Saturday 30 March 2013

The left's invisibility bomb: how's that liberation thing working out for you?

Perhaps it's unconscious and far from deliberate but there's a set of prejudices in the Left that they just won't confront. You can be a woman, non-white or working class but not all three at once or you get the INVISIBILITY BOMB exploded all over you.

Feminist Camilla Power wrote to me earlier this month asking me to link to her piece on the Socialist Workers Party crisis, Feminism is a Dirty Word, (which I did). However, in a letter to the CPGB Weekly Worker about the dreadful treatment of WOMEN, she then cites the experiences of MEN only. As the elephant in the room who's been writing about this for years as an insider with direct experience of the problem, I wrote to her:

"Imagine my surprise and disappointment to find your letter to the Weekly Worker citing several men but not my experience as the lone working-class non-white woman consistently whistle-blowing and challenging the sexism and abuse in the SWP and elsewhere in the left over several years — in a debate about WOMEN.

"I didn't find this further marginalisation a particularly sisterly act. I'm sure it was unconscious — it was certainly unthinking and insensitive but then what do my emotions count for?

"Please read your letter again and then marvel at the irony. I would hate to think you were part of the problem and not the solution — or all theory and no knickers, as us non-egghead non-people might say."

I got a polite email back — a sort of an acknowledgment — and I'm waiting with bated breath to see whether there's any serious attempt to redress this omission.

This situation has been going on for years. Once again I feel compelled to remind the "comrades" that it took a non-white working-class woman to propel your various campaigns into the media spotlight when the left was refusing to engage with the "bourgeois press" and wouldn't even put out a press release for fear it would sully their revolutionary purity: chiefly (but not solely) the Socialist Alliance and Stop the War Coalition. All full-time and for no pay leaving me in debt having paid to establish the anti-war press office while leaders such as John Rees and Lindsey German drew a wage.

Then there's Ian Sinclair's abysmally-researched book The March That Shook Blair, in which three people lay claim to being the STWC's press officers, but the one person who was at the coal-face actually battering down media resistance from Day 1 is left out. Shame that, because I have the day-to-day blow-by-blow accounts of what it took to get mainstream media to notice STWC when they tried to ignore the mounting anti-war anger.

[EDIT: This was written by Ian Sinclair only a few days ago specifically dealing with abuse in the STWC anti-Iraq war campaign, and I'm still not allowed to have a say. STWC is described as "... perhaps the most high profile campaign of the last decade...". How do you suppose it got to be "high profile"? Charles Shaar Murray writes: 'First time it's happenstance. Second time it's coincidence. Third time -- it's enemy action.' -- Ian Fleming, Goldfinger.]

According to Greg Palast, research shows that not just white people, but even black people, overlook black people when it comes to intellectual tasks. That's no different in the left where, with a few exceptions, everyone congratulates themselves for being "right-on" until something like the SWP sex-abuse accusations bites them on the bum and shines a spotlight on exactly how archaic their own assumptions and practice actually are.

Of course, I could always stay schtum and submit to my own obliteration as a human being. Standards of respect, comradeship, appreciation, decency, solidarity, inclusiveness, equality and other bourgeois individualistic fripperies evidently don't apply to uppity effnik coolie labour, only to the self-appointed chosen ones; but since this is how marginalisation and objectification work, I say screw that.

So backward is the left on this issue that they're behind even the comedians who've acknowledged the phenomenon in Paul Whitehouse's "The Fast Show" series. Arabella Weir's character regularly finds her bright ideas and solutions ignored by the boys in the room until, moments later, they regurgitate what she's said like it's their own. We are all Arabella Weir. Well, some of us are more Arabella than others.

It's a white boys club with a few women allowed to play. You have to be the "right" sort of non-white or woman to register in whatever passes for awareness. The left's current mindset has nothing to do with my liberation and EVERYTHING to do with continuing my oppression.

More background on what it took to establish SA and STWC press at More SWP rape accusations.

My time on the left has largely felt like this.

Public health warning about the People's Assembly as currently led.

A Bad Case of the Trots — an early public airing of the SWP/STWC problem in 2003.

Maybe less elephant in the room and more basketball gorilla. Does this mean I can rob banks?

This was written by Ian Sinclair only a few days ago.

The #solidarityisforwhitewomen Twitter hashtag and what happens on the British left.

Thursday 28 March 2013

People's Assembly and Nechayev's Catechism: be very afraid ...

It's class war. Millionaire Bullingdon bullies we never voted for swept into power by the machinations of their mini-me Liberal Democrat fags who had swiped the left-of-centre vote from a discredited Labour Party and then trashed their gullible constituency.

Since the coalition's 2010 power-grab, the poor have lost 38% of their income while the richest have grown richer by hundreds of £billions; the new clearances have seen the poorest Londoners moved hundreds of miles away to an already hard-pressed Stoke, while the disabled have been monstered and left to die. When partially deaf and blind Thalidomide victims are thrown off disability benefits and told to search for non-existent jobs while millionaires are given tax cuts, you know something's gone terribly wrong.

Capitalism is in crisis, but it's not dying. As capitalist production moves from the West to Asia and Africa, it's mutating and offloading its surplus labour in Europe and north America while using our money to recapitalise its banks. The very same crisis for which revolutionaries have been praying to the Marxist deity for over 150 years has arrived  — but there's no-one to give it the welcomed shove it deserves.

So where are they, all the Marxian theoreticians who've had forests felled to accommodate their lengthy tomes? Imploded through sex scandals; splintered by power-jockeying; fratricidal fighting over a comb they can't use: hairless and heirless and flailing like punchy-drunks while it's us who burn. We've been hoping for some potent social force to put up a challenge — maybe a reinvigorated Labour Party with its conscience returned to it by Ralph Miliband's offspring? Hah, some hope. Their treacherous abstention from the retroactive workfare law vote demonstrates which way they're heading.

So the emergence of the People's Assembly should make us all shivery with delight. Here is a unifying force that'll turn five digits into a fist and enable us to fight back.

At least, that's the PR spin.

Sadly, this is no DC Comics Superman swooping in to save us from the Big Bad. This is Nietzsche's Superman, not Christopher Reeve's; the usual top down take-over — "Monopolise Resistance" as Dave Renton quotes the anarchist wags in his illuminating critique.

This ain't rock 'n' roll — this is fratricide.

For who do we see at the helm? John Rees and his Counterfire crew — the usual suspects with the reverse Midas touch, turning everything to shit; arch-bureaucrats bringing order and stasis to the struggle like Blue Meanies invading Pepperland. If you want to see what's in store for this much-needed initiative, it would pay to examine what's happened every time the former Socialist Workers Party (SWP) leaders — the John Rees/Lindsey German axis — have bolted themselves to the head of a campaign: how Rees took an axe to the Socialist Alliance (SA); how they sunk Respect; and how they sat on the anti-war movement in the Stop the War Coalition (STWC). They can't see a flicker of life without holding a pillow over its head and declaring themselves king and queen of the castle.

The SWP has a fine old tradition in screwing the left — even those on their side. Especially those on their side. I've seen the John Rees modus operandi up close: doing over his rivals with monotonous predictability. Like a rutting stag in a herd, he can't help himself: Paul Mason, Dave Osler, Greg Tucker, Ken Livingstone, Mike Marqusee and Liz Davies among many others, including myself, have all received the JR treatment. However, he was always going to come unstuck with his inevitable attempted take-down of his erstwhile bezzie mate George Galloway. You may not like Galloway or agree with his politics, but he's a cunning bruiser and will not be fucked with. John Rees is only half-smart and came off worst in that Oedipal bust-up but, like capitalism in crisis, he's mutating.

Throwing chum out of the boat for the sharks because he'd screwed up and left it to the last minute is one charming tactic. So when, as leading executive member of the Socialist Alliance, he neglected to organise someone to write the SA budget for the 2001 general election in time for the press launch, he asked Paul Mason and Dave Osler to do it with about a week's notice.

As the unpaid, full-time establishing and acting SA press officer, I managed to hold off the BBC elections unit when Paul and Dave said they needed an extra day or two. I was on good terms with the media — they loved us as the innocent principled newcomers — and they were happy to know our budget was on its way. It arrived, it was good and we were all delighted with it.

However, like some Mafia don testing out a henchman intent on making his bones, Rees instructed me to carry out a character assassination on them in the SA email lists and media for being late.

I politely declined.

In the Stanley Milgram experiment that is the left, I've consistently refused to press that electrocution button and attack fellow leftists — something many of them can never forgive me for. It's not as if you can't move without tripping over capable progressives so you have to treat them as valuable assets: like "gold-dust" as one old honeytrap used to spout.

Every time I see Paul Mason on BBC's Newsnight, I smile. Because that's the career John Rees feels he should have had.

Sad to say, the left does not protect its assets. Instead, the inadequate men and women who have floated to the top like used food and assumed ownership of its organisations treat talent as a threat. And so it came to pass that I was targeted, Stalinised, airbrushed-out and left for dead. But that's another gory story.

Now, I know from experience how Rees and his friends work. And I know that, unless he's had a character transplant or found god (and not the one in his mirror), he'll have people around him who are compromised by having done his little jobs. And his big jobs. I shudder to think of what those idealistic disability/ benefits/ bedroom-tax activists have in store for them.

Dave Renton knows the terrain well and has written the best critique on the People's Assembly I've seen so far on the problem — please do read it.

It was John Rees of Stop the War (StW), Counterfire (CF) and CoR who led off the discussion of how the PA would work at the recent CoR National Council. ( We can imagine, without needing to be conspiratorial, that the plan for a People’s Assembly was first discussed round “that” Clapton Square dining room table, with Lindsey German. Lindsey will have been on the phone to Chris Nineham, then Clare Solomon, James Meadway and Sam Fairbarn, and only much later will the plan have been visited upon the world.

Like Terminator VI (“I’ll be back … back … back”), this is of course a sequel. The first People’s Assembly to be held at Westminster Central Hall was the Stop the War Coalition People’s Assembly against war in Iraq on 15 March 2003. This too was planned by John and Lindsey and then agreed with Chris. This too had various international speakers and spin-off events.

Vertical, top-down organisation that's less democratic bottom-up and more up your bottom.

Here's Dave catching John Rees writing on how to treat cadre:

“The cadre of the organisation gives it stability, durability, and effectiveness in the struggle. But this can also give rise to problems especially when the conditions of struggle change quickly. ... This highlights an important point: cadre only remain cadre if they continue to relate correctly to the turning points in the struggle. If they do not, in spite of their accumulated knowledge and experience, they turn from an asset into a liability.”

So there's the self-justifying political dressing up for habitual playground bullying — they do this for sport.

I read Dave's piece and was reminded of this: in 1869, the young Russian Sergei Nechayev wrote his Catechism Of A Revolutionist (see below) — once an influence on Lenin but proving too brutal even for the Soviet leader — on how to treat fellow leftists:

19. The fourth category comprises ambitious office-holders and liberals of various shades of opinion. The revolutionist must pretend to collaborate with them, blindly following them, while at the same time, prying out their secrets until they are completely in his power. They must be so compromised that there is no way out for them, and then they can be used to create disorder in the State.
20. The fifth category consists of those doctrinaires, conspirators, and revolutionists who cut a great figure on paper or in their circles [kruzhki].
They must be constantly driven on to make compromising declarations: as a result, the majority of them will be destroyed, while a minority will become genuine revolutionists.
21. The sixth category is especially important: women. They can be divided into three main groups.
First, those frivolous, thoughtless, and vapid women, whom we shall use as we use the third and fourth category of men.
Second, women who are ardent, capable, and devoted, but whom do not belong to us because they have not yet achieved a passionless and austere revolutionary understanding; these must be used like the men of the fifth category.

Hey, that last one sounds like me.

Is John Rees the new Nechayev? The alien waiting to burst from John Hurt's chest? The monster who won't die in the final reel but keeps coming back for the sequels?

So, while I'm willing on all those organisations who are joining the People's Assembly, struggling to defend the weakest in our society, I'm also waiting on tenterhooks to hear the inevitable tales of the next round of obedience training and horrors. I wish you luck. I hope I'm wrong but somehow I don't think so.

* * * * *

Now read this. Nechayev influenced Lenin for a while but was then rejected. Is it making a comeback? Anything sound familiar?


by Nechayev

Sergey Nechayev (Sergei Nechaev) was born to poor parents in the provincial town of Ivanovo, Russia in 1847. In his 35 years in this world, Nechayev perfectly combined the incorruptible intellect of the social idealist with the icy will of the pragmatic realist. The young revolutionary invested the phrase ‘the end justifies the means’ with a frightening reality perhaps unthinkable today by all but the most desperately fierce regions of the mind.
Below is the complete text of the Catechism of a Revolutionist, conceived by Nechayev in 1869 and widely circulated among the elite of the Russian underground thereafter.
by Sergei Nechaev
The Duties of the Revolutionist to Himself
The Relations of the Revolutionist with his Revolutionary Comrades
The Relations of the Revolutionist within [his revolutionary] Society
The Attitude of the Society toward the People

The Duties of the Revolutionist to Himself
1. The revolutionist is a person doomed [obrechennyi, in older usage signifying also “consecrated”]. He has no personal interests, no business affairs, no emotions, no attachments, no property, and no name. Everything in him is wholly absorbed in the single thought and the single passion for revolution.
2. The revolutionist knows that in the very depths of his being, not only in words but also in deeds, he has broken all the bonds which tie him to the civil order [grazhdanskim poriadkom] and the civilized world with all its laws, moralities, and customs, and with all its generally accepted conventions. He is their implacable enemy, and if he continues to live with them it is only in order to destroy them more speedily.
3. The revolutionist despises all doctrines and refuses to accept the mundane sciences, leaving them for future generations. He knows only one science: the science of destruction. For this reason, but only for this reason, he will study mechanics, physics, chemistry, and perhaps medicine. But all day and all night he studies the vital science of human beings, their characteristics and circumstances, at every possible level of social existence. The object is perpetually the same: the surest and quickest way of destroying the whole filthy order.
4. The revolutionist despises public opinion. He despises and hates the existing social morality in all its manifestations. For him, morality is everything which contributes to the triumph of the revolution.
Anything that stands in its way is immoral and criminal.
5. The revolutionist is a person obrechennyi [see first line]. He is merciless toward the state and toward the whole formal social structure of educated society [soslovno-obrazovannogo obshchestva]; and he can expect no mercy from them. Between him and them there exists, declared or concealed, a relentless and irreconcilable war to the death. He must accustom himself to torture.
6. Tyrannical toward himself, he must be tyrannical toward others. All the gentle and enervating sentiments of kinship, love, friendship, gratitude, and even honor, must be suppressed in him and give place to the cold and single-minded passion for revolution. For him, there exists only one pleasure, one consolation, one reward, one satisfaction — the success of the revolution.
Night and day he must have but one thought, one aim — merciless destruction.
Striving cold-bloodedly and indefatigably toward this end, he must be prepared to destroy himself and to destroy with his own hands everything that stands in the path of the revolution.
7. The nature of the true revolutionist excludes all sentimentality, romanticism, infatuation, and exaltation. All private hatred and revenge must also be excluded. Revolutionary passion, practiced at every moment of the day until it becomes a habit, is to be employed with cold calculation. At all times, and in all places, the revolutionist must obey not his personal impulses, but only those which serve the cause of the revolution.

The Relations of the Revolutionist with his Revolutionary Comrades
8. The revolutionist can have no friendship or attachment, except for those who have proved by their actions that they, like him, are dedicated to revolution.
The degree of friendship, devotion and obligation toward a comrade is determined solely by the degree of his usefulness to the cause of total revolutionary destruction.
9. It is superfluous to speak of solidarity among revolutionists. The whole strength of revolutionary work lies in this. Comrade-revolutionists [tovarishchi-revoliutsionery] who possess the same revolutionary passion and understanding should, as much as possible, deliberate all important matters together and come to unanimous conclusions. When the plan is finally decided upon, then the revolutionist must rely solely on himself. In carrying out acts of destruction, each one should act alone, never running to another for advice and assistance, except when these are necessary for the furtherance of the plan.
10. All comrades should have under them second- or third-degree revolutionists — i.e., comrades who are not completely initiated. these should be regarded as part of the common revolutionary capital placed at his disposal. This capital should, of course, be spent as economically as possible in order to derive from it the greatest possible profit. The real revolutionist should regard himself as capital consecrated to the triumph of the revolution; however, he may not personally and alone dispose of that capital without the unanimous consent of the fully initiated comrades.
11. When a comrade is in danger and the question arises whether he should be saved or not saved, the decision must not be arrived at on the basis of sentiment, but solely in the interests of the revolutionist cause. Therefore, it is necessary to weigh carefully the usefulness of the comrade against the expenditure of revolutionary forces necessary to save him, and the decision must be made accordingly.

The Relations of the Revolutionist within [his revolutionary] Society [k obshchestvu]
12. The new member, having given proof of his loyalty not by words but by deeds, can be received into the society [tovarishchestvo] only by the unanimous agreement of all the members.
13. The revolutionist enters the world of the state, of the privileged classes [soslovnyi…mir], of the so-called civilization, and he lives in this world only for the purpose of bringing about its speedy and total destruction. He is not a revolutionist if he has any sympathy for this world.
He should not hesitate to destroy any position, any place, or any man in this world. He must hate everyone and everything in it with an equal hatred.
All the worse for him if he has any relations with parents, friends, or lovers; he is no longer a revolutionist if he is swayed by these relationships.
14. Aiming at implacable revolution, the revolutionist may and frequently must live within society while pretending to be completely different from what he really is, for he must penetrate everywhere, into all the higher and middle-level social formations [sosloviia], into the merchant’s commercial establishment, into the church, the gentry estate, and the world of the bureaucrat [mir biurokratskii] and military, into literature, and also into the Third Section and even the Winter Palace of the tsar.
15. This filthy social order can be split up into several categories.
The first category comprises those who must be condemned to death without delay.
Comrades should compile a list of those to be condemned according to the relative gravity of their crimes; and the executions should be carried out according to the prepared order.
16. When a list of those who are condemned is made, and the order of execution is prepared, no private sense of outrage should be considered, nor is it necessary to pay attention to the hatred provoked by these people among the comrades or the people.
Hatred and the sense of outrage may be partially and temporarily useful insofar as they incite the masses to revolt. It is necessary to be guided only by the relative usefulness of these executions for the sake of revolution. Above all, those who are especially inimical to the revolutionary organization must be destroyed; their violent and sudden deaths will produce the utmost panic in the government, depriving it of its will to action by removing the cleverest and most energetic supporters.
17. The second group comprises those who will be spared for the time being in order that, by a series of monstrous acts, they may drive the people into inevitable revolt.
18. The third category consists of a great many brutes in high positions, distinguished neither by their cleverness nor their energy, while enjoying riches, influence, power, and high positions by virtue of their rank. These must be exploited in every possible way; they must be implicated and embroiled in our affairs, their dirty secrets must be ferreted out, and they must be transformed into slaves. Their power, influence, and connections, their wealth and their energy, will form an inexhaustible treasure and a precious help in all our undertakings.
19. The fourth category comprises ambitious office-holders and liberals of various shades of opinion. The revolutionist must pretend to collaborate with them, blindly following them, while at the same time, prying out their secrets until they are completely in his power. They must be so compromised that there is no way out for them, and then they can be used to create disorder in the State.
20. The fifth category consists of those doctrinaires, conspirators, and revolutionists who cut a great figure on paper or in their circles [kruzhki].
They must be constantly driven on to make compromising declarations: as a result, the majority of them will be destroyed, while a minority will become genuine revolutionists.
21. The sixth category is especially important: women. They can be divided into three main groups.
First, those frivolous, thoughtless, and vapid women, whom we shall use as we use the third and fourth category of men.
Second, women who are ardent, capable, and devoted, but whom do not belong to us because they have not yet achieved a passionless and austere revolutionary understanding; these must be used like the men of the fifth category.
Finally, there are the women who are completely on our side — i.e., those who are wholly dedicated and who have accepted our program in its entirety. We should regard these women as the most valuable of our treasures; without their help, we would never succeed.

The Attitude of the Society toward the People [narodu]
22. The Society has no aim other than the complete liberation and happiness of the narod — i.e., of the people who live by manual labor. Convinced that their emancipation and the achievement of this happiness can only come about as a result of an all-destroying popular revolt, the Society will use all its resources and energy toward increasing and intensifying the evils and miseries of the people until at last their patience is exhausted and they are driven to a general uprising.
23. By a revolution, the society [tovarishchestvo] does not mean an orderly revolt according to the classic western model — a revolt which always stops short of attacking the rights of property and the traditional social systems of so-called civilization and morality. Until now, such a revolution has always limited itself to the overthrow of one political form in order to replace it by another, thereby attempting to bring about a so-called revolutionary state.
The only form of revolution beneficial to the people is one which destroys the entire State to the roots and exterminates all the state traditions, institutions, and classes [klassy] in Russia.
24. With this end in view, the Society therefore refuses to impose any new organization from above. Any future organization will doubtless work its way through the movement and life of the people; but this is a matter for future generations to decide.
Our task is terrible, total, universal, and merciless destruction.
25. Therefore, in drawing closer to the people, we must above all make common cause with those elements of the masses which, since the foundation of the state of Muscovy, have never ceased to protest, not only in words but in deeds, against everything directly or indirectly connected with the state: against nobility, against bureaucracy [chinovnichestva], against priests, against the merchant gild, and against the parasitic kulak [rich peasant].
We must unite with the world of adventurous robber bands, the only genuine revolutionists in Russia.
26. To weld this world into one single unconquerable and all-destructive force
This is our organization, our conspiracy, our task.

* * * * *

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Note: The penis on a skateboard refers to Bette Midler's reaction the first time she saw the baby alien burst out of John Hurt's chest in Alien.

More on the SWP sex crisis implosion

A Bad Case of the Trots — my first public airing of the problem in 2003.

Current anti-feminism wave and its deep roots in the left.

Soviet Goon Boy with some reflections on the SWP crisis.

Dave Renton's critique of the People's Assembly.

Further comment and an interesting thread at Socialist Unity.

They don't appreciate criticism.

Don Milligan on the People's Assembly Westminster rally 22nd June.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

BEAA Opening the door at the Young Vic: my South China Morning Post column

Here's my South China Morning Post magazine column on February's Opening the Door event at the Young Vic. (Published 17 March 2013) Full version below.

Was it when I reached for not one but TWO bags of cheese 'n onion crisps that my greed was exposed? First I'm demanding equal opportunities in the culture as a British person of east Asian extraction; then Hannah Miller, the Royal Shakespeare Company's head of casting, catches me red-handed grabbing that second bag at the end of lunch.

"Oh. TWO? I suppose they're small," says Hannah, daintily selecting a single one for herself. It's a spooky moment of deja vu as I'm sure I said something similar when the RSC cast only 3 east asian actors in minor roles out of seventeen in their "Chinese Hamlet": The Orphan of Zhao.

We're chatting at the Open Space "Opening the Door" event for east Asian actors and creatives at the Young Vic. It's an unprecedented meeting of talents put together by Improbable Theatre, Equity, the Arts Council England and various theatre bodies after prolonged talks with actor Daniel York, materialising only after the British East Asian Artists spearheaded the international protest over the RSC casting boob. This day would allow us to network and have THAT debate.

The noise we made over Orphan meant that, for the first time ever, we were heard clearly across the media and in the industry. As Samuel Johnson might have observed, is not a patron one who looks with unconcern on a person struggling for life in the water, and when she has reached the ground, encumbers her with help? No matter. It's here and it looks great.

Some 160 performing arts practitioners — half industry, the Other half east Asian artists of differing hues — are gathered here today. While being surrounded by so many beautiful, smart, talented people makes my eyes moisten, the response of the RSC, who sent a promising five representatives, is eye-watering.

What had Hannah and her colleagues learnt from the Orphan protest and what would they do differently? Nothing, it seems. Hannah repeated the claim that they had searched Spotlight for east Asian auditionees and "saw lots". And yet, said I, we double-checked and could only find eight.

"That's their prerogative," said Hannah. "That's up to them."

It was disappointing to find the RSC still complacently unreflective and unaware of why we were angry. Still, they've promised to team up with Equity and casting directors to meet more east Asian actors and "widen the pool of talent" by early summer. So here's hoping: fingers crossed.

Saturday 23 March 2013

David Bowie Is V&A launch party review: music event of the year

The vast lobby of the Victoria and Albert Museum had been turned into the sort of joint where beautiful young men and women press cocktails and bubbly onto you as soon as you walk in. Mini canapés appeared transported on futuristic illuminated platters like something out of the Korova Milk Bar in Clockwork Orange.

Yes, here we were at the David Bowie Is launch party, surely the music event of 2013.

We sipped Green Genies: vodka martinis with lychee juice and absinthe. The orange cocktail was the BEST! Passion fruit juice, vodka and ginger ale over crushed ice and sipped through a straw. I had four of those (see how pink I am in the photo?), came back home and caught Tescos open. Tried to buy the ingredients (I was pissed and not thinking straight, only I WANT) but was vetoed by CSM who bought me Irish Cream faux Baileys instead. Not the same. But I got to use my new Bowie tote bag. Which is orange.

The exhibition is huge and begins with oranges. (I'm spotting a colour theme.) I can't possibly do it justice in 400 words but every corner yields something fascinating: the handwritten cost for a recording studio session (£149); videos; drawings; costumes galore.

It opens today. You have until August 11th to catch it when it begins a world tour. Some 47,000 advance tickets have been sold so hurry up and book.

Anna Chen and Charles Shaar Murray at the Bowie launch party

So here's my review for the today's Morning Star.

David Bowie Is
V & A 23 March - 11 August 2013
Review by Anna Chen — Morning Star

Nearly a decade with nary a squeak from the house-husband, and suddenly this embarrassment of riches arrives, hot on the heels of his new and most excellent album, The Next Day.

Here I am praying at the altar of David Bowie, the eagerly awaited launch of his very own exhibition at the V & A museum. My heart throbs, my eyes goggle. I'm falling in love all over again.

Wednesday's launch party carried a fitting sense of occasion like the rock events of old. I say a quick hi to Noel Gallagher, ogle Bowie lookalike Tilda Swinton, listen to Tracy Emin's speech about swigging sherry to early Bowie, and hear Gary Kemp plan a film about Bowie's much-loved sidekick, the late Mick Ronson.

One glance at the heaving crowd and I realise that there's a new measure of wealth and taste. Forget tight buns: the mark of today's pampered elite is a tight face.

On entry, I am immediately transported back to my childhood as a serious Bowie kiddie, camping out all night to secure front-row tickets at the Hammersmith Odeon and Kilburn State Gaumont, and glimpsed in the DA Pennebaker Ziggy Stardust movie.

The radio-headset is a vital part of the experience, surrounding you with super-duper 3D audio as you walk around. I wasn't sure what the Carl Andre floor tiles were doing in the first bit but it sets the scene for Bowie as Serious Artist, a status the rest of the exhibition confirms.

This extensive selection from the Bowie archive has everything a fan could wish for, barring the presence of the great man himself. From his earliest artistic influences (Warhol, Burroughs), his first appearance in the public eye as spokesperson for The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long Haired Men, the space race (Space Oddity, Starman): welcome to Bowie World.

The scraps of paper on which Bowie scribbled lyrics and notes demonstrate that this wasn't someone merely churning out product: this was someone in the seat with the clearest view of worlds of imaginative possibility.

Many of the costumes on show seem strangely drab and unmagical without Bowie filling them out, but the wing-legged Kansai Yamamoto outfit shines (literally), as does the bizarre black and white one-piece (influence Sonia Delauney) beside a screen depicting it in action for Bowie's stunning 1979 performance of The Man Who Sold the World on Saturday Night Live.

By the time we reach the final hall where thirty-foot-high Davids and Micks sing to us, I remember why I fell for him the first time round. I'm ready to do the whole thing again.

Monday 18 March 2013

Lost in London with Flying Lizards' Deborah Evans-Stickland

Spent an enjoyable Sunday with my mate Deborah Evans-Stickland — she of the Flying Lizards and the definitive version of "Money" (1979, written by Berry Gordy in the 1960s) that you hear played every time there's an item on ... er ... money. Given that we're in the pits of a recession that's fast turning into a depression and financial meltdown at least for us poor stiffs at the bottom of the heap, that's a lot.

I was too spaced out from a week of bronchitis and pain to get behind a steering wheel so she picked me up in NW6 to go to Blackheath in South East London where TV cameraman Jeff Willis was going to video us with his home kit for a laugh. On a map of London — North West to South East — that's top left diagonally to bottom right.

Deborah arrived late with Mab the (possibly pregnant) husky because she'd neglected to bring a satnav and took a weird route. She'd stopped to ask directions and been given the "You don't want to start from here" answer which quite delighted me.

So we set off late and in the rain. It's amazing how much traffic turns out when it's raining, even on a slow Sunday like today.

"How do we get to the South Bank?" she asked me.

"Oh, down Abbey Road, cut though Camden and head for Waterloo Bridge." (Down and our left.)

This will mean nothing to those unfamiliar with our fair capital city but we ended up going down Abbey Road, west to Notting Hill, down through Hyde Park, and through Victoria. Instead of turning left for Westminster, we carried on south to Vauxhall Bridge, along the north embankment past Tate Britain, Millbank, Parliament Square and across the bridge to south of the river and no-man's land. To me. Elephant & Castle, Peckham, Deptford, Blackheath ... Instead of a nice straight line from top left to bottom right, we'd done a wide letter "d" and were now adding more letters of the alphabet.

A short detour for sushi, sarnis and a bean salad from an M&S refreshed us for the next leg of the journey and we were off again.

So a very very VERY late arrival.

In front of the camera, I asked: "So, Deborah, the iconic track 'Money' gets played a lot. Every time we hear it, does your bank balance go 'kerching' or does a kitten die?" Disappointingly, it doesn't go "kerching" but she did make one of the iconic records of the punk era, so who's counting?

We did good interview, everyone got fish and I directed us home — a straight line this time. But the unexpected deviations can't half be good fun when you're with a mate.

Video to come.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Wilko Johnson at Camden Koko: my review

I saw Wilko Johnson at the second of his two London farewell tour dates at Camden Koko's on Sunday. Here's my review for the Morning Star.

Wilko Johnson 
Koko, London NW1
Wednesday 13 March 2013 review by Anna Chen
Squeezing through the throng at the second of Wilko Johnson's farewell gigs in London, it's hard not to imagine those men of a certain age - outnumbering the women six to one - in their youthful glory.

Portly blokes who'd shared Johnson's career from his early days with pub-rock kings Dr Feelgood to his emergence as a bona fide TV star in Game of Thrones crowded into the mosh pit and allowed their inner skinny selves one last pogo with their doomed hero.

Johnson had said he wanted everyone to leave their hankies at home and party in defiance of the pancreatic cancer that's killing him and his fans heeded the call.

With regular sidekicks Dylan Howe on drums and bassist Norman Watt-Roy throwing shapes so distinctive he's identifiable from his silhouette before you even hear a note, Johnson isn't far off the top of his game.

He's a pensioner so there's some conservation of energy but you'd never guess from this performance that TV's Ser Ilyn Payne is on death row.

Dressed in his usual all-black, he stalks the stage to the staccato rhythm of his Telecaster, spring-loaded and tethered to his amp by a coiled red umbilical cord against a monochrome set.

Opening with All Through The City, he blazes through his greatest hits, drawing on Feelgoods classics and some of his best post-Feelgood material. He ends the 90-minute set with Back In The Night segueing into my favourite, She Does It Right, and encoring on a poignant Bye Bye Johnny, with a very personal addendum about the black train that took his baybee and is now coming for him.

The devout atheist says: "God bless you all." He's sung: "I may be right, I may be wrong, but I know you're gonna miss me when I'm gone." Dead right, Wilko. But for now, he's onstage against the dying of the light and definitely not going gently back into the night.

Tour details available at

Wednesday 13 March 2013

MEDEA at ENO review: misogyny, "Other" & "a devilish disturbance in the cosmic balance"

My review in the Morning Star. The dusky woman outcast mistrusted for her talents is an old, old story that's still around today. 

Coliseum, London WC2
Tuesday 12 March 2013 by Anna Chen
An ENO version of Medea ignores its subversive possibilities as a vision of imperial plunder and betrayal

It's curious how many operas feature women who are outcasts in some way.

Carmen, Turandot, Violetta in La Traviata and Cho Cho San in Madam Butterfly transgress social norms and have to be punished for it.

ENO presents the first British production of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's 17th-century French baroque opera Medea, which has perhaps the ballsiest tragic outcast heroine of them all, bringing intellect and magical powers to the mix.

The action opens in the sanctuary of Corinth after Medea (mezzo-soprano Sarah Connelly), princess of Colchis, has helped Jason (Jeffrey Francis) steal the golden fleece in order to restore him to his rightful place as king of Iolcos. She has betrayed her father, killed her own brother and escaped with Jason, bearing him two sons.

Having thus burnt her bridges spectacularly, she is in turn betrayed by the ambitious Jason who falls for Creusa, daughter of King Creon of Corinth.

Thomas Corneille's libretto echoes Euripides's play of the Jason myth, which painted Medea as an archetypal woman scorned, her white-hot fury destroying not only her love rival but also her own sons in order to punish an errant husband.

Its misogynistic message - that powerful women are a devilish disturbance in the cosmic balance - demands questioning.

Coming from the edge of the ancient Hellenic world in what is now modern Georgia, where Asia and "barbarism" begin, Medea would have been a dark-skinned "other" compared to the fair Corinthians.

Mistrusted for the very powers that fulfil Jason's ambitions and then, as a shamed, humiliated and displaced queen with nowhere to go, her sons would have been no better than slaves. Was killing them an act of mad revenge or one of mercy when all was lost?

The only hint of the latter is in the line buried in Euripides: "If I hesitate now someone else will murder them more cruelly." Medea's dilemma is fascinating and beyond any mere domestic upset.

It is therefore a pity that ENO's production ignores those dramatic possibilities, sticking to the cliche of wrathful harpy aided by the demons of jealousy and vengeance.

Having timidly distilled conflict into blonde versus brunette, the designers stick Medea in a dowdy knee-length skirt suit with white tights that undermine her transformation into a supernatural force. This is a queen of somewhere very dark, not a bank manager.

Played by awesome house-shaking bass Brindley Sharratt, Creon's fascist impulses ("We must silence all discontent") are linked to his depraved incestuous desire for Creusa.

But, although the setting is updated to World War II, by failing to subvert the traditional reading of Medea's motivations, this production misses the chance to do something exciting and different with a murderous tale of imperialist conquest, theft and betrayal.

Runs until March 16. Box office: (0207) 845-9300.

Here's a modern take that could be titled: MEDIA

Monday 11 March 2013

SWP goon squads stalk the net. But ineptly.

Professor Darkside may decry the use of the new-fangled interwebz thingy but that hasn't stopped SWP goonsquads jumping over their detractors.

A couple of them had an inept pop at me last month. Here's the latest one. (Scroll up to the top.) Hilarious.

A mere sample:

Further reading More SWP rape accusations: "a dangerous environment to be in"

SWP sex implosion: it's dehumanisation in the left that leads to sexual abuse

Saturday 9 March 2013

More SWP rape crisis accusations: "a dangerous environment to be in"

Read Anna Chen's collection of poetry, Reaching for My Gnu, now an eBook.

It's International Women's weekend, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) are having their special crisis conference tomorrow and more allegations of the crummy way the SWP treats their women members are coming to light. I'm reposting an updated version of my SWP Sex Implosion piece from last month. 

For the UPDATED version click here

This is about trust. It is about ethics. It is about where we are all headed as a society and what sort of a world we wish to build. It is about the men and women who place themselves at the head of the movement, not just the SWP which is less relevant than you'd guess, but the entire culture of the various left groups including the Labour Party where many have pitched up in Jeremy Corbyn's camp, what their motives really are and the difference between lip-service and action.

It is also about what happened when a Chinese Brit woman established the anti-Iraq war press campaign in 2001 for a moribund Stop The War (whose previous outings were the first Gulf War and Kosovo/former Yugoslavia), taking a little known backbench MP called Jeremy Corbyn and propelling him into the public eye against the left's aggressively stated policy of not enaging with the "bourgeois media". 

When you treat human beings as disposable objects in the name of la causa, when appropriation of activists' labour and good will is the norm, when exploitation of your own side goes unchallenged, sexual abuse is one probable outcome.

The rape allegations that sent the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) into freefall and a near fatal crisis are a manifestation of a deeper problem in the organisation. The alleged sex abuse seems to have been of a different order to that of the Workers Revolutionary Party in the 1970s and 80s: Gerry Healy regularly raped women activists and the WRP's internal regime was straightforwardly violent. I was a member of the SWP between 1996 and 2001, initiating and running the press operation for Globalise Resistance (Gr), Socialist Alliance (SA), Stop The War Coalition (STWC) and Media Workers Against the War (MWAW) until 2003. If anything, I found the leading men in the SWP curiously sexless and not half as attractive as the women, and can count the episodes of sex pesting I heard about on the fingers of one hand (without the thumb).

There was the guy who we jokingly named the Lothario of the Left, who seemed all talk and no trousers (he wished!) and who I thought posed no real threat beyond being a bit of a pain in the butt (he wished!). The more serious rumours concerned one senior member of the central committee (now dead) who was said to get so predatory when he was drunk that his close comrades had to keep him away from young women.

However, in 2012, the case of a young SWP woman comrade who accused a senior party member of rape — said to have occurred when she was 17 and he 46 — generated widespread horror when the arrogant, self-serving way they dealt with this case (plus at least one other involving the same party leader) demonstrated how distant from socialist principles they were. Having read the kangaroo court transcript (Jan 2013) and the cryptic comments at SU and seen SWP males up close, I suspect that two odd-looking men (politics being showbiz for ugly people) were so repressed that, when they were in proximity to female activists, the power of their party status went to their heads.

This has its roots not only in the larger society but in the culture of the organisation. It's all very well the SWP flaming their critics, but this has been building for years. They continue to stick their fingers in their ears when they should have been addressing the objectification of their own members.

I can empathise totally with Comrade W, a woman who has struggled to get a fair hearing, sympathy and respect from her comrades, not to mention an overhaul of dodgy practises, over two years or more and then in desperation went for broke and reported it to the party's internal disputes committee. Subsequent events are a clear marker of how far they have degenerated without even knowing it.

The cases of sexual abuse now surfacing are a symptom of a deeper problem inside the left. Whether it's ripping off their activists for wages, thieving their intellectual efforts and claiming credit for their successes, ignoring patterns of abuse has emboldened the abusers and led to a diminishing regard for their members until the logical conclusion of that trajectory — where even someone's body is no longer their own — is reached. And here we are at that particular terminus.

As one former SWP member says in today's Guardian report on the matter:
She added that she was coming forward two years later because she believes the SWP is a dangerous environment for women: "I want people to know it's a systemic thing. They've done this a few times, covered things up in the interests of the party and it's a dangerous environment to be in."

One long violation and shakedown.

In my own case, working full-time for no pay establishing and running the SWP's national press over several years — including Globalise Resistance, Socialist Alliance and Stop the War — while being subjected to their own form of obedience training left me heavily in debt and marvelling at my own stupidity.

When I joined in 1996, the SWP had no active press office yet complained bitterly that the bourgeois press always ignored them. "Did you issue press releases for your events?", I asked. No they didn't, evidently expecting the press to pluck their activities from the ether and report them. Ah, I can help here, I thought. And so began my complicity in my own exploitation for the next few years.

Paul Foot may have called me "the best press officer in the country" but that hasn't stopped me being punished for it by the left.

Not one single National Union of Journalists (NUJ) member of the SWP or their affiliates, or any journalists on the SWP's Socialist Worker newspaper, either initiated or was interested in getting media relations with the "bourgeois" press up and running even though Andrew Murray, Chief of Staff in Unite the Union and close Corbyn adviser, acknowledges Stop The War as “perhaps the major tributary in the flood that lifted Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party.” It was an uphill struggle from the start but I had no idea how hostile my own comrades would be towards activity that would widen our audience and get our message out.

In my bid to help out and make a difference, I initiated, established and coordinated the national press for their Globalise Resistance, Socialist Alliance (SA) and Stop the War Coalition (STWC) campaigns (I should have been working on my own writing), but however many hours I worked all unpaid, it was never enough for them. You can be behind the computer from 8am to gone midnight on their behalf when everyone else is earning a living, but if the district organiser demands you attend a paper sale at 6am you must do it — even if only she and one other turn up and no-one else in the whole of West London does — and you only sell one paper. There's no sense to it except as obedience-training.

If the SWP Central Committee (CC) head honcho (now Stop the War, People's Assembly and Counterfire) tells you, f'rinstance, to use the SWP and Socialist Alliance e-lists to character-assassinate our SA comrades, friends and sympathisers Paul Mason and Dave Osler (and, later, screw over RMT's Greg Tucker) out of sheer bloodymindedness when they've done an excellent job — or precisely BECAUSE they'd done an excellent job — to refuse to obey their authorit-eye, as I did, is to invite the SWP's collective wrath.

Or as one prominent SWP woman I appealed to around the time of the SA demise told me, "You should have done what he said. He's on the CC and what the CC says, goes." Luckily, I never checked in my brain along with my conscience at the door.

The head honcho I refer to here, (now jockeying for kingmaker role behind the scenes with Jeremy Corbyn as his main man), had offered me patronage when I'd mistakenly assumed his encouragement was appreciation of new blood. If only I'd realised before the sun went down that it was new blood in the way Transylvanian children of the night appreciate new blood, I'd have ridden the first coach outta town. My aim had been to bring any skills I might have into the organisation and leave it in a better shape than I found it — those skills chiefly being the ones I'd learned from the talented arts publicists who'd gained me a stack of press for my performance work. As a result the media were beginning to take notice of the SWP's various projects and a strange glint was appearing in the comrades' eyes.

Happy London Socialist Alliance candidates at the Millbank launch of our People Before Profit manifesto where I got Shaun Ley and a BBC TV camera unit to cover the event.

I think I may even have done some good. When firefighter and SA executive member Steve Godward stood as candidate for the Socialist Alliance in Birmingham Erdington in the 2001 general election, he was targeted by the far right including one particularly dangerous and infamous figure. They harassed Godward and his election group at their campaign stall and made it clear that they knew where he lived. Shockingly, instead of our party — either the leading SWP grouping or the Socialist Alliance — mounting a concerted campaign to support and protect him in solidarity, he was hung out to dry by head honcho, who dismissed him as "not representing anyone". Appalled by this betrayal and abandonment of one of our own the moment he was under attack, I managed, as SA press officer, to get a small mention of the far right threat in the Mirror, as well as writing and issuing press releases for him when his own FBU bureaucracy cut up rough.

Anna Chen — establishing national press officer for Globalise Resistance, the London Socialist Alliance (LSA), the Socialist Alliance (SA), and the founding press officer for the Stop the War Coalition (STWC) that saw it wrest the anti-war brand from CND after 9/11 — with Mike Marqusee, press officer and author of the bulk of our press releases, at the Milbank launch of the LSA manifesto in the 2000 Greater London Assembly elections.

LSA national press officer Anna Chen with our candidate Greg Tucker, a train driver, on board the battle bus.

Senior SWP and SWTC members knew about the right-wing threat to our own SA candidate plus other episodes because I made a point of making sure they were aware what was happening in our name. However, this vanguard of the class clammed up and protected the machine as they would do time and time again. Such as when I saw the membership print-outs in late 1998 and blew the whistle on numbers falling far below the ten thousand claimed at the time by the national secretary. They wouldn't correct the multiple duplicated inclusions on the lists or remove people who'd been pleading to be taken off (I offered to do this) which would have brought it down to a more realistic number well below two thousand. It was quite eerie how everyone I told looked uncomfortable and changed the subject even though we were all aware of the chief commandment regularly delivered by the SWP's leader and political theorist Tony Cliff: never lie to the class.

With a touching faith that the CC would correct what I initially assumed was an innocent mistake on their part (they never did, although they did stop claiming ten thousand), I continued to promote our politics. I arranged media interviews for SA and STWC spokespersons, always declining invitations from producers to speak myself once I'd briefed them, as I didn't want to build a media profile for myself out of my political activity (as it turned out others were effectively doing) — I believed that was what my art was for. The one time I spoke in the media about the SA was when I was invited by BBC Radio 5 Live to appear on Nicky Campbell's programme in my capacity as writer and performer, which I turned into an opportunity to talk about why I felt the SA was necessary.

In addition to unpaid work for the SWP and its left organisations, I was also directing the press (also unpaid) for various disasters visited upon the UK's Chinese community. In early 2001 the Labour government's Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) tried to blame a Chinese restaurant for the catastrophic outbreak of the Foot and Mouth Disease which devastated the countryside largely due to government incompetence. With violence brewing against UK Chinese and the first assaults already occurring, I initiated and ran the media campaign and was a member of the delegation led by Jabez Lam (at 1:17:00) that negotiated with the MAFF Minister, Nick Brown. After closing down London and Manchester Chinatowns on Sunday 8th April with an unprecedented strike we won public vindication from Brown in front of the international press.

In February 2004, 23 Chinese cocklepickers drowned in Morecambe Bay (only 21 bodies were found). Aware that the 58 Chinese who died in the 2000 Dover lorry disaster were dehumanised as 'illegals' and criminals by swathes of the media, I immediately co-ordinated with Chinese activists on the ground — including The Monitoring Group and their affiliated community organisation Minquan helmed by Jabez Lam of which I was a founder member — to help make sure the victims were humanised and protected from the start. The press angle was that the Chinese had brought it on themselves by coming here illegally; that it was all the fault of the snakehead gangs; and the prevailing atmosphere emboldened Conservative MP Ann Winterton enough to crack a joke about a shark ordering a takeaway of dead Chinese people. All of which let the government's immigration policy off the hook. This had to be challenged and that's what we did. I issued the intitial English language national press releases (drafted by The Monitoring Group and Minquan activists), publicised our press conference at St Ann's Church in Soho, and got writer Hsiao Hung Pai on board whose sterling undercover work ended up as the basis for Nick Broomfield film, Ghosts (2006).

Yet it was only four or five years before the Morecambe Bay tragedy that I'd asked in an SWP Marxism summer school organising meeting led by Rees for us to do more work with UK Chinese. Remembering the district organiser who had told me I was petit bourgeois because I was Chinese and 'all Chinese work in catering', I pointed out that there were Chinese workers such as the Dover 58 in the UK who should be part of the movement. I was told sharply that 'the axis of racism is black and white' and 'the party doesn't work with the Chinese' because 'it's British workers that count, not Chinese' and that was almost the end of the conversation.

In the summer of 2001 I sent Socialist Worker newspaper and SWP HQ a press release about the police prosecution of the New Diamond Restaurant workers in Soho after they had defended themselves from a racist attack. Irony of ironies, Comrade Delta picked it up and got behind the New Diamond Four picket until they won their case, although they trampled over local Chinese activists in the process. This included proposals for a credit-hogging victory rally, a spotlight which was the very last thing that the Chinese strikers wanted, underlined by their vote against in the T and G union meeting on 30th July 2001.

Across the board, the left was neglecting the importance of the media. I stepped into this breach assuming I was among conscientious socialists and comrades. How wrong I was.

Page 1 of my media directory, up to 47 pages by September 1999 when we were still on faxes. Seumas Milne has been receiving my press releases since 1997.

I was pleased to be asked to write for the International Socialism Journal which head honcho edited (pieces on Sergei Eisenstein and George Orwell). I was glad that the Socialist Review magazine — edited by one of his girlfriends — could use my cultural reviews. I was happy to help out proof-reading in the printshop (for this I received £20 per day once in a blue moon). And being the trolley-dolly looking after the outside speakers at their annual Marxism events was fun ... in parts.

However, head honcho's sudden announcement that I was now on the Socialist Review editorial board was an unpaid duty too many (the others were all full-timers on the party payroll or had jobs). I was supposed to acquiesce to this command because of the star-fuckery honour of attending meetings at Paul Foot's house. As magnificent as Paul was (I did his national press when he stood for the SA) it was yet one more time-killer and space-filler. On top of this, head honcho suddenly told me out of the blue that the CC had decided that I was to be the SWP's press officer — "People would kill to have your job" — with no consultation with me when all I wanted to do was train up members to engage with the media (which they refused to allow). You can politely decline all you want but this sort of disobedience drives them several degrees off Sanity Central.

Tony Benn's note asking me to publicise the memorial service for his late wife, Caroline. Other leftists who made use of my unpaid media office services included Ken Loach and Jeremy Hardy who called on me to promote their Palestine projects on screen and stage; Alex Callinicos who needed press for his Committee To Defend South Korean Socialists campaign; and Hilary Wainright who was the only one to offer to pay me to promote her book, Reclaim the State (2003), apart from investigative journalist Greg Palast who over time drilled into me why I should not allow myself to be exploited by the left. By the time journalist Paul Mason asked me to review his novel, Rare Earth, while watching me get a kicking, I decided enough was enough.

I'd tried to be a principled comrade, helping other members of the left. To name but three examples: I did the PR that broke SWP's China Miéville into the public eye for free when he sought me out, complaining that his publisher wasn't making him famous and that the SWP and their outlet, Bookmarks, were ignoring his brilliance. I was thankful to discover a leftist who was working in the creative industry, who could help us demonstrate that we had some good tunes and that it wasn't all dry theory and hard slog activity: socialism should mean releasing imaginative powers for people normally crushed under the requirements of capitalism. I believed that talent should be given a chance and not buried and so, in the spirit of comradely love and solidarity, I took this writer under my wing and determined to propel him into the public eye with as much vigour as I applied to publicising the left.

As well as lobbying for Miéville inside the party and acting as his champion until they started to feature him in activities, this meant issuing press releases about this fab new cultural find for the Left that went out to all the media that were now paying attention to the Socialist Alliance, and adding info snippets about him to my general press releases. For the 2001 general election we made him the Socialist Alliance candidate for the London constituency of Regents Park and Kensington North for which his partner did his local press and I did his national media, in addition to chairing meetings for him.

Tariq Ali, Anna Chen and China Mieville.

Introducing Miéville to my friends included hosting a dinner at my home for him and his partner to meet the investigative reporter Greg Palast and his partner.

But it was persuading (no easy task) my partner, the journalist and author Charles Shaar Murray, to write a stonking 1,400 word feature in the broadsheetIndependent on Sunday titled "Lord of the Earrings", with a big picture of Mieville, that finally cracked him in the mainstream. So his subsequent actions, falling in line with SWP hacks whose approval he so craved, were pretty fugly.

A second example is when I did free publicity for SA chair Liz Davies' book Through the Looking Glass (Verso) as well as promoting her and her partner Mike Marqusee in just about all SA press, and defending her when head honcho's hacks wrote her signature on SA cheques. Their comradely response? Behind my back, while encouraging me to stay on board against my sense of self-preservation, she crushed Steve Godward's attempt to get the bullying dealt with, telling him, "That's personal issues between her and John Rees." Hey, sistah! Thanks for prolonging the misery when I should have walked. That and the rewriting of SA events ...

And in 1999 I paid one skint SWP aristocracy member a fiver an hour that we couldn't afford for 4 hours cleaning per week (her idea and a fiver more per hour than I was getting for my labour for her party — to put it in perspective, the National Minimum Wage introduced the same year was £3.60 per hour), and nearly took out a £600 overdraft to cover her rent arrears before we realised that her SWP parents (with their well-paid full-time jobs) were a lot better off than we were. Quite often I'd feed her a hot meal and we'd talk politics during allotted work hours, her correcting me and explaining why I was petit bourgeois because I was an art worker and we were all atomised. (Art workers take note that the SWP regard you as not of "the Class".) Others were telling me I was petit bourgeois because I was Chinese and we all work in catering — not racist, then.

It should also be noted that every one of my Stop The War Coalition press releases as the establishing and national press officer carried Lindsey German's and then Mike Marqusee's mobile numbers, offering them as spokespersons and raising their profile in the media. Only Marqusee had any sort of mainstream media presence before this.

But no good deed goes unpunished and the blowback from these instances was typical of the irrational spite and fury permeating much of the left. I may have succeeded in breaking Miéville into both the mainstream and the left out of friendship for no payment while his publisher's publicity department floundered, but in Bizarro World this is exactly the reason I had to be done over. This included an ambush at Mieville's housewarming party by his SWP buddies, one of whom shouted so loudly in my right ear that she nearly burst my eardrum, joined by Mieville who seemed intent on making his bones in the organisation, witnessed by a room full of his guests.

In addition to further unpleasantness, Miéville never returned my manuscripts of Coolie, my novel about the striking Chinese railworkers, or The Chop House, my "Red Guard, Yellow Submarine" memoir about being born to Chinese communists in 1960s Hackney. It doesn't feel very nice knowing that people who wish you harm have jumped all over your work and your most intimate memories.

All that talk of "comradeship" and yet I realised no-one ever had my back. Maybe it was something I'd done, something I said? But when I asked if I'd done something wrong either politically or personally to deserve the hostility I was getting from leading cadre, Rees merely muttered that I was "exemplary". These are men and women who will shout themselves hoarse to stop you being called a "cunt" but will happily see you treated like one. He expected me to continue working in this environment. When I told him it felt like a rape, all he had to say was that I wasn't allowed to use the word "like that". I felt compelled to explain that I knew what rape felt like. And he still wouldn't tackle the bullying. "I'm not picking a fight with a district organiser," was his courageous response.

The West London district organiser (D.O.s, full-timers paid a salary by the party) was a twiggy blonde teacher whose deep understanding of politics led her, in her former working life, to teach her students about Dunkirk when told to teach them about D-Day. For some unfathomable reason, whenever there was a task to do (the SWP's notorious pointless activities just to keep the grunts busy) she would always demand I was the one who did it. Such as when we were all in the middle of the SA election and I'd been working on the press from waking at 8am to gone midnight, and yet out of the entire West London district, it was me who had to do the 6am paper sale with her and one of the bureaucrats. One paper was sold. Other members couldn't do it apparently because they were otherwise occupied earning a living, paying their NI contributions towards a state pension while I was racking up credit card debt in order to live.

Hostility towards me was clearly signalled. In early 2001, during our general election campaign, the D.O. suddenly demanded that "all LSA (London Socialist Alliance) press work should go through me" because "Anna's up her own arse, she wants to be in the media limelight". The fact that I'd abandoned "media limelight", income and a career in order to contribute to the movement made no odds. And all party presswork? Oh, great. Another level of bureaucracy to take up more time we didn't have. She was the district organiser and not the person I reported to but Central Committee member Rees, courageous as ever, refused to clarify even though you could tell he knew the demand was barking. In one press team meeting in January 2001, attended by Rees, Paul Mason, Clare Fermont, Richard Garside, Will McMahon, Stuart King and Dave Osler, Rees had made it clear: "We've established the LSA steering committee, I and the press team have the right to issue press releases without going to every group and waiting." If following his instructions resulted in my being bashed up by his comrades, then so be it.

In her local clique, another teacher, one of three daughters of mayors and mayoresses I met in the party, barracked me for not doing a Saturday sale even though I was working for the party full time unpaid for 60 hours or more a week; attending all the meetings and being generally all-round useful (yes, the term "useful idiot" does resonate at this point). And the teacher? She'd turn up once in a blue moon.

Another one of the D.O.'s cohort was supposed to be running the local press in Brent for the 2001 Socialist Alliance general election campaign so I could focus on the national press. The SA was fielding candidates in 65 English constituencies with more in Wales and Scotland as the biggest far left challenge in the post-war period. As well as getting me to do the national and London press, Rees had also made me responsible for getting our borough press officers self-sufficient which I was happy to do. However, the Brent SA press officer made her animosity clear when she wrecked our media work. The SA battle bus was in the district for a day so I'd co-ordinated with the mainstream media — BBC South East TV news in this instance — to interview Austin, an amazing activist in his 80s. He looked fantastic with his badge-covered black beret and jacket and red bandanna scarf, and he was full of inspiring stories from his lengthy experience fighting da man. We all loved him — a proper old-school principled socialist. Austin was looking forward to being interviewed on our glorious battle bus and showing how we were real people, characters not caricatures, when the local press officer called him to pull him off the interview with about an hour to go. No excuse, no reason, no explanation. This was the loss of an important bit of positive publicity for our side. And Austin was gutted. It is stunning how these people place personal animosity and sectarianism before the movement.

In May 2001, at the end of the general election campaign, the SA celebrated in the Institute of Education bar in Bloomsbury. When Mike Marqusee said nice things about my work ("flair and imagination"), emphasising that the left had to be professional and take seriously the job of challenging the establishment's propaganda against us, I got a little round of applause. I was a bit embarrassed but pleased that my work had done some good and that my comrades appreciated it. Over to my left, however, seated with her mates, a stormy faced district organiser folded her arms and refused to join in. For isn't it the duty of the revolutionary to ensure that the nail that sticks up is hammered down?

Around the same era (1999?), the Miss World competition made its comeback at Olympia. Because the venue was on her West London turf, the D.O. called for a protest against the "sexist cattle market". About 50 of us duly turned up for a noisy but good-natured demo with the D.O. supposedly acting as the convenor. As always at these events, I wrote phone numbers for duty lawyers in biro on my forearm just in case things went awry. Sure enough, two or three women were arrested and taken to Hammersmith Police Station. We headed off to the cop shop for what I assumed were rescue and solidarity purposes. However, the D.O. spent her time flirting with one of the SWP's posh boys and had no plan of action. It is surely wrong to encourage young women to take the risk of public action only to leave them to their fate when something goes wrong. The D.O. disappeared from the police station shortly afterwards while I contacted lawyers for the detained women and hung around into the early hours until I knew help was on its way.

Lions led by donkeys. There will be little surprise that this particular donkey ended up on the SWP's Central Committee.

On another occasion, Rees told me, "You're an actress, that's why people think you're a flake". This said to one of the unflakiest people in their group, certainly one who knew that you should always take a lawyer's phone number with you on lively protests, especially if you are the organiser.

Things were not getting better. At an executive committee meeting for the Socialist Alliance in the summer of 2001, I found myself the only woman and the only ethnic minority as the other regular woman member, Terry, was absent. There I sat in a room above a Euston pub, the sole female surrounded by about 30 white middle-class males whose one bone tossed towards diversity was that some of them were proper posh. I would normally sit back and listen at these meetings, make notes and feed back info about our press when asked, under the impression that these veterans of the left were vastly more experienced in politics than myself and I could do with learning from them. On this occasion we reached a point where we had to decide where the next meeting should be held as we were all agreed that the SA shouldn't be London-centric. In a lull I spoke my first words of the meeting, supporting the next one being held in Coventry where our SA chair, Dave Nellist, lived as it was north (meaning north of our current spot in London)and more convenient for a whole lot more people to get to.

There was a collective sharp intake of breath and then one by one these tribunes of the oppressed took it in turns to bark at me in classic "rip-her-to-shreds" mode while Rees, Hoveman and Nellist watched without uttering a word. "Coventry is not in the North and this just shows your total ignorance," raged John Nicholson, an NGO and SA independent who I'd previously thought was okay. Thirty or more white males asserting their power, piling on to the one woman in the room, either cheering it on or permitting it to happen — this is the level of the British left. Never mind Marx, a Freudian analysis of what was happening might have yielded insight into that dynamic. As the others joined in on this theme like a coiled spring releasing (the word "disgusting" came up a lot — thirty plus white males ranting at the one woman in the room that she's "disgusting") I looked around at the all-white male group in full frothing fury purporting to be socialist and thought, "The accuracy of my geography is the least of your problems."

We held the press launch of the Socialist Alliance manifesto, People Before Profit, at Millbank. A lorry was hired displaying the banner title and the SA candidates turned up for the call. Everyone seemed surprised but delighted that I'd managed to get presenter and journalist Shaun Ley and a BBC TV crew along who were filming the event and interviewing Dave Nellist. During a lull I started to chat to our Dagenham candidate, Berlyne Hamilton, (my mother was from Dagenham) who was standing alone holding an LSA balloon. Barely half a sentence in, Rees came barreling over and barked at Berlyne to 'get in line' as he grabbed his balloon. Berlyne immediately jumped to it as Rees snapped at me, 'hold this' and whacked the balloon into my face. It was not a pretty sight to see a white guy order a black man to 'get in line'. I was both stunned by his aggression and laughing at the impotence of his gesture. The meaning was clear — he was resentful that I'd pulled this off. It was a signal I should have heeded.

(EDIT 2021: Memory jogged by the sinophobia breaking surface for the past few years, I remembered another male figure who leapt on an excuse to attack me. The only direct contact Corbyn's advisor Seumas Milne and I ever had despite him getting my press releases since 1997 was when he phoned me in 2011, not to thank me for the free labour and principled press work for Corbyn and the left, but to rant at me because investigative journalist Greg Palast had called someone a "terror tart" to which I and others around him had already objected. I'd been publicising Greg's latest book but wasn't his personal salaried PR. Why Milne didn't phone Greg directly and have it out with him, I can only guess. This is the calibre of the privileged white males who drove the progressive wing of the Labour party into a ditch while placing intimates, friends and family on the payroll.)

As historian Pakaj Misha observes, "Many straight white men feel besieged by 'uppity' Chinese and Indian people, by Muslims and feminists, not to mention gay bodybuilders, butch women and trans people." In turning around the media profile for the anti-war movement and left in general I'd inadvertently held up a mirror to the inadequacies of a strand of angry white male leftists and their enablers: how dare a working-class ethnic woman be able to do these things? They didn't like what they saw. Subsequent Caliban-like efforts to smash the mirror took precedence over any pretence at equality, diversity, justice or building a better society for everyone. It was the same old hierarchy being nailed into place but with different management at the top.

I tried not to buckle under this unremitting hostility from my own side because there was a bigger cause to deal with, but it began to have profound negative effect on my health as well as my bank statements. Succumbing to bronchitis every year – twice in one year — was draining. As was bursting into tears when I was on my own and not understanding what on earth was going on.

Take someone who's marginalised in society, marginalise them some more and then call it socialism.

A working-class Londoner, I'd found myself homeless at 15, given shelter in a flea-ridden Hackney squat and eating my food out of Ridley Road market gutter at the end of the day. I was being molested by a 22-year-old who'd befriended me when I was 14 at Centerprise in Dalston Lane, promising to help me study for my maths O level as he was doing his maths masters degree. At my home he'd press his erection into me and maul me, which he thought most amusing. He went on to be a columnist for the New Statesman in the 1990s and authored a book about how precious his virginity was to him. This hypocrisy was far from lost on me. My plea at school to the two Trotskyist teachers about this was countered with, "It's only teenage angst". One of the the teachers, IMG Jane, would later carry her animus towards me into adulthood, and she now sits on the Stop The War steering committee. 

(The NS writer never did help me with my maths and I ended up passing the exam under my own steam, coming joint top in O levels in my school year.)

All of which only strengthened my deep conviction that humans can and must do better than this.

The middle-class populating the left organisations, who call for the emancipation of the working class by the working-class themselves, are terrified of the prospect in the flesh rather than an abstract. That terror manifests as hostility and aggression while they preach solidarity and comradeship. It was beyond their abilities to see me as a bright working class woman on the same side, instead projecting their deeply embedded yellow peril fear of Other onto me as a combination of blank canvas and passive punchbag. Or worse, when remembering Lindsey German's spiteful reaction to my non-interest in her boyfriend. A more vibrant and developed class consciousness might have alerted them to this dynamic, but their inadequacy has only become more deeply entrenched over the years. Take my former comrade Paul Mason's twisted tack to the right, claiming in crude populist terms that it is the Chinese who are responsible for "impoverishing" Europe's workers, and that the bottom 60 per cent of the global population including China, India and Brazil, don't count in trying to build a better world for the many, not the few. Going through the motions or wading through shit: sometimes it's hard to tell.

There you have it: we have always been at war with Eastasia. Mason has been trying to persuade Corbyn to favour "... a strategy designed to allow the populations of the developed world to capture more of the growth projected over the next 5-15 years, if necessary at a cost to India, China and Brazil ... to save democracy, democratic institutions and values in the developed world by reversing the 30-year policy of enriching the bottom 60% and the top 1% of the world's population". So we're fighting for the 39 per cent, then — for the few, not the many. "It is," he continues in an appalling lurch to the right, "a programme to deliver growth in Wigan, Newport and Kirkaldy — if necessary at the price of not delivering them to Shenzhen, Bombay and Dubai."

There's a destructive dynamic showing up across the culture in various forms. Even the comics have grasped:
"Although they are committed to the good, and they put that commitment into practice in serious and costly ways, they are rewarded for their concern over others' wellbeing with fear, persecution and hatred. [Having abilities and being different makes it worse.] And, as a matter of fact, when you add their goodness to the greatness of their powers, you get the grounds for a distinctive sort of resentment on the part of many regular people. ... Perhaps, when people who are despised show themselves to be good, it is natural for their adversaries, and even many onlookers, to resent and despise them even more. After all, they have by their behavior demonstrated how irrational and perverse it is to despise them in the first place, and no-one likes to realize or admit that his own attitudes are irrational or unjustified. We, unfortunately, lash out against those who bring us such unpleasant self-knowledge." C Stephen Evans on the X-Men in "Why Should Superheroes Be Good?", Superheroes and Philosophy (pub Open Court 2005)

How dare I think I could possibly do anything positive for the collective good?

Capitalism robs us of our humanity. The promise of socialism is that it's supposed to liberate you from capitalism's requirement for you to be a depersonalised cog in the machine serving Mammon, but the left's mindset has ossified to the extent where they can't see the contradiction in turning lively recruits with ideals into unthinking cogs in their own apparatus, with no function other than to service the leadership rather than the cause. The party's texts become holy writ and wholly wrong.

It's like all the water has been drained out, leaving us with a parched desert landscape.

Behind the Potemkin-village presentations of cultural expression at their various events, the pressure to conform is astonishing. None of that "speaking truth to power" nonsense here. Not only must you follow orders unquestioningly, but you must stay in line and not stand out. The nail that sticks up has to be hammered down. I wondered why they put nearly a year and a half into recruiting a sparky half-Chinese woman from Hackney if they didn't like what they saw.

They promote their Trotskyist brand of socialism as being far superior to the Stalinists and yet there's still the same constant pressure to kow-tow and kneel before Zod. The same salivating fantasies about the working class being allowed guns (fair point if the oppressive ruling class has them and uses them against you). The same gleeful spite when the subject of the Red Army suppression of the Kronstadt rising comes up and they imagine how, like the very UN-working class Trotsky, they would "shoot them down like partridges". You're left with the question: if these people did have guns, who would be the first to receive a bullet? I doubt it would be the class enemy.

So why didn't I walk out earlier? This is the promise, the bigger picture, the prize I thought worth fighting for:
"It is difficult to predict the extent of self-government which the man of the future may reach or the heights to which he may carry his technique. Social construction and psycho-physical self-education will become two aspects of one and the same process. All the arts – literature, drama, painting, music and architecture will lend this process beautiful form. More correctly, the shell in which the cultural construction and self-education of Communist man will be enclosed, will develop all the vital elements of contemporary art to the highest point. Man will become immeasurably stronger, wiser and subtler; his body will become more harmonized, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical. The forms of life will become dynamically dramatic. The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise."

Those inspiring words were written by Leon Trotsky. (The same Trotsky who set about the Kronstaadt sailors, and who wanted them "shot down like partridges": not a typically working-class turn of phrase.) A beautiful ideal before the apes pissed on the monolith.

* * * * *

There is a tide in the affairs of men, and so on. Instead of riding the wave of my fledgling career as a writer and performer, I'd jumped off it in order to serve, not the revolution, but some fairly unpleasant middle-management types who wouldn't have been looked at twice had they not climbed the greasy pole of the SWP and the outside left.

I'd decided to rent out my flat for a while in order to write my book, Coolie, about the strike by several thousand Chinese workers on the American trans-continental railroad in the 1860s. This was important to me because, in spirit, it was really about my father — a Chinese revolutionary who'd been active in the British workers' movement from the 1920s (he died in 2004). Once fees and expenses were paid, that would allow me to live frugally. Yet here I was in 2001 with nothing written because every minute of time and every inch of psychic space now belonged to The Party, going deeper and deeper into debt for them.

Mike Marqusee stated that, for the SA, I'd done single-handedly the equivalent of the Countryside Alliance's six full-time paid press officers and their support with "flair and imagination".

The Weekly Workercalled my unprecedented press successes "uncanny".

John Rees described my work as being akin to turning a tanker around mid-ocean and like mining for diamonds.

In the media, the Socialist Alliance was described as "Fresh and exciting" said John O'Farrell in the Guardian. "Easily the best performance for the left in post-war Britain," John Curtice told The Independent.

None of that counts when they break out their airbrushes.

A review of the George Monbiot An Activist's Guide to Exploiting the Media — including my appendix — which I got John Rees to have published by Bookmarks with George's blessing. "The appendix, which gives contact details for the key TV stations and newspapers, is alone worth the price of the pamphlet."

The STWC claim in their literature that they'd sprung fully formed from the ether in the aftermath of the events of 11 September 2001. This is not true. The SWP had actually joined what became, through various changes of name, the Stop The War Coalition (STWC) some time after others (including CND) had set up an anti-intervention coalition against the first Gulf war in 1990/1. Despite Paul Foot and the SWP trying to revive it for the Kosovo conflict in 1999, Stop The War, as it had become by the late 1990s, had never made much of an impact and was clearly moribund by 2001. The initial protests following the 9/11 attacks were organised as a three-way partnership between CND, the Muslim Association of Britain and the now SWP-led STWC.

Everyone dreaded the inevitable attack on Iraq by the US and its allies, which would probably include Britain. Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, it was all hands on deck. The SWP began organising their usual meetings and demos; the same tired machinery belting it out for the same dwindling audience, essentially talking to themselves, the same as they'd done for decades. The prospect of war with Iraq, innnocents being killed and maybe even a third world war breaking out was crucial for all of us.

I was determined that the media would take notice this time and set out to wear down UK media resistance to the anti-war argument at national level by assorted means, with Marqusee writing the text of most of the press releases. As the SWP refused to even try working with the bourgeois press, largely confining themselves to coordinating demonstrations, Mike and I had to forge ahead on our own.

Both in the regions and in London, a handful of left activists who engaged with local media would eventually emerge organically. However, at the national level, SWP CC head honcho refused my request to recruit press officers to help, or for me to train some and pass on skills. But by having one person, myself, on the front line on the phone and email, making sure that the media knew the STWC arguments and activities throughout, we managed to wrest the anti-war brand from the CND in favour of STWC. Otherwise, these would have been just more demos, organised by the usual suspects and ignored by the press. Perhaps this anonymity in the shadows was where they were most comfortable. Taking them at their word and shining a light on their activities forced them out of their rut and into the mainstream. It gave them opportunities to get their message out. But being under the spotlight also reveals character and is not character something to do with the moral and ethical choices people make under pressure?

Doing the actual work

I put out the pre-event press releases publicising the first anti-war meeting at Friends House in the Marylebone Road on Friday 21st September 2001 which had George Monbiot, Bruce Kent, Liz Davies, Tariq Ali, Jeremy Corbyn MP, and someone from CND on the platform. Mike Marqusee wrote a statement for the Socialist Alliance (whose branches we notified and asked to attend all anti-war meetings and protests) which I sent out to all the news desk editors, agencies and my press list on the 18th September. It started to catch fire.

This is my press release following that first anti-war meeting on the 21st September 2001:
Anti-war meeting packs out as peace movement builds 
More than 2000 people packed the Friends' Meeting House for central London's first major anti-war meeting on Friday night.

Attendance was much higher than expected. A spill-over meeting was organised in an adjacent hall and another in the street outside the meeting house. Hundreds of people remained in the street to hear the speeches.

Speakers - including Bruce Kent, George Monbiot, Liz Davies, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Tariq Ali, Helen John and John Rees - decried both the horror of the attacks on the USA and the horror of the attacks now being prepared by the USA and its allies against people in south west Asia.

"Millions of people in this country are deeply disturbed at the enitrely counter-productive and potentially deeply destructive war of vengeance that George Bush anhd Tony Blair plan to unleash on the world," said Mike Marqusee, Socialist Alliance Executuve member. "At the meeting on Friday night it was clear that there is a huge reserve of determination to stop this unfolding calamity. We are now getting organised, and we will be on the streets if missiles are launched at any civilian population anywhere."

Liz Davies' speech at the meeting is enclosed. Liz is a former member of the Labour party NEC and was speaking at the meeting on behalf of the Socialist Alliance. 
This press release also went everywhere.
On Sunday 23rd September, I sent out another:
Sun, 23 Sep 2001 16:47:26 +0100

It is clear that the US and its allies are on the brink of launching an attack on Afghanistan. On Friday, with 5 days notice, 2,000 people attended an anti-war rally in Central London. Around 5,000 people also attended a CND vigil outside Downing Street on Saturday. There is a clear anti-war mood amongst a significant minority of people.

At the CND vigil it was proposed, by Jeremy Corbyn MP amongst others, that on the day the US launches any attack an anti-war demonstration take place in Trafalgar Square at 7 p.m. This is in line with a decision taken by the S.A executive last week.

All London S.A.s should be prepared to rally their members for the demo. Alliances outside of London should ensure that their local anti-war committee hold similar demos in every town and city centre. We must ensure the biggest possible S.A. presence on all anti-war activity.
I issued statements and notifications for another SWP-led organisation, Media Workers Against The War (MWAW). There was a MWAW meeting on Monday 24th September at ULU, according to my press release from a few days earlier, the preliminary list included John Pilger, Paul Foot, Phil Turner, Mike Marqusee and Charles Shaar Murray. 

Monday 23 September, 2001
Media Workers Against the War — founding meeting and statement
At a packed meeting in central London this evening, more than 70 workers in the media adopted the following statement on the current global situation and their responsibilities in it:
"We are workers in the media opposed to the current war drive and the plans for a US-led military assault on Afghanistan and possibly other countries.
 "We are utterly opposed to all acts of terror against civilian populations, whether committed by governments or groups of individuals.
"We believe that in the current crisis it is more important than ever to protect and promote pluralism in debate, the free flow of information, and the public scrutiny of official pronouncements.
"We therefore resolve to join together as Media Workers Against the War in order to:
"1. Participate in the broad movement now rapidly emerging against the war
2. Collate and disseminate facts and arguments petinent to the war, not only from Britain but from around the world
3. Promote anti-war viewpoints through the media and expose and resist attempts at censorship and disinformation
4. Oppose media coverage that in any way licenses or gives succour to racism or attacks on asylum seekers."
At the meeting, plans were made to set up a Media Workers Against the War website, publish a bulletin, make and distribute anti-war videos, and organise workplace meetings at major media outlets. We will also be holding a major public rally in central London in the coming weeks.
Media Workers Against the War will seek support from media trade union branches and individuals working in the media. Workers at the BBC, ITN and various national newspapers attended.
Initial supporters include: John Pilger, Paul Foot, Hilary Wainwright, Henderson Mullin, Tim Gopsill, Miles Barter, Jack Tan, Rob Steen, Mike Marqusee, Charles Shaar Murray, Anna Chen, Palash Dave, Jonathan Neale, Tariq Ali, Phil Turner, Alan Gibson, Zoe Hardy, Carolyne Culver, Mike Holderness.
I was also fielding speakers (such as Jeremy Hardy), I was fast and accurate in correcting factual errors in the press and disseminating our information to activists, liaising with Ken Loach and trying to make sure the anti-war movement had a voice. This was difficult when I was getting responses like this one from Nick Pisani, BBC Question Time editor who I was emailing at

Seeing how the first anti-war meeting had struck a nerve with the public, the STWC finally shook itself out of its torpor. I sent out the first press release for the STWC in this post-911 guise (effectively a relaunch after inactivity following the Kosovo conflict in the 1990s):
Wed Sep 26 18:07:21 2001
From: Anna Chen
Subject: Stop the War Coalition launched
Stop the War Coalition launched. National campaign formed to stop Bush and Blair's war
Over 400 people crowded into Friends House in central London on Tuesday evening to launch the Stop the War Coalition. The meeting was a working follow-on from the hugely succcesful rally against war held at Friends House on Friday night, attended by more than 2,000 people.
The Stop the War Coalition aims to bring together all those diverse groups and individuals who are united around a single central aim: to campaign to stop the US and UK governments launching revenge attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq or other countries which will lead to yet more innocent people dying.
The Coalition has already begun co-ordinating anti-war meetings, protests and demonstrations across the country. And it will be giving vigorous support to a national demonstration in London on October 13th, called by CND originally to protest against Bush's new Star Wars project, but which will now be prioritise oppostion to the current war drive.
"What is beneath contempt‚" said Tariq Ali at the meeting, "is that a Labour Prime Minister is going so far down this road behind the US. We have an American government determined on revenge and a bloodbath. And it wants to settle lots of accounts. Yet it was the US, backed by its allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, that armed the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden worked for the CIA. We have to remove the causes which encourage these desperate people to do these acts."
The Coalition has already received sponsorship from, amongst others, George Galloway MP; Jeremy Corbyn MP; Liz Davies, former member of the Labour Party National Executive Committee; George Monbiot, author of Captive State; and journalists Tariq Ali and Paul Foot.
The meeting elected an interim Steering Committee which includes Jeremy Corbyn and Tariq Ali as well as Mike Marqusee, author of Redemption Song, Suresh Grover of the National Civil Rights Movement, Lindsey German, editor of Socialist Review, Hilary Wainwright, editor of Red Pepper and Helen Salmon from the national executive of the National Union of Students.
The Stop the War Coalition intends to establish an office, email and website and to organise immediate protests across the country as soon as the US and Britain start their military attacks.
For all press enquiries, phone Lindsey German on: 07xxx or 020 8xxx

And so on.

It was a frustratingly slow, grinding process. I eventually got Richard Sambrook, Head of BBC News, on the back foot concerning severe under-reporting of numbers at a series of our anti-war demonstrations. There had been lots of grief on the left about this, with some good commentary from John Pilger, but no-one had battled the issue on the ground. My repeated complaints to Sambrook (with and without big STWC names on my communications) were brushed off until, by appealing directly to BBC Director General Greg Dyke, I managed to get a defensive response from him.

I finally received my first reply from Sambrook, a defensive missive showing that he was stung. After being belligerent for so long, it was a huge turnaround. He even wrote to me: “The relevant pages on BBC News Online were also updated. I accept we ought to have known your higher figure a little earlier.”

This advantage was then wasted when not one of our STWC leaders (mostly SWP and now Stop the War, Counterfire and People's Assembly) and figureheads responded to my communications concerning this development, discussed strategy with me, advised me or instructed me on how we should take this further, let alone took it further themselves.

I was able to innovate this aspect of a left that had buried itself not because I was any sort of genius but because of a fortuitous confluence of circumstances. I had the progressive objectives of building a fair society, the motivation to get it done, and the 'flair and imagination' to spot the cracks in the system and work at them until they gave way. It's been said that marginalised ethnic minorities are less welded to the railway tracks of habit and can contribute with a fresh perspective and problem-solving abilitites outside the tired mainstream. Not only that, I worked conscientiously, adhering to the very ideals of non-sectarianism and fairness among our allies that our leaders drummed into us, and refused to do our leaders' dirty little jobs when it turned out to be lip-service.

Now, you can write as many long screeds as you like but without someone yelling at the media to pay attention, you may as well send it up the chimney. Not that you'd know that from the sources who are now claiming press credit in the histories while giving me a "Stalinesque" airbrushing-out — naughty!

Mike Marqusee's subsequent "disappearing" of my work, including monstering me to comedian and activist Mark Thomas at the launch of Mark's Coca-Cola art protest exhibition in London, was particularly upsetting. Not to mention his reaction to his author friend's prolonged touching my breasts in front of him at a party at the house he shared with Liz Davies: "Oh, that's Praful [Bidwai]. He always does that. What do you want me to do about it?" — meaning I'd better not ask him — was traumatising. What he did to my partner, Charles Shaar Murray, for defending me against a gratuitous attack by Marqusee, was little short of malicious.

To have done all that work when no-one wanted to know and then watch Certain Parties fall over themselves to lay claim to it once something was up for grabs is not an edifying sight. No sirree, not by a long chalk. As an exercise in capitalist expropriation, this class (and gender and race) act on the part of the comrades is a wonder to behold. (Read the comments at the New Left Project on Ian Sinclair's The March That Shook Blair. They are all at it.)

The personal is political even on Planet SWP

Surely, Anna, I hear you say, it was worth it for the greater good what you done? Well, no, sadly. SWP's John Rees took an axe to the Socialist Alliance to get into bed with the Birmingham mosque and then Respect. Then he did ... er ... more stupid things in Respect and, several years after I'd pointed out some questionable behaviour and been stuffed for it, he and his mates had to leave the SWP to form Crossfire or Counterfire, whatever the splinter's called. But I get ahead of myself. And the class should never be premature … for then down comes the Big Monty Python Foot.

Even the massive anti-Iraq war demo ten years ago in February 2003 wasn't immune. What a backstabbing palaver that turned out to be. Rees's SWP side running the STWC were alarmed by the magnitude of the anger over the coming war and during one critical period instructed their members in the SWP via Party Notes not to build the demo, leaving it to the Socialist Alliance to mobilise (with the notable help of some/a few/several honourable SWP members in the provinces who effectively blew a big raspberry and carried on regardless).

Then Birmingham, the biggest and strongest STWC branch, was purged. The hippies who put together the amazing Peace Not War CD as a fund-raiser and cultural response to the impending war were screwed over. When the Jewish Socialist Group that prominently helped build the protest requested platform time to speak against the war, they were refused on the grounds that their presence would alienate Muslims. Mike Marqusee, who'd made their case, protested and was told by STWC convenor and SWP CC member Lyndsey German that "you people" were "too sensitive."

It was German who provided the SWP with their Clause 4 moment by dismissing gay rights as "shibboleths", and who, according to Ian Bone, recently described me in a most unsocialist manner as a chippy Chinese actress with a grudge against slave labour — one wonders with horror if chippy black actress would have been acceptable. And slave labour?!

Yet only the weekend before the big demo in 2003 I'd turned a local friendly football match for peace, organised by Islington leftists, into a national media event for STW. Robin from the north London group had sent me info about their contribution to the anti-war effort and asked me to help publicise it. I was in an intensive period building for the February action but what made me sit up and focus was the casual throw-away mention that the football teams would be made up of students living in the UK: American and Iraqi. This was a brilliant chance to drive home the fact these were real people we were about to bomb. At last we could put faces to them. But once more, no-one in the SWP or STW leadership saw the significance. It was another opportunity they were about to fritter away.

The expected war was in some ways theoretical in our heads. Who were these people we'd be bombing? Who were the young Americans who'd be doing the killing and dying for Bush and Blair? I'm sure I wasn't the only one stood watching two groups of young men from opposite sides of the war divide and yet united in their horror of the coming deadly combat, imagining them and their peers being physically and psychologically mashed by monstrous forces. The event was crucial because it would help stop anonymising the victims — it's harder to kill someone with whom you identify. Taking place only the weekend before the big march this was a potent warm-up act that would help gear us up for the main event on 15th February.

I concentrated on Bianca Jagger and Gabriel Furshong, the American team's captain and also spokesperson for Americans Against The War, for interviews (I was never given contact details for any of the Iraqis which was a shame.) Bianca kicked off the match; Tony Blair's sister in-law Lauren Booth took part; Andrew Murray got wind of it and gave a speech. We had lots of press including a camera crew, plus the Independent published a nice big photo of Gabriel.

The funniest moment was when Andrew Burgin (latterly a STW press officer) bounded up to me and asked if I would help run the STW press on the day of the big march on the coming weekend as "We badly need good press officers." No shit, Sherlock, as I thought but didn't say. So I smiled sweetly and said, 'Sure. Just tell John Rees what you've just asked me.'

As expected, I was banned from doing the press on the big day, according to Burgin's burbled response when I phoned him at the end of the week. Presumably, my presence might have blown the gaffe on Rees's girlfriend in the SWP, Carmel Brown, who was being given the credit for my STW press work. (Lucky I still have all my notes and press releases!) But I went ahead and worked from home anyway, getting Bianca Jagger and Americans Against the War followed on the march by ITN, doing what I'd been doing all along ... Oy veh, it got FUGLY.

Ian Bone on his phone call from Lindsey German.

That huge demo was built on the spine of the SA and yet the SA chair was denied a place on the platform while Lib Dem Charles Kennedy was welcomed with open arms ... and then promptly supported "our boys" once action started. And where's it all gone, anyway? If the SWP, Counterfire and STWC claim 1 to 2 million were on the march, then they have to give a good account of where they've all gone, 'cause it's not into the left movement.

All that energy and good will from the biggest demonstration in modern British history should surely have led to action in the tradition of the Greenham Common cruise missile protests or the Faslane sit-ins. Independently, two train drivers stopped an ammo train and students held a protest, but the STWC's leading SWP Rees/German axis declared direct action and civil disobedience to be elitist. Nothing further bar the usual march came from STW. They just sat on it while many thousands of innocents died, Iraq's infrastructure was destroyed and JP Morgan (which since Blair's retirement as Prime Minister has paid him two or three million per year) led the syphoning off of the Iraqi nation's assets.

Even worse, we now know that the SWP leadership of the STWC took the decision not to mobilise our forces on the most important date — the parliamentary vote on whether to go to war. This happened on 18th March 2003, only weeks after the biggest protest in British history and on the day when there was a real chance we could have stopped the war. Labour MPs had promised to vote against the war but, without a massive protest outside, they were easily whipped into toeing the Blairite line. Let's ask again: who gained?

What a waste. What a monumental dereliction of socialist duty. If only they'd put more energy into achieving our goal instead of acquiring personal power, status and all the capitalist baubles we're supposed to reject, we might not have stopped the war but we'd have made it a harder ride for pro-war forces and come out of this with a strengthened left.

Caveat comrade: love-bombing SWP stylee

In the eighteen months of love-bombing it took to recruit me, they'd regularly turn up on the doorstep unannounced, dump piles of the Socialist Worker newspaper on me and drag me off to their meetings. I was too respectful of what I thought were real socialists to ask them to sling their hook even when they were pestering me and making my partner uncomfortable. My parents were old-fashioned leftists and at the time I thought it would have been a dishonour to them and the best that they'd inculcated into me to have done so, although now I wish I'd been stronger. A large part of me hoped they were the real deal and the rose-tinted spectacles were firmly in place. During this time I received numerous assurances of SWP superiority when it came to human relations. Tony Cliff's partner, a dear sweet but fiery old lady called Chanie Rosenberg, would do her turn on the platform at conferences, making it clear how, perhaps not every sperm, but every member was sacred. "Like gold dust."

More iron pyrites than gold, I'm afraid.

How many SWP staff are employed at below Living Wage rates and with no workplace trade union representation?

When you join a left group, you are having to trust complete strangers who are saying the right things, but of whose behaviour you have no experience. This is where Paul Foot came in. With this icon in its leading ranks, what could possibly go wrong? I signed up.

The ensuing episodes providing a stark warning were glossed over by one genuinely charming and idealistic full-timer as local abberations in a dysfunctional branch. She implored me to have my "eyes on the bigger picture" and the "bigger prize" which, as any socialist knows, is the revolutionary transformation of society into something much better.

So when on an east London Saturday paper sale (one of my first) one woman member stood laughing while a big white bloke had his fist in my face for 20 minutes, yelling at me that the police surveillance of the Stephen Lawrence murder suspects in their home was a breach of their civil rights, I was only stopped from walking out of the party when the full-timer assured me that the "Centre" (SWP HQ) were fully aware that they were "wankers".

Caveat comrade; honeytraps and wishful thinking abound in this distinctly amaterialist, ahistorical milieu.

There's a type of person I occasionally run into — mostly male, usually white, middle-class, clever rather than intelligent, a bit limited and emotionally clenched — who seeks to dominate and control someone like me. Complete strangers try to define me based on prejudice, and put me in my place (wherever that's supposed to be) based on fear. The phrase that comes up again and again when they struggle to pin a tangible crime on me is that I'm a "loose cannon" (rather than a line-toeing hack, I'm pleased to note). An articulate woman of colour from a working-class background, I suspect I represent something wild out of their id, a negative anima who must be ground down, made to capitulate and kow-tow, my very existence representing something castrating to them at the centre of their own Heart of Darkness.

Of course, this is nothing to do with who I am: just someone happily trying to survive and maybe thrive as they help out. However, being somewhat bright, able to work strategically with a sense of fun and still get results, I'm regarded as a threat to be crushed rather than embraced as a comrade the way stronger, more secure males are apt to do with me. So by the time I welcomed a senior SWP member into my tiny workspace under the eaves of my partner's Kilburn flat and he looked round at my third-hand computer and shelves of books and demanded, "How come you've got all this?", I was able to sigh in the knowledge that this man, with his house and private parking in Cricklewood, was only projecting his own neuroses and anxieties onto me in a classic case of "othering". Despite reading all the set political tomes about the way the world out there functions, this tribune of the people had zero knowledge of his own inner workings.

Oh ye of narrow bandwidth.

Anna at 17. A sparky, working-class autodidact punk from Hackney was never going to be welcomed by the dinosaur authoritarians on the left, especially when she achieved what Seumas Milne et al never could: giving the left an efficient working press office from Jeremy Corbyn's power base, the Stop The War Coalition, to Globalise Resistance and the Socialist Alliance.

Unfortunately, the left is filled with such middle-class white men and women who reject self-understanding as an evil bourgeois indulgence, and so have no armoury when bits of their inner selves rear up and bite them on the bum (or, more accurately, are projected out and bite others on the bum). If only I'd actually committed some heinous crime to justify their fury, they'd be off the leash and enjoying the frisson of power the finger-wagging Red Guard (of which they are not too distant cousins) once wielded over their ideological enemies: their teachers, their parents, in some cases their nannies, but always the outsider, and anyone who has abilities above their station. The startled lambs are vaguely aware that I'm "strange" (as they've called me) but can't compute how I got off the leftie conveyor belt in this configuration. Non-conformity is not a thing to be enjoyed and savoured — it must be crushed. A working-class minority woman's struggle to maintain her humanity and grow is of no interest — it is "bourgeois individualistic" and must be destroyed. Where in their rigid hierarchy is someone like me supposed to fit? A permanent two-minute-hate mode kicks in the moment something unknown and "strange" heaves into view, and there's nothing you can do about it. It's hardwired binary, off-on, ones and zeroes. Their psychic survival depends on it.

This is no way to run a revolution.

And so it came to pass that head honcho asked me to do work at East End Offset (their business centre and party HQ near Bow), write for their publications and do the meeting and greeting for the external speakers at the annual Marxism event.

Looking after Christopher Hill following his event at ULU, Marxism.

I looked from pig to man and then man to pig and then back again and already it was impossible to tell who'd look better in a bacon sandwich. Then I looked a bit harder and realised that the senior women had been part of what I once rudely called the "fuck-circuit": two power couples at the top; a complicated nexus of, ahem, "relationships" over the years.

In one of the stranger events, SWP Central Committee member Lindsey German called me into a room at SWP HQ (said to be swept for bugs) and grilled me on my new boyfriend. They are OK if you come already attached to a partner but woe betide you if you change partners and the lucky fella's not from the SWP pool. I had committed the grave sin of rejecting head honcho's "patronage" while they were shopping around for new special friend for him. Sorry, Lindsey. I just wasn't interested in your boyfriend.

Retribution was on its way.

Senior SWP member John Molyneux's partner, Jill (they both knew Rees from when he was at Portsmouth Uni), told me regarding my treatment (and John M did not contradict), "It's because you're not available."

My new boyfriend was author and music journalist Charles Shaar Murray who I'd known since my teens. He was a handsome dude in his sharply razored goatee and black leather, who stood out among the soberly-dressed comrades whenever I managed to drag him to our events. Male comrades of a certain age were friendly and welcoming as they'd grown up reading the NME for whom he used to write, and his byline pic was well known in the SWP printshop where his monthy column in MacUser magazine was popular.

Charles Shaar Murray's MacUser column was popular in the SWP printshop.

Not long after Lindsey German questioned me about him, something strange happened. Her boyfriend, who had been a dull, studious clean-shaven geek given to pale polyester slacks and shirts, grew a sharply-razored goatee and took to wearing black leather.

This was beyond creepy and everyone ignored it. Except for my sweetie who swiftly went clean-shaven.

In 2000, head honcho finally got himself a new special friend. Carmel waltzed over at an SA conference in Birmingham where I'd just reported on the steady progress I'd been making in the press — including getting George Monbiot's permission for us to republish his Media Guide for Activists (featuring my addendum with contacts) — and told me in a most unsisterly fashion that she was now doing my job, so there! Which would have been lovely had she done the work. She didn't, despite my copying her into my press releases as requested by Dear Leader.

When she did eventually write an illiterate press release following the Selby rail crash (28th February 2001), I had to pull it because it damaged our own SA candidate, rail driver and spokesman Greg Tucker. Tucker said he didn't like putting out press releases on the day of a disaster because no-one knows the facts, especially in this case as ten people had been killed and over 80 injured. Despite Tucker's concerns, when I emailed Rees and his girlfriend to let them know I was delaying the release until we knew what had happened and Greg was happy with the quotes attributed to him, I was sent an abusive email from the girlfriend. Rees tried to coerce me to issue her release, not for legitimate political reasons, but on the grounds that "she feels her time's been wasted". That is, years of my time breaking our side into the public eye under tremendous stress, were of no value.

This was an odd priority for people who claim to be socialists.

The cause of the crash turned out to be a metaphor for the left: some idiot had fallen asleep at the wheel and had driven his Range Rover onto the track. And while the fencing should have been more secure, this was not a continuation of the run of rail accidents that could be blamed on privatisation.

The Marxist division of labour in this and other instances was revealing, with head honcho handing to his new girlfriend the status I'd built up from sheer hard unpaid slog over the years but not the work (she had a nice salaried job elsewhere), and me evidently designated the Boxer character in this particular Animal Farm scenario, continuing to build press relations round the clock within the movement: still ratcheting up debt on my credit card to ensure the left had a press office, still working every waking hour, still being effective. She has since been rewarded by Jeremy Corbyn with a job in the shadow leader's office, which may explain something about Jeremy's press relations.

Nepotism, much? Sexism? The same old exploitative power relations?

This, too, was ignored. While there are women prepared to screw over other women for advancement and to please their men, we will never get anywhere except downwards, backwards and inwards. We need more ladders, not snakes. The sectarian left does not look after the movement's assets, which is what our intellectual and physical labour is. Like a dog in the manger, it happily destroys anyone with skills to offer even if it means impeding our struggle.

The emancipation of the working classes must be the act of the working class itself

Et tu, Jeremy Corbyn

In 2010 I contacted John McDonnell, offering to help in his bid for the Labour leadership but received no reply. I assumed he must have already had a capable press team in place and didn't require more help.

In 2015 I joined the Labour Party along with tens of thousands of others (it became the biggest left party membership in Europe) and voted for Corbyn who won the leadership in September. Perhaps Corbyn would build a crack team to win him the next election — an achievable goal after five years of Tory austerity overseeing an ailing economy that had fallen from growth of 3 to 4 per cent under Labour in 2010 to a fraction under the Tories in 2015. However, a dismal performance going into the May 2016 local elections exposed the almost total absence of press activity. Then, in 2016, the Tories held an advisory referendum on membership of the EU. Jeremy disappeared. His team's claim that he gave speeches at 122 appearances in 33 days turned out to be false: the figure was actually for 122 mentions in the media.

[This paragraph expanded for clarity 10th October 2022.] In the snap 2017 general election, 8th June, the press team only got into some sort of stride in the final three weeks, too late for the growing momentum to take Downing Street. Corbyn had the the element of surprise, the biggest political party in Europe, momentum and a widespread disgust with the Tory government on his side. All Labour needed to do was be clear about whether Corbyn was for Remain or Brexit and land with its wheels rolling at the start of the general election campaign. Their message was confusing. For example, in January 2017, he said the UK would be better off out of the EU: “Labour is not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle." And there would be no "“false promises on immigration”. In April he ruled out a second referendum. However, the spring election manifesto (16th May 2017) showed his readiness to leave Europe but with a negotiated deal, indicating he was doubting the wisdom of leaving the single market. At the end of May, ten days before the election, he'd overtaken Theresa May's popularity in the polls. But every time a clear direction looked like emerging and it appeared as if Corbyn was going for Remain in the EU but Reform from within, someone in Team Corbyn would hedge their bets and word would leak that he was supporting Brexit: he'd already used a three-line whip to instruct his MPs to vote to trigger Article 50, setting Brexit in motion in March despite the consultative referendum not being legally binding. Frustration was rife on social media and support leached away. The general view was that Corbyn should pick a side and stick with it, letting the public know for certain where he stood. "By attempting to triangulate, Labour convinced leavers it was for remain and remainers that it was for leave." When Corbyn had called for Remain but Reform, Labour had risen in the polls and the subsequent corkscrew return to Brexit had reversed them. A late call for a second EU referendum saw the polls rising again but it was too late to regain momentum and catch up. Labour narrowly lost by fewer than 2,500 votes (depending on distribution), gaining 40 percent of the vote.

A few months later in October 2017 Corbyn said he would vote for Remain in a second referendum. However, it was already too late. Spooked forces of reaction ranged all their firepower against him both inside the Labour Party and in the media. On 22nd November 2019, in a general election televised debate against Boris Johnson, Corbyn said he would stay neutral. He lost heavily.

It's a pretty sad dog-in-the-manger attitude that keeps out activists with proven ability who wish to do public service when there's so much at stake.

The clique is higher than the cause, the movement and the Labour Party. Never forget that. This even means Seumas Milne, Jeremy Corbyn's Director of Strategy and Communications, placing head honcho's intimate in Team Corbyn even though she was finally rumbled as "useless" by Simon Fletcher. I am reliably informed that, while she was able to emulate my methods up to a point, she lacked my creativity and at one point expected  to be kicked upstairs to the Times or the Guardian.

Funny how the stereotype is of Chinese being the Xerox copyists and whites being the innovators. Don't expect this to be meaningfully challenged any time soon by either the outside left or Jeremy Corbyn whose set-up rewards anti-socialist behaviour, whatever their diversity rhetoric may be.

It also sheds light on possible reasons behind Corbyn's lacklustre performance for the Remain campaign.

How about their communications? Was that now a well-oiled machine? One vivid example of the inadequate response from Jeremy's team took place in the week leading up to Jeremy's election as leader of the Labour Party in 2016 (for which I'd joined the party to support). Interviewed by Martha Kearney on BBC Radio 4's World At One programme, JC was repeatedly asked about a certain "Muslim radical" speaker with whom, it was claimed, he had shared a platform. In the spotlight of much media hostility, he flatly denied it. Simultaneously, I checked on Twitter to see what his team were saying and was horrified to see a tsunami of photos tweeted of him on the platform with the speaker at the very moment he was denying it on the radio. You can imagine how that looked. There was not one word from Team Corbyn explaining this contradiction that was making him look like a liar. Personally, I would not have encouraged him to lock himself into this position but rather to point out truthfully that he couldn't possibly know every single person his various hosts had invited to speak over the years.

Another failure was the campaign T-shirts which turned out to have been manufactured by child labour and drew a slew of hostile press. Instead of seizing the opportunity to focus on the plight of sweatshop labour and turn the argument around (maybe even donating the profits to the relevant charities), he clammed up, appeared shifty and unprincipled and was pilloried for a situation where the T-shirt organiser had apparently been lied to by the supplier.

This continuing arrogance is one key factor in the loss of support as we can see from the polls. We have to think creatively and on our toes otherwise the best chance we've ever had will be destroyed by the dead hand of the hacks. I have a horrible feeling that we've passed the point of no return. A large party membership is great to have but all that vibrant enthusiasm is in danger of being squandered. Occupy was massive but without theory and solid victories, and without leadership it evaporated.

So ... I founded the press office for the Stop The War Coalition— key speakers included Jeremy Corbyn (later Chair) and Andrew Murray, now in Corbyn's Labour leadership team — when no-one on the left would touch it on the grounds that "we don't engage with the bourgeois press, they always ignore us". Our coalition partner, CND, had no press officer dealing with the issue so it was left to myself and Mike Marqusee to get the anti-war argument into the media. I went into debt promoting STW from our first meeting after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 until the gigantic February 2003 march in London.

All this was known by, among others, Tim Gopsill at the NUJ; Seumas Milne who'd been receiving my left press releases since 1997; Ken Loach; Paul Mason, supposedly my comrade on the STW press team; Socialist Party's Dave Nellist; Marqusee's partner, barrister Liz Davies; plus a slew of others.

I never expected thanks but I never expected actual abuse from my own side either. As soon as I'd broken its back and there was something up for grabs, Rees put his girlfriend, Carmel Brown (Nolan), into the nominal role of press officer while I continued to do the work. Various male writers (all white, of course) wrote a new narrative where I no longer existed in a textbook case of erasure: Roy Greenslade, a journalism professor at City University, gave credit for my work to Brown/Nolan who he championed in the national press, and feels fit to write about the importance of recruiting BAME newsmakers(!) — we have reached out to Mr Greenslade for comment but so far received no reply; Ian Sinclair, having excluded me from activist accounts in his book The March That Shook Blair, quite aggressively declined to put the record straight and displayed no further curiosity even though I'd fought on the front line of the very mainstream media failings he'd examined in the book; Seumas Milne gave Brown/Nolan a paid job heading up the press in Team Corbyn — there's now enough evidence so you can make up your own mind as to whether she could do the job. In fact the screaming nepotism in Corbyn's crew goes much wider (or narrower!), where sons, daughters, girlfriends, English nobility and their children, cultural dynastic scions whose daddies owned castles, are given salaried jobs beyond their ability in what's supposed to be a socialist movement. Whereas if you are from the "wrong" ethnic minority and class, you are exploited and none of the heroic purported "anti-racists" and "socialists"of the left utter a principled word.

The new left establishment would rather stick needles in their eyes than recognise it took a working-class, ethnic (apparently from the wrong minority) woman to turn around the press and mainstream media profile for the left. Even Edward Platt in the New Statesman couldn't bring himself to name me as the founding press officer in his piece on the SWP, preferring to descibe me as someone "who worked unpaid on various SWP press campaigns, including Stop the War." And he was friendly!

I received no comradeship, no solidarity, no acknowledgement, no kindness, no warmth. And no wages. I received declarations of hate from leftists I'd neither met nor had any engagement with, and actual abuse from a meetingful of several dozen white left males who called me "disgusting" for knowing Coventry is north of London. Like the frogs at the bottom of a well, they look up, see the circle of sky and assume this is the entirety of how the world works, without ever examining their own unconscious (or conscious) prejudice and assumptions.

Anti-racism is a principle, not a moveable feast where you get to decide which minorities should be defended and which can be given a kicking or written out entirely. Labour's racism is not limited to anti-semitism (such as agreeing to speak on a platform where the Jewish Socialist Group was denied a presence at the big Feb 2003 anti Iraq War rally, on the grounds that it would offend STW's Muslim partners in MAB) but anti-Chinese racism is the one you can definitely get away with.

So, my message to any activists and idealists reading this piece, especially if you are supporting Jeremy Corbyn, is this: remember that the promotion of the leading clique's' cronies and girlfriends take precedence over the cause and your work even if it risks the political outcome. (Hello, Brexit!) If you are happy with that, then do carry on.

Living in a Stanley Milgram experiment

The dead hand of the bureaucrats had stifled the Socialist Alliance, a political initiative described by John O'Farrell in the Guardian as "fresh and exciting", with nary an objection from the comrades. Respect was torpedoed by the same parties and nearly sunk along with Organising for Fighting Unions (OFFU). The Stop The War Coalition is a stagnant perch with nothing left to offer bar the occasional meeting. It set up a pattern of destruction during a crucial period when the power elite went on the attack.

The left in its current line-up has ceased to be a force for liberation and has become another ruling-class-in-waiting led by people who want power over other human beings with all their privileges and perks intact.

However, they shouldn't be surprised when when genuine opponents of oppression challenge the lip-service. The SWP and its splinters are a smorgasbord for males — whether exploiting labour, status or sex — facilitated by senior women who insist that men do NOT gain from female oppression, and the hacks who turned on a sixpence to protect the machine.

In the Stanley Milgram experiment that is the left, I'm one of the people who refused to press the electrocution button, and that's what some of them will never forgive me for. It has been a salutory lesson to watch some of the worst hacks who protected the party machine, crushed dissent and created the culture that led to the crisis are now restyling themselves as heroes having jumped only when it went public. Nothing has been learnt except how to be a slicker operator.

We need a strong left that is able to counter the coalition's attacks on the working and middle classes that are looking like something out of the Enclosures movement. However, like anyone else who ever looked at the disgusting state of the world and wanted to do something about it, I never signed up for SWP abuse and I certainly never signed up for their omerta that they go around imposing on errant former members on pain of The Treatment. It is important that this stuff gets aired for so many reasons. If they can't, after all this grief, look at themselves honestly, then they deserve everything they're getting. And the working class is better off without them.

So, sister W, I sympathise and feel your pain. You learned the hard way that there is little solidarity or comradeship in that tiny corner of the left. I wish you the best of luck in rebuilding your confidence and your self-esteem. Your new life starts here.

What are we up against?

It's said that one of the tasks of the revolutionary is to make visible the invisible.

Throughout history, people of colour have been exploited and written out of history. We know about the black north African soldiers excluded from the victory parade of the liberation of Paris because British command did not want to see black soldiers rescuing European nations from Nazis; and the black Caribbean RAF squadrons who often performed the first, most dangerous, bombing sorties, making it safe for the following waves of white airmen. Similarly, the Indians who fought for Britain in World War I are only recently being acknowledged, as is the 96,000-strong Chinese Labour Corps who did the dirtiest, most perilous jobs in the European theatre of WWI. The Chinese who built the transcontinental Central Pacific railroad through the Californian Sierra Nevada mountains in the 1860s were denied the the right to attend the Golden Spike ceremony marking the successful conclusion of this massive project. Even today, the Chinese — among other minorities in the West — are culturally excluded and politically targeted.

This process of rendering people invisible and the dominant group taking credit for the labour of others goes back at least as far as the ancient Greeks who built on the scientific achievements of the Egyptians, and is so deeply embedded in our collective psyche that it continues unabated and unchallenged at every level in society.

I never thought I would find myself in a microcosmic example of this intellectual colonialism, especially from purported socialists. This is not just personal: this is political.

If it happens to one, it can happen to all. And mostly does.

A black pilot in World War II.

Chinese Labour Corps volunteers unloading arms in WWI.

Indian bicycle troops at the Battle of the Somme.

10-14,000 Chinese out of 12-14,000 workers built the Central Pacific Railroad in the 1860s but were excluded from the Golden Spike ceremony at its completion.

One of Comrade W's friends spoke up for her at the conference:
"The first thing I want to say is that the complainant in this case frequently asked to come to this session, so she could be aware of what’s being said about her, because it is her case after all. She was prepared to speak out so that people could hear about her experiences and learn from what’s happened here, so that it wouldn’t happen again. But she was denied that right by the CC.
She was questioned about why she went for a drink with him, her witnesses were repeatedly asked whether she’d been in a relationship with him, and you know, she was asked about (The chair begins to talk over X to warn about providing details) … she was asked about relationships with other comrades including sexual relationships. All this was irrelevant to the case.
We’ve got a proud tradition in the party of rejecting that line of questioning by the state. This is about consent. To date she hasn’t been told what evidence was presented against her by Comrade Delta and by his witnesses. She felt she was being interrogated and felt they were trying to catch her out in order to make her out to be a liar. She did not accept the line of questioning, saying ‘they think I’m a slut who asked for it’."

"Her treatment afterwards has been worse. She feels completely betrayed. ... The disgusting lies and gossip going round about her has been really distressing and disappointing for her to hear, and the way her own witnesses have been treated in Birmingham hasn’t been much better. ... Is it right that a young woman has to plan her route to work avoiding paper-sellers, or that she comes away from a meeting crying because people refuse to speak to her? Is it right that her witnesses are questioned about their commitment to the party because they missed a branch meeting?"

It's what they do.

* * * *

The above behaviour is deeply ingrained into the collective unconscious and the system all around us, and has been around for hundreds of years, such as this example of Asian American women who fought the human trafficking trade in the US. "The problem is compounded by widespread racist cultural stereotypes from the era that persist today that paint Asian women as either passive helpers or tragic victims, rather than as radicals or crucial central figures." Jeremy Corbyn represents white man's "socialism" where they keep their perks, privileges and hierarchy, not genuine socialism for all ... which would require greater imagination, empathy and political principles than is currently on offer.

Anna Chen writes about the state of the party in Tribune magazine, 2003 in A Bad Case of the Trots.

A Bad Case of the Trots: for the record.

The left's invisibility bomb. How's that liberation thing going for you?

SWP breakaway Counterfire group leads People's Assembly: a public health warning.

The latest insight into how the SWP mindset works (Jan2014)as another CC member resigns. Remember: you never lie to the class.

The SWP opposition supporting the women finally have their say. Makes gruelling reading.

More details of the depravity in the SWP from A Very Public Sociologist.

Soviet Goon Boy on wtf's wrong with these people?!

Fine, measured analysis from Soviet Goon Boy: This is the way the party ends.

I've had several SWP goons going for me on Twitter. This is the way the party ends.

Who is saying what about the SWP Crisis.

Edward Platt in the New Statesman on THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE SWP, the most thorough account in the mainstream.

My Guardian article on Ken Loach's Spirit of '45: Ethnically cleansing working class history.

My review of Ken Loach's Spirit of '45

CRUCIAL READING: How was anti-Iraq war demo energy frittered away? Demobilising the STWC on the most crucial day of the anti-war movement.