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France: Pro-Palestinian Protests and anti-Semitism at Sarcelles, Defending the Right to Demonstrate.

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Defying  the Ban on pro-Palestinian marches in France, on Saturday,

About 6,000 mostly peaceful protesters assembled in the Barbès area of northern Paris in defiance of a government ban. When the march was blocked by police lines after only 500 metres, a minority of young protesters started to hurl stones, bottles and sticks at the riot police.

There is a range of accounts of the responsibility for the incidents that took place, see L’Humanité, and Libération and an important direct reportage in the same paper, here.

A leader of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA) said, “«La solidarité avec les Palestiniens doit pouvoir s’exprimer à Paris», a expliqué samedi à l’AFP Sandra Demarcq, membre de la direction du NPA, qui juge l’interdiction «illégitime et scandaleuse». We should be able to express solidarity with the Palestinians, explained to AFP Sandra Demarq, part of the leadership of the NPA, who judged the ban “illegitimate and scandalous”. According to the reporter at around 15.40,

Soudain, des groupes extrêmement équipés et organisés ont commencé à fendre la foule pour monter au contact des CRS. Ils avançaient en ligne, le visage couvert. A l’évidence, ils n’avaient rien de militants venus défendre la cause palestinienne. Certains arboraient des tee-shirts du virage Auteuil, une tribune du Parc des Princes.

Suddenly, extremely well organised and kitted out groups pushed their way through the crowd towards the front row of the CRS (riot police).

They advanced en bloc, faces covered. From what could be gleaned they had nothing of the look of activists who’d come to defend the Palestinian cause. Some of them were wearing the colours of Auteuil, a supporters’ group named after a football stand at the Parc des Princes.

In Sarcelles on Sunday however  events took a clearly and illegitimate  anti-Semitic  turn,

France’s interior minister on Monday slammed “intolerable” acts of anti-Semitism after a rally against Israel’s Gaza offensive descended into violence pitting an angry pro-Palestinian crowd against local Jewish businesses.

Sunday’s demonstration in the north Paris suburb of Sarcelles was the third to deteriorate in a week, as shops were looted and riot police lobbed tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd.

The rally had been banned amid concern the Jewish community would be targeted after protesters last weekend tried to storm two synagogues in Paris.

“When you head for the synagogue, when you burn a corner shop because it is Jewish-owned, you are committing an anti-Semitic act,”Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters outside the Sarcelles synagogue.

In the Paris suburb sometimes nicknamed “little Jerusalem” for its large community of Sephardic Jews, the rally descended into chaos when dozens of youth – some masked – set fire to bins and lit firecrackers and smoke bombs.

Eighteen people were arrested after looters wrecked shops, including a kosher foodstore and a funeral home as protesters shouted: “Fuck Israel!”.

News 24.

The Independent says,

Riot police held back a mob of youths who tried to attacks two synagogues in the town of Sarcelles in the northern Paris suburbs.

A pro-Gaza demonstration in a town with a large Jewish population began peacefully but degenerated into attacks on Jewish and Chaldean businesses and four hours of running battles between youths and police. Several cars were burned. Three shops, including a Kosher grocery (1), were burned and pillaged. A railway station was severely damaged.

The interior minister, Bernard Cazeneve said today: “When you menace synagogues and when you burn a grocery because it is  Jewish-owned, you are committing anti-semitic acts…  That is intolerable. Protest against Israel is legitimate. Nothing can justify such violence.”

…..

Roger Cuikerman, head of the French umbrella groups of Jewish organisations, CRIF, said there was a growing anxiety amongst French jews.

Protest against Israeli government actions was one thing, he said. Attacks on Jews for being Jews were “deeply disturbing”. “They are not screaming ‘death to the Israelis’ on the streets of Paris,” he said. “They are screaming ‘death to the Jews’. They are attacking synagogues which are places of prayer.”

Bernard Cazeneuve, speaking at Sarcelles this morning, said (Le Monde),

Devant la presse, il a estimé qu’il était « légitime » de pouvoir exprimer une position sur les événements de Gaza, où au moins 502 Palestiniens ont été tuésdepuis le 8 juillet. En revanche, il a jugé « intolérable que l’on s’en prenne à des synagogues ou à des commerces parce qu’ils sont tenus par des juifs. Rien ne peut justifier de telles violence ». Dix-huit personnes ont été interpellées après les heurts, selon la police.

In front of the press he considered that it was “legitimate” to be able to express a position on the events in Gaza, where at least 502 Palestinians have been killed since the 8th of July. By contrast he judged that it is “intolerable that people attack synagogues and businesses because they are run by Jews. Nothing can justify such violence.” According to the police 18 people have been asserted after the incidents.

(1) The shop had been already the subject of a grenade attack in September 2013 (see here).

In an important Editorial today Le Monde says that the government’s ban on demonstrations is an admission of its impotence, “Manifestations interdites : l’aveu d’impuissance du gouvernement.”

The statement  notes that President Hollande is right to be concerned about the “importation” of the Israel-Palestinian conflict into France.

But they note that the right to demonstrate, within reasonable limits, is part of the foundations of the Republic.

They cite the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, “ nul ne doit être inquiété pour ses opinions, même religieuses, pourvu que leur manifestation ne trouble pas l’ordre public établi par la loi ». 

Article 10, “No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.”

Le Monde then accuses the government, through its ban on demonstrations of solidarity with the Palestinians, of playing, “aux pompiers pyromanes.” (firefighting arsonists, figurative, “fig., personne qui provoque volontairement les maux qu’elle est censée combattre.”, somebody who creates the very problem they claim to be solving).

“Toute manifestation doit être déclarée à la Préfecture de police, en indiquant, au moins trois jours avant, sa date, son heure et son parcours. En d’autres termes, le droit de manifester fait partie des libertés publiques, mais il est légitimement encadré.”

Every demonstration, its timings, and its route,  must be notified to the Police authorities, at least 3 days in advance. In other respects the right to demonstrate, within defined limits, is part of our public freedoms.

Le Monde is absolutely right.

Positions of left parties:

Parti de Gauche “L’interdiction de la manifestation de soutien à la population de Gaza contre l’agression décidée par le gouvernement israélien était bien une provocation et une manipulation.” NPA, “La solidarité avec les Palestiniens est légitime et n’a rien à voir avec de l’antisémitisme !” Front de Gauche, “”Amplifier la solidarité avec le peuple palestinien, défendre le droit de manifester”.

Update: Declaration today (Monday 12st July) against ban on demonstrations by the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme, GAZA CROULE SOUS LES BOMBES, ISRAËL S’ENFERRE DANS LA RÉPRESSION, LES INTERDICTIONS DE MANIFESTER DU GOUVERNEMENT FRANÇAIS ATTISENT LES TENSIONS

Demonstration  on Wednesday now  authorised, Le Monde. 

Charlie Kimber, SWP and Bears – a Cautionary Tale.

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Happier Days for ‘Red’ Charlie Kimber. 

 

How a respectable public schoolboy fell amongst reds and came to a horrible end.

 

“Young Charlie Kimber was a real hard red,

He even read Das Kapital in bed,

At Eton, where he studied hard,

The scholars thought him quite a card.

 

When Kimber, he was twenty-three,

His daddy bought him S.W.P.

His comrade, the honorable Alex,

Was both his helpmate and his bollix.

 

Charlie stopped the  port and vintage wine,

and going out to restaurants to dine.

Just mushy-peas and Mars-bars fried,

no more tomatoes ripe sun-dried.

 

He dropped his ‘aitches one by one,

And shouted when the Gunners won.

He drank white cider by the bucket,

And stacked his tinnies on the buffet.

 

One day their paper made a joke,

A first – against a younger Eton bloke.

A Bear and death, were cause for fun,

And a very  laboured pun.

 

Dukes and Lords, they cut him out

The papers loathed the filthy lout,

Kimber, he was full of glee,

He kept right on his prolo spree.

 

One day he journeyed to the Zoo,

It was a conservationist do.

He drank Jack Frost till he was tight,

And then he sailed off to the night.

 

Pausing by a large black cage,

A Polar bear in hopeless rage.

A paw reached out, and struck him dead.

That was the end of Charlie Red.

 

Moral

It is the duty of the wealthy man,

Not to ape the artisan.

 

 Polar Bear in London Zoo: not unlike the one that thumped Charlie Kimber.

Below: Socialist Worker. See The Independent.

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 12, 2014 at 11:08 am

A new Left Opportunity? Podemos and its Critics.

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Podemos Tries to Build New Organisational Model.

Podemos, the Spanish radical left alliance, has created a lot of interest in Europe and further afield.

In the May European elections they got 7.97% of the vote and 5 seats.

The Izquierda Plural,(Plural Left) IP, an older left alliance, got 10.03% of the vote and 6 seats.

Podemos however presented itself in the ballot box for the first time this year, while the Izquierda Plural, notably its main component, the Izquierda Unida, has been around in various forms since the mid-1980s.

The best known public figure of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, cites the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) led by Alexis Tsipras as an inspiration.

It appears that Podemos, like Syriza, is itself being taken as a possible political model for leftist groups in the rest of Europe.

Adria Porta Caballe writes on RS21 (one of the groups that left the British SWP), shortly after the above results, offering an explanation for their success 

Podemos has achieved this with a different method that rejects the traditional conception of party militancy and an unconditional commitment to popular self-organisation. In particular, the last 5 months offer three examples of Podemos’ participatory nature. First, when Pablo Iglesias made the first step, he also made clear from the very beginning that he would not go further unless he was backed by at least 50,000 people. He easily achieved that number in a day, establishing a precedent of direct democracy from start.

The second and most important example of how Podemos achieved popular empowerment was the creation of so-called “Circles”, local spaces of debate and action where everybody can attend no matter his or her political affiliations. Today there are around 400 Circles spread over the Spanish State and anywhere else where its citizens have had to exile since the crisis started for economic reasons (London, Berlin, Brussels, etc). The motto “all power to the circles” represents a dose of democracy to the regime and an unprecedented tool of popular empowerment.

Finally it is also worth mentioning that Podemos is the only party in the country which used open primary elections to choose its candidates. A quick glance to the more than 50 candidates who run in the open primaries is enough evidence of what distinguishes Podemos from the rest: workers, unemployed, precarious, students, teachers… but no professional politician. No wonder that with this different method, Podemos could not reach an agreement with the traditional euro-communist party Izquierda Unida to run together in the elections. Apparently the latter was only worried about exchanging some seats in a common candidature, while Podemos was obviously demanding a much more fundamental change in the way the left approaches internal democracy.

This model has not been settled.

Nor is at all clear that they have “achieved popular empowerment”.

The French site Ensemble noted that following the elections there was a “lively” internal debate inside Podemos, opposing

 some of the party’s base, who advocate greater power for the ‘circles’ in the process of decision making, and the self-styled Podemos “promoter group”, which defends a model with less power for circles and which is all open to all citizens and voters. The fundamental question, ultimately, is to define the organisational form to be taken by Podemos and the role of the circles, and that of those not enrolled in them,  in the decision-making party people.

(El País – reporting this)  has so far identified in this debate two sides supposedly in confrontation. On the one hand, there is the Izquierda Anticapitalista (IA, anti-capitalist Left), a political party built around the initiative since its inception and, secondly, the promoter Podemos group, headed by Iñigo Errejón, and Juan Pablo Iglesias and Carlos Monedero.

In the El País article on the 9th of June supporters of the “promoter group” are cited accusing the “base” (Iquierda Anticapitalista, IA) of wanting Podemos to be the “izquierda de Izquierda Unida” – the left of Izquierda Unida”. Pablo Iglesias’s right-hand man,  Juan Carlos Monedero went so far as the accuse the IA of attempting a “coup d’état” ( “golpe de Estado”) inside the organisation – as  a party within a party.

The Izquierda anticapitalista  is in sympathy (that is, affiliated) with the Fourth International (USFI).

One of its supporters, Teresa Rodríguez, is said to be the “Number 2″ of Podemos.

Not surprisingly the Fourth International has published an article by Guillem Murcia that refers to this dispute suggesting that the El País  report may not be entirely trustworthy (given the daily’s own political allegiance, which was, in the past, with the Spanish Socialist Party, the PSOE).

Dick Nicols in Links on the 1st of July (Spanish state: Eruption of Podemos sparks turmoil left and right) does not downplay the dispute as revealed by El País and has its own analysis of the problems facing Podemos,

According to a report in the June 9 El País, close Iglesias collaborator, fellow university lecturer and La Tuerka co-presenter Juan Carlos Monedero at one point explained the need for a closed list in these words: “The idea of the [closed] lists doesn’t seem very sensible to us, but there are people conspiring to lay hold of Podemos and we don’t feel like copping that. People with responsibilities in other parties have sent emails to sympathisers giving instructions as to what to do on June 14 [date of a national meeting of Podemos sympathisers].”

This was a reference to the Anti-capitalist Left (IA), co-founder of Podemos along with Iglesias and his supporters. In response to Monedero’s comments, which included the observation that some Podemos sympathisers wanted to convert the organisation into “the left of IU”, a June 9 statement of IA said: “Whoever sees conspiracies and coups where there is only democracy has very little faith in the intelligence of Podemos people…Only those who are afraid of democracy fear debates.”

Earlier Monedero had said: “Maybe this has to break up, maybe there are two incompatible models inside Podemos, some want to turn it into a party of delegates and into an old party…If we carry on with this line of talk, what happened with 15M could happen again—we were radically democratic and radically ineffective.”

He continues,

One concern was the role in Podemos given to the maverick politician and political consultant Jorge Verstrynge, ex-leader of the post-francoist Popular Alliance and variously PSOE member, adviser to the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) and the Venezuelan military, and exponent of a massive program of deportation of migrants from Spain.

Another was the decision, taken by election campaign team to incorporate a portrait sketch of Pablo Iglesias into the official Podemos ballot paper logo, on the grounds that Iglesias had much greater visibility than the name Podemos.

A third was the removal from the final Podemos election program of any specific support for the November 9 consultation in Catalonia, even though Iglesias continued to speak out for the Catalan right to decide.

The incessantly churning Spanish social networks have not been slow to comment on such choices, with Iglesias being tagged as “the little Napoleon”, and much worse. More soberly, many have pointed out that internet-driven decision-making in “new” party-movements can cohabit with “all power to the charismatic leader”, as in Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement. There the leadership (basically Grillo?) decides what the options for voting by internet are, after which “the membership decides democratically”. For the recent decision as to which European parliamentary group the Five Star movement’s MEPs should join, Grillo offered his members the “choice” of Europe of Freedom and Democracy (chairman Nigel Farange of the xenophobic United Kingdom Independence Party), the European Conservatives and Reformists group(dominated by the British Tories) or No Grouping.

Many, on the basis of what we so far can tell, will agree with Dick Nichols’ conclusion,

Podemos will face critical questions that can’t be solved from a “people v. politicians” formula. Critical will be the concrete basis for unity with IU and left-nationalist, left-regionalist and green forces. This is particularly pressing in the Spanish state because of the disproportionality in the rigged national Spanish electoral system, which only starts to disappear after a party wins 20% of the vote. (That score wins 18% of seats, while 15% wins 10.3% of seats and 10% of the vote just 5.1% of seats.)

The consolidation of Podemos as a revolutionary-democratic movement against austerity with rigorously democratic functioning and the convergence of its advance with that of a reformed IU will surely determine the fate of the anti-capitalist struggle in the Spanish state.

But it is by no means certain that the complicated ‘on-line’ democracy and the ‘circles’ at the base of Podemos, – the one drawing to leadership power, the other away from it, will help in this.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 4, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Jean-Claude Juncker and Trotskyism.

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Juncker: Flirted with Trotskyism.

The pasts of European Commissioner José Manuel Durão Barroso and the new President of the European Commission,  Jean-Claude Juncker have been brought up by the French Communist daily L’Humanite.

The former is well known for his youthful involvement in  the extreme anti-Communist (and violent) MRPP (Movimento Reorganizativo do Partido do Proletariado).(1) Indeed he was one its leaders.  This ‘Maoist’ group, which was also supported by French ‘philosopher’ Alain Badiou and his group, the Union des communistes de France marxiste-léniniste (UCFml).

In the aftermath of the ‘Carnation Revolution’ (1974 -5) the MRPP was known for its physical attacks on Communists, trade unions, democrats and the far-left.

Barroso has more recently alleged that his support for these thugs was because he saw them as the best anti-Communists around.

L’Humanité alleges they were closely bound to the CIA.  For the paper, the  “Top level agent of the CIA, Carlucci handled and financed the MRPP .”

Which perhaps also sheds a light on Alain Badiou’s curious reticence about his own past in backing the group.

Juncker has a youthful background marked by much less explicit political engagement on the far-left.

Rue 89 in Dix choses que vous ignorez sûrement sur Jean-Claude Juncker states,

“In an interview published in 2009 on the site of the Government of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker wanted us to believe he was a rebel before he became the aged grey man mocked by his enemies:

“At 17, as a rebel, I flirted with the IV th International. I explained to my father and my mother that their bourgeois life, meant nothing at all to me.”

The former Prime Minister of Luxembourg refers to the broad Trotskyist movement in the late 60s, of which the Nouveau parti anti-capitaliste (NPA) of  Olivier Besancenot is the heir.

Juncker was not a very much of an activist: he did not leave many traces of this leftist past.”

He says that he soon grasped that this stand was misguided , although he lays claim to some enduring sympathy for the workers that he learnt from his youth  amongst a steel-worker family and neighbours.

l”Humanité alleges both figures have links with the CIA.

Juncker in particular,

was forced to resign his mandate after  a colourful case of espionage. Witnesses  suddenly became mute,although leaks suggest that the special services of the United States, including the famous NSA, have maintained discreet links with Jean-Claude Juncker…..

They conclude,

There are revealing comparisons. Barroso and Juncker were both members of so-called “far left” with direct or indirect relationship with the CIA and special service organisations in the United States.

(1) Tony Cliff. Portugal at the crossroads (1975).

MRPP

The biggest “revolutionary” organisation in the University, it seems to recruit sons of upper class CDS supporters. Its membership is characterised by a religious fervour. It was quite heroic under fascism, but even then spent much of its time denouncing the rest of the revolutionary left. Typically, today it runs slogans like “Long live the glorious MRPP – Arnaldo Matos (Secretary of MRPP), glorious leader of the proletariat”, etc.

It gained some influence in a few firms when the Communist Party was involved in strike-breaking – e.g. it has some influence in TAP and the TLP (telephone workers).

But its influence is restricted in Lisbon to at most five workers’ committees.

It is extremely unpopular with COPCON rank and file because of its references to them as the “new PIDE”.

Its position used to be distinct from that of the PCP ML/AOC, in that it did not openly back the Socialist Party. But the Socialist Party saw an advantage in claiming to defend the MRPP against the Communist Party. And recently the MRPP has provided a convenient weapon for the Socialist Party to use to break the hold of the Communist Party on certain unions in Lisbon (journalists, bank workers, clerks).

The MRPP sees the events in the North as a “peasant uprising against social fascism”. When the Communist Party defended its headquarters in Leiria, the MRPP spoke of it “shooting down peasants”.

There seems to be some sort of convergence here between the sons of the bourgeoisie and their parents.

 

Tony Greenstein Resigns from Left Unity: World’s Progressives Shaken.

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Tony Greenstein in a temperate mood.

Comrade Tony Greenstein’s resignation from Left Unity sent shock waves last month throughout the world progressive, labour, and socialist movement.

The news was published in the august pages of the Weekly Worker on the 5th of June.

Now on his Blog he explains his standpoint.

I resigned from Left Unity nearly a month ago. Set up in a blaze of publicity, it has fallen victim to identity politics and navel gazing. It reports that it has 2,000 members. If so they make next to no impact. There is no internal life in the organisation, no paper or journal, and criticism of policies such as ‘safe spaces’ for women are frowned upon or, as is the case in Manchester subject to censorship and suspension

Using dialectical tools honed in years of struggle Brighton’s Best continues.

It would be a pleasure to reproduce the text in full but for reasons of space and attention-span we confine ourselves to extracts.

Cde Greenstein has no doubt where some of the blame for the rise of UKIP lies,

….most mailings from the Centre have concerned elections for the multiplicity of posts in LU. Barely a word has been issued concerning prioritising campaigns such as the destruction of the NHS or the welfare state. Bogus issues of interest to just a handful of careerists, such as intersectionality, have been deemed of more importance instead.

It is little wonder that LU didn’t see fit to stand candidates in the European elections when it has such pressing internal issues to deal with. The result is that UKIP and its anti-immigration policies have been given a free ride and LU has abandoned what could have been an effective platform for introspective navel gazing.

This post continues in this vein and reaches this conclusion,

LU’s leadership could do worse than to look at the success of Syriza in Greece and try and learn some lessons. However I fear that they are too fixed in their views and politics to learn lessons from anyone. They insist on following the same strategies that embraced Respect and destroyed the Socialist Alliance. Politically LU has demonstrated complete impotence on questions like Ireland. My conclusion is that the time for success has now passed and what is left is a terrible missed politically opportunity.

I have therefore decided that no purpose is served by my continuing to remain a member and I have decided to resign from Left Unity.

In case anybody has sympathy with some of these views – which include  criticisms of ‘intersectionality’ (poor old Richard Seymour’s latest  hobby horse) and ‘safe spaces’, not to mention Greenstein’s comments on the LU failure to campaign on welfare – this has been brought to the Tendance’s attention (ME),


Daniel Randall and Sacha Ismail 
Lies, Damn Lies and Tony Greenstein (What Next?)

TO THOSE on the left who derive sado-masochistic entertainment from the more bilious of its internal debates, Tony Greenstein will need no introduction. But for anyone who doesn’t think that spending endless hours on email discussion lists and internet message boards is an appropriate and productive use of their time, it is necessary to provide a little background.

Tony Greenstein is a socialist based in Brighton who engages in a form of political masturbation that consists basically of attacking the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty in the most poisonous terms known to him at every possible opportunity. Tony attacks the AWL for its small size, but he is not on very firm ground arguing numbers with a group more than 100 times the size of his own: the Tony Greenstein sect of one.

Tony’s ferocious hatred of the AWL overrides all rational political thought; so, for example, when Tony stood as a candidate for the Socialist Green Unity Coalition (in which the AWL also participated) in the 2005 General Election, Tony felt it appropriate to write a letter to the CPGB newspaper Weekly Worker attacking the AWL in characteristic terms, even though he knew this would harm the coalition of which he himself was part. This sort of behaviour is illustrative of Tony’s general approach – not rational, worked-out criticism but frenzied slander. His diatribe in What Next? [‘The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty – Britain’s Revolutionary Imperialists’] is no different. It is embarrassing in its lack of rigour, in the way it substitutes anecdotal slander for political critique, and in its use of blatant lies, distortions and half-truths.

More on What next? site.

In a long political career on the outside of the outside left Cde Greenstein has accumulated a broader range of enemies than the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL)  – they extend, let us say, from senior figures in the trade union movement to just about every party and groupuscule  on the left (his latest bug-bear is Socialist Resistance).

He has even got the goat of somebody genuinely loathed by all progressives,  Gilad Atzmon.

Respect!