Reply to Steve Ballard’s “Anti-Downing”: baseless slanders and vile innuendo with a malevolent witch-hunting intent

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08/07/2014 by socialistfight

The Revolution in the Ukraine

The Revolution in the Ukraine

By Gerry Downing 8 July LRC

Steve Ballard replaced Graham Durham as the London Organiser of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) last year and has done precisely no organising since. The overwhelming vote to sack Graham and replace him with this charlatan was motivated by a desire to silence a strident critic of the LRC leadership’s failure to fight the cuts in the Local Authorities in any meaningful way. Durham has the authority to challenge the Labour party cutters because he was debarred when he defied the cuts himself as a Labour Councillor in Brent in the middle 80s at a time when personal bankruptcy could be imposed on councillors and they could be surcharged for the loss of revenue that the District Auditor deemed them responsible by failing to make cuts; many in Liverpool and Lambeth suffered that fate. The LRC leaders needed a figure that would make no further trouble for them in going along with the cuts. Ballard fitted the bill perfectly.[1]

The allegations of support for violence and slander against John McDonnell MP (I have apparently called “shame on socialist MP John McDonnell” – where?) put forward by Ballard have to be taken in the context of my support for the campaign Solidarity with the Antifascist in Ukraine and the strong stance taken by the majority of the Brent and Harrow LRC in defence of the organised working class in eastern Ukraine who are under a vicious assault by the Ukraine regime installed by the CIA in a fascist-led coup. The purpose of the military attack and reign of white terror against the Borotba anti-fascist organisation and the Communist party is to impose the EU austerity measure on the Ukraine. Shamefully a whole section of the British and international left is supporting them, including the LRC leadership. [2]

Ballard is a retired science teacher so presumably he had to reach a certain educational level to perform this professional task. It is therefore a mystery as to how he could pen such an illiterate document with no academic apparatus to reference any of his baseless innuendo and unfounded assertions against me. He cannot provide any instances of the things he accuses me of, even when eagerly pressed by the reactionary Ukraine nationalist Chris Ford.

He attempts to appear as a serious intellectual by the use of the silly title “Anti-Downing” hoping that might result in his piece being favourable compared to Frederick Engels’ famous polemic of 1877, “Anti-Dühring”, against Professor Herr Eugen Dühring. Despite the title he obviously has not read Engels’s famous work, or if he has he rejects its entire political content. His total lack of understanding of what the Enlightenment was and his lack of any understanding of even the elementary basis of advanced bourgeois philosophy let alone Marxism is cruelly exposed by his own document.

Sweeping assertion and violence

The essence of his attack on my political and moral outlook is contained in the following sweeping historical assessment of the Enlightenment (or more precisely his understanding of Immanuel Kant’s take on it) and my rejection of the supposed final arbiter of the great movement, Ludwig Feuerbach:

In his 1788 Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) reasoned that enlightenment — the repudiation of political violence — depends on enough people being able to distinguish self-righteousness from scientifically- verifiable necessity. In his 1827 Philosophy of Right, Georg Hegel (1770-1831) justified liberals’ use of political violence to overthrow religious authorities, by reasoning that religious authorities are ideological and therefore irrational. In his 1843 Principles of the Philosophy of the Future Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872) reasoned that Hegel’s justification for liberals’ use of secular political violence will entrench endless political violence. According to Feuerbach, ‘true’ socialism will only be possible when enough people throughout the world become sufficiently enlightened to exercise their collective non-violent authority to historically eradicate political violence as a matter of scientifically- verifiable necessity. What makes Gerry Downing’s approach noteworthy is the intransigence of his disregard for Feuerbach’s thesis, just like Herr Dühring in 1877.

Obviously all these bald assertions need referencing but we get the general idea; Kant’s “categorical Imperative” (we assume this is the basis of Ballard’s assertion) meant that political violence was wrong and arose because of the pig-headed irrational “self-righteousness” of misguided people like me who are opposed by those guided by the tenets of “scientifically- verifiable necessity” like himself. Anyone who has read Perpetual Peace must acknowledge the truth of this (hands up all those who have). [3] However along came Hegel who spoiled this enlightened insight by justifying political violence because the world was ruled by irrational religious people who could not appreciate reason. And then, fortunately for us enlightened people, along came Ludwig Feuerbach who reinstated Kant and once again repudiated political violence, but on a higher level or something, presumable.

It would take a great political genius or a foolhardy ignoramus to sum up the Age of Enlightenment, which spans the work of the Englishman Francis Bacon (1562-1626) to the German Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) via the great French philosophes, such as Voltaire (1694–1778), Rousseau (1712–1778) and Montesquieu (1689–1755) in one pithy phrase. Unfortunately Ballard’s summation of the essence of Kant’s supposed outlook and his endorsement of it in the pithy phrase; “the repudiation of political violence” places him in the latter camp. Frederick Engels had a far better shot at it and came to the opposite conclusion:

The great men, who in France prepared men’s minds for the coming revolution, were themselves extreme revolutionists. They recognized no external authority of any kind whatever. Religion, natural science, society, political institutions – everything was subjected to the most unsparing criticism: everything must justify its existence before the judgment-seat of reason or give up existence. Reason became the sole measure of everything. [4]

And that revolution was a very violent affair indeed, as all social revolutions are, of necessity because reason alone could make no fundamental headway against entrenched class privileges.

I have no hesitation in defending the liberating violence of the French Revolution against the reactionary violence of the Ancien Régime. Without the leadership of that great revolutionary lion Maximilien Robespierre (1758 –1794) and his Reign of Terror against the aristocracy and the conciliators revolutionary France would have fallen to another orgy of counter-revolutionary violence and the forward march of humanity from the barbarism of class society to the social and economic egalitarianism of the communist future would have been thrown back perhaps centuries. This was the fate of revolutionary France so often the past beginning with the crushing of the Cathars and the destruction of the great civilisation that was the First Renaissance in southern France in 1244 by the Pope and the ‘northern French barbarians’ as recounted so well by the Russian author Zoé Oldenbourg in Massacre at Montségur (the so-called Albigensian Crusade) [5] to the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in 1572 [6] and countless others.

Without the Reign of Terror the great victory at Valmy would not have been possible; when Robespierre wheeled out madam guillotine the citizens of Paris knew the revolution was in earnest at last, they shouldered the arms provide by the new government and rushed to reinforce and revolutionise the French army at Valmy. The words of the Marseillaise were heard for the first time and one cannon exchange decided the battle; the troops of the Austrian general, the Duke of Brunswick, were just too sympathetic to the revolutionary message, the French Generals Dumouriez and Kellermann defeated the reactionary forces because of that violence. Germany’s great author and thinker, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who witnessed the great world historical battle, summed it up thus: “From this place and from this day forth begins a new era in the history of the world and you can all say that you were present at its birth.”

And whilst respectable middle class England were being fanned into righteous outrage at the ‘barbarism’ of the French by the likes of the Irishman Edmund Burke at the 40,000 “victims” of the six years of the revolution, the vast majority of whom fell arms in had fighting for the cause of vile reaction, that same petty bourgeoisie and that same Irishman did not turn a hair at the 20,000 revolutionaries slaughtered in Ireland, mainly in north county Wexford, by their own redcoats in the Autumn of 1798 (“when soft winds shook the barley”), most of whom were massacred with appalling barbarism [7] fighting for the great liberating ideals of the French Revolution in Ireland.

And Ballard’s revulsion at Hegel is undoubtedly fuelled by Hegel’s famous enthusiasm for the French Revolution and Napoleon, even to the extent of willing the defeat of his own country in the battle of Jena. Wikipedia reports:

Hegel was putting the finishing touches to this book, The Phenomenology of Spirit, as Napoleon engaged Prussian troops on October 14, 1806, in the Battle of Jena on a plateau outside the city. On the day before the battle, Napoleon entered the city of Jena. Hegel recounted his impressions in a letter to his friend Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer:

I saw the Emperor – this world-soul – riding out of the city on reconnaissance. It is indeed a wonderful sensation to see such an individual, who, concentrated here at a single point, astride a horse, reaches out over the world and masters it . . . this extraordinary man, whom it is impossible not to admire. [8]

Further in my defence of the violence of the oppressed I will quote from Tom Barry’s Guerrilla Days in Ireland, which I first read as a teenager. Here he recounts the execution of 16 spies and informers in West Cork in 1920 and proudly notes the success of this operation in sharply reducing the number of IRA volunteers assassinated by the British army:

There can be no doubt as to why the death roll of the West Cork IRA dropped so amazingly. It was solely because British terror was met by a not less effective IRA counter-terror. We were now hard, cold and ruthless as our enemies had been since hostilities began. The British were met with their own weapons. They had gone down in the mire to destroy us and our nation, and down after them we had to go to stop them. [9]

And Barry’s defence applies to all revolutions and uprisings of the oppressed to the present day Donbas in the Ukraine and the later and present day IRA also. Even if it was not Gerry Adams that ordered Jean McConville’s execution in December 1972 and making no judgement on whether a mistake or mistakes were made in this case or in others, self-preservation meant that someone at IRA HQ had to give the order for the executions of spies and informers in the north of Ireland at the height of the troubles and someone had to carry out those orders or they all would have been murdered by the British secret service or their allies, the Loyalist death squads. As in West Cork in 1920 this difficult decision was forced on the IRA by the logic of the war itself; it was that or surrender.

Lenin, Trotsky and the Red Terror

This brutal reality may appal scurvy pacifists but with Trotsky we Marxists never equate the violence of the slave with that of the slave owner:

A slave-owner who through cunning and violence shackles a slave in chains, and a slave who through cunning or violence breaks the chains – let not the contemptible eunuchs tell us that they are equals before a court of morality! After the Paris Commune had been drowned in blood and the reactionary knaves of the whole world dragged its banner in the filth of vilification and slander, there were not a few democratic Philistines who, adapting themselves to reaction, slandered the Communards for shooting 64 hostages headed by the Paris archbishop. Marx did not hesitate a moment in defending this bloody act of the Commune… “…the Commune, to protect their [the captives’] lives, was obliged to resort to the Prussian practice of securing hostages. The lives of the hostages had been forfeited over and over again by the continued shooting of prisoners on the part of the Versailles. How could they be spared any longer after the carnage with which MacMahon’s Praetorians celebrated their entry into Paris? [10]

Trotsky urged on his comrades in the following words in June or July 1917:

There were never so many pacifists in the world as now; when in all countries men are killing one another. Every historical epoch has not only its own technique and its own political form, but also a hypocrisy peculiar to itself. Once peoples destroyed each other in the name of the Christian teaching of love of humanity. Now only backward governments call upon Christ. Progressive nations cut each others’ throats in the name of pacifism. Wilson drags America into the war in the name of the League of Nations, and perpetual peace. Kerensky and Tseretelli call for an offensive for the sake of an early peace. [11]

From 6 July 1918 the Left SRs had begun a serious revolt against Bolshevik rule following their alliance with the left Communists and the rightist Mensheviks and SRs over the Brest-Litovsk treaty. It culminated on 30 August with the assassination of Cheka leader M.S Uritsky and Bolshevik V. Volodorasky and the failed attempt on Lenin’s life by left SR Fanni Kaplan. These were acts of great class treachery at the very moment when the White armies and their imperialist allies were closing to annihilate the new workers republic.

Hours later Lenin ordered the Red Terror to begin with two of the assassin’s bullets still lodged in his body. It is likely that those bullets ended his life prematurely; causing the strokes that killed him in January 1924. The Red Terror dealt out revolutionary justice to those who sought to overthrow the Bolshevik revolution from the “left” just as the civil war was beginning to develop. On 13 March Trotsky became head of the Red Army and on 6 August the Red Army was defeated by the White’s Czechoslovak Legion at Kazan but the best of the remnants rallied at Svyazhsk because, “The situation was understood by everyone as follows: Another step backward would open the Volga to the enemy down to Nizhny (Novgorod) and thus the road to Moscow. Further retreat meant the beginning of the end; the death sentence on the Republic of the Soviets.” [12]

On 10 August Trotsky’s famous battle train appeared at Svyazhsk railway station in its first outing, the engine was uncoupled and the carriages stood alone. There was no retreat for Trotsky; the story of how he rallied the troops at Svyazhsk and finally defeated the White’s Czechoslovak Legion shows that it was of no less importance to the survival of the Russian Revolution than Valmy was to the French Revolution. We note that the left SR’s struck at Lenin and the rest of the Bolshevik leaders in the middle of this vital battle. This is Trotsky’s account:

Out of a shaky, unsteady, disintegrating mass, a real army was created. We took Kazan on September 10, 1918, and recovered Simbirsk on the following day. That moment was a notable date in the history of the Red Army. Immediately, we felt firm ground under our feet. These were no longer our first helpless attempts: from now on we could fight and win.” [13]

However before the victory on 10 September, on the very night of the left SRs’ assassinations, 30 August, the Whites counter-attacked and almost broke through. Many deserted before the onslaught but Trotsky managed to hold the line and the Whites did not realise the scale of the rout they had caused and did not press home their advantage. Trotsky was now forced to impose his own Red Terror and Larissa Reissner, who was present at Svyazhsk, writing in 1922, makes the following impassioned defence of his actions and of revolutionary violence in general:

The next day 27 deserters who had fled to the ships in the most critical moment were tried and shot. Among them were several communists. Much was later said about the shooting of these 27, especially in the hinterland, of course, where they did not know by how thin a thread hung the road to Moscow and our entire offensive against Kazan, undertaken with our last means and forces.

To begin with, the whole army was agog with talk about communists having turned cowards; and that laws were not written for them; that they could desert with impunity, while an ordinary rank and filer was shot down like a dog.

If not for the exceptional courage of Trotsky, the army commander and other members of the Revolutionary Military Council, the prestige of the communists working in the army would have been impaired and lost for a long time to come.

…Twenty-seven were shot and this filled in the breach which the famous raiders had succeeded in making in the self-confidence and unity of the Fifth Army. This salvo which exacted punishment from communists as well as commanders and simple soldiers for cowardice and dishonour in battle forced the least class-conscious section of the soldier mass and the one most inclined toward desertion (and of course there was such a section, too) to pull themselves together, and to align themselves with those who went consciously and without any compulsion into battle.

Precisely in these days was decided the fate of Kazan, and not that alone but the fate of the entire White intervention. The Red Army found its self-confidence and became regenerated and strong during the long weeks of defence and offense.

In conditions of constant danger and with the greatest moral exertions it worked out its laws, its discipline, its new heroic statutes. For the first time, panic in the face of the enemy’s more modern technique became dissolved. Here one learned to make headway against any artillery; and involuntarily, from the elemental instinct of self-preservation, new methods of warfare were born, those specific battle methods which are already being studied in the highest military academies as the methods of the Civil War. Of extreme importance is the fact that in those days in Svyazhsk there was precisely such a man as Trotsky. [14]

“True Socialism” as advocated by Ludwig Feuerbach.

And all these meanderings are not only because of my alleged love of violence but my rejection of “true Socialism” as advocated by Ludwig Feuerbach. Only unfortunately for Ballard Ludwig Feuerbach’s love of “true Socialism” constituted a “shortcoming”, or so Frederick Engels thought:

Even the shortcomings of the book (Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity GD) contributed to its immediate effect… The same is true of its extravagant deification of love, which, coming after the now intolerable sovereign rule of “pure reason”, had its excuse, if not justification. But what we must not forget is that it was precisely these two weaknesses of Feuerbach that “true Socialism”, which had been spreading like a plague in educated Germany since 1844, took as its starting-point, putting literary phrases in the place of scientific knowledge, the liberation of mankind by means of “love” in place of the emancipation of the proletariat through the economic transformation of production — in short, losing itself in the nauseous fine writing and ecstasies of love typified by Herr Karl Grun. [15]

“True Socialism”, of course meant that peace and love and understanding should prevail in international relations, thereby stopping the outbreak of wars. Of course Marx revealed that the drive to overcome falling profit rates by the capitalist class was the source of wars today and that all human conflicts were in essence class conflicts in the opening sentence of the Communist Manifesto in 1848:

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.[16]

Ballard chooses Feuerbach as the final arbitrator of enlightenment in general, apparently and charges me with “intransigence of his disregard for Feuerbach’s thesis, just like Herr Dühring in 1877”. I am a Marxist, not a Feuerbach-ist and so do not agree with the latter’s take on the world at all. In stopping at Feuerbach Ballard stops at the very point that humanity was just about to make its greatest intellectual and philosophical leap forward; Marxism itself was based on the negation of Hegel with Feuerbach as the vital link that was about to place humanity as part of nature back in the driving seat of history. Engels explains the link between all these pantheistic philosophers and Marxism; the agnostic Kant, the dialectical idealist Hegel, the humanist but still pantheist Feuerbach and how they all contributed to modern atheistic, dialectical materialist Marxism:

In addition, there is yet a set of different philosophers — those who question the possibility of any cognition, or at least of an exhaustive cognition, of the world. To them, among the more modern ones, belong Hume and Kant, and they played a very important role in philosophical development. What is decisive in the refutation of this view has already been said by Hegel, in so far as this was possible from an idealist standpoint. The materialistic additions made by Feuerbach are more ingenious than profound. The most telling refutation of this as of all other philosophical crotchets is practice — namely, experiment and industry. If we are able to prove the correctness of our conception of a natural process by making it ourselves, bringing it into being out of its conditions and making it serve our own purposes into the bargain, then there is an end to the Kantian ungraspable “thing-in-itself”. [17]

And Feuerbach’s “shortcomings”:

Another thing we must not forget is this: the Hegelian school disintegrated, but Hegelian philosophy was not overcome through criticism; Strauss and Bauer each took one of its sides and set it polemically against the other. Feuerbach smashed the system and simply discarded it. But a philosophy is not disposed of by the mere assertion that it is false. And so powerful a work as Hegelian philosophy, which had exercised so enormous an influence on the intellectual development of the nation, could not be disposed of by simply being ignored. It had to be “sublated” in its own sense, that is, in the sense that while its form had to be annihilated trough criticism, the new content which had been won through it had to be saved. How this was brought about we shall see below. [18]

So I plead guilty to Ballard’s charge of “disregard for Feuerbach’s thesis, just like Herr Dühring in 1877”, I reject out of hand the notion that any serious part of Dühring’s errors was a rejection of Feuerbach. Engels castigated him for a failure to understand the material world; he was an idealist. I would claim to be taking the route of Marx and Engels and “sublating” Hegel and not disregarding him. If Ballard were to charge me with “disregarding” Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach, where he sublated Feuerbach, this I would vehemently deny.

The fundamental difference between Marxism and Feuerbach is the latter’s idealism, reflected in his continuing belief in God. Despite all his brilliant attempts to portray the materialist origins of religion Feuerbach remained an idealist to his dying day and it is this outlook that Ballard shares with him. You do not have to believe in a God to be a philosophical idealist, a believer in the primacy of thought over nature, but if you believe in God you certainly are idealist in your philosophy. Engels again explains the differences:

The great basic question of all philosophy, especially of more recent philosophy, is that concerning the relation of thinking and being. From the very early times when men, still completely ignorant of the structure of their own bodies, under the stimulus of dream apparitions came to believe that their thinking and sensation were not activities of their bodies, but of a distinct soul which inhabits the body and leaves it at death — from this time men have been driven to reflect about the relation between this soul and the outside world. If, upon death, it took leave of the body and lived on, there was no occasion to invent yet another distinct death for it …

Thus the question of the relation of thinking to being, the relation of the spirit to nature, the paramount question of the whole of philosophy has, no less than all religion, its roots in the narrow-minded and ignorant notions of savagery. The question of the position of thinking in relation to being… the question: which is primary, spirit or nature that question, in relation to the church, was sharpened into this: Did God create the world or has the world been in existence eternally?

The answers which the philosophers gave to this question split them into two great camps. Those who asserted the primacy of spirit to nature and, therefore, in the last instance, assumed world creation in some form or other… comprised the camp of idealism. The others, who regarded nature as primary, belong to the various schools of materialism. [19]

So to conclude for Ballard the kingdom of reason established by Kant, Hegel and Feuerbach represents the highest form of thought, to reject it is to slip into barbarism. Not so, says his claimed mentor, Frederick Engels:

We know today that this kingdom of reason was nothing more than the idealized kingdom of the bourgeoisie; that this eternal Right found its realization in bourgeois justice; that this equality reduced itself to bourgeois equality before the law; that bourgeois property was proclaimed as one of the essential rights of man; and that the government of reason, the Contrat Social of Rousseau, came into being, and only could come into being, as a democratic bourgeois republic. The great thinkers of the 18th century could, no more than their predecessors, go beyond the limits imposed upon them by their epoch. [20]

Therefore Ballard’s assertion that, “By failing collectively to use the principles of philosophy and science to critique the historical use of political violence, Downing and other 21st-century socialist leaders have destroyed the authority built up by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky before the scientific confirmation of Feuerbach’s thesis became clear” is just so much nonsense. As we have shown above Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky DID NOT agree with Feuerbach at all on the vital question of revolutionary violence (we assumed it was not necessary to find quotes from Lenin to prove his stance on this!) or the existence of God. And we really would like to see this “scientific confirmation of Feuerbach’s thesis” (we hope it is not taken to be his own meanderings) and we would like to know to whom this became clear?

The Witch Hunt Builds

Ballard’s piece provoked a number of responses by LRC members. The first was by Chris Ford asking, “What exactly has Downing done?” to which Ballard replied, “Engaged in Facebook exchange about John McDonnell’s position on Ukraine. Nothing earth-shattering, just sectarian, unenlightening and avoiding questions about how to engage with other socialists about how to change how the Labour Party hierarchy meets the needs of the people it claims to represent.”

This is a silly answer which avoids the question completely. Ford persisted by asking, “Please send a link. Thanks” but reply was there none. The next questioner was Austin Harney asking, “Steve, Can you quote exactly what Gerry has said? After all, the debate could be an academic one as it involves the sharing of ideas. I make this point clear because if one is trying to promote an “anti – Downing” movement in the LRC, we would need concrete evidence and justified reasons. If the debate is academic, there is no justification for promoting the idea of being “anti – Downing.”

Again reply was there was none so Austin persisted: “Dear Steve, I must say that I find your title, “anti – Downing”, very dangerous as a phrase to use for our LRC movement. Where is the evidence that Gerry Downing is attacking John McDonnell? Do you have any proof that Gerry called John McDonnell, a “shameful imposter?” Gerry was the only person that I know of in Britain who condemned the arrest of Marian Price, Gerry McGeough and Martin Corey. In turn, John McDonnell was the only MP who organised a fringe meeting in Parliament against the imprisonment of these critics of the Good Friday Agreement.

We can, all, have our political differences. But I take my hat off to Gerry for the other good work that he has done for the Irish community in the British Trade Union movement. He has, also, worked hard in the UNITE Union. You will need to provide specific evidence and concrete reasons to promote what seems to be an “anti – Downing” movement. Using differences of opinion over philosopher’s views are not enough.”

To which Ballard replied “Hi Austin, All sorts of people are fearless fighters in the labour movement, and Gerry is certainly one of them, but that does not mean that their methods are beyond reproach. It’s the unenlightening method used by Gerry, not just Gerry but most intransigently by him, which is the issue here. When I told Gerry I was considering writing a critique of his method using the delicious irony of his name, he laughed it off and said fine. I don’t think I’ve exposed him to any danger.”

Yet again there was no reply to the demand for proof; a direct demand on Ballard from Norrette Moore, the LRC London list moderator on June 28 again produced no reply: “Like yourself Chris, am looking for an example of this. I know well of others who indulge in mudslinging, but to single out Gerry needs some back up. Sorry Steve, but I need to be even-handed here.”

But now Ballard changes tack, now it is my “method” that’s the problem. Well that is one approach he learned from Gerry Healy and the old WRP – if you are caught out in a lie attack the method of your opponent. Mike Banda once wrote a whole pamphlet The Moscoso Affair to avoid answering a simple question from the IMG, why did you say Moscoso (a Bolivian or Peruvian supporter of Ernest Mandel as far as I remember) was a state agent when you had no proof of this at all? But the question of method supplied Chris Ford with his opportunity to complain about the way he has been treated by the baddies who support the anti-Fascists in the eastern Ukraine:

Hi Austin, I think you are very generous. Gerry may indeed laugh things off, but the campaign of lies, abuse and defamation he and his allies are engaged in over Ukraine is not funny in the least. They do not engage in any rational discussion and are not prepared to listen to others never mind be convinced by facts which may prove otherwise. Myself, John McDonnell and others who attended the founding meeting of Ukrainian Socialist Solidarity have been branded a “bunch of scabs”. I am have been branded a “fascist”, another LRC comrade has been branded a “supported(r?) of the CIA and Fascists”, it goes on and on. I have even been denounced for a book I published in 2007 – because it fails to mention events that occurred in 2014!!!! Stalinist methods are alive and well.

I did not of course, “laugh things off “but laughed at the silly notion of Ballard producing a serious political document and the result was as risible as I anticipated. As for my campaign and that of my “allies”of “lies, abuse and defamation” we would like to see references made to these instances so we can see what to make of them. Political positions put forward by revolutionary socialists and other anti-fascists that offend the sensibilities of a reactionary Ukrainian nationalist like Chris Ford are not lies. I certainly did not brand Chris Ford a “fascist” and anyone who did was wrong. I am quite careful in my political characterisations so I do not brand the Kiev junta as “fascist” but “fascist infested” is a good term for them; they are a far right neo-liberal nationalist regime containing many fascists ministers installed by a CIA funded fascist and far right coup. So labelling “an LRC comrade” (who?) as a “supporter of the CIA and Fascists” would be objectively true even if their capitulation to their own and US imperialism and/or extreme right wing Ukraine nationalism makes the funding by the CIA and the presence of avowed fascists in the leadership the Maidan movement and the Kiev junta you all support an irrelevance to them.

We are aware Ford supports this movement because the founding document of the group has the following passage “Participants noted that, while much attention has been focussed on the Anti-Terrorist Operation of the Kyiv Government and the separatist movement in the eastern oblasts…” [21] Note this endorses the legitimacy of the fascist-led coup and junta it installed and the enormous violence against the “eastern oblasts” as legitimate violence by the use of the term “Anti-Terrorist Operation”, the standard imperialist propaganda term for all liberation fighters. And, needless to say, there is no condemnation of the fascist Right Sector or the CIA funding of the coup to the tune of $5 billion or any other evidence clearly available to discover the nature of this regime. Its sole purpose is to impose austerity on the Ukraine masses on behalf of US/EU finance capital and this you all seem to be quite willing to accept.

The Fraud that is the “Left Opposition”

And it can find no word of condemnation for the appalling fascist Odessa Massacre on 2 May, carried out just ten days before the statement was launched. However one of its supporting organisations, the so-called “Left Opposition” which is a section of the Fourth International with Britain’s Socialist Resistance, made a statement on 7 May on the massacre which condemned it but implicitly speculated that they might have been responsible for their own deaths:

The mass killing of people in Odessa on 2 May cannot be justified in any way. The socialist union Left Opposition is convinced that:

“Whoever the deceased people on both sides are, the force used against the majority of them clearly exceeded any needed exercise of it in self defence. It is necessary to undertake an all-sided investigation of these events and to personally expose the provocateurs and the killers, who more than likely appeared there from all sides of the confrontation”.

We are unable at the present time to name the people responsible for these murders, their organisations or groups. However, we can see the political consequences of the Odessa massacre and we cannot but see that left wing political organisations are among those that carry political responsibility for it.[22]

We would point out that the only “left organisations” that carry responsibility for this massacre are the Left Opposition and others that support the fascist-led Maidan coup which includes the organisations listed as supporters of the Chris Ford’s Ukrainian Socialist Solidarity campaign group: the Labour Representation Committee, Socialist Workers Party, Revolutionary Socialism 21, A World To Win, and Socialist Resistance (Fourth International). And they can no longer be considered left in any serious way because of this. Those that recognised the political nature of the Maidan from the outset or soon after can in no way be considered responsible, certainly not the Borotba, two of whose members were among the 48 victims of that massacre (the number may be twice that or more but the ‘Kiev Authorities’ moved quickly to destroy the evidence of their own crime). Strangely the people responsible for this “tragedy” (as if it was some kind of an accident) were only too willing to tell us who they were and boast online about what they had done. They were the Maidan fascists who came with the clear intention of inflicting mass terror and murder on the anti-fascists of Odessa and succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. But the unfortunate Left Opposition has no idea who they are and think both sides are to blame above and as summarised in their slogans:

No support to chauvinists regardless of the flags under which they stand! For an independent and united workers’ Ukraine! For an independent workers and social movement!

We are pleased the self-declared socialists are opposed to all chauvinists but finding yourself unable to condemn forthrightly the well known perpetrators of this massacre under the ridiculous pretext they you do not know who they are is beyond a joke. Have you found out yet comrades, we wonder?

And we note that Zakhar Popovych is now a leading member of the Left Opposition and posts in the Fourth International’s International Viewpoint. This is the same Zakhar Popovych who, as a leader of the CWI section in Ukraine in 2003, criminally defrauded between 12 and 20 far left organisations in Britain and the USA by becoming their “Ukrainian section” (simultaneously!) and, of course, obtaining funds and equipment to build their ‘section’. The sordid tale is recounted in MAIDAN AND A UKRAINIAN STORY OF A LASTING FRAUD. This is how Teo Cubanos finished his blog on the strange case of Zakhar Popovich:

The most striking of all, however, is the fact that these swindlers still present themselves as militants, trade unionists and leaders of revolutionary organizations! We will deal only with the case of Popovych, because it is the most obvious. The truth is that the report of marxist.com quoted above, mentioned that in this “conference on the future of the Ukrainian Left” there was a Zakhar Popovych that made a speech. But maybe, once again, this was devilish coincidence.

But Zakhar Popovych who spoke at the House of Commons in London on 10 March, of which a video is presented by the IST (UK SWP international), is not a namesake. He is the swindler of 2003. He is Zakhar Popovych of 2003, who is nowadays a “leading member” of the Ukrainian organization Left Opposition which has so far contributed greatly … as a source of information … to the “pro-Maidan” Left and Autonomy about the “social revolution” that took place in Ukraine.

This is the organization that to the eyes of SEK (Greek section of IST) represents the anticapitalist Left in Ukraine. It is the same organization the theses of which were propounded by USEC. He is the gentleman who informed us that he went in person with his red flag to Maidan and although the fascists also have some strength there, though … “the Left also strengthen themselves! This revolution is very different from the Orange revolution of 2004. This revolution is loud!” He is the same person that was interviewed under the eloquent title “a mass uprising for democracy,” by the French NPA, an interview proudly propounded by USEC.

It is true that anyone who would try to find out a little more about the Ukrainian and Russian Left would probably suspect that it is not full of righteous characters and crystal clear political courses. At least, that’s what we noticed through a small research. But the case of Budraitskis and Popovych is not about suspicions. It is plain as a pikestaff. So they should think twice, those who are ready to shout about “conspiracy theories”.

Those gentlemen of the CWI- who so mercifully “absolved” Budraitskis- aren’t they aware of the fact that the leader of Left Opposition is Zakhar Popovych, the man that they had expelled from their organization as a “disgraceful swindler”? Those gentlemen of USEC, aren’t they familiar with the past of their Russian leader? Those gentlemen of IST, don’t they know about the past of their honourable guest?

The problem is not technical or personal. It is political. It concerns the very essence of the their statements but also the ease and confidence with which those parts of the European Left took their position on the issue of Ukraine, even accusing anyone who dared to take a different stance as “exaggerating”, naive, or even a mouthpiece of Putin.

Indeed, it is no time anymore for naivety … Teo Cubanos [23]

We know Trotskyists are hard to come by in the Ukraine but to have the brass neck to recruit a known criminal fraudster and present him for election as a representative of a self-declared Trotskyist revolutionary party is cutting new ground in cynical opportunism and fraud.

Conclusion

This article set out to refute the lies and distortions put about me and my “allies” by Steve Ballard and others. He has failed to produce any evidence for his slanders but it had a real political purpose. That is to brand me and the others who support the anti fascist resistance in the Ukraine as terrorists who support violence against a legitimate government. As we have pointed out the Kiev government is not legitimate but installed in a CIA funded coup by fascist and far right thugs in order to serve the interests of EU and US finance capital and ensure the banks got their pound of flesh. The only people resisting this are the anti-fascists in Southeast Ukraine and they have our 100% support in their fight. And when Chris Ford condemns Gerry Downing for the “campaign of lies, abuse and defamation he and his allies are engaged in over Ukraine” it is he who tells the untruths. But his “lies, abuse and defamation” are prepared by the CIA and US/EU imperialism; they are circulated by the capitalist mass media, the BBC, Sky News, Fox News, and every printed newspaper from The Guardian to the Sun. Such lies are far easier to circulate among the gullible and abject capitulatiors before every whim of their own ruling class. We are the one who seek out the truth in the Ukraine and act upon it, we stand in the tradition of the Enlightenment and Immanuel Kant’s Sapere Aude; we have the courage to use our own understanding.

Notes

 

[1] The following Facebook comment by Micheal de Burca sums up Ballard’s piece neatly (of course I never said or wrote that silly statement he attributed to me): Micheal de Burca: ‘We are the only real leaders; all other leaders are shameful impostors’. The words of a megalomaniac put in quotation marks to indicate that they were written by Gerry Downing. Unlike Downing’s intransigent dictatorial approach, Gardner’s “polemical analysis” is the result of hundreds of discussions. Fair’s fair though, the National Shop Stewards Network and Fourth International can’t just allow any old intransigent challenge to the “righteousness of McDonnell “ from dissident bus drivers – especially if they disregard Feuerbach’s repudiation of Hegel who was as everybody knows a supporter of political violence …….. lol malevolent drivel sums it up alright.

[2] See LRC London Nos 1759 and 1760.

[3] Perpetual peace refers to a state of affairs where peace is permanently established over a certain area (ideally, the whole world – see world peace). Noticeably, the idea perpetual peace first came up during 18th century when Charles-Irénée Castel de Saint-Pierre published his essay Project for Perpetual Peace anonymously while working as the negotiator for the Treaty of Utrecht. However, it was not until the late 18th century when perpetual peace became widely known. The term “Perpetual Peace” became acknowledged when German philosopher Immanuel Kant published his essay Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetual_Peace

[4] Anti-Dühring by Frederick Engels 1877, Introduction, General, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/introduction.htm

[5] Zoé Oldenbourg Massacre at Montségur, Weidenfield & Nocolson 1961

[6] Bartholomew’s Day Massacre http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Bartholomew%27s_Day_massacre

[7] “Noddle-napping” was the term used by the cavalry for the sport of chasing rebels through the woods and lopping their heads off with swords.

[8] Wikipedia: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Wilhelm_Friedrich_Hegel

[9] Tom Barry Guerrilla Days in Ireland, Chapter XIV Execution of Spies. p.112

[10] Leon Trotsky, Their Morals and Ours, http://marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1938/morals/morals.htm

[11] Leon Trotsky, Pacifism as the Servant of Imperialism, (mid 1917) https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1917/xx/pacifism.htm

[12] The account of the Red Terror and the Battle of Svyazhsk is taken from Spartacist English edition No. 63, Winter 2012-2013, Larissa Reissner on Trotsky’s Red Army, The Battle of Svyazhsk, a Revolutionary Legend http://www.icl-fi.org/english/esp/63/reissner.html

[13] . The Path of the Red Army” (May 1922), The Military Writings and Speeches of Leon Trotsky: How the Revolution Armed, Vol. 1 (London: New Park Publications, 1979)

[14] Larissa Reissner on Trotsky’s Red Army, The Battle of Svyazhsk, a Revolutionary Legend

http://www.icl-fi.org/english/esp/63/reissner.html

[15] Frederick Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, Part 2: Materialism, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1886/ludwig-feuerbach/ch02.htm Karl Grun was a socialist contemporary of Marx and the butt of his criticism.

[16] Marx, Manifesto of the Communist Party, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm

[17] Frederick Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, Part 2: Materialism, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1886/ludwig-feuerbach/ch02.htm

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Frederick Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, I, [The Development of Utopian Socialism]

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/soc-utop/ch01.htm

[21] British campaign launched to support Ukrainian workers http://observerukraine.net/2014/05/13/british-campaign-launched-to-support-ukrainian-workers/

[22] Left Opposition statement on Odessa tragedy, published on 7 May 2014 here: Translated from the Ukrainian by Marko Bojcun http://www.ukrainesolidarity.co.uk/#!FOR-AN-INDEPENDENT-SOCIAL-MOVEMENT-FOR-A-FREE-UKRAINE-/c17jj/A69FF61A-F948-4977-B87A-B11BC2370ACA

[23] MAIDAN AND A UKRANIAN STORY OF A LASTING FRAUD, Ukraine 2003, the story of a fraud 31/03/2014, http://komepd.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/maidan-and-a-ukranian-story-of-a-lasting-fraud/

 

One thought on “Reply to Steve Ballard’s “Anti-Downing”: baseless slanders and vile innuendo with a malevolent witch-hunting intent

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