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Friday, 25 October 2019

Bolivia, democracy and Corbyn: It's not pretty

On Tuesday morning at a quarter to eleven People’s Momentum tweeted out a three raised fist emoji salute to the re-election of Evo Morales in Bolivia in the first round of the Presidential election.

“Congratulations to Evo Morales who looks set to win his reelection bid outright in the first round of voting!”, they wrote.

In prematurely claiming victory Momentum echoed Cuba and Venezuela’s Presidents. The Jeremy Corbyn supporters club would have known that the circumstances of a supposed Morales first round win that avoids a runoff election in December is, to put it mildly, questionable. The OAS, United Nations and the EU are among those who’ve raised eyebrows. They would also have known that the very candidacy of Morales, rather than of someone else from his party, MAS, is outright denial of the people’s will in a 2016 referendum on term limits.

Morales claimed he lost that referendum because a soapish scandal had erupted just before the vote involving a supposed girlfriend plus ‘love child’ plus corruption. He said that he didn’t want to run again but "I can't disappoint my people" and he had to follow his “destiny” of being president. He got a pliant Supreme Court to invent the novel idea that term limits for politicians is a breach of human rights.

Momentum knew all that but they tweeted out a rote ‘solidarity’ statement with added emojis anyway. The message being that Momentum thinks that undemocratic behaviour is fine if it comes from someone waving a red flag?

Reversing the referendum result in order to stand again is the big reason why Morales’ could be forced to the second round by Carlos Mesa. Despite MAS controlling most of Bolivia’s media what has now happened is that Morales’ support has dropped all around Bolivia, ending regional polarisations, and the left who opposed Morales over the referendum voted for his ‘neoliberal’ opponent. And this is also despite that, as Vanderbilt University Bolivia expert Carwil Bjork-James points out, “right-wing politics remains a minority tendency within Bolivia”. Centre-left Mesa embraced the government’s core poverty programs and cultivated alliances with left, grassroots, and environmental dissidents. He told NPR "I recognise the positive things" that Morales has brought to Bolivia. That’s liberal democracy for you at work right there. That’s the same shifting of the Overton Window leftwards that Labour achieved with the NHS.

As numerous commentators have pointed out if Morales had not decided to stand again he would have bowed out a hero. An Indigenous President who did reduce poverty and do other good works.

Instead we have a massive propaganda operation online about mythical US interference, Evo talking about a coup and his Vice President, Álvaro García Linera, dangerously talking about a fight between q'aras (whites) against Indiegnous people. As journalist Andrés Cañizalez has noted, it is as if the survival in power of Maduro “is an example for [Nicaragua’s] Ortega and Evo, for now, to simply throw away institutionality, knowing that there will be no consequences.”

But it’s not just Momentum at ease with all this, it’s Labour’s Leader as well.

Corbyn met García Linera in London in February. His subsequent tweet bizarrely claimed that Bolivia, Mexico and Uruguay “are already playing an important role in mediating a negotiated political solution in Venezuela.” This is complete nonsense (and note that Labour has never once acknowledged the EU’s role in pushing Venezuela negotiations) but it’s also uncritical support after Morales has defied the people’s will that he should retire.

When he attended the inauguration of his friend Mexican President Lopez Obrador last December he gave an interview to the left-wing conspiracist Matt Kennard in which he heaped praise on Morales. They later met in Mexico - here's a picture of Seumas Milne filming the encounter. Same month he gave Morales his backing in a statement to ‘Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America.’ Not even a hint of concern about Morales’ undemocratic behaviour.

Tellingly Corbyn has praised “street movements” like MAS as they “consider themselves less election-fighting machines than revolutionary upswells; multitudes that primarily exercise power not through the legislature but through the charismatic influence of their leaders and by taking to the streets to give voice to popular anger”.

This is not how the left wing Latin Americans who Corbyn never speaks with see it. Morales created “a vertical movement with fragile roots that are entirely dependent on a single individual and heavy subsidies” argues Democracia Abierta. “If the cases of Brazil and Venezuela are any indication, we should have learned that cult of personality, a sin so common to the Latin American left, tends to ricochet in the opposite direction.”

But we already know from Venezuela that Corbyn and others never learn anything, never leave their safe space and ignore left or civic or institutional voices that counter their rose tinted view of Latin American “revolutionary upswells”. Chavez’s famed ‘gains for the poor’ were already reversing when Corbyn (and Abbott and Jones et al) were still visiting. But they wouldn’t have known this because they never spoke to anyone outside the Potemkin Village. If they had they’d have learned that the Cuban supported health programme they all praised was a complete wreck. If they’d spoken to the Labour movement independent of the government they’d have known that Chavez and Maduro were repressing it. Years later when Maduro went after a Parliament dominated by opposition MPs elected by Venezuelans, many of them elected from barrios, the silence was deafening.

Heck, Corbyn met the socialist former Chilean President Michele Bachelet (now UN human rights chief) a year ago and rather than talk about human rights - her job - Labour tweeted that they’d be talking about workers rights in the EU. Corbyn’s account decided to use the opportunity to tweet a boast about how Saint Jez had opposed Pinochet.

Continuing the theme of existing in a 1970s bubble, back in May Corbyn gave a speech to a Marxist gathering in a Welsh valley called El Sueño Existe, organised by his old friend the Marxist lecturer Dr Francisco Dominquez. In his jaw dropping speech Corbyn did talk at length about human rights and refugees - but only in the context of Trump. There was not one single mention of Venezuela, the biggest refugee crisis in Latin America’s history, or Nicaragua, which he spoke about in the House of Commons 210 times.

If you wanted a crystal clear example of Corbyn’s tenuous connection to both human rights and democracy in Latin America that speech is it.

Evo Morales @ the UN: "as we say in Bolivia, the only way is unity before adversity, today we suffer the effects of climate change throughout the planet, the life of our mother earth is at serious risk."

Hegemony is all

In the second par of their tweet Momentum claim that:

“[Morales’] programme of renationalising key natural resources whilst drastically reducing poverty rates has led to a period of great stability for millions of Bolivians.”

‘Stability’ has clearly ended but the ignorant faith in MAS economic policy is another telling example of how waving a red flag ends any scrutiny of the smallprint for much of the left.

After the referendum issue it was differences in how to grow the economy that also drove down Morales’ vote. The crisis over Bolivia’s fires has driven this to the fore.

Those fires destroyed 6m hectares, an area as big as Brazil’s fires destroyed, a country eight times as big. They killed seven volunteer firefighters. They were ended by joyfully received rain, not Evo’s actions. The region’s Indigenous organisations (including Ecuador’s, who Western lefties have been happily plugging of late) blamed both Morales and Bolsonardo, as have Latin American environmental NGOs. For those who think this is all a Western MSM plot protests about the government’s inaction on the fires by Indigenous Bolivians were reported by Ruptly. The government's response was objectively pathetic; From making a fetish of not accepting international aid, then accepting it from France, from boosting about a ‘Supertanker’ that had been brought in by a Bolivian pilot called Jose Raul Bolivar Montalvo, not government, through trying to blame the spread of the fires on Brazil, through attacking “corporate greenwashing groups like Extinction Rebellion" who supported protests about the fires, through Bolivian-funded network TeleSUR running with “Socialism vs Facism: The Amazon fire.”

Bolivians turned all this into black comedy: 'How bad do we have to be that we trust more on Leonardo Dicaprio saving us than in our president.'

Morales’ government has passed four laws on forests and land that have mostly benefited big land owners. Scientists and ecologists have pinned the blame for the scale of the fires on those four legal changes, particularly a Morales’ degree just before the fires started in August. Pablo Solon, the former Bolivian ambassador to the UN and now a fierce Morales’ critic, says damningly: “The president gives speeches at international meetings in defence of Pachamama, the Mother Earth revered by the indigenous people of the Andes, while in Bolivia the rights of Mother Earth are violated."

Despite all the worthy grandiloquence nine years ago, according to Goldsmith’s political economist Jeffery R. Webber, MAS opted for an "agri-capital-state alliance" that "has consolidated agribusiness capital, both national and foreign, in the soy sector, integrating the rich peasants in a subordinate manner." Activists have claimed that Morales also used the opening up of land to agriculture “to move members of his base to electoral districts he might otherwise lose.”

What is amazing about the left’s unquestioning embrace of Morales is that Vice President García Linera said five years ago that the government plan was to massively increase the land farmed by large businesses. To underscore their actual priorities, right at the height of the fires, he and Morales rubbed Bolivians faces in the environmental destruction by promoting a massive agricultural deal with China.

García Linera calls this turn to agribusiness “the embrace of the adversary”, citing Gramsci he said that that’s an essential part of maintaining hegemony.

Corbyn, Momentum and the left in general by unquestioningly supporting Evo Morales are promoting the same policies in Bolivia that they shun in Brazil. And over Bolivia right now they are demonstrating in real time their conditional relationship with democracy.


The headline is a play on a piece I wrote in August 2015 titled Corbyn and Ukraine: it's not pretty.

For updates on Bolivia in English follow @Action4Bolivia (Bolivian folks in the UK) and @RiosDePie (Bolivian civil society)

This is the long version of this piece published with CapX.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Labour's Kremlin friendly foreign policy

Buy Corbyn, get Milne tweet by me 1 Dec 2015

It was just a line, from remarks in the House of Commons, but it spoke volumes about what a Corbyn foreign policy would look like.

The Leader of the Opposition, responding to the Prime Minister on a meeting with European leaders about the Russian attack on the Ukrainian Navy in November, called for 'both sides to show restraint and de-escalate'. So far so familiar but as his hapless Shadow Foreign Minister Khalid Mahmood had done earlier – so we know it's not just a typo – Corbyn went further and attributed the 'both-side'ing to NATO. The defence organisation had said, according to Corbyn, that 'we need both sides to show restraint and de-escalate'.

Only NATO had not said this. The Guardian had lifted the 'both sides' comment by a NATO spokesperson out of context. Labour repeated it. Labour hadn't bothered to check or wonder about the lack of strong pushback from the Ukrainians, and others, if NATO had indeed made such a statement. What does it say that not a single person in the chain who would have read Corbyn's speech before it was delivered had any sense that NATO could not possibly have made such a statement?

The false statement about NATO went unremarked, even by Corbyn's Commons adversaries, familiar with his previous 'both sides' remarks, or those about Russia being 'provoked' by NATO 'expanding to Russia's borders'. Though his opponents may be less familiar with Corbyn's theory that Putin invaded Crimea because the Russian 'military-industrial complex' forced him to do it. Or alternately Corbyn's view that the war in Ukraine is about the arms manufacturers who really run NATO wanting a hi-tech war with Russia.

What I'm saying is, I can understand why elements of Corbyn's statement about Russia might have flown over people's heads but also why some unkind souls have taken to calling him 'Magic Grandpa'. There are weeds here, some of which I will be clambering through.

The Prime Minister had told the Commons that the European leaders' meeting decided to roll over sanctions against Russia. That was something Corbyn chose not to comment on, despite his previously stated aversion to sanctions on Russia. Nobody pressed him on that either, though, again, I can see why.

The thing is, Corbyn 'misspeaking' about NATO is not just another 'gotcha' or 'Corbyn being Corbyn' moment - the way that such incidents are usually viewed. It's yet another example of what is happening in plain sight but isn't, in my view, being understood or examined properly; namely, that Labour is quietly laying out a foreign policy that benefits the Kremlin.

The Dawn Sturgess problem


Dawn Sturgess

Just over a year ago, March 2018, Russia carried out a chemical weapon attack on UK soil, in Salisbury, Wiltshire. The attack was on a former Russian agent but the sole fatality was an English-woman, Dawn Sturgess. Partner Charlie Rowley had picked up a perfume bottle laced with the weapon. He offered it to her and it killed her, something he now has to live with alongside the physical damage done to him and all those who survived, including a policeman.

Jeremy Corbyn did not explicitly allow that the Kremlin carried out the Salisbury attack until his speech at the October 2018 Labour Party Conference. A few weeks earlier, when the UK government released a damning package of evidence that nailed the Kremlin he was still hedging his bets:
'There is clear evidence Russia has a case to answer and it has failed to do so and therefore we can draw no other conclusion that Russia has a direct or indirect responsibility.'
'Indirect responsibility' means that the weapon used in Salisbury – Novichok – that ended up killing a British citizen, somehow found its way to another actor and Russia was only 'responsible' because they lost the Novichok. Whoops.

This theory was the same one advanced by Labour Spokesperson Seumas Milne to the Commons Lobby journalists months earlier, right after the Skripals were hospitalised. Its sheer outrageousness led one wire service to break with convention and name Milne. Correctly, in my view, as people have a right to know the context – to know who is saying this. The Shadow Foreign Secretary and Shadow Defence Secretary then went on the 'mainstream media' to pretend that what Milne had just said was meaningless. But then 'Corbyn' repeated the theory in an authored comment piece in The Guardian.

An example of the memes about Salisbury which circulated widely on Corbyn supporting social media
It was one of 29 theories that the Kremlin, Kremlin-controlled media or Russian diplomats put forward. And it was one of the first theories they advanced, blaming Ukraine as the other actor; then the Czech Republic; Sweden; and finally the UK itself.

It was always a ludicrous theory with dubious sources. When 28 countries joined the UK in expelling Russian diplomats in April (including neutral Ireland and supposedly pro-Kremlin Hungary) The Economist's defence editor Shashank Joshi explained the reasons for their certainty:
The UK’s case is built on three other interlocking pieces of evidence.
First is the use of a military-grade nerve agent, originally developed by Moscow. That, as the Porton Down chief emphasised, is 'only within the capabilities of a state actor'.
Second, and beyond Porton Down’s remit, is evidence based on secret intelligence that Russia has manufactured and stockpiled small quantities of Novichok within the past decade, and investigated its use for assassination.
Third is the assessment, also informed by intelligence, that Russia has an active program of state-backed assassinations, views defectors as legitimate targets, and has passed laws to enable such action.
All of this constitutes evidence, some of which can be confirmed by independent third parties, such as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), at the UK’s invitation. (Regrettably, Russia itself has openly undermined the OPCW’s work in Syria, and has pre-emptively dismissed its work in Salisbury). Other elements, based on human sources or signals intelligence, cannot.
But the unprecedented international rejoinder to Russia – the largest collective expulsion of intelligence officers in history – demonstrates the strength of British claims. EU diplomats noted that Britain’s briefings, “including much that is not in the public domain”, were “extremely convincing” on Russian responsibility. It is reported that the UK divulged “unprecedented levels of intelligence”.
Labour had been briefed throughout on the progress of the Salisbury investigation. Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott had full security briefings. Prior to those Commons comments in September the Head of MI5 had reportedly offered a personal briefing to Corbyn and Milne, which they refused.

russian tourists deny salisbury attack @Pixieribs
The idea that they 'just waited for the evidence' is a tidy myth. They were too busy putting up other lines of argument, such as Corbyn's demand that Russia receive a sample of the substance so Moscow could 'say categorically' if it was behind the attack.

After that mass expulsion of diplomats in April Corbyn said:
'If we are going to make a very, very clear assertion like that we have got to have the absolute evidence to do it.'
But they knew well before September that the evidence was in. The reality is that they gave up obfuscating only when it no longer became a defensible position and the whole thing became a massive joke.

Milne did brief the Lobby last September that it was definitely the Kremlin wot dunnit, but it was obvious to those closely following the process that this was solely because the British state had painted him, Seumas Milne, into a corner. And not for the first time. I've been told that when the Inquiry into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko came out in 2016 which effectively blamed Vladimir Putin, Milne had to be talked down from putting out a response which questioned the verdict.

No, the default position is to defend or make excuses for Russia. And the British people notice. Corbyn's personal ratings markedly dropped in April 2018 and have plummeted since. Some of this is to do with Brexit but some of it is also Salisbury and Russia's murder of Dawn Sturgess.

The promoting Russian propaganda problem

 RT UK ‏Verified account @RTUKnews 12 Sep 2018  'These are the heroes @EmilyThornberry smeared in @UKParliament today. She's a disgrace' 7 replies 11 retweets 13 likes RT UK ‏Verified account @RTUKnews 11 Sep 2018  .@EmilyThornberry tweeted; "The government must ensure the reports are independently verified and that @UKParliament has given its approval"

The Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, is not from Corbyn's wing of the Labour Party, but she has every interest in making like she is. The favourite of the bookies to succeed Corbyn, she's made a series of statements, such as this crass one about Corbyn and antisemitism, that play to the sensibilities of his most ardent supporters. Among them are a couple I'm going to highlight, which have perhaps coincidentally received an enthusiastic thumbs-up from the Kremlin's disinfo machine.

Thornberry promoted a conspiracist campaign led in the UK by Chris Williamson MP, furthered with the help of people like the notorious Kremlinophile American writer Max Blumenthal, about an organisation called the Integrity Initiative.

Thornberry's claim was that Integrity Initiative was set up to 'attack Corbyn'. It was based on three tweets by the Initiative to its 2000 followers – one of which was only retweeted because I did it. The claims were ludicrous but they would have pleased the conspiracist wing of Labour headed by Williamson, whose outlets include Novara Media, The Canary & The Sqwawkbox as well as large social media accounts such as Rachael Swindon. Although you could argue that Thornberry's comments in the Commons were normal knockabout politics – that was certainly how the Lobby seemed to receive them, including her nod to countering Russian disinformation – they did not suggest how Labour would do so better than the government. Nor did they – and this is what really showed up the reality of what she was doing – pick up on the many criticisms of the Initiative from those actively engaged in countering Russian disinfo. Instead they played to the crowd.

The campaign against the Initiative is based on an obvious attack by Russia which aims to establish a counter, 'I'm rubber you're glue', narrative that it's actually the West that's promoting disinformation. The subject of the attack is an organisation funded by government precisely to counter Russian disinformation. Something which a Labour government would supposedly support, surely?

Those central to the online promotion of the 'conspiracy' narrative, most of whom are also coincidentally truthers on Syria and on Salisbury, said that their real objection was that Integrity Initiative had 'contributed to narrowing the range of public discourse so as to marginalize reality-based evaluation of policy options for relations with Russia and evidence-based assessment of events in which Russian involvement is alleged.' In other words, 'why isn't Craig Murray on BBC Newsnight!'

The 'scandal' has been heavily promoted by Kremlin media and Russian diplomats. It's also circulated by people like Craig Murray, who promoted conspiracies about the Salisbury attack. It's still going.** None of this is a coincidence and it speaks volumes about Labour that Thornberry would lend weight to it.

Example two. Earlier Thornberry promotes another major Russian propaganda favourite.

In a statement about Syria to Parliament last September Thornberry said:
'Relying on so-called open-source intelligence provided by proscribed terrorist groups is not an acceptable alternative.'
Yet it is Syrian rescue workers, medics, human rights activists, and journalists - not terrorists - who have documented Assad regime atrocities, often at great personal risk. As Syria Solidarity UK pointed out.:
Today Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary @EmilyThornberry smeared them all as terrorists: “so-called open source intelligence provided by proscribed terrorist groups”
Among those smeared by Thornberry were the same White Helmets Syrian rescue workers who had been championed by the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox.

@JuliaDavisNews  Not earth-shattering to most, but today’s #Russia state TV program 60 Minutes discussed info-wars in decent detail, incl convincing influencers, celebrities & Western populace of Russia’s talking points, ultimately leading to election of politicians w/ views beneficial to Russia.Bellingcat, the widely respected organisation who are most famous for using open source intelligence to name the Russian FSB attackers of Salisbury, offered to show Thornberry why 'it is one of the most powerful tools we have for investigating conflicts and abuses of power.' They didn't get a response.

As the writer Oz Katerji explained:
'Thornberry’s statement sends the message that our eyes and our ears are not to be trusted. That witnesses are not to be trusted. Putin’s propaganda has succeeded beyond expectations, to the extent that the shadow foreign secretary is putting out an official statement stating that the NGOs, medics, journalists, and human rights activists responsible for documenting the vast majority of open-source evidence are terrorists and are not to be trusted The Kremlin has weaponised doubt, and by doing so it dehumanises the victims by treating them with contempt and suspicion, and it leads to the paralyses of any political, diplomatic or military response to the crisis Labour’s foreign policy has a deep and troubling Russian propaganda problem.'
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt reportedly had to spell out to Donald Trump that in Syria it's the White Helmets that are the good guys, as 45 had 'heard otherwise'. In other words, the massive Russian infowar attack on Syrian civil rescuers had reached Trump. What do you think Emily Thornberry would have told 45 in this scenario?

The Milne and Murray problem

Acres of words have been printed about Seumas Milne, yet still no audio of his alleged "comedy Arabic accent" :(

I don't intend to add to all that save to point out one nugget, from winter 2015, missed at the time, which I think captures what we've known – oh boy have we known – since the very beginning. Namely that electing Corbyn, followed by Milne's subsequent appointment as Labour's Executive Director of Strategy and Communications, meant that the Stop The War Coalition (STWC) and their cheerleaders were now running the Labour Party, particularly its foreign policy.

Back then folks were busy establishing what's since become a veritable cottage industry of ploughing through the rich seam of history, recent and ancient, by, about or linked to Corbyn. Some of them went through the STWC archives. They found pieces such as an opus by Matt Carr which compared the International Brigades of the Spanish Civil War to ISIS. Panic ensued, the gentlefolk of STWC were papped at the 2015 Xmas do and website cleansing followed (first of STWC's then of Corbyn's own website).

Here's what I wrote at the time:
An anonymous spokesperson for the Labour Party was quoted in several media articles saying that the piece "had been taken down because it did not reflect the organisation’s [STWC] views." That person then went on to defend STWC and claim that during the group's existence they had "repeatedly called it right."

Paul Waugh quoted a source, not named as such but presumably the same Labour one, saying about the Carr post: "This is the second time this has happened, it won't be happening again." (The 'first' time was their also taken down response to the Paris attacks that the French were “reaping the whirlwind of western support for extremist violence.”)

How the heck would that Labour source know that? STWC is not an affiliate of the party, by what possible method could the party enforce its will and hence make that promise?
seumas milne demonisation russiaJust before those frantic website deletions and promise making about what STWC would do Milne, a prominent ally of STWC working for a party leader who used to chair STWC, had contradicted a statement by then Labour Foreign Affairs Shadow Minister Catherine West about Labour consulting with Syrians (meaning British-Syrians opposed to Assad).

Milne said that yes, of course we will be consulting outside the party about Syria - with the STWC.

A year after bigging up STWC, in October 2016, as public concern about the plight of civilians in Syria mounted, Milne declared that “the focus on Russian atrocities or Syrian army atrocities I think sometimes diverts attention from other atrocities that are taking place.” That's typical arch sophist Milne as its technically true but that's not why he said it, especially not when he said it. He was deflecting attention from Russia. Again.

To quote the wonderful @DarthPutinKGB:
If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, denies it’s a duck, demands you prove it's a duck, accuses you of being a duck, says your dog is a duck, that your friend's cat is a duck and that all 3 aforementioned 'ducks' are Russophobic ducks, it’s a Kremlin duck
My main point though is about another aspect to the in-plain-sight nature of what's going on, with both Milne and Andrew Murray and others.

Let's look at Murray, who was once defended with claims that he was a marginal figure. Remember that?

In 2014, with a promotional assist from STWC, he established a group called Solidarity with the Anti-fascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU). SARU supported the so-called 'People's Republics' in Eastern Ukraine, where open fascists operated unmolested, homosexuality was at that time illegal, child soldiers were deployed and aid agencies banned for ideological reasons. Whatayaknow  but the 'antifascist' communist nirvanas sold by Murray turned out to be totally, provably controlled by Russia.

Euromaidan activists helping rescue people from fire at Trade Union House in Odessa, May 2 2014. Pic
Murray promoted the 'Odessa Massacre' conspiracism, essentially that Ukrainian Eurofascists had murdered 44 people and the BBC won't tell you about it, over which Russia ran a massive international disinformation campaign. They toured an exhibition about it around the EU. He put the Kremlin's then prime propaganda theme on the cover of his book. And he defended Moscow from accusations that they were responsible for shooting down the Malaysian airliner MH17 over his 'People's Republics'. Murray's little group went on to smear the National Union of Mineworkers (yes, that NUM, this actually happened) as being 'pro-fascist' because of their solidarity work with their mining comrades in Ukraine.

Not only was Murray busy promoting Russian talking points he also promoted, despite warnings from the small Ukrainian left and some British lefties, a supposed Ukrainian leftist group called Borotba. The Morning Star hailed them as part of the “left-wing forces” fighting back against “the neo-Nazi juggernaut” and the “fascist-coup-installed President Poroshenko”. Whatayaknow but Borotba turned out to be fake communists working for Vladislav Surkov, aka the 'gray cardinal', aka 'Putin’s Rasputin', as Peter Pomerantsev called him.

A fake left party set up specifically to fool the rubes, and it worked.

Then there was the time he defended a far-right, Kremlin funded academic called Boris Kagarlitsky who STWC had given a platform to. Because he told them things they wanted to hear.  In 2016 this man who Murray had called a "Russian socialist" backed Donald Trump.

Then there's this tweet by Andrew Murray to Roman Noviskov, one of the former leaders of the Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) in occupied Ukraine.

Murray has deleted his tweet.

Siri, define 'useful idiot'.

Remember Conservative Friends of Russia? It was a Russian influence operation a decade ago targeting the Tory Party that was exposed by reporting that led to the lobby group being closed down. George Osborne's involvement almost ended up losing him his job.

Russian influence operations in the UK are not just aimed at Tories. Obviously. Why would they be? From their perspective Corbyn could conceivably be in Number 10. Labour is currently providing Russia with rich potential ground in which to work. Of course it is. Murray and Milne demonstrably bring their milkshake to the yard whenever Moscow plays its music. There are numerous examples of how Russia's done it elsewhere, how it's got the left to do its bidding, and never mind that - cough - recent example closer to home. The idea that the UK Labour Party is somehow exempt is fanciful.

Corbyn told a Czechoslovakian 'diplomat' that he'd happily point out those in his circle who might be talking to MI5. Allegedly.

I know how even raising this 'rich potential ground', that a Kremlin friendly Labour foreign policy might be of active interest to the Kremlin, plays out. After all we live in a world where supposed Israeli influence on the UK Labour party is a thing and pretty damn likely Russian influence isn't even spoken of.

The Nicaragua and Venezuela problem


Venezuela and Nicaragua is not so much about Russia, though what Labour says or rather does not say about those two countries, whatayaknow, alarmingly echoes Russia. It's more about what I wrote about in 2017, 'what Venezuela tells us about Labour Party foreign policy', a piece that somehow managed to induce a word salad response from the London Venezuelan Embassy. That actually happened.

I explained how Labour was charting a policy course independent of what Latin American social democrats, Labour's supposed sister parties, were saying. For example how the statement put out in August 2017 by Shadow Foreign Minister Liz McInnes, presumably Milne's handiwork, did not question the legitimacy of Maduro's new replacement Constituent Assembly for Venezuela's opposition controlled Parliament, the National Assembly. A very basic division between Labour and social democrats, globally. This point was different to what, especially in August 2017, both the media and Corbyn's opponents were banging on about. They didn't examine Labour's official statements or what they said in Parliament, or even call for Corbyn to do something like ask Maduro to admit humanitarian aid,. They just wanted Corbyn to say 'I woz wrong'. They collectively missed what was actually happening.

Thornberry with Arreaza (centre)
Right after that, in November, Emily Thornberry had a meeting with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza. She didn't promote it. Interesting choice. I only found out because Chavista accounts in Venezuela were tweeting it.

Last month disputatious barrister Thornberry told Parliament that the real issue on Venezuela was Tory hypocrisy over Honduras. What she did not say in Parliament, nor in a speech in Belfast, was more important. She did not say that Labour supported the EU initiative on Venezuela created with the support of Latin American countries including Uruguay and Ecuador (both run by socialists). This aims to create the conditions for truly free and fair elections, it is not about false 'dialogue'. Thornberry, echoing the Morning Star and the letter to The Guardian signed by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Shadow Home Secretary DianeAbbott, nevertheless called for 'dialogue', presumably conjured up by the new hope, Mexico's AMLO. Only there has been nothing from any efforts by Mexico, or Bolivia for that matter. Zip, nada. Raising it is chaff based on no realistic, expert assessment of the situation. It is what the international Maduro defence team, Russia playing in right, do: talk meaningless words about 'dialogue'. Failing to even mention the EU on Venezuela is not just an error, it's a major policy alignment.

Thornberry's Deputy Liz McInnes followed this up with a speech to Parliament repeating Emily's main themes, minus Honduras but plus de Zayas.

The Venezuelan economy has been cripped by US sanctions, and the UN rapporteur said that UN sanctions are illegal and could amount to a war crime any intervention from the US could precipitate a civil war & lead to a humanitarian catastrophe @DerbyChrisW
de Zayas is the former UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order. McInnes told the Commons that this 'UN expert' had called sanctions on Venezuela a 'war crime', a statement which drew an audible response. de Zayas and his 'war crimes' claim is a major theme of Chris Williamson's routine, whose Commons outing on Venezuela featuring de Zayas has been heavily promoted by Corbynite social media in marked contrast to Thornberry's effort in the very same Parliamentary session. Williamson appeared on TV numerous times spouting falsehoods about Venezuela. He's off the TV now because the party finally rebuked him, which kinda goes to show that they could have told him to stop earlier but chose not to.

The visit by 'UN expert' de Zayas to Caracas, on the basis on which he made his 'war crime' pronouncement, was the only one until this month that the Maduro regime had let in. Funny, that. de Zayas never visited any hospitals and instead put pictures, later deleted, on social media supposedly showing plenty, decrying the 'MSM narrative' of famine, and then held a press conference with the regime.

Contrast that with what's happening now to the technical mission sent by the UN High Commissioner for human rights, former socialist Chilean President Michele Bachelet:
This statement comes as the technical mission sent by the High Commissioner continues its work in the country since earlier this month, which has been marked by official efforts to limit access and cosmetically minimizing the problems, like the case of their visit to the Barquisimeto’s main hospital.

Bachelet addressed this issue right from the start: “It’s important that the team have completely unhindered access, with no reprisals against any person who has met, or sought to meet, with them.“
de Zayas is a Holocaust denier and is a 'huge fan' of the German far-right party the AfD. He's reportedly worn blackface. He's currently saying that Venezuela's electricity blackouts are because of the gringos.

He's also being mentioned in a Parliamentary statement by the Labour Party.

Back in December Corbyn went to AMLO's inauguration in Mexico City and he was in heaven. He gave an interview, published by a left-wing Mexican newspaper, to someone I'm familiar with from Twitter interactions, Matt Kennard, someone whose TL is full of Charles Shoebridge, Craig Murray, Assange, and Greenwald.

Corbyn and Milne meet Evo Morales
A couple of things from the interview. There's no mention of Venezuela, this is pre-Guaido, when the Chavez supporting left's omerta still held, but much praise for President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who both Corbyn and Milne met with in Mexico - here's a picture of Milne filming the encounter.

Morales has never been touted by the Western left in the way that Chavez was, possibly because his 'socialism' was way too 'neoliberal'. It's always amused me how lefties grasping to defend Bolivarian socialism almost never mention Bolivia.

But Morales has taken a distinct turn against democracy in order to extend his rule. This appears not to bother Corbyn. Not in the slightest.

Somewhere else which Corbyn failed to mention to Kennard is Nicaragua. The country which Corbyn spoke about in the UK Parliament 210 times and has had not much to say about of late. One of the reasons for the rebellion in Nicaragua that started last April was austerity measures. Pensioners protested and pensioners got beaten for protesting. Then the people marched with the pensioners. Remember that when you hear people on the left talking about 'regime change'. People like Shadow Minister Dan Carden.

But mostly there's the silence. A couple of times I've heard Thornberry speak in Parliament and had occasion to yell 'but what about Nicaragua?!' as it somehow fails to elicit a mention in her roll call of countries of concern. Again.

This is policy happening here, in plain sight. How would a Corbyn government vote in the UN on Nicaragua? Alongside Russia?

We can make an informed guess because of the detail both of what's said and what isn't said. What's done and, as Chris Leslie MP said in Parliament, what's not done:
What can we do to influence and put pressure on the regime? Can we get the Russian Administration to do more, or the Chinese or the Cubans? Are there individuals who have a close relationship with Maduro, perhaps even the leader of the Labour party, who could at this stage pick up the telephone and implore him—beg him—to stop this appalling approach and to leave government immediately?
Francisco Toro makes much the same point about the power of criticism of Maduro coming from the left, citing this weeks' denunciation of Maduro by Michele Bachelet.
When criticism comes from the left, though, it’s different. It’s far harder for the regime to deny and obfuscate the words of Bachelet than those of Mike Pompeo. When someone with the democratic and leftist credentials of Bachelet speaks up against the now obvious human rights disaster unfolding in Venezuela, it matters. It matters to the regime, which is no longer able to hide behind generic allegations of a far-right conspiracy against it.
What this silence, absent issues and apparent alignment amounts to is policy, a distinct policy which places Labour alongside the remains of Podemos, Mélenchon and Syriza. Not alongside its sister social democrat parties in Spain or Portugal, or actually those in Venezuela itself for that matter. A clear signal that Labour in power would not be Scandi but would be far more aligned to Chris Williamson than whatever waffle it might write in any manifesto.

Here's a chaser on Thornberry's rote remarks about Maduro and human rights. Don't laugh.
A senior [Labour] source believes Thornberry is not seen as a “team player” and this was “exacerbated” by her comments on Venezuela.
And a footnote. This rebuttal of criticism from the Hands Off Venezuela! crowd, who Labour are apparently on the side of, by the widely respected progressive organisation the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) is excellent.
We believe that flattening out Venezuela’s complex reality and instrumentalizing it as a chess piece in a political struggle against the Trump administration risks dehumanizing Venezuelans and desensitizing everyone to their situation.

Buy Corbyn, get Milne


Putin heart Brexit
Pic from 23 March People's Vote March by Carl Gardner
There's a reason why I haven't put a question mark after my title for this post. Because it's a statement of fact. I've not gone into Brexit and Labour's chimeric, Lexiteering, don't mention Russia behaviour. Nor how Thornberry somehow managed to promote Russia's Syria 'peace initiative' over the UN's before the Russians did. Nor the role of Russia in promoting antisemitism. Nor how the Corbyn team almost signed a Kremlin fan who makes George Galloway look tame but were scared off after pix surfaced of him repeatedly meeting Corbyn. I'm well aware I'm scraping the surface.

For some, such as those of us on the cheese and biscuit circuit, none of what I've written would come as much of a surprise. Heck, Chris Bryant reportedly once refused to become Shadow Defence Secretary over Corbyn’s stance on Russia. Remember that? People are well aware and working inside, folks! Don't panic! Milne's just one person!

When I raised issues with Corbyn and Ukraine in 2015 I got told not to worry, that McDonnell would sort it out. True story. This seems to be what many Corbynites still think about Labour foreign policy, it'll get sorted. But here's the thing, I just saw James Bloodworth refer to Labour having "a tepid social democratic agenda (see Labour’s 2017 manifesto)." Now I'm Twitter mates with James (for now) but I think him typing that is reflective of how much of what I call Tweetminster thinks, that Labour policy is actually pretty milquetoast. That the Russian stuff is just joke-worthy.

A few months back Ukraine announced that they would deny Andrew Murray a visa. They so had cause but on the BBC veteran comedy show Mock The Week the joke which channeled the zeitgeist was the fact that Murray had never visited Ukraine but they'd banned him! The joke was on Ukraine, not Labour. This followed all those jokes about Corbyn and the Czech spy and some stuff about a hat.

It suits some people to keep it as a joke and there seems to be an extreme reluctance to call a cigar/duck a cigar/duck.

But people putting 'Labour' into their trolley surely have a right to know they are buying a Kremlin duck. And do they?

Multiply and ochestrate this sort of thing times many thousands across social media once Labour's in actual power.
To all those now about to tweet 'but austerity', the people now running Labour have spent most of their lives focused on foreign policy. Especially those like Milne and Murray, who I know are widely despised on the left. Think on. I've joked about this but I can easily picture a very happy Milne swanning around the UN Security Council happily wielding his new power. I can also picture the effect of the alt-left and Corbynite social media policing a Corbyn led government's foreign policy. And I can also picture, in the shadows, the Kremlin itself, working away.

One of the first things any possible Corbyn government would do, from the evidence of the last four years, is realign the UK. Think of the Security Council votes on Venezuela or Crimea. Think of how our allies would react. Would people be voting for that? My sense is that the combined effect of Milne's sophistry and MSM bleurgh and opponents incompetence would make people think, if they thought anything, that they're voting for 'no more wars', not voting for being in Putin's pocket. Very quickly, an actual Corbyn government under the spotlight would be dominated by foreign policy. It just would. And some would love it. Surely all the Lexiteering has alerted people that maybe there are other priorities than austerity for some people? You'd think.

And I can practically hear the critics already, who will huff about All Those Times bad things were said from the top of the party about Russia. This is the coming rebuttal. I can sense it coming in my water.

Some of them will cry 'Magnitsky Act!', but oh that's such a good example that just ends up underlining my point further. It wasn't a front bench operation, it was backbench 'melt' Labour MPs operating cross party who drove its passage. Same as with the passage of controls on offshore banking in British overseas territories, which was led by Margaret Hodge. You can guess how much PR Labour and their social media A team gave Hodge for that. None of the Russian money connected issues have ever been a Labour PR priority save when they can be turned into either 'Labour's Magnitsky Act' or 'Russian Tory party donations' deflections, as happened (as I pointed out above) over Salisbury and will likely be the reaction of some to this piece.

In January I had an interesting interaction with Marcus Barnett, international officer of Young Labour and a Morning Star columnist. It was about Venezuela and those social democrats I mentioned earlier. Barnett said that he approved of "the NEC's [the Labour Party national executive body] current stance towards reviewing our relationship with non-SI [Socialist International] parties across the world, such as Podemos." (Podemos is the major Spanish leftist party.)

I responded:
Pleased to see you stating that Labour should align with Podemos, which means different EU Parl Group and all that means. Big proposal that, Marcus.
Barnett's thinking is the logical outcome for 'Europes biggest party', the jingoistic slogan Corbynite Labour quickly birthed back in 2016 that does a lot of bad things, including disappearing supposedly sister European parties with far bigger per capita memberships, and is still going, in one tweaked form or another. That outcome which Barnett wants and seems to have got is a UK Labour Party fundamentally realigned on foreign policy with consequences very few are even considering. But we live in a First-Past-The-Post system where a UK Podemos would normally not be an electoral winner. Anywhere else and a Podemos or a Syriza or a Die Linke would have to stand alongside a social democrat party asking for votes.

Here's the deal. We deserve to be better informed on actual Labour foreign policy, a, it's a fact, Kremlin friendly foreign policy, before we're asked to vote for it. I don't think people are informed, at all, though Salisbury certainly has made them wide open to considering the possibility. They're just not. I can see why - it's boring, no one cares, look at who's talking about it, that's a reach - but the idea that it's of no consequence is just plain wrong.

As Gordon Brown put it:
I have to say that if our [Labour's] global alliances are going to be alliances with Hezbollah and Hamas and Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, there is absolutely no chance of building a world-wide alliance that can deal with poverty and inequality and climate change and financial instability, and we’ve got to face up to that fact.
Only in Brexit Britain would we end up possibly electing a UK Podemos called 'Labour' and then cry afterwards that this wasn't what we voted for. But that's exactly where we're heading.



** Disclosure: I am named in Integrity Initiative docs! And I am quote ready.

See also: 

Many thanks to Susan Greenberg for her editing help. And for funding from George Soros and the international Zionist conspiracy 👍

Sunday, 4 March 2018

A few words on Munroe Bergdorf and Labour

Last November there was a stoush about a young guy called Josh Rivers. You may remember.

He was the first black man to be appointed Editor of the magazine Gay Times. But he had a past on Twitter and Patrick Strudwick at Buzzfeed had either found it or someone had pointed Strudwick at it. He had found tweets that were horrific, just the worst. Here's one of them.

Now Strudwick read that tweet one way but I read that another, as Rivers seeing whatever TV show or film he's talking about as promoting a stereotype. Maybe I looked at it that way because I went and looked at the sort of stuff that Rivers was tweeting at this time in 2011.

I've underlined his raging sexism.

Having looked at his old Twitter and then at his most recent Twitter what I saw was a working class black gay London lad, with an activist single mother, who was learning the refined ways of Diversityville. The codes, the lingo, the genuflections. That was all there in his recent Twitter. And for whatever reason someone hated him enough to go trawl through his history.

(Rivers has deleted his Twitter account so it's not now possible to go look.)

Rivers was trashed across all media, even Radio Four did him in. Buzzfeed got their man and now it's immortalised forever on Wikipedia.

The pile on was compete. All his friends abandoned him, nobody spoke in his defence and to my shame I was one of those who said little.

This was a rare comment defending Rivers that was made at that time, one I have a lot of sympathy with.

Both Rivers and today's outrage-du-jour Munroe Bergdorf have said things on Twitter which they later publicly regretted. I have said things I regretted. I bet you, the reader, have too. Yet we seem to have all gone along with a culture where some people are selected to be hung out to dry, to be firmly excluded from the group, for things we know we might have either also done or which could be painted as horrible by a determined adversary. That's not really new but perhaps what is is the sheer amount of piety and righteousness it gets wrapped up in. If there is a line to be crossed that line is dependent on who you are and who's in your team.

Which leads me to this ...

The obvious point

The obvious point is that Rivers got completely different treatment to what we're seeing now with Munroe Bergdorf. 

The other obvious point is that there's a reason why we're even talking about Bergdorf, why she's a thing and why she's defended when Rivers wasn't, and it is linked to what happened to Rivers .

It's the same crowd that generated both of them as stories.

Bergdorf is a thing because Labour's Dawn Butler MP took it upon herself to appoint an 'LGBT Advisory Group'. Hence the photo op with Corbyn. 

Bergdorf's appointment to that group sucked all the air out of the room so there was little left for either why Butler had done this - was it all her idea or her staff's or who came up with this?  - or who were these other people in this group? And how on earth had she not spoken to Labour LGBT, the party's affiliated, representative, long-standing, democratic (you get the picture) LGBT group?

When Labour LGBT sounded off about what Butler had done she quickly apologised and made Labour LGBT the 'secretariat' (no idea either what that means) to this Advisory Group and their complaints stopped. 

Labour lovin' entrepreneurs

Butler's group appears to have been the idea of Linda Riley and Anthony Watson. Riley has enough history for a determined, Strudwick-like, journalist to get their teeth into. This is Watson.

'Lead LGBT Advisor to UK Labour'? Really?

I don't see either Riley or Watson having their histories investigated. (Mind you, Watson's Twitter TL is a deadend, folks. It strongly reminded me of the characters Fluffy and Uranus from the 90s cartoon Duckman. Not a hair out of place.)

What I do see is this same crowd of professional 'diversity champions' all failing to apply the 'standards' they applied to Rivers to their pick for the in-crowd - Bergdorf.

And the sole reason we're even aware of Bergdorf's existence is that this crowd got the ear of Dawn Butler and deliberately snubbed LGBT Labour in order to promote themselves. (They're 'entrepreneurs', remember. Bergdorf's Twitter profile is links to her management and her press contact.)

Helen Lewis made the point today that Bergdorf is in there, in this Advisory Group, just because of her identity but I think she's there because Butler got captured by this professional 'diversity' crowd and what Bergdorf really adds for these people is a little stardust. Both Riley and Watson are Directors of GLAAD, the Hollywood focused diversity organisation whose brand is all about leveraging stardust for the cause. 

The story should be why we're even talking about Bergdorf, but that's not the story.

La Strudwick

Final word: Can I just remind you of something Patrick Strudwick wrote about Rivers?

This is directed at a black, gay working-class Londoner who Strudwick and his ilk decided to collectively take against. It is beyond patronising and yet he got away with it. In fact he's doing fine.

If you're wondering whether Strudwick has had anything to say on the Bergdorf kerfuffle - Not a peep.