Politics, Philosophy, Polemics

Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

From the Vaults: Mao the Trotskyist

In China, From the Vaults, Trotskyism on February 16, 2012 at 7:32 AM

The extract that I copy below from a British newspaper article amused me:

Chinese are called Trotskyist

Mark Frankland
The Observer, October 13, 1963, p1.

Moscow October 12

A VETERAN MEMBER of the Soviet Communist Party and onetime aide and friend of Lenin today attacked the policies of the Chinese Leadership as “a Trotskyist attempt at a revision of Leninism on an international scale.”

Writing in the government paper Izvestia, the 80-year-old Yelena Stasova said that the battle against the Chinese leadership “must be waged with all the implacability and consistency with which Lenin and the whole party conducted it in the period of the struggle against Trotskyism.”


From the Vaults: A defector reveals tactics of Trotskyists in the work place

In From the Vaults, Trotskyism on February 14, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Roger Rosewell had been a full-time worker for International Socialists, the forerunner organisation to of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP), for five years in the 1970s.  He knew how the Party operated because he had been an operator. He used to direct shopfloor members and shop stewards in how to manipulate disputes between workers and management. He ultimately defected from the party and in 1982 his booklet, Dealing with the Marxist Threat to Industry, was published. It was here that Rosewell accused Trotskyist groups of “systematic, undemocratic, elitist manipulation” of workers. Reporting on this publication, John Ezard for The Guardian described the tactics that  Rosewell explained that the SWP and other Trotskysists used:

    • Positioning shop stewards so that only they could see and count a show of hands.
    • Deliberate cramming of indoor meetings into insufficiently large halls without seats so that workers could not see around them and could be misled by extremists planted near them into believing that a strike was overwhelmingly popular.
    • Training of activists in public speaking tricks which showed them how to smear moderate trade unionists as “cowards” or “bosses’ men.”
    • Misleading reports on negotiations with employers so that alternatives to strike action were foreclosed.

As Ezard put it:

The priority was conflict and a weakening of the capitalist economy rather than pay benefits for the workforce.

 Rosewell’s booklet was published thirty years ago. I doubt much has changed.


John Ezard, “Trotsky defector tells how to beat activists,” The Guardian, March 3, 1982 p2.

From the Vaults: New York Times, Feb 27, 1992

In Abortion on February 13, 2012 at 8:00 PM

This is a cross post by Michael Ezra. It was originally posted on Harry’s Place on February 12th 2012, 2:15 pm

I enclose an extract from an article that appeared in the New York Times on February 27, 1992. Some may recall the story as the case was reported around the world:

Irish Court Says Girl Can Leave to Obtain Abortion in Britain


The New York Times, February 27, 1992. P1.

DUBLIN, Feb. 26 — The Irish Supreme Court ruled today that it was legal for a 14-year-old pregnant girl who says she was raped to travel to Britain for an abortion.

Overturning a lower-court ruling that had provoked wide controversy, the five-member court, in a one-line decision, allowed the girl to travel. Abortion is not permitted in Ireland unless a mother’s life is at stake.

It was the ban on travel, imposed by the Irish Attorney General’s office, that touched off much of the controversy. The ban seemed to run afoul of stipulations by the European Community, of which Ireland is a member, allowing its citizens the right to travel freely within the community.

The girl, whose identity has not been disclosed, says she was made pregnant in December in a rape by the father of a friend. The girl’s family told the Irish police that it planned to obtain an abortion in London, where the procedure is legal. It asked the police if they wanted forensic evidence from the operation to use in their investigation of the case. No charges have been brought.

But the nation’s Attorney General, Harry Whelehan, a vigorous opponent of any sanctioning of abortion, intervened, telling the family that it would be breaking Irish law if the operation was performed. The girl and her parents, who had gone to London in the meantime, returned to Ireland, and an uproar broke out here and abroad about the law, and about the rights of the girl and of the fetus.

Today’s decision freed the girl to leave Ireland to have the abortion, but did not overturn the abortion law, which is supported by Article 8 of the Constitution. A number of questions on the issue remain unanswered, and after the court announces the basis of its decision, the Government may face a decision on whether to try to revise the Constitution.

The case became known as the “X case” as the name of the girl in question was not revealed. We are now 20 years on but legislation has still not been passed in Ireland allowing girls and women access to abortion where their life is in danger. A group called Action on X has formed and requests that a petition is signed encouraging the Irish government to legislate on the matter. Without wishing to embroil myself in the wider abortion debate, the limited aim of the petition, to allow abortion where a woman’s “life is in danger,” seems far less controversial and not unreasonable to me.

Hat Tip: Julie Burchill

Bill Niskanen and redistribution

In Taxation on February 11, 2012 at 9:55 AM

As can be seen on the “About” page, this blog is opposed to anybody who would forcibly remove one eye from a fully sighted person and redistribute it to a blind person. While the whole idea of redistributing body parts may seem obscure, the reason the example was originally mentioned by those such as Ayn Rand and Robert Nozick was to suggest that there is little moral difference between forcibly redistributing body parts and forcibly redistributing income or other assets via the method of taxation.

Bill Niskanen, a former Reagan economist and  Chairman of the Cato Institute’s Board of Directors, recently passed away. In his book, Autocratic, Democratic, and Optimal Government, Niskanen also attacked redistribution of income by suggesting that there are other factors that ought to be considered for an individual’s well being. He does this via the use of a stark example:

One young man is healthy and handsome, spends his days on the beach, has his pick of young women companions, and makes $10,000 a year by busing tables in the evening. Another young man is confined to a wheelchair, has congenital body odor, has never had an intimate relationship, and, with no other life, makes $100,000 a year as an expert computer programmer. In this case, who is worse off? Who should redistribute what to whom and how?

A very good question!

Hat Tip: Andrew Murphy.

The Death Penalty for a Tweet?

In Freedom of Expression on February 11, 2012 at 6:47 AM

This is a cross post by Michael Ezra. It was originally posted on Harry’s Place on February 10, 2012, 11:55 pm

The quote below is from an article, published today, by Freedom House:

Freedom House is deeply concerned about the detention by Malaysian authorities of Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari, who fled Saudi Arabia to escape death threats for allegedly insulting the prophet Mohammad on Twitter. The 23-year-old Kashgari is at imminent risk of extradition to Saudi Arabia, where he faces charges of blasphemy that can carry the death penalty.

On Saturday, February 4, Kashgari posted a series of introspective tweets about the Prophet Mohammad on the prophet’s birthday, prompting personal attacks on social media from Saudi citizens and religious figures, and calls for his execution. Although Kashgari removed the posts and apologized for any offense, the Saudi government issued an official call for his detention, prompting him to flee the country. He was detained February 9 in the Kuala Lumpur airport after Saudi officials tracked his travel plans. He has been denied access to legal counsel during his detention in Malaysia, which also has anti-blasphemy laws that carry severe penalties….

The Saudi government has put out a warrant for Kashgari’s arrest, which reports say came directly from the King, and its Fatwa Council has issued a fatwa, or religious edict, calling him an apostate and calling for his prosecution. His Twitter feed has been deleted, although it is not clear by whom.

Paul Chambers might count himself lucky.

From the Vaults: New York Times, April 28, 1976

In From the Vaults, Trotskyism on February 10, 2012 at 3:01 PM

Below I copy a short article that appeared in the New York Times in 1976. I believe the piece adequately demonstrates the heroic resistance of Swedish Trotskyists against the bourgeois capitalist system. I wonder if they considered their revolutionary activity to be an astounding success.

Publication of the Answers Cancels Swedish Math Test

New York Times, April 28, 1976, p.44.

STOCKHOLM, April 27 (Agence France-Presse)–Swedish officials have been forced to cancel tomorrow’s nationwide mathematics examinations because a leftist newspaper has published the answers to the tests.

The newspaper, the Trotskyist Mulldaven, said its publication of the answers should serve to “demonstrate the absurdity” of the system of grading according to achieved marks. Education officials have no idea how Mulldaven acquired the answers.

Ben White #fail

In Israel on February 10, 2012 at 2:56 PM

This was originally posted at Harry’s Place on February 6, 2012 at 2:00pm

Ben White, he who has no objections to positively citing Holocaust Deniers,  is at it again: attacking Israel in an article in the New Statesman.  In this latest screed, White repeats the information about “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians. The truth surrounding such allegations have been dealt with extensively elsewhere, not least by Benny Morris. White is aware of this, but chooses to ignore the fact and propagate the same old distorted narrative. He is also frothing at the mouth because Michael Walzer said:

I think there is a sense in which Israel, I mean green line Israel, is right now politically a state of all its citizens.

White attacks Walzer for presenting no evidence for this assertion and then tries to dismiss it. My interest was piqued by his following words:

there is a distinction in Israel between ‘citizenship’ and ‘nationality’, a difference missed by English speakers, who tend to use the terms interchangeably. Professor David Kretzmer, law scholar at Hebrew University and member of the International Commission of Jurists, has written how this concept of ‘nation’ “strengthens the dichotomy between the state as the political framework for all its citizens and the state as the particularistic nation-state of the Jewish people”.

It just so happens that I have a copy of the relevant and scholarly book: David Kretzmer, The Legal Status of the Arabs in Israel (Westview Press, 1990). If one ignores the comma that White left out from the quote, he has not otherwise misquoted Kretzmer, but what he has done is be deliberately evasive by only quoting half of the sentence. The sentence in full, which can be found on page 44 of the book, is as follows but I emphasize part of the sentence which was left out by White:

Registration of “nation” is irrelevant  in determining the rights and obligations of citizens, but strengthens the dichotomy between the state as the political framework for all its citizens, and the state as the particularistic nation-state of the Jewish people.

Moreover, as Kretzmer states on page 43, something White must surely have read:

Israeli law does not make duties or obligations dependent on one’s nation or religion.

Perhaps, next time, Ben White will be more honest in his writings about Israel. I am not holding my breath.