Socialist Action and the PSC

Ahead of this Saturday's Palestine Solidarity Campaign AGM, Tony Greenstein of Brighton PSC argues that Socialist Action is leading the movement nowhere

Socialist Action is a strange group. Until recently it denied it even existed, although everyone else knew it did! But this has begun to change now SA has pulled out of the Labour Party and begun infiltrating Respect instead. A fledgling site has been established (www.socialistaction.net).

Of course, leftwing groups enter other groups all the time to win people to their ideas and politics. But in the case of SA the purpose seems to be to obtain jobs and opportunities for its membership. Now that the Socialist Action kitchen cabinet around Ken Livingstone has gone, the group has had to go further afield.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, like other solidarity groups, is ideal territory for Socialist Action (and the even more shadowy Communist League). Whereas socialists argue that the bourgeoisie of oppressed nations is incapable of leading the national struggle, given its propensity to sell out in their own narrow interests, Socialist Action/CL have a simple solution. Like the Stalinists of old they do not believe that class has any relevance in relation to that struggle.

So, when Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, withdrew a motion from the UN Human Rights Committee endorsing the Goldstone report on Israel’s war crimes in Gaza, the PSC executive was in a quandary. It solved its problem in a quite unique way: by not mentioning it! Instead the PSC website (www.palestinecampaign.org) led with the heading, “Israel to UN body: Come to your senses on Goldstone report”, referring people to an article in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. It is not often that Palestinian solidarity groups defer to the oppressor for their analysis of the situation.

The PSC executive, in the form of CL and ex-National Union of Teachers executive member Bernard Regan, has fiercely resisted the idea that trade unions should boycott the racist settler ‘union’, Histadrut. This is an organisation which was primarily responsible for creating the Israeli state. It began its life campaigning for Jewish labour - ie, for a boycott of Arab labour. Why does SA take this position? Because this would upset Regan’s buddies in the trade union bureaucracy. The main strategy is to get union executives to agree to affiliate to PSC and provide some money, in exchange for which PSC refrains from doing anything to upset them. A resolution here and there and a delegation to the occupied territories are all that is required. Regan and co are opposed to grassroots activist groups in the unions.

We have a situation in PSC where the last three staff members appointed - Sarah Colborne, Ruqqayah Collector and Denis Fernando - are SA members. Given SA is estimated to have about 100 members maximum, that is a remarkable coincidence! At this weekend’s annual general meeting the leadership will be aiming to prevent the election of regional representatives onto the executive, as this is seen as a threat to its own control, and will also be seeking to amend the constitution, so that up to a third of the members will be appointees, not elected, from the likes of Bernard Regan’s secretive Trade Union Action Committee (not open to activists, only union leaders).

The PSC’s student work has been crippled by Socialist Action. The student organiser, Bryony Shanks, is another SA member, although she failed to get elected to the NUS executive in 2008. Ruqqayah Collector was the last NUS executive member belonging to Socialist Action’s Student Broad Left. The new star on the horizon is one Fiona Edwards, who is moving a motion at the PSC AGM saying how wonderful the occupations of colleges over the Gaza invasion were. Which is rather rich, given that Fiona Edwards actually opposed the occupation at Sheffield University.

There are those who say I am engaged in a witch-hunt of the left. My response is quite simple: there is nothing ‘left’ about Socialist Action. Last year they tried to cement an alliance with the Communist Party of Britain (Regan agreed to a ludicrous amendment from the CPB that described the invasion of Gaza as being designed to destroy the PA, when Abbas actually supported the attack!). Socialists are open about their politics: SA acts like a political mafia.

Last August, 27 of us sent a letter to PSC outlining our concerns. SA’s response was the usually attempt at character assassination. One Hilary Wise, an SA fellow traveller, opined that I was a “wrecker” (in 1982, along with other ‘wreckers’, I helped found PSC!). As a result of the way the leadership handled our letter two executive members resigned, including its Palestinian vice-chairperson.

As memories of the invasion of Gaza fade and with it the momentum that the Palestinian solidarity movement had, so it becomes clearer that Socialist Action’s timidity and cautiousness, coupled with its support for a bourgeois two-state solution, is leading the movement nowhere

Palestine Solidarity Campaign AGM

Saturday February 6, 10am to 5pm, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1. Open to all national members. £8 waged, £6 unwaged (to cover cost of lunch). info@palestinecampaign.org.