Thursday, April 17, 2008

'From Trotsky to Respect'

Geoffrey Wall on the SWP, on BBC Radio 3... having listened to Part 2 (the repeat last night - it should still be on the BBC's website)

For anybody interested in the early history of the SRG / International Socialism / International Socialists, I suggest Jim Higgins' book, which is now available in electronic form (see here).

Everybody agreed that East Germany, say, was 'state capitalist', but there was an arcane dispute about whether the Soviet Union was or a 'workers' state'. I remember going to a discussion in the mid-'70s (chaired by none other than David Aaronovitch, who was not of course a Trotskyist, merely a Communist) called something like "Is the Soviet Union state capitalist?", unaware of the subtext.

(From Trotsky to Respect - Geoffrey Wall looks at the history of the Socialist Workers Party. 2/2, 13 &16 April)

Monday, April 14, 2008


I am watching the film 'Battle for Haditha', which deals with an incident from 2005. Iraqis were provided by al Qaeda fighters with the material for making bombs. And they were paid by them. Not that they had any love for the foreigners: "those f***ing  al Qaeda idiots have just murdered the English teacher." As more recent comment has indicated, joining the "awakening councils" (and being paid by the Americans) is now "the best show in town", for the Sunnis.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Why do you..."

A bit more on Uzbekistan

Natalia Antelava gets a whole 30 minutes on Uzbekistan, featuring Mark Weil, a theatre director who was stabbed to death in September 2007. His theatre once told the story of a Sufi seer who urinated on a ruler's throne: when asked, "Why did you piss on my throne?" he replied, "Why do you piss on your own people?"

(Crossing Continents, Thursday, 3 April , Monday, 7 April 2008)

Previous related posts: on Uzbekistan; on the BBC scrapping the foreign language service in Kazakh.

Update (20 Apr): the Sufi was a dervish, a philosopher or poet. I have corrected a small inaccuracy in the quotation above. The play was put on a few weeks after the Andijan massacre in 2005.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Five years on (3)

The Iraqi security forces, backed by the US, are making strong headway. I'd say that the "tough love" approach by the US rapidly advanced the conditions for stability.

The indecision and woolly British approach, underlined by a complete lack of political direction, stand in stark contrast.
The UK for once has a lesson to learn from the US. That's what the Iraqis tell me. (Tim Collins in the Radio Times , 8 Mar 2008)
In these 5 years, a convenient and simple narrative has been constructed, with a few lumpy bits left out.

First, "there was no connection between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda". No doubt there were many exaggerated claims. One standard rebuttal I have heard on the BBC is that Saddam Hussein was indisputably connected with the first attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993, but I have not recently heard anybody mention Ansar al-Islam. There is considerable dispute about this: their base was in Iraq, but in a part, up close against the de facto Kurdish area and Iran, not really under the control of the former regime. However, it remains that the Peshmerga, with the support of the US, drove them from their stronghold in April 2003, though some of them may have escaped to Iran and subsequently infiltrated back into Iraq.

Second, weapons of mass destruction: even Tim Collins says, "I think it's a matter of historical fact now that the nation was  misled." It's as well, though, to remember who was the chief misleader: to repeat myself yet again, up until December 2002, Saddam Hussein led his generals to believe Iraq had chemical and biological weapons to fight with.

I did hear one BBC reporter say that the Iraq war has lasted almost as long as the Second World War. Well, only 8 months to go, or 11 if you don't forget the war in Japan (small details like Hiroshima). It has certainly lasted longer than the Spanish Civil War. Actually, I think it is correct to regard that 1936-9 conflict, together with the Second World War, as an almost continuous struggle against fascism.