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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

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

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

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Financial Appeal

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

Financial Appeal

PD, the American Party


PD, the American Party

Luciana Castellina, 29 May 2014, printed in Il Manifesto

[explanatory note: for 25 years the Italian parties have been in flux. The Italian Democratic Party (PD), an evolution of the Communist Party and the Christian Democrats, received 41% in the Euro elections this week, a historic high, headed by the centrist Renzi. Grillo's 5 Stelle were down to 20% and Berlusconi's Forza Italia down to 15%, with the far right nowhere getting past the 4% threshhold necessary for Euro deputies. The Lista di Tsiparas, which aims to emulate Greece's Syriza, did, receiving 3 representatives. The article also refers to Rifondazione and SEL, two left groups who participated in the Lista.]


Inside the Vote. No longer left, nor centre-left. Not even a reincarnation of the old Christian Democrats.

The Italian results of the 25 May elections can't be quickly judged. I will limit myself to some provisional thoughts.

While it seems easy enough to read the shifts in other European countries, ours are more complicated. There are many reasons why: primarily because new forces have entered that weren't present before, and not just ones which have grown or shrunk.

I would list the PD (Partito Democratico) amongst these, because it is not the continuation of the parties that preceded it. It's something else that is new: not a party of the left, nor even the centre-left. I wouldn't even call it a reincarnation of the old Christian Democrats: even in that party existed very different social interests and representations, but they were strongly ideologically marked and each had their own specific cultures and leaders with historical weight. Renzi's party is also a social rainbow, but its currents are far less clear, much less weighty, with scant reference to the traditions that have preceded it in the last 25 years.

If one had to find an equivalent I would say it would be the American Democratic Party. Which would definitely never openly represent the unions which have always been affiliated to it, but certainly includes amongst its ranks - just take a look at its donors - extremely different strata in terms of thought, actual power, and culture.

If I say American Democrats it's because Renzi's new party signals above all a decisive step towards the Americanisation of our political life: high abstention due to a large part of the population being cut out of the political process, by which I mean active participation, and so has no interest in the election; the absences of parties beyond being electoral committees; personalisation dictated by presidential structures. The fact that Italy is getting closer to this model results from the long decline of the mass parties, which has also hit the left, and because of the reduction of the competition to leaders' television shows in which citizens choose as if it's a kind of Twitter: 'like' or 'unlike'.

I think this change is extremely serious: it impoverishes democracy, whose strength lies above all in the politicisation of the people, in making them active protagonists, in building up their consciousness as opposed to them just giving power of attorney.

Anyway there's no point in crying nostalgically, I don't think it's possible for a return to strong democracy based on large popular parties, at least not like we've known in the past. Before we even start to think about how to rebuild the left we need to rethink the model of democracy, not leaving the field to whoever is now resigned to the sorry current situation: Renzi offered us an accentuation of personality, short term pragmatism, a renunciation of building a social bloc adequate to the deep transformations in society (in name of a strategic project between different interests which have their own representation, and not an indistinct hotchpotch held together by falsely neutral choices).

That said I think we need to avoid demonising the over 40% who voted PD: they are not all Berlusconians or populists, and I am happy that, out of the traditional strongholds of the historic left the PD has regained votes that had been going to Forza Italia or to Grillo. For many a vote for the PD was a vote to reject the worst in a moment of great suffering and confusion in Italian society. I wouldn't want to identify them all with Renzi as they are also products of the history of the left.

Now it's up to us to convince people that there are other ways of rejecting the worst: much harder and longer term, but a lot more effective in starting the search for a real alternative. And here we come to our own affairs, we of a left which is diffuse, or organised into fragile parties born from the ashes of other parties. To me, the experience of the Lista di Tsiparas, irrespective of the many mistakes it made, seems positive. The results show it: everywhere it was higher than the sum total of Rifondazione and SEL's votes, and shows that there are forces available which must not be wasted and that should be involved by the existing parties in rebuilding the Italian left, not restricting the task to each party's respective enclosure. Let's bear in mind that these forces are greater than the number of people who voted Tsiparas: wherever the Lista di Tsiparas had a profile (the big cities) our percentages were double those in outlying regions unreached by our communications.

Some of the forces that the Lista managed to group together are many of the almost-always local micro-movements, which are self-organised but fragmented. They are a treasure trove that is unique to our country, which retains a good dose of social initiative. This is the basis to work from, interweaving the groups' initiatives with the party's and involving PD voters in struggles for specific objectives and in building more stable organisations capable of achieving victories (like the water privatisation referendum, for example). A party where many are with us on many objectives: guaranteed income, civil rights, environmental concerns, trade union representation... We need to accompany such grassroots work with analysis, collective thought on how to combat the primitivism of much protests and their oft-theorised shortsightedness of the base: the left needs to fight for basic needs but, God willing, also needs Karl Marx to aid an understanding of how to satisfy them.

I know through long experience how difficult this is, but I think we should never give up trying. What I mean is that the worst thing that could happen would be to limit ourselves to shouty opposition, or worse, to shelter in the cauldron of the PD thinking we could play any role in it. For decades the Communist Party - allow me this one jaunt down memory lane - was the great party of opposition, but it achieved much more in terms of concrete change in Italy than the Italian social democrats who have always been in government. And that's because, despite being in the opposition, it had a view of government: that is it went about trying to construct alternatives, not limiting itself to protests or denunciations. But above all it was because it did not believe that elections were the only date to keep, or that politics just meant becoming MPs or councillors. Is it possible, as a start, to consolidate the network of Tsiparas committees?

Is it possible for Rifondazione and SEL - who nobody is asking to immediately dissolve themselves into the movement - to be active in working together with them for a more ambitious left project? Is it possible to create new forms of democracy that can rebuild the relationship between citizens and institutions?

Do we at least want to give it a go?

article suggested and translated by Louis Bayman, rs21.




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Solidarity with Ukrainian miners demo

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Eyewitness to tragedy in Odessa

This account from Serhiy in Odessa first appeared in Russian on the website of the Left Opposition and has since been translated and published on a number of English-language socialist and anarchist websites. We would stress that this is not the position of the International Socialist Network and reiterate the caveats that Gabriel Levy included alongside the article on the People and Nature blog. There is ongoing debate in the ISN around the issue, to reflect this and moreso to encourage reading around Ukraine we are currently compiling a list of articles and essays.

The subjective impressions of the author are shaped to a large extent by his personal involvement in the events”. The editors “do not share all his assessments of the sides in the conflict, but consider it important to try to establish the chronology of events that led to the tragedy. For us [the Left Opposition] it is evident that the main guilty parties are the [Ukrainian] oligarchic power and chauvinism that exists on both sides.

A dignified, grey-haired grandpa in a brown jacket talks on the mobile. “Hi. You’re asking where I am? I’m at war.”

Cracked cobblestones, tiny streams of blood on the street, blood-soaked bandages scattered around. A young fellow, about 16 years of age, asks for some space on the bench to sit down. The guy’s head is bandaged, blood drips from underneath the cloth. That’s Odessa city centre for you. Second of May, 2014.

I remember how the events in Zhanaozen in December 2011 left me in a state of shock. [Kazakhstan’s security services killed at least 16 and wounded 60 oil workers, on strike for better pay and conditions.] I couldn’t get my head around how they could kill people on the streets just like that in the friggin’ 21st century! Not somewhere far away, but nearby … one of our neighbours from the deceased Soviet Union. But for whatever reason, somewhere deep inside my heart, I was certain that in Ukraine, a thing like this couldn’t happen. It’s Ukraine, what are you talking about! On the night of February 18 to 19 [when the Maidan demonstrators in Kyiv clashed violently with the Berkut riot police], paralysed in front of the TV, when the Maidan was raging and bits of the Ukrainian anthem were bursting through the flames, I understood that this certainty was gone. Perished. One certainty, however, remained, however irrational and groundless it may have been – that in Odessa, a thing like that is surely impossible.

On the 2nd of May, it turned out to be very possible.

Who were the culprits in the Odessa tragedy? For me, the answer is clear – Russian fascists and the police.

Fascists, yes, fascists – and cut out your “But our grandfathers fought…” already. You can wrap yourselves up from head to toe in St George’s ribbons [a symbol of military prowess in Russia] – you are still fascists. Your deeds speak for themselves. The radicals from the pro-Russian camp marched to the city centre with one aim – to beat up, or maybe even to kill, people.

The whole city knew that the football fans of [the local team] Chernomorets and Metallist [of Kharkiv] were going to have a march for the unity of Ukraine before the game. Everyone also knew that activists from Odessa’s Maidan would be joining up with them. Already a few days before the planned event, the more radical part of the pro-Russian movement – the so-called “Odessa Squad” druzhina [ “militia”], which is composed of outright Russian Nazis, promised to break up the march. For example, here. (More info about the Squad can be found here) Actually, calls to kill the “Maidan-freaks” popped up regularly on the webpages of the “Kulikovtsy” (that’s what people call the local separatist movement that has its tent camp on one of the city squares, Kulikovo field). On these sites, one could often spot criticism from the rank and file – puzzlingly, very often from young women – aimed at the leaders, along the lines of “enough sitting around twiddling our thumbs, let’s fight”. Well, they came. And fought a bit.

Russian nationalist thugs The “Odessa Squad” gathered at the memorial of the fallen militiamen at Aleksandrovskii Prospekt. There were about 300-400 of them, hardly any women (except for a few girls from the paramedics), not one single old man, just fighters, equipped accordingly, wearing helmets, many of them with bullet-proof vests. On some of their shields one could spot the logos of the Russian nationalist organisation “Dozor”, many were bearing corresponding symbols. Lined up alongside the motorway, they beat their bats against their shields and shouted out their slogans. Directly nearby – many cops, and a busload of Berkut [Ukrainian riot police], or whatever they’re called now.

At about the same time, a few blocks away, on Sobornaia square, the participants of the unity march began to gather. Two to three thousand people, with “ultras” making up not more than one-third of them. Just like at all events of the Odessa Maidan, there were many women, senior citizens, and people with kids. The allegedly horrible “Bendera” football fans from Kharkiv, the bugbear brought up by the “Odessa Squad”, mostly walked off to watch football and did not take part in the fighting. In the crowd, there were a few people sporting “Metallist” football shirts – such as a grey-haired man with an aristocratic posture, about 50 years of age, with wife and kids; or a few teenage girls. The only persons who were at least somehow armed were members of the Maidan Self-Defence.

One just needed to take a glimpse at these two camps to get the idea about who came for a peaceful demonstration and who was prepared for violent action. Another remarkable thing – the tent camp of the “Kulikovtsy” has already been there for a few months. Every week, there are pro-Russian marches. And not even once was there a reaction from the Maidan people that was more serious than raising their middle fingers towards the marchers. Of course, there are enough hotheads among the Maidan crowd, but there never was anything beyond idle talk. In fact, just one day before the massacre, the pro-Russian movement staged a May Day demonstration, marching down the central streets and shouting slogans like “Odessa is a Russian city” and “Hail Berkut” – and yet no one cared to touch them. Neither Maidan activists, nor football fans, nor the Right Sector [an alliance of Ukrainian fascist groups] whose Odessa branch, to be frank, rather resembles tenth-graders on a school trip than grim radical fighters.

When the unity march reached Grecheskaia street, the “Odessa Squad” was already waiting there to welcome them. How a column of armed men could march up to the meeting spot of their opponents under the eyes of the cops is completely beyond me. After all, they [the police] knew all too well what sort of people they are and what they want. Although, if one considers that some of the policemen had the same red tape armbands as some of the combatants, it’s probably not that surprising after all. Stun grenades rained down on the activists. The sound of a gunshot can’t be mistaken for anything else. Just like gunshot wounds. Just like the bullet casing we found on Deribasovskaia street – knowledgeable people say it comes from a “Saiga”, the hunters’ version of an AK-47. I don’t know, they probably know what they’re talking about.

There were also shots from the roof of the Afina shopping mall, where the combatants tried to have a stronghold. There’s enough film footage on the net. The Maidan guys tried to defend themselves as well as they could. My friend and his mates – simple blokes from Odessa, football fans, who had been frowning at the “ultras” with ill-disguised revulsion – came under fire. Only after a few minutes later, they were giving the [pro-Russian] combatants a beating, shoulder to shoulder with the same “ultras”. Later on, when the Russian Nazis were driven up Grecheskaia square and besieged, I saw a few Asian-looking guys, Turks or Arabs, helping the Maidan people to build barricades. Girls prepared the much-famed Molotov cocktails on the spot, using beer bottles bought at the nearby shops. Typical Odessa grannies brought stones for the Maidan crowd. “I didn’t expect any leftists to show up”, I was told by a guy in a balaclava, with whom I was dragging a rubbish bin towards the barricades. “It’s awesome that we’re all here together, like on the Maidan”, he added.

It was hell in the city centre, while the cops behaved as if it was an ordinary, unremarkable day in May. You could already hear the gunshots, people started carrying the wounded out of the battleground, while the cops carelessly trudged to the sidelines of Soborna Square, in order to ... line up and head in an unknown direction. “Where are you going? Who will protect us?”, the Maidaners shouted at them. Some of the cops got it in the neck. When the [pro-Russian] gunmen shot an activist dead, the police tried to simply run away from the scene – here it is, enjoy. The [police] special ops unit formed a protective “tortoise shell” (300 Spartans!) and crowded under the wall while a real battle went on.

“Odessa is not Crimea, no way we will give up Odessa!”, shouted the activists. And they didn’t give it up. Apparently, the [pro-Russian] combatants did not expect them to strike back so decisively. A counter-attack at the Kulikovo field was probably inevitable. Many activists did not go there for obvious reasons, but the most radical part of the Ukrainian unity march did.

Over there the second act of the tragedy started. On Grecheskaia Street people were killed by bullets; on Kulikovo they suffocated in the smoke and were burnt and crushed, having jumped out of the windows. The regional council deputy Vyacheslav Markin also died in this way. The Odessans remember him mainly due to the events of 19 February: when the visiting combatants [then supporting the Yanukovich government], in the same black uniforms, beat up Maidan activists and journalists, Markin said it was self-defence of the city, and that the “Mai-downs” [an abusive term for Maydan activists] should “get more of it”.

No-one knows who set the House of Trade Unions on fire: the Molotov cocktails were flying from both sides. Pro-Russian information resources painted a picture of radical Maidan supporters beating those who tried to escape from the burning building. But they don’t mention other facts. For instance, that the Maidaners themselves – primarily, the Maidan Self-Defence – snatched the wounded away from their own [Ukrainian nationalist] radicals, and rendered them first aid. They also don’t mention that the same Maidan Self-Defence fighters made sure that the captive separatists were handed over to the police, not to the angry crowd. Nor do they tell about the gunshots coming from the burning House of Trade Unions. One of the local TV channels, First City Channel, had been broadcasting live from the streets for the whole day, almost without commenting on what was going on. From this broadcast the Odessites learned about the weapons stored in the House of Trade Unions. The website of the “Odessa squad” druzhinniki [i.e. militiamen] immediately responded with a hysterical post, with Caps Lock on and thousands of exclamation marks: “Do not watch the First City Channel, everything there is lies ...”

An interesting point: the most radical part of the Odessa Anti-Maidan – the Nazi “Odessa squad” druzhinniki, Imperials, and the Cossacks – had left Kulikovo field on the day before and relocated outside the city, at the 411th troop memorial [a memorial park to Red army defenders of Odessa during the second world war]. Their camp there was also broken up, but no one was hurt. It turned out like that because nobody barricaded themselves in and shot back, and the pro-Russian activists stationed there just quietly left. Kulikovo field was a unique gathering of conservative forces of all kinds. “All the forces of the old world”, as the revolutionaries of the past would say, joined together there: Stalin admirers and fans of the Tsar-father, Russian Nazis and Ruritanian Cossacks, Orthodox fanatics and old women nostalgic for Brezhnev’s times – and opponents of justice for juveniles, gay marriage and flu vaccinations.

These were the forces of black reaction, from which ever angle you looked. I have grown past the age when you scream about revolution and sing about “drowning the people’s sorrows in blood”. I am a convinced humanist and pacifist. Any death is a tragedy for me – even of a political opponent, even of an enemy. But it infuriates me when this reactionary bunch howls about the people tortured in the House of Trade Unions. Why don’t you honestly tell us how you were going to beat and kill, how you attacked first, how you shot into the crowd from the rooftops? The death of your supporters on Kulikovo is entirely on your conscience. You did everything possible in order to end up that way. And this is another argument to show that you are fascists.

PS: At night, after the defeat of the Kulikovo field, a post appeared on the Odessa druzhinniki web page, ending with the phrase “Odessa is a Hero City, and heroes should live in it, not Kikes [Jews] or [torgashy] traffickers”. Before I had a chance to take a screen capture, in the morning, the word “Jews” was replaced by “traitors”. Yeah, tell us more about how your grandfathers fought in the second world war.

PPS: From one of the official sites of the Odessa Anti-Maidan: “For me that pseudo image of a Ukrainian brother has disappeared, because it’s Russian people who live in Ukraine, and those who don’t consider themselves as such are scum, who must be finished off quickly, by death and death alone.”

PPPS: The Anti-Maidan groups are now putting up links to the Vkontakte pages [a Russian language site similar to facebook] of Maidan activists. Without checking whether they were even present on 2 May, they just pick on people who have put something pro-Maidan on their wall. They put up a link to the page of the wife of an activist of the liberal “Democratic Alliance” (“the bitch is one of the leaders”) – notwithstanding the fact that that organisation always did their best to calm down the hotheads in the Maidan crowd and decisively spoke out against any violence directed at political opponents.

Thanks to Olga P, Yulia P and GA for this translation

Photos taken from:

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International Socialists and Ukraine

Tony Cliff on Imperialist Expansion of RussiaTony Cliff, ' Imperialist Expansion of Russia', Vpered,1950 Marxists of the International Socialist tradition have been discussing the Ukrainian question for the first time in decades. Leon Trotsky advised that the “foremost place in this discussion must belong to the Ukrainian revolutionary Marxists. We shall listen with the greatest attention to their voices.” Unfortunately that cannot be said to be the case of some who consider themselves of the IS tradition, who have adopted views which diverge from previous approaches, with no consideration at all to the view of Ukrainian Marxists! This was not always the case. The Socialist Review Group published a number of articles by exiled Ukrainian Marxists who had developed their own theory of state-capitalism in the 1950s, and who in turn translated several chapters of The Nature of Stalinist Russia (1948) in their paper Vpered! (‘Forward!’) in 1950. It is a book in which Tony Cliff positively wrote of the controversial wartime Ukrainian Insurgent Army, a movement which is ironically now cited as justification by some for their refusal to oppose Russian imperialism. History features a great deal in the discussions on the Ukrainian question today, yet amongst those from the IS tradition there had been no engagement with the Ukrainian question for decades. The SWP once published an International Discussion Bulletin, which in 1977 carried an analysis by the émigré Ukrainian Marxist Victor Haynes (Jarko Koshiw), author of Workers Against the Gulag (Pluto 1979). As a contribution and effort to introduce comrades to the Ukrainian question it is republished here in full.

Chris Ford

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Read more: International Socialists and Ukraine

Ukraine: four points in response to Chris Nineham

This article first appeared on the revolution in the 21st century (rs21) site. Many thanks to the authors for permission to repost.

Chris Nineham has written a very clear article on the Counterfire website laying out the position of Counterfire and much of Stop the War over the Ukraine situation. It suffers from a degree of strawfiguring: caricaturing one’s opponents’ positions, but we are all guilty of that to some extent. We want to mark, however, that “the main enemy is at home” was a response to the left openly backing their domestic imperialist war effort. Nobody on the left is chanting “bomb Russia” in the style of the late Kenny Everett, although a glance at Greece should disabuse anyone of illusions in the EU’s intentions. Chris’s article nonetheless makes several more substantial points that deserve a proper reply. Four follow.

1. Imperialism is embedded in capitalism

Chris is right to insist on looking at the “wider geopolitical context” but one can’t simply stop at an analysis of imperialism, let alone one indistinguishable from realpolitik thinktanks like Stratfor.

Imperialism is not like polo, a game the ruling classes play for fun. It is a necessary outcome of capitalist competition organised into national blocs. So any analysis of the imperial balance of forces must itself be embedded in an analysis of capitalism in post-crisis austerity.

For instance the picture isn’t simply one of increased rivalry between different national blocs, but also increased interdependency. For sure the bourgeois media demonises the Putin regime, but the City sure as hell doesn’t demonise Russian capital. Putin, judging from Reddit’s global id, is seen as rather cool. The ideological picture is considerably more contradictory than mere Ruskie bashing redux.

2. Russia's imperialism matters

Chris says “neither Washington nor Moscow” was “never meant as a response to imperialism”. Well one can draw different conclusions from that particular slogan, as we see today.

But the theory of state capitalism does have consequences for our understanding of imperialism. We recognise that Russia has been a capitalist and imperialist power under the Tsar, under Stalin, under Khrushchev, under Putin. We side with resistance movements from below against such powers.

This is why Chris’s list of IS attitudes to imperialist conflicts past is so strange. There is no mention of IS attitude to dissident movements in the Eastern bloc, or to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan under Russian occupation. To be fair he mentions Chechnya. But surely these are the relevant examples, not Vietnam or Cuba.

Acknowledging Russia’s imperialism has consequences for our understanding of national liberation movements. Take a plane to Calcutta and you will land in an airport named after an Indian independence hero who collaborated with the Axis against the Raj. Chris complains that the leadership of the Euromaidan protest movement is “overwhelmingly pro-Western as well as nationalist”. Yes, what do you expect in a former Russian colony?

3. Movements are not passive

Chris is too quick to throw out formulations like “the movement has been co-opted”, as if it were a horse that the ruling class could simply tame. Counterfire made this mistake over Syria and now they are making it now over Ukraine.

This writing off of mass subjectivity in the Eastern bloc leads to a narrowing of political horizons, and an ironic one given Chris’s generally positive assessment of mass movements. “The only way we can make a contribution to stopping a war is by doing our best to block the Western war effort,” says Chris.

No: we can also and we must also build solidarity with working class revolutionaries in Ukraine (socialist and anarchist and other), and (as Chris rightfully acknowledges) with the Russian anti-war movement. One of the major drivers of what is happening in Ukraine is Putin’s fear that its mass movement could inspire similar currents inside Russia.

The mass nature of the uprising in Ukraine has at least a potential revolutionary dynamic, one for the moment is being led down the blind alley of a neoliberal government that contains fascists, being crushed in the vice of imperialism. Both these factors are raising the kind of ethnic tensions which could lead to a Yugoslavia-type situation.

4. Its not 2004 any more

Chris’s passing reference to Chechnya reminded us of something that troubled us during the Georgia war. We saw what happened as a spillover of the war on terror, triggered by neocon proxies, and critically sided with Russia. But we also went very quiet about Chechnya. The latter was a mistake.

Today’s climate is very different. The neocons are not in charge of the White House and the obsession with them is mistaken. The aggressive imperialism they stood for was always a gamble based on exploiting a temporary window of opportunity. That’s what the Project for a New American Century was all about. That window has passed. Applying a 2004 analysis of the US ruling class to 2014 simply won’t wash.

Today, Obama’s administration has its sights set on the challenge of China. Its “pivot” to Asia has seen the development of alliances in the region and temporary deployments of troops as the US seeks to concentrate 60% of its military power in the region.

This does not mean that the US has abandoned its interests elsewhere. One has only to consider its attitude to the Arab Spring, particularly its involvement in the bombing of Libya, to see that. However, military involvement by the US has not been the main enemy of revolutionaries in the region. For Syrian revolutionaries, the unstinting support of Russia and China has allowed Assad’s regime to frustrate the revolution, drawing it into armed conflict and slaughtering tens of thousands.

Perhaps the biggest difference between then and now involves the reason socialists are anti-imperialist in the first place. We are revolutionaries, and the primary (though not sole) reason we oppose imperialism is because it puts down or derails revolutions. We want a victory for revolution and therefore a defeat for the imperialist system full stop. Non-revolutionaries in contrast do not propose a world without imperialism so content themselves with supporting the other side in the global chess game.

In quiet periods, like the Middle East ten years ago, reformists and revolutionaries find themselves opposing imperialism for much the same reason and can form close alliances. After all, the point of difference is a hypothetical revolutionary movement not an actual one. But we are not in a quiet period any more. The Arab revolutions have changed all that. The financial crisis has changed all that. Our first duty is to support the actual revolutions taking place: and the consequences for our anti-imperialism must flow from that axiom.

Continue the debate at rs21’s political weekend: 29-30 March, New Cross. This is our first major public event and we welcome participation from anyone who is interested in similar issues and has been asking similar questions. Book online at



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Note on the newly formed Syria Solidarity Movement

The Syria Solidarity Movement is a new organisation created by Syrian and socialist activists after the conference “Syria in the context of the Arab Uprisings”. Its an attempt to provide much belated solidarity for the Syrian revolution from the socialist and workers movement in Britain.

We're currently trying to link up all the different student groups and activists who have been doing solidarity work on Syria in isolation, and build a cohesive movement which can begin to counter some of the slanders and lies which have dogged the Syrian revolution since it began.

The main one is that somehow what has happened in Syria isn't a genuine revolution, or that its revolutionary potential has disappeared following the escalation of the military conflict. This is false. In the liberated areas, which is between 50-60% of Syria, many local councils have been set up by the people to administer and rebuild their society. These councils are beset by massive hardships, they regularly come into conflict with some of the armed groups and face vicious repression from the regime, yet they exist and need support. It is the grassroots aid and relief organisations which have been sustaining the population in the liberated areas as they receive almost no aid from the outside world, relying on aid from the Syrian diaspora and Islamic charities.

We will do what we can to rectify this by promoting links between student organisations, trade unions and solidarity campaigns in Britain, and the civil opposition on the ground in Syria which still keeps alive the spirit of the revolution.

We have working groups for students, trade union activists, humanitarian aid and media. If you wish to volunteer for any, please contact us.

You can contact us here:


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