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Standing up to UKIP? A Critical Appraisal.

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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.

Danish Leftists Back Military Aid to Iraq.

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Danish Revolutionary Socialists Says: Arm Kurdish Freedom Fighters!

Danish socialists voting for a parliamentary decision to send a military plane to Iraq under US command is not usual. Even more unusual is the fact that I – considering myself a revolutionary Marxist – voted to support that decision. Nevertheless, that is what happened a few weeks ago.

The parliamentary group of the Red-Green Alliance (RGA – Enhedslisten) voted together with all out parties for sending a Hercules airplane to Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government. The plane will transport weapons and ammunition to the Kurdish militias fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).”

Reports Michael Voss (of the Danish  Red-Green Alliance, Enhedslisten – De Rød-Grønne), known as Enhl, and SAP (Socialistisk Arbejderparti) in International Viewpoint (journal of the Fourth International).

The nightmare of some ‘anti-imperialist’ hipsters has had a real political impact…..

Why Danish leftists supported military aid to Iraq Monday 15 September 2014

Comrade Voss  made the honest point that,

In that way there is a temporary coincidence of interests between imperialism and socialists on the simple issue of fighting IS. We want to supply the Kurds with weapons, and US imperialism want to supply the Kurds with weapons – for the time being. Not supporting it, only because of the US command, would be as if Lenin had refused to travel in the sealed train supplied by German imperialism through imperialist Germany to Russia in the middle of the Russian revolution, as another NL-member said.

And that,

I don’t think that much argument is needed to back the fact that revolutionary socialists also want to fight and stop IS, a murderous, sectarian and deeply reactionary force. A victory for IS will set back any social, democratic, pro-women or anti-imperialist development that may have taken place in parts of Syria and Iraq.

But that their MPs made sure that,

  • that the Danish Hercules plane cannot be used for any other purpose than delivering arms to the forces fighting IS
  • that this decision does not allow any other Danish military activity in the region;
  • that whatever happens, a new parliament decision is necessary if the government wants to prolong the activity of the airplane after 1 January 2015

As a follow up to the decision the RGA have taken other initiatives to stop military and financial supply for IS, to popularise the fight for the Kurdish peoples’ right to self-determination and to have the PKK removed from the US and the EU list of so-called terror organisations. A special Danish aspect is the fact that the TV-station of Kurds for all Europe was based in Denmark until it was recently banned, and 10 people from the Kurdish community face trial for collecting money for organisations that – according to the police – transfer the money to PKK.

When the first shipment of weapons to the PKK/YPG by a Danish airplane under US command has taken place, it will be hard for the authorities to explain that they are supporting a terror organisation.

This decision took place in mid-August (reported in International Viewpoint on the 15th of Septmeber.

 Danish arms to support Kurds in Iraq

25. aug. 2014 13.14 

The Red-Green Party’s central committee has agreed that its parliamentary group may vote yes to send Danish arms to support Kurds fighting in Iraq.

However, final approval by parliament on Wednesday is needed before a Hercules transport aircraft containing a consignment of light weapons can be sent as Denmark’s contribution to the USA’s action in Northern Iraq, where Kurdish fighters are being hard-pressed by the militant Islamic State (IS).

“I’m pleased that the central committee has approved the parliamentary group’s proposal for Denmark to support the campaign by sending a transport aircraft with weapons and ammunition to the hard-pressed Kurdish fighters in Northern Iraq,” said Nikolaj Villumsen, spokesman on defence for the Red-Green Alliance.

Proposal today

The government received the final support of all parliamentary parties on Sunday after the remaining parties had acknowledged their approval at a meeting of the Foreign Policy Committee on Thursday.

Today, the government will present its proposal to send the aircraft to Iraq as soon as possible with a consignment of weapons and solders to protect the aircraft.

“The Islamic State is one of the most perfidious movements the world has seen for many years and must be forced back before it commits new crimes against humanity.

“It must be emphasised, however, that our support for this limited action will not entail any Danish military intervention in Iraq and is purely intended as support for the Kurds to help them defend themselves against the Islamic State. We are not entering into a new war in Iraq,” said Villumsen.

Put in their place in 2011

In March 2011, the Red-Green parliamentary group was quickly put in its place by the party when it wished to support the use of Danish F-16 fighter aircraft to support the Libyan Army.

At the party’s AGM, a procedure was established for how the parliamentary group could support Danish military action, when it was made contingent on approval by the central committee.

The authorities are indeed concerned,

Some Danish politicians, however, are sceptical that the Danish involvement could inadvertently support the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which the European Union (EU) labels a terrorist organization.

Since IS captured about a third of Iraq in June, the PKK, which is based in Iraqi Kurdistan, has become part of the war. The PKK’s affiliate, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, are fighting IS alongside the KRG’s Peshmerga troops. Rudaw.

The Red-Greens are noted for their support for a foreign policy based on human rights.

Enhl initially backed plans for UN-led intervention in Libya but pulled back, after party protests, once the campaign got underway.

The Red-Green Alliance currently has 12 seats in the Danish Parliament (Folketinget) with 6,7 % of the vote.

Wider Backing for Military Action Against Islamic State/Daʿesh

Support for the Kurdish and other democratic fighters against Islamic state is widespread on the European left, a stand that contrasts with the isolationist Stop the War Coalition in Britain.

As the Guardian prints Richard Seymour’s hipster take on ISIS the StWC has just published the weighty reflections of Russell Brand: Will Obama’s bombs stop the ISIS beheadings?

By contrast over the weekend one of the Editors of the French Communist Party daily l’Humanité, and MEP, Patrick Le Hyaric, said of  the Islamic State, Da’esh, , “il faut briser les reins à ces égorgeurs.” – we must break the backs of these murderers.

He continued, “Nous avons, à cet instant, une pensée particulière pour nos frères et pour nos sœurs kurdes qui combattent en première ligne contre la cruauté sauvage de l’Etat islamique, en Irak comme en Syrie..” We have a special place in our thoughts for our brother and sister Kurds who are fighting in the front line against the savage cruelty of the Islamic State,in Iraq as in Syria.

Le Hyaric emphasised however that military action should be decided by Parliament and endorsed by the United Nations, and not take place through the channels of NATO.

The French Nouveau parti anticapitaliste, NPA,  (the largest group associated with the Fourth International) has yet to publicly take a position on their Danish comrades’ decision.

Other articles in International Viewpoint, such as one by David Finkel published on the same day as the above contribution, repeat the well-known refrain that, “the global terror of imperialism generates its ugly local and regional counterparts from Taliban to the “Islamic State.” The terrorist forces arising in shattered societies can’t be eradicated without uprooting the global system that inevitably breeds them.”

The British FI group, Socialist Resistance has shown deep sympathy for the Kurdish struggle and the fight against ISiS.

Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste Seeks to “save” capitalism, says International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI).

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Flags Waving to Save Capitalism says ICFI. 

Just when you thought you could be smug about the charming but eccentric ways of our old chum Bob Avakian this comes along,

The pseudo-left New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) has reacted to the formation of the new government of Prime Minister Manuel Valls with empty, hypocritical criticisms to mask its responsibility in the installation of this deeply right-wing government, which the NPA will continue to defend.

The World Socialist Web Site, published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) continues in this vein (8th of September) – at length. (1)

For those mourning the withdrawal of cde Tony Greenstein from the fray this site comes as a blessing,

What the NPA fears above all is that the collapse and discrediting of France’s ruling Socialist Party (PS) will provoke a crisis of rule in which the NPA could not stifle a political movement of the working class directed at the PS and its political satellites, including the NPA itself.

There is more but this mighty blow against the NPA stands out,

The NPA, by its hostility to a socialist and revolutionary perspective, contributed to the installation of the most right-wing regime France has known since the World War II-era fascist Vichy regime.

And this,

In fact, it is the NPA that is neither revolutionary nor anti-capitalist. It does not seek the overthrow of capitalism, but to save it under conditions where it threatens to provoke war and economic collapse, and the conditions for an eruption of social revolution are fast being prepared.

Not to mention that

This anti-working class party is ready for unprincipled alliances with organizations of all types, whose only common point is their hatred of the working class and of socialism.

 

(1) The International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) is the name of two Trotskyist internationals; one with sections named Socialist Equality Party which publishes the World Socialist Web Site, and another linked to the Workers Revolutionary Party in Britain.

Both groupings originate in the struggle against “Pabloite liquidationism”,

“To sum up: The lines of cleavage between Pablo’s revisionism and orthodox Trotskyism are so deep that no compromise is possible either politically or organizationally. The Pablo faction has demonstrated that it will not permit democratic decisions truly reflecting majority opinion to be reached. They demand complete submission to their criminal policy. They are determined to drive all orthodox Trotskyists out of the Fourth International or to muzzle and handcuff them.”

The British section, the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), has published the ‘Theoretical Foundations‘ of the organisation which explains this at length.

Despite this background many of the SEP’s  ideas would meet with approval or at least some agreement  from a lot of people on the left: they are for the United Socialist States of Europe, oppose austerity and cuts.

And,

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) calls for a decisive and unambiguous No vote in the September 18 referendum on Scottish independence.  All claims that “independence” is a democratic demand, offering an alternative to cuts and austerity, are lies.

The move for separation from the UK is being led by right-wing forces espousing nationalism, whether or not they attempt to dress this up in fake left language. The aim is to transform Scotland into a low tax, cheap labour platform for the benefit of the banks and transnational corporations.

The victims of this will be workers on both sides of the border, who will see a deepening of the ongoing offensive against jobs, wages and conditions that has been waged by all the major parties in both Westminster and Holyrood

Their French membership is believed to hover at 2.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: France Commits Treason by not Delivering Warships to Russia.

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Mélenchon: Denounces President Hollande’s “Treason”. 

France has suspended the first of two controversial Mistral-class warship deliveries to Russia, saying “conditions” were not in place as the crisis in Ukraine deepens.

The announcement comes a day before the start of a NATO summit and after months of pressure on France from allies to suspend the sale amid tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

President François Hollande’s office, in a statement after he met with top defence advisers, called the fighting in eastern Ukraine “grave”, and said Russia’s recent actions harm “the foundations of security in Europe”.

France 24.

The Guardian adds,

France is to suspend delivery of a state-of-the-art Mistral warship to Russia in protest at Moscow’s continued role in unrest in eastern Ukraine.

Following a defence committee meeting in Paris on Wednesday, a statement from the Elysée Palace said the government could not go ahead with the planned delivery of the warships, citing Moscow’s recent actions in eastern Ukraine, where Russia has taken a blatant military role.

“The president of the republic has concluded that despite the prospect of a ceasefire, which has yet to be confirmed and put in place, the conditions under which France could authorise the delivery of the first helicopter carrier are not in place,” the statement said.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon has responded by calling this action « trahison insupportable »  (intolerable treason)

“In deciding to halt the delivery of vessels acquired by Russia, François Hollande has committed an intolerable betrayal that completely devalues ​​the promises given by our country. It  It France as  independent provider of defensive armaments. This is a decision which has no bearing on the military side of the present conflict, demonstrates our country’s subjugation to the USA and the war policy of NATO . “

 Le Monde.

Navires : François commet une trahison insupportable – Communiqué – http://bit.ly/1nx3Z0p pic.twitter.com/ydnppHjnB3

Mélenchon has opposed the threats of NATO, led by the USA against Russia. He has (rightly) criticised the pro-Ukrainian bias of most of the French Media – the hysterical anti-Moscow tone of some of the articles in le Monde alone have to be read to be believed (see: Médias français en campagne ukrainienne. Mathias Reymond.).

You can see more of his views on the topic here, Retour au clavier (Le blog de Jean-Luc Mélenchon).

Many of these points are valid – there is little traction for the left in lining up behind a crusade against the Kremlin any more than there is in one to defend it.

But in Mélenchon’s reactions one cannot help feeling a patriotic timbre ringing throughout this declaration.

Compare…..

Marine Le Pen has also criticised the decision, on commercial grounds (the amount of compensation that will have to be paid, loss of a sale), and because it shows that France lacks “independence”.

The decision, above all,  “is very serious because it reveals our submission to American diplomacy.”

France, “A Social Democratic Compromise of a Third Kind” ? Henri Weber.

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Henri Weber (far-left) in Happier Days.

Henri Weber is a former member of the Trotskyist Fourth International.

He played an important role in the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) in May 1968 and the decade that followed. This included a stint at the “special operations” section of the LCR (Commission Très Spéciale, CTS) and editorship of their weekly Rouge.

An intellectual, whose writings were known in the UK through New Left Review and International Marxist Group publications, he was a sympathetic critic of Eurocommunism and a defender of radical democratic socialism.

After leaving the Ligue he became an academic, conducting further research into Eurocommunism, and German Social Democracy. His book  Le Parti des Patrons : le CNPF (1946-1986),  1991 is a sociological and political account, some might say a rather plodding one, of the French bosses’ organisation (their CBI).

Weber has been a member of the French Parti Socialiste since the mid-1980s,  was a  Senator (1995 – 2004) and is now a European Deputy, MEP, (first elected 2004).

He has moved considerably to the right, even within the moderate terms of European social democracy.

The former revolutionary Marxist is best known these days for defending the idea that  one can broadly (extremely broadly) outline three modern types of “compromise” that define post-War social democracy (Nouveau compromis social -démocrate.18.3.2014)

The first was the ‘post-war’ compromise between the labour movement, the left, and the states and societies of the West . Full employment, growth, expanding social and workers’ rights and the welfare state marked this period.

The second, that followed the late 1970s crisis of the Welfare state and Keynesianism, was defensive. It accepted that redundancies and wage restraint had to take place, but offered increased social spending and more social rights.

A third type of social compromise took shape at the turn of the century: the compromises to adapt to globalisation, and more broadly , the changes in capitalism. That is, the digital revolution, the emergence of new industrialising  countries, the internationalization of production have required  a restructuring of of Western economies. These are axed towards  high-tech industries and services with high added value.

The new social democratic compromise is based on mobilising the social partners for to specialise and adapt to this role. Unions and socialist parties agree on the deregulation of the labour market (flexi-security), the stagnation of real wages, a reduction in  the level of social protection. They demand in return the defence of employment and preservation of national economic power.

In Germany, for example, the SPD and the unions accepted the Hartz accord: unemployment compensation is reduced from 32 to 12 months (24 for over 50 years); the age of retirement is pushed back to 67 years (in 2029 …) the unemployed are forced to take a job……..public health care provision is being reduced……

The German Hartz agreements loosened strong social protection and created so-called “mini-jobs” (at extremely low pay), subjected welfare claimants to stringent “contracts”, lowered benefits, and undermined many of the fundamental aspects of the welfare state.

Weber’s assertion (echoed on the European Right and Business) that their focus on industrial competitivity and growth, are the basis for the country’s economic success, is by no means universally accepted. It is pretty obvious that it’s unlikely that many on the French, or the German non “social democratic” left (except for the Die Grünen, who are often to the right of social democracy) would agree.

But the fact remains that in Germany there has been an economic upturn, unemployment has gone down, and if there is a very heavy downside to these reforms, they are now backed by the population, and represent for the present the basis of Angela Merkel’s popularity.

One can see what the French Socialists would look with envy at the German Chancellor’s ratings in the opinion polls (even if a hard-right anti-European Party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), did well with 9.9.% in a regional election in Saxony,  this Sunday –  Taz).

The assertion that a progressive slant to this new compromise, depends on growth, and the weight of employees (that is, workers), within a European structure remains to be tested. At present the Socialists have simply gone for what they believe is a strategy for growth.

Last weekend Weber addressed the Parti Socialiste’s Summer School at La Rochelle.

These are some extracts from what he said, 7 moyens de refonder la social-démocratie.

Weber outlines the reasons for the change towards a new compromise.

The principal backdrop is that the globalisation of the economy is changing the balance of power in favor of the owners of private economic power – entrepreneurs and financial operators – at the expense of employees and governments. Markets, companies, production have become global; States, parties, trade unions remain, essentially national actors. The result is a growing disjunction between the political and the economic spheres

The ‘third industrial revolution’, the rise of digital and biotechnologies, the fragmentation of  social classes based on production and the working environment, the rise of individualism, social insecurity, and mass migration, have eroded the basis of traditional socialism and communism. Global warming and other ecological challenges pose further questions to the left.

Weber offers seven principal axes for a renewed social democracy which I present in a slightly adapted form.

1 European social democracy must reconnect with its original internationalism.

2. Social democracy must break with the focus on producing more and more and discover an eco-socialist alternative .

3. European social democracy must find ways of using people and companies’  savings to finance future industries and services with high added value.

4 European social democracy must assert, more than it has done so far, a’ project of civilisation’ (a vision of society).

5 European social democracy must be resolutely feminist .

6 European social democracy has to invent a renewed twenty-first century form and structure of democracy

7 Social democracy should promote an ‘alternative’ globalisation (that is, not be simply ‘anti’ globalisation, but find a different way of globalising). 

The substance of Weber’s contribution seems to be this:

European social democracy should become a continent wide political actor through the mechanisms of the European Socialist Party and the European Confederation of Trade Unions. It should endorse environmentally friendly policies. It should promote investment. It should advance a communitarian project that would promote social values, including feminist ones. It should back democratic reforms. And, finally, it should attempt what regulation of globalisation it can.

A pretty stodgy set of idées reçues  that would appeal to those in the UK, from Will Hutton to Jon Cruddas, who have not the slightest intention of mounting any radical challenge to austerity – and that’s just to start with.

Meanwhile…..in the real political world…..

Prime Minister Valls was received coldly by many delegates at the same La Rochelle Summer School.

Communist and Green speakers, critical of the government’s turn rightward, were well received at fringe meetings (Libération).

In the main hall when the Prime Minister appeared some shouted Vive la Gauche! – the name of the new left ‘frondeur’ alliance (you can see more about them here).

Why?

Well, there’s the talk about ending the 35 hour week and a whole raft of measures designed to weaken workers’ rights. His Minister of the Economy, Emmanuel Macron,has gone out of his way to appeal to business, not the left. More and more austerity remains on the cards. A few words about he also loves the Parti Socialiste won’t change this.

It is unlikely that French unions, even the ‘social liberal’ CFDT,  are overjoyed at the prospect of having to defend what little remains of ‘social democracy’.

The idea that anything approaching the Hartz measures will go down well in France.

One might question the assertion that this “third type” of compromise is anything other than a series of concessions, made in different European countries in different ways, to neo-liberal anti-left policies. One wonders where Brown and Blair fitted into the Second Compromise, or were they part of the Third?

Far from being a social democrat it appears that Manuel Valls and his team are economic liberals.

 It would be interesting to see if he tries something resembling the Hartz reforms.

Hah!

A second’s thinking shows that this is extremely unlikely to happen.

Note: Weber’s own site is here.

On it we learn this fascinating information:

Etat civil: Marié
Enfants: 3
Icône: Woody Allen, Groucho Marx, Pierre Desproges
Hobbies: La marche à pied
Livre préféré: “La Promesse de l’Aube” de Romain Gary
Film favori: “Les Enfants du Paradis” de Marcel Carné (1945)
Groupe de musique favori: Les Beatles
Emission TV préférée: Thalassa
Plat local favori: La potée auvergnate

Some might comment that this shows a profound mediocrity.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 1, 2014 at 11:13 am

France: New Government in Love with Bosses, Bosses in Love with New Government.

with 3 comments

Manuel Valls accueilli sur scène par le patron des patrons, Pierre Gattaz.

Bosses Applaud the ‘Valls Show’.

Yesterday the Parti Socialist Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, wowed the French employers’ federation (the MEDEF) summer get-together.

«Moi j’aime l’entreprise !»  he said – I love Business.

Libération reports that in response to his speech bosses applauded wildly.

They said “there’s no question, he’s better than the Right” .

L’Humanité notes that Valls told the audience,

France needs you. The return to growth will come above all by supporting businesses, “said the Prime Minister to the cheers of hundreds of entrepreneurs. He wanted to reassure them about their future profits, repeating, as he had done the day after the announcement of the composition of the new government, that he was confident of getting the support of the majority to vote  for his “pact of responsibility.”(1)

The is intervention comes just after France’s President, François Hollande, and PM Valls, formed a new Cabinet – just a few months after they launched one after disastrous local (losing control of 150 towns) and European election results in which the Front National topped the polls at 24.86%.

Valls own present popularity stands at 36% in opinion polls, with his own chief, Hollande, gets around 17% of favourable responses.

The New Cabinet is dominated by those aligned to the ‘social-liberal’ wing of the Socialists.

A principal reason for the  switch-over was that left-wingers, notably former Economy Minister, Arnaud Montebourg, and one of the education Ministers,  Benoît Hamon refused  to back austerity measures.

A group of Socialist “frondeurs” (rebels) had emerged earlier this year when the Pacte de reponsabilité (which essentially makes concessions to employers’ demands for ‘flexibility’ in the labour market) was first put forward by President François Hollande. Battles inside the government led nowhere.

“I will follow the example of Cincinnatus,” Mr. Montebourg said, in reference to the modest Roman statesman, “who preferred to quit power to return to his fields and plows.”

It will not have escaped many people’s attention that Montebourg received 17,19 % of the Vote in the  2011 ‘primaries’ to decide who should represent the party as a presidential candidate. (2)

The present Prime Minister, Manuel Valls got 5,63 % in the same contest.

Montebourg’s ideas include proposals for a more democratic “sixth republic”, and a critique of globalisation (more, in English, here).

In response to the star-reception of the PM by the MEDEF Thierry Lepaon the leader of the left-wing union federation, the CGT, denounced the way the new government was “mixing” the role of the State and that of the bosses’ federation.

Criticising the MEDEF’s claims that its own plans would create a million new jobs he noted that the state already gave extensive grants to companies without proper control, and that many firms had given big dividends to shareholders at a time when they were pleading fir more public help. By contrast there seems little attention paid to the needs of young people, the retired, the unemployed and workers in the government’s plans.

This morning news emerged  from new Minister of the Economy,  Emmanuel Macron, that the government intends to consolidate its rightward shift  by loosening the laws regulating the length of the working week (based on a 35 hour standard). The regulations on Sunday working will also be liberalised.

France 24 paints the economic backdrop to the crisis of the French Socialist-led government.

The labour ministry said there were now 3.424 million people out of work, an increase of around 26,000. It was the ninth consecutive rise in the monthly unemployment figures.

“This rise reflects zero growth in the eurozone and in France,” Labour Minister François Rebsamen said in a statement.

France, Europe’s second biggest economy, is battling a political and economic crisis seen as the worst since Hollande took power more than two years ago.

Growth has ground to a halt in the first six months of the year and Hollande has been unable to live up to his promise to bring down unemployment.

His strategy for pulling France out of the mire is his much-vaunted Responsibility Pact, which will cut social charges for businesses by 40 billion euros ($53 billion) in exchange for them creating 500,000 jobs by 2017.

(1) Le pacte de responsabilité , an agreement to reduce social charges in companies (that is, to cut employer contributions to social insurance), ‘modernise’ taxation, and ‘simplify’ labour laws. It’s reported today that the employers’ federation,m the MEDEF, is already working on a plan, France 2020, with the agreement of the  ‘social-liberal’ union, the CFDT, to weaken labour legislation on companies with more than 50 employees.

(2) He was in third position, behind  François Hollande  and Martine Aubry.

 

Summary of the 8–9 and 15–16 October 2011 French Socialist Party presidential primary
Candidates Parties 1st round 2nd round
Votes  % Votes  %
  François Hollande Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 1,038,207 39.17% 1,607,268 56.57%
  Martine Aubry Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 806,189 30.42% 1,233,899 43.43%
  Arnaud Montebourg Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 455,609 17.19%  
  Ségolène Royal Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 184,096 6.95%
  Manuel Valls Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 149,103 5.63%
  Jean-Michel Baylet Radical Party of the Left (Parti Radical de Gauche) PRG 17,055 0.64%
 
Total 2,650,259 100.00% 2,860,157 100.00%
 
Valid votes 2,650,259 99.59% 2,860,157 99.34%
Spoilt and null votes 11,025 0.41% 18,990 0.66%
Total 2,661,284 100.00% 2,879,147 100.00%
 
Table of results ordered by number of votes received in first round, complete results on resultats.lesprimairescitoyennes.fr.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 28, 2014 at 10:52 am

Obama authorises ” targeted air strikes” “to prevent a potential act of genocide” in Iraq: Where does the left stand?

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Islamists Will Face US Air-Strikes.

 

Confronted with the threat of mass murder in Iraq by the genociders of the Islamic State (ISIL)  the American President, Obama, has issued this statement.

Today I authorized two operations in Iraq — targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death.

……

First, I said in June — as the terrorist group ISIL began an advance across Iraq — that the United States would be prepared to take targeted military action in Iraq if and when we determined that the situation required it.  In recent days, these terrorists have continued to move across Iraq, and have neared the city of Erbil, where American diplomats and civilians serve at our consulate and American military personnel advise Iraqi forces.

To stop the advance on Erbil, I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city.  We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad.  We’re also providing urgent assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more effectively wage the fight against ISIL.

Second, at the request of the Iraqi government — we’ve begun operations to help save Iraqi civilians stranded on the mountain.  As ISIL has marched across Iraq, it has waged a ruthless campaign against innocent Iraqis.  And these terrorists have been especially barbaric towards religious minorities, including Christian and Yezidis, a small and ancient religious sect.  Countless Iraqis have been displaced.  And chilling reports describe ISIL militants rounding up families, conducting mass executions, and enslaving Yezidi women.

In recent days, Yezidi women, men and children from the area of Sinjar have fled for their lives.  And thousands — perhaps tens of thousands — are now hiding high up on the mountain, with little but the clothes on their backs.  They’re without food, they’re without water.  People are starving.  And children are dying of thirst.  Meanwhile, ISIL forces below have called for the systematic destruction of the entire Yezidi people, which would constitute genocide.  So these innocent families are faced with a horrible choice:  descend the mountain and be slaughtered, or stay and slowly die of thirst and hunger.

I’ve said before, the United States cannot and should not intervene every time there’s a crisis in the world.  So let me be clear about why we must act, and act now.  When we face a situation like we do on that mountain — with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale, when we have a mandate to help — in this case, a request from the Iraqi government — and when we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye.  We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide.  That’s what we’re doing on that mountain.

The Stop the War Coalition has published this a couple of days ago (from the most recent Labour Briefing)

ISIS barbarians threatening Iraq: who they are and where they come from.

Sami Ramadani states,

We should support secular-democratic efforts to rebuild a measure of peaceful co-existence between the sects, religions, ethnicities and nationalities of Iraq and the Middle East. Keeping quiet about ISIS throat-cutters and their assorted allies, just because we oppose the Maliki regime’s policies, is a recipe for disaster.

Having pillaged large parts of Syria and terrorised its religious and ethnic minorities, as well as its women, they are now marching towards Baghdad, joined by Saddamist officers and Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi zealots. This will lead to a sectarian bloodbath.

ISIS will not flinch from burning Baghdad’s remaining books and removing its girls from schools. They want to punish millions of “idolatry” Shia and crucify its remaining “Nassara” Christians. They were funded, armed and trained by the US and its allies: Turkey and the amoral sheiks and princes of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Israel helped them by bombing raids on Syria and treating their wounded in Israeli hospitals before re-arming them to go back to Syria to escalate the carnage.

We need to face the fact that popular activity in west and north west Iraq, just like in Syria, has been effectively highjacked by sectarian and racist forces. I cannot possibly remain silent about movements, no matter how popular, that are led by racist, sectarian and nihilist forces. In Mosul, Tikrit and Fallujah, they have capitalised on popular demands and are now dominant.

Ramadani is critical of the Iraqi government, led by Maliki, which he describes as sectarian and brutal,

What Iraq needs, and sadly lacks today, is strong secular, democratic organisations that can unite the people to overthrow the occupation-built sectarian institutions, and rid Iraq of US intervention and that of all regional powers. This cannot be achieved by replacing Maliki’s corrupt regime with a regime led by the above organisations. Maliki is a passing phase, but, if the barbarians win, they will destroy what is left of Iraqi society, following its devastation by the US-led occupation.

It is for the Iraqi people to remove Maliki and not for the US and its proxies to impose a more pliant ruler. This is the devastation that evolved in Syria and we must not ignore its probable evolution in Iraq. For the winners will be the oil companies, arms manufacturers, and sectarian war lords plunging the entire Middle East into a blood bath.”

The evidence is that Baghdad is ruled by a sectarian government.

As Patrick Cockbrun states in the latest London Review of Books,

Iraq’s Shia leaders haven’t grappled with the fact that their domination over the Iraqi state, brought about by the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein, is finished, and only a Shia rump is left. It ended because of their own incompetence and corruption and because the Sunni uprising in Syria in 2011 destabilised the sectarian balance of power in Iraq.

He indicates that the genociders have powerful backing from outside Iraq and Syria,

The foster parents of Isis and the other Sunni jihadi movements in Iraq and Syria are Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies and Turkey. This doesn’t mean the jihadis didn’t have strong indigenous roots, but their rise was crucially supported by outside Sunni powers. The Saudi and Qatari aid was primarily financial, usually through private donations, which Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, says were central to the Isis takeover of Sunni provinces in northern Iraq: ‘Such things do not happen spontaneously.’

If a “a new and terrifying state has been born.” perhaps it will die of its internal contradictions.

It may well be that US intervention will not solve anything.

Unfortunately the Christians, Yezidi and Shia of Iraq cannot wait or pose these questions.

They need help now.

Can we stand by, criticise Obama, and let nothing be done to come to their aid?

Some of us would accept help from anyone if we were in the plight of the potential victims of the Islamist genociders.

Updates:

France prepared to give military support for action in Iraq against the Islamic State, without giving details of what this entails. Libération.

Why are the Yazidis threatened with genocide?

They are not “people of the Book”:

“Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking people who follow an ancient religion blending elements of Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity and local folk beliefs. Several hundred thousand followers live in Sinjar and Sheikhan, two regions just west and east of Mosul.

Smaller communities of Yazidis live in Syria, Armenia and Germany.

At their unique conical temples, they worship a peacock deity called Melek Taus and hold elaborate ceremonies that involve fire and water.

“Yezidism is a syncretic religion that takes from a variety of different traditions, some Zoroastrianism, Islamic and a little bit of animism,” said Austin Long, professor of international affairs at Columbia University in New York.  “It’s a mixed religion with a long-standing history in Iraq. Most are Kurds, ethnically.”

Through the centuries, Yazidis have often been persecuted by Muslims who say the faith is forbidden. In 2007, hundreds of Yazidis in Sinjar died in a series of massive explosions orchestrated against them by al-Qaida in Iraq — the precursor of the Islamic State.” from here.

More:  Why you really need to pay attention to Iraq’s Yazidi community By SOFIA PATEL

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 8, 2014 at 9:30 am