Monday, 25 December 2006

Why The Left Sucks WORLD TOUR! 1

It Began In Amerikkka: The Maoist Internationalist Movement

In the big list of weirdos and vagabonds that litter the history of any movement, the Left included, some really stand out. Posadaists, for example, are acracking old bunch - a strange crew of Trotskyists who, via one of the all-time great abuses of dialectics, essentially believe that nuclear armageddon is a pre-requisite to socialism. It's more common, however, to find such grinding fruitcakery among the Maoist movement, and - perhaps with the exception of the Khmer Rouge - the MIM is definitely the highlight of the bunch.

Who are they?
Basically, they're a bunch of academics who decided to form a political party in the mid-80s. Their unique selling-points are numerous - most superficially obvious is their somewhat nonsensical approach to spelling, whereby the United States of America is rendered as "United $nakes of Amerikkka", woman and person as "womyn" and "persyn", Western Europe as WeSStern Europe (see what they did there?). Reading an MIM article, one constantly has to pinch oneself that these are not sexually frustrated 14 year-olds doing this, but fully grown, apparently-intelligent adults - particularly if you happen to be reading one of their legendary video game reviews. They are also all celibate, since sex under patriarchy is (duh!) always rape.

Their most famous fetish, however, is a more fundamental one. MIM has come to the conclusion that the American - sorry, Amerikkkan - working class has been entirely bought off by imperialism, and no "domestic" revolution is possible. Rather, the whole third world will have to have a big revolutionary jamboree, and invade the imperialist countries. Yes. You read that right. It's really up there with Xenu and the Celstial Teapot, isn't it? Some even go that bit further and demand that the entirety of the U$A (and presumably, everywhere else lucky to have a nomenclatural remix) be turned into one big gulag. This, it must be said, is not the mainstream opinion in the group - but neither side of this debate seems able to answer the burning question: what is the point of being a MIMaoist party in a country which has no need of one? Why, to put it bluntly, don't they all bugger off to Gambia or whatever?

Membership: Well, there can't be many of them (wouldn't that completely prove them wrong?). Their terror of the State knows no bounds, so they act all anonymous like those hacker dudes in the X-Files - articles are written by" MIM Comrade #XYZ". (Bit like the Khmer Rouge.)

Of course, a meaner man than I might interpret this irrational fear as a desperate bit of posturing from a group simply dying to appear completely radical and revolutionary, but whose political fetishes can neccessarily lead their practical work no further than bigging up liberal femin-o-lawyer Catherine MacKinnon.

Pros: I'm glad somebody's reviewing computer games. I mean, who hasn't played C&C: Generals and thought to oneself - is this the most imperialist computer game ever?

Cons: See all that stuff up there.

Verdict: Fruitcakes.

Monday, 23 October 2006

Why The British Left Sucks in 2006: Episode 9 - Loose Ends

To round off the series, a look at the ones we missed.

Socialist Party of England and Wales: Used to be Militant. Used to be big. They ran Liverpool back in the day - see episode 8, i forget which one. Anyway, since they left it's all gone a bit pear shaped. There was a nasty period between 1995 and 2001 where basically bits were dropping off all over the shop. To my knowledge, none of the resultant groupings made much impact, and the group has somewhat stabilised, mostly good people and a good working class base but basically reformist.

Socialist Party of Great Britain: a bizarre entity, which is one of the oldest socialist groups in the world. Extremely sectarian, they have a habit of disassociating themselves from every conceivable point of contact with actual working class struggles or other workers' parties. Mostly harmless. A great piece of left apocrypha runs thus: at some point in the 70s or something, the SPGB looked at their membership returns and were appalled. They decided that there could not possible be that many good socialists in Britain,and promptly expelled a load of people.

Alliance for Workers Liberty: nee Socialist Organiser, nee International-Communist League........basically, Sean Matgamna and posse. They used to be ortho-trots, as far as i can tell, but have recently become shachtmanites. Which is to say, a little bit "wobbly" on the question of international affairs. They have a rather dim habit of being a bit too easy on Israel, and a bit too harsh on Islam, and one would not be surprised to see a number of AWL comrades 'do a hitchens'. In fact, one of the founders of the neo-con "left" group behind the Euston Manifesto, Alan Johnson, made that trek himself (and reckons it was perfectly logical, as you would).

World Revolution: Ultralefts. You gotta love them. These guys number probably in the low teens, and spend most of their days accusing other parties of being parasites on the workers movement. Which is very magnanimous of them, all round.

Class War, SolFed, AF: the three main anarchist organisations. Sometimes it's difficult to slide a cigarette paper between them, although they'd no doubt disagree. Class War, for their part, appeal mainly to teh punx with their Crassish artwork and mordant humour. Solfed are more explicitly syndicalist (n00b note: trades-union obsessive). And AFed are just...AFed. All are largely of the decent school of anarchism, based on a critique of class society and all that jazz, and refreshingly free of Crassish lifestylism and squat-obsessions (although CW threaten to renege on that score occasionally). As a lapsed council communist,I have my criticisms of anarchism, another time perhaps - but i nevertheless hope to see you all at Trafalgar Square on a certain saturday.

And with that, the series ends. I hope it was as fun for you to read as it is for me to not have to write anymore.

Comradely greetings, tls

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

Why The British Left Sucks in 2006: Episode VIII - The Labour Party pt 3

The Labour Party pt 3: Deep Entry

Not the latest Jenna Jameson 'spectacular', unfortunately, but the conclusion to our trilogy within a trilogy of trilogies. We now poke our heads towards a dying breed - those far leftists still entered in the Labour party.

The only remaining group of any significance is the Grant(RIP)-Woods faction, which is one of the split-spawn from the old Militant Tendency. Militant, once upon a time, were big fish. Apart from the communist party, they were the largest far-left organisation in Britain - and unlike the communists, they even had three members sitting in parliament at one stage.

Well, sort of.

Because, thanks to the bureaucratic regime inside the LP, you're not allowed to organise openly as a faction. But what you are allowed is a newspaper. So, Militant was "officially" Militant, a party magazine of Trotskyist leanings. The "central committee" was the editorial board of said magazine. And because of these conditions, things were often awkward for them. Of course, nobody was fooled. And it only took until the mid-80s for someone to grow a testicle or two and decide to propagate a good old stalinist purge. Fighting on many fronts, including the excellently-named Operation Icepick, a motley coalition of tankie Stalinists, eurocommunists and proto-new labourites basically booted them all out.

But the thing with booting someone out of an open-membership party is that, well, they can always just join again. And they did, over and over and over again. Then, in the early 90s, the majority of the "editorial board" and the "readership" got fucking tired of this shit. It was agreed that entrism would be abandoned. A small group around golden-age main man Ted Grant were too attached to Labour, and broke off to pursue their deep entry fantasies.

Nowadays, the 'open' party is led by Peter Taaffe, and goes by the name Socialist Party of England and Wales - which can be appropriately shortened to SPEW - and has gone through all manner of strife and fragmentation. The Grant group has remained homogenous and split-free, although Grant finally bought it two months ago (me and Ted share a birthday! freaky deaky...), bequeathing it all to his disciple, brusque Welsh polyglot Alan Woods.

And what does the scion inherit? Well, a small national organisation, a paper called Socialist Appeal, a natty website and a rather larger and more influential international organisation. The thing with the Grant-Woods group is this - they are completely, deeply committed to entryism in the most passionate sense. A young Swedish comrade recently declaimed to the "Marxism" myspace group "ENTRISM IS MY LIFE!" which is, admittedly, an extreme (and likely extremely badly translated) example. But what obviously does not get considered is the specific conditions - the difference between entering the Labour Party and the Pakistan People's Party. In applying the tactic scattershot to everything, they obviously get varying success - they had an MP in Pakistan for example, a veritable Dave Nellist of the subcontinent, but they're hilariously irrelevant in the States. Apart from the rather random distribution of their support, there are other consequences of their fixation. Back when the geocentric universe was starting to look shaky, desperate orthodox astronomers started creating incredibly complex "orbits" for the various heavenly bodies, trying in vain to shore up an increasingly obvious folly. And so Woods continues to grasp nettles with the determination of a retarded ginger child - socialism can be achieved at the ballot box, with an 'enablnig bill in parliament'; chavismo is a "revolution" in progress; etc, etc, etc. But what he cannot countenance is the most important truth of all - strategy and tactics are not metaphysical constants. You pick them according to their utility. Entry in Britain is not a useful strategy, and - as it happens - has almost never been.

The story of Militant and Socialist Appeal is an important one, and tells us much about the Labour party. They failed because the host organism had no truck with symbiotes and parasites - they were forced to operate clandestinely, and as a result could not be open to anyone. If you hide from the Party bureaucrats, you hide from the proletariat by the same stroke. They couldn't win - should they become significantly successful, their enemies on the right (and for that matter, as in Operation Icepick, the left) would simply boot them out, and so it came to pass. Sneaking around in a club, violating the entire dress code and being obnoxious will not result in a long night out. Being a Trot in the labour party is simply not worth the arse-pain.

Taafe said of the LP at the time of the 'open turn' that it had previously been a worker's party and thus worth entering, but had now degenerated beyond recovery. He was unable to face a more crucial truth - Mili could never have gotten further than they did with entry work. Labour didn't change, but he did.
Grant, god rest his soul, was nothing if not consistent.

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Why The British Left Sucks in 2006: Episode VIII - The Labour Party pt 2

The Labour Party pt 2: The Pink Brigade

Contrary to popular belief, and the wank fantasies of Stephen Byers, there is still something which can be called a Labour Left. It's not what it was, of course - most of the fiery, inspiring old guard are long retired or six feet deep, and the labour Right's force-march has had the knock-on effect of dragging most people, to some extent, with it. But there is something nonetheless.

When tories began to accuse the Labour party of being in thral to the "Marxist left" around the turn of the 80s, Raymond Williams noted with a certain bitterness that the motley bunch encompassed by that somewhat wishful phrase - left-Fabians, fellow travellers, CND activists and so on - used to just be called "social democracy". And such are things today. On the one hand you have serious committed socialists - Tony Benn may no longer be in parliament but he is Labour through and through, and John McDonnell (the man charged with mounting a suicidal leadership challenge against Gordon Brown) is notably red, one of the few MPs to call for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. But then, one hears Ken Livingstone described as a Labour left, which he manifestly isn't, and never really has been for that. Frankly, if you claim "Red" (hah!) Ken, then there's no reason not to include Roy bloody Hattersley, and your definition of the "left" of the party amounts essentially to "anyone who isn't Stephen Byers".

The principal factions involved nowadays, apart from the ever-deteriorating Tribune milieu (which, incidentally, is a fucking shit paper - I mean, do they bother to spend more than 5 minutes writing it? Is proofreading just one of those things that happens to other people?) are probably the Labour Representation Committee, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and those around the Labour Left Briefing rag. Refreshingly, these groups are porous and perfectly capable of co-operation. They, and others, sponsor a small parliamentary fraction (the Socialist Campaign Group), which will be useful on the McDonnell warpath. The LRC has even managed to get a youth section going (although, so has the 50-strong trot group Workers' Power...).

But none of this makes their fight significantly easier. As noted in pt 1, the energy for their activism is generated by the conviction that New Labour is an aberration, a cancerous growth distinct from the normal tissues surrounding it, and removable with few after-effects for the host. Au contraire, mon petit cherie! They face a bloody struggle, not only against the overt neoliberal elements but also the ballast, the soft-left of the party who are terrified of losing their posts, seats and their salaries. They will soon run up against their blinkers and the enormity of their task. How successfully they can respond will likely determine their fate over the next generation or more.

My Favourite Rightwingers: The British Chav

You can see that shit on the beck of a coin, can't you? Fabulous. Yes, it's the wonderful phenomenon of the "chav" under discussion here - sort of. And thing one about them - back in the day, there were plenty of names for the sportswear-clad, alcopop supping youths that fill shopping districts after dark up and down the country. Down 'ere in Devon, they were kevs. Glasgow had neds, Belfast spides, and so on. But then! Something horrible happened. Yes, it's the liberal middle-class Londonistas again. (Yep, that's what this is really about.)

Looking up from her bowl of Country Crisp one morning, Jenny Guardianista noticed that young Toby had come home from school with a bloody nose - probably as a result of being a smug twit called Toby - and, upon asking the neighbours who these strange creatures who worshipped Fred Perry actually were, discovered in horror that they were people who paid for ringtones, smoked and ate food that probably wasn't organic. The local term happened to be chav (a sort of portmanteau of "cheltenham 'ave-not", or perhaps "Council-Housed And Violent", which should clue you in to the real content of the mass-hatred they receive). And because she's godawful yuppie scum, it became everyone's local term.

The chav is the generic signifier for absolutely everything that is a square peg for contemporary ideology. They are not interested in living healthier lives, reducing their carbon footprint or "ethical consumerism" - which is to say, in the self-aggrandising asceticism which has temporarily displaced political discourse in the West. (Slavoj Zizek notes that what really bothers us about smoking is not any genuine concern for our own health - sitting in a smoky cafe for an hour is no more toxic than walking down a busy road - but that the Other has the temerity to place a cigarette to her lips, inhale deeply and enjoy it.)

There is, of course, a dark side to this - the average chav is racist, although it is not the systematic racism of the fascist so much as the insecure lashing out of the playground bully. They are pulled, as the disavowed excess on the social body, in extreme political directions - and this means fascism as much as anything else. But again, it must be acknowledged that this is our fault too - the Left has become dominated by this suffocating Liberal smugness, a middle class ideology intent on keeping those below down there. These lost, benighted souls are precluded from the club ultimately because they fail to show sufficient enthusiasm for hybrid cars.

They tell the elitist not so much things about herself as her inadequacy confronted with the realities of life - total impotence in the face of capital. When we hear the old line about more votes being cast for Big Brother than in the general election, it underscores the unmentionable - that they're right not to vote in (these) general elections, that the choice between Gordon Blair and David "look at my shiny bike" Cameron is so utterly insignificant that the outcome of X Factor really will make a bigger difference to their lives, and ours.

Leaving these millions of people to the BNP might be the last mistake we ever make.

Monday, 4 September 2006

Why The British Left Sucks in 2006: Episode VIII - The Labour Party pt 1

The Labour Party Pt 1: The Head Of The Snake

It will not have escaped even the slow members of the class that the current prime minister of our fair, binge-drinking, puke-stained isle is a fellow called Tony Blair. The astute reader will know that he is one of the most hated men in the entire world. Somewhere between lining up behind George Bush in Afghanistan and Iraq, that's pretty much it, it has become abundantly clear that this man is a bit of a chode. The British and other interested parties will also have acknowledged that he rules in the name of Labour. You know, us. The workers. And also that he really, really, really hates us.

Now, the question on everybody's lips is - how? How did a large group of allegedly leftwing people somehow let this apocalyptic scumbag have the keys to the Jeep? I mean, you can hardly accuse the fellow of not giving fair warning. The rabid support for Neil Kinnock's purges, the business with clause 4...every chance he has been given, Tony has said in essence "I am right-wing, and I consider you, party comrades, to be the worst kind of belly-crawling insectoid shit. I will ignore you when I am not abusing you. And still you will bow to my will when the crunch comes, every time."

Of course, that's a little unfair on the party...sort of. Because, although you'd never know it from the sort of coverage the issue gets from Labourite and ex-Labourite lefties, it ain't just Blair. To start at the head of the snake, it's worth a look at the parliamentary party. There are 23 MPs in the "Socialist Campaign Group". These vary from Michael Portillo's platonic lovebird Diane Abbott to the genuinely leftist likes of John McDonnell. That leaves, ooh, 330 MPs unaccounted for. Take away a handful of tribunites, and we are left with 300, say, who are Blairite, Brownite or "soft left". For the most part, the soft lefts will toe the government line in their adorably spineless manner. In that sense, it makes it difficult to estimate exactly how many hardcore New Labourites sit on the benches. But it is not hard to see that they add up to a significant number. Just think of every cabinet minister Blair's ever had - all his own chaps or sops to Brown. Must be about 50-80 there alone. Add in the victims of the Guardian's old "Top Toadies" feature, and you have another 20. Nowadays, the blairite-to-brownite proportion is shrinking, but they're both, in their essentials, exactly the same. With a reliable buttress of 200 or so yellerbellies as cannon fodder, they're well-rooted, well-organised and well-entrenched. When Tony Benn tells his audiences that the Labour party has somehow fallen into the hands of these strange interlopers and it is enough to ditch a few choice scumbags, he deludes himself. Doesn't matter how the Party got here - it's still seriously, royally fucked.

Monday, 10 July 2006

my favourite right-wingers vol.1: Jeremy Clarkson

I can't drive. I have had a provisional license for a few years, but could never find any particular motive to go through the whole rigmarole of learning and doing a test 8 times and buying a Vauxhall Nova and pulling over into the hard shoulder at 1am after its carburettor spontaneously combusts for the 400th time. On top of that, I rather like not having one. I like walking to places, I like riding my bike, and in spite of the best efforts of Thatcher and the Thatcherspawn, I rather like riding trains to places too. In fact, there are only two enticing things about learning to drive - the thought of playing some klezmer at earspltting volume out of a full-on pimp-my-ride style £800 car stereo in suburban lanes at 3am, and a presumably renewed appreciation of Top Gear.

Top Gear, like the Decemberists and Nietzsche, never really seems appropriate to any historical constellation. It's always out of touch. Men watch it, but furtively. Women mutter disapprovingly of it, but nurture secret crushes on Richard Hammond. I, for my part, have been unswervingly loyal to it (well, you know, when it's on...) since the age of 10. It's changed a lot since then. Mainly, it appears to have nicked its 'new' format from Blue Peter. Always out of touch...

Its most implacable foe is, of course, the Guardian, the flagship rag of the foul organic chocolate-chomping, rooibos tea-swilling "left"-liberal scum.. This particular constituency, the sort of folks who think David Cameron must be an alright bloke because he rides a bike, leaves the guardian with little choice but to forgo offering real solutions to real problems and instead whine about Jeremy Clarkson. See this tv-crit word-puke for a start, in which Sam Wollaston seems to think that a TV program about cars should be entirely free of jokes about cars.

Clarkson, for his part, fucking loves it. And yes, he is funny. He's also completely self-aware. "This car just smell of man," he intones at one point. "As soon as you get in you want to go out for a curry and a fight." In fact, the whole dimension of irony seems to get completely missed by self-important Guardian types. Hate to go back to Wollaston's whine above, but he notes that they promise 'big changes' for the new series, and their big change turns out to be a dog who doesn't actually do anything. (A sneaky nod to Blue Peter, maybe?) He then complains that there actually haven't been any changes at all, which is simply spellbindingly stupid. Look, Sam, THE WHOLE POINT OF THE FUCKING DOG WAS TO HIGHLIGHT IN AN AMUSING WAY HOW THERE HAVEN'T BEEN ANY FUCKING CHANGES DESPITE THE BLATHERINGS OF NOTTING HILL CUNTS. That is what we, on planet Earth, call a joke. Nice, too, to see them - in the same episode - take a swipe at David Cameron for using their test track for a photo-op. "Jeremy and I agree on many things, but the environment isn't one of them," the Tory Nick Griffin smarms at a fawning cameraman. "You got that right, sonny," grins Clarkson in the studio.

In fact, if there's one genuine service JC offers society, it's puncturing this awful, self-satisfied air around certain strata of society to which Cameron now plays with all his might. Mainly, I'm thinking of cyclists. Cyclists REALLY hate Top Gear because Top Gear thinks we're cunts. And you know what? Top Gear's right about cyclists. We really are cunts. We demand to be taken seriously as road users, despite going of necessity at dangerously slow speeds - and then, as soon as we hit a red light, it's over the pavement! Our reckless disregard for the rules of the road is matched only by our contempt for those who dare infringe them in a car - who hasn't had 'al qaida' fantasies upon seeing some white van double-parked across a cycle lane? Yes, riding a bike - far from being some morally fibrous , envirnmentally conscious, karma-earning activity - is in fact the closest the average person comes in their daily life to clinical psychopathy. Long may Top Gear reign, that Clarkson might continue to knock us down a few pegs.

Wednesday, 5 April 2006

Why The British Left Sucks in 2006: Episode VII - Martin fucking stupid fucking Kettle

What is your name!? Martin fucking stupid fucking twatting arsehole Kettle.

What is your quest!? I made some vague references to eurocommunists in episode V. Here is the real deal. He writes in the Guardian, proclaiming socialism 'dead' sans evidence, and urging the Prime Minister to continue with his vital Privatisation Of The Week (PotW), although of course this will be referred to as 'reform', or in the runup to a significant parliamentary session, 'vital reform'.

What is your favourite colour? That of buttercups on a summer's day - yellow through and through.

You might remember me from... He may have pissed you off in the Guardian. In the 80s he may have pissed you off in "Marxism" Today. if not, either you're too cynical for the Guardian and too young for MT, or you should be reading another blog.

Pros: Doused with enough petrol he'd liven up bonfire night.

Cons: You see, our Marty grew up a fervent Communist. And although he may emphasise 'democracy' and 'individual freedom' today (and who does he think he's fooling?) he has in essence preserved the core of what made the old CPGB such a ghastly institution. He believes that, because he is in the majority in the Communist Party of Martin Kettle, he is infallible, and since he has this (not as unique as he would like) experience of giving up on communism without giving up on the Party, he has a sound basis for proclaiming all our marxism(s) invalid, without brooking dissent towards his laughable arguments.

Overall: Martin Kettle is to my humble myspace as Tiesto is to He cannot be sent to Vorkuta soon enough.

Monday, 27 March 2006

Why The British Left Sucks in 2006: Episode VI - Insert Womble/Ewok Joke Here

What is your name!? The WOMBLES. This stands for White Overalls Movement Building Libertarian Effective Struggles, and is the closest thing to a sense of humour ever to emanate from them.

What is your quest!? They're "lifestyle anarchists". Which means that they consider "anarchism", "lifestyles" and "quests" to be hopelessly authoritarian. They make up the numbers at demos, and squat. And that's enough for them. Oh, good.

How many of you are there!? Not many, one hopes. Besides, how many people could you talk into prancing around in costume at a march?

You might remember me from... If you're a cop, i hope you remember beating some of them up. London Anarchists will no doubt have many brain-bending encounters to relate. One dude I know related the story of their 'contribution' to a campaign against the closure of a bus stop -
'buses get people to and from work, so you only want to stop the closure because you don't have a critique of work.' Amazing, isn't it?

Pros: Anarchists make better lovers.

Cons: Whenever you hear some patronizing trot blather on about 'petit bourgeois anarchists', IT'S THEIR FAULT. They look stupid on demos, they talk stupid on the internet and they're about as far from the standard anarchist milieu - down to earth folks with a handle on their communities - as is possible without being Margaret Thatcher.

Overall: Petit bourgeois anarchists.

(People who are actually interested in anarchism should look to the AF, SolFed and Class War. Hell, if you're into this sort of post left bollocks, go for CrimethInc instead. at least they know a joke when they see one.)

Friday, 24 February 2006

Why The British Left Sucks in 2006: Episode V - The Sociology Department Strikes Back

What is your name!? I notice you use the singular there. We were the Revolutionary Communist Party, then we were Living Marxism, then we were the "LM Group"...for current purposes, we shall call them "Furedi And The Goons".

What is your quest!? Ohhh lordy. They were kicked out of the SWP ages ago, and basically have turn into total capitalists. Sort of like the Eurocommies who are all now blairites.

How many of you are there!? God only knows. Numbers are hard to come by, because if there's one thing F&G carried over from their swerp days, it's that zeal for starting up front organisations. At least the latter fairly nakedly use it for recruitment - Furedi does it so he can refer to these admirably "independent" organisations in his ghastly writing.

You might remember me from... Apparently (to his credit) the only other person in the universe that doesn't think GM carrots will necessarily grow arms and legs and kill Prince Charles, you may have read numerous articles in the Grauniad by Furedi eulogising corporate r&d departments. JG Ballard's fallen for it too. Oh dear.

Pros: it's good to have somebody spooging over science, now that we're all po-mo and much prefer herbs and chakras. *spit*

Cons: Isn't it obvious? They're insane, deceitful neoliberal tossbags in need of a swift beating from Harpal Brar.

Overall: Eurotrots.

Sunday, 22 January 2006

Why The British Left Sucks In 2006: episode IV - A New Hope

What is your name!? The Communist Party of Great Britain.

What is your quest!? In the words of perennial Stalinists alpha-male Harpal Brar, "a group of Trotskyites who run a gossip rag". But what Trots...and what a rag!

How many of you are there!? About 20. Considering the group's been around for as many years - initially as a Stalinist sect within the 'old' CPGB - this is poor showing. What puts them above the parapet is that they efficiently seized the CPGB name after the latter's reformation into a toothless third-way think-tank, and also the 'gossip rag', Weekly Worker, which enjoys a total circulation, including the online edition, of around 10,000. to put it in perspective, if the SWP could make a proportionally similar claim, Socialist Worker would outstrip all of the mainstream broadsheets put together.

You might remember me from... You almost definitely don't. There's 20 of them, for fuck's sake. They're in Respect, but i can't really see why, since I've never seen a WW article expressing support for a Respect position, ever.

Pros: Weekly Worker, the best Trot rag in the whole wide world - it's half Morning Star, half Popbitch. Basically 70% of its articles are catty critiques of the SWP, and frequently chucklesome - for the right reasons. Hell, even their appeals for money are smartly written, and pleasingly free of messianic exhortations about the great task of building a proletarian party blah blah blah...the actual analysis and so on, the other 30% isn't so good - but they have a policy of printing replies to controversial articles, and are one of the only Leninist groups to put their money where their mouths are in terms of democracy and debate.

Cons: They'll never amount to much. (I say that, hoping I'll appear in the same bit of history as Einstein's physics teacher.)

Overall: it will suffice to quote an email exchange published in December between them and luckless grumbling Swerp Dave Crouch (original article

"Original statement from comrade Crouch

On the front page of your November 24 issue you published my contribution from an internal SWP document. You did so entirely without my permission. I wish to make it clear that I am not a member of your party, I share none of your criticisms of the SWP, and I never read the Weekly Worker - unless forced to by a circumstance such as this.

Dave Crouch
SWP, north London

Manson to Crouch

Further to our telephone conversation, I would be happy to publish the statement below. However, as you know, the contribution itself was not published on the front page, as your statement says. Would you like me to change the wording in the first sentence to read: 'In your November 24 issue you published my contribution from an internal SWP document and carried my photograph on your front page'?

Peter Manson

PS: Tomorrow (Wednesday) I will be at the Weekly Worker office (020 8965 0659; weeklyworker if you wish to discuss this further.

Crouch to Manson

Drop dead.

Manson to Crouch

Dave, I know you're upset, but I'm trying to help by publishing a statement that both expresses your feelings and is technically accurate.

Crouch to Manson

Get a life.

Manson to Crouch

I take it you no longer want the statement published. If I am wrong, please let me know some time today.

Crouch to Manson

Go fuck yourselves."

Why The British Left Sucks In 2006: episode III - Revenge of the Stalin Society

What is your name!? The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist Leninist).

What is your quest!? Where does one start? I already accused the 'official' Communist party of being stuck in 1964, but these guys haven't made it past the Moscow Trials. Generally, they want to institute a stalinist state in Britain - a goal I think we all pursue in life with equal vigour.
What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow!? Whatever Joe Stalin says it is!

Dude, he's dead... IMPERIALIST LIES!!!

How many of you are there!? Not more than a hundred. The party is young, in the sense that it's actually only been around for a year or two, but old, in the sense that it's a bunch of extremely old people. People like Harpal Brar. (update Feb 07: actually, there appears to be a secondary constituency of British-Asian teenage girls. Double-u, tee, eff?)

You might remember me from... You almost definitely don't. Their views tread that line between hilarious and terrifying which guarantees almost no exposure from anyone, ever. Their leader, the aformentioned Brar, edits a journal called Lalkar, which is so stalinist as to be illegal in parts of India.

Pros: Comedy value, pretty much.

Cons: I'd write something here, but I'm sure Harpal Brar would attack me with an icepick. You know, I'm beginning to think that someone should adapt one of those "Chuck Norris facts" things for him. "Harpal Brar does not shave with knives - he sharpens knives on his beard."


Why The British Left Sucks In 2006: episode II - Attack of the Bores

What is your name!? The Communist Party of Britain.

What is your quest!? Officially, to continue the legacy of the old CPGB (as opposed to the 'new' CPGB, whom we shall discuss in due course), adhering to its classic program "The British Road To Socialism", which was
ultimately revealed to be the work of Uncle Joe. Unofficially, to be the most boooooooring party ever. The only way a party could be more boring than the CPB is if it were composed entirely of clones of Neil Kinnock, and every party political broadcast was dubbed with the voice of Henry Kissinger.

How many of you are there!? About a thousand. Mostly aging tankies, although there are a surprising number of youngins too. Honestly, who are these people?

You might remember me from... You probably don't. Their split from the CPGB in '88 was more or less the final nail in that party's coffin. The Stop The War coalition - nowadays dominated by swivel-eyed trots (see episode 1) and muslim groups with thousand-yard stares - was formed by leading Communist Andrew Murray, who still officially leads it. Maintains the sort of *wink*nudge* relationship with the daily Morning Star that the IRA has with Sinn Fein, only neither side looks interesting enough to have hidden arms deposits.

Pros: Errr...Harpal Brar's not involved? They're studiously sane, which is always a plus (and quite common among the former Cominform parties, humility and soul-searching being a natural consequence of the sort of personal and political catastrophe these people endured in '89-'92.)

Cons: They are pretty much still reformed and semi-reformed Stalinists, of the Khrushchev/Brezhnevite schools. Also, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Overall: To be honest, I'm surprised that they have any support at all. They're ideologically ossified in the post-Hungary pre-Prague era. They're undead. Except the undead normally do cool shit like drink blood and eat brains.

Saturday, 21 January 2006

Why The British Left Sucks in 2006: Episode I - The Not So Phantom Menace

In the first of what will undoubtedly be a series profile of the myriad factions that make up the left-wing of the rorschach nightmare of grass and concrete we call the UK, the focus turns to perhaps the biggest trot sect ever, the Socialist Workers' Party.

What is your name!? The SWP.

What is your quest!? To flog copies of their reliably incandescent weekly tabloid to teenagers who should know better. er, I mean, the SWP differs from most Trotskyist factions in two main ways. Firstly, it calls itself a Party. This is important for a particularly stupid reason: as heartwarmingly nutty as they invariably are, trotskyist sects are painfully aware that they can normally count their membership on the fingers of the Central Committee's hands. So they do not call themselves Party, because the Party is the mass movement which will lead the workers to power, not fifty angry professors from Islington arguing about the class nature of the USSR. The Swerps, however, set out with the ambition to be that party, and astonishingly, have had some measure of success.

How many of you are there!? Which brings me to distinguishing feature number two: there's thousands of them. Yes, they're in four figures.

You might remember me from... They're everywhere, you know. Whenever there's a protest, it's them organising it, or if it isn't, they're planning a hostile takeover (as was the case with the Stop The War movement, Respect, the list goes on...). They're in every town centre regularly, pimping Socialist Worker and collecting signatures ostensibly for some petition, but really to get your address, all the better to PESTER YOU FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

Pros: The range, visibility and fervour of their activism has an allure of its own. Also, Mark Steel, motherfuckers!

Cons: Give or take a couple of welcome deaths, their leadership has remained essentially the same since the party's formation. Fine, if your group has 50 members. when it has two or three thousand, you expect some degree of internal democracy to assert itself, but no. This arrangement has led to hubris of the most terrifying kind, and a near-stalinist paranoia regarding dissenting views. This is all the fault of one Tony Cliff, the chief figure in the Party's formation and its de facto leader until his death, who, shall we say, took criticism very badly. Also, their previous incarnation, International Socialists, gave the world Christopher Hitchens, which in fairness probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

Overall: The 'gateway drug' to hard-left politics for more or less everyone, but rarely the lasting addiction. Perhaps it would be, were the leadership less batshit insane.

For people with too much time on their hands, I heartily recommend you take a look at More Years For The Locust by Jim Higgins, which is a mischievously funny account of where they came from, and why they aren't necessarily good news, from a figure once at the leadership clique's heart - and just a generally good laugh at the absurdities of life as a leftie.