John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

How did Communist parties handle issues of internal discipline and democracy in Lenin’s time? The recent intense discussion within the British Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) and beyond has heard claims that the SWP rests on the traditions of democratic centralism inherited from the Bolsheviks.

John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Some extended thoughts about Stephanie Bottrill, the woman who committed suicide because of the bedroom tax.

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the killing of Blair Peach by the police. David Renton looks back at Blair Peach’s life as a poet, trade unionist and committed antifascist

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Bunny La Roche of RS21 on Nigel Farage's visit to Kent

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Financial Appeal

We're up and running! An appeal for funds to kickstart the IS Network

Financial Appeal

Time to break the silence on Syria

Some 160 people attended the ‘Syria in the context of the Arab Revolutions’ event on 15th February in London and set up a new solidarity campaign, writes Luke Cooper

The situation in Syria today has arisen from one basic fact. That rather than accept democratic change the Assad regime chose to wage a brutal war against its own people. This has brought terrible hardship and poverty for ordinary Syrians and led to a breakdown of governance. Foreign powers, notably Russia and Iran, have intervened to prop up the regime, and so too have Jihadist extremists – all of whom are enemies of the Syrian Revolution’s struggle for democratic and human rights.

Sadly, in the face of this undoubtedly difficult situation, too many on the left either fell silent, or took the shameful position of treating those fighting for democratic rights as proxies of imperialism, or simply slandered them all as Islamic extremists.

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Solidarity with the people of Syria

This is a joint statement supported by the International Socialist Network, Socialist Resistance and Workers Power.

The defeat of the government pro-war resolution in Parliament is important. Even though Labour voted against the Tory motion, it too had submitted a pro-war resolution, albeit calling for a pause until after the report from the UN weapons inspectors. That resolution was also defeated. These votes reflect the anti-war mood in Britain. But as far as the USA is concerned, the threat of war is still on the agenda possibly using bases in Britain.

The regime of Bashar al-Assad is every day carrying out more massacres of increasing cruelty against the people of Syria, whether it be the bombing of civilian areas or the use of chemical weapons. Two years into the uprising against the dictatorship, over 100,000 have died, two million are refugees and many more are “displaced” out of a population of just 20 million. This tragedy fills us with horror and rage.

We continue to extend our solidarity to the movement for democracy in Syria. We pay tribute to all those who have lost their lives in the fight against the brutal dictatorship and to all those who are continuing to resist.

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Luke Staunton: On Syria and imperialism

Over the last couple of days I've not been able to bring myself to share links or events that claim 'no war with Syria' without adding some critical comment. The Stop the War Coalition event, for example, doesn't mention Assad, nor does it mention the revolution which is instead relegated to being a 'civil war' with the implication that it is now overwhelmingly Islamist in character and irrevocably trapped in a Sunni-Shi'ite bloodbath.

This fogginess perpetuates the reheated Russia Today line that is coming to dominate the debate. While opposing intervention we should stress that the Syrian revolution is a revolution. Calling for no war on Syria without acknowledging this airbrushes out the masses and makes them dupes of imperialist powers and little else, while crude comparisons to 2003 neglect the changed nature of imperialism in the wake of protracted disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan and the popular revolutions that have swept across the region. The left should point to the Local Coordinating Committees that have developed in towns and cities and in many cases are responsible for democratically running them under unthinkable conditions: in Idlib, Daara, Kafranbel, Taftanaz and Aleppo to name a few.

The revolution has many similar roots to other popular revolts in the region: the neoliberalisation of the economy, rapid rural to urban migration, rising food prices, corruption by ruling cliques and a brutal security apparatus, and in Syria a disastrous irrigation policy.

We do not deny that with the rapid escalation to armed conflict by the regime that the agency of the masses has been displaced, nor would we deny that Islamists funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar such as the Jabhat al-Nusra front and ISIS are becoming a more prominent force and have attempted to stoke sectarian violence (much like the regime Shabiha who have openly carried out sectarian massacres).

Still, these brigades have also been opposed by both the Free Syrian Army and by the unarmed masses in some towns: the women of Raqqa held protests against a Salafist militia and their authoritarianism, for example. Likewise there are 'leaderships-in-waiting' willing to kowtow to the US, though thus far they have been widely disregarded by the de facto leadership on the ground.

There have also been conscious attempts to overcome sectarian division; many Christians, Kurds and even Alawites have joined the revolution while Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk camp came out against the regime, which responded with bombs. This unity is under greater strain but still exists, as do the regular protests in towns and districts, now often under cover of night. The response has to be to outright reject Western intervention which will only hasten the spiral of violence and cement imperialist control.

We also have to reject the already existing intervention from imperialist and sub-imperialist powers: Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, Hezbollah. It is possible to reject intervention without dismissing the revolution as a 'civil war' or falling into Assad apologism when over 100,000 have already been killed while millions more have been displaced before the use of chemical weapons now being used as a pretext for war.

The Revolutionary Left Current in Syria recently issued a statement declaring, 'Our revolution has no sincere ally, except the popular revolutions of the region and of the world and of all the militants struggling against regimes of ignorance and servitude and exploitation No to Washington! No to Moscow! No to Riyadh! No to Tehran!' It is in that spirit that we take to the streets to oppose intervention from our own governments.

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National demonstration: No attack on Syria, Saturday 31 August

Assemble Saturday 31 August, 12 noon, Temple Place, London (nearest tube Temple). March via Parliament, Downing Street. Rally at Trafalgar Square.

Stop the War writes: "David Cameron's plans for an immediate attack on Syria have been delayed. This is a significant set back for those who are pushing for war. The fact that Ed Miliband decided to argue to wait for the UN's report before attacking is no doubt a response to massive public opposition to any strike on Syria. That opposition is greater than when Tony Blair took us to war in 2003. Even government ministers are now referring to 'the legacy of Iraq'.

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How sections of the left came to abandon Syria

On the same day as it was announced that the ousted Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak will be released from prison following the massacres of hundreds of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, reports circulated that the Syrian regime under the dictatorship of Bashar Al Assad had embarked on a chemical attack on its population. Disturbing footage quickly emerged of hundreds of dead and dying people in the opposition-controlled area of Ghouta just outside of Damascus. Images of some of the bodies showed skin turning yellow with visible white foaming at the mouth proving the reports to be accurate. As the hours went on it emerged that over a thousand people had died as a result of being gassed. This was immediately broadcast across Western media outlets as international pressure once again built up against the regime.

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Edward Snowden and the strange bedfellows

"Glenn Beck, Michael Moore call Snowden a hero." Say what? It's hard to think of two more polarizing personalities in US media and politics than Beck and Moore; hearing that these two diametrically opposed figures agree on anything is, to put it mildly, disorienting. Yet that's a genuine politico.com headline from last week. While talk in much of the British left is currently of realignment and initiatives like Left Unity and the People's Assembly, across the Atlantic, the actions of Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old Booz Allen Hamilton employee who blew the whistle on the NSA PRISM program and more, could usher in a (one-issue) red-blue consensus of a sort unthinkable in recent years. It also hints at the possibility of popular support for the whistleblower, whose role makes him one of the more significant figures in recent US history.

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