News - September 2000


Letter to Weekly Worker - 22nd September 2000

When Mark Fisher writes, that the Red Action call for 'a review' of LSA strategies and tactics in regard to refugee issue was "overwhelmingly defeated" at the steering committee meeting on September 5th, he is of course correct, but it is not the entire story. Indeed the issue is far from being either clear cut, or resolved. While acknowledging that the CPGB has some "sympathy", with the resolution, but abstained, he omits to mention in his report that others were similarly ambivalent. Joining the CPGB in refusing to vote against the resolution, were, along with the RDG delegate, two 'independents' elected from the conference floor in June. With the addition of the Red Action delegate, this took the dissident vote to six, about 20% of those present.

In addition to these six, a delegate for the Socialist Party had also argued strongly that the resolution should not be 'dismissed' out of hand. After the meeting, a delegate for yet another organisation, who, while having voting against the resolution, admitted she had felt 'uncomfortable' with the way the debate had been conducted. Mainly because as she explained, while those opposing the resolution argued that 'Refugees Welcome here' slogan had proved a 'vote winner' in Haringey, when she went to canvass she was instructed 'not to bring race into it, unless they do'.

Similarly in marathon discussions around the same subject on the UK Left discussion page, Alliance for Workers Liberty member, and LSA candidate Janine Booth was prepared to acknowledge, that at least in relation to the specific criticisms around the slogan 'Refugees welcome here', "Red Action were right".

Now we have Mike Marqusee, who argued vociferously against the need for any 'review' on September 5, more or less calling for precisely that in the letters pages of this paper little more than a week later. (Weekly Worker September 14) Marqusee now argues that the real importance of any slogan "is what particular resonance it has in the minds of the people to whom it is addressed". He then adds that "it is idle to expect any single slogan... to strike the same chord among the many different sections of a fragmented class." The limitations of a slogan like 'Asylum Seekers welcome here!' he admits "is that it doesn't make anyone do anything, it make no demands on anyone but ourselves."

And particularly in light of "Labour's proposals to recruit selected skilled immigrants" a way must be found, he concludes, "to express the underlying class content of the issue."

It may startle some of your readers to discover, that these are points Red Action whole heartedly endorse. In point of fact, it was precisely these arguments in support of the need for an 'urgent review' within the LSA, which were heavily flagged on September 5. If everyone had been entirely candid, then the LSA steering committee vote may well have been 'overwhelmingly', but with the opposite result. As has previously been pointed out, a certain prejudice against Red Action, also extends, as is evident from the content of the letters pages here, to that half of the class, not visibly represented within the LSA. If that is to change, then it is the LSA rather than the section of the class to whom the slogans are addressed, which will have to change - first. As we cautioned, at the outset of the debate, this it is not really a matter of 'changing slogans but mind-sets'.

Though the era of the sect is over, facilitating such a transformation, as this example shows, will not be easy - but it can be done. Indeed, as is also increasingly evident the credibility, and indeed very survival, of the LSA depends precisely on such a re-orientation. For, as recent events demonstrate, neither momentum nor time is on our side.

Joe Reilly


17th September 2000

Confirmed speakers are now:
RED PEPPER (political editor)
MIKE MARQUESE (London Socialist Alliance)

(ARTHUR SCARGILL has yet to confirm)


Reproduced from Anti-Fascist Action

12th September 2000

Forthcoming Event - Sunday 1st October.
Venue - The Lux Cinema, 2-4 Hoxton Square, London N1 6NU. (nearest tube Old Street)

Starts 2pm. Admission Free.


Speakers: CPGB, RED PEPPER (political editor), RED ACTION, MIKE MARQUESE (London Socialist Alliance), SWP (invited), ARTHUR SCARGILL (invited).

Questions and contributions will be taken from the audience.


September 12th 2000

Mark Fischer (Reproduced from The Weekly Worker)

The London Socialist Alliance steering committee met on September 5. On the agenda were a number of important questions, not least our strategic election now bearing down on us...Two resolutions were to the meeting. The first - motivated by London Red Action - had been held over from the LSA's previous meeting on August 1. This addressed perceived problems with the LSA's approach on the issues of "race and immigration", areas where "the left is not winning the argument". Thus the LSA's tactics are "in need of urgent review".

The majority of the meeting was hostile to the comrades' criticism's. In particular, the attack on the slogan 'Refugees welcome here!' was rejected. The LSA's candidate in June's by-election in Tottenham - SWPer Weyman Bennet -cited examples from the campaign that supposedly belied the RA analysis. He mentioned several meetings where he had "got a round of applause" for bringing out the 'welcome' slogan. The Tories were even "chased" at one point in the campaign by angry voters "outraged" at their racism.

This simply avoids the issue. CPGBer Mark Fischer pointed to the the social context in which we addressed questions such as the furore around refugees. In contrast to the nonsense peddled by the SWP, the political scene is not characterised by a growing polarisation between a hard right and a hard left.

Overwhelmingly, mass consciousness in Britain leans in a reactionary direction. One concrete manifestation of this is a widespread, deeply bitter hostility to refugees and asylum-seekers who are often seen - incredibly - as 'privileged' state-sponsored competitors for scarce local resources.

There were areas of agreement between London RA's motion and the positions of the CPGB's comrades on the steering committee, but also important areas of difference. Thus, while we expressed sympathy with of the ideas flagged up by the comrades for discussion, we abstained on the vote for the resolution itself.

Predictably it was overwhelmingly defeated. On our initative, however, the meeting did agree to sponsor the Anti-Fascist Action debate at the Lux cinema on October 1, where hopefully the vital issues raised in this truncated discussion can be explored more extensively.


9th September 2000

Armed with full colour glossy posters of their hero, the campaign for the release of UDA/UFF death squad leader, Johnny Adair, found its way to Westminster this afternoon. The posters carried by UDA supporters outside the gates of Downing Street bore the slogans, "VICTIMISATION – Free Johnny Adair Now – His only crime is Loyalism."

Adair’s wife, Gina, accompanied by two other loyalists (one of whom looked suspiciously like the convicted gunrunner, Frank Portinari) handed in a petition calling for her husband’s immediate release from prison. Johnny Adair was re-arrested and imprisoned during the recent loyalist feud at the behest of Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Mandelson, on the grounds that he was directing a campaign of terror against his rivals in the UVF.

Thomas Potts, an Ulsterman billed as the "Loyalist Protest Leader", was interviewed by Sky News. Mr Potts said, "Johnny Adair is 100% behind the Good Friday Agreement and surely he should be released to continue the work that he has started."

Perhaps sensing that not all in the north of Ireland share Potts’ estimation of Johnny as a peacemaker, the Sky reporter replied that, "Mr. Mandelson would argue that he was fomenting violence; that he was provoking the violence."

Pott’s chilling retort was, "Prove it. Present the evidence to that case."

One other curious aspect of the lobby was the protesters themselves. Clearly, it was a tiny minority of the placard carriers who had made the journey from Ireland. The rest were a motley collection of men wearing England baseball-caps in an effort to hide their faces and a crew of skinheads from the National Front.

As well as Frank Portinari, another convicted loyalist gunrunner and leading NF member, Terry Blackham, was pictured by Sky News wearing the UDA T-Shirt favoured by Adair and those who marched with him recently at Drumcree. It bore the slogan, "Simply The Best – UDA – Their only crime is Loyalism."


7th September 2000

At the London Socialist Alliance Steering Committee Meeting on September 5, the issue over LSA slogans and policy on the refugee and immigration issue generally, was debated. The debate followed the raising of the Red Action resolution at last Steering Committee meeting on August 1st.
It read:
'In light of the 80,000 votes for the BNP in May, the doubling of recorded racial incidents, the overt hostility encountered by some LSA canvassers in Haringey, plus the Tories, despite playing the race card themselves, being knocked into third place by the BNP in the Bexley by-election, this meeting recognises that the left is not winning the argument on the issue of race and immigration, and the LSA support for current tactics and strategies are in need of urgent review.'

Supporting the resolution, the Red Action delegate began by saying : 'I may, as they say, be stating 'the bleeding obvious' here, but anti-racism and anti-fascism mean by definition that someone else is setting the agenda. An agenda we are forced to respond to. Anti-racism is therefore a defensive formation. How defensive is determined by the size and potential of the threat.'
'All our experience, as well as independent research by others, demonstrates the size and potential of the threat to be considerable'.
'To such an extent that we no longer believe it to be wise 'to continue to fight on grounds of our opponents choosing', which is to say on the grounds of race alone. In line with this, wherever possible rather than continue to go along with the racialistion of every debate, the LSA even on the issue of immigration should strive to displace race with class and socialise the issue instead. '
Referring to a comment made earlier, along the lines that 'the LSA should brace it self for low votes in the up-coming General Election' the Red action delegate concluded by stating bluntly that unless the LSA change tack 'we should also brace ourselves not just for low votes in working class communities but, be prepared to be totally overtaken by the far-right in the fight for the protest vote in London'.

In a supporting document submitted prior to the meeting, the slogan 'Refugees Welcome Here!' was particularly criticised as an example of why the Left was failing. A particular fault of the slogan was that it was presented as 'a free-standing principle with not even a nod in the direction of class'.

Moreover rather than try and 'wrestle back the initiative' a slogan such as this, is 'content to fight it out on the basis of the race filled agenda of our opponents'. Rather than challenge the 'racialisation of the debate' it instead goes along with it.

Worse 'Refugees Welcome Here!' can be read (or misread) as a 'unilateral declaration of intent'; or at least of 'full blooded' LSA support 'for a policy to be imposed on the community' without any call for consultation.
Besides which, a policy statement that regards any response other than 'welcome' as 'reactionary' runs the obvious danger of 'becoming self-fulfilling'.

Because of these failings, and others, such propaganda can prove devastating, not only to the electoral credibility of the LSA in working class communities, but in the worst case scenario 'it can lay down welcome mats for the likes of the BNP to step forward and represent those sections of the working class [the bottom third of society] currently unrepresented.'

A debate followed. Right off, all too predictably the Red Action delegate was challenged, that the true motivation behind the resolution, was not as inferred one of 'presentation' but was instead more to do with a rejection of 'opposition to immigration controls per se'. 'It this the true?' the Red Action delegate was asked. 'No' was the terse reply.

A spokesperson for the SWP remarked that it (the slogan and the stance) was a proven 'vote winner'. LSA candidate in Haringey Weyman Bennett concurred; pointing out that 'in every meeting I spoke at I was applauded for this stance'. 'Inevitably' he went on 'class' had [our emphasis] to come into it anyway' when canvassing due to the racist lies of Haringey Council.

The CPGB commented wryly, that if the overall presentation of the argument has such widespread support, then 'it was a pity the call 'to smash all immigration controls' (ie LSA policy) was dropped for the duration of the campaign'.

A Socialist Party representative warned people not to be in such 'a hurry to condemn' the resolution out of hand. Citing an incident on the Isle of Dogs in 1993, where his party intervened in a large hostile meeting, and merely by injecting a class argument into the debate ('suggesting yuppies flats should be occupied'),
created the positive effect of 'splitting', the up to then racist consensus, and 'the meeting'.
It was a valuable insight how and why the class argument could not be dismissed tactically.

Summing up the Red Action delegate remarked 'that while practically every speaker who defended the Refugees Welcome Here slogan did so in the 'context of class'; 'class' in any context was precisely what was 'not contained in the slogan'.

He also drew attention to 'the shortfall of up £50,000,000 which according to the Association of London Authorities will be owed to local councils by central government for the up keep of refugees by the end of the year ' as a more suitable target, other than working class communities, for the LSA to campaign on.

'As it stands' he continued 'propaganda that doesn't explain and doesn't convince, won't effect immigration policy, won't positively effect how refugee communities are treated, but can do tremendous damage to the credibility of the LSA'.

'In France' he reminded ' the left organised million strong marches behind not dissimilar slogans such as 'Hands off my Friend!'. Repeated polls recently put racist sentiment at 67%'. 'Ignore France look at the rest of Europe -are we winning?' There is nothing the LSA is doing over here' he warned 'to distinguish it from what they were doing over there'.

In the vote that followed, it came as no surprise that the Trotskyite bloc voted for the status quo. More than a little curiously, this capitulation included the Socialist Party, who had in the discussion put forward some of the best arguments in support of the resolution for a review. Without the SP, the 'dissidents' were reduced to about 20% of the committee. Barring the Red Action delegate not a single one voted for the resolution. But rather than vote against the call for a 'review', a substantial number abstained instead. Among the 'dissidents' were two delegates for the Communist Party Great Britain (CPGB), plus the delegate for the Revolutionary Democratic Group (RDG) along with two 'independents' who had been elected directly from the floor at the LSA conference in June. Afterwards yet another delegate who had actually voted against the RA recommendation, admitted she was 'uncomfortable' at the way the meeting was conducted. Her unease in part due to the fact that during the Haringey by-election she was told when canvassing 'to avoid bringing up race unless they the public do' thereby confirming suspicions of hypocrisy raised by the CPGB.

Across the Europe the Left are in denial. So penetrated by liberal thinking is the Socialist Left, there is the notion that any mention of 'class' could, and should be shut out of the public debate. Any attempt to 'bring politics into it' is considered 'ill-conceived', 'wrong headed', 'dangerous', 'racist', and 'reactionary'. The thinking behind such hysteria is two fold: a) 'we are winning' so why fix something that isn't broken and b) the contrary charge that bringing the working class interests into it is 'a dangerous capitulation to the agenda of the far-right'!
Thus we have a situation whereby those that recognise the urgent need and advantage of replacing race with class at the centre of the debate, are accused of being motivated by race themselves!

But as much of Europe shows, liberal arguments such as 'Refugees Welcome Here!' ultimately are no barrier to 'common sense nationalism'. The left who stand, or hide behind such slogans, automatically deny a working base to themselves, and in so doing generally gift it to the far-right instead. Faced with this contradiction the Left in Germany have resolved the problem by denying the existence of the working class itself!
There is no such 'logic' behind current LSA thinking.

In twelve months time it will be facing a General Election, committed to locking the working class communities out of any democratic debate on the issue of immigration - and at the same time asking for their trust on everything else. It won't wash. It doesn't work anywhere else in Europe and it won't work here. Sooner or later something, will have to give.


Danny Morrison (Andersonstown News)

7th September 2000

"A load of old women," is how UFF commander Johnny Adair once
described his colleagues in the Ulster Democratic Party. Recently,
Adair dismissed UDP leader Gary McMichael as 'toothless'. So you can
imagine how taken he is by his UVF and PUP cousins.

To dismiss the UFF/UVF feud as a 'turf war' over drugs and
racketeering would be a grave error. What is taking place is a
realignment within loyalist paramilitarism with the objective of
destroying the Agreement.

While the UVF has butchered Catholics in the past, it appears to be
committed to the peace process, despite evidence that it has imported
new weapons. It is less corrupt than the UFF - though all these
things are relative. Its political wing,the PUP, has at least a
mandate, though small, with two representatives, Billy
Hutchinson and David Ervine in the Assembly. The UFF, on the other
hand, has little stake in politics, and is divided over the Agreement.

Under Adair the Shankill Brigade of the UFF was responsible for the
attacks on the Devenish Arms and the depot in Kennedy Way, the deaths
of Philomena Hanna, Damien Walsh, and Alan Lundy, among others. It
was around this time that Adair earned the sobriquet, 'Mad Dog', of
which he is proud. Last week he cheerily introduced his two-year-old
son to a reporter as 'Mad Pup'.

Whilst driving a journalist from the 'Guardian' around the Shankill
in 1993 he discovered she was a Catholic and told her with grisly
connotation that Catholics normally travelled in the boot of his car.
He also boasted to RUC men in the street about his activities and
that he was untouchable. He didn't know that he was being secretly
recorded until he was arrested and charged in 1994 with 'directing
terrorism'. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to sixteen years.

In the H-Blocks he was filmed by a BBC documentary team against a
back-drop of wall murals, some of which read: 'Yabba, Yabba, Doo,/Any
Fenian Will Do'; 'Kill 'Em All,/ Let God Sort 'Em Out'.

Released last September he made no attempt to usurp the current
Brigade Commander of the Shankill UFF simply because this man was an
ally who shared Adair's opposition to the Belfast Agreement. And,
anyway, Adair's authority and following, derived from his reputation
for ruthlessness, stretches well beyond Belfast. Dismissive of the
more reasonable Gary McMichael, he preferred the company of the
UDP's John White, a double murderer, who enjoys a lavish lifestyle
but denies being a drug baron. He says that he has been lucky in
property speculation and with his investments. Of course.

The LVF was set up by the late Billy Wright who split from the UVF
over its cease-fire. It is based mainly in Portadown and in parts of
County Antrim. Three years ago the UVF unsuccessfully attempted to
crush it. After Wright's assassination in Long Kesh the LVF
floundered for a time but last January it killed UVF Commander, Bobby
Jameson. The killings then spread to Belfast as the LVF appeared to
become more assertive. However, the UVF strongly suspected that
although the shootings were either claimed by or attributed to the
LVF, the fingerprints of a certain UFF area commander were all over

This summer Adair attempted to emulate his hero, the late Billy
Wright, by appearing alongside the Portadown Orangemen at Drumcree.
His appearance a short time later, clapping an LVF show of strength,
was meant to emphasise a continuity. When the Orange demand to get
marching down Garvaghy Road was backed up by UFF and LVF violence,
mainstream unionists were dismayed at the destruction. The presence
of Johnny Adair, and the refusal of Mr Eloquence, District Master
Harold Gracey, to condemn the violence, resulted in a debacle for the
Orangemen at Drumcree.

All the evidence points to Adair trying to establish a new
organisation (reportedly to be called the Loyalist Freedom Fighters)
made up from the LVF, his UFF associates, and religious
fundamentalists in the Orange Volunteers and Red Hand Commandos. It
was his 'C' Company that in July threatened to carry out reprisals
against Catholics for 'a recent series of attacks on Protestant
homes', only for the Housing Executive, supported by the RUC, to deny
that Protestants had been attacked. Figures showed that the only
people recently intimidated from their homes were eleven Catholic
families. Homework is not one of Johnny's strong points.

Days later a number of houses on the Shankill Road did have their
windows smashed in an incident which is generally believed to have
been contrived. This was quickly followed by gangs of UFF men driving
into Catholic areas, shooting-up streets, paint-bombing houses and
smashing up cars in a blatant attempt to provoke the IRA into
breaking its cease-fire and having Sinn Fein removed from the
power-sharing executive.

Months of planning had gone into last week's 'carnival', an
exclusively-UFF event, complete with masked and uniformed men and a
firing party on stage. The centrepiece was the unveiling of sectarian
and triumphalist murals along the length of the Shankill Road,
effectively claiming all of it as UFF territory. The UVF believed it
had an agreement with the UFF that there would be no LVF presence.
As we now know an LVF flag was flaunted outside a UVF-patronised pub
and the long-simmering feud was sparked.

The UVF retaliated on Monday by killing Jackie Coulter and Bobby
Mahood. These killings have had the effect of uniting the UFF, some
of whose Brigade Commanders, despise the megalomaniac Adair.

The significance of Peter Mandelson's decision to deploy British
soldiers instead of drafting in extra RUC officers has not been lost
on nationalists. Clearly, the Protestant RUC could not be totally
trusted to police its own people on the Shankill. It was only after
Adair repeatedly embarrassed the authorities that the RUC were
ordered to arrest him. The UFF and the UVF have rejected calls for
mediation and have predicted further reprisals.

Meantime, the man primarily responsible for this latest outbreak of
violence, which has left the Protestant community living in sheer
terror, is sitting with his feet up in a cell in Maghaberry Prison -
probably the safest place for him.


2nd September 2000

Scotland RA members attended a meeting on 24th Aug about a forthcoming demonstration in Prague on 26th Sept. This was set up by the SWP and backed by the SSP. Speakers were an SSP member, who was there representing CND, and a leading member of Socialist Worker. The gist of the meeting was that Prague is the culmination of all resentment to capitalism and Labour. For the uninitiated you would believe that the revolution is days away. The line was that the demo involved the linking of all issues, ie poor wages, exploitation of the third world, green issues, the rich having it all, nuclear weapons, unions etc . Not one mention of unemployment or crap housing - issues relevant to schemes etc.

IWCA and Red Action leaflets were distributed. RA members spoke to some of the people present and asked if they believed that a person living in poor conditions in say Easterhouse would appreciate them going to Prague supposedly representing their anger or would they tell them to piss off and go and vote for someone who was actually trying to do something about their problems. Their justification was just the smoke screen of "its about linking all problems" and "the Prague demonstration is not at the expense of the other work they are involved in". What this is is hard to see.