCPOA, at the same time he copies Trump in a ‘measured’ way in bombing Iran’s Syrian allies. No doubt he regrets the setbacks that the US hybrid war strategy suffered in Syria. It is possible, indeed likely that the Biden regime will try to revive the kind of hybrid warfare that the US carried out in the Arab Spring along with such military attacks.
Racist Lies and Conspiracy Theories
This overlap is also visible in the fact that Biden has not denounced, but carried on with, the smear and innuendo that the Covid-19 virus, which appears to have crossed the species barrier to humans in or around Wuhan, China, is some kind of manufactured Chinese weapon. This outrageous lie was stock in trade of Trump’s racism in dubbing Covid-19 the ‘China virus’, but Biden has carried on with it as part of seeking to mobilise popular hostility against China over something that in fact is a product of capitalist restoration, the commercialisation of food production, and commodification of wildlife in this regard. The US bourgeoisie instead promotes its own racist conspiracy theory, while decrying supposed ‘conspiracy theories’ elsewhere, particularly accurate descriptions of the behaviour of the Israel-loyal brethren among its own class, any realistic analysis of which it denounces as ‘conspiracy theory’ and hence ‘anti-Semitic’ (of course!).
The ‘liberal’ Biden administration’s continuation of Trump’s racist lie about China has even manifested itself in censorship on social media, as Facebook has banned the sharing of an article by the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) denouncing the smear against China as a warmongering conspiracy theory. (See Facebook censors WSWS article exposing Wuhan lab conspiracy theory, https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2021/02/26/pers-f26.html). This in apparent concert with the liberal Biden supporters of the Washington Post. So, the bourgeoisie waxes indignant at accurate descriptions of the behaviour of its racist, Zionist allies and class brethren, but attacks the left when it criticises their own jingoistic, racist lying blood-libels against China, the outgrowth of the white supremacist proto-fascist Trump.
Such are indexes of the oppressive and dangerous role of US imperialism in the world today. We defend the Shia militiamen in Syria against the attacks they have suffered, and condemn the warmongering smears against China, and the entire world project of the ‘business as usual’ US imperialism of Joseph R Biden and call for its defeat in all conflicts with the oppressed peoples and semi-colonial countries including Iran, Syria, Russia and China. This action by the Biden government exposes all those who created expectations in this new management of imperialism as being “progressive.” The counterrevolutionary, predatory role of imperialism can only be overcome by the strategy of the permanent revolution, by the working class taking the leadership of the struggle against imperialism through principled tactics like the Anti-Imperialist United Front, with the aim of the world revolution at the core of our strategy.
“Any serious factional fight in a party is always in the final analysis a reflection of the class struggle. The Majority faction established from the beginning the ideological dependence of the opposition upon petty-bourgeois democracy. The opposition, on the contrary, precisely because of its petty-bourgeois character, does not even attempt to look for the social roots of the hostile camp.”
Leon Trotsky, A Petty-Bourgeois Opposition in the Socialist Workers Party, December 1939
Almost exactly a year ago when it became clear that a major division had emerged in Socialist Fight, then the British Section of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International, our comrades from the US, Brazilian and Argentinian sections produced a Resolution on the crisis of the British section of the LCFI (5th March 2020). To document this for posterity, we now reproduce some extracts from the resolution dealing specifically with the British factional conflict:
“We believe that the crisis and split in the Socialist Fight is a step back from all angles for both, the LCFI and for SF itself.
“1. The crisis content: The SF has been under attacks for at least three years as part of a campaign carried on by the right and far right conservative political wings against Labour organizations. Within this right wing, the fraction that carried on the attack was the Great Britain Zionist Bourgeoisie. Against Labourism, using the SF as a target, this fraction even used Prime Minister David Cameron himself, who attacked Comrade Gerry Downing in 2016 directly. Objectively, this Zionist offensive drained virtually all the forces of the small group (as they are all our LCFI groups). The elaboration of the SF made it almost monothematic, international contact has been almost extinct in recent years;
“2. For the result: The Zionist offensive divided one of the sections of the LCFI. This situation created an internal crisis and divided our British section. Any advantage presented by either wing is just verbal triumphalism, without correspondence with reality. Here Lenin’s slogan that the ‘party grows by purifying’ was not worth it. The SF is smaller and now with Gerry’s wing chasing former allies of the Labour left, the SF may be less influential in the workers’ political struggle;
“As materialists, we understand that this Socialist Fight defeat is part of the Labour Party’s humiliating and shameful political defeat in 2019. It was Labour’s biggest electoral defeat since 1935 for the conservative right, which adds to Brexit. One of the fundamental weapons of the imperialist right against the left was this Zionist campaign against the supposed ‘anti-Semitism in the Labour party’.
“Those who sign this resolution understand that the fractionation of the SF is a by-product of the political defeat suffered by the British working class, regardless of how the SF crisis presents itself. But we are not fatalists, it was possible to avoid this defeat, if the SF had not unconsciously participated in this process, had not lost its sense of proportions, had not been involved in the enemy’s game.
“Isolated and weakened politically, British imperialism is increasingly influenced by the Zionist fraction of world imperialism.
“In light of the above, it is clear that the two wings that claim Socialist Fight and the LCFI are at an irreconcilable stage. We propose for the ESTABLISHMENT OF TWO SECTIONS OF LCFI IN GREAT BRITAIN, following the example of the experience of French Trotskyism in the 1930s, when Trotsky was still alive. Other experiences of the kind occurred at the IV International, which were equally brief. It is not an ideal formula, but it is the best status that we can propose today, to stop bleeding, to stop the course of defeat.
“This organizational proposition should not be identified as a centrist position in the face of the crisis in the British section of the LCFI. We understand that the wing led by comrade Gerry Downing, from suffering so much directly, after being the target of the biggest witch hunt (media and within Labour) that a small Trotskyist organization has ever suffered from British imperialism, ended up unconsciously adding to that the Zionist witch hunt against the anti-Zionist faction of the British left and, finally, in the face of the resistance it encountered within the SF, it also finally ended a hunt within the SF itself, in favour of Zionism.”
The objective of this was to create conditions where the comrades who had been driven into political retreat by the defeats of the labour movement and the British left, could reconsider their course and return to revolutionary politics. Comrade Downing failed to do this, his positions matured for the worse, it turned out that his capitulation to Zionism and imperialism (including the accession of a member who accuses China of being imperialist) was not a point outside the curve, but a consolidated trend of breaking with Marxism and the anti-imperialist struggle of the oppressed peoples.
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the Downing faction, or what remains of it, has followed through the logic of its retreat before the Zionist-fuelled pro-imperialist witchhunt in and around the British Labour Party, and broken with the LCFI.
Sound and Fury hides Contradictions
There is a great deal of sound and fury in the article announcing its final political break, filled with strident denunciations that have the character of excommunication reminiscent of the worst calumnies in the history of the workers movement. The immediate target is the faction in Britain which refused to break with the LCFI, which has maintained collaboration with international comrades, and whose politics are the same as those of Socialist Fight before the split. Such is the tone and content of the Downing faction statement, that it comes across as irrational and utterly self-contradictory. It appears to try to prove, at one and the same time, that the British comrades are both sympathetic to fascism (!) and at the same time opportunist leftists seeking a popular front with the liberal bourgeoisie against fascism. Our British comrades are condemned as ‘popular front’ supporters for condemning the US bourgeois state for not shooting dead armed white supremacist fascist insurrectionists. This is strange behaviour indeed for supposed sympathisers of white supremacist fascism, most normal people would think.
Logically these two propositions cannot both be true; they are utterly at odds with each other. As Trotsky once said of other self-contradictory accusations, “Even slander should make some sense!” Therefore, we must look deeper into the political statement of the splitting faction to discover what is driving them.
Their long document cannot explain the rupture, it tries to justify how the SF ended up where it is, that is, tries to defend the indefenisble by manufacturing for example the category of “fascist antifascist”.
The real essence of what is driving the Downing trend is not difficult to discern. It clearly bears out the diagnosis in the resolution quoted above, that the Downing faction “ended up unconsciously adding to this Zionist witch hunt against the anti-Zionist faction of the British left” and held “finally also a hunt inside the SF itself, in favour of Zionism”. The contradiction was that even while it was doing that, this faction affirmed publicly that it still supported the LCFI and our aspirations to a consistently anti-imperialist, revolutionary internationalist programme and position. Even today, as it splits away to the right, it tries to restate this with the following appeal:
“… we appear to still have close agreement on other issues like the anti-imperialist united front and identifying US imperialism as the hegemonic world power which is the central enemy of the world working class and oppressed. We are prepared to form united fronts with any forces we see as moving to the left without forming any form of long-term propaganda blocs with them. With others where we have a closer agreement, we will seek to unify our forces.”
Throughout this year, March 2020 to almost March 2021, in which the LCFI published several international anti-imperialist statements “identifying US imperialism as the hegemonic world power that is the central enemy of the oppressed and working world class “, Gerry’s SF did not publish any, demonstrating that in practice he had already carried out the resolution that now formally communicates to us.
This orthodox-sounding verbiage is however mixed with a complete break from elementary anti-imperialism concerning Zionism. The slander of support for ‘fascism’ against our British comrades is in fact a defence of Zionism against the charge that it is politically similar to Nazism. But that is the position of the LCFI. The British LCFI comrades and the rest of the LCFI are united around the proposition that Zionism has great similarity to Nazism. The rump SF statement breaks from the politics of the LCFI when it says the following:
“There are Zionists who are fascists, and we will no-platform them like we will attempt to do to all fascists. But we will never equate racists in general with fascist racists. We distinguish between the racism of the oppressor and the racism of the oppressed, we distinguish between the fascist Zionism of the oppressor and the racist, apartheid or liberal Zionism of the oppressed, many of whom genuinely fear the return of the Holocaust and so support the state of Israel.” (emphasis added)
The defence of Zionism is clear in the emphasised passage. It clearly states that, apart from actual fascists, who in Zionism are represented mainly by the Kahanist trend and other kindred spirits particularly among the armed settler garrison populations (which in total correspond to just over 600,000 settlers, less than 7 % of a population of 9.3 million people), that “racist, apartheid or liberal Zionism” is the “racism of the oppressed”. In other words, among political Zionists, only the actual outright fascists who are prepared to openly break even with the ethnocratic Jewish ‘democracy’ that disenfranchises the Palestinian majority (more than half of whom are involuntary exiles) and install a far-right dictatorship over Jews as well as Arabs, can be said to embody the ‘racism of the oppressor’. For all the rest of political Zionism, the overwhelming majority, though it may be ‘racist’, is the ‘racism of the oppressed’. In effect, this defines Zionism as a form of the nationalism of the oppressed, and excuses its racism as driven by oppression and ‘fear of the return of the Holocaust’. This is an appalling apologia for Zionism and completely at odds with the anti-imperialist politics of the LCFI.
It is also completely incoherent. If Zionist Jews were not an oppressor people, how could the fascist trend among them act as oppressors? Ideologically fascist though they might be, if the population upon which they rested and among which they swam were not in a position to oppress another people, then how could they constitute ‘the racism of the oppressor’? To be an oppressor, you have to be in a position to actually…. oppress! The reference to ‘racist, apartheid or liberal’ Zionism “of the oppressed” can only be a reference to Israeli Jews themselves, as such apartheid-type features (it is worse than that!) enforced by Zionism are internal to Israel. Justifying again the unjustifiable Gerry created the category of the “poor and oppressed Zionist-racist-liberal-defender-of-apartheid”.
A clear break of today’s pro-Zionist SF with the anti-Zionist SF of 2018
This is also completely at odds with the position of Socialist Fight prior to the split. In September 2018, when Labour adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism whose mendacious ‘examples’ include an anathema on comparisons between the Zionists and Nazis, Gerry Downing himself denounced this:
“The Socialist Fight Group condemns the adoption of the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism and all its examples on 4-9-18 as a shameful capitulation not only to the Zionist lobby led by the Jewish Board of Deputies and the other right-wing Zionist organisations, also led by the Blairite right wing of the Labour party and the mass media but to capitalism/imperialism itself. The capitulation of Jeremy Corbyn, the even more grotesque capitulation of John McDonnell and the majority of the Labour NEC is an ominous portent of how they would withstand the far greater pressure a leftist Labour government would come under.
Labour now once again puts the rights of an oppressor people clearly above the rights of the oppressed.” (emphasis added).
This was a revolutionary condemnation of Zionism as the nationalism of an “oppressor people”, in comrade Downing’s words. Now, erasing with his elbow what he himself wrote with his hand, Gerry says that Zionist ‘apartheid’ is ‘the racism of the oppressed’.
This is clearly a break with the militant anti-Zionism that drove Socialist Fight when it was a unified revolutionary group. Indeed, Gerry Downing’s new formulation that distinguishes between the ‘fascist Zionism of the oppressor” and the “racist, apartheid or liberal Zionism of the oppressed”, clearly puts Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud in the camp of the ‘Zionism of the oppressed’ since they have not fought to establish a fascist regime over Israeli Jews.
Apparently for Gerry the “apartheid” imposed by Israel is ‘the racism of the oppressed’; Israeli Jews who perpetrate crimes against Palestinians are to be in some way excused, as their crimes are the crimes ‘of the oppressed’ – like when enraged Palestinians commit some indefensible act, presumably. This means that ideologically, comrade Downing has gone over to the Zionist camp and his entire polemic against the LCFI and its British section should be basically regarded as a Zionist tirade against anti-Zionists. Given this, it is necessary to take with a pinch of salt his assertion that:
“Of course, we defend all third world semi-colonial governments and peoples against imperialism, despite fundamental differences with them on their reactionary positions and actions against the working class and oppressed in their own lands, as we have continually made clear. We certainly do not endorse their anti-Semitism.”
op-cit “breaks with the LCFI”
This is thrown into severe doubt by the above. If the Zionist State of Israel has its “victim side” and embodies some sort of ideology of the oppressed, held by people who “genuinely fear the return of the Holocaust and so support the state of Israel”, and if this should be dignified as a response to oppression, then there is every reason to fear that in future conflicts in the Middle East, this faction will go further in its capitulation to Zionism and imperialism. If Zionist Jews are ‘oppressed’, then who are their oppressors? Obviously, they must be non-Jews. But the only non-Jews they live in proximity to are the Arabs. So how could comrade Downing with this position defend the Arab peoples of the region, including the Palestinians, against the ‘oppressed’ Zionist Jews?
Since they have no actual oppressors, the ‘fears’ of the ‘return of the Holocaust’ by Zionist Jews which comrade Downing uses to justify their support for Israel, is a paranoid racist fantasy similar to the fantasies about ‘white genocide’ that white nationalists use to justify racist repression against non-whites. It is this confluence that explains why Zionists and white nationalists are so frequently close allies and co-thinkers these days. As was embodied in the Trump administration that included both.
“Anti-Imperialism”, or the IHRA?
What also casts doubt on comrade Downing’s commitment to consistent anti-imperialism is the fact that the only experienced cadre has still has in his camp, from the United States, considers China to be an imperialist rival to the United States, and rejects the position of the LCFI that regards China as former workers state whose capitalism still is in a subordinate position to imperialism and should therefore be defended against imperialism. While this comrade was in the earlier period a sympathiser of Socialist Fight from overseas the ambiguity of his relationship with comrade Downing in particularly in hindsight had an element of ‘rotten bloc’ about it. Today, when he is comrade Downing’s vocal public supporter the rotten bloc is starkly visible.
The allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ bandied around by comrade Downing obviously concern not merely the positions of the British LCFI comrades, the current Trotskyist Faction, but also the identical programmatic positions argued in the LCFI Statement on the Israel/Trump Annexation Plans in the West Bank, (https://www.socialistfight.org/uncategorized/lcfi-statement-on-the-israel-trump-annexation-plans-in-the-west-bank/) from last summer. The definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ comrade Downing uses here is not the one in standard dictionaries, such as the Oxford English one (“Hostility to or prejudice against Jewish people”) or in Spanish (“Ideología o actitud contraria al pueblo judío o a su cultura” or in Portuguese “Ideologia ou atitude contrária ao povo judeu ou à sua cultura.”, which both translate as “Ideology or attitude contrary to the Jewish people or its culture.”) It is rather one which equates criticism and analysis of Zionist racism, and of those trends in Jewish history and politics that gave rise to it, with anti-Jewish racism.
It is clear from this that Gerry is edging closer and closer to the definition, or rather the accompanying examples, put forward by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). This is a Zionist initiative that has signed up 34, mainly imperialist and allied countries, and attempts to so re-define anti-Semitism through a series of amalgams equating the struggle of Palestinians and their supporters against their oppressors, and the Zionists’ international bourgeois supporters, with Nazi Jew-hatred.
Comrade Downing’s tirade draws spends a great deal of its space in a diversionary sleight of hand attack against Gilad Atzmon, when in fact the real target is our comrades’ own views. Atzmon is just a decoy or imaginary enemy to justify his new positions. The purpose is transparently to make it appear that Atzmon’s erratic views are our own. Atzmon is a confused but interesting Israeli exiled writer and musician who has long been a hate figure of Zionists and the left-wing elements most reconciled with Zionism.
The tirade draws heavily on mendacious, falsified and/or disingenuous denunciations by two notorious Zionists, Dave Rich and Alan Dershowitz, the latter a close associate of Donald Trump, which our British comrades refuted at length a year ago. The repetition of this material, parrot fashion by comrade Downing is an application of the techniques of hasbara, methodical Zionist and Zionist-inspired smear campaigns in which comrade Downing seems to have taken up an apprenticeship.
Like many of the most alienated anti-Zionist elements in and from the Middle East, Atzmon has confused views on WWII and is soft on the ‘enemy’ fascist-led imperialism to the US-led Allies, , which is obviously very wrong and capitulates to an imperialist faction. The only thing unusual about him is that he is of Israeli-Jewish, not Arab origin. That is the form that the common sentiment that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ takes in the Middle East, going back at least to the early 1960s when Gamal Abdul Nasser gave speeches denouncing the Nazi holocaust as “the lie of the six million”; one of numerous similar statements from political figures in the Arab/Muslim Middle East ever since the Nakba. This, not Zionist racism, is an ideology of the oppressed in the Middle East context. Although we understand its causes, we do not share this holocaust denialism, nor do we deny the Armenian holocaust practiced by the Ottoman government (for such things we condemn Zionism which systematically ignores or minimises genocides suffered by other peoples, from Congo to Rwanda, to justify its contention that the ‘unique’ Nazi Judeocide justifies Zionism).
The irony is, given the smears of anti-Jewish prejudice in this polemic, that Atzmon is being targeted by some who claim opposition to Zionism, because they are offended by such views from a Jewish person particularly. If he were Arab, and a Hamas supporter for instance, the leftist elements would be reluctant to attack him because of his oppression, and the Zionists would not pay him so much attention either – he would be just one of many. The motive for the anathema against him, and anyone who refuses to join in with it, is not anti-racism – he is after all being accused of ‘racism’ against his own origins – but communalism, punishing a ‘traitor’ who has gone over to the Arab ‘enemy’ and shares some of the alienated consciousness of those he has embraced.
To those on the left who are soft on such communalism, merely refusing to join in these denunciations and recognising that some of Atzmon’s material on Jewish identity is worthy of study by Marxists, is grounds for excommunication. Comrade Downing’s embrace of Zionist communalism is crystal clear given his new position that most Zionism is an ideology “of the oppressed.” For him, his emerging support for Zionism takes precedence over the duty of Marxists to examine and analyse all available factual material, and sources of interpretation of that material that could provide insights for materialist understanding of the subject matter. This is an attack on the Marxist method in the service of Zionism.
It is also an implicitly an attack on Abram Leon, from whose materialist analysis of Jewish history our analysis of Zionism and the Jewish question is derived and extends. We regard him as an exemplar of the progressive, vanguard role that Jewish militants have played historically in the labour, socialist and communist movement, and particularly of a militant who broke from Zionism to genuine Marxism. Far from being hostile to Jewish militants, we seek to win over such Jewish anti-Zionists to follow in his footsteps and embrace our genuine revolutionary internationalism.
A left turn followed by a step back.
It is important to document how this political break came about. The LFCI comrades’ resolution on the split in Britain put forward an important part of the history:
“Our international was founded in April 2011, following the international declaration: ‘In Libya’s unconditional defense against imperialism! Military United Front with Gaddafi to defeat NATO and the «rebels» armed by the CIA! No confidence in the Tripoli government! Only through the armament of the whole people and the permanent revolution can we win this fight! ‘. At that time, during the widespread and uncritical accession to the ‘Arab Spring’, we were the only international group to defend Libya from the barbarism that it was condemned, with a declaration signed by organizations from three continents. The shape of the logo we use today, was born that year, at the suggestion of companions from South Africa. In January 2017, we greatly expanded our range of relations and international allies, in Great Britain, USA, Argentina, Greece, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, India. In addition to expanding our contacts internationally, we have broadened our sympathy nationally for our positions with various activists, activists and groupings in Great Britain and Brazil approaching our positions. This occurred in a period of general setback for international Trotskyists through the declaration ‘The liberation of Aleppo and the tasks of the anti-imperialist and socialist revolutionaries.”
The LCFI aspires to re-create a genuinely revolutionary, Trotskyist international movement. We do not have a ready-made claim to ‘continuity’ with previous revolutionary organisations as do many fundamentally flawed currents on the existing pseudo-Trotskyist left. What we do have is a determination to consistently oppose imperialism, and to critically re-examine and transcend the errors and capitulations that have weakened our movement and led to its fragmentation and decline. We are composed of comrades who have rejected the flaws of the pseudo-Trotskyists, and under the impact of recent world events have moved leftward from existing traditions and backgrounds on the left.
In Britain, the emergence and evolution of our section involved comrades moving to the left who had tried out a variety of organisation and traditions and rejected them as fundamentally inadequate. Comrade Downing, who founded the group, had emerged from the Healy tendency and been through the British United Secretariat, before rejecting their galloping capitulation to imperialism and seeking to create a new tendency. He had more than one false start in this regard, on more than one occasion breaking with people who in his eyes did not measure up.
It is no accident that our section in its most prominent and successful period became known as the most radical opponents of the imperialist exploitation of the Arab Spring against the Arab peoples, particularly over Libya and Syria, and the most consistent and sharp opponents and critics of Zionism and the numerous trends on the pseudo-revolutionary left who express their softness on imperialism in part through their softness on Zionism.
We were a synthesis of militant anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist revolutionaries from varying backgrounds, and it is no accident that we adopted an understanding of Zionism that actually addressed concretely how a component of the main imperialist hegemon, the USA (and to a lesser extent its European allies), has an overrepresented component of its ruling class which overlaps with that of Israel, meaning that there is a degree of complexity and contradiction in the relationship of US imperialism with what has become its most important imperialist ally in the Middle East region.
This analysis was developed by a comrade whose formative background was in the Spartacist tradition, who like many militants had experienced confusion, had engaged with a variety of trends looking for solutions and was in the process of seeking a better orthodoxy in joining SF in 2015. This consistently Marxist position on Zionism was eagerly embraced by comrade Downing as soon as he encountered it and became not only the position of the group itself, but the position we became best known for.
Including within the left and Labour Party milieu, as demonstrated by the fight we put up against being witchhunted out of Labour Against the Witchhunt by fearful left-reformists and centrists at the beginning of 2018, which attracted national attention. Comrade Downing’s appearance two years earlier on the BBC Daily Politics to defend our position had also given us prominence, and this raised it further as we evidently had not been cowed by the Zionist and soft-left denunciation. Although we were put under pressure by these things, it was a healthy pressure which attracted serious militants to our group, including some dedicated Palestinian supporters of Middle Eastern/Asian background, and a group of militants formerly from the Moreno tendency in Liverpool who evidently saw the group as attractive in part because of its prominent, strident anti-Zionism and the polarising effect that gave rise to, with whom we fused in the Summer of 2018.
The leftist position of Gerry Downing, his Marxist anti-imperialist anti-Zionism, was sustained by the leftward movement in British society epitomised by the rise of the Corbyn movement which really rose to its peak over the whole period of 2015 to late 2018, encompassing the General Election of June 2017 when the Labour Party, under the most left-wing leader in its history, with a public record of outspoken opposition to predatory imperialist wars and defence of the rights of the Palestinians and other victims of imperialism and Zionist crimes, achieved the biggest political swing toward Labour since 1945 and robbed the Tory Prime Minister Theresa May of her parliamentary majority. This took place in a period of deeply contradictory, volatile politics in Britain involving left-wing resistance to a prolonged period of reaction and xenophobic politics brought about by previous betrayals of the Labour bureaucracy and its embrace of neoliberalism and predatory imperialist wars on behalf of US imperialism and Zionism in the Middle East.
However, Corbyn was not capable of leading this left-wing movement, as was shown most extensively when the ruling class struck back and sought to derail it with its most potent weapon: the Zionist-inspired and implemented ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign. It was Corbyn’s numerous capitulations to this Goebbelsian smear campaign, the throwing under the bus of numerous left-wing and anti-racist activists and militants by a leader whose strategy was to appease the racist-Zionist right, not purge them as traitors as should have been done, which gave the neoliberal right, increasingly led by their emerging standard-bearer Starmer (whose professions of loyalty were obviously mendacious), to dominate a weakened leader who had capitulated on everything from adopting the IHRA definition to throwing prominent leftists like Ken Livingstone and Chris Williamson to the wolves. The internal undermining and documented sabotage of the Party by the right, which went hand-in-hand with disturbing indications that the ruling class was instigating fraudulent and anti-democratic means to make sure a Corbyn government could not happen, created the conditions for the severe defeat of Labour in the December 2019 General Election.
Retreats, and the Basis for Future Advance
Comrade Downing’s abandonment of his revolutionary positions emerged over the Summer and Autumn of 2019 as it became clear that the Corbyn movement was in retreat because of the default of Corbyn himself. That was when comrade Downing began to retreat from SF’s positions on Zionism. But the floodgates really opened after Labour’s defeat and it then appeared that the comrade was a man in a hurry to renounce his past and regain ‘respectability’ among the reformist and centrist left. His outrage at the suggestion during the faction fight that supporters of the Zionist state really should not be in the Labour Party was a key indication of a latent political weakness that had not been properly addressed in the previous period. It was an indication of something of the social nature of the Labour Party itself, a party whose strident support for Zionism goes back to the 1948 Nakba and even earlier. It should be recalled that in 1944, four years before the Nakba had even happened, the British Labour Party conference passed a resolution that advocated:
“in Palestine surely is a case, on human grounds and to promote a stable settlement, for transfer of population. Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out, as the Jews move in. Let them be compensated handsomely for their land and let their settlement elsewhere be carefully organised and generously financed. The Arabs have many wide territories of their own; they must not claim to exclude the Jews from this small area of Palestine.”
In fact, the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn was something of an aberration. While he showed terrible weakness in the face of the inevitable counterattack, he nevertheless condemned the entire basis of Labour Party policy over this question for most of its history. Despite the courage comrade Downing showed in the period of Corbyn’s rise and leftward movement, when the counterattack came and politics in the Labour Party shifted rapidly to the right, he came under enormous social pressure from long-time associates and family members, and capitulated to it, attempting to take ‘his’ group with him in dictatorial fashion irrespective of the fact that many of the members had joined to fight against this kind of reactionary politics. This contradiction is what blew the group apart.
The complete collapse of disciplined functioning of Gerry Downing, as the group’s founder, and the transparently bureaucratic and dishonest manoeuvring to try to get rid of the co-thinkers he no longer wanted, who comprised half the membership and the most active members of the organisation, were a sad end to comrade Downing’s trajectory as a revolutionary, and his collapse into an apparent rightward-moving centrism.
It is tragic that comrade Downing should end up doing this after half a century of struggle for a revolutionary Marxist position. We can only appeal to him to reconsider, objectively assess the situation, and realise that his current trajectory is the product of defeats in the class struggle over the last two years because of the political dereliction of Corbyn, the defeats of Labour, and the rise of the far right. Maybe the consequences of this break, which is his doing and which we did everything to try to avoid, will compel him to reconsider his rightward course and return to a revolutionary path. We hope so, though obviously that is his choice.
It is most unfortunate that this is how the previous, often politically rich and fruitful period of Socialist Fight during the 2010s and the Corbyn period has ended up, but it was the result of an opportunist impulse of leading comrades. We in the LCFI cannot live in the past; both our British comrades, and the tendency as a whole, regard this unfortunate event as at least the opportunity to draw some public lessons about this, not in terms of calumnies and abuse, but as a means to explain what has happened politically, to assist new forces to approach our Trotskyist politics and programmatic approach.
Democracy and freedom for workers and the leftist opposition, not for agents of imperialism, neo-liberals, neo-Nazis, xenophobes, like Navalny
Alexey Navalny is for Russia, what Juan Guaidó is for Venezuela or Yoani Sanchez for Cuba. The image of the three was constructed as political “dissidents” from governments of enemy nations of the USA. These nations have been subject to economic and diplomatic sanctions for decades and their siege by the military bases of the most powerful army on the planet, which also commands NATO troops, is increasing.
Despite some differences, the political function of the three is basically the same. They operate for the internal destabilization of the adversary and for its international demonization to justify external intervention, sanctions and aggression against the sovereignty of their own countries. They also advocate a political-ideological, neoliberal platform.
In the 21st century, imperialism has been trying to promote and sell these new types of dissidents as leaders of “colour revolutions”, movements whose results only benefit imperialism. These leaders appear to be concerned with the interests of their countrymen, but they defend policies and measures, such as sanctions, that severely punish the population of their countries. Some present themselves as bloggers, like Navalny and Sanchez, others as “politicians”.
In the case of Guaidó, demoralisation is evident and emblematic. His term as a national deputy ended in 2020, he was not re-elected to anything by the Venezuelan people but is recognized as Venezuela’s “interim president” only by the USA and its entourage of bootlicking governments around the world. After all the attacks, invasions, condemnations, lawfares, attempts at a coup d’état were defeated, imperialism only had the possibility of formally proclaiming its own victory and selling it as real.
The impotence of the USA against Venezuela gives the measure of the demoralization of the Empire and the decay of its hegemony precisely in its “backyard”, Latin America, and in Venezuela particularly, where the policy of permanent counter-revolution, of coups to defeat chavismo, has been defeated over the past 20 years. It seems that the imperialist lion has been made toothless and can no longer bite and chew its victims.
In these three nations the ineffectiveness of hybrid war accompanies the decline of the hegemonic power of the USA. In the last 80 years this tactic has proved, in most cases, much more effective than all the expensive investments in conventional wars. During this period, the change in orientation and investment from conventional war to hybrid war was not greater only due to the reluctance of the Military Industrial Complex to lose its budget. It also became clear that an immediate victory in a conventional war can bring about a strategic defeat for imperialism in terms of the political, social control of the defeated country. A classic case of this is Iraq (see Decadence of US imperialism catapulting Iran’s regional leadership), and perhaps the same is true regarding Afghanistan and Libya.
In December 2020 Hillary Clinton issued a long warning demanding a reduction in obsolete conventional military investments from Cold War II, and greater investment in the State Department, that is, in the Ministry that conducts the empire’s foreign policy of the coup d’état:
“China – along with Russia – poses a totally different threat than the one posed by the Soviet Union. Today’s competition is not a traditional global military competition for strength and firepower. Dusting the Cold War manual will do little to prepare the United States for opponents who use new tools to fight in the grey zone between war and peace, exploit its open Internet and economy to undermine American democracy and expose the vulnerability of many of its legacy weapon systems … Budget changes should aim to prepare the United States for an asymmetric conflict with technologically advanced adversaries … A renewed commitment to diplomacy would strengthen the United States’ military position. US alliances are an asset that neither China nor Russia can match, allowing Washington to project strength around the world.”
Without renouncing the policy of continental siege with dozens of NATO military bases, but betting much more on intelligence and infiltration operations, hybrid warfare is a type of conflict that focuses on asymmetric forces, parastatal instruments, civil mobilizations, online propaganda, social media networks, international media campaigns, aggressive diplomacy, “adaptive approaches” (an expression used by Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Command of the Armed Forces of Russia), for the fragmentation of opposing defenses, including public opinion, projecting new dissidents as popular leaders .
Due to the great size of its investments in this paraphernalia of combined instruments, exploiting the contradictions of the opponents, it is possible to convert any bribed rogue into a great and charismatic leader supposedly of the masses. The greatest evidence of the success of this tactic was the coup process that made Bolsonaro the president of a country the size of Brazil.
The new “political dissidents”, mere agents of imperialism, are sold as “leaders of the opposition”, and become epicenters of the imperialist policy of an indirect war modality, aiming at the fall of governments and regime change, which has been refined by the CIA since the successful 1953 coup in Iran.
However, despite the favourable results in Honduras, Paraguay, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia (until 2020), Libya, the hybrid war has not been successful with regard to the objective of regime change with Cuba since 1959, with Venezuela since 2002 and with Putin’s Russia. In relation to Cuba, the hybrid war is for capitalist restoration in the workers’ state and in Russia, Navalny is against the trends that point to Putin’s state capitalism.
On February 3, the strategic weapons reduction treaty, the new START, was renewed until February 5, 2026, between Biden and Putin. The bilateral agreement limits the arsenals of both to 1,550 nuclear warheads for each country (30% less than the one set in 2002) and 800 launchers and heavy bombers. In addition to the fact that both obey the logic of fear of nuclear war, the ease with which the treaty was renewed reveals that today the possibilities of nuclear war generate less tension between the USA and Russia than hybrid war:
“The Biden government said it is analyzing a series of Russian bad deeds and weighing how the US will respond, including a response to Russia by carrying out a massive cyberattack by government agencies and private companies, reported Russian rewards on the heads of American soldiers in Afghanistan and interference in the US internal elections.
The United States is also evaluating actions against Moscow for the attempted chemical murder of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny and has declared that his arrest and subsequent sentence in a Moscow court is ‘politically motivated’. The United States has also condemned the arrest of thousands of Navalny supporters who are protesting against his detention and government corruption.”
Great Britain and the European Union follow the USA in the campaign of demonization of Russia and promotion of Navalny. These European nations do so not only because of the soft power of US diplomacy, but also because they want to participate in the booty that would come from the victory of a colour revolution in Russia, turning the country back into a brothel for the country’s international plunder as it was during the Yeltsin years (1991-1999).
For its part, Germany is increasingly faced with a paradox. The most important imperialist power in the EU has been militarily occupied by US bases since 1945. Even today Germany is a colony of the USA from the military point of view. The United States military has 40 military installations in Germany. On the other hand, Germany is dependent on Russian gas. That is why, while defending Navalny, Merkel strengthens her relations with China and defends Nord Stream 2, a pipeline that will take Russian gas directly to Germany without passing through Ukraine.
Who is Navalny and what is his programme for Russia?
Putin’s main opponent in almost all Russian elections has been the Stalinist Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF). It is understandable that this is so because the CPRF is the main successor to the Soviet bureaucracy that governed the country until 1991.
However, Alexey Navalny is presented by the Western media, inside and outside Russia, as the main opponent of Putin. (See Alexéi Navalny: what you care for, what you do (and why you don’t care), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5bmbYHDBmg ).
In the last presidential elections, in 2018, the CPRF supported the candidacy of the businessman Pavel Grudinin, obtaining, although the second place in the election, a lesser vote than in previous years, 11%. Also the lack of mass support from pro-Western neoliberal parties, even if we unify the votes of the two parties with this profile, the “Civic Initiative” and Yabloko do not reach 3% of the votes.
In 2010 Navalny received a grant from Yale University (Connecticut, United States), becoming part of the “Greenberg World Fellows Program”, a program that annually selects a group of people from around the world to become “global leaders”. The program is a kind of “School of the Americas” for the formation of civilian coup leaders.
In 2011, Navalny founded the Anti-Corruption Foundation NGO (in Russian, донд борьбы с коррупцией). In 2014, the Lava Jato judicial operation was created in Brazil. Both are institutions created during the Obama administration and serve as instruments of the USA to harass the political forces that in 2006 created the BRICS. The lawfare operation was fundamental in Brazil to persecute the PT, arrest Lula and get him out of the presidential race in 2018, ensuring the stability of the coup process and the election of Bolsonaro.
But, unlike Brazil, Russia, ruled by a former KGB agent, did not grant to the pro-Western opposition the country’s vice presidency, financial policy, the media, and the prosecutor. These errors were made by Dilma, even after Eduard Snowden, who went into exile in Russia, announced in 2013 that the PT government and Petrobras were the target of a profound spy operation from the US National Security Agency (NSA), the private arm of the CIA in which Snowden worked.
Corruption is in the DNA of the capitalist state, the management committee, legal or illegal, of the affairs of the bourgeois class. In Russia it is no different. The most corrupt, most mafia-dominated period of Russian politics was when its government was the most deeply under the control of the USA and the European Union, during the dismantling of Russia in the 1990s, when many of Navalny’s current sponsors looted the country in an unprecedented way until it hit rock bottom in the August 1998 speculative attack. Before that, only during the invasion of the USSR by the Nazi army had the country been so looted.
During the 1990s, “shock therapy” was applied to the former Soviet economy, inspired by Pinochet’s neoliberal model. An emblematic article, almost a directive for the new economic policy of restoration, was published in the Washington Post during the rise of Yeltsin, which considered the political regime that could be installed:
“It may upset Western economists, but history shows that economically successful nations can have free markets without free people. Democratic reforms are not essential for explosive economic growth. ‘There is no doubt that there can be rapid economic growth under a dictatorship,’ acknowledges Mancur Olson, a professor of economics at the University of Maryland who specializes in economic development issues. ‘There were dictatorships that understood and respected market forces.’
Pinochet’s Chile, a Pragmatic Model for the Soviet Economy, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/business/1991/08/23/pinochets-chile-a-pragmatic-model-for-soviet-economy/fc079246-2a18-40db-ad76-5e492e400bb5/
And that was what Yeltsin did in 1993 in the war against the legislature. This still went by the name of Supreme Soviet, had great popular support and had approved the impeachment of Yeltsin. On September 28, public protesters against the Yeltsin government took to the streets of Moscow. In the repression of the demonstrations, there were several deaths. On Sunday, October 3, protesters removed police cordons throughout parliament, took over the city hall and tried to invade the Ostankino television centre. On Yéltsin’s orders, the army broke into the building of the Supreme Soviet in the early hours of October 4. The ten-day conflict was the worst street fighting in Moscow since the October 1917 Revolution. According to government estimates, 187 people were killed and 437 wounded.
Like Navalny today, at the time, Yeltsin argued that
“Democratic reforms are essential for economic prosperity” (idem).
The architects of the Navalny campaign appear to be the same ones who wrote Yeltsin’s script:
“The most recent change in the Russian regime, from the Soviet Union to the modern Russian state, again demanded a conspiracy of factors that worked in favour of the opposition. The main leader of the Russian opposition, Boris Yeltsin, like Navalny, played the populist card well, complaining loudly and always within reach of a microphone about scarcity, corruption and inefficiency.”
But Navalny defends a neoliberal program much more radical than Yeltsin himself:
“Entrepreneurs, move on!
Our program includes a wide range of measures to free entrepreneurs from the pressure of bureaucracy, security officials and monopolies. We are implementing a program to demonopolize the economy and reduce monopoly prices. We will reduce the number of regulatory bodies and liquidate some of them. We will prohibit commercial inspections – control of operations will be transferred to an electronic form … The judicial system created by us, totally independent from the executive branch, will reliably protect private property from invasions and arbitrariness by government agencies … In Russia now there is a kind of incomprehensible capitalism, in which the state controls more than half of the economy and commands businessmen. Such a system hinders the country’s development … We will make peace with the civilized world,
An economy without corruption, monopolies and bureaucratic ties
Putin’s system is structured in a simple way: the extortion of honest businessmen and ordinary citizens is constantly increasing in the interest of a limited circle of officials, their relatives and friends, as well as the monopolies associated with them. We see the completely different economic system: a compact state that provides society with important social and infrastructure services (medicine, education, transportation, the social security system) with total non-interference in the country’s economic life and the absence of large state monopolies.”
Navalny is a proven NATO agent. There exists footage from the Russian Federal Security Service, the FSB, in which the Executive Director of the Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), Vladimir Ashurkov, meets with the United Kingdom’s Secretary of Political Affairs, James William Thomas Ford, in the UK embassy in Russia, and asks for greater investments in its movement.
“During the meeting, Ashurkov indicated that ‘if we had more money, we would expand our team, of course’, adding that his goal of getting ‘a little money’ like $ 10, $ 20 million a year ‘would make a huge difference’. He suggested, as can be seen in the video, that the organization’s activities would benefit London companies (British capital). ‘And that’s not a lot of money for people who have billions at stake,’ said Ashkurov. ‘This is not a huge amount of money for people who have billions at stake. And that is the message I’m trying to get across in my fundraising efforts and talking to people in the business community’”.
For liberals Navalny became a symbol of the struggle for rights and democracy in Russia and in the world today, a Slavic version of Nelson Mandela. Not infrequently pseudo-Trotskyist parties and internationals, such as the Russian POI, the LIT section of the Brazilian PSTU, the Austrian RCIT, the Argentine PTS, the TMI, linked to the “Left Marxists” of the Brazilian PSOL, defend Navalny, with greater or lesser reservations, supporting him and his demonstrations even more.
In fact, Navalny was expelled from the Russian Liberal Party in 2007 for his xenophobic nationalism, which was damaging the party’s image. He founded his own party and attracted the sympathy of skinhead and neo-Nazi organizations (banned by the Russian government after the Ukrainian Euromaidan), carried out political campaigns against immigrants, spread messages of support for the violence of the Russian anti-immigration movement, some of the most ferocious of which were responsible for hundreds of racially motivated murders. This can be seen in the video: Alexei Navalny and the Russian Nazis.
Despite the stereotype of Russians as whites with blue eyes and Orthodox Christians, the Russian Federation is a multi-national state with 193 ethnic groups. A great many of the people of the Russian Federation have dark skin and many are Muslim.
However, in a video on his channel, Navalny urges Russian “good citizens” to arm themselves and support the legalization of short-range weapons in order to exterminate dark-skinned Muslim militants in the Caucasus, whom Navalny likens to cockroaches. He says in the video that although cockroaches can be killed with a slipper, in the case of dark-skinned Muslims, I recommend a pistol” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVNJiO10SWw).
Navalny supported the Euromaidan neo-Nazi coup in which Biden, then US vice president, was a direct beneficiary, through the appointment of Hunter Biden, his son as advisory director of Burisma Holdings, a major producer of natural gas in Ukraine, after the coup was successful. (Ukraine reveals payment of Burisma to Biden by lobby, http://hilodirecto.com.mx/ucrania-revela-pago-de-burisma-a-biden-por-cabildeo/)
But, in the civil war, the country was divided in half, with the population of the most industrialized part of the territory armed and autonomous from the capital Kiev. And on the Crimean Peninsula, pro-Russian Ukrainians stormed large government buildings, military bases and telecommunications facilities on the peninsula and forced local authorities to hold a referendum on reunification with Russia, becoming an autonomous republic of the Russian Federation.
Crimea has historically been a geopolitical region where the borders between the classical world and the Pontic steppe are found, stretching from the north of the Black Sea to the east of the Caspian Sea. Since 1783 Crimea belonged to the Russian empire. After the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 it was converted into an autonomous province of the USSR. In 1954, in a gesture for the brotherhood of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples, Khrushchev handed over Crimea to Ukraine.
From the height of the authority conferred on him by the imperialist media, as “Putin’s main opponent” (as well as Guaidó in relation to Maduro), the blogger demanded punishments more severe than those that the western powers of the USA and the EU had imposed, for the Crimean defection.
However, Navalny behaves like a chameleon and is always denying what he said, to adapt to different situations in a puerile pragmatism, just as Trump and Bolsonaro do.
Between 2011 and 2013 there were important protests against Putin. As one of the leaders of this movement, Alexey Sakhnin, a member of the Left Front at that time, reports:
“Navalny received support mainly from the capital’s middle class and from the largest cities. But the working class and the poor majority in general did not trust him. They remained indifferent to his anti-corruption agenda, seeing corruption as just one of the techniques to enrich the elite and not the foundation of class inequality.”
Thus, in the same 2018 program in which he advocates privatizations and the minimal state, to please Western businessmen and speculators, he also tries to seduce unwary working class people by saying nice words like that people should live with dignity: decent wages, decent pensions.
“Alexei Navalny’s budget policy priority will be the financing of health and education. Government spending in these spheres will double and, in terms of its share of GDP, Russia will be equal to developed countries”.
The same disguise exists at the level of international politics, as recorded in Wikipedia:
“In March 2014, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Navalny called for more sanctions against officials and businessmen linked to Putin and proposed a list of sanctions for Western countries, saying that previous US and EU sanctions were ‘ridiculed’. In October 2014, Navalny said in an interview that, despite the fact that Crimea was ‘seized’ illegally, ‘the reality is that Crimea is now part of Russia’. When asked whether he would return Crimea to Ukraine if he became a Russian president, he said: ‘Is Crimea some kind of sausage sandwich to be passed around? I don’t think so.’ In 2015, Navalny deplored Russia’s actions ‘welcoming Muslims’ and the opening of the largest mosque in Moscow.”
Putin: from the international plundering of the Yeltsin era to the ruler of the Petro-State that is the main US military opponent today
Putin projected himself as a great leader of Russia after the scorched earth policy, the colonization of the Yeltsin era, between 1991 and 1998. According to geopolitical writer William Engdahl, in his work Manifest Destiny – Democracy as Cognitive Dissonance (2018):
“Boris Yeltsin and his ‘free market reformers’ were part of one of the most criminally covert loot operations in CIA history. It was the rape of Russia by a corrupt circle of treacherous Soviet generals, together with their protected young KGB selection, who were transformed by the operation into billionaire oligarchs. This economic rape was only possible through Western banks and Washington’s so-called ‘democracy machines’ under three successive presidents – Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and Bill Clinton. Few people in the West could understand the sadness and anger of Russian President Vladimir Putin when he said to a select audience of Russian Duma politicians in the Kremlin in September 2016, ‘You know how I feel about the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was unnecessary.’
Putin did not need to describe ‘that. Everyone present knew that he meant the wild destruction of life, of the feeling of worth and pride for most Russians until 1990.”
Later, Engdahl reveals in detail that senior CIA officials participated in this rape, including Bill Casey, the founder of NED, the private agency for dirty and hybrid operations, Rothschild bankers, George Soros, banker Bruce Rappaport, founder of Inter Maritime Bank of New York from the tax haven of Antigua and Barbuda, and even the Brazilian Edmundo Safra:
“Edmond Safra’s Banco Safra of New York branch took over 20% of Rappaport’s Inter Maritime Bank of New York. Beginning in 1992 with the plunder of Russia by the CIA through handpicked oligarchs such as Khodorkovsky and Berezovsky, the Safra Bank was immersed in the laundering of billions for Yeltsin’s select circle of oligarchs.”
Throughout this plunder, Putin held high government posts as deputy director of the Yeltsin administration’s Asset Management department. In July 1998, he was appointed director of the Federal Security Service (FSB, successor to the KGB), a position which, from March of the following year, he held simultaneously with that of secretary of the National Security Council. Beginning in 1999, Putin took control of the country, reestablishing strategic sectors such as oil, gas and defense, reestablishing the status that the country had under the USSR. Putin, then leader of the oligarchy that operationalized capitalist restoration, defeated opponents of the left and right, respectively, led by the CPRF, and the opposition wing of the capitalist oligarchy.
In his Bonapartism, Putin projects himself alongside China in world political geopolitics, setting limits to US domination, in Ukraine, mainly in Syria, and currently in Venezuela. Putin and Lavrov conquered a new space for Russia in the world, after the debacle of the 90s to the point that the country became a world leader for the manufacture and export of tactical and strategic weapons, missile systems, such as Avangard, hypersonic weapons, and Sputinik V vaccines against the pandemic.
But in 2019-2020, Russia’s economic and social situation worsened. The global recession has affected the Russian economy. Economic difficulties intensified with the COVID-19 epidemic. Putin tries to serve the appetites of the employer’s oligarchy in a country deeply plagued by imperialist sanctions. In this context, the growing poverty and concentration of capital deepens.
In an article the Communist Party of the Russian Federation denounces this:
“Today, in Russia, there is colossal social inequality, tens of thousands of companies have gone bankrupt, citizens’ real income has fallen for the seventh consecutive year. The health care system is chronically underfunded and therefore cannot provide high quality medical care, the country is dying: the death rate last year exceeded the birth rate by 700,000.”
The wage losses have been huge, 15% already during the year 2021. On February 1, these losses totalled 1.87 billion roubles, as recorded by Tass. The biggest costs for workers’ families are housing. According to Rosstat, in 2020, the average salary in Russia was 30,500 rubles. But to buy a one-room apartment in any Russian settlement, with the exception of Moscow and St. Petersburg, you need a salary of 100,000 rubles a month. (Experts said how much you need to earn to buy an “odnushka” https://1prime.ru/finance/20210215/833038955.html ). One in five Russian families is a mortgage slave.
The regime uses justifications of controlling the pandemic and the need to defend against imperialist agents to restrict democratic rights also for the leftist opposition.
“However, under the guise of the coronavirus epidemic, we were denied permission to hold this public event. At the same time, contrary to the rules of the law, employees did not even bother to offer alternative sites or other formats for carrying out the action. We were simply told: no.
In all official, “pro-government” media, appeals are constantly heard: not to go to uncoordinated protest actions, to respect the law. At the same time, the ruling party has not only tightened legislation on public events in recent months, but has also deliberately blocked any possibility of rallies, demonstrations and pickets being held legally. Thus, the ruling party itself provokes and pushes people into illegal and uncoordinated forms of protest actions. People simply have no other choice.
We emphasize that the Communist Party has always defended the observance of the law. But none of our notifications about holding public events in central Krasnodar, including the days of the Red Army, Red May Day, Great Victory, Great October, sacred to millions of citizens, have been agreed upon in recent years. The authorities, at best, mockingly suggested that we go to the outskirts of the city.”
Krasnodar region. Statement by the Communist Party Regional Committee On the holding of public events by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation on February 23, 2021, ibid
This strangulation of political rights both for the right and for the left organizations leading the working class, helps the right-wing and imperialism, just as in the time of the USSR the policy of bureaucratic repression of Stalinism favoured imperialist anti-communist and Russophobic propaganda in the name of freedom and democracy.
However, even taking into account the largest pro-Navalny demonstrations, uniting neo-Nazis, xenophobes, liberals, pro-Westerners and some pseudo-leftists, they were no more than 50,000 demonstrators in Moscow, a city with more than 12 million inhabitants.
What sense would it make to defend a movement that, in the name of democracy and historical freedom, that once victorious, expands the dictatorship of the imperialist bourgeoisie against oppressed workers, immigrants, religions and ethnicities?
For Marxists, democracy is a political system, not a universal value or principle. Bourgeois democracy is the democracy of the rich. Even if we are against the coups d’état orchestrated by imperialism and dictatorial bourgeois regimes, the defense of democratic rights under capitalism must be subordinated to the expansion of the struggle for the strategic interests of the exploited class, in order to reach a political system based on the democracy of and for the workers, the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie.
So, the defense of democracy depends on the interests of social classes and the struggle between nations. In this case, it is a matter of defending the oppressed nation, Russia, from a hybrid, camouflaged war, making use of democratic struggles to drag the country back to the kind of destruction of living conditions experienced during the Yeltsin era. If successful, a colour revolution in Russia could have disastrous consequences for the struggle to end imperialist hegemony over the globe. So Navalny is not one of us and we shouldn’t move a finger to get him out of prison. If he depends on our efforts, he will rot.
In exceptional situations of hybrid war, where the country, in this case Russia is under an asymmetric imperialist offensive, as Belarus was a few months ago in acute form, we defend the right to organize and demonstrate only for parties and organizations that defend workers’ democracy, full union organization, those which are enemies of Western sanctions, privatizations, neoliberalism, imperialism, xenophobia and fascism. This dividing line marks the difference between the false defenders of democracy and imperialist freedom and the true defenders of the civil and democratic rights of the majority of the population. So, we do not defend Navalny and his pro-imperialist demonstrations, we defend the full rights of unions to demonstrate.