Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category
Real Left Unity.
Marxist Dentists around the UK leave copies of The Lady and Country Life to stir up class hatred.
At least that was my theory on reading Rachel Johnson’s magazine this morning waiting for an appointment.
One article about a Lady of the British Empire who could not boil an egg, had crossed the planet, swum with dolphins, holidayed in the Savanna, struck me.
I doubt if she was prepared to walk to Liddle to get 15 pence off a tin of sardines.
This, I suspect, is not a lone reaction.
Margaret Thatcher’s death and the rise of UKIP brought back a cold draft of class politics to this country.
Many realised that the Thatcher project, to make everybody stand or fall in the gales of competing on the market, and the pumped-up loathing of foreigners |(notably excepting the USA) that went with it, is alive and well.
Like many on the left, trade unionists and anti-cuts activists, I am committed to the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.
This is a grand occasion for us to get together on issues that affect us all, to build a constructive left-wing alternative to the politics of hate and the priorities of the wealthy.
It will unite us with our fellows across Europe in opposing the financial forces that have imposed cuts and more privatisation in the UK, and destitution and mass unemployment in countries from Greece and Spain to Portugal – not to mention the misery brought upon UKIP’s bogies in Rumania and Bulgaria.
There is a serious debate to be had about the European Union, and the role of the ”Troika’ in pushing through austerity.
The French left is divided between those who think that Angela Merkel is at heart a pragmatist and will – eventually – see sense and launch an expansionist drive. French president Hollande’s intervention yesterday, in which he proposed a European economic “governance” went in this sense. Some on his side believe in federalism, a politically united Europe.
Others are sceptical. They want a radical overhall of the EU. A few want greater national sovereignty restored.
In the UK we have by contrast, as Seamus Milne noted in the Guardian this week, a debate on Europe whose agenda is set by the right.
This is a threat,
a successful Tory-led campaign to pull out of the EU would risk unleashing a carnival of reaction, anti-migrant hysteria, more attacks on social rights, and a further lurch to the right.
Milne states, rightly,
What has been almost entirely missing from the mainstream British public debate has been the progressive case for fundamental change that has been central to the struggle over the EU and its treaties in mainland Europe. In the 1975 referendum, the left case against the then common market was that it was a cold war customs union against the developing world that would block socialist reforms. But the modern EU has gone much further, giving a failed neoliberal model of capitalism the force of treaty, entrenching deregulation and privatisation and enforcing corporate power over employment rights.
What would be fatal would be to allow the nationalist right to continue to dictate the EU agenda and wrap itself in the mantle of democratic legitimacy. The terms of debate have to change – for the sake of both Britain and Europe.
Much of the British left remain dominated by the anti-EEC ideas of the 1970s.
They have not confronted this menace.
Indeed they think their tiny forces can intervene to make the “progressive” case for a sovereign UK outside the EU.
We need a real campaign in place of this: for a united social Europe!
The People’s Assembly could be a place to make the case of this.
Some of the left think there is a mileage in the Left Unity appeal of Kate Hudson and Ken Loach.
Recent prominent members of Respect , who failed to protest against George Galloway’ s politics, they are not in a position to preach unity to anybody least of all the ‘left’.
I merely cite this report by Tina Becker from the Weekly Worker to show that this is a dead-end,
Kate Hudson and Andrew Burgin (important driving forces) would have liked the proceedings to have gone differently. After all, the Stop the War Coalition and Respect – organisations both comrades were prominent in – were far more choreographed. But, ironically, bureaucratic coherence in fronts like these was provided by the likes of the Socialist Workers Party, part of the organised left to which LU is to a great extent a reaction. The politically decrepit Socialist Resistance – the one ‘insider’ group – is no substitute.
The proposed political platform written by Kate Hudson was circulated three days before; a proposal for the electoral procedure to the national coordination committee was sent out 20 hours before; the chairs seem to have been pre-chosen on the basis that they had no previous experience of handling big meetings (one chair was actually introduced as someone who had “never attended a political meeting before”). No wonder that quite a few times people in the room (the chairs included) did not actually know what exactly they were voting on. It was pretty chaotic, in other words.
This was also reflected in the rather uneven attendance. Local groups were supposed to send two delegates each, but where more people expressed an interest in coming, they were advised by the interim leadership to simply divide their group into smaller parts. For example, Manchester comrades – all sitting together in the same meeting, in the same room – selected five delegates from different parts of the city. Elsewhere, groups had not even met yet. Andrew Burgin admitted that about half of the “90 or 100” local groups exist only in so far as one person had volunteered to be the local contact. So the reality was that pretty much anybody who wanted to come could do so.
Unless, of course, you happened to be a representative of a political organisation. The interim organising committee had decided to bar existing groups from even sending observers – apart from a representative of the Red-Green Alliance from Denmark, who showed up halfway through the meeting. Obviously it would have been a little harsh to send this poor comrade packing after he had made such a long journey, presumably on a well-informed hunch.
Followed by the latest TUSC (Left involving the RMT, Socialist Party and SWP) election result.
Election of a Borough Councillor for Rawmarsh Ward (Rotherham) on Thursday 16 May 2013
|Baldwin, William George||British National Party||80|
|Gray, Andrew Tony||Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts||61|
|Meharban, Mohammed||Liberal Democrats||28|
|Parker, Martyn Lawton||The Conservative Party Candidate||107|
|Vines, Caven||UK Independence Party||1143 Elected|
|Wright, Lisa Marie||Labour Party Candidate||1039|
French Left’s Dilemma After Front National Breakthrough in 1984.
Like Cabu’s Grand Duduche you start by feeling that you don’t want to have anything to do with anybody who voted UKIP.
This came to me when the BBC’s Look East showed a chippie in Great Yarmouth. That town elected UKIP Councillors to Norfolk County Council. The chip-shop owner was vociferous in his UKIP support, as were many others in the seaside resort.
I like Yarmouth chips. They sell them with a choice of sauces. Inspired by Belgium custom you can get mayonnaise and curry, amongst other flavours.
I will make a point of not going to Yarmouth for my annual day-trip.
The party now has 15 councillors in Norfolk and scored 23.47% of the county vote - Conservative 32.6pc, Labour 22.75pc, Liberal Democrat 10.97pc, Green 6.55pc, Independent 3.27pc, Christian People’s Alliance 0.13pc, United People’s Party 0.02p
They got a councillor in Ipswich too, in Whitehouse and Whitton.
I will not feel comfortable in the company of anybody who backed James Crossley, or those , 20% of the electorate across town (and they didn’t stand in 2 divisions) who voted for them in Ipswich.
But that’s a reaction, not a strategy.
We need clarity on how to deal with UKIP.
For a long time people on the left have been convinced that the threat from the far-right came from the BNP and the English Defence League.
Principally that there was a “massive surge” in hostility towards Muslims.
This view was reinforced by a whole industry of speculation about the Islamic ‘Other’.
This was always a skewed analysis: there is a little evidence that the masses were ready to engage in a wholesale attack on Muslims.
‘Islamophobia’ was also used by those who took this line to denigrate those who backed the secularists, feminists and trade unionists who, after the Arab Spring, have had to face right-wing Islamist governments.
Now we have a party that has focused on an ‘Other’ that is lot closer to home: the Eastern European hordes from Bulgaria and Romania.
Standing in, of course, for the ‘foreigners‘ already here.
In place of abstract ruminations about the Other, we had better look at an older anti-racist idea: scapegoating.
This is not a vote of the ignored’ working class’s expressing their real needs.
It is the result of a conscious attempt to deflect people’s anger at austerity, stagnating wages, and mounting personal debt, onto an easy target.
Foreigners, we know, are not the only thing UKIP are about.
They want to make life easier for British capitalists, they attack trade unions and the poor, and their cultural views are a mix of Norman Tebbit, Jeremy Clarkson and the US Tea Party.
They are dyed-in-the-wool free-marketeers.
UKIP councillors will no doubt often make fools of themselves.
But we cannot count on their ability to self-destruct.
We, the left, need to attack them where they are weak: are they for austerity or are they against it?
What will they do to help working people defend their rights?
Will they support the Living Wage?
Will the fight against tax breaks for companies and the rich?
Will they back the NHS?
Before anything else the Left should shout, loudly, its internationalism!
Against hatred between the peoples!
For European unity of the peoples, the workers and the poor!
For a European Social Republic: level wages and benefits upwards!
Down with the Xenophobes!
Down with UKIP!
“Massive Threat to Our Local Services.
No it’s not the cuts, austerity, or the recession.
UKIP leaflets distributed in Ipswich over the weekend begin by stating,
Within a year, 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians will gain the right to live, work and draw benefits here.
Only UKIP is taking seriously his massive threat to out local housing, schools, health and council services.
Ipswich Spy downplays UKIP’s potential here.
Certainly after reading press reports over the weekend we come away with the – justified – view that a bigger gaggle of cranks, nutters, racists and venomous right-wing extremists would be hard to find.
The Spy points out that,
Locally UKIP don’t have a branch in Ipswich. They have branches all over the Eastern Region, but none in Ipswich. The UKIP agent is from the Bury St Edmunds branch, although he was the UKIP candidate here in Ipswich at the last General Election and he lives in Stowmarket. So they don’t have the huge numbers of activists the Liberal Democrats could boast before they came into Government.
One could add that their candidate, Mark Tinney (for St Helen’s) has a shaky grasp on what local councils do.
His main policy plank is to “try to reduce parking charges and extended free parking in the town centre”.
These are County Council elections.
Parking is the responsibility of the Borough Council.
His other ideas are more police visibility and encouraging ”more business for Ipswich”.
We suspect that nobody will read this part of the leaflet.
They will alight on the ‘threat’ of hordes of Bulgarians and Romanians descending on Ipswich.
We consider, based on what Ipswich people say, that they will have more of an echo than Ipswich Spy thinks.
Informed people may well ‘ridicule” UKIP’s claims.
But the Tories and the right-wing media have relentlessly pursued the line that migrant workers are a ‘menace’.
They have continually attacked ‘Europe’, the EU’s social policies, the ‘regulation’, the ‘bureaucracy’ and the ‘waste’.
It’s no good bleating about what a bunch of odd-balls UKIP are.
They have feathered the UKIP nest.
Much of the Left too has failed to stand up for Europe.
Sections of the organised left have attacked the EU to such a point that they fail to distinguish between the free-market policies of the present Commission (backed by all the major states, and only feebly challenged by the French left government), and the potential of a Continent-wide union of the peoples.
If they want to get rid of the European Union what would they replace it with?
Many on the left go very quiet at this point.
Do they seriously think an “Independent” Socialist Britain or an “independent” Socialist Scotland would come about from leaving the EU?
To challenge the hatred and division spread by UKIP and the Tories, we need the politics of internationalism.
Unity between the peoples, between the working classes and the poor, across Europe.
For this we stand for a European Social Republic!
Die Partei, die Partei, die hat immer Recht!
Und, Genossen, es bleibe dabei;
Denn wer kämpft für das Recht,
Der hat immer recht.
Gegen Lüge und Ausbeuterei.
Wer das Leben beleidigt,
Ist dumm oder schlecht.
Wer die Menschheit verteidigt,
Hat immer recht.
So, aus Leninschem Geist,
Wächst, von Stalin geschweißt,
Die Partei – die Partei – die Partei.
Oh The Party, The Party is always right
And comrade, may it ever be so;
For who fights for the right
He is always right
Against lies and exploitation
[women] Whoever insults life
is stupid or bad
Whoever defends humanity
Is always right
Grown from the spirit of Lenin
Welded by Stalin
The party – the party – the party.
Das Lied der Partei.
Iron Curtain. The Crushing of Eastern Europe. 1944 – 1956. Anne Applebaum. Allen Lane 2012.
A Note on Totalitarianism.
Iron Curtain is an important and deeply researched study of Eastern European Communist states. It begins with their blood-stained birth, illustrates their brightest hopes, and deepest fears, it travels from the sweated labour that built Socialist Cities, to the spying and the stridency of everyday life. Anne Applebaum’s book is equally an investigation into regimes that aspired to “total control” and how they used their power to achieve this.
Anne Applebaum is, as Duncan Bowie observes (Chartist March/April 2013) highly “partisan”. She is married to the centre-right Polish foreign Minister, Radek Sikorski. She is, nobody will be surprised to hear, far from neutral about assessing the damage done in the name of Communism.
It would be derisory, and irrelevant, to make her parti pris stand against the mass of historical detail, mastery of several of the countries’ languages, and weighed judgements that Iron Curtain offers.
Why? The answer comes in the opening pages. The first chapters of Iron Curtain Applebaum overwhelm the reader with the terror brought in the wake of the Second World War. Axis atrocities are laid out in full and the Shoah is never far away from the narrative. Readers of Timothy Synders’ Bloodlands will be acquainted with the terrible reality of destruction on the Eastern Frontiers. But it is other events that stay in the mind the undoubted heroism of the Red Army in fighting its way to Berlin and defeating Nazism, was accompanied by its own brutality against civilians and, in particular, mass rape. The Red Army re-opened camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald almost as soon as they closed them, to house their own undesirables.
The cruelty, oppression, and ethnic cleansing (notably of those of German origin, or even, in Hungary’s case, of those with Teutonic names of other ethnicities) that followed in the first years after the war, principally, East Germany, Poland and Hungary are memorably described. Whole populations of Poles, Rutheniums, Hungarians, were summarily ‘re-allocated’ to new territories.
During the late 1940s Communists consolidated their rule. At the pivot of the system – even before the countries were openly Communist-led – were the security services. Moscow trained local functionaries under the ultimate command of the Soviet NKVD quickly consolidated these. From the Interior Ministries they directed wholesale purges of real and suspected opponents. Executions, consigning people to local camps, even sending them to the Soviet Gulag, followed. The take-over of each state proceeded remorselessly, “first (by) the elimination of right-wing; or anti-communist parties, then the destruction of the non-communist left, then the elimination of opposition within the communist party itself.”(xxxiv)
Yet at the same time the Communist parties were led by true believers. Their Central Committees initially allowed (relatively) free elections because they thought they could win. They thought their doctrine was true. They “really did think that sooner of later the working-class majority would acquire class consciousness, understand its historical destiny and vote for a communist regime.”(P xxxiv)
Harsh policies were a reaction to defeat in elections, notably by the Small Holders’ Party in Hungary, and (if electoral fraud had not obscured this) by the Social Democrats and others in East Germany, ‘patriotic’ parties in Poland, and elsewhere Even in Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria, barely covered in Iron Curtain) where the local Communist parties did have deeper bases (something Applebaum plays down) they were unable to reach a majority on their own.
Iron Curtain’s principal thesis is that Communist rule under the period of High Stalinism (that is, from the late 1940s to 1956) saw an effort to eliminate any independent life for civil society. “The nascent totalitarian states could not tolerate any competition whatsoever for their citizens’ passion, talents and free time.”(Page 185) They took over youth groups, women’s leagues, churches, trade unions, independent educational movements, and, above all, the mass media, beginning with the Radio. In doing so, “They managed, undermined and sometimes eliminated churches, newspapers, literary and educational societies, companies and retail shops, stock markets, banks, sports clubs and universities.”(Page 496) Read the rest of this entry »
French Religious Right Threatens Violence Against Gay Marriage Law.
This morning on French radio station RTL a right-wing spokesperson, and former Sarkozy Housing Minister, threatened a “civil war” if the laws on gay marriage (le Mariage pour tous) and adoption open to all, reach the statue book.
Christine Boutin, la présidente du Parti Chrétien-Démocrate n’a pas mâché ses mots.
Invoquant “les colères multiples et grandissantes du peuple de France”, elle a évoqué sur Twitter une “guerre civile”.
Christine Boutin, le President of the Christian Democrat Party did not mince her words
She evoked the “swelling rage and anger of the French people”. On Twitter she spoke of a “civil war”.
The right have referred to the mass anti-secular campaign in 1984 against plans to bring religious education establishment into line with the public system (Loi Savary).
Nous mènerons jusqu’au bout ce combat pour la famille et l’avenir de notre pays. C’est la démocratie que nous défendons ! Tous à Paris le 26 mai ! »
We will continue our fight for the Family and the future of our country, right to end. It’s democracy that we defend! Everybody Come to Paris on the 26th of May!(from here)
Elswhere it’s reported that another leader of the anti-gay movement, Brigide Barjot, said, «c’est un déni de démocratie. C’est violent, et une loi violente, qui va passer violemment, va provoquer de la violence».
This is a denial of democracy. It;s violence, it;s a violent law, it will come in violently, and will provoke violence. (Here)
These are ‘mainstream’ opinions.
But much more extreme groups are moblising.
Libérati0n reports today on the far-right groups involved in the anti-gay movement.
Taking the name “Printemps français” this involves a variety of extreme groups, including ultra-traditional Catholics of Civitas, the Bloc identitaire, the fascist student militia, Groupe union défense (GUD) and their ‘student union’ the Union nationale interuniversitaire (UNI)