Unions for democracy?

24 11 2010

I can’t remember the last time I saw anything worth reading in Tribune, the British left-Labour paper. But this article by veteran labour journalist Geoffrey Goodman is a well-argued piece and historically accurate, at least. (Hat-tip to Eric Lee’s LabourStart – the essential source for union news).

I’d like to be convinced British unions retained these democratic instincts – I’m sure most members do. But in a week in which the UK’s biggest union elected an openly unrepentant Stalinist as its leader (does he still have the mass murderer’s framed photo in his office?) and when so many British unions, including the TUC, are cheerleaders for such democratic icons as Chavez and Castro, I suspect Ernie Bevin is spinning in his grave.




From Stalinism to nihilism

30 10 2009

There is something both weirdly disconcerting and endearing in the historical irony of a group promoting democratic geopolitics and named after a celebrated anti-communist hosting a descendant of a US Communist Party leader to discuss legal nihilism in contemporary Russia?  Promises to be a fascinating meeting. Our London readers should check it out.

It is also a good excuse to recall the celebrated incident when Earl Browder debated neo-Trotskyist Max Schachtman. As Arnold Beichman describes it:

A face-to-face debate in New York between Schachtman and Browder opened with Browder, having just returned from Moscow, offering an unblinking defense of Stalin and the Soviet Union. As Browder sat down, the tall, slim Shachtman rose up. He pointed a long bony forefinger at Browder and made an unforgettable pronouncement: “There, but for the accident of geography, sits a corpse.”

Facing the unthinkable alone

30 10 2009

U.S. attempts to reassure Israel of its commitment to the country’s security have backfired, writes Yossi Klein Halevi.

Lacking confidence in the ability or willingness of the “international community” to halt Iran’s nuclear program, Israelis are preparing for yet another defensive war, knowing that they’ll be damned if they do ………

The invisible but all-pervasive presence on that cheerful map of existential dread is Iran. If Israel were to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, Tehran’s two terrorist allies on our borders—Hezbollah and Hamas—would almost certainly renew attacks against the Israeli home front. And Tel Aviv would be hit by Iranian long-range missiles.

And damned if they don’t………

On the other hand, if Israel refrains from attacking Iran and international efforts to stop its nuclearization fail, the results along our border would likely be even more catastrophic. Hezbollah and Hamas would be emboldened politically and psychologically. The threat of a nuclear attack on Tel Aviv would become a permanent part of Israeli reality. This would do incalculable damage to Israel’s sense of security.

Human Rights Watch: lost its moral authority over anti-Israeli bias

20 10 2009

Human Rights Watch has rejected the distinction between open and closed societies that prevents authoritarian regimes from claiming moral equivalence with democratic states, says its former chairman, in a devastating indictment.

The Middle East in particular “is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records,” writes Robert L. Bernstein, the group’s chairman from 1978 to 1998. Yet the rights watchdog “has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.”

Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world — many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Only by returning to its founding mission and the spirit of humility that animated it can Human Rights Watch resurrect itself as a moral force in the Middle East and throughout the world,” he concludes.

Read the whole thing.

Iran: will Obama do the right thing?

13 10 2009

Jeff Herf has a must-read piece at The New Republic (reproduced at CBS News), outlining the only policy option that Tehran’s new hard-line regime fears and the only one that gives negotiations a chance of success – a credible threat of military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities by the United States, perhaps joined by Britain and France, or Israel:

If President Obama were to make this threat, he would enrage the base of the Democratic Party that made possible his nomination for president, antagonize liberals in Congress, and infuriate the New York Times editorial page. In the eyes of many of his admirers, he would appear to be yet another unilateralist, imperialist American president. So Obama has a choice: He can look out for his popularity or he can do what is necessary to defend the national security of the United States, our European allies, the moderate Arab states, and, yes, Israel. He has reached the point in his presidency when it has become clear that he cannot do both.

The TUC has no shame either

25 09 2009

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber once claimed that Ernset Bevin was his hero and inspiration. Appropriate then that Bevin’s ambiguous legacy is evident in the TUC’s recent decision to boycott Israel, a move that represents a capitulation to the far left that Bevin fought so vigorously, while also recalling his anti-Semitism and hostility to the Jewish state.

The international labor movement recently held a global day of solidarity with Iranian workers. All the more perverse then, write Benny Weinthal and Eric Lee, that while most unions are excited by the prospects for an Iranian version of “Solidarnosc“, the British Trades Union Congress is focused on boycotting Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and home of the region’s only independent labor movement.  

“Iranian workers would give anything to have the political freedoms, including the right to strike, that Israelis – including Israeli Arabs – have had for decades,” they note. Other labor activists have condemned the TUC’s move for seeking “to impose military and economic sanctions against only one party to the conflict – the state of Israel and its democratic trade union center, the Histadrut.”

No, they have no shame

25 09 2009

News of the covert Iranian nuclear facility heightens the relevance of this superb speech, invoking Winston Churchill’s lament of the “confirmed unteachability of mankind,” the “want of foresight, the unwillingness to act when action will be simple and effective, the lack of clear thinking, the confusion of counsel until emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong.”