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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.

Scotland: Nationalists Lose, and Demand More Powers.

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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.

Scottish Left Nationalists’ Plans in Ruins as SNP Plans Massive Cuts.

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Book that’s Spawned a Thousand Imaginary Communities. 

Left nationalist supporters of Scottish independence argue that the “breakup of Britain” will be  a major step forward for the left and the labour movement.

The nationalist Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) states,

The Scottish Socialist Party is built on social solidarity and the spirit of resistance to oppression, injustice and nasty con tricks that strangle communities and people’s lives.

Life can be better than this. We have the resources, the know-how, we could be building a world based on people, not profit. We can, and should, be expanding the public sector, because more and more of us need it, and it creates jobs and training, it holds communities together and it supports families.

We should be raising the minimum wage, because we can afford to do this, through cutbacks in the defence budget and the raising of taxes on the rich, and because it helps to build strong, local economies.

….

The Party asserts,

The single biggest obstacle to the Scottish people building a better society is the British State, the Westminster regime, the Crown Powers.

Genuine independence for Scotland can only come from a break up of the British State but until we get to that point the Scottish Socialist Party campaigns for a programme that can be achieved if our society is run for people, not profit.

Other nationalists even celebrate,

“the revolutionary implications of Scotland’s exit. Over three hundred years the Crown, the City of London and the Tories have been the hegemonic power. This will not be surrendered without a fight. But outside the ruling class and Scotland everybody seems pacified by the SNP selling itself as a safe pair of hands, ready to kneel before the Queen and Bank of England. Neither a post-independence SNP government, nor a Tory government in the rest of the country, will stop the impetus for constitutional change waking the sleeping giant in England and Wales.”

This will kick-start an Island (notice no mention of the rest of Europe) revolution, “….working people need more than simply defending themselves. They are hungry for a real democracy which gives them the power to change the future. If Scotland takes one step in that direction it is for us in England and Wales to take two or three.”

Steve Freeman. Republican Communist Network.

The ideas of the SSP and the RCN suffered a hammer blow when this was revealed (last year) from which they have yet to recover.

The SNP government is privately preparing for the prospect of cuts to jobs, welfare benefits and pensions after independence, amid growing concerns that Scotland faces a bleak economic future, a leaked document has shown.

Ministers in Edinburgh have also accepted the Bank of England in London would still have a controlling veto over public spending after independence under the SNP’s plans to keep the pound.

The emergence of the report, which was presented to the ScottishCabinet by finance secretary John Swinney, comes as a former economic adviser to First Minister Alex Salmond warns in today’s Scotsman that such an arrangement would be little different to the existing “block grant” Scotland gets from Westminster.

The Scotsman

The Cabinet paper reveals the Scottish Government anticipates that in four years Scotland will have a “marginally larger net deficit than the UK”.

This means a bigger gap between public spending and the taxes raised to fund them.

Expected North Sea revenues are set to fall in light of recently revised estimates, the report says, and this will hit the nation’s prospects after independence.

“Given the relative importance of North Sea revenues to Scotland’s public finances, these downwards revisions have resulted in a deterioration in the outlook for Scotland’s public finances,” it states.

The country’s expected net deficit has more than doubled from £12 billion to £28bn as a result of these revisions, the paper indicates.

“This high level of volatility creates considerable uncertainty in projecting forward Scotland’s fiscal position,” the paper adds. “This would, on present assumptions about onshore tax revenues, require some downward revision in current spending.”

This is likely to hit services in Scotland, with a warning that “these pressures could reduce the resources available to provide additional public services”.

The paper says Scotland’s armed forces would have a “much lower budget” than its population share and the SNP has said this would not be any more than £2.5bn.

The report accepts that Scotland’s budget after independence would be subject to conditions and any government at Holyrood would “have to ensure that it remained in line with any agreement on monetary union”.

The SNP has attempted to brush this off saying that

that the paper has been “overtaken by events” with oil revenues having surged on the global market to $115 a barrel. Initial estimates from the Office for Budget Responsibility put oil prices at less than $100 in the years ahead, but other forecasters have put it at $130.

They have continued to repeat this message.

But the Better Together campaign has responded by bring up the same topic,

The SNP’s oil fund will put your taxes up

In public the SNP tell us that an independent Scotland could have not one but two oil funds without the need for tax rises, spending cuts or extra borrowing to fund this.

Yet a confidential Scottish Government paper, which we are publishing today, makes clear that in private SNP Ministers are being advised by their own impartial civil servants that our taxes WOULD have to go up, public spending WOULD have to be cut or borrowing WOULD have to rise to pay for an oil fund. In fact, it could mean a combination of all three.

SNP Ministers aren’t just ignoring this impartial advice – they are doing exactly what this advice warns against.

We have also produced a simple document contrasting what SNP Ministers say in public with what they are being advised privately.You can read this here andshare on Facebook and twitter here

Read the Scottish Government’s paper, revealed under FOI law, here.

Looking at how oil money has been needed to pay for public services over the last 20 years SNP’s confidential cabinet paper concludes:

“If the Scottish Government had wished to invest in an oil fund, without having to increase its borrowing, there would have had to have been a corresponding increase in tax receipts or reduced public spending.”

If the SNP are being told this in private why can’t they just be honest with the Scottish people?

Speaking today, the leader of Better Together Alistair Darling said:

“This is the third time in a year that the SNP have been caught out saying one thing in public while knowing the opposite was true in private. The SNP have quite deliberately set out to deceive the Scottish public.

“Scotland doesn’t have to be faced with this choice. Being part of the UK means we have the strength of a bigger economy without the risk of oil volatility.”

By pooling and sharing our resources across the whole of the UK we are best placed to get the benefit from the North Sea.

The basic contours of these problems have not changed since.

So, one thing is clear, the SNP is as much as obstacle to left politics as the trinity of, “British State, the Westminster regime, the Crown Powers”

We hope that the left nationalists will not descend into arguing over the ownership of “their” nation’s oil as a way out of their problems – to avoid addressing the right-wing pro-market nature of any feasible ‘independent’ Scotland. .

But once you’ve gone down the nationalist road it’s hard to know exactly where you will end up.

For a detailed critique of how Scottish left nationalism is far from left politics and far from any form of critical left approach to capitalism and globalisation, See: The Break-Up of Tom Nairn?

Tom Nairn, Pariah: Misfortunes of the British Kingdom, Verso, 2002. Hardback, 300pp, £15.99. Reviewed by Andrew Coates. What Next? 

Also see: Paul Tesdale. Yes Means Power to Capital. Chartist May/June 2014.


Chartist AGM: the Pro-European Left.

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“Chartist was a very different animal when I took over as Editor in Spring 1974 .  The banner headline on the tabloid talked of joining a ‘joint command of revolutionary organisations and preparing for dual power’.”

Editor’s Report. 2014.

An exceptional Chartist AGM took place on Saturday the 14th of June.

The meeting began with a session of the Financial Crisis and Worker Democracy.

Prem Sikka from Essex University  gave an overview of the part accountancy, to most people one of the most  boring subjects ever invented, had played in neo-liberalism. He illustrated his case by showing how the rules of accountancy underpinned the banking crises, and the ‘outsourcing’ of state functions. This did not mean that the state, viewed in terms of spending public money, had shrunk. It has been “restructured” – to give ever greater subsidies to the private firms who now carry out many of its functions. The present privatising regime had created widespread poverty, not only for the unemployed, but for those working under ‘flexible’ zero hours contracts.  Sikka set out a list of reforms that would bring the banking and financial sector under greater public control, increase transparency,  and end widespread fraud and short-term profiteering.

Janet Williamson, Senior Policy Officer of the TUC, made the case for looking again at the proposals for worker representation in companies, last brought up by the 1970s the Bullock Report. She argued that having a voice for workers in firms decisions was essential, not just for justice, but for better wealth production and long-term stability.

In the discussion that followed  the issues of socialising the banks, the disciplining of the reserve army of the workless by workfare, and whether ‘voice’ was sufficient for socialists who wish employees to have fuller control over their working lives. The ‘shrinking’ of the state was questioned when the transfer of its functions to private companies living off tax-raised funds  had real effects on accountability and workers’ conditions.

After lunch John Palmer (former European Editor – the Guardian) spoke of What now for the left after the European elections? Palmer began by talking about the rise of the xenophobic right, particularly in the UK (UKIP) and France (the Front National). They were joined by other hard and far-right parties in Greece (Golden Dawn) and Hungary. Social Democracy, above all in france, had done very badly. Their left competitors, the Front de Gauche, had stagnated. The British Labour Party had got solid results, but had lost the lead to UKIP.  Palmer, however, pointed to the good results for the left in Southern Europe, notably Greece (Syriza), Spain (Podemos and the Izquierda Unida). From the floor Italy was added, where the centre-left Democratic Party (Partito Democratico), did well and the further left alliance (L’Altra Europa con Tsiprasre-entered the European Parliament.

Palmer explained very clearly that it was up to the Left to promote a federalist agenda as the only way to unite Europe’s left into an effective force that could shape the European Union in a different, social, direction. We need to change the terms of debate.  He cited Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century as a milestone on this journey.It had brought back inequality onto the agenda, showing how rewards to capital has grown at the expense of wage. The left’s agenda needed to centre on the European Parliament. He finished by pointed out how far Britain was isolated in its opposition to Jean-Claude Juncker. By contrast to the British Labour Party, which shares this hostility with the Liberal-Conservative Coalition, the left should be building alliances to fight austerity across the continent.

Chartist has long stood for a pro-European left. Debate and questions raised the problematic stand of some (including Palmer) who back the break-up of Britain yet want a federalist Europe. It was also noted that Picketty’s book came at a time when France’s centre-left was rediscovering the important of fighting inequality. (see The society of equals: Pierre Rosanvallon 2004.  French Edition: La Société des égaux, Le Seuil, 2011). Whether Europe, and the EU,  had played a negative role in backing US-interference the Ukrainian crisis and interventions in the Middle East and Libya was discussed.

Reports indicated that Chartist has continued to attract a wide-range of democratic socialist contributors. The Editor Mike Davis, stated that the journal is supportive of the Labour Party and progressive forces within it, and the majority do not see the way forward in independent electoral left initiatives. But the publication  also attracts Greens, the Left Unity Party,  and independent socialists. The magazine backs the People’s Assembly and has played a significant role in the Labour Assembly Against Austerity.

There were two resolutions. One called for support for the Yes campaign for Scottish Independence, and the other for Chartist backing for a London rally calling for Scotland to break away from the United Kingdom.

From the audience concern was expressed at moves to separate people on national grounds. It was also pointed out by another Chartist supporter that the mover of the resolution’s own party, Left Unity, did not endorse these views, that Chartist is not a directly campaigning group with a ‘line’ and that it was said that Alex Salmond was so vain that he drank his own bath water. We might guess who made the latter comments.

The resolution fell, supported only by its two movers.

The Chartist Magazine is now fully on-line.

The new site is up and running.You can access it here.

It is seriously worth reading.

There was a great get-together in the pub afterwards and an excellent meal in a Greek Taverna.

The New European Politics of National Resentment

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The New European Politics of National Resentment

Europe is in the throes of a major economic and political crisis. The later, overused, word barely covers the depths of despair felt by those facing mass unemployment, wage cuts and the devastation and privatisation of public services. Protests against austerity have united radical lefts, trade unions and the peoples. They have yet to succeed.

In the absence of any substantial – ‘actually existing’ – alternative to the austerity consensus of Christian and Social Democracy, reactionary currents have gained ground. Nationalists, such as the UK Independence Party, UKIP, the weevils of British politics, have had a strong echo, encouraging popular anger against the European Union. Overtly xenophobic parties, the Front National in France (17,9% in the first round the 2012 French presidential elections) and a host of others in Western and Eastern Europe, have gained ground. The Greek Golden Dawn has gone backwards so far that it has revived the far right’s tradition of bullying private militias.

But it is another reaction that has caught attention today. The victory of the right-of- centre party of  Artur Mas, Convergència i Unió  (CiU) in the Catalonian regional elections opens the way to a referendum on national independence. In Belgium the New Flemish Alliance (Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie, N-VA) of Bart Wever appears on the way to complete Flemish autonomy, if not the dissolution of the kingdom. The Scottish Parliament has decided to hold a popular vote about the country’s future that could lead to the ‘break up of Britain’. In Italy the Lega Nord, Northern League, stands for the rights of North Italy’s ‘Padania’ against the South. It has lost momentum in recent years following its collaboration with Berlusconi, but may well revive.

Are these different populist protests against Europe’s oligarchs? That is, part of broader demands for “localism”. Tory Ferdinand Mount is a critic of “centralisation and top-down control” He calls for, “giving power back to the people” on the “human scale”(The New Few 2012). Are these movements in any way aimed at the “distribution of power to the many, the taming of the oligarchs, and the opening of opportunities to the worst off.”? (Page 219) It can be quickly seen, that some on the left, notably the Catalan left, Esquerra Republicana which looks set to work with the victorious CiU, and the warring factions of Scottish socialism, do indeed consider the push for independence in their lands as opportunities for such moves.

Most of these movements are however not principally concerned with reviving an idealised municipal government past or the voluntary associations that made up David Cameron’s vision of the Big Society. The route they take, from hard-right to apparently ‘social democratic’ Scottish nationalists, is towards what Mount described elsewhere as the “”visible symbols of national community and unity” (Mind the Gap. 2005) But as Mount would recognise, all these movements are intensely concerned with control over money. From UKIP’s jibes about Brussels to the Catalan, Flemish and Northern Italian regionalists, they are preoccupied not just with bureaucratic waste, but the feckless use of public funds by their improvident – Southern – neighbours. Scottish nationalists, for reasons which are all too obvious, show less interest in this, but continue to rail against the UK-wide distribution of revenues taken from ‘their’ oil and gas,

Resentment

If there is any common thread between these, often very different, parties and the tides of opinion that bolster their position, it is resentment. They are not movements of national liberation, comparable to Irish republicanism, the fight for Norwegian independence from Denmark, or the forces that created national states following the break up of the Hapsburg Empire, the “prison of the nations”. Perhaps the Flemish nationalists are unique in holding an annual trek around francophone Brussels, pissing on every lamppost to mark out Dutch speaking territory (okay, I made the urine bit up). But the impulse to define and protect ‘their’ people, our ain folk is widely shared. Read the rest of this entry »

Scottish ‘Socialists’ Back £7 Pint and Capitalist Independence.

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Scots Left Say he’s a Diamond Geezer.

My Scottish grandparents were  Chair and Branch Sec. of a Branch of the ILP in Springburn Glasgow.

Comrades will no need no reminder that this was, and is, a poor district and the heart of Labour Movement.

It is with some distress that we read that the so-called ‘socialist’ party the SSP, has backed the Murdoch supported SNP in its  demand for ‘independence’.

Going to the length of appearing on public platforms with – I like my bath-water so much I drink it Salmond.

And not saying a dicky bird about the SNP’s plans to raise the price of a pint to (rough estimation) seven quid a pint.

The cost of a bottle of me gramps daily tot (0r six) of whisky must be pretty stiff as well..

Written by Andrew Coates

May 28, 2012 at 11:17 am

The Zeitgeist Movement and Occupy UK: An Anti-Globalisation Cult.

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The Zeitgeist Future: Yuk!

Occupy Glasgow’s inability deal with an incident of sexual assault,  has created a serious controversy. From the City itself Mhairi from the Scottish Socialist Party, has described this on her Blog, and her report has yet to be properly answered. (Full post Here.)

The gravity of this incident is illustrated by this commentator’s observation, “This horrendous rape has just shown how so many people, supposedly on the side of the underprivileged, actually see women as objects and fucktoys, incapable of independent thought.” 

We will not comment on this further.

But one concern has come up which relates to a wider problem about the ‘Occupy Movement’ – its tolerance towards a conspiracy cult with dodgy ideas that parallel a strain of thought  on the extreme right.

This, the Zeitgeist Movement UK  (ZMUK),  appears to be involved in Glasgow (as they claim here and in the rest of the UK here).

The Scottish Socialist Party’s Youth group offers this account TZM (full story Here.)

Zeitgeist got started when a man called Peter Joseph (this apparently isn’t his real or full name, as he conceals his real identity) released a documentary called, amazingly enough, Zeitgeist (which is German for Spirit of the Times) in 2007. This film was stuck up on Google video, and quickly got loads of views. This was then followed by a sequel, Zeitgeist Addendum, the following year.

The first film is an amalgamation of conspiracy theories: first of all, about religion, making all kinds of claims about the origins of Christianity; then a large middle section about 9/11, asserting that there were no terror attacks and they were in fact carried out by the US government. The final section is probably the most important for us to examine as socialists, because it’s about money and finance. It argues that the world is dominated by a small elite who operate through control of international finance, the media and education. This elite deliberately enslaves the rest of the world by keeping us permanently in debt to the banks by the way they operate the money system.

The SSP then turns to the Second Film and the present ideology of this cult,

If you try and engage Zeitgeist activists about these issues, in all likelihood they will say something along the lines of “Well, we don’t promote the first film any more, we’ve moved on to new things.” Sometime between the making of the first and second films, Peter Joseph came into contact with Jacques Fresco, a designer and engineer who has a series of plans for improving society which he calls the Venus Project. Zeitgeist now describes itself as “the activist wing of the Venus Project.” Privately, some are trying to distance themselves from some of the material in the first film, but officially it is still promoted on the main page when you google Zeitgeist, and remains most people’s introduction to the movement.

The Venus Project advocates what it calls a “resource based economy”, arguing that there are enough resources in the world to provide everyone with a decent standard of living. The problem they argue is that capitalism deliberately makes resources scarce in order to make a profit. So far this is definitely something socialists could agree with. The project goes on to present a whole series of exciting looking sci-fi style drawings of what the high-tech future they propose will look like, which are strangely retro and remind you of concept art for 60s sci fi shows.

Anybody looking for two minutes at the Zeitgeist US site (yes, funnily enough it’s from there!) and reading more about this “global sustainability movement” can see that it’s a culthere.

There are some serious attacks on them by the Zeitgeist Movement Exposed  here.

I never liked that cretin Buckminister Fuller anyway.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 31, 2011 at 11:46 am