Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the Burkini : “C’est une provocation”.

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L'arrêté contre les vêtements non respectueux des «bonnes mœurs et de la laïcité» placardé à l'entrée d'une plage à Nice, le 19 août 2016.

Nice Beach By-Laws on “bonnes mœurs et de la laïcité”.

Mediapart reports,

Dans Le Monde d’aujourd’hui, JLM condamne les “militantes provocatrices en burkini”.  Michelle Guerci.

 «L’instrumentalisation communautariste du corps des femmes est odieuse. C’est un affichage militant, mais quand on est l’objet d’une provocation, mieux vaut ne pas se précipiter dedans […] La masse des musulmans est excédée par une histoire qui les ridiculise. Valls a eu tort d’en rajouter. »

The ‘communitarian’ * exploitation of women’s bodies is vile. It’s a militant badge, but even so when we are the target of a provocation the best thing to do is not to get involved…The majority of Muslims are frustrated by this row, which makes them look ridiculous. Valls (Prime Minister) is wrong to add to it.

Il ressort de cette interview que JLM, ne condamne ni les maires qui ont pris ces arrêtés, ni Manuel Valls qui les a soutenus,  ni la droite sarkoziste qui a orchestré cette campagne, ni le gouvernement qui laisse faire (3), mais des femmes accusées d’instrumentaliser leur propre corps ou de l’être par leurs maris, pères, cousins… Bref la fameuse COMMUNAUTE.

It is apparent in this interview that JLM neither condemns the Mayors who have instituted these by-laws, nor Manuel Valls (Prime Minister) who backs them, nor the (ex-President) Sarkozy’s right-wing which has orchestrated the campaign, nor the the government which has allowed this to happen, but the women involved, who have used their own bodies, or have been ‘used’ by their husbands, their fathers, their cousins…to put it simply, the famous “community”.

Le burkini est le fruit d’une offensive religieuse salafiste qui ne concerne qu’une partie de l’islam […] La question politique à résoudre reste celle du combat des femmes pour accéder librement à l’espace public.

The burkini is the product of a Salafist religious offensive which only affects a part of Islam….There still remains the political issue of women’s struggle for free access to the public sphere.

Michelle Guerci points out that the Burkini is in fact a relatively new phenomenon, which would itself be prohibited under the rule of severe Wahhabist codes.

Responses.

Now it is the case that  the CCIF (Collectif contre l’Islamophobie en France), at the head of the campaign to defend the Burkini  has been accused of being a front for Islamists, by no less than the Canard enchaîné “CCIF : « Des islamistes qui avancent mosquée » (Le Canard enchaîné, 17 août 2016)“.

So-called ‘anti-racists’ in the UK, who have never lifted a finger against the actions of the religious police in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and elsewhere,  who institute even more serve religious laws  are apparently preparing protests against the ban. “Anti-racists in France and Britain are preparing to protest against the “burkini ban” imposed in 18 localities in France.” reports Socialist Worker.

But the involvement of the morally tainted forces does not make the ban right.

We can only agree with Guerci in saying that, apart from the distasteful political opportunism, nationalism and straight-forward bullying involved police enforced laws  on this level of personal conduct are the opposite of the secularist fight against  Islamist racism.

As one of Valls’s Ministers, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (Education), has said (only to have her comments brushed aside by the Prime Minister), the moves have “ libéraient la parole raciste” – opened the floodgates of racism.

L’Humanité meanwhile publishes this statement by Osez le féminisme !

Arrêtés anti-burkini : de qui se moque-t-on ? Des femmes pardi !

They comment that the affair is the product of a series of manoeuvres.

Une double manipulation est donc à l’oeuvre, qui stigmatise les femmes voilées. Manipulation des fabricants de vêtements de mode dite “pudique”, qui se frottent les mains, mais aussi de ceux pour qui le voile devrait être obligatoire pour les femmes musulmanes.  Mais aussi manipulation de ces édiles locaux (dont certains visiblement en manque de notoriété), qui, à défaut de faire des politiques sociales aptes à endiguer l’exclusion que vivent certains et certaines (l’exclusion sociale étant une trappe vers un repli sur soi communautaire), préfèrent s’attaquer à une catégorie de femmes, livrées à la vindicte raciste.

A twofold manipulation is at work which stigmatises veiled women. A manipulation by the manufacturers of “modest” clothing, busy rubbing their hands, and also by those who consider that veiling should be compulsory for Muslim woman. But it’s equally a manipulation by certain local elected figures (many of whom visibly seek public notoriety), who instead of offering social policies that help end the social isolation in which some women live (the trap of social exclusion which feeds inward looking communities) prefer to attack a category of women and leave them at the mercy of racism.  

See also: Stop state Islamophobia! No to the burkini ban (Nouveau parti anticapitaliste).

And:   Burkini et prétendues « crispations réciproques » : Quand le quotidien « Le Monde » raconte n’importe quoi. Yves C.

…il ne s’agit pas de défendre un signe religieux réactionnaire, le burkini, mais simplement de dénoncer la campagne politique menée par la droite et une partie de la gauche, campagne qui occulte les vrais problèmes des exploités et des exploitées en France aujourd’hui.

Defending a reactionary religious sign, the burkini, is not the issue. The point is to denounce a political campaign launched by the right, and a section of the left, a campaign which obscures the real problems of those exploited in France today. 

Le racisme, sous toutes ses formes, est le problème et la responsabilité de la majorité des « Français » titulaires d’une carte d’identité, électeurs du Front national, des Républicains ou des partis de la gauche xénophobe, pas celui d’une minorité obscurantiste de croyantes et de croyants. C’est contre ce racisme des dominants qu’il faut lutter, et de ces causes économiques, sociales et culturelles profondes qu’il faut discuter, pas de « tenues de plage » ou « tenues de ville » portées par telle ou telle minorité religieuse !

Racism, in all its forms, is the responsibility of the majority of the French, those with an identity card, Front National voters, Republicans and parties of the xenophobic left, not that of a minority of obscurantist believers. We have to fight against the racism of the dominant and discuss its fundamental economic, social and cultural causes, not the beach or urban dress codes of religious minorities. 

*****

  * “Communautariste “: in this context “communitarian” is a highly ideologically charged  French concept (more than just a word). It can refer loosely to withdrawal into religious, ethnic or cultural identity, More critically it shades into the accusation of near ‘communalism’, the defence of separate social worlds at odds with one another. There is, for ‘ultra republicans’ and a strain of ‘left soveriegntists’ the  implication that ‘multiculturalism’, which promotes/tolerates such  separate identities is opposed to ‘republican’ unity.

Employé dans un sens plutôt péjoratif, le terme communautarisme désigne une forme d’ethnocentrisme ou de sociocentrisme qui donne à la communauté (ethnique, religieuse, culturelle, sociale, politique, mystique, sportive…) une valeur plus importante qu’à l’individu, avec une tendance au repli sur soi.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 25, 2016 at 10:46 am

The Labour Party, Trotskyism and Pabloism.

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They Lost….

“Trotskyism is being studied as never before” The Brent Soviet.

“But we want to speak frankly to you, comrade Trotsky, about the sectarian methods which we have observed around us and which have contributed to the setbacks and enfeebling of the vanguard. I refer to those methods which consist in violating and brutalising the revolutionary intelligence of those militants – numerous in France – who are accustomed to making up their own minds and who put themselves loyally to the school of hard facts. These are the methods which consist in interpreting with no indulgence whatever the inevitable fumblings in the search for revolutionary truth. Finally, these are the methods which attempt, by a colonisation directed from without, to dictate to the labour movement attitudes, tactics or responses which do not come from the depths of its collective intelligence. It is in large part because of this that the French section of the Fourth International has shown itself absolutely incapable not merely of reaching the masses but indeed even of forming tried and serious cadres.”

Marceau Pivert to Trotsky. 1939 (Where is the PSOP Going?  A correspondence between Marceau Pivert, Daniel Guerin and Leon Trotsky)

 

With Trotskyists about to take over the Labour Party there is interest in the ideology and politics of this current on the left.

One figure we have yet to hear mention is Michael Pablo one, of many but by far the best known, party names of a revolutionary usually called Michel Raptis. The most reviled Trotskyist of the post-war period, he has been accused of being the father of lies, liquidationism, and revisionism of all stripes and spots.  In fact his ideas and career are important to anybody concerned with Trotskyism: an illustration of its worst faults and some of its better features.

It will come as no surprise that Tendance Coatesy, as with many other leftists, owes a political and ideological debt to this outstanding individual. That his principal orthodox Trotskyist enemies were Gerry Healy, Pierre Lambert and James Cannon – all po-faced right-wing authoritarians – one cannot but help but like Pablo.

This should be borne in mind even if we accept that the fundamental premises with which he, and all Trotskyists, worked, that the Soviet Union, the Eastern Bloc, and China, not to mention countries like Cuba, had, by revolution or by bureaucratic imposition, become ‘non-capitalist’ social formations, part of a fundamentally new stage in history has been proved false. And that it’s hard to avoid acknowledging the erosion of the related belief, that ‘building revolutionary parties’ on the models laid down by Lenin and Trotsky was a realistic strategy to help create socialist societies in the capitalist world,  and overthrow the Stalinist bureaucratic ‘deformations’ in these non-capitalist countries.

Pabloism. 

The term Pabloism was first used during the splintering of Trotskyism in the 1950s. It referred to a set of positions advanced by Michael Rapitis during debates within the Fourth International, principality Pablo’s view that the “objective” growth of Stalinist-led ‘workers’ states’ ‘degenerated’ and deformed) meant that they had to have a strategy towards the mass Communist parties that could capture their base. He was accused of ‘liquidating’ the Trotskyist ‘programme’ as an independent point of reference outside of these parties.

Since many of his opponents had their own strategic alliances inside social democratic parties that disguised their true ‘programme’ (Gerry Healy’s pre-Socialist Labour League group in Labour ‘The Club‘, the original home of most UK ‘Trotksyist’ organisations and groupuscules) , not to mention  collaboration with right-wing anti-Communist elements backed by American funds (in France, in the union federation Force Ouvrière) this accusation looks  bad faith. More serious criticisms stem from the claim that Stalinist forms of Communism were a kind of ‘leap’ into a better form of society which Trotskyists should back (from the outside) and influence (from the inside).

The noise and fury (cited above) around such disagreements can only be understood by referring to earlier disputes which set the pattern for Trotskyist polemics that has endured to this day.

This process of raucous fractures and splits which can be traced back to the 1930s, notably in France. Despite the widespread impression that American Trotskyism, above all the US Socialist Workers’ party, was the lodestar of the movement, French Trotskyism was the centre of the Fourth International and many of the original parties – a country with (in the 1912 foundation, larger than the Socialist SFIO), and form 1936 ownwards a significant political player) a large Communist party to boot, and a deep-rooted socialist and communist tradition that sets it off from America. Before looking at what ‘Pabloism’ is we have to begin there.

One of the first Trotskyist groups in that country was the  la Ligue communiste founded in 1930. By the latter half of the decade there were already three main Trotskyist tendencies in the Hexagone (French Trotskyism) .

They were all organised around strong personalities: long embedded leadership is an enduring feature of Trotskyism (French Trotskyism)

Zeller’s Témoin du siècle (2000) outlines some of their disagreements. Perhaps it is most revealing on how the Trotskyists behaved after the ‘french turn’ which saw them joining the French Socialists, the SFIO.

Zeller describes their activists lecturing people on the First Congresses of the Third International and Trotsky’s line on the Chinese Revolution. Not surprisingly not everybody was impressed with these no doubt kindly meant lectures. They were kicked out of the party of Léon  Blum after, amongst other things,  a sustained campaign to build workers’ militias. For Trotsky the “La révolution française a commencé” with the wave of strikes that accompanied the election in 1936 of the Front Populaire you understand (Trotsky, Ou Va La France 1934 – 8, particularly the section on the ” milice ouvrière ” in  Socialisme et lutte armée.)

In his Mémoire d’un dinosaure trotskiste (1999) Yvan Craipeau describes the various positions Trotsky took on French politics,, from ‘entryism’ in the SFIO as the bolchevik-léniniste tendency, to efforts to influence Marceau Pivert’s “Gauche révolutionnaire” both while it remained in the Socialist party, and later (see above) when it was the independent Parti socialiste ouvrier et paysan (PSOP). founded in 1938. Pivert memorably replied to Trotsky about their  efforts at hectoring instruction, that his party members “are accustomed to making up their own minds ” and that they “put themselves loyally to the school of hard facts” – not Trotsky’s international prognostics. 

Trotsky replied by, behind his back,  describing Pivert (as described by Zeller) as a false revolutionary in the mould of  a provincial school teacher.

The entire history is of  bitterness and great  complexity (one I am familiar with in case anybody wants a Trainspotter lesson…).  People wishing the investigate further should begin with these two books and look at this Wikipedia entries: Trotskisme en France. French Trotskyists.

But all this ill-will was a mere foreshadowing of the later splits in the Trotskyist movement.

Entryism.

To jump from those years: the key issues in the 1954 split included entryism (which Pablo advocated inside the mass Communist parties and well as social democracy) and this,

Pablo’s elevation of the “objective process” to “the sole determining factor” reducing the subjective factor (the consciousness and organization of the vanguard party) to irrelevance, the discussion of “several centuries” of “transition” (later characterized by Pablo’s opponents as “centuries of deformed workers states”) and the suggestion that revolutionary leadership might be provided by the Stalinist parties rather than the Fourth International—the whole analytic structure of Pabloist revisionism emerged. The Genesis of Pabloism.

Pablo indeed took seriously the prospect of a Third World war. In these conditions he  backed, and enforce, this entryist strategy known as ” entrism sui generis ” inside (where possible) Stalinist Communist parties, and just about everything  that moved on the social democratic left. This meant not just concealing  membership of the Trotskyist movement,  even to the point of point-bank denial of any link. Famously as the text above states he considered that it might take decades of such underground work for their efforts to bear fruit.

Apart from its inherent implausibility the prospect of ‘centuries’ of clandestine burrowing away seemed to  consign the Trotskyists to the fate of the Marranos, ‘converted’ Jews who ostensibly  submitted to Catholicism but practised their faith in secret.

The strategy had little impact in the Communist parties – in contrast to long-term and independently initiated entryism in the British Labour Party by Trotskyists (the secretive and bureaucratic ‘Militant’ group) who were distant from his Fourth International.

After winning support for these policies, and even a degree of power over the International, helped by the departure of Healey, Lambert and Canon (cited above) Rapitis by the end of the same decade  plunged into a new cause: anti-colonialism and the ‘Arab Revolution’. He lost control of the Fourth International to Ernest Mandel and Pierre Frank. He retired from it in the mid-sixties.

Romance about epochs of hidden revolutionary labour aside, the  idea of working within the French Parti communiste français (PCF) was, even at the time,  in view of the party’s  top-down structure  and intolerant culture, ill-thought out and profoundly misjudged. It was equally parasitic on the success of the party being ‘entered’ (as indeed the experience of the Labour Party indicates).

Nevertheless French Trotskyism emerged more openly on the 60s political scene when a group of young Communist students, led by Alain Krivine, founded the independent Jeunesse communiste révolutionnaire in 1966. (1) Pablo did however put heart and soul in supporting the anti-colonial struggle in Algeria (a fight in which Krivine was also engaged) and was imprisoned for gun running to the independence fighters. He had a  brief period of influence in  the post-independence (5th of July 1962) Front de Libération Nationale, (FLN) notably on the leader Ben Bella (1916 – 2012) promoting the ideas of self-management. The Houari Boumédiènne,  1965 military coup put paid to that. (2)

The later politics of Pablo’s the  Tendance marxiste-révolutionnaire internationale (TMRI), and its French affiliate, the Alliance marxiste révolutionnaire (AMR) centred around the primacy of self-management.  They embraced the project of a ‘self-managed’ republic, took up themes such as feminism (in the mid-sixties), supported anti-colonial revolutions (without neglecting as their consequences unravelled, the necessary critique of ‘anti-imperialist’ national bourgeoisies), and defended democratic politics against Stalinism and orthodox Trotskyism. Pablo’s writings translated into English include a collection of his articles (Michel Raptis, Socialism, Democracy & Self-Management: Political Essays 1980 and his first-hand studies of workers’ control during the Allende government in Chile (Revolution and Counter Revolution in Chile by Michael Raptis. 1975) – another experience cut short by a bloody military coup.

New Left.

In the 1970s its members joined the Parti Socialiste Unifié, a French New Left party with over 30,000 members,  hundreds of councillors  during the late 60s and early 1970s and 4 MPs in 1967. Later the AMR was involved in other left alliances, all within the  traditions of workers’ self-management and New Left causes, participative democracy feminism, gay rights, green issues.  By the 1980s the TNR,  operated on a collegiate rather than a ‘Leader’ basis (and numbered outstanding figures such as Maurice Najman). It helped keep alive the ideas of workers’ control during the political triumph of neoliberalism. I was close to them in the 1980s (and attended one of their World Congress, the 8th) as a member of the Fédération pour une gauche alternative where we worked with the PSU in its final years.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CqjSS9FXEAAJxOm.jpg

Movements, that place ecological issues within the context of popular control, talk of new forms of democracy, owe something to those in the PSU and other New Left groups of the sixties and seventies across Europe. The TMRI was part of these currents, less and less concerned with building a revolutionary ‘party’ than with the interests of the movements themselves. (3) It could be said to have been a practical answer to the critique of Trotskyism offered by Claude Lefort of the group, Socialisme ou Barbarie in the 1950s.  Lefort once asked, why, without the kind of material basis of a Stalinist state or even a trade union administration, did all Trotskyist groups reproduce the bureaucratic forms of these apparatuses?One response is, yes, “liquidationism”, being part of the wider movement and not a self-styled ‘vanguard’.

Pabloism’s  legacy continues. It is one of many influences inside  the French ‘alternatifs’, left social- republicanism, and the (left-wing of) the  Front de Gauche (Ensemble) and more widely in the European and Latin American left.

Although a small number of  ‘Pabloites’ re-joined the ‘Mandelite’ Fourth International (already moving away from Trotskyist  ‘orthodoxy) in the 1990s most evolved away from ‘Trotskyism’ towards broader forms of democratic socialism and New Left radicalism. Some even became part of the French Greens (at the time known as Les Verts), while most, as indicated, merged into the broader left.

As the political landscape has radically changed since the fall of Official Communism and the entrenchment of neo-liberal economists and social policies in most of the world those associated with this current have  been involved in a variety of left parties and campaigns. Pablo’s anti-colonialism hardly meets the challenges we face today. But the democratic strand of workers’ self-management remains perhaps, a strand which retains its relevance in the emerging ideas and policies of the left, including within the Labour Party..

Unlike ‘entryism’ and dogmatic Trotskyism….

 

(1)One of the best accounts of this and Krivine’s background is in Hervé Hamon, Patrick Rotman, Génération, les années de rêve, Paris, Seuil, 1987. For 68 itself: Patrick Rotman et Hervé Hamon, Génération, T.2 Les années de poudre, Paris, Le Seuil, 1988,

(2)The best biographical introduction to Michel Raptis: on the Lubitz Trotskyanet –  here

(3) A  reliable sketch of the French affiliate of the TMRI, the AMR, is  available here: Bref aperçu de l’histoire du courant “pabliste” ses suites et sespériphéries en France 1965-1996.  A journal from this tradition is Utopie Critique.

From KS.

 

Respect Party Deregistered with the Electoral Commission: “Members now permitted to join Labour’ says New Statesman.

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Galloway with Friend on Russia Today. 

Electoral Commission.

Wikipedia,

The Respect Party was a political party in the United Kingdom, founded in 2004.[4][5] Its name was a contrived acronym standing for: Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community, and Trade unionism.[5] The Respect Party was established in London in January 2004; it grew out of the Stop the War Coalition, opposing the Iraq War.

The Respect Party’s highest profile figure and leader was George Galloway,[2] former MP for Bradford West and Bethnal Green and Bow, while its National Secretary was Chris Chilvers.[8]

According to the Electoral Commission website, it voluntarily deregistered as a political party in August 2016.[9]

George Eaton is the “Political Editor, New Statesman george@newstatesman.co.uk.”

Apart from touting himself as another potential feather in Corbyn’s cap, Galloway’s move appears to be designed – as Eaton suggests – to let his little helpers quietly join Labour.

We will note with interest the next moves of some of them,  Galloway bag-man Kevin Ovenden. 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 21, 2016 at 10:37 am

Trotsky Today: A Critical Balance Sheet.

with 7 comments

Today, the 20th of August,  is the 76th anniversary of Leon Trotsky’s murder by  Ramón Mercader agent of Stalin and the USSR state.

Trotskyism has been in the news recently.

Amongst the small left-wing groups, who present themselves as Jeremy Corbyn’s new best friends, are some who draw on Trotsky’s ideas. The Socialist Workers Party, in response to claims about Trotskyist politics, has published  Trotsky was right – we need a revolution. In Why is Leon Trotsky relevant today? the SWP’s Sue Caldwell sees merit in his revolutionary spirit. His writings on the united front ,and the need to look out for the “treachery” of the Labour Party and trade unions in the  1926 (….) General Strike remain guides on how to approach the Labour Party and union leaders today.  The SWP also  advances on its own special view (against Trotsky) on the ‘state capitalist’ nature of the former USSR.

The Socialist Party has this, The legacy of Leon Trotsky. This group states, “The ideas and methods of the Socialist Party and the socialist international to which it is affiliated, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), are based on Trotsky’s, alongside those of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Vladimir Lenin.” “What are the lessons for today? There is an urgent need to create a new mass force that can gather together the struggles of the working class both on an industrial plane but also in the political arena itself. This requires the ‘dual task’ that the CWI set itself in the early 1990s of fighting for the rehabilitation of the ideas of socialism for the mass movement and of maintaining the clear programme of Marxism-Trotskyism. ” “Trotsky, having been relegated to the status of a political ‘nonentity’ by his opponents, with Robert Service merely being the latest addition to the ranks, will be resurrected as a major figure, not only among the workers’ movement, but in the struggle of the whole of humankind in the convulsive period opening up.

Socialist Appeal offers its own tribute Leon Trotsky: the man and his ideas, “On this occasion of the anniversary of Trotsky’s assassination, we renew our faith in the world working class and the revolutionaries ideas of Marxism. World revolution is now being put back on the agenda. We are therefore proud to stand on the shoulders of giants.”

As one might guess these approaches are different to that of this Blog.

We re-publish, with minor alterations, a long review article we produced in 2012.

Stalin’s Nemesis. The Exile, and Murder of Leon Trotsky. Bertrand M. Patenaude. Faber & Faber. 2009. Trotsky A Biography. Robert Service. Macmillan. 2009.

“Estimations of Trotsky tend to shade into explanations for his political downfall.” So comments Bertrand Patenaude.

How should the man be considered? Why should we be interested in his defeat?

Rigid, lacking sound political instincts, the overweening “flaw” in his haughty personality, – all judgements of Stalin’s Nemesis – Trotsky offered brilliant justification of the Russian Revolution, and mordant criticisms of Soviet rule under Stalin. To Robert Service Trotsky was “an exceptional human being and a complex one”. He was a major actor in a central drama of the 20th century, whose “ideas, including those about Russian history, had a lasting impact”.

Patenaude’s Stalin’s Nemesis is a solid, if not particularly friendly, account of Trotsky’s life following his expulsion from the Soviet Union. It frequently expands to encompass the longer course of his vocation, from inspiring mass leader to marginalised founder of the Fourth International.

But to get the full flavour of a study that puts the emphasis on how the one-time Commissar’s personality, imprinted with a “definite ideology”, shaped his career, from a leading player in the October capture of power, to exile, and victim of Stalin’s brutal revenge, one needs to read Robert Service’s biography. It has all the faults, and these flow in abundance, of such a method.

Not that would have expected a sympathetic portrait. In Stalin (2004) Service compared Trotsky’s use of violence to Stalin’s and stated that he alone of the leading Bolsheviks approached the Georgian “in bloodthirstiness”. Or indeed a rounded grasp of Communist ideology and history. In his Comrades (2007) Service asserted that by the end of the 19th century Marxism had become “an infallible set of doctrines and political substitute for religion.” And that Lenin and the Bolsheviks’ “new type of state” based on “one-party, one-ideology” with no respect for “law, constitution and popular consent” had spread to “mutate like a virus”, infecting the body of Fascism, Remaining around, apparently, to taint “the Islamist plans of Osama Bin Laden” and the Taliban.

Trotsky, Trotskyism and Communism.

Each book then offers not just narrative but assessments of Trotsky’s contribution (negative and positive) to the history of Communism and the Soviet Union, and Trotskyism’s own destiny. Patenaude’s story is largely centred on Trotsky’s life in Mexico, his homes in Coyoacán, and his wider historical description and judgements about Trotsky tend to flow from this location. This, despite its dismissive conclusion about the “dogma of Marxism” and Trotsky’s faith in the “glorious Soviet future” (did Patenaude mislay his style guide?) is gripping and illuminating.

Aware of his previous writings, one expects less, and gets a lot less, from Service. In an ‘orthodox’ Trotskyist review David North has rigorously unravelled the string of howlers and factual errors that litter the book – apparently from a serious historian – from names, dates of people’s death, (including that of Natalia, Trotsky’s wife) to graver errors (here). The claim that this is the “first full-length biography of Trotsky written by someone outside Russia who is not a Trotskyist” may, nevertheless, be true. It is less than sure that Service’s efforts in this direction, to offer a “more searching approach” than previous biographies, such as Isaac Deutscher’s celebrated Trilogy, or the painstakingly documented publications of Pierre Broué, not to mention his subject’s own “self-serving and misleading” accounts, offer more than acres of darkness about Trotsky.

Mexico, after years of wandering in exile, initially internal, in Kazakhstan, to outside the USSR in Turkey, France, to Norway, was Trotsky’s final home. The axe had fallen. He was now, for the Soviet state, officially a “counter-revolutionary” who had formed an illegal anti-Soviet party. No country appeared comfortable with receiving this dangerous revolutionary.

But, from 1937 up till his murder in 1940, the Russian revolutionary found a guarded welcome from the Mexican President Cárdenas, a supporter of the Spanish republic and protector of countless loyalist refugees. The agrarian reformer had yielded to lobbying from the celebrated muralist, and self-styled Trotskyist, Diego Rivera, and out of a sense that it was the “proper thing to do” had accepted the Russian revolutionary. The artist housed him in Coyoacán, in his casa azul (blue house), “filled with plants and flowers, pre-Columbian sculptures” and “a fruit bearing orange tree” in the patio.

Trotsky Under Siege.

With talent Patenaude describes the enveloping clouds around Trotsky’s stay. Life in the Blue House, where he had an affair with Rivera’s wife, the painter Frida Kahlo (riven in many minds by Julie Taymor’s dashing bio-film), the turbulent personality of her husband, a political-emotional storm, was not without its own drama. Sketches of Trotsky’s intimate relationship with his wife, Natalia, his pastimes, fishing, hunting, cacti collecting, and fraught diners, enliven the human side of – to anyone immersed in the drier side of Trotskyist literature – of the Old Man. There are snapshots of an earlier existence, from his role as the Bolshevik Army leader, the bitter struggles with Stalin following Lenin’s death in 1924, to his eventual hounding out of the Party.

That past was brought back quickly. In the growing Stalinist Terror, Moscow ideologues, and their international counterparts in the Communist parties’ international, the Comintern, attacked Trotsky the ‘counter-revolutionary’. Near-by the Mexican Communist Party launched violent campaigns against his presence. From the start Trotsky and his entourage were under siege. Unfortunately, not only real threats weighed on them.

This had domestic echoes. There were petty rows. “Life in the Trotsky household was marked by frequent periods of tension and petty strife which at times had the effect of undermining Trotsky’s security.” Which, by the time they had moved from the Blue House to the Avenida Viena (a result of the liaison with Frida) had become a full-time task. This was not always well carried out, despite efforts to recruit reliable guards, install alarm systems, and watch towers. Those out to crush him got closer and closer to Trotsky’s immediate circle. They imprisoned and executed members of his family, and assassinated important Trotskyist activists on the streets of Europe.

The campaign spread to whole political movements. In Spain the 1937, a Stalinist-instigated suppression of, at the height of the Civil War, the ‘Trotskyist’ POUM (an independent anti-Stalinist Marxist group that Trotsky’s own dozen strong band of Spanish followers had been told to reject as ‘centrist’) was undertaken on the grounds of their ‘services’ for “European and Asiatic fascism”. Amid the repression their leader, the Catalan Andreu Nin, was abducted from prison, tortured and murdered by a GPU-led squad.

By the start of 1940 the henchmen of the Soviet Union’s GPU were operating with the purpose of eliminating Trotsky in his New World redoubt. The infiltration by Stalinist agents, first Bob Harte, then, the sadly well known, under various names, Mercedor (Ramón, Raymond), Jacques Mornard, who wormed his way into the Coyoacán refuge, by the cruel seduction of the trusted Sylvia Ageloff, is outlined with all its tortuous mendacity, and form a riveting narrative.

Wider politics played the major part of Trotsky’s life in exile. The Marxist revolutionary had not come to Mexico to abandon the fight against Stalinism; he wished to confront it with all possible means. Apart from holding the reins of the nascent Fourth International – in preparation since Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933, and founded officially in 1938 – Trotsky wrote prolifically on international affairs, offering criticisms on a global scale of Communist policies, and continued to narrate the internal disasters of the Soviet Union. In the Bulletin of the Opposition, and countless articles for the international left (and bourgeois) press he showed the truth about the “privileged caste” that made up the ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’, and the ‘gravedigger’ of the Russian Revolution, Stalin. Trotsky tried to organise resistance on a world-scale. Trotsky was still engaged in a biography of Stalin up to Mercador’s lethal assault.

Dewey Commission.

Patenaude describes a central episode in this unequal combat: the Dewy Commission, (1937). This was set up to challenge the Soviet charge that Trotsky was behind untold plots ‘uncovered’ during the Great Terror, and prosecuted during the Moscow trials. The 78-year-old American educationalist and pragmatist philosopher, John Dewy, who headed the public tribunal, declared that the injustice of this ‘legal’ process ranked with the Dreyfus affair and that of Sacco and Vanceti.

This Commission, an Inquiry into such claims, visited his Central American location. It took testimonies from many sources, and was not without its difficult moments for Trotsky. Here his record as a leading Bolshevik came into play. How could the former People’s Commissar (as Service asserts much more frequently) demand the rights of democratic justice when his own actions in power had betrayed them? Stalin’s Nemesis suggests that Trotsky was forced into a corner over his defence of his action in suppressing the 1921 Kronstadt rebellion – his role as “the bloody Field Marshall Trotsky”.

It might have been relevant here to read what Victor Serge had to say on the subject. That if, as Trotsky alleged (high-handedly) the revolt was led by men different to those who once rose in support of the October Revolution, that whether the Party that crushed them was also the same. Or was it not too already suffering from “bureaucratic befoulment”? Did in fact there have to be some kind of re-assessment, as Serge suggested, of the early years of Bolshevik power, beginning with the introduction of the Cheka (forerunner of the GPU and other state security organs) and the suppression of overt opposition to the Party? That, the “central Committee”, by condemning in 1918 the right to apply the death penalty “without hearing the accused who could not defend themselves” an “Inquisitional procedure forgotten by European civilisation.” (1)

If the Moscow trials, the Commission concluded, were a frame-up (a view, to our astonishment today, not shared by many on the left), this leaves unresolved the difficulties, moral and political, these particular issues raise. Patenaude outlines the American educator’s 1938 exchange with Trotsky on ethics. The Dialectical Materialist claimed that the class struggle was the ultimate basis of all morals. That under Lenin the Party had followed the ‘laws’ of social development and revolution in crushing its enemies. That, “the end is justified if it leads to increasing the power of man over nature and to the abolition of power of man over man.” In contrast Stalin used unrestrained terror to serve the authority of bureaucratic rule. Thus, he concluded, ends had a ‘dialectical’ relation to means. Stalin’s goal needed repression, Lenin and Trotsky’s….

Dewey asked in reply if these ‘laws’ had testable proof, and what ‘means’ precisely were ruled out to achieve a world where people were free. One might conclude that how to maintain some kind of human decency regardless of the political circumstances remains unresolved. Dewey to an extent shared with Trotsky the premise that morality was not fixed but (as the American later wrote) based on “growth, improvement and progress”. He foresaw its future in a wider democratic process rather than formal political association – social development towards ending the rule of a minority over others in short. This leaves open what kind of political action gave an opportunity for Stalin to rise to power, and the lack of clarity about Trotsky’s defence of early Bolshevik methods of compulsion. In what sense, viewed today, can we say that they were in line with the promise of future human liberation? This end has yet to come.

Trotsky as a Politician and Revolutionary.

What then of the politician, the Marxist, the revolutionary leader? Patenaude cites Max Eastman’s opinion that Trotsky “lacked the gift for personal friendship”; he had no real friends, but “followers and subalterns”. Whatever the claims in Their Morals and Ours about “ending power over people” his political action was based on instrumental authority. That he saw “individuals as servants to an aim and an idea rather than personalities in their own right.”

Eastman was well-placed to know: he fell out with Trotsky over his casual treatment well before he broke with the left and began a steady drift rightwards. But how far does this get us? Trotsky no doubt considered himself equally as a tool – of History (as Edmund Wilson described his self-image in To The Finland Station). In this fashion he was an actor in pre-written script. British intelligence agent (and financier of anti-Bolshevik forces), Bruce Lockhart, said of Trotsky during the Revolution “he strikes me as a man who would willingly die fighting for Russia provided there was a big enough audience to see him do it.” But from this, to try, as Robert Service does, to align the course of Trotsky’s political career around his personal qualities, from “alienating others” to “will to dominate”, is less than savoury.

Not that we can blithely reduce Service’s arguments, as Tariq Ali so characteristically does, to the thesis that “Trotsky was a cold blooded and ruthless murderer” whose crimes merit exposure (Guardian Review. 31.10.09). Some of the hostile judgements in Trotsky A Biography are far from baseless. In the heat of the Civul War leader of the Red Army used ruthless repressive violence against ‘counter-revolutionaries’ (a very large category), backed forced ‘militarised’ labour, celebrated harsh restrictions on free speech and limited any right to non-party opposition, and vaunted this in Terrorism and Communism (1920). Even Ali, given to hero-worshiping himself, admits the Bolsheviks decided to “hold onto power whatever the cost”. Trotsky never openly regretted his actions, or retracted these views.

But that if there is one thing that marks out Service’s Trotsky it is a relentless wish to bring the role of the individual in History centre stage. Trotsky: A Biography constantly runs the risk of replacing critical historical determinism by a critique of one individual’s personality and his – dependent – choices. In reality Trotsky’s perception of himself as part of a broader movement of events was not wholly misjudged. His fate was laid out as much by history as by the workings of his character. His “greater propensity for commands than for discussion”, his “extremely violent” practice, (for the sake of argument, conceded without countervailing traits) only flourished in conditions where people and institutions obeyed. Where in fact violence had become entrenched – by causes far beyond the Will of a “high order” Intellect. Whose origins are beyond the character defects of one revolutionary leader.

Trotsky: A Biography is, then, dominated by the working out of an inner destiny. Yet, in Stalin Service had noted, “Neither Lenin nor Stalin was a wholly free agent. They were constrained by the nature of the regime which they had created.” This is even truer of Trotsky. His inability to sustain his position owed less to a general lack of political abilities than to an absence of the very specific skills – mixing loud loyalty with low cunning, a capacity to reassure the apparatus and build a coterie around him – that were needed to win power in the emerging bureaucratic state.

It is obvious that organising a kaleidoscope of alliances, from the left to the United Opposition, on a platform of challenging the growth and power of this army of functionaries, was not going to make much head-way inside the very Party that swelled in symbiosis with the bureaucracy. Trotsky disdained to make appeals outside this circle. Then, the real issues are deeper. Why did he help build the administration only to attempt its transformation? Did he, even given his handicaps as a politician, offer anything other than a variant on the “model” of the one-party one-ideology state? Was Trotsky, for all his later criticisms of the Stalinist system, too wrapped in a set of near-identical assumptions about Capitalism and building Socialism, to offer a realistic different form of Communism? In sum, did he leave behind anything of value to the present world?

Trotsky and the Soviet Regime.

Service is in little doubt about the central responsibility Trotsky had in forming the Soviet regime, and his reasons for doing so. To begin with, Trotsky’s life was marked out by a dictatorial personality-become-dictatorial politics. Living life on his own terms, the young Trotsky became father to the man; “intensely self-righteous” his ideology propelled him into enforcing a closed political system, his version of Marxism as a guide to creating a Communist society. The means? He rejected individual terrorism, only to support “mass terror realised by the revolutionary class” – which brooked no opposition to the “proletarian dictatorship” that would construct socialism.

In this respect, “the Bolshevik regime was flawed from its inception”. Trotsky may have begun as a supporter of workers’ liberation but “As soon as he had power, he eagerly suppressed popular aspirations by violence.” Next, Trotsky’s own inability to offer a convincing alternative, in democratic and economic terms, to Stalin’s version of a totalitarian state, was thorough-going. He was unable to think outside of the Party, “the Party in the final analysis is always right because the party is the sole historical instrument given to the proletariat for the solution of its fundamental tasks”. Such fundamental ‘partyism’ Service calls “the frame of communist authoritarianism”.

Trotsky had differences over policies with Stalin (and he claimed that some of them, promoting socialisation and land collectivisation, were adopted, albeit in a ‘deformed’ way during the period of the first Five Year Plans). Nevertheless, Trotsky’s strategy, for a whole decade, was to capture that party. When this failed (signalled by the German Communists’ crumbling in the face of Hitler) he wanted to build a new one. But its ‘workers’ democracy’ closely resembled the Bolsheviks’ own proto-totalitarian machine – the forging of that “sole historical instrument for the proletariat.”

The failure of Trotsky’s prophetic Marxism was complete. Instead of an inevitable revolt to restore workers’ power. When there was (in the Transitional Programme’s words) the “downfall of the Bonapartist clique and the Thermidorian bureaucracy” there was no socialist take-over to take over the bureaucracy and create a new ‘superstructure’ over the ‘socialist’ foundations of the economy. Capitalism was restarted in the Soviet Union, and its satellites. Collective property ended up in the hands of a new state protected bourgeoisie.

Much of the argument of Stalin’s Nemesis resembles the Bellman’s in The Hunting of the Snark (“What I tell you three times is true”). Trotsky was bad, bad and bad. But what remains? For all this constant battering on one-theme Service still raises important problems (from the nature of political Marxism to the development of capitalism). We have then, Trotsky, the thoroughly cold, brilliant, World Actor, which first brought him to prominence, but whose inability to relate to others, and to act as an ordinary politician (making allies, cutting deals) then isolated him, while his know-all imperiousness and indifference to others, helped doom what little chance he had of forming a new International during his exile. Thus, Trotsky “did not suffer fools gladly: indeed he did not suffer them at all.”

One supposes that this is not an attribute that recommends itself to anyone on a dispassionate jury selecting Commissars with the power of life and death over others. Though it seems a good qualification for many positions, from entrepreneurs, CEOs, political spin-doctors and indeed British government figures, all with at least (in theory) more constraints than Trotsky had around him during his years in power. Is this in any case a fair character assessment, if not exactly psychometrics? Service is not alone is describing a Trotsky that always saw the wood, the human mass, and never the individual human tree. That, Trotsky was barely a Politician at all, and never even began to present a challenge to Stalin, during his Soviet years. Or that afterwards in the vainglorious attempt to form a Fourth International as an alternative to Stalinist Communism and the reformist (and ‘centrist’ left-wing) socialist and social democratic parties, Trotsky overreached himself. He was left with, when all seemed lost, as Patenaude states, only faith in a better future.

Terror, Communism and Democratic Marxist Criticism.

But this leads us further. To the ‘dictatorial-political’ strain in Trotsky’s ideology and person. To this, Trotsky’s ingrained support for repression. Service justly brings forward Terrorism and Communism (1920) which we have already referred to above. This is a key text (my edition is published tellingly by Gerry Healy’s Workers’ Revolutionary Party). Trotsky polemicises against the German Second International Marxist Kautsky, who defended a conventional form of democratic socialist government based on free elections and civil liberties. In high Jacobin mode Trotsky argued that not only the needs of the hour called for the severest form of revolutionary dictatorship, but that ruthless repression of political enemies, and compulsion in all spheres of life, from labour armies, to swift punishment for any disobedience to Soviet Rule, were inevitable features of any transition to a socialist society. Service intercalates the reality behind such sentences.

The Bolsheviks had indeed “Shot innocent hostages. They had stripped large social groups of their civil rights. They had glorified terrorist ideas and gloried in their application” That this is, if anything, an underestimation of Trotsky’s totalitarianism, can be seen from these oft-quoted words, “..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 a brilliant flame, so the state, before disappearing, assumes the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. i.e., the most ruthless form of the state, which embraces the life of the citizens authoritatively in every direction.” (Terrorism and Communism. 1975 Edition.) Nobody who supported these ideas, or even briefly entertained them, can stand today with much credit, even if his target, Kautsky’s conventional defence of progress through reform, made little difference to the ruin and chaos of Europe in this period.

But how did Trotsky come to this view? This is not clearly explained. There is no serious reference to previous writings supporting such a comprehensive use of force over politics, and the prime motor of the economy, even if one can detect traces of it in earlier braggadocio and toying with the imagery of the French Revolution.

For most of its existence, the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ was, for Marxists, in so far as Marx himself used it sparingly, hardly at all. It referred to a period when the working class imposes its rule as a class, not a party, and there is no doubt room for great ambiguity in the term. Hal Draper has argued that the phrase was taken over to gain, and transform, a large part of the contemporary radical left, that is those influenced and organised in the Blanquist tradition. This modelled itself on France in 1789 and truly wished for a sharp short period of outright forceful rule by a revolutionary minority to set the people free. By contrast Marx, he states, emphasised another side of ‘dictatorship in this sense (that is, in the 19th century where the phrase was coined)”. For him it signified an emergency period of ‘rule’, turned into administration by the working class majority – that is, democracy, hence “nothing more and nothing less than ‘rule of the proletariat – the “conquest of political power, by the working class, the establishment of a workers’ state in the immediate post revolutionary period.” (The Dictatorship of the Proletariat from Marx to Lenin. 1987).

Draper argued that the problem with Lenin, and equally with Trotsky, was that they were unable to see the workers’ state in these democratic terms. That Trotsky in the above work went “farthest in advocating the workers’ democracy in state affairs”. As a result throughout Trotsky’s life, Draper observes, there was confusion, a separating between ”the concept ‘workers’ state (‘dictatorship of the proletariat’) from the question of working-class control from below (‘rule’).” (Hal Draper. Op cit.) Which leaves open the nature of what Draper calls the influence of the “environment”, the political atmosphere, that allowed/encouraged Trotsky to deform Marx. This fierce rhetoric, if it did not come from a close understanding of Marx, could not just be the product of the Russian left’s internal development.

It is history, not Marxist classics, that supplies some of the answer. In the early Soviet Union Lenin’s initial programme of placing the workers in charge of all levels of the state – a plan to ensure its eventual ‘withering away’ as its functions were devolved to society – were overwhelmed by the needs of the Civil War. If, that is, it was ever seriously contemplated not much of it remained – from Taylorist One-Man Management in the factories, to state rule by decree. Soviet power, that is, the Bolsheviks; hold on the administration, had, Trotskyists still argue, to be defended at all costs.

The Generals of the White Armies were open about their desire to crush their Bolshevik enemies. They smashed anything that stood in their way, they would have re-imposed autocratic rule over the corpses of the workers, the Jews, and the left. That in these conditions, “The question as to who will rule the country, i.e. the life or death of the bourgeoisie, will be decided on either side, not by references to the paragraphs of the constitution, but by the employment of all forms of violence.” (Terrorism and Communism) Can this be faulted? Some may say that a fight for life and death would be better pursued with a democratically mobilised country behind a left government and the Soviets. But then hindsight is not much of a guide to historical explanation.

The issue here, though, is not only that Trotsky (according to his democratic critics) was wrong, preparing the way for a lamp that burnt right through the Russian people’s lives, but that the “bloody Field Marshall” was also a personality which was moulded by long wars that had drenched the land in blood. That a soil which threw up so many similar types needs as much explaining as the individual, the theory, and the state machine that gave it free reign. That regardless of the contribution of the latter (which we will return to), the fields of slaughter in Europe and Russia were created not by Communist theory, or the Soviets, but by imperial clashes. That Trotsky’s militarism was largely their product not Marx’s, or even one strand within Russian Social Democracy (Trotsky’s own position in-between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks for much of his career would seem to make his views the result of many different influences) and that it is the height of a biographer’s vanity to imagine that he can judge the Man without looking deeply into the conditions in which he throve.

Brutality in the Civil War. 

How is this? Service refers to Trotsky’s early championing of the terrifyingly brutal short stories of Isaac Babel. Trotsky showed his “eye for excellence” by picking them out. Lionel Trilling described The Red Cavalry based on the author’s experience of fighting with Cossack irregular troops in Poland, as about “violence of the most extreme kind”, “written in a kind of lyric joy” (Penguin 2007). In this it mirrors a substantial part of early 20th century writing, early futurism, and given depth and realism in post Great War literature, such as in the novels of the ultra-nationalist Freikörps supporter, Ernst Jünger, which was infected with descriptions of this “rush” of violence. In Britain we remember better anti-war memories, poetry and works such as Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front. But amongst accounts of the horrors of armed conflict, of the steady attrition of life, and daily deprivations of the trenches, and, naturally, of the Russian Civil War, we can see that not just characters in novels revelled in brutality, an ultra-modernist longing for a new world cleansed by violence, or a reactionary need to water the native earth with the blood of foreigners. A brutal cast of mind was widely spread in real life.

If Trotsky had his share of this, then it should be recognised that it was less his inner character that drove him than the forces of History he, after all, felt obliged to follow. Service’s near ancient Greek drama, in which the path traced out by one’s inherent personal qualities is given, shows its limits here. The breakdown of ‘civilisation’ and its barbaric replacement profoundly shaped the politics and public personalities of the inter-war period. The resulting culture of ‘hardness’ contributed, as is more than well-known, to the ultimate cult of violence, the demarcation of Friend and Enemy on racial grounds in the Nazi State.

Stalin had his own violent background, as a near-gangster, described in Montefoire’s Young Stalin (2007). This ingrained his predisposition to revenge any slight, and gave a taste for the liquidation of enemies. Trotsky, by contrast, had had time, when that régime’s nature became apparent, to show at least some self-reflection on the error of letting violence prevail over politics – a great deal of time during his Mexican exile. Is this the result? The Fourth International’s (FI) Transitional Programme (1938) calls for a state run by the people through Soviets in which “all political currents of the proletariat can struggle for leadership of the soviets on the basis of the widest democracy.” Without defining what are the workers’ political currents, and what are not, this is not enough of a self-criticism. But a far cry from hurling anathemas at all but One current. And, if he did not recognise this change, Trotsky never got the hang of recognising that kind of turn.

The Fourth International.

Another layer of Trotsky: A Biography lies in the lengthy history of the FI’s founder’s political struggle and his policies. It would be wearying to delve too deeply here. There is much material that may be found wanting. Trotskyists (such as Pierre Broué) have claimed that the Trotsky and the opposition did offer an alternative political structure (workers’ democracy inside the Party), and a programme for administrative reform toward a democratic socialist economy. The crucial issue though is organisational. Trotsky soon retreated from War Communism. Rule by force, and the militarisation of labour was never extended to his planned subordination of Trade Unions to production. Lenin’s death left him the lurch.

By 1923 he began to regroup and react to the growing power of Stalin and the emerging bureaucratic monolith. In that year’s The New Course he began to identify a new bureaucratic stratum – a distinction with Lenin’s conception of the lingering influence of Imperial office practice. Against this Trotsky agitated for the right of the party masses to engage in ideological debate. This was largely justified on the grounds that the direct expression of differing opinions – from the base – would help root out bureaucracy. With echoes of his much earlier critique of Leninism Trotsky asked, “If factions are not wanted, there must not be any permanent groupings; if permanent groupings are not wanted, temporary grouping must be avoided; finally, in order that there be no temporary groupings, there must be no differences of opinion, for wherever there are two opinion, people inevitably group together.” This was published; the gates barring all criticism had not closed yet. But it met strong resistance.

Against this line of reasoning Stalin was able to make capital out of Trotsky’s acquiescence in the 10th Bolshevik Party (R.C.P (B) Conference’s secret decision to suppress all factionalising (1921). From there Stalin called Trotsky’s calls for vibrant inner-party discussion during the 13th Conference (1924) “unrestrained agitation for democracy” an “absolute and a fetish” which “is unleashing petty-bourgeois elemental forces.” It was in vain that Trotsky protested that he was opposed to factions, that he believed that (as previously cited) “in the last analysis the Party is always right.” Stalin was in a position to go full throttle. Leninism, he asserted, was built as a “monolithic organisation, hewed from a single block, possessing a single will and in its work uniting all shades of thought into a single current of practical activities.” As Stalin gradually consolidated his power this version of Democratic Centralism won out, and the unitary Will found no place for Trotsky’s opinions.

Without exaggerating Trotsky’s chances – trapped, as he was, in a political web partly of his own making, which paralysed his freedom of action – this issue, of democracy, is the crucial one. Hal Draper grasped the nettle. Either Trotsky recognised freedom for factionalism inside a Communist organisation – which he was never to do – or he too would end up confronting the need to suppress “differences of opinion”. Nor can differences be confined inside a single party. Political history is the history of factionalising, from groupings, tendencies, cliques, fractions, factions, to sects. The Greek word, ‘stasis’, that is the attempt to upset the existing order, the urge to overthrow the powers that be, ‘sedition’, is the spring behind their existence. It is a universal political phenomenon (insofar as politics – disputing and agreeing – are human qualities), as much as production itself. Before the Russian Revolution Georges Sorel, who preferred anti-party syndicalism, was fond of referring to socialist parties that tended to smoother differences in bureaucratic oligarchies and engage in parliamentary office-seeking and jobbery.

Ban on inner-party democracy. 

To some the turn of Bolshevism-in-power into Stalinism indicates an even worse fate. One major factor in party bureaucratisation (apart from the wider social hierarchy they often mirror) is a ban on factionalism – or (as in the more modern period) a gutting out of inner-party democracy to prevent differing currents’ voices having any effect on their policy. The Bolsheviks were long accused of tendencies in this direction (not least by Trotsky himself). This was false, though one should not idealise the freedom to criticise that existed in an atmosphere of heated clashes and the threat of expulsions inside Lenin’s party. Stalin, as we have seen, raised such a move to a point of principle. Trotsky attempted to halt the dynamic. That he did so only is a very half-heartened way, and completely endorsed the Communist monopoly of power, is clear. But from there to allege that Trotsky’s initial attempts to at least raise some degree of opposition to bureaucratic rule, at a terrible cost to his own political career, that he, in Service’s opinion had “laid several foundation stones for the erection of Stalin’s political, social and even cultural edifice” is presumptuous. It should not be forgotten that by 1923 he was doing his utmost to assemble the blocks in a very different way.

Trotsky, therefore, remains ambiguous. His later writings, displayed in the limpid prose of The History of the Russian Revolution (1932 – 3) the brilliant analysis of the degeneration of the Soviet Union in The Revolution Betrayed (1937), which analysed Soviet bureaucracy in terms of administering shortages, should not dazzle us into ignoring that they were flawed. Claims that the revolution had left a fundamentally healthy socialist form of property – hence economy, were deeply problematic. Service is right to note Trotsky’s inability to see any plausible way that the October Revolution could be ‘righted’ to correspond to this enduring ground.

Perhaps more significantly this perspective skewed his judgement, anxious for the socialist productive forces to expand, Trotsky considered their growth over-rode many other considerations. His enthusiasm for the Soviet Union, largely founded on this perspective, in the years before his assassination, right up to the invasion of Finland, and the Partition of Poland, shows serious errors of judgement. Perry Anderson has claimed that far from ‘de-generating’ the dynamic of Stalinism reached out further and produced a “generation” of new Stalinist states, not only through force of Russian arms, but in Asia, by indigenous revolutionary combat (Trotsky’s Interpretation of Stalin. 1978). That this, against Anderson, was not a sign of a “transition beyond capitalism” can be seen in the present-day Chinese regime.

Trotsky, Strategy and Marxist Theory.

Was Trotsky a major Marxist theorist? He wrote and spoke in sweeping generalisations, with illustrations, rather than conceptual analysis and thoroughly researched references, peppering his paragraphs. In contrast to Lenin, his views were not presented through dense texts designed for an activist to chew over but by lyrical prose that aims to seduce a general audience. The histories move us, and the fate of the Russian Revolution is explained in a way that leaves its imprint, without necessarily satisfying our curiosity about those he disagreed with (all are given fairly short shrift), or taxing our minds too much. Amongst his theories the ‘law of combined development’ (called in Trotskyist circles “the Law of Combined and Uneven Development’), summarises some perhaps useful ideas. It is far from law-like – claims about the different rates of development across the world, and the potential for ‘leaps’ from forms of manufacturing to modern industrialisation, from autocratic regimes to democracies are heaped together with (Trotsky’s version of) socialism. This discovery’s presence is sometimes still glimpsed in academic leftist discourse about international development – uneven apparently, but ‘combined’ with global trends.

One has the impression that Trotsky wrote rather like some supercilious British leftist orator who imagines he has cleverly shown his enemies up as fools and knaves and expects the audience to nod in agreement. Is a fluent and appealing rendering of a speaking style everything? Lenin’s own production sharpens one’s critical senses despite often-wooden phraseology (one imagines the original Russian is not much different in that respect). But they compel because the founder of the Soviet State’s core works are very concrete analysis of specific political conjunctures – leading up to the 1918 Revolution, and the problems it faced afterwards. All that he produced was grounded on weighty studies about the development of capitalism in Russia, its politics and flashes of insight into the operations of the world system – imperialism. One who is opposed to the Bolsheviks’ Dictatorship of the Proletariat through a democratic centralist party, and any aspect of their policies, is always aware of these, rather than anyone else’s, (that is, Trotsky onwards) premises.

When Lenin discussed philosophy in Materialism and Empirico-Criticism he went to the sources, even if he dosed his writing with heavy-handed polemic. This was no exception, when Lenin polemicised he read and grappled with his opponents’ arguments. His notes on Hegel demonstrate a remarkable effort under the hardest circumstances to think something new. Trotsky was different. Marxism was largely a settled matter for him. He replied to American critics of Dialectics by regurgitating the homilies of early Dia-Mat and showed few signs of grasping what the contrary opinion was about. As for conjunctural writings, Trotsky on Germany (the rise of Hitler) and France (during the Popular Front) never capture Lenin’s zest for detail. Their telegraphed message, that the workers’ parties should unite – against the emerging Nazi threat – or to break from the mildly reformist and strongly respectable Parti Radical can be seen now, as rather thin. The latter – while in accord with rising French workers’ occupations, failed to anticipate that the fall of the Popular Front government (which relied on their co-operation) would not result in the rise of a powerful left party eager for Trotsky’s advice on how to form Committees of Action that would reflect the will of the “struggling masses”. Naturally the Popular Front collapsed – Trotsky was not there to help the left.

If these are well-known cases of Trotsky’s apparent foresight, even more contentious were efforts to roll out comment on a wider range of world political issues, from Britain to China. They stretch even the admirers’ capacity to defer to Trotsky’s authority. Trotsky’s role as Global sage became a major cause (or perhaps, symptom) of his failure to win converts from existing left-wing groups to the banner of the Fourth International. So, opining on Spain (not a country he was in any way really familiar with), Trotsky attacked one of the few independent European Marxist groups with any social weight, the POUM.

His writings, which criticised the party for its willingness to engage in support for the Republican government, are a disgraceful farrago of wishful thinking and spite. It is not to their honour that Trotskyists today continue to try to snaffle some glory for having ‘defended’ the POUM, or lay claim to its desperate struggle – as Ken Loach attempted in the film, Land and Freedom. (2) As for the predictions, sometimes Trotsky was acute (in foreseeing, like many others) a war between the USSR and Nazi Germany, other times, embarrassing, like his feeling that that the second World War would result in genuine Continent-wide workers’ revolutions. Régis Debray once described Trotsky as an expert on everything under the sun, and a few things more besides. This is fair comment.

It is sometimes said that Trotsky tried to ride the waves of history, buoyed up in an epoch of revolutions that had their own inner currents. Trotsky’s constant refrain that capitalism was in decline, that the world would soon see another crisis that would give birth to a new wave of radical Marxist-led revolutions, and that the miniscule Fourth International (the embodiment of historical truth) would play a major role in these uprisings, tend to confirm this. They are both quaint (his longing for the Sublime when we would all be geniuses) and misleadingly vague (the end of ‘power’). Yet there continues to be grandeur in his stand. If we can be harsh with our criticisms of him it is not to diminish the immense courage that he showed in raising the banner of opposition to Stalin. His ideas were not, by a long shot, completely misguided. He did fight, tooth and nail, against the burgeoning bureaucratic state – if on a basis which has its flaws, (but then what would not have been faultless given its origins inside the Communist Party?). He was hated enough by Stalin to be murdered. Patenaude notes that in 1961 Brezhnev gave his killer (released from gaol in 1960) the Order of Lenin and the Gold Star medal for, “heroism and bravery’ and ‘carrying out a special task’.

The Legacy.

What of Trotsky’s legacy? Patenaude never musters the effort needed to go far into this question, contenting himself with the solemn comment that the Marxist revolutionary died a “prisoner of the myth of October as a workers’ revolution.” Service at least tries to draw some balance-sheet. It does not ignore the most significant aspect – the destiny of his political following, as well as his place in the public imagination of the wider left. As he put it in Comrades, Trotsky was, around 1968, hauled onto the “pedestal of esteem” by students and young people. This has, he claims, faded. In Stalin’s Nemesis, he observes that Trotskyists have never been “much larger than groupuscles”, who “never came close to taking power anywhere”. That Trotsky was to become little more than a “comfort blanket for revolutionaries who did not mind that they were not making a revolution” These remarks may please those who think the Russian Revolution’s myth is all that Trotsky’s politics represented, both as a legend himself, and the bearer of its mythology, he would seem for Patenaude and Service to have been tried, and, for all his better qualities, found severely wanting. It would be fruitless to protest that the real problems with Trotsky are only to do with his own activities. Apart from the assessment of his life and fatal decease, we should perhaps pay more than passing attention to what they indicate to present-day left political life.

What then of the Trotskyist movement? It is far more influential than Service credits – its impact continues throughout the left, notably in France, but also in Britain where Trotskyists had a hey-day in the 1970s Labour Party. More recently those with a Trotskyist background were elected to the Scottish Parliament (before descending into fractious dispute). Trotskyism has offered a political induction for countless individuals, including the former Prime Minister of France, Lionel Jospin, prominent Labour MPs, and even Ministers. In many countries Trotskyists are a significant presence in trade unions. Trotskyist groups have provided and still offer a range of different ideas on politics, a full galaxy of opinions on nearly every weighty issue.

What then of their faults? Many of these can be traced back to Trotsky. Trotsky’s effort to build a new International involved him in constant attacks on all other independent anti-Stalinist groups – without exception. He could not have equal allies – the American SWP was tolerated for its ready obedience. When that dried up within sections of the New York party, his wrath was immense, showering his critics with abuse. The ability to tolerate contradiction was not the Dialectician’s forte. Like Trotsky many have not yet, despite the recognition of multi-party democracy by the Fourth International in 1977 entirely agreed on the nature of democracy’s importance to socialism. This position is not universally accepted. Some from the Trotskyist tradition remain wedded to Trotsky’s hostility to factionalism, as the long list of expulsion and splits from the British Socialist Workers Party indicate all too clearly. Others are even more backward looking, basing themselves entirely on Trotsky’s words. But his or her judgements alone are unlikely to convince anyone who does not share this belief in a grace radiating from his life.

Their time has passed, and we do not have to turn our backs every time we act to look at the works and deeds of Trotsky, Lenin or Stalin, to decide what we should do today. When we do – at some point we on the left have to have some guidance in the history that has shaped us – we will find matters of interest and reflection in writings such as Patenaude’s toil in the archives – but precious little Enlightenment in any of Service’s words.

*******************

(1)  Victor Serge. Once More Kronstadt. 1938. In a full dossier of the affair, headed by Trotsky’s explanation. The Konstadt Rebellion in the Soviet Union 1921. Education for Socialists. 1973. The context was post-civil war worker unrest, notably in adjoining Petrograd (Petersburg), and demands for a lifting of the repression of civil rights. Trotsky claimed that the sailors demanded, “privileges”, that were out for privileged food rations, that the insurrection’s victory would “bring nothing but a victory of the counter-revolution” and that their ideas were “deeply reactionary”. They “reflected the hostility of the backward peasantry to the worker, the conceit of the soldier of sailor in relation to the ‘civilian’ Petersburg, the hatred of the petty bourgeois for revolutionary discipline.”

Later Alfred Rosmer, the French syndicalist, Communist and then left oppositionist, who was deeply involved with the early Soviet republic, offered a variant of this scarecrow of an argument. He cast aspersions on the political forces that flocked around the mutineers. Whatever the ‘tragic’ nature of the crushing of Kronstadt, the Communists afterwards took measures to assuage the causes of the defiance (better food requisition, dampening down peasant dissatisfaction, better bread rations and elements of small scale enterprise in urban areas). In any case, the uprising itself had rallied all the enemies of Bolshevism, “Que des éléments contre-révolutionnaires aient cherché à profiter de la situation, c’était normal; leur role était d’exciter les mécontentements, d’envenimer les griefs, de tirer vers eux le mouvement. D’où sortit le mot d’ordre des “ soviets sans bolchéviks ” ? il n’est pas aisé de le préciser, mais il était si commode pour rallier tout le monde, tous les adversaires du régime, en particulier les socialistes-révolutionnaires, les cadets, les menchéviks, empressés à prendre une revanche, qu’il est permis de supposer que ce sont eux qui en eurent l’idée, et la propagande qu’ils firent sur cette revendication pouvait toucher les marins et les soldats, la plupart jeunes recrues venant des campagnes, troublés déjà par les plaintes acrimonieuses que leur apportaient les lettres de leurs familles, irritées par la brutale réquisition.” Moscow sous Lénine. 1953.

John Rees reiterates this, in a much more unsavory way, including repeating Trotsky’s charges that the mutiny was led by people who “not really” proletarians in In Defence of October International Socialism, 52. 1991. This reminds one of Stalinist claims about the workers’ uprising in Berlin 1953 that they were ‘not really’ workers but US agents in disguise. The historical debate continues. But the main point is that the Bolsheviks were unwilling to allow any of these forces, from the left to the centre any political expression whatsoever. So “’c’était normal” that they flocked to support the Kronstadt revolt. As for the rebels themselves, most accounts state that their demands were for freedom of workers’ parties (Pages 113 – 114. Ian D.Thatcher. Trotsky. 2003). Even if the slogan about soviets without Bolsheviks were true, what was so wrong with wanting to get rid of one party from elected bodies – democracies do it all the time? The question was how could this be achieved democratically – a mechanism Lenin and Trotsky’s dictatorship of the proletariat excluded at all costs.

(2) Marceau Pivert. L’affaire du .L’affaire du P.O.U.M. (1938) SIA (organe hebdomadaire de Solidarité Internationale Antifasciste1

Written by Andrew Coates

August 20, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Momentum Invites Richard – Mocker of Burns Victim, Veteran Simon Weston – Seymour to Conference.

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Target of Richard Seymour’s Mockery.

The coming Momentum conference looks intresting.

The “five-day festival” of radical politics will take place alongside the official party conference in Liverpool, and will include talks from the film-maker Ken Loach and the journalist Paul Mason. The Young Fabians’ Greg Dash will be doing a slot at the event, but tells the Staggers it is not an official Young Fabians event (the group will, however, be hosting their own fringe events alongside the conference).

It  has stirred up controversy.

I will not comment on the list of speakers, or the programme (such as available at present)  but it looks pretty obvious that a 5 Day event is going to have a broad range of opinion on the left, and that many of these views, and individuals, would not be palatable to everybody.

That is the nature of democratic debate. 

These are more balanced reports, at least about the event’s content:

Momentum launches “special event” timed with Labour’s conference – but some see it as a rival. (New Statesman)

Momentum event featuring Corbyn ‘is not Labour conference rival’ (Guardian)

It is however of concern, which the Guardian notes,  that this individual is going to have a platform.

[IMG]

Simon Weston suffered serious injuries whilst on active duty on HMS Sir Galahad when the Argentinians attacked it. His injuries included severe burns to his face.

Richard Seymour wrote in a comment:

“If he knew anything he’d still have his face”.

Seymour refused to apologise on his comment which appeared on an article written by Simon Weston in the Daily Telegraph.

The Guardian no doubt underlined Seymour’s appearance for the simple reason that they refused to have anything more to do with him after these vile, anti-disabled, comments were written.

GUARDIAN CONFIRMS RICHARD SEYMOUR DOES NOT WORK FOR THEM AFTER HATE POST.

More on this story: here. 

Apparently Seymour has not learnt to curb his tongue.

http://i0.wp.com/order-order.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/seymour.png?resize=540%2C335

It seems that Trolling is now an acceptable part of the political scene.

Or it is, if this creature is invited.

 Seymour would go down well in certain quarters with further remarks – perhaps a few jokes – about making those fighting on the side of the   ‘imperialists’ disabled, or murdering them.

Well-established rumour has it that he could have them rolling in aisles.

We hope this does not include Momentum.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 19, 2016 at 5:11 pm

Ernst Nolte, Historian of Fascism and Nazism, Dies at 93.

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Ernst Nolte, Historian of Fascism and Nazism, has just passed way ay at 93.

Ernst Nolte’s The Three Faces of Fascism (Der Faschismus in seiner Epoche. 1963) was the first serious book that I read (in the late 1970s and still have a copy of) which dealt properly with Action française. That is the French pre-Great War movement that arose from the anti-Dreyfus campaigns. This violently nationalist (and ‘monarchist’), and anti-Semitic group which was the precursor of many forms (the youth squads of Camelots du Roi) and ideas of the 1920s and 1930s European extreme-right. Nolte took time to unravel the writings of their ideologue, Charles Maurras. His “nationalisme intégral” and use of Catholicism against Laïcité  (even if as a self proclaimed Comtean ‘positivist’ he was not a believer, and was eventually denounced by the Church)  has echoes which can still be heard in France today..

The book deals head on with the anti-Marxist strain of Action française.

Fascism is anti-Marxism which seeks to destroy the enemy by the evolvement of a radically opposed and yet related ideology and by the use of almost identical and yet typically modified methods, always, however within the unyielding framework of national self-assertion and autonomy

The study has its faults, above all the reliance on the history of ideas. But this is also a strength in that Nolte offered a lot of detail that did not depend on his theoretical framework. But it’s hard to ignore that he neglected class issues  which is extremely important in the way French nationalism appealed to a constituency beyond the ‘traditional’ Monarchist strongholds in the army and conservative fractions of the bourgeoisie, to the peasantry and a section of the ‘patriotic’ working class. And these became more apparent as the Three Faces extended towards the rise of Italian fascism, which is unintelligible without the role of post-war workers’ conflicts, not to mention Nazism, born in the heat of intense class conflicts.

By underlining the anti-Marxist ideology of the far-right Nolte’s contribution to the history of the French far-right  stands head and shoulders over Zeeve Sternhell’s La droite révolutionnaire, 1885-1914. Les origines françaises du fascisme, (1978) and Ni droite ni gauche. L’idéologie fasciste en France, (1983).

Sternhell claimed that French fascism derived much of its force and ideology from Boulangisme, the 1880s  populist movement around the  nationalist would-be dictator George Boulanger, seeking revenge for France’s military defeat by Prussia,  Revolutionary syndicalism, which (he falsely asserted),  embraced fascism in its early stages. His evidence relied on the mere existence of the  Cercle Proudhon (a small discussion group). This involved syndicalist patriots loosely  connected to the contrarian leftist Georges Sorel), the  modernist novelist  Pierre Drieu La Rochelle and Monarchists associated with Action française. Its exact influence, rather than associations,  was is never demonstrated.

There is no doubt that the period before the First World War saw a rise in “political confusionism” in France, with some on the left passing to the right, even the far-right, (as is happening today across Europe). But French fascism, as it emerged as a para-military force with some strength in the 1930s, owed more to traditionalist nationalism (Maurice Barrès) and forces hostile to the French Revolution human rights universalism and cosmopolitanism , than to anything from the left apart from rhetoric about capitalism and  Anglo-American ‘plutocracy’. Nolte’s account made this absolutely clear. In this respect the Three Faces remains an important, essential, work.

 Nolte’s contribution to understanding this dark side of history is, nevertheless, overshadowed by  this: the Historikerstreit

The debate opened on June 6, 1986 when the philosopher and historian Ernst Nolte had a speech printed in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, entitled Die Vergangenheit, die nicht vergehen will (“The past that won’t go away”). Nolte argued that the “race murder” of the Nazi death camps was a “defensive reaction” to the “class murder” of the Stalinist system of gulags. In his view, the gulags were the original and greater horror. In the face of the threat of Bolshevism, it was reasonable that the German people would turn to Nazi fascism.[10] He had already articulated this argument the previous year in an essay published in English: “Auschwitz… was above all a reaction born out of the annihilating occurrences of the Russian Revolution… the so-called annihilation of the Jews during the Third Reich was a reaction or a distorted copy and not a first act or an original

This is how his passing was reported.

 

Controversial German historian Ernst Nolte dies at 93 (Deutsche Welle.)

 Controversial German historian Ernst Nolte dies at 93

German historian Ernst Nolte, responsible for a contentious essay on the causes of Nazism, has died in Berlin after a short illness. Nolte’s 1986 essay was the source of much debate among historians.

With his 1986 essay in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” newspaper entitled “Vergangenheit, die nicht vergehen will” (“The past that will not pass away”), Ernst Nolte caused an uproar in historical circles.

His controversial thesis that Hitler and the Nazis were Germany’s logical reaction to the “existential threat” represented by the Russian Revolution launched a wave of indignation and led to furious debate among historians.

“Did the ‘Gulag Archipelago’ not exist before Auschwitz?” Nolte wrote in the essay. “Was Bolshevik ‘class murder’ not the logical and factual predecessor to the Nazi ‘racial murder’? … Did Auschwitz not, perhaps, originate in a past that would not pass away?”

Nolte was also known for published works including “Three Faces of Fascism,” “Germany and the Cold War” and “The European Civil War 1917-1945: Nazism and Bolshevism.”

Born in the university city of Witten, in North Rhine-Westphalia, Nolte did his doctorate on Karl Marx and was a professor at the Free University of Berlin.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 19, 2016 at 1:30 pm

Peter Hitchens on Trotskyism.

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Back to the Beginning…..

Take it from an ex-Trot: Labour needn’t worry about Trotskyists

We were always too incompetent and self-obsessed to do damage. The real threat comes from the Gramscian legions of the dull

Grumpy old Hitchens has been cheered up:

“There is something about the word ‘Trotskyist’ — energetic, slightly crazy, inherently funny and melodramatic, that gives the brand its enduring power.”

Indeed.

He continues,

Even now, Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson is making our flesh creep with allegations of Trotskyist wickedness among Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters. He doesn’t know the half of it. But I beg him — and you — not to worry. Trotskyists can be guaranteed to sink, burn and destroy each other, if left alone, and are too boring, self-obsessed, incompetent and internecine to do anyone any serious harm except themselves.

Wistful memories of those halcyon days…

“My main aim as a university revolutionary at York was (I now confess) to do down the rival International Marxist Group…The difference was emphasised by the names of our newspapers — ours was Socialist Worker, theirs was Red Mole. Our contest once led us both to seek recruits at the Kit Kat factory, where they distributed (I am not making this up) a special publication called The Chocolate Mole. “

Hitchens sternly warns,

And so the real revolution in the Labour party, which most of Fleet Street has never understood, was inflicted not by Trotskyists, but by the legions of the dull — Eurocommunists who realised Bolshevism was obsolete, quietly captured think tanks and policy committees, and used the apolitical figure of Tony Blair as the front for a Gramscian cultural, constitutional, educational and sexual revolution, whose greatest triumph was to capture the Tory party as well as the Labour party.

Hitchens may be right. Hhis brand of illiberalism (and sovereigntism, a trait he shared with many an erstwhile leftist, here across the Continent),   “embracing equality and diversity, the unmarried family, globalism and open borders,” may risk disturbing “thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, (who) chew the cud and are silent.”

.Whether there was a Gramscian struggle for hegemony that resulted in the defeat of his traditionalists remains to be seen.

One recent event may indicate that these forces have not won…er Europe…..er…Referendum.

One would have thought Hitchens would have embraced the anti-European Leave campaign, and, perhaps in an ecumenical spirit, found himself glad to be on the same side as the his former comrades in the SWP, not to mention the Militant – Socialist Party in England and Wales, rallying, like UKIP and the Tory Right to defend “our” land against the Globe. He should surely be bathing in the joys of victory.

Gramsci is harder (he notes) to pronounce than Trotsky – I will agree to that.

But he fails to note (I lived in York for a short period and had some contract with these people, possibly later than the time Hitchens was there) that the IMG comrade at the Kit Kat (Rowntrees) factory was later a member of one its splinters:  Socialist Action.

The organisation was linked with the 2000–2008 Greater London mayoral administrations of Ken Livingstone, although Livingstone was never a member.Four of Livingstone’s key advisers were Socialist Action members; all made the “top 25” in the Evening Standard’s 2007 list of the most influential people in London.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 18, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Anjem Choudary, “enthusiastic supporter of the Islamic State (IS) and an apologist for its brutal crimes”, convicted.

with 9 comments

Choudary: Finally Behind Bars. 

The BBC reports:

One of the UK’s most notorious radical clerics has been convicted of inviting others to support the so-called Islamic State, it can now be reported.

Police said Anjem Choudary, 49, had stayed “just within the law” for years, but was arrested in 2014 after pledging allegiance to the militant group.

Many people tried for serious terror offences were influenced by his lectures and speeches, police said.

Choudary was convicted alongside confidant Mohammed Mizanur Rahman.

Counter-terrorism chiefs have spent almost 20 years trying to bring Choudary, a father of five, to trial, blaming him, and the proscribed organisations which he helped to run, for radicalising young men and women.

Both men were charged with one offence of inviting support for IS – which is contrary to section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000 – between 29 June 2014 and 6 March 2015.

The verdict on the two defendants was delivered on 28 July, but can only be reported now, following the conclusion of a separate trial at the Old Bailey of another group of men for a similar offence.

Hope Not Hate, an anti-racist group which fights both the European Far-right and Islamist hate-mongers, states,

It has been a long time coming but finally Anjem Choudary, Britain’s most prominent extremist cleric, is behind bars having been found guilty of supporting a terrorist organisation. A four week trial at the Old Bailey heard how he was a vocal and enthusiastic supporter of the Islamic State (IS) and an apologist for its brutal crimes.

HOPE not hate has created a special report on Choudary and his links to terror

www.hopenothate.org.uk/features/anjem-choudary/

Our report reveals:

  • how Choudary became the Islamic State’s Ambassador-at-large during the second half of 2014
  • how Choudary’s international network was the single largest recruiter of Western jihadists
  • how Choudary and his al-Muhajiroun network has been linked to at least 110 Britons who have been convicted of terrorism or terror-related charges or have carried out terrorist acts over the last 20 years.

Read our report here:

www.hopenothate.org.uk/features/anjem-choudary/

Read our report here:

www.hopenothate.org.uk/features/anjem-choudary/

Justice has been a long time coming. For far too long, Anjem Choudary has played a key role as a cheerleader for ISIS, and been allowed to demonise the Muslim community. His actions have been a recruiting sergeant for groups like the EDL.

Although he was treated as a somewhat clown-like, go-to figure for the press as a rent-a-quote extremist, he clearly promoted the disgusting and divisive ideals of the Islamic State, while dozens of his supporters have been connected to terrorist plots, violence or heading overseas to fight in Syria and Iraq.

Finally Choudary can now pay for his actions. Please read our report.

On Shiraz Socialist this post speaks for progressive humanity:

Comrade Dave writes:

I was reading this Hope not Hate post about Anjem Choudary who has been sent down for recruiting for Daesh.
http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/features/anjem-choudary/

What leapt out at me was some of the quotes sound familiar. They are pretty close, in fact share the language, to bits of the left when talking about the middle east or ‘anti imperialist’ regimes.

‘Blame the west’, tell barefaced lies about how tolerant a regime is, then justify its oppressiveness anyway article:

“What the policy of the West has always been is to divide and rule. What they want to say is that these people are extreme, so support the others so as to cause factions to fight with each other. But, in fact, if you look at the history of the Caliphate, even if you look now in the area controlled by the Islamic State, the Jews, the Muslims and the Christians are living side by side in security. It is not true that people are being slaughtered. Those people who are allied with the previous regime or those who are fighting against the Muslims, certainly they will be fought against.”

The blowback article.

“If you look at the death of James Foley,” he said, “you only have to listen to the person who is executing him to know that the blame is the Americans’ because of their own foreign policy. The fact is that decades of torture, cruelty and mass murder will have repercussions.”

The intimation that someone killed in appalling circumstances  is an American agent without actually saying it:

“Now,” he added, “I don’t know anything about these journalists, why they were there, whether they were spying or in fact part of the military. Often it turns out that people have other roles as well.”

This was for the ‘kuffar’ press. His stuff for Islamist audiences differed. But he had learnt all the stock anti imperialist and cultural relativist arguments from the kitsch left and recycled them.

Meanwhile running a global propaganda and recruitment network for Daesh.

This is the real ideology of Daesh (from their magazine Dabiq):.

Remember these words are arms :

The clear difference between Muslims and the corrupt and deviant Jews and Christians is that Muslims are not ashamed of abiding by the rules sent down from their Lord regarding war and enforcement of divine law. So if it were the Muslims, instead of the Crusaders, who had fought the Japanese and Vietnamese or invaded the lands of the Native Americans, there would have been no regrets in killing and enslaving those therein.

And since those mujahidin would have done so bound by the Law, they would have been thorough and without some “politically correct” need to apologize years later. The Japanese, for example, would have been forcefully converted to Islam from their pagan ways. Had they stubbornly declined, perhaps another nuke would change their mind. The Vietnamese would likewise be offered Islam or beds of napalm. As for the Native Americans: after the slaughter of their men, those who would favor smallpox to surrendering to the Lord would have their surviving women and children taken as slaves, with the children raised as model Muslims and their women impregnated to produce a new generation of mujahidin.

As for the treacherous Jews of Europe and elsewhere — those who would betray their covenant — then their post-pubescent males would face a slaughter that would make the Holocaust sound like a bedtime story, as their women would be made to serve their husbands’ and fathers’ killers.

Furthermore, the lucrative African slave trade would have continued, supporting a strong economy. The Islamic leadership would not have bypassed Allah’s permission to sell captured pagan humans, to teach them, and to convert them, as they worked hard for their masters in building a beautiful country. Notably, of course, those of them who converted, practiced their religion well, and were freed would be treated no differently than any other free Muslim. This is unlike when the Christian slaves were emancipated in America, as they were not afforded supposedly government-recognized equal “rights” for more than a century — and their descendants still live in a nation divided over those days.

All of this would be done, not for racism, nationalism, or political lies, but to make the word of Allah supreme. Jihad is the ultimate show of one’s love for his Creator, facing the clashing of swords and buzzing of bullets on the battlefield, seeking to slaughter His enemies — whom he hates for Allah’s hatred of them.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 17, 2016 at 11:07 am

Death of Georges Séguy, Resistant, Leader of the CGT, and Communist.

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Georges Séguy: From  the Resistance, Manthausen Camp, to May 68.

Georges Séguy who led the CGT, the largest French trade union federation, close to the French Communist Party,  from 1967 to 1982, died on Saturday at the age of 89 years at the hospital Montargis (Loiret).

 He passed away early yesterday afternoon,” said Elyane Bressol, President the Institute of social history (IHS) of the CGT, which Georges Seguy was honorary president. He was hospitalised for several days to Montargis Hospital, in Loiret.

Hommage à Georges Séguy (CGT)

Communiqué de la CGT.

C’est avec beaucoup de tristesse et d’émotion que nous avons appris le samedi 13 août 2016, le décès de Georges Séguy, à 89 ans, ancien Secrétaire Général de la CGT de 1967 à 1982.

More dignified tributes in the pages of l’Humanité.

As an apprentice printer, a member of the young Communists,  and part of the resistance group Francs-tireurs et partisans français (FTPF) Séguy was arrested at the age of 17 by the Gestapo  and deported to  Mauthausen.

France 24 outlines Séguy’s trade union career. His health affected by the deportation he became an electrician and worked for the French national rail service, the SNCF. He was both active in the French Communist Party  (Parti communiste français, PCF) and the CGT (Confédération générale du travail).

Georges Séguy devient en 1961 secrétaire général de la fédération des cheminots, l’une des plus importantes avec celles de la métallurgie et de l’EGF (électricité et gaz). Entré en 1965 au bureau confédéral de la CGT, il succède en 1967 à Benoît Frachon au poste de secrétaire général. Il vient de fêter son quarantième anniversaire.

Georges Séguy became General Secretary of the train-drivers and rail-workers’ federation, one of the most important wings of the CGT union federation, along with the engineers (roughly in the sense used by the  Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union AEEU), and the Gaz and Electricity  producers. AFter becoming part of the national committee of the CGT in 1967 he took over from Benoît Frachon the post of General Secretary. He had only  just celebrated his 40th birthday.

Un an plus tard, ce sont les événements de mai 68, les barricades, neuf millions d’ouvriers en grève, la révolte étudiante, De Gaulle ébranlé. Lors des difficiles négociations de Grenelle, Georges Séguy, au nom de la CGT, affronte Georges Pompidou, Premier ministre.

One year later and the May 68 ‘events’ took place, barricades, 9 million workers on strike, the student revolt, leaving President De Gaulle completely shaken. During the difficult negotiations with the gvoernment that took place at Rue Grenelle, Georges Séguy confronted the Prime Minister Georges Pompidou.

Sous les présidences de Georges Pompidou et de Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, la CGT, alors au faîte de sa puissance, mènera sous sa houlette une lutte permanente contre la politique contractuelle lancée au début des années 1970 par Jacques Delors, alors conseiller social du Premier ministre Jacques Chaban-Delmas.

Under the Presidencies of Georges Pompidou and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing the CGT, at the height of its power, waged a permanent war against labour reforms (part of the ‘nouvelle société’ project which drew Delors, from a left Christian democratic tradition into the right-wing government’s orbit) launched by Jacques Delors, at the time a top adviser on social affairs to the Prime Minister  Jacques Chaban-Delmas.

In 1968 Georges Séguy was central to the Grenelle Agreements which negotiated an end to official union backing for the strikes in return for substantial government concessions of workers pay and rights.

The Grenelle Agreements (French: Accords de Grenelle) or Grenelle Reports were negotiated 25 and 26 May, during the crisis of May 1968 in France by the representative of the Pompidou government, the trade unions, and the Organisation patronale. Among the negotiators were Jacques Chirac, then the young Secretary of State of Local Affairs, and Georges Séguy, representative of the Confédération générale du travail.

The Grenelle Agreements, concluded 27 May 1968—but not signed—led to a 35% increase in the minimum wage (salaire minimum interprofessionnel garanti) and 10% increase in average real wages.[1] It also provided for the establishment of the trade union section of business (Section syndicale d’entreprise), through the act of 27 December 1968.

Georges Séguy and the CGT’s role in May 68 remains a matter of great controversy on the French left, if not internationally. There are those who would dismiss the Grenelle accords, others would personally attack  Séguy.

There are serious critical points to be made, above all by French leftists and trade unionists.

By contrast, it is to be expected that a section of the British left, notably the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party in England and Wales, will savage comrade Séguy. Some will note the irony of those who have recently been cheer-leaders for the reactionary nationalist Brexit campaign  attacking a leader of a mass trade union who obtained  substantial concessions from the French government in 1968  for ‘reformism’.

In Séguy’s own account of the events of May 68 he states,  that, while freely admitting that his union and party had been overtaken by events, and that a  gulf between the students and the CGT had opened up (noting in passing that their anti-Stalinism was, for him, identical to anti-Marxism and anti-Communism) , the CGT and the unions had still achieved a major step forward in terms of social reform within the world of work.

Some obituaries have noted that Séguy tried to democratise the CGT during the late 1970s, and to return it to independent spirit of the Charte d’Amien (1906)  a struggle which led to his eventual resignation as General Secretary (1982).

Quel bilan faites-vous des avancées sociales issues des négociations de Grenelle?

Elles ont été supérieures à celles de 1936! Avec 8 ou 9 millions de grévistes, la pression sur le gouvernement et le patronat était telle que le pouvoir a dû faire des concessions importantes. Ainsi, nous réclamions un salaire minimum à 600 francs par mois, soit une augmentation de 37%: cette revendication, qui avait toujours été repoussée, a été résolue dans les dix premières minutes des négociations de Grenelle! En dehors des augmentations de salaire, nous avons principalement obtenu la liberté des activités syndicales dans les entreprises et la réduction du temps de travail, avec le retour de la semaine de travail de 40 heurs.

The social advances were greater than those of 1936. With 8 to 9 million strikes the pressure on the government and the employer was such that they had to make important concessions. The minimum wage of 600 francs a month, a rise of 37%, a demand which had always been turned down, was accepted within the first ten minutes of the negotiations! Apart from wage rises we gained the freedom to organise unions in all enterprises, and a reduction in working time, back to 40 hours a week.

These are other interesting observations.

Georges Séguy: “Sarkozy wants to kill off the spirit of rebellion”

Translated Sunday 13 May 2007, by Emma Paulay

The ex-General Secretary of the CGT retorts to the right-wing candidate’s speech about May 1968 (1).

As he watched Nicolas Sarkozy demonise May 1968 on television, Georges Séguy saw red. The ex general secretary of the CGT, the leading trade union, and leader of the workers strike at the time, knows what he’s talking about…

Huma: What was your spur-of-the-moment reaction?

Georges Séguy: It gave me a start. I understand that the events of May 1968 left the reactionaries and especially the employers, with painful memories. But it’s the first time I’ve heard a politician like Nicolas Sarkozy condemn a memorable moment in our national social history in such retrograde terms. The main historical importance of May 1968, is neither the police violence in the Latin quarter, nor the legitimate controversies of different philosophical currents of the time, it is the general strike of ten million workers who took over their companies.

Huma: Not everyone remembers the outcome. Can you remind us what it was?

Georges Séguy: The workers were infuriated by years of governmental and employers’ opposition to any social progress. The general strike had one aim: to overcome this blockage, to obtain the opening of negotiation procedures. A huge majority of factories which had been occupied by their workers, many for the first time, signed the commitment of 25th May 1968 at the Ministry of Employment, boulevard Grenelle. It didn’t take long. Within a few hours, many demands, which it would take too long to list, were taken into account. The most extraordinary of which was a 30% raise of the minimum wage. When you see all the commotion about the minimum wage at 1500 euros, gross or net, it is worth remembering that this raise in the minimum wage and low salaries in the provinces, in Brittany for example, boosted domestic consumption to such a point that economic growth was increased more than at any other time during the period known as the “Trente Glorieuses”.

Huma: But you are talking about the workers, and of their strikes, and it is precisely this aspect that Nicolas Sarkozy did not talk about. Is there some misunderstanding?

Georges Séguy: No. Sarkozy knew exactly what he was doing. He censored the workers strike in his speech because it contradicts his attack on May 1968. He cannot proclaim his love for the workers and at the same time revile them when they accomplish a leap forward in their conditions and in society. The worker he respects is the one who gets up early and works flat out for his boss, even if the same boss might sack him one day. It’s not the one who stays up late preparing action that will help others defend their interests and have better lives. His slogan “work more to earn more” is misleading. To earn more, you have to fight more. I challenge anyone to look back at history and prove the contrary.

Huma: What was the point of this diatribe?

Georges Séguy: This malevolent condemnation, comparing militants, trade unionists and dissatisfied workers to hooligans, aims to discredit a movement where the famous work value that Sarkozy brandishes won a spectacular victory over those whose only thought is of over exploiting it to their advantage. The scale of this movement remains and will remain, at a much higher level than a politician’s ambitions, one of the most significant examples of French workers’ attachment to the social model resulting from the National Council of the Résistance.

Huma: Nicolas Sarkozy has no qualms about referring to the Résistance himself, from Général de Gaulle to Jean Moulin, to Guy Môquet. What is your reaction to that, as a résistant who was deported at a very young age?

Georges Séguy: He certainly had the gall to quote such glorious names. But it’s precisely the great social conquests imposed by the Résistance that he wants to destroy: a social security system based on solidarity between generations, a right to retirement, freedom of action for trade unions, nationalisations, large public services etc. His programme is the opposite to that of the National Council of the Résistance. In subjecting the historical social progress of May 1968, to public obloquy, and at the same time drumming out his love for workers, Sarkozy shows that, if he is elected, the French social model will not outlive his all-consuming fervour for work.

Huma: It’s a well-know fact that workers and students in 1968 did not have exactly the same point of view. Maybe Sarkozy thinks that he can speculate on that difference. However, the slogan for the march on 13th May 1968 was “student-worker solidarity”. What finally reunited everyone was a sort of uprising against a social order to which people were subjected in different ways…

Georges Séguy: As I see it, in what the UMP leader is saying, his overall attitude towards May 1968 is of great importance. Apart from the leftist diversions of a few groups, May 1968 was also a wonderful young people’s revolt against the advocates of the doctrinaire approach and totalitarian-minded political powers which had a tendency to stiffen the democracy. This brought about a huge juvenile movement towards a society freed of old fashioned mentalities, of unfairness and of the shackles of all sorts of bans and taboos. We were spectators to a strong push for social, political, and cultural emancipation. For women, that meant rejection of inequality and discrimination, the new force of feminism was women’s rights. In short, May 1968 was a great social movement and an extraordinary request for morals, habits, and society to be modernised. I am a witness to the fact that the workers movement did not necessarily realise that at the time. By proclaiming his loathing for this call for emancipation, Nicolas Sarkozy shows us whose side he is on: on the side of the big bosses, of an out-of-date monarchial system.


Translator’s note:

(1) Nicolas Sarkozy, at the largest rally of his campaign (at the Bercy arena in Paris), declared: “In this election, it is a question of whether the heritage of May ’68 should be perpetuated or if it should be liquidated once and for all.” May ‘68 “weakened the idea of citizenship by denigrating the law, the state and the nation … See how the belief in short-term profit and speculation, how the values of financial capitalism grew out of May ’68, because there are no more rules, no more norms, no morality, no more respect, no authority … ”

Written by Andrew Coates

August 15, 2016 at 4:24 pm

The Labour Party: Holed up and Isolated on Collis Aventinus.

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Labour’s Forerunners The Secession of the People.

In early, half-legendary, Roman history at around 495 BCE the conflict between the Patrician Senate and the Plebeians reached such a point that the common people seceded. After time three miles away on Mons Sacer, they sat, the story goes, on Collis Esquilinus and Collis Aventinus, within the City walls. There they remained, it is proverbially (in a simplified version of the story) in splendid isolation, until their demands for debt relief were met.

The tale came to symbolise how political minorities can defiantly proclaim their independence. We might say that the Labour Party is in danger not only of tearing itself apart, but of ending up, however large its membership may swell , separate from the rest of the country. Opinion polls indicate that it remains very far from commanding the votes needed for an electoral majority. It risks far greater isolation than the Roman plebs.

In La social-démocratie européenne dans l’impasseLe Monde yesterday covered the crises affecting the European left. Of those politicians heading potential governing parties, it noted that Jeremy Corbyn, Robert Fico (Slovakia), and Pedro Sanchez (head of the Spanish socialists, the PSOE) confronted the same dilemma: how to win power and to keep their parties going.

The article cites the startling case of the Slovakians: Fico formed a ‘red-brown’ coalition with nationalist-far-right parties between 2006 and 2010. Again allied with the extreme-right his populism extends to virulent anti-migrant rhetoric. At the bottom of the page is another striking case. France’s ruling Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste, PS) has declined to between 60,000 and 80,000 members (some put the figure still lower). The PS, and other left candidates, less or more radical, look unlikely to make it to the second round of next year’s Presidential election.

Spain’s PSOE – still, at 22,06 % of the vote, the largest electoral force on the Spanish left – looks about to accept another right-wing government; the ‘populist’ Podemos’s vote declined in the June elections, creating its own internal difficulties. The German SPD is withering on the vine, its leader, Sigmar Gabriel, barely registering internationally. Italy’s Prime Minister, Matteo Rizni, nominally on the centre-left, faces a challenge in a referendum about reforming the country’s’ Senate. Only in Portugal, with a coalition led by Socialist Antonio Costa and supported by the Communists and the radical Bloco de Esquerda remains clearly on the left.

Are the fortunes of the rest of the European left important for the British Labour Party? With no participation in the Euro, and now Brexit it would appear that .the country is free from the prospect of a Continental federation ruled by free-market bureaucrats. The ‘democratic deficit’ ended, the House of Commons can return to making its own laws. What happens elsewhere, happens elsewhere.

Sovereigntism.

The ideology that animated the pro-Brexit left is sovereigntism. This is the idea that popular sovereignty is the goal of the “people” against the elites, Brussels, globalisation, finance capital. The ‘general will’ can be expressed in extra-Parliamentary forms, from the Spanish Indignados, the Occupy Wall Street movement, to the more recent Nuit Debout protests in France. The view is growing that the Labour Party can, as a ‘social movement’ take on a similar role: a direct link between the will of the grass roots and politics. With the end of ties to the EU what is to stop this force, a battering ram, from conquering power and exercising the sovereignty of the people? Or, as the British left tends to dub it, will the ‘the working class’ be able to “take power”?

Yanis Varoufakis observes, by contrast, that the sovereignty that British political forces want to preserve, of ”their cherished House of Commons”, “is put under pressure by its most powerful social groups: trader, manufacturers, and of course the City of London, for whom Brexit is fraught with dangers”. The “tug of war between sovereignty and financialised capital” has not evaporated after Brexit. (Page 123. And The Weak Suffer What They Must? Yanis Varoufakis 2016) Popular sovereignty, a General Will whose supporters regularly (as in the radical protest movements cited above) contrast with the compromises, not to say corruption, of Parliamentary democracy, is an intangible force faced with the class realities of power. The social movement talked about in recent months, whether largely apparent only in public meetings, or with deeper roots, is unlikely to stand much of a chance faced with these structural constraints.

The Conservative government is negotiating trading and other agreements, including new versions of TIPP. Continued access to the single market will come at a price. The TUC’s has little power behind its efforts to secure “jobs and right at work.” (Working people must not pay the price for the vote to Leave. TUC June 2016) The results will not vanish if a Labour government comes to power. Prime Minister Teresa May is on record as hostile to trade unions and the rights embodied in EU law. International trade agreements will doubtless favour the rights of what Varoufakis calls “financialised capital”.

Conquering Power.

How can this be changed? Labour governments have been charged with merely exercising power, rather than conquering it, that is, winning a serious battle in the state and society as a whole and not just in the ballot box. Governing may involve making many important choices, but the intense life of Cabinets tends to downplay the wider social basis of change that socialists wish to introduce.

Many people are impressed by illustrations from very recent history. The Blair-Brown years could be seen as winning elections, with a careful strategy to assemble different constituencies (middle class, aspirational working class, left labour voters with ‘nowhere else to go’). Until the banking-financial crisis of 2007 -8 this was a period of expanded social spending. But these Labour governments operated within institutions of the privatising state created by Margaret Thatcher. Following John Major they extended this to privatising public services, including, for example, back-to-work schemes for several million of the unemployed. As the well-paid private appointments of many former New Labour Ministers and their supporters indicate, the state was not just unconquered; the privatisers conquered New Labour.

With this perspective in view, the acceleration of Conservative free-market ‘reforms’ to the economy, the development of the private company hold on the state, we should not be inward looking. We should embrace both democratic socialist calls for public ownership, and the social democratic impulse for equality. In place of rhetoric about ‘sovereignty’ the powerful Labour tradition of practical reforms should be our concern. A revival of the Fabian tradition of public service and detailed social policy, melded with Marxist scepticism about the class nature of the state and the critique of capitalism, might – I am being, to say the least, optimistic – bring us together. Matched with concern for universal human rights, this could be part of what one of the greatest leaders of European socialism Jean Jaurès (1859 – 1914) called the “synthesis” between left-wing traditions.

In early Rome the Avernis episode ended, it is said, in compromise. The Plebeians won on the issue of debt and, eventually, some political representation. But they did not overturn Patrician rule. Whatever the causes, which we can discuss for days, the last thing Labour needs is infighting, standing alone, laughed at by the Governing Right, cheered on by sectarian forces who wish to split the Party, and standing alone, on a modern political Collis Avernis. If this continues we look unlikely to  get even the measure of satisfaction our commoner forerunners obtained. We are not separate from the crisis of European social democracy described in Le Monde: we are part of it.

Socialist Party (Peter Taaffe) from Nationalise the 400 Top Monopolies to Nationalise 150.

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What Would Trotsky Have Done?

Concern is growing in the international workers’ movement after night’s appearance by Peter Taaffe on Channel Four News.

The dapper gent, reminding us of how his organisation, the Socialist Party, brought down Thatcher, and was now looking to re-affiliate the Socialist Party to Labour, talked of the programme we all – how pressingly ! – meed.

But something sounded wrong.

In 1964 Militant, forerunner of Taaffe’s party paper,  The Socialist, demanded” “Nationalise the 400 Monopolies” (Wikipedia).

In 1972 a “supporter” of the paper, Pat Wall called “for Labour to win the workers to a programme of taking power by taking over the 350 monopolies which controlled 85 per cent of the economy.”

“By the late 1970s, the Militant newspaper was a 16 page weekly, outlining its organisations policies, activities and campaigns. By the end of the 1970s, the Militant tendency was calling for the nationalisation of the top 250 monopolies, later 200…”

Yesterday Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party of England and Wales and member of the International Executive Committee of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), which claims sections in over 45 countries around the world demanded, according to reliable reports, “public ownership of the top 150 monopolies.”

This new line is confirmed in the party paper, ” We would nationalise not just steel in Britain but the top 150 monopolies that control the wealth and resources in society.” (20th of April 2016)

In “A world of crisis, ripe for revolution” (Socialist Party national congress 2016) is this the moment to abandon the hope of nationalising the other 250 monopolies?

Is is not the time, with history breathing down the SP’s neck, to stand firm, when even the Stalinists of the so-called British Communist Party (CPB)  have rushed to the aid of the Labour right?

The leader of Britain’s Communist Party has condemned alleged Trotskyist ‘entryism’ into Labour.

Robert Griffiths, the party’s general secretary, denounced the tactic as dishonest and predicted it would backfire.

His comments came after the leader of the Socialist Party, the successor to Militant, Peter Taaffe said he expected to become a Labour member if Jeremy Corbyn keeps his job.

Mr Taaffe was expelled from the party in 1983 as part of then leader Neil Kinnock’s battle against hard-left elements.

….

The Communist party released a press release saying it condemned ‘dishonest tactics by sectarian entryist groups’.

Mr Griffith said: “Only Labour’s right-wing benefit from this manufactured media storm about entryism into the Labour Party.

“With hundreds of thousands of progressive voters flooding to support the Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn neither the media nor Tom Watson’s fertile imagination cannot conjure a real threat from a handful of obscure sectarians.

“Deciding Labour’s leadership and policy is the exclusive privilege of its members, registered supporters and trade union supporters. Membership of the Communist Party is incompatible with membership of the Labour Party by decision of both party leaderships

More in the Morning Star:  Communists: Labour Entryism A Myth.

COMMUNIST Party leader Robert Griffiths has slammed the “fertile imagination” of rightwingers who say far-left infiltrators are taking over the Labour Party.

Mr Griffiths emphasised that the Communist Party had always opposed entryism and said the “sectarian” organisations that practised it were too small to make a difference.

He made the statement after deputy Labour leader Tom Watson claimed old Trotskyist entryists were attempting to use the “Labour Party as a vehicle for revolutionary socialism.”

Mr Griffiths said: “Only Labour’s right wing benefit from this manufactured media storm about entryism into the Labour Party.

“With hundreds of thousands of progressive voters flooding to support the Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn neither the media nor Tom Watson’s fertile imagination can conjure a real threat from a handful of obscure sectarians.

“Deciding Labour’s leadership and policy is the exclusive privilege of its members, registered supporters and trade union supporters.

“Membership of the Communist Party is incompatible with membership of the Labour Party by decision of both party leaderships.”

Judges will today rule on whether 130,000 people who joined the Labour Party in the last six months can vote in the forthcoming leadership election.

On Monday, a High Court judge ruled in favour of five new members who argued that refusing them the right to vote would amount to a breach of contract.

But the case was heard by the Court of Appeal, where lawyers representing Labour general secretary Iain McNicol argued only the national executive committee could rule on the constitution.

The decision will be announced at 3pm today.

A senior Labour source said: “If Labour loses the appeal, the position of Iain McNicol becomes untenable.

“Having spent nearly a quarter [of a] million pounds on this legal case and staking his professional reputation on the outcome, if he loses today then he simply can’t stay in post.”

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 12, 2016 at 11:09 am

Socialist Party (ex-Militant) Argues for a Split in the Labour Party.

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Socialist Party Lecturing Corbyn Supporters. 

The Socialist Party, ex-Militant (strictly speaking the Socialist Party in England and Wales, SPEW, an acronym that, oddly, has not caught on)  has long argued that that the Labour Party under Blair and Brown has become a “bourgeois” party.

They have in recent years stood candidates for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in competition with the Labour Party.

This has been a failure, “Following the 2016 elections, TUSC have no remaining official councillors, Kevin Bennett having lost his seat in Warrington”.

The Socialist Party were also involved in the No2EU campaign in the 2014 European elections.

This slate scored 0,2% of the vote, 31,757 ballot papers.

An  amusing paper on the supporters’ justification for their feeble performance can be found here: “We won the argument even if we have not won the election”: British far left party responses to poor electoral performance. John Kelly. 2014.

More recently the same party campaigned vigorously for a Leave vote in the Referendum on the European Union.

Its principal front organisation, Trade Unionists Against the EU, claimed to be for a “People’s Brexit”.

Pleased with the result but worried that the country may not quit the EU immediately, their spokesperson Brian Denny now warns,

Defend democracy!

The ruling class and the EU will attempt to reverse Brexit vote if they are allowed to get away with it..

He continues,

So what happens next? Well clearly Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – which kick starts the two-year process of EU withdrawal of a member state – must be implemented as Spiked and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for.

Yet it is very unlikely that the political class will allow this to happen without a fight.

It is notable that Denny expresses not the slightest remorse at the Carnival of Reaction, the wave of racist attacks, that followed the Vote.

We await clarification on what measures Denny advocates to defeat the ‘political class’.

Entrism. 

Meanwhile there is  a row around ‘entryism’ in the Labour Party.

Labour Deputy leader Tom Watson said,

“There are some old hands twisting young arms in this process, and I’m under no illusions about what’s going on. They are caucusing and factionalising and putting pressure where they can, and that’s how Trotsky entryists operate. Sooner or later, that always ends up in disaster. It always ends up destroying the institutions that are vulnerable, unless you deal with it.”

He added that some “Trots”, who have returned to Labour after being driven out decades ago, “certainly don’t have the best interests of the Labour party at heart. They see the Labour party as a vehicle for revolutionary socialism, and they’re not remotely interested in winning elections, and that’s a problem.”

In reply, ” Corbyn’s campaign team accused Watson of “peddling baseless conspiracy theories,” They said he should be trying to “unite” the party, rather than “patronising” members.(Guardian)

There is a little doubt that few of the tens of thousands people who have joined Labour in the last year are Trotskyists and are perfectly capable of making up their own minds, apart from it being unlikely that they have ever experienced any such “arm-twisting”.

This has not stopped at least some people who claim to be Trotskyists from rather relishing the attacks.

One group which claims Trotskyist origins (while rejecting Trotsky’s own support for a Socialist United States of Europe) has joined the fray: the same Socialist Party.

The Guardian has published this article today:

Leader of expelled leftwing group Militant expects readmission to Labour

Peter Taaffe, whose group was thrown out of party by Neil Kinnock, praises Jeremy Corbyn and rejects entryist claims.

There is a great deal of self-justification in Taaffe’s response as laid out in the article.

Some of his account of Militant’s past is true.

No doubt the SP did play an important role in the anti-Poll Tax movement,  but the dismal  recent record of the party he has led (unchallenged, for several decades) can be seen above. That is their complete failure to construct what Andrew Murray once called, “a shadow labour movement around itself, with its own electoral front, its own shop stewards’ network etc.”.

Indications are that ‘sympathisers’ from the party have indeed joined in the campaign to re-elect Corbyn, if not Labour itself. Which no doubt is not ‘entrism’.

If it has a very limited influence, (its membership figures are not public, showing how how democratic the group is, but are estimated at a couple of thousand) this has not stopped the Party from offering advice, even instructions, to the Labour Party, and to Corbyn’s supporters.

In today’s The Socialist, the group takes a swipe at Momentum (which underlines the fact that Momentum is not connected with the SP) recommendation for the Labour NEC (in fact, the Grassroots Alliance – but the SP has little grasp on how Labour operates these days). They are, we are informed, not all with a “consistent left record”.

To remedy this the paper’s Editorial advocates this,

The national structures of the Labour Party would also need to be opened out and democratised. To mobilise the maximum possible support, there should be a return to the founding structures of the Labour Party which involved separate socialist political parties coalescing with the trade unions and social movements like women’s suffrage campaigners and the co-operative movement. That federal approach applied to today would mean allowing political parties that were prepared to sign up to a clear anti-austerity programme to affiliate to Labour as the Co-op Party still does.

No prizes for guessing which political party is foremost in their minds here!

The Editorial recommends mandatory re-selection, and looks favourably on a split in the Labour Party,

Many Labour supporters will fear that a split would weaken the Labour Party. In fact the opposite would be the case. True a Blairite split away would – at least initially – dramatically decrease the number of Labour MPs in Westminster. But a group of 40, or even 20 or 30, MPs who consistently campaigned against austerity and defended workers in struggle, would do far more to strengthen the fightback against the Tories than 232 ‘Labour’ MPs, a majority who vote for austerity, privatisation and war.

This would be a win-win situation,

A re-founded anti-austerity Labour Party could quickly make electoral gains. One YouGov opinion poll estimated that a Corbyn-led Labour Party following a right split would receive 21% of the vote, while if the right successfully kept the Labour name, Corbyn’s party would receive 14% of the vote. Either scenario would give a solid electoral base which could rapidly be built on. Let’s remember that Greek party Syriza, initially on an anti-austerity platform, went from under 5% to winning a general election in just a few years, while Podemos in Spain has gone from not existing to vying for power in an even shorter time.

Syriza naturally has been extremely successful in implementing an anti-austerity policy…

Aand Podemos,…

Unidos Podemos was the big loser of Spain’s general election, shedding more than 1m votes since the last ballot in December. Worse still, the alliance failed to achieve its overarching strategic objective — to replace the centre-left Socialists as the dominant political force on the Spanish left.

Financial Times. June 28th.

The prospects for a “new radical workers’ party, able to attract all those workers and youth wanting to fight back against capitalism” are not brightened by these examples. Or by the sterile political record of the Socialist Party in recent years.

 

 

 

 

American Green Party Vice-Presidential Candidate Ajamu Baraka, Called Charlie Hebdo Solidarity, “White Power” March.

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This Blog does not normally comment on American politics.

But this has been in the news and friends have brought it  to our attention.

“Earlier this week, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein announced that Ajamu Baraka would be her new running mate:

I am honored and excited to announce that my running mate in the 2016 presidential election will be Ajamu Baraka, activist, writer, intellectual and organizer with a powerful voice, vision, and lifelong commitment to building true political revolution.

The announcement promoted a number of responses.

This is one.

However, what Stein does not want you to know is that in January 2015, Baraka’s “powerful voice” described a vigil for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting as a “white power march” and labeled the slogan “Je suis Charlie” as an “arrogant rallying cry for white supremacy.”  (More on Progressive Secular Humanist.)

This is what this true political “revolutionary” wrote:

 15th of January 2015.

The Charlie Hebdo white power rally in ParisA celebration of Western hypocrisy

“Je Suis Charlie” has become a sound bite to justify the erasure of non-Europeans, and for ignoring the sentiments, values and views of the racialized “other.” In short, Je Suis Charlie has become an arrogant rallying cry for white supremacy that was echoed at the white power march on Sunday in Paris and in the popularity of the new issue of Charlie Hebdo.

The millions who turned out on Sunday claimed to be marching in solidarity with the victims at Charlie Hebdo and against terrorism. They were joined by political leaders from across Europe, Israel and other parts of the world – on the same weekend reports were emerging that 2,000 Nigerians may have lost their lives at the hands of Boko Haram, another Muslim extremist group.

We note that arrogant Ajama Barka failed to even register the deaths at the Porte de Vincennes  Hypercacher of 4 Jewish hostages at the same time as the  Dammartin-en-Goële hostage crisis in which the two Charlie Hebdo gunmen were cornered.

We would be interested to hear of what exactly Barka has done to support the victims of Boko Haram.

We do however note that he has been freely expressing the opinion  that this group of Islamist genociders are as part of a US plan to destabilise Africa in general and Nigeria in particular.

And I am outraged knowing that U.S. policy-makers don’t give a damn about the school girls in Nigeria because their real objective is to use the threat of Boko Haram in the Northern part of the country to justify the real goal of occupying the oil fields in the South and to block the Chinese in Nigeria.

Exposing the whole sordid story of the destruction of Libya and the role of Al-Qaeda as the “boots on the ground” for U.S. geo-strategic objectives in North Africa and the Middle East represents the only strategy that an independent and principled left could pursue in wake of the fact that the hearings are going to occur. Anything other than that is capitulation, something that the left has routinely done over the last six years, and some of us still struggle against in the hope that one day the “responsible” left will eschew the privileges that stem from its objective collaboration with the interests and world-view of neo-liberal white power and re-ground itself in authentic radical principles and the world-wide struggle against Western domination.

From Benghazi to Boko Haram: Why I support the Benghazi Inquiry

But to return to Charlie Hebdo….

The people of France mobilized themselves to defend what they saw as an attack against Western civilization. However, the events in Paris did not have to be framed as an existential attack on the imagined values of the liberal white West. Providing some context and making some political links may have been beneficial for attempting to understand what happened in the country and a political way forward beyond the appeal to racial jingoism….

It is the arrogant lack of respect for the ideas and culture of non-European peoples that drove the French ban on the wearing of the niqab and other traditional veiling clothing for Muslim women, just one example of the generalized discriminatory treatment of Arabs and Muslims in France. In this lager context, Charlie Hebdo’s blatant disregard and disrespect for another religion, shielded by an absolute commitment to freedom of speech that gives them blanket immunity, is now compounded by the “Je Suis Charlie campaign,” orchestrated in the name of upholding the values of liberal, Western civilization.

What it means for many of us in the Black community is that Je Suis Charlie has become a sound bite to justify the erasure of non-Europeans, and for ignoring the sentiments, values and views of the racialized “other.”

In short, Je Suis Charlie has become an arrogant rallying cry for white supremacy that was echoed at the white power march on Sunday in Paris and in the popularity of the new issue of Charlie Hebdo.

As the picture above indicates the Charlie March was attended by people of all religions, and none, of all ethnic backgrounds, and those who wish there were no ethnic divisions, by the entire French left, and above all those united for freedom.

The millions across France, who attended the Unity Marches after the attack on Charlie and the Hypercacher, and the millions across the world who stood with them, were above all motivated by sheer love and solidarity with the victims of the Islamist murderers.

Barka’s language, a torrent of half-baked clichés about the ‘Other’, and reference to ‘White Power’ reads like the written trace of verbal incontinence. He also appears something of a confusionist, attributing to the US a role in promoting Boko Haram for their own ends.

His message is hatred of freedom, hatred of the values of liberty, equality and fraternity. If you do not stick up these principles in France, what hope have you of backing them in Africa and elsewhere?

In short Ajamu Baraka is an enemy of all progressive humanity and unfit to stand as a candidate for any left-wing party.

People in Place de Republique gather round tributes to those that were killed

The Love Shown Will Never be Forgotten.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 9, 2016 at 10:19 am

Decoding Chomsky. Science and Revolutionary Politics. Chris Knight. A Review.

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Review: Decoding Chomsky. Science and Revolutionary Politics. Chris Knight. Yale University Press. 2016.

“..we are nowhere near being able to understand what is ‘said’ in the brain. We have no idea how any specific concept, label, grammatical rule, colour impression, orientations strategy, or gender association is actually coded.”

Guy Deutscher. 2010. (1)

Chris Knight (Wikipedia) prefaces Decoding Chomsky with a literary alienation effect. “When I first came across Chomsky’s scientific work, my initial reactions resembled those of an anthropologist attempting to fathom the beliefs of a previously unknown tribe.” This will immediately echo with many who have endured seminars on Transformational Grammar, complete with charts. More persistent than the average person Knight is resolved to grapple with the mysteries at work. “The doctrines encountered may seem absurd, but there are always compelling reasons why those particular doctrines are the ones people adhere to.” (Page ix)

Knight’s intentions in this study, he announces, are to “serve justice on Chomsky without doing an injustice to Chomsky the conscience of America.” (Page xii) Before plunging into this forensic critique of the career and concepts of one of the world’s most celebrated critics of US foreign policy, it should be made clear that author is a long-standing activist on the radical left. Chris is a founder of the leftwing socialist monthly Labour Briefing, the Radical Anthropology Group, and a contributor to the Weekly Worker, recently on humanity’s ‘communist’ pre-history (palaeoanthropology). His academic career has included studies of this aspect of ant, and has won him recognition far beyond these circles.

Decoding Chomsky challenges some of the fundamental assumptions of Chomsky’s ‘Linguistic Revolution’, the belief that linguistics is a “natural science” concerned with the underlying basis of all the world’s tongues. From a background in the sixties’ inspired radical movements that challenged academic authority, Knight remains sensitive to the inflated “scientism” of social ‘science’. Chomsky and his supporters’ claim that their linguistic “cognitive paradigm” has reached the status of a “natural science”, would appear, in this respect, to have gone beyond a claim to university power, to a degree of scientific Majesty that places it above studies of society.

This, not unexpectedly, has failed to impress Knight. As one of the very few people still promoting sixties radicalism against the Academy, his Decoding Chomsky challenges these claims. The voice of Authority, of the kind that the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called “authorised language”, “ the kind you need when performing speech acts, such as declaring war, consecrating a church, naming a ship and so forth. “ (Page 164). Chomsky’s authority is a central target of the book’s critique. Knight traces it to a kind of evocation of ancestral power. In this respect one Bourdieu is an excellent frame of reference, from his analysis of symbolic power in the “discours d’importance”, “le discours magistral” founded on the “l’autorité universitaire et l’autorité politique” (2)

Questioning the ‘neutrality’ of  ‘science’ remains an important radical objective. Recognising that he has no training in theoretical linguistics Knight considers that he is perfectly capable of studying “the Pentagon-funded war science community clustered around Chomsky in the formative period of his career” (Page ix) We might equally say that as language users, we are all qualified to offer some comment about one of the most fundamental aspects of our nature and existence.

A Political Critique from the Left.

The book brings together a numbers of these threads, in which Chomsky’s linguistic theories, and their critics play a significant part. But it would not be unfair to say that it is principally a political critique. Knight offers a sustained argument against the view that Chomsky’s work as a linguistic scientist can be separated (compartmentalised) from the military and state ties of the institution in which he worked the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It was not only competition for academic authority but also the political objectives of the latter that moulded, Knight argues, the way that Chomsky’s ‘linguistic revolution’ took on its most egregious ‘scientific’ aura.

Chomsky claims to separate rigorously his ‘scientific’ work from any political engagement. Knight puts this in the starkest terms. The campaigner against Imperial abuse built “a firewall between his science and his politics, keeping each compartment of his life autonomous with respect to the other. Being free to say what he liked meant ridding his linguistics of any evident social content or meaning, and by the same token purging his politics of any obvious connection with his science.” (Page 73)

Decoding Chomsky is not a critique of ‘scientific’ ‘Western’ rationality’ or science’s ‘grand narrative’ of the type we have become accustomed to since the days when postmodernism was popular. Knight, still echoing the earlier ‘radical’ critique of scientific neutrality popular in the English speaking world in the sixties and early seventies, is not concerned with the undermining the universalist pretensions of the episteme at work here, or uncovering how ‘power’ shaped the formal  ‘rationality’ of Transformational Grammar.

Decoding Chomsky is about the institutional environment that Chomsky worked within.  ”. It is impossible for one to say, “Science in one compartment, politics and life in another” when, we are informed bluntly, that, “Chomsky was working in a weapons research laboratory.” (Page 11)

Knight suggests that Chomsky the scientist, who cracked the basis of how languages work, were deeply implicated in the life of that experimental workroom, and conformed to the objectives the arms developers, the American war machine, set themselves. Generative Grammar (rules that predict, ‘generate’, an infinite number of sentences in a language and specify their structure) owed a debt to American information theorist and “scientific bureaucrat” Warren Weaver and his 1950s project, the construction of a Universal Language Machine.

This is a hard proposition to prove. Despite the fact that the linguist had no direct interest in the idea of ‘machine translation’ in which Weaver was involved in, Knight announces,

Chomsky’s Universal Grammar was a sophisticated refinement of the central idea behind Warren Weaver’s ‘New Tower of Babel’ project, which was designed to secure US state supremacy over ‘communism’ in the post-war world. (Page 104)

Tatlin’s Tower.

Decoding Chomsky offers a memorable parallel to this dream in the early Soviet visions of universal humanity, symbolised in the projected monument to the Third International, the Tatlin Tower. This, never built, construction, was to symbolise the unity of humankind. In an ambitious claim Knight links this to another, utopian, dream of linguistic unity, “restoring that pre-Babel language was a project not only permitted, but explicitly blessed by God. This idea exercised a profound influence on Russian shamanistic and mystical poetry – one that remained very much alive when, beginning with Russian and other Slavic tongues, the mystic Khlebnikov made it his mission to restore to all humanity its pre-Babel lost alphabet of sounds, unleashing enough mutual understanding to launch a revolution and establish heaven on Earth.”(Page 106)

There was a direct connection,

The suggestion that Khlebnikov was behind the startlingly beautiful Tatlin’s Tower seems likely on various grounds. Khlebnikov imagined himself ‘besieging’ immense ‘towers’, central among them the ‘tower of time’ Apart from the fact that Khlebnikov’s Moon–Earth–Sun motif was explicitly built into the ambitious project, we know that he himself was an intimate friend of the monument’s designer, the former sailor, Vladimir Tatlin. (Ibid)

For Knight, we takes an optimistic, not to say, romanticised view of the early years of the Russian Revolution, “Tatlin’s Tower, then, pointed to a future in which all had at last come together, science now inseparable from art, poetry from mathematics, music from engineering..” (Page 109)

Christ Knight remains enthusiastic about the Russian Revolution, a “seismic events”. But one might say that the awe such a vision inspires, a feeling of wonder at unlimited vistas, the “immensity” of the concept was never separate from the terror that went with this version of the revolutionary sublime.

Decoding Chomsky discovers ‘echoes’ from the Bolshevik Revolution, ‘sparks’ that lit the research programme that became Transformational Grammar.   One linguist, who had direct connection to this period, and the ‘Formalists’ who studied the structures of “literariness”, and – thus (?), Futurist projects like the Tatlin Tower, was Roman Jakobson. Jakobson soon left the USSR, and eventually made his way to the United States just before the Second World War during which he was engaged in the fight against the Nazis. Jakobson, Knight observes, inspired Chomsky with his view that language was indeed a universal human property, but also logical and mathematical. But the artistic side of this heritage was submerged in more rigorously  ‘scientific’ assumptions. Language was part of the human ‘digital machine’ – that is an object – or rather a rule generating apparatus – that could be studied with the methods of pure science. The Revolution was betrayed. The Chomyskan  “Cartesian Paradigm” reflected a quite different agenda. Sponsored by the US military, it was one more top-down project to combat egalitarianism and communism, wrenching the mind from the body, divorcing heaven from Earth, and preventing that tower of Tatlin’s from ever reaching the sky. “(Page 209)

Knight even speculates that Chomsky was consciously promoted in the Cold War. Chomsky’s writings, from Syntactic Structures (1957) onwards, were part of a wider ideological campaign as the Cold War replaced the struggle against fascism. The military “supported” Chomsky’s campaign (Page 18). Chomsky was moblised against Marxism, against its unity of theory and practice,

“To destroy Marxism, therefore, it was necessary to strike at this point, shattering the all-important junction between theory and practice. Chomsky’s intellectual status, perceived moral integrity and impeccable left-wing credentials made him the perfect candidate for this job. “(Page 193) Science and life are distinct. ‘The search for theoretical understanding pursues its own paths, leading to a completely different picture of the world, which neither vindicates nor eliminates our ordinary ways of talking and thinking.” (Page 194)

Science and Language.

The picture in Decoding Chomsky of the Cold War genesis of Chomskyan linguistics, not to mention its role in efforts to destroy Marxism, is bound to be a controversial. Does Chomsky behave as he does, stridently defending the autonomy of ‘science’, because of his own past, and reluctance to confront the ties his professional work brought him? The claim will certainly be challenged. Less disputable is that Chomsky has separated ‘science’ from his directly political pronouncements.

Yet as vociferous as his claim to scientific rigour has been there is little sign of widespread acceptance of the principles he has developed. Chomsky’s ‘innate hypothesis’ of a mutation in human pre-history which gave us the “language organ”, equipped to generate meaningful speech is often seen as a leap of faith. We might doubt that even within its restricted field (ignoring that the implications of the theory strays into philosophy not to say, the ground of social theory), that a stable paradigm has ever been established. Knight early announces that Chomsky’s continuous revisions of Transformational Grammar, up to the Revised Extended standard theory, indicate deep-seated difficulties.

These ‘auxiliary hypothesis”, as the philosopher of science Imre Lakatos called them, do not, critics allege, contain more empirical content, or predict novel facts. They make up an ever-expanding protective belt around an original set of assumptions. Above all Knight observes, “Chomsky’s interventions have immersed linguistics in tunnels of theoretical complexity, impenetrability and corresponding exasperation and interpersonal rancour without parallel in any other scientific field.” (Page 11) The new versions of the theory “have produced no sign of consensus or agreement, but instead unending controversy, uproar and incredulity at the implausibility of it all.”(Page 180) This, he argues, is hardly the sign of real “science”.

Those with an interest in recent literature for the wider public might think at this point might recall Guy Deutscher’s Through the Language Glass. (2010) As cited in the epigraph to this review, the language machine, which Chomsky and his followers describe, remains a “Black Box”. As far as grasping how the brain works with language we can scan the mind, but the evidence is like seeing a big corporation from the windows of its headquarters.

“The sole evidence you had to go on would be in which rooms the lights went on at different times of the day.” We can see increased blood flow, and infer that neural activity is taking place. “But we are nowhere near being able to understand” what is happening. (3)

 Language as a social relation.

At the heart of Decoding Chomsky are some alternative ideas. Knight uses his resources as an anthropologist to attack Chomsky’s view that language stems from a “limited repertoire of mental atoms (lexical concepts) in an infinite variety of possible ways.” In this respect it is a defence of the view that experience, social conditions, co-operation between people, is generative of meaning.) Language is bound up with social relations; it is a social product, with its own causal weight as a link between people.

An important aspect is that “Grammatical structures arise out of metaphor, grammatical markers being in fact metaphorical expressions which have been conventionalized and abbreviated through historical processes which are now well understood.” (Page 225) In other words grammar has a history. Those familiar with, say the story of Indo-European languages, know that change in declensions and conjugations, and other grammatical items (not to mention the emergence and extinction of whole grammatical forms) is aware that alterations cannot be explained as the result of universal principles: but, at present, can only be described. Nobody has offered a transformational grammar that explains and predicts the development over time of such basic phonetic and semantic units.

Knight offers his own special belief, that palaeoanthropology can inform the debate about how (pre-human) signals evolve from nature into language. In a talk reproduced in the Weekly Worker, he suggested that the basics might lie in the way these evolved into singing,

Turning now to human evolution, the articulatory apparatus for speech hardly needs to be explained. For millions of years, the basics were already in place among our ancestors, for the simple reason that possession of a flexible tongue, lips and so forth had long been essential for eating. Much more difficult was to establish something new – full volitional breath control and control over the larynx. The challenge was to develop the uniquely human ability to take a deep breath and make continuous vocal sounds, while breathing out and articulating at the same time. An intriguing theory now being widely debated is that our ancestors refined and developed these capacities by regularly resorting to choral singing. (4)

More broadly in the present work he notes, “the transition from a highly competitive, often despotic ape social system to a cooperative and egalitarian human one might have occurred. The establishment of hunter-gatherer egalitarianism was more than an evolutionary step – it was a revolutionary one that established a genuine kind of communism.”(Page 212) In other words the underlying idea is that symbolic culture emerged during a ‘major transition’ or ‘revolution’ (often termed the human revolution). We may leave it to the reader to judge the plausibility of these claims.

Three points may be added. Firstly, that it may be, on the evidence of skeletal remains and those of symbolic activity, that the non-human Neanderthals were capable of speech. So the issue of the ‘language mutation’s single origin remains open. (5) Next, the structures of language as a social product are also formal. The trace of speech in writing has a life of its own. This is sometimes very visible, as grammatical forms in a number of languages only really exist on the page, as in the French passé subjonctif, not to mention the special ‘literary’ forms in written traditions. Finally, one of the possible side-effects of a too Universalist conception of language leads one adrift faced with demands for language rights. This is a key political issue in many countries today, and underlies concerns about the death of speech communities, particularly in ‘tribal’ societies. (6) If we take an extreme Chomskyan view, this hardly matters: all languages are basically the ‘same’.

Human Creativity.

Chomsky’s protests against the Vietnam War, to opposition to powerful states and secret bureaucracies, and his laborious efforts to unravel the “manufacture of consent” to imperial and domestic pro-business policies, have one ‘scientific’ mooring. (7) Chris Knight suggests that a belief in a feature of human nature, a “creative urge” underpins his politics. But it remains bound within the “modular” programming of the innate linguistic facility that shunts to one side the role of social interaction.

If he believes that “force and fraud” constrain the free development of the inherent liberty of the human spirit, he puts his faith in this bedrock trait this as a natural limit on “authoritarian control” (Pages 114 – 115) His libertarian ‘anarchism’ notoriously extended to his ill-considered defence of the Vieille Taupe a publisher/bookshop originally on the French ultra-left that became a promoter of Holocaust deniers, such as Paul Rassinier. (8) Chomsky also defended the internationally better-known Robert Faurisson. But if Chris Knight is to be believed, in this thought-provoking and lucidly written critique, alongside an “instinct for freedom” there is a gaping hole where the social and individual conditions for meaningful co-operation should lie.

*****

(1) Page 238. Through the Language Glass. Guy Deutscher. William Heinemann. 2010.

(2)  Ce que parler veut dire. L’économie des échanges linguistics. Pierre Bourdieu 1982

(3) Guy Deutscher. Ibid.

(4) Origin of language lies in Song. Chris Knight. Weekly Worker 28.01.2016.

(5) Neanderthals could speak like modern humans, study suggests. BBC 2013.

(6)  Endangered Languages Project.

(7) See Knowledge, Morality and Hope: The Social Thought of Noam Chomsky. Joshua Cohen Joel Rogers. New Left Review. First Series. No 187. 1991.

(8) Noam Chomsky and the Holocaust Deniers. Werner Cohen. The response: The Faurisson Affair. Noam Chomsky writes to Lawrence K. Kolodney.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 8, 2016 at 12:44 pm

George Galloway Goes Wilderness (Festival).

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Galloway: Dapper flâneur  at an alter-Heimat nonpareil.

Busyness is everywhere, in your morning, at your desk, in your home and even in your thoughts. We’re always doing and always planning: ‘more forwards’ as the saying goes. Come summer time, we feel a little time in the wilderness helps correct the balance of the busyness. Four days in a nature reserve to meet new people, meet new ideas and new experiences. If Wilderness had a saying, it would probably be ‘meet the world’: a world of creativity and culture, of festival and flora, of ideas and identity. Wilderness aims to slip off your shoes, settle you down and then showcase the best of who we are, where we belong and what we create. As our unofficial saying goes, come to the wilderness to meet the world.

Before Wilderness, festivals’ didn’t offer forests or feasts. No one knew of a festival where you woke early to swim, or stayed late to learn. The story of Wilderness is one of gently rolling back the steel fences and quietly asking people of all ages to live together for one weekend; a story of exploring the widest lens of cultural ambition and inviting the outdoors back into the heart of the artistic experience. It’s a story of nudging the festival experience both into the past and towards the future…

In 2011 Wilderness was born, with five thousand people celebrating the arts and outdoors in an ancient landscape. Brought to you by the creators of some of the UK’s finest and most celebrated events, its inception was one of bringing together reciprocal talents: passion to build transformative experiences with a deep love of artistry and artisans.

The following years have been a journey in the cultural wonders that can be transported to and translated in the rolling Oxfordshire countryside. Wilderness is founded on creative exploration. A celebration of the arts and delights, we create world for flâneurs, for the curious, we invite you to open your eyes, minds, hearts and enjoy the thrilling bricolage of artistry and culture collected in our beautiful Wilderness.

We strike a balance between relaxation and revelry, artistic refinement and simple pleasures. The sixth season awaits. We’ve opened up more acres to camp on, invited more artists to the stages than ever before and intend, dear reader, to quietly blow you away. Many festivals may now have spas, some may have feasts and one or two may even have a place for a dip: but none will have a private nature reserve in which to roam free, none will have spring-fed lakes that are balm for the soul, and none will have an ancient landscape in which to reinvent, reimagine and reignite the arts.

Your Wilderness Awaits….

It looks an intellectual and sensual  feast

Amidst the refined, yet pleasurable, the bejewelled and the bespoke, the kaleidoscope of bespeckled flora, and perhaps, fauna, this is the place to be for  flâneurs and indeed  flâneuses, bricoleurs and bricoleuses in a time hallowed ambiance – an alter-Heimat nonpareil.

Writes celebrated poet Enoch Soames author of ‘Negations’:

Life is web and therein nor warp nor woof is,

but web only.

It is for this I am Catholick in church and in thought,

yet do let swift Mood weave there what the shuttle of Mood wills.

Be there or be Square....

Explore peace and love with Nobel Peace Prize nominee Scilla Ellworthy and dating expert Susan Quilliam. Debate taboos, surveillance, and outsider politics with George Galloway, AC Grayling, and Larry Sanders – elder brother to the presidential hopeful.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 7, 2016 at 12:34 pm

Internationalist Volunteers Fight with Kurds Against Islamic State Genociders.

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https://66.media.tumblr.com/9704c54d32ad84ce3211ccbd27d401ed/tumblr_nqkhf8GPQi1tduuewo1_500.jpg

Internationalists Back the Fight Against Daesh.  

There are many people, genuine internationalists, humanitarian progressives, those simply motivated by the need to defend humanity against the Islamist genocides of Daesh, fighting with the Kurdish forces in Syria.

This hit the headlines a few days ago.

British man Dean Carl Evans killed fighting with Kurds against Isil in Syria

Mr Evans, from Oxford, later added in a second posting: “I would like to say a massive big thank you to all my friends and family who sent their condolence for the loss of my son.

“He would have been very proud and would have regarded you all as his brothers and sisters, thank you again.”

Dean Evans was one of many foreign volunteers who joined the People’s Defence Units (YPG), the Kurdish military force fighting in northern Syria.

In a statement, the YPG described Mr Evans as a “martyr” who had a “revolutionary and combative spirit on the front lines and always fought without hesitation to protect the people of this region”.

He joined a unit of Kurdish fighters taking part in the Manbij offensive alongside Syrian Arab rebels and with the support of US airpower and Western special forces.

Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, 25, was described as a “martyr” by Kurdish forces in Syria, who called him a “daring and courageous companion”.

The former Royal Marine – who was of British and Greek nationality – travelled to Syria in 2014 to “fulfil his humanitarian goals”.

Mr Scurfield, who had appeared in the long-running TV drama Hollyoaks after launching an acting career, fought with the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit, known as the YPG, for three months before being blown up.

He had been part of a rescue operation that saved the lives of thousands of Yazidi people stranded on Mount Sinjar.

An inquest held in June heard that Mr Scurfield died while helping rescue refugees from an ISIS stronghold on March 2, last year.

British People’s Protection Units (YPG) volunteer Macer Gifford, who is on his second tour of Rojava, has sent a message about developments in Manbij, the strategic town being liberated from Islamic State (IS/ISIS) by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Manbij Military Council (MMC) fighters.

In his message from the front line Gifford asks for urgent aid from Britain, Europe and America and calls for borders to be opened to Rojava.

Below we are publishing Mr Gifford’s message, which he shared with his followers on Facebook on 2 August 2016.

……

Low food and water, mixed with the stench of those that have died amongst the rubble is a morale drainer. It’s amazing to see SDF fighters coming off the front, to be given their first proper meal in weeks and then share that food with civilians leaving the city. There is a wonderful, ‘we are in this together’ feeling between the fighters and the civilians. It’s amazing to see civilians flash the victory sign at us and shout their thanks. People literally weep with relief when they get out of the hands of ISIS and into the care of the SDF. This is despite no help coming from any major charity or country.

We have to get British, European and American aid here now! We need the borders to open to all traffic, both economical and charitable.

There is not a tabur (battalion) in Manbij that isn’t fighting. The diverse peoples of Rojava will never give up and will never relent in the struggle to liberate Syria. ISIS are trapped like rats, the SDF noose is around their necks and I can feel their desperation as we squeeze it a bit tighter every night.

Manbij was a test case for both the SDF and ISIS. Although the fight continues, victory for the SDF Alliance is certain. The loss of this major city (twice the size of Kobane) proves that nowhere is safe for Daesh’s (ISIS) murderous thugs.

More on Kurdish Question site.

One cannot but be impressed by the simple courage and decency of those willing to risk everything for the cause of humanity.

These volunteers (below) are overtly left-wing and have shown true internationalism.

International Freedom Battalion

The International Freedom Battalion (Turkish: Enternasyonalist Özgürlük Taburu, Kurdish: Tabûra Azadî ya Înternasyonal‎) is an armed group consisting of leftistforeign fighters fighting alongside thePeople’s Protection Units in the Syrian Civil War in support of the Rojava Revolution and against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[1][2][3] The formation of the International Freedom Battalion was announced on 10 June 2015 in Serê Kaniyê (Ras al-Ayn). The Marxist–Leninist Communist Party (Turkey/Northern Kurdistan) had been the main force behind the establishment of the group. Inspiration for the group came from the International Brigades of the Spanish Civil War.[4] The political ideologies among many of the fighters include Marxism–Leninism, Hoxhaism, Maoism, and anarchism.

Keep in touch with the fight of the YPG  and the Kurdish forces by reading the Kurdish Question.

This is what they are fighting:

The clear difference between Muslims and the corrupt and deviant Jews and Christians is that Muslims are not ashamed of abiding by the rules sent down from their Lord regarding war and enforcement of divine law. So if it were the Muslims, instead of the Crusaders, who had fought the Japanese and Vietnamese or invaded the lands of the Native Americans, there would have been no regrets in killing and enslaving those therein. And since those mujahidin would have done so bound by the Law, they would have been thorough and without some “politically correct” need to apologize years later. The Japanese, for example, would have been forcefully converted to Islam from their pagan ways. Had they stubbornly declined, perhaps another nuke would change their mind. The Vietnamese would likewise be offered Islam or beds of napalm. As for the Native Americans: after the slaughter of their men, those who would favor smallpox to surrendering to the Lord would have their surviving women and children taken as slaves, with the children raised as model Muslims and their women impregnated to produce a new generation of mujahidin. As for the treacherous Jews of Europe and elsewhere — those who would betray their covenant — then their post-pubescent males would face a slaughter that would make the Holocaust sound like a bedtime story, as their women would be made to serve their husbands’ and fathers’ killers.

Furthermore, the lucrative African slave trade would have continued, supporting a strong economy. The Islamic leadership would not have bypassed Allah’s permission to sell captured pagan humans, to teach them, and to convert them, as they worked hard for their masters in building a beautiful country. Notably, of course, those of them who converted, practiced their religion well, and were freed would be treated no differently than any other free Muslim. This is unlike when the Christian slaves were emancipated in America, as they were not afforded supposedly government-recognized equal “rights” for more than a century — and their descendants still live in a nation divided over those days.

All of this would be done, not for racism, nationalism, or political lies, but to make the word of Allah supreme. Jihad is the ultimate show of one’s love for his Creator, facing the clashing of swords and buzzing of bullets on the battlefield, seeking to slaughter His enemies — whom he hates for Allah’s hatred of them.

Ross Wolf at the Charnel-House who publishes these words, from the Daesh publication, Dabiq, comments,

Much of this is clearly meant to serve a propaganda function, the group’s genocidal aims laid out matter-of-factly, in keeping with their apocalyptic imagery. It would of course be foolish to dismiss it all as empty posturing. Daesh actually does systematically murder, enslave, and rape within its shrinking territory. Some of the lines excerpted here seem almost designed just to scandalize mainstream liberal sensibilities, which are identified with the West. For example, the standard boilerplate complaint about “political correctness” is something one frequently sees on Alt-Right and RadTrad forums and message boards. Here IS is daring them to take the green pill instead of the red, an even more heady traditionalist concoction than the one they’re already accustomed to fantasizing about.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 5, 2016 at 4:24 pm

Left Reels as Socialist Unity – John Wight – Goes Anti-Corbyn.

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More Dead Dreams. 

John Wight leading contributor to Socialist Unity Blog (1).

“Writing and commentating on boxing and politics. Politics leaves more bruises. Author of Dreams That Die.”

Written by Andrew Coates

August 4, 2016 at 10:46 am

Labour’s Crisis: In Praise of Owen Jones.

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owenjones1306a.jpg

Owen: Labour and the left teeter on the brink of disaster.

In Praise of Owen Jones.

“The story recounted in this book suggests that the route to socialism does not lie through transforming the Labour Party”

The End of Parliamentary Socialism. Leo Panitch & Colin Leys. 1997.

“The period of New Labour may be seen in the future as a short deviation from the historical flow of Labour Party as a developing socialist party or it may be identified as the period in which Labour as an aspiring party of radical socialist advance was destroyed.”

John McDonnell. Introduction. 100 Years of Labour. Graham Bash and Andrew Fisher. 2006.

Until Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader last year most socialists in Britain would have concluded that the second of John McDonnell’s options had come true. Labour was not in any sense a vehicle of “radical socialist advance”. Others who believed that Labour was never a radical socialist party as such but contained currents that promoted democratic socialist policies that could see the light of day, saw their hopes of influence blocked. Labour, was, in short, not a party the left had any hope in.

Blair and Brown, the Third Way, or social liberalism, Blue Labour, a variety of distinctly non-socialist approaches dominated not just its Parliamentary representatives, but local government, intellectuals of any practical influence and the network of civil society associations that sustain the party. For a period modernisers, promoting ‘social partnership’, dominated even the trade unionism, although this began to unravel in the first years of the new century. Left groups and journals, such Labour Briefing and Chartist (both of which I am associated with), were marginalised. The Labour Representation Committee (LRC)  set up in 2004 and chaired by John McDonnell had little impact.  While union leaders like UNITE’s  Len McCluskey appeared to exert left influence, and the centre-left Grassroots Alliance maintained its presence on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) nobody expected the election of Jeremy Corbyn in 2015.

Much of the socialist left, from the late 90s on,  in diminishing numbers and with decreasing success, put their energies into trying to create new left parties and electoral alliances that stood independently of Labour. Many of these attempts ended not just in failure at the ballot box but also in demonstrated the difficulties of ploughing new political ground. Above all the experience of the Socialist Alliance (essentially from 1999 to 2003) demonstrated fundamental incompatibilities between democratic socialists and small ‘Leninist’ parties like the Socialist Workers Party, the bureaucratic ‘Trotskyist’ Socialist Party, and whatever label currently fits the personal vehicle for George Galloway, Respect.

If Corbyn’s 2015 victory was unexpected the groundswell in his favour this year has also been unprecedented. Left-wing individuals, including many from the democratic group, Left Unity (which stood out from the above organisations) had joined Labour to vote for him. At present the campaigning and protesting of unions, left groups, and individuals that has, most recently, been channelled into the alliance known as the People’s Assembly, has been overshadowed by rallies in support for Corbyn’s re-election. The campaign for the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn has shifted attention away from the kind of political negotiating that marks the Labour left.  A body of opinion has emerged that believes Labour is, or can be, transformed into a “social movement” in its own right. That the vast majority of those now rallying to Corbyn are not part of any organised group has made it hard to funnel them into traditional directions, and the all-embracing nature of the terms “social” and “movement” can be interpreted in many ways.

Paul Mason expresses the view that Labour will come to office because neo-liberalism is “busted” and puts Labour as a social movement at the forefront of building an alternative.

In Labour: The Way Ahead he stated a couple of days ago,

Labour will become the first mainstream party in a western democracy to ditch neoliberalism and then take power.”

Above all, victory is possible under Corbyn because Labour can become a social movement. Corbyn himself called for this at his leadership launch rally. The problem is that the Labour tradition has very little experience of social movements — especially the networked, anti-hierarchical forms of organisation associated with them since the late 1990s.

To call for Labour to become a social movement when it had 130,000 members and a bunch of moribund local committees would have sounded futile. With 600,000+ members, the majority pro-Corbyn and amid a summer of street rallies and overflowing mass meetings, it sounds highly possible.

Mason’s proposals for economic stimulus, the moblisation of the social movement aorund issues such the defence of mirgant workers, offering hope against the despair of UKIP,  are attractive.

But is this part of a viable strategy?

If Corbyn wins on 24 September then, at the substantive and sovereign party conference that begins the next day, Labour MPs should be asked to register publicly their confidence in the new leader.

The party should also ask all MPs to sign a statement recognising that the leader elected on 24 September is the lawful leader of the legal entity known as “The Labour Party” and that he is legally entitled to run the two limited companies that own its assets (Labour Party Nominees Limited and Labour Party Properties Limited).

Those MPs who refuse to register their confidence in Corbyn, or to recognise his legal right to run The Labour Party, should be marked down for de-selection.

Mason clearly indicates that he considers a large section of the existing Parliamentary Labour Party a waste of space. No doubt he, and others, would wish to extend such a loyalty test to councillors and all officers of the Party. Or are local representatives allowed greater freedom to dissent?

One of Mason’s principal models, the Spanish party, Podemos, is a very different phenomenon. It grew from the Indignados, known as the 15-M Movement , protests at the staggering corruption of the country’s political life that involved several million people. Mason claims that the American Occupy movement was inspired by  Stephane Hessel’s Indignez Vous! (Time for Outrage) but in fact it had its deepest impact in these Iberian protests. Podemos, while sometimes claiming to be “beyond” left and right, involves at least one left Marxist-Green current, the Izquierda anticapitalista.

From 9,8% of the vote in the European Podemos reached 21% in the December 2015.  But, refusing any compromise with the Spanish Socialist Party PSOE)  triggered fresh elections. This time, allied with the so-called ‘old left’ of the Izquierda Unida, and hopes of becoming the leading left force in the country it only reached  21,10% to the PSOE 22,66% . New elections may well be held,  but  even if its score improves Podemos can never hope to score a majority of the vote and can only govern in coalition – a prospect that Labour, with an electoral system that makes even this kind of representation difficult – would not relish.

Mason’s hostility to anybody disloyal to Corbyn is not at all helpful. The antagonism between the Corbyn side and those against him has ratcheted up in the fall out after the Brexit referendum vote. There are plenty of MPs who are willing to take the most extreme measures to destroy the existing Labour leadership. From a constant drip-by-drip of stories undermining the leader of the Opposition and its allies in the Shadow Cabinet we are now faced with the prospect of an alternative parliamentary group, and even – in some people’s view – a split in the party.

How does Mason’s alternative (not to mention those of others equally virulent against the Party’s centre and right-wing)  offer a serious way forward? A social movement  that moves in “waves and swarms and ” “a street movement” seeking “new forms of representation” a serious way of grappling with the problem of a Parliamentary party split in two and the mounting Tory lead in opinion polls. It would be pleasant indeed to believe that this might win labour elections, but we have only faith, belief in things unseen, to back the claim up.

Frenzied attacks on Corbyn backers, charged with wishing the Gulag for their opponents, have been met by screams of Blairite, and worse. It is as if both sides wish to conduct their disputes after the template of the pro-Nazi 20th century political philosopher Carl Schmitt: dividing the world into “friend and enemy” with a “fighting collectivity of people” confronting a similar collectivity. (1)

In this vein John Landsman asserts “the current leadership contest is like the Miners’ Strike – there are two clear sides, and while one might disagree with the way a political battle is being conducted, you still rally behind your side, because defeat and capitulation to the other side is still much worse.” “This is the battle being played out in the party right now, those are the stakes, those are the ‘sides’ that we are forced to pick.” (Picking sides’ – A short reply to Owen Jones). A victory of the Corbyn opponents, he argues, would lead to disaster. That;’s as may be. But to regard those who do not “pick sides” as part of the enemy camp is but a step from the original assertion.l This is not a way to conduct democratic politics inside the same party. It is a recipe for a split.

Some of the strongest supporters of this approach appear to be recent members of the Labour Party, and those, from the far-left outside, trying to bathe in the glory of Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election. It grates to hear people long-standing Labour people, many of whom have decided their lives to it and public office, from the centre, a variety of groups or none, as well as the genuine Labour right group, Progress. It is equally deeply offensive for opponents of Corbyn to scream that his backers are totalitarians, anti-Semites, and abusive thugs.

In the middle of this pandemonium Owen Jones has stood out as a rational voice. Owen first made his name with the book Chavs (2012), followed by the Establishment (2014). His columns, originally in the Independent and now in the Guardian, have great influence. Having worked in John McDonnell’s office he is more than familiar with the way the Left works and the people involved in the present Corbyn team. Owen had trudged around the country speaking to hundreds of left meetings. Above all he is a dedicated democratic socialist who has earned great respect on the left and amongst the wider public.

Owen’s approach in recent weeks gives expression to the deep concerns many of us have not just with those constantly undermining Corbyn but more deeply with the real problems that Labour faces – summed up in  disastrous opinion polls – and what he feels are policy failures and difficulties with addressing the wider electorate. He also challenges an over-optimistic ‘social movement’ stand that many appear to be taking.

This is his latest contribution:

Questions all Jeremy Corbyn supporters need to answer

Labour and the left teeter on the brink of disaster. There, I said it. I’ll explain why. But first, it has become increasingly common in politics to reduce disagreements to bad faith. Rather than accepting somebody has a different perspective because, well, that’s what they think, you look for an ulterior motive instead. Everything from self-aggrandisement to careerism to financial corruption to the circles in which the other person moves: any explanation but an honest disagreement. It becomes a convenient means of avoiding talking about substance, of course. Because of this poisonous political atmosphere, the first chunk of this blog will be what many will consider rather self-indulgent (lots of ‘I’ and ‘me’, feel free to mock), but hopefully an explanation nonetheless of where I’m coming from. However long it is, it will be insufficient: I can guarantee the same charges will be levelled

The core of the article revolves around these point:

  • How can the disastrous polling be turned around? “Labour’s current polling is calamitous. No party has ever won an election with such disastrous polling, or even come close. Historically any party with such terrible polling goes on to suffer a bad defeat.”
  • Where is the clear vision? “What’s Labour’s current vision succinctly summed up? Is it “anti-austerity”? That’s an abstraction for most people. During the leaders’ debates at the last general election, the most googled phrase in Britain was ‘what is austerity?’ — after five years of it. ‘Anti-austerity’ just defines you by what you are against. What’s the positive vision, that can be understood clearly on a doorstep, that will resonate with people who aren’t particularly political?
  • How are the policies significantly different from the last general election? “It’s less than a year in to Corbyn’s already embattled leadership: there hasn’t been the time to develop clear new policies. Fine: but surely there needs to be a clear idea of what sort of policies will be offered, not least given what is at stake?”
  • What’s the media strategy? “..there doesn’t seem to be any clear media strategy. John McDonnell has actually made regular appearances at critical moments, and proved a solid performer. But Corbyn often seems entirely missing in action, particularly at critical moments: Theresa May becoming the new Prime Minister, the appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, the collapse of the Government’s economic strategy, the abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, soaring hate crimes after Brexit, and so on. Where have been the key media interventions here?”
  • What’s the strategy to win over the over-44s?
  • What’s the strategy to win over Scotland?
  • How would we deal with people’s concerns about immigration?
  • How can Labour’s mass membership be mobilised? “a movement will only win over people by being inclusive, optimistic, cheerful even, love-bombing the rest of the population. A belief that even differences of opinion on the left can’t be tolerated — well, that cannot bode well. So how can the enthusiasm of the mass membership be mobilised, to reach the tens of millions of people who don’t turn up to political rallies? What kind of optimistic, inclusive message can it have to win over the majority?”

Comrade Owen ends by stating this,

Labour faces an existential crisis. There will be those who prefer me to just to say: all the problems that exist are the fault of the mainstream media and the Parliamentary Labour Party, and to be whipped up with the passions generated by mass rallies across the country. But these are the facts as I see them, and the questions that have to be answered. There are some who seem to believe seeking power is somehow ‘Blairite’. It is Blairite to seek power to introduce Blairite policies. It is socialist to seek power to introduce socialist policies. As things stand, all the evidence suggests that Labour — and the left as a whole — is on the cusp of a total disaster.

Guess what at least some of the responses to these carefully thought out questions has been?

Well guess not: Corbyn supporter Owen Jones labelled ‘Blairite traitor’ for criticising current leadership.

Those attacking Owen are attacking the democratic socialists who back Corbyn, but with exactly the kind of independence of thought he represents.

We back Corbyn, we back McDonnell – a view strengthened in the last few days by the strong stand in favour of restoring Trade Union rights.

But these are indeed the questions which need to be looked at.

(1) The Concept of the Political. Carl Schmidt. University of Chicago. 2007.

The Politics of the Suffolk Tornado.

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https://i0.wp.com/i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2016/07/31/14/36BF41A400000578-0-Reinhard_Olbrich_took_this_remarkable_picture_of_the_twister_fro-m-62_1469973560872.jpg

Thorpness: Prelude to Utopia?

Michelle Fairweather captured these pictures of the waterspout while at a wedding at Thorpeness Country Club

Funnel clouds and waterspouts spotted in Suffolk on Sunday (East Anglian Daily Times.)

What are the politics of this event?

Was the Tornado a “sign of the times” from nature that a whirlwind of a left social movement is blowing through Britain, overthrowing the establishment and transforming politics for ever? Or a warning that the gale of  right-wing populism of UKIP and right-wing Tories is wreaking havoc? Or simply that anybody who backed Brexit would be best swept away?

The politics of Tornadoes have cropped up in the past. …

According to political interpretations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the tornado takes Dorothy to a utopia, the Land of Oz, and kills the Wicked Witch of the East, who had oppressed “the little people”, the Munchkin.

 Quentin P. Taylor explains in Money and Politics in the Land of Oz.

In 1964 Henry M. Littlefield claimed that Baum’s charming tale concealed a clever allegory on the Populist movement, the agrarian revolt that swept across the Midwest in the 1890s.

In a broad survey of interpretation Taylor makes these observations.

When Dorothy’s twister-tossed house comes to rest in Oz, it lands squarely on the wicked Witch of the East, killing her instantly. The startled girl emerges from the abode to find herself in a strange land of remarkable beauty, whose inhabitants, the diminutive Munchkins, rejoice at the death of the Witch.

The Witch represents eastern financial-industrial interests and their gold-standard political allies, the main targets of Populist venom. Midwestern farmers often blamed their woes on the nefarious practices of Wall Street bankers and the captains of industry, whom they believed were engaged in a conspiracy to “enslave” the “little people,” just as the Witch of the East had enslaved the Munchkins. Populists viewed establishment politicians, including presidents, as helpless pawns or willing accomplices. Had not President Cleveland bowed to eastern bankers by repealing the Silver Purchase Act in 1893, thus further restricting much-needed credit? Had not McKinley (prompted by the wealthy industrialist Mark Hanna) made the gold standard the centerpiece of his campaign against Bryan and free silver?

(an) anti-imperialist theme appears in the form of the Winkies, called “yellow” because they reside in the Land of the West. The Winkies, who are forced to work for the Witch of the West, represent the “yellow man” of Asia, especially the Chinese immigrants and the native Filipinos. For decades, the Chinese had immigrated to the Far West to labor in various capacities. Given their “exotic” appearance, clannish habits, and willingness to work for low wages, they were often the targets of abuse, discrimination, and even murder. Under pressure from the authorities in California, Congress passed the Exclusion Act (1882), which banned Chinese immigration for twenty years.

..

At the end of the story, the Scarecrow supplants the Wizard as the ruler of Emerald City, the Tin Woodman is made master of the West, and the Lion is placed over the animals of the forest. Dorothy transports herself back to Kansas by clicking her silver shoes together three times. All this is achieved with the help of Glinda, the good Witch of the South. The message? Populism is triumphant, the goal of gaining political power is achieved. Or is it? Neither the Scarecrow nor the Tin Man nor the Lion truly lacked what each believed he was missing; the great Wizard’s powers proved illusory; and Dorothy had the power to transform her condition all along. These features of the story point to a more ambivalent result. Indeed, Populism’s outright failure is suggested when Dorothy’s silver shoes fall off in the desert and are “lost forever.” After Bryan’s defeat in 1896, the free-silver movement went into rapid decline. McKinley’s reelection and the statutory adoption of the gold standard in 1900 spelled political oblivion for the Populists.

Taylor concludes,

At the end of the story, the Scarecrow supplants the Wizard as the ruler of Emerald City, the Tin Woodman is made master of the West, and the Lion is placed over the animals of the forest. Dorothy transports herself back to Kansas by clicking her silver shoes together three times. All this is achieved with the help of Glinda, the good Witch of the South. The message? Populism is triumphant, the goal of gaining political power is achieved. Or is it? Neither the Scarecrow nor the Tin Man nor the Lion truly lacked what each believed he was missing; the great Wizard’s powers proved illusory; and Dorothy had the power to transform her condition all along. These features of the story point to a more ambivalent result. Indeed, Populism’s outright failure is suggested when Dorothy’s silver shoes fall off in the desert and are “lost forever.” After Bryan’s defeat in 1896, the free-silver movement went into rapid decline. McKinley’s reelection and the statutory adoption of the gold standard in 1900 spelled political oblivion for the Populists.

Will this be the fate of the ‘political tornado’ that is sweeping through British politics, right and left?

The present weather, forecasters tell us, is set to continue.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 1, 2016 at 11:46 am

Labour Leadership Contest, Corbyn and the Left, some Notes.

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corbyn york

People of Good Will Flock to Back Corbyn in York Yesterday.

Tensions inside the Labour Party have reached new levels today with this news:

Labour rebels plan to start their own party if Jeremy Corbyn gets re-elected

Labour rebels plan to elect their own leader and create an ‘alternative’ parliamentary group if Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected, it was claimed last night.

Senior Labour rebels are so convinced that Jeremy Corbyn will win the leadership contest that they intend to launch a legal challenge for the party’s name.

The move would see them create their own shadow cabinet and even elect a leader within Parliament to rival Mr Corbyn’s front bench to take on the Tories.

They are considering going through the courts to get the right to use Labour’s name and assets including property owned by the party across the country.

Since it is clear that Jeremy Corbyn will win the contest – from nominations,  massive turn outs at meetings to the polls – it is important that the left thinks about its stand.

This, one of countless articles from across the spectrum, is just one contribution.

Some people may rejoice in the prospect of a fight to end with his opponents, wish for a completely different Parliamentary party, and indeed, if opinion polls are to be believed (which put Labour 17 points behind the Tories) a new electorate.

A better approach has been taken by Owen Jones, who has written some of the best, and most informed, commentary on the rise of Corbyn’s support inside the party and the challenges his team faces.

He begins by examining what the party is now and what it could be become.

With Labour currently in the throes of an existential crisis, a false dichotomy is being debated: is it a party of government or a social movement? Labour was undoubtedly founded because of the limitations of social movements. Winning concessions from Britain’s rulers was not enough: those rulers had to be displaced by the political arm of the labour movement and, more broadly, working people and those without a voice.

One challenge is that the Labour party membership is simply unrepresentative of the population. That has always been the case: it’s the trade union link that grants Labour any right to self-describe as a workers’ party. According to ESRC-funded research by the academics Tim Bale, Monica Poletti and Paul Webb, around half of Labour party members belong to the social group AB: that is, middle-class professionals. Yet only 22% of Britain’s population belong to this group. Those deemed to be working-class represent 47% of the population, but they make up just 21% of the Labour party membership. Nearly half of members live in London or southern England, and a large majority have university degrees

Understandably, any movement that feels under siege from the establishment will be defensive. An obvious danger is a retreat into the company of those with similar views, and the lashing out at those who dissent, even mildly. On issues from immigration to social security, there is an obvious chasm between the views of Labour members and the general public. But this divide can be bridged.

That won’t be achieved by intolerance for differing opinion on the left, let alone the wider public. An optimistic, understanding, empathetic, inclusive, outward-looking movement needs to be built. All of this must be part of a wider strategy for gaining power, of course. The Tories won the last election with few footsoldiers on the ground. Without a clear plan for power, the history books will refer to the left only as an explanation for how the Tories were able to rule for so long. Enough of the false dichotomies: Labour doesn’t have to choose between being a social movement and a party of government. It can be both.

One aspect that has drawn a lot of attention is precisely this intolerance.

From critics of Corbyn claiming that his supporters would put people in the Gulag and torture women, to those constantly claiming that his opponents are ‘Blairite scum’, this has marked recent weeks as never before.

It is worth noting that differing opinions on the left, within the boundaries of democratic socialism, have no always been so polarised. People on what was called the ‘hard’ left have contributed to ‘social liberal’ left sites, such as Harry’s Place, or, the more muted Left Foot Forward – despite wildly differing opinions – and they have contributed to our Internet vehicles. Within the democratic socialist left people read, write for, and talk with, journals from Labour Briefing, Tribune, Chartist, the AWL’s Solidarity, and ….the Weekly Worker. 

There are plenty of other places where the left expresses differing views, from the Morning Star to the Guardian.

I for one have no intention of ending any dialogue with our democratic opponents.

Left-wing Political Culture and Brexit.

Many people now drawn to Labour have no previous experience of left-wing politics. They are people of good will. They have their own opinions. They will make their own judgements. But the voices which are being heard are not just from them, but from groups with a long, in most cases very long, political histories.

In this respect it is important to recognise that not only is there not ‘one’ left, but that the left is itself divided after Brexit. One group, Socialist Resistance,  like the AWL (who also took welcome initiatives to build on this), took a progressive ‘Another Europe is Possible’ Remain stand during the referendum. They have just published this article which helps explain the background of the left and the implications of the result for those who backed Brexit and for the (majority) who supported Remain.

THE UKIPISATION OF THE TORY PARTY –THE BREXIT LEFT IN DENIAL Alan Thornett

It was clear, long before it was launched, that the EU referendum held serious dangerous for the left and for multiculturalism and anti-racism in Britain. The campaign itself was always going to be a carnival of racism and xenophobia and an outcome in favour of Brexit would trigger a major shift to the right in British politics—both at the level of government and in terms of social attitudes. Racism and xenophobia would be strengthened and the left thrown onto the defensive….

Socialist Resistance argued for a remain vote on the basis that the referendum would be a carnival of reaction leading to a major shift to the right in British politics, and we have been right on both counts.

Those far-left organisations—the SWP, the Socialist Party, and Counterfire, along with the CPB—that agued for exit from the EU on the basis that such a vote would bring down Cameron, push the political situation to the left, and open up new opportunities for radical politics, even increase the chances of a Labour government, got it dramatically wrong. In fact, some are still arguing that there has not been a shift to the right a week after the formation of the May government…..

It should be clear now, if it was not clear before, that this referendum was not, at the end of the day, a referendum on the EU but on immigration: i.e. ‘are you in favour of the free movement of people—yes or no?’ This scenario was played out in interview after interview, on the streets, the response was overwhelmingly: too much immigration—end free movement. And the uncomfortable fact is that given Britain’s imperialist and colonialist history, decades of bi-partisan institutionalised racism practiced by both Tories and Labour, and the disgusting xenophobia of the tabloids—the Sun, the Mail and the Express in particular—over many years, it was always going to be thus.

It is important to read Alan’s article in full.

One cannot underline enough how backing Brexit significantly  shapes any attempt they make in claiming to be part of a Corbyn Movement. To put it bluntly, it reduces their assertion to ashes.

The Present Politics of the Brexit Left and the Labour Party.

The Socialist Workers’ Party has issued a petition to defend Corbyn.

This week Socialist Worker states,

Everyone should back Corbyn and build the movement in the workplaces and the streets that can win reforms—and much more.

The Socialist Party has issued  instructions to Labour activists,

…for the first time since world war two, all regular party meetings have been closed down, removing the chance for ordinary party members to hold anti-Corbyn MPs and councillors to account.

Local parties should defy these edicts and continue meeting, or #Keep Corbyn meetings should be organised independently, including by trade union branches – and involving Corbyn supporters inside and outside the Labour Party.

They believe they have a right to join the Labour Party as a separate, democratic centralist (that is organised through their own internal discipline) group. They advocate a Labour Party run on federal lines.

(such a) federal approach applied to today would mean allowing political parties like the Socialist Party and others involved in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), and anti-austerity Greens, to affiliate to Labour as the Co-op Party still does.

Behind this stand very distinctive politics.

The SWP believes in building a revolutionary party, that is their party. That is their objective. The Socialist Party’s previous strategy was summarised a couple of years ago by Andrew Murray (of the British Communist Party and UNITE) as follows. They are

trying to create a shadow labour movement around itself, with its own electoral front, its own shop stewards’ network etc.

This labour movement has failed to materialise.

The No2EU slates in 2014 scored between 0,25 and 0,5% of the vote.

The SWP and the SP stood candidates through their electoral vehicle, TUSC (Trades Union Socialist Coalition) against Labour again as recently as…..May.

Their vote was derisory indeed “Following the 2016 elections, TUSC have no remaining official councillors“.

They actively campaigned for a Leave vote.

In some cases they advanced the demand that we should have “local jobs for local workers.”

In effect the provided a ‘left’ cover (to use the language of these organisations) for the hard-right nationalist pro-Leave campaign.

Now both groups wish to become players in the Labour leadership contest.

The SP is even involved in the campaign to get Corbyn re-elected.

They both campaigned for Brexit just over a month ago.

A big majority of Labour supporters and an even larger majority of young people voted Remain.

The Pro-Brexit left may think young people and Labour Party members have the memory of fruit flies, and are ripe to join their groupuscules.

But only those in, as Alan Thornett says, “in denial” can expect their interventions to be welcomed.

 

After Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray: the Persecution of Christians in the Middle East Continues.

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Left must speak out about Persecution of Christians.

The murder of Père Jacques Hamel follows so many atrocities that it is hard to comment on them without being overwhelmed by sadness.

There are those who still wish to see in ISIS killings a response – a “blowback” –  to Western intervention in the Middle East. There are those who point to discrimination against Muslims in Europe. French Christians responded with dignity, calling, with representatives of other religions and secular figures, reminding people that the Priest called for a “un monde plus chaleureux, plus humain, plus fraternel. ” a warmer, more human, more fraternal world.

Giles Fraser in the Guardian has stated that, the sacrifice of the mass is the non-violent absorption of human violence” and that the “Eucharistic sacrifice” is  life-giving, which is not a helpful commentary on what is at stake at the present time and borders on the maudlin.

Instead of looking at these events through ready-made the explanations of  why murderers are attacking targets in Europe, it would be appropriate to begin by outlining what the violent strand of  actually existing Islamism is doing. One important aspect which few left or liberal writers look at is the way they have targeted Christians – well before the tragedy this week.

Yesterday le Monde published an article on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East: Les chrétiens d’Orient, cibles des djihadistes et otages des pouvoirs.

Christophe Ayad described  the kidnapping and murder of  Père Paolo three years ago, the ISIS’s desecration of Churches and the interdiction of public Christian worship in Rakka, and the expulsion of the entire Christian population of Mosul, the attack, in 2010, on the Baghdad Cathedral of Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours, which left 50 dead, and the relentless pressure to expel all Christians from ‘Muslim’ land. There are few Christians left in Iraq. One could add many many other terrible atrocities.

Avad states that in many respects, despite a formal belief that followers of Jesus were ‘people of the Book’ and entitled, if they accepted a second class status and paid a special tax, to protection’ in the present wars the Christians were a soft target, a substitute for the ‘West’.

It would be important to indicate that in the sectarian conflicts which have devastated Syria and Iraq Muslims have been the majority of victims. And that the fate the Yazidis, not recognised as People of book, has left them facing slavery and genocide. That if we are in no position to gauge who is a “true” Muslim or not one thing is certain: the immense majority of Muslims have not just opposed jihadism, but that there are Muslims here and now fighting for dear life against the genociders of Deash.

But  before we talk of the present blood-stained actions of Deash, and other intolerant Islamists, such as the Al-Nusra front, as part of the fall-out from -Western intervention in Iraq Ayad reminds us of the  pogroms and persecution  of the Egyptian Copts.

In modern times these began in 1981.

Those wishing to read about this can find great, detailed, and extremely sad information here:  Persecution of Copts.

In what sense were these the result of deflected anger against ‘imperialism’, or acts against the ‘West’?

A few days ago this was published:

For Many Christians in Middle East, Intimidation or Worse Persecution extends beyond Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The attack on a French church signals the arrival in Europe of a type of intimidation long familiar to Christians in the Middle East, whether from religious extremists, other armed groups or even secular governments.

In areas of Syria and Iraq under its control, Islamic State has seized churches, dismantling crucifixes and vandalizing paintings depicting scenes out of the Bible—considered to be idolatry in their hard-line interpretation of Islam. Many Christians flee when the militants sweep their areas; thousands escaped from northern Iraq when Islamic State took over in summer 2014.

Its branch in Libya killed 21 Egyptian Christians and 31 Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians in two separate massacres last year, slitting their throats and recording their deaths for Islamic State propaganda, which highlighted their religion as justification for the slaughter.

Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate, Sinai Province, in late June claimed the shooting death of a Christian priest in the north Sinai city Al Arish. The group said the priest was targeted for being a “disbelieving combatant.” It has attacked hundreds of police and military personnel in the area since 2014.

Comrade Owen Jones wrote one of the best responses in 2014

Why the left must speak up about the persecution of Christians.

Those of us on the left – who advocate religious acceptance and diversity – must surely speak louder about the persecution of Christians. The suffering and oppression is real, and in many places, getting ever worse. If we do not speak out, the danger is it will be left to those with ulterior motives who wish to hijack misery to fuel religious hatred – with disastrous consequences.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 29, 2016 at 11:05 am

Hubert Wulfranc (Communist) Mayor of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray: Stand Together against Barbarism.

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Memorial to Jacques Hamel. 

l’Humanité today reports.

The (Communist) Mayor of the working class town of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray  (30,000 inhabitants) close to Rouen declared.

Soyons ensemble les derniers à pleurer, à être debout contre la barbarie, et dans le respect de tous » a plaidé, presque en larmes, Hubert Wulfranc.

‘Let us be together, the last to weep, standing upright,  respecting everybody, against Barbarity’ pleaded, nearly in tears, Hubert Wulfranc.

The French Communist Party (Parti Communiste Français) has issued this declaration.

Horreur face au lâche et abominable assassinat du prêtre de Saint Etienne de Rouvray (Olivier Dartigolles).

L’horreur a de nouveau frappé avec le lâche et abominable assassinat de Jacques Hamel, le prêtre de l’église de Saint Etienne du Rouvray. Nous adressons nos pensées  à la famille, à la communauté catholique, à la population de Saint Etienne du Rouvray, à son maire, Hubert Wulfranc.

Face à cette nouvelle tragédie, notre pays est confronté à un immense défi : vaincre Daech, assurer une meilleure sécurité pour nos concitoyens dans un état de droit, faire grandir dans notre société, par l’intervention populaire et citoyenne, les valeurs de solidarité et de progrès pour tous.

Un grand débat national s’impose pour décider de l’orientation des politiques publiques à mettre en œuvre. Que les polémiques cessent immédiatement pour laisser place au discernement, à la connaissance, à la compréhension.

Que les petits jeux politiciens et les surenchères irresponsables s’arrêtent pour un débat démocratique allant au fond des questions afin de mieux agir.

Rendered into colloquial English this dignified statement reads:

Horror in the face of the cowardly and abject murder of the Priest of Saint Etienne de Rouvray.

We are yet again struck with horror after  the cowardly and vile murder of Jacques Hamel, the Priest of the Church of Saint Etienne du Rouvray. We address our thoughts to his family, to the Catholic community, to the inhabitants of Saint Etienne du Rouvray, and to their Mayor, Hubert Wulfranc.

This tragedy leaves our country faced with enormous challenges: the defeat of Daesh, how to secure the lives of our citizens within the rule of law, and how to encourage inside our society, by democratic and open means, the values of solidarity and progress for all.

A great national debate is called for, to decide upon the direction of public policy. Now is not the time for sharp controversies. They have to stop. Now is the time for consideration, for knowledge, for understanding.

Now is the time to end  political squabbling and irresponsible hyperbole. They must be replaced by a democratic political debate which seeks to get at the root of the issues.

See also in l’Humanité today Roland Gori on  “théofascismes”: Face à la terreur, le défi est de donner des raisons d’espérer, de penser à l’avenir»

“In 1923, three years after the Tours Congress which saw the separation of the communist majority (KIS) and the minority Socialist (SFIO), Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray became one of the first cities in France to elect a communist controlled council.”

Written by Andrew Coates

July 27, 2016 at 11:01 am

To the Memory of the Victims of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.

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A photo of Priest Jacques Hamel taken from the website of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray parish

In the memory of père Jacques Hamel.

I love my work and my children. God.

Is distant, difficult. Things happen

Too near the ancient troughs of blood.

Innocence is no earthly weapon.

Geoffrey Hill. Ovid in the Third Reich. *

Two attackers killed a priest and seriously wounded at least one other hostage in a church in northern France on Tuesday before they were shot dead by police. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The two assailants entered the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, during mass, taking the priest and four other people hostage, including two nuns.

Police said the men killed the priest, named as 84-year-old Jacques Hamel, by slitting his throat.

An interior ministry spokesperson said a second hostage was “between life and death”.

Le Monde says that the local Muslim leadership immediately reacted by showing their love and friendship to the victim and all those affected.

Le président du Conseil régional du culte musulman de Haute-Normandie, en charge de la mosquée de Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, inaugurée en 2000 sur une parcelle de terrain offerte par la paroisse catholique, s’est dit « effaré par le décès de [son] ami ». « C’est quelqu’un qui a donné sa vie aux autres. On est abasourdis à la mosquée », a-t-il ajouté. Le prêtre et l’imam faisaient partie d’un comité interconfessionnel depuis dix-huit mois. « Nous discutions de religion et de savoir-vivre ensemble », a précisé Mohammed Karabila.

The President of the Haute-Normandie Regional Council of Muslims, which oversees the Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray Mosque, built on a plot of land offered by the Catholic parish, has said he was “in agony” at the death of his friend. “He was somebody who devoted his life to others. At the mosque we are utterly devastated” he added. For a year and a half the Priest and the Imam had both been part of an inter-faith committee. Mohammed Karabila talked of their activity, “We discussed our faith and how we can get good community relations.”

I cite Geoffrey Hill above because the attack on a early day mass immediately made me think of seeing a priest celebrating Morning prayers  in a place the poet wrote about, the ancient St Michael the Archangel – ‘In Framlingham Church’. *

It was a weekday morning about five years ago and there was only a handful of people there.

But it was solemn and of great dignity.

Goodness is far more important than anything else. 

 

* Both in: Geoffrey Hill, Broken Hierarchies. Poems. 1952 – 2012. Oxford. 2013.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 26, 2016 at 3:59 pm

HDP and Party of European Socialists and Party of the European Left Declarations on Turkish Situation as Amnesty Raises Torture Evidence.

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Erdoğan  Regime Faces Torture Charges after Failed Coup.  

Amnesty International:

Turkey: Independent monitors must be allowed to access detainees amid torture allegations

Amnesty International has gathered credible evidence that detainees in Turkey are being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape, in official and unofficial detention centres in the country.

The organisation is calling for independent monitors to be given immediate access to detainees in all facilities in the wake of the coup attempt, which include police headquarters, sports centres and courthouses. More than 10,000 people have been detained since the failed coup.

Amnesty International has credible reports that Turkish police in Ankara and Istanbul are holding detainees in stress positions for up to 48 hours, denying them food, water and medical treatment, and verbally abusing and threatening them. In the worst cases some have been subjected to severe beatings and torture, including rape.

“Reports of abuse including beatings and rape in detention are extremely alarming, especially given the scale of detentions that we have seen in the past week. The grim details that we have documented are just a snapshot of the abuses that might be happening in places of detention,” said Amnesty International’s Europe director John Dalhuisen.

“It is absolutely imperative that the Turkish authorities halt these abhorrent practices and allow international monitors to visit all these detainees in the places they are being held.”

HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party (Turkish: Halkların Demokratik Partisi (HDP), Kurdish: Partiya Demokratîk a Gelan) statements: 

The Way Out of This Crisis is not Declaring State of Emergency, but Democracy

HDP Imrali Delegation’s Press Release on Ocalan’s condition.

The concerns and unlawful treatments regarding Mr. Abdullah Ocalan, kept in solitary confinement in Imrali Island since April 5th 2015, increasingly continue, particularly after the coup attempt on July 15th.  Both the analysis made by Mr Ocalan regarding how Imrali Island might be affected by a likely coup attempt, and news and information taking place in Turkish media, as well as, inadequate and careless attitude of government officials, towards the requests concerning worries and unlawful treatments regarding Mr. Abdullah Ocalan increase mistrust between the public and the state.

Our committee contacted government and state officials right after the coup attempt and delivered these concerns. We have stated the need for Ocalan’s family and lawyers, as well as, an unbiased committee’s visit to remove these concerns. As a matter of fact, the information gathered from these talks with officials was announced to the public, and we repeated our warnings applying their historical significance. While our concerns remain without response, Mr. Ocalan and other prisoners kept in Imrali Island, hindered from their rights to write and receive letters, receive phone calls and visits from family members and lawyers long before the coup attempt, are once again aggrieved by the declaration of state of emergency and its consequences by local court order.

This court order creates a more vicious solitary confinement. It is a provocative order targetting the common future of peoples seeking a way out of the civil and military coup vortex. It is an illegal and unlawful move against law, justice and democratic resolution. Withdrawal of this order carries a great importance. We also would like to stress the urgent need and importance of direct contact with Mr Ocalan to eliminate concerns and prevent increases in social tensions. Turkey’s only and main way out of this crisis is the resolution of the Kurdish question and other accumulated,long-standing problems. What needs to be done for this resolution is not imposing  solitary confinement, but providing conditions for a democratic negotiation. It’s essential to provide equal and free negotiation conditions for Mr. Ocalan, who foresaw the coup mechanics which are recorded in official reports, and he had warned state officials long before the attempt. A contrary move will serve the benefit of coup-plotters and risk bringing  our people into darker days.  This concerns not only the peoples of Turkey and Kurdistan, but also all peoples of the Middle East and the world without a doubt.

Within this context, we urge the attention of particularly the United Nations, the European Parliament, institutions of the European Union, CPT, Amnesty International, and national and international institutions, as well as, our people and public who stand with democracy and peace….

 

Wikipedia. “The Peoples’ Democratic Party (Turkish: Halkların Demokratik Partisi (HDP), Kurdish: Partiya Demokratîk a Gelan[12]), or Democratic Party of the Peoples, is a pro-Kurdish and pro-minority political party in Turkey. Generally left-wing, the party places a strong emphasis on participatory democracy, minority rights, and egalitarianism. It is an associate member of the Party of European Socialists (PES) and consultative member of the Socialist International.”

 

Party of European Socialists:

REINTRODUCING DEATH PENALTY IN TURKEY COULD HARM COUNTRY’S RELATIONS WITH THE EU

The Party of European Socialists would like to express its concern about the thousands of suspensions in the military, in the police, in the justice system following the attempted coup in Turkey. The PES is worried the most about the debate on the re-introduction of the death penalty, initiated by the Turkish Government.

PES President Sergei Stanishev said: “Death penalty is brutal and fundamentally unjust. We are deeply worried that the Turkish leadership is promoting the idea of re-introducing it. We call on the government for maximum restraint and caution in the aftermath of the attempted coup. Any step in the direction of reintroducing the death penalty could harm the relations between Turkey and the EU. Rejecting the death penalty is a specific request to all the countries which apply for EU membership.”

As it was made clear in the initial statement of the PES from the 16th of July in support of democracy in Turkey, the coup, should not be used as a pretext to undermine human rights.

Stanishev said: “Any attempt of a power grab through major constitutional changes will push Turkey farther away from the EU and will jeopardize a much needed reconciliation in Turkey”.

 

European left (alliance of left European parties)  declaration.

 

No military coup in Turkey and no civilian coup either

The European Left sharply condemns the attempt of a military coup d’etat in Turkey. This is no way to establish democracy and no way to secure human rights.

At the same time we are very clear in our condemnation of the current arbitrary reprisals against real or presumed enemies of the Erdogan government. The perpetrators of the military coup have to face the judicial consequences of their deeds but the imprisonment of thousands of people on the flimsiest of pretexts is in contravention of the rule of law and creates new divisions in an already fragmented society.

We strongly warn against the reintroduction of the death penalty in Turkey and we are appalled about the way Erdogan and his AKP government are using the current situation as a chance to reinforce the authoritarian presidential regime.

The Party of the European Left supports a real democratic perspective for Turkey. We therefore request the European Union to cancel the dirty refugee-deal with Erdogan and to apply pressure towards an end of curfews in Kurdish cities, of hostilities and massacres in the Kurdish regions of Turkey and the re-establishing of parliamentary immunity for the HDP parliamentarians. Our solidarity belongs to the progressive and democratic forces in Turkey and offer our solidarity in their fight against repression.

More statements:

French Communist Party (PCF):

 

Turquie : “La France doit cesser son soutien au régime sanguinaire d’Erdogan” (PCF)

Turkey:  France must end its backing to the bloodstained Erdogan regime.

 

We have witnessed a coup process second by second on 15th July evening with all its uncertainties, hesitations, countermoves of opposing sides and ferocities. This bloody night, which will be remembered with the clashes between the soldiers and the police, occupations in the media channels, images of massacred civilians and lynched soldiers and bombing of the National Assembly as a peak point, appear as one of the last scenes of the power struggle between the old partners inside the state that AKP and Gülen congregation built in cooperation. Based on the fact that Erdoğan regime does not hesitate to have resort to chaos and civil war atmosphere in order to maintain his hegemony since the elections on 7th June 2015, following the push down of the coup attempt in a very short time and reappearances of the government members on the media channels with refreshed images, many conspirative evaluations, that this attempt was designed for Erdoğan’s dictatorial lust to be actualized, had broad repercussion. Under the circumstances where the regime was consolidated with almost 50 percent of the votes in the last elections, a more reasonable interpretation is that Gülen supporters, who faced a huge discharge operation, and some sections in the army they are in cooperation with, have drawn the coup plan forth in a hurry.

Support our Turkish and Kurdish sisters and bothers against this Islamist despot!

An important article on the background to the present crisis.

Review of Cihan Tuğal, The Fall of the Turkish Model: How the Arab Uprisings Brought Down Islamic Liberalism, Verso: London and New York 2016,

CE TEMELKURAN  GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE MIDDLE EAST? Latest New Left Review – just out.

Extract:

 

The ‘fall of the Turkish model’ announced by Tuğal in his book’s title could have multiple, overlapping meanings. Has the model failed because it could not be exported to the rest of the Middle East—Egypt and Tunisia in particular? Was that because of its inherent flaws, or because social and political conditions were very different in those countries, as Tuğal demonstrates? However tarnished it may now be, we should not assume that the AKP’s political model has ‘fallen’, in the sense of being incapable of retaining power or mass support. Its followers have been encouraged to believe that social rights are a form of political charity that should only be available to those who vote AKP. They are mobilized by a gigantic propaganda machine which promotes a visceral hatred of the party’s adversaries; Erdoğan can break his promises whenever he sees fit, and anyone who dares to raise the matter will find themselves branded as the enemy. It is considered perfectly acceptable for AKP leaders to incite crowds to boo the family of a fifteen-year-old, Berkin Elvan, who was killed by a police bullet during the Gezi uprising. Turkey’s Constitutional Court was also anathematized when it ordered the release of journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül. Between August 2015 and February 2016, sixty people were charged with insulting Erdoğan and prosecuted, with each ‘criminal’ facing a year or two in prison. Recently, a woman in the process of divorcing her husband accused him of insulting the President, hoping to get the upper hand in the divorce proceedings. Business owners of all kinds are kept in line, with the AKP’s sword hanging over their heads.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 25, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste accuses of ‘left’ Presidential candidate Mélenchon of using far-right rhetoric.

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Accused of being  nationalist, chauvinist, racist, germanophobe and a great friend of Putin.

Le NPA accuse Mélenchon de reprendre “la rhétorique de l’extrême droite”.

Reports the Huffington Post French edition.

Leading Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste figure, Olivier Besancenot, said this: one gaff too many?

The NPA has published a virulent – to say the very least – attack on ‘populist’ Mélenchon who standing as a candidate in next year’s French Presidential election and is the leader of a small group, the Parti de gauche (left party), essentially a political club around his own personality.

At present his campaign  « La France insoumise, le peuple souverain. » (internet JLM2017) has become ‘populist’ and aims to be mobilise the ‘people’ against the ‘elites’. (1) He has declared that unless the European Union changes France should follow the UK and leave (Brexit: «L’UE, on la change ou on la quitte», affirme Jean-Luc Mélenchon)

.

5juinevt.jpg

He is neck and neck in the opinion polls with the Parti Socialiste François Hollande and present President – which is not saying much since at 15% each  not a single poll gives either any chance of winning.

Mélenchon : le dérapage de trop ?

More on this article here:  « Travailleurs détachés » : Le NPA accuse Mélenchon de reprendre « la rhétorique de l’extrême droite »  CLAVEL Geoffroy, RAGUET Alexandre.

The reason?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon made a speech in which he accused workers employed in France, but still formally under the  pay andconditions of their home countries (posted employees), of stealing the bread out of the mouths of local workers.

This is his expression: the  “travailleurs détachés” qui “vole(nt leur) pain” aux travailleurs locaux.”

Travailleurs détachés : les curieux propos de Mélenchon

Je crois que l’Europe qui a été construite, c’est une Europe de la violence sociale, comme nous le voyons dans chaque pays chaque fois qu’arrive un travailleur détaché, qui vole son pain aux travailleurs qui se trouvent sur place. »

I consider that the Europe that has been built is a Europe based on social violence, as we seen in every country when a posted worker comes and steals the bread out of the mouths of the workers who are already there.

As the article title suggests, the original reads just as oddly as the translation which I have rendered into colloquial English.

Many on the French left are now criticising the former leading figure of the Front de gauche, who launched on his own initiative a Presidential bid, addressing ‘The People’,   of being “nationaliste, chauvin, raciste, germanophobe et poutinophile” – nationalist, chauvinist, racist, germanophobe and a great friend of Putin.

(1) Populisme et hégémonies culturelles : débat Laclau-Mouffe-Mélenchon.

The polemic continues.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 22, 2016 at 12:21 pm

Honour and Glory to the Memory of Feminist Qandeel Baloch.

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Honour and Glory to the Memory of Qandeel Baloch.

Karachi, Pakistan – Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch, who was known for her daring posts, has been killed by her brother.

Al Jazeera. 

Police on Saturday told Al Jazeera that Baloch’s father, Mohammed Azeem, had filed a case against his son Waseem Azeem. The father also testified against another of his sons, who works in the army and reportedly encouraged his sibling to carry out the killing.

Waseem was in the family home in Multan when Baloch, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, died.

Both sons went missing as news of the killing spread.

But late on Saturday, Waseem was found some 100 kilometres from Multan in Dera Ghazi Khan and arrested. Police presented him with his face covered during a press conference, during which he said he “killed for honour” and had “no regrets”.

Baloch divided opinion in Pakistan, a largely conservative nation, as she appeared on television to speak about female empowerment, often dressed in non-traditional, revealing clothes.

She began her career by auditioning on Pakistan Idol and soon after launched a social media enterprise, posting videos that went viral.

On her final, July 4 post to her Facebook page, which has almost 800,000 fans, she wrote: “I am trying to change the typical orthodox mindset of people who don’t wanna come out of their shells of false beliefs and old practices.”

Her apparent “honour killing” has caused outrage.

‘Honour killings are epidemic’

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who won an Oscar for a film about honour-based violence, told Al Jazeera that such attacks were an “epidemic”.

“I’m very shaken up today. Activists in Pakistan have been screaming hoarse about honour killings; it is an epidemic, it takes place not only in towns, but in major cities as well.

“What are we going to do as a nation?”

Chinoy added that an anti-honour killing bill should be passed.

“It’s upon the lawmakers to punish these people. We need to start making examples of people. It appears it is very easy to kill a woman in this country – and you can walk off scot-free.”

Nabila Ghazzanfar, a Punjab Police spokeswoman, said that the initial post mortem showed that the 26-year-old’s nose and mouth had been pinned shut before she died, blocking off her airways.

More reports.

Pakistani authorities have barred murdered social media sensation Qandeel Baloch’s family from “forgiving” her brother for strangling her under an Islamic law, taking a rare stand against “honour killings”.

Police in Qandeel’s hometown of Multan confirmed that Section 311 of the Pakistan Penal Code had been added to her murder case, barring her family from pardoning the alleged killer under the “Qisas and Diyat” law.

City police chief Azhar Akram said the Islamic law, whereby the family or heirs of the victim can pardon the murderer, could not be applied in Qandeel’s case after police added Section 311, through which the state becomes the plaintiff.

Read: Cleric in selfie with Qandeel Baloch provoked her murder, alleges mother

Qandeel’s brother Muhammad Waseem drugged and strangled her on Friday in a murder that shocked the conservative Muslim nation, where the 26-year-old had titillated and outraged people with her racy social media photos and videos.

Waseem, after being arrested on Monday, said he had no regrets because his sister had dishonoured the family by making a controversial video with Mufti Abdul Qavi.

Read: Qandeel Baloch’s brother ‘proudly’ accepts drugging, killing her, has no regrets

Qandeel’s father would not be able to forgive Waseem and other suspects in his daughter’s murder if he decided to do so at any point, Akram explained. Under Section 311, the discretion of accepting a pardon from the victim’s family is left to the judge handling the case.

Hindustan Times.

What the “honour killing” of celebrity feminist Qandeel Baloch reveals about Pakistani liberals

KUNWAR KHULDUNE SHAHID

The cultural icon, known as “Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian”, was killed by her brother, in a country where more than 1,000 such murders occur per year.

Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch was strangled to death by her brother at her residence early Saturday morning, in the most high-profile of the over 1,000 honour killings that take place in the country on average annually.

Qandeel, whose official Facebook page has 783,667 likes, gathered her huge following through her social media posts that had, over the past year or so, evolved from eccentric trolling of Pakistan’s patriarchal tendencies to a powerful feminist rallying cry

Written by Andrew Coates

July 20, 2016 at 12:34 pm

As Soon as this Pub Closes: Sectarian Test for Tyros.

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Sectarian Test.

As journalists and others are now claiming to be experts in left-wing politics we set this short exam to test their knowledge.

In the 1953 break in the Trotskyist movement who was right?

  • Michael Raptis- Pablo.
  • Michael Raptis -Pablo.

Which side would you have backed in the mid-1970s IMG?

  • Tendency A
  • Tendency B.
  • The Faction.

In the WRP who had the nicest bum:

  • Gerry Healy.
  • Vanessa Redgrave.
  • Michael Ezra.

How many Fourth Internationals are there?

  • One, the FI.
  • The League for the 5th International is the only real Marxist international group.
  • Gerry Downing.

When did the AWL and the Weekly Worker last engage in unity negotiations?

  • 1887.
  • Nobody can remember.

The Posadists are famous for their belief that flying saucers come from a Communist Planet. What is their position on Dolphins?

  • Flipper is an excellent comrade.
  • Flipper is a class traitor.

Which Trotskyist group were former French PM, Lionel Jospin and present General Secretary of the Parti Socialiste Jean-Christophe Cambadélis one-time members of?

  • The Lambertists.
  • The Lambertists are mortal enemies of Trotskyism.

What was the Varga affair?

(Anybody who can answer this question automatically passes)

Written by Andrew Coates

July 19, 2016 at 10:25 am

Daily Mirror descends to utter tripe: Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are like Lenin style bully boys who’d send women to the gulag

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Foreign readers of this Blog (and roughly two thirds of the people viewing this site are not from the UK) will have been shaken by the tripe that has been said in this country over the last weeks.

But this is beyond a joke. 

Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are like Lenin style bully boys who’d send women to the gulag.

Daily Mirror. Carole Malone. Today.

THIS is what the once great Labour Party has become – a hate-filled, violent, lunatic fringe where members who disagree with the hardliners are abused, threatened and intimidated into silence.

In the old days, these militants would be happy to see women like Eagle sent to the gulag and tortured. Today she is tortured on social media by bully boys who believe they’re acting in Corbyn’s name. And what does this supposed man of principle do when women in his party are being threatened with death for challenging him? B*gger all, that’s what! When there’s a TV camera in his face he meekly condemns it and says it’s awful.

..

The big joke here is that Corbyn is the one who told us he would make politics kinder. “Kinder politics, a more caring society. These are the values I was elected on,” he said 10 months ago.

And just look what his leadership has done to those values and to the party. Labour, under him, is finished and its politics have never been more vile, more ugly, more hate-filled and more divisive. No Corbyn rally is complete without violence or the threat of it. Anyone who disagrees with the great leader is shouted down as a “ f***ing Tory” or a traitor.

Our great Labour Party used to be one where socialism was achieved through ­parliamentarianism, through democracy.

Under Corbyn, we’re following the Lenin model – where it’s created through ­revolution, intimidation and violence. This kind of socialism doesn’t believe in democracy. And it forces women to live under police protection.

The tragedy here is no matter what Corbyn’s policies are, no matter what he says he wants for the poor and the disenfranchised, no matter how noble his intentions might be, no one is ever going to listen to him while his supporters are threatening to murder women.

As a life-long anti-Stalinist I cannot even begin to explain how offensive this is to me and my comrades.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 18, 2016 at 11:53 am

Davis: Post-Vote EU Migrants Could Be Sent Home as pro-Brexit ‘left’ demonstrates.

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David Davis: Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

Send them back, says David Davis in another triumph for the pro-Brexit ‘Left’. 

Brexit minister David Davis says EU migrants who arrive between now and the UK’s departure could be sent home to prevent a last-minute rush to Britain.

Mr Davis wants to secure “a generous settlement for EU migrants here now and a generous settlement for British citizens in the EU” – but this may not apply to newcomers.

On the possibility of a surge of migrants before the departure, Mr Davis told The Mail On Sunday: “We may have to deal with that. There are a variety of possibilities.

“We may have to say that the right to indefinite leave to remain protection only applies before a certain date. But you have to make those judgments on reality, not speculation.”

Mr Davis also claimed Article 50, the two-year mechanism for leaving the EU, should be invoked by early 2017 – meaning the UK would be out by 2019.

Sky News.

Meanwhile a demonstration was held in London by a small number of people, led by the pro-Brexit Counterfire movement.

Several thousand protesters demonstrated in London on Saturday against austerity, racism and the new Tory government. The opposition rally was the biggest major protest since the June 23 Brexit referendum.

Central London saw more than 10,000 anti-Tory campaigners (organisers’ estimate, real figure a couple of thousand) on the streets and Black Lives Matter activists.

Russia Today.

The Evening Standard reports,

Organiser Steve Sweeney, 42, said the march was a display of “unity” with refugees and a reminder to Theresa May three days into the job that she faced opposition to her policies.

Steve Sweeney is campaign manager of the Morning Star, a leading Brexit ‘left’ groupuscule, which actively campaigned against ‘cheap’ foreign labour.

Hypocrisy does not even begin to cover this demonstration.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 17, 2016 at 11:22 am

Absolute love and solidarity to the families and friends of the victims of Nice.

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Absolute Love and Solidarity to the families and friends of the victims of Nice.

At least 84 people have been killed after a lorry ploughed into a crowd attending Bastille Day celebrations in the French city of Nice on Thursday night, in what is being investigated as a terror attack.

France 24.

Here are the main developments so far:

  • A lorry ploughed into a crowd of people in the southern French city of Nice at around 11pm local time towards the end of a fireworks display to celebrate the Bastille Day holiday.
  • The lorry drove at a high speed for a distance of around 2km through the crowd, according to witnesses and officials.
  • The driver of the lorry was shot dead by police. He has been formally identified as a 31-year-old French-Tunisian citizen.
  • The death toll rose to at least 84 people, including children, with around 18 more critically injured, the interior ministry said Friday.
  • French President François Hollande said the attack was “clearly of a terrorist nature”. It is being investigated by France’s anti-terror unit.
  • Hollande said a state of emergency implemented after the November terror attacks in Paris and due to end on July 26 will be extended by another three months.

Attaque de Nice : 84 morts, trois jours de deuil national décrétés

Par LIBERATION 14 juillet 2016 à 23:31 (mis à jour le 15 juillet 2016 à 12:38).
Un camion a foncé sur des spectateurs du feu d’artifice sur la promenade des Anglais, faisant 84 morts et 18 blessés en urgence absolue.

• Jeudi, peu après 22h30, un camion a foncé dans la foule réunie pour le feu d’artifice du 14 Juillet sur la promenade des Anglais, à Nice.

• Un nouveau bilan du ministère de l’Intérieur vendredi matin fait état de 84 morts et 18 blessés en «urgence absolue».

• La préfecture des Alpes-Maritimes a évoqué un attentat et le parquet anti-terroriste s’est saisi de l’enquête.

• Le chauffeur du camion a été abattu par la police. Il a été formellement identifié.

• François Hollande a annoncé la prolongation de l’état d’urgence de trois mois et a déclaré un deuil national de trois jours samedi, dimanche et lundi.

Le Monde,

Un camion a foncé dans la foule qui était réunie sur la promenade des Anglais à Nice pour assister au feu d’artifice, jeudi 14 juillet. Au moins 84 personnes ont été tuées, selon le ministère de l’intérieur. Les témoins évoquent des scènes d’horreur et de panique.

« On a entendu des bruits. Comme il y avait les feux d’artifice, on ne s’est pas inquiétés. C’est après qu’on a compris ce qu’il se passait », raconte Auriane sur France Bleu Azur. Cette habitante du haut du boulevard Gambetta est restée cloîtrée chez elle, comme le recommandait la préfecture.

Initiative communiste-ouvrière

These words show great dignity.

15 juillet 2016

Un meurtre de masse a été commis ce 14 juillet, jour de fête populaire, à Nice. En fonçant avec un camion dans une foule de femmes, d’hommes et d’enfants qui revenaient du feu d’artifice, il s’agissait de tuer un maximum de monde dans un minimum de temps. Ce vendredi matin, on compte plus de 80 morts dont de nombreux enfants.

Il n’y a pas de mots pour exprimer l’horreur face à ce nouveau crime. Un tel crime ne peut qu’horrifier toute personne ayant un minimum de sentiments humains. Nous exprimons nos plus sincères condoléances à toutes celles et tous ceux qui ont perdu des proches, des amis ou des collègues dans cet attentat terroriste barbare.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CnXQuUpXgAAeP2T.jpg

Written by Andrew Coates

July 15, 2016 at 11:52 am

After the Summer of Love, the Summer of Labour as Counter-Power: Paul Mason.

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After the Summer of Love the Summer of Labour as Counter-Power.

Corbyn: the summer of hierarchical things Paul Mason.

Labour can become the counter-power.

Extracts,

My first experience of the labour movement was going to the Leigh Miners’ Gala, in the 1960s, aged about six or seven. I remember, amid the tight throng of people, one striking image: a boxing ring, in which a local slugger was taking on all comers.

The flesh of the fighters was red and bruised. One man had blood on his face, another a stupid smile: the challengers were mainly drunk. They slammed their gloves into each other’s ribs with such force I can hear it now.

And then my father’s hand slid up to my forehead and covered my eyes. “Don’t look,” he said.

That’s what the working class gained by forming a movement of its own. Something that could co-exist with the brutality of everyday life and at the same time shield us from it. Something that allowed you to live inside the system and at the same time nurture the ideal of something different.

Years later I discovered there was a word to describe this: “counter-power”. A set of ideas, traditions and actions that lets you both survive within capitalism and fight against it.

..

After 2008, the counter-power was reborn. No longer centred on the old working class, it was simply “us” — the crapped-upon masses. The barista, the courier, the lawyer, the shipping clerk. Those were the people I met occupying Gezi Park in Istanbul in 2013. Anarchists in black balaclavas yes — but also pissed-off guy with gym membership and a Besiktas season ticket.

The 2011–13 uprisings — Tahrir, Occupy, the Spanish indignados, Taksim, Brasil — were mass phenomena that, even when suppressed and defeated, left a residue: ideas, patterns of organisation, networks, as Manuel Castells put it, of “outrage and hope”.

..

Finally came the Brexit referendum: the ultimate act of miscalculation, in which Project Fear 2.0 misfired and the UK kickstarted the breakup of globalisation.

You can take the state, said Gramsci: but capital has line after line of trenches and fortifications beyond it.

..

Corbyn’s victory in 2015, Brexit in 2016 and the near victory of the Scottish yes campaign in 2014 all held out the possibility of a effortless exit from a dying and unpopular neo-liberal structure.

A kind of “free revolution”, handed to you by a hapless elite, where all you had to do was tick a box.

But revolutions are never effortless. The revolution that’s put Podemos on 20% in Spain, and Syriza into power in Greece, involved masses of people on the streets, resisting the elite’s attacks, and creating a new kind of power in communities and on the streets and in universities and schools.

This is the modern counter-power, and Corbyn’s election was only ever a reflection of it.

Detailed comment would be superfluous on such momentous thoughts.

We can only suggest that people read the full version.

Brief Notes for further reflection on Cde Mason’s theses.

  • The break-up of globalisation begun by Brexit. Really?
  • Near victory of pro-business nationalists in Scotland as a near triumph for opponents of neo-liberalism….sure….
  • Podemos, who recently failed to get anywhere near power (despite predictions that they would win) in recent election as example of ‘counter-power’.   (Spain’s Conservative PP wins rerun election, Podemos upset by surprisingly low results:  2016 election results PP 33.02%; PSOE 22.68%; UNIDOS PODEMOS 21.11%; Abstentions 30.16% )
  • The latest version of the Indignados, Nuit Debout, in France, already disintegrating in abstraction and futility.
  • Ah yes Syriza, Greece. Well.

I never liked Boxing me.

Or the film Fight Club.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 13, 2016 at 4:16 pm

British Left’s Brilliant Strategies, from May to Eagle.

with 8 comments

Cartoon 12.07.2016

Steve Bell’s comment.

The British left is famous for its brilliant strategists.

First we had ‘Lexiters’ relishing the thought that  a Leave vote would divide the Tories.

A crisis for the Tories most definitely is equivalent to an opportunity for the left. It is possible to claim otherwise only by detaching the left from the basic wisdom of the working class movement upon which the left has claimed to base itself. That’s fine for the Greens and those leftists whose conclusion from the defeat of the working class movement in the 1980s was precisely to pursue a déclassé progressivism.

Cameron’s tactical purpose in calling the EU referendum was to undermine UKIP and to unite the Tory party on its hard Thatcherite course of class confrontation at home. He has succeeded only in dividing the Tory party from top to bottom….

Counterfire. Kevin Ovenden. 

Now we have Teresa May uniting the Conservative party.

Second we have, from the right of Labour,  Angela Eagle claiming that she is running a campaign against Jeremy Corbyn because she can “unite the party”.

Labour leadership: Angela Eagle says she can unite the party.

Sure….

Written by Andrew Coates

July 12, 2016 at 11:10 am

Ipswich: Ben Gummer Tory MP and Remain Campaigner Defends Migrants.

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Ben Gummer

 

Racism against Eastern European migrants is just vile – we should be thankful for what they do, says Ipswich MP Ben Gummer

Evening star.

If you go to Handford Road in the early hours, when most British people are still asleep, you will see minibuses filling with Eastern European migrants, going off to work gutting chickens in a job that the Job Centres fail to get British people to do.

Hold that thought when you consider the vile eruptions of racism since Nigel Farage’s ‘Independence Day’ two weeks ago. Employees at a depot in Thetford chanting “you’re going home” to Eastern European colleagues; a Polish centre in Hammersmith sprayed with ‘Go Home’ in the middle of the night; a notice – charmingly written in Polish – encouraging Poles to ‘go home’, picked up by a little 11-year-old Polish boy; notes left on cars telling ‘Polish vermin’ to leave the country; a European man berated on a Manchester tram by some thug who told him to “**** off home”.

What has happened to our country? Whatever side of the debate you were on, no-one can deny that we are now a nation terribly divided, with intolerance unleashed.

Some have said to me that it’s a limited problem, an issue that has “always been there” – as if there is something inevitable about this treatment of foreigners, and that in the release the hatred will go away. They could not be more wrong. It is right that people should be ashamed to express racist sentiments, even if it is what they believe in their hearts.

That is why politicians should be so very careful in how they use words: by using language carelessly, by stoking fear of migrants, they can seem to permit something that is rightly impermissible.

Do not imagine that this is a sentiment reserved for bovine thugs: it exists behind many polite doors and neat gardens in our own town. Time and again I heard “I’m not a racist but…”, beginning a sentence that revealed a fear of foreigners and a wish to see them gone.

Most carefully, people express concerns about school class sizes and GP waiting lists. These concerns might be legitimate but they are rightly levelled at us politicians, not at the migrants on whom these problems in public services are so often blamed.

After all, the average EU migrant is more likely to be in work, paying taxes, than us Brits, helping to build – both in money and in labour – the classrooms all of our children need. And those GP queues? They are more the result of British people getting older – not young fit Lithuanian men, who rarely need a doctor.

I add this,

Shop owner describes arson attack at eastern European store in Magdalen Street, Norwich

 I know Ben Gummer.

His office is about ten minutes from my gaff.

We have had conversations about Noam Chomsky.

I am a political opponent of Ben,  he said, when out campaigning for Remain on his Tory stall (which obviously I had not part in) that this must be the first time in his life that he and me had been on the same side.

We fight the class struggle democratically.

Ben knows as well as I do that this racism has got beyond a joke.

Us lot in Ipswich are pretty close.

His words are very carefully weighed.

They merit utmost attention: Mit brennender Sorge.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 9, 2016 at 12:10 pm

As Labour Fight heats up new faction launches Youth Wing.

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Get Groovy! Get on Down! Get Young Socialists!

As Labour internal fighting heats up we can only endorse this appeal to our young sisters and brothers.

The future is in the yoof!

Written by Andrew Coates

July 7, 2016 at 4:52 pm

Posted in European Left, Ipswich, Left, Marxism

Tagged with

Socialist Workers Party leader “failure of the US in Iraq was a “bigger defeat” than the one it suffered in Vietnam.”

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Writer Tariq Ali introduced a meeting on The American Empire and its Discontents. He argued that the US was an “ultra imperialist” power that had united other advanced capitalist powers under its leadership.

Tariq Ali

Tariq Ali Genial Friend of the People.  (Pic: Socialist Worker)

He said, “The dominance of the US remains unchallenged.” In the discussion others argued that Ali underplayed the weaknesses of US imperialism.

Alex Callinicos introduced a meeting on Imperialism Today.

He said the failure of the US in Iraq was a “bigger defeat” than the one it suffered in Vietnam.”

“Courses explored aspects of Marxist theory including alienation, the dialectic, exploitation and accumulation. Other meetings debated the origins of women’s oppression, gene editing, art and revolution and Shakespeare.”

More on Socialist Worker site.

And people wonder why we hold them in contempt.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 5, 2016 at 11:44 am

Posted in Anti-Fascism, Culture, Islamism

Tagged with ,

Solidarity and Love to Families and Friends of Victims of Islamist Dhaka Attack.

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Bangladesh has a special place in the hearts of all progressive humanity.

In its fight for freedom the country suffered one of the worst Islamist genocides of the last century.

Our deepest sadness at this outrage.

Dhaka attack: 20 hostages killed Friday night, says ISPR.

Daily Star. (Bangladesh)

As per instruction by the honourable head of the government, Bangladesh Army  conducted Operation Thunderbolt, Brig Gen Nayeem Ashfaq Chowdhury, director of military operations, told journalists at a press briefing this afternoon.

Joint security force led by army recovered 20 bodies during a search on the compound of the Spanish restaurant, Holey Artisan Bakery after the operation was launched, Brig Gen Nayeem said.

The BBC reports.

Twenty people, all of them foreigners, were killed during an attack by suspected Islamists on a cafe in Bangladesh, officials say.

Gunmen stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery cafe in Dhaka late on Friday before troops entered almost 12 hours later.

Six of the attackers were also killed and one was arrested, a government spokesman said. The attack was claimed by the so-called Islamic State (IS).

The siege began as diners were gathering to break their fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“It was an extremely heinous act,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in a televised statement. “What kind of Muslims are these people? They don’t have any religion.

“My government is determined to root out terrorism and militancy from Bangladesh.”

Bangladesh’s Daily Star newspaper said the gunmen tortured anyone who was unable to recite the Koran. They provided meals overnight for only the Bangladeshi captives, it said.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 2, 2016 at 11:07 am

As Voices of Hate Rise, and Nationalist Anti-EU ‘Left’ cries Crocodile tears, Pro-European Young People Have their Say.

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Young Comrades with pro-EU Left Unity Leaflets on London Demo.

“This is Imann and Iada who are sisters from Paris. They have lived and worked here for nine years. They work in catering. They had no vote in the referendum. We distributed two thousand Left Unity leaflets.”

https://i2.wp.com/leftunity.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/EURefLeaflet.jpg

Here.

As comrade John McDonnell points out in today’s Labour Briefing, 70% of Labour Votes backed Remain as did nearly 3 out of 4 young people.

Pink News reports.

Brexit hate chant: ‘First we’ll get the Poles out, then the gays’

London’s theatre district of Covent Garden rings to the sound of hate after UK Brexit vote.

As one of the most tolerant, accepting places in Britain – packed with theatres and attracting tourists from around the world.

But just three days after the country voted to leave the European Union, Colin Appleby, a gay resident of London’s Covent Garden, heard something he wasn’t expecting.

A group was making its way up Drury Lane on Sunday night, singing at the top of their voices:

‘Rule Britannia!

‘Britannia rules the waves!

‘First we’ll get the Poles out, then the gays!’

Socialist Worker has a unique way of looking at this situation,

Social change never comes without turmoil—we have to seize the time.

These hammer blows reinforce one another. The government is marked by inertia, paralysis and drift. This is a genuine crisis.

And it can be resolved in working class people’s interests, not the elites that suffered a hammering in the referendum.

Many on the left have plunged into gloom. We do not share that view. There are dangers and potential pitfalls, but also a chance to break the austerity consensus and hurl back the racists.

The Leave vote has weakened our enemies. It is time to step up the assault on the establishment.

This is the view of many of the comrades:

23 June: a victory for reaction and regression

The vote in the 23 June referendum that Britain should leave the European Union was a victory for the forces of reaction and historical regression. It has fed the fires of reactionary nationalism and chauvinism in other EU countries, people who want to go back to a Europe of competing, and possibly warring, nation-states, to what degree and with what consequences remains to be seen. In Britain, it has triggered a wave of attacks on migrants.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 30, 2016 at 11:49 am

Young People Gather in anti-Brexit rally.

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Pro-EU Rally At Trafalgar Square Attracts Thousands Despite Event Being Cancelled Due To ‘Unprecedented’ Response.

Reports the Huffington Post.

Thousands of pro-EU supporters have marched to Parliament where they are chanting anti-Brexit slogans after gathering in London’s Trafalgar Square where a scheduled rally was earlier cancelled.

Pictures emerged on social media soon after 6pm showing crowds of people holding pro-EU banners aloft at Trafalgar Square despite steady showers. Hours later they were seen chanting pro-EU slogans at Westminster.

More than 50,000 people had been expected to attend the London Stays rally which aimed to show the world that “London stands with Europe”.

Channel Four last night stated that the people on the rally were predominantly young.

Yet, indications are: no copies of the Socialist sold, and recruitment to the SWP, and Counterfire: zero.

Equally reports from the pro-Corbyn rally the previous evening state that these groups had failed to lead the masses.

To remedy this Coatesy has the following top-tips: getting down with the kidz  for revolutionary recruiters.

  • Young people are like fruit flies. They can’t remember all that stuff about what a group did as long ago as last week. Campaigning for Brexit? Phooey! Undermining the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn: that’s all, like, history. The important thing is now you are the best supporters of Jeremy Corbyn.
  • Lessons: young folk love lessons. Tell them about the Wigan Labour Club voters and their concerns about ‘immigration’ . That will go down a treat with the class conscious people who demonstrated yesterday. Sort out the wheat from the chaff.
  • Young ‘uns adore limpets. Many have a limpet vivarium in the their bathrooms.  Stick to them. They will surely appreciate this.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 29, 2016 at 10:12 am

Brexit: as Carnival of Reaction spreads Labour in Crisis.

with 13 comments

Carnival of Reaction: Newcastle over the weekend. 

This morning after delivering some  Sarriette (summer savory)   plants to my comrade Sarah I passed by Rope Walk.

A group of 3 tasty geezers were talking about the Referendum.

Overheard, “you couldn’t  criticise ‘them’ till now. ‘Slavery’, ‘Blacks” “now…”

The Independent has just posted this:

Brexit: Wave of hate crime and racial abuse reported after EU referendum

Purported responses to Brexit include signs saying ‘Leave the EU, no more Polish vermin’ being posted through letter boxes.

More than a hundred incidents of racial abuse and hate crime have been reported since the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Many of the alleged perpetrators cited the decision to leave the EU explicitly.

One video, purportedly filmed in Hackney on the morning after the referendum, shows a man arguing with someone in a car before yelling: “Go back to your country.”

 The ‘Lexit’ gang predicted that there would be some kind of “opportunity” for the left in the event of a Brexit vote.

Well this how young leftists reacted.

Mass protest takes place as crowds gather on London Bridge to demonstrate against Brexit

HUNDREDS of people have protested in the capital as they demonstrated against Britain voting to Leave the EU.

Protesters in London

This is what has happened in the Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn unveils new top team after resignations. reports the BBC.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has announced a new cabinet following a wave of resignations in protest at his leadership and amid calls to resign.

Mr Corbyn lost 12 of his shadow cabinet on Sunday and five shadow ministers on Monday – with most criticising his performance in the EU referendum.

Mr Corbyn said he regretted the walkouts but pledged to stand in any new leadership election.

Labour MPs are due to discuss a no confidence motion against Mr Corbyn.

The shadow cabinet shake-up sees Emily Thornberry – who on Sunday gave her backing to Mr Corbyn – moved from shadow defence secretary to shadow foreign secretary, replacing Hilary Benn who was sacked at the weekend.

Meanwhile, Diane Abbott – an ally of the Labour leader – has been promoted from shadow international development secretary to shadow health secretary, a position vacated by Heidi Alexander’s resignation.

The new appointments include:

  • Shadow foreign secretary – Emily Thornberry
  • Shadow health secretary – Diane Abbott
  • Shadow education secretary – Pat Glass
  • Shadow transport secretary – Andy McDonald
  • Shadow defence secretary – Clive Lewis
  • Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury – Rebecca Long-Bailey
  • Shadow international development secretary – Kate Osamor
  • Shadow environment food and rural affairs secretary – Rachel Maskell
  • Shadow voter engagement and youth affairs – Cat Smith
  • Shadow Northern Ireland secretary – Dave Anderson

The latest frontbench resignations came on Monday, by shadow foreign minister Diana Johnson, shadow civil society minister Anna Turley, shadow defence minister Toby Perkins, Wayne David, the shadow Cabinet Office, Scotland and justice minister and shadow consumer affairs and science minister Yvonne Fovargue.

Stephen Kinnock, a parliamentary aide to shadow business secretary Angela Eagle, has also quit, citing Jeremy Corbyn’s “half-hearted and lacklustre role” in the EU campaign.

What an ‘opportunity’.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 27, 2016 at 10:54 am

Socialist Statements on Cameron Resignation and EU Referendum Results.

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After Cameron Us, Say pro-Brexit ‘left’. 

I am a European democratic socialist, an internationalist, a Labour Party member, a trade union activist.

The Tendance has nothing but love and solidarity with our European comrades and their – our – fight for a better EU and a socialist Europe.

David Cameron’s resignation (Prime Minister David Cameron is to step down by October after the UK voted to leave the European Union.) will only bring more reaction in its wake.

It will do nothing to help our battle for a better world and advance the interests of the workers and the oppressed.

Those who backed the Brexit campaign are the least able to offer an alternative.

Like many on the left the result of the referendum does not means abandoning our democratic Marxism for populist talk of a rejection of  “metropolitan elites” and poisonous anti-migrant language.

To underline this point it is profoundly worrying that a reactionary campaign, marked by racism and xenophobia had been joined by some of the left – the so-called Lexiters – who mobilised  people against “cheap foreign labour”.

This divisive campaign  will paralyse their response to the Tory crisis.

It leaves a bitter legacy.

Democratic socialists will not forget the role they played in the promotion of the agenda of the most reactionary elements in British capitalism.

I can only echo the views of these statements:

Another Europe is Possible.

‘It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness’
Statement in response to the Leave vote.

Another Europe is Possible worked tirelessly over the past few months to forge a movement that could progress an alternative vision for Europe. Britain’s decision to leave the European Union opens a world of uncertainty that campaigners in the UK must now try to steer in a positive direction, in spite of the divisions that have been stirred. We don’t pretend that this will be easy. The mainstream campaign to leave the EU has pandered to nationalism, has encouraged a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment and has fostered a notion that outside the EU we can return to an age when Britain was the world’s foremost ‘great power’.

We understand and share the distrust many people feel towards the institutions of the EU. The EU lacks proper democratic accountability, negotiates exploitative trade policies like TTIP, visits economic destruction on its own member states, and at times has treated refugees as if they were criminals.

Our argument for remaining in the EU was that, together with the hundreds of millions of fellow Europeans, we have the power to transform Europe and, in so doing, to control corporations, halt climate change and overcome the nationalisms that have haunted our continent for centuries. The campaign to leave the EU has demonised some of the poorest people in Europe. We share the sense of fear that many of those people must now feel.

That’s why many of us who have worked to build “Another Europe is Possible” will not stop working towards forging a better Europe, and a better country, with allies and friends across the continent. We commit ourselves to fighting the rising tide of nationalism and racism across Europe and building a campaign to defend the rights and dignity of immigrants in Britain. We will work for the most just transition out of the EU possible, campaigning against the erosion of human and workers’ rights and the type of extreme free trade deals which the leaders of the Leave campaign have threatened.

We will not give up in our attempts to build a very different sort of world based on equality, democracy and humanity. In this new Britain, we believe our movement is even more important. In coming weeks we will revisit our work and propose new priorities with those who have worked so tirelessly in the past few months, pounding the pavement across the UK to make our voices heard. We hope some of those who campaigned for a left-wing exit will also join us in this work.

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. In the months ahead we will try to ensure that we lay the foundations for a better country. We must prove to the world that Britain will not become a byword for intolerance, insularity and despair. Another Europe is possible. Another Britain is necessary.

See signatories here.

Momentum. 

Yesterday, the British people voted to leave the European Union. Momentum, which campaigned to remain in the EU to transform the EU, respects the decision taken by the electorate.

We recognise that people voted ‘Leave’ for many reasons. Much of this vote reflected anger in communities which have experienced many years of industrial decline with the subsequent loss of secure employment. Many such working class communities have been utterly neglected for years by those in power. Millions appear to have chosen ‘Leave’ to vote against the unfettered globalisation that has seen living standards stagnate or fall, as the cost of living rises. We share this scepticism of big business dominance, austerity and distant elites, be they British, European or Global, and share that demand for a country where working people have control.

Many ‘Leave’ voters usually vote for Labour or are working people Labour should represent. Now the Party and the whole labour movement needs to show the country that it alone can offer working people genuine control over their lives, workplaces and communities.

Labour must clearly demonstrate how it will improve lives through policies that will increase wages, tackle the housing crisis, and give people a greater say at work and in their communities.

If we do not, we will not only be failing to advance the policies that will benefit working people but also could enable the populist right, who blame immigrants, not the powerful for the problems in our country. Part of the Leave campaign empowered these racist, reactionary forces, who peddle hatred and offer false hope. We must redouble our efforts to stop migrant scapegoating, focus our attention on the needs and desires of the overwhelming majority, and offer a real programme of hope for our people.

Although we will leave the EU, our movement remains an internationalist one. We must continue to work with our friends, partners and allies across Europe in the shared struggle against austerity, to tackle climate change and to build a sustainable economy with full employment for all the peoples of Europe.

In solidarity,

Team Momentum
http://www.peoplesmomentum.com/

Brexit ‘Left’ Reaches Delusional Stage and Talks of ‘Commonwealth’.

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Lexit: Desperate last-minute Flailing.

As the left and the labour Movement, from the trade unions, the Party to the majority of radical groups,  stand increasingly united behind a Remain Vote the Brexit ‘left’ is desperate.

They are scrambling round for self-justification.

From whingeing about the ‘absence of a working class voice” in the referendum,  Socialist Worker has been reduced to asserting that, “A socialist Europe is not on the ballot paper and there is no method for reforming the EU.”

Oddly this a Referendum about membership of the EU, and it does not include an option to vote for the SWP either.

Nor does saying three times that the EU cannot be changed make the claim true.

John McDonnell says,

Labour is pushing for an ambitious programme of reforms that will make the EU work for the best interests of working people here and across Europe.

For example, all the EU member states have a share in the European Investment Bank (EIB). The UK’s share is 16 per cent, equivalent to its size inside the EU. But the Tories have failed to make the most of it, with the UK only receiving 11 per cent of funding. If we took our fair share of the extra funding that the EIB has offered, that would be £35bn of additional investment. That’s more than double the entire UK public investment spend for a year.

The SWP’s position would have us not even try to get this ideas on the practical agenda.

This argument in today’s The Socialist, plumbs the depths of delusion.

voters – particularly working class voters – are increasingly seeing the referendum as a chance to protest both against Cameron and everything they have suffered in recent years: low pay, zero-hour contracts, benefit cuts, the lack of affordable housing, and public services cut to the bone. One poll shows that 60% of ‘blue collar’ workers intend to vote for exit.

What is the basis of this ‘blue collar’ (not a Marxist category) support for Brexit?

There is no mention in this article of something too obvious, er, to mention.

Socialist Party ‘aligned’ Trade Unionists Against the EU leaders Enrico Tortolano and Ragesh Khakhria (both part of the PCS which officially has a neutral stand during the referendum) get to grips with the issue of what motives this support in the Morning Star.

They observe, in arguing for something now called a ‘People’s Brexit‘  that,

….millions of working-class voters are unrepresented by the mainstream political parties and large chunks of the trade union movement.

The stance and position of those who are supposed to represent labour is at odds with the experience of the working class in Britain as well as the rest of the EU.

Working-class people are experiencing unemployment or insecure jobs, low pay, no pension with little prospect of owning their own home, or living in secure council housing.

It’s nonsense to pretend that the movement of more people into these communities is having no impact on their lives.

Rich Tories have already cut schools and hospitals they use to the bone.

For the metropolitan liberal elite, far removed from such concerns, the prospect of a people’s Brexit simply violates their sense of entitlement and jeopardises the prospect of middle-class benefits that the working class will never see.

So ‘movement of more people’ – free movement of labour in the European Union – is a problem which has created support for Brexit. Only the ‘metropolitan liberal elite’ –  do not see this reality.

This is clearly at odds with Socialist Worker’s charges against “Fortress Europe”. They charge the EU with putting up barriers to refugees and migrants from outside the Continent. SW notes that the Official Remain campaign is led by those who want to “regain control” of Britain’s borders.

Does the Socialist Party and Trade Unionists Against the EU want to regain “control” over UK frontiers, stop the flow of “cheap labour” that is having an “impact” on “communities”?

If so, how?

And if the SWP opposes such moves, why are they backing a vote for those whose entire project in recent weeks has been centred on a hate campaign against migrant workers

Perhaps we should consider not just migrants and refugees on the frontiers of Europe but   “people” in “movement” who have come to Britian. Khakhria and  Tortolano, whose own forebears were no doubt in “movement” have no answer to this issue.

The pair note, no doubt wistfully, that,

Historically, the labour movement and Labour leaders such as Clement Attlee and Hugh Gaitskell felt a much greater affinity with the Commonwealth countries than they did to the capitalist Common Market.

Yes, New Zealand Lamb and butter, that’s the best reply to the ‘capitalist’ EU.

 

Tariq Ali joins with Smears against Jo Cox.

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Tariq Ali: Better off tilting at Windmills than engaging in Politics.

Recently former Marxist Tariq Ali made a return to British politics.

He starred at the 13th of June Camden “rally of shame” calling for Brexit, or as they tried to call it, Lexit (left Exit, geddit?).

London says #Lexit: The Left Case Against the EU – Tariq Ali.

Ali stood on the same platform as Caroline Tacchella, a representative of the Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique, a French Trotskyist group, whose historical record even a genial codger like Tariq must remember with loathing.

The group from which this micro-party originates (the ‘Lambertists’) are famous for opposing the French students in 1968.

In a celebrated confrontation hundreds of this sect’s Service d’ordre  paraded in military style, demanding that the petty bourgeois intellectuals not build barricades in the Sorbonne but wait for the working class and its vanguard (not unrelated to the said Lambertists, known at the time as the Organisation Communiste Internationaliste, OCI) to lead the movement.

Ali, one might possibly know, is one-time student leader, and the author of self-congratulatory writings on 68, (1968 and After: Inside the Revolution, 1978, Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties ,1987 and others too numerous for even their author to have read) one would expect him to know that particularly history and shun any association with the Lambertists.

Update (from JM)

The British arm of this sect, publishes Workers’ Tribune, whose latest issue you can download here.

Many of those leftist youths, the anciens combattants, or vétérans as we, a decade or more younger, used to call them in Paris, not without a hint of affectionate mockery, have kept the course.

Others have fallen by the wayside.

None in a more spectacular fashion than Ali in his present convulsions.

From spitting on the grave of our comrades at Charlie Hebdo, to backing Brexit, and now...this:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 21, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Leading ‘Left’ Lexit anti-EU Campaigner, George Galloway, pays out Libel Damages to Aisha Ali-Khan.

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How the Galloway ‘left’ Campaign to Leave kicked off.

Our old friend George Galloway had been quiet during the last stages of the European Referendum.

After a sparkling start, which saw the dapper gent appear with Nigel Farage in a united front, we heard little of the Respect leader.

The one-time star of Parliament, and international statesman, had been reduced to retweeting others, such as Steve Hedley, the ally of French Trotskyist micro-party, Daniel Gluckstein’s Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique and their ‘internationalist’ rally in support of Brexit in Paris.

Now we know why:

The Independent reports,

George Galloway has agreed to pay undisclosed damages to a former aide over claims she conspired to run a “dirty tricks campaign” against him.

The former MP withdrew his allegations against Aisha Ali-Khan and agreed to pay damages along with legal costs.

Ms Ali-Khan brought libel proceedings in London’s High Court after the Respect Party leader published a statement on his website in October 2012.

One notes nevertheless that Galloway has now returned to play an active role in the ‘Lexit’ campaign.

His presence on the Lexit side will no doubt inspire many to follow their ideals.

Here’s the full apology George Galloway was forced to make in court today, and why

Pro-European Podemos Ahead of Spanish Socialists in Latest Polls.

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PODEMOS

Pro-European Radical Left Surges Ahead in Spain.

Support Surges for Spain’s Leftist Podemos Coalition: Poll 19th of June.

 Telesur reports,
The leftist coalition has the support of voters tired of the austerity measures employed and supported by the PSOEand the PP at all levels of government.

Spain’s leftist alliance Unidos Podemos (Together We Can) has made significant gains ahead of the June 26 general election and is now ahead of the Socialist Party (PSOE) with 25.6 percent and 20.2 percent of the vote respectively, latest polls show.

According to a Metroscopia poll, the conservative PP is ahead in first place with 28.5 percent of the vote, while Unidos Podemos has 25.6 percent and the PSOE is trailing with 20.2 percent.

Should acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s ruling PP party maintain its lead, the victory would come without a majority in Congress, a huge and historic blow to the nation’s two-party system that has dominated the country since the end of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in 1978.

The June 26 vote follows the king of Spain’s decision to dissolve parliament and trigger new elections after no single party won enough seats to form a government in the December vote. Since then a caretaker government led by Rajoy has administered the country.

More, in Spanish,

El previsible éxito de Unidos Podemos no es tanta sorpresa, ni la caída de PP y PSOE.

The predicted success of Unidos Podemos (the alliance of Podemos with the left bloc, Izquidra Undia) is not so surprising, nor the decline of the PP (right) and PSOE (Socialist Party).

Not only does the Spanish election concern everybody in Europe but the advance of Podemos is important to the internationalist left campaigning for a Remain vote in this week’s UK referendum.

Podemos: reclaiming Europe is a revolutionary slogan

The problem with the EU is a structural one, and this is why reclaiming Europe becomes a revolutionary slogan. It can be done from a variety of spaces and on multiple levels, winning over institutions within member countries and weaving multilevel alliances for the defence of European values on welfare and human rights.Podemos assumes a clearly pro-European stance: Europe is a space for political and economic construction, where even the OECD admits the stability pact needs to be amended, and steps towards federalisation need to be sped up with policies that put people before finance.

Podemos have been in Britain this weekend to campaign against Brexit

The Podemos delegate for International Relations has spent the weekend to support a series of events arranged by the stay campaign.

The delegate concerned is Pablo Bustinduy and on Saturday he participated in an act in Manchester, ‘against the exit of the United Kingdom from the European common zone and for a new more egalitarian and social Europe’, with Clive Lewis a labour MP, among others.

Since its inception, Podemos has opened federations of the party in the United Kingdom and his trip gave him the opportunity to see these federations first hand and to inform them on the progress of Unidos Podemos in the Spanish general election.

Under the slogan ‘Another Europe is possible’, this collective has emerged as a leftwing pro Europe group which is calling on the British public to vote to stay. ‘We have a different vision of Europe focussed on the interests of the majority. We have to unite with other similar movements in the EU. It is not easy, but things can change’ noted Owen Jones in an interview with the Spanish paper El Español.

El País today notes,

En la campaña sobre el papel de los británicos en la UE tienen más éxito quienes apelan a las emociones, el miedo o la bandera. La muerte de la diputada Cox es un ejemplo.

The campaign on the role of the British in the EU has been based on successful appeals to emotions, to fear and flag waving. The murder of Jo Cox MP is an example.

Podemos is a counter-example.

People are standing up to the forces of hate.

Voices on the left and in the labour movement who seek to divide workers and back Brexit are fading, as those calling, like Podemos, for the demands of Another Europe Is Possible, are gaining ground.”

Whether Podemos’ stratgey of  ” building a transnational network of rebel cities” is possible has, nevertheless, yet to be seen.

Podemos official site.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 20, 2016 at 10:43 am

Turkey “Shoulder to Shoulder Against Fascism” as the Spirit of Mustang Rises.

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The Spirit of Freedom Against Islamism.

Al Jazeera reports,

Turkish Radiohead fans attacked for ‘consuming alcohol’.

Turkish police have fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of people protesting after an attack on Radiohead fans for attending a listening party in an Istanbul record shop and “drinking beer” during Ramadan.

Unidentified attackers, apparently upset that people were listening to music and consuming alcohol during the Muslim holy month, forcibly entered the Velvet Indieground record shop, shouted at employees and beat fans of Radiohead with pipes on Friday, according to Turkish media reports.

Skirmishes between police and protesters broke out on Saturday near the shop as hundreds of people rallied against the previous night’s attack.

Several people were detained, the DPA news agency reported, while Turkish police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd.

The protesters shouted “Shoulder to shoulder against fascism!” and denounced President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a “thief” and a “killer”.

Last night I saw Mustang.

This film is the best I’ve seen this year.

The scene begins in North Turkey.

Emma Jones introduces the themes,

A family wants to find husbands for their five daughters – but this is no Pride and Prejudice. Instead, the storyline of Turkish-French movie Mustang, a first feature film by director Deniz Gamze Erguven, turns the desire to marry off the teenage sisters into a psychological thriller set in modern-day Turkey.

The film, nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe, won five Cesar Awards in France and 2015’s Lux Prize – a cultural trophy given annually by the European Parliament to films tackling issues of social debate.

After the five girls are caught playing on a beach with local boys, their home turns into a prison, with bars on the windows, they are withdrawn from school, dressed conservatively, and marriages are arranged so no more “shame” is brought on the family.
However, the youngest girl, Lale, is determined not to lose her freedom, and she and her sisters begin to fight back.

In a powerful tribute to the strength of the human spirit Lale,  who loves football, is forbidden from attending Trabzonspor matches, resists her and her sisters’  oppression,  her patriarchal uncle’s physical and sexual abuse, and the religious rules of the prison-house.

Mustang is intimate, finely photographed, and scripted, and extremely funny.

Leaving the cinema in Ipswich people spoke of how brilliant the film was.

Many on the left, academics and those in some parties, think in terms of the ‘Other’. Having read this word in the blurb of a yellowing existentialist paperback they gauge events in countries like Turkey in terms of an opposition between ‘the’ West and ‘the’ Islamist world.

Tariq Ali, a romancer of sorts, has just written an introduction to a Kipling tale for Le Monde.

This may remind us of the imperialist’s famous lines, no doubt still resonating amongst those who view the world in terms of the ‘Other’.

Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!

 

That, cardboard deep poesy, was never true, as the history of  internationalism indicates.

Many of us have long shrugged off this approach.

We know people from the ‘East’ and the ‘West’.

We know that our lives are intermingled, that our ideas, our joys, our hopes, can meet and be celebrated together.

As Lale showed, and as our sisters in brothers in Istanbul show, our common fight against oppression, nationalism, religious bigotry, unites us.

As Turkey’s President Erdoğan wages war against our Kurdish comrades, as he prepares again to build a monument to Ottoman tyranny on Gezi Park, we know whose side we will be standing shoulder to shoulder with.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 19, 2016 at 10:38 am

Homage to Jo Cox.

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Jo Cox ‘s death has affected us all.

Her husbands words still echo,

“Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.”

Jo Cox was not just Jo Cox, she was one of the thousands of wonderful  activists.

Jo Cox was the bright, the hard-working, the  dedicated, the open-minded people who are the pillars of our movement.

Jo Cox was why the best memorial to her is to continue her fight “‘against the hate’ that killed her.”

This was beautifully put,

Canadian politician Nathan Cullen breaks down in tears as he pays tribute to friend and Labour MP

‘Jo used her voice for those who have none, dedicated her passion to those who needed it most’

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 17, 2016 at 11:41 am

Paris Anti-EU Rally: French ‘Lambertist’ Trotskyists Receive Backing from UK ‘Lexit’ Campaign.

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Daniel Gluckstein (1) National Secretary of the Trotskyist POID (Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique,  Independent Democratic Workers Party) Rally Organisers. 

The Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist – Rebuild Britain) publishes a report of this Paris Rally organised by the group headed by Daniel Gluckstein which we reproduce.

 Paris rally shows support for Brexit A report has been sent to CPBML News of the internationalist rally held in Paris on 28 May, at which speakers from France, Germany, Italy, Greece and Belgium expressed their support for Britain leaving the European Union.

 The meeting included contributions from RMT senior assistant general secretary Steve Hedley and former RMT president Alex Gordon. A full report written by the organisers is available here.

 Extracts from the lengthy report:

Alex Gordon, Former President of the RMT, on behalf of the Lexit Campaign.

Dear comrades,

My name is Alex Gordon. I am speaking as Convenor of #Lexit – the Left Campaign to LEAVE the European Union in Britain and I bring you their greetings.

Present in the hall:

Nigel Griffiths, former Labour Party MP.

Support to the rally was also expressed in interviews with Ben Chacko,  editor of the Morning Star, and Ronnie Draper General Secretary BFAWU.

Message of support received from TUAEU, Trade Unionists Against the European Union. (aligned to the Socialist Party UK).

Le meeting internationaliste du 28 mai en vidéo.

(Note the French version dispenses with the fiction of Lexit and calls simply for Brexit).

We note that a Lexit meeting in London a few days ago in Camden has besides Tariq Ali and others,  Caroline Tacchella, from the French group cited above.

********

(1)  Daniel Gluckstein (born 3 March 1953 in Paris) is a French Trotskyist politician for running for French presidential election of 2002 as candidate of the Workers’ Party (Parti des Travailleurs or PT).

In 1968, he joined the Revolutionary Communist Youth (JCR). Then in 1979, he founded the Communist League Internationalist (LCI). In 1991, he was nominated National Secretary of the Parti des Travailleurs. In 1994, as lead candidate of the Parti des Travailleurs for the European elections, he obtained 0.43% of the vote. He was candidate for the legislative elections in Montreuil (Seine-Saint-Denis) in 1997. In April 2002, he was candidate in the presidential election, and gained 0.47% of the vote, which made him the last of sixteen candidates in the first round.

In June 2008, he created the Parti Ouvrier Indépendant together with Gérard Schivardi.[1]

He is married, with three children, and is a former professor of history in a professional college. Like many Trotskyist leaders, he has a pseudonym, “Seldjouk”. He is the author of the books

  • (with Pierre Lambert) Discussion autour de lutte des classes et mondialisation. 1990. OCLC 84677125
  • Luttes des classes et mondialisation: le XXe siècle s’achève : putréfié, sénile, parasitaire, l’impérialisme reste une transition, mais vers quoi ? Paris: SELIO, 1999. ISBN 9782906981201 WorldCat
  • (with Pierre Lambert). Itinéraires. Monaco: Rocher, 2002.

As Gluckstein’s publications indicate he was close to Pierre Lambert.

Hence the name for this current, the Lambertists.

This Blog has been accused of being unfair to some left groups.

It is absolutely impossible to be unfair to the Lambertists, whose record of thuggery, political chicanery and nationalist ranting has marked them out for decades (see for more details: Christophe Nick, Les Trotskistes, Fayard, 2002).

But all is not well in this small world.

Les derniers trotskistes « lambertistes » se déchirent.

The last of the ‘Lambertist’  Trotskyyists tear each apart.

There is much more material in French but this excellent article gives an introduction.

A long split on the French left

The “Lambertists” have in recent years been organised in a group called the Independent Workers’ Party (POI). The POI purports to contain four distinct organised “tendencies”: the CCI (Trotskyist), and “anarchist”, “Communist”, and “Socialist” tendencies. In fact it is run by the CCI, the other three “tendencies” being concocted facades.

The POI has been intensely hostile to the European Union, and claims that exit from the European Union is the first step to socialism. It is very influential in one of France’s big trade union confederations, FO, and is said to number hundreds of FO full-time officials among its members.

This is an abridged translation of a survey by Vincent Présumey.

As far as can be seen, the crisis in the CCI/POI (the CCI being the successor to the OCI of the years 1960-80, and the main component of the POI) is coming to a head…

The crisis erupted at the start of the summer, at the time of the Greek referendum [5 July], and seems to be culminating now, as the holiday season ends, with what both sides expected: a split, and not a friendly one.

The apperance on 18 July of a new paper, La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers’ Tribune), clearly signalled a split. We observed that the political orientation of that paper was clearer, more assertive, than that of Informations Ouvrières [the POI paper], where Daniel Gluckstein [main leader of the CCI/POI for decades] is still the nominal editor but seems no longer to have any grip over the content. It was more assertive in the direction of preparation for social, and thus political confrontation in France, thought of as imminent.

It was so because it took the gloves off in relation to the leadership of the union confederations [France has, in effect, several “TUC”s]. It attacks them, among other questions, on that of the European Trade Union Confederation, a structure which is more linked to official EU institutions than to the rank and file of the unions, and which is holding its congress in Paris at the end of September and the start of October. The CGT, CGT-FO, CFDT, CFTC, and UNSA [the five major “TUC”s] are affiliated to it.

..

Rest of article via link above.

Massive Turn-out for Protests Against New Labour Law.

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LOI TRAVAIL MOBILISATION

1,2 million demonstrators across France according to the CGT and  390 000 according to the Police.

Huffington Post announces,

Un million de personnes ont défilé mardi 14 juin à Paris contre la loi Travail, actuellement débattue du Sénat, ont indiqué trois syndicats organisateurs (CGT, FO, Solidaires).

Libération reports,

Violents heurts à Paris lors de la manif contre la loi travail.

Violent clashes during the demonstration against the Labour Law.

French PM Valls calls on unions to stop protesting in Paris after new violence.

Says France 24.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Wednesday urged the hardline CGT union to stop organising mass rallies in Paris against a contested labour reform after fresh clashes between masked youths and riot police at a demo.

On the sidelines of a CGT-led march on Tuesday, gangs of black-clad youths hurled makeshift firebombs at police and broke windows, including at Paris’ main children’s hospital.

“When you cannot organise a demo and take responsibility, leaving thugs in the middle of the march … then you don’t organise this sort of demonstration that can degenerate,” Valls said on France Inter radio.

Police fired dozens of rounds of teargas and used water cannons to disperse the groups of youths during the rally, which police said had a turnout of 75,000-80,000 in Paris alone, roughly three times more than at recent big demos.

The Paris police department reported 58 arrests, including many foreigners, with 24 police and 17 protesters injured.

“We cannot have a general ban (on demos), but we will take our responsibilities. We can no longer have this disgraceful show with things getting out of control,” Valls said before visiting the Necker children’s hospitable to inspect the damage.

As next year’s Presidential election draw near the left looks increasingly likely to be eliminated in the first round, reports the Nouvel Obs.

In a number of opinion polls and different scenarios – all including Marine Le Pen –  left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon would obtain from 14% to 15% of the votes against 14%  to 15% for a Parti Socialiste candidacy by François Hollande.

 

In all cases the far-right would be beaten in the second round by a candidate of Les Républicains (right-wing). 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 15, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Anti-EU Campaign Descends to the Lowest Depths.

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Leave.eu poster condemned as ‘shameful and irresponsible’

UK News 9 minutes ago

Brexit campaigners have been condemned after releasing a poster, which has since been deleted, suggesting the UK should vote Leave to avoid an Orlando-style attack. The leave.eu campaign – which is not the official Leave campaign – was behind the message.

I would like to apologise a thousand times to the families and friends of the Orlando victims for this hateful behaviour from people in the UK.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 13, 2016 at 5:05 pm

George Galloway: Trump is better than Clinton.

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One of the most controversial figures in British politics says he prefers Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton.

George Galloway, the left-leaning politician who left parliament in 2015, wrote on Twitter Tuesday that he shared Susan Sarandon’s sentiments about the U.S. presidential election.

I merely post this for information on the Stop the War Coalition and Counterfire star.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 12, 2016 at 10:50 am

Posted in Anti-Fascism, Britain

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