New evasions from Weekly Worker

Submitted by martin on 13 November, 2008 - 9:04 Author: Martin Thomas

"Matgamna [Sean Matgamna of AWL] knows he would be forced to state openly that he believes an Israeli attack [on Iran] justified...", claims Mark Fischer in Weekly Worker 745 (13 November).

And what would "force" Matgamna to do that? Presumably also to "state openly" that two plus two equals five, and that the Weekly Worker tells the truth?

According to Mark Fischer, what would "force" it is the holding of a debate under the title "What If Israel Bombs Iran".

You see, Sean Matgamna doesn't justify or support an Israeli attack on Iran (let alone a nuclear one!). He said in a face-to-face debate on 12 October, and has said repeatedly in writing, that he is against such an attack.

But Matgamna would (says Fischer!) support or "excuse" an Israeli attack if he were made to debate under the WW's chosen title. And that must be why AWL doesn't want that title for a debate! QED!

The background to all this is not AWL refusing to debate with WW, but rather the opposite. The story is here, on this website. In short:

WW has withdrawn from a debate with AWL on Israel and Iran scheduled for 30 November. They refuse to debate under the title - "Israel, Iran, and socialist politics" - with which the debate was originally proposed and accepted, an appropriately "neutral" title, a title very similar to the one which WW accepted without comment for a debate on 12 October.

They are unwilling to discuss modification by agreement of the title. They will not debate except under the title "What If Israel Bombs Iran", the magic title which is supposed to "force" Sean Matgamna to say two plus two equals five.

If WW really wanted a debate, they would accept the original, appropriately "neutral", title and say whatever they want to say under that title.

Their alternative title isn't good, because the debate has widened in the last four months. But even so, AWL might shrug and accept a bad title for the sake of having the debate?

Probably not, in fact, because the WW group lacks the importance either of size or of significant ideas that would make us want to do such a thing.

But Mark Fischer wanted to be sure. So in the correspondence, as in his latest article, Fischer stated that AWL should accept WW's preferred title because we should accept that we evaded the issues in the 12 October debate! (I.e. by saying what we think, instead of saying what WW claims we would be "forced" to say by a different title for the debate!)

In other words, we should accept WW's take on the debate as it has developed over four months, in writing and face to face at the 12 October debate, as a precondition for a further face-to-face debate. Not likely!

The "benefit" of this ploy is that Fischer and WW can "move on". They can effectively give up trying to justify their original lying charge - that Matgamna "excused an Israeli nuclear attack".

They can also side-step any substantive debate on basic attitudes to Israel - where WW seem to be retreating from their always-ambivalent formal support for "two states".

And they can turn to agitation about us "ducking out" of debate, tying that together with their original accusation by the claim that debating under their chosen title would "force Matgamna to state openly that he believes an Israeli attack [on Iran] justified".

Audio files and a report of the 12 October face-to-face debate, and the earlier written exchanges, are all available on this website, as is the full correspondence between AWL and WW on the aborted 30 November debate.

One final point. Mark Fischer accuses me of "lies" and being "slimy" because I said that WW originally accepted a debate on "Israel, Iran, and socialist politics" and withdrew only eight days later.

His case is:

1. That there was no email where WW said: "Yes, that's the title we want; we accept".

2. That "all Thomas was initially told was that I [Fischer] would chase dates and comrades' opinions today and get back to you".

In fact, Mark Fischer's response to our proposal of a debate on "Israel, Iran, and socialist politics" was:

"We are indeed very keen to re-visit the subject - I was going to write to you this very day to suggest the same. We have quite a few internal and external events throughout November, so I need to check over the next day or so and get back to you. However, it [i.e. our proposed date, 23 November] seems to fit from what I can see of the diary at the moment".

Notice, no argument here about what "the subject" is. "Re-visit the subject" cannot be other than a reference to the debate just two days earlier, titled "Israel, Iran, and the left". WW at that point said they were keen to debate that subject.

What Fischer said he had to "check" with other WW people, and "get back to" us on, was the date.

The WW group had a meeting on 19 October, and apparently decided to go for their current ploy there.

Note: in line with our general policy on comments, we are not accepting comments on this post which are merely repetitions of the WW position. Anyone who wishes to check out that position can do so by reading the full correspondence between AWL and WW on the aborted 30 November debate, or by consulting the WW website.


Submitted by martin on Thu, 13/11/2008 - 21:11

PS. Skimming through recent WWs, I noticed a report by Peter Manson (30 October) on the 25 October Respect (Galloway) conference.

And in it - a reference to "the CPGB motion [on Iran] moved by Mike Macnair". So the WW group is still participating in the Respect rump around George Galloway!

In 2004 we criticised the WW group for joining the original Respect coalition. They replied that the SWP was the biggest force on the left, so it was right to get in there.

Then the SWP-versus-Galloway split in Respect came, in October 2007. Big chance for the WW to show that their intervention could be fruitful?

No. Their attitude was not much more than a shrug. Not even "a plague on both houses". More like "both houses are already plague-ridden".

And now it turns out that they are still in the more plague-ridden house! While screeching for the AWL to be "driven out of the labour movement", they are still members in good standing of the George Galloway Support Group!

Martin Thomas

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on Thu, 20/11/2008 - 16:24

We don't advocate intervening in LA either. Unlike the WW Group, we were consistently opposed to the whole Respect project from the start. While we think it's positive that the SWP, the biggest left group in Britain, has broken from Galloway and his communalist-business clique on the basis of criticisms we were making from day one, we've never collapsed into the embarassing tailism of the WWG who insisted on swimming in the SWP's slipstream. From that point of view, your support for Respect Mk. 1 made some sense. I can't imagine what forces you think you're relating to in RR (the ISG, perhaps?).

On the issue of bans/proscriptions, I think we have every right to exercise a degree of control over what gets posted on our website. The WWG has made its views very clear, on this website and elsewhere. If this were an AWL public meeting, we wouldn't be under any obligation to continue calling speakers from the floor if they were simply saying the same thing over and over again.

Finally - you're not the "Communist Party of Great Britain"; the risible posture of a group of 25 ex-Stalinists (and some not-so-ex) to be "the Provisional Central Committee" of some future CP deserves to be treated with disdain. Associating you clearly with the newspaper in which you all have so much pride seems a lot more honest.

Submitted by Janine on Fri, 21/11/2008 - 10:29

Hey, I've got an idea.

Allow people to comment *at all* on your (WW) website before you lecture us about sensible management of debate on ours.

Submitted by martin on Fri, 21/11/2008 - 11:59

Peter Manson's report in WW mentions only one WW motion at Respect conference, calling for affiliation to Hopi. According to the report, it wasn't very controversial.

"Hostile motion to open up divisions"? A little motion to try to get another affiliation for your "front" doesn't count as that.

But why not lob in that little motion? Because in order to do that little manoeuvre in a small circle, you have a pay a political price in a larger circle - i.e. tell everyone within earshot of you that George Galloway is ok, though of course not perfect.

It's the old "Trotskyite" thing, as WW would call it: "to speak the truth to the masses, no matter how bitter it may be". No room for that sort of nonsense in the tradition to which WW lays claim by assuming the bizarre title CPGB.

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