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Old news and new news March 14, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Reading the latest issue of the Phoenix this fortnight there was a most interesting profile of President Michael D. Higgins. But one thing that really caught my attention was the following:

 

Before the November 1992 general election, the then socialist minded TD, Emmet Stagg, was on his wait of the ILP in disgust at Spring’s determination to enter coalition with either FG or FF. Stagg entered negotiations with Democratic Left to form a new party and while Spring would have been happy to see Stagg exit he was aghast when he heard that Higgins was also on the verge of leaving to become leader of the new party.

Got to be honest, while Stagg was indeed close to jumping to join DL (not form a new party) and there were rumours of others talking (though I don’t recall MDH’s name at the time),  I never heard anyone mention Higgins being mooted as ‘leader of the new party’ and if new party there was was that a successor to DL or DL itself. In Kevin Rafter’s book on DL while mentioned there’s no flesh on the Higgins rumour and in The Lost Revolution only Stagg is discussed.

One other aspect of this, apparently in the mid-1990s Senator Brendan Ryan was in talks about joining DL. They never came to anything and eventually he joined the ILP.

 

 

Comments»

1. dublinstreams - March 14, 2018

“But sometimes the Higgins theatre is eclipsed by pragmatic self interest and following his very public role in opposing the Iraq war in 2003, he retreated when Labour’s Proinsias De Rossa MEP and Ivana Bacik demanded that an EU/US summit be held in Brussels and not on Irish soil as planned.” https://www.thephoenix.ie/article/president-michael-d-higgins/ https://www.google.ie/search?hl=en&tbs=cdr%3A1%2Ccd_min%3A2004%2Ccd_max%3A2004&ei=Mh-pWtO1DYHZgAbH8IEg&q=ivana+bacik+Proinsias+De+Rossa+eu-us+summit+brussels&oq=ivana+bacik+Proinsias+De+Rossa+eu-us+summit+brussels&gs_l=psy-ab.12…25628.25952.0.27147.2.2.0.0.0.0.79.149.2.2.0….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..0.0.0….0.YiD9hXahzRg?

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2. roddy - March 14, 2018

Ryan or Higgins would have been at odds with DLs unionism.

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WorldbyStorm - March 14, 2018

Possibly they’d have found its stance tricky, though Kathleen Lynch said of Ryan he was the one politician from her neck of the woods she believed was closest to her political views.

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3. Colm B - March 14, 2018

I heard a rumour later in the 1990s that Stagg had been on the verge of joining in the foundation of DL but the Labour right wing threatened revelations re his private life which made him abandon the jump. No idea if this was true or retrospective creativity.

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Colm B - March 14, 2018

A small group of Labour Left members joined DL at its foundation. despite the failure of Stagg/Higgins to jump.
I was involved with some of them in an attempt to build some sort of organised left within DL. The primary ex-Labour member involved was Michael Taft. He was working with me and others to oppose DL going into coalition in 1993-94. Much to my surprise I found that he was involved in the negotiating teams working on the coalition deal with FG/Labour as the issue was being debated in the party.
I left DL with a handful of others. Far as I know none of the ex-Labour people did.

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WorldbyStorm - March 14, 2018

I heard those rumours too and always discounted them too. That’s interesting re the LP left crew. And interesting that they stayed on board in DL.

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4. roddy - March 14, 2018

Ryan was definitely not close to Lynch on “the national question” at that time anyway.I recall his exact quote that “the ass had dropped out of the Northern state”!

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WorldbyStorm - March 14, 2018

1995?

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Roddy wrong - March 14, 2018

His daughter is now in the WP, he canvases for them and wrote an anti-nationalist article for Look Left magazine – not really a Provo fan.

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WorldbyStorm - March 14, 2018

No, I know that, sure I’ve met Eilis and she’s an excellent cllr. I mean when did you hear Ryan say that. BTW there are those who think that after the DL split the WP went a lot more republican than it had been. I tend to think that is true, albeit the antagonism to SF never dissipated, not surprisingly really.

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5. roddy - March 14, 2018

The northern state question was in a newspaper interview and Ryan definitely was not on the stick side with regard to prisoners ,extradition etc.He may have gone full hog WP neo unionist now but in late 80s ,he was not.

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WorldbyStorm - March 14, 2018

I doubt he’s a neo unionist, but meant to say, fair dues to you reading LL. And speaking of publications I was sorry when AP largely abandoned print months back.

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6. roddy - March 14, 2018

Wbs, some imposter called “roddy wrong” reads LL .He,s trying to wrongfoot you!

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WorldbyStorm - March 15, 2018

I see that! The cheek. Anyhow interesting he held that view you describe at one point or another (though one would think the WP held a similar enough view) and you should get a hold of LL. Well worth a read and brilliantly designed.

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7. roddy - March 15, 2018

WP voted for extradition and then had the barefaced cheek to ask SF support in opposing Garlands extradition.The result being Adams got every SF parliamentarian on the Island to sign the petition(dwarfing every other party that signed it.)And you wonder whiy I hold the sticks in such low regard!

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WorldbyStorm - March 15, 2018

Can you recall which vote that was re extradition? I’m wracking my brain to remember when it could have been.

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8. roddy - March 15, 2018

1987. only Gregory and Blaney and possibly one other opposed it in leinster house and the WP enthusiastically voted for it

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RosencrantzisDead - March 15, 2018

Some scant information here. Is this because the claim has no merit, just like your ‘dark sky reserve’ crypto-unionist theory from a few days ago?

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WorldbyStorm - March 15, 2018

Are you certain of that roddy? I was looking through the Dáil records today on my break and couldn’t find an instance where the WP voted with FG on this. In 1988 on the
Private Members’ Business. – Extradition (Amendment) Act, 1987: Motion (Resumed).

http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20authoring/debateswebpack.nsf/takes/dail1988120600028

their votes appeared to be with FF – no great shakes but still under Haughey and not with FG. Moreover, your pal and mine, Harris gave out in 87 to the WP for the following:

‘… it looks weak on extradition, low key on Enniskillen, ambivalent to the Anglo-Irish Agreement and generally projects an image of a Party poodling along behind Fianna Fáil.’

https://www.ucd.ie/t4cms/p0180-heffernan-tony-descriptive-catalogue.pdf

I can’t find another vote and it’s very possible I’m missing something, but perhaps you can?

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Liberius - March 15, 2018

Níl

Blaney, Neil Terence.
Clohessy, Peadar.
Colley, Anne.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Desmond, Barry.
Gibbons, Martin Patrick.
Gregory, Tony.
Harney, Mary.
Higgins, Michael D.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kavanagh, Liam.
Keating, Michael.
McCartan, Pat.
McCoy, John S.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
Molloy, Robert.
O’Malley, Desmond J.
O’Malley, Pat.
Pattison, Séamus.
Quill, Máirín.
Sherlock, Joe.
Spring, Dick.
Stagg, Emmet.
Taylor, Mervyn.
Wyse, Pearse.

De Rossa, McCartan, Mac Giolla and Sherlock seem to have voted against and not for according to the debates archive.

http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20authoring/debateswebpack.nsf/takes/dail1987120300006?opendocument

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WorldbyStorm - March 15, 2018

Yep, that’s the December 1987 vote you’ve found and the one I linked above is the December 1988 vote.

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9. roddy - March 15, 2018

I’m 100% sure they supported extradition in a dail vote.I haven’t the time to do “research” but my memory still serves me well.Those of you who still have contacts with those who sat in the Dail under the WP banner can easily confirm this.So convinced am I that I will leave this site for good if proved wrong.

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RosencrantzisDead - March 15, 2018

What do you mean by ‘supporting extradition’?

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Liberius - March 15, 2018

So convinced am I that I will leave this site for good if proved wrong

Oh, my five minutes of work above was of good use then…

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10. roddy - March 15, 2018

I’m sure Brian Hanley could settle the matter.

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11. roddy - March 15, 2018

The vote above is not the vote I”m referring to.Are you seriously suggesting the PDs opposed extradition.

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RosencrantzisDead - March 15, 2018

Which vote are you referring to then? Some detail might be useful.

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Liberius - March 15, 2018

That is the vote on the Extradition (Amendment) Bill, 1987, and yes it does appear that the PDs voted against, if you want to wrap your head around that then read O’Malley’s contribution to the second stage of the bill (at the below link).

http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20authoring/debateswebpack.nsf/takes/dail1987112700004?opendocument

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WorldbyStorm - March 15, 2018

All of this explains why Eoghan Harris would be complaining the WP was weak on extradition, wouldn’t it?

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12. roddy - March 15, 2018

A vote was Definitely taken on extradition for northern conflict “offences”. All voted for it bar Blaney,Gregory and possibly one other.Any serious journalist from the period will confirm this.The exact year may be in question but it Definitely happened.

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WorldbyStorm - March 15, 2018

But that’s a shift in your original position. It was extradition, now it’s some vague offences. You’re the one who used this as an example of why you hold the sticks in low regard and yet you cannot even give us any detail as to when, or what the content was, of this hugely (in your eyes) important event. Could it be that you’re talking about the offences against the state act which Gregory (to his credit) did indeed vote against and which (some aspects of same) IIRC still in force. That had nothing to do with extradition and was solely about the Republic of Ireland.

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RosencrantzisDead - March 15, 2018

Here is a quote from George Birmingham (FG) regarding the WP’s and extradition (2nd December 1987):

Last year, and again this year, The Workers’ Party argued to make extradition more difficult.

Roddy’s claim is nonsense.

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13. Colm B - March 15, 2018

My memory of this is that, despite the knee-jerk anti-Provoism of the WP, the party TD’s never voted for extradition. The Harris faction were definitely in favour of it and pushed that line in RTE but the other leadership factions were sufficiently queasy about it to oppose it. My hunch is that they opposed it in the Dail, partly because it would just look bad for a left-wing party and partly because of civil-liberties concerns of MacCartan etc.

Again I may be wrong on this but I think De Rossa at some stage in the late 80s/early 90s might have publicly expressed a favourable view of extradition but that this led to an adverse reaction from most in the Party.

In my view the problem with Roddy’s analysis of the WP/OIRA in the 1980s is that it is based on the view of the organisation as a monolithic entity when in fact it was a more diverse organisation. I suspect that may be because his experience was largely confined to the WP in the North which was in many ways a very different entity to what developed in the South during that. Of course today’s rump-WP is a different entity despite some continuities.

I suspect that you’ll be proved wrong on this one Roddy but please don’t stop contributing – poor Joe will have no one to go a few rounds with anymore.

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WorldbyStorm - March 16, 2018

That’s my feeling re extradition. De Rossa raised a balloon but it was shot down, so to speak. Now the Offences Against the State Act, I’m not sure the WP did vote for that. But I’m open to correction. THat’s an interesting point re MacCartan who in fairness was entirely sincere in same.

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WorldbyStorm - March 16, 2018

Just on your point re continuities and discontinuities where would you see them in either respect?

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Colm B - March 16, 2018

Some obvious discontinues – less diverse, only one elite faction, much more dogmatic ideologically (formal adoption of Marxism-Leninism a few years back, affiliation to stalinist international etc.) though accompanied by less hostility towards “trotskyist” groups, lack of any real influence in unions.

Continuities – visceral hostility to SF, northern wing as subculture of families in urban Catholic area, involvement in broad campaigns but largely marginal due to size.

The composition of the party seems to be a combination of traditional WP family members and a small intake, in Dublin, of newer members who seem unaware/naive about the problematic areas of the party – support for genocidal Assad regime etc.
As for OIRA, the WP version never declared itself disarmed or dissolved, it was the ORM version that decommissioned a few years back. Given the absence of any reports in the media, one must assume either that it has faded away or kept a very low profile.

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WorldbyStorm - March 16, 2018

Cheers Colm

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Git - March 17, 2018

‘Genocidial’ – Colm do you live on planet imperial-trot now? Can you explain how a pluralist army fighting against groups openly supporting ethnic cleansing is such?

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WorldbyStorm - March 17, 2018

If someone has a question to put to Colm just put it. No need for macho political bs such as phrases like ‘planet imperial-trot’. Apart from everything else it dissuades people from actually engaging and explaining their positions and allowing others to assess whether they’re right, wrong or somewhere in the middle.

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14. James O'Brien - March 18, 2018

“a small intake, in Dublin, of newer members who seem unaware/naive about the problematic areas of the party – support for genocidal Assad regime etc.”

On the contrary, those of us who joined in late 2014 were and are aware of the party’s history. It is not that difficult to uncover, particularly if you circulate in left-wing circles. It’s a small country after all. If all else fails, the residents here on Cedar Lounge, not least the fair Roddy, are never shy of chipping in their tuppence worth on the WP.

It is never the case that there is an organisation that one is completely 100% satisfied with: all its past choices, present policies, tactical approaches etc, There is a trade off between having a perfect politics but being minuscule with very little capacity to expand and, consequently a near complete isolation from the working class and, on the other hand, a party that has engaged in politics at a mass level but which then has historical baggage to carry.

Having been in small far-left organisations of that type, in my case the WSM, I feel that it is worth pursuing the second option. Nor is all the baggage negative; there is much to value in that history.

We just don’t agree with your statement regarding Syria. For sure, the current government is not our ideal choice but we do think maintaining the existence of the Syrian state provides the best chance for the country’s development. There is a lot of naivety around street revolutions in left-wing circles, often harking back to the day when such revolutions heralded a socialist or at least a progressive left-nationalist government.

But in our era, such revolutions are as likely, if not more so, to be conducted under the aegis of the reactionary forces: the overthrow in 2014 of the Ukrainian government, the revolution in Libya, the street protests in Venezuela. I would be very wary of interpreting many of these revolutionary attempts as socialist or even progressively secular and democratic. For sure, they may market themselves as such but we are under no obligation to take them at their word.

There is a tendency, as I argued, to interpret people on the streets as inherently progressive, but what matters is the organisational forces behind them and which will reap the harvest. In Venezuela or Syria, what are the organisational forces in the opposition?

These are often difficult to see at first. but it is clear that outside of the Kurdish areas of Syria, that the opposition is almost completely Islamist , and a particularly savage version of it too: the rebel Islamist organisations are well known: Ahrar al-Sham, Nour al-Din al-Zenki, Jaysh al-Islam, and Al Qaeda to name just four of the most prominent.

There are no comparable socialist militias, nor even secular democratic ones that can be identified, let alone hold any territory. There is no indication that they have enough popular support to do so. And given that many of the initial protests saw the Muslim Brotherhood as the key organisation behind them and the involvement of the USA, Turkey, and the Gulf states, this is not surprising.

I don’t doubt that there are many brutalities committed by the government, even if I am deeply sceptical of the likely highly exaggerated reports emanating from HRW and its ilk. But the question is not whether the government is ideal in some absolute sense, especially in the context of a prolonged civil war. It is whether, in the context, there are better options.

If there are, then I am sure we’d be interested in finding out more. But before the current house is knocked down I’l like to see the actual replacement building, even if unfinished, rather than some vague sketches on paper.

I would say that the view above is broadly representative of the newer members, and it is a view that has not been handed down by the Ard Comhairle. On the contrary, one of the attractions of the WP, as opposed to, say, PBP, is that it takes, to our minds, a more realistic view of international politics.

Lastly, I disagree with your description of the party has having had elite factions (or just one today). Apart from the definition of faction, I think describing leadership as elite is misleading or at least very close to an anarchist analysis. I’d be doubtful if there is any mass organisation which wouldn’t merit your description of having elite factions.

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yourcousin - March 18, 2018

You could just say, “no party is perfect”.

You really don’t need a multi paragraph synopsis of why the WP support dictators and autocrats all over the world I think that’s just a given assumption.

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Colm B - March 18, 2018

Since James has taken the time to offer a considered reply to my analysis of the WP, I’ll try to respond in detail when I get a chance later this week – up to my ears in marking papers today I’m afraid.

As for the aptly named Git, yes of course, you’re right, I am an agent of the Trotskyite gang, the petite-bourgeois Pilsudski regime, the Hitlerite-fascists, the Anglo-American imperialists and I abjectly beg comrade Stalin for forgiveness etc. etc.

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RosencrantzisDead - March 18, 2018

You could just say, “no party is perfect”.

You really don’t need a multi paragraph synopsis of why the WP support dictators and autocrats all over the world I think that’s just a given assumption.

Someone writes a measured response with no name-calling or inflammatory language, and this is your response.

You should take some time to think about, especially since you are a mod here.

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yourcousin - March 18, 2018

You are right.

I should not have have made a snarky response to well intentioned comment.

For that I apologize to James, yourself, and other folks here who take the time to keep the standards up.

That being said. I work usually 50-60 hours a week and am writing this from a construction site (Sunday afternoon) parking lot right now from my phone.

While James may be well intentioned in his comment, his apologetics for dictators and autocrats is sickening to me.

The thing is that what I said wasn’t wrong. The WP has a long history of supporting dictators and strong men because they view them as, “our son of a bitch” (with apologies to FDR).

That’s wrong. They should be called out on it time and time again because from where I’m sitting folks who want to see progress for humanity should not be apologizing for dictators who use (at a minimum, because we’re in a post truth world) starvation against civilians as weapon, barrel bombs on civilian populations, gross aerial bombardment on civilian centers, purposefully targetting medical personnel, and gas attacks. All to maintain a familial dictatorship and reactionary theological state’s influence.

And that’s just the low hanging fruit. You can look at the early Russian intervention and see how moderate groups were targeted first even going so far as to bomb them while they were fighting ISIS because it leaves a situation like now where the main players left standing are unpalatable to western minds. Fuck, the Kurds wouldn’t even still be standing were it not for American support. And I’ve posted in the past on Americans from Colorado (my home) who died fighting with revolutionary Kurdish forces.

So yes I should have been more circumspect in my critique, and I will continue to work on that, but apologetics deserve to be called out.

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RosencrantzisDead - March 19, 2018

Thank you for the response, yc. That’s fair enough.

Without wanting to drag myself into a Syria debate, I don’t think the post above engages in apologetics or comes anywhere near that, but you are entitled to your view.

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - March 20, 2018

Yes, James O’Brien is to be applauded for his defence of his party (rather more reasoned than some I have heard over the years). Nonetheless, there are certain lacunae in it.
Firstly, there is the q. of ‘realism’ (perhaps ‘pragmatism’ would be a more accurate term.). As between O’Brien’s chosen antipodes, the PBP and the WP, I would have to say the at on one matter, the burden of realism lies with the first, unless the WP has abandoned the its search for the mirage of a socialist society in a single country, in which the PBP never participated. On the other hand, both parties showed a remarkable lack of realism in embracing Brexit.
Sadly, in too many cases, ‘realism’ or ‘pragmatism’ can be an excuse for ‘opportunism’. During the centenary through which we are living, the Labour movement had to choose between the strategies of Connolly and Tom Johnson. Johnson’s strategy was one of ‘realism’: to keep out of the national struggle as much as possible but build up the Labour movement’s organisation. Since Connolly’s short term strategy seemed to have led to disaster (including his own death), it was obvious, even to many revolutionary socialists the Johnson’s line was the correct one. Nonetheless, by keeping his movement out of the struggle for state power, j. insured that it would be unable to secure the short term gains the it had won and the politically, north and south, it would be no more than a third, or even fourth force for nearly a century. (It broke thru’ in the republic in 2011, only to retreat hastily.)
Finally and spec ifically on Syria. O’Brein and Git are agreed that Assad must be supported because he is maintaining (trying to maintain? ) a pluralist society. This is a lot less of an excuse than those used once by the more enthusiastic supporters of Stalin (that he had established a socialist society). Moreover, it is arguable that the Baath’s other characteristics (like the soviet bureaucracy’s) helped discredit pluralism more than they advanced it. In Iraq, it is not accidental the the Baathist Ali Baghdadi recoiled from the defeat of his master Sadam to become leader of a movement with politics 1,400 years old. The only crowd whom socialists can support are the Kurds fighting for self-determination, and if they have to fight against the Daesh, the Baath ,the Turks et al and take support from the Americans, that is because of our weakness. Their practical programme is closer to ours than anyone else’s.
We are agreed on the need for a revolutionary socialist party. Whether the WP is likely to be that body I remain sceptical.

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15. Alibaba - March 18, 2018

The arguments here don’t really hang together for me. That’s partly because of the drawing together of comments on Michael D’s profile, Workers’ Party on nationalism, extradition, the Syrian crisis, along with some tetchy exchanges.

That said, given some considered views, I would like to see them put and further explored on a separate thread, specifically in the case of the Syrian civil war. Half a million dead and millions driven away from their homes, or forced to flee abroad.

I can’t countenance any circumstance in which the left would support
American imperialism and its regional allies either directly or indirectly in the Syrian war. Or why would they not condemn vicious crimes against humanity by Assad and Putin and their backers too? This war has an intercontinental dimension and it goes on and on. Much to be explored, I suggest.

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yourcousin - March 18, 2018

So wait, just to make sure I’m understanding this. The Kurdish revolution in Rojava is beyond the pale?

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Alibaba - March 19, 2018

The Rojava conflict is certainly not beyond the pale. I regret it if my post gave that impression. I just wondered if this thread is the best place to discuss the complexities of the Syrian war and response of the Left (including WP) to it. Should you or others choose to think otherwise, fair enough. That will do.

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