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Submitted by Jason on Mon, 21/07/2008 - 10:16

the disagreement if any between Bill and me is over tone. I agree that we should work with other left groups and agree that this should include criticism and at times sharp criticism- but I think it should always be polite.

Bill would probably agree with me here and argue that he is polite which is generally true but but I think sometimes Bill you are too abrupt in your tone- only really with the AWL as far as I can see.

An example would be on Israel. The AWL support Israeli troops out of the occupied territories for example and say they support Palestinians right to enter freely into the state of Israel/Palestine - we can agree on this (though the AWL only ever use one word 'Israel' to describe Palestine/Israel in itself eliding Palestinians' claims).

However, actually, as far as I can see, in practice (and actions are the fundamental point) their main intervention into the Palestinian solidarity movement in Britain is to undermine actions, to argue for example against the boycott, to smear the left with being anti-Semitic etc., to argue that Israel as currently constituted has the right to exist, to claim that anyone who calls for the overthtow of the ruling class is somehow racist and wants to destroy Israel (though the AWL itself wants to overthrow the British ruling class- this doesn't equate to destroying Britain) and so the AWL in effect end up supporting the Israeli state (or at least that's how it seesm as they try to undermine action against it- I'm sure they too support in principle the overhrow of the Israeli ruling class. It's just in practice they try to disrupt actions against it). So yes their role in this issue is negative- but this needs to be teased out merely saying they support racist immigration controls when they ostensibly don't doesn't get us anywhere because they can just say, 'huh?' we don't. Similalry, Iraq. The AWL argue against troops out now and presumably in unions and struggles would attempt to prevent and subvert the union being won to such a position. The AWL's position on this is seriously mistaken and if it actually prevented a workers' strike on the basis of troops out now it would be disgraceful. But it is not enough to say they are pro-war- their actions end up being pro-war in some particularl circumstances and we should show how. Not just say they're imperialist, pro-war, pro-occupation- I don't think they are in a simple way. it's more that the politics are incoherent and end up- or would if had more influence- in wrong tactics towards the war. Name-calling is counter-productive- we need cncrete anlaysis. So I have sharp but polite disagreements with the AWL but this doesn't stop me form working with them on the cleaners' strike, in the NUT, against immigration controls, in support of Zimbabwean workers etc. etc. And where their activists play a key role in actively courting co-operation in political work. And I'm happy to debate them on Israel/Palestine and Iraq. Why not? It shows th eleft can discuss our ideas openly and maturely without descending into invective and shouting (well, may be...!)

I also think it is worth putting some effort into building bridges with other left groups where we can- why? Because whilst we don't agree on all sorts of things and sometimes very important matters such as imperialism and tactics towards imperialist war there are nevertheless important campaigns where jpint and co-operative work can be of benefit- eg. RMT cleaners' strike, antifascist work, trade union work. None of this blunts or evades political differences over Israel/Palestine or Iraq for example but it is important for the sake of workers' struggles to actively court co-operation in my opinion. And I'd argue the same with the SWP, SP, Respect where they have an important part to play in local campaigns.

It would be good for the AWL for example to argue for the convention of the left and bring some of these campaigns there- perhaps they are and will. But I have had no reply as yet on this.

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