Dave Dudley,  Islamism

Back In Tha Day: Donovan v Pitt

A couple of weeks after 9/11, the Weekly Worker – the newspaper of the pretend Communist Party of Great Britain – hosted a debate between Ian Donovan and Bob Pitt.

Donovan’s immediate reaction was that revolutionary socialists should resist the urge to defend “fanatical, ultra-religious movements with ‘anti-imperialist’ pretensions, particularly in the muslim world”: a mindset which he termed ““reactionary anti-imperialism”. Donovan feared that this was precisely what the far Left would end up doing:

In some cases, the overt influence of Stalinist ideology or ‘left’ anti-American chauvinism have led some of the most odious ultra-Stalinist currents to overtly hail these bloodthirsty, reactionary attacks (though this has proved too much even for many of these types to stomach). The rantings of such people aside, some of the programmatic errors that lead to such deranged conclusions have a wider influence on elements with very much more contact with social reality. They have not produced the kind of nonsense peddled by one ardent Stalinist and Socialist Labour Party member, who loudly called for “two, three, many New Yorks” on the UK Left Network internet discussion list.

Donovan went on to quote Lenin:

“With regard to the more backward states and nations, in which feudal or patriarchal or patriarchal-peasant relations predominate, it is particularly important to bear in mind …  the need to combat pan-islamism and similar trends, which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialism with an attempt to strengthen the position of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc …”

He mocked attempts by others on the far Left to mine “sacred works of ‘communist’ scripture” for “out-of-context quotes” that would allow them to support the Islamists: pointing out that what Lenin was arguing for in urging support for the defeat of imperialism in Abyssina, was the defence of the right to national self determination. The lessons of the 1930s couldn’t be applied to today’s situation:

Self-evidently, a rather different situation exists today. The major powers have no ambition and no need to even attempt to reconquer the colonial empires that dominated the world in the first half of the 20th century – not even Tony Blair’s ‘plans’ for Africa propose that. Indeed, the very idea is absurd.

Donovan’s heart was pure. He’d have no siding with reactionary bourgeois Islamists on his watch.

Bob Pitt was scathing in his response to Donovan. He did what he always does to his political opponents – smeared him as a racist:

Ian’s attitude towards the September 11 attacks in the US is coloured by the same contemptuous dismissal of anti-imperialism. It is because they recognise the existence of a mass anti-imperialist sentiment across the third world, and the need for socialists to get a hearing among those holding such views, that groupings such as the Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Labour Party, while making it clear that they oppose terrorism and deplore the loss of civilian lives, have avoided using the word ‘condemn’ in relation to the September 11 events. Ian denounces this as a “liberal [sic] tendency to simply tail third world nationalism”. …

Because this sort of mass anti-imperialism fails to condemn terrorism when it is directed against an oppressor state, because it is sometimes influenced by militant islamic fundamentalism, in short because it lacks commitment to the sort of ‘civilised’ values upheld by western self-styled Marxists like Ian, he believes that it lacks any progressive features. According to this view, the masses will be permitted to enter into struggle against imperialism only once they have abandoned their ‘backwardness’ and adopted a socialist ideology which measures up to Ian’s own rigorous standards. He would call this principled revolutionary politics; I would call it racist arrogance.

Donovan was undaunted. Three years on, in 2004, he looked upon the appaling vista of the Islamist-Trotskyite-Galloweenian alliance that calls itself RESPECT, and did not like what he saw. Here he is laying into that party’s position on Galloway’s militant anti-abortion voting record:

Instead of a fight for political clarity, and thus for clear policies based on the actual views of participants and reached by majority decision, the SWP is in the habit of playing down principled questions in pursuit of the lowest common denominator. Sometimes the approach leads to such inconsistencies as to produce laughable results. But it is hardly a laughing matter if, because of the combination of comrade Galloway’s political weakness (on this question he is an unreconstructed catholic) and the SWP’s opportunism, Respect appears by default to have a position that is flatly counterposed to the interests of the female half of the population. That will not earn us ‘respect’ at all. …

Regarding abortion rights, and the pre-history of Respect, it is notable that the original draft of the Monbiot-Yaqoob statement included in it a significant phrase calling for “the self-determination of every individual in relation to their religious (or non-religious) beliefs, as well as {I}sexual and reproductive choices{$}” (my emphasis). George Monbiot made clear right at the beginning that he had played effectively no role in drafting this statement, which thus appears to have been drafted by an apparently pro-choice Salma Yaqoob. A redraft was produced shortly afterwards – it is rumoured by the SWP’s Alex Callinicos – in which the phrase “sexual and reproductive choices” was replaced with “lifestyle choices”. This semantic change is barely noticeable, but is now clearly revealed to have been a fudge – of course “lifestyle choices” could include “sexual and reproductive choices”, but it ain’t necessarily so. One is driven to suspect that this alteration was agreed to by the SWP – not only because of comrade Galloway’s beliefs, but in order to win over MAB and the so-called muslim community.

So, can somebody explain to me: how did Ian Donovan end up in the Galloway faction of RESPECT?

Have I made some mistake here. Is this a different Ian Donovan from the one who once condemned the sort of politics that RESPECT Renewal exemplifies?