*Executive Response to Criticism is to Restrict Democracy Further

Last summer, 13 of us (subsequently 27) sent a letter to Palestine Solidarity Campaign Executive. It is copied below*: As can be seen, we raised issues concerning the way PSC was being run. In the Annual Report of PSC Executive, which has just been sent (to some people) it states that ‘in August a group of 13 people made unsubstantiated allegations to the EC.’

A cursory reading of the Open Letter demonstrates that it wasn’t alleging anything, merely asking questions. Having the audacity to raise such questions was, however, deemed an act of lese majeste. PSC Executive and its Socialist Action/Communist League components, don’t do accountability and transparency.

A Stalinist Charge Sheet from ex-Trotskyists

The whole of the relevant section of the Annual Report, ‘PSC Internal Matters’, is copied below.** It reads like a caricature of a Stalinist charge sheet during the Moscow Trials. We are not authors of a letter asking questions, we are ‘perpetrators’. We are not calling for a debate or discussion, we are subjecting the EC to ‘public calumny.’

And most shocking of all, the authors (including two who were the co-founders of PSC) are accused of ‘help(ing) those who want to see PSC fail in our efforts to build a mass movement.’ This is the big lie at the heart of the passage. If you oppose us you are on the side of the Zionists and want us to fail.

This kind of argument has a long pedigree. In the 1930’s, in Stalin’s Purges, Zinoviev, Kamenev etc. were accused of simultaneously being in league with Trotsky and agents of Hitler. The logic was that if you opposed Stalin you were bound to be a paid agent and lackey of Hitler.

It is the staple argument of the war monger. If you oppose ‘our troops’ you support the other side, a traitor in league with ‘our’ enemies. This was the argument of Thatcher and then Bush. If you oppose us you’re with General Galtiera/Saddam Hussein/Al Quaeda. It has all the intellectual and moral sophistication of the younger Bush, albeit without his eloquence.

In fact there is very little use the Zionists can make of debates inside the Palestine solidarity movement. It is a measure of the desperation of the PSC Execitove that instead of dealing with the arguments they resort to the kind of rhetorical device that McCarthy and his House of UnAmerican Affairs specialised in.

A couple of years ago UK and Israel JNF were at each others’ throats in the High Court. After the expenditure of millions of pounds, with virulent attacks on each other, they settled their differences. Did this affect support for the Zionists? Of course not. Support for the Israel and Zionism depends on things such as Israel’s latest war, their settlements, the discrimination etc., not whether Betty Hunter and Tony Greenstein don’t see eye to eye on whether PSC should be democratic or not.

Healthy debate in PSC, if it leads to a rejuvenated and vigorous organisation and serious thinking about where we are going and how we can best get there, can only do the cause of Palestine solidarity good. The idea that, in the name of Palestinian unity, critics of Socialist Action/CL should shut up, can only damage the very cause that they purport to support.

What PSC Executive are trying to achieve is some kind of para-Leninist command organisation. The Executive decides the priorities and campaigns and gives the orders and the membership blindly follow.

The problem is that some people have their own ideas and are not always convinced of the Executive’s god given wisdom. Especially when PSC Executive reacts in its normal, cautious, hesitant and sometimes hostile manner as it seeks to retain control over PSC. Because control freakery is the other side of their political timidity.

Democracy & PSC Priorities
Above all this is about democracy. PSC’s Executive Report complains that critics of the EC are not using PSC’s ‘democratic processes’ and resorting to blogs and open letters. But this begs the question – what democratic processes or forums are there to debate where PSC should be going or doing or how it should be conducting campaigns?

No doubt they exist within Socialist Action but not within PSC. There is no means, other than through personal contact, for PSC members to communicate and exchange ideas with other members across branches. In fact PSC Executive have made clear their dislike for the whole idea of regions – ‘another layer of bureaucracy’ in the words of their more sycophantic supporters.

In this debate PSC Executive have access to the whole of PSC’s machinery to attack a letter that most people haven’t seen. We have no such opportunities hence why this article has to be put on a public blog. Nor do we have unfettered access to PSC’s mailing list.

The libellous accusation therefore of wanting PSC to fail should be seen as exactly that – a libel no different from the Zionist lie that to be an anti-Zionist is to be an anti Semite.

It was similar behaviour by Socialist Action which helped lead to extremely unfavourable publicity for Ken Livingstone in London and his downfall. But at least Ken knew the political affiliations of those he appointed as his advisors. In PSC this information is hidden away andwhen challenged PSC Executive members deny that they are members of Socialist Action.

In the meantime SA are running PSC according to their political agenda. And at the top of that agenda is never, ever criticising the Palestinian leadership and Abbas, even if the latter is faithfully following Israel’s agenda by withdrawing the Goldstone Report from the UN’s Human Rights Committee.

Many on PSC Executive see its role as some kind of not campaigning but diplomatic. We are there to influence government and act as an adjunct to the quisling Palestinian Authority in Britain. And how? By lobbying individual MPs. In their eyes, Britain’s pro-Zionist political stand has nothing to do with economic interests, imperialism or domination, still less capitalism.

It is because individual MPs haven’t been ‘won over’. No doubt they will have even more fun with Cameron’s government given that 80% of Tory MPs are estimated to be in Conservative Friends of Israel.

When it comes to pickets and activities, PSC Executive are nearly all conspicuous by their absence. Most of PSC Executive are there not as activists but to make up the numbers. Ahava, Agrexco, the Windsor JNF picket, Barak picket – you’ll be lucky if more than one EC member attends at best. Two States is the objective and above all, it is important that a solidarity organisation engages in no internal debate about Palestine.

Because if there were a thorough going debate PSC would have to face up to the fact that not only is an independent Palestinian state impossible but that to continue to campaign for this now means in effect to accept that Israel is right to deny political and civil rights to the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza. That is the real apartheid. We have one state already, but nearly half the population have no rights whatsoever.

And it might also mean having to face up to the fact that Israel’s junior partners-in-crime are the Arab regimes. It was noticeable at the picket of the Egyptian Embassy over the attack on the Gaza Freedom March and Viva Palestina recently there was just one member of PSC.

The argument is often made that we are just a solidarity movement. But that is a cop-out. The first question that people often ask is what is our solutio. What do we want to see? Are we to say that we want to see Israel as a Jewish state established in harmony side by side with a Palestinian state? Do we accept that Israel, as a Zionist state is acceptable even behind the Green Line?

Is this a solution to the question of Return? What about Israeli Arabs? Of course in practice these issues are buried and ignored in the hope they will go away. This means illusions in the ‘peace process’, [‘Will Obama do this etc.]

An example of how PSC’s priorities are distorted is the Gaza convoy, Viva Palestina. When the first convoy went at the beginning of last year, PSC nationally did nothing to help organise support for it. Remarks such as we are a political organisation and this is merely charitable were made by officers.

But the recent convoy was supported (although the PSC Office didn’t let people know on a daily basis what was happening). So much so that Ms Collector went on it and Ms Colborne flew out to Egypt at one point. Why the change of heart? Because following the defeat of Ken Livingstone, Socialist Action have pulled out of entry work in the Labour Party and are now chasing George Galloway in Respect.

They have even revealed their existence in a newly created, albeit sparse, website. And if there is a falling out of love with GG then we can expect PSC to drop its enthusiasm for convoys. This is the kind of sleight of hand that most members of PSC knowing nothing about. PSC’s choice of a campaign is now inseparable from Socialist Action’s own political priorities.
Internal Matters

The section of the Annual Report on the resignation of 2 EC members is telling. Why were members of PSC not informed of the resignations? Why was the Branch Forum not told of the resignation of our Vice-Chair Kamal Hawwash and ex-Treasurer Zoe Mars? Why was there even an attempt to prevent them speaking?

Despite being ‘unsubstantiated’ the fact is, as Betty Hunter herself admitted to the Sheffield forum, that Sarah Colborne is a member of Socialist Action. She moved across from being Chair of PSC to Direction of Campaigns and Organisation. There is nothing wrong with this in itself, though it is unusual. And nor do I, or any of the signatories to the Open Letter, have any objection to PSC staff or EC members being members of any left-wing political organisation.

What we object to is when small and secretive groups (SA/CL) with at most a hundred members, actively conspire to take over another organisation and run it, PSC, in line with the political priorities of Socialist Action/CL.

‘Our recruitment practices are fair and in accordance with equal opportunities’ the Annual Report states, yet it also states that ‘in July Ruqayyah Collector was appointed as Campaigns and Communications Officer.’ Ms Collector was also the last member of the National Union of Students Executive, elected on the Student Broad Left slate. PSC’s Student Officer, Bryony Shanks, was SBL’s unsuccessful candidate for NUS Executive and a member of SA.

It is a matter of common knowledge that SBL is Socialist Action’s student front. It is puerile and dishonest to pretend otherwise. What PSC Executive have effectively done is sub-contract out its student work to the weakest of all the left political factions in NUS.

By any standards that is pretty stupid. Far from building alliances, as they claim, they are destroying any possibility of them. Hence why they were taken by surprise and at a loss to say anything, when a wave of occupations broke out in colleges and universities at the beginning of 2009 in protest at Israel’s savagery in Gaza.

And when one takes that with the short-term appointment of SA member Denis Fernando, the advertising for whose post was tightly restricted, this means that 3 of the last 3 staff appointments have been from one particular, small political faction. Is this really a coincidence? If so, the odds on winning the jackpot on the National Lottery are smaller.

Personal Abuse

The Annual Report speaks of ‘personal abuse’. Perhaps it was thinking of Hilary Wise’s e-mail of 10th February 2009 to me. This was her response to the fact that I had disclosed on this blog a secret memo from PSC Trade Union Officer Bernard Regan to cronies and friends in the trade unions (some not even members of PSC), urging them to come to PSC AGM to oppose any motions that sought to break links with Israel’s racist ‘union’ Histadrut and to vote in favour of his own slate.

‘Like everyone else I know and work with closely in PSC, I am interested in the issue of Palestine and am working hard to try and change the situation. I don’t recall ever having seen TG at any of the dozens of meetings, demos, vigils, lobbies film shows etc where you find genuinely committed activists.’

Strangely I’ve never seen Ms Wise at a demonstration in Brighton either, nor for that matter in London! PSC Executive’s attack dog followed this up at the September Sheffield Branch Forum when even her supporters tried to shut her up, accusing me of being a ‘wrecker’. Presumably she meant helping to found PSC! Or maybe PSC EC was thinking of the time when Dianne Langford, in an open letter last summer (circa September) bizarrely referred to

‘the letter addressed to you plus copies of various emails originating from Tony Greenstein, including one urging the Merton branch not to affiliate to PSC and trying to recruit members to join the `opposition’ to PSC.’

There was of course no e-mail to Merton branch, but why let that come between the facts and Ms Langford? Ms Langford’s previous claim to fame was ensuring that the SWP was kept off PSC’s Executive. Langford’s letter went on to allege that:

he [Tony Greenstein] and Roland Rance demanded that PSC should use its resources on a speaking tour denouncing Arafat and the PLO. The then National Secretary of PSC, John Gee, was castigated for standing firm on the principle of self-determination for the Palestinian people…. At the last AGM, while Gaza was still burning, valuable time was spent debating an unnecessary resolution on the issue of the Histadrut.’
The letter and e-mail Langford speaks about have only ever existed inside her head.

They are total inventions, but why let that get in the way of a good story? But Langford lets slip what is the purpose of her fantasies. Boycotting Histadrut, as every Palestinian trade union and PACBI call for, is seen as a diversion by PSC Executive. It might even mean a disagreement with their trade union buddies. And what Ms Langford says openly PSC Executive says behind closed doors.

Posted By: Tony Greenstein

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