Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Left Press: Socialist Resistance, SW, Solidarity, WW,

A quick(ish) look at some of the British socialist press for the first week/month of 2005.

Starting point is (sorry, still the best, widest circulated and most influential left paper) with Socialist Worker (#1933, issue dated Jan 8th) and I'm impressed. The Tsunami dominates, of course, and SW's coverage from its 'Drop the Debt, Money for Aid Not Iraq War' cover is pretty good. The basic theme is the contrast between the basic human solidarity and compassion that has been shown by so many with the needs and impulses of the capitalist world order. A comrade from the Thai organisation 'Workers' Democracy', Giles Ungpakorn (author of some texts on class struggle in Thailand that have been strongly recommended to me) provides the basic Marxist argument, interestingly and perhaps controversially, describing countries like Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia as 'mini-imperialists', with states that must 'prove' they can control their territories to the superpowers. But the sense of regional knowledge is impressive and useful. Another good article on Aceh quotes extensively from the American journalist Allan Nairn, extracted from Democracy Now in the US. Alex Callinicos' column deals with questions of Gordon Brown's high profile urging of help for Africa. Alex refers to the Make Poverty History petition and its coverage by the Financial Times (this column can sometimes seem like a gloss on the FT!). MPH is a coalition of NGOs which is gearing up to put pressure on the G8 summit in Scotland in July, and is here described as not 'getting tough with the government'. Alex usefully talks about the complex relationship between government and NGOs and the way these bodies both put pressure on government and are dependent on it. But there is a debate and Alex rightly calls for the radical left to be heard in this area - which in my view it has pulled away from because of the urgent prioritisation of the anti-war movement - and puts down a marker for the summer protests at Gleneagles.

Keith Flett contributes a piece about the 'Committee of 100' tradition of direct action in CND in the early 1960s. Hmmm, good; but isn't this the sort of direct action that was being decried as 'elitist' in 2003, but is now being encouraged by the Stop the War Coalition for February 15th?

A doctor from Fallujah, Salam Ismael, contributes a hard-hitting piece about conditions in Fallujah after the American attack - I've heard him speak in England and we need to pay attention to what he is saying.

From the Letters page just to note that one of the SWP's Russian experts Dave Crouch differs from Alex Callnicos's evaluation of 'velvet revolution' in Ukraine and wants a more positive welcome to it.

Centre pages are given over to the 100th anniversary of 1905 - a good basic account by Megan Trudell and a piece on Rosa Luxemburg's The Mass Strike (being re-published by Bookmarks - good on yer! And only £4. The conclusion: "Read The Mass Strike and prepare. The conditions for such a class rebellion lie all around us." Hmmm.

John McAllion follows up Callinicos on Make Poverty History with a longer assessment of the need for a big 'pro-poor movement': 'We also need to have in excess of 100,000 protestors on the streets of Edinburgh on 2 July.' Right On!

Andrea Butcher uses the excellent new Mike Leigh film Vera Drake to warn against any return to the past if we 'don't defend the rights we have won' and make the basic internationalist point about the reality for women around the world.

And finally Chris Nineham has been to a meeting of 400 global anti-war activists in Hyderabad, tells us how good it was and gives some potted interviews with a variety of activists.

I do want to praise SW: content is good, presentation is attractive and it remains directed outwards. No mention of the Behzti affair though.

Weekly Worker has its good points, but operates in a different and smaller political universe. This WW (#558 Jan 6th, oddly not available on their web-site at the moment, you can read rtheir Christmas issue twice though) also focuses on the Tsunami disaster - the front-page is given over to one of the most horrific and upsetting photos to come from the tragedy (rather than the usual photos of Galloway, Rees or Bambery looking sinister). They give the back page over to the issue, which runs through the general political arguments about the event and its ramifications to a lengthy expression of disappointment in the reaction of Respect, which say they, 'apes the sentiments and values of bourgeois liberals', i..e charity, Make Poverty History celebrities, etc. Rob Hoveman's call for Respect members to follow the lead of Councillor Michael Lavalette in Preston is 'sad'. Instead communists shouldn't hold up the UN or charity as ways forward, but collect for workers and democratic organisations, and ensure trade union supervision of British aid. Well: firstly compared to the SWP approach indicated above which looks like one calling for work with the large numbers of people who will be mobilised by charities and NGOs and build for direct protest at Gleneagles. WW just offers an abstract alternative, without any glimmer of a practical idea about which democratic forces get support and how.

What else do we find. In 'Letters' the AWL critique of the inadequacies of John Ball's piece on imperialism is printed (I've already given an account of this bad piece).

Inconclusive developments in the relationship between Respect and the SSP are reported.
Tina Becker does her ESF stuff with an account of the Paris meeting of the ESF Preparatory Committee. The outcome seems as murky as ever. There is also an account by Anne McShane of the setting up of a 'Campaign for a Social Europe' and there are interviews with an interesting variety of European activists about the European constitution. WW loves to quote Chris Nineham about 'Europe' being 'boring' and a 'non-issue': hmmm, sadly perhaps, I think he's still right!

Nick Rogers continues what seems to be an interminable series of articles on imperialism. Crucial topic, so I will return to this when my energy levels picks up.

Working to a different(fortnightly) rhythm is the AWL's Solidarity (3/64 Jan 6th). Again the paper focuses on 'Asia's Preventable Disasters' and points to the horror and hypocrisy. Contact details for financial aid to Sri Lankan Trotskyists (NSSP) and a number of other workers movement avenues for solidarity are given. Problems for the left in Amicus are discussed. There's an article about defending council housing without a single mention of 'Defend Council Housing'. A critique of 'Fairtrade'. A belated attack on 'Galloway's sexist tripe'. A document from Lenin appealing to interventionist soldiers to see through their side and think again is presented as 'highly relevant' for today. There's a short interview with Christian Parenti about the Iraqi resisitance. Martin Thomas devotes the centre-pages to the forthcoming elections in Iraq. A document from Palestinian Trotskyists in 1948 is presented as a critique of what the AWL sees as the vicious failings of the contemporary left. Sean Matgamna continues his extraordinarily long attack on Alan Johnson. Barry Finger from the US journal New Politics writes about 'self-determination and democracy in Iraq'. The back page is given over to the horrific murder of IFTU international secretary Hadi Salih, which is placed in the context of other attacks on trade unionists and women. There is an account of attacks on abortion rights in the US. The Behzti affair is summed up as 'Defend free speech'. Lots of interesting and useful stuff, but although they are opposed to the occupation of Iraq the political thrust of the paper seems to be more aimed at criticising the more influential sections of the left and anti-war movement. They have an archive item about the latter days of the great miners strike of 1984-85 which is really focused on the mistakes and crimes of the SWP!

And finally, the monthly Socialist Resistance. Resistance (as its friends call it) is, sadly the messiest of these papers. It clearly hopes for an audience outside the existing left, but the layout and typeset makes it an ugly thing, even its use of colour is ugly. Much of it is devoted to short items with a left stance, okay, fine. Of more interest to me are: a glowing article about Respect from the Chair of Tower Hamlets Respect. Glyn Robbins provides an attractive biographical account of his background and enthusiasm for the Socialist Alliance and Stop the War. Respect is seen by Glyn as a genuine working class outgrowth of the antiwar movement and he ably defends it against accusations that it panders to religion. There is a conditional warning against it replicating hierarchy and 'sterile debate', but he finishes on a flourish about the need for an alternative and that 'Respect can be that alternative.' Left me with a warm glow and a hope that it is true, but I'm not entirely convinced and there's no mention of the role of the SWP.
On Respect the paper also carries a piece by a National Council member on the Galloway-SSP business which indicates that the distance between the officers of Respect and Galloway on this matter.

Iraq is covered in 'US terror regime sets stage for January 30 poll' and an article by Piers Mostyn on 'Dirty Wars and Critical Solidarity', basically the case for 'unconditional but critical support' for the Iraqi resisitance.

There is also a lengthy piece by Aleksander Buzgalin, a Marxist academic from Moscow, on the Ukraine: 'Independence Square: from civil disobedience to popular revolution' (written Dec 11th). Buzgalin usefully categorises the different analytical and political approaches to these events and I would recommend this piece.

There's a condemnation of the censorship of Behzti and quite a bit more, including Terry Conway on the ESF Preparatory meeting in Paris, the processes of which she rightly describes as 'obscure'. Terry is keen that the anti-war thrust that is being given to the protests called by the ESF on March 19th do not completely exclude wider consideration of the anti-neo-liberal agenda in Europe that was central to the ESF's call.

I do have a general question about the ESF. I can easily accept it was a success, but what is its legacy, except as a big event and step to the next big event. What does it actually leave behind in say this country in any particular locality?

And with apologies to The Socialist and Workers Power that's it.


Post a Comment

<< Home