The People’s Assembly in Westminster: looks like a Croque, Monsieur

Your starter for ten (or a tenner): you are organising a political rally in Westminster where 4,000 activists are seeking ways to challenge the most vicious class war against the poorest in society by the rich and powerful that anyone can remember. You are surrounded by expensive eateries selling chi-chi food. (This is Westminster, after all.) What food do you lay on for people coming long distances, who’ve shelled out for a ticket, and who might be skint and hungry? Would it be this?

That Firebox menu, the absence of a créche, Ken Loach’s all-white vision of his Spirit Of ’45 film and the same bureaucratic opportunists running the show having trashed the Socialist Alliance (People’s Assembly Mk I) and Respect (People’s Assembly Mk II), say quite a lot about the PA rally that took place on Saturday. Some have criticised it as a displacement for activism and “death by platform”, and pointed out its top-down structure which is not very democratic. (More articles here and here and here and here.)

Dare to laugh at their menu and this is what happens. So much for solidarity and learning from mistakes — what mistakes? Still there are some who are getting a nice little career out of this (there always are), so who can blame them?

Are we being led up the garden path once more by the same old suspects who wrecked past attempts to organise? And do we have to start from scratch and reinvent the wheel every time John Rees’s ego gets the better of the movement?

I am reposting below my article about the People’s Assembly from 28th March 2013.

People’s Assembly and Nechayev’s Catechism: be very afraid …

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the left, here comes the penis on a skateboard. 

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.

The People’s Assembly led by the same characters who destroyed the Socialist Alliance (People’s Assembly MkI) when it suited them, and Respect.

More SWP rape accusation: “a dangerous place for a woman”

What Next Journal

A Bad Case of the Trots: for the record.

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

Anna Chen’s poem “What is Filth?” inspired by Pat Stack’s blogging “filth” comment.

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

I’ve had several SWP goons going for me on Twitter. Here’s the latest. Hilarious.

The Guardian on more sex pest allegations inside the SWP.

Solomon Hughes on SWP CC arrogance over the Sheffield organiser who they protected.

Cath Elliott on the no-platform for rape deniers vote at the UNISON National Women’s Conference last week.

Some analysis on why this happened and the “logic to the madness”: Leninism and the 21st Century.

A Marxist perspective in “Feminism is a dirty word”

Who is saying what about the SWP Crisis.

Madam Miaow says … visit Anna Chen’s website here:


Anna’s food blog here:

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