A letter from Ian Donovan of the CPGB/Weekly Worker and a response from Cathy Nugent, editor of Solidarity.
The anonymous author of your column, Writing on the Wall (Solidarity 3/30), seems determined to underline that the AWL leadership has lost the plot politically. Being reduced to flinging personal abuse and grossly mangling quotations is a transparently dishonest method of argument. I counted seven ellipses, often denoting substantial gaps, in one passage (attributed to me) alone - an incredible technique of "quotation" that can mangle someone's words to "mean" virtually anything the author chooses. This, used in order to supposedly show that someone who argues for a counterposed viewpoint is a "nut", only illustrates that the author has run out of political arguments.
The AWL, living as they do in a greenhouse, are hardly in much of a position to throw stones about the sanity or otherwise of anyone else's politics (obviously it is my politics you don't like). It would be easy to lampoon well known eccentricities of leading elements of the AWL, but that would be sinking to the level of our writer "on the (toilet?) wall".
On one page of Solidarity I am called "lunatic" for (presciently, it turned out) noting that the AWL equate George Galloway with wartime Nazi sympathisers whom the British state repressed (in this case William Joyce) and would logically therefore rather relish his persecution in the same way. On another page of the same paper comrade Matgamna compares Galloway to the likes of Captain Ramsay or Admiral Domvile - pro-Hitler elements with connections in the British military in WWII - in order to argue that one should no more defend Galloway than one would defend these reactionaries against state repression. If Galloway could be Ramsay or Domvile, then why not Joyce? If I am a "nut" for anticipating this, what is comrade Matgamna, who actually argues this stuff?
In the real world, of course, this AWL campaign to identify George Galloway with Nazi collaborators in WWII is one of the worst pieces of collective insanity on the left in this country since the Stalinist campaigns of the early 1930s to denounce various figures of the Labour left as "social-fascists". It also has, albeit on a micro-level, something of a similar purpose - to cohere the followers of a particular sectarian trend against interaction with the wider labour movement. The fact that there is no apparent dissent among your members from this nonsense (despite the formal existence of a right of public dissent in your press) is deeply troubling, and evidences the inward-looking dynamic of many Trotskyist groups that have managed to argue themselves into a sect dreamworld before you.
Another example of this is your correspondent's nonsense about our exchange in the Weekly Worker and elsewhere about paedophilia. The fact that the AWL cannot see the murderous tenor of anti-paedophile hysteria in this society underlines your own divorce from reality. You can go along with this trend, or you can fight against it and for a socially rational attitude to questions of child abuse and youth sexuality. But for you to consider it "mad" to project that large numbers of people who are influenced by dominant bourgeois social norms would like to "hang all [alleged] paedophiles", testifies to the fact that you, again, live in a different world from the rest of humanity. If your comrades who choose to pander to this do not fully appreciate the murderous, indeed arguably genocidal logic of what they are pandering to, then that is your problem, not mine.
Finally, I note that you consider it "lunatic" to project that the double standards in your politics regarding the Middle East stem in any way from anti-Arab chauvinism on your part. Since this view of you is rather widely held on the left, I presume you consider anyone else who suspects the same from reading your material must be equally "mad". If so, once again, it underlines your own morbid sectarian ossification and quite brittle inability to engage with those you oppose politically. In particular you cannot handle that I, and the majority of the CPGB comrades, are accurately critiquing the self-confessed "little bit Zionist" (and thereby "a little bit" anti-Arab), anti-democratic elements in your politics. Not from the standpoint of the equally anti-democratic currents on the left who deny any national rights for the Hebrew-centred nation of Israel, but from a more consistently democratic view of defence of the rights of both peoples.
Thus I regard the feeble and cowardly abuse by your anonymous columnist as an unintended compliment: to the effectiveness of our critique of the severe flaws in your politics. I also note that apolitical abuse on the left is itself a bureaucratic and sectarian practice, stifling real political interaction and demonising those arguing for a different view. Thus it only damages the AWL in the eyes of people with experience of the badly flawed reality of the contemporary left.
Our "Crazies of the World Unite!" was an attempt to draw together some typical examples of Ian Donovan's unfiltered extrapolations about the politics of AWL. Donovan's writings do not merit a more detailed analysis. When people write things as stupid as - "It is quite obvious that the AWL doesn't really like Arabs very much" - really, how can you respond? One can say "that's an outrageous slander", as indeed it is, and make a detailed reply for the record, or you can take the attitude, as we did, that no one in their right minds can take this seriously?
Donovan has produced a lot of this kind of rubbish. Much of what he has written, some of which we quoted, is both ridiculous and also out of order.
Cutting quotations? The standard way quotations are used in a small article is to select what you find to your point. Donovan implies distortion and misrepresentation - without citing any! He would have us quote his great work at great length and write great long screeds of criticism? Egomaniacs of the world unite ! The point is it is a waste of life analysing emotional garbage like "the AWL doesn't like Arabs".
But we did not distort by our use of quotations. We quote him saying Sean Matgamna would like to see George Galloway hanged. That is what Donovan writes; he doesn't deny it. (Though he is careful not to repeat it in what he quotes in his letter.)
In fact Sean Matgamna wrote in Solidarity that if George Galloway is a traitor for opposing the war then we were traitors - "and we wouldn't want to be anything else". What Donovan writes is just not rational discourse. It is plain crazy!
Instead of responding to our point which is, "of course we don't want to see George Galloway hanged", Donovan launches into a rant about our refusal to "solidarise" with Galloway. No we won't do that, because we think Galloway - paid or unpaid, makes no difference - is a friend and apologist for a fascistic dictatorship. Donovan is not obliged to characterise what and who Galloway is. Socialists and "communists" must shut up about that because such matters of truth - facts so elementary a small child could grasp them - are ditched under pressure from the "left consensus".
On the issue of paedophilia, again Donovan's assertions and opinions are completely unreasonable. We do not deny that large numbers of people want to hang [alleged] paedophiles. We are hardly in favour of lynch mob justice. It is ridiculous as well as libellous to assert or imply that we would be. But Donovan's arguments do not rest on fact but ludicrous extrapolation.
We empathise with people who react strongly to child abuse. That means we support chucking bricks at the windows of alleged paedophiles? Reactions to child abuse cannot simply be reduced to a matter of people being under the influence of "dominant bourgeois social norms". That is an issue that is surely worth debating. Donovan does not want to debate this rationally. Much better, much easier, much more satisfying to have the impulse of shouting "reactionary rubbish" at people he sees as factional opponents.
Donovan says that if the rest of the left think we are anti-Arab chauvinists then it must be true. Well reasoned!
We are, or some of us are, "a bit Zionist" he says. Let's say that was true for a moment. What conclusions do you draw? Now the vast majority of Jewish people in the world are at least a little bit Zionist. Does this make all those people anti-Arab chauvinists? No that would be a stupid generalisation, and a condemnation of a whole people. Does Donovan say this and think this? Who knows?
I can guess the "reasoning" here I think. According to the left-wing fuckwit point of view you have to call yourself "anti-Zionist" to be consistently pro-Palestinian. Ergo if you do not call yourself "anti-Zionist", and indeed, reject the concept of "anti-Zionism", you must be anti-Palestinian. And if you are anti-Palestinian you must be anti-all-Arabs. Make sense? No, it's completely moronic.
The "anti-Zionism" of the left is grounded in a historical Stalinist anti-semitic project. We do not want to have anything to do with and think it the duty of socialists to fight that "anti-Zionism" and what has developed out of it. We want to defend the Palestinian right to their own state from a consistently democratic position, that is, we are not hostile to Jews and recognise and defend the right of the Hebrew speaking Israelis to their own state. We have held this point of view far longer than the CPGB, thought about it more, written about it more. Yet you feel no obligation to really engage with what we say about anti-Zionism, an analysis which has been developed out of our position on two states.
The truth is - and this was the point of our piece "Crazies of the World Unite" - Donovan is far too fond of drawing out the logic of what the AWL writes in order to impute to us murderous desires, impulses and attitudes which any sensible person could see are extremely unlikely. If he had the sense, experience or ability to reflect on what he writes, he would realise this. The truth is that Donovan is not politically or intellectually serious - neither are those who give house-room to his ramblings.