Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

The Establishment. And how they get away with it. Owen Jones. A Socialist Review.

leave a comment »

The Establishment. And how they get away with it. Owen Jones. Allen Lane 2014.

Last Tuesday supporters of the Suffolk People’s Assembly and the PCS trade union lobbied Ipswich Conservative MP, Ben Gummer. Part of the TUC campaign “Britain Needs a Pay Rise” we were there to raise concerns from the decline in the real value of public sector pay, the growing cost of living, declining working conditions, to the attacks on those receiving welfare benefits. Gummer, after admitting that he had the privileged background (Cabinet Minister dad, public school and Cambridge in case you ask) understood our worries. He knew “where we were coming from”. But tight budgets and a squeeze on spending had been needed to deal with the legacy of the last government. Now the country was on the mend.

The Honourable Member ended by evoking his recent visit to a local school Academy. Its intake includes many of the less than privileged. Yet these students were rearing to compete on the global market. Equipping them to stand up their counterparts on the East, to give them “opportunity”, was, Ben’s words suggested, a task his government had begun in earnest.

Right in the first chapter of Owen Jones’ The Establishment, one comes across Gummer’s other constituency: the TaxPayers’ Alliance. Jones meets it founder, Matthew Elliot, who founded this “unashamedly populist” campaign for lower taxation. Inspired by the American hard-right Tea Party, its influence began before the 2008 Bankers’ crash. The Alliance now boasts that it got the Tories from saying they wanted to “match Labour’s spending plans to talk about spending cuts”. The ‘shock’ of crashing banks gave them a golden opportunity to go further and further.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance awarded Ipswich MP Ben its monthly  ‘pin up’ status a couple of years ago for his attempt to rename National Insurance a Tax. (1) This is not the only link. Jones signals their campaign to end Trade Union facility time. Mr Gummer – the members of the PCS present at the lobby were well aware – has very publicly pursued this demand locally.

Needless to say the socially and (genuinely) caring liberal Ben, can quickly turn into a ferocious tigress protecting her young when the interests of one group of taxpayers, finance, are at stake. It was not so long ago that he floated the idea of reviving the ‘business vote’, an extra ballot paper for companies (no doubt with an eye on Labour controlled Ipswich Borough Council).

Dig a little and what is the core of the up and coming Conservative’s politics? For Ben Gummer the City of London, which Jones describes as marked by a “reluctance to pay taxes and an acute hostility to any form of government intervention” (Page 241) is the foundation of UK prosperity. Above all he ducks the banks’ responsibility for the economic crisis, and the government’s deficit (critics might begin with the bank bail-out….), and loads it onto the ‘tax and spend’ policies of Blair and Brown.

It is not a long journey from The Establishment to Ipswich. The previous story is an illustration of how the author succeeds in showing “how they get away with it”. Activists on the left will find many similar echoes from their own experiences of contact with professional politicians (not just Conservatives and Liberals), and “movers and shakers” in the country.

Outriders.

As most reviewers, even if they might disagree with many of Jones’ views,  have said, The Establishment is a thoughtful and thorough exploration of the world of “powerful”, who “manage democracy”. This “oligarchy”, a self-selecting elite, as Ferdinand Mount has described it, it is one profoundly changed since the 1980s (The New Few or a Very British Oligarchy. 2012) To Jones it’s “politicians who make laws, media barons who set the terms of debate; business and financiers who run the economy; police forces that enforce a law which is rigged in favour of the powerful.” What ties them together is a belief in their own rightness that they are “worth” their positions.

In their ‘heroic age’, Thatcherites could consider themselves as radicals sweeping away the old system. Now the free-market consensus has taken on a life of its own. It’s an apparatuses, helped by ‘hired hands’ and driven by the undoubted profits of financial institutions and, increasingly, a revenue flow from the state into private owners of public assets.

It is striking that “outriders”, from the Tax-Payers’ Alliance, ‘free-market’ think tanks, still consider themselves to be living in this time when they had to fight off the remnants of the post-War settlement, beat down trade unions, and remove left-wing politics from the national life. The Daily Mail, Jones observes, still thinks it is battling away at a ‘Liberal’ Establishment.  Paul Staines (aka “Guido Fawkes”)  also on the hard right says of the the political class: “I hate the fucking thieving cunts.”

The first chapter of Jones’ book underlines the contrary. The hard-right have succeeded in defining ‘common sense’, from the media, much of the public, to the highest reaches of power. They have “shifted the terms of debate and softened up public opinion” with the willing collaboration of media outlets, the BBC at the forefront, which never loses an opportunity to provide them with a platform. “They have helped shift the goalposts of debate in Britain, making ideas that were once ludicrous, absurd and wacky, become the new common sense. In the terminology of right-wing political thinker, they have shifted the ‘Overton Window’.”(Page 44)

Overton, we learn, was the vice-president of a US right-wing think tank, the grandly titled Mackinac Center for Public Policy. His concern was to ‘shift’ what is reasonable, opening a new Window of opportunity. But for policies to be Policy the outriders, scouting out the way, have to find collaborators willing to work with them.

If The Establishment covers the ideological and economic conditions for the rise of the free-market ‘counter-revolution’ in the 1970s and 1980s it does not stop there. Blair and Brown were happy to go along with what the Conservatives, starting with Thatcher, had created. “The government of both Blair and Brown were instrumental in transforming Thatcherism into a permanent settlement.”(P 61)

Owen Jones is not afraid to confront the Labour Ministers who profited handsomely from this agreement on free-market foundations. Tony Blair, and his immediate followers, are probably the most notorious. But it’s the special merit of Establishment to focus on less well-remembered instances.

Former Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt ended up as a lobbyist for private health companies. Perhaps even more startling in this particularly area is the case of Paul Corrigan a one-time activist in the Communist Party of Great Britain, and sociology lecturer, who is now deeply involved, a leading figure,  in the NHS privatisation process itself (see Wikipedia). Corrigan is married to Labour Peer,  Hilary Armstrong and is a  Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Pride of place must go to David Blunkett, former Home Secretary and subsequently in charge of the DWP. Jones meets the man himself. Blunkett can never resist the opportunity to re-enact the Monty Python Three Yorkshiremen sketch. After talking of a life existing on “bread and dripping” the former Minster bushes away how he personally profited from the largesse of the notoriously incompetent A4E (amongst his many other well-rewarded private posts, from News International onwards). There is no interrogation of how A4E’s exploitation of state revenue only happened because of his own legislation. The MP proffers only this, “I’m not living a flash lifestyle, but I’m very comfortable.”(Page 76) Though not quite as comfortable as David Miliband, reported by Jones to have made a million in two and a half years after his failed Labour leadership bid in 2010.

This ‘revolving door’, by which former Cabinet Ministers end up being rewarded by companies their legislation has helped, works for politicians of all parties. If the Tories do badly next year, and when the Liberals are drubbed, we will see another crop. Jones remind us that 46 of the top fifty publicly ranked traded firms in the UK had a British parliamentarian as either a director or a shareholder.

The problem is not that politicians are especially venal as such – a pretty hollow claim given the opportunities for far easier money-making in other walks of life. It is that, as Jones says, “Mainstream politicians had been transformed by policies that once belonged to the dreams of the outriders. A mentality of greed had been promoted amongst the business elite, now this mentality had infected the political elite too. Politicians became unapologetic lobbyists for private interests both inside and outside Westminster.”(Page 83)

When one reads this it’s hard not to think of this, possibility, cited in Tomas Picketty’s influential Capital in the Twenty First Century. That some would “privatise all pubic assets. According to the national accounts of various European countries, the proceeds from selling all public buildings, schools, universities, hospitals, police stations, infrastructures, and so will be roughly sufficient to pay off all outstanding public debt. Instead of holding public debt via their financial investments, the wealthiest European households would becomes the direct owners of schools, hospitals, police stations, and so on. Everyone else would then have to pay rent to use these assets and continue to produce the associated public services.”(Page 541 –2 Capital in the Twenty-first Century. 2014).

In many respect we are paying rent to private owners for an ever-growing number of ‘public’ services. What this means is that wealth is transferred from the majority to this minority through the mechanism of taxation and charges for indispensable common goods (health onwards). If Picketty is right about the tendency of modern Capital to favour the transformation of entrepreneurs into the holders of such claims (‘rentiers’) the free-market system may be encouraging its own cannibalism. One could also investigate the way these profiteers are directly shaping a whole range of public social policies, for the institutions they themselves run.

Democratic Revolution.

There are many other themes brought up in The Establishment, covering the media, the increasing harshness of Law and  the Police, and their use to suppress protests, the demonisation of the poor, and an array of illuminating sections on the Oligarchy’s inner courts, the City, and the Tax-dodging Tycoons and corporation. I was impressed by the grasp – not common amongst political writers – of the last decade’s coercive and shambolic changes in the Benefit system and the obstacles and misery these have created for millions of people.

But it is the political alternative to the present system that should provoke the most attention. Is the ‘elite’ at fault for the way it’s recruited? There is one area where this appears blatant: professional politics. Jones, following many others, observes is that MPs are increasingly drawn from a narrow stratum of society, often with no experience of anything other than politics, and even fewer from working class backgrounds. That this is an international phenomenon can be seen in an article in Le Monde yesterday (16.10.14). It notes that only 2,6% of French MPs come from manual or ordinary clerical occupations. But can this be changed by the kind of “equality of opportunity” that the free-market’s supporters promote?

But, as he points out, we should start by considering the corporate influence on law, from the UK to the European Union. Jones is not clear on how the EU should be approached. If it inspires unbridled hatred form one section of the Establishment, in the area of Britain’s sovereignty, another endorses it, precisely because it is remote from any democratic control. He concludes, not very confidently, that, “It is the Establishment that really reigns supreme.”(Page 294).

This sounds as if he would, or is edging towards abstention on any conflict – that is the Referendum – on UK membership. The loudest yelps for liberty come from those who wish to follow the worst aspects of US policy and politics, including its boss class of slave-drivers.  What other vehicle for ‘internationalist ‘ ambitions could be offered, other that is than a refounded and transformed Social European Union, remains to be seen.

For a democratic revolution we need democrats. The grip of the free-market outriders has, Jones, considers, to be challenged by bringing the “fragments” of opposition together. One thing that implies is that more solidly organised left-wing think tanks should be formed, and backing existing ones such as the New Economic Foundation and Class. More fundamentally The Establishment advocates public ownership. But perhaps we need the kind of public owners who can run them democratically. That is, the creation of a counterpart to the ideal of dedicated public servants of the past, educated with a feeling for the common good – and kept under control by open public mechanisms. “service users and workers”.

There are plenty of other policies to develop. Probably equally ambitious is the demand that along with clamping down on tax Avoidance we should “drive the power of Big Money from politics” (Page 311).

Will these and other proposals shift the ‘Overton Window’ “away from the Establishment” and “open up been more radical possibilities”? Change Owen concludes is “not won through the goodwill and generosity of those above, but though the struggle and sacrifice of those below.” In Le Monde Diplomatique (October 2014) Jones has written of the weakness of Ed Miliband’s alternative to the Right, and even UKIP. The French Socialist government and President Hollande, for all their initial rhetoric about challenging ‘finance’ never tried these policies, and is now drifting  ever rightwards. Will those prepared to go out on the streets to act now help turn the tide to the left, or at least stem the headlong plunge to the right? Are the embers of socialism about to be relit? 

The struggle of those people in Ipswich who lobbied Ben Gummer and all those who will be at Saturday’s TUC demonstration indicates some who are doing their best to do so……

Photo: Ben Gummer was photographed outside his office last week, when supporters of Suffolk Peoples Assembly and the Trades Council lobbied for the "Britain needs a Pay Rise" demonstration.</p>
<p>Ben’s smile seemed a little forced, possibly because the latest polls show Labour’s David Ellesemere is 7% ahead in polls for the Ipswich seat, with around 38% to Gummer’s 31%.   </p>
<p>UKIP are currently on 19% and the Lib Dems 6%.</p>
<p>(photo by Tony Dooley)” /></p>
<p class=Lobby of Gummer.

(1) Wikipedia. “Gummer first proposed annual tax statements to UK taxpayers, due for introduction in 2014. These will show shares of government spending in proportion to the amount of tax the taxpayer paid in the year. it was opposed by the Labour Party. Gummer’s proposal was favorably received by the press. He became The Suns Westminster “hero of the week” It was included in the 2012 Budget with George Osborne calling it “an excellent idea”. The TaxPayers’ Alliance subsequently honoured Gummer as their ‘Pin-Up of the Month‘. It also got the support of the Prime Minister.

Danish Left MP’s Collect Money for Defenders of Kobane as World Left Moves to Back Kurds.

with 7 comments

“If there is a parallel today to Franco’s superficially devout, murderous Falangists, who would it be but Isis? If there is a parallel to the Mujeres Libres of Spain, who could it be but the courageous women defending the barricades in Kobane? Is the world – and this time most scandalously of all, the international left – really going to be complicit in letting history repeat itself?

 Guardian 8th October.

“…any genuine and unfeigned demand that imperialist states “arm the Kurds” arises chiefly because of our weakness and incoherence.  Those raising it hope to at least verbally short-cut through the mountain of work and struggle that is necessary to get to a stage where we are relevant to such situations.  And this is the problem.  The British Left has always tended to assume that what it says and does about what should happen Over There is of tremendous significance.  Those former leftists who rallied behind Bush’s ‘war on terror’, on the assumption that it was their war fought in their interests, stood in this tradition.  This is a kind of chauvinism, an ideological artefact of imperialism.  In this situation, the role of a small, divided and weak Left is pedagogy.  The role of any slogan should be to stake out the discursive space in which a leftist, anti-imperialist analysis can be popularised – not just now but ongoingly.  The slogan, “arm the Kurds” is an own-goal.”

Connard of the Day. Richard Seymour. Arm the Kurds. 8th October.

Update, 

“If someone denies that they have the right to take arms from whomever, I will argue against them. And since they are asking for weapons, I can tell you I have no problem with this at all. But otherwise I’m very reluctant to put myself in a position of determining the rights and wrongs of the Kurds’ war against ISIS.

Richard Seymour. Lenin’s Tomb.

This is the response of the left:

The RGA against Danish fighter jets in Iraq

Thursday 9 October 2014, by Michael Voss

International Viewpoint.

On 1 October, the Danish parliament approved with a huge majority to send F16 fighter jets to Iraq to participate in the US-led bombing campaign against ISIL. Only the Red Green Alliance and one unaffiliated MP voted against Instead the RGA tabled a proposal that Denmark help to supply weapons and humanitarian aid to the beleaguered Kurdish/multi-ethnic areas in Northern Syria. A few days later the RGA itself started collecting money for weapons to the Kurds.

During the debate in Parliament, Nikolaj Villumsen, MP for the RGA said:

The government is proposing a bombing campaign that may last more than a year according to the prime minister. These bombings may very well lead to a strengthening of ISIL and of creating even more chaos. When civilians are killed and foreign military again is bombing Iraq, it may increase the recruitment of ISIL. Many hidden agendas are involved in this alliance that the government want Denmark to join. It is a 100 percent certain that Saudi Arabia and the Golf states do not want democracy in Iraq. Likewise, Turkey does not want Kurdish self-government anywhere inside or outside Turkish borders. I fear that Denmark just will be tail-ending the interests of big powers in the region.

“What we ought to have learned from the previous wars that Denmark participated in, is that we should rather support those local forces on the ground that fight for democracy and human rights. That is why the RGA proposes direct support for the Kurdish militias in Syria. They have defended themselves against Assad and ISIL for three years. But now ISIL have conquered heavy American produced weapons from the Iraqi army in Mosul, and they are launching an offensive against the Kurdish territory around the city of Kobane. The Kurds have real problems in resisting them.

“Turkey is a close ally of Denmark in NATO, and they are closing their borders for arms supplies to the Kurds, while they for years have accepted ISIL-soldiers to pass this border. Official Danish policy towards the Kurds is defined by the government in Ankara. Right now the victims are the people living in the Kurdish areas in Syria. Here, Kurds, Arabs and Christians need our support. We want Denmark to supply weapons to the secular Kurdish forces to make the able to defend themselves against ISIL – plus humanitarian aid so that the civilians can survive.

Of course, the proposal for arms to the Kurds was defeated with only the RGA voting for. Two days later, on 3 October, at a press conference the RGA handed over 40,000 DK (5,500 €) to Saleh Muslim, a representative of PYD, the party of Kurds in Syria that works closely together with the PKK of the Kurds in Turkey. The money is earmarked for weapons.

At the press conference, Nikolaj Villumsen said:

“Since the offensive of the jihadists against Kurdish areas in Syria began, we have tried to convince the government and the other parties to supply the Kurdish defence forces with weapons and humanitarian aid, with no effect at all. Now, ISIL is just outside Kobane, and 400.000 civilians are in danger.

That is why we have collected this amount of money among the local branches of the RGA at only a few days’ notice. It is only a symbolic amount, but we will continue collecting money. We call on all democratic and progressive forces in Europe and the rest of the word to support the fight against ISIL.”

Since then the RGA has repeated its call to the government for arms to be supplied to the Kurds several times and used all parliamentarian options for raising the question. As of 8 October the only result has been that the Socialist People’s Party (SF) now also supports the proposal.

This is what the comrades are rallying across the world to defend.

The most recent pictures of thousands of refugees fleeing from heavy attacks of ISIS and making their way from Syria across the border to Turkey, come from the area of Kobani – one of three cantons of the self- proclaimed Autonomy Region Rojava in Northern Syria.

Rojava-mapThis region –  which consists of three geographically disconnected enclaves along the Turkish border – strategically used the deteriorating situation to declare self-rule in July 2012 and has since been celebrated as the “Rojava Revolution”  within the Kurdish Movement associated around the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The population of Rojava, which has long been a stronghold of the PKK, is predominantly made up of Kurds – both Muslim and Yezidi[1] – as well as Arabs, Christian Assyrians, Armenians, Turkmen and Chechens. The desire for some form of self-determination especially among the Kurds was triggered through decades of denial of basic citizenship rights under the Assad-regime.

This quiet revolution is, however, not a question of independence. It is not the founding of yet another nation-state. Deliberately declaring itself an autonomy region instead of a state, derived from the critique of existing nation-states with their homogenising and exclusionary principals of citizenship, centralism of government and non-democratic structures under which the Kurds in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria have suffered on the one hand and the strategies of classic national liberation movements on the other. This critique along with an alternative model of “democratic autonomy” was brought forward by the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, and replaced the earlier struggle for independence. The concept of democratic autonomy is envisaged along the lines of libertarian thinker Murray Bookchin as a decentralised, radical democracy within or despite the given nation-states which abides by principals of equality between genders, religious- and ethnic affiliations as well as ecology[2]. In this sense, the PKK and its affiliated organisation PYD (Democratic Union Party) in Syria are promoting this model, whose fundamental principal is to achieve a unity of all different faiths and ethnic groups without assimilating them, for the whole of the Middle East.

With only 1,000 People on March Stop the War Coalition Faces Crisis.

with 10 comments

Syrian Kurds take cover from rain in Suruc after crossing border between Syria and Turkey 30 Sept 2014

Back the Kurds!

Russia Today reports,

Hundreds of activists rallied against Britain’s involvement in airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Saturday. Protesters marched through central London holding banners and chanting anti-war slogans.

Demonstrators chanted “Hands off the Middle East, No justice, No peace,” which marching toward Prime Minister David Cameron’s Downing Street office, where the rally was planned to end.

That is,

Up to 1,000 people participated in the protest, despite pouring rain. Many shared their demonstration experiences on social media.

Others state that up to 2,000 took part.

On the 19th of June the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) noted,

Saturday 19 July will long be remembered as the day many tens of thousands of protesters from all over Britain marched in London to call for Israel’s bombing and killing to stop, and an end to the siege in Gaza and Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

The huge turnout marched from outside prime minister David Cameron’s residence in Downing Street to the Israeli embassy in Kensington. The placards said “Gaza: Stop the Massacre”, “Stop Israel’s War Crimes”, “Freedom for Palestine”, “End Israeli Apartheid”.

So packed was the crowd in the sweltering heat that more than 20 people fainted.

Few would consider that the Saturday rain explains the catastrophic  decline in numbers attending the StWC march.

 It is obvious that something has happened between June and October.

That something is called Isis/Islamic State.

At the time of the Israeli army assault on Gaza, an attack that was murderous, with between 2,127 and 2,168 Gazans killed (including 495–578 children) no words were too harsh to describe the action.

Ewa Jasiewicz said in August, backing calls for “to stop Israeli impunity and apartheid”.

It’s clear that we can’t just tweet in the face of genocide and that marching from A to B in the face of massacre and ethnic cleansing is not enough.

 Jasiewicz, may be a controversial figure – one of her activities (in 2010)  had been the following,

Yesterday, Israeli and Polish activists met in the ruins of Warsaw’s old Jewish Ghetto.

The activists sprayed ‘Liberate All Ghettos’ in Hebrew, followed by ‘Free Gaza and Palestine’ in English on a wall of an original block in the ghetto. The block is across the street from the last fragment of the remaining perimeter wall of the Ghetto. They also hung Palestinian flags from the wall.

Some might say that trying to appropriate the memory of the Warsaw ghetto is ‘controversy’ incarnate.

But the fury about Gaza was real and widely shared.

Why, in August, was there not the same anger about the very real genocide taking place in Iraq and Syria?

The information was there.

The renowned Canon Andrew White, a person whose goodness is enough to make you weep, amongst the most beloved of all, was broadcasting details from Baghdad.

In his concern for the lives of those threatened with genocide he has not  stinted at linking his posts to all those,  the left as well, covering the unrolling events – including this very site.

We all know how this became the major story it is.

We all know that the US-led bombing has started.

Perhaps the Stop the War Coalition  might reflect that stopping the bombing is not a major concern for those concerned by the killings carried out by Isis and Islamic State.

Many are simply tired of the same old song: “blame it all on the USA”.

For others,  a moral revolution has taken place, from playing that game people want to back the Kurds.

It is to the credit of the StWC that they allowed on Kurdish speaker,Memed Aksoy, at their rally to say just that.

But in general the STWC remains on the sidelines of this issue.

Instead one of their supporters, Owen Jones, writes in the Guardian of the fear of Isis/Islamic State,

We grow more terrified of it; we express our terror, and so help to spread it. Western media compete over inflammatory language to express the evil of Isis, and add to its almost otherworldly, terrifying mystique – a mystique Isis has depended on to conquer large swaths of Iraq and Syria, because its opponents are left too frightened to resist. Stills of its videos are plastered on front pages, and vicious anti-Muslim diatribes are posted on Twitter – which must delight Isis: the more hatred of Muslims ratchets up, the better chance it has of winning support.

….

The fact is, we are playing the part Isis has written for us in an even more profound way. “We must do something” has too often proved to be the cry of a man pouring a can of petrol over a burning home. Isis knows that, which is why it is doing everything it can to incite western intervention. “Is this all you are capable of doing in this campaign of yours?” mocks the spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. “Are America and all its allies unable to come down to the ground?”

The words, “almost otherworldly” “terrifying mystique, “a mystique” (repeated) – could have been written by Richard Seymour.

I put it no lower.

So those who want to oppose Isis, what can they do to avoid the path that Owen calls, “Isis’s script”?

Owen’s conclusion after this self-indulgent cri de coeur?

It is….we “must do something“:

Murderous Shia militias must be dismantled. Kurdish peshmerga must, undoubtedly, be properly armed. The western-backed dictatorships of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar must be compelled to crack down on the funding networks that are helping to sustain Isis and other terrorists. As General Jonathan Shaw says, these western client states must stop exporting the Wahhabi/Salafist ideology that underpins jihadi terrorists everywhere. Economic sanctions – and certainly arms embargoes – must result from non-compliance. External military intervention in Iraq and Syria must be led by regional powers, not by western forces as Isis craves.

But…….

The StWC remains silent on the desperate plight of Kobane.

Those who may conquer it, Isis are genociders.

Their regime of ‘discipline and punish’, put in place in Iraq (Islamic State) and Syria,  is aimed at the extermination of all who refuse to accept their religious orthodoxy and  tyranny over all who submit. 

They are the  real business not a “mystique”.

So what do we have to “be done”?”

The Kurds want bombing to save Kobane. (1) 

Who is Owen to deny them that?

We will have the real ethical debate when the US tries to take on Assad.

There is a division between those who back measures to remove Isis/Islamic state, an urgent imperative, and those who believe there is a  further moral obligation to remove the Baathists from Syria.

Those who argue for that appear to have lost all sight of the consequences of such moves in a region where Isis are  not the only armed Islamic reactionaries. …..

Update: 

Owen Jones says -in response to this Blog post – that it misrepresents him.

I’ve called for the arming of the Kurds. My line is the same as Peter Tatchell who you’ve applauded below, so why you are attacking me is frankly beyond me.

We wait the SRWC to follow.

(1) See Facebook Page for links on this.

The Middle Eastern Feminist writes,

Friends/hevals, a large number of you are asking “how can we help Kobane?” I have compiled a list of things that you can do to help:

1- Be informed and keep up with the news. We do not recommend any of the Western sources as they are lagging in information release, and do not have the finer details. I recommend the following news sources:

http://en.firatajans.com/
http://pydrojava.net/eng/
http://en.xeber24.net/

2- The following Facebook pages are up to date on Kobane and post regularly:

https://www.facebook.com/rojavabreaking
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kurdish-Resistance-Liberation/1480960568841619

3- If you are on Twitter I recommend a number of people who are informed and produce up to date, and often live news:

https://twitter.com/DefenseUnitsYPJ
https://twitter.com/DefenseUnits
https://twitter.com/ColdKurd
https://twitter.com/geehall1
https://twitter.com/reband_kurd
https://twitter.com/AJANSAMED
https://twitter.com/ArjDnn
https://twitter.com/MEasternfeminst (my own twitter)

Additionally, if some of us have some cash to spare I recommend this aid organization only. They are the official regional wide Kurdish organization operating in Europe. Their reach goes into all four Kurdish provinces including support for the people of Kobane:

http://www.heyvasor.com/en/alikari/

The most important thing is that you help us to highlight what is happening in Kobane. Please speak! Share information. Support the aid organization if you can spare some money. To speak is to resist! To speak is to be visible. To speak is to exist! and existing right now for the Kurds is resistance and a revolutionary act. Please stand with us in speaking about Kobane as much as you can.

Finally, learn about who the Kurds are. Learn about their plight and why they are in this situation. Learn about the genocide of the town of Halabja that was the target of Chemical attacks (my own family escaped being killed in Halabja by just an hour or so). Learn about the Anfal campaign against the Kurds. Learn about the oppressive nature of the regimes (Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Syria) in which the Kurds have been divided in, and the violent assimilation and ethnic cleansing policies of these regimes towards the Kurds, which has produced resistance movements such as the PKK. It would also be an immense help and of respect if you start recognizing, speaking and voicing the names of the different parts of Kurdistan and use the Kurdish names for the Kurdish cantons and provinces:

1-Rojava (Kurdish word for Sun-set is located in Syria, and is known as Western Kurdistan). This is where Kobane is located.

2- Roj-halat (Kurdish word for sun-rise is the Kurdish canton in Iran, and is known as Eastern Kurdistan)

3-Basur (pronounced ba-sh-ur, is the Kurdish word for South and is south of Kurdistan in northern Iraq). This is where I am from.

4-Bakur (is the Kurdish word for north and is northern Kurdistan in Turkey)

Thank you friends and feminists for standing in solidarity with us

Written by Andrew Coates

October 6, 2014 at 11:29 am

Will Bombing Make the ISIS Problem Worse? First – Back the Kurdish Fighters!

with 15 comments

What Letter Does not Say: Kurdish Fighters need our Support.

Bombing will make the ISIS problem worse (Guardian 24.9.14.)

Along with most British people, we opposed an attack on Iraq in 2003. The brutal reality of the invasion and occupation confirmed our worst fears. At least half a million died and the country was devastated.

Now, less than three years after US troops were pulled out, the US is bombing again. The British government is considering joining military action, not just in Iraq but in Syria too.

All the experience of the varied military action taken by the west in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya shows that such interventions kill innocents, destroy infrastructure and fragment societies, and in the process spread bitterness and violence.

While we all reject the politics and methods of Isis, we have to recognise that it is in part a product of the last disastrous intervention, which helped foster sectarianism and regional division. It has also been funded and aided by some of the west’s allies, especially Saudi Arabia.

More bombing, let alone boots on the ground, will only exacerbate the situation. We urge the government to rule out any further military action in Iraq or Syria.

Caryl Churchill playwright
Brian Eno musician
Tariq Ali writer and broadcaster
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Lindsey German convenor of the Stop the War Coalition
Diane Abbott MP
Mark Rylance actor
Ken Loach film director
Michael Rosen author and broadcaster
Kate Hudson general secretary of CND
John McDonnell MP
Sami Ramadani Iraqi writer and campaigner
Len McCluskey general secretary of Unite
Amir Amarani film director
Mohammed Kozbar vice-president of the Muslim Association of Britain
Dr Anas Altikriti
Walter Wolfgang Labour CND
Andrew Murray chief of staff Unite

The great unanswered question is: will supplying arms to the Kurds,  the Peshmerga, and the PKK/YPG, make the ISIS problem worse?

Yesterday on Newsnight Geoffrey Robinson rightly underlined the genocidal threat posed by Islamic State/ISIS.

“IS are pirates of the desert & enemies of humankind-they can be attacked because they are genocidal”-Geoffrey Robertson QC tells

The signers of this letter advocate  standing aside from the crimes of the Islamists, and their European recruits.

The Stop the War Coalition are going to protest – again.

Emergency protest: Don’t bomb Iraq, Don’t bomb Syria. Lobby your MP

• PROTEST: Downing Street. 5.30pm Thursday 25th September

Isis is a reactionary force, but it is in part a product of the disastrous occupation of Iraq by Western powers. Isis is funded by some of our main allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia. Escalating Western military intervention will do nothing to stop them but will create more suffering and further destabilise the region.

Stop the War is calling on its London supporters to protest on Thursday 25 September evening outside Downing Street from 5.30pm till 7.30pm. (Nearest tubes: Westminster and Charing Cross)

There is no call whatsoever for ways to stop the genociders’ killings, to help  the Kurds, the oppressed religious minorities, Christians, Yazidis, and the masses under the murderers’ rule. 

By contrast many on the European Left, from the Danish   Red-Green Alliance, (Enhedslisten – De Rød-Grønne) to influential groups on the French left (Ensemble, Parti Communiste Français)  support  the Kurdish fighters.

The PCF has released this statement (23rd September): Contre la barbarie islamiste : solidarité avec les kurdes de Syrie.

They demand aid for the Kurdish refugees and that France and other countries….

….Elles doivent soutenir les forces kurdes du PYD et du PKK qui sont aux avant-postes de la défense des valeurs universelles des Droits de l’homme. Immédiatement, le PKK doit être retiré de la liste des organisations terroristes.

….must support the Kurdish forces of the YPD and PKK, who are in the front line of the defence of the universal values of human rights. The PKK must immediately be taken off the list of terrorist organisations.

There is now a call for them to be supplied with arms.

This seems a better reply than those who limit their opposition to the jihadists to a bald statement that they “reject the politics and methods of Isis.”

This is the present plight of our Kurdish sisters and brothers,

People of North Kurdistan will protect 160 km of border

The solidarity protest initiated in the Suruç district of Urfa in order to support the resistance of Kobanê against ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham) has been continuing for 5 days.

The people who have not left the area despite the heavy attacks of the Turkish troops, have moved the tent which was set up in the village of Etmanik to the village of Dewşan.
After the news that the Turkish state had conveyed ISIS gangs to the border with Rojava by trains, buses and other vehicles appeared in the media, the area of the vigil has been widened.

The vigil which was originally carried out at one point will from now on be maintained by activists at the Urfa-Kobanê border along a 160 km stretch.

After a decision taken by the Kurdistan People’s Initiative, thousands of the people spread out along the border.

Meanwhile, the DBP (Party of Democratic Regions) declared that all town and city organisations will be at the border today. It is expected that the people coming from different cities will keep vigil at different points of the border.

Thousands arrive in Suruç, then head for border

This morning thousands of people arrived in Suruç in response to the DBP appeal, before going by bus to the Kobanê border. Following the call by the DBP, thousands of people from many cities in North Kurdistan arrived in Suruç early this morning. From there they will spread out along the border.

The European left has a special responsibility to show solidarity to the Kurdish left: they are our kith and kin.

The letter against US bombing is distinguished by its deathly silence on this burning issue.

We can begin by signing this petition.

Deproscribe the PKK

Responsible department: Home Office

The Kurdish PKK and its Syrian sister group the YPG are at the forefront of the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. PKK fighters are credited with opening a corridor allowing Yazidi refugees in the Sinjar Mountains free passage to safer regions in Iraq and Syria.

The politics of the PKK have changed since they were proscribed, from militant Marxism fighting the Turkish state, to an organisation pursuing a largely non-violent strategy aimed at greater regional autonomy. They have been engaged in peace talks with the Turkish state since July this year.

The UK should recognise the changes that have taken place and how the situation on the ground has changed and deproscribe the PKK.

Sign the Petition: Here.

And this Petition,

SIGN THE APPEAL

One year ago, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign sent out an appeal for the governments of the UK, EU and Turkey to remove the PKK from their list of terrorist organisations, and have been collecting signatures ever since. The list of the first signatories to this appeal includes prominent public figures such as Gareth Pierce and Michael Mansfield QC, as well as campaigners, journalists, and members of the British and European parliament.

Here

Standing up to UKIP? A Critical Appraisal.

with 10 comments

Will this Defeat UKIP?

Some on the left remain in mourning for the failure of the Scottish referendum to “bring their country into the world of free and sovereign nations”. Some console themselves that Alba is already a “transformed, empowered country.” (Neil Ascherson. Observer. 21.8.14.)

Westminster Centralism appears on the wane. A large constituency demands a “grant of real responsibility to local communities.” This means, they say, a change in the structure of the British constitution, perhaps an English parliament, certainly greater control for regions and cities inside and outwith Scotland’s borders.

Constitutional issues are not the preserve of Scottish nationalists or the new regionalists. UKIP has made its transition from pressure group to serious political contender by demanding that Britain be ‘free’ from the legislative power of the European Union. The issue of sovereignty is the central concern of Nigel Farage’s party. UKIP is, first and foremost, anti-EU. It wants ‘independence’ for the British people from ‘Brussels’. It is not ‘Eurosceptic’; it is Europhobic.

The Scottish separatists want to see the back of ‘Westminster’, for the good of their own people. Some, notably in the SNP, claim to see the European Union as a positive force that would help them towards that aim. With their common concern with national power we can call both parties, despite this major difference on the EU, “sovereigntists.” The party once led by Alex Salmond believes in a limited degree of pooled sovereignty in order to ‘save the nation state’ (as Milward called it), UKIP is simply wants to shore up the nation state. (1)

Stand up to UKIP.

Left-wing activists, called to support the campaign Stand up to UKIP, which plans a major demonstration outside the Party’s conference next weekend, can be forgiven for forgetting the word “independence” in the title. The launch of this campaign, after all, declares,

“It has built up its electoral base by both presenting itself as a party opposed to the European Union, but more importantly by spreading poisonous lies and hatred towards migrants and MuslimsWe believe UKIP is a racist party. This may be something Farage and the party’s leadership is quick to deny. But in the run up to the European elections UKIP’s mask slipped. UKIP presents the anti-racist movement with a major problem – dragging British politics to the right.”

Let us leave aside the claim that UKIP specialises in ‘anti-Muslim’ campaigning. This will come as news to the Bangladeshi organisers of the Ipswich ‘Multi-cultural festival’ at the end of August this year, who included a full page UKIP advertisement, along with Labour and Tory endorsements, in the day’s programme. It will also be a surprise to anybody reading official UKIP material, which does not single out the topic of Islam, but instead includes it within a blanket condemnation on multi-culturalism – the real reason to be astonished at the Ipswich anomaly.

Andy Jones argues, “UKIP is the main organised expression of the new anti-immigrant racism.” (International Socialism. June 2014. No 114) Nobody can deny that it has gained support for its hostility towards migration – their leaflets warning of a mass Bulgarian and Rumanian invasion are still fresh in people’s minds. Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin point to their ability to “recognise and often moblise public resentments of immigration and ethnic minorities among the white majority” (Page 159 Revolt on the Right. 2014). 

Is this part and parcel of a “party of bigots, sexists, Islamophobes and homophobes”? Perhaps. But does this imply that they have won votes as this kind of party? Stand up to UKIP clearly seems to think that “exposing” them as such will eat away at their support. Others consider that this is part of their appeal.

Ford and Godwin state that UKIP’s “electoral base is old, male, working class, white and less educated, much like the BNP’s (Ibid). Their analysis of the attitudes within the group they identify would tend to support the view that many of UKIP’s less attractive and prejudices attitudes have an echo within their constituency. Others note that the Stand up to UKIP list of bigoted opinions, slightly more politely expressed, is shared with middle class and upper class voters, the readership of the Daily Mail, Telegraph, and the Times. That UKIP voters are by no means largely working class. (2) 

In the publicity for the 27th demonstration at UKIP’s conference it’s stated, “UKIP likes to say it is the “people’s army” in opposition to the political elite in the mainstream parties. But it is a racist party that blames migrant workers for the problems in society it is acting as a shield for the bankers who are really responsible for the economic crisis.”

Is shouting “racist party” outside the UKIP meeting going to change anybody’s opinions?  I say shouting, but screaming ‘racist’ is the likely prospect. The involvement of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) signals the direction the protest is taking. This Sealed-Knot re-enactment of the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) demonstrations of yesteryear is a dead-end. The chorus, conducted by the Socialist Workers Party (Stand up’s main initiator) is not going to win over anybody outside their ranks. 

Revealing the role of UKIP as “shield for the bankers” is as unlikely undermine their support as “unmasking” them as an unsavoury load of old racists. The competition created in the labour market by migration is  – on at least some evidence deliberately encouraged by employers – is the material basis on which people ‘blame’ foreigners for low wages.

A trade union approach is to set a standard, the Living Wage, and high social benefits and work protection for all. Only unions are capable of grappling with these problems directly, bringing the actual and potential UKIP voters together with migrants on the basis of common interests. The left needs to focus on campaigns by the TUC and its affiliates, to prevent the bosses from setting one group against another. It is the European Union which should create the conditions for continent-wide higher wages and social benefits, a strategy of upgrading standards. Any form of sovereigntist politics, from UKIP, the SNP (which advocates lower corporation tax in Scotland) to the Conservative Party’s own Eurosceptic policies (the most direct threat), is an attack on this internationalist approach.

Defeating UKIP.

After Douglas Carswell’s resignation from the Tory party and decision to stand for UKIP in Clacton on the 9th of October the party is rarely out of the headline. Polls gives Carswell a wide lead. The group now has 39,143 members. The left has to think, deeply and seriously, without yelling, about how to deal with UKIP’s appeal. 

UKIP’s biggest weakness is not that it is a party with an exceptionally high membership of obsessives, xenophobes and oddballs. Having set out on a ‘populist’ path, that is, with the call for the British to rise up against the Brussels elite, its focus anti-European policies cut if off from the large numbers of people who (correctly) identify the ‘elite’ with a domestic Establishment. Many in these circles, including those who are virulently opposed to ‘Brussels’, are attracted, with a degree of ‘cultural cringe’ to the United States. They are prepared to cooperate with Washington and Wall Street in enterprises like TIIP, which open the way to an even greater extension of free-market power.

Farage’s organisation does not combine their prejudices with a degree of ‘social’ demands (protecting ‘the British worker’ ‘our NHS’). It opts for hard-line free-market policies. Continental populists, by contrast, are often opposed to ‘globalisation’ and ‘neo-liberalism’. Some European ‘populist’ parties, like the French Front National, have even tried to influence trade unions (3). This may reflect their middle class base, although the French FN equally benefits from electoral backing in middle class and wealthy areas (the traditional fiefs of the right and extreme-right in cities like Paris). 

Yet UKIP’s electoral success (27.5% of the vote in the European elections) has had exactly the same effect: a constant drag towards the right, hauling political players towards its brand of patriotism.

That they are braggarts, demagogues, that their xenophobic policies (directed against other Europeans) have racial overtones (against any ‘foreigners’ – that is, including British citizens, ethnic minorities), is important. This should be brought out and attacked.

But the only way Farage’s party will be sent back to the margins is by facing up to the issue of Sovereignty. To Stand up to UKIP is to stand up for the European Union, to engage in the transformation of its structures and to build a European Social Republic.

****

Note: for a real anti-racist campaigning group see Hope not Hate which has covered everyday racism, UKIP, the BNP and other UK far-right groups, including Islamists.

(1) The European Rescue of the Nation State (1999) by the late Alan Milward.

(2) “The data on which Ford and Goodwin base their analysis of Ukip voters consists, as they acknowledge, of people who intend to vote Ukip, rather than those who have. On the occasions when Ukip’s vote increases dramatically (such as in European elections) their new or temporary voters are more likely to be middle-class, financially secure and from Conservative backgrounds. And, while Ukip did indeed attract more former Labour voters during the later New Labour years, they have won a substantially higher proportion of Tory voters since the coalition came to power.

So there might be another explanation for the high Ukip vote in Labour areas. As the BBC’s political research editor, David Cowling, points out, in Labour’s safest seat in the country at the 2010 election, 28% of voters still supported other parties. This is not because Liverpool Walton is peppered with enclaves of bankers and stockbrokers; it’s because a substantial section of the working class has always voted for parties other than Labour and now that vote is going to Ukip. Ford and Goodwin argue that Ukip’s success has reduced the swing to Labour among old, poor and male voters. But that’s different from saying that Ukip is eating into the existing Labour vote, as it clearly is into the Conservatives’.” David Edgar.

(2) See the collection of articles in Nouveau Visages des Extrêmes Droites. Manière de Voir. Le Monde Diplomatique. 134. Avril Mai 2014.

Update: SWP Party Notes,

Stand Up to Ukip: Doncaster 27 September
Ukip look odds on to win their first MP in the Clacton by-election on 9 October following the defection of Douglas Carswell to Ukip from the Tories.
Nigel Farage hopes to exploit the tensions inside the Tory party together with rising Islamaphobia to increase Ukip’s influence. This will drag politics further to the right, further boosting racist scapegoating.

The demonstration outside Ukip’s conference in Doncaster on Saturday 27 September is a key step in developing campaign against Ukip.

Every branch needs to think about transport to Doncaster. Approach trade unions for sponsorship and to publicise the demo and we should produce tickets to sell. (a template is attached). We should leaflet FE colleges and universities as they return. Using the Stand up to Ukip statement, which has an impressive list of ‘big’ names on it around work and with people we know locally is a good way to talk to people about the importance of coming to Doncaster and showing that there is organised opposition to Ukip.

More transport has been put on over the last week – including from Huddesfield, Chesterfield, Nottingham, West Midlands, Newcastle, Derby. For the full list go to standuptoukip.org

There are SUTU public meetings tonight in Manchester and Cambridge.

To order colour 2-sided A5 leaflets advertising the demo in Doncaster, emailinfo@standuptoukip.org – 1,000 cost £15.

Scotland: Nationalists Lose, and Demand More Powers.

with 6 comments

Loser expects Devolution Demands to be met “in Rapid Form”. 

The campaign for Scottish Independence lost the referendum.

“With the results in from all 32 council areas, the “No” side won with 2,001,926 votes over 1,617,989 for “Yes”.” (BBC)

With the grace and good humour of a stoat, a stoat that’s just had a rabbit snatched from its maw, Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP announced, “Scotland has, by a majority, decided not at this stage to become an independent country. And I accept that verdict of the people. And I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland.”

The First Minister of Scotland quickly added, “The unionist parties made vows late in the campaign to devolve more powers to Scotland. Scotland will expect these to be honoured in rapid form.” (Guardian)

Tommy Sheridan of ‘Solidarity’, tweeted, ” Bosses, Bankers, Billionaires & Millionaires unite with Labour MPs, Tories, UKIP & UK Establishment 2 celebrate Project Fear.”

Colin Fox Spokesperson of the Scottish Socialist Party found time to state (Sky), “The big story tonight is the astonishing levels of turnout in a political contest in Scotland, which is on a par with North Korea, China, Cuba and those places.I think it’s remarkable and I certainly want to pay tribute to the Yes campaigners who over the last two years have energised this country. Clearly both sides of the campaign deserve credit for those levels of turnout.

Commenting on the relatively lower turnout in Glasgow in comparison with other areas, Mr Fox said: “Glasgow’s turnout in the Scottish Parliament elections is usually 40% and it is now 75%, so that’s not to be sniffed at.Let’s hope we can keep it at that level, I think it’s astonishing. Nearly doubling the turnout in Glasgow is a significant achievement for Scotland’s biggest city, with the greatest deprivation and the biggest social problems.”

This mobilisation apparently was the most impressive aspect of the campaign to Red Pepper. Ken Ferguson wrote this breathless article in the Red-Green journal – before the referendum yesterday.

Whatever the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum on 18 September one thing is certain: the campaign waged by Yes has electrified large swathes of public opinion and reinvigorated democratic debate. The formal Yes campaign, launched two years ago, has been the public face of the pro-independence case. But this has been eclipsed by a burgeoning mass movement of unprecedented scale and breadth.

Ferguson saw many things in this movement, though not, apparently the loyalty to their ‘ain’ State by many of the Yes supporters.

The character and content of the campaign, with its stress on social justice, poverty and opposition to Trident (Scottish CND back Yes), is clearly of the left but it has now far outgrown the organisations of the left. The task, then, is to find an approach that keeps this movement mobilised and able to deal with whatever the referendum produces.

He then observed,

A No result poses even more difficult challenges. First, many of the layers of people – particularly youth – energised by the campaign would face a bitter defeat. It would be vital that the left acts to assess the result and how to deal with it to prevent disillusionment and demobilisation.

For the first time in many years the left has been part of, indeed helped to create, a mass movement that goes beyond the single issue of Yes and starts to open up a vision of a different Scotland and, more widely, a different world. Whatever the result, a democratic debate on how we find both a grassroots and electoral expression of that movement needs to take place immediately.

At its heart will be the need for the left, in dialogue with and not dictating to the mass movement, to win purchase for the kind of green, left democratic politics that energises the broad Yes movement. The consequences of not doing so were shown at the Euro elections, when early discussions of a red/green candidate backed by the Greens and the SSP fell by the wayside. Such an alliance might well have prevented UKIP winning Scotland’s fourth Euro seat and, while a bitter lesson, it also points to the prospects that exist if the left can grasp the opportunities to hand.

Democracy has been the driver of the Yes campaign’s aims and on 18 September it needs to be the watchword for the left whatever the result.

Energising, bitter lessons, democracy, and not a word about the hysterical patriotism of the Yes campaign’s supporters.

This stand is shared by the Radical Independence Campaign whose left-wing politics have been watered down (perhaps wisely in view of the above observation – they worked very closely with the SNP in the final days of the referendum, even organising joint canvassing) to this harmless statement,

We believe Scotland should be a people’s democracy, a society of equality, a great welfare state, a good neighbour, and pioneer a just economy.

More realistic are European observers who note the nationalism of the main party campaigning for the Yes vote, the SNP – whose name might be a clue in this respect.

In the French and Belgian media they call them “sovereigntists” – those who want Scottish sovereign power above everything else.

This, it is true, would be used to create a slightly different world, one in which another small state offers advantages to corporations in order to compete in the European Union, and makes sure its own party snaffles as much power and privilege as it can get.

The snaffling is proceeding with Salmond’s demands for “more power”.

Nobody can deny that the mild social democratic policies (on, for example, Student fees and prescription charges) of the Holyrood government have advantages over those pursued in the rest of the UK.

Some would argue that this is proof that they should be extended to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and not restricted to Alba.

This contrasts with the ambitious thinking of leftists prepared to settle, if not for socialist politics, at least for the radical ambition of a ‘break up’ of Britain.

Tom Nairn, a New Leftist  who enjoys close relations with the SNP, is known for this phrase. (1)

He called the British state, Ukania (on the model of the novelist Thomas Musil’s name for  the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Kakania), one of many unfunny jokes of which Nairn alone has the secret.

The end of this Prison of the Peoples would set the ….People free.

For reasons which are all too obvious a certain type of leftist dullard saw in this a call to “smash the (capitalist) state”.

On this basis the nationalist programme of standing up for one People, the Scots, became the cause of the Peoples.

The workers had a country, and that country was Scotland.

It would apparently be moving in a “republican” direction -despite not a  squeak on this change from the SNP.

Indeed Salmond seemed to think he would be anointed in power by the Queen, no doubt in full ceremonial dress.

Arguments which are harder to follow were used to assert that a separatist movement in the United Kingdom was in reality….internationalism. 

Another state would bring nations and the working classes of the world closer together.

And another state, and another……

This is the logic of the ‘negation of the negation’. It resembles Trotsky’s claim in Terrorism and Communism (1920), that “The road to socialism lies through a period of the highest possible intensification of the principle of the state … Just as a lamp, before going out, shoots up in a brilliant flame, so the state, before disappearing, assumes the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat…”

Stalin put paid to the application of that argument in the Soviet Union.

Unfortunately, with Salmond still panting for ermine and the Royal blessing for independence, and many on the Scottish left continuing to believe in their ain state for their ain folk,  their ideas have not been fully refuted by their present defeat.

The ‘patriots’ of the SNP and the left seem determined to continue.

As indeed do UKIP – our next target.

(1) See (some parts dated) The Break-Up of Tom Nairn? Tom Nairn, Pariah: Misfortunes of the British Kingdom, Verso, 2002. Hardback, 300pp, £15.99. Reviewed by Andrew Coates.

Scotland, Marxism, and Self-Determination: a Luxemburgist Stand.

leave a comment »

Some on Scottish Left Dance to Nationalist Tune. 

“The formula of the “right of nations” is inadequate to justify the position of socialists on the nationality question, not only because it fails to take into account the wide range of historical conditions (place and time) existing in each given case and does not reckon with the general current of the development of global conditions, but also because it ignores completely the fundamental theory of modern socialists – the theory of social classes.

When we speak of the “right of nations to self-determination, “ we are using the concept of the “nation” as a homogeneous social and political entity. But actually, such a concept of the “nation” is one of those categories of bourgeois ideology which Marxist theory submitted to a radical re-vision, showing how that misty veil, like the concepts of the “freedom of citizens,” “equality before the law,” etc., conceals in every case a definite historical content.

In a class society, “the nation” as a homogeneous socio-political entity does not exist. Rather, there exist within each nation, classes with antagonistic interests and “rights.” There literally is not one social area, from the coarsest material relationships to the most subtle moral ones, in which the possessing class and the class-conscious proletariat hold the same attitude, and in which they appear as a consolidated “national” entity. In the sphere of economic relations, the bourgeois classes represent the interests of exploitation – the proletariat the interests of work……

There can be no talk of a collective and uniform will, of the self-determination of the “nation” in a society formed in such a manner. If we find in the history of modern societies “national” movements, and struggles for “national interests,” these are usually class movements of the ruling strata of the bourgeoisie, which can in any given case represent the interest of the other strata of the population only insofar as under the form of “national interests” it defends progressive forms of historical development, and insofar as the working class has not yet distinguished itself from the mass of the “nation” (led by the bourgeoisie) into an independent, enlightened political class.”

Rosa Luxemburg The National Question. 1909.  

There is a mountain of articles about the Scottish Referendum.

Many on the left are increasingly rejecting the nationalism of a large part of the Scottish left.

Today this is a another, relevant,  article on the Scottish ‘national question’  (extracts),

SCOTLAND’S TORY MENACE

24 hours before the referendum vote in Scotland, Maria Fyfe presents the case for NO and the unhelpful influence of unhelpful Tories. (Chartist Magazine

There have been times when I thought we would lose it.  The gap was down to single figures when Cameron and Osborne managed to get hackles up.  They were explaining a simple truth,  but saying it in a bossy way.  Why would England, Wales and Northern Ireland want to be the lender of last resort to what had become a foreign country?  So yet again we heard Salmond’s refrain: anything any opponent says is either bullying, bluffing or scaremongering.

The deceit by the Nationalists has been staggering. Salmond claimed to have legal advice that Scotland would have no difficulty with continued membership of the European Union.  This turned out to be completely untrue.  There never has been any such advice and the Scottish taxpayer paid for the legal bills arising out of a successful Freedom of Information challenge. Currently they are claiming the NHS will be privatised in Scotland if the No vote succeeds.  This, despite the fact that our NHS is wholly in the hands of the Scottish Parliament, and no party at Holyrood has ever proposed doing that. They claim no-one in Westminster will deliver extra powers for the Scottish Parliament, because having the parliament at all was rejected in 1979.

No mention that Labour campaigned for it for years, and it was won when Labour came to power in 1997. They even lie about Scottish history.   You can amuse yourself counting the number of factual errors in the film ‘Braveheart’, which some regard as inspirational for the struggle for Scottish freedom.  But my favourite is the one about the Scottish Parliament.  It came into being in 1999,   created by an Act of Parliament whose first line was, ‘There shall be a Scottish Parliament’.  Not according to the Nationalists.  As they will have it, even although 300 odd years have passed since it was abolished (as was the English parliament too) in 1707,   it has actually been ‘re-convened’.”

“They have been promising a land of milk and honey. But with no tax rises promised as well, and a cut in corporation tax of 3p in the £ below whatever George Osborne sets it at, people then ask how they are going to pay for all this.  And doesn’t it follow that with big business paying less, the rest of us will either pay more, or see cuts imposed in social services?  Do people in England realise this policy is expressly intended to draw businesses and jobs away from England?  It’s a race to the bottom.  Not only that, it is hardly the action of a ‘good neighbour’ which Salmond goes around England promising to be.

They even pretend to have Labour’s interests at heart.  Oh yes.  In an independent Scotland Labour will be free of the shackles imposed by right wing Labour in England, and could compete with the Nationalists as an alternative social democratic party.  Just in case any reader is fooled by this, note that for years it has been the SNP’s intention to destroy Labour, because that is the only party that can stand between them and their goal of independence.”

“I fear that if it is a narrow win for a No vote, the Nationalists will not respect the result, but keep on in a new  referendum like Quebec.   To stop that happening Labour has to regain trust amongst voters that fell away, in all parts of Britain, and at least achieve and stay in power for a good while to come.”

Rosa Luxemburg’s position was shaped by her opposition to Polish nationalism.

She was clearly wrong to downgrade the importance of the fight of the Poles for freedom from Tsarist tyranny. (1)

But the questions she posed remain relevant: how can we talk of a ‘collective will’ of nation, even ‘a‘ nation in a a globalised world?

Clearly these ideas are more than an “imagined community”, they have a more material ground in the interests of a national, Scottish, class fraction of the bourgeoisie and its political expression, the SNP.

A new nation state in Scotland, whose economic programme rests of “competitive undercutting” of corporation tax,  would leave deep scars in the labour movement.

It divides people on the basis of their nationality.

It is  a fantasy that it will be more progressive than the United Kingdom, the history of new small nation states in Europe (from the Balkans to central Europe) shows that such states are more dominated by the flows of international capital than larger entities.

It is a delusion to think that once separated a new Alba can simply join a new federation of the ‘Isles’.

It will be a set-back for those who aim for a  a European social republic, a federation of the peoples and the working class .

It is a the height of arrogance to pretend that an independent Scotland will be a beacon for the left.

Those on the Scottish Left who back a Yes vote have become gillies for Alex Salmond and SNP.

They are loyal to their ‘ain folk’ and the project of their ‘ain’ nation.

This is the kind of nationalist politics that the ‘Yes’ side have got mixed up in.

Let us hope that they are defeated.  

Update: Rosie has written a stirling attack on Salmond’s leyal subjects, Neverendum Land, from near the heart of auld reekie.

Phil’s An Open Letter to Yes-Voting Socialists is also essential reading.

 

(1) The point is made in Rosa Luxemburg and the national question. Tony Cliff. From his book on Luxemburg (1959/69)

He added,

Rosa Luxemburg’s strength regarding the national question lies, as elsewhere, in her complete devotion to internationalism and her independence of thought. This led her, via Marx’s method, to see how the position of Poland had changed vis-à-vis Russia between Marx’s time and her own. It caused her, contrary to Marx, to oppose the national struggle of Poland, but at the same time, and again contrary to Marx and Engels, led her to support the national movement of the South Slavs against Turkey. Marx and Engels had argued that to halt the advance of Tsarism the unity of the Turkish Empire had to be defended; and the national movements of the South Slavs, which were engulfed in Pan-Slavic ideas, and were blind weapons in the hands of Tsarism, had to be opposed. Rosa Luxemburg made an excellent analysis of the new conditions in the Balkans since the time of Marx. She concluded first that the liberation of the Balkan nations suppressed by the Turks would rouse the nations of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The end of the Turkish Empire in Europe would also mean the end of the Hapsburg Empire. Secondly, she argued that since Marx’s time the national movement of the Balkans had come under the dominion of the bourgeoisie, and hence any continuation of Russian influence was due only to suppression by Turkey. The liberation of the Balkan peoples from the Turkish yoke would not enhance the influence of Tsarism, but would weaken it, as these peoples would be under the leadership of a young and progressive bourgeoisie which would clash more and more with reactionary Tsarism. Thus, in the case of the Balkan nations, Rosa Luxemburg’s attitude to their national strivings differed greatly from her attitude to Poland.