Friday, December 31, 2004

Z-Net Interview with US anti-war activists

I'm so impressed by the intelligence and importance of this Z-Net interview that I'm posting it in full.

Anti-war Organizing On Campus
Monique Dols et al interviewed by M.Junaid Alam (December 29, 2004)

As the disastrous consequences of the war on Iraq continue to unfold, millions of Americans are becoming increasingly disillusioned and angry with the war effort. In the struggle to translate that sentiment into a formidable anti-war movement, the efforts of progressive youth will undoubtedly play an important role. Spearheading this effort on the national level is the Campus Anti-War Network (CAN), comprising all anti-war student groups on college campuses across America. M. Junaid Alam of Left Hook talked to four of CAN’s elected representatives about the political imperatives and realities the movement faces, including internal debates, right-wing harassment, and planned mobilizations.
Monique Dols, Mid-Atlantic Representative, Columbia University
Josh Karpoff, Northeastern Representative, Rochester Institute of Technology
Desmond G., Southern Representative, Georgia State University
Daniel Saver, At-Large Representative, University of California, Berkeley

Alam: What effect did the elections have on the anti-war movement in your experience and in your region? Do you feel there was a major demobilization or diverting of resources and energy because of pressure to line up behind Kerry? Was there some internal friction within the movement over the Anybody But Bush phenomenon?
Monique : The surrendering of the antiwar movement to the Kerry campaign had a devastating impact on the student antiwar movement. I choose my words carefully when I use the word surrender. But that is exactly what happened. The greatest tragedy of these past elections is that the US based antiwar movement didn’t have an electoral expression for our antiwar opinion like the people in Spain did. The antiwar movement should have been pointing out the sham and illegitimacy of the US elections and the lack of a real antiwar alternative. Instead, we surrendered to the terms of the elections as they were given to us and mobilized for a man with interests that were diametrically opposed to everything that we stand for.
We had Bush the warmonger, and Kerry the other warmonger who had no regret for voting for the war, promised to send more troops to Iraq and pledged to do a more efficient job of slaughtering Iraqis. When the leadership of the antiwar movement mobilized people to vote for Kerry it had disastrous repercussions. This diversion of resources meant that when the Abu Ghraib tortures story broke there was almost no response. When Fallujah was crushed, no national protests.
And this certainly had an effect on campus organizing. Regional and national demonstrations have set the pace for campus organizing since the February 15th protests. They give us something to mobilize and educate around. Without that, people feel isolated. Sure people still hate the war, but without big demonstrations to validate and organize that anger people are alone.
This surrendering has not just held back the antiwar movement but it has brought it backwards. The politicians and the corporate, pro-war media set the terms of the debate around the war. But a strong, self-confident antiwar movement can have an impact on that debate. Imagine if instead of mobilizing people to vote for Kerry, the antiwar movement was pointing out the hypocrisy of the idea that the US could bring democracy when we don’t have democracy at home. This could have seriously changed the stultifying terms of the debate rather than pouring everything we had worked for right into the laps of the undeserving Democrats.
You can see the effect that this has had ideologically as well. When the antiwar movement was at its height people would say that the war was wrong because it was all about conquest and oil. Today on campuses you hear the argument that it was wrong because it was a diversion from the real war on terror. This is straight from Kerry’s speechwriters. While the antiwar movement was sitting on its criticisms of Kerry he was actively undoing the gains of our movement, and unfortunately we failed at waging the right fight during this period.

Josh: The 2004 Presidential elections pretty much brought the student antiwar movement to a grinding halt. Everyone in Western New York seemed to suddenly drop everything and start campaigning for one of the candidates. It seemed that nearly everyone was putting all of his or her hopes of stopping the war in the outcome of the election. With everyone campaigning for someone there was pretty much no one left to work on antiwar work so the groups that were able to keep one or two people active went into holding patterns, just struggling to stay afloat and wait out the election. The Anybody But Bush Phenomenon didn’t cause that much friction inside the group, as it did outside, preventing us from successfully intervening in any events or recruiting new members.

Desmond: In Atlanta, most student antiwar organizations fell apart after the invasion, before the elections became an issue. Once the elections became an issue, there was also a problem of us antiwar activists, who were still around, not asserting ourselves as much as we should have. We still aren’t as visible as we should be. At Georgia State, I’ve been meeting a lot of students who were active before the invasion, and they’ve been trying to find us for a year.
The biggest effect of the elections here has been on a political level. We still have to gain a lot of ground in arguing that the US should leave Iraq immediately and that the “war on terror” is wrong, plain and simple.

Daniel: I think that in Berkeley, like most other places, there was certainly a lull in the anti-war movement during the election campaigns. The elections were on the forefront of everyone’s mind, so mobilizing around the war specifically was slightly more challenging. And in Berkeley specifically, I believe that more organizational resources were actually diverted into the Nader campaign as opposed to Kerry; many of the core members of our Coalition were very active in supporting Nader, which probably (though by no means certainly) detracted from our focus as an antiwar group. The “anyone but Bush” theme was a central talking point among many of our discussions, but it was not so devise as to create a substantial rift in the Coalition. We were able to acknowledge the fact that regardless of who won the Presidency, the antiwar movement would still have our work cut out for us in the next four years. We built upon the common ground that we all stood upon (being against the war!), and were able to have a rather successful semester despite the drain that we felt because of the election.

Alam: It seems that in the election’s aftermath, the number of meetings and mobilizations has been on the rise. Has this been true in your area? Is the movement seeing just old faces returning, or is there a new layer of freshmen and other youth showing up at meetings and demonstrations?
Monique: Most people are feeling a combination of depression and outrage at the fact that Bush will be in office for four more hears. Overall there is a renewed sense on campuses that we need to stop Bush. In some places this has exploded into a lot of activity, like at City College in New York City where a group of students kicked military recruiters off campus in two separate incidences and are now launching a campaign to kick them off for good. But there are some very real political challenges and obstacles that we face that are connected to the challenges of the election.
Since the elections all the corporate media have drawn the conclusion that Kerry lost because he went too far to the left. But that’s just their newest way of telling us to sit down and shut up. During the elections it was by telling us to vote for Kerry, and now it is by telling us that we need to moderate our goals if we ever want to reach “middle America.” Unfortunately no one is pointing out that maybe Bush won because he faced no real opposition. And as long as there is no opposition to this unending war on the world we can rest assured that Bushism will be carried out by every administration- Republican and Democratic alike.

Josh: There has most definitely been a serious upturn in struggle, which has translated into definitive growth. In Rochester a new high school CAN chapter has recently formed in the city and participated in several demonstrations. While a few of the old faces have been around, they haven’t been very active, largely coming around to events. On my campus we’ve lost a lot of our original members to graduation, financial problems, transfers (one transferred to another school and is now also on the coordinating committee as an at large representative). The bulk of activity has been from people new to the movement. A lot of the members of the group on my campus are first year students, which is really great, because it means that we can have a much stronger long-term outlook.

Desmond: There was a relatively large, angry protest after the election in Downtown Atlanta, right near GSU. We planned for it in advance. A lot of high school students came out, a couple of students from other universities showed up. At almost every school there’s an opportunity to win people away from the bankruptcy of the Democratic Party as the main “vehicle for change,” and to a left, activist alternative.
There is a mix of old and new in the student antiwar movement here. The old faces are really old faces--people haven’t been active since the US toppled Saddam’s statue. I think activists should try to re-involve students who haven’t been around for a while. They might be ready to get active again.
The new students are really encouraging. There are a lot of high school and even middle school students who show up at antiwar rallies in the city, and they have a sense of urgency that has been lacking for so long.

Daniel: The Berkeley campus felt a significant political and emotional backlash after the election was over: there were many students who felt outraged, disillusioned, and disconnected when Bush was re-elected. These emotions did not exacerbate the problems facing the movement, but instead acted as a fuel to redouble our efforts and concentrate on the job at hand: ending the war. The aftermath of the election, combined with the assault on Fallujah that occurred shortly afterward, were used by the Coalition as ways of engaging potential members in political and organizational discussion. This has led to a significant number of new faces at our weekly meetings, which has brought a lot of great ideas and new thought patterns to our group. Attracting new members has been a large concern of the Coalition, and our almost daily tabling efforts have thus far proved to be very valuable in building our presence on campus.

Alam: No doubt the anti-war formations across campuses come across resistance from Republicans and perhaps college administrations as well. What has been the intensity and coordination of groups hostile to the anti-war movement’s politics? Have you or others you know faced organized harassment and intimidation in your experience?

Monique: Yes this has been a huge problem on campuses since Bush won. While Bush has been moving to cash in his “political capital” a lot of right-wingers have taken his lead and gone on the offensive. This includes incidences of racist scapegoating at San Francisco State from the College Republicans, a burst of FBI Raids and visits from the office of Homeland Security as well as a very coordinated effort to thwart Pro-Palestine organizing on campuses.
At Columbia University the administration has played a very harmful role in initiating an investigation against the Middle Eastern Studies Department by caving to a Pro-Israel group called the David Project and their campaign to marginalize professors who are critical of Israel and the US. President Bollinger is setting a dangerous precedent by creating a committee “investigate” claims of intimidation in the classroom. Rather than protecting his professors, Bollinger is giving credence to the accusations which amount to little more than politically motivated moves against pro-Palestinian professors for their criticism of Israel’s “right” to exist as an exclusivist, apartheid state.

Josh: On my campus the College Republicans formed in response to the emergence of left wing groups, I guess that’s why you could call them reactionary. They however are fairly disorganized and have had little practical impact on campus. At a mock debate before the elections which featured representatives for the democrats, republicans and Nader supporters, the Republicans made total fools of themselves the by insisting that the solution to air pollution was to pump it underground. They were also able to antagonize a very large former marine into nearly strangling them. The campus administration is another matter entirely. While they have been outwardly tolerant of our actions, we’ve had to deal with a lot of administrative junk, such as our improper use of the Institute “brand” on our website, which required a hearing and paperwork.
We’ve also had disagreements over the posting of flyers, where I personally was brought up on charges with the housing administration that were later found to be totally bogus but wasted much of my time. Rochester Institute of Technology is run by and for the military industrial complex. The CIA has in the past had direct involvement in the orientation of classes and whole programs to meet their needs. A lot of the research used for spy planes and satellites is done at RIT, as well as the retrofitting of military equipment, such as armored personnel carriers and fight bombers so that they can continue to serve past their designed usefulness. On several occasions we’ve been followed by a suspicious individual whose appearance screams ex military (crew cut, sunglasses, pants tucked into his polished combat boots), who according to our administrative sources works for the office of the president. This individual has shown up at the doors of several of our members, apparently asking for someone else, which we find hard to believe. One of our previous presidents was actually fired for his direct ties to the CIA. Lately though its been fairly easy going.

Desmond: I don’t know too much about student antiwar activists outside of Atlanta on this issue. But as for Georgia State, our main battle with the right-wingers was during the invasion, at our on campus demonstrations and through the student newspaper. Mostly, we only get the usual two or three pro-war guys who swear the US is fighting to liberate Iraqis and that the majority of Iraqis want the US to stay, but are “just too intimidated to show it.” But I suspect that will change as we become more visible.
There have been a lot of right-wing attacks on, and off, campuses across the country. Racists have targeted Arab, South Asian and Muslim students relentlessly.
I think the antiwar movement needs to build broad coalitions to wage fight-backs whenever something happens.

Daniel: Berkeley has seen little outright, organized resistance to our antiwar movement. I know that SF state has had some harassment problems in the past few months, but the Berkeley right has not done any serious attacks on us.

Alam: What are the major political and theoretical questions affecting the trajectory of the Campus Anti-war Network? What kind of debates have there been around the issues of supporting dissenting GIs, the nature of the Iraqi resistance, the issue of Palestine, and organizing and demonstration tactics?

Monique: In short the major political questions facing CAN are questions that face the larger antiwar movement as a whole. They include questions about how to best maintain and build an independent opposition like what we faced during the elections as well as questions about the nature of the war on terror as a whole. After much debate at the last CAN conference, we decided to pass a resolution in opposition to the whole logic of the war on terror, which was a big step forward for us. But the work doesn’t stop there. We have a lot of work to do on our campuses to undo the damage that Kerry and Bush did in revitalizing the war on terror and making the repression of the Iraqi resistance about fighting terror. Somehow they have been able to paint people who fight tanks and fighter jets with homemade bombs and Kalashnikovs in Iraq and Palestine as terrorists, and we have a lot of work to do reverse that.
There was a lot of consensus at the last CAN conference that we need to do everything that we can to support dissenting GIs. These resisters signed up with the military to go to college, and we need to do everything we can to support them when they decide they can’t take it anymore. They risk a lot more than we do when the refuse orders and it is our duty as the US based antiwar movement to have their backs so that they don’t get punished and so others can feel confident to do the same. This means making a place for them to speak out when they are ready, so that they can decompress and feel supported by people who hate the death and maiming that this war has wreaked on Iraq and on working class GIs.

Josh: What a loaded question. The short answer is the debates have been long and incredibly political. The longer answer is that much of the discussions have not been so much disagreement with the stance for political reasons, it’s been more about how these stances will affect our relations with other groups we want to work with. So far I don’t think we’ve chased away any allies, which to me says that we’re doing fairly well. The debate seems to always arise when we try to be sure that CAN is at the political tip of the sword being thrust into the heart of the logic of imperialism. Wow that was a slightly over the top metaphor, but I like it nonetheless.
Right now I can’t really hit on any defining questions of the movement, which to me is kind of annoying, I want to identify the problem and solve it, but when the questions aren’t clear its kind of frustrating.

Desmond: Coming out of our November national conference CAN was unified in the idea that reaching out to soldiers and doing counter-recruitment work would be our main long-term focus. Most of us recognize that GI resistance is what stopped the war in Vietnam, and it is the job of the antiwar movement to make sure soldiers are a part of this movement.

Daniel: The issue of Palestine has been a large issue facing our Coalition for the past semester. We organized a small presentation at one of our meetings on the issue, which was followed by an engaging discussion. As a whole, our group fervently supports the Palestinian cause and views the issue as inextricably linked to the war in Iraq. American support of the Israeli occupation is nothing more than another manifestation of Western imperialism, and therefore the plight of the Palestinian people is intricately interwoven in the work of the antiwar movement. That being said, this is not the unanimous opinion of the Coalition (though it is certainly the majority), and the discussion that we typically have concerning Palestine can be rather heated.
This semester the Coalition has also fielded discussion about the methods and tactics that are used by the antiwar movement. This has resulted in quite a bit of discourse on what could be called “small victories” for the antiwar movement. That is, we feel that the best way to increase interest, participation, and belief that the antiwar movement can actually do something is to accomplish veritable results in our local area. Part of the dilemma facing the movement is that there are many people who oppose the war, but they do not feel confident that any sort of grassroots organizing can actually cause any change. If the Coalition is able to demonstrate the value of small scale organizing by winning a definitive victory, then more people will have faith in the antiwar movement as a whole. Several ideas that we have floated on this subject are to field/support a peace candidate for local office and to expel military recruiters from campus.

Alam: All the major pretexts propping up the case for war prior to the launch of the invasion have clearly been demolished in the past 18 months. Has this had a tangible effect on the confidence of anti-war activists, or on the ability to persuade undecided students to anti-war politics? What kind of arguments and rationalizations do the pro-war groups come up with in response?

Monique: Certainly, the fact that all of the justifications for the war—that Iraq had weapons of Mass Destruction, that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat the US, that there were any links between Hussein and al-Queda—have all been laid bare. This is definitely important for the antiwar movement as a whole. But in the process of invading and occupying Iraq, the US has created facts on the ground (to borrow a phrase from Israeli tactics in the West Bank and Gaza) by entrenching their occupation, sowing the seeds for rivalry between the Kurds, and the Sunni and the Shia. And then the very conditions of instability and nepotism that the US has created by being there become the excuse for why they can’t leave. What a difference a year makes.
We need to be able to take the lead of groups like Military Families Speak Out and the Iraqi resistance itself in order to get the troops home from Iraq now. They have been saying from the beginning: “Out Now!” And this is because they know first hand what it means to live under as well as execute an occupation. This requires cutting through the rationale that we can’t “cut and run” in Iraq, that there will be “chaos” if we leave. And this requires a historical sense that this is exactly what every colonizer from the British in India and Iraq to the French in Algeria said to hold onto their colonial territories.
The pro-war campus groups just take their lead from the warmongers themselves. They rely on jingoism and deception to back up their arguments. And they don’t have to work very hard because they get their arguments from the politicians and most major media outlets. We, on the other hand have a lot more difficult work ahead of us. But we don’t have much of a choice.

Josh: The Bush Administration should be totally discredited in every way imaginable, but they haven’t been. The biggest arguments we seem to come up against from the undecided are the “Chaos Theory,” in which if we leave now Iraq will just descend into total anarchy, the “Pottery Barn Theory,” where we’ve broken Iraq and now we have to stay and fix it and to a lesser extent the idea that elections will solve the problem. The aggravating thing is that I encounter these arguments amongst those who I had thought already opposed to the war. For now I’m going to leave the explanation and refutation of those theories up to others like Left Hook and Counter Punch, cause you’ve done a good job of it already, a much better one then I could do now.

Desmond: I think the US is pretty much caught with its pants down in the eyes of most students at GSU. The pro-war groups really haven’t had to rationalize the situation, but they have anyway. Their argument is that America will be made weaker if we “cut and run” and they throw in something about “fighting terror,” etc. A lot what we wave been struggling against is not from conservatives, but liberals who think “well we broke it, now we have to fix it,” as if Iraq was something they bought from a store.

Daniel: I have personally been involved in the movement for only one semester, so I cannot judge the relative confidence of the movement. But I can say that our Coalition is utterly confident in our cause, and I believe that many of us knew that the pretexts of the war were bogus before any of the recent information came out. The publicity surrounding much of the recent evidence refuting Bush’s pretexts (such as WMD, the al-Qaida links, etc.) has defiantly aided our outreach efforts, as most people we encounter recognize the “misinformation,” even if they still believe that the US is doing the right thing. The arguments that our opponents put forth are generally echoes of the “Freedom” and “Liberty” jargon used by the Bush Administration, as well as continued reinforcement of Iraq as the new front in the “War on Terror”. Many people who believe that war was an injustice (and of course, the pro-war people as well) will nonetheless argue that the US must now remain in Iraq, for they believe that a complete withdrawal will result in chaos and disorder. We have done our best convey the necessity of military withdrawal, but this remains a prevalent attitude among the general student population. In the coming semester, we are hoping to better utilize the case for withdrawal and break through this argument.

Alam: What kind of protests and actions are being planned on campuses in your area? Are there any large-scale mobilizations or new initiatives being undertaken?

Monique: On January 20 many students are going to protest Bush’s Inauguration. There will be protests in DC and San Francisco as well as solidarity protests in cities all across the country. Some schools will still be on break and some will just be getting back, but students will find a way to get there. Unfortunately the large antiwar groups are not really mobilizing for it so we are kind of on our own to organize caravans and busses. It won’t be like in 2000, but we just can’t let this man be inaugurated without an opposition.
In January CAN will be developing our strategy for how to best take advantage of the recent court ruling making it illegal for the Feds to pull funding from schools that kick military recruiters off campuses. This is very important because federal funding has been the major stick that the government has used to keep schools from challenging the presence of recruitment on campuses and we need to find a way to take advantage of it. There is a really strong sense at schools that people want to target military recruitment in some way because it gives people a very concrete, goal oriented way to oppose the war and all of its domestic ramifications.
We also need to find ways to fight back against right wing and racist campaigns. Like at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York State where in order to graduate, seniors will be forced to listen to a lecture by Daniel Pipes, Islamophobe extraordinaire. Locally, the antiwar and Muslim groups are working together to expose Pipes for the worthless racist that he is. We have a long way to go to push these people back on a national scale. It’s clearly going to start on a local level but we need to find ways to support local initiatives and roll back all of the attacks on Muslims, Arabs and South Asians. Unfortunately, what’s happening at RIT is only a small sample of the racist onslaught that has plagued the US since September 11. Campuses are by no means immune to this climate.

Josh: We recently mobilized to protest retired general Tommy “Shock and Awe” Franks when he came to speak in Rochester. It was really inspiring to see the handful of people who braved the pouring rain and strong winds when there was another progressive event going on two blocks away, indoors. Our plans include a lot of publicity stunts to begin rebuilding awareness of the antiwar movement, as well as more protests and educational events. On a national level there’s going to be mobilization for the presidential inauguration, not sure what the turnout is going to be, but it should be pretty militant. Also we’re discussing a nationwide demilitarization of schools campaign, to kick recruiters and ROTC off of our campuses. If we could win that we’d be well on our way to mortally crippling the war effort.
Desmond: We’re trying to have speak-outs at Georgia State; there aren’t any plans for broad student actions, yet, but I think it’s really important for campus antiwar groups to make sure they’re visible on campus every week, with information, buttons, stickers, flyers, and all that.
For some actions you’ll be lucky enough to bring out a large crowd just on publicity, but groups need to make sure they have a base. It’s the difference between just seeing a flyer on the wall and having someone hand it to you. It’s much better to have someone hand you the flyer and talk to you about why this protest, or meeting is so important.

Daniel: Our chapter is organizing several events for the upcoming semester. The first event is still rather tentative, but we are determined to organize some sort of large scale demonstration on campus to highlight the massive toll the war has taken on human life. We are hoping to construct several hundred cardboard tombstones to symbolize the number of human lives that have been taken (probably on a scale of 200:1, which means about 500 tombstones). These will be places on the main glade at the school where there is a consistent and large amount of foot traffic. We hope that the demonstration will raise awareness of the Coalition and provide a rather shocking visual that will spur students to become involved in organizing. The demonstration will also act as a venue to publicize a forum that we will be putting on the next week, at which an Iraqi Veteran (or two) and a professor will speak. Last semester we held a similar forum with a member of Iraqi Veterans Against the War, but her addition to the speaker’s list was on such short notice that we were not able to spread the word sufficiently. We hope to use the forum as a way of educating the student body of the real situation in Iraq, as well as a means of engaging potential new members. Both of these events will be held as part of the framework of our larger campaign for the semester, which is to kick military recruiters off campus. We view the recent decision to allow Colleges to expel recruiters as an opportunity to achieve a “small victory” that can instill confidence in the movement (and of course, to actually do something).

Alam: What is the relationship between the youth anti-war movement and anti-war GI veterans of the Iraq war and from previous wars? Is this becoming an increasingly relevant issue?

Monique: This is of course a relevant issue. Students are vets and vets are students. We invite members of veterans peace groups and military families groups to speak on panels on campuses all the time. It has helped us significantly to drive home the reality of war and occupation, which can so often be missing from academic discussions about war. People realize that these are real people with real experiences and real grievances. And that is something that people want to become a part of- a movement that is trying to make a real difference and stop a war that is destroying so many people’s lives. We are beginning to meet vets on our campuses that are coming back from Iraq and we are telling them about groups like Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Military Families Speak Out. Vets need to know that if they speak out they will be supported.

Josh: This has been a generally positive relationship, though some friction has occurred over our support for the Iraqi’s right to self-determination and the resistance, which is totally understandable. On that point I like the line that Tom Barton of “GI Special” uses, “If you don’t like the resistance, End the occupation.” I think that in order for all of us to successfully end the war, we’re going to need to work together and this means that we’re going to have to have these debates out and that we may have to learn to agree to disagree with each other. In the end, I think that our combined efforts here and the efforts of those in Iraq, both Iraqis and US soldiers opposed to the occupation, is what will be necessary to bring this war to an end.

Desmond: More student antiwar activists are realizing that if we want to end the war, we have to support the resistance within the military. This means working with military families and vets but, in particular, reaching out to soldiers--people who are actually in the military. I think the main task of the antiwar movement is to make soldiers feel like they are a part of the movement and to give them confidence to take the actions necessary to end the war.
We need to make sure antiwar military families are in touch with each other on the local level. We need to let soldiers know about organizations like Iraq Veterans Against the War, publications for GIs like Traveling Soldier and GI Special, and we need to listen to soldiers. A lot of them feel like civilians are just blind to what’s going on. They feel isolated, and they want someone to listen to them.

Daniel: Maintaining a strong relationship with Iraqi and previous war veterans is vital to furthering the anti-war movement as a whole. Last semester our Coalition realized the value of the veterans and brought a soldier with IVAW and a Vietnam veteran to speak, and we are determined to maintain and develop that relationship by having them return and speak this coming semester. Personally, when I heard Diana (the IVAW representative) speak, I was moved almost to the point of tears. The government and mainstream media only convey the “realities” of the war that suit their purpose, so hearing the true state of the occupation straight from the lips of some one who has actually been there, in the streets and on the rooftops, is a revealing experience. The veterans have the unique ability to convey the emotive and human aspects of the war that commonly get lost amid the statistics and political discourse surrounding the war. And if the current movement is to take one lesson from the antiwar movement of the ‘60s, it is that the involvement of returning troops can be the catalyst we need to become a truly effective grassroots force. The broad mass of the American public are much more likely to heed the words of a returning solider who is opposed to the war than a bunch of college students.

Alam: What is the general sentiment among college anti-war activists about the holistic ‘war on terror’? Do most people see Iraq as a separate issue, or as part and parcel of an overall war agenda that includes certain long-term designs on the Arab/Islamic world?

Monique: I think it is very hard to say what the general sentiment is. This has to do with the weakness of the antiwar movement in this particular moment and our struggle to have an impact on general sentiment. But it also has to do with some of the extremely difficult questions that this occupation has raised. Certainly many, many people are still against the war. But what does that mean now? Many people are leery to call for troops to leave Iraq now. This I believe comes out of the false idea that the US could potentially play a positive roll in Iraq.
The legacy of the Vietnam War made subsequent US wars harder to sell for a number of years. But many people our age are growing up in a time when from the 1990’s to today politicians are doing everything in their power to resell and repackage both the Vietnam War in particular and US wars in general. I know that during Kerry’s bid for president many activists from the 1960’s were saying—“Since when was the Vietnam war a good war?!” But unfortunately we need to reclaim that history of resistance and opposition to all US wars. Because it has been appropriated by people like Kerry and whitewashed to be just about a few bad policy mistakes.
The lesson of that period is that US wars are all about extending US power and domination, and never about what they say they are about—restoring freedom, or extending democracy. Today the same goes for the “war on terror.” Many still see the invasion of Iraq as a bad mistake- a diversion from the real war on terror. But people need to keep in mind that the movement against the Vietnam War was only able to make headway when they denounced the whole Cold War and the logic of fighting communism, which of course was the pretext for that slaughter.
The legacy of how the Vietnam antiwar movement became effective has a lot of relevance for our struggle today. And we need to study that history because there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. We’ll need a lot more of that history in the struggles ahead because as the pitch of our struggle rises there will be even more voices of “moderation” telling us to sit down and shut up.

Josh: I think that most activists are opposed to the war on terror but there is still some debate as to what exactly the nature of the war on terror is and what opposition to it entails. The problem is that many of those outside the movement are still confused as to the nature of the war on terror and thus many feel that having to defend this position will interfere with building the movement. Which I couldn’t disagree with more, the more we discuss these issues and come to agreement the stronger our movement is, especially if we can survive the debate. There have been moments in the past where the debate was so heated I was worried that CAN might fall apart, but in the end we came out of those debates stronger people.

Desmond: There are many who think the idea of the US actually fighting a ‘war on terror’ is an entire sham, since the US is largest terrorist in the world. There are others who for example, maybe supported the war on Afghanistan because they feel there is a threat and the US has to do “something.” Some activists who recognize that the US is incapable of bringing justice also emphasize what the ‘war on terror’ really is: it is racism against Arabs and Muslims; it is tens of thousands of dead Iraqis and Afghanis; it is the ‘new Cold War.’ The war on Falluja—a brutal attempt to crush Iraqi resistance—was fought under the guise of

Daniel: The antiwar movement itself understands the inherent flaws in the “War on Terror,” and views the entire current imperialist/militarist policy of the government as currently manifesting itself in the war on Iraq. The War on Terror is nothing more than a front used by the government to carry out its policy with the approval of the American public. US support of the occupation of Palestine, as well as the recent discourse from the Bush Administration concerning Iran, demonstrate that American imposition into the Middle East via Iraq is not an isolated incident. A key point for the antiwar movement is to reveal that the real motives behind the “War on Terror” (ie. Oil, power, etc.) are not the motives claimed by the government. Though only half the American people support the War in Iraq, the vast majority support the War on Terror, and the antiwar movement must illuminate the link between the two. Any sort of overarching war agenda is unacceptable, not only the war in Iraq.

- Visit the Campus Anti-War Network website.
M. Junaid Alam, 21, is co-editor of Left Hook. He can be reached at

Defend Naomi Klein from sectarian dogmatists

I've just noticed a letter to The Guardian, 'Anti-war groups must stay focused' (Dec 29th), taking issue with a Naomi Klein article published the previous day.

I'm still annoyed about a bizarre and completely unjustified attack on Klein by Alex Callinicos in Socialist Review from ages ago - 'War under Attack' (April 2003) in which he accused her of being in the 'Don't Mention the War' tendency. The evidence he quoted at the time was tendentious at best and, in all fairness to the good Professor, quite distorted. It really let down an article which did have a valuable critique of Bernard Cassen and good points against Michael Hardt. Ever since then I've been edgy about sectarian attacks on Naomi Klein.

This time she is accused of pouring scorn on the anti-war movement and being myopic. This is off course completely parochial - as The Guardian made clear Klein's article was a version of something appearing in the US liberal-left magazine The Nation under the title 'You Pay for it, Break it' . You can also find it on the Z-Net site. Klein is arguing against those liberal pro-occupation arguments that can be called the 'Pottery Barn' argument about the war and occupation. It's an argument that says the US should stay in Iraq to help restore the damage of war. It's clearly a bad argument, but is pretty pervasive in the US. Check out the interview between M.Junaid Alam from Left Hook and campus anti-war activists from the Campus Antiwar Network that is carried on Z-Net. To quote Monique Dols from Columbia University of the Campus Anti-War Network (CAN):
'.. the surrendering of the antiwar movement to the Kerry campaign had a devastating impact on the student antiwar movement.'
'This surrendering has not just held back the antiwar movement but it has brought it backwards. The politicians and the corporate, pro-war media set the terms of the debate around the war.'

'You can see the effect that this has had ideologically as well. When the antiwar movement was at its height people would say that the war was wrong because it was all about conquest and oil. Today on campuses you hear the argument that it was wrong because it was a diversion from the real war on terror.'
Well that sounds like 'stalled' to me. It doesn't mean it can't do things in the future - and the activists from CAN are planning to do what they can for the anti-Bush inauguration protests on January 20th. It's odd that someone like Chris Harman can point out that the movement, like the anti-Vietnam War has ups and downs; but woe betide anyone who says that the movement is in a down! I don't think the antiwar movement in Britain is in anything like as poor a state as the American, but at the same time the British movement, despite all its achievements and importance is simply not as important as what happens in the US!

The author of the letter, Ged Peck, says that in the movement there are millions of ideas, so we need to keep things simple 'in order to obtain the widest possible involvement'. The actual implication is that these ideas shouldn't be expressed, discussed and debated. And that carries the real danger of being divisive. What's more, I will say we aren't in 2003 anymore. There is going to have to be a lot of hard work if the demonstration on March 19th is going to be as large as possible, let alone the equivalent of Feb 15th 2003 that some seem to imagine. The idea that 'thousands of people who previously would have supported Blair's criminal government are now organising opposition through Respect' seems to me - sadly - to be an exaggeration. What's more, the occupation makes things more complicated and our response needs to be more nuanced. Naomi Klein still makes a valuable discussion to the debate - and gets knocked by the pro-war/pro-occupation side for her pains. Don't knock her just because she's not on the narrow dogmatic message!

Wallerstein Commentary 152 Jan1st 2005 Bush and the World

Immanuel Wallerstein's bi-monthly commentary (1st and 15th of every month) arrives.
This is no 152, January 1, 2005 and entitled 'Bush and the World: The Second Term'

Wallerstein draws a distinction between the clarity of Bush's 'classic rightwing agenda' for domestic policies: tax cuts, privatizing social security, conservative judicial appointments, dismantling environmental legislation, strong state; and the obscurity of his future foreign policy.

In the first term foreign policy had been marked by 'unilateral pre-emptive action', but has also been rather unsuccessful. What is the the second Bush administration going to get up to? Will it be an identical foreign policy?

Wallerstein makes the obvious point that the most immediate question remains Iraq, especially holding Iraqi elections at the end of January. It's important that U.S. can show that it can hold these elections at all. The U.S. also fears that if they aren't held then Sistani might move from distance to active hostility. The U.S. also hopes to shift the political/military battle from Iraqi insurgents versus the U.S. to Iraqi insurgents versus legitimate elected Iraqi government. The US state also sees it as prerequisite to reduction in number of the U.S.troops in Iraq.

The elections will 'almost certainly be held amidst continuing and probably escalating violence and amidst a high rate of abstentionism, especially in Sunni areas'.
A government with Ayatollah Sayed al-Hakim of the main Shia party(SCIRI) as Prime Minister will probably be formed.
The insurgency will almost surely continue, charging that the new government is a U.S. puppet.
The new Iraqi government will have to choose between the overtly pro-American policy of Allawi and a nationalist line and a nationalist line is more probable, 'in order first of all to be more legitimate'.
Wallerstein thus sees pressure for troop withdrawal coming from insurgents, the Iraqi government, and public opinion at home.
Thus, for Wallerstein, the U.S. is at the beginning of an isolationist reaction, a traditional position inside the Republican party, despite the bitter opposition of the 'militarists' and 'neo-cons' in the administration, who are politically weaker now than in 2003.
So, says Wallerstein, 'we may get a big swing in U.S. foreign policy. What we will not get is the modulated middle position of "multilateralism" dear to the heart of Colin Powell and to the first President Bush's advisors likeBrent Scowcroft and dear to the leaders of the more conservative wing of the Democratic Party (such as Senators Biden and Lieberman).'
Already, 'Bush has pulled back on North Korea and Iran to a position of tacit recognition of impotence. The Bush team is huffing and puffing, but they know there is very little they can do.'
Bush isn't going to do much about Cuba. In the Ukraine business, 'Bush went out of his way to indicate that the U.S. will continue to work with Putin.'
China? 'The economic interests of the United States preclude anything hostile, despite the uneasiness the Bush administration has with China's increased political role in Asia.'
And if the US withdraws from the world, displaying U.S. geopolitical weakness:
'there will be much unsure jostling among all the other geopolitical players. The U.S. was already a declining hegemonic power when Bush came to power in 2001. In seeking to restore the U.S. world position in his first four years of power,Bush actually made the situation much worse for the U.S. The U.S. (and Bush) will reap the harvest of his folly in the second term.'
Well I'm still very impressed by Immanuel Wallerstein's contribution to understanding the world in his 'world-system' theory, even if he has a 'neo-Smithian' focus on markets at the expense of production (it's true, falling profit rates, etc. mean little to him, see Robert Brenner's 'The Origins of Capitalist Development: A Critique of Neo-Smithian Marxism', New Left Review 1/104 (1977); and also by his continuing social and political radicalism (he was born in 1930). I do have criticisms of his perspective here. The situation in Iraq looks more catastrophic than he makes out, even if the election takes place the possibilities of the insurgency undermining and overthrowing any Iraqi authority seems pretty high, and there are strong possibilities of civil war developing - the more so if the Bush regime is successful in 'Iraqization' of the situation. But it's good to see an analysis that doesn't just follow the line that the neo-cons are in control and they will follow the interests of American imperialism by more pre-emptive war.
More Wallerstein.
A convenient introduction to Wallerstein's ideas about the decline of American hegemony can be found in 'The Eagle has Crash Landed' in Foreign Policy July-Aug 2003 and 'US Weakness and the Struggle for Hegemony' in Monthly Review July-Aug 2003.
There is an archive of his commentaries at

LRB 27,1 Jan 6th 2004

The first London Review of Books of the New Year arrives. Always welcome is Alan Bennett's diary of the last year as a measure of a certain sort of nostalgic and common-sensical opposition to New Labour and the stupidities of neo-liberalism. For 2004 I am most struck by his entry for Paul Foot's funeral. Bennett's praise for Foot and his surprised response to the mourners is charming. I hoped to be able to post it here, but sadly access denied for copyright reasons. Must be going into a book.

Elsewhere a long report from Neal Ascherson in Kiev 'Is this to be the story?' puts the events squarely in the 'genus revolution'; acknowledges the American role, but downplays it and finds the people on the square to be sharply critical of the US. Instead Ascherson sees it as a second round of the European revolutions of 1989 in a process that started in Georgia last year and if successful will spread to Belarus and maybe central Asia and Russia itself. Ascherson uses the excellent term 'demokratura' (a play on the old 'nomenklatura') for these regimes, in which he 'furniture' of democracy is really a front for manipulation and the maintenance of the privileges of post-communist elites. Are these revolutions just 'succession wars' between competing elites, who just use the crowd for their own purposes, or genuine transitions to genuine democracy. Ascherson cites events in tiny Abkhazia in November to show the bad pattern and outcome, but for the Ukraine (writing on Dec 17th) he thinks the process has gone to far, the protests lasted too long and were too big. '..the Orange Revolution took on a life, spontaneity and consciousness of its own.' The crowd in Georgia was demobilised, too late for that in Ukraine.

On the streets Ascherson finds a new Ukrainian identity and constant evidence that 'the movement was out of its box and under nobody's orders'. The personality cult around Yushchenko and even the 'millionaire oligarch' Yulia Tymoshenko he finds superficial. And in the vast exultant crowd on the Maidan, Ascherson finds neither fear or aggression.

Ascherson also visits the city of Lviv (which I think I've always thought of as Lvov) near the Polish border, which he predicts will be a 'painted and pedestrianised honeypot for tourism' in 10 years time, but for the moment still deeply rooted in a tragic and violent history. Ascherson finds the 'happy public smile' for Yushchenko rather forced with pro-Orange figures deeply implicated in democratura and a disastrous and dwindling economy. The rural population is falling as migrants go to jobs in the places that provide migrant labour for Western Europe.

Ascherson's point is that in much of the Ukraine if Yushchenko turns out to be just another democratura disappointment or if the old forces strike back, democratic forces might well be weak and dispersed. Ukraine is brilliantly described as a 'sort of service industry in itself, stretching from the billionaire oligarchs who own Ukraine’s resources, through the clientship and clan networks of local power, down to the millions of underpaid bureaucrats and policemen who must extort bribes to feed their families. The result is an unreal economy. A huge labour force in the Donbas still digs coal that can’t be sold, while the black earth of Ukraine, which used to feed the Soviet Union and much of Europe with its bread wheat, is neglected (in Odessa recently, I saw something once inconceivable: an American freighter unloading wheat).'

Ascherson sees all ways of 'tackling' this as dangerous and sees hope in an alliance with the EU, especially Poland. He's provided a brilliant account of some aspects of the limited, contradictory, but still inspiring revolutionary events of the Ukraine, but his own romantic iberalism shines through. The quote above sounds like sort of situation the forces of global neo-liberalism would like to get their hands on. Ascherson sees the political dangers and problems, but not the underlying economic dangers. The political economy of the situation remains beyond him, but it's still a brilliant piece of writing.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

openDemocracy 57 (Dec 2004)

Edition 57 of the openDemocracy webzine (only posher) contains much of interest.

Another ('Chronicle of a War foretold' Dec 23rd) of Paul Rogers' regular analyses of the 'War on Terror' gives a sense of how deep the hole the US has dug for itself in its occupation. He recounts the detailed analyses coming from US security policy think-tank insiders: Bruce Hoffman of the sinister Rand Corporation and Anthony Cordesmann of Centre for Strategy and International Studies.

The Hoffman piece ('The Changing Face of Al Quaeda and Global War on Terrorism' in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism Vol 27,6 (Nov-Dec 2004, see also his Rand study 'Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Iraq') points yet again to Al Quaeda being vastly strengthened by the war on Iraq and subsequent occupation; and in terms of his description of it as:
'more of an idea or a concept than an organization; an amorphous movement tenuously held together by a loosely networked transnational constituency rather than a monolithic international terrorist organization with either a defined or an identifiable command and control apparatus.'
And which has become,
'a vast enterprise, an international movement or franchise operation with like-minded local representatives, loosely connected to a central ideological or motivational base, but advancing their common goals independently of each other.'
This is an organisation that the US state is going to find harder and harder to defeat with its current strategy.

The Cordesmann piece, 'The Developing Iraqi Insurgency: Status at End 2004' points to the depth of Iraqi antagonism to the occupation and the fantasyland of American strategic planners in not understanding this. It looks like the Mosul canteen suicide-bombing on Dec 20th was 'an inside job'! The most pessimistic part of the analysis from Cordesmann is that there is little chance of early US withdrawal.

Another analysis on Open Democracy 'Iraq's Dangerous Elections' by Zaid Al-Ali looks at different complex and contradictory currents in those political forces that are participating in the January elections. This means a focus on the United Iraqi Alliance, basically Sh'ite forces dominated by Sistani and including SCIRI and the Dawa party. Al-Sadr's forces were part of this alliance, but he seems to have left over the question of the immediate withdrawal of American occupation forces. The UIA seems to have fractured, partly over issues inside the Sh'ite community about the alleged extent of Iranian influence - Sistani himself was born in Iran, SCIRI was formed in Iran and backed Iran against Saddam Hussein in the 80s!

Some informed commentators (including the estimable Robert Fisk) have cast doubt on whether the election will even take place. Many others have either called for their postponement or cast doubts on the political wisdom of sticking to the set date. What seems like the intransigence of the Bush regime in sticking to their election timetable needs explaining.

Anyway, the conclusion of this piece is worth considering:
"In any event, and assuming the elections do indeed go ahead, the critical point will come when Iraq's newly-elected representatives seek to use their mandate to impose unpopular policies on those Iraqi citizens who neither participated nor were represented in the elections. In such circumstances, the reaction of people who are now advocating a boycott - including the powerful Sadrist movement as well as the majority of the Sunni community - could lead to a disastrous outcome, one that may even amount to civil war."

'Why the Democrats lost: an interview with Todd Gitlin' (Dec 22nd 2004 ) I've still got a regard for Gitlin based on his long ago role in SDS and excellent book about the media (The Whole World is Watching 1982) and the anti-war protests of the '60s; a lot of radicals find him a contemptible turncoat and asshole. In this interview Gitlin generally commends the Kerry campaign (even the 'reporting for duty' business, his strongest criticism is of how weakly the Swift veterans anti-Kerry wedge got handled), puts it down to the continuing effect of 911 and clearly looks forward to finding ways of reviving the Democratic Party. An accompanying interview with Colin Greer of the New World Foundation is also focused on the ways that the Democratic Party might be transformed from the 'message and money machine' that it has been in recent decades, but from the perspective of grassroots organisation by 'Community-Based Organizations' (CBOs).

There is reference to an important report (also referred to by Tom Mertes in his New Left Review article about Frank's book) about the Democratic effort in Ohio ('Okay, We Lost Ohio. The Question Is, Why?' by Steve Rosenthal, Washington Post Dec 5, 2004) in which the state organiser for 'America Coming Together' reports on a post-election poll which challenges what the author considers to be myths about the result: it wasn't won by the mobilization of churchgoers on a moral agenda, it wasn't superior organisation by the Republicans; it was really because Bush won support on the basis of the occupation of Iraq being a justified component of the 'war on terror' (with around a 55-42% split on this). Rosenthal mentions a failure to win on economic issues, but the verdict here is that the legacy of 9/11 still hung over the election and massively affected the result. Doesn't mention the effect of putting safe-sex marriage on the ballot in Ohio though.

On the other hand openDemocracy is organising an international conference about the threat of terrorism to democracy involving those members of international Great and Good and ex-statespeople that brings that combination of boredom and nausea ('International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security'). This is going to be held in Madrid to mark '11-m', but will include much on-line discussion. Mary Kaldor in an agenda-setting discussion of this, predicated on the soundly liberal idea that both terrorism and the fear of terrorism and political measures that employ the fear of terrorism, manages to this say about terrorism:

"First, classical terrorist groups usually used it to further political goals of left or right (Trotskyism, Anarchism, Fascism)."
Hmm, doesn't inspire me with confidence. Who are these Trot terrorists?

Ian Birchall and Daniel Guerin

It is really worthwhile having a look at Ian Birchall's paper for the conference on Daniel Guerin that I noted in my discussion of Ben Watson's review of Sartre Against Stalinism. Ian's contribution is called 'Daniel Guerin's dialogue with Leninism'. His stating point is that Guerin attempted to work with just about any group who shared his perspective of 'socialism from below' and was thus a mediator between Marxist and anarchist emphases. Ian makes the familiar point that the classic debates between anarchism and Leninism have resurfaced in the 'anti-capitalist movement' and says that:
'For those of who would wish these arguments to lead to constructive dialogue, rather than the sterile futility of mutual denunciation, Guerin should be a model.... in terms of style.'
Hmmm, with the kerfuffle at the London ESF and the subsequent and on-going political battle over its legacy it's hard to see that 'constructive dialogue' at the moment.

Ian takes us through Guerin's changing evaluations of Jacobinism and Leninism in much solid academic detail, utilising a standard defence of Lenin in terms of context, i.e. what Lenin said in What is to be Done? not the same as what he was arguing in 1905. All very accurate and familiar to anyone who's read Cliff or Marcel Liebman, but opening up (again) the problem for anyone seeking to defend or extend the Leninist tradition; which is that if Lenin is to be taken in context and not treated as if his formulations are definitive and timeless, how to explain the validity of a political tradition in such a different context.

Birchall makes a good case for seeing Guerin as reacting badly to a 'Leninism' simultaneously created and deformed by Stalinism, and given a distorted mirror form by the small number of (brave)Trotskyites that Guerin came across - and shows how he responded positively to more libertarian Marxist developments through the 1950s and 1960s.

Ian also has a standard (familiar to any reader of Chris Harman's still excellent The Lost Revolution) defence of the need for a Leninist party in the light of the trajectory of the failed German Revolution of 1918-1923. Guerin sought to show that the failure of the KPD was rooted in its internal organisation and its 'satellisation' by the Comintern. Ian responds that the problem wasn't so much interference from Moscow but the parties lurches from right to left and back in the period, a flaw rooted in the lack of a coherent or experienced leadership and thus implicitly in Rosa Luxemburg's failure to build a cadre. I used to think and say this, as I said Harman's book is very persuasive, but I'm much less convinced now and will return to the issue - hopefully when I get the new issue of Revolutionary History.

Ian also talks about Guerin attempting to develop an alternative to Lenin in the figure of Rosa Luxemburg, but in his view juxtaposing Luxemburg to a 'rather one-sided Lenin' led Guerin to an overstatement of the contrast between these two great revolutionary figures. Birchall presents a (politically very attractive) Lenin who although focused on problems of organisation was actually very flexible about the form of organisation, open to dialogue with anarchists and thus, without minimizing the real differences between these two figures, finds points of important convergence between them.

This is good stuff and Birchall has a typically excellent conclusion:
'The real Lenin, cleansed of the distortions and excrescences of Stalinism, still has much to offer us. The quasi-religious use of Leninist texts has been a positive obstacle to the appreciation of Lenin's true merits. If Guerin's criticisms have made it easier to grasp the real Lenin, then we are in his debt.'
We need more Daniel Guerin - Ian quotes a lot that doesn't seem to have been translated and this is a crying shame.

Michael Hardt interview

A quote from a (very interesting) interview with Michael Hardt in US academic literary theory journal Minnesota Review (Issue 61-62 2004) - time to get Multitude read.

"My feeling is that September 11, and then the war on terrorism afterwards has been very comforting to a certain style of left theorists, or even left political thinkers. Prior to that it seemed like the old concepts didn't work and things were changing in the world, forming new kinds of power, and the old forms of political resistance didn't work. Then, post-September 11 and through Afghanistan and particularly with Iraq, it's as if all the old categories work again. What we have is U.S. imperialism, what we need is a national liberation struggle, etc. Which leads to a quite active debate: Should the anti-war movement be explicitly in support of the Iraqi national resistance? Of course, if it's imperialism, that's what you should do. That's what we did throughout the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies. The response to imperialism is national liberation struggle.

"I'm quite skeptical about the efficacy of Iraqi national liberation struggle against the U.S. imperialist invader. If in fact we are within something new, we can recognize, not necessarily in an abject way, the novelty of our situation and its implications, the kinds of intellectual and political practices that have become habits that are no longer possible or useful or productive. That's the first moment. On that basis, then, one can construct a project. "

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Historical Materialism 12,3

I'm associated with Historical Materialism's editorial process, so expect me to say how good it is. Yes, it's great. The covers in particular make this journal a thing of beauty. This issue, and this came as a surprise, features Anna Kournikova launching her sports bra range on the NASDAQ, along with that creepy guy from Amazon.

The major part of this issue is devoted to a symposium on Moishe Postone's eleven year-old book, Time, Labor and Social Domination. That's twelve articles and about 240 pages, so Postone fans are in for a treat, and for everyone else here comes the chance to find out what its all about. And to make that easy there is an elegant introduction to the symposium by Guido Starosta in his 'Editorial Introduction: Rethinking Marx's Mature Social Theory', which situates the book in terms of responses to the last thirty years or so, including what Guido describes as the 'defeat of the working-class movement', which is a bit too bald for me, but we know what he means. One response has been some variety of 'post-Marxism', another has been to critically reconstruct and rethink Marx and Postone's work is presented an outstanding expression of this. Postone engages in an 'in-depth radical reconsideration of the fundamental categories of Marx's critique of political economy - commodity, money, capital -...'

Okay, this isn't going to be easy, but the case for the book's importance and a 'rigorous and pluralist discussion' is made.

The symposium is made up of pieces by Postone himself: 'Critique and Historical Transformation' (and another piece byPostone taking up the arguments and criticisms in the rest of the symposium in a future issue)
Robert Albritton 'Theorising Capital's Deep Structure and the Transformation of Capitalism'
Chris Arthur 'Subject and Counter-Subject'
Werner Bonefeld 'On Postone's Courageous but Unsuccessful Attempt to Banish the Class Antagonism from the Critique of Political Economy'
Joseph Fracchia 'On Transhistorical Abstractions and the Intersection of Historical Theory and Social Critique'
Peter Hudis 'The Death of the Death of the Subject'
Geoffrey Kay and James Mott Concept and Method in Postone's Time, Labor and Social Domination'
Dave McNally 'The Dual Form of Labour in Capitalist Society and the Struggle over Meaning: Comments on Postone'
Karen Miller 'The Question of Time in Postone's Time, Labor and Social Domination'
Michael Neary 'Travels in Moishe Postone's Social Universe: A Contribution to a Critique of Political Cosmology'
Marcel Stoelzer 'Postone's Marx: A Theorist of Modern Society, Its Social Movements and Its Imprisonment by Abstract Labour'

And the rest of the journal. There's another very high-level article by Dimitri Dimoulis and John Milios on 'Commodity Fetishism vs. Capital Fetishism: Marxist Interpretations vis-à-vis Marx's Analyses in Capital', which is I think a valuable mapping out of these concepts in Marx and Marxism.

Of the reviews Sumit Sarkar's 'The Return of Labour to South-Asian History' looks at a number of case studies that focus on labour history in South Asia and uses them to explore the trajectory of labour history in India in the context of economic and social developments over the last 30 years. The significant role of Dipesh Chakrabarty's work on Calcutta jute mill workers as a kind of Thompsonian challenge to orthodox Marxist history and more generally Subaltern Studies as the vehicle for a recovery of peasant history and consciousness before moving to a post-colonialist culturalist history in which working class organisation and activity seemed to have little relevance. But since then there has been a revival of interest in labour history and these books, including two by Raj Chandavarkar and others looking at particular localities or sections all sound like remarkable and fascinating achievements*. In particular one called Lost Worlds: Indian Labour and its Forgotten Histories by Chitra Jandhi stands out. Really this review stands out as inspiration for anyone who might want to delve in South-Asian labour history.

* The books reviewed are: Raj Chandavarkar The Origins of Industrial Capitalism in India: Business Strategies and the Working Classes in Bombay, 1900-1940
and Imperial Power and Popular Politics: Class, Resistance and the State in India, c. 1850-1950
Ian Kerr Building the Railways of the Raj
Dilip Simeon The Politics of Labour under Late Colonialism: Workers, Unions and the State in Chota Nagpur, 1928-1939
Janaki Nair Miners and Millhands: Work, Culture and Politics in Princely Mysore
Chitra Joshi's Lost Worlds: Indian Labour and its Forgotten Histories

There is also a review by Chris Harman of two academic books on important Marxist theorist and politician Rudolf Hilferding, which gives a good and clear, but probably already familiar SWP critique of any blurring between the categories of 'reform' and 'revolution'.
William Smaldone Rudolf Hilferding: The Tragedy of a German Social Democrat
F. Peter Wagner's Rudolf Hilferding: The Theory and Politics of Democratic Socialism

Loren Goldner reviews three volumes on medieval history by unorthodox Portuguese theorist João Bernardo (Poder e Dinheiro. Do Poder Pessoal ao Estado Impessoal no Regime enhorial, Séculos V-XV) as a call for their translation into English. They do sound interesting, and Goldner's own work on his 'Break Their Haughty Power' web-site deserves exploration.

And finally Branwen Gruffydd Jones reviews Sean Creaven's Marxism and Realism: A Materialistic Application of Realism in the Social Sciences. Sean attempts to bring together the perspectives of Roy Bhaskar's early critical realism and Marxism into a 'critical materialism' and 'emergentist Marxism', and here gets both praise and criticism.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Weekly Worker Dec 16 2004

The last Weekly Worker of the year, thrillingly expanded to 16 pages as a Christmas treat

Points of interest include: a report from the CPGB's aggregate with much this and thating about Respect, but culminating in WW editor Peter Manson pronouncing that with the SSP being mired in nationalism, 'it cannot be described as socialist in any genuine sense.' Hmmm.

A long article on the historicity of Jesus based on a book called The authentic gospels of Jesus by one Geza Vemes. Dismissal of Jesus is seen as 'atheistic economism' - ooh, they just love saying things are 'economistic' and for some reason they think it is important: I see there is a 'London Communist Forum' (the whole far left is following the SWP in using the word 'forum' to describe their meetings!) on December 19 on ‘Why communists should study the origins and evolution of religion’ with speaker Jack Conrad.

John Ball (surely a pseudonym!) on 'Globalisation or imperialism?', based on the Alan Freeman & Boris Kagarlitsky collection The Politics of Empire (Pluto 2004). This isn't written very well (but I blame the editor for a lot of this) and I'm not that convinced of the author's grasp of the subject. It isn't always clear how far John Ball is saying what he thinks or reporting what the various contributors to the book are saying. Ah, what it is is a garbled version of some of the arguments, with so many half-baked and confused points that it would take far too long to sort them out. The rudiment of the argument I take to be that a) 'globalisation' is real, a period lasting for the last 30 years or so'; b) globalisation sees a real shaping role being played by 'multilateral organisations' such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO; c) globalisation is marked by 'multilateral political intervention alongside the free movement of capital'; d) this globalisation has been 'an economic catastrophe, but a political triumph'; and e) this failure is now being revealed and globalisation, multilateralisation and the 'world market in capital' is 'breaking up'. The South is getting poorer (leaving China out of the equation, which it should be if 'China did not enter into globalisation' as is claimed here - the accompanying photo does at least turn this into a question) and inequality is growing. Stable government is increasingly impossible. Whole areas are 'socially destroyed', 'instruments of civil society begin to collapse'. Afghanistan is mentioned but it seems to be wider than that. And the 'possibility of continuing to implement current policy is being removed' and this is 'really what drove the US into the hands of the Bush faction, the imperialist faction of US capital..... because it corresponds to the logic of what America had to do.'
The US is building bilateral military relations instead of multilateral in a 'new strategic repositioning of American military power'.

The author also highlights and counterposes the classical theory of imperialism, and rightly points to the theme of imperialism as a competitive system, which can be seen as opposed to theories of ultra-imperialism or super-imperialism. Super-imperialism is about the US 'organising' other imperialisms and the author thinks this corresponds to the historical period we have been in. Ultra-imperialism is seen as closer to globalisation theory and sees no conflict between imperialist powers. Classical imperialism says that the imperialists will fight.
The article says that the only addition to the 'imperialist bloc' in the last 150 years has been the 80 million people of the SE Asian 'tigers' [hmm, excluding the 128 million in Japan that is, certainly not part of any 'imperialist bloc' 150 years ago!] and this 'major economic rival' has crashed in 'two waves of globalisation', showing that isn't a way out for the majority of the world. The EU isn't keeping up with the US in terms of GDP growth, but it has superior productivity, is 'running bigger and bigger surpluses', but not using those surpluses to 'raise substantially the living standards of their people'.
'This is giving rise to inter-imperialist crisis'. Multilateral institutions are used by the US to compensate for its structural weakness, but this is making it difficult for EU and Japanese capital - and this lies behind the failure to secure a 'coalition of the willing'. What brought Chirac and Schroder together on this was the realisation that allowing the US free control in the Middle East would fundamentally compromise European economic (i.e. imperialist) interests.
Multilateralism is eroding, with Ball quoting John Williamson to the effect that there is no longer a 'Washington consensus' and there is a "chasm" between the US and the rest of the world; and quoting both neo-conservatives like William Kristol and Max Boot and more liberal voices like Robert Cooper and Brookings Institute authors, 'empire' has returned to political discourse.
So the ideology of imperialism has returned and the EU is increasingly geared up for military intervention. And with the doctrine of pre-emptive war being given a European spin in terms of being the 'human face of globalisation' we have imperialisms justifying themselves.
And finally all the world is capitalist and capitalism seeks out national forms and even in Iraq the US is being resisted with a national consciousness.

Well I just think this is bad, badly written, badly argued, bad. I notice though that the Alliance for Workers Liberty web-site thinks it worth posting a letter to WW taking issue with the politics of the piece. On the level of analysis, rejecting the idea that the world is entering a historical phase similar to that of pre-World War One clashes between rival imperialisms I'm sympathetic; but the AWL critique is really focused on what they see as bad 'second camp' 'popular frontist' politics.

Tina Becker continues (poor old Tina got to keep going to ESF meetings and having a bad time, isn't it time to set her free?) on 'Which way for the ESF?' This is the CPGB setting out its stall for the ESF 'preparatory assembly' in Paris over the weekend of Dec 19th. Tina is willing to say that the London ESF was a qualified success, but that the whole process has to be reformed and improved. The major bugbears are the rules of the whole WSF process which ban parties from participating and Tina is right to say this is ridiculous and hypocritical, and, of course, the role of the SWP in all this. There do seem to be some new networks that have come out of or developed at Alexander Palace, but on Tina's account they seem pretty sporadic. Of course Tina and the CPGB want us to move to some sort of political unification, at the very least by debates that would clarify differences - but I don't get much sense that she sees how difficult and fractious those debates are going to be. Tina usefully highlights the assessment by the 'reformist lobby group' Attac which found the event to be marked by intolerance and pseudo-debate, for which they blame 'sectarian' political and religious organisations. Tina relates this to the intense criticism of the French left for its line on the ban on the hijab in schools and related issues around sectarianism. Attac seem to want to do away with plenary sessions, but also to turn the EPA into 'a real locus of decision-making', with some form of delegate ESF structure and 'more democratic and representative national committees'. Tina sees as Attac attempting to restrict the role of political parties (and she points out that Attac itself is deeply involved with party politics. Attac also wants the ESF to be biannual, which Tina thinks is now a more widespread view than before Ally Pally. Tina also tells us about the proposals from something called the French initiative Committee for the ESF (CIFS) which seems to want a stronger focus on European issues.

Tina also tells us about proposals from Italy in which the ESF would shift from being a 'space for learning' to something that facilitates network, campaigns and struggles. And of course being a space for discussion was the founding purpose of the WSF and its offshoots.

And finally: proposals from Britain. Tina sees Socialist Action (the small group of very well-placed people around Ken Livingstone and in various campaigns, which I think of as the long lost fragment of the IMG that stayed in the Labour Party) and the SWP the 'ruling ESF clique', whom she thinks wanted to go to Paris to present 'the British position' that the London ESF was an absolute success, that it was 'entirely inclusive' and the small disruptions totally unjustified. I tend to agree that the disruptions were unjustified, but also agree with Tina Becker that there is context to them that needs to be said. Tina thinks that she and a couple of Workers Power people stymied the plans of Chris Nineham to give an uncontested line to the Paris meeting.

Well we can only look forward to the reports about the Paris meeting that will hopefully be appearing on the ESF discussion lists and in Weekly Worker in 2005.

There's also a side story about the March 19th demo, which I'm hoping will be as big as possible although I haven't been convinced by the SWP comrades saying that there is so much anger about the occupation that it is going to be on the same scale as February 15th. This story says that the French and Italian proposal was was for a convergence on Brussels to demonstrate against the EU Constitution. SWP/IST comrades argued that opposition to the occupation should be included and the final statement of the Assembly of Social Movements called for national mobilisations. This has turned into a STWC demo in London to 'End the occupation of Iraq, bring the troops home'. WW think that ignoring Europe is crass economism, although I tend to agree with the SWP if they argue that people are going to be more likely to be mobilised around war and occupation, and that - at the moment - war and occupation is the overwhelmingly important issue. WW thinks that the SWP/STWC (ignoring the other forces that are represented in the leadership of the STWC) simply wants to recreate these vast turnouts as a conduit for recruitment to the SWP. This is a bit too cynical for me, and of course the experience of the past three years seems to indicate that - so far- it hasn't happened. WW also thinks STW doesn't have a political strategy against the war and occupation and that it isn't dealing the range of political questions being thrown up at the moment.

And the final thing I want to mention from this WW: the exchange of letters between key SWP figures in Respect and the SSP in the wake of George Galloway's strange shit-stirring intervention into SSP politics after Sheridan's resignation as convenor. All very murky. The CPGB sees the hands of the SWP in things, but don't seem to have convincing evidence.

What Next? 29

A new issue of Bob Pitt's What Next? has at last been announced. Of course, the fact is that most of the articles had already been available on its excellent web-site for a few months. The magazine can be found in Housmans bookshop or purchased by subscription (details on the web-site), but the editor has made it clear that he's not that keen on print subs - he loses money on them. The web-site is pretty functional but has all sorts of goodies on it, including valuable sections on socialist history, Marxist theory and left politics, plus a link to a few old articles from New Interventions and forthcoming articles for What Next?

This issue has a good round in the on-going debate about secularism and the Hijab. 'THE DEFENCE OF MILITANT SECULARISM' by Andrew Coates puts one side, very familiar to habituees of various e-lists. On the other, a strong case is put by Salam Yaqoob in 'HIJAB: A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE' . This is the text of Salma's speech to the London ESF, a speech which certainly delighted her supporters. This is taken from the web-site of the National Assembly Against Racism.

Other articles deal with some other aspects of the politics of the current multicultural clashes in the intersections between identity and racism. I almost used the phrase 'clash of civilizations', but must remember that that is a right-wing self-fulfilling prophecy, coined by a particularly noxious and sinister political specimen. The events in Birmingham over Behzti show how this political field is live, potent and not going away. The aspects dealt with here include: 'THEO VAN GOGH: HERO, ANTI-SEMITE, MISOGYNIST OR ISLAMOPHOBE?' by Herman de Tollenaere. This is nowhere near as controversial as the (in)famous Index on Censorship web article by Rohan Jayasekera) and clearly condemns the murder, but doesn't have much time for van Gogh. 'QARADAWI, KEN BIGLEY AND ISLAMOPHOBIA' by Robert Wilkins is a critical take on the media response to the invite to Yusuf al-Qaradawi to Britain and subsequent kerfuffle. And then 'A ‘CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS’, SENDING PINK SPARKS FLYING? by Yoshie Furuhashi from the US. Furuhashi's website, Critical Montages, should be visited for trenchant anti-war commentary, although his strong anti-imperialism leads him to some one-sided positions that I would draw back from (see his 'Why Progressives must NOT embrace the Ukrainian 'pro-democracy' movement' from Dec 23rd a reply to Stephen Zunes arguing the opposite case for Foreign Policy in Focus). He re a web-site posting from June starts with the case Pym Forteyn to go on to criticise Peter Tatchell for taking up what Furuhashi calls the 'Pink Man's Burden'; "the White Man’s Burden in queer left drag": focusing on one aspect of oppression and missing the wider contexts of racism and imperialism.

One article that is already contentious is Geoffrey Brown's 'WOMBLING FREE? ANARCHISTS AND THE EUROPEAN SOCIAL FORUM'. There is clearly a political battle going on about the London ESF and its impact, and posing the question: where next for the movement? (Well, Athens in early 2006 is the literal answer, but I predict a rough and ideological ride before we all get there.) One of the features of the movement has been its diversity, whether that can survive, whether the movement is mature enough to let it survive is being tested in these arguments. I'm going to return to these arguments, but for the moment let me say that this is one salvo in the dispute. Geoff (In think I know him, but he hasn't laid out his precise political affiliations so far as I can see, so let's just say he's a Marxist, so this can be seen as just one more episode in the long historic battle between Marxists and Anarchists) follows the majority and maybe even hegemonic line (SWP, Socialist Action, but also some key trade union figures and NGO's, etc.) that the ESF was a huge success and it was built pretty openly with mass organisations, except for the disruptive violence from an ultraleft minority at a couple of events.

To quote the 'Statement on the Third European Social Forum in London' (conveniently available on the What Next? web-site in the section on 'Left Politics' ) , by Billy Hayes, Paul Mackney, Lindsey German and other trade union and NGO figures, a new great and the good, but our great and the good (*):
"The European Social Forum in London was entirely inclusive with more than 20,000 people attending 500 plenaries, seminars, workshops and cultural events with more than 2,500 speakers representing every shade of opinion within the social justice movement"
Or, to quote Geoff Brown: "THE 2004 European Social Forum, held in London on 15-17 October, attracted more than 20,000 participants. The event featured 500 plenaries, seminars, workshops and cultural events, with more than 2,500 speakers representing every shade of opinion within the global justice movement."

Anyway, Geoff's still pretty angry about the disruption of the anti-racist, anti-fascist rally at which Livingstone was meant to be speaking (did Ken cry off cos he knew what was going to happen?) and he doesn't like them WOMBLES ('White Overall Movement Building Liberation Through Effective Struggle' according to Geoff) who come across as undemocratic and cynical operators on the fringe of the movement, peeved that the democratic involvement by bigger and far more important forces mean that they can't be at the centre of things.

Geoff's perspective has a lot of merit - putting on something as big as the ESF, getting and maintaining the involvement of the GLA and trade unions, having something that can appeal to wider numbers of people than those already involved in direct action, etc. are all important points. But there is a danger of something getting lost in all the political deals that sort of approach entails. Just one point, for the moment, this argument isn't going to go away so we will come back to it, Geoff refers to an article by Les Levidow in a recent Radical Philosophy and kind of aligns it to the bad violent WOMBLES - hmm, bit of an 'amalgam' argument I thought. I thought Les's argument very interesting and worthy of consideration, so am eager that people read it, and am interested in what he'll have to say in retrospect.

And as a sign that the argument is going away Dean, a veritable WOMBLE ('White Overall Movement Building Libertarian Effective Struggles' he insists) has already replied in a letter to the next issue of What Next? available on the web-site. Dean mostly takes up what Geoff had to say about the WOMBLES' alleged bad behaviour at a MayDay rally in Dublin, but also gives us a link to the WOMBLE's own account of what happened at Ally Pally: 'Reflections & Analysis: the WOMBLES, the ESF & Beyond' . Their conclusion: "it (the SWP) has clumsily revealed the true nature & intentions of the ESF - a party political conference in a safe, controlled environment from which the ESF (through its leadership) can declare itself a credible negotiating partner, not the enemy, of both capital & governments."

(*) there are some factual problems with the Statement by our Great and Good, including the quoting of inflammatory threats which are attributed to the WOMBLES, but it seem came from vulgar situationist (of a sort) pranksters.

Ooh, I've already got a huge dossier of material on the ESF debate and can hardly wait for Weekly Worker (where is it when you need it!?) to report on the ESF Preparatory meeting in Paris last weekend.

EXTENDING THE CIRCLE OF COMPASSION: SOCIALISM AND ANIMAL RIGHTS' by Terry Liddle makes the case why socialists should support animal rights. Hmm, sorry, not interested right now.

In 'BROWNSHIRTS IN BLAZERS? THE RISE OF UKIP' Martin Sullivan updates a piece carried in Labour Left Briefing in July. Add it to Phil Hearse's article (which I would give a bigger plug for if I could easily find it on either the Marxsite or Socialist Resistance site) for when UKIP comes back into the news - next year's general election campaign I guess.

Dave has written a pretty good book about New Labour and used to be an independent mainstay of the Socialist Alliance ('grumpy old socialist' branch).

Martin Sullivan's 'RESPECT COALITION: NO JOKE' criticises the politics and prospects of RESPECT (yet again, yet again) and defends the idea that socialists should stay in the Labour Party. He's (still) just not going to be convinced by the idea that RESPECT is anything like a viable alternative. He's got some good points to make about RESPECT (well SWP and Galloway) bombast and hype, but completely fails to see what is good about the new coalitions that RESPECT has built - but only in some geographically limited areas. But then although Martin makes much of the result in Hartlepool as a bad performance I missed what he had to say about a good local result in a not-very Muslim area in Tower Hamlets.

In 'PROSPECTS FOR THE LEFT IN SCOTLAND' Vince Mills (a member of the Labour Party in Scotland and secretary of the 'Campaign for Socialism') explains why the Scottish Socialist Party isn't the way forward.

In 'THE END OF AN ENDURING ALLIANCE? TRADE UNION-LABOUR RELATIONS', Gregor Gall (of the SSP) deals with a crucial issue in current leftwing politics. I met Gregor once, hanging around at 'Marxism'.... he seemed such a nice guy I've been interested in what he's had to say ever since. His stuff in the International Socialist Movement magazine(Frontlines) has been very good, see his very good detailed analysis of the Scottish Nursery Nurses' Strike in Frontlines 14. Turns out that he's now Professor of Industrial Relations at the University of Stirling as well as being a member of the Scottish Socialist Party. The article is also being carried on the excellent website for the radical bookshop in Edingburgh Word Power (and as Gregor has an article on union-busting at the British maybe it is time to give up buying books there).

Ian Donovan explains why he left the Communist Party of Great Britain (do I need to say, 'no not that CPGB, but the current one') in 'CPGB: CENTRISM, VACILLATION AND CAPITULATION' which will be of interest to all readers of Weekly Worker and followers of one of the smallest groups on the far left. Got a feeling I've already seen this around quite a bit.

There are two very interesting historical pieces. Wang Fanxi's 'THE STALINIST STATE IN CHINA: THE SOCIAL MEANING OF MAO TSE-TUNG'S VICTORY' was written in 1950 and carried by both the Schachtmanite New Internationalist and Cliffite Socialist Review in 1951. A very interesting bureaucratic collectivist analysis by the engaging author of 'Memoirs of a Chinese Revolutionary'.

'A DANISH TROTSKYIST IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR' is an interview with one Åge Kjelsø and does what it says in the title. This should appeal to anyone with an interest in the Spanish Revolution (which should be everyone, of course).

There are also Book Reviews and Letters, but the only point I want to draw to your attention is
Bob Pitt's trenchant criticism of Francis Wheen's rather well-received How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions. 'Mumbo-Jumbo' as a term is entirely rooted in the history of racism: shame on you Mr Wheen, shame! But Bob does admit he is one of the targets of the book!

Overall I think Bob should be congratulating for putting together a cheap magazine that contains so much stuff for debate.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Red Pepper 126

A late Red Pepper (126) covers Dec 2004 to Jan 2005. I always wonder about the purpose of Red Pepper except give the people who produce it and write it something to produce and somewhere to write.

But there are some very good things here.
The cover feature on Latin America promises a discussion on 'When the left wins office , how do the people win power?' One Pablo Navarette starts us off with 'A continent at the crossroads'; Alfredo Saad-Filho and Sue Branford discuss Lula and Brazil, and Jonah Gindin looks at Venezuela in 'The revolution within the revolution'.

Pablo Navarette's introduction is useful, talking about the pattern of resistance to neo-liberalism, asking what lessons can be drawn from it, but saying it's not just a question of reform vs. revolution. Pablo also draws attention to further features on the Red Pepper web-site. (Hard to find!)

Sue Branford and Alfredo Saad-Filho both give useful background information on the trajectory of the Workers Party and then the disappointments of the Lula government in Brazil. They have an important difference in perspective. Sue acknowledges the lack of delivery on promised and hoped-for reforms, but thinks thinks that the PT had no choice but to adapt to the conditions it finds itself in. Alfredo is more critical, especially of the strategy of forming 'vertical' alliances with 'privileged social groups' instead of 'horizontal' alliances, and of being so focused on winning elections in the short-term rather than 'building alternative power structures on the ground that would challenge the monopoly of economic power in Brazil', like the Landless Workers Movement (MAST). Sue is critical of the actual policy choices of Lula, especially around the limitations on the 'Zero Hunger' campaign, lack of agrarian reform, and opting for (neo-liberal) 'economic orthodoxy'; but despite all this thinks the government has some achievements and that the PT shouldn't be written off. Alfredo thinks it's time for the left to ditch the PT, but doesn't see much hope in the alternative Party of Socialism and Freedom (P-Sol). The argument is fascinating, left me wanting more. See International Viewpoint 362 for a useful debate between different positions on the question, with more material added in January .

Jonah Gindin's article provides a useful update on events in Venezuela that take us into some of the grassroots Chavismo movements. See also for more news and analysis.

Naomi Klein and Haifa Zangana discuss 'Killing democracy in Iraq' (Haifa has also been in The Guardian (Dec 22nd) with an article called 'Quiet or I'll call democracy' ). Haifa talks about the Iraqi National Foundation Congress as the political wing of armed resistance. Naomi raises the criticisms of the anti-war movement that have got her into trouble elsewhere, including not supporting democratic resistance inside Iraq and notmaking demands over the issue of the Paris Club (of creditor nations) locking Iraq into structural adjustment until 2008. For Naomi Klein the election is a 'weapon of war'.

Red Pepper's contribution to the debate on the US election result is a piece by Van Jones of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights which argues that the grassroots movement of US progressives came close to unseating President Bush and that 'We Will Prevail'. Everyone else is depressed or arguing why you shouldn't be depressed as Bush is more constrained than you think, but Van sees a renewed outburst of activist energy.

There's an interview with Mark Serwotka of the PCS, which looks forward to future campaigns for public services and speaking personally says; "At the moment I see no credible alternative to Labour rooted in communities in England and Wales. In Scotland, however, I think the success and rapid development of the SSP is very exciting", before going on to talk about the importance of PR. Serwotka is open to work with anyone who wants to participate in 'constructing a new positive agenda', including the Labour Representation Committee (but telling them to look outwards), Greens, Plaid Cymru and Respect: "I have an open mind about Respect and have welcomed the opportunity to speak on its platforms. I am concerned that it shouldn't mirror some of the the problems that Labour has had in the past, like an attitude of 'if you're not with us you're against us'."

There are also a series of contributions on the London ESF in the debate that will go on. Katherine Haywood's journalistic piece raises some problems before affirming the positive and speculating about the future of the movement. Stuart Hodkinson and Julie Boeri give a longer and more critical account based on the Babels experience. Hilary Wainwright in 'Coordination without centralisation' focuses more on developments in the WSF after Mumbai and looks forward to a changed Porto Allegre WSF in January 2005. Incidentally the collection of Blogs provided at the Red Pepper site are still well worth looking at.

Martin McIvor in 'Reclaiming the market for the left', looks at Gareth Stedman Jones' recent book An End to Poverty , which sets out to provide a 'post-socialist social democracy' for today seemingly based on older traditions of 'civil republicanism', namechecking Tom Paine and French philosophe de Condorcet and invoking an Adam Smith who was a 'revolutionary' champion of commercial society. This, of course, drifted into the 19thC liberal defence of property and dealing with the poor as a moral problem, and socialism and Marxism arose with agendas of egalitarianism and hostility to Marxism. Stedman Jones seems to imply after the end of the cold war, collapse of 'Soviet communism', 'tightening siege of West European social democracy' the way forward is for 'republican activism' and 'economic dynamism' that engage with the mixed economy. Hmmm, interesting intellectual history, but I'm suspicious and unconvinced. Martin McIvor is director of the Catalyst think-tank, famous for the role played by Roy Hattersley.