Is the mystery buried forever ‘neath the sucking flush of the grimpen mire, or is it blatantly before our eyes?

david_brent_111.jpg

I may be on a hiding to nothing here, but can someone please explain to me what John Rees thinks he’s doing? I ask merely for information.

Let’s start by going back to the Great Miners’ Strike. You will recall that at the time the Daily Mirror (R. Maxwell prop.) ran a pretty vicious smear campaign alleging Arthur Scargill to be corrupt, a campaign moreover that went on for years after the strike was defeated. Remember also that Paul Foot was at the time a star columnist on the Mirror and thus dependent on Cap’n Bob for his salary. Now, Footie could not stop the Mirror printing smears against Scargill, but he did refuse to take part in the campaign, and nothing of that sort ever appeared in the Paul Foot column. If it had, one assumes the SWP would have looked askance. In fact, one assumes Cliff would have gone through Foot like a dose of salts.

So we turn to Cde Rees, a clever man when it comes to writing Marxist theory but as a practical politician… well, let’s just say that if you sent him out to sell the family cow, there’s a fair possibility he would come back with a bag of magic beans. Certainly, his dealings with the press, and how he’s getting away with them, are enough to boggle the mind.

One thing that has struck me over the last few months is that, to the extent the press has covered the Respect split at all, it has tended to lean very much to the SWP side of the equation. This seems quite odd – you don’t, for instance, expect the Evening Standard to be particularly sympathetic to the SWP. Even more surprising has been the coverage in Private Eye, given that the Eye‘s point-man for this sort of thing is Francis Wheen. Now, we know Wheen of old. We know his history of red-baiting, his particular hostility to the SWP, and his place in the Euston Manifesto camarilla. So why would he be puffing up John Rees, of all people?

It’s all a question of priorities. If you went back ten, fifteen, twenty years you would often find witch-hunting of the SWP in the bourgeois media. These days, that’s quite rare. The same goes for the state – if Annie Machon is right, MI5 still runs interference with the SWP, but on a much smaller scale than it used to. The powers that be, it is reasonable to infer, may not like the SWP but are not really all that bothered by it, and they certainly don’t care much about John Rees.

George Galloway, on the other hand, is quite a different kettle of fish. I have my own serious reservations about George, but there’s no gainsaying the fact that the media are out to get George, and for reasons that have nothing to do with my reservations. Indeed, they’re after him for his good points. Let’s be honest, George, whether we like it or not, is just about the most recognisable face of the antiwar movement. He’s one of the most articulate critics of New Labour. He has that extremely important connection with the working-class Asian population in the East End. Lord help us, he’s a serious asset to our side as well as being an incorrigible loose cannon.

All this should be fairly obvious. If the SWP side in the split is getting puff jobs in the media, not to mention acquiring the critical support of Harry’s Place and the Alliance for Workers Liberty, that’s not an accident. These guys have a clear sense of priorities. There are of course other factors – Private Eye‘s repeated snarky references to the Asian element of Respect gel with the sort of casual racism one expects from the Eye – but in the end it comes down to priorities. Using the SWP as a cat’s paw against Galloway is using a sprat to catch a whale.

You would think the SWP leadership would be aware of this, and maybe at some level they are. But then one would expect the proponents of the united front (even “of a special type”) to be working out strategies for avoiding falling into this trap. One would certainly not expect Rees’ fingerprints to be all over anti-Galloway articles in the media. The most stunning example of this is the Private Eye article before Christmas on the dodgy Dubai cheque. Now, it was pretty clear that George did the right thing, sensing the cheque to be a provocation. It was also clear that getting dodgy Middle Eastern money alongside George Galloway in an article would be the probable outcome. So far so predictable. But what of the lengthy verbatim quote from “Mr Rees, who denies any wrongdoing”?

It’s possible, of course, that the Eye contacted Rees rather than vice versa. Be that as it may, he still wasn’t under any obligation to supply anti-Galloway quotes. And while this may be unfortunate in the case of Private Eye, when Rees’ fingerprints start popping up in the Evening Standard and the Independent, and when the man himself is going on Newsnight to attempt to link the Galloway faction to political violence, it begins to look like a deliberate pattern. In that case, I think Rees deserves to be scandalised throughout the labour movement for his actions.

Rud eile: I can’t help noticing that Respect (Renewal) has been sluggish in its rebuttals, and hasn’t come back on this with as much energy as I would have expected. What RR really needs, of course – and this has been discussed several times – is a serious press operation. It’s true that the old Respect didn’t have a functioning press office, nor does the SWP. (The Socialist Alliance did, though, before Rees buggered it up, but let’s not get into that.) But, when your leader is faced with the sort of media hostility that GG generates, I would have thought it would be an urgent necessity.

31 Comments

  1. February 4, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Smithers, release the hounds …

  2. February 4, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    FYI, your article was picked up on http://www.spiderednews.com

  3. babeuf said,

    February 4, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    It’s true that the old Respect didn’t have a functioning press office, nor does the SWP. (The Socialist Alliance did, though, before Rees buggered it up, but let’s not get into that.)

    Oh, let’s get into that anyway. Anna C not only kept the Socialist Alliance press operation running, but the early Stop the War Coalition too. Rees, clever white man that he is, and revolutionary hobbyist, didn’t take well to this minion’s successes, and devoted his energies to seeing that she was put in her place.

    Fortunately for him, but unfortunately for the rest of the left in this country, he learned a few unacknowledged lessons from her before he banished her to the outer darkness, and he’s putting those lessons to good use now in his War on Communalism. A great pity that no-one senior in Respect would think of calling on her, especially since it seems that nothing would have been done to hamper Rees’s press campaign if it hadn’t been for her prompting. It would be silly to hand yet another victory to Rees for the sake of some embarrassment on the part of those who let Rees get away with too much in the past (not to be hypocritical, that includes me, in a small way, but we’re all supposed to have learnt our lessons now – aren’t we?)

  4. ejh said,

    February 4, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Gawd, man, give it a fucking rest. It’s starting to remind me of the blind chap in Name of the Rose and the eternal reiteration of the verities.

  5. How dare you assume I'm an SWP member? said,

    February 4, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Well said, ejh, well said. Negation of the negation, and all that.

    The sooner that soppy fuckwit Baboof knocks off with his “eternal reiteration of the verities” the better. The whole tired old sob story is just bourgeois truth. We’ve outgrown that: we are the bearers of revolutionary truth.

    We are clever and we are hard. And we will prevail.

  6. splinteredsunrise said,

    February 4, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Yeah, it’s back to the well time. But I’ll see if I can finish that post on Susan Polgar, just to stir in some variety.

  7. February 4, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Well, Splintered, that was cryptic and a half.

    EJH, what exactly is it you’re objecting to?

  8. ejh said,

    February 4, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Bores

  9. Louise said,

    February 4, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    ejh: what a rather tacky link. What gives with this “obsession” reference? If a woman like Anna speaks out about being trashed and exploited by the left then it is an obsession?
    People have the right to expect respect, equality and solidarity esp. from the left (as FFS we are supposed to be the alternative to capitalism….). If they don’t, then what are they supposed to do? Run away and keep quiet like women are expected to……??

  10. ejh said,

    February 4, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Louise – I find the problem with rhetoric is that it tends to involve an awful lot of inference and waste an awful lot of time.

  11. Madam Miaow said,

    February 4, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    EJH, what exactly is it you object to. Specifically. Perhaps then we can have a proper debate.

  12. marge said,

    February 4, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Something about this story doesnt add up. Why would anyone object to a press office being successful?

  13. ejh said,

    February 4, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Does anybody remember the Fall and Repetition?

    My view of the subject is contrary to that attributed to President Carter and Chairman Mao.

    There are number of reasons for this, among which feature not just boredom, but the way in which it tends to attract and encourage bores.

  14. Madam Miaow said,

    February 4, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Why so mysterious, EJH? C’mon, don’t be such a little tease. Say it. You know you want to.

  15. ejh said,

    February 4, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    I thought that I had.

  16. Francis Wheen said,

    February 4, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Sorry to spoil your theory, but far from being Private Eye’s “point man” on these matters I didn’t write (or even contribute to) any of the Eye pieces about the Respect bust-up.
    Incidentally, you say that “we all know his [ie my] history of red-baiting”. Maybe everyone else does, but I don’t. Where can I learn more about this well-known history? Is it on the school curriculum?

  17. stupid asian woman said,

    February 4, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    I really do think we all owe a heartfelt apology to poor bored ejh. It is our humble lot, sisters, to suffer in silence and not to disturb clever white men like ejh with our little gripes and worries.

    I look at ejh’s posts and think: if only I could understand his elegant sphinx-like phrases … but at the same time I know full well that it’s beyond my powers to fathom the beautiful, deep civilised thoughts that must lie behind them. And look at the wealth of cultural references, out-of-focus for people like us, but dazzling all the same.

    Excuse me while I go and fetch jalebi and ras malai from the kitchen.

  18. Lobby Ludd said,

    February 4, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    I’m sorry. EJH. but I do not understand what you are saying. Please spell it out.

  19. charliemarks said,

    February 4, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    Press relations: these things take time, it’s early days.

  20. Madam Miaow said,

    February 4, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    In my experience, Charlie, not necessarily. Especially if the basics aren’t being done. Early days? I don’t think so.

  21. Phil said,

    February 4, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Oh, let’s get into that anyway.

    No, let’s not. We all know what happened; I don’t think going over it here again is going to inform anyone, or change anyone’s mind.

    Let’s just say that if you sent him out to sell the family cow, there’s a fair possibility he would come back with a bag of magic beans

    Actually I’m not sure this is the analogy you were after. I happened to see a semi-improvised dramatic performance based on that story just after Christmas, and the feckless lad in question came out of it rather well.

    Oh, yes he did.

  22. February 4, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    No, let’s not. We all know what happened;

    Do you, Phil? Sorry, I was unaware of that as I’ve heard nothing from you to that effect. But thank you for deciding on my behalf that the matter should remain closed and unresolved, comrade.

    Splintered has posted about press matters on the left. Silly of anyone to think I might have something to offer on the subject.

  23. Prianikoff said,

    February 5, 2008 at 7:18 am

    Splintered Sunrise, Studded Wheatgerm, Miss Kitty
    In my experience journalists would stab their own granny in the back to get a story. The idea of a left wing organisation recruiting one before they’ve even expressed political agreement, let alone joined is a lousy one.

  24. splinteredsunrise said,

    February 5, 2008 at 8:30 am

    I stand corrected, Francis at #16 – with the Eye, it’s often necessary to go by conjecture. That doesn’t however affect my argument in re Rees.

  25. chekov said,

    February 5, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    “Incidentally, you say that “we all know his [ie my] history of red-baiting”. Maybe everyone else does, but I don’t. Where can I learn more about this well-known history? Is it on the school curriculum?”

    For an opener, I’ll profer your truly dreadful article about Chomsky – a veritable feast of old, unsubstantiated smears that seemed to be more or less directly cogged from an old Washington Post article.

  26. stupid asian woman said,

    February 5, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Phil said: No, let’s not. We all know what happened; I don’t think going over it here again is going to inform anyone, or change anyone’s mind.

    Quite right, dear. So sorry we sisters forgot to retreat to the kitchen to shed our little tears over our little problems, boring poor ejh, and telling poor Phil things that he already knew (and we must admire the obvious strength behind his manly silence). But through our tears, we can rejoice that our work has put revolutionary men of destiny at the head of the movement.

    Oh, do excuse me, I think the shahi tukra is ready.

  27. Phil said,

    February 5, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Sorry, MM – and I do mean ‘sorry’, not ‘sorry but’.I did think, like ejh, that babeuf’s comment didn’t add anything to this thread, and that responding to “let’s not get into that” by enthusiastically getting into that (whatever that is) is a bit ungracious. But I didn’t have any intention of belittling what you went through, let alone telling you to shut up.

  28. Phil said,

    February 5, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Telling babeuf to shut up, on the other hand…

  29. Madam Miaow said,

    February 5, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Thank you, Phil, for your clarification. Peace.

    I will, however, point out that Babeuf has been one of the few comrades to give me any public support or acknowledgment, or to take the wider issues seriously. I was touched to read his comment at No 3 as this is such a rare example of solidarity, comradeship and basic humanity coming through.

    I think there is much to be learnt from him.

  30. babeuf said,

    February 5, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Phil said: Telling babeuf to shut up, on the other hand…

    Well, well … I think I’ll do just that.

  31. Madam Miaow said,

    February 6, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    No, don’t shut up, Babeuf. Why should you let anyone exclude you from the “debate” – not that we’re getting much of one on this subject. If your own side was smarter … (sigh!) well, they’re not.

    Today’s Guardian diary item on Respect is yet one more reminder why RR needs to get its act together, and how easy it is to screw up. Your final points in comment No 3 require a serious response but let’s not hold our breath.


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