Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

After Burkini Stunt in Villeneuve-Loubet (France) Exposed Seven Network and Zeynab Alshelh in Shame.

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Capture d'écran du reportage australien diffusé sur la chaîne Channel 7 montrant deux australiennes en burkini dans les rues de Villeneuve-Loubet. "J'ai simplement pensé que c'était super beau le burkini, ma mère, ma tante, tout le monde le portait, alors j'ai voulu faire pareil", explique notamment Zeynab Alshelh, 23 ans (à droite), pour justifier son choix du port de ce maillot de bain.

Australian Islamists and Television Channel Falsified Stunt to Attack French Secularism.

The Seven Network and the pugnacious Muslim Aussie family it flew to the French Riviera with the aim of provoking beachgoers into a “racist” reaction to the “Aussie cossie” burkini owe the traumatised people of Nice and France a swift apology.

The cynical stunt pulled by the Sunday Night program, where it spirited Sydney hijab-proselytising medical student Zeynab Alshelh and her activist parents off to a beach near Nice to “show solidarity” with (radically conservative) Muslims, featured the 23-year-old flaunting her burkini in an obvious attempt to bait Gallic sun lovers into religious and ethnically motivated hatred. Except according to the French people filmed against their will, the claimed “chasing off the beach” that made international headlines never occurred because Seven used hidden camera tactics, selective editing and deliberate distor­tion to reach its predeter­mined conclusions.

This unethical exercise in journalism deliberately painted France as “hostile to Muslims” even though the most hostile countries in the world for Muslim women are places such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, where being female entails forcible veiling and the threat of punishment with the lash, prison or worse for flouting bans on driving, playing sport, committing “adultery” or doing much at all without a male guardian.

The manipulation is the latest example of calculated French-bashing fuelled by collusion between the goals of political Islam and compliant media outlets seeking culture clash cliches.

The Australian.

The article concludes:

Next time Seven should finance Zeynab Alshelh trying her luck taking off her veil in Saudi Arabia or Iran, or perhaps the trainee doctor could use hidden camera techniques in Egypt on doctors practising illegal female genital mutilation on the vast majority of little girls.

But as she confesses to Inquirer: “I’m not going to put myself in that kind of danger — and anyway, they are not preaching secularism (like France) they are just doing whatever they want to do.”

This is the origin of the Australian’s exposé, Nice-Matin:

La chaîne de télévision australienne Channel 7 a diffusé ce samedi la vidéo d’une femme en burkini se faisant “chasser” d’une plage de Villeneuve-Loubet par des baigneurs. Selon un témoin, la scène est montée de toute pièce.

The Australian television Channel 7 broadcast a video of a woman in a ‘burkini’ chased from a beach in Villeneuve-Loubet by the bathers. According to a witness the incident was a set up.

“Witnesses who spoke to Nice-Matin accused Seven of using hidden cameras, scripted dialogue and deliberately disruptive behaviour to get a reaction.”

“We could see it was being dramatised, it was too much to be true and it stank of a set-up.

“They put themselves right in the middle of the jet-ski corridor of the private beach. Because they were in the way of others, the owner of the beach came out and asked them to move.”

Another witness claimed the man who asked the crew to leave was her uncle, but he was actually asking the crew to stop filming him and his family.

“He never asked these three people to leave the beach. He spoke to the camera because he was asking the cameraman to leave,” the witness said.

“There were children on the beach, including our own, and we didn’t want them to be filmed.”

This the Channel denies, “Channel Seven denies French Burkini segment was ‘a set-up’.”

But a few days ago L’Express also indicated that in order to illustrate the anti-Muslim feeling in France the only French political figure interviewed was…..Lionel Tivoli, President of the Front National of the Municipal Council of Antibes. They cite the Mayor of  Villeneuve-Loubet, Lionnel Luca (of the right-wing, Les Républicains) expressing regret that the young woman was not well received, but asking why they chose to come to a place still under the shock of the Bastille Day (14th July) massacre at close-by Nice.

In August the Burkini Ban was removed from Villeneuve-Loubet, following the decision of the Conseil d’Etat.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 25, 2016 at 11:50 am

Labour Party Marxist Call for People’s Militias on Labour’s Agenda?

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Organise People’s Militia on a Big Scale, Says Labour Party Marxist.

As the Socialist Party instructs the Labour Party to deselect 172 Labour MPs, and campaigns for “a new mass workers’ party that can draw together workers, environmental and community campaigners, anti-capitalist, anti-war and other protesters to represent and fight for the interests of ordinary people” more radical forces are gathering.

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Communists do not want such an army to be “fit” for war or anything else – we want it to be scrapped and replaced with a universal people’s militia. We should not spend our time envisaging a land war between Britain and Russia, but rather a people’s defence against counterrevolution, whether internally or externally – the main emphasis being on the internal. A democratic defence policy that guards the people, not the ruling classes and their property.

The position of the Weekly Worker/Labour Party Marxists demonstrates the ‘actuality of the militia’, as outlined in L’Armée nouvelle by Jean Jaurès (1911, re-issued in 1915) which called for universal military training in France to replace the old ‘caste’ of officers and professionals.

One can see that, like Podemos, which has many admirers on the left, Jaurès went straight against the ‘casta’.

Lenin pointed out in 1905 (The Armed Forces and the Revolution)

The experience of Western Europe has shown how utterly reactionary the standing army is. Military science has   proved that a people’s militia is quite practicable, that it can rise to the military tasks presented by a war both of defence and of attack. Let the hypocritical or the sentimental bourgeoisie dream of disarmament. So long as there are oppressed and exploited people in the world, we must strive, not for disarmament, but for the arming of the whole people. It alone will fully safeguard liberty. It alone will completely overthrow reaction. Only when this change has been effected will the millions of toilers, and not a mere handful of exploiters, enjoy real liberty.

As Revolution approaches in Britain it is imperative that Lenin’s 1917 words in the April Theses (The Tasks of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution) be heeded,

..the standing army to be replaced by the arming of the whole people.

No issue could be more pressing……..

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Susan Watkins, Casting Off. Brexit: a world-historic turn. Alex Callinicos. Assessing Brexit from the Left.

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Socialists must be internationalists even if their working classes are not; socialists must also understand the nationalism of the masses, but only in the way in which a doctor understands the weakness or the illness of his patient. Socialists should be aware of that nationalism, but, like nurses, they should wash their hands twenty times over whenever they approach an area of the Labour movement infected by it’.

Isaac Deutscher, On Internationals and Internationalism. Cited in The Left Against Europe. Tom Nairn. New Left Review. 1/75. 1971.

La terre nous donne une discipline, et nous sommes les prolongements des ancêtres

Nous sommes le produit d’une collectivité qui parle en nous. Que l’influence des ancêtres soit permanente, et les fils seront énergiques et droits, la nation une.

The soil gives us a discipline, and we are the extension over time of our ancestors….We are the product of a collective life which speaks in us. . May the influence of our ancestors be permanent, the sons of the soil vital and upstanding, the nation One.

La terre et les morts. Maurice Barrès. 1899. (1)

Susan Watkins, Casting Off (New Left Review 100. July-August 2016). Brexit: a world-historic turn. Alex Callinicos.  International Socialism. Issue: 151. 2016.)

Casting Off, in the latest New Left Review begins by observing that the “surprise” of the Leave vote in the June Referendum went against the wishes the “ruling class” “much of the intelligentsia” and “much of its youth”. In a choice expression she compares lamentations about the result on Facebook to a “Wailing Wall”. Those beating their brows at the loss of the EU Jerusalem “in one account” were full of “nightmares of xenophobia”. “Britons having ‘voted to make foreigner-hunting legal, if not an actual duty.’”. Many people in Europe, she notes, that is, Germans and French, were unconcerned. Only a third of Germans and a quarter of the French were “unhappy about Brexit”.

Was this the result of the “ressentiment”, bottled up rancour stewing amongst “globalisation’s losers”? An ” insurrectionary protest against neoliberalism, globalism and cultural contemp” as Paul Mason put it (le Monde Diplomatique. July.) ?  Or more simply was a revolt of the left-behind, spearheaded by the working class, the unemployed, the casualised, and the poor. In Brexit, Alex Callinicos has written that, “All the polls show that the poorer you are the more likely you were to vote Leave. This means that millions of working class voters have gone unrepresented by the mainstream of the labour movement”. He trumpets his own group, the SWP, which backed the Leave campaign on a ‘left’ basis (Left-Exit, lexit). “Lexit offered a political voice, albeit a small one, to working class people who wanted to reject the EU on a class basis.” (2)

Anti-Globalisation?

For Watkins the result was not a rebellion against the distant mechanisms of finance capital and the world market. It has domestic origins, in British government policies laid down since the 2008 banking crisis, Gordon Brown’s turn to fiscal rigour, and the Liberal Conservative Coalition’s austerity programme. As a result scare mongering about the potential negative effects on the economy of Brexit had little impact on those already at the bottom of the pile. In “the Leave districts that have been depressed since the 1970s, with gdp per capita less than half inner-London levels, and now hardest hit by cutbacks in services and benefits, bleakness and desperation appear to have trumped economic fear.” She continues. “Anti-globalisation, then? Of a sort, if globalisation means not just deindustrialisation and low pay but disenfranchisement and politically targeted austerity.” In the south the ‘anti-Globo stand was different, “Their economic interests had been carefully nurtured by the Cameron-Osborne governments and their vote was more purely ideological: fear of change overcome by reassertion of ex-imperial national identity. Britain had never been conquered by Germany, so why was it ceding powers to Brussels?”

In this vein both Watkins and Callinicos play down the role of xenophobia and, more specifically, anti-migrant worker sentiment, in the referendum. Both note the mainstream Remain campaign’s supporters, beginning with the Prime Minister David Cameron’s “talking tough” on migration. For Callinicos, “at least as powerful a force is likely to be an alienation from the economic and political elite crystallising the experience of 40 years of neoliberalism and nearly 10 years of crisis expressed in stagnant or falling wages, unemployment, dwindling social housing and a shrinking welfare state. The EU as the incarnation of neoliberalism and contempt for democracy is a perfect symbol of all these discontents. London, site of a global financial hub, may have voted to Remain”

The pair concur on one point, “….the main reason given by the bulk of Leave voters—49 per cent—was the notion that ‘decisions about the uk should be taken in the uk’, a more ambiguous formulation that could include democratic, sovereign and nationalist perspectives. “ (Watkins), “Lord Ashcroft’s referendum-day poll found that nearly 49 percent of Leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the EU was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”, compared to 33 percent who gave the main reason for leaving that it “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.” (Callinicos).

There are three central problems with these claims.

Racism.

Firstly, it is absurd to compare the Conservative Remain campaigners’ talk of ‘control’ of migration in the same breath as the blood-and-fire rhetoric of UKIP and their echo-chambers on the Leave side. To dismiss the issue by ranking its importance on the basis of an opinion poll is to assume that one motive trumped the other rather than coalescing with it.

As Kim Moody has argued, immigration was at the centre of the campaign. “A majority of all those who voted Leave ranked immigration and border control as their 1st or 2nd reason. Those in the top social rank were less likely to give this as their first reason than others, but all groups were the same for 2nd choice and all Leave voters put immigration high on their list. Anti-immigrant and xenophobic views were prevalent in all social groups. This is not meant to be a comforting conclusion.” (3) Furthermore, “One section of British corporate capital that threw its majority weight loudly behind Brexit was the daily press.” “The Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Star, Daily Telegraph, and Sun, all known for their anti-immigrant bias and with a combined daily circulation of just over 5 million, supported Brexit.”(Ibid)

It would not have taken long, a visit to the pub in less well-off areas, would suffice to hear people publicly repeating the right-wing tabloid’s anti-migrant propaganda melded with their own prejudiced anecdotes. Perhaps it would have taken longer to visit Ipswich market and see the UKIP placard carrying crew sitting on the benches ranting about Romanians. But such sights were not rare. Anywhere.

Few could doubt that cosmopolitan pro-European hipsters would shy from these displays. But what exactly drove the minority who followed Lexit to cast their ballots in the same way and how do their asses their achievement in bolstering the nationalist right? Callinicos asserts that “The emergence of the Lexit Campaign, advocating a left, internationalist opposition to the EU, was one of the successes of the referendum. Not because it swung a massive number of votes, but because it brought together a significant spectrum of forces on the radical left to campaign for a Leave vote on an anti-capitalist and anti-racist basis that (unlike some earlier left anti-EU campaigns) had no truck with migrant-bashing.” Really? Is the Socialist Party’s call for control (by trade unions?) of the entry of migrant labour, joined by the Morning Star-Communist Party of Britain, part of this “anti-racism”? Does the SWP really have that much in common with the CPB who push a barely revamped version of the 1970s Alternative Economic Strategy, completed – and why not? – with capital and import controls? Was it a ‘success’ to see New Left review, the SWP and all the others, cavort on a Camden stage in the company of a – suitably disguised – supporter of the French ‘Lambertist’ current, one-time Trotskyists who having sipped from that poisoned cup have become ultra-nationalists? (4)

Austerity.

Secondly, what were the “non-immigration” issues behind the Leave vote? Casting Off describes “the slow, still inchoate politicisation that had been taking place in the aftermath of the financial crisis”, and “the Exit vote would not have happened without the financial crisis and skewed, class-based recovery.” Callinicos talks more broadly of UKIP’s rise as part of “ordinary voters’ revulsion against the entire political and economic elite.” The “very unanimity of establishment opposition to Brexit is likely to have goaded many people into the Leave camp simply as an act of defiance.”

Absent is any account of the mass, country-wide, left and trade union austerity campaigns, co-ordinated by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity (PA) Had this no effect in channelling ressentiment against the ‘elite’ towards progressive solutions? Did its protests, marches, conferences, pickets and pressure on local councils, count for little?

It is true that their impact was decreasing in the run up to the Referendum. An April London March barely attracted 20,000 – despite the freedom that the end of Police estimates gave to the organisers to claim an attendance of 175,000 (in a half empty Trafalgar Square). Clearly this ‘incipient politicisation” has drained away in a different direction. A look at how the politics of protest are foundering might throw up the reflection that the victory of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party indicates that political institutions can be the focus of change, rather than the street. The hard task of getting Labour local authorities to oppose austerity, not just because of the legacy of Blair’s accommodations, but as a result of an armour-plated legal budget controls over councils, has begun. The problems this turn to Labour creates for those, like Callinicos, and his former comrades in Counterfire, the majority of the active leadership of the PA, begin with the recognition that the Brexit vote as a “representation” of opinion, which more walking about in the roads, attempts to bathe in Corbyn’s reflected glory, and calls for general strikes, are unlikely to revolve.

Sovereigntism.

Thirdly, the Brexit result was a boost to sovereigntism, the belief that politics has to focus on nations, and on the ‘people’s’ control over the national body politic. In this respect Chantal Mouffe’s declaration that the vote was a “salutary shock” is less significant than her immediately following words. The Belgian political philosopher stated, “That’s because I am one of those so-called ‘left-wing Europeanists who are not sovereigntists but instead demand a democratic refoundation of Europe” Pleasure with the damage to the City and neo-liberal forces is one thing, but what harm did this create to ‘sovereigntism”? (5)

The evidence against rash claim lives in Downing Street. Yet, against Mouffe for many it has reinforced the illusion, that in some form sovereigntism can be the basis of left politics. To cite the most obvious source of how far this ideology has crept into leftist circles: the conclusion of Mouffe’s  jointly-authored of Podemos (2016) Iñigo Errejón has called for the construction of a “..we the people “that demands sovereignty and a new social contract”. To build this we have “to think about the effective, mythical and cultural commonness of any identity construction”. Or, in an even more abstract vein, to follow Frédéric Lordon, politics based on “un commun passional” bound to “une certaine appartenance” (belonging) not to a hypostatised nationality but to “la nation politique” a political construction. (6) In other words, in contrast to Barrès, a newly minted sovereign feeling, without the clamour of ancestral voices, embodied in institutions. They would surely be able to take “decisions about the UK in the UK.” The evidence is that those appealing directly to the dead voices of our forbears, the racist populist right, have had more success in the sovereigntist venture.

Callinicos, with customary grace towards those who disagree with him, outlined the choices for the left at the start of the campaign, “between the neoliberal imperialist monstrosity that is the EU, strongly supported by the main echelons of British capital, and the xenophobic and racist Thatcherites that dominated the Leave campaigns.” In his conclusion he opines, no doubt to warn those not averted to the possibility, that British capitalism is “entering very stormy waters.” The defeat of an invigorated Tory party under Teresa May, at the helm of state, will doubtless be the coming work of a mass movement conjured from the depths.

Democratic Refoundation?

Those who chose to vote for the “monstrosity” as “not worse” may well still feel unhappy at the result – for all the tempests in the global capitalist oceans. Many of our legal rights, consolidated in EU law, are now to put to the test of a sovereign Parliament for which we have ambiguous passionate feelings. The democratic refoundation of Europe, if pursued, and developed by forces such as DiEM25, will take place without our directly interested participation. We risk becoming further stuck in our backwater.

But for others there is this consolation. Our “sub-imperial” “far from prefect Hayekian order” has taken a blow. Watkins speaks of a victory for British (English) nationalism, in a “a semi-sovereign state” Yet the defeat is clear, for several – scattered – targets, “ For now, though, it is plain that Blairised Britain has taken a hit, as has the Hayekianised EU. Critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret these knocks to it, against which the entire global establishment—Obama to Abe, Merkel to Modi, Juncker to Xi—has inveighed.” (7)

The prospect of the “actuality of revolution” by “critics of the neoliberal order”, a “world-historic turn”….still leaves them shaking in their boots….

For the rest of us, Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union,  expressed our view (Morning Star 12th of September),

The Brexit vote was a defeat for the working class in Britain as well as internationally. It was a defeat for internationalism and collectivism. Brexit was a victory for populist demagogy, xenophobes and racists. Brexit has already had detrimental economic effects and worse is likely to come.

******

(1) On Barrès and his concept of the “people” and nation see the illuminating, Le peuple chez Maurice Barrès, une entité insaisissable entre unité et diversité. Brigitte Kurlic. SensPublic. 2007.

(2). See also: The internationalist case against the European Union. Alex Callinicos. International Socialism. Issue: 148. 

(3) Was Brexit a Working-Class Revolt? Kim Moody. International Viewpoint. 14th of September 2016.

(4) Both the Morning Star’s CPB and SPEW advocate immigration controls and socialism in one country, notes Mike Macnair. Weekly Worker 15.9.2015. In report here: Paris Anti-EU Rally: French ‘Lambertist’ Trotskyists Receive Backing from UK ‘Lexit’ Campaign.

(5) A Salutary Shock. Chantal Mouffe. Verso. (From Mediapart 27th June 2016)

(6) Podemos. In the Name of the People. Iñigo Errejón in Conversation with Chantal Mouffe. Lawrence and Wishart. 2016. Imperium, Structures et affets des corps politiques. Frédéric Lordon. La Fabrique. 2015.

(7) See: Prognoses. In: The New Old World. Perry Anderson. Verso 2009.

SWP Calls for Campaign for Corbyn to Organise a ‘Left-wing Brexit’.

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British ‘sovereigntists’ demonstrate en masse for Left Brexit.

The various Trotskyist groups in the UK, strengthened with growing mass support and popularity, have been offering Jeremy Corbyn well-meant advice recently.

Socialist Worker has just penned a carefully worded letter to those backing the Labour leader.

Letter to a Jeremy Corbyn supporter.

Charlie Kimber National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party offers many tips but this is the most important one:

The best way for Jeremy to beat back the right and win the next election is to head up a much higher level of fightback in the workplaces and the street.

Take note the TUC!

He follows up earlier advice to the Trade Unions – at the end of August he stated, “Pressure to repeal the Trade Union Act should be part of the debate about Brexit.”

Take note, David Davis!

Indeed, should being a modal verb with all kinds of potential meanings, chiefly, what ought to happen and is not happening now.

Or in this case, unlikely to happen at all.

Kimber offers this suggestion.

…he could set out a programme for a left wing Brexit and call meetings and demonstrations to battle for it.

What do we want? Left-wing Brexit now!

It trips off the tongue… It sets hearts glowing.

You can visualise a sea of demonstrators, SWP placards, and….Jeremy Corbyn.

Who campaigned against Brexit.

Kimber finishes his letter with this sage advice,

..in the end power doesn’t lie in parliament. It lies in the economic ownership and control by the bosses and the unelected army, the police and the state.

The only way we can combat economic sabotage from the multinationals or the reaction of the state would be mobilisation of workers on a vast scale.

It would need strikes and occupations and monster demonstrations.

It would require politics dragged from the parliamentary chambers into the streets. That’s why I think we need independent revolutionary organisation.

We await the long drag.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 22, 2016 at 11:35 am

Dispatches and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty: Once Again on Trotskyism.

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Responses to: The Battle for The Labour Party: Channel 4 Dispatches

CorporatePortal

The Mirror.

The programme said it had uncovered fresh evidence that Corbyn-backing grassroots group Momentum is being influenced by “hard left revolutionaries”.

It said one has advocated a “flood” of leftists into Labour while others back mandatory reselection of anti-Corbyn MPs.

Jill Mountford, who sits on Momentum’s Steering Committee but has recently been expelled by Labour for links to hard-left group the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL), was filmed at a Party meeting holding a copy of an AWL newspaper bearing the headline: “Flood the Labour Party .”

Footage shows her saying: “In 30 odd years of being politically active, I don’t think I can remember a time, apart from the miner’s strike, a time as exciting as this.

“If you haven’t already joined the Labour party, then you should join. If you haven’t already joined Momentum then you must join. We have to fight to shape the way the Momentum develops and the way the Labour party develops”

A Momentum spokesperson said: “Momentum membership is open to members, affiliates and supporters of the Labour Party and not open to members of other parties, those hostile to Labour or those that do not share Momentum’s objectives. All members must declare that they “support the aims and values of the Labour Party and (are) not a supporter of any organisation opposed to it.”

In a statement to Dispatches, Jill Mountford said: “We are open, honest socialists looking to discuss big ideas on how to create a better, fairer world for everyone.”

Momentum founder Jon Lansman said Ms Mountford was speaking in a personal capacity and not on behalf of Momentum.

Dispatches Momentum Documentary Prompts Torrent Of Criticism Led By Owen Jones

Zac Goldsmith says Dispatches’ ‘weak’ investigation of Momentum will only help Jeremy Corbyn.

Conservative MP calls media impartiality into question. Independent.

Apart from Momentum’s official statements we are confident that there are many others who will stand their corner. Already: Dispatches won’t stop Momentum inspiring young people – we’re here to stay.  Phil’s post which makes very accurate points, Momentum is Nothing Like Militant “an organisation that is totally transparent, easy to get involved with, and mirrors the properties of the network would do. There’s a reason why dull, plodding authoritarian outfits like the Socialist Party (despite its mini-Militant rebrand) and the SWP rape cult have been left out in the cold. As it stands, Momentum is a good way of consolidating these new members and turning them to campaigning activity, both with the party and in other labour movement campaigns.”

But what of the issue of Trotskyism and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty?

Much indeed has been made of ‘Trotskyism’ in recent weeks.

The AWL is, it says,  a Trotskyist group.

What does this mean?

To begin from their practice: the AWL has played a positive role, for some years now, in defending the cause of human rights: from its backing for the ‘two states’ position on Palestine and Israel, its refusal to follow the implicitly pro-Assad stand of some in the anti-war’ movement in Syria, its opposition to those who stand with Vladimir Putin on a range of issues, including Ukraine.

In short, in the tradition of ‘Third Camp‘ Trotskyism (neither imperialism nor Stalinism but socialism) the group has stood against the  ‘anti-imperialism of fools’ of those who automatically side with the opponents of the ‘West’, nationalist dictators, Islamists and  authoritarian of all stripes. Their stand indicates that the debate about theory indicated in more detail above can have relevance to the world today.

This has not won them universal admiration, particularly from those determined to blame everything on ‘imperialism’ in general and the USA in particular.

The AWL has also campaigned, over a long period (going back to the 1975 Referendum), for a Workers’ Europe.

This was their call in 2015:

We advocate the left forms a united campaign with the following aims:

• To defend migrants’ rights and oppose racism

• To vote against British withdrawal from the EU

• To fight for a workers’ Europe, based on working class solidarity.

Many people, trade union, political and campaign group activists, far beyond the AWL itself, supported this call.

Just before the Referendum in June they stated,

Vote remain! Workers’ unity can change Europe

Theory: for anybody genuinely interested in what the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty means by Trotskyism the place to start is there: The two Trotskyisms. Sean Matgamna followed by  Reviews and comments on The Two Trotskyisms. These debated a range of points about ‘orthodox’ and ‘heterodox’ Trotskyism, and whether these had any meaning and relevance in left politics today.

The AWL published many of these contributions in its paper, Solidarity.

They included a long article (carried over 2 issues) critical of Trotskyism from a democratic Marxist stand, by somebody that modesty forbids us to name ( Raising Atlantis?)

It is clear that comrade Sacha is right to say, “We always argue for our ideas through open discussion and debate. People either reject what we say or are convinced by it, and that’s fine. Our members and supporters make no apologies for trying to influence policy. That is what democratic politics is about. On that last point, we are no different from members of Progress, the Fabian Society, Compass and other Labour Party groupings”.

Solidarity, is known in the movement for its serious articles on trade union issues, reliable reports on subjects such as Welfare and Women’s rights, and an approach to anti-racism that does not dismiss the problem of reactionary Islamism and the persistence of anti-Semitism.

To continue on Europe to illustrate the group’s activity: during the EU Referendum,  the AWL, like Momentum, (EU referendum: Momentum movement campaigners drafted in to rally support for Remain vote) actively backed the themes of Another Europe is Possible, the left ‘Remain’ campaign.

On this key issue, which defines present British politics, the group showed its commitment to backing Labour Party policy, campaigning not in order to ‘recruit’ for its group but to further the interests of the movement as a whole.

After the vote to Leave comrade Martin Thomas wrote,

What is to be done now is to conserve and extend workers’ unity, between workers in Britain of all origins and between British and European workers; to defend migrant rights and the worker rights which have entered British law under pressure from the EU; to fight to redirect the social anger expressed in Brexit votes towards social solidarity, taxing the rich, and social ownership of the banks and industry; and to stand up for socialism. None of that can be done if the left falls for the fantasy that the Brexit vote already took things our way.

A broad swathe of democratic socialists would agree with this.

This Blog, a left European democratic socialist site, has no hesitation in defending the AWL against the accusations of undemocratic practice made by Dispatches and others.

Full text of Sacha’s video talk here: Dispatches attacks Workers’ Liberty.

Undoing New Labour’s Legacy: Start with Welfare ‘Reform’.

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Blair’s Welfare Legacy.

Before people get bogged down in the rows over the Labour leadership election, it’s perhaps better to look again at some of the policy legacies of New Labour which need challenging.

This is not just economic strategy (the acceptance of austerity post 2009), foreign policy, or internal party organisation.

It’s bedrock issues about the ‘Third Way’, a politics “in favour of growth, entrepreneurship, enterprise and wealth creation but it is also in favour of greater social justice and it sees the state playing a major role in bringing this about” (Anthony Giddens).

A key aspect of the Third Way, for both Blair and Brown, was reform of the Welfare State.

In the area of unemployment it was important to equip people with the means to compete on the labour, ‘global’  market, to ‘encourage’ them to  so in return for benefits. There would be no rights to social security  without ‘obligations’. That is to follow what the out-of-work were obliged to do what the state, or rather the private companies and Third Sector bodies contracted to ‘train’ them, told them they needed to do. In other words, the state claimed rights over the unemployed.

In January 1998 Tony Blair, Prime Minister, outlined the basis for the approach (Independent).

The reform of our welfare state is not to betray our core principles of social justice and solidarity. It is to make them live, breathe and work again for the modern age. Over the last 18 years we have become two nations – one trapped on benefits, the other paying for them. One nation in growing poverty, shut out from society’s mainstream, the other watching social security spending rise and rise, until it costs more than health, education, law and order and employment put together.

“When I look at the welfare state, I don’t see a pathway out of poverty, a route into work or a gateway to dignity in retirement. I see a dead end for too many people. I do not believe this is how Attlee or Beveridge intended things to be. I want to clear the way to a new system. Long-term, thought-out, principled reform is the way forward.

Case for Welfare Reform.

This was one of the 5 Pillars of Blair’s government repeated in 2002.

A welfare state based on rights and responsibility where we gave opportunity to people on benefit to get into work; but demanded responsibility in return; where we came down hard on crime; but offered ways out to those committing crime..

These were the schemes to “Get people into work” introduced by New Labour, under Blair, and then, Gordon Brown,

The New Deal (renamed Flexible New Deal from October 2009) was a workfare programme introduced in the United Kingdom by the first New Labour government in 1998, initially funded by a one-off £5 billion windfall tax on privatised utility companies.[1] The stated purpose was to reduce unemployment by providing training, subsidised employment and voluntary work to the unemployed. Spending on the New Deal was £1.3 billion in 2001.

The New Deal was a cornerstone of New Labour and devised mainly by LSE Professor Richard Layard, who has since been elevated to the House of Lords as a Labour peer. It was based on similar workfare models in Sweden, which Layard has spent much of his academic career studying.

The schemes were delivered by private companies and the ‘voluntary sector’.

After some ‘training’ and endless ‘job search’ (sitting in a room with a computer endlessly applying for posts) most people were sent on ‘placements’ in companies, the public and charitable sector. This was nominally set at 30 hours a week, but in many cases the hours went to a full 40.

They were (initially) given an extra £15 a week on top of their dole, and their travel expenses. It would be needless to add that this meant their work was paid well under anything approaching the minimum wage. There were none of the labour rights given to the employed, and obviously cases of bullying and exploitation were quickly signaled. A more common result was that some people proved ‘unsuitable’ for placements, or, in some cases, simply did not turn up for their placement.

Many examples of work experience were much more positive, but it was extremely rare for anybody to find a job in the place where they were sent, or for it to help directly anybody getting work. Indeed some felt that the fact that you had participated in the scheme functioned on your CV  as a mark against you. It became part of the way people were trapped in a “dead end”.

We have a lot recently about ‘sanctions‘ against claimants. These happened under the New Deal for, amongst others, the reasons just given.

Well this, during the New Deal,  was the position under New Labour (2009) just before the Coalition (2010) came to power.

So, we are always hearing about the millions of people who New Deal has supposedly helped get such jobseekers back in to work off benefits. You have also heard about how poorly New Deal participants are treated and perhaps you have your own experiences to back up this, but Ipswich Unemployed Action can reveal that over 679,820 sanctions have been awarded to lucky New Deal participants since the year 2000.

Here is one case study of the system worked (2010).

A4e: Reed in Partnership

A4e don’t have premises in Ipswich – they wholly subcontract out to Reed in Partnership who lease space inside Crown House (near Tower Ramparts). Initial comments on A4e/Reed in Partnership:

  • A4e were the biggest New Deal Prime Contractor – in the spotlight for fraud and overcrowding
  • A4e tried to shut down sites giving criticism such as sister site New Deal Scandal (including for reporting their finance director resigned/got demoted after fraud allegations) and also closed the original Watching A4e website
  • Reed in Partnership were the first to deliver New Deal in 1998 – they were caught in a £3 million fraud
  • Looking at past history – A4e and Reed in Partnership seem a good match
  • Reed in Partnership are accused of harassing past participants impersonating the DWP Fraud team (*)
  • Emma Harrison (A4e not the model/actress) has refused to acknowledge or talk about a4e’s failings
  • Reed in Partnership and Reed etc. are also part of the same group yet they are pretty much isolated from each other (no website links to each other etc. or mention about parent company).
  • A4e promised a cafe like environment and a chill-out lounge – neither exist in Ipswich
  • You can’t make a Tea or Coffee – participants are advised to ask staff for one
  • Flexible New Deal participants have to pick FIVE (5) job areas – 2 more than a Jobseeker’s Agreement (3 job areas)
  • Reed in Partnership staff have to have at least 6 months experience in high pressured sales environment
  • Reed in Partnership Ipswich is TOO SMALL – OVERCROWDING – Ofsted apparently have raised concerns – rumours have speculated that someone was sanctioned for being a few minutes late (bus came late) solely because the room was too full for the person to join
  • Reed in Partnership uses profiling – AVOID GIVING TOO MUCH INFORMATION AWAY!
  • Reed in Partnership forces participants to sign a disclaimer giving them the ability to apply for jobs on your behalf etc. and to contact future employers (probably pretending to be DWP)
  • Ask for a 7 journey supersaver card – if you don’t ask you wont get – this is easier then finding the cash to get on the bus and waiting for it to be reimbursed later
  • Reed in Partnership offers “decoy training courses” under various different names such as “JOURNEY” – these wont help you secure employment – waste of time – consists of asking questions about the person next to you, what famous people you would like to meet/have dinner with, and the usual shit (interview modules, CV modules).
  • Reed in Partnership contradicts themselves and will stab you in the back. Advisers have noted about a) travel costs to work b) budgeting the minimum money you require etc. and provided modules in their courses regarding “making sure you are better off, in work” HOWEVER the next moment all participants are TOLD to apply for any job – NMW – few hours from home etc. Seems like they are trying to prepare people for sanctions. Its not fair to advise people not to spend half your wages on travel to and from work, yet the next moment sanction them for 6 months money for refusing a job which matches this entirely.
  • Reed in Partnership have an ongoing legal dispute with Yell (Yellow Pages) – and Flexible New Deal participants are banned from accessing yell.com – rather an important resource for speculative applications. Whether this is an injunction preventing yell being accessed or not is unknown at this stage.

To put it simply, the ‘training’ courses and all the rest were, in many people’s eyes, worthless.

Then there was this: A4e Fraud.

The document A4E doesn’t want you to see. (Left Foot Forward. March 2012).

On Thursday, the website Ipswich Unemployment Action provided a link to an internal A4e document (pdf), that appeared to indicate poor performance on behalf of the embattled welfare-to work company, which has won more than £200million in contracts with the department of work and pensions.

And this,

A4e boss Emma Harrison paid herself £8.6m last year. Nothing unusual for a top banker perhaps. But her company is funded by the government to find jobs for unemployed people. And it’s being investigated for fraud

The article contains this paragraph,

Just lately, you may have seen some of the slightly more negative coverage of Harrison and the company she founded in Sheffield, 21 years ago: A4e (it means “Action For Employment”), who were decisively glued into the heart of the welfare state by New Labour, and have seen their importance increase thanks to the coalition. They specialise in that very modern practice known as “welfare to work”, and their only income in the UK comes from public contracts. The company’s promotional blurb characterises what it does as the simple business of “improving people’s lives”.

And there was this,

When New Labour was in power, A4e forged close links to its ministers. One of A4e’s consultants is David Blunkett, the former work and pensions secretary who advocated private involvement in welfare reform.

Mr Blunkett declares on the register of MPs’ interests that he is paid up to £30,000 a year by A4e. There is no suggestion of impropriety by Mr Blunkett, but he may be embarrassed by the probe.

It is the widespread view amongst activists that New Labour paved the way for the present punitive social security system, the shambles of Workfare (now being abandoned) and full-flown sanction-regime, not to mention the blatant profiteering by private companies now running substantial sections of the welfare state.

A root and branch challenge to this legacy is needed.

Podemos in Crisis: Some Background.

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Having failed to turn grassroots support into seats at June’s general election, the anti-austerity party faces a struggle over its response to the country’s power vacuum.

Sam Jones (Observer. Today.)

The party’s poor performance led to weeks of introspection that have further revealed the ideological tensions at its core. Most visible has been the rivalry between Iglesias and Podemos’s policy chief and number two, Iñigo Errejón. If Errejón has pushed for a more pragmatic approach to the PSOE, with a view to sharing power after December’s election, then Iglesias has gone out of his way to antagonise the Socialists, once memorably reminding parliament of the anti-Eta death squads that operated under the government of former PSOE leader Felipe González.

Now the growing tensions are coming to a head in Madrid, where competing factions are vying for control of Podemos’s birthplace and its future. On one side is Tania Sánchez, a former IU MP (Note: that is not from Podemos, but from the Communist-Green left bloc, Izquierda Unida) , who, along with Madrid councillor Rita Maestre, hopes to make the local party a more “friendly, female and decentralised” outfit.

Opposite them are the Iglesias loyalists, such as the party’s general secretary in the capital, Luis Alegre, who has long had a troubled relationship with the Errejónista faction.

To complicate things further, Sánchez, who is standing to be the party’s new leader in Madrid, is a former girlfriend of Iglesias, while Maestre used to go out with Errejón. In an attempt to head off the inevitable innuendo, both women put out a statement: “We are not girlfriends or ex-girlfriends, we are human beings who make our own decisions. We don’t need a man to help us or lead us … We’re protagonists who defend a Podemos for everyone.”

The Madrid story broke on the 15th of September in El País.

Anticapitalistas y activistas se suman a la disputa para liderar Podemos Madrid

El eurodiputado Miguel Urbán y 300 firmantes impulsan una alternativa a las de Mestre y Espinar.

En la disputa por el liderazgo de Podemos en la Comunidad de Madrid se perfilan al menos tres grandes opciones. El eurodiputado de la formación Miguel Urbán, que fue uno de los dirigentes determinantes en los inicios de Podemos, y 300 firmantes de la organización Anticapitalistas, activistas y militantes del partido quieren lanzar una candidatura para competir con las iniciativas promovidas por la portavoz del Ayuntamiento, Rita Maestre, y el del Senado, Ramón Espinar. Entre los impulsores de este proyecto, que llama a repensar Podemos, reconstruirlo desde las bases y reconectar con las calles se encuentran la abogada y diputada autonómica Lorena Ruiz-Huerta, el actor Alberto San Juan, los concejales de Ahora Madrid Pablo Carmona y Rommy Arce, Isabel Serra, que también es diputada regional y formó parte de la dirección autonómica ahora disuelta.

The essential is to know that the 300 signatories in the Madrid region, are led by the ‘anticapitalistas’, that is the group (linked with the Fourth International, and groups such as the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA)  and Ensemble in France and which has long criticised Podemos for its “vertical” hierarchy. They are challenging the Madrid leadership on the basis that the party structure needs reforming in order to connect with the ‘street’ (las calles) in place of  “marketing, de los políticos profesionales y de las estructuras orgánicas del partido.”

More details on the anticapitalista supporting site Viento Sur: Un Podemos para las y los que faltan. (The Podemos we need). Isabel Serra – Miguel Urbán

Long-standing criticisms such as this: Podemos: A Monolithic, Vertical, and Hierarchical Party? Tendance Coatesy. (December 2014)

Reply from a supporter:

What do you think of the criticisms from the Left saying that even though Podemos has repositioned itself on the Left by hitching itself to Izquierda Unida, it remains too vertical and centralised?

I think these criticisms are unfair, particularly because they are often based on local experiences in Barcelona and Madrid, and you can’t just map the local terrain onto a national scale. Podemos has had to face four elections, and electoral campaigns don’t lend themselves to internal discussions. But they are very conscious that the “circles” must preserve their important role in the party’s functioning, and they are trying to reinvigorate them. That was notable during the recent campaign. And I am still struck by their extraordinary creativity. In presenting their programme in the form of an Ikea catalogue they not only achieved a media coup but managed to get the electorate who didn’t read party manifestos any more to pick them up again.

A salutary shock?: Chantal Mouffe on Brexit and the Spanish elections. By Chantal Mouffe / 27 June 2016.

These are issues specific to Podemos though this is probably a very particular interpretation of their prospects, as is this (from left critics).

The latest is not the first internal dispute in the party.

Earlier this year Podemos’ leaders summarily removed their Number 3, Sergio Pascual.

Madrid had been the focus of disputes for some time – La crisis interna de Podemos en Madrid obliga a convocar un congreso regional.  (El País. 14th of June)

Following the always readable El País we find a more widespread judgement on Spain’s political crisis: that the country’s politicians are unable to share power with other parties or to make compromises beyond their immediate short-term interests.

Or, to put it more simply, like the UK, the country has no tradition of coalitions (the issue in dispute: agreement with the PSOE by Podemos).

The merits of this are, naturally, for the Spanish left to judge.

Meanwhile there is also this:  prosperous  Catalonia wishes to break with Spain’s poorer regions. (11th of September)

Catalan separatists rally to push for break from Spain

Tens of thousands of Catalans gathered to demand their region speed up its drive to break away from Spain

 See also: Podemos site (latest stories).

On the anticapitalista tendency:  Les anticapitalistes au sein de Podemos (August 2016).

This is a review of Coll, Andreu; Brais Fernández & Joseba Fernández (ed.) (2016), Anticapitalistasen Podemos, Construyendo poder popular. Barcelona, Sylone, 153 pag.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 18, 2016 at 12:22 pm

Tories in “Chaotic State” as Counterfire calls for “crucial stand off” at Birmingham Conservative Conference.

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Posadists Call on Allies to Help Kick out Tories.

As support for revolutionary socialism grows in Britain, the Posadists in historic breakthrough, The League for the Fifth International (formerly known as Workers’ Power) emerging from decades of underground struggle to publish Red Flag (‘The Voice of Labour’s Revolutionary Change’), Bermondsey Republican Socialists proudly fighting for Annual Parliaments and the Abolition of the Corn Laws, and the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International well on the way to the “re-creation of a World Party of Socialist Revolution“, the class struggle is heating up.

Conditions for revolution, the strategists of this movement declare, are not only ripe, i.e.  not rotten,  but in a  historical crisis within which a vanguard leadership can resolve the problem of insurrectionary  guidance… Counterfire.

In a key statement (soon to filed on the Marxist Internet Archive) David Moyles wrote for Counterfire on the “actuality of the revolution”

He noted,

there are those who think that however static and stable things may seem, capitalist society is fundamentally pretty chaotic.

Quite so.

The leaders of the British revolution have now issued this careful assessment of the conjuncture and the possibilities it offers for the left,

In the run-up to to next month’s crucial standoff against the Tories in Birmingham, Mick Wattam assesses the balance of forces. (Counterfire)

Mick Wattam  begins by blaming opponents of Jeremy Corbyn for the failure to seize the opportunities offered at the “very moment when the Tories were in disarray over the Brexit vote”.

So divided Theresa May was elected without a contest…

That is, after, as Nick Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union noted – against the assessment of Brexiters like Counterfire,

The Brexit vote was a defeat for the working class in Britain as well as internationally. It was a defeat for internationalism and collectivism. Brexit was a victory for populist demagogy, xenophobes and racists. Brexit has already had detrimental economic effects and worse is likely to come.

Brexit has resulted in a more right-wing government. It means an already difficult period ahead will be even harder for the trade union movement and the working-class communities we represent.

Still, Hope, Wattam writes,  lies in the proles –  undermining the “system”.

Although Corbynism threatens to destabilise the way the political system has worked for a long time, with its reliance on a muted opposition from Labour, we will need a much bigger and more inclusive struggle to bring about real change.

Put simply, Corbyn needs the unions…for what?

The new politics spearheaded by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are certainly worth fighting for, and call for a revolutionary change in how our society is run. But if it is limited to participating in wards and constituencies in order to win positions in the Labour machine, the energy will soon dissipate. There has to be a call for action in the trade union movement where the thousands of new people inspired by Corbyn can make a difference.

To repeat: for what?

Wattam continues, almost, rationally, that there may well be a few obstacles in the way,

If the Tories are able to stack up the victories through this new government which has not even won an election, then they and the people they represent will be jubilant. They will be invigorated by their reversal of the major achievements of our labour movement in the 20th century, which were won through the culmination of long and bitter struggles over many years.

Although the consequences of such Tory victories will inevitably lead to less opportunity and more misery for ordinary people, this may not necessarily lead to a growth of support for the left and Corbyn. It could easily lead to more support for the right within Labour under the guise of unity at all cost against Tory attacks.

He then draws out this alternative..

The only way of propelling forward the Corbyn revolution is to build the movement on the streets and support for the important strikes due to take place in the coming weeks and months. The defeat of the Tories cannot come too soon, and it can only come from our actions.

How “Our actions” “in the streets” and “strikes” (at an all time historic low) are the way forward is left hanging. In the air. Or the wind.

But who cares about boring elections!

Look at this…

The demonstration at the Tory Party conference on Sunday 2 October, called by the People’s Assembly, has to be a huge rally in support of the Junior Doctors, against the reintroduction of grammar schools, and a loud and united notice from all sections of our movement to Theresa May’s government that we are determined to kick them out of office.

How? What is this “crucial standoff” outside the Tory Conference? A situation in which one force or party neutralises or counterbalances the other and further action is prevented; a standstill: a standoff between demonstrators and the police?  A tie or draw, as in a contest? That is however determined it may be, a deadlock.

If the People’s Assembly Rally (perhaps I have missed this, but it is not going to be that large at all) is unable to ‘defeat’ the Tories in Birmingham will it be the task of the “Corbyn Revolution”?

How?

All the words about ‘fight’ and “kick them out” cannot disguise the emptiness of this sound and fury.

To cite the classics of the workers’ movement:

Image result for as soon as this pub closes john sullivan

 

Alex Callinicos, of the rival Socialist Workers Party,  perhaps signals the thinking behind the idea that the Conservative Party might be pushed out (Socialist Worker).

Speaking of divisions over Grammar Schools he writes,

the whole business confirms what a chaotic state the Tories are in, despite the impression of stability May created by taking over and putting the stamp of her authority on the government. But this authority will be tested very severely in the months and years ahead.

Authority…test…. chaos, chaotic states, complete disorder and confusion.

One solution: Revolution!

Written by Andrew Coates

September 16, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith Back Two State Solution for Israel and Palestine.

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Labour Leadership Candidates Give Statements on Palestine.

Dear Karl,

Thank you very much for your email from Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East. I have read your six pledges and am in support of them all. I have been campaigning for the human rights of the Palestinian people for decades and will continue to do so for as long as their rights are being denied to them.

I have been campaigning for the human rights of the Palestinian people for decades and will continue to do so for as long as their rights are being denied to them.

I fully support a two state solution based on 1967 borders where a fully independent Palestinian state can exist alongside an Israeli state in peace. I would aim to aid the achievement of this by reaffirming the Labour Party’s decision, made under Ed Milliband, to recognize the state of Palestine and would lobby governments, multinational institutions and other political parties around the world to do likewise. I believe that this recognition is essential for establishing the principle of equality between Israel and Palestine.

Both British and American governments have rightly criticised illegal settlements in the West Bank. It is clear to me that the only hope of ending this policy is if the international community intensifies its pressure on the Israeli government. In order to further the peace process, I am, therefore, in support of targeted boycotts with the aim of requiring the cessation of all settlement activity.

To reduce the UK’s role in the perpetuation of this conflict, I have also called for the UK government to cease selling arms to Israel.

Whilst a lasting solution between Israel and Palestine is being sought, it is imperative that the matter of Israeli human rights abuses is addressed urgently. The siege of Gaza, the detention of civilians without trial (including the detention of children) and the harassment and humiliation of Palestinians as they go about their everyday life must cease.

I have previously called for, and will go on demanding, that the strongest possible protests be made to the Israeli government, with escalating consequences, if they do not uphold the human right norms we would expect all those seeking warm relations with Britain to maintain.

Jeremy Corbyn.

LFPME

Owen Smith,

Dear Grahame,

 

Thank you for your letter on behalf of Labour Friends of Palestine & the Middle East on this issue of profound importance. I am proud to be a member of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East and I strongly support a viable peace process based on internationally recognised (1967) borders.

I continue to unequivocally support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the recognition of a viable Palestinian State alongside a safe and viable Israel. The terms of a peace deal are well known and I support them completely: two sovereign states living side by side in peace and security. The right to self-determination is an inalienable right for the peoples of both Palestine and Israel. I believe that the state of Palestine should be recognised, within the UN and by the UK, and I voted to recognise a Palestinian state in 2014 as an essential step towards to realising a two-state solution. I recognise that, ultimately, this can only be achieved by both sides sitting down together, with equal status, negotiating in good faith and making some difficult compromises. Peace is not something that can be imposed on either the Israelis or Palestinians by force or diktat.

I am opposed to violations of international human rights law, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the construction of the separation wall on Palestinian land. I consider the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories to be illegal, unjustifiable and detrimental to the prospects of achieving a two state solution. I also agree that the blockade on Gaza should be lifted and that rocket attacks and terrorism against Israelis must stop.

 

I am not convinced that a boycott of goods from Israel would help to achieve a negotiated peace settlement. In order to support the peace process we must build bridges between all those who support peace in the region. My time working in Northern Ireland as part of the peace process showed me that,

beyond negotiations, peace only really comes when each side moves towards reconciliation. As friends of the people of Israel and Palestine, our most important task is to help foster cooperation and coexistence between both sides and I believe the work of LFPME makes an important contribution to that understanding.

I hope this reply is helpful and thank you for giving me the opportunity to set out my views in more detail.

 

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Owen Smith

As signaled by AT and DO: and already being debated. 

Both Labour candidates back the “two state” position, a proposed “solution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.”

Without going into the complexities of this, not to mention the broader context of the conflicts in the region, the two statements show a great deal of common ground, within the Party, the left internationally, and, most importantly, within important sections  of the people affected.

The debate remains live on “targeted boycotts” aimed at illegal settlements, wider “boycotts”, or the justification for this kind of action against Israel, at all.

We agree with the views of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty: opposing all-embracing boycotts of Israel as advocated by the BDS movement.

Boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS)

Barghouti is quite upfront that BDS ultimately means ostracising everything Israeli. The campaign is “working to expel Israel and its complicit institutions from international and interstate academic, cultural, sporting… environmental, financial, trade, and other forums. He soft-soaps that “groups that for tactical reasons support only a subset of BDS, or a targeted boycott of specific products or organisations in Israel, or supporting Israel, are still our partners. Boycott is not a one-size-fits-all type of process. What is important to agree on, though, is why we are boycotting and towards what ends”. He distinguishes between advocating such a targeted boycott as a tactic, leading to the ultimate goal of boycotting all Israeli goods and services, and advocating such a targeted boycott as the ultimate strategy. While the former “may be necessary in some countries as a convenient and practical tool to raise awareness and promote debate about colonial and apartheid regime, the latter, despite its lure, would be in direct contradiction with the stated objectives of the Palestinian boycott movement”.

Barghouti is also clear that the boycott of settlement goods alone is not sufficient. The BDS movement, he says,” views the approach of focusing on banning only settlement products as the ultimate goal – rather than the first, convenient step towards a general Israeli products boycott – as problematic, practically, politically and morally”. At a practical level “Israel has made it extremely difficult to differentiate between settlement and other Israeli products, simply because the majority of parent companies are based inside Israel or because colony-based companies have official addresses there”. Politically “even if distinguishing between produce of settlements and produce of Israel were possible, activists who on principle – rather than out of convenience – advocate a boycott of only the former may argue that they are merely objecting to the Israeli military occupation and colonisation of 1967 and have no further problems with Israel”. Finally, there is a moral problem with accepting these “two grave… violations of human rights and international law as givens”.

BDS may seem in the ascendant for now. It may make progress in places, on the back of the Israeli state’s next atrocity. BDS needs to be fought politically, because it stands in the path of two states, the only consistently democratic solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. But BDS is ultimately a pessimistic approach. It put the agency for change outside of the region. It wants civil society, which includes not only NGOs and unions but bourgeois governments and business internationally to make things right for the Palestinians. There is another road. The Palestinian workers in alliance with Israeli workers fighting for a two state democratic solution to the national question, is the force that could deliver peace and much more besides.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 15, 2016 at 12:07 pm

Spain in Our Hearts. Americans in the Spanish Civil War. 1936 – 1939. Adam Hochschild. A Review.

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Spain in Our Hearts. Americans in the Spanish Civil War. 1936 – 1939. Adam Hochschild. Macmillan. 2016.

Arthur Koestler wrote in 1937 of Spain’s civil war, “Other wars consist of a succession of battles; this one is a succession of tragedies.” (Spanish Tragedy) As a Soviet agent, a correspondent with the Republican Army who had been captured and then freed from Franco’s gaols, the author of Darkness at Noon (1940) embodied the sadness of twentieth century history. In that record the Spanish conflict was exceptional. Spain in Our Heart opens by noting that the Caudillo launched the “fiercest conflict in Europe since the First World War marked by a vindictive savagery not seen even then.” (P xiv).

Hochschild is the author the landmark Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves (2005). It put centre stage the activism of Thomas Clarkson, the radical Quaker and admirer of the French Revolution in the British campaign against slavery. The present work explores the lives of American (and three Englishmen) involved in Spain, International Brigade volunteers and reporters, Hochschild manages the difficult task of honouring those who fought for the Spanish Republic without losing sight of the broader catastrophe in which they had become involved.

2,800 Americans fought in Spain’s battles, with an estimated 750 dying during these crucial years in the country’s history. About three quarters of the US volunteers were members of the Communist Party, or its youth league. With the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, the Great Depression sweeping the world, the Soviet Union “became a place into which millions of people projected their hopes.” (Page 11)

Some had not stay at a distance building dreams of the Soviet Union. In 1935 the Merriman couple moved from Berkley to Moscow, as Robert, Bob studied the newly collectivised farming joined by his wife, Marion. But fired up in 1936  by the defence of the elected Popular Front government against far-right military rebellion the couple, despite her misgivings, left for the Iberian Peninsula. As they arrived in 1937  the drama of the desperate combats, socialist, anarchist and republican democrats facing the anti-Semite, feudal and arch-Catholic Franco-led military rebellion with its reactionary social support, was already unfolding.

As a an officer in the US Army reserve, with ROTC training (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) fresh from Moscow (with an exaggerated ‘year’ at a Communist Academy’), Merriman was appointed by that harshest of task-masters André Marty, the American Lincoln Brigade’s second-in-command. He joined the Spanish Communist Party. The volunteers, few of whom “had ever been under military discipline”, were flung into the battle to defend the Madrid-Valencia road. It did not help that their arms, from the only country willing to supply them the Soviet Union, initially were as antiquated and obsolete as to be “barely usable”. The Spaniards called one set of artillery pieces “the battery of Catherine the Great” (Page 118)

Wounded under fire, his wife Marion accompanied Bob, and joined up to work in International Brigades Headquarters in Albacete. He was a committed supporter of the Soviet Union. Above all, “Physically fearless, he inspired such loyalty that at least two Lincoln veterans would name children after him.” (Page 289) Spain in our Hearts does not lose sight of this brave couple, right to the final confirmation, in 1987, of how Bob Merriman died under Nationalist fire in Gadensa.

Hochschild traces the stories of many others engaged in the fight to defend the Republic, including those who perished in the increasingly difficult journey to Spain. There is the Briton Pat Gurney, Oliver Law, the black CP organiser appointed Captain, the machine-gunner David McKelvy White, and Toby Neugass of the mobile American medical team. There was also Vincent Usera, who resurfaced in the US Navel Academy in 1939 lecturing on the war. With a full US military career during the Second World War, he ended in military intelligence. One of his last posts was “as a military adviser in Vietnam” (Page 233).

The US ‘Moral Embargo’. 

Could America have been brought to support the Republic? A propaganda and information war was fought out in the American press. In the New York Times there was an “indirect duel” between the reporter on the republican side, Herbert Matthews, and the very pro-Franco William P. Carney.

A film, directed by Communist fellow-traveller Joris Ivens, The Spanish Earth, which involved Hemingway, which many expected would powerfully influence American opinion in favour of the elected government, failed to change Franklin Roosevelt’s decision to back a “Moral embargo” on weapon sales – while Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy showered military support on Franco The official arms ban was accompanied by turning a blind eye to Texaco boss, and dictator admirer, Torkild Rieber’s gift to Franco of an “unstinting stream” of oil, on credit. (Page 248) When, in 1938, there was an apparent move toward lifting of the embargo, it never materialised.

Spain in our Hearts both brings to life individual lives, through memoirs, books, letters, through events, grief and passion,  and to make cautious points about the battles going on inside the Republican camp. It lends support to the view that winning the war had to be a priority over social revolution. He asks if the moral economy of the collectivised enterprises in Catalonia and elsewhere would have long survived in their initial, pure, non-capitalist co-operative form. In the event the Spanish Communists and Socialists were determined in an attempt to win middle class support and international respectability, to restore market norms and crush the anarchists and independent Marxists of the POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista. Partit Obrer d’Unificació Marxista)  along with this spontaneous socialisation. Was it also possible to run an army democratically? Some would agree that it was equally right to end this experiment.  Ernest Hemingway said, “I like Communists when they’re soldiers. When they’re priests I hate them” (Page 290)

Could the Communist military commissars escape the paranoia and distorted morality of the Stalin priesthood? Not everybody was a hero of the stamp of Bob Merriman. Louis Fisher, who appears in the present volume as the quartermaster of the International Brigade, wrote that “André Marty, French Communist leader and the chief commissar of the Brigade “loved power and abused it, in the GPU way, through nocturnal arrest sand similar outrages.” (In The God That Failed. 1950)

Perhaps this is the final judgement of this deeply researched, insightful,  and moving work. Portraying the devastation wrought to secure Franco’s victory and its aftermath, Hochschild states, “If the Republic had won, Spaniards would not have had to endure 36 years of Franco’s ruthless dictatorship.”(P 353)

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 14, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Cameron Gone: Another Victory!

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He’s Gone….

 

Counterfire held off the threat of a Tory coup in 2015.

Counterfire joins calls to confront ‘Tory coup’ on the streets May 6th 2015.

John Rees, from radical left activist group Counterfire, said confronting a possible “Tory coup” will require action “on the streets”.

He told CommonSpace: “Astoundingly, the Tories and their supportive press are not only trying to paint the SNP as illegitimate but also to declare illegitimate any Labour administration that relies on the SNP for support. This at the same time as the Tories are willing to rely on the deeply reactionary DUP and UKIP for support.”

“The immediate task will be to confront a Tory coup, if this is what happens, on the streets,” Rees added.

 

Socialist Worker advocated before the EU referendum,

Finish off David Cameron – vote to leave the EU.

The struggle has paid off:

David Cameron resigns: Former PM quit over Brexit and did not want to be ‘backseat driver’ says aide.

Oddly this resignation letter does not mention the SWP and Counterfire contribution to his disappearance.

Typical cowardly bourgeois politician.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 13, 2016 at 11:36 am

Putin as Abraham Lincoln: Counterpunch Bid to Outdo European Political Confusionionism.

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Vladimir Putin: Russia’s Abraham Lincoln says Counterpunch. 

Political confusionism is an ideological trend on the rise

As the word suggests (from the French leftists’ ‘confusionnisme‘:  see this site) is means the confused politics of merging left and right, of adding conspiracy theories to wild assertions, the anti-imperialism of fools to ‘anti-capitalism’, that goes in search of red-brown alliances, acknowledged or not.

Its starts with Israel, ‘anti-Zionism’, travels to Putin’s Russia (often), visits Syria, looks at the IMF, TTIP, Globalisation, Occupy Wall Street (what was that?), NATO (a bit boring this stuff..),  supports Lexit/Brexit, ‘sovereigntism’, and, hey presto, always gets back to Israel.

Counterpunch (a long time ago described as “left wing”) is the best known example of confusionism in the English-speaking world, though its echoes may be felt in, say the ramblings of British supporters of the idea that there’s a transnational Jewish/Zionist bourgeoisie. It is so easy to find confusionists at work on Twitter and Facebook that’s it barely worth bothering citing them,

US left-wingers (on the Marxism List and no doubt elsewhere) are up in arms about this article in this august journal of reference for international confusionism, patronised by such weighty figures as Tariq Ali and some people who should know better.

There seems to be series of debates going on in activist circles these days that are inter-connected, the continued plight of Alison Weir and her abysmal treatment by various NGOs  and the issue of who to stand in solidarity with in regards to Syria. Both are informed essentially by one foundational theoretical point, the argument over the role of the neocons in Washington and the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), with a significant group of people seeing everything going on in the region rooted in the PNAC policy suggestions that led us down the road to the war on Iraq and continued the brutalization of the Palestinians under George W. Bush.

There follows some garbled ‘history’ about the unification of Germany, the Berlin to Bagdad railway, and the “convoluted and intertwined family trees of John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and Nelson W. Aldrich.” and the interesting information that ” differences between neocons and neoliberals on domestic American social policies were quite profound (abortion, sexual orientation, Affirmative Action), their policies in international colonial policies were identical.”

Quite.

Thereafter lost, we only resurface at this point,

In this sense, Wall Street does want to see the ouster of the Assad government because it would benefit their profits. It is a basic fact that Bashar al-Assad, just like Slobodan Milosevic, is not a saint.

A brave thing to say.

Plunged again into the deepest confusionism we get this,

They yearn for their idealized American democracy while refusing to acknowledge that, if black and brown voices did not matter in 1776, that means the entire edifice of electoral politics and American parliamentarism is a clever and well-funded farce, defined as an ideological state apparatus by the French philosopher and quasi-Maoist Louis Althusser. This apparatus is quite powerful and underwrote why many activists jumped on the Shachtmanite Chairman Bernie Sanders bandwagon in the last eighteen months. (1)

Althusser would not doubt endorse the view that backing for Bernie was proof of his theory of ideological state apparatuses. The Sander’s campaign showed capitalist “know-how”, the ” high priests of the ruling ideology” mould subject positions and domination for the “the reproduction of the conditions of production” within the Democratic Primaries.

Thank you for the warning about the way the Shachtmanites have colonised the political ISA (the political system, including the different parties).

We are now aware of how these misleader tout the ‘Representation’ of the Imaginary Relationship of Individuals to their Real Conditions of Existence

Finally there is this,

We should also seriously interrogate the notion of politicians and look to Marx himself for inspiration when dealing with Assad and Putin. He knew exactly what Abraham Lincoln was and was not as a white former railroad lawyer and son-in-law of a slave-owning family. Yet his journalism for Horace Greeley and letters to the president would make you think that the Great Emancipator was a premonition of Lenin. That is not because he was blind to Lincoln’s many massive flaws. Instead it was because he saw the Union Army as an engine of historical progress despite the flaws.

Does Vladimir Putin have similar flaws? Yes, many, but his challenge to NATO and the imperial project is objectively a progressive goal and effort despite the flawed engine that delivers it. For those who would rebut me with accounts of Putin’s crimes, which I do not doubt, just take a look at the depravity of Sherman’s march to the sea, a massive moving line of marauders who killed quite a few black and white men and raped quite a few black and white women. Yet Marx called their actions “matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.” This is the difference between English empirical thinking and German dialectical thinking. In the former, the morality of the individual actors is key. In the latter, the outcome of the actions in history, despite the individual actors and their flaws, is all that matters.

German dialectical thinking and, hop, we can see Putin’s challenge as a “progressive goal and challenge”.

It’s called the unity of opposites and the ‘aufheben’ of dialectical contradictions: the very rational kernel of the revolutionary programme of Counterpunch….

Inspired to back Putin and Assad, to the tune of Counterpunch new Battle Hymn of the Republic, Andrew, if I may call a fellow Andy, concludes,

The way to control American policy is through direct action politics, or, to quote Howard Zinn, “What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in- and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change.” Electoral politics is able to be used as a tool to further radicalize voters into militant activists. The delusion otherwise dismisses the fact that abolitionists ended slavery and not legislators, who were forced by abolitionists to pass laws.

Hats off Comrade Stewart.

It’s all kicking off, everywhere!

Update:

(1) We have been asked, what is Shachtmanism?

Shachtmanism is the form of Marxism associated with Max Shachtman. It has two major components: a bureaucratic collectivist analysis of the Soviet Union and a third camp approach to world politics. Shachtmanites believe that the Stalinist rulers of Communistcountries are a new ruling class distinct from the workers and reject Trotsky‘s description of Stalinist Russia as a “degenerated workers’ state“.

Confusionnisme.info

Written by Andrew Coates

September 12, 2016 at 4:29 pm

TUC: Frances O’Grady Speaks to and for the Whole Labour Movement.

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Frances O’Grady Speaks for Whole Labour Movement.

If you want proof that the whole of the British labour movement has not taken leave of its collective senses in the last few months Frances O’Grady  stands in a place of honour.

This is her statement on the Brexit result.

O’Grady addresses the referendum result:The referendum result on Britain’s membership of the European Union heralds a whole new era of uncertainty for the working people we represent.The General Council asked me to lead a campaign that talked about what was in the best interests of working people. About the rights we enjoy – fought for by unions but guaranteed by the EU. About the risks to our economy and our public services – our precious NHS. And about what life outside the single market could mean for jobs.The campaign wasn’t easy.

For me personally, facing Boris and Andrea Leadsom in the BBC debate was quite an experience. And not one I’d be in a hurry to repeat. But, as someone told me, at least now I can say I’ve played Wembley.

The campaign wasn’t clean, or even honest. Fake promises of more money for the NHS. Dog whistle appeals to anti-immigrant sentiment. And the bizarre spectacle of a self-styled anti-Establishment vanguard.

Led by a serial back-stabber, a former stockbroker and a member of the Bullingdon Club.

While many sat it out, we stepped up. We made sure our members knew what we thought. And, in the end, our polls showed that a majority of trade unionists voted Remain.

For many it wasn’t an easy decision. And I respect those who thought differently. Especially those in our movement, who made the judgement they thought best. And those in the communities we have always championed. Who paid a high price for globalisation, And are still paying the price of the crash.

In this movement, we’re democrats. We accept what the British people have said.

So I say this: Whether you voted Remain or Leave; our job now is to get the best deal possible for working people. And to build a Britain that is successful, prosperous, fair. A Britain of great jobs for everyone.

We face a new government and a new prime minister too. Now, as a rule, I’m all in favour of having more women in charge. But it’s no secret that this isn’t one I would have chosen.

Nevertheless, in three weeks’ time she will be stood in a hall like this one. Giving her big speech to an audience that’s… well, a little different from this one. And, woman to woman, I’m going to take the liberty of giving some advice about what she should say.

After all, on the steps of Downing Street, the new prime minister admitted that life is much harder for working people than many in Westminster realise.

She promised us social justice. She vowed to govern for the many, not the privileged few. So my advice to the new prime minister is this: prove it. Show us that your top priority is to make sure workers don’t pay the price of Brexit.

There are five tests that must be met before you pull the trigger on Article 50.

First: EU citizens living and working in the UK must be guaranteed the right to remain. They are our friends, our neighbours, our workmates. It is plain immoral and inhuman to keep them in limbo. The public agrees: guarantee their right to stay.

Second: we need an all-Ireland agreement on economic and border issues. This movement worked hard for jobs, justice and peace. It would be foolish to take that for granted.

Third: we keep being told that Brexit means Brexit. I’m not sure many union leaders would get away with saying a walk-out means a walk-out. A strike means a strike. And that’s that.

At some point we’d have to spell out what we want. What we think we can get. And win a mandate from our members to negotiate. The same goes for the prime minister.

How can her government know what to negotiate for if it doesn’t know what the country thinks?

Or what the rest of the EU would accept?

Now in some corners of Whitehall there is talk about Canada and the CETA [Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement] model.

Well, let me give the government fair warning. Britain didn’t vote for new trade agreements that: destroy jobs, set up secret courts and open the way to privatisation. If they go for the son of CETA, we will make opposition to TTIP [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership] look like a tea party.

The fourth point. Negotiating our exit can’t be left to the Tories. This shouldn’t be about managing the internal politics of the Conservative Party. It’s about shaping the future of our country. We need a cross-party negotiating team, including the nations, London and the North. And it can’t be a case of cosy chats with the City and the CBI either. As the voice of working people, trade unions must be at the table too.

And that leads me on to the fifth and most important point. Before we go for Article 50, we need proof that workers’ rights will be safe. We fought hard for those rights. They weren’t gifted by Brussels, but won by trade unionists. And people didn’t vote Leave to get rid of holiday pay; to lose time off to care for sick children; or junk rights for temporary and agency workers.

And our European neighbours won’t agree good access to the single market if Britain undercuts them as an offshore haven for cheap labour.

So, prime minister, no ifs, no buts. Guarantee workers’ rights, now. And for the future. And tell us about your plan for the economy.

Just one week after the vote, the TUC published a national action plan. To protect jobs. To protect investment. To make sure ordinary working people don’t pay the price. They can’t afford it. After all, workers in the UK have already suffered the biggest fall in wages since the crash of any developed economy, except Greece.

Now, you won’t catch me talking down industry. We know the importance of confidence. But, delegates, we remember the recession after the financial crash. We know, all too well, the risk of complacency too. And union reps across the country. Convenors at our biggest workplaces. They are telling me about the worry and uncertainty their people are facing.

Investment plans stalled. Job hires on hold. That means government must be ready to step in. And work to keep the advantages we get from membership of the single market. For all of our industries – not just the City.

That’s the key to a successful Brexit for working people.

 Her speech to the TUC today in Brighton is just now being reported.

TUC chief Frances O’Grady slams ‘greedy firms that treat workers like animals’ in keynote congress speech

“Let me give fair warning to any greedy business that treats its workers like animals – we will shine a light on you,” she said.

“Run a big brand with a dirty little secret? A warehouse of people paid less than the minimum wage? A fleet of couriers who are slaves to an app? Let me put you on notice.

“There will be no hiding place. We will organise and we will win. Britain’s unions will not rest until every worker gets the fair treatment they deserve.”

Ms O’Grady said Brexit, which has prompted a “whole new area of uncertainty”, was led by “a former stockbroker, a serial backstabber and a member of the Bullingdon Club“.

She told Mrs May: “Show us your top priority is to make sure workers don’t pay the price of Brexit.”

The union chief demanded more council homes, the building of High Speed 2 and a “Make Your Mind Up Time on Heathrow” – expanding the airport.

….

“Taking back control” should start with steelworkers’ jobs and Tories should end “an economic philosophy that treats people as nothing more than a commodity”, she said.

She slammed the Tories’ “silly spiteful” Trade Union Act, a crackdown on the right to strike, but insisted the government was pushed back on key issues.

She added: “You can’t build a strong economy without a strong NHS and strong public services too.

“So listen up please government, pull an emergency brake on austerity and end that public sector pay squeeze now.”

Unions have already warned workers will suffer unless they are prioritised in Brexit talks.

The TUC said jobs and rights would be at risk if Britain was a “bargain-basement economy” after quitting the EU.

Ms O’Grady urged Government to get “the best deal we can for workers” and tackle investment.

TUC research showed one of the biggest risks of Brexit was loss of foreign investment.

Between 2010 and 2014, the UK performed “very poorly” in spending on industrial plants, transport and housing.

Full version: (TUC)

Frances O’Grady address to Congress, Monday 12 September 2016

Thanks.

I want to formally move the General Council Statement and campaign plan.

But first I want to put on record my thanks.

To you delegates, for your loyalty to the working people we represent.

To the President and to the General Council, for their good humour and camaraderie.

And to the staff of the TUC and all our unions.

Their dedication and professionalism is second to none.

I also want to send our solidarity to workers:

Staff on the railways and in the Post Office – about time we had that People’s Bank;

in schools and colleges; offshore workers; the junior doctors and the whole health team; Marks and Spencer and fast food workers;

Ritzy cinema staff still fighting for a real Living Wage; at Uber, Amazon, Asos and Sports Direct.

And workers everywhere standing up for their rights.

Full text here.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 12, 2016 at 12:01 pm

Labour Purge: Labour suspends Michael Foster over Corbyn ‘Nazi stormtroopers’ article.

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Corbyn and his Sturmabteilung: is this serious political debate?

As many readers of this Blog, often the majority, are not from the UK, this is a stark reminder to them of how far things have go with us.

Labour suspends donor over Corbyn ‘Nazi stormtroopers’ article

Michael Foster, who has given party £400,000, says he did not use word ‘Nazi’ in piece referring to leader’s Sturmabteilung.

The Labour party has suspended a prominent donor for likening Jeremy Corbyn’s team to Nazi storm troopers.

Michael Foster, a former celebrity agent who has donated more than £400,000 to the party, said the Labour leader and his team had “no respect for others and worse, no respect for the rule of law”.

His comments were published in article published in the Mail on Sunday, titled: “Why I despise Jeremy Corbyn and his Nazi stormtroopers’, by Jewish Labour donor Michael Foster.”

The piece appeared on 14 August after the high court ruled against Foster’s bid to stop Corbyn from being automatically allowed to stand for re-election as leader.

The former Labour parliamentary candidate in Camborne and Redruth said: “To me, respect for the rule of law is fundamental to a democracy.

“The courts decided that the rules as they stand allowed it. This decision advantaged Corbyn and his Sturm Abteilung (stormtroopers).”

Foster has said that he did not use the word “Nazi” in his article, but it was included in the headline by the Mail on Sunday.

This is what the relevant section of the article says,

To me, respect for the rule of law is fundamental to a democracy. Once political parties believe they are above the law it ends with all opposition silenced, whether it is my grandparents in Dachau, or the Left in Erdogan’s Turkey rounded up and held uncharged in prison.

The courts decided that the rules as they stand allowed it. This decision advantaged Corbyn and his Sturm Abteilung (stormtroopers), but on Friday afternoon the Appeal Court handed down a big decision for British democracy.

It disallowed the attempt by arriviste followers of Corbyn to flood the Labour electoral college. This caused the mask of reasonableness of the Corbynista leadership to slip even further.

Suddenly the most holy of holies, the NEC, was labelled a shoddy organisation capable of using a ‘grubby little device’. Cross this lot and you are straight into the firing line.

Corbyn no longer has a clear path in his bid to destroy the Labour Party as we have known it in Government and in Opposition for the past 70 years.

The Mirror adds,

Mr Foster insists his remarks referred to Mr Corbyn’s “leadership cadre”, and could just as easily have compared them to the “Pretorian Guard or Revolutionary Guard or Red Guard – a group there to secure the leader and his political plans.”

There are already voices from the left calling, ironically or not, for support for Foster against the decision to suspend him…

This is not the only example of complete political hysteria and  confusion in the Labour Party.

A  few days ago there was this, from Owen Smith, candidate to lead the Labour Party, during the debate with Jeremy Corbyn on Question Time.

Mr Smith said: “Under Jeremy’s leadership, we’ve seen people coming into the Labour party from the hard-left of politics people who are bringing into our party anti-Semitic attitudes and that cannot be acceptable,

“There are people on the far left of the Labour party who are flooding in to our party and that’s their word, not mine.The Alliance of Workers Liberty only a couple of weeks ago said ‘let’s flood into the Labour party’.

“Just the other day I saw a tweet purporting to be from Jeremy’s team to members of a hard-left group saying ‘you’re welcome to come to Jeremy’s rallies, just leave the flags and banners at home’. And the reason for that is we’ve seen some of those flags and banners at some of Jeremy’s rallies and unfortunately some of those people are bringing in attitudes to our party from the hard-left that I don’t think is welcome.”

“There are people who have come from the AWL and the SWP (Socialist Workers Party) and some of the other left-wing groups which have either not been part of the Labour party or have been proscribed by the Labour party and some of those people are advocating joining the Labour party in order to support Jeremy and in order to control the Labour party. Some of the people around Jeremy are absolutely encouraging it, of that there is no doubt.”

Politics Home.

The AWL replied (in our view, in measured terms),

On BBC Question Time (Labour leadership debate, 8 September) Owen Smith, in the stream-of-consciousness style that has come to typify Smith’s approach to political debate, links the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (as part of the “hard left in our Party” “flooding into the Party”) to those on the left who “associate anti-Zionism, anti-imperialism”, “anti-Israel” perspectives (sic). That is, he implicitly called us anti-semitic.

This incoherent tirade against the “hard left” was a disgraceful intervention into an important issue that deserves serious, well-informed debate.

Smith’s comments referred back to an earlier exchange with Jeremy Corbyn in the programme in which he accused Corbyn of not doing enough to make the Party a safe place for Jewish members; and the hard left (which would, he implied include the AWL, were causing this problem). There were other accusations streamed into Smith’s tirade, but let’s focus on the accusation of anti-semitism.

You don’t have to know very much about what the AWL stands for, agree with the AWL’s two-state position on Israel-Palestine, or even be very left-wing to be aware that any accusation of “left anti-semitism” against us, however half-stated, is ludicrous. We have spent many years exposing, analysing and fighting this phenomena and it has not won us many friends on the organised hard left!

Exactly.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 11, 2016 at 11:18 am

Labour Party and Trotskyism: Spotting Marks for David Aaronovitch’s BBC Four Progamme.

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Trotskyist Groups in the UK (to be Updated…)

Trotsky, Trotskyism and Trotskyites was on Radio Four last night.

The central committee of Tendance Coatesy gives the programme:

  • 7 out of 10 marks for intelligibility  Dr Bert Patenaude , historian of Trotksy,.
  • 8 marks to Michael Crick for saying as many nasty things about Militant and the Socialist Party as he could in a few minutes.
  • 1 Mark for the history of British Trotskyism and the International Marxist Group (IMG), for – well-established rumour has it –  ex-IMGer Prof John Callaghan.
  • 1o out of 10  for fun to Amy Leather of the Socialist Workers Party, for her breathless rant delivered in an authentic, and touching, Mockney accent
  • Zero points to David Aaronovitch because he failed to repeat his funny dinner party story about International Marxist Group’s (IMG) Earth Mothers and Hip Acid trippers during his brief time as Oxford (was this just forgetfulness or because of something people have since reminded him of?).

The claim that Trotskyist groups are peripheral to Corbyn’s success, tiny in number,  and peripheral to politics, may well be true.

It might nevertheless still be a slur on comrade Gerry Downing, The Posadists, Red Flag (of the League for the Fifth International), the News Line, and indeed the Brent Soviet, that their august opinions were not solicited on this, and many other, vital points.

But more important issues, on which they have little informed comment to make, are at stake.

The Central Committee  wishes to let it be known that the programme, ostensibly about Trotskyist entrists in the Labour Party, had one big gap, and that gap has a name, Socialist Action.

Socialist Action is a small Trotskyist group in the United Kingdom. The group was founded in 1982 when the International Marxist Group entered the Labour Party and changed its name to the Socialist League. It became generally known by the name of its publication, Socialist Action, which first appeared on 16 March 1983…………

From the mid-1980s Socialist Action became an entryist organisation, attempting to take over other organisations, with members using code names and not revealing their affiliation. It maintains a website but no publicly-visible formal organisation.

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.

Fast forward to the present,

Following Jeremy Corbyn‘s election as Labour Party leader and Leader of the Opposition in 2015, it was claimed (by former member Atma Singh) that Socialist Action were building “a real power base” around Corbyn. Simon Fletcher – who according to Singh had been on the SA central committee – was appointed Corbyn’s Chief of Staff while John Ross has been linked to Corbyn’s inner circle. Former SA member Kate Hudson also works closely with Corbyn as president of CND, with Corbyn now vice president.

Now we happen to know that this account is not entirely accurate.

But was this elite entrist group mentioned?

No it was not.

We were mortified to learn that the only person John Callagham and the rest of the people on the programme could recall from our halcyon days in the IMG was poor old Liberal Democrat voting Tariq Ali.

Or so it was claimed.

Was Callaghan a member of IMG Tendency B? Were any others involved in the broadcast members, ‘sympathisers’ or ‘moles’?

We think we should be told.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 9, 2016 at 4:29 pm

Nuit Debout: “It did not take off”, Frédéric Lordon.

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Nuit Debout: A Spark that did not Light a Prairie Fire.

Nuit debout was a French movement that began on 31 March 2016, arising out of protests against proposed labour reforms known as the El Khomri law or Loi travail. The movement was organised around a broad aim of “overthrowing the El Khomri bill and the world it represents”. It was compared to the Occupy movement in the United States and to Spain’s anti-austerity 15-M or Indignados movement. Occupy, and its much smaller imitation in the UK, Like the former, and unlike the latter, it failed to make any lasting connection with wider political forces. 

Nuit Debout was best known for its months long 2016 occupation of the Place de la République in Paris.

Organisers refused to set out a specific list of political demands in advance, although they did denounce the government’s proposed reforms as regressive, and they called for the construction of a new political project that would be “ambitious, progressive, and emancipatory”.

Lordon played an instrumental role in the rise of the Nuit debout movement. He wrote a piece in the February 2016 issue of Le Monde diplomatique on François Ruffin‘s film, Merci patron!, describing the film as a clarion call for a potential mass uprising. This prompted Ruffin to organise a public meeting which led to the organisation of the public occupation of Paris’s Place de la République on 31 March 2016. Lordon delivered a speech at the 31 March protest, highlighting the goal of uniting disparate protest movements. He subsequently refused to talk to national media about his role in the movement, explaining that he did not wish to be seen as the leader of a leaderless movement. More Frédéric Lordon, Nuit Debout ‘Leader’: Diamond Geezer, or….Not?.

Lordon has also been criticised for his ‘soverigentist’ tendencies: that is a belief that French democracy must first be transformed,  however grass-roots led – on a national scale. This means he is against the pooling of sovereignty in the European Union, attacking its ne-libeal and amrket inflection but   offers no concept of how internationalist democracy may be built. (1)

A more radical critique is offered of this type of politics in the latest Red Pepper,

Occupations, assemblies and direct action – a critique of ‘body politics’ Joseph A Todd .

Todd argues that the demand for “presence” at such assemblies (Occupy Wall Street, London, the small camp at St Paul’s, the  Place de la République), is questionable.

Inclusion in the polis was premised on physical presence – both in that decision making was conducted in general assemblies for extended periods of time, but also in that non-participation in the general assembly constituted a symbolic exclusion from the performative spectacle that became the symbol of the movement. And while the lack of demands was partly rooted in a distrust of existing institutions, we can also trace it back to body politics, the belief that bodies together is enough to create change, that bodies in space could prefigure the revolution.

Others have criticised the “consensus” ideal of these movements, which excludes serious debate, and represses minorities, while allowing for a fictitious agreement to be manipulated by an unacknowledged and unaccountable  leadership – the “tyranny of structurelessness”.  Or, more simply, the offputting rules that govern these assemblies, including strange signs to signify intervention in discussions, agreement, or disagreement. Nuit Debout did not enforce consensus – voting was by majority – but adopted many of these alienating procedures.

Nuit Debout existed for some months, brought important issues about the effects of markets, and the failings of democracy in French society and Europe  to the fore, had some interesting debates about democratic structures and the remoteness of official French politics, and inspired some to continue to seek an alternative to liberal pro-market politics.

It never touched the core of the labour movement or the banlieue.

Now we learn that Lordon, still one of the leading voices in the movement, acknowledges it has failed to take hold.

Frédéric Lordon fait le bilan de Nuit Debout : “On ne va pas se raconter d’histoire, le feu n’a pas pris”

la puissance de la multitude” – the might of the multitude has not taken off.

The Bondy Blog interview is in a typical, highly abstract and philosophical vein,  complete with references to Spinoza (one hears echoes of Toni Negri here, as the term multitude suggests already), and La Boétie.

It is heavy going, even for those used to Lordonese.

Fortunately Les Inrocks summarises the key points in which Lordon assesses the successes and the – very evident – petering out of the movement:

Tous les mouvements insurrectionnels commencent à très petite échelle. Le problème pour le pouvoir c’est quand ‘ça gagne’, quand la plaine entière vient à s’embraser. On ne va pas se raconter d’histoire, le feu n’a pas (ou pas encore) pris. Je crois cependant que beaucoup de gens qui étaient loin de l’événement l’ont regardé avec intérêt, et qu’il s’est peut être passé quelque chose dans les têtes dont nous ne pouvons pas encore mesurer tous les effets.”

All insurrectional movements begin small scale. The problem for those in power is when this “takes off”, when the social terrain is swept up in their heat. I am not going to hide the fact that in this case the spark has not (or has not yet) caught fire. I consider nevertheless that many people who were distant from the event watched it keenly, and what took place inside our heads has had effects which we have not really come to grips with yet.

Lordon talks of the “violence des “gardiens de l’ordre” which radicalised the participants in Nuit Debout. But he denied that there was any link between the movement and the ‘casseurs’ (hooligans) who led attacks on the Police and property to demonstrations in France earlier this year, and who provoked a strong counter-reaction.

 The Inrocks also cites Nuit debout, l’instant d’après. Pour un bilan qui n’en soit pas un by .

This is a more intelligible and serious balance-sheet (bilan) of the movement.

Marzel celebrates Nuit Debout’s existence in an “oligarchic regime” and presence in the ” imaginaire politique alternatif”, its democratic experiments, and – apparently – resistance to “narcissism”  as victories in themselves. It did not, however, help stop the new Labour law. And, “Nuit debout s’est rapidement élargie à une contestation de toute la politique du gouvernement et à un rejet global du capitalisme mondialisé.” – it quickly expanded to challenge all the government’s policies, and a complete rejection of globalised capitalism.”

Manzel does not hide that there problems with sexism, intoxication, internal disputes, inside Nuit Debout. Yet he considers that core message of  of the protests was part of the “Miracle” of politics in the sense celebrated by Hannah Arendt.  That is, we might comments,  creative action and reflection by equal citizens that breaks  governmental routine and helps create free public realm.

While some may hope that a new wave of protests may arise in France this autumn Nuit Debout has reached some kind of terminus.

*****

 (1) “Frédéric Lordon offers a radical critique of the construction of Europe. We can only agree when he interprets ‘the oddity of building Europe as a gigantic operation of the political elimination … of popular sovereignty itself’. The Enchanted World of Common Currency – On the Article by Frédéric Lordon).

Socialist Party: For Ending the Free Movement of Labour to the UK.

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Image result for pro-europe demonstration trafalgar square left unity tendance coatesy

Capitalist pro-EU demonstrators.

The Socialist Party writes,

The EU referendum result was a massive rejection of the capitalist establishment but voting Leave was not a vote for a governmental alternative. Now Jeremy Corbyn has the opportunity to use his Labour leadership re-election campaign to rally both Leave and Remain voters behind a programme for a socialist and internationalist break with the EU bosses’ club, argues CLIVE HEEMSKERK.

The Party is exultant.

‘Project Fear’ lost (project hysteria about Johnny foreigners won…).

The main forces of British and international capitalism did everything they could to secure a vote in June’s referendum to keep Britain in the EU. President Obama made a carefully choreographed state visit. The IMF co-ordinated the release of doom-laden reports with the chancellor George Osborne.

And then there was the shameful joint campaigning of right-wing Labour Party and trade union leaders with David Cameron and other representatives of big business.

A propaganda tsunami of fear was unleashed to try and intimidate the working class to vote in favour of the EU bosses’ club.

But to no avail. Pimco investment company analysts mournfully commented that the vote was “part of a wider, more global, backlash against the establishment, rising inequality and globalisation” (The Guardian, 28 June).

No mention of, er, Jeremy Corbyn’s position in favour of Remain..

The article is full of a lot of tiresome self-justification, and statistics that minimise the Labour voters’ support for Remain, not to mention that of the overwhelming majority of young people, (“Just two out of five people aged 65 and over backed staying in. In contrast, 75% of voters aged 18 to 24 plumped for Remain). They apparently do not see it as a problem that, as the Mirror put it,  “Labour’s heartlands united with Tory shires” to vote Leave.

Accepting the present state of class consciousness – on this basis we could equally claim that the Tory shires were also voting “against the capitalist establishment” – is not a socialist standpoint.

Instead the so-called Lexit camp offered ‘understanding’ about fears about being swamped’ by migrants, and a cart-load of clichés about ‘Brussels’ links to big business, as if Westminster is not bound and foot to Capital.

We can also recall straightforward lies blaming the reform of the Code du Travail in France on the EU and the idea that Brexit would halt the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP),  when it’s been EU countries, and not the UK that have scuppered it for the moment.

The result was that during the Referendum campaign the Lexiters sided with the ‘sovereigntists’ who imagine that leaving the EU would ‘restore’ power to Parliament, and indeed the Nation.

In other words they stood on the same side as the most reactionary sections of Capital and the bourgeoisie, the Tory Right and the ‘populist’ nationalist-racists of UKIP.

If they are not always as honest as their virulently nationalist French allies, the Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique (POID), about this, the strategy of the Socialist Party, like the SWP, the Morning Star and Counterfire, ties class politics to national sovereignty and erodes the internationalist basis of a common European left.

https://latribunedestravailleurs.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/tribune-meeting-28-mai.jpg?w=620&h=228

Trotskyist POID pro-Brexit Rally in Paris May 2016 backed by Socialist Party, Morning Star, Steve Hedley, Alex Gordon, Lexit campaign, and Co.

It is the task of the left to fight, not adapt to, the  carnival of reaction that took place during and is continuing after the Referendum.

But no doubt the Socialist Party would have found class reasons to ‘understand’ those in the Victorian proletariat who celebrated the 1900 ending of the siege of Mafeking and this joyous meeting of toffs and East Enders.

Image result for siege of mafeking celebrations in London

To these high-minded people, all capitalist politicians are to blame for nationalist campaigns that feed on racism (“All capitalist politicians, defending a system based on the exploitation of the majority by a small minority, to some degree rest on nationalism – with racism as its most virulent expression – to maintain a social base for capitalist rule”) . It’s never the ideology of others, who have no minds of their own. So they, the capitalist lot, are all to blame…

No doubt from the front page of the Daily Express, UKIP, to…the Liberal Democrats….

https://i2.wp.com/www.aljazeera.com/mritems/imagecache/mbdxxlarge/mritems/Images/2016/6/21/9b0dab20514e4f629643f00e451eff0f_18.jpg

The Socialist would no doubt dislike this UKIP poster.

Instead the Socialist Party has a position of the problem – but also opposed to the free movement of labour.

Or to put it less indirectly: migrant labour and ‘foreigners’.

This is a real sticking point.

In the negotiations that are taking place, the Socialist Party lays down a few ‘principles’, apparently socialist and ‘trade unionist’,  on the topic.

They state,

The socialist and trade union movement from its earliest days has never supported the ‘free movement of goods, services and capital’ – or labour – as a point of principle but instead has always striven for the greatest possible degree of workers’ control, the highest form of which, of course, would be a democratic socialist society with a planned economy.

It is why, for example, the unions have historically fought for the closed shop, whereby only union members can be employed in a particular workplace, a very concrete form of ‘border control’ not supported by the capitalists.

What is their position on the kind of ‘border control’ they do support.

The organised workers’ movement must take an independent class position on the EU free movement of labour rules that will be raised in the EU negotiations (see box).

Which is?

Here is the negative (Why the Socialist Party opposed the EU.)

What ‘free movement’ exists in the EU is used to allow big business to exploit a cheap supply of labour in a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of low pay, zero-hour contacts and poor employment conditions.

Well there’s nothing here about pan-European efforts to end this ‘race to the bottom’.

Only a very British exit from the system.

We would like a specific answer: is the Socialist Party in favour of a “closed shop” controlling entry for European and other migrant workers entry into the UK?

How will this operate ?

Pre or post-entry?

To the whatabouters we ask: will ending freedom of movement from ‘Fortress  Europe’  mean that you can make a ‘socialist’ Fortress UK?

Migrant labour deserves an answer on how the Socialist Party wishes to regulate their future.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 7, 2016 at 4:49 pm

Ken Livingtone, Defends Keith Vaz, and his own Comments on Hitler – as you do.

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Image result for ken livingstone zionism latest

Livingstone: How Long, How Long, How Very Long He’s Gone.

This Blog has not gone into the details of the rows and distressing state of the Labour Party debate.

Nor has it made it more than generally clear that we support a vote for Jeremy Corbyn, though like many on the long-standing left we are not uncritical.

For the moment I will leave it that this, but something has now happened that calls for some comment.

We would wish that this individual is not a Corbyn supporter.

We would prefer to have nothing whatsoever to do with Livingstone.

We wish he would just shut his gob and go away.

The Daily Mirror has just reported this.

Ken Livingstone took to the airwaves this morning to defend former Labour colleague Keith Vaz today, but ended up in a lengthy defence of his own comments about Hitler.

The former Labour Mayor of London told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire he believed “someone’s private life should remain private.”

He said he didn’t think Mr Vaz paying for sex was a conflict of interest with his role on the Home Affairs select committee.

He said: “I don’t think the fact, if it turns out to be true, that he has paid for sex prevents him from conducting an inquiry into prostitution and the problems of prostitution.

“The problem with prostitution is what happens to the poor prostitutes and not so much their clients.”

Mr Livingstone said in the 40 years he’s been a colleague of Mr Vaz, he never recalled him mentioning sex or drugs.

He added: “Do you judge someone’s political career on the basis of one incident like this, or on the total of four decades. Everyone makes mistakes.”

Host Victoria Derbyshire asked Mr Livingstone about his suspension for “bringing the Labour Party into disrepute”, over comments he made linking Hitler with Zionism.

He replied: “I’m still waiting for the committee to sit down and decide whether what I said was true or not.

“I think they keep putting it off because the simple fact is I’ve got so much evidence that says what I’m saying is true.”

He went on to say that the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem sells pamphlets to tourists about the “deal” Hitler did with the Zionists.

“I’ve got so much evidence,” he insisted.

Mr Livingstone insisted he’d never said Hitler was a Zionist.

“To suggest Hitler was a Zionist is mad,” he said. “He loathed and feared Jews all his life.

But he did do a deal with the Zionist movement in the 1930s, and that led to 66,000 German Jews going to what is now Israel, and escaping the Holocaust.”

He said people should “go on websites”, and cited “dozens and dozens of books” which confirm that Hitler did a “deal” with the Zionist movement throughout the 1930s.

Asked if he was bothered about offending British Jews, he said: “If anyone has been offended by what I said, I’m truly sorry about that.

“But I’ve been struck by the number of people who’ve come up to me on the street and said “I’m Jewish, I know what you said is true. Don’t give in to this bullying.”

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 6, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Suzanne Moore, Ipswich’s Favourite Daughter, writes New SCUM Manifesto.

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Image result for Ipswich Blue Boy

Ipswich, Coach that took Suzanne from Provincial Obscurity to London’s Bright Lights.

Ipswich is known internationally as the birthplace of celebrated scamp,  songstress, poetess, pioneering post-cultural studies theorist, and radical feminist, Suzanne Moore.

In her multi-volume autobiography Moore refers to her younger days, punting along the Orwell, drinking snakebite in the Blue Coat Boy (pictured above), and attending Young Farmers’ Balls.

An affection for her home town roots shines through her award winning writing.

Most recently,

Rio has showcased a post-Brexit nationalism the left should embrace. “Nationalism need not be racist and inward-looking. The Great Britain of the recent Olympics was inclusive, warm, sentimental and hardworking” (Guardian. 22nd of August. 

Call us sentimental but a tear came to our eye when we read this latest finely crafted prose,

We publish extracts, but the real deal has to be read in the original, and finely savoured.

We dedicate today to the best loved daughter of the ancient Anglo-Saxon homeland

Suzanne Moore: Why I was wrong about men

You can’t hate them all, can you? Actually, I can.

Having tried to live with various mishaps, I realise that this is not for me and it never will be. But then, nor will the kind of reasonable feminism in which we make allowances for men. Because they are men. I have had it all my life: pro-choice marches in which men insist that they walk at the front. A left-wing party that cannot deal with a female leader. The continuing pushing back of women’s rights.

The more I hate men (#YesAllMen), the more I don’t mind individual ones, actually, as it is clear that some can be entertaining for a while. Before you even bother whingeing that my hatred of the taskmasters of patriarchy is somehow equivalent to systematic misogyny, to the ongoing killing, rape and torture and erasure of women, know this: I once made exceptions. I was wrong.

Well-established rumour has it that Suzanne plans to speak on Ipswich Corn Hill this coming Saturday on her latest work, which some are already calling the 21st Century’s answer to Valerie Solanas’s  SCUM Manifesto.

We look forward to seeing her, amongst the Suffolk Bor selling piles of mangelwurzel, the  essential ingredient in the soup that has made Ipswich a byword for high-class cuisine.

Image result for Ipswich old pictures corn hill

 Recent Corn Hill picture. 

Image result for suzanne moore

Moore: in Case Nobody Recognises her. 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 6, 2016 at 11:28 am

Merkel’s Party Beaten by Hard Right AfD, as Left Also Suffers Losses in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Poll.

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Spontane Demonstration gegen AfD Wahlparty läuft vom Ostbahnhof los.

Spontaneous anti-fascist demonstration after Mecklenburg-Vorpommern result.

Solidarité Ouvrière publishes photos showing  that the march was attacked by the far right.

 

Infografik Landtagswahl Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Englisch

Deutsche Welle reports,

Politicians blame Merkel’s refugee policy for defeat in regional elections

Chancellor Angela Merkel received heavy criticism from her opponents as well as from within her own ranks. Her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), came third place in state elections in her home state.

The CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), blamed the chancellor and her open-door policy on refugees for the shocking result in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Bavarian finance minister Markus Söder said that receiving fewer than 20 percent of the overall vote in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania should serve as a “wake-up call” with regards to her refugee policy.

Söder told the Monday morning edition of the regional daily newspaper “Nürnberger Nachrichten” that Merkel needed to adopt a hard line on migrants.

“It is no longer possible to ignore people’s views on this issue. Berlin needs to change tack,” Söder said.Merkel’s CDU lost a great number of votes to the newly established “Alternative for Germany” party (AfD), which managed to come second-place in the regional elections in the northeastern state.

They add,

In addition to Merkel’s CDU’s bad results of only 19 percent of the vote, her federal government coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), also suffered a major setback. While the centre-left SPD managed to garner a better-than-forecast 30.6 percent in Sunday’s election, it too lost several percents of its voter base to the AfD.

The AfD had targeted Merkel’s CDU and her coalition partner, the SPD, since her decision a year ago not to close Germany’s border to refugees arriving from war zones such as Syria and Iraq via Hungary and Austria.

We add, Die Linke also lost 52 % and Die Grünen 3,9%.

Infografics: Afd development

Initial analysis of the vote, Wer wählte 
die AfD? (Die Linke sympathising, Neues Deutschland) indicates the following.

From an inquiry into  60,000 new voters for the anti-immigrant party, the AFD gained support from the following parties  19 000 from the already far-right,  NPD  23 000 from the CDU, 18 000 from Die Linke, and 16 000 from the SPD.

Amongst men voters the AfD support levelled with the SPD, particularity amongst those between 25 to 59 years old.

22% of  AfD voters are self-employed, , 19 % administrative/clerical employes, including 17% in the public sector.

Amongst those of a medium educational level the AFD also scored level with the SDP.

Update: le Monde.

Le parti d’extrême droite allemand AfD s’est reconverti dans le populisme

The AfD, founded in 2013, from being the “teachers’ party”, campaigning against the Euro and for conservative issues, has become increasingly ‘populist’ opposed to the ‘old parties’ and mobilising around the themes of identity (against immigration) and security.

A survey, comparing national support for the AfD from 2015 to 2016 shows its social base, notably support amongst the young.

C’est d’abord le cas des chômeurs (15 % se disent proches du parti, 4 % en 2015), des ouvriers (11 %, + 6 points), des moins de 30 ans (10 %, + 5 points) et des habitants de l’ex-Allemagne de l’Est (11 %, + 5 points). A l’Ouest, en revanche, ils ne sont que 3 % (un point de plus qu’en 2015).

First of all they have backing from the unemployed (15% in 2015, 4% in 2014), workers (11%, up 6%O, the under 30s (10%, up 5 points) and those living in the former GDR (11%, 5 points ore). In the West they remain at 3% (1% up from 2015).

Der Spiegel also notes that in this regional election the AfD had the largest percentage vote amongst workers, (33%) and the unemployed (29%)  and self-employed (27%). (“Sowohl bei Arbeitslosen (29 Prozent) als auch bei Arbeitern (34 Prozent) und sogar Selbstständigen (28 Prozent) sind die Rechtspopulisten stärkste Partei geworden.”)
Taz  observes that the AfD already sees a “revolution” in the making, (“AfD-Rechtsaußen Höcke sieht schon die „Revolution“ heraufziehen.)

in Der Spiegel   says, that the SPD has no alternative, and that “In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern profitierte nur die AfD. Alle anderen Parteien haben verloren.” – only the AfD has gained. All the other parties have lost.”

A very comprehensive Wikipedia entry is here: The Alternative for Germany (German: Alternative für Deutschland, AfD)

Written by Andrew Coates

September 5, 2016 at 11:05 am

Jean-Luc Mélen­chon Goes Vegetarian Lean Cuisine.

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Jean-Luc Mélen­chon : Son régime, Sa famille, Macron…il dit tout

Mélen­chon: Secrets of a Quinoa Slimming Regime. 

Jean-Luc Mélen­chon needs no introduction to readers of this Blog.

The ebullient leader of the Parti de gauche, presidential candidate – neck and neck in the polls with existing President François Hollande – is the uncontested leader of  la France insoumise a veritable sovereign for the people in revolt.

Following Jeremy Corbyn’s advice on people’s after work drinking life-styles  Mélen­chon offers advice to Gala magazine on how to keep trim with his special recipes.

We learn in this exclusive interview, RENCONTRE DANS LA CUISINE DU CANDI­DAT DE LA FRANCE INSOU­MISEJean-Luc Mélen­chon : Son régime, Sa famille, …il dit tout….

  • How he read 6 to 7 ‘polars’ (mystery novels) while resting in hammock – without his Smartphone!
  • He loves his family.
  • He’s just crazy about tabbouleh.
  •  Mélen­chon has lost 5 Kilos and plans to lose a few more soon!
  • He only eats vegetable protein, no fat and no meat – on must think of the martyrdom of animals (“Il faut penser aux martyrs des animaux !)
  •  Mélen­chon can’t stop talking about the benefits of quinoa (“est inta­ris­sa­ble… sur les bien­faits du quinoa !”)

Asked about the elections within political parties of the left and right to become a candidate, Mélen­chon smiled,

A simple call from Destiny was all he needed.

The dapper gent declares, “I won’t do any primary election. I’m a candidate through and through. ” (“Je ne parti­ci­pe­rai à aucune primaire. Je suis candi­dat jusqu’au bout.”)

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 3, 2016 at 3:58 pm

After Fifteen Years Why Has the Stop the War Coaliton Foundered?

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Image result for stop the war coalition

After 15 Years what do they have to show for it all?

Lindsey German of the revolutionary socialist group Counterfire and the Convenor of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) writes today.

Our conference next month marks the 15th anniversary of our movement. A time to say no to all the wars arising from the war on terror. And to continue our commitment to opposing the system our government is at the heart of, imperialism.

If the StWC is opposed to all wars “arising from the war on terror”, and it bases its opposition on being against ‘imperialism’ is the StWC simply an ‘anti-imperialist’ group.

The confusion that has lain for years over the StWC comes from this source.

It can be ‘against’ Western, and specifically UK, involvement in ‘bombing Syria’  but it has absolutely no answer to the multiple wars in that region, except being against the one force they identity as ‘imperialist’ – the US and its direct allies.

Who are opposed to Assad, who is backed by the Russian Federation, and Iran.

Who are not – officially – supported by the StWC because the StWC is against all ‘foreign’ involvement in Syria – even (they officially) claim those fighting ‘imperialism’, like Assad.

Who the US and its NATO allies oppose.

But even here, since some US allies, such as the Saudis and the Gulf states, back non-ISIS jihadist forces to the US against Assad and against…the Kurds.

Who, a progressive left force, are supported (in the shape of the YPG) by the Americans…

Who have been driven to oppose to Turkey, its ally, when they fight the Kurds..

Who are also…

Well, we could go on.

And on.

Stopping the War is clearly not on the cards in Syria, nor has the slogan any meaning in dealing with the fighting in Iraq.

StWC claims not to “take sides” in Syria, but somehow be to be against “war” without being pacifists – that it absolutely against any violence.

But the violence continues, and there is no such thing as a non ‘intervening’ side when not doing something is to let things, continue…

The incoherence of the position of the STWC is to imagine, or at least claim, that they are both  au-dessus de la Mêlée  and anti-imperialist.

But we all incoherent faced with the mass killings taking place.

But failing to stand up for human decency in the face of the genocides taking place and saying, in effect, “none of our business”, leave a nasty taste in the mouth.

Most people have simply walked away from this crew.

Let the Festivities Commence!

It would be churlish not to leave the StWC with some crumbs of comfort.

In a note of self-celebration and a much needed pat on the pat, German also states today,

We did a great thing collectively with Stop the War. We have maintained it as an organisation and in the past year have seen a considerable increase in support, despite (or perhaps because of) the attacks on Corbyn. We are, I think, the major anti-war movement in any Nato country. The attacks from the right over the Syria bombing vote in 2013 showed the legacy of the movement and what damage we did. Ditto the Syria vote last year, used as a vicious attack on Jeremy Corbyn (and joined in by the pro-intervention left). There are many issues to debate about our history, and still a job to combat interventions in the Middle East and through Nato expansion.

But no, let us continue churlishly.

In reality all that remains of this “great thing” is that the StWC struggled to get a couple of thousand  people at its last demonstration (November 2015) and barely more than a couple of hundred at the CND anti-Trident protest outside Parliament this July.

One notes who they chose as a speaker at the November event.

And this sprightly new face, before his more recent Brexit campaigning:

Image result for november 2015 stop the war coalition demonstration tariq ali

Irrelevance.

The major reason for their decline is that the StWC is  as we have just seen, an irrelevance in the face of the events unfolding in the Middle East.

Another is that  the group, no doubt caught up in what Counterfire calls the ‘actuality of the revolution’  feels free to expound on a variety of issues  with a less than direct link to war.

It published this tissue of lies a few days ago:

Liberté. Égalité. Fraternité…Unless You’re a Muslim Woman

These are some of the most shameful episodes in the treatment of Muslim women in France that I can recall. They are state sponsored bullying and racism pure and simple. Islamophobia is only one form of racism, although it is the major one in Europe today. But it is the only one which targets the behaviour and dress of women in particular, and tried to alter this behaviour in the most draconian way.

German shamefully tries to link the ban on the Burkini to French international interventions.

She can barely resist saying of the atrocities, “they had it coming to them…”

France has also been increasingly strongly involved in interventions in Muslim countries, most notably Syria and Libya, which have led to increases in the level of terrorism.

Without going into great detail about  the issue we simply note.

  • It was not the French ‘state’ which tried to ban the burkini, but right-wing local authorities on the country’s coastline.
  • The French ‘state’ in the shape of the Conseil d’Etat (Council of State, the clue being the second part of the name…) overturned the ban. It said it was incompatible with human rights.
  • It was kind of German to express concern for the mass murders carried out by Daesh supporters in France. But perhaps something a little more forthcoming than a reference to “increases in the level of terrorism” linked to “interventions in Muslim countries” might have been more appropriate for those close to the victims in  Nice, Paris and Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, to cite but the most recent atrocities.

La Fin de l’intellectual français? De Zola à Houellebecq. Shlomo Sand. A Critical Review.

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Image result for La Fin de l'intellectuel français? De Zola à Houellebecq. Shlomo Sand

La Fin de l’intellectual français? De Zola à Houellebecq. Shlomo Sand. La Découverte. 2016.

Internationally celebrated for The Invention of the Jewish People (2009) Shlomo Sand is a redoubtable controversialist. That study, which argued that those following the Jewish religion only began to consider themselves a “people” during the Middle Ages, continues to be debated. Sand’s assertion that most Jews owes their origins to religious conversion, and not to ancient Hebrew origins, was intended to strike at the heart of the “National Myth” of the state of Israel. How I stopped Being a Jew (2013) announced a wish to break with “tribal Judocentrism”. Warmth for the secular ideals of Israel, and for the Hebrew language, has not protected him from vigorous criticism from a wide variety of Zionist critics.

La Fin de l’intellectuel français has equally iconoclastic ambitions. Apart from frequent autobiographical notes, during which we learn he was once a Marxist who wished to change the world, it is no less than a charge, an accusation, against Europe, and against France in particular: that the Continent is lifting the drawbridges against the “Muslim foreigners”. A “contagious plague” of Islamophobia, uniting left secularists and traditional nationalists, has infected the Hexagone. For Sand, “media intellectuals” (intellectuels médiatiques) both circulate this “code” and pile up its symbolic property. “A une vitesse suprenante, une puissante intelligentsia médiatique s’est constituée pour qui la stigmatisation de l’autre’”… “La détestation de la religion musulmane” has become “le nouvel opium de l’intellectuel’ ‘antitotalitaire.” (Page 238) At an amazing speed, a powerful media intelligentsia  has been built around the stigmatisation of the Other. ” “The loathing of the Muslim religion” has become the “new opium of the anti-totalitarian intellectuals.”

Put simply, to the author the stars of the modern Parisian media salons, those setting the tone, the style and the substance are small in number. They include (putting them in British terms) Éric Zemmour (a ‘declinist’ second cousin to our historians nostalgic for the Empire with specific French gripes against the ‘héritières de mai 68’, ), Alain Finkielkraut (a ‘philosopher’ of the erosion of educational and grammatical standards, and what one might call “Parisianistan’, an even closer co-thinker to Melanie Phillips), Renaud Camus (a professional  indignant xenophobe railing at the ‘replacement’ of Europeans by foreigners, and potential Editorialist for the Daily Express), and Michael Houellebecq, who needs no introduction, even, one hopes, to dimwits.

The Intellectual.

The bulk of La Fin de l’intellectuel français consists of chapters on the historical role of French intellectuals, and considerations of their social functions, from Gramsci, Pierre Bourdieu to Régis Debray. There is mention of lesser-known writings, such as Harman and Rotman’s Les Intellocrats (1981) which highlighted the small Parisian world of publishing, and heralded the birth of the new “media intellectuals” that came to the fore in the late seventies with the nouveaux philosophes, André Glucksmann, Bernard-Henri Lévy and others, long forgotten, defying the totalitarianism they had freshly rejected.

As a pared down version of Michael Scott Christofferson’s Les Intellectuals contre la Gauche (2014 – French, expanded, edition), this history, a grand narrative, charges the French intellectual class with having abandoned Marxism and the left. Amongst many other faults it ignores that the left continued to exist during that decade. Mitterrand’s 1981 victory – initially ruling in coalition with the Parti Communiste français (PCF) – was supported by the mass of the intelligentsia, within which an unbroken critical, if minority, left – never once mentioned in La Fin – has continued its own way, up till the present. This indicates one of the many ways in which the dominance of ‘media intellectuals’, in, unsurprisingly, the media is not the same as the kind of more entrenched intellectual hegemony that Gramsci outlined.

Readers unfamiliar with the history of the term intellectual and the politics of French intellectuals, from the “critical collective intellectual”, Zola and his cohorts, that arose during the Dreyfus Affair, Julien Benda’s defence of disinterested universalism (La Trahison des clercs. 1927), Paul Nizan’s Leninist commitment to the “soldats de la plume” (Les Chiens de Garde. 1932), will find, at least some passages to reflect on.

The Collaboration, the Resistance, post-war ‘engaged’ thinkers, in the mould of Sartre, Beauvoir and Camus, receive particular attention. The less reputable aspects of the Existentialist couple’s war record and minimal participation in real resistance were, for Sand a stumbling block for his own hero worship. Those who have not stumbled across writings such as Carole Seymour-Jones, A Dangerous Liaison (2008) that portrays in more depth than La Fin de l’intellectuel français the worst side of the pair’s war-time treatment of their Jewish lover, Bianca Bienenfeld, may even now be shocked.

Sand is, while not widely known outside of specialised circles, is the author of a fine study of Georges Sorel, L’illusion du politique (1984) Based on his PhD thesis this intellectual biography demolished a number of misconceptions, including the idea that Sorel was a proto-fascist, while making the various writings and stages in Sorel’s thought as clear as is possible. He followed this (echoed in the present volume) with a dispute on fascism, with the Israeli historian Zeev Sternhell. Apart from demonstrating again that 1920s and 1930s French ‘non-conformist’ admiration for Mussolini, and then (to a lesser extent) Hitler, indicated just how far real fascism did not take root in France, Sand demonstrates analytical fineness. He even admits that the far-right (and most notorious intellectual Collaborator) writer Drieu la Rochelle had talent (Page 158). Indeed the text displays – against Sartre’s belief that no anti-Semitic novel had any merit – a serious acquaintance with the romancier’s (in our opinion) interminable and tedious Gilles. (1939) (Page 215)

Islamophobia.

None of this delicacy is offered in the concluding chapters of La Fin de l’intellectuel français. It is tale of French Islamophobia, of nationalism and bigotry masquerading as Universalist secularism that would have been lifted from the pages of Socialist Worker or the web site of Counterfire. It is with no surprise that we learn that his first salvo against Charlie Hebdo, appeared in the far from philo-semitic ‘wise-guy’ publication, Counterpunch (,A Fetid Wind of Racism Hovers Over Europe. January 2015) a site which has published articles contesting the pardon of…Dreyfus. (1)

Sand loathes Houellebecq, who is perhaps an acquired taste. This may be why he fails to pick up on one of the few funny jokes in Soumission, the creation of the “Indigenous European a direct response to Indigénes de la République” – one group of racists giving ideas to another. Je Suis Charlie, is not, as it is for many of, the emblem of love and freedom. For the nuanced connoisseur of French pre-War ideologies, it was a publication that produced, week in and week out, a “representation méprisante et irrespectueuse de la croyance d’une minorité religieuse”  a picture that shows disrespect for a religious minority. (Page 225). No doubt that explains why Muslims, frustrated, unhinged with only a fragile belief to cling to, decided to react with murderous folly (Page 227). Doubtless it also accounts for why they killed at the Hyper-Cacher….

That the middle class demonstrated on the 11th of January 2015 in solidarity with Charlie we do not doubt. But oddly, Sand does not deeply cite his authority on this point, Emmanuel Todd, for whom they also showed the spirit of Vichy, Catholic Zombies (walking unconsciously in the steps of their religious past), soaked in the ‘culture of narcissism’, objectively xenophobe, like the Parti Socialiste, and …pro-Europeans – the (Sociologie d’une crise religieuse. Qui est Charlie? 2015). So, with every one of his bugbears wrapped together, what next? Todd, we are not astonished to learn, despises this bloc, the MAZ, prefers those who rejected the Maastricht treaty, and….is himself a nationalist, or, as they call it today, a “sovereigntist” who wishes to reassert French Sovereignty over the economy, against the European Union….

Laïcité.

In his pursuit of allies in the fight against French laïcité Sand might consider a much deeper problem than hostile reactions to Islam or those who make summary judgements about ‘Islamo-gauchisme’. It lies in this sovereigntism: a nationalists turn with far deeper roots than religious or ethnic hostility: a true xenophobia, embraced not just by the Front National, but by the centre-right, and that section of the left which shares Todd’s loathing of the European Union, if not other European states (not to mention the US). There is a name for this, which we have already used, xenophobia, and the point where nationalism slides into racism.

One can accept that that anti-Muslim feeling is prejudice, that there is a strong dose of racist defence of “la terre et les morts” against all classes of immigrants but particularly Muslims, and Catholic Mayors suddenly discovering that are secular republicans. That one can pretend that specifically French forms of secularism are universal at one’s peril.

One can accept all of this, even some gestures towards the sub-existentialist phrases about fear of the Other …but, are there not some problems about violent forms of Islamism, some difficulties, as indicated in Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran, to halt just there. That amongst contemporary forms of Islamism, the status of the Kufur, the rules governing women, most visibly their ‘modesty’ and punishing the ‘immodest’, bedrock human rights issues, remain…issues.

Sand passes in silence over the ideas of the strongly left-wing and pro-Communist Charlie editor, Charb. Perhaps he should read his posthumous Lettre aux escrocs de l’islamophobie qui font le jeu des racists (2015). If that proves too much for him he has no excuse whatsoever for ignoring the mass of serious literature in French on Islam, and Islamism, from Gilles Kepel, Olivier Roy, François Burgat, Gilbert Achcar  in French.  The vast majority of these writings, are as nuanced, as profoundly researched as one could wish, with all due consideration for the immense difficulties of marginalised Maghrebian and African populations. I would recommend he begin with a genuine intellectual with knowledge of both the evolution of former Maoists towards ‘anti-totalitarianism’ and Islamism, Jean Birnbaum, and his Un Silence Religieux. La Gauche Face au Djihadisme. 2016. He is certainly not a sign of the ‘end’ of the species.

The secularist Ligue des droits de l’homme has been at the forefront of the fight against the ‘Burkini ban’ (l’Humanité) So much for Sand’s recent claim that “La laïcité, comme autrefois le patriotisme, s’avère, de nos jours, l’ultime refuge de l’infâme ” (Nouvel Obs. 24.8.16.)

(1) THE DREYFUS CASE, REVISITED: Israel Shamir sifts through the Dreyfus case: was he really a victim of anti-semitism?

Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution, *US* Socialist Worker Debates the Issues.

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Image result for syria

The US Socialist Worker (long divorced from its British parent, and the paper of the International Socialist Organization, ISO) has carried an important debate on Syria in the last week.

Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution. Ashley Smith

THE SYRIAN Revolution has tested the left internationally by posing a blunt question: Which side are you on? Do you support the popular struggle against dictatorship and for democracy? Or are you with Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime, his imperial backer Russia, his regional ally Iran and Iran’s proxies like Hezbollah from Lebanon?

Tragically, too many have failed this test.

From the very beginning of Syria’s revolution–even before the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front some years later–a whole section of the left opposed the popular uprising against the Assad dictatorship that began in early 2011, part of the Arab Spring wave of popular rebellions against dictatorship and repression.

Since then, they have turned a blind eye to Assad’s massacre of some 400,000 Syrians, and his regime’s use of barrel bombs, chemical weapons and barbaric sieges of cities like Aleppo. Today, 11 million people–half the country’s population–have been displaced, with the Assad regime responsible for the lion’s share of the death and destruction.

The author criticises the “campist” belief that, ” there is only one imperialist power in the world–the U.S.–and that it is an all-powerful manipulator of international events.”

The U.S. does remain the world’s dominant imperialist power, but as a result of its failed war in Iraq and other factors, it has suffered a relative decline in strength. Washington is now challenged internationally by imperialist rivals like China and Russia, as well as regional powers. In this new imperial order, the U.S. is less capable of controlling world events–it fears popular revolt all the more.

This is perhaps a more specifically US stand,

The campist misreadings, however, have led them to the conclusion that the U.S. government is pulling the strings in the rebellion in Syria. Some have gone so far as to argue–absurdly–that the U.S. backs ISIS against Assad. Ironically, this puts the campists in agreement with Donald Trump, who, in his latest ravings, claims that Obama and Clinton were “founders” of ISIS.

One of the most striking paragraphs is the following,

A genuine internationalist left must stand with Syria’s popular resistance to Assad, which began as a nonviolent uprising against the dictatorship–and against intervention by American and Russian imperialism, as well as by the region’s main powers.

This stands in clear contrast to the entire strategy of groups in the UK, notably the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) , which  claims not to “take sides”.

The STWC’s John Rees’ states,

The STWC has never supported the Assad regime. Just as we never supported the Taliban, Saddam Hussein or Colonel Gaddafi. Only in the minds of ‘them or us’ pretend patriots does the opposition to our own government’s wars mean support for dictators or terrorists. Our case has always been that war will worsen the problem and not solve it. We were right in that analysis in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

There is no group, in other words, that they do stand with.

This is Smith’s conclusion,

No one committed to solidarity with the Syrian struggle can align themselves with either wing of the U.S. imperial establishment. Instead, the left must reject imperialism in any form, including Russia’s.

Rather than look to imperialist powers or dictatorial regimes in either camp, the left should stand for workers’ struggle across borders and in defense of oppressed nations and their fight for self-determination.

In Syria, the revolution has suffered a defeat for the time being. While civil society activists continue to seize every opportunity to assert their goals, their forces have been ravaged by counterrevolution–in the form of the Syria regime and its international allies on the one hand, and the Nusra Front and ISIS, which was particularly eager from the start to target the rebels than regime forces, on the other.

But as Gilbert Achcar argues in his book Morbid Symptoms: Relapse in the Arab Uprising, this setback, however devastating, comes amid a long period of revolutionary crisis in Syria and the whole region.

The task of the international left today is to oppose intervention by any of the imperialist and regional powers, reject the tyranny of the Assad regime itself, demand the opening of the borders to those fleeing the violence and chaos, collaborate with Syrian revolutionaries–and win people away from campism to the politics of international solidarity from below.

There is nothing specific about the Kurdish YPD and their alliances, nothing specific about the very special threat to progressives and democrats posed by Islamic State, – with all the international echoes that Jihadism poses.

Some will welcome (despite scepticism about how it will work out) US backing for the democratic Kurdish forces and be concerned about Turkish intervention.

Others will point to the specific threat created by the  Jihaist genociders of Daesh and the international volunteers for their death squads not least from Europe.

The debate that the article has caused has unfortunately focused on the role of the US rather than such issues. One reader commented, ” “Assad must go!” is the mantra not of the left, but of the Western imperialists.” Another states, “no to U.S. militarism being used to put in place a government that becomes a U.S. pawn.”

Perhaps the UK SWP reflects this debate by publishing the following today,

Turkish and Syrian socialists issue joint statement against intervention

The US, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and all the others must keep their hands off Syria.

All support given to the Baas [Assad] regime must be stopped in order for the war to come to an end.

The Syrian people must decide their own future.

Turkey must immediately cease military operations in Syria, stop its enmity against the Kurds, and open its borders to Syrian refugees.

We call all the revolutionary Syrian forces to unify their struggle against: the dictatorship, the foreigners regional and imperialist interventions, and against the reactionary forces.

We believe that the victory of Syrian people on all these counter revolutionary forces, demand the unity of all the revolutionary forces of all the Syrians.

Long live peace, long live the revolution!

Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party (Turkey)

Revolutionary Left Current (Syria)

Now the this Blog has serious disagreements with the ISO, not least on issues which cross over to this searing problem, such as  its refusal to back secularists, like the French ligue de droits de l’homme, in France, against both Islamist and Nationalist-racist bigotry.

Bbut this debate is highly welcome.

Details on quite how anybody is going to stop foreign intervention in Syria and help the Syrian democratic cause win is perhaps too much to ask.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 31, 2016 at 12:50 pm

Tony Greenstein Makes New Friends in Wake of Trolling Natasha Allmark.

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https://i1.wp.com/www.brightonvisitor.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/Brighton_Pier.jpg

Greenstein: at the end of the Pier.

Tony Greenstein is a fixture on the British left.

Widely admired, like Richard Seymour, for his wit, and limpid prose, his writings have been cited as an authority by no less (and certainly no more) a specialist in ‘anti-Zionism’, and ‘controversial’  New Left Review writer, Gabriel Piterberg.  Euro-Zionism and its Discontents. New Left Review .84. 2013. (1)

 Himself a redoubtable ‘conversationalist” over the last few days Greenstein has been ‘at it’ again.

Block and Unfriend Natasha Allmark – Suspected Informant (Tony Greenstein’s Blog).

You can satiate yourself on that link…

 Comrade Alan Thomas has commented,

Friend and Unblock Natasha Allmark — A word to the left

Well, this has been a sickening episode.

Let’s be clear first. I am a Labour Party member. I voted for Jeremy Corbyn last year and I have done so again this year.

I awoke this morning to an alert about this article, by one Tony Greenstein. It requests that people block and defriend one Natasha Allmark. It compares her to World War 2 era Nazi informants. Her crime? Threatening to call the Labour Party Compliance Unit on a group of professed Corbyn supporters with whom she had been arguing on Facebook.

“Nazi Informant”. Let that sink in for a bit. Consider the implications.

Natasha is an expectant mother and a student, and a supporter of the Liberal Democrats. She has children already. In the course of that discussion people publicly discussed calling social workers to her house. The behavior of those attacking her was akin to a shoal of piranhas. She was in distress, and not infrequently in tears.

In the course of one such row she told her interlocutors that if they did not desist then she would contact Compliance. She never did so. It was a defensive reaction from a distressed woman under attack. This is why Tony Greenstein compares her to informants who betrayed Jewish people to the Nazis. That’s it. He also uses her picture in the article, without her permission. Just so reader can be sure of exactly who he is accusing.

She is now afraid for her family. And I think as a left we have questions to ask of ourselves here? Do we want a political sphere where self appointed Torquemadas go around using public platforms to shriek accusations of betrayal at ordinary citizens? Do we want squads of online police telling people what is or is not an acceptable political view, and publicly flogging them if they dissent? I know what sort of “left” that sounds like, and it’s one that died in Europe in 1990.

It is beyond shameful that a veteran left wing activist would think it is OK to do this to anyone, let alone a heavily pregnant woman who he does not know. If I thought that were the real nature of the left in this country, I would want no part of it. It is sickening behavior.

So yes, unblock and friend Natasha Allmark.

It is an act of basic solidarity, and we owe it to her to show her that this is not how the left does business.

We stand with you Natasha.

I will not dignify Greenstein with further comment on this particular case: all the essential is expressed by Alan, with some additional information on Shiraz after Rosie posted the above.

But it interesting to note that Greenstein has now widened his field of battle.

If Iain McNicol was running a local authority election he’d have been arrested for Corrupt Electoral Practices.

Followed by,

Winning the Battle and Losing the War, “Momentum’s Inertia is Turning Victory into Defeat.”

More Greenstein friends will include “the present leadership of Momentum (which) operates by way of patronage and school chumminess.” Apart from their “cowardice” , ” fallible” Jeremy Corbyn, whose ” proposals for rail privatisation are completely bonkers.”

And so it goes….

Readers of this blog may possibly recall glancing at previous rants by Greenstein – more commonly known as ‘loony bins’ to his close friends around here – in response to, amongst other things, his views in the comments boxes of Tendance Coatesy on the “Kasztner” case and ‘Zionist’ relations with Nazism (Here: Tony Greenstein Resigns from Left Unity: World’s Progressives Shaken.)

The interventions are as lengthy as a small book and most people will have lost the will to live during the exchange between Michael Ezra, Greenstein calls him helpfully, “Mad Mikey”, and “cheap propagandist”  Paul Bogdanor.

This abuse is fairly mild by Greenstein standards.

It is unfortunate that the latest (there is an extremely long list) victim of his venom, Natasha Allmark, was unprepared for this.

It is also regrettable that people who should have known better have supported Greenstein in his efforts to become a member of the Labour Party.

******

(1) See also  The UCLA sexual harassment case that every professor should be aware of.  “This sexual harassment case at UCLA is jaw-dropping. From one plaintiff’s complaint, against history Professor Gabriel Piterberg:

51. He then started talking about the famous philosophers Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger, who met when Arendt was Heidegger’s student and subsequently carried on a clandestine love affair for more than forty years. He told her that relationships like theirs were normal and that “If it is done right, professor and student relationships are supposed to be intimate.”

52. Professor Piterberg then told her that he masturbated while imagining the two of them together.

53. Throughout this meeting, Plaintiff Takla continued to voice her discomfort with him as her advisor and his comments, but Professor Piterberg was upset with Plaintiff Takla for wanting a new advisor. He told her, “If anything happened between us, it might be while you are writing the conclusion to your dissertation.”

More (2016): UCLA community protests professor’s punishment for sex harassment: $3,000 fine and 11-week suspension

Written by Andrew Coates

August 30, 2016 at 11:18 am

Corbyn and the “Actuality of the Revolution” – Counterfire on Georg Lukács and Labour.

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Image result for IPswich workers militia

Ipswich Workers’ Militia: Ready for the ‘Actuality of the Revolution’. 

“The actuality of the revolution: this is the core of Lenin’s thought and his decisive link with Marx. For historical materialism as the conceptual expression of the proletariat’s struggle for liberation could only be conceived and formulated theoretically when revolution was already on the historical agenda as a practical reality; when, in the misery of the proletariat, in Marx’s words, was to be seen not only the misery itself but also the revolutionary element ‘which will bring down the old order’.”

Lenin: A Study on the Unity of his Thought. Georg Lukács.  1924. (1)

Counterfire publishes this:

While thousands across the country have been attending rallies for Corbyn, and while the Labour establishment is in unprecedented disarray, some “thoughtful” and prominent former supporters of Corbyn have succumbed to self doubt and pessimism. This article will argue that the arguments they use reflect a way of thinking that has – throughout the last century – meant that many movements with the objective strength to defeat the right have floundered and failed. We will call this way of thinking vertigo and we will show how the great Hungarian Marxist Georg Lukacs identified the cure for vertigo at the heart of Lenin’s thought.

In  Corbyn: momentum meets vertigo Counterfire’s Dave Moyles has no doubt that the main problem of the left is those infected by “doubt and pessimism”.

Standing on the ledge of a great peak, they look at the abyss beneath and not upwards to the heavens.

The fears driving them can be easily summarised:

The waverers typically make two key points. First that when they backed Corbyn for leader last year they never expected him to win, but rather to “shift the terms of debate”.

Second, now that he has won, they argue, we are teetering on the edge of a precipice. The wave of enthusiasm could easily turn to despair. Just as defeat of Michael Foot laid the groundwork for Tony Blair (in a very telescoped, teleological view of history) so will this success be followed by defeat that could see the whole left destroyed. And the cliff on which we are standing is crumbling in the face of attacks from the media, the PLP and the Tories. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Take courage comrades! Look, he asks us, at the Russian Revolution! Or just The Revolution.

The Hungarian Marxist Georg Lukacs identified the cure to vertigo as the core uniting principle behind Lenin’s thought: the actuality of the revolution.

And,

…seen from the perspective of the actuality of the revolution, the question is how do we maximise the level of political organisation, confidence and radicalism across the mass of ordinary people; how do we turn what has traditionally been the second party of British capitalism into a transformative force; how do we weaken the power of the British state to resist this movement. Then the answer is very clearly Corbyn – and the mass rallies, mass membership, organisation of resistance to the PLP that is going on as part of the Corbyn movement. Then a question like Scotland is easy to answer – don’t be so blinkered as to worry about numbers in Westminster – the Scottish question is about fundamentally weakening the British state.

No need to worry about the bourgeois SNP….nationalism…

It’s all about the ‘state’.

Where to to now?

Counterfire is there to help sort things out..

Counterfire today argues for its members to be at the heart of the movements at the same time as focusing on the big picture – and we ask our members to discuss and debate the best strategy for these movements. Our website and our paper connect the struggle and point to a socialist strategy within them. But it is clear an organisation of the sort Lenin envisaged would have to be far bigger and incorporate many activists who today are part of no organisation – as well as some who are currently part of other organisations. We will need this if the energy and desire for change captured by the Corbyn movement is going to be able to keep rising and achieve real transformative change.

Lukacs and Lenin teach us to be more ambitious – we should be storming the gates of heaven.

Counterfire’s long-standing strategic faults are laid bare in this lyrical article.

They have a common source, Lenin as read through Lukács.

Not just Moyles but their leader Rees has written that we need to grasp “the laws of historical development; to detect the part in the whole and the whole in the part; to find in historical necessity the moment of activity and in activity the connection with historical necessity.” (1)

This approach means that in every “concrete analysis of the concrete situation” one can trace the operation of an inexorable dialectic. Inside of which a revolution is about to burst reality asunder. 

Rees has something in common with John Holloway’s views in Crack Capitalism (2010), that capitalism produces an endless series of ‘cracks’ in which revolutionary sparks fly.

The major difference is while Holloway is only too glad to let every sparkle shed its own light, Rees considers that it is the task of the Revolutionary Party/Network to gather them up. It is a kind of filter that collects together all the rational elements of revolt, binds them together, and hurls them against capitalism. It is the fuse that once lit enables the working class to become the ” absolute subject-object of history.”

It is, in short, a practical-theoretical embodiment of class consciousness.

Behind this is a  fundamentally awry take on Marxism.

Whatever the merits of Rees’s magnum opus on dialectics, and his analysis of Lukács, from Lenin to History and Class Consciousness, the application of the ‘dialectic’  is not only barely ‘mediated’ by politics, (or more crudely, reality) it is “expressive” at every moment.

Moyles expresses this to the point of caricature: from Corbyn Rally to Revolution it is but a step.

Can we dismiss the weight of right-wing ideology, nationalism, the views of the general public, the rightward drift across the whole of our Continent, the decades long hegemony of conservative ‘neo-liberal’ ideas affecting social democracy itself , the present Tory Government,  the lack of actually existing  successful example of  economic alternatives to capitalism, not to mention the Fall of Official Communism,   the failure of ‘anti-imperialism’, the power of Capital? 

Are they all about the vanish faced with the cunning of Proletarian Reason?

That the revolution is both actual (in the English sense, real) and ‘actuel’, in the sense used in many European languages, present?

Does anybody else seriously believe that the present disputes in the Labour Party will end with Jeremy Corbyn heralding the Revolution?

That “an organisation of the sort Lenin envisaged” is about to emerge?

People involved with the, the People’s Assembly, the anti-austerity alliance dominated by Counterfire leadership, not to mention the Stop the War Coalition in which the same group is heavily involved, should perhaps be informed of how Rees, German and Moyles consider their role in creating this “organisation”.

And no doubt the ‘Corbyn movement’ as well.

Although given that Rees and mates, echoed in the dwindling People’s Assembly, have claimed that the Tories threatened a “coup” during the last General Election, that the Brexit vote was a great “opportunity” for the ‘left”, it’s unlikely that there are many people around who take this lot seriously.

****

 

(1) Counterfire’s Jon Rees outlines his highly individual account of Lukacs in The Algebra of Revolution. The Dialectics and the Classical Marxist Tradition. John Rees. Routledge 1998. See the indulgent review by  Alex Callinicos The Secret of the Dialectic (1998).

(2) John Rees (Extracts) Strategy and Tactics: how the left can organise to transform society. Counterfire’s Site). 2010.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 28, 2016 at 12:45 pm

New Islamic State video seems to show a ‘British boy executing a prisoner’.

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Just in case anybody needs reminding that Jihadist Islamism is a more pressing problem than the Burkini ban.

New Islamic State video appears to show a ‘British boy executing a prisoner’.  Press Association.

A new video from the so-called Islamic State (IS) shows a child – purportedly British – appearing to execute a prisoner.

Five boys stand in front of five men in orange jumpsuits in the video. The boy captioned as Abu Abdullah al-Britani (the Briton) is white.

A child captioned Abu al-Bara al-Tunisi (the Tunisian) addresses the men – apparently Kurdish fighters – promising more violence, according to the BBC.

The other children are said to be Abu Ishaq al-Masri (the Egyptian), Abu Fu’ad al-Kurdi (the Kurd) and Yusuf al-Uzbaki (the Uzbek).

The identity of the child said to be British has not been verified.

Children have featured prominently in IS propaganda. In February, IS released a video purportedly showing a young British boy – thought to be four-year-old Isa Dare – blowing up a car and killing three prisoners inside.

He is the the son of Muslim extremist Grace “Khadija” Dare from Lewisham, south-east London, who travelled to Syria in 2012.

The Kurdish News Agency Rudaw reports,

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—The five Kurdish captives executed by Islamic State child soldiers were from Rojava, northern Syria, an official has confirmed.

ISIS released a video on Friday showing the execution by gunshot of five Kurds by five children soldiers dressed in military fatigues in Raqqa.

Saeed Mamuzini, media officer for the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) in Mosul province, told Rudaw that the five Kurdish captives were from Rojava.

In the video, a total of 15 captives were executed in three separate scenes. Five were shot by the child soldiers, another five were shot by adult militants, and the final five were beheaded by adult militants. The identities of the other ten executed are not known.

The children appear to be of five different nationalities: British, Kurdish, Tunisian, Egyptian, and Uzbekistani.

The Kurdish captives were reportedly killed in retaliation for recent Kurdish advances in Syria.

This is not the first time ISIS released such videos of the killing of captives. They routinely release videos of executions for propaganda purposes.

ISIS is training child soldiers in their special military camps for children.

The Independent adds,

Isis execution video: Young boy ‘who could be British’ takes part in jihadi killing

The video states he is Abu Abdullah al-Britani, a nickname used by several other British jihadis in the Middle East in the past.

A young boy thought to be British has been seen taking part in the latest execution video released by Isis.

In the video, the boy, who appears to be aged between 10 and 12, shoots an adult prisoner kneeling in front of him alongside four other youngsters doing the same.

While his identity was not known, the propaganda video states his name to be Abu Abdullah al-Britani, a war name used to signify British jihadis.

The video shows the five boys standing behind a different orange-jumpsuit-wearing prisoner. The children are armed with pistols and clothed in military gear and bandanas.

As the age of criminality in the UK is 10, if the boy is British and is brought back to the UK, he could face murder charges.

Last July, 25-year-old Assad Uzzman from Portsmouth was killed in Syria using the name al-Britani.

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 27, 2016 at 10:36 am

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

with 12 comments

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.

with 16 comments

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.

with 9 comments

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.

with 8 comments

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