Monday, May 28, 2007

More debate in SWP's international

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Back in March this year, I made a post on this blog asking where the SWP’s international group, the IST, was going, and pointing out that there had been a series of splits in most sections. This post caused a lot of debate, including contributions from Canada, France, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand from members of IST affiliates, and from the groups with similar politics but outside the IST.

The need for an open international debate about the IST is clear, given the fact that there seems to be little principled political difference between the groups within and without the IST, although there are differences of strategy and tactics, as you would expect in any living political tradition.

Earlier this month, the New Zealand affiliate of the IST, Socialist Worker(NZ), published a statement calling for the IST to have a more positive alignment towards the Venezuelan revolution, and querying some organisational changes proposed by the British SWP’s Alex Callinicos (pictured above reviewing the troops).

Today, the Socialist Worker(NZ) have issued the following call for a debate on their website, UNITYblog. They want “to start a debate among all serious socialists and revolutionaries, inside and outside the International Socialist Tendency, on how we should be responding to the Bolivarian revolutionary process in Venezuela. Please send your contributions to UNITYblog . All serious contributions to the debate will be published. Silly and/or sectarian stuff will be binned with a grin.”

This follows the reply by Alex Callinicos, which they have also published . In view of the fact that UNITYblog have issued this call for a debate about Venezuela, it seems much better that the debate is carried out there rather than here, so I will make no further comment about the specific issue of Venezuela.

However, one comment by Callinicos is especially illuminating:
“As we put it in our ‘International Perspectives 2005’ …the most important front in the struggle against US imperialism is in Iraq.’ It is the resistance in Iraq that is in the process of inflicting the most serious defeat American imperialism has suffered since the Vietnam War. By tying down the Pentagon’s military machine in Iraq, the resistance has made a decisive contribution to creating the space that has allowed the resistance in Latin America to develop and, in the cases of Venezuela and Bolivia, to develop a more explicitly anti-capitalist dynamic. Therefore we believe that the most important single internationalist task of revolutionaries today is to build the international movement against the ‘war on terrorism’. Defeating the Bush administration’s imperialist offensive is critical to the success of every struggle against neoliberalism and capitalism, including those in Venezuela and Bolivia. This is particularly important for revolutionaries in the advanced capitalist world since it gives a task that relates directly to the politics of our own societies rather than merely leave us to cheerlead for Latin American revolutions.” (My emphasis)

It is entirely characteristic of the SWP to overemphasise the significance of the Iraq war, and to overestimate the degree of political radicalism which opposition of the war engenders.

In fact, the war is not even the most important issue on domestic British politics, as housing and job insecurities are the biggest cause of friction between New Labour and its traditional electoral supporters; and pensions and privatisation are the biggest friction between the trade unions and New Labour. A correct strategic orientation in Britain on how to reverse the neo-liberal consensus would therefore be concentrating less on Iraq, and more on the issue of public ownership, and council housing. The victory of the right over these issues has largely been because of the idea, as Thatcher argued, that “there is no alternative”. The significance of Venezuelan solidarity work is of course that it demonstrates that there is an alternative. The Bolivarian revolution has started to turn the tide.

Callinicos’s comments about the IST itself are also illuminating.

He says: “The SWP in particular has argued that Seattle opened a new period of anti-capitalist struggle that has created major opportunities to renew the revolutionary and radical left. We have accordingly been pursuing dialogue with other currents and exploring the possibilities of regroupment on a very extensive scale.”

Seattle was a long time ago. What is more, the social forum movement is becoming increasingly attenuated. An Italian friend of mine who attends the European Social Forum meetings (ESF) observes that the SWP’s policy of opposing the Social Forums in Britain, while simultaneously attending the ESF meetings as the British delegates, has now given way to there being no participants from Britain.

Furthermore, within Britain the SWP wound down the regroupment exercise of the English Socialist Alliance, in favour of a creature that excluded the rest of the activist left, Respect. This process was described succinctly recently by Charlie Pottins : “As for the Left, having gathered some strength (including former Labour Party actvisists) around in the Socialist Alliance, the SWP was quick to liquidate it so they could form a local Respect, though so far it has been almost a non-runner, and at best an also-ran. The sad thing is that some of the local SWP actvists are old-campaigners, better known and respected in the area under their own flag, whereas people just scratch their heads or look away when they turn up as Respect.”

In contrast, Callinicos describes Respect thus: “Our domestic experience has demonstrated, positively with Respect and more negatively with the Socialist Alliance and the Scottish Socialist Party, this process involves opening out to more than the established revolutionary left.”

I was recently discussing Respect with anti-war activists from Bristol and Oxford, both non-members of the SWP, but positively inclined towards them. They told me that in Bristol, none of the former labour lefts who were active in the SA have joined Respect, and the comrade from Oxford resigned from Respect because all decisions for the local branch were taken in advance by the SWP caucus, and if the Respect branch reached a decision about something that the SWP had not previously worked out their position on, then it would be overturned by the SWP at the next meeting. This is not what we mean by regroupment!

Callinicos then says: “The IST has a very simple structure. It consists of organizations sharing a common tradition and approach to revolutionary politics. Its meetings are devoted largely to political discussions, with very few decisions being made. These decisions are normally taken by consensus: the only real exception was the exclusion of the ISO (US) in 2001, which followed the ISO intervening to help to engineer a split in our Greek sister organization, SEK.”

We are entitled to ask, why was the ISO allegedly trying to cause a split in the SEK an offence requiring expulsion. Whereas Tony Cliff boasts in his autobiography that he split the German and French groups? And Callinicos himself sought to engineer a split in the ISO(USA). why is there one rule for the goose, and another for the gander?

We are also entitled to wonder whether this consensual model is true, given that Callinicos also says that one of the tasks of his proposed committee is “addressing problems in specific groups”. That is interfering in the internal lives of other affiliates, as Cliff used to do, and Callinicos did with the American ISO.

Callinicos claims that hitherto, the leadership of the IST has been run from London because “the British SWP … has far greater resources and partly because of the political authority its leadership has enjoyed in the Tendency.”

But on what basis has the SWP greater political authority? Surely not on the basis of achievement, as they are a fraction of their former size, with a much reduced influence in the unions and workplaces, and their activities in the Socialist Alliance, Respect and SSP have earned them enormous distrust from other socialist activists.

Indeed, the reduced authority of the SWP is one of the reasons why so many organisations that share their basic politics, such as the American ISO, the Socialist Alternative group in Australia, or the Socialisme Internationale Group in France are outside the IST.

The debate that is being opened up is an entirely welcome one.

37 comments:

Korakious said...

A random question. What is Callinicos' relation to Greece. Callinicos is definitely a Greek name (ironically, it is the name of one of the most reactionary and fascist of the Greek bishops - not that the SWP is a stranger to reactionary religious types) and since the banners in the photo above are Greek, I was wondering if he is Greek too.

Anyway, the Greek SWP, SEK, is pretty much the laughingstock of the far left in Greece. I remember signing one of their petitions once and, foolishly, giving them my phone number. They phoned me every other day for months, each time calling me "comrade" despite my explaining to them that I have nothing to do with the IST and I am not particularly close to them politically. Good times.

Hugo Chavez said...

I closed RCTV. Now I'll close Globovision.

Thanks for all your help!

AN said...

That is a bit off topic Korakious :o)

I don't know what the Greek connection is, but he was born in what was hen the colony of Southern Rhodesia, and is the grandson of the 2nd Lord Acton, a British aristocrat.

Phil said...

Dave Osler went into this a bit back. There's a link to the Callinicos/Acton family tree, but all it says on the male side is that Alex C is the son of John Alexander Callinicos and grandson of Alexander Theodore Callinicos. There's some serious posh on Alex's mother's side.

AN said...

Enough about Callinicos's family!

Martin Wicks said...

Well, the problem with the Venezuelan revolution (from the instinctive view of the SWP) is that it is not being led by the right people.

It seems an odd approach to say that defeating US imperialism in iraq is more important that a test-bed for socialist advance in Venezuela.

As for 'the resistance' in Iraq the SWP blithely ignores the sectarian butchers who are killing people because they are nominally Shias or Sunnis.

neprimerimye said...

Martin is quite wrong to argue that the SWP ignores sectarian killings in Iraq. A reading of the most recent ISJ indicates that the SWP's informants are of the opinion that there are very few sectarian killings in Iraq. Some might disagree.

The argument that a defeat for the US/UK in Iraq would be of greater importance for a socialist advance than the measures enacted by Chavez in Venezuala also has some logic. If what is mean is that such a defeat would embolden the working classes in the US/UK to fight back. But with the continued degeneration of the SWP this seems doubtful.

AN said...

Mike

I don't see that Martyin is "quite wrong" here. The difference is only whether the SWP simply ignores an inconventient fact, or makes up a fairy tale to justify ignoring it.

From what I see the SWP do not make explicit how they see defeat for US imperialism having any direct link to the class struggle.

Phil said...

From what I see the SWP do not make explicit how they see defeat for US imperialism having any direct link to the class struggle.

If the lines you quoted are representative, Callinicos at least doesn't see it as having any such link - if, indeed, there is a class struggle in the "advanced capitalist nations" (on a global scale we're all aristocrats of labour...)

Jason said...

The idea that a US/British defeat in Iraq would be an advance is certainly true- especially if it was partly as a result of an organised working class resistance in Britain and or the US.

There is a class struggle here but it is at a verty low point currently. Out of interest the (to my mind) entirely irrelevant points about Callinicos' background does at least raise the only coincentally related question of what happened to the IS in Zimbabwe where there certainly is class struggle, though from what I can see much of it diverted and misled by the MDC.

Anyone know?

neprimerimye said...

Andy I feel you misread my remarks concerning the SWP and sectarian killings in Iraq. My remarks were meant to suggest that the SWP do not ignore such killings but open the pages of the ISJ to Ramadami who denies such killings are happening on any scale. The SWP meanwhile avoids taking any clear position.

As for the statement that Iraq is more important to the struggle against imperialism that, contrary to Martin, is explicable. Although any such explanation might well differ according to which SWP member of leader one consults. I suspect that Harman might well hold the position that a defeat for the US/UK in Iraq would be important for the class struggle in the imperalist metroploes but that the good professor holds a more, shall i say, campist view.

perosnally I lean towards the Marxist position that the social revolution is the self emancipation of the working class. In which case, contrary to the views of the substitutionists, a defeat in Iraq, if it provokes worker resistance in the developed countries, must be more important than the Bolivarian Revolution.

AN said...

Jason, there is a radio interview with Gwisai of the Zimbabwe ISO that i posed on this blog earlier:
http://socialistunity.blogspot.com/2007/04/munyaradzi-gwisai-on-nz-radio.html

Mike, well yes if imperialist defeat led to class struggle, but will it, will there be clear cut defeat, or a drawn out and murky compromise.

And equaly, might not popularising the ideas of the Bolivarian revolution encourage some socialists to orient on the unions and workplaces as the best place in britain to follow that Bolivarian example (a coup by a leftist Paratroop colonel being only an outside chance in the UK perhaps)

neprimerimye said...

Andy frankly I consider that the ideas of the Bolivarian Revolution, such as they are, have little practical relevance for the rest of Latin American and none at all for the developed nations.

I note that the substitutionists argued that various anti-colonial revolutions could be emulated in the developed coutries in the past. They were wrong and still are.

Phil said...

a defeat in Iraq, if it provokes worker resistance in the developed countries, must be more important than the Bolivarian Revolution.

This is a statement of the form "if X then X" - "If it promotes class struggle politics, Galloway's Sky TV show will be good for the class struggle". The question is how the link between a foreign policy defeat and working-class combativity would be articulated; it can't be assumed. (Incidentally, is there supposed to be a difference between your views and those you ascribe to Harman?)

It seems to me that there are three main approaches to the situation in Iraq (or Venezuela). There's one that looks at it in terms of the interests of the working class of Iraq (or Venezuela), and works outwards to consider the broader effect on the region; this is the hardest but arguably the best approach. Alternatively, you can look at it in terms of how conjunctures in Iraq (or Venezuela) affect the interests of the British working class; this is easy to do badly and hard to do well. Or, thirdly, you can look at it in terms of how the interests of imperialist powers are set back; this strikes me as a harmless amusement for people who used to play a lot of Risk. But I may be over-simplifying.

Rohan G said...

I think most of the discussion on this thread misses the point. Which of Venezuela and Iraq is "more important" is a ludicriously abstract question as posed.

The real point is that Callinicos raised Iraq as cover for his organisation's ongoing dismissiveness of Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution.

The working class has taken decisive steps forward in Venezuela. Yes, under the stewardship of Chavez - but to dismiss this as merely a top down process as neprimerimye does is to fail to understand revolution. Sure, Marx said the liberation of workers requires their self emancipation... But remember Lenin said a revolution requires revolutionary leadership. This is a dialectic between bottom up and top down factors and we must realise that from afar the top down factors of Venezuale are amplified but the bottom up factors are not.

What is most frustrating about Venezuela is communists (and especially Trotskyists) dismissing it because it doesn't fit with their textbooky schema or political program. It's real life, it's messy and full of contradictions. That's reality so get over it!

I think the initiative of the NZ IST comrades (Unity) is excellent and much needed.

Anonymous said...

You wrote: "It is entirely characteristic of the SWP to overemphasise the significance of the Iraq war".

Oh, the deaths of over half a million Arabs (and US and British troops) is less important than the real issue... err council housing. lol

This "Socialist unity", it seems, does don't include victims of imperialism.

I'm with the SWP on this one,

Walid
Beirut

AN said...

Walid

By that logic, the war in the Congo with five million dead is much more significant than Iraq. Do you campaign about the Congo war in Beirut? Why not - by your argument - Congo is the real issue, five million dead! Don't you care about these African victims of imperialism?

If we judge the political impact of an issue by the number of victims, then we are addressing what we think the working class and the electorate should be concerned about, not what they are actually worried about.

How do you know, from Beirut, whether council housing or iraq is a bigger political issue in manchester, Sheffield or Bristol?

In fact the Iraq war is a huge political issue in britain, but it is not the only one, and what is most significant is that opposition to the war is spread rright across the politicall spectrum, and does not necessarily imply political radicalism.

I am very active in the anti-war movement myself, but i recognise that if we want to build a socialist opposition to labourism, that it is not them defining issue.

neprimerimye said...

The differences Phil between my holding a particular viewpoint on Iraq and Harman possibly holding a similar viewpoint are twofold. First of all I'm willing to voice my views but suspect my views would find few listeners. harman on the other hand is unlikely to voice his views but would find a hearing.

In reply to Rohan its all very clever to point out that there is a dialectic between Chavez and the masses in Venezuala. But unless those masses can act independently they will not find a way forward that is not dependent on the personality and quirks of that person.

rohan g said...

neprimerimye:

"But unless those masses can act independently they will not find a way forward that is not dependent on the personality and quirks of that person."

There are many factors of the Bolivarian revolution that should be sources of concern for revolutionaries. Can you point to a revolution that didn't have difficulties at a similar level?

The question for revolutionary observers outside of Venezuela is: Should we seek to also be participants in the Bolivarian revolution - albeit in our own smaller ways - by offering our fullest solidarity and enthusiastic support to it? I and many others believe that the answer is yes. That does not mean papering over the cracks of the problems and obstacles there. But it does mean shouting out to the world, "Look what can be done!"

Many socialists, including many of the IST tradition, have placed too much emphasis on how far the Bolivarian revolution has to go - and it does have a long way to go - while being dismissive about how far it has come.

Ben said...

Just on the photo of Callinicos - it was taken during the European Social Forum in Athens which I think was Feb 2006.

I think Callinicos and Nineham were watching the little tussle between SEK/Greek Stop the War Coalition and an anarchist Greek Social Forum block - both of whom wanted to form the front of the demonstration.

Incidentally that demo was my first introduction to teargas. The police dispersed the demo as it reached the US embassy and people started throwing bottles and stones at it.

Great days.

Anonymous said...

AN is denying me the right to debate because I am an Arab. He has refused to publish any of my replies to his condesending post.

Walid
Beirut

AN said...

Walid. That is absolutely untrue.

I categoricaly deny that I have refused to publish a reply from you.

Firstly, no comments from you have been refused, deleted or moderated in any way. This comment accusing me of censorship is the first reply from you I have seen.

Secondly, it is absolutely outrageous of you to accuse me of racism. Even if for some reason you are having trouble posting a comment, on what basis do you assume this is becasue you are an arab.

To be frank I found, your original comment condescending to me, as you assume that I am not concerned about the victims of imperialism just becuase I quite accuratley and truthfuly observe that the war in Iraq is not the biggest political issue in England.

Anonymous said...

I have posted two comments that you refused to publish!

Walid

Anonymous said...

AN said: "I quite accuratley and truthfuly observe that the war in Iraq is not the biggest political issue in England."

Then why did two million march through your capital? I think most people of Britain care more about us then you who call yourself "socialists". And to say we do not care about Africa is terrible insult. It is Britain that colonised Africa and stole its wealth, not us.

You just seem interested in attacking people because their name is foreign like Mr Callinicos, or because they care what your country does to the rest of the world.

But you think British people care more about housing then 600,000 dead Arabs. If so why did not 2 million march for councils housings?

Walid

Louisefeminista said...

Walid: We don't see the comments before they are published so we can't have refused them and anyway we wouldn't have as we don't generally censor people.

So, I don't know what happened to the two comments you posted before, could have been technical probs or blogger not working properly (that does happen and I too have lost my comments before).

You are welcome to post them again and to reiterate the point you are not being censored in anyway.

AN said...

Walid

I don't know what your game is. You claim to be posting from Beruit, but there has been no access to this blog from the Lebanon today.

I note that this thread was accessed from the following host name at around the time both of your comments were posted:

mail.swp.org.uk

I am 99& certain that "walid" is an SWP staffer writing from London, in which case false claims of censorship, and accusations of racism are frankly shameful.

Ok - no-one was criticing Callinicos for having a foreign name. Korakious, who is himself Greek, asked out of curiosity whether Alexander Callinicos is of Greek descent. Hardly extradordinary, and you will note that I called a halt to that trivialising discussion.

On your substantive point. As you well know, the demonstration in London with 2 million attending was four years ago. At that time the war did indeed dwarf all other aspects of British politics.

However things move on, and today it is not the defining political issue outside of a minority of people, and among those community who share national, ethnic or religious bonds with Iraq.

I rhetorically asked about Africa because your reason for saying that the Iraq war must be a bigger political issue in Britain than council housing was due to their being hundreds of thousand dead. In which case it is entirley reasonable for me to ask why the Congo war, with five million dead does not dominiate the political agenda everywhere.

Seriously, why does Iraq matter to you more that the Congo?

There are good political reasons to give as an answer, but not the one you gave.

Now i could say i am flattered that the SWP central office has visited this blog 26 times today.
But surely given the seriousness of this issue, you could join in the debate properly.

These dirty tricks are very counterproductive. Democrtaic discussion and debate may all semm like a laugh to you, but these posts about the IST are very widelly read around the world, and comrades will draw their own conclusion.

Anonymous said...

In response to Rohan G

He claims that the SWP and other trotskyists are dismissing the Venezuela situation but i think Callinicos quite affectively argues against this assertion in his reply to the NZ SWO.

I think the real question that socialists should be asking is what is the issue that they can mobilise around in there country to buld a movement to oppose capitalism and imperialism?

Is Rohan really suggesting that all socialists in all countries must stop all other work and set up Venezuela Solidarity groups. Is this the only activity that can be seen as the appropriate level of support for the Venezuelan revolution?

I think Chavez has got a better idea himself of what the left should be doing in Europe and America when he met with memebrs of the US and European anti war movements during the world social forum and encouraged them to keep up the pressure on US imperialism. As this was what was giving Venezuela breathing room from the US.

If this is a simplistic assertion of the required level of activity around Venezuela then please elaborate. But from reading the NZ article and their creation of a Aurotorea Venezualan solidarity group and the DSP's Venezuealan solidarity network it appears that this is what they assert. Is this the only thing that equates to fully appreciating the Venezuelan situation?

Anonymous said...

What is distinct about Iraq as an issue here is that the majority of the population is consistently against the government, and all the mainstream parties.
I have visited the Middle East on many occasions and always am left with no doubt that people there are all too aware of the political situation here. UK and USA are vilified, but their people aren't.
Can it be true that the ordinary folk on the arab street have a better understanding of the significance of Iraq than the British Left?
For myself, I find that Iraq is the most fruitful way into any political discussion here, and in Spain where I spend sometime every year. The issue comes in at such a level that subsequent discussion is very political. It also avoids the cynacism that pervades the political institutions here. Iraq is a permanent reminder to people that the Labour Party cannot be trusted.

WNP

AN said...

Anonymous (and what is the point of being "anonymous" you are clearly in the SWP from what you argue, perhaps you could use your name, or even a pseudonym, as that helps debate)

You are employing a classic Straw Man argument here: "Is Rohan really suggesting that all socialists in all countries must stop all other work and set up Venezuela Solidarity groups."

Well obvioulsy not, becasue if you read what Rohan actually wrote he doesn't suggest that, or anything like it.

It is possible and indeed indispensible, for socialists to be able to do more than one thing at once. No-one is suggesting that we should stop campaigning against the Iraq war. Why pretend that they are?

You say: "I think Chavez has got a better idea himself of what the left should be doing in Europe and America when he met with memebrs of the US and European anti war movements during the world social forum and encouraged them to keep up the pressure on US imperialism."

Of course Chavez makes that point, it is self evidently true. And when speaking to anti-war campaigners it is natural to stress the importance of the anti-war campaign. Did Chavez say that he valued the anti-war campaign so much that he thinks we shouldn't be involved in campaigns like Hands of Venezuela, or the VSC. Of course he didn't!

The Bolivarian government has gone out of its way to build links and encourage the solidarity networks, so to imply that becasue Chavez also values the anti-war movement that he is somehow endorsing the SWP's position that Iraq is more significant than Venezuela solidarity work is disingenuous.

With regard to the SWP's approach to Venezuela, all that Callinicos's article establishes is that you have discussed it, and that you had some speakers at your marxism rally. It seems that the SWP puts a very low priority into participation in the various Venezuela solidarity campaigns, or in raising the profile of the Venezuealan revolution through the unions, or in the Peace movement.

Incidently, I know that "Walid" is an SWP staffer, writing from you london office. So is someone from the SWP going to apologise for the false accusations of racism against me?

AN said...

Anonymous #2 (WNP)

I wouldn't be on the national steering committee of the Stop the war Coalition, and the secretary of an active Stop the war group, and I wouldn't have organised a national demonstration at RAF Brize Norton last November, if I was not convinced that Iraq was very important.

The very fact that the majority of people now oppose the war is a paradox for us. Becasue it means that opposition to the war has become assimilated with much more mainstream political opinions, and has also been subsumed into the more mainstream political agenda as one issue among many. For many working class people the Iraq issue is just another illustration of our disempowerment, and they are alienated from the terms of much of the debate.

Note that Iraq has not been meaningfully discussed at either of the last two Labour party conferences, and although most union activists and officials are opposed to the war, and most unions affiliated to the STWC, the unions have not pushed it up the agenda. This iteslf reflects the fact that it is not the defining battle field in the movement against New Labour.

Of course labour conferecne is a Through the Looking Glass distortion of what is realy going on - but it is significant that the unions conferences (which much closer reflect the concerns of working class people) refelct a broad consensus against the war, but no particularly urgent impetus to do much about it.

Perhaps it should be a bigger issue, but it isn't. As you say, Can it be true that the ordinary folk on the arab street have a better understanding of the significance of Iraq than the British Left?

Well it seems that ordinary folk on the Arab street do care more about the issue than most trade union and labour movement activists in Britain. Sorry, welcome to reality.

Anonymous said...

You misunderstood me - it is the significance of a defeat in Basra and Baghdad that I was referring to - not that arabs care more. I was suggesting that maybe they have a clearer view of how important it is.
Not sure you need to go into all the Stop the War name dropping though, sounds a bit pompous to me. In fact the tone of this whole blog is a bit off-putting now that I think about it. Your site was recommended to me yesterday, but I sense an inwardness where I hoping for freshness. Talk about debate, then jump on it. Same old story then, 'welcome to reality'.

WNP

AN said...

Well WNP, I am sorry if you find the debate inward looking - that is not our intention.

To be honest I am a bit tetchy on this thread, because of the dirty tricks of being falsely accused of censorship and racism by someone posting from the SWP central office while pretending to be from Beirut. I know that was nothing to do with you, but the mood sorta bled over. Apologies for that.

No, you didn't make yourself clear :o)

If we are referring to the significance of a defeat for the US and UK in Basra and Baghdad, then I am sure that the average person in the Arab world does have a much stronger understanding of the strategic significance than most of the British left. That wouldn't suprise me due to the whole history of anti-imperialism, pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism in the region. Added to the acute awareness of the oppression of the Palestinians and Iraqis, reinforced even more so now by Al Jazeera.

Although expectations could also be exaggerated there. The whole history of support for Nasserism previoulsy was that the huge popular sympathy for pan-Arabism could not be translated into stable political movements, and the feeling of solidarity with the Iraqi people today is equally fractured. So even a clear US defeat may not lead to a progressive outcome, but possible just more warlordism, and the collapse of civil society in iraq, and in the wider Arab and Moslem world perhaps little change.

BUt will the US and UK ever be unequivocally defeated in Iraq? Certainly they cannot win, and the British would love to leave but seem to be unable to come up with a way to do so. And it seems that although the US are clearly not winning, they are alos not suffering unsustainable losses - they could continue as they are doing for years perhaps, in the absence of any exit strategy, precisely to avoid the sort of defeat that you point out would be so significant.

Which brings us back to the relative importance of Iraq solidarity work. Sure it is important, and in terms of Britain's self-perceived position in the world it could still be a defeat as significant as Suez.

But there must be room to BOTH oppose the Iraq war, AND be active supporters of the Venezueal revolution.

AN said...

BTW, there is a good contribution to this discussion at Phil's blog, The gaping Silence

Read it here: http://gapingsilence.wordpress.com/2007/06/01/fighting-again/

Anonymous said...

Sorry this is probably the wrong place to ask this, but is the rest of the site still running?

I had a quick look but the blog seems to be the only up to date bit.

WNP

AN said...

Good question WNP.

the web-meister for the SUN web-site Jim Jepps stopped up-dating it, for it seems a mixture of political and personal reasons, but he never explained to us what they were, nor that he was stopping doing it. You would have to ask him if you want to know why.

But anyway, the rest of the SU network were unaware for a while that Jim was not intending to return to the job, and for a mixture of technical and political reaosns we have not decided what to do with the site yet, but we are obviously keeping it available, partly as an archive, and partly in case we want to do something with it in the future.

In the meantime we have kept the blog going, and Jim Jepps has his own blog elsewhere.

Personally I prefer the blog format, and we have about four times more readers for the blog than we did for the web-site, with the added advantages that it is interactive, and also easier for people to be contributers without being techies.

Anonymous said...

By the way i am not in the SWP but am in the OZ ISO so i can't offer an apology but it sounds dodgy.

No it was not a strawman argument. If you look at the NZ SWO statment it states that they have set up a venezuela solidarity group and 'raise the issue' in other areas. If the SWP's quite good coverage of Venezuela in their paper, SR and ISJ isn't raising it in other areas then what is. The question then is posed should socialists set up solidarity groups as the only way to adequatley respond to the Venezuela situation as that is the other half of the NZ SWO vast proposal. Although whose up for skipping all these steps and just setting up the new international that they seem to think is arround the corner.

The real argument thought is that the NZ SWO position is a massive step away from the IST's tradition and theory of workers led revolution from below, and a step towards the soft stalinist third worldism of the DSP.

Maybe i am speaking from the experience in Australia where some (and i stress some although i might add a large some) in the DSP act like the only way to properly relate to Venezuela is to act as unadultered cheerleaders for Chavez without looking at the condradictionds in the movement. what is the UNT doing? what are the arguments in Venzuela from socialists who want the process to go further?

I think it is a bit sectarian that you use this debate in the IST to hit the UK SWP over the head without actually saying whether you agree with the NZ SWO position or not. It seems that you just enjoy the fact that they disagree with them and that is enough for you.

trot from down under (if you want a name then you can have one).

AN said...

Hi anonymous(oz)

I'm not sure that Rohan himself was arguing that all other work should be dropped. There is always a danger that some comrades may overemphasise one particular aspect of work, and one of the advantages of party organisation is that it allows several areas of work to be conducted simulataneously.

You are right that the SWP does have occassionally good coverage of the Venezuealan revolution, for example their position on the closure of RCTV was exactly right, and also drew attention to Chavez's commitment to demcratising media access through the community radio stations.

I would also say that if you are right and some comrades in the DSP believe that the "only way to properly relate to Venezuela is to act as unadultered cheerleaders for Chavez without looking at the condradictionds in the movement", then it is also true that some comrades in the British SWP act as if the only way to properly relate to Iraq is to act as unadultered cheerleaders for the "resistance" without looking at the condradictions in that movement.

Generally the SWP in the UK is less involved in Venezuela solidarity work than it should be, and is not involved in Cuba solidarity work at all. I also gather that relations between the Bolivia Solidarity group and the SWP are poor. When the Bolivian group brought a Bolivian union leader over to the UK, the SWP were uninterested in promoting his tour, despite the clear relevance to issues of privatisation and public ownership, which are the cutting edge issue in the strained relations between British unons and the Labour Party.

No I don't think it is sectarian to point to this debate and try to bring it into the discussion about Britain. It is a paradox that the SWP are very reluctant to engage with debate with the rest of the left in Britain (which they catagorise as being inward looking), but have to debate with comrades internationally.

For example much of the SWP's theoretical articulation of the "united front of the special type", relating to the former Socialist Alliance and now Respect, was developed in polemic against their critics in the SSP.

Becasue the NZ comrades have raised the issue of Venezuela, Callinicos has mada apublic defecne of the priortity that the SWP give to Iraq, which allows us a debate we could not otherwise have.